Riding the cosmic tide

Amidst the chaos we see in nature and the universe, an underlying order exists.  An order that, while not seemingly perfect, somehow perpetuates unseen and almost unknown to those not attune to its existence.  Nature is filled with dichotomous processes and attributes that, while seemingly unnecessary for the finite human mind to perceive as relevant or “fair”, serve a purpose in the endless ebb and flow of the cosmos.  There cannot be darkness without light for without light one would never know they were in the dark.  There cannot be joy without sorrow for without one we would never be able to experience the other.  To experience a state of perfection we must acknowledge and overcome our own imperfections.  There are times when we should take a step back and reflect on ourselves.  Are we worthy of advancing further?  Are we giving our best effort in our present situation?  Are we really prepared to move on to the next phase in life or take on a new role in our professional careers?  While at times there are obstacles placed before us that may prevent us from advancing, we cannot automatically dismiss each lost opportunity or setback as something that we shouldn’t be reflecting on in order to build ourselves up.  The worst thing a person can do is let a situation get the better of them.  Once a person loses their drive and determination they risk sinking deeper to a place where negativity is king and that can be toxic.

Our very actions have implications on those around us whether intended or unintended.  If those actions are constantly negative or dwell on our inability to learn from the past rather than dwell on it, how are we ever going to move forward?  Today people openly judge others with indiscriminate prejudice and without regard to how their judgments may affect them.  Many people have a tendency to be unbelievably petty, shallow, egotistical, and callus.  It is all too common to jump to conclusions without even giving a single thought to what another person is going through and it exposes a shameful hypocrisy when we cast judgment on someone else’s character, while all the while engaging in the very thing we are condemning the other person for to begin with.  Regardless of your religious preferences the words “Judge not, lest ye yourselves be judged: for whatsoever judgment ye measure unto others, the same shall in turn be measured unto you.” (Matt 7:1-2) should be words we all live by.

In the world of social media we often see ourselves debating everything from politics to religion and from dogs to furniture.  The pen can in many ways still be more powerful than the sword.  This is especially true when the one holding the pen is aware of the emotions and sentiments they can both manipulate and cultivate with what they write.   Our opinions seem to flow freely when written and sometime that freedom lacks temperance.  Our words and our deeds are mere outward expressions of who we are and while many put up a good front, the facade eventually exposes itself the second another person traverses the walls we build around our true selves.  Substance and character comes from within and if we focus solely on what others perceive, we are merely building walls that once traversed exposes and empty open field.

We are all microcosms of the cosmos, no one being separate from the other.  So every storm we weather has its purpose and our actions rarely, if ever, affect ourselves alone.   Here is the dichotomy of our own existence.  We are to be true to ourselves yet live harmoniously with those around us.  Finding that balance is how we navigate through the ocean of time.

Thoughts on the essence and existence of God

A lot has gone on the past few weeks and I had a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head.  I felt like chatting with you instead of writing.  So here is the first ever “vlog” post:

Breaking free

Pantheism

Pantheism (Photo credit: Helico)

For quite a while I have been going through the mental anguish of disentangling myself from a belief system that had been implanted and cultivated into my mind as a child. For the better part of 2 years I have been inconsistent with the answer to the question “what do I believe?” because it has been an ever evolving process. However, my moral compass and personal philosophy has solidified for the past couple of months and I’ve been coping with exactly what that means. After all, abandoning a system that teaches that the lack of adhering to it will result in an eternity of torment, does tend to make one second guess abandoning their faith. Eventually I realized that the whole threat of eternal torment is actually the psychological hook that when implanted at a young age, or at a point in one’s life when they are the most vulnerable, can produce an almost impenetrable motivational framework that is extremely difficult to break away from.

After almost slipping into atheism, the birth of my first child made me realize that there had to be something other than a chemical reaction to the love I felt when I looked into his newborn eyes. The same love that managed to spread without effort to my daughter and my youngest son. There has to be something more than just “my imagination” when I can feel the emotion or mood of a room full of people before I see a single face or here the first voice. When I can feel the pain of someone else when I read the details of the many “Pray for ..” Facebook pages and then ask myself the same question they ask themselves everyday, “why?”

