APPROX READ: 6 MINUTES
Now, I am not a religious person, I never have been much of one. Neither was my mother or my family at all, but I was still baptized as a baby. I believe it was my mother’s last ‘leap of faith’ into having a good life. She’s not the only one going to God as a last resort for happiness. Assuming God is good, implying anything other than God is bad. Religion aside, Alan Watts explains how we see the world through images, that this image of the world we have, ‘the image of man’ is whatever we believe. Truly, as simple as that.
The very wise British philosopher, writer and speaker, Alan Watts, once said,
“Now let me begin then with a few things about the image of the world, and thus the image of man, as it comes to us from the Hebrew Bible. It says in the Book of Genesis that the Lord God created man out of the dust of the Earth, as if he had made of Adam a clay figure… And it said that the figurine was made in the image of God… But you must know very definitely that this is the creation, as the potter makes a pot out of clay… The creature is something less than God, something like God, but not God.”Alan Watts, Image of Man, pt 1. paragraph 3-4.
When he says ‘this is a creation, as the potter makes a pot out of clay…’ I take from that, most Christians believe more materialistically than atheists. To believe everything in existence was created by God and everything has a purpose. Of course, this is only one ‘image of man’ as Alan Watts explains in his lecture. Atheists on the other hand believe there is no specific purpose to anything except for the logical and scientific ones. For example God doesn’t give you air to breathe it’s the oxygen in the atmosphere. In my opinion, atheists are quick to say they don’t know shit about the world and don’t care to believe in something that does not make sense to them logically. Very logical people those ‘atheists.’ Religion is more faith and hope based, leaving a foundation for crumbling doubt. To understand the ‘image of man’ better, I used the term lens.
A quick and obvious example of this is to ask a perfectly seeing person what they see in front of them. They will have clear vision, they can see near and far with no issues. Colors of each objects are vivid and known to the person without second-guessing.
If the same person put on prescription glasses, immediately their vision becomes blurred. The objects they thought they knew about have changed color in some way, or they don’t have a distinct outline anymore. Everything is all a blur and you can no longer tell what is what, the ‘real’ from the ‘fake.’ It becomes a guessing game as to what is right in front of your eyes. I drew out another example you can see below:
It is the same if you are thinking through a lens, not just seeing. Ever been driving in the pouring rain and not used your wipers? Your judgement of life is foggy, clouded by your false sense of reality. Of course you’d use your wipers so you can see the road for what it actually is. That is obvious enough, but the people thinking through a lens are the ones with their headlights off and/or their wipers off. That said, there is always a grayscale to every situation.
If you think through the common ‘black and white’ lens you are missing out on the grayscale of life. I believe this is the most important part of life, equivalent to feeling content. On an emotional scale, happiness is seen as the good in life and being depressed in bad, so content is the grayscale, what’s so wrong with being gray? Why are we always craving this nirvana feeling?
While reading the Image of Man, keep this in mind, whether you can see or not is not my point. My point is that you think through a lens. I think through a lens too, and I strongly believe how we see the world, through a lens or not, is shaped by our individual experiences. By using these lens’, or many to look at the world, you are continuing to shield your eyes and mind to your reality. You begin to act as if the lens is the reality… but that’s all it is, an act… I’ll let Alan explain it better…
“And so the Hindus feel that behind the scene, that is to say, in reality, under the surface, you are all the actor. But behind the scenes, in the green room, you might say in a very back of your mind, in a very depths of your soul, you always have a very tiny sneaking suspicion which you might not be the you that you think you are.”Alan Watts, Image of Man Part 1, paragraph 20.
Referring to the quote above, all who study Christianity, the religion of Jesus Christ and the stories of Adam and Eve… They must know that what they are reading is the creation of something less than itself. An act, one big drama, a more common western phrase we say equivalent to this is, “life’s a game, play it.” Alan watts describes it perfectly as being, something like a God, but not God. Therefore, a myth, an image we put to the vast unknown, the world.
Going back to my questions above… ‘what’s so wrong with being gray? Why are we always craving this nirvana feeling?‘ The simple answer I get from AW’s quote is, we are always acting, playing a part in our life, wearing a mask that is not always the same, but yet it is still apart of the play. The irony is that some of us know we are acting and some of us do not. Others out there have their acts mastered so well that it is just as harmful as being oblivious to the mask you’re wearing. By answering these questions, more pop up in my head.
Why can’t the space we take up be enough? Why can’t our life be enough for us to live it? There is a scientific answer or a religious answer to these questions, but this quote sums it up;
“If you are a Christian or a Jew, you believe that the world is the artifact of the creation of the intelligent spirit called God. But if in this culture (Western) you are an atheist or an agnostic, you believe that the world is an automatic machine without a creator, something that made itself.”Alan Watts, Image of Man Part 1, paragraph 4.
On the Western side of the world we view God in a very Christian way, or not at all. As theology (the study of God and religion) grows, more and more people are becoming ‘stuck’ on their ‘journey of faith’ so we call it. I personally believe this is because we are very materialistic people and want some, thing to hold on to. I notice it’s very hard for people to just be. To just breathe, and be one with everything around you.
Alan watts’ Image of man Part 1, linked below reveals the oldest meaning of a myth. The easiest way to explain this is to say generally a myth is an image, not in a pictorial way, but the way we see the world. Use my example above to help you make sense of this. The theology Alan Watts talks about is one of Hindu and Buddhism ideologies opens up a new way of thinking about religion and how it connects like-minded people.
Going back to my questions above, ‘Why can’t the space we take up be enough? Why can’t our life be enough for us to live it?‘ The answer I got for this out of the above quote; it doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, we don’t think we are powerful beings, and when we do we are reminded in some way of how we are not. We believe in something better than ourselves and it doesn’t have to be a God. When we believe in something other than ourselves it leaves room for us to not believe in our own self, our own being. In doing this, we slowly forget who we are and what we are capable of, with or without a God.
I will be posting a second part to this soon.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on, ‘The Image of Man’ (Part Two) by AW
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