This image conveys
the heart of true Christianity. The energy attached to this image is enormous.
When I was brought up in the Catholic Church, as a child, I am very grateful that
my mother taught me the kind of Christianity which is depicted here. (See the attached book chapter on my thoughts
back then.) This image comes from the web. Hundreds like it can be found by
doing a Google on “Jesus sacred heart.” Probably this is also the true origin
of the expression “bleeding heart Liberal,” common in the late Twentieth
Century US. I am not a true Christian or that kind of Liberal, because I do not
have as much devotion to helping the poor as Jesus asked for, but I do try to pay very serious
attention to Jesus’ thoughts, both in my heart and my brain – more than many
people do who claim to speak in his name.
The image of Jesus on or with the cross is also a powerful and central part of Christianity (from the web). Many say: “We must all learn to bear our cross in life.” This image expresses how a high level of spiritual consciousness and Will can empower one to endure very high levels of self-sacrifice, when this is an unavoidable part of achieving a larger goal. The crucifixion also symbolizes what kinds of negative reactions one often meets when speaking truth to less mature people, whose “hot buttons” and vested interests can be a huge problem even if one does one’s best to speak clearly in a constructive, loving, humble and understanding way. Sometimes we must pay the price, even if the price is high, if we understand what is at stake.
In outdoor places in
This is part of a
large complex of Orthodox cathedrals and churches in
Here is part of
what you see inside that cathedral. The odors and feeling of the place are far
more distinctive than the image, but how could we post them on the web? The image seems to depict something like Heaven or
the Communion of Saints (or both?).
This ancient Genovese fortress in the
In this ancient symbol, the rose symbolizes the soul
unfolding, at the place (or crossroads) where proper conditions come together. It
reminds me of when my mother said, “Paul, you are like Ferdinand the Bull in
that Disney cartoon. You need to learn how to relax and smell the roses.” The
symbol was strongest around 1000-1500AD, as a symbol of “spiritual alchemy” – a
movement which stretched from
Martin Luther had more direct and visible impact on
Christianity than any other person from 1000 AD to the present. By his time,
the absolute power of the Catholic Church had started to stifle science, and
led to ever more absolute corruption and greed and stagnation, interfering with
the intellectual and spiritual growth of people. He posed a stark
black-and-white choice to people: ”Which is the true
reliable source of what we know? The Pope, or the Bible, the
original source?” This stark polarization led to a hundred years of very
bloody war, but perhaps such extremes were necessary in order to liberate the
minds and souls of
philosopher/historian Hegel argued that human history is based on an evolution
of our culture and ideas. It proceeds from a thesis, to a stark antithesis, and
from there to a new synthesis which sets the stage for the next level of
development. This is a hard idea for science to make sense of but, like the
Taoist idea of Yin and Yang, it has great power in helping us organize
practical experience. In Hegel’s terms, Martin Luther represents the Great
Antithesis, an essential stage in evolution at that time.
Trinity College of
Cambridge University played a central role for centuries in developing a new
synthesis – a new way of thinking which created a kind of new golden age in
Dame Cathedral (from the web). Notre Dame of
What are those two
guys thinking as they stare at each other? This is a picture of Christopher
staring at an Aztec warrior, on an intricate mosaic in front of the main
This is a side view
of the Episcopalian church in
What Was Jesus’s Core Message?
We do not really know exactly what Jesus actually said. The widely available Bibles we have today are all heavily affected by centuries of distortion, of many kinds. Furthermore, Jesus made it very clear that he often had to adapt his words to the context at hand, to try to help people in limited situations. Some of the sayings attributed to him clearly reflect his core message, while others were more context-dependent.
Here are those words, from the New English Bible (Cambridge University Press, Second Edition), which best project the core vision of Jesus, as I hear it:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. That is the greatest commandment. It comes first. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Everything in the Law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments. (M1, (22), 37-40)
You have learned that they were told “Love your neighbor, hate your enemy.” But what I tell you is this: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike… There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds. (M1, (5), 43-48)
Be careful not to make a show of your religion before men; if you do, no reward awaits you … (M1, (6), 1)
This is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, thy name be hallowed..” (M1, (6), 9).
Or how can you say to your brother “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is that plank in your own?.. First take the plank out of your own eye.. (M1, (7), 3-5).
