February 16, 2018

Ethics of Eating

     The point of this post isn't to convince you to change your diet to one form or another.  Instead, the idea is to explore some of the ethical implications of different human dietary choices.  It is up to your individual physical needs and spiritual calling to decide which diet is right for you to follow. 

Main ethical questions:

Is it alright that animals or plants have to die to sustain and nourish my body?

     There is no one answer to this question, but there are many considerations.  First, animals and plants will die to sustain something, if not us.  We live in a closed system, and we are designed to eat dead things.  This means that, whether it's a plant or an animal, we must kill something in order to sustain ourselves.  Living on fruit alone is not an option for human beings, and that is pretty much the only food we don't kill when we eat it. 

     Some people put limits on what they consider it ethical to kill.  Pescatarians limit their animal intake to fish and seafood, and are otherwise vegetarian.  Of course, we know that vegetarians eat eggs and/or dairy, but not meat and vegans eat no animal products whatsoever.  Some more omnivorous people live by the rule that if they have to kill something, it must be eaten, unless it is threatening our lives or property (it's alright to kill mice and termites, for example.)  To them, killing is necessary, but should be limited to absolute necessity. Spiritually speaking, there is no one right answer, and each person must come to their own conclusions. 

Do I need to consider the fear and other emotions of the things I eat? 

     Related to the first question for consideration, let's explore the idea of plant and animal emotions.  One of the biggest arguments for vegetarian and vegan lifestyles is that animals feel fear when they are taken for slaughter, and a sense of loss when close members of their herd/flock are taken away.  Meat eaters shoot back with studies showing plants also experiencing fear and reacting in a way which might be considered emotional.  However, since plant emotions haven't been proven definitively or fully explored, let's focus on what we can more easily relate to; the emotions of animals.

     In the wild, animals will face death numerous times before they die.  They will be chased by lions, cougars, wolves, coyotes, or whatever their natural predators are.  They have to struggle for food and water, and often go without.  Many starve to death.  If they are sick or injured, they must recover on their own or die, often a slow, painful death. 

     When humans raise animals for meat, they keep other predators away.  No denying that humans are a predator, and will eventually eat the animal.  The animal is well fed and watered.  It only faces the fear of death once, with the exception of a rare wild animal intrusion; even then they have the farmer/rancher to help them.  If the animal is sick or injured, it gets veterinary treatment, or is humanely put down when it cannot be saved; rather than a prolonged period of suffering before death. 

     I am not an animal psychologist, and I have not worked with chickens or milk cows; therefore, I cannot say with any certainty what a chicken or cow goes through in those industries.  I've heard from chicken and dairy farmers, and from vegans who oppose those industries, and I just do not have enough facts to comment as to what emotions those animals experience when their eggs are collected, or when calves are taken away so that humans can have the milk.  The chicken operations I have witnessed, the chickens didn't seem to care one way or the other about the farmer handling them or collecting their eggs.  A vegan might claim it's chicken Stockholm Syndrome, but I'm not an animal psychologist.  I do know that modern milk cows often have to be milked because they were bred to produce excess milk. 

     The topic is food, but I wanted to make a quick note about wool.  Wool sheep are well cared for.  They are not sheared until the weather is appropriate, because otherwise the rancher would lose all of his/her sheep.  They do not mind being sheared, and in fact many sheep rather love it.  Like with milk cows and milk, modern wool sheep have been bred to have an excess of wool and must be sheared for their own health.  It does not harm the sheep in any way whatsoever. 

Do I need to consider the environmental impact of my diet?

     This question isn't as easy to answer.  The simple answer is, yes.  Of course you should consider the environmental impact of your diet.  It is common sense, or should be, that we only have one planet, and we must take care of it.

     The environmental impacts of different food industries varies greatly based on how the food is raised.  Are the plants a monoculture which displace native species?  Are the animals free-range, and how much food must be grown separately for them aside from their pastures, and is it grown sustainably?  (purely pasture raised animals have no greater impact than the same animals would in the wild.)  How many native, especially endangered or threatened, species are killed in the production of my food?  The last question is particularly relevant to everyone's diet, as most of us eat some fruits, grains or vegetables. 

The diets 


     For some people, the ethical answer is veganism.  As noted, vegans eat and use no animal products whatsoever; at least, if they're loyal to their diet.  They won't wear fur or leather, and won't eat honey, milk, eggs or any other animal product.  They believe no animal should ever die or be "enslaved," (their terminology) for our food needs. 

     The trouble is, unless one is a gatherer, or knows a farmer who lets the bunnies, mice, and bugs munch away at their crops, selling what little is left; animals are inevitably going to be killed for you to eat.  This murder list includes animals, such as birds, which mate for life, and animals with young babies who rely on both parents in order to survive.  There is much emotional strife caused in the animal kingdom because of agriculture, especially industrial agriculture. The only ethical answers for vegans are to take an extreme or the middle. 

     One extreme would be eating only what one gathers from nature.  If one is skilled enough to thrive on foraged food, and I'm not sure that's possible most places in the world, then one can mostly, or even completely, avoid killing any animal for their food; either directly or indirectly.  Of course, then one has to be sure that one is gathering sustainably, and not robbing the ecosystem of important plants or fungi which are necessary to sustaining something else in that environment.  I don't know that this extreme can work for 99% of those who are drawn to the vegan lifestyle. 

     Another extreme would be to ignore the death and pain caused by slaughter, necessary to agriculture, of mice, birds, insects, and other animals.  Of course, it's the fool's path and will eventually catch up with anyone taking it. 

     The middle path is to accept that everything will die, and that we must eventually kill something to survive.  Perhaps the middle vegan path would involve growing more of one's own food and finding more ethical ways to keep pests away; ways available to a small operation, such as good enclosures, which are cost prohibitive to a large operation.  It might also involve some careful gathering of food from nature.  Eventually, one will have to accept that things will die in order that we have food, and their families will mourn them.

     In addition to the ethics of killing animals to protect crops, vegans (and anyone who eats plants at all; all of you) should take into consideration the environmental impact of their food source.  Does it use harmful pesticides?  Is it trying to work with nature (through symbiotic planting and such) or against nature?  How much wild land is displaced?  How is wildlife impacted?   


     In addition to the concerns which a vegan would have, a vegetarian must consider how the animals used for their milk or eggs are raised.  Is it raised in a way which is sustainable to the environment?  Are they raised in comfort?  Are they well cared for, maybe even loved?  Is the harvesting, especially for milk, done in a comfortable way to the mammal (cow, goat, sheep, etc.)?  Are the animals ever also used for meat, fur, feather, or leather production?  The choices of approach are like those which vegans must face; ignore it, go to extremes to avoid it, or take a middle path and accept it to whatever limit one can.


     People often erroneously refer to those who also eat meat as, "carnivores."  Carnivores eat little to no plants or fungi.  Obligate carnivores, such as cats, eat mostly meat and almost no plants.  Other carnivores, such as dogs, have a diet which consists of primarily meat, but may also eat a limited number of fruits and veggies.  Omnivores, such as humans, require a balance of plant and animal food sources, often leaning more heavily towards plants.  Humans cannot survive as pure carnivores, not even to the level of canines. 

     Of course, an omnivore has all of the ethical considerations of vegetarians and vegans, including environmental impacts of how plants and animals are raised for their food, and must also consider how one's food is slaughtered.  Does it suffer before it dies?  Is it killed quickly, as to minimize suffering? 

     Hunting, surprisingly, might be the most ethical means of obtaining meat for an omnivorous diet.  Of course, it would mean hunting according to established limits so as not to deplete populations of animals, and only killing what one will eat (including what one feeds to pets and service animals.)  Unfortunately, it's not realistic for every omnivore on the planet to become a hunter-gatherer; we just don't have enough wild lands and wildlife left on this planet. 

     Contrary to the advice for vegans and vegetarians regarding leather, omnivores almost have a responsibility to wear and use leather.  Leather is a secondary product from the slaughter of animals for food.  By using leather products in place of other fabrics, and it has myriad uses, one reduces one's impact on the environment by greater utilization of a resource; food animals.  Of course, my personal opinion is that wearing fur or leather from animals one does not eat remains unethical for everyone. 


