Do Not Waste Time

Human beings exist within one of two systems: the “Muggle System” and the “Mystic System”. In the Muggle System, we transmigrate between six archetypes: muggles, muppets, divas, demons, victims and addicts. Each archetype is characterised by a dominant vice: muggles by sloth, muppets by anger, divas by pride, demons by violence, victims by jealousy and addicts by greed. Different people in the Muggle System have different centres of gravity, although most are muggles by default. Provoke a muggle and they may turn into a muppet. Shower them with praise and they might turn into a diva. Upwardly mobile muggles will gradually become more diva-like, whereas downwardly mobile muggles will gravitate to one of the lower realms: through victimhood, addiction or demonology.

The most stable positions in the Muggle System are muggles and addicts. If life is ticking along smoothly, you will strengthen your muggle status and you will receive the benefits of muggleness: a good job, financial security, creature comforts and the emotional support of friends and family. If things start to go wrong and you let yourself go, you will probably end up settling down in the addict realm with forays into the victim, muppet and demon realms. Where muggles are attached to a sense of order, addicts have an underlying attachment to chaos.

Most people live in the Muggle System. The successful ones are muggles and divas. The unsuccessful ones are victims and addicts. The muppets and demons are there just to annoy and torture everyone. There’s plenty to do and plenty to keep us all interested and entertained. We can envy the more fortunate and pity the less fortunate; agree with the agreeable and fight the misguided; criticise the conceited and excorciate the irredeemably evil.

Most people seem tolerably happy in the Muggle System. However, some feel that there must be more to life. Surely there must be a way out, or a way beyond the endless merry-go-round, this eternal return of the same? Religion seems to point beyond. The beginning of the Buddhist spiritual path is the realisation of the First Noble Truth: “dukkha” or “unsatisfactoriness”. The ordinary human world, characterised by the Muggle System, is unsatisfactory. It doesn’t satisfy the deeper longings of the human heart.

But where does this deeper longing come from? And does everyone have it? For Buddhists this longing is described as “bodhichitta”, the “thought of Enlightenment”. If you have a clear enough idea of the possibility of a more Enlightened state, then the longing for this state naturally follows. From the longing then flows the motivation to take the necessary steps to realise this more Enlightened state.

In the Abrahamic faiths, the language is different, but the orientation is the same. For Jews, Christians and Muslims it’s the thought of God that draws the soul towards something beyond the Muggle System. However, without a deep longing or a deep experience of this “something beyond”, the thought of God is just one more thought floating around the Muggle System.

The “thought of Enlightenment” or the “thought of God” must produce enough longing for Enlightenment or God to produce a “turning about in the seat of consciousness”, what the Ancient Greeks called “metanoia”. Christians usually translate this as “repentance”, which gives it a particularly moral feel. If you want to think in moral terms, the Muggle System is a state of separation from God and therefore a state of sin (literally “missing the mark”), so that turning away from it is “repentance”.

There is a big gap (more like a Deep Chasm or a Yawning Gulf) between the Muggle System and the Mystic System. The bridge is faith. But I could equally have said “the bridge is grace”. Or “the bridge is gnosis (direct experiential spiritual knowledge)”. Or “the bridge is prayer” or “the bridge is meditation”.

There are clearly many bridges across the Ravine of Infinite Space between the Muggle System and the Mystic System. Any muggle can amble across a bridge (even a psychedelic one) but without a true metanoia of the soul, they will always return a muggle. To actually reach the other shore and step foot on its mystical sands requires faith, grace, gnosis, prayer, meditation, vision, surrender, hope and love. And maybe a bit of luck.

When you cross over you are an “initiate”. Whichever bridge however crossed, this is your initiation into the mysteries of the Mystic System. A new archetype has been born in you: the mystic. You have tasted something of the riches and glory of the spiritual realm and have established a crossing from one world to the other. Now you have a whole new world to discover and explore.

In the Mystic System the stable positions are the mystic and the king (or queen). Mystics are initiates, neophytes, seekers, beginners. Kings and queens are fully established and integrated spiritual beings. They are the “anointed ones” or “bearers of Christ”. Between these two types are the shaman, the warrior, the monk (or nun) and the philosopher. The Mystic must become a shaman by drawing the spirit down into the body. The shaman must then become a warrior and a monk in order to defend and protect the embodied spirit. However, this spirituality cannot remain purely energetic or corporeal and must be passed back through the intellect to the philosopher king if it is to be fully integrated.

None of this makes any sense to muggles, let alone the other denizens of the Muggle System. Unless they are pretending, of course. Or have an over-active imagination. Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are full of muggles (and addicts) pretending to be mystics. Esoteric schools tend to have a higher proportion of mystics and other members of the Mystic System, but even there many if not most are actually muggles. Kings and queens are extraordinarily rare wherever you look.

In the Soto Zen tradition, the daily liturgy admonishes the monks and nuns: “Do not waste time”. In the Christian Gospel, Jesus admonishes his disciples: “Do not cast your pearls before swine”. Spiritual teachings are wasted on muggles and the other denizens of the Muggle System, except as a distant wake up call. Only true mystics can make proper spiritual use of them. Buddha recognises Buddha.

Look to yourself. Practice the virtues. Practice meditation. Cultivate the positive archetypes of the Mystic System and resist the lures of the Muggle System. If you meet a mystic, encourage and help each other. Teach and learn. If you meet a muggle, be an example to them. Be a witness to another way of being. But don’t try to convert anyone to anything. Don’t waste your time.