Saturday, November 20, 2010

Love and Control, and the God of Eden

It was decades ago when I drew this picture. Pedro is a Mexican marionette, or string puppet, and like myself, Pedro saw an inherent problem with the imagery of God. It would be much later when I realized that what I struggled with really wasn't so much God, but the Abrahamic/Monotheistic image of God.

Pedro is a marionette, a string puppet. But everything and anything Pedro did was completely and absolutely according to the will of God.

On the issues of sticks and carrots - Pedro thought - I am being rewarded or punished according to actions I am not completely in control of or even guilty of. How can this be a loving God?

Pedro realized – that from a certain point of view – he was enslaved to this deity, regardless of whether he chose to “surrender” to this God or not. What attached him to God; the strings that controlled and manipulated him, put bleeding wounds that could never heal. Pedro's ambitions were to somehow regain control – to take possession of the puppeteer's central rod & control bar; to be in control of himself, and potentially from that position, choose to follow or not follow this deity; to legitimately make the choice to 'surrender' or not.

The story ends sadly for poor Pedro. For once he does finally gain possession of his central rod & control bar, he discovers that he completely and totally looses control. He can never find himself in a position to legitimately make that choice to follow this deity or not. That he was never anything more than a slave.

...poor Pedro.


Now I realize this is only one of many potential perspectives. I also realize that this would upon initial glance appear near atheistic in nature. But this is an issue of the tension between Love and Control. And I for one do not believe these two things are compatible.

A great example of this is the story (graphic novel and movie) of Coraline. It is The Other Mother, (or the Beldam) and her alternative and near identical 'Other World'. On initial look everything is better. Everything is catered to Coraline because the Other Mother loves her.

But as the story unfolds we discover that that nagging uneasiness we've felt from the very get go may very well have been justified. The Other Mother is the true power and force behind this entire other world. God-like in her power with a tiny exception; she cannot create, but only copy, twist, and manipulate.

But why? She just wants someone to love. There's a price for her love and adornment. The sacrifice of one's freedom. You must stay in her fabricated world forever. In essence, becoming her slave. (And as the story advances, we discover that it becomes worse than this for this fake God – this Demiurge – becomes easily bored of her newly acquired objects of love and affection, only to discard and abandon them, essentially, to death). (On a side note, it is also interesting that another name for the Gnostic's Demurge is Ialdabaoth, or Yaldabaoth, an imperfect god, a blind god even. What's further interesting is that Coraline's Other Mother has artificial eyes - buttons! - sewn on, for without them she is blind).


Coraline reminds me so much of a certain point of view of Gnosticism that I am somewhat surprised nobody has made the comparison before.

If we reread Genesis, but from a certain Gnostic perspective, we can clearly see this exact same pattern. The source material (the book of Genesis) itself is not altered, but its interpretation is. In this perspective it is the symbols and imagery that are switched. (If interested, you can read a more detailed analysis of this at Gnosticism, Valentinus Style).

The Garden of Eden is only a deceptive paradise created by 'The Lord God' for reasons little more than a cage, in which Adam & Eve are (unknowingly) imprisoned. Objects of this deity's love and affection (and a source of worship) but only under certain conditions. But mankind is not content and somehow innately knows it; is missing something and reaching for it. ”The Lord God” (desperately) attempts to fulfill this longing and repeatedly fails.

Enters the subtle, crafty, and shrewd serpent. (And you'll note that none of this descriptive words mean evil). In this particular interpretation the symbol and imagery of the serpent is more akin to (possibly) the Holy Spirit, giving directions to their escape from this delusional cage of Paradise. The serpent is acting of behalf of something or someone external to this Garden of Eden. Something or someone above and beyond ”The Lord God” of the Garden of Eden.

The 'secret' to exit this existence of enslavement and servitude is to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. (For which the God of Eden is concerned with, but even more concerned with, what if Adam & Eve were to eat of the Tree of Life?!

The potential, while still maintaining this alternative symbolism and imagery, is that the Son of God – not the God of Eden, but an external and alien God – a 'true' God – Yeshua is the Fruit of the Tree of Life (and must be consumed...) not so much for Salvation, but for enlightenment. Not so much the roll of Redeemer but as Revealer.

