The False Circle of Absolute Belief
On the road in the Northwest of America.
On the False Circle of Absolute Belief . . .
Fundamentalism is the tying up of the spiritual energy of
intelligence in a knot of absolute belief, thereby, in my view,
nipping in the bud like a hard freeze in early spring the natural
awakening of the compassionate, ethical mind.
Its key feature is rigidity: rigidity with which it holds onto
one particular way of seeing the divine, rigidity in the manner in
which it identifies this concept of the divine with truth, and rigidity
in the intensity with which will refuse to admit the validity of
alternative ways of seeing.
The rigidity of absolute belief means that it is essentially irrational.
This is so because, by its very nature, it must resist all disturbing
information in the form of contradiction. (In the drawing, this is
represented by the central green circle—a benign form of belief
which is relative, which assumes something to be true only in a
provisional way—by the exclusionary tangles—a kind of spiritual
barbed-wire—of reds and orange and yellow.) Because absolute
belief is irrational, and if we accept the essence of the scientific
attitude is the willingness to drop a belief, an idea, or a theory,
when it appears to be contradicted by experiment or fact, it follows
that the fundamentalism of absolute belief lies entirely outside
the realm of scientific and rational discourse.
The fundamentalism of absolute belief can manifest in any
sphere of human activity.
The source of this wayward tendency of belief to become absolute
is evidently a malfunction of thought as it seeks security by isolating
itself (Again, the barbed-wire reds in the drawing...). In Religion, this
means that followers will make the tragic mistake of congregating
around what is essentially a false, and most assuredly self-destructive
center, because it will defend to the death its denial of truth.
In Politics, this means that supporters of a given ideology will do
exactly the same thing, defend to the bitter end their denial of truth.
The crucial fact is that there is no difference at this stage between
religion and politics once they have gone in this way astray. The
only distinction, which here I think is not relevant, is the object of
identification which stands in the center of the false circle: whether
it be (a) God, or Capitalism, or Communism, or whatever. The result
can never be creative because it blocks almost totally the natural
movement of intelligence and compassion. And just as there is no real
difference between the trajectories of a bullet or a missile, they all
follow the same pattern, short or long, which invariably leads to their
The barometer of the fundamentalism of absolute belief measures
relative security. The analogy is relevant here, because, just as
atmospheric pressure is a whole-earth phenomenon, paying little
attention to national borders, so too the comparison implies we
must consider humanity as one living whole. In the ideal situation,
where all have access to food, clothing, clean water, shelter and
education for their children, the pressure is high and the skies are
clear; but when literally billions of people are for whatever reason
denied these basic human essentials, the low pressure of
hopelessness, or understandable feelings of injustice and the
resulting rage, will cloud huge swaths of the globe, thus affecting
everyone's well-being. Again, the most fundamental fact of
fundamentalism, in my view, is that it is simply a reflex of the
animal brain gone terribly wrong as it seeks security in the inherent
isolation—the we and them—of absolute belief.
So, in an era of increasing population and diminishing resources,
the resulting lack of security, would lead one to expect a concomitant
rise of the fundamentalism of absolute belief. That, indeed, is exactly
what is happening. In a complicated situation, as this most certainly
is, I feel we urgently need the clarity of simplicity. We are assaulted
by the information networks of the world on a daily basis with the
idea that world conflict is inevitable, with lines already drawn
between world religions, and nation states competing in steeply
rising curves of aggressiveness for ideological dominance and
resources. I totally disagree. The conflicts are real enough, but they
have their source in the fundamentalism of absolute belief and not
true spirituality or true governance, regardless of whether we call
the opposite sides aligned on the battlefield Christians, or Jews, or
Muslims, or Americans, or Iranians.
The penultimate phase is when the fundamentalism of absolute
belief puts on the uniform of fascism, and takes up overt, explicit
programs of economic and ethnic domination, and control of resources,
by rule of force. The last and final phase is in a way even worse. This
is when the fundamentalism of absolute belief puts on the mask of
freedom and democracy, but now with hidden programs of economic
and ethnic domination, and control of resources, but now backed up
with incentives, yet always with at the same time the very real threat
of force. In my opinion, the present leaders of the United States, Israel,
Great Britain, and, to an increasing degree, individual states within
the European Union, already wear this mask.
But just as weather can change in an instant from bad to good, so
too can this change overnight by means of serious, sustained, non-violent
protest and democratic elections. We simply need to see the mask for
what it is, and thereby disempower the raggy array of demons and devils
that does its dirty work behind the projected, most enticing, righteousness
of the illusion.
All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 2012 picture-poems.com