Plus, a reader asks about making connections
Quick note to say, it was great to meet you last week at the Front Porch Republic Conference Paul, and thank you for answering my question regarding the UK and agrarianism - I had not considered the issue of land shortage before and that has given me lots of food for thought (and the Land magazine looks excellent - just a shame they are not accepting new subscriptions at the moment due to the chaos that their community is currently experiencing!)
Hope not to offend anyone, as many seem to be religious here. Just wondering what you think of such as these four different ways to explain religion.
• God exists: He created everything, knows everything and have been actively communicating and interacting with humanity regarding His plans throughout history, often in symbolism through prophets, sages and churches. Accessed through prayer/meditation/rituals. Whether a personalized deity or more pantheistic cosmic mind, or every nuance in between.
• The atheist way attributes religions to the needs of both individuals and power structures for existential explanations about unknown aspects of our origins, death and ethics. God and mythology are humanity’s way of satisfying this need, by creating Him in our own image. A human-created structure to live comfortably within, a way of centralising and monopolising spirituality. Alleged divine visions are testament to an impressive neurological capacity, or cynical control-mechanism.
• Aliens: Scriptures and prophets describe actual historical occurrences through mythic lenses, though they happened by the hand of extraterrestrial beings, who throughout deep-time have interfered, colonized, warred, genetically modified, taught and/or tampered with Earth’s natural evolution.
• Entheogens: Mythologies describe actual mystical visions experienced (inter)subjectively, oftentimes induced by psychotropic plants and fungi. The visions are in turn attributed to divine powers, either celestial or earthly, communicating and revealing reality to the visionary.
This is a rough sketch, and the divisions can easily be sub-divided and overlap with each other. Especially the last two, if we think of entheogens as a key to access higher dimensions, wherein more evolved extraterrestrials reside. Or one and four, where mythic divinity exists and is accessed by certain techniques or substances, as a sort of Sufi mundus imaginalis or Buddhist Nirvana. Actually, number four works with either of them in some manner or another.
With regards to this psychedelic way of understanding religion, a lot of exciting research and theories have been made. I’ll just briefly touch on some of them:
• The Amanita Christmas Theory traces Santa, flying reindeer and decorating pine trees back to shamans gathering, prepping and sharing the psychoactive mushroom fly agaric with nearby villages. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz_JZJkqsEc&t=64s&ab_channel=AfterSkool
• Brian Muraresku’s “The immortality key” delves into ancient religious practices, such as the Eleusinian mysteries and paleo-Christianity (particularly Eastern Orthodox), and the potential use of psychedelics like ergot in shaping mystical experiences for them (especially the Eucharist sacrament).
• John M. Allegro argues in “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, mainly through meticulous etymological research into cognates and symbolism, that the use of psychedelic mushrooms played a central ritualistic role in the religious experiences and symbolism of early human societies, and was transferred in morphed forms into the Common Era we still reside in. A bit weird and sexually reductionist, but nonetheless quite intriguing. Initially received as controversial, it’s since been somewhat rehabilitated and vindicated by respected scholars such as professor of classical studies Carl A. P. Ruck.
• Terence McKenna’s “Stoned Ape hypothesis” in Food of the Gods may be more fanciful, but nonetheless quite intuitive with regard to the evolution of human imagination and spiritual inclinations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxn2LlBJDl0&ab_channel=AfterSkool
• Plants containing DMT have been found on the Sinai peninsula and Negev desert, and some researchers attribute f.ex Moses’ vision of the burning bush to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byQ-dgOJuv8&ab_channel=TheCuriousMinds
• Another entertaining theory implies that the balm Jesus the Anointed used to miraculously heal the sick was made from cannabis, or Kaneh Bosom as described in the Bible.
• According to recent research from Johns Hopkins and others, a substantial number of participants in experimental psilocybin treatment reported having life-changing mystical experiences, often described as moments of profound interconnectedness, unity, and a sense of transcendence. In some studies, more than 2/3 described it as one of the most spiritually significant of their lives.
By all means, props to those who find peace and spiritual breakthroughs by their own craft. However, given the deep-seated conditioning many suffer under, in an anthropocene age of bicameral mind, Cartesian split and Machine capitalism, my position is that such remedies, and their adjacent theories about the psychedelic roots of religion as mentioned above, may loosen trauma and awaken grounded and forceful spirituality once more, for those who can’t. After all, shouldn’t we enable every tool available to counteract the shitstorm we’re in?
The great Martin Shaw has however stated how unimpressed he often is when youthful seekers tell him about trips they’ve had, because such activity are shortcuts out of rooted cultural contexts and tribal traditions, which often leaves the visionary without long-lasting meaning or capacity to digest the experience – “all sizzle and no steak”, as he puts it.
At the risk of verbosity and a moment too long of your precious time, I simply wonder if these perspectives are interesting, indeed potentially liberating, for believers invested in Paul’s project of enticing the flocks back to the woods and roots of it all, or merely regarded as immature heresy. Or something in between?
