First of all, the problem of the death of God. Theology. And secondly, the problem of whether the Jewish and Christian traditions can be in some way revived. Today, I am going to talk about the future of religion in the first session from a social point of view. And in this afternoon session from an individual point of view.
And what we are going to look at is a rather strange idea, which Frederick Spiegelberg, who has taught the history of religions at Stanford for many years, calls the religion of no-religion.
Curious thing that has many aspects to it. He wrote a very interesting book about it years ago, which has unfortunately sort of disappeared from the market.
I met Spiegelberg in 1936, originally as a refugee from Hitler in England.
And he had just come out with the idea of the religion of no religion. And it immediately struck a responsive chord in me because I was involved with the study of Zen which in a way is the religion of no religion. In Zen, for example. A famous story tells of one of the monks who was pestering his teacher as to how he was making progress in his study of Zen? And the teacher said, you’re all right, but you have a trivial fault.
And what is that? He said you have too much as zen.
Well, the student said, don’t you take it for granted that a person who is studying Zen would be interested in it, thinking about it, talking about it. And he said the teacher said no. It turns one’s stomach.
So another monk who was standing by said, well, why does it? Why is this? He said, when it’s like an ordinary, everyday conversation, it’s much better. And so it has been a principle of Zen, throughout its whole history, that if somebody asks you a religious question, you give a secular answer. What is the ultimate meaning of Buddhism? There’s enough breeze in the sand to keep me cool. Or if somebody says. Why do you have a fan? The answer is. See, that’s a secular question. So the answer is this fan will ascend to the 15th heaven and hit the nose of the presiding deity. The answer is sacred.
There is a Latin saying from the poet Lucretius. Tanto, really, Gil Berkowitz, father in Malone.
Too much religion is apt to encourage evil.
And so somehow, always I’m suspicious of religious people.
When somebody comes on with a great deal about idealism and what you ought to do and this and that.
I know he’s a rascal, but when I meet someone who from the very beginning of our association admits that he’s a rascal, I feel safer.
And that’s the reason why when men are friendly with each other, I don’t know about women because that’s their private world and I’m not privy to it. That men who are fond of each other. Call each others bastards and all sorts of uncomplimentary names. Hey, you son of a bitch, how you doing? See?
That means that we recognize that we have in common something which in Hebrew theology is called the yetzer hara. This word in Hebrew means the wayward spirit, and it, according to Hebrew theology, when God created Adam in the beginning of time, he put in his heart the yet Saharan. And that was, in other words, a predisposition to be ornery, to be difficult, to be non-cooperative, to go off on his own in some way.
Christians don’t admit this. They have no doctrine of the yetzer hara. Which is why Hebrews has more humor in religion than Christians do. There are some exceptions to this. For example, G.K. Chesterton, the great Catholic, had wonderful humor and some Catholics have this. But by and large, the Christian religion is serious about the Hebrew religion has always a slight twinkle to it.
If you see a play like the Fiddler on the Roof of the Hebrew can talk to God on kind of a man to man basis. But the Christian is always cowering fundamentally. Too big a load of guilt because of not admitting not realizing that it was God himself who was responsible for the way witness of human nature for the Sahara. I call the Sahara in English. Translation The element of irreducible rascality that is in us all.
And Young spoke of this a great deal when he called, when he addressed himself to the problem.
Of the assimilation of the evil in us. Once upon a time, Young met a man in whom he could find no human failing whatsoever. And this man seriously disturbed him. He said that I have at last met a genuine saint, and he was so worried that he thought that he should take his own life in order and reform himself. He said a few days later, I met the man’s wife. Never again have I been subject to this temptation, not because his wife is the sort of person who said, well, you should try and live with my husband. That wasn’t the idea at all.
It was that his wife contained the Saints shadow-side. He drove her to desperation. Because she had to reflect all the repressed things in her husband. So if you only saw through it. And never again was tempted to be a saint. I have a most amusing friend who lives with me here on this boat. The artist Joel Varda, and he is always in danger of being beguiled by saints. Someone comes around who is sure is a completely saintly person. And then suddenly there’s a frightful disillusionment. It always turns out that that wasn’t that way at all. So one has to be very suspicious of all pretensions to goodness. And the sanctity, because they do not recognize the yet, Sara, or the element of irreducible rascality that is in his all.
