Month: April 2015
Celebrating Our Small Blue Dot
Our modern, clinic corporatized, check globalized world has caused us to devalue each other and our planet. If ever there was a modern definition of sin, check it is this: the devaluation of human and planetary worth by the systemic destruction of both by corporations unbound by laws and unregulated by morality.
Today, let’s try to remember that we are bound to this planet through the very substance of our being. The molecules within us are the molecules within every tree and lake. As the planet dies and withers, so too do we—not just physically, but spiritually and morally. Before we bankrupt ourselves and take the entire planet with us, let’s rethink the way we organize society and conduct our relationships. Let’s try to remember love as the principle that guides our decision making processes. Love, not profit. Love, not war. Love, not pollution.
Perhaps this video, produced by Charter for Compassion for Earth Day 2015, will remind us what it means to be humans in relationship with each other and this magnificent blue dot, both of which are part of and contain every conceivable universe of being.
Meditation: Give me the strength and courage to resist the powerbrokers and corporate overlords who are destroying our humanity and our planet.
The Bible’s Spiritual Thread, tadalafil part 2
Jesus started a movement that was all about recognizing and embracing our spiritual nature and unity with God. Unfortunately, shop as the Jesus Movement became more Gentile and less Jewish, the Holy Scriptures that Jesus and Paul loved and understood became reinterpreted through the lens of Pagan Gentiles weaned on Greek dualist philosophy. This means that stories intended as mystical Jewish metaphor were interpreted literally. Phrases that were likely never used when Jesus was preaching, like “son of God” were suddenly applied to him, because these new Gentile followers of Jesus thought of him as a demigod, like Hercules or Achilles. This corrupted Jesus’ entire message and turned him into just another member of the Greco-Roman pantheon, where he has largely remained to this day.
In order to rediscover the original meanings of these texts (which were in truth many and varied—there is and never was a single meaning for any of these stories), we have to first remember that this is an ancient Jewish work. With the possible exception of Luke-Acts, devout and faithful Jews wrote everything in the Bible. More importantly, they wrote parables, using symbolism and allegory their contemporaries would have immediately understood, but which we no longer have any understanding of—just like the Gentiles who comprised the church 200 years after Jesus’ death.
There are several ways to reclaim the metaphorical meaning of the stories in the Bible. One is to do lots of research into the historical period of the time, doing one’s best to understand the Jewish mindset, social constructs, economics and politics of the period and its people. This is typically called historical-critical exegesis, and it has come to be accepted as the standard by which good biblical scholarship is accomplished.
But exegesis wasn’t always about historical context. In fact, for the people who interpreted scripture in the ancient world, exegesis was about eking out new meanings for new times, with the caveat being that everything in the Bible should reveal a thread of compassion and love. The Jewish people of Jesus’ era didn’t give a whit about the historical context of Genesis. They wanted to know what these stories had to reveal about God’s love for them, in their here and now. They found hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ways to read their ancient stories.
The historical-critical method is important, but I contend that the stories in the Bible—every single one of them, from Genesis through Revelation was originally intended as spiritual metaphor. When we read scripture, I think we should constantly ask, what does this story reveal about my intimate connection with God, about my spiritual being, about the spirituality of the universe? And like our ancestors, if we cannot find a thread of spiritual love and unity with all creation and all beings in creation, then we need to either meditate on the meaning more deeply, or have the courage to discard that story and move on. And when we can let go of something, that’s when we truly know we are growing.
Meditation: Make my mind and heart fertile fields for spiritual growth.
When we sense
the nearness of you
as intimately as Jesus
shows and tells us
we are able,
the very purpose of our life
No longer focused
on clawing our way to the top,
you instead fill us
with the desire to be
the Christ presence
in a world begging for
and all-inclusive love
exemplified by Jesus.
Your love makes us more loving,
your compassion makes us more compassionate,
your honesty makes us more honest.
And we confess that honesty
is a rare commodity
in our world today.
and constantly broadcast
to an unconscious world,
while truth-telling is criticized
and frequently punished.
Give us the courage
to witness to the truth, Holy One—
a truth that reveals
the systemic sins of our world,
and obliterates them
your higher presence,
your higher way of living,
your higher consciousness,
our Christ consciousness,
alive and powerful
within each and every
human being on the planet.
Make us a comfort to
and the disenfranchised,
in our congregation,
and the world.
