How militant atheists stole your sense of meaning to enhance theirs

The Church Militant, by James Gillray. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This is the amazing story of how militant atheo-materialists—those who doggedly promote the twin narratives of atheism and materialism—have managed to rob many of us of meaning in life so to safeguard and nurture their own sense of meaning. Like greedy capitalists, they enrich themselves with life's most valuable currency at the expense of the majority. You are about to be amazed at how cleverly they've pulled this off, for the secret behind their exquisitely disguised maneuver has never—as far as I am aware—been laid bare before. The disclosure that follows has more than a few controversial twists, but it is also well-substantiated at both theoretical and empirical levels. To make this clear, I've put in the effort to document this essay with all the relevant references and footnotes. So take a deep breath and follow me down this never-talked-about but sobering rabbit hole.

Meaning—in the sense of significance and purpose—is probably the greatest asset any human being can possess. Psychotherapist Victor Frankl, who practiced and led groups while detained in a concentration camp during World War II, asserted that the will-to-meaning is the most dominant human drive, in contrast to Nietzsche’s will-to-power and Freud’s will-to-pleasure.1 Meaning is so powerful that, as Jung remarked, it ‘makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything.’2 Philip K. Dick’s alter ego Horselover Fat, in the novel Valis, embodies the essence of this drive: ‘Fat had no concept of enjoyment; he understood only meaning,’ wrote Dick.3  Like Fat, many of us—myself included—see meaning as a higher value than power or pleasure. Our motivation to live rests in there being meaning in our lives. Indeed, today we need meaning more than ever. After all, as Paul Tillich lucidly observed, the greatest anxieties of contemporary culture are precisely those of doubt and meaninglessness.4

And here is where proponents of atheo-materialism claim the high-ground: as a worldview that seems to drain the meaning out of life and existence, it can only represent—or so the story goes—a courageous acknowledgement of reality by ‘tough people who face the bleak facts.’5  It must embody an objective assessment of reality, not an emotional, irrational wish-fulfillment maneuver akin to religion. Otherwise, it wouldn’t deny meaning, would it? Compelling as it may seem at first, this argument falls apart upon careful analysis, because its very premise is fallacious.

Indeed, according to the Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM) of social psychology,6 people can derive a sense of meaning from four different sources: self-esteem, closure, belonging and symbolic immortality.  In other words, we can find meaning in life through (a) developing a sense of self-worthiness; (b) resolving doubts and ambiguities; (c) being part of something bigger and longer-lasting than ourselves; and (d) leaving something of significance behind—such as professional achievements—in the form of which we can ‘live on’ after physical death. A society’s mainstream cultural narrative conditions how meaning can be derived from each of these four sources.

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The key idea behind the MMM is that of fluid compensation as a self-defense mechanism: if one of the four sources of meaning is threatened, an individual will tend to automatically compensate by seeking extra meaning from the other three sources. For instance, threats to self-esteem may cause the individual to reaffirm his or her model of reality, thereby bolstering closure. Whatever the case, the goal of fluid compensation is always to restore the sense of meaningfulness after a threat to one’s meaning system.

As Van Tongeren and Green have shown, a transcendent source of meaning, such as religiosity, plays the same role in fluid compensation as the other four sources.7  For instance, individuals tend to reaffirm their religious beliefs following disruption of their meaning system, in an effort to protect the latter. Van Tongeren’s and Green’s experiments have also shown that even subliminal threats to meaning trigger fluid compensation.

With this as background, my hypothesis is that atheo-materialism is a reflection of fluid compensation. In other words, instead of a threat to meaning,  atheo-materialism is actually an attempt to protect and restore meaning by bolstering closure, self-esteem and symbolic immortality.

I submit that an ontological trauma was the original threat that triggered the congealment and mainstream adoption of atheo-materialism. At some point in the nineteenth century, we lost our ability to spontaneously relate to religious myths without linear intellectual scrutiny. From that point on, the myths that had hitherto offered us meaning through the promise of actual immortality and metaphysical teleology became untenable.8  No one has captured this transition better than Friedrich Nietzsche in The Gay Science: ‘“Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. We are his murderers.”’ Left with the prospect of physical deterioration without the path to transcendence offered by an immortal soul, the intellectual elite of the time was forced to face the inexorability of their own mortality. And as we know today from Terror Management Theory (TMT), mortality is a formidable threat to meaning.9  On this basis, I hypothesize that the loss of our ability to relate spontaneously to religion caused an ontological trauma that, in turn, triggered fluid compensation and ultimately led to the adoption of the atheo-materialist narrative.

Indeed, many studies have shown that a confrontation with one’s own approaching death—‘mortality salience,’ as it is called in psychology—leads to a heightened need for closure.10  This is fluid compensation in action. Notice also that atheo-materialism is humanity’s most committed attempt yet to increase the certainty of our worldview. It embodies an unprecedented effort to produce a complete, causally closed, unambiguous model of reality that stresses consensual agreement. Nothing else in millennia of preceding history came anywhere near it. Is this just coincidence? I dare to suggest it isn’t: atheo-materialism reflects our attempt to regain, through heightened closure, the meaning we lost along with religion. Moreover, other modes of fluid compensation are likely at play here as well: by distinguishing themselves as a specialized elite, uniquely capable to understand facts beyond the cognitive capacity of other mortals, the scientists and academics who militantly promote atheo-materialism stand to gain much in self-esteem. The esoteric scientific work they produce and leave behind upon their deaths can also be seen as a significant boost to symbolic immortality. Finally, recall Tillich’s observation: doubt and meaning anxiety dominate the contemporary mindset. Is it humanly plausible that our mainstream cultural narrative would have evolved to tackle only doubt and leave meaning anxiety unaddressed?

All in all, atheo-materialism doesn’t represent a net loss of meaning for the intellectual elite that produced and continues to promote it. The transcendent meaning lost along with religion is compensated for by a significant increase in closure, self-esteem and symbolic immortality. Unfortunately, this compensatory strategy doesn’t work for most ordinary people: the men and women on the streets don’t have enough grasp of contemporary scientific theories to experience an increase in their sense of closure. Neither do they gain in self-esteem, since they aren’t part of the distinguished elite. Finally, insofar as they are not producing groundbreaking scientific work of their own, no particular gain in symbolic immortality is to be expected either. In conclusion, atheo-materialism serves the meaning needs of the intellectual elite that develops and militantly promotes it, but constitutes an enormous threat to the sense of meaning of the average person on the streets. This is the world we live in today.




It must be changed. The religious impulse is a deeply-rooted intuition intrinsic to the human condition. It far precedes thought and theory, being symbolically closer to the truths of nature. As Jung put it, 'The religious myth is one of man’s greatest and most significant achievements, giving him the security and inner strength not to be crushed by the monstrousness of the universe.'11 But in order to restore our relationship with religious transcendence, thereby rescuing our sense of meaning from the clutches of the thieves, we must rationally understand why and how religious myths can carry truth. Even more importantly, we must understand why religious myths are the only honest way to frame the transcendent truths upon which the meaning of our lives is conditioned. This is what I've tried to achieve with my new book More Than Allegory. See an overview of the book here.

