My personal spiritual journey:

I have written much on spirituality and religion as a whole thus far, but haven’t given my readers too much information on my own spiritual journey. My writings have always been infused with a degree of my own beliefs, but certainly over the past year (or so) a great awakening has taken place, of which I cannot but help but express through all my writings (regardless of what topic it is on).

Certainly much of my writing on religion and spirituality thus far has been about the comparison of different perspectives. I have always stated what I believe to be true, both on the basis of personal experience and what evidence and reason I have deemed to be relevant. However, now my own personal experience has blossomed in an extraordinary way, it is only natural that I would include more of that in my writings. I cannot help but speak of the deep peace (even bliss and ecstasy) I am living through my spiritual path, and as I write on religion and spirituality (amongst other subjects) this is certainly relevant. Hence, I thought perhaps it was time to write a little of my own journey thus far.

I was raised in an evangelical Christian family. I would certainly consider it to have been quite conservative, in the sense that we believed in eternal damnation for all unsaved beings (non-Christians and false Christians). We were frequently warned of demons lurking in wait, attempting to ensnare us, and other religions (and/or spiritual or philosophical paths) were seen as a primary tool in Satan’s arsenal. We read the Bible after dinner most nights, and we often went to church at least twice a week. However, evangelical Christianity was also quite modern in the sense that it kept up somewhat with modern architecture, music, sound and lighting etc. Many of the preachers were just as much motivational speakers, and there was certainly a sense in which people were encouraged to balance spiritual and worldly pursuits.

With the gift of retrospect I can appreciate both positive and negative aspects of my religious upbringing. Certainly there were many negative features of it; for example the incredibly harsh view of those outside our faith, the awful threats of eternal torment for those we considered “unsaved”, the limitations that were given on what media (television, music, writings) we were to expose ourselves to etc. It is true that there were elements of our religious upbringing that were repressive. Certainly I went through many years of pain as a young adult, feeling anger and frustration with Christianity as a result. Fortunately I feel that I have made peace with this now, and would like to make it clear that I also see much good in Christianity, and am grateful to have been exposed to religion in my youth.

It was this dual exposure to religion that eventually drove me to want to really study and experience spirituality for myself. Having seen both positive and negative expressions of religion I wanted to ask questions, read, listen, converse, debate, meditate, pray, worship and so forth. I am now in a place where I enter intensely blissful meditative states on a daily basis, and deep peace (even ecstasy) generally remains with me throughout the day. I am also in a place whereby I hope I can offer something to the world in attempting to move forward in our understanding of comparative religion. So, my own childhood created desires within me to see if there is a way in which we can be spiritual and/or religious without also expressing it’s negative side. Hence, why I write.

It is hard to be objective about my actual spiritual experiences as a child, because I often cannot remember enough details to determine what I actually experienced from how I interpreted my experiences through the lens of my worldview at the time. Certainly I did have a few significant experiences in church, in one case someone laid their hands over my head and I went into a deep void, where I recall having a voice speak to me and assure me of my worth. I cannot however be certain of this experience; my memory simply isn’t clear enough. I never really felt anything significant during praise and worship, though I saw others around me experiencing deep love and peace through it. It always felt a bit artificial to me; it never quite felt natural and sincere (though I don’t believe I projected this conclusion onto the experiences of others).

I prayed everyday and I think I did experience a sense of lightness and peace from this, but I cannot claim any clear, dramatic supernatural experiences from this. Certainly I am open to the possibility that there may have been some genuine cases of divine intervention in my life, but due to the sands of time I cannot be sure about individual cases. What I did experience from a very young age however was an intensely interesting experience of dreaming, to the point that I recall being unable to differentiate the two at some points, given how clear my memory of my dreams was (and is again).

I noticed at a reasonably young age that there was an element of precognition in some of my dreams. If this phenomena hadn’t continued into adult life I would probably be cautious about accepting my youthful memories on the subject, as self-delusion is a difficult weed to remove in spirituality. However, I have continued to have some precognitive dreams throughout my adult life, and given that it is a common phenomena, I can accept that this has always been with me. Furthermore, I have experienced lucid dreaming since quite young, and hence my interest in religion naturally developed into an interest in psychology.

I enjoyed psychology at school and actually intended to go through university and becoming qualified, hoping to get into research into the subconscious mind. I did actually start my degree, but basically I stopped really functioning properly at around this time due to a number of issues (largely heavy cannabis use and family breakdown), and quickly dropped out of university. At around the same time I stopped going to church as frequently (and eventually stopped altogether). I most certainly did not undergo a systematic deconversion from Christianity at the time. Rather, I fell away with lots of unresolved questions.

Probably the most significant early seed of doubt to my faith occurred after the suicide of a classmate at high school. I laid awake in bed for several nights afterwards, conflicted at the idea (which I had always been told) that someone who took their own life would naturally be excluded from heaven, and would suffer for eternity. Shortly afterwards I asked a youth leader at my church about this, and was simply told, “Sorry, they will go to hell”. I never accepted this response; in my heart I felt it couldn’t possibly be true. I still continued on in faith though, but this seed eventually grew and developed into a rejection of one of the core doctrines of my childhood faith.

I have been asked on a number of occasions about my faith in my youth, whether I was really a Christian, whether I really had accepted Christ as my saviour etc. The answer I give is yes, but I was quite immature in many ways. Certainly I did indeed try. For a while I believe I even used to take a pocketbook copy of the New Testament in my pocket with me to school when I was in primary school, and this wasn’t just at the prompting of my parents. I certainly tried to do the right things. However, nevertheless, I certainly ended up in a bit of a mess in my late teens and early twenties, largely as a result of heavily cannabis use, which spiralled quickly out of control and devastated my life.

Around the age of 24 I started to develop a strong desire to learn. I wanted to learn about history, science, religion, spirituality, philosophy and the paranormal (amongst other topics). Fortunately, my interest in spirituality soon resulted in giving up weed, and seeking to begin to heal my body, mind and soul. I had some wonderful early experiences with energy healing (Reiki) which absolutely convinced me of the reality of the subtle life force (Prana, Chi, Ki etc.). Likewise, I had some astonishing experiences with a number of mediums, whose knowledge of my inner workings far superseded what any family or friends could have revealed about me (let alone anybody employing “cold-reading”). I soon tried yoga and meditation, where I immediately felt I had come home, having extraordinary experiences from the beginning, and throughout my journey.

After my first yoga class I felt amazing, and it occurred to me that I naturally wanted to learn to feel like that all the time. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed at the time to sustain that feeling, but the urge emerged within me, pushing me forward to learn, heal and evolve. Simultaneously I became reasonably serious about wanting to understand comparative religion. I had been brought up to believe that the things I was now trying were the Devil’s work. I wanted to test this idea, and properly consider multiple perspectives in order to sort through the maze of conflicting ideas.

Certainly it is true that at the time I had a great deal of anger towards Christianity, and one may accuse me of bias in my pursuits of answers. However, I do believe that I have given honest consideration to the case of orthodox Christianity, and as I see it, it just cannot stand. The hurt that I once felt on the subject has since healed, and I can debate religion without becoming emotional (as so many do, and as I once did).

As I searched for answers I found that a large number of things that I had been told by my religious family (and wider community) in my youth simply were gross misrepresentations of the truth. That is, they commonly involved selective representation of the facts, various erroneous arguments and attempts to reason, as well as many outright false claims. This is true not only about things claimed in favour of orthodox Christianity, but also things claimed against other religions and spiritual and/or philosophical paths, and the paranormal in general.

By contrast, I found tremendous depth and reason in Eastern philosophical works, as well as many modern spiritual texts and teachers. I found great peace and healing through practices which orthodox Christianity condemns, to which it claims that the Devil gives practitioners false imitations of divine peace as a means to ensnare them. From my own experience and understanding, I have concluded that there is simply no way that this view could possibly be true (I’ll link to a few previous articles at the end of this piece for anyone that is interested in some of my explanations why).

So, I came to develop a great love for the various practices of Yoga, and the accompanying philosophy of Yoga, Tantra and Vedanta (which many – if not most – modern practitioners (including myself) consider to be three sides of the same coin). I have also been a member of my local Spiritualist organisation[i] for some time. I will write on Spiritualism at some point in the near future, as I feel there is comparatively little positive information on it around, in light of all the negative press it gets from skeptics and conservative followers of various religions (and even some members of the New Age community).

I have been sincerely seeking God for some time now, sincerely attempting to grow as a human being and work for the benefit of all beings. I have succeeded in many ways, and yet have had many failures along the way. In the time of my serious spiritual pursuit I have had many wonderful experiences and have conquered many old habits, whilst cultivating new positive traits. And yet, I have also struggled deeply in many ways, fighting some habits that have been difficult to break, and making many new mistakes along the way. Despite a keen awareness of mistakes made earlier in my life, I have not yet become the man I wish to be.

I got married in 2007 and fathered two beautiful girls, born in 2010 and 2013, bringing me the great gift of parenthood. Despite this, my marriage failed (I left) and I have not fully found my feet since. I have struggled with mental and physical health throughout my spiritual pursuits, and have experienced many deep highs and lows throughout this. And yet, I have not felt like life was harsh beyond my control. Rather, I can see how much power I have had throughout to bring about change and growth, even when I have not succeeded. Sometimes this understanding can only be seen in retrospect, as at the time it really does feel like you are trying everything.

Anyways, I wish to make it clear that I am not making any grand claims about myself. I am not claiming to be perfect, but rather I am acknowledging that I am and have always been far from it. As is typical of humanity, I have many strengths and weaknesses, and it is usually easier to see other people’s weaknesses than those of yourself. There have been areas of my own life I have tried unsuccessfully for much time to resolve; certainly it is much easier to see how much of other peoples problems are self-created, and how obvious the solutions are.

Anyways, I am not claiming to be enlightened, to be a perfect being, to have lived a perfect life, to have all the answers, to have miraculous abilities, to be from another planet or dimension or anything like that. I also wish to make it quite clear that I am largely self-educated (I believe the term is autodidact), and I am quite happy to acknowledge the challenges and limitations of this approach, given the large difference in the quality of information available in this day and age. And yet I do believe I have much to offer humanity in the way of understanding the topics of religions, spirituality, philosophy and the paranormal (and more). Furthermore, whilst I am not enlightened, I have most certainly tasted it.

Whilst I have been having powerful spiritual experiences throughout my spiritual search, nothing I had experienced compares to what has happened since mid-2017. For quite a while I had been a fan of Mooji, a Jamaican born spiritual teacher in the Vedanta tradition. I believe I first encountered a video of his around 2008-2009 (I can’t be sure exactly when), and immediately felt that he was speaking with the authority of personal experience. Nobody had to tell me that he was enlightened; it seemed obvious to me.

Nevertheless, I went about my search in many different places, and a bit later (around 2015) started listening to his videos more regularly. I had been reading (and re-reading) Eckhart Tolle for a while at this point (and I strongly recommend “A New Earth” to everyone), and Tolle’s wisdom naturally led me back to Mooji, and the Vedanta of which I had read much earlier upon my pursuit of the Yogic path.

Around June-July 2017 I noticed one of Mooji’s videos on YouTube titled “This exercise is all the help you need”[ii]. This sounded interesting so I gave it a go. I figured it was a meditation, so I closed my eyes and listened intently. Then something happened; instant bliss. Overwhelming joy, deep effortless silence and clarity. This was different to what I had experienced before. Not different as in from another universe, but just of a depth I had always sought, but had previously never experienced. This was what I had read about, but had only glimpsed previously.

I had come into the experience of presence (awareness without thought) before, though it had mostly come through intense effort, which could never be sustained. Mooji’s guidance however was different. I was not being present; I was (and am) Presence itself. This is not something that requires effort; it is not created or sustained. It just Is, hence Mooji generally refers to the experience of pure awareness as “The Is-ness”, both to simplify it for those who are put-off by esoteric and/or foreign words (like Brahman), and also to avoid projecting pre-existing ideas about what God or Source is.

This experience of the Self is truly satisfying in the most extraordinary way. There is absolute contentment, complete perfection and purity, a deep peace that blossoms into bliss and then ecstasy, and an effortless silence and clarity. This is not necessarily a trance state where one leaves the body and is unable to function whilst swimming in the cosmic sea. Certainly my meditation has deepened enormously since this awakening, and there was a period when I was going so deep that I found it hard to ground afterwards. By and large though, this experience brings completely clarity and effortless concentration, which remains after the exercise is over. In fact, it never goes away, unless and until one has the experience of masking it with the psychological processes that are considered normal by our race.

The Self is ever present, it is not an experience. It doesn’t require effort, nor is it attained by merit. Certainly a degree of self-effort is required to find It and remain as It, but having come to this experience I now properly understand the meaning of Grace. I have long acknowledged that people of many different faiths have legitimate spiritual experiences (albeit often coloured and limited by their accompanying beliefs). I had previously experienced a degree of Bhakti Yoga through group bhajans (and/or kirtans), but in retrospect I didn’t really know what divine devotion was truly like prior to this awakening.

Previously I was quite happy to accept that some Christians had real encounters with God through praise and worship, despite my criticisms of various aspects of orthodox Christianity. Now I feel indescribable love through the worship from various faiths, including Christianity. That is, whilst I never really felt anything in praise and worship as a Christian (despite an immature sincerity), there are many Christian songs that set my heart ablaze with overwhelming love. The ecstasy is just unspeakable. And yet, I am not about to become a born-again Christian. I feel the same love from Hindu Bhajans and from Sikh Kirtans amongst others, as I do in prayer, in meditation and even in just seeing a photo of Mooji.

So now, I finally get this devotion and faith thing. And yet, I think we need to retain an intuitive critical thinking, as spirituality and religion are awash with the madness that is so common in humanity. It’s an interesting path to walk, being very aware of the legitimate criticisms that have been made towards virtually all religions and spiritual paths by outsiders. In relatively recent times, atheists (or naturalists as I prefer to call them) have exposed a great deal of insanity within the field of religion and spirituality. I feel we all owe them a great debt for this, even though I disagree with many of their more general views about spirituality and the supernatural.

This is an interesting but wonderful place to be in, given that I can see so much madness in spirituality and religion. And yet, divine Grace is beyond the logic of this world. I was long ago convinced of the reality of the supernatural. Likewise, I was long ago convinced of the validity of the Yogic path, the universality of true spirituality and the existence of a Supreme Being we can call God (but which I accept as being in truth greatly different from most human conceptions and projections). And now, I feel I have been personally introduced to God, living within me as the true Self.

I have still fluctuated since discovering this, and not a great deal has changed (yet) in my external world. I have gone through significant periods of immersion in the wonderful state of Presence without deviation, and then somehow returned to a degree of psychological conditioning. However, these fluctuations have become far less frequent (and severe), and I have seen that it is indeed possible to live permanently in absolute clarity and ecstasy. Since discovering Presence I have felt happier with my own behaviour, in that I do not regret as much of what I have said and done since. I am now putting my attention to creating change in my external world, having now discovered the most solid foundation one could ever hope for.

So, whilst I myself am far from perfect, there is perfection within me. It is within everyone, the saint and the sinner, the wise man (or woman) and the fool, the king and the beggar. It is the very ground of being, the substratum on which all existence rests. It is the womb of Creation. What Grace to know this.

This exercise of Mooji has since been named “The Invitation to Freedom”, and there are numerous versions of it available online[iii]. It has brought true realisation to thousands of Mooji’s students, and I feel incredibly blessed to be amongst his flock. I wasn’t looking for a Guru, being very aware of the problems that often occur within such relationships. But Mooji has touched me in such a profound way; I feel the most inexpressible devotion towards him now.

So, life goes on. I have not reached a final destination; I am still a work in progress. But I live with a knowledge and direct experience of the unchanging reality. In a world full of suffering (which I have certainly been part of for most of my life), what an extraordinary thing to live in bliss. I desire for all beings to find this, in whatever way they can open themselves to it. Hence, I leave you with a traditional Hindu blessing:

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu – May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Peace.

Please note – I have briefly mentioned here a few subjects, of which I have dealt with in some detail before, that perhaps a few readers might find relevant. If you are interested, please see the following endnotes[iv].

[i] The VSU – Victorian Spiritualist Union (and that is Victoria as in the state in Australia, not the Victorian era in which Spiritualism emerged as a definite movement): https://vsu.org.au.

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa5IF7x-ziA.

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5_sbzSXs0E, and https://mooji.tv/invitation-toolkit/, and http://satsangshop.com/mooji-books/1292-an-invitation-to-freedom-audiobook-downloadable.html.

[iv] For a detailed examination of comparative religion which focuses on religious scripture, please see the following lengthy article: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/on-interpretations-of-scripture-why-many-religious-conservatives-and-progressives-misread-ancient-texts-and-misunderstand-religion-in-general/.

For a quick summary of why I believe orthodox Christianity is clearly wrong, see the following: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/four-reasons-why-orthodox-christianity-cannot-possibly-be-true/.

I also recently wrote on the balance of faith and reason: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/faith-and-reason-devotion-and-skepticism-in-spiritual-life/.

Advertisements

Faith and reason, devotion and skepticism in Spiritual life:

Wisdom often concerns balancing out two or more opposing forces, or principles. Whilst it is true that truth is not always found directly between two opposing views, it often is. The vastness of life is such that we often have to balance out two legitimate (sometimes equally so) principles or attributes in order to function in a truly healthy way. The human species as a whole certainly has a long way to go in this regard, and I for one am no exception.

