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About the author:
Erol Rashit was born in London. He studied ecology at the University of Liverpool, and obtained a PhD from the University of London for research into the effects of environmental fluctuations on species diversity. He is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and for several years he held the post of Chief Accountant at Imperial College. Having made enough money to fund his future (modest) requirements, he has withdrawn from the ‘rat race’ in order to concentrate on his main interest: techniques for examining the illusion of ‘the ghost in the machine’ and for tracing consciousness back to its true source.
What inspired you to write your book?
An interest in the nature of existence and the manner in which our minds reflect that nature.
Here is a short sample from the book:
‘Some people say it’s wrong to kill under any circumstances,’ Miranda points out.
‘Non-violence is an honourable approach,’ agrees Jack, ‘but it’s not the only one.’
‘Would you kill someone?’ Miranda asks him.
Igor, recalling Shirley’s comment to Frasier about himself not being able to harm ants, says, ‘I was going to say he couldn’t hurt a fly but then I remembered he’s taken up hunting.’
‘Animals are different,’ says Miranda.
‘Why are they?’ asks Igor.
Jack smiles, appreciating Igor’s efforts to lead the conversation away from him and his willingness to kill people. Such questions take on a different significance when they cease to be hypothetical.
‘People are made in God’s image,’ says Miranda, without sounding totally convinced of this herself.
‘Aren’t animals?’ asks Igor. Not wishing to hear Miranda’s answer, he continues, ‘It’s a profound statement to say we’re made in God’s image, but a lot of people have come up with a dubious way of interpreting it. I can make something in your image by holding a mirror in front of you. And then I can destroy the image by taking the mirror away. If someone asked you which one should they destroy, your image in the mirror or you, it probably wouldn’t take you long to decide. A reflection or an image of you is vastly different from being the equivalent of you.’
‘Are you saying we’re some kind of three-dimensional reflections of God?’ asks Goldie, liking the idea.
‘It’s probably in terms of consciousness that the statement has most significance,’ says Igor. ‘What we normally take to be consciousness is probably only a reflection of true consciousness.’
‘Goldie, have you had to put up with this stuff all afternoon?’ says Miranda.
‘He suffers from an over-active mind,’ says Jack, only partially joking.
‘I accept that killing someone in order to prevent them from committing murder can be justified,’ says Miranda. ‘We all need to work at making the world a better place.’
‘It’s not actually possible to make the world better,’ says Igor. ‘The world is already perfect.’
‘How can you say it’s perfect?’ says Miranda, shocked by the statement.
Jack takes a sharp intake of breath, in anticipation of Igor now having to defend his assertion. ‘Same again?’ he asks good-humouredly, referring to their drinks and intending to go to the bar. Although the others agree, Jack lingers in order to hear the beginning of Igor’s defence.
‘Either the world is the creation of God or it isn’t,’ says Igor. ‘Either way, it would be a mistake to think it could be somehow improved. If you think God created the world, it would seem a bit arrogant to tell Him how the job could’ve been done better. If you assume there is no God, and our activity is governed by laws of nature, then which of those laws would you wish to change? Only in superficial terms do people think of improving the world.’
‘But what about all the suffering in the world?’ says Miranda.
‘A work of art, considered a masterpiece, might well incorporate a portrayal of suffering, but you wouldn’t think of improving the work by taking out the suffering and showing people just enjoying themselves.’
‘But real life is different.’
‘The principle isn’t necessarily different. People are not made happy by the absence of suffering. To experience real happiness, you have to go beyond the realm of suffering – beyond the realm of pleasure and pain. People who supposedly believe in God, most of them behave most of the time as if they don’t really think He exists. And most atheists, although they supposedly reject religion as well as “God”, tend to judge everyone’s behaviour in terms of religious-based morals. Both groups confuse themselves because they won’t fully commit to what they think they believe. Those who do commit themselves are the ones who have some chance of discovering something useful, and they tend to end up drawing similar conclusions about all sorts of things even though their initial positions might be completely different. People distinguish between those who believe in God and those who don’t, but the more useful distinction is probably between those who have faith in their beliefs and those who don’t.’
‘Surely, it’s important to believe what is right and not what is wrong,’ says Miranda. ‘Only one of the groups can be right.’
‘Faith is essentially a matter of being committed to a set of techniques,’ says Igor. ‘It’s not really about becoming bogged down with an overly elaborate description of a metaphysical state which our brains are not really designed to be able to comprehend. There is no problem in different groups believing in different techniques and then, by applying those techniques, being led to identify similar “truths”.’
‘Couldn’t what you’re saying be taken by people as a licence to cause suffering to others?’ asks Goldie.
‘No,’ says Jack firmly. He is aware of Igor’s arguments and aware of the dangers of misinterpreting them. Leaving his friend to elaborate, he goes to the bar to order the drinks.
‘To develop a proper understanding of the world,’ says Igor, ‘you have to see others effectively in the same way as you see yourself. Real understanding isn’t possible without doing this, and real happiness isn’t possible without real understanding. To treat others differently from how you would think you should be treated, while using as an excuse the fact that the world will remain perfect whatever you do, would be hypocritical. And such hypocrisy destroys a person’s understanding.’
‘I need a drink again,’ says Goldie, picking up her glass.
‘If you accept that we should treat other people like ourselves,’ says Miranda, ‘then you must also acknowledge that charity is a good thing?’
‘Two types of charity are described in the Bible,’ says Igor, ‘– the charity of Jesus, and the charity of Judas. One is based on compassion and is intrinsically good; the other is based on pity and isn’t particularly good at all. Two thousand years later and, for most people, Judas still seems to be winning the argument.’
‘What’s the difference between compassion and pity?’ says Goldie.
‘Compassion is an expression of love, directed towards those in difficulties,’ says Igor. ‘Pity doesn’t really have anything to do with love; it’s more an expression of one’s own sense of superiority.’
‘Then everyone can’t be perfect?’ says Miranda.
‘No, the word “perfect” isn’t really applicable to individuals,’ agrees Igor. ‘It’s the same with “beauty”. Some people are more attractive than others but that doesn’t mean they’re more beautiful. Perfection and beauty apply to the whole of creation rather than to individuals.’
‘So,’ says Miranda, ‘now we’re three-dimensional images living in a three-dimensional work of art.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ laughs Igor, ‘although I’m not sure you can really say how many dimensions we operate within.’