THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

The NYTimes book review today, Sunday June 28th reports on THE EVOLUTION OF GOD by Robin Wright.  It seems to be a worthy book to explore.  But only controversial if one still harbors the illusion that the Bible is 'God's word' verbatim.

Like any religioius text it reflects its authors–human beings who fully believe they are inscribing a message from Divinity.  Yet it is clear that the message emerges from the personal belief and the  historical  and cultural milieu of the author [s].

It is often shockingly obvious to readers of the Hebrew Bible/Torah/Five Books of Moses that the early Biblical portrayal of God is less than flattering.  This is an anthropomorphic  tribal God who participates in contests with other tribal gods and of course wins. [Would love to see the other tribe's rendition of the events].  Whoa!  What happened to that most cherished of religious doctrines, monotheism?  Could it be the obvious–it hadn't evolved as a belief at the time of this writing.  In fact the Bible reflects not monothesism but henotheism–our 'God' is the best among others. 

 The early Biblical God demands violence, sacrifice and slaughter of the offending tribes.  In fact King Saul loses his position when he fails to eliminate every man, woman, child and beast of the offending tribes.  Nice God, right?

So when we read about the tender, merciful, loving God…..when God becomes the universal Deity. When we read Christian and Jewish mystics [ie Kabbalah] and see God us undefinable with feminine as well as masculine attributes……–how does that happen?  Clearly it happens over time, over the evolution of human thought, over re-consideration of human values and goals.

Does God evolve?  Who know? The French Jesuit Pierre Teillhard de Chardin thought so and nearly lost his job over it.

For certain we need to recognize that what we know or don't know about Divinity is filtered through our own human minds. If our own perception of Divnity changes, then our religious literature will reflect this transformation.   Of this, and very little else, I have no doubt.

 

THE METAPHYSICS OF SEX, POWER & INSANITY

Once again our politicians have revealed a deep truth  human nature–sex and power are a potent and dangerous mix which can lead to a state of temporary 'insanity'.

How else can we explain the phenomena?  Governor Mark Sanford's personal catastrophe is but the latest in a string of  apparently self-destructive behaviors among our nations most accomplished politicians.  It is hardly necessary to invoke the following: Spitzer, Edwards, Clinton, Hart, Patterson etc. etc.

Of course not all self-confessed philanderers have fallen on their sword ie. Clinton, Patterson and the Italian PM Berlusconi seem just fine.  How society processes these occurrences can vary from time to time, from society to society. 

But what is it about sex and power that seems to lead these individuals to the brink of political and personal suicide?

I believe it is the rush of neuropeptides, perhaps dopamine or some other substance that is released in massive quantities when sex is on the brain that impels our species to 'risk it all'. 

Perhaps in Darwinian terms, the most powerful alpha-males were the risk takers, the high achievers, the power brokers of their day and were the ones who mated with the most females.

Perhaps the thrill of risking it all for the pleasure of the encounter literally demolishes the highly rational and calculating aspects of human thought.  The planning, strategizing, networking–the intensely rational thought that was required to make it to the top level in all human endeavor–all evaporates when the chance to consummate is near.

But in truth, such activity and its consequences occurs at all levels of society.  It is just when the high and mighty succumb, the fall from such heights is that much more dramatic.

Still the message is the same–humans continually struggle with this paradox–we walk the tightrope between reasoned thought and temporary "insanity".  The problem is–this excuse is rarely an acceptable one.

We still possess "free will".  We are still responsible for our choices.  But there is a price to pay for it.  Perhpas it is not so "free" afterall.

PHILOSOPHER’S & DEATH–

A recent article by philosopher Simon Critchley in the NYTimes was titled 'How To Make It in the Afterlife'.  He touches upon various aspects of the universal metaphysical question–what is death and is there an afterlife?

