"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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

On the Human Condition (Wellspring, Chapter 1) part 1

       Our conception of human nature to a very large extent determines our treatment of each other, in both our individual relationships and in society.  Yet even though the study of psychology has begun to change our intellectual understanding of our fellow humans, our society is based on old ideas and feelings which have become largely obsolete.  However, it is very difficult to completely overhaul the foundations and institutions of society in any less than a lifetime, or even two.  It has been tried several times, by various forms of revolution, and it causes unbearable instability, suffering and tendencies toward mob psychology and mass neurosis.  Indeed, any kind of rapid change of the way society works - for example, technological progress - can cause widespread psychological discomfort and role displacement, resulting in uncertainty of what to expect or how we should react to cope with what is happening around us. 

       In any self-regulating system there are a few key components which, if changed, will sooner or later transform the whole system.  Such self-regulating, self-contained systems are often called "cybernetic" by the scientists, engineers and philosophers who study them.  Living organisms, and societies, even the heating and cooling systems in our homes, are examples of cybernetic systems. Typically, in any cybernetic system, there eight such key components that are critical for change and transformation. I shall go into greater depth on this topic later.  In one example - a social revolution - Marxist philosophies chose private property as their primary key component to use as a fulcrum to overturn the injustices of capitalist economics.  But any attempt to totally transform society must have an idea of how to readjust all of the key components to work together, and it helps to have an overall goal and plan in mind.  Thus the question of human nature becomes important, in order to have clear plans about what it will be necessary to change, and to know what kinds of responses one expects to elicit.  Without these, it would be very difficult to know whether one's ideals are truly taking shape.

a. paradox and prejudice
       For ages there has raged a debate about whether human beings are born innately good or evil.  But both of these judgements are essentially social constructs, as are the ideas of virtue and vice.  The real question asks whether society itself is pro-life, i.e., supportive of healthy and happy actualisation of human potential, or anti-life, i.e., stifling and frustrating human development by means of psychic manipulation, inequality and coercion.  Human nature is essentially plastic and neutral, but that does not mean that it cannot become objectively sick.  When we become destructive, sadistic, alienated or fear life more than death, we can be said to be mentally ill.  However, health is the ordinary tendency and aim of all normal living creatures, so long as their environment and circumstances do not inhibit their development.

       When I say that human beings are essentially neutral, I mean that we have no innate tendency to be morally good or evil.  What tendencies we do possess, however, lead us to be adaptable to both the natural environment and our social circumstances, and give us both strengths and weaknesses.  Our abilities to think, reflect and reason are our only tools to allow us to discern what is good or evil, according to how various types of actions tend to promote optimum pro-life outcomes. Physically, humanity has evolved to become non-specializing generalists.  That means we do not require any specific ecological habitat, as we can modify our environment to suit our needs, and we have no instinct to perform any specific task as a way of life.  Instead, we learn how to survive from our families and society.  As the result of this initial dependency, a baby imprints on its parents in the first months of life, and their attitudes and behavior toward it begin a pattern of interaction.  This will affect the way the child will interact with others later on, and shape its expectations of society.  These attitudes, expectations and behaviors can be either reinforced or modified by later training or education, though this does not always occur on a conscious level.  It can be very difficult for the child if teachers and parents do not agree, as the conflict will be internalized and cannot be resolved until one or the other wins, or the child is forced to choose between them.  This parental imprinting and social education of children illustrates the essential plasticity of human nature.  Even in later life, we can be molded by our contacts with other people, but this does not mean that the process is easy.  There is also the counter-tendency toward stability of character, expressed as the child becomes an independent individual and learns to make its own choices, and as an adult when evaluating the society's aims and modes of behavior.

       If there is too much pressure from authority to conform, even an ordinary person may become rebellious, perhaps subconsciously, and find it difficult to look at society's values objectively rather than with suspicion and rejection.  Of course, any overtly rebellious behavior would be interpreted as a threat to social stability, and would bring down reprisal and suppression, one way or another.  But this will only drive the individual's disturbance deeper, causing resentment and a stronger will to resist.  If outside suppression goes still further, breaking the will and the impulse to rebel altogether, that will cause some degree of mental illness.  At any point in this process of enforced conformity, the individual may erupt into violence, defensive and/or destructive, because he feels that he is not valued as a person, and his only recourse to justice is through vengeance and death.  However, given the opportunity and freedom to make one's own decisions and experience life, the person will gradually find appropriate avenues of creative existential expression, and learn to transform unacceptable behaviors into comfortable alternatives.  All this will be accomplished by the innate human need to understand, and to be understood by others, without authoritative pressure.

