A Quick Tour of Hinduism

7 10 2009

Well, a REALLY quick tour of Hinduism, and less than it deserves, being both the oldest of the currently popular Religions, and the third most populous, behind Christianity and Islam, which, you’ll notice, I haven’t touched on at all yet.

Hinduism predates the mythology of the Greeks and Romans.  The oldest of the known pantheons of Hindu featured a Lightning God, named Dya.  Dya is the same god called Deo in the Roman languages, and is, therefore, the god currently called Deus.  Deus, was, in the Greek mythology, Zeus.  And God the Father, DeoPater, became Jupiter.

As with all things Hindu, the gods were mortal, but exceedingly long-lived.  Eventually, the old pantheon gave way to the new pantheon, of which some of the Gods have names known by we Westerners (Shiva, Kali, Laxmi, Ganesh) and teachings that we Westerners know something of (karma, reincarnation, Om (the primordial sound of the Universe)).  But, the main teaching of Hindu is that all life is Divine.  When Hindus meet, they put their hands together and bow slightly, saying Namaste, which means, loosely, “I offer reverence to the God within you which is also within me.”  The first syllable of Namaste, Nam, is the same word you see in things like Viet Nam, and the practice of the Buddhists who pray using the phrase “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”.

The rest of Hinduism is a network of complex relationships between miscellaneous Deities, some which create, some which destroy, but all of which reside within each of us.  When Hindus chant their malas, they pray to individual aspects of the Deity which they wish to emphasize in their daily lives: Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles; Laxmi, the Provider of Material Comforts; Shiva, the Auspicious One and the Bringer of Change. 

But, with Hinduism, there is a God for everything.  Just good to know.


The essence of prayer

5 10 2009

I will start this evening’s post with a bold assertion: Prayer Works.  The question of what prayer is, and why it works is a little more complicated.

Generally speaking, there are several different kinds of prayer that boil down to some combination of the following: Request, Devotion, Contemplation, Meditation, Repetition, Mortification and Sacrifice.

Request is something like: “Dear God, I want a bike.  Please, please, please, give me a bike.  Thank you, God.”  There can be a bargaining portion of this, as in: “Dear God, please give me a bike.  If you give me a bike, I will sing your praises far and wide.  Thank you, God.”  Overall, this is the simplest form of prayer.  If you get a bike, God has answered your prayer.  If you don’t, maybe there was something wrong with your prayer, or, maybe God didn’t want to answer your prayer, or, maybe, God thought it best not to answer your prayer.  But you’ll never know.  You’ll also never know, if you got that bike, whether your prayer helped get it for you, or whether it just didn’t hurt to put it out there.

The next form of prayer is Devotion.  This is the next step above Bargaining.  This form of prayer is something like, “Dear God, I dedicate my life to your service.”  There might be some form of request that accompanies this form of prayer, but, generally, a request “cheapens” the Devotion.  The people who practice this form of prayer find that life has a physical and a spiritual side, and choose to emphasize the spiritual.

The next form of prayer is Contemplation.  This can vary widely, from the practice of Yoga to Bible Study to, oh, I don’t know, reading this blog.  The people who use this form of prayer are seeking Truth on some level.  You’ll notice that in the word Contemplation, the word Temple is the essence of the word, emphasizing the spiritual nature of it.  Some people combine this with Devotion, and call Contemplation “Silent Devotion”.

Next, there is Meditation.  This is the next level from the Contemplative form, and deals with the essence of the exclusion of external influences to find the internal.  Generally speaking, the people who practice Meditation have some variance of belief that the Divine resides within, rather than outside of, each of us, and that, to reach the heights of the Divine, one must seek the essence which lies within.

Next is Repetition.  This is practiced by most Religions in varying degrees.  Whether you say your mala of 108 “Om Ganeshya Namaha” or 20 minutes of “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”, or pray the Rosary, or 27 “Our Father”s, or whether you recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday at Mass, or the Shema on Saturdays, there is Repetition.  You’ll also notice it with the Bike prayer, above.

Next, there is Mortification.  That’s the Big League stuff that the truly devout visit upon their flesh to show that they are worthy of Heaven by showing that they have no concern for the Earthly Plane.  You can see this with in the almost annual display of physical cruxification in the Philipines, or the people flogging themselves on Good Friday. 

Finally, there is Sacrifice.  This practice has largely stopped over the past several thousand years, but there are still examples to be found, both of animal and human sacrifice, though, thankfully, these examples are few and far between. 

