AMPed

I went out to San Dimas this weekend for the AMP (Apologetics-Mission-Partnership) Conference. Four speakers presented on Friday night, with six more on Saturday. For an Evangelical gathering, the speakers were surprisingly diverse. Several were unapologetic in their religious chauvinism, targeting Islam as well as “marginal” Christians. Others were surprisingly liberal, most markedly the scholar who asserted that between Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22, the Bible was a testimony to human error. This struck me because the organizing agency, Reasons to Believe, upholds the purpose of proving the inerrancy of the Bible.

The most stimulating talk was Dr. Ross on the geological processes that stabilized the climate long enough to allow homo sapiens to cover the earth. One chart in particular was mind-boggling: it turns out that prior to the Laurentian, temperatures oscillated in a 24 F range around the mean. The oscillation is driven by the gravitational dynamics of the solar system and the wobbles of Earth’s rotation, and is large enough that large-scale agriculture is impossible. But when the last Ice Age ended, temperatures settled into a 3 F band. No scientific explanation is known, but that stability allowed humanity to cover the planet and then turn its attention to religious and scientific inquiry.

Given my intentions out at Love Returns Ministry, the most valuable part of the event was the opportunities that I had to talk with young adults. A young man in high school walked up on Saturday morning to ask me whether I understood Dr. Ross’s reference to “large and small dimensions.” I don’t know why he imagined that I would be able to answer the question, but he got a survey of the problems in the reigning model of fundamental physics. He chased me down during the morning break, eager for my opinions. As the conversation unfolded, he revealed that he had taken the evolution side of the creation debate in class. When I suggested that Genesis was evolution, he was taken aback until I made the connection between photosynthesis and “Let there be light.”

Then there were three young adults, two caught up in conversation during breaks and one that I searched out to supplement the response she had been given by the presenter of a talk on how as a Christian to talk to youth about sex and relationships. I focused on two messages: first, that Islam was merely a compression of the Hebrew tutelage to faith, with a shift from history to psychological analysis of the Old Testament heroes. Secondly, I emphasized that the presence of love in the heart was the best guide to our relationships, with the ultimate goal of becoming “spiritual engineers.” I found myself doing most of the talking, but when I stopped to apologize, they all responded with variations of “No, thanks for sharing.”

Far better to receive that than the attentions of the scholars at RTB. They are all so terribly certain of the truths they propagate. What’s important to me, however, is that the future manifest new possibilities – the possibilities allowed by hearts and minds that commit themselves in service to Unconditional Love. A positive reception by the participants in that future (our young adults) tells me that I’m doing the right thing.

God’s Plan: A Love Story

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Translation: Combining science and the Bible, we know that it took a billion years before any living creature was capable of loving the entire world (the Garden of Eden). Unfortunately, animal behaviors are strong. The most powerful animals dominate through fear and anger, which cause the brain to degrade, so today the world is ruled by angry vegetables. When they’ve finished making a mess, the rest of humanity will join with the angels and other living creatures to cover the world with love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Rise of the Womanarchy

I hate negative memes. They offend and alienate needlessly. These, then, were the off moments for me during the Woman’s March in Portland: the signs proclaiming “Down with the Patriarchy.”

Really, girls? You expect that your sign is going to have any psychological effect on men that are rewarded by woman that sex them up to go out and rape and pillage on their behalf? Especially when the female instigators get to lurk in the background as MYSTERY, tossing aside men with broken spirits while blaming the victors for the carnage?

Hopefully my readers recognize the Biblical reference. There are two “beasts” in the Book of Revelation. They are nearly identical, differing only in that the first bears the number “666” while the second is colored red and ridden by a woman with MYSTERY blazoned on her brow.

“666” refers to the sixth day of creation that gave rise to the mammals. Not yet fully in control of their primitive urges, they swept across the globe, rising to ecological dominance in every realm except the air. It was only in man that the capacity of rationality rose to a level that would sustain the expression of Unconditional Love. The first beast was almost cast aside by the metal tools created by men, but it survived by entering into our religious experience with the spiritual aid of the serpent – the ghostly residue of the dinosaurs.

