October 31, 2010 by Bill
Many organizations in this country, ranging from People for the American Way to the National Educational Association, have issued a document that informs parents and teachers that public schools can be a proper place to teach Comparative Religions as an academic discipline. Such a course of study could make a major contribution toward erasing much of the religious illiteracy in this nation. It could also make a major dent in the bigotry, prejudice and religious superstitions that exist everywhere. But now, when this issue is proposed, some will say, “Oh, but we do not need or want our young people to be exposed to the other religious traditions. All they need is Jesus Christ; that’s where truth is, for it was Jesus who said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.’ That’s all our young people need.” What people taking this position do not know, revealing their own religious illiteracy, is that practically every religious “leader” or hero, has said exactly the same thing. Zoroaster used exactly the same words, saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.” The Buddha used the same language, as did Lao Tzu of Taoism. The vast majority of the mythological formulas attached to Jesus were borrowed from Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Egypt, Babylon and the Greek Mystery religions.
A perfect example of which I am speaking is Mithraism (Sixth century B.C., Persia and India). Mithras was born of a virgin, with only a small number of shepherds present. Mithras was known as “the Way,” “the Truth,” “the Light,” “the Life,” “the Word,” “the Son of God” and “the Good Shepherd.” He was pictured carrying a lamb on his shoulders. Sunday was sacred and known as “the Lord’s Day” centuries before Jesus. On December 25 there were magnificent celebrations with bells, candles, gifts, and hymns. And “communion” was observed by the followers. From December 25 until the spring equinox (Estra, or Easter) were the “40 days,” which later became Christian Lent. Mithras was placed in a rock tomb called “Petra.” After three days he was removed with great celebrations, festival and joy. Centuries later, Petra the sacred rock would become Peter, the mythological foundations of the Christian church. (“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” Matthew 16:18.) Christian mythology is quite obviously saturated with Mithraism.
The followers of Mithras also believed that there would be a “day of judgment” when non-believers would perish and believers would live in a heaven or “paradise” (a Persian word) forever and ever. All of these mythological formulas were absorbed centuries later by the Christian cult into their rituals. Paul, who never even knew Jesus, took all of these mythological themes and attached them to Jesus, building his “Christ” mythology. He took Jesus out of Judaism and borrowed the Mithraic Sunday instead of the Hebrew Sabbath. All of the Mithraic holy days were used to fill in this mythological construct. Christmas, Easter, Lent and the spring resurrection festival. The Christian “Mass” was, and is, basically the old sacrament of the Mithraic taurobolia (a symbol of divine sacrifice and of the saving effect of blood). Read more
October 24, 2010 by Bill
My title is a perfect phrase, borrowed from Kierkegaard, for the frenzy of this frantic and frenetic holiday shopping season coming up. Tranquilizing drugs are used today to relieve tension and anxiety. The frenzy of the Thanksgiving-Christmas period acts on our behavior as a drug. Trivia easily becomes the most accurate word to define the drug, meaning, according to Webster, “of little worth or importance…a trifle.”
The entrance and lobby of the shopping malls and stores will look like a chaotic human zoo. As a culture we are being tranquilized by “Holiday” catalogs, the noise pollution of archaic Christmas carols blaring out over loud speakers in shopping centers or being played around the clock from radio stations, big fat obese Santa Clauses will be everywhere along with the baby in hay with animals. Have you ever wondered why western religion is so obsessed with a baby? This neurotic habit is not present in any other religious tradition. Buddhists do not drag out baby Buddha once a year, nor Hindus baby Krishna, nor Taoists baby Lao Tzu, nor the American Indian baby Sitting Bull, or Black Elk, or Crazy Horse, nor Jews baby Moses.”
“Tranquilization by the trivial” seems to border on epidemic proportions during these Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Drugged by the trivial. One of my heroes and one of the giant Federal Judges of our history often addressed this problem in essays and lectures. Learned Hand wrote, ” Since our ancestors rose upon their hind legs to become Homo sapiens, there have never been so many people who ate alike…slept alike…hated alike…loved alike…wore the same clothes…used the same furniture…saw the same plays…read the same magazines…the same papers…the same books…went to the same churches…believed in the same God…and yet were all confidently assured that they were ‘individuals’ and ‘independent.’ Our dangers in this country are from the conforming masses and not from those who shock us with unaccustomed conduct.”
This is the season for consumption hysteria. It is a spiritual disease. I recently read a moving story about Clive Lythgoe, the piano virtuoso, who was living the frantic life of one concert after another and as a result was coming unglued mentally and emotionally. Leonard Bernstein had a frank talk with him one day and said, “son, you need to recover your soul.” You see, frantic, frenetic and frenzied activity never has “soul.” Nervousness, which is a substitute for calm and deep energy, never has “soul.” Accordingly, “the frantic, frenetic and frenzied life is a life of nervousness marked by anxiety-driven activity combined with intense compulsive and obsessive activity.” A perfect definition for the absence of “soul.” A life with “soul” is ordered…calm…tranquil…centered…authentic…and not trivial, shallow or superficial. There is an aura that radiates out from people who have “soul” energy. Carl Jung wrote, “The world today is a madhouse of mechanical devices, motion pictures, and cocktail parties. None of these enrich our daily lives with meaning. Nor are they substitutes for what we have lost.” Read more
October 17, 2010 by Bill
One of the most insulting cults that exists in our society today is the religion that worships the “common man.” You hear people say “Oh, they are just good old common people. You will like them.” It has been said that God must love the common people because he made so many of them. Hardly! God did not make them. They made themselves common by hiding their talents and leaving their potential untouched.
The word “common” in Webster’s Dictionary means crude…without distinction…second rate…inferior…cheap…trite…below normal…unrefined and inelegant.”
What greater insult than to be called a “common” person or to be known as a “common” person. We praise commonness. What a contradiction we live with. If you need life saving surgery requiring great skill, you absolutely do not want a common doctor. You will pay all you have for the best surgeon possible. If your life is to be defended in court you certainly do not want a common lawyer. So where in the world does this insane and absurd praise of commonness come from? We want excellence in our doctors, lawyers, pilots, mechanics, accountants and on and on through every discipline of society.
Before he died, Ernest Hemingway called this “the millenium of the untalented.” He said, “we are surrounded by actors who cannot act, singers who cannot sing, teachers who cannot teach, writers who cannot write, speakers who cannot speak, painters who cannot paint, and we pay them fortunes for their mediocrity.”
One of the early Greek poets put it this way: “Before the gates of excellence, the high gods have placed sweat.” Contemporary author and scholar Eric Hoffer used these words: “Those who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune rather than to insufficient application. Thus, talent is a species of vigor.”
Why do we so fear demanding excellence? Several years ago, the 83 year old Seattle maestro, Dr. Stanley Chapple, was invited to direct a performance of the Tacoma Youth Symphony. What an education it was for those young people.
Dr. Chapple stood in front of the orchestra at the first rehearsal and said this: “I will demand that you rise to my standards of music excellence. I will most certainly not bend down to your level. I will treat you as if you were the Boston Symphony or the New York Philharmonic. I will direct as if you were professional musicians and will demand that you rise to excellence. Now let us begin.”
On performance night, the quality and majesty of the production exceeded all expectations. Read more