Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Dharma Entanglement: The Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome

The graphic novel, Watchmen, made Time magazine's list (2005) of All Time 100 Greatest Novels to be read (and the only graphic novel to make the list, alongside the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, George Orwell's Animal Farm, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, and William Golding's Lord of the Flies). Yes, it was also made into a movie in 2009, and a good one at that, but the book is still worth the read!

Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe in which our recent history is re imagined with superheros present (from the 1950's through the Vietnam War up 'til today – with the potential of an American-Soviet doomsday war looming overhead).

Nite Owl (a Batman analogue) who relies upon Owl-themed technology and gadgets.
Silk Spectre (both) were highly trained in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts.
The Comedian was more of a super soldier in the sense of the arsenal of weapons he seemed to enjoy using.
Ozymandias is the zenith of the human potential – using 100% of his brain and having achieved mastery over his mind and body.
Rorschach, a masked vigilante, and nighttime crime fighter whose sense of right and wrong are black-and-white in a gray coloured world.

The one commonality we find is that these superheros do not have super powers... and then we have Dr. Manhattan. A glowing blue skinned deity with – as both the character himself and the reader slowly discover – near omnipotent powers.

As Dr. Manhattan's powers grow, the more 'secrets of the universe' he becomes aware of (none of which are openly shared with the reader unfortunately), the more and more distant and disconnected to his fellow human beings he becomes, to the point where he would seem to have not so much achieved Enlightenment, but passed into the realm of becoming a god; Alien and disconnected to the human condition. He can no longer relate and eventually abandons humanity and leaves Earth to pursue what we can only imagine to be his own interests or further enlightenment.

There's a great line in the movie A Fish Called Wanda where Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) corrects her dullard partner in crime Otto (Kevin Kline),

”Let me correct you on a few things... The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself!"”
I call this the Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome: Buddhism gone terribly wrong.(And let's not kid ourselves. It isn't solely restricted to Buddhism. We've all seen our fair share of the Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome run amok in Christian circles as well. Who's saved and who isn't and a hedonistic obsession for self-salvation. The other side of this coin is the counterfeit compassion of attempting to 'save others' through prosytlization to the point where either people become projects – dehumanized – or bragging rights to how many people one has 'saved'. But I digress).

The Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome is an exercise in missing the point, or totally becoming self-serving in our pursuit of (self) enlightenment or (self) salvation.

Interestingly, this "perfected" (if we can really call it that) state of Holistic Solace could be synonymous with what many might mistakenly understand Enlightenment to be. Because alone, it is incomplete and self-serving. This Holistic Solace, this state of "Enlightenment", this Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome would be lacking in one's ability to discern, absorb, and understand truth and have critical deficiencies in Compassion if not completely separated from it.

The Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome would be the Buddha's enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree and no more. He would have simply become enlightened and found no need to share this - let alone teach - to anyone else.

I believe when we focus our efforts on improving our mental and spiritual solace(s) alongside striving to find a better and more harmonious physical health, we slowly, surely, and gradually move towards a better and 'higher' soter state. Being 'healed' (salus), but more accurately, being made whole; unified. But these 'stages'; these areas of healing and unification and growth are all inner, private, and personal. By no means must we be perfect in these self-improvement endeavors, but we must be 'whole' enough (soter) to see clearly. We must be 'healed' enough (salus) to reach out and help others.

The-Doctor-Manhattan-Syndrome is when the effort is successful but our vision remains deluded and we can see no need or desire or purpose for compassion. It is an empty enlightenment.

Solace and Compassion are entangled by Dharma.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Judged by the Colours in my Skin


Liz Braun writes the column, "You're Bothering Me" in the Toronto Sun. On Friday, Sept. 7th, 2012, the Ottawa Sun  published the article, "Think before you ink!" .

I guess it's socially acceptable to judge a person by the colour(s) of their skin.

She says, "A generation ago, psychiatric textbooks noted more than 3 tattoos was a sign of psychosis".

Homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association up until 1972. Does that mean we're justified in judging, discriminating and looking down upon the gay community? According to Mrs. Braun's logic, apparently so!

The Michigan study done 'just a few years ago' in the journal of Personality and Mental Health, and its suggestion that there's some kind of link between heavily tattooed patients and signs of suicidal tendencies, sexual abuse, or substance abuse, was nothing less than manipulative.

