"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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Theistic Eupraxsophy

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are created equal in dignity and their desire for Truth, Freedom, Love and Wisdom; that they are created alike in their faculties of reason, will and conscience and should act toward one another as relatives in an extended family; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights which, when they enter into society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity; that among these are the enjoyment of life and liberty, the association with others of similar concern and belief, the means of acquiring and possessing property, and the pursuit of happiness and individual security.

There is in this world a fundamental clash between those who believe in a God who created the universe, and those who adamantly refuse to believe in any spiritual dimension beyond the simple meanings for living that we devise for ourselves. It is for everyone who has an opinion on this issue an unending vexation that there are others who not only disagree, but would seek to change one's settled opinion. For many, it is a matter of faith, either from family background or personal experience as interpreted through one's expectations; this can be true of either viewpoint. The opposing view can seem to be a non-viable alternative presenting a chaotic and relativistic cacophony of competing claims to exclusive loyalty, a situation soluble only by a stance of radical individualism. That is not a step many are able to take, no matter how brave, for it denies one's innate desire for intimate society. But neither can we rest content with the “peace treaty” maxim of “don't ask, don't tell” which would condemn us to silence, for then the world around us would be rife with hidden agendas and conflicting aims that could never be acknowledged and brought into consensus.

Rather, I would propose another alternative. Let us seek to imagine a class of meanings, purposes, aims and agendas consistent with both viewpoints simultaneously. Entirely aside from the choice of either opinion on the issue, we can seek agreement on certain practical concerns, tracing out a sort of middle ground that very few would be able to oppose on non-prejudicial grounds. Success in this endeavor will become an invaluable legacy, for which our posterity will forever bless us.

In the very beginning, I encountered an unavoidable imperative to declare my own choice of opinion and viewpoint. I have asserted that we are created, and that there is a Creator. This is not merely conventional language, but a considered stance. And yet, I have not advocated any particular establishment of religion. It is rather a philosophical and mystical variety of theism, consistent with the values of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States of America, the perennial philosophy recognized by Gottfried Leibniz, the Noachide faith proposed as an acceptable minimum for gentiles, the Sufi mystical tradition in Islam, Socrates' assertion of a personal God, and my own peculiar construct of practical idealism. Nor is the acceptance of any of these viewpoints a prerequisite to understanding or supporting either the conclusions or the consequences of the self-evident postulates that form the main ideas of the opening paragraph. However, that declaration was and remains a necessary step to take as I offer the hand of fellowship to those who on all other occasions would refuse it on dogmatic grounds.

Indeed, I have borrowed (some might say “stolen”) one of their own words denoting the skeptical and humanistic rationalist viewpoint of atheism, only to combine it with this stance of theism (and again some would say “inappropriately”) to create the desired middle ground. But let the naysayers hold their peace, however impatiently, until they see where I am going, before they refuse their consent. I have chosen to use the terms “theistic eupraxsophy” specifically because it disavows any allegiance to religion, as such, and as a point of controversy to intrigue the proponents of atheism and bring them to the table for a hopefully fruitful discussion of the aforementioned meanings, purposes, aims and agendas. Let me therefore set forth my basic outline of what I presume to consider essential in the discussion.

Theistic Eupraxsophy
I. Fundamental Assumptions
A. God exists, creates, sustains, knows, cares & speaks.
B. God desires companions.
1. the universe was created to evolve intelligence.
C. All intelligent creatures have a soul.
1. functions through the faculties of the body.
2. is sustained indefinitely by God.
D. Humanity is a paramount creation.
1. commissioned as steward over our world & solar system.
E. The universe can be understood with human reason.
F. Critical thinking, empirical science, skepticism & rationalism are useful tools.
1. advancing humanity's understanding, knowledge & capabilities.
G. God desires for us to create the conditions for the good life here & now.
1. supports us to realize & fulfill all of our capabilities.

