Question: Is it correct to phrase things as follows? The belief in substantiality is the belief in the thing called a thing—the thing itself. The belief that there is such a thing as a thing. The sentence looks absurd as I type it—but my point is, before we start saying statements like “this is a cup, that is a book”—underneath those phrases is the belief that there actually are things—any things—that a thing itself is even a possibility in Reality. So, to go on, a thing is never more than a concept. And to go on, there appears to be no sign of a thing in Reality—there is no evidence of a thing. In other words, (and to play with this a little) Reality doesn’t speak English! It doesn’t deal in things. Ultimately this is why things, when entertained, seem mysterious (linking back to my question posted on Feb 28). Their mysterious[ness] stems from their unreality.
Response: Yes, the belief in substantiality is simply the belief that there actually is Something rather than Nothing. Though I won’t say that I disagree with anything you’ve written above, I might have worded things a little differently. At a minimum, I would have changed your final word to “nonsubstantiality.”
Question: This is a comment and question sparked by the last 3 sentences of page 201 [after endnote 121 near beginning of Chapter 37]. It’s about the word “mystery.” So often religious understanding is presented as some kind of communion with the great unknowable mystery of life. But this is ultimately unsatisfying. Do I understand you correctly in saying that finally all conventional knowing ultimately leads to an impasse of mystery? Whatever the belief—we end up at the same dead-end? So—the only “thing” we truly know, that is, the only “thing” that is not mysterious, is actual Life, actual Mind—this is given completely “on a plate” through whole perception. So, the idea that life is a mystery is just a frequently repeated belief or conclusion based on the continued experience of beliefs not making any sense and unravelling. Or perhaps we’re told to believe life is a mystery because to think otherwise is tantamount to no longer being a believer, a follower or some sort.
Response: You have the gist of much of what I’m pointing out in The Grand Delusion—particularly regarding belief. Though I would not characterize knowing Life, Mind, Reality as the only thing we know—as if Knowledge were limited in some way. True Knowledge is Total. Nothing is left out. In other words, there’s ultimately no Mystery. Everything is clear and obvious.
Question: I have no doubt that belief causes all sorts of evil in the world, and that experience is a far better barometer to gain true knowledge. However, is that just not a belief as well? Can we truly ever get away from beliefs?
Response to Q1: Yes, for those who think your opening statement is True.
Response to Q2: Yes, it is quite possible to not hold particular beliefs. I don’t believe that there are pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, for example. It is even possible to not hold any beliefs at all, but you will probably have to work at it before that becomes the backdrop of your mind. I know of no one who can manage this perfectly. But we can certainly learn to not be governed by beliefs and to be vigilant whenever beliefs begin to carry us away. As Sextus Empiricus put it, “For it is sufficient to live by experience, and without subscribing to beliefs….”
Thank you. I’ve been waiting for over 30 years for someone to ask me this question.
Question: Why should one try to look beyond what appears to make sense and is also practical (such as technological advancements that stem from science)?
Response: No reason whatsoever. Certainly not if you’re not bothered by anything. Sooner or later, though, you may get a whiff of how absurd the life you believe you’re living actually is. At that time, it would put your mind at ease to realize that there’s an Absolute remedy for this situation. It is to see that everything you believe stems from a conceptual mistake.
Question: How did belief come to be equated with religion in the first place? According to John Gray in SEVEN TYPES OF ATHEISM, our earliest religions had nothing to do with belief. They simply offered myths that entertained and explained (though not in the modern sense) and practices to be followed (burnt offerings, observance of rites, rituals, and celebrations, etc.) Beliefs weren't talked about or thought about at all. And Buddha, Confucius, and some others never spoke of beliefs at all.
Response: It probably all goes back to the Apostle Paul. Instead of following the teachings of Jesus, which were basically about observing the Law of God as He understood it, Paul repeatedly wrote that one can only gain admittance into the Kingdom of God by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus—a claim Jesus never made for Himself. For Paul, however, this was the essential matter. As a result, much of the human world has now become infected with the pernicious notion that belief is not only imperative for human life, but necessarily good.
Question: Do you think that we can and will ever give up our delusions and live a happier life with the unfolding present moments? And what percentage of people do you think can actually do this?
Response: Yes, we can, but questions such as these invite vain speculation. My immediate concern in this book is that we wake up.
Question: Is it not easier in life to just say “Uncle?” I just will never understand the unanswerable questions and either leave it up to “a God” or live my life and never bother myself with thinking about it at all?
Response: It might seem easier to give up and live with speculation, fear, and disquiet, but that in no way compares with the ease that comes with waking up to what you already know.
Question: Would the human race have been better off IF we had not come up with organized religion? Seems like all we have ever done is fight over it time and time again. Live the Beatles song “Imagine.”
Response: I don’t know what you mean by “better off,” but if we could learn to live by direct experience rather than out of belief we would have a much easier go at waking up to what we innately know.