May 25, 2014

Who is God?

There is no one right answer to that question.  God is so complex that many answers can be right.  This blog post only intends to cover God from one angle, though it is a broad, somewhat all-encompassing angle.  That said, this is a blog post, and cannot be comprehensive for any angle or view.

First, some definitions. Keep in mind that people don't always fall firmly into one category or another, and often beliefs contain elements of a few of these viewpoints. Also, these systems of belief are far more varied and complex than can be covered here.


Animism;  The belief that nature is full of spirit, even the rocks, and that these spirits can be angered or appeased. Sometimes the spirits can manifest apart from the objects of which they are a part, and some are godlike in power.  Many of the earliest known human religions are animistic.  It is related to pantheism.

Pantheism;  God is in everything.  It differs from animism only in that God is the same force in everything.  It does not involve separate spirits, necessarily.  However, many people consider animism to also be pantheistic. 

Polytheism; Polytheism simply means believing in many gods and goddesses.  It can be an extension of animism, where the spirits of natural forces are considered gods. It can be a creationist belief system. It is most often a combination of both, and other ideas.

Monotheism;  Belief in only one God.  Most often it is a male deity, but not always.  Most Christians, Jews (religious,) and Muslims are monotheists, as was the ancient Egyptian Aten cult.  Hinduism is sometimes called polytheism and sometimes monotheism. In reality, it is both, and it is also panentheism.

Panentheism;  The belief that God is in everything, and everything collectively is God.  It also contains the belief that the Universe has a collective consciousness.  It can be somewhat monotheistic,  polytheistic, or both.  It is pantheism also, but it specifically recognizes the collective consciousness of the Universe. 

Monistic panentheism;  Panentheism which believes that the Universal Consciousness takes the form of an overarching Divine being. That form is called God, though everything still is God.  The God form exists to direct creation, evolution and growth, to provide balance,  and as another way for the Universe to experience itself. Many followers of Jewish and Christian mystery traditions are monistic panentheists.

My beliefs are closer to monistic panentheism than to any of the other listed views.  I believe that God can manifest as one God or Goddess, or as many gods and goddesses, but that there is one eternal form which is the creator, God.

I call that overarching eternal form by the Hebrew name, "El Elyon," God Most High.  Yahweh is one form of that God, but God extends beyond gender and includes all genders.

God loves creation, and only wants what is best for us.  God rarely interferes directly, so that we may grow by learning to help one another as we face the trials of life.  God has equipped us with everything we need, including some bright minds, and these gifts are only valuable if we work together in the spirit of love and community.  

God doesn't punish sin, per se, rather,  sin creates its own consequences for the soul.  God does not torture people, especially not for eternity.

Though God rarely directly intervenes, God does hear our prayers.  In response, God grants us wisdom, guides us to knowledge,  and will even send angels to guide and guard us. However,  God's most frequent method of answering prayers is to guide us to others who can help, or to guide others to us. 

So, stay alert! You may not realize it when God is making you the answer to someone's prayer!

May 17, 2014

Winos take over park and shut down library

O.k., this blog is off topic. It just is.

  Also,  I want to make it clear that I do not generally call people, "winos," and the term is used tongue in cheek for those, like me, who enjoy good wine. 

I went into town today, hoping to finish editing the file for the print version of my book, intending to send it to the publisher today.  I just have a little more formatting to do, and then it is ready to have them send me a proof copy. After I approve a proof copy, it becomes for sale.

Well, plans are plans, but sometimes they change unexpectedly.   When we got to the Paso Robles library, all the streets were blocked off, as well as the library parking lot.   The gentleman who was working the barricade said that the library is closed today for the wine festival.

Now, I like wine. I enjoy going to tasting rooms now and then, and on a rare occasion I'll go to an event at a winery.  However, for as long as I've lived in this area, well over a decade,  I've never been fond of the way the big wine festivals are handled.

The city's main public park is shut down, along with streets around it.  There is no admittance to the public park, unless you have a wine festival ticket.  They erect iron barricades all around the park to keep the common folk out.  

Now, most festivals in the park are open to the public, no admission fee. I can understand that the wine festivals in Paso Robles and other local cities need to be different.  Alcohol is a big part of the central product.   I just hate that so much public space is shut down to most of the public. It doesn't help that it's expensive to attend.  

