Who Should Read “The Varieties of Religious Experience”? And Why?
Regardless of whether you’re a religious person or not, one thing that should be more than clear to you is the fact that religious experiences exist.
It helps nobody if we shelf all of them under the same category – say, meetings with the divine or acts of manipulations.
That’s why James’ Verities of Religious Experiences is such an essential work in the history of science. The American philosopher is almost utterly disinterested in the legitimacy of religious experiences.
What he is interested in, however, is much more important: whether religious experiences can tell us more about the human condition here, on earth.
That’s why we warmly recommend this book to both believers and non-believers: it takes into account both positions, and it analyzes religious experiences in an objective, descriptive manner.
About William James
William James was one of the most influential American philosophers and psychologists, justly considered “The Originator of Pragmatism” (with Charles Saunders Pierce) and “The Father of American Psychology.”
Born into a wealthy intellectual family – his brother was the novelist Henry James – William James trained as a physician and even taught anatomy at Harvard; however, he was never interested in practicing medicine, and he quickly reoriented toward the field of psychology and then philosophy.
James’ writings have influenced a number of prominent 20th-century intellectuals, from Husserl and Du Bois to Russell and Wittgenstein.
His books, Essays in Radical Empiricism, The Principles of Psychology, and the Varieties of Religious Experience, are considered not only groundbreaking texts in each of their respective fields but also indelible parts of the Western Canon.
“The Varieties of Religious Experience PDF Summary”
The Varieties of Religious Experience consists of William James’ Gifford Lectures on natural theology, which he delivered at the University of Edinburgh during the first three years of the 20th century.
There were originally twenty of them, but the book has a few chapters less than that number since it groups those which explored similar topics.
Lecture I. Religion and Neurology
“Religion and Neurology” describes the methodology of James’ study.
Just so that no one should make a mistake, he states straight from the outset:
I am neither a theologian, nor a scholar learned in the history of religions, nor an anthropologist. Psychology is the only branch of learning in which I am particularly versed. To the psychologist the religious propensities of man must be at least as interesting as any other of the facts pertaining to his mental constitution. It would seem, therefore, as a psychologist, the natural thing for me would be to invite you to a descriptive survey of those religious propensities.
And then he proceeds to explain that it seems much more interesting to him to explore the world of the “religious geniuses,” i.e., those people who have experienced religious visions dissimilar to those passed on through orthodox traditions.
In other words, the Einsteins of religious experiences.
Lecture II. Circumscription of the Topic
“Circumscription” is a rather archaic word which means “restriction” or “limit.”
And that’s what James tries to set in the second lecture.
Mostly, he says, he is interested in personal religious experiences, since corporate ones are usually – if not always – the product of personal ideas and conversions.
Put simply, Christianity exists because of Jesus, Islam because of Muhammed; so, the only religious experiences worth analyzing are those of Jesus and Muhammed.
And even more interesting than Jesus and Muhammed may be the creators of sects within these religions – say, George Fox who founded the Quaker religion.
What drove them to do it?
Lecture III. The Reality of the Unseen
“Vague impressions of something indefinable have no place in the rationalistic system,” writes William James in this chapter.
“Nevertheless,” he immediately adds giving an apology for his interest in religious experiences, “if we look on man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial.”
It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, for it has the loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words… Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.
Lectures IV and V. The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness
The fourth and fifth James’ Gifford lecture are grouped under the same title: “The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness.”
Interestingly enough, in retrospect, what James is talking about in this chapter – terming it America’s principal contribution to religion – is actually what we should nowadays call it positive thinking.
Finding its origins in Emerson, Whitman and Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science, James calls this “the religion of healthy-mindedness,” or “the religion of the mind-cure.”
In the case of these people, James thinks, the religious experience is the product of happiness and an optimistic outlook; they don’t believe in evil and bad things since both of them can be neutralized through a positive attitude.
These are the once-born, the people who can live a life of sustained happiness; they don’t need a religion different than optimism.
Lectures VI and VII. The Sick Soul
However, there’s also another group, a group of people whose souls are sick from birth, since, unlike the once-born, they believe that the world is fundamentally evil.
These are the morbid-minded people.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of James, “morbid-mindedness ranges over the wider scale of experience,” since many people suffer on a daily basis and the healthy-minded are all but incapable for prolonged suffering.
So that these morbid-minded people can experience happiness, they need to be born a second time; this is why James calls their religious experiences, the religious experiences of the twice-born.
To these people, finding religion means finally finding a cure for unhappiness.
Lecture VIII. The Divided Self, and the Process of Its Unification
So, in a way, religion is a way for the morbid-minded individual to restore the condition of his healthy-mindedness.
This can be done through some sort of a “conversion experience” – see below – which can happen either abruptly (as in the case of St Paul) or through a gradual process of discovery (as in the case of Leo Tolstoy and John Bunyan).
“But neither Bunyan nor Tolstoy,” notes James beautifully, “could become what we have called healthy-minded. They had drunk too deeply of the cup of bitterness ever to forget its taste, and their redemption is into a universe two stories deep.”
In both of them, “the sadness was preserved as a minor ingredient in the heart of the faith by which it was overcome.”
However, what interests James “is that as a matter of fact they could and did find something welling up in the inner reaches of their consciousness, by which such extreme sadness could be overcome.”
Lecture IX and X. Conversion
In lectures nine and ten, James spends some time discussing the nature and the effects of religious conversion.
For some reason, he says, religion gives people the power and the impetus to change their habits and even their character.
In some cases, religious conversions result in a profound change affecting the core being of an individual.
“There are persons in whom,” writes James, “quite independently of any exhaustion in the Subject’s capacity for feeling, or even in the absence of any acute previous feeling, the higher condition, having reached the due degree of energy, bursts through all barriers and sweeps in like a sudden flood.”
He notes that “these are the most striking and memorable cases, the cases of instantaneous conversion to which the conception of divine grace has been most peculiarly attached.”
Lectures XI to XV. Saintliness and the Value of Saintliness
Then James moves on to the topic of saintliness which he explores in the next five chapters.
He uses the first two to define saintly people as those whose “spiritual emotions are the habitual center of the personal energy.”
According to James, saintliness includes four traits which lead to four practical consequences.
The four traits of saintliness are these:
#1. “A feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world’s selfish little interests; and a conviction … of the existence of an Ideal Power.”
#2. “A sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal power with our own life, and a willing self-surrender to its control.”
#3. “An immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down.”
#4. “A shifting of the emotional center towards loving and harmonious affections, towards ‘yes, yes’ and away from ‘no,’ where the claims of the non-ego are concerned.”
And the practical consequences of these four traits are the following:
#1. Asceticism: experiencing pleasure in self-sacrifice;
#2. Strength of soul: since fear and anxieties make room for “blissful equanimity,” a saintly person can endure everything and become a martyr. “Come heaven, come hell, it makes no difference now!”
#3. Purity: being sensitive to your own purity means trying willingly to stay away from the impurities of the world, which is often its material nature;
#4. Charity: tenderness for fellow-creatures; “the saint loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as his brothers.”
Lectures XVI And XVII. Mysticism
In the next two lectures – and, in a way, the final two proper lectures of this series – William James explores the concept of mysticism. And he extrapolates “four marks which, when an experience has them, may justify us in calling it mystical”:
#1. Ineffability: no mystical experience can be adequately put into words; it defies expression;
#2. Noetic quality: all mystical experiences are “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect;” even though inarticulate, they give the mind power of a kind which the person who goes through a mystical experience considers it revelatory;
#3. Transiency: most mystical experiences are transient and can’t be sustained for long;
#4. Passivity: the mystic often feels “as if he were grasped and held by a superior power;” he is being overcome by something else.
The first two of these four qualities of the mystical experiences are general: all mystical experiences have them; however, the second two are subsidiary features found often, but not always, in cases such as these.
Lecture XVIII. Philosophy
In this lecture, William James tries to explain why it is so difficult to talk about religious experiences in philosophical language.
Of course, the answer is simple: the former is illogical, and the latter follows the laws of logic by definition.
However, there’s a catch!
“I do believe,” writes James, “that feeling is the deeper source of religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products, like translations of a text into another tongue.”
This whole lecture is an explanation of that sentence.
Lecture XIX. Other Characteristics
In the penultimate lecture, James skims through some “other characteristics” of the religious experiences.
The three topics covered here are institutional religion, prayers, and the relationship between religion and the subconscious.
James doesn’t hold organized religion in high regard since it doesn’t give enough room for personal religious experiences – which is what it was born out of.
Prayers are then analyzed both historically and pragmatically, as is the relationship between religion and the subconscious, leaving room for the interpretation of at least some religious experiences as products of psychopathological conditions.
Lecture XX. Conclusions
In his final lecture, William James continues this discussion of the subconscious, presenting it as a channel through which “the further limits of our being plunge… into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely ‘understandable’ world.”
It is because of this that further studies in the realm of the subconscious are necessary.
They, in the eyes of James, should be able to reveal to us a sounder basis for scientific exploration of the religious experience.
For now, it is our duty to not dismiss it as something inherently unscientific because it has helped many people become both happier and smarter.
Key Lessons from “The Varieties of Religious Experience”
1. Healthy-Mindedness and Morbid-Mindedness
2. Saintliness: Traits and Effects
3. The Four Marks of a Mystical Experience
Healthy-Mindedness and Morbid-Mindedness
Some people are born healthy-minded, and others are born morbid-minded; the former are capable of sustaining happiness, the latter think that they are doomed to suffer through life.
Positive thinking is, more or less, the only religion the first group of people needs; however, the second can only become healthy-minded trough some sort of religious conversion.
That’s why William James calls the former “the once-born” and the latter “the twice-born.”
Saintliness: Traits and Effects
There are four traits which describe a saintly person and which lead to four different practical effects.
The traits in question are: a feeling that the world is more than what we can see; a sense that there is an Ideal Power which exists in you as well; an immense elation and freedom; and a shifting from a no-state to a yes-state of being.
These four traits lead to four practical consequences: asceticism, strength of soul, purity, and charity.
The Four Marks of a Mystical Experience
Just like saintliness, mysticism can also be defined within the limits of four qualities.
These are: ineffability, noetic quality, transiency, and passivity.
The first two are general and describe all mystical experiences; the latter two can often be found in them, but are sometimes absent and are subsidiary.
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The Varieties of Religious Experience may be a bit outdated, and some of its ideas may seem somewhat dangerous; after all, Mussolini said that it was this book which taught him that “an action should be judged by its result rather than by its doctrinal basis.”
Even so, it is a book which – as James’ fellow pragmatist Pierce said – penetrates deep into the hearts of people; and it will undoubtedly be debated for many years to come. Just as it has been for over a century now.
Tao Te Ching is a religious text composed of 81 brief sections targeting the core of Taoism.
There are many speculations regarding the authenticity of this masterpiece, and we must give the benefit of the doubt in this regard.
Without further ado, let’s distill the key message into this summary.
Who Should Read “Tao Te Ching”? And Why?
One cannot say for certain what led Lao-Tse into writing this remarkable religious text, but it sure wasn’t commercial interest. All joking aside, the thought-provoking parables are not fitting for the simple-minded.
