“God” is a secretion of the human brain, says Michael McGuire and Lionel Tiger.
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In their 2010 book “God’s Brain,” McGuire and Tiger strongly suggest and demonstrate that the concept of God, or a God, is a byproduct of human cerebral secretions. Historically the various divine tenets, revelations, traditions, and expressions of social orders around the world are encapsulated from that specific culture’s or civilization’s perceived, geographical, organizational needs not just for survival, but for their perceived perpetuation, then recorded and implemented in a Code of Principles relevant to their time-period. McGuire and Tiger state there is simply no compelling evidence for any type of cosmic, monistic Being manipulating us and Earth’s events.
Now that Homo sapiens are more evolved, at least intellectually and socially no matter the multitude of progressive and digressing methods, historically speaking have our cerebral secretions of Gods and religions been helpful? On a micro scale Tiger has an intriguing perspective on the question:
I found Tiger’s elaboration of the individual and social functionality of ‘optimism’ or hope — that it seems to be a useful tool for survival and perhaps for thriving throughout life — to be of special interest. Why? Because its use requires no patent or jurisdiction other than culturally, in a specific time-period to a specific locale. How is trust defined by those people and their circumstance? One thing is evident, none of this religious human behavior can be adequately or universally traced to one source.
On a macro scale E.O. Wilson of Harvard University (retired) goes in a different direction. Organized religion has a dark side and ugly track-record.
[Intent of religious deities have]“been perverted many times in the past — used, for example, to argue passionately for colonial conquest, slavery, and genocide. Nor was any great war ever fought without each side thinking its cause transcendentally sacred in some manner or other.”
Hence, this could beg the question: Have we modern humans evolved or should we humans further evolve to a more practical, more progressive new social Code of Principles? What are/would those principles based upon? How many social affiliations should/can a human(s) be involved? Are the affiliations beneficial or detrimental to them and their family? Non-family? Do you already have affiliations and belief-systems that are more highly evolved than others?
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I think whether you agree or disagree with Tiger’s assessments of transcendental beliefs or empirical biological consequences concerning the origin of God and religions, it is paramount to develop and maintain a certain amount of scrutiny, or neutrality, or critical-thinking when considering this source or that source and its mechanisms.
Critical-thinking is not to be confused with agitation, or argumentative, or a personal attack upon someone. Critical-thinking actually helps us acquire more knowledge, expose ignorances, refines our theories, improves collaboration and construction, and strengthens or weakens premises for what they are. I feel one of the most beneficial aspects of applied critical-thinking is that it promotes “thinking outside the box,” a very healthy form of human empowerment and creativity. These two conditions are not achieved to their fullest in a restrictive or constraining closed-system typically preached and protected by religions. They are best achieved in environments of freedom of thought and scrutiny, as well as positive support for a person’s and all person’s natural-born abilities. Agree? Disagree? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
For the last several weeks I have been in a discussion, on various blog-posts and a public forum here in my area about a story, a way of thinking and living. It has been stimulating and enlightening to hear and read various testimonies from others. I want to share a satire of it and get your thoughts.
What if all forms of authority in your life — law-enforcement, government, parents, utility companies, military — told you that you must return to and use 18th, 17th, and 16th century personal, household, and public items and products? You can no longer use modern items in your daily life. No more cell phone, no more automobile or anything other than two-wheeled equipment, no more electricity, no more GPS, no more vaccinations or modern over-the-counter medicine, no more tapes or glues, no more television, no more contraceptives, no more modern kitchen appliances. If you try, you will be imprisoned for a minimum of 20-years; repeat offenders 40-years or suicide. Imagine, seriously imagine having to do this for an indefinite period of time.
How would you like it? Would you welcome the digress or would you complain and rebel? What would be the advantages of returning to a bygone era? What are the disadvantages?
If you are one of the thousands or millions who do not wish to return to a time of no penicillin, no 24-hour deodorant, no contraceptives, or no indoor plumbing, then you would be quite modernistic, quite progressive, to state the obvious. Why choose that if you don’t have to? Remarkably, there are millions of people who willingly elect to return or stay firmly entrenched in an antiquated, flawed life-paradigm no matter its expired ancient condition.
Time, insight, wisdom, and progress never stop. That is a universal law. It is human nature to be curious, to observe and learn, ever evolving sometimes for the worse, but frequently for better. These are empirical, ontological, epistemic truths. Yes, despite humanity’s horrific track-record at times, what is wrong with being an optimist, a realistic optimist? There are those, however, who do not want perpetual improvement. They do not want an unconditional celebration of life, this life right here and now. They teach and preach that this life and our planet is severely defective and irreparable.
Enter the popular, the great Masqueraders of Sanctimonious Rescue!
There is Hebaroo, then Kristop, and last Islahn. All three are brothers, so they claim, but family history has shown constant estrangement and little kindness to each other. All three blame complete strangers and the other two for all the family and world dysfunction. Each claim themself the sole heir of all this life’s riches and the next. It cannot be shared. Period. Would you like to marry one of them? If you do, each of them promise a perpetual state of war! If you don’t marry one, they’ll promise a perpetual state of more war so agonizing you’ll want to kill yourself, your children, and everyone else.
Now, don’t you see from what you/we need rescuing? This is the carnival merry-go-round everyone was born onto and can never escape or stop its endless rotation. Round and round we all go. What a Stephen King nightmare, huh? Do not fret my clever friends, there are MANY ways to completely avoid this carousel, carnival, and its sanctimonious masqueraders and keep your life, joy, peace of mind, and exciting future! (line break)
Unveiling the Masquerade and Carnival
All three temperamental brothers have their gangs, their peeps if you will, and various codes of conduct. Since much of the Western hemisphere is the territory of Kristop I will work on him and his gang-members, though I could address Hebaroo or Islahn as well, but for the sake of your time and mine I want to stick to Kristop for now.
Why Do I Need Rescuing?
In the spirit of this festive tale and Kristos’ mode of operation, you must be married to him as soon as possible. Even if you are 4-years old, do not wait! You must become part of his harem. Staying “single” or unmarried, at four or ninety-four, leaves you at high-risk for all types of tragedy, for emotional, mental, and physical anguish, and because the entire Earth and all its inhabitants — except for Kristopians — are carnivorous and want to devour you whole or slowly in little pieces before invisible King Exedo arrives and finishes you off! Plus, you and all strangers have no will-power, or at least strong enough not to fall under the spell of King Exedo.
One more thing, all human perceived deformities, malignate-terminal diseases, imperfections, or anything bad which is non-human are caused by and are wicked schemes of invisible King Exedo. All of these sad, painful, harmful, life-threatening problems are by King Exedo and any non-Kristopians. They are why we all need the loving rescue and marital brute “protection” of Kristop.
Since humanity’s present condition is so hopeless, so urgent of rectifying, Kristop demands a decision immediately. Why you need his protection is quite simply “membership has its privileges.” There’s a slight trick to this offer, however, in that how this ‘privileged membership’ plays out is about as varied as there are stars in the Cosmos or grains of sand on Earth. This is so for two reasons, two additional characters:
What makes these two characters so indistinguishable is that sometimes they can be one in the same. Other times they are completely different. What is most important though is not that you fully understand Aurae and/or Hermanewt, but that you become intimate with them both no matter what they may or may not represent. To know Aurae is to also know Hermanewt and to grasp and utilize Hermanewt you must first be intimate with Aurae. Once you have mastered these two characters, you are officially a member of Kristopians with privileges. Got it? If not, I will explain all in basic terms later in this excellent Greekish-Latinish medieval genre of storytelling. But we must continue with your/humanity’s dire need for death-insurance.
Protection for My Future?
Despite what hundreds of soothsayers, intuits, or NDS’s (near-death survivors) consistently report, Kristop and Kristopians, Hebaroo and Hebarooans, Islahn and his Muuslinians, and thousands of other gangs… all say ambiguously and unambiguously what destination you and humanity will travel to post-mortem. There is only ONE map to this destination. Kristop and Kristopians say it is their map. Islahn and Muuslinians vehemently argue it is their map! Hebaroo and Hebarooans say no, it’s neither of those maps, it is strictly their map! These three brothers have never gotten along or agreed completely about maps, nor Aurae, Hermanewt, King Exedo, or whose masquerade carnival is most magnificent. No matter, even though there has never been anyone to go to that post-mortem destination and returned to tell about it, you and all of humanity must still have their exclusive (free of charge?) death-insurance protection and password! Got it?
If not, I will explain all in basic terms later.
Failures of Kristop’s Carnival and Masqueraders
Like all demi-god-like human characters, Kristop has a boss, the head-honcho Godhead of the Syndicate, if you will. HHG of the Syn goes by so many different names that no one really knows if the “entity” actually exists. No one can indisputably prove its existence, only orthodoxy, and circumstantial evidence or theories within our three gangs here raise the HHG-Syn’s possibility. For the sake of argument, let’s say Kristop’s boss HHG-Syn does exist. Where is HHG-Syn and how can one perceive HHG-Syn?
possibly King Exedo
Kristop and his code of gang-conduct proposes two means of perception: 1) Woolly disclosure and 2) Exceptional disclosure. Because of these two methods not one single human being past, present, or future could/can/will say they knew nothing of HHG-Syn and the codes of gang-conduct.
Woolly disclosure, according to Kristop and Kristopians, is so obvious to everyone everywhere that if it were a snake, it would leap up and chomp on your nose! It never let’s go either. Honestly, look at all the trees on Earth. Every single tree is exactly identical; they have roots, bark, limbs, and leaves, some even have different color flowers and different shaped leaves. That reflects one HHG-Syn, and one HHG-Syn-Kristop code. That is woolly disclosure! It cannot be mistaken because everyone perceives the same.
Honestly, look at all the fish in the seas and oceans. Every single fish is exactly identical; they have fins, scales, gills, and tails, some even have spots or stripes. See, that reflects one HHG-Syn, and one HHG-Syn-Kristop code. That is woolly disclosure! It cannot be mistaken because everyone perceives the same.
Honestly, look at all the speaking and writing by all humanity, from beginning up to today. Every single oral story, book, language or hieroglyphs, and their plots are exactly identical; they have a table of contents, a prologue, page numbers, chapters, suspense, an epilogue, and a dramatic ending, some even have pictures. See, this too reflects one HHG-Syn, and one HHG-Syn-Kristop code. That is also woolly disclosure! You cannot mistake it because everyone perceives the same thing.
Exceptional disclosure, according to Kristop and Kristopians, is the one and only singular Code of Gang-Conductand later amendments to previous shortcomings. If the previously covered protection-plans and death-insurance policy wasn’t enough to persuade you/humanity, and Woolly disclosure is not pristine to the unambiguous ambiguity of HHG-Syn, then don’t be afraid, one and only one singular, timeless Code of Gang-Conduct (with amendments) has been given to you and all of humanity to aid in rescue! There is absolutely no ambiguity present in the Code of Gang-Conduct (with amendments) if you simply wear Aurae-Hermanewt goggles and headphones, and not ever take them off. Why? Because Hebaroo and Islahn and their gang-members, as well as other total strangers on this utterly doomed King Exedo planet, will lure and transfix your insignificant pervious will-power if you put on non-Kristopian or take-off Kristopian goggles and headphones. Don’t be tricked, don’t be stupid!
Hold on though. There are three basic questions or problems — if you haven’t already realized — with Kristop’s boss and his masquerade-carnival and carousel:
Has HHG-Syn been found and identified? By who or whom?
Has HHG-Syn spoken to everyone an easy auditory message?
Has HHG-Syn given the same identicalwritten message?
On number one above, if HHG-Syn has been found and has been accurately identified, why is there so much disagreement and diversity about the operation and personality of HHG-Syn among Kristopians?
On number two, there was/is no singular verbal Code of Gang-conduct (over many centuries of amendments and revisions) in the past or today. Due to the misgivings and conduct/nature of Aurae, no “easy,” no “singular” message can be heard among all Kristopians. Ask any Kristopian to intimately describe Aurae and how Aurae interrelates within Woolly disclosure and Exceptional disclosure, and you find much diversity and controversy aplenty.
And finally on number three above, there currently exists between 66-books and 81-books in Kristop’s Code of Gang-Conduct. Kristopians argue those differences are minor, but the simple fact is there’s no single number among ALL Kristopians. By definition of the word canon it implies there exists disingenuous or wrong stories and conduct. In a word, imperfection. In another two words, Unexceptional disclosure. This falls inline with Woolly disclosure quite well. Hence, this does not reflect only ONE way. It does not reflect necessarily two disclosures either. And it does not reflect consensus. It reflects many other things.
The Irreconcilability of Monism and Dualism Monism means that there is only oneness or singleness to a concept, life, or existence. Diversity, differences do not exist. Dualism (or binarism) means that opposed forces exist everywhere in thought, life, or existence. In the gangs of Hebaroo, Islahn, and Kristop, this is typically described as Good v. Evil, Male-Female, Mind v. Body, Physical-Metaphysical, and so on. There is nothing outside of this notion or belief, only black or white, no grey, nothing in between. It’s A or B and done.
When one genuinely examines the designs, functions, and endless purposes of all the people, of all the Earth’s organisms and species, and beyond our tiny planet into the endless Cosmos, tell me please, do you find only duplication or bipartisanship, only monism or dualism? If so, show/tell me where and I or another can show/tell you otherwise. Holding stubbornly to monism and/or dualism is like arguing a circle or sphere has corners.
Do Not Get Trapped in Tri-Brotherly Tunnel-Vision!
Unless you were born into and raised inside the Kristop, Hebaroo, or Islahn gang, asking yourself, their gang-members and gang-leaders how does HHG-Syn speak and how can you determine it’s really the one and only HHG-Syn speaking… is an exercise in Ningbo, Zhejiang, China’s Butterfly Maze to reach the prize. Kristopians do not want anyone starting the maze anywhere outside the 33,565 square meter park, you must start inside the maze only and try to find all exits and dead-ends, never venturing outside the borders. What does that mean exactly?
Kristopians and their gang-leaders first make you take an oath, that you accept without hesitation or doubt the reality of King Exedo’s irresistible power and charisma over your brain and body, then pledge your eternal marital allegiance and faithfulness to Kristop — not any other brothers or non-Kristopian gangs — and then finally promise never to stay more than 10-15 minutes in non-Kristopian lands or behaving in non-Kristopian ways. As a result of exemplary allegiance, your basic membership privileges gradually become Gold VIP status and once you pass Go, all fellow members recognize your accomplishments, follow you everywhere, and you collect unimaginable peace, happiness, pleasure, absolute perfection and riches in Caelum as your future promised death-insurance payout! This future promise is null and void if you frequently (or maybe just once or twice) go OUTSIDE the boundaries of the Butterfly Maze. “Frequently” depends on which Kristopian assesses your questionable behavior and what relationship they have with Aurae and Hermanewt.
Not so surprising, there is more than one entrance into and exit out of the brother’s masquerades, carousels, carnivals, and mazes. The only way there could be just one entrance/exit is if you repeatedly tell yourself there is just one. In fact, it is possible/probable that thinking strictly one way is a shrewd King Exedo trick. Don’t get caught in the tunnel-vision trap. It doesn’t really exist except in antiquated folklore and fairy tales from an expired bygone time-period in a tiny far away land from a tiny group of nomads wanting to be identified (way back then) as the only truegame gang in town.
In case you haven’t deciphered the title of this post, it is in Latin, meaning masquerading in the wrong time-period.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
The six of us were all sitting around the kitchen table discussing time-travel and the effects of gravity on time itself. A good friend of the family repeated once again what she had stated earlier, “It is all merely philosophy and theory.” The word speculation would probably have been another word she would have approved and used. My political and respectful(?) response was “But how will we learn and know if we don’t GET OUT THERE and collect the actual data?” She agreed.
You see, our sweet good friend comes from a long maternal ancestral line of Protestant evangelical fundamental Christian indoctrination. She has not known any other lifestyle or worldview her entire life of 32-years. Because of this and also where I currently reside — the Hill Country towns of central Texas and nearer a few of my extended family — I am confronted daily or weekly with this religious mindset and way of life which they automatically assume to be true and right from generations after generations, after generations. I ask… should we not get out there, explore, examine, scrutinize, and always ask the hardest questions in order to arrive at the most plausible truths? I think so.
