Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Definition from the American College Dictionary
Perception “How I see, what I see, when I see it.”
Definition of perception by the “Average Joe”
To our human senses some things just seem concrete. Take the color red for example; unless one were clinically color blind, he would not argue that blue was red or vice versa. So it would seem that the color red is concrete to our human senses. Red is always red, no matter who happens to be looking at it, and to argue the point would either gain you the label of “fool” or a trip to the optometrist. But is red really “red” to everyone? In the sense of sight it would seem to be so, but other senses come into play as well.
Red has connotations to one person that it may not have to another. To one person the color red brings back memories of cool autumn days, bonfires, and hayrides, in essence red has become a feeling of happiness and contentment for this particular person. But to another person red is a warning. Red is the memory of a nightmare car wreck that took this person’s mobility and claimed the life of a family member. Red is fear, sadness and depression for this person. The two people would not “perceive” red as being “red” because to each person it is a wholly different thing. From this we can ascertain that perception is made up of more than what the physical senses perceive, but also is the inclusion of the non-physical senses of experience, and intuition.
Plato supposed that the highest good for all men was that good which benefited all. Plato implied that this good was devoid of freedom, but enslaved to the needs of the whole. Kierkegaard retaliated that the highest good for any person is to find an occupation in which that person was impassioned. That the highest good was for each person to rely on personal experience and free choice to become what ever they might choose. In this way strengthening the ideals of all people and assuming that the individual choices would all meld together in a greater good for all. But both fail to continue the question to the next logical level. What exactly is the greater good, and assuming that we might learn what it is, how then might every man, no matter his place in life, seek to meet the demands of such good for his brethren?
This is the crux of perception, the very nail that separates a dream of a concrete and absolute reality from the truth of subjectivity. Mankind yearns for the truth. The human organism as a unit has spent the greater part of its existence asking the question “why?” and receiving for its efforts very little in the way of “concrete” answers. Every form and style of philosophy seems to promote its way of thinking as being the most accurate and useful way of finding the concrete truth, or at the very least finding a suitable, attainable simulacrum of such. The art of philosophy has become choked by so many “perceptions” of reality that many would-be students become overwhelmed with the immensity of it, that they give up before they ever really begin to study.
For example think about climbing to the summit of a great hill. Once there, you are promised a view of the whole truth, so you become excited at the prospect of finally knowing the answer to the “big” question. Only when you get to the summit, and stand at its edge, you can only see a small portion of the answer itself. To see more of the answer you must walk to a different viewpoint. Suddenly you begin to make a realization; the truth is so much larger than the hilltop itself, that no matter where you happen to be standing on the hilltop, you can never see more than a small portion of the truth. This is the problem of perception, and its component part; perspective.
Perspective “The appearance of objects with reference to relative position, distance, etc.”
Definition from the American College Dictionary
Perspective “How I see, what I see, when I see it.”
Definition of perspective by the “Average Joe”
Our perspective often colors our perception of a particular thing or event. Perspective gives one the sense of positioning in a physical state, but can also be applied to a deeper sense of mental or spiritual positioning as well. With the barriers of perspective and perception in the way of our discovering the truth, how can we ever hope to see beyond to a more “concrete” understanding of events?
The answer to the question is, “we cannot”, nor is it necessary to do so. Alfred North Whitehead, an eminent philosopher in the school of “process thought’ says that “things” do not exist in a concrete form at any particular point in time, but instead are in “process” of becoming a true “thing”. To go back to our example of the hilltop, picture the “answer” as not being fully formed yet, but still being worked on. So even if you were at some point able to elevate yourself enough to see the entire “answer” you would still not see the whole thing because it is not finished yet. Nor could you wait for it to be finished, because at every turn, your perception of the answer would change because of the internal changes going on within your own existence, and the answer itself would be changed as each new aspect was added to it. At every instance a “new” perspective would be formed and the “answer” would change for you. This happens because every new instance changes the structure of the perceived moment. Every time a person (a particular instance), comes into contact with another particular instance (another person, change of view, a book being read, etc) both instances become new. The person is never the same after having read the book, and the book is never again the same after having been read. The person has gained new information and memories causing a novel change in that person’s perception. The book has been touched, pages have been bent, the binding has been weakened, so the book has also passed through a novel change and become altered. At this point we must ask the obvious question; if this is true, then is there no concrete answer to be had?
In essence there is no concrete reality, only the illusion of such because humans only perceive the moment. The depth of the situation in which all humanity finds itself is that in no way can we be elevated to a position of seeing the entire truth. Even if such where possible the intricate play of perception and novel change would constantly alter the answer for which we sought. The idea of absolute concreteness is illusion, brought about by the interplay of sensual perception, reflective memory and personal conviction. It seems to be that these very components constitute our humanity but at the same moment prevent us from answering the most human of questions; “Why do we exist?”
Let us look at another example of such interplay, this time using the most common of human activities; eating an apple. As a fellow is walking home at lunch he happens to pass a storefront window, in which sets a large basket of ripe, red apples. Being that he has had nothing to eat since early morning his sense of sight alerts his stomach and salivary glands to the presence of food. This alert causes a certain release of chemicals into his blood stream that cause him to “feel” hungry. His memory then replays several joyful times as a child when he ate apples from his grandmother’s apple tree. He is in close proximity to the food, which will relieve the distressful feeling of hunger, and he is in possession of enough funds with which to purchase the apple, so he enters the store and does so. Once back onto the street the fellow wipes the apple with his sleeve and then bites into it. Upon doing so the apple is revealed to have a worm at its core and the man has bitten off half of the loathsome creature. Spitting out the bite of apple, he then tosses the remaining apple to the birds. It can be almost certainly assumed that the next time the fellow sees an apple he will not think so highly of them, and most likely wont consider them as proper food for a hungry stomach.
In this case we see simple reactions have changed the man’s perception about the “truth” of apples. If asked before the incident with the apples whether or not he enjoyed such fruit, he most likely would have answered that he most certainly did. But after the incident we would receive an altogether different answer. Is the man lying in either case? Should we assume that this man couldn’t be trusted since he is obviously a fool who cannot make up his own mind? Of course not, it is the right of people to change their minds, particularly following such a disgusting incident. This is the contradiction, in both cases the event was real, and its outcome real. Both experiences where truth yet those truth’s where opposed, so in this we must assume that there is more than one truth, that is to say more than an absolute truth. If there is not absolute truth, then truth must be relational, and relational truth is based on the experience and choice of the observer. We have seen that all such choices are based on the three parameters of sense, memory, and conviction. If truth is then relational then it becomes subjective, and truth cannot be subjective or it is no longer truth but is manipulated by the parameters of each person to become an idea only perceptible by the one who experienced it.
At this point then, we are relegated to make the statement that absolute truth in non-existent, and secondarily that relational truth is non-existent. So then we must ask; “Does truth exist, and if so in what form does it so exist, and can this form be perceived by all or only some?”
Truth: “A verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like.”
Definition from the American Collage Dictionary
Truth: “What I know that I know that I know.”
Definition of truth by “ the average Joe.”