It certainly may seem that the attributes of faith and reason, devotion and skepticism run diametrically opposite to each other. To have faith implies an insistence on holding firm to a belief in something that is not always immanent, often in the face of what appears to be opposing forces that seek to refute or ridicule such beliefs. Reason on the other hand speaks to the ability of human beings to question what we think, say and do, and to expect uniformity, consistency and natural order in human beliefs and behaviour.

Spiritual devotion is an intense love and faith towards the Divine, often with the sacrifice of much earthly human desire, and is often inconceivable to those who do not share similar spiritual (and/or religious) aspirations. Alternatively, extreme skepticism towards all things spiritual, religious and paranormal involves not merely a strong suspicion towards all such claims, but often a belief that all such claims result from either fraud and/or deception, misunderstandings, hallucinations or some form of mental illness.

Hence, we often have a case whereby it seems as if religious believers and spiritual aspirants live in one universe, and in which paranormal skeptics, scientists and natural philosophers live in another. Of course, this cannot be the case. However, it certainly is true that life exists in such a way as to allow different people to have very different experiences. I would suggest that whether one is a believer in spirituality or not, and regardless of culture, religion or philosophical persuasion, that this is beyond dispute[i]. Certainly it is true that life allows us to perceive it in very different ways, despite the reasonable assumption that there is a common reality that we all exist within.

A close family friend (who is Christian) once expressed her observation that followers of all faiths have experiences that appear to validate their beliefs. I largely agree with this statement, though I have a different idea as to the mechanism of how this is so (and likewise atheists/naturalists will also have a different idea as to the mechanisms that allow this). If one is a Naturalist[ii] then one can certainly experience life in such a way as to believe that only the material universe and the laws that govern it exist, and our experience of consciousness is simply an epiphenomena emerging from the electro-chemical processes inside our brains (and bodies).

Certainly, there is no shortage of research revealing more and more of the vast mystery of the workings of our physical universe, including ourselves. One can certainly interpret spiritual and paranormal claims in such a way as to see them all as merely psychological phenomena. Furthermore, within the fields of religions and spirituality there are no shortages of examples of fraud, madness and sheer stupidity (for lack of a polite way to say this). Hence, whilst I am certainly a fully convinced believer in the objective nature of spirituality, I do have a degree of sympathy for the naturalistic view (though I also am happy to express the ways in which I disagree with it).

On the opposite side, life exists in such a way as to also give religious and spiritual believers experiences that appear to validate their sacred beliefs. Growing up in a large Christian extended family, it was only natural to interpret life as a whole from the lens of Christianity, and I certainly heard countless stories and testimonies from others to further support this. Now that I adhere to a more universal perspective I have (what appear to me to be) incredibly profound spiritual experiences, which also coincide directly with the things I believe in.

Whilst I long ago left Christianity behind, I also have a certain degree of sympathy for the Christian view, as I do for most religious, spiritual and philosophical views (though again, I also feel it is appropriate to speak out about the ways in which I believe many such views deviate from what is true and good). This raises a very serious question (which I am not going to try and really answer here today):

How then do we reconcile such a situation, whereby different people are having such different experiences of life?

Of course, a large part of human experience is universal, regardless of what filter one is applying to life (or whether perhaps one is seeing life clearly in the absence of such filters?). Human biology, family, work, our experiences through the sense of taste, smell, touch, hearing and feeling and their interactions with the external world are part of the experience of us all, regardless of our philosophical persuasion. Again obviously, race, gender, nationality, education and our relative level of wealth or poverty again give very different experiences of life to different people. However, the point I am making here is that two people may grow up in the same family, in the same place and with the same opportunities in life, but yet have very different experiences of life due to their spiritual/philosophical view.

Typically, spiritual/religious faith involves the belief in a greater reality, or bigger picture to that which we see around us. That is, many different religious views involve the belief in spiritual realms that are invisible to the perception of most beings. Likewise, religion often involves belief in a grander scheme whereby some form of divine justice operates to right the wrongs of this life, to reward those who get it right, and (to different degrees) bring justice or punishment to those who do not.

Hence, faith often involves the denial of the absolute importance of the immanent physical world, and I would argue that this can have both positive and negative expressions. For example, a positive expression can be maintaining a positive attitude when surrounded by negativity, offering compassion and forgiveness in the face of anger and hatred. So, believing in the higher reality of love and compassion even in the face of its opposite can be a positive expression of faith. However, it is often the case that someone has a positive experience through a particular religious faith, or in association with a specific text, practice or teacher, and then by association takes everything that they teach as correct.

As a result, we often then also take on faith in things that have explicitly negative connotations, often to the point of madness. Religious faith can resist all reasonable objections, maintaining ground in the face of clear evidence and logic that refutes it. Hence, I say that the field of religion is a minefield, or as I often say, like a poison apple; something which looks sweet and healthy (and in its pure form actually is), but is frequently tainted by its opposite. Hence, the negative pole of faith is the refusal to acknowledge the deep flaws in a religion or sect, religious text or a spiritual teacher.

One example I like to give of the positive and negative poles of a particular attribute relates to self-confidence versus humility. Many people might think of self-confidence and humility as being mutually exclusive, but I personally think of them as a balanced pair. Both however have a positive and negative expression. The positive expression of self-confidence involves feeling good about oneself, have belief in ones own abilities, being able to forgive oneself for your mistakes and so forth. The negative pole however is feeling superior to others, thinking you are better than everyone else, putting others down to try and make yourself bigger etc. So, there is a positive expression, and there is the negative, egoic expression.

Likewise, the same is true of humility. The positive expression of humility involves recognising how much each of us relies upon the grace of life as a whole for our very existence (i.e. the earth, air, water, food, sunshine etc.), and how much we depend on other people. That is, even if we attempt to be self-reliant (which very people actually do), then we are still dependent upon the hard work of those that came before us, and nearly all of us depend on the hard work and intelligence of others for the services we use on a daily basis. Positive humility is recognising the vastness of life, and thinking of others as well as (and sometimes before) ourselves. In a true spiritual context, humility should involve recognition of the vast cosmic intelligence, power and boundless love of God, and the fickleness of the human ego.

Alternatively, the negative expression involves seeing oneself as inferior to others, being unable to let go of guilt and fear, and (often religiously motivated) ideas about the sacredness of suffering[iii]. In religious contexts, humility and self-sacrifice can become sacred dogmas, as people (of various faiths, cultures and traditions) can see themselves as wretched sinners trembling in fear of divine wrath. So, obviously what I personally encourage is for all of us to seek to display the positive expressions of both self-confidence and humility, in balance. That is, we should love ourselves absolutely, forgive ourselves for our past mistakes and learn from them, and believe in our own worthiness and inherent goodness. Likewise, we should also seek to forgive and love all others, offering service to others in a way that suits our natural tendencies and skill-set. Finally, we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude and appreciation towards life, acknowledging the grace that maintains the vast infinitude of creation (including our own individual expression).

Anyways, back to the point at hand here, I see faith and reason, devotion and scepticism as balanced pairs that all have positive and negative expressions. That is, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but rather we need both pairs to be in balance to be healthy and whole. Human beings however generally have a long way to go in achieving such balance (and I of course am no exception). What generally happens is that we say: “Ok, I am going to have faith”, and then we abandon reason altogether. We say: “I am going to be devoted to my spiritual teacher”, and then make excuses when they abuse their power and commit gross misdeeds.

Likewise, when we recognise a negative expression of a particular attribute, rather than finding a balanced, positive expression, we frequently go way too far in the opposite direction. That is, in responding to an imbalance in one area we typically create a new imbalance on the opposite side of the spectrum. Again, this is not merely behaviour limited to the religious and philosophical sphere, but rather this is simply common human behaviour, found in practically every field of life.

One might argue then that the complete rejection of faith and devotion for the absolute reliance upon reason and skepticism is also an imbalance. However, I am not going to go in this direction today; rather I will discuss that train of thought another day[iv]. I am not writing today to try and convince those without any faith to take some up. Rather, I am writing to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters that have some form of religious or spiritual belief to really consider to what degree we give space to reason and healthy skepticism, in harmony with our faith and devotion.

This is not merely a problem for one part of the spiritual-religious spectrum or one particular faith or sect, but rather as I see it, this is a problem that is found throughout the wide range of spiritual beliefs. This issue affects Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, of conservative and liberal persuasions, and also those who consider themselves “spiritual not religious”, what we might call the New Age movement[v].

Please excuse the repetition, but again, we can see both positive and negative expressions of faith and reason, devotion and scepticism in both the individual lives of many people, and in the wider world at large. Faith often motivates people to overcome vast obstacles and summon tremendous inner strength and resolve. It can provide extraordinary healing and summon the strength to forgive and let go deep traumas. It often drives people to serve others selflessly, and seek towards the upliftment of the greater whole rather than seek personal success.

However, the logic of spiritual faith and devotion can seem so different from the logic of the material world. Hence, integrating it with the needs of our external universal is a tricky thing. It is so often the case that faith and devotion appear to run contrary to logic and reason, so much so that those that possess a keen sense of reason are often bewildered at the complete lack of reason expressed by those with the fires of faith burning in their hearts. Faith so often brings about madness, and even for those of us that believe in the reality of spirituality, often it can be hard to differentiate between cases whereby faith is driving someone to bring in a higher law into our world, and cases whereby someone is simply lost in their own delusions.

We spiritual (and religious) believers have a lot to learn from those who have either abandoned spirituality and religion altogether, or have at least put it aside. Vast advancements in all fields of outward human endeavour have been made largely through the assumption of sole material causes, and certainly vast human progress will continue to be made in science and technology through gaining deeper and deeper understanding of the laws that govern the material cosmos. Certainly, it is without doubt that those of us living in modern, first world nations are greatly blessed by relative material abundance thanks to the endeavours of those that have focussed solely upon working with the forces of the physical world.

Likewise, significance social advances have been made through laying aside specific religious foundations for ethics, and in the seeking of a universal, humanistic ethical foundation. Major breakthroughs in culture at large have emerged largely from those who have rejected traditional religious values. Even when naturalism/atheism may appear to be so clearly ideologically opposed against spirituality, I think perhaps we need to learn from our brothers and sisters who do not share our faith, and we should strive to break down the walls of animosity between us, feeling sympathy for their views. May I suggest that we also extend a degree of the same generosity to religious believers that maintain views that seem so clearly irrational to us. Obviously, I am not suggesting we let such things go unquestioned. However, I am simply suggesting an understanding of why they believe as they do, and an acceptance of how this life can appear to give evidence of contrary views about its origin and means of functioning.

It is a difficult point that “leaving the mind aside”[vi] is both an essential element of true spiritual progress, but also the most dangerous feature of the interaction between spirituality and outer life. To find spiritual peace one must become still and silent, and let go of mental concepts and conditioning to experience the vastness of cosmic existence, infinite consciousness and supreme bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda). Having found such extraordinary peace, it is only natural to want to surrender completely to it and melt into ecstasy (and this is my own personal experience).

However, it is because in religion (and spirituality) that we seek to transcend our normal human nature and the outward world that we are familiar with to experience something beyond, we often throw our reasoning faculties out the door at the same time. We need to be able to maintain an intuitive sense of logic, reason, morality and practicality, even whilst we discover the true Self that is beyond the mind. “Leaving the mind outside” should not preclude the use of the mind in appropriate ways. Whilst perhaps specific isolated practices of meditation can involve the dropping altogether of ones physical and psychological awareness, one should ideally be able to retain an awareness of the Self whilst still engaging with the psychological, energetic and physical aspects of life, and treating all in a manner that is appropriate to their needs. Higher spiritual ideals should indeed filter through into physical life, however they should not be at odds with the highest ideals of our outward life.

I haven’t always understood the intense devotion of some spiritual seekers, but I do now. I used to stand there in church as a child during praise and worship watching all the other people around me blissing out, entering into deep states of spiritual ecstasy, but nothing happened with me. I would try and sing with my heart, but I didn’t feel anything. It always felt a little awkward and contrived. And yet now when I hear devotional music of various faiths and traditions I feel bliss[vii], to the point that it is sometimes almost overwhelming.

I now understand the intense devotion towards a spiritual leader or teacher that is such a contentious thing in the realms of spirituality and religion, as I feel it myself for my own teacher (Mooji). When somebody opens the doors to your soul in a profound way, you naturally feel the most inexpressible gratitude and love towards them, as well as a feeling that you owe them a debt that could never be repaid. I certainly understand that countless other beings have felt similar (or identical) things to what I feel now. And yet, this can also be very dangerous territory.

We human beings tend to wish that everything was simple, black and white, but life is simply not like that. We would like to be able to find one teacher who could tell us the whole truth about absolutely everything, but even in the case of those who are genuinely inspired by a Grand Cosmic Mind, this is still not the case. We wish that we could trust those who possess genuine spiritual realisation and power to be perfect, exemplary personalities, to live flawless lives, above and beyond the idiosyncrasies of human personality. And yet, this is very rarely the case.

Horrendous abuses have taken place whereby devoted spiritual aspirants have placed all their faith in a teacher, text or institution, and they will unfortunately continue to do so. This is true in Christianity, and it is certainly true in Hinduism. Yoga culture is unfortunately rife with sexual abuse, whereby powerful and charismatic gurus have taken advantage of the vulnerability of their devotees. In milder cases this has simply involved the guru having consensual sexual relations with large numbers of students, whilst more extreme cases have involved full-blown institutionalised sexual abuse and rape, including minors. So many of the big names of the Yoga world have been implicated in this, and the lineage through which I myself learned hatha yoga (Satyananda yoga) has emerged as one of the very worst examples of this[viii].

The complexities of life in this world are such that beings that engage in long-term spiritual disciples may indeed gain genuine spiritual attainments, and yet may also be quite sick, depraved and perverted in their outward expression. Obviously I would argue that such perversions do indeed limit the degree to which such people progress spiritually. Such beings could never be thought to be enlightened. And yet, so vast is the world of Spirit, that even a relatively low level of spiritual attainment can seem like enlightenment by comparison with the heaviness that so many people accept as normality.

Just to clarify, what I mean is that somebody can attain incredible feelings of lightness and peace through a long-term disciple of various yogic techniques (most notably meditation), of which others may genuinely sense as a presence surrounding them, and yet they may also posses severe personality aberrations simultaneously. The mental-emotional states that so many of us accept as simply normal are so low by comparison to the heights of spiritual bliss, that any partial attainment along the way (even if it is simultaneously unbalanced by personality disorders and aberrant behaviour) can still appear to shine like gold (even though it is in truth, fools gold).

It would seem simpler to us humans if upon the degeneration into perversion that such spiritual leaders would lose all of their transcendent light, but yet it is not so. It would seem far simpler if divine beings could appear and chastise such people for their abuses, or appear to warn potential devotees of the mess to follow. Although I do hear cases of people claiming they were warned of situations like these through clairvoyance, as a whole, no such divine interventions occur.

I would like to think that perfect love, perfect faith and perfect devotion would be enough for the human life, but unfortunately I don’t think this is so. Certainly, absolute love, faith and devotion can be wonderful things, when held in balance by a healthy external life. However, in the realms of spirituality they are not enough by themselves to bring about wholeness. Many a seeker has held absolute devotion to their teacher, and suffered horrendous abuses (of various sorts) as a result. Many a seeker has had perfect faith in a Supreme Being, and also accepted irrational and unhealthy beliefs. Many seekers have had intense love for the Divine, and have yet also accepted in hate, fear and bigotry as part of the package.

It would be nice and simple if a yogi in an ashram could simply enter meditation and have higher beings come to them and tell them that their guru was a pervert and they had to leave immediately. However, the reality is that whilst yogis do indeed have legitimate spiritual experiences (as do seekers through other paths and practices), much of what is experienced is a projection of the human mind. It would be nice and simple if a Christian in an Evangelical church could have a vision of Jesus thanking them for their perfect love and faith in God, and explaining to them that much of what is taught in the church is not actually true, and the Bible isn’t a particularly great spiritual text. Again however, this is not how it works. Rather, Christians have (somewhat genuine) spiritual experiences, which likewise work through the projections of the mind (both individual and collective).

This world is designed in such a way as that we can indeed experience unspeakable love and peace through prayer, worship, meditation, ritual, reading spiritual books and various other means; however these do not in and of themselves produce complete wholeness. They can certainly take us to a place of wholeness and perfection, but to bring that wholeness and purity into our complete, outward expression requires clarity, logic, reason, practicality, strength and resilience etc., that doesn’t necessarily develop by itself through such spiritual practices.

Certainly it is true that the deeper one goes in their spiritual practice, the more it overflows into their outward life. Meditation should influence ones state of being through daily life, rather than simply involve blissing out (or tripping out) for a period of time whilst shutting off the world. Rather, meditation must ultimately lead towards presence (or mindfulness) during all hours of the day. Likewise, devotion and worship should leave a divine love bubbling in the heart during even the most (seemingly) mundane or challenging of life’s experiences. However, I think the reality is that such spiritual pursuits ultimately need to be balanced with a down-to-earth approach to life, whereby we consider the needs of our immediate environment, rather than completely dismissing it as irrelevant and inferior to the spiritual dimension of reality (and I too have certainly been guilty of this).

