Saturday, April 14, 2007

On Having vs. Doing Religion

I guess I'd like to throw out a topic for general discussion. It will no doubt split the coonosphere, which is fine, since we are not followers anyway, which is to say, we are "unorthodoxly orthodox" in our textual orientation -- or perhaps "unspeakably literal."

It has to do with the spiritual education of Future Leader, who will be a two year old in about a week. No, I don't mean he's going to become a Democrat -- I mean it literally. But I don't want him to stay a Democrat, I mean two year-old, which is why he needs a needs a solid spiritual foundation.

The problem is, there are so many options, none of which is ideal and each of which will represent a compromise of one sort or another. I suppose that each of us has the idea of the "perfect religion" in our head, but things are obviously quite different on the ground -- the intransigent extra-head environment -- the reason being that religions tend to be practiced by human beings, and we know all about them. Crooked timber, and all that.

This topic actually does converge with the subject of our recent posts, because at the heart of this matter is the question of language and its relation to the Divine.

Obviously, there is no idea so kooky that it hasn't been maintained by one philosopher or another. In this regard, the linguistic philosophers were correct in insisting that language is riddled with so many unexamined traps that its unreflective use is problematic. But not fatally so. For example, they employed language to inform us of this truth, and we do get the point. You can stop annyoing us now.

The reason why linguistic philosophy has now been discarded except among certain professional philosophers is that it is a spiritual and intellectual dead end, another case of an abuse of language invented for that purpose. It became very adept at aggressively tearing down texts -- at catty catabolism of dingy dogma, so to speak -- but was incapable of building anything to replace these torn and tattered texts by its own lights.

You probably all know someone like this -- a radical skeptic or "devil's advocate" who can critique but not create. They are prone to a kind of omnipotently aggressive "anti-knowing," which is not even on the level of "minus k," which involves positive but partial or erroneous knowledge, so at least the person is trying to build something. But the cynical anti-knower is like a surgeon who can make beautiful incisions with an unwavering hand and spot tumors with a searching eye, but not stitch you back up or restore you to health.

Several of you immediately noticed with your cOOn vision that this is the sadly circular mental mode of our recent troll -- who really is sad, the manic superimposition of the unholy psychological trinity of arrogance, contempt, and triumph notwithstanding. His mind can focus on some narrow point at the cost of underlooking the overall vision. This is how an inferior mind may be made to look superior in his own eyes. It is something that anyone can do with a little education and a lot of envy.

Is this not how inferior contemporary minds presume themselves superior to great religious minds of the past -- as if these were not serious and gifted men who are worthy of our respect and veneration? The other day, the same coarse-minded troll dismissed one of the greatest souls who ever drew breath as "antiquarian."

But this is precisely where philosophy went off track in the 20th century. To study philosophy is to immerse oneself in the inner life of a great soul grappling with issues of ultimate concern. Naturally they do so with the linguistic tools and concepts available to them at the time, but this does not make the genius using the tools any less of a genius. You must intuit the capacious spirit behind the language, not get lost in the words.

This is why a Plato, an Augustine, or a Schopenhauer will always be relevant to us, but the linguistic analysts of the mid-to-late 20th century will go the way of the logical positivists. Yes, the latter may have succeeded in their quest to unify knowledge with great restrictive clarity, but at the cost of eliminating the 90% of what humans know but cannot prove with the narrow methods of science. Who can claim to be a philo-sopher and exclude the ardent love of wisdom a priori? For what is love? What is wisdom? The inferior mind can make mincemeat of these fuzzy words, just as it can dismiss God, or the sacred, or marriage, or St. Augustine, with the wave of a hand.

In short, there are philosophies and philosophers who feed the soul, which means, ipso facto, that we have one, irrespective of the word you use for it. But feeding is not something you can do once and be done with. Yesterday I mentioned that both psychoanalysis and Christianity take seriously the idea that our minds are embodied. One thing Bion added to the Freudian stream is that human beings are inherently epistemophilic, meaning that we come into the world seeking and loving truth. Ah, but what is truth, asks the skeptic guided only by his pilate light -- thus turning the solution into a problem, like a cognitive auto-immune disease that aggressively kills the host it is there to defend.

Bion's view actually calls for a dramatically revised metapsychology, since Freud was a scientific reductionist who maintained that our minds are essentially the illusion-prone epiphenomena of an animal seeking to discharge instinctual tension.

But how can it have escaped anyone's notice that Freud was a passionate truth seeker and that if his ideas were true, then they were false by dint of his own assumptions? In other words, if our mental life really represents nothing more than the compromises and self-deceptions required to make animal instincts compatible with civilization, there is no reason to believe any truth at all, much less Freud's. We are all instinct-bound animals, so we might as well stop flattering ourselves and party like it's 9-10.

Many psychologists took up this thread in the 1960s, and this attitude still prevails in much of what passes for psychology today. As Dr. Sanity noted the other day, it is how we end up promoting all the leftist ideals of self-esteem instead of self control, feeling over thinking, wanting over deserving, and entitling over earning.

Our minds are designed to metabolize reality so that mental growth may take place. And although this is obvious, it is equally obvious that if one were so inclined, one could take a linguistic jackhammer to this statement and show it to be false. Like Future Leader -- who is again, two years old, so it is age-appropriate -- these one-dimensional unthinkers can deconstruct anything but can construct nothing, for if they do venture to construct something, their own spiritual I AM-mune system would reduce it to feathers. Thus, as I said the other day -- and this is not a "false dichotomy" but self-evident -- either the mind is truth, or it is nothing.

As Schuon has written, unlike any mere animal, the human being is composed of intellect, will, and sentiment -- or of truth, virtue, and liberty. Could a statement be more lucid and accurate? No, it could not. It is not possible to use words in such a way that they can be more accurate than this, for the words are not the reality, only signposts of a reality that must be experienced.

Now, what if I make an equally clear statement about reality -- oh, I don't know... how about this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I and I assume most Coons do not experience this as vague or abstract, but a luminously clear statement describing a reality we know to be true.

