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Religion, More Again

 

“We do not want to be beginners.

But let us be convinced of the fact that we will

never be anything else but beginners, all our life!”

– Thomas Merton,                                                                        Contemplative Prayer     

 

“Prayer does not blind us to the world, but it transforms our vision of the world, and makes us see it, all men, and all the history of mankind, in the light of God. To pray ‘in spirit and in truth’ enables us to enter into contact with that infinite love, that inscrutable freedom which is at work behind the complexities and the intricacies of human existence. This does not mean fabricating for ourselves pious rationalizations to explain everything that happens. It involves no surreptitious manipulation of the hard truths of life.”

– Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer

 

 

 

Did you know that C. S. Lewis was, for a long time, an atheist?  He had great resistance to becoming a Believer (a Christian) … but his transformation is described in the film –  “The Magic Never Ends” –

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUiiqh2wBnY    (the life & faith of C. S. Lewis)

 

Here is a comment by him :

 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

                                                                                   –    C. S. Lewis

                                                                                                                                         Screwtape Proposes a Toast

                                                                                                                                                   and Other Pieces

 

And here is another comment by Thomas Merton –

 

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.”

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

 

How should we make sense of such an experience?

One (logical) possibility – is that it was a fit of fancy … something produced by Merton’s imagination.

The other possibility is that it was a true apprehension of a reality that is not often seen.  It’s THIS explanation which, to me, seems the more likely of the two.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

In the film – “The Theory of Everything” (2014) we get to see Stephen Hawking make comments such as –  “God’s back in business” as he works through various of his theories about the nature of reality.

What is so wonderful – is that he proceeded fearlessly, seeking the truth … and was quite happy to live in whatever world he might discover.

Here is a real man.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Karl Marx (the German philosopher and economist) said –

 

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”

 

 Napoléon Bonaparte said –

 

“ I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation, but the mystery of the social order; religion attaches to heaven an idea of equality that stops the rich from being massacred by the poor.”

 

[Marx & Napoléon, though, were Modern (materialistic) men.  Mmm?]

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

And here is the (well-known) Villanelle by Dylan Thomas –

 

[I suggest you read it for Meaning.  Keep track of the subjects and the predicates … e.g. – ‘Good men rage against the dying of the light’]

 

Do not go gentle into that good night

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

                             –   Dylan Thomas     1914-1953

 

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Here is some commentary from the Urantia Book [the bold type is my doing.  Please feel free to study, as well, the whole of  Paper 36 … perhaps especially Section 4, about the midsoniters.  

 https://www.urantia.org/urantia-book-standardized/paper-36-life-carriers?term=#search-jump-result-0 ]:

 

36:5.11 (402.8) 6. The spirit of worship—the religious impulse, the first differential urge separating mind creatures into the two basic classes of mortal existence. The spirit of worship forever distinguishes the animal of its association from the soulless creatures of mind endowment.Worship is the badge of spiritual-ascension candidacy.

36:5.12 (402.9) 7. The spirit of wisdom—the inherent tendency of all moral creatures towards orderly and progressive evolutionary advancement.This is the highest of the adjutants, the spirit co-ordinator and articulator of the work of all the others. This spirit is the secret of that inborn urge of mind creatures which initiates and maintains the practical and effective program of the ascending scale of existence; that gift of living things which accounts for their inexplicable ability to survive and, in survival,to utilize the co-ordination of all their past experience and present opportunities for the acquisition of all of everything that all of the other six mental ministers can mobilize in the mind of the organism concerned.Wisdom is the acme of intellectual performance. Wisdom is the goal of a purely mental and moral existence.

36:5.13 (403.1) The adjutant mind-spirits experientially grow, but they never become personal. They evolve in function, and the function of the first five in the animal orders is to a certain extent essential to the function of all seven as human intellect. This animal relationship makes the adjutants more practically effective as human mind; hence animals are to a certain extent indispensable to man’s intellectual as well as to his physical evolution.

