Life is..

Yesterday I turned 40.  I remember being a kid and thinking 40 is old and yet here I am and to be honest, I don’t feel very old.  Sure, I have quite a few gray hairs, a bigger gut, tons of responsibility; my muscles don’t heal quite as quickly as they used to, but deep down inside… I’m still a kid.  I still get excited when I get a new toy (although my toys now cost more money and usually require insurance), I still like to dress up at Halloween, still love dueling it out with a light saber, and I still wonder what I am going to be when I grow up.

Wait a minute, I’m 40.. Isn’t that grown-up?

Then I look back and stand in awe of the many giants that came before me.   People like Thomas Jefferson, who before the age of 40 had already been the governor of Virginia and written the Declaration of Independence.   Isaac Newton had already developed the Theory of Color and developed the blueprint for what became the modern refracting lens telescope.  Shortly before turning 40 Nicolaus Copernicus developed the concept of a heliocentric universe (meaning the earth was not the center of the universe).  So for all intents and purposes, I have a bit of catching up to do if I want to achieve greatness.

Life is a gift.  When we consider the number of people who have lived before us and especially when we consider the countless numbers that never even had the chance to live.  Our bodies are constantly producing the ingredients to produce life and when that is taken into consideration the birth of a human being is a rare event.

Life is fragile.  So many things can go wrong during the day that can cut our lives short and any number of things can prevent us from waking up in the morning, so we should make the most of each and every day.  We should also be very conscious of how we take care of ourselves.  We can’t expect to live long lives if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Life comes with a price.  Throughout the course of humanity there have existed many religions.  All of which have taught in some form or fashion that we owe our existence to the gods.  Some have taught that sacrifices, whether animal or even human, have been required to appease the gods or atone for our transgressions.  In a less subtle way of putting it, in order for all of us to live somewhere something else had to die.  Whether it was a cow that became a steak dinner or a carrot that was uprooted to be a side dish, something has to die for you to live.

Life is a quest.  Like all quests there a peaks and valleys, easy paths and rough terrain.  I often wonder what the point of it all is.  We are born, we live a little while, and then we die.  The overwhelming majority of people who die are eventually forgotten no matter how famous or how great their accomplishments were.  We all struggle and we all should strive to continue the quest and not give up.  Even if there doesn’t seem to be a point in it at all.  In this quest it is important to not be self-centered or use a winner-take-all approach.  For some reason we have an altruistic nature that when tapped into can be very fulfilling and very rewarding.

We are all one; one with each other and one with the universe.  The more we neglect our connection the more distant we become from our true reality.   If more people took a walk along the beach or hiked along a mountain stream more often they would be able to reconnect more to that essence of life and rediscover their very source and essence of being.  With all the pain and suffering in the world over whose interpretation of God is right, I often wonder the last time anyone really tried reconnecting with God.  Many people turn to religious texts and prayer, but why rely on ancient interpretations of God and morality or the automatic recitations of old poems?  The True Word of God lies within the greatest expression of Divine Intervention.  You find this all around you, from the drunken man in the streets to a waterfall in a secluded forest.   Some things are obviously more desirable than others, but all that exists came from one source.  Whether you accept the evidence that supports the Big Bang Theory or whether you believe that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” the fact remains the same.  All that exists has a common origin and as such all is one.   This can even be loosely expressed that we are all of one body and while the right hand may not control what the left hand does, our eyes still water if we touch a hot stove.

 

Ineffable Truth

Let me open with a few definitions:

Ineffable –
1 a : incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable
   b : unspeakable
2: not to be uttered : taboo

Truth –
1 a (archaic) : fidelity, constancy
   b : sincerity in action, character, and utterance
2 a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality
   b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true
   c : the body of true statements and propositions
3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality
    b (chiefly British) : true 2
    c : fidelity to an original or to a standard

Theory –
1 : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
2 : abstract thought : speculation
3 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art
4 a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action
    b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory
5: a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena

For most of recorded history mankind has, in some form or fashion, searched for what can be considered as ineffable truths.. Many of the realities of today were completely inconceivable to people that lived a century ago. Just imagine for a second what men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac Newton or Socrates would have tweeted! We live in a world so technologically interconnected that it almost rivals the interconnectedness of nature itself.

