In Defence of God
I recently perused an article written by my dear personal friend Gravy, and I was so disturbed by what I read in it that I took to waving my hands violently in the air and yipping, which was unfortunate since I was in a restaurant at the time and some people tend to stare at things like that.
“YOO YOO YOO YOO YOO YOO YOO!” and so on.
Gravy and I agree on many things, but if we have one ideological difference, it is that Gravy is a materialist and I am a spiritualist. Gravy thinks life emerged from matter, while I think that matter emerged from life. In other words, I believe there is life and consciousness at the centre of everything, and that this consciousness is not consciousness if it is alone, since it must be conscious of something to be consciousness. Therefore, it split and transfigured itself into a bazillion different parts in order to be conscious of itself from a bazillion different angles, one of which those angles is you.
There has been a lot of philosophising over the years about this, both on my side and on dear Gravy’s side, and nothing much has been proved beyond the fact that a person’s truth is experiential, and if you would care to think a certain way, then it is best to go out and investigate it yourself. If you are feeling up to this, then I would suggest The Spanda Karikas as a nice, if intense, place to start.
My dear chum Gravy characterised God as a man in the sky with a beard, which is lamentable. Very few religions in the world think this way, and Christianity has only done so since the Middle Ages, when such a view of God appealed to peasant classes habituated to rule by a distant inscrutable man with a beard who held all the power and could be very and arbitrarily cruel when the mood took him. The Catholic Church, historically little more than criminals, Cossacks in Cassocks, were more than happy to jump on this bandwagon and exact small donations from it.
Many Christian Theologians believe in God as the Sum of All Reality (e.g. look at Jesus saying “my Father and I are one and the same”), since the idea of a Creator creates countless philosophical issues (e.g. why would a God with a moral sense create a world with immorality? and if creation needs a creator, then does this creator not also need a creator, and that creator another creator…?).
My handsome mate Gravy’s view is a very popular view these days, and it fits in nicely with movements like 19th Century Realpolitik and post-modern irony. But popular beliefs never remain popular, and we may comfort ourselves with the knowledge that people in 200 years will react to pessimistic materialism with just as many condescending snorts as we ourselves snort when confronted with ideas like alchemy, the world is flat and witch-burning.
Where cherry-cheeked Gravy sees a human being as one big appendage to their own urge to procreate (which seems a little terrible doesn’t it, if the point of life is to create more life which then creates more life which then creates more life and so on and so on and nothing ever actually happens?), I see basic human ambition in a nobler light.
Another good mate of mine, Sri Aurobindo, said human life was fundamentally “the finite searching for the infinite”. “Life sufficeth unto itself,” said The Marquis de Sade in between hookers, which does not mean that there is no divine in the world, but that the world is divine and the goal of life is to partake of it fully. Which does not mean you should get sloshed every night, but rather seek a fuller and more enduring happiness.
My point is that I do not wake up in the morning, lob on my dressing gown and lizard slippers with the tongue and think, “Time to procreate!” It is not my most pressing concern (partly because no one in their right mind would procreate with a man in a dressing gown and lizard slippers with the tongue). My primary concern is happiness. Everything I do – earning money, falling in love, procreating, buying a house, meditating – I do because I think, rightly or wrongly, that it will make me happy. Procreation is one of our most fundamental instincts, but happiness is our dominant and most pressing instinct.
As to what is a right way to find happiness, and what is a wrong way, I think we should look into sleek Gravox’s grievance with the concept that humans are God’s chosen creatures. Now, clearly I do not think that God chose humanity as his standard bearers, as I do not believe in the kind of God capable of differentiation and favouritism. But humanity, of all the creatures on planet Earth, does hold an exulted place.
The human organism has developed over millions of years to such a level of intricacy that we have an intellect. We know that we know, we think about thinking. We are the only creature on Earth conscious of our own consciousness, as far as I am aware. For example, my dog Kevin has never had an existential crisis (issues with mirrors excepted): you give Kev a bowl of Schmackos and a dry place to sleep and he’s perfectly happy. You do the same thing to my little brother Twonk and he just looks at you funny and storms off to write angsty poetry about desolation and loneliness. The majority of human suffering resides in the intellect as it spins all over the place chasing doubts, regrets, fears and expectations instead of just sitting in the moment and thinking, “Well this is quite pleasant, isn’t it?” which is what Kev gets up to most of the time.
Many people look for happiness by smudging the intellect out and dropping beneath it, in pursuit of a happiness like what Kevin has, by binge-drinking, sexual excess (orgasm is an obvious time when the intellect stops operating), over-eating and taking drugs. But the intellect bounces back. We can’t undo millions of years of evolution in six hours and a bottle of Jack Daniels. And so this pleasure begets more pain, and becomes a cycle. This is the root of all addiction.
But the intellect also affords humanity the chance at a much more profound happiness than anything Kev could ever dream of. The intellect is the path to its own transcendence, to achieving an understanding of the nature of yourself (as one of a bazillion angles of infinite consciousness, and since infinity is indivisible, therefore as the whole of consciousness), an understanding which confers the greatest liberty and most profound joy anyone could dream of. Or so I’m told. But interestingly, I’m told this often. This is the fundamental tenet of all religion and most good philosophy. It is not a single lunatic screaming out his psychoses at the moon.
Interesting fact you probably won’t see on your next tampon: did you know that the word Buddha translates literally into English as “he who is above the mind”?
And with that enigma, I leave you to your own researches.
Cover by Nitish Meena