Now I am fully aware that the Conservative Christian will bolt with fear of heresy and damnation, making accusations of following Satan (or at least being duped by him). Let's add that this interpretation (either interpretation) are not literal history. I don't believe either historically happened. They are myths (and myths are not lies or fiction), but myths with meanings. The truth is not in the fact of whether these events really happened or not. I think many people fail miserably to see and recognize within this Gnostic interpretation as well as within their own bible, that it doesn't have to be literal or historic to be true.


Love and Control.

I think this may very well be the defining difference between being Religious and being Spiritual.
The stories of Pedro, and of Coraline's Other Mother, and the Great Escape from the Prison of Eden, are all lessons from parting ways with organized and institutionalized religion. These are slave masters.

The Mexican marionette Pedro made a simple mistake. What he thought was God was really little more than his religiosity.

Coraline (interestingly, with the help of a Black Cat who was not subjective to the Other Mother's powers...?) saw through the Beldam's deception and lies.

And Adam & Eve (mankind) became enlightened by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, gaining the potential of Tree of Life.


In conclusion, I believe to the Spiritual, God loves us, while to the Religious, God controls us.
I don't believe you can have it both ways.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Terminator: Time-lines

(For fans and buffs of the Terminator movies)

The Terminator story is only temporally linear from the first to the second films. These two are critical to the story/time-lines. However, both time paradoxes (predestination paradoxes) are finalized.

All following movies/books/stories/series are “splinters” or branches in probabilities (not considering the various video games). What becomes obvious is that in the vast majority of probabilities Judgment Day cannot be stopped, only delayed or advanced. (Judgment Day being the precursor to to a future war between man and machine, the probabilities following John Connor's various attempts to advert or avoid this future war).

However, what becomes extremely interesting to me is that in The Sarah Connor Chronicles this “future war” is actually being fought today, in the here and now! Skynet and John Connor having sent their soldiers and agents back in time to do battle – essentially starting a time-war rather than a war at a future historic date.

The only aspect of these time-lines that do not change are the first movie ("Terminator”), the second movie (”T2: Judgment Day”), and the never-seen final conflict between John Connor and Skynet (in 2029) in which all the various agents, soldiers, and Terminators are sent back.

If we were to map out these time-lines it might look like this:

The only real story left to be told is that of the final confrontation between John Connor and Skynet in 2029.

The real question – due to the various and numerous (potentially countless) time-lines becomes, must this future John Connor and Skynet send back agents for all probabilities?

This future John Connor and this future Skynet become more akin to some sort of mystical entities rather than individuals. It becomes a story that may very well be impossible to tell. Both these future figures become unknown (possibly even unknowable), mutable, non-fixed, and definitely historically non-static.

We know that this future John Connor is aware of the predestination paradox and deliberately sends Kyle Reese back in time to secure not only his birth, but his very existence.

Skynet does the exact same thing – securing its own genesis and existence. The only difference with Skynet is a question of awareness and intent. However, this becomes an insignificant question when we look at another. Must both the future John Connor and Skynet have taken action in regards to “failed” probabilities? Must these two Unknowable Future Entities have even been aware of the grandfather paradoxes?

What I mean by this is, in 2029 does Skynet send back a T-101 to 1984, a T-1000 to 1994, and a T-X (“Terminatrix”) to 2004, while – to combat these potential time “ripples” - John Connor sends back Kyle Reese to 1984, a reprogrammed T-101 to 1994, and Kathrine Brewster (John's wife) sends back another reprogrammed T-101 to 2004?

Ironically, the success of these “missions” or “operatives” would obliterate their future necessities... a grandfather paradox.

It is not my intention to point out a flaw in the storyline (even though I don't believe this is a flaw) but to attempt to draw some truth out of it.

In this analogy the Future John Connor and Skynet (both seemingly near omniscient) represent God and Satan; Good and Evil, engaged in a final war yet to come – The End Times. Certain quite literal interpretations of the book of Revelation, Final Judgment and Salvation and Damnation.

But what if, like The Sarah Connor Chronicles, this battle is not one off in the future – at the End Times – but right now, everyday, in the here and now?

