Thursday 15 April 2021

More on Christian Zen (and John Butler) - how it differs from what I want from life, and after-life

I am posting another talk from the delightful John Butler, which he discusses his books, his life, and his spirituality - which I have previously called Christian Zen

I call it this because it uses Christian language to describe an 'Eastern' spiritual way that neither wants nor aims at the resurrected life eternal with God, Jesus, and other sons and daughters of God, dwelling in Heaven - that Jesus made possible for those who followed him. 

Instead, JB's desire is for self/ego-less, body-less, peace, stillness, oneness and unity with God and every-thing - which I will tern Nirvana. 

What is instructive about this video is that it seems to make clear why John Butler wants this. He mentions the core problem of life as 'How do you cope with the world' - and the impossibility of escaping from the world due to the constraints of the body. Clearly the hope permanently to be rid of the body is not the same as the hope of resurrection. 

JB also mentions his aim of 'less me, more God' (not my will but God's will) - which equates closeness to God with dissolution of 'me', the self, the distinct ego. 

The great hope is for total and perfect unity - in which whatever makes us distinct and unique is removed. This is holiness. He suggests the special virtues of losing the individual in the community (family, village, nation); absence of criticism between Men; and patient, forbearance and waiting - which he (from experience) regards as better lived in Russia. 

Butler describes his books on Russia (which I have read, and recommend) as describing How spirit may strengthen to bear an unbearable world

This phrase is, I think, a great clue to this Christian Zen perspective. It describes the basic stance that 'the world' is intrinsically unbearable, that this un-bearability comes from the detached and observing conscious self; and therefore implies that the best and only hope is to escape the un-bearability by dissolving consciousness (and the underlying self) - so that we will just-be. 


By his own account John Butler has had (until recently) an 'unbearable' life of misery, loneliness and depression - alleviated only by the discipline of (oneness-type, 'transcendental') meditation. Some fifty years of meditation practice have enabled him to cope with the world, while he awaits death.

But why did JB experience life as unbearable? Well, his biography shows that this came from within; it came from the way he was and from what he wanted. And the Christian will, naturally, focus on the matter of love - because love is the principle of God's creation. 

Now, for Christians, love ought to be between persons - on earth and in Heaven (because God and Jesus Christ are also persons). But John Butler's aspirational idea of love is not between persons, but a blissful the loss of personhood into oneness. 

In this video; JB describes the great 'love' event of his life. This was a time when he and a woman friend (not his wife) were meditating together, and he experienced a vivid and compelling vision of their two souls leaving their bodies and joining into a single spiritual unity. This led to nothing relational between the two; but triggered JB to leave his wife and led to several years of a life wandering alone and miserable. 

So, the experience of 'love' drove JB further away from the world; because (I would say) this was not relational-love between persons, but was the 'annihilational'-love a loss of self (a microcosm of the hoped-for dissolution into the divine). 

From what I have gathered of John Butler's life (from the several books of his I have read) his only experience of relational love (Christian love) was with his mother; and this was warm, constant and long-lasting. 

Yet, I think this love, because it was with his mother, probably pointed backwards into a lost childhood; rather than forwards into eternity - and (in other of his work) I judge that JB regard all inter-personal and conscious love in terms of a negative attachment to the unbearable world.

He seems to regard Christian love as a narrowly-specific, immature and anthropomorphic perspective on life; something which ought-to-be set-aside in favour of the universal, 'abstract' undifferentiated 'love' of complete unity with the impersonal-and-universal-divine. 

In sum, I believe that (so far as I can tell) John Butler is an example of someone who does not want what Jesus has to offer. He does not, indeed, want to be a Man - because he finds distinct consciousness so unbearable in its suffering, that he would 'hand back the entrance ticket' of becoming a Son of God and return to a situation of pre-creation blissful mere-being. 

I think he regrets being budded-off God, because of the existential loneliness and isolation it engenders (at least in adults); and wishes to lose all awareness of himself as a separate entity - lose all awareness altogether.