Oh yes, but there's Liz Braun's passive disclaimer, "Calm down: The statistics refer to psych patients, not members of the general population".
Really? Than why list it at all?
I put this in the same category as saying, "No offense, but you're ugly". Prepping your insult with "No offense but..." does nothing to take the offensiveness away, nor does it give permission to say one's harmful words.

I think it is fantastic that the social value of tattoos have changed over the past 2 generations. We've become more tolerant and open minded. That's a good thing. (Maybe that's something the WWII soldiers brought back with them as well as their tattoos).

There can be no denying that tattoos shouldn't be gotten on a whim. But why list celebrities who have removed their tattoos and body art? Why not list celebrities who have gotten tattoos? (And since when  are celebrities suddenly a beacon of wisdom? Britney Spears? Definitely a roll model for our younger generation! Not.)

I think it's a good thing that we have the science and technology not only to provide beautifully tattooed artwork within a safe and sterile environment, but also the ability to have them removed for those who make that choice.

And that's my point; Choice.
I don't discriminate against the un-inked. I would like to think those who are tattooed should not be judged either, but apparently this article states otherwise. Regardless of whether you, or I are tattooed, not tattooed, or 'ex-tattooed', I don't want to be judged by the colour(s) of my skin.

I think what I find most offensive about this article is the fact that it attempts to hide behind the facade of simply giving advice to think twice before getting a tattoo. It is anything but.

Liz Braun is not making the point of 'think twice before you get a tattoo', regardless of the article's opening and closing paragraphs. Her point is that getting a tattoo (and by implication, being tattooed) makes you mentally deficient, mentally questionable, damaged, or somehow less of a person, and she backs this up with misinformation and half-truths (isn't that propaganda?)
To me this is inciting discrimination.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts or comments.
You can contact Liz Braum directly at her email, liz.braun@sunmedia.ca or at twitter, @LizBraunSun

Friday, September 7, 2012

“Free Will”, by Sam Harris; review and commentary

“Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have.

“Free will is actually more than an illusion(or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them”. pg. 5

This is an odd statement. I am simply being told what the facts are. Not convinced by any sort of method. Are these two paragraphs meant as an introduction?

Imagine a perfect neuroimaging device that would allow us to detect and interpret the subtlest changes in brain function. You might spend an hour thinking and acting freely in the lab, only to discover that the scientists scanning your brain had been able to produce a complete record of what you would think and do some moments in advance of each event.” pg. 10

"Imagine what it would be like to see the time log of these mental events, alongside video of your associated behavior, demonstrating that the experimenters knew what you would think and do just before you did.” pg. 11, Bold text added.
At this point in the book, it would seem that Sam Harris is giving us a completely hypothetical situation; posing a rhetorical question, but yet – somehow – expecting us to take it as fact. Let's hope these ”facts” materialize later in the book.

Unfortunately, what I find later in the book is disappointing. On page 24 we find more speculation.
If we were to detect their conscious choices on a brain scanner seconds before they were aware of them, they would be rightly astonished – because this would directly challenge their status as conscious agents in control of their inner lives. We know that we could perform such an experiment, at least in principle, and if we tuned the machine correctly, subjects would feel that they we were reading their minds (or controlling them)".
This is followed by a footnote, but a footnote worth taking notice to. This footnote, number 11, states, ”Unfortunately, there is some uncertainty as to whether the experiment was ever performed”.

Later (page 40) has another footnote (number 17) noting, ”...this notion of counterfactual freedom is also scientifically untestable. What evidence could possibly be put forward to show that one could have acted differently in the past?” Once again, dealing in speculation.

I have always attempted to be careful in my life and my decisions. I think it is important to ask yourself, can any good come of this?

"We did not know what we intend to do until the intention itself arises... this insight does not make social and political freedom any less important. The freedom to do what one intends, and not to do otherwise, is no less valuable than it ever was”. pg. 13
I agree and I am forced to question what is the intent of this book, this thesis? Can any good come of it? What is Sam Harris' actual goal? It makes me wonder if this entire premise – free will or no free will – is little more than a clever exercise, either as an intellectual argument, or simply being right.

In the introduction, he suggests that the question of free will touches a great many things, including morality and religion. Stating that without free will we lose our concept of sinners and criminals, guilt and innocence, and punishment. Although I do not believe he has a 'chip on his shoulder' about religion, there is definitely something at stake in the debate over free will.

