Rumi – Masnavi I Ma’navi

14 10 2007

Masnavi I Ma’navi – Book I: PROLOGUE by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi

“HEARKEN to the reed-flute, how it complains,
Lamenting its banishment from its home:
“Ever since they tore me from my osier bed,
My plaintive notes have moved men and women to tears.
I burst my breast, striving to give vent to sighs,
And to express the pangs of my yearning for my home.
He who abides far away from his home
Is ever longing for the day ho shall return.
My wailing is heard in every throng,
In concert with them that rejoice and them that weep.
Each interprets my notes in harmony with his own feelings,
But not one fathoms the secrets of my heart.”

Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint

13 10 2007

FILM – Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint

“Milarepa depicts the humble beginnings of the man who was to become Tibet’s greatest saint.

A true story based on centuries-old oral traditions, a youthful Milarepa is propelled into a world of sorrow and betrayal after his father’s sudden death. Destitute and hopeless, he sets out to learn black magic – and exact revenge on his enemies – encountering magicians, demons, an enigmatic teacher and unexpected mystical power along the way. But it is in confrontation with the consequences of his anger that he learns the most.”

a memetically engineered nontheistic religion

7 10 2007

The Church of Virus

[The Church of] “Virus is a collection of mutually-supporting ideas (a meme-complex) encompassing philosophy, science, technology, politics, and religion. The core ideas are based on evolution and memetics because one of the primary design goals was survivability through adaptation (religions die, not because they grow old, but because they become obsolete). If a new religion is designed around the premise of continuously integrating better (more accurate, more useful) concepts while ensuring the survival of its believers, it could conceivably achieve true immortality.”

The Problem with Atheism

2 10 2007

In On Faith by Sam Harris


Now let me just assert, on the basis of my own study and experience, that there is no question in my mind that people have improved their emotional lives, and their self-understanding, and their ethical intuitions, and have even had important insights about the nature of subjectivity itself through a variety of traditional practices like meditation.

Leaving aside all the metaphysics and mythology and mumbo jumbo, what contemplatives and mystics over the millennia claim to have discovered is that there is an alternative to merely living at the mercy of the next neurotic thought that comes careening into consciousness. There is an alternative to being continuously spellbound by the conversation we are having with ourselves.

One problem with atheism as a category of thought, is that it seems more or less synonymous with not being interested in what someone like the Buddha or Jesus may have actually experienced. In fact, many atheists reject such experiences out of hand, as either impossible, or if possible, not worth wanting. Another common mistake is to imagine that such experiences are necessarily equivalent to states of mind with which many of us are already familiar—the feeling of scientific awe, or ordinary states of aesthetic appreciation, artistic inspiration, etc.

As someone who has made his own modest efforts in this area, let me assure you, that when a person goes into solitude and trains himself in meditation for 15 or 18 hours a day, for months or years at a time, in silence, doing nothing else—not talking, not reading, not writing—just making a sustained moment to moment effort to merely observe the contents of consciousness and to not get lost in thought, he experiences things that most scientists and artists are not likely to have experienced, unless they have made precisely the same efforts at introspection. And these experiences have a lot to say about the plasticity of the human mind and about the possibilities of human happiness.

My concern is that atheism can easily become the position of not being interested in certain possibilities in principle. I don’t know if our universe is, as JBS Haldane said, “not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose.” But I am sure that it is stranger than we, as “atheists,” tend to represent while advocating atheism. As “atheists” we give others, and even ourselves, the sense that we are well on our way toward purging the universe of mystery. As advocates of reason, we know that mystery is going to be with us for a very long time. Indeed, there are good reasons to believe that mystery is ineradicable from our circumstance, because however much we know, it seems like there will always be brute facts that we cannot account for but which we must rely upon to explain everything else. This may be a problem for epistemology but it is not a problem for human life and for human solidarity. It does not rob our lives of meaning. And it is not a barrier to human happiness.