From this perspective, this mortal life is nothing but a Vale of Tears; without any essential function or purpose. It is a kind of punishment, or accident; something to be coped-with by learning Not to think. And something from-which death is a deliverance.

For me, none of this is true. I see this incarnated mortal life as having a purpose that is essential to what I most want: which is resurrected life eternal in Heaven with other persons - including at least some of those whom I love from this earthly time. 

I regard this mortal life as made good (albeit intermittently, and temporality) by inter-personal love, I see love of God and Jesus as between me and other persons and living beings; and I see the aim of both earth and Heaven (the thing I most want to 'do') as being creation/ creating from and for this 'web' of loving relationships. 

As I have often said before; it seems apparent that there are some people who are (apparently from young childhood, and perhaps related to the pre-mortal spiritual nature) wanting something very different from the gift that Jesus brought us - and John Butler seems to be one of them. 

Instead of opting-into Heaven, and different from choosing the Hell of opposition to God - these people want to stop being people

I regard this as a consequence of the fact that when God (our Heavenly parents) took our primordial and unconscious selves and procreated them into being sons and daughters of God with consciousness and free agency; some regretted the event. 

Among those who regret being sons and daughters of God are those who respond by blaming and hating God and divine creation - these are the demons who work to destroy.

And there is this other group - of whom John Butler (along with perhaps vast numbers of adherents of Eastern religions) is one; who want to return to the state of a primordial and unconscious self. I don't think this is literally possible, because I believe that the sons and daughters of God are eternal.

But God can certainly remove all self-consciousness and all awareness of difference from the sons and daughters of God ; so that after death fully, and to some extent, during mortal life (e.g. in oneness meditation) - Men can blissfully feel and experience themselves as-if they are an impersonal and abstract part of the divine. 

This is not what God most wants for us and from us; but I think it is something he will do for his children who choose to opt-out of Heaven but without being hostile to the Heavenly project. 


Note added. While I believe that all the above applies in an abstract and ideal sense; I think that here-and-now (in these 'end times') it is very difficult for anyone to reject (real) Christianity without damning themselves. 

In other words; as of the conditions in The West in 2021, Christian Zen is mostly in practice anti-Christian. 

When the world is ruled by a demonic cabal - so that all which is mainstream, official, 'approved' is strategically on the side of evil in the spiritual war - then those who reject the gift of Jesus will find it very difficult not to find themselves accepting the assumptions and motivation of those who actively oppose Jesus. 

To put matters differently; because the Christian Zen adherent rejects discernment (i.e. rejects 'judgmentalism') - its becomes all-but impossible for anyone with any kind of engagement with The System (and surely we all depend on The System to keep us alive, and not to kill us) to avoid joining-with the system in pursuit of damnation. 

I would say that discernment of Good from evil has become an absolute necessity in 2021. The default is nowadays to take the side of Satan, and it requires almost an active choice to reject damnation. 

As an example, in another video John Butler demonstrates a belief in the CO2 Global Warming agenda which is deceptive and evil agenda based on several Big Lies; and speaks approvingly of the Extinction Rebellion organization - which is a tool created-by and working-for the goals of the totalitarian world government: the Global Establishment. 

This kind of gross failure of discernment seems almost inevitable when one combines a rejection of judgment with a climate of pervasive authoritarian evil. 

To put it very simply: For most people, most of the time, here-and-now; the choice is binary: Christ or Satan - and those who in other cultures and at other times might genuinely have wanted Nirvana, will sooner or later find themselves wanting Hell. 


ted said...

I struggle to say that Zen and Christianity as mystical experience/realization are so diametrically opposed. I agree that the context of one's spiritual practice matters, but the experience of one-ness or ego-less divinity can either liberate oneself from the attachment to the world or liberate oneself to be fully with the world. I think it is matter as to how one leans in or out. I agree with you with this may be karma/path/personality dependent, but Revealed Truth as mystical revelation between religions is more similar than different in my view.

TonguelessYoungMan said...

