Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

The Morality Of God

In Search Of An Ultimate Ethos

With each passing year science and philosophy continue to offer more rational and persuasive explanations suggesting the original force from which all existence springs may contain a distinctive intelligence. Those who’ve never doubted the existence of such a creative, thinking ultimate power have traditionally assigned such an entity a wide variety of different names.  The theistically inclined freely use the word “God” to personify this cognitive cosmic source.  Those more circumspect favor such titles as Initial Being, Ground of Being, Cosmic Awareness, Ultimate Intelligence, Essential Consciousness, The One, The All or dozens of other cautiously crafted appellations.  By any other name, the attributes we ascribe such a force show a predictable similarity.  For most, such an entity would be imbued with three core attributes: initial creative power, Ultimate intelligence and moral authority. While the implications of the existence of any of the above characteristics are unfathomably significant, we mere humans seem particularly obsessed with the morality issue.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:55
Perils Of The Examined Life

The Neoplatonist Dilemma

Any inclined to study the nature of being best heed the following advice: don’t go shopping for Ultimate truth unless you’re damn well ready for the consequences.  Such words may seem harsh but experience suggests they’re true.  Contrary to what many may think, gaining a better sense of one’s place in the grand scheme frequently depresses rather than ennobles.  Nowhere is this bitter quandary more evident than within the study of Neoplatonism.  Though long considered one of the cornerstones of mystical theory, Neoplatonism often stimulates an all too familiar pathology; desperate souls searching for existential meaning find themselves cast into the nihilistic void of personal absurdity.  Their new found ontological insights offer very little in the way of individual purpose or ethical direction.  Sometimes it gets worse. 

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Last Updated on Sunday, 5 January 2014 09:35
ManikarnikaGhat from the Ganges.  The terraced buildings to the left and center are pilgrim sheds.  The domed temple to the right, now abandoned, was built in the 18th century by Queen Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore

ManikarnikaGhat from the Ganges. The terraced buildings to the left and center are pilgrim sheds. The domed temple to the right, now abandoned, was built in the 18th century by Queen Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore

It’s always six o’clock at Manikarnika.  Squinting through the thick smoke of incinerating bodies, one can see the clock atop the decrepit Birla pilgrim shed which hasn’t moved in living memory.  Shrouded in perpetual twilight, legend states here, at this most holy of Hindu sites on the banks of the Ganges, time never runs down but instead stands still.  And so it does.  Precariously rooted in the ashes of thousands of bodies burned over thousands of years, the site is reverently known as the “cradle of Vishnu.”  Its origins, rumored to extend back to the beginning of creation, serve as a gruesome yet persistent reminder of life’s trembling fragility and temporary essence.  Here within the ancient sacred city of Varanasi, multitudes of the Hindu pious have for millennium brought their dead to this auspicious place for cremation and ultimately their final journey from this world.  Their presence and force is palpably felt within the all enveloping spectral haze.  It is a place of great severity and immense profundity.

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Tags: , ,   |  Posted under Cultural Practice, NewsFlash, Religion, Rituals  |  Comments  3 Comments
Last Updated on Sunday, 5 January 2014 09:33
My Friend The Witch Doctor
Animal skulls at the Lome fetish market

Animal skulls at the Lome fetish market

Animist Practice In Yorubaland

In many societies there exists an ever widening chasm between the ideals of their mythological heritage and the activities of ordinary life.  It often seems with every new nugget of information and technological innovation the relevance of cultural myths and legends as templates of practical action in daily existence recedes.  Their pragmatic authority marginalized, traditional mythology tenuously survives as an existential metaphor of the higher, more abstract ideals of existence as yet not fully explained by contemporary knowledge.  Societies continuing to live in accord with these “archaic,” metaphysical notions are widely considered to be uneducated, superstitious throwbacks destined to eventual doom by their lack of modern awareness.   Possibly the most conspicuous examples of such retrograde behavior lies with cultures who believe in the active, unseen role of spirits; those referred to as “animists.”  However, closer examination of the nature of animism suggests modern judgments may be in need of modification.  Could animist belief and ritual reflect a deeper more accurate ontological understanding than many realize?   Is it possible in many ways the advancements of science are leading us back to the essential truths of our distant mythological past?  The traditional Yoruban cosmology of western Africa may be a relevant case in point.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 5 January 2014 09:39
The Intuitive Truth

