Author: Roberta Grimes

Life Without Sin – Part Two

Rules are meant to give us a structure within which a great many people can live together in reasonable peace and safety. We understand that fact in the civic sense, and we know that until humankind has managed to do a lot more spiritual development there will be a need for civic authorities and their rules. But religious rules are another matter! Religions are just human-made efforts to make some sense of the greater reality and alleviate our fears of the unknown, and we know now based on abundant evidence that no religion gets reality right. None of them gets God right, either. All of that is not surprising, since every significant religion has been co-opted by human authorities and turned into what is primarily a method for better controlling the people. In our leaders’ efforts to control us all, fear-based rules are essential! And when those rules were first said to emanate from and carry the enforcement of a powerful god, the human-made concept of “sin” was born.

Last week we took a quick look at the history of religions and at the Gospel words of Jesus in an effort to understand how the genuine Godhead views the whole idea of sin. We saw that the Godhead does indeed have a point of view! We learned that:

  • From earliest prehistory, God has been sending emissaries who each brought the divine revelation of some version of the love-based Golden Rule, around which their clueless listeners then generally built another fear-based religion; and
  • Two thousand years ago Jesus came to the Jews from the highest aspect of the Godhead to free us from the need for religions by teaching us how to relate to God directly.

The genuine Godhead has never given us any rule beyond the exhortation that we love God and love one another. As Jesus put it, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:37-40).

During most of human history, people likely saw no harm in the fact that the gods they worshiped were scary and demanding. But we know better now! We understand how essential it is that all of us rid ourselves of every kind of fear-based thinking, since we come to earth primarily to raise our consciousness vibrations away from fear and toward more perfect love. Therefore anything that introduces into our lives additional fear in any form works directly against the divinely-ordained primary purpose of our lives on earth.

So if we intend to follow the Jesus of the Gospels, we must abandon every religious rule and even the very notion of sin. We also must begin to know and to follow the genuine God as Jesus introduced God to us in the Gospels! He told us the following things about the Godhead, and about His own essential role:

  • The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work” (JN 14:10). This is an extremely important point! We know now that Jesus came from the highest aspect of the Godhead. What He said was the Word of God as nothing else ever said or written by anyone can be called the Word of God!
  • “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (JN 4:24). The notion of a trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – was established late in the third century C.E. It did not come from Jesus! According to Him, God is only Spirit, so the Trinitarian Christian god that was depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as an old guy with a beard is human-made.
  • “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (MT 7:7-8). The genuine Godhead invites us to seek, to inquire, and to probe ever deeper. God wants us to always be learning and growing! So the god who imposes dogmas on us – unsupported old beliefs that we must not question, and that we must believe entirely on faith – also is a false and fear-based god.
  • Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (MT 11:29-30) Unlike all those scary human-made gods, the genuine Godhead is gentle and humble. There never is any reason to fear God!
  • When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (MT 6:6). God does not need nor want mass worship. From the perspective of the genuine Godhead, the important one in your relationship with God is not God. It’s you.
  • “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?… You hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (MT 15:3-9). God rejects our religious traditions altogether. God insists that we give up the man-made rules and dogmas that underlie all our religions, and urges us instead to seek to ever better know and love the genuine God.
  • Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit (MT 7:15-17). This is a very important point! Organized religions by their very nature tend to become increasingly distorted. Their dogmas become more and more fear-based, and the result is more damage inflicted on the faithful. We need only look at the widespread child abuse by Catholic priests, the judgment and rejection of people based on Old Testament sexual rules, and the splintering of Christianity into thousands of versions to see that the religion is by now producing an overabundance of thistles.  
  • “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (JN 5:22-23). So God never judges us? Really? Then the god who is said to have demanded that Jesus die for our sins is another false god. Without a concept of sin and without the judgment of God, there was no need for Jesus to die for our sins; and to make that explicit, before His death Jesus pre-emptively threw the much-later Christian doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement out the window!
  • If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world (JN 12:47). So Jesus doesn’t judge us either! But what did Jesus come to save us from? Certainly not from God’s judgment, since He has already told us God does not judge us. When we take all His Gospel words together, it is clear that what Jesus came to save us from was all the false and fear-based religious doctrines that had been coming between us and the genuine God.
  • “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:48). Here is the Lord’s summary definition of the Godhead, which we are now given to understand is a Collective of perfected beings so advanced spiritually that they are… Perfect.

For what is likely to be the first time in your life, behold now the genuine God as God is revealed to you by the words of Jesus! I read these ten points over again and smile. God is indeed a loving and doting Parent, just as Jesus told us God is! All those fear-based rules whose violations clergymen insisted are “sins” so they can badger and shame us with them are for the Genuine God like a treasured infant’s spilling of a little milk on the carpet. Don’t believe any theologian’s ideas about God! Jesus knew the truth. He told us the truth, because He is the truth. And as He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (JN 8:31-32).

The only Godhead is infinitely powerful, infinitely loving, eternally perfect Spirit. The dead say that God never appears in human form. God never judges us. God’s only law is the law of love that Jesus reveals to us in the Gospels. This understanding of God is not new. It was given to us by Jesus when He walked the earth, so it is centuries older than Christianity itself.

This vision of God that comes straight from Jesus is the only acceptable understanding of God for any professed Christian to hold. The fact that nearly all who call themselves Christians accept lots of fear-based human ideas about God is a shame that one day more enlightened generations will puzzle over. Christians call the whole Bible the Inspired Word of God, when only limited parts of just four Biblical Books can claim that distinction!

For us to live as genuine followers of Jesus in the world being created by the genuine God will require that we pretty radically change the way that we relate to God. For example, we now know that:

  • We have no truly private space. When I first understood that our minds are part of the Mind of God, I kind of shrugged and imagined opening the top of my head and inviting God inside. Now I assume that my every thought is being shared directly with God. And wow, have I cleaned up my act!
  • There are no God-made laws or commandments. Even what Jesus called the “commandments” that we love God and also love others as we love ourselves are not commandments in the usual sense. Jesus used the term just in responding to a questioner who had used it. We are here to learn to love ever more completely, and love is something that not even God can command. God urges us toward love, but God demands nothing of us!
  • God does not want us to hold any compulsory Christian beliefs. Everything that Christians are told to believe that is not outlined in the ten points Jesus gave us above is just a human-made dogma. And even where those ten points are concerned, God wants us to question everything!
  • There is no such thing as sin. Jesus made a point of breaking religious laws – He plucked grain and performing healings on the Sabbath – but most of our decisions are so complex that it is hard to find a moral compass for some of them. For example, here is an amazing woman who broke every religious law there is in her effort to fight the Nazis. We’ll talk about this sort of dilemma next week.
  • Fear is indeed our only enemy. And the more fear-based a being is, the weaker it is, while the more love-based a being is, the more powerful it is. So we know now for sure that Our Daddy can beat every other daddy on the playground. We are perfectly safe and forever loved in Everlasting Arms. When I tell you on Seek Reality each week that you are the most beloved being in the universe, just see yourself tenderly held in those Arms and know an absolute freedom from fear that is new in all the history of humankind.

How are we to live in a world with no fear-based religions remaining, and with no gods but the genuine God that Jesus came to introduce to us? Let’s begin to talk about that next week….

 

Isaiah new things photo credit: Sapphire Dream Photography <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/87199074@N05/8103388720″>Isaiah 43:18-19a</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Isaiah time photo credit: Sapphire Dream Photography <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/87199074@N05/8135464892″>Isaiah 44:7</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Fruit of the spirit photo credit: Scripture As Art <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/126581270@N08/16313154151″>Fruit of the Spirit</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Psalm Lord loves photo credit: Sapphire Dream Photography <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/87199074@N05/8134901984″>Psalm 33:5</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
First commandment photo credit: Scripture As Art <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/126581270@N08/15286560239″>Mark 12:30</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Love neighbor photo credit: Scripture As Art <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/126581270@N08/15450363276″>Mark 12:31</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Lord is refuge photo credit: Lisa Hall-Wilson <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/83246984@N07/8663049059″>Psalm 9:9</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Righteousness photo credit: Scripture As Art <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/126581270@N08/15456786056″>Matthew 5:6</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Life Without Sin – Part One

When Jesus replaced all religious laws with God’s Law of Love, He abolished the notion of rules-based sin and created a whole new world in which right and wrong are based entirely on whether an act is loving or unloving. It is hard for us to get our minds around the magnitude of this change! And the consequences of it are such that it is going to take two weeks for us to start a conversation that is likely to continue beyond the rest of our lives. What we call divine laws are human-made. They have little to do with the genuine God. And doing away with them is the spiritual equivalent of being a sixteen-year-old at last entrusted with the car-keys. Humankind is growing up spiritually! And without those arbitrary laws that always have come between us and the Godhead, we can accept all the glorious opportunities and responsibilities that come with growing up. With those words from Jesus two thousand years ago, humankind was being ushered into the start of spiritual adulthood! That it has taken us two thousand years to accept God’s challenge that we at last grow up takes nothing from the sweetness of this moment. Today we will look at how we got to this place. Then next week we will start to consider how we might begin to accept God’s challenge.

From distant prehistoric times, humankind has dwelt in fear of a gigantic and highly adversarial Unknown. The result has been a lot of man-made superstitions and desperate beliefs in human-made gods that could let us put a name to our fears and give us a focus for rituals that might help us start to feel less helpless. Over time, what began as local gods and rituals were aggregated under regional gods, until eventually monotheism began to take root. One all-powerful god was easier to deal with than all those despotic demi-gods! The ancient Jewish tribes were among the first people to solidify their worship in one all-powerful god, so it makes sense that when the Godhead chose to elevate our understanding all over the world, it was to the Jews that Jesus came as God’s emissary.

