Five Poisons, One Antidote

Five Poisons, One Antidote

PROVERBS 6.16-19:There are six things that the Lord hates, seven things detestable to God:
snobbish eyes, a lying tongue, hands that spill innocent blood, a heart set on wicked plans, feet that run quickly to evil, a false witness who breathes lies, and one who causes conflicts among brethren.

The Proverbs list of “things God hates” eventually became “The Seven Deadly Sins:”

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS

  1. lechery / lust (luxuria in Latin)
  2. gluttony (gula in Latin)
  3. avarice / greed (avaritia in Latin)
  4. sloth / discouragement (acedia in Latin)
  5. wrath (ira in Latin)
  6. envy (invidia in Latin)
  7. pride (superbia in Latin)

“The Seven Deadly Sins” were etched into my psyche sometime while we lived in Moss Bluff, Louisiana. I was a high school junior. Because of the mixed religious background of my parents (and my own innate unwillingness to take anything at face value), I had done a lot of reading about different religions and reached the conclusion that every organized religion was more dangerous than helpful to the overall well-being of people and planet.

This view was in direct conflict with the majority of the folks in Moss Bluff, who were mostly Pentecostal and Southern Baptist, and loved their religion. I was a curiosity, first, because they considered me a Jew, and there were only like, five Jewish families in the area, and second, because I was, well, growing into me: a believer in a supreme consciousness of love that is unequivocally accepting and unconditionally loving. In 1980s Louisiana (and possibly still today) this idea was anathema to the judgmental and punitive God (and Jesus) of the Pentecostals and Southern Baptists.

I do want to be clear that despite our religious differences, Louisiana is the most welcoming, wonderful place I’ve ever lived. I formed deep friendships with people I am still in touch with today, and while I was often told I was going to Hell, I understand now that they said this because they loved me, and wanted me to find peace and love after death. You don’t want your friends burning in a lake of fire for eternity. Still, it didn’t matter how often I told them I wasn’t worried about my soul just because I believed differently. For them, I was a sinner who needed saving. I didn’t accept Jesus the way they did, so I was going to Hell. End of story.

I remember one day, after a particularly draining conversation, going home to unwind with a comic book. I had recently purchased a reissue of some classic DC comics, one featuring the debut of Captain Marvel (yes, he was a DC character). And do you know what I read and saw in that first issue? What would become my most powerful memory of “The Seven Deadly Sins.”

In the original comic, young Billy Batson is chosen by the Immortal Elders to become Captain Marvel when he says the word “Shazam!” They explain that he is to be a force for good in the world and take him on a tour through statuary of the seven deadly sins:

The scene is drawn with dramatic lighting and its eeriness forever cemented the idea of “sinful conduct” in my mind.

We tend to think of the “Seven Deadly Sins” as physical actions, things we do to each other and ourselves. That’s true,  but, do you remember what Jesus said, according to Matthew (5:21-22)? Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (a huge insult in the ancient Jewish world, it essentially meant another human being was worthless) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Pay close attention to the language Matthew uses, because Jesus is teaching an exceptionally radical idea to his audience. He says, “Yes, please don’t kill each other. But there’s another problem too, a deeper problem, a root issue, and that is this: you must stop even thinking about killing each other. You must not be angry.” Anger is the root problem, because it poisons our minds and prevents us from connecting to the true nature of God; God that is not punitive or judgmental but is, instead, complete, unconditional love.

That is the crux of the Christian idea of grace, after all: God loves us even though we’re a bunch of screwups.

Jesus is never concerned with literal, eternal damnation. When he talks about being in danger of the fire of hell, he means the hellish landscapes of our psyches, the poisons we put into our minds that keep us from experiencing God’s love; the prejudices and artifices of reality seen through the lens of everything being sinful. Including us.

Jesus knows that for us to change our actions, we must first change our thoughts. And to do that, Jesus says, we must be like him and connect to God, intimately and continuously.

While Jesus recalls the Proverbs when he shares his parable, he also, and I think quite purposefully, relays one of Buddha’s foundational teachings, The Five Poisons. I want to share them with you because they have helped me more profoundly understand both “The Seven Deadly Sins” and the spiritual teaching of Jesus, which I believe should be our Christian focus.

THE FIVE POISONS

  1. Ignorance. Also: confusion, bewilderment, delusion, disorder
  2. Attachment. Also: desire, passion, yearning
  3. Aversion. Also: anger, hatred, rage, fury
  4. Pride. Also: arrogance, conceit, overconfidence, condescension
  5. Jealousy. Also: envy, spite, covetousness

Buddha and Jesus are both about freedom: Freedom from this dark reality. Freedom from the chains that bind us into slavery, whether to other people or to the dark machinations of our minds. Buddha is blatant about the need to clear our thoughts of all the spiritual gunk we build up throughout our lives. He often calls the mind “luminous,” and his teachings, like Jesus’, are designed to help us strip away the stuff keeping us from perfect universal Oneness. I’ve heard Buddhists describe our minds as diamonds: they’re perfect, beautiful and bright, but to get to them you must dig through millions of years of hard carbon shell.

