A Stream in the Desert:

"May Adonai bless you and protect you! May Adonai deal kindly and graciously with you! May Adonai lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace!" (Torah, Numbers 6:24-26) And Jesus said, "Allow the little children to come unto me. Forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say unto you, unless you receive the Kingdom of God as a little child does, you shall not enter therein." (New Testament, Mark 10:14-16)

Sojourning at an Oasis Paradise

My purpose for living this life, and for writing this blog, is to understand the faith that links us to God. I wish to explore and discuss the reality at the heart of all of the world's religions. This is an immense task, but I know that God also has faith in us, trusting that we do desire the truth, as well as freedom, love and wisdom. Thus, as always, He meets us halfway. Even as God has given us individual souls, so we must each of us trace out an individual pathway to God. Whether we reside in the cities of orthodox religion, or wend our solitary ways through the barren wastelands, God watches over us and offers us guidance and sustenance for the journey.

Most of what you will see here is the result of extensive personal study, combined with some careful speculation. Occasionally, I may simply offer some Scripture or an inspirational text. I am a wide reader, and the connection of some topics and ideas to matters of faith and religion may not seem immediately obvious, but perhaps I may spell it out in the end... or maybe, you will decide that it was just a tangent. Anyway, I hope that you will find my meanderings to be spiritually enlightening, intellectually stimulating, or at least somewhat entertaining.

In the coming weeks and months, I intend to transcribe a series of essays that I wrote about 20 years ago in the hope that I might get them published. They represent the nucleus of my spiritual life and the focal point around which my wanderings revolve like an electron in an atom. I hope that they might eventually serve as a springboard for discussions about the common spiritual heritage of humanity. May we come together and embrace each other in peace.


Monday, July 16, 2018

A Poem Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Pilgrim's Credo

Not all who risk cost to wander are lost,
nor can all that is golden be bartered.
A faith that braves night may yet see the light,
and one who seeks truth may be honored.

A new vintage at first can make old wineskins burst,
and fresh taste can outclass the best.
But lo' and behold, one day it is old,
and a hero must start the next quest.

Sometimes a prophet cares only for profit,
and the faithful can just be misled,
Conquest by the sword brings only discord,
yet the saint does not value his head.

God's faith in the human needs only a true man,
to climb his way up to the heights.
He's seeking a token, to fix what is broken,
and a path to shine light on at night.

You can look at the Moon just as well at high noon,
and imagine a ladder to heaven.
But it takes a man bold to build up a road,
and give us the planets all seven.

An ideal morality bears mind of mortality,
truth, freedom, wisdom and love.
But eternal laws should make us to pause.
The Spirit gives life as a dove.

God knows the hurts we bear in our hearts.
The world does not go as it should.
Becoming our best is really the test,
if we want to be happy, we could.

To find our own purpose we don't need a surplus.
We can let the green world have its place.
Far past our own pond, in the black out beyond,
we may yet rediscover God's face.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Developing a Personal Faith: The Eternal Quest to Become Fully Human

I. Who is God? the Mystic's idea

I  am a facet of "the Great I AM" who is the synergy of all of the intelligences who ever live in the universe. I can't help but believe that God exists, and speaks to us via telepathy and inspiration, often without words. He is vastly more intelligent and powerful than any one or group of us, and He does have an overall purpose. Moreover, since God is eternal, chronological time is not a limitation. We are, each of us, a spark of the vast and incomprehensible conflagration of God's mind, and our perceptions contribute to his omniscience, just as God's purpose can guide our own trembling steps.

What is Synergy? You have heard that the Whole can be greater than the sum of all of its parts, and so it can. Maybe God is emergent Being-in-itself, a new comprehensive organization of consciousness and volition, existing from before the beginning. And perhaps we only see a lesser equation, or there may be several closely related sums, ... kaleidoscoping to grant us an inspiration or incarnation, or a revelation, from one prophet's understanding to another's vision ... as God seeks to encounter his sentient creatures at the very heart of their ultimate concerns, yet all of these ultimately combine in unity.

