Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Religion in a Nutshell

I believe in the Powers that created the universe from nothing and that forge it anew from moment to moment. They are revealed to us by Science, if not fully, more fully as time goes on. I believe the Powers are completely impersonal, but that from their Forces and Laws, Simplicity evolves further and further into Complexity, from which emerge and flower Life, Personality, and Will.

I believe that as living willful personalities it is proper that we value Life over non-life, Personality over impersonal life, and Willful Personality over non-willful personality. The Powers destroy Life as impersonally as they create it; only Life will promote and protect Life; and only the higher forms of Life will promote and protect the higher forms of Life; we should fight for our values.

Within this human universe, I believe only the Present is truly real. The Past was once real, but is now largely unknowable and falsely remembered; there is no living there, and no reason to do so. The future is not yet determined; although many of its aspects seem foreseeable with high probability, almost all of them can still surprise us. Any perspective (for instance, that favored by many physicists) which views the universe from outside spacetime, with Past, Present, and Future visible as finished products, however useful for some purposes of conjecture, is neither valid nor meaningful from within our universe, where we actually live, and where the Future is still actively being formed by both chance and Will.

I believe I have a will to act in the future in consonance with my personality. I believe my personality is built upon my past history, my habits (past, present, and future), and my goals (completely of the future, and therefore only notional until realized). I believe that my personality is influenced by many subminds within my mind, including three important and well-defined enough for my conscious mind to have a personal relationship with each, and that these may be considered Persons in their own right.

None of these Persons is supernatural, none exists outside my thoughts and the reach of my hand. But each is as much a child of the Powers as is my conscious mind, and partakes of the numinous, That Which Is before and beyond analysis.

I know them by arbitrary names. You almost certainly know them and deal with them in your own mind, whatever you call them.

I call them God, the Muse, and the Dragon.

By God I do not mean anything like the God of Abraham, a Creator of the universe Out There somewhere. I mean the God we address in our own mind, where He resides. God, whether thought of as a Higher Power or one's best judgment or whatever you please, is the person to whom one prays and looks for guidance and strength. God knows the past, judges in the present, and offers guidance and strength for the future. He embodies reason, which is a real-time calculation, and morality, which is both an uncalculated judgment based on past teachings and experience, and a consideration for goals based in the future. Rooted in all aspects of Time, he always forgives, without forgetting, my past; I can always return to him in the present moment; he is always confident that I can change course in the future. This does not stop him from judging my present condition as harshly as necessary to spur me to action. I can pledge future actions to him, and the attempt to keep these pledges is one of the most salient and important aspects of Will. By default, I also pray to him when there is nothing I can do about a painful situation—for the strength needed to realize that it is beyond my power and to cease worrying or grieving over it.

The Goddess (who is both the Muse, and the Goddess of Victory) is the person who sustains and inspires me from beneath the surface. She repays practice with skill, exercise with strength, and study with inspiration. She is woven throughout the fabric of my trained body and my trained mind. As such, she is in my past, and while she can initiate relations and send messages to me in the present, I cannot directly address her or converse with her, as I can address God in prayer. What I can do is sacrifice my time in the present to feed her, for which she will inspire me when I need it. She will provide words more clever than I think I can write, she will provide the skill to make that move I thought beyond me. I will reach out for it, and she will place it in my hand. What is laid down as rote learning or practice rises up as creative inspiration and skill. What is laid down as slavish body labor rises up as physical fitness and aptitude.

The third person is the Dragon, whose double nature depends on how he is trained. Ultimately, and irreducibly, he is the ancestral part of my brain most directly interwoven with my body, senses, reflexes, and primal drives. Trained well, in tandem with one’s physical Muse, and kept from bad habits by a watchful God, he will be a great steed or elephant, powerful, indefatigable, and loyal. Trained badly, in default of guidance by God or Muse, he will show the face of the Adversary.

I pray to God, I sacrifice to the Goddess, but the Adversary is the one who approaches me. He tempts and distracts, he criticizes and discourages. He sees me as base, and wants me to live down to his image of me. He speaks for the body and its immediate desires, but is capable of rationalizations that can sound like God’s own reason. He resists and pushes off all hard work and difficult effort. He promotes self-destructive pleasures, such as intoxication and the seven deadly sins, Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Vanity. But because idle fun and sexual pleasure and sometimes even violent aggression have their place in a healthy life, we cannot seek to completely extirpate the Adversary. He is the ladder which we have climbed to high reaches, but without which we still cannot stand.  We cannot do without his survival drives; we must instead just dampen and control the impulses which so often threaten our more developed way of life.

In the Louvre, there is a picture, by Guido Reni, 
of St. Michael with his foot on Satan's neck. 
The richness of the picture is in large part 
due to the fiend's figure being there ... that is, 
the world is all the richer for having a devil in it, 
so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.
William James

The Dragon can never be completely tamed, will always be both Noble Beast and Serpent. Holding him as much as possible to that useful path is one of the great challenges of life, but we have God and the Muse to help us.

Those are the Three. I think you know them too. Let me go on.

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