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Ramadan: Values of Fasting Connect Islam and Judaism

Fast Day outside Jumma Mosque, Delhi India, 1903

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Although the Quran tells Muslims, “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint,” (Qur’an 2:183); in most Christian countries today, the only people who engage in community wide religious fasting are Jews and Muslims.

Most people in western countries, even religious people, have largely forgotten the spiritual value of fasting for self restraint that is so important in the Jewish and Muslim tradition. That self restraint is realized every year by voluntary community fasting.

But why should people restrict their culinary pleasures? More outrageous, why should we afflict ourselves by fasting?

Don’t most people today think that being happy is the most important thing? Isn’t eating one of the most easily accessible pleasures we have? Why should any religion demand that people restrict their pleasures?

Why should the Qur’an demand that, every year for the entire the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and marital relations.

Why should the Torah decree a day of fasting for Jews? (Leviticus 16:29, 23:27). For the twenty-four hours of Yom Kippur, Jews (in good health) are supposed to afflict their souls by abstaining from eating, drinking and marital relations.

Can what we do not eat, be even more important than what we do eat? All animals eat, but only humans choose to not eat some foods that are both nutritious and tasty. Some people do not eat meat everyday for religious/ethical reasons. Jews and Muslims do not eat the meat of a pig everyday for religious-spiritual reasons. But this is just a restriction, and not a total fast, because there is still plenty of other foods to eat.

So what is the Torah and the Qur’an trying to teach us by decreeing the importance of an annual period of total fasting? What spiritual benefits occur when we engage in a total fast?

Fasting Buddha

Fasting Buddha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, fasting teaches compassion. It is easy to talk about the world’s problem of hunger. We can feel sorry that millions of people go to bed hungry each day. But not until one can actually feel it in one’s own body is the impact truly there. Compassion based on empathy is much stronger and more consistent than compassion based on pity. This feeling must lead to action.

Fasting is never an end in itself; that’s why it has so many different outcomes. But all the other outcomes are of no real moral value if one’s compassion and honesty are not enlarged and extended through fasting. As Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever does not give up lying and deceiving, God is in no need of his giving up food and water.” (Bukhari)

And as Prophet Isaiah said, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. The kind of fasting I (God) want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless.” (Isaiah 58:3-7)

Second, fasting is an exercise in will-power. Most people think they can’t fast because it’s too hard. But actually the discomfort of hunger pangs is relatively minor. A headache, muscle pains from too much exercise, and most certainly a toothache, are all more severe than the pains hunger produces.

The reason it is so hard to fast is because it so easy to stop. The food is all around, and in easy reach; all you have do is take a bite. Thus the key to fasting is the will power to decide again and again not to eat.

Our society has increasingly become one of self indulgence. We lack self discipline. Fasting goes in direct opposition to our increasing “softness” in life. As Prophet Muhammad said, “A strong man is not one who physically overpowers others. A strong man is one who controls himself when angry,” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Ahmad): and as Rabbi Ben Zoma said, “Who is a strong man? He who conquers his impulses; as scripture (Proverbs 16:32) says, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who captures a city.” (Avot 4:1)

When people exercise their will-power and fast, they are affirming their self-control and celebrating mastery over themselves. We need continually to prove that we can do it, because we are aware of our frequent failures to be self-disciplined.

Third in our list of outcomes, fasting is a positive struggle again our dependencies. We live in a consumer society. We are constantly bombarded by advertising telling us that we must have this or that to be healthy, happy, popular or wise.

dates and a glass of milk during Ramadan to br...

dates and a glass of milk during Ramadan to break fasting at sunset (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By fasting we assert that we need not be totally dependent on external things, even such essentials as food. If our most basic need for food and drink can be suspended for twenty-four hours, how much more our needs for all the non-essentials. Judaism doesn’t advocate asceticism as an end in itself. In fact it’s against Jewish law to deny ourselves normal pleasures.

But in our overheated consumer society it is necessary periodically to turn off the constant pressure to consume, and to remind ourselves forcibly that “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Fourth, fasting serves as a penance. Though self inflicted pain may alleviate some guilt, it is much better to reduce one’s guilt by offsetting acts of righteousness to others.

This is why, for Jews, contributing to charity is an important part of Yom Kippur. The same is true for Muslims during Ramadan. Indeed, fasting that doesn’t increase compassion is ignored by God.