As has been seen, the pursuit of truth has been mankind’s greatest and most prolonged activity, most likely since our very beginnings as thinking creatures. But perhaps it is in the pursuit of this enigma that we have missed it? Let us look at the definition; “verified”, this word assuming that truth is subject to observation or experimentation. “Indisputable ”, in essence this portion speaks of absolutes, that truth is a substance which cannot be muted in any way. “Fact, proposition or principle”, these three being the foundation of the progression of truth in human endeavor. A “fact” is the assumed absolute idea. A “Proposition” being the conveyance of said idea to another. A “principle” being the acceptance of said idea by another, thusly propagating the passing on of truth from one to another. So, herein we see that truth is not truth unless it can:
A. Be absolute and immutable
B. Be conveyed in an idea by a person
C. Be accepted by another person
We have seen that there can be no absolute truth, because truth is seemingly mutable by the person experiencing the events particular to that truth. Since man has no way of accurately portraying his own sensual experience or particular memories (especially those that might be unconscious), we cannot then assume that such things might be conveyed without flaw to another. So we are then left with conviction, and this in and of itself seems to be the very basis for human truth. If in a person’s own private experience that person can generate a strong personal conviction, one that seems strong enough to be shared. Then if that person should have the charisma and intellect to put forth that conviction before others in a reasoned manner. Then that conviction might become truth to those who accept it even though they have not personally experienced the novel changes that have given birth to the conviction.
We see this pattern happening continually, and it is most often given the name “tradition”. Father’s pass down the “do’s and don’ts” of manhood to their sons, and mothers pass on similar “truths” to their daughters. As a boy scout we are taught, “black and yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend to Jack.” This warns us of the dangers of a certain snake species that might be encountered on a hike or camping trip.
Such traditions permeate all cultures and societies, and they are helpful and meant to teach civility, safety and prosperity. But such convictions have also produced the most horrible movements in human history. Regimes such as Hitler’s Nazi’s and the Arabic Baath party grew from such convicted individuals, as well as the practice of slavery throughout the world and down through history. Slave keepers where convicted that their slaves where less than human, not in need of the basic tenant of freedom that they themselves so enjoyed.
We must then ask another question; “If our concept of truth is simply founded on the idea of personal conviction, and the ability of the individual to pass that conviction on to others, is it no wonder that the world we inhabit is profoundly filled with pain and suffering?”
I take a Breath.
As I stare out at an Autumn rain,
Falling vast starlets of energy,
Compound the worries of my soul,
As simple purveyors of the essence of this universe.
I wonder often about my internal weavings,
Seeking answers to starving questions,
Of remorse and pity,
Guilt and shame,
That binds my hands and calls my bluff.
I seek freedom from my selfish cage,
Leaking life fluid as I,
Bend these infernal bars,
And know that I can never wrest that key.
I twist, turn, struggle, bleed, scream,
For hope to hear to come and see,
But hope seems absent,
And in frustration I learn to love my cage,
I learn to live in fecund halls of self pity.
In this internal sheol I make my home,
Decaying mass of self loathing,
My insides hard and brittle,
Bear shallow resemblance to Godborn form.
How long shall I crouch, hidden,
In this fell bog, in darkness crying?
How much victimization can I consume?
How much self flagellation is enough?
What is my threshold for torture and regret?
As I seek new knives to cut flesh,
I find silver sliver of God's spark,
Buried in flesh deep and hidden by ego,
The spark is tiny, a seed of minute stature.
But as I gaze its internal flame grows,
And I recognize my own DNA,
Divine blueprint of God/man apparent,
I break open inside, washed with grace,
God is HERE, God in me…Me in God.
And all that I have built,
All that I have known,
All that I call self,
Is blasted, purified, recreated.
And I take another breath.
Have you ever wondered why you were here? For what purpose you were created? I am almost sure you have. What guides us as people? Some will say that God is sovereign and thus our lives are planned out from the beginning, that God has "pre-ordained" all that will happen to us and what direction our lives will go. On the other hand, many will say that God has created man with "free will", the innate ability to choose for oneself the direction that life will take them. Now I must digress here and make the point that these are by no means new questions or concepts, but have been at the very heart of religion in general and Christianity in specific. Such questions have created entire denominational and sectarian concepts, fueled theological wars, and caused great angst to the hardest nosed philosophers.
First of all we must divine the question that is at hand. Is man free to choose at will, his or her path in life, or is that path chosen for each person by God. So our base concepts here are choice, path or life, will, man, and God. A simple logical equation can be garnered from this: Life = choice + man/will (Freewill) or Life = choice + God/will. Such equations leave out some obvious action, for freewill it would look something like this; Life = choice + man/will – God/will or (Pre-destination), Life = choice + God/will – man/will. If we assume that one concept is true, we also tend to assume the other to be false. Let's define the variables and then tackle the equations to get a better picture of what is going on here.
Life is the finite path which each human takes through existence. Our lives pass through the current existence for only a short time comparative to the entire timeline of history. Each finite life affects the timeline in its own way and to its own extent, affecting also the lives of others that pass close to it. Choice is the particular effect that each life has on its timeline and any other lives that come into contact with it. Man is simple a determiner that states who has power over the choice, God is also a determiner of the same sort. Will is the dividend of each determiner and symbolizes the freedom of each determiner to create its own affect.
So with this in mind, we can begin to breakdown the equation. Life paths exist; we know this because we exist within those paths and experience those paths firsthand. Since life is a concrete reality it is affect able, in that its essence can and is affected by some power. We know this because every life is not the same. Most lives, perhaps all, are unique to some extent or another. If this is the case we must assume that each life is affected by something which causes each life to diverge from a default path. Simply put we know there is more to life than just existence, because life is variable, good and bad, hard and easy, so on and so forth. Choice then becomes our affect. Life is affected by something, and that something is choice. Man represents our conscious state, our ability to think and reason and so it is our independence. Man is a determiner because it gives us the ability to view and process the situation and determine a response which is choice. God functions the same way, except that if God is the determiner then man cannot be the determiner. Will is then the effect of the determiners choice, to will something is to choose and create an effect, which gives a unique life circumstance and causes the divergence.
Life = choice + God/will – man/will (Predestination)
The problem, as you may have already determined, is that neither of these equations present a very hopeful picture of what God and man might mean to one another. If God is in charge, creating ahead of time, by will, affects for each life. The problem then becomes that God is simply "stamping" out life paths with no actual relation to the lives themselves. God becomes a creator that only creates but is otherwise unconnected to the lives affected. God sets lives in motion, but since God/will must be the determiner, God/will cannot be combined with Man/will or otherwise God/will will be neutralized. God must do what God must do and Man can have no part in it for the equation to be valid.
