Saturday, 5 June 2010

On questioning belief

“He who does not question his belief falls victim to it.”
Carl Jung

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The circle of relationship

I'm currently reading The Shack by WM Paul Young and there's an interesting conversation the protagonist has with Jesus, about the circle of relationship. The idea is that, because the first woman was created out of man and because ever since, all men (including Jesus) have been birthed by women, there is a possibility of a fully equal face-to-face relationship between women and men. There is a circle rather than a hierarchy of creation and relationship.

Pen and ink on paper

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Reinstating the feminine

Inspired by something I listened to a while back, Alice Walker's ruminations on the "Feminine," and a lot that has happened since.

Acrylic, oil pastel, colour pencil and ink on cardboard

Monday, 3 May 2010

More evidence, less faith?

Short post on Fishsnorkel suggesting an inverse relationship between evidence and faith.

To summarise:

"Faith and science are mutually exclusive. If you know something because of evidence you don’t need faith anymore, and evidence only increases with time."

God prefers atheists

Found on Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles via twitter:

Friday, 30 April 2010

Christianity & Oppression in Literature: Alice Walker

From Alice Walker's novel, The Temple of My Familiar:

"My father, Samuel, was a missionary also, but by the time we returned to America he had long since lost his faith; not in the spiritual teachings of Jesus, the prophet and human being, but in Christianity as a religion of conquest and domination inflicted on other peoples … We had all begun to see, in Africa – where people worshipped many things, including the roofleaf plant, which they used to cover their houses – that “God” was not a monolith, and not the property of Moses, as we’d been led to think, and not separate from us, or absent from whatever world one inhabited. Once this channel was cleared, so to speak, much that our people had been taught about religion, much that diminished them and kept them in oppression, would naturally fall away. It was so hard for the Africans, in this new religion we brought, to ever feel “God” loved them, for instance; whereas in the traditional religions they practiced they took this more or less for granted."

Friday, 12 March 2010

The 3 Worlds of Consciousness

I'm taking a Raja Yoga Meditation course with the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. I didn't have any particular expectations and it's turning out to be incredibly useful, enlightening (illuminating the dusty corners of my Self), warming …

This week we talked about the 3 worlds of consciousness: the physical world (manic, destructive, beautiful, noisy, competitive, confusing, inter-connected etc.); the subtle or angelic world (free from the pulls of the physical world – energizing, radiant, innocent, harmonious, love, flow) and; the soul world (a place/dimension/experience/state of mind, heaven, nirvana, home, rejuvenating, restful, safe, peaceful).

The artwork above was inspired by this. The physical world is in the centre. I used black for the soul world and was thinking about how many associate black with evil or death. To accept this myself would be dishonourable to my Self so… Instead, I look at blackness as richness. A mysterious and endless mass. Fullness.

Collage, ink, oil pastel, colour pencil

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The mastermind

The following is an excerpt from Jack Canfield's book, The Success Principles. He refers to the book by Napoleon Hill discussed in a previous post about faith and riches.

"If we are in tune with the mastermind – that is, God, the source, the universal power, or whatever term you use for the all-powerful creative life force – we have significantly more positive energy available to us, a power that can be focused on our success. Even the Bible talks about this:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there I am in the midst of them."
(King James Version of the Bible)

"Mastermind," therefore, is both the power that comes to us from each other and the power that comes to us from above."

He is referring to the success principle about having a mastermind group of like-minded, supportive individuals whom you meet with regularly for the purpose of networking, exchanging knowledge, sharing resources and inspiration.

This idea, and the excerpt above, including Matthew, illustrate the idea that doing your true work is a way of accessing/aligning with/tapping into/unveiling God. And that when you do this, the universe, and all in it, conspire with you.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Introducing The Bible

I remember over 10 years ago deciding that I was going to read the Bible, from cover to cover. I did begin but barely made it past the first few pages of Genesis. Clearly it wasn’t time.

