RELIGION  (200)

“In summing up, then, it may be said that nearly all the great social institutions have been born in religion.”  Emile Durkheim

“By this I live:  What I have written before I profoundly believe in.  I'm sure of the life this self should live.  But the self is a thing of wonder.  The strangest question I know is who am I?  This being called Bert Stiles.”    'Serenade to the Big Bird', Burt Stiles

“I’m going to keep on trying until I reach the Higher Ground.”  Stevie Wonder

In The Golden Seat, in the center, is the Patron of Religion.

In Evolution of God, Robert Wright, reflects on “What Religion Is”,
“The famous cynic H. L. Mencken said of religion, ‘Its single function is to give man access to the power which seems to control his destiny, and its single purpose is to induct those powers to be friendly to  him…nothing else is essential.  The psychologist William James wrote in The Varieties of Religious Experience that religion ‘consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.’
…In Mencken’s version the object of the game is to change the behavior of the supernatural beings.  James’s version places more of the burden of change on us; we are to ‘harmoniously adjust’ ourselves to the ‘unseen order.’  James is making the assumption that discrepancies between divine designs and our own aims reflect shortcomings on our part.
…Religion almost always forms a link between self-interest and some other interest such as family, society, the world…And that link is always in flux, but over the ages religion has gotten closer to moral and spiritual truth, and for that matter more compatible with scientific truth.  Religion hasn’t just evolved; it has matured.
…The story of religion, beginning back in the Stone Age, is a movement from Mencken to the James…a debate between functionalist and “Marxists”:  Does religion serve the people, or just the powerful?  Religion needs to mature more if the world is going to survive in good shape – and for that matter if religion is to hold the respect of intellectually critical people.”

Human culture – art, politics, technology and religion – evolves in a way similar to that of biological species:  they arise, flourish and perish.  Whole social institutions and belief systems form and change.  New gods are born and grow.  And new ideas about gods arise – like the idea of the duality principle:  a Father-Mother God principle.

Natural Theology
Natural theology is a branch of theology based on reason and ordinary experience without reference to supernatural revelation.  In his dialogues, the famous Greek philosopher Plato gives us the earliest surviving account of a “natural theology” (circa 360 BC). In the late 18th century Thomas Paine wrote the definitive book on natural religion of Deism, The Age of Reason.  In it he uses reason to establish a belief in Nature’s Designer who man calls God. 

Plato was the first to associate the Beautiful, the True, and the Good to Natural Theology:  “A compass heading to improve the human condition”.

Plato’s fundamental values of Beauty, Truth and Goodness are contained within The Golden Seat:
 ‘Art & Music’ (Beauty) – the way of the heart or emotion.
 ‘Science’ (Truth) – the way of the intellect or knowledge.
 ‘Religion’ (Goodness) – the way of the will or action.

Revealed Theology
Natural theology is distinguished from revealed theology (or revealed religion) which is based on scripture or religious experience where revelation is the revealing through communication with a divine entity (deity) or through an agent, such as an angel.  One who has experienced such communication from the divine is often called a prophet. 

Revelation from a supernatural source is of lesser importance in other religious traditions, such as Taoism and Confucianism, but similarities have been noted between the Abrahamic view of revelation and the Buddhist principle of Enlightenment. 

The Religious Philosophy examines the nature and existence of God, the religious experience and the relationship of religion and science.

Evolution
Evolution is the change over time in one or more inherited traits found in populations of individuals.  Inherited traits are distinguishing characteristics, for example anatomical, biochemical or behavioral, that are passed on from one generation to the next. Evolution occurs when there is variation of inherited traits within a population over time. The major sources of such inherited variants are mutation, genetic recombination and gene flow.  Evolution has led to the diversification of all living organisms from a common ancestor, which are described by Charles Darwin as "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful".

Theistic Evolution
Theistic evolution or evolutionary creation is a concept that asserts that classical religious teachings about God are compatible with the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. In short, theistic evolutionists believe that there is a “God”, that God is the creator of the material universe and (by consequence) all life within, and that biological evolution is simply a natural process within that creation. Evolution, according to this view, is simply a tool that God employed to develop human life.

Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory, but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to religious belief and interpretation. Theistic evolution supporters can be seen as one of the groups who reject the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science – that is, they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not contradict. Proponents of this view are sometimes described as Christian Darwinists.