Don’t get this the wrong way because not everyone has a neck for religious interpretations while staying away from its biases. Therefore, we recommend “Tao Te Ching” to spiritual fanatics and those in pursuit of higher meaning.
About Laozi or Lao Tzu
Laozi or Lao-Tse was an ancient philosopher born somewhere between 6th and 4th century BC in China.
As the founder of Taoism and other religious factions, he has received a lot of attention over the centuries.
His work has become the backbone for various political movements and demands for reforms.
“Tao Te Ching PDF Summary”
In the first 10 Brief Sections, Laozi places emphasis on the world, and the absolute nature of the Tao. The name itself is not nameable, or the concept which can be put into words is subjected to alteration.
This existence or non-existence or the contrast introduced by Lao-Tse is the actual bottleneck. A candle can lighten the burden of a blind person; having the relatedness of all life-elements is the core of one’s beingness.
Lagging behind or forging ahead gives birth to the idea of permanence:
All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement).
Heaven and earth don’t take action to be recognized as humane, neither the sages are concerned with being labeled as benevolent. They pray for the rain and deal with the mud amidst the uncertainty of today and tomorrow.
Cluttering up your mind with thoughts is like paddling along the cost on a crowded ship. You start to be losing your sharpness when you veer off course.
Why can’t we act for the sake of being, or can we abandon the thought of looking for purpose in everything – is it okay to be free of conceptual indoctrination?
Color’s five hues from th’ eyes their sight will take; Music’s five notes the ears as deaf can make; The flavors five deprive the mouth of taste; The chariot course and the wild hunting waste Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange, Sought for, men’s conduct will to evil change.
Henceforth, the sage aspires to please the belly instead of embracing the insatiable look of the eyes. His looks are attached to the former, which to some extent brings into life the question of disgrace and favor.
A temporary slump to a lower position signifies the disgrace which comes along after a thing is obtained and the very perseverance to keep it leads to sickness.
The magic of Tao is beyond one’s notion of conceptual knowledge. They penetrate one’s inner aura and tame the sage’s thirst for trivial pleasures. Those who wholeheartedly endorse the Truth of Taoism can afford to loosen the mental strain upon getting the big picture.
Such movement can help the sage to punctuate the changing indoctrinations, and dispel the evil urges. When harmony is at stake, even stable organizations fall into chaotic functionality.
This cast doubts on the questions – Why all men want to be feared? You can add multiple variations and get the same outcome.
What to do with all the beauty, how to define it so that it accurately depicts the existence of things? You might need to flesh it out, to get the glass full. Don’t stray off course led by the restless mind brimming with pointless cravings.
A sage understands the power emerging from humility; he protects it, he loves it and shares it with the world. A purified heart shines and looms out of the darkness; he doesn’t subdue to self-evaluation, therefore his efforts are based on merit.
Tao is center in this endeavor, and as the axis around which all manifestation spins, it urges you to stretch your empathy.
He who stands on his tiptoes does not stand firm; he who stretches his legs does not walk (easily). (So), he who displays himself does not shine; he who asserts his own views is not distinguished; he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged; he who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.
A man looks up to find a law, and accepts the needs of the Earth; The Earth leans on the Heaven for directions, while Heaven enacts its ideas based on the Tao principle. And Tao just is!
Those who realize that white can captivate your attention but to prefer to recline and relax in a black shade, are triggering the aspect of humility. Beneath the clear blue sky, one can find shelter if he unravels the cause for mediocrity.
The superhuman has a preference for the left hand in good and reputable locations, while it believes in the mightiness of the right hand in the event of war and conflict. One can easily discern that these instruments are merely used out of urgency.
As far as The Tao is concerned, Laozi labels it as consistent and permanent in nature; indescribable and unseeable.
Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, without the directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord. He who does not fail in the requirements of his position continues long; he who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity.
Under those circumstances, the sage is able to pursue its lust for achievements in the material and intangible realm and make its way through life. One is not required to uphold tradition because feeling upbraided cannot be subsided with the notion of acceptance.
A person or sage whose life pivots around the Tao principle can lift the veil on The Great Image. The world keeps plugging away as of that moment; no unrest is bestowed upon its wings; no crime is committed at the behest of men.
The fragrance of heaven steams from the essence of Tao; it springs from the existence of life, and the non-existence of superficial concepts.
The rugged terrain of finding Tao looms in the distance, even in daylight. The Tao has no name, so it’s unperceivable for the likes of narrowness. Tao imparts wisdom to those having the wits to accept it, and those able to fend the enemy off.
The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things. All trace through the essentialism of Tao and tackle the darkness of life.
Not many have been able to absorb the meaning without submitting to written concepts, and they can capitalize on this non-actionable action!
Who is content Needs fear no shame. Who knows to stop Incurs no blame. From danger free Long live shall he.
Tao presides over the world, prevails in the world, rules the world. When Tao doesn’t get the respect is due, or when Tao is neglected to its full, the war-horses show their backs and flee to enemy lines. There’s no greater sin than enforcing a thought-police, no greater guilt than banning aspirations.
He who finds purity in the mud, he exerts himself in learnings the ropes of each day. He is the one whose knowledge and expertise allow him to distinguish Tao from words and actions. The sage strives hard to not to form a mindset, but embodies the one of its people.
All things are under Tao’s wings, created by it, nurtured by it, and impugned by it. Not following this law can take a toll on your spiritual and emotional condition. People who don’t pay tribute to Tao, don’t even know Tao; honoring it is the sum and substance to all that exists.
Are you entitled to its yields? It’s like harvesting the crops and picking up the fruits as a result of your labor. It sidesteps from wielding power with relish and exerting influence on one’s essence, but it introduces maturity and destroys obscurity – mysteriousness at its finest.
The great Tao (or way) is very level and easy, but people love the by-ways. He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tao) is like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him.
He who can’t discern the essence of (the Tao) is not required to interpret its meaning. A state may enforce its laws based on its agenda, but a real kingdom can emerge only as a consequence of one’s inner freedom of thought and action.
A powerful state strives for confluence between classes and people, while a weaker one only wishes to exercise its dominance over its inhabitants and serve others. Under Tao, you get what you long for; whatsoever is the main trigger for lust will be your prayer at night.
The method of Tao gets things rolling by acting without the thought of action, and doing business without feeling the burden of it; to perceive the small things as powerful, and every uttered word to be repaid with decency.
Therefore, the sage desires what (other men) do not desire, and does not prize things difficult to get; he learns what (other men) do not learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by. Thus he helps the natural development of all things and does not dare to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).
In its path, and those who cherish its truths will find safe harbor without the weight attached to their shoulders. An act of mercy and tenderness ought to be the battle-cry for war; the road to victory. Heaven will never turn its back on its possessor because his humility will come to its aid.
Those who know the words of Tao see the meaning of life.
Being able to think, calculate and observe is a good starting point. Not being able to discern the critical values of life and continue to think is a disease. When fear is not instigated in the minds of people, they inflame this disease even further. It’s dreadful not knowing where the ignorance is coming from.
To circumvent this predicament, the sage tries to dive deep into itself, and set its intangible values. He neglects the urges to show off and tries to unravel the cause of deep cultural malaise. As a result, you can pick one of the alternatives presented.
The people do not fear death; to what purpose is it to (try to) frighten them with death? If the people were always in awe of death, and I could always seize those who do wrong and put them to death, who would dare to do wrong?
The process of bending a bow can be put on the equal footing with the Way (or Tao) of Heaven are understood. If you pull the string to the upper part, it might break, not doing it, you’ll have a useless tool.
Whatever you do, stay away from deficiency.
81st – Section
Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere.
Those who plunge into the depths of Tao don’t dispute it, those that understand Tao are not prone to conceptual learning; those that love superficial prowess follow practicality.
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He passed away on April 24th, 2017, at the age of 88 and left a legacy of written texts, which will remain a source of inspiration for new generations.
They key leitmotif throughout this 1974 novel, is the long motorcycle trip whose symbolic essence gave birth to ideas about the new way of life. So, instead of parsing sentence-by-sentence, one should advocate for confluence between Western and Eastern civilization to sympathize with Robert’s message.
The central premise tackles the rather superficial lifestyle, which can be improved through a series of reforms.
The narrative is in the first person, and it widely encompasses the trip scheme while reminiscing about the narrator’s past which abounds with interesting encounters.
The storyline commences with Chris revving up his motorcycle engine alongside John Sutherland and Sylvia (his wife). They are headed toward the Dakotas, and the weather turns bad. Dark clouds emerge above their heads and herald a rainstorm.
The narrator recalls a trip to Canada which resulted in a heavy rainstorm. He and Chris end up soaking wet because they forgot to dig a trench to support their tent. The bad motorcycle condition was just icing on the cake for them, and it only aggravated the problem even further.
What could have happened on that perilous journey – they wonder? He nails down this story in order to stay sharp if things go south once again. In the meantime, John says that they’ve veered off course, and need to adjust their route.
The crew takes a quick break at Hague to refuel and ask for directions. What shocks them the most is the fact that “Bismarck and Mobridge” are nowhere nearby. Even their existence is called into question. John believes that heading south to Mobridge might be their best chance. They take some time off to think and weigh their options at Herried.
Upon reaching Mobridge, they cross the river and go inland. The Narrator notices a shift in John’s perception of life, as it becomes more into line with the objective reality rather than embracing false imagery painted by the creative mind.
This mind-switch is even labeled as the Chautauqua point.
They make headway in their long journey, as they move toward Bowman during a sweltering heat wave whereas the crew comes across an old stockman. The narrator shows glimpses of adoration for this man’s conduct and embraces some tips on how to tame the mind.
The Phaedrus’ knife becomes the central hypothesis in this process as the narrator leans on the analogy of sorting the sand into piles in order to exemplify the analytical urges of the mind.
The Narrator’s objective hangs in the balance as a realization struck like a bolt of lightning. Too much analyzing can hasten your demise, and drain the life out of you. As they traverse the Marmarth region, they wind up at Montana.
The Phaedrus story emerges again, as the Narrator pinpoints that he lost his mind, and in order to get an aerial perspective of his life, one must put itself in its shoes. However, that’s easier said than done.
In Chapter 8, the narrator leads into a beautiful description of their mission in Miles City. It’s early in the morning, and they can’t seem to get enough rest due to the restless strives in the past few days.
The Narrator turns over to repairing its motorcycle and associates the scrutinization of the spark plugs with some religious deity.
The need for materials and precise equipment evokes a reaction from the narrator. This instrumental hierarchy reminds him of everyday concepts and how complex systems consist of these small elements and inject fire into the systematic way of thinking.
Upon fixing the motorcycle, he ponders about Phaedrus’ insights lodged into his photographic memory which was partly the reason for his demise. The Narrator keeps the ball rolling by highlighting the schools in which Phaedrus instilled a sense of organization.
Next day, the narrator is awakened by the morning breeze that sparks them to continue their voyage south through Yellowstone Park. They devise a route which will help them to reach Bozeman by crossing the fields of the Red Lodge.