What I find interesting is that he states,
"Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors. But there is a paradox here that vitiates the very notions of freedom - for what would influence the influences? More influences? None of these adventitious mental states are the real you. You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm”. Pg. 13-14

Interestingly, this is ”emptiness” in Buddhism, or ”dependent-arising” (or interdependence). Nothing - most especially the mind – has independent existence. (Although an argument can be made that Buddhism isn't a religion, but rather a scientific/empirical 'system' or philosophy. I think I may have 'bumped' into Sam Harris on the Buddhist discussion forum New Buddhist. It confused me as to exactly what he might be 'selling' here).

It saddened me to see the methodology of debate present. In the opening of the chapter entitled Changing the Subject, Sam Harris throws out the terms, determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism - clearly addressing an audience well versed in the Free Will debate. (It is also the chapter where a couple of the uncertain and untestable results are mentioned. This is religiosity for the Atheist). This entire exercise reminds me of attempting to learn and hear the various theological Christian camps' debates over Eternal Conscious Torment, Universalism, and Annihilationism. At some point, the arguments become so self-absorbing, basic practicality has long since become secondary or even abandoned. (I mean, outside of the fun and joy of debate, how important is it really, and what good can come it?)

What I believe Sam Harris sets out to do is establish - scientifically – that we do not have Free Will. But ultimately he fails to scientifically prove the point. (I'm starting to believe that scientifically it cannot be proved either way). I think the book is reaching for scientific certainty where certainty might not exist. I cannot decide who would be this books targeted audience. A friend of mine (and self-proclaimed Atheist) suggested this book for me to read, stating that it makes some great (and empirical) points as well as scientific tests and experiments that prove our choices are completely predicable. Clearly, this individual saw the points he wanted to see but looked no deeper, as many of these tests and experiments are somewhat questionable.

Maybe a better direction to pursue would have been the implications of whether Free Will exists or not. How this can shape how we view and relate to other people. Do we see those guilty of crimes as terrible sinners deserving little more than punishment, or do we see them as victims of circumstances far beyond their control and deserving of help? Do we see our own successes are a reflection of how great and important we are, or humbly concede our fortunate luck? Or maybe we should question the danger of allowing ourselves to absolute ourselves of any and all responsibility for our actions. I would have been much more interested in seeing this line of thought, exploration, and reasoning followed.

The conclusion of this book is anything but conclusive. At best what I gleaned from this book is that in the debate over Free Will, nomenclature – how one chooses to define Free Will – become critical in winning one's argument.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Dharma Entanglement: Introduction

We, the human species are by nature gregarious; social creatures. We live in communities. I also believe that is why we are religious; or at least have a tendency towards it. I believe we are all religionists of one flavour or another.

Maybe I shouldn't use the word “religion”. It can cause some confusion. 'Religion' often implies a necessary belief in God or gods. It doesn't need to. I would count Atheism as a 'religion' for the purposes of this discussion. Maybe a better term we should use is Belief-System. Yes, we'll save the term 'religion' for the disease of religiosity...


Because we are gregarious and because we must live amongst our fellow man – and with ourselves – I think this is the reason we all have and follow some sort of Belief-System. Some of us can happily name and identify which Belief-System we belong to and follow. Some of us cannot. Some of us think we can but in reality don't know.

Our ability to acknowledge which one Belief-System we belong to has no bearing of the fact that we all do. There are many of us who follow a Belief-System that has no official recognized status, or even some who follow an unnamed, poor, and damaging Belief-System. But the fact is we follow one or some.

Which, ultimately, brings us to an important question. What should we expect our Belief-System to do for us? What purpose should it serve and what purpose does it serve?
"Western philosophy, having little connection with everyday living, is (to this observer, at least) comparatively egocentric and impractical, with much Arguing and Theorizing, and much bounding back and forth across the intellectual landscape.

"Western philosophy has become the domain of pipe-smoking, tweed-suited college professors (who may profess it but not necessarily practice it) and hypercerebral students who, for all their intelligence, often seem to have a hard time washing their clothes or repairing the lawn mower.

"In the East generally... philosophy has always been considered of no value unless it can be, and is, applied in one's daily life.

"Out of the "Hundred Schools" of Chinese philosophy, only two - Confucianism and Taoism - have survived. They have lasted through thousands of years because they have proven the most Useful."

Benjamin Hoff, "The Te of Piglet"
What should we expect our Belief-Systems to do?
It's funny because this was the final question I came to during my 25 year 'travels' as a spiritual sojourner. An unfortunate event triggered this journey for me and began my searching for answers. - And boy did I find answers! - But that wasn't what made this journey so difficult and so challenging. Unbeknown to me, it wasn't answers that I should have been searching for, but questions. The challenge was that the questions, over the years,  kept changing.

