Ineffable Truth

Let me open with a few definitions:

Ineffable –
1 a : incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable
   b : unspeakable
2: not to be uttered : taboo

Truth -
1 a (archaic) : fidelity, constancy
   b : sincerity in action, character, and utterance
2 a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality
   b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true
   c : the body of true statements and propositions
3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality
    b (chiefly British) : true 2
    c : fidelity to an original or to a standard

Theory -
1 : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
2 : abstract thought : speculation
3 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art
4 a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action
    b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory
5: a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena

For most of recorded history mankind has, in some form or fashion, searched for what can be considered as ineffable truths.. Many of the realities of today were completely inconceivable to people that lived a century ago. Just imagine for a second what men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac Newton or Socrates would have tweeted! We live in a world so technologically interconnected that it almost rivals the interconnectedness of nature itself.

We live in an age where we’ve mapped the observable cosmos and every discovery is a venture not only in the future but in some ways they are echoes of the past. With each discovery we unravel a mystery of the past and yet to many people this progress is threatening. Religions have held a significant amount of influence over not only culture, but the way people think and how they reason. This is why many well researched scientific theories come under unnecessary fire and criticism. Part of the problem here is the understanding of the word theory as well.  There is a difference between the modern vernacular use of the word theory and the scientific use of the word.  In the world of science in order to label something a theory requires a substantial amount of experimentation, research, and evidence.  Evolution and the “Big Bang” theories are viewed as threats to religion when they should not be.  The men that wrote the Jewish Bible were one group of people in an obscure part of the world.  One group out of many groups, and while all of them had their cosmological legends and myths, none of them had the knowledge we have today.  Few knew the earth wasn’t flat and that the stars were much bigger than the earth.  They didn’t know the molecular structure of carbon or have the ability to even know what DNA was.  So to rely on their presumptions of how everything came to be and reject what we are learning is foolish.  We need to embrace facts and relegate myths and legends to their proper place as allegorical lessons and historical perspectives.

We have seen a tremendous amount of changes in society in the last century and it is due primarily to advancements in science and technology.  Vaccines have eradicated the majority of fatal viruses, computers can calculate and rapidly retrieve data faster than the human brain, and the internet coupled with mobile technology has enabled information to travel across the globe in seconds when it used to take weeks and even months for information to spread across a single country.  Somewhere in the world someone’s very life is being spared because a very skilled surgeon is performing surgery on them.  Somewhere in the world a child is walking for the first time on their own because a skilled engineer crafted a prosthetic leg for them.   The scientists and doctors of today are what people of old would call miracle workers, but what they do is not miraculous in a supernatural religious sense.  We have progressed to the point to where we have a little more control and are subject a little less to random chance.

Yet with all we know we are finding there is still so much we don’t know.  For now there remain many questions that science still cannot answer.  What caused the “Big Bang” and what was there before it?  How do cellular structures “know” to evolve at the micro and macro level?  And while it is obvious that the universe is beyond our comprehension in size and structure we still wonder if we exist for a reason.  Do we cease to exist when we die?  Perhaps most perplexing of all is why, if we just happen to inhabit an obscure planet in a solar system on the outer reaches of a several billion year old galaxy, do we have an emotion as powerful as Love?

Religions tend to answer these questions in dogmatic ways, but the questions still remain for most people.  The idea of any kind of intelligent design is easily brought into question when children are born with life threatening diseases.  Yet when one takes a step back and considers the ineffable enormity of all that exists, how can we be so bold as to assume that if there is a god behind it that we are even capable of adequately describing it’s nature or intentions?  As an old Talmudic theme teaches – If we cannot gaze upon the sun, which is an object of existence, how can we gaze upon that Source from which it came?

The knowledge one claims to have of whatever they believe to be God is purely a mental construct because the existence of any god is ineffable.  We are like specks of sand on a cosmic sea shore.  We roll in with tides and we roll out.  And much like the specks of sand on a beach, we have no way of seeing where the tides came from or where they might take us next.  The Hebrew name of God has traditionally been ineffable.  This less about taboo and more about the consonantal nature of the Hebrew language (there were no vowels).  Perhaps the ineffable name alludes to the ineffable existence of the god being written about.

