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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 3 – Theological reasons

Soufrière Catholic Church

Soufrière Catholic Church (Photo credit: waywuwei)

Theological reasons

Sociologists and philosophers, alike, say that Catholicism creates and legitimizes “truth claims.” The idea of a truth claim provides a good way to talk about beliefs without necessarily advocating or dismissing them.

Most non-Catholics will say that Catholic truth claims are not eternal but, rather, culturally and politically motivated—that is, relative truths. And some non-Catholics believe that all Catholic teachings are Satanic. These people often describe the Church as “The Whore of Babylon” or use some other shocking and alarmist, not to mention sexist, epithet.

Infallibility

The idea of Papal infallibility is probably one of the biggest reasons why people dislike Catholicism. But informed Catholics realize that only two Catholic truth claims are deemed infallible. Most others are less authoritative, and merely disseminated as general guidelines for good moral behavior. Many critics of Catholicism are unaware that not all Catholic teachings are said to be eternal, unchangeable truths.

Catholic theologians say the Church’s teachings have various levels of certainty. And Papal infallibility only applies to these two dogmas:

1 – The Blessed Virgin Mary’s sinless birth (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)

2 – Her bodily assumption into heaven (Dogma of The Assumption)

All other Catholic teachings are not infallible.¹ So it’s incorrect believe that all Catholic teachings are infallible when they’re not. True, some Catholics say that infallibility includes all of the Church’s teachings. But I believe these people are misguided. And thankfully, they represent a vocal minority that the majority of sober theologians, Catholic or not, would readily dismiss.

Emblem of the Papacy

Emblem of the Papacy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Papal Authority

For some non-Catholics, even two (allegedly) infallible declarations are good enough reason to dislike Catholicism. From their perspective, Popes are mere pretenders to the throne of truth. So these critics don’t believe in any kind of Papal infallibility, whatsoever. And the fact that only two dogmas are deemed infallible makes no difference. These people simply want none of it.

Christianity as a Stereotype

Another theological reason people dislike Catholicism is based on a misunderstanding and, arguably, unclear thinking.

Many use “Christianity” as a blanket term for all types of Churches, organizations and individuals calling themselves Christian. If I say “I’m a Catholic,” sometimes it’s like waving a red flag in front of people who dislike Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and Televangelists, and who don’t know the difference among different types of Christians. It’s just one big amorphous dislike for all things Christian.

However, differences among Christian denominations (and even among individual believers within each denomination) are significant. In Ireland, for instance, Protestant and Catholic youth gangs engage in violent clashes. And as CNN’s Anderson Cooper has pointed out, some Christians align themselves with the Green movement while others are out to make greenbacks.

Falling Short of the Ideal

People also dislike Catholicism because clergy and churchgoers inevitably fall short of the Christian ideal. Some Catholics criticize and even denounce one another. Mean-minded gossip and talking behind another’s back is not unheard of in Catholicism, even though Jesus teaches us to love one another. As in most spheres of humanity, pettiness and hypocrisy are alive and unwell in Catholicism. Not surprisingly, this can be a huge turn off for non-Catholics.

Counter protesters to the Westboro Baptist Chu...

Counter protesters to the Westboro Baptist Church demonstration at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, on the day of Pope Benedict’s address to the UN General Assembly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Private and Public

With a little probing sometimes it becomes clear that a given Catholic’s private beliefs differ from his or her apparent beliefs as publicly expressed at the Mass. After all, human beings are social animals who normally don’t want to rock the boat. But arguably just as important, most Catholics believe in the necessity of liturgical structure. Structure affords unity and continuity amidst inevitable points of disagreement. So Catholics concealing their own private beliefs are not necessarily being hypocritical at the Mass. They might be respecting the need for structure while perhaps secretly believing in (and doing) their own thing—e.g. engaging in homosexual, premarital or extramarital sex, or practicing birth control.

On the need for structure, learned Catholics point out that the very first Christian disciples disagreed on certain issues (Acts 15: 1-21; Galatians 2: 11-14; 1 Corinthians 3: 1-23). So there’s a need, they believe, to clearly outline a set of teachings to carry the Catholic ship of salvation through all storms of disagreement which likely will arise in centuries to come.

English: Pope Leo XIII guides the ship of God'...

