God: Suffering and Longing

Posted on Dec 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
God’s Goodness is man’s suffering by which I’m not implying the good and bad as theological beliefs.  Its the ideal of Goodness (via our longing for it) that creates dissatisfaction of this world.  Even so, this tendency to idealize and to long is natural to the human psyche.  God or our experience of God isn’t in opposition to this earthly existence.

The reason that such immense ideals have an “otheworldly” feel to them is because God is the ultimate Other… which isn’t the same as saying God is separate.  This Other can also be experienced inwardly (if such a word applies), but this doesn’t change the esential Otherness.  God’s Goodness isn’t human goodness meaning it isn’t comprehensible in everyday terms nor can it be conformed to our purposes.  God undermines our entire sense of self and reality which isn’t a bad thing per se, but  its hard to interpret such an experience according to our normal beliefs and expectations of goodness. 

This world of suffering is Hell and our complicity with suffering is Evil.  I use these strong words because only they can convey the power of suffering when felt deeply.  But, by this, I don’t mean to assume any particular theological claims.  And, yet, I do mean to say that essentially both the Christians and Gnostics are right about God.  Thusly, without logical consistency and without psychological reconciliation, I accept my inability to separate my experience of suffering from my experience of that which is other than suffering… whatever one may wish to call it.

Or, anyways, this is what makes sense to me at the moment.  Unlike a pessimist of a materialist bent, I don’t deny any metaphysical possibility.  I have experienced something that felt like an Other.  Was it God?  Was it even good in the ultimate sense?  I don’t know.  It felt real… and, in this world of confusion, a glimpse of reality may be the closest one gets to the Good.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 2 hours later

Marmalade said

There is only one essential statement in this whole blog:The Good of God is not the good of man. Its just my experience and that is all.

The only other choice is to go entirely with the Gnostics and call God Evil… which Icould agree with in the sense that they speak of the god of this world. The problem with the latter interpretation is such dualism doesn’t make sense of my experience, but maybe the Gnostics didn’t believe it as a fact… instead as something like a useful means.

What I do know is that this world is filled with immeasurable suffering. Yet, when I explore this suffering, I discover something other than any normal sense of this world.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 17 hours later

Nicole said

I think too often we ignore or gloss over this Otherness and its implications.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

Part of me would say that I’m exaggerating too much, but there is a purpose for my doing so. Suffering, strangely enough, can be one of the easiest things to ignore or distract ourselves from. This is as true for me as for anyone else.

There is something freeing about simply stating that this world is hell. I spent years struggling against suffering, but I feel that struggle has become less. Whatam I freed from? I’m not entirely sure. An element of it has to do with imagination. For me, to imagine what might be is founded upon seeing things as they are. So, in allowing hell to be real, I can imagine heaven. Or something like that.

In case you were wondering, this blog actually wasn’t intended as a direct response to the guilt thread in the God pod. This is just an extension of my recent thinking. I wrote this down in my journalaround a week agoand finally got around to writing it up.

The direct inspiration of this post is the essential statement I mentioned. I’ve had that thought for a long time. The realization that the Good of God isn’t the good of man came to me during a time (which we’ve talked about before)when I had fully relented to my own experience of suffering and longing, but I also feared losing myself in this experience of Other. I didn’t feel capable (or willing) to stay with this experience. Nonetheless, the memory of it is very clear and an everpresent reality of sorts… even if I haven’t yet come to terms with it.

From Horror to Gnosis: Pessimism, Culture, Monomyth

From Horror to Gnosis: Pessimism, Culture, Monomyth

Posted on Dec 25th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

I’ve had many ideas rolling around in my head this past week or so. I’ve at least mentioned most of them in my recent blogs, but there are still some I’ve been meaning to get around to.
 
Even though I’ve mentioned Ligotti, I haven’t ever written about the one nonfiction work (besides textbooks) that I’m aware of him writing. Only an excerpt of it has been published so far and its in a recent volume of Collapse journal which also included some nonfiction by the well known fantasy writer China Mievelle. Anyways, he writes about the philosophy known as Pessimism in relationship to suffering.
 
He uses as one of his primary inspirations the ‘The Last Messiah’ by Peter Wessel Zapffe. Zapffe called his type of thinking biosophy and its my understanding that he had major influence on the deep ecology movement. The basic idea is that humans have certain over-developed functions, specifically consciousness, which cause humans to not easily fit into their environment.  More importantly, for my purposes, are the problems it causes with a hyper-sensitivity to suffering, and hence the necessity to counter it with various methods that Zapffe puts into 4 categories: isolation, anchoring, distraction, and sublimation. Zapffe was actually a rather life-embracing guy who liked to climb mountains (for the very reason that it was pointless) and wrote humorous stories, but Ligotti takes his ideas in a much more cynical direction.
 
I get the sense that Ligotti is a failed idealist.  My idealism has likewise failed in many ways but not entirely (and maybe correspondingly my faith has increased in certain ways). I think I’ll always have some of the hopeless idealist in me. Its hard to tell what Ligotti’s personal experiences or views are as he keeps his philosophizing mostly on the level of the abstract. He claims this is intentional because his arguments aren’t based on his moods, but he does admit that the experience of horror is something most people will never understand. He seems to accept that he is in the minority and that his writing will probably never be widely read (despite the fact that he is one of the better writers alive today and is highly respected by other writers).
 
I can agree with Ligotti in many ways. Humans are naturally optimistic and we avoid the experience of suffering as if our lives depended on it… because our lives probably do. I imagine that most people would go insane or kill themselves if they ever felt suffering fully. In all actuality, I doubt humans are capable of experiencing suffering without various psychological filters and buffers limiting our consciousness.  Its the double-bind of being human… the inability to either fully avoid or fully face suffering.
 
The problem is that Ligotti seems to leave this Existentialist insight on the level of biological horror. I don’t know that he has never had any experiences that he’d deem “spiritual”, but if he has he leaves them out of the equation. I’ve had experiences that went so far beyond (or within?) suffering that my experience was transformed… or, if not exactly transformed, I did touch upon something that felt entirely Other.
 
Because of this, I prefer to go the route of something like Gnosticism.  So, in this way, I can accept that the world is filled with suffering and yet not simply resign myself to it. Gnosticism is also a way I can give meaning to why the deep experience of suffering is so rare. Some have criticized Gnosticism as elitist, but I think that Gnosticism was simply observing the rarity of true gnosis (maybe similar to some early forms of Protestantism).

Its not an attitude of judgment because I wouldn’t claim true gnosis for myself as I’m way too confused for all that.  But I will say that I feel there is much superficiality and falseness in most claims of spirituality… and I can sense this even in myself whenever I try to speak of spirituality. I don’t believe gnosis is about being saved and so its not that the unworthy are left behind. Gnosis is just an insight and that is all and serves no greater purpose beyond that. Unlike the Gnostics, I have severe doubts about the notion of escaping suffering and prefer something more akin to Buddhism. Suffering, when felt deeply enough, can open one to understanding and potentially compassion.
 
As far as pure rationality goes, I consider Pessimism to be one of the most objectively accurate assessments of human experience that we are capable of coming up with.  For sure, its at least as reasonable as any other philosophical or theological position, not that reasonableness is the primary standard by which people choose their beliefs.

In light of Pessimism, there are the criticisms towards mainstream notions of freewill which interests me very much. Its without a doubt, in my mind, that the lack of freewill is the more scientific hypothesis given the scientific standard of parsimony. Rationality is important because all discussion (ie shared understanding) is of almost no use or merit without it, but when it comes to personal experience I don’t limit my understandings to mere rationality. Even someone like Ligotti with his very rational arguments is fully aware of the extreme limits of the human intellect.
 
I may have lost most of my audience by now with this dreary philosophizing during this time of “holiday cheer”, but I shall continue with another set of ideas.

When I think of Gnosticism, it automatically brings to my mind Jung… probably from whose writings I first learned about Gnostic-type of ideas. Also related to Jung are theories such as Myers-Briggs typology and Campbell’s Monomyth, but most Jungians dislike it when Jung’s ideas are systematized. The type of books that often reference Jung usually won’t reference the MBTI or the Hero’s Journey. This is the case with the books of Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson.

I, of course, consider all of these to be related. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the Monomyth in how Jesus fits the typical Hero’s Journey and thus the corelation to the Gnostic interpretation of the Christ figure.
 
Even with the vastness of the internet, its still hard to find much writing about these connections. The best source I always seem to come back to is Tim Boucher in his extensive blogging. He has lots of interesting thoughts, but here are just a few quotes from his site that I found relevant:
 
The Hero With A Thousand Faces
 
the hero is basically synonymous with the ego. the ego is sort of the main part of the mind that we identify with as a culture. the “hero’s journey” to me seems like a story about what happens when the ego encounters parts of the mind besides itself. looking at how various cultures portray the archetypal “hero” can shed a lot of light on how their minds work, and the values they cherish. alternatively, i think that looking at the types of heroes and stories that you personally are drawn to can shed a lot of light on what’s important to you, what you’re struggling with, and possible symbolically encoded outcomes that could be achieved.
 
Demiurge and Ego
 
The Jungian concept of ego/Self dovetails nicely with gnostic theology as well. In it, the Demiurge is a false god who brashly and wrongly believes that he is the creator and most powerful being in the universe. Usually associated with the Judeo-Christian Yahweh, he is a jealous, egotistical god who is violent, capricious and authoritarian. Consider the first of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other god before me.”
 
The Joseph Campbell of Conspiracy Theory

I’ve wondered before why Campbell didn’t talk more about “pop culture as mythology”. I mean, he did, but it wasn’t the focus of his work. I only realized very recently the sleight of hand that he really pulled. What he did was use pop culture as a vehicle. I think he realized that traditional religions were essentially dead in the water, or if not dead then at least declining in people’s lives. Certainly they still play a role, but nowadays the real grunt-work is done by pop culture. It provides us with a story-system which binds us as a culture, and which acts as a vehicle or vessel for the symbolic contents of our subconscious minds.

I think he realized this, but he also realized that there was a danger here. Namely, that our archetypes were being clothed in pop culture, and we didn’t even know it. Since it was happening mostly outside the context of organized religion, with traditions of ritual and symbolism, most people were missing out on the important lessons learned in those traditions. So what he did, the real genius of his work, was to strip out the symbolic messages out of all world religions, and inject them directly into the bloodstream of the new religion, pop culture. And he essentially trusted that through the chaos of the mediasphere, these messages would ultimately find their place on their own and go right to where they were needed.

 
His speaking about pop culture returns me to the genres. Ever since Star Wars, the Monomyth has become a standard model for making movies in Hollywood… a model that even mainstream religion has had to come to terms with, however reluctantly. Parallel to the Monomyth, Neo-noir has brought Gnosticism into the public view. These two strains have come together in many movies such as The Matrix. So, I’m back in the territory of Philip K. Dick and the cultural analyses of Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson.
 
What I was thinking about is the narrative structure of Gnostic films. They often end with the door in the sky. The narrative must end there because that is where rationality ends. Is there something beyond that door? What might it be? Any answer given won’t satisfy. We’d be disappointed if we followed Truman to the world beyond the Demiurge’s false reality.

