As we touch down in this class I would like to acquaint you with some of the problems that gave rise to all this nonsense.
When we leave our flight and go into the airport, separating from each other and rejoining our loved ones in everyday life, remember that we will be reentering the world of third-dimensional thought, and it was from the paradoxes of common sense that this flight took off in the first place.
It is my claim in this course, which I have tried to establish by appealing directly to your fourth-dimensional sense, that the so-called "philosophical" problems of everyday life are so-called problems just because they are viewed, or are allowed to be viewed, from third-dimensional perception, or material sense.
As soon as philosophical problems, like any other kind of problems we encounter generally, are viewed from the correct point of view, their characteristic as a "problem" completely disappears.
The "problem," therefore, is really
one of getting one's head in the right place to view what is going on.
And that isn't
a problem either, once you realize that everything that is happening to you is happening
to accomplish just that.
I got into Philosophy because I refused to accept the claim that is thrown at us by the American culture all our lives--that it is wrong to "think." First on the list of so-called "philosophical" problems of everyday life is a value judgment: whether the unexamined life is worth living. Like Socrates, I say it is not. But, unlike Socrates, I do not know of a life that went by unexamined.
It happens in secret, because we are taught to be ashamed of it.
It is perfectly obvious, even to the most dedicatedly casual observer, that you cannot arrive at a comprehension of the mystery of human life without taking the first step up the trail.
What lies in store for those courageous enough to overcome their own self-doubts and take that step is an unexpected arrival at a full and complete grasp of the center and circumference of being, all being.
The intellectuals and the hard hats veer too far in their approaches: the intellectuals end up splitting hairs over whether Kant was a utilitarian, and the hard hats summarily dismiss them as pointy-headed.
Both are right, and wrong.
When you see an intellectual hypnotized by the beauty of his own little model of Creation--watch out. And when you see a hard hat unwilling to take the step he needs to take to answer the riddle of his own being--watch out for him too.
But, then, that is more a question of methodology in philosophy than substance. Although methodology, the willingness to be absolutely courageous, honest, open-minded, does have a way of determining substance.
Second, another value judgment, much like the first, is that Philosophy is impractical.
This has always struck me as the most outrageous horseshit ever fed a child by a parent.
Look at the inescapable philosophical value judgments we inescapably have to make in our lives. Is the unexamined life not worth living? In other words, should I bury my thought, action, and being in a life-style and career that is so totally absorbing that I don't have a moment to reflect on who I am and where I am going? And, what the hell is going on?
How many families prejudice their children not to think?
But, rather, follow the hypnotism of the crowd.
Philosophy, if it is taught effectively, says, "stop!"
"Where are these people going?"
What blind alley are they absentmindedly walking into, arm in arm, singing the praises of Schlitz beer?"
Thomas Paine one time wrote a little pamphlet called Common Sense.
Common sense seems to have been the God of this country ever since.
In spite of the obvious fact that, if you follow it, it will place you right in the middle of the herd. Inescapably. By definition.
Look at some of the puzzles that Common Sense would lead us into, and scoop down our throats as "reality."
Medicine is God.
In spite of the demonstrable fact that the scientific conception of life subscribed to 100% by the medical training program in this country guarantees to each of us that we are doomed to sickness, decay, death, and dissolution, according to the organic model of life.
And this is false.
It is a hypnotic illusion that will appear to be so as long as it is believed.
All medicine does is to entrench this false belief and thus help secure the punishment that the belief brings to itself for as long as it is held.
Thank you doctor.
You have a charming beside manner.
The scientific conception of organic life has a number of paradoxes built into the rock-bottom assumptions of its perception of the universe that are passed over by the public as though they were going to be eventually solved by science itself.
Science cannot answer the questions raised by these paradoxes without destroying itself as an enterprise.
Needless to say, the scientific community is not eagerly looking forward to precipitating its own dissolution as a result of an effort to answer some philosophical questions about its basic conception of life.
The scientific community is not even aware that this is going to happen.
It will take centuries.
But, that's okay. In a certain sense we have nothing better to do right now.
(I will pursue this question in depth in the next semester of this course, Philosophy 134.)
