The Ground of Faith > April/May 2005

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The Ground of Faith
Exploring Science, Mysticism
and Experience Together

April/May 2005

Contents

[carnyx]

The Carnyx,
symbol of the Celtic Stephen

Articles

Reviews / Websites

Editorial / Letters


Editors

The Rev. Michael Cocks
The Rev. Victor MacGill

Articles

Spirituality and the Cults: An experiential analysis
Elliot Benjamin Ph.D.

[No questions allowed]

[ Spirituality and the Cults (pdf) ]

Editor's note: Benjamin writes
"The modern religions that have had the most major impact on me are Scientology, Avatar, Neopaganism, Conversations with God, and Reiki."
"Others ... include The Unification Church (The Moonies), Divine Light Mission, est, Gurdjieff, Eckankar, A Course in Miracles, and Self Realization Fellowship."
"The Bonewits Cult Danger Scale, Anthony Typology, and Wilber Integral Model will all be utilized in this tri-perspective model."

Elliot Benjamin is a professor of mathematics in the USA. The Adobe Acrobat file has 93 pages, but even a cursory reading will be of interest.

Stephen's Teaching about Perfection
Victor MacGill

I work as a Probation officer. I spend much of my time involved with the darker side of human nature. I hear of horrific actions people perpetrate on one another. I spend much of my time listening to people telling lies about the events around their arrest. How do I reconcile that with the message from Stephen that we are all perfect, and that our lives are perfect?

[globe]

The way I reconcile this is to see the universe as existing beyond time and space. Beyond time and space there are no comparisons for anything to be less than perfect. In order for the universe beyond time and space to fully express itself, the realm of time and space emerged from within in it to evolve and change and make perfection manifest. "Beyond time and space" pervades all time and space; the two are not separable and each can be accessed from the other.

Having entered time and space, comparisons have meaning within their own framework. We feel pain and it is absolutely real too us even though from a "beyond time and space" viewpoint pain and suffering have no meaning.

From a "beyond time and space" perspective we can look at people around us suffering, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the Jewish Holocaust, the mugging victim down the road, but from within time and space, the pain is real and we have a duty to act to prevent and reduce suffering in the world around us.

Stephen gave us the message to remind us that we are perfect, because that is what we so easily forget when we are so submerged in our time and space reality.

St. Stephen Teaches about the Atonement
Michael Cocks

[Stephen icon]

This is one of nearly 200 teachings. In connection with teachings about the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, Stephen tells this parable (§145, March 21, 1977):

[Garden of Eden] There was a great Lord who provided for his people,
all that they needed, all that they should have,
all these things that they possibly could want.
What he asked in return, was that they love him.
And it occurred at one time to these people,
that they might be considered prisoners,
for there they were, where the Lord would have them.
And because they must love the Lord,
they must do only as the Lord chose them to do.
They did not argue that it was wrong,
what the Lord chose for them to do,
but only that they might choose for themselves.
On knowing of this, the Lord cast them out
from this place where he cared for them,
telling them firstly that when he did not provide
they would find that they needed work, to protect themselves,
and that all these things and all creatures
that were there in the place of the Lord,
that loved the Lord and were obedient to the Lord,
and did not harm them, did go with them also,
and they might choose what they would wish to do.
And the Lord warned them also that their choice
must lead them to pain
must lead them to anguish
must lead them to suffer;
that it would be good
for they would come to know
through their own choice
and in choosing the suffering
that the place that the Lord had given them, was the best,
And it would be the place that they must choose.
In a very short while
those who had left
understood this to be true
and they made overtures to the Lord
that they be forgiven. [1]
They offered from the sweat of their brows
from the blood of their labours
many things to the Lord, for their forgiveness.
For they had decided
that their stupidity and crime
and offence to the Lord
that they did not love sufficiently,
[so it] would require all of this.
And the time came when the Lord, knowing of their anguish,
knowing the only sacrifice of gift that he wanted of them
would be their love,
understood that they had chosen to pay a penalty.
This posed a problem for the Lord,
for he loved them as they must love him,
and one who loves truly could not impose
nor accept the penalty.
So he decided that he must teach them
and show them an example of what love was.
He called them together unto him,
and sat as a judge
and said to them
The penalty that you must pay
the sacrifice that you must give
is more than you have.
But as you know - and have decided for yourselves:
This sacrifice must be paid..
[Crucifixion/resurrection] For [Then] the Lord reached into his treasures,
and took what was dearest unto him, and destroyed it
in front of their eyes,
of those that could see,
so that they would understand
that the price they could not pay,
was paid for them. [2]
He showed, and gave example of the love that he gives
and the love that he would expect.
Still, it is difficult for those to understand
and know and believe,
that this debt has been paid.
It is still difficult for them to conceive,
that they have been given the ability... to love.
They would doubt that they are perfect,
they doubt that they can perform
given the opportunity
the same sacrifice
that their master and Lord
made on behalf of them.
They would continue to suffer
for they judge themselves badly.
Therefore the Lord knowing this,
and knowing that they will need to be shown
that love can repair
all that has been undone
even what has been broken
and destroyed in the eyes of them all,
would have to return
the thing most precious to him,
in the sight of them;
to keep them conscious
and to stop them
destroying themselves with remorse
and with lack of love for each other
to stop them destroying themselves
for placing the blame
that they felt for themselves
upon the shoulders of another.
He comes to them daily and speaks with them.
Many do not feel even worthy,
feel that they are worthy
to hear the voice of that Lord,
and when he speaks,
they explain the sound
and the words that they hear
in many different ways.
They look at their misery
and use this as a proof
of their own lack of righteousness.
They insist often
that the Lord is the one
that punishes them,
the one who cannot forgive
though they have seen this forgiveness.
[Green pastures] Like sheep outside of a fold
even though the gate of the pasture
has been opened unto them
they still require the shepherd.
Until that time when the shepherd is come,
comforting noises and messages
come from inside of the pasture
then the sheep hearing these noises
face in that direction
ready to be herded once more
to the comfort.
Some of these messages are familiar to us all.
The message that tells us
that if we do not bear the fruit of love,
then surely we must wither and die.
This would not be a curse
or a punishment from the Lord,
but a judgment upon oneself.
The messages come clear,
but they are accepted
to fit in with what is judged by the receiver
to be worthy of their guilt.
The less the guilt,
the simpler the message
and that message is always
that the gate is open.
God bless you all