How blest are those of a gentle spirit; they shall have the earth for their possession… How blest are the peacemakers; God shall call him his sons. … Anyone who nurses anger against his brother must be brought to judgment. If he abuses his brother, he must answer for it to the court; if he sneers at him, he will have to answer first in the fires of hell. (M1, (5), 5, 9, 22.)
Foxes have their holes, the birds their roosts, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. (M1, (8), 20.)
I speak to them in parables... For this people’s mind has become gross; their ears are dulled, and their eyes are closed. Otherwise, their eyes might see… and I would heal them. (M1, (13), 13-15)
The young man
(asked)..”Where do I still fall short?” Jesus said to
him, “If you
wish to go the whole way, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and
then you will have riches in heaven.. it is easier for
a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
Alas, alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You shut the door of Heaven in men’s faces; you do not enter yourselves, and when others are entering, you stop them. (M1, (23), 13)
Take care that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name and (many) saying “I am the Messiah”; and many will be misled by them. (M1, (24), 4-6)
.. the kingdom of heaven will be like this.. It is like a man going abroad, who called his servants… the man who had been given one bag of gold (talents) went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. A long time afterwards… “You lazy rascal,” said the master , “You knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered? Then… I should have got it back with interest… Fling the useless servant out into the dark…”
(M1, (25), 1, 18-18, 26-30).
Do you bring in the lamp to put it under... the bed? Surely it is brought to be set on the lamp-stand.. If you have ears to hear, then hear. (M2, (4), 21-23)
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (M2, (15), 35.
Sell your possessions and give in charity. (L( 12), 33).
A man of the ruling class put this question to him: “Good Master, what must I do to win eternal life?” Jesus said to him: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (L (18), 18-19).
In truth I tell you,
no one can enter the
.. you may recognize and know that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (J (10), 37-38).
I am the vine, and you the branches. He who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears much fruit... He who does not dwell in me if thrown away like a withered branch. The withered branches are heaped together, thrown on the fire, and burnt. (J (15), 5-6).
There is still much that I could say to you, but the burden would be too great for you now. However, when he comes who is the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but will tell only what he hears; and he will make known to you the things that are coming.” (J (16), 12-13.)
(The references in quotations are to Matthew (M1), Mark (M2), Luke (L) and John (J), chapter and verse.)
Walk In The Light: the Favorite Song of Modern Quakers
and a Light that is shining in the heart of a man:
and a Light that is shining, friend, in me and in you.
Walk in the Light, wherever you may be,
I am walking in the glory of the Light, said Fox.
O, the book, it will perish, and the steeple it will fall,
I am walking in the glory of the Light, said Fox.
(Lyrics © Copyright 1964 Sydney Carter
What Was Jesus Telling Us About Reality?
Spiritual Reality: Some Prerequisites
Objective reality – including both “mundane” and “spiritual” aspects of reality – is only one “thing” out there. Christianity, science, Buddhism and Taoism, and all the other great streams of human thought are all important windows into that one reality. Sometimes nasty bugs get splattered onto the windows, and keep us from seeing anything but the little room we are sitting in – but if we clean off the bugs, and expose the window itself, we will see a sharper and more vivid picture out there, and we will understand how all these windows show us aspects of the same reality. It is the same light shining on us all.
Of course, this larger reality is not “just science.” More precisely, it is not just a part of what we mean when we use the word “science” today. In modern culture, the word “science” refers to a large stream of thought defined by Thomas Kuhn. Science today is a systematic, rational effort to understand shared experience, experience available to all people in controlled laboratory experiments. But when Jesus (and George Fox and Francis Bacon) ask us to open our eyes and our ears, they are calling us to pay equal attention to another dimension of experience. They are calling us to manifest the spirit of truth in all aspects of life. Logically, that implies we should draw on the entire pool of empirical data available from all the experience of humanity as much as we can, including the laboratory but also including the rest. The same kind of care, planning and precision used by Jesus as a carpenter is applicable in many other parts of life as well.
If you believe that the “spiritual” dimension is not real, and that you have no inner eyes or ears to open, then you should not pretend to be a Christian, and – I must apologize – you will not get much benefit from this particular page on my web site. In that case, I hope that you can get some benefit from my book chapter on how I got to be so crazy, or from the pages on my web site which try hard to avoid the assumption that the spiritual dimension is real. And please try to be tolerant.