The same problem exists if man becomes the determiner. If Man creates affects for life as he or she passes through that life, perspective is limited to that life and that life only. Man can only know what is available to know, and thus can choose only what is known, and thus can only choose affects from a limited perspective. This creates a very narrow view of life and almost no concern for other lives or the possibility of God. Again, God/will and Man/will cannot be combined so man is left absolved from any affect except that which is known. Man is not involved with God and God is not involved with man. The end result of either concept is that there is not relationship, there is only absolution. The long term problems most theologians have with arguments of determinism vs. free will is that God must be sovereign and that God must be relational to man and vice versa. But this is the leading vexation…God cannot be absolute and relational. If God is in control God has no need to be active in man's existence…since that existence is pre-determined and will not change. There is no need for a relational God as no change can be affected at all, and man has no need for a relational God as no amount of activity on man's part will result in any affect on the life path. If man is in control there is no need for a God since God has little affect on the life path, and why would God want to affect the path since God imbued man with the power to affect his own life path. In other words, if God was willing to give up his control on our lives, what point would exist in then attempting to usurp power from us? I have trouble with a "wishy washy" God concept as I am sure most of you would as well.
So then we beg the question; if God is in control and we cannot be, or if we are in control and God cannot be…and because of these concepts there is no relational ability on either part…so that all that is left is either the sovereignty of God or the sovereignty of man…what use is any of this? Truthfully it is of the greatest use, in that it shows that neither man nor God can be sovereign or relational in the current mind set, or in any means which is rational or logical to the mind of either science or philosophy. This leads us then to wipe the board clean of thousands of years of guess work and start over. This is the conclusion to which I alluded earlier as a "great claim", in truth, I cannot answer the question, but I do feel that I can tear down the old system of thought and give us fresh ground with which to start anew and begin new foundation on which to build concepts of an interwoven sovereignty and relational process.
At this point we must throw logic out the window because we have seen through logical concepts God cannot be relational and absolute, sovereign and affected. It is really a fault of the system of thought which we in the west suffer under, that irascible tradition of dualistic thought given to us by our Greek forebears and carried on as the favored ideal of western culture. We are "separators and organizers" by our very nature, we love to break down concepts into systems of opposites, and categorize these concepts in concrete terms. Black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, this either/or mentality causes some pretty severe problems when considering spiritual things.
Presenting concepts like grace, forgiveness and love in dualistic terms is, as you might have already deduced, quite confusing. These three particular biblical concepts don't tend to fit well in dualistic thought because they are non-static, holistic ideals. Now the term "holism" might need some definition. You've probably heard the term "holistic" applied to medicine…its base meaning is "the consideration of the whole over its integral parts", or more appropriate to spiritual concepts, "an interweaving of integral parts so that said parts create a single essence rather than individual constituent parts. So we can gather from this that presenting spiritual concepts as holistic and relational (non-static) means that the concepts are "interwoven" into the very aspect of our being as humans, because it is interwoven into the aspect of God. This changes our perspective from either/or to both/and as Richard Rohr likes to say. We see that the base concepts we have of God, love, forgiveness, and grace are part of the plan, a great interweaving of the various strings of our lives. We are often limited to seeing only our own single string of life, but if we could step back we would be able to see the entire interlaced web of existence within God, God being the entire structure, we being the individual strings and colors that make up the pattern.
This leads us a step closer to finding some answer to this riddle of determinism vs. freewill. If we begin to understand the holistic nature of God, we see that God and man are interwoven into the very fabric of one another, our nature, God's nature, our being, God's being become one fabric, one thing, one state of being. Our forgiveness is God's forgiveness, God's grace is our grace…and more importantly our will is God's will…and vice versa. We become interwoven in the relationship and realize that the tension between God's will and our will is where we live, where we function…God is so intertwined in us and we in God that there is no either/or…there is no "other" but only a single ideal, a single state and place of being. Waking up to this reality helps us cease the struggle between our need for independence and our want to please God. We are both free and bound at once.
In Christ we are given our freedom, we are humans unbound by the law, grace becomes free, but the true person of God knows that this is not where it stops…freedom is a gift, and for us to grow to our greatest extent we must be willing to give that freedom back to God…to choose to follow God not because we have to…but because we want to.
Only this way does our relationship truly become mutual with God, a true dance of involvement and openness to change and growth. God has given us the freedom to be whatever we choose, and we must be willing to give it back and be humbled to learn and grow into the path God alone can carve for us.
The words of John 15 came to me as we went through the final ritual of communion with the men at John Knox ranch.
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
At MROP there is much talk of learning to release the "ego"…that selfish part of our natures that often leads and directs our actions and attitudes. As the words of Christ in John came to me I began to wonder exactly what it was that Jesus was saying. I have always believed that he was just foreshadowing his own sacrifice here, but a bit of research has changed my mind and deepened my understanding of this verse. The Greek word translated as "life" is "Zoi" which means exuberance, vitality. The Aramaic/Hebrew word used here is "Hayim" which translates as "psyche" or "inner desire". These two translations brought me to a new concept.
Jesus was not talking about the act of giving up ones biological life for another…although this is a noble deed…it is not nearly so hard or so impacting as giving up one's desires…one's ego. Jesus is telling his disciples to give up that which will separate them from love. He uses the concept of being a servant…"I no longer call you servants…" Because through their trials the disciples had learned to let go of serving their inner natures…serving the ego…and had learned to be fully in love with God…and mankind.
We all seek to be "better" Christians…to deepen our spiritual journeys, but how do we do it, how do we move to the next level? No amount of learning, sitting in classes or a pew will move us there…Jesus says if we want to go deeper we have to give up our most prized possession…our life…our ego…our desires…so that we might come into union with God's will…which is for us to love one another without demand, without discrimination…fully in the grace of our Father.
First topic : Theology
1. The name of Jesus…wasn't really Jesus…but was actually Yeshua, or translated into English, Joshua.
2. Our word "God" is actually a corruption of a German translation meaning "Good".
3. Jesus "Yeshua" was not white, blonde haired, or blue eyed. He was Jewish Arabic in descent.
4. Jesus most likely had brothers and sisters, they are mentioned in the gospels, Mary was most likely not a virgin for her whole life.
5. Jesus may well have been a tin merchant and not a carpenter…working with his Uncle, Joseph of Arimathea.
6. Jesus spoke a language known as Aramaic, a mixture of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek.
7. Jesus probably didn't walk around in white robes…white was a color reserved for Priests.
8. Most scholars believe that Jesus was most likely illiterate and knew the scriptures from hearing them read, having never actually read them.
9. During the time of Jesus there were perhaps as many as 100 other teachers claiming to be the messiah.
10. Jesus never intended to start a church or new religion, he most likely saw himself as a reformer within the Jewish faith.
11. Although Jesus often rebukes people within the Gospels, he never once condemns anyone.
12. The Old Testament was not put into writing until between 500 and 250 B.C.E.
13. The New Testament was not put into writing until around 350 C.E., Nearly 320 years after the time of Jesus.
14. There are thought to be over 200 texts written about Jesus or by his followers. Of those texts only 27 made it into our current Canon.
15. Most likely the bible that you own was translated from Greek and Latin texts, the oldest of which dates from around the 6th century C.E.
16. The letter to the Hebrews and The Revelation of John almost didn't make it into our Bible as many scholars in the 4th Century C.E. believed them to be unreliable texts.
17. New biblical texts are still being found, the most recent was "the gospel of Judas" found in Egypt in the 1970's.
18. The gospel of Mark is the earliest and possibly most accurate of the Gospel stories.
19. There are two common methods of biblical translation. Translating the meaning of each word, called "word translation" and the translation of each sentences overall meaning, called "Integral translation."
