The Winding Path – 142

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

2015-05-14 12:17

[Note:  This is from a Rational Doubt blog – “Clergy Fuel the Flight from Religion” ,written by Linda LaScola.]

Linda LaScola – “I extend my thanks to all the non-believing and doubting clergy past, present and future who subtly help people discard supernatural thinking and move  toward a humanistic future.   You are a modern day underground railroad to freedom. I’m sorry it’s caused such turmoil in your lives.   I know you to be good people who went in to ministry to be of service to others.   You didn’t see this change coming. But here it is and you are being of service in a way you never imagined.”

As this final paragraph indicates, the semblance of objective research is being displaced by overt activism.

What exactly justifies this? Where has all this certainty come from?

Will you now change the name of the blog from Rational Doubt to something more confident and authoritative?

2015-05-14 14:38

Linda_LaScola – “The non-believing clergy research was completed 3 years ago. I’m expressing my opinion based those findings and in light of the new Pew study.”

I guess I’m not clear what is meant by a “Humanist Future”. And how the shuffling of the Christian deck would indicate such a thing is immanent?

At 3.1% declared atheists, this would indicate y’all are still bucking the tide.

Perhaps some genetic modification could be applied to the problem, or outright genocide, but until then, Human Instinct will impel us to seek an answer that satisfies.

In that Nature is playing with a full deck, and we are not. We should be asking ourselves; Why are we deifying empiricism? What role has this orphaning of “reason” played in the wonder of Existence?

Just maybe there is something to learn from the Yogis, Zen masters, mystics, Bodhisattvas and Saints. And (yes, even) Jesus. These too are Human beings. They have gone further than you and I. Maybe we should hear what they have to say.

 Linda_LaScola – “We’ve been listening to the Yogis, Jesus, etc., for a long time and some of what they have to say certainly is worthwhile – as is what the humanists have to say.

But Humanist voices tend to be muzzled because they lack belief in the supernatural. That is changing now and for that I am grateful.”

2015-05-15 10:16

ObscurelyAgnostic responding to the original blog by Linda LaScola “Far from dealing in ‘fabricated dogma,’ ‘superstitious rituals,’ or ‘magical delusions,’ liberal clergy (practicing agnostic priest here) are teaching their congregations to understand their tradition as living myth, metaphor and metanarrative, and are thereby indeed ‘moving their congregations into a more humanist future,’ as Linda states in her excellent post. Surely even many atheist fundies will accept ‘half a loaf’ here?”

carolyntclark responding to ObscurelyAgnostic “perhaps the growing number of nones indicates that fewer people want or need the half-a-loaf.”

ObscurelyAgnostic responding to carolyntclark “I sincerely hope that is the case — in the meantime, as a liberal minister I’ll keep helping to subvert doctrinal orthodoxy to keep those ‘no-loafer’ (or is it FULL-loafer?;) numbers growing …”

I think one will find that there is stratification in the spiritual needs and ability within the congregation.

Rather than seeing the goal as one of dismantling structures of ritual and dogma, (not implying that you in particular are), it might be more fruitful to cultivate an “Inner Chamber” and an “Inner Inner Chamber” as needed. A nursery for future teachers

I suppose they will say that this is what the seminary is for. But somehow I suspect that the standards of authenticity are in dire need of review.

I never hear much talk about “Initiations” and “transmissions” in the Christian Church.

Even in traditions where such things are the norm there are cycles when decline takes over. Teachers teach to an imitation without even realizing it. Things progress to the absurd.

This then is gets refreshed by the arrival of an undeniably genius and authentic reformer. Gets carried forward by direct disciples until another cycle of withering revelation.

So it goes and always has. It is the nature of the thing.

If those who “Get It” abandon the tradition, who will remain to guide those who don’t? To demonstrate that it matters? Offer the PROOF?

Christianity does not seem to me to embrace the full path of enlightenment. Did it in the past? If so I wonder when they dropped the ball?

2015-05-15 12:16

ObscurelyAgnostic – “My own practice in liberal ministry is not to ‘dismantle structures of ritual and dogma’ but to re-orient them to fully HUMAN (vs divine/supernatural) truth. And as I serve in a sacramental tradition, initiations like baptism and confirmation are a very big deal indeed. In fact now that you’ve got me thinking about it, the very concept of sacrament as an ‘outward physical expression/embodiment of an inward spiritual grace’ offers a way to restore human being to its rightful place on earth (vs heaven) …”


“…but to re-orient them to fully HUMAN (vs divine/supernatural) truth. “

Ah! Now this is where it gets interesting.

What is the difference?

Except for that word, “supernatural”, which “has no real meaning”, even to those who use it.

God as nature is not “super” to it. But is still Infinite, Eternal, Omni-sentient. (Aggregate of all Sentience, Yes?)

I always chaff at the downgrading of the divine. We are it. But only in theory, until we actually Know what that means.

This is not a trivial quibble, at least it seems to me.

Would you sell Manhattan for a string of beads?