The Narrator keeps the excitement in the air by sharing more of Phaedrus military career, and his daily encounters in Korea. The pursuit of truth and independence helped him to establish liberty, but at what cost?
As they approach Bozeman, the Narrator senses the tension in the air, fueled by inner turbulence. Their timidity doesn’t go unnoticed, as they ponder about turning back. Phaedrus’ mindset is still the subject of their discussions as they discuss the political impasse present in his days on campus.
During those times, Phaedrus conveyed mind-blowing words regarding the disparity between professors being labeled as employees and protectors of the truth. His igniting speech has stretched to various circles but didn’t circumvent the problem.
His behavior receives positive critics, but the impulsive fanaticism in terms of expression jeopardized the broad picture. The narrator takes a step further by attributing the lack of faith to anxiety and low self-esteem.
In the next chapter, the narrator puts him and Chris in the spotlight. They hit the road with an intention in mind to climb the mountains near the DeWeese. On the voyage, they ruminate on the spiritual connection with nature while remaining acutely aware of their surroundings.
Phaedrus is once again at the center of their thoughts, as they puzzle over his concept of quality.
They stumble upon two phases, which were brought to life by Phaedrus.
Phase 1: No definition of Quality and lot of flexibility
Phase 2: Rigid definition – impairing his thinking potential and destroying his life.
By drilling deep into Phase 1, the narrator bumps into the methodology of teaching which consists of genuine engagement and flexibility. Whereas the second Phase brings about contumacy as a way of perception which conflicts the receptive cognitive abilities of the students.
Next chapter opens up with thoughts regarding the statements and analysis conducted by Phaedrus. The narrator explains the process by providing a psychological overlook of Phaedrus’ tendencies. If you don’t define something, you are giving it a wide berth to crop up in different shapes and forms.
Chris’ indifference regarding the hike, adds to the Narrator’s outrage. Upon restraining himself, the narrator pays close heed to Phaedrus recent insightful revolution according to which Realism can justify Quality.
This finding led Phaedrus into believing that Quality is the only obstacle standing in the way of pure rationality. The attributes you give to Quality are meaningless in terms of getting the hang of the world to the maximum extent.
The narrator dreams of being in a white-painted room and facing his family members who are disposed on the other corner of the same room. He is disturbed by this nightmare, and upon awakening, Chris tells him that he had been “vocal” all night long.
He is worried that this scenario could lead him astray. Meanwhile, he is on the fence regarding the possibility of Chris dreaming, and him going nuts. Despite all the polemics, the narrator decides to forge ahead with the hike while overlooking the plan for rehydration.
In an effort to rejuvenate spiritually, he unwittingly starts the discussion about Quality. Phaedrus was the latest to succumb to this impulse which was a one-way ticket to disaster. While descending the mountain, they decide to take a breather and get some snack.
Chris, however, becomes increasingly aware of the Narrator’s paranoia and even proposes that he should be the one carrying the heavy load. As they mull over the metaphysical aspects of thinking, they come across a thick bush and are compelled to make their way through it.
The narrator elaborates on the exact correlation between Quality and Religion, and that a possible confluence could be the essence of “good.” While at it, he argues that value-free science has no place in the modern understanding of philosophy.
Upon descending from the mountains, they settle down at Bozeman and spend a night in a hotel.
As the storyline heathens up, the Narrator enters the depths of technological artifacts and make remarks on the basis for laying out these claims. In his opinion, the artifacts are not subjected to the proper Quality evaluation process.
To prove his point, the Narrator enlightens us by explaining the inseparable connection between technology and art. He finds it challenging to impugn the effectiveness of modern technology while advocating for Quality technology, like the wall in Korea.
The degradation that occurs is due to the existence and legacy of value-free thinking. Following after this discussion is their arrival in White Bird. They come to the conclusion that following the Salmon River would be their best option, regardless of the heavy traffic.
They set foot in Riggins, and are compelled to traverse the forest in an effort to reach Dew Meadows. The narrator is consistent in its intention to expose the value-free issue while trying to interpret the dream he had some time ago.
Chris however, takes some time off to write a letter to his mom. It seems like Chris is no longer brimming with excitement, and anxiety slowly starts to take over. Upon arriving at Dayville, they brush against the owner of the station, who helps them find some decent place to spend the night.
They indulge in a friendly and profound conversation.
At this point, he has little choice but to disclose the Phaedrus’ story to the full extent. This process entails interpretation of Greek Philosophy and their methods of scrutinizing the ideas. Prior to going too deep into this topic, they decide to take a quick break and head over to La Pine for a meal.
The next morning, Chris is awakened to help with the chores while the Narrator embarks on a quest to locate a chain guard.
His efforts don’t bear fruit, as he heads back home and enjoys a meal accompanied by Chris. They decide to try their luck elsewhere, as they mark California as their next destination.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Epilogue
The last three chapters are filled with ambivalence. As they have a meal, a sense of discomfort permeates the air, and on the way over to Chicago, they stumble upon the Platonic dialogue of Phaedrus.
In the meantime, Phaedrus gets a motivational boost to continue with unraveling its baffling mysteries. Also, this makes him feel invincible and dominant to the degree that he believes a solution to the metaphysical puzzle is nearby.
They are headed toward San Francisco on a rainy and cloudy day. The narrator exerts himself to find a motel and finally manages to locate one. This ultimately triggers the last discourse.
From a philosophical standpoint, the Narrator realizes that it’s not easy to integrate technology with humanistic elements in pursuit of the perfect lifestyle.
The plot comes to an end, as the narrator understands that Chris craves for Phaedrus and his theories.
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“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance PDF Quotes”
The process of finding your true-self runs like a leitmotif throughout the book.
Perhaps, you won’t be able to understand the powerful thrust of Sadhguru’s message, until you still your mind and quiet your urges.
Beleaguered or not, we all are entitled to delve into the real self and put secondary matters on the side.
Stay with us, as we reveal the key findings from this #1 New York Times bestselling book.
Who Should Read “Inner Engineering”? And Why?
The title itself denotes purity and inner alteration, which is something every person should consider doing. The central premise of this book revolves around the birth of a concept-free person.
Therefore, we firmly believe that “Inner Engineering” deserves a place on your bookshelf. Even if you don’t agree with Sadhguru’s methods, we recommend it because it will expand your horizons.
So, who is Jaggi Vasudev – Sadhguru? When I first laid eyes upon him in a YouTube Video, I thought that he is yet another spiritual teacher.
What I didn’t know is the fact that, he is also a successful businessman, acclaimed author, and a Yogi. Many people refer to him as a mystic, but as far as I can tell, Sadhguru is a complete person!
And this is the truth since he explains how you can free yourself of negativity, remain in the neutrality of the self, and continue your contribution to the society through education and business.
“Inner Engineering PDF Summary”
Sadhguru is no stranger to those who sought salvation and stumbled upon a Youtube video, or a written script, such as this one. According to many renowned journals, “Inner Engineering” is one of the most in-depth and life-altering books on spirituality ever written.
It stands to reason, why you should at least scan it through. Our main guy in India shared with me many cool facts about Indians, and I was stunned by their contrast, positively of course.
To be honest, Sadhguru is the embodiment of the picture portrayed by my good friend. An individual who has integrated both spiritual and professional agendas, and used this momentum to create a far-reaching scope of success.
Without further ado, let’s plunge into some actionable tips and practices contained in this astonishing book.
The first thing that will strike you while reading is that we are masters of our own lives, either consciously or unconsciously. So, passing the blame onto somebody else is not an endorsed approach.
So, if somebody were to ask you – Do you prefer being rich or happy?
Even those that went from rags to riches in a short amount of time, they did it because they hoped that happiness is on the receiving end. Sadhguru implies that we yearn to get our hands on this blissful experience while looking at the wrong place.
Does this mean that we should remain poor for the rest of our lives? Absolutely not, it merely indicates that whatever we do in the 24 Hour timeframe, the primary stimulus is reaching a state of contentment or pure joy.
It’s needless to say that the Yogi guide, is presented in a digestible manner, for you to tackle these delusions.
Sadhguru, on numerous occasions, expressed that happiness is not a decision, but a reality. Contentment is not a passing state of mind, but the eternal state of the real-self.
Generally speaking, people seeking adrenaline type of happiness, often find themselves drained and exhausted of the pursuit they’ve been urged to conduct. The simplest way to reach peace of mind is to cherish an effortless battle.
You don’t need to swim, but embrace the life-current and go with the flow. Although this seems like a simple tweak, not many people dare to exploit it. We want to pave our own way, and putting trust in some mystical energy is our second choice.
We’ll get to that, but first, let’s talk about a few things that are causing a lot of confusion.
To attain bliss, you must eradicate all the things that are giving you a headache. And that’s just the beginning. Next up, one must question its ideals, and stay peaceful while doing it.
The restless mind is like a car. It goes 150 Mph only because you filled up the fuel tank. Start wasting your symbolic “money” on something that will help you instead of harm you.
The Power of becoming a Yogi
Many ponder about the effects of Yoga. Sadguru asserts that the science of being perfect is reflected in nature, not in the person. What does that mean?
Reaching allignment or harmony with existence is impossible if you remain narrow-minded and stubborn. What yoga does is helping you maintain the highest level of enthusiasm and joy toward life. This can be later converted into full-scale enlightenment or understanding one’s core self.
According to the author, yoga is a mix of intellect, karma, energy, and devotion also known as “bhakti.” By combining these factors, you may get in line for becoming truly happy, while remaining active and persistent.
Indeed, not being aware of your inner reality has taken a toll on humanity. The previously mentioned scenarios are not reserved only for the privileged few, but they symbolize the never-fading truth that is embedded into the hearts and minds of every living soul.
At the outset, Sadhguru refers to the body and examines its functions on this endeavor. It’s the most basic form of identification, therefore, it’s advisable that we start from there.
Instead of wasting your time on trivial activities, find a quiet place and sit there for a few minutes each day. The question is Why? What is the goal behind this?
You see, that’s the trick! Throughout the course of history, society has always been prone to attach some end goal to everything. At this point, you must embrace detachment, and leave the body be! Just pay attention to the breath, going in, and out – focus on that for a while.
You don’t need to pressure yourself; a few minutes is more than enough to get the ball rolling. Once the effort required to remain aware reduces, you’ll start connecting with nature. You will become the axis around which all the rest spins.
In yoga, you’ll learn how to channel your body energy and a few postures that can accentuate your inner journey. Having said that, don’t take it as an objective, because it’s not. Sadhguru teaches you, to trust the body, follow its instincts and strive to purify your mind from meaningless concepts.
Eating Habits and Alignment with Nature
We are going to start here with a Latin saying: Mens sana in corpore sano or – A healthy mind in a healthy body.
In case you might be wondering, why so many spiritual gurus and truth seekers walked barefoot – it’s because of the connection between the person and the earth. It’s a special bond that helped them to absorb the universal energies.
Sitting next to a tree for a couple of minutes can put you into a state of deep rest. In this book, you’ll find a handful of practices that you can try and experiment with, in order to quiet your mind.
When it comes to the diet, you have to bear in mind that whatever you put in reflects the quality of your life. It’s safe to say that natural ingredients, and organic food determine the vitality of your system, and energize your body.