There is no religion that really knows and can reveal to us the genuine Godhead. That fact is not a surprise to you. What may be something of a surprise will be learning that Jesus was not the first, nor is He the last divine being sent by God to start to spiritually elevate humankind! We know about Moses and the Buddha, and students of religion know that there have been many other prophets who brought their wisdom to primitive people, many of whom then soon built their own human-made religions around those bits of received divine wisdom. By now there are some 4,300 separate religions, the biggest of which have been broken into thousands of additional sects over time, so today Christianity alone boasts some 40,000 variations. Nearly all of our more than four thousand core religions were developed in isolation over eons, but in fact virtually every human religion is built around just one simple precept. If that precept was not given to us as many separate revelations over eons of time from the emissaries of a single Godhead, then how is it possible that more than four thousand religions have this one core teaching in common? Rabbi Hillel was a great Jewish sage who died in old age when Jesus was a teenager. He put that one ancient divine message this way: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation.”

All religions are built around the Golden Rule! And when every religion is built upon the simple divine revelation that we should do to others what we want others to do to us, then how is it possible that no modern religion makes the Golden Rule its primary teaching? Where do all those other religious dogmas come from? And beyond that, how can we explain the fact that all significant religions share the same five traits?

All modern religions of any size share the following characteristics:

  • They include one or more gods or godlike beings in human form. Often it is the emissary from the Godhead who brought to local people the Golden Rule who is then depicted as either the god or a leading servant of the god. The pictures that illustrate this week’s post are all examples of these gods and holy beings that were created in human form by people bent on building their own religions.
  • They require that their adherents believe things for which there is no proof. Every religion has a set of dogmas that its followers are required to take on faith. The god is powerful; the god dwells in a mountain, or it requires certain feast and fasting days; the god wants the sacrifice of each firstborn child, or the god died and was revived, and so on.
  • They demand adherence to a set of laws that they claim are of divine provenance. Every modern religion includes a set of laws that were purportedly handed down by its god. The Ten Commandments listed in the Christian Old Testament are a set of supposedly divine laws that have been in place for adherents of the Abrahamic religions with only modest variations for at least the past three thousand years.
  • They make big promises. The notion that we can survive our deaths if we strictly observe a religion’s dogmas is perhaps the most common such promise, but there are others. Human-made gods take care of their own, provided that their devotees remain forever those gods’ obedient and powerless servants.
  • They are based in fear and guilt. Christianity is a great example! Jesus came to us from God with a love-based and fear-free set of teachings. But no one takes a religion seriously unless it can instill in us guilt and fear, so in order to form their new religion, Christianity’s founders added Original Sin, a fiery hell, and the Lord’s crucifixion for our sins to save us from the judgment of a wrathful god. Christianity is fear and guilt on steroids.

It is striking that all modern religions share all (or nearly all) of the above five traits! There must be reasons why this is true, and indeed there are some excellent reasons. All these traits directly address central human needs or characteristics. Briefly:

  • Free will is a core element of the human condition. The spiritual growth that we all enter our lives on earth to seek requires that we expose ourselves to negativity so we can choose against it. The fact that free will is an essential part of being human means that we must also be able to choose not to listen to God’s emissaries; and if we choose against God, then neither God nor God’s minions will attempt to override us. They will just, with endless patience and over and over again, share with us divine wisdom that is suited to our stage of spiritual development. Which is why so many divine emissaries have been needed!
  • Every person on earth is vibrating at a relatively low level. We have talked endlessly about the fact that consciousness is all that objectively exists, and that we come to earth to grow spiritually; and until we reach the upper part of what we call the afterlife levels, we are unable to raise our consciousness vibrations unless we are exposed to the sort of deep negativity that we can find on earth.
  • Human beings strive to organize information and minimize unknowns. We have always organized our understandings as best we could, and we have made educated guesses at the rest. Every god that human beings ever have believed in and worshiped has been a product of these educated guesses.
  • Voluntary human associations are unstable. People are stubbornly independent! The only human associations that are even remotely stable are those – like governments – which instill in us a fear of disobeying their leaders. No religion that doesn’t instill fear in its followers ever lasts for very long.
  • We are born with an eager craving to reunite with the Godhead. There is indeed one genuine God! Our minds are all inextricably part of that one infinitely powerful and infinitely creative force which continuously manifests this universe, so it is little wonder that an eventual reunion with God is a human need that we crave even more than we crave food and drink. The fact that no religion is capable of delivering reunion with the true Godhead because all of them are based in false doctrines is not the fault of the many divine messengers who over the eons have tried to enlighten us.

So now it is not much of a stretch for us to draw the following conclusions:

  • Every divine emissary in human history has come to us from the same Godhead.
  • Nearly all of them have given us some version of the same message.
  • There is therefore just one human religion that has nearly infinite cultural variations.
  • There being only one Godhead and one culturally varied religion, when Jesus came to replace the old notions of sin with God’s perfect Law of Love, He did that for every devotee of every religion upon the face of the earth.

Jesus came from the Source to lead all of humankind to the young-adult stage of our spiritual development. He came to hand us the keys to our lives! We are no longer to be forced by fear of divine retribution to obey a set of laws, as grade-school children are required to obey rules until they grow enough to be able to accept responsibility for their own actions.

To be frank, we don’t obey religious laws anyway. Read  the Ten Commandments, for example. We see them as just suggestions, don’t we? All of us would kill to protect those we love, we honor our parents to the extent they are honorable, few of us adequately mark the Sabbath, and there is no human being who breathes who has never felt the pangs of jealousy. The Ten Commandments are just suggestions! And some of them are trivial ones. But we are told the Ten Commandments are laws from God, so their very existence instills in us both guilt and a smug self-satisfaction. Guilt if we violate maybe three or four commandments, but a “good enough” passing-grade satisfaction if we can minimally observe the other six or seven!

We must leave those old divine laws behind if we are ever to learn about divine love. Human-made rules and God’s infinite love are utterly incompatible. But with all rules gone, we find ourselves beginning to expand in powerful ways. We start to glimpse glorious new beginnings. It is only when we remove the human-made laws that long have come between us and God that we can truly meet and begin to know and love the genuine Godhead.

 

Dead Jesus statue photo credit: Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 46 Million views) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/82256086@N00/44105688010″>Colorful Pieta</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Egyptian gods photo credit: ER’s Eyes – Thanks for the 20 million views! <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/41111966@N04/45573493902″>The Old Gods, Alabaster Store, West Bank, Luxor, Egypt.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Buddha photo credit: UweBKK (α 77 on ) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8136604@N05/49325039632″>Buddha image at the Pavilion of the Enlightened in Muang Boran (Ancient City) in Samut Phrakan, Thailand</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Thai gods photo credit: UweBKK (α 77 on ) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8136604@N05/49284244036″>Sculpture of Phra Sukra in the Garden of the Gods in Muang Boran in Samut Phrakan, Thailand</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Hindu gods photo credit: jay galvin <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/36957368@N00/48538681597″>Ganesha and Lakshmi – Hindu</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Neptune at sunset photo credit: virtualwayfarer <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32368927@N02/31010151725″>Neptune at Sunset</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Cambodian gods photo credit: UweBKK (α 77 on ) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8136604@N05/44258795074″>Statues of Gods lining the causeway entering the ancient city of Angkor Thom near Siem Reap, Cambodia</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Greek gods at war photo credit: torbakhopper <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32029534@N00/24445037928″>gods in color @ the legion of honor, scott richard</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Empowering the Greatest Commandment

Christianity is not based in the teachings of Jesus, and in fact much of modern Christianity is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. It will therefore be impossible for us to tinker around the edge of Christianity, soften it here and firm it up there, perhaps remove some later accretions, and thereby transform it into the spiritual movement Jesus came to earth to begin. If we really intend to follow Jesus, our only option is to rescue the Lord and His Word from the false religion that has prevented His teachings from uplifting the world, and let that religion just fade away.

The way Christianity treats the Son of God like nothing more than a prop is appalling. When the Catholic church has had continuous custody of the Gospels for two thousand years, when the first Biblical translation into English dates back to the sixteenth century, and when to date the Bible has been translated into 698 different languages, how is it possible that literally no prominent modern Christian denomination gives the Lord’s teachings as they are set forth in the canonical Gospels anything more than lip-service?

We have talked here repeatedly about the differences between the Gospels and Christianity. We have demonstrated Christianity’s troubling history, shown how individual Christian teachings are bogus, and also spent time carefully reading the Gospels in modern English as we strive to ever better understand the genuine meaning and message of Jesus. But it occurs to me now that in giving you a constant fire hose of information, I really am not serving you well. I realized during the Christmas season that what you need in order for you to see how hopeless it is for us to try to fix modern-day Christianity is the clarity of pinning down the anti-Jesus teaching that is Christianity’s core message.

Jesus tells us in the Gospels that in coming to us two thousand years ago He had at least five goals in mind:

  • He Came to Abolish Our Need for Religions
  • He Came to Teach Us to be Seekers
  • He Came to Teach Us How to Relate to God on Our Own
  • He Came to Teach us How to Grow Spiritually
  • He Came to Bring the Kingdom of God on Earth

And Jesus had a sixth purpose, too, which seems more subtle to readers of the Gospels because as they are translated into modern English this core purpose is never bluntly stated. But this purpose is central to all the others! Unless we include it, we make our actually following the teachings of Jesus much more difficult:

* Jesus Came to Give Us a New Definition of Right and Wrong

To put it plainly, Jesus came to abolish the very notion of “sin.” The dictionary definition of sin isan act of transgression against divine law,” which makes the word culturally malleable, doesn’t it? What is against divine law in one culture might be divinely mandated in another. But in fact, Jesus intended to do away with all divinely mandated rules. He outmoded the concept of sin altogether! And I think now that the fact that Christianity is based in the notion that we are all sinful is the central reason why the religion is so irredeemably flawed.