36:5.14 (403.2) These mind-adjutants of a local universe Mother Spirit are related to creature life of intelligence status much as the power centers and physical controllers are related to the nonliving forces of the universe. They perform invaluable service in the mind circuits on the inhabited worlds and are effective collaborators with the Master Physical Controllers, who also serve as controllers and directors of the preadjutant mind levels, the levels of nonteachable or mechanical mind.

36:5.15 (403.3) Living mind, prior to the appearance of capacity to learn from experience, is the ministry domain of the Master Physical Controllers.Creature mind, before acquiring the ability to recognize divinity and worship Deity, is the exclusive domain of the adjutant spirits. With the appearance of the spiritual response of the creature intellect, such created minds at once become superminded, being instantly encircuited in the spirit cycles of the local universe Mother Spirit.

36:5.16 (403.4) The adjutant mind-spirits are in no manner directly related to the diverse and highly spiritual function of the spirit of the personal presence of the Divine Minister, the Holy Spirit of the inhabited worlds; but they are functionally antecedent to, and preparatory for, the appearance of this very spirit in evolutionary man. The adjutants afford the Universe Mother Spirit a varied contact with, and control over, the material living creatures of a local universe, but they do not repercuss in the Supreme Being when acting on prepersonality levels.

36:5.17 (403.5) Nonspiritual mind is either a spirit-energy manifestation or a physical-energy phenomenon. Even human mind, personal mind, has no survival qualities apart from spirit identification. Mind is a divinity bestowal, but it is not immortal when it functions without spirit insight, and when it is devoid of the ability to worship and crave survival.

6. Living Forces

36:6.1 (403.6) Life is both mechanistic and vitalistic—material and spiritual. Ever will Urantia physicists and chemists progress in their understanding of the protoplasmic forms of vegetable and animal life, but never will they be able to produce living organisms. Life is something different from all energy manifestations; even the material life of physical creatures is not inherent in matter.

36:6.2 (403.7) Things material may enjoy an independent existence, but life springs only from life. Mind can be derived only from pre-existent mind.Spirit takes origin only from spirit ancestors. The creature may produce the forms of life, but only a creator personality or a creative force can supply the activating living spark.

36:6.3 (404.1) Life Carriers can organize the material forms, or physical patterns, of living beings, but the Spirit provides the initial spark of life and bestows the endowment of mind. Even the living forms of experimental life which the Life Carriers organize on their Salvington worlds are always devoid of reproductive powers. When the life formulas and the vital patterns are correctly assembled and properly organized, the presence of a Life Carrier is sufficient to initiate life, but all such living organisms are lacking in two essential attributes—mind endowment and reproductive powers. Animal mind and human mind are gifts of the local universe Mother Spirit, functioning through the seven adjutant mind-spirits, while creature ability to reproduce is the specific and personal impartation of the Universe Spirit to the ancestral life plasm inaugurated by the Life Carriers.

36:6.4 (404.2) When the Life Carriers have designed the patterns of life, after they have organized the energy systems, there must occur an additional phenomenon; the “breath of life” must be imparted to these lifeless forms.The Sons of God can construct the forms of life, but it is the Spirit of God who really contributes the vital spark. And when the life thus imparted is spent, then again the remaining material body becomes dead matter. When the bestowed life is exhausted, the body returns to the bosom of the material universe from which it was borrowed by the Life Carriers to serve as a transient vehicle for that life endowment which they conveyed to such a visible association of energy-matter.

36:6.5 (404.3) The life bestowed upon plants and animals by the Life Carriers does not return to the Life Carriers upon the death of plant or animal. The departing life of such a living thing possesses neither identity nor personality; it does not individually survive death. During its existence and the time of its sojourn in the body of matter, it has undergone a change; it has undergone energy evolution and survives only as a part of the cosmic forces of the universe; it does not survive as individual life. The survival of mortal creatures is wholly predicated on the evolvement of an immortal soul within the mortal mind.