This makes me wonder. The Monomyth is circular without any apparent escape. The traditional hero leaves just to return, but the Gnostic hero leaves without returning… or, if you prefer, his leaving is his returning to the real world… or in Jungian terms to his real Self. His boon is self-transformation (or else ananmesis) which is rather intangible.
 
This is where my personal sufferings and doubts come in. I recognize the limits of rationality.  At its best, fiction can (potentially) at least point beyond itself in a way that philosophy doesn’t seem as capable of doing.
 
Nonetheless, the narrative ends with the Gnostic hero’s accomplishment and yet we the audience are stuck in this endless loop of Monomyth’s repetition. Stories can be just as much distracting entertainment as mode of insight. The Monomyth is a circle, but traditional religion offers us the hope of either escape from the enclosing periphery or otherwise to bring us deeper to the center around which it all revolves.
 
Can we only worship the hero as most Christians do or like Gnostics can we become the hero? Or is identifying with the hero part of the ego’s trap of endless misery? How does the story truly end? Does the story ever end? Will people still be telling ever new versions of the Monomyth far into the distant future (assuming we’re still around)?

The whole finger pointing at the moon comes to mind. What is the point of studying stories? What is the point of worshipping the Monomyth hero even if you believe him to be the Son of God? Does turning to religion offer us any further insight or guidance?

I don’t know the answer to all of that. My questioning here is partially in response to similar thoughts that Eric G. Wilson writes about which I might go into more detail about sometime. For now, I’ll just end with my wondering about all things archetypal.
What are the archetypes? Mere biological mechanisms of Darwinian evolution? A good case can be made for that, but it doesn’t satisfy me personally. I’d like to believe that archetypes, if not the moon the finger is pointing at, may at least be the trajectory of the finger pointing. If I follow the archetypes in contemplation, where shall they lead me?

To use the sea as a metaphor for the vastness of suffering, is there any reason to leave the shore?

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Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 6 hours later

Marmalade said

BTW I’m not despairing beyond hope or anything. I still find life amusing. When I typed that last question about whether to leavethe shore, I was smiling. Its a silly question. Yes, life is suffering, but I don’t think anyone gets the choice of sitting on the shore. I like the image though… sunbathing on the beach of human misery… don’t forget to bring the sunscreen. 😉

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 17 hours later

Marmalade said

The most important aspect of this blog for me is that of storytelling.  A religion is only as successful as its story.  Certainly, the Judeo-Christian tradition doesn’t lack stories.  Every large-scale world religion will have its imperialistic tendencies, but that isn’t enough to ensure the conversion of the masses.  Even an empire needs a good story to convince people to accept oppression.

Also, any good story will get re-used and retold again and again.  There is no original story.  This is partly about the Monomyth which is based on human psychology (such as the relationship between men and women) and observation of the physical world (such as the solar year).  But this also largely cultural transmission.  Pretty much every story in the Old and New Testament can be found in various versions in the cultures that preceeded and surrounded the Judeo-Christian tradition.  

Those stories survived because they were good stories.  Don’t underestimate simple entertainment value.

Simply put, stories are powerful.  Nations and religions live and die by them.  On the personal level, we need stories to make sense of it all.  Humans couldn’t live without stories.  Many stories are seen as fact because good stories are very convincing.  Stories work mosty on the unconscious level and we are probably barely aware of most stories that rule our sense of reality.

Okay, all that is easy enough to understand.  Considering stories, we must take seriously archetypes whatever they may be.  I doubt stories could exist without archetypes, but archeytpes aren’t limited to story.  Story is just one way of conveying story.

Also, we have a limited notion of story in our culture.  Stories, traditionally, were inseparable from religion, cultural identity, ritual, song, environment, etc.  Stories still carry some of this, but we have seemingly become somewhat disconnected from their true potential.  

I’d go so far as to suggest the possibility that reality itself is a story.  If so, who is the storyteller?  And exactly what are we living, individually and collectively?

I’ve had a desire to get at the heart of my own story which obviously includes the larger story of the culture I’m immersed within.  This is partly why I like to write stories because its a way of bringing consciousness to the fore.  

Closely related to stories are dreams.  Over the years, I’ve begun to see repeating themes in my dreams.  This fascinates me because it feels like a glimpse into some underlying structure of my psyche.  Dreams are spontaneous narratives.  Dreams give us insight into the nature and limits of narrative.  Its tempting to say that dreams are purer forms of primal narrative structure, but I think that would be a simplification.  The stories we’ve been influenced by will of course influence our dreams in turn.

Childhood is particularly interesting form an adult perspective.  I have many recollections that I can’t determine the source of.  Memories?  Dreams?  Something I heard othes speak about?

I don’t know where my thoughts are going with this.  I’m just pondering.

Fiction and Non-fiction, Gnosticism and the Gothic

Fiction and Non-fiction, Gnosticism and the Gothic

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I have an equal interest in fiction and nonfiction.  They often feel in confict and they can have very different effect on me.  I tend to obsess on one or the other.  In recent years, I’ve been more focused on nonfiction, but I’m slowly switching back into a mood for fiction.

I don’t see them as fundamentally in conflict.  My favorite writers are those that combine fiction and nonfiction.  This is my interest in William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, but its also the reason for my more recent interest in “horror” writers such as Thomas Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp.

There are various aspects in common.  As I said, they all combined fiction and nonfiction, but they also wrote them separately.  Besides all of this, the most obvious similaity is the Gothic.  The Gothic definitely applies to the horror writers, but the Gothic isn’t limited to the horror genre.  The other connection is Gnosticism.  PKD helped to popularize Gnosticism only to maybe a slightly lesser degree than Jung had.  Gnostic themes and references are found throughout the works of WSB, TL and QSP.

What has brought all of this together in my mind are several nonfiction books that have been occupying my mind particularly past year or so.  One book is The Secret Lives of Puppets by Victoria Nelson, and two books by Eric G. Wilson (The Melancholy Android, and Secret Cinema).  Wilson was influenced by Nelson and I always think of these authors together.  Both of these authors write about PKD, and Nelson mentions WSB a couple of times.  Both focus on the the fantastical and horrific in fiction.  Both write about Gnosticism and Wilson goes into great detail about the connection between Gnosticism, the Gothic and the genres.

I won’t go in more detail right now.  I just wanted to set down where my thoughts are at the moment.  This is a very personal nexus of my understanding of life.  Thinking about these authors is my way of contempating my place amidst a world of tremendous suffering.  I plan on blogging more about this soon as I clarify my ideas.

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New Age: Part 2

New Age: Part 2

Posted on Jul 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

In Unity, Jesus isn’t superior to us.  We don’t need to give the right answer or win his approval in order to be saved.  This is because our salvation isn’t in his hands.  He just shows the way.
 
In Unity, access to Heaven isn’t limited to those who follow Christ (ie Universalism).  But it depends on what is meant by “Christ” and “follow”.  Christ has two meanings in New Thought: (1) Jesus Christ the Wayshowher, and (2) Christ Consciousness.  New Thought Christianity is non-exclusive.  Most New Thought practitioners probably see Christ Consciousness in all religions.  The language used isn’t important.  It doesn’t matter if you call this Wayshower principle Jesus or Buddha or whatever, and there is no reason why there can’t be multiple Wayshowers.  In New Thought, to “follow” Christ simply means to live your life according to his example.  This doesn’t necessitate believing in the one true dogma or accepting Jesus as the one true savior.  It simply means that you follow him and so all that it implies is that you trust his guidance, that you trust he knows the way.  Also, New Thought practitioners tend to believe that there are many paths to “Heaven”.
 
In Unity, Heaven and Hell don’t exist as separate realms.  They’re states of mind and they’re part and parcel with how we live our lives, our words and our deeds.  We don’t have to wait until we’re dead to be close to God.  Sin is our separation or rather perceived separation from God, but there is no Original Sin.  Sin like salvation is in the present.  Each moment gives us an opportunity to accept or deny God.
  
In Unity, we co-create reality with God.  It is difficult to trace this idea.  One of the earliest source would be Gnosticism.  There is an idea that began in Gnosticism and was adapted in later Kabbalah.  The idea is that we don’t merely passively receive salvation but rather participate in the salvation process. 
 
New Thought types like to quote passages such as Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34.  New Thought interprets as literal truth the statement of Jesus that “You are gods.”  And in John 14:12, Jesus says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
 
Also, Mesmer had the idea that we have the power to influence our reality.  Phineas Quimby is considered the Father of New Thought and he studied Mesmerism.
 
I’ve read that Unity began within the Evangelical movement.  It doesn’t seem all that Evangelical in comparison to some more vocal Evangelists today, but it still has an Evangelical core.  I suppose it was Robert Schuller who first popularized New Thought (he is my mom’s favorite minister).  I’ve seen many Evangelical tv ministries where New Thought ideas are preached.  What is known as prosperity thinking in New Thought and positive thinking in New Age is called by a different name in the Evangelical movement.  Its called prosperity gospel or abundance theology.  The newest popular proponent of New Thought in Evangelism is Joel Osteen.
 
The wiki article says…

Universalism is a religion and theology that generally holds all persons and creatures are related to God or the divine and will be reconciled to God. A church that calls itself Universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and accept other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine. Other religions may have Universalist theology as one of their tenets and principles, including Christianity, Hinduism, and some of the New Age religions. Universalist beliefs exist within many faiths, and many Universalists practice in a variety of traditions, drawing upon the same universal principles.

The most common principle drawn upon is love. (Sai Baba/Baba Speech): “The spirit present in all of the beings is varily seen as that of mind. They are all full of the essential love. Without love, it is all just a pun, without love you can not be happy !”

Truth is also an important principle to be drawn upon. The living truth is more far-reaching than national, cultural, even faith boundaries. [1]
That generally lines up with my understanding of Unity’s Universalism.  The Random House definition says that “the doctrine that emphasizes the universal fatherhood of God and the final salvation of all souls.”  Within the Unity church, fatherhood isn’t a term that I remember hearing much in reference to God, but the general idea of God’s universal nature as Creator has a similar meaning.  The major difference here is that Unity wouldn’t agree with a view that final salvation is a collective future event.  This goes along with heaven and hell not being places that we go to.  Ultimately, Unity teaches that everyone is already saved.  Sin is an error in perception and that is all.  We aren’t really separate from God because everything is eternally in and of God.
There are all kinds of weaknesses some inherent to New Thought theology and some with how New Thought has manifested in contemporary culture.  Most importantly is the question of whether New Thought aligns with what psychological research has discovered.  Some of the strongest criticism of New Thought in its relationship with New Age comes from the Integral theorists.  A book that looks interesting is The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.  I haven’t read the book, but it seems to be about how some New Agers could learn a thing or two from Jungian shadow work.