      There are no easy answers.  There is no such thing as a human diet which will both meet all of one's needs, and cause zero suffering to the animal kingdom.  No one has the moral high ground when it comes to diet, with perhaps the exception of some of the few hunter-gatherer tribes left on the planet; and, not even all of them.  The only ethical answer is to minimize one's environmental impact, and to minimize the amount of suffering which must happen for one to eat.  You will eventually have to accept the cycle of life and death and your role in it while on this physical plane.  However, we can minimize our impact by carefully examining our food sources. 

     One last note is the human element.  No matter what you eat or drink, I think the most ethical responsibility a person has with their diet is to make sure the people who are raising your food (crop or animal) are treated well.  Are they paid fairly?  Do they use slave labor?  Is there a Fair Trade option for this product which will assure that working conditions and pay for the farmers/ranchers is equitable and good?  The last question especially applies to coffee and chocolate, as far as food is concerned, but investigating the source of your food will really open your eyes! 

     Whatever diet you choose, I wish you good nutrition and good health. 


December 14, 2017

Ecstatic Prayer; Drawing closer to God through the power of intense prayer

     There are all kinds of prayer.  Prayers can be said through music, whether sung or expressed emotionally through an instrumental.  You can pray silently, just a little private conversation with you and God.  Prayer can be shouted out from the mountaintops.  Sometimes, we don't even have the words and the Holy Spirit prays through us.  There are even times when our prayer is a quick thought directed up to God, a silent plea in a time of impending disaster.  A blog post could be dedicated just to the different ways to pray, and would still not likely cover all of them.

     This post focuses on ecstatic prayer, which can take almost any form, including most of those listed above.  Ecstatic prayer is not the only way to pray, but it is something which everyone should seek out.  I don't want you to think that you have failed in any way if it takes you decades to get it, and you'll lose it quickly if you become boastful if it hits you hard and fast the first few times you try it.  It will happen when it's meant to happen for you, when things are right in your life, and when you have the proper outlook, charity, and humility.  That said, it is something which should always be sought.

    A simple definition of ecstatic prayer is that prayer which one feels the Presence of God.  It's more of a two way conversation than a plea directed out to the air.  That's not saying you'll necessarily hear a booming voice, or even a still small voice like Elijah. (1)  What you can expect is an experience which is unique to you, but which you will know that the Divine was listening to you.

     While this post focuses on ecstatic prayer in a Christian context, it is absolutely not unique to Christianity.  Hasidic Judaism calls it "Davening" (pronounced "dah-veh-ning" and sometimes spelled with two "v's.") (2) Sufi's refer to it as "audition" or "sama."  (3)  Hinduism has many practices which seek what they would call union with the Divine Ground, such as mantra chanting or the Transcendental Meditation methods taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (4)  It is pervasive through most religions, and it is abundantly present in Christianity. 

     Many people who experience this type of prayer will hear or feel answers come to them, or they'll get their answers through dreams they have when they next sleep.  However, not everyone achieves that level of connection when praying, and even those who do have that kind of connection don't usually have it every single time.  Sometimes a person is given only one such perfect moment of prayer in a lifetime.  The goal is communion with God, which sometimes involves a two way conversation, and sometimes it's just your prayers and cries with the knowledge and feeling of God's Holy Presence.

     While in some religions drugs, plants, extreme fasting, flagellation, self torture, and other methods are used to achieve this state, it is not my belief that such extreme measures are necessary.  We will not be exploring drugs or torture in this post, and will instead focus on a more meditative method.

Why should I seek ecstatic prayer and union with God?

     Most of you probably think the answer to this question is obvious, and you can skip to the next section if you'd like.  However, some of you might say, "Hey, God will hear my prayers whether they're ecstatic or not, so why would I bother?"  This small section is for the latter group of people.

     Put simply, the best reason to seek ecstatic prayer experiences is because it is one of the best ways to strengthen your walk with God.  The ecstatic experience is to draw closer to the Presence of God, and to develop a more personal relationship with Him.  Your walk becomes less one about vague faith, and more about knowing; experiencing God and knowing for yourself that He really is there with you.

     Lest you make the mistakes of Simon Magus, and think the gifts of God are just a power to be exploited, or even purchased, you should not go into it seeking the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for show and ego. (5)  That said, it is good to seek these gifts for yourself because God wants to give them to us freely to help us, and others around us, in our walk with Him. (6)  It is through ecstatic prayer that these Gifts of the Holy Spirit are most easily manifested within you.

     Ecstatic prayer is the heart of Jewish or Christian mysticism, or indeed the mysticism of any religion.  All of the mystics have had ecstatic prayer experiences of some kind or another.   If you want to plumb the depths of God and the universe, of creation and angels, of the fabric of everything; there is perhaps no better way to begin to delve into these mysteries than through ecstatic prayer. 

How to do it


     While the goal is to be able to achieve some level of ecstatic prayer, some level of connection to God, in just about any situation, to have the purest and deepest experience, a certain level of preparation is necessary.  It is helpful to have the right frame of mind and setting, especially the first several times you attempt ecstatic prayer.  Keep in mind, you don't have to do any of these things to have an ecstatic prayer experience, but these steps certainly help.

    You should be freshly showered, hair dried and combed, but not put up tightly.  Being clean is more relaxing.  I know I feel in better spirits after a good shower.

     Next, prepare your space.  A quiet church is often the best place for this experience, but anywhere you can be free from distractions will work.  Have any icons, crosses, statues, or whatever helps you focus on God (simpler is better) in front of you.

     Drink water, and make sure you urinate before you start.  A clean inside will help you be in a purer state, more ready to meet the Divine.  You also do not want to be dehydrated, as your thirst would be a distraction.  Your only thirst should be for the Holy Spirit and the Water of Life.

     Similarly, you should not go into your prayer meditation when you are hungry, but neither should you go into it bloated with food.  Eat sensibly, a small amount, so that you will not suffer from hunger pangs; unless, you've trained yourself to better reach an ecstatic state with minor fasting (skipping a single meal.)  Some people prefer more intense fasting, as mentioned earlier, but such is not the focus of this post.  I will only say that you should seek competent medical advice before undergoing any kind of fast, and I don't believe fasting is the only way to reach the ecstatic state.

     If you have a tallit cloth, a Jewish prayer shawl, it is useful to pull it up over your head, so that your gaze is focused on one object.  Jewish people often refer to this as going into one's, "prayer closet."  Many people believe it is what Yeshua meant when he said that we should go into our closet and pray privately. (7)  Of course, you can pray with your eyes closed if it is easier for you, but I still like to be wrapped in the tallit when I pray; it's a connection to Yeshua, the Apostles, and all of the Prophets, who all wore the tallit.

     Praying alone or with a small group 

       Decide what language or languages in which you'll be praying.  Some people find that praying in your native language is perfect, as you understand what you are saying.  Understanding the depths of what you're saying is important to some people.  However, sometimes people find that praying in another language, particularly Hebrew or Latin, is most powerful to them.  Of course, in some ecstatic prayer experiences, the Holy Spirit takes over and one prays in the tongues of angels; so, ultimately, the choice of what language in which you'll pray may not be entirely up to you! (6) 

     Music is sometimes helpful, particularly hymns of praise, and an ecstatic prayer journey should always involve scripture reading.  If you can't sing, you can listen to recorded music.  As for scriptures, you should read at least one of the Psalms, a passage from the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament, I particularly recommend the "shema" in Deuteronomy 6,) and something from the Gospels (The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 is excellent, but any words of Yeshua are powerful.)  You might also read from one of the Epistles of the Apostles, or from Revelations.  The reason I include scripture readings along with singing, is because you might even wish to combine the two and sing scripture!  Many of our scriptures, especially the Psalms of course, were likely sung long before they were ever written down, and there is a special power to singing scripture.  Whatever your music choices, just make sure it won't distract you from your focus on God.

     You may choose to take a cue from the Dervishes (Sufi) and dance while you pray, but you might be surprised to know that prayerful dancing has long been a part of Jewish religious practice as well!  We're not talking about doing the Hustle or the Cabbage Patch (I know, I need more modern references) but just letting your body go and letting the spirit guide your dance.  Of course, make sure you are in a safe place to dance ecstatically without hurting yourself or someone else.  In lieu of dancing, you can try rocking in place, or gently rotating your hips and torso where you sit or stand.

     In the same vein as singing and dancing is, of course, musical instruments. (8) Some people find instruments distracting to the experience, while others find they help keep the mind from wandering and help set the mood.  Drums, a kinnor like King David played or other kind of harp or lyre, organ, piano, acoustic guitar, or whatever instrument you find soothing and spiritual.  Again, sometimes silence is best, but find what will work best for you in that moment.

