SECRET TEACHINGS


First off, the December schedule for Saturday Zazen at the Hill Street Center is Dec. 2, Dec. 9, Dec. 16, and Dec. 23. December 9th is a day-long micro-retreat. On Dec. 23rd Tonen O’Connor from the Milwaukee Zen Center will be in attendance. That should be fun.

Thanks for all the comments and e-mails on Jesus. I’m still thinking about whether to do this or not. But I’m having fun reading A Marginal Jew by John P. Meier, a humongous study of the historical Jesus. Chewy stuff!!

OK. The other day I was at Goodwill rumaging thru the usual pile of musty old records when I came across the album pictured here, Velvet Darkness by Allan Holdsworth. Holdsworth is one of those guitarist’s guitarists. Meaning he’s really really good, but not very accessible to people who don’t play guitar thesmelves since part of his appeal is how amazingly difficult his stuff is to play. Eddie Van Halen called Holdsworth his biggest influence. Before this I’d only ever heard one of his records, 1982′s I.O.U. While the guitar playing was very impressive, the album was kinda boring. But when I spotted this one at Goodwill for 99 cents, I figured it was worth a dollar. Plus I liked the cover. Anything with the WTC on it is kind of sad to see these days. But it’s a nifty picture.

I took it home and it was mildly enjoyable. So today I went on-line and looked up the album. Turns out it’s a much sought-after rarity. Holdsworth himself hated it and it hasn’t been reprinted since its initial release in 1976 except in an unauthorized edition in the early 90′s that Holdsworth himself successfully sued to have withdrawn. Unfortunately, in spite of its rarity, it’s only worth about $20 in mint condition. And mine’s good for a thrift store find, but certainly not mint.

ANYWAY, the interesting thing was that the album suddenly seemed way much cooler to me as soon as I learned that it was a “secret album.” That must be an almost instinctive reaction. Anything that’s supposedly hidden or secret, just for that fact alone always seems a whole lot cooler. It’s like all those Beatles bootlegs. I have a ton of them and they’re mostly crap. The legit releases are much better. Yet dorks like me will drop a big bucks for the stupid things just because we’re not supposed to hear them.

Same thing works in religious circles. Whenever some teaching is presented as esoteric, forbidden, or secret everybody wants it. And, of course, just like the Beatles bootlegs, those secret teachings are never really any better than what’s out there available to everybody. Usually, like the Beatles bootlegs, they’re just lousy cast-offs that were never released to the general public because they sucked.

ANYWAY I listened to the Holdsworth album again this afternoon and I kind of like it. Much better than I.O.U.

36 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 28, 2006 at 11:43 pm | |

    > Plus I liked the cover. Anything
    > with the WTC on it is kind of sad
    > to see these days. But it’s a
    > nifty picture.

    Is it my imagination or is the WTC
    a recurring theme on this blog?

    (Here are some more nifty pictures ;)

    OK. I’ll shut up now. Sorry.
    Gotta go sit now…

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 29, 2006 at 12:26 am | |

    Looks like you just missed him
    live in Huntington Beach.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 29, 2006 at 10:41 am | |

    ” … those secret teachings are never really any better than what’s out there available to everybody.”

    Some of the Christian Gnostic gospels provide fascinating insights into the theology of the ancient world, and are in fact given much weight by some modern-day scholars.

    Also, your comment taken on its face seems to discount entire schools of Buddhism, such as Shingon (so-called Esoteric Buddhism) in Japan.

    I think the problem is the use of the over-generalizing word “never” here.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 29, 2006 at 3:20 pm | |
  5. PhilBob-SquareHead
    PhilBob-SquareHead November 29, 2006 at 4:46 pm | |

    Just like you Brad, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on bootlegs just to have somethin’ few fans have. But it is my experience that the search for these “secret” recordings is most always better than the find. Kinda like the path of zen.

    ps: you can find the Japanese import of the Holdsworth cd at:
    http://www.cduniverse.com/

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 29, 2006 at 11:41 pm | |

    “And, of course, just like the Beatles bootlegs, those secret teachings are never really any better than what’s out there available to everybody. Usually, like the Beatles bootlegs, they’re just lousy cast-offs that were never released to the general public because they sucked.”

    Of course, that’s what they want you to think – how else would they remain seceret! :)

    If you’re interested in the ‘secrets’ surrounding Jesus then your search starts with the Tauroctony…

  7. Jules
    Jules November 30, 2006 at 12:24 am | |

    Jinzang, I think he was referring to the books excluded from the Biblical Canon, though as Michael pointed out there’s still a lot of controversy as to their degree of suckage.

  8. oxeye
    oxeye November 30, 2006 at 7:17 am | |

    “People don’t decide to publish one religion and not publish another, I don’t know what you were thinking about.”

    That is pretty much exactly what happened at Nicea in 325. Some Christian religious sects were deemed othodox or correct while other were identified as heretical or mistaken. Some ideas were published while others were censured.

  9. A Strange Day
    A Strange Day November 30, 2006 at 10:46 am | |

    Personally, I wouldn’t trust any religion that hides any information that I need to know in order to understand it. That just spells bad news to me.