And this then is why. Preaching, [the] preached religion is a failure. The whole lesson of history is that preaching doesn’t work. That preaching is really a form of moral violence. Of trying to change human conduct by saying ‘Look, if you don’t mend your ways, those are going to be a terrible thing happen.’
Either the police are going to catch you or hellfire, which is, of course, the celestial police force is going to catch you. Or a dreadful doom is going to occur. You realize that before the Second World War, beginning with remark book all quiet on the Western Front, there was an enormous propaganda against war based on the horrors of war.
And in Japan, they had innumerable movies taken during the First World War, which was an unbelievably brutal Holocaust, where there was British and French generals really sacrificed men. Do you know that on the day that the armistice was declared and the victory was announced for the allied forces when the commanding officers ordered three cheers for His Majesty the King?
A great many of the men blew raspberries instead. It was an absolutely inhuman thing. Well, the Japanese had all these very uncensored photographs and movies, but this did not deter the Japanese from trying it themselves. Because horror, the doom, has a fascination for everybody. The same thing, kind of vertigo, which one gets looking over a precipice, the temptation to jump.
I know a young man. I did know him. He’s dead. He had tried everything.
He had tried all possible changes of consciousness, all possible drugs and experiments. And finally, he did something to die. And I am sure I know why. He had to find out what death was about. It found out everything else. But he was completely fascinated, and so always when you paint the picture of doom. Say this is what’s going to happen to you if you are simply asking for trouble. People will go to their tombs.
And so the preaching lesson is no good.The only way to change human behavior is to woo. Instead of preach. To make love, instead of threatening disaster. To point out how glorious something could be. And in some way to live it. And this is the real. If it has any meaning and if it has any guts, do it. The idea of make love, not war, would be, to live here and now, starting today, a magnificent life. And you don’t need a great deal of money to do it. You need more imagination than money. I know innumerable people who’ve got lots and lots of money and were absolutely miserable because they have no imagination and they are full of fears because of their wealth. They always think someone’s going to take it away and instead of, now, will I starve? Will I get sick? There’s no protection against that. Who knows when anything strikes, when any accident strikes. We have no real defense against that.
So from a social point of view, the important thing in religion is no longer preaching the possibility of doom, because nobody is threatened by doom, doom doesn’t deter anyone because we know we’re all doomed anyway. Why rub it in? We’re all going to die.
And of course the Christians and the Islamic people. And to some extent, the Hindus and Buddhists tried to rub it in and say, you think death is the bad thing here. You just wait till when you are dead. Because we’ve got eons of time in which you can be tortured in our very special hells. Stop and consider that! Well, everybody read about us, it’s like people think about the atom bomb.
Nobody is any more deterred by thinking about that. We’re so used to it. And at the same time, it’s inconceivable. Is there nothing anyone can do about it? There is no way of defending San Francisco against an atomic attack.
So therefore, everybody stops thinking about it, because it’s insoluble.
So the terror thing does nothing, if anything at all, that we would say, OK, let’s get it over with. So we don’t have to dread this anymore, push the button. And end [it].
So what is necessary to do instead and not for any reason that there might be death and hell at last.
But to get up the nerve to live the joyous, good life today. Using imagination rather than money. And the difficulty for Jews and Christians in particular. Other people have difficulties, too. But the difficulty for them is their feeling that if you do presume to live the good life today, you will make the gods mad.
Years is like saying it, people, you may well laugh now.
But you just wait. What’s going to happen to you.
So then we we have to see an enormous terror of pleasure. Of enjoying ourselves. Because when we enjoy ourselves, we feel guilty. We know I mean, if you eat a good dinner, there’s an obscure feeling that somebody somewhere is not having a good day. Therefore, what right have you to enjoy your dinner when somebody’s going hungry? Well, what are you going to do about that? If it just gives you a bad digestion, because you can’t assimilate your own dinner that does no one any good. It doesn’t do the hungry person any good. It doesn’t do you any good.
Guilt, in other words, is an absolutely 100 percent destructive emotion.
