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Research & Thoughts

Scourge of the Soul: Introduction


We all have monsters in our subconscious. It's why we created laws and religions.
Leslie Nielson, Forbidden Planet


According to Dr. Radin, the widely accepted belief is that our consciousness is baffling but not paranormal. I suspect if an animal started talking like us, we'd call that paranormal, but our minds are so widely accepted as normal that, even if someone has an altered state, such as autism or Down's, we still call it normal. There are also those who believe that the world does not exist independently of our ability to perceive it.[ Dr. Dean Radin, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomenon (New York: HarperOne, 1997), 9 & 136.] But isn't the very existence of various religions created by humans giving them too much power? Why do any of us believe what we cannot see but can only feel?

In this search why we believe, why consciousness gives us a fear of death and how that effects what should be a logical thinking brain, I hope to get readers to think about their own belief systems and whether it's actually a healthy one. By healthy I mean does it lead you to live a better, happier, cleaner life? I ask us all to go in-depth to uncover why we believe what we do.

I developed this basic idea while attending a consciousness discussion with eight other people, and I felt they got off topic by asking if rocks have consciousness. My response would have been (and maybe was) that consciousness as a concept is a human construct in itself, and must be examined in that light. We all know that nature is symbiotic. We are the ones considered harmful and destructive in our desire to capitalize nature for our "ease of living" (EOL). Even animals instinctively seek EOL. But we can rationalize anything using our minds -- and we can, and do, disagree about everything, too. Why? What makes one person more right than another? Why do we feel we're fighting each other all the time?

One answer, the one I seek to uncover, is religion. They say when you're in a group, never discuss politics or religion. Trust me, it's not always been that way. I'm pagan, I do a lot of research on ancient cultures, and if there's one common thread that's been written from exploration of their oral stories, it's that all in nature is spiritual. Religion is supposed to be spiritual, but became about power. There are no disagreements in nature. There is survival for the fittest -- no past, no future, no worries about death or the afterlife. What, then, is this consciousness for? To make us believe we create everything about us with our thoughts? To believe that our beliefs are reality?

You'll hear this EOL concept often here. Once humans realized mortality, that they were going to die, that life was impermanent, they created gods to explain what happens after death. The creation of gods came from EOL, because what eases life more than a belief that when you die, that isn't the end of you. Of course some people believe it is; they're called atheists, and, being married to one, I can only say that he finds comfort in his belief as well. That's what ease of living does. It gives us comfort. No one wants to live in mortal terror all the time, after all.

There is an inherent danger in writing a book like this. All humans experience our minds in a unique way that cannot be easily shared. The Dalai Lama noted this problem when he wrote, "We risk objectivizing what is essentially an internal set of experiences and excluding the necessary presence of the experiencer…We have a unique case of inquiry: the object of our study is mental, that which examines it is mental, and the very medium by which the study is undertaken is mental."

By mental, we mean subjective. You don't like the same movies as your spouse? That's normal. He likes anything with violence, you prefer romance. That's subjective. Our beliefs are subjective. They either come from inside us, or we had them brainwashed into us, and can't even begin to think about what we believe inside. I will tell sad case stories along the way.

Is this a book of philosophy or psychology? I better answer that right off. Hillman and Shamdasani believe the two are connected and inseparable.[ James Hillman & Sonu Shamdasani, Lament of the Dead: Psychology after Jung's Red Book (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), 202.] I see philosophy as a study of humanity while psychology takes that study more to the individual level. So this book is a study of philosophy with a smattering of psychology, which means study of the soul. But not of one soul. We're going to look at the religions that seek to conquer your soul, and how effective they've been and the power that gives them.

There's a reason they say we shouldn't discuss religion or politics. The two are closely entwined.

Hillman and Shamdasani also say there's no such thing as individual myth, that personal cosmology is an oxymoron.[ Hillman, Lament, 64.] This study will try to prove them wrong.

This is a study of human myth, of which religion is the basic form. We'll look at how dreams in the subconscious created most of that myth. Radin noted that after 100 years, "psychology has not produced even the crudest model of how processes in the brain are transformed into conscious experience."[ Radin, Conscious Universe, 233.] I hope he didn't include Jung here, who practically coined "collective consciousness," an idea we'll play with throughout. Collective consciousness could be applied to religion, as well as to how the animal world works. But we may find the term disingenuous along the way.