Once you realize that, you’ll subtly enter into the category of conscious eaters, who are not driven by animal urges. You have to bring benefit to your body, by maintaining its vigorousness and advocating for a healthy diet.
Sadhguru is not merely covering the nutritional value, but place emphasis on life as a whole. For instance, consuming seeds can immensely improve your health condition and add to your overall endurance.
For a greater effect, and total eradication of toxic elements within the body, you must apply a new life strategy that consists of conscious digestion.
Don’t be surprised to hear that according to Sadhguru, eating food is not within the context of spirituality. Depending on your preferences and lifestyle, you should choose a diet, because one set of ingredients is not a good fit for everybody.
The key is – compatibility. Make sure that the diet assigned to your lifestyle fits your high-minded ambitions or introvert style of living.
So, is this it? – Well, not quite! Sadhguru prioritizes the digestive system and explains how each type of food should be eaten. You’ll also take a gander at the most digestible food additives and many other things.
You should also know that 55% of the digestions takes place in the mouth, and the rest of it is done in the digestive system itself.
How to behave? – When you feel immense hunger, give your body a few minutes to calm down. Don’t submit to the urges, but maintain control despite the situation that prompts you to behave somewhat beastly.
Also, bear in mind that staying physically active must also become part of your daily lifestyle. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to take a morning jog or play some other sport.
Just get up, and focus on your overall well-being.
The Choice of Life
Love is an unexplainable phenomenon, which entails one’s mental, physical, and psychological cravings. Often we hear that true love is unconditional, but it mustn’t be solely linked to physical needs. There are as many interpretations as they are stars in the night sky.
Being enamored of someone is just one tiny fraction, not the whole package. The spiritual love, is the cornerstone for finding blissfulness, but it can also absorb a wide array of connotations. Evidently, associating love with other aspects can take an awful lot of time.
For instance, you can be very fond of some painting, or someone’s life philosophy. So, it’s vital to stick with the root and leave the branches aside, for the time being.
According to the author, the choices we make are an integral part of this love. Whatever you do, or plan to achieve, passion must be your primary incentive to carry something out inwardly.
Don’t take this the wrong way, since the intrinsic intelligence, Sadhguru is referring to is given to you in the form of existence. You are not either blessed nor cursed. You can utilize it in its entirety, without having to jump into conclusions.
Previously we stated that happiness is not a transient state that lies at the end of a treacherous journey. It’s your birthright, something that doesn’t come and go.
During the process, you’ll identify with temporary concepts, but as you become more aware, these sensations will turn into pointless attachments.
Key Lessons from “Inner Engineering”
1. Reconnect with nature 2.The perilous journey to freedom 3.Expand your horizons
Reconnect with nature
If this process seems a bit overwhelming, you can ask yourself – Why the westerners enjoy spending time in parks, and picnics in the countryside?
It’s the same process – our body urges us to get in touch with the source, which in this case represents the Earth.
The perilous journey to freedom
How long does it take before you finally have a tenacious grip on the slipping happiness? 20 years of meditation, 50?
The outward journey takes too long, and what’s worse, the end is nowhere near. The inner pull, however, is just staying wherever you are as an observer.
Expand your horizons
If you are merely interested in separating moral from immoral, or right and wrong, your mind will always be imprisoned in this circle.
Leaving the judgmental urges aside will help you establish control over your life, and show you the only route to spiritual enhancement.
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Have you ever pondered about your real potential? Are we merely a wave tossed in the endless ocean, or the ocean itself?
In this book, you’ll come across many life-altering theories that will crash your inner world.
Who Should Read “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind”? And Why?
The society has done a “great” job when it comes to shrinking your ability and prowess. You are a prisoner, not aware of its captivity. Locked away in a self-created prison is an everyday reality for most people.
In all sincerity, we believe that this is one of those books written for the sake of the world. So, categorization of the audience will be an unnecessary action.
About Joseph Murphy
Joseph Murphy was a life-changer whose words contained in inspiring books helped millions. He spent a significant portion of his adulthood in India, learning the secrets of Eastern Philosophy.
He wrote dozens of books, all revolving around the mysterious nature of this existence.
“The Power of Your Subconscious Mind PDF Summary”
You don’t need us telling you that one mind is all we have. Nonetheless, this questionable and mysterious central element consists of:
The first part belongs to what can be best described as the “objective” one. It allows you to make choices, reach agreements, assess predicaments, etc. It’s also labeled as the “surface” mind. The second and somewhat mythical one is the subconscious mind.
It is engraved deep into your “core self” making it the “sleeping mind.” The subconscious entity is the stage, while the conscious body represents the actors on stage. This metaphorical expression should allow you to see the big picture and understand the role of both.
The fundamental elements of the mind
It’s needless to say that you can tip the balance in your favor by learning the ropes of how your mind works. So, the privilege of executing everyday tasks goes to the conscious element, while the subconscious one is in charge of evaluating the actions of it.
It’s like a deep ocean; you’ll never know what’s hiding at the bottom of it but that mustn’t stop you from going deeper and deeper. In addition, being happier is merely the end result of a broad understanding of how your mind operates and its core functions. The thinking, as we said, goes to the conscious, and that’s why if you send positive vibes to the universe, you’ll be on the receiving end of positive affirmations.
It’s like a boomerang throw, as simple as that.
Be obsessed with negative thoughts, and you’ll slowly start to plunge into a deep depression. The universal energies are not as complex as you might have imagined. According to the author, the subconscious mind is like an obedient soldier who follows orders given by the conscious entity.
In other words, your subconscious is open to receive commands and interpret them to your best interest.
These orders or norms arrive in the form of suggestions, which the subconscious mind is entitled to depict them as it feels. How your body reacts, what kind of thoughts do you nurture will all be transmitted into the invisible entity.
After all, you are accorded the privilege of organizing the chatter of various internal phenomena.
This process helps you understand how “negative suggestion” can impact your well-being, affect your temper, and instigate fear. Joseph states that “pessimistic autosuggestions” are insanely powerful and can quickly put you in a phase of jeopardy.
This paradoxical but also a convenient way of operating gives the subconscious mind a new feature – its obedience. It doesn’t question your demands and absorbs “syllogism”- which in layman’s terms indicates that whatever you endorse or consider to be true, your subconscious will do likewise.
In our opinion, the best description for this way of functioning is – You reap what you sow. Fill your head with meaningless concepts, and that’s what you’ll eventually end up with. Marinate on that for a minute.
Let’s get back to the drawing board and puzzle over what separates happy from miserable people? If you want a straightforward answer, you’re going to get one – the way they handle the subconscious entity. They understand its limitless, freedom and ability to get in touch with the infinite source of energy.
The harmonious state exists in the subconscious mind, but only if you allow it to be. If you just go with the flow and don’t fight the life current, you’ll automatically be in that position. Nonetheless, if try to pave your own way, with total disregard of your intrinsic urges, you’ll stimulate negative sensations.
The goal of this book is to teach you how you can blend the conscious and subconscious to the maximum extent. We also like to portray the subconsciousness as a mirror, which reflects your doings on the outside.
As with most things in life, you need to push harder to get to your wanted destination. When it comes to your subconscious mind, sometimes less is best. By believing in your cause, and getting rid of harmful tendencies, you’ll spontaneously reach your goals and satisfy your cravings.
The Myth and Reality of the Subconscious Mind
Aware or not, your subconscious plays a pivotal role in your life, in particular, your well-being. The way you handle everyday issues, emotional outbursts, and psychological setbacks speak about your attitude and understanding of the “hidden self.”
Some people prefer to call this energy God, others Infinity – it doesn’t quite matter how you name it, what does matter is your faith in it. You will be happy for sure, once you abandon the meaningless limitations imposed by the system.
Happiness is a choice, not a God-given gift. If you decide to take firm control of your destiny, happiness will follow. Sometimes we feel indebted to people who showed us the way, but mostly this is the path that your heart has already chosen on your behalf.
Living in the now is perhaps the best advice you’ll ever get. Don’t roam around in the unforeseeable future but remain consistent and allow your mind to cherish the present reality.
Once the pain and the urges for interpreting the past or wishing a better future are gone, you are good to go. A vast majority of the population seeks salvation from the outside. A word of caution – don’t become one of those people who are prepared to sacrifice their blissfulness in order to get attention.
When it comes to love, it’s of utmost importance to realize that in order to have a lovely marriage filled with understanding, and mutual trust, there must be a spiritual connection between the partners.
In a symbolic manner, it’s pretty accurate to say that you’ll attract a partner whose traits are complementary to your subconscious mind.
Furthermore, if you wish to find an intelligent, confident, and caring life-companion, you need to express that desire. Many individuals these days complain due to the lack of synergy between partners, but that’s only a sub-product of the messages conveyed through their subconscious.
Tackle these harmful inclinations by nurturing a positive mindset, through prayer and self-contemplation. In addition, try not to turn your marriage into a business! You don’t need to go after the perfect partner at any cost, but work on your self-expression and give the Universe a room to do its job.
Try not to take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back by following unclear directions. If you are not sure which road is the right one, stay calm and contemplate through meditation and prayer. The ignorant part of the mind will jump to give its conclusion and force you into negative thinking.
Beware of these tendencies by staying on full alert. A common mistake most people make is complaining about the partner to other people. They are just empowering the negative thoughts to take over and destroy the union.
A good technique you can use is to never, under no circumstances, transfer today’s problems over into the next days. Forgive one another daily, and pray at dinner or before you hit the rack. This doesn’t seem like much, but it is a huge morale boost for the couple.
Doing more things together, and forgiving rather than memorizing everything will definitely help you strengthen the bond. Convey harmony, love, and understanding. If you believe that constructive criticism is useful, then use it, but try not to be too harsh.
Be an advocate for compassion, not judgment.
The Healing Method
A throwback to ancient times and the medieval age, when people reported miracles in various forms. Even these days, this sort of occurrences leave a trace in the society. Mixed with cultural and religious paradigms, most people associate these “wonders” with God.
Upon finishing the healing procedures through God’s disciples on Earth, the person would’ve felt an instant change.
First and foremost, not all people believe in this kind of stories, and that’s okay, but the meaning behind it is that all is possible with the right mindset. The herbs given and rituals conducted by the priests had a placebo effect, which urged the person to believe in the healing.
Tackling the previous state of mind was made possible through the “auto-suggestion mode” which the subconscious interprets and gives its answer to it. By accepting the healing, the person rises and embraces its new reality.
The author emphasizes that this effect can merely take place, once you abandon your negative thoughts and keep them buried! For instance, don’t dream about the future, just incorporate the same vision into the present moment.
In the same fashion, you should direct your efforts toward the final destination. Remain focused during the process, and subdue your impulses to judge the situation. By staying positive through prayer and other methods, you’ll send positive affirmations to the Universe, and enable the spiritual healing to take place.
The same approach can be used when you aspire to achieve some goal. The author implies that with the help of visualization, your subconscious will understand your cravings and provide a response that manifests your deep urges in body and mind.
This will create a mental picture that takes you one step closer to your desired accomplishment.