But this is not just a matter of creed or faith, of simply believing the unbelievable because we are enjoined to by our religion. And believe it or not, this does get back to the issue I mentioned at the top -- for I could also take the first line from, say, the Isha Upanishad, and it is equally metaphysically clear and on point:

In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord. He alone is the reality. Wherefore, renouncing vain appearances, rejoice in him.

Or the opening line of the Mundaka Upanishad, equally obvious and clear and easily trancelighted into your own tradition:

Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.

Or how about the Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali? Who but a deconsructionist with too much time and tenure on his hands could argue with the following: The right kinds of knowledge are direct perception, inference, and scriptural testimony. Wrong knowledge is knowledge which is false and not based upon the true nature of its object. Verbal delusion arises when words do not correspond to reality.

Or the opening paragraph from Sri Aurobindo's philosophical magnum opus, the Life Divine:

"The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation -- for it survives the longest periods of skepticism and returns after every banishment -- is also the highest which his thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of the Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last -- God, Light, Freedom, Immortality."

Ah, the Coon battle cry!

I could go on, but I think I get my point. Whatever it is.

Here is the nub of the gist of the heart of the issue, which I will have to expand upon tomorrow. It is easy to misunderstand what I am about to say, so I'll just say it and then apologize later: at a certain point a few years back, it seems as if I stopped "having" religion and instead began "doing religion."

Now, as I said, this is very easy to misunderstand, so let me make it clear: this does not in any way mean to say that I invented a religion, much less that there is something in what I say that should be taken to mean that the "doing" obviates the "having" or the "following," in that I will always bow before my spiritual superiors, in whose light I live and whom I cannot imagine surpassing.

It is very much analogous to studying psychology in graduate school. There too I was a follower, but at some point along the way, something "clicked" -- or perhaps "cracked," allowing for the troll point of view -- and I began "doing psychology" rather than following it. There are certain names that will always be important touchstones, but nevertheless, I "go my own way" and am part of no school.

However, at the same time, I am not "eclectic," much less a cafeteria-style new-ageist picking from this or that plattertude to create my own self-styled heresy. How to explain? Don't leap to any coonclusions just yet. To be continued.


Nice little primer on deconstruction and postmodernsim at American Thinker, showing how drearily satanic they truly are. Here's the conclusion:

"It seems, then, that the ultimate goal of deconstruction -- and postmodernism and poststructuralism -- is to undermine the foundation of the West, and one of the foundation stones of the West (and increasingly in other nations), the Bible....

"Deconstruction is giving birth, but to what? In a slow way, one drop at a time on the forehead, postmodernists are destroying the very West that gives these same hyper-radicals and hyper-skeptics the freedom, prosperity, and leisure time to use their weapons against Western foundations."


will said...

>> . . . I stopped "having" religion and instead began "doing religion."<<

Saint Teresa once allowed as to how, in her meditations, any mental religious image, even the image of Christ, prevented the Spirit from fully infusing her being.

I think the "having" is the image, whereas the "doing" is the image-less infusion of Spirit.

Words/images, necessary at a certain point, must eventually give way to the soundless Word.

bebass said...

Well, I already lept. In music, you develop a style of playing that is unique to you. I can listen to different artists and tell by the way they play, who they are. If I understand this post, and that is not always a given, you have synthesized everthing you know into your own "style" of belief. That is a sign of experience and maturity that must eventually come about or else you are just a copy of someone else. It happens this way with jazz improvisation. You study and listen and practice and imitate players who you aspire to and eventually develop your own sound. This is what future leader is doing. He will imitate you and eventually (probably already) develop his own style. But you will see little bits of you and Mrs. G here and there and maybe some things you don't want to see, but it's all part of his development.

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, you are exactly right, but how does one learn to play anything without first submitting to a tradition, school, or mentor? It would be inappropriate to teach advanced coonology to a kit or neocoon, just as it would be to teach Cecil Taylor to someone in their first piano lesson.

Magnus Itland said...

This brings to mind the bride's little sister in Song of Solomon.
"If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her.
If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar."

Some people grow up to become walls, while other are by nature wide open. They cannot possibly be treated the same way.

I'd say the doors are those who need to "have" religion, as in they need rules for everything, or any and all weirdness will march in through them.

The walls need to "do" religion, because they cannot be moved from outside.

Van said...

Oh... way too many quotes I want to pull... it'd be like pasting the entire post into the comments. Excelent Post. Guess I'll settle for the first few off the top.

"Ah, but what is truth, asks the skeptic guided only by his pilate light[love that] -- thus turning the solution into a problem, like a cognitive auto-immune disease that aggressively kills the host it is there to defend."
Well put. Well put indeed.

"Our minds are designed to metabolize reality so that mental growth may take place. And although this is obvious,..." Maybe it passed me by before, but that description has set the ol' frontal lobe into a full One Cosmos tumbler. More to that than meets the I.

"... it is equally obvious that if one were so inclined, one could take a linguistic jackhammer to this statement and show it to be false." The Analysis paralysis of breaking something into a jumble of separate pieces and declaring 'There ain't no Whole here! The idea of a Whole is patently ridiculous - just a bunch a parts!"

" a certain point a few years back, it seems as if I stopped "having" religion and instead began "doing religion.""

Not to seem dismissive or sillysuperior, supercilious, etc, etc, etc, but having braced myself for a real shocker, my reaction was ... um, well - Duh.

Argghh! Time to go do taxes (Yes I always wait to the veeerrryyyy last minute to give those boogers my time & money)... back later - likely in deep need of refreshment.

Lisa said...

I think Future Leader should start at his roots and as he grows older start to explore other branches. From what I understand Future Leader is Jewish. Judaism is a matrilineal religion and your dear boy is a member of this tribe. Plus Judaism is an ideal religion to start learning at a young age due to its acceptance and allowance of questioning everything.

But then again, what do I know? That's just my 2 cents. I'm not really thrilled with any organized religion at the moment. If only the Reform Jews weren't such liberal moonbats as a whole....It is important for a young coon to have some basis and semi-formal education in religion and ethics, though.

debass said...


You are correct. They don't. I just assumed the tradition. You really can't teach anyone beyond their level to understand.
It's true. I can't write my own name without coffee.