This is an exploration, above all. I don't know what we'll find. But I'm open to possibilities.

Jung noted that people have become so tied up and immersed in their own visions that they got others to believe in them.[ Hillman, Lament, 106-107. They also discuss this notion of "belief," but I'm going to tackle that elsewhere on a more personal level. That's what philosophers do.] Cults are one expression of this, with the most current being Trump, the GOP and Conservative Christians. These cults are the likely beginnings of most religious philosophy. It is important to understand this. Anyone can have a vision. But unless you have a way of sharing it, and of internalizing it, it does nothing for you or the world around you.[ Hillman, Lament, 172.] You may understand your place in the world a little better, at least, until the next person challenges you, and then self-doubt starts all over again.

Self-doubt leads to persecution. How? There's the example of someone who is so insecure in his beliefs that he refuses to have anything to do with people who don't believe his way. He might even act out against them. We see this in people who take their religious beliefs to extremes. There's a reason John Lennon sang "Imagine no religion … living life in peace." And yes, he was killed for his belief.

Human consciousness can be explained in two ways: how humans have acted to set themselves apart from other animals, and how they think about their selves and their behaviors. I seek to show how a more animalist/human approach to living will be more peaceful. The key is both natural and scientific, as you'll learn. Anthony Gottlieb expressed this when he referred to Socrates: "Surely it is one thing to come to know that a principle of action is right and quite another to behave in accordance with it. Could not someone find out all sorts of things about virtue by talking to Socrates but still go off and be wicked?"[ Anthony Gofflieb, The Dream of Reason: a history of philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2000), 152.]

Is that what human consciousness is? Knowing what's right and still behaving wrong because it fits your belief? To a large extent, yes. It's understanding that we have choices, and act on those choices, good and bad. Animals seem like they have choices, but theirs are directly related to instinct and survival. And yes, choice. Animals can choose what to eat. Maybe they're hungry, but not hungry enough to eat the food they don't like. When I take my cat for a walk, she'll always sniff the air to make sure it feels safe before she walks with me.

Ours beliefs are much more complex. Can consciousness be given properties? Radin supposed that it extended beyond the individual (which accounts for paranormal activity), that it injects order into a suitable environment (aids understanding of what's around us), that it fluctuates depending on focus (some are better at focus than others), that group consciousness exists (all focused on the same thing), that when group consciousness falters it produces background noise (where nothing gets done), and finally, when the mind moves, so moves matter.[ Radin, Conscious Universe, 174-175.]

Notice that nowhere in here do we see the very real phenomenon of emotion or belief. All above parens are mine. For instance, when you're at the height of feeling focus can get lost, such as crying while driving and you'll miss your exit; emotions can remove your ability to think rationally. Beliefs can destroy facts, or your ability to recognize facts, such as Trump believing he won the election without any proof.

Radin says order is the connection between mind and matter. Without order is chaos. The idea that mind and matter are part of a connected whole, Radin noted, has been observed by many scientific and scholarly disciplines. We are fully connected and at the same time we are isolated. We understand real loneliness when we lost this connection.[ Radin, Conscious Universe, 189 & 302 & 315.]

Much of what you see in these pages will be historical. As a historian, I have undertaken to explore and present in one concise book the vast information gathered on the beginnings of all forms of religions we see in the world today. Here we'll see where power develops, where humans are so invested in believing something that they lose the ability to see any other perspective. You'll see many opinions here, all by humans with minds, and no one is better than any other. It's hard for anyone to be subjective, which is why you will not just be reading my voice here. What I choose to show, though, is also subjective. But I think you'll see where you get your subjectivity from in this exploration.

I will set this out here. I believe that reincarnation will emerge in its purest form as the one belief in all religions that is the most acceptable. It is also the most scientific. The first humans with conscious recognition of death began to treat their dead as something more than a dropped body. When and why did humans invent God? Does this belief that we invented our gods and goddesses mean this intelligent super being does not exist? Or do we believe our gods exist because the gods themselves put that notion into our brains? I hope to find answers here.

