November 27, 2011 by Bill
How would you like to have been a bishop, or a priest, or even a deacon back in the first several hundred years after Jesus died, back when the Christian church was forming its political structure, a structure that had nothing to do with Jesus or spirituality?
You would have had power, with a capital “P.” God-type power. Whoever refused to “bow the neck” to the bishops, wrote Clement, Bishop of Rome, would get the ax…. like literally, POW.
The bishop “stands in the place of God,” and you had to “obey the bishop as if he were God” wrote Bishop Ignatius of Antioch.
With power like that, with everyone bowing down and sending in their bucks, well, you would be living on the fat of the land. In Texas we used to call it “hog heaven.”
That kind of stuff, when believed by the poor guy down the street, makes Oral Roberts pale by comparison. Oral Roberts was one of the biggest con artists in religion in the 70s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and one of the biggest in America. He was going downhill, losing sheep, running out of money, so he announced one day to his gullible flock that, driving on the way to work one morning… right in front of him, in the road, appeared Jesus, standing at least 900 feet tall! And Jesus told him he was blessed and his work would blossom with help from his followers. He told that story on his radio and TV program and to the press, and MILLIONS poured in from his gullible flock. Oral was just not thinking big enough. He should have read how the bishops and clergy did it for the first four or five centuries.
How do you keep that kind of power, with all those peons bowing down to you and sending in their bucks? It’s easy. You just convince them that only you can get them into some place called “heaven,” reminding them constantly of the alternative, some place called “hell.” A practice still in use by many Christian churches today in 2011.
You have to convince the people that when they die, that’s it, they are never coming back to earth and either heaven or hell is waiting for them. Then you have to tell them the great bottom line con job… that only through you, the bishop and the church, can they get into heaven. Are you ready for the next episode? Along came a group of people called Gnostics. Do you know what they had the brazen gall to preach? They said: “Folks, we don’t need bishops or clergy. We don’t need the political structure called the ‘church’. Every person can, by himself or herself, approach God.” You can just imagine how that went over with the bishops with their flowing velvet robes and overflowing collection plates.
“That is heresy,” they cried. “Heresy! Kill them all.” Read more
November 20, 2011 by Bill
I recently read an article in the LA Times that made me want to scream with anger at the arrogant stupidity of the Christian chaplains in the military. Capt Ryan Jean, of the U.S. Army, wrote on his form about “religious preference” that he was a atheist. He was immediately called into the office of the head chaplain and scolded about his lack of “faith” and was told that if he did not get right “with God” he was a “worthless” individual. And that if he did not believe in Jesus he was a disgrace to his uniform, as this U.S. Army was GOD’S Army”. This militant ignorance of the chaplain was not unusual, but was a common theme. I know, for I was in the Marine Corps for twelve years and exposed to this religious quackery among Navy chaplains.
When the political right wing mentality pronounces loudly that, “There are no atheists in fox holes” they are so full of bull manure it would be impossible to dig through it. For the twelve years I flew as a Marine Corps pilot I knew MANY, that is MANY Marines who were atheists.
An atheist says flatly there are no Gods or a God. An agnostic just says, “I don’t know… nobody does… it’s not an issue.” A mystic believes, as I do, that some energy is at work on a cosmic level, some “Mystery” (as Einstein put it), “something unknown doing we know not what” as the Nobel physicist Eddington wrote so eloquently. Many of the most profound thinkers of history have been included in one of these three categories. But, make no mistake, the “Mystery” of the mystics is NOT a God, out there, nor in Deism is there a “God” out there.
As Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “All thinking human beings are atheists.” A Rabbi that was on the staff with me in the Department of Religion at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, told me that most of the Rabbis he knew were really atheists who supported Hebrew cultural positions, without God. Rabbi Wine of Detroit started a congregation of Humanistic Jews where the word God or belief in a God were taken out of all the liturgy.
Winston Churchill once observed, “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its virtues being extolled. But some people’s idea of free speech is that THEY are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything BACK, that is an outrage.”
The Greek word “a-theos,” means “one who denies the existence of any god.” Ancient Christian theologians thought that atheism denied belief in God, and also belief in devils. Oriental thinkers were less simplistic about it. The more advanced sages taught that non-belief was more “religious” than belief and that atheism can make better human beings than faith can make. The sages said that non-belief can be as profoundly spiritual as theism, for the essence of religion, or spirituality, lies in the EXPERIENCE, and not in any BELIEF at all. And that all so-called religious beliefs or doctrines are merely theories about the religious, or spiritual experience. Read more
November 13, 2011 by Bill
I have lost count of the times I have been asked, “what are you… what do you believe?” What am I? I answer by saying that I have always thought of myself as being within the historical stream of mysticism, where there is no violence, no dualism and no absolutes.
The Mystical experience is the same, whether Christian, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, American Indian, Zen Buddhist, Humanist or what have you. It was the experience of Lao Tzu, the old master of Taoism, or the Roman Catholic Meister Eckhart, or Protestant Boehme.
Mysticism is the recovery of the now, of the immediate. It is the recovery of intuition, of feeling. Mysticism refuses to deify Reason or Rationalism, spelled with capital Rs. It is Carl Jung saying in his autobiography that “reason and rationalism are the two major diseases of our time.”
It is the brilliant scientist Julian Huxley writing that, “We must repudiate our modern idolatry of science. Science is only the name for a particular system of knowledge and understanding acquired by particular methods. It must come to terms with other systems of knowledge acquired by other methods, the aesthetic and the intuitive, the subconscious, imaginative and visionary, or in other words, the way of mysticism.”
Experience is the key word in mysticism. Truth is revealed through one’s experience rather than through doctrine, dogma, or creed. It is reliance on spiritual intuition, in the discovery of wisdom that gives a new vision of reality. It is the mystic William Blake writing, “To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, to hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”
In the mystic eye, the many things of the universe, including you and me, are all “god and all divine.” As a Zen Master put it, “to watch a child pouring milk into a glass is to watch God pouring God into God.”
Or as the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said: “The eye by which I see God is the same eye by which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one and the same.”
And… “Do you want to see God? Look in the mirror.” And again,”To go around looking for God is like sitting on an ox looking for an ox to ride.” And again, “to see God, look at a pile of dung in the stable.” Or Jesus, that nomadic Hebrew mystic, saying, “To have seen me is to have seen God. I and God are one.” Or as the Hebrew Kabalah puts it, “God is not external to anything.”
There is no violence, no dualism, no absolutes in Mysticism. There is not God AND anything. Everything is God… all of nature… every atom… every cell. When that brilliant Zen Master, D.T. Suzuki, was lecturing at Stanford University, he walked to the front of the stage and said, “God against man, man against God… God against nature… Nature against God… man against nature… nature against man. A very, very funny religion.” He was talking about Christianity of course, and the audience roared with laughter. Read more