Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND

All religions contain some useful advice on the subject of mental health---and on how to attain and maintain it.

For example, the Bhagavad Gita talks about the importance of a ‘stable [or steady] mind’ (Gita 2:56). Such a mind, or mind-set, is one in which the mind is imperturbable, that is, the mind remains unmoved and undisturbed by not just external circumstances but also the vagaries and agitations of the contents of the mind itself---for your worst ‘enemy,’ so to speak, exists within your own mind. That is what is really meant by that verse in The Bible which says, ‘A person’s foes will be right in their own household’ (Mt 10:36). Our foes are the sum total of all our negative thoughts and emotions, which for the most part are the direct result of our seeing things as we would like them to be as opposed to how they really are.

The Bible talks a lot about a ‘sound mind,’ making it unambiguously clear that such a mind is in contradistinction to one dominated by the ‘spirit of fear’ or timidity A sound mind is one of ‘power’ and is characterized by ‘love’ (cf 2 Tim 1:7); it is a state of mind that is ‘still’ and ‘frets not’ (Ps 37:7), and does not react unnecessarily. Rather it responds effectively to whatever takes place within or outside of us. The Bible also speaks on the importance of being ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom 12:2). I will have more to say about that matter shortly.

The Noble Qur’an speaks of a mind characterized by ‘rest and satisfaction’ (Qur’an 56:89), and in Buddhism there can be found the idea of ‘no-mindedness’ [or 'empty mind']. Your mind is ‘no-minded’ or 'empty' when you cease to engage in conditioned thinking, when you stop trying to control things and others, and when you start to live spontaneously---free from all cravings, 'sticky' attachments and aversions. You know you are 'no-minded' when you receive each event or happening in your life with a mind-set which neither likes nor dislikes. This is sometimes referred to as having an 'equal' mind.

All of these holy texts are referring to more-or-less the same thing, and that is this---the importance of being renewed in your mind, not just once but all the time. Then, in the words of the Bhagavad Gita, you will be a 'sage of stable mind.'

So, what must you do to be renewed in your mind? Well, it is not so much what you must do, rather it is a matter of ceasing to do a number of things that stand in the way of mental health. Here are a few things to avoid: judging and criticizing others, holding on to anger, resentments and ill-will as well as illusions of all kinds, not letting the past stay in the past, living mechanically as opposed to mindfully, not being satisfied and content with your lot, imitating and copying others, seeking sense-gratification, and so on.

There is much that you can do to attain and maintain mental health. Renewal of mind is something that can happen almost instantaneously---because such is the nature of reality, which unfolds ceaselessly from one moment to the next. Just make up your mind to be cheerful under all conditions (that is, 'ever content,' in the words of the Bhagavad Gita), to 'speak good to [all] people' (Qur'an 2:83), and to live fully and mindfully from one moment to the next, being choicelessly aware of and alert to whatever unfolds outside of and within your consciousness.

There is nothing more important than the health of your mind. Make it a daily---indeed, a moment-to-moment---concern of yours ... without becoming self-obsessed in the process.



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Sunday, December 16, 2012

THE POWER WITHIN

I have always liked the thinking and writings of those two early Christian scholars Clement and Origen of Alexandria. I only wish their more positive interpretation of Jesus’ teachings had won out in the history of the Christian Church. Sadly, that did not happen. Instead, the literalist Christians in the Roman and later Protestant traditions ultimately won out. The regrettable history of the Christian Church, at least in its so-called more traditional and conventional forms, for the most part has been an unhappy story of increasing dogmatism, loss of freedom, control and dependency. It is thus not at all surprising that so many people, especially in the West, have given up on Christianity and continue to leave the churches in droves. I don't blame them. Not at all.

Both Clement and Origen, as did the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, tended to interpret sacred scripture allegorically rather than literally. The key is this---every religion, according to Origen, has a body, a soul, and a spirit. J J Van Der Leeuw [pictured above right], in a most informative book entitled The Dramatic History of the Christian Faith from the Beginnings to the Death of St Augustine, describes it this way:

Origen’s conception of the Scriptures was that they could be interpreted in three different ways, the first according to the letter or the body of the Scriptures, the second according to the soul, giving the allegorical meaning of the different passages, and the third according to the spirit, giving the esoteric interpretation.