Rinse and repeat until you master the “universal principles,” and how it affects your well-being. Although our perception of what it is to be sensibly well-off keeps altering, the bar keeps rising to unmeasurable scales.
Expressing gratitude can get the ball rolling, and help you conquer your own mind. Tackle the false reality, and set your agenda that fits your needs.
Sleep deprivation can also turn out to be a big issue. You need at least 6 hours a day to function properly, perhaps even more. Even when your body is in a state of deep relaxation, your subconscious mind remains active.
You should learn how to relax your body, and commit to sleep to have a tenacious grip on your life.
Key Lessons from “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind”
1. Be open-minded 2.Tackle depression with a single step 3.Measure your actions
Control this emotional unrest by trying to talk some sense into your partner, and see who is adding fuel to the fire.
Don’t raise your tone when discussing these matters; try to get into the shoes of the other person to see things from his/her point of view.
Tackle depression with a single step
The best cure for depression is your determination to be happy, without necessarily turning over to the painful past or uncertain future.
The energy around us is giving you a hand to endure in this battle and make heads or tails of how the power of the subconscious works.
According to Scott G. Bruce – from his “Introduction” to the Penguin Book of Hell – “Hell, the afterlife of the Christian religion, is arguably the most powerful and persuasive construct of the human imagination in the Western tradition.”
Describing it as a “subterranean realm of eternal suffering, a prison for sinful souls governed by a fallen angel who surpassed all other creatures in wickedness,” Bruce points out the quite obvious fact that “Hell has inspired fear and thereby controlled the behavior of countless human beings for more than two thousand years.”
And that – and this is probably more important – “despite advances in scholarship that have called into question the authority of the Christian scriptures and scientific developments that have changed the way we think about the human race and our place in the cosmos, the idea of Hell has remained tenacious in Western thought.”
Such a sentence begs the most childish – and yet most potent – question of all: why?
Why more than half of the inhabitants of the United States today still believe that there indeed exists such a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished”?
Why would a human being born in the XXI century be more inclined to accept as true the existence of an afterlife realm of punishment and torment for the bad, than, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s scientifically-backed opinion that “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you”?
Or have we missed something? Could it be that we have been on the wrong track all along? Have scientists rushed a bit to the conclusion and are people like Jordan Peterson right to say that hell is real as much as you make it be?
In one way or another – is Hell real?
Table of Contents (Click a title below to go to the respective section)
Of course, if you asked a scientist, he would probably tell you that this is the Darvaza gas crater – still burning after it had been set on fire by geologists back in 1971 so that the spread of the poisonous methane gas be prevented.
However, the locals have a different understanding of the phenomenon, best illustrated by the name they chose for it: jähenneme açylan gapy.
Now, we don’t understand Turkmen, but based on how a human being would react if suddenly faced with a sight such as the one on the image, jähenneme açylan gapy must mean either “We repent, Good Gracious Lord, we repent for all our sins!” or “The Gates of Hell.”
Intuition tells us to go for the second meaning.
2. The Description of Hell in the Bible
And we bet that your intuition didn’t make you think of a gas crater the first time you saw the image above either.
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out, wheretheir worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (Read a summary here.)
The sea gave up the dead that was in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that was in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
So, all in all, Hell is a fiery domain where the wicked and the vile suffer the eternal torment of their sins, nightmarishly depicted by the Gospel of Mark as a host of immortal worms which gnaw upon their souls for all eternity.
And this brings us to the main point of why there is such a thing as Hell in the first place: it is not merely an abode, but a punitive abode. In other words, just as its counterpart Heaven, it exists to balance the injustice of our world. So, something like a Giant Prison of the Afterlife.
Sure, you can be sinful on earth and pass unpunished – as much as you can be good and reap no rewards – but there is a higher law, an always just law, and once you die, there’s no escape from it!
Unlike the earthly and secular one, this higher law seems to be rather clear and straightforward:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.(Galatians 5:19-21)
In case you can’t find all of the usual suspects, don’t worry: in two other epistles, the same guy who wrote the passage above (Saint Paul) further clears things up:
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:9-10)
No need for additional passages, I believe: more or less, everybody’s covered in these three. Of course, to a 21st-century reader, it may seem a bit odd why God decided to put such a strong emphasis on sex, and, moreover, why it is such “an abomination” (cf.Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) to be a male homosexual.
Either way, this brief overview all but exhausts the way Hell is depicted in the Bible, both in terms of general appearance and its raisons d’être. And if you wonder where are all the torturing devices and mischievous devils, you better look around you, Ferdinand, because as far as the Bible is concerned, Hell is virtually empty!
3. The Evolution of Hell: A Brief History of the Concept
3.1 Hell Is Not Real: Hell in the Old Testament
Now, if you know your Bible well, the previous section may have already directed your attention towards something that isn’t pointed out as often as it should be: almost every biblical reference to the fiery Hell of our nightmares can be found in the “The New Testament.”
And for an excellent reason: no matter how much you try to bend the arguments, Hell appears nowhere in “The Old Testament.”
Indeed, it wouldhave been mightily strange if this wasn’t the case: though ambiguous – contrary to Christianity – most forms of Judaism have no doctrine which allows for a concept such as the immortality of the soul, which, by implication, means that you cannot be punished after your death.
Moreover, the only references to some form of life following death in “The Old Testament” come from late biblical sources, such as the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah; and, as expected, most of them do not sync well with our vision of Hell.
For example, when, in a famous verse (12:2), Daniel states that “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt,” if he means this literally, he merely builds upon a notion already much more familiar to Jewish eschatology – the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba).
That is, the dead will awake and will be judgedone day which should mark the beginning of the Messianic Age (Heaven on Earth); but until that day, they sleep firmly in the dust.
Obviously, this means that neither the righteous nor the wicked dead should be “alive” in the meantime and that things such as Heaven and Hell (especially if conceived as realms) must be, to say the least, superfluous.
And, indeed, the earliest reference to a dichotomy of this kind saved for posterity is probably one made as late as the 1st century by Yochanan ben Zakkai: “There are two paths before me,” he writes, “one leading to Gan Eden and the other to Gehinnom” (Berakhot 28b)
Gan Eden here refers to the Garden of Eden and Gehinnom to Gehenna, a small valley near Jerusalem where children were supposedly sacrificed to the pagan god Moloch (cf.2 Chronicles 28:3 and 33:6). “For this reason,” states the Jewish Encyclopedia, “the valley was deemed to be accursed, and ‘Gehenna’ therefore soon became a figurative equivalent for ‘hell.’”
Of course, the idea of Sheol evolved over time; but it actually started differing substantially from its original vision (decompartmentalized, indiscriminate place for all the dead) once the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in Ancient Alexandria, and the word “Hades” was used to translate the Hebrew She’ol.
Hades, of course, was the kingdom of the dead in Greek mythology and it was a contradictory concept in itself: as can be witnessed in Homer’s Odyssey, for example, it, too, started off as the ultimate location of all souls, “regardless of how exemplary or dishonorable their earthly lives might have been.”
That’s why Achilles, one of the greatest Greek heroes, is not at all happy to be there in The Odyssey: “I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man’s house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead,” he says in a famous verse later subverted by Milton in Lucifer’s famous outcry in Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”
However, elsewhere – such as in Hesiod’s Works and Days (170ff) – the heroes can be found “untouched by sorrow, in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them.”
No matter how long these visions may have coexisted, Aeneas’ descent into the Underworld reveals us that, by the time of Virgil’s Aeneid(some two decades before the birth of Christ), there were already some attempts to conflate them.
And Virgil’s epic marked the triumph of them all, harrowingly depicting the torments which await the incestuous and the traitors, the charlatans, and the murderers. “No ancient author,” states justly Scott Bruce, “was more influential in his depiction of the punitive afterlife than… Virgil.”
3.3 The Problem of Hell: Death Discriminates
Thus, even before the advent of Christianity, the Christians had already inherited a rich tradition which possessed all the right elements for the creation of the New Testament Hell.
“Wedding the pagan notion of a punitive afterlife for those who offended the divine with the imagery of the fire and the worm from the Hebrew scriptures, early Christian authors imagined a host of otherworldly punishments that inspired theologians, artists, and poets throughout the European Middle Ages and beyond,” notes Bruce.
Between Saint Augustine (354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – after triumphantly walking out of the much too real hell of the early persecutions against them – the Christian theologians managed to create “a distinctly Christian Hell,” which appended to the ancient models “their own understanding of original sin and God’s inscrutable mercy.”
However, these two were visibly incompatible: if Death discriminates between the just and the unjust, the One Who Rules Over It discriminates as well – in spite of His benevolence, mercy, and love.
Moreover, the ones who were deemed good and merciful in life are apparently disinterested in helping their fellow beings in death, even though the latter are eternally and viciously tormented in Hell.
And toward the end of Summa Theologica,Thomas Aquinas’ magnum-opus and “one of the most influential works of Western literature,” the Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest proposed a strikingly unchristian solution.
Namely, he not only argued that the blessed must be happy about the eternal torment of the wicked seeing it as an example of divine justice, but he also claimed they rejoice in seeing perfectly clear the sufferings of the damned, “because when contraries are placed beside one another, they become more conspicuous.”
3.4 The Law of Contrapasso: Dante’s Inferno
At the end of the Middle Ages, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, the first part of which (Inferno) represents “the apogee of the punitive underworld in the medieval imagination” (Bruce).
The poetic vision of Dante seemed so vivid and compelling to his contemporaries, that, it is said, many people asked him whether he had seen some of their beloved ones in Hell or Heaven, fully believing that he had actually been there.
In fact, Dante’s vision of Hell – and its central structuring principle: the contrapasso, i.e. “suffer the opposite” – owes a lot to Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (whose version of Hell was divided into four sections) and to his vast knowledge of comparable literary visions, starting with Homer and Aeneas and ending with Visio Tnugdali, “the most popular and elaborate text in the medieval genre of visionary infernal literature” and “without doubt the most graphic and horrifying tour of Hell composed before Dante’s Inferno.”
In Dante’s poem (the detailed structure of which you can become familiar with here),
Hell has the organization and efficiency of a bureaucratic state: every impious soul has its appropriate place and every place apportioned a particular punishment keyed to a specific sin. More so than any previous author, Dante had a clear and logical understanding of the geography of the afterlife. He depicted Hell as a deep funnel with circular tiers. He and Virgil descended tier by tier from the gates of Hell, past the limbo of the virtuous pagans, and down through each circle, where those guilty of lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery suffered for all eternity. At the bottom of Hell was Cocytus, a vast, frozen lake. Trapped in the ice of this lake was the gigantic, three-faced Satan, who beat his six massive, bat-like wings in vain to escape his imprisonment. Satan’s face was stained with tears and his chin dripped with the gore of history’s three worst traitors, whose souls he chewed endlessly and without pity in his monstrous mouths: Brutus and Cassius, who assassinated Julius Caesar in 44 BCE; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ himself. (Scott G. Bruce)
3.5 Is Hell Real: The Protestant Reformation and Modernity
And then, just as Hell was finally concretized by the Catholics so precisely that it even had its own detailed maps, the Protestant Reformers reverted back to some more speculative concepts.