We pray for nothing more
than to simply recognize
your loving embrace,
for it is the love
of that embrace
that is the power,
and the glory,
The Bible’s Spiritual Thread, click part 1
The Bible is most powerful when we approach it as a philosophical text. The stories it contains force us to wrestle with what it means to be humans in relationship with each other and with God. The struggles the people in the Bible go through are very much like our own. They revolt against despotism and empire, they develop nations and laws, and they constantly contend with what it means to be human—including what it means to be consciously aware of our spirituality—and what it even means to be “spiritual.”
People formed ideas about gods and our relationship to them even before we settled down into civilizations. Most came to the conclusion that the gods existed in another realm—some sort of heaven, apart from human existence. These gods were typically meddlesome and hypersensitive, demanding tribute from humans, enslaving humans, and often interacting with and reproducing with humans. Some of these ideas came from a lack of knowledge about the natural world, but it would be a mistake to presume that these ancient people were purely superstitious.
When we read any ancient work, including the Bible, it’s important to remember we’re reading works by and about the people who literally created civilization. They were brilliant philosophers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers. These are the people who created both oral and written languages, the idea of civil justice systems, aqueducts, the wheel, and everything that eventually shaped our modern society. Discounting them as primitive, superstitious ignoramuses is a mistake. They were nothing of the sort.
As their civilizations became more complex and as humans began interacting with people who were different from them, ideas about spirituality and the nature of god(s) evolved. For thousands of years there were gods of the fields, the hearth and home; gods of war and peace; gods of wine and food. Every household had its own protective god. Over time though, gods became God, who was still part of a pantheon or ‘divine council’. This God still pulled the strings, causing floods and famine when we pissed him off, rescuing us from disaster when we proved our loyalty.
Even today, our ideas about God still very often reflect too human traits. Every now and then, though, someone comes along to teach people that God is not an outside entity with human characteristics, but rather, God is a spiritual force that dwells within each and every one of us. The very idea of spirit in both ancient Jewish and Greek thought is about our inner being. The Greek words we translate as “spirit” have to do with our psychological, intellectual, and spiritual aspects—everything that is non-physical. From beginning to end, the Bible is about our quest to understand this more-than-physical nature. Every single story can (and should) be read as a metaphor about becoming the Christ.
For example, what is the story of Exodus like if we read it not as a story about slaves escaping from Egypt, but instead as a story about escaping from the bondage that separates us from spiritual oneness with God by awakening to spiritual wholeness?
Think of the slaves as representative of every human being on the planet. Pharaoh is symbolic of the trappings of human civilization—the comforts of the physical and our quest to build more, consume more, control more. The escape of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery is the release of our spirit from the bondage of commerce-based civilization. The parting of the Red Sea is what happens when we awaken to our inner spiritual power and God-connectedness, which clears what was once an impassable obstruction and leads us right to the Promised Land—Oneness with the very being of God. The thoughts and habits that once bound us are obliterated by the cleansing wave of the spirit as the walls of the Red Sea come crashing down upon them.
There is a deep spiritual thread—in fact, a revelatory thread about our spirituality, woven throughout both testaments of the Bible. We just have to read the stories this way—the way in which I believe they were intended to be read, something the ancient people they were written for would have understood. Thousands of years removed though, we have to be reminded how to read the Bible—and that is as spiritual metaphor from beginning to end.
Meditation: Give me new eyes to see beyond the ink on the page, into understanding that leads me closer to Oneness.
Rethinking What it Means to Worship
Religious people often talk about worship. While I think many people consider worship a time to intimately connect with God, pharm it seems that the majority of religious people consider worship to be just what it is defined as: “reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worship).
In our church we’ve started to get away from the word “worship, ” and instead refer to our time together as “Connecting”—with each other and with God. We’ve started to do this because many of us come to “worship” in order to experience the loving and powerful presence of the one and only energy in the universe, which we have traditionally called “God.” We have started to evolve our image of God beyond an entity of some sort that requires homage—or else woe be unto us.
Unfortunately, our image of God has too often reflected our human self. God is humanoid, even in our classical paintings. God is emotional. God lives in Heaven. We worship God because we believe God demands worship, or bad things will happen to our planet and us. We claim to love God, but the truth is we’re afraid of God, and afraid that if we don’t worship correctly or say the right magic words, we’ll spend an eternity in Hell.
So, what if we started to think about God differently—not as a being who demands worship, but as an energy flow—a current, that is the creative being of all being? What if Jesus, and others like him, are simply perfect, conscious manifestations of this cosmic energy flow? Neither these perfected beings nor the energy flow itself needs or demands worship. Rather, both invite us into relationship—personal, intimate, perfected awareness of our being as the being of the universe.
