Action Through Inaction

This may sound counter-intuitive, but… well. It’s not. The idea comes from the Taoist mantra of Wei Wu Wei (literally “doing not doing”).

The idea is that trying to force things only impedes them.

“The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 29

I think this becomes especially noticeable with art. Think about a dancer, who moves gracefully without even thinking about it. True, it takes a lot of work – a lot of “doing” – for the dancer to reach that point.

But a good dancer knows when to step back and let go. I’ve learned this for sure with my music. The more I try to enhance a mix, the less harmonious the tones become. The more I try to perfect my lyrics, the more clunky they become.

“Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 9

A large part of any art is knowing how to not force things. And knowing when to step back and go on to the next thing. “Doing” should ideally come naturally. And it should pass just as naturally.

“Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 2

When we allow our actions to simply flow through us, we in essence become the action.

When I’m most impressed with dancers is when the dancer becomes the dance. When I’m most satisfied with my own music is when I forget that I’m playing an instrument, and I simply become the instrument.

A good fighter simply becomes the fight. Their body moves freely and reacts before they’re even mentally aware of what they’re responding to.

This is where the saying of going with the flow achieves tangible results.

“Less and less do you need to force things,
Until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
Nothing is left undone.”

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 48

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Satan as the Underdog Hero

When reading the Bible, I always saw Satan as sort of the underdog hero of the story. You have to read very closely of course – the devil is in the details.

Let’s start at the very beginning. In the Genesis story, God creates Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Among the many plants in the garden, God places the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

God then tells Adam and Eve not to eat of these two special trees.

Now here’s the rub: we’ve established that Adam and Eve have no knowledge of good and evil at this point. Right? I mean that’s the whole point of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – to give them knowledge that they do not yet possess. This is also explained by them not being ashamed of being naked until after they eat from the tree.

Thus, if Adam and Eve have no knowledge of good and evil, then how can they be expected to know that it is right (or good) to follow God’s request and wrong (or evil) to disobey? They don’t have that knowledge yet!

“Knowledge forbidden?
Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord
Envy them that? Can it be a sin to know?
Can it be death?”

– Lucifer in John Milton’s Paradise Lost[1]

Similarities Between Satan and Prometheus

In other words, Satan here can be seen as the giver of Knowledge[2]. Compare this to the Greek story of Promethius, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to us mortals. The theme of both stories is that a powerful being stole something from the gods (knowledge or fire) to help humanity to advance.

Appropriately, the Latin  word “Lucifer” translates to “Morning Star” (a possible nod to Venus). But when used as an adjective, “Lucifer” can be used to mean “light-bringer”, which is essentially what both beings did: Lucifer, by bringing humanity to the light, and Prometheus, by literally bringing humanity a light source.

Another possible correlation (though it may be a stretch) is that Prometheus was punished by Zeus by being bound to a rock and having an eagle (Zeus’s symbol) swoop down and munch on  Prometheus’ liver – which would promptly grow back – each day for eternity.

Interestingly enough, Satan was punished by God by being forced to slither on his belly like a snake(Genesis 3:14), which is a known prey to eagles.

A perhaps more obvious correlation between the stories is how humanity was punished for their new gifts.

Initially, Adam is punished by being forced to work the land for his food and Eve was punished with painful childbirth. But as a further implication, Adam and Eve are believed by many to be responsible for original sin. Similarly, Zeus punished humanity for Promethius’ gift by having Hephaistos create Pandora, the first woman, who is known for unleashing evil unto the world.

Death By Satan

It’s also important to note that the only people Satan is said to have killed were Job’s family and servants – and only after being told to do so by God. Meanwhile, God is responsible for countless of billions of deaths all throughout the Bible.

For that matter, Satan even tried to feed Jesus when he saw that he was starving. I mean, okay Jesus was only fasting, but why is the Bible so quick to shit all over Satan? I swear, the man can’t do anything right by y’all!