But, what all these things have in common is that there is a transfer of energy from the person doing the praying to the entity receiving it, whether some god, or some person for whom you are praying for their health and recovery.  And this is why I say that prayer works.  It is a simple metaphysical transfer of energy.  The more people pray for the same thing, or to the same Deity, the more energy they give to it, and, in the end, the more powerful that thing or Deity is.   So, if you and a thousand of your nearest friends all pray for you to get that bike, or more likely, you and a thousand of your friends, pray that someone returns to health, the more energy you put into that, and the more likely that thing is to come to pass.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form.

Therefore, all those gods that all those people prayed to, and died for, and sacrificed to, all those thousands of years ago, all that energy still exists.  And, if Man creates God in his own image, all those gods are still out there.  The fact that Jesus, a guy who never wanted to be a god, is the most powerful god currently worshipped, is just ironic.

A Question of Semantics

2 10 2009

Before we dive into some pretty weird and arcane stuff (I mean, come on, it *is* a New Age blog, and I’m going to have to get a little weird and arcane, aren’t I?), I wanted to introduce three words and explain how I’ll be using them going forward.  The three words are: paranormal, metaphysical and supernatural.

These words have similar connotations but are not synonymous, although they are often used interchangably among those discussing less weird and arcane things.  The root “para” means “near to”; the root “meta” means “beyond”; and the root “super” means “above”. 

Therefore, the word paranormal means that which occurs as phenomena within the normal world; unusual, certainly, but, if they exist at all, they do so unquestionably within the worldly domain.  This would include things like ghosts, UFOs, and spontaneous combustion. 

Metaphysics, on the other hand, is that which exists beyond our understanding of phyics, but which are bound by Universal Laws.  These include issues associated with quantum reality, and magik, again, given their existence.

The Supernatural is that which exists above the Natural world.  This deals with questions associated with heaven and hell and their actors: gods, devils, angels and demons, once again, if they exist.

So why was Jesus’ ascension, his aliyah, as it were, metaphysical rather than supernatural?  Because the structure of the Universe is comprised of matter, energy, and void, which is embodied in the triple god associated with Christianity; Jesus: Matter; God-the-Father: Energy; Holy Ghost: Void.  When the material Jesus ascended, he became energy.  This conversion of matter to energy is understood in Physics by the ever so famous equation E=mc**2. 

Now, I was as skeptical of Jesus as the next guy, and, in fact, probably a lot more skeptical than most.  I remember arguing with many friends that Jesus could not have been God when he was alive, because, well, who was minding the store?  While Jesus was kicking back yelling at the hypocrites, who was collapsing supernovas in the heavens?  And, really, what proof do we have that the guy ever existed.  Then I saw the Shroud of Turin.  I must admit that I was stunned that, indeed, here was clearly something that was Supernatural, and, if it was Jesus, then, yes, I could see the conversion from matter to energy doing something like that; and if it wasn’t Jesus, well, maybe there was some lonely god out there waiting to be recognized.

Now, we’ll get to the nature of gods and such later.  But remember this: matter, energy, void.

The Age of Jesus: The Rise of the Rebel God

1 10 2009

Once upon a time, or so the story goes, there lived a man named Joshua, son of Joseph and Miriam, and brother to Jacob.  Of course, you know that all of these names, except for Joseph’s, got changed; but before we get into the story of Jesus, I want to take a minute to explain what was lost in the changing of the names.

In the Old Testament, the original Joshua, Yshua, was the fellow who took the Israelites into the Promised Land, after Moses was found unworthy to do so.  Think about that symbolism for a second.  Here, Moses led his people from bondage to freedom, and guided them through 40 years in the desert, providing them with food, water and shelter, until nearly all the people who had lived as slaves had died; and then, he was called onto the mountain and told that he would not see the Promised Land himself, but that the staff would be passed to Joshua, who would lead the people into the Promised Land and start their lives anew in living the life that God had directed them to live.  Doesn’t it sound like you’d want to keep the name Joshua around if you were starting a religion to replace the teachings of Moses?   But, before you answer that question, let me give you one more piece of information: the word Ysha means Salvation and Deliverance, and is used as a verb in quite a lot of prayers said by Jews even now.  NOW, wouldn’t you want to keep that name?  I would, if it were me creating a religion based on one man’s teachings.

But, wait, there’s more!  Miriam was Moses’ sister.  It was she who placed Moses into the bulrushes which saved his life and delivered him into Pharaoh’s house.  It was she who found the wet-nurse to give Moses his own real mother’s milk, and to drink in with it whatever teachings she could whisper into her baby’s ear.  It was Miriam with whom Moses found safety when he was cast out from Pharaoh’s house, and it was she who led him to the mountain where he met God.  Again, if you were starting a religion, mightn’t you want to keep that name?

