Ordinary and Marvelous
The Secrets of the Universe
A note to help understand the background and context of this article:
The first article, “Ordinary and Marvelous” was assigned to the class to read in preparation for the lecture that follows, entitled “The Secrets of the Universe”
Ordinary and Marvelous!
A Peek at the Peak
by Sam and Bunny Sewell
When human beings in every culture have a common behavior, that behavior is considered a part of basic human nature, rather than the product of cultural conditioning. For instance; marriage occurs in all cultures. Thus, marriage is part of human nature, and has what anthropologists call “cross cultural verification.” This brief essay is an introduction to a special kind of universal human experience that remains a mystery for most people. It is important to note that this mysterious phenomenon has cross cultural verification. This ordinary and marvelous event is something that comes from our fundamental human nature. Our challenge is to define this mystery that occurs in every century and every culture, and to understand its effects.
What does this experience feel like? Here are some quotations:
1. “I suddenly became vividly aware that every blade of grass had its own life.”
2. “Time seemed to stand still.”
3. “I lost awareness of my separate existence. I realized I was part of everything.”
4. “Everything -- the flowers, birds, and trees -- seemed alive with a buzzing or glowing energy. It was like someone had sprinkled 'pixie dust' everywhere.”
5. “It was so beautiful! It was still the ordinary world, but now I realized its perfection. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I wasn't sad! I have never been so
happy in my life; true rapture! It was as if an absolutely perfect reality had been there all along, and suddenly I could see lt.”
6. “Somebody turned reality up a notch. Everything was brighter. Somehow everything was more real.”
7. “Every detail was perfect. Nor could it possibly have been any other way!”
8. “Even while I watched it happen, I knew ... as though I had known all along. There was a feeling that of course this was how things really were.”
None of these statements would sound strange to an ancient mystic. Mystics have always been aware of these special states of consciousness. Mystical literature is full of such references. What is surprising is the dawning awareness that we all have mystical experiences. Very ordinary people who don't write poems, burn incense, meditate, see visions, use hallucinogenic drugs, or experience miracles, often report “peak experiences.” Remember, this is a common phenomenon in all cultures.
In our discussion of this subject we use the phrase “peak experiences” which is borrowed from the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow. Maslow and other psychologists have extensively researched this phenomenon, and they have applied the label “peak experiences” to what has been called “inspiration,” “the Divine ecstasy,” “enlightenment,” “satori,” “being born again,” or “seeing the Glory of God,” etc.
The psychological exploration of peak experiences has revealed some astounding facts and spawned fascinating speculations. Below are some of the types of peak experiences:
Insight experiences -- Newton when the apple hit him on the head -- Einstein when the general and special theories of relativity were “revealed” to him -- Bohr's discovery of quantum theory -- the “gift” of the perfect solution to a complicated problem, without any conscious problem solving on your part. Knowledge through revelation is a common peak experience for many people.
Spiritual rapture -- St. Paul on the road to Damascus -- Buddha under the Bo tree -- Jesus in the desert -- the rapture of the prophets -- feeling God's presence around a camp fire -- religious literature abounds with examples. For a good discussion on this subject see William James, “The Varieties of Religious Experience.”
Creative experiences -- an entire symphony with full instrumentation playing in the mind of a great composer for the first time -- the rush of ideas pressing the mind of the novelist so that his typing can not keep up with the flow of ideas and words. The states of consciousness associated with peak experiences are resident in the poet, artist, composer, musician, writer, actor, orator, dancer, the theoretical physicist, the sub-atomic physicist, and the astrophysicist.
Nature experiences -- stars take your breath away one special night, even though the same stars are there every night -- things seem more real, more alive, brighter, perfect, beautiful -- a fraternal connection with an animal (i.e. Martin Buber's description of his experience with a horse). Nature is the setting for the most common kind of peak experience.
Impossible events -- Football’s “Immaculate Reception” -- the “hole-in-one” you knew was a hole-in-one before you hit the ball -- that sense of perfect action which you “know” will turn out perfectly as you do it -- feeling “in synch” with things and action -- sports, ballet, martial arts, and many other things that happen in “perfect synchronicity.”
Trauma experiences -- near death experiences, like men in combat -- people near death from sickness -- people who belong to the “zipper club” -- near fatal accidents, are commonly reported as changing peoples’ lives forever. Also included are trance states induced by tribal dancing, prolonged fasting or other deprivations. Groups who experience trauma (like earthquakes) are often bonded by the shared peak experience associated with many kinds of extreme stress.
