Dear Gillian (11.6.2020)
Richard Hunn advised that I be neither attached to the void, nor hindered by phenomena. Identity comes under phenomena as we ascribe characteristics to various things. This is something that needs further consideration. On the one hand everything is ‘identity’ as language and thought would not work without it, whilst on the other, being ‘free’ must also involve being free of all constructs – including identity. Therefore, through identity we develop a map which gives us a psychological and material direction – hence religion – which is firmly anchored in this realm, whilst projecting us into another realm whilst a) still being here whilst alive, and b) spiritually traversing to that other plane whilst being physically dead in this realm. What do we do with the anchor? It would appear that some identification is required, (perhaps the ‘yoke’ of religion), whilst all attachments to the physical world must be ultimately transcended. I suspect we can identify with elements of reality whilst remaining non-attached to that which we identify with. An interface between advanced awareness and mundane utility. Of course, culture conditions how and with what we identity, but religion in the true sense must a) free us from the mundanity of world, whilst b) ultimately detaching us from the religious method itself, so that process is not mistaken for objective, (or journey confused with destination). Religion as a yoke cannot be the end product, or we would end up asking ourselves what the point of it all is, when all we want to be is ‘not here’. This means that we often think freedom is somewhere other than here, and yet those who have been on the journey (looking for freedom elsewhere), invariably say that freedom is here and now and not somewhere else. Or, sometimes they say that freedom is somewhere else AND simultaneously still here! I suspect we cannot be free of identification, but what it comes down to is how we relate to the concept.
Dear Gillian (12.6.2020)
Talking of identity, as you so beautifully do (no slim, just fact), isn’t it interesting that Plotinus (who never mentions Christianity once) and Origen (who doesn’t stop mentioning it) shared the same Platonic teacher (Ammonious)? I was drawn toward the examination of Christian monasticism due to the similarities it possesses with the method of Plotinus (neo-Platonism), and how similar all this is to the thinking and methodology of Early Buddhism. So, the identity of my path of transcendence is Buddha, Plotinus, St Benedict and Buddha. I am fine with Christian monastics who ‘look within’ with equanimity, but cannot ‘identify’ with the oppressive and overbearing attitude of mainstream Christianity designed for popular consumption and control of the masses. Its quite natural racism and apologetics for capitalism and fascism, leave me thoroughly alienated (not to mention my kith and kin). Of course, I am identifying certain negatives aspects with Christianity, not because I am not listening to (or appreciating) the brilliance of your thought construct, (indeed, I fully acknowledge the peculiar and uncommon wisdom inherent in it), but I say these things because they happen to be ‘true’ from where I am standing. Even if I choose not to identify with my ‘truth’, it does not automatically equate to the truth you express being ‘right’, and this is the quandary. I can ‘give up’ identifying – but the Church just chugs along on its merry way assuming it is immune from the historical, social, cultural and political forces that created it. In reality it is its wealth and its identity with the appropriate worldly forces that enable it to do this. I change – it doesn’t – this is a dialectical bad deal. I would argue, however, that as a religious scholar, I am not ‘religious’ per se, just as a doctor who is an expert in treating sick people is not necessarily ‘ill’ as a key motivator for his or her activity. A doctor does not have to be ‘ill’ to study medicine and apply it to those who are ill. You say you are ‘pre-modern’ (a strange description for a professional physicist), I would counter that not only am I ‘modern’, but I am ‘radically’ modern! This is way beyond any half-arsed complaints by traditionalists, and aligns itself psychological and physically with the scientific method. I am freed from the tyranny (and errors) of the past because of this scientific method. I am now free to study religion objectively without being ensnared by its smothering control mechanisms, or its odd and outdated attitudes toward reality. Furthermore, I am also free to see where all religions are useful and possess genuine developmental qualities. I believe I am permanently occupying a state of dialectical synthesis, whereas identify would represent ‘thesis’, and non-identity ‘antithesis’. For me, there is no point dropping into a state of non-identity, simply because I already exist in a superior state to it. I got here through Chinese Ch’an Buddhism and Karl Marx. I do not exclude you as a very important contribution to my development, but your presence in my life for 27 years speaks for itself, both the ‘silence’ and the ‘words’. I do listen to you, but I do not associate recognition or agreement as markers of ‘being heard’. Perhaps you are looking in the wrong places for proof that your words have ‘hit home’ – as it could be that I am just very good at ‘hiding’ the smoke from the impact!