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Rigid, fundamentalist thinking goes in all directions

This is a good article (tweeted) but it overlooks the oft unspoken corollary: Too much faith in a mechanistic psychological worldview might keep some people unhappy. So many of us are impressed by the achievements of science and especially technology. And rightly so. No wonder many believe that feeling good is largely dependent on a healthy brain. Obviously brain functioning plays a huge role in our sense of well being.

But there’s more. A lot more.

Some people might be chronically unhappy because they’re stuck in a mechanistic worldview that ignores the primacy of the spiritual life. It’s almost as if we have everything upside down in the modern world. Spirituality is often seen as the icing on the cake. You can get by without it, but it’s a nice, tasty add-on.

Image via Tumblr

For me, it’s the opposite. Spirituality is top shelf and therefore my master command. Everything else is necessary and enjoyable but secondary.

By way of analogy, a society exists in its own right but needs an executive assembly and usually a national leader. Without a leader, society would become a confused, mass jumble. And so it is with spirituality and all the other aspects of life.

It’s hard for some people to appreciate this view. But I’m glad it’s mine.

The way I see it, fundamentalism is not just about religion. Fundamentalism can go in any direction. Ironically, sometimes we encounter people who are both religious and scientific fundamentalists. Instead of integrating their outlook into a mature, comprehensive whole, they compartmentalize their thinking according to religious teachings and the latest psychology studies to hit the news.

If people want to fashion their lives under the dictates of a high profile religious leader, on the one hand, and someone like John Tesh, on the other hand, that’s fine by me. But it’s certainly not my style! — MC

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EP Today – Bad science, bad reporting or both?

Today’s Top Tweet points to a story that either represents bad science, bad reporting or, as often happens, an unfortunate mix of the two. Here’s a quote that stood out for me:

The man then removed the wires from his head before taking off and marching around the hospital trying to recruit followers, saying ‘God has sent me to you’, convinced his creator had singled him out to bring redemption to fellow patients and medical staff.¹

Image – Twitter

So one man who believes he’s on a “mission” represents all the spiritual people who have ever lived? Cummon. Give me a break. This is so idiotic and overly-generalized that I can’t believe it would make any kind of news story.

For centuries sincere seekers and spiritual directors have been making distinctions between insanity, spiritual deception and bona fide sainthood. It’s a fine line for sure. And sometimes potential saints may go through an initial, confused period where they appear borderline, insane or neurologically impaired. But to lump all forms of spiritual phenomena into one category – or even to suggest that they are all the same – is ludicrous.

¹ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4301306/Epilepsy-cause-religious-experiences.html#ixzz4bCyZK8up

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The Transforming Power Of Brotherly Love

Integral Yoga Yantra via Wikipedia

Integral Yoga Yantra via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Stories can be fiction or true. Some stories are true because they accurately describe a unique event that happened a certain time and place. Other stories are events that once happened and have subsequently been dramatized by creative minds or faithful hearts. Archetypical stories that have been retold over the course of thousands of years are true not because they once occurred; but because they continually reoccur in many places and times.

One such archetypical story, transmitted orally in both Arabic and Hebrew for many centuries; and finally written down in the 19th century, in both languages and in several different versions; reveals a truth about the importance of brotherly love that was exemplified in the news media just a few weeks ago. First the individual stories.

A historical Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, USA was vandalized leaving over 100 headstones damaged. In response, two Muslims Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, created a crowd-funding campaign in order to raise funds for the Jewish Cemetery. The target was set at $20,000 and it was reached in 5 hours! In that time, 848 people (mainly Muslims) donated over $25,000 and donations tripled overnight after JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author retweeted a Jewish News story on the campaign to her 10 million followers.

The organizers say: “We were inspired by the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, “Is it not a human soul?” [Source: Bukhari].

Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”

The second event took place a few weeks earlier in the small Gulf Coast city of Victoria, Texas, a place with many churches, but just one synagogue, and one mosque built in 2000, that was burned down, about 2 A.M. Saturday January 28, 2017.

Now, the synagogue has become a mosque: because the Jews of Victoria responded to the Mosque desecration, by giving the Muslims a key to their synagogue building, so they could share a place to worship while rebuilding their own Mosque.