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, we were talking about that possibility just the other day. The problem from my point of view is that I regard Judaism as a critical component of the arc of salvation, but to immerse oneself in Judaism is often to exclude the possibility of a deep understanding of, and harmony with, Christian truth -- often for perfectly understandable historical reasons, but still, the reverse is not a problem -- the Christian must revere his Jewish roots.

Also, to adopt Judaism necessarily makes one a cultural "outsider," which is a mixed blessing, for it definitely provides a strong -- and even pugnacious, if my beloved relatives are an indication -- identity. However, although I myself married into a (secular) Jewish family, the whole cultural vibe will always be a bit of a jar to my waspy sensibilities. In other words, I could raise my son Jewish, but I could never be Jewish "in my bones," so there would be that clash.

Having said that, I have endeavored to keep the promise I made to the rabbi who married us, in that I try never to pay retail.

Also, Mrs. G. follows a different path than Judaism, so the bloodline is there, but not the heartline, so to speak.... Just some preliminary thoughts.... Believe me, I love Judaism, but I can see certain potholes....

walt said...

"I stopped "having" religion and instead began "doing religion."

This is my thought, FWIW. It is based on the principle:
"We become what we behold."

From what you said, you chose to behold two disciplines: (True) Religion, and Psychology, with the former guiding the latter.
The "point" of those disciplines is to provide a "mirror effect," from which emerges "The Real YOU," i.e true individuality.

Having beheld and absorbed them properly, you became them. From then on, (after the "clicking," or, transformation), you and your "doing" of Religion and Psychology are in no ways separate.

Other people behold other things, with entirely different results.

(Remember, my opinion is worth exactly what it costs you!)

Lisa said...

Yes, it is a tricky road to travel. I think you will find the potholes in each route...Probably why so many of us have ended up here! Why not start something new then and create your own curriculum. I just think it may be nice to start him out with his bloodline tradition. Some Jews believe in a messiah, we're just still waiting! I think it is the best to start with considering it is the basis of monotheism. It's nice to keep it simple for the kids. As they get older they can pick and choose what they want. Most of us don't really stick with it anyhow, but it provides a nice moral background. There is a very nice Jewish preschool in the Thousand Oaks area that I know of. Plus not all the kids are Jewish.

You are Jewish by osmosis, anyhow. Didn't a troll accuse you of that last week, anyhow? Some of us didn't see that as an insult! ;) It's all about the One anyway...I'm sure you and your lovely wife will pick what's best for future leader. Do remember, if you haven't screwed up your kid somehow, then you aren't being a good parent! ha ha!

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't believe dressing little man up every sunday from a young age and dragging him to the church is neccesarry or will help him to understand God.

I think initially taking him out into nature and nuturing a love in him for beauty and the wonders of life is the best way to give a child an understanding of God.

Of course while exploring nature there will be many opportunities to infuse and teach the core values of the religion and thus give the child the tools to appreciate/spot God's work as the child matures.

I think that too much church at a young age, or too much bible study can turn a child away from church, or reduce the child's idea of God to a big boring book report that drags on and on, week after week. Obviously we know this is not the case, but we're talking about a kid here.

Set out to raise a coon, and the rest with fall into place.

Paul G said...

Perhaps the important part is making sure that the spiritual learning, or more importantly, the desire to learn, never stops.

In recent philosophical (inasmuch as they were held whilst consuming a pint and a good cigar) discussions with friends, we noted that many people's religious education seems to stop at the sunday school level, not necessarily because that is where they want to stop, but because nothing more is presented to them.

To this day, I regard my exposure to C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and many other similar authors and thinkers as one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me.

Not to discount the tremendous positive influence that church and formal religion have had on me, but I can trace my ongoing search directly back to reading Lewis as a child. The spirituality presented in his work alone, even when I was a child, seemed so much deeper and fuller than what was presented in church. It planted that desire to know Truth way down deep in me, that seed continues to bloom every day.

Gagdad Bob said...


There is much truth in what you say -- looking back, I can see my life as a series of stepping stones that I climbed rung by rung until I could swim with my own wings, based upon loving and emulating the model until I became them, so to speak. Thus, love is an indispenable part of the metabolism of reality alluded to in my post. Loving the good, the true, and the beautiful causes organic growth of the soul.

Joan of Argghh! said...

The literal translation of, "train up a child" from what I've read, is derived from, "give a taste for" and is a midwifery phrase. The Jewish midwife would take a daub of a very sour/tangy grape syrup and rub it on the roof of the mouth of a newborn, thus making the child able to suckle, and be sustained.

It doesn't speak to the El Shaddai sufficiency of God, inasmuch as it speaks of the ability of the infant to draw upon what will give it life, and the support that infant may need in understanding the process.

As parents and as grown-ups, our midwifery task, if you will, is to make our children thirsty for what will truly sustain them. That may include some sour grapes and sweet traditions.

Gagdad Bob said...


What you say is fine, but I believe you might be missing the importance of internalizing a specific religious language at an early age, both to fire the religious imagination and to give oneself a "home" to return to later in life, after the inevitable fall into the horizontal bewilderness. There is some speculation that there may be a critical age for this, just like language.

I think I'll stop commenting for now, and just address these helpful comments in tomorrow's post...

Marduk said...

From "having religion" to "doing religion" one may move to "being religion."

The endpoint of the spiritual life is to become an egoless and desireless instrument of God, not living, but being lived IN.

The minds thinks, the hands move, things get done--but it is no longer Bob who thinks, moves, does.

It is God manifested on Earth.

So, you are on the right track, Bob, but have further to go. Few get to the endpoint.

As for the child, he will learn by example (simply by observing you and your wife) and going to Sunday School. No other specialized teaching is needed until he reaches age 14, at which time you may want to offer him the option to go to a retreat of some kind, Christian, Buddhist, or what have you, for sustained concentration on God and Tao.

River Cocytus said...

Well, I wouldn't suggest a hodgepodge approach, but if you were to decide on, for instance, Christianity, it would be a long road if only because finding a place where learning does go deeper than the Sunday school level - is hard to find.

I say this from personal experience - but if you do decide this, the church will become as much a part of you as you will the church - so choose wisely. For a doer it would be irresistible - the urge to be involved with the church and to make it a better bit of the body.

But be careful, again, as my organ teacher told me, "If you work for the church you could lose your religion." Amen to that.