More Than Allegory is my attempt to restore balance to the cultural debate by denying atheo-materialism its illegitimate claim to rational high-ground. Religion doesn't contradict linear logic, it simply transcends it. Religion doesn't contradict empirical evidence, it just looks at dimensions of experience that atheo-materialism arbitrarily ignores. Religion isn't composed through linear steps of reasoning, but intuitively sensed in the obfuscated trans-personal depths of the human psyche, which are anchored in primordial truths. Religion isn't wish-fulfillment, but intuitive realization. And it is atheo-materialism that constitutes an engineered attempt to safeguard one's sense of meaning, not religion. Religion had already sprung spontaneously from the depths of the human psyche since much before the perceived threats to meaning that motivated our first wish-fulfillment maneuvers.

Let us restore the legitimacy of the human religious impulse. It deserves no less. And so do we.


"Over the years I have felt that the limitations of mainstream religion increasingly outweigh its potential benefits, but More Than Allegory sees into its heart, enabling us to consider religion with fresh perspective and redeeming it for our generation."
Rupert Spira


Notes:
  1. Frankl, V. E. (1991). The Will to Meaning, Expanded Edition. New York, NY: Meridian.
  2. Jung, C. G. (1995). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London, UK: FontanaPress, p. 373.
  3. Dick, P. K. (2001). Valis. London, UK: Gollancz, p. 92.
  4. Tillich, P. (1952). The Courage To Be. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  5. Watts, A. (1989). The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. New York, NY: Vintage Books, p. 65.
  6. Heine, S. J., Proulx, T. and Vohs, K. D. (2006). The Meaning Maintenance Model: On the Coherence of Social Motivations. In: Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), pp. 88-110.
  7. Van Tongeren, D. R. and Green, J. D. (2010). Combating Meaninglessness: On the Automatic Defense of Meaning. In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(10), pp. 1372-1384.
  8. Kastrup, B. (2016). More Than Allegory. Winchester, UK: Iff Books, pp. 14-60.
  9. Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J. and Solomon, S. (1997). Why do we need what we need? A terror management perspective on the roots of human social motivation. In: Psychological Inquiry, 8(1), pp. 1-20.
  10. See, for instance: Landau, M. J. et al. (2004). A function of form: Terror management and structuring the social world. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), pp. 190-210.
  11. Jung, C. G. (1956). Symbols of Transformation. London, UK: Routledge, p. 231.

Comments

  1. This is a straw man - Materialism does not claim that human life has no meaning, but claims that the universe has no inherent meaning. Their claim is that 'having a meaning' is not a property of the universe, but meaning is 'value-added', that is, offers a higher fitness, and as a pleasant side-effect, enriches our lives, our families, communities and society - but human life has meaning.
    But lets assume Materialists are wrong - that the universe does in fact have a meaning, a purpose or bias.
    In this case the onus is on religion to provide their followers with a 'technology' to culture and nurture this inherent meaning. But instead, modern religions have become bloated bureaucracies more interested in their own survival.
    Any erosion of meaning in human life is on religion - not Materialism. If learning where the sun goes at night causes one to lose one's faith - that's not on science.

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    1. There's no straw man here whatsoever.

      I am not defending religious institutions, of which I am very critical. I am defending the symbolic truth-value of religious myths themselves, which are essential for most people's perception of meaning in life.

      I am also not saying that atheo-materialism is incompatible with a perception of meaning. On the contrary! I am claiming precisely that it _is_ an expression of fluid compensation to bring meaning into the lives of those who espouse and promote it. This is the key point of the text, so it surprises me that not only you seem to have missed it, you even seem to have read the contrary statement in the essay somehow!

      The problem is that the meaning atheo-materialism confers to life is restricted to the small group that promotes it, at the expense of everybody else. By denying the validity of religious transcendence -- which atheo-materialism does do, incontrovertibly; this is no straw man at all -- atheo-materialism denies the only source of meaning accessible to all people, irrespective of position, status, work, etc. It then conveniently concentrates meaning in the hands of the very group that promotes atheo-materialism. This is theft.

      All this said, meaning through religious transcendence is the most profound and, arguably, sole _true_ source of meaning. Everything else is an existential, neurotic projection of meaning with no inherent truth. I don't make this point in the essay above, but do it extensively and exhaustively in the book More Than Allegory.

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    2. "This is the key point of the text, so it surprises me that not only you seem to have missed it, you even seem to have read the contrary statement in the essay somehow!"
      This is what happens with every single thing I write.

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    3. I don't think we are (necessarily) in disagreement here - I'm suggesting that people are actively choosing the fruits of Materialism and science because they have not been properly introduced to the world inside themselves (Kingdom of Heaven within). It's not that anything has been stolen, but the world is filled with priests pedaling shiny stuff - and these priests wear lab coats and 'white collars'. Personally I see no difference between a dedicated atheist like Dawkins and most clergy I've come across.

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    4. Yes Larry, I am not necessarily defending religious institutions, of which I am very critical in the book. I am defending the genuine religious myth as it emerges from the obfuscated psyche.

      The thrust of my post is that atheo-materialism is implicitly motivated as a maneuver to restore the sense of meaning of a particular group, at the expense of everybody else. Insofar as atheo-materialism is also false as a metaphysics, I think it's valid then to consider this a theft of meaning. But I am sensitive that this choice of words may be considered too strong.

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    5. atheo-materialism is implicitly motivated as a maneuver to restore the sense of meaning of a particular group, at the expense of everybody else.

      Interesting. I'm sure that this would come as a surprise to materialists. Where exactly did you get this revelation? Was it some kind of scientific study?

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    6. im-skeptical, what a strange question. Read the essay you are commenting on. It's all in there.

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    7. Ok, so it's your postulation. And what makes you think that by atheists restoring a sense of meaning, that would come at the expense of everyone else?

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    8. im-skeptikal, no postulation, the case is explicitly substantiated in the essay. Regarding your new question, its answer is also in the essay, a whole paragraph dedicated to explaining precisely it, quite explicitly. I suggest that, every time a question pops in your mind, you try to re-read the essay first before asking me.

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    9. Bernardo,

      I'm just trying to understand what you're saying. I'm sorry, but I just don't see anything in the essay to justify the notion that one group of people getting meaning in their lives would somehow deprive another group. You speak of MMM and fluid compensation, which, as I understand it, is the idea that if we can't derive meaning from one source, we make up for it by relying more heavily on another source. Is it your contention that we actually steal meaning from other people? How would that be possible?

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    10. From the essay: "Unfortunately, this compensatory strategy doesn’t work for most ordinary people: the men and women on the streets don’t have enough grasp of contemporary scientific theories to experience an increase in their sense of closure. Neither do they gain in self-esteem, since they aren’t part of the distinguished elite. Finally, insofar as they are not producing groundbreaking scientific work of their own, no particular gain in symbolic immortality is to be expected either. In conclusion, atheo-materialism serves the meaning needs of the intellectual elite that develops and militantly promotes it, but constitutes an enormous threat to the sense of meaning of the average person on the streets. This is the world we live in today."

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    11. If I understand what you're saying - a group of "elites" comes up with a way of meeting its own needs for meaning, and that deprives the ordinary folks in the world of their own ability to have meaning in their lives? I guess I just don't see how that works. Is it the case that these "elites" are coercing everyone else to adopt their beliefs? If so, how do they accomplish that? By writing books?

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    12. im-skeptical, are you serious? OK, I'll entertain this a little more. There is obviously no coercion at gun point, but by promoting the notion -- explicit or implicit -- that any person of religious faith must be stupid, irrational, gullible, etc., one is indeed doing psychological coercion, yes. Militant atheism and militant materialism are rampant. Look at the likes of Dawkins, Krauss, and others who are completely ignorant not only of theology, but of philosophy and -- yes, yes -- relevant aspects of science that they are either sincerely ignorant of or choose to ignore. And decades before them these elites have assumed control of the cultural narrative, the framework where we all live, and that of course has a psychological effect on people and their relationship to meaning. Denying that this is the case would be extraordinarily naive.