20. Most English Bibles are "word" translations, although "Integral" translations are technically more accurate.
21. The bible was not written to us, nor did most of its writers ever dream that their personal stories or letters would carry on past their own generations.
22. To thoroughly study the bible one would have to learn Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Latin, German and have degrees in world history, archeology, politics, and anthropology, as well as have studied ancient Judaic, middle eastern pagan, Greek and Roman religious beliefs.
23. Our concept of Hell comes from the Hebrew word "Gehenna" which describes a burning trash pit dug outside of the city where refuse and unclaimed bodies where destroyed.
24. Jesus speaks of Hell only three times, and never once condemns any person to that fate.
25. The Hebrew people did not believe in heaven as an outside place of paradise, but instead saw it as a return of ones internal essence back to God.
26. There were thought to be at least 25 different sects (denominations) of Judaism functioning in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The Sadducees and Pharisees where just the most numerous and powerful.
27. The 10 commandments that we know are only a small portion of the 266 Levitic laws described in the first five books of the Old Testament.
28. Our name "Satan" comes from the Hebrew word "Sha'tan" meaning "a n adversary, or stumbling block."
29. Satan didn't receive a personality until the New Testament stories. The Jewish religion still does not acknowledge Satan as a distinct person, but more as a concept.
30. Although Jesus is said to have been tested by Satan, Jesus never actually speaks about Satan.
31. Jesus often speaks of what we translate in English as Good and Evil, but in Aramaic he uses the terms "Ripe and Unripe", terms that distinctly change the meaning of these concepts.
32. Although we often vision Jesus traveling with 12 Disciples, in fact he was followed by large numbers of people, some historians believe up to 50 or 60 at a time.
33. A large number of those "Disciples" where women. It is believed that the most famous of those women, Mary Magdalene, was wealthy and helped to finance Jesus' ministry.
Second topic: Church History
34. The earliest recorded religions (what we consider paganism) were based on Feminine energy…only women could be priests.
35. Abraham, (Abram) was said to be from Ur, of the Chaldeans…which is… Modern day Iraq, south Iraq, some where around the region of Nasariya.
36. The earliest name for the God who spoke to Abram, is "EL or AL" meaning "The one who is."
37. The early pagan religions of the time were regional, each town or region had its own God.
38. Each of these regional gods required sacrifice, to insure good crops, healthy children, etc.
39. To travel from one town or region to another meant you must bring sacrifices for the gods of that area.
40. EL was the first God who became transitory, not confined to a region or town. EL tells Abram "I am with you, and your seed, wherever you may be."
41. EL was the first God to not require a sacrifice, to prove this EL creates the sacrifice for Isaac, a foreshadowing of EL's future sacrifice's for mankind.
42. EL's intention was to be the priest, king, parent for the Hebrew people, but the people could not accept it.
43. The people eventually demand all of the chains that other peoples are bound up with…sacrifices, laws, kings, etc.
44. Eventually Solomon builds a temple, Ironically a place to house EL, the God who is with the people wherever they go.
45. It is through the actions of Israel, sacrifices, rules systems and temples that true "religion" is created.
46. The Israelites Kings, systems, and temple are destroyed first by the Assyrians, then by the Babylonians, and finally by the Romans.
47. Jesus appeared on the scene shortly before the final destruction of the temple and the Israelite system.
48. Jesus often reminded the people that God did not reside in any Temple, nor was a priest necessary.
49. Jesus often bucked the rules system of the time, to show that rules had become more important than the basic concept of God's love.
50. The Early church after Jesus was a loose organization, mostly made of up home based meetings and traveling ministers.
51. Most early Christians didn't think of themselves as a separate religion but more as reformed members of Judaism
52. Early Christians were persecuted cruelly by Rome, Nero commanded that offending Christians be hung on pikes along the roads into Rome, and set on fire to light the road at night.
53. The Emperor Constantine's mother was a devout Christian, and did much to promote the early church to her son.
54. Constantine eventually accepted Christianity and made it the official religion of Rome.
55. During this early time of Roman Christianity pagans still held many powerful offices, so concessions were made to include many pagan rituals in Christian Holy days.
56. Our current holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Valentines Day are all leftovers of Pagan holidays.
57. This blending of Pagan ritual soon brought many into the church, it was not long before the balance of power changed…thus began the Christian persecution of pagans.
58. Early church Fathers such as Augustine and Polycarp argued about the best ways to worship God…a definite system was needed to boost the new religion…thus the first talks of a Bible were begun.
59. In 325 C.E. the council of Nicea began talks on creating a canonized Bible, and a universal Creed for all Christians.
60. The Nicene Creed was created to deal with the various controversies of the time. Most notably the Arian and Gnostic concepts.
61. The Roman church began attempting to create a unified concept of Christianity, which often crushed smaller less organized Christian sects.
62. In the long run the universalization of the Church saved the religion of Christianity, but many theologians agree…it damaged the spirituality and freedom of what Christ taught.
63. It would be over 1200 years before Martin Luther would speak out against the Universal faith and the corrupt system that came out of it.
64. An opinion by the author: Can you see the cycle? God has told us over and over that our freedom is in His love…not in temples, books, laws, or kings. But we always want to organize, canonize, codify and create systems that take away our freedom in Christ…every time…every cycle…God raises up someone to remind his people that freedom is theirs. Is this the time again? Has our faith become to homogenized, to pre-packaged? Are you the one to remind the people that its time for a change?
Some concepts of Christianity
67. Christianity in its entirety is only roughly two thousand years old.
68. Comparatively Buddhism is 2500 years old, Zoroastrianism is 2600 years old, Judaism is 3500 years old and Hinduism is around 4000 years old. Islam is slightly younger at 1500 years old.
69. Judaism, the foundation of Christianity changed greatly from its early origins to its current state.
70. Early Judaism seemed to be a reaction to the polytheistic religions of its time…too many gods…too many problems.
71. Judaism was the first religion to present a concept of a singular God who was involved with the daily lives of mortal humans.
72. Judaism was highly influenced by the early Sumerian, Babylonian, and Persian religions respectively.
73. The Sumerians introduced concepts of creation, the flood story, dispersion of the races, and a war like God.
74. The Babylonians introduced concepts of a lawful God, prophecy, male dominated rites, temple building and written codes of behavior.
75. The Persians, through Zoroastrianism were the most influential. The Persians introduced concepts of the dualistic nature of God (Good/Evil, Light/Dark, God/Devil) – Also concepts of Heaven and Hell, Angels, Spirits Journey to Heaven, concepts of a person of Satan, a coming Messiah and many others.
76. Christianity would also find much influence in some of the established religions of the time during its early formation. Particularly Mithraism, the Egyptian mythos, and Greek philosophy.
77. The Egyptians influenced Christianity through concepts of a coming savior, born of a virgin, who would be a direct descendant of a once great king. The Egyptian stories tell of Osiris, the son of Isis, born of the blood line of the first Dynasty. A savior to the people of Egypt.
78. The Greeks had overtaken and held Israel for many years before Rome, and they had had much influence on the current state of events by the time Jesus was born.
