Romans 7 in retrospect…

romans 7-15Each of the articles linked to below pertain to  the classic dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit as described in Romans 7.  This text and this problem have been on my mind (to one degree or another) for 40 years.  The third article contains the key that, for me, effectively resolves the conflict.   Depending on one’s interests– or where one is in their spiritual walk –the first two articles may be more or less helpful.  Take what seems good to you and leave the rest… 

Flesh and Spirit in Conflict
This is an older essay outlining the problem as I understand it…

The Order of Being and the Life of Faith
This offers further scriptural analysis leading up to the solution…

The Mind of Christ and the Power of the Spirit
This describes the kind of transcendental vision and existential decision which, by the grace of God, effectively resolves the conflict…

tug of war

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Ancient Hebrew Resource Center

Every now and then I stumble onto a website that presents what seems to me– rightly or wrongly — a vast quantity of extremely valuable information in a relatively easily intuitable form.  I then become extraordinarily enthused with the material and want to share my enthusiasm with as many people as possible.  That has been my experience over the past few days with Jeff Benner’s Ancient Hebrew Resource Center.

My interests and commitments are quite diverse (so I really don’t have a clue as to how much time I will actually invest in this kind of study), but I feel that if I had nothing else to do (or read or think about), I could probably be quite happy exploring the material on this website (and the associated material on YouTube) for the rest of my life.  I’m not kidding.

Consider, for example, the introductory discussion in this Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible:
hal el

For those who are more inclined to an audio visual presentation, check out the YouTube clips on The Way of Yahweh (this is Part 1 — be sure to look for parts 2 – 5) and This is my Name (be sure to look for part 2).

And for those who are serious about a close reading of the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy), check out A Mechanical Translation of Genesis and this draft of A Mechanical Translation of the Torah.  Here’s a sample of the parallel translation of the first 5 verses of Genesis:

mechanical translation of genesis

If, by this time, you are as excited about all these resources as I am, you will want to google Jeff Benner PDF and download all the great books that he is offering on his website — apparently for free — at least for the time being.  Don’t thank me — thank Jeff Benner!  :)


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Period Pieces

One of the menu items, above, is Period PiecesThis section pertains to old websites that I have worked on from time to time over the years, but which I have been in the process of (gradually) phasing out.  As planned, I am little by little archiving the best of these older projects here.  Here is what has been accomplished to date:

Additional pages will be probably be added in the near future–just hover over the menus from time to time to see what’s new!  In the mean time,



Party on…

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Kant and Spinoza, together at last…

For some people– both theists and atheists among them, perhaps –Kant and Spinoza, together, may offer a framework through which our previous discussion of God-talk may become more intelligible.  [Note: This approach is rather specialized and will not appeal to everyone.]

kant and spinozaOn the one hand,  both Kant’s phenomena and Spinoza’s modes fully encompass the macroscopic world of classical physics–indeed, they encompass anything and everything that is perceived to exist (or conceived to exist) merely in relation to other things that exist in space and/or time (scroll down to the graphic–and see also this Quick and Dirty Summary of Spinoza and Kant).

On the other hand, it’s easy to see how Kant’s noumena and Spinoza’s substance each refer in some sense to that which is absolute– that which is in itself  –however much these thinkers might differ as to whether, how, and to what degree the absolute (or that which IS absolutely) may be known.

Meanwhile, centuries after Spinoza and during the two centuries following Kant, we have begun to explore the mysterious subatomic realm of quantum physics which seems to lie at the boundary of the apparent world– the boundary between the absolute and the relative, per chance –between eternity and time; the transcendent and the immanent; the ideal and the real.  At the very least, quantum physics has thrown a monkey wrench into the “clock-work universe” of Newton,  and the doors of western culture seem to be opening once again to the vertical dimensionthe domain of faith which had become somewhat effaced (or defaced) in the modern period, as we fell under the spell of the empirical sciences and began to imagine that the horizontal dimension– the apparently deterministic world of natural historyconstitutes the whole of  reality.

As such, we can now see that while the phenomenal realm– the world of our experience –offers an awe inspiring re-presentation of reality in space and time (a la Kant), it may well be that our real truth and being is to be found in (what Spinoza calls) our “knowledge of  the union existing between the mind and the whole of nature” (see his unfinished essay, On the Improvement of the Understanding, aka Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect ).  Indeed, for Spinoza, this knowledge is, for us, the supreme good.  And it would seem that it is only with reference to our knowledge of this union that the real meaning of the apparent unfolding of our lives in space and time can be realized.  This blessedness is for us, as it was for Spinoza, a nondual realization of that which IS as it IStimelessly/eternally  –here & now.  And this would also seem to be our intuitive point of contact with a domain which Kant excludes from knowledge, per se–i.e. the domain of God, freedom, and immortality.