Joseph, well, Joseph kept his name; but the original Joseph, way back in the Old Testament was the intrepreter of dreams, touched by God in such a way that he could accurately foretell the future, and kept the Egyptians and those serving them from dying in a 7 year famine; so revered was he that he was mummified and had a snazzy sarcophagus.  My favorite story of the original Joseph, was that he had the dream where he saw the angels ascending and descending the stairway to heaven; coming from the earth and going towards heaven.  I love that.

And Jacob, who became James, that’s the most interesting one of all, for the Jacob of the Old Testament was the younger twin of the first son of his Father.  He got his name because he followed his brother holding onto his foot.  I mean, there’s symbolism there, isn’t there?  That James would follow in his older brother’s footsteps?  I think so.

But the names were changed, probably because all of those names were just so common back in Jesus’ time, and Jesus was, by all accounts, a very very uncommon man.

Jesus was incredibly precocious, teaching the Rabbis in the Synagogues, railing against the rich and the powerful, specifically calling out the people who worshipped in the Synagogues and then denying their fellow humans as hypocrites.  He healed the sick, he stopped executions, he taught over and over and over again that the first duty of all people was to help those less fortunate than themselves: to cure the sick, to house the homeless, to visit the prisoners; and he taught that it was the people who forwarded the causes of peace and justice who were blessed in the eyes of God.  In short, Jesus’ law was that people should strive to make everyone’s life as rich as it could be without depending on money or power or position.  And the more he taught, and the more he gained followers, the more attention and ire he drew from  those with money and power and position, until, finally, he was tortured and killed.  When you boil down the red writing in the New Testament, that was pretty much it.

But the Religion that came after him was soon headed by those with money and power and position, and they sought to subvert his teachings.  As I mentioned before, that whole “don’t pray in public, but pray privately, in your closet, for those who pray in public already have their reward, but those who pray in private have the rewards of heaven” bit, you can’t build a religion around that with huge cathedrals and incense and rich gardens and vestments.  It is counter to the very teachings of the man whose name is the basis of the religion.

And yet, they did it.  The twelve apostles plus Mary Magdelene, they witnessed Jesus’ life first-hand, but only four of the books survived.  In early Christianity, there were more books, more teachings; but these teachings were the teachings of a man who said that we should eschew the worldly and reach for the ethereal, and, again, you can’t build a religion in which the hierarchy got incredibly wealthy by preaching that money will damn you.  So, what could be found and purged was found and purged; and, over the next several hundred years, until the rise of Charlemagne, the religion was honed in a thousand different ways.  Were the teachings of this saint or that to be taught?  How should the relationship between Mary Magdelene and Jesus be portrayed?   Should preference be given to those who knew Jesus personally or those who came after?  And, what if those teachings directly contradicted the teachings of Jesus himself?

Now, the question becomes, how do you deify a man who over and over again said that he was not God?  Who, moreover, said that all the things that he was doing would pale in comparison with what humans could do themselves?

This is the realm of apotheosis, the deification of the man, the point where theology meets metaphysics.  But, it’s bedtime, so, this will be the subject of the next diary.

Wrapping Up Judaism

28 09 2009

The sun is setting on Yom Kippur, and thus ends the holiest day of the Hebrew year.  I know I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Judaism; part of it was just the time of year, but, also, it is the oldest of the three main Western religions, plus it was the tradition I was raised in, thus know the most about.  And it was the study of Judaism, and many conversations with my childhood Rabbi, that started me on the road of trying to find Universal Truth.  Well, that and my early love of math, which, I’m afraid, peppers a lot of my reasoning.  But, as I close the book on Judaism for now, I wanted to take some time to tell non-Jews what Judaism, at least the Judaism I know, is all about.  Ready?

It’s about questioning.  Well, questioning is only part of it.  The rest is arguing.  See, the whole of Judaism is built on these Five Books of Moses, the Torah, which, apart from Jesus’ foreskin, the Shroud of Turin and, arguably, the Buddha’s tooth, which was lost some 600 years ago, are the only things claimed by any religion to actually have been in contact with the Divine Being Itself, and left behind on the earthly plane.  The problem is that, from the very beginning of the Torah, it is simply at odds with the most empirical of human facts: Adam and Eve had no daughters, and yet, here is humanity.  Here we are!  Whence came we?