Alms and Patronage

Posted in logs

The Winding Path – 141

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

[Note: This is a continuation of the comment streams that began in The Winding Path – 137. I’m presenting individually isolated conversations for the sake of legibility,]

2015-05-07 14:37

[Note: John Lombard has told of his own story of clergyman loosing his faith.  He had been a missionary in China earnestly telling people that they would go to Hell if they didn’t convert.]

John Lombard – “In fact, one of the most difficult aspects of rejecting religion and becoming an atheist is that we change from being the REASON for the existence of the universe, and from every single person having a divinely-appointed purpose…to being pretty much IRRELEVANT to the existence of the universe (the universe would exist, exactly as it is now, even if humanity had never appeared; and it will continue, entirely unaffected by us, long after we disappear), and having NO OUTSIDE PURPOSE whatsoever. The ONLY purpose we have as atheists is that (w)hich we can define for ourselves.”

Did you come to this PURPOSELESSNESS on your own, or was there the equivalent of a “missionary to China” convincing you to adopt the belief system?

The word “IRRELEVANT” is interesting here. Not related to what?

Does the Sun have purpose? This hard, impersonal brand of reasoning would force you to say no. But it has EFFECT.

Since you do exist, it makes no sense to even imagine the Universe without you. Is there purpose in it? Wrong question.

What is the effect of your existence? This is what IS.

Where does the effect of you or the Sun end and begin?

Careful: When did the Sun begin becoming? When is it’s effect absolutely done?


Since I have artificially isolated both you and the Sun from the context of all existence. All effect. What are your thoughts about that?

2015-05-08 13:41

John Lombard – “Had humans (or any life at all) never appeared, the universe would still exist, and would be exactly the same as it is now (minus life forms on our planet).”

If you are more than casually committed to this line of reasoning then there isn’t likely to be much understanding develop between us.

The way I see it; For starters we do exist. Sentient Life seems to be the norm here on Earth (probably all over the place as well).

The Universe makes sentient Life as easily as it makes stars.

What is gained by writing this out of the script? Any insights that followed from the abridged edition would be impoverished beyond redemption.

At least that is my take on it.

“As to the rest of your comments, I’m sorry, but to me it’s just meaningless babble…”

It’s amazing how often I hear this.

As regards my riff about “When did the sun begin becoming?” You pick it up quite elaborately (and I might add, anthropomorphically) well into act 3.

“Huh? It ‘began becoming’ at whatever point in time gasses began to coalesce in our solar system, with gravity condensing those gases into a ball until it reached critical mass and began the processes of nuclear fusion that power it today…by best estimates, around 4.5 billion years ago.”

It “began becoming” at first light. i.e. immediately.
Same as us. Our Effects, absolutely intertwined. Indistinguishable.

(“first light” is a metaphor, I’ll let you wrestle with it on you own time.)

In light of this reasoning you will see my difficulty with the following:

“No humans were around at that time. No real planets, either, for that matter. So, again, humans were IRRELEVANT to the origin or existence of the sun. And some day, millions of years later, the sun will destroy all life on Earth as it expands and eventually engulfs our planet (or, alternatively, explodes)…and again, human existence will be largely irrelevant to the sun as it does that.”

There is that word again, “IRRELEVANT”.

2015-05-09 17:44

John Lombard – “You seem to be confusing relevance with existence. And no, the existence of both are not ‘absolutely intertwined’. Yes, the sun is relevant to us…without the sun, we could not exist. We are dependent on the sun, we need the sun. However, we are entirely irrelevant to the sun. If humans had never existed — heck, if our entire PLANET had never existed — the sun would still be exactly as it is today. Our existence has zero impact on the sun. We are irrelevant to the sun’s existence. To be ‘absolutely intertwined’ would mean that we are ‘absolutely dependent on each other’…but that is plainly not the case, unless you’re making some sort of argument that the sun needs us in order to exist, or is somehow affected/changed by our existence.

If you disagree, then rather than these vague platitudes you present as arguments, tell me how the sun’s existence is in any manner dependent on humans…that is, how the sun’s existence would be any different if humans had never existed, or if humans were to disappear tomorrow.

Then, extend that argument to the rest of the universe.

Humans ARE relevant, to a certain degree, to life on Earth, in that we inarguably have an impact on our planet. But the universe as a whole? We can observe it, we can study it, we can appreciate it…but it would still be there even if we’d never existed, and will continue to be there long after we’ve left.

Your argument is that humans are somehow ‘relevant’ to the universe. So give me some concrete examples, and answer the following questions:

Is the existence of humans necessary to the creation or existence of the rest of the universe? By that, I mean that if humans had never existed, does that mean that the universe would not have existed? Or when we observe the sun, or another galaxy, do we have any impact on those at all? Are they changed in any way by our existence? Are they any different than they would be if we did not exist?

And please note that if your answers to the above somehow involve god creating the universe for us, that only demonstrates my initial argument that the religious view of the universe is a fundamentally egocentric one…that everything was created for and exists for us.

