Does Consciousness 101 Violate Church-State Separation?
Posted on 05 July 2021, 8:37
Considering the insanity going on in the world today, many people believe that religion should be offered in our public schools. They claim that it will result in higher standards of morality and a more meaningful life. Those opposed argue separation of church and state and the payment of taxes for non-scientific ideas that are based on mere superstition and folly. They also point to the many wars and conflicts brought about by religion and say that morality is not related to religious beliefs. It all seems to boil down to religion vs. secularism, or theism vs. atheism.
As I see it, the issue should not involve religion, church, or even an anthropomorphic God. It should be about schools offering existential thinking – philosophy courses that explore the meaning of life and the nature of consciousness, including whether that consciousness is independent of the brain and survives bodily death. Call it Consciousness 101, Existentialism 101, or Metaphysics 1A and 1B. The subject matter would transcend religion, church, and even a humanlike deity. To put it another way, consciousness and meaning antedate religion, church, and the God of most religions, all of which grew out of the concerns people had for life’s purpose along with the nature of and survival of consciousness at the time of death; thus, there would be no Church vs. State conflict involved in such classes.
Most of the topics discussed at this blog – mediumship, near-death experiences, past-life memories, deathbed visions, and other phenomena relating to consciousness – provide evidence which science has ignored or rejected, primarily because it seemingly jumped to the conclusion that all things unseen and not subject to its methods of testing belong to religion and are therefore within the jurisdiction of the churches, when, in fact they are not. Clearly, psychical research and parapsychology are not religions or within church domain.
As a sidebar, along the same line of thinking, one might ask why a statue displaying the Ten Commandments should be under the religion and church umbrella. While my knowledge of biblical events is very limited, it is my understanding that the Ten Commandments came to Moses before he was part of any organized religion or church. Therefore, the Ten Commandments preceded church and religion, and statues depicting them in public places should not violate any laws pertaining to separation of church and state. Because religions were later organized and embraced the Ten Commandments does not give religion or the churches ownership of them or bring them within their jurisdiction.
Likewise, the teachings of Buddha, Christ, and Mohammed preceded religions, and churches were later formed around their teachings. Jesus was not turned into a God until the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Is it not possible to discuss their teachings in a public- school course dealing with consciousness and meaning without imposing religion and church upon innocent children? Weren’t the Greek philosophers, headed by Socrates and Plato, once part of classroom study independent of religion and churches?
If I am correctly viewing history, we changed from inductive to deductive reasoning in our belief system over the centuries. Early Christianity was based on phenomena that defied human logic and understanding, often referred to as miracles or marvels. It was inductive reasoning, all adding up to an unseen world of spirit and the immortality of the soul. The Creator at the helm was secondary. It was an a posteriori approach – knowable upon experiences involving an unseen world, experiences reported by credible people, sometimes involving objective signs, such as apparitions, apports, levitations, stigmata, veridical dreams and unexplainable healings. However, when science began to demand proof of those paranormal occurrences, the Church gradually changed its focus, the emphasis being on worshipping and pleasing God. The afterlife became an ancillary to a belief in God. It was an a priori proposition – knowable without experience and beyond scientific inquiry. The debunkers found such an approach easier to attack and now usually begin their diatribe with arguments that there is no “proof” of God, thereby implying that there is no “evidence” of an afterlife.
“All the progress since the revival of sciences has been in the direction of achievements for materialism,” is the way psychical researcher, psychologist and philosopher James Hyslop explained it more than a century ago. “All the facts which the mediaeval philosopher appealed to support the existence of a soul are either discarded or denied in settling the case. The progress of science has been for methods of evidence which philosophy did not use in its long domination of human thought.”
The “one life at a time” argument would no doubt be made by the nihilists in opposing consciousness studies in classrooms. It says that we should be focusing on this lifetime and not concerning ourselves with a future life, whether or not such a life exists. Therefore, its proponents ask, what is the point of discussing whether consciousness continues beyond the present lifetime? They don’t grasp the fact that the meaning and purpose given to this life by the belief in a larger life adds to the appreciation and enjoyment of the present life, especially in one’s declining years. To quote Sir Oliver Lodge, the eminent physicist of yesteryear: “It is no doubt possible, as always, to overstep the happy mean, and by absorption in and premature concerns with future interests to lose the benefit and training of this present life. But although we may rightly decide to live with full vigour in the present, and do our duty from moment to moment, yet in order to be full-flavoured and really intelligent beings – not merely with mechanical draft following the line of least resistance – we ought to be aware that there is a future, a future determined to some extent by action in the present; and it is only reasonable that we should seek to ascertain, roughly and approximately, what sort of future it is likely to be. Inquiry into survival, and into the kind of experience through which we shall all certainly have to go in a few years, is therefore eminently sane, and may be vitally significant. It may colour all our actions, and give a vivid meaning both to human history and to personal experience.”