Observations On The Work Of Sri Aurobindo

In the world of Transpersonal studies mystics and theorists rarely mix.  In truth the relation between the two is often filled with mutual disdain and a mistrust bordering on antagonism.  Mystics frequently view theorists as rigid, empirically compulsive, soulless thought brokers whose need for evidence, order and explanation drains the metaphysical of its wonder and divinity.  Anxious to return the favor, theorists often deride the mystics as starry eyed idealists totally devoid of the detachment and critical abilities necessary to discriminate fact from fantasy.  The hard reality is both remain dependant on the other.  Without mystical experience theorists would have nothing to underlie their studies and without theorists mystics would have little to validate their experiences and impressions.  Of course, the line between the two is never so neatly drawn.  Few have heard of the transpersonal theorist whose interest doesn’t stem from some personal spiritual episode or intuition.  Nor have I met the mystic lacking a theory as to how their impressions derive from and square with the physical world. 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 01:03
Preposterous Ponderings

Losing Your Mind Over Zen

If the answers to all the big questions of existence were easy to come by everybody would know them.   There’s good reason why so few hold the most profound secrets of life.  Let’s face it, the path to enlightenment is undeniably a tough and arduous slog.  Those deciding to pursue the weighty issues of our intrinsic Being better strap in for a rocky ride filled with perplexing concepts, torturous reason, an avalanche of bewildering language and endless acres of convoluted conundrums.  Of course, just because the task is formidable doesn’t mean there aren’t many willing to give enlightenment a shot.  For such ambitious souls there’s no end of revered spiritual systems to hitch one’s fate.   While almost all spiritual or wisdom traditions specialize in the esoteric, obscure and impenetrable one in particular raises the levels of confusion, mystification and befuddlement to vertiginous heights.  This asylum of contradiction is the fusion of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism commonly known as Zen.  Those of saner disposition steeped in logic and reason best turn back now.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:59
Sacred Sounds

Searching for the mystical within music

From the onset of the written record it’s apparent many have considered music a form of sacred expression.  Regardless of form or instrumentation, the relation of music to the ultimate forces of existence figures prominently within every culture and permeates our shared history.  Those more profoundly affected claim music to be the embodiment of the Divine.  Many of greater circumspection may conceive of music as merely a representation of the divine or, if less theistically inclined, the reflection of some kind of cosmic existential order.  Semantics and nuance aside, music has always been idealized as a medium through which the higher forces driving existence may be known.  This lofty concept has long been propagated, formalized and exploited by powerful spiritual institutions in whose trust the sacred remained.  

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:59

As bees suck nectar from many a flower
And make their honey one, so that no drop
Can say, “I am from this flower or that,”
All creatures, though one, know not they are that one.

Chandogya Upanishad

Virtually every spiritual system on earth espouses the existence of an original source.  A source from which all existence emerges and all knowledge flows.  This observation in itself is hardly profound or requires great deductive acumen.  After all, if it’s here it must have come from somewhere.  Both physicists and theologists are in rare accord when claiming everything and everyone must trace back to a singular starting point.  Defining the nature and motivations of this original source has led to a variety of different and conflicting opinions which form the basis of the worlds formalized spiritual systems.   However, closer examination of the description of the essence of the original source brings surprising unanimity.  It reveals an ultimate, singular intelligence of which all are a part; a power whose essence forms and informs all within existence.  Many of the descriptions of this source found in the spiritual texts of our world are exceedingly complex, others breathtakingly simple. 

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Last Updated on Sunday, 1 August 2010 06:25
Losing Paradise
The Torajan village of Kete Kesu outside Rontepao

The Torajan village of Kete Kesu outside Rontepao

The Torajan people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are a rarity among traditional cultures.  They possess something capable of holding at bay the inexorable encroachment of modernity.  Something within their cultural essence whose preservation is of great value to the ravenous economic sensibilities of the modern world.  Something allowing them to maintain those native customs, ideals and forms so delicately assembled and maintained over countless generations.  This commodity is neither land nor material resource but rather a unique and dramatic set of spiritual perspectives and behaviors.  The Torajan are a new breed of entrepreneur.  In concert with the Indonesian government, they have parlayed their traditional animist practices into big business.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 09:01