For me to believe in something greater than myself, that being or thing actually needs to be greater than me. So when I think of a being with omnipotent power that is present everywhere and is capable of altering “His” own laws of nature, that being is no longer greater than I am when children are sucked up by tornadoes or washed away with floods. Now I used natural forces for a reason, so as not to hear the “man is evil and sinful” retort. To that extent though, a child being raped or multiple children being shot in a school under the watchful eye of a “heavenly father” is inexcusable if that supreme being actually exists.

Sure while parting seas, walking on water, magic ladders, and turning water into wine make for great reading (and the last one would be great at a party) these things are not realities. They are no more factually true then Paul Bunyan dragging his ax to form the Grand Canyon or George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. Since ancient times the greatest teachers have often used stories (aka parables) to teach lessons. Now, we live in a world that is incredibly connected with technology, mass transit, and lightning fast communications. One only needs to take a second look deeper and discover that connection that is longing to be cultivated. It is our true Divine Source that has never faltered and never wavered. It is that which makes us one.

So now it is time to step out from behind the veil of dogma and accept that which I have come to know for quite a while.

I believe the universe is one being; all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole … The whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it, and to think of it as divine. It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of the deeper sort of love; and there is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation, in turning one’s affections outward toward this one God; rather than inwards on one’s self, or on humanity, or on human imaginations and abstractions the world of spirits. (Robinson Jeffers, Pantheism)

There you have it, I’m a Pantheist.

What’s in a name?

Hidden in plain sight from the reader of the English translations of the Bible are several linguistic nuances that range from how the shaping of the letters are to the number of letters in a parshat to the different names used for the Almighty. You don’t even have to go very far – in the book of Genesis the following names are used – Elohim, YHVH, YHVH Elohim, El Shaddai, and Yah. Some attribute this to multiple authors whose works were compiled and redacted numerous times before the canon was sealed and others believe that the various names are in relation to the different attributes of God. The 2 most commonly used names in Jewish Scripture (aka Old Testament) are Elohim and YHVH. These names have different meanings and I will focus on these 2 names for now.

Elohim
Elohim is typically rendered in English as “God”. So Genesis 1:1 when properly rendered would read: In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth.
Elohim is the name that is used to describe the unknowable and almighty Creator. Elohim is not an anthropomorphic (or human like) being. Elohim a spirit which utters and wills things into existence and the interaction with man is always through a mediator – typically an angel. When used as elohim (not capitalized) it refers to gods in the plural. Keep in mind up until the second temple Jews believed that other nations had other gods and that they were to be obedient and follow their own deity. It wasn’t until the second temple when Ezra and the returning Jews changed their belief to a monotheistic one and that there was only one Almighty God and that all others were false deities and didn’t exist.

YHVH
This is the Ineffable Name and is known as the Tetragrammaton. It has typically been rendered as Yahweh and Jehovah, both of which are incorrect. The name is unspeakable and as such the English rendering you are used to seeing is “The Lord”. At times both Elohim and YHVH are used together and that combination is rendered as “The Lord God”. The first instance of this combination occurs during what many believe to be the second creation account which is found in Genesis 2:4: This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When YHVH Elohim (or the Lord God) made the earth and the heavens When the name YHVH (or the combination) is used we see a more intimate God. One who walks with man and can even be questioned, rebuked, and even wrestled with by man. While the Christian rendering for YHVH is “The Lord”, this is not a common practice within Jewish Scholarship. When reading from the Torah or when praying, YHVH is spoken as “Adonai”.  In discussions and study the name “HaShem” is also used, which another way of saying “the Name”.