79. The Greeks heavily influenced dualistic thought, particularly that God (The immovable mover) would have its greatest influence through an earthly progeny. Concepts of Baptism, communion meals, monasticism and others came from the Greeks.
80. Mithraism, an offshoot of early Zoroastrianism, was a very influential religion of the day, telling a story of a singular God (Ahura Mazda) who sought to be reunited with his creation…thus he fights a never ending battle with spirit forces to save the souls of his creation. He sends Mithra, his son, born of a virgin, to be the redemption of mankind.
81. The Romans of course had their turn as well, influencing holiday celebration, inserting various pagan rites into Christian practice to mesh believers into a unified body. Constantine chose the particular books in our bible to coincide with these concepts.
82. This can all look pretty confusing and even disheartening if you might have though that the Christians and Jews were coming up with something unique or new. This concept is really not damaging to our beliefs at all if we will simply take a step back and look at what God has been up too. It seems that since the earliest times God has been trying to tell us the same things, whether through the Sumerians, Persians, Greeks or Romans…the story is the same…we can, and do believe in the same God…we just get the names wrong, we love to believe that each one of us has the right answers…but look how much work it has taken to get us to this point. With the confluence of many religions…over thousands of years we have boiled these concepts down to more and more defined descriptions of God and our worship of Him. When we realize that our every concept of God has come to us through the beliefs and worship of many peoples and nations…it should be a reminder that our God is BIG…BIGGER than we can imagine…and there is no corner on this earth, no hidden place, that He has not had influence upon. Its time to quit squabbling about who's right and who's wrong and it's high time we started embracing our brothers and sisters, even if we don't agree with one another, because we too will leave an influence on Christianity…and the religion of our children will be shaped by what we leave behind.
As Christians we speak so much on the birth and death of Jesus that we forget that what may have been his most important gift to us came somewhere in the middle of his activities. Now I don't want to down the great hope created by his birth, nor do I wish to muddle the great hope brought by his sacrifice. Instead I wish to put a spotlight on the foundations of that hope that occurred between the two points. The birth of Jesus creates hope because it fulfills prophecy, showing the power of God distinctly to the people. It shows a God who is decidedly involved in the day-to-day lives of his people. The sacrifice of Jesus brings thoughts of forgiveness, heaven, and hope for redemption of even our foolish lives. It focuses our thoughts on a graceful God, full of compassion and longing for his children. Both concepts are truly part of God, truly part of our reasons for being Christian. But there is an underlying concept that makes these two important points come to life.
Jesus came preaching a new concept. Well, not really new, but it's a concept we humans seem to have a hard time grasping. God had made it clear to Abraham when he told him, "Wherever you go, there I will go also." Then he also made it clear to Abraham that he was on Abraham's side when he stopped him from killing Isaac, giving instead his own sacrifice to take the place of the child. "I am on your side Abraham, I don't need your sacrifices, I don't want them." How many times throughout the Old Testament does God repeat those words, "I don't want your sacrifices"? God then makes it clear to Moses; "You don't need laws, love me, love each other, things will work out." But we still wouldn't listen, so he reiterates to Samuel; "You don't need a king, I am Israel's king, love me, love each other, things will work out." So after another two thousand years or so, Jesus shows up, tells the people…"Love God, love each other, things will work out." He makes it clear to the Sadducees and the Pharisees "You have created a system of worship based on priests, based on merit, based on laws, but every person has the right to come to God, to be loved, to be equal in His sight." But the Sad's and the Phar's couldn't believe it, didn't want to cause it took away their power…so they killed this man who spoke a new (old) truth. God is for everyone…we are all equal in his sight…we all deserve love…we all are forgiven.
My gift to you this holiday season…just a bit of news…the temple has fallen, the high priest is no more…you…yes you can go to God anytime you want…you are forgiven…you are loved. There is enough of this present to go around…it wont fit under a tree or down a chimney…so give it away…let someone know that God cares…that they are free and forgiven…loved…cherished…and never abandoned.
Until my lungs hurt
The water cold and encompassing
Squeezing the living breath
From my chest
The risk in losing
I remember that
Fear and adrenaline pumping
The risk of losing
I remember the touch
My fingertips caressed
What I could never have
Hoping that risk
Would save me
The risk of losing
Now don't get caught up in the imagery, the story is just a metaphor, but one we all know too well. Mankind gets cocky, we want to be like god (same lie was told in the garden to eve. Or is it a lie?) We figure that god is "out there" so if we can build a tower big enough, high enough, beautiful enough, we just might get to where god is and maybe get to be like him. But the problem is, (and always has been) that god is not "out there" but exists in a place we dare not look.
The tower is a metaphor for our need to earn heaven, to prove to god that we are like him, but the problem is, we are not like him, we are made in his image but we are not alike at all. And we cannot even prove to ourselves that we are worthy, how many people do you know that (without being total asses) would claim to be worthy? None I bet, because even the best of us suck ass, and the truth is if we can see ourselves as worthy we will never believe that an almighty, omnipotent god would even take the time to care.
So when we build these great towers to prove ourselves to god, we end up getting the only fitting punishment, we lose our ability to communicate, we forget about people, feelings, internal truths and esoteric perceptions. The tower was our focus of delight, a physical manifestation of our reaching out for god. (Do you find it disturbing…the phallic imagery there?) We're comparing dick size with god, we want to prove to him that we are worthy, we want to be like him, so we can become him, but we fail because our dicks are too small. We focus out into space, into the world, into the void, and the void responds with only echoes of our own voices. We want to believe that the echoes of our own voice mean something, ghostly whispers from the "other side" but really it's just our own bullshit being fed back to us.
There is a problem that gnaws at me. A problem that started when I was a child, it had to do with my parents, who couldn't communicate. Now I don't mean they couldn't talk to me, or to each other, but they couldn't communicate to anyone else, because society had taught my dad that communication was weakness in men, that to tell your wife or your children how you really felt was somehow lessening your manhood. My mom couldn't communicate because society had taught women of her time that they should keep their mouths shut, and do as the men in their lives told them.
So my dad spent his entire life stuffing his hurt and staying quiet, and in the end his aorta burst because you can only hold so much. Then my mom caught in a social game of rock and a hard place lost her goddamn mind and decided to completely rebel against the system that had trained her. She drowned in booze, hid in sex, and left me at three to fend for myself with a dad who worked all the time and never talked. Because of their lack of communication skills, I got ripped off. I never had a relationship with either of my parents, never really knew who they were or what made them tick. Just think about it for yourself, do you really know your own mom and dad? Their failings, problems, deep fears, motivating beliefs, have they ever been able to communicate those things to you? If you know these things, your lucky, blessed, or whatever you want to call it, because most of us not only don't know, but also will never communicate those things to our own children.
There is a problem that is so obvious but I cannot see it. Think about the Hebrew people, before they became Jews, before they were slaughtered in Germany. These people had something right about how they saw god and life. It doesn't even matter if you believe in their god or the Christian god; people from other ancient religions can look at Judaism and see something powerful. You know its like that, people who have ascended through the spiritual ranks to achieve some deeper wisdom, they don't see barriers in religion, they see that each one, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism each one holds some part of the greater truth, so even if they practice only one form of religion they can see the usefulness and beauty of the others. If you don't think its true read any of your really great Christian thinkers…most wont waste time downing other religions like the preacher down on the corner of my street does. They either don't say anything about them, or the give credit where credit is due. Don't forget you Christians…you're the new kids on the religious block; respect your elders.