And one of the real reasons why people don’t do anything about the hungry, and something could be done about it. Is there guilt hangup? They’d rather be guilty than practical. It’s perfectly possible to abolish starvation throughout the world. People would spend as much energy doing that as they would do, motivated by groundless fears, getting together to cooperate, to defend themselves against the unspeakable threat of yellow communism or something like that.
It is to me absolutely unbelievable, the wealth that is wasted and poured into projects of violence. When any practical person. Would have seen that for half the cost. You could have everybody.
In Asia, all the millions of Chinese, Vietnamese, Hindus living a nice, prosperous life for half the cost of what is taking to defend ourselves against the alleged menace.
But it is curious you see, that people will be united for reasons of terror. Not for reasons of love. And yet the union, the associations they form to defend themselves against an alleged terror are, in the end, always and invariably destructive. They solve nothing and build up massive historical hatreds.
So, if there is to be any sort of future for religion, it’s one of the most obvious lessons of history that it must stop preaching, and do something else. I was a minister in the Episcopal Church, I was a university chaplain at Northwestern for five years. Finally, when I got through with it, the thing that embarrassed me most of all was preaching.
You see the problem of being a minister. You have your color turnaround. So is that once you set yourself up in that position, people look at you and say they start respecting you. Cops don’t give you tickets. They give you a discount at the liquor store. Oh, you get all these funny little privileges. And why? Well, people would say you’re living vicariously for us. The good life that we don’t live. See?
Now, what does that mean? It means essentially this: that you don’t screw around, that’s all. And that’s all.
Because if you take the practical test, what do the churches do socially today? They are not interested in anything. They are not interested in mysticism. They’re not interested in God. They’re not interested in abolishing poverty.
A few of them are: the Quakers. A few people get mad about war and really try to do something. But by and large, all the churches are doing is they are family and sexual regulation societies. And the truth of the matter is the test for what can a preacher get kicked out? For owning shares in an armaments corporation, General Dynamics, not on your life.
You can live, as I say, quoting the litany of the Church of England in a state of envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitable in hardness of heart and contempt of God’s word and commandment and be a bishop in good standing. But the minute you sleep with your secretary, you’re out. That’s the test.
After all, even sleeping with somebody in a written irregular way is a loving thing to do. It’s not a hateful thing to do. It’s an action of affection. However, whatever rationalization you may bring forth to show that it shouldn’t be done. Jesus certainly, regarded it as one of the minor sins and was far more angered by the money changers and that courts of the temple than he was about the woman taken in the sin of adultery. And yet this is magnified. This is the thing.
So this whole position, of a religion geared to repression.
Essentially, what it is Freud was right. But Freud didn’t have the courage of his convictions. This is why Norman Browne’s book, Life A Life Against Death is such a marvelous piece of work as here you’ll get a very sophisticated classical scholar putting forward the preposterous notion that repression is a bad thing. And he’s he’s advocating it with all the the historical knowledge and literary expertise of a professor of his standing. [It’s] very funny indeed.
Not in so far then, as our religion has been repressive. It has one thing to be said for it.
And the moment you understand this, the bubble is broken. The one thing that can be said for repression is the tighter the squeeze, the stronger the jet. And so in a way, sex has been made more exciting by making it forbidden. [But] that’s the purpose.
In other words, in the way if we go back to the origins of Christianity in Rome, the civilization of Rome, where depending on your social level, you had different kinds of sex life. You if you could, if you were rich enough to attend the baths, you could have anything you wanted. Plenty of it. If you weren’t rich enough to go to the bars, you had the circus. And in the circus, you could be entertained with any kind of sadism, masochism, weird bestiality and goings on.
Finally, everybody got sexually flaccid, and therefore the revolution of Christianity to stop all this with eventually a disgust for sex, was a biological process. However rationalized theologically, it was a biological process to restore sexual interest by making it forbidden. Only they didn’t know it. But once you see that, you see, you can see what Christianity did, what its function was. But also you can see that it went too far. Instead of simply recreating interest in sex by making it forbidden, it warped all sorts of people’s lives because they didn’t have any sexual delight without guilt at all. And it created what is called lever sex which is a sadomasochistic women in black boots and all that kind of thing. And that’s again, where love through its frustration turns into violence. And where orgasm is confused with pain.