There are other kinds of peak experiences. These examples are offered to stimulate memories of your own peak experiences.
After the Peak
For many people the aftereffects of peak experiences are every bit as real as the experience itself. The aftereffects are profound and long lasting. They seem to establish the validity of peak experiences in people's lives. Below are some of the reported aftereffects of peak experiences:
l. Peak experiences have a therapeutic effect in the sense that they remove problems from peoples lives. Long standing neurotic symptoms sometimes disappear. Occasionally, addictions are instantly overcome. Physical healings are reported in the aftermath of peak experiences. Such therapeutic effects are plentifully recorded in human history.
2. Peak experiences can change a person's view of himself in a healthy direction.
3. Peak experiences can change a person's view of other people and one's relationship to them in many ways.
4. Peak experiences can permanently change a person's world view or one's understanding of the meaning of life.
5. Peak experiences often release greater creativity, unique traits of personality,
spontaneity, expressiveness, and joy.
6. People often have exceptionally vivid recollections of their peak experiences, see them as desirable, enjoy reliving them in memory, and eagerly anticipate the occurrence of similar experiences.
7. The person is more apt to feel that life in general is worthwhile. In the midst of the ordinary, the person knows at his core that beauty, wholeness, goodness, truth, and meaningfulness, really do exist. Faith no longer means believing without evidence. He has personal experience of the divine nature. He has known his perfect self and experienced a perfect universe. Life itself is validated!
Maslow summarizes aftereffects this way: “I think that these aftereffects can all be generalized and a feeling for them communicated if the peak experience could be likened to a visit to a personally defined paradise from which the person then returns to ordinary life.” Maslow goes on to quote the mystic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “If a man could pass through paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke - Ay! And what then?” Peak experiences give us a glimpse of a reality that is stripped of our personal and cultural perspectives. It is nothing less than the direct experience of a reality that is unsullied by human limitations.
Maslow asked thousands of people about their peak experiences. Here is Maslow’s first research question: “I would like you to think of the most wonderful experience or experiences of your life: happiest moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music, or suddenly ‘being hit’ by a poem or a work of art, or from some great creative moment. Would you please make a list of your experiences, and your impressions of how they have affected you?
The Secrets of the Universe
A lecture by Dr. Sam Sewell to a class sponsored by
The Theological Center of Naples
Church Without Walls
Beyond the Physical
This is a Two Way Cosmic Street
The Rise of Mystical Religion
The Founding of Christianity
The Outhouse Theology
The Rise and Fall of Religion
The Sum of All Things
Church Without Walls
I want to take this opportunity because, in our study of the history of the Judeo/Christian religious tradition, we have arrived at this Intertestamental period. We have gotten to this idea of mysticism, or the direct connection that human beings have to absolute reality, without reference to the institutions that have cropped up around that direct connection; the idea that we can all access the sacred without the benefit of stained glass windows.
That does not mean that we shouldn’t value the institutions and the symbols that have grown up around religion. We need to honor that, recognized it, respect it, and also have our own personal connection to the Sacred. It is your personal connection to the Divine that is, to me, more satisfying and more significant. The two are kind of hard to separate, one from the other.
We have talked about how community, the whole idea of community; to get together with other people who are seeking the Sacred, is part of what all that is about. So I guess you could call what we’re doing a church, although I would be aghast at the idea. That is why we call this gathering Church WOW! (With Out Walls)
Beyond the Physical
So what I wanted to do here is to share with you folks the conclusions of a lifetime. I’ve been working on this stuff for a long, long time, ever since I was a young boy. People frequently see seminary as an experience that gets you the training and the education you need, but that wasn’t the case for me at all. Seminary didn’t answer a pauper’s part of the questions that I had, and I’ve gone on studying and learning from that point forward. I was on a quest for ultimate truth. Seminary gave me particular truth.
I have joked with folks that I came into the church through the back door. What I mean by that is that it wasn’t until I became acquainted with subatomic physics and astrophysics that I was able to allow, (notice how arrogant that is) a God into “my” universe. I am more a philosopher, theologian and behavioral scientist than a physicist. I have no formal training as a physicist, but I am an interested amateur.