If our children are not offered some kind of existential teaching, we leave them to be dumbed down by the nihilists and continually influenced by the entertainment and advertising industries. If they are encouraged to believe that life is nothing more than a short march toward an abyss of nothingness – that it has no real meaning or purpose beyond pursuing a materialistic lifestyle – they are motivated to make the most of each day by eating, drinking, using drugs, having casual sex, and being merry without restraint. Humanists argue that morality is not dependent on religion, and they may be right. Here again, it is a matter of getting to the basic issues of consciousness and meaning through the study of paranormal phenomena which suggest survival and concomitantly give meaning to life, but the humanists, nihilists, atheists, whatever name they prefer, seem incapable of reasoning to that extent. Then again, the churches are just as guilty.
The problem, as I see it, with introducing consciousness or metaphysical studies, independent of religion and church, to fertile young minds in public schools is that the biases of the instructors would be part of their teachings. We would likely get the same materialistic-minded teachers that we now having teaching in colleges, those who do not have a good grasp of the psychic phenomena discussed at this blog and elsewhere. In all their “wisdom,” they would preach nihilism and brainwash their students as so many are doing in college. At the same time, the spiritually minded teachers would occasionally let the G- - word slip into their talks, maybe even use “heaven” to describe the survival of consciousness, and thereby would come under attack by the nihilists for contaminating innocent young minds with “religious” ideas. The school principals would be under pressure to be politically correct and, lacking any fortitude, they would have to fire them.
“Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is really despair about the eternal and over oneself, in so far as it is despair,” Soren Kierkegaard, considered the father of existentialism, offered. This is consistent with what Carl Jung, the pioneering Swiss psychiatrist, said – that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith. “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” he wrote. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.”
Toeing the line between consciousness studies and religion would be as difficult as walking a tightrope over an alligator pond. There would have to be an approved curriculum and strict adherence to that curriculum without the biases of the instructors creeping into the discussion. It would be next to impossible for the instructor to keep his biases to himself. Consciousness 101 seems like a good plan, but, sadly, it wouldn’t work. And so the world gets crazier every day.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books
Next blog post: July 19
That’s the way I see it, i.e., about the “left” thinking it can create the Kingdom of God without God, but I suspect Newton had something else in mind. Anyway, I’ve promised not to get into politics here.
Michael Tymn, Mon 12 Jul, 21:59
I’ve talked enough on this thread, Michael, too much, but we’ll have other occasions to shoot around “the politics of it all.” For now, Eric has handle on a big piece of what I wanted to say.
Newton E. Finn, Mon 12 Jul, 15:54
I think Newton means that the left think they can produce the Kingdom of God on Earth themselves, without help from higher realms. Typical human arrogance.
For what it’s worth, if that’s what he has in mind I totally agree with him.
Eric Franklin, Mon 12 Jul, 13:39
I am grateful that Mike (Tymn) has noted the point made about perception. Here it is again, appropriately edited: It is, again, an understanding of terrestrial physics which enables us to see what is meant.
It is not only the beings we call ghosts who seem vaporous, translucent, often invisible. Beings who see themselves as ‘solid’, ‘real’, can seem vaporous, translucent, invisible when viewed from another universe, another realm of a probably somewhat different physics (ie having more dimensions, for example).
Speaking rather simplistically, but making a valid point, what we sense as solid matter is almost entirely empty space. The mutual repulsion of electrons holding the outside ‘skin’ of atoms rigid like a well-stretched tent, a full balloon. It is this electrical tension that produces what our relatively huge-scale clumsy and insensitive sense of touch feels as ‘solid’. But those who live in other universes than our own feel themselves as solid, probably in exactly the same way as we do, and with just as good reason. Some part of their total constitution senses their own Dasein, their own being-there, their personal reality as lookers-out upon their own universe, as doing so out from (Greek ek) a solid body, just as we sense our being-there as a personal, unique consciousness embodied in the solid matter of muscles and bones. Spirits have sometimes remarked on this when communicating with us, though I cannot remember any one such source to cite. Mike Tymn now draws our attention to exactly one of those references, for which I thank him.
A realm that seems non-physical to us, non-solid, and therefore to require us to use the word ‘spirit’, seems solid to its own population of Beings. This certainly explains some assertions we have in the literature when we realise that, to those beings, our being seems to be what we would describe as ghostlike. It is a mutual experience. They think we are ghostlike beings, very difficult to perceive steadily. We see them, when they are able to show themselves, as similarly ghostly. They are in a contiguous universe, as Relativity Theory shows possible. This realisation produces in our minds a very different perspective on the other universes. They are just as ‘real’ as ours, and they are right alongside ours. That is how people like Tibor Putnoki noted that one person, being in another universe, can walk straight through another who is in OUR universe despite BOTH beings being solid.