He references the Greek philosophers who felt that 'happiness' manifests after death by virtue of your reputation or legacy
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I find this particularly confusing and rather irrelevant.  I doubt whether many of us 'worry' about what people will say about us after we're dead.  The real issue is how we live our lives while we are capable of doing so.  Living life with caring, compassion and kindness will take care of karmic debt from this life as well as past lives.  Those who live this way will not have be be concerned about their reputation after death–it will be just fine
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Critchley does not believe in an afterlife. I clearly recall the time when I shared this notion.  The transformation in my belief did not come from religious faith or philosophical speculation.  Rather it consisted of the 'evidence' I accumulated from the valid stories I heard from sane and honorable human beings.  These could be classified as the NDE [near-death experience] or ADCs [after-death experiences].  Combine these powerfully compelling anecdotes with my experience with mediums—and you have it.   I challenge the reader to examine the same 'data' and dismiss it.

But of course many will do so.  Their usual method is to simply state  'I don't believe those stories and I am sure the mediums are faking.  I am unable and unwilling to 'argue' with them.  It is not my job to do so.  I can only examine the evidence and reach my own conclusion.  And the conclusion is that some form of consciousness survives bodily death.

But I remain open to evidence that will further confirm my beliefs or prove them wrong.  That is what all good metaphysicians should do.

NY Times Scapegoats–Doctor’s Are the Culprits in Health Care Crisis [?]

I don't usually write about my profession, nor do I always defend it.  There are unscrupulous doctors as there are lawyers [who knew] and every other profession as well.  But I had to react to the Sunday NY Times editorial blaming doctors for the health care crisis.  My letter to the editor, admittedly angry, was not published.  Therefore my blog will be my outlet.

Without quoting verbatim, the article makes several points re: doctors and costs.  1] Doctors order all the tests, procedures and drugs and therefore, make money based on these decisions.  RESPONSE:  Yes, we order tests and drugs.  Have anyone else in mind to practice medicine?  But the truth which is apparent to everyone except the NY Times is that each one of our decisions MUST be approved by an insurance company.  They have the last word in what can or cannot be done as well as what drug will be approved.  Is this ALL the doctor's fault?  I don't think so.
2]  The Times is against doctor's being paid on the basis of fee for service.  RESPONSE:  when my lawyer, accountant, plumber or electrician will give up their 'fee for service' so will I.
3]  The Times tried to downplay the role that malpractice fears play in doctor's decisions by pointing some small town in Texas and how the system worked there. RESPONSE:  All I know in the NY Metro area,  defensive practice out of fear of law suits is absolutely real!  Our entire pattern of practice has been infected by this concern.  Multiple tests are ordered, consultations, obtained out of fear of being sued.

I have presented my solution for the crisis previously.  In short I suggest– 1] limit the profits of insurance companies [HMOs] who are merely gigantic middlemen, managers and benefit by denying care, 2] address the malpractice crisis, take them out of the courtroom and place them before a panel of experts. 3] deal with the sad end of life cases whose health care is fruitless, painful and expensive.

The funding is available if the government has the balls to do the right thing.  Scapegoating doctors is not the way to do it.

THE META-PHYSICIAN’S INSOMNIA Rx–Noctural Mantra

Like most 21st century Americans, I battle insomnia from time to time.  I personally have no trouble falling asleep.  Staying asleep is the challenge.  It is certainly true that our minds do not stop functioning during sleep.  And I often find myself engaged in some scenario/dream or discussion with myself over some personal or global issues.

The mental 'noise', the incessant thoughts seem to raise my level of consciousness of a nearly awakened state.  I know that I am still in a middle ground of consciousness but can open my eyes and stare at the clock radio–its clearly too early to get up.

What I have found helpful is a simple repeatable mantra.  If it sounds too simple to work I suggest you have nothing to lose by trying it out.

Simply but silently say, sleep during each in breath.   The out breath can remain silent with air being slowly expelled through the nostrils.