In other words, like so many people, it was in studying God’s creation that God’s face finally showed through for me in such a way that I could then start looking at, ‘What is the nature of that which lies beyond the seeable reality?’
Metaphysics is one of the ways of looking at that. Metaphysics investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science. Cosmology and ontology are traditional branches of metaphysics.
· Cosmology is the branch of astrophysics that studies the universe as the totality of all phenomena in space and time.
· Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general.
Metaphysics is concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the universe. The word metaphysics means ‘beyond the physical.’ So in many ways metaphysics transcends the physical sciences.
Let me put it this way: At the subatomic level, the physical and the non-physical are even interchangeable, so we can’t really talk about a physical reality as opposed to a non-physical reality. I think most of you know that Einstein’s famous theory, E=mc2, E is energy, M is mass, and c2 is the speed of light times itself. What that formula represents is that energy and matter are interchangeable. Another way of looking at it is that matter is just thick energy, compressed energy, because when you crack a uranium atom, energy is given off which is non-tangible, so we are converting the tangible into the non-tangible with nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.
Then there is the reverse of that process, which is also demonstratable. In a Wilson cloud chamber, (which is a device that you can build, believe it or not, it’s that simple) a gaseous atmosphere is created, through which you can see visible contrails - not the particle or the wave itself - but you can see the condensation of the particle passing through a Wilson cloud chamber, or the condensation trail of a wave passing through the Wilson cloud chamber. You can see it with the naked eye. But when you start looking, sometimes the particle trail turns into a wave trail right in the middle of the chamber; right in front of your eyes, matter turns into energy. Likewise, you’ll watch a condensation trail come in on one side as a wave and turn into energy as it exits. At the subatomic level there is this constant interplay between the tangible and intangible; between energy and matter.
Now, there is a third element in this process that has not yet been formulated.
This is what Einstein was talking about when he spoke of the Unified Field Theory. That, if we have two variables, energy and matter, which are interchangeable, then what science says about any kind of variable, is “look for the constant.” There can’t be two variables without there being a constant which underlies those two variables. I know what that is. The rest of the scientific world has not yet discovered it.
Let me be honest about what I’m saying here. This whole conversation is about the degree to which knowledge comes through revelation. Most of the things I’m going to talk to you about tonight are things that have been revealed to me. They are not things that I can prove scientifically.
One of the things that I get annoyed with scientists about is the phrase “Well, there’s no scientific evidence for that.” They use that phrase, ‘There’s no scientific evidence for [fill in the blank],’ to put down speculative thinking. I turn it around the other way, ‘Well if there is no scientific evidence, that only shows how inadequate the scientists are. Go out there and find some evidence because I know it’s true. Just because you, Mr. Scientist, have not yet found evidence to support my hypothesis, does not mean that my hypothesis is inadequate. Your gathering of scientific information is inadequate.’ Scientists would not agree. They would say that knowledge through revelation is not possible. Do you know why they say that? “Because there’s no scientific evidence….”
So what we’re left with when we start studying the outer reaches of scientific knowledge, the outer reaches of astrophysics or subatomic physics, is the conclusion that we’ve got a far more flexible universe than we think. One of the ways I like to say it is, “Reality is really there, but then again, it’s just barely there; because it can shift from one expression of reality to another expression of reality. ” Believe it or not, it can shift depending upon whether or not you are observing it.
Individual human consciousness (we have these little consciousness generators up here in our brain) has the ability to interact with absolute consciousness. Consciousness IS that which underlies all existence. Consciousness is the constant that underlies the two variables of energy and matter. We have the ability as sentient beings, self-aware beings, to interact with that sea of consciousness in which we live, and move and derive our very being. “Consciousness is the ground of all being” is another way to think about it.
Now, theologians will talk about that, philosophers will talk about that, and scientists are beginning to talk about it. The main reason that they’re not able to quantify or put it into a formula is that the only thing science has available is finite instruments. You cannot measure the infinite with finite instruments. So, science is always going to be ‘a day late and a dollar short’ when it comes to understanding the fundamental nature of reality. They’re not able to do it with a finite scientific paradigm or finite scientific instruments.
