Regarding Stephen Butterfield’s “The Light From Different Windows” [Issue 136], the Buddha said, “If you don’t like it here, you aren’t going to like it anywhere.”
You are amazing, Stephen. You’ve got a good job, and enough personal security to indulge in metaphysics. You are not a political extremist. Evidently you have a mate with whom you’ve been moderately contented, perhaps ecstatically at times. You’ve had goals that kept you involved and interested on all planes, including the spiritual. And all you seem to do, at least in the marvelously well-written article in The Sun, is whip yourself.
With due respect to Gautama and Jesus, to Eckhart or even Newton or Fu Hsi, perhaps there is a new equation. It might be that energy follows consciousness. Perhaps one of our more interesting vocations this time around is to remind ourselves of our co-creative potential. I see that we can help each other shift attention, not to “pseudo-religious cheerfulness,” but to the actual creation of a different reality. And, since we exist out of time as well as in it, this reality can be established backward and forward as well as now. For me, this would optimally be a reality where bodhicitta has lifted itself out of the sorrow of compassion and into the joyous dance of compassion.
Jesus said, “Has it not been said, ‘Ye are all Gods’?” Maybe samsara is not a hellish trap, but an opportunity to enjoy, to enjoy. Maybe the evolutionary step we are taking is into an appreciation of who we really are, into re-programming the ancient fears that need no longer be applicable.
Well, my path is the all-path, no-path, a path that makes it possible for me to be dubiously enchanted at the paradoxes and to utilize that which seems appropriate at different stages of my own growth.
One of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t know the answers and neither do I, so meanwhile let’s just all lighten up” (Monty Python). Something in there for The Sun in general.
Good luck on your journey.
Stephen T. Butterfield responds:
Samsara is inseparable from nirvana. Yes, it is an opportunity — not merely “to enjoy, to enjoy,” but to wake up. In regarding samsara as an opportunity merely “to enjoy,” we could become insensitive to the suffering of the countless beings trapped in the realms of aggression, competition, jealousy, ignorance, sickness, and greed. Being born into samsara is no joke, nor is it a party, nor can it be waved away by the creation of “alternate realities.’’ To appreciate what we are requires that we look at it with no illusions. That is the purpose of the practice and study of Buddha-dharma.
The number one illusion is “me.” The “me” is not an evolutionary mistake; it is simply insubstantial. But we would like to make it solid. The strategies we have for solidifying “me” are to attack and defend, to ignore, to grasp and possess. Those activities create hell; they also create ego-heaven. The reason we create ego-heaven is that we would like nothing but joy, joy, joy — and we would like to bring the “me” into it and dwell there forever. The problem with that result is that it is not a step toward complete realization — it is a gesture of defense against pain. To anyone who suffers, we can say, “That is just your imagination, you should learn to come along up here to heaven where I am and you won’t have any more problems.” The answer is slick — because the person in ego-heaven will not stay there, and the person in samsara cannot possibly benefit from such advice.
Everyone’s path is his or her own. “My path, ALL path,” might be another strategy for hanging onto me. If so, there is no joy at the end of that road.
We can only hear what we are ready for, in any case. If I whip myself, perhaps that is an improvement over whipping someone else. The object in my hand is not necessarily a whip — often it seems more like a mirror. One day I might discover it to be a wish-fulfilling gem.
Good luck on your journey, too.
I found David Steindl-Rast’s talk to the Sufis interesting (“The Shadow,” Issue 137] but as a Catholic, I was infuriated. Steindl-Rast says that the Catholic Church is beginning to incorporate elements of the Jungian concept of the shadow in its teachings, but there is no evidence of this. Steindl-Rast and Matthew Fox are the only Catholic clergy I’ve ever heard of who are even familiar with the shadow. The Church demands and has always demanded vows of obedience and chastity from its clergy. The first vow enables Church authorities to smother all angry criticism of its policies from within. The second vow prevents the clergy from fully knowing and living out their sexual feelings. By putting such strictures on the clergy’s knowledge of their personal shadow, the Church makes it clear to the laity that the shadow is bad, evil, sinful.
Historically, the Church has repressed its own shadow until it has become that monster of which Steindl-Rast warns us. The Church has seen the Devil in many of its competitors — people who have been persecuted as enemies, such as Moslems, Jews, women, Protestants, and Marxists. Indeed, Thomas Merton and others were frustrated in their effort to persuade the Vatican II Council to apologize to Jews for the persecution they have suffered from Holy Mother Church.
At a personal level, I feel angry that Steindl-Rast thinks he can persuade some Sufis that the official Roman Catholic Church, headed by its “infallible” Pope, is as psychologically sophisticated as he is. It is not. It remains perfectionistic, which is one reason I suffer from Terminal Guilt. I’d like to see Steindl-Rast explain the Church’s openness and understanding to a schoolchild who has just had the palm of her hand smacked with a ruler by a nun who caught her saying “damn.”
Enclosed is a $28 check for a one-year subscription to The Sun.
I must say I’ve had some trouble bringing myself to subscribe. I’ve always been a frugal sort, and $28 seems a bit much for twelve skinny issues. I’ve intermittently read The Sun for about eight years, though, and always eagerly pick up copies at friends’ houses or on magazine racks, my eyes scanning the pages for just that bit of clarity or inspiration I need. Sometimes, by golly, I find it. More often not. But I always leave the magazine with an appreciation for its existence. There’s comfort and happiness in knowing that there is a community of folks large and strong enough to produce and support The Sun.
But $28? I could buy four or five good books I’ve been wanting. I could buy that bamboo flute I’ve been fantasizing about. Let’s face it — I’ve got a hefty layer of scarcity consciousness in my psyche.
However, there is also an understanding that your subscription price is reflective of the amount of money you need to keep The Sun alive and well. I trust you. And I get a nice warm feeling knowing that I’m helping The Sun carry on. There’s also some sense of belonging, of participating in a far-flung community of kindred spirits.
“Money Versus People” [Issue 139] is stunning. There are lines and insights in it that I will carry around for the rest of my life; keys that have unlocked some of the most maddening prison doors in our collective existence, just by naming them. But it is newly maddening to see Marx named as the savior. Evidently Martin Glass has never been to Eastern Europe to see the results of Marx’s deadly naivete about human nature, his failure to imagine that the exploited might become exploiters in their turn. Capitalism is one virulent variant of the human disease of the love of power (of which money is a symbol and subset); Communism is another. Well, I suppose there are people who believe in the Marx before Marxism, just as there are those who believe in the Christ before Christianity. But until Lord Acton’s riddle is solved (“Power corrupts. . . .”), placing the evil in one or another system only engenders more evil.
P.S. After thinking some more about “Money Versus People,” I have a sense of what’s wrong with it (along with all that’s right with it). It seems that only by projecting the evil “out there” can we be inspired and high-hearted (self-celebrating, as he put it). But “Capital” isn’t some satanic force out there — it’s also human. Glass isn’t facing reality (as he exhorts us to do) when he opposes “money versus people,” because people created money. (Sure, most of us are victims, not beneficiaries — but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the same embryonic exploitative impulses within us.) “We” are not only hearth and home and temple and museum — we are also Capital! “We have met the enemy and he is us” (Pogo). The real trick is to get inspiration to coexist with awareness of the shadow — forgiveness and vigilance.
In a recent interview with Robert Anton Wilson [Issue 137], we failed to give Robert Shea credit as co-author with Wilson of Illuminatus. We apologize for this omission.