From 1983 to 2002 “getting out there” was exactly what I set out to do regarding a real God, the Christian bible, then the Hebrew bible, and more recently the Quran. This post and some of my other related blog-posts are what I discovered over those 19-years and counting. This post is another condensed study and research from those years based on 20 scholars listed in this supporting Bibliography Library-Page, as well as my personal experiences with fundamental Christian evangelists, extended family, apologists and one particular Hindi futeboller from Kashmir, India. My purpose for writing another post about biblical fundamentalism, particularly Christian, is simple. Share with the public and anyone interested just how few questions are asked about the roots of earliest Christianity under the contextual dominance of the early through late epochs of the Imperial Roman Empire. It is safe to assume that mainstream Christianity, if not church leadership too, are naïve of their own faith’s history and origins. (line break)
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The Nature of God?
How does a person learn who God is, what She/He/It is like, and how do we know it is truly God and not some imposter or auditory or visual hallucination? This question of course presupposes that a God exists in the first place. Ignoring this a priori step in the process of logic and reasoning would be a serious mistake. However, for the sake of time and subject matter, I will not go into the existence or non-existence of God. For a plethora of reasons much of the world believes God or a Supreme Being exists anyway.
Therefore, assuming a God(s) does exist, how can we know this God? Morgan Freeman’s recent National Geographic mini-series The Story of God was pretty well received by audiences and critics as Freeman and his team traveled the world gathering various cultural perspectives of God. I Google-searched the question “How can we know God?” and it returned these first 10 resources, out of about 483,000,000 results:
“How to Know God Personally —
What does it take to begin a relationship with God? Devote yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Become a better person so that God will accept you?
You may be surprised that none of those things will work. But God has made it very clear in the Bible how we can know Him.
The following principles will explain how you can personally begin a relationship with God, right now, through Jesus Christ…”
(from the Campus Crusade for Christ Internationalwebsite)
From the Joyce Meyer Ministries website “Everyday Answers”…
“There was a time in my life when I struggled with all types of fears and insecurities, constantly worried about the future, my job, my ministry, and my family. Needless to say, I wasn’t really enjoying my life!
However, over time, the Lord helped me to change… and He helped me understand an important key to truly enjoying life. It all begins with what the apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:10… something I believe we should all pray regularly…
“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him…understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly]…” (AMP).”
Answer: Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God; most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4). — by J.I. Packer
(the next 7 paragraphs reference the Christian bible 13-times)
Did you know God wants to show you more of Himself every day? Does your time with the Lord revitalize you, or does it feel more like a ritualistic experience? In Hosea 6:6, God is clear: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
(the next 6 directives reference the Christian bible 3-times)
“What does it take to begin a relationship with God? —
Wait for lightning to strike? Devote yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Become a better person so that God will accept you? NONE of these. God has made it very clear in the Bible how we can know Him. This will explain how you can personally begin a relationship with God, right now…”
(the rest of the page references the Christian bible 16-times)
And jumping to the 10th result on the Harvest Ministries website…
“Know God —
You were created to know God in a personal way—to have a relationship with Him, through His Son, Jesus Christ. How do you start a relationship with God?”
(the following 4 step procedure references the Christian bible in every step)
Noticing the pattern? The bible, the bible, the bible, and repeatedly the bible apparently has all the answers to knowing God. There doesn’t seem to be any tangible physical meeting of God where you actually see God, or hear Her/His/Its voice, you cannot call God up for an interview, nor is there a global standard of where to find God or how to find God’s collective global nature from any of these websites… except, in the Bible.
This has been my own experience when asking faith-followers these questions about God. In other words, the more people asked, there seems to be more than just one simple version of God! Hmmm. Maybe what should be asked is what “version” of God is most popular in the world?
According to www.Adherents.com and other sources, the world’s largest religion by population is Christianity (2.1 billion), followed by Islam (1.5 billion), then the Non-religious or unaffiliated (1.1 billion), Hinduism (900 million), Chinese Traditional (394 million), and Buddhism at 376 million respectively. As a result of popularity then, let’s look more closely at the Christian version of knowing God. How can it be done? (line break)
Throughout the lore and archaeological evidence of humans, when a divine spirit or Supreme Beings disclosed themselves to people, or something about existence, or about the world, in theological terms that is often defined as revelation. Because video and audio technology did not exist 50,000 years ago when forms of verbal human language began, and institutionalized morality only began long after around 10,200 BCE in the Neolithic Period, we cannot know the types of divine revelations that took place. Prior to the start of human writing (cuneiform) 5,000 years ago or around 3,000 BCE, there was still no video or audio technology available to literally record gods or God. Only rituals, song and dance, and oral traditions passed to descendants in various chiefdoms and tribes in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, and Mesopotamia were the way to know about God or gods.
Kesh Temple Hymn tablet
Today, one of the oldest known religious texts is the Kesh Temple Hymn from ancient Sumer which dates to around 2,600 BCE. Yet, other than Sumerian admonishments the hymn offers only glimpses and inference into their gods. The other oldest religious text — the Egyptian Pyramid Texts — was carved into the walls of the pyramids at Saqqarah and date to around ca. 2400–2300 BCE. However, these Egyptian texts do not reveal any specific ways to know the gods other than again by inference.
As a result of very very ancient oral traditions or storytelling, and very ancient cuneiform inferences, both from an area of the ancient world covering over 1.5 million sq. miles, how then do Christians today really know God? Are all of them experts in palaeography and epigraphy and their interpretations? Of course not. Do they speak regularly with those deceased Neolithic Sumerian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian storytellers, or ancient Hebrew, Arabian, or Greek orators? Of course not. It would be wise, therefore, to better understand what exactly it is and why Christians place so much unquestioning faith and belief in 1) a religion based on ancient storytelling, 2) widespread fluid (imprecise) cuneiform art, 3) a couple or three very small Hebrew tribes from the ancient Middle East, and followed by 4) more letters and stories about a man’s life and teachings recorded 60 to 110 years AFTER the actual events occurred in the 2nd century CE.
The Fertile Crescent
Yet, despite this precarious framework of revelation, a great number of evangelical fundamental Christians would disagree with my above assessment. Why? (line break)
They disagree because they and apparently 2.1 billion in the world proclaim that God CAN be known. They disagree because God has made Herself/Himself/Itself available to be communed with through two or more methods. If anyone can list and explain more than these two methods, please feel free to share in the comments below! Nevertheless, take a large enough sample of those 2.1 billion Christ-believers — similar to hearing a complete sentence on the trading-floor of the New York Stock Exchange during heavy screaming — and one can start to narrow the methods down. I will borrow from Theopedia.com to explain…
General Communion/Revelation – “Also known as Universal revelation, general revelation deals with how God can be understood through his creation. More specifically, this can be manifest in physical nature, human nature, and history.“
Special Communion/Revelation – “is distinguished from general revelation in that it is direct revelation from God. Examples include God’s direct speech to various people (e.g., prophets; cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21), the incarnation (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2), and the Bible. Such revelation is sufficient to communicate the gospel, unlike general revelation, and thus salvation is possible only through special revelation.“
Is General Communion/Revelation adequate to authenticate evidence of a God as Christians claim from Romans 1:19-20? The controversy over this religious tenet versus human reasoning (science?) started way before 2nd century CE Christianity and as early as the 7th century BCE in Mesopotamia by Assyrian and Babylonian astronomers.
The lethal controversy was over the purpose or reason for lunar eclipses. The Assyrian-Babylonian priests believed that lunar eclipses were evil omens and vindictive restlessness of the gods directed against their kings. However, due to hundreds of centuries of recorded astronomical data, by the 1st century BCE Babylonian astronomers knew an upcoming lunar eclipse would happen on May 28th, 585 BCE at sunset. In fact, their mathematical calculations were accurate within a couple of minutes! The astronomers had calculated the 18 year and 11.3 day (223 synodic month) interval between lunar eclipses. This suggested that the eclipses had a natural (scientific) cause. If lunar eclipses were predictable, then the Babylonians could appoint a temporary king (likely through coercion) who would accept the horrible wrath of the gods, thus saving the real king from a death-omen.
The most famous controversy of church tenets versus human reasoning and mathematics was between Galileo Galilei (1564-1642 CE) and the second organized Christian church, the Roman Catholic Church. As most already know, Galileo was tried and convicted as a heretic by the church for his correct Heliocentric system of our solar system. It made no difference though, God’s Holy Church and Testaments infallibly ruled. It wasn’t until over 350 years after Galileo’s death that the church addressed their ‘mishap‘:
“… Pope John Paul II gave an address on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he admitted that errors had been made by the theological advisors in the case of Galileo. He declared the Galileo case closed, but he did not admit that the Church was wrong to convict Galileo on a charge of heresy …”
— National Center for Biotechnology Information, October 1992
Therefore, given that the physical world has not and cannot be wholly described at a moment in time as monistic evidence, or substance monism/Neoplatonism, for evidence of God — i.e. one creation by one source during the sixth day of creation while new species are being discovered and others going extinct every decade or century — this leaves us with only Special Communion/Revelation to know God.
As stated by Theopedia and most Christian-believers, Special Communion/Revelation is their firm foundation for knowing and experiencing the Judeo-Christian God. This communion has three components:
Direct speech – through past and present prophets carried by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The Incarnation – through the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Holy Bible – a communal collection of ancient writings breathed by God which comprise the sixty-six books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
For the sake of my reader’s time and mine, I will make brief comments on the first two special-revelation components which I hope will cause anyone to examine or reexamine their dubious implications. Following those comments we will finally delve into the origins and developments of the Christian Bible.
By popular definition prophets hear or sense the voice of God directly then obey. Innumerable documented examples reside both in ancient and modern history. About 1,550 BCE the prophet Joshua was told by God to go conquer the land and people across the Jordan River (Joshua 1:1-6), killing all the men, women, and children (Joshua 6:21). After Jericho was razed, on the further commands of God Joshua then razed the town of Ai, killing 12,000 men and women (Joshua 8:24-28). Genocide is not the only command by God either, mass suicide is also spoken by God to the more faithful zealous followers. At the fortress of Masada in 73 CE led by the apocalyptic prophet Eleazar ben Yair, though details are debateable, 960 Jewish revolutionaries committed suicide/murder for their God rather than endure enslavement by Rome.
Jones (left) and Koresh
In modern history three iconic prophets also followed God’s direct speech for mass suicide of all their most faithful zealous followers. They do not need any elaboration here. They were Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana (Nov. 1978) of 918 followers — nearly 300 were children — Marshall Applewhite in Rancho Santa Fe, CA (March 1997) convincing 39 followers, and David Koresh in Waco, TX (April 1993) leading 85 followers — 22 of them children/teenagers — to their mass suicide/incineration.
In a 2007 co-authored article by Erich Follath (diplomatic journalist), Manfred Müller, Ulrich Schwarz (theologian), and Stefan Simons (Spiegel Online correspondent) entitled “Following Divine Orders“ which focuses on the Age Old irresistible appeal of religiosity for fanatics, or rather those who are not moderate or “luke warm” about their beliefs:
“According to the three Abrahamic faiths, God only revealed the truth about Himself, humankind and the world to their respective religion; it is therefore recorded separately in their holy scriptures: the Hebrew Bible (the Torah, or Old Testament to Christians), the Christian New Testament and the Islamic Koran.
These[bibles]contain countless contradictions. Both the Koran and the Bible’s Old and New Testaments bear witness to a good and merciful God. They urge humans to live in peace and harmony. This is reflected most clearly in the instruction attributed to Jesus in the Hebrew Bible: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.“
But these messages of brotherhood clash with sentiments that condone intolerance and violence: “For I came to set a son against his father, a daughter against her mother …“; “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me“; “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” The prophet Mohammed also delivered harsh threats from Allah: “Fear the fire prepared for the infidels.“
Throughout history, the Abrahamic religions’ claim of absolute authority has exerted an irresistible appeal on fanatics, encouraging them to impose their own faith on nonbelievers and dissidents alike – if need be by using fire and the sword. To this day, nearly all religions supply the kindling that fuels wars and acts of persecution, sparks torture and murder, and inflames ethnic hatred. Examples abound: the bloody wars between Hindus and Muslims in India, or the enmity between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia.
For centuries, it seemed that the Abrahamic religions had come to terms with – and discarded – extremism. In the case of Christianity, this dates back to the Enlightenment, when the symbiosis between church and state collapsed and a new system of ethics emerged – one that was independent of faith in God and derived solely from social consensus.”
Those above examples of ancient and modern direct divine revelation seriously beg the questions What exactly is the Holy Spirit and how is it (a prophet) accurately tested for authenticity?Anyone who wishes to answer these questions, good luck! I do NOT envy you. There are as many various definitions of the Holy Spirit/False Prophet debate by Christians as there are species and sub-species in the animal kingdom! It is truly unimaginable. Suffice it to say here that almost all Christ-believers, scholars and laypersons alike, ultimately and exclusively refer to their Bibles for definitive Holy Spirit or non-Holy Spirit answers. Naturally, that only leads to more questions. Therefore, “direct speech” is not a religious consensus to really knowing God.
Greek soccer fans
It is worth mentioning, the fields of psychology, neurology, and sociology have many theoretical studies associating heightened religious behaviour due to Temporal lobe epilepsy and minor forms of schizophrenia, and sociologists have found that social God-constructs can persuade individuals into states of euphoria because of large numbers of people acting together in a strongly shared belief — crowd psychology or mass hysteria, also known as Mass Psychogenic Disorder/Hysteria. Huge sporting events are good examples of this phenomena. Extreme isolation can have similar effects of hyper-religiosity and paranormal hallucinations, sometimes negative.
In theological terms, this is simply God in and as Jesus Christ; both God and man simultaneously. The first grave problem with this Christian doctrine is that it is based upon only “Christian-biased” historical sources and traditions riddled with inconsistencies. In other words, who and what Jesus of Nazareth was historically between 6-4 BCE and 30-36 CE, the generally agreed upon lifespan, cannot be verified with absolute certainty outside of the Christian Synoptic Gospels. Many Christian apologists vehemently claim that writings by Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and Tacitus are non-Christian evidence for the historicity of Jesus. F. Josephus, however, was not completely unbiased about the new Jesus-Movement called The Way by Judean-Christians; he too was involved in 1st century CE Jewish Messianism as a Pharisee. Pliny and Tacitus were indeed Roman and non-Christian, but their very brief mentions are about Christians as a whole, rather than a biography about a specific person named Jesus.
Therefore, the best that Christian-believers can hope for regarding an actual verifiable incarnation of God through Jesus of Nazareth is by Christian scribes and followers 30-90 years after his death based on oral-storytelling traditions. That is the closest that honest scholarship can provide at this time, and beyond that is a question of individual faith within crowd psychology. This now leaves us only with the Bible… what the doctrines of Direct speech and The Incarnation frequently must reference anyway. (line break)
The Canonical Bible
Many modern Christians are unaware of the origins, early development, and the 2nd and 3rd century CE controversies surrounding the final compilation of their Bibles. Some believers might even think their bible suddenly dropped out of heaven long long ago after God finished writing the 66 books, never thinking to ask “Why just 66 books? Why not 40 or 10 simple books?” And honestly, orthodoxed American society today, including many Christians, know very little of the ancient world of Jesus, the Levant, and the Fertile Crescent.
The birthplace of Jesus was Judea, the Jewish province ruled by Rome. Divided by intense religious factionalism, the people of Judea, as well as Galilee, Idumea, Nabatea, and Perea were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Messiah and God’s salvation. First century CE Romans would have encountered a large mix of traditions and philosophies in this world. The Hebrews had for many centuries suffered foreign invasions and been harshly buffeted by powerful external cultural forces. The most potent of these was Alexander the Great’s Greek civilization supported by several centuries of Hellenistic overlords in Egypt and Syria.
