“Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream“—John Lennon
Maybe it is one of those curious fearful symmetries that the words of John Lennon quoted above are found in the Beatles’ album titled ‘Revolver‘…and that he was finally gunned down, shot multiple times in the back by a “fan”.
I grew up reading Kerouac (we hailed from the same city) and the Beats, intrigued in my youth by their calls for ‘spiritual mindlessness,’ that peculiar Western decadence and spiritual nihilism related to Eastern religions, though minus the asceticism, to be sure. In the real thing (Buddhism, Zen, etc.) one was supposed to turn away from desire which is considered the cause of all suffering.
There is a curious seduction in it all for many. George Harrison opted for the wilderness of gods in Hinduism. John Lennon likewise rejected Christianity. “Turn off your mind…,” Lennon sang, because there is no ‘answer’; nothing to find, nothing to know, thus one is “free” to either indulge or forsake. To ‘answer’ would be to lose enlightenment, regardless of the inherent contradiction in anyone’s saying “Truth does not exist”.
The seduction hides the meaninglessness. One lives in the space between one’s thoughts, and proceeds over the waterfall like foam and bubble into the vast great Nothing. But bullets in the back have an awful way of piercing through the exotic idea that all of reality is illusion.
(Lennon’s glasses after shooting from the album Seasons of Glass above)
In Buddhism and its variants, whether you are sitting lotus in the park reading Allen Watts amid falling blossoms on a beautiful Spring day, or being raped, slashed and strangled in a back alley—or shot in the back by a fan as Lennon was—it is all the same at the end of the day: ‘there are no answers,’ its adherents reply. It is all your Karma so don’t try to ponder it.
For Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, it is altogether different. Evil and death are not “natural,” nor illusion, but intrusions in the universe through the perversion of freedom which goes back to our First parents and which we ratify every time we sin (Rom 6:23).
God our Creator in Christ—who came into the world to bear our judgement— calls us to repentance, because He is not indifferent to evil. In man-made, man-centered, religions, man aspires to the transcendent. In Christ God comes to us.
Of course it is good to quiet the mind and simply practice the Presence of God, and often. It is a must, a wisdom as old as Christianity itself. As long as the rest of Creation is in place.
We judge no one’s soul and pray for God’s mercy for all, especially for ourselves, you and me. But religious systems qua systems cannot all be true in the final analysis, or even coherent with each other. Jesus said “I am the Way the truth and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
Evil is, Christ taught, too real, not maya-illusion, and we are accountable for our deeds. But Christ bore them all, our sins, if we will only receive Him where He is to be found, in His Mystical Body, the Church, sinners and saints.
(Oprah, above, well paid midwife of the New Age)
According to sacred history, the many religions throughout the world reflect a kind of amnesia in degrees of that one revelation from God which was first given to the human race in its primal unity (Gen 1-3). Accordingly many religions still contain much that is very good, seeds of the Logos-Word (Jn 1:1) and transcendence which Christ came to re-gather as promised in Genesis 3:15. This is what evangelism and missionary endeavor is all about, not arrogance, or, God forbid, arbitrary dominance, but the faithfulness of God to restore all things in Christ, the Messiah, the Beauty and Desire of all nations.
Just as there is only one God, and one universe (not a multiverse), there is only one “Way” (John 14:6) in one Faith. It is the Good News, the greatest Love Story ever told. We are not forsaken.