Tuesday, November 28, 2006

SECRET TEACHINGS


First off, the December schedule for Saturday Zazen at the Hill Street Center is Dec. 2, Dec. 9, Dec. 16, and Dec. 23. December 9th is a day-long micro-retreat. On Dec. 23rd Tonen O'Connor from the Milwaukee Zen Center will be in attendance. That should be fun.

Thanks for all the comments and e-mails on Jesus. I'm still thinking about whether to do this or not. But I'm having fun reading A Marginal Jew by John P. Meier, a humongous study of the historical Jesus. Chewy stuff!!

OK. The other day I was at Goodwill rumaging thru the usual pile of musty old records when I came across the album pictured here, Velvet Darkness by Allan Holdsworth. Holdsworth is one of those guitarist's guitarists. Meaning he's really really good, but not very accessible to people who don't play guitar thesmelves since part of his appeal is how amazingly difficult his stuff is to play. Eddie Van Halen called Holdsworth his biggest influence. Before this I'd only ever heard one of his records, 1982's I.O.U. While the guitar playing was very impressive, the album was kinda boring. But when I spotted this one at Goodwill for 99 cents, I figured it was worth a dollar. Plus I liked the cover. Anything with the WTC on it is kind of sad to see these days. But it's a nifty picture.

I took it home and it was mildly enjoyable. So today I went on-line and looked up the album. Turns out it's a much sought-after rarity. Holdsworth himself hated it and it hasn't been reprinted since its initial release in 1976 except in an unauthorized edition in the early 90's that Holdsworth himself successfully sued to have withdrawn. Unfortunately, in spite of its rarity, it's only worth about $20 in mint condition. And mine's good for a thrift store find, but certainly not mint.

ANYWAY, the interesting thing was that the album suddenly seemed way much cooler to me as soon as I learned that it was a "secret album." That must be an almost instinctive reaction. Anything that's supposedly hidden or secret, just for that fact alone always seems a whole lot cooler. It's like all those Beatles bootlegs. I have a ton of them and they're mostly crap. The legit releases are much better. Yet dorks like me will drop a big bucks for the stupid things just because we're not supposed to hear them.

Same thing works in religious circles. Whenever some teaching is presented as esoteric, forbidden, or secret everybody wants it. And, of course, just like the Beatles bootlegs, those secret teachings are never really any better than what's out there available to everybody. Usually, like the Beatles bootlegs, they're just lousy cast-offs that were never released to the general public because they sucked.

ANYWAY I listened to the Holdsworth album again this afternoon and I kind of like it. Much better than I.O.U.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

> Plus I liked the cover. Anything
> with the WTC on it is kind of sad
> to see these days. But it's a
> nifty picture.

Is it my imagination or is the WTC
a recurring theme on this blog?

(Here are some more nifty pictures ;)

OK. I'll shut up now. Sorry.
Gotta go sit now...

Anonymous said...

Looks like you just missed him
live in Huntington Beach.

Anonymous said...

" ... those secret teachings are never really any better than what's out there available to everybody."

Some of the Christian Gnostic gospels provide fascinating insights into the theology of the ancient world, and are in fact given much weight by some modern-day scholars.

Also, your comment taken on its face seems to discount entire schools of Buddhism, such as Shingon (so-called Esoteric Buddhism) in Japan.

I think the problem is the use of the over-generalizing word "never" here.

Anonymous said...

FYI:

Ultraman on Slashdot

Anonymous said...

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PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Just like you Brad, I've spent hundreds of dollars on bootlegs just to have somethin' few fans have. But it is my experience that the search for these "secret" recordings is most always better than the find. Kinda like the path of zen.

ps: you can find the Japanese import of the Holdsworth cd at:
http://www.cduniverse.com/

Jinzang said...

Usually, like the Beatles bootlegs, they're just lousy cast-offs that were never released to the general public because they sucked.

This doesn't make any sense, even as a metaphor. People don't decide to publish one religion and not publish another, I don't know what you were thinking about.

Anonymous said...

"And, of course, just like the Beatles bootlegs, those secret teachings are never really any better than what's out there available to everybody. Usually, like the Beatles bootlegs, they're just lousy cast-offs that were never released to the general public because they sucked."

Of course, that's what they want you to think - how else would they remain seceret! :)

If you're interested in the 'secrets' surrounding Jesus then your search starts with the Tauroctony...

Jules said...

Jinzang, I think he was referring to the books excluded from the Biblical Canon, though as Michael pointed out there's still a lot of controversy as to their degree of suckage.

oxeye said...