The Jews in these regions were divided over subjects ranging from the legitimacy of the priesthood to the acceptance of certain books into the Hebrew Canon. The Essenes rejected the priesthood entirely. Samaritans formulated their own unique doctrines. Various cadres of Jewish zealots pledged themselves to the expulsion of the Romans. Sadducees made up their prestige with the aristocratic clans making up the priesthood in Jerusalem and exclusive supervision of the Temple. They rejected the books of the Prophets and Writings and also became more ingratiated with Herod and Roman governors who eventually granted them local rule in the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees were more progressive than the Sadducees in that they not only accepted those books, but also believed in angels, demons, resurrection, and — like the Essenes and other groups — passionately in the coming of the Messiah, e.g. the Apostle Paul. The Pharisees also had grown a body of unrecorded commentary on Hebrew Scriptures and rulings by Jewish sages. This was intended to help Jews adapt the ancient Law of Moses to the circumstances of their own time.
Essentially, roots of the Christian New Testament began during this period of great Jewish disunity, alienation, isolation, and confusion before anything Christian was written down. Once Christ-followers began recording an anthology or testaments of Jesus’ parables, prophetic and wisdom teachings, and exhortations — by around 150 CE (over a century after Jesus’ death) — there was no less than 42 testaments or gospels for Christian teachings which were freely circulating as opposed to just 27-books in today’s New Testament. The formulation of the Hebrew Bible, i.e. the Old Testament, went through similar reconfigurations between 500 BCE and 70 CE, i.e. approximately 600 years!
Naturally, all this diversity and variety of who and what the Nazarene was caused more confusing fractures among outlying Christians and Judean-Christians for centuries! It is like trying to answer “What is an American?” today in one single description from 324+ million citizens. To learn more about the various origins of Nazarene-Nasorean-Nasara-Nazirite, go here to my bibliography subpage: The Nasara-Nazirites.
1st & 2nd century Roman Empire
Authoritative or Not Authoritative?
For over three and a half centuries (between 337 and 389 years!) after Jesus’ death, there existed no standardized written collection about Jesus’ ministry or precisely what he did or taught. Everything known about him (and not known) was by word-of-mouth across 2,000 sq. miles. What is more dubious and astounding is that what little there was written down about Jesus’ message was by a foreigner, a Hellenistic Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus who had never once met Jesus in the flesh, in person. No surprise, after Saul’s ‘paranormal conversion‘ to “The Way” on the road to Damascus, he fell into serious conflict with the Council of Jerusalem headed by Jesus’s next-in-line brother James, Peter, Cornelius, and other Judean-Christian leaders who had personally known Jesus quite well compared to Saul. Yet, today Pauline-Christianity (aka Saul) predominates the New Testament, seminaries, and modern churches. James Tabor, professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, writes about this heavy influence from a near total stranger to the Jerusalem leaders… and their and Jesus’ Neo-Jewish teachings. Tabor states:
The fundamental doctrinal tenets of Christianity, namely that Christ is God “born in the flesh,” that his sacrificial death atones for the sins of humankind, and that his resurrection from the dead guarantees eternal life to all who believe, can be traced back to Paul — not to Jesus…
In contrast, the original Christianity before Paul is somewhat difficult to find in the New Testament, since Paul’s 13 letters predominate and Paul heavily influences even our four Gospels. Fortunately, in the letter of James, attributed to the brother of Jesus, as well as in a collection of the sayings of Jesus now embedded in the Gospel of Luke (the source scholars call Q), we can still get a glimpse of the original teachings of Jesus…
With this and other additional alternative extant evidence, one has to ask “What formulawas used some 300-years later to configure and reconfigure the vast oral and written testaments/gospels of Jesus?” Hitherto is a list of the most significant testaments/gospels about Jesus of/the Nazareth/Nazarene out of approx. 130 known writings not present in the New Testament today:
For a more complete list of the many known writings of Jesus and his earliest followers, go to the NNU Wesley Center’s page of Non-Canonical Literature.
Apostolic Fathers and the Canon Formula
Signs that much of these various Jesus-literatures had been accepted as authoritative by church leaders and early Christian congregations as early as the 1st and 2nd centuries CE appear in the letters of the Apostolic Fathers. During these centuries of the new upcoming churches, no official creed or universally accepted liturgy existed. In the following paragraphs, notice the similarities from the first churches to modern-day Christian churches.
The biggest and most heated controversy was a newer version of an old Jewish sectarian problem: Are the Hebrew Laws, Prophets, and Writings above, below, or void in light of Paul’s Hellenistic teachings — deeds or faith? Another ongoing spinoff debate was the Gnostic challenge: There are two dualistic worlds and two Gods, and there was no Incarnation, explained as follows:
The World of Darkness was created by an inferior God, the Hebrew God, and so the Hebrew scriptures were rejected or severely de-emphasized.
Material aspects of this Dark World, including the human body, were burdens that humanity was forced to endure by the Hebrew God.
The World of Light and Knowledge was ruled by a Supreme Being. Salvation was possible only through gnosis of this divine world and the Supreme Being’s mysteries, but salvation was available only to some, not all. Some Gnostics had a three-tiered class system too.
There was No Incarnation because he was not the Son of the inferior Hebrew God, nor did he become a man, suffer human pain, or die on a cross. Resurrection was merely a spiritual linking of the soul with the World of Light and had nothing to do with a human body.
Because Pauline Orthodoxy had the support of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, and their power and influences of those churches and bishops, by the 4th century CE the Gnostics would quickly be labelled heretics and harshly hunted down and most all their holy literature burned. With the four strongest episcopal seesin the Roman Empire, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Hermas, and their colleagues along with their heavy power and influence… the weaker episcopal sees around the Empire and the remaining Jewish-Christians in and around Jerusalem simply could not stand up to the might of Hellenistic Constantinian Rome. (line break)
Victors and Emperors Always Make the “Authoritative” Laws and Histories
Walter Benjamin posited that “History is written by the victors.” Historical records of major social, national, economic, ethnic, or religious upheavals and cleansings bear this philosophy out to some/large degrees. And so with his maternal-influenced-miracle-based sanction of the “official” Christianity, Emperor Constantine not only led the Roman Empire, but was also Head (Pope?) of the Church. He called for unity as a whole within the Church and agreement on its scriptures. Easier said than done inside one of history’s largest empires.
There were no less than seven failed attempts to form an official universal Bible. On the eighth failed attempt by Eusebius of Caesarea at the request of Emperor Constantine, Eusebius’ rejection of the popular Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Matthias; the Acts of Andrew, of Paul and of John; the Shepard of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas; the Didache, 1 and 2Clement; and the Apocalypse of Peter… got his configuration rejected (see Table of Canonical Debate below). His reasons for classifying certain texts as questionable or spurious had revealed the basic formula for inclusion. Probably more important for him was a writing’s perceived apostolic authorship, though its antiquity and orthodoxy were also of significant consequence. Study closely the following table…
Athanasius of Alexandria wrote his Easter letter to the churches and monasteries in his diocese identifying the books they were to include in the testaments. Athanasius was one of the more flamboyant patriarchs. He was exiled from his pentarchy five times leading back to the Council of Nicaea due to his unyielding defense and decisions to compromise with other Roman patriarchs (which at times included Eusebius) over controversial points of Christian doctrine. His canon had been later confirmed by the church in Rome in 405 CE, in 393 at Hippo Regius in North Africa, and in Carthage twice, in 397 and then again after the growing Gnostic churches in 419 CE in reaction to the intensifying debate regarding James, Jude, and Hebrews. The Syrians used the Diatessaron as their canon for another 50-years. The Ethiopian church continues to this day to recognize a book of Clement and several other non-canonical books of liturgy. Though the various pentarchy churches had made ground toward unity, it is important to know they were never in absolute agreement on the New Testament canon and Christian doctrines.
Notice from the above Table how even the seven Patriarchs, who were themselves understudies to the Apostolic Fathers, after 300 years still did NOT completely agree on what God’s Son, the Messiah, and the new and old messages was suppose to mean to all people. Yet Constantine, his bishops, and propraetors had to have orthodoxy — a long standing Greco-Roman political tradition.
It wasn’t until around 400-419 CE and centuries of compromise and more compromise that the final configuration of the Christian New Testament was officially closed — closed by the declaration of the Emperor, put into law, and enforced by the torches and swords of his Roman Legions. For a God who is proclaimed as omnipotent, omniscient, and infallible, and whose traits are “proven” in the special revelations of the Canonical Bible, raises the glaring question:
Why was there three centuries of confusion, fracturing, and compromise among its early most prolific theologians… and even still to this day!?
For Jews and Christians alike, study of the Scriptures has often been an end to itself — a simple act of devotion — rather than an exercise in absolute truth. These peaceful moderates likely realize today that human interpretation, interpolation, and orthodoxy (individual or group) cannot create an inerrant testimony of the nature of a God, nor of the full nature and teachings of a Jew named Jesus based from ancient oral traditions and differing literature spread over multiple centuries… or from differing regional cultures over 2,000 sq. miles. From an early date, believers then also began to scrutinize the Bible for what it had to say to their own generation and community along with their prolific leaders. Exegesis back then was done for purposes of preaching, pastoral care, formulating codes of behavior, and finding answers to theological and ethical questions not explicitly addressed by the texts.
As it happens today, inevitably back in Antiquity, disagreements arose — over importance of texts, their relative authority to the community, how to account for known inconsistencies and contradictions, and how to explain confusing biblical stories. Like our dear family friend in the kitchen at the beginning, both sides of the debates were probably saying to each other, “Your posture is all merely philosophy and theory.” But orthodoxy nonetheless developed, often based on a pseudo-definite set of human-like rules or patterns regarding multiple meanings and levels of meaning. To imagine there to be just one universal way, one universal lifestyle, one universal truth (e.g. John 14:6), one universal orthodoxy extracted from these millenia of “divine revelations” then and now… is not only an attempt to force a square peg into a round hole, but it is a blatant denial and/or ignorance of historical facts, wide-ranging scholarly critical thinking, reasoning, and probability, and/or a lack of deeper persistent curiosity. (line break)
Or it could be only tunnel-vision “faith.” Right? (wink)
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Finally! It’s here. The end. The last part! You are welcome to laugh with me, please. I am. Find a lounge chair, this is the last epic(?) post in persnickety. 😉
A Quick Prologue
I am completely aware that this post is over 11,000 words long. It is extensive to say the least. But I’ve written this much because I feel all the points covered are important, no, critical to drive home just how much day-in and day-out we humans miss so much detail, so much little and large bits of intrigue, mystery, and unrealized joy waiting to be seized and experienced. I encourage you to read the entire post. Read it in portions over two or three days, but please complete the entire post. There is likely something new for you that you had never considered which might catapult your existence into an entirely new dimension.
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Previously in Untapped Worlds – Retooling I closed with two suggestions. The first was to realize what compersion is and is not, and how we should embody its fullest meaning. Embracing a mostexpansive form of compersion is critical. The second suggestion plays off the first. While learning exactly what compersion means, open the flood gates of your lifestyle and deathstyle. Yes, you read correctly. Make your life practically inseparable from death! Sounds spooky and insane doesn’t it? Sounds contradictory doesn’t it? Shush! Hold on…
Put aside tendencies to understand death literally. Put aside for a moment the fear and obscurity civilization’s foreboding institutions have trained your brain to “escape” and disengage death. Now let’s ask the question once again, What does it mean to be more human?
What is personality? How it is formed. Is it set in granite from birth or is it molded throughout stages of life? In my May 2013 post DRD4-7R I shared what geneticists had found as the chemical brain messenger — the 7R variant of DRD4 — linked to curiosity and restlessness found in 20% of the population. This would suggest that a newborn infant comes with a basic blueprint, but one which expands (or retracts) in stages based upon external stimuli or influences, but interpreted by the internal (neurogenetical) reckoning birth-print. Many modern cardiologists and addictionologists would argue not a basic birthprint, but a familial-print or hereditary-print. Religious clergy, rabbis, and imam/ulama most certainly take it much further. They fall on the side of the ‘granite’ birthprint.
The spectrum of personality’s origin and expression probably falls somewhere in between the two extremes of the nomothetic and idiographic schools. Personally, I fall squarely toward the idiographic for two major reasons. One, human conception and gestation lasts only about 9-months. Granted, there is no denying that those genes passed down from approximately 500,000 generations over the last 200,000 years (start of Homo sapiens only), after those 9-months the experiential influences such as culture, social, and situational factors then interact over an average lifespan of 71-years by today’s figures. Two, psychological states such as PTSD clearly and unequivocally reveal just how sweeping an impact external factors effect personality.
As I also covered in Untapped Worlds – An Intro and Departure, the first two parts of the series, the human brain and body are quite malleable by environment and individually reckoned by our neurogenetic familial-print. As science becomes increasingly useful for verifying the Nature of life it shows the human brain and body are less influenced by general or monistic laws of exoteric or esoteric existence. Human personality is significantly formed and moved like a river which to exist requires tributaries, a landscape, a mouth, and its sea or ocean.
James G. Ballard. Abraham Lincoln. Or the some thousands listed in the Fathers Hall of Fame at the National Center for Fathering who did or now live and practice intimate intensive relationships nurturing and expanding their domestic responsibilities. There are a cut of men, fathers, who make great mothers. Many of them are single, waking early to make breakfast, drive their kids to school or extracurricular activities, and then in the late afternoon do the same and get them to bed. Repeat in the morning.
I did all the domestic duties for a year-and-a-half with my two children; one 7-years of age at the time, the other our newborn just home from hospital. Those 18-months were without a doubt the most exhausting and fulfilling times of my life. I will never again take for granted what millions of mothers do day in and day out. They never get near as much acclaim as they should.
A Lost History of the Full Household
How many of you men or fathers have managed a household with multiple children? Can you remember those late late nights and wee-morning hours? Sleep? What sleep.
Managing a romance and a household is really beyond a full-time job. It is your own small business but with your entire life savings, retirement, prospective growth-plan, budget, and all three areas of personal health invested… for better or worse. Talk about walking the edge, the fine line, it’s more than enough to put many a man into panic mode. Dads of the West Congo, called the Aka Pygmies, know exactly what I’m speaking about. The Arapesh of New Guinea also know. In the African Ituri the Mbuti are superb fathers. In Tahiti women can be chiefs of their entire tribe! What we industrialized workaholic Westerners see as primitive, they share all responsibilities of child-rearing and parenting equally; right down the middle. In some cases the fathers happily do more! In these “primitive” cultures, sharing domestic duties are not determined by biology or gender. That is a foreign concept. Their dynamic lives are full of everything humanly possible. Parenting and romance to them are embraced art forms in the same context and pragmatism as their neighboring animal counterparts. Long ago the peoples of the Western hemisphere had the same setups. But three major events changed the family households for centuries to come.
The industrial revolution was the first culprit of the household’s demise. In a mechanized civilization long setup to serve/benefit the males, the Western nations would soon see the wide-ranging consequences of fatherless households. The other contributing events were birth-control and rightly so Feminism. With these three changes came a complete revamping of Western families. But recently slight changes have started a small return to our specie’s natural equal roles. In Sweden fathers get 1-year off for paternity leave, unpaid. Though only around 14% of the leave is actually used, it is a percentage that is slowly growing.
Expanding and returning a man’s domestic roles are required. In those parts of the post-Industrial Revolution world like the U.S., it is more dire given our domestic violence, criminal, divorce, and homeless statistics. Since the early 19th century overhaul of the old traditional households, returning the husband/father back home seems today like an Untapped World.
How many elderly people have you heard reminiscing of lost family dinners and family time together? How many people do you know, myself included, that enjoy and look forward to family meals of an hour or more? What about for family reunions?
In our American culture of convenience, declining motion due to pay-others-to-do-it, and less patience for perceived problems, have we lost the benefits of friction-to-resolution which leads to a growing art of deeper adaptable conversation and understanding? Family conflicts are rarely solved unless people learn to talk WITH one another not at, and investing the necessary time and energy to do so. But how accurate are our great grandparents memories of a family closeness gone by?
Lost family time is probably a figment of the imagination by earlier generations. Before or after the industrial revolution, birth-control, and Feminism three historical barriers kept families detached:
Segregation. From Socratic Greece to Europe’s Black Death and industrialization, to the Nuer of East Africa or the Baikairi of Amazon, one’s age and gender determined what you could or couldn’t do with the men and family.
Silence. Foreign visitors to Elizabethan England, Beatrice Gottlieb writes, were silent occasions. Italian etiquette dictated that ‘talk is not for the table, but for the piazza.’ And the Rule of St. Benedict taught ‘days are to be spent in silent prayer, avoiding evil words and conduct’, and family meals were for listening to Scripture readings in reverence of God, not idle talk. The same reverent silence was found among Quakers and Buddhists of the time.
