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"Cargo Cults", Jesus, Spinoza, ..., and Bill

This was in response to a request for my opinion on the doctrine of a particular Christian sect and whether I thought that it was related to Spinoza's ideas.

    [I had previously written to this person:]

From a Wikipedia article on "Cargo Cults" :

...The classic period of cargo cult activity was in the years during and after World War II. The vast amounts of war matériel that were air-dropped into [the Pacific] islands during the Pacific campaign against the Empire of Japan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders. Manufactured clothing, canned food, tents, weapons and other useful goods arrived in vast quantities to equip soldiers-and also the islanders who were their guides and hosts. By the end of the war the airbases were abandoned, and "cargo" was no longer being dropped.

    In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood, and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses. The cultists thought that the foreigners had some special connection to their own ancestors, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches.

    In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size mockups of airplanes out of straw, and created new military style landing strips, hoping to attract more airplanes....

    [...I continued with this story:]

    ...and so, life continued this way for the tribe. Then, many years later, a child was born and his parents named him Bill. Bill seemed exceptionally bright and he wanted to know all about the past and the future and what it was that the elders were doing with all their rituals and the things that they made and maintained. He quickly learned everything the others could teach him and he became an expert even among the elders. One day, Bill wandered off to the far side of the island, even though it was forbidden for anyone to go there because the people had been told long ago that there was sacred ground there and that they would die if they even looked at it. Bill could not understand at first what he found when he got there, however, contrary to the warning drilled into him since he was a child, he did not die but did meet other people who were not from his tribe. As these people took him in he quickly learned their language and they taught him all about the actual airplanes, and radios, and automobiles, and computers, and the internet, and... he soaked up everything! He learned all he could and now he understood what his people had been doing and how they had misunderstood the earlier events. He decided to go back and explain to his people so that they could stop wasting their time on the silly rituals and maybe learn how to build real airplanes and radios and...

    As Bill arrived back at his village the people were surprised and rushed to see him since he had been gone for 40 months and they had assumed that he had drowned while fishing. He could hardly contain himself as he told them; "You've got to change your thinking!, there are Great Wonders at hand!" He tried to explain to them about what their rituals really meant and that they were just imitating things that their ancestors had not actually understood. A few people listened to him, even though they didn't really understand what he was saying, because he seemed so enthusiastic and because he had always been so smart. Of course the elders, and most of the others who looked up to them for their wisdom in performing the sacred rituals, said that he was crazy and when he told them he had been to the far side of the island they knew he was not only crazy but he must be the devil himself if he actually went there and survived.

    Try as he would only a few people listened to him, mostly those who had never quite seen the point of all those rituals anyway. He tried to explain things in terms of the stories the people already knew so well, even going along with their thinking about devils and angels, hoping that eventually they could leave those superstitions behind. A few seemed to understand his explanations but not one of them would follow him back to the far side of the island since the fear instilled into them since they were children was just too strong. The more Bill insisted on trying to teach the elders the more they resented him until finally, it was decided that he had to go, and they hung him up from the "Control Tower" since one of the elders had a vision that surely this would bring back the Airplane Gods and their cargo. The deed done they waited, and waited, and waited.... To this day, those who listened to Bill repeat the stories he told them, half believing that maybe he really did know what he was talking about, but so far, the Airplane Gods have not returned.

    [...and then later this was my continued response to his question about a particular Christian sect:]

Hi xxxxxxx,

    In my previous reply I did not address the items you listed concerning the apparent beliefs of [a particular Christian sect]. I had actually arranged the points separately and was trying to respond to each item but as I proceeded I realized that nothing I could write by way of explanation would be enough that I could feel confident that it would adequately express my meaning. I still feel that way. However, I have decided to respond to a few of the items and to at least indicate in some way a direction of thinking. I have no idea why [a particular Christian sect] members might believe any particular thing which might be stated in a similar way or even what [a particular Christian sect] might mean by saying the same words.

    I hope that you begin to realize at some point how words and images become associated in the brain strictly by bodily motions and that we form many confused ideas because our attention is focused only on these products of our senses. Clear Adequate Ideas are Eternal in God. Bodies in general, and therefore the words and images which are the confused ideas of the motions of our bodies, come and go and have a limited duration. Keeping that in mind, the following can be Understood (not just "believed") to be True by reasoning from some very simple axioms:

God Is: Eternal ("self-caused"), Infinite (nothing else can exist to limit God), One (there cannot be more than one Infinite Eternal Being), Unchanging (time, place, and change only appear in a finite view such as from the view of the senses and memory of a particular body).

Material Substance and Thinking Substance are Eternal, Infinite, and Unchanging Attributes of God.

All particular things, like individual minds in Thinking Substance, and bodies in Material Substance, are finite and express, in a limited way, the Essence of God.

God, the One Infinite and Eternal Being, cannot become finite and conditioned (like a human being).

Jesus was a Human Being who came to realize directly from "within his Being" the truth of the above.

Jesus was not God but he knew directly that all actually existing finite things (such as himself and other human beings) are particular expressions of God.

Jesus was not "resurrected" in body. Yet there is, in Thinking Substance, an idea of his particular body, and of all particular bodies, and those ideas are Eternal.

Jesus, as a finite body, will not "return" as such. However, the Eternal Idea of all bodies has always existed and cannot cease to exit.

Death of a particular finite body simply means that the parts making up that body no longer maintain the same relationship they had as that particular finite body.

Minds experience pleasure, pain, and desire related to the motion and rest of the parts of the body. All emotions are confused ideas based on these bodily relationships.

Heaven and hell are confused ideas of an imagined time and place associated with the emotions of pleasure or pain. When the parts of the body change their relationship in "death", the images of heaven and hell change with it.

Punishment and reward, as sin and merit, etc. are also confused ideas involving the emotions of the body.

Since the ideal essence of all particular things is Eternal, there is nothing to "save".

The Human Mind is, even while the body continues to exist, capable of knowing its own Eternal Nature as it Exists in God and in this way, it will not "taste death" of the body.

    Spinoza, Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tsu, and apparently many others, have come to realize these things to a greater or lesser extent. However, each found their own way to try and help others around them to "see" these things for themselves. Each grew up in some particular "Cargo Cult" culture which reflected the particular confused ideas of the sense and memory motions of the bodies of the members of those particular groups of human beings.


I welcome any thoughts on the above subject.
You may send email to:
tneff [at] earthlink [dot] net

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