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    13. IM-Skeptical,
      The answer of course is modeled by yourself, as you go about the web pretending to know things which you do not, and by bullying dissenters with your false elitist stance - just as the article states.

      The pretending "elites" of today, including yourself, are out in force, attacking those who they feel to be inferior. So the answer to the question you pose is right there, in your own mirror

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    14. Since you have chosen not to respond, I'll make one final observation and then leave it.

      I must assume that you don't really mean to say that there's some limited quantity of "meaning", and that these "elites" are claiming it all for themselves, leaving none for the rest of us. So the only other way I can think of to read this is that it's something like gay marriage. If a gay couple on the other side of town gets married, they have destroyed the institution of marriage for the rest of us, and so my own marriage becomes no longer means anything. In a similar way, if an atheist somewhere in New York decides that his life has meaning, then meaning itself has been destroyed for me, and I can no longer have any meaning in my life. Is that the idea?

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    15. im-skeptical, I've chosen not to respond?! The response is right here above. Gay marriage? What the heck are you talking about? Please just read the essay. You're wasting my time.

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    16. Hi im-skeptical - let me see if I understand Bernardo's words. I think I understand why he's given up here as he's really answered your question. But assuming you're being sincere and don't quite get what he's saying, let me see if I can rephrase it (Bernardo, i'm open to you telling me I've got your views wrong).

      Let's see (my words, now, so if this is wrong please don't blame Bernardo) I think what he's saying is not that people like Dawkins, Crick, etc are **consciously** coercing anybody. But when Crick writes triumphantly, "You are nothing but a pack of neurons", it's not so much conscious coercion as the force of his elite status as one of the "great" scientists of the 20th century telling us what to believe. In the years following Crick's statement, a host of elite scientists have been avidly telling us we have no free will, that our brains, conditioned as they are, tell us what to do, and we must take pills or change our environment if we want to change our behavior.

      So yees, they write books, they give talks, they carry out experiments, and explain their research in terms quite along the lines of what Bernardo describes. I would have thought this is common knowledge - if you go to Jerry Coyne's site, whyevolutionistrue.com, you'll find every post fervently pushing the exact view Bernardo is describing here (in fact, you can find some exchanges between Bernardo and Jerry on this site which buttress Bernardo's points - Jerry is literally tone deaf to what Bernardo is saying.

      Does this help at all? Again, I may be misunderstanding Bernardo but I'm trying to rephrase him as best I can. I enjoy this myself because I like to challenge myself to see if I understand other authors, and Bernardo is doing such fine work it's worth the effort. Let me know if this makes sense and helps answer your questions.

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    17. I'll try to take a stab at this one. The "coercion" comes from social pressure: by being made to feel ridiculous for entertaining non-materialist beliefs, people feel a subtle but continuous pressure to adopt the atheo-materialist beliefs.

      I certainly wouldn't agree that anyone is consciously intending this outcome, so it's hard for me to call it "coercion." But certainly there's a conscious effort to ridicule and discredit.

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    18. Don, yes, this is what I meant. Thanks.

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    19. Aditya, your comment was published just fine (you have to click on 'load more' at the very bottom of the page to see it). I agree with what you say.

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    20. Bernardo, I wouldn't call a bunch of fat-ass neckbeards who have a failed life "intellectual elites". Otherwise you're right.

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    21. By trying to convince as many people as they can, through science, debate or even ridicule, be it through books, television or in person, that this concept a lot of people cling to for some sense of meaning in this life is actually a joke, untrue, a useless meaning to have.

      People who accept this statement lose their sense of meaning because of this and a significant part cannot compensate using any of the other ways to add meaning to their lives. Not through self esteem, neither through closure, nor symbolic immortality (except may be through a radical act).

      At least that's my interpretation, I'm not a scientist, just a person who's trying to make everything explainable, and is never done learning how.

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    22. im-skeptical, you are being purposely obtuse.

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    23. Very late to the game here, I realize, but would just like to attempt an answer to im-skeptical's enquiry as to how the group of atheo-materialists accomplished this theft of meaning. And the probably too simple answer is by being so exceptionally excellent in the rational realms that they've damn near figured out enough to tell "God" how to think! The great triumph (and it is great, make no mistake, even if theft has resulted) of scientific materialism is to figure out that Mind-At-Large is strictly rational and plays by rules. The great mistake of scientific materialism is to then conclude that there is only the rules and no Mind-At-Large (which to my mind Bernardo has demonstrated is highly unlikely). At any rate, their success (things like curing previously incurable diseases and other magnificent technological feats) has so severely overbalanced our culture that there is little room for the average man/woman on the street to have their different needs taken seriously. Everyone with ability (from corporations, media and even the "soft" sciences which should be recognizing these non-atheo material needs) seems to aspire to mimic the success of the techno-scientific priesthood which is primarily made up of atheo-materialists. Any perceptive person will see these attitudes reflected, both directly and subtly, in the mainstream media and other cultural trend-setting outlets. There's a positive feedback loop here where the average person's religious needs get left further and further behind. It's pathological, for all concerned, IMO. And it is theft, even if the thieves don't quite consciously realize what they are doing. Many of them do, though. Go watch any of Bernardo's youtube videos and any other videos that are well-reasoned defenses of a non-atheo-materialist viewpoint and you'll get no end of highly defensive materialists launching ad-hominem attacks to intimidate people away from their "ignorance".

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  2. Religion has already provided a 'technology' to nurture this inherent meaning. It's called SYMBOLS. It's not linear and may not be 'logical' but it is ALIVE and pulsing with life, just like real life itself.

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    1. If this were true, that religion has an effective 'technology' commonly made accessible to everyone, then this article would not need to be written. Materialism would never gain more of a foothold than any other basic tool.

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    2. Larry, ever hear the phrase- You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink?
      Every single American has access to information and technologies to prevent obesity. Yet there is still a lot of obesity. It is not for want of a way to combat it, but a matter of values. The Industrial Revolution causes such a rapid change in human values that our connection to the non-material was lost in the mix. The family that prays to Yahweh or the old pagan gods to help their crops grow had values that led them to the accessible technologies of religion. The family that was torn apart each day and shipped off to factories, school and the marketplace with the singular aim of joining in mass consumption were not imbued with the necessary values to take advantage of religious ideologies.
      Materialism in the philosophical sense was caused by the consumer materialism of industrialist civilization.

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    3. Any particular 'philosophical sense' or viewpoint is not caused by or the result of any type of civilization - everything we need to live a religious life is available to us at every moment; just as any moment we can live in a 'Materialistic sense'. People need to be presented with 'Truth' in a real and practical manner - not as symbols. As it says in the Gita - - - All it takes is a taste of this Yoga.

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    4. This is how I address this valid question in the book: the traditional formulations of religious myths were appropriate for a time when people did not subject their intuitive sensitivity to the scrutiny of the linear intellect. At some point in the 16th or 17th century this began to change, and by the 19th century the new zeitgeist entailed that nothing could be taken emotionally onboard unless 'approved' by the intellect. Our linear, linguistic thinking became then the bouncer of the heart, as I put it in the book.