I think that is part of what keeps some folks away (not all) is the tacit understanding that being a member will take part of their life that they may otherwise be using for other things.

I know well enough that you would not try salad bar Christianity (I.E, what flavors do I want this week?) but to have involvement in it without the gathering of believers is incomplete. Sure, there is belief and gathering here, but on the kid's level? Tough choice.

Again, I'm no parent so I don't have any direct experience except my own in dealing with churches.

But I will say that being part of a local church that does the work of the Lord will be indispensable for the lad.

B'sides, anywhere you can meet that Jesus guy, you know, the King of Kings? Probably good.

walt said...

Bob, you mentioned, "...the importance of internalizing a specific religious language at an early age, both to fire the religious imagination and to give oneself a "home" to return to later in life..."

This is a subject of much discussion in our home, since my wife received it, and I did not. Even without the "language" of religion, I gravitated toward spiritual influences from teenage years on, and concerned myself with Big 'T' Truth right away; very different from my upbringing. HOWEVER - my wife was exposed to religion (churchianity) from an early age, and now, I believe, does in fact feel the "coming home" aspect. In that regard, religion has a more "natural" feel for her, whereas I am still forever translating it into my own language.

dilys said...

Are Piaget and Kohlberg any help here? It seems to me that you will "apply" and "apply to" exoteric religious practice to meet FL's growing needs in the terms of his development.

My view, based on the threadbare artifacts of my religiously-oriented education, is that children need inter alia --kindness&belongingness,
--rich&memorable stories that illumine culture and history,
--something Big and unhomogenized to revere and wonder about, and
--a coherent numinous vocabulary. This vocabulary is much, much more than words. It is a full set of aesthetic and neurological forms set in a coherent philosophical system, to investigate indefinitely in finer and finer fractals. The anthropologist Mary Douglas writes about the importance of this latter element, which I consider non-negotiable.

Judaism and Christianity both offer those things to this culture, though Jewish "belongingness" without the full array of history, style, and family is a little shaky. I think unless Judaism were the inevitable conclusion, it's not a "Go" here.

The "full vocabulary," that is 5+sensory practices and a rich&complex philosophical system, reduces to the Ancient churches, Catholic-Byzantine-Orthodox.

Though any adult, seeking, studying, and worshiping should look closely at the Holy Orthodox Church, Orthodoxy in America for your child IMO is contraindicated for some of the same "outsider" reasons as Judaism, as far as introducing a child to the faith if parents are not immersed in the culture.

The bottom line of a cold-eyed recommendation here is going to be the Catholic Church, because on-the-surface more compatible Emerging Church or New Age Syncretists would make you conclude eventually, "why bother?" An intermediate measure, and possibly less of a shock to the system, a lively Protestant Sunday School with Bible stories and songs as a perfectly good place to start the introduction. Though you will have to monitor the level of "UN-good/US-bad" that masquerades as "justice" in a great many denominations.

In any church, particularly the Catholic one, candor with a priest about your family's deeply spiritual interest, and your desire for a religious education for your child ought to be appropriate and acceptable. Catholic liturgy and on-the-ground instruction is in a topsy-turvy condition right now, so selectivity about the parish is important. But even a poor one has roots to the very Ground.

Let's face it, it's likely you and Mrs. G. (even the beautifully Agreeable and Wise One) are going to be pretty much oil-and-water to the typical church culture. I myself wouldn't expect too much of a "fellowship of believers;" even minimal compatibility is a gift, not a promise. You may find that genial&minimal socializing under the radar is the most you can hope for. But so long as you make the ongoing effort to reinforce what a church teaches, adopting its vocabulary (pretty much all there in the new Catechism) in harmony with your own knowingness should take him to where he can begin to think about what he has learned at home and at church.

As you point out, no-church-at-all diminishes the prospect of his eventually feeling comfortable and oriented enough in one "way" to contextualize and discipline the interior work we are all destined for.

And all of us can make a fervent request for your Non-Local Guidance in these matters. Worth far more than this opinion :-)

walt said...

Thanks for explaining Will's Law of Differing Consciousness - and a bang-up explanation it was, too! I stored in in my Eternal Internal Truth file, if we ever need to refer to it.

Van said...

GAZE - accountants talking - Wife's got it covered (I'm so lucky, just have to growl) This is actually along the lines of the post I meant to make on my site last week, but got distracted by the life letting me know I was missing it.
I'll try getting to this more in depth later, but I think what we were discussing a few months back, about setting up scaffolding for our Ounderstanding - I think all the sermons & studies are reduced to window dressing, without manners and habits of propper behavior witnessed from, to, and towards the childs Parents - and if that's there, the rest will 'click' into the form and foundation created through the living actions. The philosophy & spirituality will be implicitly there ready to be realized when thoughts turn towards that direction.
Having a Church you could physically attend, that has a quality Glamourizer, teacher would be great - I haven't found one outside One Cosmos.
Crud, I'm physically needed again. Back later...

River Cocytus said...

van: sometimes that requires you to go and be a positive influence on a church somewhere. I was surprised after my baptism in the Spirit how many others - who are typically silent on such things - actually have deeper understanding. But like all of us, it is imperfectly done... some of what churches need is better teaching. Not just (as for some, regrettably) more biblically sound but also deeper and fuller.

Ricky Raccoon said...

If this helps at all, Bob, I don’t at all regret having spent my first 20 plus years as a dem/lib. It was a valuable lesson. I feel authorized to comment on nearly any aspect of it, having lived it. And I might add, as if it all needed to happen to me in order to get to where I am now. This goes the same for the one year I went to a Catholic school or all those Sundays in Catholic mass. I never became anti-religion, or rather anti-spiritual. If anything, just a little aloof for awhile. But I never discarded the whole thing all together. I retained a little opening, without realizing it.
It was a good foundation. We sent our son to a Catholic school for his first 5 years. We thought that was a good foundation. Now he has, at the very least, some form of spiritual/religious reference point. And he has turned out so far without the default anti-religious attitude offered at public schools – this thing that has become internal he brings with him. And of course he knows how his parents feel about religion, that it is important and real, ‘knows’ it has validity even if he doesn’t yet completely ‘understand’ it. Ultimately we hope he respects it and will want to keep it alive within him self.

