Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drinking Water Can Kill Ya

If there is an elixir of life, surely it is water. Consider that humans can only survive three to five days without water. It is cleansing for the body, both inside and out. Cool water is refreshing and invigorating, especially when one is overheated. Some of us have found water useful as a diet aid. Drinking a glass of water before a meal can help one fill full quicker, can blunt hunger pangs and thus lessen less food consumption. (For me that works best with ice cold water.) I just say the benefits of water can't be overstated. 
And yet - like many other good things in life - it can be abused and become deadly. There is, surprisingly enough, something called water intoxication.
I sometimes think of fundamentalism as the water intoxication of religion. Used in moderation and with good sense, a spiritual outlook on life can only bring positive results; abused, it can bring all manner of harm, even death.
Lately it has become fashionable to make religious fundamentalism the face of religion. That's sad and not a little unfair. I'm convinced a positive spirituality is essential for a well-rounded, healthy outlook.

I drink lots of cool, refreshing water. But not too much.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Those Amazing Psychic Pets

The biologist Rupert Sheldrake has really pushed the envelope with what is considered mainstream science. I enjoy folks who dare to think outside the box and who aren't afraid to go against the grain. One example is his studies of the alleged psychic ability of pets, as in his book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. I've had some amazing pets in my time - but I never thought we communicated telepathically. Looking back, however, I wonder if my pet Chihuahuas I had as a kid didn't come close to this.

I'm fascinated with the many, many cases of animals who travel great distances in order to be reunited with their owners. One such story was featured on ABC News a year and a half ago. Here is a link to their coverage of Bucky - a three-year-old black Labrador who traveled all the way from Virginia (where his owner had left him with his father when he moved his family to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Then there was Bobbie the Wonder Dog (who died in 1927). You can read his very interesting story at the Oregon Encyclopedia website. This scotch collie-mix traveled over two thousand miles (in the winter, no less). He was separated from his family during a trip to Indiana. But that wasn't to be the end. Half a year later Bobbie managed to trek back to his family's home in Oregon, in pitiable shape and with paws worn to the bone; but alive and happy to be home. Bobbie played himself in the movie The Call of the West, as well being featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Lest you think I'm partial to dogs, let me point to the story of Sam the Siamese cat, who traveled 1,400 miles after his owner had surrendered him to the Tucson Humane Society when she moved to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Four years later Sam turned up just doors away from where his owner had moved. He was identified by certain features (such a head scars) and was "thin and malnourished."

It is my feeling that animals (and we humans are animals as well) are naturally able to connect in certain ways with the cosmos and exhibit something that has been called a sixth-sense. I guess it's plain ol' animal instinct newly appreciated.

Perhaps the lower animals are sometimes more in tune with this connection than we higher animals. After all, we have allowed ourselves to become quite distanced from nature. We think we a pretty smart. Yet in many ways they seem our superiors (maybe that is why the ancients worshiped gods with animalistic features).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Amazing (Or At Least Fascinating) Nell St. John Montague