As well as specifically seeking to cultivate love, we also need to specifically cultivate strength. That is, we cannot assume that simply cultivating love will necessarily by itself also produce strength as well (though it can happen in some cases). We cannot assume that simply cultivating stillness and allowing intuition to blossom will necessarily, by itself, also bring about the development of logic, reason and pragmatism. I think abundant evidence shows that human beings can become very advanced in one aspect of their life, and incredibly deficient in another at the same time.

Many people succeed in the outward expression of their life, and yet are desperately unhappy inwardly. Many people attain power, fame, wealth and possessions, are surrounded by friends and family, and yet feel (psychological) emptiness[ix], pain, anxiety, depression, confusion, shame, guilt, anger, fear etc. Many people cultivate logic and reason, and yet have no experience of divine peace, intuition and the vastness of Spirit.

There is a tendency amongst our species to focus on one part of our being at a time, either diminishing or completely denying the other aspects of ourselves. That is, we can completely focus on our body and material needs (and desires), to the loss of our psychological and spiritual lives, and there are abundant examples of this. Likewise, we can focus completely on our psychological lives, to the loss of our physical and spiritual needs, and again there are countless examples of this. Again, we can focus solely on our spiritual lives and neglect our outward expression, even whilst making genuine progress on the spiritual path. Again, there are so many examples of this (and again, I certainly have been guilty of this).

May I suggest that we spiritual seekers accept and love the wholeness of our being. We are Spirit, we have a mental existence, an energetic existence and a physical body. Whilst we are incarnate here on this planet, all of these have their importance, and require attention at different times and in different ways. We did not simply come to earth to work out how to leave it. We were not born just to work out which god to worship so that we could be saved and make it to heaven (and escape the horrors of hell) after death. We were born to live, and find ways to allow the higher realities of Spirit to express in a world that appears to us to operate by very different laws[x]. Part of living a spiritual life in a physical body is finding balance and compromise between the different aspects of our being.

My main point is this:

The complexities of this world allow many people to attain temporary success in one area of life (material wealth, power, psychic and/or spiritual attainment etc.), even whilst possessing major moral failings in other areas of their life. I would suggest that there exists a bigger picture in which the injustices of this life can be repaired; hence it can certainly seem to us that justice fails in this world. We are allowed to make severe mistakes, and suffer the ultimate penalties for them (and unfortunately, we can also make other, innocent people also suffer the results of our errors).

Hence, we spiritual aspirants must maintain decent levels of reason, whereby we refuse to accept abusive behaviour under the excuse that spiritually advanced beings are subject to higher laws than those of this world. We must weed out such excuses and expect spiritual leaders to practice what they preach. We must keep a healthy degree of skepticism up our sleeve, even when we feel the heart opening in intense love and devotion. Even when we leave the mind outside and experience spiritual ecstasy, we must keep an intuitive sense of right and wrong, logic and practicality.

Nevertheless, faith and devotion can be the most wonderful wisdom, if founded on the right foundation (that is, not blind faith, but faith based on true spiritual experience), and kept in check by openness, and a progressiveness that acknowledges the constant evolution of human culture. Spiritual devotion can bring the highest satisfaction, even culminating in continuous ecstasy (and I myself have now been blessed with this experience). In a world full of suffering, what an unspeakable blessing to experience continuous happiness, unchanging bliss, effortless stillness and inner silence. And yet, I understand that this may sound like a fantasy or delusion to many, as it seems so far removed from the reality of so many (and of course, it is so far removed from how much of my own life was experienced).

Life can be heaven or hell, and somehow, even in the midst of experiencing the challenges of life, or even harrowing circumstances, there is the possibility of simultaneously experiencing unspeakable, overwhelming peace and joy inwardly. I hope that others too find what I have found (and I know that many others already have), and I would like to be of service to those who are seeking, but have not yet come to the direct experience of divinity within and without.

Peace

[i] I would point out that perhaps some people might still disagree here. Many times I have heard conservative Christians claim that atheists and those that follow other faiths secretly know that Christianity is true, but refuse to follow it due to not wanting to give up their sinful natures (in fact, I believe a rather well known Christian apologist – which I won’t name today – has made this claim in written form). I could offer a response to this, but won’t do so today. Rather, I would just say that I don’t consider this to be a particularly reasonable claim to make. One could easily reverse the claim and see what response one gets. It’s not an approach that is likely to lead to any improvement of relationships between those holding different views, and is unlikely to improve understanding on any side.

[ii] That is, someone who subscribes to Metaphysical Naturalism. I generally prefer the term to Atheist, as there are some people who don’t believe in a single Supreme Being, who yet believe in the supernatural in some way or form (including those – such as Philosophical Satanists – who consider themselves Naturalists but yet think that Naturalism allows for psychic forces to operate within the laws of material science).

[iii] Please note, I do recognise that obviously some form of physical suffering is practically unavoidable in physical life, and great lessons can be learned from these experiences. What I am speaking of here is that many people create a self-image based upon suffering.

[iv] Just in case anyone was unsure about my general position on the topic, I am a firm believer in the supernatural, but I have some sympathy for naturalists in that I recognise many legitimate flaws in human expressions of religion and spirituality. I do not believe that naturalists are condemned, or desperately need to be saved, or anything like that. Obviously, mankind has benefitted enormously from natural science, and we will continue to do so. However, spirituality also offers something which is truly priceless; unchanging, causeless joy, peace and bliss, something which I have been graced with in recent times.

In future works I will argue that many people have confused and conflated methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism, and in this way, metaphysical naturalism has kind of piggybacked in the back door along with the scientific achievements of the past few centuries. I will argue that science and spirituality are not at odds, and that there is plenty of real evidence for the objective reality of spirituality. I will indeed argue that there are many ways in which naturalists exhibit their own philosophical bias to ignore or refuse to accept the natural consequences and implications of available evidence, through the same egoic biases that affect followers of religion or political ideologies.

[v] Just for the record, I don’t really see anything specifically wrong in this, and I certainly have my own hand in this movement myself (thought the New Age movement is not without it’s flaws as well). I will write specifically in defense of this “spiritual not religious” definition in the future.

[vi] This expression has been around in spiritual circles for many years. I first heard it at a local meditation group, and raised my objection that it can be a very dangerous thing in the realms of religion. However, it is also the foundation of a guided meditation from my teacher – Mooji – called “The Invitation to Freedom”, which has absolutely changed my life. Prior to discovering the Invitation I had certainly had many profound spiritual experiences, and had also tasted presence in daily life for brief periods. However, I had been going up and down, up and down, back and forth for many, many years, wrestling with my mind (and often losing). The Invitation to Freedom has brought me unspeakable bliss, and brought about true lasting stillness that stays with me through the day, throughout all activities and circumstances. Hence, I now also understand how wonderful “leaving the mind outside” can be.

[vii] In case anyone was interested, I now  find some Christian worship songs do touch my heart. I’m not saying you are going to find me in a Christian church anytime soon in order to participate in their praise and worship. However, I feel the same peace when hearing a few particular Christian songs that I do when I hear Hindu bhajans and Sikh kirtans. I have long accepted that many Christians have legitimate spiritual experiences through their faith. Now I can feel it tangibly in their practice just as in my own.

[viii] Satyananda yoga has two major ashrams in Australia, one in Rockland, Victoria (near Daylesford, approx. 2-3 hours from where I live), and another in Mangrove Creek, NSW, which was brought before the Royal Commision into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The tales that emerged from the Royal Commision were horrendous. And yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the yoga ashram was driven by demonic power, or that many that went there did not gain genuine spiritual benefits.

[ix] To be differentiated from a spiritual emptiness, which is a feeling of absolute vastness, infinite space and beingness. Psychological emptiness on the other hand is a complete lack of love, a complete lack of peace. Spiritual emptiness is a complete letting go of all that is not love, and a dissolving into love.

[x] Though I perhaps would argue that spiritual powers do indeed operate in this world, only that they are not immediately apparent as they are in higher dimensions.

We need to love and care for all life:

Dear friends, there is so much that could be said on so many topics, but this topic is of the most vital importance to everything and everyone. Human beings have achieved vast attainments in the fields of science, learning about the workings of cells, molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles. We have developed medicines and vaccines to combat diseases that used to wipe out large portions of the population. We have learned how to generate electricity through various methods, and developed a myriad of technologies using this electricity, which supplement our earthly life, making survival relatively easy (for many of us) and providing luxury and entertainment.

We have developed exquisite works of art, composed fine music in a myriad of genres and styles to suit practically everyone’s taste, built beautiful works of architecture, developed numerous styles of cooking through which the simple act of taking in sustenance for survival has become more about pleasure than nutrition (even when the food is still nutritious) and so forth. And yet, so many of us live without really knowing love, and without taking care for ourselves and our fellow travellers. Now, this last bit applies not just to other humans, but also to the vast network of life on this planet, the animals and plants, and the environment which allows all of this to be; the air, the oceans and rivers and the ground beneath our feet.

Despite all the admirable achievements of mankind, we have not achieved a technological utopia, nor found real lasting happiness through our external prosperity. Certainly the ease in which we sustain ourselves has enabled us to be free of much of the physical pain and degeneration that plagued mankind up to recent times, and yet modern man is plagued by diseases of the mind, leading us into confusion, lethargy, hatred, fear, bigotry, perversion and war. The outward effects of our inward state is self-evident and can be seen everywhere, from the way we treat ourselves, to how we treat others, to our abuses of animals and our careless destruction of the plant and mineral kingdoms, to the pollution we release into the air, into the water and into the earth itself, the very things that are essential for the sustaining of all life on this planet. This need not be so.

We need to live with care and show love for all life. The very first place to start is of course with ourselves. Whilst there may be areas in our lives in which we may appear to be powerless to change, for nearly all of us there are countless things we can do that will produce immediate results to change our way of being. We need to know that we are not merely slaves to our external environment; that is, our happiness is not merely dependent upon the things that are beyond our control. Rather, true happiness emerges from knowing the pure awareness that is our true Self, the ever-shining light from which there is no fluctuation into darkness. From this space we can face the challenges of our external lives with clarity, peace, love and wisdom.

From a place of inner peace it is only natural that one would seek to uplift others, and contribute towards the highest good of all beings, all things, all life. Hence, here lies the very core problem that drives the mistreatment of our bodies and minds, other human beings, animals, plant life and the earth and the elements. That is, most human beings do not know their true Self, but rather only know themselves as their ego. As the ego we are fragile, fickle creatures that try to drag others down to uplift ourselves, competing for limited resources and wealth, holding onto grudges and painful memories, storing guilt, fear and hatred inside our bodies and minds. We make ourselves sick by what we think and feel (feeling being largely a result of what we think), what we eat and what we release into the air, water and earth. We project this sickness outwards into the world, spreading the very unhappiness that begins within the soul. However, this need not be so.

Hence, let us begin by treating ourselves with care, finding true healing within and thus becoming the beings we are destined to be. Life has an incredible capacity to develop in infinite ways, evolving or degenerating in different directions. We need to wake up and reclaim our true power and contribute positively towards life as a whole. First, we can find that wholeness within ourselves, and live every moment with vitality, clarity and true joy. From this inner place we will live lives filled with wisdom, inspiration and genius, love, compassion, grace and forgiveness, strength, humility and resilience.

This world is crying out for healing, for forgiveness and unity. We need to reach out to our families, our co-workers, and our communities and offer guidance and love to those that need it (and we can be assured that there are plenty in need). Beyond our immediate circles we need to reach out to other people in other lands, people who may have different philosophical, religious or political affiliation to us. We do not need to lay aside our own beliefs in order to aspire towards unity amongst diversity. We need to reverse the norms of the past, whereby differences of opinion have created the belief that others are our adversaries. In truth, all men are our brothers, all women our sisters. Let us show this in our actions, not merely in moments of ethical idealism.

Let us show care for the animal kingdom as well. Human beings seem to be confused as to the sentience of other forms of life. Many seem to believe that animals are not conscious, or at least they act as if they are not. It is almost as if we treat animals like AI robots, moving about with no real intelligence or capacity for feeling. The truth is obviously that animals are very much alive and conscious, though no doubt their perception of themselves and the world is different from our own. Whilst human beings certainly stand apart from the animal kingdom in so many ways, the animal world is rich with beauty, love, creativity, intelligence and so many things that show animals lead a meaningful existence of their own, not merely as the background for our own existence. Are not animals also our brothers and sisters? Are we not all part of a greater family, all sharing this beautiful environment as part of the great continuum of life?

Let us therefore treat them with kindness and dignity. Let us only take their life when driven by genuine need, for nutrition (just for the record, I am vegetarian), self-defence, environmental protection and so forth. Let us cease the murder of living things for mere sport and trophies. Where farming of animals is necessary, let us treat them with respect, giving them room to move about and live with decency, not merely as slaves existing to satisfy human greed. May we move towards open-range zoos and end the practice of keeping majestic creatures trapped in miniscule cages, which are always barely a shadow of their natural environment. To our credit, there are many wonderful men and women (and children) who care deeply about animals, and have devoted themselves to their care and preservation.

Furthermore, human beings are even more confused about the plant kingdom. We largely seem to think that plants are completely unconscious, as if they weren’t really alive. Clearly this is not so. The plant kingdom is alive and contributes much to the life of this planet. Obviously we human beings are dependent on so much of the plant kingdom for our resources, and this need not change. Fortunately, there are many great souls who campaign unceasingly to protect plant life and preserve the great beauty and richness that they bring to all life on earth.

Regarding the elements of our earth environment itself, human beings have treated them like some sort of infinite junkyard for the best part of the last several hundred years, and it is really starting to take its toll. We release numerous toxins into the air; in some parts of China simply breathing the air makes all the inhabitants the equivalent of heavy smokers. We have released countless toxic substances into the oceans, both deliberately and through numerous environmental disasters, such as oil spills or the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. Plastic is clogging up our oceans, poisoning and even killing various species of fish and sea-birds, leaving humanity with the question of how on earth we are going to clean it up?

We have filled the earth with garbage, cut down trees, and released numerous toxins into the soil, with long-lived consequences. It is clear that we cannot simply continue doing these things. Not only must we stop with the crimes against nature, but also we must find a way to reverse our impact upon our environment, clean the air, clean the waters and clean the earth.

Whilst we should all be grateful for the resourcefulness of the human mind and the hard work performed by so many in our business and commerce world, many in these fields (and also in the wider community) seem to think that they are islands, living solely by their own self-effort. That is, many seem to be blind to the grace that is bestowed on them by their environment, without which they could not sustain themselves. We are all dependent upon the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the earth from which our food is dependent (whether we are omnivores or herbivores).

To their credit, there are many wonderful beings that devote themselves to attempting to protect the earth, the oceans and the atmosphere. Unfortunately, as with other issues, there are also those who devote themselves to fighting against the efforts of intelligent and decent people who are seeking to right the various wrongs committed by humanity. Whilst there are some legitimate problems with mainstream progressive politics[i], and whilst I have spoken out against far-left political theory[ii], it is largely political conservatism that stands opposed to real progress in taking care for ourselves, other humans, animals, plants and the earth environment[iii].

Conservatives seek to block many attempts to lessen injustices and the suffering of other human beings, considering many such attempts to simply be indistinguishable from Communism. Conservatism largely defends the human institutions that inflict harm upon animals, and resists attempts to reform such institutions to consider the livelihood of the animal kingdom. Likewise, conservatism largely defends the institutions that inflict harm upon nature, upon plants, the land itself, the air and the rivers, lakes and oceans, and resists attempts to create new norms whereby we treasure the plant kingdom and the elements of our earth environment.

Whereas we desperately need to not only stop desecrating nature and seek to actively repair much of the damage that we have done, conservatives rally against any such attempts under the claim that environmentalists are seeking to curb human prosperity. Obviously human beings do indeed need to alter nature in many ways in order to evolve human civilization. We do need to take food from both the animal and plant kingdom (or perhaps only the plant kingdom…?), and we need various resources like water, timber, metals and other minerals. We need to generate electricity, and we need to build infrastructure and so forth.

So, what we need to do is find a balance between human civilization and the preservation of nature. We need a sustainable middle ground between expansion and conservation. I personally do not see how anybody can possibly disagree that we have gone way too far in the direction of expansion, at the expense of human injustice and great crimes against nature and her numerous expressions of life (though I do know people that do indeed contest this conclusion). From where I am standing this is self-evidence; irrefutable.

Unfortunately some conservatives think that the exact opposite is the case; that environmentalists and other left-wing activists have gone way too far in restricting human activity. I must say that I find such claims to be ultimately defending some of the greatest evils of mankind. Human rights activists have won many battles in giving the same rights and freedoms to all people, though there are indeed many legitimate battles left to wage. Environmentalists and various other activists have achieved many great things worldwide, but they have not stemmed the growth of human impact upon the myriad of life forms on this planet. Rather, it is undeniable that negative human impact upon the continuum of life has increased consistently, despite the best efforts of many righteous men and women.

I don’t take any great pleasure in critiquing conservative political ideology, and I am not afraid to concede the many flaws on the left. However, it is simply undeniable that political conservatism stands as one of the main barriers to achieving justice, equity, freedom and sustainability for all forms of life on this exquisitely beautiful planet that we call home. We need all people to lay aside their ideological attachments and really consider the significance of what we are facing. We must care for life in all its wondrous expressions, and we must be willing to act in accordance with the highest good for all.

