Saturday, September 12, 2015

Deepest Spiritual Truths in Catholicism and Hell

At a Quaker discussion meeting last Sunday, I said: “Of all the things ever written in the Catholic Church, the one I find most meaningful and true is the work of Teilhard de Chardin. I left the Catholic Church many many years ago; for me, the most important test would be whether it not only respects but honors and canonizes de Chardin.”  Thinking it over, I would add Greeley’s article “Are We A Nation of Mystic?” – Greeley and de Chardin together representing the most important frontier of deep real knowledge coming from Catholic. And yes, I say that knowing that there are many other sources – such as the book by Meister Eckhard which I actually read through this week, loaned to me by another member of the meeting, not changing a pattern I saw decades ago in other readings.

Quaker Universalists hold that the spiritual experience and history of ALL of humanity is our common heritage, which we should all draw upon, just as a good econometric model tries to draw on the richest possible database. Even as we discuss Catholicism... I did an Amazon review last week of a version of the Tao Te Ching, and mentioned Walsh’s book on Shamanism, as other important parts of this story. But today – Catholicism.

Catholicism came up this morning in discussions with Luda, where she commented on an old story of mine about God which made her uncomfortable. In 1970/71, I was very deeply in love with a Chinese American woman named Margaret Ho, a graduate student in chemistry at Harvard.  I had proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. I drove all the way to Pittsburgh to visit her and her family, and drove her back along the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Pittsburgh to the suburbs of Philadelphia (Haws Lane in Flourtown) for a stay of a few days at our house.

On that drive back from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, an incredibly violent thunderstorm broke out, with lightning flashing in all directions (not just down), reduced visibility on the road as it worked its way over mountains. There were a few seconds of calm as the road went through tunnels.. but it became scarier and scarier. At one point, I said intensely: “OK, God... maybe I shouldn’t be planning to do X... if all this lightning and rain stop in precisely two minutes, I will change my plans and not do X.” I looked at my watch... the second hand...and the sky... and it looked as if nothing would happen... and then precisely in the vey last second it all ended totally suddenly.  It was unbelievable.

Footnotes: so many years later, I actually forget... was it 30 seconds or 2 minutes? But my memory of the lightning and of looking at the second hand of the watch was photographic. The experience etched itself deeply in my mind. At this point, I do not even remember what X was. I will certainly never forget Margaret Ho, and many other details beyond the scope of this blog piece.

And so, asks Luda: “Are you daring to act like some kind of Oriental rug merchant, bargaining with God himself?” We discussed briefly how various folks in Islam and Judaism do exactly that. But I explained: “No, I am not behaving like an ordinary rug merchant. And you know that is not a major part of my spiritual practice, even if the few cases are more visible on the outside than the bigger part. The idea is not to BARGAIN with God. The idea is that I recognize my ignorance. I had a plan (“X”) which I really thought was the best way to proceed, but precisely because of my ignorance, I had to consider some possibility that X would actually be negative and contrary to God’s plan; I simply wanted to give him a chance to signal that to me, in a way I could understand, if that would be the case. It is all motivated by my sense of ignorance about what is really the right choice.”

A lot of people have used the word “God” or “Allah” or equivalent for many, many centuries. I do not recall all the details of the great conversation with Luda this morning, before we even got up for coffee. But I do recall saying: “The very WORD ‘God’ is just a shorthand, a crude first approximation. It is an embarrassing brief shortcut for discussing a reality, a consciousness, which is quite different. Even in my own quick personal thoughts, I often maintain a bit more precision. Even the Catholic Church says there is really a trinity out there, a kind of mystery to  them. So for practical purposes, the second approximation would be ‘pater galacticus’ and ‘Gaia’ – where the first is more like a distant conversation and the latter is more an internal dialogue within the Self. The vast majority of real spiritual things people do is within the second realm.”

So what is the goal here? What is the point? When are we supporting God’s plan?  Again, it was a great conversation even before Luda raised those questions, and I mentioned Teilhard only as part of my response. These are questions about life, not about Catholicism, but after some discussion of books like Bible and Koran and Tibetan book of the Dead... I said my answer would be more based on what Teilhard said:

“The practical goal is to reach the ‘omega point,’ with highest probability. That’s the main thing we are working for, in the spiritual realm. It is a kind of natural maturation, but even natural things are not guaranteed of success. Not all little fishies grow up to be adults.”

“In truth, I really read de Chardin’s book Activation of Human Energy, but never the more famous book, the Phenomenon of Man, where he gives a more precise  version of what the Omega point is. We here are all part of the noosphere, which some call ‘Gaia.’ The challenge is for this great organism, of which we are part, to reach a certain threshold of self-awareness and consciousness and competence... at least enough to prevent the imminent loss of the human species. The role of pater galacticus in all this is like that of a parent of a child in Montessori school, or like Montessori teacher, who knows much more than the child but can still feel overwhelmed at times by the sheer intrinsic complexity of the process of child development.”

“Why doesn’t pater galacticus just use his powers to get ion their and fix people and situations directly, the way the Koch brothers and Cheney plan to do, by putting wires into people’s heads to MAKE them think what they are supposed to think? Well, pater galacticus, knowing a bit more than they do, knows that even his understanding is less than what would be required for the Koch.Cheney plans to be anything less for human development and human spirit. A world of wooden-headed puppets on a string is not the omega point; it is not the goal of our Father in heaven; it would be just a tombstone, like a changeling robot to replace a real child. It is not that pater galacticus does NOTHING – like a Montessori teacher, he speaks to everyone directly to some degree, in proportion to their willingness to listen, and he changes a few things in the environment from time to time, but not in a brutal fashion.”  