God
The premise of God’s existence cannot be proven in a scientific sense.  On the other hand, God’s existence cannot be scientifically disproved.  The Golden Seat accepts the following spiritual principals without secular proof:

God is infinite love and infinite intelligence     Divine thought is a force for good
Spirit is the ultimate reality
                               Most disease is mental in origin
True human self-hood is divine
                         ‘Right Thinking’ has a healing effect

Disagreement about ‘proofs’ of God's existence is due to different conceptions not only of the term God  but also the terms proof, truth, and knowledge.

In the movie Contact, the scene with SETI scientist Dr. Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) and Christian philosopher Palmer Joss (Mathew McConaughey) presents a clever, yet thought provoking point-of-view on the nature of divine proof:
Eleanor:  “Can you prove God?” 
Palmer:  “Do you love your Father?” 
Eleanor: “What!”  “Yes”
Palmer:  “Prove it.”

For theists, the classic argument for the existence of God has been faith.  In light of a ‘higher faith’, divine belief becomes a knowing.  Similar to knowing angles:  “how do you know God exists?”   “I don’t have to prove it, I just know.”  God is a thought form and a belief system, not a religion.  Religion means dogmatic rules.  Of course you need rules that follow the universal consciousness, the same as Christ said, “Do unto others…”  Knowing God is a very personal issue, for every one of us must come to his or her own understanding of the divine.  Experiencing and knowing God is beyond feeling, it is beyond intellect, beyond words to describe.  Kind of like love.  When you are in love, you just know you are.

Faith does have its role, but more important than faith is spiritual understanding.  As discussed earlier, The Golden Seat’s ‘Frame of Mind’ is Spiritual Discovery.  People need to satisfy their intellect in addition to their beliefs, where traditional religions typically do not address this issue.  A lack of understanding can impede one’s spiritual growth, for without a solid reason for life, people will say:  “There cannot be a loving God, as witness by the pain and suffering our world.”  When we say, “God took my baby”, we are saying ‘God is cruel, God is to be feared’.  This is an enslavement of the mind.   If we have fear, then we can’t have love – cannot have two emotions together. The erroneous conclusion that God cannot exist is based upon ignorance of the meaning of life.

The definition of God has eluded the greatest minds of this world.  Saint Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury stated, "And it assuredly exists so truly, that it cannot be conceived not to exist..."  Putting it another way, St. Anselm is saying, “God is that, greater than which, nothing can be conceived.” 
Is this correct?  Kind of, but there is much more to God.

How then are we to recognize and understand God?  This question has occupied mankind since the dawn of reason.  In 'Evolution of God', Robert Wright takes an agnostic approach:

“I’ve suggested that there might be a kind of god that is real.  This prospect was raised by the manifest existence of a moral order – that is, by the stubborn, if erratic, expansion of humankind’s moral imagination over the millennia, and the fact that the ongoing maintenance of social order depends on the further expansion of the moral imagination, on movement toward moral truth.  The existence of a moral order, I’ve said, makes it reasonable to suspect that humankind in some sense has a “higher purpose.”  And maybe the source of this higher purpose, the source of the moral order, is something that qualifies for the label “god” in at least some sense of that word.”

From an opposite approach, some serious scholars see in the Stone Age shaman the origins of mysticism, which in modern form has brought peace of mind to many.  The ‘primitive’ man does not ask such silly questions – God simply is, which is sufficient unto itself.

The explanation of dreaming even dates back to primitive societies, where with the concept of the human soul or spirit first emerged.

Spiritual Existence
From the lost Gospel of Thomas (Nag Hammadi, Egypt), Didymus Judas Thomas reveals the secret words of the living Jesus, “He who shall find the interpretation of the words shall not taste death.” The great spiritual masters, like Jesus, saw the fallacy in the common belief of society which lived by the motto: “Live, work, be merry, for tomorrow you will die.  And when you die, that is the end of it”.  They lived their lives like Sophists or the Epicureans.  Thinking “that is all there is” is the Great Fallacy.  The belief is sophistic – an argument correct in form, but it embodies a subtle fallacy.  This is what the great masters were trying to say:  when you die, that is not the end of it; Spirit continues on its path toward perfection.  How so?  How do you know?  As our Lord says, “He who shall find the interpretation…”  The masters can only show us the door, it is for us to open it.

