i grew up as a strict materialist. we are all atoms following the laws of physics. "consciousness" is just an emergent property of all these atoms and neurons bumping into each other in certain ways, forming the complex machine that we refer to as the 'mind'. i never believed in Jesus or Saraswati or an abstract Spirit or Absolute that transcended matter. how could anyone read stories of tortured children and human vivesection and believe in an benevolent and loving creator? how could anyone hear of a man being crushed to death by a vending machine and believe in a Divine Order, or that "everything happens for a reason"? also, how come religious leaders are always molesting people?
to believe in God is to blind yourself from all the random and indifferent cruelty in the world, to delude yourself through selective attention, only registering the good in the world. sure, it'll make you happy, but some of us are simply too rational and self-aware to play such a trick on our minds.
a religious worldview leads to cruel conclusions. to say the depressed person is suffering a 'crisis of spirit' and must to turn to a higher power is both insane and victim blaming. science shows us that the depressed person is a victim of chemical forces outside of their control. the physiological machine from which their emotions arise has been programmed incorrectly, and so it is of absolute necessity that we rectify the chemical serotonin imbalance resulting in misprogrammed genes with the proper medication. and to say that suffering can be attributed to misdeeds in some past life, "bad karma", is also insane and victim blaming. the idea of karma is obviously a concotion by high caste priests to justify their wealth, power, and status. "maybe, mr. untouchable, if you serve me well and donate to our temple, your past sins will be washed away, and you too will be re-incarnated as a brahmin".
"miracles" are either exaggerations, misinformation, or, very rarely, simply physical phenomena that science will eventually explain away. attribute any event to God or a higher power is a caveman behavior to explain away what they do not understand. as science grows this catch-all explanation of "God did it" shrinks, until one day we will break down all of life into it's mechanical foundations and there will simply be no more room for God to exist. and what a glorious day that will be. people will live based on reason rather than superstition, and this reason will dissolve the boundaries of these useless and conflicting religious ideologies.
yes, technically, we cannot DISPROVE the existence of a "higher power". God is unfalsifiable, meaning, there is always a cope. e.g:
"hey, why isn't your faith healing reproducible? why are some prayers answered and some aren't?"
"well, God works in mysterious ways. his Divine Plan is incomprehensible to our small minds."
since such a point is impossible to argue against, i labeled myself an agnostic. i thought Camus was the deepest any human could get and decided to live my life as a happy sisyphus, pretending to be an existentialist hero while A/B testing colorschemes that maximize ad revenue eight hours a day.
shifting ethos - the true scientists are obscure. (scientific method meme). they have a lot of doubt, they know what they don'tk now. it's picked up by fame hungry marketer-scientists, labcoat worshipping redditers, pop science writers, podcasters, trickles downstream into the intellectual mainstream. the thymus gland is useless! - these people were not dumb. if you look at the scholastics, or da vinci, or newton, or ramanujan, or einstein, or swedenborg, or plotinus, and especially if you look at the knowledge of the ancient sages like vyasa and ancient logicians and mathematicians-- these people are not dumb. we think they're 'quirky' or 'crazy' for believing in god, and we have to separate the work from the person. we think they're simply the product of a culture permeated by mystical delusion. - even now, we have religious scientists like james tour, a renowned biologist and computer scientist, who doesn't believe in evolution. clearly there is some room for debate. - if you look at contemporary spiritual writers, swami vivekandna, sri aurobindo, rudolf steiner, they are all extremely well-read and have fully thought through their beliefs. vivekandna was once a materialist and knows the arguemnts very well. sri aurobindo is a brilliant scholar. rudolf steiner takes nothing on faith. - if you look at someone like sadhguru or sri ganapathi sachinananda, these people are highly perfected. they seem to be good at absolutely everything. you can see them embody their spiritual teachings so well they're undeniable. their lives are their own proof. - then there are simply the unexplainable mystics. edgar cayce.