Emotional repression. By the 18th century the social norm of European conversation was one of intellect and wit turned into an eloquent social art to be displayed. One’s plumes could be presented in such coffeehouses where educated MEN could gather and match their show with colleagues about politics, business, art, literature, and current science. One such example was Turk’s Head Tavern, Soho, where women and children were strictly prohibited.
If 18th century social conversation was about cerebral edification for the men, the 19th century was about hidden emotions scratching, clawing, and pushing out the nails and hinges of their locked basement doors. There is much irony found in the title-given period: the Romantic Movement. Though we find glimmers of primal passion in the poetry of Coleridge and Keats, for example, open displays of affection and emotions by men were reserved for paper only. Expressions of such raw instincts was considered irrational and a lack of masculinity! This was absolutely the case at home during family dinners at the table. All topics and conversation were lead and managed by the man of the house. The childhood and life of John Stuart Mill is a sad ‘family’ testimony of the repressed Victorian Era represented by his father.
Expanding Sympathy into Deep Empathy
Many might feel the Golden Rule catches the essence of empathy: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Though it is a popular notion, it is not concentrated properly. It centers on you — your own experience, your own subjective views — and thus how you feel you should be treated apart from a wider general view or consensus. The Golden Rule falls quite short. Empathy requires much more. It requires putting yourself into their life, their shoes, and metaphorically (or literally?) walking in them 100-miles.
Claiborne Paul Ellis (aka C.P. Ellis) was born into an impoverished North Carolina white family in 1927. His father was a white supremacist and active member of the Ku Klux Klan. C.P. inherited all of his father’s world-views and like Adolf Hitler hated all Jews, C.P. blamed all blacks for his socio-economic and occupational woes, indirectly the birth of his own youngest son born blind and mentally impaired, and finally despised the civil rights movement all throughout the South and his native state. When a $78,000 federal grant was given to North Carolina to aid in public school desegregation, as acting president of Durham County’s KKK chapter C.P. was asked how to spend it. Ironically Ellis was elected a member of that committee along with civil right activist Ann Atwater. What followed is nothing short of spectacular:
Because of a simple 10-days long collaboration at the same table as your “hated enemy”, your entire world-view and life can be overturned and done with the most incredible benefits: spending quality-quantity time with other humans, especially those very different than you, and a lifelong friendship begun. C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater are proof that truer unabridged empathy unites.
Love and Compersion
A historically conservative United States as well as some similar nation-cultures have a general and quite limited notion of love and how it can be more fully received and expressed. The ancient Greeks had no such constraints but one. They recognized at least six varieties of love. Roman Krznaric, an author, cultural philosopher, professor of sociology and politics at Cambridge University and City University, London, and advisor to the United Nations on using empathy and conversation to create social change, describes these six Greek forms of love — notice the difference of Athenian eros versus modern notions of love or romance:
Eros – The first kind of love was eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, and represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. But the Greeks didn’t always think of it as something positive, as we tend to today. In fact, eros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you — an attitude shared by many later spiritual thinkers, such as the Christian writer C.S. Lewis. Eros involved a loss of control that frightened the Greeks. Which is odd, because losing control is precisely what many people now seek in a relationship. Don’t we all hope to fall “madly” in love?
Philia – The second variety of love was philia or friendship, which the Greeks valued far more than the base sexuality of eros. Philia concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield. It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them. (Another kind of philia, sometimes called storge, embodied the love between parents and their children.) We can all ask ourselves how much of this comradely philia love we have in our lives. It’s an important question in an age when we attempt to amass “friends” on Facebook or ‘followers’ on Twitter — achievements that would have hardly impressed the Greeks.
Ludus – This was the Greek’s idea of playful love, which referred to the playful affection between children or young lovers. We’ve all had a taste of it in the flirting and teasing in the early stages of a relationship. But we also live out our ludus when we sit around in a bar bantering and laughing with friends, or when we go out dancing. Dancing with strangers may be the ultimate ludic activity, almost a playful substitute for sex itself. Social norms frown on this kind of adult playful frivolity, but a little more ludus might be just what we need to spice up our love lives.
Agape – The fourth love, and perhaps the most radical, was agape or selfless love. This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word charity. Lewis referred to it as “gift love,” the highest form of Christian love. But it also appears in other religious traditions, such as the idea of mettā or “universal loving kindness” in Theravāda Buddhism. There is growing evidence that agape is in a dangerous decline in many countries. Empathy levels in the U.S. have dropped nearly 50 percent over the past 40 years, with the steepest fall occurring in the past decade. We urgently need to revive our capacity to care about strangers.
Pragma – Another Greek love was pragma or mature love. This was the deep understanding that developed between long-married couples. It was about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, and showing patience and tolerance. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that we expend too much energy on “falling in love” and need to learn more how to “stand in love.” Pragma is precisely about standing in love — making an effort to give love rather than just receive it. With divorce rates currently running at 50 percent, the Greeks would surely think we should bring a serious dose of pragma into our relationships.
Philautia – The final variety of love was philautia or self-love. The clever Greeks realized there were two types. One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed, and focused on gaining personal fame and fortune. A healthier version of philautia enhanced your wider capacity to love. The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others (today this is reflected in the Buddhist-inspired concept of “self-compassion”). Or as Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of man’s feelings for himself.”
And that is compersion.
What struck me the most about the Greek’s emotional diversity was they sought it, embraced it, and refined it in its many forms with a wide-range of people, not just one. They extended it to friends, colleagues, immediate and extended family, spouses, lovers, strangers, and equally to themselves! Krznaric goes on to explain that this approach to human connection would be practically unrecognizable in today’s social circles — or relentlessly chastised for its pluralism and depth. The ancient Greeks would be shocked by our extreme narrow-mindedness and ideals.
Another modern extension of the Greek philia love (or pseudo-storge?) is the little known form of compersion. This love-form also combines possible sexual (eros) and/or emotional joy (philia) discovered outside a traditional binary monogamous commitment, but the compersive joy is experienced by the Giver or the one not literally participating within the outside relationship of their partner/spouse. The Urban Dictionary gives an excellent commentary stating:
“Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of “jealousy;” it is a positive emotional reaction to a loved one’s other relationship. It is analogous to the feeling of joy a parent feels when their children marry or that best friends feel for each other when they are happy in a romantic relationship.”
Personally, I have experienced this form of love numerous times not only with my own children, but with several of my partners and a spouse. The deepest impact it had for me was not just the pleasure and joy I had watching mesmerized by her unfiltered primal passions lost in the moment, but also how profoundly gracious she was for my comfortable willingness to indirectly enjoy it with her. “I have never known” she described “that level, that form of liberation — without any shame or fear — or deeper sharing-companionship with any man!” She fell into the soft couch as if all her breath was taken while melting in pure bliss and awe how much I loved seeing her so happy. This deeper love was ‘returned’ to me several times as well, and she raved about how pleasurable it was for her. That wasn’t all either. We both learned other aspects of each other we may have NEVER discovered on our own, together as a closed-off couple. What followed for us was the strongest trust and bond either had ever experienced. Gone was one social-romantic stigma neither of us had to fear anymore.
Yes indeed, a fictitous dragon was slain. A previously unchartered Untapped World now tapped.
Living vs. Alive
Should an extraterrestrial scientist decide to study the human species and our daily routines, it would quickly realize that a few similar mechanized devices were the cornerstone of our organization. Case and point, the Lilliputians examining Gulliver:
“Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was at the end of that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by the lucid substance. He put this engine into our ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said, it pointed out the time for every action of his life.” — Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
We are indeed slaves to insufficient time! Our clocks, watches, cell phones, are all idols of religious worship or talismans to scare away Chronos and all his hungry minions! Working mothers in the West are perhaps the epitome of daily famines of time. Can you blame them as the father’s are away obsessing of gaining “more”? Time has become tyrannical in the U.S. and losing to it is a most sensitive and shaming fear.
You may be surprised how time lives in your language. ‘Time is money. Give me a moment of your time. Living on borrowed time. My time is my own. Take time off. It’s time to move on. What time is it? How much time do you need?’ Time has become a commodity; something to barter with to own or give. How ridiculously ego-centric to think we have ANY sort of time-management control over a cosmological force which is completely immune to our petty desires.
In western Texas near the town of Van Horn, writer Stewart Brand and musician Brian Eno founded The Long Now Foundation. They are two of many behind the constructions of prototype clocks and the final 10,000-year clock in Ely, Nevada. The concept and proposed paradigm shift offers “In a world of hurry,” explains Brand, “the Clock is a patience machine.” Its long slow bongs ring out only once every thousand years.
Since the Industrial Revolution humankind has been appallingly obsessed with minutes and seconds, the hear-and-now, and ‘Friday evening can’t arrive soon enough!’ The Long Now Foundation and Clock encourages our caffeinated species to bring it down several notches, to thinking bigger and broader in much longer terms, thus being more responsible and implementing an attitude against our environmental ravaging.
Put on a 10,000-year watch and think about the next time its chime resounds from your wrist. What will your home look like then? Hmm, another Untapped Worldtimeframe to explore! Are you simply living day-to-day, week-to-week or are you alive inside these 1,000 years? Both worlds are completely compatible.
If you had been born in the Dark or Middle Ages, in all likelihood you would not have been a noble prince, princess, a knight with full armour with Clydesdale underneath, or a Lady-in-waiting. Despite our civil-social evolutions into the modern era from fate and family necessity to freedom and choice with our labors and spouses, there are still obstacles for some who do not enjoy a robust life in the 21st century.
In today’s labor markets it can often feel as if your duties and performance merely contribute toward the success, status, and wealth of a few owners, shareholders, or top executives. In most free-world economies this isn’t far from the truth. Losing one’s sense of purpose, much less finding one, has some devastating effects. How might purpose be protected and cultivated? How might losing it or neglecting it be avoided? Here are four ideas…
Value – Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Schweitzer understood exactly what that meant. After gaining many accolades in philosophy, theology, and music, Schweitzer’s life and social status were set and waiting. Instead of a life of comfort, luxury, and popularity, at the age of 38 he founded a hospital in French Equatorial Africa. He died there doing what he loved best: attending to other’s needs. “Even if it is a little thing,” he said, “do something for those who have need of man’s help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.” In medieval times or centuries after, doing such things would have required your holiest vows to make such work and values coincide. Not today.
Calling – While in the Nazi camps Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau between 1942 and 1945, Viktor Frankl learns firsthand the meaning of life. He notes that between prisoners with a vigorous nature for the present do not survive as well as those less hardy but with an unfinished calling beyond the walled fences of barbed wire. On one such prisoner he wrote was an accomplished scientist who had not yet completed writing a series of books before the war started and his arrest. This author/scientist realized no one else could finish his work and write it correctly — he had to stay alive. He knew his calling and it was not dying in the concentration camps.
Respect – if there is anything in today’s rat-race that rivals wealth/money, it is surely recognition. Simply watch a live news interview, TV sporting events, or a tourist recording a trip to a landmark, and you’ll witness the popular act of “bomber-invasion” from random strangers wanting to be seen. It seems to be human nature to achieve some level of status, good or bad in some cases. Deeper respect and admiration are found through meaningful thriving human relationships. They are not found in corporate cubicles or on a factory-line as a cog-in-the-wheel where no human interaction exists. And real respect is rarely found within the mega-efficient lean-staffed corporations of 500-800+ employees spread out over 20-acres, or many sky-high floors, or regional-global offices unless the owner(s) strive and spend their “pocket-change” to make those intimate employee off-the-clock activities between coworkers and supervisors happen on a regular basis.
Talents – What does it mean to be a High-achiever rather than a Wide-achiever? One is extremely specialized and educated in one or two specific areas. The other is a craftsperson, a jack-of-all-trades capable of beginning a project, completing every phase, and finishing it all with little or no outside assistance. Diversity, or what financial investors term spreading out your risks or hedging your bets. From the 2014 film Interstellar, a 2-minute clip about the need for a diversity of talents:
Become a virtuoso like Leonardo De Vinci was of many fields transferring your natural and learned talents across a labors of love spectrum. Be a generalist happy to learn more in order to do more for others.
Job with Spirit – Everyone has a spirit, a youthful zeal just waiting to come out and play or work. But due to social occupational fears and low self-confidence, that enthusiasm rarely gets released, at least in public and at work. Why? Why must your spirit be left at home or for private enjoyment only? The days of feudalism and medieval strictures are long gone! Overcome those fears. Gain more self-confidence. Start or expand a new Renaissance! “Fear stifles, courage fulfills.” Tap into your youthful creative energy, that Wide-achiever and simply smile at naysayers as you pass them by. In fact, invite them to come along!
Our Natural World
In the first two parts of this series we explored how our brain imperfectly perceives our surroundings and others. Though our many senses — the organisms that feed our cerebral organ for interpretation and organizing — accurately pick up the details around us, but unfortunately the brain can create in various degrees a distorted reality. This happens more often than not.
The Myth of Five
To say our bodies have five senses does not do justice to how incredibly complex our body’s sensors really are and how ‘sensitive’ they should be in picking up information. Though neuroscience is still in its adolescence, many neuroscientists assert there are at least 12-14 different sensors and possibly up to twenty. A quick rundown:
Light sensors in the eyes; 2 types: rods and cones for intensity of light stimuli.
Sound sensors in the inner ear.
Orientation-Gravity sensors for your sense of balance.
Nerve sensors in your skin: heat, cold, pain, itch and pressure.
Chemical sensors in the nose for different odours.
Chemical receptors in the tongue for taste.
Muscle & Joint sensors telling the brain about motion and muscle tension.
Bladder, Intestinal & Colon sensors to inform the brain it is time to urinate, when you’re full, and when to excrete.
Hunger & Thirst sensors indicating those needs.
Various body sensations tell the brain when one of your legs have fallen asleep — a lack of proper blood circulation, for example. When your about to sneeze is another.
There are many people which have extra-sensory perceptions like sensing approaching weather changes, or psychic abilities such as clairvoyance, mediumship, precognition, or remote viewing that many law-enforcement increasingly use to solve otherwise unsolvable cases.
“Failing to nurture our senses not only detracts from our appreciation of the subtleties and beauties of everyday experience, but also strips away layers of meaning from our lives. Yet curing ourselves of sensory deprivation is not, as you might expect, about indulging in luxuries like dining on truffles or locking ourselves in a dark room and listening to a Beethoven symphony at full volume, exhilarating though this may be. It is much more about gaining a deeper understanding of how our various senses have come to shape, filter and even distort our interactions with the world — and also how culture has moulded our sensory experiences.” — How Should We Live?, Roman Krznaric.
Becoming more acutely aware of these additional sensory systems is the start to a more enhanced human experience. Yoga or juggling on one leg can refine the equilibrioceptors. Having someone pinch you, bind you, or spank you can refine the nociceptors. Varying temperatures like a cool bath/pool followed by a hot tub then repeat, refines the thermoceptors. Closing the eyes or being blindfolded while moving refines the proprioceptors. Embracing and expanding ALL of the human senses only widens and deepens one’s awareness and full interaction with this spectacular world! Tap deeper into it.
Over the last 5-6 centuries the visual cortex has become the dominant and largest sensory bank in our brains. “We have fallen into a sensory decline” says author and cultural historian of the senses Constance Classen. And it might be worse than imagined.
Everywhere around us is non-stop visual bombardment. Mass advertising relies heavily on imagery — television, billboards becoming increasingly eye-catching and illuminated at night, websites are packed with pics and motion — more than any other medium. And our cell phones? Almost all iPhones and Androids are graphically interactive. In supermarkets produce is a kaleidoscope of vivid colors (genetically?) designed to please the eyes. Wealth and status are paraded by glitzy high-end vehicles, lavish large homes, and landscaping rivaling the Château Versailles. We often judge people by their appearance, facial features, the shape of their body, or the clothes they wear. As the popular diction goes ‘love at first sight’ represents how our English language is pervaded by visual idioms. How often do you hear ‘love at first sniff’ or ‘love at first honk/blast’? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, look before you leap, a sight for sore eyes, and seeing is believing are all common jargon. Vacations today are incomplete without an album of photos or phone video-clips. We now swim in a world largely governed by surface appearances.
