Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My favorite heresy

Manichaeism (my favorite “heresy” - from Greek hairein, the teaching of heterodox, or unorthodox, doctrine) is a philosophical construct attributed in origination to Mani (Manes, or Manichaeus), a Persian. Born is southern Babylonia in 216 CE, and related to the Parthian royal family which was overthrown in 224, Mani spoke Aramaic, but traveled in India. He posited that matter was evil, while God was something mostly separate - pure spirit. His followers saw our world of matter as a creation of the enemy of the true god. They believed that an eternal war between good and evil is being waged on an invisible plane, with effects and affects here. This led to belief that the soul is divine but the body evil. Man is an alien sojourner in an evil world, needing to free his spirit, which in its original nature is good. Only by restricting temporal desire can we restore communion with God. Material desire, especially physical desire, is evil, while spiritual sharing good. Only what we use in sharing has validity in terms of what it is correct to desire.
Eventually, Papist “Catholics” with great love of idolatrous pageantry, material splendor and oppression of the downtrodden, initiated the first genocide against followers of Manichaean beliefs, with extreme violence, in southwestern France. Albigensian Cathars, bons hommes (good men) in Lombardy, Provence and Aquitaine, and the troubadour culture, were mostly wiped out, violence peaking in 1244. Thus the High Church destroyed the luminous, exceptional Provençal civilization.

Moderns like to assume an ordered, rational and intelligible universe, much as did ancients. But when we probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or into far outer space, observing distant galaxies, any elegant mathematical order we expect to find, confirmed, may be but a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. We feel need for rational order, but have strong evidence, should we wish to acknowledge it, that there is more involved. Science, subservience to material delusion, may be somewhat tautological, and little more to the end of true good than most religion.
We mostly recognize, now, but fail to sufficiently deal with, our obligations to, and need for, aboriginal, indigenous peoples, environmental and linguistic diversity, preservation of the Earth’s resources, social and personal justice, and a new kind of Enlightenment. A new set of parameters is needed, a new story-context for understanding not only the world and our responsibilities, but love, desire and longing, and a better concept of possession. We need to know that we are both individuals and not individuals, that we both have choice and no choice; that we act and interact within set patterns we can at best only slightly modify. We get to make decisions, but certainly cannot decide everything, and cannot drive the Earth &/or society like a bicycle or car. We need the satisfactions of achievement and recognition of attainment, of truly good food and rest, conversation and the give-and-take of sharing. Meanwhile, we remain limited by problematic thought-constructs (and real events) of the last few thousand years. We need to listen, and to learn to see ourselves more as vehicles for expression than as expressers, originators of expression, artists, or creators. We are not Gods – though the adage of Peter Abelard (Pierre Abélard), “Ye are as Gods,” certainly had its place. I submit, though, that that viewpoint is no longer appropriate. We can be as angels in Heaven, perhaps… even without the boredom that Dante seems to suggest resides there.



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