Dialog with a Religiously Inclined Inquirer

(The following is excerpted from a discussion between Steven Harrison and an individual who wished to investigate some the ideas that have grown out of her religious training and beliefs.)

What do you mean by relationship — relationship to what or between whom?

Relationship is the state. It is a noun. Look it up in the dictionary, it will define relationship as the state of being related. It doesn’t say to what. Relationship is not in motion, it is not looking, it is not craving. It exists in absolute stillness without any source and without any object. So relationship is not to anyone or anything, it is not between any two. The mysterious alchemy of that stillness is this — by not being related “to” or “between”, relationship, as it is being used here, becomes the expression of everything. Relationship is not to totality, it is totality. This is why so many mystics have discovered that the limitation of worship is that they must maintain the duality of separation from that which they love.

Then what do you mean by the addiction of separation?

The mystic is tempted by his love for God, even after he discovers that maintaining that duality separates him from the totality, which, of course, is the manifest God. So the poor mystic is in a real dilemma. He’s been fasting and praying and doing all kinds of austerities for all these years. He loves his God with all his heart. He prays to God every hour of every day. God returns his worship with words of love. One day he asks God for insight into the nature of the absolute and the bounddryless nature of life is revealed to him. God shows the mystic that the God he worships is the mind’s projection. God shows the mystic that there is no mystic who worships, and no God to be worshiped. There is no separation. There is no difference. The mystic is in rapture. He calls to God his thanks, his praise, his ever lasting love. But, there is only silence in response. In the mystic’s realization of non-duality God has vanished.

So, after a very long night of consideration of the boundrylessness of life, the mystic calls to God once more. This time he asks for one last boon. The mystic asks God to take away the knowledge of that true nature of life and to return as his object of love.

Of course, the boon is granted, the mystic once again can worship his God. He soon forgets the totality. He is addicted to separation.

In our lives we have built our social constructions around our separation. These are the concepts through which we organize and communicate our reality. We have forgotten the totality of our existence, and, yet, the pain of our lives, the gnawing emptiness and the compulsion to fill it, are reminders that there is something beyond separation. But, we can never remain still enough to see what is beyond. We can never quiet our mind or our lives. We are addicted to separation.

You talk about the fear of the unknown being the projection of the memory of our failures, our hurts, our anxieties. Don’t we learn from our past experiences? Isn’t there a difference between irrational fear and knowing that when you touch a hot pan you are going to get burned?

We are not talking about knowing not to touch a hot pan. This is information, not fear. We are not even talking about the caution of touching a pan because it may be hot, this is intelligence. We are talking about what the mind does with this information as it searches endlessly, relentlessly for the action which will have no possibility of touching a hot pan. We are talking about the mind which projects the possibility of a hot pan everywhere.

The mind has developed as an instrument of survival. It calculates the likelihood of survival in each action. This worked well thousands of years ago on the savannah. There we had to get to the tree with the fruit before the lion got to us. Our minds calculated. The good minds made it. The not so good minds got gobbled up by the lions. The good minds reproduced and got better.

Now this mind has developed into a monster. It cannot stop calculating whether or not the lions are going to eat us. Of course, there are no lions. There are automobiles going through intersections, check books to balance, phones to answer, planes crashing, MTV, E-mail, fast food — an accelerated world where we don’t know friend from foe. We can’t tell where the lions are. We can’t tell where the pans are, let alone, which are hot. Our minds are trying to calculate our survival under the crushing weight of information overload.

Faced with this overload the mind projects danger everywhere. It lives in fear. It no longer knows what it fears. It doesn’t make any difference. Fear insures survival and survival is the mind’s game.

You say that our biggest fear is the fear of death. I don’t think that is true for a lot of people, especially very religious people who see death as the portal to eternal life and happiness.

For those the fear is the loss of their belief system. The identification with their beliefs has become so strong that the loss of the belief system is their death. Fear of death is not just the fear of the death of the body, but loss of the identification with a center. For most of us that identification is primarily with our bodies and so death of the body is the threat. But for some there is primary identification with ideology, belief. And for many, the religious belief is an unexamined conditioning, a soothing fairy tale, a back-up plan to a life lived entirely materialistically. That is more to the point for most so-called believers.

You blame religion, culture and the media for making sexual energy evil and dangerous. But, haven’t we also been taught by the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and the death and suffering they cause, that there are many times when sexual energy must be controlled?

You are not controlling your sexual energy. The church is controlling your sexual energy. The government is controlling your sexual energy. Your parents are controlling your sexual energy. But, you are not. You can’t control your own sexual energy, because you are that energy. That energy doesn’t need control, it needs freedom, breathing room, space, life.

We do not have the faintest idea what this energy is because we are so cluttered with the stern advice from so many directions to never, never express it.

Now, we are told, we will die if we do.

The fact is, we will not have lived if we don’t.

You don’t die from sex. You die from stupidity, dishonesty, confusion. You die from thinking that coercion is love, that sex is intimacy, that avoidance is honesty. You can die from sexually transmitted diseases. Does this mean sex is bad? You can die from air borne diseases. Does this mean breathing is bad?

The interesting thing about sexual energy is that it doesn’t actually require expression. The only thing that demands sexual expression is sexual repression. The ban always creates the market. Sexual energy is the energy of life. It is always present and it energizes all and everything. It is us.

You say that traditional families don’t work. I have nothing against non-traditional families, but I know of many traditional families that work.

Why do we believe in the family? Where did this structure come from? What maintains it? Why is it crumbling? What will replace it?

Many traditional families do work. That is not the issue. The issue is the huge number of families which are splintered by divorce, recombined from a failed prior marriage or mired in dysfunction. These families are now the majority. They are the norm. They don’t work and yet we cannot let go of the image, the fairy tale of family.

The family is dying. Something new is arising.

Perhaps this new form will raise children who can feel and express, who can live without fear, who have learned how to give. Perhaps this new form will be about the actualization of the human potential, not consumption, greed and survival.