We live in an age where we’ve mapped the observable cosmos and every discovery is a venture not only in the future but in some ways they are echoes of the past. With each discovery we unravel a mystery of the past and yet to many people this progress is threatening. Religions have held a significant amount of influence over not only culture, but the way people think and how they reason. This is why many well researched scientific theories come under unnecessary fire and criticism. Part of the problem here is the understanding of the word theory as well.  There is a difference between the modern vernacular use of the word theory and the scientific use of the word.  In the world of science in order to label something a theory requires a substantial amount of experimentation, research, and evidence.  Evolution and the “Big Bang” theories are viewed as threats to religion when they should not be.  The men that wrote the Jewish Bible were one group of people in an obscure part of the world.  One group out of many groups, and while all of them had their cosmological legends and myths, none of them had the knowledge we have today.  Few knew the earth wasn’t flat and that the stars were much bigger than the earth.  They didn’t know the molecular structure of carbon or have the ability to even know what DNA was.  So to rely on their presumptions of how everything came to be and reject what we are learning is foolish.  We need to embrace facts and relegate myths and legends to their proper place as allegorical lessons and historical perspectives.

We have seen a tremendous amount of changes in society in the last century and it is due primarily to advancements in science and technology.  Vaccines have eradicated the majority of fatal viruses, computers can calculate and rapidly retrieve data faster than the human brain, and the internet coupled with mobile technology has enabled information to travel across the globe in seconds when it used to take weeks and even months for information to spread across a single country.  Somewhere in the world someone’s very life is being spared because a very skilled surgeon is performing surgery on them.  Somewhere in the world a child is walking for the first time on their own because a skilled engineer crafted a prosthetic leg for them.   The scientists and doctors of today are what people of old would call miracle workers, but what they do is not miraculous in a supernatural religious sense.  We have progressed to the point to where we have a little more control and are subject a little less to random chance.

Yet with all we know we are finding there is still so much we don’t know.  For now there remain many questions that science still cannot answer.  What caused the “Big Bang” and what was there before it?  How do cellular structures “know” to evolve at the micro and macro level?  And while it is obvious that the universe is beyond our comprehension in size and structure we still wonder if we exist for a reason.  Do we cease to exist when we die?  Perhaps most perplexing of all is why, if we just happen to inhabit an obscure planet in a solar system on the outer reaches of a several billion year old galaxy, do we have an emotion as powerful as Love?

Religions tend to answer these questions in dogmatic ways, but the questions still remain for most people.  The idea of any kind of intelligent design is easily brought into question when children are born with life threatening diseases.  Yet when one takes a step back and considers the ineffable enormity of all that exists, how can we be so bold as to assume that if there is a god behind it that we are even capable of adequately describing it’s nature or intentions?  As an old Talmudic theme teaches – If we cannot gaze upon the sun, which is an object of existence, how can we gaze upon that Source from which it came?

The knowledge one claims to have of whatever they believe to be God is purely a mental construct because the existence of any god is ineffable.  We are like specks of sand on a cosmic sea shore.  We roll in with tides and we roll out.  And much like the specks of sand on a beach, we have no way of seeing where the tides came from or where they might take us next.  The Hebrew name of God has traditionally been ineffable.  This less about taboo and more about the consonantal nature of the Hebrew language (there were no vowels).  Perhaps the ineffable name alludes to the ineffable existence of the god being written about.

Points of clarity

It’s been a pretty interesting week since posting “Breaking free.”  As expected I got the usual fire and brimstone, “my soul belongs to the devil”, “repent before its to late”, “you deceived me with your knowledge of scripture” silliness.  I have no desire to engage in fanciful debates, nor do I need to address the doctrinal and dogmatic flaws that surround the fundamentalist and evangelical mindset.  However, in the midst of the dust-up there were some very genuine and relevant questions and I’d like to take the opportunity to address 20130614-184544.jpgthem. 