Pope Leo XIII guides the ship of God’s Church. Painting in shrine Kevelaer from Friedrich Stummel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judging a Book by its Cover

Another reason people dislike Catholicism has to do with their perception of being spiritually “alive.” Some non-Catholics say the Catholic Mass looks and feels dead or depressing. To them, Catholic parishioners behave like robots or maybe zombies; they’re victims of a Roman cult, just going through the motions, not really thinking nor believing in what they profess during the Mass.

With few outward signs of ecstatic joy or other grandiose emotional displays, critics wrongly assume that Catholics are spiritually dry and unhappy. These critics have no appreciation for the Catholic possibility of experiencing a high and delicate form of interior sweetness, healing and joy.

By way of contrast, Catholics, especially the more contemplative, may see non-Catholic displays of easily recognizable joy as commendable and perhaps even of Christ. But if possible, these manifestations of the spirit should be subjected to a process of discernment. Generally speaking, discernment aims to determine if spiritual experiences are from God or some other source. More specifically, discernment also tries to distinguish among different spiritual qualities, textures or environments, if you will, to find out if they differ from the sacramental graces conveyed through the Catholic sacraments.

Catholics are instructed to respect most other religions. The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said she “loved” all religions but was “in love” with her own religion. Along these lines, the existence of worldwide Catholic missions speaks volumes. Why would Catholic missions exist if Catholics did not have some reason to believe that their religion was best? And even though they may look dead on the outside, many Catholics base that belief on how their religion makes them feel–on the inside.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus as another teacher

Another theological reason some non-Catholics dislike Catholicism is that Christ is viewed as just another teacher. For these people, Christ is no different from the Buddha or the Hindu god Krishna. They overlook (or don’t know about) the Buddhist denial of a willful God, along with Krishna’s advocacy of physical killing in the Bhagavad Gita.

The view that Jesus is just another teacher often comes from contemporary gnostics, or those interested in gnosticism. These folks cherry pick from various traditions, believing they perceive some higher code or deeper order among them. For them it’s a mistake to insist on Jesus’ uniqueness. And the structured Catholic liturgy just gets in the way of supposedly genuine, gnostic spiritual experience.

In response, the Vatican claims to recognize any truths or partial truths in non-Christian teachings but firmly disagrees with the belief that Buddha or Krishna, for example, are equal to Christ. It’s as simple as that. And it’s doubtful that any politically correct, sugar-coated interfaith dialogue will lessen this firm point of disagreement. From a Catholic standpoint, it’s possible that some non-Catholic critics have yet to reach a point in their spiritual formation to fully appreciate the heavenly body of Christ as conveyed through the sacraments.

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by ...

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary (1714), the Karlskirche, Vienna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary and the Saints

Another theological reason people dislike Catholicism relates to Saint Mary and the remaining Catholic saints. Misinformed Christians often dispute the supposed Catholic ‘paganism’ of praying for the saints’ intercession.

As outlined at Earthpages.ca:

Some Protestants and Fundamentalists believe that Catholics have got it wrong because, so they assert, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. But, quite ironically, many of these very same people freely ask their friends and associates to “pray for them,” which clearly is a request for intercession.

Catholics often reply to this Protestant and Fundamentalist charge by asking, “If we can ask souls on Earth to pray for us, why not souls in heaven?”²

Catholicism clearly outlines its stand on intercession. Asking the saints to pray for us does not elevate them to the status of gods and goddesses, as so many non-Catholic detractors would have it. This is just theologically wrong and an entirely groundless reason for disliking Catholicism.

¹ Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, Illinois: 1974 [1960], Tan Books, pp. 8-10 » See online discussion at socrates58.blogspot.com

² http://earthpages.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/virgin-mary-the-blessed

Copyright © Michael W. Clark, 2014

Introduction « 2 » 3 » 4


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Elements of prophecy – reflections and new directions

The Sibyl (1891), Paul Ranson via Tumblr

Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi film Minority Report (2002) is soon to be re-imagined as a TV series by Fox.

In the original Minority Report three clairvoyants called Precogs (precognitives) spend their days in deep meditation, afloat in water. Their job is to predict murders that could take place in the future. Tom Cruise, a good and honest cop, relies on the Precogs to arrest would-be criminals just before they commit a homicide.

Minority Report puts an interesting twist on the idea of precognition because, in real life, individuals claiming to possess this ability are often treated with suspicion, even derision. But the Precogs’ abilities are highly valued and they are given a kind of eerie reverence.

