Enlightenment is a Choose Your Own Adventure Game
"In order to combat modern materialistic mores, as religion must, to fight nihilism and egotism, religion must also develop, must be flexible in its forms, and it must have a correlation with the cultural forms of the epoch."
Is having a mystical experience proof of God? I don’t know. Growing up it was all the proof I needed. But even when I had it, I wanted more evidence.
A tall, stoic Nigerian expat in a lime green Reebok jumpsuit approached me at a party one December night in South Korea and asked me “so what do you do? What brings you to Korea?” I was 19 on a ministry trip. I just wanted to serve God and have adventure. I felt embarrassed as I explained my uncertain life path, but the sound of agreement and respect in his voice sticks with me to this day: "Ah. A man of God."
He didn’t ask for the name of my guru, religion, or God. It didn’t matter to him, because my identity was clear. That’s when I realized, “devotee of God” is a type of person independent of race, religion, or creed, and that’s who I'd be for the rest of my life no matter what else.
Some people call us “seekers.” We’re called mystics, spiritualists, existentialists, ministers, philosophers, missionaries, devotees of God, shamans, monks, prophets, occultists, I don’t care to define or differentiate myself from anyone else. All I know is I’m an eternal being having a relatively short human experience, and my primary mission in Life is to know Truth, and help others do the same.
Real quick: Some people don’t like the name “God.” I get it. “Truth” is a good name. I say call it what you want, it’s all the same to me. This concept works no matter what your perception of the “Powers That Be.” Truth is a good name for God. The Sikh call it “Sat Nam”.
The Case For Decentralization
Before the Internet, scriptures were not just a belief system, they were the Law of the land.
Scriptures were passed down from ancient ancestors to give context to our consciousness, to help us outline the parameters of our individual and collective being.
I’ve changed my beliefs in life based on several severe encounters with what I believe to be God/Universal Intelligence/Divine Source. Each experience transcended all religious understanding of God, but had unignorable correlations.
I used to believe in God, but a psychedelic experience with psilocybin mushrooms gave me a veil-splitting meeting with God that lasted for several hours. Now I know. And I’m not the only one - I read accounts of this same experience across the Internet all the time.
I’ve communed with God again through kundalini yoga practice, in religious gatherings, and in other magic moments in time.
If you have ever had direct contact with God, whether through means of psychedelics, spiritual practices, or near-death experiences, you will inevitably come to the same conclusion that every religion was created by someone who had a similar experience and tried to tell others about it.
Jesus: “Love God with all of your being. Love your neighbor as though they are you.”
Mahabharata: One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one's own self. In brief, this is dharma.”
Swami Vivekananda: “Man must realize God, feel God, see God, talk to God, that is religion.”
Scattered across our history and throughout the world, pockets of humans came to similar revelations as I had, with so many parallels between them. Societies and civilizations were built and governed by those realizations because they guided us toward a more Enlightened way of being - Toward understanding the relationship between man and God.
The Bible was the first Internet, connecting stories, people, and principles across space and time.
Dawn of Decentralization
"Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God.” - Martin Luther
During the Reformation of the 16th century, most people couldn't read, so they relied on priests to interpret. Gutenberg started mass printing Bibles so people could find their own meaning of God.
Now that we have the Internet, we have open access to all the Bibles. We can not only make our own personal connections to maximize our individual spiritual outcomes, but instantly share insights and experiences with believers of all faiths. We aren’t separated from knowledge of God based on culture, religion, or time. Nothing is foreign: We are familiar with anything as far as we can Google it.
So why doesn’t any one religion stand out as a sure-fire way to enlightenment?
Don’t get me wrong, I love religion. Religion is my buffet. I love anything that even marginally brings me closer to understanding and experiencing God. But we need to be able to judge religion objectively if we are to avoid being hindered and injured by its boundaries.
The only metric a religion should be measured by is this: Efficiency in direct access to God, and ability to facilitate a consistent experience of God.
The whole point of life is to answer the big questions: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” A religion can only be worth its weight in its ability to help you answer.
The exoteric benefits should be a natural byproduct, rather than the entire religious experience. By all means become a better person, but secure your existential meaning first.
Many, if not all people change religions at least once in their life. Today’s religious experience is a lot of sauce, but no steak. True intuitive palates grow tired of religious baby food, “institutional church-ianity”, and need the meat and potatoes of God. Samadhi. Rapture. Meeting God is like leaving the Matrix. You’ll see how everything in your life is interconnected, you’ll have realizations and revelations about yourself and the Universe, and the benefits of that are tangible.
Many born theists go atheist at some point. Atheists either came from a God-fearing family or haven’t been sick enough yet. Lots of people believe in quantum theories and singularity without realizing that’s as good as God. I’ve known Christian pastors who committed suicide. So “salvation” doesn’t always equal salvation.
I’ve known sinful Hindus, lawless Muslims, and ignorant Buddhists. But each of these trees still bear good fruit every day. I’ve found God in all these places and more. So why the pitfalls?
Now that the world is so intimately connected, it’s easy to see the dogma and neuroticism in institutional religion. The foundations aren’t bad, but centuries of cramped understanding and Westernization has produced mold, causing the esoteric, or “inner” aspects of spirituality to decay. The houses of each bona fide religion still look the same on the outside. They still provide initial shelter from the harsh wilderness of Life, but inside the walls people become spiritually ill.
Future of Religion
Your outcome isn’t my responsibility. I’m focused on getting myself home. Life is a one-player game, and you have to be the one to face Death in the end.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other by building spiritual meta and teaching each other Life-and-Love-giving Truth and wisdom along the individual path I call Self-Understanding.
The spiritual journey is innately individual. Yet any realization of value should be shared with hope of helping others. After all, that’s how religions are formed: Individual transformations given language.
The future of religion is individually led, collectively shared.
Individuals can establish direct contact with the Source of All Creation and share (open source) the most useful technologies available to humanity ie. meditation, strategies ie. self-actualization, and protocols ie. finding meaning, healing trauma, and fulfilling dharma - all without dependency on any one institution to facilitate the experience.
A life-long, scientific approach to spiritual enlightenment, or to understand self in the pursuit of realizing Truth, is a viable orientation for anyone to achieve net-positive outcomes in life, regardless of their current place in space and time.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
What if when you woke up this morning you realized your entire past life had been just one dream?
You wake up this morning as a 25 year old, 35, 15 or 55, whatever age you are now, but it's the first day of your life. You get a do-over on all the mistakes you've made in your past because it was all a dream.
The money in your bank account, same family and friends, the same health you either have or don't have, is your starting balance.
But there's one more tool in your arsenal as you take on your new life that just began today: You now have direct communication with the creator of this reality.
How would that change the decisions you make as you go forth in pursuit of happiness to obtain your fairytale life?
If every decision you made from now on was directly inspired by the creator of the universe, how would the rest of your day be different?
What would tomorrow look like?
How about 10 years from now?
Write it down.
That’s your religion.
Special thanks to Christin Chong Ph.D, Nic Hurrell, Chris Wong, and Tommy Lee for your helpful feedback on this essay.