A few weeks ago, I purchased the Oxford World’s Classics The Bible: Authorized King James Version with Apocrypha. In the weeks since, I’ve been making my way through the introduction. Anxious to get into the books but, restraining myself in a quest to understand “the making of” so-to-speak. It’s been worth the patience for I now have a much better understanding of this Book of books…

Initially, the books existed as different scrolls. The collection of history, prophecy, law, devotional verse, proverbs, love poetry, fiction and letters that we now see under one umbrella, The Bible, was composed over almost 500 years. Initially separate writings (at least physically if not otherwise), with the codex and later with printing (and binding), they had to be organised in a particular sequence. This organization itself suggesting relationships between writings and consequentially, affecting meaning.

Identity: language, culture, meaning and origins
The Islamic community does not view English versions of the Qu’ran as translations as they do not carry the same powerful meaning of the original Arabic wording. Reading this made me think about the connection between language and culture. Indeed, my observation is that devoted followers of Islam do not merely have in common religion but a lifestyle as well. The religion seems very much rooted in a certain culture, not merely moral expectations and choices. And if this culture is most fully expressed in a certain language, Arabic, I can understand this idea that the Qu’ran, in Arabic, is a more profound piece of communication.

Considering that the writings in The Bible have been translated and paraphrased, from sacred texts from different cultures (Canaanite, Mesopotaniam, Egyptian etc.), and that this Authorized Version is, as the introduction states “a deliberate piece of social and linguistic engineering,” what consequence does this have on the identity of Christianity? Can it even be truly reduced as having a culture.

“Three-quarters of the Christian Bible… is acknowledged, even by its most fundamental adherents, to be originally the scripture of another religion and written in a language never spoken by any Christian community.” (pxx)

Christianity is widely appreciated to be an appropriation of Judaism but the dispute lies in to what degree. According to the introduction, one view is that there are two Judaisms: Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity. Another is that Christianity as a form of Judaism. Another sees Christianity as an early sect writing Judaism rather than a new religion.

Despite the classification “New”, the introduction suggests that some of the writings that are now part of the New Testament were actually written before the Hebrew Bible was put together, adding further blurriness to this distinction between Judaism and Christianity.

However, with the Christian appropriation of Jewish scriptures, the reading of them became multi-level. It is widely accepted that there are four types of interpretation. There is a latin rhyme that illustrates this well:

“Littera gesta docet, quid credes allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia”
(I do not understand Latin so:
“The letter teaches what happened, the allegorical what to believe, the moral what to do, the anagogical toward what to aspire.”) (pxxx)

This multi-level interpretation is apparently what took it beyond a book of laws and history for a particular people (the people of Israel) and created a wider audience for Christianity. I think that in theory, this is what helps it escape what author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls the danger of the single story. If open to different levels of interpretation, readers are free to imagine, to be creative, to think and judge for themselves.

But, speaking of freedom, and considering the passing on of stories from one translator to the next, one wonders how much editing has taken place over the centuries. Who decided that the stories should go together, and how? Whose views have shaped the meaning of the stories over time? Why have no further writings been included through these great many years of human endeavour and growth?

This particular version I’m reading exists because it was authorized by King James. It has been so influential (dominating?) that it has influenced the language which other Bibles must speak.

Theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher is quoted in the introduction:

“No text could have a fixed meaning unmodified by the motives and viewpoint of its author, its history, cultural context, the language in which it was written, the process of translation, and the cultural interpretative context in which the reader approaches it.” (pxlii)

I think of how Christianity was instrumentalised by colonialism. How, first came the Word and then physical enslavement (did mental enslavement begin with the former or come with the latter?). Again, used as an apparatus of power to dominate. An earlier post, inspired by a dialogue involving Alice Walker, describes how she sees this dominating and domineering aspect of religion as contributing to the destruction of the planet.

The Bible, as well as inspiring cruel acts in the name of religion, has also inspired art (great painters, writers etc.). For artist William Blake, “the power of the Bible lay not in its unchanging truth, but its dynamism and fluidity” (pxxxvi). And perhaps that is what you get when you put together disparate writings and then translate and retranslate them over centuries. One would assume a constant reworking of meaning yet it appears that therein lies its power.

