Back in 1999 I found myself out of a job with time on my hands. To amuse myself and, perhaps, contact others with my condition (Sleep Associated Altered States of Consciousness...night terrors, OBEs in the popular vernacular. I had been troubled with these experiences for years but I stubbornly continued to believe that I was a competent judge of my own experiences. Ten years before I had decided that, rather than fight against these things, I would go along with them and see where they took me. I determined to take the hallucinations that occurred during these experiences as real events. I recorded by experiment and the various hallucinations I had on line. I was a different sort of witch in many ways. I created my own style of spell casting, my own runes, and my own understanding of Out of Body Experiences. I approached my experiences in the same manner I would any other, I read about the subject in the original form rather than following Gardner or Crowley blindly. What I discovered was the work of Carlos Ginsburg, an Italian historian who did research in the Fruili Valley in antiquity focusing on two cases of ordinary men brought before the witchcraft tribunals to defend their practice they called 'benandantism.' His intent was to peel off the layers of satanic nonsense imposed on their tales by the priests themselves and get back to what the people were actually practicing. Benandantism was, for all intents and purposes, a form of European shamanism surrounding the protection of the harvest, the celebration of feast days and the guiding to the newly dead (who had a tendency to get lost if left to their own devices) to a crossroads...or, more precisely, the intersection of two ley lines...where they could make safe passage to the Other Side.
I was also heavily in to the idea of a connection between early Christianity and the worship of the Great Mother that was sweeping through the Roman world at the same time. The two religions traveled the same growth pattern with Goddess worship showing up around the same time Christianity did. There are other indications, but I'm not here to argue the point as I find many atheists get angry when you even suggest that Jesus was an historical person no matter what conclusions you draw from that idea.
I read the da Vinci code material long before the movie came out and caused such a stir. Didn't take me long to realize the whole thing was about European Monarchism and the forgery of documents to support a new king descendant from Christ in both France thru the fraudulent and non-existence Priory de Sion and in England through the revitalized Knights Templar. People in the US find it hard to believe or give credit to the idea that Monarchism was still a very real idea in Europe especially in the between war years and with the politics Post-WW II.
What's really hilarious is the people who condemned the da Vinci code as unhistorical for claiming Jesus got married and had children are the same ones who believe Jesus walked on water and came back from the dead. The da Vinci code material, even though having more to do with politics than religion, at least had the possibility of being true.
The argument from a male inheritance leading to a situation where in a few hundred years everyone is related to everyone else doesn't hold water, by the way. The Bloodline would have been traced in the Jewish fashion from mother to mother. Add to that the Christian legend that the nuns are the Brides of Christ thus the current Heir to the Throne would have selected his wife from the ranks of the Nuns and the God DNA could possibly have been isolated and kept pure from outside taint for two thousand years. Saying something is possible is, of course, not saying anything about whether it is true. I did write a short story along these lines once called The Protector of the Heir about the bodyguard assigned to protect the latest incarnation of the Bloodline. Maybe I'll make a blog post out of it just for your amusement.
Point is I put out my beliefs on these subjects on a website.
Ten years ago I had this guy who contact me through IM who was obviously picking my brain. I knew from the start he was using my work as the basis for something. I always figured a movie script.
It didn't bother me, strangely enough, because I was kind of flattered by the idea. That and he was nice enough about it even though I could tell he thought he had me fooled. It's good when people think they have you fooled, it makes them easier to manipulate since they believe they are in control of the situation. That's a combination of old school spy craft and living in the underground wisdom.
A couple of nights ago, after ten years of silence, this guy contacts me again with an IM. I took my site down when I became an atheist, still have it printed out around here somewhere, not out of embarrassment...I find you have to be wrong a lot if you are ever to eventually get it right...but because I was going through one of my phases where I had to get off the Net for a while. He wanted to know why.
I told him the truth. I kept working on my beliefs and soon found enough legitimate history and textual criticism of scripture to know that the da Vinci code was a red herring designed by theists to create a straw man then tear him down and thus bring into question what was actually known to be true about the life of Jesus...if he even had one...and the difference between the man and Christ, or as one 5th Century Pope succinctly put it: "It has served us well this Myth of Christ."
My efforts to follow my own mind down the rabbit hole of accepting an Altered State of Consciousness as a more accurate method of appraising reality rather than just mindless hallucinations leading nowhere...an ASC is just that, a state in which you are not receiving or interpreting the information from your senses correctly. Giving them validity, even in the limited sense of 'spirituality,' is by definition a mentally unhealthy thing to do.
Believe me, learn from my mistakes. I have the street cred to back up my claims.