Quantum physics is a complicated and currently unsatisfactory entity, riddled with worse-than-compromise ad hoc conjectures, but it is a true physics we do not yet fully grasp that opens the door to our understanding of spiritual matters.
Eric Franklin, Mon 12 Jul, 10:25
Thanks to Daniel for the link to Moral Darwinism book. The price of the books scares me away, but I might give in and order it.
I’ve often struggled with the difference between epicureanism and hedonism, but it is my understanding that hedonism goes beyond epicureanism, often wrongly associated with the “eat, drink, and be merry” approach, when its main concern is with avoiding pain. The hedonist is more a pleasure seeker than the epicurean. However, both are brands of philistinism, which the existentialist Søren Kierkegaard defined as “man tranquilizing himself with the trivial.” It is man striving to be one with his toys.
Materialism is at the core of all of them. Humanism is materialism, secularism, philisitinism and rationalism all bundled together with ethical and moral concerns and constraints. I think most humanists are epicureans, but not necessarily hedonists. The number of hedonists, however, seems to be growing. At least, that’s how I see it.
Michael Tymn, Sun 11 Jul, 21:45
An interesting observation on the politics of it all. I can see most of it, but I see no indication that the “left” is holding on to the kingdom while dismissing God. Can you elaborate a little on that?
Michael Tymn, Sun 11 Jul, 21:22
Eric mentioned something about beings in or on other realms of existence being invisible to us but appearing solid to themselves. That brought to mind the comment by Leonora Piper’s spirit control, George Pellew, that he was in the “real life” and Richard Hodgson, the researcher, was in the “dream life.” Pellew added: “You to us are more like as we understand sleep, you look shut up as one in prison, and in order for us to get into communication with you, we have to enter into your sphere, as one like yourself, asleep. This is just why we make mistakes as you call them, or get confused and muddled, so to put it.”
Michael Tymn, Sun 11 Jul, 21:17
Since I may have steered this wonderful thread into more of a political direction than is customary for Michael’s blog, let me try to take it home before I drop the politics and get back into the normal swing of things. Albert Schweitzer was among the clearest voices of our modern era who identified the “nuclear doctrine” of genuine Christianity: THE KINGDOM OF GOD. There are two parts to this doctrine, God and “the Kingdom,” and both are picked up on and developed in spiritualist thought. A more elevated understanding of God, including divine dealings with humankind via angels and the progressive nature of life and the afterlife, is the principal subject of “Spirit Teachings” and other bedrock works of spiritualism. A more elusive subject is this thing called “the Kingdom,” at least in the way that Jesus talked about it. He prayed for this Kingdom to come on earth and made this coming his life’s work, ultimately dying and rising for it. In the simplest terms, its fulfillment, its coming on earth, would mean that the Golden Rule, common to many religious traditions, would be the guiding principle of all personal AND SOCIAL conduct. The key point is that salvation or enlightenment is not a purely personal matter but involves a shared way of life, which we are to work to bring about in THIS world, in anticipation of the next. For me, this framework, THE KINGDOM OF GOD, puts into perspective what’s so terribly wrong with our current politics. The “right” holds onto a belief in God (though often limited or erroneous) but lacks a belief in the Kingdom. The “left” holds onto a belief in the Kingdom (though often limited or erroneous) but lacks a belief in God. What we, as spiritualists in the widest sense, are called upon to do, as I see it, is to reunite in our hearts and minds AND IN SOCIETY these two essential, interlocking pieces which have been torn apart and made to appear oppositional. Not so easy, is it… This position leaves us without a party, both “right” and “left” being both right and wrong. It makes one feel Jesus’ lament that while foxes had holes and birds had nests, he had no place he could lay his head. Is there anything more difficult, more strenuous, more frustrating, more seemingly impossible—yet more worthy of lifelong struggle—than to try with all that is in us to be “in but not of the world” (a phrase of Jesus’ dear to Schweitzer, Imperator, Cora Scott, etc.)? My Sunday sermon having drawn to a close, a sermon given to this congregation of kindred souls gathered here by Michael, may each of you now go in peace with the blessings of God, the assistance of angels, and bold confidence in sublime things only partially seen.
Newton E. Finn, Sun 11 Jul, 16:51
Yvonne has posted a comment to Mike’s previous blog, that of 21 June. It is very well worth the attention of all of us, being the voice of Experience.
Eric Franklin, Sun 11 Jul, 09:59
Michael, thanks for the link to Cora LV Scott. I started to read her lessons and I’m impressed. It seems that there still is a lot of work to do on earth, but like I said earlier :we have to start with ourselves. To live a spontaneous moral life is not always easy: even if you know what is right ,to do the right thing in every situation is a lot less easy! We must on keeping trying…there is no other way.