  10. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 30, 2006 at 10:51 am | |

    If you’re interested in the ‘secrets’ surrounding Jesus then your search starts with the Tauroctony…

    The Tauroctony is associated with Mithraism, a rival religion to Christianity in the Roman Empore. Augustine was a Mithraist before he converted to Christianity.

  11. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 30, 2006 at 10:55 am | |

    Personally, I wouldn’t trust any religion that hides any information that I need to know in order to understand it.

    For a lot of reasons it’s best to present information to the meditator as they need to know it instead of in one big lump. This avoids speculation, over-conceptualization, and false expectations. But it does look like secrecy and holding stuff back.

  12. earDRUM
    earDRUM November 30, 2006 at 1:30 pm | |

    I once bought a book called the “Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhists Sects”. I was wary. I bought it because Alan Watts wrote the forward. But I could never get through the whole thing. But I must admit that the word “secret” did make me curious.

    If you like Alan Holdsworth’s guitar playing, I recommend picking up the record by Tony Williams Lifetime band called, “Believe It”. Holdsworth plays some amazing guitar on that one. I remember the day I walked into the record store and heard it for the first time. It still blows me away, 20 years later.

  13. A Strange Day
    A Strange Day November 30, 2006 at 3:05 pm | |

    I don’t know. I would have to think that keeping a good portion of your religious teachings secret would cause a good deal of speculation and false expectations. You build up this huge image in your head of how profound and important these “secret” teachings must be. Otherwise, why would they keep them secret?

    Meh. I’ll stay with staring at walls.

  14. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 30, 2006 at 5:03 pm | |

    Augustine was a Mithraist before he converted to Christianity.

    My mistake. Augustine practiced Manichaeism. I get the two religions confused because they both start with an “M.”

  15. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 30, 2006 at 5:13 pm | |

    I would have to think that keeping a good portion of your religious teachings secret would cause a good deal of speculation and false expectations.

    A lot depends on the skill of the teacher and the trust the student places in the teacher. Focusing on what the teacher should or should not do for the student is grabbing the wrong end of the stick. The question really is what qualities does the student need to develop in order to open him or herself to the understanding that the teacher has.

  16. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 30, 2006 at 5:24 pm | |

    Sorry to monopolize the comments, but I remembered something my martial arts teacher once said that bears on the subject of secrecy.

    Shifu said, “You all want to learn the advanced techniques. I would love to teach them to you. But the problem is that you haven’t yet mastered the basics.”

  17. Anatman
    Anatman November 30, 2006 at 6:19 pm | |

    You want answers?

    The Truth
    (sound on)

  18. The Very Left Reverend
    The Very Left Reverend November 30, 2006 at 9:10 pm | |

    That is pretty much exactly what happened at Nicea in 325. Some Christian religious sects were deemed othodox or correct while other were identified as heretical or mistaken. Some ideas were published while others were censured.

    More accurately, the creme had already risen to the top (so to speak). The books that were included in the Christian canon were the ones that the majority of the churches had already found helpful.

    Regardless, some were considered orthodox and some were not. All things are relative kids, but some things are relatively better than others.

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 30, 2006 at 10:03 pm | |

    No more pussyfooting…

    Religious people are insane.

    Superstitious dogma is the cause of
    an enormous amount of unnecessary
    human suffering.

    Atheists (or agnostics who are not
    afraid of being impolite) should be
    praised for their unflinching honesty.

  20. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 30, 2006 at 10:51 pm | |

    The only good thing about (some) religions is
    the music.

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 30, 2006 at 11:01 pm | |

    If you’re interested in Jesus and
    secret teachings, you might enjoy
    “The God Who Wasn’t There”.

  22. Jules
    Jules November 30, 2006 at 11:30 pm | |

    Religious people are insane.

    Can’t agree with that.

    Superstitious dogma is the cause of
    an enormous amount of unnecessary
    human suffering.

    Wholeheartedly agree with that.

    The article you linked (the “atheist manifesto”) said:
    The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to never doubt the existence of God should be obliged to present evidence for his existence

    Do you believe in love? If so, please send me a link to Wikipedia’s decription of the scientific instrument which can measure love.

    I believe in the existence of love. Should I be obliged to prove its existence? If not, does that make me insane? A willfully ignorant, unreasonable, “Mom said it, I believe it, that settles it” love zealot? :-)

    I think atheists would benefit from spending some time thinking about how little we really know about ourselves, and the universe we live in. Most atheists I’ve met seem self-congratulatory, like they’ve got the market cornered on the Truth. That’s just another religion if you ask me.

    The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice
    -Bertrand Russell

    Atheists (or agnostics who are not
    afraid of being impolite) should be
    praised for their unflinching honesty.

    I think most people are honest when expressing their opinions. It’s also praiseworthy when they acknowledge they’re expressing their opinion, rather than declaring it as fact.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 1, 2006 at 7:49 am | |

    “The Tauroctony is associated with Mithraism, a rival religion to Christianity in the Roman Empore. Augustine was a Mithraist before he converted to Christianity.”

    Before approaching that subject it’s first necessary to “unlearn” a lot of things.

    The simple fact that religion is based upon faith/belief has to be “unlearned”.

