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Posts Tagged ‘science and religion’

the-son-of-god

Perhaps no statement sits more uneasily in our hearts and minds than the second phrase of the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.

In our age, an ecumenical spirit continues to rise alongside of defensive orthodoxies. While many of our brothers and sisters embrace the stated belief completely, still others see the sacred light shining through many other manifestations in other traditions as well, as in the life and teaching of the Buddha, while still others cling to belief that they worship the “One True” God.

The Council arrived at a formula that members felt would establish the divinity of Christ in such a way as to set aside the many divergent views of who Jesus was at the time. This served the theo-political goal of cohesiveness under Constantine and the promulgation of a coherent guiding creed by which to define identity as a Christian.

How do we bring these words to life in our times while being respectful of the inspiration ( witting and unwitting) contained in what the Council fashioned?

I offer the following personal meditation:

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher of righteousness, the Son of Man, from  whose life and words springs the truth of God’s Love and Presence.

In His example, I see God’s Presence lived fully and in walking with Him I open myself to die to who I think I am to be born as the one I really am.

I believe in the Cosmic Christ, inspired and expressed by the Source, Father-Mother of all, that was there before the beginning, at the beginning and is still the central archetype of the evolving Universe.

I believe that God is the light that pierces all the darkness and the love shown by Christ is the way to that Light.

There is an eternal unity that binds the children of the Light to the beating Heart that set all in motion and that draws all back home.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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It’s been about two months since I last posted. The time has been one of frequent travel, fashioning new material to spark fresh dialogues among clients, and a time, otherwise, for  fewer words.

Authentic writing needs fresh perspectives. It  is good for the soul to invite incubation. So, my last 60 days have been about emptying.

It’s been said that nature abhors a vacuum and moves quickly to fill it. Yet, there’s a lot of vacuum in the Cosmos. Maybe this simply isn’t so.

Nature does not abhor a vacuum so much as it finds its shape according to unseen patterns that make it up. Vacuum conjures up  a great and infinite emptiness. On the contrary, the Cosmic vacuum is a plenitude.

Overwhelmed by unimaginable distances, could it be that we mistake the vastness of the seemingly empty expanse of space for the fearsome darkness of “non-being”?

Space-time is an n-dimensional funky quilt that we can only marvel at as we gaze on it abstractly through the lens of mathematics. Nonetheless, the very fact that we imagine it  suggests our intuitive and playful sense of its underlying fullness.

When we silence the mind’s manufacture of crafted sentences and paragraphs, and even briefly hit the pause button, it may just be that we then unleash the deeper depths, wider views, richer hues, and that fertile vastness that buoys all our hopeful imaginings and heartfelt expressions.

I sing a song in praise of true away time, a brief silencing of  our own voice so the poet inside the silence is the voice more clearly heard.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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We have all heard the phrase, ” a thirst for knowledge,” and many people are motivated by a need to discover, understand and reveal the essence of experience and phenomena. These are the people who take seriously the Socratic admonition to  “know thyself,” and embody the idea that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

The times in which we live are times of great contrast. The United States electorate is acutely divided, and we see, once again, the perennial visage of culture, race and class warfare in the exchange of emotional and unthinking rhetoric.

What I see is a rising thirst for ignorance. Orthodoxies appear on the rise, and liberal philosophies in all arenas are ridiculed and demonized. When the appetite for “heresy” declines one should be watchful for the erosion of liberty, critical thinking, and genuine insight into issues. At a recent dinner, I was part of a cordial conversation among friends and associates about this political moment in America. At one point, I was labeled by a colleague, only half in jest, as a liberal elitist. Why? The label was meant to sweep into a neat category my love of scholarship, incisive dialogue, taking nothing at face value, and seeing all orthodoxy as worthy of inspection. Ok, then, no problem. I am a card-carrying liberal elitist and proud of it. Dismiss me if you please.

In our current times, it is both easier and increasingly well-regarded to cling to the formulae fed to us by those who affix dismissive labels as their way of coping with what they fail to understand and have little energy to genuinely explore. It is easier to buy into a platform of ideological character. It gives one a sense of solidity when so much that swirls around us is uncertain and complex.