Chris De Cat, Sat 10 Jul, 21:20
Yvonne has sent her latest comment to last time’s blog. Here it is, copied and pasted in with no presumptions on my part that might be taken for a deliberate infringement of her copyright, or anything of that kind. I just think her comments are particularly useful because they are the expressions of experience.
Yes, discernment of all spirit communications is of paramount importance.
And, the main emphasis at our meetings and the teachings of our spirit guides is on personal responsibility and our own moral improvement in this life.
As for educating spirits, our group helps those in various circumstances: those “stuck” within the circumstances of their death (usually a sudden or violent one), those completely unaware their spirits have left their physical bodies, those that have an intuition that they have transitioned but are in complete denial, those in grief or anger on leaving the material world, wandering spirits that feel lost, mischievous spirits, obsessive spirits and those in many other situations.
The spirit guides of our group and those of the mediums are instrumental in aiding us in this spiritual work. We strive hard to be deserving of it.
Yvonne Limoges, Thu 8 Jul, 20:20
That seems to me to align very well with the expressed views of Imperator himself (which I must read a second time to try to reach an adequate level of discernment myself). I acknowledge it’s sometimes very difficult to discern reliably whose spirit voice or opinion one is listening to. Perhaps cumulative experience is the best guide we have, as Lodge seems to have found.
Eric Franklin, Fri 9 Jul, 16:40
I appreciate the response, Michael. A while back, I read some of Cora’s lectures contained in a book entitled “The Nature of Spiritualist Existence.” Her voice blended harmoniously with what I was hearing from Imperator, and I was struck by the moral passion in her messages and her elaboration of its intended social impacts. Indeed, I found this even more striking than the extraordinary scope of objective knowledge this young girl, without higher education, was able to draw upon from the spirit world and communicate to ours. Yes, I’ll take your suggestion and revisit Cora (including your prior posts about her), her lectures seeming to me like verbal counterparts to the paintings of the Bangs sisters—evidence for spiritualism not confined to individuals or small groups but put right out there in front of everybody’s nose. Patience Worth is not alone, is she, in having brought off the entirely public display of truth, beauty, and power from the spirit world.
Newton E. Finn, Fri 9 Jul, 16:00
I agree. After you have fully absorbed Imperator, you might check out what the advanced spirits had to say through Cora L.V. Scott (aka Cora Richmond) See http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/entry/cora_richmond_a_most_amazing_medium/
Michael Tymn, Thu 8 Jul, 22:49
I prefer to bundle them all up and simply refer to it as “nihilism,” although perhaps “hedonistic nihilism” might better describe it even if a bit redundant. Might nihilism also be stoic?
As for Coyd’s comment that the “death of God” marks the beginning of our search for meaning, I believe Nietzsche is the primary author of the death of God, that being in his 1882 book, coincidentally the same year the Society for Psychical Research was formed. It seems to me that the search for meaning and purpose was going on centuries before Nietzsche.
Michael Tymn, Thu 8 Jul, 20:59
I found Hyslop’s comments on aestheticism intriguing, but wanting greater elaboration. Piggybacking on Newton’s quote from Imperator regarding the moral case for spiritualism, I would like to draw attention to Benjamin Wiker’s thesis on “moral Darwinism” which he sees as the capstone of the hedonistic philosophy of Epicurus. Epicurus, he points out, argued against belief in gods and afterlife, ostensibly on the grounds of scientific materialism, but actually on moral grounds, that such belief inculcates unnecessary fear and, thus, superstitious scruples regarding hedonism. Christianity was able to successfully put a check on hedonism until Darwin supplied sufficient plausibility for atheistic scientific materialism. Modern atheism has far surpassed Epicurus in degree of hedonism. Just as Epicurus based his hedonism on spurious scientific ideology, so do modern Darwinists base the case for hedonism on an irrational rejection of scientific evidence for the afterlife.
Daniel Kealey, Thu 8 Jul, 16:01
Both Chris de Cat and Newton again make very important points. I am sure the living example Chris describes speaks better to others than any verbal code. A simple but deep truth, often heard, but not so often lived out. Active love, not written law.
Eric Franklin, Thu 8 Jul, 10:19
I think in the first place that we should not lose our positive attitude toward ourselves and everything around us. And than lets keep it simple so everybody can understand it: start to respect yourself ( body and soul) and the other. Life along that rule of life and show it to your children and other people, so they can think about your way of living and try to imitate it. You do not need any of the existing religions, but if people insist, point them to the core-business of their religion,that is the messages itself and not the structure what was build on it. If they insist on using science, also not a problem: let them search not only to the ‘what and how’ but also to the ‘why’ and they will find out that everything is connected in All That Is. So the least we can do is have respect for all and that includes nature!
