Admit it! True believers, fundamentalists, and people of great faith have an enviable happiness advantage that is unique to them.
Take the most intelligent group of fundamentalists in America—Hassidic Jews. These guys really live inside their myth. Like Tantric Buddhists, they actively project their myth onto the perceptual world, thereby enchanting it. And, like monks, they live with co-believers 24/7. Being with others trained in the same myth reinforced the power of projection with the power of agreement, thereby making the myth really real. The combination of interpretation and agreement transforms the ordinary consensus reality into paradise. Paradise, it turns out, is this very world, properly understood as an emanation from the Best and Happiest Source into dumb spacetime. (And why not assume the very best? All we get are empirical contents and surfaces. Who knows what things are really like behind the scenes? It really is up for grabs.)
Studying, believing, meditating, projecting, and agreeing, the blessed Hassidim are not only transported to an alternative universe, but into one that is maximally inspiring. This is what happens when you really believe, and when you really believe together. (We should all be doing this!)
The fact that their group is small, and that unbelievers live close by, makes their pleasure and happiness even greater, because it makes them feel privileged. If you’ve ever taken acid at night with friends and spent the whole evening painting, reading Marx and Carlos Castaneda, cultivating creativity while really digging into your social constructedness, and then gone out at 0830 rush hour traffic to interrogate the 9–5ers on what the hell they are doing with their lives, you know the joy of which I speak. You and your small group of seers feel special and very lucky. (As a side note, humans are wired to feel happier when poverty and suffering are close enough to perceive, but not close enough to impact their own quality of life.)
Kabbalah is metaphysical mechanics of divine emanation whose essences are also aspects of mystical experience. The system itself is gorgeous—colorful, complex, and full of deep and precise metaphors that let you map your states of consciousness, even subtle ones you didn’t know you had, onto the parts of the divine emanation machine. The result? For one, you get to participate in the occult, inner flow and sustenance of reality. And because this mapping also externalizes the self as an intelligible system, it allows for deeper self-awareness and greater self-mastery. It also provides a chart for mystical ascent, a cookbook of placebo therapies, and a blueprint for creatively (re)interpreting empirical experience. Believers who have replaced their ordinary self-concept with the colorful mechanics of Kabbalah get to live masterful, healthy, enchanted lives of the highest purpose—the adventure of constant ascending and constantly repairing the world. (What could be better?)
Hassidim, like Buddhist (and Hindu) Tantrikas, project onto the perceptual panorama a colorful world of crystal candy. And they take this projection as really real. Tantrikas do not just say that the sense world is really such-and-such, they experience it that way and (the true proof) act like it. True believers are joyful and compassionate, which is the only way to be if you are really truly are in paradise here and now.
For the Hassid and Tantrika, nothing is as it seems. Of course, this is not news for anyone with an education or who has taken a biology, psychology, or philosophy class. knows that the object of perception is a re-presenting by the subject—in appearance, meaning, and value. The eyes are not windows that deliver objects for a homunculus, they are switches that activating churnings inside a mass of meat. Objects are inventions, not receptions through transparency.
We all know this, but do we take advantage of this knowledge? If there is an opening in being—if value, meaning, and even appearance are malleable internal constructions—we ought to fill it with the best possible scenario. And this is what the true believers do. Nothing is really dead matter. Nothing really means what the bourgeois bores say is does, or is really worth the current market price. Everything is either a pawn of, or window into, divine intention. The physical world is a symbol system, and it all points to a colorful hydraulic cathedral made of crystalline love.
Can such a drastic overhaul of the dead husks actually be carried out? It depends on your level of saturation—how often you imbibe the myths, enforce them through meditation, and accept the reality-stabilizing agreement around you. It works for the Hassidim because they have spent decades reading their metaphysics and doing profound yoga practices (prayer, meditation) that yoke their lived conscious experience—their reactivity to feeling, their self-model, even their will—to the metaphysics they study. They work hard to identify their inner states with the elements of the myth. And, naturally, after decades of training, the mythic ideal really does upgrade their self-concept, which in turn affects their experience, action, willing, planning, indeed everything.
If there ever was a grain of truth in the idea of being “born again,” it is this Tantric-Hassidic practice of metaphysical memorization, phenomenological self-discovery, and then mapping of the latter onto the former which brings the Divine Hydraulics (Kabbalah) or the Unconditioned (Buddhism) into immediate contact, or even identity, with the deepest layers of consciousness.
What intellectual endeavor is more worthwhile than this? What of all human pursuits could be nobler than this?