Christianity is based in the Old Testament; in the teachings of Paul; in the needs of the early Roman church-builders; and in the random tweaks of lesser church leaders. And in nearly all of the more than forty thousand versions of Christianity now extant, the notion that Jesus came to die for our sins is central! I spent fifty years of my life first as an ardent Protestant, then after my marriage as an ardent Catholic. Christianity was even my college major, so I do indeed know the religion. And this beautiful Christmas carol that once upon a time I loved is Christianity at its core:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus my Saviour did come for to die
For poor ornry people like you and like I.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

“I Wonder as I Wander” was written in the 1930s, based on fragments of an Appalachian folk song. These words express the guilt and shame that all of us are meant to feel because we are so sinful that a sinless Jesus had to suffer the horrible death we all deserve.

But Jesus emphatically did not “come for to die”! If that had been His purpose, He would never have needed to speak a word, and in fact His spending those three-plus years teaching would have delayed and detracted from His holy purpose. We have no right to impose our own interpretations on the Lord’s work, nor to take him at anything less than His Word! And He plainly tells us that He came to us as the kind of disrupter who will pluck grain on the Sabbath (MT 12:1-5), will dine with undesirables (MT 9:9-15), will refuse to punish sinners (JN 8:3-11), and will physically attack people for going about their lawful business (JN 2:13-16). In fact, He came to transform everything! He had to do it cleverly, since in His day speaking against the prevailing religion was a capital crime; and when you realize that, you read the Gospels with a fresh sense of admiration. Sometimes you and I have to read between His careful lines a bit, but when we do that His meaning is plain. Often, He waited until He could answer somebody’s apt question so the Temple guards who were always listening wouldn’t hear Him introducing something radical just on His own initiative. Then when He got the right question, He hit it out of the park!

One day someone asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment, and He didn’t name any of the Ten Commandments. Those Ten Commandments are religious laws. They are proscriptions against sins, so if His purpose is to do away with the concept of sin He will have to do away with all those commandments. Now, let’s watch Him do it! When He was asked what was the greatest Commandment, instead of naming any of the Ten, Jesus gave his listeners God’s new Law of Love. He said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (MT 22:37-39). Since love is not even mentioned in the Ten Commandments, this answer was far more radical than it seems to us now! He was giving us two new commandments and placing them above the Ten Commandments that God had given to Moses long before. He could have stopped right there, and the fact that He didn’t stop there should be a topic for sermons and homilies in every church on earth. His next words were, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:40). “The Law and the Prophets” was what the Jews of His day called our Old Testament. The whole concept of sin is grounded in religious laws, and in summing up the Old Testament this way, Jesus was discarding every Jewish law and replacing them all with God’s Law of Love. He was abolishing sin, by definition! And He confirmed that His abandonment of sin-based religious laws was deliberate when He also said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (MT 5:17). He was indeed fulfilling all prophesy, and thereby beginning our whole new relationship with God. He was introducing God’s reign on earth as only perfect eternal love!

We know now that all that exists is consciousness, and that it exists in a range of vibrations from fear at the lowest to love at the highest. So we can understand now why it was so important to Jesus that He do away with fear-based religious laws when He brought us God’s new Law of Love, since if the notion of sin remains as a burden on humanity then our learning to love and thereby raising the consciousness vibration of this planet becomes a great deal harder. He had to abolish the notion that any act can be sinful on its face. From the day that Jesus first spoke those words, we must not consider any act to be arbitrarily divinely proscribed! From then on, the only question is whether you are doing whatever you are doing for some selfish personal reason, or whether you do it purely and entirely out of love.

It is important to add that God didn’t change! What Jesus was doing was just removing from the religion of the world’s first true monotheists all the fear-based human corruptions that had allowed for easier control of the people. Love hadn’t been much emphasized before, although we find it throughout the Law and the Prophets; and when Jesus removes the human-caused fear, then that love shines even where it is not called love. God didn’t change by a single jot. It was people’s understanding of God that Jesus came to change.

For example, Micah of Moresheth was an early Hebrew prophet, a contemporary of the great Isaiah. He spoke in particular against religiosity and the notion that God wants our sacrifices, and a full eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Micah previewed the Lord’s whole Gospel message. He said, “With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8)

What God asked of us three thousand years ago is just what God still asks today! For a long time I felt an urgency about separating Jesus from Christianity, fretting that as the religion declines we might mistakenly throw out the Baby with the bathwater. But with every day that you and I study and proclaim the Lord’s Gospel teachings, we further lessen that risk. Jesus still calls us to follow Him, and every day more and more of us are choosing to leave Christianity behind so we can follow the Lord. And as we do that, He tells us we are making Him glad! He says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (JN 8:31-32)

Learning to live without a concept of sin is a much bigger challenge than it might seem. If we truly mean to follow Jesus, then we must enter a whole new world! Let’s begin to explore that world next week….

 

Stained glass Adam & Eve photo credit: Lawrence OP <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/35409814@N00/42657206832″>Blame Game</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Lord enthroned photo credit: Lawrence OP <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/35409814@N00/2438544154″>Lord enthroned…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Life is Consciousness

The worst thing about the mainstream scientific gatekeepers’ insistence that all scientific inquiry must be based in materialism is the fact that since even matter is not solid, such a dogma makes it impossible for scientists to seek real answers to our most important questions. These central questions will vary depending on the viewpoint of the one asking them, but for most of us they seem to come down to three, in ascending order of sophistication:

  • Who and what are we? The only answer from a materialist-science perspective is that we are slabs of meat, but just the fact that we have the capacity to ask the question makes that answer insufficient. Our defining characteristic is our conscious awareness, and unless we can open-mindedly study that, we really have no reliable way to learn very much about ourselves. So this question remains scientifically wide open.
  • How is it that we and this universe exist? Scientists have been hard at work seeking a matter-based answer to this question, and the Collective has created an answer for them to find that is generally called the Big Bang. But since that answer is matter-based, it begs the question of what came before it. Nothing rooted in matter and time can ever be an ultimate answer, so this question also must be seen as still open.
  • How did life begin? Akin to the question of how reality exists is the question of how life exists. What caused those first living cells to arise from some primordial soup? Traditional scientists doing what is called Origin of Life research have generated ideas about how life might have begun, but so far they have made little progress. And now materialist scientists have some aggressive rivals in this field! By far the best Origin of Life research is being done by more open-minded scientists who are focusing on what is called intelligent design, and they are pretty well demonstrating that life could not have arisen spontaneously.

It has of late become obvious that the vaunted scientific method is inadequate if we ever hope to come to thoroughly understand anything. It was established in simpler days now more than a century into the past, and a lot has changed since then! For example:

  • Materialism is passé. To keep scientific research free from a religious taint, the university departments and the journal editors long have insisted that it must be based in materialism. This crippling restriction remains in place long after physicists have come to understand that even matter itself is not solid. And in this highly secular age, there is no longer any risk of religious interference, so materialism is only a sorry relic that gravely hampers scientific progress while it no longer serves any useful purpose.
  • The old forms of scientific research are too limiting. Peer-reviewed studies and replicable experiments are the core of traditional mainstream science, and both vaunted protocols are now being seen to be inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • Mathematics-based conclusions can be flat wrong. Because some aspects of reality can be studied mathematically, scientists now rely on math a lot more than they should. As a result, some primary scientific principles likely are based in faulty math-based assumptions.
  • The standard breakdown among scientific fields is clumsy and archaic. Organizing the study of all that exists into fields and sub-fields might once have made sense, but now we are coming to see that all of reality is deeply interconnected. Studying it from fragmented points of view risks our missing the deepest connections and thereby obscuring the greater picture.

Materialist scientists’ inability to even begin to understand consciousness is a core indicator of just how inadequate the scientific method really is. Scientists are reduced to trying to figure out how consciousness might arise in the brain, which we have joked is the equivalent of their studying an old tube radio to find the source of Frank Sinatra’s voice. Researchers not constrained by the scientific method long ago determined that Max Planck was right, that consciousness is a form of energy and it has to predate matter. Therefore it cannot be created or destroyed! And since it cannot be the product of matter, it cannot originate in our brains. No matter how much more time and money scientists waste in searching for a source of consciousness in the brain, their failure is already assured.

Once we have determined the primacy of consciousness and its fundamental energy-like nature, we then can go on to investigate the three main questions that were asked above. Enlightened researchers are doing that, and we know now, or we strongly surmise, that these are good preliminary answers to humankind’s three core questions:

  • Who and what are we? Our minds are deeply interconnected aspects of the one Mind that manifests this universe. Our minds are indestructible and eternal, so we never began and we never will end.
  • How is it that we and this universe exist? The one universal Mind of which each of our minds is an integral part continuously manifests all that we think of as real. Creation wasn’t “once and done,” but rather it happens continuously. So the past is as malleable as is the future. In reality, there is only Now.
  • How did life begin? Just as the universe is an aspect of consciousness and it exists outside of time, so also life is an aspect of consciousness. It also exists outside of time. Each instant of reality’s existence is Now, and in that Now life had no beginning and life can have no end.

I have hesitated to discuss the Origin of Life question, not because we don’t know what the answer is but because the implications of that answer are boggling. We are coming to suspect that both awareness and life are inherent attributes of consciousness itself. And since consciousness is the base creative force, it may be that not only is everything conscious, but also everything may be alive. Please follow this through with me!