      That's why so many people lost their ability to relate emotionally to their religious myths. They now live in a culture where an embrace of intuition without intellectual validation has become synonym with stupidity and frowned upon. So I acknowledge that we need new formulations of religious myths, conveying the same primordial intuitions with new symbols, new metaphors, more amenable to contemporary intellectual acceptance. I attempt to do precisely this in Part III of the book.

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  3. And what about the third way? Neither religion nor atheism / materialism, but the empirical study that suggests that there is a personal afterlife as part of nature, ie psychical research, the empirical study of NDEs, apparitions, mediumship.

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    1. This is good and very important, but in itself it doesn't bring any meaning... The mere continuation of consciousness doesn't necessarily entail meaning. There can conceivably be meaningless conscious existence that goes on forever, as well as meaningful conscious existence that lasts only briefly.

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    2. What is the point of understanding a thing if that understanding does not open up new potentials or joys or personal satisfaction. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake denies our own personal experiences. It is the ego turned inside out, creating a concept of a world with no Id to drive the desires of those within it.

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    3. "This is good and very important, but in itself it doesn't bring any meaning... The mere continuation of consciousness doesn't necessarily entail meaning."

      True, but for me it is more important the empirical research on an afterlife that these speculations about the meaning.

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    4. Good for you, Juan, by this essay is about meaning.

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    5. An article on the meaning, but I think what many people today want about the religious impulse is an empirical confirmation of the belief in a personal afterlife.

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    6. Juan, I don't see why your interest should be taken as opposed or in conflict with what Bernardo is saying. This particular essay, as he said, is about meaning. you can take what he says, and apply it to empirical research. You might want to look at Bernardo's excellent post a few weeks back examining empirical research demonstrating that in some cases, reduction of brain activity leads to greater, rather than decreased consciousness.

      You might try as a fun experiment to look at some of the most rigorous NDE research, or even after death research (with mediums - there is some good stuff out there, believe it or not!) and see what meaning it has. If our individuality is, as Bernardo says, a kind of dissociative disorder, with our connection to the larger Mind obfuscated, what is the larger meaning if after the dissolution of the physical body altogether, there remains some level of individualization? It seems to me to have a profound meaning and quite well illuminated by what Bernardo has written in this essay.

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  4. This makes so much sense Bernardo, thank you for writing it. Only today I asked myself why the so strong reactions among mainstream scientists, the determined avoidance of any possibility that there could be more to the world and ourselves. It really makes sense, if it is an attempt to keep the self-defense mechanism in place. To let even the slightest doubt enter would mean that the terror reveals itself with full power, and they can't allow that. So in the discussions with these people, they are not aggressively answering my hints about transcendence, but their own terror knocking from behind the defense wall. I think you are right. Now I understand this better. Having a neutral discussion among curious minds is out of the question if you are not open and curious, but desperately trying to keep your constructions in place.

    Such a pity though, transcendence is so natural to us all, that realm is everyone's home. Like you, I'm not a fan of mainstream religion either, and I wonder if human vocabulary hasn't been completely compromised when it comes to this issue. Maybe we need to find a new way and also a new language for these things, in order to bypass the block.

    I also agree with your observation that those people who are not among the scientific elite are left with a huge gap- neither the satisfaction of the fake fulfillment, nor the permission to find and accept real fulfillment. What I notice though is that this leads most people to continue on their own path, but in private. So this gives me hope, because the transformation of consciousness will happen anyway. I think that many people (even some scientists who pay lip service to atheo-materialism as you call it) have this secret "other" knowing which they won't display in public. A process of maturation maybe, until they are strong enough to speak up.

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    1. You got it, Aurora, and worded it better than I did.

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    2. You helped me see these people in a new light, with more compassion, so thank you! At the same time, it is as clear as ever that we got work to do :) Good luck and thank you for staying inspired!

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  5. That the universe has no inherent meaning seems to be the wonder of it. For it allows any meaning to be given to it -- unconditionally -- such that it can mean whatever one believes it to mean: from the dream-like, cosmological myths of indigenous cultures, to the grand mathematical calculations of theoretical physicists. Indeed, it is this free creation of meaning that, ironically enough, appears to be its raison d'être -- if not, in truth, the very source of its own existence -- without which it would not appear in the first place.

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    1. Very interesting remarks, Dana, thank you.

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    2. As no one ever experienced the outside world, no one has ever experienced a universe without meaning, as negating meaning, implies meaning. Materialism is the only metaphysics that rejects all other metaphysics, which is ironic. It entangles itself the moment it implies that.

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  6. Yes Aurora, you are soo right! Everyone is continuing on their own path and in my environment common people are more enlightened than ever, at least what I see from women of my own age and generation. We have so much fun about 'nothing'. We simply have recognized the child within that lives in the moment without thinking about the next step. Solutions to problems come on the go. The biggest fear of humanity is the fear for what might happen (which usually does not happen) and it seems that is all too well for the benefit of the established order. Keep that fear going and the power of scientists and governments will continue. Well, maybe you will have to reach a certain age to not be bothered with it anymore. I do not know. Only know that I am here right now, enjoying life to the fullest as it comes my way, the so-called good and the bad simultaneously. That is and has always been the meaning of life. Making the best of every situation one encounters.

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    1. I am glad to hear this, and you confirm what I have observed around me, not only among mature people, but also the youth. I was actually very concerned about young people being indoctrinated with atheistic myths at the university where I now study, so I tried to discuss with the teachers in class, which resulted in reactions that can very well be explained by Bernardo's theory. Questioning the "truths" was not welcomed, and I thought it was only because they don't want their authority questioned- but I believe Bernardo is right, it is more than that, their self-defense is threatened.

      But the awesome part was that when I started to talk with the young ones about these things, carefully avoiding religious terms which I myself don't use or relate to, their response was that - who cares what the teachers say, I know very well that there is more to life, I have my own thoughts about this, I know intuition, I know inspiration, I know purpose, and I don't doubt them. We could talk freely about all kinds of stuff that the teachers would consider outrageous :)

      And these young people don't seem to have the slightest tendency to contradict the teachers in class. They don't fight. They just know and very likely... live their truths :) So they have also helped me to realize that I don't need to fight the old in order to protect our children's minds, and to help the new to be born. It's enough to state my insights clearly in my life, but fight... no need for that.

      So I think that the path you and I and Bernardo have walked, and everything everyone of us does is flowering into a collective shift in consciousness, with ease and without the need for effort. Let's keep following our inspiration and passion :)

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    2. We have already established a lot, at least where I live. My children did not carry the burden of established religious dogmas anymore and my grandchildren are completely free from all doctrines that existed in the 20th century. Youth is allowed to find their own way and looking around I would say am in fullest confidence they will find it, just as we did :) Only grateful for that.

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  7. Everything you've said in this post I've figured out just by myself in my head from thinking about it all. I'm glad someone with a platform has basically put it to words. Very few people on our side of the argument manage to put a dent in. I put Deepak at No: 1, and perhaps Robert Lanza at No: 2, in terms of world impact. I think part of the problem is just plain fashion. Not only are clothes fashionable or not fashionable, but beliefs are also fashionable or not fashionable. This life is a meaningless accident of physics idea is in fashion right now. Socially aware people go along with it just as a way of remaining popular and in with the in crowd. They also play the bravery card. You're not brave if you think you have a soul or if you think your consciousness is your soul etc., they imply. Believing you and everything else are meaningless is actually a symptom of having broken. Life has broken these people. Everyone that is still moving along and assuming or at least hoping there is a point to it all is basically not broken.