Psychics and clairvoyants have always held a certain fascination for me. The whole idea that knowledge is somehow "out there" and may be perceived by our minds in other than normal ways is intriguing, to say the least. If (big if here, I know) the universe is one grand thought, say composed of billions and billions of little thoughts ... well, the possibilities would be inestimable.
As seriously as I take the above proposition, I can't say the idea of professional seers impresses me that much. Theoretically, if one could somehow "tune in" to a putative information field then I suppose the concept of psychics would make sense. Nevertheless, from my personal investigations I'm convinced that these folks (no doubt many well meaning souls alongside the opportunistic fakers) mostly make guesses - and enough of these that a few are bound to be spot on. These are usually better remembered than the scores of misses.
Might it not be - giving for the sake of argument it's possible for anyone to receive true impressions from an information field - that when these impressions prove true it leads us to go with our instincts more and more and then some folks take this natural instinct as some form of psychic "gift" that has been bestowed upon them? And, of course, as I mentioned, alongside these folks are the charlatans.
Today's post was inspired by a World War ll era newspaper article about the British crystal gazer Nell St. John Montague (pen name of Eleanor Lucie-Smith). She was once widely known as a clairvoyant. She authored a few books of a psychic nature which have been out of print for many years now, as well as some other things. She also was an actress in the silent era - or perhaps more accurately I should say she had an uncredited role in 1922's The Glorious Adventure.
But she received a big write up in November, 1944, a few months after she was killed in a war bombing. (If you are a clicker you can click this link and read the whole thing for yourself.) According to that news story:
After a life time of predicting the frequently violent fortunes of others, she finally turned her remarkable crystal on herself. The results were revealed to friends in these words:
"I saw a fiery streak. Then a red mist spread over everything...."
Red mists, as long experience had taught her, always mean but one thing: "Blood - a violent death."
But the "fiery streak" remained something of a puzzle until a few weeks ago, when a Nazi "buzz bomb" struck her London home. Then the hidden meaning became clear.
Nell St. John Montague had accurately predicted her own violent death.  
Okay. So maybe, maybe not.
There are other interesting tidbits about her psychic career contained in this story. But then I noted the next to last paragraph which contained some (then) future prognostications:
Miss Montague lived to see many of her wartime prophecies confirmed by events. Among those which so have escaped fulfillment, are: (1) that Winston Churchill, like Lloyd George, will outlast his popularity, and (2) that Lord Louis Mountbatten, British commander in Burma, will some day find a watery grave.
We live nearly seventy years after this, so we are in a position to check up on how she did.
As for Churchill, as Prime Minster of the United Kingdom he was instrumental in rallying his nation as well as the United States into defeat of Nazi Germany. His Conservative Party lost the elections of 1945, but he made a comeback in 1951 and became again the Prime Minister. So I suppose it could be said he outlasted his popularity.
Mountbatten's future proved interesting as well. I'm sure if I had been alive back then and heard Montague's forecast, I might have suspected that Lord Mountbatten was destined to die in a sea battle and literally go down with his ship - a true watery grave. That of course is not what happened.
What did take place, however, is still striking. His Wikipedia biography recounts his assassination while in retirement. He had gone tuna fishing and suffered through a radio-controlled bombing of his boat. It is then reported that
The boat was destroyed by the force of the blast, and Mountbatten's legs were almost blown off. Mountbatten, then aged 79, was pulled alive from the water by nearby fishermen, but died from his injuries before being brought to the shore.

Not literally a watery grave, but certainly a watery death. Believers would no doubt score Montague's prediction a "hit." I will just say it fascinates me. There are a lot of ways a man can die. This seems to me at least a bit uncanny.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Negative Miracle?

Silvio Citroni, the mayor of Cevo where the weird coincidence took place, called it "an inexplicable tragedy." "This is a place for pilgrimages and family visits. We never imagined that something this could happen," added the mayor. Just days ahead of the canonization of Pope John Paul ll as a saint a crucifix that was built in his honor has collapsed and killed 21-year-old Marco Gusmini.
Additionally it is being reported by the Corrie della Sera that Gusmini and his family resided on a street named for the other pope, John XXlll, who is being canonized a saint alongside John Paul ll.
How odd. 
In the comments section of the Yahoo News coverage of this story one reader said this:
ROFL. Now, where are all the people who claim omens and signs? Shouldn't this be considered an act of an angry god--po'd at having this pope canonized?
A fair question, I suppose, although I don't see how anyone could think this is something to be "rolling on the floor laughing" about.
I've seen the before-the-tragedy pictures of the crucifix memorial and thought it looked like an accident waiting to happen. (I don't want to infringe anyone's copyright so I'm not posting an image, however they are readily found online.)  I also read the memorial had been moved from its original location, which, if true, could have weakened the structure. 
The cross memorial was the work of late sculptor Enrico Job, whose widow, Lina Wertmuller, made this comment:
The news has really shaken me. My thoughts go to the poor boy and his family. That cross was a great symbol for Italy, a symbol of protection. But all that seems silly in the face of this terrible tragedy.

