Intersect 1-14-15

Into the mystic, check part 2

Imagine what it might be like to live in a more mystical world. I don’t mean a superstitious world, hospital I mean a world more understanding and accepting of the idea that perhaps there is something more underlying reality than we can understand with our physical senses. In fact, patient part of the mystical journey is accepting that ineffable feeling that there is something more.

We can sense this mystical truth when we stop and quiet our minds. The famous story about Buddha under the Bodhi tree is a perfect example of our ability to connect with the Infinite One. It also reflects the inner conflict faced by anyone on this spiritual trek. Jesus often goes off to be alone for centering time (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35, etc.) battling his demons the same as Buddha under the Bodhi tree, 500 years earlier. Moses goes to mountains, Noah, and Mohammed go to caves. We all struggle with Mara: desire, hatred, ignorance, the inner demons that keep us separated from the truth of our Oneness with God and each other.

Every spiritual mystic throughout history has understood the importance of time alone with God, the Infinite, Allah, the all of the universe, whatever name we want to give that which we cannot see, touch, taste, hear or smell. We innately understand that there is a conscious cosmic force that is actively pulling us ever closer to realization of Oneness. This realization changes us and changes the world.

One of the Buddhist practices any mystic—Christian, Muslim, Jew or secular humanist, might find useful is the practice of mindfulness. It’s not easy to sit under a tree or by the beach and quiet our mind, but it’s easier than staying in tune throughout the busy day, surrounded by the noise of a distracted and frightened world.

Fear is noisy, and always disconnects us from Oneness.

Mindfulness links our private, quiet meditation practices and everyday life. When we are being mindful, we are more aware of the link between our meditative, tuned-in, connected state and the events that occur throughout our day. It helps us live non-judgmentally, paying close attention to the events of our day—not just living on autopilot while things happen around (and to) us.

Being mindful of our connection to the Infinite One when we’re talking to others, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, working at our desks—whatever we’re doing, helps raise our level of spiritual consciousness. Mindfulness allows us to participate actively in our spiritual evolution.

I believe we are spiritually evolving as a matter of course, just as everything in the universe is naturally physically evolving. However, while we cannot control the rate of our physical evolution (yet), we are tasked to participate in our spiritual evolution. This has been the message of the Buddhas and Jesus’ and Mohammeds throughout history. We are all invited to participate in this spiritual journey that connects us as One. We are responsible to help others awaken to the truth of their inner, God-like, Christ-like, Buddha-like nature.

As more and more of us simply begin this journey to a deeper understanding of reality, we become the only force that can end terror and fear forever. We are becoming a new consciousness for a new world. Buddha called it Nirvana, Jesus, and Mohammed called it God’s Kingdom. It is, ultimately, a world filled with spiritually awake, conscious, mindful people, rather than a world filled with zombies, whose nightmares threaten to extinguish us all. Our spiritual journey is long and arduous, but it is a journey on which we absolutely must persevere.

Prayer: Awaken me, Mystical Force of all creation, and help me awaken others from this long, dark nightmare. Show us and make us the light that banishes Mara from our souls, our minds and our world, now and forever. Amen.

Intersect 1-13-15

illness verdana, segoe, sans-serif;”>Into the mystic, part 1

We’re all familiar with the famous story of Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. Obviously, this is not meant to be a historical, literal story. It is a deep and powerful allegory. For centuries, theologians and philosophers have wrestled with the meaning of this story, and Christianity has largely adopted the idea that because of Adam and Eve’s transgression, humans fell out of God’s favor. Eventually, God sends Jesus as a sort of sacrificial lamb to right our relationship.

However, this interpretation was made before the advent of evolutionary theory. Paul, Augustine, and other church leaders who adopted the idea of humankind’s fall from grace thought humans were created whole cloth, separately from the other creatures. We know this is not true. We know that we have evolved over millions and millions of years, everything on the planet from atomic particles that fell to earth from the stars. All life started with single-celled, asexual organisms, and over the billions of years of the Earth’s existence, more and more complicated life forms have evolved. Modern humans have only been around for 250,000 years or so. Knowing that life slowly evolved, the idea that we have somehow fallen out of God’s favor no longer makes much sense. You can’t fall from something you never had in the first place.