36:6.6 (404.4) We speak of life as “energy” and as “force,” but it is really neither. Force-energy is variously gravity responsive; life is not. Pattern is also nonresponsive to gravity, being a configuration of energies that have already fulfilled all gravity-responsive obligations. Life, as such, constitutes the animation of some pattern-configured or otherwise segregated system of energy—material, mindal, or spiritual.

36:6.7 (404.5) There are some things connected with the elaboration of life on the evolutionary planets which are not altogether clear to us. We fully comprehend the physical organization of the electrochemical formulas of the Life Carriers, but we do not wholly understand the nature and source of the life-activation spark. We know that life flows from the Father through the Son and by the Spirit. It is more than possible that the Master Spirits are the sevenfold channel of the river of life which is poured out upon all creation. But we do not comprehend the technique whereby the supervising Master Spirit participates in the initial episode of life bestowal on a new planet. The Ancients of Days, we are confident, also have some part in this inauguration of life on a new world, but we are wholly ignorant of the nature thereof. We do know that the Universe Mother Spirit actually vitalizes the lifeless patterns and imparts to such activated plasm the prerogatives of organismal reproduction. We observe that these three are the levels of God the Sevenfold, sometimes designated as the Supreme Creators of time and space; but otherwise we know little more than Urantia mortals—simply that concept is inherent in the Father, expression in the Son, and life realization in the Spirit.

36:6.8 (405.1) [Indited by a Vorondadek Son stationed on Urantia as an observer and acting in this capacity by request of the Melchizedek Chief of the Supervising Revelatory Corps.]

~~~

As you may well know – everything that science (medicine, biology, neuroscience) knows about brain functioning … falls (very) short of what we all actually experience in being alive; and this is referred to as the “Brain-Mind Gap” or the Brain-Mind Problem … and it is no trivial problem.  The above information … assuming it is true and correct … fills in this gap.]

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“The Priest”

 

The priest sat in the airport bar

He was wearing his father’s tie

And his eyes looked into my eyes so far

Whenever the words ran dry

Behind the lash and the circles blue

He looked as only a priest can, through

And his eyes said me and his eyes said you

And my eyes said, let us try

 

He said, “You wouldn’t like it here

No it’s no place you should share

The roof is ripped with hurricanes

And the room is always bare

I need the wind and I seek the cold”

He reached past the wine for my hand to hold

And he saw me young and he saw me old

And he saw me sitting there

 

Then he took his contradictions out

And he splashed them on my brow

So which words was I then to doubt

When choosing what to vow

Should I choose them all — should I make them mine

The sermons, the hymns and the valentines

And he asked for truth and he asked for time

And he asked for only now

 

Now the trials are trumpet scored

Oh will we pass the test

Or just as one loves more and more

Will one love less and less

Oh come let’s run from this ring we’re in

Where the Christians clap and the Germans grin

Saying let them lose, crying let them win

Oh make them both confess

 

                                   — Joni Mitchell

 

http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858568391/#Er1SwluKkfVOlOpT.99

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My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you

does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though

I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 

– Thomas Merton

~~~~

Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him,

requires a lot of courage and know-how.

 

                                                  – Thomas Merton

 

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The Time Before Death

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

Jump into experience while you are alive!

Think . . . and think . . . while you are alive.

What you call “salvation” belongs to the time

before death.

If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,

do you think

ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul  will join with the ecstatic

just because the body is rotten—

that is all fantasy.

What is found then

is found now.

If you find nothing now,

you will simply end up with an apartment in the

City of the Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next

life you will have the face of satisfied desire

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,

Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for

it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that

does all the work.

Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

 

                                                              – Kabir

                                                        (version by Robert Bly)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.

                                                                                       – Thomas Merton

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

Who Am I, Without Exile?