Isn’t pantheism just “sexed up atheism”?

This is a very popular stance that is frequently propounded by Richard Dawkins (whom I greatly admire and respect).  Using the traditional theistic beliefs and the anthropomorphic concept of divinity would absolutely give pantheism a somewhat atheistic label.  However, while atheism completely rejects the existence of a supreme being or divine source of any kind, pantheism, while not an organized religion with doctrines or dogmas, does not.  The very term ‘pantheism’ is constructed from the Greek roots pan (all) and theos (God). Therefore the entire universe or multiverse, the known and unknown, past, present, and future are all one entity and that which connects all things is divine.  This concept has even been revealed in our every day lives and culture through some very familiar terms like “the circle of life” in the movie  Lion King or “the force”  in the Star Wars movies as well as the overall theme of the movie Avatar all contain elements of pantheism in them.  The shedding of doctrines and dogmas that tradition has tied us to, does not mean we have to shed the concept of all things Divine.  So while atheism proposes there is nothing, pantheism proposes there is everything.

Are you saying that everything is God and a pantheist worships rocks and trees?

No. This is a blind dogmatic argument that displays a complete lack of understanding.  A tree is not God, although the essence of life within the tree is.  A rock is not God, although the natural phenomena that makes the multiple particles that compose a rock maintain its singular state of matter is.  No individual man is God, although the collective whole of our existence, every molecule, emotion, breath, heartbeat, and neurological impulse as well as our individual and collective consciousness is.  So within all things is the Divine Presence that acts as a thread which weaves each individual microcosm into a progressive series of greater macrocosms that are all interconnected.  As to worship, observing nature with a sense of awe and reverence and loving and showing mutual respect to each other and all other living things, including the environment, are what we should focus on.  That is true “worship”.

But, the Scriptures say..

In the west, especially amongst the evangelical crowd, there is the claim that the Christian Scriptures combined with the Jewish Scriptures encompass the only true Bible and that this Bible is not only inerrant and infallible, but that it is the absolute “Word of God”.  These claims seem to completely disregard the overwhelming evidence that none of these claims are true.  It is as if they don’t know that for centuries there was nothing written in the Jewish tradition and that what was, was destroyed on at least 2 occasions: during the Babylonian and Assyrian exile periods.  Even within the Jewish text itself (2 Kings 2:22) it is specifically said that the “book of the law” was “found”.  It is an accepted position that all of the Jewish Scripture (aka Old Testament) was compiled during the second temple period under the direction of Ezra – long after Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and even Isaiah.  As to the Christian text, not a single complete manuscript of any of the books in the Christian Scriptures exists that is within 150 years of what it claims to witness.  There is no literary evidence to support any of the gospels as eye-witness accounts, of which Mark and Luke can be ruled out by name alone given that among the apostles who followed Jesus around there were no men named Mark or Luke.  In fact by Paul’s own hand Luke was a contemporary of his and neither man had met Jesus in the flesh.  As to the accuracy of any of the text – I shall save that for another post.

Now while this appears as a Bible bash, it is not.  Unfortunately here in the west, people haven’t the slightest notion that there are other, older, and less spurious bodies of literature that are considered Scripture.  The Bhagavad Gita, the Zend Avesta, the Dao de jing, Chuang Tzu, the Book of Thelema, the Nag Hammadi Library… well the list goes on.  The delusion that only one set of writings were written by God is grossly inaccurate, especially when some of these older texts don’t include the violence and contradictions that Judeo-Christian Bible contains.    So while I do not recognize the authority of one text over another, I do acknowledge that all of these texts ultimately point to one Source.

No greater god..