Whatever it is possible to learn how to do, God has already learned, and has extrapolated all of the possible innovations and applications. This includes the Cosmic possibility of imploding and then exploding a universe, to create an entirely new one, and begin again, ordaining immanent physical laws to create according to His will. God has transcended physical existence and its limitations, and gone as far beyond his angels' "Clarke-tech" as that magical technology would be beyond us.

"Clarke-tech" - i.e., any technology that is so vastly powerful and sophisticated that it's means or instrumentality cannot be discerned or comprehended will appear as indistinguishable from magic, especially if it uses natural laws which we have not yet discovered.

Also, by definition, God is morally perfect, because His experience and understanding encompasses all of History, from many worlds, such that consequences can usually be predicted. Moreover, He is kind, compassionate and benevolent by choice and inclination... and thus opposed to all forms of cruelty or oppression. Since He also wants us to learn perfect morality, He gives us teachers to show the idealism of truth, freedom, wisdom and love, and thus shows us how much He cares, encouraging us to have faith and hope.

His ultimate aims and ends do take precedence, however, because He can predict the consequences of any action or inaction, and figure in the meaning of human free will, and the development of consciousness, and conscience. Further, He wishes to allow for repentance, our turning away from evil intentions, so that the world may be improved, and in so doing creates opportunities for learning from the consequences of our own actions. This way, we can also feel pride or guilt, according to what we contribute to the world's condition.

As believers, we are parts of the body of the Divinity whom we try to emulate. Hopefully, the Master and revelation that we follow is one that brings out the best of our potential, and teaches us to grow beyond our own petty self-interest. A true faith seeks the way of peace, not conflict,  and shows compassion to all, not only to those who agree. If our doctrines can not be reconciled via compromise, perhaps we can still learn to coexist, or even help and complement one another.

II. This world is NOT the point.

"My kingdom is not of this world." What shall we do here? Seek Truth, Freedom, Love, Wisdom & Hope.
1. spend your time in prayer
2. toil for sustenance
3. help the poor
4. heal the sick
5. visit prisoners
6. bury the dead
7. resist the spread of evil
8. spread faith, hope & ideals
9. live in a community of faith
10. teach children how to live
11. steward the earth's ecology
12. develop culture and science

We must aim beyond this world to seek Truth, Freedom, Love, Wisdom and Hope for eternity.
13. put colonies in space, F
14. stop war and violence, L
15. explore the universe, T
16. spread life beyond earth, W
17. search for angels, H

Whatever you think you should do to get to heaven, that is all that is worth doing. The rest is useless, or worse.

The reason why no one can agree on the meaning of life is because there is none. We have to make that for ourselves. Our best hope is that God will teach us, or at least allow us to save ourselves. That is the nature of reality as I see it.

By the way, yes, Heaven is up, among the celestial spheres... stars, planets, moons, asteroids, comets ... and man-made rotating habitats with the ships that go between them. Once there, we can spend eternity trying to figure out how to build a perfect society.

You can say that my viewpoint is reductionist and materialistic, but we have no proof of any reality in which we may continue to exist or experience beyond the Cosmos that we know. All we have is faith, and the hope of personal salvation. God doesn't give us proof, as that would ruin our ability to have faith. But we can live our lives in pursuit of a goal that stretches our capabilities, even if there will always be a next step just beyond our reach. We achieve one step at a time, and we are also improving ourselves with time and success.

III. What is Heaven? God's promises?

* no more pain, sickness or death
* rejoin missing friends and family
* no more poverty or unmet needs
* comfortable large homes
* beautiful City and Temple
* bountiful gardens, without pests
* no more exile, sin or vain pride
* personal meetings with God
* all prayers & questions answered
* truth, freedom, love, wisdom
* accord, purpose and meaning
* happiness, and fullness of joy
* companionship as desired
* knowing how to live righteously
* habitat parks & abundant wildlife
* opportunity to live by faith again
* hope for the success of humanity