There are some people who overdo mankind’s ability to influence reality through the manipulation of collective consciousness. There are those who say that the world really was flat until people started thinking of it as round. In other words, they’re way over on the other side of the influence of human consciousness. These are tiny little influences; this human consciousness that we have. All of us put together can only slightly influence the outcome of events or reality, as we perceive it. If matter is extremely concentrated (thick) energy, then energy and matter are concentrated (thick) consciousness to a degree that is unknowable. Our puny personal consciousness generators (our brains) are less than a drop in the ocean. Our collective human consciousness, what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the “noosphere” isn’t a thimble full in the ocean of Absolute Being Consciousness.
Don’t get me wrong, we do make a difference! I think that God actually functions mostly in the area of barely perceptible phenomenon. That’s where all the really neat stuff happens, where it’s trembling on the brink anyway. It is the influence of spiritually minded people that can affect the outcomes that are trembling on the brink of going one way or the other. Our collective consciousness has just enough influence to tip the scales of reality. For example, if it is in God’s nature to sustain life and health, our prayers and healing thoughts will add influence to what God is doing anyway.
That brings me to the whole idea of subatomic physics and what that has to do with our understanding of the nature of God. Essentially, what Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty says is, “Things can change location or can change their nature, depending on whether or not they’re being observed.” What the whole thing boils down to is that all reality is suspended in many potentialities, unlimited possibilities. And those unlimited possibilities are all inherent in every moment. When you start observing that moment, you influence those many infinite possibilities, and the so-called probability wave, or possibility wave if you want to call it that, “collapses” - that’s the phrase the physicists use - and the reality manifests. Of all of the infinite probabilities built into a moment, there are all kinds of ways the moment could turn out, but your feeding into that probability is the thing that makes it turn out the way it finally manifests in perceivable reality. In other words, the universe is visibly living up to our expectations every moment that we exist. We have an influence on the probability wave collapsing, and for reality to manifest the way it does.
Our consciousness influences reality as we experience it to an unknowable degree. In thermodynamics for example, a standard mercury-in-glass thermometer must absorb some thermal energy to record a temperature, and therefore when withdrawn it changes the temperature of the body which it is measuring. Granted, the influence is small; however, we know that we do influence reality by measuring it.
There’s a joke based on Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty. Here is the joke intended for subatomic scientists: “You might be a subatomic physicist if you’re afraid to look at your life for fear the probability wave might collapse and you’re really someone else.” It’s just a joke to illustrate the idea that if you involve yourself in it, you are changing the outcome of it. There is no pure experiment! The scientist always affects the outcome of the experiment he’s working on. There really is no such thing as objective observation of anything. If we’ve observed it, we’ve already lost all objectivity. And, of course, you can’t know what’s going on without observing. Once we become involved, the whole experiment becomes subjective rather than objective. Not only that, our influence and our consciousness is affecting the outcome of something, either in the process of observing it, or in making whatever it is to happen. That is the basic idea behind Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty.
The idea of things popping in and out of existence depending on whether or not they are being perceived is a metaphysical problem more than a century old and predates quantum theory. George Berkeley (March 1685 – 14 January 1753) in the 18th century developed subjective idealism, a metaphysical theory to respond to these questions, coined famously as "to be is to be perceived" or “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, is there a sound?”.
If you want to see a confident Quantum Physicist blanch with fear mention the “measurement effect: or the “observer effect”. Click here if you want a technical discussion on the Observer Effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect_(physics)
The problem was cleverly solved by means of a limerick found in Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy.
God in the Quad
By Ronald Knox
There was a young man who said, “God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.”
Your astonishment’s odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Later developments like Fynman’s (Richard Feynman May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) Quantum electrodynamics (QED) posit a universe with matter popping in and out of existence even in the vacuum of outer space.
Now, when you know scientists think like that, is it really that much of a stretch to think that your own individual consciousness is influencing events and circumstances to be attracted to your life? Does your individual consciousness act like a reality magnet, which draws the circumstances and situations into your life because of the nature of your consciousness? Is that which we have in our minds, attracting into our lives the reality that eventually manifests itself? Is it that hard to think that way, when you know how flexible, how indeterminate, reality really is at the subatomic level, and how reality is affected by human consciousness and human interaction with that reality?
Our premise is that our individual human consciousness can influence absolute consciousness, the ground of all being. Now let’s just let that one sit there for a minute. For now, we’ll leave the topic of this kind of indeterminate reality that is subject to all kinds of influences and subject to different outcomes, depending on our involvement.
This is a Two Way Cosmic Street
Now I want to take on another piece of information about what goes on at the subatomic level. Absolute Being Consciousness influences our individual human consciousness.