For the record, I've always thought the practice of putting fellow humans upon a pedestal is silly. There are good people, better people, and all manner of less than good folks. Even the best of us are more full of faults than the standard kitchen strainer is full of holes.
It doesn't take a tragedy of this sort to repudiate this practice. (And, yes, I have to say I think this criticism applies to those who think Jesus was/is God, rather than a spiritual teacher.) 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Child Thinks About God

I once wrote a blog post on my early animistic beliefs. It so happens I was raised by parents who were fundamentalist Christians, was raised in such a church, so of course I absorbed those ideas from my earliest days. All the while, alongside all that, was my own natural ideas about the big picture.
Often the two conflicted, and it would also often be pointed out where my beliefs (supposedly) floundered. But I couldn't fully suppress certain ideas that made so much sense even to my young mind. The God of the orthodox Christians contained so many contradictions to my young mind that I suppose it was inevitable I would rethink the whole matter eventually - and become a heretic!
Always have I felt that we humans instinctively "know" certain things. (I'll put that in parenthesis because only a fool would argue that our human instincts are always exactly accurate.) But I just never could take seriously the claim some atheists have made that we are born atheists. I wasn't born an atheist (and I don't think you were either), nor a fundamentalist Christian. I was born with a natural instinct towards life and purpose, and following my gut feelings, I left the indoctrination of my youth and returned (after mature refinement) to my earlier belief that existence is alive and purposeful. 
I'm writing this now after having read over an article in the journal Psychological Science titled Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention. How is that? Intervention? Interesting. This article states:
With regard to understanding the source of the problem, developmental research points in an important direction. From early in development, young children display conceptual biases that can be useful in everyday reasoning but can also begin to interact to yield older students’ theoretical misconceptions about adaptation (Coley & Tanner, 2012; Rosengren, Brem, Evans, & Sinatra, 2012). For example, children in preschool and early elementary school show teleological biases to explain the origins of natural objects’ properties by reference to functions (Keil, 1995; Kelemen, 2004), intentionality biases to construe events and objects as intentionally caused (Evans, 2001; Rosset & Rottman, 2014), and essentialist biases to view species members as sharing an invariant, inviolable essence (Gelman, 2003; Shtulman & Shulz, 2008). Children are natural explanation seekers who organize their knowledge into theoretical frameworks (Carey, 1985; Gopnik & Meltzoff, 1997; Wellman & Gelman, 1992), and by the time children are 6 to 10 years old, these potentially independent conceptual biases show signs of integrating into intuitive causal theories that connect ideas about biological functionality in nature with notions of invariant essences (Shtulman & Shulz, 2008) and goal-directed design (Kelemen & DiYanni, 2005). In short, a by-product of useful everyday cognition is that untutored theories that impede older students’ understanding of natural selection are already beginning to coalesce in early elementary school, if not before.
Yep, that sounds about right and certainly aligns with my experience. And when I got old enough to digest the scientific evidence, I found no problem incorporating that into my earlier views. As I learned about biological evolution it didn't cause my earlier natural beliefs to break down. So God used evolution (or processes) to create everything. Big deal.
What did break down was my fundamentalist indoctrination. The natural progression for me was to treat the Genesis story of my youth as a religious mythology. Before long I found that there are many such genesis myths everywhere among all the world's people. Again, big deal.

What never did click with me is the idea that existence is a purposeless and freakish accident. And I don't think an "intervention" of preadolescent picture books would have changed that for long. I think we either think about the big questions for ourselves or we allow others to do our thinking for us.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

