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Today’s Top Tweet – Can you petition the Lord with prayer?

I was happy to see this (tweeted) web page today. We need more talk about parapsychology. Awareness and intelligent debate about parapsychology and its link to spirituality (and nuttiness) could help those overly invested in the medical perspective on self and others.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-psychiatry. Far from it. Medications can help, short and maybe even long term. But anyone concerned with their overall health would be wise to consider alternatives. Different approaches might enable some to discontinue their meds. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but over the long haul. And that would be a good thing. Not only would their bodies like it. Others on our planet would be happier too (see Drugs in the Water).

Glancing over the articles in today’s tweet, I see a problem that often crops up with parapsychology research: The method does not match the madness, if you’ll pardon my pun.

A Japanese man bowing in prayer at the Kamakur...

A Japanese man bowing in prayer at the Kamakura shrine. from original to remove black space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take, for example, intercessory prayer. One article concludes that intercessory prayer has no verifiable effect on health. But this begs at least two questions:

  • What kind of intercessory prayer?
  • What kind of health?

Intercessory prayer takes different forms. One is vocal (or internally vocal) and the other is more contemplative and quiet.

For me, the latter is more effective. I often liken vocal prayer to using a squirt gun to put out a fire, while contemplative prayer is more like rolling out a heavy duty fire hose. Kids play with squirt guns. Adults risk their lives with fire hoses.

Mind you, all prayer is good and we’re all different. At the same time, I think there are differences in power between vocal and contemplative prayer.

But I could be wrong. Only God knows for sure.

The second question – What type of health? – is actually related to the first.

Intercession may not be visible to everyone. But I believe it helps us, psychologically and spiritually. And contrary to what some religious people say (especially those who pass themselves off as saints while behaving more like angry nuts), I believe intercession is a multi-directional interpersonal dynamic. It’s not just one-way.

Intercession may involve degrees of effectiveness but my analogy of squirt guns and fire hoses is only that. An analogy.  Life is far more nuanced than putting out a fire.

And it takes all types to make life complete. 🙂


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Today’s Top Tweet – Undoing that silly stereotype about Western “materialism”

Almost an Angel

Almost an Angel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s top tweet relates to the silly and insulting idea that the West is a spiritual desert while Eastern or Middle Eastern countries are an oasis of spirituality.

I heard this propaganda a lot in India during the mid-to-late 1980s. Hopefully the Indian people have changed for the better since then. Last time I was there it was the early 1990s, so I can’t be sure. But my guess is that India, with its tech explosion, is also undergoing a self-reflective renaissance. Not just navel gazing and playing “guru of the world” but rather, a real, honest hard look at itself.

I have no idea about Middle Eastern countries. I have never had much interest in them. Even as a kid, I remember skipping over the news about the Middle East. To me, it mostly seemed dark and depressing.

As for spirituality in the West, all I have to do is walk about 10 minutes to my nearest Catholic parish and I am filled with the Holy Spirit and the heavenly joy of the Eucharist. For those unable to appreciate that, the Mass might just seem like so much sitting and standing. But for me and literally billions of others around the world – to include Western countries – it’s so much more.

So I do take objection to this man’s claim that the West is a spiritual desert. To draw an analogy, a fish underwater cannot see nor appreciate birds in flight.


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Today’s Top Tweet – Charlie, our paranormal witness

To start off the New Year I thought I’d discuss today’s top tweet using a fictional, gender-neutral person called “Charlie.” I’ll also use a literary device from my school days: S/he.

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So Charlie is a bit of nut. Or maybe not. It might depend on how we look at it.

S/he believes that “big picture” patterns appear over time, especially in the form of recurring numbers. S/he knows about Carl Jung’s idea of synchronicity, and that Jung gives the example of recurring numbers. Charlie also realizes that Jung never advocates actively looking for synchronicity. For Jung, synchronicity just happens after we make a choice.

Choice and the idea that synchronicity occurs after making choices distinguishes believers in synchronicity from

  • Religious fanatics who believe they see signs in everything and make choices on the basis of those alleged signs
  • Frightening mad persons who do bad things because they believe they see signs or recurring patterns telling them to behave a certain way
  • The paranoid who tragically hurt themselves or commit suicide because they believe they see patterns indicating that the world is out to get them

As for Charlie, s/he is only human and learns as s/he goes along. S/he used to believe that perceived recurring numbers were proof that s/he was on the right track, cosmically speaking.

But one day a friend said something that complicated things. The friend said “Charlie, what if you made a different choice and a different series of patterns came up?” This made Charlie think, which is usually good.

Maybe there is no single life journey or path, Charlie thought. And maybe every time I make a choice the universe splits and different Charlies live out parallel lives.