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    1. Ditto David. The current fashion is a symptom of a dangerous and misguided attempt at psychological self-protection through fluid compensation.
      I feel very glad that what I wrote resonates with your earlier thoughts.

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  8. On the Atheism-Analyzed blog, and the Christian CADRE Blog, there has been dialogue and argument recently between atheists and believers. In fact, I just told an atheist (who believes in materialism) on the Atheism-analyzed blog that materialism can't explain things at a foundational level. This is what they said:

    "Quote For instance, we all believe there are immaterial minds alive today. We understand they have their own perception of the reality around them. We share those experiences of reality, and have abstract representations of such experiences.

    What we disagree on is which comes first: the minds, or the objective reality minds experience. It's much simpler to assume the first, but it's more reliable to assume the latter. Our shared reality is an objective reality. It exists regardless of what minds think it is. On the other hand, the immaterialist says the minds exist first, because that feeling of existence is the first, and only, thing that anyone can really know.

    And that makes sense, because knowledge starts from withing, from our own selves. We know we exist, nobody can deny that. But I don't believe that mind, mine or others', means anything without a body, which does exist as a thing in the material world. In theory, it's possible, but their existence needs to be proven... I have heard lots of versions from people who believe in these ideas being true; I don't believe them.Quote"

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    1. Hi. Yes, these are standard materialist arguments. The overarching idea is that inferring the existence of an objective world outside mind, although admittedly inflationary, is the only option that explains our observations. This, however, just isn't true. If you want rebuttals to this, Essay 2.2 of my book 'Brief Peeks Beyond' has it all. In case you want public links that you can freely share, consider Section 2 of this essay:
      http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2015/04/social-media-policy-and-useful-links.html
      Also, please feel free to post a link to the present essay at any blog of forum you like, where Atheists engage with non-Atheists.

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    2. I did share this article with someone with the username Im Skeptical from a blog called The Skeptic Zone. We'll see if he comes over to debate you.

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    3. Yes, he commented above. But his comments are weird, to put it gently.

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  9. I actually should have posted my comments here instead of the other bolg:

    My favorite part of his essay is, however, that in which he points out that the religious impulse is a deeply-rooted intuition intrinsic to the human condition that precedes thought and theory, therefore inescapable, however obstinately one may try to stifle it with empirical arguments.

    Yes, and this sums it up: Religion isn't wish-fulfillment, but intuitive realization. Intuition is the inner ground of being or mind that MUST resonate with sensory inputs for us to say, Eureka!! Ive found it. This is WHERE science comes from, where art comes from, The mind localized to each being is, will never be and has never been a blank slate incapable of interaction. There is some structure physically in this partial image as observed by a second person (which is sometimes the first person when recursive amplification occurs) and like all structures they vibrate, and once we are calmed down in other modes of consciousness, can resonate! This is why deep states of calm and relaxation, or modes with LESS neural activity trigger cascades of experience. the trick is to NOT allow the amplification until the signal is self sufficiently resonant itself. Else one will amplify all the noise---why trying too hard never succeeds---its how the golfer misses the 2 inch putt, so to speak

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  10. also I like what Jung has to say about all of this, about atheists thinking people invented a God, as if someone just made up a king figure and led people around by the nose making up all sort of sundry and ridiculously arbitrary rituals and getting people to follow them---nothing could be farther from the truth.It is just an appeal to 19th century scientism. In reality in SPITE of what your conscious brain informs you, something strong and chthonic has grown plant-like in your unconscious and the transcendent truth of it is all too plain it gains enough energy and one expresses it finally consciously through religion. Jung always speaks of the unconscious, especially collective unconscious as opposed to personal unconscious, as not having proper energy to be experienced during daylight consciousness. This is very similar to Bernardo saying nothing is unconscious, we are always conscious of it,it is in the stream of Mind at large but that it is obfuscated becasue of the bright light of day, so to speak---maybe Jung's German word for unconscious is closer to "for-the-present-moment-unawareness"---no speak der Deutsche...

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  11. Bernardo, I presume you are referring mainly to modern European spiritual angst when you say that atheo-materialism has hijacked meaning. The heartlands of the USA, South America, Africa, India and the Muslim world still seem to find the meaning in their old religions.

    Donald Trump says that the bible and Presbyterianism are his inspiration at the same time as saying that he has always been greedy and now wants to be greedy for America. I don't really understand how people can so easily hold contrary views without cognitive dissonance - but it does seem to be possible for many anti-intellectual folk to do so. They somehow avoid self-reflection, or to use your terminology: they can still take their religion onboard emotionally because they don't need it to be approved by their intellect. This attitude, as well as atheo-materialism, might easily lead to our downfall.

    When Jung talks of the "monstrousness of the universe", I feel that there may some projection going on. The human psyche, spawned by the universe, can certainly be monstrous too.

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    1. Those type of Christians, as well as the hard-line Atheo-Materialists, are usually on either side of the fundamentalist coin. Both sides should be avoided.

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    2. Hi Ben. As I elaborate on in the book, I think literalism/fundamentalism is as damaging to the authentic religious intuition as atheism. It makes the religious myths small, flattened, basically killing their transcendent message. So I think the 'heartlands' also have a problem, though of the polar opposite nature. Still, polar opposites tend to meet at the other end, if they go all the way around the circle.

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  12. Do you think when you speak of obfuscated conscious contents in the stream of mind and Jung speaks of a collective unconscious is it sort of a matter of semantics ?but he speaks of it as a species specific organ that has evolved over the millenia, so I assume he was directly under either the direct influence of 19th century materialism (matter/body/organ generated consciousness) or it just was part of his aquired subconscious. where you have a good metaphor of whirlpools interacting with other water(Watts mentions whirlpools)..mind interacting with Mind. Any thoughts? I mean, it seems like he still had the hard problem of consciousness to deal with...

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    1. Yes, I think Jung and I were talking about the same thing in different ways, under different cultural constraints, as you mentioned.

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  13. Actually when I just read what I wrote I feel Jung used the collective unconscious as an organ just as a metaphor, but maybe you know, did he think it really was part of the brain that would be discovered in the promissory future...if it was just an allegory, maybe it really is just semantics...??

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    1. Jung was outwardly agnostic of specific ontologies. He insisted his inference about the collective unconscious was empirical. He insisted he was a psychologist, not a philosopher. Of course, he _was_ a philosopher, but he tried to protect his legitimacy as a physician by remaining outwardly agnostic of philosophical questions. If you read his work carefully, though, there are explicit hints all over the place that he was inwardly an Idealist. He speaks of the empirical world being one with the collective unconscious, for instance, and of the psyche being the only carrier of reality anyone can ever know.

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    2. Thanks for your comments. The statements about the collective unconscious being one with reality and the psyche (I assume one's personal psyche) being the only carrier of truth---taken together, answers the question that for something to be KNOWN to you, at least potentially knowable through the collective unconscious, means that you don't have to experience it directly for it to be known to you...can you say "if a tree falls in the forest and you arent there to hear it, yes it does make a noise as long as something is conscious of its falling'? Mind at large captures all events...

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  14. After practicing on various paths, including Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism over the years, before recently returning to the Christian (Catholic) path I was born into, and as someone who has amply explored the offerings made available in the up-and-coming "spiritual supermarkets" (i.e., new age, etc), I have come to realize that the range of needs of various sentient beings in the world are addressed by the many established traditions already in existence, regardless of each tradition's original entry-point into history, and whose basic functional meaning is current and continual.