I think this statement sums it up best:

“In celebrating the enduring vitality, dynamism and influence of one 400-year-old translation of a loose and, to some extent, accidental collection of ancient writings translated from Near Eastern texts, we are also celebrating the continuing vitality of the interlinked but marvelously diverse cultures of the English-speaking world and beyond. If in the beginning was the word, then continually has that word been in the world transforming it and being transformed by that world through other words and continually shall it be in transformed worlds and words to come. This edition is but one version of that ongoing word.” (pvi)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Honouring the Feminine: Alice Walker in dialogue

I listened to a dialogue between author/activist Alice Walker and Jungian analyst, Harry Fogarty. Titled, "Alice Walker on Faith, Nature and Social Activism" (part of the Red Book Dialogues), a lot of the conversation revolved around the idea of the Feminine.

Walker talked about how long ago, reverence of the Feminine was common practice but fear of the free Feminine and its power (specifically creation), led men to subdue it. Men wanted soldiers, warriors and employees and so needed to control the "source" of production. This is Walker's theory on how our patriarchal world came to be. Because women are forced to produce, we have overpopulation. Overpopulation that is so unsustainable that our planet (i.e. our environment) is making us pay the price.

How does religion fit in all this? Walker connects the dominating and domineering attributes of religion as contributing to the destruction of the planet and hopes "that we can, by reinstating the Feminine, bring balance to some of the ideology that has been so harmful." She brings up individual responsibility as a solution to countering this ideology,

"We have drifted too long in this … nightmare dream that somehow we are being saved by something beyond ourselves. We're not. It's impossible. We have to do the whole work …
If you take care of your own demons, that's saving the world, because they don't then run all over the place and destroy other people."

A self-proclaimed Animist and Pagan, Walker suggests that the Self is the starting point.

Further investigation: the idea of the Feminine

Monday, 25 January 2010

10 intelligent designs/creation stories

This short article from Live Science gives a quick overview of 10 creation myths from different belief systems/religions. Although it's a bit of a piss-take, and has definitely nudged me into following up with some further reading, the essence of the stories seems credible.

It includes creation stories from:
- Norse mythology
- Zoroastrianism
- Babylon
- Ancient Egypt
- The Aztecs
- The Middle Kingdom, China
- Japan
- Hinduism
- Greece
- Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Some noted similarities across two or more of the above:
- Life emerging from death
- Vengeance and harm against others
- Monsters
- And of course nature (mountains/hills, trees, oceans, rivers animals) and elements (water, fire, earth, air)

What is interesting is that, it is almost always implied that whatever existed before humans was not favourable. Is that because I'm human and so I see the world that I know as the only favourable setting? Or is it because we humans, who wrote these stories, have egos to pet and so imagine that before us, what existence there was was bleak? The same way that, for example, we worry climate change will mean the end of the world when in fact, it will mean merely the end of the world as we know and can live in it.

Here again, in the title of the article, is the use of the idea of intelligence in reference to God-like attributes.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Faith and riches

Some ideas about faith from an unlikely source, the classic Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

"Faith is a state of mind which may be induced or created by affirmation or repeated instructions to the subconscious mind through the principle of autosuggestion."

"Faith is the starting point of all accumulation of riches.*
Faith is the basis of all miracles and all mysteries which cannot be analysed by the rules of science.
Faith is the only known antidote for failure.
Faith is the element, the chemical which, when mixed with prayer gives one direct communication with infinite intelligence.**
Faith is the element which transforms the ordinary vibration of thought created by the finite mind of man into the spiritual equivalent.
Faith is the only agency through which the cosmic force of infinite intelligence can be harnessed an used by man."

* Interesting about the book is that, financial riches are twelfth (i.e. last) in the list of what the author constitutes wealth. My initial perception of the book has been thoroughly overturned as I get through it. So far it seems to be more about working on your Self, than about getting your hands on cash (with the premise that the former can facilitate the latter!)
** "infinite intelligence" – a different way to talk about the knowledge, the spiritual energy, that is God?