When one applies this key to the sacred scriptures of the world’s great religions one finds that, when they are interpreted literally, they are for the most part at odds with each other, and largely, if not entirely, irreconcilable. Thus, a passage of New Testament scripture such as ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (Jn 14:6) leads many conservative Christians to say things such as, ‘God has spoken his final word in Jesus Christ,’ and ‘If Christianity is right, all other religions are wrong.’ (In logic a statement of the last mentioned kind is not an argument at all, but only what is known as a ‘conditional statement,’ as it does not state the premises necessary to support its conclusion. In short, it is a fallacy. That does not stop many Christians from uttering such arrant nonsense.) The result--a truly horrible state of affairs which has resulted in thousands of years of acrimony, needless division, wars, inquisitions, heresy trials, witch hunts, martyrdoms, executions, and so forth.

Now, when one starts to interpret scriptures allegorically, that produces a vast improvement, and we start to see enormous similarities between the world’s various sacred scriptures. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those persons who assert that all religions are the same, or are saying the same thing, for that is not the case. Also, the allegorical method of interpretation has its limitations and involves a lot more subjectivity and intuitive guesswork than its proponents care to admit. The method also suffers from an unavoidable ex post facto and somewhat mechanical superimposition of an already adopted system of metaphysical or esoteric belief system. Still, the method has its place.

The third method of interpretation---the ‘spiritual’ (that is, more esoteric or metaphysical) one---leads one to conclude that, despite the many obvious differences in the contents of the world’s major religions, there are, if one is honest enough to admit it, some underlying common themes and ideas. As I see it, one of the more important of those themes and ideas is this---there exists, within each of us, an inner power or potentiality which, if invoked and diligently applied, can help us to overcome or otherwise deal with problems and difficulties of all kinds. Some call this power or potentiality the ‘kingdom of God [or kingdom of heaven],’ others refer to it as ‘buddha nature’ or ‘inner light’, while still others call it the ‘wonder child.’ I do not see this power as being anything ‘supernatural,’ whatever that word means (assuming it means anything at all, which I think is not the case). This power is a ‘power-not-oneself’ for, as I have often written, ‘self’ has no power at all, being nothing more than mental imagery, but it is still a power that is to be found within the person---that is, the human being---that each of us is. In the Hebrew Bible, in Isaiah 9:6, the power to which I refer is described in these immortal, oft-quoted but generally misunderstood words:


Who or what is this 'child'? Jesus? Some other Messianic figure? (Sorry, Christians, Jesus didn't fulfil any of the key requirements for the Jewish Messiah.) No, it's much more profound---and universal---than any and all of that. The eminent New Thought minister, lecturer and writer Emmet Fox [pictured right], for whom I have always had great respect (even though I reject a fair bit of what he taught and wrote), referred to this indwelling ‘wonder child’ as being ‘no less than the primal Power of Being,’ that is, the very ground of being itself. In his book Power Through Constructive Thinking Dr Fox writes:

Bible symbolism has its own beautiful logic, and just as the soul is always spoken of as a woman [cf the Virgin Mary (note: my interpolation)], so this, the Spiritual Idea that is born to the soul, is described as a child. The conscious discovery by you that you have this Power within you, and your determination to make use of it, is the birth of the child.

It is really very practical. You may, for example, be in bondage to a deadly addiction. One day, after many years of physical, mental and spiritual bondage, a healing thought enters your mind---‘I do not want to live this way anymore—There must be a way out!’ If you want---I mean, really want---freedom, you can and will have it, provided you are prepared to do what is necessary to get better. Your mind is the ‘virgin soul’ in which this spiritual idea of freedom and change is both inseminated and born. I have seen this ‘birth’ take place in my own life and in the lives of countless others. It is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a person.

Do you think Christmas is just about the birth of Jesus---some one-off miraculous event that is said to have taken place some 2,000 years ago? Please think again. The ‘miracle’ of Christmas is happening all the time---in the minds and lives of so-called ordinary people who make use of this indwelling ‘power-not-oneself.’