The red beast represents sexual control as the strategy for dominance developed by female mammals. In its primitive essence, the most effective literary rendering is the long introduction to Jack London’s White Fang. I read it out of curiosity when it was assigned to my son in middle school, finding it a little odd until I had to bring in a forgotten assignment and saw the sexier eighth grade girls flaunting their tits and asses on the lawn while the drooling boys jockeyed for position.

In Revelation, MYSTERY is destroyed when the red beast turns on her. I believe that bondage is broken when the mammalian females come to realize that MYSTERY does not care for their offspring – that the dominant females of homo sapiens will countenance the destruction of the global climate so long as they can use fossil fuels to maintain their personal comfort.

Trapped in his patriarchic mindset, unfortunately, John was unable to perceive the feminine virtues at work (the common theme in Revelation is that woman corrupt men through fornication). From the masculine side of the process, I am aware that love prevails only when the oppressed believe that they have a choice. This is the liberating power of the resurrection: not even death is a barrier to those that surrender fully to love. With that fear eliminated, masculine violence loses its power as a strategy for social dominance.

So what other choice do women have?

Jesus heralded the transformation of the patriarchy under the guidance of Unconditional Love: the rise of Manarchy, with the capitalization carrying the indications of Genesis. I have been seeking in this life to support a female partnership, a Womanarchy willing to subdue sexuality in the service of Unconditional Love. It is to perceive the womb as the sacred crucible in which spirit is joined to matter, thus the mechanism that can be used to call angels to guide that which is good through the era of duress that Gaia is to suffer.

I see the rising spirit of resistance against death in the hard-hitting political analysis offered in the teen girl magazines, and the strength of the criticism brought by Rachel Maddow and other female commentators. But criticism is not enough: if the joint power of the Patriarchy and Matriarchy is to be broken, woman must turn their powers to the service of Love.

Walk in the woods. Go to the zoo. See what is beautiful and good and offer your inmost self to its service. Give the red beast an alternative. Use your wombs to guide it into Unconditional Love. MYSTERY will not be destroyed, she’ll just become irrelevant.

A Gentler Atheism

When planning my trip to Portland, I envisioned walking in snowy woods. The view of the city from the plane did not disappoint – it was covered in a pristine white blanket. It was only when riding downtown on the MAX that I learned what a disaster this was for the residents. Portland rarely sees snow, and the city has been practically shut down for the last ten days.

I did get my walk in the woods out at Breitenbush, in between sessions of the Wild Grace workshop facilitated by Paula Byrne. The experience was refreshing, although challenging. I found myself revealing far more about my journey than I had intended. After my walk in the woods on Monday morning, however, I closed my eyes to offer my gratitude before breakfast, and when I opened them the two new friends at the table said “Thank-you for that.” I found acceptance among them.

Today was my first day driving over the ice and snow. The Dollar lot was kind enough to put me in an Impreza. I don’t know what would have happened without the 4-wheel drive. I was going to go down to the OMSI, but I needed a silk swab for my flute. I ended up bouncing around NW Portland, picking up some books at Powell’s to fill in the mornings and afternoons until heading out for the dance events that drew me here. And well that I did: the rain started this afternoon, turning the roads into an icy slushy mess, and prompting cancellation of tonight’s full-contact improv event.

I picked all my selections at Powell’s from the nature shelves. I’ve been paying far too much attention to the problems people have created for themselves, and feel a strong need to see the natural world through the eyes of people that cherish it. So I find myself with books on bees and nesting.

But I started with Frans de Waal’s The Bonobo and the Atheist. The author is a primate behavioral scientist, focusing on chimpanzees and bonobos (most similar among all the apes to our primate ancestors). Without dwelling on it, de Waal makes clear his preference for the matriarchy of the bonobos, whose casual sexuality supplants fear as social glue. But in both societies, primates evidence empathy, compassion and a sense of fairness that are often upheld by philosophers as markers of “moral” conduct. de Waal extends this attribution, through brief vignettes, to other species in the mammalian order.