“Everyone knows everybody, I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them,” said Robert Loeb, the president of Bnai Israel, which affiliates with the Jewish Reconstructionist movement.

On Sunday January 29, the Victoria community held an interfaith event in front of the mosque. Through local donations and a GoFundMe page, the mosque raised over $900,000 from 18,000+ people to rebuild the mosque.

These two accounts of brotherly love are modern descendants of the following archetypical fable that illustrates how two holy places can be as closely connected as two lungs, even though they are far apart geographically and exist in different religious worlds. Some say this happened in the generation of Noah others say it was when Abraham was born.

“Two brothers who inherited a ‘valley to hilltop’ farm from their father divided the land in half so that each one could farm his own section. Over time, the older brother married and had four children, while the younger brother was still not married.

One year there was very little rain, and the crop was very meager. This was at the beginning of a long term drought that would turn the whole valley into an arid, treeless, desert where even grain did not grow, and all the springs dried up.

The younger brother lay awake one night praying and thought: “My brother has a wife and four children to feed, and I have no children. He needs more grain than I do; especially now when grain is scarce.”

So that night, the younger brother went to his barn, gathered a large sack of wheat, and left his wheat in his brother’s barn. Then he returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

Earlier that very same night, the older brother was also lying awake praying for rain when he thought: “In my old age, my wife and I will have our grown children to take care of us, as well as grandchildren to enjoy, while my brother may have no children. He should at least sell more grain from his fields now, so he can provide for himself in his old age.

So that night, the older brother also gathered a large sack of wheat, and left it in his brother’s barn, and returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

The next morning, the younger brother, surprised to see the amount of grain in his barn seemed unchanged, said “I did not take as much wheat as I thought. Tonight I will take more.”

That same morning, the older brother, standing in his barn, was thinking the same thoughts.

After night fell, each brother gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark, secretly delivered it to his brother’s barn.

The next morning, the brothers were again puzzled and perplexed. “How can I be mistaken?” each one thought. “There’s the same amount of grain here as there was before. This is impossible! Tonight I will make no mistake—I will take two large sacks.”

The third night, more determined than ever, each brother gathered two large sacks of wheat from his barn, loaded them onto a cart, and slowly pulled his cart toward his brother’s barn. In the moonlight, each brother noticed a figure in the distance.

When the two brothers got closer, each recognized the form of the other and the load he was pulling, and they both realized what had happened!

Without a word, they dropped the ropes of their carts, ran to each other and embraced.”

Only God can make something mundane into something holy; and God thought the brothers’ love and concern for each other made their descendants worthy to rebuild a primordial Holy House in this valley; and later to build a new Holy House on that far hill, where the descendants of one brother would live, and a descendant of the other brother would visit to ascend to heaven.

So God sent Messengers to their descendants to guide them to do this.

Christians and Jews say the hilltop is Jerusalem. Muslims say the valley is Makka. I say they are both right.

God gave humans one heart to love God as individuals, and two lungs for communities to recycle the holy spirit within human beings, among human communities, and between all humans and God.

When all those, both near and far, who revere these two sacred places as a standard, share it in love with everyone else who reveres it, then Abraham’s request for Allah to “make this a land of peace, and provide its people with the produce of the land” (Qur’an 2:126) will be extended throughout the world; and all the children of Adam, Noah and Abraham will live in Holiness, Peace and Prosperity.
 
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com

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EP Today – Making society better by ignoring the top shelf?

I recall sitting in a gym writing my final exam for sociological theory. It was an undergraduate course but the professor was waaay above average. He covered the “Big Three” classical sociological theorists (Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim) along with some lesser lights and the cultural climate in which they all lived.

So this morning I remember what it might be called when someone confuses spirituality with social effervescence. Durkheim came up with the term effervescence:¹

According to Durkheim, a religion comes into being and is legitimated through moments of what he calls “collective effervescence.” Collective effervescence refers to moments in societal life when the group of individuals that makes up a society comes together in order to perform a religious ritual. During these moments, the group comes together and communicates in the same thought and participates in the same action, which serves to unify a group of individuals. When individuals come into close contact with one another and when they are assembled in such a fashion, a certain “electricity” is created and released, leading participants to a high degree of collective emotional excitement or delirium. This impersonal, extra-individual force, which is a core element of religion, transports the individuals into a new, ideal realm, lifts them up outside of themselves, and makes them feel as if they are in contact with an extraordinary energy.²

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim (Wikipedia)

Durkheim, as innovative as he was (in 1897 he was the first to use statistics and method to try to understand and improve society),³ is guilty of vulgarizing spirituality. Spirituality is not some kind of electric force generated by bodies in close proximity. It comes from above and brings a higher purpose to life.