    Most of the ‘secret’ societies/religions are not belief-based religions. Instead, they are based upon practice. They were generally kept secret because that made you really unpopular with practitioners from exoteric religions.

    Imagine Europe during the middle ages when everywhere was heavily steeped in Catholicism (or vise-versa Protestantarianism when the political winds changed) and the penalty for being found out was being burning at the stake.

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 1, 2006 at 10:46 am | |

    Hello Jules,

    It appears you are projecting
    your own misconceptions on what
    atheists have to say.

    Atheists don’t claim certainty;
    they are merely admitting that
    they “don’t know” when arriving
    at the edge of human knowledge
    rather than believing the absurd.

    Also, no claims were made about
    love, only about the absurdity
    of religion.

    Personally, I believe that the
    moon is made of green cheese and
    that it controls all of human destiny.
    Now where did I put my Napoleon hat?

  25. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 1, 2006 at 11:57 am | |

    Ever wonder why religious people
    vote for Bush?

  26. Jules
    Jules December 1, 2006 at 5:36 pm | |

    anonymous guy wrote:
    Also, no claims were made about
    love, only about the absurdity
    of religion.

    I didn’t say you made any claims about love. I was making a point; I’ll rephrase it.

    If one denies the existance of God and asserts with certainty that “all religious people are insane” because there’s a lack of scientific evidence supporting the existence of God, then by those standards one should also deny the existence of love and assert that everyone who believes in love is insane, because there’s no scientific evidence supporting the existence of love either.

    Atheists don’t claim certainty;
    they are merely admitting that
    they “don’t know” when arriving
    at the edge of human knowledge
    rather than believing the absurd.

    I believe that’s the definition of agnosticism. Are you saying agnosticism and atheism are no different? I was pretty sure my dictionary said that atheism asserts, with certainty, that there is no God, whereas agnostics simply don’t have any direct knowledge (the Greek word roots also support this, a theos = no god, a gnosis = no direct knowledge).

    Is Webster’s wrong on this point? If you are referring to atheists who don’t assert the non-existence of God with certainty, then my comments about certainty don’t apply to them.

    But for people who claim to be uncertain, the atheists I’ve come into contact with (including you and some of the articles you linked to) sure use a lot of rude and derogatory language about religious people. Some of whom have had deeply meaningful personal experiences for which they find scientific explanations unsatisfying. If you’re not certain, then maybe you should shut the hell up about who’s insane and who isn’t.

  27. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 1, 2006 at 11:22 pm | |

    Please do not take the previous
    and the following too seriously,
    Jules:

    Fair enough. You are absolutely
    right: adhering to the Greek roots,
    atheists are just as dishonest
    as theists. Neither can possibly
    know for sure.

    So, agnosticism is the only honest
    orientation in this world.

    Or maybe, from popular usage,
    you could define atheists as
    agnostics who have lost their
    patience and are sick of biting
    their tongues while theists use
    their highly improbable beliefs
    to justify actions that cause
    untold human suffering.

    Occam’s razor seems
    to be a good principle to follow
    here. Why bother adding something
    extra and unnecessary, especially
    when it causes so much trouble
    in the world?

    Of course, if you’re writing poetry
    for entertainment, then you have
    poetic license to blather on about
    God(s) till the cows come home:
    “Mmmmmuuuu…eat more chikin.”

    Sorry if I offended. It’s just that
    I feel bad for the atheists;
    they are a much-maligned minority
    that every day have to stomach the
    words “In God We Trust” stamped on
    American common currency.

    Cheers,
    your friendly neighborhood
    anonymous devil’s advocate

    PS
    “Deeply meaningful personal experiences”
    can sometimes be deceptive.
    If I remember correctly, Brad,
    in his book, mentions some wild
    traveling-to-the-ends-of-the-cosmos
    experience that Nishijima
    recommended not attaching
    too much importance to. I think
    Gudo said something like “You
    music-film-artist types have
    fantastic imaginations”.

    PPS
    I’d look up the exact quote,
    but my copy was lent out and
    never returned.

    PPPS
    Just for the record, I consider
    myself to be insane too (but not
    as insane as religious people ;)

    “Thank God I’m an atheist!”
    –Luis Bunuel

    PPPPS
    “anonymous guy”? How presumptuous!
    (I never specified my gender :(

  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 5, 2006 at 1:00 am | |

    “Those who can be made to believe
    absurdities, can be made to commit
    atrocities.” — Voltaire

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 5, 2006 at 1:45 am | |

    Why does God hate amputees?

    whydoesgodhateamputees.com

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 5, 2006 at 3:05 pm | |

    Here are a couple of books with which
    to awaken the religious zombie hordes:

    The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

    and

    Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett

  31. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 6, 2006 at 7:44 pm | |

    “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

    – Bertrand Russell, “Is There a God?” commissioned by, but never published in, Illustrated Magazine (1952: repr. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68, ed. John G Slater and Peter Kllner (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543-48, quoted from S T Joshi, Atheism: A Reader

  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 8, 2006 at 1:14 am | |

    Here’s proof that my God exists:

    Behold the wondrous FSM!

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