Also, the concept of fasting as penance helps us understand that our suffering can be beneficial. Contemporary culture desires happiness above all else. Any suffering is seen as unnecessary and indeed evil.

Though we occasionally hear people echo values from the past that suffering can help one grow, or that an existence unalloyed with pain would lack certain qualities of greatness, many today seem to think that the primary goal in life is ” to always be happy and free of all discomfort.”

The satisfaction one derives from the self-induced pain of fasting provides insight into a better way of reacting to the externally caused suffering we have to experience anyway. Taking a pill is not always the best way to alleviate pain especially if by doing so we allay the symptoms without reaching the root cause.

The fifth outcome of fasting is an improvement in our physical health. Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine have published a study (Feb. 16, 2015 online issue of Nature Medicine), showing that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. It is well known that fasting and calorie restriction reduces inflammation in the body.

The sixth outcome of fasting for Jews is the performance of a mitzvah (a commandment from God), which is after all, the one fundamental reason for fasting on Yom Kippur. We do not do mitzvoth in order to benefit ourselves, but because our duty as Jews requires that we do them.

Fasting is a very personal mitzvah, with primarily personal consequences. Fasting on Yom Kippur is a personal offering to the God of Israel from each member of the family of Israel.

For over 120 generations Jews have fasted on this day. A personal act of fasting is part of the Jewish people’s covenant with God. The principal reason to fast is to fulfill a mitzvah. The outcome of your fast can be any of several forms of spiritual enrichment.

Prayer during the first days of the holy fasting month of Ramadhan.

But simply knowing that you have done one of your duties as a religious adult is the most basic and primary outcome of all. As Prophet Muhammad said: “fasting is a shield against evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2)

Finally, fasting should be combined with the study of Sacred Scripture (Torah for Jews, Qur’an for Muslims). Indeed, the more one studies, the less one needs to fast. A medieval Jewish text states, “Better to eat a little and study twice as much, for the study of Torah is superior to fasting.”

Fasting is a very personal, experiential offering. However, though study is also a personal experience, it takes place with a text and/or a teacher. The Divine is often more readily and truly experienced in dialogue with others than in personal self-affliction.

And increasing self discipline is the most wonderful religious outcome of all because it helps us live a virtuous life..

In today’s world most people can find more than enough food to eat. The challenge today is to be strong enough to exercise self control over the daily pleasures of life as well as the obvious evils of hatred and anger.

Fasting is meant to enable us to conquer anger and not let anger conquer us, and to develop our self control; for the vigorous effort of willfully putting up with a religious state of hunger and thirst can well be extended to conquer other defects of human character that lead us into error and sin.

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


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Why Do Roman Catholics Pray To Saints

Some objections to the concept of prayer to the saints betray restricted notions of heaven.

Source: Why Do Roman Catholics Pray To Saints


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How to recognize a sign from God

NGC 7293, The Helix Nebula, a planetary nebula...

Helix Nebula, NGC 7293 or “The Eye of God” by NASA & ESA via Wikipedia

By Vanessa Codorniu (0riginally posted 9/30/2011)

‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.’― Anaïs Nin

Recently I was asked by Soul Kisses TV for my input on this question:

I always wonder how people interpret signs from God. How do you know? It’s a hard thing to describe. What do you think?-Cocoa Popps, NYC

As Iyanla Vanzant said this weekend at the recent Hay House conference ‘It all begins in the mind.’ How people interpret signs from God, a look from a stranger or even street signs on any given street, begins in each and every individual’s own mind. Therefore, before we can look at how we may interpret signs from God, we have to look at ourselves more closely.

These core beliefs that create the way we see the world are learned from our families, culture and personal experience. The key here is that they are learned and can be unlearned when they don’t serve our highest and most fabulous good.

Ask yourself: How do I see the world? What do I believe about life? Do I believe in love? Do I believe that it’s supposed to hurt? What defines success for me? What is my belief and relationship to God? The way we define anything has an impact on how we define everything. Our beliefs color our lens and our thoughts, feelings, reactions and experience will become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Do you think that you exist in a fundamentally benevolent world? Or do you believe deep in your heart that it’s a cruel, dog-eat-dog existence? Is your version of God loving and kind? Or punishing?

What we believe…is inevitably what we perceive. This will affect how we define, experience and react what we may call signs from God. For example if the world is a frightening place were there is not enough for everyone a pink slip from a job can seem to be the end of the world. It can make someone wonder/believe they if they were betrayed by a co-worker, an employer, or even God.