I'm one to believe there's nothing new under the sun. I'm not going to present the things I learned as ideas I came up with or created or invented, but rather as concepts I discovered and stumbled upon. Men thousands of years ago – much more educated and wiser than I'll ever be – have summoned some of the concepts and thoughts that I desperately struggle with up in a single word. No, there is nothing new under the sun, least of all what I write here.

So, what should we expect and demand of our Belief-Systems? What should we demand of our religions? And when they fail to provide these expectations and demands are we ready and willing to eject them either wholesale or partially?

(It was late February 2012 when I had to submit my written thesis for my Black Belt examination in Taekwon-do. It was entitled “Solace & Compassion” and it was at that point when the purpose of most (all?) Belief-Systems solidified to me).

I should think our Belief-Systems and our religions should provide us three things and enjoy the byproduct of a fourth.

1) It should not provide us truth. It should provide us with the methods and tools to acquire, accept, and manage truth.
2) It should provide us with direction and guidance to Solace; inner peace (be it physical, mental, spiritual, or all three).
3) It should teach, foster, and help nurture Compassion for others. (We should be watchful that it doesn't pretend and offer a counterfeit compassion; pity).

A byproduct of these three points is community. And as gregarious creatures by nature – like or not – we live in communities. Families, friends, social circles, clubs, gangs, churches, unions, the list goes on. Not all communities are good; we must live in them never-the-less. But we can make good communities.

It is important to understand these three points and how they are intertwined with one another. Without Solace one is divided and conflicted. Without some degree of Solace caring for others is a near impossibility. To a certain degree, Compassion becomes the fruit of Solace. But yet so too can the opposite be true. Genuinely helping another – even a single kind act – can bring peace of mind and a sense of balance and harmony.


I wholeheartedly believe how we view, accept, and acquire truth heavily influences both our Solace and Compassion. If we are set in our ways and in what we hold to be true, regardless of what our experiences show us or how reality is, we will repeatedly come into conflict with those “facts” of reality. If we cannot or will not change to accommodate new or corrected truths then it becomes increasingly more difficult to live at peace with the world and the people around us. A Belief-System or religion that teaches us specific and erroneous truths rather than how to find truths can only undermine us.

I find it interesting those people who seem to feel the need to argue and defend the truth (often their truth). Truth needs no defending. It simply is. It should be self-revealing and obvious.

I call this 'Dharma'. This is not Dharma in the Buddhist sense of the three gems or the three treasures. This is not the Buddhist teachings that indoctrinates one into Buddhism. This 'Dharma' is simply the self-evidential truth, but more specifically our openness to being aware of it and accepting it. It is a reflection of ourselves more than the truth in question.

Dharma is not truth itself, but one's understanding of and methods of acquiring, accepting, and managing the truth...
...and Solace and Compassion are entangled by Dharma.

This is what I call ”The Dharma Entanglement”. This is the goal and purpose of a Belief-System I have come to believe and pursue.

Below is a map, a flowchart of sorts, showing the paths and conclusions I have come to and discovered. Although it shows the various paths and conclusions I have encountered it is extremely generalized and extremely summerized.  Yes, it will look like I am painting with a very broad brush. It may even appear judgmental, but please understand, years were spent (wasted?) following (not studying) these numerous and meandering paths. It is by no means meant to be a universal truth, but only one I have experienced. (I had been extremely hesitant in using this Excel-chart. It is far too 'mathematical'; far too black and white. It frightens and concerns me that it gives the wrong message that this entire process is little more than an equation, which it is anything but. Each and every point on this chart could easily be a lengthy post onto its own, and in fact, some of them are).

(The chart itself is a link to the Excel-chart proper and this chart has numerous links to various topics and articles).

When I had began this blogsite, The Woven, the idea was to explore and hopefully discover the commonalities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But like I mentioned earlier, the challenge was not in the answers I discovered, but that the questions kept changing. What it ended up becoming was an exploration of Atheism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and Gnosticism.

The Mu Portal

Although there could be many possible paths to the Dharma Entanglement, ultimately I believe “Mu” is a necessary gateway to escape the shackles of Religiosity and enjoy the emancipation of Spirituality. (Only then can Spiritual Solace be realized, cultivated, and nurtured).