  • We may not understand consciousness, but we do know what it is. No matter how mainstream scientists insist that our minds must come from and die with our brains, it is obvious to each of us that conscious awareness is quite a bit more than just an evolutionary afterthought.  And we experience consciousness itself as being alive! If I were to tell you that life is in fact a key attribute of consciousness, I doubt that would surprise you at all.
  • Consciousness is the base creative force that continuously manifests all that exists. I have linked above to some of the earlier posts where we have examined the evidence for this proposition from so many different angles that it has come to seem self-evident.
  • So everything that exists is an aspect of the very consciousness that you and I experience as living awareness. Every rock, every star, every grain of sand is created by and composed of what we experience as living consciousness.

Does this mean that everything is alive and aware? I don’t think so. I am coming to surmise that the key universal attributes of life and awareness exist in all things as core aspects of the consciousness that manifests them, but each attribute is there in an active gradation from what we might call highly alive and aware right down to oblivious and inert. Further thoughts:

  • Animals are alive and aware. That they are alive is self-evident, and anyone who ever has been close to a companion animal has come to suspect the animal is more mentally sophisticated than scientists will allow. Look into the eyes of your dog or cat and have a conversation. My horse, Beau, was one of the finest people I have ever known.
  • Plants are alive, and they may be aware. We know that plants are alive, and apparently they are also aware in a way that simply differs from our own awareness. The Secret Life of Plants came out in 1973. I read it then, and forever after I have winced whenever I had to cut a raw fruit or vegetable. And we know now that trees don’t only communicate with one another, but they care for and  support one another, even across species. It is hard not to conclude from the evidence that trees even actively love one another.
  • Minerals may be to some extent alive and/or aware. Early in my afterlife research I read somewhere about a planet where we might choose to incarnate, and there the life was silica-based. You would incarnate as an aware rock, and everything would seem normal to you but to those whose post-death touring included visiting that planet it would all seem to be inert because the life there moved so-o-o slo-o-oly. When I once mentioned this factoid to a scientist, he said, “Interesting. Silica is an element, like carbon, that could be a basis for life.”
  • Whole planets may be alive and/or aware. There is building evidence that our planet on a macro-level operates something like a living thing.

An afterlife researcher trained as a lawyer has no business trying to conduct scientific research! But you can see from just what has been said above that until mainstream scientists can escape their straightjacket of arbitrary dogmas and ideas, all of us are going to have to pitch in and try to do the work that they won’t do. As the great polymath Nikola Tesla said, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

 

Hands photo credit: verchmarco <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/160866001@N07/48674769562″>Big man’s hand and little hand newborn (Flip 2019)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Happy children photo credit: www.librolasemilla.com <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/156582083@N07/49119270933″>7 Secrets from the Divorce Whisperer by Marta J. Papa, J.D.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Six or seven years ago I started to loathe Christmas. When I was a child it was a magical time, with all the cousins on their best behavior and my father and uncle in the same room together for an entire day without much bickering. Like you, I revel in memories that I took for granted at the time, including my grandmother baking pies and making dinner in a black-iron range that her sons would tend as she cooked. A wood-fired kitchen stove in the fifties! Other children’s grannies were cooking by then on electric stoves in pink or turquoise, but never since those days has there been a more perfect turkey or a better apple pie. And then, of course, I reared my own children and we made our own Christmas memories; and when I tell my grandchildren now about their parents’ childhood Christmases, all of it feels as ancient to me as does my grandmother’s wood-fired range. But so the generations turn!

My sudden aversion to all things Christmas astonished me at first, when for so many years the day had made me happy. A lot of glitter for a few weeks of time, the hectic pressure to buy and spend, the cards, the foods, and the decorating of an evergreen that would spend our Christmas season dying in the living room. One seemingly random year was the final year when I did it all and enjoyed it; but then as the following December approached, I realized I simply couldn’t do it again.

For awhile I thought my Christmas revulsion was the product of my mother’s recent death, or perhaps it was a reaction to the fact that our grandchildren were outgrowing the toy orgies that had so delighted us. It might even have sprung from the sense of futility I long had felt about the fact that you no sooner got that tree set up than it was time to strip its corpse. Even shopping had begun to seem pointless, since our growing grandchildren were happier now if we just gave them money. For years I felt alone in my dread of Christmas, but I have lately come to suspect that this feeling is becoming almost mainstream.

If you are starry-eyed about being deep in the wonders of the Christmas season, then please accept from me a loving hug and a cheery “Merry Christmas!” But if much of the heart and purpose seems to have left your Christmases, too, then let us reason together about why this has happened so we can think about what might come next.

Why are so many Americans of late beginning to dread the Christmas season? I can see two main reasons:

  • As the Christian religion declines, its signal celebration comes to feel less meaningful. When I was small, the Catholic children went to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve while the Protestants went to their candlelight service, and it was with this grounding that all of us went to bed feeling cleansed and holy and with minds well primed to be joyous as we rose to open our gifts the next morning. Christmas was about the Greatest Gift, and it was magical! But as Christianity fades, we are left with a hollowed-out orgy of obligatory foods and gifts that feels like just a sad attempt to recapture a little of what we have lost.
  • Christmas has become part of a universal winter celebration called “The Holidays.” It is no longer especially linked to Christianity or to the Jesus of the Gospels, so now what really is the point of it?

Without an uplifting spiritual core, an old-style Christmas is too much effort. It seems to have become over the past few decades little more than a food-and-merchandise binge that leads to a crashing emotional letdown. So for the past six years I have not done Christmas. No decorations. No carols. No tree, and only gifts that could fit in envelopes. My husband and I still cooked the feast, but we served it at my daughter’s house so we even avoided any Christmas mess! I had thought I was well over Christmas, but I have just begun to realize that these past few years may have been a cleansing. I may be growing now toward something new.

My astonishing sense of Christmas uplift began only a week ago, with “fall on your knees” singing in my mind. “O Holy Night” had been my favorite carol, but of course I hadn’t heard it in years! So when it became my sudden earworm, I had to look up the actual words:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

“O Holy Night” was composed in French in 1841 and translated into English in 1855. Just read those lyrics! Each time I read them I am freshly stunned by the momentousness of what we should be celebrating. Two thousand years ago God chose to be born as a human being so He could bring us eternal truths to uplift and transform humankind. Jesus tells us in the Gospels what He came to do. And while the Christian religion by and large ignores what the Lord says in the Gospels, “O Holy Night” puts His Gospel words front and center as the reason for the season:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;

Jesus is indeed our Saviour! But what this Christmas carol makes clear is that He didn’t come to save us from God’s wrath. What He came to save us from was hopeless ignorance. Read on…

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

His came to free us from erroneous religious nonsense, and from the very notion of sin. His teachings help us to grow away from fear and toward love, and thereby we begin to know our true worth!

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

“Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” A new beginning for humankind that is based in awareness of our own divinity is born for us at Christmas in the Son of the living God.

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.

For us to fall on our knees in wonder as God’s angels above us sing for joy is our only possible response to the heavenly import of that night. Humanity had been steeped for all its history in grievous notions of sin and shame and in the sad weariness of daily confronting our own ultimate worthlessness. And then God came to earth in the same way that all the rest of us come to earth, and He taught us that our minds are forever one with the infinite Mind of God.

All these musings over the past week have sent me back to read the Gospel story of the Lord’s birth, which is given to us in Matthew and Luke as the well-known tale of the shepherds to whom an angel revealed the birth of Jesus (LK 2:8-14), and the story of wise men who arrived in Jerusalem in search of the newborn “king of the Jews.” The star that announced the birth of that king “went ahead of them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was…  After they went into the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, they fell down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasure sacks and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (MT 2:9-11).

In every modern Bible translation, the wise men are said to give the infant Jesus the same three gifts, and that fact soon started me wondering whether the gifts themselves might have some meaning. It turns out that both frankincense and myrrh are the dried sap or resin of specific trees, and both can be used in making incense and perfume. Both also have strong medicinal properties. So just as gold symbolizes wealth, so frankincense and myrrh symbolize beauty and healing. The gifts of the Magi are in celebration of the dawning awareness of God’s perfect love that was born to us in that holy child. Those gifts are the prosperity of spiritual unity and the healing sweetness of spiritual growth that will culminate in the eventual arrival of the kingdom of God on earth.

When we look again at the words of the Prophet Isaiah foretelling the birth of Jesus almost a millennium before the event, we find that the words that follow them are, “Of the growth of his government and peace there will be no end. He will rule over his kingdom, sitting on the throne of David, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7).

It’s an ancient perspective on what Jesus called the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth, and as we abandon the false dogmas of Christianity and we begin to closely follow the Gospel teachings, we start to fulfill that ancient promise. Christmas was never about gifts and glitter! Instead, the source of all human joy is the fact that God was born on earth to teach us to choose love over fear so we could claim at last our divine birthright. We are only infinite, perfect love! And three thousand years after the Prophet Isaiah foretold God’s arrival on earth, we begin at last to understand what that means. To quote Paul, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways. Now we see only an indistinct image in a mirror, but then we will be face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:11-12).

As we ever more closely follow Jesus, and we ever more perfectly embody God’s love, we will begin to celebrate that holy night without a need to add glitter and gifts to make it feel more special. I am suspecting now that Christmas isn’t over. Instead, it seems to be just beginning.

