Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Apocalypse – Where is God?

Over my 22 years as a chemist in research at Dow Chemical and DuPont I worked with many scientists and engineers, and although scientists are some of the most interesting and open-minded people that I've ever met, they are prone to dismiss as fantasy any idea that cannot be put to an equation or test. They nurture the quality of objective detachment that is necessary for, and reinforced by, the discipline of science. But this can be problematic when extended to their thoughts and feelings about themselves and their relationships because life is a subjective experience that demands its own language – the language of literature, philosophy and religion.

The psychological commitment to a purely objective worldview can lead scientists to become trapped in a labyrinth of theories that exist only in the mind, and this can happen to such a degree that some are thought to suffer from high-functioning autism. This may be part occupational hazard and part prerequisite for high level science, and I struggled with it myself until my early thirties at which time I had, what Alan Watts called, an encounter with cosmic consciousness. I have tried, and failed, to articulate that experience periodically over the past 30 years but I may try to describe it again in a future essay.

The fundamentalist believer can be equally trapped, but in this case by his refusal to use his own critical faculties. He adopts wholesale the religion of a people from the inaccessible past in its literal form and, no matter how much cognitive dissonance must be endured, he asserts that his religion has captured reality in a book. But, stripped of its metaphors and allegorical meaning, his religion becomes a dogma without sustenance or capacity to act as a reliable guide to self-realization (the Western secular version of oneness with God), serving only to distract his ego from the unfortunate's own soul rather than point him in that direction. Thus the fundamentalist dismisses God even more resoundingly than the scientist.

Furthermore, the lack of consensus about what is even meant by “God” is a source of conflict to such a degree that even the sound of the word can evoke a visceral reaction in those who have had a bad experience with religion, causing them to close their minds to anything that follows. Having discarded all concepts of God, they seek meaning in other ideological movements, like Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Feminism, Environmentalism, or their career, in order to fill the void. These become the center of their lives, serving as substitute gods. 

To compound this problem, the stunning success of the scientific enterprise can lend credence to the presumption that science can ascertain absolute truth and that nothing can escape its grasp. Some top scientists even believe that one day we will know everything there is to know about reality, which is an act of faith in human reason as the supreme power: the god of science and the enlightenment.

I intend to expose the fallacy that we can package reality into a tidy box, whether scientific or religious, and to do so we will have to consider recent research into the nature of consciousness since that is where all of our theories and ideas about reality, and God, reside. Along the way I hope that you will reflect upon what you think that you know for sure because certainty closes the mind and leads us astray.


I sometimes refer to our conventional notion of consciousness as “ego consciousness” in order to distinguish it from the observer/decider whose existence is implied by the work of neurologist Andrew Budson from the Boston University School of Medicine, who wrote:

“Consciousness developed as a memory system that is used by our unconscious brain to help us flexibly and creatively imagine the future and plan accordingly.” 

Andrew Budson
The unconscious is invoked here to mean “whence we know not,” and Budson refrains from speculation. However, the discovery of this half second delay delivers a fatal blow to the popular assumption that your conscious self is you. Consciousness, being only a useful memory system, is thus a persistent hallucination of reality, like a dream that reboots every morning.

The mind is also part of this persistent hallucination, as the researchers further explain in their detailed paper published in the Journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, December 2022

“Consciousness was subsequently co-opted to produce other functions that are not directly relevant to memory per se, such as problem-solving, abstract thinking, and language.”

It seems clear that we can infer the existence of an observer who decides and acts in the moment – something akin to the synergistic whole of your being. I suggest that we use the traditional religious word, “soul” to refer to this observer/decider and consider it to be the “real you.” But I don't believe that it is truly unconscious; the soul has its own form of consciousness which is chronically drowned out and barely perceptible since it is dominated by the convincing persistent hallucination of the ego consciousness. To describe this invisible inner soul-world, it must be brought to life with metaphor using imagery familiar to our conscious ego-selves. This is what our ancestors did when they recorded their experiences in the sacred texts of the world's religions. 