Chris De Cat, Thu 8 Jul, 09:45
Much insight and wisdom in the comments on this thread, and thanks to each and every participant. Thanks, of course, also to Michael for again getting the ball rolling. In what has become my daily devotional reading of “Spirit Teachings,” it has increasingly been brought home to me that the signs and wonders of communication across the veil are but means to break through our default materialist mindset, relentlessly hammered into us since we were children, and to provide consolation to the fearful or bereaved. The ultimate purpose of such signs and wonders, however, is not this breakthrough (crucial as it is), nor personal consolation (crucial as that is), but something of even greater scope and magnitude. I yield here to Imperator:
“The only danger is in substituting the physical (the signs and wonders) for the spiritual, and resting in it. It is but a means to some, which is intended to eventuate in spiritual development…. But the validity of our claims must rest on some more solid foundation than that. The evidence is not to be built on so shadowy a foundation. It would not stand the test of time. It is on MORAL GROUNDS (my caps) that we must appeal to you….”
Until I read a couple of books on the history of the spiritualism movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, I had no idea that so many spiritualists were deeply involved in the great social movements of their time: the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, prison reform, the right to form unions, efforts to lift the poor and downtrodden, efforts to bring an end to war, etc. If spiritualism, in the widest and deepest sense, is to make a comeback, I suspect that it will come not by our dwelling on the signs and wonders of the past, nor by our calling attention to new signs and wonders, but rather by our moral actions, by our active participation in this world, as those who recognize the next world, in the most worthy social movements of OUR time. Boiled down, these involve a struggle, on many fronts, for a political and socioeconomic system other than imperial (and, yes, Eric) ecocidal plutocracy, one which puts people and planet over profit and power. This is not a matter of right and left, each of which has their wisdom, but rather of elementary good and evil.
Newton E. Finn, Wed 7 Jul, 17:58
Yvonne has apparently sent the following comment, but it does not appear in the present state of Mike’s blog, so I’ll paste it in here, just in case others are missing it too. (I can do that because it has appeared amongst the normal emails in my inbox.)
Chris, if I am understanding you correctly, no, that is not the most common way mediums work.
As mediums working within the Spiritist practice, we strive to use our faculty of mediumship in serious, sincere and humble spiritual service.
Mostly, we work to receive moral and spiritual messages, and to provide charity to those spirits that are brought to us for help (educating them mostly about their current situation). [Does Yvonne here refer to ‘rescue’ work for spirits stranded between worlds?]
We receive spirit messages of an evidentiary nature, spirits come to do spiritual healings, as well as provide some personal messages which are usually of a moral or serious nature.
Working within a group of long-time and tested mediums, the content of all spirit communications are always analyzed, and corroboration sought.
We emphasize that discernment is of tantamount [paramount?] importance. We tell all who listen to any spirit communication to use their reason and reject what does not make sense.
I want to add simply that I am delighted to hear the voice of experience, and am glad Yvonne has been assertive enough to correct an impression that does not fit her experience. I hope we shall be granted more of such illumination by the Experiencers among us. Yes, let’s grant them the capital E.
Eric Franklin, Wed 7 Jul, 14:03
Dear Mike (Tymn),
Thanks foryet more wisdom fro Hyslop. As I get to know more of him my respect for his scientific wisdom grows. And Michael D is right to. The wrong kind of “religion” is our worst enemy. The right kind of science is our best ally.
24/7 caring duties are calling . . .
Eric Franklin, Wed 7 Jul, 09:03
I’d like to see the complete removal of religion from all human recognition and discussion. In a funny way the extremist branch of atheism has it exactly right: religion is irrational and a menace.
Aside from the destruction following in the wake of the “religious” that should cause it to be declared a public nuisance, the very concept of religion is based on faith and superstition. Not only is this flatly wrong, but it’s pretty obviously an impediment on the pathway of figuring out what’s really going on.
If we have learned nothing else, people who frequent this page should be well beyond these two cornerstones of religion (faith and superstition) and recognize that the unseen worlds are basically analogues or continuations of the world we live in, scientific realities not yet demonstrated, not fictions of superstition and faith. Everything should flow naturally from that concept; anything which does not encourage that is a liability.
In that context, religion is the enemy of all of us. As a bonus, if we had the proper context going for our own discussions, atheists would be irrelevant.