Sure, they agreed with the Catholics that Death discriminates and that Hell is the destination of the wicked, but, as Scott G. Bruce notes, “they were much more likely to couch the punitive afterlife in abstract terms of remorse and wounded conscience rather than in concrete terms of torment in Hell-fire familiar from the Catholic tradition.”
And this debate has raged ever since. So much so that modern Christian apologists are still incapable of giving a better solution to the ethical problem of Hell than Thomas Aquinas. If it is not real, what do all those references in the Scripture mean; however, if it is real, how do we harmonize it with the idea of a merciful and benevolent God?
No wonder that Narnia-writer and lay theologian C. S. Lewis – whose Screwtape Letters I’ve enjoyed over and over again – writing in “The Problem of Pain,” states that if it lay in his power, “there is no doctrine which [he] would more willingly remove from Christianity than” Hell.
“But” – he adds – “it has the full support of Scripture and, especially, of our Lord’s own words.” Lewis concludes with something that isn’t as obvious: Hell, according to him, not only “has always been held by Christendom” but it also “has the support of reason.”
Neither is actually true, but the latter critically not. If it had been, then there wouldn’t be a problem – or a millennia-long discussion on the topic.
3.6 Visions and Near-Death Experiences: Hell Is Real
However, we must not forget that there are some people whose reasons have actually witnessed – or at least who say that they have experienced – some vision of hell. These are usually either saints or near-death survivors. They certainly form an intruding topic for further analysis and discussion, but, for the sake of brevity, I will have to limit myself to merely mentioning them here. However, for those interested, I warmly welcome you to read here five “terrifying” visions of Hell as related by as many now-saints; and here an account of four “creepy” visions of hell by people who have lived through real near-death experiences.
4. Is Hell Real According to the People: What the Data Says
Bishop Berkeley was right to wonder if the fall of a tree produces any sound if nobody is around to hear it. Not because scientists discovered – mostly during the past century – that this may not be as unreasonable as it once sounded (consider, say, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory), but because, for better or for worse, our perception of reality, more often than not, (re)defines that very same reality.
In other words, even if (to quote Neil deGrasse Tyson once again) the universe has no obligation to make sense to us, and even if this means that “thou shalt not kill” is an unnatural law we have invented at some point in history (which we most certainly did), does its “artificiality” matters now when we have created a shared structure of reality in which murdering someone is one of the most abominable deeds one can do?
By the same analogy, even if not many people have seen God (in the best-case scenario), does it matter if he actually exists if numerous have sacrificed their lives in his name, while numerous others have done the exact opposite premised on the same belief?
So, let’s see what the data says in relation to people’s belief in Hell. (In addition, World Religious News gives you updates on latest shifts and twists in the culturally-diversified religious community, and thus it can help you see some more of the big picture.)
4.1 The World
Interestingly enough, regardless of the advance of science, surveys and polls consistently show that abouthalf of the world population still believes in Heaven and/or Hell, Heaven being – without exception – the more popular option of the two; however, time and again, they also demonstrate a significant gap between the beliefs of the Western Europeans and the rest of the world.
For example, one of the most recent surveys of this kind – Ipsos’ “Perils of Perception” global survey, conducted in about 40 countries during the period of Sept. 28-Oct. 19, 2017 – revealed that, on average, 45% of the world population believes in either Heaven or Hell:
Or, in the form of a bar chart for better viewing:
Few interesting statistics almost immediately stand out:
On average, people tend to believe much more in Heaven (1 in 2) than in Hell (about 40%); the difference is especially evident in the case of Columbia and South Africa (countries of high percentage of believers), but, interestingly enough, the same can be said about many Western European countries (Germany, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain…)
The only two countries where there is no discrepancy between the belief in Heaven and Hell are two Muslim countries: Indonesia and Turkey; here, almost everyone believes in both.
Though there is a somewhat discernible inversely proportional correlation between economic/human development indices and belief in Hell across the globe (Western Europe, Far East Asia, Canada), the American continent (as a whole) seems to undermine this conclusion.
On average, only 17,6% of the people living in Far East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea) believe in Hell(21% believe in Heaven);
Just as well, only 17,2% of the people living in Western Europe (Italy, Great Britain, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark) believe in Hell (27,4% believe in Heaven);
However, 43,6% of the population of North America (United States, Canada, Mexico) believes in Hell (53,6% in Heaven);
And a whopping 61% of South Americans (Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Colombia) think that Hell exists (76,75% think likewise about Heaven)
Though it uses somewhat older data (from World Values Survey 2010-2014), the map below (via Reddit) illustrates this quite vividly:
4.2 The USA
So, all in all, the United States of America can be considered an exception: even though the most developed country in the world, more Americans believe in both Heaven and Hell than the worldwide averages. When compared to its northern neighbor, the divergence is even more striking: while only 28% of Canadians believe in Hell, twice as many Americans think that Hell is real!
However, when we break down the stats by state things get clearer: once again, we discover an apparent inverse correlation between how much a US state is developed and how many of its citizens believe in Hell.
The concurrence is almost uncanny when you compare the above image to a map (created by Alice Hunter for Wikimedia Commons) of the American Human Development Index (HDI) within the United States for 2016) (the lighter shade of blue the field, the lower the HDI for the respective state):
Based on the things stated above, it comes as no surprise at all that the state with the highest HDI (Massachusetts, 6.18) is also the state where the lowest percentage of people (38%) believe in Hell;on the other side of the spectrum, the state with the lowest HDI(Mississippi, 3.81) is also the state where the highest percentage of people (77%) think that Hell is real.
For those interested in some more statistics, here are two charts I made which show the correlation between Americans’ belief in Hell and their religious and political affiliations:
If I am allowed to work out a tentative conclusion based on the available data, I guess I should not be wrong to say that the most common American/believer in Hell is a Christian Republican living in a state with an average or below average human development index.
5. Is Hell Real: A Closing Statement
So, is hell real?
No. Of course not.
At least not any more than Olympus or Valhalla – or Westeros, for that matter.
Simply put – no matter what anybody says – it can’t be: it is a literary creation which we know for sure to have evolved over the centuries from a vision of a place which indiscriminately houses the dead to one part of a Heaven/Hell dichotomy which aims to balance in the Afterlife the abundant injustices on Earth.
This conclusion comes with several interesting topics for further consideration; interestingly enough, most of them are ironies.
5.1 Hell Is Not Sheol
First of all, the Hell we all know came to be when, sometime near the beginning of the first millennium, Roman ideas of the Underworld (Virgil’s Aeneid) were appended to the chilling – but neutral – Jewish vision of Sheol, the-family-tomb-turned-afterlife-world.
That way, “The Old Testament” began retroactively accommodating a Hell which couldn’t have existed for the majority of Jews before the advent of Christianity, since their eschatological notions most commonly included a Judgment Day, i.e., an event in the future which should mark the separation of the Just and the Vile; until then – death is indiscriminate, and everybody shares the same fate after his time on earth.
So, even though people think that Hell originated in the Bible, the ones who wrote the bulk of it don’t believe in Hell: as opposed to 70% of the American Christians who believe in Hell and 76% of American Muslims who share this belief – only 22% of American Jews think that Hell is real. Interestingly enough, that’s less than the number of atheists: 30%!
5.2 Jesus in the Underworld: The Harrowing of Hell
Christians found a great way to insert the doctrine of (continually existing) Heaven/Hell into “The Old Testament”: simply put,they replicated the Judgement Day. If for Jews the Judgement Day is one and it has still not come – for most of the Christians, Christ has both already come and will come again.
Christ’s Second Coming differs not one bit from the Jewish idea of a Day of Reckoning: it should mark God’s final and eternal judgment of the people from every nation of the world.
However, since Christ’s First Coming was an all too important event to have no eschatological weight in itself, it should surprise nobody that Christians had to infer that some aspect of this final judgment must have already happened.
And that’s how the doctrine of Christ’s descent into Hades was devised, gloriously named the Harrowing of Hell.
The logic goes thus: between Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, he visited Hell/Hades and saved the souls of all the righteous people who had died ever since the beginning of the world. Though controversial, this idea fits nicely within the existing narrative: even if initially the Underworld was indiscriminate and it housed both the righteous and the vile, it isn’t so since the First Coming of the Christ.
Of course, this creates a complication as well: if the righteous are already in Heaven and the wicked in Hell – and if one’s death means an immediate one-way trip in one of these two directions – then what’s the point in Christ coming one more time?
Jacob van Swanenburgh – The Harrowing of Hell (source)
5.3 A Christian God and an Unchristian Hell
Because of complications much more profound than this – the most challenging being why should a benevolent God create a place for eternal torment for the people he himself created? – many theologians have pondered and discussed the idea of Hell ever since the Roman Empire.
Ironically, the vision we have inherited one can find neither in the Bible nor in the writings of most of these theologians; it is, as we said above, an inherently literary one, influenced immensely by the epics of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton (who, naturally, influenced one another in that order).
However, the notion of divine retributive justice – upon which Hell is usually structured in the imagination of the modern man (via, say, Dante’s Inferno) – predates Christianity by millennia (say, the Code of Hammurabi)and is, in fact, at odds with its central idea of forgiveness.
– and fascinatingly – the very idea of Hell questions the Christianity of the Christian God. And it begs the question: should a Christian forgive a fellow who has done one some injustice, when his god obviously doesn’t?
5.4 The Ultimate Irony: From Real to Metaphysical and Back to Real Hell
However, in my humble opinion, this is not the ultimate irony; the ultimate irony is much more chilling than a theological conundrum or, for that matter, any vision of Hell. Because, at the end of the day, the very question “Is Hell real?” says much more about us than it says about anything else.
5.4.1 The Real Hell: Gehenna
First and foremost, it should be telling that the imagery associated with Hell in Abrahamic religions started emerging back at the time when there was no idea of a discriminate Afterlife.
Namely, even at the time when Sheol was supposed to be the final destination for both merciful King David (1 Kings 2:6) and merciless armor-clad warriors (Ezekiel 32:27), Gehenna was an accursed place on Earth unambiguously associated with the wicked; and even in the absence of a heavenly counterpart, it remained to be so.
It was when the imagery of Gehenna was interspersed with Hellenistic ideas of the Afterlife that Sheol metamorphosed into Hell. In Islam, in fact, Hell is called Jahannam, a word etymologically related to this Old Testament Gehenna.
It’s a striking irony when you start thinking about it: a small valley in Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by fire seemed such an abominable place to the eyes of the living that writers used the imagery (fire, false gods, punishments) to invent an Afterlife of eternal torment for the dead.
5.4.2 The Personalized Metaphysical Hell: Poetic Visions
In other words, the metaphysical actuality of Hell was shaped by the building blocks of physical reality. But this where it gets even more frightening: once that happened, Hell began an existence of its own. And while reality is bounding, imagination is limitless. So, writers started reimagining Hell over and over again – if only so that they can use it as a tool to further their own agendas.