Another person, trusting in the Universe’s benevolence might be surprised at first, even worried and then decide that its God’s way of saying, ‘Your time here is done. Take some time off and explore options that may make you happier.’

If your worldview includes that the world will end in 2012, every earthquake, all political unrest and each piece of disturbing nightly news feeds into your belief as ‘signs’ that the world is ending. If you believe that God is kind and this Universe is benevolent you may very well notice greater kindness in the Universe, more people meditating, an overall increased spiritual awareness in the world that may be signs to you that our Earthly existence is going thru a consciousness shift rather than a ‘physical end.’

For example, I believe that I am a child of God and that the Universe is conspiring towards my outrageous success! So when it’s time for me to leave a situation, or someone calls me with an opportunity, I see it as a sign and explore it! It doesn’t mean that its not scary but I trust the Universe and while it may not look exactly the way I thought it would…my signs lead me to greater peace and joy.

How to receive and understand a sign from God:

1. Breathe deeply: Take several deep breaths. Allow yourself to truly breathe. So often we do not let ourselves breathe deeply because we fear feeling our feelings.

2. Feel however you feel: Allow yourself in this moment to just feel however you feel as you breathe deeply.

3. Allow yourself to be present: Close your eyes. Gently allow yourself to be present and release attachments to the past and worries of the future. Bring your full attention into the present moment.

4. Pray: One of my favorite prayers, ‘Dear God/Goddess/Ganesha/Great Spirit: help me to believe the truth about myself – no matter how beautiful it is!’– M. Wiederehr

5. Ask for answers: Most religions and spiritual paths express the idea, ‘Ask & you shall receive.’ One possible prayer to ask for guidance: ‘Dear God/Goddess/Great Spirit: please help me see, know, understand, and act on your signs as inspiration for my highest good.’

6. Trust: Know that as you quiet your mind, connect to yourself and open to your divine connection, that the prayers and asking has reached its sacred mark.

7. Pay attention: Watch, listen, breathe and allow yourself to be still. Is what you are sensing as a sign of God bringing you to greater peace? Is it filling you with hope? Is it unsettling in the moment because it asks that you release or let go of something that you want to hold on to? Imagine that you are brave enough to go through the changes… do you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Remember that in order to bring in what you are wanting, whether true love, great friends, new clothes or a successful career…we must be ready to let go of what no longer serves us. Not because it is ‘bad,’ simply because it has served you as well as it could and now as you are evolving, as well as the relationships, jobs and experiences that you are having.

8. Be open: Signs from the Divine come in emails, a stranger on the bus, random occurrences that are really synchronistic answers to your prayers, a dream, a commercial, a song on the elevator, Oprah, a chance meeting, an unseen break-up, your mom’s advice, your best friend’s jokes, re-runs, an inner feeling or sense, knowing things without knowing how you ‘know.’ Basically, we are in communication with God…all the time, whether we are open or not. When we are open we feel supported and connected to something greater. When we are closed, we feel disconnected, lost and sometimes abandoned.

Remember: if you don’t like the way things feel in your world…you can always change your mind!

About the Author

Vanessa Codorniu, CHt, RM is a transformation facilitator, intuition coach, Reiki Master, writer and Latina urban priestess. She is a…

 


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Is submission to (alleged) authority always a good thing?


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“Interfaith Space” at University of Nevada will open in January 2016

English: The Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetar...

The Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium, located on the University of Nevada Reno campus in Reno, Nevada. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

“Interfaith Space” in the $44 million William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center at University of Nevada-Reno (UNR), currently under construction, would open in January 2016; UNR President Dr. Marc A. Johnson told Rajan Zed today.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, and who met Johnson in his office, has commended UNR for accepting the longstanding need of students of interfaith space for reflection, meditation, etc., and thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. It is a step in the right direction, Zed adds.

Johnson told Zed that this Space would be open to all campus student groups belonging to various religions/denominations and non-believers for reflection and meditation. This room would include various cabinets where each group could keep their required icons and articles locked to be brought out when needed.

President Johnson also informed Zed that initially the Interfaith Space would be open from eight am to nine pm daily, with the possibility of opening it for 24-hours seeing the need and feasibility. It would be a quiet place for all students to use free-of-charge, he added.

