More Like God…..

For the record, I am not a Christian hater. I applaud any who seek spiritual awareness and understanding to empower themselves in whatever way best resonates. Some of us feel comfortable, accepted, and vibrate collectively with a congregation, others through spiritual study and practice be it one of the Eastern, Native American, Judaism,  etc. religions. The five (5) major religions according to someone out there are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and New Age. I am opposed to the “New Age” moniker, which I have said before. There really is nothing ‘new’ about it. As long as a religion or belief system focuses on the Divine Source, what others think of as God, and seeks to learn, grow, and become more like God, I’m in favor. As soon as hate creeps in and we segregate, or worse, begin to harm others, it ceases to be a religion, or spiritual endeavor, seeking God.

There is a billboard as you merge onto the major Interstate in my area that reads, “Real Christians Obey the Teachings of Jesus” Absurd statement, not to mention arrogant. I have met a few ‘real Christians’ here and there, but none that would make the above statement with a serious face. How many ‘teachings’ are there? Is there a scorecard? There is a great article in the Huffington Post on the four (4) teachings of Jesus, as seen through the eyes of the author, which is not to say these 4 are all of the teachings, but they are definitely worth pondering.

#1. Jesus alone brings life, not the Bible. In other words, relationship with God, since Jesus is God in the flesh. We can memorize all the scripture we want, but if we don’t internalize God’s essence, the purity of love, and purpose to live it out, what is the point?

#2. We get to heaven by doing. Hmmm…..Nope. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do you?

#3. Jesus didn’t condemn. How many sermons are centered around condemnation? Seems there are lots of ‘Christians” determining who and what is acceptable to God and handing out guilty verdicts, yet Jesus did not condemn. From my understanding of the Bible,  Jesus was harsh with those religious leaders who did the condemning.

#4. Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you. Do we?

The Bible was written by men. The words are theirs, and were carefully chosen. The words and teachings we attribute to God and Jesus were man’s attempt to control others through intimidation, manipulation, and fear. Rest assured, God and Jesus still shine through, and most often in opposition to man’s teachings.

Christian means ‘Christ-like’, which is partly why I choose not to claim the designation. I am fully aware I am not like Christ, and it’s not that I don’t try, but humans are fallible. From my experiences inside the walls, there are plenty who claim the title and flaunt it like a sparkling 10 carat cubic zirconia. And, to be fair, there are some who seem to be living a Christ-like life, yet are quick to admit they are woefully human. I have respect for those few.

At the end of the day, I believe there is room for all who choose relationship with God, with the Divine Creator, and no way is better, or more ‘right’ than another as long as we seek to love. Therein is my criticism of organized religion. The long-held belief that only ‘Christians’ go to heaven, ‘Christianity is the only true religion, and all others, along with their followers, be damned. I have never heard anyone seeking spirituality say the same, however. Those who seek to journey with God and do so in their own way allow others the same. Seems more reasonable to me. We don’t all have to agree on everything and don’t all need to think exactly alike; within the differences we can learn from one another, grow, and become more like God…..

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Reality? Perception? Maybe Just Shades of Gray…..?

Why do we all need to believe alike? Better question, do we all need to believe alike? The answer, in my mind, is no, we do not. At the center of all religious divisiveness is the uncompromising belief “I am right and you are wrong”.  We like to believe we are open minded, willing to entertain other ideologies, tolerate others with belief systems different from ours, but when push comes to shove many dig in determined to defend why their beliefs are superior to others. And, often digging in means I don’t have anything to truly base my dogmatic beliefs on except that “I am right and you are not”. Wars are fought, people are brutally killed, and congregations, sects, or the like, split because of differences that cannot be resolved. Perhaps the more accurate statement is a refusal to resolve differences.

I used to be one of those people. Well, to be completely honest, I wanted to be one of those people because I wrongly assumed ‘church people’ knew God. I tried, but still felt like I was on the outside looking in, and wearing a mask to ‘fit in’. Other people were deeply committed to their beliefs, while I, on the other hand, wanted to be deeply committed, but had too many questions. And, it didn’t feel right. For me, at least. As an adult, essentially my belief system was a modification of the one I grew up in. It was far more fundamental, however; all who ascribed were held to strict doctrinal beliefs that included literal interpretation of the Bible, the need to be ‘saved’ from sins, and an attitude of veiled humility to hide the fact that all who believed the same were superior. Hard as I tried, I could not fit a round peg in a square hole.