    Modern attempts to contextualize Tradition according to current political or psychological positions is a gambit that really lacks any substantial raisonee, apart from not wanting to surrender to an already established older matrix, with a perceived loss of freedom. Any meaningful encounter with Tradition itself is usually sidestepped or covered over by focusing on the behavior of the players who supposedly "corrupt" or compromise the religious establishment they profess to represent. Well, those players come and go, and have no effect at all on what the Tradition actually is and what it has established, since its structure is sound and valid. (For example, all too many take the pedophilia scandals of the churches, or the jihadist militant activities, as proof against Tradition itself, which will always remain intact and replete with the intrinsic and transcendent meaning for its spiritual function in society.)

    What actual need then for revamped or "updated" versions, especially presented as "myths for today's psyche", since the inherent meaning of "God" or transcendent factor is fully and already posited in eternal symbols and liturgies, which are still present and available for refuge, via all the vast range of offerings in the many Traditions?

    Lastly, all the so-called materialists are faking it because, when the plane they're on will begin going down, each will start praying.

    As the saying has it, "if it's not broken, don't fix it." It is a reality that each human being has need of refuge — but genuine refuge. Substitutes, updates, or new formulations haven't worked so far, and new attempts are not likely to work either. The supreme value of Tradition need to be reassessed.

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    1. You speak extremely cogently and based on direct experience, which commands respect. I am thankful for your having posted this comment here, for I think it enriches the essay substantially. If I may, I will only comment on a small point: I agree with you that the (Primordial) Tradition itself is still current and needs no changing, because the truth needs no updating. But, as Jung said, sometimes a myth needs to be seen from a new perspective, more appropriate to the present zeitgeist and cultural predispositions. The Tradition will still be the same, but perhaps conveyed either trough new articulations of symbolisms, or new cover-interpretations of those symbols more amenable to language. I discuss this in the book. Cheers, B.

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    2. Thanks, Bernardo. The ego is always ready to appropriate through whatever means at its disposal, not least language and symbol. It's the master of spiritual by-passing after all, isn't it? And it will do anything to avoid the one thing that it fears most: surrender — because that leads to death, its own necessary death. That's what the crucifixion is about, what the prostrations in Tibetan ngondro and Islamic salat are about, etc. Many today are entranced with maintaining their exercise of freedom in an unlimited way (as in "don't tell me what to do!"), without having realized that meaning itself only arises in the limitation of freedom, and surrender. How else would the sacred integration of the symbolic take place?

      Some, like Sloterdijk, have envisioned a future society featuring practitioners of spiritual disciplines, without further specific elaboration or prediction (which I suppose is wise). However, as to Jung, I recall his observation that the Western (or perhaps more specifically European) seeker should consider an adherence to the Christian path (as opposed to an Eastern one) for the purposes of a successful individuation, since that fertile ground has already been seeded, and is likely to produce the most fruit, as its symbols are powerfully maintained and without need for innovation or reinterpretation, as you seem to suggest.

      Someone like Rudolf Steiner has already attempted something similar a century or so ago, in addressing the (at that time) current zeitgeist and cultural attitudes, when he began to lay out what became the Anthroposophical path. However, it has been slow to succeed, to the extent it can be considered a success at all. It is a path which has partly grown out of communal levels of participation, while also must be conducted at personal levels of intention, involvement — and surrender. After a hundred years it seems to be hanging on, yet perhaps only just.

      My point in citing all this has to do with a recognition of the esoteric versus the exoteric dimension of spiritual paths in general vs. Tradition. Although it may be attractive for the contemporary minded to seek new formulations or innovations, what can these produce compared with Tradition? There is over time an energetic matrix built up around traditions and their practices, through participants having performed the rituals, prayers and liturgies countless times, and over centuries or millennia. The residual matrix has gained great power and autonomy at an esoteric level, which already initiates anyone taking refuge in it with substantial blessing and aspiration. This is a great "open secret" of all traditional paths.

      So the question of what a "new" language or symbolism can actually offer, without having its own esoteric foundation already established as a real gift, is a vital one to contemplate. If it means to provide a new face or overlay for what already exists, then the mask appears superficial and unnecessary. As the zeitgeist is always temporal (since the Now is sand continually slipping through fingers of time), a secure spiritual foundation is already of paramount value — especially in our multi-oriented and self-fragmented society. But it will continue to draw people who become aware that Tradition has always been holding its own as a place marker for seekers who are ready to turn to it.

      Sorry for my long exposition Bernardo, and if I have worn out my welcome...

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    3. No Traveller, you are more than welcome. I see your point. I think what I was trying to say can be put like this: we need more of the esoteric in the exoteric. People are much more critical now than they were centuries ago, when the intuition went unchecked by linear logic. Today, the intellect is the bouncer of the heart. Injecting a verbal formulation of the esoteric into the exoteric can give people moments of "Aha, that's what this means!" and open their critical minds to more. From the exoteric perspective, this new influx would be seen as new interpretations, new hermeneutics, perhaps even new symbolism (though the symbols would outwardly remain the same), refreshing of the myth. Cheers, B.

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    4. Traveler Thru Kalpas, I don't quite understand. If what you say is accurate, why didn't everyone stop with the Upanishads, or the Torah, or even with the Vedas. It seems in every century, in every culture, adepts in what is now considered the Primordial Tradition rephrased, revised, rethink, remythologized, the various traditions in light of the particular circumstances of their culture, their time. Even the Buddha realized that during the tumultuous 6th century, as urban living was growing and the sense of bonds that tied people together in their communities was coming apart, that the ancient Dharma (which he never claimed he was fundamentally changing) needed to be presented in a new form. It seems to me that's all that Bernardo is doing.

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    5. Don — The Buddha never said (or "realized" as you have it) that the dharma would need "new form." Actually, he predicted that by 500 years after his passing, the teachings he had expounded (in India) would degenerate dramatically. In any case, what the Buddha transmitted was intended to be practiced — as given, without modifications — in accordance with what he received in his own trajectory of realizations, as part of an ongoing revelation process. Indeed, people today are still practicing according to the sutras, as given.

      All traditions (a word I prefer to use instead of religions) are revealed traditions — they were "revealed" via the direct encounter of an adept through mystical experience. To say they "originate" in the circumstances of a particular culture only indicates that they come into existence to serve the needs of the people in that time and place, and via the compassionate courtesy of the adept. So what the historical Buddha was doing was actually unpacking only the basics of what he saw his followers could accept, practice and understand at their cultural level.

      That said, however, further levels of more advanced teachings would come later, through similar transmissions in Tibetan Buddhism for example, required because there are different levels of spiritual capacities, development and realization among the human population, and everyone needs to be provided some means of further cultivation. These should not be seen as unnecessary additions (e.g., Sutrayana practitioners have often dismissed Tibetan Vajrayana as "inauthentic"); they merely happen in the fullness of time. In this sense, all the traditions you mentioned, as well as others, by now have established the means to serve the full range of sentient beings and their various dispositions; it's just a matter of finding where you belong and what will benefit you most at your current level of development.

      The thing about Tradition, any tradition, can be found in its original Latin word tradere, and has to do with the preservation of religion by way of transmission, or bringing forward, as well as handing over for safekeeping — in short, we're talking about continuity. From this point of view it's already a mistake to think that revision is necessary, since all traditions are replete with symbols and concepts that already work as given — it only requires people willing to surrender themselves to the work and process involved.

