Tag Archives: Evil

Creating a Cohesive Worldview (Part One: Either/Or)

“What can we do when things are hard to describe? We start by sketching out the roughest shapes to serve as scaffolds for the rest; it doesn’t matter very much if some of those forms turn out partially wrong … In the final filling-in, discard whichever first ideas no longer fit.

That’s what we do in real life, with puzzles that seem very hard. It’s much the same for shattered pots as for the cogs of great machines. Until you’ve seen some of the rest, you can’t make sense of any part.”

– Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind

We are born. We are taught to communicate. And most of us are immediately asked to choose a side.

We’re told by people that we love and respect that we are either liberal or conservative, left-brained or right-brained, introverted or extroverted, left- or right-handed. Either/or. We’re sometimes told that these traits are predetermined – by the stars or by destiny. That the universe is a magical, vibrating world of opposites, and that we hang in the balance. We’re told that this duality is our reality. But this is not the whole truth.

Our compass orientation need not point us in only four directions. In three-dimensional space, we’re not limited to only 360 degrees. Are there not an infinite number of grays, colors, dimensions, subtle gradations and subjective ethical and cultural nuances between the concepts of black and white – or good and evil?

Haridas Chaudhuri writes in The Evolution of Integral Consciousness, “One devious root of war-mindedness is the dualistic logic of the arrogant intellect – the logic of either/or. Dualistic logic says: Either communism or democracy, either socialism or capitalism, is the ultimate truth, and thus creates an irreconcilable opposition between them, diving the world into two warring camps sworn to destroy each other.”

We are also taught that we are innately masculine or feminine. We are not told that there are both masculine and feminine qualities in each of us that will be appropriate at certain times and in certain moments. We are not taught how to easily switch from barking orders (“being the rock”) to nurturing flexibility (“being the tree”) and back again. But there is a time and a place for each. We are never explicitly shown how to change our mind, but every moment as a conscious human being – living among other conscious beings – demands it.

Even before we’re born, people start asking, “Is it a boy or a girl?” But, what if we are both? What if we are a girl on the outside and a boy on the inside? And what of the hermaphroditic, the transgendered, the bisexual, the polyamorous? Sexuality and gender roles exist along a full biological, psychological and sociological spectrum, and the idea of simple one male/one female binary pairs is a learned one. Perhaps the fact that we’re learning untrue (or partially true) things about gender might explain why there is so much confusion and trauma around human sexuality (not to mention sexual ethics).

Brain vs Heart

Even our worldviews – our philosophies and religions – are separated into “Eastern” and “Western.” We may be told that Eastern religions are all about Zen and the Tao and “formless emptiness” and are based in concepts like “detachment” and “discipline.” We may be told that Western religions are all about monotheism and hierarchy and are based on things like “compassion” and “reason.” But in actuality, some religions have sprung forth on one hemisphere and migrated to another over time. In actuality, all religions are a product of a certain time, place and culture. In actuality, there is nothing more unreasonable than seeing only part (or one half) of the bigger picture.

One of our primary tasks should be to unify eastern and western thought into a global philosophy that satisfies both detachment and compassion, both discipline and creativity, hierarchy and holarchy. Yes, we need to honor and uphold the need for ceremony and ritual as well as the deep social roots of our individual cultures and our learned roles within them. But we also need to bring science and religion into alignment as aspects of the same universe – convincing both that not only is there room for the other, but that neither can stand on their own.

A modern approach to religion should not only be inclusive of the mostly partial truths found throughout the world’s wisdom, but also shouldn’t rely on a solitary book, philosophy or teacher. It should continually adapt and evolve, co-creating and recognizing new mythologies (from Star Wars to Shakespeare to Dharma Bums). It should be written by the people who live it, breathe it, and believe it.

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Lessons Learned from LaVey

IC does not align itself with black magic or devil worship, but IC does believe that there is at least partial truth to every spiritual path. It is that truth, however small, that we wish to illuminate here.

Anton Szandor LaVey was a church and sideshow/burlesque organist (“seeing some of the same faces on Saturday night as he did on Sunday morning”) before founding the Church of Satan in 1966. He brought a definitive and canonical approach to his brand of religion, but also an underground, cultish aesthetic. Certain celebrities (politicians, comedians, musicians) would attend LaVey’s “Black Masses” at their height – a kind of Andy Warhol meets H.P. Lovecraft mash-up.

While Satanism, at its core, is really nothing more than a highly-cynical form of secular humanism, LaVey understood the importance of ritual in religious life. There was no awe or entertainment value to things like Plato and Kant. Satanism, as a comment on ritual, reminds us that people like to offer their blessings to the flame of the white candle, and occasionally offer a curse or two to the flame of the black candle. It’s cathartic, it just feels good, and in tandem with things like prayer and/or meditation can effect real change in an individual, eventually leading to either real or perceived change in their surroundings.

But LaVey did more than write the book on how to perform a ceremony with a broadsword and a nude female standing (or kneeling) in as an altar. He sincerely questioned the motives of those who called themselves Christians, but that practiced decidedly non-Christian behavior (greed, theft, lust) and those that that held such benign ambitions as earning more money, wanting to improve their quality of life or being proud of one’s own accomplishments without giving credit to God. He (among so many others) denied the concept of “sin,” saying it was based on behaviors that the human animal was wired for from birth – violence, sex, adultery. He held up a mirror to contemporary congregations, asking them if they wanted to pursue Earthly pleasures, why weren’t they just honest with themselves, do so guilt-free and stop calling themselves Christians?

What LaVey either didn’t understand or wouldn’t allow for was an in-between. Like many before and after, he skipped the gray areas of semantics, logic and mythology entirely and chose to pursue the purely dark side. LaVey seemed unfazed by the fact that his Anti-Christ, known by so many other names (Lucifer, Belial, Leviathan) was simply and ultimately the representation of evil – a character cast opposite Jesus to give meaning to our internal moral struggle. LaVey never fully expressed the concept of God, because a complete concept of God would contain both.

But LaVey was correct about a few things. The Christian Church has only recently begun to transcend and include its former iterations, ceding to select truths in the fields of psychology, archaeology, ethics and biology. The Christian Church continues to change, every day moving away from a fundamental and literalist approach to centuries-old dogma and growing more diverse in its understanding and interpretation of holy scripture.  But, when does it cease to be “Christianity?”

The magic spells and demonic imagery aside, LaVey’s question is as valid as ever today. With the rise of televangelism and the Mega Church, money and contributions are not only spent on treasure-building within the corporate church structure but flaunted on huge screens in front of the congregation itself.  And while no religious doctrine should be invalidated if it serves the needs of a community or greater good, the tenets of Lavey’s Church of Satan are unfortunately written (and spoken) by someone who has seemingly never raised a child or helped another in need of charity.

Ultimately, it is the work and the word that is left behind. And any spiritual code or written moral law is like a steel rod which we (as saplings) are tied to – or voluntarily wrap ourselves around. Our path is constantly righted by this written word and we may wither and die away, but the word – in many cases – lives on.

LaVey’s work, while convenient for the anti-establishment sect to debate and argue, falls short of providing a full spiritual life for those seeking immediate fulfillment on Earth or even those Christians who find themselves on the fence.