Similarly, for Christians, the meaning and purpose of life is to be found in being reconciled to God  (who, according to Acts 17:27-28, is not so far from any one of us–indeed, in Him we live and move and have our being).  From this point of view, as well, it is understood that– Christlike –we, too, may come to know that we are atOne with the Father and members one of another.  In other words, whatever the future may hold, we have eternal life, here & now– being buried with him in baptism and raised with him in newness of life –all of which is just another way of saying that we have the mind of Christ.  And to say that we have the mind of Christ is another way of saying that, on some level, we are aware of the union that exists between the mind and the whole of Nature–between the Cosmos and God.  In other words, we are reconciled to God (which is to say that, having taken up our cross, we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God ).   And the goal of Christian worship and practice is to grow in grace and knowledge of this truth which is then reflected through us– through our lives and relationships –out into the world at large.

If the forgoing account seems at all helpful, perhaps the diagram below (together with this Quick and Dirty Summary of Spinoza and Kant) will help to further illustrate some of the points of comparison that can be drawn between these two great thinkers.  And perhaps this, in turn, will help to provide a philosophical framework through which some of the obstacles to living faith can be removed.  As always, take what you find helpful and leave the rest.  But do keep in mind that different people will quite naturally speak of– and comport themselves quite differently with respect to –their Divine source or ground (depending on BOTH their cultural & educational background AND their natural temperament).  One size does not fit all–and yet there is room for all in this field of awareness that we are–this Divine presence that I Am.

Quick and Dirty Summary of Spinoza and Kant

Note:  Click on the graphic, below, to enlarge it:
kant and spinoza5

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Why all the God-talk?

god-talk-croppedThe idea of God has always loomed large in my life and continues to play a prominent role in my conversation with others.  But what if someone doesn’t believe in God or feels uneasy about the idea?  The questions naturally arise:  Why all the God-talk?  On what basis is it justified?  Those are fair questions, to be sure, and it seems to me that there are two ways to address them:

  1. As far as I am concerned, everything is open for discussion and everyone is free to question any particular conception of God.  There is no pressure to accept any proposition simply as a matter of “faith” or to “believe” anything that seems incredible.  And there is no need for people to keep their questions or their doubts to themselves so long as they continue to show  all due respect to those who think or believe otherwise.   But rather than (always) thinking in terms of “debating” one another and “winning the argument”, perhaps we could give more thought to the possibility of exploring reality together (without necessarily insisting that we are right and the other person is wrong–or that we must all ultimately see eye to eye).  Perhaps our seeking the truth together could be an end in itself!?
  2. We should keep in mind that, sometimes, the word God is used as a “place-holder” of sorts for the mysterious source, origin, or ground of our existence.  Just as I would ask my atheist or agnostic friends to treat believers with respect– and to maintain that respect even when critically questioning this or that element of a believer’s faith –likewise, I would ask those for whom the word God seems to be more than just a place-holder to be respectful of those for whom it does not (and, likewise, to treat agnostics and atheists with respect even when challenging this or that element of their doubt or disbelief).

With these things in mind, I offer the following bulleted items as a provisional point of departure for more fruitful conversations between “believers” and “unbelievers” (of various kinds) and, more specifically, between “theists” and “atheists”:

  • First, for the sake of most such discussions, perhaps we can agree that the word God (minimally speaking) refers to that which we tend to think of as the mysterious source, origin, or ground of existence.  Let us all acknowledge that, for many people, it is an open question whether or not this source is spiritual or physical; personal or impersonal; knowable or unknowable; real or imaginary.  And perhaps we should not presume to really understand what any of those characterizations might mean to someone else until we have conversed with them at some length and listened to them carefully and with compassion.
  • Second, as we explore reality together, let Consciousness, as such– the light of awareness –be recognized as the universal horizon of any and all experience.  For in a manner of speaking, Consciousness is the Reason that anything appears at all–the reason there is something instead of (merely) nothing.  Indeed, from another point of view, it can be said that consciousness itself is the no-thing that provides the necessary background upon which every-thing else appears.  For whether we are exploring the natural world or seeking the face of God, we do so in the light of consciousness.  And while there are many who naturally assume that consciousness is the product of material processes, there are many others for whom it poses the hard problem– the Achilles heel, as it were –of any physicalistic approach to philosophy of mind.  But whatever our position in this regard, perhaps we can all agree that consciousness is in some sense the sine qua non of any and all experience.
  • Finally, let the Cosmosthe (the more or less) orderly world of our experience –be thought of as a manifestation (a spatio-temporal reflection or projection) of the aforementioned source or ground (i.e. a phenomenal representation which appears in and by virtue of Consciousness).  We can continue to debate whether this manifestation is more indicative of the structure of the human brain, per chance, or of the mind of God–but either way, it seems to reflect dimensions of reality that lie well beyond the ordinary objects of perception–realities that transcend the context of our immediate, day to day experience.  From one point of view, these outlying dimensions of reality which we see reflected in our more immediate experience seem to have been there all along, just waiting to be understood.   From another point of view, however, they may seem to be hypothetical constructs that are true only for as long (and insofar) as we find them useful.  And from yet another point of view, it is hard to deny that there might also be other dimensions of reality that, while real enough on their own level, are by their very nature forever inaccessible to us.  For (short of omniscience) however deeply we come to understand the causal relationships that obtain within the flow of appearances, it is our natural impulse to retain an ideal of ultimate Truth (however elusive) and to continue to think, as well, of an unknown source, origin, or ground of all appearances (however empty such concepts may ultimately be).  As such, our ideal of God as the ultimate Truth and/or transcendent source for this undivided turning that we call the universe is not easily dismissed (however sophisticated our scientific knowledge–and however absurd the various sectarian notions of God with which we are familiar may, in fact, be).

From this point of departure, then– that of God, Consciousness, & Cosmos –let us explore reality together, becoming more fully aware of the intelligible relationships that obtain at every level of experience.   As we do this, it seems to me that references to God are justified (at least in part) by our persistent ideal of Truth–but also insofar as we distinguish the cause IN appearances (i.e particular causes or or sets of causal relationships that obtain within the world of our experience) from the cause OF appearances (i.e. the mysterious source or ground of existence, as such–including the consciousness in which and by virtue of which the cosmos  appears). [cf. Kant's discussion of the antinomies of reason in his Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic.]  The former– i.e. the causal relationships that obtain within the world of our experience –is the ever expanding domain of science.  In contrast, the latter– the mysterious source or ground of existence, as such –seems always to elude our conceptual grasp and remains strangely unaffected by our rapidly accumulating knowledge of the apparent world.  As such, it is understandable that the skeptic may be inclined to assign to the latter a merely logical and pedagogical function–to think of it as a mere “placeholder” for an inaccessible and ever-receding ideal of human knowledge which nevertheless inspires us and leads us on.  Nonetheless, the skeptical point of view cannot rule out the possibility that this imagined consciousnessfirst cause (as it is sometimes called) is not just an ideal–but that it may also be our final cause, as well; an ideal that is in Truth accessible through some species of spiritual insight, intuition, or realization that is fundamentally  pre-conceptual or supra-conceptual (or nondual ).  And this kind of insight (or intuition or realization), it may be argued, is the domain of faith.

While the domain of faith is often contrasted with the domain of science, it may be that Consciousness holds the key to both domains.  For as we contemplate of the apparent dichotomy between the source or ground of existence and its various manifestations, it seems impossible to place consciousness firmly on one side or the other.  On the one hand, all modifications of our individual states of consciousness (i.e. our “mind”) seem to happen in parallel with corresponding changes in our neurophysiology.  As such, it is not implausible to think of the latter as causing the former.  On the other hand, it seems impossible to imagine how more and more complex combinations of inert “matter” can eventually give rise to “sentience” (and then to “perception” and ultimately to “reason”), so it seems just as plausible– if not more so –to associate consciousness with the unknown source or ground of appearances (rather than attributing it to material processes, per se).  But whatever our take on these things, it would seem that there is plenty of room for humility–plenty of room to find common ground –as we continue to explore reality together.  Questions that remain to be considered are:

1. The positive function of religion and its limitations.

2. The positive function of science and its limitations.

Stay tuned!

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Nothing Lasts Forever

Verses by Rabindranath Tagore — performed by Lisa Bonet — scroll down…

Nothing Lasts Forever
Tagore3No one lives forever.
Keep that in mind, and love.

Our life is not the same old burden;
Our path is not the same long journey.
The flower fades and dies,
We must pause to weave perfection into music
Keep that in mind, and love.

My beloved, in you I find refuge.

Love droops towards its sunset
To be drowned in the golden shadows.
Love must be called from its play
And love must be born again to be free
Keep that in mind, and love.