Genesis 5:26, in all the discussion of Cain and Abel and the peculiar parable of God’s dislike for vegetables in favor of meat, Cain went off into the world and had gobs of kids.  With whom?  I mean, ok, if he were still in the Garden, he could be having a bit of incest, but in the world, what?  Also, in Genesis 4:14, Cain is worried that, upon being cast from Eden, that everyone that finds him will kill him.  But, wait a minute.  At that point in time, the only other humans in existence are his mom and dad, and they’re both miles away and not the sort to kill off their only remaining son.  So, from Chapter 4 of Genesis, there are questions to be raised.  Well, from the first letter of the Bible, there are questions to be raised, as I mentioned before.  And, for the past 5000 years or so, Jews have been raising these questions and arguing about the answers.  They have argued and debated over every chapter, every verse, every clause, every word and every letter.  I mean, again, if this was God writing it in Its own finger, it must be important enough for humans to understand.  And remember, each letter is a number, so synonymous words, like “hello” versus “howdy”, is a really a completely different word, so why is this word used instead of that one?  How would the meaning have changed if a different word had been used, and is there anything we can learn because it was this way instead of the other?  Should words be interpretted by their apparent meaning or by their mathematical meaning?  Are words which mean different things but have the same numerical value really, at a fundamental level, the same thing?  All words, and combinations of words, clauses, phrases, sentences, verses, chapters, have numerical values.  If this sentence of the Bible adds up to 8392 and some other sentence also adds up to 8392, are they fundamentally the same?  And if so, are they doubly important for having appeared twice?  And, as you can construct ever longer palindromes based on the same phrase, if you strung a bunch of words together which also equalled 8392, would it, again, mean the same thing, as that 8392 in the Bible, even if the words appeared to diametrically oppose the words written?

And thus, in a fit of complexity, and a whole bunch of years thousands of men constructed the Talmud, well, two of them, two competing ones, which form the basis of the way Judaism actually works.  See, the Judaism that you see in the streets bears really very little resemblance to the Judaism of ages ago, although nothing has actually changed in the religious texts.  And, that’s why, for example, we don’t do animal sacrifices on the 3 Big Holidays in the Bible, Passover, Sukkoth and Shavuoth; and that’s why, for example, the Holiest Days of the Year, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, don’t appear anywhere in the Bible at all. 

With that, I’ll be leaving Judaism.  Next stop Christianity!  Hang on tight!

The structure of religious war and the tactics of terrorists

28 09 2009

When I was a kid, sitting in shul one sunny Yom Kippur, trying to imagine why in the world I should apologize for all this stuff that I didn’t do, news came in dribs and drabs to the people around me.  There was a rumble, a stir, and something that just doesn’t happen in the audience of a synagogue while the Rabbi is holding forth on the On-Rosh-Hashana-It-Is-Written-On-Yom-Kippur-It-Is-Sealed thing.  Eventually, someone went up onto the dais, and told the Rabbi that Israel had been attacked.  It was stunning, shocking, appalling, that these people didn’t attack Israel despite the fact that it was Yom Kippur: they attacked because it was.

Now, again, I was a kid, and I didn’t know about all the geopolitical complexities of the region.  I didn’t know who did what to whom and why.  I knew, though, that this was an attack of extraordinary cowardice. 

The months and years that followed saw Israel attacked again and again, but, the news that was so shocking was not the battlefield attacks: those were fair game.  It was the attacks on school buses and discos and pizza shops.  And I just didn’t understand it.

But, I understand it now.  The tactics of attacking civilians has hit my home country too.  And finally, I understand what this is all about.

Here it is in a neat little nutshell.  You want to know what the terrorists want?  I can tell you.  It’s the same as all extemists throughout history have wanted, our own included: They want to die in a religious war, die with the name of God on their lips, and in so doing, win the keys to paradise. 

But there’s a problem.  The vast majority of people in the world just want to live their lives quietly and without fuss.  They want to have their jobs and their homes and their families and their grocery stores and their nice commute to work.  This doesn’t work at all for the martyrs and zealots.  You simply cannot have a Holy War with someone on the way to the laundromat. 

So, the first thing they have to do is to attack the people in the middle who just want to live their day-to-day lives.  The worst enemies of extremists are not extremists on the other side.  Indeed, those are their allies: they can’t get what they want without the guys on the other side.  You can’t make it to the All-Star game unless you have an opponent.

No.  The worst enemies of extremists are non-extremists.  Mathematically, the opposite of infinity is not negative infinitiy, it’s zero; the opposite of 359 degrees is not 1 degree, it’s the center; or the opposite of “all” is not “none”, it’s “some”. 

The first duty, then, of the extremist is to attack the center in an attempt to remove the apathy and those “just trying to get along” in an attempt to radicalize the center.  They do that with bombs and fear and terror and attacking the innocent in huge showy audacious acts of savagery.  Once the center is radicalized, they can then be moved towards the extremist side of the spectrum.  Every attack moves the “center” farther from the “center”. 

Once the center has moved to the edges of one extreme or another, then the war of extremist against extremist can happen, and the blood lust of the martyr against the martyr can begin. 

Then, everybody wins.  When martyrs kill martyrs, there are no losers.  Somebody wins on the Earthly plane and the other person wins the keys to Heaven. 