Zed stresses that with the presence of Interfaith Space, UNR students will have a spiritually meaningful life in addition to material success after they graduate from here. Interfaith Space will be another feather in UNR’s cap in making it a world class educational institution, Zed points out.

Johnson further told Zed that 70,600 square feet Student Achievement Center, besides Interfaith Space, would also include Writing Center, Math Center, Tutoring Center, Career Studio, Advising Center, Student Veterans Center, Disability Resource Center, Counseling Services, etc.

This building “will help our students to become great scholars” … will also offer support areas “for students to continue learning outside of the standard classroom environment”, a UNR brochure indicates.

Many universities in USA and Canada already have prayer/meditation room for quiet reflection and spiritual exercise.

UNR, founded in 1874 and which has about 20,000 students, is known for helping to create the world’s most accurate atomic clock, earthquake expertise, highly ranked MBA program, several Pulitzer Prize winners and for “study of the behavior of matter at extremely high temperatures and densities.”  About half-a-dozen Hollywood films were shot here and it is home to one of the largest earthquake-simulation labs.


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A Little bit of Faith & Leadership

FAITH

FAITH by cacigar via Flickr

By: Jacqueline Galvan

Faith is an important aspect in my life. It is something that evokes positive emotions for me, especially through prayer.  Prayer is something universal throughout religious organizations; I use it constantly in my everyday life. Recently, I had forgotten the goodness of faith. I was going threw a tough time with my car. Yes my car. It seemed like all at once all of this warning slights decided to flash on the dashboard. I was certain that I did not have any warranty left on the car from the dealer, so I got an estimate from a private mechanic. After he gave me the estimate I was not exactly thrilled. There were so many things wrong with the car and it was going to cost, what felt like a fortune. I had no idea how or where I was going to get all this money. I was stressing over it, I even got sick with a respiratory infection. I was just down in the dumps being so negative about everything. It felt like a negative cloud of emotions just took over me.

During this whole ordeal I was in one of my MBA classes one night with Dr. Grant, who was one of my professors, was giving us his management tip for the night. I always enjoyed these he would always start off with a personal story then give us suggestions on how to handle these things, usually by means of faith.  This management tip stood out me in particular because he told us that whatever we are going threw; big or small all we needed to do was ask the lord to show us he is still there with us. He suggested for us to try this for a week, every morning when we wake up we just simply ask God to show us he is in our life. I have to admit I was skeptical to doing this for my situation because all I could think of my car. I was engulfed in the negativity of that I honestly didn’t think a morning prayer with help me feel better. I tried it regardless and I have to admit I was feeling less negative and more positive. I just felt good. During the course of this week, I had to take the car into the dealership so that they could fix up something only the dealer had access too. Well to my surprise they took a look at the other problems and it turned out that I still some sort of warranty on the car, which meant I wouldn’t have to spend the thousands and thousands of dollars I had originally thought in getting it fixed. It would cost practically nothing.  I was so relived. I thought to myself oh my gosh thank you Lord for hearing me. Even though I did not particularly pray for the car somehow my prayer was answered.

The burning question now is why is this important and how can it help anyone in their everyday life. It suddenly dawned on me that, faith, and a positive attitude are all tied into things a good leader should have. I know there are various types of leadership styles, some of which are more favorable than others but I have complied a list of five attributes that a good leader should poses. All these which I have experienced in my life through schooling, family, and my professional career.

1. A good leader is someone you can trust and have faith that they will lead you in the correct path. As a leader you have to be able to gain the trust of those within your organization. How do you gain the trust? By being honest and sincere in your vision and work ethic.

2. A good leader is someone who can communicate well with others. As a leader you have to be able to communicate in a clear and concise manner. You need to be able to do this in order to achieve the exact goals you envision for your team or organization as a whole.

3. A good leader has your best interest in mind.  A leader helps and guides the team and has the ability to delegate appropriate tasks to the proper individuals based on their strengths. They will want you to succeed whether it be in your personal life or professional life.

4. A good leader is confident. Being confident in what they say and maintaining confidence even when morale is low is important especially when various others look to you for direction and decision making.

5. And lastly a good leader is someone who can inspire.  They will inspire you to be like them, and to do great things. Like in my story my professor inspired me with his management tips and I have to say it really helped me. I can only hope that I too, through my leadership in my life can do the same for others.