Bunny and I deal with brain science a lot. It is important for a good therapist to understand brain science - at least the beginning of it, to know what brain function is, and, for the matter of diagnosing a patient who might be having a problem, deciding “How we are going to find a solution for that problem.” If we know brain science, we might find out that the symptoms that are manifesting from that client might have something to do with brain function.
For instance, thoughts cause emotions. Every thought we think releases neuropeptides (emotional chemicals) that affect every cell in our body. Patterns of thinking cause emotional patterns. This is what causes most of the emotional problems people have. Cognitive therapists teach their patients to adopt habits of thinking that make them happy, healthy, and whole. That is my job. I do it every day with demonstrable long lasting results. These emotional chemicals also affect our immune systems and our overall health. Epidemiologists can solidly track specific diseases to specific thinking patterns. So it really is true that we can think ourselves sick or we can think ourselves well. Other people's thinking can also make us sick or well because of the "empathy" effect. Second hand thoughts can hurt our health just like second hand smoke.
But Bunny and I were fascinated enough with the whole subject of the brain that we went a few steps further, taking it well beyond what we needed to know about the brain as psychotherapists, and began looking at it as a phenomenon we simply wanted to study.
The first thing I want you to know about is the so-called synaptic gap. “Gap” is really a pretty inaccurate word for it, because when you think of a gap, you think of the Cumberland Gap, or other kinds of gaps; a sparkplug gap, you can think of it that way. There are tools that mechanics have that set the spark gap to a certain distance.
Look guys, I want you to understand this; the so-called “gap” is indistinguishable by the naked eye, and only barely distinguishable under an electron microscope. The distance of the so-called synaptic gap is 250 angstroms and smaller. As you know Fahrenheit was a scientist, and when you come up with something good, you get to put your name on it. The angstrom is named after the Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström and is an internationally recognized unit of length equal to 0.1 nanometre or 1 × 10−10 metres. The ångström is often used in the natural sciences for expressing the sizes of atoms, lengths of chemical bonds and the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.
Angstrom is a unit of measure that is used in very small measurements of distance. The place where quantum affect would begin to happen is down at the smallest level. Most physicists will tell you that there is one set of rules about how the universe works with things that are bigger than an atom, and another whole set of principles for how the universe deals with things that are smaller than an atom. And when we get down to 250 angstroms, some of these really strange things that happen in the quantum or subatomic level begin to manifest themselves. For comparison, visible light may have a wavelength of 4,000 angstroms.
So what I’m saying is that every one of your brain cells is separated from every other brain cell by a gap that is less than 250 angstroms. What that means is that, from my point of view, and again this is one of those things that I know from revelation, the Holy Spirit as an aspect of Absolute Being Consciousness has the possibility, has the potential, has the ability, to influence the human mind by hooking up neuron pathways that otherwise would not be hooked up if the person were left with nothing but the faculties of their own biological brain with which to hook up those neuron pathways. That is how God talks to us, which is how peak experiences happen.
Basically what happens with a peak experience is that a whole bunch of neuron pathways get hooked up, because of the Holy Spirit quickening the human mind, and we have experiences, insights and awarenesses that would simply not be available to us with the normal biological mind.
That is the next thing that I wanted to make clear; the ability of the Holy Spirit to quicken the minds of humans by influencing activity at the synaptic gap. So we have God speaking to us, we have us influencing reality, the underpinnings of which is God, and we’ve got this interface going on between human beings and the ultimate reality. That spirit of which we live and breathe and move and derive our very being is not some static reality to which we are subject; it is a dynamic reality with which we interact and which we influence. We are co-creators with God to a greater extent than most of us realize.
Taking it one step further, I want you to know that it is also the conclusion of my knowledge through revelation that, when we start talking about peak experiences, these mystical experiences, and the ability that God has to stimulate the human mind to hook up neuron pathways that otherwise would not hook up, that this is the basis of all the major religions. Absolute Being Consciousness affects individual human consciousness. We now know, I now know, so do you if you believe it, that this is the basis of all religions. Essentially, it is this God-induced mystical experience that Abraham Maslow called “the peak experience.”
Someone has a mystical experience, and they have to share it, they have to do something with it. They’ll write stories about it that become holy books, they’ll build a temple or a shrine, and if it’s the kind of revelation that catches on, soon you have other people accepting that peak experience that you had, and there is now a collective consciousness surrounding and sustaining that premise. That is what most of us call “religion.”
