“I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist and Confucian.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“I have learned so much from God
That I can no longer call myself
a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew”
“Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.
Not any religion, or cultural system. I am not from the East or the West, nor out of the ocean or up from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all.
I do not exist, am not an entity in this world or the next, did not descend from Adam and Eve or any origin story.
My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless. Neither body nor soul. I belong to the Beloved have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know,
First, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human.”
~ Rumi, ‘Only Breath’
“There is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church where I kneel.
Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.
Is there not a region of love where the sovereignty is illumined nothing,”
~ Rabia of Basra
“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”
The new millennium demands a new universal religion –
A religion of Love.
So, let us curb our dogmas
and park our hierarchies.
Let us leave atonement theology,
and live at-one-ment Reality.
Let us transcend our ism schisms
and live a Universal ism —
The love of Life.
Let us live life
as love of Life.
Let us let go, and
let life live us,
Ron’s audio recitation of “Biophilism”
Ron’s explanation of “Biophilism”
Many years ago the then obviously imminent dangers of nuclear or ecologic catastrophe inspired my composition of the foregoing poem envisioning a new universal religion of LOVE. Since then the doomsday clock of the bulletin of atomic scientists has been moved to two minutes to midnight. And we have been experiencing very violent and politically polarized times, beyond those which motivated this poem. But the poem remains more valid now than when it was compassionately composed.
In order to peacefully resolve current catastrophic threats to Life on our precious planet, humanity requires egalitarian and democratic societal organizations – including religious, political, and business organizations – which emphasize coexistence, compassion and cooperation over insanely unsustainable domination and exploitation of other people and other lifeforms by psychopathic billionaires.
Though countless people may have benefited from their religious organizations, I believe that Humans are inevitably and imperatively evolving beyond the divisiveness often associated with religious belief systems to adopting universal religious ethics of empathy and Love.
Thus, the above poem suggests that we need a new universal religion of LOVE. Its title Biiophilism is a rare word which we define as “love of Life”.
Although many may consider this poem as unrealistically Utopian, I deem it not just feasible but evolutionarily imperative that we envision human transcendence of current unsustainable societal insanity, because I agree with Sri Oscar Hammerstein’s spiritually insightful lyrics for the South Pacific song “Happy Talk”, that:
“You got to have a dream,
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”
As lovers of God and Nature, may we all envision and experience our true nature which is Universal LOVE!
And so may it be!
“Perfection is a state in which things are the way they are,
and are not the way they are not.
As you can see, this universe is perfect.”
~ Werner Erhard, est
Before the divorce, I had attempted to find answers to my new questions by reading articles and books about parapsychology and psychic phenomena, but not about religious mysticism or spirituality, of which I was still ignorant. But upon living alone as a single person with a new life style, I gradually expanded my quest to weekend seminars and lectures where for the first time I began being exposed to Eastern spiritual ideas. The first seminars, “est” and “Silva Mind Control”, incorporated perennial Eastern ideas into a Western self-help context, and were of significant help for me.
When I became single again, est was well known and flourishing in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was then aggressively being promoted as a self-help “training” offering participants exceptional opportunity to radically transform their lives. It had begun in San Francisco five years earlier with a seminar conducted by its charismatic and controversial founder Werner Erhard attended by several hundred people.
Werner had creatively crafted the est training by incorporating self-help ideas he eclectically gathered from various sources and by expressing them epigrammatically and dramatically in his own original est jargon. Est attracted participants by hyperbolically promising to disclose and to experientially teach them esoteric principles of living a happy life, thereby providing them “space” for “getting IT”, an allegedly transformative epiphany which Werner claimed to have experienced while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in March 1971.
So I was quite curious about est when I became single again. But still an uptight lawyer, I was reluctant to take the est training because of negative reports I’d heard about it and about Werner Erhard. Then Allen Chase, a childhood friend who – like me – was recently divorced, persuasively urged me to take the training by claiming to have been immensely helped by est. So I changed my mind and enrolled.