In highschool, I was heavily influenced by both Unity and A Course In Miracles (ACIM).  This means that the two are pretty mixed in my mind.  The ACIM was popular in Unity.  Because of this, Unity decided to stop carrying it in their bookstores.  They were worried that people would start thinking of Unity theology only in ACIM terms.  The ACIM has much more of an intellectual theology than New Thought does in general, and so ACIM adds a bit of meat to the bones.  Check out Kenneth Wapnick if you’re interested in the theology pertaining to the ACIM.  Basically, the ACIM is most similar to Valentinian Gnosticism. 
 
I’ve studied the ACIM more thoroughly than I have ever studied Unity theology.  As I was raised in Unity, I never gave it much thought growing up.  And as I haven’t attended a Unity since highschool, I’ve never studied of its theology to any great extent.  I’m not an expert on Unity, but its essential philosophy is easy enough to grasp… easier to grasp than the historical comlexities of Catholic theology.  The funny thing about Unity is its lack of motivation to push a particular theology beyond a few basic beliefs.  I was never taught what the beliefs of Unity were.  I never even read the Bible growing up nor do I remember anyone reading Bible stories to me.  It didn’t even occur to me to think about any of this.

This blog is posted in the God Pod.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 15 hours later

Nicole said

Did I tell you my mom has been a member of a Unity church for years?

To me, it has been a way to reinforce her vague optimism without seriously challenging any of her confused beliefs about the world or her life. She, like many in her generation, has not engaged her inner demons, not really heard of shadow work or considered doing it, not worked through the ways she has alienated her children and grandchildren.

It’s sad.

By contrast, you are much more thoughtful and flexible about this. You read widely and incorporate many other aspects of belief in your view of the universe. So it feels a lot healthier coming from you.

Have you read much of the Bible as an adult, or does it even interest you?

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

No, you hadn’t mentioned that about your mom.  I don’t know that it would be the majority, but I’d imagine there are many people in Unity like her.  One thing my parents noticed about Unity was that it attracted many lost souls, people who didn’t fit anywhere else.

I’ve read more of the Bible in recent years, but I’ve never read the whole text.  I was deeply researching Biblical studies a while back and learned a fair amount about the Bible.   I would be more interested in the subject, but I found that the people who were most interested in the subject didn’t interest me.  I joined some forums where there was discussion about the Bible.  People tended to fall into extremes of fundamentalism or atheism, and every discussion was quickly polarized.  And trying to research the subject, I came to realize that there is no lack of opinions but plenty of lack of facts.  Biblical studies has to be the least scholarly of all the scholarly fields.  Even the academic experts can’t agree on even the most basic details.  However, reading the Bible without reading the scholarship is pointless because the translations are so far apart.

My Grandfather was a minister.  He said that you could prove almost anything you wanted with the Bible.  There are so many passages and so many translations, that you can find some wording that you can interpret as agreeing with whatever you already believe.  And its so easy to misinterpret as it takes a life long of scholarly study to even be able guess at the meaning of a Bible passage.  My Grandfather used the example of the “eye of the needle”.  It wasn’t meaning that its impossible for a rich person to get into heaven.  The eye of the needle was the name of a doorway into a city where camels had to walk on their knees to pass through.  So, the difficulty of a rich man getting into heaven seems nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  But I’m sure there are a thousand other interpretations.

Understanding the Bible is practically impossible, but I’ve never been one to let the impossible get in the way of my studies.  I’m sure I’ll read more of the Bible.  I have a translation of the Pre-Nicene Texts by Robert M. Price.  I find his translation very fascinating and I’m in the middle of reading it.  I’ll finish it sometime.

BTW what translation do you read?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

ah, but take a closer look at that eye of the needle… the camels had to walk on their knees – challenging for a camel but much more so than many rich people who do not have the humility and courage to abase themselves to a higher power. think of his interaction with the rich young ruler.

i try to refer to the original Greek as much as possible when i’m doing serious study but for reading lightly, enjoy the NRSV – for different applications, I like different translations and paraphrases – they all have strengths and weaknesses. still hope to learn Hebrew well enough to read the OT in the original, translations are inadequate

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

Yep, NIcole, you could interpret as such: the camels on their knees as representing humility and courage.  It might be a correct interpretation.  Then again, my Grandfather might’ve been wrong about his translation.  I really don’t know.  But I’m willing to bet you that, were you to research it, a plethora of disagreement could be found.

In looking at Biblical studies, I quickly realized that I would have to learn several ancient languages to even begin to grasp/guess what was being said.  Actually, even many Biblical scholars don’t know all of the ancient languages involved.  Even if you do know the ancient languages, the cultural context is mostly lost.  For instance, an expert in Hebrew isn’t likely to be an expert in the various cultures that were borrowed from in creating the Jewish mythology. 

Yes, modern versions are inaccurate translations of Hebrew, but the OT is an inaccurate translation of the stories its based upon.  Inaccurate translation is how religions evolve.  For instance, Christianity formed because it was able to re-interpret the OT, but obviously the Christians were essentially mistranslating in order to do so.

Lets say a single person could learn in detail all the factors (multiple languages, cultural contexts, and historical documents).  What could such a person make of it all?  There is no coherent whole.  The Old Testament (like the New Testament) was written by many people.  And the Old Testament is based on stories from different cultures told orally for thousands of years before being written down as we now know them.  All these different stories and all these different writers aren’t in agreement.  When we turn to the Bible, we don’t find a single coherent message.  Just considering the New Testament, the depictions of Jesus Christ are widely divergent and this excludes the other even more divergent depictions found elsewhere.

In all of this, everyone can find what they’re looking for.  The problem is there is no concensus on correct interpretation and there is a lack of evidence upon which to base a rational argument for the correctness of  any particular interpretation.  If we simply pick what we agree with and ignore the rest, then how is that helpful?  We don’t need a text to tell us what we already believe.

I’m not trying to discourage you from studying the Bible.  I find it all fascinating, but frustrating too.  I think any Jew, Christian, or Muslim worth their salt, should study the origins of monotheism for themselves.  In doing so, one can’t discover truth, but what one discovers is how complex “truth” is.  I do think people can discover wisdom in studying the Bible, but not because the Bible revealed it precisely.  We bring our own wisdom to the Bible and whatever we find there already existed within us.

The attempt to understand the Bible (if done with serious intent and an open heart-mind) is more humbling than even the eye of the needle is for camels.  And to sludge through the field of Biblical studies takes no small amount of courage or at least stubborn persistence.  People often just find what they were looking for, but its not unusual for people to find what they wished to not find.

Personally, I’d rather look at Biblical stories from an archetypal perspective rather than worry about what is said in a particular passage in a particular text in a particular language.  I’m a person who wants to do something all the way or not at all.  I realized the only way to do the Bible justice would be to devote my whole life to studying every aspect of it, but I’m just not inspired to do so.  But this isn’t to say I don’t want to familiarize myself with the Bible some more.  Its just not high on my priority list at the moment.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

i have known a number of Biblical scholars and am quite aware of the lifework involved in having and using all the tools needed for more accurate interpretation of the Bible. I find it satisfying to work away bit by bit at what I can understand about the Bible among a lot of other ways to come to grips with God and God’s relationship with us… I’m glad you find archetypes satisfying. It’s important to find what works for us.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

I wasn’t implying that you weren’t aware of what I was speaking of.  I know that you know.  I was just expressing my own frustration at the whole field.  Sorry, to sound like I was lecturing.  I wasn’t intending to sound that way.

I think in general we human can know very little about the world… and God.  Oddly though the limits of our knowledge are the most clear when we turn to a holy text.  I don’t mean to dismiss the Bible, but I sometimes feel so frustrated with people’s opinions about God’s truth that I feel like the Bible may be the last place one should look for God.  There is wisdom in the Bible no doubt… its just buried very very very deep.

As you know, I’ve spent time myself studying the Bible and Christianity overall, and so it would be silly of me to disparage someone else doing the same.  I looked into Biblical studies because I’m a curious person, and its an utterly fascinating area.  I believe studying the Bible is worthwhile because I believe studying anything is worthwhile.  There aren’t enough people in the world who take learning seriously. 

Also, its not as if we have to choose to learn only one thing and ignore all else.  I may be focused more in one direction than another at any given moment, but I can study both the Bible and the archetypes.  I’m of the opinion that learning one thing can help me learn another thing.  Studying the Bible can help me understand archetypes and studying archetypes can help me to understand the Bible.  You probably agree with this as you seem to also have wide interests.

However, I do put an emphasis on the archetypal side of things because I figure that if there is a truth in the Bible its probably an archetypal truth rather than the truth of an historical figure.  Actually, what I should say is that both an archetypal and a historical truth may simultaneously exist, but its the archetypal truth that is the most easily accessible… and maybe the most easy to prove or disprove.  And if the historical Jesus was real, then disentangling the archetypal elements from the historical facts will help to clarify the matter.

I guess why I feel reluctant towards Biblical studies is because of the people who tend to be involved in it.  There are too many people with agendas who are seeking conclusive answers… whether to prove some belief or disprove some belief.  I realize that you, Nicole, are a more open-minded seeker who isn’t just looking for simple answers.  I wish I’d met more people like you when I was studying all of this deeply.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

yes, i hear everything you say, dear Ben, sorry I sounded defensive in my comment, i do know and understand your views more and more and have great sympathy for your approach.

unfortunately or fortunately, as people keep telling me, there isn’t anyone else like me :):)

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Its no big deal.  My frustrations have nothing to do with you.  I just get frustrated at times with life in general.  And I’m not good at hiding my frustrations. 

You may not be average Nicole, but trust me that isn’t something that frustrates me.  In fact, I like the non-average.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

why hide your frustrations? especially since they have nothing to do with me, i like that 🙂

i know you like the non-average, and you know i do too! one of the many reasons i delight in our conversation, i delight in you

New Age: Part 1

New Age: Part 1

Posted on Jul 21st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

New Age is a more general term and New Thought is a more specific
term.  I don’t know when the term New Age was first used, but as its
used in contemporary culture it seems to mostly to apply to the pop
culture spirituality that was inspired by various earlier movements.
One of those earlier movements was New Thought, and New Thought is no
longer distinct from New Age.  New Thought has become incorporated
into mainstream culture.  Most people who are familiar with New Thought
views aren’t familiar with the New Thought tradition.  New Thought has
in some ways become even more generalized than New Age because its
influence has been so wide and yet so below the radar.

I was raised in Unity and it attracted the New Age type of person.  It
was normal practice to hug people at church and everything was fairly
politically correct.  There was an extreme open-mindedness about it
even though it was Christian… by which I mean that no one cared if
you were saved or if you believed in any particular dogma.  New
Thought Christianity is often referred to as Practical Christianity.
There are two basic elements to this.

First, personal experience is prioritized and so having a personal
relationship to Jesus/God is emphasized.  The difference between this
and the personal relationship of other Christians is that its very
relaxed.  Jesus is your friend and you can talk to him as you would a
friend.  Jesus isn’t our Lord.  Instead, this notion is replaced with
the idea of Jesus being the (or a) Wayshower, a wise and knowledgable
guide.