Who are We and Who is He?: The Basics
When Jesus asks us to be born again of water and of spirit, is he saying that the supreme goal of life is to get wet and go to a swimming pool? Of course not – yet a direct “literal” interpretation of his words could go that way. (In my mind, I can imagine a commercial for a swimming pool in a fundamentalist neighborhood, using these words from the Bible. I have certainly seen political commercials of a similar flavor, with less honesty in spirit.) Jesus himself warned us that he was forced to speak in parables, and wanted to say more.
Above all, Jesus was giving advice for the cultivation of the soul and the spirit. But what are these things that he is calling on us to cultivate?
Many modern Christians tend to believe what I would call the “credit card theory of the soul.” They tend to assume that the soul is something they have or own (hidden in a back pocket?). They do not seem to think that it is what they are. Like a credit card, it only appears when there is a heavy debt to be paid – a “sin,” which puts a charge on the account. And then, at death, someone comes along and decides whether to admit you to a nice apartment building or not, based on what is left on your credit card. But for Jesus and the others – the soul is a major part (perhaps the only real part) of what you are. And so, the eyes and ears of the soul are part of your nature, like the talents which should not be buried. Those who try to lock up the light or hide it under the bed are guilty of a crime against nature, like the cold and spiritless followers of The Law whom Jesus complains about. He wasn’t talking about patent attorneys; he was talking about those poor people who thought that obedience to the law alone could save them.
Christianity spread across
Look closely at the words above. Jesus says that we are all branches of the same vine. If we can be “in him” and he is in us, and him in the Father, and the Father in him, what is going on here? (I shudder to think what the literalists might think about these words! Sometimes, when the color-blind look at pictures painted in color, they can come up with the strangest impressions…). Also… as he is trying to be more complete and more accurate, he does not say that the withered branches are sent to the Greek Underworld to be tortured; he says that they are simply burned away, just as the useless servant is cast away. To me, this sounds a lot like the story of subroutines or modules within a larger shared mind, in which useless pieces are simply handled by garbage collection routines in the matrix.
The flow of “spirit” is what holds this all together. Spirit flows along the “vine,” the invisible connection which is with us always. As an objective reality, “spirit” has been seen and given names and interpretations by all cultures. (For example, see the section on “chi” and the section on backpropagation.) Spirit flows like water. It is spirit which labels a branch as “useful,” and without it the branch becomes withered and “cannot be forgiven.”
The Esoteric Elements
And, as the Cat in the Hat once said – that is not all, my friend, not at all. In my view, Jesus was both far greater and far less than Christians today normally give credit for. Greater because he could see further and understand deeper than his followers seem to assume. Lesser, because he was not, and did not claim to be, God Himself.
There is no doubt that powerful rulers like the Emperor Constantine tried to shape and use Christianity to their own ends. Having previously claimed to be God or Gods themselves, it was only natural for Roman Emperors to try to establish the same principle – on pain of death to any who disagreed – for Jesus. I do not know who inserted those words into the Greek Bible that say everyone should pay money to Caesar, but I can’t help having my suspicions. It is well known to history that Isaac Newton studied this matter carefully, and ended up with the same suspicions. So, yes, not everything in The Da Vinci Code is fiction. If I were a true Biblical scholar. I would study Newton’s work on this issue more carefully and the work of the antiMelkites, along with book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman, Secrets of the Code by Dan Burstein, and some of the more enlightened Coptic sources which the latter two groups seem unaware of; however, my personal responsibilities lie elsewhere.
In the passages above, Jesus talks frequently about “our Father” or “the Father.” He asks everyone to pray to “our Father.” I tend to believe that that particular passage is more certain to be original and unaltered than the rest.
Somewhere back in my old fuzzy memory, I seem to remember someone asking Jesus: “Are you the Son of God?” and Jesus replying – “You are all the children of God.” Whether this is a valid memory or not – the passages above, and other factors, convince me that this is what he would have said.
But what is this Father he is talking about? Is he just another partriarchal male trying to put the oppressed masses into a docile position? Is he just using a home-style metaphor to try to talk about the True Ancient Universal Cosmic Omnipotence which emanates from the devotees of hyperbole in theology schools and in the Temple of the Goat? Or could there be more here?