Now, I would like to point out that we do not have to take all this personally. Some might feel I am coming across a bit preachy and holier than thou in writing all this. I would like to make it clear however that I am not seeking to put myself up personally on a pedestal in these matters. These are issues where I personally also need to learn and evolve, just like everyone else. This is as much for me as it is for everyone else. If someone points out that the way we behave causes suffering or has some negative affect on the whole of life, we do not need to take this as a personal attack. Rather, we should humbly remain open to constructive criticism of the ways things have been, open to changing our beliefs and behaviour when necessary to contribute towards a better world for all beings, and all life.

A number of notable public figures have made very strongly worded statements regarding human impact on animal life and the environment. In response I have seen some people take these statements personally, as if these warnings about the adverse affects of human activity derided every single noteworthy achievement of mankind, or our very worth, our very existence. This need not be so. One can (and should) recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of humanity; one need not necessarily contradict the other.

Human beings have many things to be rightly proud of. Likewise however, there are many things that we should not be proud of, and many things that require urgent action on a worldwide scale to correct. Humanity has its strengths and its weaknesses, and whilst we should celebrate our strengths, our weaknesses are creating suffering and injustice on many levels. To not care about this and/or not be willing to take action against these serious issues goes against our very soul, it goes against life itself.

I have at times encountered religious propaganda which considers environmentalism to be simply worship of nature, and thus blasphemy. Care and love for all creation is not blasphemy, it does not deny the Creator, but rather honours It. To the contrary, it is simply self-deceit to believe one can love God but not love and respect for God’s creation. Hence, religious (and political) conservatives that care not for the great crimes we commit against our beautiful home and its many creatures must be called out (with grace) for the hypocrisy of their views. That is, let us not get involved in personal disputes with individuals and make personal attacks against those who uphold injustice on religious (or political) ideological grounds. Rather, let us still treat them as brothers and sisters, albeit heavily misguided, whereby the stakes are so high that we must point out the error in their ways with forceful grace.

Ultimately, we human beings are falling prey to arrogance and short-sightedness if we believe we are so superior, and yet we fail to care for our fellow humans, for the animal and plant kingdoms, and the very elements necessary for all life on (and around) this planet. We are ultimately victims to a great myth, in thinking that we are the only truly sentient beings on this planet. Hence, great violence has been done with the belief that we alone are truly alive. If anyone seeks to dispute this I would recommend you watch some modern nature documentaries (such as those produced by David Attenborough). Life expresses itself in a virtually infinite variety of ways, all of which have a form of intelligence that is appropriate for its expression. Life is everywhere, in everything. This is the wondrous reality of life.

Finally, from an explicitly spiritual perspective, I would point out that all life is animated by One divine power, vast, infinite consciousness that gives life to all, and brings unspeakable peace and love when it is experienced directly. Such a thing may sound like a fantasy to those that have never experienced it directly, and one could be excused for thinking it is merely a theoretical metaphysical doctrine, the result of speculation and philosophical musing. The fact is however, that countless beings from all works of life, cultures and lands across time have experienced this directly, and allowed this vast intelligence and love to express through them, becoming illuminated through the process. I myself have been blessed with a degree of direct experience of this reality, and hence naturally wish to share the experience with others, and speak from the perspective that this gives.

Let us truly show respect for life by doing everything with care, with attention, wisdom and love.

Peace.

[i] The influence of unions, as they are well known for thuggish behaviour (though they also have contributed positive things as well), lack of precision regarding comparative religion (thinking all religions are equal and that all problems in religion are simply the result of misinterpretation), unwillingness to face problems of violence amongst particular ethnic groups for fear of being considered racist etc.

[ii] I.e. pure Socialism and Communism, violent public protests and interference with public demonstrations of others (see ANTIFA), radical feminism (emphasis on the radical part; intelligent, reasonable feminism has achieved great things in Western civilization thus far, and is still needed – even more so in many non-Western nations), radical gender theory (again, emphasis on the radical part; I have previously written in support of the rights of the LGBTI community, it’s just that I also recognise that some of the theories that are popular amongst the far-left university elite can get pretty wacky) etc.

[iii] Though we should also concede that there are more moderate forms of conservatism that may take more reasonable stands on such things.

Justin Martyr’s Diabolic Mimicry argument – Condensed:

I have previously written many, many words on the subject of Justin Martyr’s diabolical mimicry argument. In recognition that my two previous articles on the topic[i] were very, very long (and hence likely to end up in the “Too long – didn’t read” basket for many people), I thought perhaps it would be helpful for me to put up a short, condensed, point-form article on the topic, minus all the polemic back-and-forth that I did with Albert McIlhenny.

I spent quite some time researching for those articles and I believe I can do a good job of summarizing all the information that anyone should need to know on the topic. Hopefully this article will be more useful (and far more readable than the other two). I will concede that it is a common amateur mistake to make articles (and even books) way too long, and hence unreadable. I have certainly been guilty of this through the learning process.

So, let’s get into it:

–           In all three of his (undisputed) surviving works, Justin makes use of an argument in which he claims that the devil attempted to imitate Christ in advance, by reading into prophecies of the coming of Christ as (Christians believe) are found in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament).

–           Critics of Christianity (particularly mythicists) have cited Justin as showing that early Christians were well aware of the similarities between Jesus and pagan gods, that they were being accused (by pagans and Jews) of copying from pagan gods, and that they had to resort to a ridiculous argument in attempting to respond. Some have gone as far as to quote Justin as saying that Christianity and paganism were in fact the same.

–           Some Christian apologists have accused mythicists of misquoting Justin on this issue. Such claims are true in some cases, but not in others. That is, critics of Christianity have at times misquoted or misunderstood Justin. However, there are legitimate ways for mythicists to quote Justin in ways that are certainly embarrassing for orthodox Christianity.

–           Justin Martyr did not say that Christianity was the same as paganism. In fact he explicitly argued that Christianity was completely different from paganism. He argued that Christianity was the one true religion, and that paganism was simply the worship of demons, and was hence completely opposite to Christianity.

–           Justin Martyr did however concede that Christians and pagans believed many of the same things about their gods.

Now this is the important bit, which shows where Christian apologists have been trying to twist the data to support their contentions:

–           In his two Apologies to the Greeks, Justin used the diabolical mimicry argument to attempt to persuade the Romans to cease persecuting Christians. Justin was seeking to justify Christian refusals to worship the pagan gods (and the Emperor) and to explain to the Romans that Christians didn’t merely worship a mere mortal man, a criminal that was crucified. Rather, Justin was attempting to explain to the Romans that Christians believed that Jesus was God Himself, incarnate in the flesh.

–           Christian apologists hence argue that Justin was not responding to accusations against Christians that they had copied from pagan gods. Rather, apologists argue that Justin was actually the one trying to convince the Romans of similarities between Jesus and Greek and Roman gods (in order to persuade them to stop persecuting Christians), and that the Romans did not (or had not) seen such similarities themselves.

–           Furthermore, Christian apologists point out that many of the parallels that Justin drew were actually quite strained, as if he was trying to make a point that wasn’t actually there. Hence, some apologists may concede that it wasn’t a very good argument by Justin, but not for the same reasons as mythicists claim.

–           Hence, Christian apologists argue that mythicists have been misquoting Justin in trying to present his use of the diabolical mimicry argument to support the mythicist case for parallels between Jesus and pagan gods.

Now, the above is the standard, textbook Christian response to this issue, and if you were to rely only on Christian sources this is likely to be all you would hear about it. The problem for orthodox Christianity is that this isn’t a complete and accurate portrayal of the relevant facts.

–           In fact Justin Martyr also made use of his diabolical mimicry argument in his Dialogue with Trypho. In this case Justin uses the argument to attempt to counter the accusation that Christians had copied the virgin birth motif from the Greek god Perseus.

Now, as far as I am aware, most scholars believe that Justin wrote his Dialogue with Trypho after writing his apologies to the Greeks. Some apologists might therefore attempt to save the situation by arguing that Justin was therefore adapting an argument that he had originally composed in his Apologies to the purpose of countering the accusations of Trypho. The problem with this is that Justin himself (at the beginning of the Dialogue with Trypho) claims that the conversation between himself and Trypho actually took place shortly after his conversion to Christianity (and thus, before he wrote his Apologies).

Now, it is indeed true that many scholars believe that the Dialogue is merely a literary device for his apologetic work against Judaism (that is, either the conversation between himself and Trypho never took place, or it was largely embellished for the sake of the apologetic work). Nevertheless, we have Justin’s word that he first used the diabolical mimicry argument against Trypho, in attempting to counter the accusation that Christians had plagiarised a pagan god.

It is perhaps then up for debate as to whether mythicists should only quote from the Dialogue in seeking to cite Justin’s diabolical mimicry argument for their case, or whether it is justified to also quote from the Apologies, as Justin’s use of the argument there is put into context by its use in the Dialogue? I personally would argue that the actual content of the relevant passages in his Apologies shows that Justin was there also seeking to counter accusations of plagiarism, as Justin states that the aim of Satan’s mimicry was to attempt to convince people that the things said about Christ “were mere marvellous tales, like those told by the poets”[ii]. Either way, the point is made. Mythicists can indeed cite Justin as showing that Christians were indeed accused of plagiarism by Jews (and later by pagans, as we will see shortly), and Justin did indeed resort to a ridiculous argument in his attempt to counter the accusation.

So, this in itself should settle the score, once and for all. There are however a few more minor details to be aware of.

–           Now, we don’t really know what pagans (Romans, Greeks etc.) thought of Christians or their stories about Jesus back in the time of Justin and earlier. That is, not much at all (if anything) really survives. There are of course the brief (and somewhat controversial) references as found in Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger, but these are just really references to Christians, with only brief mention of a Jesus who was said to have been crucified in Judea under Pilate. There are no surviving records of pagan responses to Christian claims about the virgin birth, miracles or resurrection and ascension of Christ from the time of Justin or earlier.

There is however the case of the pagan philosopher Celsus and his work “The True Word” (or “True Doctrine”), written approx. 180CE. No copies of this work survive, however we do have access to significant portions of it thanks to the response of Origen approx. 250CE. From what we read in Origen, it seems that Celsus did indeed accuse Christians of plagiarising from pagan gods.

It is here disputable as to whether or not this is valid evidence in supporting the case for pagan parallels, as a very plausible case has been made that Celsus was himself familiar with the work of Justin. Hence, Celsus may have encountered the argument via Justin, in which case he would not be an independent source, but would rather simply be dependent upon what we have already encountered. Nevertheless, this is not concrete, we do not know for certain whether or not Celsus was familiar with Justin’s works and arguments. Likewise, whether or not Celsus had encountered the idea of pagan parallels from Justin, he still clearly found it agreeable, as he considered the evidence to be there.

Hence, I am of the opinion that Celsus is worth quoting on this subject, but that we should not attempt to draw any concrete conclusions from his work. However, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho very clearly makes the case for mythicists to both point out that Christians were indeed accused of plagiarism by Jews, and that Justin did indeed resort to a ridiculous argument in his attempt to respond.

–           Regarding the actual parallels claimed by Trypho and the parallels presented by Justin in his Apologies, there are distinct differences in the stronger and weaker examples. It is indeed true that amongst the parallels that Justin drew, some of them were really quite a stretch. However the fact remains that some of the parallels were quite clear, such as in the case of Dionysus. Likewise, the example of Perseus (as given by Trypho) is likewise quite clear.

I would argue that the strained parallels are all generally found when Justin is trying to connect prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures to pagan gods. Hence, this doesn’t weaken the case for parallels between Jesus and pagan gods, but rather simply shows the strained lengths that Justin went to in order to try and counter the fact that the pagan parallels were older than the story of Jesus.

–           Regarding the actual diabolical mimicry argument itself, by its very nature it concedes that the pagan examples in the parallels are older. Likewise, it naturally recognises that the obvious conclusion one would draw from this is that it was Christians who had copied pagans, and not the other way around. Hence, it attempts to reverse the natural implication by arguing that Satan had attempted to imitate Christ in advance, by copying from prophetic passages in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Justin’s very words recognise that the natural implications of parallels between Christ and pagan gods would be that people would naturally think that the things said about Christ weren’t literarily true. Hence, Justin’s convoluted argument about the pagan gods being precognitive imitations was a desperate attempt to avoid the obvious conclusion that Christians had indeed plagiarised from pagan gods, and that at least some of the things (if not all) said about Christ were made up.

–           Whilst Christian apologists will not go out of their way to tell you about Justin’s use of the diabolical mimicry argument in his Dialogue (and the text which states that this was prior to his Apologies), they still will not accept that this shows that Justin originally conceived the argument in self-defence. I have attempted to engage two Christian apologists in discussion about this previously (J.P. Holding and Albert McIlhenny), and both have attempted to dismiss the passages from Justin’s Dialogue and only make use of the Apologies. Holding responded by stating that I don’t understand Jewish exegesis, whilst McIlhenny argued that Jews naturally created a dichotomy between Jewish and pagan religion (and mythology), and hence as they didn’t consider Christianity to be Jewish, they naturally argued that it was pagan.

Obviously McIlhenny’s point about Jews creating a dichotomy between Jewish and pagan religion is true, and other exclusive faiths (such as orthodox Christianity or Islam) do it too. McIlhenny was however trying to argue that without this exclusive dichotomy, Jews would not have accused Christians of plagiarising pagans. McIlhenny was therefore arguing that the parallels weren’t actually there, but that Trypho (or the Jews being represented by Trypho) had strained in making this argument to match their bias. On this matter McIlhenny was himself straining, in trying to get vital evidence that rebuts his case thrown out on a technicality. Christian apologists are quite fond of the courtroom analogy, and I think it is quite fitting in this case. Christian apologists have attempted here to get damning evidence against their client thrown out of court, after the judge and jury have already seen the evidence. The fact is that we can’t un-see it.

We can speculate about whether or not the Jewish critics in Justin’s time were driven by some particular motivation to argue that Christians had plagiarised from pagans, but the fact remains that Justin attests that they did make the argument, one way or another. Hence, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho absolutely refutes the Christian apologetic case and absolutely makes the critical, mythicist case on this matter. Case closed!

Obviously Christian apologists have lots of other arguments about pagan parallels, that there are no actual sources for the claims of pagan gods being resurrected (false), that there is no evidence that Jews/Christians in Judea had heard of any pagan dying and rising gods (false), that pagans actually copied Christians (false – and everything in this article adds towards that), that the differences outweigh the similarities and hence any apparent similarities are merely superficial (false) etc., all of which I have dealt with before[iii], as have many others.

And that my friends should be all you need to know specifically on this topic. The evidence is clear; the question is simply whether you are open to accepting it.

Peace

[i] See the following for my original piece on the topic: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/ , and the following for my response to Albert McIlhenny (who had responded to the above piece with a series of short articles): https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/diabolical-mimicry-part-2-response-to-alberts-mcllhenny-back-in-the-ring/.

[ii] Justin Martyr, 1st Apology to the Greeks, Chapter 54.

[iii] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-pagan-parallel-thesis-and-why-practically-every-single-major-objection-to-it-is-false/.

Four reasons why orthodox Christianity cannot possibly be true:

Many people have written short articles under the title of “Why I am not a Christian”, and effectively this is like my own version. However, this is not so much about my own personal journey away from Christianity, but rather a short, condensed, point form summary of a few good reasons why orthodox Christianity cannot possibly be true.

Please note here that I am referring to orthodox (with a lower case ‘o’) Christianity as a whole (rather than Orthodox with a capital ‘O’), and hence am referring to all orthodox sects and denominations (i.e. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Church’s, Anglicans, Protestants etc.). Also, obviously I recognise that (to their credit) there are many Christians today (and also in the past) who have attempted to reform Christianity, throwing out the chaff and keeping the wheat, throwing out the bathwater but keeping the baby. Obviously, I commend liberal Christians for this, and this article is not aimed towards them. Any criticisms I have of liberal Christianity are of a much milder nature, but this article is not about that.

In this article I will not be looking at anything I think is worthy of debate, or which cannot be easily and quickly validated by anyone wishing to do a quick fact-check. Rather, I am just going to lay out a few really obvious issues, which naturally preclude Christianity from being true. In other places I have gone into significant detail about many of these points. This article is intended to be a quick summary on the topic.

1)        The doctrine of eternal damnation is completely unjust, illogical and just plain vile.

There are clearly better options for divine justice and love to be balanced for those of us that believe that spirituality is objectively real. If eternal damnation were true it would make God a demonic monster, which is of course self-refuting. By comparison Perennialism states that all beings are naturally welcomed into the astral heavens after death regardless of their deeds, though some might reject the light (or be unaware of it) for a period of time. There are still however rewards for those who live a life of love and service, and there are ways for justice and reparation to be served without requiring infinite and eternal torture.

Christian apologists of course have their responses and defences of the orthodox Christian doctrine, which may lead many believers to think that it is philosophically sound. However, upon closer examination they all fall apart. You do not need a degree in philosophy or theology to understand that eternal damnation cannot possibly be true. To their credit, many Christians have rejected the doctrine in favour of universalism. Such Christians are by definition liberal Christians (as what has been known as orthodox Christianity from very early times has always believed in eternal damnation[i]), and hence this article isn’t aimed towards refuting their doctrines.