Meanwhile, suffice it to say that the relationship between organic matter and organic life remains a complete mystery to the person who thinks he is a scientist.
He cannot explain the mystery of the mind and the body, particularly the peculiarity we call the phenomenon of "consciousness."
He cannot explain the birth or death of the "soul," or, to use language that avoids the historical garbage associated with that word, he cannot explain what it is that is "born" and then "dies" when the body turns cold.
He cannot explain the memory of the past, nor right anticipation (prediction) of the future.
He cannot explain man's ceaseless questioning, his restless discontent, his disenchantment with life as he sees it.
He cannot explain love as we know it, and as it controls our lives, whether romantic love or agape. Except to reduce them to the most primitive sexuality, or dismiss them as hypnotic illusion.
I could sit here all day and list you things that science cannot do, things that form the heart and fiber of the life you have been taught to live.
That would be uninteresting.
What is interesting, (and I ask you to remember that I was trained in the Philosophy of Science, the study of the theoretical heart of what science must hang on to make itself coherent, by people recognized by professionals as among the best in the world), what is interesting is the understanding that science cannot understand these, and related questions like them for metaphysical reasons.
That is, (if that wasn't too big a mouthful), science cannot grasp the answers to the most important and meaningful questions in life because of what it assumes the structure of the universe to be like.
It assumes there is matter.
It assumes that there are law-like regularities that govern (or reflect) the behavior of this matter.
That's all you need.
From that point on you are limited in your activity, both theoretical and visionary, to playing in the sandbox.
And, all of the problems that you have in that sandbox are problems that you create for yourself by your hypnotic dream that the sandbox is what there essentially is in life.
Until you look at those problems another way, from another perspective, and see that they are blessings designed to uplift your thought away from and out of the sandbox.
God, what a relief it is to get out of that thing and find out what is really going on.
Ah well, as you can imagine, this sounds like the most unspeakable arrogance in the world to someone still locked into the sandbox.
Which was exactly why they killed Jesus.
I hope that lesson was learned by the example he set.
It was supposed to be.
Anyway, Common Sense, or what we learn as common sense at mother's knee, is really the mesmerizing hypnotic dream that would retard and destroy the birth of the spiritual vision.
That is what Revelation is about.
And the fact that today we have a new batch of Pharisees and Saducees in the gowns of those in the academic world, or in the laboratories of the experimental research into the "nature" of cancer, or in front of a classroom grading your papers on "health," this doesn't alter the fact one bit that third-dimensional thought will do anything to keep your nose in the sandbox, and make sure you cannot fly.
Why does it do this?
Why do we always seem to have the Saducees and Pharisees with us no matter what age we live in?
Plain and simple fear.
People who, long ago made the gut decision that they didn't have the courage to try their wings. And who have spent, and are continuing to spend, their entire lives hiding from this fact. And they are not about to let anything surface that is going to bring them to stare face-to-face at their own cowardice.
Or what looks like cowardice.
Actually, they just aren't quite ready, and need the extra little boost that a good dose of self-contempt can sometimes give us.
And then they will be ready to make the jump.
And set their wings.
And watch themselves glide over the waves like an albatross.
On the first try.
I have spoken to you of the paradoxes in common sense in science; I would like to turn our attention now to those in religion.
I wish to be very, very careful here, because there is a great deal in what we call the "Christian Religion" that ought to be preserved.
There is some very precious thought that is truly spiritual, and is in no way the target of my efforts to expose the rotten core of most of the religious institution as we know it today.
This thought is very fragile and very sensitive.
It must know that what I am about to say is in no way intended for it.
However, it is the exception, not the rule.
What I am going to try to do here might be likened to using a laser beam to destroy cancer cells which surround and constantly pressure the healthy ones to become like them.
Or, perhaps it's like hand-feeding a three hundred pound rattlesnake.
How do you do it?
With some attention to what you are doing.
I have searched my soul for the best way to get this across to you, something you already know anyway, but need to be reminded of, and I think I can best make the philosophical point with a story.
The philosophical puzzle in religion, that comes to each of us from common sense, or the everyday exposure that each of us has had to religion growing up in American culture is a problem of epistemology.
Metaphysics, which we were primarily concerned with in our look at the problems of science, is the study of what there is, or, what is going on in the universe.