Mu is Japanese for “not” often used as a prefix, but can stand alone, simply as 'not'. It can mean to “unask the question", suggesting that the problem does not lie within the answer (there is no correct answer), but within the question itself. The problem needs to be approached from another point of view.

I have found many monotheists (as well as many Atheists) lack a healthy sense of Doubt, and suffer from an addiction to Certainty. And when we fall victim to the Certainty Addiction everything becomes a matter of knowing and fact and proving one's beliefs. Faith dies. Truth takes a back seat to being Right. Thus enters the hidden and silent inner conflict. Combine this addiction with inner conflict and the monotheist's concept (fear) of Damnation and their Solace's destruction is complete.

”Mu” (regardless of which avenue one arrives here or even by which name one recognizes it as) is the ability of simply 'letting go' and be at peace with not-knowing. (And shortly we will discuss the value Gnosticism can provide to approaching this gateway and better understanding of it through symbolism). Allowing a Faithful Doubt (rather than a Doubtful Faith) and living at peace with its mystery. Something many religious people (especially institutional religions) struggle with.

I think this gateway is critical to one's spiritual journey. Without it, it is simply stagnation. Growth becomes impossible. The entrapment of religiosity remains unbroken.


There must be a great many paths to mental Solace; clarity of mind. I can only speak of my own experiences. For me it came through Guk-gi (“Self-Control”) and Jung-Joong-Dong (”stillness in motion” meditation), both from Traditional Taekwon-do's Jungshin Sooyang (“Moral Culture” - the base and underlying philosophy and principal behind Traditional Taekwon-do).

Physical Solace, is really little more than keeping your body healthy and balanced. I have began this process by certain dietary changes, being attended to by an acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, and being physically active (In my case, practicing Taekwon-do). I take a daily dose of Bee Pollen to help build and maintain my immune system and I have recently chosen to give up alcohol (Aug. 20/12).

These three forms of Solace are a potentially long process and I do not want to give the idea that I am anywhere but at the beginning of this process. But one thing is clear. At least I have a 'map', so to speak – a direction.

"Holistic Solace, Soter, Salus"
I believe these three ideas of finding peace or a balance within oneself can be cumulative into something truly marvelous. I'm at a loss as to what it may be called. Holistic Solace; Soter; Salus (Salvation? Enlightenment?) It needs to be explored as to what it is, but it is part of this Dharma Entanglement; intrinsically tied into Dharma and Compassion. Clearly this "Holistic Solace/Soter/Salus" needs to be better fleshed out. As of this moment, I'll have to leave that concept for another time.


Of the seven 'faiths' I have been looking at - Atheism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and – Gnosticism, must be the most peculiar of the lot.

There are hidden pearls of wisdom within it. There are also aspects of it present within many other Belief-Systems. It might at times be best viewed as fragmented. What complicates this further is that there was never a single group that we can refer to as 'the Gnostics' (capital 'G'). They were numerous, varied, and diverse. They existed in different times, different cultures, and different religions. It's surprising that we even use an umbrella term like Gnosticism for this entire group. But rather than focus on the underlying definition and traits that unify these varied groups, I prefer to focus on the bits and pieces worth extracting and keeping; those pearls of wisdom that we would do well to pay heed to, and have helped me on my way.

One strong feature in Gnosticism is their understanding of myth (mythos). It would seem at times deliberately opposed to historicity and purposely to combat literalism.

I particularly found values in Valentinus' gnosticism, a Christian Gnosticism. In his reinterpretation of the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden, we find a story through metaphor of an inner struggle to escape the oppressive slavery of Religion and suggestions of Religiosity's petty and insecure god.

The Garden of Eden is not paradise, but the Cage of Religiosity. The Serpent is not Satan, but Sophia - God the Mother - the Holy Spirit - showing the path (or the way) to the Mu Portal. The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is not Death, but to pass through the Mu Portal (freedom from Religiosity - emancipation), and only then can the Fruit of the Tree of Life be attained (The Fruit of the Tree of Life being the Cosmic Christ (Christ the Revealer rather than the Redeemer), Sophia, and Abba (literally "Daddy" in Hebrew, as opposed to the God of Eden, Yahweh/T'ien), all understood as metaphor, not literal history.

And it is here that we find an example of Gnosticism's strongest points.
But allow me to jump to a slight tangent for a moment:

T'ien, Yahweh, & Sophia

The Confucianist's concept of a Heavenly Power shared a certain resemblance to the Old Testament image of God. The Confucianists called it T'ien - “Sky”, “heaven”, “Supreme Ruler”. T'ien was seen as masculine and often ferocious. It needed to be appeased with sacrifices and rituals. It took sides. It granted authority. It transferred authority and sovereignty directly to the Emperor, the Son of Heaven.