 

Poinsettia heart photo credit: Bennilover <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/75885098@N05/49213443636″>Poinsettia Heart</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Blue jay and cardinals photo credit: COLORED PENCIL magazine <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/61446950@N06/23420261844″>January 2016 Art Challenge Photo “Birds of a Feather”</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
2020 Cookies photo credit: shixart1985 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/156445661@N02/49138856926″>2020 cookie Christmas decorations.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Evidential Mediumship

One question that is often asked is whether there are any good mental mediums. People ask the question in various ways, inquiring about honesty or native talent, but what they really want to know is whether we know of a medium who can clearly demonstrate to them that a loved one has survived. Having had test-readings with dozens of mediums and been disappointed almost every time, I have concluded that most professional mediums are honest, and many have considerable talent; but few develop their abilities to the point where it is impossible to deny that they are talking with our own dead loved ones. That certainty is what we crave! We don’t want, “Your grandmother is here. She says you should eat your vegetables.” Instead, what we hunger for is something like, “Your grandmother is here. She wonders if you remember the day when you let Grampa’s goat into her henhouse and it chased the chickens and upset them so much they didn’t lay for a week.” Now, you might remember that ancient day when you were only six, or you might not. But this message is specific and detailed, and it is the sort of intimate and trivial thing that no amount of research could find. So if it clicks with you, it will transform your life! Never again will you be able to believe that dear ol’ Granny is not alive somewhere.

A good evidential mediumship reading is the Biblical pearl of great price (MT 13:45-46). Every working medium knows it! So, why is it that so few mediums will deliver what everyone is desperate to hear? There seem to be a number of reasons:

  • Mental mediums are mind-reading with dead people. Pause for a moment and let that sink in! Since all human minds of both the living and the dead are part of the one eternal Mind that continuously manifests reality, it should be as easy to communicate by mind with the dead as it is with the living. But that doesn’t make it a walk in the park!
  • Mediums rely heavily on the help of their guides. Nearly all mediums’ guides have ceased to incarnate, so they must be at least somewhat advanced; but still, they might not know as much as you and I would wish they knew about how to help our loved ones think about and then produce the deeply personal and very specific bits of evidence that we all crave to hear.
  • People who are spiritually sensitive can be easily attacked by negative entities. Good mediums are at special risk, so most will practice rituals. Some might burn sage, recite mantras or incantations, and surround themselves and the person being read with “a white light” or “a bubble of protection.” But rituals and chants are not enough, when what is needed is an adamant refusal to have any contact with dark entities. I know of a talented medium who began to see negative entities around her, and she seemed to think of them the way you might think of wild animals you had managed to tame. The next thing I heard was that her personality had been dramatically transformed overnight: now she was sharp, enraged, irrational, and impervious to anyone’s reason. And since these fear-based demons partially supplanted the work of her love-based guides, her mediumship abilities declined.
  • Maintaining mediumistic skills in top form requires dedication. Being a genuine medium is more physically and emotionally draining than most of us realize! The best mediums have to be obsessive about everything, from what they eat and how they exercise through how they maintain themselves spiritually, how they keep negative beings away, and when and how often they feel able to do readings. Some are so stressed by the pressure to perform for individual clients that they drift toward doing mostly group readings.
  • Even very good mediums will have “off” days. This is the opposite of an exact science! What a medium should say if she isn’t getting much information is something like, “The spirits aren’t cooperating. My guides and I sometimes have a bad day. Would you like me to refund your fee, or shall we just reschedule?” But mediums also need to eat, so we seldom hear of one of them giving a refund when a reading has not gone well. Some will even try to convince us that what we are hearing is evidential, and the fact that it isn’t clicking with us is our own fault. One medium who offered me a free reading in hopes that I would recommend her to others described some people and events of which I had no memory. When I told her I didn’t have a brother who died in Vietnam (nor did I have any brothers at all), she told me hotly it was someone I thought of as a brother. Maybe it was a cousin. “Keep listening to the recording of the reading and it will all come back.”
  • Arranging for key words and phrases with the dying won’t work. I don’t know of a single instance where a dead person remembered the desired key phrase and delivered it through a medium. One early researcher is recorded as having brought up the fact there was something he was supposed to remember, but now he couldn’t retrieve it. The leading expert on early-twentieth-century mediumship, the venerable Michael Tymn, gives us a good explanation for this problem that I will quote below, but we should note that other kinds of spiritual testing also routinely come up empty. Some operating rooms have signs that can be read only from ceiling-height in order to test whether people who claim to have left their bodies actually have done so; and to my knowledge, that has never worked, either. Spirits flat refuse to be tested! You can almost see a gang of them sitting around some celestial bar drinking nectar and sharing a laugh about all these silly earthlings who keep trying to catch them out.
  • The problem might be you. Twenty years ago I spent thousands of dollars having readings with well-recommended mediums. All those readings were disappointing, and the most famous and expensive medium I tested was awful! It has taken me most of the intervening two decades to realize that for someone as skeptical about mediums as I am to have a reading or two every week over months of time is a guaranteed way to get nothing. The medium who did best was the one who read me first, perhaps primarily because a lot of my dead loved ones were happy to show up; but after the first few months, it was only my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, both recently dead, who loyally continued to answer the call. Don’t make my mistake! To hire a medium while assuming she will be a dud is a sure way to make your most pessimistic views into self-fulfilling prophesies.

I enjoy reading Michael Tymn’s blog posts, and I urge you to read them too! Michael is the greatest living expert on the heyday of physical mediumship, now more than a century into the past, and the author of some terrific books, including his essential The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die. Two other enjoyable must-reads from Michael Tymn are Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I. He recently quoted what Sir William Barrett (who coined the term “deathbed visions”) told his wife through a medium about one big reason why the dead have so much difficulty in communicating through mediums.

Sir William told his wife that he had needed to learn how to slow down his vibration in order to communicate. He said, “Sometimes I lose my memory of things from coming here (he means closer to the earth’s vibration). I know in my own state, but not here. In dreams you do not know everything, you only get parts in a dream. A sitting is similar; when I go back to the spirit world after a sitting like this I know I have not got everything through that I wanted to say. That is due to my mind separating again.”

Sir William told his wife a century ago something that now is commonly known. When we are in an earth-body, our subconscious mind is separated from our conscious mind. As you and I know from abundant evidence, when we transition back home, our two minds come together again and make one complete mind that knows and remembers everything. So apparently Sir William is telling his wife that when we lower our mind’s vibration and bring ourselves back into the physical sphere so we can communicate, our conscious and subconscious minds will again naturally separate just as they separate when we first enter an earth-body. So we immediately forget a great deal, and we can’t recall it again until we leave the earth’s influence and the two parts of our minds rejoin. (This is fascinating!)

When Lady Barrett asked Sir William to elaborate further, his interesting explanation was that we have a fourth-dimensional self that cannot make itself exactly match our third-dimensional self. He said, “It’s like measuring a third dimension by its square feet instead of by its cubic feet, and there is no doubt about it I have left something of myself outside which rejoins me directly I put myself into the condition in which I readjust myself.” He told her at a later sitting that when he was in his own sphere he would remember a name, but when he rejoined her through a medium it would slip his mind. “The easiest things to lay hold of are what we may call ideas. A detached word, a proper name, has no link with a train of thought except in a detached sense; that is far more difficult than any other feat of memory or association of ideas. If you go to a medium that is new to us, I can make myself known by giving you through that medium an impression of my character and personality, my work on earth, and so forth. Those can all be suggested by thought impressions, ideas; but if I want to say, ‘I am Will,’ I find that is much more difficult than giving you a long, comprehensive study of my personality.”

The dead are used to communicating with one another by thought, so apparently ideas are easier for them to share than are specific words! But fortunately, a good evidential medium doesn’t need many words to give you the certainty that those you have loved in life have survived. Five years ago, a medium described a scene to me in which two important things occurred:

  • My mother pointed at her eyebrow. The medium said, “Why is she pointing to her eyebrow? Oh. She says she doesn’t have to paint them on anymore.” My mother had virtually no eyebrow hairs, which fact was a private bane to her that she covered up by painting big eyebrows onto her face every day. Her assuring me that she didn’t need to do that now was my mother’s loving confirmation that after I had spent my whole early life chatting with her while I watched her go through her morning ritual, she knew that this particular bit would be highly evidential for me. It was the most significant post-death communication from a loved one I have ever received.
  • My grandmother displayed an oyster shell with both hands. I had no idea what that was about! She was a simple farm wife; I was sure she had never even seen an oyster. When I said she couldn’t possibly be holding an oyster shell, the medium said, “But that’s what it is. And she insists it’s important! Maybe it will come to you later?” And so it did. Within a few days it occurred to me that my mother’s maiden name was “Ostergaard.” As Sir William tells us above, specific names are hard for beings in spirit to convey! And how else could my mother’s mother have given me some approximation of that name?

Two brilliantly evidential details had been coaxed from my loved ones by that medium’s guides. Few words were needed, and both communications involved such odd and obscure facts that it is hard to see how any medium could have independently discovered them. If I had not already known that human life is eternal, these two ideal bits of evidential mediumship would have sealed the deal for me forevermore!

 

Oysters with pearls photo credit: Max Garçia <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/62474890@N04/18739862869″>Oysters with pearl</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Oyster shell photo credit: Upupa4me <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/40650891@N02/8672972177″>white ~ 22 oyster shell</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

We Need Fresh Ways to Study Reality

 Perhaps my wanting to study reality seems to you both naïve and quixotic. I have never taken a course in advanced math or physics. Instead, over half a century I have read broadly and with an obsessive purpose. Afterlife communications, quantum mechanics, cosmology, biology, consciousness research, and even the Bible’s Gospels: whatever has seemed pertinent to the study of reality, I have read it and tried to understand how it fit with everything else that I was learning. All of this could have led to nowhere. But instead, before long I was delighted to see that all these disparate sources of information were beginning to construct one gigantic, complex, and highly comprehensible reality! Eventually it became obvious to me that quantum mechanics had to be the junction between matter and consciousness; and, well, what do you know? I found that the father of quantum physics, the immortal Max Planck, had taken the strictly physics route and come to the same conclusion. Almost ninety years ago he said, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Even Albert Einstein recognized that, “Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.”