Thus, Virgil used Aeneas’ trip to the Underground to advance the worldview of the Roman Empire: in the eternally green fields of Elysium (which is something like a Heaven inside Virgil’s Hell), Aeneas hears from his father a prophetic vision of the future destiny of Rome, which, among other things, celebrates the glory of the ruler which commissioned the writing of the Aeneid in the first place, Octavian Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.
Guided by Virgil, Dante went a step further and built a highly personalized version of Hell, in which many people suffer not because of their sins against humanity, but because of their sins against Dante himself.
And, ay, there’s the rub: every vision of Hell ever since (or before) is as personalized as Dante’s. And it is difficult to overemphasize the danger of this. The reason why the justice system is so complicated is due to the fact that almost nothing in real life is as simple as the distinction between black and white.
However, we sure would want it to be; and the Heaven/Hell dichotomy is the absolute metaphysical pinnacle of this (in terms of origin) primitive belief, which philosophers – and justly so – deem it an informal fallacy.
As it usually happens when someone uses fallacies to argue something which can have actual effects – potentially terrifying.
5.4.3 The Real Hell and Jordan Peterson
And this brings me back to Jordan Peterson whom I mentioned in the Introduction:
In the video above – and elsewhere – Jordan Peterson says quite explicitly that even though he suspects that there may be some kind of metaphysical reality beyond the metaphor of Hell, he can’t really know if it actually exists.
And he also describes heaven-like experiences as pointers towards the way that things could be, saying that “it’s incumbent on people to work as hard as they can, not to fall into Hell and drag people there with them and to work as diligently as possible to bring Heaven onto Earth as rapidly as possible.”
Now, one of postmodernism’s main contributions to the history of thought – one which Jordan Peterson unjustly and discriminatorily distorts – has been its attempt to question the stability of language. And sentences such as this prove why such an endeavor makes sense – as much as they prove why no intellectual living in the XXI century should allow himself to be unambiguous in relation to religious questions which have straightforward scientific answers.
Simply put, because not everybody shares the same visions of God and Satan, of Heaven and Hell. “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator,” writes, after all, Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf (London: Houghton Mifflin, 1969; p. 60), “by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
Unfortunately, that is something many perpetrators of crimes against humanity also believe: that they are Godsend Messiahs whose objective is to bring Heaven on Earth and take people with them; of course, in doing that, they are actually bringing their own versionof Heavenon Earth; and this usually also means – by implication – someone else’s version of Hell.
Imagine that you’re Hitler and that you firmly believe that the Jews are devilish creatures that have brought upon the downfall of your world; now go back and read Jordan Peterson’s sentence once again.
That’s right: even though Peterson has no intention of saying that whatsoever (in fact, he’s saying the opposite), what you will actually hear is that it’s your obligation to proceed to the Final Solution.
5.4.4 “Hell is Other People”
Scott G. Bruce concludes his Introduction to The Penguin Book of Hell with this blood-curdling paragraph:
Despite the erosion of traditional religious beliefs in the modern era, Hell has survived and prospered. While the belief in Hell as an actual place has declined in recent centuries, the idea of Hell has endured as a dominant metaphor and, frighteningly, as an inspiration for how to treat other people. From the world wars and the Holocaust to the plight of prisoners and detainees, the political calamities of the modern world have increased the currency of the concept of Hell as a metaphor for torment and suffering. Although many modern people have turned their backs on a literal understanding of Hell as a place of future punishment, they nonetheless draw inspiration from imaginative traditions about the punitive afterlife to cause suffering to others in this present life, to ‘give them hell.’ The modern technologies and rational ways of thinking that supposedly mark our progress over earlier generations now allow us to commit mass murder and replicate infernal landscapes at the touch of a button; in an ironic reversal,we have become the very demons our ancestors trembled to meet when death foreclosed on their lives.
And this calls into mind a quote by Sartre from his play No Exit in which three deceased characters (Joseph Garcin, Estelle Rigault, and Inès Serrano) are punished for eternity by being locked into a room together. Near the end of the play, Joseph Garcin comes to a sudden realization:
All those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire, and brimstone, the ‘burning marl.’ Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is other people!
True, Sartre has something else on his mind – the existential dread of existing both as a subject and an object in someone else’s gaze – but, allow me to misuse him once again (after all, he has been misused numerous times before).
Because, dear Ferdinand, you’re right after all: hell is indeed empty, and all the devils are here. And in the eyes of other people – that includes us, as well.
Who Should Read “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”? And Why?
“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” combines Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of mythology with Jungian psychology in a way which makes both of them not just comprehensible, but also irresistibly alluring.
However, even more than people involved or attracted by either discipline, the book should interest novelists and screenwriters, since Campbell breaks down the universal myth of the hero in a way which makes his scheme usable as the background for almost any work of art.
Don’t believe us?
George Lucas used Campbell’s scheme to write “Star Wars.”
Born in New York City in 1904, he was educated at Columbia University in medieval literature, before continuing his studies in Europe, Paris, and Munich specifically.
Here, influenced by the work of Freud and Jung, the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and the literary works of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, Campbell developed an interest to pursue the study of Sanskrit and Modern Art, something which his alma mater rejected.
Even though this meant that he would never obtain a Ph.D., in 1934, he became a Professor of Literature at Sarah Lawrence College, a position which he held for the next 38 years, until 1972.
He died fifteen years later, just a few months after completing the widely revered series of interviews with Bill Moyers, “The Power of Myth.”
“The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDF Summary”
The basic premise of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is remarkably simple: every important myth you can think of shares the same fundamental structure.
And the reason why this shouldn’t strike anybody as odd or fascinating is even simpler: myths are manifestations of humanity’s deepest (and, thus, usually unconscious) urges and needs, fears and desires.
And since humans everywhere share the same psychology, the myths of many cultures through many different times must be the same as well.
Of course, it’s easy to say such a thing and much more difficult to prove it.
Hence, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” which not only lays out the structure of the monomyth (in its first part) and the cosmogonic cycle (in its second part) but also offers hundreds of different examples from hundreds of different cultures as evidence to back the scheme.
Since the first part is the much more interesting and influential part of the book – borrowed from Joyce, “monomyth” is Campbell’s term for the underlying scheme of the hero’s adventure – we’ll leave the cosmogonic cycle out of our discussion for now, and, hopefully, extend our summary in the recent future.
Let’s begin with Campbell’s summary of the basic structure of the hero’s journey:
The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.
These – the taking off, the adventures, and the returning – are the three main stages of the hero’s journey, and Campbell dedicates a chapter to each; each of these chapters is further divided into several sections outlining different phases of that respective stage.
Nicely illustrated, the hero’s cycle looks like this:
Of course, not all heroes pass through all stages (in fact, a hero rarely does), but there is basically no myth of a hero which includes an episode that won’t fit into Campbell’s beautiful scheme.
Here’s what it says, broken down, section by section:
A hero’s journey starts with a call to adventure: the hero is summoned by someone to venture from his normal world into the world of the unknown for one of many different reasons.
Sometimes, this call is just too strange or dangerous or ethically problematic, so the hero refuses the call. However, after some hesitation and in the presence of just enough evidence (say, Hamlet seeing the Ghost of his Father), the hero eventually agrees.
Once he/she embarks on the adventure, his supernatural aid – the mentor – appears or becomes known to him.
With the help of his aid’s advices or magical talismans, the hero is able to cross the first threshold and finally enter the unknown, the field where the laws of the normal world don’t apply anymore (aka: “that creature was actually a vampire!”)
A minor setback or danger may appear at this stage, such as Jonah – or Geppetto – ending up in thebelly of the whale.
OK – not that minor in real-life terms.
But that’s when the real adventure commences!
The Hero is now in a world of “monsters,” treading the road of trials. After several heroic endeavors, he encounters the goddess or the temptress – either way, the woman who will make or break him (remember Gilgamesh?)
Now, comes the center point of the journey: the hero meets the person/figure which holds the ultimate power over his identity or life. Campbell calls this stage theatonement with the fatherwhich means that if you had known the contents of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and taken it literally before watching “Star Wars,” you would have guessed one of the most famous twists in cinematic history!
Apotheosis is an Ancient Greek word meaning deification, which makes this stage self-explanatory.
The ultimate boon isthe goal of the quest: the thing due to which the hero’s journey started in the first place. It can be the Holy Grail or the elixir of life – or just some type of knowledge. But once the hero obtains it, the journey is complete.
Time for coming back.
Sometimes, however, the hero mayrefuse to return: the grass is greener on the other side for me, he thinks, so who cares about the people awaiting the boon.
And sometimes, returning from a journey may be just as difficult as going on one: so, at this stage, the hero must perform the magic flight.
If it doesn’t go well – say, he is wounded or weakened – he may need to be rescued from without by a supernatural aid, a beloved person, or a completely unassuming figure.
Next follows the crossing of the return threshold after which the hero usually shares his boon with his original community.
Now, he is the master of two worlds, both his brutal physical force and his inner spiritual understanding of what it means to live in a human society.
In some cases, he makes one more step upward, achieving the freedom to live by the total annihilation of his former fear of death.
Key Lessons from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”
1. All Heroes are the Same 2. The Basic Structure of the Monomyth 3. Why All of This Matters
All Heroes are the Same
The main thesis of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is there in the book’s title: Osiris and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are all just different manifestation of the same character, the Archetypal Hero.
The Basic Structure of the Monomyth
The universal pattern of the hero’s journey – the monomyth – can be summarized, in Campbell’s words, thus:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Why All of This Matters
Because, to quote Campbell, even though “there are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind,” once the similarities are understood, “the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed.”
Unification in the sense of mutual human understanding.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
Hooper has written several books, of which “Six-Figure Musician” and “The Rich Switch” are the most famous ones.
“Ask, Believe, Receive PDF Summary”
When David Hooper was in high school, a friend of his grandfather gave him a copy of “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen.
A few years later, he came across some old recordings by Earl Nightingale which inspired him to start looking for motivational books similar to “The Strangest Secret.”
Nowadays, he doesn’t believe these two events were mere coincidences.
But that it was the Universe showing him the guideposts on his path toward self-discovery.
Which is why what happened next turned out to be the final piece of the puzzle: in 2006, Hooper had an opportunity to see the film “The Secret,” and he saw it “in the right place, at the right time, with the right material”!
And it all made sense!
In Hooper’s opinion,
‘The Secret’ exposed the world to the Law of Attraction in ways James Allen, Earl Nightingale, and others hadn’t. It reached millions of people, many who would never set foot in a metaphysical bookstore or New Thought church.
“Ask, Believe, Receive” is intended as a practical supplement to Rhonda Byrne’s extremely popular book, one which – in Hooper’s opinion – “The Secret” wouldn’t have even needed if it wasn’t for all the misinformation surrounding the Law of Attraction today.
It’s a “step-by-step formula, actually five of them, to help you achieve what you want in specific areas of your life – money, relationships, health, employment, and business.”
Each of these formulas is divided into seven steps, so the subtitle is not a clickbait: David Hooper actually believes that his book can transform five important aspects of your life for the better – if not for the best – in no more than a week!
And he believes in this so much that he isn’t even interested in earning money from it: just like all of his previous books, he has made “Ask, Believe, Receive” freely available as an audiobook at YouTube.