In the Old Testament, 1 Kings 19:11-13, the “still small voice” heard by Elijah, under the guidance of an angel – a topic for a separate essay – is that of his own soul, and it was hidden behind a lot of noisy distractions:

19:11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 

19:12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 

19:13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

The wind, mountain, earthquake and fire serve as metaphor for the distractions of Elijah's own mind/ego consciousness. This story suggests that it takes patience and faith for the ego's dominant voice to settle down such that the “still small voice” of the soul can be heard. 

Rene Descartes
Once in the right psychic state, Elijah receives instructions from the LORD (previously identified by Moses as “I AM”) that his ego consciousness had not considered. Like all of us, Elijah was hypnotized and distracted by the hallucination of conventional consciousness such that he could not see what was right in front of him until he was ready to hear the “small still voice,” which he interprets as coming from an otherworldly source, a source outside of himself. This story illustrates that the persistent hallucination of consciousness is so convincing that even when we do perceive the soul it may be experienced as external. Thus we externalize our own being because it seems foreign to the persistent hallucination that is familiar to our ego. 

Rene Descartes struggled with the concept of self and knowledge and concluded that the only thing we can say with confidence is “I am, I exist,” which I discussed in my essay, “God, Where's the Evidence”. Important truths such as this are often intuited before they are intellectually verified – and in this case, Descartes was preceded by Moses thousands of years earlier, as recorded in Exodus 3:14, 

“Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,
I AM hath sent me unto you.” 

The name of God, I AM, comes from Moses' own soul. And when Descartes used pure reason to seek the one thing of which he could be certain, he too came up with “I am.”

The truth intuited by Moses and reasoned by Descartes now receives the support of scientific measurement by Budson et al. Your soul, I am, the observer/decider, is separated from your conscious ego self not in space, but in time. Specifically, your conscious ego-self lags behind your soul consciousness by a half of a second and the implications are numerous, not the least of which is that:

To live in the persistent hallucination of ego consciousness is to live half a second behind reality. It is to live in the past. 

Living in the present is soul consciousness.

Since your ego consciousness is but a memory system, the you that you must fully trust and protect is your soul, which is your little corner of I AM. Everything else that you see, think and know, though useful and necessary for your survival, is but a persistent hallucination that you project onto reality. 

The relationship between ego and soul might be understood something like this:

As it formed, your ego pushed your soul into the background to become the intermediator for all interactions with the outside world. It protected you, sometimes by hiding you behind a veneer of invincibility or a flurry of misdirections, and it learned to navigate a world full of hazards, traps and demands by creating a persistent hallucination of reality. The ego and the hallucination grew together and became inseparable, so an attack on the hallucination is an attack on the ego's very existent and may even be felt as a threat to your life. 

Thus the ego will fight to protect the integrity of the hallucination that has served it so well, even if that means crushing the small still voice of the soul that it was born to protect. This danger is captured in Matthew 16:25 KJV, 

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: 
and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” 

Here we are encouraged to sacrifice our ego for the sake of our soul; and we are warned that should the ego win, you will lose your life – you will lose your soul.

The ego can become so proud of its skill and accomplishments that it convinces itself that it is ALL of you, turning a deaf ear to the whispers of the soul, or worse. Thus, to become “whole” is to crack the hard shell of the ego such that the soul can be heard, which can be a painful process. The ego has been fortified by all of the accumulated “certainties” that form the convincing persistent hallucination that you accept as reality. Those fortifications form the veils that hide you, the soul, from you, the ego in your persistent hallucination of reality. And the ego, believing itself to be the real you, doesn't even want to acknowledge the soul because that would bring it face to face with its own ethereal nature.

This dissociation of the ego-self from the soul-self in mankind is what generated the psychic impetus for the emergence of religion, and healing this wound is the goal of religious praxis. However the denial of God, which is also the denial of self, aborts the healing process and stunts the growth of the individual, with dire consequences for humanity. 

