The great religions of the world continue to baffle us all. I see them as different spiritual technologies, or methods of understanding the same basic union of physical, transcendental, and metaphysical truths. Each has its advantages as it tried to conquer the failings of its ancestors.
For us to understand these, we have to recognize that there was an Original Faith at one time comprised simply of knowledge passed on over the ages. This was an oral tradition in order to avoid allowing its knowledge to pass to someone less than adept enough to interpret it; initiates got doled out information at each step of their spiritual maturation, never getting more than they could handle. As a result, like all good designs and nature itself, this system failed cleanly, simply vanishing away instead of living on as a zombie doing evil through half-understood knowledge of good.
The people bearing this faith were the original people of this world, who probably looked like a lighter, fairer, and taller version of Scandinavians, Dutch, and North Germans today. Like the arctic circle people, they had light hair and pale blue eyes, and were not excessively verbal people. They knew that words like thoughts could become worlds in themselves, and that there was risk in this. Their interpretation was informed by their religion but did not arise of their religion; it was simply common sense, much as they viewed their culture, religion, and values to be. Like most ancient societies, they tightly unified tribe, culture, and faith, seeing them as the same living entity, much as a bird has certain beliefs about the recurrence of seed and sun.
Upon coming out of the last ice age, the Original People were scattered. The core of them were called Aryans or the “twice-born” by others and remained a wandering nomadic group that ranged across Asia, Europe, and the middle east. They were called twice-born because of the intensity of their thought, which caused them to turn into something more-than-regular-human as they reached adulthood; they changed who they were by finding what they believed to be fundamental truths of reality, and these truths altered how they saw the world and behaved. This is an alien concept to most of the world.
Original People stayed as nomads for a simple reason: eugenics. Being nomadic allowed them to select who went with them on their journeys, which meant the ability to dis-invite people without having to formally dis-invite them; they simply invited others instead, with a smaller group leaving each time. Probably only about 80% of each new generation went on with the group, leaving behind those who on maturity had failed to reach twice-born status. These others, who were not bad but not able to receive the Original Faith, began to form fixed civilizations — these are easier than nomadism! — across Europe, Asia, and the mdidle east.
The world changed at that point. Too many different groups existed in too many places for nomadism to be practical. The Original People settled in Northern Europe and mixed with the cast-offs there. They choose this area because it was their spiritual home, since unlike others they did not head to the warmth for winter, but chose to semi-hibernate in caves, sleeping and dreaming through the time of death, pulled forward by a playful, childlike anticipation of rebirth. Slowly they filtered through Europe, creating fixed civilizations to take advantage of the new more fecund growth cycle following the ice age.
This created a time of great confusion. The old ways had gone; the new ways were unknown, but also dangerous. The nomadic quests had kept the Original People focused on the union of their imagination and practicality, always seeking some form of adventure or experience to bond them both to this world and to their vision of the numinous or divine as manifested around them. With fixed civilization, they chafed at the lack of adventure and purpose and found themselves looking for more certainty in symbol, since they no longer had the daily experience of the cycle which ran from perceiving the literality of material reality, the possibility of transcendence, the emergence of beauty, and then the understanding of the divine. This cycle underlaid all of their quests and probably was a daily occurrence for them, much like the rituals of the church or five prayer cycles of the Muslims.
The first to awake from the stupor of confusion were probably the ancient Hindus. They retained the Original Faith as accurately as they could and developed complex language and writing systems to chronicle its distinctions, but in doing so, they ran afoul of relativity. To write down thoughts is to add an observer into a system, and to make fixed what is fluid and self-adjusting. Contemplate one of those Roman arches, where the pressure of every stone holds every other in check despite receiving unequal weight because of their unequal sizes, and you can see the basis of such architectonic systems. The more one attempts to memorialize a complex thought, the more one becomes enmeshed in making internal distinctions and thus, the quantity of writing and detail expands but often does not associate. As I frequently express, the world needs editors who can create actual complexity, which is the repetition of fundamental structures in novel ways, and requires not centralization but some form of topic organization such that a few core concepts trickle down through the details.