There is no greater god then one we are unable to keep in our finite little boxes.  Somewhere in a distant galaxy, light years away from here, there are likely to be other sentient beings.  Their very existence alone nullifies the concept that a substitutionary atonement for events that took place here was even necessary.  For all intents and purposes, how do we know what exactly constitutes life to begin with?  We assume with our finite capabilities that life must take the form of something like us.  We never take into consideration that the very planet we live on is alive.  Consider the forces of nature, the winds and the rains, the movement of continental plates, and orifices that spit steam and molten rock.  Now look at Venus, Jupiter, Saturn… all planets with active and volatile atmospheres.  How can we ignorantly assume that those very planets themselves aren’t alive?  Even the planets that don’t have atmospheres are somehow held together rather than dissipate into billions of particles.  Now extend that to the solar system, where the sun emanates light and heat that cascades to the planets that surround it.  Each planet with its own diurnal rotation and orbit.  Consider how the entire system itself moves on an orbit as part of an even larger galaxy, which as a whole, drifts away from a central point within the universe.  Considering the immeasurable enormity of the universe and the remote possibility that there may even exist a multiverse, why should we perceive this very active and alive existence to be governed by an external entity?  How could one even consider an external entity just created it and left it to itself (the deistic view) like some dead beat disinterested parent.  These are entities that we place in a box with our own attributes, rather than accepting it as an ineffable infinite source of perpetual life and order.  The mystery of the order of the cosmos becomes more and more coherent with the advancements in astronomy, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, and even our own internal medicinal sciences.  How can we restrict our ever developing knowledge by constantly returning to intellectually oppressive beliefs from ages past?  There should be no reason for science to conflict with our personal philosophies.  Once a person places traditional observances over fact based truths they have willfully enslaved themselves into an alternate an inferior reality.

Break free and embrace all that is and learn to accept your position as both insignificant as well as the very cornerstone that keeps the entire cosmos in balance.

Can anyone “prove” God exists?

In the months since writing the post entitled Divine Science I have had a number of debates as to whether or not it is possible to prove God exists and I have never made the statement that God is a scientifically proven entity.   The evidence of the existence of God has long been an argument.  However, since there is no evidence to the contrary naturally it still remains a logical possibility.  This is not a scientific debate though; it’s a spiritual (or subconscious/emotional) one that Finger of Godif provable would propel the enigma of why evil exists to the forefront.  Part of the problem I think with the argument on proving the existence of “God” is the very defining of what “God” is or is not.

I, personally, am not a believer of an anthropomorphic deity.  You know the one that billions of people believe in and atheists completely detest and reject.  The God that judges and has had fits of rage that result in global flooding or fire and brimstone raining from heaven is an irrational concept to grasp or believe with any sense of reason.  Nor do I believe that God was a man who walked among us 2,000+ years ago in the flesh that had to subject himself to execution in order to forgive me for sins I hadn’t committed yet because that was the only way he could forgive me.  When you put God in a delusional dogmatic box like that, most rational people will not truly believe.  In fact, the only reason many people do believe it is because the genetic lottery caused them to be born into a family that believes it and thus the indoctrination as a young age begins.

That being said, something still compels many people to still believe in God even though they have managed to discard youthful things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  Part of it is obviously the fear factor – lack of belief in Santa or the bunny will not result in eternal damnation and proving they were myths was easy.  Yet there is also something within a person’s soul (or mind) that makes a distinction between God and the average run of the mill myths or beliefs.

Theists can be classed into one of three genres –

1. Unquestioning dogmatists, who believe exactly what they are told the Bible (or other sacred text) says.  By all outward appearances there is no questioning the existence of God, the infallibility of scriptures and the supernatural events that are attributed to God and those sent by God.

2. Cafeteria believers, who observe the major holidays and abide by the traditions (baptism, bar mitzvah, etc) because it is their “religion”.  They say they believe yet they couldn’t tell you what the primary doctrines are or even understand concepts like predestination or atonement.

3.  Heretics.  These are people who do not follow any religion and use either a comparative religious theology or a personal theology that is nondoctrinal and antidogmatic.  (Yes, I am often considered to be a heretic and I am proud of it)

Most of you know I study the “sacred texts” of numerous religions.  The Hermes archetype has existed since antiquity and will so long as people require hope for things not rationally obtainable.  Hermes was a transitional deity that acted as a messenger, intermediary, and conductor between the divine and mortal worlds.  The idea that mortal men could commune or speak with the gods was made possible through Hermes.  Oddly enough Hermeneutics, which is the art of textual interpretation, is derived from the name Hermes, who could also be considered the interpreter of the gods to men.  So whether you adopt the theology of the Odinist, the Wiccans, the Jews, Christians, Muslims or the Pastafarian you will not find “anything new under the sun” as theology and religion has been an ever evolving process; just like nature.