A martyr for all of us

Today is the annual observance of the brutal torture and execution of a man, whether myth or god incarnate, who was nothing less than a artic_image_071816_rose-croixmoral exemplar for all of us. Whether one professes the Christian faith or not, no one can deny that the lessons of “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Love one another” inculcated by Jesus of Nazareth are universal principles of morality.

“Judge not” and “Let him without sin throw the first stone” should be constant reminders that we are to be tolerant of others and that we should love more and judge less.

So today, lets pause and reflect. Reflect on a man that was murdered merely for teaching love over dogma and compassion over judgement.

Strength in Faith

Life at times seems meaningless and uninspiring. This is especially the case when one demystifies the realities of nature and views the laws and order of the cosmos as if they are random acts of chaos. With little tangible evidence for a Prime Mover or Heavenly Father our mere existence, while biologically amazing, seems relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things and while science provides us with a wealth of information and facts, it lacks the poetic beauty required to inspire and give humanity a sense of hope or inspiration.

I am a firm believer in the essence of the human soul. It is the soul that connects one to another. Those who can master the art of meditation are capable of truly connecting with that eternal essence that perpetuates all of existence. Now I am aware that to some people the term “meditation’ is taboo and that there are certain pockets of Christianity that believe it to be dangerous. This is a misguided belief. When a Catholic prays the Rosary and really focuses on the prayer and what is being said – it is a form of meditation. When a Jew recites the Shema and focuses exclusively on what is being said – it is a form of meditation. When anyone prays any prayer and is truly focusing on their prayer – it is a form of meditation. By now I hope you get my point on how meditation takes many forms and it is not exclusive to sitting “criss-cross apple sauce” with your palms up while repeating the word “Aum/Om”.

So why did I bring up meditation? It is not my intent to go on an Eastern Philosophy push to anyone. I was merely pointing out that when a person is able to filter out the “noise” of the day (the technological and completely unnatural obstructions that surround us) they can reconnect to the soul within and with a little more effort the Eternal Soul of all that exists. Some may call this connecting to God, some may call it “being one with nature”, and some may view this as mere figments of an overactive imagination. It is the later that many find to be the uninspiring view and while I agree that it might be the reality, who cares? While to some it may be irrational, our perceptions are our realities. If a person finds strength in faith, then their beliefs have merit and no one should denigrate the beliefs of another. One cannot deny the power of the human mind. Those with deep faith and convictions are not necessarily receptive to facts and observations that are contrary to what they believe and while this is viewed as a threat to our intellectual future by the militant arm of the Atheist movement, I need only remind them that the majority of their heroes still believed in either a Prime Mover or Spinoza’s pantheistic view of the cosmos. It is human nature, whether warranted or not, to have a purpose and to have someone or something that they can reach out to in times of despair and that keeps them in line and humble.

The idea that a physical manifestation of God is necessary for there to be any validity to faith is a fallacy. At the risk of being overly hyperbolic, a comparison can be made that the mere thought of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny stirs excitement and anticipation to children all around the globe – real excitement and real anticipation. The same is true with faith in any sense of deity. If a person believes that there is a god, then there is a god and only they are capable of changing that. The same is true for those who do not believe. There are no Bible passages or testimony of personal revelation that will convince a skeptic that a god exists. I believe that even the most rigid atheists hold something in the utmost esteem whether it be science, nature, or the mere act of discovery and inquiry itself. While that pinnacle of inspiration may not be god to them in the sense of the term, there is very little difference when taken into context of how it affects them.

Perception is often reality and to those that truly believe, there is strength in faith.

