Friday, March 03, 2006

Cosmic Christianity, or Adam & Evolution

This is a worthy topic of debate. Depending on the outcome, it would possibly force me to disavow Christianity, which I am not prepared to do. Although not entitled to call myself a Christian, in the sense that I have not been baptized or taken the sacraments, I feel an extremely close kinship with it, and consider it to embody the highest wisdom. Why then have I not taken the formal leap? That is a separate issue that I will leave aside for now. Suffice it to say that my life has been immeasurably enriched by my ongoing immersion in Christian wisdom, most particularly coming from the Orthodox and hermetic traditions.

Perhaps that is one of the problems. I suppose "Orthodox" and "hermetic" would be considered antonyms, in the sense that Christian hermeticism operates "off the map" of any official church. And yet--at least for me--I find that it provides the missing key that suddenly illuminates the entire spiritual cathedral of Christian teaching. Again, for me it is like the oxidized blood to go along with the flesh and bones of dogma (and I do not mean "dogma" in any pejorative sense).

Regarding the debate alluded to above, reader Mark writes that the Catholic philosopher, theologian, and scientist Teilhard de Chardin--a pioneer in the understanding of our spiritually evolving cosmos--"may have had some interesting ideas on the evolution of human consciousness but Jesus as omega point wasn't one of them. There is nothing in the New Testament to support it.... Jesus doesn't believe in the evolution of consciousness at all. Why would he? He has no idea about any such thing."

That would be the nub of the issue before us: whether Christianity is compatible with an evolving cosmos that is ultimately the evolution of consciousness. Now, if I believed that Christianity were not compatible with with such a view, then I would sadly have to drop Christianity, for the same reason that I would have to do so if it insisted, say, that the earth were only 6,000 years old, or that the sun revolved around the earth, or that women are composed of male ribs.

If I know more than my religion, what kind of religion is that? If I can easily disprove the assertions of a religion, then it won't be long before that religion has abandoned any claim to metaphysical or spiritual truth. This is a very old problem. For example, it is the problem Thomas Aquinas confronted in his great Summa, in which he attempted to reconcile faith and reason. Yes, scripture is eternal. But our understanding of how the universe works is always changing and evolving. Therefore, it is always necessary to show how the uncreated wisdom of scripture is compatible with our shifting understanding of the things of time.

We now know that the cosmos is not eternal but that it banged into being 13.7 billion years ago. Likewise, we know that biological life has not always been here but that it suddenly appeared some 3.85 billion years ago. We know that Homo sapiens appears on the cosmic stage just one or two hundred thousand years ago. Furthermore, we know that that the rudimentary consciousness of this Homo sapiens was nothing much to write home about until just 35 or 40 thousand years ago, when we suddenly see cave paintings, body adornments, musical instruments, and widespread burial of the dead.

Consciousness evolved. Consciousness is evolving. End of story. Or, to be perfectly accurate, the beginning of the story, for the evolution of consciousness is the only story that is, and that story is not over. Therefore all religions must be compatible with that fact if they are to be vehicles of Truth.

Now importantly, this is not to reduce religion to science. Quite the opposite. For I am saying that true religion is true for all time and cannot be incompatible with any truth discovered by science. For "we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age.... We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages" (I Cor 2:6-7).

So the central question is, is there such a thing as "evolutionary Christianity?" I believe there is. As a matter of fact, it is one of the things I am working on. Although perhaps never articulated in a straightforward way prior to Teilhard, it is clearly implicit in Christian teachings. To cite just one example, it is thanks to the Judeo-Christian tradition that we even have the concepts of history and progress. The Hebrew prophets discovered the directionality of history and were the first to clearly understand that it was not cyclical or degenerative. Christianity teaches that history is salvation history--it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Furthermore, the end--the eschaton or telos--is drawing us toward it. What we call history is the shadow of this transcendent object, in that all people at all times have at least dimly intuited its existence and been drawn toward it--not always in healthy ways.

Jesus actually said many provocative things about the evolution of consciousness. To his disciples he said I have yet many things to say unto you but you cannot bear them now. Why not? Christianity was not originally called "Christianity," but was simply referred to as The Way. The incomparable Russian Orthodox starets Theophan the Recluse--himself evidence of a highly evolved consciousness--said The way to perfection is the way to Consciousness. What is consciousness? And how does it evolve?

There is knowledge and there is understanding. Our intellect evolves through knowledge, while consciousness evolves through understanding. We can know without understanding but cannot understand without knowing. As Blake put it, Truth cannot be told so as to be understood and not believed. In short, if you understand it, you know it. And you believe it. You would be a fool not to.

Consciousness is the container. Knowledge is the contained. Consciousness is a derivative of being. It evolves as higher knowledge is metabolized to become understanding and thereby expand being. As consciousness expands, we can bear more Truth in the sense alluded to above by Jesus. The first and last word of being--the Alpha and Omega--is I AM. Evolution is the ongoing, ever-deepening disclosure of that uncontainable ontological fact. It is what it means to constantly be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:1). After all, it is nothing to be transformed horizontally. That is like rearranging the furniture but remaining on the same floor of the high-rise. We want to be transformed vertically. We want to progress and deepen our understanding. We want to evolve and take the eschatolator to the next floor.

