One day around fifteen years ago or so, sick in bed with the flu, I arrived at the opinion that there are three fundamental views of existence: the creator god view, the materialist/scientific view, and, what I will call provisionally, the pantheistic view. The creator god view holds that there is a supreme being who sits outside his creation, watches, and occasionally reaches in to perform some act. The materialist/scientific view holds that we live in a universe of dead matter which, through the agencies of chemistry and physics, gradually evolves creatures that have consciousness. The pantheistic view says that everything is mind or spirit, and that the material world is a kind of illusion. In the West, only the first two views, the creator god and the materialist/scientific, have ever had any traction. They are currently duking it out for supremacy, while totally oblivious to the pantheistic view, which, although having a strong presence in Asia, has always been kept at the periphery in the West. At times it’s even been forced underground.
The battle between the creator god and materialist/scientific views began in earnest with the Enlightenment. It’s sort of an unfair fight. The creator god view has no real strength. It’s not an independent, vigorous idea; the materialist/scientific view is. The creator god view depends on people having simplistic ideas about existence. There are many people who do have simplistic ideas, but I see the materialist/scientific view that as being responsible for a large swath of that. The mind or the heart craves meaning, and the materialist view has dispensed with love and wisdom, replacing them with sex and information. The outcome has been the creation of a way of life where the only things that matter are making money, buying entertaining gadgets, and taking fun vacations.
Recently I changed my idea some. I see the creator god view as being derived from the pantheistic view. But it’s a distorted version which is looking at spirit/mind/heart from a great distance and thereby coming up with something simplistic and mythical. The real struggle is between the materialist/scientific idea and a genuinely spiritual understanding. It’s extremely difficult to understand the truth of what I’m calling pantheism (the word is an imperfect vehicle because it’s a Western term that carries connotations which have nothing to do with its fundamental truth). Buddhism is one of the great commentators on this view that everything is mind. If you read the Buddhist sutras, they are difficult and sophisticated, as difficult and sophisticated, if not more so, than quantum mechanics. As science delves deeper into subatomic structures a number of physicists have started wondering out loud if what they’re looking at is just mind. I’m not a Buddhist (I don’t believe there is such a thing as “Buddhism”—but more on that later), but I do believe that the Buddhist sutras, particularly the Mahayana Buddhist sutras, are true. So are some of the Taoist and Hindu tracts. So are the fragments of Jesus’ actual teachings. The difficult territory they speak of is where our salvation lies.
The intent of this particular post is to bring an end my broad overview of the ideas I want to cover in The Turning Point. I intend to take a short break and then start expanding on the points I’ve made and filling in the gaps.