So back to Judaism; the early Hebrews wrote in only consonants. It is really strange to us here in the U.S., we don't think like that, concrete rules, vowels and consonants. We have rules for everything, you have to know where the diphthongs go, how to spell onomatopoeia and all of that. But the Hebrews chose not to make a lot of rules about language, throw the vowels in as you see fit. It speaks of a distinct way of seeing communication. In America we want you to do it our way, to speak as we speak, don't say "aint" don't say "don't", speak as we speak or you look like a fool. But the ancient Hebrews, these guys that were close to god. They spoke to him in burning bushes and such, (perhaps more metaphor?). So they created a language to speak with one another, they left out the vowels. Its really saying, here is a set of guidelines for a system of communication, but since not any one of us can really know any one of us, and none of us can really know god, lets leave some room for imaginative usage. You can pronounce things in a variety of ways to express how you experience life.
God said the same thing to Moses; "Don't worry about a lot of rules Moses, just tell them to love me and love each other." Moses tried, but the people were not buying it, all the other countries had laws and systems established, so why not Israel? Moses goes back to god…"Sorry they want rules, they wont listen to me." God says; "Too bad, it would have really been a lot easier without them, but since you really want them, here have a shit load, then at some point in the future you will finally realize that you cant really follow them all, then you might understand. Then of course years later, god has the same argument with Israel about a King.
There is a problem we cannot speak about, because if we did we are afraid no one would ever love us again. You see the real problem with being human is, we are locked in these flesh cages, and really and truly cannot know anyone or anything else but ourselves. The problem is that ourselves are so awful, twisted and dying, that we can't stand to believe that we are all like this, each one of us failing miserably. But it is true we are all the same. We just hide it in different ways, using our various social skills or addictions, or personalities to completely contort our visible image so that others only see a distorted reality. I am almost sure this is what the Buddha meant when he proclaimed our "reality" an illusion.
You can't believe your eyes, ears or any other sense. There is too much static, no way of being sure of what is or is not exactly truth. This concept leads us into a constant state of anxiety, an anxiety that we cannot quench or remove. SK says that it is this very anxiety that leads us back to the truth, that the entire concept of our pain, suffering and insecurity is what either destroys us or forces us to push past the illusion and see the truth. But it seems that in recent times more and more people are seemingly incapable of making this journey. The reason being that there is too much distraction, too much numbness, and too much noise. Since generation X we have learned how to numb our pain, to fall into worlds of freely available drug induced catatonia, hide in blaring musical bliss, fall into the digital void of games and the internet, or hide in the deep recesses of fantastical books and movies.
We run from truth, run from reality and do all that we can to avoid "waking up'. I know these things are not real, but they taste good, look good, and feel good, and it is so much easier to fool myself into apathy rather than drag myself into blazing painful reality. We need to quit practicing mental masturbation and start facing the hard reality of life or we will never make the leap across this chasm of dysfunction into a brighter truth.
Communication, understanding, adaptability, and risk, these four traits make up the new human. As people we are led around by constant cravings that are so intrinsic to our nature, so infected in our genetics that we cannot see them for what they truly are, the cardinal sins. Our word "sin" derives from the old English "Synn" which simply meant "it is true", as in a judgment of action. This concept is interesting when understanding the nature of man.
Lets look at this thing practically; each one of us knows that we are sinners. We understand the cravings of the human condition and from time to time (some more, some less) we give in to those cravings. Whether we are 8 or 80, male or female, of any race, creed, or religion, we cannot escape sin. It is our very nature to sin, to be led by our natural tendencies and instincts. We all know this of ourselves, and so we all know this of one another. So then to say "sin" …"it is true" is only to lay claim to the very nature that I have and cannot be rid of. It is confession at its most basic level.
To paraphrase the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans, "Let us remember our sinful nature, that we cannot deny it for it is in all of us, it is our very nature. But Jesus came to show a new way of life, and passed for us into eternity that we might not have to live shackled to this sinful nature forever." Paul continues from this point forward (chronologically) to speak of the "old man" and "new man" as metaphors related to our sinful nature and that nature which Christ called us towards. It is this "new man" that we must strive to become, but it is not an easy task. All throughout Jesus' ministry he spoke in dichotomy to make this very point. To sin is simply to follow your nature. If a man strikes you on the cheek, smash him on his. That is nature, but Jesus says "instead of striking back, turn to him your other cheek." Almost as if to say, "laugh in the face of your nature, do exactly the opposite of what you instinctually want to do.
Look at the cardinal sins, anger, pride, envy, avarice, gluttony, lust, sloth (and Father Rohr would add deceit and fear.) These "sins" are simply our natures, to strike back, to puff ourselves up, to want what others have, to be selfish, to consume as much as we like, to have power over others, to avoid conflict, they are nothing more than defense mechanisms built up to focus towards our own survival. The "old man" thinks nothing of others, but serves himself only. But Jesus points towards a different birth, a new thought, a maturity that reaches beyond our instincts and says…"if you truly wish to live (survive), then you must die. If a man steals your shirt (your protection) then give him also your coat." Jesus says to us through his ministry…it is high time you quit acting like animals and accepted your humanity…you are called to so much more…give up your petty concerns for survival…come and take up your cross (your unnature) and die with me so that you may truly live.
The "new human" speaks the truth (Communicates openly), accepts and understands (learns and teaches tolerance), adapts to an ever-changing life (seeks not to change others but only himself), and risks everything to have one glimpse at the perfect union of spirit and human. It is hard to turn against what we hold so dear, but perhaps what we see as our survival is really our death, and the path to life lies along an unnatural path behind a young man from Nazareth.
Bone cold caressing my flesh
The thorns twist and bite
Death tangled into life
Swaying in a forever dance
Stones lay in watch
Unmoved, unloved, unlived
Green life rises from chaos
The sun our father
Reigns burning light upon me
Better life of pain
Than no life at all
Let me join the dance
so that I may burn.