Reader Mark concludes by saying, "Bob, you have a lot of speculating thoughts about reality ultimate or otherwise, but what I find sadly lacking is a direct personal experience of God as He is. Until you meet God, you have hardly begun to put things into perspective. The All is not what you imagine or try to unimagine."

Mark presumes to have access to my experiences, but one thing I cannot provide him or anyone else is a direct personal experience of my direct personal experience. In any event, there is no purpose in debating someone who "knows God as He is." Such an exalted being has evolved far beyond the fallen creatures who enjoy writing and reading this blog--we who are simply trying to understand and bear a little more of the unfolding, hyperdimensional truth that Mark already knows and possesses.

32 Comments:

Anonymous primal_john said...

Bob, agreed, as there is no one ex cathedra description of the attributes of the deity which the experiencer derives. If there were, perhaps we would not have the proliferation of religious dogmatic revealed "truths." Perhaps revelations uncover more truth of the mystic's early self than they do about the nature of the Almighty.

3/03/2006 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"Perhaps revelations uncover more truth of the mystic's early self than they do about the nature of the Almighty."

--That, of course, was Freud's belief. It makes no sense to me. Mystical experience is located not at the bottom but the top of the spectrum of consciousness. True, infants are immersed in the symmetrical matrix of primordial being, and one partakes of this matrix in mystical experience. But the content of mystical experience cannot be reduced to its container, any more than, say, mathematical truth can be reduced to "secondary process" consciousness. In other words, if someone claims to know algebra, you cannot dismiss algebraic truth by saying, "Oh, that's just secondary process."

3/03/2006 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous 6kings said...

I am glad you think Christianity embodys the highest wisdom as that is true. In a world that considers moral relativism the highest ideal, Christianity has an objective truth, in so much as Christ has revealed to us.

Christianity, however, is only concerned with your soul and that you acknowldge that you are sinful to God and that Jesus has sacrificed himself to save you from ultimate judgement.

Scripture is not meant to be a science guide. Do you really think someone back then could conceptualize a tornado or earthquake even if God himself wanted to tell him? Do you think that even if evolution was a correct explanation for creation, do you think the people with their limited understanding of the world would even begin to understand it, let alone describe it and pass it down from generation to generation? All of the science vs faith arguements are distractions from the core and do nothing but pull people away from the reason for all of it - Christ. Our understanding of the world and leveraging technology to do so helps understand the mechanism but will never be able to explain the reason. God is unchanging and even as our consciousness grows, it will never ever grow beyond or be incompatible with God's truth. More likely, it will start to reveal the truth that has already been given.

3/03/2006 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"Christianity, however, is only concerned with your soul and that you acknowldge that you are sinful to God and that Jesus has sacrificed himself to save you from ultimate judgement."

--That is certainly a narrow and quite modern interpretation of Christanity that in my mind does not do justice to 2000 years of priceless spiritual wealth. But far be it from me to tell you or anyone else what to believe.

3/03/2006 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

It really makes me feel quite desperate to see how Christianity has been rendered so off-the-rack and distorted that 6kings in all sincerity can toss off a canned "insurance policy" content-negative interpretation for such a (as the Orthodox and St. Matthew say) Treasury of Good Things.

I think our language is near-impotent in its saturation, and its audience near-sodden in faux knowingness. I am, at this rather depressive moment, none-too-optimistic that any Grand Synthesis of Many Books takes us noticeably forwarder in retrieving the muddy pearls.

Time, and timelessness, will tell, I suppose. As in the Search for the Grail stories, each one must with body and senses riskily plunge into an metaphorically-actual thorny path where others have gone before but cannot convey more than hints; not hold out for a prior certified map (much as I love colorful cartography.)

And as far as graphs of the process go, I too am dubious that the "evolution of consciousness" model truly maps across the Alpha and Omega beginning-and-end declarations. Von Balthasar on the Holy Saturday Descent into Hell as Redeeming All Things draws the metaphor most feelingly, and it's not evolution. Neither is the Judaeo-Christian claim of history's being drawn to a Final Point necessarily "evolution," especially as evolving implies a model of Progress of a sort which chimes in the bedrock with Progressive, though not politically for the sensible.

Evolution may not be the best way to talk about The Teleological Fullness of Time. If you're wedded to "Evolution of Consciousness" as the Divine Pattern, it may not map as you wish, especially in light of Pauline and Nazarene metaphors about "adoption" and "new birth" and "suddenly..."

Which doesn't mean we're not in interesting territory with lots of glittering nuggets. Rather like the earlier Aquinas at his most intellectually delighted.

3/03/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Dr. Bob, thank you very much for addressing this very painful question of what I would describe as the relationship between exoteric and esoteric Christianity.

Like you, I feel a kinship with with Christian mystical tradition, and I consider the great Christian mystics of the past to have been my first spiritual teachers.

