Quentin S. Crisp’s Metta and the Lord’s Prayer

Here is my response to Quentin S. Crisp’s post Metta:

I’ve read about Buddhism and I’ve practiced various forms of meditation, but for whatever reason that line of spirituality never fully engaged me.  However, Eastern ideas have heavily informed my worldview.

I was raised in extremely liberal Christianity and so I have no distasteful memories of my Christian upbringing.  I’ve never denied Christianity, but I can’t say that I exactly identify as Christian.  I am, however, culturally Christian.  I’ve studied Christianity to a great degree and it fascinates me on many levels.  On a spiritual level, I am drawn too much within Christianity.

It’s hard for me to identify with modern mainstream Christianity as I was raised in counterculture Christianity and so I have an affinity to the early Christians kicked out of mainstream Christianity by the heresiologists.  There is an element within Gnosticism that was picked up by the alchemists and the kabbalists which saw spirituality as being a part of this world. 

My own understandings of this are filtered through the scholarship of many authors, but specifically Carl Jung and Philip K. Dick have influenced me the most.  Those two weren’t Christians in the normal sense as their sense of Christianity was influenced by Eastern thought.  Those two also had a very psychological view of religion.

That mixing of Gnosticism, Eastern thought, and psychology captures my own sensibility… and somewhat resembles the Christianity I was raised in.  I understand the impulse towards the other-worldly, but it isn’t in me to think in those terms.  If there are spiritual truths, then they must be relevantly real to me in this time and place.

I don’t worry about being saved or trying to control my ultimate fate.  I just want to understand, to glimpse the world for what it is.  I don’t think there is any final truth, but there are many truths all around us and within us.  I mistrust anyone who believes they have it figured out.

This leads me on to a few things. Well, at least a couple of things. The first of these is that, even after my rejection of Buddhism, I have found myself again recently struggling with what might be described as variant forms of Buddhism that stress something like the indifference of the cosmos to humankind, the worthlessness of humankind, and so on. It seems that there are some who claim the only significant change is a kind of catastrophic enlightenment, which effectively seems to place you outside the rest of the human race in some way. Well, to this I say balls. I assert that even a small change is worth making and that even a small difference is still a difference. Yes, even a difference within the much-derided human identity rather than one that obliterates it.

I’m a bit split here.  I have had spiritual experiences that blew away any normal sense of self.  It at times did feel like a void that potentially could’ve swallowed me, but I survived to tell the tale.  It wasn’t a bad experience though.  It did feel like I was touching upon some profound truth.  The reason why I feel split is because the experience itself (or rather my reaction to it) made me feel split.  I felt simultaneously intimately close to the world (including everyone in it) and infinitely alone (as in singular or somehow without clear distinction).  But it certainly wasn’t inhuman per se.  If anything, it was more than human.  The cosmos can’t be indifferent to mankind if there is no real separation between the two.  Some might want to make this into a vision of light and love, but it wasn’t that either.  It was just a sense of seeing/feeling clearly… both the good and the bad, the joy and the suffering.

Catastrophic enlightenment has always intrigued me.  It’s a tempting idea.  The experience I had was fairly catastrophic, but there is no way I could claim any enlightenment from such catastrophe.  My experience wasn’t, however, so catastrophic as to permanently obliterate my sense of individuality or my sense of the individuality of others.  It actually gave me a deeper appreciation of the interiority of this thing we call humanity.  I think Jung and PKD also sensed something similar (PKD especially was obsessed with the human and inhuman).  The element of relationship was very important in both of their writings, and I think relationship (whether of human ‘love’ or contemplating a rock) when experienced deeply does point to something beyond (the betwixt and between of the Trickster’s territory).

I don’t know if small changes matter in any grand way, but it is true that a small difference is still a difference.  The world consists of nothing other than the small, so small in fact that we don’t even notice it.  Whatever such change may or may not mean, I tend to take a more Daoist approach.  Change is change is change.  I’m waiting for neither apocalypse on earth nor salvation in heaven.  I do sense something in the promise that early Christians/Gnostics spoke of, but I just sense that promise as being an eternally present potential (new eyes to see, new ears to hear).

Actually, I’ve always liked the Lord’s Prayer, but then I have the benefit of not having been brought up within any denomination, and therefore do not see the words as doctrinal:

Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us

Isn’t this just a way – a simple and profound way – of saying, “We’re all imperfect, so let’s call it quits and move on”?

Yeah, I’d probably interpret it that way as well because I grew up with a non-traditional translation from the Aramaic (btw here is an interesting direct translation from the Aramaic).  I also don’t see much of Christianity in doctrinal terms because I’ve researched how much of it originated in pagan philosophy and religion.