Epistemology is the study of a closely related question, how do you know, or, how can I tell who really has Truth in his scope.
It is this latter question that we are (intuitively) most interested in when it comes to religion.
A philosophy professor of mine in graduate school, after I had passed my oral exams for my PhD, congratulated me and declared, "Now you have the keys to the kingdom."
I was struck by the absurdity of the remark, which he intended with all the literal-minded ingenuousness that haunts most of our serious minded academicians.
But he did have a plaintive note in his voice that caught my ear.
Here was a guy, like a great many people who came into Philosophy searching for truth, as a refugee from religion.
He had been raised with religion. And you could just watch the flashes of anger, the little spasms of bitterness, the salivation start to flow as he warmed up to start telling stories about how selling religion was just exactly like selling soap.
Of course, if you go into Philosophy without religion you end up in the dead-end spiral for which it is famous: you don't get anywhere; it just goes around and around.
Unless you opt for a total cynicism, like Existentialism or behaviorism.
So I have been intellectually raised in the ranks of people more or less devoted to the destruction of religion, and, so far as I could see, judging from the consistency of the refugee war stories I got, they had damn good reason to feel the way that they did.
My own faith was something I kept entirely to myself, and allowed it to be tested by their stories and arguments. I found two things as I inwardly allowed the clash to occur: (1) my own faith grew progressively stronger, until I used it in everything, and (2) my love and admiration for my fellow seekers of truth grew stronger as I saw what the hypnotic marble game of organized religion had done to their sincere aspirations to find reality. You could just see them searching for a door, any door but the door of institutional religion, because that door had proved itself such an abomination to the heart and mind of man.
Well, the story I want to tell you is about my wife, who by my standards, and by the standards of everyone who knows her, is one of the finest women ever to grace this planet with her presence.
By my standards too, she is the purest woman I have ever known, by everything I know to be pure and good in this life.
She comes from a devotedly Christian family of Lutherans for the most part. (I always liked Lutherans best myself.)
Her folks had a really rough childhood.
Her dad's dad was a fisherman, and gone most of the time. His mother had mental illness of some sort. They divorced, and he was shipped off to make his way on a farm, during the bottom of the Depression, at the ripe old age of fourteen.
Her mom had similar problems with her family up in Alaska. Only her dad died; her mom was committed to a mental hospital, and she ended up coming down to Seattle on a steamer, at the ripe old age of fifteen, alone.
Because they had had such difficult childhoods my wife's folks decided that what they wanted to do was to raise a large family, deeply committed to love and Christian values. And this is exactly what they did.
My wife was the sixth of twelve children, all of whom were nestled in the bosom of their parent's love.
And they added one more in the bargain--the child of a coworker of her dad's, who had to have a foster home, whom no one would take, and who was in immediate danger of going autistic at the time.
They kept him for over fifteen years, at considerable expense to themselves and disruption to their family.
The problem was that they were poor. Very poor.
In 1967 her dad made just over $5000, and there were ten kids in the house.
He was a meatcutter, and had trouble holding down a job because he was an alcoholic.
Their home had two small bedrooms; most of the kids slept in the attic, which had holes in it and no insulation. In Seattle.
She remembers sleeping on orange crates.
They took in a lot of clothes from other families, to be passed down several times through the kids in her family.
Although my wife had obvious holes in her front teeth from cavities in grade school, they couldn't afford to send her to a dentist until her dad finally got tied up with a union that would pay the cost.
Whether the children worked was not an issue. It was how much they made that made the difference as to whether they lived in the luxury of having a new pair of shoes or not. Many times, my wife recalls, her mother would borrow her babysitting money to pay extra little bills that came along.
There was one small bathroom for fourteen people.
And they got along and loved each other, and went through a normal grade school and high school experience in a metropolitan area.
How was this possible?
Because her mother knew how to talk to babies. I mean babies.
Her husband worked exhaustingly hard for his family; and it was her sense that he should not have to come home to trouble. That included crying babies. So she learned very early how to let babies know what was on her mind, to keep them quiet and happy for when daddy came home.
And her husband knew how to pray. I mean pray.
