Religion 111: God, Money, and the Paradigm Sh**t…

IMG_0379Is there an inverse proportion between spirituality and material wealth? Duh. How do you spell t-a-u-t-o-l-o-g-y? Let me repeat that again for you, one more time (ha!): “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”—Jesus H. Christ

Truer words have ne’er been spoke, neither by the righteous, wannabes nor the wicked. It is simply an existential fact. Modern Christians with their consumerist fetishes and bulging waistlines try to explain it away, but trying to keep the weight off is another story. First they try to evade the issue, arguing over whether JC meant that you need humility or divine intervention (sound of throat clearing rhetorically), then give up, bragging about “My congregation’s experiment in using market values to grow our mission.” Rubbish.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”–Luke 16:13. Is that clear enough for you yet? The two concepts, spirituality and money, are not only at odds with each other, but are in fact exact opposites.

And modern Asian religions are as guilty as Western Capitalist Christians. Rajneesh/Osho was as famous as the “rich man’s guru” as he was as the “sex guru” (and don’t forget the condom). Similarly the abbot of the highly successful Dhammakaya Temple in Thailand is today under indictment for money laundering, and the state-supported Buddhist institution would give the Vatican a run for its corruption money.

This is why it is so hard for Capitalist ‘democracies’ to compete with bearded rag-tag morally reprehensible pitiful-excuse-for-human-beings like ISIL. It’s not that they have the moral upper hand. They don’t. They have the spiritual upper hand, in that they don’t need money, or not much anyway, just like the Communist Cuban ‘barbudos‘ before them. Spirit is blind, neither good nor bad in itself, except in how it is used.

And they have the weight of history in their favor. Everything that is built up will one day fall down—simple. That is the law of entropy in physics. The odds of an unbroken many-thousand-year run of developed Western-style society is highly unlikely. The closest we’ve come to that so far is China, and that’s not been without problems, nor without high costs, mostly in the Freedom department in the supermarket of life.

We Westerners, liberals at least, want to believe that the thrust of history is toward the total and eventual elimination of all controls, toward some final liberated state in which we’re apparently naked drunk stoned and f*cking, any time and all the time, whenever and with whomever. And then what?  Good question. No American wants to hear that religious or philosophical–much less political–success or ‘enlightenment’ consists in the training or control of the mind, and the body: but that is exactly the case, I’d say.

We’d rather be chasing Zen koans or spatio-temporal conundrums than becoming spirit warriors, to use the neo-Christian ‘prayer warrior’ analogy, of a billion or so people sitting and praying, minds focused on exactly the same thing, in the analogy. I like the analogy, but many people wouldn’t. It sounds Muslim, with the emphasis on discipline. Buddhists and Christians share the concepts of kindness and love almost interchangeably, depending on the mood, rarely invoking that other pillar of the religious trilogy—control.

But that’s exactly what it’ll take to make our lives better, both on the micro- and macro-cosmic levels, self-control and political control. Any good Buddhist knows this, though Western converts prefer to ignore it. The only way to find peace within myself is to remove or at least diminish any and all bad and negative thoughts, and unhealthy attachments, too, before they erupt into confrontation. Nations need to do that, too. We don’t always need to win, for the sake of dignity or anything else.

Bottom line: it takes more than a truce to make a peace. It takes an act of will, and that requires control, as much as inspiration. We Westerners are instilled with the values of ‘death before dishonor’ (very Muslim!) much more than ‘strategic withdrawal’ so that we may live to fight another day—or not.  Confrontation is too much the order of the day in our Western world, America especially, ‘standing our ground’ enshrined in our mythology, ‘unconditional surrender’ the battle cry, take no prisoners nor bullsh*t.

That’s why China rules the world, or will one day soon. They know kung fu. They know that to win a war is more important than to win a battle, and this from the most image-conscious culture in the world! It’s also the only culture to have a continuous well-documented four thousand year history, all Israeli grandstanding notwithstanding.

I know that’s not what you want to hear, but that’s not why I’m here. You want someone to tell you to follow your bliss, never change, and never give up! You want comfort food for the spirit, fast food for the soul. That’s what the now-extinct Europeans in Greenland wanted too, apparently willing to die before they’d ask for help from the Inuits up north. So they did–die, that is.

For ten billion of us to exist simultaneously on this increasingly crowded planet, it’ll take more than conciliation. That’s just the starting point. We need a religious revival, a revival of the spirit, communal spirit. And we need controls, voluntary controls, on our worst habits. We are in the era of major paradigm sh**ts. The losers now will be later to win. Can I get a witness? See you in one of the Buddhist forest temples…