Delusion is the root of Samsara. If you are to escape from Samsara, you must cut the tree at the root. You may have to deal with your demons, with your anxieties and depressions, your addictions, your ignorance and arrogance. But if you don’t deal with your delusions, however hard you work on yourself, you will always be pulled back into the vortex of Samsara.
All spiritual traditions use the metaphors of sleep and waking and of death and life to point to the radical difference between two distinct states of consciousness. The Ancient Egyptians used the word “mut” to describe the state of the living dead, or the spiritually dead. Although you appear to be alive and awake, you are in fact asleep and dead. You are a zombie.
This insight is revealed at the moment of spiritual breakthrough. If you meditate or pray long and hard enough, if you are still enough, you will suddenly be flooded by waves of energy and light. You will be filled with bliss, “ananda”, and consciousness, “chitta”. You will feel intensely alive and wide awake. In that moment, you will appreciate how dead and asleep you were before.
Death and life, sleep and waking are relative. It’s actually a sliding scale. As you board the tube the following morning, you will see in the faces of your fellow passengers their degree of sleep and death, their degree of “mut”. Most of them will be hypnotized, gazing at their phones. Some of them might actually be zombies.
According to Daniel Dennett, we are all zombies in the philosophical sense. We behave as though we were conscious, we may even believe that we are conscious, but in reality, consciousness is nothing but a clever illusion conjured up by the brain. This is of course, as Galen Strawson pointed out, the silliest claim ever made. But it is the logical conclusion of materialism.
Maybe if you believe you are a zombie, you actually start acting like one. Maybe you lose your élan vital and your inner light is dimmed close to perfect darkness. Maybe. This is a plausible consequence of this particular delusion. It appears to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Disbelieve in consciousness and you don’t experience yourself as conscious.
The same is also true for disbelief in God. Disbelieve in God and there is no God. Surely this is clear evidence that He doesn’t exist? If His existence depends on belief, then He is obviously just a subjective phenomenon, another “optical illusion of consciousness” (sorry I forgot, there is no consciousness!)
But then again, maybe you are in fact conscious, whether you believe it or not, and maybe there is in fact a God, whether you believe in Him or not. You may have a diminished experience of life, consciousness and divinity, but if you are to any degree alive and awake, there will still be some, if only a trace.
I agree with Strawson. The denial of consciousness is the silliest claim ever made. The second silliest is the denial of God. In the end the two denials come to the same thing, as in some mysterious sense, God and Consciousness are identical. This, at least, is the claim of the Indian and Sufi mystics, and, in fact, of all mystics.
I have distinguished four basic classes of “muppet”. These represent four types of delusion. Type 1 muppets are scientific atheists. They are physicalists, naturalists, materialists. They believe in science as the ultimate repository of all knowledge about the universe. Type 2 muppets are philosophical atheists, or more commonly nowadays, postmodern atheists. They are relativists and social constructivists. Type 3 muppets are revolutionary atheists and therefore political activists. They believe in a human-made utopia, where “the world will live as one”. Type 4 muppets are religious atheists. They think they believe in God, but they don’t really. They believe in their religion and their idea of God. They are scriptural literalists and fundamentalists.
The common denominator is atheism. Muppets are “Fighting Spirits” because they are in rebellion against God. It is a permanent revolution, to coin a phrase. The result is dissociation from the well-springs of light and life. The consequence is the spread of ignorance, arrogance, addiction, depression and hatred. In other words, we become muggles, divas, addicts, victims and demons. All these archetypes ultimately derive from the basic delusion that there is no God.
But there is a God. If you don’t believe it, you need to work it out for yourself. You’ve probably seen through Type 4 muppetry. If not, the bookshelves are groaning under the weight of writers showing how deluded religious fundamentalism is. The most famous are the Four Horsemen, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris.
If you are tempted by Type 3 muppetry, you should read John Gray and Roger Scruton. If you are partial to bit of Type 2 muppetry, read some real philosophy, Ancient or Analytical. And check out Stephen Hicks and James Lindsay.
The first and last, the most formidable bastion against belief in God is of course scientific materialism. This is the one we moderns have swallowed whole. This is the one that needs the strongest purgatives. This is the biggest delusion, which is ultimately at the root of all the others.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of writers successfully countering this delusion through rational argument. I will nod to a few of my personal favourites: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Nagel, David Bentley Hart, Rupert Sheldrake, David Berlinski, Alister McGrath, Jonathan Sacks and John Lennox.
Once this delusion is dispelled, all the others will vanish in its wake. Then you will be free to enjoy the fruits of blessedness: enlightenment and eternal life.