The Birth and Evolution of Religion

Like the revelation of “I AM” to Moses, new ideas about God often begin with an inspired insight from someone considered to be a heretic by his orthodox contemporaries. The heretic was sometimes punished and exiled for his heresy, after which his revelations were interpreted, modified and codified by his followers, and used to create a new religion. In his book, A Little History of Religion, Richard Holloway put it this way: 

“Yet most religions start as heresies. A prophet responds to an inner voice that challenges the current opinion, the way Abraham scorned the gods in his father’s shop. What usually happens next is a split in which the heretic goes off and starts a new religion or sets up a competing branch of the old one. Sometimes heretics win the argument and their ideas become the new orthodoxy. Either the closed mind stays shut and the new inspiration goes elsewhere or it opens enough to let the new insight be absorbed.”

Holloway elaborates further on the birth and evolution of a religion:

“In its early years there had been an experimental feel to the religion of the Israelites. We might even describe it as freelance religion. It was driven not by professional clerics but by gifted amateurs who heard God speaking to them directly. That’s how all religions start. They begin when people with special gifts, the ones we call prophets or sages, start hearing voices and seeing visions. They tell others what they have seen and what they have heard. Those who have not seen the visions or heard the voices respond with belief to what they have been told. And religious structures begin to grow.

As these structures become more elaborate, a new type of leader is needed. And the move from the amateur to the professional begins. Teachers are needed to interpret the sacred stories that have been stitched together. Priests are needed to preside at the festivals that celebrate the events recorded in the book. Temples are needed where all of this activity can be concentrated. And when this long process is complete, the world has another fully fledged religion to add to its collection. 

But a sense remains that something was lost along the way, which is why religions always look back to their early years with both longing and regret. Like couples who get bored living together once the passion of their early love has faded, they look back with longing to the days when it flowed effortlessly. This is why all religions spend a lot of time looking back to their early years in an attempt to rekindle that original burning love. But it’s hard going, because the voice of the divine lover has fallen silent and all they have left are his letters. 

Or could it be that those who have taken over the religion won’t pick up the phone when God rings because they don’t want him disturbing the system they are now running by themselves? This tension is never far from the surface of organised religion.”

That was a long quote, but it gives a good sense of the difference between religion – which is about God – and God, which is the reality glimpsed by those able to see past the veils of their own persistent hallucination, even if briefly. Holloway sums up the codification of Judaism as a move from a “people of the Voice” to a “people of the Book,” and argues that this is typical of all religions.
A similar intuitive process happens in science as well. The creative leap is not achieved by adherence to current orthodoxies but comes in a flash of inspiration via a process that defies explanation, often by a non-specialist outsider

Heretics of science, too, are sometimes punished harshly for their conflict with orthodoxy: Ignaz Philippe Semmelweis, the early pioneer of antiseptics whose work earned him the title “saviour of mothers,” was persecuted by his peers, which contributed to his mental breakdown and death; and of course the persecution of Galileo by the Catholic Church serves as a classic example of the consequence of heresy.

Other examples of revelatory inspiration in science include August Kekule's dream that led to the discovery of the cyclic structure of benzene; Kary Mullis' claim that LSD helped him conceive of PCR, for which he won the Nobel prize; and Pierre de Fermat's last theorem, which he jotted in the margins of a notebook along with the remark “proof to come later,” before dying in his sleep that very night. Fermat was a lawyer by trade. 

It took over 300 years before Fermat's last theorem was proven by Andrew Wiles, who had this to say about his work

Andrew Wiles
“When you reach a real impasse, then routine mathematical thinking is of no use to you. Leading up to that kind of new idea, there has to be a long period of tremendous focus on the problem without any distraction. You have to really think about nothing but that problem – just concentrate on it. And then you stop. [At this point] there seems to be a period of relaxation during which the subconscious appears to take over – and it’s during this time that some new insight comes.”

Perhaps both Fermat's and Wiles' insight were made possible by an ability to set aside the persistent hallucination that acts as a veil over reality. This would be the same intuitive process that allowed Moses to hear the still small voice of his soul reveal the name of God to be, I AM.