So perhaps an evolutionary view of spiritual growth also makes more sense. Perhaps it’s not that we have fallen from grace, but rather that we are always moving ever closer toward unification with the mystical. As we learn more about the universe, and ourselves, we are beginning to realize that reality is much more complicated and mysterious than we’ve ever imagined before. Our ideas about God have changed from a bearded man in the sky to a more intimate, less-definable, conscious energy that unites and ignites all life.

If we allow quantum physics and string theory to influence our ideas about God, the way ancient ideas about creation influenced their ideas about God, then for us, God is the original harmonic, whose music created and continues to create everything that exists, one magnificent star factory at a time. In the beginning was the Word, indeed (John 1).

The Pillars of Creation

 

Prayer: I am awed by the vast mystery of the universe, and honored to be a small piece of this atomic explosion of consciousness. Ignite my imagination and push the boundaries of my faith, Infinite One, so that I am always evolving, always moving closer to Oneness with your Infinite Love. Amen.

Intersect 1-12-15

Divesting ourselves of religious baggage

For as long as I can remember, sickness I’ve had an issue with organized religion. There are a lot of reasons for this. My parents came from divergent religious backgrounds. My dad was Roman Catholic and my mom was Jewish. They met and married in the early 1960s, thumb when most Christians were still being incorrectly taught that “the Jews” killed Jesus (it was the Romans, for insurrection). Fortunately, they both came from families that saw past this sort of lie, and my parents were respectful enough that I attended both church and synagogue, although neither regularly. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because at that time the Catholic church was entirely in Latin, and the synagogue was entirely in Hebrew. What child could possible understand what was going on?
 
Other things happened throughout my life that soured me on organized religion, but I kept having what I can only describe as mystical experiences. I sensed, and still do, that God is a force moving throughout all creation. I think George Lucas was onto something when he created the idea of The Force in “Star Wars,” probably because he’s had those mystical experiences too. And if you’ve had that sort of experience, you immediately realize that the idea of God in Heaven on a throne of Gold is completely absurd—as absurd as the idea that God would have a demigod for a son, then commit suicide to somehow right the entire fallen cosmos.
 
If we study history, we realize that the mythology of Jesus is the same as the mythology of Zeus and Hercules. There are reasons for this, of course, most of them political and satirical. The people who wrote the Jesus stories wanted to poke holes in the dominant religion of their time, and exalt the message of Jesus—not Jesus himself, over and above that of the Roman Empire. Yet within 100 years, Jesus was turned into exactly the same sort of demigod the Romans were familiar with. This too makes sense once we understand that the Romans and Greeks becoming disciples influenced his very unique teaching in detrimental ways.
 
Greco-Roman influences end up diluting Jesus’ message drastically—and for thousands of years things just continue to get worse. Christians forget they were once all Jews. Jesus’ message of complete and utter connection with God as a way of being for all humans, not just him, is slowly obliterated as the Roman Empire firmly takes control of Christianity and twists it, and Jesus, into symbols that fit more appropriately into a dictatorial world view.
 
We have an opportunity to get things back on track. Religion in the 21 Century is already undergoing sweeping changes as people realize church, synagogue and mosque is about sharing our faith with each other. Religion can no longer be about dogma and creeds (and should have never been about those things). Religion today is about people helping each other connect deeply and intimately with a power that is beyond human understanding. Religion today is more disorganized, more democratic than ever before.

Christianity today is, I am hopeful, becoming less about the Roman mythology of Jesus, and more about how he lived, what he had to teach, and the incredible idea that humans are more than meets the eye. We are, in fact, a harmonization of the song of God, made to be like God in this world—creatures of love and compassion. To get there means we need to give ourselves permission to let go of some of the things we have been taught are the central tenets of Christianity, and to once again let God influence our spiritual growth, rather than any human empire.
 
Prayer: Let me know, God of all being, that it is okay to move forward and let go of the things that weigh me down. Take my mental and spiritual baggage away from me! Let me feel your presence, and understand there is more to faith than religious empire conveys. Amen.

Intersect 1-9-15

Disorganizing Religion

I call myself a Christian because I think of myself as a student of Jesus, who was a teacher and spiritual mystic. I have found his teachings to be a powerful path to connection with the Infinite Mystery of the Universe. I find the stories of his life an inspiration and a call to act as a presence of love and non-violent resistance in a corrupt world. I love that he took the religion of his day and turned it on its head.
 