The faith of Thomas Jefferson

I recently participated in a debate on the faith of the founders of the United States.  I must say it is somewhat entertaining to see the lack of knowledge many have on this topic.  There is this misconception that they were all “good Christian men.”  The fact is – they weren’t.  Most of them were deists and would likely (by today’s standards) ended up as atheists given the advancements of science since their deaths as well as the pangs of history like the Holocaust and other genocides that have occurred since their deaths.  So maybe I will do a little series on the faith of the founders and since it was Jefferson that I spoke of this week, I may as well use the same subject here.  Thomas-Jefferson

For starters Thomas Jefferson rejected the divinity of Jesus, the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible, and the relevance and authenticity of the church at the time (imagine what he would think now)

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.  - Letter to Benjamin Rush in 1803

It is an indisputable fact that although Jefferson was critical of the Bible and the Church, he did admire the moral code of Jesus but also acknowledges that it was not a moral code that Jesus invented as it was one that early non-temple cult rabbis had (like Hillel) as well as a number of other moral philosophers that predate the writings of the nomadic tribes of the Hebrews.

Jefferson was a man of his own sect – he thought for himself. At best he was a Unitarian and in reality a deist or universal theist who was just a skeptic who liked to read.

Here is a nice nugget he wrote as well which in my opinion is spot on and can be found as a preface to the “Jefferson Bible” (more on that a little later):

“SYLLABUS OF AN ESTIMATE OF THE DOCTRINES OF JESUS, COMPARED WITH THOSE OF OTHERS.

In a comparative view of the ethics of the enlightened nations of antiquity, of the Jews, and of Jesus, no notice should be taken of the corruptions of reason among the ancients, to wit, the idolatry and superstition of the vulgar, nor of the corruptions of Christianity by the learned among its professors. Let a just view be taken of the moral principles inculcated by the most esteemed of the sects of ancient philosophy, or of their individuals; particularly Pythagoras, Socrates, Epicurus, Cicero, Epictetus, Seneca, Antoninus.

I. PHILOSOPHERS.

1. Their precepts related chiefly to ourselves, and the government of those passions which, unrestrained, would disturb our tranquility of mind. In this branch of philosophy they were really great.

2. In developing our duties to others, they were short and defective. They embraced indeed the circles of kindred and friends, and inculcated patriotism, or the love of country in the aggregate, as a primary obligation: towards our neighbors and countrymen they taught justice, but scarcely viewed them as within the circle of benevolence. Still less have they inculcated peace, charity, and love to our fellow-men, or embraced with benevolence the whole family of mankind.

II. JEWS.

1. Their system was Deism, that is, the belief in one only God; but their ideas of him and of his attributes were degrading and injurious.

2. Their ethics were not only imperfect, but often irreconcilable with the sound dictates of reason and morality, as they respect intercourse with those around us; and repulsive and anti-social as respecting other nations. They needed reformation, therefore, in an eminent degree.

III. JESUS.

In this state of things among the Jews, Jesus appeared. His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent. He was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, and of the sublimest eloquence. The disadvantages under which his doctrines appear are remarkable.

  1. Like Socrates and Epictetus, he wrote nothing himself.
  2. But he had not, like them, a Xenophon or an Arrian to write for him. I name not Plato, who only used the name of Socrates to cover the whimsies of his own brain.On the contrary, all the learned of his country, entrenched in its power and riches, were opposed to him, lest his labors should undermine their advantages; and the committing to writing of his life and doctrines fell on unlettered and ignorant men; who wrote, too, from memory, and not till long after the transactions had passed.
  3. According to the ordinary fate of those who attempt to enlighten and reform mankind, he fell an early victim to the jealousy and combination of the altar and the throne, at about 33 years of age, his reason having not yet attained the maximum of its energy, nor the course of his preaching, which was but of three years at most, presented occasions for developing a complete system of morals.
  4. Hence the doctrines which he really delivered were defective, as a whole, and fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, and often unintelligible.
  5. They have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatizing followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating and perverting the simple doctrines he taught, by engrafting on them the mysticisms of a Grecian Sophist (Plato), frittering them into subtilties and obscuring them with jargon, until they have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust, and to view Jesus himself as an impostor.

Notwithstanding these disadvantages, a system of morals is presented to us which, if filled up in the true style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man. The question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others, is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of the intrinsic merits of his doctrines.