“Ah,” asks Luda,” but what if he simply gets fed up with these recalcitrant and difficult humans? Will he not be frustrated by YOUR ignorance, as well as that of the Koch brothers and of every other sort of human we know?”   “Well, Jesus and Mohammed both tell us of great forgiveness and mercy and patience... up to a point. Any good Montessori teacher knows that patience is an essential part of the job. But yes, there are points of no return in nature. If we don’t keep up on this planet, humans on earth really could be terminated. It is not so hard. After all, the dinosaurs “went quickly.’ Many politicians today would not even mind it if we went as slowly as the dinosaurs do, over a few thousand years after the great turning point.” In truth, I have seen it. It is a real possible future – or, more precisely, a set of them.”

And finally ... I have gotten more hard data lately, from mundane channels, about some of the specific pathetic machinations of folks trying to transform the US into a “New World Empire” (sans democracy and Jefferson and such) but actually making changes more like those of a dead log falling in the forest and rotting quickly away. It is truly amazing how much they are destroying here, in what is at times laughable ignorance.
“Hey, the Chinese had their silly Bo Xilai rally games, but at least they never called them top secret.” No, but they weren’t USING them as a new gestapo,... except perhaps Zhao... and at least China got him. In any case to say that such thing advance innovation or creativity is just a deft act of very conscious misdirection.”

That data... and an old popular song I have been fighting to keep out of my mind for a couple of weeks...
(Queen, nothing really matters...) ... got me to think a little yesterday about the subject of hell, which I wrote about before. In the general case, one would expect that the chaff would simply be burned, as pictured in the Book of Esdras, one of the Apocrypha of the bible (part of the Catholic Bible deleted by King James in his version). But how sure am I that that is the only thing? Prototypes charged with very heavy negative cathexis are not just thrown away in a well-designed intelligent system; they have use as negative examples, things to avoid.  And so I tend to think than people like Cheney, Koch Brothers, Lamar Smith, and Pramod Kargonekar will not just be burned away like chaff when God decides it is that time; rather, they may be kept around in a kind of wax museum of the soul, perhaps under the watchful eye and gleeful management of similar slightly less waxen figures like Adolf Hitler...

But whatever.

Playing games with words, some might say: “Hey, that IS the holy trinity! The Father is easy. What you call ‘Gai’ or ‘noosphere’ is the Son. (I did not claim a gender for such! That would be silly!) And the Holy Spirit is just Qi, a key part of that triune system even if not a Person.” Whatever. One should not take such games too seriously; objective reality is what matters, and not our ability to hide it in an ancient taxonomy. Still... it is of some value that there is a way to interpret the ancient taxonomy in a way which actually makes sense.

All for now.  



In this blog, my main scope has been illuminating writing from the Catholic Church. I did not say much about writings which I find less illuminating/illuminated OR more introductory!
Nor did I say much about writings I do not know well, such as essays on St. Francis, whose noble efforts to tune into the larger life of earth .... I simply do not know, in the concrete particulars.

But: I do not include Christian writings up through Constantine as Catholic. That's an earlier corpus.
I have written enough about Jesus himself on this blog. For example, I am intrigued that Dan Brown's speculations about the family of Jesus may have some truth... but his family was Jewish, after all... even though I do see some merit in OTHER families more like the goy that I am myself.
I am grateful to have a copy in my house of handbook of the Mehlevi sufis, which has a few brief stimulating thoughts about what might get passed along in genes... not unlike what I read in Orson Scott Card's Song of Earth... but again, that's important but not within the scope here.


9/14: I found a copy of Phenomenon on the web, and discussed briefly Sunday morning. It was a bit of a downer. The web copy had a tedious, stereotypical kind of introduction from a formal guy whose main theme was "I thought of this first, read MY stuff"... and said that Teilhard was the first to use the phrase "noosphere." Well,  What of Vernadsky? (But I haven't read his stuff either.)

More serious... my fellow Quaker, who really had read the book, asked whether it is really consistent with the basics of what we know about Darwinian evolution. He cites Stephen Jay Gould, but I thought back to other sources like E.O. Wilson, George Gaylord Simpson and some mathematical stuff I read many years ago (not to mention a few thoughts I have had myself).

SO OFTEN even the slightest ray of hope gets entangled in so many red herrings!

In truth, I DID hear my mother talking briefly about Phenomenon of Man when I was young (and skeptical). But to form my own views... they were just options among many... and I never studied the book itself... but used logic. My own views, in www.Mind_in_Time.pdf, do address the gaping holes in Telihard's picture... but at the cost of pushing Occam's Razor a bit further. As is necessary to close the logic, and make sense of some aspects... discussed above. But I have to admit that this is my construct, not Teilhard's even though somewhat related. This is bad news, since Mind-In_time is viewed as threatening heresy by many... just as Teilhard's book was, but I do not have the same local support base he had, and I really hate things having to become personal. Even worse... Mind_in_Time relies heavily on a new experiment, which has been done, which does agree with what I say in the paper... but has outraged the curia even more...

Why can't people just walk a straight line, to learn the truth?

We will see...


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