Second, the power of mind is related to the Power of God.  We are
microcosms of God, and as such we are co-creators of our reality.
There is a difference here from some later adaptations in New Age.
This power is rooted in our personal relationship to Jesus/God.
Beyond simple positive thinking, its primarily about faith and the
ultimate goal is in deepening our faith experience.

New Thought influenced the New Age, but it has other influences.
Unity publishes a small magazine which if I remember correctly is
called The Daily Word.  It used to (and may still) have a wide
readership outside of Unity.  I met people from mainstream Christian
churches that said that their church distributed it.  Unsurprisingly,
even though these people had seen Unity’s magazine, they didn’t know
of Unity or of New Thought.  Also, recently, I’ve been noticing New
Thought creeping into the Evangelical movement (practically taking it
over in some cases).

New Thought has common origin in several other American movements.  At
the time Unity was forming, Americans were seeking a new form of
religion.  For instance, out of this same milieu, the Mormons arose.
New Thought has much in common with the UU church as Unity too is
Unitarian and Universalist in its theology.  The Transcendentalists
also seem to have been a part of this quest for the new.  There was an
influence from Eastern texts that were being translated, but there
also was a renewed interest in the long suppressed Gnostic strains of
the Western tradition.  The inspired text A Course In Miracles has a
strong Gnostic flavor to it and it was an extremely popular book in
Unity.  One of the more interesting influences of New Thought was
Mesmer who proposed the idea of animal magnetism, that there was a
power in the world that could be directed for the good of humans…
specifically in terms of healing.  There is a strong emphasis on
healing in Unity and in Evangelism.  Interestingly, Mesmer led to the
tradition of hypnotism which in course led to Neuro-linguistic
Programming (NLP).  NLP, similar to New Thought, is interested in how
we influence reality through our perception of it.

Another interesting American phenomena is Landmark Forum which
originated from EST.  Landmark is a more harsh (almost cult-like)
product of the New Age movement.  Its positive thinking on steroids.
I’ve been to a Landmark Forum.  It had some useful things to teach,
but I didn’t like its morally questionable techniques of influencing
participants.  EST supposedly had even stronger methodologies.  Sadly,
I’ve heard that Landmark is gaining a foothold in some Unity circles.
If Landmark used its stronghold tactics to inveigle its way into
Unity, then it could use it as a respectable front for its
prosyletizing activities.  This is the darkside of the New Age.

All of this that I mentioned has influenced and in some cases been
incorporated into the almost anything goes theology of New Age.
Nonetheless, as I grew up in New Thought as a distinct tradition, I
still consider the two separate.  I agree with some of Wilber’s
criticisms of New Age: the Mean Green Meme (MGM) and cultural
relativism.

BTW my experience with New Age is pretty wide.  I’ve read many of the
New Age classics growing up.  I also attended a UU for a while.  I
went to massage school where I learned about alternative health and
energy healing.  Two of the psychotherapists I’ve been to were Reiki
healers and one of them was also a practicing Sufi.  I went to a
shamanistic healer a couple of times.  I’ve had my hug from the
hugging saint Amma.  I’ve done all kinds of spiritual practices over
the years.  I used to be a vegetarian.  I have interests in various
New Age subjects: tarot, astrology, chakras, etc.

OTOH I was also raised by two fairly conservative parents who later
became very dissatisfied with Unity.  I went to highschool in the
conservative South and lived in the heart of the Bible Belt for a
time.  I’m fairly critical of much of New Age and New Thought.  I’m
very intellectual and can be frustrated by anti-intellectual
ideologies.  I’ve spent much of my life depressed and can be annoyed
by the manic cheeriness of some New Agers.

I have both an insiders and an outsiders view of New Thought and New
Age.  I meet people online who have just discovered positive thinking
and I have to control myself from expressing my cynicism too strongly.
 I’ve practiced New Thought off and on over the years and I still
believe in it, but I also know of its weaknesses and pitfalls.  What
annoys me about the positive thinking is that many people who discover
it feel they must prosyletize it as if it can answer all of the
world’s problems.  To me, the most important New Thought principle is
acceptance and not optimism.  Plus, I distinguish between faith and
optimism… whereas, pop culture positive thinking downplays faith or
limits it to personal psychology.

Even though all of these ideas and experiences have made me who I am,
I don’t label myself as New Age or New Thought.  I believe that there is
much truth in these traditions, but I don’t align myself with any
particular tradition… which I suppose is very New Age of me.

Whether or not I’m New Age, there is no doubt I’m a product of this
sub-culture.  I joined Gaia because a part of me very clearly
resonates with this kind of positive thinking community.  Generally
speaking, I like most New Agers as people.  They’re my people and I
understand them.  I’m an INFP which is one of the MBTI types that most
closely fits with a New Age worldview.  I belong to an INFP forum and
I love the place, but the sweet kind pc friendliness would make some
people vomit.

This blog is posted in the God Pod.

Access_public Access: Public 25 Comments Print Post this!views (463)  

16 minutes later

Enlightened.thinker said

Your last sentence is a riot! People cannot seem to tolerate people who are kind, sweet and friendly as they must have some agenda! NOT!

I love this differentiation blog and find it well explained here Ben. I grew up New England Congregational church and taught Sunday School. We did not have an angry God, he was a loving one. After many years, I was attracted to astrology, then more new thought ideas. And growing up in New england was pretty liberal..then at 33 I moved to Virginia, where Edgar Cayce and other readings opened up my mind to reincarnation and other ideas. And the other side was the bible beaters on the street corner espusing an angry God. Who was he? No one I knew!

I attended Unity in Florida and liked it, and also learned about Native American nature thought, and psychic and other new age ideas. I was in heaven. Moving to Texas burst the bubble. I was immediately contacted by every yahoo to come to their church. Churches are on every corner and the biggest one in Houston is Osteens church of 55K members. No thanks. They talk tithing only half the time.

From this space I returned to school for my masters and was taught comparative religions, and loved it! Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam were all taught and I read all the sacred text. I also attended and enjoyed Science of Mind, which is NOT Scientology. They have a daily word too…The Science of Mind Treatment magazine. It is good, but still refers mostly to Christianity. I love Buddhist ideas…and like to pick and choose my beliefs.

I chose zaadz because after living back in New England, I was starving for connections with like minded folks. I have no agenda to change anyones perceptions about anything…I just plain love the energy exchange!

So, as an older woman, I am vitally pleased you have found your “place” as a younger person, and can articulate it so well and bring a piece of your ideas to this forum. I wish I knew half of what you know when I was your age, but then maybe it was not the time for me to know. Just as teaching did not occur in my life until I was 44 and it was at the right time.space/place.

Thanks Ben…your feelings are like mine and I hate labels too…and titles. That is why I will not become a Gaia Ambassador, even though I already do the job of one on a daily basis.

Blessings to you!
Aley

20 minutes later

Centria said

Ha ha, Ben, the sweet kind pc friendliness would make most people vomit!  This sounds like we’re getting back to a “care bears” discussion….  I actually have a bit of trouble with the positive you-can-make-things happen ideology.  Although a part of me loves it.  I think it’s both/and.  We can make things happen, and we can’t.  Because it’s not just us.  It’s our thoughts and intentions, as well as the Universe’s.  which is why I like it that you argue with “God”.  Actually, the term “God” sometimes makes me want to vomit.  I prefer terms like The Universe, The All, the Self….just because the pre-conceived ideas of God are so darn limiting at times.  so about the time I can’t stand the term God, I start using it all the time, just because.  Although I don’t like the term New Ager, either.  Come to think of it, is there any term I like?    Good question….thanks for this, Ben!

Marmalade : Gaia Child

32 minutes later

Marmalade said

Thanks for commenting.  I have to go to work right now, but I’ll respond later tonight.

Bye bye!  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 4 hours later

Nicole said

hey Ben, i hate labels too…. little tiny boxes that people try to stuff you into, so cramped and uncomfortable in there i just won’t stay! 🙂

enjoy work :):)

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 10 hours later

1Vector3 said

Hi Ben, I got onto Notifications of your blogs, yippeee !!!

You connected a lot of dots for folks, and I also enjoyed learning more about your personal journey and approaches !!

I have touched into most of those “dots,” too, and now feel that I am not only outside the box, but the box isn’t even visible anymore, hahahaha !!!!!

The distinction that most interests me if it comes to my attention is the differentiation between Unity and Science of Mind (Church of Religious Science.) For example, there is a real anti-energy-healing bias in SOM, which seems less so in Unity, though one might expect vice versa.

Rather than just say Yes Yes yes Yes, and yes again to your many good points, I’ll add a slight deviation or two. I have not been to Landmark, but did several others in that genre, like Context Trainings. They were good at the time, for my development. I have a bunch of friends who have found great value in Landmark, and are not at all into it as a “cult,” and that is perhaps too strong a word, but I too dislike quite a few of their internal methods AND their marketing approach.

BTW “barf” is an easier word to not trigger the vivid imagination……

There are exceptions, but within New Thought and New Age, as in Christianity in general and rampantly in the Eastern religions, I often get the sense that one is supposed to strive for some kind of “connection” with God or Jesus, but heaven forbid you should tell anyone you have achieved it, they would accuse you of all kinds of pride and ego !!! Also Unity is shot through with what Wilber calls “dualistic thinking” – God is very much alive and well OUTSIDE of oneself – and I can no longer resonate much with it; I just get annoyed. SOM less so, but still.

I can’t even begin to talk about the notions of creating your own reality and positive thinking, that would end up being a book…… I won’t even start. Suffice to say I am as usual a heretic wrt any other known system of thought…..

Nor will I venture into the fascinating discussion about the word “God.” I use it for a shorthand, but am writing even now a piece about how in the question or statement, “IS there a God?” only the word IS has any meaning whatsoever !!!!!!

Aley, I enjoyed reading about your personal journey too. Touched most of those dots, too, in my long life.

Thanks for mentioning the Transcendentalists. I think they are amazingly neglected and greatly worth exposing oneself to as part of one’s religious and philosophical education. Can’t say I have done that yet, but based on all the snippets I have read of Ralph Waldo Emerson, sounds as if one would have to consider him as an enlightened human. Extremely amazing stuff, that guy said !!!!!

Looking forward to Part II.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 10 hours later

Marmalade said

Aley,
bible beaters – Is that like a wife beater?  🙂

Moving to Texas burst the bubble.
A bit like when I moved to the middle of the Bible Belt in North Carolina.  I worked a few summers at a YMCA camp and it was very conservatively Christian.  Most of the Christians I met there were nice, but it was a culture shock.  In particular, I dated a local girl and her parents were some of the most backward Christians I’ve met in my life.

the biggest one in Houston is Osteens church
I’ve read a bit about Joel Osteen.  An interesting phenomena.

I also attended and enjoyed Science of Mind, which is NOT Scientology. They have a daily word too…The Science of Mind Treatment magazine.
For a short while as a kid my family attended a Scienc of Mind church, but my memories of it are vague.  My Grandmother (who introduced my parents to Unity and to A Course In Miracles) was trained in giving Science of Mind Treatments.  Unfortunately, she died when I was very young and I never got to know her. 