The Rise of Mystical Religion
Let me give you an example. The last thing that we studied before we got to the Intertestamental Period was the Prophetic Period. I’m telling you, these prophets were having mystical experiences right and left. They were redefining how we understand God. I believe that it’s in God’s nature that he wants his creations to understand him. “I want you to know who ‘I am’.”
What most powerfully influences the Intertestamental Period (400 BC to 50 BCE) is the rise of Greek culture and Philosophy. The Greeks influenced the rise of mystical religion in the world the same way a supercharger influences a race car.
And thus these insights that special people experience were more numerous. God was revealing Divine nature to us at an accelerated pace. And when those insights are disseminated, written down in scripture, there’s a lot more that happens.
Essentially what the Prophet Isaiah was saying is, “there is but one God and it is a universal God. There’s no longer one god for this territory and one god for that territory, or that my god is stronger than your god and we’re going to go to war and my strong god will make me defeat you.” That kind of old type of religious thinking simply went out with the prophetic age.
Then we entered into this Intertestamental period, which is what we’re studying right now, and the form of religion, which is called mysticism, which is a direct connection to the Divine, became a lot more prominent to the point where we had some things happening in rapid succession.
Jesus, I have no doubt at all, is one of these people who had many peak experiences. You can probably see the record of Jesus’ peak experiences showing up several times in Scripture, probably the most prominent one is the story of the temptation and his outcome from that, another one is in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are other examples apparent to a person who knows about these kinds of states of consciousness. They can read through the scriptures and say when it was that Jesus’ mind was full of the Holy Spirit. It’s rather easy to pick out.
The ultimate conclusion of that is that Jesus became so conformed to the nature of the Absolute Being Consciousness that He, as a human being, became so conformed with the Nature of God that He sensed when the two became one. That the creation that was separated out from God, the creation that was alienated from the Creator, the alienation that is symbolically talked about as original sin, where mankind became separated from God because mankind is the creation and God is the Creator; that separation was wiped out, which is talked about symbolically in the scriptures as “The veil in the temple was rent asunder.” Which in essence means that which separates man from God was torn apart to the point where it could no longer be put back together.
There is no longer a separation between Creator and creation. That cosmic event happened through the agency of this man Jesus, whose soul took on the consciousness of God in his own personhood, and the distinction between Creator and creation was wiped out.
That’s the reason why I talk about the Christ event. I see Jesus as the focus of a cosmic event. As something that happened that didn’t just result in the religion called Christianity. It actually transformed the very nature of the cosmos; a fundamental shift in the nature of all things.
The Founding of Christianity
There was another peak experience that happened to another guy named Saul. He changed his name to Paul after the peak experience. The religion known as Christianity was started by Paul, not by Jesus. You can make this truth so clear to yourself. Read the scriptures. The Bible publishers have had sense enough that sometimes they publish Bibles that are called red-letter edition Bibles and all the words that Jesus spoke show up in red letters. If all you do is go through and read what it was Jesus said and then try to reconcile Jesus’ personal theology with what we know as Christianity, it would be a challenge.
In other words, close to the time of Jesus another person had this amazing peak experience. That was Paul. Paul’s mission that came out of his peak experience was to spread this idea that the Christ event had already happened. That we were no longer waiting for the Messiah, that the universe is already perfected, that everything is made clean, that everything is made Sacred. That’s the reality that we now live in, and it was Paul’s job to take that message to the world. That was Paul’s revelation; that he had a mission.
His peak experience was the understanding that the nature of the universe had been fundamentally changed, and it was his job to go tell people about it. This is amazing if you think about it. Here is this guy, a Jewish lawyer, not only that, a Jewish prosecuting attorney. He gets this message as an adult and he only lived to be about 65 years old. So how much time did he have? Maybe 30 years to spread the message, and in his own lifetime Christianity was already being spread through the known world. There were Christian churches all through the Mediterranean. Everywhere you went you could find Christians. Within 250 years of Paul’s death, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire, even though in Paul’s day, Christians were being killed by the Roman Empire.
It was the most sweeping victory of consciousness that has ever existed on the face of the planet. That one man was Paul, not Jesus. Of course we could all make the point that Paul had a close friend who was now Lord of the Universe, so maybe his efforts had more impetus perhaps than they otherwise might have.
