Got religion? Juju or woo-woo: take your pick…

IMG_0829Beyond all the fibs and fantasies, behind all the lies we tell ourselves, is the l-DNA we create for ourselves in language, a trail to our past and an arrow to our future, and pretty much the only thing we had before y-DNA and mt-DNA, revealed now to be something like a parallel universe to those more precise measurements, yet far more analogous to the largely hypothetical cultural tracks and traces, like c-DNA, full of long lonely nights and broken promises, frightened misgivings and belated thanksgivings…

But the first thing we did in every case, and probably even before language, was to speculate on the nature of things, and try to create some meaning for it all, maybe even best articulated in fear, that which we fear being that which we worship, synonymous anonymous, or even better in groups to amplify the effect exponential…

After all, how much language do we need to acknowledge simple cause and effect, likely the first form of higher thought, beyond the simple pleasure principle—feels good, so do it—the recognition of post hoc ergo propter hoc, after this therefore because of this, guaranteed to work most of the time, but not all…

So religions and belief systems were created to explain all that, the sun’s daily rise through the higher orders every day a constant inspiration of happiness and light, just like storms and epidemics and wild animals were a constant source of fear of the worst sort, of death and darkness and misery…

Convenient symbols were desirable for the practice of this primitive sort of religion, of course, and as convenient cover for the thinly veiled wish for magical salvation, so objects and fetishes came to play a role of primary importance, for which ‘juju’ is perhaps the best one-word definition…

Juju or ju-ju (French: joujou, lit. ‘plaything’) is a spiritual belief system (of) objects, such as amulets, and spells used in religious practice… (Wikipedia)

…and that was good enough for thousands of years, and even functions passably to this day, thank you, subject to the limitations of the human condition and the advancement of the species, or lack thereof, all of which assumes that there might be a better way, a higher way, a way more befitting the pretensions of our race—to nowhere…

And thus was born metaphysics, something beyond physics, beyond nature, speculations out of the ordinary, unprovable by simple observation, and so therefore reliant upon the intuitions and higher hunches of the high priests and more imaginative members of society, curators of the culture club of humanity, delving into the deeper natures of things, using only logic, reason, and—mathematics, as the tools of the trade, lacking true science or any reliable methods of measurement beyond the ordinary methods of cognition and intuition…

That would have to wait until Galileo’s invention of the telescope, and microscope, to enable truly non-conventional ‘cognitions’ and the birth of modern physics. Until then metaphysics would have to suffice, and that’s where the ‘woo-woo’ factor comes in, the fact that cognitions can be cribbed, and so-called ‘facts’ can be faked, all for the purpose of giving us peace of mind, security in sanctity, the feel-good belief that everything is somehow all right, despite all appearances to the contrary…

And this is the milieu into which Buddhism was born, Hinduism and Jainism, too, all competing for a piece of the rock by providing peace of mind, at the point when amulets, tokens and fetishes had ceased to excite the imaginations and placate the perturbations of mid-millennium BCE Indians…

All of which ignores the most popular religious orientation to this day, and one which is something of a Middle Path between the superstitious ‘juju’ of object worship and the metaphysical ‘woo-woo’ of lofty doctrines and dogmas, most of which can never be proven, much less practiced—but devotion can…

And that’s the kind of religion that most of us know best, for better or worse, blind acceptance, memorize and recite, to the letter with no added comments or commentaries, and this is where the concept of ‘faith’ comes in, probably the best-known synonym of religion, but one which is largely foreign to me… …

Probably the best-known of which is Christianity, in any one of its forms, all more similar than different, especially in this one major aspect, devotion over fetishism and abstract metaphysical speculations. Slather on a good dollop of that special sauce—love—and you’ve got something powerful and lasting…

And this is the case with Buddhism also, that the most popular ‘schools’ are the ones simplest in practice and doctrine, e.g. Pure Land, if not the best-known to us Westerners, like Zen, Vajrayana or even the Thai Forest Tradition. Thus to avoid pesky issues altogether is often preferable to offering even tentative solutions to the great existential questions facing us on long lonely nights: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here?

And these questions may never be answered, as boundless as the universe which they imply, but getting there is half the fun. And luckily there are even easier forms of communion with the divine, besides devotion, and they can be compassionate, or even militant, but for me best expressed in mere emptiness, zero, simultaneous divider and multiplier, in powers of ten, and best expressed by the individual in silent sitting, meditation, contemplation of divine void-ness, ready and willing and waiting, infinite and forever…

 

Advertisements