I believe we all are sparks from the Divine flame, from God. As such, we are all just a bit different from one another, created to think, feel and be, in fitting with our uniqueness. Therefore, our uniqueness will lend itself to a perspective slightly different from another’s, yet we are conditioned to believe the opposite. This is where the feeling of being out of step with others comes in, but I don’t mind being out of step with those on the outside. I have to live with me, and I don’t like feeling divided within. 

The pursuit of God through the practice of spirituality resonates with me. It took me nearly a lifetime to figure that out, but hey, better late than never, right? Spirituality allows me to reach outside the accepted norms, to explore without fear of plunging headlong into satanic worship and ritual. Personally,  I have come to understand the Bible was fashioned in a way to create fear among the masses, to prevent them from questioning, responding to the beat of a different drummer, and yet, one of the most radical people of all time was Jesus. He rubbed the establishment the wrong way, and didn’t care. He lived a life of integrity, love, and loyalty to a Higher Power, at least, that is how I see it. Jesus operated beyond the confines of what others perceived to be reality, thus teaching that reality is perception.

Think about it. What exactly are the stories about Jesus and Peter walking on the water, calming the storm, raising the dead, if not to teach the reality of perception? I sat through many a sermon teaching the acts Jesus performed were available to us, and those were just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Is it the act, or the purpose behind the act of greater import? We could say any acts Jesus performed were so much smoke and mirrors, the stuff of illusions, no different than those performed by modern day illusionists. Collectively, many have accepted the fact the acts Jesus performed were real, and not the stuff of illusion.

Reality is the product of perception. Sounds like a radical statement does it not? But, if you think about it, what would reality be if not perception? Two people could look at the exact same situation and walk away with different perceptions. I may interpret a situation as an opportunity, and you, looking at the very same situation, may see it as failure. Why? Perception, plain and simple. Peter’s perception of reality in terms of water, prior to walking on it’s surface, involved sinking, whereas, on the other hand, Jesus helped Peter to change his perception of the water, and then Peter was able to walk on its surface. Same with raising people from the dead. Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus were dead; Lazarus most sincerely dead having been in the grave three days lest any make the supposition he had merely been in a coma. Jesus perceived the little girl and Lazarus to be alive and well. How?

The ‘how’ certainly was not magical in any way. Jesus was connected to the Divine, to the Higher Power, to the Creator of life, to God. His relationship with God so tight it transcended earthly perception. The lesson was the relationship rather than to walk around raising people from the dead or walking on water. Jesus taught we are capable of living at a level of spiritual connection with God while at the same time living on the earth.

This is the way I read the Bible, view Jesus, experience God. Is it right or wrong? It’s neither. Life and how we experience it is through our perception. Shades of gray…..

Curiosity Did Not Harm the Kitty…..

I am forever curious and have questions about all kinds of things. I want to understand, and yet there are things we are not meant to fully understand, at least not in our limited human experience.

Reincarnation is one of those topics. Before you run screaming in the opposite direction, certain I have flipped off the edge, hear me out. For years, and according to Christian indoctrination, anyone who believes in reincarnation needs to be excommunicated, considered a heretic, or worse, a demon. Exploring the world of spiritual philosophy  has whet my appetite to possibilities Christianity has forbidden. But, do we ask why certain topics are forbidden?

What do most of us know about reincarnation? In general, reincarnation is dying in this lifetime and returning as something or someone else in another; a sort of recycling of the spirit. The word is derived from the Latin, meaning ‘to enter the flesh again.’ Reincarnation is predominantly thought to be a Hindu-Buddhist philosophy, although other philosophies have their versions, as well. The idea is to become better with each successive lifetime, to learn and grow without advantage of knowledge from previous lifetimes. Sounds nearly impossible!