Here to there
no question of right or wrong
The river winds its path
no fear of life or death
Clouds form and fade
no thought of worry
The cycle of life
Seeks no answers
Cares not for morals
Urges no indulgence
Hopes no glory
Asks no pity
Fears no future
It is the essence of life and death.
master of my days
I seek to please this vitreous bag
to make it live forever
Incessant worry of disease
death lurking behind every shadow
I fear my own mortality
and deny my wounds
I must learn to accept these wounds
My heart may stop
but love will not
Tumors may infest
but truth cannot be overgrown
Nerves may scream
but courage is louder
Breath may come labored
but spirit flows freely
but the spirit remembers
Insanity creeps up
but forgiveness abounds
I lay my hand in the wound
I feel the insides of me
I accept these wounds
Tear our my heart father
that I may love more dearly
Invade me with sickness
that truth may shine brighter
Set every nerve afire
so courage may win the day
Cease my breath father
that I subsist on spirit alone
Cause me to forget everything
so that all I know is you
Let me lose my mind
so that I can be forgiven
I accept these wounds
I accept this healing
I am reborn anew
clashes with the road ahead
I burn for it
reaching speeds unknown to fools
treading in the space of angels
aging past my own death
I swing the wheel to avoid
my own stellar swath as I pass
The crushing weight of this responsibility
edges me towards disaster
but there is no use in fleeing
for the rambling truth of my existence
cannot be turned from or escaped
for the great belts of rage and hate
restrained by the scarred buckle of vengeance
play into the constriction of my
I endear myself to pleasure and comfort
only to ease the pain of my passing
from this road to the next
but the passing is too slow even at these speeds
and I find myself tweaking the radio of lust
seeking a new pleasure to infect my brain
and cloud my vision anticipating a calamitous wreck
upon which my dessicated corpse might finally find
I can only hope at this point that
god has derived pleasure
from the blatant short cuts of my meanderings
and with great hopes I besiege the heavenly halls
with honking horn and thumping speakers
crashing out loud strains of Sabbath's namesake
long hair and devil's horns flying in the wind
and as I careen through those pearly gates gods says
"Well done my good and faithful servant!"
I love it and know I shouldn't
I've got thirty six years of
worth about as much in cold
Life is funny like
You never know what its like until your
The groaning retch of pained indulgence
And for a moment the cool porcelain
But the nausea of reality
and the anxiety swells in my
Searing me like a thousand suns,
this agony tears my heart.
I have lost what I never had,
and I cry at it's unfairness.
But it deepens me,
makes me more of me.
But the pain is real..
and I don't care,
and I wonder at the punishment...
and if it's worth the torment.
I would call your name...
but I live in silence.
I would touch your face...
but I am bound by these chains.
I would calm your fears..
but I am consumed by my own.
I would take you away...
but it would destroy my world.
Curse of curses...It deepens me.
By Eric Melton
Stranded in this place,
always hoping for someone to find me.
I have sat here playing with my thoughts,
I have twisted myself
I have opened my eyes to darkness
and the vision of it will not pass.
As I blink it away,
hoping to see the light of day
I find it only a fleeting illusion.
This place surrounds me,
and I am comforted by it's pain.
I tell her my troubles,
and night-she-mother hears me.
BloodBlack my dear....
BloodBlack is your curse,
and their is no cure.
.....and I scream.
Karl Marx said that “Religion is the opiate of the people”, and so it has been for many centuries, but people throughout history have lumped spirituality in with the idea of religion and the two mix like oil and water. What I find most often is that those people who are truly comfortable and knowledgeable with spirituality often have little use for religion and the reverse seems to hold true.
“Religion” as interpreted among modern youth is “simply a way for parents and society to dictate rights and wrongs and modes of behavior that if not followed lead to great bouts of guilt, and self loathing. Carl Jung agreed with this description of religion in his work “The spiritual problem of modern man”
“While man still lives as a herd animal he has no psyche of his own,
nor does he need any, except the usual belief in the immortality of
the soul. But as soon as he has outgrown whatever local form of
religion he was born to, as soon as this religion can no longer embrace
his life in all of its fullness, then the psyche becomes a factor in its own
right which cannot be dealt with by the customary measures. It is for
this reason that today we have a psychology founded on experience,
and not upon articles of faith or the postulates of any philosophical
system.” (Carl Jung, The spiritual problem of modern man p.7)
Jung presupposes that religion has kept humanity as “herd animals” and that a “psychology of experience” can free man to think more deeply about his own inner workings and allow him to free his “psyche”. To translate Jung’s psycho-speak into English, he is saying that we must not base our ideals of mankind, its origins, and truths upon the ideals of a system whose very purpose is to make us all one like another.
Instead Jung prompts us to rely on personal experience as well, to find depth in our own searching, and thus free our minds to accept and understand that which is deeper in man. It is only through such freedom that we come to a working knowledge of spirituality, and a deeper understanding of the human truth.
Ideology of Chaos, spiritual order
It is obvious that the previous portion of this work has been somewhat critical of the idea and practice of religion, but let me digress that I might not be misunderstood. First of all, religion is necessary because it serves as a starting point and practice for true spirituality. Secondly the practice of religion is a stabilizing and beneficial attribute of society and particularly free societies.
As a child grows into young adulthood he practices at adult things. Little girls play house and bake mud pies and little boys fight imaginary fires and chase imaginary robbers. These activities are foreshadowing of adult roles that these young people will one day participate in, and accept as their own. The same basis can be found in religious practice. Religious practice is believed to have developed out of social necessity. Early developing societies often had weak governing bodies, and religious practice often was a unifying factor among people, even if they disagreed about many practical issues, they could find common ground in religious belief.
But religion also became a practice ground for spirituality, it gave a foundation and rules for behavior and set the standards that eventually would be questioned. These questions led people to look deeper within themselves and seek understanding beyond the physical human limitation. Religion was the diving board, but spirituality is the splash, the rush of chaos that comes from stepping outside ones boundaries and questioning the status quo. These questionings lead to a need for truth, and truth can only be found in God. The more one searches, the more one embraces the chaos, the more one finds himself, and finds that that self is similar to all other selves. That there are questions with answers incomprehensible to the human mind, that cannot be answered simply.
This very line of questioning leads to the first commandment given by Jesus, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.” For if these questions cannot be answered by man, then who can answer them….only God….and we must trust that God is a being of love and kindness, lest we become lost in hopelessness.
The same line of questioning leads to Jesus’ second commandment. In that man has seen through this deep questioning that he is no different from any other man, it becomes obvious that one man cannot look down upon any other man…so we must love one another…as Jesus said…”Love one another…and do to your neighbor only that which you would want done to you.” So the very foundation of “spiritual behavior” can be found in the questioning of every person…but such questioning is only possible once we realize that the herdsmen doesn’t have all the answers and that we must learn to question for ourselves, lest we remain herd animals and nothing more.
Three truths, three aspects
So I have found through my own questioning that there are three truths and three aspects of spirituality that affect my life. The truths are simple rules that cannot be avoided without disastrous effects, and the three aspects are simple ways that humans perceive spiritual reality.
The first truth of spirituality is that it is inevitable. In Steven Johnson’s book “Emergence” he speaks of slime molds…an unusual topic for comparing spirituality, but one that works well. He tells the story of the scientific study of slime molds, and that for many centuries scientists where baffled by these simple creatures. He uses the example that if you where to find a slime mold in a forest and watched if for several days you would notice that it moved ever so slowly…perhaps only an inch or two every couple of days. But upon returning to visit your slime mold on a particularly dry day you would find that the creature that moves so slowly is completely gone, disappeared, and nowhere to be found. This particular aspect of slime mold behavior is what baffled scientists. How could such a slow and simple creature just disappear? Well, recently it was discovered that the slime mold has an uncanny ability…when the weather is not productive to its growth, the individual cells of the slime mold simple let go of one another and go their own ways until the weather returns to a more amicable climate, at which time the little cells are preprogrammed to return to the same spot and re-merge into their oneness.
Spiritual growth is a similar process, each of us is the single cell of the greater creature during our lives we are re-absorbed into the greater self of spiritual oneness and then retract into the world to experience more life. I believe this inevitable because just like those little cells we are preprogrammed to look for God, to look for truth, and should we seek to avoid such ideals, we descend into selfish hopelessness.