The Hindus, themselves reflecting on a pre-Hindu religion that came after the Original Faith, detailed everything they could and made a complete cosmology bound to a morality of results, culminating in the great battle scene in The Mahabarata, which asserts that nothing is created or destroyed, only expressed, and that one must do what establishes right order no matter how many are killed or otherwise apparently destroyed. In the Hindu religion, a divine order pervades life and all of us are avatara of its actions, so when we are destroyed, it is merely the will of the heavens asserting itself in a constant struggle between order and the lack of order. We do not exist independent of our source in the heavens, but manifest it here in reality, and when we are destroyed, whatever is our actual source lives on elsewhere. This existence is implied to be intangible, meaning that it does not have physical or symbolic form, but is part of the much larger universe which surrounds the physical world like an ocean. In other words, the cosmos has an invisible subconscious as we do, and the conscious and material manifests impulses from that but also, seemingly paradoxically, has a life of its own.
Although the Hindus were the first group to awaken from the stupor, the second happened in ancient Greece where we see a pattern emerging: the really prosperous areas where it is easy to live attract huge crowds, so the smarter people run to less hospitable areas and make greater civilizations out of those. We could re-write human history as creative producers avoiding rote consumers, and not be wrong… in any case, the Greek religion developed in parallel with that of Scandinavia, and consisted of the core concept that while a divine order existed, it was not like the working of human minds; it was more like species in nature or the weather, consisting of chaotic impulses being tamed into harmonious order through cycles of disruption and balancing. Paganism warned us not to try to understand the heavens because we would simply project ourselves into them. After all, in darkness still waters appear as a mirror. The Greeks hit upon the idea of translating the Original Faith into the metaphor of theater, where demigods played out the struggles of the psyche and nature gods showed us why the forces of our environment were so chaotic and yet always arrived at a greater wisdom than humans could achieve. Greek religion focused on finding the good that emerged from a world of chaotic forces, sketching an underlying order which can never be translated into symbol, emotion, and words.
To understand what happened next, we have to back up a bit. The Original People appeared simultaneously in Europe, Asia, and Africa; of these, the Asian group advanced first, developing written language and through it trade long before other groups decided to do so. Asia became wealthy and prosperous through trade, a historical knowledge passed on as a fascination with the Other among descendants of the Original People today, who had found themselves baffled by the speed of Asian advances. What they did not know was that these advances had come with a high price; the Asiatic lords advanced their society by removing certain necessary functions and replacing them with rote process. They saw no reason for esoteric learning; just summarize what people need, and teach it to them as procedure and method! They found Original People society too slow in its naturalistic process of death and rebirth in human knowledge, where it passed on only what each initiate could handle, and preferred to make knowledge symbolized for all to understand. To the Asiatic lords, it was important to find the gist of what was true, unlike the Hindus who got lost in details, and to pass along that bottom line and enforce it equally among the citizens through a bureaucracy in which a social order was inflected, with the most important people serving the highest roles as a matter of right, with duty coming second because preservation of the power structure was most important. The Asian method emphasized an immutable truth recorded in symbol and applied in unison; their metaphor might as well have been the wild herder, cracking his whip and having his flock surround him, ready to begin a controlled stampede in the direction he indicates.
Another group which bested its peers arose in the middle east. Originally, this group had no name, but began to form among the trading communities formed of cast-offs of Original People from Europe and Asia. Where the continents meet, the middle east forms a point where Europe, Asia, and Africa can all trade, and therefore the elbow of the mediterranean took on aspects of all three, as if populations from each offered up their daughters to the prosperous merchants there. This mercantile group adopted the Asiatic philosophy, since most of its trade was with Asia, but gave it a Western feel and an African twist. Like the Westerners, this religion emphasized the idea of order and the need to restore it, but like the Asians it focused on one universal truth that all must obey, and like the Africans it adopted a philosophy of physicality, where the material world was all that could be understood and therefore, maximizing it was the primary goal. This fusion birthed a philosophy which aimed primarily at controlling thought to keep it focused simultaneously on the pragmatic and avoiding bad behavior, since that which comes from mixed origins knows not so much what is good but has a laundry list of what is bad and must be avoided in order to not impede function. Unlike the Hindus, this new philosophy had no actual idealism; it aimed at discipline of the mind to make it work in the material world, and its idealism was material as a result, focusing on how to treat people such that one avoided the most immediate problems of society, specifically a mixed-race trading community.
