The Upside to the Downturn

With the current round of handwringing over the unhappy state of the economy, it is worth pondering whether there may be an unconsidered benefit in the situation. Indeed, if the materialistic prison in which we find ourselves incar­cerated were to break open its doors just a bit, it could well do us all some good.

As we see it, a deep confusion over the nature of reality has produced a near universal trance state, in which the visible world seems to be made of very solid stuff. That illusion of solid boundaries to our existence is, in fact, so strong and so pervasive that any suggestion that it might be otherwise is—if not completely ignored—greeted with derision by our fellow prisoners. This is so despite our certain knowledge that all matter is made up almost entirely of empty space, in which are only dancing forcefields of spinning particles or waves which our collective senses have agreed to interpret as solidity. Illusions notwithstanding, though, everyone dances madly to this music, and very loud music it is. Almost completely drowned out are more subtle signals—still small voices, if you will—that speak, not from outside, but inside of us, attempting to turn our fractured and fevered attention toward more important, if less noisy, stuff, like finding freedom from our common slavery to crude phenomena.

The loss of appreciation for finer things like spiritual freedom, we suspect, is at the heart of most of society’s ills. Whether it be a reductionist “scientist” insisting that the human brain is the sole source of consciousness, a preacher declaring that Earth is only 6,000 years old, or a stickup man relieving us of our wallets, we are left violated—our true worth and depth uncomprehended. Such tyrannies of aggressive salesmanship, or just plain brute force, would not be possible in a world where the faculties of all were sufficiently developed to escape the dense yoke of materiality.

Materialism, like slavery, can take many forms. If I may speak generally, here are some examples: In politics it is fundamental to the strategies of both right and left. On one hand, personal gain (read that material wealth) is pur­sued with little regard for the rights of those unfortunate enough to get in the way. On the other, the needs and rights of the individual are sacrificed to some blind ideal of collective good (thought to be material prosperity for all). In the mass culture, we see the addiction to consumer goods. In fundamentalist religion, it comes as the attempt to follow holy writ to the letter while losing track of Holy Spirit. For reductionist science, it comes as the reflexive rejec­tion of all ideas falling outside the prevailing materialist paradigm. With so many ways to bind our minds, it’s no wonder that few can summon the will or the wit to break free.

But with 401K’s dwindling, home equity plummeting, and joblessness expanding, some, we suspect, have begun to wonder anew if there could be something else beyond these walls—something more enduring—more worth pur­suing.

Maybe soon, the revelation will come and they will understand, at last, how we have all been enslaved and why publications like this must come to be.

By J. Douglas Kenyon

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