The Wheel of Samsara is a thumbnail sketch of the human ego. By “ego” I don’t just mean the distinctive manifestations of selfish behaviour that invariably elicit moral censure in others, I mean the basic structure of the human personality – any personality. Think about your name. What’s in a name? Your name somehow contains the whole bundle of ego states which make you who you are. You are a bundle of muggles, muppets, divas, addicts, victims and demons, just like everybody else, though differently configured. Amazingly enough, you can actually dimly sense your own unique configuration, just by saying your name.
On an individual level, the Wheel of Samsara is the “Ego System”. On a collective level, it is what Rastafarians call the “Babylon System”. The tricksy bit is that, all claims to the contrary, most religious people as much part of the Babylon System as everyone else. They have just re-arranged the furniture a little. If they are only nominally religious and live reasonably good, moral lives, they will be predominantly Type 1 or Type 2 muggles (“Home Muggles” or “Work Muggles”). If they are excessively religious, they will most emphatically be Type 4 muppets (“Fundamentalist Muppets”).
Rational, scientific minded secularists who think that they see through all the illusions lesser mortals labour under (the self-designated “Brights”, or “Enlightenment Bunnies” as I like to call them) are just as wrapped up in samsara as those they patronize with such abandon. Their “Chief Feature” is Type 1 muppetry (“Scientific Materialism”). Again, if they are nominal materialists, they will most likely live on the muggle side of the street. They will probably call themselves humanists, and may even live as good and morally virtuous lives as religious muggles.
All so-called “exoteric” religions exist within the Babylon System. If they are genuine, well-intentioned and orthodox, they will promote the cultivation of positive, pro-social feelings and behaviours and will help people be good muggles. They will defend people from too deep or frequent a descent into the addict, victim and demon realms and will divert energy away from the muppet and diva realms.
Exoteric religion is for muggles. Which is a good thing. The more muggles in society, the better. Muggles don’t want trouble. They just want to get on with their lives, and generally get along fairly peaceably and harmoniously. They are good neighbours and good friends. They are not to be sneezed at.
However, problems arise when muggles start to get itchy feet. For some restless souls, Muggle Land is just not enough. They want adventure and excitement, or at least something more meaningful than the daily round. Oscar Wilde clearly felt this when he said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”.
But where can a bored, disaffected muggle dandy go? He could take a trip round the Wheel and enjoy a spot of hedonism and depravity à la Dorian Gray, or perhaps a taste worldly success or, failing that, some good old fashioned protests and rioting. Alternatively, he could step off the Wheel altogether.
Stepping out of the “Ego System” is basically ego suicide. The person you thought you were, embodied in your name, disappears. Your old self dies. This is what “esoteric” religion means. You die to your self and are reborn as something else, hence the perennial esoteric motif of death and resurrection (which is why the essence of Christianity is esoteric, despite most practicing Christians being firmly exoteric).
Esoteric religion is also known as “mysticism”. A mystic is someone who enters the mystery beyond the egoic world of the Babylon System. In mystical consciousness there is no personality to speak of. What is there then? There is what Buddhists call “Buddha Nature”, the essential enlightened consciousness within each of us. No matter what twisted configuration of ego states we may play out on a rainy day in Babylon, behind it all is our intrinsic Buddha Nature.
In Christian Mysticism it’s called “Christ Consciousness”. As St. Paul succinctly put it, “Not I, but Christ lives in me”. In Vedantic Mysticism it’s called “Krishna Consciousness”. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. The important point is that it is not you. Not your usual you anyway. It is your “True Self”, your “Higher Self”, the Atman, Buddha Nature.
If you are ruled by your left brain hemisphere, you are automatically in the Ego System, and by extension, the Babylon System. If you are religious, your religion will be exoteric. It will have nothing to do with deeper spiritual realities. You will be you, identifiable (at least to yourself) by your name.
If you are ruled by the right brain hemisphere on the other hand, you are not that which your name points at. You are a Buddha, an “Awakened One”. You have escaped samsara and crossed to the other shore. If you identify with a religion, you will understand it esoterically, as a signpost to a completely different way of being. You will be a Mystic, and also, in time, a Shaman, a Warrior, a Monk, a Philosopher, a King, a Poet and a Priest.
And what’s more, you won’t be bored any more.