needed enough faith where i'd least be open to trying it, and wasn't subconsciously expecting to fail (the bubble jacket on a freezing day) then the journey becomes a full body experience (i guess there's chakras)
well they're just labeling these nervous centers! again, why do you think these scientists have more ethos than thse people who figured this out thousands of yeras ago, preserved it in lasting contributions to the human, and made many more insane discoveries science is still catching up with? my default now is that tradition and mystics of the past have more ethos than mainstream intellectual fads. materialism is nothing new. ancient india had the charvakas. greeks had epicurus. the ancient indians knew of the atom. da vinci dissected cadavers and himself believed the body was similar to a machine, yet still found room for God. they did not become spiritual out of a scientific ignorance. they knew something else.
well yogas only good because stretching and relaxation are good for you! why was that my default? why did i not give the people who INVENTED the art the benefit of the doubt? why did i not go to the primary texts directly? why was i forming my view of spiritual practices from reddit comments, journalists, and friends following those same sources? reflecting on that really changed me. i was more dogmatic about my materialistic views than many are about their religion.
to throw away history and see progress as linear. to see the past as the dark ages.
oh but caveman died early and were ignorant! so what? why is avoiding death your highest goal? that metric itself assumes a materialistic worldivew, that you are an animal and our only goal is long lasting survival. yet everywhere in nature screams at us that death is an essential part of life, not only something to be avoided. if the life expetancy thing is even true, maybe they traded a 100 year life of a slow and empty degeneration for 40 years of bliss in tune with everything.
in 2019 my health was bad and doctors couldn't seem to help much. before this point, i never believed in God. i considered myself a "skeptic". i trusted Science™, not superstitious folk remedies and rituals. but after intimately acquainting myself with the limits of mainstream scientific understanding, i was forced to turn traditional medicine, the only path which showed any hope of getting better.
it was a hugely humbling experience, crawling back to the "quack science" i was once so dismissive of, and that epistemic humility split open my brain to much more than just medicine.
ancient systems of indian and chinese medicine are intertwined with spirituality, and so my study of these fields inspired a whole pilgrimage in search of direct mystical experience, to know beyond a doubt whether or not 'the occult' is just con-artists and schizophrenia.
november 2019. the cast: me, sam, norman.
i wished to purge all degeneracy from my system so that they would not disturb me in meditation in the following few months of meditation. you know when you eat so much ice cream you get nauseous and ice cream loses it's appeal for a while?
once fully disillusioned by hedonism, we proceeded to more
after sam and norman departed, i continued to a kaula tantra ashram on Koh-Phangan.
the island is a kind of expat hippie yoga outpost, but the ashrams teachings were very legit, based in oral tradition and direct experience of teachers, the kind of teachings unnatainable through books.
the main takeaways:
how the body shapes the mind i believe somatic therapies like TRE and bioenergetics are going to gain a lot of popularity as our modern minds become more unhinged
the crazy amount of tension we subconsciously carry see Wilhelm Reich. or this more famous book that i haven't read but looks similar
to restore the natural intelligence of the body, we held basic yoga poses and focused on relaxing into them, learning to contort without strain and effort. movements were meant to be spontaneous, from the heart, rather than directed by the mind. their prayanama had no mandates on the lengths of inhalations and exhalations. everything was left alone.
before i began this journey, i had some synchronicities that lead me to Sadhguru, the famous mystic and guru i highly recommend "The Body As A Gadget", "Sadhguru: More Than A Life", and his Inner Engineering course. i'd been addicted to his videos while i was in new york. he offers initiation into this kriya, the "shambhavi mahamudra". i kept postponing that course, because i wanted to receive the iniation in person. it just felt more 'legit', i guess. i also wanted to feel his presence. i planned to keep biding my time until he happened to run an event nearby, which was rare, because iirc, he only hosted three or four initiations that year, scattered across the world.
first, i found a book he published in Tamil while cleaning out my childhood home bookshelf. the book wasn't mine, i don't read or speak Tamil, so i figured it was my parents. i asked them about it, but they also had no idea where it was from or why it was buried in my room. mildly strange.
second was... i was planning to stay five days in the south Indian city of Chennai, in between my two yoga courses. after booking all my flights and all my stays, sadhguru's foundation announced he'd be doing an initiation the exact days i was staying. i took that as a sign that i was on the right path.