This idea makes Charlie a bit uneasy but s/he has read the Seth Books and all that subatomic physics, Dancing Wu Li stuff.

Charlie knows it’s a big mystery out there.

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Having read some psychology books, Charlie also considers the possibility that s/he is unconsciously selecting these numbers while ignoring or playing down a lot of other numbers that pass by.

“Of course,” most would say.

But Charlie doesn’t think it’s quite that simple. S/he still feels a sense of confirmation when numerical synchronicity arises, even after thinking and analyzing the phenomenon from different angles. Sometimes s/he even wonders if angels or other spiritual powers guide us toward meaningful coincidences.

After all, Charlie is just a person. Unlike the worldly wise, s/he tries to be humble and remember that there’s still a lot to figure out in this great mystery called life.

About the Author

Michael Clark’s PhD thesis is entitled, Synchronicity and poststructuralism: C. G. Jung’s secularization of the supramundane. He likes to think about things but believes that the intellect is, at best, an aid to spirituality. 


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Muslims Have Many Allies Against Hate Crimes

Image via Wikipedia - Click for fullsize

Image via Wikipedia – Click for fullsize

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The FBI reports that hate crimes against Muslims in the USA rose in 2015 to their highest levels since the aftermath of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents in 2014, an increase of 67%.

The total is second only to the surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes following the 9/11/01 terror attacks, when 481 incidents against Muslims were reported. Fortunately, Muslims have many allies in the Anti-Hate Crime fight.

Scapegoating (blaming innocent minorities for widespread discontent and anxieties within the majority population) is wide spread in the USA so there are many different groups of people who are victims of hate crimes; which are not just directed against Muslims.

Attacks against LGBT, immigrants, blacks, women and Jews have also increased.

Jews have a very long history of being scapegoated for the ills of various European states, and are especially aware of the danger of scapegoating as an ill-conceived way of solving problems in the general society.

Thank God the anti-haters are now getting aroused, and that Jews are well represented among those opposing the attempt to scapegoat all Muslims for the sins of a very violent politicized few.

Although hate crimes against Muslims rose by 67%, in actual numbers, the 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias were less than 5% of the total 5,850 reported hate crimes, and just under 22 percent of the 1,402 anti-religious hate crimes.

Of the 5,850 reported hate crimes in 2015:
59.2 percent of all victims were targeted because of bias against race or ethnicity;
19.7 percent were victimized because of bias against religion; and
17.7 percent were targeted because of bias against sexual orientation.

There are lots of hate filled individuals in America; and they have lots of different groups that they can hate. Often they hate several different scapegoats.

Of the 1,402 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:
52.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
21.9 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
4.3 percent were victims of anti-Roman Catholic bias.
3.6 percent were victims of anti-Eastern Orthodox Christian bias.
3.4 percent were victims of anti-Protestant bias.

Religious-based hate crimes increased by 23% from 2014 to 2015. Many people expect that hate crime incidents for 2016 will rise by at least 1-3,000.

On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, saw a 50-fold increase in online donations on the day after the election.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and outreach group, gained more than 500 volunteers in the two days after the election.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which supports women’s reproductive rights, received donations from nearly 200,000 people in the week after the election, about 40 times more than in a typical week, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which defends the civil rights of individuals, said on Monday it had received more than $7 million from about 120,000 donations over the five days after the election. During the same period after the 2012 election, the group collected less than $28,000 from 354 donations.

And George Soros says he will commit $10 million from his personal foundation to combat the rise in hate crimes. Mr. Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and an immigrant originally from Hungary, said he was “deeply troubled” by hundreds of reports of possible hate crimes since the election — including many Nazi swastikas spray-painted on cars and buildings.

And going well beyond the norm, the Jewish head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an anti-bigotry group, has vowed to register as a Muslim if the USA creates a database of Muslim Americans. The idea of a Muslim database arose in November 2015, when Mr Trump told a reporter he would “certainly implement that. Absolutely”.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said: “If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim”.

Let us all follow the example of Jonathan Greenblatt, and the words of Pope Francis who delivered a ringing plea to the world and his own Catholic Church to reject “the virus of polarization and animosity” and the growing temptation to “demonize” those who are different.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com


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Peace on Earth

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Late last night there were just a handful of stores open in my area. I drove out to the all night pharmacy to pick up some last minute items for tonight’s feast. The rattle and din of the usual Christmas traffic had all died down. And I felt it. I finally felt it!

The Christmas spirit!

