The Religion of Self-Enlightenment is a novel about a man called Carrick, who believes he has found the meaning of life. He writes a new religion called The Religion of Self-Enlightenment. The religion he writes is one of love, peace and harmony. The following sample features a discussion between Carrick and his psychiatrist, Paul Turnstone. The Doctor is a scientist and Carrick believes in a spiritual meaning behind life.
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“What’s a flower?”
“Don’t be stupid, Carrick! I think we know what a flower is.”
“What would you describe a flower as being?”
“A stem, with some petals, a bud, a pollen holder, that kind of thing…” the Doctor returned.
“Yes, a human being.”
“No, a flower.” He was annoyed, but Carrick would go on, and on, on and on…
“Any human being is exactly like this. Petals – physical adornments, buds – genitals, leaves – hair to guide the rain off us. There’s only one exception: a mind. If a flower could think, what would it do?”
The Doctor thought for a moment.
“It would probably hold on to its pollen, and see the bees as a threat.” He seemed proud of his answer.
“Exactly! And that’s the human way of seeing things – that to hold on to what makes life will make it better. But the flowers would soon die if they thought such things. The pollen of a human is its love, its gifts. But the way a lot of people think is that they must keep it all in, having been taught that if we give them away we somehow lose something, or must ask for a price in return.”
“So what are you saying? What’s your point?”
“That if we didn’t have minds life would be better.”
“I think you are in the wrong place!” the Doctor laughed.
As did Carrick; he then carried on with a sense of seriousness.
“Had they minds, most things about flowers would change and not necessarily for the better. But we worship minds as the be-all-and-end-all, the one thing we have which ‘separates’ us from nature and makes us evolved. Actually, it’s really clear that our minds are harming us. There are so many ways of thinking about things that our minds are nothing but tornadoes, crushing our experiences like storms. We can’t just be anymore because people have to do whatever they are told they should be doing. I mean, my question is, don’t you believe that if the wind could think, or flowers, or anything like that, they would then be broken or changed? That they wouldn’t be able to just be anymore, in their natural beauty and perfection and efficiency because – especially if they had the ability to communicate their thoughts – other flowers or things would start telling them what to do and how to be, and that because they work already, it could only end in disaster.”
Doctor Turnstone thought about it seriously. “I’m not entirely sure I know the answer to this question.”
“I see your point. And it’s very good. I have spent many years of my life studying nature in the form of our knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology and all kinds of other things. It’s a fascinating, interconnected, and in many ways flawless system. And yes, humans are doing an awful job of being part of it and appreciating its needs, respecting the little consideration it needs to function. It’s quite astonishing that all it needs is to be allowed to be, and we can’t even seem to be able to let that happen.”
Carrick was ecstatic. “That’s exactly what I’m saying! That we’re not allowing ourselves to be – that we too are natural and we too must be left to be and as a result will function well. But we keep messing with the formula, and it’s like we’re trying to destroy ourselves in consequence, because we won’t let our nature rule us as it naturally does.”
“Would you like to have no mind?”
“I can see that it harms us in some ways, when we consider it the most important thing in our world.”
“But how would we know what to do if we could not think?”
“What do you mean ‘to do’?”
“To do! Action is life and energy in constant motion – we can never just be and not do, it is technically impossible. To have a mind to express our talents and be aware of our actions beyond merely existing is a beautiful thing! We are not only numbly at the mercy of all nature; we can change our external world according to our thoughts.”
“That is why thoughts are so dangerous. If we had clearly moulded thinking, then this argument would be valid, but there are no thoughts we have made that can overcome the natural wonder that is within us and around us. Therefore we create disorder inside, with aims and goals which change and are always unclear, both inside ourselves and in the mass world around us!”
“But to have no direction, would you like that? What achievements would you gain?”