Rather than giving any thought to the wisdom of the greatest modern physicists, mainstream science as a united discipline has stuck with the Luddite notion inherited from the ancient Greeks that matter is basic, and it generates consciousness. As a result, it is clear from a recent perusal of my beloved Scientific American that the core scientific discipline of physics has gone so far off the rails by now that at this point it is just going through the motions. From a Scientific American article entitled The Search For Truth in Physics and published in September of this year comes this embarrassing admission: “(i)f physics strikes most people as truth seeking at its purest, it doesn’t always seem that way to physicists themselves. They sometimes seem to be struck by a collective imposter syndrome. Although they may presume that the truth is out there and they are capable of finding it—they have to, or what would be the point?—they have their doubts, which surface in informal discussions, at conferences devoted to the broad direction of their subject, in renewed efforts to reach out to philosophers for help, and in books and blogs for the general public. These worries are most acute in fundamental physics, which is not the entire subject but does play an outsized role in it. Many fret that the Large Hadron Collider has yet to turn up any new phenomena, giving them nothing to work with to derive the next level of laws. They worry whether proposed unified theories, such as string theory, can ever be tested. Some deem their subject overly mathematical; others think it mathematically sloppy. Truth can be elusive even in the best-established theories. Quantum mechanics is as well tested a theory as can be, yet its interpretation remains inscrutable.” My own thought after having talked with disillusioned physicists is that sadly this passage is too optimistic. One physicist actually said to me, “Don’t let them kid you. We can make the math say whatever we want it to say, so in fact it tells us nothing.”

Yet despite all their private uncertainties, as the year 2020 approaches, science writers still can cheerily deliver such highly dubious nonsense as, Reality is constructed by the brain, and no two brains are exactly alike.” At the same time they also can admit to The delusion of scientific omniscience,” while noting that as recently as the nineteen-eighties physicists were sure they were right on the cusp of figuring everything out.

It seems from what I have read that many physicists now suspect that consciousness has to be primary. They suspect, but those with reputations to protect are speculating only privately. Physics is a system of hypotheses that are tested using mathematical calculations and replicable experiments, and if you have a theory that cannot be investigated in the traditional way, there is no point to mentioning it and thereby putting your career at risk. But as physicists start to run out of materially testable ideas, the disconnect that already exists between experimental and theoretical physics will grow wider, until at some point some open-minded young scientist will step forward and present a workable consciousness theory of everything. Then not just physics, but all the sciences will enter a more productive post-material world.

Meanwhile, it will be important for people who can see the primacy of consciousness and are not hampered by scientific limitations to pioneer some new methods for studying reality. Here is why:

  • Consciousness probably cannot be studied using mathematics or replicable experiments. The value of this material school lies in our taking its lessons seriously, and that value would be diminished if we could prove we are eternal. There is no way around this problem. In any battle of wits against the Big Wit, we lose.
  • Much of the evidence for what is really going on comes from glitches in an almost perfect system. Mistakes happen. The amnesia that seals off previous lives is imperfect in the first few years of life; people who die suddenly or in fear will sometimes stick to earth in a ghostly twilight; and now and then real miracles happen. If we understand the importance of these glitches, then we can begin to learn a lot about the true nature of reality. But of course this is thin gruel for physicists who have spent their careers working in the comforting solidity of mathematics-based replicable experiments.
  • Other evidence comes from the chance development of some highly subjective skills. Through the ages there have been people who developed some amazing consciousness-based skills – astral travel, afterlife communication, divination, and so on – none of which have much been studied because those who study them are ridiculed. Once we realize that these rare consciousness-based skills have a lot to tell us about reality, we can develop fresh ways to study them in a disciplined environment.
  • Apparently dead scientists are trying to help us learn what is true. Electronic voice phenomena (EVP) and instrumental transcommunication (ITC) make up an amazing body of evidence, the best of which cannot be explained away if you have even a half-open mind.
  • The bad news: much of the “evidence” is faked. Many “mediums” are cold-readers, most EVP and ITC is static, and ghosts are almost always illusory. Here scientists could be a big help, but instead of trying to sift real from faked so the bits of genuine evidence can be studied, nearly all the scientific effort so far has consisted in hurriedly drowning the baby and throwing it out with the bathwater. So for now, the sifting of evidence is left to amateurs like you and me, and that means we are going to have to do a lot of patient and meticulous work.
  • More bad news: for now, we’ve got to ignore the woo-woo stuff. At least at first, we builders of a new paradigm will have to concentrate with ruthless precision on those few areas where a lot of good evidence of how reality genuinely works can be found. We’ve got to stay away from some phenomena that later might be seen to fit, including fortune-telling, Tarot, mind-reading, Astrology, demons, angels, ancient gods, Akashic records, and extraterrestrials. If we are studying everything indiscriminately, then in fact we really are studying nothing.

All of this being said, some recent evidence for the primacy of consciousness is very good indeed. It cannot be studied by the scientific method that has worked so well in studying matter, so until physicists can liberate themselves and begin an open-minded search for the truth, the leaders in this field will be lay researchers. And there is a lot of work for us to do!

  • Some people will collect and patiently seek to authenticate the “glitches.” Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia spent much of his life collecting thousands of examples of children who seemed to remember previous lives, and “solving” these cases whenever possible by finding the living family of each child’s previous personality. One such anomaly is merely curious. Many hundreds of such well-documented cases give us overwhelming evidence that human consciousness survives physical death.
  • A few will find ways to conduct replicable experiments. Dr. Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona at Tucson has conducted triple-blind experiments with mental mediums. He calculates the odds against achieving some of his results by chance to be in the multiple millions to one.
  • Some others will find ways to collect and assemble strange and useful statistical data. Dr. Helen Wambach first studied reincarnation in an effort to prove it was nonsense, and one of her methods involved the mass hypnotic regression of thousands of people to certain specific historical periods. When she compiled the details of all the lives that her thousands of subjects claimed to have lived, she found that their distribution by gender, class, location, occupation, food, clothing, and other details so perfectly replicated historical fact that to have achieved these results by chance would have been nearly impossible.
  • And some will become their own experiments. Robert Monroe learned almost by accident how to leave his material body, and once he had satisfied himself that this was a real phenomenon and it didn’t seem dangerous, he spent forty years expanding his own boundaries and carefully documenting the results. He was not a scientist, but his model will be followed by later adventurous souls who have scientific training. Once you completely understand that reality is in fact both infinite and benevolent and your own mind is eternal and indestructible, no boundaries to your explorations exist.

It is going to be up to you and me to help humanity assemble a fresh paradigm that will let us study all of reality, including its non-material aspects. And wonderfully, some individual scientists and other researchers are pointing the way by doing ever more sophisticated work in the field of what is called “intelligent design.” This research began as an effort to refute Darwin, but the evidence for design in nature is abundant and the intelligent design movement is happily free of dogma-based constraints. We disciplined amateurs with nothing to lose can comfortably join these researchers, patiently seeking and sifting through the evidence as we build an ever more complete picture for all of humankind’s edification. The day will come when the mainstream science materialist house of cards will fall. And when it does, the work we do now can become a solid beginning for a genuine scientific search for the truth.

 

Sunset on clouds photo credit: verchmarco <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/160866001@N07/48824727437″>Magischer Himmel – Orange, blau, lila und pink begleiten den Sonnenuntergang</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Albert Einstein photo credit: oneredsf1 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/112345594@N02/24237007187″>Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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Seeking a Material Eternal Life

It is deeply tragic for everyone living that the mainstream scientific community still insists that what we experience as conscious awareness arises from unconscious matter. A full century ago, the great quantum physicist Max Planck found that notion preposterous; and many other thoughtful physicists, including the deathless Albert Einstein, have said or hinted that they also understood that consciousness must predate matter. The scientific dogma of materialism which was codified at the turn of the previous century has taken mainstream science on a hundred-year-long detour to nowhere! Scientific investigation must be an open-minded search for the truth if it is to be of any value at all, yet the university departments and the peer-reviewed journals still continue to insist that reality must be studied from the viewpoint of matter alone. Belief-systems are religions, by definition. And like all religions, materialist science is as frozen in time as a fly in amber, stuck now a century into the past.

Meanwhile, research scientists need to make a living, so they must find ways to do funded research that fits within their materialist restriction. And with the scientific community still insisting that at death we blink out like a light, you may not be surprised to learn that there are gullible and desperate people who are eager now to fund research into creating a material eternal life. This research is of course unnecessary. The scientists and their funders are already immortal! And their research is guaranteed to lead them nowhere, since the materialist limits imposed on the process of figuring out a material immortality are making it impossible for researchers to learn enough for their efforts to amount to anything.

Are you thinking that with so much evidence against it, surely no one still believes in materialism? You may be right, but the pressure to conform remains strong. With the start of the year 2020 barely a month away, a man who is “the chief scientist and president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle” and serves on Scientific American‘s board of advisers still feels required to pen these sentences: There is little doubt that our intelligence and our experiences are ineluctable consequences of the natural causal powers of our brain, rather than any supernatural ones. That premise has served science extremely well over the past few centuries as people explored the world.” Dr. Christof Koch is to be pitied. This poor man had to write those demonstrably absurd sentences as a sop to the materialist thought-police, and his article itself refutes them, as presumably does his recent book, The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can’t Be Computed. As he points out, no matter now rapidly and well a computer is able to calculate, it still doesn’t develop what he calls “experiences.” He is referring here to awareness. Emotions. Nuanced understandings. A living sense of self.

