-Stranger in a Strange Land
[Cover art (by James Warhola) for Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein]
I have recently finished reading Robert Heinlein's cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land and I hope the rest of his work is as good as this. Stranger in a Strange Land is one man's journey from the nest of his birth to the nest of his origins and the fire this young Prometheus brings to humanity. He is human yet he thinks in Martian. He is what we can become if we follow this 20th century Moses to the Promise Land. Only time will tell if humanity will be able to grok Valentine Michael Smith as fully Martian and fully man.
Part 1: Grokking in Fullness
Part 2: Water Brothers
::Possible Spoilers Ahead::
Stranger in a Strange Land is a difficult book to read and even I have not grokked it completely but one of the main characteristics of the Martian Way is that it appears to resemble a form of Pantheism. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Michael teaches in his new "church" that all that groks is God. They welcome each other with the phrase "thou art God" not as a statement of theological belief but as a statement of unity which is physically expressed through the sharing of water. But if thou art God, and that grasshopper art God, and all that groks art God then who, or what, exactly is in charge of the universe?
From feelings of discomfort to just flat out heresy some here in the West may struggle with pantheistic ideas even though faint echoes of Pantheism are found in Western religions. What is so irking to the West about all reality being equated with God is just that, God can not be a dog doing his "duty" on the lawn or a blind beggar on the street. God must be completely separated from while existing (?) outside of his creation. Humanity is too sinful to be equated with God, and God too holy, either way it just sends shivers up a lot of monotheistic spines. Although I have not read much into Eastern religions the best explanation for Pantheism (or maybe Panentheism?) I've read so far is found here. Basically everything in reality is a manifestation of God with God being the sum of all parts. So the totality of reality, let's call it Brahman (or you can select your own name for God), can be found within each piece of reality but not localized specifically in one being. Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि) is the Hindu phrase "that thou art" meaning that the spirit/soul, or the Atman, is identifiable with and understood to be Brahman, the soul of the universe. Michael brings a message of brotherhood, by way of Pantheism, to encourage unity among a very passionately tribal creature, Man. I don't believe, or at least I don't remember, that he goes as far as saying that ALL reality is God but that all that groks is God. So I guess a snake is God but not a rock, that is of course if a rock is unable to grok. You grok?
The heart of the message is unity and as that message is grokked the darker side of humanity begins to dissolve until one does not feel the need or want to commit such atrocious acts against his fellow man. There is no need to save lost souls, do good deeds (no Judgment day either), worship any one god, or even hold any theological or philosophical beliefs. Ultimate Truth is revealed to those who choose to accept the "fire" that Michael has brought to humanity.
We're not trying to bring people to God; that's a contradiction in terms, you can't even say it in Martian. We're not trying to save souls, because souls can't be lost. We're not trying to get people to have faith, because what we offer is not faith but truth — truth they can check; we don't urge them to believe it. Truth for practical purposes, for here-and-now, truth as matter of fact as an ironing board and as useful as a loaf of bread… so practical that it can make war and hunger and violence and hate as unnecessary as…. as — well, as clothes here in the Nest. But they have to learn Martian first. That's the only hitch — finding people who are honest enough to believe what they see, and then are willing to do the hard work — it is hard work — of learning the language it can be taught in. A composer couldn't possibly write down a symphony in English… and this sort of symphony can't be stated in English any more than Beethoven's Fifth can be. (Stranger in a Strange Land, Ch 31. Pg 347.)It's not a theory, religion, or any other man-made philosophical belief but Truth that man has been searching for thousands of years, at least for those in the book. I'm not proposing that this would actually work in the real world because we don't have any practice like grokking to test our belief systems. We can guess, theorize, and hold onto our beliefs in faith, but imagine if we can experience Truth within ourselves, a truth that is patient, kind, humble, protective, trusting, and always, always loving. It is one thing to believe (which most of us including myself fall in this camp) and it is another to experience Truth first hand.
What I've learned from Stranger in a Strange Land.
As I've said earlier I have not grokked the book completely and I will most certainly continue to learn new things along the way. Regardless of our differences, faults, and issues caused by both, we yearn to ease our collective suffering. Throughout history those who have experienced the Divine have shared their Fire with us, and now we compete with each other to see who's flame burns brighter. We all grok different paths but the differences lie within our own human diversity and our ability to grok them, not in competing Truths. As we journey through life grokking the universe dig deep down into your Atman/Soul and examine your foundation. What is it? Is it Loving? Is it Joyful? Is it Patient? Is it Compassionate? Is it Understanding? Is it all of the above? Is it God? If your foundation causes you to love your brother then look, stare, meditate, and become your foundation. Once we truly grok Love we can not help but become Love.