Now lets tackle another position. What if Elohim, Adonai, and YHVH aren’t really supposed to be nouns. What if they are really verbs. Consider the fact that YHVH is a variation of the speakable “h-v-h” which is a verb meaning “to be”. Now consider that in Exodus 3:14 that we read: Elohim said to Moses “Eyeh Asher Eyeh..” What does Eyeh Asher Eyeh mean? Here we have seen 2 common mistranslations: one is “I am that I am” and the other is “I am who I am”.  Neither are technically right because it is more properly rendered: “I shall be what I shall be” or “I will be what I will be” and another rendering “I will become what I will become” may be as close to a proper English translation as we can get. This may seem subtle on the surface, but when you really think about it, it completely changes the concept of what the Almighty is. If our Creator is not a noun, then we shift from a Creator to a Creative process. A process that continues and does not remain stagnant. One that evolves so that it does not become obsolete.

In the Jewish (and some Christian) mystical schools of thought a person is thought to be a vessel. Each with the ability to receive as much or as little of the Divine Presence as they are willing to accept. This is the “breath of life” that was breathed into us from the very beginning. Now think about that too. The receiving of the breath started the process of breathing which started the process of life. So when one goes through life, each breath they take is the opportunity to receive more life and with it more of that which made life possible. Just as breathing is an action and receiving is an action, perhaps the old man in the skies is really the winds and the rain, the compassion and the love or to those who prefer to do without, just another breath.

The “power” of the mind and prayer

The human mind is an incredibly powerful and amazing creation. When you think (pun intended) about the things the mind is capable of you have to wonder why the words I can’t are in anyone’s vocabulary. The subconscious mind controls the senses, the emotions, and the essential life systems and cycles of the body. The mind truly is a terrible thing to waste on some of the mundane silliness we seem to waste it on this days (ie. “Reality TV”)

If the mind is capable of creating an entirely parallel universe while you are dreaming and if we, as it is written, are created in the image of our Creator, how can anyone doubt, question, or even fathom the limits of the power of the mind? The even greater power of collective consciousness can even be physical felt by those around it, whether they wanted to feel it or not. Collective consciousness is, in simple terms, a group of people thinking and focusing on the same thing. The easiest examples are pep rallies, funerals, and even a business conference room. Think of the almost electric positive vibe you can feel at a pep rally, the somber sadness you can feel during a funeral, or the tension in a conference room when opposing parties are engaged in a serious ideological debate.

So what does this have to do with prayer?

When someone prays it is a deep mental process (unless it’s a shallow recitation or going through the motions). So depending on the depth of a person’s consciousness, a prayer by a single person can very easily change their mood and perceptions of their situation. Now, add a few people who have the depth of consciousness and who knows the possibilities. This is where some “prayer circles” may have the “power” to impact their surroundings. I’m not saying a group of people can form a prayer circle and eliminate cancer, however imagine if for a few moments the entire planet at the same time focused on the same topic… The outcome could be astounding. I realize this may seem completely irrational to the secular mind. To those people I revert to my previous examples of the energy at a pep rally and the somberness you can feel at a funeral and ask them to come up with a better explanation than collective consciousness.

Do you know someone who is extremely persuasive? You know, that friend who can talk you into anything or that sales guy who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Have you considered the fact that this is a person, whether they know it or not, had the ability to use their mind to influence yours? Think of the scores of motivational speakers, religious teachers, even regular teachers that with their words (which originate from their mind) plant seeds of hope and knowledge into the minds of the people they speak to. These seeds then grow into other thoughts based on that person’s perspective of what they thought they heard.

In today’s world people really don’t use their minds as much anymore. The rise of technology have made things like spelling and grammar to be unnecessary skills. Studying and reading have been replaced with television and video games. As smart as we think we are, we are probably less intelligent than people were just a century ago. Think of people like Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and even further back – Pythagoras. Do we have anyone even remotely comparable to these people? In ages past some people, like Nostradamus, were so in touch with their subconsciousness that they could pinch the ripple of time and predict events that would occur centuries later.

The power of human thought is immeasurable. Sincerely focused prayer from a non-dogmatic perspective is literally a person tapping into the innermost recesses of their mind and consciousness. The possibilities of those thoughts really could be limitless.

Think about it.