There’s always that possibility, you see, we, our getting our wires crossed. For example, many people who have got their wires crossed in their heads when they see something that excites sexual excitement. They feel the emotion or the sensation of disgust. Because they can’t distinguish the nauseating feeling of I want to vomit. They can’t clearly distinguish that from the orgiastic feeling of I want to convulse. They’ve got their wires crossed so they feel disgust. Then they should be feeling lost. That’s what we call being mixed up.
So then, from a social point of view, it’s it seems to me obvious that a social community must have a religion. And above all, a religion about which we all agree. There’s no point in having a religion about which we don’t agree. I mean, you know, you have the Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the synagogue, Jehovah’s Witnesses and all these people fighting with each other. And playing their various one-upmanship games with each other and the vast majority of the public who couldn’t care less. Don’t go anyway. So there is no religion today.
We’ve got all these survivals from the past and they fight with each other. To belong to a religion today is to my mind, not intellectually respectable. Because all you do when you join a church. You become a divisive force. This is where Krishnamurti is so clear and marvelous in his discussion of this problem. He shows again and again. He asks people, you want to believe in a God. You want to believe in a life beyond death. Why? Why really do you want to believe this? And he drums it in and drums it in. He says the reason is you want to protect yourself. And so long as you’re trying to protect yourself, you have put up a shell between you and everything you define as not being you.
And for this reason, then all your beliefs are simply sources of strife and disharmony. And then he puts himself in a very odd position. Because you can’t be a disciple of Krishnamurti. You can’t join anything. He has no organization. And so he’s surrounded with non-disciples.
And he gets terribly frustrated. Because he keeps seeing that the people who follow him and who come and listen to him, they just don’t understand what he is trying to get across. The smart people would leave, you know, they would get the word and disappear. How fast can you get out? But they think that there’s still some special secret he’s got up his sleeve. And if they hang around long enough, they’ll get it. They won’t. He said everything right from the start. So then, we cannot or that much as there is need for a religion in society. A religion which believes in something won’t work. Because the moment you put out a belief. People start to argue. The moment you lay down a law, people start to argue.
Should it be this way? Should it be that way? Then there’s this group that says we think it should be this, that you should eat meat. Then the other group says, no, you shouldn’t eat meat. And so they start yammering at each other. So there is a possibility then, that there could be an entirely different basis of religion.
Let’s think of some things that we agree about and don’t argue about. There’s a pretty close agreement among people living in the United States of whatever racial origin to speak the English language. Because no one enforces it. People don’t go around saying you will be damned forever if you split an infinitive. Or if you use the word baluka instead of cup, nobody fights about that. Therefore, more or less, everybody agrees to talk English. It’s convenient. Another thing that we don’t fight much about is music. There are indeed some parties in music. There are people, the classical people that are the rock people, there are the jazz people or the barbershop quartet people.
But there’s a pretty easy tolerance about this. We don’t really take people to law. And to get the cops after them because they differ in musical tastes from us. Oh, well, well, well, there’s plenty of room now music. Is something, therefore, about which people can unite. With no argument. What is there to argue about?
You just get with it and you swing.
So then this indicates to me that the only possibly a harmonious religion for mankind could be one which has in it no ideology. It would have no doctrines. So there would be nothing to argue about. In the principle of Zen is always, of course.
Instead of theorizing about what is the nature of the universe to point directly. And say if you want to understand, see into it directly. In other words, here I am talking anyway, look into the nature of life without thinking. And see for yourself that when you don’t think, you don’t make any division between yourself and the rest of the world.
You cannot point to the distinction between your five fingers. You can’t lay your finger on the difference between your fingers, and in the same way, you cannot touch the difference between yourself and someone else. The difference is a concept. A propriety. A churlish propriety that. This is mine, this is yours. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
But when you stop the theorizing, you stop the thinking, then you don’t divide.Then the world is what Buddhists call in its state of such-ness, just like that. So then it is for this reason that if there were to be a religion about which people could really unite, it would have to have no, no doctrine. No law. That is put in words. But people could unite. Around what we might at the moment call a nonsense religion.
I call it hun. Hun. Which is the religion that is starting. It has no hierarchy. Nobody’s in charge. No offices. No organization. It has no doctrine. It doesn’t say any words that mean anything. It has only music and ritual.