Those who are atheist deny there is anything beyond life. If we have a brain trauma and our personality alters because of it, isn't that proof there is no soul? Maybe. But if you can imagine how layered your brain is, and how layered your soul is, think of them as interwoven; your soul can change and adapt to your body, in other words. Also remember you have a subconscious, or "unconscious," to use Carl Jung's term. That means much of your personality, or past life experiences, remain buried. If a part of your brain is damaged, it could mean that another part of your unconscious has opened and that part of your past life personality is now being accessed.

But yes, though the soul exists is a belief, because there's no real proof, I will try to demonstrate its existence in these pages. Religion is, however, undeniably a human-made construct. Like John Lennon said, "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." Anselm defined God as "that than which nothing greater can be thought", and argued that this being must exist in the mind, even in the mind of the person who denies the existence of God.[ Anselm quote from https://www.bing.com/search?q=anselm%27s+ontological+argument&form=EDNTHT&mkt=en-us&httpsmsn=1&refig=5e2f7e491b3f44989e1c6d93a06a2095&PC=LCTS&sp=3&qs=LS&pq=anselm&sk=LS2&sc=8-6&cvid=5e2f7e491b3f44989e1c6d93a06a2095&cc=US&setlang=en-US; Lennon quote from his song, "God" post-Beatles.]

Do we exist to know the mind of God, as we've heard religious scholars say? [ Radin, Conscious Universe, 252.] Or does the mind simply exist as another survival mechanism, as some atheist scientists would have use believe.[ Radin, Conscious Universe, 285.] Humans are not fast enough, do not have claws or really sharp teeth, not enough fur to keep us warm. So we had to learn to use cunning. And we don't necessarily use our conscious mind to do that. We are still equipped with what animals have and that's called instinct. Our consciousness actually keeps us from accessing is as we should.

Are We From the Stars?
Atoms of all carbon based beings disperse on death. These atoms then reassemble into another carbon passed being. Matter is neither created or destroyed. All that is, all that we're made of, already exists. If you're looking for God, there it is. And it's all around us, a gift from the universe. We only needed the right planet with the right atmosphere to develope. And that's what reincarnation is, a reforming of carbon matter into another being. That's why some believe they can come back as a cat. There are those scientists who postulate that there is a "god particle" that could be what I'd call the soul atom. That would be where the consciousness comes from.

There's actually quite a historiography devoted to our early recognition of the stars. One that I've argued against, perhaps wrongly, is that effigy mounds built mostly in Wisconsin are reflections of constellations. I do believe they are star-related, but more a communication designed to speak to whatever is up in the heavens, perhaps stemming from a supernova that happened around the time of their development.

David Ulansey wrote on the mysteries of the cosmology, centered around the idea that early people figured out a mysterious astronomical phenomenon known as "precession." And I think we're all familiar with the Zodiac. Ever stop and wonder where they came from? Of course they came from the alignment of stars, but why were certain animals assigned to different groupings of stars? Ulansey didn't talk about the creation of the Zodiac but references them the sacrifice of bulls related to precession of stars.

Turns out there is no easy answer; no name to credit directly. Ptolemy is one named; he lived in Ancient Greece about the second century BCE. But though the Greeks and Romans may have given names to the Zodiac, the star designs were based a creation by the Babylonians as far back as 2500 BCE. Ptolemy popularized it, however, making it what we know today.[ David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology & Salvation in the Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), after a perusal of index. "What is the History of the 12 Zodiac Signs," https://www.reference.com/world-view/history-12-zodiac-signs-9f14078613993a84 ]

Why are most of the signs named for animals? Not all of them are, of course. There's Cancer, and Libra. Ulsaney's focus was on Taurus, the bull, and on symbols that show a sacrifice of the bull in the Ancient World related to precession.

Ulsaney summed up his research by saying that "the Mithraic mysteries began as a response by a group of imaginative intellectuals to the unsettling discovery that the universe was not quite as simple as they had thought it to be."[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 125.] This, of course, refers to their discovery of precession, but really, they had, long before that, thought that humans dwelled among the stars. Many believed that's where they went when they died. For instance, there is a connection between the Mithraic twins, and Greek twin gods referred to as Dioscuroi, as they all dwelled among the stars. Early mythology has a lot of twin gods, here as early as the fifth century BCE, but in the case of these two and their ethnography, that both pairs wore caps seems to indicate their ancient adaptation from a single myth.[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 112.]