However, I ended up renouncing Christianity and converting to Buddhism precisely because of the distance between esoteric and exoteric Christianity, a distance so great as to be an outright conflict. In Buddhism or Hinduism, the esoteric teachings are considered to be and in fact are deeper levels of and extensions of the exoteric teachings, but there is no real conflict. In Christianity, however, at least in the modern church, the exoteric Christian will generally tell you outright that you are a heretic destined for hell if you hold a mystical, esoteric understanding of Christianity.

And this is a serious problem. In my view, it is much more of a problem even than the question of whether or not Jesus himself held to an evolutionary view of consciousness.

To explain what I mean by that, I am perfectly aware, for instance, that the historical Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, did not teach the vast majority of what the Mahayana and Vajrayana attribute to him. As far as I can tell, historically, the Buddha taught the Hinayana, and that's it. The Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings were later additions given by other teachers.

But so what? I tend to take a pragmatic engineer's view of spiritual teachings and practices. If they work, then I don't care who invented them, and if they don't work, then I don't care who invented them. So I regard the Christian mystical tradition as a valid spiritual system even if the historical Jesus was nothing more than some high-strung megalomaniac who ran afoul of the Roman government and got gibbeted.

But what is problematic in Christianity is that the mystical tradition has largely had to be an underground one toward which the vast majority of Christians are either ignorant or hostile.

So I personally have had to take the stance of saying, "To hell with all that." All honor to the great Christian mystics from Origen all the way to Merton, but I cannot give lip service to a religion that suppresses what is best and highest in its own tradition. I know that there is plenty of nasty stuff in Buddhism, and there are plenty of Buddhist teachings with which I totally disagree. But at least the recognized clergy are holders of the esoteric teachings rather than persecutors of them.

I sincerely wish that this were not the case in Christianity, and I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise.

3/03/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Dilys--

To be honest, I actually adhere to a paradoxical "dual track" model that combines the seeming opposites of evolution and timeless truth. I consider this duality one of those irresolvable spiritual paradoxes, such as the radical transcendence vs. immanence of God. This is why, if cornered, I would refer to myself as an "evolutionary traditionalist." God forbid that it be confused with any worldly political "progressivism!"

Bryan--

I'm thinking.

3/03/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Bob,

From a very few remarks you jump to a great many conclusions and false assumptions. Chardin and others can speculate all they want about consciousness and evolution. What they can’t do is attribute it to the historical Jesus represented in the New Testament. If they want to say they have been inspired or are extrapolating from what they have learned from their imagination or experience of the risen Jesus, they can do that. It is simply extra-Biblical and non-Traditional.

But I haven’t found that anyone involved in imagining a cosmic evolutionary Jesus Omega point expanding consciousness ever claims to have gotten it from the eternal Jesus, Father, Spirit whom they have a personal relationship with and who is actively guiding their life and prayer

The web site Inner Explorations is a comprehensive one regarding Christian mysticism, and it’s newsletters http://www.innerexplorations.com/forum/forumindex.htm
have a great many stories of divine experiences and personal guidance to be examined and compared to that of other religions. But the Christian experience of the divine is unique in that never have so many people in the course of history been able to experience God in any one of his three persons so often and directly. The literature of Christian experience of God is thousands of times more extensive and testamental than anything in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, etc..

There is a reason for this and it is not one of mass delusion since the literature is highly rational and intelligent, although often very simple, too.

The Christian experience makes the most extraordinary claim and therefore requires the most convincing of proofs, no doubt, (it’s only fair) which is partly why the literature of it is so extensive and great.

You are quite mistaken if you think mystical experience is at the top of human consciousness, though; and your reliance on people like William Blake to tell you about mysticism is equally misguided. He was visionary only in the sense of being highly imaginative and self-deluded about the importance of things he thought he saw. He had no personal experience of God, although I do not doubt that he made much of occasional experiences of Grace (which all people have to some extent and all artists exploit).

Your ad hominem attack betrays your defensiveness about the fact that you don’t really have any genuine, direct experience of God to refer any of your ideas to or to compare them to that of others.

The fact that I don’t know your “experiences” says nothing. I do know from what you write and what you think that you simply have not had the kind of direct, personal experience like that of Job (literary but accurate), Abraham, Isaiah, Jesus, or Paul and millions of other Christians.

If you had had such experience, you would not write as you do. If you were not be so facetious, and possessed a real Beginner’s Mind with some measure of humility, you would discover how limited a set you were working with.

The idea that the “one thing I cannot provide him or anyone else is a direct personal experience of my direct personal experience” is false. We use language for a reason. It works in conveying human experience from one to another. While it is true that if I am blind, your description of the color Blue will never be helpful in my knowing what you’re talking about, your dismissal that I can’t know your personal experiences is absurd. If they are human, I can know them.

The very reference to God as an “unfolding, hyperdimensional truth” is simply silly and betrays a lack of seriousness, and if you wish to think of me as more exalted than yourself or other readers of your blog, feel free, but that’s stupid and rather vicious, and you ought to be ashamed for having written it.