MichaelD, Wed 7 Jul, 04:05
Thanks to all for the very meaningful comments so far. My post was becoming too long, so I was not able to add Professor James Hyslop’s additional comments, as set forth in his 1918 book, “Life After Death.” I’ll add them here:
“The chief hostility of the academic man today against psychic research is based upon his dislike of the vulgarity of spiritualistic performances and the triviality of its incidents. The intellectual man of today has inherited the Greco-Roman aristocratic feelings in regard to knowledge and has added to it, unconsciously perhaps, the Christian ideals of what a spiritual world would be, if it exists at all, and with these standards revolts against the puerilities of the phenomena as he characterizes them. He has forgotten his science in his devotion to the aesthetic life and intellectual and literary refinements. He thinks no good can come out out Nazareth. The attack of the Pharisees and Sadducees upon Christ and his apostle was based upon their plebeian character, not upon the untrue nature of their facts. This sort of snobbery has perpetuated itself, and the academic world is the inheritor of its antagonisms. This class of self-appointed authorities arrogates every right to regulate human thinking, and when it cannot achieve its purpose by reason, it appeals to ridicule, and has never learned that all the great ethical movements of history have originated and sustained themselves among the common people. It is their duty to lead, not to despise them. But they dispense contempt of those they were appointed to teach and then wonder why their self-arrogated wisdom is not respected!
“The Christian Church also shares in this hostility to the whole subject more than it should. It is true that just at this time it cannot be reproached as much for antagonism as it could a generation ago. Then it maintained the attitude of aestheticism as much as the academic world. But its own decline of power and the shame that an institution which was founded on the immortality of the soul should cultivate ridicule for scientific proof of what it already believed and always taught has become too great to find any excuse for its continuance. Its own crying needs for certitude that may justify its claims are too strong for it to resist any longer and the dawn is beginning to show on the horizon of the vision. But it is too slow and too cowardly in many instances to seize the reins of power which it once enjoyed and to be at the front of this contest with materialism. It has been too thoroughly saturated with the aesthetic view of life. It has imbibed the spirit of intellectual aristocracy and has too often become the inheritor of the Phariseeism and Sadduceeism of its first enemies to see the way of redemption. Snobbery in high places helps to blind its vision of the truth. No wise man can disregard the facts of nature whatever their unbidding appearance. Professor James once wrote that a scientific man—and the scientific man is a first lover of truth—would investigate in a dunghill to study a new fungus and thereby find laws of nature that might be discovered nowhere else. But the academic and religious aesthete prefers artistic comfort and environment to truth.”
Michael Tymn, Tue 6 Jul, 21:59
I believe Newton has diagnosed the political and social situation perfectly as usual. We are all the victims of a conspiracy - if we allow ourselves to become so unthinking as to sink into the prevailing system. He could have added that the same so-called leaders are currently completing the wreckage of the planet as well. Even those who perpetrate the spread of control over the masses are themselves mostly that conspiracy’s already-deluded victims. Shortly, we who resist the loss of self-awareness the conspiracy requires for mass compliance will find ourselves hated by the rulers and the masses alike. Even now, the thinking minority is always resented and hated (and feared) by the mediocre and thoughtless majority. Independence of thought will become the greatest of all crimes against “the people” (whoever THEY are).
My own hope is that we shall shortly see the descent to Earth with power of a true servant of that totally faithful and merciful ‘God’ upon Whom we CAN rely. Maybe Yahshua will make that powerful intervention, as many believe. Maybe it will happen above the political sphere and have downward-reaching effects the present reprobate politicians cannot resist. Maybe it will follow a war in heaven. Who knows the details, or even whether an event recognisable as a visitation by a Deus ex Machina will take place at all? But if it does not, the salvation of the spiritually alive will be by merciful rescue from this low universe, and removal to a better one.
As always, much more could be said.
Eric Franklin, Tue 6 Jul, 21:50
In the midst of this interesting and edifying discussion, elicited by a thoughtful and timely post, let me venture more deeply into the political arena to provide fuller context. Whether we want to admit it or not, the brute and brutal fact is that we now find ourselves living in an imperialist plutocracy, global in scope, which has evolved/devolved an educational system, along with other cultural systems, to meet its needs. Those needs, inter alia, concern the training of students to fit into various narrow employment slots required to preserve the status quo, to keep the elite in place and increase their wealth and power. Small wonder—is it not?—that anything even remotely challenging materialism, in the sense of philosophical viewpoint or personal values, is vigilantly marginalized, ignored or mocked if not suppressed. Exceptions include degenerate forms of western or eastern religion which have become predominantly otherworldly (and thereby socially de-toothed) or rendered compatible with the pursuit of wealth or power. Isn’t it obvious by now that so-called cultural wars over largely innocuous things like Ten Commandments monuments are ginned up by the media system, counterpart to the educational system, to keep the masses (us) divided and diverted from focusing on the much bigger, much more sinister picture?
Newton E. Finn, Tue 6 Jul, 20:01
You’ve got us all thinking, Michael. I’m with every word. Sadly, sanity is in short supply, just now. We must be patient and persistent. The impossible can happen. We must keep at it. Thanks for the stimulus.