     Regardless of all the peripherals discussed above, none of it will matter unless your prayer is done right.  You must remain focused on your prayer.  Your prayer should include genuine praise and thanks to God for all that is good, as well as your intercessions for others.  Of course, intercessions for yourself can also be a part of an ecstatic prayer experience.  Remember to ask for Wisdom, as it's God's favorite request. (9,10)  Above all, ask for the Holy Spirit to come and fill you.  It may seem obvious, but it's easy to overlook simply asking God to send His Holy Spirit to fill you at that moment.

     Prayer in Church during services

     You might be tempted to think that a church service is the worst place to have an ecstatic experience with God, but it is actually one of the best places and times to have such an experience.  The sheer energy of everyone singing and praising God, and enjoying the readings from and expounding upon scripture, and the power of holy communion all add to your experience.

     The main thing you need to watch out for is to not be distracted by other people.  Don't chit chat or gossip.  Don't worry about what anyone else is wearing, or how they approach the communion line.  Other people are not your enemy, indeed it is having others praying and praising with you which particularly heightens a church experience; however, focusing on them instead of on yourself and God will take you away from your experience.

     Praying by yourself, or with a small group, before service is particularly helpful.  Free and open, not scripted, prayer can be a big part of that preparation, but most people find that reciting the prayer Yeshua taught us, lovingly called the "Our Father" or "Pater Noster," (11) or another scripted prayer, such as the Rosary, (12) is particularly a good way to begin the experience.

     Find something on which to focus.  While Jews may focus on the Torah scroll (2) Christians whose churches don't have Torah scrolls, some Christian churches do, may focus on a cross or crucifix in their sanctuary.  For Catholics, it is especially appropriate to focus on the Tabernacle which houses the Holy Eucharist; as we believe that it contains the real Presence of our Lord.  The idea is, just as when praying alone or in a small group, to find one object on which to focus your attention during the service, and one which will make you think of God.  Of course, don't become so focused on the object that it replaces your focus on God, or your ability to know what's going on during the service.


     A single ecstatic prayer experience is a treasure and gift from God, and developing an ecstatic prayer life is nourishment for the soul, direct from the Holy Spirit of God.  As you work towards developing these ecstatic experiences, you will find that you can feel that connection to God in more and more situations.  Eventually, the goal is to feel the Presence of God always, in all situations.

     This post did not cover the phenomenon called, "The Dark Night of the Soul."  Such a state is where you cannot feel the Presence of God no matter what you do, and your faith alone must carry one through such times.  I do not claim to know why they happen, sometimes to some of the seemingly holiest people.  I only know that if you persevere, God will show Himself to you again.

     The final words I want to leave you with are the most important:  In order to have the purest ecstatic prayer experience and truly know the Presence of God, you have to strive to walk rightly.  God abhors sin.  You do not have to be perfect, for you are perfected through the Blood of Christ. (13) However, the closer you follow the teachings of Yeshua, His beloved Son and our Messiah (Jesus Christ,) the closer you will be able to draw to the Father, and the Holy Trinity.  Be charitable, kind, forgiving, loving, prayerful, thoughtful, and seek God in all things.  Eventually, you'll even feel the Presence when you're washing the dishes or cooking, and you'll be amazed at when your gifts are used.
Baruch Haba B'shem Adonai!


References and further reading

1 1 Kings 19:11-13


3 http://www.dar-al-masnavi.org/defense-of-sema.html

https://tmhome.com/books-videos/maharishi-mahesh-yogi-tm/  (for further reading about Transcendental Meditation.  I did not quote from this page.)

5 Acts 8:9-24

Isaiah 11:2, 1 Corinthians 7-11 Romans 8:26

7 Matthew 6:5-6

8 Psalm 150 as one of many examples

9 1 Kings 3:3-14

10 James 1:5,6

11 Matthew 6:9-13

12 http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/rosaries/how-to-pray-the-rosary.cfm  (for reference on the Rosary.  Page not quoted.)

13 Hebrews 9:11-13


November 9, 2017

Reader Questions 1: Why does God care who we say He is? Why do children die?

Blessings friends,

   In this blog post I will address a couple of questions I received from friends and blog followers.  If you have spiritual questions you would like answered in a blog post, contact me at revdangeorge@gmail.com  Make the subject line of the e-mail "blog questions," and let me know if it's alright to use your first name.  You may also post your questions to my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/authordangeorge  

  I'm leaving names out of this first reader questions post, as I did not ask for permission to use names. 

Question 1:  Why does God care who we say he is?  Does he need job references or something?
     Follow-up question (by another person building off of the first, as this was asked via Facebook.)  If God is infinite, why does he care about names?

     The simplest answer to the first question is that God doesn't "need" us to call him anything or say anything about him, except that he greatly desires us to grow.  Knowing God is how we grow.  So, it's not so much that God needs us to, it's that God wants us to because we need to.
     However, the follow-up question, while like the first, opens a different door.  Why does God care about names?
     Cultures throughout the world have believed in the power of knowing a spirit's true name, and exponentially so for Divine names.  Egyptians have countless stories about people learning the true name of a god, such as one where a sorceress learns the true name of Re (the sun god) and ultimately forces him to turn her into a goddess equal to him. (1)  Even some Christian exorcism rites involve learning the demon's true name in order to banish it. (2)
     Christianity originates from Judaism, and in Judaism the Name of God, which is represented by the tetragrammaton is particularly powerful.  It is the Name meant when the commandment says to not take the Lord's name in vain!  It doesn't mean the word "God" nor even the word "Lord."  Those are titles.  His name is represented by the tetragrammaton YHVH (commonly rendered Yahweh or Jehovah in English.) Our modern Bibles actually do us a disservice by removing the Holy Name and replacing it with Adonai (Lord.)  In the original manuscripts, the Name was used for a reason.  Baruch Ha'Shem YHVH. (Blessed is The Name YHVH.) 
     In modern Judaism, and actually for a few thousand years now, Ha'Shem, the name, was/is almost never spoken.  It was used once a year by the High Priest during the Temple periods, and I don't know if it is ever spoken these days.  I do know that the tefillin and mezuzah (scrolls with the Sh'mah blessing) use the actual name of God, but if we say the passage (from Deuteronomy 6:4) out loud we say "Lord" in place of YHVH.  "Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one." is how it begins as we say it, but it was written differently; more like, "Hear oh Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. (3)
    Then we have the curious case of Abram/Abraham; the patriarch of Israel.  He called God by many different names. (4) The two prevailing theories as to why he used different names are as follows.
     Some believe that Abraham used different names because he was praying to different gods (or Gods, if you prefer.)  They point out Melchizedek who was a priest of El Elyon (God Most High,) and to whom Abraham offered a tithe.(5)  Mel wasn't of Abram's people, but was actually a foreign king.  In addition, they point out how the offerings made in different places to different names of God are very different in nature. The proponents of this theory say that it proves that Abraham was making offerings to different gods/Gods, and that's why different names were used.  They also have on their side that some of these names were also used by other cultures in the region for their gods.
     The other theory, and the one more important to this question, is that Abraham was using different names for God, because each of those names evoked different Divine qualities.  The offerings were different, because they were asking for different blessings.  Melchizedek, they say, was a High Priest of God before most of the world turned away from God, as Abraham was only a few generations after the Flood. 
     There are flaws in both theories, but the point is that different names for the Divine can evoke different qualities.  Similar to the example of Abraham I could digress and talk about Hinduism, and how each of their gods are actually just aspects of Brahman, but for the sake of time and clarity, I'll leave it as it is.
     To summarize, and draw the two answers together, I don't think God cares which name you call God, so long as you draw closer to God.  That said, it is beneficial to learn the traditional names for God, because there is power in them.  The very fact that others revere those names gives them another kind of power as well.   I also don't think God is limited to "Him" or "Her," but that's another blog post.

Question 2: Why do children die?  What is the reason for a 17 year old to die forever in this life?
   Follow-up question, from me (because it's relevant to the question and to things happening in society right now.)  How can God let so many people be murdered in a church, including a pastor and another pastor's young daughter?

