The social philosophy that follows from Schulz’s reflections on religion combines Gnostic elitism, humanistic optimism about technology, and existentialist despair about our ultimate fate. Along with Hindus and Buddhists and even Western monotheists, Schulz admires spiritual elites who shun the vulgar pursuits that define mass culture, because the spiritualists’ enlightenment has opened up a higher calling for everyone. But Schulz differs with them as to the nature of that calling. The purpose of Eastern religions is moksha, liberation from the natural cycles that imprison us by clouding our judgment. That liberation requires cognitive training and ascetic renunciation. Christianity and Islam emphasize instead the need for a personal relationship with an almighty Creator, which requires that we submit to this infinitely-greater being and understand the grace of God’s interventions in the natural course which redound to our benefit. God has revealed a path out of the thickets, and we must merely follow his commandments and trust in the deity’s greatness despite God’s unsettling hiddenness after the loss of our animistic innocence, that is, after the advent of settled civilizations in the Neolithic Revolutions (around 10,000 BCE) and certainly after what has been called the Axial Age, around the fifth century BCE.
As discussed in the last chapter, Schulz doesn’t take Western theology at face value, but reinterprets it as a system of coded, typically-unconscious references to the dynamics at play between divided human classes. God is indeed hidden because God is literally dead. Prehistoric animists didn’t realize this because they weren’t beholden to dehumanizing forms of objectivity and instrumentality; instead, animists anthropomorphized their surroundings, extending parochial human social functions to the natural world, and misinterpreting the fact that life is abundant on this planet, as a sign that life is metaphysically primary. As we now know by way of what we like to call the modern, scientific outlook, life is an aberration in the natural universe that extends far beyond not just our planet but our mundane concerns. So Christianity’s fixation on an outcast messiah is meant to revolutionize ethics—even though Church history serves the higher god of Irony; thus, the Church canceled Jesus’ revolution in the Orwellian fashion, with doubletalk to excuse Church leaders’ infamous compromises with secular authorities. And according to Schulz, the Islamic call for submission to God is hopelessly wrongheaded in light of God’s evident suicide. God’s gift to us isn’t to offer a path that leads to a place by his side; rather, it’s to free us from the burden of having to serve such a madman for all eternity. God accomplished that primordial act of salvation, by creating the universe of natural beings which replaced God’s supernatural realm. The personal God is no more, but Irony reigns in his stead and so Islamic submission translates to servitude to terrestrial caliphs, mullahs, and dictators—once again in line with mere bestial mammalian regularities. When animal dominance hierarchies are re-established in the midst of so-called wise apes, and these primitive social arrangements are rationalized by highfalutin theistic rhetoric, we have the makings of a sick joke.
Whereas the practice of Western religions has thus been farcical, on Schulz’s view, owing to the misguided, literal reading of monotheistic scriptures, Eastern religions avoid farce with their insights into the meaninglessness of the natural course of events. On the whole, liberation from the world of suffering and illusions occurs as an act of extinction, mediated by an ascetic victory over natural forces. Instead of the everlasting preservation of our personality, according to the Eastern outlook we’re freed from the anguish and indignity of having to be reborn in a cycle of absurd, sometimes horrific events. “Victory through spiritual death” is the essence of Eastern wisdom. For Schulz, though, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains offer a misleading interpretation of life’s evolution. Life isn’t entirely pointless and so a final death isn’t our ultimate purpose. Our active deity in nature is Irony, the clash between facts and intuitions. Therefore, our task is to maximize irony, to appreciate the irrelevance of our animal preoccupations so that, as in Zoroastrianism, we can take a stand against our true enemy. But while Zoroaster speaks of a final reconciliation after the apocalyptic end of natural time, Schulz is more stoical than sanguine about our fate. Even if there can be no absolute triumph of higher values, assuming the universe is metaphysically tainted by its origin in the fall of divine being, we can partially redeem nature with the fruits of our struggle against it.
However, Schulz’s writings are frustratingly short on details of the nature of this redemption, and indeed this is the chief mystery not just in Schulz’s philosophy but in the exploits of his cult. Schulz shares with some Eastern currents of thought the view that thinking itself is the primary evil. But whereas Zen Buddhists, for example, contend that so-called rational thinking is cognitively inferior in that it produces the illusion of egoism, and that a deeper experience of oneness is possible, Schulz maintains that reason is baneful precisely because of its cognitive supremeness. Reason presents the horror of fundamental truth, the fact that being in general is absurd and that God is probably literally dead, but our use of reason also restores divinity and so this cognitive expertise sets us on a course to God’s madness. Reason undercuts itself by delivering rational creatures the unwanted grand truth that a precondition of our happiness is the set of vices that comprises the vulgar personality: above all, happiness depends on ignorance, in that the more you know, the harder it is to sustain the short-sightedness needed to be comfortable under any circumstance. Reason demonstrates that we have no proper place in the universe and that our salvation can proceed only by our schemes that all seem harebrained in historical hindsight.