So, as an older woman, I am vitally pleased you have found your “place” as a younger person, and can articulate it so well and bring a piece of your ideas to this forum.  Everyone finds their own way in life.  I don’t know that I’ve found my “place”, but I can at least articulate whatever place I’ve found myself in. 

I wish I knew half of what you know when I was your age, but then maybe it was not the time for me to know.
I know what I know because I’ve done very little else with my life other than learning.  I don’t have a career and I only work 3/4 quarter time at a job that allows me to read at work; I’m not married and I have no kids; I don’t travel much and I have no time consuming hobbies.  All I’ve done for the last 15 yrs of my life is buy books and read them.  So, I have knowledge, but I don’t have much else.  You get what you invest your time in.  But for me it wasn’t exactly a choice I made.  I was simply drawn to learning and so that is what I did… and now here I am.

Just as teaching did not occur in my life until I was 44 and it was at the right time.space/place.
Yeah, a lot can change in life.  I could be doing all kinds of things when I’m 44 or I might just still be doing the same thing.

your feelings are like mine and I hate labels too…and titles. That is why I will not become a Gaia Ambassador, even though I already do the job of one on a daily basis.
My problem is I just can’t ever find a label that fits me.  I’m too much an individual and I don’t want to try to fit in with a group identity or to play a specific role.  I just want to be me.  So, I probably won’t ever become a Gaia Ambassador either.

Centria,
I actually have a bit of trouble with the positive you-can-make-things happen ideology.  Although a part of me loves it.  I think it’s both/and.  We can make things happen, and we can’t.  Because it’s not just us.  It’s our thoughts and intentions, as well as the Universe’s.
Sounds like my perspective.  Yes, its not just us.  And its the fact that we’re more complex than our conscious thoughts and idealized intentions.  Once you start taking a participatory viewpoint seriously, normal causation starts breaking down.  What makes sense to me is the Buddhist idea of Dependent Co-arising.  So, the world may manifest out of mind, but if so it isn’t my individual mind.

Actually, the term “God” sometimes makes me want to vomit.  I prefer terms like The Universe, The All, the Self….just because the pre-conceived ideas of God are so darn limiting at times.  so about the time I can’t stand the term God, I start using it all the time, just because.
My view of the divine feels most in line with the inclusive monotheism of Hinduism.  Hinduism allows for one to worship any particular deity or set of deities, and their gods aren’t jealous.  Inclusive monotheism sees all gods as aspects of one God (which is similar to Islam).  On top of this, Hinduism has many other theological viewpoints that more or less peacefully co-exist.  So, a Hindu can even switch from worshipping a personal God to worshipping an impersonal principle and they don’t have to switch traditions.  I like this kind of complexity.  It fits my ambiguous sense of the divine.

Nicole,
i hate labels too…. little tiny boxes that people try to stuff you into, so cramped and uncomfortable in there i just won’t stay! 🙂
Yep, labels are just convenient ways of thinking about things, approximations of reality.  But labels never perfectly fit.  In the end, experience trumps all.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 10 hours later

1Vector3 said

Great commentary.

The tiniest of comments: The classic term is, I think, Bible thumpers.

Experience trumps all. That’s kinda quotable. I like it !!

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Om,
The distinction that most interests me if it comes to my attention is the differentiation between Unity and Science of Mind (Church of Religious Science.) For example, there is a real anti-energy-healing bias in SOM, which seems less so in Unity, though one might expect vice versa.

It is useful to compare those two.  I know of SOM in a more indirect manner, but my sense is that they have a more clear set of beliefs and practices.  OTOH, Unity seems more open to different beliefs and practices.

I have not been to Landmark, but did several others in that genre, like Context Trainings. They were good at the time, for my development. I have a bunch of friends who have found great value in Landmark, and are not at all into it as a “cult,” and that is perhaps too strong a word, but I too dislike quite a few of their internal methods AND their marketing approach.

I have a friend who is really into Landmark.  He is one of my closest friends, but I must admit I like him less when he is in Landmark mode.  He is much more relaxed, compassionate, and genrally more friendly when not in Landmark mode.  He finds great value in it, and I understand that its been helpful for him. 

I still think that the methods used by Landmark are morally questionable.  Landmark isn’t a cult, but its the closest thing to a cult that I’ve ever personally come across.  Basically, its as cult-like as you can get without precisely being a cult.  Landmark has a very manipulative style of getting people involved.  You just can’t know what its like until you’ve been in a Landmark forum and had the full force of the Landmark followers turned upon you.  Its overwhelming.  That is how it works.  It breaks down a person’s normal psychological defenses, but that is also how brainwashing works.  Its a thin line.

There are exceptions, but within New Thought and New Age, as in Christianity in general and rampantly in the Eastern religions, I often get the sense that one is supposed to strive for some kind of “connection” with God or Jesus, but heaven forbid you should tell anyone you have achieved it, they would accuse you of all kinds of pride and ego !!! Also Unity is shot through with what Wilber calls “dualistic thinking” – God is very much alive and well OUTSIDE of oneself – and I can no longer resonate much with it;

I understand what you’re saying, but this doesn’t bother me. 

I see the experience of divine as Other as being a valid and real human experience… which isn’t to argue about the theology of what that experience means.  How I see it is that God is as real or unreal as I am and as the world is, and God is as external as the world is.  From one perspective, my sense of an internal self and my sense of an external world are both false.  Reality isn’t as we perceive it. 

God is by definition non-rational and our longing for an Other is non-rational.  There is nothing that can be directly said about it from a rational perspective, and that is just the way it is.  You can call it a false view or a less developed view, but those are rational judgements of a non-rational experience. 

It also doesn’t bother me if you say that you’ve achieved it.  I can’t say that it sounds any more rational.  But if that is your experience, then there isn’t much that I can say that would be meaningful.  I really have no clear opinon about any of this.

The “dualistic thinking” part is something that has been on my mind.  I’ve been reading about binary oppositions (in Structuralism, Deconstructionism, and Postructuralism) and their relationship to concepts such as liminal and anti-structure.  The author I’m reading (George P. Hansen) also discusses the numinous which relates to the experience of divine as Other.

Nor will I venture into the fascinating discussion about the word “God.” I use it for a shorthand, but am writing even now a piece about how in the question or statement, “IS there a God?” only the word IS has any meaning whatsoever !!!!!!

I would agree but with some addition.  The same goes for any similar question… “IS there a Human?” and “IS there a Ben?” and “IS there a Reality?”   So, yes, only the word IS has any meaning because the IS refers to experience rather than categroies. 

Abstract categories tend to fall into binaries.  But dualistic thinking isn’t exactly the problem because our minds seem designed to think this way.  The problem is when dualistic thinking becomes black and white, and when any particular dualism becomes absolute.  Also, the privileging of one side of a binary opposition is a major issue.

Looking forward to Part II.

And I’m looking forward to your piece about the subject of IS.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 14 hours later

Nicole said

and you used to worry about your blogs not being discussed! now you can hardly keep up… isn’t it great! :):)

Yes, I think we are wired for binary, though we are analog beings 🙂 but as you say it is not a problem per se… i try to remember strengths are weaknesses and weaknesses strengths, and so it is with many opposities – just two sides of the same coin. embracing reality in its fullness and enjoying it all…

i liked very much when you were describing your life of learning and learning… it is a privileged one for such a curious cat as yourself… and you seem so contented in it. but who knows what is around the corner. isn’t it fun?

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Nicole, I think your correct to point out that we’re analog beings.  In thinking, we seem forced into binary distinctions no matter how subtle.  But in our general experience we naturally fall into an analog way of being.  The book I’m reading right now points this out.  The Trickster archetype tends towards the concrete rather than the abstract, and the Trickster is wont to blur the binary divisions of abstract thought.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

About Landmark, I was being a bit critical of them.  I know that many people have been helped by Landmark, but even so I don’t know if I’d directly recommend it to anybody.  If someone was interested, I’d recommend they research it thoroughly first and retain their objectivity while in the forum.  Take what is useful from it and discard all else, but beware that this isn’t what someone involved with Landmark would recommend.  From a Landmark perspective, you only get out of it what you put into it which translates that you must immerse yourself in it without questioning.  Personally, I would entrust my mind to Landmark.

I do believe that Landmark could be risky for someone who wasn’t perfectly balanced mentally.  An interesting thing was since I’ve been diagnosed with depression my therapist had to sign a consent form to allow me to participate.  For someone who was having troubles in life and was looking for answers, such a person could become as pulled into Landmark as they would with an Evangelical church.  What I was surprised by Landmark was how evangelical it was by which I mean how much they encourage prosyletizing.

Sometime I’d like to blog about Landmark, the good and the bad.  There is quite a bit of info out there on the web.  I researched it before attending my Landmark Forum, and I admit that some of the things I read made me feel a bit wary.  If my very good friend hadn’t gone along with me, I might not have gone at all.  Landmark is one of those organizations that tends to polarize people.  Some practically have conversion experiences and others feel that Landmark really messed with their head.

Whatever Landmark is, its certainly interesting.  As it was inspired by EST which was supposedly even more intense, I can’t even imagine what that would’ve been like.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

very interesting about Landmark, food for thought… and that’s cool to know about the Trickster, such a fascinating archetype – do you have a favourite incarnation? Culturally appropriate ones for me are Anansi the Spider Man and Brer Rabbit LOL! I grew up loving those stories…

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

3 days later

1Vector3 said

Sorry I can’t contribute more to your blog than this one thought right now.

I was trying to be as generous and tactful as I could about Landmark, but my friends who have “immersed” themselves in it, even the one who has since split with them, can sometimes get into what I call the “Landmark Robot” mode when they are facilitating groups in other settings, and it is not pleasant to be on the receiving end of.

They are steamrollering, disrespectful, even encouraging of people to violate their own integrity. They have no empathy, they are inconsiderate. Their faces and voices get hard and harsh and remote and unreachable and unalterable, in that Landmark mode. Normally, these are people who are the opposite in their daily lives. So I have to consider the “Landmark Robot” to be something that got programmed in and they accepted it.

They THINK they are being helpful, not letting people get away with their usual games, encouraging stepping out of comfort zones, but I see them running roughshod over people, being juggernaughts.

Not the way I would choose to help someone change/grow.

For those who need a kick in the posterior, perhaps it works fine. I have other friends whose lives have really opened up from doing the Landmark series….. But it seems to lack subtlety, and be a “one size fits all” approach to changing people.

I have not been through it, but as I said, I did Context Trainings, more than once, and that’s a sibling.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Nicole – So, do I have a favorite incarnation of the Trickster archetype? 

I’m not sure I have a favorite exactly, but there are some I’m more familiar with.  I’m fairly familiar with Mercurius because Jung wrote much about Alchemy, but I might be more familiar with Hermes as I come across Greek mythology more often.  I do know the stories of Loki and I know some of the stories of Native American Tricksters.  I’m probably the least familiar with the African Tricksters.