 

A stranger on the riverbank, like the river … water

binds me to your name. Nothing brings me back from my faraway

to my palm tree: not peace and not war. Nothing

makes me enter the gospels. Not

a thing … nothing sparkles from the shore of ebb

and flow between the Euphrates and the Nile. Nothing

makes me descend from the pharaoh’s boats. Nothing

carries me or makes me carry an idea: not longing

and not promise. What will I do? What

will I do without exile, and a long night

that stares at the water?

Water

binds me

to your name …

Nothing takes me from the butterflies of my dreams

to my reality: not dust and not fire. What

will I do without roses from Samarkand? What

will I do in a theater that burnishes the singers with its lunar

stones? Our weight has become light like our houses

in the faraway winds. We have become two friends of the strange

creatures in the clouds … and we are now loosened

from the gravity of identity’s land. What will we do … what

will we do without exile, and a long night

that stares at the water?

Water

binds me

to your name …

There’s nothing left of me but you, and nothing left of you

but me, the stranger massaging his stranger’s thigh: O

stranger! what will we do with what is left to us

of calm … and of a snooze between two myths?

And nothing carries us: not the road and not the house.

Was this road always like this, from the start,

or did our dreams find a mare on the hill

among the Mongol horses and exchange us for it?

And what will we do?

What

will we do

without

exile?

                                           –    Mahmoud Darwish

                                                         Transl: Fady Joudah

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

7. The Acme of Religious Living

100:7.1 (1101.5) Although the average mortal of Urantia cannot hope to attain the high perfection of character which Jesus of Nazareth acquired while sojourning in the flesh, it is altogether possible for every mortal believer to develop a strong and unified personality along the perfected lines of the Jesus personality. The unique feature of the Master’s personality was not so much its perfection as its symmetry, its exquisite and balanced unification. The most effective presentation of Jesus consists in following the example of the one who said, as he gestured toward the Master standing before his accusers, “Behold the man!”

100:7.2 (1101.6) The unfailing kindness of Jesus touched the hearts of men, but his stalwart strength of character amazed his followers. He was truly sincere; there was nothing of the hypocrite in him. He was free from affectation; he was always so refreshingly genuine. He never stooped to pretense, and he never resorted to shamming. He lived the truth, even as he taught it. He was the truth. He was constrained to proclaim saving truth to his generation, even though such sincerity sometimes caused pain. He was unquestioningly loyal to all truth.

100:7.3 (1101.7) But the Master was so reasonable, so approachable. He was so practical in all his ministry, while all his plans were characterized by such sanctified common sense. He was so free from all freakish, erratic, and eccentric tendencies. He was never capricious, whimsical, or hysterical. In all his teaching and in everything he did there was always an exquisite discrimination associated with an extraordinary sense of propriety.

100:7.4 (1102.1) The Son of Man was always a well-poised personality. Even his enemies maintained a wholesome respect for him; they even feared his presence. Jesus was unafraid. He was surcharged with divine enthusiasm, but he never became fanatical. He was emotionally active but never flighty. He was imaginative but always practical. He frankly faced the realities of life, but he was never dull or prosaic. He was courageous but never reckless; prudent but never cowardly. He was sympathetic but not sentimental; unique but not eccentric. He was pious but not sanctimonious. And he was so well-poised because he was so perfectly unified.

100:7.5 (1102.2) Jesus’ originality was unstifled. He was not bound by tradition or handicapped by enslavement to narrow conventionality. He spoke with undoubted confidence and taught with absolute authority. But his superb originality did not cause him to overlook the gems of truth in the teachings of his predecessors and contemporaries. And the most original of his teachings was the emphasis of love and mercy in the place of fear and sacrifice.

100:7.6 (1102.3) Jesus was very broad in his outlook. He exhorted his followers to preach the gospel to all peoples. He was free from all narrow-mindedness. His sympathetic heart embraced all mankind, even a universe. Always his invitation was, “Whosoever will, let him come.”