Each one of us is facing certain challenges and difficulties. I am not one who says that all problems and difficulties can be overcome or solved by prayer, faith, positive thinking or the like. There are many problems and difficulties which cannot be overcome or solved---except by acceptance, which in itself is perhaps the most remarkable form of healing and self-transformation. What I do say is this---you have within you all the power you need to either solve, rise above or simply live with anything that may beset you.

How is your new-born wonder child? Is it a present reality? If not, may ‘it’ be born in you some time very soon. It’s up to you. No one else can do it for you.



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Monday, December 10, 2012

THE PAGAN ROOTS AND ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS


This morning I spoke on Sydney's Radio Skid Row 88.9 FM on the pagan roots and origins of Christmas, so I thought I would share with you some of what I said on the radio.

Now, don’t get me wrong---I love Christmas, and I have often written about its spiritual and esoteric (or ‘inner’) meaning. However, this much needs to be made unambiguously clear. The only thing foreign, external and even extraneous to Christmas is---Jesus. Bible-believing Christians keep saying, ‘Put Christ back into Christmas,’ but they fail to realize that, insofar as Christmas is concerned, Jesus---whose historicity hasn't been established beyond all doubt---was and remains an interpolation, that is, something extraneous that was added to, or interjected into, an already existent pagan feast and festival. Indeed, every element and aspect of the Christmas festival predates Christianity.

Apart from the gift-giving associated with the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus, the New Testament makes no mention of Jesus, his disciples or the New Testament Church celebrating Christmas Day. Amazing. It is not until around 354 CE that we get the earliest recorded reference to a December 25 Christmas actually celebrating the birth of Jesus, although it is highly likely that it had been celebrated for at least two or three decades before then.

The roots and origins of Christmas lie in, among other things, various pagan (that is, non-Christian) fertility rites and practices which predate Jesus by many centuries. In 350 CE Pope Julius I proclaimed December 25 as Christmas Day---for a very good reason. You see, it was the day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice, being the last day of the Roman festival of Saturnalia (the cult of Saturn [pictured left], the Roman god of agriculture). Now, why did the pope of the day choose that day? Well, at the risk of being very cynical but not a bit dishonest, the reason is fairly simple and obvious---it made it easier for people to convert to Christianity, for they would not lose their feasts.

During Saturnalia, people exchanged gifts (especially dolls, candles, caged birds and fruit) decorated trees with candles, and decked their halls with garlands of laurel. There was much partying (both private and public), and masquerades took place in the streets. Masters and slaves swapped clothes, which could have been a lot of fun if you were into cross-dressing. (I should also mention that this swapping of roles between masters and slaves also took place among the ancient Babylonians and Persians in a five-day festival called Sacaea.) The wealthy paid the month’s rent for the less-well-to-do. (I can’t see the 'big end of town' doing that today. What a pity!) Executions were cancelled and---listen to this---no wars were declared during the festival. We could all learn something from that. Anyway, for at least 60 or 70 years after the 350 CE papal proclamation of Christmas the pagan festival of Saturnalia continued to be celebrated. Old customs die hard.

There is another pagan contender in the ancient Roman world for the origination of Christmas---the official monotheistic Sun god cult of Sol invictus (‘Invincible [or 'Unconquered'] Sun’) [pictured right] with its distinctive festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti ('Birthday of Sol Invictus') which was celebrated on, yes, December 25. This cult, it seems, had its origins in Syria. One would light a candle to encourage the Sun---as well as Mithras (see below)---to reappear next year. In many ways, Christmas owes more to the cult of Sol invictus than it does to the festival of Saturnalia. Even the present pope---Pope Benedict XVI---has stated that Christmas acquired its definitive form in the 4th century CE when it replaced the feast of Sol invictus.

Closely associated with the Sol invictus cult was the cult of Mithras (also known as Mithraism and the Mysteries of Mithra[s]) which, it seems, was founded in the 6th century BCE---well before the supposed advent of Jesus. Mithras [pictured below] was another Eastern solar deity (in the form of, among other things, the equinoctial Sun which revivifies and fertilizes the earth) whose feast day was also celebrated on---guess when---December 25. 