I began to visualize what I was doing as, rather than leaving my body for a higher spiritual plane or just flying around having fun...and I do miss flying...and, in spite of all the garbage science associated with these events...they weren't uplifting and did not bring me spiritual insight. Truth be known, when I was Out of Body I found myself sneaking into the girls locker room just like the horny teenager I still was deep down!
Rather than seeing myself as loosing the anchor of my flesh, I began seeing my flights as not going outward, but inward. I saw myself going deep into myself and finding a doorway that led out into the Group Consciousness. The longer I saw myself as doing this, the clearer my mind became till one day, after going deep inside myself, my head popped out from the ground and I found myself back in the real world where I began.
I found there was no need to speculate on a mystical or spiritual union at all. The group consciousness, what actually binds us together as human beings, is our culture. I began to see people as discrete clumps of contacts. There's me...I seem to be always at the center of any universe I create...then there's my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my mother and on and on. My wife has her own circle of people and I am joined to those people through her. I began to see the world in terms of frog eggs. If you've never seen them, they are a clump of what appear to be pealed and translucent grapes with a tiny tadpole inside. They are all clustered together and dangling from a stick or a rock in the water. Each egg has it's own tadpole inside...the person...and yet is butted up against all the other eggs in the cluster.
Each cluster...I refer to them as Pods...is a discrete unit but, through contact as a Pod with other Pods, binds us together as a culture. A Pod can be anything from a church to an Elks Club; it can exist face to face in the real world or as a virtual community on line. Each Pod relates to the surrounding Pods, sometimes ignoring and sliding right past, sometimes merging with into a Mega-Pod like a religion or a political party, and sometimes trying to devour each other like atheism and theism.
All of this is in the real world and requires absolutely no input from any supernaturalism. I had come to materialism and atheism shortly thereafter as a direct result of living supernaturalism out as a lifestyle in the real world...first with Christianity, then with witchcraft, finally with New Age bullshit. It's easier to read a book on the subject, but you end up speculation, not verification.
When this guy from ten years ago contacted me...the one who had so obviously picked my brains from that period of my life...he was hemming and hawing about the subject but he kept coming around to the idea that 'what if' somebody had taken my ideas from that period and used them as the basis for a new religion.
He insisted this was just a theory, that he actually hadn't done this.
He was lying of course, but I didn't much care. One of my favorite writers was the old Libertarian bastard Robert Heinlein and my favorite book of his was Stranger In A Strange Land...still one of the best parodies of religion ever written. Of course, he's got his own religion, the Green Egg I believe is their magazine. Not to mention Hubbard and his Scientologists paying for the privilege of being fleeced by the master. So I was kind of flattered by the idea. I mean, why not a religion based on my beliefs?
The problem was how to encourage the formation of a religion and still be true to my atheism.
I decided to tell him the story just like I'm telling it here, then point him to my journal http://pjarrett.livejournal.com/ and my posts on this site. He got excited about my atheist writings I could tell whatever he had going for him...be it a new religion or a movie script...had just found it's ultimate ending.
Think of the possibilities. A modern Mystery Religion that, rather than taking you through a darkened cave and assaulting your senses with loud noise and flashing light and using hallucinogens to enhance the effect then bringing you out into the light and showing you the ultimate Mystery, a grain of wheat that Christianity used in their own Mystery that if a grain of wheat dies then it will live again in a new light.
Only at the end of the Mystery, instead of a promise of an afterlife, you are presented with a dead animal and the fact of your own mortality.
A Mystery Religion that leads you, not to God, but to the absence of god...to atheism and the acceptance of your own mortality as the ultimate truth of man's existence.
Of course, I have no intentions of becoming a cult leader in spite of the temptation to do so. I really don't have the time and energy for such an endeavor. So I sent my little thief an e mail stating that if he is using my ideas in any shape or form at all but specifically in a money making scheme be it a religion or a movie script, I would give him my address and would expect an appropriately written contract in the mail within five days for my lawyer to look over.
Haven't heard from him since.
I think I scared him off, which was my intention. In spite of his affable personality I really don't cotton to my work...even work I've learned my way past and navigated my way around...being used by other people without my permission. Having said that, I am completely aware that putting something on the Net is, in effect, sending it directly into the public domain.
Still, the idea of a religion based on my beliefs is uber-flattering. Puts me right up there with Moses and Jesus and Mohammed and John Smith and Hubbard and Heinlein and all the others. It really is a heady experience. I can see why people get caught up in their own press and start believing their own lies.
So what do you think?
Do I lose my status as an atheist if I have inadvertently started my own religion?