I haven’t figured out how to get to the Salon on Substack. In fact, in the app I have trouble finding the Abbey …
Has anyone had issues recently opening The Abbey?
Today seems to be fine, but a few days ago I was going back to re-read something and I was unable to open The Abby by tapping on the last post in my Substack Inbox. Both in the app and the mobile website. The only way I could get to the publication was to find an older article saved in my email and clicking the link from there. And Paul’s seemed to be the only Substack acting this way.
I tried a few others, including Hadden Turner’s (Hello Hadden!) and they worked just fine.
Seems that The Machine does not liked being called out, Mr. Kingsnorth!
Wild saints can wait, I'm still dreadfully behind. It's been refreshing to return to your work, Paul, and see how things have unfolded for you. One No, Many Yeses was an important book for me, a long, long time ago. I told a bit of that story in something I wrote today, which will be the beginning of a new series of writings partly inspired by the Machine essays: https://www.nobt.co.uk/p/the-mystic-and-the-malcontent
The Machine essays have given me a lot to think on. I'm wondering how to confront the horizontal haze of modernity whilst staying rooted in our vertical depths. On those depths, I'm hoping to explore another facet of the Machine: the evacuation of our interiors, a blindness to Being itself, that a Machine state of mind can't help but perpetuate, and how this shapes our understanding of what subjectivity is, at all.
Anyway, I will endeavour to catch up soon and looking forward to more saints and wells!
I was talking with someone about universal salvation, or the view that all souls will be saved in the very end. There are three arguments for it in particular that I appreciate. 1) The concept of "eternal Hell" is an oxymoron. Only God is eternal, and Hell is the utter absence of God, which means that there can be no eternal place that is Hell. 2) Our deepest human nature is the image of God; and if freedom means the capacity to perfectly realize our nature, then that means that any decision in favor of evil is an expression of unfreedom. When we are in perfect freedom, we will paradoxically have no choice but to choose Him. 3) The basic logic of love will not be at peace with some souls being condemned to Hell forever. Aquinas' view, which is that the saints in Heaven will derive pleasure from watching the torments of the wicked in Hell, is morally depraved. Much more Christian is the vow of the bodhisattvas, who refuse personal salvation until all creatures on this earth are also saved.
Many seem to believe that universal salvation is a heresy, but the formal stance of the Orthodox Church is that it is a permissible belief, with no dogma or doctrine requiring believers to feel one way or another about it.
The metaphysical implications are somewhat open. Assuming that not all people are going to become saints in this earthly life, universal salvation would seem to require either 1) ongoing purification of the soul in other realms in the next life, or 2) a type of reincarnation, so that people have further opportunity to become holy in this realm. I'm somewhat agnostic about the nuts and bolts of how it works, but I'm convinced that it does. And naturally, universal salvation should never be taken as an excuse to waste the gift of life that we have now. Whatever comes next, this life is of consequence—but it would be better to act out of the actual love of God rather than the fear of Hell.
One vision I have is that when it's time for us to depart from this realm, we will all be obliged to pass through a wall of purifying fire, and our egos are highly flammable. If we have spent our lives here drawing closer to God, then we may experience the fire as fulfilling our deepest desire; whereas if we have spent them clinging to the stuff that will burn, then the fire could seem like a sort of torture and loss of self. In other words, hellfire and holy fire might be one and the same fire, subjectively experienced by two different sorts of people.
Related to universal salvation may be Christian perennialism, or the view that the Logos who is Jesus Christ speaks through all wisdom in all cultures and places and times. It thus becomes possible to consider a distinction between "Christians of the heart" and "heathens of the heart", looking past tribal labels of what people merely profess with their tongues. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says, "Not all who say My name will be saved"—and I think that the converse must be true as well, and that many who don't say His name will be saved, since it is the state of the heart that matters. I expect that God is more concerned with whether our hearts are aligned with His will than with whether we formally declare faith in His name. If some professing Christians are in for a rather rude shock, then why not also imagine that some self-declared Buddhists are set up for a pleasant surprise? That's how I see it, anyway.
Many of us still work with this ancient mind altering tool, the book. It is particularly useful, because you can buy one and hand it to a friend -- or in my case, a 47 year old son -- and they can carry it away for use on their own life-rebuilding project.
Paul, when might we hopefully expect to find your magnificent series of essays on The Machine available in such a format? I plan to immediately purchase 10 copies for my friends.
It would interest me if Paul could write (maybe monthly) on navigating the reality of life in contemporary Ireland. I seriously wonder if “his hermit” days may be numbered. This country I believe is in the midst of self-destruction — as one person has put it, “we’ve genocided ourselves.” I think Paul’s outsider Christian-inflected perspective would be fascinating.
I've been reading Nihilism: the Root of Revolution in the Modern Age by Fr. Seraphim Rose. I'm relatively new to the Christian faith and still have questions about the theological or logical underpinnings of everything.
