How are we to navigate between the Scylla of unbending religious dogma and the Charybdis of the dogma of Reductionism? Both of these types of dogma wish to shrink our view of reality to the intellectual constructs of these dogmas. Each have their (another classical allusion) Procrustean beds, into which all reality must be forced. What is in common between both kinds of dogma, is the desire to have neat and tidy statements that give us an unerring hold on things.
Could we not acknowledge that dogmas of both kinds are the products of the human mind, the human consciousness? Is it not true that it is the result of human thinking that it can be maintained that our minds are “nothing but” the activity of electrochemical processes in our brains, themselves the product of random evolution? Is it not true that it is the result of human thinking that we have a belief in an infallible Bible or Church? Is it not also true that it is the result of human thinking that we can have open-ended research, free literary and artistic creativity? The human mind has created all of this, and it is the human mind that can seek either to enslave itself, or set itself free...
Martin Buber is all but universally known for the distinction that he made between I-it, and I-You. Much theology speaks the language of I-it, where we regard people as objects of thought and discussion, and nearly all science does this also. The human consciousness can choose to have this relation with reality, and with people in particular. In so doing, there can be the belief that the impersonal has greater reality and validity than the personal, that the I-You, the personal is in some way of less reality less significance, than the result of the abstract thinking of the I-it.
But could not the I-You, the I-Thou, be the primary relationship? Worship is I-You, Love is I-You, and so also our experiences of synchronicity where we appear to have evidence of connection at a deeper (or higher) level, seem like deeply interpersonal, they appear to be the poetry of relationship. Visions and experiences of the departed are plainly person to person, rather than impersonal information sharing. Telepathy and clairvoyance are predominantly interpersonal. And what is music, art and poetry but the conveying of the personal?
Consider these quotations from Walt Whitman (1819-1892):
I hear and behold God in every object
“I hear and behold God in every object... Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass. I find letters from God dropped in the street - and every one is signed by God's name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come forever and ever.” (1860)]
“A vast similitude interlocks all, All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids, All distances, however wide, All distances of time - all inanimate forms, All Souls - all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds, All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes - the fishes, the brutes, All men and women - me also, All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe or any globe, All lives and deaths - all of past, present and future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, and shall forever span them, and compactly hold them.” [Leaves of Grass 12]
Is Love ultimately an I-You with God?
I would maintain that ultimately that we can experience all the interpersonal phenomena that have been mentioned as an I-You with God, as aspects of the Divine-Human Encounter. I am suggesting that the basic mode of existence lies in this relationship to that All in All that we call God, in this apparent participation in that which is greater than ourselves. We can see all this as dimension of love.
Non-love and its consequences
Christians picture God as the Parent of all. And yet we God's children, while capable of much good, also are capable of atrocious crimes against each other, and the destruction of our environment. Jesus on the Cross is a testimony both to these crimes and their consequences, and to the God of love. If you listen to the radio program mentioned below, you will learn that the now 12-year old girl, Akiane, received what she believed to be instructions from God at the age of four, and that at the age of eight she felt moved to ask her parents to pray for someone to turn up who could serve as a model for a painting of Jesus. They did so, and the next day a tall young carpenter turned up who seemed an ideal model. The resulting picture shown below was completed while she was still eight. An astonishing feat for that age. She painted half the face in deep shadow, to convey the fact that the experience of Christ that we have is partly love and light, and partly suffering and evil, perhaps because she saw Christ as Cosmic. This would seem impossibly abstract for an eight year old. It is however consistent with Victor MacGill's quote from Stephen, “There never was a time when our Lord Jesus was not the Christ, nor any of the imaged creation of the Father, not the Christ”. Let's find some quotes from St Paul: “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (universal Spirit)” Rom 14.8 “for us there is one God, the Father, from which all being comes, towards which we move; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came to be, and we through him. But not everybody know this.” I Cor 8.6-7. (“Jesus Christ” for Paul is not the human being who was crucified, but rather the Cosmic Christ, or Spirit.)
The centre of gravity for Paul, is Spirit, and although our bodies perish, we as projections of Spirit, remain. That may sound cold and improbable comfort to us, as our physical world crumbles, and despair, warfare, and death supervene. But that is the faith that Paul and Stephen present.