True and False

As the administrator of Earthpages.org, I’ve met many complex and fascinating seekers, on and offline. Some claim that spirit beings appear or speak to them. Others believe they have seen objects, places or souls during their astral travels. Several allegedly read minds; and some say they’ve had a vision of Christ or the Holy Trinity. And like the PreCogs, others claim to foresee the future.

Dealing with alleged psychics and mind-readers is both rewarding and challenging. If psychic abilities are real, it seems there’s no guarantee they’ll be applied ethically. For instance, those who haven’t dealt with personal pain could take a compensatory turn toward self-aggrandizement.¹

Clearly, some folks do take a wrong turn in the spiritual life, and a few might be repeatedly deceived and paranoid. Interior perception is an exacting process and not everyone does it well.

Leading writers on mysticism like Evelyn Underhill say that sincere mystics strive to be humble and analytical in order to avoid deception by the imagination or by negative spiritual influences (traditionally viewed as “demons,” “tramp souls” and “ghosts”).

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym ...

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym of Thomism. Picture by Fra Angelico (c. 1395-1455). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this is the ideal. In reality, many alleged psychics and prophets seem pretty out to lunch. They speak in such roundabout terms that their predictions could mean a thousand different things. And when flat wrong, some of them just fudge it. False prophecies are quickly swept under the rug or recast as “symbolic” predictions.

Philosophers call this the ad hoc hypothesis or possibly ex post facto reasoning. Rather than openly admitting mistakes (as an honest researcher would) sham mystics do their best to cover them up.

Christian Response

Christian theologians say that genuine prophecy is revealed or infused from a supernatural source. They also tend to believe that God is omnipotent. This means God could use weak and sinful personalities for genuine prophecy, even for a short while. According to this view, one doesn’t have to be a holy guru to be a prophet. For Christians, no one is perfect. And to claim otherwise is misguided.

In Catholicism, personal revelations are called private revelations. Private revelations occurring after the time of Christ are said to add nothing to the faith as defined by the Church. But private revelations declared authentic may have inspirational or cultural value.

Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”²

New Directions

Of course, many modern people question the authority of a traditional religious body that, in he past, has proved to be just as susceptible to temptation and error as anyone else. Historically, the Catholic Church has made gruesome mistakes, only to apologize hundreds of years later.

It’s also entirely possible that even the best of prophets distort their revelations through their unique personalities. That is, they interpret according to who they are at a given moment in history. According to the view, much of the Bible is laced with cultural bias and political infighting. That hardly sounds like the “Word” of God.

Guercino, The Persian Sibyl, 1647-48 via Tumblr

So where does this leave us? And by what standard do sincere seekers judge interior perceptions?

I think the answer might be found in a cross fertilization of psychology and spirituality. Einstein once said “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”³  Perhaps we could adapt that to something like, “psychology without spirituality is superficial, spirituality without psychology is questionable.”

Only then can we move forward to a spirituality suitable for the 21st century and beyond.


¹ Many saints say that vanity and jealousy figure prominently in the spiritual life. The more we open to spiritual realities, the more vulnerable we are to temptation and deception.

² Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 67. Catholic theology looks at prophecy in its own unique way. St. Thomas Aquinas is often cited in Catholic discussions about prophecy. But we’d do well to remember that after having a direct encounter with God, toward the end of his life, Aquinas apparently said his writings were like a “house of straw.”

³ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

Copyright © Michael W. Clark 2014


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The story behind The Bible

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mini review: An Introduction to the Bible by J. W. Rogerson

This introduction to the historical aspects of the Bible should be required reading for every religious person who talks about “The Word” without ever really thinking about what they mean.

Shows how the Bible was put together by (mostly) men over the centuries. God may have overseen the entire process, but the Bible didn’t drop down directly from heaven.

Here’s a freely online revised edition, with minor updates to the original >> https://archive.org/details/J.w.Rogerson-AnIntroductionToTheBibleRevisedEdition

—MC


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Bible verses about motivation for Tough Times

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (March 26, 2010) Chapla...

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 26, 2010) Chaplain Lt. Jason Gregory reads bible verses on the weather deck aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52). Bunker Hill is supporting Southern Seas 2010, a U.S. Southern Command-directed operation that provides U.S. and international forces the opportunity to operate in a multi-national environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By jeramie

A lot of people would surely agree if we say that life is tough. It is always reassuring to read bible verse about motivation for it somehow gives us the strength to continue with whatever it is that we are doing. Anything could happen in our life regardless of how well we lived, like bankruptcy, job loss, divorce, sickness and a lot more. In times that you think the world is going against you, finding hope and inspiration on bible verses is the best thing to do.