The Zen of I Am

“I am” is nothing, or nothingness. Your part of that “nothing” is your soul, and it is one with God – I AM. It is a “nothing” that is not nothing, which is a concept familiar to scientists in the form of the incomprehensible energy of the quantum fluctuations of “empty” space – itself a “nothingness” that pervades all of the universe. 

Psalm 46 includes this well-known, succinct poetic phrase that points to the heart of the soul: 

“Be still, and know that I am God” 

“Be still” can be understood to mean stop, drop everything, and rest in nothingness. Drop every veil, every belief, every desire and every attachment, and know that I AM. Put aside the persistent hallucination behind which lies reality, and you will see that I AM. Be still in the nothingness that is everything.

But the persistent hallucination is so powerful and convincing that being still in this manner, or letting go of ego consciousness, can feel like dying. So the instinct to survive kicks-in, which activates the ego and silences the soul. 

This helps explain why many cultures have created sacred rituals – which may include long periods of fasting, solitude, rhythmic drumming, dance, or painful experiences – the purpose of which is to induce a trance-like state. The stressful nature of the ritual is necessary in order to weaken the stranglehold that the ego has on the psyche such that soul consciousness can break through.

In the following example, Richard Holloway describes the biblical story of the burning bush (thorn bush) where Moses hears the unconscious voice of his soul – the voice of God. Notice that Moses' life is at immanent risk, which loosens the grip of his persistent hallucination, creating a “gap” through which his soul can break into his ego consciousness:

“Realising he was discovered and that word would soon reach the palace and put him in danger, Moses fled into the desert where he was given shelter by a family of shepherds. This is where we first encountered him, kneeling before a thorn-bush, listening to a voice that spoke words to him he didn’t want to hear and calling him to a dangerous duty he did not want to undertake. It was the same voice that had commanded Abraham to risk his life by denouncing the gods worshipped by the Mesopotamians. It was the same voice that had ordered Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. And it was the same voice that had commanded Jacob to change his name to Israel or ‘God rules’.”

Holloway then points out that the Jews were “suspicious of those who thought they could contain God in a building of words [... and] they developed a tradition of disagreement with any attempt to define God in human terms.” This is very perceptive and is related to the second commandment which forbids idolatry because even words, ideas and books can be worshipped as idols. The Jewish commitment to this is beautifully illustrated in the following story in Holloway's book:

“According to legend, when the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE he decided to search for the god of the Jews in their temple. The temple was built as a series of courts of increasing sacredness. Pompey strode through them until he came to the sanctuary called the Holy of Holies. This was the most sacred part of the temple into which only the High Priest was permitted to enter. Reverently, Pompey stepped into the Holy of Holies, expecting to gaze on Israel’s god. It was empty. Nothing there! 

Because the Jews knew that nothing or no thing could represent the voice that had haunted them for centuries. The Second Commandment had gone deeply into their souls. They had erected this magnificent temple with its chiselled stones and its sequence of beautiful courts. They had loved it and would mourn its loss throughout their history. Yet at its heart was nothing! Pompey turned away, baffled by the riddle of a religion whose symbol for its god was an empty room.” 

This may be the most important religious insight in history. That the Ark of the Covenant disappeared when the temple was rebuilt only strengthens the symbolic power of the Holy of Holies, in my opinion, because the Ark too may have become an idol.

Holy of Holies
For the Jews, the Holy of Holies was where heaven and earth meet – the axis-mundi. It not only symbolized that God could not be defined, but that at the center of reality is the nothing that is not nothing. All pretensions and adornments stand at the periphery. The idols, imagery, artifacts, preoccupations and distractions of the outside world that fill the senses are excluded from the Holy of Holies, and you are left alone with your ego self, which is the only real barrier to your connection with God. As for Pompey, his ego was too hardened for this insight to penetrate, so he left exasperated.

