Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sacred Cows

By James Curcio
Zen Master Linji, the founder of the Rinzai sect, supposedly said:

"If you meet the Buddha, kill him."
Like most Zen sayings, this is subject to interpretation. It's unlikely he was suggesting literally killing anyone, but the point is well taken: one of the hardest parts of freedom comes in avoiding sacred cows and idols.

One of the best litmus tests you can give, to determine if individual thought is occurring in a group, is to attack their sacred cows. For instance, I'm deeply indebted to Joseph Campbell's work, but he was a human being. I've thrown punches in his imagined direction in the company of members of the Joseph Campbell foundation, to see how they reacted. The same goes for followers of all stripes, and of course Occultists are often the worst, when it comes to frothing at the mouth as a reaction to such "attacks." Listen, Mr. Campbell is dead, it's not hurting him any, especially if you follow it up with what a great effect he has had on your life, despite the shortcomings you previously aired for the sake of seeing the reaction you'd provoke.

I point this out in regard to Rowan's recent post about Machine Elves. Almost no one has jumped to Adam Jones' support, but many have gotten deeply offended at Rowan's slightly flippant attack on Terence Mckenna. I'd like to remind all of you about Sacred Cows, and for all the people who have emailed me angry attacks, thinking I was the one that wrote the article, I suggest you actually read the "by" line of an article. Modern Mythology is not my personal site, and I don't restrict what other people say. More than anything else, I advocate people's right to express their myths here. If you disagree, by all means, spin your own yarns.

But you may want to consider that if someone is really pissing you off by pissing on a dead Sacred Cow, they might just be trying to get a rise out of you. And you may want to consider your reaction. Why must you defend something that requires no defense?

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  1. Speaking as a someone from a Buddhist background who enjoys throwing kicks at overblown Eastern pieties, its tough for me to see how Terrence McKenna - who admitted to having been baffled by his own DMT experiences, enjoyed critiquing hierarchies of all sorts, and encouraged audiences to draw their own conclusions about psychedelic encounters - could fairly be viewed as an idol in need of smashing. Honestly, Prof. Rowan's article strikes me closer to a temper tantrum than a Zen wisdom display.

  2. *I* don't think he's an idol in need of smashing. I just find it perplexing that people should feel such a strong need to defend a dead man.

    My personal opinion of his work is that, like Sichen, he creates interesting fiction based on person experience, and people take that kind of work literally are missing the point. If anyone need a kick in the pants its them - and I imagine that was the point. But that's not for me to say.

  3. I don't think we're in any real disagreement over McKenna's work. I don't use psychedelics, but I've long enjoyed McKenna's storytelling skills. For that reason, I'll defend him against accusations that I consider crude or unfair.

    Though having looked at some of your facebook posts this morning, I'll add that anyone who has actually threatened you over Prof. Rowan's essay could take a few cues from, ahem, McKenna's opposition to the "dominator ethic."

  4. There has been a slew of them lately but it's nothing new. Every since my first book came out (2004) it's been an on again off again thing. People like spewing hate, when it comes down to it.



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