Thus, with lingering skepticism I attended a 1976 est training in Marin County, in a large hotel where I was joined by hundreds of others eager to “get IT” – the secret of a happy life. At the outset I had negative reactions and considerable resistance to what was happening.
The training was conducted in an hierarchical cult-like atmosphere by a man who talked like Werner, dressed like Werner, and appeared to be somewhat of a Werner clone. To present his ideas he often used a ‘Zen master stick approach’, which was sometimes harsh, profane, and authoritarian. All of this ‘turned me off’. Yet I remained interested and curious.
The trainer told us that the brain mostly functioned automatically as a self-perpetuating “tape” machine, pre-programmed to repeat over and over again the same mechanistic responses to similar situations facing people in their daily lives; that accordingly we’ve developed debilitating habits and beliefs, and have misidentified with the “voice in our head”. He promised us an opportunity to “be at cause, not effect” ; a chance to transcend these debilitating habits by “getting IT”, the alleged central truth of human existence.
Most of us had been lured to enroll by est promotions claiming that when you “got IT”, you got the secret of happiness. And on enrollment we had all signed confidentiality pledges against disclosing “IT”. So we all anxiously awaited our chance for a “getting IT” epiphany. Not until the final moments of the two weekend workshop did the trainer finally disclose “IT”.
AHAA! In est aphoristic jargon, “getting IT” meant realizing that: “What is, is, and what ain’t, ain’t.” ; that “the Truth is what’s so.”
Thus, getting “IT”, was the realization that one must accept “what is” in the present moment of your life; viz. to live happily accept yourself and everything and everyone in your life just as they are, without reflexively resisting or reacting to them, and “take responsibility” for all your responses, choices and actions.
Perhaps in gathering and formulating these ideas Werner was influenced by philosopher Alan Watts who (unknown to me) had taught them to small groups on his Sausalito houseboat prior to his death in 1974. For example, in a 1960 essay entitled “This is It”, Watt’s described the ‘enlightenment’ experience for which est later lured participants:
“To the individual thus enlightened it appears as a vivid and overwhelming certainty that the universe, precisely as it is at this moment, as a whole and in every one of its parts, is so completely right as to need no explanation or justification beyond what it simply is….the mind is so wonder-struck at the self-evident and self-sufficient fitness of things as they are, including what would ordinarily be thought the very worst, that it cannot find any word strong enough to express the perfection and beauty of the experience…The central core of the experience seems to be the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.”
Werner was less erudite in his presentations, but often more dramatically impactful, than was Dr. Watts. And his enigmatic illogical aphorisms motivated participants to reflect on important ideas about spiritual wisdom transcending “common wisdom”.
Retrospectively, I now see that Werner was astute in creating an extraordinary environment for the est trainings, because in that unusual environment participants were moved out of their habitual ways of thinking and experiencing the world – their left brain patterns – and thereby they were opened to seemingly illogical ‘right brain’ insights and experiences. That’s what happened to me.
After completing est, I remained annoyed and ‘turned off’ by est’s harsh, cult-like ambience and and hyperbolic promotions, but I felt that I had gotten considerable value for my large tuition payment. In fact, I was so glad that I had taken est that I soon urged my friends Dave Weiner and John Rubel to enroll.
The est training planted significant seeds for my spiritual evolution by presenting some important and intriguing ideas from perennial wisdom teachings – like disidentifying with the “voice in my head” and “acceptance of the present moment” – which were then new to me and which remain important after more than thirty years of experience, study and reflection.
Paradoxically, as I now “seek relief from belief” and gradually have winnowed and discarded as no longer useful many ideas and beliefs acquired and embraced since est, I realize that “IT” – acceptance of “what is” in the present moment – remains for me a core principle for living a happy life. And perhaps I was subconsciously influenced by Werner’s other wise teachings and aphorisms, which I didn’t then understand, or appreciate, like “Don’t change beliefs. Transform the believer.”