It’s this conscious awareness of the flow of God that changes who we are, and how we perceive others. It’s the conscious understanding of God within everything and everyone that changes our world. It’s why Jesus was more concerned with the poor and disenfranchised than with his own well being. It’s why Jesus constantly says, “I and the Father are one.” He didn’t mean this in some supernatural, mythological way. This is an indication of his heightened consciousness—his awareness of who he truly was, and his way of letting us know who we all truly are as well. We are all one with the Father/Mother/Lover/Force that is God.
We can realize our Oneness with God in every bit the powerful and complete way as did Jesus Christ.
My hope is that people of faith and the churches in which they gather will begin to move beyond worship and instead into very real, palpable experiences with God. The Infinite One is constantly present and ready to be switched on within us all. If we can get more people to switch on, the world around us will be changed in ways we’ve only dared to dream are possible. Switching on requires not worship, but relationship—with both God and every other human brother and sister on the planet. For in realizing Oneness, we come to recognize that there is no other, there is only all.
Meditation: I am one with God.
Loving and compassionate God, here
move through our congregation,
our minds and souls.
Embrace us firmly,
and awaken us
from our hypnotic sleep.
We have created a world
that mesmerizes us
with shiny objects.
We are programmed to buy
more than we need,
and to eat
more than is healthy for us.
We are urged to fill our homes
with more and more stuff,
even while we know
the abundance of your glorious world
is not being shared with others—
others who are often
the very people producing the stuff
we fill our homes with.
Wake us up, Holy Redeemer!
Resurrect our spirits,
for too long suffocated
by the heavy burden
of this consumer culture.
Remind us we are holy children, Lord—
your holy children.
Flow through our very being.
so we might enlighten others,
and one by one
snap out of our global slumber
and realize a different way—
your way of love,
and utter equality with one another,
which can only happen
when we acknowledge and embrace
Reforming the Reformation, discount part 3
Hopefully, buy we’re beginning to see the cyclical nature of faith, viagra sale spirituality and religion (and yes, they are three very distinct ideas): A prophet comes along proclaiming a way to act as people of God. Often, the prophet also has a gripe with the established religious authority; usually the establishment’s misuse of power and their unwillingness to let the people of God read Holy Scripture or otherwise interact directly with God. The prophet gains followers who reform the system, allowing people direct access to both Holy Scriptures and God. Over time, the teachings of the prophet turn into a religious system of their own, often leaving behind the original people who established the system. Soon, the prophet himself or herself becomes an idol of worship. The prophet’s teachings are lost, replaced by idolatry and direct worship of the prophet. A priesthood develops around the now idolized prophet. The priesthood once again sets itself apart from the people of God, completely forgetting (or purposely and conveniently ignoring) that one of the prophet’s original gripes was the very same separation of the people from God by a priestly caste.
Now somehow specially permitted by God, the priests are the only group who can read (and understand) Holy Scripture or speak directly to God. Sometimes the priesthood can absolve people of “sin,” an idea that comes not from God, but is invented in every religion so the new priestly hierarchy, which is often the secular government (or so entwined with the secular government that the two are virtually indistinguishable), can control the people and keep them from revolting. A vision of God and our ability to personally connect with God has been perverted into a mechanism of terror, torture, and control through blind faith and idolatry of a prophet. It is a cycle that happens in every religious system, every single time. No exceptions that I can find throughout history. Not one. Sad, isn’t it?
This sequence happened in Judaism as it developed the monarchy of King David, in Buddhism as the teachings of an enlightened being were lost once again to religious schisms, in early Christianity as it turned into Catholicism and became the Holy Roman Empire, in Islam as Mohammad’s Holy Land of God became a Caliphate, and it’s happened today in Protestantism, as the priestly class is once again set apart from the rest of the people.
In Protestantism, in fact, many of the clergy still wear the black robes and stoles of Martin Luther! Yet, Martin Luther only wore robes and stoles because he was a university professor, and that was the fashion of his day! He never intended for clergy to wear something that set them apart from the rest of the congregation.
