Monday, May 15, 2006


Written 12 years before One, Illusions has been instrumental in the spiritual development of numerous people, one friend in particular. His interest led me to read it, which then led me to write this review (critique, commentary, whatever).

It's more didactic than ONE: the primary thesis that he pushed was that our fate is the consequence of our choices. That idea contains much truth, but it can be pushed too far.

(I once moderated a Great Books discussion about some topic having to do with our responsibilities to one another. In the group a man who must have been a prosperous and fairly radical libertarian dissented from the idea of social welfare and said that no one had ever done anything for him . I lost it right there and asked him if he'd ever gotten any milk from his mother's breast--short career as moderator!.)

I felt that Bach pushed it too far; he presents his credo in the beginning, in which a Master come to earth said unto them, "within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and to sickness, to riches and to poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these and not another".

That contains some truth, but it also cries out for abusive interpretation: if I manage to deprive you of your wealth, your liberty, and to enslave you, that was your choice. Sorry, I can't buy it.

The theology of Illusions does not have room for love, which IMO is the ruling power of the Universe. Love seemed to be hard for Bach; he celebrated passionate love in ONE, but his passionate love seemed to have passed with time.

"If it looks like wisdom, but is unkind rather than loving, it's not wisdom.
If it feels like love, but it's not wise, it is not love" (page 149 of Awakening The Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das.)

Bach does have much wisdom, which indicates that love lies within him, though perhaps disguised, even from himself. In him I see a man running, no, flying from The Hound of Heaven; he looks nervously over his shoulder and knows that he's going to lose the race.

(I welcome dissent, even utter complete disagreement. It's refreshing. Please do.)


Dave Carl said...

Maybe your libertarian wasn't breast fed. Maybe that's the source of his disaffection! :)

Larry said...

Thanks, Dave. If I had thought a minute, that might have occurred to me. I would ask him if he ever got a mortgage.

xianchick said...

Your breastmilk comment reminds me of my ex-boyfriend... a very highly regarded family law lawyer, until one day (on TV) he said something about 'the supreme court in my head'.

The paparazzi lost his trail, and never picked it up again.

tee hee.

good going!

Jon said...

Illusions was a very difficult book for me. I've read it twice, and both times I hated it. Yet, I think now I would love it!

Illusions is written with an uncompromisingly non-dual viewpoint, which offended me no end while I was still hanging on to good and evil. In it, there's no "good" and "evil," only This, although the effects of certain actions feel "good" or "ill."

What changed? About three years ago, I began a study of reincarnation. I was a strong skeptic, not open toward it at all. But something happened, and I realized it was true, although I don't accept reincarnation in the naive sense as many New Agers and Hindus do... I believe there's only one human soul, which is always reincarnating into billions of bodies...

Yet that was enough for me to "forgive" the parts of the book I hated, especially the movie theater scene. In fact, I've used the movie theater analogy on my own blog and in comments I've left on other's blogs. Another thing I had hated was the quitting Messiah. Yet there are the "two paths" for enlightened teachers, the Christ path / Bodhisattva path, or the Buddha path.

Shimoda does love, though. His sacrificial death is to help Richard get past his fear of death and "scary images" in the movie of life, as well as to allow himself to move on to working from outside of space-time, which is much the same thing Jesus did. Because of that, he can simultaneously be with ALL who call on him.

Also the way Shimoda provokes his death is similar to the way Jesus did in some accounts.

The most offensive thing to me was the amorality of Shimoda's teaching. I wouldn't really understand that until I had a teacher of my own. But the Bhagavad Gita offers some ways of understanding it... And Fight Club does as well. The amoral thing is a feature of the utter Freedom we have, a way we *can* live, not the ideal way to live.

Freedom is the blackboard, Love is the chalk letters written on it. Love communicates in a way that diminishes suffering. Freedom is the expanse that allows all reactions whether love or not.

The point that Shimoda and Fight Club make is that most of us are completely and totally blinded to our freedom, so much so that we can't truly express love either--instead we express our conditioning and fears.

I like this book now.

Larry said...

Wow, Jon; you've started another big discussion:

Maybe several:

1. Good and evil: beyond it? You're talking about a value structure. Are our choices based on our radical freedom or on the good of someone else (as we see it of course)?

I vote for the latter. That's love. Love is an unalloyed absolute good-by my book. It's what I measure value by, not my freedom. Does this action promote the well being of me, or of the all (the other)?

I know all these arguments have valid and rational counter arguments. But here we talk values. What do you think is right? best? whatever.

Near the end of your comment you evaluate Illusions and Fight Club as:

"most of us are completely and totally blinded to our freedom"

Well that's fine, Jon. You can get it from Blake's 'mind forg'd manacles'.

But it doesn't justify Ann Rynd's philsophy, which invites a commitment to super selfishness, just the opposite of love. We have to choose; we have to decide it's good or evil.

I choose Rynd's program and Fight Club as destructive. Granted culture is as corrupt and depraved as described. That doesn't justify destroying it. It's also the last best hope for mankind.

God put the choice in the Garden. We chose the peccata felice (or something like that) and must live with it now-- until we reach the blessed state of perfect freedom.

Jon said...

It's extremely rough to talk about it, because understanding it and accepting it is not endorsing it.

As I mentioned in Fight Club review, Paul said "All is permissible, though not all is beneficial." As for me, I want to hang with the beneficial gang... And I DON'T want those who think all is permissible to come near me!

Yet, part of the measure of love must be the freedom from which it springs... My cat loves me, but doesn't really have too much of a choice.

When one gets a glimpse of oneness--that there is no other, you realize that you are truly free. Hsving no fear of not "being good," makes Goodness so much more meaningful then when one does good things out of their conditioning. It's almost like the old argument about why God doesn't make us love him... "forced to love" is a complete oxymoron. "Forced to be good" is too (A book that deals wonderfully with that issue is A Clockwork Orange!)

When there's no compulsion, no fear, only freedom, then there is Goodness of an order beyond what we know and experience. It's not for the orderly working of society or to avoid pain or punishment, but purely for it's own sake.