Which are my favorite?  Hmmm…

Well, the Native American Tricksters are some of the most amusing, but I don’t personally connect with them.  The Native American Tricksters are nice to study about because there is a lot of info available.  The stories seem amusing on the surface, but they related to dark magic.  There is something very primal and grotesque about some of the Native American Tricksters, and I don’t know what to make of them.

I find Loki fascinating, but there isn’t enough info about him to have a good sense of what he represented when he was a living myth.  I like how he plays such a central role in Norse mythology, and how even the other gods have great respect for him.

I have to say that Mercurius and Hermes are my favorites, and the two are closely related.  They both have the seeming darker side of the Trickster, but they also show the Trickster’s other side which isn’t obvious in many other incarnations.  The Trickster does represent change in all its forms which includes injury, death, and theft… but it also includes spiritual transformation.  The Trickster isn’t just a clever buffoon.  The Trickster is also the redeeming psychopomp and this is where he shares territory with other redeemer incarnations such as Jesus.  I’m most interested in where the Trickster and Redeemer meet within the same incarnation.

Hermes is probably my most favorite because of his relationship to Apollo and Dionysus.  The latter two seem to be mythological forerunners to the Christ story.  Jesus uses the same or similar symbolism as Dionysus and they’re both twice born godmen who challenge earthly authority figures.  But Jesus took on many of the characteristics of Apollo: solar logos, heavenly being, healer, etc.  Of Apollo and Dionysus, the second is more of the Trickster and this makes sense as he was put under the protection of Hermes as an infant.

Unity prefers the Apollonian Heavenly Christ, but I prefer the Dionysian Earthly Jesus.  I find it strange that people invoke Jesus as a preserver of order.  Afterall, he overturned tables in the temple, and he told people to give their money away and to let the dead bury the dead.  Jesus was a Trickster all the way through.  He was constantly challenging authority and defying expectations.  Jesus was clever and witty in his words.  Jesus spoke in concrete parables and expressed his emotions freely.  Also, Jesus embraced suffering which is a major theme of the Trickster, and he acts as pschopomp (like Hermes was also a shephard).

So, maybe Jesus is my favorite Trickster.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

OM, you hit the nail on the head.  What bothers me isn’t Landmark the organization, but rather Landmark the mindset.  I don’t like aggressive and manipulative people, but of course a Landmark person just sees it as being assertive.  The other thing is that Landmark teaches techniques and I don’t like the feeling of someone using a technique on me instead of just relating to me as a person.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

Hermes… yes, I have loved him in the way you say, as psychopomp as well as trickster. and you’re right, Jesus must be my favourite Trickster too. The parables were deliberately tricky to understand at times, he was very emotive and yes, a shepherd too… fascinating… not at all a preserver of order, rather constantly challenging authority. even the way he chose to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is not usually underlined by the conservatives – getting a coin out of a fish’s mouth isn’t really paying taxes on income 🙂

Amazume : Pure Light Combustion

4 days later

Amazume said

Hmmmm, great discussion and musings. Just listening in here. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and journeys. Thank you Ben, for creating this space to share.  I agree whole heartedly with OM that ”experience trumps all” is quotable, and with everyone who likes to avoid labels. Labels indeed are toxic.

People have asked me ‘what my children are’ within an ‘interfaith marriage’, of parents who grew up on completely different continents (one in Africa, one in Europe). If people insisted, as they were frantically looking to wrap their busy minds around something, I opted with a big smile: “I suppose you could say my kids are mutts”. Still sometimes people would not give up and tell me “you have to choose for your kids sake”. I am so very glad I did not. As I have come into my own experience, my kids have too. I am with Kahlil Gibran to allow my kids to have their own thoughts, although mass media has a whole other agenda, and I’m doing my darndest to minimize that influence.

Also, I enjoy shopping around in the different flavors and colors of what God, Goddess, the Divine experience looks like. Never really buying into any established belief system, yet really open and eager to experience truth. This happens a lot when I’m in a zone, working with clients doing energy work. People who have passed on show up sometimes, and even Jesus, and Mary. Atheists could argue these images could be figments of my client’s imagination I picked up, yet experience has taught me that what you can imagine is true.

😉

Marmalade : Gaia Child

4 days later

Marmalade said

Howdy Amazume!

Your way of raising your kids sounds healthy to me.  My parents are pretty conservative and have strong opinions about many things, but even so they let me make up my own mind and make my own mistakes.  🙂

I do sense there is a truth to what may appear as mere imagination.  Nonetheless, I’m a questioning kind of guy and so I can’t help but wonder what kind of truth it may be.  I personally have never had a vision of Jesus or anything similar.  But if I did have such an experience, I’d tentatively accept it for what it was… oh, who am I kidding… I’d analyze to death.  :):)

I have had strange experiences and its hard to know what to make of them.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

of course you’d analyse to death! that’s what you do best – hug.

amazume, great to see you here and hear your thoughts…

Amazume : Pure Light Combustion

5 days later

Amazume said

Hi Ben, and Nicole,

Thanks for your responses. I too can wear that analytical hat and enjoy it. Yet, I have learned not to explain away the magic. Some questions are simply answered by: where there is love, there is no question.

😉

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

5 days later

Marmalade said

Hi Amazume,

I’m not for explaining away the magic.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I tend to have more questions than answers.  I don’t feel my intellectuality and my sense of wonder are in conflict.  When I’m most engaged with contamplating something, my sense of wonder directs and inspires my intellect.  I think in terms of possibilities.

where there is love, there is no question.

I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I might have to part ways with you on that one.  I love questions.  So, for me, where there is love, there are questions because my questioning is fueled by wonder.  Love need not be an answer.  My purpose for questioning isn’t to find conclusive answers.   Related to this viewpoint is my attitude that doubt strengthens faith, and so my faith is defined by my ability to be open to doubt.

Also, questiong for me is a simple matter of my having an insatiable curiosity.  Questioning is my normal mode of being.  My mom says I was asking philosophical questions when I was a little kid.  Plus, I have a love of learning and a strong idealization of truth.  I want to know about the world, about people, about God.  My studying is my spiritual practice.

Still, I might understand what you’re pointing at.  There are moments where my mind becomes quiet and empty, and not even wonder disturbs it. 

Nicole : wakingdreamer

5 days later

Nicole said

i can just imagine the kinds of questions you asked as a kid! 🙂

love may be an answer, it may be a question, it may be so many things… love is so complex, life and people are complex…

Amazume : Pure Light Combustion

7 days later

Amazume said

Hi Ben,

You say: ”I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I might have to part ways with you on that one.  I love questions

I do too! So no need to part ways here 😉

There are moments where my mind becomes quiet and empty, and not even wonder disturbs it.” Exactly! At moments like that one can feel completely at one with all there is. At such moments the (energy) body becomes one with the frequency of a love vibration, and it simply is so fulfilling that no question will even come up.

And yes, please do keep your sense of wonder, which often is a great portal to those moments of blissful stillness.

😉

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

7 days later

1Vector3 said

Interesting similarities! Among my descriptions of my experience of that state, or what might be the same state, is

“There are no answers, because there are no questions.”

But for me it has the sensation of fullness, even while there is that emptiness/absence of all seeking, of all searching, of all movement toward anything, of any sense of incompleteness or unknowing.

Blessings, OM Bastet

7 days later

Centria said

OM, I just wrote a poem about qestions and answers on my blog:  http://eternalquestion.gaia.com/blog/2008/7/questions_and_answers
I LOVE that line you just wrote  “There are no answers, because there are no questions.”
Dear Ben, thank you for facilitating this rich discussion! 

I love so much how you express yourself.  🙂

Integral… ?

Integral… ?

Posted on Jul 17th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
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Philip K. Dick — Gnostic Prophet of Science Fiction

Philip K. Dick — Gnostic Prophet of Science Fiction
By Dr. Hoeller 

In his best work “Valis” and its two companion volumes, “The Divine Invasion” and “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer”, the late Philip K. Dick develop a strangely Gnostic vision. In this 73 minute lecture, Dr. Hoeller discusses P. K. Dick, his vision,

“But in this dark world where he now dwelt…”

I’m in the process of reading again The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen.  In a recent discussion with Quentin S. Crisp, I was mentioning how Derrick Jensen is more depressing than even Thomas Ligotti. 

The more I think about it, though, their two views do seem to resonate to a degree.  Jensen is an environmentalist and writes about environmentalism.  Ligotti, although not an environmentalist as far as I know, relies heavily on the Zappfe’s philosophy and Zappfe was an environmentalist who inspired the beginnings of deep ecology.

There is one other similarity between the two.  Both take suffering very seriously which I appreciate, but there is a limitation to this.  I don’t know how else to explain this limitation other than to use an example.  Here is a scene from A Scanner Darkly (the video is from the movie and the quote is from the novel):

“There had been a time, once, when he had not lived like this… In former days Bob Arctor had run his affairs differently; there had been a wife much like other wives, two small daughters, a stable household that got swept and cleaned and emptied out daily, the dead newspapers not even opened carried from the front walk to the garbage pail, or even, sometimes, read. But then one day, while lifting out an electric corn popper from under the sink, Arctor had hit his head on the corner of a kitchen cabinet directly above him. The pain, the cut in his scalp, so unexpected and undeserved, had for some reason cleared away the cobwebs. It flashed on him instantly that he didn’t hate the kitchen cabinet; he hated his wife, his two daughters, his whole house, the back yard with its power mower, the garbage, the radiant heating system, the front yard, the fence, the whole fucking place and everyone in it. He wanted a divorce; he wanted to split. And so he had, very soon. And entered, by degrees, a new and somber life, lacking all of that.

“Probably he should have regretted his decision. He had not. That life had been one without excitement, with no adventure. It had been too safe.  All the elements that made it up were right there before his eyes, and nothing new could ever be expected. It was like, he had once thought, a little plastic boat that would sail on forever, without incident, until it finally sank, which would be a secret relief to all.

But in this dark world where he now dwelt, ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wondrous thing spilled out at him constantly; he could count on nothing.

 ~ Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (the book)

The last sentence is particularly what I had in mind as being a contrast to that of Jensen and Ligotti.  I’ve written before comparing Ligotti with PKD(Burroughs, PKD, and Ligotti, PKD Trumps Harpur and Ligotti).  There are certain similarities: both are mainly fiction writers who also wrote extensively about philosophical ideas, both willing to look unflinchingly at the sources of human suffering.  But the difference is that PKD expresses an endless sense of curiosity, wonder, awe (see: PKD, ACIM, and Burroughs, PKD on God as Infinity).

I just love the way he describes this sense of reality: “ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wondrous thing spilled out at him constantly…”  That is beautiful.  It’s this kind of verbal expression that inspires my desire to write.

I’ve had many experiences that have touched me deeply, and they’re always at the back of my mind.  Even though I’ve rarely written about them, I strongly desire to write about them.  There are several things that hold me back.  First, they’re experiences that are a bit on the uncommon side.  Second, I don’t feel capable of of fully describing them in words, of capturing that actual in-the-moment experience.