No matter what you think of Jesus (and hopefully it’s not idolatrous), he came to destroy the caste system of his day once and for all. In the Bible, the authors make clear that Jesus (and by extension the authors themselves who use the Jesus character in this manner) despised the idea of a religious hierarchy. Religious hierarchy is one of the things that Martin Luther rebelled against in the 16th Century. He worked hard to preach in German and translate scripture to German so the people of God could experience these ancient words for themselves. Yet here we are again, Protestants all, completing the typical cycle. Today our religious practices look uncomfortably like the practices Martin Luther tried to reform 500 years ago. Today, our Jesus looks very much like the idols Jesus tried so hard to point us away from.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We can break the cycle, though. In our age of mass, interconnected communication, we can speak directly to each other about the abuses of our religious systems and reform them by remembering that every single human being is a living breathing aspect of the consciousness of God.
Religions don’t matter. Churches only matter in so far as they are places for spiritually developing people to gather and assist each other on their journeys, and they serve the common good through social outreach programs (that do not attempt to “convert” people in any way). Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, Lao-Tze—they only matter as purveyors of spiritual wisdom. We (incorrectly) idolize and pray to all of them. Few people use them as the teachers they originally were before the religious cycle turned them into idols. These great prophets wanted to show us how to connect to God. They had no intention of being exalted to the place of God.
Christians in particular might remember that Christ is not a person. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word we translate as messiah. Messiah is not a person in particular, either, it is a person who is anointed with the presence of God. It is not a term meant for one individual, and never was. Many people in the Bible are called messiah, long before Jesus. The idea that Jesus is the one and only messiah is a development of the religious cycle that destroyed his message and turned him into an idol—that part of the inevitable process of the creation of a religion that happens to all prophets like him.
The real truth, the truth no religious organization or secular government really wants us to know, is that we are all messiahs. God anoints us all. The only difference between us and Jesus or Moses or Muhammad or Buddha is that they consciously realized who they were. They embraced their oneness with the Universal Consciousness that is the being of God. They allowed their egos to be dissolved by the spiritual truth that destroys religious dogma and idolatry. They allowed themselves to be used as engines of religious re-creation (one might say religious resurrection), and teachers of eternal spiritual wisdom. They beckon to us still, and urge us to let the Infinite Eternal melt away our ego, obliterate our idols, and return us to the spiritual being of oneness in which we are created. Once absolved of ego, we too will be used to change the world and bring about a global culture of peace, shared prosperity, and a love for God that finally supersedes superstition.
That, my friends, is the reform our world truly needs.
Meditation: Make me an instrument of truth and reform, God who constantly re-forms my very being.
Reforming the Reformation, part 2
It should be apparent by now that everything that exists evolves. The entire universe has evolved from a singularity of some sort. And while our understanding of reality is changing (an evolution itself) and our idea of a one-time Big Bang gives way to a universe that has always existed in some reality or another, our universe—the one we physically inhabit right now, is still evolving. There is no doubt all life on this planet began as very simple, single-celled organisms that, over millions of years, slowly began their crawl toward sentience and civilization. Everything evolves.
Just as life, planets and stars evolve, so do our created human systems. Economic, political and religious systems all change over time. Yet, while the evolution of the universe and life seems linear—from a less complex to a more complex place; from a less conscious to a more conscious awareness, the evolution of religion (and politics and economics) seems to ebb and flow. We make a few steps forward, and then fall back a couple of steps. We make some spiritual and religious progress, then devolve into superstition and tradition for the sake of tradition, before we work our way out and forward again.
As we evolve as spiritual beings, we share our ideas about what it means to be spiritual with others. Most often, we do this through religious systems. Initially, religion will be a set of practices and beliefs that are shared by a community. That community will develop rituals—the patterned, repeated enactments of a community’s myths. Ritual evolves very slowly, and over time it becomes tradition. These traditions eventually lose their meaning for religious communities removed from the progenitors of the original myths and rituals by generations, centuries, or even millennia. At that point, a reformer (typically an entity that is more spiritually evolved) comes along and recreates the religion, usually causing all sorts of havoc as traditions and myths are shattered.
Jesus is this sort of reformer. He is born into a Judaism that is being held hostage by a ruling class of priests who have allowed the secular society—the Roman Empire, to run roughshod over the Jewish people. The priesthood has locked God up in a little box and told the people that only the priests can read the Holy Scripture, only the priests can communicate with God, and only the priests can absolve people of sinful transgressions. Of course, the priests have also convinced the people they are fallen sinners, which keeps the religious mechanism working.