(Cocks 2005, pp. 135-139)

It could be said that Stephen's parable has the same message of the parable of Jesus about the Prodigal or Lost Son; namely, if you want to return to communion with God, you just come, and you will find open arms.

Background information is given on Michael Cocks' St. Stephen Home Page (Cocks) which is linked in the references below.

Notes

[1] Stephen is referring to the system of making sacrifices and burnt offerings in the Temple at Jerusalem, as a way of atoning for sin, and pleasing God.

[2] The Catholic theology of the Atonement, by comparison.
[ Catholic theology of the Atonement ]

References

Cocks, Michael. St. Stephen home page.
<http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~cocks/>

Cocks, Michael (2005). The Stephen Experience. Kelso Press.

Mapping the Way
Michael Cocks

[Hebrew cosmology]

Designed as a Confirmation course for young adults, but can be adapted as required for other purposes.

In this course we are assuming that the spiritual-physical universe is one undivided whole, that human beings need to make sense of the experiences they have of this whole, and the Divine Source. To do this they use: religion, scientific method, philosophies, the arts and other beliefs. All these things and more are seen as essential for personal growth, and for being made whole. Basic Christianity in the context of everything.

[ Mapping the Way (pdf) ]

A pdf version is provided above. If you would like a MS Word doc version that you can change to meet your needs, then contact the editor
<mailto:thegroundoffaith@ihug.co.nz>.

Reviews / Websites

Dennis Doyle's Celtic Christianity (quotes)

These quotes were selected by the editors.

[Celtic banner]

I arise today,
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of the sun, radiance of the moon.
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
Stability of earth and firmness of rock.

I arise today,
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me.

From the snares of devils,
from temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and near, alone and in a multitude

(St. Patrick, 377)

Creating a Celtic Liturgy

Themes:

closeness between God and nature
the four elements: fire, water, earth, air
respect for the "old wisdom", storytelling
human intimacy with God and the saints
the Trinity
monasticism
importance of kinship and community
education (the Irish monks were the educators of Europe)
mission (the white martyrdom)
prayers for protection
love of the Mother of God
dreams
hospitality
peace and justice

(Doyle)

Related sites are Celtic Christianity (Woodward) and Celtic Spirituality (Rowan).

References

Doyle, Dennis. Celtic Spirituality Workshop Handout.
<http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/christ.html>

Fairgrove, Rowan. Celtic Spirituality.
<http://www.conjure.com/CELT/cspirit.html>

St. Patrick (377). Lorica.
cited in Doyle, Dennis. Celtic Spirituality Workshop Handout.
<http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/christ.html>

Woodward, Stuart. Celtic Christianity Page.
<http://www2.gol.com/users/stuart/celtihs.html>

Tom Harpur's Cosmic Spirituality (quote)

This quote was selected by the editors.