So, we have first of all, this flexible universe that “reality is there, but just barely there” and it’s really open to change in very improbable ways. Reality is open to change and the universe can be influenced by faith. By faith, I mean the paradigm of reality that you have in your own mind, will influence reality as you experience it. And that reality is also influenced by prayer. When we pray, and we anticipate our prayer being answered, that anticipation actually adds to the likelihood that that event will manifest in our lives. So through faith and prayer, individual human beings are able to influence reality as they experience it. That’s how flexible reality is. Our own consciousness can influence it.
The Outhouse Theology
Now let’s talk about this thing called religion. Here’s my theory, I want to warn you that I am an Iowa farm boy. My nickname on all of the forums that I visit on the internet is Aristotle the Hun. Aristotle the Hun was a name given to me by a friend of mine more than 30 years ago who realized that for all my intellect I was still an Iowa farm boy. He saw this dichotomy of my being; slightly crude, probably too straight forward, not all that concerned with diplomacy and yet backed up by this monster brain, so he called me Aristotle the Hun. The minute he gave me this title I knew it fit and I’ve accepted it and used it for a lot of purposes since then. I’m telling you this to brace you for what is coming next.
Here’s the basis of my Outhouse Theology. An outhouse maybe a necessary structure, particularly where I came from in northern Iowa, we did not have indoor plumbing. We were one of the better families in town because we had a three-holer; also because we had a big family, the three-holer was a necessity. And the three-holer outhouse was the premise for my outhouse theology.
The Jewel of Great Price, that thing that we have been talking about that is the source of all religion, is a direct connection to the Divine that happens to us human beings. I call it that because, not only is it so valuable that you can’t say how much it’s worth, but it’s also multi-faceted.
You know that old story about the blind men and the elephant. Basically four blind men come across an elephant and the first blind man touches the side of the elephant and says, “It’s a wall.” Another man gets hold of one of the legs and says, “No, it’s a tree.” The third gets hold of the tail and says, “What’s the matter with you guys, it’s a rope.” The last one grabs the trunk and says, “Watch out it’s a huge snake.”
They were also experiencing the same thing but their senses were telling them different things depending on what “facet” of the elephant they experienced.
You know the mirrored orb in the ceiling of a ballroom that flashes light in every direction? I call it a “truth ball.” That could be a metaphor for my many-faceted jewel. There are so many facets, and the light is so brilliant, that when the flash strikes one facet of the Jewel of Great Price, the intensity of the reflection can blind you to the awareness that there is any other facet.
We Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, we’re all looking at this truth ball, this Jewel of Great Price, and we think that the facet we see is the only possible way to look at it. Because that single facet is so magnificent we exclude any one else’s perception of the same thing, much as the blind men thought everybody else was wrong about the nature of the elephant they were touching. But if that were not bad enough, we’re blinded by the magnificence of the one aspect of the jewel which we are observing.
So, here is what happens when we see one of those facets: “I’m going to write a story about this,” which becomes Scripture. “I’m going to build a shrine,” which eventually becomes a temple or a church. And so we have the Scriptures and we have the building. Now the relative value of the building where the Jewel of Great Price is housed is like the value of an outhouse with a Jewel of Great Price buried underneath it.
Next come the priests, the theologians and the philosophers to the “three-holer,” depositing their ‘load’ in this outhouse, soiling the pages of the scriptures with cleaning themselves up, and then throwing down onto the Jewel of Great Price the soiled scriptures that have been stripped away from their Source to the point where any serious seeker after the Jewel of Great Price must go to a very unlikely location and dig through centuries of accumulation of human waste in order to actually locate the Sacred Treasure.
However, if you think that the outhouse serves no purpose, look what it does. It is a landmark. Underneath every one of those outhouses there is buried a Jewel of Great Price.
Now you may have to endure some very uncomfortable experiences, digging through the rubbish, to get to the Jewel of Great Price, but don’t put the church down. Granted it’s not worth anywhere near what it covers up and hides from humanity, but it does mark the location as to where this Jewel of Great Price is buried.
So don’t look to the church to sustain you. Don’t look to the church and expect to see one of those facets that blind you. The church is a human institution which obscures the Jewel of Great Price, but which also marks its location. So what we are faced with is that all of the world religions in essence obscure what it is they’re about. In other words, the very thing they want you to pay attention to is obscured by the traditions and even the building where the church exists.