Because they are not allowed to study anything except from a materialist perspective, mainstream scientists still cannot define what consciousness is, figure out how or where it originates, or even describe how it might work. Nor, for that matter, can they define death. And their insistence on what is called “monism,”  which is the primitive belief that the mind cannot exist apart from the brain, means that they must remain resolutely unaware of every bit of all the amazing and consistent evidence about consciousness that exceeds their materialist theories.

Many scientists are coming to see that what some call “feelings” are a missing ingredient in all their attempts to create artificial intelligence. Whatever they build lacks emotions, empathy, a sense of self, and all else that makes up a human being. As one of them puts it, “Fiction is full of robots with feelings… But in real life robots have no more feelings than a rock submerged in novocaine.” And all the ideas now being proposed to begin to bridge that gap depend upon consciousness being spontaneously generated in the robot, just as they still are forced to assume that human consciousness is generated in our brains. One researcher suggests that if robots are programmed to recognize perils to their own existence, perhaps that will instill in them a will to survive, and from that might come a sense of selfhood, emotions, and then consciousness and all the rest. Which seems to be a pretty big stretch!

Many scientists aren’t so much concerned about robots’ feelings, though. They just want to create advanced robots that can infinitely improve their own ability to learn.  And all of that is well and good, but among scientists there is not even a consensus on whether artificial intelligence yet exits at all, or what needs to happen before it can be said to exist. Do the functions performed by a computer even qualify as “artificial intelligence”? The plain fact is that no matter how many calculations a computer can do at once, and no matter how rapidly it can do them, there is no relationship between those activities and the complex array of attributes which make up the individual awareness that we experience as human intelligence.

And even if scientists could create an intelligent and self-aware robot, it still is hard to imagine how that robot could become a fully intelligent and self-aware YOU when your body dies. So, inevitably, scientists who are trying to develop a workable material immortality are turning to seeking some way to mechanically perpetuate each human being’s awareness. They need to find a way to “upload” our minds. After all, as one researcher says, According to the first law of thermodynamics, the energy that powers all life continues on and can never be destroyed.” Since consciousness seems to be a form of energy, they are trying to find a way to work with that; but they ignore the fact that the first law of thermodynamics actually states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So if consciousness really is energy, then by definition it cannot come from the brain! Still, all that immortality funding is there, so scientists are exploring what they call “the gray zone between life and death,”  and they are trying to understand how Near-Death Experiences might be generated by the material brain. They are hoping to find ways to detect consciousness in matter, and to measure whether and the extent to which some material thing is conscious; and they are working out how they might establish some form of mechanical communication between brains.  To add to the stress of these pointless efforts, there is a growing suspicion that preserving your awareness may not be possible after all, and a rising doubt that your uploaded mind still would really have the same awareness that it did when your material brain was alive. But the funding is there, so they press on.

Yet all of this research combined is not bringing the mechanical immortality of your personal awareness any closer. Even worse is the fact that the mainstream scientific community’s absurd insistence that reality must be only material despite all the contrary evidence just further deepens the worldwide negativity which is rooted in the fear of death. As young Americans turn away from Christianity, they then face the scientific certainty that they will be extinguished when their bodies die. And this surge in them of existential fear is especially tragic when a lot of evidence suggests that in the face of death, and even unexpected death, the truth takes over and fear is gone. This ambient negativity rooted in false science has created what is an otherwise inexplicable uptick in Americans’ midlife mortality, in what are called “deaths of despair.” Scientists use that term, and then they attribute these deaths to a wide variety of problems, with no awareness that our rapid nationwide secularization and a concomitant surge in the fear of death is a primary underlying cause.

The silly scientific dogma of materialism is doing humanity incalculable harm! We must find a way to put it behind us. But, how?

Robot Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash.com
Coffin with Mourners Photo by Rhodi Lopez on Unsplash.com

What About the Children?

Nearly all the people who ask me questions are past the age of fifty. They are trying to deepen their spiritual life, and they aren’t finding ways to do that in their lifelong Christian beliefs and practices. Often they have been seeking for years, trying out different spiritual options like meditation, yoga, New Age, and various Eastern religions, but never feeling satisfied. By the time they reach out to me, many of these people are frustrated and even angry. Some have come to think that good answers to their spiritual questions will never be found.

Fortunately, I think the spiritual questions that are being asked by cradle Christians have satisfying answers, but that is primarily because they have a grounding in traditional Christianity. As is true of a bush that has become overgrown, if we can prune away the misshapen branches that are based in fear and negativity, we often can help them get back to their childhood Gospel roots. But this sort of fix will not be possible for the so-called Millennials, close to half of whom claim to have no religious affiliation. And for Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2015, present trends suggest that when they are adults few of them will have any spiritual roots at all.

Western Europe is at least a generation ahead of the United States in losing its Christian grounding. The ultimate result of this spiritual falling-away in Europe cannot yet be assessed, but even in the United States we are seeing some pretty appalling results as the religiously affiliated percentage of this nation continues to decline toward 50%. Since Christianity is based in fear, this result seems to be counterintuitive; but fear and negativity are rising here exponentially! Whether it is political warfare, violent entertainments, or panic that every weather event will soon make this planet uninhabitable: the fact is that the United States has become dramatically more fearful and angry. It is time to step back a bit from the fray and try to understand what has gone so wrong and how we might begin to repair it.

We talked here a couple of weeks ago about the reasons that most lapsed Christians give for outright leaving the faith:

  • They can no longer believe many of Christianity’s core teachings.
  • They love the Jesus they first met as children, but they don’t find Him in the pews as adults.
  • They find many of the Christian faithful to be cliquish, judgmental, and “un-Christian.”
  • They find in modern Christianity only rules and dogmas, not spiritual food.

As was said above, we can address these issues for people who grew up in Christianity. But in a couple of decades the number of American adults who are not cradle Christians easily will pass fifty percent! And there is probably nothing we can do at this point to change that result. What we can do, though, is to think about how we might best replace the highly problematic Christianity of Constantine, Calvin, and Torquemada with the gentle Christian Way based in universal Gospel truths that Jesus came to earth to begin.

Recent surveys suggest that for younger Millennials, the first and fourth of the reasons for leaving Christianity that their elders give are the primary reasons why so many young American adults are not religious. They find many Christian teachings to be intolerable, both unloving and hard to believe, which indeed they are! But understandably, most Christian leaders are not prepared to consider the fact that the religion’s decline is a direct result of the unpleasant and antiquated ideas at its core. The Wall Street Journal has just run an article by Timothy Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western University, who reports that in the youngest Millennial cohort (those who are 18 to 29 years old), 44% are so-called “Nones,” those who choose to declare no religious affiliation. He speculates that “Maybe it’s because their idea of faith is too narrow.”

Dr. Beal believes the young are leaving Christianity because of secular social pressures, because many of their parents are in mixed marriages or are otherwise less religious, and because more traditionally religious functions are being performed by “alt-religious” communities, many of which are online. But he admits that the answers that young people themselves give for having abandoned Christianity suggest that, just like their elders, they are turned off by the religion itself. According to a 2018 Pew poll, young Millennials “question a lot of religious teachings” (60%) and “don’t like the positions churches take on political/social issues” (49%).

Dr. Beal’s proposal for addressing the fact that almost half of the youngest Millennials reject the very idea of religion is to engage them in discussions. He says, “I find that when my students, including the majority Nones, are given access to religion not as a set of teachings and positions but as a space for active engagement with enduring questions, they lean in. Indeed, they find this way of thinking about religion a refreshing change from their generally polarized political interactions and personalized newsfeeds.” He adds, “What we need is sustained conversation in a context that allows and even welcomes different experiences and points of view. What do you mean when you self-define as religiously None? What is the story behind that box you checked? What are the teachings and positions that you question? Did you always question them, or did something in your life lead you to think differently?…When it comes to religion, Nones are almost never nothing at all.”

A thoughtful Catholic layperson wrote a lengthy article on the religious website Patheos.com in which she refuted every Catholic talking-point given by the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, who is considered to be “one of the hip bishops that has a better understanding of the plight of young people.” Her article is full of zingers, my favorite of which is this: Our teaching is hard. But don’t you see the irony in insisting that married lay couples never use a condom and that homosexually oriented lay men and women remain celibate for life, when priests and bishops acted like libertines, predators and pimps?” And not to be outdone in the sinning department, Evangelical churches nationwide are being roiled by sex scandals of their own. To quote an excellent Patheos article about sexual abuse in the fundamentalist Evangelical community, Billy Graham’s grandson Boz Tchividjian … has been ringing a similar alarm. … He’s been telling Christians for at least five years that they need to quit being so ‘very arrogant when pointing to Catholics’ because what they’re facing is ‘worse’.” An appalling number of Christian leaders have used their positions of power to sexually abuse the very people they claim they have been called by God to serve. To the unpalatable nature of Christian dogmas and the cruelty of some Christian social teachings, we might add as a reason why many of the young are leaving Christianity the moral hypocrisy of so many Christian leaders.

This rapid falling-away from spiritual pursuits by the very young might be seen to be a crisis. It is happening more slowly in some places than in others, but fear-based religions are losing their hold worldwide; and while getting rid of the fear is a good thing, for young people to be abandoning the very idea of spirituality is not. I don’t have a pat answer to this problem, although it preoccupies me more and more: the thought that in a century or less most children may be growing up without a glimmer of a spiritual grounding seems tragic! But it also gives us some wonderful opportunities, if we can take advantage of them. As the great French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  so brilliantly said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” The urge to be a spiritual seeker is at the very core of each newborn child, and the fact that for more and more such children that urge will not be filled by Christian dogmas gives us the wonderful opportunity to fill their needs with the Lord’s true words and the urge to follow His genuine Way.