100:7.7 (1102.4) Of Jesus it was truly said, “He trusted God.” As a man among men he most sublimely trusted the Father in heaven. He trusted his Father as a little child trusts his earthly parent. His faith was perfect but never presumptuous. No matter how cruel nature might appear to be or how indifferent to man’s welfare on earth, Jesus never faltered in his faith. He was immune to disappointment and impervious to persecution. He was untouched by apparent failure.

100:7.8 (1102.5) He loved men as brothers, at the same time recognizing how they differed in innate endowments and acquired qualities. “He went about doing good.”

100:7.9 (1102.6) Jesus was an unusually cheerful person, but he was not a blind and unreasoning optimist. His constant word of exhortation was, “Be of good cheer.” He could maintain this confident attitude because of his unswerving trust in God and his unshakable confidence in man. He was always touchingly considerate of all men because he loved them and believed in them. Still he was always true to his convictions and magnificently firm in his devotion to the doing of his Father’s will.

100:7.10 (1102.7) The Master was always generous. He never grew weary of saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Said he, “Freely you have received, freely give.” And yet, with all of his unbounded generosity, he was never wasteful or extravagant. He taught that you must believe to receive salvation. “For every one who seeks shall receive.”

100:7.11 (1102.8) He was candid, but always kind. Said he, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” He was frank, but always friendly. He was outspoken in his love for the sinner and in his hatred for sin. But throughout all this amazing frankness he was unerringly fair.

100:7.12 (1102.9) Jesus was consistently cheerful, notwithstanding he sometimes drank deeply of the cup of human sorrow. He fearlessly faced the realities of existence, yet was he filled with enthusiasm for the gospel of the kingdom. But he controlled his enthusiasm; it never controlled him. He was unreservedly dedicated to “the Father’s business.” This divine enthusiasm led his unspiritual brethren to think he was beside himself, but the onlooking universe appraised him as the model of sanity and the pattern of supreme mortal devotion to the high standards of spiritual living. And his controlled enthusiasm was contagious; his associates were constrained to share his divine optimism.

100:7.13 (1103.1) This man of Galilee was not a man of sorrows; he was a soul of gladness. Always was he saying, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”But when duty required, he was willing to walk courageously through the “valley of the shadow of death.” He was gladsome but at the same time humble.

100:7.14 (1103.2) His courage was equaled only by his patience. When pressed to act prematurely, he would only reply, “My hour has not yet come.” He was never in a hurry; his composure was sublime. But he was often indignant at evil, intolerant of sin. He was often mightily moved to resist that which was inimical to the welfare of his children on earth. But his indignation against sin never led to anger at the sinner.

100:7.15 (1103.3) His courage was magnificent, but he was never foolhardy. His watchword was, “Fear not.” His bravery was lofty and his courage often heroic. But his courage was linked with discretion and controlled by reason. It was courage born of faith, not the recklessness of blind presumption. He was truly brave but never audacious.

100:7.16 (1103.4) The Master was a pattern of reverence. The prayer of even his youth began, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”He was even respectful of the faulty worship of his fellows. But this did not deter him from making attacks on religious traditions or assaulting errors of human belief. He was reverential of true holiness, and yet he could justly appeal to his fellows, saying, “Who among you convicts me of sin?”

100:7.17 (1103.5) Jesus was great because he was good, and yet he fraternized with the little children. He was gentle and unassuming in his personal life, and yet he was the perfected man of a universe. His associates called him Master unbidden.

100:7.18 (1103.6) Jesus was the perfectly unified human personality. And today, as in Galilee, he continues to unify mortal experience and to co-ordinate human endeavors. He unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it. It is literally true: “If any man has Christ Jesus within him, he is a new creature; old things are passing away; behold, all things are becoming new.”

100:7.19 (1103.7) [Presented by a Melchizedek of Nebadon.]

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