To anybody interested in going further, please read for yourself the defences given by Christian apologists and philosophers such as William Lane Craig on this topic[ii]. They may seem deeply intellectual at face value, but the actual content is so explicitly flawed. Many Christian apologists have argued that God is merely being compassionate in giving people what they want (hell), despite it paining Him. Yet of course, nobody rejects Christianity with the specific intent on wanting to go to hell and suffer infinite, eternal torture (ok, perhaps with the exception of Glen Benton…). Most people reject Christianity because they do not believe it is true.

A good, loving God would not, could not, allow one individual person to suffer for eternity (let alone billions). Any being that would not feel compassion and want to offer assistance to the extent of their capacity is not worthy of being termed good. Any being unable to save someone from eternal torment is unworthy of the term God. It really is that simple (though I have written far more on in my upcoming book).

2)        The Hebrew Bible (which Christians take as their Old Testament) suffers from massive, continuous moral failings, which clearly indicate that it could not possibly have been inspired (or authored) by God.

The Hebrew Bible openly condones and mandates slavery, genocide and mass murder (including indiscriminate murder of civilian women and children), the death penalty for all manner of trivial things (many of which are not actually crimes at all), contains mixed opinions towards human sacrifice (some positive, some negative), presents women as the property of men etc.

Hence, the Hebrew Bible is largely par for the course from the ancient Near East (ANE for short), laying down cultural and religious norms from the time and place in which it was composed. The Hebrew religion was simply an evolution on the standard Canaanite religion, rather than a complete separation from it. Giving divine status to this text literally keeps the injustices of the past alive, giving fanatically minded individuals divine inspiration and validation for their bigotry and hatred. Considering this text (or collection of texts) to be sacred is holding us captive to ancient superstitions and barbarity. It is time to let it go and face the true nature of the Biblical text.

It is not simply the case that perhaps the Hebrews did these things and then attributed the inspiration to God. If this were the case then the Hebrew Bible could not be the word of God, for the text itself repeatedly states that Yahweh told the Hebrews to do these things, that Yahweh gave the Hebrews these laws etc. Christian apologists have many arguments in defence of the Biblical text. Again, they all fall apart under closer examination. And don’t just take my word for it, examine the two contrary cases side by side; please read Thom Stark[iii] vs. Paul Copan[iv] and see who is telling the truth. I have written a number of articles on this before[v], as have many others, so please, if you have an interest in the topic, please check it for yourself.

3)        Many of the tales of the Hebrew Bible are historically impossibly, as they are incompatible with archaeological and historical records. Likewise, some of the mythology of the Hebrew Bible is clearly borrowed (or at least derived in part) from older mythology.

Now, both of these aren’t really an issue for liberal Christians at all, as they generally are quite happy to accept these things. However, orthodox Christianity needs a fairly literal and historical reading of the Hebrew Bible. It is indeed true that throughout its history major Christian thinkers have expressed support for an allegorical reading of Scripture. However, this does not mean that they ever accepted that the tales of the Hebrew Bible were mere myth. Rather, it gave Christian authors license to “find” prophecies of the coming of Christ (amongst others) in whatever text they liked (thought it is also true that the actual narrative of Christ was in part written from the Hebrew Bible), and sidestep any passages that they were uncomfortable with. The fact remains that an acceptance of the Hebrew Bible as being largely mythological, and acceptance that some degree of syncretism (cultural borrowing) took place doesn’t cut it for orthodox Christianity.

Again, the actual evidence of this is so clear and undeniable, though again, Christian apologists and scholars attempt to avoid this conclusion. The consensus view amongst historians is that the Exodus from Egypt and subsequent conquest of Canaan as told in the Bible never happened. Now, I may often go against consensus views, so I’m not simply resting my case upon this. However, please, if you are not already familiar with the reasons for this, please investigate yourself[vi]. Any debate amongst historians is simply as to when the Bible starts to coincide with actual history, and to what degree. Historians however are not arguing over whether the Hebrew Bible is historically accurate as a whole.

Regarding the second part of my initial statement, the fact that some of the Hebrew Bible’s mythology is borrowed from other cultures is likewise not a controversial idea, outside of orthodox Christianity. The story of Noah’s ark is clearly derived from the Mesopotamian flood myth[vii], which is much older. Of the causal relationship there should be no doubt, though of course a number of conservative Christian apologists have attempted to either deny the similarities, or argue that the Mesopotamian versions are evidence that the story of Noah is actually true (and they attempt to argue that the story of Noah is older, against all evidence to the contrary).

Probably the clearest example of borrowed mythology in the Hebrew Bible (that I am aware of) is the case of Proverbs 22:17-24. The text in question is practically a verbatim copy of a section of an Egyptian text called “The instructions of Amenemope”[viii]. All evidence supports the priority of the Egyptian text, hence it is almost certain that the Biblical author has completely plagiarised the Egyptian text. This is very controversial for orthodox Christianity, which insists that Biblical Judaism (and Christianity) are exclusive and distinct from other religions.

Aside from this there is also the parallel between the story of the birth of Moses and the birth of Sargon[ix] (noting again the evidence which shows that the Akkadian story is older), or the story of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta[x], which has major similarities to the story in Genesis 11:1-9 of the Tower of Babel. There are other parallels which others have put forth which aren’t as clear to my eye, and hence aren’t worth putting forth here today (though they are worthy of in-depth study by those that wish to go into the topic at depth).

Anyways, the point is that the Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament) cannot be taken to be historically accurate, and it clearly reveals that the ancient Hebrews did indeed borrow ideas from other nations. Christian apologists of course have their objections, and again, please read for yourself and compare side-by-side.

4)        The New Testament is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions, historical impossibilities and mythology. Hence, Jesus Christ could not possibly have existed in the form that orthodox Christianity requires.

Anyone familiar with my writings will know that I strongly favour mythicism for Christian origins. Obviously I know that this is not a consensus view amongst experts in the field, but rather is consider a fringe view by many. Today I am not relying upon an acceptance of the view that the Jesus of Christianity is purely mythical. Rather, even if we accepted the minimalized Jesus of mainstream scholarship that is still a long way from the full-blown Jesus of orthodox Christianity and the NT Gospels.

Orthodox Christianity absolutely needs the New Testament to be historically accurate, but it simply cannot be. The Gospels contradict each other in many significant ways, particularly in regards to the birth and resurrection narratives, to the point that at least some of them can’t be true. The story of the cleansing of the temple that is quite significant in the Gospel narrative is practically historically impossible in light of how big the Jewish temple was, that the traders chastised by Jesus (in the story) were essential for the running of the temple, and primarily also because Roman guards were situated outside the temple. It would have taken a full-blown riot or uprising to clear the temple, and any people involved in this would have been killed on the spot (or arrested on the spot?) by the Romans. It basically would have started a war, there and then. Josephus never says a word about it, nor does Philo, nor (apparently) did Justus of Tiberias. Basically, it couldn’t have happened as the Gospels state it did, and a minimalized version doesn’t even work very well historically either, not to mention that a minimalized version doesn’t cut it for orthodox Christianity.

The Gospels are filled with explicit parallels to older mythology. The Gospel texts frequently re-write stories from the Hebrew Bible (such as the stories of Elisha – see 2 Kings 4:43-44 and Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-10, or 2 Kings 4:8-37 and Mark 5:21-43), or write the Hebrew text into the new narrative (such as Psalms 22 and the crucifixion narrative) etc. There are many great articles written on this topic by many authors[xi], and I have written on it previously myself[xii]. There are even a number of NT passages which basically concede that this was the method through which knowledge of Christ was largely derived (see Romans 16:25-26).

Likewise, the Gospels are filled with references to Greek mythology (amongst other so-called “pagan” nations). There are numerous explicit parallels between the story of Jesus and a serious of pagan gods (Inanna, Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis etc.) who were believed to have died and returned to life, often bringing eternal life to their followers. Now, this matter continues to be controversial, and in that sense seems to go against the overall grain of this article. However, that this matter remains controversial even to mainstream, liberal scholars simply shows how deep the problems with New Testament scholarship goes. That is, it is not only conservative Christian NT scholars that seem unable to recognize the unavoidable conclusions on this matter, but also liberal and even secular mainstream scholars.

I have written on this matter elsewhere[xiii], as have many others before. It is one of those things where it is controversial now, but there is no question that in the future this will be the consensus view, as the evidence is so overwhelming, and the arguments to the contrary are so clearly false (and have been shown to be). Aside from the controversy surrounding death-resurrection parallels, mainstream scholars are however generally quite happy to accept the case of similar parallels regarding the miraculous birth narrative. That is, there are likewise many, many similar stories of miraculous (even virgin) births in both Jewish and pagan mythology, again leading to the obvious conclusion that the Gospel authors simply borrowed this common motif from older myth.

Then there is the case of the Gospel of Mark and the various works of Homer (primarily the Odyssey). There are again numerous clear parallels here showing that the author of Mark (the earliest Gospel, used as a source for the other narrative Gospels) was clearly at the very least embellishing his narrative via reference to Homer, and in all probability using Homer as a source for his tales[xiv]. From what I can see this is something that is currently in a state of flux in regards its widespread scholarly acceptance. That is, it isn’t exactly a consensus yet, though there are many scholars who will accept a degree of the theory. Even if we minimalize the level of Homeric embellishment, the evidence is still quite clear and consequential. Everybody that wrote Greek in the ancient world (in the time of the birth of Christianity) studied Homer, so there is pretty much no way that at least the strongest parallels could be purely coincidental.

The earliest texts in the New Testament (that being the authentic letters of Paul, and perhaps a few others) make practically no mention of any earthly narrative for Christ (there are a couple of notable exceptions, however one way or another, this fact still stands). Rather, they almost always only speak of knowledge of Christ as known through revelations (visions and inspired reading of the Hebrew Scriptures – probably often in Greek though). Given that these texts would have existed by themselves prior to the composition of the Gospels, it is clear that early Christians were (one way or another) not relying strictly upon literal historical narratives as told by eye-witnesses, but were rather employing various methods to “learn” about Christ that don’t cut it to historians. We can’t expect historians to “learn” about WW2 by letting them have religious experiences and “find” prophecies of Hitler amongst pre-war German writers can we?

So, one way or another (whether or not there was a minimal historical Jesus – you all know my opinion), there is no way that the Gospel’s portrayal of the full-blown miracle working, divine Jesus Christ of faith could be accurate. And with that, orthodox Christianity cannot stand.

As with everything I have written here, don’t just take my word for it. Read it yourself. If this is controversial for you, then you need to be aware of it, and you need to weigh up the evidence for yourself, rather than simply relying upon your own expert on the subject (i.e. Christian apologist) to keep you properly informed.

In closing:

Please note that I do not hate Christianity, nor do I hate Christians, and I certainly do not hate God. I do not deny that there is also good in Christianity and that there is even (some) good in the Bible. I have many friends and family who are Christian and I love them deeply. Many of them have been far better people then myself in so many ways. And I love God deeply, I am completely convinced of the objective nature of spirituality, and believe that God is love. Through my spiritual path I have come into an experience of continuous peace and bliss, and I feel like I am finally starting to integrate that into my outward life, hopefully healing various weaknesses that I have struggled with throughout my life.

I write articles such as these because religion is such a mixed bag, a poison fruit. We do not need to accept and defend the deep flaws in the world’s religions. We can be deeply spiritual and still accept the human origins of the world’s religious texts. We can be sincere in our spiritual pursuit without needing to defend every ancient pathway to God. We are allowed to grow, evolve and reform the institutions that have held power throughout the world over human history.

The problems with orthodox Christianity are just so simple, so explicit, and so easy to verify. If you honestly think that Christian apologists, philosophers, theologians and historians have given a thorough defense of Christianity and refuted criticisms of it, can I challenge you to really read those who are presenting an alternate case, and truly consider their arguments and the evidence they present. That is, do not merely listen with the intent only of working out how to respond, but listen with your heart and mind open, in consideration of the possibility that they may possibly be at least partially correct about something. When you compare criticisms and defences of orthodox Christianity side-by-side it is so clear that orthodox Christianity cannot survive. Christian apologists are merely industry spokespeople, lawyers with a vested interest in their client. That is, they never even open the door to the possibility that their prior assumptions could be wrong.

Of course, as I have said many times before, this is not merely a problem that only Christians face. From where I stand, Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc. all do it too. Atheists and agnostics do it. In the political realm, those on the left do it just as those on the right do. This is human egoic behaviour. However, again, for fear of repetition, we have an immense capacity to change, just as we have the capacity to stubbornly hold our ground. We do not however become less by letting go of limiting beliefs, but rather we come into more of a realization of our vast potential, and the peace and contentment of our true nature.

Peace.

[i] Contrary to the misleading claims made by some liberal Christians that the doctrine of eternal damnation was invented by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. The online Catholic Encyclopedia quotes various passages direct from the NT that presupposed the existence of hell (Matthew 5:29, 8:12, 10:28, 13:42, 25:41, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, Revelation 21:8 etc.). Whilst one can certainly then argue over the interpretation of some of these passages, the linked article also cites various passages from the 2nd Century Church Fathers who clearly stated the doctrine of eternal damnation (and it may well have been these very people who came to define what we know as orthodox Christianity). One way or the other, it clearly shows the existence of the doctrine from the very beginning of Christianity: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm.

[ii] See the following for an example: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-a-loving-god-send-people-to-hell-the-craig-bradley-debate. The Reasonable Faith website (http://www.reasonablefaith.org) is filled with articles arguing similar things.

[iii] http://thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf .

[iv] http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/.

[v] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/on-interpretations-of-scripture-why-many-religious-conservatives-and-progressives-misread-ancient-texts-and-misunderstand-religion-in-general/, and also: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/essential-reading-on-the-historical-context-of-moral-issues-with-the-hebrew-bible-thom-starks-is-god-a-moral-compromiser/.

[vi] See “The Bible Unearthed” with Israel Finklestein and Neil Asher Silberman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_ZPgYrQ6iI&t=20s or “The Bibles buried secrets”, with a slightly more moderate view and a range of scholars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfd4kFPWjzU .

[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atra-Hasis and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh_flood_myth.

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruction_of_Amenemope.

[ix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad#Birth_legend.

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enmerkar_and_the_Lord_of_Aratta.

[xi] See Robert Prices’ “New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash”: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm.

[xii] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/on-christian-origins-part-1-why-i-favour-mythicism/.

[xiii] See the above footnote (“Why I favour mythicism”) and the following: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-pagan-parallel-thesis-and-why-practically-every-single-major-objection-to-it-is-false/ , also two very lengthy articles on Justin Martyr: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/ and https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/diabolical-mimicry-part-2-response-to-alberts-mcllhenny-back-in-the-ring/.

[xiv] See https://www.amazon.com/Homeric-Epics-Gospel-Mark/dp/0300172613, Richard Carriers review: https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/homerandmark.html and the Vridar page on the subject: http://vridar.info/xorigins/homermark/mkhmrfiles/index.htm.

What is true remains true always – Comparative religion:

The above heading is a statement that has been made by many spiritual teachers, including Mooji (who I have accepted as my teacher). In this article I just wanted to talk about how this statement applies to the topic of comparative religion at large. That is, this isn’t so much an article about how to find the unchanging truth (and hence is not so much about spiritual instruction), but rather how we should approach topics of contention in light of this truth.

There is a natural tendency in human beings to seek to identify with ones beliefs, tendencies and preferences, possessions, role/s and the features of ones external and physical expression. That is, we naturally tend to seek to define ourselves by what we do and have done, what we like, what we own, what we look like etc. True spirituality however reveals a deeper place within us which is unchanging, unaffected by the flux of the world, unaltered by the dynamic flow of life. In this deeper place we find true, unchanging love and peace. Love that is infinite, without boundary, and unconditional, without reason. Living from this place is truly life changing, and I wish that all beings experience what I have been blessed to discover myself.

In the world of comparative religion we find that most human beings are quite attached to the outward form of the path through which they encounter divinity. That is, it is a natural tendency to be very attached mentally and emotionally to the stories (or myths) of our tradition of choice, the names and concepts we project onto divinity, the doctrines we hold about the nature of the self (or spirit/soul), the afterlife, divine justice, salvation or spiritual liberation, the text/s we hold to be sacred, the people we believe founded our particular path and the fine details of our spiritual practices which we may consider to differentiate them from the practices of other traditions etc.

To their credit, many people have found that they no longer seek to divide humanity into different groups, no longer seeking to define people as ‘other’ on the basis of such things. Hence, many people now wish to encourage an environment of harmony and tolerance, polite discourse and universalism. I myself obviously subscribe to the ideal of a Perennial Philosophy, a universal, timeless philosophy that is not the property of any one particular faith, culture, time or place, text or teacher.

I applaud those who have abandoned the idea of religious exclusivity and who attempt to further the ideal of a universal family, whereby all beings share the same ultimate nature and ultimate end, despite the vast diversity in our outward expressions. However, I believe that many people in giving up their attachment to the idea of one sacred path, one sacred text (or one specific collection of texts), one great teacher and one tradition of spiritual practices have now exchanged it for a new attachment to all sacred paths, all sacred texts, all religious teachers and all spiritual practices.

That is to say, many people with a universal approach to comparative religion are still deeply attached to the outward form of their spiritual search, only that they have (to their credit) transcended the egoic desire for competition and division, and found a deep sense of unity and desire for wholeness with all others.