I have found that one of the best ways to put a reasonable argument around the existence of God is by blending multiple schools of thought together.  There are 2 primary schools of thought in Judaism – rabbinic and mystic.  In my opinion it is these 2 schools of thought that encompass what is needed to come to a sensible perception.  The Rabbinic thought is based on – “I shall be what I shall be” (not I am what I am).  The mystical side is based on the concept – “God is everything and God is nothing.”

When you incorporate these two together you get:

“I shall be everything and I shall be nothing.”

So, I really think it is a choice that each person has to make for themselves.  If you choose not to believe in God, then God does not exist to you.  If you have an inherited and shallow view of God, then you will have a shallow almost nonexistent God that is more an abstraction then reality.  If you truly and deeply believe in God, then God exists and makes a difference to you and how you live .

Deciphering the Divine

I had a recent exchange with a number of folks and it seems that there was a misconception that I was anti-God, anti-Bible, and a hater of religion. If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know I am not an atheist or someone who completely rejects God or Jesus. What I am is a person who doesn’t easily suspend reason. When someone uses Reason and Common Sense, God can be a pretty silly idea. I completely agree that it involves faith, however faith in something does not in any way make it true. As a veteran who has seen his share of bloodshed, poverty, and scooped up children from the Straits of Florida whose parents were eaten by sharks in front of them, my view of the “order of things” is a bit different then the common latte sipping iPhone addict. If you knew me, you would know that I have many sacred texts from Hebrew copies of the Torah to Greek copies of the New Testament. The presupposition that I have never said “God please enter my heart” or “Please guide me to you” is an indication that you do not know me.

The human mind is capable of entering a state where it can shut off the outside world and create its own reality. A reality where you are the author of the events, and the narrator of the story. You play the starring and support roles as well as play the role of director and producer. We enter this state, whether or not we recall it, on a daily basis. It’s called dreaming. In almost every instance when God is revealed to man (especially the Christian Scriptures) it is by way of a dream. Could it really be God? Sure, but it can also be one’s own imagination. Believing in God and knowing God to be real, can be very easy for some and almost impossible for others. I have seen enough in my lifetime to know that an anthropic creator deity is very unlikely though. Notice, I did not say it was impossible as only a fool (or a sith) deals in absolutes and to me that is a narrow and simplistic way of thinking.

The concept of God, if that is even a relevant term, has been debated since before the time of Jesus and even before the time of Abraham. Before Yahweh was Zeus and before Zeus was Osiris, Horus, Ra, Hermes and the list goes on. Man has always been looking for the answers to the biggest of questions – WHY? This is the great enigma and the unanswerable question for all. Even if one were to turn wholeheartedly to God and view the Bible as infallible, the “Why” question still goes unanswered. The Book of Job is a masterpiece in theodicy and philosophy which has often been used to put a box around the question, but the question still remains unanswered.

As a father I go with what I know to be the real God and that is pure and unconditional love. The one that holds no grudges, keeps no records of wrongs, does not boast, and does not judge. Love is greater than just some chemical reaction or a silly emotion. Any good father knows this. So, when I think in terms of God, I do not think of a Controlling Creator or a Divine Judge. I think of Divine Thread that weaves us all together. Some people are stitched tighter together than others and have a closer connection with the Divine. As far as Jesus goes, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

A Skeptical Twist

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deu...

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15, illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A young Jewish boy was riding home from Hebrew School when his mother asked him, “So how was class?”
“It was stupid mom.”, he said.
“Come on sweetheart”, said the mom, “it couldn’t be that bad. Tell me what you learned today.”
“Well, we learned about Moses“, he said, “and how he motivated the Israelites to rise against Pharaoh and leave Egypt. Then Pharaoh chased them and they were trapped at the Red Sea. Then Moses told the Israelites to build a bridge over the sea. They planted explosives on the bridge as they crossed it and when Pharaoh’s army got on the bridge they blew it up.”
“Wait a minute honey, I don’t think that’s how the story goes.” said the mother.
“I know mom, but if I told you what the Torah really says, you’d never believe me.”