That’s what the five poisons do to our minds: they build up a hard crust that prevents our inner light from shining.

Think about this for a second: Imagine your brain. Imagine it as a diamond, sending blinding rays of loving light out into the world. Now, imagine ignorance and add a layer of carbon darkness. Now add some hatred, a dash of greed, some jealousy, each ingredient creating another layer of thick, black carbon over the diamond. See how quickly our luminous minds are covered in darkness?

This is the power of the five poisons. They blind us to a reality of universal peace and shared abundance. They cause us to lose sight of what Jesus called “the way, the truth, and the light,” which is an existence of universal love and concern for the well-being of everyone on the planet (and the planet itself), not just the people in my tribe.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to the poisons, and it is straightforward, although in short supply: love.

It sounds corny, it sounds pithy, and as I was writing this it even sounded like a copout. I wonder, though, if that’s because our innate, luminous love is so carbon-encrusted that even thinking about universal love as a solution to the world’s woes sounds stupid.

Once I break through a few layers of carbonization, though, I see that love is the key to following Jesus. Love is the foundation of everything he teaches: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this not to avoid hell or guarantee a spot in heaven. Do it to become free of the spiritual poisons that encase the truth of your eternal, radiant being, and prevent us all from living more harmonious, productive, peaceful lives.

Amen.

Monday Meditation 7-30-18

Monday Meditation 7-30-18

God of all existence,
obliterate the carbonized crust
of debilitating thought
suffocating and imprisoning
the luminosity of my being.

Overwhelm me
with love that spills into the world
and eradicates the poisons
holding us hostage
from our cosmic,
divine union.

Loving, Holy One,
in the manner of Jesus Christ,
I empty myself
to be filled with you.

Transform my ignorance into awareness;
my selfishness into compassion,
and my anger into love.

Amen.

Acts of Loving Mindness

Acts of Loving Mindness

1 JOHN 4:7-11 (The New Testament: A Translation by David Bentley Hart)
Beloved ones, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born out of God and knows God. Whoever does not love has not known God, because God is love. By this, the love of God was made manifest in us, because God has sent his only Son into the cosmos so that we might live through him.Since God loved us this much, we must love each other.

I love John’s sentiment and reasoning: We should love each other because God loved us first.God is love, so if we want to know God, we must know love. Specifically, we must love each other as unequivocallyas God loves us. That’s a big ask because John argues that God loves us so much that God incarnated—and willingly died—as one of usto show us the way to a new life in a new world.

Over the millennia this has come to be interpreted to mean that if you’re a good Christian today (whatever a good Christian is) then after you die you’ll go to your heavenly reward.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with that sentiment, but I don’t think that’s what John means here. We have to read the text carefully because it’s full of clues about John’s cosmology. This is important to understand because John is asking his readers to do something specific and challenging: to willfully raise their level of cosmic awareness as a way to convert the current world into the kingdom of God one individual at a time. You see, the story of the Christ isn’t only about God incarnating in the being of Jesus of Nazareth, it’s also about God incarnating in every single one of us.

In particular, 1 John is about raising universal consciousnessas a way to diffuse fear and hatred. When the (unknown) author writes, “Love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born out of God,” he or she is talking about a perspective of reality that blows our minds even today: the multidimensional, subatomic interconnectedness of all beings. For the author of 1 John, the source of that interconnection is God’s creative love.

Hart’s translation of 1 John reveals the original author’s cosmic awe of God’s process, especially the process of creating love, one person at a time. I have found John’s first letter comforting and encouraging in these current dark times filled with trade wars, border wars, and the more-possible-than-ever prospect of nuclear war.

The constant barrage of bad news and imbecilic, ignorant words and actions at the very top of our government often leave me feeling helpless and despondent because the world seems in such turmoil and distress. It breaks my heart, and if I let it, it breaks my spirit, too. So, I think it’s worth considering the author of 1 John’s idea that love creates more love as a way we can counterattack the warmongers and, as William Safire once wrote for Spiro Agnew, “the nattering nabobs of negativity.”

I’m not going to pick up a weapon to fight back. Violence only creates violence. But, I’m not going to feel helpless anymore, either. It’s time for us to think as cosmically as the author of 1 John and consider what he/she says in light of our contemporary understanding of quantum entanglement and the interconnectedness of all beings.

