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EP Today – Total revision on entry about Pantheism


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EP Today – Great article about tensions between religion and individuality

Today’s Top Tweet outlines some of tensions that arise whenever a thinking person enters into a religious community. The fact that we all have different views is hardly surprising. The earliest disciples argued over doctrine and practice. Why should we be any different in the 21st century?

What often turns me off, however, is how some eggheads criticize Christianity because it has so many variations.

Umm… yeah… and your local community or faith group doesn’t?

Well, maybe if you’re in a cult. But in the free world… we like to think for ourselves.


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EP Today – Are we all the same? Should we be?

Today’s Top Tweet gave me pause for reflection. In the past I’ve seen some charismatic Evangelicals as not too different from, say, Superbowl or Wresting fans.

The Indian guru Sri Aurobindo talked about different levels of consciousness. I’ve rejected a lot of what Aurobindo says but I recall that he’d probably see some charismatics as operating on what he called the “vitalistic” plane—that is, vital instead of higher spiritual energy. For Aurobindo, there wasn’t a single spirituality but, instead, several different mind levels.

All very interesting. Sometimes I think a bit like this when comparing different people and different religions (or even differences within one person). To say all religions and spiritual states of mind are the same is, to me, like saying all cities of the world are the same.

Cities may exhibit some common features but obviously they differ in important ways.

Because religion is such a personal, sensitive issue for many, we run the risk in this politically correct world of getting into real trouble if we even dare suggest that religions and spiritual states might differ. And this is oppressive to free thought and, perhaps, to genuine development—in both theory and practice.

To focus a little more precisely on just one religion – Christianity – I think it’s also relevant to suggest that there could be real differences among individuals and their Christian beliefs and practices.

At the same time, we can’t know for certain what another person inwardly experiences. We may think we do. Through subtle transpersonal connections we may get glimmers. But we can’t fully know what it’s like to be them.

Image via Pixabay | Tumblr

Only God can have the final say. Although sometimes, I admit, I have wondered if God really knows what it’s like to NOT be omniscient. This opens the door for all kinds of theological reflection that I don’t have time to explore here.

Another point to consider: How do we define spirituality?

For some, spirituality is an intense nature trip. Others say watching sci-fi or fantasy shows are spiritual activities. Again, only God can say who is “spiritual” and who is not. And even if there are fundamental differences, who’s to say we should all be the same?

If the world were mostly contemplative mystics, I think we’d run into trouble pretty fast. By the same token, if the world were mostly movers and shakers, I think we’d have similar difficulties.

Bottom line?

Respect the mix.

MC

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EP Today – In the dark or the light?

This morning I was reading Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ and came across these two quotes (tweeted above).

It made me think about how the spirit can influence our outlook. A church, for instance, might look like a silly, rigid place if we are not able to appreciate the presence of God within its walls. But if our hearts and minds are open, that physical space is literally transformed, as we ourselves can be.

And so it probably is with Jeremiah and Cicero’s wildly different takes on ancient Jerusalem. On the one hand, we have a great prophet in touch with God. On the other hand, an intelligent, well-meaning Roman statesman who writes about the ancient Greek and Roman gods.

Cicero via Wikipedia

Cicero goes down in history as a good man who was generally respected by the early Christians. But what about those people who appear to be obsessed with the dark side?

I try to stay open-minded about people seemingly obsessed with evil. Artistically representing evil in a healthy way may be one thing. But sometimes I wonder if something is bothering some people fixated on evil.

Mind you, some Christians give off horrendous vibes. I try to avoid them because I just can’t afford the pain – literally – of associating with some of them.

With both Christians and obsessively “dark side” people, we have to look for the human heart underneath the layers and influences and try to nurture a person’s authentic self. Hopefully over time we all learn how to tell the difference between darkness, lesser lights, and the true light.

For some it might take many years, even a lifetime. But we have to remember that Jesus didn’t always hang out with holy people. He came to help those in the dark. And in our limited capacity, so should we.

¹ https://youtu.be/boX8zNyhaL4

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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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All you need is love… and maybe a little wisdom

This morning I replied to a Tweet that said the important question is whether a person is “alive” before death.

I suggested that it might be more fruitful to talk about being “awake” before death because to imply that someone isn’t alive – i.e. dead – seems a bit judgmental and final.

“Awake” and “asleep” are softer terms than “alive” and “dead.” And rarely do strong proclamations or insinuations do any good in helping ourselves and others.

