Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Religion Failed Us—but we Still Need It.

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

from Samuel Kronen’s excellent essay:

To live a religious life, we must engage in a spiritual practice. I don’t think there is any way around this. To remain in contact with that what is beyond ourselves, beyond the domain of our individual thoughts, we must find some way of continually remembering that this connection exists and is always possible to attain.

This can be achieved in many different ways, from charity, to meditation, to some form of deep contemplation, and so on. What is necessary is engaging in whatever practice we choose on a daily basis or something close to it—otherwise we are susceptible to falling astray and moving away from this essential connection.

Try to remember that life is infinitely wondrous and beautiful, and do everything in our power to live in a way that serves this remembrance. This is the foundation of a holy life.

We don’t need to buy into religious lunacy to be close to God. We simply must allow ourselves to be active participants in the grace and artistry of the universe, rather than merely being passive observers in a purely material world.

In reminding ourselves that there is more to life than what we think, we become present to the immediacy of life itself, and in my experience, this expands our capacity for love.

Love is at the core of a truly religious life.

More.

A Growing Movement Of ‘Death Doulas’ Is Rethinking How We Die

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

“All I can tell you is that from where I have sat there has been a calmness and a sense that I want to be nowhere else but by that person’s side,” Levine said in an interview with HuffPost.

Levine is part of a growing movement of nurses, social workers and volunteers who are pushing for greater compassion and companionship for people who are dying. Borrowing language from the birthing world, they’re called death doulas, end-of-life doulas, death midwives and palliative care doulas.

More

This vision of the world reduces everything to a battle between good and evil, between God and Satan.

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

From Pope’s Confidantes Pen Blistering Critique Of Steve Bannon’s View of Christianity:
Spadaro and Figueroa accused this group of misinterpreting verses in the Bible to fit their own political stances on a wide range of topics ― from war-mongering to climate change to the idea of America as a “promised land” that is to be defended against all odds.

The authors wrote that these evangelicals and Catholics “condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.”

………………“Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes,” the pair wrote.

More.

Bannon, Deconstruction, v. meaningful readings of texts and life

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Steve Bannon’s love of Deconstructionism has got me thinking that a good dose of traditional sign theory, which dominated Western culture for centuries, would be in order, even if people are not believers. It argues that we can make sense of texts by careful readings, believing that they–and by extension, our lives–have meaning.

When I was earning my Ph.D. in English in the late 70s and early 80s, Deconstructionism was one of the big literary trends that many Miltonists eschewed because it reads every text as essentially meaningless, for all signs ultimately cancel each other out. Those who practice this theory are great at the intellectual gymnastics that such readings require. However, the alternate reality/facts, if you will, that such readings search out and concentrate on, are ultimately destructive to every text (and life itself). Nothing has meaning or purpose in this system, for there’s always chaos and war over dominance.

That, as my study, Perversions, Originals, and Redemptions in Paradise Lost, now an acclaimed book, is not at all true to the traditional semiotic approach of the Great Western tradition, first set forth by Augustine, the first and foremost sign theorist in the West. This system is essentially monistic (not dualistic, as some have thought), for all begins and ends in God. All signs must be read by the signs that God has embodied in both the Old and the New Testaments. Satan who separated himself from Heavenly communion and took many angels and humans with him then mimic, and pervert God’s words, deeds, and actions, forming, you might say, alternative facts and reality throughout the timeline–till the very end, when God steps in and becomes All in All, his monistic system restored. We are required by life itself to learn to read signs correctly and embody the truths of them in our lives if we are truly members of God’s City. If we choose to follow Satan and His opposing City, The City of Satan, or Man after the Fall, we never enjoy the Communion of Heaven, and will end in Hell (according to Augustine). There, nothing truly exists, for existence requires grounding in God, the source of all reality and being, but subsists. Milton, takes the Jewish and more logical tack that Satan and his City will ultimately be dissolved so that God will fully be All in All, his original monism restored throughout the universe (a notion again signifying oneness).

I think a discussion of Augustinian sign theory, while not the only reading of what’s going on politically, would be fruitful in today’s world. Even if one isn’t a believer, the notion that we can discover competing systems, which relate constantly to each other and provide insight into the characters enacting them, is exciting. It seems important to add that my work looks at patterns. I’m not dogmatic or doctrinaire myself, because I think most spiritual systems that I know of look for meaning based on Oneness and Unity with creation and would give value to such patterns. This lies beyond dogma, in my view.