The Wikipedia article on the Lord’s Prayer is nice, but the interesting stuff is often in the discussion section:

Parallels in the Lord’s Prayer can be found in Spell 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

This subject has been covered in quite a few texts – please look at what I wish to put forth as an edit and comment on what else it needs.

There are similarities between the Lord’s Prayer and The Judgement of the Dead (Ch.125) in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Similarities in the full text are highlighted and phrases are repeated. The full text is available from here

Janzen, W. “Old Testament Ethics” 1994 Westminster/John Knox Press

Address to the gods of the underworld
Hail, gods, who dwell in the house of the Two Truths.
I know you and I know your names.
Let me not fall under your slaughter-knives,
And do not bring my wickedness to Osiris, the god you serve.
Let no evil come to me from you.
Declare me right and true in the presence of Osiris,
Because I have done what is right and true in Egypt.
I have not cursed a god.
I have not suffered evil through the king who ruled my day.
Hail , gods who dwell in the Hall of the Two Truths,
Who have no evil in your bodies, who live upon maat ,
Who feed upon maat in the presence of Horus
Who lives within his divine disk. 14
Deliver me from the god Baba,
Who lives on the entrails of the mighty ones on the day of the great judgement.
Grant that I may come to you,
For I have committed no faults,
I have not sinned,
I have not done evil,
I have not lied,
Therefore let nothing evil happen to me.
I live on maat , and I feed on maat,
I have performed the commandments of me and the things pleasing to the gods,
I have made the god to be at peace with me,
I have acted according to his will.
I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man,
And clothes to the naked man, and a boat to the boatless.
I have made holy offerings to the gods,
and meals for the dead.
Deliver me, protect me, accuse me not in the presence of Osiris.
I am pure of mouth and pure of hands,
Therefore, let all who see me welcome me,
For I have heard the mighty word which the spiritual bodies spoke to the Cat,
In the House of Hapt-Re, the Open-Mouthed;
I gave testimony before the god Hra-f-ha-f, the Backwards-Face,
I have the branching out of the ished-tree in Re-stau. 15
I have offered prayers to the gods and I know their persons.
I have come and I have advanced to declare maat,
And to set the balance upon what supports it in the Underworld.
Hail, you who are exalted upon your standard, Lord of the Atefu crown,
Who name is “God of Breath”, deliver me from your divine messengers,
Who cause fearful deeds, and calamities,
Who are without coverings for their faces,
For I have done maat for the Lord of maat.
I have purified myself and my breast, my lower parts, with the things which make clean.
My inner parts have been in the Pool of maat.
I have been purified in the Pool of the south,
And I have rested in the northern city which is in the Field of the Grasshoppers,
Where the sacred sailors of Ra bathe at the second hour of the night and third hour of the day.
And the hearts of the gods are pleased after they have passed through it,
Whether by day or by night.

Comparison between the Lord’s Prayer and the Maxims of Ani

The god of this Earth is the ruler of the horizon.
The god is for making great his name. Devote yourself to the adoration of his name.
Give your god existence.
He will do your business.
His likenesses are upon the Earth.
(God) is given incense and food offerings daily.
The god will judge the true and honest.
Guard against the things that god abominates.
Preserve me from decay.
(God) is the king of the horizon.
He magnifies whoever magnifies him.
Let tomorrow be as today.

Acharya S – The Origins Of Christianity And The Quest For The Historical Jesus Christ

Walker says, “Of all savior-gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era, Osiris may have contributed more details to the evolving Christ figure than any other. Already very old in Egypt, Osiris was identified with nearly every other Egyptian god and was on the way to absorbing them all. He had well over 200 divine names. He was called the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who ‘made men and women to be born again.’ Budge says, ‘From first to last, Osiris was to the Egyptians the god-man who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done. . . . Osiris’s coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris’s star in the east, Sirius (Sothis), significator of his birth. . . . Certainly Osiris was a prototypical Messiah, as well as a devoured Host. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the ‘plant of Truth.’ . . . The cult of Osiris contributed a number of ideas and phrases to the Bible. The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ of the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul to the body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death (the Tuat). The Lord’s Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning. ‘O Amen, O Amen, who are in heaven.’ Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer.

See also:

The Christ Conspiracy by Acharya S

Christ in Egypt by Acharya S, D.M. Murdock

Ancient Egypt, the light of the world by Gerald Massey

9 thoughts on “Quentin S. Crisp’s Metta and the Lord’s Prayer

  1. I do wonder if you think beign raised in a Conservative Christian context woudl leave one scarred. You mention that you came ut of a Liberal Christian background, so it didnt, which assumes being reared as a Conservative Christian woudl smehow be Traumatic.