The second truth of spirituality is none of us can express factually what it is or how spiritual truth came into our lives. Not to say that we don’t try, libraries are filled with works attempting to explain spiritual truth, but they all fall short, as does this very treatise, because we are on the inside looking out. As Wittgenstein says
‘All things that I take into my mind, such as a stove, or cloudy day,
only signify ideals that I understand. The moment I take them in I
have changed their meaning because I interpret what they mean to me.
I cannot see them from a point of view without preconception, thusly I
cannot see them for what they really are, nor can I then tell anyone else
what they really are, I can only speak from my preconception, which is
false.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” p.3)
The danger of attempting to avoid the second truth is that we either throw up our hands and become so frustrated that we give up searching for the truth, or we become so comfortable with our own version of the truth that we believe it to be the only one and thus alienate anyone who might believe differently than us.
The third truth of spirituality is that the more we learn about spiritual ideals the more dangerous we become to the very order of spirituality. This is drawn from the idea that any advancement, whether socially, technologically, or spiritually is eminently destructive to the status quo, and thus requires a greater degree of responsibility to deal with its possible problems. Alfred North Whitehead writes about this idea in his book “Symbolism”
“It is the first step in sociological wisdom to recognize that the major
advances in civilization are processes which all but wreck the societies
in which they occur…..Those societies which cannot combine reverence
to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either
from anarchy or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows.
(Alfred North Whitehead, “Symbolism” p.88)
The danger of avoiding the third truth is that unless we realize the great responsibility that comes with spiritual growth and understanding we are doomed to use it against others or for our own selfish wants and desires. Thus we belittle the idea of spirituality and make it seem as if it is all a game, causing those around us to shun the idea of spiritual growth as a sham at best and a complete lie at worst.
This then leads me back to the three basic aspects of spirituality. By aspect I mean the mode of input by which we receive the experience of spiritual growth. These aspects are broken down into the three aspects of the human individual, body, mind and soul, respectively.
The first aspect, that of body, is the idea of our own human physicality and its limitations. Although the human body is a magnificently versatile and capable organism, it is greatly limited when dealing with matters of the spirit. Our five senses can only interact with objects presented in the physical reality. Various laws of physics decide exactly what we experience when using these senses. But what I have come to find is that my own aspect of body can experience spiritual things within the scope of physical reality. An old Jewish proverb says it best….”When God speaks, I see the clouds move.” It is the idea that God is so big that when He chooses to intervene in my life, the outcome affects all of reality. When God speaks things are created, when he appears in my life I cannot help but be moved by the creation of new reality all around me. The problem lies in that I often expect God to respond in a human manner, forgetting all the while that God is not human.
The second aspect of human spirituality is that of mind. How often do we forget this simple concept….”What I think…I am.” It is a simple enough statement, but so often we forget that our inner workings spill onto our outer appearance. The Bible exhorts us continually to focus our attention on God and “good and right things”. Not because it is a sin to think of bad things, but dwelling upon those negative thoughts leads us to sin. Our mind is the humans most ready and powerful tool, it is the guiding force for our own bodies and the seat of our ideas of choice and personal affect. But by not focusing our thoughts on the goodness of God, we can quickly spiral down into hopelessness and decay. The great neurologist Steven Rose states in his book “The Conscious brain”….
“The human brain is a trainable organism, capable of recalibrating itself
to various modes of thought. The very wiring of the brain, the axon and
dendrite pathways can fade and strengthen into new patterns should we
decided to practice some motion over and over again. It is believe that
even our patterns of thought, mood and emotion can be “rewired” in this
manner.” (Steven Rose, “The conscious brain” p.76)
So the truth is, our very modes of thought about spirituality can be formed and molded by the activity of thinking about spirituality. Thus we control, as the Bible makes clear, the very capability to “transform” our minds to a spiritual format.
The third and final aspect is of soul, and this one being the most enigmatic of the three. Because we can physically study the body and mind we have a greater ability to grasp the reality of these concepts, but the soul is an unquantifiable aspect and one that human concept has a hard time with. First let me say that soul and spirit are not the same thing.
The spirit speaks of something very separate from the human self, a spirit is a self guided entity, separate from the human self. The soul on the other hand is a collaboration of the first two aspects of the human self. It is mind and body functioning together so as to propel the human senses beyond that of mere physical reality. The soul of a person is measured in how the mind is attuned to spiritual issues and how the body performs within the confines of a spiritual system.
The eyes of the soul see through the eyes of the body and appreciate the clouds as God’s speech, and at the same time focus the mind on the aspect of God’s goodness so that when bad times come, as they do for everyone, we can still see God and his love beyond our pain. Soul is what we seek to become, to transform into, to grow up as….it is the essence of the spiritual walk within man.
So, in all of this we see the aspect of spirituality….the ability to see beyond physical circumstance. We are drawn to it, inevitably, unable to name it, but at the same time consumed by its awesomeness. We realize the responsibility we’ve been given and so we must learn to focus our bodies, and our minds on the things of God, so that we do not misuse this great gift of spiritual connection.
In the beginning we were separated from God, but even in this separation our God loves us and seeks to communicate that love to us, but response to that love is placed fully upon our shoulders. It is something we must choose, and then apply ourselves to…its seems love has never come easy…but that makes it all the more joyous when it blooms into its fullness.
He at first tried to heft the stone but it was far to heavy, he tried a fulcrum and many other ideas to move the stone, but they all failed. He sat by the well and cried, and finally in complete sorrow he returned to the house to tell his mother he could not bring water.
It seems like such a small thing, and quite understandable that a small boy could not remove a ten pound capstone, but the boy could not forgave himself, and in later years as a full grown man, he was never as strong as his friends, and never as confident as he should have been. All his life he carried that ten pound stone and it prevented him from ever really enjoying his life.
It makes me wonder how many stones I have carried around, how often I have failed and carried around the junk that that failure attached to my life? When I work with youth I see many such stones, tied around the necks of our teenagers. I see them drowning in this life because they do not understand that it is not their destiny to carry those stones.
Rabbi Wasach finishes his story this way; when the young boy had finished his schooling and had become a teacher of God’s ways he still could not rid himself of the stone. But one day, as he was taking his afternoon nap, a dream came to the young man.
He saw himself standing at the well, and then he saw the grave of his own mother.
Upon awakening from the dream, the young man was disturbed, but he felt that the dream was an answer to his problem. He got up from his bed and gathering some items, he traveled the ten miles back to the village where he had grown up. Upon arriving at his old home he walked to the well and there found the capstone, still in place.
He took the capstone and asking God for help he lifted it easily from its place. He took the well rope and drew out a pitcher of water. He took the water to his mother’s grave and there he left it. As he walked away he could feel the stone he had carried for so long drop away, and it never weighed upon him again.
The young man was Rabbi Wasach, and the lesson is one of immense spiritual truth. If a stone holds you down, face it and overcome it by asking God to help you carry it. The stone only holds us as long as we hold the stone.
“Come to me all of you who are tired and bear heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:30 NLV