What happened to the nose and ears? How can we return them to their natural equality with the eyes? One quick easy way is to close our eyes…more! Keep them closed for extended periods of time. Doing this on a consistent basis forces us to heighten the ears, tongue, nose, and other sensors and receptors. Return to the days of the 14th and 15th centuries when spices, perfumes and pomanders prevailed every day. Sitting in an arboretum or botanical garden, eyes closed, and breath long breaths picking out all possible aromas. If it is outdoors and secluded from noisy traffic and commotion, listen for every tiny insect or bird that sings. If you must, blindfold yourself or your companion to really absorb everything around you which isn’t visual. Do it for much more than 10 or 15 minutes; more like a half-hour or hour to genuinely tap into a world we too often ignore, take for granted, and eventually lose.
The remarkable, mysterious, and later refuted tale of Kaspar Hauser, the imprisoned German boy deprived of any light in a dark 2-meter by 1-meter cell most his childhood, and the narrative of Helen Keller — blind and deaf her entire life since almost 2-years old — can both teach us about how acutely compensating the other human senses develop when one is denied or deprived of sight or sound.
In a post several months ago I shared the rising popularity of new restaurants serving in complete darkness. Here are Restaurant.com’stop 10 establishments for pitch black dining enhancing the body’s other multiple sensory receptors! Tap into their little world of alternate sensor-ramas! If you don’t live near these major cities, check for local or nearby 3-star (or higher) restaurants that might host the event once or twice a year.
Travel & Cultures
When you leave home for a long week or extended vacation, do you go looking to deepen your soul or suntan and gift baskets? The Roman poet Horace warns against merely getting from point A to B: “They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea.” Visiting strange lands and its inhabitants should be the fullest experience possible, not just tolerated until B then back again to A. What are four methods of being a cultured traveler?
Prior to the mid-19th century very few people had the means or luxury to travel beyond their region, much less their country or crossing oceans to far away continents. Tourism didn’t explode into a thriving market until the last third of the 19th century as the middle class began earning enough money for railway passenger trains and ocean liners. As this market began entrepreneurs like Karl Baedeker and Thomas Cook (of Thomas Cook & Son) stepped in to capitalize but with very contrasting ideas of travel. The former published step-by-step sequentially numbered tour guidebooks of exactly what to visit at what precise time. The latter, however, organized packaged trips to find literal sojourns to God with the assistance of pious ministers, pseudo-sabbaticals if you will.
Packaged tourism today with a tour guide isn’t much different. Visiting famous landmarks, museums, festivals, beachfront resorts, or hotels in mountain tops, are quite popular vacations. When you travel though what do you do? Follow an airtight itinerary by guidebook or tour group, or do you discover the human landscape, the human story behind and within the landmarks, museums, and inanimate objects in your camera?
There are living monuments not only in foreign lands, but just as well in your own backyard and hometown! Grand hotels should have as a standard feature open nurseries and playground where children of guests interact with native children while parents converse sharing family and cultural stories at nearby benches and tables. In Denmark and followed later in the U.K. social activists came up with an ingenious project in 2000 called Human Libraries where actual people share a story of their life from personal experience to a guest/visitor. The guest then interacts with the storyteller breaking down prejudices and other barriers that typically divide, cause unfounded fears, and subsequent fabricated contempt. Tap into the experience of being a living library for visitors.
Pilgrims are perhaps the original traveler. The word travel is derived from “travail” which means to suffer or toil without much relief, conveniences or luxury. Matsuo Bashō and Satish Kumar are two perfect examples of pilgrimages. Both men set out on walking journeys without consideration of provisions, possible relief, or shelter. They began with just three destinations: deep significant self-meaning, very challenging, and cultivate the Wander spirit. In other words, find the roots of yourself as well as the journey’s and destination’s. Find the tiniest details of life and the world around you which are too often lost in convenient rapid travel. Have no strict dates or times. And do not obsess about arrival; find the art of living, not motion! Tap into the world of a pilgrimage.
When you think of nomads how would you describe them? One popular image are the Bedouins of the Syrian and Arabian deserts prior to the 20th century. They were known to be traveling camel and goat herders across vast regions of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to the Middle East covering 21 various countries. In today’s highly urbanized and flourishing societies, these nomadic cultures are slowly being swallowed up by encroaching civilization. How then might we experience in the 21st century what is meant by gypsy or nomadic living according to necessity like the Bedouins? What might be the closest thing to Bedouin life?
It isn’t RV’ing like many retirees do trekking across the continent from national park to national park with all the amenities of a fully furnished 45-foot or larger $200,000 Class A motorhome. It isn’t even staying in a luxurious 3-room log-cabin with massive kitchen and hot-tub/sauna. No, the closest thing today to gypsy nomadic life is basic camping. In other words, throwing a light tent onto your large backpack and hiking to isolated locations camping for a week or two with friends or your tribe; living IN and with the land without your iPod, hairdryer, and television. All you need are what nomads and gypsies had over 100-years ago: some food, matches or fire-starter kit, a knife, and wet-weather gear. Everything else you might need find in or on the land. At night, have your fire going and gaze above, listen to every single sound, and smell the Earth around you — and perhaps your fellow hikers too (wink). Simplicity is the essence of the gypsy-nomadic experience. Tap into the simple world of basic camping.
As a young boy I was spellbound by the stories and travels of the 13th century Venetian explorer Marco Polo along with his father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo. The vivid details of all their stops and their encounters with diverse peoples and cultures utterly captivated my imagination. The Travels of Marco Polo was not like the other romanticized tales of Columbus, Magellan, or Drake that we learned in school. It didn’t take too much reasoning to realize that most of the textbook stories of the Age of Exploration and Colonialization were simply about exploitation laced with racism. None of the 15th to 18th century world Empires had the least bit interest in being taught or enlightened. Neither should our modern desires to explore reflect the Age of Exploitation.
Instead, modern exploration should be derailing ourselves from local daily routine. This can be just as easily accomplished in a 10-mile radius as it can transcontinentally. The power of existential exploration — going without a specific destination — is a strange mix of certainty and uncertainty. Going but not knowing where. You feel compelled to leave the past (and its knowledge) behind, but in not knowing the destination you remain open to embrace other ways of living, thinking, and interacting beyond anything you could’ve possibly imagined. Ask yourself, how many world cultures have you experienced firsthand? Did you know that according to UNESCO World Heritage List there are over 800 cultural sites/regions around the world? Forty-eight of them are endangered of becoming extinct.
Jump off the ordinary vacation of “time off” and sit or walk firmly with time on travels tapping into the world and journey of the intrinsic and extrinsic explorer!
In the January 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine journalist Florence Williams wrote her article This Is Your Brain on Nature. The magazine issue and Williams’ article complimented the Jan. 10th Explorer television episode Call Of the Wild on the NatGeo Channel.
“Nature nurtures us. It boosts our mood too. According to the attention restoration theory, spending time in nature relieves the stress and mental fatigue caused by the ‘directed attention’ that work and city life require.
Directed Attention is the ability to voluntarily focus attention and ignore distractions crucial to solving problems and completing tasks. But modern life sometimes requires more of this resource than we have — and once it’s depleted, prolonged and concentrated effort leads to mental fatigue, loss of effectiveness, and stress.
Involuntary Attention is attending to the stimuli in peaceful, natural environments — trees, flowing water, mountain shadows — is a different type of experience. It doesn’t require a prolonged effort or an act of will to avoid distractions. Researchers say this kind of focus allows the brain to disengage and restore its capacity for directed attention.”
Williams continues stating that nature improves human creativity by up to 50% and every walk through a park and forest decreases stress hormones by as much as 16%. What does this tell us about too much hectic civilization? After all, aren’t we humans part of Nature since that is exactly where we originated? Is it any wonder that research studies are finding that human mortality rates are indirectly connected to an area’s forestation or trees? Millions of years ago they were literally our homes.
“In a ‘forest kindergarten’ in Langnau am Albis, a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland, children spend most of the school day in the woods, regardless of weather. They learn whittling, fire starting, and denbuilding; they’re able to explore. Supporters say such schools foster self-confidence and an independent spirit.”
Sounds very much like another school in England founded by A.S. Neill doesn’t it?
How should we view Nature today? Is it friend or foe? It wasn’t so long ago that humankind decidedly viewed it as foe. Throughout the Middle Ages, particularly in Northern Europe, the outside world was seen as owned by Darkness, very feared, and home to all sorts of hungry wild beasts, evil spirits, ogres and trolls. In Anglo-Saxon folklore like Beowulf, nature clearly was menacing and completely opposed to human happiness. J.R.R. Tolkien picked up that legacy in the 20th century with stories of hobbits being petrified if passing through the haunted Fangorn Forest or eery Mirkwood. Our words savage and panic are derived from these ancient and Medieval imagery: savage is from silva, meaning a wood; panic comes from the Greeks’ fear of encountering Pan, the half-man, half-goat Lord of the forests. When William Bradford — a conservative Separatist from Plymouth, England and the Church of England — first landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1620 he described his impressions of the scene as a “hideous and desolate wilderness.” In many parts of 17th century Europe mountains were criticized as deformities, warts, boils and monstrous excrescences, likely due to the harshness to cultivate. It wasn’t until the Romantic Movement that this view of nature significantly changed and it became no longer foe, but friend. And more than just friend.
Our Biosphere, Biodiversity, and Biophilia and the Ecological Self In the previous Untapped Worlds I introduced Harvard sociobiologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson. I was particularly intrigued by his definition of eusociality. But the social human side of Nature is only part of the story.
For more than 3-million years we have lived and survived in an intricately connected environment. Tibetan Sherpas and Buddhist lamas say that we and all living things on this planet are always touching like smoke reaches everywhere in the wind. They would be absolutely correct. Every second of our lives we touch unseen elements and forces like the air we breath, the sound waves to our eardrums, and the traveling light-photons our retinas pick up. We are therefore very vital, integral, active parts of our biosphere. Whether we grasp this reality or not, we are effecting Nature even when we are not literally out in Nature. At any given time every single day we directly and indirectly influence our lithosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Think about that impact for a moment. If you think your wood and brick home is ‘your home,’ think again.
Biodiversity isn’t just the categorization of living species on Earth. We must distinguish between genetic biodiversity and ecological biodiversity:
“Genetic Biodiversity is the variation in genes that exists within a species. A helpful way to understand genetic diversity is to think about dogs. All dogs are part of the same species, but their genes can dictate whether they are Chihuahua or a Great Dane. There can be a lot of variation in genes – just think about all the colors, sizes, and shapes that make up the genetic diversity of dogs.
Ecological Biodiversity is the diversity of ecosystems, natural communities and habitats. In essence, it’s the variety of ways that species interact with each other and their environment. The forests of Maine differ from the forests of Colorado by the types of species found in both ecosystems, as well as the temperature and rainfall. These two seemingly similar ecosystems have a lot of differences that make them both special.”
How important are every single genetic and ecological systems we live within? For starters the National Wildlife Federation lists these six reasons:
Foods and materials to live healthy and happy. Without the diversity of pollinators, plants, and soils, our supermarkets would have a lot less produce.
Medicinal uses. Research into plant and animal genetics and biology have allowed humans to live extended lives and cure diseases. Every time a species goes extinct our genetic diversity is lost, we will never know whether research would have given us a new vaccine or drug.
Ecological services. Biodiversity enables the cleaning of water and absorbing of chemicals, which wetlands do, to providing oxygen for us to breathe — one of the many things that plants do for everyone.
Ecosystem rebalancing. If given enough time, adjusting to eco-disturbances allows for ecosystems to adjust to interferences like extreme fires and floods. If a reptile species goes extinct, a forest with 20 other reptiles is likely to adapt better than another forest with only one reptile.
With genetic diversity disease prevention is more successful. This allows species to adjust to changes in their environment.
Sheer wonderment and intrigue. There are few things as beautiful and inspiring as the vast diversity of life — between 3-30 million species, possibly over 100-million — that exists on Earth. And that diversity is constantly changing.
Biophilic office space
Biophilia is a term and concept that E.O. Wilson popularized in the 1980’s. Earlier I was mentioning a few facts about how much Nature reduces stress hormones and significantly increases human creativity. Because we humans inherently enjoy the diversity of natural life, this is called biophilia. If we as a species do not become much more aware, educated, and a responsible part of Nature’s delicate interacting systems, we will permanently cut our and our descendant’s virtual umbilical cord to life. Period. It is (way?) past due that everyone become a scientist, a member of the Biophilia Foundation, a Naturalist that cares deeply about a quality life today and for our children, grandchildren, and the human species.
The real possibility that Nature could end should move us away from a high-carbon consumerist ethos and closer to a sustainable intimate ecological relationship with our fragile world. Tap into the many varieties of a low-carbon lifestyle and become a Conservationist rather than a programmed Consumerist.
Conventions and Baggage
In the scientific world, especially Quantum Physics, it is often said that the only thing that is permanent is impermanence. Fighting or denying this law is futile. Embracing it and working within it brings liberation and contentment. Progress is achieved by movement. Stagnation is achieved by an accumulation of heavy baggage. History has repeatedly shown that breaking away from antiquated socio-economic and religious norms begins small until it grows into an inevitable movement with sweeping change and enlightenment. But the overhaul and liberation cannot start without a few courageous movers and shakers; the “radicals” if you will.
What You Trust
When you purchase a computer or laptop, it typically comes preloaded with the newest MS Windows operating system, all the many drivers to run various external devices, programs to do office work, Norton or McAfee protection, perhaps Netflix for movies and TV shows, and also personal duties like online banking, perhaps home security and monitoring, and a few games that you and the family enjoy. Basically the computer/laptop is setup to hit the ground running moments after booting up. Seconds after birth the human brain is not setup to immediately perform adult tasks; not in the least.
The human operating system, the brain and neurology, are gradually programmed in through our 10-14 receptors over the span of about two decades. This is not to say that we are prenatally blank. We do receive a very basic genetic coding, a few simple sequences of 1’s and 0’s if you will, that give our bodies the necessary information to stay alive — or attempt to — with the mandatory help of our mother and (perhaps?) father.
The implications of these pre-natal facts are probably far more reaching than one realizes. It means that during those first years we learn an emotional risk-reward protocol; this behavior results in that reward or consequence. In the latter portion of those two decades based upon our parental, familial, and community, we develop the core of our beliefs on religion, nationalism — perhaps monarchy in certain countries — our young opinions, politics, various mechanisms of emotional relationships, and depending completely on our birthplace and the influences during the first two decades we develop how we “fit in” this world. Much of what we think are truths are simply shaped by our first 10-20 years.
To say it more poignantly, religious, political, and social beliefs are largely an accident of birth, geography, and history. There are degrees of “truth” scattered throughout those three accidents.
Facts and Impermanence
All throughout recorded history there have been monumental events or discoveries that forever change human civilization. For at least 100,000 years or more humans assumed that walking or running were the only means of transportation over distances. That truth was overturned around 3,500 BCE with the domestication of the horse. For about 4,500 years humans assumed precious metals or merchandise were the only forms of commercial trading until China began using paper currency in the 7th century CE. For some 50,000 years or more humans assumed the world and their entire existence entailed only what they could see with the naked eye, until the 13th century CE when magnifying lenses were invented. For approximately 4,500 years humans assumed there were only two methods of higher learning: verbal stories, pictographs, or from slow scribed papyrus that only ‘divine’ authors could record from the god(s). That truth was overturned by the invention of the printing press in the 15th century CE. For probably at least 5 or 6,000 years humans assumed that diseases, ailments, and physical malformities were from angry god(s) until the 19th and 20th centuries when antibiotics were introduced, followed by a growing plethora of other medical cures and treatments today.
I will not go into how monumental Galileo Galili’s confirmation of Copernicus’s heliocentric theorem was to humankind. It literally changed everything European and Near Eastern religious and political leaders had believed and taught their subjects and all the masses for almost three millenia. John Maynard Keynes is perhaps one apropos example of just how profound impermanence molds human facts or truths. During the Great Depression, Keynes shifted his position and monetary policy more than once and came under heavy criticism by other fellow economists. His response was “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?” How often do we scrutinize our own beliefs, let alone change them, as so many forces, factors, and limitless diversity exists, moves, and evolves into newer forms? Often facts and truths are a matter of human perception, not necessarily universal permanence.
