On Telescopes and Religious Means
There is an analog
of "political correctness" that we might call "spiritual
correctness". It goes something like, "all paths to the
Divine or ultimate liberation are equal"; and anyone who suggests
otherwise risks seriously offending or insulting whomever they are
speaking with. But just as with "political correctness",
"spiritual correctness" can be carried too far, and cause
us to throw discrimination to the winds.
relative to political and social freedom, right, and respect --
should absolutely be guaranteed for all groups, religious, spiritual,
or otherwise. Never again should there be a "Crusade"
or a "religious war" that justifies killing people or
depriving them of their basic human rights, in the name of some
religion or in the name of any group or nation whatsoever.
That is the
sense in which all paths, ways, groups, sects, etc. are equal
-- in their social and political and human rights.
But this in
no way implies that the religious means -- for actually, tangibly
linking up with the Divine -- that accompanies a given path, way,
group, or sect is equally powerful, reliable, or revelatory. Let's
consider an analogy drawn from the world of science. (While science
has its liabilities, one of the great things about science is
its demand for genuine discrimination.)
knows that all telescopes are not
created equal! In other words, not all telescopes are equally
effective for determining the nature of stars and other distant
phenomena. And even at the same time, the full variety of telescopes
are available for the variety of purposes they serve -- they are
equal in the social or political sense of availability; there
are no laws prohibiting the creation or use of a radio telescope,
examining the variety of telescopes in detail, because they provide
a useful analogy with the variety of religious means!
telescopes. Some toy stores sell "telescopes"
made of plastic.
plastic stoves, or plastic computers, they don't actually
work as real telescopes do (not even a little), but this
entire style of toys is not meant to actually achieve the
purposes of the real things (astronomy, cooking, or word
processing); the purpose is for kids to play by themselves
or with each other using these accessories to give them
the feeling that they are like their adult counterparts.
It's all fantasy, of course, but kids really enjoy it!
exoteric religions. In this category are "religions"
that provide social interaction, belief systems, principles
for moral living, and so forth, but do not actually provide
a tangible means for locating the Divine.
such groups may not provide such means is of course fine.
The human and civil rights of all such sects should be guaranteed
absolutely, just like the human and civil rights of our
local Lions Club, our bowling alleys, or our beautiful National
if we are truly and very specifically seeking "re-ligio"
-- re-connection with the Divine -- we must ask ourselves
whether a given sect provides us with "the right stuff"
for doing so. It's a serious question for those who want
more than social consolation out of religion or spirituality.
it is important to note that many such sects did indeed
have a genuine, esoteric origin at one point in their history,
and did provide working means for locating the Divine (generally
through the Transmission of the Spiritual Master who was
the source of the religion). But in many cases, the actual
Transmission and means for connecting with It got lost,
diffused, or replaced by mere rituals over the centuries.
but real telescopes, impressive to the newcomer, because
they actually work! When
I was a kid, I received a telescope as a gift -- my first
telescope! It was a wonderful gift for a 10-year old. I
think it had a magnification of 10 -- which allowed me to
see the details of the markings on the moon.
didn't help a whole lot in seeing the stars, but it sure
helped in being able to see down the block! And made me
wonder what looking through an even more powerful telescope
would be like. . .
but real religious means, impressive to the newcomer, because
they actually work! Everyone experiences the
Revelation of the Divine, the "Shock of God",
in moments of their life, in some form that is tangible
(although possibly rather "diluted", or filtered
through one's own viewpoint or background) -- a "near
death" experience, a vision (perhaps as the result
of a "vision quest"), an extraordinarily tangible
feeling of non-separation from all -- it could take many
these means are "weak", in the sense that (a)
they are a product of uncommon circumstance -- everything
just happened to be exactly "right" in order for
this Revelation to occur; and (b) for this reason, they
can't be the basis for a moment-to-moment life of communion
with the Divine Being, although they can certainly inspire
one to look for such a moment-to-moment means.
