152. Corners of the mouth (III)
If I go abroad, I could trust the experts and only eat at Starbucks; if I do so, it will be pretty much guaranteed that I will not get food poisoning—Starbucks is bland, but its blandness incorporates a general kind of safeness. Whether you are in London or Delhi, the type and quality of the food and drink will be exactly the same. I could go out and seek sustenance from a local market; it will almost certainly be better, or at least novel and exciting—of course, I run the risk of contracting food poisoning. The standard spiritual experience is like Starbucks; it is safe and bland, it will hold body and mind together. It is also very dull and, though without risk, contains no great pay offs. Indeed, it is quite possible that long-term consumption of Starbucks is bad for you, not in the same way as acute food poisoning but in a more invidious way—the priesthood of Starbucks, the experts, may have been corrupted in subtle ways.
This situation pertains in many fields; it is basically a masculine attitude. Men are prepared to take risks to find out (to know things, literally to achieve gnosis) in many different spheres: great risks mean great rewards—or complete destruction. One man may disdain the nutritional experts, consume raw eggs and milk and find his body begins to thrive; another, also experimenting, may contract TB and so die. The advice from the experts would have kept both men safe but mediocre.
“God for man, religion for women,” said Joseph Conrad. What he meant by this was that men of all different faiths really worship the same God: success (reality). “It works for me, mate,” says the man chugging raw milk and eggs; indeed, his particular biology might take that very well—other men will also experiment to see if it works for them. Men do not usually feel the need to chastise other men for what they do; they might be interested in utilising the same ideas in their own way, if they think that man’s way of working is useful. This is not the same as accepting expertise because it is expertise, or simply because it is high status.
Women, by contrast, are more interested in the exoteric aspect of spirituality, religion: they think everyone should follow the expertise. Neither position is “wrong”; every religion is founded by a Gnostic in the broadest sense: Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad all claimed direct union with the Godhead. The essence of spirituality is esoteric; the exoteric religion is what is required for those who cannot achieve direct union with the Godhead but must be guided through rites and rituals.
Men seek autonomy through experimental augmentation of their powers, women (and feminine men) follow along formalising these insights into rules that become “expertise” or priestcraft. The priestcraft is a useful way to preserve mystical insights across generations and present a stable version of spirituality. The risk is that it can become corrupted, being interested in preserving the rules for the sake of rules or simply to be high status—even if harmful. At this point, a new teacher—in spirituality, a new Jesus or Buddha or Nietzsche—must emerge to carry out experiments and place the exoteric faith back into relation with the esoteric truth. In politics, this can take the form of populism and the populist leader—often a charismatic man who trusts his instincts and intuitions.
The reason why certain Gnostic sects in spirituality often go catastrophically wrong is that this is what happens when men experiment with anything: there can be huge rewards from the risk, or complete disaster—so some forms of Gnosticism, as a spiritual experience, will grant people direct union with the Godhead; others will cause people to chop their balls off and wear dresses. This is the risk people must take for great rewards, just as not all experiments in diet or exercise or cryptocurrencies work out in the end.