ETA: Let me add that while I appreciate your enjoyment of using metaphors, a metaphor is not, never has been, and never will be ‘evidence’ of anything whatsoever. I can create metaphors for literally ANY idea…doing so doesn’t make that idea more valid.”

like I said we are not going to come to an understanding. The difference between our views has been quite plainly presented for others to interpret (if it seems useful).

In summary, yours seems to be a human-centric view placing us outside of, and irrelevant to the Universe.

My sense of the holographic and integrative nature of it all seems to be incomprehensible to you. Or else, is simply not acceptable because is smacks of God.

There you have it.

Of course you probably didn’t mean that the Sun would be “exactly the same” without the earth. Gravitationally and existentially quite a lot would be different. The scope of the Effect would cascade through out the Uni……oh sorry. Not RELEVANT.

2015-05-10 09:43

[He repeats at length his points with increased frustration indicated by the increase in capitalization.]

I’m going to be foolish and try again; without getting a commitment from you to tune up your ears first.

I at no point said; The Universe or the Sun are “dependent” on human beings.

I specifically tried to open your eyes to the nature of our RELEVANCE (as in INTIMATE RELATION) to the Universe as EXISTENCE. A continuum.

My point is way simpler than you are making it out. It is something that, if heard correctly, would be obvious. But alas.

“I find it rather mystifying that saying ‘human beings don’t matter at all to the universe’ is interpreted by you as ‘human-centric’. ‘Human-centric’ would pretty much by definition require arguing that humans WERE relevant or important.”

For “human-centric”, Lets just substitute: “Not being able to see past the end of your own nose”.

And, it seems like a deliberate choice. The demand that everything must be “empirically proven” or it is not true.

Who judges or evaluates this “empirical proof”? Who’s imperfect understanding sets the standards for that evaluation?

Even if you are a professional scientist, you should know that such a rigid application of the discipline is only reasonably appropriate for the practice of science.

To shoe-horn daily life and overall existence into such a cramped space is “UNNATURAL”.


Alms and Patronage

Posted in logs

The Winding Path – 140

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

[Note: This is a continuation of the comment streams that began in The Winding Path – 137. I’m presenting individually isolated conversations for the sake of legibility,]

2015-05-06 14:37

Rust Cohle – “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

Only if you believe that stamps don’t exist.

Rust Cohle – “Wrong. But keep spouting nonsense if you like.

I don’t know, it’s a pretty subtle point. Perhaps you should study on it.

2015-05-06 12:18

Rust Cohle – ” ‘Cultivation of harmlessness, a template for discerning right and wrong. Reverence, Nobility, Awe, Joy.’

Actually, the primary reason for religion, confirmed by 400+ scientific experiments, is denial of death, i.e., terror management.”…

If you are satisfied then I won’t cross YOUR statement out. Especially since it’s so “scientific” and all

2015-05-06 15:32

Rust Cohle – “If you can offer a refutation of terror management theory as it applies to religion, you’re welcome to do so.”

Per recommended TED talk by Steven Cave on Terror Management Theory. (Death and the Biases we employ to fend it off)

1. Existential Elevator
2. Resurrection
3. Soul
4. Legacy


5. Rationalization – “The fear of death is natural but it is not rational.” – Epicurus or “Death is not an event in Life: We do not live to experience death” – Ludwig Wittgenstein (Bias of Steven Cave)

6. Enlightenment – Our identification with an abstracted sense of self, a creation of the mind, is an illusion. A construct. An imitation of the Eternal Self.

The body and the mind die. If at that point we still think that we are the historical personalities know as us. Then ….well … something changes. Per usual.

In the bloom of enlightenment however, recognizing Self as One. We know “the face of our parents before they were born”. (Call it “The Void” if you must.)

In the mean time.

“Cultivation of harmlessness, … discerning right and wrong. Reverence, Nobility, Awe, Joy.” (Bias of brmckay)

2015-05-06 15:47

Rust Cohle – “Fail. Actually, Stephen Cave is an active advocate of Terror Management Theory.”

Steve Cave From his TED Talk transcript –  “Now, the theory behind this bias in the over 400 studies is called terror management theory, and the idea is simple. It’s just this. We develop our worldviews, that is, the stories we tell ourselves about the world and our place in it, in order to help us manage the terror of death.”… 

Not sure what you are replying to. It would be good to know what I failed at and why.

Rust Cohle – “I’m not sure what you’re replying to, either. You’re obviously confused about Stephen Cave’s intentions if you’re attempting to refute Terror Management Theory.”

Not refuting anything. Just pointing out that he has offered a 5th bias, and has forgotten to include it in his list.

Listen again to the end of the video.

2015-05-07 10:56

Rust Cohle – “He didn’t ‘forget’ anything; why do you insist on using disparaging language, when in (sic) only demonstrates how little you understand of his views on Terror Management Theory?