Let me just mention some of them briefly so that you’ll have an idea of what I speak of:

  • Dream – In general, dreams are perplexing to write about.  One particular dream was of a theatre where spirits would come and go, but when the spirits were present the theatre transformed into a vast desert landscape.  The experience of it was profound and mysterious.  More than any other, this dream has always stuck with me.
  • Psychedlic – I experimented with drugs in my 20s.  I only did mushrooms once, but they really blew me away.  I felt the whole world alive, breathing in unison, and the field was shimmering like that scene from Gladiator.  Concepts such as ‘animism’ or panentheism are just interesting philosophies until you experience them.
  • Spiritual – In some ways, the most haunting experiences I’ve had happened while fully awake and when no drugs were involved.  There was a period of my life where depression, spiritual practice, and a broken heart all came together.  At the bottom of this suffering, I came across a truly incomprehensible experience of life, almost a vision.  It was a unified sense of the world that was both absolutely full and utterly empty.  My response to it was at times a sense of loneliness but it was an intimate loneliness that transcended my individuality.  It was a presence that wasn’t my presence.  It just was whatever it was.

Any of those experiences are probably meaningless to anyone who hasn’t had similar experiences.  Of course, they are far from meaningless to me.  Each individual experience is meaningful to me in that they’ve all influenced me.  I can even now viscerally remember these experiences.  More importantly, these experiences together are meaningful because they remind me of my sense of wonder.  The world is a truly strange place.

The animistic visions I’ve had particularly give me a sense of wonder on a daily basis.  I can to some degree shift my perception into an animistic mode.  I can put my mind into that sense of anticipation where the whole world feels like it’s on the verge of becoming something entirely else. 

This animistic sensibility combines both PKD’s gnostic revelation and the shamanistic worldview.  Much of PKD’s writing conveys a sense of paranoia.  I think this modern sense of paranoia is essentially the same thing as the premodern shamanistic view of the natural world.  The suffering of life is more than mere biological horror, more than mere existential angst.  The darkness isn’t empty.  There are things out there unseen that aren’t human.  The world is alive with intelligences.  The seeming empty spaces have substance.  We aren’t separate from the world.  Our skin doesn’t protect us from invasion.  Most of that which exists is indifferent to humans, but some things may take interest.  When we look out at the world, the world looks back.

We modern humans bumble our way through the world oblivious to all that surrounds us.  The police protect us.  Various public and private institutions make sure our daily lives run smoothly.  We generally don’t think about any of it… until something goes wrong.  The indigenous person lived differently than this.  A tribal person depended on themselves and others in their tribe to take care of everything.  If you’re walking through the wilderness, you have to pay attention in order to remain alive.  The possibility of death is all around one.  Death is a much more common event for hunter-gatherers.  When someone is injured or becomes sick, there is no emergency room.

This seems rather scary to a modern person.  However, to the indigenous person, this is simply the way one lives.  If your life had always been that way, it would feel completely normal.  You simply know the world around you.  Being aware would be a completely natural state of mind.  All of the world can be read for the person who knows the signs.  Just by listening to the calls of birds you can know precisely where the tiger is, and you simply make sure you’re not in that same place.

The problem is that I’m not an indigenous person and I’m definitely no shaman.  I at times can see something beyond normal perception, but I don’t know how to read the signs.  If you go by polls, most people have experienced something weird in their lifetime.  The weird is all around us all of the time.  We just rarely think about it.  And when we do notice it, we usually try to forget about it as quickly as possible.

Yes, Jensen is correct about how humans victimize one another, is correct about how civilization is destroying all life on earth.  And, yes, Ligotti is correct about how humans are paralyzed by suffering, is correct that all of human culture arose as a distraction from this primal horror.  Yes, yes, yes.  Even so, there is something beyond all of that.

Quentin S. Crisp’s Metta and the Lord’s Prayer

Here is my response to Quentin S. Crisp’s post Metta:

I’ve read about Buddhism and I’ve practiced various forms of meditation, but for whatever reason that line of spirituality never fully engaged me.  However, Eastern ideas have heavily informed my worldview.

I was raised in extremely liberal Christianity and so I have no distasteful memories of my Christian upbringing.  I’ve never denied Christianity, but I can’t say that I exactly identify as Christian.  I am, however, culturally Christian.  I’ve studied Christianity to a great degree and it fascinates me on many levels.  On a spiritual level, I am drawn too much within Christianity.

It’s hard for me to identify with modern mainstream Christianity as I was raised in counterculture Christianity and so I have an affinity to the early Christians kicked out of mainstream Christianity by the heresiologists.  There is an element within Gnosticism that was picked up by the alchemists and the kabbalists which saw spirituality as being a part of this world. 

My own understandings of this are filtered through the scholarship of many authors, but specifically Carl Jung and Philip K. Dick have influenced me the most.  Those two weren’t Christians in the normal sense as their sense of Christianity was influenced by Eastern thought.  Those two also had a very psychological view of religion.

That mixing of Gnosticism, Eastern thought, and psychology captures my own sensibility… and somewhat resembles the Christianity I was raised in.  I understand the impulse towards the other-worldly, but it isn’t in me to think in those terms.  If there are spiritual truths, then they must be relevantly real to me in this time and place.

I don’t worry about being saved or trying to control my ultimate fate.  I just want to understand, to glimpse the world for what it is.  I don’t think there is any final truth, but there are many truths all around us and within us.  I mistrust anyone who believes they have it figured out.

This leads me on to a few things. Well, at least a couple of things. The first of these is that, even after my rejection of Buddhism, I have found myself again recently struggling with what might be described as variant forms of Buddhism that stress something like the indifference of the cosmos to humankind, the worthlessness of humankind, and so on. It seems that there are some who claim the only significant change is a kind of catastrophic enlightenment, which effectively seems to place you outside the rest of the human race in some way. Well, to this I say balls. I assert that even a small change is worth making and that even a small difference is still a difference. Yes, even a difference within the much-derided human identity rather than one that obliterates it.

I’m a bit split here.  I have had spiritual experiences that blew away any normal sense of self.  It at times did feel like a void that potentially could’ve swallowed me, but I survived to tell the tale.  It wasn’t a bad experience though.  It did feel like I was touching upon some profound truth.  The reason why I feel split is because the experience itself (or rather my reaction to it) made me feel split.  I felt simultaneously intimately close to the world (including everyone in it) and infinitely alone (as in singular or somehow without clear distinction).  But it certainly wasn’t inhuman per se.  If anything, it was more than human.  The cosmos can’t be indifferent to mankind if there is no real separation between the two.  Some might want to make this into a vision of light and love, but it wasn’t that either.  It was just a sense of seeing/feeling clearly… both the good and the bad, the joy and the suffering.

Catastrophic enlightenment has always intrigued me.  It’s a tempting idea.  The experience I had was fairly catastrophic, but there is no way I could claim any enlightenment from such catastrophe.  My experience wasn’t, however, so catastrophic as to permanently obliterate my sense of individuality or my sense of the individuality of others.  It actually gave me a deeper appreciation of the interiority of this thing we call humanity.  I think Jung and PKD also sensed something similar (PKD especially was obsessed with the human and inhuman).  The element of relationship was very important in both of their writings, and I think relationship (whether of human ‘love’ or contemplating a rock) when experienced deeply does point to something beyond (the betwixt and between of the Trickster’s territory).

I don’t know if small changes matter in any grand way, but it is true that a small difference is still a difference.  The world consists of nothing other than the small, so small in fact that we don’t even notice it.  Whatever such change may or may not mean, I tend to take a more Daoist approach.  Change is change is change.  I’m waiting for neither apocalypse on earth nor salvation in heaven.  I do sense something in the promise that early Christians/Gnostics spoke of, but I just sense that promise as being an eternally present potential (new eyes to see, new ears to hear).

Actually, I’ve always liked the Lord’s Prayer, but then I have the benefit of not having been brought up within any denomination, and therefore do not see the words as doctrinal:

Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us

Isn’t this just a way – a simple and profound way – of saying, “We’re all imperfect, so let’s call it quits and move on”?

Yeah, I’d probably interpret it that way as well because I grew up with a non-traditional translation from the Aramaic (btw here is an interesting direct translation from the Aramaic).  I also don’t see much of Christianity in doctrinal terms because I’ve researched how much of it originated in pagan philosophy and religion.

The Wikipedia article on the Lord’s Prayer is nice, but the interesting stuff is often in the discussion section:

Parallels in the Lord’s Prayer can be found in Spell 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

This subject has been covered in quite a few texts – please look at what I wish to put forth as an edit and comment on what else it needs.

There are similarities between the Lord’s Prayer and The Judgement of the Dead (Ch.125) in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Similarities in the full text are highlighted and phrases are repeated. The full text is available from here

Janzen, W. “Old Testament Ethics” 1994 Westminster/John Knox Press

Address to the gods of the underworld
Hail, gods, who dwell in the house of the Two Truths.
I know you and I know your names.
Let me not fall under your slaughter-knives,
And do not bring my wickedness to Osiris, the god you serve.
Let no evil come to me from you.
Declare me right and true in the presence of Osiris,
Because I have done what is right and true in Egypt.
I have not cursed a god.
I have not suffered evil through the king who ruled my day.
Hail , gods who dwell in the Hall of the Two Truths,
Who have no evil in your bodies, who live upon maat ,
Who feed upon maat in the presence of Horus
Who lives within his divine disk. 14
Deliver me from the god Baba,
Who lives on the entrails of the mighty ones on the day of the great judgement.
Grant that I may come to you,
For I have committed no faults,
I have not sinned,
I have not done evil,
I have not lied,
Therefore let nothing evil happen to me.
I live on maat , and I feed on maat,
I have performed the commandments of me and the things pleasing to the gods,
I have made the god to be at peace with me,
I have acted according to his will.
I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man,
And clothes to the naked man, and a boat to the boatless.
I have made holy offerings to the gods,
and meals for the dead.
Deliver me, protect me, accuse me not in the presence of Osiris.
I am pure of mouth and pure of hands,
Therefore, let all who see me welcome me,
For I have heard the mighty word which the spiritual bodies spoke to the Cat,
In the House of Hapt-Re, the Open-Mouthed;
I gave testimony before the god Hra-f-ha-f, the Backwards-Face,
I have the branching out of the ished-tree in Re-stau. 15
I have offered prayers to the gods and I know their persons.
I have come and I have advanced to declare maat,
And to set the balance upon what supports it in the Underworld.
Hail, you who are exalted upon your standard, Lord of the Atefu crown,
Who name is “God of Breath”, deliver me from your divine messengers,
Who cause fearful deeds, and calamities,
Who are without coverings for their faces,
For I have done maat for the Lord of maat.
I have purified myself and my breast, my lower parts, with the things which make clean.
My inner parts have been in the Pool of maat.
I have been purified in the Pool of the south,
And I have rested in the northern city which is in the Field of the Grasshoppers,
Where the sacred sailors of Ra bathe at the second hour of the night and third hour of the day.
And the hearts of the gods are pleased after they have passed through it,
Whether by day or by night.