I am also a Jew. I was born Jewish, and I respect the deep mystery of God that Judaism teaches (which is the same mystery Jesus taught). I do not think being Jewish and being Christian are mutually exclusive. It certainly wasn’t a problem for Jesus and his earliest followers, every single one of them Jewish. Remember, Jesus didn’t consider himself a Christian—there was no such thing then. Jesus was a faithful Jew, attempting to act with integrity to God in every action he took. No matter what we call ourselves today, and no matter what we think about the life and divinity of Jesus, that’s a powerful message in its own right. Integrity. The world could use a lot more of it.
 
Jesus completely disorganized the religion of his day, wresting control of people’s relationship with the Divine from high priests, all members of a single tribe—religious monarchs. Jesus saw the error of this system and called it out. He then proceeded to tell people they could experience God personally, without the need for any sort of mediating priest (which makes the fact that hundreds of years later Jesus is turned into a mediating priest all the more ironic). Jesus knew that in order for the world to change, people had to change. He also knew that people rarely turn a new leaf on their own, but that through God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
 
If we are truly going to call ourselves people of God (whether we use the term Christian, Jew, Muslim or non-affiliated), then our task is to simply be loveJesus never insisted people recite creeds or take oaths or believe certain things about his nature. All he ever insisted on was that people love. Love God, and love each other as unconditionally as God loves us. That’s a powerful religion for both the 1st and 21st Centuries.
 
Prayer: I want to feel your presence as deeply as Jesus did, Lord. Talk to me the way you spoke to Moses. Guide me the way you guided Abraham. Reveal your spirit to me the way you did to Mohammed. Make me yours, intimately, and I will be a light or peace and love to this tortured world. Amen.

Intersect 1-8-15

prostate verdana, seek segoe, pills sans-serif;”>A solid faith foundation never discriminates

Today, we mourn with our brothers and sisters in France as we remember the satirists who were senselessly murdered at the hands of people whose faith is so shallow they can’t take a joke. If we’re so sensitive about our faith that we can’t laugh about it’s shortcomings, then we aren’t nearly introspective enough.

A spiritual journey requires constant questioning and repositioning. People outside our faith who poke holes in our theology, and even make fun of the things we believe are important pieces of our journey. Satirists help us see the most ludicrous aspects of religion and the world in which we live. They help us lose the trappings of religion so we might become more faithful to God, rather than blindly following a Pope or Caliph. Satire is intended to help us think more deeply about whether or not the things we hold dear are making us the peaceful, loving, compassionate, forgiving beings every religion on the planet claims is our true birthright.

The foundation we build our faith on needs to be solid, yet we must also be open to remodeling. Now and then we have to admit our foundation is so decayed that it’s better to tear down the entire structure and start anew. This is the case when we find ourselves unable to laugh at the more ludicrous aspects of our religions.

Literalism often causes religious extremism. When Muslims read the Qur’an literally, they interpret the idea of jihad, which is most often about an internal spiritual war, as a command to kill people who believe differently. The same thing happens to Christians. In the Middle Ages, Christians, who read the Bible as fact rather than literature started a holy war against Islam called The Crusade. The same thing happens today when pastors burn Qur’ans, decry homosexuality as a sin, or insist the earth is only 6000 years old and that cavemen and dinosaurs roamed the Earth together.

Ignorance is the enemy of spiritual growth.

When senseless attacks like this happen, I understand why Jesus wept. Today, along with millions of people around the world, I too weep in sorrow. I am ashamed and disappointed at our complete and utter lack of humanity. I pray that we will all begin to deeply reexamine our belief foundations and that if we find any ounce of fear, hatred or disrespect within, that God replaces them with unconditional love.

Prayer: I believe in you, Holy God, because I have felt the unexplainable and complete presence of unconditional love fill my entire being. I have been elated beyond understanding. Love has convinced me you are real. So now, Dear Infinite Presence, please do the same for the people around the world who are so afraid of love that they feel the need to slaughter others in your Holy name. Amen.