The reason his ‘5th alternative’ is not included with the other four is that it is not an immortality story, but an acceptance of man’s mortality, i.e., ‘dead is dead.’ The other 4 stories humans tell themselves attempt to deny mortality in some way.

I’m well familiar with Cave’s talks. He also mentions the Epicurean alternative (i.e., ‘a 5th bias’) to the 4 common stories about dealing with death in another, more extensive, talk, below. Maybe you should give it a listen.

Stephen Cave – Immortality (2014) | IdeaFestival TV…

Since he has included modern “Elixir of Immortality” efforts through science, I infer that he is indeed addressing efforts to sublimate our apparently overriding “Terror of Death”.

As indicated by the title “Terror Management Theory”.

The rationalization that “Death is not part of Life” would fall under that umbrella.

Cave, and probably you, are biased against the “immortality” scenarios and this leaves you unable to see that your own solution is no different.

Like many parables about counting the number in ones company, he forgets to count himself.

Not sure why my pointing that out sounds hostile to you.

Rust Cohle – “//your own solution is no different//

If you can’t see a significant difference between (a) a belief or attempt at immortality and (b) accepting mortality as natural, I’m not sure I can help you.

//Not sure why my pointing that out sounds hostile to you.//

Not sure why you’re perceiving hostility. Are you psychologically projecting?”

It would be wise not to blame me for the communication problem here. I merely wondered why my pointing out a plain-as-day bias, seemed hostile to YOU. (having perceived a defensiveness in the following statement)

“He didn’t “forget” anything; why do you insist on using disparaging language, …”

All that aside, though…

It is not reasonable to assume that death is not part of life, or that the FULL scope of what is “natural” does not allow for immortality. There are unwarranted assumptions being left unaddressed.

Isn’t that what he was talking about? Well, almost but not quite.

Rust Cohle – “If you have any evidence of immortality, be forthcoming with it, and don’t let it be //left unaddressed.// “

I’ll stick with my statement that it is “unreasonable to assume otherwise”.

(Consider the nature of time.)

You need to do some of the work. Can’t just be me and Steve Cave.

I’m done for now.

Rust Cohle – “You stick with your statement, I’ll stick with the hard science.”

[Note: Didn’t want to resume but I will point out that the science he has been citing is about  “Terror of Death”, not immortality.   Kevin Osborne picks it up from here.]


Alms and Patronage

Posted in logs | 1 Comment

The Winding Path – 139

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

[Note: This is a continuation of the comment streams that began in The Winding Path – 137. I’m isolating individual conversations for the sake of legibility,]

2015-05-05 15:46

Silverdart60 – “*sigh* [quoting me ] ‘The new and growing religion of “atheism” ‘.

Oh, how often I hear this tiresome refrain conflating atheism with religion.

Read this carefully: Atheism. Is. Not. A. Religion.

Atheism has no supernatural entity. No holy book. No authority figure, either incarnate or otherwise. No promise of eternal bliss or threat of eternal punishment.

Atheism recognizes that feelings of spirituality and so forth are entirely organic; they begin and end inside the human brain. That doesn’t make them any less powerful, but it does make them rational.”

Sorry, to bore you. But you have not said anything to indicate that you heard my point.

It’s a religion. The god is reason. (and a half-baked version at that.)

The common fixation on the “supernatural” as a characteristic of God is exactly complementary to half-baked dualistic images of the creator outside of creation. Or god at war with a devil.

Such primitive speculation only represents a fragment of theological thought. The whole spectrum must be represented.

The god that you describe is a cartoon. It reflects your attitude. Your beliefs.

One aught to “rationally’ acknowledge that our ideas do not equal the reality. They are abstractions. Helpful or harmful.

“Atheism recognizes that feelings of spirituality and so forth are
entirely organic; they begin and end inside the human brain. That
doesn’t make them any less powerful, but it does make them rational.”

I will have to point out that this act of “recognizing” is actually an act of “assuming” and sometimes even “dictating that it must be so”.

As for “entirely organic”, I’ll ask again: What does that even MEAN?

In the context of the entire expression of Existence. Undivided by category or purpose, what is this “entirely organic” business? What are “chemicals”? What is “reason”?

The simple point is that you cannot realistically subdivide REALITY. That is God. And that theology must also be included in an honest atheism. One that does not equate to a religion.

2015-05-07 16:30

Silverdart60 – “A Christian, Muslim, Greek etc etc God is immutable, unchangeable. Reason is not. Reason is based on observation, hypotheses and theories, all of which are open to interpretation and change based on new information.”

The phenomena that is known as reasoning is immutable. What you are describing is it’s application. Much like the dance of Shiva or rāsa-līlā of Krishna.

“And I have to go back to my original statement about there being no holybook, no set of holy rules, etc etc. with which ‘good’ atheists prescribe. Your metaphor just doesn’t hold up.”

Have you reviewed the sacred 400+ studies about our omnipresent Fear of Death. [Note: that was a reference to another thread going on at the same time.]  Or worried that your “empirical evidence” was not up to snuff?