This is something as you say is included or offered within all lasting religions. Almost any one will do at this point and for this purpose. The rest will be taken care of by DL’s parents guiding hands. And of course, His.

River Cocytus said...

B'sides, anywhere you can meet that Jesus guy, you know, the King of Kings? Probably good.

Hahahaha, boy does that ooze Protestantism. At least I didn't call him a dude...

geckofeeder said...

Way back in the golden olden days of the fifties one of the rituals that would take place at the fifteen minute assembly before my school started was that the entire all girls school sang a hymn, followed by bible verses spoken in unison which grades 4-12 were expected to memorize weekly outside of any other homework. The Lord's Prayer was slipped in there somewhere and all this daily bread given between announcements packed into that fifteen minutes. This was based on the British school system . Nobody was particularly religious or gave it any mind.
Those verses have propelled me through spiritual emergencies and life threatening situations. Does this hold true for my classmate who started Z magazine ? I'll ask her at the fiftieth reunion.
That being said, I did it differently with my daughter who went to a Waldorf school (based on Rudolf Steiner's teachings) in her early years which offered some spiritual base as well as allowing a childhood. Vedanta in Santa Barbara has a nice Sunday school which covers all religions which might be a good place for Future Leader a bit later on. Meanwhile and always, telling stories to children is where it's at. They get to be with you and everyone loves a good story ... which is where Gagdad comics come into play for when you are unavailable you won't really be.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Please excuse this thread interruption, with a comment about another part of Bob’s post.

Speaking of words being “signposts of a reality”.
I ran across this Hemingway quote about ‘language’ recently. He’s another guy that had some wacky ideas, but when it came to his writing, he believed with all his heart and might in it. What it could do, and so at least, what it should do. This language that exists, lives, without and beyond words.

In a letter to Edward O’brien, 1924, he’s ‘talking’ about capturing the essence of a place, and in this letter a particular country where his completely made-up story is taking place:

“What I’ve been doing is trying to do country so you don’t remember the words after you read it but actually have the Country. It is hard because to do it you have to see the country all complete all the time you write and not just have a romantic feeling about it.”

dilys said...

Van's "having a Church you could physically attend, that has a quality Glamourizer, teacher would be great - I haven't found one outside One Cosmos" makes me think of how enjoyable the early beautifully-written episodes of the Gilmore Girls series on television were. The repartee was so sparkling, the relationship so affectionate and manic, that I wondered how many daughters thought they had been shortchanged because their mother wasn't Lorelai; and how many mothers, at least subconsciously, longed to trade off Silent Sullen Suzanne, age 15 and spotty, for Rory.

Different realms have different functions and criteria. Otherwise, just make a video animation of Gagdad's posts: Future Leader's religious education would be a snap!

Van said...

Ahh... back. Nothing like One Cosmos to shake off IRS-itis - perhaps an early beer-o'clock today, but for now...

Paul G said "I regard my exposure to C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and many other similar authors and thinkers as one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me... I can trace my ongoing search directly back to reading Lewis as a child..."

Yes! 'Once a King or Queen of Narnia, Always a King or Queen of Narnia'

C.S. Lewis's little book 'An Experiment in Criticism' has some interesting ideas on the function of literature and such implications.

I think that Tolkien, particularly the 'Silmarillion' was the first to bring my imagination into thoughts about religion and spirituality - prior to that the subject was just interesting facts and notions - I knew from my parents that it was of more importance than just historical, but it didn't really connect.

As Annonymous said above, the Bible stories I'd been exposed to, the way they were told to me in a Sunday school type setting, seemed on rather the same level as "Three Billy Goats Gruff", and it seemed weird to me that the 'grown ups' were trying to speak of them as if they were (little 't') true.

Tolkien's cosmology doesn't start with the Word, but with Thought and themes of Music. That seemed so startling, made me go 'Hunh..?', and kicked off my first active thoughts regarding it, and ideas of the Good, the Beautiful and the True.

Van said...

Dilys said "--something Big and unhomogenized to revere and wonder about, and --a coherent numinous vocabulary. This vocabulary is much, much more than words. It is a full set of aesthetic and neurological forms set in a coherent philosophical system, to investigate indefinitely in finer and finer fractals."

Finding that however may be a bit of a task. Finding someone who realizes there is life behind and within the stories, and communicates that - in my experience, still not experienced. Then again, maybe I think too much.

I do remember being ... some mix of awed, impressed, with being in a Catholic church - the Glamour was definitely there. The protestant ones were where I got the impression I was being 'fooled into buying fairy tales' feeling. Of course I also realized that neither was exclusively bought into by my parents. Mom's side came down through the Catholic side, Dad's vaguely Protestant, but both, while not rejecting those, were settled on Krishnamurti, Vedanta....

Something took root in. But it's identity was(?) unclear for many moons.

Van said...

River Cocytus said..."van: sometimes that requires you to go and be a positive influence on a church somewhere."

I believe that is very true. Although, when you realize - not fore assuming, but realize, you don't 'fit' - the clique door closes, every so quietly but solidly.

Van said...

Geckofeeder said "...Those verses have propelled me through spiritual emergencies and life threatening situations..."

The scaffolding, if built, is there for you to climb and fill in later.

Van said...

hmm... four 'van''s in a row... good time to break and help with another nursing powerpoint. Much to think on here.

wv:gthquita - ???

Ricky Raccoon said...

Dear pelt wearers under the pelt.

Quite a bit off topic, but I started a companion blog,
where I can post the things that don’t quite fit in the Ricky Raccoon blog, and would only be a weird distraction (as I see it) from what I’d like it to continue to do at RR.

I’ve been working on the new blog and because I’m also going away tomorrow for about a week, I won’t be able to finish the weekend post at RR.

The new blog has a few foundation posts already. They are quick reads. I intend to keep all of them short. One you may have already read before but I thought it needed to live someplace too. The first post at the bottom explains that just about everything will feel right at home here.

I hope you enjoy it.

Listening Now

MizzE said...