If you’re a secularist, a centrist, a pacifist, you may see yourself as the one who is rational, the one who gets to define the situation, to steer things along until calmer heads prevail.  You get to say that mutually assured destruction is foolish.  And you’d be right, of course.

Except that that entire line of reasong is simply nonsense to zealots.  They don’t want calm heads: they want impassioned hearts. 

The centrist, the pacifist, the “innocent” who dies in a Holy War is just a victim.  Zealots don’t want victims; they want enemies.  Victims are last week’s garbage.  They don’t want that.  They want enemies.  There are no problems hacking off the limbs of the enemy and bathing in their blood.  They don’t want civil discourse; they want to drink the blood of their enemies. 

Which means that they have to have a blood bath. 

Which means, of course, that these bombings will continue until the last pacifist, with the taste of blood in his mouth, picks up a club and tears his shirt and yells for revenge. 

I promised some aesoterica so here it is.

There is a profound difference in quality of energy generated by someone beserk versus some soldier who is just there to do a job.  It’s like the energy generated by a prisoner being tortured versus held humanely watching time pass. 

There are three ways to live and three ways to die: actively, passively and unconsciously.  These people, these extremists, want everything on the most active and energized part of the spectrum.  They are looking for the level of energy generated to be raised to a fever pitch such that they can almost hear the energy crackling in the air.  They thrive on fear and anger and hate and sex and sexual repression.  They resonate to a red energy. 

The basis of this concept lies in the aesoterica.  After all, what is being sought is not on the earthly plane.  But this is where the action is.

Fear and Loathing Gay Marriage in America

26 09 2009

Tomorrow is my anniversary.  Eleven years ago, Siri and I stood under the chuppah, said our vows, broke the glass and the Rabbi pronounced us married.  There were a lot of people who asked why I bothered.  My father, whose birthday it also is tomorrow, told me that while my sister needed to get married, that there was no reason for me to do this.  My mother, whose birthday it is not, had much harsher words for me.  She said that marriage is between a man and a woman, and only between a man and a woman.   She was angry at me.  Angry.  Well, livid, really.  Angry that her oldest child would have the temerity to get married. 

Well, tomorrow evening is also Kol Nidre, the holiest night of the year for Jews.  And, no it wasn’t Kol Nidre back then, Kol Nidre Night, like everything else in the Jewish calendar, floats from year to year.

But, in honor of my anniversary, and of Kol Nidre night, I thought I would share with you the explanation of why Gay Marriage is anathema to the Religious Right, and why they have spent so much time and money denying some 4% of the population this most basic of human rights.

You see, we are a scourge on all their plans to bring theocracy to the United States, traitors to an America where a religious government not only wants to tell me who to spend my life with but tell me exactly what beliefs it’s ok for me to have in the first place.  And this is what they want: an America where what I believe and how I live my life, from birth to death, they get to dictate to me.

Let’s step back for a moment.

In my humble opinion, there are really two kinds of marriage in this world:  one based on a loving bond of two equal partners who have chosen each other, at the exclusion of all others, to share their lives with.  This marriage is based on mutual love, respect and admiration. 

The other kind of marriage is based upon a dichotomy of power.  One person has it, one person doesn’t.  This marriage is based on traditions, obedience, and supremacy.

In the first kind of marriage, it doesn’t really matter what gender people are, does it?  You can have mutual love, respect and admiration for a man as well as for a woman, can’t you?  And if one tickles your fancy, well, mazel tov.

The second kind of marriage requires dominance of one partner over the other, and, if it can be externally manipulated, so much the better.  In order to make the external manipulation generic to all couples, all couples must be constructed in the same manner, and that means that one has to be male and the other to be female.  It’s the only way it works.  The man is the master of the house.  The woman is the housewife.  He works and generates revenues, she stays home and tends to babies and cooks and cleans.  He issues edicts, she obeys.  Everything the Religious Right and their lackeys in the government could possibly do to promote this model of marriage, they’ve done.  From their stance on abortion and birth control and sex education to the bankruptcy bill that’s passed, they really really want this model of marriage.  And, let’s be frank, it suits them, doesn’t it?

The external manipulation of the second model of marriage can take shape in a thousand different ways, from the pulpit to the work place; advertising can target  this model of marriage, even store hours can be arranged so that stores are open when most men are at work and most women can shop, and pesky wages and expensive overhead can be trimmed to only the most lucrative times of day.  The first model of marriage cannot be manipulated nearly as easily and profits will be lessened.  The second model of marriage will produce more children than the first, and the relationship between the parents will infect the children.  The relationship there will not be loving parent to loving child but demanding parent to obedient child.  “Wait till your daddy gets home” will inspire fear in children rather than anticipation. 