I, for one, love uncertainty. Doubt and the challenge of all assumptions is “philosophy,” the love of wisdom. I am absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain! I know that what I know is fact until new evidence reveals that it isn’t. Ideology is “window dressing” and icing for the mind. It entices. It draws you inside to look things over and encourages you to buy or partake. However, as so many things that are adorned with icing, the repast is likely one of many empty calories!

  • A few snowstorms where they aren’t typical and where the snowfall breaks records after many years, and many, including ostensibly intelligent legislators, are declaring the folly of “global warming.”
  • After decades of strong evidence of the veracity of Darwinian evolution and evolutionary developmental biological science, a good number have chosen to reject it for a more fundamentalist theology, and insist that this alternative be taught along with the science.
  • The facts around the necessity for government stimulus and spending in these recessionary times is denigrated as an example of out of control tax and spend big government.

Heretics and individualists are no fun. Their incessant challenge gives one a headache. They seem like they are not team players. They “move to the beat of a different drummer.” They are “not like the rest of us.” The Matrix movies were a testament to the will of many to stay deluded and comforted by machine generated, or, by analogy, party-generated or state-generated fantasy.

The price of the pursuit of knowledge is to place oneself in harm’s way. The deaths of Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Anwar Sadat and Jesus of Nazareth represent a dynamic that is as real and potent today as it has ever been. Salman Rushdie was under the threat of a Fatwah for his novel. Cartoonists have been threatened for offending orthodox beliefs. A demonizing and fear-mongering minority is actually succeeding in flipping the balance of power in the United States just over a year after the election of a President with a decade’s worth of serious challenges to address and a recalcitrant opposition hell-bent on denying him any meaningful legislation.

The appetite for ignorance always seems to overwhelm the true thirst for knowledge. Higher education in the U.S. often needs to be camouflaged lest one be labeled and set aside as an “elitist” or “academic”. Just look at out national values by comparing the very small percentage of the Federal budget set aside for education compared to what is allocated for defense and the story is told.

We do well to step back and reflect on our estate. How much have we bought into a ready-made set of comfortable mythologies and how alive do we want to be? Is freedom a value or a catch phrase that is nullified by a deeper need to be told what to believe, how to live, what to wear, how to talk, and what it means to be succesful?

It is our’s to choose:  Ignorance or knowledge. This is not only an imperative of citizenship and mind, but is a critical aspect of the depth and breadth of our spirituality. One cannot separate these from one another. They are inter-dependent parts of one true Self.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Don’t we love symmetry? The way we hang things on our walls, arrange furniture, and landscape our yards is a testament to our deep-rooted need for it. We are ourselves physical exemplars of symmetry: two eyes, two cerebral hemispheres, two kidneys, two lungs, two ears, two arms and legs, two chambers of the heart ( right and left atriums and ventricles), two nostrils, five fingers on each hand, on and on. In music, we tend to prefer balanced harmony over discordant sound (though 20th century music introduced the unusually effective and evocative discordant sound of twelve-tone music).

We also see symmetry throughout the natural world. Nature seeks out equilibrium. Symmetry and the aesthetics of beauty are intimately intertwined. Mathematics is no exception and the study of mathematical symmetry has been a passion of esoteric mathematics for a long time. These mathematical investigations have also gone well beyond delving into the world of three dimensions. In fact, in the 1800’s, mathematicians studying symmetry introduced a 128-dimensional structure considered perhaps the most complex example, called E8.

I have written before about the extraordinary capacity of the human mind to imagine abstract maths that are then later embodied in empirically verified phenomena. E8 is apparently no exception. The most recent issue of New Scientist (January 16-22, 2010, page 12) reports that physicists of the University of Oxford have identified the E8 signature in super-chilled crystals. It appears that the electrons in the crystals organize themselves in accordance with the relationships defined by the structure of E8.

Once again, human imagination precedes natural discovery. To have dreamt it in the 19th century, in the disciplined language of mathematics, only to find it in the 21st, attests to the extent to which mind is fed by universal archetypes that move toward final expression in consciousness. We make conscious what is already there at the heart of matter awaiting revelation.

