One Religion or No Religion?

Many Religions, One God Source: vjindigo-wordpress-com.

Many Religions, One God
Source: vjindigo-wordpress-com.

Below is a contemporary view of the essentials of Judaism, at least as seen by the religious body indicated. I found it interesting to note much overlap with some Christian and other religious beliefs as well as those of some persons (myself included) with no religious affiliation who describe themselves as spiritual. It is an excerpt from a public domain book titled Judaism by Israel Abrahams. The book seeks to track changes in Judaism and their origins since the early centuries of Christianity.

A tract, entitled ‘Essentials of Judaism,’ has been issued in London by the Jewish Religious Union. The author, N. S. Joseph, is careful to explain that he is not putting forth these principles as ‘dogmatic Articles of Faith,’ and that they are solely ‘suggestive outlines of belief which may be gradually imparted to children, the outlines being afterwards filled up by the teacher. But the eight paragraphs of these Essentials are at once so ably compiled and so informing as to the modern trend of Jewish belief that they will be here cited without comment.

According then to this presentation, the Essentials of Judaism are: ‘(i) There is One Eternal God, who is the sole Origin of all things and forces, and the Source of all living souls. He rules the universe with justice, righteousness, mercy, and love.

(ii) Our souls, emanating from God, are immortal, and will return to Him when our life on earth ceases. While we are here, our souls can hold direct communion with God in prayer and praise, and in silent contemplation and admiration of His works.

(iii) Our souls are directly responsible to God for the work of our life on earth. God, being All-merciful, will judge us with loving-kindness, and being All-just, will allow for our imperfections; and we, therefore, need no mediator and no vicarious atonement to ensure the future welfare of our souls.

(iv) God is the One and only God. He is Eternal and Omnipresent. He not only pervades the entire world, but is also within us; and His Spirit helps and leads us towards goodness and truth.

(v) Duty should be the moving force of our life; and the thought that God is always in us and about us should incite us to lead good and beneficent lives, showing our love of God by loving our fellow-creatures, and working for their happiness and betterment with all our might.

(vi) In various bygone times God has revealed, and even in our own days continues to reveal to us, something of His nature and will, by inspiring the best and wisest minds with noble thoughts and new ideas, to be conveyed to us in words, so that this world may constantly improve and grow happier and better.

(vii) Long ago some of our forefathers were thus inspired, and they handed down to us—and through us to the world at large—some of God’s choicest gifts, the principles of Religion and Morality, now recorded in our Bible; and these spiritual gifts of God have gradually spread among our fellow-men, so that much of our religion and of its morality has been adopted by them.

(viii) Till the main religious and moral principles of Judaism have been accepted by the world at large, the maintenance by the Jews of a separate corporate existence is a religious duty incumbent upon them. They are the “witnesses” of God, and they must adhere to their religion, showing forth its truth and excellence to all mankind. This has been and is and will continue to be their mission. Their public worship and private virtues must be the outward manifestation of the fulfillment of that mission.’

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Reading this buoys my belief that a gradual convergence of spiritual thought among the people of the world is occurring. Humanity’s spiritual growth, progression, and awareness going forward through the ages may well result, not so much in a single religion, as in a single set of spiritual beliefs that have outgrown the need for the doctrines and rituals associated with organized religion. While this may give the clergy reason for pause, I believe it is good news for humanity because it hearkens toward a common moral code and understanding of the nature and purpose of our existence.

You might like to see the following related articles:

With Spirit Eyes I See

I am Spirit

Spiritual Kinship

 

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One Civilization Among Billions?

The Milky Way as Seen from Earth

The Milky Way as Seen from Earth

Have you ever wondered if there are other civilizations elsewhere in the Cosmos? Could we be but one civilization among billions? How likely is it that other intelligent life exists on other planets? What information is available for us to assess the likelihood that there are alien species?

The sheer immensity of the cosmos makes the notion of only one planet with a civilization seem absurd and provides strong impetus to the idea that surely there must be life elsewhere. Using a super computer, it has been estimated that there are between 300-500 billion galaxies. Astronomers estimate there are 70 billion trillion stars in the observable universe (i.e., 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 7 x 10²²). We do not know how many more may be beyond our ability to observe or detect.