We all have difficult times. Do not think that life is unfair for you experience a lot of difficulties. We all have a fair share on the goodness and difficult side of living. If ever faced with a lot of challenges, do not blame God. You could ask God why, but never blame. When you ask why it’s happening to you, try also to ponder on the possible message that God wants you to realize on the problems you encounter.

Despite of all the problems and difficulties you experience, you should never lose faith in God. If you are down, you simply need to read some bible verses to lift you up.  Always remember that God will never abandon you. He will definitely put you to the test, but on the right time, He will be there to save you and bring you comfort. You need to experience difficulties first before enjoying some good times. Experiencing hardships is part of life. It makes life challenging and exciting. Instead of hating the problems that come your way, be more constructive and try to see what this problem could make you realize.

There are times that the hardships we face are simply eye openers. It makes us a better person and realize how wonderful life it. These problems could also make us more creative and responsive. This way, we become a better person. Try to see other people who are deeply troubled and are into a deeper situation than you are. How come they are still able to live their life? It is simply because they have faith.

Every one of us has to realize that we are nothing without God. This is why when dealing with problems; we need to rely on bible verses about motivation. Reading these verses will not only inspire us but would remind us that we have a God who constantly watching us.

The greatest mistake of a lot of people today is they often turn to worldly comfort when faced with problems. This is the reason why these issues are never solved. When problems strike, be strong and hold on to your faith.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/christianity-articles/bible-verses-about-motivation-for-tough-times-7026651.html

About the Author

Need an Article Writer?

Send me an email message: lindsayordaneza@yahoo.com


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Spirituality Advice – Are You Making Any of These 3 Deadly Mistakes in Your Search for Truth?

Image via Tumblr

Author: John

#1 – A closed mind

A closed mind has been defined as one that is stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas and intolerant of the beliefs and opinions of others. A person may incur the handicap of a closed mind because of egoism, due to not having had a liberal education or because of low native intelligence.

In this condition, all incoming knowledge is filtered through a set of rigid beliefs and whatever does not fit is jettisoned. On the other hand, whatever fits in with the habitual belief is swallowed hook, line and sinker – no matter how irrational it may be. This makes the person prone to all kinds of superstition and fears.

It takes a lot of work for a person to become aware of, let alone take off, the blinders of a closed mind. However, reading extensively on many diverse subjects and traveling to experience different cultures and viewpoints would help remedy this mistake so that the person would be better able to apprehend spiritual truth.

#2 – Gullibility

This is very similar to the first mistake. It often occurs because of the human tendency to accept as true whatever we would prefer to be true or what we wish were true. Thus, without question, imaginative speculations are accepted as facts and claims that have no historical or other precedence are taken as valid.

A gullible person is a ready victim of personality cults, miracle claims and purported instant cures. Persons that have a confident, insistent manner of speaking or that are prestigious or who boldly repeat their claims over and over again pose a particular threat to gullible folks.

The remedy for gullibility is the cultivation of a healthy skepticism, so that every outrageous claim or postulation is taken with a pinch of salt. Surely, it is better to be called a doubting Thomas than be an easy victim.

#3 – Mistaking religion for spirituality

Due to the fact that most of us first get introduced to the idea of spirituality through the medium of one religion or another, we associate the two concepts, sometimes to the point of mistaking one for the other.

Briefly, the difference between the two is that while spirituality refers to the quality or condition of showing great refinement and concern with the higher things in life ( in contrast to material things) religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

Some of the dangers of mistaking religion for spirituality are that you never see anyone who is not an adherent of your religion as spiritual; you never agree to eclectically take advantage of beneficial practices that may originate from other religions than yours; you begin to see the doctrines of your religion as facts of spirituality rather than opinions, albeit enlightened, of the leaders of your faith.

To those who mistake religion for spirituality please consider the wisdom contained in this quote from the late eminent Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung:

‘A belief proves to me only the phenomenon of belief, not the content of the belief. This I must see revealed empirically in order to accept it…’

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/spirituality-articles/spirituality-advice-are-you-making-any-of-these-3-deadly-mistakes-in-your-search-for-truth-6879227.html

About the Author

What is the ultimate approach to excellence? Of what relevance is spirituality in your quest for fulfillment and bliss? John D’Silva’s effective-spirituality.com offers insights that would surprise and refresh you. John is happily devoted to helping You unleash Your Spirit of Excellence. Intelligence directs the universe, not chance…


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Into the Future

This is a wonderful segment about time travel from Stephen Hawking’s Into the Universe DVD, which I watched last night. Hawking seems to believe that time travel is possible, but only into the future.