T'ien was said to grant material prosperity as rewards (thus the Confucianist equation of wealth with goodness).

T'ien was considered something to fear rather than love, hence the emphasis on unquestioning obedience and loyalty and the absence of terms such as Compassion.

The Taoists on the other hand, saw Heavenly Power as both masculine and feminine, as symbolized by the Taoist's Yin-Yang symbol.

In the natural world however, Taoists saw it as mostly feminine in its actions, what Lao-Tsu called “The Mother of Ten Thousand Things”.

It was gentle like flowing water. It was humble and generous, like a fertile valley, feeding all who come to it. It was hidden, subtle, and mysterious. It took no sides, it wasn't tribal, and granted no authority. It could not be influenced or manipulated or appeased by sacrifices or rituals.

Like the dichotomy between the Confucianist and Taoist view of Heavenly Power, the Gnostics (Valentinus especially) revered and worshiped Sophia - the divine feminine.

Sophia - God's wisdom personified. Possibly the third aspect of the Holy Trinity itself; God the Mother.

The parallel between the Confucianist's masculine and ego-driven (insecure?) Heavenly Power, T'ien, and the Old Testament's masculine and blood-thirsty tribal God, Yahweh, is uncanny.
This projected God even carries itself forward into modern day Christianity with certain adherents' refusal to acknowledge anything but a masculine God, down to the Prosperity Gospel, Confucianist's twin image of wealth being a sign of goodness.

The Gnostic's divine feminine - Sophia - is the missing piece. Like the Taoists understanding of the feminine power active in the world around us, Sophia is the mother of all things. Gentle like flowing water, but never-the-less all-powerful like water. Even the stone cliffs are eroded away by the ocean. She is humble and non-egotistic. Generous and accepting all who come to her. She is the God of non-tribalism as she desires no sacrifices and cannot be influenced, manipulated, and needs no appeasement.

These factors, the wisdom of gnosticism, can be an equally valid path to the gateway of Mu; an escape from the bondage of Religiosity; literalism, legalism, an addiction to certainty, tribalism, and into the freedom of spirituality.

But the point here isn't to convince you of a female God. That would only lead you astray, making you fall victim to the addiction of certainty but only of a different flavour. The point is that we do not and cannot know God fully. God cannot be simply placed within a convenient box, categorized or clearly defined. If we believe we can do this, then the God we believe in is nothing more than a personal projection; an illusion. It is an act of supreme arrogance. And this applies equally to the Atheist as well. You do not and cannot know of God's non-existence. You cannot know for certain of God's theistic or atheistic natures. You can only choose to believe in it. To do anything else is arrogance.

I think in the opening verses of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tsu put it best, ”The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao”.

Which is why I believe and have listed Agnosticism as a potential path to Mu. Because a healthy agnosticism embraces Doubt as part of their faith. There are some “theological” issues you must be at peace with simply not knowing.

We can see the crossover Gnosticism shares with Taoism.

I know many people who would place Buddhism as Atheistic, but I think that's in error. Some Buddhists are theists of one sort or another. Some Buddhists are atheists. But ultimately I think Buddhism doesn't address the issue. It simply doesn't ask the question because it cannot honestly be answered beyond the statement, ”I believe...”

And for those who would pass through The Mu Gateway, ”belief” must not be abandoned, but must be acknowledged for only what it is. A choice but not necessarily fact. Belief but not necessarily truth.

I remember reading John Hick's God Has Many Names in 2008. He was speaking of interfaith discussions and pluralism.

He held hope for Judaism, Christianity, Islam (monotheistic religions) and Hinduism, but saw potential pitfalls and challenges with non-theistic religions like Buddhism, Taoism, other Eastern religions, and Humanism.

I think this demonstrates the problem quite well. Is the topic and goal at hand to find consensus and common ground on the issue of theism? Is it really all a Question of Theism? (Yes, I admit, many people will make it an issue of exclusively Theism), but is that the entire purpose and goal of religion and Belief-Systems? Are we really only concerned with being Right? Are we attempting once again to defend a truth which needs no defending?

Arguing and proving and defining God? Or is it only the shallow and spiritual hedonistic self-serving pursuit of Salvation or Spiritual Enlightenment?
No, I don't believe that.
Solace and Compassion. Plain and simple.