In his upcoming book More Than Allegory: On Religious Myth, Truth and Belief, Bernardo Kastrup continues his fascinating exploration into the depths of the human mind and nature of our existence. His newest work focuses on the importance of religion in creating and weaving together the symbolic narratives of existence into the fabric of our reality. The book will most likely be shunned by the narrow-minded community of atheist intellectuals and adherents of philosophical materialism who so desperately attack religion in the construction and defense of their own worldviews, yet who would benefit most from its ideas. These types are prone to the same thinking as religious fundamentalists, which is that of literal interpretation of the ideas, rituals and texts of the worlds various religions. A tendency to focus so much on explicit religious messages that one tends to lose sight of their implicit ones seemingly renders religion meaningless. But when we focus on the implicit messages in both specific religions and religiosity in general, we find a treasure of symbolic, archetypal and allegorical knowledge. Bernardo lays forth an argument that reconnecting with the more meaningful implicit messages in religion can save us not only from the insanity of religious fundamentalism, but from the follies of new dogmas like materialism.
While I remain a great fan of Bernardo’s work, his academic style and lack of color and humor represent a different path to knowledge than I have chosen, which is the shamanic route. While he elects to understand those old religious narratives in a purely intellectual way, I am more prone to creating my own, or turning the old on their head through satire, absurdist-deconstruction and dadaist recombination.
When the phrase The Quran Drugs came to mind, a play on The War On Drugs, I decided to follow this silliness down the rabbit hole of creative writing and see where it would lead. I ultimately decided that the best way to do that would be to explore the ideas, verses and parables through the Quran, yet replacing certain words and concepts with those you would more likely hear from lotus eaters than suicide bombers.
The first one is from the parable known as The Light of Allah, and in it I replace Allah with Cosmic Mind and Light with Consciousness and then adjust the rest of the language and syntax accordingly, while keeping the logic and linguistic structure intact. What at first looked like a boring old religious text suddenly took on the shape and feel of a late night toke session in a dorm room.
“The Cosmic Mind is the consciousness of the heavens and the earth. The parable of the Cosmic Mind’s consciousness is as if it were a nothingness containing a thought; the thought is in mind, the mind like the sum of all knowledge: imagined by a blessed being – a body that is neither of existence or non-existence, the ideas whereof would well-nigh give consciousness even though thought had not touched it: consciousness within consciousness! The Cosmic Mind guides unto it’s consciousness they that will it; and thus the Cosmic Mind propounds parables unto humankind, since the Cosmic Mind has full knowledge of all things.”
The next parable, The Spider’s Web, describes the sort of anarchism understood by those whose explorations in ego death have brought about the knowledge of the total uncertainty of all things, and the folly of battling that uncertainty through systems of governance. At least it does when I replace the concept Allah with Self, and Idols with Government.
The likeness of those who choose rulers besides the Self , namely government from which they hope to profit, is as the likeness of the spider that makes it’s net it’s nest. And truly the frailest, the weakest, of homes is the home of the spider – for it neither protects it from heat nor cold – likewise, governments cannot benefit those who are caught in them – if they only knew this, they would not get caught in them.
Materialism, physicalism and naturalism are similar ideas. They are all metaphysical propositions stating that our reality is an emergent property of objects or things within a primal physical universe. In the Parable of the Mosquito, we don’t have to do too much bending, since the original meaning will be similar to our remix. I replace Allah with Universal Consciousness and Gnat with Laws of Nature As anyone who has undergone the little death of the self in the psychedelic process can tell you, the apparent universe is not the universe itself, but a virtual narrative of the experiences of the universe and those within it.
Surely the universal consciousness is not ashamed to set forth any parable- neither the laws of nature or any thing above them; then as for those who have tuned in, they know that it is the truth from the universal consciousness, and as for those who are square, they say: What is it that the universal consciousness means by this parable of natures laws: universe causes many to err by it and many consciousnesses are led aright by it! but the universal consciousness does not cause to err by it except by the literalism of the unawakened.
I could continue this exercise indefinitely. I could take any sacred text from any place or time in history and, by skewing a few concepts here and there, use their forms to express knowledge that would be palatable by even the greatest critics of those religions and their supporting texts. That is, if they could keep an open mind long enough to comprehend the artistry of such things. Those who outright reject religious teachings are guilty of the sin of anti-intellectualism. The only things we cannot learn from are those we have decided not to. Religions and their beliefs and parables and holy books are all goldmines of allegorical information. They are full of immense truths that are potentially meaningful to people of any belief system who are willing to go beyond the surface and find the poetry of truth that lies beneath.
While many social critics take every possible opportunity to lash out against religion, they fail to understand that their reactionary response differs little from those religious extremists and radical fundamentalists. Both groups want their truths served up in easy to swallow, bite-sized pieces. Both want to reduce everything to black-and-white absolutes in order to protect themselves from the uncertainty of our existence, a task which is foolish and impossible. Absolutism is the false-sense-of-security-blanket that fools swaddle themselves in to protect themselves from the imaginary monsters in their closets.
Religion is not the problem, authoritarianism is. Authoritarianism is the institutionalization of absolutes. No human tragedy seemingly born of religion has occurred outside the auspices of authority. The ideas of religion are only harmless when they are co-opted by authoritarians for maligned purposes. Discarding all human religious notions is not just throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Besides doing that, it discards the bathtub, and leaves us without an important vessel for cleansing ourselves in the healing waters of allegorical truth. Those who believe that the only meaningful truths are the literal ones are like existential whores who have forsaken bathing for a sickly overabundance of perfumes. When death removes the clothing of the ego and spreads the folds concealing our most intimate parts, eternity can smell right through us.