My beloved, in you I find refuge
Without seeing my love, I cannot sleep

Lisa+Bonet-682x1024Let us hurry to gather our flowers
Before they are plundered by the passing winds.
It quickens our blood and brightens our eyes
To snatch kisses that would vanish
If we delayed.

Our life is eager;
Our desires are keen,
For time rolls by
Keep that in mind, and love.

My beloved, in you I find refuge

Beauty is sweet for a short time,
And then it is gone.
Knowledge is precious
But we will never have time to complete it.
All is done and finished
In eternal heaven,
But our life here is eternally fresh.
Keep that in mind, and love.

~ Rabindranath Tagore

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The Great Awakening

awakeningGrowing up in fundamentalist and evangelical churches in Appalachia during the 1970s, I often heard it said that what we needed was revival.  Moreover, during the course of my studies, I occasionally ran into references to the great awakenings of the 18th and 19th century which helped to set the tone for much that followed in the religious and political life of 20th century America.  Today, however, we often hear that religion is out of style and that church attendance is declining.  Has the Lord abandoned us or have we abandoned the Lord?

Strange as it may sound, it seems increasingly clear to me that neither is the case.  While many forms of religious identity and worship may in fact be collapsing, there is considerable evidence that a new and utterly unexpected awakening is already underway.  Having been exposed to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and others, several years ago– and through my contact, since then, with a wide variety of Facebook friends from around the globe –it has become increasingly evident that people around the world are “waking up” and “seeing” life in an entirely new light.  The Gift of God is received with thanksgiving...While many– perhaps most –of these people would not describe their awakening in explicitly Christian terms, the reality of their awakening and the fruit of the Spirit in their lives is undeniable.  This worldwide phenomenon may be loosely described as “nondual awakening” (aka nondual “awareness” or “seeing”).  The quality of this awakening is such that it seems to bring people from many different religious backgrounds– including many self-described atheists and agnostics –into the calm-unity (pun intended) of the Way, the Truth, and the Life which, together, we recognize and honor.  We honor this Way not as a system of belief or as an object of dogmatic faith, but as the light of the world that we know ourselves TO BEthe ineffable REALITY that I AM.  Indeed, these words of Jesus regarding the proper place and protocols of worship have never been more apt:

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

Like any recognizable cultural phenomena, this “movement”, as such, is subject to the same stupidity, hypocrisy, bickering, and profiteering that all other movements are characterized by.  But make no mistake, all our conflicts– and all the world’s conflicts –notwithstanding, good news is in the air.  Eckhart Tolle describes our situation as follows:

“At the present time, the dysfunction of the old consciousness and the arising of the new are both accelerating. Paradoxically, things are getting worse and better at the same time, although the worse is more apparent because it makes so much noise”  (Stillness Speaks).

Indeed, this arising new consciousness seems to reflect the beginnings of that which was described as a bare possibility by H.G. Wells (writing nearly a century ago) in his Outline of History:

hgwellsBut out of the trouble and tragedy of this present time there may emerge a moral and intellectual revival, a religious revival, of a simplicity and scope to draw together men of alien races and now discrete traditions into one common and sustained way of living for the world’s service. We cannot foretell the scope and power of such a revival; we cannot even produce evidence of its onset. The beginnings of such things are never conspicuous. Great movements of the racial soul come at first like a thief in the night, and then suddenly are discovered to be powerful and world-wide. Religious emotion—stripped of corruptions and freed from its last priestly entanglements—may presently blow, through life again like a great wind, bursting the doors and flinging open the shutters of the individual life, and making many things possible and easy that in these present days of exhaustion seem almost too difficult to desire (“The Next Stage of History”, emphasis added).

No doubt there will be setbacks– many a slip between the cup and the lip, to say the least –but there is no reason to despair.  In the words of William Samuel:

william samuel1During the final days already in progress the dissolution of all that stands between ourselves and a full knowledge of the Truth will come. The Light is already here. New ideas are coming into common focus and old landmarks are being taken away. Cherished notions, oft the pillars of society, are crumbling with the shifting sand they stand on.   Everything that appears to hold mankind in bondage will finally give way. Freedom will out. The New Light is irresistible because it is already the only real fact” (The Awareness of Self-Discovery, emphasis added).

Is this a utopian vision?  Not from where I stand.  The dynamics of duality and suffering– and the necessity of death and resurrection –will remain.  The way of life will always be the way of the cross.  But after a long desert wandering, the promised land seems to be in-sight.  Even so come, Lord Jesus:

The Spirit and the bride say, Come.   And let him that hears say, Come.   And let him that is thirsty come.   And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely  (Revelation 22:17).

–>  Jesus Is Coming Soon (parousia)

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