“And yes, you can subdivide reality. We do this every day in how we perceive the world. When we look at, for instance, a flower, we see its colours in the visible spectrum. A bee, thanks to natural selection, sees the flower in ultraviolet. Our very sense of reality is subdivided differently than the bee’s sense.”

You are talking about pieces of reality not REALITY.

Don’t feel bad though, the same tendency appears regularly among the more dualistically expressed religions.

“So when I say ‘organic’ I mean to say that the entire experience is completely independent of an outside supernatural force.”

The term “supernatural” is also a commonly shared failure of conception. It is basically a fuzzy reference to the “Bigger Picture”. Resulting from the problem referenced above. (i.e. pieces of reality trying to conceive of REALITY)

I’m pretty sure that atheists must have at least a vague notion of the “Bigger Picture” but their dogma won’t let them call it “supernatural”. Dumb word really.

“If you have proof of an outside supernatural force – and let’s face it, that’s primarily what any God is – by all means let’s see the data. If it’s compelling, I truly will be the first to change my mind.”

Like I said, a “dumb word really”. Let’s think “Big Picture” as in Infinite, Entire, All, Existence and the potential to Exist.


Alms and Patronage

Posted in logs

The Winding Path – 138

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

[Note: This is a continuation of the comment streams that began in The Winding Path – 137. I’m isolating individual conversations for the sake of legibility,]

2015-05-06 11:58

ObscurelyAgnostic – “You’ve given a very eloquent expression of why religion evolved in our species in the first place — ‘The pressure on ourselves to reach for the highest meaning. The quest for transformation. Cultivation of harmlessness, a template for discerning right and wrong. Reverence, Nobility, Awe, Joy.

How we aspire (and even occasionally achieve for a few moments at a time) these noble goals are a completely private and subjective choice that should be deeply respected. In that sense I can even cut the “religion of atheism” some slack — at least when it’s not evangelizing others ;)”

Yes. I generally try to “cut every one some slack”, but also keep the pressure on if it seems horizons could be expanded.

Active evangelicalism of course, gets extra attention, but even then, we all have blinders of some sort. I know discovering and keeping track of mine is a full time job.

“Private and subjective” …. is interesting. In terms of spiritual development, there is a point when nothing remains private. Nothing is hidden. This is a good. But only when we’re ready. We set the pace.

There is also an aspect of our subjective “experience” which is community property. In that, if it is authentic, it is the common ground of all. The transmission of the guru to the disciple or a great artist’s effect on the audience.

The issue of ownership comes into consideration. Where the question of “origin” or “root cause” comes in.

Do we own ourselves? Who is this “we” and what do we own?


Alms and Patronage

Posted in logs

The Winding Path – 137

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

2015-05-05 11:25

[Responding to a post on Rational Doubt by Jim Mulholland]

By all means leave the clumsy, proprietary, entry level religious stuff behind.

But, going all anti-God on the next generation, makes no sense at all. Your transcendent experiences are not your own. You said it yourself.

 Jim Mulholland – “What we transcend is our own egotism – the absurdity of making ourselves the center of that universe.”

For many if not most of the world beyond the Abrahamic traditions, THIS is the whole point. The foundation of their practices.

The new and growing religion of “atheism”. Is just a muddy inversion of the same old same old. The fixation on “supernatural” remains. (but now it’s taboo.) God becomes gods. Like something you would go down to the corner store to get. A transcendent experience; Nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain. (what does that MEAN anyway?)

God is not equivalent to religion.

The question is what are you going to teach the next generation?

Jim Mulholland – “It never occurred to me that, rather than being a problem to solve, existence might simply be a wonder to accept.”

YES! And by loosening the bonds of traditional interpretation you can let the actual experience guide you. Cultivate innocence. Like a new born babe. Teach from THAT.

2015-05-06 09:55

James Mulholland – “Not certain that we have much disagreement. I don’t think the claim that God is not equivalent to religion – a claim I once made – makes much sense, unless the experience of transcendence is our definition of god. I suppose I don’t need to shackle those experiences any longer with even the lightest religious language. This certainly makes me an atheist, though I initially resisted this identity.”

Thanks for the gentle response. My comment was a little sharper than need be.

The process I feel moved to protect, is the whole package relating to what our species calls God. (whatever language or names we use.) The pressure on ourselves to reach for the highest meaning. The quest for transformation. Cultivation of harmlessness, a template for discerning right and wrong. Reverence, Nobility, Awe, Joy.

Imperfect and ever changing though it’s components may be, the whole category is a huge part of being a human being.

These are all nuances that I’m sure you already engage in. Call it Philosophy or don’t call it anything, but please don’t dismiss it as just chemistry.

You would be selling yourself and anyone that you influence short.

To understand ourselves we must attempt to grasp the context of our existence. Despite the blinders still inhibiting our cognition of it.

Grasping our context is ultimately an act of surrender to it. It cannot be know from the outside looking in. This has always been the message of any mature religion.