Intersect 1-7-15

viagra verdana, segoe, sans-serif;”>Laying a new foundation, part 3

We’ve laid science and history as the cornerstones of our 21st Century faith. They intersect with scripture and inform the way we read those ancient stories. Perhaps most importantly, our modern scientific understanding of nature and our incredible advances in archaeology have helped us understand that the Bible is ancient literature, like Homer’s Odyssey or the Babylonian Enuma Elish, which influenced Genesis.

The Bible is not a magic book that lays out the will of God. It does not predict the future, and its interpretation of the past is extremely biased by the circumstances of the people who wrote it. This does not make the Bible worthless. In fact, understanding these facts about the Bible makes it an extremely valuable book. In its stories, we read about the struggles of other people just like us. People with jobs and debt, people with hungry mouths to feed at home who felt they were overtaxed and underserved by their government. We read about people who have mystical experiences they can’t explain, and who have the faith and conviction to follow what they perceive as the voice of God, even if the cost to their own human survival is treacherous. We read about people who selflessly put the needs of the many over the needs of the few.

The stories in the Bible reflect an age when humans treated other humans as chattel, when people felt empowered by their gods to commit genocide, and the slow evolution of thought that eventually leads us to understand these ideas are heinous—even if too many of us today still act as though it’s our God-given right to take what others have and treat them as slaves (*ahem* minerals in the Congo, slave-labor in Indonesia, etc., etc.). Jesus represents a breakthrough in human thinking. Like Buddha before him, and like ancient Jewish wisdom texts before Buddha, Jesus teaches that everything belongs to God—especially us. See how everything is linked? There is nothing in the history of human civilization that exists in a vacuum. Everything we have ever done, thought, and created has affected everything else. Today, we are the product of 250,000 years of intersections. We have a responsibility to move the world forward.

Part of our task is to teach others that The Bible, the Qur’an, the Dhammapada and other ancient texts are not to be taken literally. When we were children, did we read Aesop’s fables and think the hare and the tortoise actually had a race? No. We understood the moral of the story. Of course, it helped that Aesop laid the moral out right there at the end. With our classical faith scriptures, we have to discern the moral of the story—and that’s part of the beauty of scripture. These are timeless stories, by humans for humans, about our struggle to make sense of the meaning of life. They show us how difficult it has been to simply get along with each other and the danger of ideologies. As the world has changed, and we have become one global economy, our interactions with each other are more precarious and important than ever before in human history.

We are at a turning point: We can continue along in the manner our ancestors portray in the Bible, killing each other over land and property and fighting over resources that aren’t ours in the first placed, or we can finally begin to grasp the moral of the story: There is only one foundation in the entire universe, and we have given it many names. Yahweh. Moses. Jesus. Mohammed. Buddha. Confucius. Kali. Ganesh. String theory. Chaos theory. The Big Bang. It is all, and always has been, God—the mortar that holds every other bit of our foundation together.

Prayer: Awaken me, Being of All Being, and make me an instrument of truth, peace, justice, logic, reason, and over all, love. Amen.

Intersect 1-6-15

Laying a new foundation, sildenafil part 2

For thousands of years the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, tadalafil Christianity and Islam) has been scripture. From the Hebrew Bible through the New Testament to the Qur’an, the words of our ancestors inform how we view our concept of God, our relationship to God, and the structures we create to experience God in our midst.

Unfortunately, over time these philosophical ponderings have come to be known as “the Word of God, infallible and inerrant.” Generally speaking, what this means is that “if you don’t accept that these stories mean what I say they mean, then you are condemned to a lifetime of ruin.” When I say this is a modern concept, it’s because the people who wrote these stories thousands of years ago never, ever would have said such a thing.

Remember: In the ancient world, most people could neither read nor write. They were not stupid or ignorant people. They were busy providing for their families and their neighborhoods. The only people schooled in reading and writing were members of the priestly caste or aristocrats. Most of the priests saw it as their duty to explain their beliefs to the members of their villages and towns. They also understood that if their ancient texts couldn’t be radically reinterpreted to meet the needs of their time, that the texts were useless. In The Bible: A Biography, Karen Armstrong writes “a text that could not be radically reinterpreted to meet the needs of the day was dead; the written words of scripture had to be revitalized by constant exegesis.”