I think we canchange the world. I think we’re supposedto change the world, and I believe that by simply gathering here today and pondering universal love and relationship with God and each other, we arechanging the world.

I believe that letters like John’s call us to be loving actors in both action and spirit. We act for the common good by doing things like supporting food pantries and social justice organizations. We volunteer, we donate time, money and talent, we do all the things we possibly can to be and act like decent human beings who care about each other. Communal loving action is what we physically do to create love in the world. Loving acts of kindness, both large and small, change the world.

But an equally important, and I think way too often overlooked, potent tool is 1 John’s idea of what we would today call mindfulnessor intentional thought. I like to call them loving acts of mindness: the moments we take tointentionallylet the love of God manifest through us.

A loving act of mindnessonly requires stopping, calming one’s mind, and letting God flow. When we do this, we act like amplifiers broadcasting God’s love signal. I believe, and I think John, James, Thomas, and Jesus believed, that becoming amplifiers for pure love dissipates the signals of hatred, intolerance, and injustice being broadcast from our brothers and sisters hypnotized by the myth of an inescapable dystopian reality.

Reality does not have to be dystopian, and I do not in any way believe the future is as bleak or inevitable as the current crop of movies, TV shows, and even news, would have us believe. There is a way out of this self-fulfilling prophecy, and The Bibleis full of clues about how to wake up and shatter the illusion that “this is the way the world has always been because people are evil and sinful.” John’s first letter to his community is one of those instruction manuals.

When the author writes, “By this, the love of God was made manifest in us, because God has sent his only Son into the cosmos so that we might live through him,”he’s writing a spiritual instruction: Tune into the Christ frequency that Jesus opened up for all of us. This makes God’s love manifest within you. The universe takes care of the rest, distributing that love everywhere.

This is energy work, and it’s every bit as important as our physical, communal work.

How does it work? Please watch this video link from the movie, “What the Bleep Do We Know?” for an intriguing look at the way our thoughts affect reality:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ5_9dzqNNs&t=2s

This video doesmake me wonder, as the guy who used to play a Ferengi on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, asks at the end of the video

It makes me wonder about the power of loving acts of mindness, of being present to our thoughts, and of doing our best to focus our thinking on something, anythingpositive: how much you love your kids; how breathtaking Yosemite National Park is; how awesome the view of a distant galaxy through the lens of the Hubble space telescope, the splendor of watching a sunrise in the mountains and a sunset at the beach.

Did you imagine those things as I said them? Congratulations! You’ve just made the world a little bit better.

Am I suggesting the “power of positive thinking” can solve all the problems around the globe? Absolutely not. What I amsuggesting is that focusing our thoughts on love can’t hurt, especially when there are billionsof us thinking thoughts of unity and peace, instead of war and enmity.

I’m talking about more than positive thinking, anyway. I’m not talking about glossing over the horrible realities of the world, or ignoring your pain and suffering and hoping it will go away. Instead, I’m talking about intentional thought, which requires tuning into God’s love frequency. It can’t hurt when we understand that we’re doing more than just thinking happy thoughts:We’re using the universal, holy vibration of love to tune into the Godstream, which then takes care of the details.

Let’s just think about this in a universe of quantum entanglement: Everything we areis entangled with other things that are. We are not as individual as we believe. Rather, we are all somehow mixed up with each other on a quantum level. Our lives are entangled whether or not we have physically met each other, because, on the quantum level, we’re all manufactured from the same substance. We are one. Literally.

We know that quantum entanglement works between individual particles separated across vast distances, perhaps separated by dimensions. We also know that we are made up of billions and billions of those individual, yet wildly entangled particles. I’d bet that every one of the billions of particles that form “me” are entangled with other individual particles, perhaps in a billion different bodies, all over the multiverse.

The implication of quantum entanglement is not only that you and I are interconnected, but, more importantly, that every particle in me is entangled with other particles in other creatures across the globe, even across parallel realities. We are all entangled. 

Therefore, not only does my every actionaffect the planet, so also does my every thought, because thoughts are energy, and so is all reality.

Thought energy mustaffect the way we live in some way. If I am thinking dark and evil thoughts all day, those thoughts are entangled with the thoughts of potentially billions of others. What am I doing to their psyche, their spirit, their soul? What am I doing to the overall consciousness level of the planet?

It’s time to start paying attention to our thoughts, even the little, fleeting thoughts. Recognize that every thought we have is entangled with another human somewhere. Try to remember that underlying everything we experience, whether we perceive it positively or negatively, is the quantum entanglement of God.