Representing gods as holding globes indicates that they are the ruler of the cosmos. In this case, the globe is not earth, but a cosmic sphere.[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 95.] This was easily copied by the Christians, by the way. We'll talk more about the Stoics later, but they were the ones who were deeply invested in astrology, astral religion, and astronomical cycles when they learned of Hipparchus's discovery of the precession of the equinoxes in the 2nd century BCE. They decided a new divinity must be in control, capable of moving the structure of the entire cosmos. Ulansey surmised they called their god Perseus, that he was also the bull-killer (Taurus), because that was the last constellation the spring equinox had been in. Perseus was also a star system that lay directly over Taurus.[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 67 & 93.]

Understand the symbolism by realizing how important to them the spring was. If precession was frightening because they feared the world was turning backward, perhaps they thought it might get stuck in winter, a time when food sources were low.

There was a widespread belief, or longing, in the Graeco-Roman world, and indeed long a Pagan belief, that something powerful was in control of the cosmos. Many gods would be named to cover the many natural forces that Pagans had no control over. In Plato's Timaeus, according to Ulansey, each soul was said to be connected to its own star, and the growing importance of astrology in the Hellenistic and Roman periods demonstrated a belief that souls return to the stars after death.[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 86.] This must have been of great comfort to them, and this comfort continues today with continued belief in the Zodiac and astrology. Who today doesn't know their sign?

"The land of dreams," according to Pythagoras, is composed of souls, which are gathered into the Milky Way … named for the milk with which these are nourished when they have fallen into genesis.[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 61. This was actually what Porphyry said about Pythagoras, in his Cave of the Nymphs, written in the 3rd century CE, where he includes an astronomical explanation of incarnation of souls on earth. Cave of the Nymphs was his analysis of a Homeric writing.]

Praying to the heavens is the oldest single sign of human consciousness. We can refer to this belief as "Celestial Immortality," a term first coined by Franz Cumont in 1956. The Neoplatonists include a "complicated conception of the soul's celestial descent and ascent into and out of incarnation."[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 87. Author's book is about an ancient cult of astrology called Mithraism, where a small number of people recognized the existence of a new cosmic force that controlled the stars and precession (84). But I won't go into detail on this; instead just gleaming out some ideas on the stars for this chapter.] Destiny as controlled by the stars was a popular idea during Shakespeare's time, and even into today, where some people are still referred to as Stoics, accepting their fate as though they can do nothing about it. It was a "Stoic practice to see a divine being as the source of every natural force." Imagine, then, when they recognized Hipparchus's discovery of precession in the stars, that they didn't move in a singular, orderly fashion. This confirmed their belief in a divine control in the cosmic sphere. They saw precession as movement of the entire cosmos, rather than as the wobbly orbit of the earth.[ Ulansey, Mithraic Mysteries, 78, 80-82.]

The Free Will Controversy
This debate over free will versus determinism has been going on for a long time. Radin refers to a few people in the discussion. One is that free will means we unconsciously make our decisions before we're aware of it. But if mental intention is outside our conscious reach, then all our behavior would be determined by forces outside our control. This leads to the idea that free will really is an illusion, and nothing is in our control. (I hope I paraphrased this correctly).[ Radin, Conscious Universe, 317.]

Is destiny written in the stars? Have we no control? If our fate is determined by past life karma, then we do have control because, say, for instance, you hate this life you were dealt so much that you decide to commit suicide. What your karma then does is give you an even harder life next time. But if you were to say, well, this is hard, but if I toughen up and keep doing the best I can, then my next life will be better. This is the part that is your free will. The will is how you choose to respond.

We may have a death date already pre-determined, no matter how healthy we live. But why tempt fate by being reckless? We are not given our expiration date for a reason, and that reason is called free will.

Enjoy the exploration, and understand my goal is NOT to remove your personal, deep-seated belief in a god or gods. My goal is to make you understand that your belief is personal, and subjective, and thus trying to convert others is a sign of both power and insecurity and that is the scourge of the soul that must end.

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