There are qualitative differences in human experience whether spiritual or “natural”. As my friend Blake said, “The fool sees not the same tree that the wise man sees.” So, if you want to pretend that your experiences are the same as Isaiah’s, Moses’, Jesus’, Paul’s, or the Buddha’s, and if you think you can understand and reduce such experience to some scheme of yours without having had some identical experience of your own, you’re kidding yourself.

I respect the fact that you are intensely interested in Truth (God). If you know something about logic and reason, then you know something about Truth as He is. So why would you scorn someone who might have some knowledge of God as He is?

Of things about God, I can tell you this, He is incredibly shy and has little truck with snarky or sarcastic know-it-alls who’ve got it all figured out.

3/03/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Mark--

This snarky and sarcastic know-it-all who’s got it all figured out--we will just have to agree that you know him quite intimately and leave it at that.

3/03/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

One of the primary reasons I have remained Catholic all these years is precisely because I could never accept that the text of Sacred Scripture was the sum total of revelation. It seems to me that the person of Jesus is the revelation and that Scripture is the primary tool for knowing that revelation. The ancient strains of Christianity had other tools, Tradition among them. Tradition in this sense is the record of the living faith of dead people (Chesterton, I think), which records the insights of believers in dialogue with the Spirit across the ages. One of the criteria for inclusion into the corpus of Tradition is usually some evidence of a search for Wholiness.

My personal search for Wholiness, as well as my efforts to aid other seekers, is that the understanding of the experience of being touched by the finger of God is necessarily informed by and incarnated in personal experience. Of course the revelation of a mystic reveals himself in relating, however haltingly, his experience, how could it be otherwise? If I am to follow in Jesus' footsteps, who became Man that man may know God, how could I ever expect to reveal God by being anything other than the man God made me to be?

3/03/2006 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Bryan--

I was about to mildly disagree with you, but then, as if on cue, Mark came along. Score one for you.

You: "In Christianity, at least in the modern church, the exoteric Christian will generally tell you outright that you are a heretic destined for hell if you hold a mystical, esoteric understanding of Christianity.... What is problematic in Christianity is that the mystical tradition has largely had to be an underground one toward which the vast majority of Christians are either ignorant or hostile.

Mark: "You don’t really have any genuine, direct experience of God.... you simply have not had the kind of direct, personal experience like that of Job, Abraham, Isaiah, Jesus, or Paul and millions of other Christians.... If you had had such experience, you would not write as you do.... you would discover how limited a set you were working with.... The very reference to God as an “unfolding, hyperdimensional truth” is simply silly and betrays a lack of seriousness.... that’s stupid and rather vicious, and you ought to be ashamed for having written it... If you think you can understand and reduce such experience to some scheme of yours without having had some identical experience of your own, you’re kidding yourself.... God... has little truck with snarky or sarcastic know-it-alls who’ve got it all figured out."

****

Normally I hate it when leftists talk about the "Taliban wing" of Christianity. But in the above paragraph, substitute "Allah" for God, "Muslim" for Christian and "Muhammad" for Jesus and Paul, and you will indeed see that the energy behind the words is coming from a very similar place. I will leave it to readers to determine what kind of place.

3/03/2006 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous 6kings said...

That is pretty narrow and is the fundamental truth behind Christ who said "No one comes to the Father but by me." I would say that is pretty narrow.

I am not contesting that there isn't a lot of spiritual wealth and that I can learn from it, just that all that spiritual wealth is searching for that basic revelation.

The saddest thing is that people are searching everywhere (Islam, Spritualism, Buddhism, or any other type of philosphy) for meaning and truth but never want to take what is freely given and already revealed to everyone. In fact, many like Dilys will specifically avoid it for a myriad of reasons. The message and revelation is simple for a reason. That is to be understood by everyone and not just people who spend years or a lifetime studying under a "master".

Of course, people have veered off course in the "Christian" religion as seen by the many offshoots and branches and cults. The difference from any other religion is that the tenets are perfect. The practitioners are not. Christians aren't any different than anyone else, especially not better, more moral, or more enlightened. They are just tasked to follow Christ's example and believe he is the messiah.

3/03/2006 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Dr. Bob,

I was about to remark something similar, but I figured you didn't need me to defend you.

Mark,

I was literally wincing in pain as I read your comment. Please reconsider your tactics. If you are confident that you possess the true spiritual knowledge that Bob lacks, then one fruitful way that I could imagine to advance the debate, if that is what you are interested in, might be to explain clearly what you mean by an experience of God, how to obtain it, and what the criteria are by which you can determine that some people possess it whereas others do not.

3/03/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger The Bunnies said...

Bob:

Not that one such as I can give you much guidance, but ther is at least one formal Christian ideology of which I'm aware that seems to coincide greatly with yours.

The Unity School of Christianity (which has drawbacks, ans I'll get into later), most especially the writings of Charles Fillmore analyzes Biblical teachings in a sense that you would probably find vertical. It heavily emphasizes symbolism and believes the Bible to be the history of the enfoldment of human consciensness.

