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Out of Control

By Carl S. ~

There was a time when "mystical" was in vogue. Now, "spiritual" has taken flight in popularity, following the ascent of Zen, the Dalai Lama, and New-Age gospels. Outside of the multitudes of preachers everywhere, with their traditional biases, "spiritual" isn't necessarily "religious" anymore. It’s more personal, less social. That word now applies to vampires and zombies as well as angels, and perhaps to the souls of science fiction androids, in our own times. A phrase we are hearing quite a lot of is "surreal experience," usually spoken by those who experienced natural and man-made destruction.

Individuals who have abandoned or are indifferent to religions still claim to be "spiritual." Books and magazine articles by individuals claiming near-death, after-death, and out-of-body experiences spread like wildfire and are often accepted as true without question. Meanwhile, books of scientific evidence explaining those experiences are ignored. Though the logical methods of fact-finding are given credence in the courtrooms and CSI stories, when it comes to these "spiritual" accounts, scientific analysis and/or mere common sense are ignored. (Hasn't this always been so, with alternative realities the perennial fads?)

Notice that every one of those spiritual, mystical, and surreal descriptions describes the effects of things out of our control. If visions of angels, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hallucinations, revelations, speaking in tongues, and sexual climaxes, were all under control, would there be religion? If not for the uncontrollable end of life and the fear they create of what might happen afterward dying, would clergy exist? (Why do clergy thank God, when it is Death they owe their livelihoods to?)

If it weren't for a belief in a god who is unpredictable, capricious, and almighty, there would be no need to appease him, praise him, or to sacrifice to him in order to ensure his graces and mercy. If God were incapable of becoming as out of control as humans can be, there would be no rituals required to keep him under control. Those who say, "God is in control," are flinging a cliché. And their god and his representatives are, by definition, control freaks.

These thoughts came after reading a movie review. This is what it says: "Inequality, injustice, and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Some of them however, explode. This is a movie about them. The characters cross the line that divides civilization and barbarism. A lover's betrayal, a return to the depressed past and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to madness as they cede to the pleasure of losing control."

It was that last part, "as they cede to the pleasure of losing control," that hit me like a slap across the face. I am upset enough by accounts of ordinary people driven to madness as they cede themselves to the (shall we say insatiable?) pleasure of being out of control. And by those who cede moral self-control to serve the madness of others. We don't want to give their violence our validation or encouragement. For too many believers, "ceding" is not really madness, but a letting go, a letting God, by abandoning their selves to express their "spiritual" or bestial otherness.

Don't the pleasures of being out of control explain sexual spontaneity, the release of inhibitions by alcohol and drugs, the thrills of amusement park rides, sky diving? What about speaking in tongues, or of being a "holy roller," chanting alleluias with the congregations, abandoning self-control in order to be controlled by the crowds and their leaders? (Oh, for that real true old time religion of Bacchanalian orgies!) Can't you see the spiritual substance abuse of religion, where the first hit is free?

They regard their faith as being more important than human livesConsider ISIS, suicide bombers, and cult members now passionately plunging headlong, "crossing the line between civilization and barbarism." (It is not just the radical believers who are using their sincerely held beliefs to override rationality and human kindness for their god: I have yet to find a moderate reader among the believers who'll contradict my claim that they regard their faith as being more important than human lives.)

Every example of "spiritual, mystical, surreal," means, really, anything that overwhelms our senses. There is nothing else involved or explicable outside of the physical, material, brain and body. In fact, everyone who wants access to the out-of-body and near-death experiences ought to sign up with the researchers who will stimulate, with electricity, those paths in the brain which cause them to happen. The results of those stimulations? "Out-of-body experiences, heavenly music, vivid hallucinations, and the kind of panoramic memories associated with the life review part of the near-death experience." (Discover magazine, back in July of 2005!) And not to be downplayed: the feeling of oneness with nature and benevolence towards humanity ever after.

But, what about that other use of the word spiritual, as experience, being overused these days? I listen to the birds outside singing their hearts out, watch the chipmunk running around, I read about a bear sitting and watching the sun set, and see old monkeys apparently lost in thought, looking into the distance. Don't they also have the spiritual experiences people talk about? Isn't the sense of wonder enough, without supernatural baggage? Hell, when was the last time you really, truly, tasted the coffee in your cup, or truly watched and listened to the world around you without interruptions? Where is the close observation of a Darwin in your life, of appreciation for the forms ever evolving and most wondrous?

It's about time to scrap the supernatural, mystical, surreal, etc. craptalk and be honest. And let us never cede our self-control lightly.