But neither is the Holy of Holies the true temple of God. It is a man-made space that awaits the temple of God, which is your body – the living temple that houses both your ego and your soul. 

The idea of the sacred person (the body) took root while the Jews were in extended exile and the Holy of Holies was not accessible. During this time, the concept of the axis-mundi was expanded to include the zaddiq, or holy man, and this idea later found its way into the New Testament, where Christ became the new “sacred center,” John 2:19-21 (he spake of the temple of his body).

Today we can say that the axis-mundi is not a place on Earth, nor is it a particular person. It is another way to refer to our connection to the nothingness that is at the center of everything and that runs through the entire universe. It is the nothing that pervades an atom, a person, and a star – it is “I AM,” from the soul of Moses and the meditations of Descartes, struggling to enter the world, struggling to be born.

The required sacrifice, implied by the stark emptiness of the Holy of Holies, is the most difficult of all: your ego self, for there is nothing else there to sacrifice. It is this sacrifice – the submission of the ego to the soul – that completes the axis-mundi, bringing the awareness of I AM into consciousness. This is what is meant by submission to God (I AM).

History and literature are replete with descriptions of this experience and its effect. There is even a well-written scene in the book “Shogun” by James Clavell, in which the protagonist is required to commit seppuku. He is 100% committed and intent on taking his own life in this honorable manner, but an assistant samurai prevents him at the very last second as he proceeds to plunge the blade into his abdomen. The commitment to follow through proves that the protagonist, who is shocked to discover that he will not die, is sincere about his honor. The description of the effect on the man's psyche in the aftermath reads like the death of the ego and rebirth of the soul into a world that appears entirely new and miraculous to him. The scene serves as a metaphor for the sincerity required of the ego in letting go of the persistent hallucination, even though literal death is not at stake. This is variably represented in culture as: death of the ego; living in the present; the Kingdom of God; bliss; heaven; nirvana etc. 
The intuition that a sacrifice is required in order to make the universe right is ubiquitous in human culture. The sacrifice was typically externalized because God was externalized, and God was externalized because the persistent hallucination is external to reality. The ego, being integral with the persistent hallucination, views reality, and thus God, as external. The axis-mundi had been severed from within as a consequence of the birth of consciousness. More on this in a moment.

Your ego must become your servant

The ego must die after it has fulfilled its role of protecting the soul until it is ready to surface into the world, much like the shell of an egg must be broken in order for the bird to fly. One will then see the miracle of existence in everything. One will see the Kingdom of God on Earth, where it has always been, right in front of our eyes.

The movement of humanity in this direction is the Apocalypse, a word of Greek origin meaning “uncovering,” or revelation, and this is a common theme in many religions. This revelation has been underway for thousands of years and will likely continue for thousands more, because the battle for the soul is won one person at a time as each let's go of his own persistent hallucination and sees that the Kingdom of God must be found within before it can manifest on Earth. 

This does not mean that all hallucinations are equal or without value. Some contain ideas and theories that help us approach reality, and these have the ability to illuminate the world for the benefit of mankind. Some are wildly at odds with reality, and still others are dangerous fantasies that are used to deceive and control. But they are all hallucinations nonetheless, and though we must use them to navigate the world, we mistake them for reality at our peril.

What is reality?

Like consciousness, we take take reality for granted. 

The Book of Revelation is a poetic vision of the inevitable sorts of problems that arise due to our propensity to be hypnotized by our persistent hallucinations of reality. It is an allegory that brings to life, with vivid imagery, the myriad ways that we go wrong, the consequences of which lead inexorably to a battle between good and evil, or Armageddon. Few are “saved” in this biblical story because the author contends that the majority deny God in various ways. But what does it mean to deny God?

In his book, The Road Less Traveled, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck suggests that the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) represents consciousness: “When we ate the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we became conscious.” The consequence of eating the forbidden fruit (evolving consciousness) was to be expelled from the garden of Eden – to be separated from God in other words. Thus consciousness itself creates the convincing illusion that we are separate from God / reality. 