There is much emphasis on the number 12, which Fillmore ascribes to the 12 powers of man, which were still vaguely defined with the 12 tribes of Isreal but became formalized with Christ and his 12 disciples. Forty as a time of wandering is also important (raining for 40 days and nights, 40 years wandering in the wilderness, 40 days in the desert before the temptation). The story of Joseph is about imagination. Egypt is the subconscious, where the Isrealites has to go to form a spiritual nation, and where Jesus has to go to hide from Herod, the ego. Hell comes from the Greek Hades, which meant blindness, and Christ is most notable for healing the blind and the lame (those who find themselves ineffective).

Laws are both perscriptive and descriptive. For example, Thou shalt not steal on one level means you shouldn't steal, bot on another level means that you can't steal, for all belongs to Spirit and there's no way to acquire what's not rightfully yours.

Unity's ministerial school requires that one learn what Unity thinks about all this stuff, but once one is ordained, one can take his church in whatever direction he chooses. Therefore, Unity churches vary greatly in empahsis.

I'm not as aware of what's been happening in the School, but in recent years many of the churces have gotten a little too new agey for my taste (although many have not). Nevertheless, the writings upon which all of it was founded seem rather on the mark.

Also, they get misquoted a lot and get accused of thinking much that they do not.

Thanks for your blog

3/03/2006 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous LookingGlass said...

Bob,
I am a committed born again Christian. Reading your book and your blog has made me more interested in reading scripture, spending more time in prayer, and become more involved in my (highly evangelical) church.
Thank you.

3/03/2006 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

LookingGlass said...

Thank you! That is the more typical response, and I consider it the highest compliment. I would sincerely like to get people--especially people who have fallen away from Christianity for one reason or another--to appreciate its inner richness.

Obviously, it serves no purpose whatsoever to debate someone who adopts what they believe is a literal or fundamentalist view of scripture, but which is in actuality a materialistic view. This would be as fruitless as a circle debating a sphere about whether the third dimension exists. Human consciousness is clearly hyperdimensional, a basic discovery of psychoanalysis. It strikes me as preposterous to suggest that we have more dimensions than God.

3/03/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous John Hinds said...

My studies have convinced me that the endeavors of man are heirarchical with the Artistic mind evolving into the Religious and that into Science, then History and finally the crowning perfection of Philosophy. Some of this is seen in Kierkegaards's Stages on Life's Way, but there are others, for instance R. G. Collingwood' Speculum Mentis. You may want to get into this at some point. There are very good reasons why Religion is not the most efficacious tool for understanding the cosmos. In fact it is pretty obvious your quest is to improve religion beyond traditional anthropomorphic boundaries. I, for one, think you are doing a splendid job at this. Surely if you look at Christianity as you do it is not mere speculation. Not in the least. Further, you would likely claim that there is no "being in the world" absent meeting God in EVERY experience. Just peel back the veil a slightest bit, and there he is.

As for Jesus and the discussion regarding consciousness. I am not a bible scholar at all but seem to recall that Jesus said "I am the light". I tend to think of that light as consciousness.

Thank you again for "our daily bread".

John Hinds

3/03/2006 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Indeed!

What possible useful literal interpretation is there for the statement, "I am the Light"?

3/03/2006 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Bob,

Perhaps in a later post you could flesh out your theory of evolutionary consciousness with some examples of people currently who have evolved beyond those who have come before.
I myself am having a hard time locating any.
I would be hard pressed to compare any of the many historical Spiritualists which you list daily in your blog with someone like Deeprock Chakra and see anything but de-volution.
Or lets take politicians of say 2 or 3 hundred years ago who in my opinion, had a pretty good grasp on the shortcomings of human nature and cosmic cause and effect and compare them with the likes of a Hillary Clinton or a Chuck Schumer.
Am I incorrect that we seem to be currently stuck in a narcissistic back-water?

3/03/2006 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Bryan,

You suggest that I “might . . . explain clearly what you mean by an experience of God, how to obtain it, and what the criteria are by which you can determine that some people possess it whereas others do not.”

Fair enough, but I have to address something else first and that is the assertion that I “possess the true spiritual knowledge that Bob lacks”. I have yet to make such a claim. I have made such a claim on behalf of others, though, such as the various religious people I mentioned and that of Christians I referred to at a mysticism website, and countless more I could mention.

Also, Bob, you’ve managed to distort and misjudge about as grievously as anyone can what I have written. You have not read aright or closely. You really are protesting too much, so I guess what I’ve said has really touched a nerve. I’m as far away from a fundamentalist as you can get except for one thing, which I’ll get to. If I pulled a bunch of your assertions and strung them together with an agenda to prove you are a New Agey nitwit, how hard do you think that would be? But I have more respect for you than that. Comparing me to the Taliban is something so low and reprehensible, though, and shameless on your part that I should not wonder that you find it easy to misread someone who simply disagrees with you.

The central unifying experience of Christians is the direct experience of the risen Jesus. This experience takes many forms, occurs in different degrees, but the basic effect is that a human meets Jesus as a living man who has the exact same presence as any real person you can meet with one major difference: the unbearable holiness of his being combined with the realization that the person is also God. The person who has this experience is never the same again.

Also, a note. It is not the “Abba” experience that Jesus himself had of the Father nor that of the Holy Spirit. (I can discus those, but it’s too much for this comment.)

