Nobodaddy, Haunted Universe, & the Ultimate Lesson of Job
The filmmaker Sam Peckinpah used to quote his father, a California judge: “All I want is to enter my house justified.” (He gave the line to one of his first Western heroes in Ride the High Country.) To know that we are blameless, despite the inevitability of hardship and woe, is what makes it possible to live with endless suffering.
Still, the idea exists within us that, if we are suffering at all (including from self-doubt), then we must surely be doing something wrong? Yet if sociopaths are said to sleep with a clear conscience, it suggests that the inability to doubt oneself is a symptom, not of impeccability, but of psychopathy.
It seems, then, that the problem is not with doubt itself, but with the self that doubts (itself).
“Am I to blame?” Job seems to be asking throughout, though never directly; his very insistence on being blameless exists within the context of feeling blamed, not only by his friends but by God, in the form of the dire consequences he is enduring: consequences which only we know were administered by the Satan.
Enlightenment is an idea that most Christians would consider incompatible with (or irrelevant to) their faith in God and Jesus Christ. Jesus was not “enlightened,” he was the son of God. Being “saved” is not a condition of consciousness or an attainment of the will, but an act of grace.
Since I parted ways with “Dave,” my only flirtation with the subject of enlightenment has been my habit of listening to Steven Norquist’s Haunted Universe at night, when I can’t sleep. A few minutes or less of the audio book sends me into unconsciousness, and it continues playing while I sleep. Including these unconscious replays, I have now listened to that short book maybe two hundred times.
Much of the time, I tell myself that Norquist’s sombre descriptions of “Ultimate Truth” make no sense, are internally contradictory (as when he claims not to exist, or says, “You are not listening to this”), and full of shit. What else is an illusory identity to think? I continue to be soothed by the words (above all by their mode of delivery), and find it impossible to dismiss their meaning—and truth told, not entirely desirable either.
To cease to exist while somehow still being here, is surely what we all want deep down? Why else the appeal of movies?
One of the things Norquist says (in chapter 4) is particularly relevant here, since it concerns God:
There is no being. There is no self. There are no beings in existence in this universe. But not only that. There is no higher self, no ultimate being. A look behind the curtain proves there is no one there. There never has been. There is only universe-consciousness manifesting spontaneously and perfectly. . . . Emptiness is the natural state of reality.
Yet the passage that opens the same chapter paints a picture both subtly and starkly different:
The Ultimate Truth is the most natural thing that could ever be. It is the reality, the very nature of all that is. And the ease with which the Ultimate Truth manifests is laughable. People have struggled for so long to find it, to grasp it, but they are fools. They have approached the Ultimate Truth with vulgarity. They have impugned its perfection with their insatiable gluttony. They have asked that the Ultimate Truth remove their suffering. They have asked that the Ultimate Truth will make them happy, that it will give them joy and endless bliss. Blasphemy. The Ultimate Truth is the fires of Hell, a flaming column of destruction, a whirlwind of annihilation. Anyone who would approach it must do so with the full knowledge that they will be seared from existence. The Ultimate Truth will suffer no illusions. Anyone who comes to it with hope must be torn apart.
The passage has an uncannily (I suspect intentionally) similar tone to that of the Old Testament prophets, when they speak of Yahweh. And when Norquist insists that everything besides Ultimate Truth is “filth” and “dust,” he evokes a similar, if not identical, tradition (from both Old and New Testaments, including the Book of Job), that we are but “dust and ashes” in the face of divine reality.
Norquist does have a point in denying even the existence of God (refusing to assign being-ness to Objective Reality), and it is this:
If Objective Reality exists (which by all definitions it must, and must be synonymous with “Ultimate Truth”), the only way we can ever encounter it directly is ~ without a subject! In other words, to encounter OR is, either to be annihilated by it, and/or, to cease to be in order to have such an encounter.
The “experience” of OR, by definition (though it cannot really be an experience) is synonymous with the experience of our own non-existence. How is it possible to experience non-existence? The same way one can “be” dead. Both are just as inevitable as they are unthinkable.
One must be subsumed by existence itself. Existence can thereby experience one. One can only experience non-existence-as-existence, and abide in the unfathomable paradox of that.
Ditto, the “God” that is everything and everywhere, cannot be found anywhere, and so must not ever be named.
This is perhaps why the impulse towards defiance (Satan’s doubting God, or the-God-that-doubts) becomes a necessity, an inevitability. Because, in the first instant that one has an experience (though impression is a better word) of “God”—as being somehow distinct from everything else, including oneself—there is then the natural impulse to deny and defy “it.”
After all, it cannot be the true God, since it has not consumed us. It can only be a projection of our self-image, informed by the indoctrinated lies of (countless) others. (When we are inspired to reject God, we are really rejecting the influence of other people, and of scripture, as Job does.)
And yet, the self that denies and defies God is also itself an indoctrinated projection, a falsehood. So the act of willful defiance (Lucifer’s stand against the divine) is, if anything, even more of a folly than worshipful obedience in the hope of some heavenly reward. Yet, to persist in such folly is the only way to attain wisdom.
We must sustain both points of view simultaneously, and allow them to nullify one another (like subject and object), to cancel out the subjective experience of an objective God, both as worship and wonder, and as defiance and doubt.
The Satan must meet “God,” and neither flinch nor turn away, for affirmation of being to become a heavenly not-doing.
To realize that everything is God is to realize that there is no God. It is to recognize that nothing means anything, including this fact. There is no external criteria for blame, failure, or damnation.
Salvation comes from within, or it comes from nowhere.
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