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Energy and Society III

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Organized religion is a low energy event.

If we had today the global population of one thousand years ago but retained our modern technological ability to harness surplus energy, organized religion -- defined as a central authority determining the scope of truth and questioning truth for others -- would vanish. Ignorance persists in societies with low amounts of surplus energy because then social energy is not readily available to educate children.

Religions and narrow identities form where surplus energy is low. Superstition roots itself in societies where lack of access to knowledge is prevalent. Missionaries target societies with low amounts of surplus energy because such populations are vulnerable to simplistic models of heavenly beatitude, justifications for healthy self-esteem and superiority, and promises of better futures arrived at through the power of belief, faith, and tithing.

Religious worship, like any other worship, is ultimately a form of energy worship. The promises of organized religion are designed to mitigate the pain caused by low amounts of surplus energy.

Vast swaths of monotheistic fundamentalists in the world are due in large part to vast swaths of human beings with poor to no access to surplus energy. Even without training in how best to employ surplus energy, monotheistic fundamentalist populations that are suddenly granted surplus energy would eventually emerge with less ignorance because the maintenance of that surplus energy would de facto become the new religious paradigm.

Human beings ultimately worship energy. The worship of money is simply a gross form of the worship of energy. Desire for servants, slaves making minimal wages, fuel, freedom from the burden of raw survival, and cheap electricity are our underlying religion. When that worship is focused on short-term gain, it is typical that those in control of the flows of surplus energy will invariably starve segments of the population of access to energy, favoring micro and macrocosmic energy hegemony.

On the yogic level of the inner psychological microcosm, energy hegemony with short-term goals in mind occurs when the narrow self sequesters available surplus nervous energy to feed sensory hankerings, narrow ambitions, exclusivity, and divisiveness. Physiologically, energy and awareness centralize in the more primitive parts of the human brain where hierarchical, fight or flight, and fear-ridden paradigms prevail. This microcosmic centralization of power, mirroring the centralization of social power in religious and political institutions, lord over the elevated sensibilities that direct awareness toward self-sacrifice and expansive occupations.

Micro and macro asceticism starve the beast of the centralized powers, redirecting energy and awareness back toward the sense of self. The expansion of the self is then effortless and automatic, and it happens inwardly in the microcosm of the individual and socially in the macrocosm of the human race.

Poor education, insufficient access to health care, starvation and homelessness are low energy events as well. They are inexcusable inasmuch as we know how to eradicate them.

Medical knowledge is the fruit of centuries of properly directed surplus energy. Past societies were able to devote enough surplus energy to the lives of scientific individuals who used their time freed from survival constraints to investigate how bodies function, what are the likely causes of malfunction, and how to return them to a healthy functioning state.

Human beings with free time and access to tools and materials that were themselves products of surplus energy were able to gain an understanding of the human body that went far beyond the fear-ridden superstitions that plagued Medieval and Dark Age remedies. These budding scientists built upon the work of their predecessors, whether from their own society or another and their own era or another.

Our medical knowledge is not complete, and some of the applications of our knowledge are unbelievably short-sighted, but it belongs to everyone. The farmer of centuries ago may not have personally discovered a vaccine, but by growing a bit more than he needed, he supported the work of the researchers that eventually did. His children and his children's children continued to contribute energy into society's pool of surplus, and are rightly recipients of the advantages that come when societies properly use surplus energy.

For too long have too many people been denied access to the applications of knowledge that belongs to every human being. It is rare to see even a little of that injustice stamped out because the people in control of energy, which controls the flow of information, understand that concentrated surplus energy is the source of their centralized social power.

But each person's surplus energy is ultimately not his or her own. Left to fend alone, the human being would be fairly incapable of surviving and generating surplus energy. He might rely on trees for subsistence, but then those trees are responsible for generating surplus energy from the sun and are due the benefits of surplus energy in the "society" a human creates with the forest. She might hunt rabbits and other small animals, but then other species are due a share of the surplus energies made available by these cycles of nature.

For too long have a spoiled segment of human beings looked upon surplus energy as a cost-free commodity, ignoring all of the billions of human beings, trees, and animals that have made that surplus energy available in the first place. This is a recipe for personal, social, and ecological disaster. In effect, all of the woes of the world are caused by the failure of human beings to respect energy and failure to appreciate their place in the impersonal and inconceivable mechanisms of nature and the cosmos that make it available. Perhaps only the sun gives energy without requiring anything in return, giving a proper framework for sun worship and none other.

Today, millions more humans are freed from the constraints of survival necessities than ever before, and millions of dead-end avenues for the flow of surplus energy have been invented to keep them occupied. A little surplus energy can apparently create not much more than a couch potato. More surplus energy is needed to be freed from the clutches of centralized powers so that the couch potato, freed from toiling for his every meal, might then be educated enough to use his free time to contemplate the deeper issues and pressing challenges that he and his children face.
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Sankara Saranam is a writer, philosopher, lecturer, and tireless proponent of pranayama, a technique of intuitive mysticism. He traveled extensively in India and Israel researching and writing on spiritual issues. His first book, Yoga and Judaism (more...)
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