What I wish to say here is that we can (and should) maintain this sense of unity and wholeness, whilst also letting go of our psychological attachments to the outward forms of the worlds religions. Please take note that I am not saying that we should all abandon our formal religious and/or spiritual paths, and be spiritual nomads with no history. Rather, what I am saying is that we should release our psychological attachments to the outward forms through which we experience that which has no form.

I should not have to explain why it is important that we let go of attachments to the outwards forms of religion. As it stands, religion is a mixed bag, like a poison apple. Love and hate, peace and violence, truth and superstition, hope and fear, joy and pain, harmony and division. It need not be this way. We do not accept such a dual reality in any science, nor should we accept it spirituality. We do not expect scientists to tell us lies alongside truths about the workings of particles, molecules, cells, fibres etc. Nor should we accept it in religion. Religion need not be this convoluted mess; this isn’t an irresolvable conundrum. It is imperative that we clean up the religious landscape, for the wellbeing of all existance.

If we find ourselves deeply touched by a spiritual text that is wonderful, and we should indeed continue to read such texts. However, we should be careful about ascribing divinity and perfection to religious books, even when they can serve as a medium to put us into contact with that which is divine and perfect. Again, we should be extremely careful about ascribing divinity and perfection to the outward form and expression of teachers who can indeed put us into direct contact with that which is divine and perfect.

There are countless examples of religious texts which have brought genuine religious ecstasy to countless beings, despite the aberrations also found within these texts. That is, despite the violence, injustice and superstitions contained in so many of the worlds religious texts, these texts can still bring us into resonance with divine love and peace. Religious texts are commonly of a dual nature; divine truths intermingled with human egoic projections. As such, different people can find different things in the same text. There is vast range of possibilities within creation.

The ego is capable of virtually limitless aberrations. Likewise however, the Spirit is always there underneath, radiating limitless love and peace. Hence, we can find through these texts a reflection of that which we seek. The mistake we so commonly make is to try and excuse the flaws of religious texts, to think that just because we feel deep love whilst reading a text that the words on the pages are a perfection expression of that love. There are however many spiritual texts which are free from the projections of the lower side of human potential, and I would like to challenge my readers to seek out such texts (many of which have been written in recent years by those who seek to differentiate true spirituality from traditional religious paths), and to read the worlds sacred texts with an acceptance of the complexity and dual nature of such books.

Likewise, there are many examples of spiritual teachers who have led countless beings into genuine experiences of divinity, despite the aberrations in their own behaviour. Never is this truer than in the traditions I have been drawn to, that being in Indian spirituality. So many yogis and gurus have brought shame upon their tradition, believing themselves to be so enlightened that their actions were above reproach, above criticism, and that their abuses could be brushed off as mere eccentricity. Strangely enough, some people may even find glimpses of divinity from the ranting’s of deluded madmen and conniving conmen. I would suggest many of these gurus are (or were) indeed in an experience of deep transcendent perfection, even when their outward personality is deeply imperfect.

Rare are those beings who manage to fully surrender their personality to the perfection within, who truly change their external nature to be in harmony with the eternal. The mistake that has been made by so many of us is that we think that if someone helps us to encounter God, that they must be a perfect representation of what God is in the flesh. We so often think that if a spiritual teacher can lead us directly into divine love and peace that they must be perfect, that we must defend them from every critique. Likewise, so many people feel that if they can have genuine supernatural experiences through their belief and/or worship of a religious figure, that this means that the figure in question must have either really walked on this earth in the past, or must have some tangible external reality in the heavens (beyond that of human projections).

It should be quite clear that experiencing divine love and peace is not dependent upon a perfect outward form. This applies equally to people, texts, doctrines and practices. Any in-depth consideration of comparative religion and spirituality, philosophy and the paranormal should reveal that human beings can experience their own projections coming back to them in a spiritual form. It appears that belief in an idea can create an astral form that then can appear to us like a divine reality. Hence, it is wise to be careful about what we hold to be true. That is, slow to accept something as being absolutely true, but willing to be open to new ideas and alternative explanations.

So, what is true remains true always, regardless of whether any particular religious text is historically true or not. What is true remains true whether or not any particular religious teacher, prophet, sage, avatar or so forth actually walked on this planet, and whether or not they were truly divine, or truly enlightened. What is true remains true whether or not any particular spiritual tradition is free from aberrations, free from false doctrines and conceptions or not.

Divine grace is not offered only to those who resolve the myriad of competing beliefs and doctrines in the vast, complex world of comparative religion. Divine grace is offered to all, and is always only a moment away. All the love and peace we could ever want is right here, and ironically, when we abandon our attachments to all things – including those things we hold sacred – we can discover the timeless here and now.

Higher beings are not waiting for us to achieve perfection first before showering their grace upon us. They are not waiting for us to work out exactly how to express divinity in human form, or what are the best religious texts, practices and traditions, or what exactly was the earliest conception of a religious figure or deity before accepting our prayers. Love is here right now for all of us, regardless of the apparent flaws in our outward nature. Perfection is there, stillness, true lasting peace and bliss. Having found this in our hearts, let us open our minds and release our attachments to human ideas and concepts, becoming open again and willing to take on new understanding.

Having found this, let us discuss the world of ideas, the world of forms, the world of beliefs, doctrines, practices etc. without attachment. Let us be willing to see the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s traditions as they are, not as we wish they were. Let us accept that people can find love for religious figures that didn’t actually walk on this planet, never actually incarnated and descended from the heavens. Let us accept that people can still find divine love within traditions that have perpetuated violence, fear, injustice and superstition through imposing their doctrines and texts upon various cultures as being divinely appointed. Let us separate the wheat from the chaff with respect. Let us be willing to have our bubbles burst, in the knowledge that outside our safe-haven of attachments there is true freedom, true peace. Let us be willing to encourage others to burst their bubbles with love, not out of any egoic desire to be intellectually superior, but out of a desire for all beings to experience true freedom.

May all beings in all the realms find peace.

Christmas and Political Correctness: There is no “War on Christmas”:

Summary:

Conservatives (both religious and non-religious) have made a big fuss in recent times over the fact that some sections of Western society are moving slightly away from the specific celebration of Christmas towards a more secular general end of year holiday. Many people have claimed that this is an example of political correctness gone mad, whereby out of fear of offending people with different cultural, religious or non-religious backgrounds we are afraid to openly celebrate our Western traditions. Hence, some conservative Christians have claimed that this is an example of the persecution of Christianity in Western nations, believing that progressives, followers of other religions and atheists will eventually seek to make Christianity illegal. Likewise, many conservatives have claimed that “if you tolerate this, then your children will be next[i]”.

All of these claims are in truth pretty much groundless hysteria. In reality Christianity still maintains massive privileges in Western society, particularly at Christmas and Easter time. The fact that many people are now choosing to say “Happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” should in fact be celebrated as progress, in rejecting the obviously mythological traditional religious Christmas story, and rejecting a Christocentric view of the world. No one is preventing Christians from going to church, reading the Bible or whatever. Rather, we are simply seeing the gradual reduction in Christian privilege, which can only be a good thing, though there is enormous resistance to this process within some circles, who think that the Communists will surely follow and strip us of all our parents achieved.

If anything, I would argue that Christmas still represents a major infringement on the separation of church and state. That being, Christmas is a time in which Christian religious songs (or hymns) are played in various non-religious locations (workplaces, shopping centres etc.), sung by school children in secular, government schools etc. If anything we should have greater separation of church and state, not less.

Christmas has always been more of a general mid-winter (for the northern hemisphere) feast and celebration than a time of specific religious piety, and it is only right that Christmas moves back in the direction of a secular, global end of year celebration, rather than one with specific links to one particular religion. We can however make this shift without falling into rampant materialism, and try and use the time to encourage goodwill, charity, compassion and peace, and emphasis friendship and family, without needing to base this upon a religious myth specific to one particular religion. Again, we can (and should) use the time to further spiritual values, without needing to push any one particular faith and/or culture at the exclusion of others.

Main Article:

Every year around Christmas time we start coming across articles, videos and posts from conservative Christians (and some non-religious political conservatives) claiming that Western civilization is going down the drain, strangled by political correctness and the like. In the lead up to the last US election we had Donald Trump’s making a big fuss about Starbucks and their Christmas cups[ii], claiming that Christians were executing their political power in the US[iii]. Trump and others seem to think that Christians are getting their rights squashed by a move towards political correctness, diminishing their religious freedom. As a whole I have to say that I personally find this a bit silly.

One will do well to find an expression more widely abused in the English language than the phrase “political correctness”. That is not to deny that there are some legitimate examples that deserve the expression. That is, there are indeed cases whereby people are afraid to speak out about real problems due to public perception of the issue. There are times in which the left goes too far (way too far even) in what is usually a pursuit of a good intention, losing sight of the bigger picture. Just look in the Universities if you wish to find examples of some far-left lunacy. However, from where I am standing it seems that the phrase political correctness is more commonly misused by conservatives (in both religion and politics) to deride those who (I would argue) simply display some common sense and/or common decency.

Putting it bluntly, I would say the following:

Those who make the biggest fuss about political correctness are usually those that lack an informed, balanced general knowledge, and those that display a lack of common decency in the political arena.

Conservatives complain about political correctness when it is expected that LGBTI individuals get treated with the same rights that straight people receive. This isn’t political correctness, it’s merely common decency. Likewise, conservatives complain about political correctness when efforts are made to compensate for the injustices that white, European people committed against people of color and/or indigenous peoples in many nations. This isn’t political correctness, it’s merely common sense and common decency. Acknowledging the injustices that have been committed by white people does not mean that we hate white people or Western culture, are racist against white people, or that white people are being discriminated against (all of which have been claimed by some amongst the far-right).

Likewise, religious conservatives complain when we attempt to foster an environment whereby people of different religions and spiritual paths are seen as part of one greater family. This isn’t political correctness, this is merely common decency. This shouldn’t mean that we view all faiths as being equal (as many on the left mistakenly do), or that we deny the reality that many faiths have legitimate issues (as both conservatives and progressives often do).

By comparison, political correctness is failing to call out religious ideologies as being directly linked with terrorism, or being afraid to mention that gang violence is particularly prevalent within particular racial and cultural groups. Acknowledging that gender isn’t simply black and white and that society can force rigid stereotypes upon children isn’t political correctness, but complete denial of biological differences between the majority of boys and girls is[iv].

Essentially what we are dealing with here is that Christianity is losing some of its privileges, and many Christians (primarily conservative ones) and others with more of a political motivation (that being, conservatives and white nationalists) don’t like it. As such, many have claimed that there is some sort of conspiracy being enacted by Jews, Communists and Leftists etc. to persecute Christians. Hence it could be said that many people don’t know the difference between persecution and the losing of privilege.

Public schools sing Christian hymns (that is, Christmas Carols), practically all shops play Christian hymns, nativity scenes are found everywhere etc. No one is stopping Christians from going to church, reading the Bible, celebrating Christmas, singing carols etc. However, conservative Christians really enjoy using Christmas as a time to push their beliefs onto non-Christians. Family members think it is their right to tell religious stories to my children at Christmas time and to give religious books to them for Christmas presents etc.

Christmas has always been more of a general mid-winter festivity rather than a religious birthday party for Jesus. Christianity effectively appropriated (or perhaps annexed) much of the world’s mid-winter festivities. The religious celebration of the solstices and equinoxes dates way back into history, and the evidence for this is literally set in stone. Likewise, countless cultures had their own version of a mid-winter feast and celebration, and the Western Christian tradition of Christmas fits well into this mould. That is not to say that the Christmas tradition doesn’t have strong religious links. It does. Since the 4th century CE most Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus in sync with the winter solstice, and the Santa Claus mythos is directly derived from a Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas. However, the wider community celebrates Christmas as a time of gift giving, of feasting and revelry, and celebration of community and family.

The fact that some businesses and councils have taken to saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” is not indicative of some sinister conspiracy to rid Western Civilization of all that is good, but rather is something that should be applauded as positive progress. Christians shouldn’t feel upset if others don’t share their beliefs. It doesn’t impact on their freedom to believe what they want, go to church, and celebrate within their own homes.

We are not talking about persecution of Christians here, nor is this an example of Christians losing their religious freedom. Rather, yet again, this is an example of some (conservative) Christians wishing to take away the religious freedom of all others. That being, if someone belongs to a different faith or does not follow a religion and therefore considers the end of year to be a general, universal end of year, mid-winter solstice celebration rather than a specific Christian holiday, (conservative) Christians find this rather upsetting.

You see, conservative Christians rather like pushing their faith onto others. In fact, they kind of feel like it is their right, because (according to them) everything good about modern Western civilization is due to Christianity (which is of course not true…). Furthermore, they often feel like it is their duty, as they believe non-Christians are destined for an eternity of suffering (again, not true…). So, conservative Christians generally take full advantage of the privilege offered to them by Christmas and Easter time to push their religion onto others to the full extent that they can.

What we can see through all this is that conservative followers of various faiths often take significant offense when others don’t share their beliefs. It’s as if they think that their happiness and freedom depends on everyone thinking the same way. When you say it out loud, it sounds crazy, because of course it is.

Regarding Donald Trumps outrage at the Starbucks special Christmas cup (which apparently wasn’t “Christmassy” enough for him), it is hard to know how to comment on this without resorting to egoic polemics and rhetoric. Shall we say that a calm, dispassionate commentary on the topic is affectively indistinguishable from rhetoric. To put it in the mildest possible terms, the whole thing was just plain silly.

Trump even went as far as telling people to boycott Starbucks, because their special red-green Christmas cup was just too plain. It didn’t have Santa on the front, or little baby Jesus. And that just wasn’t good enough for good ol’ American Republicans. As part of his pre-election campaign Trump stated on a number of occasions that he would bring back “Merry Christmas”. So, I’m a little confused as to how he is planning on implementing this. Is he planning on sending round the Christmas police to make sure that everyone is saying Merry Christmas? Or perhaps he might deploy the military? And significant numbers of people cheered when Trump made these promises. It’s hard to know where to start to engage with such things.

Spirituality and Christmas:

Of course, there is another side to Christmas that is worthy of discussion. That is, to many people Christmas is a time when they are reminded of the importance of family, of generosity, grace, compassion, forgiveness and charity. These are things that are worth keeping as we evolve our conception of Christmas time.

Whilst Christmas time is the most exciting time of the year for many children, it is however also true that for many adults it brings great stress. I myself have felt in previous years the expectation to spend money on gifts for family and friends, whilst struggling to make ends meet myself. Certainly this is also true for many other people. Working in retail every year we can see people going a bit mad in the month (or so) prior to Christmas time. Hence, retail rage is now a thing, and shopping centres have even had to make an effort to encourage shoppers to be gentle with the staff at such times. Likewise we also see it on the roads. The manner in which one drives is generally a good indication of their psychological state, and we see the evidence of the silly season on the roads every year.

I personally feel that it may be wise for adults to end the tradition of giving gifts to other adults, and to only give gifts exclusively to children. Adults know what they want and/or need and will buy things for themselves that they find most appropriate. Much of the gift giving between adults is wasteful; that is, people spend money they can’t afford on gifts that other people don’t really need or want. The only people that benefit from this are business owners. Hence Christmas has taken on quite a materialistic value, and it has become a time of stress for so many people. As an alternative I suggest that adults merely share food with their family and friends, and encourage a time of grace, patience and gratitude with their extended family, and with the wider human family.

Whilst I am not a big fan of all the “baby Jesus” songs that are played practically everywhere during Christmas time, it is nice to have some degree of spirituality in the public arena (even if it is intermingled with erroneous religious mythology and doctrines). In our world there is much darkness, much hate, anger, fear, stress, suffering. It is a good thing for there to be times when the concepts of divine light, love, forgiveness, grace, peace and abundance etc. are in the forefront of human consciousness. When a great number of people come together with a spiritual intent there can be great power, which can be tangible to those who are sensitive to such things. It however would be great if in the future we can aspire towards these spiritual ideals without the baggage that often comes with special religious myths and doctrines. If this were to take place we could truly reach out to all beings as one whole, one family, one great Cosmic Dream.

Peace

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX8szNPgrEs.

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giU4TyVJ7v8.

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrmyveItPUI&app=desktop. In truth, the religious right in the US wields tremendous political power, and is a major cause of many of the US’s problems.

[iv] In case anybody doesn’t get my point here, I’m saying that gender is a continuum, but that the majority of people are far enough to one side or another that if we only counted them it might seem that there were only two clear, distinct categories. Noting that the majority of men and women are distinct in their gender however should not mean that we treat those whose gender identity is less polarized as inferior. Likewise however, noting that gender is not black and white should not mean that we deny the biological differences between most men and women, and the way in which biology alone (removed from social conditioning) can affect the way in which consciousness expresses in its outward form.

There is significant different as to the level of masculine traits amongst men, and likewise the same is also true of women. Aside from the primary genetic markers of gender, I believe that modern biology has shown that there are countless secondary factors that produce a range of different influences. Furthermore, I would argue that from a spiritual perspective, consciousness/spirit is beyond gender, and gender is merely part of the vehicle through which it expresses in this particular lifetime. As we are spirit incarnate within a body, we should respect and appreciate our unique bodily expression, but also know that which is beyond it.