powerful and steadily reliable telescopes. Let's
consider some other telescopes. These ones have magnifications
on the order of "1000 times" on up.
telescopes work on the principle of the magnification
of visible light. One of the problems with using conventional
telescopes, however powerful, is the distraction from
other sources of light (cities, etc.) So the best conventional
telescopes tend to be somewhat removed from urban areas,
and located on the tops of mountains. The Mount Palomar
Observatory's "200-inch Hale telescope" is
a good example of this type, and is situated 3 hours
drive away from Los Angeles, and 2 hours drive from
via Palomar telescope
telescopes use other frequencies than visible light. The
best known are the giant radio telescopes, whose gargantuan
dishes can be several hundred feet across. The virtue
over conventional telescopes is that these telescopes
are not affected by other sources of visible light. A
well-known example is the Arecibo Telescope, located on
Puerto Rico, whose dish is a thousand feet wide.
( 1000 ft. across)
However, you can guess their liability: they are affected
by other sources of radio waves!
thought we had discovered extraterrestrial life,
but it turned out to be the local rock station."
that "transcend" all limitations. Well, here's
where our analogy breaks down, because there is no such
thing as perfection, or freedom from limitation in this
place. But we can at least point to certain other efforts
in telescopy that have some analogy -- for instance the
Hubble Space Telescope, which, being in orbit above the
atmosphere, provides a "viewpoint" that is free
of all the ordinary limitations of trying to see stars
through an interfering (light-distorting) atmosphere.
the Hubble space telescope
But actually the Hubble telescope is more analogous to
a spiritual seeker who moves into a cave so he or she
can better contemplate the Divine, free of ordinary worldly
distractions. A truer analogy would be a telescope that
doesn't involve going anywhere else (e.g., into orbit),
and can obtain whatever information you are looking for
without any limitations on the type or the accuracy of
powerful and steadily reliable religious means.
In order for a religious means to truly enable a
life in the Divine, moment to moment, that "means"
must provide an unrelenting, always accessible "doorway"
to the Divine. In the world's traditions of "religious
means", the only means of this kind are the great Spiritual
Spiritual Master is a "Transmission Master", himself
or herself literally a doorway through which the Divine
Revelation is transmitted in a tangible form. Spiritual
practice is then primarily a matter of becoming better and
better at tuning into the Divine Transmission of one's Spiritual
nature and strength of that Transmission depends on the
'transparency" (the Spiritual Realization) of the one
serving as the "doorway":
Masters whose Realization of God is the fourth stage of
Masters whose Realization of God is the fifth stage of
Masters whose Realization of God is the sixth or the seventh
elaboration on the stages of life and the nature of Spiritual
Transmission is available in courses COMP201
final note on "spiritual correctness".
If we really think about it, to say "all
spiritual paths are equal" is basically a tip of the hat
to that non-path, materialism. Any spiritual paths that come into
contact with something that is Real, can actually be assessed
and compared in terms of What they come into contact with and
how well, how direct, etc. they do it -- isn't that obvious? To
say that they cannot be so compared is basically to imply that
they do not come into contact with anything Real, beyond one's
own subjectivity. Religions, in such a view, are merely means
for feeling better using consoling stories and belief systems
about the purpose of life and what happens after life, and, for
this reason, should not be assessed or compared, any more than
I should say "my favorite color is red, your favorite color
is blue, and my choice is better." That's ridiculous, of
course, unless we discover that there is some other means for
assessing these choices, like having red as your favorite color
gives you an edge in the natural selection game, or something
very specific like that.
Do you truly
believe that no spiritual
path comes into contact with anything Real? Or, perhaps better
put, do you know this for
certain about all spiritual paths? Is it your considered opinion
that religions and spiritual paths are all so subjective, nebulous,
unverifiable, and none of them contain any substance as a basis
for comparison? If we know differently, or we don't know for certain,
then let us not, in effect, imply it,
by saying that all spiritual paths are equal.