Now, it is written that the mythical god Mithras---in whose honour the religion of Mithraism was founded---went around the countryside, teaching, healing the sick, and casting out devils. This Mithras supposedly had twelve disciples, held a last supper, was killed, was buried in a rock tomb, and then rose from the dead three days later, before finally ascending into heaven. Sound familiar?  Anyway, according to Persian tradition Mithras was said to have been incarnated into the human form of the saviour expected by Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra). Mithra's ascension to heaven was said to have occurred in 208 BCE, some 64 years after his purportedly miraculous virgin birth in---wait for it---a cave where he was adored by shepherds. Again, does that sound familiar? (Although Mithraism and Christianity stole from each other, never forget this---all of the main features of Mithraism were in place before the birth of Jesus.)

The cult of Sol invictus and that of Mithras were, for all intents and purposes, the same [see opposite]---at least as respects their practice in the Roman Empire. When Mithraism became the chief (and de facto State) religion in the late Roman Empire, Mithras was called Sol invictus.

Let's now jump ahead. In the Middle Ages, in the festival of Yule ([‘wheel’]; a pagan symbol for the Sun), the birth of the pagan Sun God/Mithras was celebrated on the shortest day of the year, the idea being that as the Sun God grew and matured, the days would become longer and warmer. I could go on.

Christianity has always had an annoyingly bad habit of stealing from pagan religions and then running those religions out-of-business---often with much violence and bloodshed---and declaring their practices heretical. (Etymologically, a heretic is 'one who chooses' [to be different]. I am proud to be one.)

At the risk of stating the obvious, you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy and celebrate Christmas. Indeed, I won't even say that it helps. (Ha!) So, my friends, don’t let those Bible-believing Christians tell you that we must put Christ back into Christmas. Historically---and also for millions and millions of people throughout the world today---Jesus is not the reason for the season, even though the legends surrounding the birth of Jesus (around whom a whole mass of pagan legends have otherwise been collected) constitute a wonderful object lesson of the 'inner' meaning and significance of the festival, namely, the need for each of us to awaken to our innate 'divinity'---that is, the primal power of be-ing itself---and our true potential as human beings.

Christmas---like Easter---is about renewal and revivification. It’s about the livingness and givingness of life itself. Life forever gives of itself to itself---and as itself---so that life can continue and be renewed. Each one of us is a unique individualization of the livingness and self-givingness of life.

May you rejoice in that fact---and celebrate it at this time … and always.

Bless you all.


 

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

THE KINGDOM OF GOD---WHAT IS IT?

At the outset, I should make it clear---and I make no apology for this---that I will, throughout this post, be using the ‘God’ word a far bit.

Of course, the word ‘God’, if one uses it at all, means different things to different people. For some, there is no objective referent at all to the word ‘God’, and I respect that position as well. As Krishnamurti (pictured left) used to say, ‘The word is not the thing.’ It’s the reality behind the word that matters. In other words, don't get hung oup on the word ('God')---instead, focus on the reality behind, and beyond, the word.

For me, the word ‘God’ refers to the ever-present spirit of life---that is, the very livingness of all life, the essential oneness of all life, and the self-givingness of life to itself so as to perpetuate itself. I also use the word ‘God’ to refer to our innate potential perfectibility, as well as to what I regard as being the sacred, the holy. As regards the latter, I find that sense of the sacred or holy essentially in the enchantment of everyday life---in the ordinary as opposed to the extraordinary, and in the natural world as opposed to some supposed supernatural world.

Being something of a panentheist (that is, one who affirms that this God to which I refer is the ground of all being, is in all things, and all things are in God---but all things are not God), I reject all traditional notions of theism as well as the notion that there is a supernatural order, level or dimension to life. I find the sacred or the holy in, as already mentioned, the enchantment of everyday life, as well as in all of life, and especially in those more enlightened human beings who have blessed us with their presence, teachings and example.

Jesus preached the 'Kingdom of God' (referred to in Matthew’s gospel as the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’). The Kingdom of God is a past, present and future reality, all at the same time, and whereas the Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting the coming of the Kingdom, it was an earthly kingdom they were expecting. Jesus, however, speaks of an altogether different type of kingdom---namely, a spiritual or heavenly one.