Then there is Grace, Providence, Wonder (or any other words you think are equivalent) which often imbue a person with an expansive, oceanic, or globally conscious sense of the Real, of Nature, of Selflessness, of Beauty, of spirit and eternity. Hence, a great deal of music, poetry, art, and architecture and spiritual literature about the Mystery of Life and Being.

Is it shocking to learn that people who have powerful and emotional experiences of Grace might confuse that with apprehension of the All, the Real, the great I AM or the Cosmic What Have You?

It is this and a combination of delusions which tend to produce such people as Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, David Koresh or L. Ron Hubbard. These people become violent, incontinent, militaristic, charismatic cult creators and tyrannical lawgivers of the worst sort who are self-appointed prophets.

Gagdad Bob has a tinge of this in the sense that he sees himself as a messenger or evangelist of a great spiritual system of thought monumentally arrived at through extensive study and rumination while hoping to disarm critics by maintaining a sense of humor and a little wit.

Hell, anybody with conviction in some body of thought has a tinge of that, too.

As for my exalted status and vast superiority over the mere mortals at this site, as Bob insists, I am more than willing to disclose to anyone interested exactly what my own experiences of God have been through the course of my life in an essay I wrote around 1993 entitled Arrows of Desire which is about 15 pages in length or so at a particular website.

I have learned a great deal since then, of course, but that fills a few books of my own and are not online, but I don’t think anyone here is really that interested in me (or ought to be).

One of my points is that Bob is hiding a real lack of insight or experience of God in a great deal of persiflage and personal attack. Really, how can one talk so much about Ultimate Reality and where Being tends while having no real idea of what God is like in his direct manifestations?

I’m not saying Bob has nothing to offer in the discussion of whither human consciousness and what must God be like if we try to reason about him. Heck, I never met Shakespeare and I have a lot to say about his work that might be worthwhile, but I’d really know something if I had met Shakespeare, had a intimate (non-sexual) relationship with him. I could still be a poor reporter, though, and have greatly misunderstood him as I believe a great many have often misinterpreted their personal experiences in a great many areas, including religion, obviously.

As for how do you obtain the experience of God. There’s a huge litany of things people try to do, but no one can obtain the direct manifestation of God by any particular act. The wind listeth where it will. It is purely gratuitous. Still, I think you have to want to meet God with everything you’ve got in you and that he can trust you with himself. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living God. There are very few people who truly want to have their entire life turned inside out, upside down, and utterly out of their control. (See Moses, Jesus, and Paul.)

How does one determine who has had the experience(s) or not? Well, I’d like to say that you can tell the tree by its fruit, but sometimes the best fruit goes unnoticed or seems no different than any other (Paul‘s contemporaries did not hold him in awe at all). You do have to look for a radically changed life that doesn’t involve intemperance, sexual incontinence, violence, undisciplined behavior, emotionalism, or fanaticism (although emotionalism and fanaticism are often early effects of a powerful conversion or change of heart. They ought to ameliorate with time and prayer, though).

An eventual devotion to contemplative prayer usually occurs followed by the loss of it if it progresses truly. I would highly recommend Bernadette Roberts’ books on No-Self for the best explanation or journal of what happens after all the mystical stuff passes (which it does).

The fact is, though, my experience of people who have had the most profound experiences of God is that they end up having no one to talk to since everybody thinks they are nuts (even among others of their religion) regardless how rationally they express themselves. Almost everybody can extrapolate from their moments of Grace, Providence, and Wonder to someone else’s by simply adjusting proportions or expanding the frame. They already have a glimmer, you see. But the manifest experience of God is completely an alien experience to those who have not had it. That’s why Christians in various groups sharing their testimonies, talking about having “a personal relationship with God” and “have you been saved” can strike others as repulsive, somewhat crazy but generally harmless, or simply alien and bizarre. (People in other religions often have a similar excitement in membership of group. Differences here are often subtle, but I can’t go into what they are right now.)

That’s partly why Bob is so eager to dismiss me as a fundamentalist, refuse to engage any argument I make, go ad hominem on me, and flee the room (so to speak) while looking for allies to scorn me.

To put things simply, Bob can’t really know much about Jesus or Christianity unless he actually knows Jesus in a direct and personal way. That’s why I judge what he says about Christ and God as severely limited, and that’s why Bob is basically throwing in the towel about Jesus and Christianity, but thrashing around in embarrassment.

Bob has to either admit he has no idea what the fundamental Christian experience of God is, or that everything any Christian has ever said or written about Jesus (unless impossibly strange) are all lies or delusions. But the Christian experience is not so easy to dismiss if one is rational and fair minded about spiritual matters.

Also, to dismiss or ignore the Christian experience of direct salvation (manifestation) and personal relationship with God is to discredit every other kind of religious or spiritual experience, too. And Bob can’t go there.

Now, Bob, do you intend to call me a Nazi this time or can you get control of your emotions?

3/03/2006 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Mark,

Maybe you should just wipe the dust from your sandals and move on since Bob is obviously un-redeemable ;).

3/03/2006 11:07:00 PM  
Blogger Kip said...