Wine is an important part of the economy in this region, and there are some excellent wineries around here.  We'll always have wine festivals.  Since I don't live in Paso Robles, I don't have a say in how they run their parks.  It is a minor inconvenience for me, and maybe I should have known that the wine festival was this weekend. I would never wish for the wine festivals to stop, so long as this region remains a prime wine region.  (It won't be a wine region for too many more years if this insane drought doesn't let up.)

It would have been nice if the library at least had a sign saying that they would be closed for the festival today.  They had signs about being closed for Memorial Day, but nothing about being closed today. 

Oh well, at least I got some new shoes while I was in town. I've needed to replace my shoes for quite a while now.  Found some good steaks on sale at Vons too.  So, it wasn't a wasted day.  Hopefully I'll be able to get back into town to finish the book early next week sometime.

May 11, 2014

Mystery of the Divine Mother

When most people these days think of a Divine Mother,  there are a few different views.  The neo-pagan view is often a dualistic or polytheistic view of either a god and a goddess, or even many gods and goddesses.  The Hindu view is somewhat polytheistic,  except that it is believed that all of the gods and goddesses are emanations from,  aspects of or one with God, whom they call Brahman.  To the Native Americans she is often the corn maiden or corn mother, or another benevolent mother figure.  To the Navajo, for example, she was White Pearl Woman, who lead them to their home and gave them the two-spirit children (often misunderstood as "hermaphrodite children") to guide them.   However, even some Jewish and Christian faithful also have a view of the Divine Mother.

Most people know of the Catholic (Eastern and Western) reverence for Mary, the mother of Yeshua.  She is Theotokos, the "God-bearer."  She appears in apparitions and gives messages to humanity from time to time, and in various places.

She echoes the ancient "pagan" goddesses in many ways.  She is given titles such as, "Queen of Heaven, " similar to Inana, Isis, Ashera and other goddess figures. The early paintings of her with baby Yeshua appear to be based on the Egyptian paintings of Isis with the baby Horus.  Her apparitions often echo appearances of the goddess.  Many people believe that her apparition at Guadalupe particularly echoed local corn maiden and/or corn mother legends. 

However, Mary isn't present at all in Judaism, and is not the only appearance of the Divine Mother in Christianity either.

In the Hebrew language, most names for God are masculine.  However, the name for the Divine Presence, which was with the Ark of the Covenant and in the Temple, was "Shekhina," which some scholars and mystics interpret as a feminine name.  It is pointed out that we were created male and female, in the image of God.  It is a view shared in some forms of Qaballa, and even in some forms of Christian Gnosticism and other Christian mystery traditions.

God is above creation, and within it, and all creation emanates from God. Therefore, God represents all possible genders. God can appear as male, female, both or neither.  We see God as the Holy Parent, capable of being Father, Mother and much more.  
I'm not advocating a return to the corrupted practices of Ashera worship, nor to any goddess tradition for Christians.   I do believe, however,  that we should take time to honor God as both Father and Mother, and to recognize the ways God speaks to us through the feminine aspect, and through both male and female spiritual leaders.  Take time, especially on Mother's Day, to honor female spiritual leaders in your life, and the feminine qualities of God. 