Beliefs vs. Practice
How much are your beliefs and practicing those beliefs worth to you? Can you put a price on them? Henry David Thoreau said “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” When you consider all the various definitions of what life is I believe Mr. Thoreau was spot on. What is most valuable to you in life? Why do people hold certain beliefs? The majority of the human race believe in a Divine Being or God. Why? Regional Director for the Council for Secular Humanism and a former Publicity Coordinator for the Campus Free-thought Alliance, Austin Cline lists seven reasons from his research:
Indoctrination — The high and consistent degree of religious concentrations suggests that people believe their religion because that’s the one they were indoctrinated into and which is consistently reinforced around them. People acquire a religion before critical thinking skills and that religion is promoted without most people noticing.
Indoctrination into Anti-Athiest Bigotry — questioning or going against social norms can be very risky; e.g. being a Zionist Jew inside Syria. Children learn in public schools that America is a nation for people who believe in God and this message is reinforced throughout their lives by preachers, politicians, and community leaders of all sorts. This leads to number 3…
Peer and Family Pressure — People who step outside [social] expectations are not simply choosing a different way of life, but can in fact be perceived as rejecting one of the most important bonds which keep a family or community together. Even if this is never communicated in so many words, people do learn that certain ideas, ideologies, and practices should be treated as vital to communal bonds and should therefore not be questioned. The role of peer pressure and familial pressure in maintaining at least a veneer of religiosity for many people cannot be denied.
Fear of Death — This is self-generated hope out of fear of what will happen after dying — either going to hell or simply ceasing to exist. People don’t want to think that [the possibility of] physical death is the end of all experiences, emotions, and thoughts so they insist on believing that somehow their “mind” will continue to exist without any physical brain in an eternity of sustained bliss — or even will be reincarnated in a new form.
Wishful Thinking — Many Christians seem to wish quite strongly that there exists a place of eternal punishment awaiting all those who dare to deny them political and cultural dominion in America. Many conservative believers from many religions seem to wish that there is a god which wants them to exercise unchecked power over women and minorities.
Fear of Freedom and Responsibility — I personally find this reason very telling. It promotes lack of ownership. [Believers] don’t have to be responsible for ensuring that justice is done because God will provide that. They don’t have to be responsible for solving environmental problems because God will do that. They don’t have to be responsible for developing strong moral rules because God has done that. They don’t have to be responsible for developing sound arguments in defense of their positions because God has done that. Believers deny their own freedom because freedom means responsibility and responsibility means that if we fail, no one will rescue us.
Lack of Basic Skills in Logic and Reasoning — Most people don’t learn nearly as much about logic, reason, and constructing sound arguments as they should. Given how important believers claim the existence of their god and truth of their religion are, you’d think that they would invest a lot of effort into constructing the best possible arguments and finding the best possible evidence. Instead, they invest a lot of effort into constructing circular rationalizations and finding anything that sounds even remotely plausible.
It has been my personal experience living most of my life in the Deep South (Texas is on the fringe of the Bible Belt) that the most common foundation for fundamental beliefs once a person reaches their 20’s and 30’s is a question of convenience really. What do I stand to lose or gain with these beliefs? What is worth dying for or spending years in prison? What is my personal integrity worth? How would this belief-system benefit me? In my opinion, those are the more pragmatic questions the majority of adults ask about religions and not anything concerning a consensus of truth or what extensive scrutiny reveals.
Transcendence Things are very often bigger than ourselves. We cannot possibly understand all extenuating factors that contribute to human behavior. Though the weight of peer pressure, governments, family, social trends, money, or global dynamics can push us to apathy, paralysis, or disillusionment, we must find ways to take the higher road. A blind ideologue or unexamined do-gooder is not enough. Healthy scepticism should always remain active. Fortunately Gandhi and Galileo understood this risky concept for the eventual betterment of all.
Tap into the unexamined life and your belief systems beyond your own tiny world.
Many Fortune 500 companies have latched on to the new idea that creativity within their workforce is a valuable asset and should be encouraged. Modern psychologists are in general agreement that a blue-sky attitude at the office and home have many health benefits. But what exactly is the act of creating and creativity? What are the best ways to cultivate a thriving ambiance of creativity? Let’s start with what isn’t.
Conformity: The Subtle Virus
The Renaissance of the 14th through 16th centuries undoubtedly ushered in a rebirth of classical learning and values. It ushered in a broader spectrum of science, language, and literature. For the most part feudalism and religious dogma crushed any spirit of self-expression or free thinking throughout the Middle Ages. But the Renaissance brought about greats such as Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Dante. However, it also created an eventual elitist and disempowering movement by the 17th and early 18th centuries: individual creative genius. In other words, touched by the divine and untouchable by mediocrity. Michelangelo and Mozart received this illustrious title with full honors postmortem too.
Fortunately for all aspiring virtuosos and maestros, by the 1960’s the history of creativity shifted from innate, divine genetic gifting… to ‘technique’ that could be learned just like typing, riding a horse, or playing an instrument. The trick was to learn all the various techniques to find your own unique style! Instead of God’s favour, creativity (within all of us) stems from a grounding of appropriate techniques and hard work through extensive broad education or training. For example, Edward de Bono’s technique-based approach to “lateral thinking.” See exercise below:
Have you tapped into the untapped worlds of non-conformity? How many technique-based creativity skills have you really unleashed?
A long held practice in Buddhism is to seek out life’s marrow in mindful awareness to ordinary routine tasks like brushing your teeth or singing in the shower Need You Tonight by INXS. This is how it should be with creating too. Whether it is cooking, spice and/or vegetable gardening, learning and playing an instrument, writing-blogging, beginning new friendships and romances outside of convention, painting, making wood furniture or interior decorations, walking the family pet, give yourself a daily or at least weekly varied dose of complete self-expression. Tap into that simmering creativity and let it all burst out and consume! Homo faber is good… very, very good!
Creativity and creating has been one of the most historic heavily mythologized aspects of human endeavor. Too many people still believe it is the preserve, the jurisdiction of a small group chosen or born with a ‘special gift’ whereas fuller history tells us it is so much more inclusive! And the methods the elite geniuses implement to keep their lofty social, religious, or economic status is cunningly specialized through guilds, dominions, or foundations. Yet real joy, real fulfillment, real challenge, and real accomplishment doesn’t strictly depend on current convention, especially within a macro and subatomic existence that is always impermanent. Fear stifles, courage fulfills.
There is an old saying in professional sports that you are only as good as your last defeat. In other words, in the highly competitive field of modern professional sports and coaching resting on your laurels is very bad for job security, even if your overall record is worthy of an eventual Hall of Fame induction. There is literally just a miniscule amount of grace to be mediocre, let alone losers. I argue up and down, sideways and backwards with U.S. men’s soccer fans about our national team performances, players, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann all the time because they ignorantly feel that the United States should now be competing for the World Cup semi-finals and soon the World Cup Championship — hysterically being in the world’s top four or top two TODAY! — like we dominated in baseball and basketball decades ago, and like we will dominate if the rest of the world starts playing American football NFL style as they are promoting (in hopes to expand the revenue markets) in Great Britain and Europe.
What fair-weather naive American futebol fans don’t realize or thoroughly understand is the intrinsic value — and to a degree extrinsic value — Jurgen Klinsmann brings to our USMNT and youth feeder programs. They have no clue as to what and where Klinsmann grew up inside (Germany), played with and against, and intimately understands about world class futebol/soccer in Germany, and Europe inside UEFA. That wasn’t something the average American sports fan was even remotely interested in the 1980’s and 90’s. American sports fans and the financial backers/sponsors are mostly (only?) concerned about revenue and profits via high winning percentages and dynasties. Today, I think pro coaches, their staff, and general managers have less than 3-years to make it all happen. Win, win, win; nothing more than extrinsic value. Period.
Measuring something or someone’s value cannot and is not strictly done by a dollar amount or the win column. And it certainly cannot be accurately measured in one or two years, let alone a few months.
Have you tapped into both the intrinsic and extrinsic values of yourself, someone or something?
Death is always as close and real as life. The minute you are born, every subsequent minute gets you closer to death. In the Western mindset death has become more distant, more detached from every day life than any other point in history. I feel this growing separation is undermining our ability to live more fully.
The rise in medicalized death in hospital or hospice and the erosion of old funeral and mourning ceremonies attended by all family and community have pushed death into an invisible state in modern society. Death and dying has become a taboo topic of conversation or awkward silence at a dinner party. Why? Why has ‘out of sight, out of mind‘ become so trendy and expected? What has become of the old deathstyle of growing old, facing our mortality with courage, dignity, honor, and dying well? First of all, this can only be reintroduced if we talk about death openly and frankly, as if it were our intimate dance partner. It is a little known fact that being equally obsessed with death as we are with an inspiring life, creates an INTENSE appreciation for the value of life.
A Danse Macabre
In medieval and Renaissance Europe as well as Native North and South American tribal cultures, death was viewed as an unavoidable bed partner. Cemeteries of medieval London, Paris, and Rome were popular meeting places where wine, beer, and linen tradesmen, especially on Saints Day when pilgrims travelled through, were the busiest bustling places in town. People strolled, socialized, and made merry amongst the graves — children played with human bones in the charnel houses by the churches because skeletons were stacked to make way, make room for new residents. Auguste Bernard, historian of French burial locations, wrote cemeteries were “the noisiest, busiest, most boisterous, and most commercial place in the rural and urban community.” The morbid fascination with skulls, arm and leg bones, and cadavers that filled medieval life is more than a historical curiosity: it holds a crucial lesson for us today. It is the same concept, the same lesson as appreciating something immensely valuable when you no longer have it.
The Reach of Death
There was a time when a death in a community affected everyone in the community. Before the 20th century in Western countries, death of an individual caused a major social occasion altering the space and time of everyone in town. It was part of everyday life like the passing of the seasons. In the 21st century this is no longer the case. Death is treated like an unwanted guest and should be ignored and out of sight of our youth and children.
If life is to be respected, cherished, and held as momentary, then death should be equally respected, cherished, and held as a visiting next-door neighbor.
Caring For Our Elderly
There is no denying that the modern longevity of life has increased exponentially. Medical advancements have improved the quantity of extended years, but in Western nations has the quality of life for eighty, ninety, and centurion aged retirees kept up? Prior to and during the 1950’s many elderly moved in and lived with their children. However, this practice has been in steady decline as more and more women entered the workplace and left behind the traditional roles as caregivers to the children and grandparents. This accounts for the extraordinary rise in nursing homes and hospice. Are there alternatives?
Yes there are alternatives. In Japan and China the Confucian lifestyle of filial piety as lived by the great and learned emperor Han Wendi in caring for his ailing mother at the expense of his own luxury and convenience, is one alternative. If one or both of your parents were emotional or illegal causes of tremendous hurt and instability in your childhood and reconciliation is an impossible outcome, there are plenty of other good, funny, and deeply wise elderly patients without family visitors and caring loving treatment at their nursing home where both of you would benefit immeasurably. Otherwise, there are few legitimate reasons not to invite your parents or grandparents to live with you or for you to move in with them. Much life-and-death wisdom can be shared and learned with those on the doorstep of death; any nearby St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital could teach the same lessons. But our parents helped bring us into this world, survive it, and grow to be adults so we can help them leave it with contentment and dignity whether we always saw things eye to eye or not.
How much have you tapped into the world of the aging and elderly? How immediate, frank, and open is a dignifying death promoted and taught in your house? Do you have a danse macabre that deepens the beauty and frailty of life… the paradox of death giving more life?
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“He who cannot draw on three thousand years
is living from hand to mouth.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
This final message from Goethe and Cicero is this: if we truly want to change how we live, to be more human, live a fuller extraordinary life, there may come a point where we simply stop thinking, stop planning, and act, go, just do it. There is another aspect to this command: giving is very good for you and those around you. Examining 3 – 4,000 years of history enable us to rethink our habitual (blind?) ways of loving, creating, working, and dying and are NOT the only choices facing us! All we have to do is throw open the wonderbox of all life, people, and Nature and discover a perpetual art of better deeper living.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
I have to write and publish this post interrupting my series all of you are dying on the edge of your seats to read. But find a lounging chair anyway because I’m about to bear all, or much, that is the Professor. 😉
If it were not for this past Xmas-NYEve holidays and the logistics, both feasible and legal, picking up my son and dropping him back off in his hometown 300-miles away, I would not be writing about this. I would be continuing my long series. If it were not for only seeing my son (and daughter all those years she was younger) maybe 3-4 weeks a year, I would not be writing about this. Naturally, if I were an abusive wife-beater or emotionally or physically abusive husband or father — which I am not and never have been — then I would damn sure not be writing about this on a public format! If a close, long-time (Christian) friend would fulfill her July 2013 promise to Guest-blog her post here about Kids in Christian Divorce from her own Xian perspective, I probably would not be writing about this. You know who you are lady! 😉
No, the reason I am writing about this is because I am a decent man, and if I may say so humbly, some might say even an extraordinary man, family man, father, husband, friend, lover, who has foolishly fallen victim to local popular social, legal, and religious practices. These religious circus-acts that I find myself, sometimes often drive me bat-shit crazy! For self-therapeutic benefits and to ring the butler’s bell for other less-conscientious in-lovers who find themselves in the same circus… as a warning I write about this.
I want to also show and share with the blogging and real-life-world out there how astoundingly contradictory, hypocritical, loopy, and unfair these popular practices are among Christian-Fundamentalist celebrities, organizations, churches and their gullible believers, followers, or members. I especially want to warn would-be husbands/fathers about the high risks they may be considering with a “born-again” biblically based fiancé/spouse. This is why I write this post. And no matter how tired I am talking or writing about it, or how deeply sad it makes me, it is why I must write this post.
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Ah, that well-known cliché, “Had I known then what I know now” in my 23-year relationship then marriage with a “fine Christian woman” from a long family history of Christian missionaries and ministers well-versed in Scripture, I should have sought political and religious asylum in a foreign country many years ago. I should have considered taking my two children with me. Yet, due to my own very strong family values and upbringing, I couldn’t in 2002 and cannot today bear to put my kids through painful spiteful, undeserved crossfire they had nothing to do with.
Instead, and quite ironically, I unknowingly took on the Christ-like behavior for the future long-term benefit of my children (Matthew 5:9). Hah! I know, right? With as much calmness and tiny bitterness as I can muster, let me explain what happened these holidays, again.
Xmas and New Year’s
For 2015 I had my legal right to my 14-year old son for 7-days over post-Xmas and NYE and Day. He was joined by my daughter and her new husband. In fact, since they were already at their mother’s house over Xmas, they simply brought my son with them here to see me and my family! It was a magnificent thoughtful idea seeing that I have always been the one to bear all the traveling back-n-forth and all travel-lodging-expenses. The 6-days together were, as usual, very enjoyable with lots of hugging and laughing. No one wanted the time to end, especially me.
The day I had to drive my son back home, I had no plans with my one friend in Conroe, TX — she cancelled them, so he and I wanted a couple more hours together at one of his favorite sports-grille restaurants. However, he and I didn’t think about this until we were an hour and a half away. I knew it was a 50/50 chance his mother would be willing to flex on the Visitation guidelines in our Divorce decree. But we both wanted to eat there plus we’d have two more hours together. Doesn’t hurt (so much?) to ask, right?
Grrrr, next problem. Since the night before last was our 6-hour New Year’s Eve party — seeing son and I get into bed very tired around 1:00am — I didn’t shower and clean-up NY’s Day either; too lazy for various “adult” reasons. Therefore, as my son and I were discussing the idea I wanted to check-in, shower and change first in my hotel room before we went to his favorite sports-grille. Another 30-45 minutes that wasn’t going to go over well with ex-wife/mother. All of this is going on while I am driving on 2-lane state highways I only travel very infrequently with him, with speed limit changes in and out of small towns, other vehicles slow in front or fast ones passing me from behind via opposite-direction traffic. Me texting or talking on my cell phone is clearly not safe when I easily have a 14-year old with his own cell phone sitting next to me! Safety, pure and simple.