And The Universe Laughed Back

In this post I'm going to have a little fun with an item I saved a while back and came across again recently. You must understand that I don't take myself or my views about the universe all that seriously. I don't believe it is wise to. Nevertheless, I do have views, and I realize they aren't so conventional (which isn't to suggest a single one of my ideas are original).
If you've read my blogs for very long know you know I have this suspicion that back of all reality is mind. Maybe I should have typed that Mind. To the extent I believe in what most people call God, I think of it as Mind. This Cosmic Mind (in my way of thinking) is what makes this whole shebang tick.
Or maybe not. I certainly wouldn't fall out with those who just can't (or won't) accept that.
Anyway, here is a little anecdote about the eighteenth-century Astronomer Royal (the first such Astronomer Royal, in fact, and cataloguer of over 3000 stars) John Flamsteed. This comes from another astronomer, Prof. Richard A. Proctor, as found on page 195  of his old book Chance and Luck: A Discussion of the Laws of Luck, Coincidences, Wagers, Lotteries, And The Fallacies Of Gambling:
An old woman came to Flamsteed, the first Astronomer-Royal, to ask him whereabouts a certain bundle of linen might be, which she had lost. Flamsteed determined to show the folly of that belief in astrology which had led her to Greenwich Observatory (under some misapprehension as to the duties of an Astronomer-Royal). He drew a circle, put a square into it, and gravely pointed out a ditch, near her cottage, in which he said it would be found. He then waited until she should come back disappointed, and in a fit frame of mind to receive the rebuke he intended for her; but she came back in great delight, with the bundle in her hand, found in the very place.
Don't you hate when that happens? Here the highly rational and knowledgeable (for his time) Flamsteed wanted to teach this gullible old woman a lesson about superstition, only to end up seemingly confirming it. And the universe laughed back. Maybe the Cosmic Mind is a bit of a trickster.

(For the record, I would have been with Flamsteed on this; still I would have had to laugh, and do today.) 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Said I Don't Like The Word Supernatural

Let me expand on something I wrote the other day, complaining that I don't like that word supernatural.
Liberal theologian and preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick once wrote:
As the reign of law extended its domain over one field after another --astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology --there was less and less room for supernatural intervention to operate in, so that, if God was located in the supernatural, he was being slowly crowded out. See! Supernaturalism is not the stronghold of religion. It nearly ruined religion.
He was grappling with a problem that vexed me many years later. I had heard of the "heretic" Fosdick in sermons by fundamentalist Christians, but how inspiring were his writings to me when at last I became curious enough to examine them for myself
I was weaned on supernatural religion, which, as Fosdick so precisely expressed it, split "the universe in two -- on one side nature, run by natural laws, on the other side the supernatural that ever and again breaks into the natural, disturbs its regular procedures, and suspends its laws."
That's right! There it is. How does one believe in God, a Creator, not in the literal interpretation of Genesis sense, but rather as the very ground of being, the Logos or mind behind creation?
Can those of us with a spiritual bent make sense of our intuitions, elevate ourselves and our fellow humans above the "meat machines" that scientific reductionists would make us out to be, and grasp at the concept of divine purpose without turning our backs completely on modern science in favor of the old supernatural concept?
Again I was helped by Fosdick's elaborate explanation and illustration:
That this one world is God’s world is more than some folk can believe. They gratefully accept this law-abiding cosmos and stop there. Sometimes they almost seem to be saying that scientific laws explain the universe. But after all, these laws are simply our human statements of the way the universe habitually acts. They are, as it were, the grammatical rules we have drawn up from observing the regular procedures of the world. Consider, for example, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. What a marvelous upthrust of creative genius it is! Nevertheless, grammatical rules are there and they can be set down in order. But grammatical rules do not explain Romeo and Juliet. They do not touch the hem of its explanation, nor do they set limits to the possible creativity of the genius that produced it. No more do our natural laws either explain or limit the creative processes of this living universe and its God.
Now there was a model I could use. Science in no way is a threat to the spiritually minded.  Ignorance is not and cannot be bliss. Nor must we limit ourselves to a study of the rules with the view that the rules are the thing in itself. The awe-inspiring intricate beauty is there and is undeniable to those who have eyes to see.  