Here’s a little experiment you can try throughout the week: anytime you are confronted with something that seems negative, remember that you are entangled with that negativity and the only way to respond and hopefully begin to unravel that negativity is with unconditional love: Love that comes from intimate, recognized, conscious connection with God, the divine, pure consciousness of the multiverse.

We areresponsible for each other, I don’t care what the current cruel and heartless Trump administration thinks. Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tze, Mohammed and others made it very clear that we are responsible for each other and the state of our planet, in an astoundingly intimate way. Even if the Dr. Emoto stuff is a bunch of BS, the theory makes sense. We are all cosmically connected,and that means we are, and our world is, in overwhelming ways we are just comprehending, as much what we thinkas what we do.

Discussion:How does the concept of entanglement affect your thoughts and actions?

Thought Experiment: Practice chanting. Repeat the word “love” slowly, feeling the vibrations it creates as you say it. Chant the word for four or eight beats, then be silent for four or eight beats. Repeat and surrender to the loving flow of the universe.

Perception

Perception

Mark 10.46-52
Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus’ son, was sitting beside the road.

When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, show me mercy!” 

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.” They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.” Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way.

My first question after reading this story is whether it’s about sight or seeing. And I don’t mean to be glib or play semantic games. I honestly believe there is a difference in philosophical meaning between sight and seeing—and this is especially true in the context of Mark, written in the 1stCentury CE by and for people who understood the power of metaphorical storytelling far better than we.

Our natural tendency when we read this story is to assume Jesus restored Bartimaeus’ physical sight. That leads to all sorts of erroneous conclusions about miracles and Messiahs. Reading the story as a physical healing also moves the focus of the story to Jesus. Poor Bartimaeus is reduced to a prophetic cog in the mechanics of Mark’s ham-fisted attempt to reveal Jesus as a Messianic “fulfillment of prophecy.”

If we instead examine this story as a spiritual parable (which is how I encourage everyone to interpret everything in The Bible), this story is about Bartimaeus (who represents all of us, of course), not Jesus.

Honestly, we should try reading bible stories with the idea that none of them are about Jesus, per se. Instead, they’re about the people Jesus meets in his ministry and the way they respond as Jesus helps them discover their own Christlike God-connection for themselves. Jesus doesn’t do anything for anyone. He teaches them how to do it, or, as in the Bartimaeus’ story, says merely, “Go, you can already see, you’ve always been able to see, just do it.”

Why shouldn’t we think that Jesus, the most spiritually attuned, God-connected being that ever existed in the flesh, wouldn’t want to teach us how to do that for ourselves, too?

If you teach a man to fish… Remember that one?

The Bartimaeus story is not about the miracle of Jesus restoring sight. In fact, that’s never mentioned in the story. In the parable, Bartimaeus can see. This is not a story about a blind man suddenly seeing Jesus standing before him as a bewildered crowd looks on. No, this is a story about seeing differently, not with our eyes, but with our hearts. This is a story about changing our perception, and how that change awakens us to a new universe, a new world, an entirely new way of existing as a human being—as a CONSCIOUS human being.

Jesus begs his followers to see not just the world differently, but to perceive a new reality. He urges this because he is operating with a different perception of reality. He can see beyond this sensory world into a dimension more attuned to the only genuinely universal law: love.

Jesus sees “the nature of things,” rather than their worth as objects. It’s a mystical perception of the world. He sees the love of God imbued in everything and everyone, and that’s why it seems he does these miraculous healings. In fact, Jesus isn’t doing the healing, because he knows there is no healing to be done, at least not physically.

I think that for Jesus, “healing” meant, ultimately, to change one’s perception of the world from one based on the outer worth of an object to one based on the intrinsic value of love shared by all of us. Our job, our DUTY as followers of The Christ, is to look through the outer appearances of a world gone mad and into the loving core of truth that exists deep within: there is nothingbut God and God is love. Anything else is an incomplete perception.

If we really want to change the world we need to not only work hard to create equality and compassion, we also need to change our perception of the world as a place of give and take, us and them, winners and losers. I believe this drastic change in conscious connection to the ultimate Universal Consciousness is impossible without intense, deeply self-reflective spiritual practices, the type taught by Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha Gautama​, and others. Truthfully, what we’re ultimately after is a mystical experience—the kind Jesus shows is entirely possible when we learn how to see differently.

The Unifying Field

The Unifying Field

Galatians 4.8-9: At the time, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved by things that aren’t gods by nature. But now, after knowing God (or rather, being known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system? Do you want to be slaves to it again?

You can tell whether or not a letter in the Bible claimed to be written by Paul actually was or not by just how hard a punch to the gut the letter packs. Paul never pulled punches, and here, he’s blunt: Listen, folks, after being awakened to the fact that you are beloved by God, you want to go back to the Empire? Whatevs.