The Kingdom of God is a past reality because it has been in ‘preparation’---and been prepared for us---from the very foundation of the world (‘the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Mt 25:34)).

The Kingdom of God is also a present reality. Jesus said many things about the Kingdom of God but perhaps his greatest pronouncement on the Kingdom was this--- ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ (Lk 17:21). This is the true ‘good news’ of the Christian gospel. As a present reality, Jesus revealed that the Kingdom of God was already present in his own life, and he said repeatedly that the same could also be true for you and me. (He never claimed anything for himself that he did not also claim for you and me.) Jesus as Way-Shower formed a community of likeminded people who strove, in steadfast service, to be a living model of God’s reign on earth.  It was Jesus who said, ‘I have come that [you] may have life, and that [you] may have it more abundantly’ (Jn 10:10). Abundant life---that’s what he’s on about. Life with a capital ‘l.’

The Kingdom of God is also a future reality. Yes, the Kingdom of God has always been, and is now, but is also not as yet. Such is life. It is forever unfolding from one moment to the next. It is always in a state of completed uncompleteness---or, if you wish, uncompleted completeness. It amounts to the same thing.

Life is past, present and future---but mostly ‘present,’ in the sense that it is always … now! For me, the Kingdom of God is the Eternal Now. There is an ‘eternal’ quality about the Now. It is forever new. The present moment has its unfolding in the Now. The past---in the form of memories, inherited characteristics and tendencies, as well as the karmic consequences of past actions---all that is no more than the expression of a ‘present’ reality, being a present ‘window link’ to the eternity of the Now. It’s the same as respects the future---any ideas about or hopes for the future are present ideas and hopes. You see, the present is simply that which presents itself before us in the Now---so the present embraces past, present and future.


The Kingdom of God is the very livingness of life itself, as it endlessly and ceaselessly unfolds from one moment to the next. You live and move and have your very be-ing-ness in this kingdom. It is the very presence----indeed, omnipresence---of your life. If you want happiness, and peace of mind, and power to change the things in your life that you know need to be changed---and who doesn’t----the only 'place' (for want of a better word) where you can find those things is 'in' (that is, within) this kingdom.

Only a fool would seek to look for those 'things' (happiness, peace of mind, and personal power) elsewhere----but there are many such fools. Sadly, the churches are full of them. I say that not at all self-righteously, but I do say it with a certain anger, for I am sick and tired of conventional so-called ‘Bible-believing Christians’ distorting the simple message of Jesus and making silly and implausible claims for Jesus that he did not make for himself (for example, that he was God is a unique and exclusive sense) as well as for the Bible that the Bible does not make fot itself (for example, that the Bible is infallible and inerrant). I tell you this---there will be no peace in the world until that sort of thinking is thoroughly purged. For my part, for so long as there is breath in me, I will continue to rail against such 'thinking' and those who 'think' (ha!) such things.

Never forget this. The Kingdom of God, which always has been, is here now---but the kingdom is also not as yet. Stay awake. Be ever mindful---as the kingdom continues to becomes an ongoing future reality as well … from one moment to the next. Angels---assuming for the moment there are any---can do no better.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

THE DEATH OF PAUL KURTZ---FATHER OF SECULAR HUMANISM

Emeritus Professor Paul Kurtz and Dr Ian Ellis-Jones


This, my 200th post on this blog site, is dedicated to the memory of a giant of a human being, a man I had the great pleasure and honour of knowing, the philosopher Dr Paul Kurtz (pictured above [with yours truly], as well as below).

During the time I was president of both the Humanist Society of New South Wales and the Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS), I met and came to know Paul Kurtz. (He was the leading keynote speaker at the Australis2000 IHEU/CAHS humanist congress we organized in Sydney which took place in November 2000, and there were other subsequent occasions in which we interacted and shared ideas.) I have never forgotten the good advice I received from Paul, namely, to always resist what Kurtz described as 'the transcendental temptation,' as well as to avoid engaging in 'magical thinking.'