Regarding the recent disgraceful events in Charlottesville:

I would presume that practically all of my readers are well aware of the events that went down in Charlottesville, Virginia US on the 11-12th of August this year (2017). As we all know, a plethora of far-right political groups gathered together to protest the planned removal of the statue of Confederate commander Robert Edward Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. Included in this “Unite the Right” rally were neo-Nazis, KKK, neo-Confederates, and various far-right militia groups (which were armed with semi-automatic weapons), amongst other white nationalists, white supremacists and other members of the far-right (or alt-right). A large group of counter-protesters also turned up, consisting of clergy, anti-racism activists, students and concerned locals, and also wide range of left-wing groups, including socialists, communists and members of Antifa (who I will discuss in some detail shortly).

Unsurprisingly, violence broke out between protestors and counter-protestors. People were beaten up, attacked with clubs, sprayed with chemicals, and a number of people were hit by a car which drove through a crowd and hit another car, which then killed a young lady by the name of Heather D. Heyer.  Heyer was herself counter-protesting the rally, whilst the driver of the car that caused the death was a young neo-Nazi by the name of James Alex Fields.

Much has been said regarding President Trump’s response to the riots. In his first press conference Trump referred only to “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides…”, without specifically calling out the various far-right groups that initiated the rally. Particularly, Trump was grilled for failing to name neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist groups and identify them as the guilty parties.

I would like to talk about this a bit, as I feel that many people missed some of the subtlety here. We did indeed have a legitimate right to call out Trump regarding his response to the riots. He was however half-right about one thing; that is, there was indeed violence on both sides. It does indeed appear that violence was initiated both by far-right protestors and far-left counter-protestors (who we can identify as Antifa). However, Trump did indeed make a false-equivalence between the far-right groups involved in the rally, and the various counter-protestors. Likewise, Trump also expressed sympathy for the inspiration of the rally itself, and argued that not all the right-wing protestors were Nazis.

One can (and should) simultaneously call out Trump for his response, and also acknowledge that Antifa groups around the world have initiated and participated in political violence. White supremacists are a real problem in many countries, particularly the US. A great deal of murders and acts of domestic terrorism occur with regularity in the US, and most of them fail to hit the news here in Australia. Likewise, Antifa groups have violence as part of their core foundational philosophy, and they continue to initiate and escalate violent clashes in many countries around the world. Trump did indeed attempt to deflect blame away from the alt-right, and should indeed be held accountable for his motives here. Likewise however, there are many on the left who have attempted to downplay or deny the guilt born by Antifa for the appalling behaviour seen in Charlottesville, amongst other crimes.

Video footage from the riots clearly show different examples of both right wing groups initiating violence against counter-protestors, and counter-protestors initiating violence against right wing groups. Likewise, testimony from those present also shows that violence was enacted by both protestors and counter-protestors. An African-American man was beaten with poles, a metal pipe and wooden slabs (all by white supremacists), and Antifa members charged at protestors with clubs and used chemical sprays. Video footage of the vehicular attack clearly shows the car in question accelerating suddenly into the crowd of counter-protestors[i]. To say the whole affair was ugly would be putting it in the mildest of terms.

Having noted all of this, we should recognise that it is indeed a false-equivalence to talk about those involved in the “Unite the Right” rally and those who counter-protested it as if they are equal in their bigotry, hate and violence. Whilst there was indeed violence on both sides, they weren’t morally equal in what they stood for, why they were there, and what they were protesting against.

The far-right rallying groups involved literal neo-Nazis and Klu Klux Klan, as well as other equally extreme white supremacist and white nationalist groups, along with militia groups, who were armed to the teeth. The very reason for their protest was the planned removal of a statue of a war commander who literarily fought against the US government to try and retain slavery. So, there is no question that the rallying groups themselves stood for racism, hatred, bigotry and violence, and they were united by their desire to retain the memory of a man who committed treason in an attempt to uphold chattel slavery. The counter-protestors were protesting against them, against National Socialism, against the KKK, against racism, anti-Semitism and the romanticism of pro-slavery war traitors. They were standing up against fascism, hate and injustice. So, just to be clear, lets restate that:

One side was made up of Nazis and racists who wanted to remember someone who fought for slavery; the other side wanted to protest against racism, against bigotry.

So, let us not humour any ideas that both sides were equal.

Regarding the alt-right, I have largely been holding my tongue on this matter for some time, not due to conflicting opinions on my part, but rather due to how close to home it hits. I have some immediate family and other friends that are directly involved in the alt-right. I do not define these individuals on the basis of their opinions and online behaviour. Hence, I see their strengths as human beings as well, whilst I utterly abhor many of the opinions they express and the way they go about deliberately baiting and taunting people online. I struggle to find words strong enough to express my disgust of both the opinions of the far-right (or alt-right), and the manner in which they conduct themselves.

At times when I have not been able to retain my own awareness of the inner peace that is indicative of my true nature, my heart has literarily broken when I have seen the things that the alt-right write. It is hard to know where to start in responding to the opinions and attitudes of the alt-right. One can legitimately question if there is actually any point in attempting to directly engage with them, as they seem so extreme, so completely immune to reasonable discussion, and so completely intent on merely inflaming and bating those that disagree with them (rather than actually engaging them), that one wonders whether there is anything we could say or do that would help. One has to hope however that the inherent humanity within such individuals can somehow shine through and bring about space in which they can consider opinions other than those they already hold, and weigh up opposing arguments and evidence.

My current opinion regarding the political situation in most modern Western countries is that whilst the left certainly does have many real problems and blind spots of its own, the right seems to be far more extreme in its aberrations, and there are far more serious consequences as a result. That is, there are real problems in even the moderate left, and our Universities are filled with radical leftists, Marxists, radical feminists and gender theorists and so forth, giving the alt-right legitimate opponents on the other side to react against. The moderate left on the other hand appears to be quite centrist, in aiming to balance economic and environmental concerns, trying to balance the freedom of individuals to own private property and be rewarded for their effort and brilliance with a concern for the suffering of those that are unwell (whether physically or mentally), and/or struggle to make ends meet. The moderate, mainstream left appears to me to stand for real progress, real moral and ethical clarity, justice, equality and prosperity. It doesn’t always succeed in balancing these things, but at least its heart appears to be in the right place.

There is a moderate right that seems to simply have different opinions on the practical results of policy to that of the moderate left, though they may share the ultimate ideals of the left. Such conservatives seem to be open to real discussion and debate, capable of and willing to compare opinions, and behave with civility. The far right (or alt-right) on the other hand seems to have no compassion at all for those that suffer, no desire for justice and equality, no willingness (or capacity) to engage with those on the other side of the spectrum, and compare beliefs, arguments and evidence, or behave with decency and decorum. Rather, in its rants about political correctness, the alt-right appears to have thrown common decency out the window. In it’s crusade against the far-left, the alt-right appears to stand against everything good, and stand for all that is bad.

Many far-right groups make the extraordinary claim that today it is white, heterosexual, Christian men that are the victims of the racism, sexism and discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and religion. Of course, I’m not really sure where to start in responding to such claims. I’m not even sure if such claims are worthy of responding to, or whether people that make such claims would hear any argument to the contrary.

Obviously, there are real examples whereby activists for just causes go too far. Such cases do not however make the original oppressor the overall victim of a new oppression. There are examples whereby racial justice activists lose sight of the big picture. There are examples whereby LGBT activists have gone too far. There are cases whereby radical feminists have left behind legitimate causes worthy of fighting for, and attempted to portray all men as being animals. Likewise, Christians are actually persecuted in many parts of the world today (such as Egypt). Again, whilst there are some cases whereby for example LGBT activists have deliberately bated Christians in order to attract publicity for their cause, Christians are largely simply losing privilege in the West, rather than suffering direct discrimination or persecution. To claim that white, straight, Christian men are today victims of discrimination in Western countries is just absurd.

The far-right doesn’t differentiate between the moderate left (or even moderate conservatives) and full-blown communists. They use a black and white approach to politics; if it isn’t full-blown, unregulated capitalism, its communism. Hence, I have seen far-right groups claim that the left are to blame for the rise of modern neo-Nazis and KKK groups. As such, some in the far-right have blamed the Charlottesville affair as a whole on the left. Again, such claims are simply absurd, and downright ugly.

Regarding Antifa, we do indeed have a real problem here. Of course, Antifa isn’t simply one organisation, one group. Rather, it is more of a method, a philosophy, and there are countless regional groups (or chapters) to it. They are a string of groups, held together by a common thread. All such groups however are united by their belief that violence against the right is wholly justifiable and absolutely necessary. As such, they have on many occasions initiated violence against peaceful protestors, launched random attacks on conservatives in the streets (such as against Andrew Bolt[ii]), caused significant property damage, and instigated and retaliated against violence in clashes such as the one at Charlottesville.

The mainstream left must be absolutely clear in explicitly disavowing ourselves from Antifa. We should encourage police and government measures designed to restrict their potential for violence[iii]. Antifa do not not help our causes, and they only widen the gap between the left and the right, moving us further away from real political and social progress. In this manner, Trump (and others on the far-right) were indeed correct that there were many on the left that refused to acknowledge the role that Antifa had to play in the Charlottesville riots.

As one example, feminist Laurie Penny was recently part of a weekly panel on Q&A, which is aired on the ABC in Australia. When quizzed by host Tony Jones regarding the part that Antifa had to play in the riots, Penny completely denied that Antifa were violent and had any responsibility for the brawls[iv] (although, in her defense I would mention that she did make a legitimate point about the severity of Antifa violence by comparison to white supremacist violence). This is despite the fact that Antifa websites themselves explicitly state that violence against the right is part of their mandate.

Antifa are responding to hate with hate, violence with violence. This only perpetuates the cycle of suffering. We must be able to look violence in the face and show peace, look at hate and show love, look at racism and show justice and equality. We must stop the cycle now and create new norms, new standards and ideals. Obviously I am not suggesting passivism. Rather, I am stating that we should stand up with peace, for peace, speak out when necessary, but never forget the positive side of the spectrum that we are actively standing for, rather than what we are against.

Whilst it is true that the far-right considers anybody and everybody to their left to be communists (including moderate and centrist conservatives – who they label “Cuckservatives”), many people in the far-left (and intimately involved in Antifa groups) are actually full-blown communists. The left needs to remember this, and just as we don’t want Nazis and fascists to run modern Western countries, neither do we want to descend into full-blown communism, as the consequences of that are also well known. One can legitimately state that Antifa are basically communist thugs. It is a disturbing reality that in 2017 in America Nazis and communists are going to war on our streets. Obviously, we don’t want to go to back to 1941 at the the Russian Front.

Perhaps the one good thing I should say in the defense of Antifa is that they actually protected some peaceful protestors (such as members of clergy) from charging far-right groups during the Charlottesville riots. For this, we should acknowledge them. However, this only just goes to show how the police completely failed in their mandate to keep the peace. Given the toxic mix of far-right hate and militant groups who were armed to the teeth, and Antifa who likewise deliberately provoked violence, it is a miracle that more people weren’t hurt or even killed.

It really shows the full ridiculous implications of open-carry laws, to literally have Nazis in the US in 2017 with semi-automatic rifles marching outside a Jewish synagogue[v]. The local council/government never should have allowed this event in the first place. It so easily could have escalated into a massacre, with Nazis and militant groups opening fire on counter-protesters, with police then opening fire upon such groups.

Getting back to the topic that inspired the rally in the first place, it occurred to me that the statues of Confederate soldiers are the equivalent of modern Germany having statues commemorating Nazi leaders. The same thing also occurred to a number of other writers, and I would recommend that my readers follow some of these links, as many relevant points have been made on this topic[vi]. Donald Trump has on a number of occasions expressed his sympathy for protestors, tweeting “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it…”[vii]. He seemed to have no awareness that these monuments are a testimony to unspeakable injustices that occurred in the past, and a monument to those that attempted to uphold them.

Chattel slavery of African people is one of the single most evil episodes in Western history. It would perhaps be more appropriate to have slavery memorials and segregation memorials than public statues of confederate generals. The monuments in question were created as part of a revisionist movement within America that sought to sweep its history of slavery under the carpet, and re-write the American civil war as simply a disagreement about the autonomy of states. We should perhaps remember that immediately following the abolition of slavery, new laws denoting segregation were enacted. America’s ugly history of racism did not end with the abolition of slavery; rather one chapter ended and a new one begun.

Trump has likewise defended some of the protesters from the “Unite the Right” rally, arguing that they weren’t all Nazis, and they had a legitimate reason to be protesting. In response I would refer my readers to a video message from Arnold Schwarzenegger[viii].

We can and should differentiate between peaceful and violent counter-protesters, as they had legitimate things to protest against. However, I don’t believe that much can be made in terms of differentiation between the various groups involved in the “Unite the Right” rally itself. That is, I don’t believe that moderate, reasonable conservatives would have been marching alongside Nazis and KKK in seeking to uphold the memory of a pro-slavery traitor. Rather, reasonable conservatives were outraged by Trump’s response to the riots, criticising him for failing to call out the hatred of the various far-right groups that founded the rally itself.

On the other hand, there were moderate, reasonable, progressives counter-protesting the rally, unfortunately alongside Antifa thugs. It wasn’t like the counter-protest was organised to promote communism and instigate violence against the right. Rather, the counter protest was against Nazis, against the KKK and against those that wanted to celebrate America’s ugly past.

I have seen far-right writers conflate our ancestors that fought against slavery with those that fought for it, as if both were part of a collective white history that needs to be equally recognised. This is of course absurd. Nationalists have a history of seeking to downplay, defend of deny the injustices that their ancestors have committed against others. Many Americans are in denial about the reality of the US civil war, believing that it wasn’t so much fought over slavery as much as the autonomy of individual states. Some white nationalists deny or defend the atrocities committed against indigenous American Indians. Some white nationalists likewise deny or defend the atrocities committed against Australian aboriginals. Likewise, neo-Nazis deny the holocaust, and Japanese nationalists downplay or deny the atrocities committed by Japan during WW2 etc.

This is much the same as how conservative followers of various world religions often deny the flaws within their faiths. People become attached to sense of identity, and feel a need to defend it, lest they become diminished or even annihilated. Nationalists subconsciously feel that if they concede the mistakes of their ancestors that they themselves are threatened, that they become less.

Our true identity cannot be found in the color of our skin, nor our racial heritage, nor religious or political beliefs. Rather, we all share the same true identity as Spirit, infinite consciousness, and an awareness of this will unite all beings into the one family. Despite this unity however, we are all different in our outward expression, and there is room in this vast universe for an infinite array of diversity. Whilst we can recognise that racial history does not define who we are, we can recognise that certain racial and cultural groups do carry trans-generational trauma from gross injustices that have occurred in the past, and we should indeed express our sympathy towards them, and work toward healing such traumas.

We do not become less by conceding the great injustices that our ancestors have committed against others. We do not become less by conceding the legitimate weaknesses of our society and culture. I for one am extremely grateful to have been born into a free, democratic nation in an age of modern science and medicine. However, my appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices made by many of my ancestors does not mean that I must downplay, defend or deny the many mistakes of my ancestors.

Likewise, acknowledging my own weaknesses as a person and the many mistakes I have made over my life does not take away from my joy in the now. Rather, if anything, acknowledging the mistakes of the past is an important part of recognising that such mistakes do not define the true being. Finding identity as pure awareness naturally means that we are open and honest about our failings in our outward expression. Just as we offer compassion and grace to others, we likewise offer it towards ourselves.

Those beings that express such hatred and lack of compassion towards others reveal their lack of awareness of the true Self, therefore showing that there appears to be a hole inside themselves where they don’t experience the natural fulfilment that is their birthright. In finding true inner peace we naturally show love and empathy towards others. This however is not the end of human life and the drama of our physical play, but rather the beginning of a new phase, in which we remember that we are not the characters, but the actors, the dreamers and not the dream figures.

Peace

[i] I have seen examples of far-right media attempting to defend James Alex Fields, arguing that he was merely terrified by the crowds of counter-protestors, and that he was simply driving away to protect himself. I will concede that the manner in which he drove his car into another car (which then hit Heather D. Heyer) was quite bizarre. He did however also hit a number of other people in the process, who were injured but not killed by the impact. One way or another however, I must state that I feel that any attempts made to defend James Alex Fields are driven primarily by political bias, attempting to deflect the blame onto the hands of counter-protestors.

[ii] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/is-melbourne-too-dangerous-for-conservatives-behind-the-leftwing-antifa-movement-that-attacked-andrew-bolt-20170608-gwnb6h.html. Just to be clear, from the first moment that I encountered the work of Andrew Bolt there was no question that I could not believe the appalling things he was saying. However, the attack against him was simply not on. It doesn’t help make the world a better place in any way, and it doesn’t do anything to stand against Bolt’s opinions. If anything, it only gives further fuel to the far-right, convincing them that they are right, making them more and more entrenched in their convictions.

[iii] Such as the recent Victorian laws restricting face-coverings at protests: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/masked-rioters-face-jail-under-new-laws/news-story/89162793d98d080584d2f1104c97f28e.

[iv] http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4708044.htm.

[v] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/neo-nazis-marched-past-their-synagogue-chanting-sieg-heil-two-weeks-later-the-charlottesville-jewish-community-is-still-healing/2017/08/26/d75ef1d0-8a70-11e7-a50f-e0d4e6ec070a_story.html?utm_term=.25c904d87d37.