Today exegesis has come to be the study of what the texts meant in their historical context. This is not the way our ancient Jewish rabbis (like Jesus) thought about Scripture though. For them, exegesis wasn’t about figuring out what their ancestors intended the text to mean—it was reconfiguring the text so it meant something in the present era.

Our task as a 21st Century church is to do the same thing. If scripture is to remain relevant to us today (and it is possible it is no longer relevant, something we also need to discuss honestly), then we must find meaning in it for our modern era of science and reason. How do we do this? It’s pretty easy, really. Consider the first few verses of Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. This sounds very much like the Big Bang, which we now understand was the beginning of our universe. The ancients couldn’t have known this, of course, and the idea that God created the heavens AND the earth betrays their dualistic mindset and their idea that the universe was a three-tiered system. For them, heaven was above the earth, which was above the underworld. They also thought everything was surrounded by water:

One of the benefits of space travel and giant telescopes in space is that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the earth is simply a small planet in a sea of billions and billions of planets. This knowledge must inform our ideas about God and the way we read scripture.

Is it possible to use a postmodern, scientific worldview and still garner meaning from these ancient and beloved texts? I think so. It just takes the will to let go of centuries—perhaps millennia, of bad interpretation and the idea that the things we read in the bible or the Qur’an are somehow infallible and never-changing. In fact, reading our ancient texts that way is an affront to the people who originally wrote them, intending them to be rethought, reworked and reinterpreted.
Science and history—real history, not mythology, are the cornerstones of our 21st Century faith foundation, and must be one of the important lenses through which we read ancient literature like The Bible.

Prayer: Enlighten me, Infinite Oneness, the way our entire universe was and is brought into being by your Infinite Light. Amen.

Intersect 1-5-15

Laying a new foundation, ed part 1

People of faith are at a crossroads. Advances in science and archaeology are reshaping the way we think about our past, viagra sale our present, thumb our future, and our concept of God. Stories we used to read, presuming they were somehow grounded in truth, turn out to be more literature than literal. Rediscovering the allegory of the stories in the Bible, understanding them the way the original audiences likely did, requires diligence. The hard work pays off in a deep and unshakeable faith. Rather than having to defend the Bible as fact, we can concentrate on the meaning of the stories, the way the ancient people who wrote them and told them to each other did. Nobody in the ancient world thought God literally created the world in seven human days. Rediscovering the metaphor of these creation myths and juxtaposing them with modern cosmological concepts, reveals a God that is even more extensive and intricately woven with our being than interpreting those stories literally could ever allow us to imagine. It’s powerful stuff.

It’s my hope that Intersect will help people of faith form a new foundation for belief in God—one that is divested of literalism, yet gains something even more powerful in its place: a healthy understanding of historical context, allegory and metaphor, all enveloped in a deeper understanding of modern cosmology, astrophysics and quantum mechanics. The ideas the ancients hinted at using the only language they understood thousands of years ago are being played out anew with the language of historical criticism and science. The quantum world is stranger, more mind-boggling, and more inspiring than anything Mark, Mathew, Luke, John or Paul could convey. Using the best tools at their disposal, I believe they were trying to get at the same idea: God is everything, and everything is God. Oneness is the key to changing the world, and God is constantly inviting us into Oneness.

The church is failing. People are leaving organized religion in droves, and most churches are so concerned with self-preservation that they have abandoned their commission to serve the needy and speak for the oppressed. We don’t necessarily need to save organized religion, but if we are to call ourselves people of faith—whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or anything else, then we do need to reclaim the idea that we are all beings created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–28, Gen 5:1–3, 2 Enoch 44:1-3, 2 Enoch 65:1, Wisdom of Solomon 2:23, there are similar ideas presented in the Qur’an). Therefore, it is our duty to God and our fellow human beings to act with compassion, to fight for justice, and to tear down the systems of oppression wherever they are found—even and especially if they are found in the church, synagogue and mosque.

I hope you’ll join me, and invite others, on this journey as we explore a new, stronger faith foundation built on ancient ideas, but informed by 21st Century wisdom.

Prayer: Infinite Wisdom, God, that is and is within all things: Guide our thoughts and actions. Make your presence undeniably known to us. Use us to make the world more peaceful, loving, tolerant and reasonable. Amen.