Going from religion to personal experience is a process. We need to respect all stages. For the sake of our neighbour who may still have miles to go.

2015-05-06 11:05

James Mulholland – “Beautifully stated. I agree that we are all at different stages. I am not anti-religion or anti-theism as long as religion or theism is not seen as a destination. As to the question of chemistry, I wasn’t suggesting we should dismiss transcendent experiences as chemistry and therefore irrelevant, but embrace our chemistry as a legitimate contributor to such moments – part of the wonder.”


I was just checking (and also putting it out there for others to chew on).

I liked your article and my sense of the person writing it. Your story was honest and heartfelt and by that, you’ve improved my empathy. Always a good thing. I’ll thank you again.


Alms and Patronage

Posted in logs

The Winding Path – 136

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

2015-04-28 11:10

[Note: The original blog post was about similarities and influences between Christianity and Buddhism.]

Duncan Pugh respoinding to Blank Ron – “Yes there are similarities with Socrates too. I think it has been argued that Buddhist ideas were transmitted by King Ashoka to Greece. Karen Armstrong talks of the Axial age which as I recall suggests a bit of both … or at least that a number of cultures were ripe for developing these ideas and receptive to this new way of thinking both in the East and the West.”

It is important to step beyond “thinking” of these as “good ideas”.

At ground zero they were/are “experience”.

So much contention arises because we “mistake pointing fingers for the moon”.

Reality, untroubled and unchanged by our abstractions, is knowable as Truth. It is a game changer.

2015-04-28 14:01

Duncan Pugh – “Agreed … I believe it is called yathabhutadarsana in the Buddhist tradition (seeing things the way they really are) in the Western tradition Meister Eckhart and Hegel seem to taking a similar perspective in my opinion … but is experience ever truly unmediated?”

” … but is experience ever truly unmediated?”

Attachment remains until it doesn’t. But the root of attachment is a mistaken identity. The finite Ego. A creation of the mind.

Experience and experiencer indistinguishable. Your question cannot be answered.

Ray_Downen – “We can learn all we need to know about Jesus from study of apostolic writings.”
I thought it was Father, Son and HOLY GHOST. I think these budget cuts have gotten WAY out of hand!
“Buddha’s way leads to death.”

Well actually, bearing false witness tends to keep “death” in play. Buddha would have advised against it. (Jesus as well, but you knew THAT right?)

Ray_Downen – “Those who oppose Jesus will find themselves in a bad place later on. “

Not sure that Jesus would approve of your Mafia Don scenario.

Maybe try asking your self what he really meant by “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.”

Is this a description of his relationship to God? Or, his street cred, entitling him to be the Boss?

Do we worship at his feet for eternity or, get to the point where we too can credibly say, “I and the Father are One”?

“No one comes to the Father but by way of me”

Who is this “Me”? He has already told us. There can only be One.

Ray_Downen – “For the record, it might be well to recognize that ‘the gospel’ which Christians are to carry throughout the world is about Jesus. His coming to earth. His living on earth. His teaching on earth. His death. His resurrection. His commission for us to tell others ABOUT HIM wherever we go in the world. He is Son of Father God. He sent His Spirit to empower the apostles. But the gospel is about JESUS.”

Thank you. Actually I do respect and even appreciate this.

I just have some difficulty with, and feel obliged to point out, some things based on my own understanding. Always hoping to keep it positive, moving in the right direction and most importantly be as True as possible. (it’s all a work in progress.)

If Jesus is in equal measure God, Himself and Holy Ghost (I interpret this as eternal Guru), I worry when people either deify him or make an idol out of the Bible.

This is all ultimately about Us and the fullness of our Understanding of God.

[Edit: I originally said “Relationship to God”, but that didn’t seem quite right. When Jesus says “I and the Father are One”, This is not the same as “relationship” the way we experience it in our mortal form.]

Ray_Downen – “Try as anyone might, no human can become God. Buddha was no prophet of truth. Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life. We do well if we aim to love as He did and live as He did and trust the Father as He did. But He is God and we are NOT God. Nor ever will be.”

You are not a Buddhist and so do not understand the Buddha as one. It is easy to scapegoat. A common practice.

However, the way to Peace is found in your own Teachers words. “Judge not lest you be judged.” “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And your neighbor as your self.”

If Jesus can say “I and the Father are One”, then that is also our destiny.

We do not replace God by arriving at this “enlightened” state. Only regain original nature by casting off the illusion of separation.


Alms and Patronage


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The Winding Path – 134

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

[Note: The guest on Krista Tippett’s radio show “On Being” this past Sunday (2015-04-23) was the science journalist Margaret Wertheim.   The interview turned out to very closely and articulately confirm the clumsy fumblings found at this site.  I’m adding Margaret Wertheim to my list of heros. (Krista Tippett has been on it for a long time.)]

