Was Jim Morrison right to cry “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer”?

Jim-Morrison-1961-yearbook

At 19.44 on 2015.04.27, a Monday, I thought I’d jot down a reverie that plays out in my head from time to time in which Wol

2013.05.21 k wol, bexhill - photo by self

and I discuss matters religious and I give voice to my long-held contention that Christianity includes some rather confused theology – the notion of the trinity, for example, or the idea of original sin, both of which Wol believes in, not to mention the purported divinity of Jesus. I haven’t the heart to tell him where I stand as regards Big G these days – people tend to cleave strongly to their religions (an assertion perhaps evinced by the expression “to do something religiously”), canons more than most, and there’s little point in upsetting him when ignorance can be bliss. We have occasionally had some fascinating debates on religion, usually when both of us are drunk, but it became more and more apparent that our Weltanschauungen diverged on key aspects.

My conversations with Paulus

2014.05.26 e embankment - dan, paulus - photo by self

(or should it be Paulum {or is it Paulo}?) on the subject of God can often get the grey matter sparking. He characterises me as a theist, as opposed to a deist; this outlook, he added, was more or less that of Spinoza. Apparently the difference between theists and deists is that the latter believe in an interventionist God, and if that is the case, I would say that I’m not entirely convinced that I’m not a deist for the following reason: I think that I construe the environment in which we live – the multiverse, if you like – to have a certain plasticity to it, to use a term I used when debating with Paul, which may be of such a nature that it can, if “petitioned” sustainedly over a long period of time, respond in such a way that the net result is markedly different from that which would, as far as can be told, have come to pass had the “petitioning” not taken place. Note that I use the conditional mood: I hope that future science will prove me right.

Belief in interventionism, postulateth Paulus, implies that God is interested in our behaviour and steps in to reward or punish us. I do respond thus: I think that’s essentially correct in the long run – the long run including, for example, factors such as reincarnation and evolution. Whereas it’s not, strictly speaking, inaccurate to use terms like reward and punish, they rather smack of the language of texts such as the Old Testament. To state the obvious, we live in a vastly more sophisticated world these days, and nowadays the most accurate accounts of The Nature Of Things use the language of science; but that doesn’t of necessity invalidate the perceptions of our ancestors. In discussion with Paul, I cautioned that his ditching of the whole of the musings of the people who wrote the various religious texts might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

In discussion with Ody

2015.01.01 b oders in 2014.09 - unk

once, I came up with the analogy that, although Bronze Age people didn’t know what a tree was in the same way that today’s biologists do, they had still identified a quantifiable phenomenon. I suppose scientists would argue that a tree has an undeniable physical existence, within the parameters of quantum mechanics, whereas they have yet to identify anything they could describe as God, to which I would respond by saying that to not see God is to not see the wood for the trees, because one can perceive nothing but God, God being, by definition, “merely” a synonym for all that exists (and, for that matter, doesn’t). The argument is, rather, over which “true” patterns exist within that paradigm – eg whether or not God/nature wants us to kill. The trick is to try and come up with ever more accurate ways of describing that situation – in other words, if you like, of describing the way in which God works.

The experiences I had during my most profound acid trips afforded me, for a few hours, apparently infinite insight into the nature of things. I kept concluding that the experience was ineffable. “The Answer” was simultaneously unfathomably complex and yet ridiculously simple, which constituted a dichotomy that was in itself as illusory (and yet real) as everything else.

When on these trips one is prone to become physically, as opposed to merely intellectually, aware of phenomena such as atoms, molecules, electricity, particles, waves, time, space, relativity, eternity – the little things like that. I think, for example, of the drawing made by Hoidski

1984.07.15c b lake district, windermere - hoidski, self - photo by mus

the first time she ever took acid (I introduced her to it, though not to cannabis) – a snapshot, with a very fast lens, of the photons emanating from a lamp.

1983.11.08c a hoidski 1st-acid trip

I remember Riz

1985.06c h riz - photo by mus

and Mausie,

1990.02.28c RPTR90 20 bexley, 29 hill crescent, st mary's vicarage, my bedroom - mausie - photo by self

on different occasions, the former on acid for the umpteenth time and the latter on mushrooms for the first and only time, both staring at their hands in wonder and being able to see the cells of (and the blood flowing beneath) their skin. I think of the footage I saw on YouTube or TV of a woman on acid, enrapt, staring at an orange. I think of the difference between pastel and fluorescent colour. Amplification.

I estimate that I tripped about 40 times. I wasn’t in the least bit interested in physics prior to taking acid: the tripping inspired me to buy that Powers of Ten book from Leicester University’s science bookshop on University Road – my first voluntary plunge into the world of science. It chimed splendidly with what I’d been experiencing for the previous two years.  Macrocosm, microcosm.

Derek

1983.02.00 FS83 8a leicester, filbert street - derek (spanked) - photo by self

thought I was some kind of fascist for buying it. A weird conclusion, you might think. I suppose it was because at Leicester, and I’m sure at comparable places, the science students were usually socially awkward wankers; the cooler ones, though probably not the cleverer ones, usually studied arts or social sciences. The scientists tended to be apolitical or, particularly in the case of engineers, politically conservative. I think that Derek’s view was that to bang on about the glory of the universe was only a stone’s throw away from tub-thumping in a Hitleresque stylee.

In any case, my point is that the scientific analysis is not, as has been claimed, the sole route to understanding nature/God. (My contention is that the two words, the two concepts, are pretty much interchangeable.) The key difference between my perspective and current scientific orthodoxy is that in the former, nature, in its totality, has all the characteristics that constitute personality and then some; in my world vision nature/God is loving and intelligent beyond all imagining, intensely interested in everything that’s going on, including the actions of humanity. Science currently dismisses this as, at best, poetry or mysticism and without basis in demonstrable fact.

My point at the beginning of the last paragraph was that scientific knowledge should be fused with the knowledge imparted by the trip experience. The powerful psychedlic drugs can take one to a state in which one knows all there is to know, impossible as that is. It’s not literally true, of course: I didn’t at any stage know the bus times in Tokyo or what the Swahili word for house was, for example, so I was obviously not in possession of all knowledge; but when tripping, one can arrive at a state in which one has an intuitive and perfect understanding of the manner in which nature (or God, or the entirety of the multiverse) works. This is what is meant by “the religious experience”.

It is far beyond words. It is less far beyond scientific equations, but it is still beyond them. If/when science incorporates the insights afforded by tripping as a matter of course, it will cease to be science. It will morph into something that is to science what science presently is to philosophy and what philosophy was to religion: a supercessor.