  1. He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of one only god, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government.
  2. His moral doctrines, relating to kindred and friends, were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthrophy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.
  3.  The precepts of philosophy and of the Hebrew code laid hold of action only. He pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thought, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
  4.  He taught emphatically the doctrine of a future state, which was either doubted or disbelieved by the Jews; and wielded it with efficacy as an important incentive, supplementary to the other motives to moral conduct.

I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials (The Gospels) which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call ME infidel and THEMSELVES Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.”— Letter from Jefferson to Mr. Charles Thompson.Jefferson sources

Note the words “wee little book”… To Jefferson the Bible was so bad that he literally cut out the only worthwhile portions of Jesus’ life and teachings and compiled his own “wee little book”. Copies of this book were given to Members of Congress shortly after it was discovered up until the 1950′s when the evangelicals seized control of the government out of fear of the Soviets and us needing “god on our side” (as if the little children in Ethiopia could wait – we were more important).  I own a copy and I recommend it to anyone.  A side note – “In God we Trust” became the motto in the 1950 and “Under God” was added in the 1950′s as well – so this “God and country” thing is not our heritage.

Here is a link to the Jefferson Bible (with actual pictures of it):  http://americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/

Any questions?

The Divine Mystery

There are mysteries that have puzzled the minds of all who take time to think about anything beyond the mundane and menial tasks of our day-to-day lives.  The more we advance (or evolve) the more questions we answer and the smaller the enigmatic box of mysteries becomes.   It has been human nature to perceive the concept of a divine being with attributes and emotions much like our own that governs our existence and the laws and order of the cosmos.  We call this mystery of mysteries, this supreme entity – “God” and while we conceive a loftier and more immense being then ourselves, anything we do to define god with “authority” in essence puts a human box around that which is infinite, not human, and possibly completely unknowable. Thus, humanity has created a god in their own image and in a manner of their own understanding.  This perception is limited to an individual’s own experiences and knowledge which is often influenced by mentors, parents, and time immemorial.  Humanity has grappled with purpose and the enigmas of natural phenomena and while there is far more knowledge of biology, geology, and astronomy now than we had even a century ago, the mythical explanations of ancient times still influence society today. For example, it is an indisputable fact that the earth revolves around the sun, yet we still say sunrise and sunset.  Some still say the “stars come out at night” when they are actually “out” all the time and it is only when we rotate away from the direct rays of our sun that the light from the others become visible.

There is an unfortunate debate that somehow science is atheistic and that scientists work against the belief in a god.  This is unfortunate given the fact that it is science that enables us to see just how incredible it is to merely exist.  Especially when one considers the incredible odds stacked against each one of us during the process of conception through gestation and eventually to our birth.   The fight is one that has been going on for centuries and while many like to point to the scientists as being the culprits, history tells us a different story.  Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and Bruno are all men who had faith and through research uncovered scientific facts that went against the common beliefs and positions of the church.  The church took the ignorant and intolerant position of branding these men heretics and in the case of Bruno – burning him at the stake for teaching facts.  When human inquiry and discovery uncovers facts that go against the common beliefs then we must reconsider what we believe rather than reject the facts.

How humanity has grappled with the mystery of existence has evolved.   Whether one relies on empirical evidence as their sole source of finding answers or not, it can really only satisfy the questions around the mere existence of physical things.  We still have the epistemological enigmas that are the basis of going beyond empirical evidence and beyond physics (metaphysics).  There was a time when man worshipped fire and then we began to understand it thereby stripping it of its divinity. The gods of ancient Greece and Rome were replaced by the invisible god of the Hebrews.  Humanity has now ventured into space and found no celestial palace in the skies that would have been the destination of Elijah’s flaming chariot or an ascending Jesus.

So now what?

Are we to revert to the Platonist philosophy of a Prime Mover?  Is existence random or is there perhaps a Pater Agnostos (unknown father)?  Perhaps this is the mystery of the Ineffable Divine Name of the Jewish tradition.  That even within a book claiming to tell “His” story, we are still incapable of knowing “His” name thus our conceptions are limited by our knowledge and our knowledge by our own experiences.

