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Language: The Forbidden Fruit

Random thoughts on reframing the religious narrative

In the beginning was the Word...

Man was free to roam the garden, but must not taste fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. A spectrum that implies knowledge of everything. But knowledge requires technology. Technology in the truest sense of the word. Don’t think tools. Monkeys use tools. Think more foundational. Language. The technology upon which all others rest. So foundational, it’s invisible to us, as water is to a fish. The fruit represents language. The ability to label. To differentiate. To plan. To construct ideas. To reason. It is our language that separates us from other animals. And yes, mathematics is a language in the truest sense of the word. We’ve constructed linguistic edifices of the divine in the form of holy scripture and mythology. A strange scaffolding upon which all civilized people use as their vantage point to the divine. While the intention is pure, the result is clear. Alienation and exile from grace. It is why the Tao Te Ching begins with the telling line:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
In other words, the moment you label something, you’ve created a simulacrum. A two dimensional map of some ‘real’ three dimensional terrain. An icon. An idol. A stagnant linguistic construction of an underlying fluidity.

This is where the paradox emerges. God is just a word. A label. An icon. Open a computer and look at the desktop. To think that the file itself is the little blue folder is to be mistaken. But this is where we find ourselves. The religious texts that are supposed to bring us closer to the divine are what’s actually standing in our way, insofar as we don’t understand the difference between a label and that which we seek to label. The only remedy is unadulterated direct experience. A return to gnosis. The four gospels of the Christian bible were only a handful of many. Others spoke of the need for direct experience with the divine. Without need of fancy churches, a priestly class or strange metaphysical claims. These books were banished and with them, a legacy of true spirituality. Orthodox religion tells us that God is coming to us, but experience tells us that we must go to God. 

But as humans we have a cognitive tendency to mistake the map for the terrain to the point that we forget there ever was a real terrain. And so when someone points to the real terrain, we reject it insofar as their direct experience contradicts our static second hand, pixelated linguistic mapping. The intellectual rigidity is startling. And so we’re left with this strange movie set type neighborhood with no real substance. All the while, what we seek is right in front of us. This is it. No religious paraphernalia or hail Mary's required. It's time to reframe the religious narrative and reinforce the primacy of direct experience. 

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