How does one relate to God? How does on relate to other people and to nature? The great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, sought to answer these questions in his famous essay I and Thou. Buber, in this seminal work, provides a framework centered on the concepts of relation and the personhood of God. Through authentic relationships with our fellow men and women, we come to know the eternal Thou -- God. What Buber means by this will be brought out in what follows.
The Rev. Prof. Emerit. Sjoerd L. Bonting, MSc. PhD, Amsterdam. Author of many books and articles in the field of Science and Religion, and former consultant in biology for NASA.
Human fascination with the topic of extraterrestrial life is demonstrated by the great popularity of science fiction stories about extraterrestrial beings in books, movies, and television programs like Star Trek, and by the thousands of claims of sighting UFO's (unidentified flying objects) and the tenacious belief of so many people in UFO's against all rational explanations.2 With a mixture of curiosity and fear people wonder: Are we alone in this vast universe or not? In this chapter the author addresses the question: If advanced beings elsewhere in the universe do exist, what does this mean for Christian theology?
[ Are we alone? ]
Thinking about the weight that should be laid on reports of personal experience.
Supernormal <http://www.survivalafterdeath.org /articles/barnard/supernormal.htm>
Click RadioOutThere <http://www.radiooutthere.com/>, then archive, then Program 98. Week commencing October 25, to listen to an half hour interview by Barry Eaton of
• An internationally recognized 11-year-old prodigy, considered the only known child binary genius, in both realist painting and poetry.
• Selected as 1 of 20 most accomplished visual artists in the world by Tribute Entertainment (London) and ABI (United States).
• Kids Hall of Fame inductee.
• An author of two books "Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry" and "My Dream is Bigger than I - Memories of Tomorrow"
She painted “The Prince of Peace” seen to the right, when she was eight years old. Hear her speak of her visions of God when she was only four, which were immediate precursors of the development of her gifts: and think more about Love and the Holy Spirit. See other of her wonderful paintings on Akiane's website <http://www.artakiane.com/>.
Reviewer: Michael Tymn, Editor of “Searchlight”
Blum, Deborah (2006) Ghost Hunters. The Penguin Press, New York. 370 pages, $25.95.
My first awareness of this fascinating book was an email from a friend who knew of my interest in the paranormal, especially spirit communication. I replied that I had not heard of the book and was not particularly interested in “ghost hunting.” By the title of the book and without knowing the subtitle, I had assumed that this book was about modern parapsychologists visiting haunted houses with gadgets designed to detect “ghostly” cold spots and energy fields. I assumed wrong.
When, a few weeks later, I saw the subtitle – “William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death” – I immediately knew the book was about the pioneering psychical research of yesteryear. It is a subject very dear to me. In fact, I have written often on the subject and had recently completed my own book, “The Articulate Dead: Bringing the Spirit World Alive” (due for release by Galde Press later this year or early next year).
Noting that Blum is a Pulitzer Prizewinning science writer and journalism professor, I had more or less anticipated a contemptuous treatment of the subject matter. [But this was not the case.]
As the subtitle suggests, Harvard professor William James, remembered more for his contributions to psychology and philosophy than psychical research, was one of the early leaders in scientific research aimed ultimately at determining whether consciousness survives bodily death. The research was prompted by advances in science – advances that seemed to relegate religious dogma and doctrine to mere superstition. “Could any God – Christian or otherwise – survive in an age where religion feared science and science denied faith?” Blum expresses the sentiments of Frederic W. H. Myers, another pioneering researcher. “It was into that divide that Myers saw psychical research bravely marching. The goal was to bridge research and religion, to show that they were not incompatible, that one could even explain the other.”
Reviewer: M. D. S. Cocks
Jacobs, Philip. Life as a means of transformation. O-Books, <http://www.o-books.net/> ISBN 1-905047-67-8 153 pp. UK: 9 pounds 99; US $19.95 paperback
This book is consistent with what is being maintained in this issue's editorial. To quote from the back-cover, “We can start to find meaning in our lives when we see all the varied things that happen to us, including illness and bereavement, as part of the process of letting go lesser levels of identity. We can then find our true Being that is ever present and is beyond change and suffering. We learn to trust the process of our life's unfolding, as we are led on a journey to discover a great treasure that we all possess, yet are unaware of. In doing this we also prepare ourselves for that ultimate moment of letting go, the death of the physical body.”
“The more people that buy this book the better the world will be.” Martin Redfern, senior producer BBC.