     To a grieving mother, father, sibling, aunt or even close friend, there is no good answer to the first question.  Death is one of the hardest things to face in this life, and it's harder when it's someone close to us.  For some people, it's even harder when it's a young person who seemed to have their whole lives ahead of them. 
     The only real answer is that we are mortal, and no one is guaranteed an amount of time.  Now, I don't buy that "God called them home" line which is used so often to comfort the bereaved.  God didn't make the person die, except perhaps in a very few, extremely rare instances which get recorded in scripture.  We tend to put blame on God for everything which happens, but God's job isn't to micromanage our lives.
     That doesn't mean God isn't involved in our lives, as He very much is.  He works for our good in all things. (1)  However, God doesn't always protect us from the experiences of life, and sometimes things go wrong. (2) Whether it's illness, genetic, or human activity which ends another person's life, there are only rare circumstances where God intervenes to stop it.  Most often, God nudges other humans to help, or tries to nudge the person out of danger, but it's up to us to listen and up to other humans to intervene.  Then, of course, sometimes the death is inevitable, and God weeps with us. 
     This world is fallen and full of evil and hardship, and many religions, especially Christianity and some forms of Judaism, talk about the next world.  In the next world, there is no pain and suffering, only the peace and joy. (3) Whether you think of it in terms of Heaven, the Elysian fields, the Summerlands, Nirvana, or any of the myriad other ideas on the afterlife, the core idea is the same. 
     Of course, the follow-up question is already answered in the answering of the first; that is, evil happens in this world and God doesn't always stop it.  What we can be assured of is that angels were there to protect as many as possible, and bring the rest home with love.  Could God have stopped the church shooting? (4) Sure, God can do anything.  He probably did try to nudge several people to put a stop to it, and we don't know who tried and didn't.  Ultimately, God most often works through other people.
     My dad used to say, in more colorful language, "life is full of feces because feces makes good fertilizer and makes things grow."  It's probably the best answer I've ever heard as to why God allows any hardship for us, but I understand that the answer isn't always great comfort. 
     We don't always understand why God doesn't stop all of the evil and hardship in the world, and even infants die.  What we do know is that God takes any evil which happens and makes good from it, even when we can't see how any good can come from it, so long as we stay close to God. 
I hope these answers helped, and I look forward to your future questions.

  References below.  Sorry, they don't link by clicking the numbers above.

References for Question 1

1 http://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/isisra.html (note this page spells "Re" as "Ra," which is more common but considered less accurate.)
2 https://aleteia.org/2017/04/05/why-do-exorcists-ask-demons-to-reveal-their-names/2/
3 http://biblehub.com/interlinear/deuteronomy/6.htm  (start at verse 4, read right to left, as Hebrew is written reverse from English.)
4 http://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/21.htm (look at verse 33.  Note, this interlinear version replaces every instance of "Lord," in Hebrew "Adonai," with "Yahweh."  It is not agreed among scholars whether this is always correct, especially before the time of Moses, to whom that Name was given.) 
5 http://biblehub.com/nasb/genesis/14.htm (verses 17-20)

References for Question 2

1 http://biblehub.com/nasb77/romans/8.htm (see verses 26-30, esp vs 28)
2 http://biblehub.com/nasb/ecclesiastes/3.htm  (especially chapter 1 verses 1-8, but the whole book is a good read.)
3 http://biblehub.com/nasb/revelation/21.htm (verses 1-8)

4 http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/06/us/texas-church-shooting-pastors-daughter/index.html (many other relevant stories linked with this story as well.)  

September 22, 2017

Do Animals Love?

   It is all too common to think of animals as "dumb" and incapable of emotions, such as love.  Many people will tell you that animals only imitate love to get their needs filled; ie, "your cat only pretends to love you because you feed it."  My experience with animals says the exact opposite; that is, animals are capable of simple love.   My contention is that if we believe that God is defined by Love, then we have to believe that love is pervasive throughout all of God's creation. 

   I'll start with the example of Annie, a cat who belonged to a wonderful neighbor of ours.  Annie was an old cat, and she absolutely adored her human.  She had been abused by her previous humans, and didn't trust men much, but she had an immense amount of love to share. 
   Tragedy struck when Annie's human mommy died.  It was just the two of them, mommy and kitty, in the apartment, and Annie was alone.  Fortunately, her human mommy's human daughter took her in and took incredibly good care of her.
   Annie was well fed, well groomed, and doted on by the women where she went to live, but none of that mattered to her; she wanted her human mommy back.  She would run across town, despite her old, arthritic bones, just to sit on our doorstep and wait for her human to get home.  She never understood why her mommy didn't come back.  Annie truly did love her human, and I'm sure the two of them are happy together in the afterlife.

   Let's deal with an issue which makes people say, "no, animals don't love at all;" the issue of animals eating their young.  Some species of animal do actually sometimes eat their young, and some more often than others. However, to dismiss all animals as incapable of loving because of this heinous action would be to ignore the fact that many human women, sadly, murder their own babies.       I'm not referring to abortion, that's a topic about which you're unlikely to see me blog, but babies after their born being thrown in trash cans, drowned it toilets, children driven off of cliffs by their mothers, and many more inexplicable, heinous actions.  It doesn't mean human women are incapable of love, not even those who are led to commit such a horrendous deed.  This post isn't about the psychology of infanticide by mother, so that's all on that depressing topic.

   Let's take a look at happier examples of humans and animals living together, particularly cats and dogs.  Our animals are genuinely excited to see us, and it's definitely not just about food and treats.  They don't necessarily get food or treats every time they see us, and I know my own animals will even ignore treats given them just to come sit on my lap and get attention.
   Cats and dogs are social animals who form close groups.  They want to snuggle with their human pack/pride members when we sleep.  I know my cat wants to snuggle even when it's blazing hot, even though he eventually gives up and lays elsewhere on my bed.  Yes, to some extent it's about safety in numbers, but it's also very clearly about affection for a close member of his family; his caregiver.  He wants to spend every waking and sleeping moment he can with me.  I know it's that way with many pet owners, and it's not just limited to those of the canine or feline varieties.
   Cats and dogs also seem to instinctively know when we are well or not, and want to help us.  Dogs are well known for wanting to, and often succeeding at, helping their humans.  I've heard many stories of animals taking extra care to give extra attention and love for people who are sick.
   I'll use another personal example of my former cat, Mihos; named for the Egyptian lion god.  I used to have terrible seizures, which are thankfully much more under control now, which would leave me helpless in the "post-ictal" (after seizure) period.  Mihos would sit right next to me until I could get up, and if my roommate was home Mihos would pound and scratch on the roommate's door until he came to help.
   Another pack love example comes specifically with dogs and pregnant women.  If a member of the household is pregnant, anyone who acts threatening towards her better pray hard and run harder if the family dog sees it going down!  Yes, it is canine instinct to protect the next generation, cats have been known to stand up for small children too, chasing off dogs or even strangers who were threatening their littler humans.  However, it goes beyond instinct, to "that's my family, and you don't hurt my family," which is a major expression of love.
    One last pack example is the love between pets in the same household, and I'll use the example of my mom's old Siamese cat and our dog.  The cat knew the dog since he was a puppy, and he was almost like her own baby.  She was an old lady even when he was young, and had a couple generations of kittens she had birthed and mothered, even grandmothered.
   After the puppy grew up, he lived primarily in an outside yard during nice weather, and other dogs would come up to his fence to try to pick fights.  One day, a rottweiler came up and was getting really vicious in his barking and attempts to bite my dog through the fence.  We ran out, as usual, to stop the incident, but before we could get there the Siamese cat flew out the door and jumped up into the rottweiler's face!  A few whips with her claws, and that dog ran off crying.  That cat was not going to stand for someone messing with her puppy!

   Now, one main contention is that people say love is a choice and animals can't choose to love, but I think that misunderstands the nature of love. Perhaps one can say that animals don't love in the same way that humans love, but they absolutely do have an abundance of love.  Perhaps there are even some species of animals which don't feel love in any way we'd recognize as such, or maybe even devoid of emotions altogether.  I certainly think at least mammals, and many other animals experience love.
   Perhaps humans just over-complicate love, just as we do with other things, and to animals it's simpler.  Perhaps in some ways we even do understand love better than they do, but I think we could still learn a lot about love even through just understanding the simplicity of their love.




April 18, 2017

Angels Are Not Perfect

There seems to be an incredibly common misconception, even among great religious scholars, that angels are somehow perfect beings.  However, only God is perfect.  Angels may come close, and are perfected in the Presence of God, but are not perfect in and of themselves.