May 7, 2014

Religion, Spirituality and Spiritual Leaders

Religion is often defined today as being based in fear and control.  Spirituality is defined as ones path being free from that control.   However, it is a great over simplification, and it does a disservice to the heart of religion.
I am both religious and deeply spiritual.   I am not controlled by fear, I am lead through love.    I have freedom of choice and thought.  I don't believe in Hell, it's not even biblical, and I do good because of the love inside of me, not out of fear that God is gonna smite me.
Being religious doesn't mean being lead by fear.  It means studying God in depth, through one of the many world religions.  It is for some to follow one religion deeply, and to teach and guide others who study that path at all.  It is for others to follow a few religions, usually favoring one while being flavored by the others.   Still others are not dedicated to any one religion, and take a little from everywhere.  The latter call themselves spiritual or interfaith, and can be just as dedicated to their spiritual walk as one who is deeply religious.  Then there are folk like me.
I firmly believe in the teachings of Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit.  I believe that he had an important message for this stage of human development, and taught that we may become like him if we strive for our potential in love and wisdom.  
I also believe in White Buffalo Calf Woman and Wakan Tanka.  I believe in White Pearl Woman.  I believe in the Blue Star Kachina.  I believe in Ganesh and Krishna and others.  I believe in one God, one Divine consciousness which is more complex than all of the concepts of God and Goddess throughout all human existence.   It permeates everything, and creation is one expression of the Divine.  I am a monistic panentheist.  I consider myself Christian and deeply religious.
I am a priest and minister. Those are my job description, and they don't make me better than anyone else.  They simply say that the vast majority of my time is spent studying religious philosophy, learning spiritual truths, and developing spiritual gifts and learned skills.  It means that if you need a blessing, spiritual guidance, a cleansing, a marriage, a spiritual reading or many other services, you may come to me, and I may be able to help.  If you need a doctor, a baker, an automechanic, or a lawyer, the best I can do is pray that you find a good one.  
Priestess, priests, shaman, and other such religious and spiritual leaders are still needed.  Someone who dedicates themselves full time to spiritual service can help in a lot of ways.  Some use these titles to control and manipulate others, often through fear; however,  there are good spiritual leaders out there.
How to spot a good spiritual/religious leader:
1. They will lead you to knowledge and to finding your own understanding, rather than telling you what you have to believe.
2. Even if they believe in ideas such as Hell, it is not the focus of their teaching.  Instead, they teach you about the love of God and the love inside of you. 
3. While they may have their own rigid dogma they follow, they don't try to impose their dogma on you.  They may share about it, but they don't tell you that you have to follow it.
4. They do not gossip, nor badmouth others.
5. They are kind and generous with time and materials.  *
6. They are not jealous if you talk to another spiritual leader.   The best spiritual leaders encourage you to seek wisdom from a few sources outside of themselves.
7. They learn from you as well.  Each person has a unique perspective, and we can all learn from one another.
8. They admit when they don't know something and may even refer you to other sources of knowledge, including other teachers and students. 
9. They admit when they are wrong, and do whatever they can to make things right.
10.  They are humble and not boastful.  If they talk at all about the things they can do,  it is to make others aware in case their services are needed.  They do not boast, lord their skills and experience over others, nor do they engage in one-upmanship.  Because of this humility, others respect them naturally.  
This list is just a beginning.  Follow your gut instinct, and ask others who have used their services or who know them.   You will get unfavorable reports of some good ministers, and some favorable reports on bad ministers, but asking others is a good starting place.
* Good spiritual leaders may be generous with time and materials, but they are not usually wealthy.  While they will help for free wherever they can, especially donating time and/or materials to charity when they can,  but it is important that you compensate them for their time, effort and materials whenever you can. Your generosity allows full time service and for us to help others who do not have the means to make a donation.  It is our joy, our calling, our soul our life and also our job.

May 2, 2014

Fasting: Why and how

Fasting is the act of temporarily giving up something from your normal routine, such as food, sleep, sex, or speaking and communicating, as an act of dedication and sacrifice to God.

There are a few reasons one might fast. Some religious groups encourage a regular fast, monthly or annually, to help one renew one's dedication to God and keep one focused on one's path. Some people fast to show their dedication when making a deep heartfelt request of God in prayer. It is not magic to guarantee an affirmative answer, rather it is a pure act of heart and spirit.

Sometimes one feels cut off from God, or finds oneself wandering from one's path. Sometimes one has trouble finding one's path. These situations can often be helped with a fast.

Guidelines for fasting

1. Fasts are private. Other than discussing it with a physician before a long fast, and discussing it with others who are joining you in your fast, you should not discuss it. It is not to be a point of bragging. Of course, you may discuss things you learn during your fast.

2. Pray first! Before you begin your fast,and during difficult times in your fast. Ask for strength to fast and that your fast be worthy, worthwhile and accepted.

 3. Fast only as long as you need to, and don't over stress your body. You may wish to consult with a physician before beginning an extended fast from necessities such as food and sleep. Monitor your health carefully.

4. Pray, study, meditate and pray some more. Every waking moment during your fast should be dedicated to God. You should be praying, studying holy books and respected religious leaders and teachers, meditating and reflecting on God and the reason for your fast,singing hymns, praising God, and otherwise dedicating every moment to God.

5. Break your fast gently. Don't feast after a food fast, have a sensible healthy meal. Don't oversleep after a sleep fast, maybe add an hour or two to your normal sleep schedule for a couple days, or take a short nap to supplement your sleep.

Please use caution with extended fasts from food and/or sleep. Fasting from water is not recommended, as it can be extremely dangerous. Fasting is about showing dedication and growing in spirit with a loving God, and it is not intended to be harmful to your body. It should not be an extreme sport. It is also an act of humility, and one should remain always humble.