Paul Kurtz---please see this online obituary---was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he had taught philosophy for some 26 years, and one of the world's greatest apologists for secular humanism and freethought. He was the author of many seminal books on philosophy, religion, humanism and freethought, including, not so coincidentally, one entitled The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal.

I remember when I became a humanist, after coming to the conclusion that not only were there no good reasons for believing in the God of traditional theism, there were also very good reasons for not believing in such a God, I happened to mention the fact of my embracing humanism---something I still embrace, but not dogmatically or exclusively---to a rather illiberal Baptist friend of mine, who was not known for his critical thinking even though he taught psychology at a university in Sydney and had also been very successful in the business world. The friend said, ‘How can you possibly be a humanist, after the Holocaust and such like events?’ I said to him, ‘I am entitled to ask of you---How can you possibly believe in an all-loving, omnibenevolent, all-powerful personal God in the light of all that gratuitous suffering!’


As I see it, human beings are not totally depraved. They are certainly not evil beyond measure. However, they are also not good beyond credibility. My erstwhile friend seemed to think that humanists believe that human beings are inherently good or perfect. Not so. Humanists are certainly not blind to all the evil that human beings have caused over many centuries. What they do believe---or rather affirm---is that human and other problems can only be solved by human beings, working collaboratively and using reason. Secular humanism rejects supernaturalism and traditional theism, affirming instead the need for skepticism, reasonfree inquiry and critical thinking.

Now, back to Paul Kurtz. He was a very tolerant and open-minded man, except as regards such things as religious fundamentalism, New Age nonsense, and various bogus, non-evidence based forms of alternative medicine. He was not opposed to all religious thought and associated practices, and he often expressed the view that Buddhism, at least in the Theravāda tradition, was very humanistic in its ontology and ethical teachings.

Kurtz was no 'dry' rationalist, nor was he an ‘angry atheist.’ Indeed, he explicitly rejected the one-dimensional militant ‘new atheist’ stance so common today. In more recent years he spoke and wrote of a more universalistic and all-inclusive neo-humanism, emphasizing the positive and 'exuberant' dimensions of unbelief and highlighting the need to work together with religious people to solve common sociopolitical problems. Neo-humanists are not religious---‘surely not in the literal acceptance of the creed’---but neither are they avowedly antireligious,’ although they may be critical of religious claims, ‘especially those that are dogmatic or fundamentalist or impinge upon the freedom of others.’

Religion is not all bad. Far from it. Here are some of the things that make religion---any religion---bad: the belief that one particular religion is the only true religion, or the only way to  God, heaven or whatever; the belief in supernaturalism, and the assertion that there is more than one way of being, that is, that there are different (eg higher and lower) levels of reality; the belief that one’s God has spoken his or her final word in some one person (eg Jesus or Muhammad); the belief that one’s holy book and/or one’s leader are infallible and/or inerrant; the belief that ethical behaviour and morality require a religious underpinning; the belief that human beings are totally depraved; the belief that reason cannot be trusted, and that there are revelations and supposed truths that cannot be questioned and that must simple be accepted on faith and on the basis of religious authority.

Those who believe any of the foregoing are deluded---dangerously so, at times. I make no apology for saying that. None whatsoever. You may wish to accuse me of being dogmatic on that matter. If I am guilty of dogmatism as respects that matter, it is a dogmatism brought about by the exercise of reason, free rational inquiry and critical thinking, and I do not resile from it.


Paul Kurtz embraced and promulgated a humanism that was joyous, positive and life-affirming. He made it clear that humanists are---or at least ought to be---best defined by what they are for, not what they are against.

I am still a humanist. People like Paul Kurtz make you proud to be one. I fully and unashamedly embrace the sentiment in these words from Humanist Manifesto II: 'While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.' However, because---and not notwithstanding---I am a humanist, I will continue to affirm and expound all that is good and noble in the world’s religions and in spirituality. I will also continue to rail against the silly and the irrational, of which there is plenty in all organized religions (especially the monotheistic ones).

Thank you, Paul Kurtz. You taught us how to live joyously, fully and sensibly---without illusions.