Angelic sins are not entirely like human sins, but there are similarities.  Angels can be wrathful; extremely wrathful.  Generally they won't act without God's blessing, and they almost never act against the Will of God (the consequences are dire, and we'll get to that later.)  Angels can be impatient and unforgiving.(1)  Angels can be lustful. (2)  Angels can be jealous.  The biggest temptation for an angel, however, is ego; just look at the fall of Lucifer.

However, there are sins which angels cannot commit.  It is nearly impossible, perhaps entirely impossible, for a Holy Angel (not a fallen angel) to lie.  In fact, even fallen angels often have to use trickery instead of outright lies, and cannot lie about their name.  It is just entirely against angelic form and function to lie, as it is so opposed to God.  Any angel can mislead someone, but outright lying is nearly impossible.  Likewise, it is a dire thing for an angel to kill any living thing except by the direct Will and Power of God.

The Presence of God is the purifier of all.  No soul or angel can be imperfect in the Direct Presence of God.  The closer an angel gets to God, the more it is perfected.  If an angel sins too gravely, coming into the Presence of God physically hurts, but it is a cathartic pain; they are released from the burden which "sin" puts on their being.

See, angels don't exactly "sin" for the most part.  Their misdeeds are not weighed like human misdeeds, and instead have a more direct effect on them.  They can be tempted, but falling into temptation causes them discomfort and weakness; nonetheless, it happens.  Humans are actually affected similarly, but the consequences aren't as apparent in physical form and are measured differently; perhaps the topic of a different blog post.  I digress.  When an angel is drawn into the Presence of God, it is purified, strengthened, and renewed.

Certain angels are always in the Direct Presence of God.  Among them are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, but there are others as well. (3) While these angels do act on the Earth, they are never out of the Presence of the Divine.  It would be complicated to explain the ethereal physics of the arrangement, but simply put; God is always close by when they are around.  It is in their nature to always be with God, and to always act according to the Divine Will.  Because of their link to the Divine Presence, they are also the most powerful among the angels.

If angels were perfect beings at all times, the two most famous angelic blunders of the Bible would be impossible to happen.  The first, of course, being the fall of Lucifer, who took a full third of the host of Heaven with him.  Get that, 1/3+1 angels rebelled against God!  It was the ultimate act of defiance, and it merited them the ultimate punishment which can be meted out upon an angel; to be eternally removed from the Presence of God, and eternally tormented.  The fires of Hell are almost a mercy compared to the pain of being removed from the Presence of God and being weighed down with ultimate sin!  No wonder demons are so awful to humans, the ones God loves so much.  The second is an obscure reference in the Book of Genesis, at the beginning of chapter 6, which is expounded upon by religious philosophers and in the Book of Enoch.  This is the case where "Sons of God," in Hebrew, "Bene Elohim," literally, "sons of the gods/God" which most scholars and the Book of Enoch interpret as being angels, saw the "daughters of men" (human women) and made children with them.  These angels, though their crime wasn't to the equivalent of the original fallen angels, were punished extremely harshly; however, the punishment described in the Book of Enoch isn't entirely accurate, because it wasn't intended to be.

These are the only stories we have in reliable texts.  Some obscure texts, such as the Gospel of Judas, refer to other stories of angels which fell away from God, but their versions of the story are either not accurate enough or too obscure in details for most students to glean much from them.  Therefore, I'm not going to reference any one of those texts specifically, rather, I'll tell you an old story which many obscure texts touch on just a little bit, a story about certain angels who came really close to falling.

When the Earth was created, and long before humans existed, certain angels were sent to the Earth to watch over and guide creation.  Some of them even dwelt within nature, being like spirits of mountains, volcanoes, forests, deserts, waters, and clouds and storms.  It was a great and honorable task, but because they were not Angels of the Presence, and because they were integrated into creation, it meant being almost the farthest an angel can be from the Direct Presence of God, at the outskirts of God's Being.

At first, it wasn't too bad; there were temptations, but most temptations were easily scoffed at and didn't lead to any misdeeds.  However, when the result of the War in Heaven was that Lucifer and the other fallen angels were cast to Earth, the fallen ones began to tempt them gravely. They were tempted to all kinds of destruction, and belief in their own power as forces of Nature.

Temptation of these angels grew as intelligent beings were formed on the Earth, as God allowed primitive sentient beings of every creation on the Earth to think of these angels as Divine; it was a primitive understanding and relationship with God, a starting place.  Unfortunately, the fallen ones were able to twist the minds of some of those angels into believing that they were actually gods; maybe, not equal to God, but certainly gods in their own rights!  They were, after all, among the most powerful forces on the planets.

Some of these angels were also born into human bodies to human women by human fathers, according to the Will of God.  They usually did not know of their angelic nature, though most suspected it, and they would live many lifetimes as human beings.  They were given an innate wisdom which most people misunderstood, and were always fascinated with things of the spirit world and the Divine.  Thus, they could learn, like humans but with an innate insight which surpasses human understanding, and they could teach and guide.  Being angelic souls, they have an immense capacity for love, and a strong sense of justice.  Most of them are warriors of one kind or another, as well as scholars and priests.

The angels who became full of their own ego and likened themselves as gods met various fates.  Some were numbered among the fallen angels, and will suffer that most sad fate of Lucifer and his army.  Others were recalled to Heaven, where they underwent a most painful and wonderful cleansing.  Still others fell in between, they had sinned gravely enough to not be able to stand the Direct Presence of God, but not enough to warrant being cast aside; therefore, they were allowed to incarnate among the others who already were doing so.  They renew their souls slowly through their unwavering service to God.   A few, and only a few, were allowed to remain at their posts, and an Archangel was appointed to bring them nourishment from God to keep them strong.

Unfortunately for those who are born among humans, they feel most out of place.  They somehow know they're not like other humans, but they don't know what they are.  They make up all kinds of stories about their origins, and play on the mythologies of many cultures to explain themselves.  They need nourishment from the Presence of God, but they can only find some through spiritual practice, shamanic practice, temples, and religious adherence.

The greatest bonanza for these incarnated angels was the Eucharist.  See, Yeshua, the one called Christ, came as the Son of God to renew humanity and to save it from damnation.  He brought love for all humans, and the angels who were born among humans did not get left out.  When Yeshua instituted the Eucharist, it was primarily for humans, but it was also for these angels.  The Eucharist, unlike any other ritual, contains the Divine Presence, and humans take God into themselves when it is consumed.  Therefore, the more these angels consume the Eucharist, especially those who have damage from sin to undo, the more they feel the Presence of God; thus, the more they are healed, renewed, and strengthened.

The irony is that the most powerful form of the Eucharist can be found in the Catholic and Eastern churches, even though these angels would be branded heretics by either or both churches if they ever knew enough of themselves to reveal their nature.  Of course, most or all other sources of the Eucharist also come from human churches which would misunderstand these beings, and either worship or revile them; either way leading to the doom of those people.  In addition to consuming the Eucharist, preferably under both species (bread and wine) such beings also find healing and strength through Eucharistic adoration, reading the scriptures, and other religious activity.   Of course, some inevitably are born in Hindu, Islamic, or other cultures and must find the Divine Presence through those paths, but they are more difficult paths for such beings as they do not contain the gift of the Eucharist.

If you think you are one of these angelic beings, incarnated, the best advice I can give you is: live life full of love, forgiveness, and compassion; serve God in every way you can and strive to never harm anyone; participate in the Eucharist as often as possible, but only if you have the right according to the rules of that church; and don't tell anyone what you are, or what you think you are, unless you are absolutely sure they will both understand and not feed your ego because of it.  The greatest danger to an angelic being is ego.  Human, angel, or otherwise, we are all servants of God, and it is through that service from which comes all power, strength, renewal, and hope.  

How much of the above story is true, and how much is allegory or parable to teach a lesson?  I would say that at least most of it is true, but it is up to those granted the Wisdom of God (4) to discern.  

***  Note on Wisdom texts such as the Book of Enoch, referenced here.  These books are not intended to be taken literally, just like much of the Bible itself.  They contain secrets which those with Wisdom from God can glean about the nature of angels, humans, God, life, and Heaven.  Many of them also contain magic, but the magic is a result of the practice, not really a goal of the practice.  That is, you don't gain the magic by seeking the magic, you gain it by earnestly seeking the Wisdom and Knowledge hidden within.