Friday, 15 January 2010

Reading List: The God delusion

Another rec. from El, in a quest to understand what atheism is really about (as a "belief" it is indeed within the realm of study): Richard Dawkin's The God delusion.

"He makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just irrational, but potentially deadly."
(From the Google Books page)

I'll withhold my comments until I read it!

Reading List: Sum: Forty tales from the afterlives

Recommended by my friend El, Sum: forty tales from the afterlives by David Eagleman.

"These wonderfully imagined tale–at once funny, wistful, and unsettling–are rooted in science and romance and awe at our mysterious existence: a mixture of death, hope, computers, immortality, love, biology, and desire that exposes radiant new facets of our humanity."
(from Google Books)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Way of the orisha

Inspired by today's earlier post…

(Paper, acrylic and colour pencil on paper)

Reading List: Her-Bak, Egyptian Initiate

Quoted by Baba Ifa Karade (pxi):

“The aim of man’s mystical search is to acquire an imperishable consciousness through a progressive communion of his physical body (his temporal reality), with his spiritual being (his immortal reality), and his ‘kinship’ with his divine cause.”

From Her-Bak: Egyptian Initiate by Isha Schwaller de Lubicz which is apparently a novel telling the story of a boy on a quest to learn Egyptian sacred teachings.

Introduction to Yoruba religion

I’ve been interested in Yoruba religion ever since a Nigerian friend of mine introduced me to some of its beliefs. They made a lot of sense to me and seemed strikingly similar to what I know of Eastern religions that aim toward union with the divine (and thus all things).

I bought a book to find out more: The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts, by Baba Ifa Karade (Weiser Books, 1994).

He classifies Yoruba as a religion since it is “a divine journey to the inner self and to God-consciousness” (pxii). Its tenets revolve around this:

“Oneness with the Creative Essence brings about a wholeness in the potential of the human essence (pxi)”

In Yoruba religion, there is one God, called Oludumare or Olorun, who is responsible for creation and the upkeep of what he made. He has deities who help to perform his work and act as links between mankind and himself. These holy messengers are equivalent to angles and are called orisha. In Yoruba, you must believe in orisha if you are to reach God-consciousness. Yoruba angels never fell from God’s grace.

There is a lot of misinterpration of Yoruba religion, and its New World manifestations (Voudun, Santeria, Candomble etc.), and many confuse mysticism for occultism or “voodoo”. Karabe insists on the necessity of understanding Yoruba history in order to understand the faith.

The Yoruba people migrated from East Africa, across the trans-African route from the mid-Nile river are to mid-Niger (explaining supposed similarities between Yoruba and Egyptian culture). They settled in the already-established Ile-Ife, sacred city of the indigenous Nok culture, between 2000 and 500 B.C.

The Yoruba Empire grew with wars initially being fought for people to serve their land and only later, in the 15th and 16th centuries, to secure slaves for export. In this way, the Yoruba’s “most natural resource” (Karade, p3) was depleted with the greatest percentage of slaves sent to the New World, coming from the Yoruba Nation. Many were political prisoners of elite soldiers and warrior-priests and initiated in the higher teachings so they had a good knowledge of the culture. They took this with them through the Middle Passage and thus it became a dominant theme for African descendants in the New World.

Meanwhile on African soil, Europeans were bringing with them Christianity.
What resulted was a synthesis of religions. Some followed an interpretation of Christianity, based on African spirituality and practices, either denouncing or refusing to acknowledge traditional gods. Others kept their traditional beliefs and practices alongside Christianity, integrating them.

In order to keep the orisha alive, the Yoruba consciously disguised them as Christian saints and paid homage to them through Christian social-ritual performances. Catholicism made this easier because of its many saints and because the major enslavers were Spanish and Portuguese (Catholics), the religion was able to remain virtually intact. It manifested as Santeria (in Puerto Rico), Candomble (in Brazil), Shango (in Trinidad), Voodun (in Haiti) and Lucumi (in Cuba). Complete with language and cultural mannerisms intact!