It is true, within the Bible, Jesus shares many cryptic parables – to an often uncomprehending crowd (stories that, decades later, get ‘explained’ by Matthew and Luke).  It is odd that the one ‘sent from heaven’ to spread the divine word purposely encodes the word so that most people won’t get it!  One earthly example that gives strong evidence of the soul surviving death are ghosts.  In her book 'The Other Side and Back', Ms. Sylvia Browne discusses the nature of ghosts,  “Ghosts absolutely exists.  And the one sad, fascinating thing they have in common is that none of them know they are dead.  For their own reasons, ghosts refuse to transcend to The Other Side and insist on staying earthbound.  In their confused, deluded minds, they are as alive and real as we are…Because ghosts think they’re still alive, they firmly believe they’re entitled to the spaces they’re inhabiting, and we’re the intruders.  Asking a ghost to quiet down or leave is like being a house guest and asking your host to shut up or get out of his own house.  It simply won’t happen…In the meantime, they deserve more compassion than fear.  After, all we might not be so easy to live with either if we didn’t know we were dead.”

The Divine Within
“If you don't respect yourself ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot.  Respect yourself.”    Respect Yourself’, The Staple Singers

In the 1972 movie, The Poseidon Adventure, the reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman) is a minister who is tested by his faith and his belief in a God that “God helps those who helps themselves”.  He delivers a sermon on a sunny day at the upper deck:

“God is pretty busy. He's got a long term plan for humanity that stretches far beyond our comprehension. So it's not reasonable to expect him to concern himself with the individual. The individual is important, only to the extent in providing the creative link between the past and the future.  In his children.  Or in his grandchildren.  Or the contribution he makes to humanity. Therefore, don't pray to God to solve your problems. Pray to that part of God within you. Have the guts to fight for yourself. God wants brave souls.  He wants winners, not quitters. If you can't win at least try to win.  God loves triers.  So, what resolution should we make for the New Year?  Resolve to let God know you have the guts and the will to do it alone. Resolve to fight for yourselves.  For others.  For those you love.  And that part of God within you will be fighting with you - all the way.”

The phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is the popular motto which emphasizes the importance of self-initiative.  The reverend Scott was trying to say that there is a spark of divinity within us, but we must claim it.  That life is designed to test the very mettle of our souls and that the largest obstacle is the Self, with all its doubts, worries, and inhibitions.   That candlelight services are fine, but for reverend Scott, you had better light that candle inside.  He was getting down on all the prayer and meditation because without activation it is impotent.  To reverend Frank, activation is, “Hey, you God take care of me, and I will try to take care of as many as I can.  We can stomp around and sing hallelujah and praises.  We can quote from scripture and it does not mean a thing.  If it doesn’t work out, we can be proud to say, ‘at least I tried to win.’“

Is the Reverend Scott sermon just ‘positive’ talk where ‘positive thinkers’ end up isolating themselves from real problems by slapping on sugar-coated ideas or swallowing nice-sounding affirmations?  Yes, that can happen if one takes a shallow understanding of the divine nature within oneself.  Being positive is the twin sister to spirituality.  What makes it so difficult is trying to be positive in a situation, in a world, that is basically unloving, dark, deceptive and oppressive.  It is most likely one of life’s hardest lesson – to be positive in a negative world (learning that lesson one will discover the powerful answer to the query: “What is the meaning of life?”).  The key is to not to get too unrealistic.  If you want to become a singer and you sing like a frog, forget it.  Some dreams are just absolutely unrealistic.  Reverend Frank would want us to pray for things that are possible, not impossible.  If you are 5’3”, you cannot pray to be 5’9”.

Recognizing that a spark of the divine exists within one self is a form of self-love and that grace is to get in touch with our god center.  For those who think the reverend Scott’s talk is just ‘football locker’ prep talk, must reconsider and realize the reverend’s true message:  that is ok to have righteous anger.  In general it is important not to send negative energy back to its source, but sometimes you must flame out against the flame of negative energy (think of a pure bunsen burner-like flame that burns hot blue – a pure fire).  The “Christian” idea of “turn the other cheek” was never a real true Christian idea.  By letting people hurt us, we become a doormat to the world.  This is where the expression “good guys finish last” comes from.  There are many stories of good spiritual people – priests, nuns, ministers – who have died of some horrible thing.  They ate themselves alive with it, an unconscious internal anger, weakness, sadness or ignorance of not having self-love to protect that divine spark within. Self-love is not selfishness, but an awareness of our ‘divine spark’ within, the Christ Consciousness within.  When we take care our bodies with good nutrition, exercise and hygiene we are honoring the ‘body temple’.