This works because it focuses  attention on the word sleep rather than any disturbing thoughts.  It also  signals the brain what state is desired.  It gently sets the stage for sleep by blocking everything else from consciousness.

Several years ago I surprised myself by reducing my fear of heights but simply stating the affirmation you are not afraid of heights. Amazingly I was able to approach the edge of a precipice without the usual symptoms of anxiety.

I hesitate to refer to this act as a meditation since meditation is about achieving a wakeful awareness, not sleep.

Still,  the power of a simple affirmation can offer insomniacs a meta-physical prescription that can work.

LIFE IS NOT A CHINESE MENU…..

Life is Not a Chinese menu…..

This is a rather weak analogy, a reference to the traditional Chinese menus [which still exist for some restaurants] where one can pick 'one from column A, one from column B].  A similarly poor food analogy would be a buffet in which life's various aspects [like platters] could be picked and chosen individually.

Some of us approach life with a hidden, unsatisfied hunger.  We look at the lives of others and envy those aspects of their lives we feel are missing or deficient in our own. We believe we would leap at the opportunity to make new choices, to select differently from each column of life, as if that were even possible.

 We have a tendency to see our own lives as unfulfilled, lacking in something–but we're not quite sure what it is.  We tend to see the darkness, the frustration rather than the beauty and light.

We look around.  We find that one family has more money, are more financially secure.  We'd love to be in their situation. Others have achieved a degree of fame and recognition. Who wouldn't want that?   Someone else seems happier in their career–we'd love to trade places with them in that regard.  Another is healthier, more energetic than we are.  We could certainly would pick better health from  'column A'.  Another family seems to have children that are more settled in their personal and professional lives.  That would clearly be a great choice as well.

Someone else has a more attractive spouse, another had richer parents who left them financially well-off.  Another is a better golfer, tennis player, more personable, appears more 'content'.  The list is literally endless.

When the scenario is laid out like this its a lot easier to understand how ridiculous it all appears.
Clearly, life is NOT A CHINESE MENU.  We don't get to choose each item as if they existed in isolation for the others.  Of course there IS much that we can choose.  And people continually make new choices.  They leave jobs, spouses, locations all the time.  Yet there are other aspects of our lives over which we have little choice.

 Jealousy and envy are always, and I repeat always corrupting influences.They are pure negative energy for those who 'go there'.   The fact that they so naturally arise is itself interesting.

 My point, if it remains unclear [and it probably does] is that many factors in life: money, love, occupation, family, happiness etc, are so interconnected and interwoven that they cannot be teased apart easily.  We are a whole package, the 'full catastrophe' as some have borrowed before from Zorba the Greek's description of life.

Human nature is such that we tend to see those aspects of another's life which we envy, not always appreciating that we would not trade the totality of our life for that individual's.Notice how shocked we are when we learn that a celebrity or acquaintance who we believed to have 'everything' commits suicide or falls into a depression.  We can never know the inner workings of anyone else's mind.  We truly don't know, for instance, how they feel. 

We fail to realize that what we all truly really seek is serenity, contentment, happiness.  We also fail to realize that this elusive quality is  not the sum total of these 'factors' from column A, B, or C anyway.  Happiness is an elusive, interior quality, a state of mind and often diverges from what we believe will makes us happy. We also fail to realize that happiness, optimism can be learned.  In effect, it can be a choice.   

Life is not a Chinese menu.  We all need to remind ourselves of how challenging and rewarding everyone's life is–that imperfection is built into the system.  We don't need to 'choose' each item in our life, rather our ATTITUDE, itself a choice, will hopefully leave us more fulfilled. 

THE TWO-SLIT EXPERIMENT–In Layman’s Terms

I would like to elaborate a bit on the TWO-SLIT EXPERIMENT which was the basis of my last posting.
It begins with Thomas Young's experiment in the 19th century in which he shown a beam of light through cardboard which had two vertical but parallel slits in it.  The pattern which appeared on the screen behind the two slits revealed something only seen with wave phenomena.  In other words, when any two waves [any substance including water]  intersect they can either cancel each other out, or compound their energies.  The resultant pattern is known as an interference pattern and appears as alternating bands of darkness and light–it characterizes wave forms.