[Tom Harpur]

Seven Principles of Cosmic Spirituality

[Celtic Cross]
  1. The entire cosmos is the manifestation of Divine Mind -- every molecule, every cell, every creature, every rock, tree, mountain, planet, blazing star, whirling galaxy and universe of galaxies.
  2. We are all an integral, interconnected part of the whole cosmos and our own inner world is a holograph of the cosmos within us.
  3. One basic datum underlies every religion under the sun, the principle of Incarnation. The Word or Logos, God's self-expression made manifest, has given the light of its divine spark to every mind/soul coming into the world. Christians call this the Christ or "Christ in us". Other faiths have different names or modes of expression for this same inner reality.
  4. Every religion whose ethical core is summed up by the word "compassion" or "loving-kindness" to all other creatures without exception has a vision of the truth and is a valid "way" to Transcendence.
  5. No one faith or religion -- whatever its claims may be, alone has The Truth.
  6. True cosmic spirituality is steeped in, flows from, and derives its most powerful analogies and metaphors from the natural world -- from the tiniest bit of dust to the spiralling stars above.
  7. The core aim of cosmic spirituality is radical transformation, both personal and societal.

(Harpur, 2004)

More information is on Tom Harpur's Website (Harpur, 2005).

References

Harpur, Tom (2004). NASA photo captures sacred. Toronto Star, Jan.18, 2004
<http://www.tomharpur.com/articles/StarRecent2004/JAN1804.asp>

Harpur, Tom (2005). Tom Harpur's Website.
<http://tomharpur.com/>

Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ (critique)
Michael Cocks & Victor MacGill

[ Counter-evidence (pdf) ]

This critique of The Pagan Christ (Harpur, 2004) presents counter-evidence that (1) there was a Jesus of history and (2) the mythology associated with Jesus was not primarily Egyptian.

[ Late note: We were at first impressed by some of Harpur's writing, and are happy to quote the words in the previous article. We note however, that he claims that the gospels are nothing but a re-write of ancient Egyptian mythology, and that Jesus did not exist. In our counter-evidence, we give many reasons why most of the book is utterly unworthy of the New Testament scholar that he claims to be. The following web page also analyses Harpur's misuse of his sources in enormous detail, and agrees with our assessment.
Gullible's Travails <http://www.tektonics.org/harpur01.html> ]

Reference

Harpur, Tom (2004). The Pagan Christ.

Editorial / Letters

Editorial Notes

This new format is designed to be

In this world of equal opportunity, we would like a lot more articles, and letters, from women. How about some book reviews? Personal accounts of spiritual experience? Poetry?

In this journal, it is our intention to affirm the whole life and work of the churches, while also affirming the contributions that science, mysticism, and personal spiritual experience can make to that life and work. The journal does not deal with political, social, community care issues, acknowledging that these matters are better dealt with in other contexts.

As the Resurrection and the Afterlife are key elements of the Christian faith, the journal seeks to remind readers of the strong modern evidence that this faith is well-founded.

Convincing evidence is found in Michael Cocks' The Stephen Experience. The 2005 edition is offered to NZ readers only, at cost price of $15 plus $5 postage and packaging. Overseas readers can order through
Booksurge <http://booksurge.com.au/>
or Amazon <http://www.amazon.com/>.

This journal welcomes articles from varying and conflicting points of view. An article therefore represents the views of its writer, and publication does not imply that any of the production team agree with those views.

The Holy Now / Beauty & Truth Laboratory
Norman Kjome (Michigan, USA )

The Holy Now

There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time -- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature -- but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.

There is no less holiness at this time -- as you are reading this -- than there was the day the Red Sea parted, or that day in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as Ezekiel was a captive by the river Chebar, when the heavens opened and he saw visions of God. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree by your street than there was under the Buddha's bo tree. There is no whit less might in heaven or on earth than there was the day Jesus said "Maid, arise" to the centurion's daughter, or the day Peter walked on water, or the night Mohammed flew to heaven on a horse. In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger. In any instant the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture.

Purity's time is always now. Purity is no social phenomenon, a cultural thing whose time we have missed, whose generations are dead, so we can only buy Shaker furniture. "Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai," says the Talmud. Of eternal fulfillment, Tillich said, "If it is not seen in the present, it cannot be seen at all."

(Dillard, 1999)

Beauty & Truth Laboratory

The whole thing, the most difficult thing, is to wake the heart. Somehow one has to learn to be able to live in the heart, to judge from the heart, as ordinarily as we live in mechanical mind and judge from that. It is shifting the center of attention in oneself. For the movements of the heart are so quick that only if one can learn to live there for some time, is it possible to catch them as they pass and obey them. This also means that we have to learn to feed the heart, taking emotional impressions directly there; just as we now take knowledge directly into the mind.

(Collin, 1998)

That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty,
he said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful.

(Rumi)

The entire Universe is condensed in the body, and the entire body in the Heart. Thus the Heart is the nucleus of the Whole Universe.

(Sri Ramana Maharshi)

[These quotes can be found on Freewill Astrology (Brezsny).]