As I suggested, the word supernatural is loaded - loaded with potential for grave misunderstanding. A supernatural outlook that makes God an observer and occasional meddler rather than the very grounding of the Cosmos is an outlook for the spiritually immature, for those who don't recognize that religious thought and language is the thought and language of myth and metaphor.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Voices Diagnose Brain Tumor

As one who has had his share of audio hallucinations (at least I have always considered them such), the case of a British patient identified only as AB continues to fascinate me. Not only so, it causes me to wonder if I should not listen more closely when I do
Occasionally hear voices.
Perhaps we can file AB's case under  Shakespeare's suggestion: "There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (as he has Hamlet say to Horatio).
Late in 1984 AB suddenly became aware of voices telling her, “Please don’t be afraid. I know it must be shocking for you to hear me speaking to you like this, but this is the easiest way I could think of. My friend and I used to work at the Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street, and we would like to help you.”
As would be the case with anyone, this was very unsettling to AB. But the voice spoke again, giving her information about the hospital to which she was directed to go. 
Doctor Ikechukwu Obialo Azuonye diagnosed her with functional hallucinatory psychosis and prescribed  counseling and, of course, chemicals; in this case, Thioridazine, which seemed at first to help.
After a while she felt well enough to embark on a vacation trip (while still taking the Thioridazine) only to start again receiving messages from the voices. Now she was informed that she had a brain tumor and would need a brain scan to determine its location.
Dr. Azuonye did finally reluctantly order the scan (more to pacify his patient, as he had found no indicators that a tumor existed) and confirmed the tumor diagnosis, just as the voices described.
The good doctor had referred her to a neurosurgeon who successfully performed the operation, which went well. One last message was received by AB from the voices: “We are pleased to have helped you. Goodbye.” She was weaned off her medication and soon returned to normalcy.
What I wrote above was based on Dr. Azuonye's account, which is available online here (but unfortunately is behind a pay wall). In fact, Dr. Azuonye remained in contact with AB over the years.

Well, all in all a very fascinating case. The "naturalistic" explanation is that in some way the body is able to communicate information to the consciousness. However, Dr. Azuonye relates that the voices also gave AB three pieces of information that she was not aware of but which she was able to confirm. For me, that places the naturalistic explanation at a disadvantage to account for all the facts. However, because I take seriously holism and the idea of an interconnectedness for all of reality, I can extend "naturalism" much farther than skeptics generally do. This is also why I take premonitions and precognitive dreams seriously.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rethinking The Basis Of My Outlook

The following is a brief excerpt from Steve Stewart-Williams' several-years-old Psychology Today blog post Evidence for Life after Death? This is his response to alleged empirical evidence for life after death accorded by what he calls "reported paranormal phenomena":
To begin with, much of the putative evidence for life after death is easily explained in purely naturalistic terms. For example, although there's no reason to doubt that people have OOBEs and NDEs, these experiences are plausibly explained in physiological or psychological terms. Similarly, memories of past lives may be false memories, and ghost sightings may be hallucinations or misinterpretations of ambiguous stimuli. These alternative explanations do not in themselves prove that there's nothing supernatural going on. However, wherever there is a plausible alternative explanation for a phenomenon, we must concede at the very least that we have no strong reason to accept the supernatural interpretation.
Stewart-Williams thinks deeply about such things and is the author of the book Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life. He is a believer that the naturalistic explanation trumps the supernatural (oh, how I dislike that loaded term) explanation of life, and I would make myself a fool if I said he is wrong in his outlook.
But just as he admits that his plausible "alternative" natural explanations "do not in themselves prove that there's nothing supernatural going on." I feel free to disagree with his outlook, or to at least seriously consider the alternative.
I was raised in a religious tradition which taught (1) humans have an eternal soul and (2) that our post-this-life existence would entail a resurrection of our bodies. Along with that came some confusingly indistinct "intermediate state" where our souls exist apart from our bodies until the Resurrection. After much reflection I came to think the above was a bit too unnecessary and non-parsimonious.
Much thought has at the least led me to an appreciation of some of the theories of Plato and Plotinus. This would tie in well with some of the people I personally know who have had near-death or out-of-body experiences, including my mother and one of my stepfathers. A family acquaintance was the late Dr. Maurice Rawlings, who wrote several books about NDEs, the best known was made into the move, Beyond Death's Door. He was my mom's cardiologist.
I would suggest that if the most you know about near-death experiences is what has been written from the skeptical viewpoint, you've really done yourself a disservice. There is a good deal of information around that merits honest investigation, I think.
The subject of reincarnation is one I admit to having trouble appreciating. No doubt part of the reason is because it is so foreign to the way I was at first indoctrinated. Also, it can easily be made to seem quite ridiculous (see my last post). However, I'm finding the work of the late Ian Stevenson is not so easily dismissed, unless one has a firmly entrenched naturalistic bias.
Then there is the matter hallucinations. Here too I think there may be more than one might first think. For the sake of argument, allow that there may be other dimensions in existence. If we first rule out the possibility of our senses giving us accurate information about such things, we really are just arguing in a circle, aren't we?
It's not that I don't recognize that hallucinations exist. I tend to think such things are very psychologically relevant. A one-size-fits-all is never fully satisfying. Maybe some hallucinations aren't really hallucinations at all. I've been forced to consider that possibility when coming to terms with some of my own. (And in case you're wondering, I'm not now and never have been a drug user or abuser.)
So for those of you who have managed to stay with me this far, I must say that I do disagree with Steve Stewart-Williams conclusion, "we must concede at the very least that we have no strong reason to accept the supernatural interpretation."