My experience definitely re-instead my trust in my Faith and I could not have done without first trusting in what my professor shared with the class. I encourage you to keep these things in mind the next time you find yourself in a situation where you lead your organization or group.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/a-little-bit-of-faith-leadership-6817435.html

About the Author

Jacqueline Galvan is currently finishing up her MBA at Concordia University, Irvine, California. From a very young age she has always enjoyed writing in her own personal jouranls, and now is excited to share her experiances with the world.


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Psi, Intercession and the Flat Earth

Window to Heaven by Michael Clark

Anyone with intelligence, I said, would remember that the eyes may be confused in two ways and from two causes, coming from light into darkness as well as from darkness into light

–Plato’s Republic

True Stories

In the final year of my Hon. B.A. I lived near a Greek restaurant called The Shish-Kabob Hut that was a favorite spot for students and faculty.

One night I was dining at The Hut with an acquaintance, Sarah (not her real name). Suddenly Sarah got a faraway look in her eyes and laughed at some joke that I wasn’t party to. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, I nevertheless smiled faintly.

A few minutes later, Sarah said she had a psychic connection with her boyfriend in South America. She explained that she’d been laughing because she’d just made some kind of long distance call on an invisible ‘psi phone.’

It sounded pretty far fetched and, for a moment, I wondered if she was all there, psychologically speaking. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt and, in retrospect, it’s probably best that I did.

A year later while studying in India, unconventional phenomena like this became almost commonplace. In the surrounding area of the town where I was taking my M.A., several people openly discussed and seemed to live lives compatible with the idea of psi.

But it wasn’t all good.

One strange fellow claimed to be an important wizard and tried to persuade me to be his apprentice. He said he was going to rule the world with his psychic powers and I was could be his helper. All he needed was a Western stooge to pave the way for his grand takeover.

However, most of the unusual incidents in India that seemed to involve the paranormal weren’t quite so ridiculous.

One day, for instance, a man at a yogurt counter plunked my precise order (before I ordered it) on the counter the moment I walked through the shop door. As I paid he gave a knowing smile, as if to say “I knew what you wanted.”

I couldn’t imagine how he’d anticipated my order. Did he read my thoughts or was it merely coincidence? Did God beam him with the knowledge of what I wanted? Would God care about such tiny, seemingly insignificant details?

And then there was the Indian professor who, for all intents and purposes, appeared to know what I’d been doing without even asking. A fellow student and I would often sense a strong presence radiating from this person—a kind of disorienting numinosity that I knew wouldn’t cut the mustard back in the fast-paced, rationalized and high tech world of Canadian society. It was just too spacey.

Even a world renowned Indian scholar, Sisir Kumar Ghose,¹ was quite forthcoming when discussing psi. I interviewed this gracious, near-blind intellectual at the twilight of his life. In the course of our interview he implied that consciousness could transfer among not only human beings but also among animals, as if psi transcended the boundaries of species.²

The unusual was becoming usual and the usual unusual.

Jung said that parapsychology is “hedged about with prejudice” and that most people are afraid to disclose any extraordinary experiences they may have encountered.

Strange days were afoot and I was intrigued. After all, this wasn’t just an isolated incident at a local Greek restaurant. In India the unusual was becoming usual and the usual unusual.

Home Again

After frying through my last Indian summer (I was supposed to leave before the heat but my exit papers were delayed), I flew back to Canada and began a doctorate. With all this real, lived experience behind me, I hoped to develop some kind of meaningful theory about possible connections between psychology and parapsychology.

I wrote my Ph.D on C. G. Jung’s idea of synchronicity. During this time at least two Canadian professors of religion spoke freely about psi, parapsychology and mysticism. Others, however, were reluctant to discuss psi and got nervous or evasive when I pressed them on the topic.

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung saw a similar situation in his own day. Jung said that parapsychology is “hedged about with prejudice”³ and that most people are afraid to disclose any extraordinary experiences they might have had.

Why afraid?

The answer is probably simple. Most people fear the repercussions, as Jesus wisely cautioned in Matthew 7:6.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces (NIV).

Intercession

My interests evolved during my Ph.D. and the spirituality of Catholicism, if not its political aspect, began to feel like the everlasting home I’d been seeking for so long. So I eventually converted to Catholicism, which lead to a new awareness about the idea of intercession, although the concept is found in many other religions.

Among most religions, intercession is a prayer directed to a deity for the benefit of another person or group.

Within Catholicism, intercessory prayer may also be directed toward the salvation of souls still in purgatory. And a saint, living or risen, may act as an intermediary between God and souls (both living and in purgatory).