Alan Sanderson, Tue 6 Jul, 13:36
Coyd makes a good point, I think. Consciousness concerns itself with what it is conscious OF, the recognition of the BEING that is conscious, as such, following later. Consciousness looks out upon the world around without even asking who is doing the looking around. The seeing itself is everything even to the no-ego seer itself. It is an odd concept, difficult to grasp, and pin down, but once one does notice it, rather obvious. No-one is doing the looking around, but the world-about is certainly being seen as if from within. The very nature of being-there is to see, and to sense in other ways too. It is that anonymous consciousness of the world about that is, in the Hindu sense of ‘Tat twam asi’, a tiny part of what we call God. I think, probably, that this `being-there’ is what is immortal, though it does seem to enjoy the Great Being’s recognition of its Selfhood - so long as that Self is selfless, ego-less.
Eric Franklin, Tue 6 Jul, 12:47
A response to the question you asked as the first comment on Mike’s latest blog:
A personal opinion, for it is certainly nothing more, would be that the Great Being, alias God, probably does not deny us every pleasant experience, despite the more extreme view of determined martyrs, who actively seek the ultimate in suffering, but He/She does expect us to apply honestly our own ethical judgement to all our activities. The wiccan principle ‘An it hurt none, do what you will’ is a codification of that thinking, and is surely not as far removed from christian thinking as some would attempt to maintain. Yashua said his burden was light, though he was thereby pointing to the contrast between his teaching and the heavy burden of the Mosaic Law with its ritualistic requirements (which actually gave the priests and Levites their food supply).
I think the main argument against the seeking of pleasure above all is that it usually comes at the expense of helpfulness to others, for instance, and so numbs the very same ethical sense that underlies Yahshua’s simple gospel, namely the principle of doing unto others as one would like them to do unto oneself. Incidentally, this very principle is the main tenet of Kant’s Grundlegung (grounding law or principle) to any system of morals. We should act ourselves in the way we would like others to be bound by law to act towards us. Yet, that way of life is a way of love, not of law. Enjoy others, so long as, in doing so, you are not causing them to suffer, but are sharing joys with them, too, and with their free consent. More could be said, of course.
Eric Franklin, Tue 6 Jul, 11:57
Mike: Although consciousness and meaningfulness no doubt preceded religion, I doubt that recognition of them did. I think meaning became an issue with the “death of God”, and that we discovered our (conscious) selves on the basis of previously “discovered” gods.
coyd, Mon 5 Jul, 22:06
Michael Schmicker, Mon 5 Jul, 21:54
Good one. You are ever the voice of reason. Unfortunately, reason is becoming rarer and rarer in discourse. Both Fundamentalist Religion and Science would block the idea. One of the few good things about the entertainment industry is that it loves the paranormal, which helps keeps life after death, consciousness and spirituality topics alive and discussed by the average non-church going public.
Beautifully and logically written.
If only these wonderful classes existed!
Yvonne Limoges, Mon 5 Jul, 20:32
When you look at the mission statements of college liberal arts programs you will find that the educators are expected to teach about the beliefs of earlier cultures and how these have influenced our modern cultures. My discipline being philosophy, not only do I get to teach about the views of Plato, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, but also understanding their beliefs from the point of view of consciousness studies, which make these ancient beliefs more plausible, given their contrast to modern secularism (and religious dogmatism). As Michael notes, students come to the class expecting spiritual beliefs to be taught from deductive premises, so it is surprising to them when these subjects are approached from an openminded empirical inquiry. In the process, they are also exposed to the cultic stance of contemporary skepticism. The choice between nihilism and spirituality is no longer only a question of ancient (and thus outdated) beliefs versus contemporary beliefs, or irrationalism vs. rationalism.
Daniel Kealey, Mon 5 Jul, 20:26
Dear Mike (Tymn),
I think you are right to believe that an educational curriculum devised by humans would become stultified by false propositions that are like those we currently find in all the religions. In other words, at best, new religions just as false as the present ones would come into being. But the seeming contrary is also true, many individuals showing one result of consciousness, ie of thought, a few the opposite result. What we call ethics is essential for any life, largely, of course, to define its attitudes to others and their lives. But a few humans do have a sense of what is proper treatment of others inherent in their consciousness regardless of their religious upbringing and similar influences. These few people would stand out from the rest of society - and be hated for their scrupulousness. We see that everywhere in the present chaos of man-made dogmatic systems, including even science. It would, I think, quickly re-appear if some new way of education were to be practised.
My own view is that this universe, ie the one we live in, is a testing ground for the individual’s ethical beliefs and actions, and where we find ourselves when the body breaks down depends on what we have thought and done before it breaks down. It is a somewhat simplistic view with a myriad possible outcomes when the allotted span of life expires. It is a matter of our free choice which way we will go.
