JOSEPH: I have recently read that the decline of Christianity in the West was, in large measure, due to the rise of the big city, which is hostile to the context of environmental compromise in which Christianity originally flourished. Apparently, the predominantly artificial environment of the city signifies a step beyond the dualistic, provincial framework peculiar to cultural man, and is accordingly indicative of a higher stage of evolution. Where, formerly, Western man was approximately balanced between nature and civilization, the sensual and the spiritual, he now exists in a spiritually-lopsided position (or, at any rate, most of those who live in big cities do). So he has grown beyond the dualistic, anthropomorphic religiousness appertaining to a less-urbanized context and thereby exposed himself to the possibility of a new religious awareness - one reflecting his isolation from nature, and consequently testifying to his spiritual advancement.
RICHARD: Quite true! And this new awareness is transcendental as opposed to anthropomorphic, and therefore hostile to the sensual. It is an awareness superior in essence to anything that has preceded it, constituting the final stage of Western man's spiritual evolution. From predominantly sensual beginnings in nature he has progressed to predominantly spiritual endings in the big city, the dualistic compromise coming in-between, when man was in his prime as man - approximately balanced between his two selves and therefore not lopsided on the side of either the beastly or the godly. But the path of evolution is leading him towards the Holy Spirit, and so post-Christian man is somewhat closer to that blessed consummation than were his Christian predecessors, whose anthropomorphism invariably kept them bound to the sensual.
JOSEPH: And when he attains to his consummation in transcendent bliss, he will presumably cease being human?
RICHARD: Yes, he will have outgrown the three stages of human development and entered the post-Human Millennium, which is the post-Christian equivalent of Heaven - the coming time of happiness in the transcendental Beyond.
JOSEPH: Why post-human?
RICHARD: Because he will no longer be man but superman and therefore beyond the merely human. We use the word 'millennium' because we do not want this transcendental Beyond to be confounded with or mistaken for any posthumous afterlife, such as the word 'Heaven' might lead one to do. You see, Heaven is inextricably linked to Hell. But we are outgrowing the dualistic framework of Christianity and consequently drawing closer to our ultimate salvation, which is in the future. So we prefer to substitute Millennium for Heaven, in order to avoid the dualistic connection with Hell which almost invariably presents itself when the word 'Heaven' is mentioned. With the post-Human Millennium, on the other hand, there is no possibility of Hell simultaneously existing. People will either climb onto the higher plane or fail to climb onto it, as the case may be. But we must assume that there will be more incentive for them to transcend their humanity than to keep it, and therefore that most if not all of them will make the necessary change. Thus the Christian Last Judgement would seem to be too dualistic in conception to be quite relevant to the climax of human evolution, in which only a post-Human Millennium will prevail. As the middle development in Western man's ongoing spiritual evolution, Christianity was obliged to acknowledge mankind's past as well as to anticipate its future, and this past, in which sensuality predominates, is juxtaposed with the future in depictions of the Last Judgement. Consequently, it is open to misinterpretations of simultaneity which, in actual fact, it doesn't really warrant. For, in reality, Hell is a context out of which mankind is slowly climbing, whereas Heaven is a context towards which it aspires. It is the difference between pure sensuality and pure spirituality, the diabolic beginnings and the divine endings, with three stages of human development coming in-between. Now, obviously, first-stage man, surrounded and dominated by nature, was closer to Hell than Christian or second-stage man, who had pushed nature away from himself to an extent which made it possible for him to differentiate between the sensual and the spiritual, and thus aspire, no matter how intermittently or half-heartedly, towards the transcendental Beyond. And third-stage man, it logically follows, is closer to that Beyond than were his Christian predecessors, who were still tied to the sensual to an extent which made it necessary for them to fear Hell and thus maintain a dualistic framework of religious awareness. So third-stage man doesn't fear Hell, since he is too far away from it, but directs his attention towards Heaven or, rather, the post-Human Millennium, which exists as his goal and ultimate salvation. He dispenses with dualism in his drive towards spiritual perfection - a perfection destined to take place in a transcendent context which should not be confused with some afterlife. After all, what has the Second Coming of Christian symbolism to do with a Beyond in that traditional sense?
JOSEPH: You tell me.
RICHARD: Very little! For why should Christ, as the symbolic representative of the spirit, bother to come back to earth if people were already being judged, following death, in an afterlife? Why should he bother to judge the living when they would all be judged at death anyway - as, apparently, millions and millions of people had already been, prior to His Second Coming? It simply doesn't make sense. So, obviously, the Christian symbolism refers, in the context of Christ, to the ultimate triumph of the spiritual in life, which we can now regard as the post-Human Millennium. As for judgements in the afterlife, I just don't believe in them.
JOSEPH: Which induces me to assume that you don't believe in the Afterlife or, more specifically, in an afterlife which presupposes more than just the condition of non-being, following life?