Here’s, for example, Day 1 of “How to Attract Ideal Relationship”:
We weren’t able to locate a playlist of the book, but you can find all of the chapters on David’s channel here.
And we highly encourage you to listen to them all – or, at least the ones you’re most interested in – and start applying the Law of Attraction to your life as early as today!
For our summary, we’ve decided to summarize the 3 steps of the title, i.e., the 3 steps you need to follow to activate the Law of Attraction in any sphere of your life.
Step #1: ASK
The first step to activate the Law of Attraction: asking.
But not asking as in “I want a lot of money.”
Asking as in “By the end of this year, I want to find a fun and fulfilling job as a _____________ in a company located in _____________, which will earn me about $_____________ a month.”
And even more specific than that!
Let us answer you this question with a question of our own: what are the chances that you are going to get the meal you really like if you tell to the waiter at a restaurant “Give me something good to eat”?
Well, consider the Universe your waiter!
In other words: be specific, be polite, and ask what you want out loud.
Limiting belief 2: not believing it is possible to have what you want.
This is a common mistake many people make.
How does it work?
Say you want to have a million dollars. The only way you think you can get it is by winning the lottery. So, you focus all your energy on guessing those magic numbers, and, in time, you realize that this is improbable.
So, you start thinking that you’ll never get your million dollars.
However, you’ve forgotten the most important lesson: the universe has unlimited resources.
So, keep an open mind!
The Universe will do the rest.
Step #3: RECEIVE
However, be aware that you’ll only be able to receive your gift after letting go of any emotional attachment to your present or future state.
This could mean being impatient, desperate, angry, sad, mad, frustrated, afraid.
The only state the Universe understands is the state of allowing which, in the words of Hooper, “actually means to be in a state of non-resistance.”
A good way to let everything go and reach the state of allowing is to spend some time lying quietly in meditation.
Key Lessons from “Ask, Believe, Receive”
1. How Does the Law of Attraction Work? 2. Ask, Believe, Receive 3. The Power of Affirmations
How Does the Law of Attraction Work?
But, isn’t this all just some New Age mumbo-jumbo?
Is there some scientific basis for the Law of Attraction?
Well, according to David Hooper, there is:
Here’s how it works: Your thoughts trigger your emotions. Your emotional state emits a specific ‘frequency’ of energy to the universe. In turn, the universe returns events and experiences into your life that correspond with your emotional frequency.
Ask, Believe, Receive
The three steps which activate the Law of Attraction are the following:
#1. Ask: be specific and precise in what you want; write it down or create a visual board; ask the universe politely, as if you’re sending it a letter in the form of a prayer.
#2. Believe: build your self-esteem: you deserve to get what you want, and it is very much possible to get it; dig deep inside your heart and keep an open mind.
#3. Receive: put yourself in a state of allowing and non-resistance by lying still and meditating.
The Power of Affirmations
A good way to reach a higher frequency and allow for some things to happen to you sooner is by telling yourself a couple of daily affirmations.
Mantras of the kind: “I always have more than enough _________________.”
Feel in the blank with anything: “money than I want,” “love in my life,” “of anything I need…”
This will put your mind in a more assertive and allowing state, i.e., it will make the second and the third step of the Law of Attraction much easier.
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Who Should Read “Creative Visualization”? And Why?
“Creative Visualization” is basically “The Secret” three decades before “The Secret.”
So, if you like Rhonda Byrne’s classic – or any of the many self-help books which aim to help you make positive changes to your life by teaching you how to think positively – you’ll certainly like Shakti Gawain’s pioneering book as well.
Read it if you want to find an encouragement and revolutionize your life.
Especially if you need some helping hand to take you out of the gutter.
About Shakti Gawain
Shakti Gawain is an iconic personal development and New Age thinker and author.
Born as Carol Louisa Gawain, she obtained a degree in fine arts and dance from the University of California in the mid-1970s.
Soon after – in 1978 – she published her debut book, “Creative Visualization” which has been a bestselling book ever since.
She went on to write few other classics of the similar kind, such as “The Path of Transformation,” “Living in the Light,” “Four Levels of Healing,” “Developing Intuition,” and “Creating True Prosperity.”
All in all, her books have sold more than 10 million copies and have so far appeared in editions in no less than thirty countries and languages.
Gawain is the co-founder (with Marc Allen) of the New World Library Publishing Company.
“Creative Visualization PDF Summary”
Of course you do.
And remember her 1994 hit about “the affirmative powers of self-confidence” titled “You Gotta Be”?
If not – here’s a reminder:
There’s a reason why we started our summary with Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be.”
Because that song is basically “Creative Visualization” put to music.
Well, “Creative Visualization” is the book where it all started.
You already know the basic premise: think positively and positive things will happen; envisage what you want to do, and your body will move you forward to do it; visualize the finish line before the starting pistol has even fired, and you’ll get to it first.
But why should something like that work?
Well, think of it this way!
If you are a painter and you want to paint, say, a group portrait of some historical figures, you first have to see the final image in your head, then sketch their positions, and only then move to its execution.
Just the same, you can’t start writing a book if you don’t know how it will finish and it’s basically impossible to assemble correctly the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle if you don’t have the big final picture in your head at all times.
Well, the same is true with your life:
Let us imagine that life is a river. Most people are clinging to the bank, afraid to let go and risk being carried along by the current of the river. At a certain point, each of us must be willing to simply let go and trust the river to carry us along safely. At this point, we learn to ‘go with the flow’ — and it feels wonderful. Once we have become accustomed to being in the flow of the river, we can begin to look ahead and guide our course onward, deciding where the course looks best, steering the way around boulders and snags, and choosing which of the many channels and branches of the river we prefer to follow, all the while still ‘going with the flow.’
But – you may wonder – how does it work?
Or, in other words, does creative visualization has a surer scientific or philosophical foundation?
Well, according to Gawain, it does.
The key is to use the power of your “alpha waves” which originate from your brain’s occipital lobe during the minutes of “wakeful relaxation with closed eyes;” or, in more practical terms, just before you go to sleep, the few moments after you wake up, during meditation, or while you’re calmly listening to a flowing river or the wind rustling through the forest leaves.
Well, these alpha waves, according to Gawain, are the ones which connect us with the energy waves controlling the future, emanating and streaming through the universe around us.
And when we creatively visualize, we are actively participating in the dialogue between the energies.
Just like in love, the more you give, the more you receive back. Send care and affection, and the universe will respond to you caringly and affectedly.
As the Bible says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Key Lessons from “Creative Visualization”
1. Creative Visualization is the Art of Changing Your Life with the Power of Your Thoughts 2. Three Prerequisites: Affirmations, Self-Love, and Belief 3. Tips for Successful Creative Visualization
Creative Visualization is the Art of Changing Your Life with the Power of Your Thoughts
A colleague of yours is constantly taunting you in the office about minor things and it is obvious that he doesn’t like you.
But, do you: a) play out in your mind the quarrel you’re inevitably going to have with him in the near future; or b) think about a peaceful conversation you’re going to have with him after which you’ll transcend your disagreements become best friends.
B is, obviously, the better-case scenario, but, if you are like us, you are probably obsessed with A.
Well, the “creative visualization” technique says that you’ll reap what you’ve sowed, i.e., if you think about A, you’ll unavoidably get A in the end.
So, why won’t you start thinking about B?
Three Prerequisites: Affirmations, Self-Love, and Belief
If you have problem visualizing, then start with daily affirmations. You don’t have to see images. You can just talk yourself up. Think of Des’ree’s song and the way it sometimes makes you feel.
An important prerequisite for a successful creative visualization, is love. If you don’t love yourself first, you won’t get in touch with your energy. So, accept the outcome first – and then start visualizing.
Also – believe!
Because doubt is creative visualization’s greatest enemy.
Tips for Successful Creative Visualization
Few things you can do to make sure that your creative visualization will succeed.
First, quiet down your mind and set a clear goal before yourself. You can even play some music if that “quiets down” your brain.
Use all five senses and be as realistic as possible.
Also, don’t repress the bad thoughts that will inevitable come. Acknowledge them and try to meander around them. Otherwise, they will emerge victorious.
Finally, say it out loud: “I’m going to make this thing happen. You just sit and watch!”
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When it appeared in 1978, “Creative Visualization” launched a movement which, if not the phrase itself, made the philosophy behind it one of the most popular and most well-known in the personal development field.
Four decades – and countless of imitators – later, the book is still widely read and used in almost every single field of human endeavor.
And when a personal development book is as popular half a century after first seeing the day as in the first few years after it was published – then it’s undoubtedly a book which has struck a profound cord of the human nature.
So, even though we think that it’s just too New Age to tickle our fancy, we won’t try to discourage you from reading it.
“Spiritual Growth” is the third book in Sanaya Roman’s/Orin’s “Earth Life” series – and, quite possibly, the most famous of the six.
It’s, more or less, an entirely practical book, since it’s basically a list of teachings and techniques whose aim is to help you reach a higher self in your everyday life, in addition to aiding you while you create a vision of your higher future purpose.
The book is divided into three parts, each of which contains seven chapters.
(The last time !)
Part 1: Reaching Upward
The goal of the first part of “Spiritual Growth” is to teach you how you can move from your self to the Self of the Universe.
The basic premise is that you are not just the person living inside of your body.
You are much more than that.
And you can have everything you want.
Every time you use your imagination you are breaking the shackles of your limited being, letting go the ghost entrapped in the shell of your body and your senses.
The more expansive your imagination, the more expansive the future reality you can create for yourself.
You can transcend your present by connecting with the Universal Mind and by linking your inner self with the higher will of the Universe and the plan of humanity’s evolution.
Thus, you’ll open yourself to the miracles of the universe, and even learn to create some miracles yourself – out of pure light!
Don’t accept your current circumstances as the best you’ll ever have. Don’t believe people when they tell you something is impossible to create. When you know how to create with energy and light anything is possible.
Part 2: Opening Inward
You are a creature of energy much more than you are a creature of muscles and bodily fluids.
Open your heart chakra and increase your vibratory rate, so that you can both give and receive more energy from the higher planes of existence.
That way, you’ll be able to easily accept all changes – good and bad – and experience peace at all times.
People who have aligned their emotions with their souls are capable of meeting both heartbreaks and joys with the same calmness.
Because they’ve learned that in order to feel good, they have to allow themselves to feel that way:
People who have abundance, loving relationships, and happiness are not more deserving or better than you. They simply allow more good things into their life.
Some of them are even capable of changing the frequencies and experience their existence in some parallel universe.
Just like “A Course in Miracles,” “Spiritual Growth” purports to be written by someone who is not actually from this world – a spirit-teacher called Orin.
There are, usually, two ways to look at books of this kind: either dismiss them as an oddity or take them very seriously and start idolizing every word within them.
We recommend a third one: read them as works of fiction which may help you adopt a completely different outlook on your life and living in general.
If they don’t – then it’s all but irrelevant who wrote them: evidently, God doesn’t speak all languages. If they do – well, once again, it’s beside the point to talk about the author: obviously, the objective was reached even without the supernatural element.
We sincerely believe that people may profit profoundly if they reading religious books this very same way.