    That said, Nothing in CHristianity came out of Pagan thought. Yes I know, it slal over the net and lenty of books contradict me, but I am actually studying this, in a University context. All of the supposeldy Pagan origins fall apart. In another posting you mention Acharya S, referign to her as a Scholar of great skill whom you admire, and I can percieve in this that you lack judgement on some matters.

    If you woidl, I’d discuss it.

    • No, I don’t necessarily think being raised in a Conservative Christian context would leave one scarred. I would say that religion in general can have a powerful influence on the human psyche including scarring. This powerful effect is magnified by certain kinds of religion such as fear-based fundamentalism. If you grew up in constant fear of going to hell, that will have obvious consequences. On the other hand, I think more idealistic/hopeful forms of religion can also have problems.

      You certainly are full of overly generalized dismissals. Scholarship on the pagan origins of Christianity is all over the web, and it’s all over hundreds of books and yes some of those scholars are respectable: Rudolf Bultmann, Northrop Frye, G.A. Wells, Joseph Campbell, etc. Both Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price have good things to say about Acharya S’ scholarship. I’d recommend you read Acharya S’ book “Christ in Egypt”.

      When you’ve better informed yourself on the subject, please come back and we can have an intelligent discussion. Or if you prefer, you can visit Acharya S’ forum where she often will respond to her critics.

  2. Quentin’s take on Buddhism puzzles me. I cant access the original post, but I remember discussing some things with him on the Ligotti board, when I was fully in my “advocating catastrophic enlightenment” phase. With a Zen teacher and further practice of her lineage, I can see that notion as a massive misunderstanding of the “aim” of meditation or the Buddhist path in general. Without getting too deep, the “quality” of enlightenment in Soto Zen or the higher tantras stresses a vividly clear perception and fluent, fluid, beneficient engagement with what may be called the “richness” of life.

    The ego annihilated, “corpse speaking the truth of the Universe” enlightened figure doesnt square with the practice of Buddhism by anyone I know, though the Mahayana philosophical doctrines on emptiness supposedly lead to nihilism if taken too seriously ( according to David Chapman, whose “meaningness” blog might be of great interest to you even though Buddhism isnt your cup of tea, so to speak) .

    • Crisp took down his blog some years ago. I stopped commenting on his blog before that time. And I haven’t interacted with him anywhere else. I can’t claim to know his take on Buddhism.

      As for myself, I’m not for or against anything specifically. I’ve always been a generally ‘spiritual’ person. My sense is there is more to life than what is obvious to rational and materialistic views. But I’m not prone to religiosity.

      I don’t have strong opinions. I just have a curious mind. I feel reluctant to dismiss or judge other people’s experiences. In the end, I’m a radical skeptic (zetetic), a weak atheist (a lack of belief rather than a belief in a lack) and a strong agnostic (I don’t know what I don’t know).

      Over my lifetime, I’ve tried many practices. That has included years of meditation. But most of my practices have been informal. I’m willing to try many things, even what others call ‘woo’. I’m all for learning from my own experience and judging for myself. I grew up in a ‘woo’ church and I have no fear of it.

      On the other hand, I can be a highly critical person. Most religiosity falls in the category of non-falsifiable. It simply is what people make of it. Personally, it is irrelevant to me. But if it makes other people happy and does no one else harm, more power to them.

  3. Did my zeal come through a little….pungently in that post? I should mention that, even as the epitome of “spiritual but not religious”, your writings on PKD and Burroughs’ Gnosticism are worthy of academic discussion (I know Lovecraft is getting attention; will they ever get around to Burroughs and Ligotti ? ) . I find the writings of the decadent/pessimist line change my perceptions and attitudes in ways that might be called religious in character; I think there is a category outside of ‘Sublimation” where transformation on the level of emotions and behavior goes beyond “entertainment”. Whether this needs to be acknowledged by anyone, or if it matters that much, I’m not sure. i strive to keep my Buddhist practice beyond meditation as inconspicuous and “invisible” as possible simply because it creates less friction and more friends, but I do hope for a day when rituals, even of the dramatic type, are a prominent feature of Buddhist practice in the West ( translated into Western symbolism and cultural forms ). I enjoy the Vajrayana emphasis on enlightened people as noble, active figures living in the world, as opposed to the warrior/ascetic or material world hating gnostic strains that dominate the Western esoteric mode. I suppose thats what I was really getting at; it’s hard finding spiritual systems that unequivocally affirm life with all its ugliness, ambiguity and moments of beauty. I hardly want to imply that its a superior, universal “way”, or anything of the sort. Once things reach that level, we’re getting to the “shit-house”, as Burroughs would call it.