Laced throughout the book are reflections on the work of the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, famous for his apocalyptic visions. Motivated perhaps by recent works that characterized Bosch as a deviant, de Waal reinterprets the artist as a humanist, noting that there is no representation of God in Bosch’s paradise. The artwork serves as an interesting device in the narrative: de Waal references it in drawing parallels between bonobo and human behavior.

As a work of moral philosophy, the book is weak. de Waal asserts that the cooperative socialization of apes proves that morality is innate, rather than learned. But this is the morality of the tribe that suppressed intellectual innovation for so much of human history. That is not always a bad thing: nerve gas and atom bombs are tools that we probably should do without. But it is the human capacity to innovate that creates social disparity that eventually sunders tribal bonds. I remark that the Greek root – religio – means “to bind again.”

Ignoring this problem, de Waal asserts that religion exists only to claim authority over our moral energies. This is accomplished by generalizing and abstracting the moral impulse. Without demonstrating deep religious insight, de Waal suggests that any such system of moral reasoning divorces us from the physiological and emotional roots of our natural morality. Paradoxically, he observes that natural morality applies only to individuals familiar to us, which leads to gross abuse of the rights of the “other” = whether of different cultures or different species. The book closes with an appeal to broaden our moral attachments – in effect, to repeat the sins of religion by generalizing and abstracting our morality.

Unlike his more intemperate peers (such as Christopher Hitchens), de Waal does concede the benefits that religion confers upon the believer, among them longer life, social amity and a sense of meaning. He believes, furthermore, that as our moral impulse is rooted in emotional experience, any attempt to reason people away from faith is misguided. Religion is to be tolerated.

At this point, of course, de Waal has joined the camp from which I am now seeking to disentangle myself. Every human culture brought forth the concept of the soul from its tribal past. It is the most obvious mechanism for explaining the sympathy felt between intimates when one is hurt (mirror neurons having been proven to be a fiction). Taking the existence of the soul as a given, religion is then best interpreted as an institutionalized orientation toward spirituality, and the ground staked out by the atheist (de Waal among them) subsides in the tidal surge of love that originates from the divine source.

On Politics and Altruism

The Huffington Post has picked up on the clarion call sounded by Judith Herman and others regarding their psychological profile of Donald Trump. Cynics respond that all politicians are power-seeking, and therefore possess significant personality defects. While that may be so, brains do evolve as we mature.

The brain is plastic, and evolves structures as we age that are responsible for socialization. The most evolved structure, which doesn’t appear until most are in their twenties, is responsible for the expression of altruism. Sociopathy (which I see manifested clearly in Trump’s behavior) is the tendency to treat other people as objects. It is indicative of a lack of even the most basic structures of socialization that are entrained with nursing, which delivers the most basic of rewards for collaboration. Forget psychoanalysis: scans of brain activity reveal whether people have even the basic machinery necessary for responsible leadership of others. My guess is that Trump is seriously deficient in that regard.

Louis Cozolino, who teaches at Pepperdine University, also has a practice in psychotherapy that guides adults through experiences that help them to evolve the neurological mechanisms of socialization (see The Neuroscience of Human Relationships). In other words, there are methods for treatment of these disorders, and we should try to educate the electorate to prefer politicians that engage in such counseling. Altruism is the ability to act for the good of others, and is something that everyone should prefer in political leaders.

Of course, the fullest flowering of altruism appears in our great spiritual leaders – those whose service is pursued without any external evidence of seeking for power. It is granted to them by the world they serve. One of my favorite quotes is from Tagore, the educator and poet who was Gandhi’s cultural collaborator:

Power said to the World, “You are mine.”
The World kept it prisoner on her throne.

Love said to the World “I am yours.”
The World gave it the freedom of her house.

In my post Man and Woman, I flirted with the assertion that the capacity to express altruism (characterized as “unconditional love” in that context) is what made Adam and Eve fully human. Conversely, from a psychological perspective, sociopaths are little more than lizards.