IV. The Starry Heavens Idealized

I have always imagined that Eutopia MUST have all, or most, of the following in order to be perfect:
1. a wide variety of flora & fauna
2. gardens, pastures & orchards
3. parklands and free ecologies
4. visible stars, planets & moons
5. intermittent clouds & rain
6. recreational lakes and rivers
7. clean access to resources
8. farming villages & hi-tech cities
9. great libraries and schools
10. ocean, air and space ports
11. an abundance economy
12. multiple distinct cultures

And encourage:
1. political & individual rights
2. flexible & multiple careers
3. chances to explore & venture
4. scientific & social research
5. fine arts and literature
6. practical idealism & spirituality
7. extended lifespans, ~12x

... And must NOT have:
1. competition for advantage
2. race, gender or class oppression
3. manipulation, abuse or cruelty
4. compulsory service
5. involuntary deprivation
6. meaningless repetitive toil
7. maladaptive psychology

... Nor ALLOW to flourish:
1. pests, parasites or disease
2. immorality, vice or crime
3. injustice, captivity or slavery
4. despotic governments
5. dangerous, intolerant religions
6. chaotic violence or terrorism
7. ideological deception & control

However:
There is a difference between just keeping an open mind, believing an idea because you desire it to be true, and acting to bring it about. God often intends for us to build up what we hope and dream. This would be more likely as the result of a robust international space program, culminating in the free development of multitudes of rotating space habitats and mining colonies.

I would say, however, that lacking these conditions, the afterlife might soon pale in interest, and lose its appeal and bliss... unless they want to teach me how to do magic and miracles... or I can go back for another life.

Without struggle, there can be no growth. Without opponents, there is no story. That's why the Garden of Eden could not be perfect. The quest for knowledge of good and evil was the missing ingredient. That is what truly makes us human, and maybe more. So clearly, God knows what He's doing.

V. Ultimate Concern

1. What is the brokenness of this world? What is the nature of evil?  What is the root problem, and the causes for the world's many ills? Why is there so much suffering?

2. How do we build a harmonious community? Are we human beings innately good or sinful? Do we make society, or does it make us? Can we design a rational society that makes people good? Is it up to us to create a heaven, in the style of our own preference?

3. Is there a meaning of life? Is there anything worth living and dying for? Can we make the world a better place? Are the lives of other species as sacred as our own?

4. What do we lack to become perfect? Can we remake ourselves to be better and live longer? Is there another life after the death of this body? Are we really an "embodied soul" requiring both for existence? What kind of body do we have in heaven?

These are questions about our "ultimate concern." And this is what the religion you choose is supposed to address, and offer answers for.

What has our God done for us? *
We begin, on the left, in our primal condition, and God responds to our concerns and distress with his gifts, on the right.

chaos needs cosmos *
foolishness / wisdom *w
slavery / freedom *f
disobedience / discipline *f
waywardness / invitation *w
exile / recall *l
sin / forgiveness *f
suffering / compassion *l
insignificance / vision *t
loneliness / love *l
fear / calm *
threat / protection *t
oblivion / salvation *t
sickness / healing *l
ignorance / truth *t
poverty / sharing *f
despair / hope *
unbelief / faith *
doubt / miracles *w
flesh / spirit *w
*(t,f,l,w = truth, freedom, love, wisdom)

Salvation is not the solution for sin. Sin needs forgiveness. Salvation is the response that repeals the pronounced punishment for sin, to be banished to a life of suffering, or destruction unto the nothingness of oblivion. If sin has been forgiven, there is no more punishment. After that, the question becomes, "what is the cause of sin, and how can we avoid it? Is it ignorance, or selfishness, or some other issue?" Or is the failure to behave morally not the central problem at all?

Could we possibly find a way to modify our bodies or minds to be more responsive to how we know we should behave? Should we, or would it destroy our precious freedom? Would we be happy to be drones in the service of the greater good, being chosen by merit or design to contribute our genes to future generations, never having to worry about having enough material goods for sustenance and comfort? Even assuming that we had some freedom to choose our education and occupation, according to our aptitude and interest, would that be a path to fulfillment and a truly meaningful life? How would we maintain the incentive to work with optimal effort, or to be creative? Would the opinions of our peers, our friends and families, be sufficient? Perhaps we also need to believe that our work is meaningful at some level approaching our ultimate concerns.