2015-04-22 12:30

[Note: This is a response to a comment I made in an earlier post (The Winding Path – 132)]

chrijeff – “I’ve read that sin is ‘separation from God.’ But human beings were never part of God. Even if you accept the Biblical story (I don’t), he created them out of existing materials, not from himself. (Now if he’d taken out one of his *own* ribs, and made Adam from *that*…) To me, sin simply means doing gratuitous harm to any living thing–including the Earth itself. Just as, in the original language, the Commandment isn’t ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but ‘Thou shalt not do murder’–which, in Biblical times, probably meant killing members of one’s own group (i.e., other Jews). Our American Indians generally had rules against killing within the tribe (even suicide, among the Cheyenne, was murder–a self-killing), but not outside it. Similarly, the Jews certainly killed enough people in their wars (Canaanites, anyone?), yet God didn’t turn his back on them; instead he chose one of their women to bear his son. Logic. Christianity isn’t logical, but my beliefs, I hope, are.”


chrijeff  – “…But human beings were never part of God. Even if you accept the Biblical story (I don’t), he created them out of existing materials, not from himself.”

Where do these existing materials come from?

Actually they tell a pretty good tale of starting from scratch and iterating into the complexity of us.

Not bad really. How else would it work? Primordial Awareness echoing off the walls of infinite void.

Eternal compounding of it’s own nature upon itself.

2015-04-22 13:43

chrijeff – “Supposedly, he used dust. He had made the dust when he created the Earth. But the dust was not part of *him*. He said, ‘Let there be…,’ and there it was.

I can’t go down that road though.

i.e. where is “there”?

2015-04-22 16:29

chrijeff  – ” ‘In existence.’ As in, ‘Let there be light,’ and light was. It existed, where it had not previously.

(Granting, as previously noted, that you believe the Biblical account.)”

So, this “existence” thing. Upon what, or where, or how? Even when?

First Theological problem. Does God exist?

In this same manner as light?

Who has made God?

I would rather propose, that upon the first occurrence of “existence”, awareness of that existence is also born.

“I Am That I Am” That which people usually call God. The Primordial Self.

From this, all existence proceeds.

The Potential to Existence, Existence and all that exists, not different.

Infinitude. Neither large or small, nothing, and therefor All.

You may have noticed that the primitive dualism of an Abrahamic religion leaves it rife with contradictions.

But what does it matter? The potential of enlightenment is ever present anyway.


Alms and Patronage


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The Winding Path – 133

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

2015-04-20 15:46

mason – “I include myself in the ‘absolute certainty that God (the Abrahamic monotheistic chap) does not exist’ group. If I honestly thought there was one chance in a trillion trillion that God was not just a man made myth, I’d be a believer.”

It seems to me that the deeper into Christianity someone who is now an atheist has been, the harder for them to entertain an understanding, that both then and now, all they are talking about is a “stylistic” imagining of God.

I am always wondering, where was/is any curiosity about the real deal?

In the quote above, you first qualify what you mean by “God” as “the Abrahamic monotheistic chap”, but then, that cartoonish fellow reflexively morphs into an all inclusive Impossibility.

You are right, God is not a “myth”, so why keep those blinders on? Except as proof that our early conditioning is nearly set in stone.

2015-04-21 10:33

mason – “I think you mis-read my reply or I didn’t make it clear,…I’m saying God (all the Gods) is/are man made myth(s)”

I was mainly observing that the “proprietary” conceit of the “True God” (mythic representation thereof) that Christians are often associated with; Seems to have left many atheists boxed in as regards the Contemplative arts.

In other words; Having encountered the startling revelation that their particular mythic portrayal of the All Mighty, was full of holes, they jump to the clumsy conclusion that there can be no God.

The point is pretty simple. Until the awakening of enlightenment, all conception of what we call gods or God is by it’s nature mythic and abstracted.

Not a problem unless someone becomes fixated and tries to pass laws about it. Or blow other people up over it.

But what does that have to do with God? With ultimate all inclusive Reality and our relationship to it?

2015-04-21 15:14

mason – “My ultimate all inclusive Reality is the Universe. I don’t believe in any deity or supernatural. All is natural & that’s more than super enough for me.

My concerted and scholarly opinion :) is that the clumsy conclusion is that one of the thousands of man made gods actually exists when they are all myths without evidence and were clearly invented from anthropomorphic projections.”

So, basically we are saying the same thing.

Though I maintain the lexicon.

I’m curious about how you reference certain related behaviours.

(Cultivation of character, petitioning of fate for good luck, vigilance as regards truthfulness, appreciation of awe, etc.)

Is there a context for these and similar nuances related to living? Are they part of a process, or, are they random, arbitrary and inconsequential?

How do you interpret their value (if any) in yourself and in others?