II. Practical Agenda
A. To build a global ethical consensus.
B. To grant sanctuary to all species of life.
1. preserving their natural conditions & behavior.
2. utilizing them as needed for our own benefit.
C. To reverse ecological degradation & rebuild an earthly Eden.
D. To explore, colonize, develop & utilize the solar system.
E. To create multiple models of ideal societies.
1. cognizant of universal human rights.
2. given semi-sovereign spheres of influence.
F. To discover whether humanity is the sole steward species in our galaxy (angels).
G. To become worthy of companionship with God and the angels.

III. Mystical Aspects
A. The human soul can transcend a single lifetime.
B. Our individual existence is a learning experience.
C. Humans by nature seek knowledge & experience of God.
1. using intuition, meditation, prayer & philosophy.
2. consistent with conventional means & models of knowledge.
D. God feels compassion & mercy, as well as judgment.
1. toward societies & individuals.
E. God desires our trust in Him & our compassion for each other.
F. God communicates at will to reveal His guidance.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Years Resolution

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you." (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

The Judaeans in the Holy Land lived among the pagans in the Middle East. Although they had their covenant with the Lord (Baruch haShem), they behaved much as their neighbors, and practiced many of the same customs. They did not live in devotion to God (BhS), and treated each other with apathy. The rich looked down upon the poor, and they all looked with disdain upon the neighboring peoples, even while they emulated their economic practices. The land was filling up with idols, both literally and figuratively. And God (BhS) was not in the least pleased. It was time to teach them a lesson in obedience. So He sent Jeremiah to warn them, and to tell them they still had a chance to turn their lives around. If they would not listen, God would send a stronger nation, the Babylonians, to conquer their land. But if they would turn from their offensive ways, to seek God and care for their neighbors, they would be spared the harshness of judgement. But unfortunately... we know how the story turned out.

Today, the people who bear the name and covenants with God are in much the same situation. Perhaps we are even worse than those long-ago Judaeans, for we look upon our own people with disdain and apathy, and the "foreigners" with hatred and mistrust, even though we know that they have their own covenants and scriptures from God (BhS). Their only fault is that they speak a different language, and therefore call God by a different name. They have a different culture, and thus God has given them a different set of guidelines to live by. But it is the same God, and we know it. Still, we would rather argue about the fine points of theology, law and politics, instead of trying to figure out a way to respect each other and live together in peace and harmony.

We need to stop and consider the facts: God created us all, and comes in search of those of us who are willing to seek Him and learn His ways. He always meets us where we are, because He knows that we are unable to go beyond our own culture, our own backgrounds and educational levels, our own prejudices, even, to seek Him. God (BhS) knows our limitations. He made us that way, but He also gave us a spark of His Spirit, so that we could learn to transcend our differences even while we appreciated the fact that we have them, because they are a part of his plan for this world. It gives Him joy and glory to see his children learn to accept each other in the same way that He loves and accepts us. He meets us halfway, and allows for our needs to be met, and He wants us to learn to do the same for each other.

Let us resolve and promise ourselves to try to see all of our fellow human beings as potential friends, brothers and sisters in the family of God, whether we call Him Adonai, Allah, or Abba. It is all the same because He loves us all. We must seek to find a way to meet the needs of all, not simply in justice but also with compassion, for the earth is one and we are one, and we must share and care for it and each other. Every people must have a homeland, even if we must share it with another people that also claims it. If God has put us together, then there is a reason and we must learn from it. We must not resist the opportunities to embrace our differences and find new ways to share our values and enrich our future. If we cannot share and adapt to each others' cultures, then let us repect them as valid ways for other people, even as we cling to our own because God (BhS) has given us a way that He wishes us to folow. We must allow every one of us the dignity of being free to choose his own path to God, and be willing to offer advice if asked, but not to forbid a way that God has given to another.

So that is my resolution for the New Year, and I hope that many of you will share in it. I believe that God (BhS) will be pleased to see us trying to love and appreciate each other as He does.

I wish you all "shalom," and a blessed New Year. May you find what happiness and prosperity you need, and meet with God coming to find you on the path of your choice. And may there be Peace on Earth, and good will toward all, according to God's will... insh'allah. Good night.