"People don't decide to publish one religion and not publish another, I don't know what you were thinking about."

That is pretty much exactly what happened at Nicea in 325. Some Christian religious sects were deemed othodox or correct while other were identified as heretical or mistaken. Some ideas were published while others were censured.

A Strange Day said...

Personally, I wouldn't trust any religion that hides any information that I need to know in order to understand it. That just spells bad news to me.

Jinzang said...

If you're interested in the 'secrets' surrounding Jesus then your search starts with the Tauroctony...

The Tauroctony is associated with Mithraism, a rival religion to Christianity in the Roman Empore. Augustine was a Mithraist before he converted to Christianity.

Jinzang said...

Personally, I wouldn't trust any religion that hides any information that I need to know in order to understand it.

For a lot of reasons it's best to present information to the meditator as they need to know it instead of in one big lump. This avoids speculation, over-conceptualization, and false expectations. But it does look like secrecy and holding stuff back.

earDRUM said...

I once bought a book called the "Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhists Sects". I was wary. I bought it because Alan Watts wrote the forward. But I could never get through the whole thing. But I must admit that the word "secret" did make me curious.

If you like Alan Holdsworth's guitar playing, I recommend picking up the record by Tony Williams Lifetime band called, "Believe It". Holdsworth plays some amazing guitar on that one. I remember the day I walked into the record store and heard it for the first time. It still blows me away, 20 years later.

A Strange Day said...

I don't know. I would have to think that keeping a good portion of your religious teachings secret would cause a good deal of speculation and false expectations. You build up this huge image in your head of how profound and important these "secret" teachings must be. Otherwise, why would they keep them secret?

Meh. I'll stay with staring at walls.

Jinzang said...

Augustine was a Mithraist before he converted to Christianity.

My mistake. Augustine practiced Manichaeism. I get the two religions confused because they both start with an "M."

Jinzang said...

I would have to think that keeping a good portion of your religious teachings secret would cause a good deal of speculation and false expectations.

A lot depends on the skill of the teacher and the trust the student places in the teacher. Focusing on what the teacher should or should not do for the student is grabbing the wrong end of the stick. The question really is what qualities does the student need to develop in order to open him or herself to the understanding that the teacher has.

Jinzang said...

Sorry to monopolize the comments, but I remembered something my martial arts teacher once said that bears on the subject of secrecy.

Shifu said, "You all want to learn the advanced techniques. I would love to teach them to you. But the problem is that you haven't yet mastered the basics."

Anatman said...

You want answers?

The Truth
(sound on)

The Very Left Reverend said...

That is pretty much exactly what happened at Nicea in 325. Some Christian religious sects were deemed othodox or correct while other were identified as heretical or mistaken. Some ideas were published while others were censured.

More accurately, the creme had already risen to the top (so to speak). The books that were included in the Christian canon were the ones that the majority of the churches had already found helpful.

Regardless, some were considered orthodox and some were not. All things are relative kids, but some things are relatively better than others.

Anonymous said...

No more pussyfooting...

Religious people are insane.

Superstitious dogma is the cause of
an enormous amount of unnecessary
human suffering.

Atheists (or agnostics who are not
afraid of being impolite) should be
praised for their unflinching honesty.

Anonymous said...

The only good thing about (some) religions is
the music.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in Jesus and
secret teachings, you might enjoy
"The God Who Wasn't There".

Jules said...

Religious people are insane.

Can't agree with that.

Superstitious dogma is the cause of
an enormous amount of unnecessary
human suffering.


Wholeheartedly agree with that.

The article you linked (the "atheist manifesto") said:
The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to never doubt the existence of God should be obliged to present evidence for his existence

Do you believe in love? If so, please send me a link to Wikipedia's decription of the scientific instrument which can measure love.

I believe in the existence of love. Should I be obliged to prove its existence? If not, does that make me insane? A willfully ignorant, unreasonable, "Mom said it, I believe it, that settles it" love zealot? :-)

I think atheists would benefit from spending some time thinking about how little we really know about ourselves, and the universe we live in. Most atheists I've met seem self-congratulatory, like they've got the market cornered on the Truth. That's just another religion if you ask me.

“The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice”
-Bertrand Russell

Atheists (or agnostics who are not
afraid of being impolite) should be
praised for their unflinching honesty.


I think most people are honest when expressing their opinions. It's also praiseworthy when they acknowledge they're expressing their opinion, rather than declaring it as fact.

Anonymous said...

"The Tauroctony is associated with Mithraism, a rival religion to Christianity in the Roman Empore. Augustine was a Mithraist before he converted to Christianity."