And this is where religion kicks in.  I was driving down the street not too long ago and saw a bench that had one of those big Jesus fish painted onto it with the words “the Fear of God is the Beginning of Wisdom”.  Now, those words came from our side of the Bible.  There was no red text associated with it.  Those were our words, and they didn’t jive with the rest of Judaism.  It’s in Proverbs, not Leviticus.  Proverbs are human words.  Leviticus was the finger of God. 

And what does Leviticus say?   “Thou Shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might.”  We are instructed to teach these words diligently to our children and to wear these words between our eyes and to put them as sign posts upon our houses and upon our gates.  This passage is right above the Shema, the purest statement of monotheism in Leviticus and the most fundamental basis of Judaism.  So, the only thing more important than the love of God is the sheer statement that our God is One God.  That’s it.  We have a God, it is one God, and you love this God with every fiber of your being.  That’s 99.44% of Judaism.  The rest is window dressing. 

So what’s that Fear thing all about?  And why is it that these Religious Right people and their government lackeys are talking about it all the time?  Fear God.  Fear your father.  Fear your husband.  And can we talk about Al Qaida?  How about your shadow?  And if you’re scared enough, how about you cough up those civil liberties you weren’t using anyway?  And maybe you should just trust us with all those pesky decisions in your life: whether to have that child; when it’s okay to endure pain and suffering at the end of your life; what jobs to have inside the home and out.

Fear is an instrument of control.  Love is not.  Fear is much easier to inspire generically.  It is easier to teach “Just Say No” than to encourage people to weigh options in their own life given their own situations and circumstances. 

And so, Gay Marriage: bad.  It doesn’t matter that my 11 years of marriage has no impact whatsoever on your marriage.  If you hadn’t known a Rabbi pronounced me married, if I had just been Union’d or Commit’d or some other non-Marriage word, would it really make that much of a difference?  And, doesn’t it make you, on some level, just happy that I have found happiness?  And, if you are Christian, isn’t that a Christian enough sentiment?

As for me, I’m happy to be in a marriage of equals.  I’m glad that any kids I have will be loved and not live in fear of me and my belovedest.  And if the Religious Right don’t like it, well screw them.  I think they’re sick bastards anyway.  I suppose it’s mutual.

A Quick Visit to the Dark Side

25 09 2009

Well, yesterday, we broached the infinite subject of God, so it’s only fair, and balanced, to talk about Evil.

Before we go there, let us agree, for the purpose of this post, that Evil exists, which is far from a given, and a further analysis of the existence of both Good and Evil will come later.

But for now, let’s assume that God exists and is largely as described in the Western Big Three Religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam, again in chronological order). 

If God is All Good and All Light (ain sof or… light without end), why does evil exist?  Well, in my analysis, there are two equally possible explanations:

1) God, being all Good, requires, as an equal and opposite force, Evil; that, in order for Good to exist, Evil must, so as to offset it.  This leads to the conclusion that the Universal deity entity is truly neutral.  There is much to recommend this point of view.  An atom offsets its positive charge with a negative one, and, where there is a non-neutral atom, say, if an atom loses an electron or two, it quickly goes and attaches itself to another atom, or molecule, with an offsetting and opposite charge.

2) That God, being All Light, can not be perceived in its natural state, and must apply veils of darkness in order to be perceived.  I find the most interesting aspect of this possibility is that different people would require different levels of veils in order to perceive God’s Light.  The more enlightened a person is, the more s/he can perceive God’s infinite light, and the fewer veils one would need in order to perceive the Light.  The problem with this is that bad things happen to good people.

Let’s look at the first possibility again.  In that possibility, God’s very existence mandates the existence of evil, there are two interesting possibilities:

1) As God is a single deity encompassing All-Good, there would also be a single anti-deity which is All-Evil.  This means that for each God there is an equal and opposite devil, and, for each angel, there is an equal and opposite demon.

2) While God is a single deity encompassing All-Good, that Evil is diffuse, so that it exists more broadly, but less strongly, than God.  The corollary of this is the folktale that says all life is broken into two equal parts: one which represents all life that we know of, and the other, the sum of all other life, is a Leviathan, a behemoth of immense proportion.  This would mean that, in a fight, God would kick Evil’s ass all around the playground; but, that, in normal life, people would encounter more Evil than Good.

The third possibility is that Good and Evil make up a single Whole and that what we mere humans perceive as Good we attribute to God, and what we see as Evil is attribute to Not-God.  If this is the situation, our understanding of God, as recognized in the Western religions, is, at least partially, inaccurate.

I promised a quick visit, so this is it.  I hope you’re having as much fun reading these entries as I am writing them!  🙂

In the Beginning…

24 09 2009

Let’s leave the Priests and Rulers alone for awhile and start looking at God, as described.  Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in order of chronology, all worship the same God.  Sort of.  And they share a Creation myth.  Largely.