References

Brezsny, Rob. Freewill Astrology.
<http://www.freewillastrology.com/>

Collin, Rodney (1998). The Theory of Conscious Harmony. By The Way Books.

Dillard, Annie (1999). For the Time Being. Alfred A. Knopf.

Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi.
cited in Kabir Helminski (ed.). The Rumi Collection.

Imagery of Life within the Crucifixion Story
Peter E. Admore (Christchurch, NZ)

Jesus was crucified at Easter and for some Christians the crucifixion can symbolise a bloody and painful sacrifice for salvation from sin. This suffering and death is alleviated only by the boundless grace and forgiveness of God who restores His son to life and promises that all who accept Jesus as Saviour will not endure death or judgement but will receive everlasting life. It's an image of reward and punishment that leaves us wondering, could a loving father do this to his son?

For me, the crucifixion isn't about sin or sacrifice. There are more enlivening, enlightening and meaningful ways to understand the imagery associated with these events, pointing to life and rebirth, not death.

[Some European languages derive their word from the Hebrew word for Passover, "pesah", eg the French "Paques" and the Swedish "Påsk". Ed.] So far as England is concerned, in Anglo-Saxon times, April was called Eostur -month, named after the goddess Eostre, associated with the renewal of life, spring, and fertility. As Holy Week was usually celebrated in April, when the Anglo-Saxons became Christian, it was natural that they associated the day of the Resurrection with Eostre/Easter, ie with life, spring, and fertility. (By the way, Eostre was associated with eggs and hares, hence Easter eggs and Easter bunnies.)

All readers of the Holy Week story no doubt respond to it in their own way. But I personally am attracted to the Eostre associations.

The Gospel story, from the Last Supper through to the crucifixion, reflects many images and concepts of life from Eostre's festival. "The bread is my body and the wine my blood," said Jesus. Are they really the sacrificed body, the blood shed for sin, or a symbol of something deeper?

Wine (there was only red in Jesus' time) comes from grapes which look remarkably like single celled eggs and ancient religions used it, like Jesus, to symbolise blood. But the blood and eggs were Eostre's symbols of life. Not death.

Bread comes from a variety of grains and many, while still in their husks, look somewhat like spermatozoa. To become bread, and a source of life, each grain is crushed and dies just as all spermatozoa, bar one, die as they progress toward the ovum and new life.

There were two basic forms of wine and bread. Leavened or unleavened and leaven means yeast. So there were festivals for both leavened and unleavened wine and bread. But leavening was dangerous as conditions, unlike today, were uncontrolled. But a morsel of previous leavening was added to the new juice or dough or the new raw materials were exposed to the air to absorb wild yeasts. In either case toxicity could result.

In error many believed that, during leavening, good or evil spirits entered the food bringing either life or death. This image, however, encapsulates the relevance of the Last Supper story as fermentation of the bread and wine symbolises the spiritual nature of all creation. Using this imagery unleavened food is one order of being but leavened, being filled with spirit, is transcendent.

Greek-speaking Gospelers used the word pneuma as an expression of the idea of spirit. It also meant breath, wind, or air and so could represent the air that leavened the food of life. It was also symbolic of the breath of God which, wind like, was felt and experienced whilst being unseen. Bread and wine, therefore, symbolise the complementary male and female elements bearing the creative spark of the Spirit of God to a union without which no new life arises.

Once eaten the female wine and male bread symbolically unite in a conception leading to birth at Christmas nine months after Easter. As the two elements move toward this union intense trials and suffering ensue ensuring that only one male element survives.

Likewise, the image of the trial, scourging, and journey of Jesus to Golgotha presents him as that lone and only worthy male.

Many crosses, Christian included, have arms of equal length.. These, pre-Christian, symbolised male and female creative union. The vertical represented the phallus and the horizontal the vagina and womb. In Hinduism the horizontal is called the Yoni, meaning the womb or The Source and is still found in temples alongside the Lingam. The lone male element is raised upon this symbol of union and, in symbolic terminology, to be raised up is to be lifted up, elevated, transfigured, resurrected and to ascend into new life. He is not raised as a sacrifice for sin but to be transfigured and reborn through creative union with the female.

On Stephen
Anthony Buckley (London, UK)

Thank you very much for your forgiving-attitude. I am a sinner who needs Christ - not a Great Sinner perhaps (the Auschwitz Jewish experiences are being shown again).

Yet I wonder about "it's all up to us". It's something we are told constantly by others, including our GPs. "Your health problems are caused by You! If you'd drunk less beer!..." it's impossible for us to make such judgements yet we are quick to judge, with a book of statistics in our hands. . But your thesis is Right: It's All in God's Hands. He Imaged and created us - our destinies are in His Hands - according to a book written by a British medium our destinies are pre-written in Heaven; every event & trouble.

Love, Anthony

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