Perhaps to know God requires one to first know them self, thus making the mystery personal.

Partnership with New Covenant Group

For a little over a year I have enjoyed a great relationship with the folks at the New Covenant Group. There have been a number of new players arrive on the scene ranging from academics to published authors. This has broadened not only the reach, but the discussion as a whole.

The focus of the New Covenant Group is revolutionary – bringing atheist and theist together in a polite and productive manner. Change comes in many forms and society has got to transition from an old world mentality to a new world reality.

Science and religion can coexists harmoniously.

Atheist and theists can find a common moral and social platform.

Humanity can learn to love and work together to improve the lives of everyone.

The Quest for Light is now a part of the New Covenant Group.

Our children are watching, let’s show them how to move forward.

Be the change..

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India. Location unknown. Français : Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), Guide politique et spirituel de l’Inde. Lieu inconnu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have not been shy about expressing my opinions and sharing what I have learned in the realm of religion and philosophy. Just as society has gone through “ages’ of darkness and enlightenment, so have I as an individual. We live in an extremely materialistic world. A world where people are often judged and classed by what they possess and the influence they have rather than the content of their character. It is also evident that the less one is required to think about a topic, the more consumable it is for public discourse. When one takes a step back and looks at how far we have come scientifically, medically, and technologically it is difficult to understand why we are socially on a death spiral in the opposite direction.

How can a society that is charting DNA and uncovering the secrets of the human genome find television shows that claim to be reality when they are mere facades and staged fallacies displaying utter ignorance and Neanderthal behavior to be entertaining?

How can a society with the resources available to wipe out hunger across the globe instead squander the wealth by engaging in unnecessary combat?

How can a society claiming belief and reverence to a man who preached “what ye do to the least of my Brethren, ye do unto me” be more concerned about defending the wealth of the wealthy than the well-being of the poor?

There are some that believe that the rise of secularism in the world is the cause for the moral collapse of society and to those people I can only ask them to explain the Inquisitions and Holy Wars of the past and the lavish lifestyles of high-profile pastors and clergy today. The overwhelming majority of wars that have been fought in history were either for religion or imperialism and ironically enough, up until the 20th century imperialism itself was also tied to religion due to the perceived “divine right” of monarchs.

It is incumbent on all of us to find a way to move society forward in a rational, compassionate, and tolerant way. We cannot expect things to change without any effort of our own and we cannot expect or allow the discourse to be done without any effort of our own. It has been over 50 years since a vibrant and inspiring leader said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I think this premise needs to be extended further as we now live in a more global centric world. The myth of one country being “greater” than another is not conducive to geo-political progress and it creates a vain and false sense of exceptionalism, which is counter productive in building relationships.

We all need to take a step back and consider that our personal worldview is limited by our personal education and experience. Just because we have grown up under certain conditions and beliefs does not mean that they are true or that they apply to everyone. The art of compromise has all but vanished in the halls of the U.S. government because of ideological stubbornness and the perception that compromising somehow is a relinquishing or surrendering of core values, when it is an essential part of managing cultural diversity.

So how is this in any way relevant in the Quest for Light you may be asking? Well, it is simple really. Take a look at how you spend your day. No doubt it is probably a repeatable routine that resembles a hamster in a spinning wheel. Do we look at the forest for the trees anymore? Do we spend time walking on something other than concrete or asphalt? Do we sit in the shade provided by something not consisting of trusses and plywood? Can we even see the stars anymore? Do we even look up?

We live a life with no evidence to support that anything will follow once we take our last breath. Life has a cycle that if you live long enough you eventually become just as helpless as you were when you were born. A full circle of life that ends almost exactly as it began, except instead of the promise and potential that comes with a new life we must consider what it is we did with all that promise and potential.

Darkness dissipates by a mere spark of light and a spark can cause a flame and a flame can lead to a fire. Gandhi once said to “be the change you wish to see“. I think it’s time we all stop waiting for change or praying for miracles and start doing something.

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Albert Pike