My Interview with NPR’s This American Life, the Origin of White Worship, the Nature of God, and Lessons in Leadership from Confucius and Buddhism
(12 min read)
THE GHOST-THEORY OF HISTORY
“What if God was one of us?”
— Joan Osborne
In his 1898 book “The Principles of Sociology”, Herbert Spencer — English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, classical liberal political theorist and contemporary of Karl Marx, and Father of Sociology — describes the phenomenon of White Worship among non-white civilizations:
“At the present time, it occasionally happens that Europeans, such as shipwrecked sailors or escaped convicts, thrown among savage peoples, gain ascendancy over them by the knowledge and skill they display; and when we remember that after the deaths of such men, their powers, exalted in legend, are sure to make their ghosts feared more than ordinary ghosts, we shall recognize another source from which deities arise. That men of low type even now class strangers of high type as gods, we have abundant proofs.
It is said by the Bushmen — “Those white men are children of God; they know everything”. The East Africans exclaim to Europeans — “Truly ye are gods”; and Europeans are thus spoken of in Congo. A chief on the Niger, seeing whites for the first time, thought them “children of heaven”. When Thompson and Moffat wished to see a religious ceremony peculiar to the Bechuana women, the women said — “These are gods, let them walk in.”
Even among so superior an African race as the Fulahs, some villages, says Barth, “went so far as to do me the honor… of identifying me with their god…” (staying to dinner, like Zeus with the Ethiopians). Other races furnish kindred instances. Some Khond women said of Campbell’s tent — “it is the house of a god.” The “Nicobarians have such a high idea of the power of Europeans, that to them they attribute the creation of their islands, and they think it depends on them to give fine weather.” Remarking of the Fijians that “there appear to be no certain line of demarcation between gods and living men”, Erskine tells us that one of the chiefs said to Mr. Hunt — “If you die first, I shall make you my god.”
— Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Sociology (1898)
From this description, we can gain several insights into the nature of the Sacred and the Profane. Spencer spends the entire first volume of his tract developing his idea of the “ghost-theory” of God by tracing the entire history of Mankind back to the most primitive and pre-historic eras through the use of anthropological study and rigorous guesswork. What he discovers is an echo of John Milton, who famously said:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
— John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)
A Gangsta’s Paradise
In other words, it’s all about your attitude, especially your attitude towards Death, a consistent and persistent mirage arising out of the Three Primordial Absolutes of Human Reason: Time, Being, and Logic. According to Herbert’s “ghost-theory”, Mankind first gained consciousness when it became aware of its own shadow, its reflection in the World. From there logically arose the conception of a “double self”, a dual nature that includes the physical, embodied consciousness, and an astral “other-me”, or spirit. When people die, causing a sudden loss in a familiar landscape that Slavoj Zizek refers to as “The Real”, it causes great consternation and bewilderment. This excitation of the senses, causes primitive human beings to project causes onto Nature, especially the creepier movements of their immediate surroundings (hence the recurring motifs of gusts of wind, echoes from caves, snakes, spiders, crocodiles, and bats heralding the presence of fallen spirits). The presence of Danger causes them to call on the “other-me”, or astral spirits, aka Souls, of their departed kin and friends for protection, eventually leading to the creation of totems, fetishes, and idols dedicated to ancestor-worship (and later monasteries, temples, churches, burial mounds, and pyramids).
This gradual apotheosis of familial, friendly, or terrible ghosts, who are often imbued with metaphorical attributes of visible objects — flora, fauna, the Sun, the Moon, the Clouds, starry constellations, the Heavens, thunder and lightning — stem from their gradual passage away from the memories of the living that knew them, into the hallowed halls of legend by their descendants. This makes them acquire a mythic character, expanding the semantic fields of language, imbuing human vocabularies with metaphorical and allegorical symbolic expressions, creating Math and Science, and exposing the rudiments of Logic embedded in the human experience (generally tribal, familial, and concerned with psychological safety and bodily reproduction and survival). Ghosts and God — the Mythical Being, removed from immediate sensuous experience — it turns out, is the origin of metaphorical (symbolic) vocabulary, the higher expansion of the mere ape-like gesticulations and mimicries of the embodied and corporeal that are the seeds of primitive Human Language. What’s interesting is that this symbolism recurs throughout different cultures in different regions of the World (Sky-Father, Earth-Mother, Grandfather Time, Chaos, Order, the Void, Heiros Gamos, the Highest One, etc.), which is a direct observation of the universal genetic and hereditary social hardware underlying the entire human species — our common humanity, aka our species-psychology and shared range of emotional expression — despite its multiform phenotypical variations.