In the beginning, so the story goes, God created the Heaven and the Earth, and the Earth was void and without form, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, “let there be light” and there was light.

OK.  So, before there was a world that we know of, God existed.  Which is all fine and good.  In fact, if God created everything, He necessarily predates his Creations.  Except that God was plural back then, not singular.  The word was Elohim, which is the masculine pluralization of the feminine Eloha, which means goddess.  In Hebrew, a masculine pluralization is used whenever there is a single male.  If there is a girl, she is a yelda.  If there are 500 girls, they are yeldot.  If there are 500 girls and 1 boy, they are yeledim.  So, we know that there was at least one male deity and at least one female.  Which makes sense, because if you’re all into Creation and stuff, it’s best if there’s a male and a female doing the creating.  In fact, if there’s one thing that men do differently than women, it is the creation of life.  And, it seems to me that, if you have the choice, you might want the female deity sticking around being all protective of the fledgling universe, because men are a lot more mobile and can go off milliseconds after the women are impregnated to go hunt a yak or something, and the women, well, they stick around.  They have to.  

But, there are two names in Hebrew that populate the Old Testament that are associated with God.  YY and YHVH.  Now, this is a language where vowels are scarce, and where letters have more than one pronounciation.  That Y there, that can be a Y or an I or a J or an EE sound.  Or it can be 10.  And, if we are created in God’s image that 10/10 thing makes sense, doesn’t it?  10 fingers, 10 toes.  H is H, of course, but it can be an AH sound, or the number 5.  V can be V or U or OO or the word AND or the number 6.  So, YHVH is Anglicized as both Jehovah and Yahweh, but neither are said in Hebrew.  In Hebrew, the name of God is not said.  It is called Adonai.  The closest word to that is Adoni, or Sir.  So, Adonai comes closest to the English word Sire, which is, of course, Lord.  But, if you wanted to drive your Jewish friends nuts, you could point out that YHVH could also be pronounce Je5u5.  I always found that amusing.  Of course, it is not proof of Jesus’s divinity, but we’ll get to that soon anyway.

But, when you talk to people, it is common to hear that they believe that God started the ball rolling, invented physics maybe, and walked away.  This is the very definition of a male deity.  What they do when they walk away varies, of course, but the Hebrew God was a Great Warrior God, and he spent time kicking around all the other deities of the populations of Middle East, sending plagues and stuff… if you’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know that Ark thing was not to be screwed with.  🙂

God, in the earliest chapters of Genesis, was corporeal.  He walked in the Garden.  He chatted conversationally with Adam and Eve.  Now, here we have something interesting.  While Adam’s name may sound familiar to anyone who has attended a Passover Seder, because it comes from two words meaning Blood and Clay, Eve’s name is altogether different.  Eve’s name meant Life or Living.  So, while Adam was the manifestation of the Body, Eve was the manifestation of the Soul, and, together, they formed life.  Isn’t that nice?

Here’s something to entertain you, though.  Have you ever given any thought to why the first letter of the Bible is a “B”.  B’rashit… In the Beginning.  Why didn’t the Bible start with an A.  I mean, hey, B is the second letter… surely in a myth so wound up with arcane details, the very first letter, should be an A.  Well, in Hebrew, that first letter, Aleph, is silent.  It is used with vowels (which, again, are hard to come by) to allow words to start with vowels, like Abraham, for example.  But Aleph, itself, is silent.  In fact it is one of two silent letters in Hebrew.  I’ve always found that odd.  Here’s this language with 22 letters, and not one but TWO of them are silent: aleph and ayin.  And while aleph is equal to 1, ayin is 70.  70!

Letters, numbers, why am I conflating the two?  Because, in Hebrew, letters are numbers.  The whole Torah (the Five Books of Moses) are a long and complex math statement.  The art of Jewish letters and numbers is called Gematria, and there’s lots of fun stuff you can do with it.  In fact, the reason that Purim is such a big drinking holiday is because the hero’s name adds up to a word for evil, and you have to drink enough to get beyond the duality of good versus evil.  Or so I’ve heard.  I was never much of a drinker.

There’s even a book called Numbers.  I mean, nobody spends a lot of time reading it, because it’s just a book of lists and numbers and more numbers.  But if there’s a logical argument for the Torah actually being dictated from God to Moses, I gotta say, Numbers does it for me.  I mean, can’t you picture poor Moses, his eyes about to close, sitting there taking dictation writing down chapters and chapters of numbers and numbers?  Poor guy.

Well, that’s it for me tonight.    If you have any thoughts for what’s next, shoot me an email or leave it on the suggestion page.

My Big Invisible Friend Can Beat Up Your Big Invisible Friend!