I suppose my main question is this idea of Absolute Truth - and that the postmodernist nihilists essentially argue that all truths are equal, that truth is an absolute truth, so their philosophy doesn't make sense. That checks out. But then I guess the leap of faith for me is going from discrediting nihilism to accepting the christian Truth as the truth to live our lives by.
While I have had personal experiences that led me back to the faith, I still can't help but wonder if the christian doctrine is... outdated? outmoded? Fr. Seraphim Rose talks about this type of doubt with scorn in the book, but as Paul has mentioned in his writings, I can't help but feel that we need to at least revitalize the truth of Christ, or help it find a new expression fitting for the modern world.
From my viewpoint, it still doesn't feel like most christians in their discussions of Christ's Truth have really grappled with the immense power of the rationalist, scientific worldview. While I do ultimately think that the materialist view is false and morally bankrupt, it's hard to deny the sheer explanatory power of materialism. I'd argue that's the major reason why nihilism has 'triumphed' in a sense in our modern age, for most people when they see things like modern medicine, airplanes, and nuclear armaments they can't help but buy in to the belief system that created those 'miracles.'
I hope this isn't too much of a ramble, but I suppose I'm just looking for confirmation that others have had similar doubts, and more deeply I'm asking for help understanding the faith and how to move past some of these deep doubts I have. Has anyone else here struggled with similar issues?
With all the unspeakable inhumanness around us particularly this month, the frontline where we are suffering exhaustion and losses for wanting to hold on to our humanity, has expanded dramatically. The Machine is one thing, the brutalisation of one human by another human is another. I am surprised I still haven't lost all faith in my fellow humans and there is a solid determination that I am not giving up on humanity. He saw us - Jesus saw us and had mercy and compassion for us even as his bleeding, tortured body was being nailed to the cross.
How can I give up believing in us?
Just wanted to say hi and thank you for the interesting posts. Special thanks to Paul for his thought provoking open and honest writing. I’m not a practicing Christian but was when I was much younger, back then I enjoyed reading authors like Ruth Burrows describing the life of some of the Saints and how prayer might be approached. More recently, I have found reading Buddhists such as Thich Nhat Hanh and philosophers Iain Mcgilchrist helpful. I don’t think I have anything useful to add to the discussion so far, only a sense of gratitude that forums like this are beginning to appear when the world needs more than ever to regain a relationship to the sacred.
Recently, while watching a documentary about a notorious, senseless double homicide at a Houston Pawn shop. The doc was seen through the eyes of the victims family and their decision to attend the execution of this dreg of society.
What struck me most, however, was the killers supposed conversion to Christ-the prison chaplain seemed to have no doubt about the authenticity of this literal come-to-Jesus experience.
Can this be a true transformation?
When an inmate knows the day and hour of his death and where Satan and eternal damnation awaits his arrival with open arms, where is the Free Will in this matter?
This phenomenon has been repeated countless times on death row as evidenced by the last statements of inmates found here:
Of Course, I shall leave the final judgement of their sincerity to God where it belongs but still I wonder if he had gotten away with this heinous act would he have converted?
The prisoner himself admitted as much in the documentary when he refused to fight his execution because he felt that if it would drag out for years then he would revert back to his evil identity.
Are all deathbed conversions suspect?
What about the penitent thief on the cross?
What about the parable of the late workers receiving the same wages as the early arrived workers (Matt 20:1-16)?
Are there degrees of Heaven?
Does Universal salvation make this a moot point anyway?
For me, it all goes back to the Free Will aspect of returning to God. Is it Free Will to turn to God when generations of your family have done so and you just continue the tradition automatically? It is my belief that Christ will use our own conscience to help him in his final judgements on us.
Here is that fascinating documentary that really provoke all these considerations:
“It seems to me that there might be a few of you who would like to talk to each other about building networks, communicating with each other outside of this Substack…”
Ruth and I (writing from School of the Unconformed) are hosting an online discussion this Saturday at 3 EST, which will include a recap of some of the talks at last week’s FPR conference by people who were in attendance, as well as discussion of the “3Rs” for un-machining our minds and reducing tech use in our lives. For more details see here:
I'm cooking up this project called The Question. That question is:
What do you wish that everybody knew?
The project is a site where anyone can submit their answer to that question.
There are many ways to view this project and one is spiritual. For spiritual knowledge is both:
1. Highly sure of itself
2. Desires to share itself with others (indeed everyone)
If you can answer that question, I submit you are in possession of a genuine spiritual insight. How about you share it? I'm curious to see which answers, if any, I will get here.
On the topic of making connections, readers here might be interested in Estuary https://www.estuaryhub.com/.
(and yes, today's cover picture is my profile picture, but I set it months ago!)
I like to sew, and I’m working on a challenging project (for me) and it’s so satisfying seeing it finally start to come together. I always like hearing about people’s craft-related skills...I’ve known people who’ve taught themselves marquetry, vintage car restoration, etc.
Do you have one? What does it provide you?