Article 38 False Gods
As mentioned in the previous Article, along with the sacred speech of ‘the gods’ there is also profane speech of false gods. I suspect most reading this will know already what that might be…. overly long and boring pause…….
Yes, ego. Ego in the Buddhist sense which is how we funnel all experience into and through the lens of the self, so that experience is a constant process of me, myself and I going through life moment by moment, with everything that arises being tested and gauged via that filter. This is such a pervasively prevalent tendency that most of us are entirely incapable of imagining any type of experience other than that which happens to ‘me’ or to other people each of whom are ‘me’s’ to themselves. This is why so many people believe that animals have no soul because they don’t have the same sense of self-awareness or ‘me.’ (Though this may become uncomfortably questionable when dealing with dogs, if we take them out of consideration then most would agree that all other creatures, lacking a ‘me,’ also lack any sort of soul or individual character.)
What’s problematic about the ego in this context is that it mistakes thought forms for reality. Just as our ‘person’ is a social construct, a face put on like the mask an actor puts on through which he sounds out his character’s speech – be it god, demon or human – so also our ego is a construct, something we have imagined into being as a way to explain our many and varied experiences through mind and senses, making some sort of narrative sense out of it all even though that narrative is, in many ways, a fiction.
Time is a fiction. Hours could be one hour or one day long. Moments have no duration. As it says in my Learning from Lyme Liturgy text:
“A present moment sandwiched between infinitely sub-divisible past and future moments
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.
Any object or place exists only in relation to other objects and places
All spinning and swirling in space: there is no ‘where’ there.”
The idea here is that if time is how we measure one moment to the next, you can also divide that duration in half and so on ad infinitum. The same can be done with distance in space, not to mention that any location can only be defined in relation to other locations, all of which are in constant motion so there is no actual place anywhere. (Think about it…)
Similarly, our sense of solid, continuous self is a fiction. You cannot locate the self except that it might be somewhere in the body; but the body has no fixed location or shape. Everything is in continous flux and therefore there is no solid permanent anything, including ‘me’ even though there is some sort of continuity. A river is there even though the waters in it vary from moment to moment; so it is with all and so it is with ourselves. For a while. So if we regard the ego as a construct which helps us have something to refer to, fine, but most of us go further and actually believe that this construct truly exists as such, overlooking that it is just a figment of our imagination.
So that is the false god principle. We ascribe magical powers to something which does not exist (which is how many modern people think of the old pagan gods like Thor for example, or various Marvel comic book heroes). We imagine permanence, solidity, independence and various powers which we don’t really have. Collectively many of us now believe that if we pay more taxes to a world government we will be able to change the planetary climate. What extraordinary confabulation! And we are so convinced of these our powers that if someone suggests such an idea is poppycock we might get upset. We are so attached to various fictions we believe in that we might even be persuaded to go to war and kill others in order to defend them or make them happen.
Such powers are false gods and any speech promoting them is false god speech, which in LOTR terms is Saruman speech, for that was his main wizard power, the power to cast a spell with his voice, truly one of the greatest powers that exists and definitely that of a false god in the Tolkein universe. Our world is filled with and indeed much of modern society is built upon foundations of such trickster spells and spellsters. Most of the time we are so bewitched that don’t even notice having long ago bought into various realities without realizing they are constructs. And this ability we have to be fooled by false god speech begins with the false god we have talked ourselves into believing from the get-go: the false god called ‘me!’
In this way our individual and collective worlds very much resemble the fictive Matrix which was a very powerful movie metaphor for this entire process – the first film being by far the best in this regard.
Is it possible to lead an individual life or fashion societies that do not fall into the trap of heeding the seductive spells cast by such false gods?