When I got home that magical feeling finally hit home. A quiet city. Children asleep in their beds, dreaming of new toys and, I guess in the 21st century, all the latest gizmos. Also to remember on a night like that are the poor who have no one to celebrate with. I wondered about a man at my parish who lives outside in the harsh winter cold. Was he desolate? Happy? I can’t know.

I recall one Christmas when I lived by a Salvation Army Mission in downtown Ottawa. One man who simply went by the name “Animal” yelled out loud Christmas morning,

IT’S CHRISTMAS!

That really summed it up for me. A street person, yelling out in joy, that is was Christmas morning. Animal knew what it was all about.

Merry Christmas to everyone who wishes to celebrate it!

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


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A Modern Miracle of Hanukah Dedication?

By Rabbi Allen Maller

This is the true story of retired Army Major Mike Neulander, from Newport News, Virginia, and who is now a Judaic silversmith.

In the fall of 1990, I received notice that I would be transferred to the First Cavalry Division, which was headed for Saudi Arabia. Then as now, Jews were forbidden to enter the country. But our Secretary of Defense told the king of Saudi Arabia, “We have Jews in our military. They’ve trained with their units and they’re going. Blink and look the other way.”With Kuwait occupied and the Iraqis at his border, King Fahd did the practical thing. We shipped out.

But there was a problem. Normally the dog tags of Jewish servicemen are imprinted “Jewish.” But the army, fearing that this would put Jewish soldiers at great risk should they be captured, substituted “Protestant B” on the tags. I didn’t like the whole idea of classifying Jews as Protestant-anything, and so I decided to leave my dog tag alone. I figured if I were captured, it was in God’s hands. Changing my tags was tantamount to denying my religion, and I couldn’t swallow that.

In September 1990 I went off to defend a country that I was prohibited from entering. The “Jewish” on my dog tag remained as clear and unmistakable as the American star on the hood of every Army truck.

A few days after my arrival, the Baptist chaplain told me. “I just got a secret message through channels,” he said. “There’s going to be a Jewish holiday. You want to go? It’s at 1800 hours at Dhahran Airbase.”

The holiday turned out to be Simhat Torah, a holiday that I hadn’t celebrated since I was a kid. Services were held in absolute secrecy in a windowless room. We couldn’t risk singing or dancing. We were strangers to one another in a land stranger than any of us had ever experienced, but for that brief hour, we felt at home.

The next time I was able to do anything remotely Jewish was Chanukah. As Rabbi Romer talked about the theme of Chanukah and the ragtag bunch of Maccabee soldiers fighting Israel’s oppressors thousands of years ago, it wasn’t hard to make the connection to what lay ahead of us. There, in the middle of the desert, inside an green tent, we felt like we were Maccabees.

We blessed the candles, praising God for the miracles He performed, in those days and now. And we sang the special blessing, the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for keeping us in life and for enabling us to reach this season. The feeling of unity was as pervasive as our apprehension. I felt more Jewish there on that lonely Saudi plain, our tanks and guns at the ready, than I had ever felt back home in a synagogue.

That Chanukah in the desert gave me the urge to reconnect with Judaism. I felt religion welling up inside me. I know that part of my feelings were tied to the looming war and my desire to get with God before the unknown descended on us.

The soldier sitting beside me stared ahead at nothing in particular, absentmindedly fingering his dog tag. “How’d you classify?” I asked, nodding to my tag. Silently, he withdrew the metal rectangle from beneath his shirt and held it out for me to read. Like mine, his read, “Jewish.”

During the remaining months before we returned home I never met a Jewish soldier whose dog tag was “Protestant B.” Maybe I had experienced a modern miracle of Hanukah dedication

Thanks to rabbimaller.com


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Today’s Top Tweet – Earth at night

OPINION

Part of me is tempted to go into the usual New Age preachy theme about how we’re all one and if we just came to realize this, there would be no war, no senseless killings, no crazed truck drivers, no hostages fearing their death…

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

But honestly, I don’t think it’s that simple. I believe there is evil in the world and that it furiously wants to sow discord. All you science-bots out there who think a new pill can save humanity can believe what you want. But I think you’re wrong. I don’t believe evil will ever be eradicated. And those who can recognize the difference between good and ill must take a stand.

Jesus talked about prayer and turning the other cheek. And in the ultimate sense he’s probably right. But in the course of history, if every good person merely prayed and turned the other cheek, I don’t think humanity would last that long. Evil would sweep the globe in a very short matter of time.

While no one perspective can solve our global problems, I do believe that the total dynamic is tilted toward the good. That means all the forces in existence, taken together, including pacifism and activism, will turn things out the right way.

This isn’t blind belief. I have reason to believe in an all-powerful God. Yet I realize not everyone does. To me, that’s their poverty, not mine.