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!