Hi Bob,

I enjoy your blog, you have a nice witty style and you get into some very entertaining philosophical tangents, but by crikey you can be arrogant sometimes.

Fortunately, Christ blessed the meek, so there's room in his mansion for lesser beings as well - not just you and that giant baby from '2001'...

(wry sarcasm intended)

Seriously, even the Buddhists - whom I like, admire and regard as fully in synch with Christ's teachings - feel the need to get out the 'enlightenment stick' (THWAK!!) when the faithful start over-intellectualising.

3/04/2006 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger babushka said...

Well, that pretty much takes the unleavened cake. Mark has books etc., which authenticate his position and prove him far above fundamentalism, but he's not willing to let himself or their content be known here.

Among the many things to say for Bob here, we know where he lives, inside and out. His arguments are feeling their way, not hit-and-run, smash-and-grab. He is laying out his own mind on the table, and has been only friendly to those who will genuinely converse.

I'm beginning to infer there's a certain duty of guest-hospitality here. Do you have a blog, Mark, behind that bluster? Maybe you can lay it all out there.

Otherwise, you just have a plan. And that doesn't win elections, or prevail in the forum of ideas.

3/04/2006 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

We are reminded that one can hold the form of "religion" and at the same time can deny the power of it. So there is much mystery and much to know in the "power" of it. Everyday I feel we get closer to "touching it" by reaching out seeking for it.

If your belief is that the scripture is truly from God, then on that basis you can go to scripture and understand that in 2 Timothy Chapter 3 "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work"

I think there is so much power in understanding that and then in knowing/believing that. There is an actual choice in doing so. the power is awesome! It's probably why there were so many book burnings in the past as the opposite force tried to "snuff out" the words. Not just the word's themselves but the desire to snuff out the "power" which moved through those words! When over time, 'that opposite force' realised that the everlasting powerful words were not going away and that they could not be broken and that no matter what was tried that it couldn't actually destroy the words, it would start to re-invent the words and in every venue of given opportunity, it tried to add and take away in ways to divert any seeking individual what was the origin of the written authority. If it couldn't destroy the power or the words themselves, it would work on confusing/decieving the seekers on the narrow path!

IMHO...the bottom line for each of us concerning our own individual path is to ask ourselves at the end of the day, "Who do we consider is the final authority for us?" (whether it be concerning the path we are choosing to take our spiritually growth in or the final authority on the words we choose to believe and follow for our eternal life) because I know for me, the final authority of the written words of the scripture is totally based on my faith in the authority that I give Jesus. To me the whole story is about the preparations and fortelling of the arrival of Jesus and then the events of His actual arrival in his birth and then with His sacrificial work on the cross to the risen glory of His power and the wonderful promise of our inheritence to come! It's all good news to my spirit and I am promised in John 10:35 that Scripture can Never be broken! So I totally trust that!

Now all I have done is "SHARE"..........right?

As for Bob, I want to say straight up that I have enjoyed immensely reading his words and thoughts and I adore the fact that he has been willing 'to share' his own journey with all of us because most of us here feel very invited by his hospitality blog and his book (which I have ordered) and I personally feel grateful that Bob has had such an open heart and giving spirit. I understand that Bob is on "his journey" just like the rest of us are! Not once have I felt that anything he has shared here has threatened my own faith. In fact, Bob has always been more than diplomatic in a very careful way to always add that he is NOT trying to "force" any belief or "sway" anyone away from what they truly believe. For example, the term "vertical" was misunderstood by some, but I had no problem at all with that term. I could understand it was a variable for me to place 'by my choice' who was at the top of "my vertical"

We are all on "our chosen" paths, and none of this is about any competition between one another...it's about sharing and supporting one another which I personally gain many times here on reading Bob's blog. I feel Bob is an encourager by sharing his own personal discoveries and I appreciate the opportunity like so many others to come here and hear others share and get to share sometimes myself. Thanks Bob!!

I also hear the term evolve all the time...and I don't get caught up in the evolutional debate on conscience or DNA for that matter, IMHO, the only evolution that is important to my salvation is the one where I get born again within my spirit and the only competition I must endure on that is overcoming the struggle within myself because at the end of the day...I am responsible for my own choices in that!

3/04/2006 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Liquidlifehacker--

You are understanding the word "evolution" in exactly the way I intended, in its literal sense, meaning to "unroll," like an ancient manuscript. Clearly, a deeper and truer self "unrolls" or "unfolds" as one is born again "from above."

3/04/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger 90 said...

I have always thought that Bob's blog was witty and articulate. In my observation Bob is just sharing his insights and understandings with whomever cares to read them. Even though Bob hasn’t taken the sacraments nor been baptized, I can see that he is seeking to understand the vertical. I know that there are those who believe that the Salvation is in the ritual, or that Salvation is in the (literal) Sacraments, but the truth is that Salvation, indeed reconciliation to God is, as the Bible says… by Faith (in Christ’s finished work on the Cross) as the one Way that God has made by which men can be reconciled to Him.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Baptism, as I have understood it for a long time, is more of a public testimony that you have put your faith in Christ. The ritual itself doesn’t save anybody.