Here’s a link to the study on Amazon. You can look inside to what it’s all about. You can also order a copy, or you can order a copy here (http://www.thomasrameywatson.com/editing/). Many academic libraries will have it too. https://smile.amazon.com/Perversions-Originals-Redemptions-Paradise-Lost/dp/0761837825/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488228034&sr=1-4&keywords=thomas+ramey+watson

Most of my books, take up traditional sign theory in one way or another. I knew my novel, Reading the Signs: A Paranormal Love Story, just published but without much notice so far, was particularly timely, centering on the corruption that infects so many of our institutions, where power and control have become the norm. Such power mongering is embodied in someone who hasn’t hesitated to abuse those beneath him in every way necessary to get and maintain such control, including misuse of sex. Alternate realities, competing narratives, which Trump and company constantly practice, riddle the novel in which my protagonist and his love are trying to survive by reading the signs rightly and moving on. My popular memoir, Baltho, The Dog Who Owned a Man, also refers to Deconstructionism and traditional sign theory.

New Year’s Thought

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

A big culprit in so many thorny issues facing us is religious dogma that keeps people from really seeing and from there getting ourselves and others in balance. As long as we remain dogmatic, locked in manacles of the mind, as the poet William Blake termed it, we make everything worse, not just for others but for ourselves.

I was thinking the other morning on my way home from yoga of the Two GREAT COMMANDMENTS, which, as Jesus said, are the summation of the Law and the Prophets: 1. Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind. And, 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. To love others rightly we must also love ourselves. Many people do not. To get right we must sort ourselves out with love and kindness, and wisdom.

That’s where good books, and good counsel, can really help.

I’ll end the year with this poem from my collection, The Necessity of Symbols,

20/20

Threading from spool to spool
to spool, frost spins
old stories out
over my windows.

Shrunken cherries left by blackbirds
who’ve read the signs and fled
lie discarded on the lawn.
Like motors, hearts turn—
and turn again—
but refuse, make noise—
absolutely refuse
to start.

Ice covers the city
like a freezer-burned pie.
The fruit trees—no matter their kind—
bear only ice.

Oh stabat mater—Jesus—
stoop—
take the cobwebs from the gashes.
Let wounds brighten.
Let us bear fruit
fit for golden bowls.
Thomas Ramey Watson

Conflicts Between Science And Spirituality Are Rooted In Your Brain

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

“Our dialogue around religion would be more productive if scientists respect the insights that religion can offer, and if religious individuals would respect the insights science can offer,” Jack said. “They are different kinds of insight, so there is really no reason for so much conflict to arise.”

And as individuals, optimal thinking likely results from a dynamic interplay of these two types of reasoning, based on the nature of the particular problem we’re facing.

More.

Integration of various ways of thinking and acting can be done. In fact, in my opinion, it’s necessary if we wish to live good lives as wholly as we can. Tom

The Surprising Benefit Of Going Through Hard Times

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

The phenomenon of art born from adversity can be seen not only in the lives of famous creators, but also in the lab. In the past 20 years, psychologists have begun studying post-traumatic growth, which has now been observed in more than 300 scientific studies.

The term post-traumatic growth was coined in the 1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun to describe instances of individuals who experienced profound transformation as they coped with various types of trauma and challenging life circumstances. Up to 70 percent of trauma survivors report some positive psychological growth, research has found.

Growth after trauma can take a number of different forms, including a greater appreciation for life, the identification of new possibilities for one’s life, more satisfying interpersonal relationships, a richer spiritual life and a connection to something greater than oneself, and a sense of personal strength.

………………

The physical rebuilding of a city that takes place after an earthquake can be likened to the cognitive processing and restructuring that an individual experiences in the wake of a trauma. Once the most foundational structures of the self have been shaken, we are in a position to pursue new—and perhaps creative—opportunities.

The “rebuilding” process looks something like this: After a traumatic event, such as a serious illness or loss of a loved one, individuals intensely process the event—they’re constantly thinking about what happened, and usually with strong emotional reactions.
It’s important to note that sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety, of course, are common responses to trauma, and growth generally occurs alongside these challenging emotions—not in place of them. The process of growth can be seen as a way to adapt to extremely adverse circumstances and to gain an understanding of both the trauma and its negative psychological impact.

More.

Spiritual tourism has travelers asking the big questions

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

They’re among a fast-growing number of travelers doing more than lying on beaches and roaming through museums. They’re seeking spiritual encounters, from private healing ceremonies with a shaman in Peru and Sufi meditation sessions in India to monastery stays in northern Thailand and Christian pilgrimages to Fátima and Lourdes.

Travel companies report that the number of people taking “faith-based” vacations is up as much as 164 percent in the last five years, even at a time when surveys show that the fastest-growing religious category in the United States is no religious affiliation at all, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“In the absence of belonging to an organized religion, I still think there’s a universal desire for people to connect with deeper things,” said Ben Bowler, the Australian founder of Monk for a Month, which offers Westerners long stays in Buddhist monasteries in Thailand. “They’ve already been to the beach on holiday. So when they get the time and resources, they think of doing something more meaningful.”