(1) Exodus 23:20-21
(2) Genesis 6:1-2, Enoch 4:1-4
(3) Enoch 20
(4) James 1:5-8

*Vague references in this document allude to stories found in the Koran, the Gospel of Judas, and other texts, but not to an extent warranting citation.

August 24, 2016

Why and How I became Catholic

Most people who know my background had to have done a mental flip when I became Catholic last year, in May of 2015.  I didn't tell anyone leading up to it, mainly because I wasn't ready to answer questions or deal with backlash from pagan friends, some of whom absolutely hate Christianity.  I had originally intended to turn this into a book, somewhat of an autobiography, going into details of my life which lead me to this point, but instead I find that it works best as a blog.  That doesn't mean the book won't ever exist, I may still write it with plenty more details, but that at this point my other writing projects are taking a priority.  I'm still not sure how much of my past it is alright for me to reveal, since it involves other people's deeply personal business, so the blog version, without too many personal details, will suffice for now.  


     Though most of my family who I knew were Catholic, my Ludad/Gypsy relatives, my mother was Nazarene and neither her nor my father went to church.  However, I always knew who God was, and I always knew that my life would center around serving God. My dad prayed with me and taught me some basic prayers, and I had some children's bible story books. I was jealous when my half brother got to go to church with his dad, but that is also how I found out that church is where you go to learn about God.  I desperately wanted to go to church, but no one wanted to take me. 

     When I was around 6 years old, I spent one of many days at my grandmother's farm with my cousin and I asked if I could stay the night. It was a Saturday, and my grandmother said no because my cousin had to go to church the next day.  I got super excited and said, "Church?! I want to go to church!"  I ended up going with him, to a Southern Baptist church, and I was able to arrange, with permission from my parents, for the church bus to pick me up every Sunday morning for Sunday School and Church.  

     Fast forward several years, and my life had turned to a nightmare.  I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that from age 9 until at least age 18 or 19, my life was turmoil after turmoil, and trauma after trauma.  It shattered me.  I will never go into the details of in what ways I was shattered, even the little I remember is too much for most people to even begin to understand.  However, there I was, a complete mess.  

     I kept to myself the details of most of what was going on inside of me, and I turned to prayer for healing.  I prayed fervently, several times a day, and would cry myself to sleep at night while praying intensely.  I would eventually have an experience which is best for another blog, and the details of which it isn't appropriate to share anyway.  Suffice it to say, I was put back together, slowly, and eventually learned some deep spiritual truths from the experience. 

     Healing from that kind of experience really takes a lifetime, but over time I grew stronger, more clear-headed, and focused.  My love for God manifested greatly, and I saw a need to seek Him more fully.  I told my pastor, and he began giving me private classes in his office, no funny business, teaching me about church history and why the church believed as it did.  At that time it was at a "First Baptist" (AKA American Baptist) church which I was attending because of family issues with the first church I went to.  

   Through the course of those classes, I became disillusioned with the church.  I found that I didn't believe as they did, and I didn't sense the presence of God there.  I started seeking out other Christian churches, including the Catholic church.  For various reasons, each church didn't work out for me.  I didn't agree with how they interpreted the Bible, and some of them only seemed to be after money.  I even tried the LDS (Mormon) church for a year, but eventually decided that I didn't accept their story of Jews in America and the golden plates, etc.  All respect to my LDS friends, it's just not something I believe.  That said, there are certain parts of their theology which I find intriguing. 

    Though I had attended a couple Catholic services, the catechism class scared me off, and the priest was very unfriendly when I told him that I want to convert and eventually hope to become a priest.  I was 16 at that time.  Thus, I never gave the Catholic church a real chance back then.  Funny thing is, it was Mary who had called to me back then as well.  She appeared on a bed-sheet hanging over my window in lieu of a curtain, as the Madonna and child.  She simply smiled at me, and I knew that it was Catholics who honored Mary. 

     Eventually I decided that God didn't exist in any Christian church, and that the original Christian church had been destroyed, just as the Mormons had taught; even though I didn't, and still don't, think that they are the restored church.  I became Christian without a church, and began to go to the library to study other world religions.  I figured if I had a broader perspective on different religions, then I could more discern who God is and how to find Him. 

     When I was a young adult, late teens, I decided that I was Wiccan, but then decided Wicca didn't suit me, and I became just pagan.  I even became the High Priest of a pagan coven.  We worshiped many gods, though I still believed in Yeshua, Jesus, as well.  Ultimately, by the time I was a High Priest, I was not a polytheist nor a monotheist; I was a panentheist who accepted both monotheistic and polytheistic interpretations of the Divine.  I decided that each religion was a unique cultural view of Divinity and spirituality, but that they all ultimately were attempting to describe the same things.  Yes, there are differences because they have different cultural and environmental influences, but they were trying to achieve community and union with the Divine.  

     I kept studying diverse religious traditions on my own and through school, though I never attained any scholarly degree.  I did, however, at some point get an online ordination so that I could more fully practice as an interfaith minister.  I did weddings and baptisms, as well as more esoteric and occult things such as reading Tarot, runes, and I-ching, and offered shamanic services as well.  


     I went to college, and I originally majored in psychology, but ultimately changed to Archaeology.  I figured that I was serving God through my spiritual role, but that it would never pay the bills.  As I studied Archaeology, I discovered the anthropological term, "shaman."  There is a whole other post on this blog dealing with what exactly is a shaman, but for this current post we'll keep it simple.  A shaman is one who experienced great trauma, was shattered, and then put back together with the help of the spirit world.  Such people learn various spiritual lessons along the way, and gain a unique insight to spirituality which can't be quantified or easily explained.  It became apparent to me that the term shaman described my life exactly, and that I had been practicing like a shaman for many years without ever knowing what shamanism was until much later.  (Anthropologists use the term "shaman" to refer to spiritual leaders and other significant people in various cultures who all seem to have certain things in common, despite differing cultures and vast distances.  Some people have thus become mistaken thinking that "shaman" is a title, something which is given to one by others.  Instead, it is a descriptive term, and most primal cultures have/had their own title for their spiritual leaders.) 

  In my case, as in many others, I also dream significant dreams, which I did even before these experiences, and I also would go on spiritual journeys, have visions (such as the one of the Virgin Mary) and help others to put themselves back together.  I practiced physical and spiritual healing, and intervened on the spirit world for others.  I would use drumming, or even just fervent prayer, to make these journeys into the spirit world, and I always saw results; though I was never allowed to do anything which would work in my own favor.  I paid a heavy price for this practice, and I will keep paying that price until the Blessed Mother prays for it to be removed from me. 

   I discovered God in nature.  God was all around me, and through me.  God was complex and beautiful, and I became uncomfortable using any gender pronouns for God.  I believed God was male, female, and everything else, including that which is beyond our understanding.  The forest was always one of my favorite settings for shamanic journeying, and the collective spirit of the forest would just carry me away, even without drums.  

The Archangel Michael

     One night at home, I began a shamanic journey.  Everything was normal so far.  I had a candle as the only light in the room, had some nag champa and frankincense burning in my incense burners, and it was all silent.  I didn't drum that night because I was at home, and I didn't want to disturb my neighbors.  

     No sooner was I on the starlight path beginning my journey, when the Archangel Michael stood in my path.  I had no idea what Michael should look like, nonetheless I recognized him right away.  He said, "You shall go no further until you hear my words."  Sadly, I don't remember his exact words, but the gist of it is that he wanted me to attend a service at Old Mission San Miguel Arcangel, and actually asked me to attend all the way through Advent.  It wasn't until I got to the church when I realized that San Miguel Arcangel is Spanish for "Saint Michael the Archangel." 

     My best friend and I attended a service, and it was my first time ever at the mission.  I was overwhelmed by the beautiful, but simple, architecture, the powerful statues and paintings, and the overall spirit of the place.  I decided that I wanted to take adult catechism classes to see if I wanted to be Catholic.  However, my best friend talked me out of it.  He brought up all the reasons I would never wish to call myself Christian, let alone Catholic, and we never attended another service that season.  

     The one thing which did come out of that experience was my first book, "An Angelic Journey Within," which I believe was inspired by the Archangel Michael.  Despite not being Christian, it's a rather Christ-centered story, though it does include some references to other cultures and religions because of my personal views at the time.  

