Monday 2 March 2020

Deep (oneness) meditation is like dying

This two minute audio is the clearest and most concise description I've come across of the difference between Nirvana and Heaven - and the difference between the aspirations of Christianity and 'Eastern' religion (as it is known in The West).

What John Butler expresses is the desire for oneness with minimally-conscious, immersive, abstract bliss; an impersonal absorption into the unity of divine love. He describes deep meditation - which he practices for about five hours a day - as being similar to death (as he understand death).

And he yearns for death to come; to be rid of his body and the thinking mind - and thus to become a discarnate and ego-less spirit.

John Butler calls this state the Kingdom of God and Heaven - but of course it is not: it is instead the stripping-away of all that makes us human. JB uses Christian language, but this is not a Christian desire.

There would be no reason for Jesus Christ to incarnate as a Man - to experience mortal life and to die and be resurrected; if our ultimate destiny was to become impersonal spirits fused with the abstract divine. In fact; if such was our intended destiny, there is no reason for mortal incarnate life at all - this embodied, thinking, personal life serves no positive function. 

Jesus Christ offered us a totally different kind of Heaven: a resurrected life eternal of immortal Men with indestructible, solid bodies. We die, but remain our-selves. We continue to think! Christ was resurrected, not reabsorbed; he continued to think and be a separate person; he did not lose his ego-identity and consciousness.

The Christian Heaven is one of persons, each different and distinct. And the loving relationships of Heaven are not any kind of fusion, but are inter-personal; they depend on us remaining individuals. As I understand Heaven, it is a place of creating; and we will participate with God, and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost in the eternal work of continued creation.

By contrast, in Nirvana there is no creation - only being: it is change-less; outside time and space. The God of Nirvana is not really a God of creation; because our created world is seen as an evanescent illusion (maya); and for us to believe creation is real or eternal is a delusion. The God of Nirvana Just-Is, unchanging, forever. 

There seems little doubt that John Butler genuinely wants a blissful and impersonal Nirvana; and does not want resurrection to the Christian Heaven. He wants to cease to be as an embodied thinking person; he wants to remain alive forever, but conscious only of the bliss of being absorbed-into divine love - with 'love' being understood as an impersonal disposition (perhaps something analogous to glowing light, a gas, field of force or magnetism, or a vibrational state).

How would God, our Heavenly Parents, be likely to regard John Butler's wishes? Would God be likely to grant them?

I think God would be sad that JB has rejected the great gift made possible by Jesus Christ; and sad that JB regards incarnation, thinking and the capacity for inter-personal love as worthless. Sad that JB regards this world, and the mortal lives of Men as worthless. From JB's perspective, implicitly - this life and our experiences are temporary errors that he wants to be undone forever.

God might be irritated, or even angry, at John Butler's preaching of Nirvana as if it was Heaven, and by his denigration of God's work of creation, and Jesus's work of salvation. But this may well be regarded as a product of humanly understandable confusion - since there are major inconsistencies in JB's ideas. For instance he praises and responds very powerfully to nature, animals, the stars, even human beings sometimes! Yet, ultimately he regards them all as worthless, indeed meaningless; implicitly he regards his powerful subjective responses as mistaken.

God would therefore be understanding of the misery that mortal life seems to hold for JB; and sympathetic about his desire to 'hand back the entrance ticket', and give-up on being a Man. Listen again to that recording above: there is a man who - at the bottom line - really wants to be dead, with his death conceptualized much like a permanent, deep sleep of unawareness.  

More importantly, resurrected Heavenly life is voluntary, a opt-in situation. God would not, therefore, punish those who chose otherwise, as such; else the choice would be coerced and the followers of Jesus merely conscripts!

Heaven is for those who love Jesus, and fellow Men and such love is free and cannot be enforced. Those who are incapable of such love, or who have other priorities, will have other fates. From various clues and insights; the 'system' seems to be that the eternal consequences of each person's own free choices are themselves their own justice - we judge our-selves: external 'punishment' is neither required not appropriate.

In sum, Men make their own Hells by their own choices; and, presumably, their own Nirvanas too. A Man who wishes to cease being a Man, and wishes to become fused with what he sees as the impersonal reality of the divine (since he is unable or unwilling to regard God as a person); will presumably be given pretty-much what he asks for - that is, an eternal state in which his consciousness experiences what he most desires.

So, I would expect that, when John Butler dies, he will reject the possibility of following Jesus to resurrection; and instead be enabled to experience what he so much wants: that is, a state of mere-being, aware of impersonal bliss with no perceptible change, and an absence of experienced time and space. As consciousness dwindles towards this minimum, John Butler will (I guess) probably be very pleased and grateful at the prospect!


Dave said...

The sci-fi term for meditation is "wireheading". If you wire an electrode into a certain part of a person's brain, they'll feel a wave of intense pleasure every time they push a button, soon losing all desire to do anything else. Through many hours of intense concentration and experimentation, meditators rewire their own brains to achieve this effect without electronics.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dave - As a generalisation, that is clearly untrue - unless you restrict the definition of meditation to pleasure-seeking.

As one of many possible counter-examples, the Hesychast tradition of Eastern Orthodox Christian meditation (e.g. by the Jesus Prayer) does not aim at pleasure, but is associated with extremes of ascetic discipline.