I notice that Amos has made the free choice to ignore me yet again. It is obvious he despises me, but it is also obvious that he cannot give a reason. I wonder why? How I am seen by other men hardly interests me. Like the Apostle Paul, I have a good conscience, but like him I acknowledge that I am not my own judge. How I am seen by the being we call God is all-important to me. Amos has made his attitude to me totally clear so I shall probably ignore him from now on, even if he makes good points sometimes.
Eric Franklin, Mon 5 Jul, 16:34
This is such an important and provocative post. On first reading it, my impulse was to look up the latest answers to the question is the Bible history or religion? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_the_Bible
Certainly debating that question in public schools would cause all kinds of trouble. Yet how can we ignore it? I think all students should at least be introduced to comparative religion by high school. Then I came across a 1998 book called Taking Religion Seriously across the Curriculum which argues:
“If religion is to be taught across the curriculum—as we have argued—then the Bible and world religions will properly come in for some discussion in many courses, and the themes of this chapter will be relevant to most teachers.
We have argued not just for the natural inclusion of religion in existing courses, however, but for courses in religion. If educators are to take religion seriously, if they are to treat it with a robust fairness, then there must be required courses in religious studies taught by teachers competent (and certified) to teach them. We have acknowledged that neither certified teachers nor required courses are likely prospects in the foreseeable future—but it is important to keep the ideal in mind if we are to move in the right direction.
Of course elective courses in the Bible and world religions, if not quite common, are not uncommon either—and there should be more of them. In this chapter we discuss the educational and constitutional issues relating to such—courses and propose what we take to be important in any introductory course in religious studies.”
Robin, Mon 5 Jul, 16:14
There are probably many books published on this since 1998… But this is all inspired by your comment that the story of Moses and the 10 Commandments precedes religion.
Among the earliest pieces of the New Testament, according to a growing number of biblical scholars, is what appears to be a hymn from the Jesus movement of the mid-first century. This hymn, quoted by Paul in Philippians 2:6-11, reads as follows:
who (Jesus), though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
While, as Michael correctly indicates, Jesus was officially declared to be God by what had become the institutional church of the fourth century, it is this hymn quoted by Paul and similar early NT material which have begun to alter the older view of biblical scholars that the elevation of Jesus to some sort of near-divine status was a gradual process stretching over several hundred years. When reading “Spirit Teachings,” I was immediately struck by the words of Imperator about Jesus that seemed to echo this first century hymn, which, please note, lacks an atonement theology (the appeasing of an angry God) and focuses instead on the sublimely sacrificial life Jesus lived—BY VIRTUE OF WHICH (rather than by his pre-existing status) he was “exalted” by God to his unique and universal salvific role. Controversies, subjects, and concepts like this one, which help to decipher important ancient documents and thereby shed light on major historical and cultural developments, should OBVIOUSLY be fair game in high school or college classrooms—as should, to cite further examples, works like William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience,” or the investigations of the SPR and current NDE researchers, or the panoply of divergent philosophical views of consciousness. Separation of church and state should prevent the personal endorsement by an instructor of any particular religious or philosophical belief or the exclusion from scrutiny of any significant religious or philosophical tradition, NOT the objective study of them as aspects of history, culture, and human experience. Should some deem this a slippery slope, I would counter that it’s one we must traverse if we are to have a rich and meaningful—a truly humanizing—educational process.
Newton E. Finn, Mon 5 Jul, 16:09
If I understand your question to mean ‘can we not live life to the fullest and still believe in an afterlife?’—-I would have to heartily say “yes!” I think that an omniscient loving god in his wisdom would not deny his creations some degree of merriment. I see such happiness all around me in the innocent behaviors of all God’s creatures and if near death experiences truly represent an afterlife then one sees much happiness there. It is only the moral judgments of religion that seek to curtail man’s desire for pleasure which he finds in many forms all put before him by a loving creator.
Dr. Keith Parsons created a simple YouTube video which I think is one of his most insightful efforts, albeit short and unadorned. It is all the religious morality I need. I recommend viewing it at some quite time of reflection. Thanks Keith! - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 5 Jul, 14:14
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 5 Jul, 13:19
I think you have just written the last chapter, the conclusions, of your next book, the one I have always wanted you to write; the one that sets forth your thoughts about life and death and the hereafter after a lifetime of study. Superb! Better than anything you have ever written I surmise. - AOD
It is a wonderful idea, but sadly never going to happen.
Tricia, Mon 5 Jul, 09:54
Can we not ” make the most of each day by eating, drinking, using drugs, having casual sex, and being merry without restraint” and believe in a afterlife with a purpose, though not necessarily those listed above.
Jox, Mon 5 Jul, 09:22
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