He had to lick his alcoholism, and find and maintain a job as a meatcutter that would give his family some semblance of protection and security.
To this day, when that man says grace at Thanksgiving you can hear the power and authority in his voice that comes from genuine humility. When he says "Father," you know he is addressing an old friend.
And he always prays, not for the people sitting around his table, who by this time number in the dozens, but for those outside who "might know the happiness that we have."
My wife was raised in this atmosphere, an environment of necessary self-sacrifice. Where the golden rule was not spoken as a rule, because not living it was simply outside the scope of human necessity in the situation.
Discipline was taught, for example, when the girls would get in an argument over the dishes after dinner, by the simple expedient of watching their father get up from the few moments of rest he got from his day and come in and wash the dishes for them.
A couple of those, and you lose all the desire to fight with your sister.
Ideals were taught by taking away any suggestion that judgment would be passed on what you wanted to do. The only requirement was that you be happy in what you were doing. Whatever it was that made you happy obviously had to be something worthwhile because you had chosen to do it.
There was no trace of snobbery or status seeking; it was entirely foreign to the kids until they got out into the larger culture.
Only then did they really fully appreciate what they had been protected from.
But the focus of my wife's family, to whatever extent they let it attach itself to something outside itself, was the church.
School was clearly secondary. School was like a job, where you meet all kinds of people and you don't let yourself get too wrapped up in it, because they can let you down.
Church was the focus of the family's activity.
They gave what money they could, but couldn't begin to tithe.
Instead they gave the flesh and blood and hearts and minds of their children. All of the kids were to some extent churchgoers. And most of the kids were 100% devout.
The girls especially.
You should have heard the father sing at the oldest girl's wedding. It was like a song from God to His Children.
I have never had an evening meal at their house but what I haven't heard them say grace.
Usually the little kids get the honor.
But on special occasions the daddy takes over, and everyone walks away from that feeling like he has been blessed.
Well, my wife was top of the class when it came to religious devotedness.
She was kind of scrawny. Cross-eyed. And a little scattered. She was truly an ugly duckling.
But she was a full-fledged, 100%, dedicated, card-carrying Christian Soldier.
She went for over eight years with a perfect attendance record in Sunday School!
She was president of the Luther League in her high school.
She won a camera for having learned more Bible verses in her Bible study club than anybody else.
The only part of the whole religious trip she missed out on was the Bible camp in the summer, because she and her family couldn't afford it.
I can assure you that that was a real and burning disappoint.
For a little kid. Trying as hard as she tried.
The other major experience that my wife has had with organized religion has been the fact that she has been the science teacher, that's right, the science teacher for the elementary and junior high schools in a Catholic school district for the past five years.
She has loved the work, loved the people she has worked with on the faculty, as well as the kids, parents, and administration.
And they have loved her in return, very sorry to see her go, filling her dossier with recommendations and praise for the work she did there with their children.
In fact, it was on the basis of her work with the children of the Superintendent for whom she now works, whose kids she taught back in her old Catholic school system, that led him to call her and ask her to join him in setting up a science program out in the boondocks of Montana!
The point I am trying to evidence here is that when it comes to the inside of organized religion in this country, my wife has been fully exposed.
She is fully capable of separating wheat from chaff.
She knows what I am doing, and she is very concerned that I be careful about the following problem:
When you attack religion it is usually the little people who faithfully practice what is true in their religion that usually get the flack. It is they who pick up the scorn and the stereotypes.
The ministers are too full of themselves to hear it.
"It's like they don't have ears."
I have taken up listening to the Sunday morning religious "services" on the TV. She is so offended by what she hears that she has to leave the room to keep from having it ruin her peace of mind, and her enjoyment of the day's activities.
I asked her this question about Sunday TV:
"Which is worse? Some guy sitting around home watching the football game, maybe drinking a beer, recovering from the week where he threw all his energy into supporting the highest sense of good he could seehis family?
Or, some pompous preacher selling false theology and hypnotism to willing ears?"
She replied, "The guy sitting home watching the football game is harmless.
The guy selling false theology is not."
My wife, you may recall, is setting up this science program here on a reservation in Montana. It is patently obvious to her, she says, that the most destructive element in the life of the Indians has been the Christian Church, not the federal government.