So afterward, I walk to my local parish. And funnily enough the theme (and wording) for today’s Mass was about the soul not dying!

It made me think…

What did Jesus really say? The Bible has so many additions, glosses, translations, contexts, versions, and deletions that sometimes we can’t be sure. Even scholars and linguists quibble over the precise meaning of biblical terms (probably partly why I never bothered to learn Hebrew and Greek).

Dead Awake

Dead Awake (Photo: Wikipedia)

After a short while I came to the tentative conclusion that we’re all different and have unique roles to play in the grand scheme of things. So even someone who seems spiritually “dead” could be doing something vital. And even someone who seems spiritually “alive” could be out to lunch on other important issues.

Instead of a “this or that” approach, I think it’s more realistic to view people as complex, evolving creations. This involves a multi-dimensional or, if you like, a multi-factorial model of consciousness instead of a binary one.

With a multi-model we would be less inclined to judge and more open to finding out the inherent strengths in others. And more importantly, we might be better disposed to love, even if the “dead” or “sleepers” irritate or harm us.

Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about being a doormat. Nor am I suggesting we don’t defend ourselves or speak out against perceived injustices. I’m just talking about making practical instead of ultimate judgments.

For sure, I steer clear of people if I have reason to believe they’re borderline and possibly violent. You get people like that in big city churches. But I don’t hate them. And I don’t think they’re hell bound or simply going to disappear at death.

Loving people who have insulted or hurt us is not always easy. It might take a while to work through our own resentment. But I find that choosing to love usually works best for everyone, provided it’s done with discernment.

Discernment is a Catholic term with two related meanings. On the one hand it means finding out God’s will for us. On the other hand, discernment is learning to recognize the good and evil influences acting on our souls. Like anything, sincere seekers tend to get better at this over time.

So what will you choose?

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EP Today – When teachers get creepy

eptoday-copyWay back, when Earthpages was a website instead of a blog, the main page had a feature called “EP Today.” Some of my early web pals might remember this.

I’ve decided to go back to that name for commenting on current news and general interest stories.

So here it is. Our first reinstallment of EP Today!

Today I’d like to briefly touch on the (imo) silly idea of the perfected being. The more I get into the spiritual life the more I recognize the importance of humility. Also, to think that someone is more evolved or pure than another may carry potential dangers. Some gurus and charismatic figures can really disrupt family relations.

I remember living in a small town about 100 miles out from Toronto. A group of local devotees would drive every weekend, abandoning their spouses and children, to be with a high profile NYC guru. That’s a pretty long drive to make every weekend!

At a gathering designed to welcome and orient potentially new disciples, some devotees’ family members showed up and openly spoke out. They said the guru was stealing the hearts and minds of their loved ones. I was surprised. The concerned family members seemed almost angry. And I must admit, back then at my young age, I leaned toward the side of the devotees whose manner suggested that their families just didn’t quite get it. They weren’t enlightened enough to understand…

But about 25 years later, I can empathize with the complaining family’s perspective. Imagine if your wife or mom was rushing off every weekend to be with a NYC guru? Wouldn’t you be a bit concerned? I would.

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The difficulty, as I see it, is this:

Most gurus claiming to be perfect often emanate some kind of soupy, numinous power. It’s not clear like the Holy Spirit. But it’s still there. A buzz, if you will. And sensitive but naive followers pick up on that buzz and are impressed. They’ve never encountered numinosity (spiritual power) before. Or perhaps they’ve never experienced anything better. So they believe, mistakenly, I’d say, that the guru’s ‘light’ is ultimate.

To me, true spirituality isn’t hero worship or getting spiritually drunk or stoned. Instead, it involves realizing that we carry each other, and on many levels. Healthy spirituality is not a one-way street with some pampered, contented teacher at the top, supposedly raising up disciplines who are far beneath them. No. The dynamic is multidirectional. And anyone who says otherwise is probably naive or, if they’re squatted at the top of an unhealthy guru-disciple relationship, an egotist and possibly a mind-abuser.

So many sham gurus and questionable spiritual leaders seem like bullfrogs posing as kings and queens. They rule from tiny little mudponds, like that creepy turtle in Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle. And until an oppressed turtle speaks up, the kingpin or Queen Bee will keep scamming cash and mental energy from the gullible and inexperienced below.

Would anyone in their right mind really want to have anything to do with that?

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