22 09 2009

I never really understood Religious wars, particularly the Religious wars among Christians, Muslims and Jews, as they all claim to worship the same God.  But even less comprehensible to me were the internecine wars between various Christian factions, particularly because the one they worship was called the Prince of Peace.

But, when you boil down Religious wars, it comes down to the title of this entry: My Big Invisible Friend Can Beat Up Your Big Invisible Friend.  I thought this was silly because if God exists and is largely as described by most Religions, then here is this All-Powerful, All-Knowing,  Omnipresent deity directing His frail, short-sighted and very finite human beings to engage in mortal combat with those of an enemy who doesn’t exist. 

Why bother?  Surely God had better things to do with His infinite time than to send out those who sing His praises to commit acts that He says not to do (foremost among them, thou shalt not kill).

But, then, it became clear to me that Religion had very little to do with the teachings of the underlying myths, and then it became easy to understand: Religious war, like all wars, was waged for the betterment of those directing the winning side. 

This leads to the following simple truth: the rich and powerful like being rich and powerful, and seek ever to increase their riches and their power.

Let me throw another simple truth out there: money does not exist in nature.  Power, sure.  Money, not so much.  Money is a man-made device to allow for the uneven distribution of finite materials.  And money is based on land.  The more your land can produce, the more wealth it generates.  Better farmlands, more plentiful forests, huge running rivers, all generate revenue.  And war is fought to increase land holdings.  The word “miles” comes from the Latin word for “soldiers”. 

This, however, only partially expains the animosity bred into people of one faith to despise people of another.  The reason that animosity is fostered between peoples of faith is the same reason that certain political parties today wish to foster hatred between its own citizens.  To increase the uneven distribution of finite materials.

In Man’s natural state, there is no large disparity in wealth.  The tribe succeeds together, or fails together.  Sure, in the end of a long cold winter, it is the strong who survive and the weak who perish, but food and water are, more or less, evenly distributed, and everyone has a role in bringing in food: the able-bodied hunt; the infirmed, elderly, young, pregnant and those who watch after the children gather fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries.  Most meals were vegetarian, and meat had to be eaten quickly.  This led to the women farming and the men hunting (note, there will be more on this as I investigate the story of Cain and Abel in an entry to come).  As time went on, farming produced enough extra food that certain people could dedicate some of their time to non-food producing efforts, and, eventually, a class of people who didn’t produce food at all came into being;l this included both the Priest class and the Ruling class. 

During times of scarcity, one could understand that the food producing people would want to keep their food and the non-food producing people, well, they could fend for themselves.  It was about then that the Priest class claimed control over the weather, thus making themselves an invaluable part of the food production, and holding out the threat that, if they were not well tended to, perhaps the Gods would send a bitter cold winter, or withhold the rain next planting season.  Of course, if the Priest couldn’t deliver, that would be the end of that Priest and he would be sacrificed to appease the Gods whom he must have offended.  It didn’t take too long for the Priests to come up with the clever idea of sacrificing animals instead, by simple decree, and suggested that people bring their best animals and crops to be sacrificed to the Gods.  This, by the way, was the backdrop to Samuel I and II, which started the line of Hebrew Kings.  Anyway, if the Gods weren’t appeased, there must have been a problem with the sacrifice, and therefore, it was the peasants’ fault, and not the Priests’.  Pretty clever, huh?

It became clear, way back then, that there were always going to be more of the peasants than there were of the privileged classes, both the Priest class and the Ruling class, who, by the way, liked being rich and powerful, and wanted to increase their riches and their power.  But, as I said, there were more of the poor and the powerless than there were of the rich and the powerful, and if they ever bonded together, they could do away with the rich and the powerful by sheer force of numbers. 

 Remember that line: we must stand together or we shall fall divided?  Or we’re only as strong as the weakest link?  Well, the Ruling/Priest classes sure did, and they made sure that the poor were always fighting among themselves, and they kept the education within the Ruling/Priest class.  And both passed laws to keep the poor from taking by force what the privileged had made for themselves by cunning.

Both the poor and the rich, regardless of color or Religion or language or whatnot, will always have more in common with their counterpart on the other side than they do with each other, and the larger the disparity in wealth between the rich and poor, the stronger the link with their counterparts.  So, in times of extreme disparity in fortunes, a war, even if it is not profitable, serves to lessen the number of the poor surrounding the rich, making the rich safer. 

Also, the greater the disparity in fortunes, the less money is spent on the common good, and what is spent is on the less common and is less good.  One example of this in our modern world is the idea of spending public money on school vouchers, schools for the privileged, parochial schools, or some combination thereof… take the money out of the public realm and put it into the private… take the money out of the secular and put it into the religious.  Mission Accomplished!