[vi] http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/20/why-there-are-no-nazi-statues-in-germany-215510 and also: https://www.vox.com/world/2017/8/16/16152088/nazi-swastikas-germany-charlottesville.

[vii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/08/17/trump-mourns-loss-of-beautiful-statues-and-monuments-in-wake-of-charlottesville-rally-over-robert-e-lee-statue/?utm_term=.cbb282f6a71c.

[viii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN_YIBr0ELM.

A few quick thoughts regarding North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing:

North Korea has been in the news constantly over the past few months (and continuously over many years), mostly due to its development and testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. This development has been taking place over many decades, but has reach a critical point recently, as North Korea has reached a pivotal point in its military capabilities.

North Korea now joins the exclusive club of nations that posses stockpiles of nuclear weapons, along with the capability to launch them at cities across the globe[i]. With every new nation that joins this club it could be argued that the possibility of nuclear war grows higher. We are quite fortunate to have survived the Cold War (between the US and Russia) without any nuclear weapons being used in battle by either party (though it came very, very close several times). Likewise, the risk of a serious accident (such as an accidental trigger) grows higher (there have been some very close calls in the past).

Aside from the risk of these evil devices being used in anger to devour millions in fire in a mere instant, there is a huge environmental cost to be paid for their development and testing. The process required to manufacture weapons-grade Plutonium (which is man-made) is dangerous, and naturally produces the very worst kind of poisons (as high-level transuranic waste can remain radioactive for very long periods of time[ii]). The US itself was enormously irresponsible when it went through the process of producing its plutonium stockpiles. At one point the CIA actually had to raid the US military facility that was handling its Plutonium, due to a number of serious OHS and environmental issues.

One can only imagine what the standards are like at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, given that the country is in dire poverty, and given the long list of human rights abuses occurring during its regime. Given that careful handling and storage of transuranic waste is immensely costly (and contributes significantly to the cost of electricity from Nuclear Fission), I have very little faith in North Korea to put the safety of their citizens and the environment on the priority list. On this ground alone it could be a major humanitarian and environmental disaster.

Also, every single test of a nuclear weapon is in itself an environmental disaster. There is the sheer force of the explosion itself, registered in the same way as an earthquake, and the utter destruction that occurs in the immediate area, even when underground. Underwater testing is even worse, due to the absolute desecration of the underwater environment that occurs. Then there is the case that every single test of a nuclear weapon increases the background radiation level of the planet as a whole (let alone the immediate area), and underwater testing (as North Korea has recently suggested it might perform, and as performed not so long ago by France, and to devastating affect by the US at Bikini Atoll half a century ago) releases incredibly dangerous isotopes into the oceans.

The good news at least is that I find it very, very hard to image that North Korea would initiate a nuclear strike against anyone (and I haven’t really seen anybody in the know disagree). Certainly they like to talk tough, or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that they have a tendency to run their mouth. Nevertheless, they would have to have an awareness that regardless of their own capabilities, any nuclear strike they could launch would only guarantee that they would be literarily wiped off the face of the planet in a retaliatory firestorm.

Hence, I really can’t see North Korea actually deliberately seeking to use their weapons in anger. However, the bad news is that we may be well past the point of anyone being able to do anything about North Korea. We may well have to live with a North Korea that has the capability to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile against various nations (possibly including the US, Australia and more). This effectively leaves international relations with the country in a permanent state of heightened Cold War vigilance, not a nice thing to have to live with. Likewise, we face the possibility of North Korea “testing the waters” more aggressively; using nuclear threats to attempt to get away with more acts of smaller scale aggression (particularly towards South Korea).

Whilst I am obviously no fan of Trump, there is no question that North Korea is the aggressor in this situation[iii]. Nevertheless, we (critics of Trump) all knew that Trump would only escalate nuclear tensions with North Korea. Prior to the election we all said that he would be the one to start a nuclear war. So, it is not really that surprising. Trump and Kim Jong Un are in some respects every bit as bad as each other, two immature boys hurling insults at each other, with each round escalating to more and more serious threats.

However, the fact remains that even without Trump, this point in time has been coming for many years, and North Korea bares the primary responsibility for it. Whilst I admire Barack Obama as a sensible, intelligent and compassionate man (regardless of whether or not all his policies were wise), we would still be in this mess if he were still in office (or if any other Democrat leader was in Trump’s shoes). One would think that without Trump we possibly wouldn’t have the same circus of escalating insults. Yet certainly we would still have a nuclear North Korea baiting the rest of the world with threats of firestorms.

North Korea has been playing nuclear blackmail for many years now, and unfortunately any chances of stopping them may now be spent. Whilst I am generally somewhat suspicious of attempts by Western nations (particularly the US in recent years) at attempting regime changes, I do not necessarily oppose such things out of hand. In the case of North Korea a forced regime change would have been a compassionate option, to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people, living under a government that spends nearly its entire budget on its military programs.

North Korea’s game of nuclear blackmail makes a mockery of their core philosophy of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. In truth, they spent literarily all their money on nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and their military in general, whilst they depend on UN and US aid to feed their starving masses. It is quite literarily insane, the very worst example of communism achieving the exact opposite ends to which it aspires.

I am not quite sure what course of action can and should be taken against North Korea. The idea of just having to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea doesn’t sound particularly comforting. They are quite literarily a terrorist nation in every respect, and an example of how evil communism can be. One would imagine that if the US (or anyone else) were to attempt a regime change through invasion, that under those conditions North Korea would attempt to deploy their nuclear capabilities in some way. Whether or not they truly have the capacity at this point to do so is almost irrelevant now. The price to pay would be utterly enormous if North Korea were to be able to get a nuclear tipped missile through unintercepted.

The UN and US have already tried various sanctions on North Korea, with little real success. North Korea gains much of its (little) wealth through illegal means (drugs, hacking etc.), and the government has essentially no concern for the suffering of its people. I have to hope that there is some external path that can be undertaken to remove the threat that a nuclear North Korea poses to international relations. Likewise, I have to hope that there is a pathway that would lead to a reform of the political identity and governing ideology of North Korea.

Some have suggested that the ultimate solution to the threat of North Korea (and others) is in more advanced weapons defence systems. Existing systems are largely untested in real-world conditions, leaving a great deal of uncertainty as to whether or not any nation could stop a ballistic missile. This suggestion is not without its strengths, though I feel it has the potential to lead us all down into another never-ending race to develop more and more sophisticated weapons and weapons defence systems.

All arms races are ultimately bottomless pits, wasting money and resources on death rather than life. As the systems get more and more advanced, they naturally become more and more expensive, leading further and further away from the prosperity that we all seek. Upcoming technological advances with quantum computing, AI, nuclear fusion etc. will all lead to the possibility of developing capabilities that have seemed limited to the realm of science fiction. However, if we develop such technology without solving the fundamental flaw in human psychology, then we are heading deeper and deeper down into this bottomless pit, and the potential consequences will only get worse and worse.

Regardless of what happens externally, humanity as a whole needs to cure the ultimate cause of suffering, delusion, insanity and injustice. This we can do right now. Simply discover and live from the place of the true Self, in which there is no hate, no fear, no competition, no scarcity. In the true Self (the Spirit) there is infinite and unconditional love, joy and simple perfection. This is not mere poetry, nor speculation. This can be our unbroken reality.

The behaviour of North Korea is a symptom of complete false identity of a nation as a whole, complete lack of awareness of the Self. Likewise, the same aberration occurs in other nations, but (generally) to a lesser degree, and manifesting in ways that is unique to its environment. From the perspective of the Self, there is compassion for North Korea and all its people; that being not just the civilians who suffer enormously under the tyranny of their government, but also for the people directly involved in their government and military. All are suffering from the effects of egoic delusion. However, having compassion for them does not mean that externally we go soft on them. Rather, it should mean that any action that is taken is driven by wisdom, rather than egoic reaction. Unfortunately, the US is led by a man who is himself also completely consumed with egoic delusion, and who also runs his mouth in a manner completely unfit for a president, using Twitter as his medium of choice.

The paranoia that rules international relations only continues to perpetuate human suffering and injustice, wasting precious resources and funds that could alleviate suffering and allow humanity to invest in education, science, medicine, infrastructure, industry and scientific research and development. The ego drives people, organisations and nations to act as if there is a shortage of resources for which they must compete, under the belief that they can live better (and thus be happier) if they take from others, or stop others from having a share. In reality however, this belief of lack actually creates shortage. In pouring resources into competition, we rob ourselves of our natural abundance. North Korea is the perfect example of this, as almost the entire country is devoted to its military, and they rely on overseas aid (whilst claiming to operate under a philosophy of self-sufficiency) to feed their starving populace.

One can only hope and pray that there is a light at the end of this tunnel, where peace, freedom and sanity prevail. May the leaders of this world be filled with wisdom, clarity and inner peace, and may new solutions emerge that serve the highest interests of all beings. I hope that all beings get to live with true love and peace within their hearts, as I have been so privileged to discover myself.

Peace.

[i] Though one could perhaps question whether they do truly have the capacity to put a thermonuclear warhead on board their ballistic missiles. Certainly they have basic nuclear weapons at least, but they may possibly be bluffing about their possession of a thermonuclear warhead (otherwise known as a Hydrogen bomb) and/or their ability to fire it from their ballistic missiles. Nevertheless, taking action with the presumption that they are bluffing could have utterly catastrophic results.

[ii] Fortunately there appears to be potential ways in which we can “burn up” such waste in next generation reactors in the future, and hence can reduce or even use up all of such waste that is currently being stored. Unfortunately, large amounts of these isotopes have already been released directly into nature, with barrels of waste being dumped into the ocean, amongst other tragedies.

[iii] Obviously, like most people, I know lots of people that immediately turn for the “false-flag” conspiracy theory in literarily ever single topic of current affairs, blaming everything on a secret ruling elite within our own Western countries. I myself have delved into this field in the past, and am open to the possibilities of some of these theories having some truth to them. However, it is quite clear that the conspiracy world is largely (if not wholly) devoid of the standards of scholarship and journalism that are present in the mainstream. That is, whilst mainstream scholarship and journalism certainly suffers from the biases and trends that affect human beings, it also (to its credit) demands some basic standards of reasoning, cohesiveness and evidence.

The conspiracy world is almost entirely devoid of these same standards. Hence, even if there were some truth to some of these grand conspiracy theories, sorting through the mess of them would be an immense amount of work. Whilst mainstream narratives do show bias, they are generally far more reasonable and cohesive by comparison. Whilst I share many criticisms of the US (and other Western nations), there is no question that North Korea is a danger to us all (and itself).

A few quick thoughts on marriage equality and the upcoming Australian postal plebiscite (or survey):

In recent years many Western countries have been able to pass through laws enabling marriage equality. Australia by comparison has lagged behind on this issue, due largely to the fact that a conservative government has been in power during the period in which the issue has been at the forefront of current affairs. That is not to say that there weren’t people pushing for marriage equality prior to 2013. There were, and there were nations that had already passed legislation to allow it prior to then. However, the past 4 years (or so) have seen many Western nations (the US, the UK and NZ to name a few) following suit and changing the legislation surrounding same-sex marriage (lets call it SSM for short).

Certainly, if Labor (or any other left-leaning political party) were to take power in Australia (now[i]), there is no question that a marriage equality bill would simply be passed through government. The Liberal party however have been adamant that if marriage equality is to be passed under their power that there will be a plebiscite, in which all Australians get to vote. Their reasoning has generally been that in matters such as this it is important to let everyone have their say.

Labor and the Greens have however blocked the previous attempts to enforce a plebiscite. Conservatives have treated this as a matter of hypocrisy[ii], or have argued that progressives fear that they would fail to get a winning vote. The polls however have repeatedly shown that the majority of Australians support marriage equality. The reason why Labor and the Greens shot down the previous plebiscite bill was that it was very expensive (I believe $170 million?), and that it was going to provide tax-payer money to both yes and no groups, effectively giving federal funding to a public anti-marriage equality campaign (as well as the pro campaign).

Conservatives that oppose marriage equality ask what is wrong with that, for government funding to go to those that insist on upholding a “traditional conception of marriage”, and allowing everyone to have their vote? Such people consider it to be a perfectly reasonable thing to oppose SSM, and feel offended that they get labelled bigots for merely expressing their opinion. The problem is this: Opponents of SSM have presented numerous arguments against it, but they are all completely erroneous. Every. Single. One. That is, there are lots of reasons why some people oppose SSM, but not one single good reason. I’m not going to go in-depth into all such arguments here. If you wish to read such arguments, you can start with the following links[iii].

Opponents of SSM argue that it would change the definition of marriage, and therefore it wouldn’t really be marriage at all. That is, they argue that marriage has always been defined as the union of a man and woman, for life, and for the purpose of bringing up children in a safe and stable environment. The thing is, that if we want to be frank, a major part of the traditional (and yes, Biblical) conception of marriage was as the purchasing of property (the woman) from her father to the husband. Fortunately most of us in somewhat modern cultures do not see marriage in this way anymore, but rather consider marriage to be a legal recognition of a life-long romantic partnership. We do not see the husband as owning the wife, but rather we (ideally at least) see them as equal partners.

As for the children part, many heterosexual people get married and do not have children, many by choice. LGBTI people already have legal access to IVF and adoption, and recognition of their unions as marriage will not change that in any way. Hence, if you are to deny LGBTI people access to marriage on the basis of it being strictly for the raising of children, perhaps you ought to divorce straight couples that have not children.

As such, given that the modern conception of marriage is as a legal recognition of a committed romantic partnership, there is no reason why this should apply only to heterosexual couples, and not to the LGBTI community. Words and concepts frequently evolve over time, and this is another example of such evolution. Not so long ago racism was largely accepted by mainstream society, and whilst it still certainly exists today, a significant percentage of modern people in Western nations will not tolerate it. It wasn’t even so long ago that women in Western nations were denied many of the rights given to men, and whilst there are still some legitimate areas for feminists to keep fighting, much ground was been won in this regard.

Regarding, the Liberal parties original plebiscite bill, it proposed giving taxpayers money to anti SSM lobbyists. Can you imagine a government giving federal funding to a racist organization to publish anti-Semitic material on television, in newspapers or on billboards? Can you imagine a government providing funding to a men’s rights group to petition the withholding of women’s rights?

Over the past few weeks we have constantly seen vile homophobic garbage in the media, from Bronwyn Bishops comments comparing SSM to bestiality and infanticide[iv], to the “Stop the fags” posters that have been showing up in Melbourne[v]. This is exactly why Labor and the Greens have opposed Liberals plans to host a plebiscite on marriage equality, as it is simply giving a voice to awful, irrational hatred that doesn’t deserve to be heard. Furthermore, the postal survey isn’t even a formal plebiscite, but rather a yes vote will simply lead to a vote in parliament. Hence, the whole thing can certainly be argued to be a gigantic waste of time and money.

Holding awful opinions doesn’t necessarily make someone an outright awful person:

Ultimately, I have to say that I think that the only reason why anyone would object to SSM is that they are homophobic. I happen to have a significant amount of family (and perhaps a few friends) that are openly homophobic, some virulently so. I personally feel that such opinions are equivalent to anti-Semitism; that is they are completely irrational, and downright ugly.

I do think however that we should avoid defining people completely by such opinions. That is, I know of many wonderful people that hold awful opinions. Human beings are complex creatures, and people temporarily identify with a range of different beliefs, seeking identity with religious, philosophical, political, racial and national groups. And yet, all beings are Spirit, and therefore have infinite worth and unlimited potential to shine forth radiance into the world. Most people have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, and may largely help other people, whilst still being held back by erroneous beliefs.

It is important to remember that beliefs, opinions and even behaviour can change, and that these things do not define the true Self. Rather, the true Self is eternal and unchanging, always accessible when the mind is still. Homophobia is one of the many symptoms of ego and illusion. Whilst we should stand up for what is true and good, we can simultaneously hold sympathy for those that are suffering from illusion, fear and hate.

There is much more that can be said on this topic, but this will suffice for today. May we treat each other with respect and dignity, find love within, and be an example of how love can express itself in the world at large.

Peace

[i] Labor previously opposed same-sex unions prior to 2009.

[ii] As in Australian progressives had the chance to vote in marriage equality, but they themselves shot it down.

[iii] An example of a case against same-sex marriage “10 reasons why homosexual marriage is harmful and must be opposed”: https://www.tfpstudentaction.org/blog/10-reasons-why-homosexual-marriage-is-harmful-and-must-be-opposed. See for yourself, all the arguments are baseless.

18 arguments against gay marriage – and why they’re all bollocks”:

http://www.mamamia.com.au/arguments-against-gay-marriage-rick-morton/

Common arguments against gay marriage”: https://www.thoughtco.com/moral-and-religious-arguments-250095

I oppose same-sex marriage – (and no, I’m not a bigot) by Michael Jensen”: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/jensen-i-oppose-same-sex-marriage-(and-no,-im-not-a-bigot)/6502850 .   He claims that perhaps many people simply haven’t heard a sensible argument against same-sex marriage. In truth however, his argument simply consists of “it won’t be marriage as we know it; it will change the definition of it.” We have already heard that, and no, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

[iv] Bronwyn Bishop links same-sex marriage to bestiality and infanticide: https://twitter.com/skynewsaust/status/894887903158910976?lang=en.

[v] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-21/advocates-slam-anti-lgbti-poster-on-melbourne-street/8828566.