after sadhguru's initiation, my aunt took me to Mysore to see the great Sri Ganapathi Sachidananda.** that experience needs a whole separate post, but the TL;DR is that I could feel his energy very tangibly. Especially when he looked at me. it felt like this huge tingling sensation and an feeling of being lifted up. insane. i'm also pretty sure he materialized a for me and my dad out of thin air, which he has been known to do, but it happened so fast, i can't confirm without a doubt. i regret not asking him. necklace or no, how i felt in his presence, his crazy life story, and the testimonies of his devotees, all strengthened my beliefs in gurus and avatars.
after that was a month in another [ashram] for a 300 hour yoga teacher training. this one was the standard: Pantanjali Yoga Sutras, Shiva Samhita, and Hatha Yoga Pradeepika. we also had to do this:
which looks insane. but now i do it a few times a week. highly recommend if you have breathing troubles. we also chugged salt water (kunjal) and threw it up almost every morning. yes, i know it sounds troubling, but if you're feeling more tired than you should be, i recommend trying it once in a while. so much of happiness is tied up in the purity of the body. it doesn't matter how great your life is if you're limping through it filled with phlegm and shit.
i had a variety of wild internal experiences here. the first: a period of sustained meditative clarity after a third eye meditation. the second: i haphazardly held mula bandha (contracting the perineum) for ten minutes. in just ten minutes, my body temp shot up in a fever, this new energetic confidence consumed me, and i walked around like a spartan warrior for about an hour. such a subtle movement, such huge effects on the body. i was told this brand of haphazard practice, where you just do random excercises until you feel something crazy, is not very wise. i've since stopped doing such experiments. but the experience showed me how far these techniques can take you.
some of the scriptures say things like: "uddiyana bandha conquers death, jalandhra bandha cures all diseases, khechari mudra brings instant bliss". at first i thought this was hyperbole, but at this point i believe they're literal. i'm sure they're very hard to master, but definitely worth exploring.
after that i got bad food poisoning that was possibly cured through faith??????
after that i stayed at the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore. on the way to the ashram, i read a biography of sadhguru. the book reads like a fantasy novel-- especially the parts about the dhyanalinga consecration is described is insane. a team of super-meditators, tasked by destiny, assembled over three lifetimes, banding together and shooting their energy into mercury. and he describes it so matter-of-factly-- like these wizard powers are obviously real, nothing to be shocked over. we're living in muggle world.
i had the same experience at the dhyanalinga that i did with sri ganapathi-- the energy was thick and tangible, a calming molasses. the whole center is also immaculate and in a beautiful area. i can see how people go once and want to stay forever.
it was here, filled by both the space and the practices, that my information addiction petered out. i stopped scrolling, stopped reading books, and built this great confidence that all answers and all fulfillment were both always inside me, and the shortest route to satiation pointed inwards rather than outwards. for the first time in my life, my initial reaction to unease was to look at it introspectively, feeling it in my body, rather than to pace or scroll restlessly, hoping that if i ignored it long enough, it'd slip out some back door on its own.
the intensity of that feeling and the depth of that peace have since faded. a year and a half later, i've fallen back to watching youtube prank compilations and day trading cryptocurrency. but the KNOWING that this beautiful and always accessible mental space exists (though it's now much harder to reach) is a great antidote to much anxious craving and restlessness.
after Isha was the Sri Aurobindo School For Perfect Eyesight, in Pondicherry.
i was perscribed glasses in the ninth grade. after that first eye exam, my optometrist told me, that my eyesight would at best, stay bad, and more likely, slowly deterioriate year after year. i asked if there's anyway to reverse it. she said no, and told me to make sure to come in every six months. i want to drag the whole American Eye Doctor Association to Pondicherry so they this school with their own messed up eyes.