It seemed quite clear that Young had determined that the nature of light was a wave.  However, Einstein's  work in quantum physics  in the first decade of the 20th century [ the photoelectric effect for which he won a Nobel Prize]  clearly showed that light in the form of photons was behaving as a particle.

The TWO-SLIGHT EXPERIMENT was then re-visited.  It seemed as if light could be slowed down so that only ONE photon at a time was emitted from the light source.  When both slits remained open, each photon could be noted appearing on the screen behind the slits  in succession.  The problem was this– although each photon exited its source and hit the screen as a unique particle, the pattern that emerged after time was that of an interference pattern!

In other words, somehow, although one particle/photon was emitted and one photon/particle hit the screen behind the slits, the cumulative effect showed that light was still behaving like a wave.  Yet what was interfering with what?  How could one photon interfere with itself?

Even stranger, if there was a way of noting which slit the photon passed through, by signaling a sound at each slit, the pattern on the screen lost its interference pattern.  Instead, two lines of photons appeared behind the two slits on the cardboard. 

Now taking note of which slit the photon passed through did not itself change anything.  Yet the observation which was made clearly did change the results of the experiment.

Making the observation seemed to change the nature of light from a wave to a particle. But how could this be possible?  How could the nature of something be so confusing.  Could light actually be of two natures, in a state of probability, before it was measured?
If you're confused by all of it–join the crowd.  No one is quite sure what it means.  Theories abound which add more confusion that clarity:  a 'virtual' photon may interfere with the visible one, perhaps from a parallel, invisible universe..[.? ]

Does this help anyone?  At least it gets us thinking.  Stranger than fiction?  Why not?

THE TWO-SLIT EXPERIMENT–Physics & Metaphysics Converge

Quantum theory is not for physicists alone.  No metaphysician [as I define it, a seeker of wisdom, of the ultimate nature of reality] can ignore some of its findings. The bizarre nature of quantum reality was recognized by the 20th century's greatest physicists.  They problem was–they didn't know what to do with it.  They soon recognized the value of its mathematics.  Its ability to solve incredibly complex questions with real-world applicability was and is unquestioned.  What drove most of them 'mad' was what it was telling us about the nature of reality.

Now in the 21st century, we are still grappling with the role of mind/consciousness in the very existence of this physical world.  Books have been written by Paul Davies such as THE GOLDILOCKS ENIGMA and a new one by Robert Lanza with Bob Berman called BIOCENTRISM:  How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe  and others.

Still, theTWO-SLIT EXPERIMENT remains one of the most enigmatic of all quantum studies.  It has to do with the very nature of matter and energy itself.  Are they waves or particles?  Can they be both? And does that make any sense?  Can elementary particles such as photons, electrons, protons or even 'larger' atomic particles exist in a state of limbo, only to manifest as one or the other form—depending upon how an experiment is conducted?  Is mind or consciousness in any sense 'creative' itself?  Do we all participate in creating the universe in which we live? Is mind/consciousness as basic a constituent of the cosmos as gravity or other forms of energy?

I advise the reader to Google this experiment and to read up on it.  It does not make 'sense' in our ordinary way of thinking–yet we cannot deny that it is true and repeatable.  It does shake us to our metaphysical core. 

I believe it is imperative that we ponder the deeper meaningss this experiment raises.  It may seem contradictory, even irrational.  But it seems to me that it represents a veil, perhaps growing thinner, that will open our minds to a higher reality.  Like Plato's cave, we dwell in the shadows or the reflected light of some deeper wisdom.  It should not frighten us.  It beckons us to explore deeper.  We have nothing to lose but our ignorance.