      However, modern people today desire things which cater to wishful thinking and mask emotional immaturity, which is has already caused quite enough corruption and, lacking integrity, is not able to produce anything that will provide a genuine foundation for social and spiritual harmony.

      Make no mistake, if it has been unclear up to this point: a Traditional society is, by nature, a top-down one, and not one cultivated from the bottom-up. That means everyone gets their marching orders, is grateful for the spiritually fortifying and protective refuge provided, and everyone knows or finds their place in that society.

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    6. I should add that, with respect to all my previous comments, that I do appreciate the work Bernardo is doing, in his own way, yet I view it as a part of a larger effort at this time to move society back to a more profound realization of human life, and that it might hopefully serve to allow people to rediscover the value of what has already been established in the Traditions and is still lovingly offered in their open invitation.

      For those interested, here is a good video lecture on the meaning of Tradition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOPpwOTNxRM

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    7. The Sufi view, as put forward by Idries Shah at any rate, is that from time to time, the *way* that genuine traditions are transmitted has to be *adapted* to suit the times (actually, there are three factors: "time, place and people").

      Obviously, the mindset of of a mediaeval person--including what concepts s/he has available for understanding the world--is quite different from an Elizabethan one, and that again from a modern one. Also, of course, there are variations in worldview that correlate with Eastern or Western outlooks. Today in developed (mostly Western) nations, for example, we can incorporate quantum theory into our attempts to explain the universe. In the past, people couldn't do that, but nonetheless, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that some of the past concepts map to current ones, albeit by today's standards in rather quaint fashion.

      Formalised religion was once a major portion of people's worldview, and really, formed a continuum with what remained. Today, we tend to see it much more as something different and separate from the rest of our understandings, and have come in many cases to regard it as irrelevant fairy tale. But if one thinks about it, it could be regarded as the repository for that which is still unknown or uncertain; it's not so much that it's separate and different from the rest of human experience.

      We're approaching an epoch when, for the first time, large numbers of people, being aware that there's a spiritual dimension to life, are struggling to construct an integrated view of reality that transcends religious formulation. Some of them still value such formulations for their psycho-social benefits, all the while realising that they're merely customs that make for civilised societies, and may help mark things like the seasons. Rupert Sheldrake, for example, explicitly acknowledges this. He appreciates and takes part in some of the formalisms of religion, without believing them in more or less literal terms.

      "Tradition" is the wrong word, really. We're talking about perennial truths approximated in different ways in different places and times, and currently becoming articulated more in terms of modern scientific understandings--which we must not forget, however, are also approximations, and in some cases I believe, just as superstitious, even plain wrong.

      Michael Larkin

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    8. "… for the first time, large numbers of people, being aware that there's a spiritual dimension to life, are struggling to construct an integrated view of reality that transcends religious formulation…"

      Well, it will just be a temporary measure, yet another "view of reality" among others and without success, because there isn't any way around the impulse to religion. It will always have its way in the end, even while humans will avoid the label, and continue to attempt sharing complicated constructions of meaning with diminishing returns. After all it is the "Perennial" itself which has always manifested in, and as, the traditions which we see. On the other hand, how many would say it arises through popular phenomenon such as channeling since, who knows what we're really getting there?

      Your viewpoints seem a bit too academic in their crisp presumptions. I don't think people today see religion as something so "different and separate from our understanding." Many people have already begun to gravitate away from new age cotton candy, and the energy for endless experimentation is becoming a burden to sustain, especially in the draining effects of a precarious world economically and socially. One can currently see degrees of spiritual hunger and a disenchantment with exaggerated individualism, which sometimes produce surprising indications, such as young people not only returning to the Catholic Church as a refuge, but even going further by expressing an interest in what has been lost after Vatican II, for example the Latin Mass.

      Spiritual success begins to come when one decides to follow a narrower path, not a wide open one that preserves options and freedom, which will make it fairly impossible to achieve integrity. Religion, tradition, whatever you choose to call it, is precisely the kind of path that narrows one's options — which integration fully depends on — while providing all the spiritual and ethical rules, regulations and structures that will allow one to cultivate with meaningful observance and forbearance, and achieve high degree of integration.

      An important consideration is that freedom itself is not well understood, especially in its relation to meaning. We want to maintain our freedom in the most unlimited ways possible, and yet the more we insist on keeping options open, or to avoid becoming bound in the way we fear religion prescribes, the less meaning we wind up with. Whereas, when freedom is curtailed or regulated, and applied in directed ways, the more meaning arises. In other words, the meaning of freedom can only arise out of limitation.

      Our metaphors give us away… Can we really be as "free as a bird"? Or, try to imagine being as "free as the wind" — what could that possibly look like? Our freedom has human limits, and our hunger to transcend those limits is not usually directed by wisdom.

      At the end of the day, the kind of intellectual satisfaction that clever, rational or scientific answers provide remains tentative at best, since it provides no real sustenance, as opposed to that which opens the heart, which provides comfort and refuge, stirs feelings of devotion and humility, makes one feel consecrated into a greater mystery through rituals and liturgies celebrating a higher power (let's say the Highest), and which allows one to understand and cultivate what the "medieval mind" called virtue. Hence, the need to surrender is essential, just as to understand is to "stand under."

      There was a good reason why Jung insisted that his patients firmly believe in God and the real possibility of salvation, and through the means of an established system — since that is what he clearly saw as essential for their individuation process.

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    9. One additional observation — because we have moved so far away from a life in which we can actually sense and live from a firmly established spiritual center, and because of increasing fragmentation of our attention and cognitive abilities, we actually will need to move in the direction of cultivating along monastic lines of discipline, just to rebalance. I'm not kidding.

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    10. Hi Travel through Kalpas - I dont' know if this letter will be published. Not sure how this works, I keep getting emails from this thread then come here and don't see them.

      Anyway, I just have a brief comment, TTK: It sounds like you personally have experienced a kind of weariness from pursuing open, nebulous New Age paths and have found great satisfaction and peace in returning to the Catholic Church.

      That's wonderful, and I don't see anything in any of Bernardo's writings that would suggest he's saying we all MUST find some new forms. For example, in the comment in which he responded to you, I don't see anything that is even remotely critical of your decision to use an old, long existing form.

      I also dont' see any reason why, even though you're happy with what you've found, you would want to impose it on others. The reason, in the US at least, over 25% of the folks under 30 are "spiritual but not religious" is not because they're vaguely searching for some new age trends or unable to commit to traditional religion - the old forms don't work for them, and they are ripe for something of the kind Bernardo is presenting.

      Why not both/and instead of either/or? That either/or thinking seems so prevalent in many of the old forms that it may be a huge part of what turns off many people nowadays.

      (and come to think of it, why do you still keep a buddhist moniker??)

      in any case, if any of this sounds critical, I want to close by saying I'm delighted you've found solace in the church. Many who are searching might consider you very fortunate.

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    11. Don — Thanks for your considered responses

      On my "Buddhist moniker"… while I’m currently still reconciling with my Catholic roots (and wouldn’t say it’s accomplished yet), I don't think my association with Tibetan Dzogchen, while currently on hold, will end...

      Regarding "25% of folks under 30" — sorry, not going there. I don't trust stats, charts, "hard data", in our ruling era of the Reign of Quantity, which obscures our ability to see human life on the actual ground level. Polls don't always reflect working class people, for example.

      Many blue collar, lower and working class people fill churches, synagogues and masjids. Many are not well-educated, also not inclined to be, and prefer their simplicity to more highly-educated, clever people, whom they regard with a certain amount of resignation. Inherently, what can we learn from humble, simple people, even though we might expect them to learn more from us?