The philosophy of Moses took the notions of unison and centralization from Asia, mixed into it the idealism of the West, and translated it through the rejection of symbolism for the physical that comprised the common sense spiritual technology of Africa. In the philosophy of Moses, as in Asia, people are unknowns of no particular moral character, and so they must be instructed in a universal set of rules which apply to a disordered group. Avoiding evils means achieving goods, in this view, because it never attempts to address the disordered origins of this group. The merging of cultures that formed the middle east thus was both the great strength and blind spot of the Moses culture. It focused on the practical, and as a result, its main thrust was the idea of disciplining the mind to avoid bad things, and by so doing, it created a simple set of rules under which a mixed society could thrive. Much of its scripture involved the formation of an identity to this mixed group and maintaining it despite being scattered through the populations of Europe, Asia, and Africa in different wars, occupations, and enslavements. From it came a new spiritual discipline: like the Ten Commandments, an absolute and universal series of symbolic rules existed out there in a pure world that represented human thought at its ultimate end, and these rules must be obeyed so that one has the favor of that divine world and will be taken to it after death. The latter was never universal, since many of the followers of Moses adopted a somewhat Confucian or Shinto view regarding life as transient and nothing as immortal, which if one wishes to stay in the realm of tangible materiality, seems a wise assumption.
In Asia rose the Buddhists, who followed a similar idea. In their view, the symbolic centralization of Asia must be applied to the mind first, meaning that what mattered most was finding a mental state with a lack of extremes, and from that position of balance, acting in the right way. This transferred the symbolic to the psychological, and developed from it a theory of mental self-discipline, but its focus was always on the mental state; even Buddhist views of the divine suggest that it mirrors that mental state of meditation, a calmness and emptiness supplanting the usual disorder of the human mind and the seeming chaos of nature. It translated the Hindu emphasis on action, specifically conflict, into a war within the mind in which only that which reacts to nothing wins. Non-attachment is the key philosophy of Buddhism, which serves as an attempt to find a balanced mental state by avoiding emotion, but in the focus to avoid emotion, it also eschews any particular context, and remains in the seemingly universal process of thought itself, then asserts that model onto the world. Buddhism emphasized navigating between the extremes of emotion, socialization, nature, and humanity through basically extreme common sense thinking disciplined through extensive meditation, but in doing so, it projected human thought as a universal upon the world.
Back in the middle east, Mohammad saw the rising of the cerebral side of humanity — information was scarce, and news about foreign lands rare, so communication was more frequent than we tend to think, since such communication was inherently valuable — as a rejection of reality itself, so he took the Buddhist concept and paired it to Hindu-style action. The doctrine of greater and lesser jihad holds that a Buddhist search for mental clarity disciplining emotion forms the bigger battle, but that the smaller battle, nonetheless important, is a perpetual Kurukshetra-style war against immorality and disorder in the world. Like Judaism, Islam represented a perfect fusion of the Asiatic, Western, and African philosophies, but unlike Judaism which leans toward the Asiatic, Islam shifts toward the Western and African, which explains perhaps why Arab Semites are more Africanized and less mercantile than Jewish Semites to this day. Islam represented a noble quest, but like Judaism and Hinduism, it became buried under the philosophical equivalent of “red tape,” namely lots of rules and clarifications to concepts which have sticky edges, meaning that they do not cleanly separate because they are attempting to impose a simple categorical order on a world which operates instead by arcs of cause/effect over time.
Christianity, probably the result of the precocious hybrid between Jewish nobles and a Roman general, attempted to bend the Asiatic cant of middle eastern philosophy toward an Original People orientation toward order. In the Christian vision, the mind is again the battleground, but the goal is not so much avoiding bad behavior as striving for good behavior on the level not simply of the individual, but the community and the mental state that it shares. This shows us an advanced spiritual technology that takes into account the social nature of humanity and the struggle within the human mind for not just order, but purpose. The philosophy of Christ borrows heavily from Buddhism and Judaism, but even more intensely from the Greeks. Their vision of the world as chaotic and not following the patterns that humans recognized as order was fundamental to the Christian ideal of not just removing the negative, but asserting the positive, a condition achieved first through reaching a mental quiet state of reverent and thankful obedience to God. This neatly dovetailed the Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, and Jewish traditions into a new style of faith, but it also had an Achilles Heel, in that like Buddhism, it primarily focused on the internal mind and balance, from which it derived a universal, not looking outward like the Greeks who saw the world as the only universal, and one that was not so much absolute and uniform, but personalitied, widely varied, irrational, localized, and highly particular.