We are all conscious, well, most of us are… that we will step into eternity someday, meaning of course that the life we now live in the flesh will end. All that is important at that point in time, when that event takes place is if we have been reconciled to a Holy God who loved us so much that He (as John 3:16 states) “Loved the world so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son“, (on the Cross), “so that whosesoever should believe on His Name”, (the name of Jesus), “should be saved”.

3/04/2006 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hoarhey,

I have no desire to redeem, Bob. Actually I am quite interested in discussing the nature of consciousness and being and have some common ground with Bob in some of his ideas. Unfortunately, Bob is so emotionally attached to his cherished notions that a simple scratch on them sends him into a tizzy and puts his nose all out of joint.

It’s a very simple question to him: for someone who pontificates about Ultimate Reality, shouldn’t that fellow have at least some, um, actual experience of that Reality beyond mere intellection, model building, and grandiose feelings?

Babushka,

If you read me aright, I have no problem pointing anyone to my blog or the essay I mentioned if they are interested. My main blog hasn’t been updated in quite awhile, though, and I haven’t been focusing at all on consciousness or God in quite some time. As for my unavailable books, some aren’t online. But I have a host of others which are of the sacred in poetic and fictional manner written from a variety of perspectives and convictions which altered over time. You can go here for a list of them and links: http://www.thetruegenius.blogspot.com/

The prose books which aren’t online primarily focus on the effects and development of prayer in the individual (myself), and the examination and destruction of a great many Christian dogmas that make themselves unnecessary over time (in my view). Not really that germane to the discussion here except in some parts, and certainly not worth the time it might take someone to wade through for what’s relevant.

I pointed people to the intelligent and marvelous testaments to people at Inner Explorations in their newsletters, though, because there would be no animus or prejudice toward them (I would hope). My own experiences are best seen in light of similar ones by contemporaries rather than as singular and isolated. Having shot my mouth off, the likelihood that people would examine what I wrote dispassionately might be remote, but if you want, here’s the site for Arrows of Desire. http://www.arrowsofdesire.blogspot.com/

But as Hoarhey points out, there isn’t really anything more to discuss since poor Bob has freaked out, fled ignominiously from the room muttering epithets as his clay feet crumble and his cherished notions turn into drivel.

3/04/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Mark--

At least we can agree that there's a voice lodged ignominiously in your head muttering epithets. But it's a voice from your past--what Bob would call a "mind parasite." Knowing Bob as I do, he neither mutters nor employs gratuitously abusive epithets.

3/04/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

Wow...I guess I am the last to notice (and I hate missing a good freak out) but seriously, I haven't seen Bob "freakout" at all but now that I got the song in my head I can't stop freaking! COME ON EVERYBODY LET'S FREAK OUT

*grabs Petey by the arm and dances around"

3/04/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

For some reason that link didn't work....so here it is again

COME ON EVERYBODY LET'S FREAK OUT

3/04/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Mark .
You claim to have had a profound, life-changing, and above all authentic religious experience. I do no not for a moment doubt you.
But here is what you did not do. You did not show up here, and begin by sharing your experience, strength and hope. You did not begin by telling us what it used to be like, what happened, and what it is like now. Yeah- those are the ground rules for 12-step discussion. I didn't make them up myself. But they serve as a pretty fine framework for discussions of spiritual experience.

You did show up and call out Bob for being (pardon me if I paraphrase) an inauthentic wannabe. Now you may well be more enlightened than Bob, and I certainly wouldn't pick a theological bone with you. If I did, I'd probably get bit.

And that's my point. I don't need to defend Bob's position. He can do a way better job than I could anyway. But if I had had something as wonderful as an authentic religious experience, I doubt I'd would wade into a crowd of the spiritualy curious, and start firing on people. Your encounter with God may have given you firsthand experience of his presence, but it didn't teach you much about how to deal with others on the path.

A lot of folks here are actually working on overcoming some pretty powerful negative feelings about Christianity. We're searching. I don't mean to embarrass Liquidlifehacker here, but her posts stand in such sharp contrast to your own that I have to bring her up. I read LLH and the joy just shines through the words. I feel that, and I am pulled further down the path.
I remember you used the adjective "terrible" to describe the encounter with the living God. I know the sense in which you meant the word. Nonetheless there is little joy in any of its connotations. It doesn't draw me further down the path.

You may have some valuable stuff to share, and if you do people might listen. If you weren't so concerned with getting one up on Bob, perhaps you could get around to sharing it.

JWM

3/04/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe1 said...

"But as Hoarhey points out, there isn’t really anything more to discuss since poor Bob has freaked out, fled ignominiously from the room muttering epithets as his clay feet crumble and his cherished notions turn into drivel."
-Mark

with a generous helping
of sarcasm and condescension,
you make it sound like it wasn't your intent to "demolish him",Mark.

as a result,
i can say with a good deal of confidence that you have quite a few
"cherished notions" of your own
you're unwilling to part with.

pull the log
out of thine own eye,sir.

you owe your brother an apology.

3/06/2006 06:02:00 PM  

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