However, I’m wondering if a subtler type of time travel could be possible. Not time travel involving the body but rather, the soul and, by implication, consciousness.

Many religious believers report the experience of feeling heavenly graces. And this feeling differs from say, a runner’s endorphin rush or the physiological responses related to falling in love or eating chocolate (apparently they’re similar).

If the soul/consciousness can feel graces from heaven, then might not it sense other souls in other places and times? I think it quite possible that the soul could sense blissful souls in heaven, tormented souls in hell, along with souls living in the past and in the future. After all, the soul resides in the body but it also differs from the body. And when we die, the soul goes on and on and on. At least, this is what most religions teach.

I loved Hawking’s video and inspiring example but he always seems to fall a bit short when discussing – or should I say ignoring – the spiritual side of life. I imagine it’s because he’s a brainy physicist, hardwired and habituated into thinking long and hard about problems in a primarily conceptual way. He’s no mystic. At least, I don’t think so. If he is, he sure doesn’t seem like one!

You can read more about Hawking’s views here: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/551152-when-people-ask-me-if-a-god-created-the-universe

—MC


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Near-death experiences shed light on views of afterlife

Come-with-us by Gareth via Flickr

By Steve Hammons - originally posted at Joint Recon Study Group

What happens when we die? That question has been around for a long, long time. According to many religions and philosophies, we go to a beautiful place that is closer to God. That is, if we have lived a good life on Earth.

Some people who, through illness or injury, have been clinically dead or near-dead claim to have had what are now commonly called “near-death experiences” or “NDEs.” This phenomenon has been studied by people who sometimes come to different conclusions about what the experiences are.

Is it a spiritual journey to the afterlife? Or, is it biological experience involving the brain that is a sort of hallucination?

THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE

Usually, this experience follows a pattern: The person goes out of their body, often floating above and witnessing the situation. Often, their life flashes before them like a fast movie. Then, they enter what is often described as a “tunnel” that quickly takes them to a place of increasing light – a special and beautiful kind of light.

Upon arrival, they may be greeted by loved ones who have previously passed on. Or, they may meet someone that they did not necessarily know beforehand. The NDE experiencers may have interactions and discussions with these people. Also, typically, but not always, the person reports feelings of great happiness and profound peace.

Finally, the individual learns that this is not their time to pass on and that they are to return to life on Earth. Meanwhile, back where their physical body is located, medical personnel may be working to save them. Or, some other circumstances may be present that allows physical life to continue for this person.

What do these reports from reasonable and apparently sane people mean? Hallucination, neurological and biochemical event? Or, a real trip to the afterlife? Obviously, it is difficult if not impossible to prove either way. At least with the knowledge we have at this time.

Many psychics claim to be able to communicate with people who have “crossed over” to “the other side.” For some, this may be corroborating evidence that the NDE is real. It may be comforting to hear about these accounts because many of us have loved ones who have passed on. And, of course, one day we all will.

Do we just cease to exist? Here today gone tomorrow. Dust to dust.

ANGEL AGENTS

Or, if we do go somewhere, we might wonder about what those good people who have passed on are up to. Are they sitting around playing harps? Have they disappeared as individuals into a larger body of spiritual energy? Are they hanging out in a paradise? Are they working toward graduating to the status of angels or angels-in-training? All of the above?

What about all of our military personnel who pass on in large numbers from the wars past, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do they maintain their military orientation when they pass on? Do they stick with some of their buddies as they get oriented in a new training and operational environment? Can they become part of a special operations force and covert intelligence network that functions from this unconventional operational platform in the afterlife?

Considering all the good people that have passed on over all of the generations and thousands of years, those who lived a full life and those who died young, that could be quite a large and significant force.

How do they feel about what is going on here on Earth? Are they far away, or closer than we might think, separated from us by a thin membrane or veil? Are some of them assigned as “guardian angels,” a sort of case officer for us? Do they whisper in our ear or come to us in our dreams at night? What other activities might they be involved in that affect Earth?

It is interesting for many of us to ask these kinds of questions and think about these things once in a while. It is the bigger picture. Maybe some of it is wishful thinking. Yet, we on Earth obviously could use some extra help. It is comforting to think that there might be angels and covert Heavenly special ops intelligence agents behind the scenes helping out. Angel agents.