No, we mustn't. However, for those who feel they must, c'est la vie. The animistic outlook is probably as old as reasoning humanity. It is instinctive. The Cosmos is not made up of dead matter, but matter which is alive, powered by purpose and thought, and of such matter we consist. At least that is what the majority of us have thought since the beginning.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Anything Can Be Made To Sound Ridiculous

The old reductio ad absurdum: stating an opponent's argument in a weak manner in order to build an easily destroyed strawman.
I suppose we've all been guilty of that at one time or another. For some, sadly, it is a habit. Hopefully most of us just sometimes get carried away with our enthusiasm.
I did a Google search of the phrase "anything can be made to sound ridiculous" and found a rich and colorful selection of appeals to that thought variously stated:
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous if said with a certain tone....
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous if it is sufficiently distorted....
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous if you're willing to lie about it....
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous. A Rembrandt etching could, after all, be described as a piece of torn paper into which a scratched piece of metal has been pressed.
Almost anything can be made to sound ridiculous by dumbing it down in such a
By the way, notice how anything can be made to sound ridiculous if you phrase it the right way?
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous by gutting them of their meaning and
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous if you try.
Almost anything can be made to sound ridiculous when it is mocked by
exaggerating it to the extreme.
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous and petty if the debaters are skilled
enough at rhetoric.
But anything can be made to sound ridiculous if it is taken out of context and
subjected to the reductionist approach.
Part of my point is that anything can be made to sound ridiculous or terrible if you word it the right way, and focus on some detail, taken out of context.
Using your sarcasm, anything can be made to sound ridiculous.
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous or conspiratorial if you try hard enough.
Well yeah, I mean if you're gonna cherrypick quotes like that, then anything can be made to sound ridiculous.
Anything can be made to sound ridiculous. It's in the eye of the beholder.

I think we bloggers are prone to doing this, especially when we are riding our hobby horses. Alas, we are only human.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Premonition In The 1936 Gainesville, Georgia Tornado

One of the most devastating tornadoes to strike in the United States took place on April 6, 1936, in Gainesville, Georgia. The official death toll of over 200 people in a city of (in 1936) 17,000 does not include its black residents, who, due to the shameful racism of the era, were not counted at all. Also, the collapse of the Cooper Pants Factory, causing the deaths of approximately seventy persons, still stands as the highest count for single building deaths due to tornado.
According to accounts of the catastrophe, which can easily be found online, the assault on Gainesville was actually the result of two separate tornadoes that converged on the downtown area. So catastrophic was the event people still talk about it today.
In fact, just this week, Johnny Vardeman of the Gainesville Times wrote a column devoted to it, from which I take the following story.
One of those who did not survive the deadly tornado was Mary Hudgins Evans. She worked in downtown Gainesville in the offices of the Wright's Ice Cream Parlor.
On the night of April 5 she had a premonitive dream which she shared with her husband. In the dream, Mrs. Evans' mother visited her to let her know that she was coming for her. She told her husband that he would now be responsible for raising their young child.
The deadly tornadoes struck the next morning, shortly after 8 a.m. Some ten minutes before the tornadoes, Mrs. Evans placed a final call to her husband in order to say one last good-bye to him.
This is the type of tale - of which I could give hundreds, many from my own experience - that convinces me there is more than meets the eye in this complex Cosmos of ours.