“Man” and “Woman”

The driving motivation for the writing of The Soul Comes First was a reading of the Book of Revelation as just what John said it was: a visit to the Holy Mind in which the angels revealed their relationship to and experience of Christ. The difficulty of the writing is that the insights are like the M.C. Escher drawing of hands drawing each other. Genesis makes sense only if you’ve read Revelation, which makes sense only if you’ve read Acts, which depends upon the Gospels, the chain continuing to a dependency on Genesis.

We have to grok it all at once. I’m afraid that I didn’t succeed very well with that problem.

But the insights continue to trickle in.

Genesis 2:7 says [NIV]:

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

This has been interpreted literally as meaning that Adam was the first instance of the species homo sapiens sapiens. There are those that take a different tack: that Adam and Eve were the sole human survivors of a geological catastrophe such as a major volcanic eruption. But the continuity of the archaeological record undermines all of these interpretations.

Revelation 4 starts where Genesis starts [NIV Gen 1:2]:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

This is the scene that John encounters: the “Spirit of God” being the corporate body of the angels united under the guidance of Unconditional Love. In John’s vision, there are twenty-four of the former – described as “elders” – gathered around the “one on the throne.” We should understand the latter to be Unconditional Love, which is warded by fearsome beasts that prevent the approach of the elders.

So this is the initial state of Heaven before the investiture of God in the Earth. What comes next in Revelation is the sequence of that investiture: a scroll with seven seals is opened, and selfishness is given dominion over the Earth. Then from among the twelve princes of heaven, twelve thousand are sent from each down to Earth. These are the masculine angels that generate change; the feminine angels are held in reserve until a measure of safety is created.

Paleontology tells us that it took approximately a billion years before that safety was attained. Finally, in homo sapiens sapiens, God recognized a species with the potential to express love.

Genesis 2 starts with God’s reflection on that process. The species “man” was created from the dust of the ground, rising up only through an enormous commitment of intention and attention to the manifestation of the potential for life to receive love. If done too early, the gift would have been wasted: it would have been corrupted by selfishness. So love was held in reserve when the 144,000 were sent down from heaven, and remained aloof for a billion years.

God having spawned homo sapiens sapiens as an animal with the potential to elaborate love, Unconditional Love then breathed itself into one such animal, Adam, making him Man. Love was joined to biology, making it possible for us to escape the brutal practices of natural selection as described by Darwin. Recognizing that Adam should not be alone, Unconditional Love then sought for a mate to share the stewardship of spreading love throughout the world. Thus was one female animal imbued with love, creating Eve – the first Woman.

This is what we celebrate when we call them “First Man” and “First Woman” – not the material superfluity of their physical forms, but the transformation that comes with becoming imbued with Unconditional Love.

How did this make Adam a “living being”? Because one of the forms of selfishness is death. Through the link with Unconditional Love, Adam was freed from that captivity. He acted with fearless generosity. It was in seeking to become God’s equal that our thralldom to selfishness was reimposed.

In reflecting on all the evil we have committed since, I have called it “the great working out through the flesh of our dependency on sin.” Each generation becomes a little stronger, and with Jesus to light our way as an exemplar, eventually love will have its way with us.

From Grief to Power

A friend was offering a sermon on his birthday yesterday, dwelling on the contradiction between his grief over all the things that we are losing in this era, and the joy he finds in seeing his community interacting. When I had the opportunity to speak, I offered:

Grieving is the prequel to the opening of the door of our heart to a spirit that would otherwise be lost.

That opening is not easy, because the expression of Darwinian selfishness has left so many of them traumatized. But once they have settled in to the experience of being cherished, they look back into the world they have departed and reach out to those left behind, giving them assurance, strength and guidance.

“They” are trees, flowers, fish, birds, mice, whales, children: anything living that is being displaced by a disappearing or polluted ecosystem.

Over the years my conscious welcoming has gathered quite an entourage around me. From that community of displaced souls I draw my power, power that is expressed in the t-shirt I started wearing six months ago to dance celebrations. Across the shoulders are a right and left hand framing a head and a heart. The words are:

DANGER
Angel Gateways

They just want to be friends.
Please play nicely.