Spirituality may permeate bodies but to confuse social excitement with spirituality is, imo, sadly inadequate. It’s like chimps trying to figure out algebra. It just won’t happen.

¹ Durkkheim wrote in French. See this discussion about two different French terms for power, puissance and pouvoir.

² http://www.iep.utm.edu/durkheim

³ As far back as the ancient Romans, census data was collected but this was to facilitate ruling and tax collection. In his 1897 work Suicide, Durkheim tries to link social data with four different types of suicide. Something like a doctor of society, he tries to “diagnose” social problems rather than using stats for ruling and taxation.

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Today’s Top Tweet – Armchair psychologists doing more harm than good?

I’m using a really old computer tonight, waiting for more RAM to come in the mail. Rather than carry my newer laptop up and downstairs all the time (which has plenty of RAM), I thought I’d just copy a quote from Today’s Top Tweet instead of using highly.co (which really only works with a half-decent computer). 🙂

People have a tendency to make accusations of mental illness against someone if they’re angry with the person, or if they sense that the person is acting differently from what is normally expected.


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Today’s Top Tweet – Big Boy and the Serpent (a brand new myth for all ages)

A couple of weeks ago I put together a new blog called msea4ever. Its About page explains the name, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to “come out” and link it to Earthpages or not. So I said nothing here.

Tonight I’m thinking, What the heck. It’s just another side of me.

So this tweet points to a new transformation myth, written by yours truly. I’ve read a lot of myths. Seems the influences here are mostly Ancient Greek and North American.

I hope you enjoy. I had fun writing it!


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Today’s Top Tweet – How some believers shut down their minds

I’ve talked about the mystic Swedenborg and how he apparently got it laughably wrong when talking about aliens.

Today’s tweeted article is interesting. It’s written by a Swedenborgian believer who recognizes the critique about aliens but still believes because he has “seen enough” to do so.

His account reminds me of believers in other faith groups. For example, some Catholics sense a joyous, uplifting feeling at the Mass, so assume this means that everything the Catholic Church teaches must be true.

Some Hindus undergo an expansion of consciousness when they perform puja, so assume that everything their branch of Hinduism teaches is true.

Likewise, some Jews may experience a spiritual solidity or centering in temple so assume that everything their form of Judaism teaches is true.

Swedenborg via Wikipedia

Swedish scientist cum mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 – 1772) via Wikipedia

And the list goes on, from sweat lodges to tin foil hats. Some believers feel a buzz (or lack of) so assume their experience “proves” their underlying belief system is entirely true.

To me, this is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism in any form usually leads to division or, on the other hand, political correctness where nobody talks about anything, preferring to gloss over differences and issues where people might get hurt.

Notice my use of the word “some.” It not only avoids problems but is fair. Not every religious person is a fundamentalist. And some people assume that all religious people are fundamentalists, which itself is unfair and misguided.

But to return to our Swedenborgian believer: Looking through the tweeted article we find his response to the critique of Swedenborg and aliens. There he seems to overlook the possibility (again, I’ve touched on this elsewhere) that Swedenborg may have picked up a type of ET (or ETs) that our modern science cannot detect—that is, other lifeforms not based on (what we often assume are) the universal building blocks of life.

Perhaps Swedenborg’s mind translated these realities in terms that he and others in his era could understand. So Swedenborg writes about “wooden buildings” and “tents” on the planet Jupiter.

By way of comparison, the Old Testament has a primitive view of the Earth. It’s way off by modern standards. But that doesn’t mean that everything the Bible teaches is false.

I’m not a Swedenborgian and the spiritual feeling I sense from that belief system is certainly not my cup of tea. But I try to keep an open mind. As the old saying goes, one person’s meat is another’s poison.