The theme of the ‘divine within’ can be found in Chapter 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous (pg. 55):
“We finally saw that faith in some kind of god was a part of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend.  Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there.  He was as much a fact as we were.  We found the Great Reality deep down within us.  In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found.  It was so with us.”

The essence of spirituality is to find your God within and the God without and to fight the battle against negativity.  To extend goodwill in the light of adversity and to know that good will be challenged.  Bringing Light into the world is almost like the nature of electricity – negativity will rise to meet the positive.  As the reverend Frank would like us to think, prayer is talking to the God within and finding strength.  Where do we go to get spiritual strength?  The old standby is the church, the sermon.  Other ways are reading; talking with friends and family; looking for humor in a situation (a sense of humor is synonymous with the White Light, probably even stronger).  Another curious way to find strength is to ‘go with the flow’.  Much of our dissatisfaction in the handling of our life problems occurs when we push against life instead of going with it.  It is very challenging when others are dependent upon us and to simply flow with life’s stream.  The stigma of being cast as the ‘bum’ when you’re not seen ‘fighting the battle’ often prevents us from seeing another side ourselves.  There is a saying that goes, “In my weakness, I find my strength sleeping.”  It is very curious, indeed, in finding the discipline of ‘going with the flow’, one gains strength.  But there is a discipline involved.  ‘Going with the flow’ does not mean tuning out, but rather tuning in – connecting to your intuitive ‘limbic brain’ to find those answers and alternatives to your problems.  Some people have highly developed ‘radar’ (intuition) and will pickup your state of mind and can turn out to be a source of help. 

The common expression for taking a break is to ‘take five’ - the five minute break.  An excellent inspirational song for ‘going with the flow’ is Dave Brubeck’s 'Take Five'; for those seeking Higher Ground – John Coltrane’s 'My Favourite Things'. 

Word of caution: taken to extremes,‘going with the flow’ can lead to total abandonment of one’s vigilance against moral hazards (eg, investing in too good to be true get-rich-quick schemes; assuming your spouse will never, ever abandon you regardless of your irresponsible behavior).

We live in a world of limited resources and trade-offs are inevitable.  The basic problem is, we want it all, but we can’t have it all.  The economist tells us to look at the trade-offs and opportunity costs and to think at the margin:  to weight the costs and benefits of smaller, incremental changes.

Another way to find strength?  Ask your Angels.  Write a 'Letter to the Universe'.  For the greater good of all.

What about ‘Love thy Enemy’ as it is said in the ‘Good Book’?

You can always love the spark of the Divine within a person, but we are not required to like their actions or personality.  You don’t have to love what the person does; there are people that you cannot possibly like.  Misplaced idealism tries to convince us that it is wrong not to dislike.  A whole person has decided like and dislikes, paths which they follow and not follow.  The greatest thing we do in life is trying to get along with other people.  It does not mean having to like or constantly give out more than you wish.  It means being amiable to yourself.

Jesus was trying to say ‘love their soul’ – that spark of Divinity within them.  You do not have to live with them, to be around them.  If they display malice or physical harm, we have every God given right to defend ourselves.  An act of war is wrong, for overt killing defiles the temple of God.  When attacked it is compulsory to defend that temple.  What?  Do we just stick our finger in our ear when our life, our way of life or our loves ones are threatened?  When a child is threated, a Mother will come out like a lion.

Being cross, cranky, ill, rude, vengeful, mean at times, not feeling good has nothing to do with the individual essence that we have acquired from the Divine.  That has only to do with the behavior that is acquired from life. 

There are those (plenty, some say) who do not have the spark of the divine within them – call them ‘Dark’, ‘Flatland’, whatever.  How to tell?  Not the huggable type; they rarely extend their hands to others; no ‘color’ about them; cold eyes; strident, constricted voice - gives you a scratchy feeling; walk into a room and you smell fear, hostility; makes you feel lethargic, depressed; odd ‘vibration’; you feel ‘out of sync’, ‘something’s missing’.  The type that finds your sore spot and digs at it.  They live by the motto:  “Be mean, play unfair and be happy”.  They seem to never wear out; to have an energy drain.  There is no consciousness, no soul, no spirit, and no divinity – the ‘Dark’ souls.   Watch the verbiage:  “I always do it for the sake of loving you” or “I have only done this because I was misled” or “I did it because I really loved you.”  And this can be from children (only a person who has been a teacher of small children can know there are ‘dark’ children).  They think they are always right, never wrong.  That is why there are so many broken hearts, so many broken marriages, broken promises.  Sort of like the ‘spider & the fly’.  What makes the landscape so difficult to interpret is that those with the ‘light’ within them sometimes do ‘dark’ things – that’s part and parcel of one’s perfection plan.