My son had already texted his Mom asking if he could eat dinner with me; a quick semi-vague texting question most teenagers do anyway, right? She answered him “yes.” Me/us taking an additional 30-45 minutes for me to shower, dress, etc, was an entirely new risky negotiation at this very late juncture. I mean, all details are supposed to be laid-out precisely as the Decree Visitation guidelines dictate AND copied to their mother at least 90-days in advance of visitations. Clearly I am in the unleveraged position — have been since 2002 when I gave their mother the right to be Primary Caregiver — and I know this all too well the last fourteen years. But I really can’t talk or text her at the moment due to the timing and place on our route. I have a BIG dilemma to sort out because history has consistently shown what happens when I want to modify things based on pragmatism, logistics, costs, and in this case safety. I take a good 5-minutes thinking it through.
Stop? Pullover? Not possible. No real shoulder on the backwoods highways. Wait? Wait until next town 40-minutes away? Giving her and the step-father LESS TIME to arrange alternative plans if necessary? Appearing inconsiderate? Doing so would just cut-into the extra time my son and I might have eating together. What if the sports-grille is packed on a Saturday night with a waiting list? None of these are appealing possibilities to either of us boys.
Do I have my son try to explain why we need 30-60 extra minutes on top of 2 more hours via texting. Not such a good idea either. Making my carefully considered executive decision, I tell my son to simply text, “Dad wants to quickly shower & change. Can we meet you around 7:30pm-ish?” That is only 2-hours and 15-minutes later than the original legal-plan made back in July 2014. Yes, I do not kid you, 2014. If you’d like to read the circumstances surrounding the cause of such extreme planning, click here.
In the end, unless I wanted to lose 30-mins showering, shaving, and changing clothes as well as chance the sports-grille being overly crowded and hence slow, losing maybe 30, 40-mins more, my son and I had to drive straight to the restaurant. It was indeed slow and crowded. We got our food at 6:45pm. Rushed, food inhaled all because I would’ve had my son 2-3 hours longer than my extremely advanced Notice and the Visitation guideline dictated.
Consequently 2015 notices were sent at the end of July 2014. In fact, I now have each one of my legal Visitations completed and sent Certified Mail up to 2019, when my son turns 18 in March. I won’t make that mistake again.
That is what is required managing or negotiating time and logistics with my Christian ex-wife over our two beautiful kids… going on fourteen years. Now I want to reverse the hands of time (to 1984-1991) to my years in seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary to be exact, reuse that long-ago terminated past-voice and writing, and from Scriptural exegesis show two paramount “Godly” principles about marriage and divorce and its regulation according to Canonical (Protestant) Scripture. Along with my background in Christian apologetics and seminary studies in Marriage & Family Therapy, I will pullout my post-grad books from dusty storage and reference some RTS favorite scholars such as Jay E. Adams, John Murray, Jochem Douma, G. J. Vos, and Loraine Boettner to name a few. From this exegesis, any sane educated person, especially Reformed Christian-Fundies, must agree that God hates divorce. Period. But He reluctantly acknowledges it, BUT only under very explicit statutes. Hence, the aforementioned “contradictory, hypocritical, loopy, and unjust” modern Christian practices versus what their own Holy Scriptures actually teach.
According to “God” and His Scriptures, “…man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” — Genesis 2:24. Before The Fall, or the entrance of sin in the world, there are no indications throughout the Old Testament that the marriage bond was ever meant to be severed during this life, and outside The Fall divorce would’ve never entered into the world. Because of this depravity and sin, the Bible (God) must make provisions for, and strictly regulate divorce. If for no other reasons than God’s providence on Earth, it must be tightly regulated. But let’s further emphasize the importance of life-binding marriage.
In Genesis 2:18, God-Scripture declares “It is not good for the man to be alone” and He therefore corrects His earlier mistake by making the marriage union more very good (Gen. 1:31) by contrast. Divorce stems from the hardness of people’s hearts. Nowhere in the canonical Scriptures is divorce placed in a positive light or mitigation, but according to the same Bible it is not always under all situations condemned either. But recognizing that there are explicit situations divorce is permissible in God’s eyes, it is also obvious He hates divorce each and every time (e.g. Jeremiah 3:8). Therefore, with such a tricky, slippery, and circumstantial social-marital issue, advice and decisions about marriage and divorce must rely heavily on canonical Scripture for consistency.
Biblical or Justifiable Divorce
Though Deuteronomy 24 discusses permissible divorce for “something indecent“, in rabbinical teachings indecent usually meant sexual misconduct. However, adding the word something could mean a far broader interpretation like forgetting to lower/raise the toilet seat or leaving dirty dishes in the sink could be grounds for divorce.
“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.” — Deuteronomy 24:1-4
Additionally, there are other Biblical passages that account for adultery or sexual misconduct like Numbers 5:11-31. But divorce is never mentioned as an option. Some biblical scholars like Jay E. Adams (Marriage Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, (Grand Rapids,. 1980), p. 23) interpret the Deuteronomy passage to be in the category of defect or omission as permissible grounds, but it is simply a theory. Clearly the passage suggests that divorce was not justifiable on fickle whimsy emotional grounds. Therefore divorce is suffered, but not commanded, ever. For example, Malachi 2:13-16…
“Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.”
However, if this God-written passage doesn’t teach against loosely taught Christian divorce regulations, the exegesis of Matthew 19 certainly does:
“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,’ and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” — Matthew 19:1-9 (NIV)
The majority of Reformed theologians, ministers and their congregations today know that the questions in this passage posed to Jesus/Yeshua were trick-questions. Yeshua’s (i.e. Jesus’) reply is one of reframing. He points out that the tricky debate is not about divorce, it is about the nature of marriage in God’s eyes according to canonical Scripture. Yeshua’s reiteration properly explains that marriage was made as a creation ordinance. As such, it was never designed to be severed or torn asunder. Yeshua makes the further distinction between “permitted” and “commanded” by correcting the Pharisee’s bad terminology. In this God-breathed passage Yeshua also further elaborates WHEN divorce is permitted… “marital unfaithfulness.” It is the only exception to God’s principles.
And if you think that rule is harsh or extreme, what about Yeshua’s next exegesis regarding Deuteronomy 24… “anyone who divorces[their spouse]and marries another[person]commits adultery.” Adultery is all the same in God’s eyes. Committing two wrongs doesn’t make it right in other words, unless of course a faith-follower blatantly chooses to sin more and more. Seriously, is there any other form of interpretation that shows Yeshua/Jesus was wrong? I’d sure love to see it anywhere else in the canonical Scriptures.
Nonetheless, there are differing points-of-view (exegesis) within the Reformed communities, seminaries, and churches, and certainly other denominations of Christianity regarding Yeshua’s choice of words in Matthew 19. Or to frame it another way, much of the heated debate among all Christian theologians and scholars is the transliteration from Greek — the original language of the New Testament gospels — into English. Here is where the Reformed Christian position gets very, very precise pulling directly from God-breathed canonical Greek Scripture.
The word in Greek for marital unfaithfulness is porneia which is often rendered in English as fornication. The Greek word for adultery is moikeia. It is the use (or not used) of these two words that Christian theologians and biblical scholars often cannot agree upon. What Reformed exegesis believes is that IF Yeshua wanted to say “adultery” or moikeia, in that day he could’ve easily stated moikeia; Yeshua knew full well the difference because he spoke fluent Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew. Instead he precisely chose porneia. Why? In order to not get caught in narrowing God’s full intentions and principles to simply the confines of the marital covenant. Yeshua meant to clearly cover any and all sorts of sexual misconduct, whether married or unmarried! Geerhardus J. Vos expounds…
“In Matthew 19:9 it is possible to hold that Christ uses the word porneia not in contradistinction to mokeia, but rather in it’s wider sense, as including sin either before or after marriage. Suppose that Jesus had used the word moikeia (adultery) instead of porneia (fornication) in Matthew 19:9. Then the verse would read in English, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for adultery, and shall marry another, commiteth adultery…’ Now this would rule out sin committed before marriage. But the word porneia can have the wider meaning of ‘general unchastity.’ Therefore taking porneia in this sense, as practically all admit is possible, we may paraphrase the verse thus: ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for unchastity whether committed before or after marriage, and shall marry another, commits adultery…’ This explains the use of the two different Greek words, porneia and moikeia, in Matthew 19:9 and by no means requires us to take porneia in the sense of ‘premarital impurity’.”
In God’s mind then — according to this canonical Scripture passage — and that of Reformed Theology’s protocol of inter-interpretation between any and all relevant Scripture passages, done for consistency and better Divine-truth, the scope of sexual misconduct is expanded outside of simple intercourse with a third-person during marriage, but also expanded to any and all sexual activity before and outside of marriage. Plain, simple, and succinct, right? No, not right if one looks at the divorce rate among American-Christian spouses (click here).
To quickly summarize, Yeshua clearly distinguishes between commandand permissible. Spouses are not obligated to divorce their spouse on the grounds of porneia (i.e. of any sexual misconduct), but are allowed to if they so choose — but Yeshua (and by Fundamentalist-Evangelical standards) and God CLEARLY do not want their people perpetuating more and more sin by illegitimate sexual bonds, much less by second or multiple remarriages. This is really indisputable according to Reformed canonical Scriptural exegesis. Then again, most humans, even Christians, don’t really know their Holy Bibles, or just ignore their own “Holy Scriptures” and do what is best for themselves. That response then becomes a huge redefinition of “faith.”
Stopping right here on biblical justification for divorce, however, would do a disservice to the Reformed theology and catechisms. Why? Because divorce-regulations are covered also in the Synoptic Gospels of Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and Matthew 5:31-32. Reformed theologians and Calvinists enjoy compiling all biblical passages together to form a vista, if you will, of God’s personality and spiritual principles, especially when Yeshua does the exegetical interpretation in the four New Testament gospels. Why is this a Reformed preference? Because through Yeshua, his life and teachings, his crucifixion, and finally ascension to Heaven, God Himself laid out in finality what all humankind should embrace after their conversion and during the rest of their lives. What that means exactly is all “born-again” Christians should take up the Cross of Christ, follow his example, and live/teach his messages (via the Gospels and N.T. Epistles) the remainder of their worldly lives. Therefore, let’s examine more closely the other gospels that discuss divorce. Please excuse the constant male-sexist patriarchal designations obscenely overdone throughout all the Bible:
“He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” — Mark 10:11-12
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” — Luke 16:18
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality [porneia], makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” — Matthew 5:31-32
Notice how the gospel of Matthew passage is the only one that goes into necessary explicit detail about the intricacies of legitimate permissible divorce. Two acclaimed Reformed exegetes diverge here in their explanation of the three gospel’s permissable divorce. John Murray addresses this Gospel dilemma through comprehensive textual analysis which eliminates the possibility of any remarriage after divorce. Jay E. Adams on the other hand avoids the dilemma completely by emphasizing Matthew’s more complete explanation, conceding that using just Mark, or just Luke gets into foggy speculation. The popular Christian course of action about this perceived dilemma is to always ignore Matthew’s precise exception. I agreed with the Matthew-posturing in 1988-89 and if I were still a “Reformed Fundy-Evangy” I would agree with Loraine Boettner’s exegesis as well…
“The Gospels do not always give our Lord’s teaching in full, and in this instance as in numerous others, Matthew simply gives a more complete account. Compare, for instance, the fullness with which Matthew reports the Sermon on the Mount, three full chapters, 5, 6, 7, and Luke’s abbreviated account given in thirty verses (6:20-49). The accounts concerning the baptism of Jesus, the crucifixion, the inscription on the cross, and the resurrection, are given in greater detail by Matthew than by Mark or Luke. Most commentators take the view that there is no conflict between Matthew and Mark and Luke, but that Matthew has simply given a fuller report.”
(Loraine Boettner, Divorce (Maryville, 1960), p. 15)
The exercise of pinpointing Matthew’s passage as the fuller explanation of two other general passages on divorce, I feel is extremely wise. But again, as a good Reformed exegete would examine all the canonical Scripture verses, we also find in the Epistles another aspect of divorce: desertion. However, before diving into desertion, I’d like to summarize so far what Yeshua, and therefore canonical Scripture, emphasizes first and foremost about marriage versus divorce.
The Two Godly Principles
First, the Christian God has a perfect design for all marriages. In His heart and mind, the marriage is a holy covenant, taken extremely serious, loyally, and until the natural death of one spouse. God designed marriage to be very good and necessary for human aloneness. It also serves as a good method of companionship if His marriage-guidelines are followed faithfully throughout this lifetime by both spouses. This naturally carries over with raising children, for a family unit’s health and stability, and to bear witness to God’s designs and glory on Earth.
Second, the Christian God has a deep strong dislike for (abhors?) divorce and sin. He rewards faithfulness and unbending loyalty to His marriage covenant and to one’s spouse, not just through good times, but bad times as well. During hard difficult times God and Yeshua (and as we will soon see the Apostle Paul too) emboldens followers and believers to make superhuman efforts to stay faithfully married until death so that the marriage reflects on Earth His faith and promises to all that witness it.
These two principles are most definitely a sacredly taught God-concept by Reformed Christian theology. No doubts.
Biblical Pluralism or Relativism
Desertion, as mentioned above, was a later social issue that the Apostle Paul had to address with many of his Gentile church congregations throughout 2nd century CE Asia Minor. At the expense of thoroughness and for the sake of time and speed here, the Apostle Paul was the primary catalyst for the spread of Christianity outward from Jerusalem and Judeo-Christianity into the northern/northwesterly reaches of the Roman Empire. The marital problems of Gentile believers were different from those in and around 2nd century CE Judea, Galilee, Palestine, and in Jerusalem who were Jews first, then became Judean-Christians. Many Gentile-believers throughout the Empire were once non-Jews, then converted to the Jesus-Movement alone, but were still married to unbelieving spouses. This was one set of marital issues Paul was facing.
In light of the Old Testament divorce-passages, coupled with the Synoptic Gospels giving Yeshua’s fuller explanations, it becomes clear that divorce is the result of sin, it is never good nor commanded, but it is allowed in cases of adultery only, no exceptions. Canonical Scriptures also instruct that remarriage after divorce based on unbiblical reasons is also adultery and presumably bigamy. This raises the question, Does Yeshua/Christ ever identify remarriage as legitimately justified? Here the Christian church, theologians, and scholars are historically divided. This is why…
St. Augustine of Hippo and therefore the Roman Catholic Church (the very first organized Christian church going back to the Apostle Peter) say absolutely not to the question of legitimately justified remarriage. For the RCC marriage is and always has been “absolutely indissoluble” and the RCC seems to just ignore the verses of exception in Matthew 19. This was the position of St. Augustine too. Therefore for the Papacy, their basis is not without ecclesiastical depth. Furthermore, this position asserts that separation for adultery is permissible, but does not allow for the remarriage of either spouse at anytime. The Reformed stance doesn’t see it that way and feels the Augustine/RCC interpretation to be weak for three critical reasons.
There is no support in the Greek Scriptures for restricting the exceptive clause to the divorce while not extending it to the remarriage.
In Matthew 19 Yeshua-Christ is not merely discussing divorce, he is also discussing remarriage. Indeed in the sentence it is assumed that the party obtaining a divorce will remarry.
Most importantly, Yeshua is not here attempting to say that the teaching of Moses regarding divorce was wrong, but rather that the loose interpretation of it, as being allowed for any and every reason, was wrong.
Under Mosaic Law divorce was considered as dissolving the marriage covenant not only with one’s spouse, but from God too. Therefore, if the bond was legitimately dissolved by the porneia (fornication) of one spouse, then remarriage cannot be forbidden as this would introduce a completely alien concept to God’s original design and intentions for holy marriage. John Murray explains the potential alienation…
“It is surely reasonable to assume that if the man may legitimately put away his wife for adultery, the marriage bond is judged to be dissolved. On the other supposition the woman who has committed adultery and who has been put away is still in reality the man’s wife and is one flesh with him. To take action that relieves of the obligations of matrimony while the marital tie is inviolable hardly seems compatible with marital ethics as taught in the Scripture itself. It is true that Paul distinctly contemplates the possibility of separation without dissolution and propounds what the law is in such a contingency (1 Cor. 7:10-11). But to provide for and sanction permanent separation while the marriage tie remains inviolate is something that is alien to the whole tenor of Scripture teaching in regard to the obligations that inhere in and are inseparable from the marital bond.”