A STORY TO CONSIDER

In my novel MISSION INTO LIGHT, one part of the story involves such an experience by the main character, Mike Green. On an operation in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain national wilderness area north of Sedona, Arizona, with the 10-person joint-service research team is working with, Mike is shot in the leg and another bullet grazes his skull. He instantly looses consciousness, falls to the ground, and starts loosing significant amounts of blood.

His friends immediately start to tend to him and another wounded member of the team. Meanwhile, Mike has a near-death experience:

Slowly, Mike’s awareness returns. He is disoriented. He looks below and sees his own body, unconscious and bleeding profusely from the leg and head. Another member of the group is bloody from his shoulder down to his hand, the arm of his shirt soaked with blood.

He sees his friends pinned-down by two snipers below him. Below him? Where is he? Has he somehow gotten to a high point along the cliffs?

Mike sees his Uncle Jack directly below him, firing bursts from his automatic weapon, and pulling more clips from his pockets. Near Jack lies Mike’s own body. Jack picks up Mike’s body, throws it over his shoulders, and tries to make his way down a hill, which Mike watches from above.

Slowly, the green forest below him fades from view. Darkness comes over him.

Then, a point of light becomes visible on the horizon. Mike is being drawn toward the point of light, first slowly, then more quickly, as if he were shooting river rapids in a canoe. The point of light draws closer, and Mike finds himself in a tunnel of beautiful golden light.

He seems to slow down now, like the inevitable calm water at the end of a river rapids. Mike drifts slowly through the tunnel and the golden light becomes brighter. Other colors seemed to sparkle through the golden light, like hundreds of tiny rainbows.

Ahead, he can see figures that seemed to be people. As he flows closer to them he can make out four beings. They seem to be waiting for him as he comes closer and closer.

Then, he finds himself surrounded by the four figures. He knows them. They are his four grandparents, and they embrace him. They passed on many years ago, though were a big part of his life when he was a kid. The five seem to float in the light. His grandparents communicate with him in unison.

They tell him, “Yes, Mike, this is the land of the Great Spirit. It is the beautiful place that many religions and philosophies have always taught.”

“There is constant rejoicing and peace in this land. But we feel sadness at the hardships faced by our people in your world. And we feel a longing to help the people there.”

“There are groups of beings who want to bring the two worlds together, to make Heaven and Earth one place. There are efforts underway to accomplish that very mission.”

“That work is proceeding. One day soon, that miracle will come to pass, and there will be a great celebration, a great happiness among all the people.”

“You, Mike, must return to the other world, and tell your family and friends about what you have seen.”

“We have one more thing to show you, something you have a need to know.”

Then, they help Mike take a fantastic journey into deep memories in his DNA, or maybe it is time travel into the ancient past of the Cherokee people in their Smokey Mountain homeland, or maybe both simultaneously. He learns some amazing things.

After this experience concludes, he finds himself with his grandparents again.

“Mike, you must now return to the other world. You still have many more seasons before you join us here in the Spirit land.”

They embrace him again, with happiness. Slowly, the golden light begins to fade and Mike is moving back through the tunnel of light. He sees his grandparents waving good-bye to him until they fade from his sight.

The light grows dimmer and dimmer until it is only a point on a distant horizon. And then darkness.

Mike’s next sensation is the sound of other people talking. He opens his eyes and sees a hospital room in Sedona, his friends gathered around his hospital bed.

He tries to tell about his experience.

“I was floating above the fight at the canyon, watching you scrambling for safety. I saw my own bloody body being carried by Uncle Jack down the rocky path away from the sniper.”

“A tunnel of golden light led to the land of Spirit . . . It wasn’t a dream.”

“I was in the golden light, and saw my grandparents.”

The others listen carefully as Mike tries to recall details of his journey and his meeting with his grandparents.

After he finishes his story, Mike looks closely into the faces of the friends around his bed. Some of their eyes are wider than usual. Some are expressionless, though a smile can be seen in their eyes.

The group’s commanding officer, combat veteran Air Force Colonel Tom O’Brien, standing near the door, gives Mike a knowing wink.

About the Author

Steve Hammons is the author of two novels about a U.S. Government and military joint-service research team investigating unusual phenomena. MISSION INTO LIGHT and the sequel LIGHT’S HAND introduce readers to the ten women and men of the “Joint Reconnaissance Study Group” and their exciting adventures exploring the unknown.

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