Therefore, to deny God is to deny reality. To deny reality is to place your faith in the accuracy of your hallucination and enter into an entirely self-referential mode of being in which your hallucination supersedes reality – which is the definition of psychosis. 

All of our ideas, theories and religions, including what we see, are but hallucinations inspired by a glimpse of God. No matter how impressive, powerful, useful or convincing they may be, they remain hallucinations that are projected onto reality. They are projected onto God.

Armageddon – the Battle of Hallucinations

Chaos, war and widespread suffering are an inevitable part of the Apocalypse (unveiling) because ego dominates the world – just as the ego of conventional consciousness dominates the soul of the individual – and it will not let go of power willingly. This can be thought of as the Battle of Hallucinations, and it is fought within each person, and between people, religions, corporations and nations. 

No matter how unpleasant, avoiding reality is always worse than facing it. This is depicted allegorically in the Book of Revelation, which describes the various ways that people deny and avoid God with horrifying consequences. A call to repent, which means “to think differently afterwards,” is repeatedly issued, followed by the phrase “he that hath an ear, let him hear.” But deafness and blindness is a natural consequence of being mesmerized by the persistent hallucination, which is why most do not hear the call. 

This is the quintessential struggle of the human condition: the struggle to connect, and stay connected, with reality – to connect with God. Not the false god(s) that proliferate within our persistent hallucinations and that are used by those in authority to frighten and control us, but to stay connected with the I AM that is reality, the I am that is the real you – your soul. How to recognize and respond to the soul is a topic for a separate essay.

The power held by the most egoistic megalomaniacs among us depends upon keeping the veils of our hallucinations firmly in place such that we do not see clearly. It is dependent upon the subtle coercion inherent in the control and manipulation of accepted “truth” because people will behave according to their beliefs. We see this manifest in the massive amount of disinformation promulgated by those who occupy the seats of power in government, media, education, religion, industry and global organizations. At all cost, the powerful will protect and promote those beliefs that lead you to behave in a way that perpetuates and expands their power. 

But others feel compelled to expose their lies.
Edward Snowden

Thus we are driven inexorably towards Armageddon as megalomaniac battles megalomaniac for control of the “truth,” and the adherents of every ideology do battle with every other for dominance. This will continue until everyone involved is either dead, enslaved, or awoken to the fact that the only truth that we can know with confidence is that of I AM. Although it may take eons, the wakened state of soul consciousness will prevail because, while hallucinations cannot be sustained indefinitely, the soul is reborn with every new life no matter how many are crushed – and billions more will be crushed before the ego and its hallucinations lose dominion over the world.

This is the central story of Christianity. Jesus embodied the I AM intuited by Moses and repeatedly implored his followers to seek the Kingdom of God within and not be deceived by the world. And throughout history, others have appeared with a similar message: the world that you consciously see and believe is an illusion – it is an artifact of your ego consciousness – and God is the reality hidden within.

 Christ is killed for his effort because his message undermines the power available through the manipulation of the perception of reality. If the hallucination is broken so is its power deceive and the powerful cannot allow that to happen. 

The person who denies God denies his own self, He is a danger to mankind because once untethered from the soul and locked in his own hallucination, he can be made to do anything. Only the realization of “I Am,” which is the completion of the axis-mundi by the ego's submission to the soul, can inoculate a person against the efforts of the powerful to manipulate him through his own beliefs. 

In other words, only God can protect you from evil. This is the meaning of the Apocalypse.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Steve!

    Long time no see - are you still enjoying life in the tropics? I had assumed you and Janice stopped making videos years ago, but I have discovered that I was unsubscribed. Damned Google!

    Well, I am resubscribed now because I thought of you while I was considering how to publicize my first ever YouTube video. It's actually a series of videos called Modernity: A Survival Guide. The series is comprised of six lectures written and delivered by a historian friend of mine who is starting his own channel.

    Would you take a look? I hope you will think it is worth sharing. I hope the talks add some much needed perspective to what has become a very relativistic public discourse.