RICHARD: Indeed not! In point of fact, I believe that people have often misinterpreted Christian symbolism and thereupon confounded Heaven with something that occurs following death, rather than in a futuristic context towards which humanity are slowly advancing here on earth. I absolutely reject this posthumous conception of Heaven, for which, incidentally, Christianity wasn't entirely to blame. After all, Christianity has pointed man towards his future salvation in the Beyond, though this was often mistaken for an afterlife state by the Christians themselves. Now if people get consolation from thinking in that myopic sort of way, good luck to them! We needn't feel particularly sorry on their account. As far as the truth is concerned, however, we can hardly concede that they had it! Self-deception is one thing, the truth quite another!
JOSEPH: Then what about Aldous Huxley, whom you are always talking about these days? Surely, if you don't believe in the Afterlife, you won't approve of his conception of life-after-death which, as I understand it, was founded upon The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thödol? Surely you would have to reject his belief in a posthumous Clear Light and possible union of the departed's spirit with it?
RICHARD: Oh, I most certainly do! I reject not only his belief in a posthumous Clear Light, as you so eloquently describe it, but also the accompanying belief in reincarnation - reincarnation apparently being reserved for those who posthumously reject the Clear Light and opt to return to the world. It seems to me that Huxley was inclined to take a sort of Christian instead of post-Christian view of the Beyond, by conceiving of it as following death, rather than in the post-human life of the Superman. One dies and, following a short transitional period, is then confronted by the Clear Light, which, according to Huxley, one either accepts and therefore merges with, or rejects and consequently returns, sooner or later, to the ego-bound world. Well, I cannot go along with that assumption, no matter how much I may admire Huxley in certain other respects. Writing when he was, in the thick of the transition between the Christian and post-Christian worlds, it is perhaps not surprising that his mysticism should have had a Christian slant, and thus related salvation to a posthumous merging with the Clear Light. But I don't believe that such a hypothetical procedure is the context in which it occurs. On the contrary, it seems to me that salvation is very much an affair of human evolution towards a higher spirituality attained to on this earth, in the future. It is essentially a climax to our evolution, the mutation, if you prefer, from man to superman, in which the body will be completely transcended and the spiritual life duly reign supreme. So we have to live for the sake of that more fortunate generation who will effect man's transformation to the post-Human Millennium, and thus vindicate all our evolutionary struggles, justify all previous propagation. Our sons will be one step closer to the post-Human Millennium than ourselves, and their sons will be closer to it than them, and so on, until the ultimate transformation. But we won't enter the transcendental Beyond, neither now nor, in my opinion, following death. All we can do is have faith in the future and work towards making it possible. As, however, to our ultimate salvation in the Afterlife - that I must confess to having grave doubts about! If, in dying, we encounter a darkness and 'sleep the long sleep', then I don't think we shall have any great cause for complaint. It will be acceptable for us, as corpses, to leave the affairs of this life behind and take a well-earned rest. Even if the kernel of our being, the will as 'thing-in-itself', to cite Schopenhauer, is indestructible and therefore survives death, it would almost certainly do so without consciousness, and consequently without a knowledge of where it was and why it was there. It would be completely at home in the eternity of nothingness that follows life, oblivious of this world and bereft of any desire to return to it. And because, deprived of consciousness, it wouldn't know where it was, it would hardly be exposed to the spectacle of the Clear Light and the possibility of either merging with or rebelling against it - as the case may be!
JOSEPH: Contrary to the speculations voiced by Aldous Huxley in his novel Time Must Have a Stop, in which its principal character Eustace Barnack, having died in the lavatory of his country house, finds himself confronted by the Clear Light and, unable to reconcile himself to it, persists with the personal ego-bound state of the Afterlife until such time as he can contrive to return to the world, as a child of the Weyls?
RICHARD: Yes, contrary to speculations based on the Bardo Thödol, which Huxley was inclined to take too seriously, it seems to me. Had he read Schopenhauer's Parega and Paralipomena, he might have subsequently modified his speculations or not even entertained them at all. As things transpired, however, he pressed-on with a belief in the posthumous survival of consciousness which I can only regard as irrational, not to say implausible. For how can visionary consciousness possibly exist independently of the intellect and the proper functioning of the brain? And what is more - why should it? What purpose would it serve? What would one be doing in a hypothetical Other World that would make such consciousness necessary?
JOSEPH: Perhaps deciding whether to merge with the Clear Light or return to this world in the guise of a new-born infant.