At any rate, I simply cannot see Satan as a violent monster as I feel many make him out to be. At worst, he might be a bit of a trickster entity, like Enki or Loki. Appropriately, Prometheus was also considered a big trickster. Some folks just can’t take a little joke here and there apparently.

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Notes:

[1] Obviously Paradise Lost is not Biblical cannon. But it is some of the most beautiful poetry out there. Also, considering that Milton was a friar, I think it’s safe to say he was well informed with his tales. At the very least I think we could consider it a supreme work of fan fiction, if not a revered part of the Extended Universe.

[2] While the serpent in Genesis is not immediately related to Satan, it is in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2. Though obviously the significant distance (both space and time-wise) between the supporting passages puts some doubt that the serpent of the Creation Story was ever intended to be known as Satan, the correlation is nevertheless widely-held all throughout Christian literature.

Non-being in Taoism

This is a difficult topic to explain to most people. This is because we’re so use to speaking, and thus thinking, in relative terms. The problem with this is that:

“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2

It’s an entirely different way of thinking. We have the tendency to view things in comparison to other things, when oftentimes there’s no need for comparisons. Because comparisons tend to offer us an oppositional view of the world.

But the world doesn’t exist in a massive dichotomy. That would be utterly chaotic. I’ve noticed that a lot of people can’t seem to appreciate another person’s beauty without immediately considering their own non-beauty. What an ugly way to live!

And sometimes it’s not the aspect of something we would immediately expect that makes it beautiful.

“We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11

So a Taoist walks into a therapist’s office.

The therapist asks, “How do you feel today?”

The Taoist responds, “I feel empty inside.”

I couldn’t resist. So oftentimes, we overlook important – even necessary – qualities. We do this with objects, with other people, and especially with ourselves. We have this tendency of trying to mold ourselves a certain way. Usually in a way that we think will help us fit in with societal expectations.

But what would happen if you molded a cup too much? You may end up ruining it’s original purpose of holding things. What if you spent too much time filling the interior of your house? It would no longer be livable.

Get comfortable with the being and non-being that exist within you. You don’t need to know your purpose just yet. In general, Taoism is all about going with the flow. The more you attempt to mold or to lead or to do, the farther away you get from the Tao.

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 20

Here again is the problem with drawing comparisons. When others do the “right” or “successful “things, it implies that you are doing the “wrong” things or that you are “unsuccessful”. But your value is not determined by other people’s choices.

Why can’t we all be “right” or “successful” in our own ways? Again, there’s no utility in trying to mold ourselves a particular way. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2), “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

So, to repeat Lao Tzu, “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”

God Transcends Gender

I know, I know. Some tranny is trying to bastardize your religion again. Okay, but hear me out.

The Abrahamic Religions generally view God as a male deity. However, there are various hints in the Bible that may clue us in that maybe God had some feminine qualities. We’ll start with Genesis 1:26-27, which states: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

See? Females were created in God’s image too. Since we’re all made in God’s image, could we perhaps conclude that, at the very least, we all encompass various aspects of God? In other words, rather than (or maybe in addition to) seeing God as an archetype for the Universe, perhaps we could see ourselves as archetypes for different aspects of God?

This implies that every person of every gender, ethnicity, et cetera is a unique representation of God’s image.

Adam and Eve and Genetics

Another thing to consider is how Eve was made. It’s interesting to me that the mantra of so-called marriage traditionalists is “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Except that if you look at Genesis scientifically (I know, ironic as that may be), we’re basically looking at an example of cloning. Right? God cloned Eve from Adams rib. I mean otherwise what was the point of jacking Adam’s rib?

Even taking a loose interpretation of the passage, Eve was constructed from a male (XY) bone. Eve was made from male parts. Now I’m not saying my girl Eve was a transgender woman. But I don’t see any reason it couldn’t be read that way.[1]

Further, the entirety of the Creation story ends with God saying “and it was good.” The only thing that God saw as not good was when God saw that man was alone (Genesis 2:18), which prompted God to create Eve, possibly because God saw that Creation was incomplete. Perhaps God felt incomplete as a result.