I have been thinking through how we might begin to offer the Lord’s Way to everyone, with an emphasis on the very young. If we focus on the young, their elders will follow! We should welcome everyone’s ideas, but for now it seems to me that the Lord’s true movement should be:

  • Without dogmas. Our only scripture will be the genuine words of Jesus in the Gospels, and there can never be any core idea that anyone is required to believe.
  • Unstructured and organic. Jesus stressed that He and His disciples were servants. And so also must we be servants! No Pope, no bishops, no priests. Just equals helping one another.
  • Grounded in social justice. Not the angry, shouting kind, but instead a gentle and love-based outreach that honors and supports each person as the eternal beings that we are.

And above all, we must forever grant to God the right to give us new revelation!

As we prepare to share the teachings of Jesus with the young in entirely spiritual ways, my second children’s picture book (about the death of a pet) will be out next year. Meanwhile, I am hearing from parents who tell me how much their little ones are enjoying The Fun of Meeting Jesus. I bless the lovely artist who created these books’ beautiful illustrations!

Having taken Christianity’s current pulse, let’s check in now with another dogma-based belief-system as it tries to come to terms with the idea of human immortality….

 

Little girl photo credit: Kevin Celedón <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81465146@N05/14645990944″></a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Baby photo credit: FrankGuido <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/70973526@N00/9234165795″>Newest Addition</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Baby eyes photo credit: Neticola <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/29413803@N00/172696141″>Alejandro</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Adigrat boy photo credit: Rod Waddington <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64607715@N05/47978257952″>Adigrat Boy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Losing the Franchise

In June of 1995 the Chicago Tribune reported that Pope John Paul II had urged the Roman Catholic Church to seize the ‘particularly propitious’ occasion of the new millennium to recognize ‘the dark side of its history.’ … he asked, ‘How can one remain silent about the many forms of violence perpetrated in the name of the faith—wars of religion, tribunals of the Inquisition and other forms of violations of the rights of persons?’” So begins a book that must be read by every Christian who loves Jesus and hungers to discern the will of God. Helen Ellerbe tells us in her 1996 expose, The Dark Side of Christian History, that “My intention is to offer, not a complete picture of Christian history, but only the side which hurt so many and did such damage to spirituality. It is in no way intended to diminish the beautiful work that countless Christian men and women have done to truly help others. And it is certainly not intended as a defense of or tribute to any other religion.”

When I first read Ellerbe’s book, soon after the start of this century, it helped to precipitate the worst marital crisis of my life. If you doubt that Spirit has a sense of humor, please note that when I was in my twenties I was prompted to fall in love with and marry a man who had attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through college, who for years would go to Mass twice a week, and who to this day loves Catholicism with everything in him. So when it was no longer possible for me to enter a church that had a life-size, full-color plaster Jesus bleeding on a cross above its altar, he fought me for the salvation of my soul. He couldn’t win, but I love him all the more for his having cared so much! The title of this post comes from an epithet that I would fling at him whenever he tried yet again to persuade me to come to Mass. When Christianity was co-opted by Roman Emperors and warped into an instrument of bloody control, it lost whatever franchise it might have had from God. And no amount of Papal contrition can ever win that back again.

What I will share with you here is meant to complete the messages of the past two weeks. Knowing as we do now that what we experience in a dim way as human consciousness is the only thing that exists, that it is the creative force that continuously manifests this universe, and that at its highest love-based vibration it is the Godhead, we can see what terrible harm has been done by Christianity in its fostering of fear in its adherents and its refusal to make the teachings of Jesus preeminent. All of that would be bad enough! But for most of the past two thousand years, Christianity has also been almost unbelievably barbaric, making terror and pain near-sacraments, and often considering human life to be of little value. It is only the passage of time that has spared you and me the same ghastly fates that were endured by millions who revered Jesus Christ just as we revere Him! If it were not for their personal devotion to the Lord, and their conviction that the religion was deeply enmired in the errors that now are plain to see, many of those whose lives the Church destroyed might simply have recanted and been spared. What strikes me most as I re-read this book is the incredible devotion of so many people to professing and living the Lord’s Gospel truths even as they were being torn with pincers, broken on the rack, and eventually burned alive. Oh, to have even a tenth of their love, their fortitude, and their courage!

Helen Ellerbe’s well-written and scholarly book can be read for free online. In only 188 large-print pages, she makes a compelling case that Christianity’s greatest sin against humanity might well be the fact that it has warped the very meaning of what it is to be human. She says, Ignoring the dark side of Christian history perpetuates the idea that oppression and atrocity are the inevitable results of an inherently evil or savage human nature. There have been… peaceful cultures and civilizations, however, which functioned without oppressive hierarchical structures. It is clearly not human nature that causes people to hurt one another. People of gentler cultures share the same human nature as we of Western civilization; it is our beliefs that differ. Tolerant and more peaceful cultures have respected both masculine and feminine faces of God, both heavenly and earthly representations of divinity. It is the limited belief in a singular supremacy and only one face of God that has resulted in tyranny and brutality.” And she notes that, “The Christian church has left a legacy, a world view, that permeates every aspect of Western society, both secular and religious. It is a legacy that fosters sexism, racism, the intolerance of difference, and the desecration of the natural environment. The Church, throughout much of its history, has demonstrated a disregard for human freedom, dignity, and self-determination. It has attempted to control, contain and confine spirituality, the relationship between an individual and God. As a result, Christianity has helped to create a society in which people are alienated not only from each other but also from the divine.”

In Ellerbe’s learned view, all of Western history was shaped in awful ways by the power of the Christian Church. “As it took over leadership in Europe and the Roman Empire collapsed, the Church all but wiped out education, technology, science, medicine, history, art and commerce. The Church amassed enormous wealth as the rest of society languished in the dark ages. When dramatic social changes after the turn of the millennium brought an end to the isolation of the era, the Church fought to maintain its supremacy and control. It rallied an increasingly dissident society against perceived enemies, instigating attacks upon Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Jews. When these crusades failed to subdue dissent, the Church turned its force against European society itself, launching a brutal assault upon southern France and instituting the Inquisition.”

Then came the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. “Only during the Reformation did the populace of Europe adopt more than a veneer of Christianity. The Reformation terrified people with threats of the devil and witchcraft. The common perception that the physical world was imbued with God’s presence and with magic was replaced during the Reformation with a new belief that divine assistance was no longer possible. … It was a three hundred year holocaust against all who dared believe in divine assistance and magic that finally secured the conversion of Europe to … Christianity.” In Ellerbe’s view, the distant God of monumental power that Roman Christianity invented in order to establish and maintain its control of society became the model for modern human hierarchical dominance. And every Christian position on any topic was calculated primarily to enhance a rigid control of human society that is contrary to humankind’s essentially spiritual nature.

It was my initial reading of Ellerbe’s book that made me first understand that Christianity is deliberately antithetical to the Gospel teachings of Jesus on love, forgiveness, and spiritual growth.

My college major meant that my focus had long been on the first five hundred years of Christianity. So Ellerbe’s illumination of the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, and the Reformation was a revelation for me! Let’s look here at three summary conclusions very relevant to our present day that are the product of Helen Ellerbe’s work:

  • Throughout Christian history, Jesus has been used but not studied. Fear and suffering were the religion’s means of control, so the Lord’s suffering to redeem us from God’s perfectly justifiable wrath was all that was taught. I have long been struck by the fact that nearly all Christians are amazingly ignorant of the Lord’s Gospel words. Now I understand that His teachings are irrelevant and frankly inconvenient to Christianity as it still is practiced.
  • The worst aspects of modern society are the result of Christianity’s deliberate design. Christianity’s hierarchical nature during most of its history and its strict division and ranking of people by sex, race, age, class, and occupation, together with our modern materialist sense that if a God exists, He is separate from and even indifferent to the world, are all rooted in the Christian hierarchical and power-based model.
  • Our awful tolerance of brutality and war is a product of longstanding Christian practices. It has been estimated that more than twenty-five million innocent people have suffered death by torture and massacre at the hands of people who professed to be ardent followers of Jesus acting in obedience to God. And if you can read that sentence without distress, then you have made Helen Ellerbe’s point.

I feel compelled to say here, as Ellerbe also says, that in spite of it all there have been many good Christians who have done some wonderful things. But of course, then we must also add that if Christianity had always concentrated on sharing the Gospel teachings of Jesus and never been seduced by worldly goals, then perhaps the many more love-based works of His followers as they lived His Gospel teachings could long since have brought the kingdom of God on earth.

Ellerbe sums up her discoveries by saying, “The dark side of Christian history has been and continues to be about the domination and control of spirituality and human freedom… Christians built an organization that from its inception encouraged not freedom and self-determination, but obedience and conformity. To that end, any means were justified. Grounded in the belief in a singular, authoritarian and punishing God, … Christians created a church that demanded singular authority and punished those who disobeyed. During the Dark Ages, civilization collapsed as the Church took control of education, science, medicine, technology and the arts. Crusaders marched into the Middle East killing and destroying in the name of the one Christian God. The Inquisition established a precedent in the Middle Ages for the systematic policing and terrorization of society. The Protestant and Catholic Counter Reformation sparked wars where Christians slaughtered other Christians, each convinced that theirs was the one and only true path… In 1785 Thomas Jefferson wrote: ‘Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support error and roguery all over the earth.’” Amen, my precious friend.

 

John Paul II photo credit: Beyond Forgetting <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23342600@N00/8226888″>POPE JOHN PAUL II</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Requiem Mass photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/27340278@N03/49033160962″>Deceased Clergy Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Conflagration photo credit: SebastianBartoschek <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50192230@N07/40694870523″>Beim Osterfeuer</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Burning buildings photo credit: John Westrock <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/13639387@N05/48804446556″>For All The Quiet Times We Shiver</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>