These are some very big numbers that are really beyond our comprehension. Let us suppose that only one ten thousandth of a percent of all of the stars have a planet that could support some form of life. From this assumption we would estimate that there could be one thousand trillion planets in the universe (i.e., 7 followed by 16 zeros) that could support life.

Let us now suppose that only one millionth of these could have some form of intelligent life. If our assumption is correct, then we would estimate that at least one billion planets scattered about the universe could have intelligent life.

I find these numbers to be compelling concerning the likelihood that not only does life exist elsewhere in the universe, but that other civilizations do as well. If true, it is also likely that many are more advanced than us, not only technologically, but also spiritually. The earth and sun are much younger than planets and galaxies that are in the far distant universe whose light has reached us. Therefore, humankind could be on the less developed end of the spectrum.

Wherever humanity may fall in the evolutionary and spiritual hierarchy of the cosmos, there is no doubt that we have a long way to go on both developmental pathways. Spiritual evolution of a civilization is a very slow process, as is biological evolution. As I look down that long road ahead, I envision one people united in common cause for the loving care and respect for one another and for the planet that sustains them.

You might like the following related articles:

One Species Among Millions

We Exist in the Ethereal Spaces Between the Atoms

“All that is composed shall be decomposed.”

 

Sources of Estimates

500 Billion –A Universe of Galaxies: Some Older than Milky Way

How many stars are there in the universe?

The Privilege of Special Abilities

Christ Healing the Sick  Painting by Washington Allston, 1813 Source: Wikimedia Commons

Christ Healing the Sick
Painting by Washington Allston, 1813
Source: Wikimedia Commons

I recently saw the movie Lucy which is about a woman who is exposed to a drug that enables her to use 100 percent of her brain. In the movie, it is said that we use only approximately 10 percent of our brain. However, I am not aware of any evidence that substantiates this claim or hypothesis. Brain scans show neuronal activity throughout the brain.

But I do not wish to debate whether we use all or a part of our brain. What interests me is the idea that the human race has not accessed or expressed its full potential regarding powers of the mind and body. No wonder considering that so few appear to have expressed the third aspect of being—the spirit-self.

I believe that humanity has indeed tapped into only a tiny fraction of its physical and mental abilities. Any uncommon, extraordinary, or special abilities or powers that we observe in a small percentage of the population provide a glimpse into some of the amazing human potential that lays dormant in all of us.

I must stress potential because, as noted, only a very few have extraordinary abilities, and usually only one special ability exists in an individual. Perhaps some day, special abilities will become more commonplace. However, it may require many millennia of spiritual evolution of the human species before this can happen.

Why is it that we cannot access and express the full range of special abilities that we know to exist, as well as a host of others of which we are not yet aware? I believe that the human race is not spiritually ready for the awesome power that lies latent within it. Humanity’s potential power will gradually unfold and express in accord with its level of spiritual progression and evolution. We must as a species demonstrate that we understand the responsibility that comes with knowledge and special abilities. That is, we are expected to use these only for good and to unselfishly help, heal, inspire, and uplift our fellow human beings.

We can begin to see the danger in jumping ahead too quickly. Man had progressed in his scientific knowledge and ability to learn how to split the atom. However, he was not ready spiritually to use its power only for good. Instead, one of the first applications of that knowledge was to make an atomic bomb.

Although extraordinary and special abilities are seen to manifest physically, I believe that they are actually powers of the spirit that are being expressed through the body. The privilege of such power must be earned. In order for uncommon abilities to be expressed, one must be at a level of spiritual awareness and evolution that is sufficient to assure that they will be used responsibly.

The Spiritual Mind

The Spiritual Mind Copyright by  Blair Atherton 2014

The Spiritual Mind Copyright by Blair Atherton 2014

I believe that the mind has two aspects or qualities: spiritual and intellectual. We are all familiar with the intellectual mind. It is responsible for processes like reasoning, judgment, analysis, calculation, ego, desire, and other mundane faculties. I envision the spiritual mind engaging in activities such as creativity, intuition, and psychic abilities.