       It is the essentially isolated nature of human beings, unable to cue in on the thoughts and feelings of others quite reliably, which allows us to become individuals, and gives us a spiritual depth that has never been fully explored.  It also gives us certain weaknesses, for example, our innate selfishness which stems directly from the necessary instinct for survival, and can almost never be completely eradicated.  However, our isolation and individuality also gives us certain strengths designed to help us balance and possibly overcome that weakness.  We have been given the desire, also innate, to know and achieve transcendance.  As we begin to understand that suffering and social anarchy come from self-centered selfishness, we tend to absorb the society's values, if we are not already embittered by mistreatment.  And beyond that, when we experience the vast grandeur of the universe, and the minute intricacies of nature, we begin to wonder where it all came from, and to speculate about God and to question our limitations and understand them.

       It is by reason of this balance of strengths and weaknesses, and of the essentially neutral and plastic nature of human character development, that I must insist that there is no original orientation of human nature toward either good or evil.  There is no "original sin" for which God condemns us, and from which we must be "saved."  Yet it does seem paradoxical that authoritative pressure usually tends to produce results which only superficially conform to its intent, while causing an opposite reaction within the individual.  A person must voluntarily decide and choose to incorporate the values of society for those values to really be his or her own and guide one's actions and even thoughts along approved and productive paths.  We choose to follow when we can think of no better way, even if we are dissatisfied with society, but force is counter-productive.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wellspring of the Spirit, Introduction ( 1st essay, part 2)

       -- sorry for the long delay... will try to pursue this more frequently now... --
Please, reread 1st essay from the post before the last. (February, 2011) This is just a pick up from where that one left off.  Thank you for your patience. I am trying to post my book, "The Wellspring of the Spirit" in my blog, instead of getting it published. I actually wrote this a long time ago, and have been derelict in my intent to get it published in book form. So many people said it was incomprehensible! I hope you will understand it and return to read each "essay" as it appears here. Thank you again.

   ....We are responsible for the present and the future, individually and collectively.

       The human species has advanced far from the primeval caves and stone tools of our ancestors.  We have much of which to be proud.  Much of the progress we call civilisation is due to the wisdom and innovations of great leaders and thinkers.  But in our uncritical following, the common person has become a slave.  Do we not know how to be civilised by now?  Certainly we do.  We know that we would rather have peace when our leaders want war.  We know that we want to be free when our leaders begin to oppress us.  We know these things just as we know that we want kindness between neighbors and love in our families.  But we do not know what to do in order to achieve these things... or so we profess.  Our real problem is that we are slaves allowing ourselves to be led where we know we do not wish to go.  We must decide to make our own choices, and not allow the status quo - nor any new order of which we do not approve - to be imposed upon us without out consent.  It does not matter which country you live in, if you do not agree with something your government is doing you must say so, with as many people as you can find who agree with you, regardless of the possible consequences.  When the leaders of a nation attempt to suppress dissent, they are abrogating their mandate to rule.  Any threat or use of force depends on the people accepting, and even perpetrating, their leaders directions.  In utter servility to their masters' wishes, the people divide against themselves. Such foolishness!  As if obedience absolves one of moral responsibility!  How can any people properly educated with a sense of community and love for their neighbors do such a thing?  Absurd! You have a conscience.  Negotiation is the obvious answer to disagreement.  Any state which brings up its people without those necessary components of civilisation needs to have a new set of leaders, and those leaders should be the people themselves.  New leaders with a new ideal - an ideal of an honest, free, loving and wise humanity.