    • I can’t say I was bothered by any zeal or even noticed it. I’ve been around plenty of religious people in my life, including fundamentalists and evangelicals. I spent many years of my youth in the Deep South, after all. I’ve seen zeal before. I can’t say I’ve ever been much for zeal, but I don’t mind other people’s zeal. I have a strong indifference to many such things in life, that is when my curiosity isn’t directly engaged.

      Some like to mock the attitude of “spiritual, not religious”. I suppose that describes me. But my entire religious upbringing wasn’t typical. The church I grew up in taught that attitude of “spiritual, not religious”. So, spirituality is the religion I’m familiar with. The Unity Church isn’t known for the outward trappings of religiosity nor for biblical literalism. I never read the bible in church and sermons were rarely biblically-based. The closest the Unity Church had to ritual was the congregation holding hands in a circle at the end of service and singing, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me…”

      The kind of Christianity I was raised in taught meditation, as it was a church filled with a bunch of old hippies, free spirits, and weirdos. It was a church that attracted all of the people unhappy with all the other forms of Christianity and yet still preferred the general feeling of a nominally Christian congregation. No one in that church really cared what you did personally in your religious practice, as long as it didn’t involve human sacrifice.

      Some of what you just wrote would fit comfortably within Unity teachings. Other aspects not so much. Unity is New Thought Christianity. It’s all about positive thinking and emphasizing the good, the beautiful, and true. The ugly, horrific, and ambiguous get short shrift. It was the “shit-house” realization that led me astray. Unity theology, nice as it was, couldn’t explain the actual world I was forced to live in.

      That is where enters the insights of RAW, Burroughs, PKD, and other similar malcontents. Ligotti was a somewhat more recent inclusion for me, as I was introduced to him sometime this past decade or so, whereas those others have been mind-fucking (mind-gangbanging?) me since the 1990s. Even so, the possibility-mindedness of my childhood religion has stayed with me. I’ve just expanded the possibilities I see, looking into the dark corners of the cosmos.

      Ligotti is an interesting case. His writings are no doubt dark. His philosophical pessimism is the genuine article. But in interviews, I can hear something that is akin to compassion, a basic kind attitude toward his fellow meat puppets. There is no judgment for those lost in illusion and delusion. I sense something similar in my self, as well. When I take seriously philosophical pessimism, a great sense of forgiveness seeps into my consciousness, a realization of how hard life can be and that people really are doing the best that they can for where they find themselves.

      Philosophical pessimism cuts to the heart of the faith of my younger self. Unity theology is all about freedom on all levels. As such, we are free beings in a free world created by a divine being that is Freedom itself. The believers of freedom, like all other believers, have to explain why bad things happen to good people. The New Thought and New Agey explanations ultimately are no more satisfying than any other variety of religious hand-waving.

      Depression forced me to take seriously human suffering, on its own terms. That is a hard thing to do. And once seen, few ever pull their gaze away again. It leaves you marked, unfit for normal society. Like your Buddhism, I keep this “inconspicuous and “invisible” as possible simply because it creates less friction and more friends”.

    • I thought of the Christian parallel to Buddhism.

      Catholicism has more of a “Vajrayana emphasis”. Evangelicalism, out of which came Unity Church, is of the opposite inclination. Unity theology in its greater liberalism includes no material world hating, quite the opposite, but there is an otherworldliness about its idealism. Either way, evangelicalism maybe leads to the same result, a desire to bypass all that interferes with a direct connection to the Divine.

      What bothers me the most about it is the hyper-individualism, related to the warrior/ascetic aspect. It’s the ultimate endpoint of freedom of being, of mind and will. The extreme ascetic plainness of a Unity Church is contrasted to that of the intricate beauty of a Catholic Church.

      There is a lack of depth in the evangelical tradition. It’s a tradition that cares little about tradition, for tradition is of the past and this material world is the accretion of the past. There is a fearful attitude toward all that is perceived as constricting Platonic freedom. The experience that matters to the evangelical mind is in the present and into the future, not rootedness in the past, not tradition and ritual.