God as the Father/God as the Mother

In various verses, God is referred to as “Father” (Deut 32:6 ; 2 Sam 7:14 ; Psalms 68:5 & 89:26 ; 1 Chron 17:13 ; and many others). In fact, God is frequently referred to as a masculine figure.

In other verses, however, God’s motherly qualities are revealed, such as:

  • Exodus 19:4 “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.'”
  • Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you”.
  • Isaiah 66:9 “‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 42:14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once.”
  • Hosea 13:8 “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them—a wild animal will tear them apart.”
  • Psalm 22:9-10 “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”
  • Psalm 36:7 “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
  • Job 38:29 (When God challenges Job from the whirlwind) “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?”
  • Song of Solomon 2:1 “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”

As you see here, God carries us under Her wing, comforts us as a mother would her child, delivers us into this world, and protects us like a bear or a lion protects her cubs. You’ll notice that God will even occasionally use feminine pronouns for him/herself.

In Exodus 3:14, after Moses asks God what he should call them, God responds, “‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’’”

“I am who I am.” That’s pretty deep. It’s also pretty unassuming.

Additionally, various Jewish texts use the Hebrew word  Shekinah (שכינה‎‎) to denote God’s divine “presence”, and is notably a grammatically feminine word. The word comes up in II Kings 3:15 (Tractate Shabbat 30b), in the 17th blessing of the daily Amidah prayer, and others. Shekinah also plays a large role in the conception of Moses in the Zohar (Book of Enlightenment).

Hebrew Differentiations

It’s also important to keep in mind that Hebrew is a highly dynamic language that, especially in the beginning, was heavily concerned with action. It’s somewhat abstract for us today to think about. If something behaves like something, then it is that something.

Thus, when God behaves like a father, then he is a father. Likewise, when God behaves like a mother, then she is a mother.

It’s a very different way of thinking that I think makes more sense when thought about in the context of the relative time period. If we reflect back on one of my previous post Of Satanism and Paganism (no, the irony of referencing a Satanic post in a Jewish discussion is not lost on me), we’ll remember how the Canaanite Ba’al Zebul (“Lord of the Heavens”) may have been referred to as Ba’al Zebub (“Lord of the Flies”) when called upon to rid a city of flies (or disease). Likewise, the Greek Apollo was sometimes referred to as Apollo Smintheus (“Apollo of mice”) when called upon to rid a city of mice.

So we see that various civilizations around the same time frame would commonly refer to their deities as being whatever they were encompassing. The Hebrew God was not very different.

It’s honestly a beautiful way of thinking. I don’t just act like a mother – I am a mother. I don’t just play music – I am music (this is actually very similar to the Taoist mantra of Wei Wu Wei, “Doing/Not Doing”, which I’ll discuss in a later post). It’s an amazingly empowering concept.

As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says in his essay “Understanding God”, “[E]very name and every description that we may give to God can only apply to His relationship to His creation.”

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Notes:

[1] The only problem here is that the X chromosome contains far less genetic material than the Y chromosome, and the Y is also 1/3 the size of the X. Thus, some scientists believe that the X chromosome may have developed first, and then the Y chromosome may have arose as an underformed X. So perhaps it would make more literal sense if it were Eve who were formed first and Adam were made from her rib.

Of Satanism and Paganism

Okay, let me start this off by saying that no, Pagans do not worship the devil. They don’t even believe in a devil. So with that knowledge, you’re probably asking “what do Satanists and Pagans have in common then?” I’m so glad you asked!

Various verses in the Bible equate the worship of Pagan gods with the worship of Satan (Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Psalms 106:35-38; and 1 Corinthians 10:20 for instance). It’s kind of a rude thing to do – to claim that anyone believing differently must be worshiping evil.