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Monday, November 26, 2012

PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE OF THEM ALL

When I was an undergraduate Arts/Law student at the University of Sydney in the 1970s---a wonderful time to be alive---I spent probably more time in the now gone Adyar Bookshop, in Sydney, run by the Theosophical Society, than I did in the university library.

It was during those years that I ‘discovered’ the great debunker and iconoclast
J. Krishnamurti (pictured right), and I have been in love with his teachings, and the man himself, ever since.

I still have in my possession a bookmark which I was given when I purchased a book from the Adyar Bookshop sometime in the early 1970s. I don’t remember the book I bought at the time---it may or may not have been a book written by Krishnamurti---although I am sure I would still have the book somewhere on my bookshelves here at home. (I never throw anything away---something I have to work on!) Now, on the bookmark there was a quotation from the writings of J. Krishnamurti---‘In the acknowledgement of what is, there is the cessation of all conflict.’

For years and years thereafter I couldn’t comprehend the meaning of those few words of Krishnamurti. It took several traumatic life experiences, and some more reading of Krishnamurti, for the truth of those words to manifest in my consciousness. You see, it is not what happens to us that makes or breaks us, it is how we react---or rather respond---to what happens to us that determines who and what we are and will become. There’s more to it, still. If we can ‘acknowledge’---that is, observe, note, notice, but not judge, analyze, criticize or condemn---what happens in and as our life experience from one moment to the next, that is, if we can accept what is as what is, there will be no resistance, conflict or inner turmoil. Then, and only then, can we know peace and have serenity.

Another spiritual principle which says more-or-less the same thing, but comes at the truth from the other ‘end,’ so to speak is this one---‘What we resist, persists.’

We don’t have to ‘like’ what happens to us in order for there to be an ‘acknowledgement.’ That will often not be possible or appropriate. More importantly, forming a ‘liking,’ or a ‘disliking’ for that matter, is an act of judgment, and once we judge something, we are attached to it. The result? Conflict. Resistance. Positive or negative. Just look, observe, note, and notice. But don’t judge or analyze. That is so important.

The Apostle Paul understood the truth of this most important spiritual principle. It is written that he said. ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances’ (Phil 4: 11 [NIV]). He said ‘content,’ not happy. Contentment implies acknowledgment and a calm acceptance of whatever is---for whatever is, is best. Whatever the circumstances!



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Sunday, November 18, 2012

YOU CAN KNOW THE WHOLE WORLD---WITHOUT GOING OUT THE DOOR

In the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu is reported as having said:

Without going out of door
One can know the whole world;
Without peeping out of the window
One can see the Tao [Way] of heaven.
The further one travels
The less one knows.
Therefore the Sage knows everything without travelling;
He names everything without seeing it;
He accomplishes everything without doing it.

In the Mass the priest holds up the Sacred Host for all to see. Now, I do not accept a Catholic creed---nor any creed for that matter---and I certainly do not believe in transubstantiation, but I can understand this much. In that little piece of bread we have all of life---symbolically represented by, and fully but microcosmically concentrated in, the Sacred Host. It is a wonderful, mysterious self-revelation and experience of life itself---a veritable microcosm of the macrocosm which is life itself. It is a living symbol of the all-ness of life, in the very real sense that all of life can be said to be present within the confines of this otherwise very little wafer of bread, itself a miniature of the eternal now. In the consecrated wafer is all of life---past, present and future---and that includes the man who, it is written, once walked this earth known as Jesus of Nazareth as well as the indwelling presence and substance of all persons and things.

Life is full of living symbols. What, you may ask, is a living symbol? How can a symbol be ‘living’? We are referring to something which H P Blavatsky referred to as ‘concretized truth,’ namely some thing that not only symbolizes, represents and stands for something else (the so-called ‘inner reality’), it actually is instrumental in helping to bring about that reality (in particular, an inner transformation in us) and, in very truth, is that reality. Through living symbols we are able to feel an intuitive connectedness---intellectually, emotionally and spiritually---with the all-ness of life.

I say again. Life is full of living symbols. Through them we can know the whole world---without going out the door. Life is all ‘about’ us, and in us—and is us. Why seek the sacred or the holy elsewhere? There is only one way of being, and one order or level of reality---and that is more than sufficient.