But did you know reincarnation is also accepted within Judaism? The words reincarnation and resurrection are often used interchangeably in Judaism, and the philosophies vary somewhat within Judaism. The concept of reincarnation is usually associated with the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism, and was prevalent in the Middle Ages, however, its origins go back much farther. Originally, like most of the texts, the Kabbalah was an oral history passed down through the years until it landed in written form. Those who practiced mystical Judaism were not the only Jews who believed in reincarnation, however.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were predominate players in Biblical texts regarding Jesus; the Pharisees believed in resurrection and reincarnation, whereas the Sadducees did not, as recorded in scripture and through Flavius Josephus, a first century historian. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus at night to ask about resurrection, what Christianity has skewed to be taught as being “born again”. Jesus had told Nicodemus that man must be ‘born again’; born of water and the spirit. Christianity teaches this by equating water with the physical birth, and the spiritual birth occurring when the Holy Spirit descends upon those who recognize their sinful nature, ask forgiveness, and accept Jesus as Savior; a pivotal doctrine of Christianity. Most teachers of Christianity explain Nicodemus was “confused” by the words of Jesus, but part of the story is conveniently left out. Why would a member of the High Priests be confused by a discussion on resurrection? We are taught Nicodemus sought Jesus in the dark of night, implying he didn’t want anyone to know he was talking with Jesus, and perhaps he didn’t given the fact there was no love lost between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day. However, Nicodemus’s question would have seemed reasonable to any Pharisee; perhaps Nicodemus was getting clarification, maybe because he wanted unequivocal proof his sect was right and the Sadducee’s wrong.

We are taught the Pharisees believed in resurrection, with reincarnation being conveniently left out, yet the words, at that time, were used interchangeably. Christianity teaches resurrection in relation to Jesus and those who accept Christ as Savior, and reincarnation as part of witchcraft and/or paganism. In fact, the Apostle Paul also belonged to the Pharisees, and believed in reincarnation.

The intentionally hidden doesn’t stay hidden forever,  and in 1945 the Gnostic Gospels were discovered, dated as written earlier than the Biblical Gospels, putting a different spin on the 66 books known as the Bible. The Gnostics were a sect of Christians ultimately hunted down and burned at the stake by the Roman Orthodox church. The Gnostics believed knowledge came through the heart, or in communion with the Divine Spirit, whereas the church taught faith as the basis of belief. Gnostics may have considered themselves Christians, for lack of a better description, yet they likely are more closely associated in theology to those subscribing to spiritual pursuit. In the Gnostic Gospels, resurrection and reincarnation are separate concepts; resurrection akin to a spiritual awakening, while one is alive. Spiritual awakening is sought through meditation and study; enlightenment, in other words. Reincarnation occurs because a soul did not awaken during a physical life, therfore, needs to return in order to learn. The Gospel of Philip, one of the Gnostic Gospels, says it this way, “People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken.  If they do not first receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing.”

Gnosticism has been around for centuries and will likely endure for centuries to come. And, for the sake of correct word usage, a Gnostic and an Agnostic are not one and the same, as many believe. Gnostics base their interpretation of the universe and the Divine on knowledge, whereas an Agnostic reveres science to the point the existence of God is in question. One of the more recognizable names in recent history who studied Gnosticism was Carl Jung, the revered early 20th century Swiss psychologist. Many who study spiritualism are familiar with his writings about archetypes. Jung believed archetypes represented universal patterns and images we all share.

So, what is the lesson from all these words? Curiosity doesn’t give us a “go directly to hell” card in the game of life, and it’s okay to learn and explore other possibilities. I cannot accept that curiosity is inherently evil, and suspect the ultimate goal of all subjects ‘forbidden’ has more to do with controlling others, than it does protecting them. Stay tuned…..

When the Sky is Falling…..Part 2……….

Sometimes the lesson within the storm isn’t obvious. Sometimes entrenched fears woven into the fabric of our being go unnoticed, accepted as normal, yet driving our thoughts and actions. We all fear something whether it is illness, poverty, discrimination, criticism, the list is endless. When the thoughts turn into a driving force behind our actions, the result may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because we aren’t consciously aware of the entrenched fear lurking in the shadows, we blame others, or God, or both, or believe we are being punished.

