Maestro, it’s not hard to say why I went to the sex shop at that time. It’s hard to explain what happened there and in the days that followed. Going from the previous e-mails that describe the events that lead to my going to the sex shop, you will probably gather that the title of this email is about an old and pure monk who fell into lust for a teenager and who plunged into a world of sin and perversion. That’s not actually what happened. Well, the many sins that follow were not related to a forbidden desire, anyway. My prior e-mails have mentioned that I love God, and while I will describe many sins, what would take place would be of a wholly spiritual matter. Yes, the thread of love and desire runs through it, but we are not going to be talking about a tired old story of a dude succumbing to lust for women. I also told you that I studied Hebrew, the Bible and Judaism. Israel will be a central piece of this story, though it may seem that we will meander from that whole sphere at times. Finally, I told you that I hate the culture of religion, although this seems to contradict these statements I am making about deep spirituality. However, there is a very big difference between true spirituality, genuine faith, and religious culture. It is with this point that I would like to begin my tale for tonight.
Legitimate spirituality requires knowledge of God, knowing that God is love and infinity. It also requires a personal relationship with God. The spiritual person contemplates all matters of life with God in mind. On the other hand, religious culture is only a way of living without contemplation. It consists merely of group customs. For example, according to an a given example religious culture, it is acceptable to drink alcohol after, say, seven o’clock at night, but not earlier, because it is common in the culture to drink alcohol after seven o’clock, and no one drinks earlier. However, a genuinely spiritual person knows that alcohol a substance that can benefit health and be pleasant, but it can also be dangerous and cause problems, and actually reason out when would be good times to drink and not to drink based on the situation. It is important to consider the reasons for drinking alcohol in specific situations and with specific people to determine whether to drink alcohol and how much to drink. Simply not drinking alcohol when nobody else is drinking alcohol doesn’t count for genuine individual practice, even if that cultural convention is derived from someone’s understanding of some spiritual matter.
I’ll bring up another example. Usually religious communities do not accept homosexuals because their way of life is “unacceptable” to the group. People who smoke cigarettes are widely accepted in most religious communities, however. In Christian circles, particularly Catholic and Orthodox ones, homosexuals are excommunicated because they don’t repent of their sin. Their concept of repentance involves believing that every time a homosexual has sex, a new sin is committed, and they must repent after every sex act. But smokers smoke a cigarette every hour, and no one requires them to repent after each cigarette. Further, these religious communities justify themselves by saying that in the Bible there are commandments against homosexuality, while there are no commandments against cigarettes. In fact, there were no cigarettes at the time of the Bible, nor in the region where it was developed. They don’t want to contemplate that fact. Tobacco is like alcohol, a medicine of nature, although it has fewer benefits than alcohol and more disadvantages. In ancient times they chewed the plant for energy. But today we add hundreds of chemicals to tobacco and inhale industrial amounts of smoke into our lungs.
Despite the lack of a biblical prohibition against smoking, we do not have to contemplate for long to understand that God, infinite and perfect love, would prefer us not to smoke in most situations. But the culture of religion does not want to recognize such a thing. The group is of the opinion that homosexuality is not good, but smoking is acceptable. That’s why I have gay friends who can’t even get into a church even though they haven’t had a partner for years. They just aren’t in a place psychologically where they can consciously commit to a celibate life. At the same time, however, I can smoke a cigarette while talking to a pastor on the church porch without any requirement to repent after each puff. Because God is apparently gracious and accepting of me with my flaws, but not a homosexual with theirs.
And of course, we have Harold. How would I assess his spirituality? I’d say he is probably at a low-level of Christian development. He is afraid of males because his culture has taught him to be afraid of males, and he feels like a hero if he protects women from men. This trend is not particularly bad in itself. People need protection. But Harold doesn’t want to wait for the man to do something wrong. In their religious culture, old men don’t talk to young women, period. Any time a man talks to a woman, he must be up to something terrible. And when a man talks to a woman, Harold has a chance to feel like a heroic protector by harming that man. He uses the culture of his religion to advance his psychological agenda. If my perception of Noah was a great demonstration of apophenia, and she told her dad that she hated the unknown man, he might have advised her, “tell him you have no interest,” or perhaps better, “it’s important to be kind to strangers; but he’s an old man and there are bad old men in the world. So, if you want to practice Hebrew, please tell me if he says anything bad to you.” But old men who talk to young women are not common. It’s not part of their religious culture. And religious culture hates and fears the unfamiliar.
You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.Exodus 22:21
This verse from the Bible is not just a commandment about foreigners. It also says, “for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” In other words:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 7:12
Here we see that we are to treat others how we want to be treated, so treat strangers well because there are ways in which we have been strangers. From this we can see that we should at least wait until an unfamiliar person does something wrong before we act against him. I have referenced these two verses to show that reporting a man to the police simply for trying to talk to someone contradicts the essence of the scriptures upon which Harold’s Christian faith is based. On the other hand, I have assured you that my spirituality is genuine and personal, based on reason and my individual understanding of divine principle. Yes, this sounds like patting myself on the back while condemning someone else. Whether or not my condemnation of Harold is justified, I definitely sound arrogant. I’ll take the hit on that one right now because I am using this bit of autobiographical information to make a variety of points. Trust me, maestro, I am going to send you a mountain of e-mails explaining quite clearly that I am a complete idiot and in many ways the most godless son of a bitch to ever walk the earth. But bear with me for the moment and let me toot my own horn and rake poor Harold over the coals for a bit. So just trust when I say I have a genuine spirituality that does not comport with religious culture.