We have to remember that Paul was working with a sense of urgency. He thought the current world was in its final throes, and that within his lifetime, Jesus would return to usher in a new global government of peace, love, equal justice, and general egalitarianism.

In the meantime, followers of Jesus were to do their best to discover this intimate relationship with Christ consciousness (oneness in all being with God) that Paul had found. That was the point of all this, after all. Paul wasn’t trying to make Christians. He was trying to wake people up to their own Christ nature, to create a bunch of little Jesuses, even imperfect ones, knowing their interconnected love could change the world.

To encourage this love movement, Paul speaks to his disciples in language they understand and knowing is powerful language. Throughout the Ancient Near East, from Judaism through Hinduism and Buddhism (there were no Christians then) knowing God is used to convey a profoundly intimate, spiritual at-one-ment with God, The Consciousness of the universe.

What does it mean “to know” God? For that matter, what does it mean to know anything? I know I have to pay my taxes every year. I know that if I don’t pay my water bill, I don’t receive water. I know the rain in Spain falls mostly on the plain. You know, general knowledge stuff, mostly learned from Hollywood musicals.

However, the sort of knowing Paul is talking about is an awareness of being known by God.

It sounds circular, but the reason to think of knowing and being known is to add another dimension to the way we consider God’s activity in the world–consciousness. At The Current, we often discuss God as an energy field, within which everything exists. Our ability to be aware of this awareness is the gift of consciousness.

If God is the conscious energy field of all being, and we are creations in that energy field, and we are conscious, then God, the original energy field, must also be not only conscious, but also the Primary Consciousness of any reality and all things seen and unseen.

Imagine a pool of water, perfectly still, stretching out all around you. That’s God as primary consciousness, as a field of conscious creativity. Even standing in the pool, you are still part of this activity. In fact, moving in the field causes ripples. You and God are not separate entities. There is no you AND God, there is only you, God. WE are one cosmic substance. That’s what we are to learn from Jesus. That’s what Paul wants us to know: We are One.

Paul gets it. When he talks about knowing God, he’s using ancient, mystical Jewish language. Remember, Paul was always a good, faithful, observant Jew. We must read him in context. While he wouldn’t understand the term consciousness, his use of the Greek word ginosko in conveys a deep sense of awakened understanding of God as more than the guy on a throne in heaven. Ginosko doesn’t mean “to learn,” it means “to perceive.”

To perceive God in our midst, we must be conscious of God in our midst and become aware of ourselves in the midst of God. That’s the infinite loop we’ve been talking about as well. It’s a loop of conscious awareness of all being, all activity, in all universes, as one being, one movement.

We are God’s creative, conscious energy fields. Working on becoming more aware of our actions and reactions in our world helps opens us to new, much higher, more Christ-like levels of consciousness. What if we could remember to channel God’s love in every interaction throughout the day. Can you imagine that? When you’re stuck in traffic and the light turn green and the person in front of you just. Sits. There.

Can you imagine God’s love flowing through you? Can you imagine stepping out of the situation and taking a God’s eye view by immersing yourself in God’s unifying field? Can you realize there is no difference between you and the person in the other car, other than your forgetting to know God and leaning on your horn for way too long?

There’s a terrific phrase in Hinduism that describes this singular state of being with God, this perception not of, but with God: Tat tvam asi, that thou art.

That signifies the pure consciousness field, God, the only reality, encompassing all being. Thou represents the individual, the self. But in truth, we are connected to the pure consciousness field because our identity is part of the overall consciousness of God.

The statement tat tvam asi, “that thou art” then becomes a transcendental meditation. It’s meant to help us know beyond our perceived human barriers, to see there are no barriers at all, there is only God, forming us, moving through us, nudging us awake to a greater awareness:

Tat tvam asi.

We are one.

Active Remembering

Active Remembering

As I was driving to church one day, pondering my presentation for Sunday and wondering if the Scripture I’d chosen really conveyed my idea, I saw this truck in front of me. After immediately proclaiming THANK YOU to the universe, I snapped the photo above so I would remember the quote and to look up Galatians 5.1 when I got to the office (No, I do not have large swaths of The Bible memorized).

Guess what? The quote, “Don’t forget where you came from” is not from Galatians 5. It’s not from Galatians at all. It’s not even biblical. I cannot find an attribution for the quote anywhere. All of which I find funny because, you know, the quote is about remembering, and nobody can remember the original author!

I understand how this sort of thing happens because I’ve always had a selective memory myself. I remember dates, facts, and figures reasonably well. I’m really good at Trivial Pursuit. Memorizing speeches, sermons, lines in a play—none of that comes naturally for me. In high school, I could memorize all the music for marching band, but learning one song took hours and hours.