Crises in life are sometimes a result of our fears. Choosing not to face any given crisis or situation, instead wallowing in the negative energy within the situation, or burying our heads in the sand to avoid dealing with a situation only prolongs it. Acknowledge what we fear, what feels out of control, and then take a moment to sort through what is known, not supposed. There is nothing wrong with admitting we are afraid of possible outcomes, what the future may hold, the crisis itself. What is detrimental is letting the fears paralyze us. What is the worst-case scenario? Is worst-case truly a possibility? Often, it is not, yet our fear drives the thought. Fear causes us to feel insecure, we no longer feel safe.  Projecting into the future only serves to increase our fears. It is important to remind ourselves all we truly have is the moment we are currently living.

Long held fears may contribute to the development of a crisis, however, that is not the same as being punished for the fear. I occasionally listen to a speaker who had cancer and subsequently had a near death/death experience. She believes and teaches her fear of cancer eventually led to the diagnosis of cancer. At first blush, I rejected her reasoning, but after listening to her teachings, I believe she is on to something. She says everything in her life was focused on avoiding cancer from what she ate, to exercise, to stress reduction, etc. In other words, her focus was skewed allowing the fear to grow and manifest the very thing she spent her life avoiding. The same principle can be applied to a poverty mindset. My Reiki teacher shared with me her fear of poverty led to a financial crisis resulting in losing everything and having to move back in with her elderly parent. These revelations are extreme and the result of much meditation and time spent seeking higher understanding; they are not an explanation for everyone facing a health or financial crisis. The takeaway lesson is examining our hearts and thought lives, allowing God to reveal long held fears to acknowledge and release for healing.

Sometimes we make the leap to punishment for a perceived sin. God doesn’t punish. Punishment was devised by man to control others. Do I believe some people need to be punished? Absolutely. A society cannot remain civilized without boundaries, that when crossed, require discipline, and punishment, at times. Within the church mindset, often people believe a crisis or negative situation is a result of God’s punishment. I believed that for quite some time, fueled in part, by an abusive husband who wielded the Bible like a machete, and in part because of a religious system that taught sin must be punished. Of course, anything negative in our lives is a result of sin, right? Wrong. Organized religion leaves no room for the fallability of humanity. People make mistakes, plain and simple. Mistakes are not willful intent, however. There is definitely a major distinction between the two, but organized religion often blurs the lines. Early in my “Christian walk” I actually had church mentors tell me sin caused negative events in our lives! The bigger problem was I chose to believe that nonsense and attributed any negative crisis directly to sin in my life. In its own way, that is almost narcissitic thinking!

Corporately, how we react to a crisis situation, is important, as well. Since we are all part of the universal Divine, in other words, God, what I do eventually ripples and will affect others. Dr. Chopra said it this way, “We are ripples of consciousness of the vast ocean of consciousness. If we get agitated and become part of the reactionary and vitriolic behavior sometimes around us, we will only add to the disturbance.” We can apply his words to family situations, work situations, or large scale crises like 9/11, or any myriad crises situations involving a large group of people. When people jump on the bandwagon of negative behavior, their behavior only adds to the overall problem. Attitudes spread, good or bad, positive or negative, an attitude permeates any situation.

Recently, we have had a series of negative events, some devastating, seemingly snowball in our family. Perception is everything, but I wager most would say there appeared to be a snowball effect, or in the words of my mother, a dark cloud hanging over us.  I can say I have progressed spiritually in terms of resilience in the face of adversity, but I have not arrived by any means. In the past, one or two negative events may have rattled my resolve, now it takes more than two. That’s progress, right? On a side note, I also noted emotion has returned, although I cannot say I have appreciated the intensity of it. The deadening of emotion is a side effect of long-term abuse; those who have been there, done that, will understand. So, how do we handle the snowball effect? We deal with what we can, and leave the rest to God. Dwelling on what is outside of our control only adds to the negative energy of an already negative situation.

We are not helpless when the sky is falling. Helplessness leads to paralysis. As long as we draw breath, we have choices, there will be options. Learning the lessons within the crisis will benefit us, too. Nothing in life is without purpose, without an opportunity for growth, without the ability to expand our understanding and lead us to a higher truth…..