So how is it possible for someone who hates the culture of religion to become an knowledgeable about the Bible, and why would such a guy study Hebrew, Judaism and travel to Israel? In fact, I was never a member of religious culture. I grew up in a secular family, and had no religious faith inherited from my relatives. I research religion a lot in my youth: Buddhism, shamanism, Wicca, and other philosophies. Basically I had an interest in all the religions and philosophies of the world except Christianity, the most common religion in my country. It seems easy not to be impressed with local religion, and when someone is unhappy with religion, they rarely look for solutions in the church on the corner or in the scriptures on their bookshelf. They always want to find something more exotic and foreign, less known and less easy to criticize. This explains the popularity of eastern religions among western spiritual seekers, and also explains why I became familiar with all sorts of religion in my youth except the Christianity ubiquitous in my native Texas.
I did some experimenting with drugs in my youth as well, and this was not disconnected from my spiritual seeking. I read Carlos Castaneda among other psychedelic authors, and I had a fascination with vision quests. I’d say my primary moral failings in terms of violations of religious cultural morays are sex and drugs. In high school I was a handsome kid, but immature and awkward. I was different from others, being intellectual and bohemian, but insecure. I had girlfriends from time to time, but it was because nerdy girls found me unique. It was not because I was in any way suave. They would ask me to date them because I didn’t have the slightest clue how to ask them to date me. I had a few sexual encounters because I was handsome, but not many, because I was actually pretty hard to get along with. Naturally, a boy like me would gravitate to smoking pot and getting into nerd stuff like Dungeons and Dragons. My fellow misfit nerd friends used to argue about philosophy and take LSD, though not with any particular intensity or frequency. After graduating from high school, I worked for a while in a nightclub, and there, hanging around with an older crowd of hardcore partiers, I did some experimenting with cocaine and meth. For about six months that practice got a little intense, almost getting the better of me, so I switched my scene and joined the Army to escape that life.
My first year in the Army was a typical soldier’s life. I did not take drugs and became healthy and strong in the infantry. I learned discipline and responsibility. After I had been serving for about a year, I took a vacation back to my home in Dallas after completing my first duty assignment in Fort Benning, Georgia before going to my second duty assignment in Grafenwöhr, Germany. It was December 1994. While there I attended the mother of all New Years Eve parties. It was so wild that at one point I literally thought I was going to die. That day, the first of January 1995, coincidentally a Sunday morning, I became a Christian. It was a moment of “fucking Jesus Christ please save me!” Immediately after, I moved to Germany for the second part of my service.
I don’t think the Devil really liked my confession of faith. I mentioned that I used drugs before my time in the army; and in Germany I did not take drugs. They were not allowed, and there were drug tests. So 1995 and 1996 ended up being my years of chasing, women. By this time I was successful at it, I might add. Women are the strongest temptations the Devil can offer a guy like me, and they are his most powerful weapons. In any event, I was in Germany, I was young, healthy and virile, with enough money to have many parties and many women. There was a lot of everything: orgies and threesomes, road trips to Prague, France, Spain… Different women every week, and even two very significant girlfriends during that time. I even experimented with sex with men. Yes, I was a Christian. Apparently a very libertarian Christian. I read the Bible on my own without going to any church. I wasn’t a part of any religious community, but I defended God from my friends when we would get drunk and engage in raucous political and religious debates. I wasn’t a fake Christian. I was just of the opinion that love, kindness and honesty were things that mattered to God. I didn’t think he really cared about the length of a woman’s skirt or other ridiculous details that are so important in the culture of religion. I never read any of that in the Bible. I only understood this foundation:
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:27
However, by 1996 all the various amusements of an infantryman on the rampage in Europe began to seem vain and boring to me. I lost a very significant girlfriend and finally decided to attend a church. Although I found my first experiences of theology there, I also found my first narcissistic pastor. There would be many similar pastors in my ecclesiastical life. And never during 20 years of attending churches could I find a pastor I could consider my teacher. Also, as I grew older, I began to see that a quiet and good life, as the Bible prescribes, is in fact a good life, and I began to commit fewer “sins” (for lack of a better word). In certain respects, however, my life after converting to the Christian faith was wilder than ever before.
I have never been a member of religious culture, nor have I been an angel when it comes to meeting conservative religious moral standards. But the title of this mail is: “The Fall of the Angel.” Why? I’m not the angel in the title title. Above I told you it would be easy to explain why I went to the sex shop when Noah told me she hated me, but it’s not going to be easy to explain what happened there. The reason I went is simple. It was some kind of revenge against Noah’s rejection. For example, in 2004 I had a big argument with my wife, so I went angrily to a strip club and got a lapdance just so I could say I was free of my bitch wife, at least for that moment. Then I went home and went to bed next to my spouse, woke up the next day, and continued life as normal. Going to the sex shop was something similar. A fleeting reaction of stress and anger. However, when I arrived at the sex shop the things that usually happen in the private booths did not happen to me. It will be very difficult to tell you what happened, and you will have to understand certain matters of philosophy. The best way to do this is to tell you a fairy tale I made up that explains how reality is constructed. It involves the fall of an angel. So the angel of the title of this e-mail that fell is not me. It’s someone else. I’ll tell you the legend tomorrow in my next e-mail. You’ll think it’s all very weird and different from my Noah story, but it’s important to understand it if you’re going to understand the whole of what I am going to try to say. It won’t seem even slightly connected to any of my story at all to begin with, but as the story progresses you will see how it all connects.
I look forward to hearing your reaction over a couple of chelas when we next get together. Take care for now, maestro.