The Temple of God (I visited in 2014), who the Chinese call Shangdi, or simply “Emperor”
In essence, the worship of God stems from the worship of People, particularly those who in life accomplished incredible and miraculous things, or demonstrated especial proficiency or skill and clairvoyance, and therefore were elevated in the collective imaginary of their tribe — the seed of Civilization — into protective and all-powerful Spirits. Which is why it is important to note the words of YHWH, the Highest One, God in every Language and Culture, when He tells us in the Bible that:
“Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” — Exodus 20:3
“You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” — Exodus 33:20
Similar corollaries are made in all advanced civilizations, including Mongolians who worship Him — the Highest One — as Tengri, and the Chinese, the longest unbroken Civilized Race of the Human Species, who long ago elevated God into the stratosphere and now only refer to Him by the Temple in which He lives — Tian, or Sky/Heaven, leading to the phrase “All Under Heaven” to refer to the entire metaphysical and physical realm (Koreans refer to Him as “Hananim”, the title for the Highest God from shamanic tradition). The sequential and progressive logic that summons God out of the bones of famous dead men and women also elevates Him to the Holiest of Holies and the Highest of Highs, with a concurrent expansion of human imagination and degree of civilization as measured by cultural production, arts, and technology. It is the height of folly and hubris to try to drag God back down to the Earth and place a face over Him in order to rule the wretched, shivering masses and whip them into compliance, but that was the essence of what the White Man did during the Age of Discovery and Imperialism.
This is why White Worship has proven so difficult to root out, despite three separate Civil Rights Movements in the United States of America, with the one in the 60s and 70s only being the most recent manifestation (as well as the tsunami of social justice activism that was summoned forth by the election of one President Donald J. Trump). So long as God is embodied as a “Bearded White Man in the Sky”, this country will forever suffer moral, spiritual, and physical crises that will damn its inhabitants eventually to Oblivion: the fate of every and all Human Civilizations that eventually decay into a culture of excess material decadence, bourgeois apathy, and all-consuming human arrogance, with no sense of Holiness or Mystery.
The Anglo-Saxon conception of God has wreaked untold Havoc in the Material Realm
In order for Asian Americans as a people to break out of our dreadful malaise of social, political, and personal apathy towards our own existences, we must burrow deep into our own minds and trace the lineage of our own heritage — the evolution of our worship of God — in order to uncover his True Essence, and destroy the artificial construct of White Supremacist Patriarchal Neoliberal and Imperialist Jesus that governs the affairs of this country like the Anti-Christ. In order to do so, we must first understand that every True Leader always bows before God, and His True Essence — “Help from Beyond Ourselves”, otherwise known as Salvation and Redemption in English. It is only by connecting and reaching out to each other, in a web of mutual aid and defense, that we Yellow People will rediscover the hitherto unknown Origin of a Common Language — Prayer, or A Cry for Help.
That’s my hypothesis, anyways. The Holy Spirit, is, as always, Charity towards one another and a shared Purpose: in this case, ending anti-Asian racism.
Rubber (2010): The story of a possessed tire that ends up exploding the head of White Male Chad and everybody in Hollywood. Tire, go on Chapo.
THE LION AND THE SNAKE
“I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said — “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias
A magical illustration of the Emperor — the King of Kings — from Peter Carroll’s Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic
The Emperor — the King of Kings or Leader of Leaders — denotes a Human Man, Woman, or other Figure who has attained such a high degree of Leadership, that other Leaders bow down before their Supreme Authority. The imago of the Emperor appears everywhere, across every instance of developed human culture and geographic region settled by human beings, throughout all recorded History. In tarot decks, he manifests as a man sitting on a horned throne — All-Power, the symbol of Baal and Mars. He holds an Ankh — the Mystery of Life — in his right hand, and the World — the symbol of Domination — in his left, high atop a barren mountain range indicating the cold loneliness of Command. In the Bible, the Emperor is best represented in the dual forms of King David, the Young Hero and Conqueror, and King Solomon, the Old and Wise Magician. The dominant and recurring motif of the Emperor, the Ultimate Leader in the Imagination of Mankind, is the Lion and the Serpent, stretching all the way back to ancient Sumer, the earliest known civilization in Mesopotamia (Iraq), with the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh was a real-life Sumerian King, who ruled the city-state of Uruk (arguably one of the first Human Cities) during roughly 2900 – 2350 B.C., a historical era known as the Early Dynastic Period. He is credited with building the city walls of Uruk, and fragments of an epic text relate that at the end of his life, Gilgamesh was buried underneath a river bed. However, he is most famous for his mythical exploits in searching for the Watercress — the Flower — of Everlasting Life, after the death of his best friend, the wild man Enkidu. In epic poetry, Gilgamesh appears to us as the first historical manifestation of the King of Kings, or Emperor, which early humanity portrayed as a Man who had conquered both the Lion, the King of the Beasts, and the Snake, one of the most Dangerous of all Land Animals. As we’ve noted before, mythological emblems act as Lacanian signifiers of Human Psychology, particularly our Emotions or Moods. In order to understand the essence of Leadership, embodied in the personage of the Emperor, we must first ask ourselves the Question: what do the Lion and the Snake symbolize?