       As you read this book (blog), it is my fervent hope that you will find the bases upon which to build this new ideal.  Let it be a spiritual ideal which will once again advance civilisation into a happier age.  Yet let us not wait on the reforms of government alone.  As individuals, we can form smaller communities to develop the organisations and relationships which will embody our hopes.  We must each work where are in our own ways.  Sometimes we may find it easier to move out of our immediate surroundings to establish our new communities upon fresh foundations - being in the world, but not of the world.  But as often as we can, we should try to improve our societies from the inside, though by example rather than by preaching.  I will offer all that I can, my words and thoughts and those I have gleaned from others.  I have delved as deeply as I could, ... sometimes suffering, and sometimes proud of what I have uncovered ... and there is more yet to learn.

       It is my project to attempt to unify the spiritual traditions of humanity.  I am not the first.  The insight that all religions spring from the same source is thousands of years old, perhaps as ancient as the oldest tradition now extant, but until recently most attempts to unify them dealt mainly within the limitations of their exoteric ( i.e., outward and public) teachings and knew only a small portion of the spiritual spectrum.  We have waited for an age in which it is possible to gather representatives of all the traditions at once, and seeing them together, to ask the right questions.  Each of them has survived because it offered us a unique perspective upon reality and human potential, and added something valuable to our spiritual treasury.  Sometimes I may have oversimplified some traditional viewpoints, but it has been my aim to create a superstructure capable of retaining the many great values they have given us, while penetrating to the points at which they meet.

       Yet let me admit at the very beginning that I too have found that I can only speak of that which merely points to the inward spiritual experience of the sacred and holy which we must each seek for ourselves.  There are many paths and methods available to those who would search for the ultimate reality, and most of them have been tried before and been clearly marked.  None of them are easy, nor do they allow for arrogance or subterfuge.  You must approach with humility and purity of heart ... and with patience.  I have personally tried several, with both successes and failures, and been fortunate enough to perceive the multi-faceted clarity at the center which encompasses all things - and has many names.  You must choose your own path and commit yourself to follow it, even through the desert of emptiness and beyond, and then return to solidarity with society and the world with all your individuality has to offer.  It is my humble hope that this work will offer you some perspective to carry you through the difficulties of faith by pointing out that which is of primary importance, and not merely cultural affectation.  And thereby, perhaps I may open the doors to fellowship among members of different faiths by removing the bars of misunderstanding and mistrust.  I wish you well.

Shalom aleichem.  Peace be upon you.


Monday, November 18, 2013

What are we here for?

       It is not enough to simply have a purpose.  Rather, one's purpose must be non-trivial -- one that makes a difference and inspires a desire, even a need to live.  It is not enough that God wishes us to live so as to love and praise Him. That would be merely ego-stroking -- unworthy of our own human souls and of the self-sufficiency of the loving and compassionate Deity.  We are created in the image and likeness of the infinite and all-powerful creative consciousness that summoned this universe into existence. Furthermore, we are the crown of that creation, given a purpose commensurate with our capacity to contemplate and recognize the wonder of the Deity and its creation.  She has given us the job of being stewards of this Earth, and the vision of Heaven.

       It is for us to seek to achieve this vision of Heaven within the range of our own consciousness and accomplishment -- to create Eden here and on all the other worlds that we may be able to reach, and to so transform ourselves in the process that we may find a harmony with any other intelligent species we may meet.  We are given the task, the purpose to bring life into the galaxy we call home, to cherish all of the life forms that we may save from the planet of our birth, and to safeguard the survival of any other kinds of life we may find.

       More, we are meant to encounter other intelligent species, including those here on Earth (the cetaceans), and learn to value and coexist with them, even communicate and share with them.  Such other sentient species also are created in the image and likeness of God, whom they know from their own perspective, and who cares for them just as He does for us.  Intelligent stewardship and organization, cultivation and distribution, even communion with the various forms of life which Deity has created the universe to express... THIS is what we are here for.  That is what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God.  That is our purpose, and it is non-trivial... it is profound and all-important, insofar as it continues the Deity's own work of creation.

       We are created from the elements and laws of the Big Bang, from the dust of exploded stars, from the detritus of once living creatures that evolved to shape the ball of matter we call Earth, and yet it was all done with a purpose... an intelligent plan. WE are the dust motes of consciousness, sparks or shards (depending on your perspective) of God's light seeking the experiences of adventure and community.  It is our individual task to learn to value the ideals of Truth, Freedom, Love and Wisdom, and the principles of justice, equality, fraternity and liberty.  Our experiences are God's, and enrich His/Her Being -- just as they give meaning to our own.