To combat Darkness doesn’t mean to do battle with it. Face it directly, push it away and try to help others to do the same.  Ask your Angels for protection or diminish the darkness by saying: “I am not going to be afraid of you and your silly Darkness.”  Not possible to save the Dark, their purpose is only to help us perfect.  Life is not a game meaning “a cruelty, for fun, frivolity.”  It is a serious game of test and skill.  A game of evolvement.  It is serious, but it’s important not to take it terribly seriously - know that is all passing.  Otherwise, light turns into dark.  Goodness is when you bring Light into the world.  Darkness doesn’t care about light and color.  They are separated from the Light, and they don’t want the Light.  Whenever there is Light, there cannot be Darkness.  Light is always supreme over Dark.  You cannot say it the other way.  It is a one-way street (false logic to say “whenever there is Darkness, there cannot be Light”).

Now those with a high degree of ‘light’ within themselves are not necessary disposed to ‘playing harp in the clouds’ – that’s the Hollywood version of the complicated story.  To know ‘white’ is to observe how they live (not that they use Christ’s name).  Actions do speak louder than words.  Very ‘white’ people (white souls as opposed to dark souls) can be very self-serving and have a decided disposition.  And they can be very irritating.

The Good Book - The Bible
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord”  (Isaiah 1:18)

“I must remember that it is my duty not only to shun evil but also to do good.”  Pope John XXIII

The Bible, in whatever version, is a sacred book and should be treated with respect (likewise with the Koran and other religious texts).  It is a book of learning and hope for a tired world. The theme in the Old Testament is power, authority and revenge (‘retributive’ theology). The message of the New Testament is hope and love.

In 'I Love Jesus, I hate Christianity', Kim Michaels discusses Christ’s message: “When Jesus appeared on the world stage, most people in Israel had a view of God that was based on the Old Testament.  Jesus preached a radical new approach to God:  Love.  He challenged the fear-based approach to God.”

The two key principle teachings or Great Truths of Christ are:
 • Love God with your whole heart, soul and mind.
 • Love thy neighbor as thyself.

When all religions are stripped of their dogma it all boils down to a very simple creed:

Love God, Love One Another.

Fortunately, God sent many prophets to this world.  And every one of them espoused the same basic philosophy of Christ. 

When Christ came to spread the New Law and said, “I come to wash away the Old Law and to begin the New Law,“ he was in total rebuttal to the big orthodox and fundamental church of the time.

The Golden Seat seeks to find a balance, a harmony, between the secular (science/truth), the divine (religion/goodness) and the personal (art-music/beauty).  To be vigilant against fundamentalism – whether in religion, science, politics or the sexes.  Anything pushed to the extreme becomes a caricature of itself.  Religious fundamentalists do not allow anyone to read any other religious books except the Bible. Scientific fundamentalists take an atheist stand and consider any notion of God ‘delusional’. Political fundamentalists refuse to consider the position or ideas of the side they are against.  The fundamental patriarchal become over macho and domineering while the fundamental matriarchal slide into crippling dependency.  The darker side of fundamentalism is that it gets into a state of damning.  Earlier it was said that if there is any darkness in the world that abounds it is ignorance.  Fundamentalism is ignorance and a dark judging others.

The Bible was written in parable.  The stories, as fables, were trying to show God’s love to an illiterate mass of people.  Troubles began when people took the stories literally (eg, get swallowed by a whale).  The early churches made the loving God into a false god, of vengeance, pettiness, humanistic qualities (easy to grow a church on guilt and fear).  If pure love and pure intelligence exists, it does not have avarice or greed, it does not play favorites or make a devil.  If God made a ‘devil’, He would of had to have evil within and thus would be imperfect.  As Christ said, “let us reason together”. 

The Bible becomes more palatable if seen as one man’s yearning and struggle through his lifetimes.  All parts of the Bible relate to man’s journey.   He has his ‘Adam & Eve’ period (birth/creation), his ‘Exodus’ period (out of oppression), his time in the desert (testing period), his time of rebirth, his ‘Resurrection’ (rising from a belief in death).  He will be tempted.  He will have the sorrows of Job.  He will be a prophet.  He will be king and a slave of all he surveys.

Religion – The Lighter Side

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