I have watched a couple John Butler videos months ago and he keeps coming up in my recommendations now, but in a video (with nearly 8 million views) called "The Best Unintentional ASMR voice" (for those who don't know, "ASMR" is sounds that help some people go to sleep). The thumbnail states "sleepiest voice ever". I have to agree.

The reason I bring this up is that I think this might be directly related to his spiritual outlook. The spiritual views he has, I would imagine, would lead to a certain kind of lethargy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ted - "Revealed Truth as mystical revelation between religions is more similar than different in my view".

Well, I have set out why this is not true; so, what is your substantive disagreement with my argument?

Bruce Charlton said...

@TYM - He has a wonderful voice, for sure!

But wrt sleep - I struggle to see what this kind of not-thinking, no-self awareness, meditation does that deep sleep does not already do. I appreciate not everybody can sleep at will; but (for nearly fifty years, since my teens) when I want a break from thinking, a 're-boot', I take a nap.

ted said...

Bruce, I don't have significant disagreement with where you are coming from. I believe mysticism is always both phenomenological and metaphysical. My experience is the phenomenology of union between the individual and the Divine Source (Tao, God, Nirvana) is similar, but it will always be seen differently based on the metaphysical context. I am not being a bland universalist by this comment. I am actually Catholic, because I believe Catholicism's Trinitarian metaphysics and the Incarnation of Jesus is unique beyond all religions. But I acknowledge people on other paths are also liberated and saved albeit with their own flavor of understanding.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ted - I'm still not getting your point. Surely this is a matter of what people want? If people don't want what Jesus offers, then presumably they won't accept it. If they want something else, then maybe they will get that.

Alex said...

See the concept of "Unio Mystica" that was spoken of by Saints like Teresa of Avila. (I haven't read this one)

See also the description of Heaven by St Faustina Kowalska:

"... and I saw its inconceivable beauties and the happiness that awaits us after death. I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures, making them happy; and then all the glory and praise which springs from this happiness returns to its source; and they enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whom they will never comprehend or fathom.

This source of happiness is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures. Now I understand Saint Paul, who said, "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him. (777)"

William Wildblood said...

Your added note is very important. While this 'Christian Zen' (something of an oxymoron really) might be appealing for some, it is actually an opt-out and will ultimately lead to falling in with the 'agenda'. It is not meant to be the Western way and the path represents a kind of spiritual defeatism and return to the source without having learnt the lessons of creation. This cannot be what God wants for us or he would not have put us here in the first place.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - The way that Heaven is described by Jesus's eye-witness reported words in the Fourth Gospel is different from these descriptions. He describes Life Everlasting/ Eternal as being more like an amplification and sustaining of earthly 'goods' using examples like food, water, meat etc.

But I also find persuasive the requirement that this earthly mortal life must have a necessary function; and I need to understand why it is that Men cannot be incarnated straight into Heaven.

This is a neglected matter in traditional Christianity, but to me it seems absolutely vital to provide a satisfactory answer.

SanSaba1 said...

I wanted to express appreciation for the work you've done on this blogs and others. I've gained some very perspective shifting insight from your writing. After years of agnosticism I returned to the faith, but still felt like I wasn't finding much spiritual nourishment from the self-help style that many churches follow today. For years I've been exploring the "mystical path" and it led me to people such as Butler and Keating. While I respect them both and others who follow the Zen contemplative Christian style, it never really felt Christian to me and for the longest time I've been stuck between the Zen viewpoint and the Christian rock self help style I find here in the United States.

The perspective that you offer (as well as Barfield, Arkle etc) has led me to what I believe is a truer form of the faith, and had I not stumbled into your blog I would have gone for years to a lifetime of never considering these ideas. I doubt I would have explored the works of Barfield, Arkle, Steiner on my own, and the path I was on was leading towards a 30+ year focus on zen depersonalization and a cognitive dissonance between this and the things that originally drew me to Christianity in the first place.

Thank you for what you do. Your message is important.