2015-04-22 10:12

mason  – “Cultivation of character…worth more than gold

Petitioning of fate for good luck…worth less than gold, a four leaf clover and a rabbit’s foot

Vigilance as regards truthfulness… a priceless ideal, but we humans lie continually, sometimes just to be nice

Appreciation of awe…worth more than gold

Is there a context for these and similar nuances related to living? yes, our human cultural context as studied by sociologists, anthropologists, physiologists, and neurologists

Are they part of a process, or, are they random, arbitrary and inconsequential? ongoing process with random causations (genetic, environmental) none are inconsequential

How do you interpret their value (if any) in yourself and in others? I value rated them above”

Thanks mason,

It’s an interesting variation. Thank you for taking the time.

It’s nice to see that gold remains a persistent symbol of quality and high value in this scheme of things. I’m strangely comforted by the shared association, but notice that I haven’t actually understood the why behind your answers. Which I suppose is what I was getting at.

The neo-priesthood of scientists, leaves me informed but uninspired. However, since I don’t rely on the other kind anyway. Not sure why I mention it.

As for “random” , I can’t get that pony to fly. In this world/universe as I experience it, I see only chain reactions of cause and effect. The word “random” suggests unconnected. An island unto itself? There is always context.

And context is infinite. The fundamental characteristic of God.


Alms and Patronage




Posted in logs

The Winding Path – 132

For the context of the following comments and to reply, please click on the DATE/TIME  above them.

2015-04-16 11:08

Elizabeth – “brmckay, if you feel ok with elaborating, it would be fascinating to hear the kinds of ‘other pastures’ you enjoy….

It’s fun to read your perspectives, and thanks”

Thanks Elizabeth.

Your light touch and peaceful passage through these digital lands…

is inspiring.

And, as it is you who asks…

Since the 70’s my way has been to cherry pick from the classics and keep a open ear for those contemporary voices that ring True.

Today is dedicated to Rumi and the Sufis, thanks to one of your posts and another quotation I stumbled on while coming in to work.

Left to my own devices, it comes out like Patanjali. But Lao Tzu has been a big hit too.

Ramana Maharshi and Neem Karoli Baba. Om.

2015-04-17 14:47

(Responding to a blog post by Morton Guyton called – “When people with power do not fear God.”)

The closest thing I find in myself to “fear of God” is the fear of foolishly wasting this life as a human being by not seeking enlightenment. Not closing the gap between me and God.

Every moment counts and here we are wasting millennia on wars and avarice. Killing the planet because we can’t think of anything better to do with it.

Once one understands what is being squandered, something like “fear” or a sense of urgency is a natural response. Never mind about what the somnambulant and often thuggish brethren are up to.

Honesty is the way we go about becoming real. Authenticity is a prerequisite for awakening.

2015-04-17 15:17

Ok, sorry for teasing you.

I can relate to the problem expressed in this line…

chrijeff – “The only possible answer is that either “love” or “fear” is the incorrect term.”

You are right, the match does not fit. I tend to think that both terms are off the mark in a similar way.

The Love thing in Christianity always seems overly anthropomorphic and the fear thing seems like it means something different than we mean fear.

Morgan’s translating it as “respect” is a good solution.

For what is is worth, I just finished “writing” a bit of a comment above related to this.

2015-04-20 14:39

(Responding to chrijeff.)

You have me thinking about this more than usual. (also projecting myself into Christian shoes more.)

Today I was realizing that something like fear arises when I catch myself behaving or thinking in ways that sets back “progress”. Or, might even precipitate negative karma, difficulty or bad luck.

Like “judging” someone or realizing that I still have moments of “prejudice”, or “hate”.

I can understand a fear of alienating God. (Whether that is possible or not, we might imagine it.)

Ideally the Love thing should be unconditional.

But for Jews, until Jesus, what assurance was there of that.

And for those who misunderstand the actual message of his incarnation. (i.e. They make him a deity.) The fear remains. (i.e. Hell)

Of course fear gets mitigated by forgiveness. But until that is assured, having mastered it’s practice ourselves, I suppose we will be prone to worry.

2015-04-21 09:36

(Responding to chrijeff.)

There is a lot of less than helpful psychological residue left over from that particular ancient culture.

For instance the Hindus traditionally recognize something like 10 avatars. The Hebrews, besides imagining themselves as the Chosen People, imagine that theirs will be the first and only one. Just, couldn’t quite get 100% on board with Jesus. Wasn’t what they were expecting. Found something about the whole thing inconvenient.

I don’t have trouble understanding, or even believing in, the phenomena of direct incarnation. However, that incarnation is subject to the same All Inclusive Nature of God as you or I am.

Whatever it takes to drive the point home. Our reduced circumstances as self absorbed mortals, is not the “Real” picture.

The confusion about what “Sin” is, is probably the most telling legacy of the Judeo-Christian trajectory.

For me, it (sin) is the fundamental confusion of identity. The unconscious orbit around the mind generated imitation of Self often called ego.

The simple statement, “I and the Father are One”, sums up the True Man. The Atman identical with Brahman.

Whether through resolution of karma or direct and virginal incarnation.

“The Son of Man”. Moksha, Nirvana, Heaven. No matter how much we beat around the bush. This is the business of Life.


Alms and Patronage




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