The two aspects of mind likely operate on different planes of consciousness. The intellectual mind (IM) focuses on the physical world, while the spiritual mind (SM) searches for meaning, and communion with God.

Worldly knowledge is acquired by the IM through study and investigation of measurable quantities. Spiritual knowledge can be obtained to some extent by study also. However, oftentimes, the most profound spiritual knowledge comes to us without active searching or any effort on our part except having an open mind and a desire to come closer to God.

Sometimes spiritual knowledge defies logic and ordinary understanding. It can come to us with an inexplicable certainty in its truth, while at the same time we do not how we know it or from where the knowledge came to us.

The two minds look at the world and existence quite differently. The IM primarily sees the here and now, while the SM senses there is much more to existence. Dominance by the IM may lead one to deny or overlook their spiritual nature. It may also lead one to question the existence of God or a Creator, as the IM favors (perhaps requires) measurement and proof over intuition and faith.

In contrast, the SM cares little about the material aspects of existence favoring instead expression of itself through inspiration, creativity, psychic connection, and emotions such as love and compassion.

How do the two aspects of mind reconcile with one another? The IM is essential in order for us to function in the material world. The SM brings meaning to the activities of the IM. The spiritual qualities of mentality moderate and guide the IM toward applications of its faculties that will be spiritually fulfilling and serve the greater good. I believe that a key element of our spiritual progression and evolution is for the SM to achieve dominance over the IM.

What is Spiritual Awareness?

And My light rose up... Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

And My light rose up…
Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

My personal spiritual experiences have led me to view what we mean by spiritual awareness differently than many people. Perhaps the most common and basic concept of spiritual awareness is simply an awareness of, or belief in, a higher being. I see this as a very limited and somewhat passive perspective.

My view of spiritual awareness is much more expansive and active. As discussed last week, this awareness most often begins with a belief in God, but spiritual awareness is not a belief, it is an experience.

As one’s spiritual awareness expands beyond basic belief, things happen. One begins to have inspirations and revelations. New knowledge and/or understanding blossom within us. Sometimes knowledge we already had springs forth with a new perspective, or takes on a deeper meaning and significance. This new meaning sometimes compels us to take action of some sort.

Expanding spiritual awareness and knowledge often bring with them new responsibilities that may require personal sacrifices. An example from my own spiritual evolution was the realization and belief that it is wrong to raise animals for food. This grew out of my expanding spiritual understanding of how all life forms are interconnected with each other and with the Source.

I took responsibility for this revelation by committing to vegetarianism and I am now a staunch supporter of animal rights. As one acquires more spiritual knowledge, one must adapt their thinking and behavior to reflect that knowledge. This is why I refer to spirituality as a developmental or evolutionary process.

To experience a more expansive spiritual awareness, we must truly open our minds and put aside any preconceived notions and prejudices. If we want to experience deeper levels of spiritual awareness, all we need do is ask, but we must be willing to change in response to the spiritual knowledge and understanding we receive.

An Impediment to Our Spiritual Evolution

Garfish, Dominica, W.I. Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Garfish, Dominica, W.I. Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Nature is an all pervasive spirit of love and beauty that fills and nurtures all things. All living things are her offspring and each is loved equally by her. So too, all of her children should love one another to the same degree and without prejudice or favoritism.

Last week’s article on spirituality and nature raises issues about how we view and treat animals. These matters derive in part from the statement “If all things are a part of God, then all things are sacred and demand our reverence, respect, compassion, and protection.”

I believe that animals are at a higher level of consciousness than we may think. Each has its place and role in the spiritual ecology of our world. Animals have as much right to life and freedom as we.

As noted last week, it is our arrogance and self serving nature that leads us to view animals as inferior and/or as food items put here for our consumption. I believe deep inside of me that it is wrong to raise animals for food. For me, it is a fundamental spiritual truth that compelled me to become a vegetarian.

Like any wrong, raising animals in large numbers for food has consequences. Negative impacts on the environment like pollution and global warming are a few examples of the consequential damages of the meat industry (for more details see the author’s note below). There is also a huge toll on the spiritual progression of those who eat meat, support the farming of animals for food, or otherwise refuse to believe that animal life is as precious as human life.