EWTN, Fulton Sheen, Mother Angelica, and Pope Francis

     Within the next month, December, I discovered that our satellite tv came with a Catholic television channel, EWTN; "The Eternal Word Television Network."  I grew interested in it, and slowly so did my best friend.  I particularly felt drawn to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and I would turn it up and sing along with it whenever they played it.  We then discovered the oddest thing, our wild boy cat would calm down completely and watch with interest whenever Mother Angelica (may she rest in peace) would come on and pray the rosary with the  sisters. We ended up leaving EWTN on whenever we would leave the house, because when we would come home the kitty would be much more calm and we'd find much less of a mess to clean up.

     We ended up watching a lot of EWTN ourselves, and through it we learned a little bit of Catholic theology.  Neither of us had any intentions of becoming Catholic, though we were finding that we agree a lot with the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, despite our agreement on some principles and teachings, we were panentheists and we believed that most religions would lead us to God. 

     In November of 2014 I had another vision of the Virgin Mary.  She appeared as the Virgin Guadalupe, and surrounded by corn, though as she spoke she changed into Our Lady Queen of Heaven, with stars orbiting her head as a crown.  She told me to seek out her Son at Old Mission San Miguel, and to attend for all of Advent.  My best friend, same one, agreed to go with me.

     After our first mass there, yet again the Spirit of God overcame me and I felt a need to take adult catechism classes.  This time when I mentioned it to my best friend, he said, "Me too."  He had been watching old recordings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, along with Pope Francis, and had become more intrigued by the Catholic Church than I had known until that moment.

Joining the Church; unanswered questions answered

     We interviewed with the priest, followed by the director of RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults) and began Adult Catechism classes, not the formal RCIA program.  I felt for our catechism teachers.  They were intelligent and knew their Catholicism, but we had a lot of tough questions.  My years as a protestant, followed by years as an interfaith minister, had me well-versed in the Bible (no pun intended) and I had studied Qabbalah, Gnosticism, and many obscure forms of Christianity.  We kept them hopping, but they were excellent instructors who were always on the ball.

     The director of RCIA is also, until the next election, the formation director for the Secular Franciscan Order, and he invited us to one of their meetings. I immediately felt at home, like I was among family, even though I knew no one.  I still had so many doubts about the Catholic Church, but in my heart I knew that I was home.

     I learned about Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and how she went to mass every day.  I decided that I would also go to mass every day.  I don't drive, but at the time my best friend had a work schedule which would allow him to drop me at the mission an hour before the early morning weekday mass. It also meant that I would have to stay at the mission for a few hours after mass until my friend could get a lunch break and pick me up.  A nice older gentleman who attends regularly helped me find the right pages in the Liturgy of Hours so that I could read along with everyone.  In my diocese we do that practice, which a lot of Catholics don't like, where people who can't receive communion go up with arms crossed over their shoulders and receive a blessing instead.  I was reluctant at first, but eventually I started going up with crossed arms.

     One day after morning mass I knelt in front of the Guadalupe painting in the mission chapel, and I said the Hail Mary a few times, even though I barely knew the words.  I can't kneel for long because of a physical disability, so I then decided to walk around and look at the different Stations of the Cross which are on the walls among the paintings of angels and saints. I prayed at each of the 14 stations, and I let all of my doubts about the Catholic church come to mind.  As each doubt played out in my mind, it immediately had an answer.  

     I can't cover them all, but a few examples of doubts I faced, and the responses: Question; "If I'm going to be Christian, I can't worship statues anymore."  Answer, "You never worshiped statues.  You worshiped what they represent.  Catholics don't even worship what these statues represent, except for Yeshua.  Statues were present in the Temple of Solomon and on the Ark of the Covenant, but they were not worshiped." Question;  "How can I be a Christian after years of preaching an interfaith message."  Answer; "You can be a Christian because you believe in Yeshua, and because I have lead you to this church."  Question; "How can I give up being an interfaith minister, how will I make a living and survive?" Answer; "I will provide.  Only have faith."  

     Protestant churches had me really hating Saint Paul the Apostle.  They twisted and misused his words so much, that I came to the conclusion that Paul was trying to corrupt the message of Yeshua, and I hated him for it.  It was thanks to our catechism instructors that I was able to heal my relationship with Saint Paul, and eventually discovered that if you think Paul is disagreeing with Yeshua, then you're either misunderstanding Paul or misunderstanding Yeshua; and it's probably Paul that you're misunderstanding.  

     I don't remember exactly when, but at some point during that process I had a dream which sealed the deal for me.  I can't reveal all the details of the dream, but simply put; the Virgin Mary showed me untold destruction and evil in the world and asked me to help her Son's church, the Catholic Church.  It was after that dream that everything else clicked, including accepting the Apostolic authority of the church, handed down through Peter from Yeshua.  

     I discussed all of these events and lessons with my best friend.  We had lively, in depth discussions about the Catholic Church, Christianity, and God in general.  We read through the Catechism of the Catholic Church together to help us gain a better understanding. Ultimately we came to very similar conclusions to one another.  

     We finally asked our catechism teachers about first communion, and on Pentecost of 2015 (May 24) we were confirmed into the Catholic Church and received first communion.  I chose Michael the Archangel as my patron saint, and my best friend chose Saint Francis of Assisi.  Just prior to that we were both provisionally/conditionally baptized because neither of us could track down our infant baptismal certificates (mine was Catholic, his we're not sure of.  We still can't find either.)  Of course, we both also went to first confession before our confirmation.  

     After we were confirmed we were invited to regularly attend the Secular Franciscan meetings, and now we are both in formation with the Secular Franciscan Order.  We are also Knights of Columbus, though we have trouble getting to meetings or functions very often because of the remote area in which we live plus work schedules.  

     A few months before our confirmation I joined the church choir, and I still sing with them, I'm currently the whole bass section.  I eventually would also become a lector, and my best friend volunteers as an usher and whatever else he can do as need arises.  We are both awaiting training to be Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist.  We can't go to daily mass anymore, but we do go every Sunday, and every other chance we get.

     I won't pretend everything is hunky-dory.  We are financially struggling like never before, and things weren't exactly easy before. We often don't know how we will get rent paid or have food.  Somehow we've made it work, but we're running out of options.  All we can do is keep praying and keep trying.  Maybe God will bring my book to the attention of enough people who will enjoy it and it will become a real source of income, or one of my upcoming books (one in final editing.)  I don't know what He has in store for us, but we keep praying and trying to keep the faith.  

     Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. A-men. 

     Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, oh Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  A-men. 


October 22, 2014

Physics and the magic of the Ancients

This post is the first real mysteries post.  Obviously mysteries can't be fully explored in a blog post, but herein is an intense introduction to the mysteries of magic and religion.  Behold the doorway to understanding how Stonehenge and other great structures were built, how matter exists, and the nature of the most ancient magic in the Universe. 

Who are the Ancients?

"Ancients" can refer to a lot of different groups of people.  However, for the purpose of this article it does not refer to the antedeluvian civilization; rather, it refers to the people who were the post Ice Age remnants of that civilization, and to the otherworldly beings who helped guide the earliest forms of our post Ice Age world. 

These people are those who taught secrets to our ancestors, and who built or guided the building of history's greatest structures and monuments.

While there are certainly much more ancient civilizations on the Earth, the ideas our civilization has about magic originates with the people referred to in this article.

Subatomic Forces

You probably know that matter is made of molecules, which are comprised of atoms. You likely also know that atoms are constructed of protons and neutrons, inside of the nucleus, and electrons in orbit around the nucleus.  However, modern physics is still working on deciphering from what these ions, charged particles, are made.

I am not going to get into an argument as to which modern theory is correct.  Instead, I will give you the ancient understanding, from when science was more advanced. 

The Universe is a living thing comprised of various thoughts.  These thoughts comprise all of the forces of the Universe.  However, they are without mass, and have no form of their own.  They are empty space, which always grows.

At some point these forces were caused to organize together to create the illusion we call the physical Universe.  This illusion is the means through which the soul of the Universe grows more complex; that central force which some think of as the heart of God.

The song which began everything

Vibration was the first physical force. Romantically, and somewhat literally, it was a song sung by God and the, yet noncorporeal, angels. The vibration of this song, its resonance, ordered the forces of the Universe to create the lesser forces.