The Church destroyed the tribe, which was all the Indians had, by getting people to believe in sin and damnation, that some are saved and some are sent to eternal damnation. That broke the links that bound together the tribe.
Before the "missionaries" came it was unthinkable that one brother of the tribe had something "special" that another member did not. The Christian "missionaries" came along and created the belief with their doctrine that you are saved if you believe and damned if you don't. That was sufficient to break up the tribe, which the missionaries had to do in order to get the Indians to respond to the appeal as individuals.
Besides, the White god had defeated the Indian god, which was what the wars had really been about, as far as the Indians had been concerned. So they had to accept the doctrine of the Church.
It is her sincere conviction, simple and honest girl that I know her to be, that the people heading organized religion are in it for themselves.
Time and again, with perfect predictability, you can see the whole sermon, or sequence of sermons, come down to the question of whether you believe in God. And, if you do believe in God, then it turns out that what you believe in is not God, but the minister's material church. And if you don't publically profess your belief in that, one way or another, but most especially by proving it by giving money, then you don't believe in God.
That is what the whole sermon is about.
Proving, not that you love God, but that you love this guy and his church.
She hates ministers because they are the most bald-faced hypocrites in the world.
And she knows that hypocrisy is fatal to religion; and they teach it as the way of life to their flock.
Time and again, it always comes down to their choice between God and mammon. They have to decide whether they are going to serve God or their material church, which is a social institution created by human beings for their own amusement. They consistently pick their church, because without it they couldn't be as full of themselves as they are.
And they conceal what they are doing by identifying what they are doing as the work of God Himself.
They are so full of hypocrisy themselves that they cannot see what is perfectly apparent to the humble in their flock sitting in the back pews, that they are so bloated with their own self importance that they betray the words they speak by the example they set; and in doing so take the name of the Lord in vain.
It is they who need the healing, and it is the purpose of the flock to help them.
Their decision to enter the ministry to flash their Christian badges is superficially camouflaged by their self-serving concept of being "chosen" for the ministry.
Which is a little like the Jews calling themselves "The Chosen People," and then setting up a religion that is so full of ritual and clannishness and self-defeating concepts of love that simple people can't stand them.
But more serious than having a few Christians running around with badges on proclaiming their "chosenness" is the fact that they feed these lies to a helpless and gullible flock.
Where do you go in this society if you are genuinely humble and seeking the Word of God?
You have almost no choice but to walk into one of these establishments and place yourself at the mercy of one of these self-seeking, self-protecting, self-glorifying Elmer Gantry charlatans.
And, Jesus was right.
You do teach by example.
The values, love, and metaphysical conception of life that you have up there behind that pulpit you project. You make other people believe. Whether it is a hypnotic marble game about how we are saved and they are not or not.
My wife has come to hate the institution of organized religion in this country, or what she affectionately refers to as "that religious garbage," because of the destruction she has seen it bring to human life. She says it teaches guilt. It teaches people how to be judgmental of each other. It teaches self-righteousness. And, above all, it teaches fear.
You have to obey these greasy bastards, because they claim that the twisted distortions they wring from the Bible to suit their own ends are the Truth, in the face of which you should shrink with fear and trembling.
This is supposed to be the Word of God.
Yet they are slimy perversions of the Truth of God's Love; and my dear wife, bless her soul, will cut herself off from her family, friends, or anything that forces her to put up with it.
She expressed the depth of her feeling to me in a particularly earthy phrase. I have wrestled with my conscience over whether I should convey her exact feelings on the matter or not, given her choice of words; but, perhaps I will have to add another number to my list of adjectives which describe the keys to the kingdom--honesty. Sometimes, love, trust, humility, and courage require a degree of honesty from us that will (seemingly) jeopardize everything we seem to have been working for. And it is actually just another stepping-stone on our trek upward.
So I will use the exact language which my wife used to describe her feelings about the whole matter, my wife who is the purest woman I have ever known.
In the name of honesty.
Because I promised you Truth.
She wrapped it up in a very neat, although Anglo-Saxon package. She said, "Most Christians are sanctimonious, self-important, self-righteous pricks."
Which is the only thing that she and my mother agree upon.