RICHARD: Indeed, that would be a good enough reason to retain such consciousness if that is what actually happens. But does it? Can it, when, by all rational accounts, the loss of intellect, with death, should deprive one of visionary consciousness? No, I don't see that it can. The idea of an isolated mind, as it were, being subject to the intrusion of a Clear Light in the post-death state seems to me quite absurd. One wonders where this Clear Light is supposed to exist. And one wonders even more where the consciousness that perceives it is coming from, how such consciousness can exist without the assistance of a brain. Yet this hypothetical consciousness is supposed to be able to reject the Clear Light, if it prefers to, and dream its own dreams until such time as, having grown weary of dreaming, it elects to find itself a new body - and presumably accompanying brain - on earth! Well, this belief in reincarnation is even stranger and more absurd to me than what precedes it. For how can a given consciousness - the ego-bound consciousness of Eustace Barnack, let us say - be itself one moment and, with a return to this world, someone else the next; be a knowing mind that wills itself a suitable married couple and subsequently become the child of that couple - altogether bereft of recollections of its temporary stay in the Other World? The idea scarcely merits dwelling on, so preposterous does it appear in the light of rational inquiry! After all, propagation is an affair of parents, isn't it? An affair, if we may believe Schopenhauer, in which the will comes from the male and the intellect from the female, and consequently where there is no room or place, in the child's psyche, for any external, otherworldly intervention. For if a so-called soul, as will and intellect combined, is to effect a return from the Afterlife and impose itself upon a suitable couple of prospective parents, what purpose, one wonders, would their own reproductive seeds serve? Why, indeed, should they possess any such seeds at all?
JOSEPH: You tell me!
RICHARD: Obviously not as mere decoration, but in order to propagate their own kind. And that does mean their own kind, not the kind of someone or, more accurately, some thing which has rejected the Clear Light and elected to return to this world in the guise of their child! So I cannot place much confidence in the concept of reincarnation, as propounded by Huxley. Neither do certain other speculations deriving from The Tibetan Book of the Dead particularly appeal to me. If my wife were dying, I certainly wouldn't spend hours at her bedside encouraging her towards some hypothetical Other World, as Huxley did with regard to his first wife. I would just let her die quietly and peacefully - without mystical accompaniment. I would want her to be resigned to losing her consciousness at death, resigned to sleeping the long lifeless sleep of oblivion in the eternity of nothingness, and thus putting the cares and pains of this life behind her. I wouldn't want her to feel that she had a moral obligation to live-up to, in the post-death state. For the prospect of such an obligation would only serve to put unnecessary strain on her last hours. No, I would want her to have the peace that the dying deserve - freed from the imperious or meddlesome clutches of the living. And I would hope, too, that some years before her death she had learnt to differentiate between the post-death state, which is really no Beyond at all but a nothingness, and the post-human state towards which humanity is slowly advancing, so that, mindful of the fiction of a posthumous afterlife, she needn't be in any doubt as to her impending fate. Then she could discard the fears which sometimes beset the dying as they imagine themselves being judged for their sins and, in the event of negative judgement, summarily pitchforked into Hell. But Hell is something in the distant pre-human past, not something still to come!
JOSEPH: Not even with the possibility of a nuclear war?
RICHARD: No, though that, needless to say, would be hellish enough! But it would constitute only a temporary hellishness out of which we would eventually arise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the past and press-on with our destiny towards a higher spirituality. We would press-on in accordance with the one-sided spirituality appertaining to third-stage, big-city man, and so adopt a post-dualistic attitude to divinity. We would not endorse anthropomorphism but only transcendentalism, as appertaining to the third and highest part of the Trinity, which will inevitably lead to the long-awaited triumph of the spirit, represented in Christian symbolism by the Second Coming, and to the establishment, thereafter, of a post-Human Millennium. Now just as we would be obliged to dispense with anthropomorphism, that compromise between body and spirit, so we would be obliged to dispense with democracy, the dualism appertaining to second-stage cultural man.
JOSEPH: You mean we are heading towards a future based not on democracy but on totalitarianism?
RICHARD: Yes, that is my belief. After all, aren't politics and religion fundamentally two aspects of the same coin, conditioned, at any given time, by the nature of the environment in which a given people happens to live? How therefore can you press-on with a one-sided spirituality in the big cities and not have a politics complementary to it, a politics which is as much a consequence of the environment as the religion? You can't have third-stage religion and second-stage politics? That would be quite illogical, even if a minority of intelligent people may now be responding to the city environment in an appropriately spiritual manner, and consequently be practising a form of transcendentalism in the capitals of the democratic world. Until Christian churches disappear and Christianity is officially superseded, the transcendentalism of this intelligent minority is bound to remain an unofficial break with tradition upon which the Christian Establishment, in its advocacy of anthropomorphism, can only frown. It cannot be sanctioned as the official successor to Christianity, and therefore it can only exist as a kind of spiritual outsider in the West, even though it may be more pertinent to the particular environment in which it is practised than the traditional religious integrity. But that, I believe, is merely a temporary situation. For the evolution of man continues to proceed within the overall structure of Western society, and eventually that structure will be obliged to come to terms with the extent of his spiritual evolution and officially recognize the transformation from second- to third-stage life.
JOSEPH: I do hope you are right!