  4. Ive never thought of the parallels much, though some call Zen “Protestant” Buddhism. Funny , I practice in a Unitarian church with a mixture of probably Quaker influenced Vermonty folks, dedicated Zen Buddhists and a few youngish millenial types ( me included). Tibetan Buddhism is often described as the go-to for Catholic converts; though I was raised Catholic and was quite devout until my teens, my first exposure to religion was some form of Methodist church that was weirdly “high gothic” in its actual church building and ritual. Where I live (a fertile region of the Pac NW ) theres an ambient Crowley/Golden Dawn influence as well. It wouldnt surprise me to find Blavatsky or related works in some of the church libraries. Now the idea of “Roman Catholic Vajrayana” ( I know you made a parallel, but my mind is adept at awful philosophical syncretism, hence my sympathies for Evola ) is truly terrifying .

    One reason we don’t have much of a Western “take” on that branch of the buddhist path is several disastrous, highly publicized scandals including deaths, that occured in the fairly recent past; the outcome of Westerners attempting to practice their Buddhist Tantra in concert with Christian mysticism and/or Vedanta or even Hindu Tantra, which can be drastically different in its methods and aims. The conclusion of the Dalai Lama and his Gelugpa school was basically that Westerners couldnt handle it ( or Asians couldnt teach it in the West without messing it all up ) and that its spread or support must be limited in the West. I myself know little about it, most teachers have more or less gently discouraged me from asking about it, and Im not stupid or ballsy enough to attempt anything on my own. The authority of the teacher/ guru devotion is the part where the most trouble seems to lie in its translation to our society with our emphasis on individualism, on the one hand, and egalitarian fellowship, on the other. I’m certainly not opposed to those things in principle, but part of my most recent “awakening” was the importance of role differences, discipline, and devotion to a teacher and/or practice lineage to support a ‘fruitful’ spiritual journey.

    I greatly enjoyed the Van Helsing anime OVA , it seemed to implicitly touch on these sorts of themes, with the duty to ones “Master” being the highest point ( not the only, but when youre an inhuman, damn near Lovecraftian monster, ethics can be more complicated than any rulebook can lay out) in the moral code of the unholy near-unstoppable Alucard ( and the female characters have a more “potent” role in the story than is usual in anime/manga ; S&M is frequently implied as part of the deal as well ) , contrasted with the vintage Nazi supervillain’s Heidegger esque creed of Iron Will and Real Being, ” I Am I” and honorable death at all costs. The undead, alchemic, sadomasochistic British occult division comes out looking rather “pro-life”, in the end.

    Somehow that OVA managed to ring a lot of Western decadent bells and incorporate the Eastern worldview of its creators. Those trans Asian-Western artists ( Hirano, but also Kar Wong Wai, Takashi Miike, and the Metal Gear Solid guy) make me interested in my own cultural heritage by reflecting it back through their Farther Eastern lens. It’s also nice to know that “original” Indian Buddhism was mostly practiced in Greek speaking/influenced cultures, so the “distance” between the West and East may not be as untranslatable as it seems.

    I can close this map of names and obscure notions with the remembrance of Nietszche as an avowed cosmopolitan; in these days of uproar over “appropriation” or “heritage renewal” ( thats my snarky polite phrase for atavistic ethno-nationalism among European descended peoples) , I’l hold firm to cultural cross-pollination and uncivil but ultimately friendly competition as one of the brighter ways to follow in a darkening wilderness.

    • I attended a UU church for a while. It attracts many similar people as Unity. I met a good friend at that UU church. He is a new agey weirdo of the kind I’m used to from my childhood. I can take full on woo without flinching. There isn’t too many strange beliefs I haven’t heard before.

      Many people in UU are more mainstream than Unity people. The UU crowd here locally is a fairly respectable group, including many professors and other professionals. Unity, on the other hand, has a higher proportion of losers and failures, the people who had nowhere else to go, my kind of people.

      And, yeah, there are some Quaker-influenced people at the local UU church. Some of them would attend a Quaker service one week and the UU service the next. But I don’t know about any Crowley/Golden Dawn influence, although there was a local UU Wiccan/Pagan group.

      “It’s also nice to know that “original” Indian Buddhism was mostly practiced in Greek speaking/influenced cultures, so the “distance” between the West and East may not be as untranslatable as it seems.”

      That cross-cultural influence and syncretism has fascinated me for a long time. Manichaeism was influenced by Buddhism. Augustine practiced that faith before converting to Christianity. I always suspected that much of that Manichaean thought seeped into Augustinian Christianity.

      That syncretistic tendency has been with Christianity from the beginning, such as the Neoplatonic Alexandrian Jews, Greco-Roman Mystery Schools, and Virgin Mother Isis worship. Then later on multiple layers of European Paganism thrown on top. Buddha was even accidentally made into a Catholic saint at one point.

      “I’l hold firm to cultural cross-pollination and uncivil but ultimately friendly competition as one of the brighter ways to follow in a darkening wilderness.”

      Sounds good to me.

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