It leads me to believe the Cosmos is the product of a Master Mind and that our minds are but small parts of that Master Mind, that we can in some sense tap into that Master Mind and receive direction.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Is God In The Details?

What if the Ultimate Intelligence - allow me for simplicity's sake to use the popular word God here - determined to bring about highly intelligent creatures of reason capable of developing God-consciousness? 
What if the only true theology were Natural Theology. Let's define that:
Oxford Dictionary:  Theology or knowledge of God based on observed facts and experience apart from divine revelation. theology based on knowledge of the natural world and on human reason apart from revelation.
I included both of those definitions because they allude to all the things I feel are important in consideration of the God question: observance of the natural world, personal experience, and human reason.
Humans have attempted to cobble together a metaphysical spirituality from those raw data for a long time now. I think the metaphysicians have mostly done a wonderful job.
But then there is that bugbear known as "special revelation" that also arose in the distant past and that complicates matters and haunts us to this day. Special Revelation is the source of religious tension (religious tradition versus religious tradition) and even the war between believers and unbelievers. (On that latter I would suggest that if we just limited the discussion to observance of the natural world, personal experience, and human reason, at most we would have a difference of opinion about whether or not there is indeed a Big Picture, or purpose in reality.)
I believe we can explain much with Natural Theology and make good sense of reality by its application. However, the atheist also can make use of the tools of Natural Theology to build their case for God being just a figment of the human imagination.
Perhaps our personal experience informs our reason and tips the scale one way or the other.
Believers feel that they have metaphorically put out their hands and "touched the face of God," while the unbelievers have not and feel the believers are guilty of indulging in wishful thinking.
Reason of course is a grand thing. But as Albert Einstein once observed, "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible." Is that merely a fluke? Do my feelings inform my reason here or is it the other way around?
Then there is observing the world around us. But believers and unbelievers alike tend to find what they are looking for. Those minds of scientific bent have both found and not found God through their telescopes, microscopes, and petri dishes. Avid naturalists both find God or fail to find God in their studies. So it goes.
The Christian religious philosopher and theologian Augustine wrote something I stumbled on many years ago and which I have contemplated much:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

What if it were true? What if God-consciousness were the goal?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Listening For The Divine

I used to say (and think I'm ready to return to saying it) that it isn't that God doesn't speak to us anymore; it's that we just don't take time to listen.
That thought originally occurred to me at the time in my life when finally I had come to realize that the Bible - noble as it is in many respects yet desperately flawed in others - just could not be God's revelation to human kind.
I had lost my faith in the Bible God, or the God of the popular religious conception, but still felt surely there must be something powerful, even majestic behind everything. I remained unsettled in my God-thinking for a long time, then slowly moved ever closer to atheism as I waded into freethought.
But it was silence that brought me back to my roots. It was quiet reflection that allowed me to get in touch with the all-connecting power of the Cosmos. Only when I shut out the cares of life and its many distractions could I tap into, what is for me at least, an inner source of truth.
In this I don't think I am alone.
Theodore Parker, the renowned nineteenth century liberal theologian, in one of his prayers said this:
A greater revelation is Your still small voice, which whispers in our soul that all this magnificence is but a drop of You, a little sparklet that has fallen from Your presence, O Central Fire and Radiant Light of all. The outward things are but a whisper of Your wisdom.
Then there is also a lovely Native American prayer that has been variously attributed which begins: "Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to the whole world...."
Yes, Great Spirit, I too think I have heard your voice. I contemplate this wonderful Cosmos and I too desire that you would "make me wise that I may understand what You have hidden in every leaf and every rock."
My choice is to listen for that small voice and not ignore it away. My life has been energized and enriched by the thought of divine purpose. My sense of responsibility to others has deepened because I no longer feel like an insignificant speck among insignificant specks adrift in a meaningless universe.