All of these ideas and practices are in direct opposition to the God Moses introduced to the Jewish people during the Exodus—a God who feeds people directly (the parable of the manna, or al-Mann wa al-Salwa), and whose communication through a singularly spiritually evolved leader (Moses) is intended not to set that leader apart, but to inspire that leader to lead others to their own spiritual connectedness to God (the promised land). It is a story about awakening people to a higher conscious awareness of God’s love in their midst, wherever they are, no matter how horrible the situation. Moses’ revelation is not about beating people up for misbehaving so badly that God then withholds love. God never withholds love from anyone.
As the revelation of Moses evolves into a practiced set of rituals, myths, and ultimately an organized religion, the practices and traditions themselves become more important than spiritual evolution. The system becomes about keeping the system intact, not about the spiritual evolution—some might use the word salvation, of individuals.
So when Jesus comes along, an incredibly spiritually evolved being—perhaps the most spiritually evolved being to ever walk the planet, he goes about reforming his religion. He reminds people that God is within, that we are capable of having a personal relationship with God, that the Holy Scriptures are our books to read if we want to learn, that everyone is beloved, created from love to be creatures of love.
As Jesus gathers disciples, a reformation of Judaism begins—not the first Judaic reform, and not the last. I am convinced Jesus had no intention of starting a new religion, only of reforming the religion he loved, the religion of his parents and grandparents. He saw the spiritual message of Moses taken away from the people. Jesus saw his people enslaved by religious tradition as well as an occupying army, and he used Rome as a powerful parable for the spiritual bondage in which he saw the Temple Priesthood keeping his people. Eventually, these parables get him killed. This leaves his students without a leader. The reformer has been killed.
The disciples do their best to keep Jesus’ teachings alive by remembering (and eventually writing about) his teachings and mimicking his life to the best of their abilities. An alternate economy of sorts is formed, as disciples gather in small groups to share their goods and services with one another, as their Jewish ancestors did in the 8th Century BCE. Yet, Jesus’ ideas aren’t really making any real traction within traditional Judaism, and the fact many of his followers call him Messiah doesn’t help. Without a strong leader, it seems the spiritual revelations of Jesus might vanish.
Into this void steps another reformer: Saul of Tarsus, first a zealot intent on wiping out the Jesus movement, now a zealot intent on keeping it alive at any cost—even if that means inviting non-Jews into the group. This single action—the invitation of Gentiles into a Jewish movement without first converting them to Judaism, would prove to be the blessing and the curse that forever transformed the teachings of Jesus the Christ.
After a few hundred years go by, this Jewish movement is now almost entirely Gentile. Importantly, it is a new religion called Christianity, and few, if any, of its members know anything about Judaism. Jesus the reformer is turned into Jesus the Son of God, founder of a new religion—a state religion, no less, the official religion of the Roman Empire. A few hundred more years go by, and rites, rituals and traditions are codified. A new priesthood develops, and they become the leaders of the Holy Roman Empire. They alone are allowed to read Holy Scripture and interpret it for people. They alone can absolve people of sin. They convince people we are all sinful in the first place, an idea that couldn’t be farther from the spiritual truth revealed by Moses and Jesus. Just like the Jewish High Priests, the new Christian religion has created the exact same hierarchical system, even more complicit with the ruling secular society than the Jewish system that preceded it 1000 years earlier. Because this time, the Pope is the Emperor.
Two reformers enter this scenario. The first is the Prophet Muhammad (peace be with him), who sees the problems inherent in a religious state. Through his revelations, he creates a state that completely separates religion and politics, and urges his followers to love everyone as they love themselves. For as long as he lives, Arabia is the only place on earth that Jews, Christians and Muslims can live together in peace. When he dies, there is a power struggle, and Islam goes through the same process that Judaism and Christianity did. A Caliphate is created, I am sure much to Muhammad’s chagrin, and politics and religion once again become intertwined.
Later, a Christian reformer comes along—Martin Luther. He also attempts to reform a church that has become a political, rather than a spiritual organization. And like Jesus, rather than reforming the organization he loved, he ends up splintering it into two opposing groups: Catholics and Protestants. This split will cause more bloodshed and distrust than any schism in history. It was an unintentional result of reform and even Luther’s Protestant church has now devolved into the same sort of ritual and tradition he opposed 500 years ago.
Over the next couple of days we’ll examine what’s happened in Protestantism, modern attempts at reform, and how we as spiritually evolving beings can reignite the church so it is once again a place for spiritual evolution, rather than political control.
Meditation: I am connected to God, the all-creating love energy of all reality. Through that connection I am connected to all beings. I am connected through love. I am love, and that is the ultimate reforming power.