It was harder to keep the religion alive where Africans were subjugated by an English Protestant dominant culture. There were significantly fewer patron saints and the lack of a tropical environment in North America meant there was little cultural relativity. The final straw to cutting the ties, according to Karade, was the practice of inbreeding African-American slaves which meant the end of “fresh ideas and religious fervor from newly-arrived enslaved prisoners” (p6).

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The healing medicine of joy

A friend introduced me to Unity, “a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity… [that] honors the universal truths in all religions and respects each individual's right to choose a spiritual path. I was really interested about their interpretations of “God”, “Jesus”, “The Bible”, etc. and luckily, there are some lessons from the Unity Center of Light available in audio online.

Today I listened to the lesson “Reclaiming Christmas: JOY – Part 4” and below are some interesting ideas from it…

The importance of inner work and being with your Self
This reminded me of another post I recently wrote on my blog Pandemonium Today. Reverend Milledge “Butch” Mosby quotes from Gandhi’s book, The Way to God:

“The spiritual path is one on which you are seeking to train that part of your being that does live by faith to engage that part of your being that does not.”

This engaging, also interpreted as healing is seen as our life’s journey (and healing our soul as being a journey not a destination for, the closer we get to what we seek, the more we realise just how much else there is to find). And this journey is an inner one, helping us to know ourselves and therefore to know God. Our own inner process being the only way to know that God is real.

So what happens when you do not do this inner work?
If we do not do this inner work, we may not know that that which we seek has already been given to us. It is knowing that takes us beyond hope, which is susceptible to fear and doubt, and into faith. Indeed we will be fearful because we forgot who we are. When we are frightened and troubled, it’s something inside us that is frightening and troubling us. Even though we may identify outer conditions as the source of this fear.

Mosby gives a great analogy using the current blockbuster film, Avatar. He recounts the scene when the protagonist first visits the forest and is attacked by its creatures. The native Na’vi girl saves him and she brushes away his thanks, angry that his ignorance forced her to kill the creatures. The point is that, if he was in tune with his surroundings, his surroundings would have been in tune with him. The creatures would not have attacked him the same way that they do not attack her. The moral of Mosby’s story was this: “learning to live the spiritual life is learning to live consciously”. When you live consciously, you realise that the negative things that happen to you are actually opportunities to heal the negative things inside you and transcend them. You realise that every person in your life is a study partner providing you with an opportunity to practise your spiritual perspective. When you attack another, you are denying yourself for, any attack is an attack on truth is an attack on God.

Back to joy
The ultimate destination, and the vehicle towards it (and following the essence of this lesson: the place from where we started), is joy. Knowing ourselves is knowing God and knowing God brings us inner joy.

Joy is the “happiness of God expressed through His perfect idea – man”.
– Unity founder, Charles Filmore

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The awakening of faith

(Watercolour pencil on coloured card)

Rediscovering a reason to believe

A reason to believe is a document of my personal exploration of the essence of faith. I will be using the web as a tool to catalogue religious philosophies and teachings and to share the artistic works that I am inspired to create.

This blog will be part resource: I will be categorising religious expressions (texts, art, celebrations etc.) by theme. This is for my own reference (so interpretations will likely be subjective), but may be useful for others too.

The blog will be part art project: I will be creating art works inspired by my discoveries and insights.

Baptised a Christian and coming from an extended family full of religious leaders and devout believers, it has often been assumed that Christianity is my faith. That doesn’t ring quite so true for me. I do believe in God and I find philosophies and teachings from several faiths that resonate with and are relevant to me. At the same time, I find many interpretations of religion that appear to distort the intended teachings, and so many blind followers who seem to have thrown questioning to the wind. For these reasons, I do not claim to belong to any particular faith.

Yet, I remain fascinated, particularly by the similarities between philosophies and teachings. This project is essentially about my quest to learn more about these different faiths and through drilling down to their essence, finding my religion. Finding yet another way for me to converse with and develop a closer relationship with God.

You are invited to participate in this journey. Please feel free to share any comments, questions, recommendations and stories but, please let’s keep it constructive!