Mainstream sci-fi is unhelpful here; since it excludes by assumption genuinely religious or spiritual explanations of such phenomena; at least it does so, insofar as sci-fi adopts the assumptions of science. But excluding God by assumption is a very different matter from stating (as so many scientists do) that science has 'discovered' that God does Not exist!

Likewise, to explain all meditation as (always and necessarily) reducible to hedonism - would be an assumption, not a discovery.

William Wildblood said...

I'm sorry but this man sounds so wet! I think he has fundamentally misconceived spirituality and is really using it as a form of escapism. The fact he is just basically talking about his feelings here, for he is, only confirms that. In my opinion he will have to come back to the world, perhaps after a period, long or short, of living in his cotton wool heaven, and be forced to engage with it as a real human being who gets his hands dirty in the mucky material world.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ironically, given your last comment, he spent many years as an organic farmer using only hand tools - spade not plough etc! I don't think it would be fair to dismiss him as having led a sheltered life, except in terms of not raising children.

And I personally believe that we only incarnate with consent, and aren't forced to do so (even for our own good).

William Wildblood said...

i may be being too critical but I still think he has misunderstood our reason for being in the world and what we are supposed to be doing. He is turning his back on real spiritual growth for disappearance into the void of (effective) non-existence. But God is creative and we have been given a self to use it creatively not to hand it back with a no thank you.

No, we aren't forced to incarnate but I think he will eventually want to when his soul realises he has more to learn. There are stories in some spiritual communications of contemplative monks who spends long ages in mediation on a higher level of the inner world but one that is still below the true heaven. They eventually get restless as something inside them drives them back into the world of form and duality in order to learn to integrate that with spirit rather than just reject its difficulties.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Maybe. But from what I can tell, I suspect that only some - by no means all, and perhaps a minority - of people want what Jesus offered.

The question is not so much one of predicted proportions of people who choose salvation; but how this was envisaged by God, when creation was planned. There is often an assumption that salvation would approximate to being universal in God's 'original plan' - but this may well not have been the case due to the innate disposition of so many Men.

(Obviously, I am assuming that Men have existed, in some form, from eternity. If one instead assumes that Men are created by God in totality and ex nihilo, that creates a different set of problems.)

I think God's priority was to create a Heaven in which there were Men raised to divine state, and able to participate with God in the continued work of creation (for which the model is the resurrected Jesus).

It may be that God could not know how many would make this choice. It seems that the work of Jesus made the choice 'easy', and brought it within reach of anyone who wanted it - but the big question is how many people want it. From what I see in this world now, the answer would seem to be 'not many'.

Whether that would change over time, and more and more people would choose Heaven (resurrection and and repentance) I don't know - but it looks rather the opposite at present.

As I said, proportions and numbers are not the point - rather the principle that Heaven is not wanted by all. JB strikes me as one who really does Not want the Christian Heaven, and I have come across others who seemed equally sure.

It seems to be related to a rooted self-dislike which is maybe an innate, characterological thing - at any rate, I've known some people who seem to have it as a fixed disposition. Indeed, those who see the divine as wholly external, wholly alien (and impersonal) seem to have this motivation working strongly (and this may include strict monotheists, of whetever religion).

This is - I would have thought - alien to Christianity; yet many professed Christians express it.

edwin faust said...

I am not entirely unsympathetic to the man in this video, despite the legitimate criticisms of his conception of the Kingdom of Heaven. It hurts to be alive. Even if one has no immediate and overarching source of particular pain, the suffering of others and our seeming inability to alleviate it can be a source of sorrow. Some just want to stop the pain and think of little else, including why pain might be a step in a process that will take us beyond it. Ironically, the nirvana-seeker can inadvertently exacerbate pain by his desire to escape it. This happens by the development of a callousness toward life, a discounting of it, as you say, as having any value or meaning, and a retreat into the personal peace that comes from no longer caring and by thinking less and less. The selfishness is hidden behind vague talk of the bliss that is possible for everyone and that we should all be trying to achieve. I recall that the Christian Heaven I was told as a child should be the goal of my life never emerged with any clarity either. It was the bliss of the "beatific vision," whatever that might mean. The emphasis was more on avoiding hell, whose pains were portrayed graphically and which inspired a fear more real than the hope of an inconceivable Heaven. I find that even now the notion of eternity as changeless, timeless, etc. is still inconceivable. That we are resurrected as individuals appears to be what Jesus promises, but the work of the continuing creation in which we are to participate remains a vague idea. I think few people any longer believe there is a hell of endless torments, but fewer still believe in a Heaven in which we share in God's life. As a civilization, the West is in limbo when it comes to the afterlife, which means we face great problems in finding a principle of order in this life. But the desire for a schemata, a doctrinal blueprint, is perhaps the problem. Life in Christ may only be achieved by doing, by loving one another on a daily basis, with a willingness to suffer with and for another. When we do so, something seems to open up in us, something that is difficult to put into words but that we know is real and true.

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I started reading Fr. Seraphim Rose's now-classic "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future" (original publication date, 1975), which is essentially an extended critique and expose of various types of New Age and other "spiritual" practices and the way in which they serve Satan and globalist One Worldism.

The descriptions in the chapter headed Eastern Meditation Invades Christianity, and in particular the sub-section "Christian Yoga" (scare quotes are Rose's) describe John Butler and his thinking to a T.