The source of such revelations is intimate and infinite: an inexhaustible fountain of revelation.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

References:

Exotic Form of Symmetry Makes Real-world Debut

Mathematicians Solve E8 Structure

Mathematicians Map E8

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We visited an aquarium today and spent a relaxing ninety minutes walking though the magical enclosures designed to transport us to diverse environments housing penguins, seals, walruses, sharks, and a building set aside for “alien stingers,” dedicated to jelly fish, moray eels, and other assorted dangerous marine life. What especially sparked my curiosity was the well-known phenomenon of protective coloration along with the other seemingly eccentric adaptations of so many creatures to their worlds.

The facts of evolutionary developmental biology make clear the genius of nature. Adaptation to selection pressures and genetic mutations over time present variations among which one may prove ideally suited to ensure species survival when conditions change. The subtle beauty and inherent resiliency of the natural world is miraculous: an inexhaustible inspiration and mystery. True science shows the face of G-d. No other evidence is needed.

Nevertheless, so-called Intelligent Design “theory,” the latest incarnation of Creationism, would challenge evolutionary theory, arguing that it is “just a theory.” This betrays a complete lack of understanding of the rigor that the physical and biological sciences insist upon before an interpretation earns the right to be called “theory.” I have no interest in formal refutation of the arguments that make up this so-called theory. It is quite simply a pseudo-scientific pontification, theology in biological clothing, and a formulation designed to sound erudite and convincing. It is espoused by and for those who prefer their beliefs over the facts. What intrigues me, however, is the spiritual analogue of evolution.

Fluke assume the off-white color of sand and burrow just under the sea floor. It is often very hard to spot them. Pipe fish cling to vegetation ( thin grasses) that look much as they do and, once again, it is quite hard to distinguish the fish from the background. The list is very long of creatures, marine and otherwise, that show the skills of the terrestrial chameleon. These adaptations arose in evolutionary time and were boons to survival in the rough and tumble natural world.

Why did spirituality arise from human consciousness? What is the adaptive significance of our spiritual sense and the cultivation of an awareness of the sacred and the mysteries surrounding it? How does this upgrade the survivability of our species?

Awareness of inter-being is the ground of compassion, and the realization of the unity of all things is the essence of enlightenment. Spiritual adepts are exemplars of a state of consciousness that dissolves petty survivalism, blind self-interest, and the sense of individualistic isolation. In addition, they simultaneously embrace immanence (presence) and transcendence  (recognition of an identity that they have beyond space and time, beyond material well-being and death, that can never be taken away).

While the pretenders are many, and authentic masters are few, those few represent the next step in the evolution of humanity. They are the best hope we have of avoiding annihilating ourselves. The paradoxical truth is that while those beacons of light are there to follow, beckoning us to go beyond our lesser natures, one day of news makes clear that this next step is still very far off. The world can’t wait for grand reformers. It’s up to us to make a palpable difference in small to large ways in whatever our lines of work.

In view of ongoing hatreds, wars, terror, genocide, and corruptions, that a spiritual sense arose at all suggests that its development is essential to the long-term survival of not only our species but of the entire planet. Reasons for hope in the spread of spiritual intelligence can be seen in the actions of souls whose influence continues to draw us closer to the realization of the bright future that hope imagines, including:

  • Thich Nhat Hanh & the Order of Inter-Being
  • Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools
  • Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi banker and economist who invented the notion of micro-credit and founder of Grameen Bank, 2006 Nobel prize winner

One person can change the world. We can each contribute to advancing the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness, wait for someone else to do it, or work at cross-purposes with it. Engaged spirituality is making the choice to do what we can, here and now.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Quantum superposition is the bizarre physical principle that, if the world can exist in any configuration, than it can also exist in one that is a combination of any number of them at the same time. The mind similarly demonstrates this property in ways that substantiate the fact that we are not separate. We exist in many potential simultaneous configurations of consciousness, span time and space, and the world of dreams manifests these configurations.

Last night, I dreamt that my son was in trouble with the law. He was in jail with pending charges. At the same time, I was in jail awaiting arraignment on pending charges. It seems that I was both my son and myself.

This is not especially remarkable as we have all experienced elaborate and confusing dreamscapes where space and time simply do not behave themselves as they seem to in waking time and where we can live many lives in diverse places and as many people. Here’s the more interesting twist.