Gecko mentioned Waldorf School. If there had been one in town we would have sent our kit there, as it turned out he went through
the Montessori method which was a positive experience. Having been an elementary teacher in the Texas public school for 15 years and a first grade teacher in a private Episcopal school, I've come to the conclusion that a learning environment is only as good as the prinicipal who administers it and the teachers/guides who create it. Same goes for whatever spiritual framework (cooking school) you choose - you'll know where the master chefs are working by tasting the fruits of their labor, no?

Smoov said...

Bob wrote:

Also, to adopt Judaism necessarily makes one a cultural "outsider,"

True, but from where I stand there is far more hostility toward Christianity than toward Judaism in North America. The areas I frequent (Canada, Boston, New York, Southern California, UK) are almost unanimous in their contempt for all things Christian. Judaism--like Islam--is a "protected" faith and mostly off-limits (except on the far Left, which is practically neo-Nazi) to the sort of scathing, vicious mockery that greets Christian ideas and ideals in our culture.

That said, we certainly need more Christians like Bob in the world. I cringe every time CNN trots out Pat Robertson or some poor benighted evangelist as representative of the "Christian perspective".

As for church-going, I can only say that those jurisdictions where family church attendance has declined most rapidly are headed toward utter cultural annihilation at breakneck speed. (Does anyone really believe that the UK of 2100 will bear any resemblence whatsover to that of 1900?)

wv: shfpfsu - rude acronymns are not becoming of a 'Coon!

Anonymous said...


It is such a dillema, as to what extent a parent should try to guide a child's spiritual development, without robbing the child of his or her own spiritual accomplishments.

Nature represents the word of God, and children tend to be in awe of nature, and excited about exploring it. It represents god without them knowing it or realizing that they are developing/having a relationship with this entity that they couldn't possibly grasp otherwise.

I think when you throw God in the mix right off the bat there is a chance the kid might lump him in with some of the other mysterious characters such as santa, the easter bunny, tooth fairy etc. So when these characters all fall by the way side might the child not jump to the conclusion that god is just another one of them?

Now I am not saying don't introduce the values, but maybe the concept of god should be postponed a bit.

Again this is not something I am definite about, but I am wrestling with how is the best way to get the desired outcome of having a child that appreciates God in the longterm in a way that as you phrased it allows him to eventually do religion rather than simply having a religion.

dilys said...

Not to argue with the invaluable Van so much as to make sure I've completely stated my position, here it goes again:

The institution is commissioned to collate and pass on the stories, implicitly and explicitly. As to "finding someone who realizes there is life behind and within the stories,"


juliec said...

It's funny you should mention the British school system of old; in the early 80s, my dad was stationed at a US Air Force base in England. We went to the local British schools instead of the Base schools, because my parents felt we would get a better education. I think they were right. At our schools, we had assembly every morning, complete with hymns (and singing was compulsory - no mouthing the words was allowed). As I understand it, the schools have declined quite badly since then; I'm fairly certain they've taken church out of public schools, in any case (wouldn't do to offend any non-Christians, after all).

Van said...

To be argued with by someone who can show me better what I could have meant, is a thrill!

I was actually thinking that a few minutes ago... I'm helping my wife on their continuing powerpoint report on Autism, and though not directly related, while watching some of the clips we're putting into the slides, I sort of realized that it is we, the parents, who are the ones who show our children the life behind and within the stories... or that there is a life behind and within, which, among other places, can be found within the stories.

And that it can be found within as well.

Van said...

Related to Smoov's comments about which religion is more on the 'outs', I recently got an email notification about debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges.

This would be a debate where the person presumably defending Christianity and religous thought in general, Chris Hedges, recently wrote the book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."


Magnus Itland said...

By observation I note that lifelong immunity is commonly conferred by early exposition to the sacred. One may even need to close one's eyes to see again. And who can stand that humiliation?

Herman said...

Bob, I am a strong advocate for the Jewish tradition. The focus on the One, the time-tested values, the social justice, the righteousness of the community. It's all good stuff. The building blocks for a strong and decent identity. I appreciate it now far more than I ever did growing up.

But that being said, there is a very real difference between the community-based salvation of Judaism and the personal salvation of Christianity.

If you're thinking about going the Jew route, you really have to do it 100%. The apparent differences between the fundamental traditions, dogmas and theologies run deep, even though they are not ultimately real.

It's nearly impossible to explain to a typical Jew why the master should be accepted as the messiah and why the Trinitarian God is actually the One.

It takes a lot of Coonvision to reconcile traditional Judaism with the existence of the master. It is a fundamental historical disageement that cannot be resolved on the intellectual plane.

Better to raise a child in one or the other tradition and avoid confusion at first.

JIMHO, of course. I'm sure Future Leader will thrive on any path that you help him start.

divine noogie said...

Thank Gagdad you have your gaggle of coons, Bob. How I ever did it without a Pez-head stable full of readily dispensed...oh wait. I did do it that way, sort of. I relied on family and friends and experience and faith...a whole village-full of truth, actually. We just never mastered the whole self-worship via hyperanalysis thing. It will be interesting to see, from FL's standpoint, how this all trickles down. I mean, up.

herman said...

Sorry for butting in, then. I was just trying to be helpful. You did ask:

"I guess I'd like to throw out a topic for general discussion."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think if you simply teach the stories of the Bible at first, without trying to relate them to express doctrines, they will sink down into the bones of the Future Leader. We read Genesis to our boys when they were quite young, trying to give only such explanation as was necessary. We let the stories themselves teach. It is much the same way with the parables and the events of the life of Jesus. They are stories, and in a true Bettelheim effect, teach at multiple levels simultaneously.

We began many books as read-alouds every night well before the ages they were "supposed" to be read. We did Tolkien over a six-month period every 4 years starting at age 5, and Narnia in 3 months every 3 years. Let the stories teach.

Van said...

I'm still able to with our daughter, but one of the things I miss most about our boys being nearly grown, is reading or telling bedtime stories.

I've played on stage in front of a few to a few thousand people, but doesn't compare to those hushed gasps of awe and wonder - their eyes focused outward on what they were seeing in their imaginations, giggling or gasping at punchline or cliffhanger or the indrawn 'huah' and lips popped shut as a pointed clicked together just so in their minds.

That is the best.

Funny how you can be unconciously doing the answers to questions you think you're still searching for.