In this way, Christianity completed an arc. The fundamental focus of the Original Faith was union with the world through understanding its order, bringing it into the self, and using that knowledge to aim at enhancing reality but not ever replacing it. Such a perspective might see the Hindus as too studious, the Buddhists as solipsists, the Semites as materialists, and the Christians as too human, since their order ultimately like that of the Jews represented a mixed-race, mixed-cultural population and an attempt to restrain it from its chaotic impulses. However, Christianity reflected the solipsistic nature of humankind by its emphasis on universalism, or the idea that one religion could speak to all peoples and individuals. This, plus its noticeably foreign origin, made it difficult for those in the West to adopt. This means that we have a further step to go.
When the next prophet arises, they may preach something more like the Original Faith but with some of the enhancements of our time. It will be, like Christianity, aimed more at establishing an order shared between the inside of the mind and the outside world, with the thought of disciplining the internal to the order of nature but also, shaping the external toward optimization. It will likely not have a strong morality other than function itself, but it will most likely double down on Christian sexual morality by ironically rejecting universalism, and instead saying that for those who want to live the best possible life, this is the path.
Like the pagans, it will not attempt to project a human morality onto nature, and instead will bring a sense of the natural into morality, such that instead of a strictly methodological morality, it has a morality of results, like realism. Like Buddhism, it will emphasize mental discipline; like Hinduism, it will strongly dislike navel-gazing and talking as a substitute for action. Its general approach will be to understand nature as pure function, to find union with that order, and then discover a way to enhance it with the goal of being more like the gods, as in the pagan texts. Instead of aiming to be orderly, controlled, and harmless, it will aim to make people effective in discovering and bringing out the beauty in life.
As with the pagans, it will believe that there is an overall order and design to the world; it is not random, but its methods can be chaotic, since nature operates in pulses like breathing, first creating chaos and then shaping it. It will not be perceived as existing in some separate world, like a Heaven where there is a different order, but as an extension of this world, perhaps a vast aetheric chaos surrounding it. This religion will aspire to order and align all of its morality toward that; when the brain is organized, and the world around it is organized, it is easy to see the divine beauty of life, and that will be the goal of this religion: uniting humans with their world, and explaining how this world is good, so that we can have transcendental experience — seeing how the ways of the world are necessary for ultimate excellence — and through that, perceive the metaphysical dimension in which the surrounding chaos also reveals its beauty.
In this view, events are neither random nor predestined, but have some attributes of both, not reaching a balance as some faiths argue, but raging out of control in a raw chaos that is necessary to avoid both stagnation and equality of order. There is no morality to life, because the event that happens now addresses what came before it, and another event will address it; we, as humans, like other actors in the physical world, are responsible for setting things to right not by fighting evil, but by asserting order. This order does not represent a perfect order, with everything in balance, but an imperfect one, in the process of balancing itself, because perfection would be stagnation, just like complete disorder. Our religion of the future embraces conflict as a necessary part of order, much like there have to be bad days for good days to stand out, cold water to know hot, and brightness to know darkness. Life is living, in this view, or transacting a constant flow of energy and information, like an organism breathing. In this religion, when a mother kisses a child, she does not say that everything is all right, but that it will all be all right, in the thirty-thousand foot view at the end.
Like the Hindus, we will believe that nothing is created and nothing is destroyed. The soul dwells here and in other lands, and those lands, like islands we have not yet discovered or a suddenly appearing corridor in the houses of our youths in dreams, are not so much otherworldly as part of our world, as if certain areas were rotated in another dimension so that we cannot see them here. After death, the soul lives on, but not in the static afterlife of the Christians; we perceive that like everything else in nature, we have a function, and we go on into countless battles instead of sitting on a cloud, munching donuts in an endless non-time. At some point, this religion will reveal to us, we can ascertain that we are all facets of the divine, and when we pop our clogs, the universe flings the best parts of our souls into some other place to keep going the battle for order in the midst of random impulsive creation and the resulting disorder. As modernity winds down, and our old religions no longer give us credible comfort, clearly we need the next stage in evolution of spiritual technology.