But now the question we must ask is: Is Satan really evil?

It probably sounds like a ridiculous question – even a blasphemous one – to most people. Just calm down though. Take a breath and hear me out here.

Pan

pan-whistling-at-a-blackbird-1863
Pan whistling at a blackbird, 1863 – Arnold Böcklin

Consider for a moment where the popular depictions of Satan come from. If you’ll notice, Satan generally is portrayed with goat hind legs and horns. Does this sound familiar to you? It should! Because it’s a complete rip-off of Pan, the Greek god of nature and music. And it turns out Footloose was right: music does indeed lead to dancing! Because Pan hung out with the nymphs who were known for their dances.

In other words, Pan embodied everything the Christians despised: nature, music, and dancing. Additionally, despite being a minor god, Pan was very popular among the Greeks, making him a broad scapegoat.

Ba’al Zebub

Ba’al Zebub literally translates to “Lord of the Flies”. Weird name for a god, right? Ba’al Zebub was a Canaanite god (present day Palestine), referred to in the Bible as the god of Ekron (2 Kings 1:16).

The meaning of his name is thought to refer to his ability to control flies: either by driving them out, or by leading them into places, or perhaps a combination of the two. Note that it was plenty common to refer to gods by the pests that the people wanted the god to relieve them of. For instance, Apollo was sometimes referred to as Apollo Smintheus (“Apollo of mice”) when he was called upon to drive mice out of a city.

Another consideration is that Ba’al Zebub (“Lord of the Flies”) may have been modified from Ba’al Zebul (“Lord of the High House” or “Lord of the Heavens”), in order to vilify him. Alternatively Ba’al Zebul could have been called Ba’al Zebub when called upon to get rid of flies (or possibly to get rid of diseases that flies were commonly associated with). Either way, this Ba’al was a proper god and in no way a demon.

Ishtar

Ishtar (pronounce it “Easter” and I will dive through this screen and end you) was the Babylonian goddess of sex and fertility, associated with the planet Venus (and a precursor to the Greek Aphrodite and Roman Venus).

Being associated with the planet Venus, Ishtar was commonly referred to as “Evening Star” and “Morning Star” (since Venus appears as a bright star just before sunrise, and again right after sunset). As Evening Star, she brought sex and love, and as Morning Star, she brought war.

You’ll notice that Lucifer is also referred to commonly throughout the Bible as “Morning Star” (some translations use “Day Star”). Jesus is also sometimes referred to as “Morning Star” (2 Pet. 1:19). This has led to some confusion. A common explanation is that “Morning Star” in the Bible denoted a title rather than an identity. After all, Lucifer was initially an angel and considered to be the “light bringer” (from the Greek Phosphoros).

So it’s quite possible that the title “Morning Star” was simply transferred from Lucifer to Jesus after Lucifer fell (alternatively, maybe they’re the same person – I’ll write on that later). Note, however, that Lucifer was the only being I recall being referred to as the Morning Star in the Hebrew Bible and I don’t know of any instance in the Hebrew Bible where the prophesied Messiah was referred to as “Morning Star” (please correct me if I simply missed something). So it’s pretty clear that Lucifer was a blatant representation of Ishtar and that the whole Jesus equals Morning Star thing was some obscure afterthought.

Ishtar was also a common symbol of temple prostitution, which you can imagine the Christians were not too fond of. Christians were so not fond of this, in fact, that she is referred to repeatedly as the “Whore of Babylon” in Revelation (Namely, Revelation 17:1-18). The “Whore” in these passages is associated heavily with the Beast.

Conclusion

There are numerous more possible examples of the demonizing of Pagan gods by the Church. In fact, the terms “pagan” and “satanic” easily refer to the same things: “pagan” was initially a pejorative term for any religion that wasn’t Abrahamic.

People didn’t actually begin self identifying as pagan until the 19th Century Neo-Pagans as a countermovement to industrialization. Meanwhile, Wicca didn’t come about until Gerald Gardner in the 1940s.