Van said...

Assistant Village Idiot said... "We began many books as read-alouds every night well before the ages they were "supposed" to be read... Let the stories teach."

Yep, be a storyteller and let the stories teach.

GLASR said...

Same page, AT. You can find congregations celebrating in Latin and or Greek, all pre Vatican ll. Focus is in all the right places, solid foundation builder. Little hard to find because most time share, worth the look.

Isn't that the physical plant Mel built somewhere in CA? ;~)!

Mattie said...

If a parent can't find the answers to the questions you are asking by looking into their child's eyes every day, then nothing anyone says here will help. You're a new parent, and it may seem a mystery at first, but you seem well equipped to recieve the signals emanating from Future Leader. The "missing manual" errant parents lament is right there in Future Leader's face. Read it constantly.

Sorry if this doesn't have the "reverent tone" your followers all seem to adopt in order to gain favor, but to a more-than casual reader of your blog, the subject of this post seems silly.

For a few precious years, FL is capable of critiquing your own religion, if you are capable of receiving the information.

River Cocytus said...

fascinating comments today, especially for me. My father read aloud to me both Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and a good amount of the Bible. Reading aloud of these things - even more complex stuff - makes a big impact. I don't know that he really understood them fully, but he did so anyway (perhaps his father did the same.)

Narnia was great for me, but I think I was what Schoun would call the Intellectual type, where it always made sense to me. What set me apart always was wondering why it didn't make sense to anyone else. my problem of course was I over-intellectualized - over-estimated my part in things and so forth. Not sure what FL's predisposition was - but for me growth was continually giving me things to do and books to read, no matter how trivial.

For me it was general exposure to all kinds of myth, stories, science, information, and so forth. My main grounding was in Christian teaching (which I have returned to as I have grown older) but I did have some exposure to others. If I had any bonus, it was that I was kept from cultish groups and figures in all situations - which I think is probably what you're really looking for no matter what tradition you're part of.

will said...

re: T's spiritual education -

My suggestion is simply to track his developing interests/talents and then feed them while stressing their innate spiritual value. For example, if it's sports, stress the self-discipline, sacrifice, team play, etc. If it's music or science or nature . . well, you know what to do. If he later develops an interest in institutional religion, give him a smorgasbord of info as to what's out there. But start with the simple stuff. Whatever he's interested in, there's an attendant natural wonder and sense of awe - I would say work with that, work to increase it, mature it.

And do it your way, with your particular voice, words, nuance. I figure that's why T chose to be born into the G family, ie., to take in what you - you in particular (and mrs G) - have to teach him.

Last thing, don't worry about it too much. Let it flow, already.

sehoy said...

I was raised Catholic and Baptist, at the same time. I would not recommend that course of action, even though I am grateful for it.

For the first eighteen years of my life I went to Mass every Sunday and then off on the bus to the Baptist Sunday School.

I got the best of both worlds, and they are quite different. I also got the feeling of never really fitting in anywhere, though.

C.S.Lewis calls it "standing in the hallway." I got the impression from him that you had to eventually make a decision and step into one of the rooms off the hallway. I really began to hate always standing in the hallway.

Which door was I going to pick? Baptist or Catholic? After much prayer, research, and many stange coon-incidences that would happen during that time of researching, I chose to step fully into one of the rooms.

It's been a relief to get my children out of the hallway.

The Bunnies said...

I was raised in a church that used much coonish vocabulary and was rooted in truths much in line with Bob's philosophy.

When it was founded, it was meant to be a complement to traditional Christianity and only became its own church later. Initially, this worked well, for it was quite difficult to be an American and not absorb some very basic Christian concepts.

Then around the 1980's or so, the new wave of people who came didn't have that basic foundation, and the thin line between profound truth and new-age-touchy-feeliness was crossed. Hearing "it's not about the rules" is great when you've internalized the rules but awful when you haven't.

Partly due to this, and partly due to a broken family, I feel like I took calculus without ever learning arithmetic. I (at risk of projecting my issues onto another) recommend a solid basis in good ol' time religion.

I would recommend visitng churches in your area and finding the ones that God seems to be using well. I think it's far less about Catholic or Methodist and far more about spiritual leaders who are spiritual. You can find Spirit in any denomination, or you could find a gossipy swillhole.

That said, I may be overemphasizing learning the basics because I didn't learn them well enough. You seem like a great dad, so I think that you will be able to fill in any holes in your child's spiritual education adequately.

If he's taught "do not steal" means simply, "don't take stuff," then help open his mind as to what else it could mean. But for God's sake, make sure he knows what it also means "don't take stuff." (not that that's an error you would make)

Magnus Itland said...

Wonderful point from Will here. When I was a small boy myself, my parents - although quite poor - bought me all kinds of scientific books, which I loved. Not only children's book, but expensive textbooks, and I devoured them all. From this I learned to see all of reality as one fully connected "dome of knowledge" and easily recognize what fits in and where.

I was about ten when I first found a Bible, on the top of a dusty bookshelf. It was in so old a language that it was hard to read, but it fascinated me immensely. So this was the real lore of the Christians! No wonder it was kept hidden from children: There were some pretty blood-soaked scenes in there, and adult stuff, and texts that made sense grammatically but that I just could not get. But I never doubted the truth of it. I knew truth already, and this was it, just different.

USS Ben said...

Mattie said:
"Sorry if this doesn't have the "reverent tone" your followers all seem to adopt in order to gain favor, but to a more-than casual reader of your blog, the subject of this post seems silly."

Well, your sorry is hardly genuine.
What you 'see' here stems from envy or jealosy.
While you may obtain all your answers from looking into the eyes of your children everyday, there are some who realize that children need guidance.
A guidance based on Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

The subject "On Having vs. Doing Religion" is hardly silly to parents, or indeed anyone who seeks to experience God intimately.

The framework that Bob and Mrs. G teach, and demonstrate to Future Leader is of utmost importance.

I believe most of the advice thus far has been excellent, and heartfelt wisdom that would help any parents and their children.

Of course every child is unique, and some methods of teaching may work better or worse, depending on the child and parents, but all children love stories.
Especially stories that are alive with Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

That you see it as pandering and ass-kissing designed to curry 'favor' (whatever that is) from Bob is what I see as silly, and says more about you than what you imagine to 'see'.