The book is written in an easy to read personal style, and will be found very helpful to a person who feels able to perceive reality from a spiritual point of view. Here is one sample of his writing that may be representative of his thought, and of his style:
“I remember the night before my mother's funeral, we had asked if her coffin could be left in the church over night so that my brother and sister and I could meditate for half an hour by it the night before. It had been an unexpected death, and my grief was at its height, full and all consuming. At first it was very difficult to become quiet, but then towards the end of the half-hour I became full of strange inner happiness. I could feel it welling up from within. It felt like a communication with my Self, which at the same time was my mother's Self and was beyond death and beyond all harm. I left the church feeling so happy and knowing that everything was all right. In the ground of our being it really is all right and we really are all one. Later that evening a friend rang to see how I was feeling and I think she was rather puzzled that I felt so happy under the circumstances. That feeling carried me through the funeral and beyond.”
[Notes provided by the publisher, not by a reviewer for this journal]
Kelly, Edward F.; Kelly, Emily W.; Crabtree, Adam; Gauld, Alan; Grosso, Michael; Greyson, Bruce. (due December 2006) ISBN 0-7425-4792-2 Cloth, 800 pages.
With CD containing F W H Myers's hard to find classic 2-volume Human Personality (1903)
To order, call toll-free 1-800-462-6420 or write to Rowman and Littlefield, 15200 NBN Way, PO Box 191, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214-0191 $US 79-95 Pre- and post- publication discounts may be available.
“This is an extraordinary book. In the area of the neuroscience of the mind, it is the most exciting reading to have crossed my path in years” -David Presti, Professor of Neurobiology, University of California-Berkeley.
“Brilliant, heroic and astonishing... A scientifically rigorous and philosophically informed critique of various contemporary orthodoxies in mainstream psychology. Irreducible Mind has a bottom-line: either our current understanding of the material world is woefully incomplete because we still don't know how to explain mental powers in purely physical, or else there is far more to reality than just the material world” Richard A. Shweder.. Professor Dept of Human Development University of Chicago.
Current mainstream scientific opinion holds that all aspects of human mind and consciousness are generated by physical processes occurring in brains. The present volume demonstrates – empirically – that this reductive material is not only incomplete but false. Topics addressed include phenomena of extreme psychophysical influence, memory, psychological automatisms and secondary personality, near-death experiences and allied phenomena, genius-level creativity and 'mystical' states of consciousness both spontaneous and drug induced. The authors show that these 'rogue' phenomena are more readily accommodated by an alternative 'transmission' or 'filter' theory of mind/brain relations – a theory that ratifies the commonsense conception of human beings as causally effective conscious agents, and is also fully compatible with leading-edge physics and neuroscience. The book should command the attention of all open-minded persons concerned with the still-unsolved mysteries of the mind.
If you are, this is most understandable, and of course you always have the option of skipping this section. But the “Stephen” material may be studied in its own right, and may help us in our thinking and feeling about the nature of things.
The claim is being made that Stephen the martyr is truly communicating, and is teaching about Christ and the central theme of His preaching, namely the Kingdom of Heaven. The following link allows you, if you wish, to read how Stephen speaks about himself, his childhood, and his ministry, and how scholarly detective work with some Greek that he spoke, together with many other clues, with historical research, and study of confirming evidence from the Qumran documents, makes a case for Stephen's authenticity which would stand up in a Court of Law, even if we may not feel that the case is scientifically proven.
Suspense novelist Michael Prescott
has this to say about the Stephen book and its authenticity
[co-editor of this journal: Read about him and his work in Victor MacGill <http://vmacgill.net>
No 128 July 8, 1976, The Christ p. 84
“There never was a time when our Lord Jesus was not the Christ, nor any of the imaged creation of the Father, not the Christ”
[Ed. “It will be ultimately misleading and indeed wrong to suppose.. that each human being is an independent actuality who interacts with other human beings and with nature. Rather, all these are projections of a single totality”- attributed to physicist David Bohm. See also John 1.1-3 : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” And Acts 17.28: “'For in him we live and move and have our being.'” And Ephesians 4.6: “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”. (All from NIV)
The Stephen passage quoted above, parallels these Scripture passages in seeing God and his creation from the point of view of being One and Together. On the other hand, while we may all be children of God, we are not living in union with God, and are separated by sin, and are in need of salvation. Both points of view are to be found in Scripture.]
In the same way that Stephen states he uses the name of Stephen as a convenience to make himself more familiar and easily understood to those on the earth plane, I believe there are terms used in this quote that are used for our convenience.