In addition to that search for a higher purpose — especially among retiring baby boomers — observers speculate that all kinds of factors are driving this wave of spiritual tourism, including anxiety caused by economic and political uncertainty, the popularity of Pope Francis, the looming 500th anniversary in 2017 of the Protestant Reformation, and the once-in-10-years Oberammergau passion play that will be staged in 2020.

More.

The Mystical Side of Music

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Ali Z. Hussain writes:

Lately, I have noticed that the only moments during the day when I can maintain an absolute silence is when my fingers are hosting my feelings and the piano in a conversation. Perhaps one might be inclined to think that this is the reason why my lips are sealed shut, because my hands are the ones participating in a dialogue with the instrument. Perhaps that is so, but I think there is another subtle power to music that only becomes evident once we compare this medium of communication with its writing counterparts, prose and poetry.

For Muslim mystics, such Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-ʿArabi (d. 1240), prose is the ideal medium for communicating divine law; a body of knowledge that requires a definitive and non-ambiguous set of terminology and syntax. On the other hand, it is poetry alone that can satiate the passion of the mystic to express the ambiguous and perplexing nature of the mystical experience; where clear boundaries of the law give way to the paradox of the supra-rational. We may posit this distinction as one where prose operates within the realm of the intellect, with its abstract concepts and categories and where poetry rules supreme in the land of the qalb (heart) and rūḥ (spirit); where a constant taqallub (fluctuation) and murāwaḥa (vascillation) is the definitive state of reality.

However, anybody familiar with Ibn al-ʿArabi’s thought and the larger discourse on cosmo-ontology and saintology in Islamic mysticism knows that there is yet another ‘beyond’ to these two realms of the intellect and spirit. In the human microcosm, this third aspect of the laṭīfa rabbāniyya (lordly subtlety) that forms our cognitive faculties is called al-sirr (the secret). Alongside the intellect, heart, soul and spirit the secret constitutes the human communication center with the divine; it is God’s throne in our being and is, sine qua non, the divine trace in the human body.

More.

The Problems, Potentials Of Mixing Religion And Politics

Monday, May 11th, 2015

But can this potion be used for advancing peace rather than instigating war?

That’s the argument that an A-list panel of experts – including Shaun Casey, special adviser on religious issues at the U.S. State Department – explored on Wednesday (April 15) in a provocative debate at Fordham University that produced some surprising insights.

The goal, as author and moderator Eliza Griswold put it in opening “Beyond Extremism: Reclaiming Religion’s Peacebuilding Capacity in an Unstable World” – was to go beyond the easy optimism that says “religion really has nothing to do with the problems of the world right now.”
………………………
R. Scott Appleby, dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, didn’t mince any words.

“Religious communities, including most religious leaders, are not peacebuilders and indeed have little awareness that they are called to peacebuilding, and what it might take to become a peacebuilder,” he said.

Appleby, a leading expert on fundamentalism and religion and violence, argued that religion in practice isn’t really about building peace, but rather “trying to build and maintain a flock” and “protecting one’s own religious community, even if that means exaggerating and amplifying discord with neighboring communities.”

Appleby’s other three points were just as eye-opening:

For example, he asserted that contrary to many claims, “radical Islam is about Islam” and “until this is understood, religious peacebuilding is an empty promise.” He also said that Hindu nationalism, Jewish “irredentism,” Christian “chauvinism” and other forms of religious extremism are about those religious traditions as well, not entirely alien to them.

While such manifestations by no means form the core or entirety of religions like Islam, they nonetheless are features of those traditions. And they must be dealt with by building up religious institutions, reducing religious corruption, improving religious education and denouncing extremism in one’s own ranks.

Another point: All those lovely interreligious dialogues and ceremonies? They are little more than “the parlor games of those not sufficiently serious about religious peacebuilding, which begins with and should be focused upon intra-religious reform and intra-communal mobilization for peace.”

At best, Appleby said, such events are “useful for building solidarity among elite.” But they have “virtually no traction at the grassroots.”

In addition, Appleby argued that “well-intentioned” governmental efforts to foster religious communities to promote peace, especially after the 9/11 attacks, have actually “undermined religious peacebuilding, robbing it of its true potential.”

More of this insightful article.

Thomas Ramey Watson is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University's College of Professional Studies. He has served as an Episcopal chaplain (lay), trained as a psychotherapist, done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University, and was named a Research Fellow at Yale University.

In addition to his scholarly writings, he is a published author of poetry and fiction.

more...