It is a sign of excellent parenting to ask for advice to contemplate and pray about.

Sometimes, the advice or suggestions received are confirmation, and sometimes new ideas are very useful.

Thankfully, Mr. and Mrs. G can discern Wisdom when they see or hear it.

USS Ben said...

Will said:
"I think the "having" is the image, whereas the "doing" is the image-less infusion of Spirit.

Words/images, necessary at a certain point, must eventually give way to the soundless Word."

You nailed it Will!
Thanks for describing the "have vs. do" so accurately!
Distilled Goodness abounds!

USS Ben said...

My childhood experience with Religion was unstable, unfortunately.

What I remember the most was the stories I heard from my grandparents and the long talks I would have with them and their patience with my hard to answer questions.
They were where I developed my love for (and continual search for more) Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

As Will mentioned, they would point out Wisdom in practically everything.

That is (mostly) what I passed on to my own children, although not as well as I would like.

Unfortunately, I also passed on an unstable Church/Religion experience, since my wife and I were still searching for our own Religious stability (we were trying to have Religion).
It took several years before we saw the value of Religion and good churches.
At least until their high school years.

A lot of regrets there, as a parent, and I would certainly change that if I could.

However, I can still suggest the outstanding advice that most of the Coonmunity so graciously gave today to anyone who asks, because now I do gno the value of it.

Like Walt, I still don't have a natural feel for any particular Religion.
No church 'home' as it were.

Sal said...

Re: Catholic liturgy

Having had extensive observational experience with groups promoting the Mass of Pius V - the Traditional Latin Mass- I'd suggest anyone interested use the greatest of care here.

It's a complicated subject. There are groups that operate validly and licitly, eg. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, who come into dioceses at the request of the bishops.

There are groups with valid priests (they can confect the sacraments) but which are operating illicitly. They do not have the proper faculties and rely on their own reading of canon law to explain themselves. The group Mel Gibson patronizes is one of these.
Trust me - Catholics don't build their own churches and stock them with whomever they like.
They're a cult, actually.

In a nutshell - authority matters; it's not just a matter of "I want what I like and find spiritual, and I don't care how I get it".

While there are many well-informed, well-intentioned folk with legitimate concerns in these groups, there's a tremendous amount of paranoia and ghost dancing going on as well.

I found the Trad Mass interesting, enjoyed the Latin (my only foreign language), but I was a bad fit for the group.

On the main topic - the stories idea is excellent. The tradition you choose to give him must be one that you yourself adopt and practice - he'll spot it if it's not.

mattie said...


I agree with most everything you said. I agree with exactly what will said. But I didn't say it the same way. I have never posted before and I assumed that since I was new and questioning the relevance of the question in the first place, I would be "flamed". Mea culpa.

My point isn't that parents don't need to guide their children, but that children, during their first few years on this plane, have within them a pronounced aspect of the divine, unmuted by this world. And that by remaining aware of and to this aspect of a child, a right knowing comes upon a parent just through paying attention. A divine instruction manual, built in, without respect to culture or religion.

There. That's what I should have said. Thanks for the cumuppance.

phil g said...

Dear Leader,
In response to your discussion of the various merits/trade-offs of different faith paths, I just happened to read the following passage from our Unknown Friend on page 181, Letter of Justice...

"But the "good news" of the eternal victory over eternal hell has not been undersood by the "Greeks" (those seeking wisdom), nor the the "Jews" (those wanting miracles). It can be understood only by Christians...And it is Christians alone who accept and understand the "folly and weakness" of the cross, i.e., the work of infinte love achieved by no other means than by love itself...They know that love will never be taught and understood through severity and fear. They apprehend hearts directly through goodness, beauty and truth, whilst the fear of hell and eternal damnation has not given birth to love in any human heart hitherto--and will never do so."

I would guess that given our Unknown Friend's Catholic orientation that he is not speaking necessarily of all Christians, but rather those Christians who are aligned to the orthodox. There are many "Christians" that focus on hell and damnation versus love and grace.

junior said...

Mattie said,

"I have never posted before and I assumed that since I was new and questioning the relevance of the question in the first place, I would be "flamed". Mea culpa."


It is never civil, sincere, intelligent questions or comments which get flamed, the flaming comes from smarmy statements such as:

"Sorry if this doesn't have the "reverent tone" your followers all seem to adopt in order to gain favor, but to a more-than casual reader of your blog, the subject of this post seems silly."

Uhh, "reverent tone"? followers? gain favor? silly subject?
Why even add that part to the post unless you're looking to be flamed?

I'm surprised that someone as "in touch" as you can't discern the difference. You might try looking into Bob's eyes before posting. ;)

Mattie said...


I thought I answered your questions before you saw fit to pose them:

"I have never posted before and I assumed that since I was new and questioning the relevance of the question in the first place, I would be "flamed". Mea culpa."

Mea culpa means "my fault". I made an error in prejudging, and I apologize for it.

I don't see my comment as "smarmy", though I do see it as confrontational in advance of the conflict. (Hence, "mea culpa".) I see it instead as speaking in the vernacular of the post. Bob adopts an irreverent tone, so why can't a commenter? "Silly" is not "assinine", "irrelevant", or other offensive words. I looked "silly" posting what I did. It's not (or shouldn't be) something to avoid, but rather to learn from. IMO.

It's exactly this macho posturing and one-upsmanship based not on topic but on personality ("You lookin at me? Who you lookin at? I'm the only one here...) that kept me from posting before now. Your unnecessary response to me is a perfect example of what I don't like about Bob's blog. Ben's polite response, as opposed to your mimmicking tone, was on target and effective in getting me to realize I was wrong. Why are you writing me now if not to provoke an argument?

I will side with many of the trolls here who constantly point out how unnecessary all the name calling is.

As for looking into Bob's eyes, I believe I do that every time I read one of his posts. And as I said, he is the one who sets the tone for the style of communication.

Maybe you are advocating some kind of separate arrangement for commenters. Hence my original observation of the "reverent tone" I observe in the regulars. Point me to an example of one of the regulars disagreeing with Bob, please.

junior said...