But following Paul’s verse 11 in his first letter to the Corinthian churches, he writes:
“Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned” — 1 Corinthians 7:27-28a (NASB)
This New American Standard Bible (NASB) version could appear to contradict Yeshua’s/Jesus’ general teachings in Mark and Luke that remarriage after divorce based upon marital infidelity is not justified, opens a can of worms with Paul’s teachings. The debate turns into a linguistic conundrum between NASB versions and NIV (New International Version) bibles. Here’s the NIV version of 1 Corinthians 7:27-28a…
“Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned”
The word “unmarried” translates the Greek word luo used in the Corinthian 7:27-28 verses. In English the possible linguistic translation changes the entire sense of the passage. Unmarried in English sounds or feels like “not married” or “never married” but certainly doesn’t carry with it a sense of divorce. As a result, the pure sense of the passage in English using a strict one-word translation becomes “it is best not to change your marital status” and thus would make no mention of whether marriage after any divorce was sinful or not. Based on other canonical Scripture passages, this is probably not the best translation, and no other major Bible-versions (other than the NIV) follow this pattern.
It is no news flash that the Apostle Paul had serious disagreements and fallouts with Peter and James (the brother of Jesus) in Jerusalem regarding Jewish customs and the interpretations by Yeshua/Jesus on Judaic laws, leading to Neo-Judaism, or reform. The Apostle Paul had strong convictions that Yeshua’s teachings were meant for the entire world, not just Neo-Jews. Thus, the three bashed heads a few times (Galatians 2, Acts 21, Philippians 3:8, James 1:22, 25 2:8, and 2:14-26). It didn’t help either that Paul never met or spent anytime with Jesus in the flesh face-to-face under his tutelage. I’d imagine Peter and James both thought ‘Who the hell is this guy teaching a different wrong Gospel?‘ Ironically and perhaps telling, we find the exact same fragmentation and perpetual diversity within modern Christianity, theology, doctrine, churches, and any Xian followers/believers. But that’s another can of worms, eh?
The Apostle Paul was indeed teaching a different Paulian version of The Gospels. In his first letter to the Corinthian church Paul writes that there is one other justification for legitimate legal divorce to occur — the desertion of a believer by an unbeliever…
“To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” — 1 Corinthians 7:10-16
Paul’s teaching here leaves very little doubt or misinterpretation of how God views divorce, especially by and for believing Christians. Paul gives explicit and implicit instructions to Christians NOT to leave their unbelieving spouses if at all possible, and if they sinfully do so, they must not compound the blatant disobedience by adding more adultery (remarriage or fornication) to the family problem God perfectly designed!
And therein lies Christian pluralism and relativism; Reformed churches, organizations, and doctrines are the minority in the religion. They are quite unpopular for most liberal Christians, too strict or confining, and hence — according to all of canonical God-breathed Holy Scripture — tarnish, blemish, weaken, distort God’s intended bride-church to the world. Yet, through an entirely secular lens that is a very accurate reflection of Nature, especially human nature. 😉
But back on topic…
The Biblical Conclusions About Divorce
This is how Reformed canonical Scripture (exegesis) compiles the criteria for divorce. With the exception of death or literal adultery, no other reason is given in canonical Scripture for which a marriage may be terminated and a valid divorce obtained. Those are the ONLY two permissible justifications, but God see’s adultery as the weaker of the two justifications. It also follows that from God’s Scriptures that reconciliation is easier post-adultery/sin… which by the way is the whole theme of God’s story and purpose for humankind: Reconciliation, always. Yep, chew that one long and hard and swallow all the way, because that’s what the literal and spirit of (implicit) canonical Scriptures teach.
As a result, we have arrived at the Reformed doctrine of divorce, for in this issue as Reformed believers, they cannot go further in allowing divorce beyond that which the Bible permits, unless they fall into the error of allowing divorces which their God does not condone and which results in a state of adultery were a remarriage to occur. Additionally, should marital unfaithfulness occur, it is the CHOICE of the faithful spouse whether to dissolve the marriage or not — remember, God abhors marriage dissolution. In God’s Scriptural view, divorce is not the choice of the believing or unbelieving adulterer. This is exactly where — at least as a Dad — I got royally bent over and screwed by her AND her own biological Father AND her church leaders/marital counselors. Made a less-than part-time Dad by a state (Texas) that mimics Protestant traditions and doctrines too… just to make sure my rectum stays quite sore for the longest possible torture. 😉 LOL
Reformed doctrine further concludes that the “no fault divorces” I alluded to in the beginning of this post, cannot constitute biblically based divorces, and should not be done amongst believers. Similarly, emotional incompatibility is also not a legitimate grounds for divorce any more than a simple desire to be rid of a spouse because they don’t comb their hair right.
Disappointingly however, as statistics amply show, Christians pick and choose which Bible passages suit their own needs rather than what the entire canonical Scripture (God) actually teach as a whole. This erroneous Christian practice is most certainly a far-reaching redefinition of “faith and obedience” incongruent with their Bibles.
Without Conflict-Resolution and Global Perspective
In light of all the above Scriptural exegesis, in light of possible justified reasons for legitimate divorce — and in my case forcing an unbelieving Dad to become less-than a Part-time Dad — is it wise, is it good responsible parenting to remove (hide?) children from life’s conflicts, differences, and global diversities on a plethora of degrees and levels? Put them in a bubble, a strictly Christian bubble with two believing parents?
The Apostle Paul doesn’t teach or command a bubble or inaccessible ivory tower in any of his letters, except by the strict guidelines found in the Synoptic Gospels and his Epistles. Right there! That is where true “Christian faith” (courage) is supposed to be demonstrated. The spirit of Paul’s epistles are an advocate FOR a home and life with diversity and differences even when spouses are “unequally yoked.” Paul is merely abiding by Jesus’/Yeshua’s, Moses, and God’s Scriptural teachings. And who is to say (slightly less than ideal of God’s original parameters prior to The Fall) that those children wouldn’t be better equipped to be and do great things out in the real world if the unbelieving Father fits none of the Scriptural criteria for a biblically based divorce?
In a 1999 study on influences by Fundamentalist Protestant orientations on educational attainment it revealed new debates on the material impact of the children’s culture. The publication called The Effect of Parents’ Fundamentalism on Children’s Educational Attainment, reports:
“We use data from the Youth Parent Socialization Panel Study to demonstrate the influence of parents’ fundamentalism on children’s attainment. We divide the sample to show how the influence of parents’ fundamentalism varies by gender of the child and by the youth’s fundamentalism. We find that fundamentalist parents hinder the educational attainment of their nonfundamentalist children, while they actually are more supportive of male Fundamentalist children’s educational attainment than are nonfundamentalist parents.
…we will also discuss how a lack of parental support for higher education can undermine preferences for educational attainment and restrict the options young people might afford themselves.
These are the results of their study…
“Our results show that: 1) the educational attainment of non-fundamentalist women is significantly hampered by fundamentalist parents; 2) fundamentalist parents do not differ significantly from non-fundamentalist parents in their assistance of non-fundamentalist males or Bible-believing females; and 3) Bible-believing parents significantly boost the educational attainment of male children who believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.”
So as not to sling-mud everywhere and here, needless to say those following weeks and months after the separation and divorce was the worst nightmare and emotional black-hole for me, both as a husband AND father. I had lost my family. A few weeks after my kid’s, their mother, and new step-father announced they were moving from the DFW area, to Denver, Colorado or Houston, Texas, my nightmare became a living hell. In my obvious pain, frustration, and exhaustion, in her consoling (yet slanted) way my daughter said to me “Dad, the divorce was the best thing to happen. And this move will be a good thing for us.” She was barely 13-years old saying that. How in the world could she predict whether the next 5-10 years of that possible marriage or the split-up of our family would turnout “best”? How does a 13-yr old come up with that?
How was her parent’s divorce “best“, much less Biblically justified!?
Ah but wait. There is still another additional aspect (loop-hole?) of contemporary Christian divorce: that of spousal abuse, verbal, physical, or emotional, and whether those constitute legitimate Biblical divorce.
Christian Marriage and the Swinger-BDSM Lifestyles
I must address the spousal abuse topic now because of my Alternative Lifestyles prior to our 1993-97 encounters/dating and 1998 marriage. Why do it? It was possibly (likely?) one primary justification for a “modern biblical divorce” and subsequent blessing from her Church to divorce me, as well as her Father’s blessing to divorce me, who is ironically a Reformed minister from the seminary I attended.
The Reformed Christian doctrine on “spousal abuse”, whatever form manifested, is quite straight forward: speculation. Since the 1950’s and 60’s the advent of sexual equality and more women’s civil-rights in America have also opened the door for medical and psychological examination of spousal abuse by men. From the secular perspective (and mine) it is unequivocally wrong. Though I am no longer the least bit Christian, much less Reformed Fundamentalist Christian — and I certainly wasn’t raised by my parents that way; a quite secular home in fact — and since 1990, I have been a firm Freethinking Humanist. According to strict canonical Scriptures and Reformed exegesis, however, divorce on the grounds of “spousal abuse” is nowhere explicitly discussed in the Bible. But, it can be inferred through canonical Scripture (possibly via desertion) that to prevent physical harm, separation, but not divorce, would certainly be an appropriate course of action not prohibited in Scripture. Typically church discipline can and should be administered. Furthermore, nowhere in the bible are Christians explicitly informed that a spouse must remain in a situation in which they are likely to be physically harmed, despite it still not justifying a biblical criteria for divorce. Yet, as any biblical researcher and scholar will find, dissolution of God’s holy marriage union for spousal abuse is an exercise in pure speculation — something highly guarded against (often prohibited) by Reformed Fundamentalist doctrine. Consequently, in my own personal case, this raises the question What exactly is abuse?
Before I delve into the abuse-question, I must first preempt the answers with some factual background. There are three simple words that members of the Alternative Lifestyles abide in. Safe, sane, and consensual. Since 1989 with my entrance into SSC BDSM, I was taught and mentored exactly this way. As mentioned earlier, my own father also raised me this way on how well to treat women — if I faltered, his reprimand was from an ex-USMarine code, firm and swift words if I ever hit a woman in anger or rage — and if my offense was physical, I’d suffer equal physical punishment. In provocation by my sister at the age of 5-6, I did slap my sister. When my father find out my ass was over the edge of the bed and whipped hard four times. I’ve never forgotten it. That was the first and last time I ever hit a woman in anger or rage. Scouts honor. Dad exhibited the same high-respect treatment with my mother all 28-years of their marriage.
I have not and never had any confusions of exactly what SSC meant in public or private life inside or outside of BDSM. I cannot emphasize this enough.
SSC also applies in many similar ways to the Open-Swinger lifestyle. Forms of SSC are taught in get-togethers and online communities and even specifically spelled out in their Codes of Conduct that all joining members must sign and follow. This most definitely takes place in legal, public BDSM dungeons and communities. It’s a must for obvious reasons. In fact, if the general public actually investigated more closely the reported cases of “abuse” possibly tied to BDSM and/or Open-Swinger activities or behavior, they would find in 98% (100%?) of those cases the clear abuse took place PRIVATELY without signed Codes of Conduct or proper education of the lifestyles AND the victim was not fully or in the least bit consensual. To further demonstrate my own character and integrity on these matters, I am openly divulging these Alternative Lifestyles I have and do participate in… on a publicly viewed format: WordPress. And before the next question is asked, I use this alias for two major reasons; 1) I live in and work in a ultra-conservative state (Texas) that has long-standing laws of At-Willhiring, employment, and/or termination, and 2) some of my blog-content is strictly age-appropriate and optional for adult viewers/readers. Nevertheless, on a private one-on-one level, I have nothing to hide or that I’m ashamed of. With that said, let’s examine what is meant by “abuse” also known as domestic violence.
There is perhaps no better source or answer to What is spousal abuse? by American laws than Laws.com‘s definitions…
Spousal abuse Victimization Defined:
Spousal abuse victimization is defined as both the nature and classification with regard to the individual victims of Spousal abuse offenses. Studies undertaking the investigation of the identification of Spousal abuse victims cite women as accounting for almost 85% of Spousal abuse victims; furthermore, within that percentage, women between the ages of 20 and 24 are considered to account for the majority of Spousal abuse victims.
Physical Spousal Abuse Defined:
Physical spousal abuse is defined as damage, harm, or injury enacted upon a husband or a wife by the other individual involved in the marriage.
Aggravated physical abuse, which is the more severe form of physical spousal abuse, is defined as the use of a deadly weapon to cause harm, damage, or injury with regard to another individual or entity.
Emotional and Psychological Spousal abuse defined:
Non-violent forms of spousal abuse include the delivery of threats, intimidation, name-calling, perpetual belittlement or any verbal or emotional attacks that aim to take control or instill fear in the victimized partner.
Threats are defined as the unlawful, conditional expressions of criminal or negative recourse contingent on the behavior of the recipient of the threat itself; threats are typically extortive in nature – aggravated threats include threats posed resulting in murder, rape, or maiming. Verbal and psychological abuse is defined as both speech and expressions set forth, typically demeaning, insulting, damaging, or threatening in nature.
Sexually-charged Spousal Abuse defined:
Spousal abuse, in a sexual nature refers to the administration of any unwanted or forced sexual acts. Spousal rape, for instance, is the act of forced, non-consensual intercourse enacted by either the husband or wife onto the other partner; regardless of the participation within a romantic relationship, the severity of a spousal rape offense is considered to be analogous to a standard rape charge.
With those quite precise definitions, how can they be defined when not only total consent is given, but prior to any SSC BDSM scene or activity (public or private) has been thoroughly covered, or prior to any Open-Swinger activities have taken place had been thoroughly covered? On top of that, any doubts or concerns about anything to be performed are explicitly discussed beforehand and not performed until all participants are fully comfortable — hence the purpose of Safe-words too, which are strictly obeyed or enforced.
I’ll gladly leave these Q&A’s to you, my readers, to address with me or about the lifestyles. Simply know that with all of the female partners I have had the honor (and their trust!) to play with… including my Reformed Fundamentalist ex-wife… at some early point in our dating or intimately engaging days/nights — when it is proper timing of course; experience has shown that dropping this bomb on a woman you’ve just recently met (hours or days ago), is typically not the best foreplay — anything that might venture into less-than vanilla play, i.e. traditional social forms of intimate engagement, sexual or otherwise, I have always discussed in great detail what MIGHT be involved. I then ask Are you comfortable in that sort of exploration? Amazingly, this proactive openness does wonders toward gaining trust! And needless to say really, I’ve never been arrested for domestic violence in any of the U.S. states I’ve lived and the word predator has never even been imagined either. In fact, they have never been brought up by any of my former female partners, including to my knowledge and face my Reformed Fundamentalist ex-wife. Whether it was discussed without me present is an entirely different question and set of circumstances.
This open proactive process was most certainly done with my ex-wife in the four years we dated and one year we lived together BEFORE marrying in her church.
And now I have come full circle. Not only did I write and share all this raw material with all of you, not only did I publish these life-experiences for the small benefit of other would-be lovers out there who may well be considering a lifetime with a Christian Fundamentalist fiance, but I also share it here because if I did it face-to-face, in-person, over the phone with my two kids… the chances of the whole discussion turning into a disaster are decent if not high. Why? Because in the heat of the moment — especially when dealing with family, your own blood — emotions get high and volatile, and pertinent facts and influences fall by the wayside. At least this way I have the freedom to write it all down, in my own time, and give MY perspective and part in all of it. Don’t I deserve at least that over these last fourteen years of partial-to-full patient silence?
After this past Xmas-NYE and Day holiday with my kids, and that ridiculous incident over a 2-hour dinner with my son, and approaching two decades of this faith-system, I began to really appreciate and empathize with other humans that seek political and/or religious asylum from their native people and country! Since that isn’t really a feasible option for me — especially now that I’ve announced the fleeting thought here — I am thinking it is about time to open my mouth and give another (valid) point-of-view. If for no one else, than for my two kids to one day hear Dad’s complete view before I pass away of old age and extreme living. 😈
Apologies for this slight interruption and tangent from my Untapped World series. I will be finishing the next installment (conclusion?) very soon.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always