I was once at a garage sale with my darling wife. That’s how dedicated a husband I am. The lady holding the garage sale had her dog there. She had put the loop on the dog’s leash underneath the leg of a card table. The dog, of course, kept being interested in the people and was constantly tugging on his leash and in essence tugging the table. As the table would move along the driveway things would fall off the table. The woman, without thinking, would point and she’d say, “Go back over there.” Now, did the dog once ever look where she was pointing? No. The dog looked at her pointed finger, confused, wondering, “What is my master wanting me to do.” There is this hand pointing, but the poor dog doesn’t know to look where the hand is pointing.
We human beings are very much that way with our churches. Why do you think there is a steeple? So the church can point away from itself. Yet, dog like, we look at the building and not what it is pointing toward. Any church that is not pointing away from itself, any religious institution that is not pointing to the Jewel of Great Price, as opposed to their own clergy, their own scriptures, or their own traditions, is doing a disservice to the cause they claim to serve. Just like that dog who can’t see where the hand is pointing. Essentially all good religion points away from itself to that Sacred Core Essence, which is the many-faceted Jewel of Great Price.
The Rise and Fall of Religion
I have read Alfred North Whitehead; an amazing guy; one of the most brilliant people that ever lived. He was not only a mathematician and a philosopher, but he was also a theologian. He wrote an essay called, “The Making of a Religion.”
There was a metaphor that he used which I thought was just perfect for the natural development of a religion. He said that a spring pops up in the desert, and it is a clear-flowing, beautiful spring. And because it is beautiful, and nurturing, and sustaining, things begin to grow around it. And when things begin to grow, that attracts people. Pretty soon the trees that grew up around the spring begin to die and fall into the spring, and the plant life starts polluting the spring waters, and the human beings and their pack animals come by and they further pollute the spring waters, until it’s hard to tell what the original spring was like, and what kind of nurturing and beauty came out of it. And that is the history of what happens to most religions.
I’ve heard it said that every religion has been spoiled by the master’s disciples. The master comes up with this great religion and then all the disciples come by and pollute the spring.
Buddha’s dying words were, “Do not make a God of me, I am nothing but a man.” What do you suppose the first thing it was that the disciples did? I guarantee they sat down and carved some Buddhas. I suspect that it was Jesus’ disciples that first got Christianity headed in the wrong direction. Certainly Paul and the others took Jesus’ message in a direction Jesus never intended it to go.
Constantine, by making Christianity an arm of the Roman Empire, politicized Christianity to the point where it might be the biggest crushing load on Christianity that there ever was.
The Old Testament talked about how the Jews wanted a king. They were a theocracy with God Himself as their leader. They didn’t want God over their lives. God and Samuel were both upset by the fact that the people wanted their religion tied up to their political life. But God said, “Okay, give them what they want, but warn them about what they’re going to get.” And when you read that part of 1 Samuel 8:1-22, and does it ever sound like exactly what we’ve got today, as far as our government influencing our lives in every way, shape and form?
So I realize there’s a lot more to it, and the details of it are the reason we have classes like this, so we can get the history, the context, the philosophical teaching and the theological teachings to further understand a religion.
The Sum of All Things
I’d like you to know that what I just talked to you about; how physics tells us that we have a very flexible reality, that God has the ability to influence the human mind at the synaptic level, that we, because we’re sentient beings, have these little consciousness-generating machines up here between our ears, and we are able to influence absolute reality - that consciousness which underlies everything - with our faith and our prayer, and that all religions come out of that phenomenon, of us being able to do this interface between Absolute Being Consciousness and individual human consciousness.
We need to remember that all religions are of very little value compared to the Central thing that they actually represent. So I hope you’ll forgive me for using my metaphor of an outhouse underneath which a Jewel of Great Price is buried, as my way of describing their relative value and their relative appeal. It really is sort of true.
Add the other part too; don’t get into being a church hater. Don’t get into being hostile or angry or disrespectful to the church. It serves a very useful function. It reminds us where the really good stuff is buried.
For skeptical minds with curious motives see:
For really curious minds here is a 3 part series on the history of sub-atomic and astrophysics. “Best I have ever seen”
Episode 1: The clash of the Titans
Episode 2 The Key to the Cosmos
Episode 3: The illusion of Realityhttp://www.videosift.com/video/The-Illusion-Of-Reality