“You would not value or conceive of achievements, because they are based on the idea that something is missing and you need to do or obtain something to complete yourself, or that you can be somewhere much better than where you are now. Without that thought, you would only do things because you felt you wanted to, not with the idea of getting something you don’t have now. That idea portrays people as full of holes, and tries to fill them with things, but people are complete and beautiful just living as they see fit. Only they’re not thinking that way.”
“But not all people are superstars or whoever they want to be in their wildest dreams!”
“There you go! There you go – that’s exactly it. Why have you just said that? The whole picture which that creates is that I am somehow incomplete now, as opposed to how I would be were I a superstar. This is a mental idea of the world. It has been produced because in a money-driven, success-driven state of mind people feel they have to try harder, be more, because unless they are the best they haven’t got to where they want to go. It is funny no one notices how often even superstars self-destruct and go down in a sinking ship of self-loathing and depression, while young mothers can be as happy as beans just running around with their new-born.”
“I’m just saying that it’s common to want to be big and successful. It’s not that there is only one definition of this, though, you’re right in that, and I have to unpick this many times in my line of work because the effect these thoughts have on general well-being is catastrophic. But if you have achieved something monumental, oftentimes it is because our minds and feelings have interacted and we are overjoyed at what the mind has created.”
“But is this really the case? Do we really feel this way? We are told we do, but in my personal experience many of the things I have achieved caused me the worst moments of my life – feelings of emptiness and a hollow idea of what life is about. I have no need for them, place no value on them. I don’t even know where they came from; I don’t think they were mine.
“I mean, with the education process you are subliminally implanted with this idea that if you were left to grow alone in the world, you wouldn’t know it or know what to do with it. It is as if we are told that we are fools who must learn, empty batteries which need charging with power. But that’s not true. We are NOT ignorant and powerless upon birth; on the contrary we are all filled with ideas and the strength to use them, and should be given what we need to fulfil our natural desires, and this is why people get so upset. They try so hard at what they are told is progress whilst the only thing they actually achieve is to lose touch with themselves and feel empty or incomplete. Will that make people happy, having their natural desires usurped by other people?”
“But if you get good grades at school, and are able to do a job you can be proud of, you can earn more money for your effort and buy the things you need.”
“But they have all been confiscated! They are free by natural law, but have been confiscated by the rich and put behind bars, and money releases them.”
“That seems fair to me. Why should anything that has taken time and money to make be given away for free?”
“Well, yes, but the people who made those things are usually the very ones that the bars are designed to keep out.” There was a silence. “Now is that fair?”
There were more silences as a sticking point was in their midst now: it is unfair. It is. Still, the inevitable rejoinder was made by the Doctor.
“Well, they could earn more money if they increased their skills.”
“How many skills does the Queen have? How much time does a working class person have to dedicate to learning when she or he is working so much that they are nothing except tired in the little remaining time? Not to mention people all over the world, working in dangerous conditions to fuel the endless ‘doing’ and ‘achievement’ and ‘production’.”
“I don’t really see where all this is going, Carrick. We are not here for a philosophy class.”
“What I’m saying is, I’m looking back over my life, and I can’t believe what I see there.”
“What do you see?”
“Someone who never once used their feelings to guide them, but always thoughts, and not even their own, just what they heard or picked up off someone else. I have a mind, Doctor, but I don’t know what it has been doing up until now? You ask me to write down things I want to achieve from now on, some kind of future that would make my life worthwhile, and I can’t see anything. And the point is, what is not worthwhile about just being?”
“It is not sustainable. You need money and things to eat and live.”
“But there are trees and fields and they are said to belong to people – I am not allowed to touch them as they are not mine. I could eat and live naturally, but instead I must adhere to aims that are not mine and give my time to things I don’t want to do, in order to get what naturally is mine to take.”
“But you must like the blessings of the modern, developed world: you can’t live with just straw and mud and berries!”