Eventually, I started playing in bands that cover other people’s music (which is the majority of work for a professional musician). To learn a song, you have to listen to the original and learn your part. In my case, I would learn horn and keyboard parts, as well as the chord changes and forms of the tunes so I could cue and conduct.

This means listening to portions of the song at a time, over and over, until you hear what you think are the parts the musicians are playing on the record. Then the band rehearses and gets everything sounding great. You start playing the song live. Back in the day, this meant five or six nights a week, sometimes twice on a Sunday.

After you play a song every night for a few weeks, you get to know it well. That’s what someone means when they say they got the part “under their fingers.”

So, let’s say you play the song for a few months. What happens next is that one day you’re driving to the store and the original tune comes on the radio. You cock your head like a curious puppy and think, “Wow! That is not what I’m playing.”

That’s fine because when you play a song live, it evolves and becomes its own thing, different from the original. What we memorize is a copy, but not an exact copy, no matter how faithful to the original we think we are.

And so it goes with memories. They are never exact copies of the event itself, only softly-held whispers of a tune we alter without noticing.

Memories are more than mental recollections. They are physical marks imprinted like a branding iron on the neural network that is the human brain. I’ve never thought much about memories as something physical. I guess I always assumed memories were somehow stored electronically, similar to binary code in a computer. The reality is much more complicated.

In the 18th Century, scientists began to theorize that memories were somehow encoded in the nervous system. That’s also when Herman Ebbinghaus did the work leading to our contemporary understanding of sensory, short- and long-term memory.

It was the beginning of the 20th Century when German evolutionary biologist Richard Sermon proposed the groundbreaking idea thatlife experiences leave a physical trace. He called these traces engrams; a term still used today to describe the imprints every event in our lives leave on the brain.

Every event in our lives leaves a physical imprint on the brain.

Neuroscientist Ashish Ranpura says that “Fundamentally, memory represents a change in who we are. Our habits, our ideologies, our hopes and fears are all influenced by what we remember of our past.”

I had to reread that idea several times. Memory represents a change in who we are.

Perhaps that’s why the people ofThe Bibleare so concerned about remembering. They remember the trials and tribulations of being alive. They turn some of those memories into festivals and celebrations designed, ultimately, to help them remember they are people of God, to help them remember who they are, and to acknowledge how their memories have affected who they are as a people now. Once again, the example of these ancient authors is to stop and think about the journey, both personal and communal, all of it single-sourced from God, the consciousness of all being.

Never forget where you come from.

Here at The Current, we like to remember that all beings are interconnected. I think it’s more important than ever to remember those connections are formed from God, the ultimate love of the universe.

Remember who you come from.

Infinite Loop

Infinite Loop

Inifnite Loop
Hebrews 12.1-2 (CEB)
So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.
 
Hebrews is written in the style of Paul for Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem sometime just before the Temple is destroyed around 70 CE. It is highly likely this letter was written by Priscilla, Paul’s confidante, probably his benefactor, and perhaps his greatest pupil.

While often classified as a letter, it lacks any traits of typical Hellenistic epistles, such as a preamble. Hebrews is more of a rhetorical essay. It’s meant to encourage Jewish followers of Jesus to persevere in their faith, to stay on this new path to God Jesus introduced.

When Hebrewswas written in the 60s, Romans were prosecuting members of The Way (the original Jesus movement) while fellow Jews were persecuting them. The stress of being outcast by both strangers and family exacerbated their confusion and distress over Jesus’ death.

Jewish people had expected a Messiah of war and retribution, not one who taught turning the other cheek and peaceful non-compliance. They definitely didn’t expect a Messiah that could die like any other human. Consequently, many were returning to the synagogue and their older, more comfortable path to God.

The author of Hebrews encourages Jesus’ people to hold fast to this new teaching, to this new way of being human in the world. Yes, new spiritual paradigms are difficult and scary, but using Jesus as an example, the author of Hebrews pleads with us to understand that this new spiritual journey is worth taking, even in the face of death.

At The Current, we spend a lot of time talking about new spiritual journeys. We understand that even as we gather in community, each of us is on a unique path to interconnection with God, and through God with each other.

Yet, while our journeys might often be solitary, they are never selfish. We quest for more profound communion with God because we intuitively sense that living a God-connected life changes the world for the better. Consciously tuning into God–through prayer, meditation, service, and study (for example), moves us individually to use our gifts for the good of all things, from people to planets. Then, we are moved in community to affirm and challenge each other, always pushing toward love unconditional.