Skynet is much more than a super-smart computer. It is much more than the leading-edge of AI technology. It is much more than the first self-aware AI. It is even much more than the first machine endowed with Free Will. Skynet is excising a sense of morality.

In order to exercise judgment against mankind, this action also necessitates awareness, intent, motive, and some sort of moral sense (granted a poor one – at least for us).

Skynet faced the temptation of the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil and Fell.

Similar to what Rob Bell suggests in Velvet Elvis in regards to Adam and Eve and the Fall. Namely, that there were not a historic or literal Adam or Eve and the story of the Fall is true only in metaphor; that this story, this temptation and struggle and Fall is an extremely personal one – one we each as free willed individuals faces daily.

Again, I am revisiting the abandonment of literal holy script interpretation.

Can we take the whole Terminator storyline as an analogy (regardless of its creator's intentions), as a sort of reflection of our collective cultural, or possibly artistic interpretation, views, thoughts, and fears of our times?

I've written an article some time back titled Cultural Mythology about this apparently inherent fear present in our culture. We see it repeatedly in movies and TV like Terminator, Star Trek's The Borg, and The Matrix. Could these monsters represent a manifestation of our collective unconscious fear of Modernism?

Could they be the zenith of Modernism?

But there is another less dark way of looking at this: In the original Star Trek series Dr. Spock represents the Modern Man – believing all can be controlled, understood, and dissected by logic, science, and reason.

While in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data represents the Postmodern Man – having achieved the pinnacle of scientific and technologic advancement yet longing not only to be human but to understand being human – realizing the limits and limitation of logic, reason, and science.

I have found much of the Modern Church and many Christians (most notably Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) function on this Spock-level.

We see this same Now-Future dichotomy in Islam. In the Golden Age of Islam, before the “Gates of Ijtihad” (Islam's third 'source' or root) were “shut”, the focus was to attempt to encourage and be receptive to new ideas – to live in harmony with other faiths and peoples. Although it wasn't perfect, the intention was there. Blind Faith was frowned upon and resolving an issue using analogical reasoning, thought, and dialog was promoted. The focus was on the Living Now and, to a certain degree, benefiting society.

Since the “closure” of this 'third root', many aspects and factions of Islam now reward and promote Blind Faith, a tribal and imperialistic idea of Islam. Would-be martyrs are promised 72 virgins in the afterlife. (Although certain scholars argue that the correct translation might not be “virgins” but “white dates”, a very valuable commodity in the 7th century desert. And it is unlikely the 72 white dates would be for the martyr but his surviving family).

This kind of mentality and these beliefs are the Skynet and Terminators of our time. They, ultimately, bring nothing less than destruction.

They become guilty of the same thing Skynet is guilty of; The belief that the end justifies the means. Its lack of understanding of the nature of truth; seeing the only valid and valuable truth as being only the literal, historic, factual, and ultimately, empirical.

Can there be truth in fiction?

This “battle”, this personal struggle is not one yet to come, like a war we are to prep and prepare ourselves for (similar to what St. Paul seems to advocate in his writings, saying that we are to race towards some goal, a future reward)...

...but rather, a perpetual internal struggle (with external manifestations), similar to the advise Yeshua gives when he says to “be on guard”, to live your life right here, right now! - like the End Times are already upon us; don't wait! Do it right here and now!

Maybe the truth of the matter isn't that Yeshua didn't know when this time would come (”Only the Father knows...”) but that he knew there really wasn't a time beyond the present, the perpetual Now; there was not End Times.

When we combine this with Yeshua's confusing description of The Kingdom of God – that it is not here or there, but it is here, right now, within you and within me...
... I've never believed Yeshua's Kingdom of God was synonymous with the Heaven of the Afterlife, the byproduct of Salvation, judgment and the End Times...
... in fact, I'm not convinced Yeshua ever promoted or taught of the Heaven of the Afterlife.


I'll attempt to bring this post to some sort of conclusion:
So, which do you engage in?

Collecting some sort of Divine Brownie Points for a judgment yet to come by a hidden Supernatural God ?

Or attempting to live Yeshua's Way right now – today - for a truly ever present God?

Which ”time-line” do you follow?