“But I can’t live on ignorance and brutality and slavery either. Some are being paid and treated more fairly than others but there is a pattern to how, in being nourished physically, we are impoverished in every other form of existence. You asked me to think of aims, Doctor, but I have no aims. I don’t want to work anymore.”
“How will you live?”
“I don’t know – which makes me not want to live at all…”
The Doctor looked worried.
“…and that’s not natural. So you see, from the natural child wanting merely to play and love and eat and survive, we are becoming something grotesque. It’s called evolving, but it’s a stripping away of all our nature, and a manipulation of all that we are. So I’m saying that if you take away nature, instead of evolving to some higher plane, we descend into depression and feelings of worthlessness, desiring onlys not to be here or do this anymore. We are slaves, with material adornments instead of whiplash scars.”
“So you have no idea what you are here for anymore, don’t want to achieve anything, and are becoming suicidal?”
“No. I know why I’m here. I know what I want to do. And I want more than anything to do it. But it is being taken away from me.”
“What is it you want?”
“Nothing: to be free to be whatever I would like to be. To not know a plan, and so always be at peace knowing that I will never fail with nothing to achieve but living the best I can moment to moment, according to standards I have set and not anyone else. It’s like the carrot on the string tied above the donkey’s head: this idea that there’s success waiting out there for us only works if the donkey is stupid enough not to figure out that there is grass beneath its feet but that the carrot is never coming to them; otherwise it would just graze.”
“That’s very negative, Carrick. No one’s making donkeys out of anyone really, are they? There is a structure in which you can be whatever you would like to be. You can get more than what you would achieve on your own, you just must sacrifice some of your time and use your talents and make some effort to get those things.”
“In theory, that’s what it is, and yes, that’s what we’re told to believe it is. But it’s turned into a process in which you sacrifice everything you are to get what you don’t even want, but what you have been made to feel you need by the insecurities that advertising and marketing implant in you. The whole thing stinks. The whole infrastructure of the world as I live and breathe it is designed to take away all my power and make me feel arrogant or evil for wanting it back. This is not a life. This is a slow, torturous death, satiated by bursts of what we actually want in the form of sex, love and food.”
Silence opened the wound of the words in a Doctor who believed in the way of life Carrick had mercilessly chucked aside, who had worked hard to achieve the things Carrick said were worthless, who felt his whole desire to help people was aided by the systems within which he had moved, and that he was a higher, happier, more able human being as a result of adhering to them.
“Carrick, do you think I’m wasting my life?”
Carrick had been so wrapped up in his own world that he had forgotten who he was talking to: his enemy personified. He had blown all his secrets and all his battle plans lay open on the table, yet with the other side wounded and the mission complete, he felt only the sadness of his foe. Peace was all he had wanted anyway. ‘Why do we have to fight and disagree?’ he thought. ‘Why can’t the Doctor have his way of life and I, mine? That is the question.’
“Sorry. I can see I have insulted and upset you. If what you do makes you happy, that’s what I believe you should do. But I can’t do what I want to do, so I become enraged so often these days. I guess neither way is right or wrong, it’s just what you want to do, or yes, achieve. I want to achieve nothing but peace in myself. I’ve been scarred and bruised, Doctor. I’ve been through a lot, and you’re right, it has affected me. I lie awake at nights, I can’t sleep and I can’t eat. I can’t remember what joy feels like sometimes and I don’t know why I’m here or what I should do in terms of fitting into the outside world. I can’t relate to anyone and wherever I go I see hardship. There’s no joy for me because I want the joy of freedom. And people tell me I am wrong so I have fought for it in my head, fought for my right to do what I want to do, but have found nothing, no right to do what I want to do. I do owe everything in my life to others, and am frustrated at my own uselessness and inability to reciprocate. Since my experience of life beyond here, Doctor, I have become a taker, and all I have is my head to help me hide from this. I guess my aim is to hide and to think and to justify my hiding and my thinking as something worthwhile. I am not free of aims at all. This is my aim: to find shelter from the storm… I’m sorry.”