Mutually Invisible Enemies

Spiritual Warfare (Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov)

Article 35 Mutually Invisible Enemies

(Well, maybe not ‘enemies’ but it’s a catchy heading…)

Soaking in the thermal waters of El Carrizel, Veracruz, my wife and I indulged in idle conversation, as is our wont, wherein the following musing arose like curling wisps of vapour from the surprisingly potent healing waters by a bend of a fast-flowing river in the middle of nowhere.

I can’t remember how it came up, but we started to discuss an old topic namely how much of our modern outlook is fundamentally materialist and overly fundamentalist as such. Materialism can mean many things, so to define it in this context it means simply the belief – for that is what it is – that the only thing that is real is physical matter, meaning that anything that is not physical matter is not real and thus doesn’t matter.

From etymonline.com for the word ‘real’ we find:

Early 14c., “actually existing, having physical existence (not imaginary);” mid-15c., “relating to things” (especially property), from Old French reel “real, actual,” from Late Latin realis “actual,” in Medieval Latin “belonging to the thing itself,” from Latin res “property, goods, matter, thing, affair,” which de Vaan traces to a PIE *Hreh-i- “wealth, goods,” source also of Sanskrit rayim, rayah “property, goods,” Avestan raii-i- “wealth.”

Interesting how our materialist outlook blends the word for what is real, with what is physical, with wealth and property. No wonder ‘money makes the world go round!’

Earlier articles have pointed out how there are always two sides or aspects. Some articles have further discussed the notion of avoiding extremes which can be defined as being too one-sided. But if one side here is physical materialism then what might its complementary side be? For the sake of simplicity let us posit it as the world of spirit which we could just as easily term mind or presence or space or intelligence or the Buddhist term bodhichitta* (about which more later too perhaps because there really isn’t an English equivalent and it’s a fun notion).

So the subject of this piece is what further came up in the conversation, namely the observation that not only do many materialist scientists – who in some sense are the high priests of our modern religion of physical materialism – outright deny the existence of mind because (and this is true ) it cannot be measured or perceived on the physical plane and therefore cannot be said to exist in any scientific sense, but also many people today including those same scientists believe that mind is some sort of illusion born of chemical interactions in the brain pretty much like a movie is actually only pixels of light on a screen which our cognitive faculties – all physical – can then interpret as objects and knit together continuous, meaningful narratives therefrom, albeit those feelings, narratives and cultural infrastructures developed around them are all fictive hallucinations.

To people who believe that mind is an illusory by-product of physically grounded chemical interactions, the worlds of the shaman, the dream worlds, the worlds of visions, intuitions, weather magic, foresight into the future and past, all such worlds, or mandalas, are entirely suspect, clearly no more than fevered imaginings of those who are, essentially, no more than mentally ill.

More importantly – and here is the core point – such a materialist infested mind is actually incapable of appreciating the bruho’s shaman mind just as, truth be told, many deep forest shamans or native peoples are unable to fathom the modern materialist mind. They are worlds, or mandalas, apart – mutually invisible.

This is relevant to our increasingly polarized times because we are finding in so many different ways how our world is divided by clusters of those who share certain styles of perception which are incompatible, indeed invisible, to those who enjoy different perceptions. Some of these differences can be described in terms of belief systems, political system, cultural streams and so on, but the words really don’t matter nearly as much as appreciating that unless we can all develop a little more flexibility, making our personal and collective mandalas more pliable, plastic, porous and playful, the materialists might end up winning – at least for a while – crushing us all under the weight of their ponderously fanatic dedication to the physical, so much so that our entire reality is crushed into non-existence which, ironically, might create an opening for the non-materialists to have a go!

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