Comparison between the Lord’s Prayer and the Maxims of Ani

The god of this Earth is the ruler of the horizon.
The god is for making great his name. Devote yourself to the adoration of his name.
Give your god existence.
He will do your business.
His likenesses are upon the Earth.
(God) is given incense and food offerings daily.
The god will judge the true and honest.
Guard against the things that god abominates.
Preserve me from decay.
(God) is the king of the horizon.
He magnifies whoever magnifies him.
Let tomorrow be as today.

Acharya S – The Origins Of Christianity And The Quest For The Historical Jesus Christ

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Walker says, “Of all savior-gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era, Osiris may have contributed more details to the evolving Christ figure than any other. Already very old in Egypt, Osiris was identified with nearly every other Egyptian god and was on the way to absorbing them all. He had well over 200 divine names. He was called the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who ‘made men and women to be born again.’ Budge says, ‘From first to last, Osiris was to the Egyptians the god-man who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done. . . . Osiris’s coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris’s star in the east, Sirius (Sothis), significator of his birth. . . . Certainly Osiris was a prototypical Messiah, as well as a devoured Host. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the ‘plant of Truth.’ . . . The cult of Osiris contributed a number of ideas and phrases to the Bible. The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ of the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul to the body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death (the Tuat). The Lord’s Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning. ‘O Amen, O Amen, who are in heaven.’ Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer.

See also:

The Christ Conspiracy by Acharya S

Christ in Egypt by Acharya S, D.M. Murdock

Ancient Egypt, the light of the world by Gerald Massey

Re: Proof for God’s Existence?

Someone pointed out the blog post entitled Proof for God’s Existence? by Mark Tetzlaff.  Here is the beginning of the post:

It is interesting to note that the Bible does not begin with a proof for the existence of God. Instead it simply begins with the premise that God exists and presents God’s testimony to Himself. Why is this?

A model argument consists of a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion. If even one premise is wrong, the argument is useless. An argument based upon premises that are uncertain or unknown is of no value. Therefore, the objective of a rational argument is to use something that is certain to confirm something that is uncertain.

The Bible does not provide us with an argument or proof for God’s existence because in order to do so, there would have to be something more certain than God’s existence with which we could begin our argument. Instead, It presents God’s testimony to Himself recognizing that His testimony is the most reliable testimony possible.

Here are my comments:

No, it doesn’t begin with a premise. It begins with a belief stated as a fact. If you share that belief and all of the implicit beliefs that go along with it, then you will more likely agree with all of the rest of the beliefs that are found in the text. It has nothing to do with premises. No logical argument is being made and so there is nothing to refute.

Anyways, logic isn’t a good model to try to understand the possibility of God. Humans aren’t inherently rational creatures, and especially the relationship of humans too any hypothetical divine being (no matter of what faith) isn’t rational. But even if you’re logical argument was correct, it would apply equally as well to any number of other Gods written about in other holy scriptures.

From another perspective, just look at Judeo-Christian history. There has been endless numbers of interpretation of God. Even limiting the debate to ideas in early Christianity, there was much disagreement. For example, the first Christians to collect and organize the New Testament scriptures were Gnostics (and this earliest Christian Bible excluded the Jewish scriptures). And the first Christians to write commentaries on the New Testament were Gnostics. Guess who were some of the leading figures in the earliest Christian church? Yep, Gnostics.

In the first few centuries, there was a wide variety of opinions. There were Jewish Christians and Christians trying to separate themselves entirely from Judaism. There were the Gnostics and related groups such as the Marcionites and the Coptic Christians. These various groups overlapped and shared many common members at times. The Christian group that grew the fastest and spread the widest early on were the Manichaeans.

It’s not enough to look at a modern translation of an ancient text. You have to understand the social and historical context. I’m all for seeking inspiration when reading holy texts, but the problem is different people will be “inspired” to interpret it differently. Christian history is filled with disagreements about whose inspired interpretation is correct.

Personally, I prefer to study the scholarship and intuit the most probable meaning, but you never can be sure. For sure, I don’t use logic and I don’t assume I’ll be able to prove my personal understanding to anyone else.

All this blog post does is preach to the choir. Anyone who already agrees with your interpretation of the Bible will agree with the conclusions you’ve come to.

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There is nothing specifically wrong with preaching to the choir. Most writings are only read by people who are inclined to agree with the author and this is particularly true in the realm of religious writings.

The problem is that a blog like this is portraying the author’s views as something more than personal understanding… and I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. Sure, be a witness to your own understanding. There is nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, I do enjoy a well explained theological argument, but I don’t think the author succeeded here. It ends up being more of a description of what the author believes rather than a logical explication.

As for absolute reference points, every major world religion claims something different. If only an absolute reference point can be used to evaluate truth, then what do use to evaluate which version of an absolute reference point is correct? You could answer that you know in your own experience and because it’s been revealed to many Christians.

There are two problems.

First, various Christians have claimed to have had many diverse revelations and they don’t all agree. Revelation can’t even be used to ascertain truth within Christianity. If any particular Christian is correct, then all of the other Christians are wrong. How do you know you’re right?

Second, various non-Christians have claimed to have had many diverse revelations and they don’t all agree. Why doesn’t God reveal himself the same to all? Or if these are all false revelations, why doesn’t God reveal their falsity to those people?

I don’t mean any of this as mere criticism. These are important issues. I believe in a balance of faith and rationality, but it’s a tricky balance.

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Rome is a city-state that is gaining power in the Hellenistic world. A group of devout believers arises. They live an ascetic lifestyle. They travel from town to town depending on the kindness of strangers. They preach the ideal of truth and they believe in divine law that applies to all people no matter what nation or culture. They confront authority, and often are met with torture and death. They refuse to fight back violently and peacefully accept their fates. They are the first martyrs recorded in Western history.

Who am I describing? If you answer Christians, you are incorrect. These first martyrs were the Stoics.

The willingness to sacrifice oneself in the name of a higher spiritual truth is the most extreme example of religious certainty. And the Christians didn’t invent it. You can find martyrs in many different religions.

Also, did you notice what the Stoics were willing to die for? It is what is called natural law.

Natural law doesn’t come out of the Jewish tradition. Before the Jews were influenced by Hellenistic culture, they had no concept of natural law. To the early Jews, law was a covenant that applied to a specific group and not to everyone.

Some later Jews (in the centuries before and after the beginning of Christianity) were influenced by Greco-Roman philosophy and theology. Most of these Jews lived in Alexandria (the center of ancient knowledge) where they formed the largest portion of the population at one time. These Alexandrian Jews particularly studied Plato, but also some were initiated in to the Mystery schools. The most famous example was Philo who interpreted the Jewish scriptures Platonically (i.e., allegorically) and many of the earliest Christians also interpeted the Old Testament Platonically (especially the Church Doctors such as Augustine). Genesis was one of the stories that was interpreted Platonically (yes, Plato believed in a supreme first cause).

The Stoics were also a part of this influence that was particularly important to early Christians. Some observers at the time couldn’t tell Stoics apart from the early Christians because both groups looked very similar and both groups acted similarly. Some Stoics even converted to Christianity, and also some early Christians were converted to pagan religions. There was many religious options in the Roman world and much mixing of ideas.

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Not all arguments are circular.  There is different between a theological belief and a logical premise or a scientific hypothesis.  Presuppositional apologetics begins with an assumption, but it’s an assumption that can’t be objectively tested (can’t be objectively proved or disproved), can’t be peer reviewed, can’t be verified by further methodological research, can’t be meta-analyzed.

Science doesn’t depend on any particular belief.  Scientists tend towards particular theories, but scientific history shows that any theory will be dismissed when it no longer fits the facts.

There is an absolute distinction between religion and science.  Most well educated people not using presuppositional apologetics understands this distinction.  To say everything is presuppositional is to project your own thinking on to the whole world.  If you doubt me, take some logic and philosophy classes at a non-Christian college or major in a hard science such as physics.  Great thinkers have written centuries of detailed books explaining these kinds of distinctions.

Anyways, conflating religion and science in no way strengthens religion.  To say all belief is circular is nihilistic.  That isn’t a genuine answer.  That is an apologetic non-answer given to non-believers, a debating tactic rather than a logical argument.  Christians who use presuppositional apologetics don’t actually believe their beliefs are circular.  You can’t win the argument by declaring the argument moot.  If all belief is really circular, then Christianity is a meaningless waste of time.

State your convictions and stand by them.  Don’t try to play these word games.  If you feel God’s presence in your life, then just say so.  But don’t tell other people what they know in their experience.  And don’t define other systems of thought according to Christian ideology.  God is simply a non-issue to science because there is no way to objectively test the hypothesis.  Attacking science doesn’t prove the Christian God nor does it do much of anything else besides.

As for the Stoics, they’re simply a relevant example.  Both natural law and martyrdom originated with Stoics before becoming synthesized in Christianity.  Also, they’re an example of zealous conviction.  The ability of and propensity towards certitude is a universal human trait, but it can’t be objectively observed outside of human nature.

As for Augustine, I merely picked him as a famous example.  But many early Christians interpreted the Jewish scriptures Platonically.  This is very important because there is more than one kind of certainty.  Platonic interpretations doesn’t require intellectual knowledge.  Spiritual or subjective sense of absolute certainty doesn’t contradict nor disprove scientific sense of relative certainty.  Platonic interpretations of Genesis aren’t dependent on presuppositional apologetics nor on the assumption that all belief is circular.  Platonism allows for a wide range of interpretations rather than a singular literalistic interpretation.

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I’m no longer commenting in that discussion thread now, but I wanted to add some further responses here.  Matthew Ervin responded to me with these two comments:

First, I actually have a Bachelor’s Degree in philosophy from Ohio University where I was also a logic tutor. My advanced work was done in and continues to be done in a seminary. What Benjamin has done here is resort to ad hominem (google that Ben). His arguments are non sensical because he doesn’t deal with the heart of the post, rather on generally attacking religious thought. He comes across like he has an axe to grind.

p.s. education is irrelevant when it comes to arguing. Arguments should stand on their own. However, that’s all that Ben seems to prize.

I must admit that is truly sad.  He has some higher education in philosophy and he resorts to sophistry.  I guess it makes sense.  Someone well educated in logic knows how to manipulate it to their own conclusions.  At least, he earned his verbal gymnastic skills honestly, but it’s too bad he doesn’t put them to a moral use.  I think he would’ve been better off having done his advanced work in a non-
Christian school where the kind of bullshit he is trying to sell wouldn’t have been accepted.

Education irrelevant to arguing?  Utter nonsense.  This is just his rephrasing his argument that science is based on faith rather than evidence.  This is misinformed garbage.  Arguments can stand on their own in that an argument can be logically consistent, but if it isn’t based on evidence (which is where education comes in) then it’s just empty words.

I don’t care about formal education per se although it can be helpful, but even formal education can be used for intellectually unrespectable purposes (such as how logic is taught for the purposes of apologetics at a Christian school).  What I prize is the desire to be educated rather than the desire to embrace sophistry and misinformation.  I prize intelligence and insightfulness.  I prize critical thinking skills and intellectual humility.  None of these are to be found in over-abundance in his comments.