Some of us may come to a spiritual journey through Jesus, just like our Jewish ancestors. Some might discover new paths to God through Buddha, Mohammed, Ram Das, a next-door neighbor, a lover, or even a chance meeting in line at the grocer.

In a single lifetime, a spiritual journey might (and I would suggest should) take many paths, through many religions and philosophies, diverging in different directions like river tributaries, yet ultimately all pointing toward love. Unconditional. Hebrews encourages us to follow those  diverse wisdom branches without fear.

Jesus shows that this journey—the experience of living and dying as a human being is what’s important. Why? Because every life is a God-connected life. Every path we take is a path to God. Every experience is connected to all other human experiences, and all the adventures non-humans in other galaxies and dimensions are having, and it’s all connected to God, feeding data directly into the beingof a God with an unquenchable appetite to be everything.

That means every noble quest we have in our lives is a spiritual adventure that’s part and parcel of the fabric of the universe.

Can you imagine that? Have you thought about that? When you go to the beach, you are the nerve endings in the fingertips of God. You are God’s cosmic connection feeling the oddly pleasant sting of the ocean spray as waves crash onto shore, smelling the suntan scents, trying to translate the screeches of lazily drifting Gulls.

When you climb a mountain, God embraces you with cloud-wet air, supports you with muddy clay, reminds you of your connection to the planet with the dirt left under your fingertips.

When you hold a newborn baby or bury a loved one, God experiences the heights of our joy and the depths of our sorrow. Everything in our lives, from our most extraordinary adventures to our most mundane moments, adds to the ever-growing wisdom and spiritual evolution of the entire universe. And that universe exists within us as much as we exist within it.
 
We are God-components, and we have a straightforward task: to live. To “run the race that is laid out before us,” as Priscilla wrote so long ago.
 
I think realizing that life is a God journey can help us avoid ruts, or getting stuck in one religious paradigm or another for too long. But that’s only half the story. 

Our existence is part of an endless loop into and from God. What does Paul write in Romans? From God, through God, to God, all are things. Our life experiences are processed by God as part of the evolutionary process of the universe. Being—existing, having material form, is part of an infinite loop of loving, creative consciousness. 
 
In the beginning God, in a moment of cosmic self-awareness, explodes into multiple universes, galaxies, planets, and creatures, including us. These things evolve over trillions of years, adding experiences to God, who ceaselessly reconstructs and retransmits new things based on those experiences, and so on, and so on, in an infinite loop of loving, imaginative inventiveness. God lives in us, not just figuratively. God is within us because God is us, and we are God. 
 
So, let’s live our lives in God, in Christ Conscious, Buddha-aware joy, laughter and love. Fearlessly go on new adventures. Take up new hobbies, eat different foods, and talk to people with dissimilar lifestyles and beliefs. Send a little more love into the cosmos, and see if, together, with intent, we can’t tip the balance of this current reality out of fearful fists and instead into loving embrace.
 
Let’s recognize every moment of every life as a moment in God that connects us all and weaves us together from and into one consciousness. Let’s fill our lives with a glorious collection of experiences, always remembering that we are participants in God’s infinite creative feedback loop. Feed wisely.
 
Question:How might looking at your life as a collector of experiences for God change your outlook?

Spiritual [Mis]match, part 3: Harmonic Dissonance

Spiritual [Mis]match, part 3: Harmonic Dissonance

We’ve been talking about evolutionary mismatch theory. This is the idea that, at least physically, we are out of sync with the globalized, industrialized society we’ve created. That got us thinking about spiritualmismatch and the possibility that our selfish genes are preventing us from being more God-connected, Christ-centered, enlightened beings.

In our discussion we’ve been talking about God as the fundamental, ethereal, quantum energy of the material world. All matter is formed through and from the being of God, the primary string connecting, and emanating into being, everything that exists. Jesus is where humans are perfectly aware of their harmonious oneness with God’s quantum energy.

In this cosmological view—this understanding of the way the universe works—God doesn’t form universes and galaxies, people, plants, and animals, from the outside. God is not an alien chemist in a lab.

I try not to think of God as a being beyond the universe. God becomes the universe. In fact, God is in a constant state of becoming, evolving into parallel realities, stars and planets; people of every color and type, all of it connected to everything, in a way I feel is beyond genetic.

In this view of Oneness with God, oneness with each other, where there can never be separation, God is more emanator than creator.

This idea is an essence of the creation story, you know. In the Bible, God forms things by breathing or speaking—I like to saysinging—life into existence. God is the fundamental Omthe sound of creation.