Logic, reason, and science have long been the biggest foes of religion. I have been accused by many of “thinking” too much about things and being overly critical of Biblical accuracy and relevance. “You have to learn to just believe” and “The Lord works in mysterious ways” are the defenses and pleas of my well-intended Christian friends. My all-time favorite is when I posed the question of Theodicy and got the tired old “Sin is the reason bad things happen.” Oh I get it, so because “Eve” took a bite out of a piece of fruit millions of children are starving or neglected and abused. Here is the paradoxical question – If God is in control, then why isn’t anyone blaming God? If God really had control, why did “Eve” listen to the “talking snake” in the first place?

What about intelligent design and the perfection and balance of nature? Is nature really perfect when children are born with cleft lips or dysfunctional organs? Is nature perfect when a tidal wave washes away people who had no idea it was coming? Where is God when people sit huddled in their houses when a hurricane or tornado threatens to destroy them? If he is huddled there with them, why wasn’t he with the family that perished when the roof collapsed on them? Is their really evidence for intelligent design when a woman’s body viciously tries to destroy sperm before it gets to the egg and then continues to try to destroy the embryo until the placenta eventually forms an impenetrable barrier?

All my life I have believed that there is a God. It has been a view that has flip-flopped between Christianity, Judaism, and Deism, but there was always some kind of a belief in a higher power. I have studied scripture tirelessly, not for the purposes of debunking or making cheap shots, but because I had a hard time believing the concept of the Abrahamic God to be true. I truly wanted that “spiritual” connection to happen and I long believed that to be possible when someone sincerely digs into the Scriptures. I studied the cosmological, ontological, mystical, and evangelical concepts of God for the purpose of solidifying my faith. Studying Scripture to me meant more than just the feel good writings of John and the dogmatic and veiled writings of Paul. The Bible, much like the world, contains a lot of violence and pain and suffering and to me reading the many books that are less than happy in their message was an essential aspect of understanding the whole.

I’ve said before that I view the Bible as a collection of writings of men who were just as confused as I am. The Psalms are a perfect example. There are 150 individual poems, songs, and laments that range from praising to doubting and anger to joy. The Psalter (who I believe to be more than one person and not just King David) could not maintain a solid position on whether God was always good and loving or forgetful and forsaking. So after much effort and examination, the results are a weaker faith than when I started. I think what continues to draw me to the Bible at this point has become more of a philosophical exercise than a spiritual one.

What about God though? Well, that is the million dollar question. With all the pain and suffering throughout the world and the glaring an inconceivable injustices against the innocent – mainly children, one could easily reject that God exists. After so much time and study I have, admittedly, grown very skeptical and almost adopted an agnostic viewpoint. I will not be so bold as to say there is no God, but I do completely reject the concept of an all-powerful magical old man in the skies. Perhaps what “God” really may be is an incorporeal cosmic force that interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it. This is a pantheistic view that I have begun to consider as an alternative to the corporeal, personal and anthropomorphic conception of the Divine. Perhaps the time has come for the Quest to shift into a broader exploration of ethics and metaphysics.

I posted this long before I had any followers on the Quest. I figured it was worth dusting off. Enjoy!

The Quest for Light

The opening phrase in the Torah or Genesis 1.1 in Hebrew is “B’raisheet bara”.  The most popular translation is the rendering of “In the beginning”.  This would of course give one the belief that the creation account is chronological and meant to be literal.  While many believe this to be the case one only needs to read the next few sentences to clearly see that it is not chronological at all.  “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ” (Genesis 1:2)  In reading this sentence literally one can find that water had existed prior to the first creation command of “Let there be light”. 

So when did God create water?  Well, the Bible does not say anything about God creating water.  The Bible only says that God separated the water – “

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