Because people like to get together and dance according to the Hindus, the whole universe is the dance of the Godhead. [So] join in. Get with it. And so this is what we need in American life in particular.
We don’t have any joyous social assemblage.
Figure that we don’t. You may occasionally go to a nightspot, at a price to dance on a small little tiny floor and really not much fun.
There is no dancing in the streets. Why it would be considered somehow subversive.
There is no pageantry except the occasional military pageantry on the Fourth of July. There is absolutely no occasion upon which anyone and everyone, as people who live on this geographical expression called the United States. There is no occasion on which we get together for a kind of ritual of mutual agreement and love and so on. Doesn’t exist.
That’s what the rites of a religion were supposed to be. They were the orgies. We think now we misuse the word orgy. We think orgy means simply and all the sexual rules are suspended. Did you do anything you like? That’s because we’ve made such a big repression out of sex. The real meaning of the orgy, it goes back to the idea that God created the world in six days and then took the seventh day off. That’s the holiday, which means holy day. So we have the Sabbath for the Jews and the sun for the Christians. But what did they don’t take a day off. They don’t really celebrate. When I was a minister, I used to tell the students at Northwestern University.
Now I’m going to be a celebration of the Holy Communion. Seven o’clock makes Sunday. Eleven o’clock. I said, now look, I said celebration. And if you come here because you think you ought to come, we don’t want you. Better stay in bed. Go for a swim or something else.
But if you want to join with us in this act of celestial woopee, you’re very welcome. I came right out and said that I see. So I had to leave the church.
This is this is the essential thing that we lack. We just don’t have the social institution. And it’s, we would find each other out. For example, let me tell you this story. There was once a retreat meeting for Christians of many different denominations for a discussion of how they could get together. Well, the first time they held this meeting, they talked and they all argued and it was a nothing came of it. So they decided to do a different the next way they would spend the first day of the conference in total silence, which they did.
And then the following meeting, they really got to understand each other because they associate it together in a non verbal, non discursive way to begin with. With no ideology, no theories.
And then they could at last see each other as living human beings and expressions of the divine nature, et cetera, et cetera, and know it. Instead of merely thinking.
So what we should do if we want to get together the various discordant religions and races and whatsoever, is suspend all discussions. And meet in a strictly physical, earthy way, and realize, that what is the very earthy what is the very physical is, after all, not different from not separate from the spiritual. This is the terrible hang up of Western men, this distinction of the physical and the spiritual. They are the same.
One might say that the spiritual is more concrete than matter.
Now, that’s the kind of a tricky, paradoxical saying, and mystics are always putting out tricky, paradoxical things. But a paradox is a truth standing on its head to attract attention.
When you say, is it real, most people mean, is it hard? See, the sense, in other words, that reality is, is the concrete. But spirits like ghosts aren’t very concrete and they move right through walls. So I’ve often wondered how a body can be moved by a spirit.
This is one of the great philosophical problems, but because the thickets that what is the very hard.
From one point of view. Why is matter hard? Because it’s moving so fast. When you get an airplane propeller going, you can’t put your finger through it. It resists you more solidly than a wall of granite. These student push against leaning on the wall of granite. You sure can’t lean on an airplane propeller. [It would] knock you to bits.
But let’s get that propeller going still faster. Much faster. Why? It doesn’t even have time to catch you. It becomes a wall of granite. You can’t get through it. So all matter is in such tremendously fast agitation. That when you lean on it, it’s it’s hard.
But that’s because it’s so alive, it’s going so fast. So energy and matter. The more energy, the more matter. The more spirit, the more matter. They come from the same thing.
So the thing is that when we realize this when we stop our thoughts and stop our ideas and come to it without without thinking.
We have a basis for agreement. We will never agree. So long as we talk. That’s why talking never leads to any conclusions.
People sit around, you know, you always remember how to spell committed to M’s, two T’s and two E’s because they always discuss everything at least twice, and it’s interminable.
Now, there are two ways out. You see of this dilemma. On the one hand, you can say, all right, the talking is over. Let’s fight.
Because we are so frustrated and we are so sick of this argument that the only thing is to hit people.
Nobody ever suggested the other alternate. When talking comes to an end, let’s make love. Might work.