In realtime, the 21-year-old son of a family friend is awaiting the court’s disposition on charges that were recently brought against him during the holidays. A police officer responded to reports of a domestic argument in which this 21-year-old was caught up in a moment of rage in his home.

Shocked to then see a police officer at his bedroom door, he continued his angry tone and did so with the officer as the target. In response, the officer chose to forcibly restrain him, push him to the floor while hurling profanities at him, and handcuff him. Once subdued, this officer is then alleged to have started beating the young man with his bare fists.

Now, his dad, expressing understandable concern for his son, asked the officer to please stop hitting him. In response, the policeman handcuffed and arrested him also. His wife, a very sweet woman, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, then became very upset and tugged on the police officer’s jacket asking him to stop hurting her husband.

At this point, the officer handcuffed and arrested her. The entire family spent the night in jail and no one actually did anything wrong. The police were originally called out of concern for their son’s rage in hopes of calming him down. Last I heard, the court is talking about 30 days of community service for both parents, which their lawyers are contesting, and the multiple charges against their son are being legally reviewed.

So, in view of these circumstances, a Kafkaesque dream about my being jailed with my son in jail for no clear reason is not especially surprising. One could argue that the dreams were simply a reflection of my concern for this good family that lived through a night of hell and who face an ongoing and, by all indications, undeserved legal battle in the months ahead. I would agree with that, were it not for one further development.

When I awoke, I heard from my son in Korea who was just back from the hospital there after a night of violent and unrelenting gastrointestinal symptoms. It turns out the dream was prophetic. While having nothing to do with the law, it was symbolic of my son’s distress and his need to get in touch with me. The surreal plot surrounding the arrest of this family and their pending charges served as a frame for my sense that my son was having trouble. This scenario involving prescient dreams has happened many times over the years. In addition, many people, who share their dreams with me, report similar experiences all the time.

Consciousness laces the universe together. We walk around each day wrapped in the delusion that we travel independent pathways. In fact, our pathways mystically intersect in complex ways. There is no such thing as meaningless coincidences. This is not an example of magical thinking but of synchronistic event horizons. Denying this ubiquitous human experience is poor science. It rejects phenomenological data about archetypal fields in favor of simpler and more easily analyzed effects.

We are beckoned every day to embrace our legacy as children of the stars and mature physical science is leading the way in revealing the entangled and infinite reach of consciousness.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Shakespearean Costumes for Midsummer Night's Dream ( Public Domain)

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When studying in the mid-80’s for my doctorate in psychology, we considered it a fact that brain cells are the only ones in the body that do not regenerate. At the time, I thought it an odd feature of physiology given the centrality of the brain over the course of human evolution. It seemed absurd that brain cells would be so fragile and irreplaceable given their adaptive significance.

Two years ago, then 20 years after the doctorate, I took a post-graduate course in biological psychology as a refresher, and everything had changed: a change that is continuing and accelerating. Now, thanks to improved technology such as fMRI (fluorescent magnetic resonance imaging) it is the overwhelming weight of the evidence that neuroplasticity is fundamental to brain physiology. In other words, neural networks and pathways are freshly laid down and altered as we learn and grow and as we are challenged muscularly, emotionally, and cognitively each day.

“Positive neuroplasticity” is the capacity of the brain to regenerate functioning that has been impaired by stroke, dementia and the aging process, severe head trauma, or as a consequence of other CNS ( Central Nervous System)  diseases. There are now cognitive training exercises that neuropsychologists present to patients that can significantly improve diverse functioning, including balance in the elderly, memory functioning, and even offer support in the self-regulation of chronic pain.

All this being said, I am thinking about the alchemical treatise attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, The Emerald Tablet, also known as the Smaragdine Table, Tabula Smaragdina, or The Secret of Hermes. Sources of this document are traceable to 650 AD. It was regarded as the central document of the Hermetic tradition.

In it, one passage has especially captured my imagination as I consider the revelations of brain science.

It reads:

That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below, to perform the miracles of the one thing.

This ancient alchemical principle adds further framing to a better understanding of the mirroring in human nature of the core nature of the Cosmos. If the “above is as that which is below,” then neuroplasticity is an epiphenomenon of  Cosmic Mind. In other words, what we are learning about the temporal mind tells us something about the infinitely extensive and timeless “neuroverse”.

(more…)

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