In other words, the demonizing of “pagan” beliefs was essentially a vast smear campaign against everyone different from the Abrahamic systems (to be fair, most religions demonized other religions; Christians were just the most efficient).

The term “satanism” was used identically. People didn’t begin self identifying as Satanist until 1966 with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. Prior to that, “satanists” were just anyone that the Church didn’t like – to include even fellow Christian groups like the Knights Templar, who were accused of worshiping some guy named Baphomet (they didn’t). LaVey later decided to use the term as a means of embracing outsider status and revering what “satanic” gods like Pan represented (namely, self indulgence).

So pagans and satanists in the pejorative sense were used to refer to the same people. Meanwhile, modern self-identified Pagans and Satanists refer to different beliefs that draw off similar “pagan” literature to find archetypes for different principles (except that Neo-Pagans and Wiccans tend to be more spiritual while Satanists can sometimes be seen as adversarial for the sake of being adversarial).

Mindfulness

I know I’ve been silent for awhile. I’ve been struggling with some personal nonsense lately. This has led me to begin looking inward more, which in turn has led me to stop projecting outward (or at least to limit it a bit).

One technique I’ve found helpful is mindfulness, which comes from the Buddhist tradition of Vipassanā. Mindfulness teaches us the importance of living in the present moment.

The Present Moment

So much of our lives are based on our pasts and what we imagine for our future. This leads to most of the suffering that we experience in our daily lives. Think about it: most of our lives are spent frustrated about what we did or didn’t do in the past, and about what we intend to do in the future. And guess what? – These kinds of thoughts prevent us from thinking clearly about what to do in the present.

I’ve found that existence is so much less unpleasant when I focus on the now. When your thoughts dwell on the past, gently usher them back to the present. An easy way to do this is by being mindful of how those thoughts of the past make you feel now.

After all, most of why we reflect on the past is because we’re unhappy with some aspect of the now. So figure out what the real root of your problem is and the past will stay where Nature intended: in the past.

Acceptance

Further, it’s important to look at our thoughts and feelings without judgement. It’s pretty funny when you actually look at how our emotions work. We’ll get depressed. And then we’ll think “wait a minute there’s people who have it way worse, what do I have to be depressed about?” And then next thing you know, you’re depressed about being depressed. We do the same with anger. We get angry initially, and then get angry about being angry! It makes me so mad when I do that!

We do this to ourselves mainly because of societal expectations. I mean there’s no objective reason to judge our own thoughts. It’s society that tells us how to think and why to think it. It’s society that tells us it’s not good to be sad. It’s society that tells us suicidal people are selfish. I could go on all day.

You can’t help your thoughts. We all have them. And we all have pretty similar thoughts when you really look at it. We’re not all that unique really. And we’re all interconnected.

Try this next time you’re bothered by your emotions: don’t judge them in any way. Embrace them. Let yourself feel what your mind knows you need to feel in the moment. The feelings will pass on their own. Shoving them out the door will only make them linger, so you may as well invite them in for tea.

Besides, our emotions are beautiful. Every last one of them. Fuck how society views them. The ups and downs of our emotions are every bit as beautiful as the ebbs and flows of the ocean. Think about the ebb and flow of music. Could you imagine music that only embodied societally correct emotions? There would be no dynamic contrast! No poetic inflection! It would be downright boring! Your emotions shouldn’t be filtered through society’s lens. Your emotions should be interpreted musically.

Bottom line: be reflective, not deflective.

Be Mindful – Not Mindless

Last thing. Mindfulness is awareness of our present moment. Oftentimes we get so caught up in worries that our minds basically go on autopilot. That’s mindlessness, and it’s no way to live. Don’t fear the past or the future.

Allow the past to teach you, but don’t let it rule you. Likewise, recognize that your actions now will affect some future, but realize also that dwelling on some imagined future will only stifle your progress in the present. Live in the now.