Essentially, Catholic intercessory prayer takes two main forms: Vocal and mental prayer.

Vocal prayers are petitions spoken in private or public, whereas mental prayer is an inner prayer. The words of mental prayer may be inwardly pronounced but not vocalized. Mental prayer also includes meditation and higher forms of contemplation where the mind is set directly on God or some aspect of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Meditation is a type of mental prayer, providing it’s ultimately focused on God and not on worldly or satanic influences. The terms meditation and contemplation are often used interchangeably but generally meditation is seen as a slightly lower form of mental prayer than contemplation.

In Catholicism both types of prayer, vocal and mental, are addressed to God, the angels or saints. It’s believed that angels and saints (living and dead) mediate spiritual powers between God and mankind (living and in purgatory), hence the term intercession. And prayer directed toward anything else is negatively described as paganism, superstition or idolatry.4

Many Protestant, Fundamentalist and non-Christian religions view the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief in mediating saints as seriously misguided.

Critics say one should pray only to God and asking the deceased for help is wrong, no matter how holy their earthly lives may have been.

Meanwhile Gnostics, Pagans, Jungians and many New Age enthusiasts tend to see organized Christianity as half-baked or entirely hypocritical. By the same token, traditional Catholics usually denounce Gnostics, Pagans and New Agers, in toto, as a “poison” that threatens the Church.5

More liberal Catholics, however, try to integrate ideas found in other religions—this especially so within the world of Catholic publishing. Needless to say, the Catholic laity disagrees on many issues. And countless other religions each take a unique view on how to be right with God and, in so doing, overcome evil.

The Freedom to Choose

Religious controversy is nothing new. The earliest Christians squabbled over key points and theologians during the Middle Ages locked horns over issues which today seem downright silly. Books were banned and many people were excommunicated, arrested, tortured and killed by decree of the Church.

This hideous barbarism came about mostly because one powerful group didn’t like another group’ s beliefs about God, evil and salvation, although some maintain that greed was also an important factor.

Although things have obviously changed in the 21st century, we’re compelled to ask if the global situation is really all that different today. Civilized countries may not be quite as officially barbaric but there’s still a dynamic of economic and cultural power that tends to marginalize those who don’t fit in so easily.

In the world of parapsychology, official churches may recognize some limited forms of the supernatural but generally are skeptical when an individual claims to have unconventional experiences. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people might be way off, mentally ill, and so on. But it can be a problem for those who are genuinely spiritual but have a hard time fitting in to existing ecclesiastical structures.

Amid all the uncertainty surrounding the topic of parapsychology, it seems safe to say that our universe remains a mystery and traditional understandings of ideas like matter, energy, space and time are in need of cultural revision.

Visionaries were once ridiculed for maintaining that the Earth isn’t flat, but round. And we could be making the same kind of mistakes today when it comes to appreciating the importance of parapsychology.

A paradigm shift might be in the offing. But it will only take place when spirituality is openly discussed and subjected to critical debate and scientific scrutiny.

Some would rather shy away or slink into the shadows instead of talking about the inner life. Maybe these people are afraid, or maybe they’re hiding something. But unlike robots6 locked into their programming, human beings are always free to choose.7

Notes

¹ Ghose contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica with an entry on mysticism. Before Wikipedia, this was a huge honor.

² The Cambridge scientist Rupert Sheldrake has empirically demonstrated that dogs seem to know when their owners are coming home.

³ C. G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX.  Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79, Vol. 8, p. 419.

4 See http://www.culturewars.com/2004/DaVinci.html and The Da Vinci Hoax pp. 45-72. It should be noted that Gnostics, Pagans and New Age groups have their own complexities and disagreements, not unlike any human group. For an excellent survey, see Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth.

5 Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism, p. vii.

6 The word “robot” was coined by the Czech, Josef Čapek, brother and one-time collaborator of playwright Karel Čapek. “Robot” first appears in Karel’s R.U.R (Rossum’s Universal Robots), a somber statement about humanity at its worst. Čapek also wrote an article, Why I am not a Communist, where he says “The climate of communism is ghastly and inhuman.”

7 (a) Some recent software now includes self-learning and the appearance of choice, so the picture is far from simple. (b) For a contemporary epic about moral ambiguity within the mankind vs. machine motif, see the re-imagined TV series Battlestar Galactica.

Copyright © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.