the school preaches the bates method, "an ineffective and potentially dangerous alternative therapy aimed at improving eyesight", according to Wikipedia. well fuck you wikipedia-- my perscription dropped from -1.75 to -1 (both eyes) in FIVE DAYS, 30 MINUTES A DAY. i stopped wearing glasses for the rest of the trip! also, THE PROGRAM IS FREE. it's run by incredible volunteers. there's only an optional donation at the end, only if you feel like you benefited. i swear i'm not on their marketing team, it just blows my mind that more people don't know about this. there were kids in there looking like bubbles from trailer park boys, probably running -7 in both eyes, and even they made progress.
i uh... i'm pretty lazy with the excercises, but i trust that if my eyes start getting worse again, i can pick em back up. it's the same deal with the lasting peace. knowing it's a possibility is empowering. then it's just a matter of how much you want it. it's also realizing how important eye health is for overall wellbeing on that note, i highly recommend this book: Luminous Life: How the Science of Light Unlocks the Art of Living
and it ALSO further confirmed that a lot of what people dismiss as 'unsubstantiated quack science' is real and powerful and can help a lot of people, and you should run away from anyone who says things like, "listen, i'm a professional. i know exactly how the human body works. there's no uncertainty here-- you're fucked. sorry. follow-up next week?" the documentary "Heal" is also a great support for this
this also ties in with the whole body tension see the Reichian Ocular Segment. i was extremely expressive as a child, stretching my face to its limits.
(pic of me in middle school with stretched face)
that expressiveness has left me-- my face has deadened over the years. but! the days i did the eye excercises, it returned. the whole face felt more alive.
the final stop of part 1 was [dharamkot], an unreal town nestled in the Himalayas. again, i felt like i was in a fantasy movie.
i was a complete mountain hermit at this point. i holed up in a remote guest-house with a renewed interest in reading, inhaling books on astrology, mythology, and religion.i'd read, explore the energy body, and come up with a set of excercises to reproduce blissful states.
a peaceful expansion is found at the top of the head happiness at the corners of the lips grounding relief in the toes
feel into the molars and wisdom teeth and smile like that. breath while feeling the back of the teeth touch. expands the mouth and vasodialates the whole body. relaxes the neck and shoulders and opens the airways.
rub tips of fingers and toes and top of head onto a tree and ask it to purify you. causes ecstacy.
i'd just read and hike around and when i felt drained or off, i'd breath into the crown of my head and ask God to fill me up again. i felt like this guy.
after realizing that the quickest route to happiness pointed inwards, not outwards, the question became: what should i do now? i wasn't woke enough to be a full-time monk-- i could allay my desires through meditation, but the same ones kept popping up. i was also too attached to relationships. also, being a cave monk still seemed unaesthetic to me, though there's probably some wild and beautiful stuff happening in their awareness.
it was also clear my body and mind still wanted to act and empty themselves. i don't want to get in the way. i'm definitely not done with action yet. i figured then, that i should worthwhile work and work hard. i loved the feeling of emptying and filling my cup. the only problem was i didn't know what to do. i definitely didn't want to go back to Facebook. but i just gave the question up to God and went to sleep and when I woke up I got a call and a job just floated into my lap. THE NEXT DAY.
i could've stayed in dharmakot for many more months, but covid struck and all tourists had to leave.
the reliable bliss lasted for a month are two at home, but something happened. i honestly think it's just... the association of old places with old habits. and the vibe of American cities. collective desire swarms the skies. literally. see "All thoughts come from outside" and thought forms.. of course it's entirely possible to stay unbothered and devotional wherever you are, i just don't have that foundation yet.
it was also the material stress of having to actually do work again, which leads to lack of discipline, and lack of solitude. also, in india i had no crutches. the Self was the only thing to take refuge in. i had no other options and so meditation was the default. in America there is the love of my parents, my friends, and sugary cereal. quickly the body re-learns it's ignorance: that happiness is external. but of course, there is some awareness in me now of what is possible. it's transformed how i approach life, at least, when i'm aware enough to have a conscious approach, i search inside myself for contentment. then all my outward actions are simply an expression of myself, rather than frantic grasping at hedonic pleasures (though, to be transparent, i have watched all of season 1 of both Too Hot to Handle and Bling Empire. i will rationalize this as 'sociological investigation').