In discussing a “standard model of the soul” (as in my book chapter and elsewhere), I often mention briefly that a certain extension is required to close the model and the logic – and I sometimes refer to a paper on self-organization, in Pribram’s edited book Origins,1994. The model postulates that we humans are a symbiotic organism, and that the “soul” or “spiritual” side of our being is really part of one large being, similar to what others have called “Gaia” or “the Communion of Saints” or “the body of Christ” or “the noosphere” or the “collective unconscious” (emerging perhaps into consciousness). The claim is that it is real and physical, but based on physics and forces that humans do not yet understand. Certainly this collective intelligence is at an immature or emergent, child-like state in many ways. But in biology – children usually do not exist without parents. Parents are not all-knowing, but they seem that way to children, and perhaps it is safer for children to act as if they were – to some extent. In this model, human spiritual communications are almost all local communications within the noosphere, no matter how impressive they may seem at times. Almost all, but not quite all. Parents expect their children to learn most things for themselves – but not quite all (depending on the species). Perhaps Jesus really was one of those very rare and lucky people who established/received a continuous connection beyond our noosphere, a connection which would of course have included a rather enormous fire-hose of spirit. (And yes, the mathematics does get to be a bit more than what we see in the mouse brain here!)
In the end,
this is not the kind of Holy Trinity they talk about in
Is such a notion a bit hard to bear, in some ways? Especially as it suggests that our entire noosphere – our soul(s) as well as our bodies – might well all cease to exist if we screw up our responsibilities for life on this planet? Well, Jesus did say that the full truth might be hard to bear, and that there would be great challenges ahead.
Some Important Technical Details
(to be filled in)
The heart – real feelings (Harvard story), chakras, Corbin among the Sufis, Pythagorean precedent, Gurdjieff
Not yet filled in here, but look at the creatures under Buddhism/Taoism
Love – form of spirit; status within mind; hope, fear, will; de Chardin’s Activation of Energy
Role of women – and divorce quote authentic but context-dependent
Empathy, in and out, multimodular interface, dreams, mirror neurons etc
Quaker listening, original versus, slavery and 1776 issues, Jesuit book, 20’s preparation movement
As on the Buddhism/Taoism page, I feel called to jump ahead and start filling in the last part now because of current events in the noosphere.
The Book of
Revelations does not claim to contain the message of Jesus. It recounts a dream
about the future by
The Scientific Plausibility of Inspired Dreams
since my job here is to try to manifest the spirit of truth, comes a
preliminary question: how can a real scientist give any credit to the notion of
an inspired dream? Does science forbid that kind of thing? Not really. Science
has learned a lot in the past century (though of course it still has more to
learn.) Look at my web page on quantum physics and
the subpage on quantum mind. Religious and
mystical people have said a lot of silly things about quantum physics which
make the average physicist react as emotionally as a Moslem hearing George Bush
use the word “crusade.” But at the core, it is true that the orthodox
In order to reconcile most of classical realism with those weird and unavoidable experiments, we have to give up a little bit of the older way of thinking. What we have to give up is the idea that causality always runs forward in time.
If you want a more detailed explanation, go to the physics page. For now: here is the bottom line. The most conservative, skeptical view of physics which is tenable at all, after the experiments which are now well-known and well-tested, does allow for causal influences – like information – to go backwards under time, under some circumstances. Time is just another dimension of the physical universe. Einstein never endorsed “moral relativism,” but he did say that time as we encounter it in physics is just another dimension. If this sounds weird to you – well, the alternatives are a whole lot weirder than that.
But what are the proper circumstances? Before 1967, I would have agreed that the proper circumstances never exist for anything weird or Jungian to happen in human life. But very compelling experience of life has forced me to change that view, and adopt a different perspective on the scientific principles underlying our life. Once that transition is made, the idea of a backwards flow of information here and there is a very small step.
And yet… as I think more about the details of experience, I have to admit that I have been oversimplifying the situation so far. In the noosphere, there is a kind of collective anticipation of future possibilities, rooted in a higher, quantum-based form of intelligence, but not at all the same as a direct perception of an unavoidable future. Most of the valid inspired dreams about the future are of that sort – “veridical” but not cast in bronze.