Before approaching that subject it's first necessary to "unlearn" a lot of things.

The simple fact that religion is based upon faith/belief has to be "unlearned".

Most of the 'secret' societies/religions are not belief-based religions. Instead, they are based upon practice. They were generally kept secret because that made you really unpopular with practitioners from exoteric religions.

Imagine Europe during the middle ages when everywhere was heavily steeped in Catholicism (or vise-versa Protestantarianism when the political winds changed) and the penalty for being found out was being burning at the stake.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jules,

It appears you are projecting
your own misconceptions on what
atheists have to say.

Atheists don't claim certainty;
they are merely admitting that
they "don't know" when arriving
at the edge of human knowledge
rather than believing the absurd.

Also, no claims were made about
love, only about the absurdity
of religion.

Personally, I believe that the
moon is made of green cheese and
that it controls all of human destiny.
Now where did I put my Napoleon hat?

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder why religious people
vote for Bush?

Jules said...

anonymous guy wrote:
Also, no claims were made about
love, only about the absurdity
of religion.


I didn't say you made any claims about love. I was making a point; I'll rephrase it.

If one denies the existance of God and asserts with certainty that "all religious people are insane" because there's a lack of scientific evidence supporting the existence of God, then by those standards one should also deny the existence of love and assert that everyone who believes in love is insane, because there's no scientific evidence supporting the existence of love either.

Atheists don't claim certainty;
they are merely admitting that
they "don't know" when arriving
at the edge of human knowledge
rather than believing the absurd.


I believe that's the definition of agnosticism. Are you saying agnosticism and atheism are no different? I was pretty sure my dictionary said that atheism asserts, with certainty, that there is no God, whereas agnostics simply don't have any direct knowledge (the Greek word roots also support this, a theos = no god, a gnosis = no direct knowledge).

Is Webster's wrong on this point? If you are referring to atheists who don't assert the non-existence of God with certainty, then my comments about certainty don't apply to them.

But for people who claim to be uncertain, the atheists I've come into contact with (including you and some of the articles you linked to) sure use a lot of rude and derogatory language about religious people. Some of whom have had deeply meaningful personal experiences for which they find scientific explanations unsatisfying. If you're not certain, then maybe you should shut the hell up about who's insane and who isn't.

Anonymous said...

Please do not take the previous
and the following too seriously,
Jules:

Fair enough. You are absolutely
right: adhering to the Greek roots,
atheists are just as dishonest
as theists. Neither can possibly
know for sure.

So, agnosticism is the only honest
orientation in this world.

Or maybe, from popular usage,
you could define atheists as
agnostics who have lost their
patience and are sick of biting
their tongues while theists use
their highly improbable beliefs
to justify actions that cause
untold human suffering.

Occam's razor seems
to be a good principle to follow
here. Why bother adding something
extra and unnecessary, especially
when it causes so much trouble
in the world?

Of course, if you're writing poetry
for entertainment, then you have
poetic license to blather on about
God(s) till the cows come home:
"Mmmmmuuuu...eat more chikin."

Sorry if I offended. It's just that
I feel bad for the atheists;
they are a much-maligned minority
that every day have to stomach the
words "In God We Trust" stamped on
American common currency.

Cheers,
your friendly neighborhood
anonymous devil's advocate

PS
"Deeply meaningful personal experiences"
can sometimes be deceptive.
If I remember correctly, Brad,
in his book, mentions some wild
traveling-to-the-ends-of-the-cosmos
experience that Nishijima
recommended not attaching
too much importance to. I think
Gudo said something like "You
music-film-artist types have
fantastic imaginations".

PPS
I'd look up the exact quote,
but my copy was lent out and
never returned.

PPPS
Just for the record, I consider
myself to be insane too (but not
as insane as religious people ;)

"Thank God I'm an atheist!"
--Luis Bunuel

PPPPS
"anonymous guy"? How presumptuous!
(I never specified my gender :(

Anonymous said...

"Those who can be made to believe
absurdities, can be made to commit
atrocities." -- Voltaire

Anonymous said...

Why does God hate amputees?

whydoesgodhateamputees.com

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of books with which
to awaken the religious zombie hordes:

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

and

Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett

Anonymous said...

"Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

-- Bertrand Russell, "Is There a God?" commissioned by, but never published in, Illustrated Magazine (1952: repr. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68, ed. John G Slater and Peter K├Âllner (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543-48, quoted from S T Joshi, Atheism: A Reader

Anonymous said...

Here's proof that my God exists:

Behold the wondrous FSM!

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