The Representation of King Gilgamesh in the Louvre
One clue regarding the nature of the Lion is found in the Tetramorph — otherwise known as the Majesty of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. One of the Four Holy Beasts in the Revelation of Saint John the Divine, the Lion represents one of the Gospels of the New Testament, aka the Human Interpretations of Christ’s Nature, or Facets of his Character. And what is the character of Christ the Lion? Another clue is given to us by the mythic legend of Hercules, who was also draped in the mantle of the Nemean Lion, indicating he was a certain breed of Human Majesty, or Earthly King, with a spark of the Divine — which we can now recognize as Passion, or the Madness necessary to accomplish Great Feats, especially in battle.
Taking these two interpretations together, we arrive at the following: The Lion symbolizes Martial Courage — Valor — whose ferocity and majesty are necessary in order to bring about Peace (the Roman goddess “Pax” was frequently depicted as having a tame Lion following behind her, and Mars was often worshipped not only as the Spirit of Conquest, but also Pacification). What is Valor? Valor is the ability to Transform — to become whatever you need to be, summon whatever you need to summon — in order to confront a Moment of Crisis, an Encounter with the Real, in your earthly and spiritual life. This power to transform yourself is wrought by Passion — known in Chinese as “qi”, which can be rendered in English as “Vital Energy”, “Material Energy”, or “Life Force” — and indicates the raw emotional strength that assumes the primal forms of Self-Sacrificial and/or Murderous Love. The Passion of Jesus transformed Him from a mere Man into the Son of God, in order to Save Mankind. That is the Lesson of the Bible — a True King must be able to arouse the Passion of the Lion in his or her breast to transform into whatever is necessary in order to confront and defeat Evil, in any particular or universal situation that arises for them and their subjects and followers.
Behold Jesus, the real King of Kings
What about the Snake? Well, in tracing back the common lineage of ancient human mythologies, the Snake most often manifests as an avatar for Wisdom — the Morningstar, or Holy Sophia — a symbolic metaphor for They Who Know When to Wait and When to Strike, according to the Cosmic Pattern of the Universe. This can only come about through Self-Reflection and Humility, which is engendered by a serious reflection on Human Mortality — Finitude — and Limits — Human Capacity. This is the reason why, when victorious Roman generals arrived in their golden chariots for their Triumphs, they always had a slave behind them whispering, “Memento Mori” or “All Must Die”, to teach them how to manage their own arrogance in the face of Victory. The combination of the Urge to Wait, the Urge to Strike, and Philosophic Contemplation — the Mirror of our Earthly Existence or Human Condition — leads to the Mother of all Virtues, which the Romans called “Prudence”. Over time, with enough Self-Restraint and the Discipline that comes from Experience, Prudence evolves into Patience, the Ultimate Virtue: a Zen-like stillness and formlessness which can strike forth at any time — swift as lightning — and recede at any moment — as quickly as the tide. This is the symbolic expression of the Archangel Michael and the embodiment of Sun Tzu’s General:
The Military is a Tao of Deception —
Thus when able, manifest inability.
When active, manifest inactivity.
When near, manifest as far.
When far, manifest as near.
Thus when he seeks advantage — lure him.
When he is in chaos — take him.
When he is substantial — prepare against him.
When he is strong, avoid him.
When he is wrathful, harass him.
Attack where he is unprepared.
Engage where he does not expect it.
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War
We are now ready to strip naked the nature of the King of Kings, or True Leadership. When Everlasting Patience is married with Transformative Passion, the ultimate expression of Courage in Battle, it results in Love and Kindness. This is the Essence of God, which is Mercy — Mother Mary; the Buddhist icon Guan-Yin of the Thousand Eyes, Ears, and Arms; and all the Seraphim or Agents of God that possess the Passion of Christ and the Patience of Saints. Divine Mercy — Salvation and Redemption — is, of course, the Grace of the Heavens (otherwise known as Divine Justice, aka Karma), and nothing we as mere mortals can ever touch (although we can help expedite its manifestation here on Earth). The real, and to us more urgent, earthly matter is — how can we as human beings demonstrate the Grace of Mankind, which is Fairness and Empathy, aka Lovingkindness, the reflection of God? That is the True Question confronting all Would-Be Leaders. If we, as both Asian Americans and Yellow Men, no longer want to be stuck in the suffocating confines of middle-management Yappie Hell and want to become real Leaders — Kings of Kings, who can suggest without dominating, persuade without coercing, and command without speaking, aka Lead — we must first reacquaint ourselves with the two Sacred Elements that inspire Trust and Loyalty among the People: True Patience and Passion. As the old Chinese saying goes, “to walk next to the Emperor is like walking next to a tiger.” We must reinvigorate our own conception of ourselves and what leadership looks like.
To do so, let us turn our eyes away from the bumbling mystagogues and psychopomps of “Western Civilization”, a fairly recent and barbaric example of humanity, and towards the teachings of an older and more refined civilization: The Orient.
The Ultimate Psychonaut: Chinese illustration from The Secret of the Golden Flower
Written by Albert Joon-Ho Hur
[Edited by J]