The song caused those lesser forces to spiral and to spin, which created different harmonies.   Each harmony created each of the subatomic particles we know of, along with those yet undiscovered. 

Thus, matter and what we call energy are the result of those harmonies.  It is not so much that they created matter and energy as much as it is that the harmonious resonances formed the intangible substance of the Universe into tangible forms. 

Modern physics already talks about some of these forces, because they have other effects in the physical plane aside from forming energy and shaping it into matter.  They may speak of the weak or strong forces, gravity and magnetism among them, but they are just beginning to unravel the beginning cause of these forces.  It is amazing what humanity has already accomplished again. 

Magnetic and gravitational magic

Modern science has already captured some of the magic of the ancients once again.  The funny thing about magic is that once it is understood, it becomes science.

Our computers, magnetic trains, electricity generation and control, and much of our modern technology is magic to most people.   They know that someone understands these things and makes them work, so they don't literally think of them as magic. However, the knowledge of how many of these things work is limited to a few, and to the rest they are but mystical devices. 

Magnetism has been used since antiquity, and today we understand electromagnetism and use the forces to levitate and move massive trains at astounding speeds.  Magnetism is the core of modern electricity generation, an ancient force, harnessed to power so much of our lives.

Modern science is beginning to see how massive objects warp space, using the spectrum of light to estimate the masses and determine composition of distant planets and stars, learning to compensate for the effects massive objects, such as the Earth, have on time, and otherwise harnessing and understanding the forces of nature in increasingly amazing ways. 

The basis of ancient magic was in science, and sometimes technology.Thus, our modern science and technology begin to demystify some of that magic.  Humanity is growing ever closer to reclaiming some of the greatest mysteries of the Universe. 

The Ancients used gravitational and magnetic magic as balancing forces.  They understood how the planets from Jupiter inward, including the moon, have an effect on the gravitational and magnetic waves of the Earth, as well as the Sun's similar effects and the much lesser effect of other stars and the planet Saturn.  This knowledge is part the origin of why most ritual magic has certain ties to lunar, solar or astrological patterns; the other obvious reasons are agriculture, hunting, migration and the seasons of subtropical regions. 

Sonic magic

Remember that it was the resonance of the vibration of a song which caused the forces of the Universe to spin and spiral; creating the physical plane.  Likewise, sound, and inaudible vibrations, can reorder the physical world by aligning the spins and spirals of the ions and the lesser forces of the Universe.  Sound alone can accomplish amazing transformations of stone; causing it to weigh far less, liquify it, shatter it, or even cause it to dance and move on its own!

Modern science has touched on how to weaponize sound, but it has also begun to explore how it can be used in other ways.  It is possible that they will once again discover these complex melodies.

Here's a hint for you: many of the ancient carved groupings of spirals found around the world are actually an early means of recording a melody.   Unfortunately, I do not know exactly how to read and interpret them, so it is up to musicians and mathematicians to work together to decipher them.

When you sing hymns, drum, chant mantras, or sing out your emotions, you are likely engaging in sonic magic (coupled with thought magic, discussed below.)  There is power in rhythm, melody and resonance.  Some kinds of dance are an extension of that magic, using the body to help shape the resonance, but dance is a complex topic worthy of its own future post.

Light magic

Photons, light particles, are the earliest expression of the physical Universe.  They are pure energy, and, in a way, everything is constructed from them.  That is, they have the potential to be transformed into the subatomic particles which comprise matter.  Granted, they are not thought of as photons when they are in their earliest state inside of stars; wherein almost all physical matter is formed.  They are only photons when they are emitted as light.

People have been producing light for thousands of years, and today we can produce it in myriad ways, and even harness it to create electricity and movement.  We can even focus light with lenses, and intensify or "amplify" beams of light by lasing it through stimulated emissions of radiation. 

The Ancients used light to do many of the same things, though actual laser technology was no longer possible by that time period.  They did amplify and intensify beams of light in other ways, and Archimedes is among those who carried forth the legacy of their knowledge.  Parabolics is the key to most of what they accomplished with light.

Thought magic

Remember that when the primary forces of the Universe were first mentioned, they were referred to as thoughts.  They are an extension of the consciousness of the Universe.  So are we. 

Conscious living beings are physical embodiments of a part of the Universal consciousness; sparks of God.  Physical existence is a means for these sparks to become established souls on the prime dimension of the Universe; oneness with God, yet still individuals. 

Because we are sparks of God, we have thought. Though ou individual power of thought is miniscule compared to the Universal consciousness, collectively our ordered and focused thoughts can accomplish many great wonders. After all, thought is among the primary forces of the Universe.  Love, of course, is the most powerful of these thoughts.

Unfortunately, only science fiction and paranormal sciences have seriously considered the links between thought and the physical plane; with the exception of the increasingly rate experiments into psychic phenomenon by mainstream science.  It will probably be a while before science once again realizes the power of thought to be directed to change the makeup of the Universe.   It is said that thinking without acting is futile, but directed thought power can create action. 

Dimensions and layers

The Prime Dimension of the Universe is mostly immutable, and it is not subject to entropy.  In order to expand, the Universe had to create different layers, often referred to as planes or dimensions, with different properties. 

Each of these dimensions is unique, and the further out from the Prime Dimension, the more mutable the domension is.  The outer most dimensions are subject to entropy, and among those dimensions is what we know of as the physical Universe.

The inner dimensions, those which are somewhat mutable but not subject to entropy, is where the entities such as gods, devas, angels, great spirits, and by other such names dwell.  Between those dimensions is where the dark forces of entropy dwell, and where shaman are tested.  Some say that there are nine such dimensions, others say thirteen, while some believe that there are twenty-seven or more. 

The next dimensions out are where our spirits are, which are somewhat immortal; except that our thoughts and actions on these entropic planes can cause them to either grow and thrive, or to wither and suffer.

Shaman use thought magic, guided by higher spirits,  to walk the different spiritual planes, including those of gods and angels.  Witches, shaman and other magic users amplify their thought magic, often called "intention," through these same dimensions.   Even prayer is an amplification of intention being carried to the Divine and the Angels through the dimensions; to where thought has origin. Many good spirits echo our intentions, and resonate with our spells and our prayers.

The Ancients used dimensions for all of these things and more.  Some could even alter their form to use dimensions for swift transport in the physical dimensions. 

Through a combination of magics, people such as Solomon could even command demons in the physical world.  The Hindu vedas and Mahabharata have similar stories.

Ancient structures and monuments

Any of the above forms of ancient magic could be used by itself to create most of the greater Neolithic structures and monuments, if they happened to have the technology.  However, technology had all but disappeared by this time, so they had to use a combination of forces to accomplish the same tasks. That said, some few structures did have the benefit of the advanced technology brought by otherworldly beings (not aliens, per se.)

Stonehenge, for example, was a collaborative effort between humans, ancient humans, and otherworldly beings, but without too many technological devices available.  Humans provided raw labor, were recruited for chanting, drumming and singing, or added to the meditation (thought) circles which powered parts of the operation.  The Ancients provided the technical knowledge, and the most intelligent among them devised the chants and melodies or worked on tying the different forces together.  Astronomers from every group did the calculations to figure out gravitational and magnetic effects on the Earth, so that adjustments could be made by the geniuses. 

Many ancient structures around the world show keyhole shaped impressions cut out of them, some few with copper remnants.  While I don't know the exact mechanisms used, I do know that the copper was more than a staple to join blocks together.  Adding it to the stone allowed for electromagnetic forces to also play a role in moving massive stones.   Usually, there was a technological device involved, but sometimes it was simply an ancient people trying to imitate those who they thought of as gods.  Either way, the copper did also work as a staple to hold stones together. 

Through a combination of different technologies, even without technological devices, the Ancients were able to accomplish what seemed like magic. 

Only the beginning

Great Neolithic structures are only the most tangible examples which remain of the magic of the ancients.  Some of the feats they accomplished regularly were equally or even more amazing, but the only evidence left of it is the watered down stories which come to us through the filter of countless generations which lacked the ability to remember and grok the mysteries behind those stories. 

Some mystery traditions have guarded many of these secrets through the ages, including that through which I learned these secrets. Some few shaman and other magic users still employ some of these secrets in our arts.  This article exists to open that understanding to more people. 

Though this is not a strictly Hindu post, I am not Hindu, I believe that it is appropriate to end this piece with:
Namaste.  Om shanti shanti shanti.