Animals raised for food must endure a great deal of fear, pain, and suffering inflicted by the cultivation and slaughter process. Generally, we don’t want to know much about how livestock are treated and slaughtered because we don’t want to feel guilty about supporting such practices by consuming meat. We know it is wrong, but we do not want to give up our favorite foods. We have come to love the smell of burning flesh and the taste of blood. Would you give up meat if it would save the planet, or if it would remove a major impediment to your reaching new heights of spiritual awareness?

We try to rationalize our choice by saying that if we give up all meat, it will have no measurable effect on the meat industry or the environment. We tell ourselves that one person cannot change the world.

But this misses the point. The world is changed by one person at a time by doing what is right without regard to what others think or do. As more and more people act on their conscience, the next thing you know, changes can be seen, and over time the world is transformed.

One may argue that man has been killing animals for food since time immemorial. But man also has an equally long history of brutality and little regard for human life as well. However, through the ages, humanity as a whole has progressed in its spiritual evolution and now the brutality and large scale killing of humans is primarily reduced to relatively small groups of religious extremists, dictatorial governments, and fanatic groups.

As a race our spiritual awareness has reached the point where we have come to understand that killing each other is wrong. The next step in our spiritual evolution is to recognize that killing animals is wrong too.

Author’s comment:

I urge everyone to read one or more of the following short articles that summarize the environmental impacts of the livestock industry.

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/the-environmental-impact-of-a-meat-based-diet/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/interviews/pollan.html

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=meat-and-environment

http://woods.stanford.edu/environmental-venture-projects/consequences-increased-global-meat-consumption-global-environment

Nature: A More Expansive Spirituality

Large Cedar in Olympic National Park Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Large Cedar in Olympic National Park Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

When we go to beautiful wild places to get away from it all, it is sometimes difficult to describe what we feel. For me, it is an inexplicable feeling of a belonging—a homecoming of sorts. It is a joyful feeling like I have met my soul mate. I want to linger endlessly and I lament when I must return to the steel and cement world.

This feeling of nature—the trees, animals, bugs, rocks, etc—as soul mate says something very profound. For those few hours, days, or however long in beautiful natural surroundings, we are on the threshold of awareness that we are a part of all of the earth and all living things that comprise nature. They are all a part of God and his divinity is a part of us and all things. As Jesus has told us in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, “All that is born, all that is created, all the elements of nature are interwoven and united with each other.”

Recognition of this truth has implications. One is that we are participating in an evolution of the earth and all life on it. We are but one species among many on a trajectory of growth in consciousness and spiritual awareness. This knowledge carries with it great responsibility. If all things are a part of God, then all things are sacred and demand our reverence, respect, compassion, and protection.

Although we may see humanity as superior to other forms of life, God may not share such an egocentric view. If that is the case, then other species may hold potential for development equal to us in God’s eyes. It could be that they are just not as far along in their evolution as we.

Thomas Berry believed that God placed humanity within the natural order rather than above it. It is our arrogance as a species that sees itself as the one most pleasing in the eyes of God. Given the direction that humanity has taken in recent history, this may not be the case.

If God is everywhere and in all things, then exploitation and destruction of our planet and the life it holds are affronts to God. It is our arrogance in believing that our science and technology can master the forces of nature or improve on what God has created that has led to our current environmental, social, and spiritual crisis.

At the same time, I see a quiet, unobtrusive movement in progress. I see more and more people exhibiting various levels of spiritual enlightenment concerning the environment. I see small steps that help to reduce harm to the planet like buying organically grown foods, moving away from a meat-centered diet toward a more vegetarian diet, avoiding genetically modified food products (GMOs), greater sensitivity to animal rights, recycling, driving hybrid or electric cars, and so forth.

While these may seem like small things, they suggest a growing awareness of what has been discussed here. They are indications of the beginning of a step forward in spiritual evolution and awareness that will change the world in so many wonderful ways.

You also might like the following related article:

One Species Among Millions