The Last Days
Please forgive me for beating around the bush. Again, it is an unpleasant subject.
In my view,
the dream reported in the Book of Revelations [MSOffice1] was certainly an inspired, veridical dream.
I never wanted to read that book, but was more or less forced to as a result of
circumstances back in 1972. (Mainly, I was locked up for hours in a small
apartment with nothing else to do.) Some of the details really amazed me. At
the time, I had just finished a long piece on possibilities for space
manufacture. And then, in the Book of Revelations I found a list of… about a
dozen… “gems” all over the City Floating in the Heavens, which were actually
the same as the crystals we had been proposing to mass produce in space
manufacturing in the city in earth orbit that we wanted to build. (In 1972, I
founded the Harvard Society for a Space Economy, HCSE, one of the ancestors of
the L-5 Society and the National Space Society.)
I had to look up the gems in the dictionary in this apartment, but they all
matched – except for one. I later asked about that one, in a conversation with
an engineer from the GE Space Center, and he was very upset that I had somehow
guessed their top secret best hope for space manufacturing. “Where did you read
about it? We need to block that publication, whatever it is.” Not quite. But –
if we don’t build the
But not all of reality is so pleasant. There is no guarantee at all that the future will be as pleasant as what the Book of Revelations describes.
There are many people who like to indulge in wishful thinking about that Book. There are many salesmen who have discovered they can obtain a lot of wealth, fame and political support by pandering to wishful thinking, like the famous gypsy fortune tellers telling old women that romance will soon come into their lives. (Not all gypsies are so bad, but bad ones certainly exist who make money in this way. And the same for preachers.)
The worst wishful thinking is from people who think that they only need to maintain loyalty to some special club of people, have faith, and look forward to being saved on the last day.
But folks – look above to what Jesus says about the useless servant. And look at the whole original passage (which I had to abbreviate here). And think about it. If you are truly full of the spirit of love and of Christ, you will not just sit idly by while the rest of humanity suffers. If you do, then you are the useless servant. You won’t make it. If you have not used your talents for the benefit of humanity as a whole, and the spirit is not working through you… sorry folks, the spirit of giving money to your local demagogues is not what this is about. By and large, all of humanity is in this together, and we are threatened as a whole with extinction. I too have had a few dreams on occasion… it is a curious experience to wake up after a dream where billions upon billions have died, with a great variety of stupefied expressions on their faces – they never imagined it was about them themselves. (Everyone tends to assume that there will be some kind of special loophole for themselves and their family.) It is especially compelling, when there is a complete story line which puts together trends and facts we can see in mundane reality, clearly, all around us today, if only we would face up to them.
talks about the spiritual lawyers – the same kinds of folks who warped Islam
into shariyah, and Christianity into canon law –
including those laws from
And finally, here is a confession. I too like to believe there might possibly be a special loophole for me and a handful of people linked to me. (Linkage between people is one of the basic facts of spiritual life, just like the linkage between neurons in a neural network, or branches of a vine.) We all have our illusions. But who would want to have a portrait of a billion dead faces on his resume, when looking for a job elsewhere? More seriously, the spirit of love calls us to do the best we can for humanity, and not imagine any reason to do one whit less. The spirit of truth demands that we overcome the self-delusions of the past even more than the spirit of love unaided would do.
The news is
not all negative. Also, the challenge and the burden is
on all of humanity, not only
An important clarification: in the best scenario, we achieve sustainability both on earth and in space. For example, better energy sources, better education and the removal of all oppression of women’s rights are the most important things we need to achieve sustainability and avoid disaster right here on earth; see the sustainability page. Sustainability on earth, spiritual enlightenment, and sustainable human settlement of space are all linked to each other. To attack any one of them, in the name of the other, is to undermine all three.
[MSOffice1]New in November 2007: After writing this, I saw a well-researched episode of Nova
(science television, funded by NSF), reporting that Isaac Newton predicted that
the events predicted in the Book of Revelations would come to a head in the
year 2060. What do we make of that?
What do we make of it when the greatest scientist of all time (according to
these historians) makes these predictions at the same time he makes his
greatest creative contributions to science and successfully manages a complex
government agency? Do we just ignore it, or do we think twice? Click here for my views on what