Hindu philosopher Subhamoy Das describes Om as, “a sacred syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism—omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence. In itself, Brahman is incomprehensible, so some kind of symbol is essential to help us conceptualize the Unknowable. Om, therefore, represents both the unmanifest (nirguna) and manifest (saguna) aspects of God. That is why it is called pranava—meaning that it pervades life and runs through our prana or breath.”

God runs through our lives and through everything manifest and unmanifest. That same sentiment is evident throughout the Gospel of John.In today’s terms, that means this reality and all the other realities, this universe and all the other universes. It means an infinity of possible encounters with God, the source.

Nowthinking about God as Om, the fundamental tone, the Absolute which runs through all being, let’s reexamine the language in Genesis:

When God began to create the heavens and the earth— the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— GOD SAID,“Let there be light.” And so light appeared. God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. GOD NAMED the light Day and the darkness Night. 

There was evening and there was morning: the first day. 

GOD SAID, “Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters to separate the waters from each other.” God made the dome and separated the waters under the dome from the waters above the dome. And it happened in that way. GOD NAMED the dome Sky. 

There was evening and there was morning: the second day. 

GOD SAID, “Let the waters under the sky come together into one place so that the dry land can appear.” And that’s what happened. GOD NAMED the dry land Earth, and he NAMED the gathered waters Seas. God saw how good it was. GOD SAID, “Let the earth grow plant life: plants yielding seeds and fruit trees bearing fruit with seeds inside it, each according to its kind throughout the earth.” And that’s what happened.

Then the third day ends, and this form continues with God saying things and naming things until God has virtually (or perhaps literally, if there’s even a difference) sung an Aria of incomprehensible breadth and beauty, every name a note, every note a universe.

The concept of God as “sound” is a cornerstone of my personal theology. As a musician, the idea that there is a single fundamental vibration that forms everything in the universe is astounding, breathtaking, and inspiring.

Also, if everything is essentially sound, then we are music. Our world is music. Is it possible to heighten our senses so we can hear each other’s notes, and harmonize, or at least learn how to sing in tune with each other?

I love the idea of a singing God, a God so full of life it vibrates itself into all-being; God creating a symphony of symphonies.

Consider God sonically. Imagine a song that comes at once from nowhere and everywhere. In the beginning, God sings of trillions of realities filled with billions and billions of galaxies and untold forms of living creatures. Life is—we are—harmonized into this existence. Evolution is nature’s (God’s?) way of harmonizing life—not only in particular ecosystems, but also with the fundamental nature of the universe—God’s self.

Are we separated from this fundamental note once we’re created? Never. We only exist because we are vibrating in harmony with God—even if it often feels like there is no harmony in our lives, or our world.

Again, we perceive a mismatch. We are harmoniously-created beings living in dissonance.

Dissonance is what happens when musical notes get stacked in unusual and unexpected ways. Our ears hear notes that seem to be fighting with each other, rather than making a pretty sound. There is nothing “wrong” with dissonance. It’s not always because someone is playing a wrong note or making a mistake.

For example, in the early 20thcentury, composers began experimenting with new types of tonal scales and chords. Music was purposely dissonant, perhaps a reflection of the political changes taking place at the time, especially in Russia.

When Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring premiered, people rioted—throwing chairs at the stage, shooting off guns in the streets—largely because they had never heard such a cacophony coming from the orchestra (or seen such overtly sexual dance on a public stage).

In some way, I like to think that Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and other similar works were the result of an awakening human consciousness. Realizing we are living in a dissonance of our creation, not God’s, is uncomfortable.

Awakening to God as every and all being does sometimes make us want to riot in the streets, because awakening to God also makes us more aware of the oppressive cruelty of the systems we’ve created. At first glance, we seem naturally dissonant creatures. We might find it possible to believe we are God’s love songs, but we often find ourselves at odds with one another, with life, even with God. More mismatch.

Recognizing these mismatches is an important part of our spiritual awakening. Thinking about why the world is cruel when we are God in the flesh exercises our spiritual and intellectual muscles. As we think about God, I believe, we awaken more into the understanding that God surrounds us all the time. More importantly, we awaken to the understanding that God works from within all the time.

Living in harmonic dissonance is why the concept of tuning is so important to me. I believe we change the world not only through our actions but also through our energy. I believe we are supposed to be vibrating at a God harmonic and that culture is keeping us from attaining higher levels of human being. I think Jesus is an example of what we look like when we’re vibrating at the God harmonic—when we’re perfectly tuned.

And in truth, I don’t even need to be perfectly in tune, like Jesus. If I could get close enough that I just create more harmony than dissonance, I’d be happy. So, at our church, we practice consciously tuning into God’s perfect love. In some little way, I think that helps retune the entire world.

Question: How do you deal with harmonic dissonance in your life and in the world?