Saint Michael the Archangel.
Yes. But my argument is that it has become a contest among three protagonists. It isn’t that we are passive onlookers while God and the Devil wage a war within us. We are the third force and don’t always know which side we are on in any given moment, or whether on another occasion we are independent of both.
If you’ll accept my notion that technology may be the most advanced, extreme, and brilliant creation of the Devil—for technology, of course, does incredible things—then you get a real sense of why some people would be more leagued with the Devil than devoted to God. Half the human universe must by now be on the side of technology.
The Manichaeans did see God and the Devil as brothers who fight until the end of time, but at the end good will defeat evil. Is that where you depart from the Manichaeans?
Absolutely. We don’t know the end—we could end with the failure of the good. Because if the good is guaranteed to win at the end, then we are engaged in a wrestling match, a fixed one. If goodness is assured an ultimate victory over evil, we are in a comedy, and I must say it is an ugly farce, considering how we suffer in the course of the contest.
What do you mean when you call yourself an existentialist?
I mean that the purpose of existence is not known. God may often dwell in states of bewilderment. That makes more sense to me than that God knows clearly what He or She is doing and tells us how to do it. If that is the case, we are no more than extras in a huge opera.
The Fundamentalists, beneath everything else, feel the same fears that existential thinkers suffer—that the whole thing can come to an end. Fundamentalists look to alleviate that fear by way of what I would call their desperate belief that it’s “God’s will” and at the end they will be transported to Heaven. Well, once again, this supposes that God is All-Good and All-Powerful and will carry the righteous right up there. Of course, that offers nothing to the idiocies of human history, particularly that the more we develop as humans, the worse we are able to treat one another. Why? Because we now have the power to destroy one another at higher, more unfeeling levels.
There’s not a vision of Heaven in your belief system. And without such a vision it’s unlikely to draw many adherents.
I’m not trying to found a religion. I think if these ideas of mine have any value, a great deal of time will go by before there are any adherents. First of all, however, I believe that our childlike notion of Heaven has to be relinquished.
But not Hell?
I don’t believe in Hell as eternal punishment. Rather, Hell has dimensions. Some parts of it are critically worse than others. My notion remains that the only Heaven and Hell we ever receive—the only judgment that comes to us—is by way of reincarnation. To wit, as a reward we can be given a better possibility in our next life. Or we can be born into a worse one, if that is what we deserve. I’m not interested in absolute moral judgments, eternal Heaven, eternal Hell—to the contrary. Just think of what it means to be a good man or a bad one. What, after all, is the measure of difference? The good guy may be 65 percent good and 35 percent bad—that’s a very good guy. The argument I would advance is that Heaven and Hell make no sense if the majority of humans are a complex mixture of good and evil. There’s no reason to receive a reward if you’re 57 percent good and 43 percent evil. Why sit around forever in an elevated version of Club Med.
The point to all my suppositions is that God still has an unfulfilled vision and wishes to do more. So I would suppose that we receive instead a partial reward or partial punishment, and it is meted out to us in our reincarnation. How better to account for the ongoing feeling of conscience that we all seem to have? Conscience is there for good cause; conscience is vital—if, for nothing else, it’s there because it gives us a clue to what is likely to be our next future. Will we be reborn in a situation that offers more opportunities? Or, for punishment, will there be fewer good chances? Will our next life be easier or more painful?
You did remark that not all souls are recycled.
I believe the soul is a gift from God. Of course, you can abuse any living gift. Any number of people may end by saying, “All I want is a little peace. Let me sleep forever.” They may be given just that.