Stephen has explained that he is part of a group of soul for whom he is the mouthpiece. Stephen uses further simplifications in order to become more easily understood. The danger of this approach is that people may become to attached too the simplified version and miss the real complexity and the real nature being expressed.
The quote talks of a father and son. Immediately we tend to make assumptions about the relationship of the Christ to God that can lead to us making God, and the Christ smaller than they really are. We will immediately have a picture of the father as older, wiser and preceding the younger less experienced son. This is the reason why we find it difficult to grasp how a father and son can arise contemporaneously.
Also by using the father image, it is easy for us to misconstrue our relationship to God and to the Christ. The Bible narrative of our creation is necessarily written as a story starting at the beginning and proceeding step by step towards a conclusion. This story reveals certain depths of understanding, whilst at the same time concealing other depths. A literal reading shows us to be separate beings created at the end of a sequence of events in an image predetermined by God.
Chaos Theory provides another way of understanding the same story that reveals some of the concealed understandings. It does not tell “the truth”, it is just another story that can open a different perspective on the one same God. Chaos Theory talks about mutual codependent arising. We usually think of our world as having and inside (that’s is us) and an outside (the world beyond us) and the two are quite separate. When we think of a tree, we think of it as a distinct object with roots, a trunk, branches and leaves - but where are the boundaries of a living tree? A living tree has no meaning without its environment; without water, sunlight, soil and nourishment and the environment needs the tree to keep the cycle of replenishing the oxygen in the air by transforming carbon dioxide, moving water through the environment or providing shelter and food for other living creatures. We can only understand what a tree is by looking at the whole system. The tree and the environment need to continuously arise together to continue the cycle of life. Having said this, we are still able to understand what we man by “a tree” and can conceive of it as separate in our minds.
If we can see “God”, “the Christ” and “you and I” as labels given for convenience sake, we open ourselves to a wider, more embracing concept of God and the universe in which we live. We can instead see God, the Christ and us as different aspects of a mutually co-dependent system, where each only has meaning and existence in relation to the others, but nevertheless is made of three aspects individually distinguishable in some form, all interacting together. We now have an alternative map of how we come to have the emergence of a cohesive universe in which to live.
It is because we have arisen from mutual co-dependence from a single source, that we are separate, but all made of the same “stuff”. The edges between us and God or the Christ are not clear, they are fuzzy. The Christ is one with the Father and the Father is one with the Christ. We are one with God and the Christ, and they with us. And we do all this while retaining our individuality.
Stephen goes on to talk about Salvation. When seen from this perspective, we can ask, as Stephen does, from what must we be saved? We are already a part of the mutually co-dependence arising with God and the Christ. The only salvation is in avoiding being trapped in perceiving the individual aspect of our being within the full being of the Godhead as our whole being. We are “saved” when we come to a realisation of who we are, which is what we have always been, within the full being of the Godhead.
Cosmic Harmony as Cosmic Sacrifice: A Scientific Hermeneutics of the
Hindu Mysticism of Love
Fr. Augustine Pamplany CST is presently the dean of Philosophy at Little Flower Seminary, Institute of Philosophy and Religion, Aluva, India. He did his postgraduate studies in philosophy of science at Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth of Pune. The philosophy of quantum mechanics was his area of specialization for his Masters in Philosophy. He is a regular visiting staff of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth of Pune and St. Joseph's Pontifical Seminary, Aluva, India. He has occupied himself with an Eastern Religious appropriation of the developments in modern science. He is also the founder-director of the Institute of Science and Religion based at Little Flower Seminary, Aluva. His publications include books on science and religion in English and Malayalam, his mother tongue, and several articles to various national and International Journals of India. He won the Templeton Foundation's Students' Essay Competition Award (II prize) in 1998. He has also won the Young Literarists' Award of the Literary Association of Kottayam in Kerala for his writings in Malayalam
The rich Eastern allusions to love and altruism draw substantively complementary theoretical tools from the metaphysical and theological underpinnings of the emerging scientific worldview. The "cosmotheandric" vision of reality which is the core of the Hindu mystical perspectives binding the perennial problematic trio of philosophy and theology, viz., God, world and the human, in an intuitive matrix of communion and interrelatedness serves as the solid metaphysical and conceptual foundation for an ontology of love and as the universal axiomatic norm for an altruistic praxis.