      With respect to our wonderful endeavors to create new meaning… for whom are we really doing it? Suppose the new spiritual options we try to manifest (after many failed experiments already) will negatively impact these more humble lives, and by further marginalizing religions, help diminish their very source of continued meaning… Can we be disingenuous and claim the right to pursue something "for ourselves" even as interdependence always suggests a bigger contingency?

      I’m not world-weary. While I’ve explored new age offerings, my journey has been more involved with personal immersion in many different traditional paths. So rather than disillusionment, direct experience has revealed more clearly what might work or not. But realization being personal, how many are willing to accomplish a similar understanding?

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    12. I am not challenging Bernardo at all, since I know where he’s coming from. I am making sure, however, that his constituency realizes there may be much more on this plate than they've taken into account (or perhaps even have the appetite for). This additional conversation seems necessary precisely because a lot of the emotional effects of Bernardo's efforts help generate a continual desire for the New, which can maintain hunger… and, will it help bring transcendence, or just more cognitive baggage?

      The “New” eventually has to stop and settle down at some point… as I will now do and refrain from further commentary in this thread. Thanks for all patient eyes… Namaste and goodlife.

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    13. "Free all the cats"...

      "When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice."

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  15. The striking thing to me is how these materialists invariably NEVER truly examine the consequences of their beliefs (and that assumes they acknowledge that they are beliefs in the first place). It's like they deny all transcendence and meaning and such (as indicated above)-but, having done so, then compartamentalize all of that off into a box while they go about the rest of their lives as if none of the positions they have taken really apply there as well (to how they find a mate and raise their families, or pursue their careers or other hobbies and interests and such). That they feel such a need to talk about things they DON'T believe in all the time on blogs and fora truly is telling, note (in a methinks thou dost protest too much kind of vein).

    If they were to truly decompartamentalize it all, the sheer horror of what they've done should, if 100% intellectually honest, drive them to any of several different extremes (despair or hopelessness or worse). But they very rarely do. I had been hoping to find a hardcore nihilist somewhere who would rip them a new one for their hapless fecklessness, but alas I guess that doesn't sell page hits or something...

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  16. This is a very interesting take- but I was wondering if you might explain the widespread takeup of the atheo-materialist worldview amongst people who can’t understand the esoteric philosophical arguments? Perhaps it makes them feel like members of an intellectual elite even if they aren’t - gives them a cheap sense of superiority? Then again, this could mean that less-intellectually-sophisticated people only get the benefits of “self-esteem” and “closure”, rather than “symbolic immortality” as well (unless they believe in a more generic "symbolic immortality" of modern humanity and its technological/scientific advances, and identify with that).

    Also, you don't mention the fragility of the ego, and yet the four types of meaning all have ego-boosting dark sides (even belonging -> tribalism). And yet this is the main difference between true atheists and practising believers, that the ego is as far as it goes, rather than the feeling of your conscious being belonging to a much larger reality than yourself.

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    1. To expand a bit...I think most atheists and secular humanists get a vicarious “symbolic immortality” by feeling part of modern scientific humanity - moon shots, cracking the genetic code, the internet etc - all proof of Modern Humanity’s symbolic immortality, as founders of a new order unknown to their parents and ancestors. There are now more than 1 million smart phones in sub Saharan Africa, and those using them know they are part of a new order that their ancestors did not know about: they are part of a pioneering modern age that is transforming all history, and will be remembered as a time of great transition - so through technology, participation is democratised. I think this is part of what is happening.

      I think the main shift I made in going from atheist to "believer" was feeling that my conscious mind is subsumed within an ultimate consciousness. There is still space for my individuality, but I am always simultaneously connected to everything. Rather terrifying but equally liberating, and an important shift, moving to the place where I feel that it is not all "down to me".

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    2. You know, the ego often gets a bad rap, but people tend to forget it's very important for earthly survival. It's not that the enlightened person has *no* ego, but that such a person puts ego in the proper perspective; makes it a vehicle rather than a driver.

      Things start going awry when the vehicle imagines itself to be the driver. The process of spiritual maturation could be seen as one of gradually learning to identify with the real driver rather than the vehicle. At the point of complete and permanent identification of self with the real driver, the ego becomes its servant and does what it was always meant to do for an incarnate person: function as a tool in service of the true self.

      I'm of the opinion that religions/traditions (though not necessarily exclusively to them) have some capability of playing an initial part in transcendence. At first, they emphasise subservience to beliefs and dogmas: the exoteric aspects, still closely associated with ego. As people mature, however, they have the chance to make more esoteric headway, corresponding to a greater degree of freedom from the tyranny of the ego. At the point of complete freedom, or enlightenment, they may still be able to see the utility of religious formulation: after all, it may have been what enabled them to get further towards their own enlightenment. And, they may still need religion to be able to communicate with those not yet as advanced as they. So outwardly, they may still appear religiously devout--even to an unusual degree--performing all the exoteric rites and rituals of a particular religion.

      The thing is, though, they would be fully aware of the inner meaning of such practices; neophytes may see a conventionally religious person, whilst those closer to them see something much more.

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  17. I wanted to add that there is something specific that these atheo-materialists try to give themselves meaning with, they are completely unaware of it, and that is the metaphysical idea of Truth (with a capital T), the deification of it. They get their meaning by pretending that how they view the world is truth and they spout nihilistic pessimistic nonsense because they think a warm world full of positivity and meaning is only a bias of humans. Their "Will to truth" is all the meaning they have. Ironically their existence is a hypocrisy. They are anti-metaphysicists spouting perhaps the most metaphysical of all ideals.

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  18. What an excellent article which consolidates and clarifies a lot of my own recent thoughts on this matter. I accept your hypothesis that of the influence of Rationalism and Pessimism eroded the Western spiritual traditions, and that the surrogate tradition is insufficient to provide meaning to many people.

    I'm curious about your opinion about religious myth itself. II feel like it doomed itself by being so fantastical. Do you think the wisdom of the myths and traditions can be translated, or rather made more authentic, by eschewing the supernatural overtones? Clearly there are many paths to spiritual well-being, but the I think the messages need to be embedded in a cultural context so people have access to them.

    For what it's worth, II identify as an agnostic aethiest for several reasons: I find the supernatural themes of Judeo-Christian myth implausible, I dislike the way organised religion abuses power, and I believe that spiritual enrichment can be obtained without belief in a preternatural entity.

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    1. I was able to infer more about your views about this by watching the video embedded in this article. I'm looking very forward to reading your book :). Congratulations on undertaking such an ambitious and important venture.

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  19. Atheism is a set of beliefs. And most of these beliefs are philosophical dogmas, like materialism. On the other hand religion is based on empirical data (we experience free will, love, meaning, God) and logic as well (see Aristotle). A very nice article.

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  20. I disagree the average person can find meaning as an Atheist. I find meaning in volunteering, helping animals, and spreading the Vegan lifestyle. (watch Cowspiracy) I agree with your point "Meaning is so powerful that, as Jung remarked, it ‘makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything." I find meaning in helping others, and that is enough for me to endure many hardships.I think Atheism if anything forces people search for their own meaning in life.

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  21. "The thrust of my post is that atheo-materialism is implicitly motivated as a maneuver to restore the sense of meaning of a particular group". Well, believing that mind originates from matter that does preclude one from having an spiritual life. Many "materialists" practice yoga and meditation. It doens't matter where mind comes from.

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