Recently what I think may be a significant change happened for me…. I mentioned it on one of the blogs I regularly interact with (the one I think stays too negative & insulting re all religion — tho I think much is deserved!)
About “The Quest for the Historical Jesus” — it’s been a relief recently to think that I don’t have to keep puzzling and wondering what the historical Jesus was like (if there was a Jesus character). We’re unlikely to learn anything definitive in my lifetime; and there are gazillions of different character portrayals; so it’s dawning on me that the thing for me to do is affirm the sayings and parabolic stories about him that resonate with me, along with those from the Buddha, Pope, Dalai Lama, Einstein, Rovelli, Ingersoll, King, and Madison [author of the OP] : ) The gospel according to Elizabet : ) It’s been a very freeing thought for me, since I’ve had that feeling all my life that I needed to reach a conclusion about what actually happened back then.
Just a comment! Appreciate the discussions!
It’s interesting that I haven’t yet reached a resting point on whether there is some aspect of reality that corresponds to Wordsworth’s “a Presence” or Buber’s “Thou.” I would like to think so. There’s too much suffering in the universe to think there is an omnipotent overseer or CEO… but there might be some quality that we might connect with via our consciousness — whatever that is! My most recent thought [as of 6/14/18] is that I should just investigate my own mind at this point — not that it is representative of everybody — but, what do I experience?
[June 16, 2018] I experience pleasure thinking there could be a benign encompassing aspect of reality that we relate to as if to another consciousness — that provides a sense of companionship, and support during times of pain or sorrow. Not a narrow “just another person” but more diffuse. I experience some dejection when I think there’s no such aspect, that our minds are the only thing like them in the universe/s. Some lonesomeness.
I had that auditory experience decades ago —
One Minnesota winter an odd thing happened… I was out cross-country skiing by myself in a little park (“Purgatory Creek” — named by early White explorers after a mosquito-filled night), and it was so beautiful that – even though I was agnostic as ever – I suddenly exclaimed out loud, “God! I love your world!” I was surprised by a voice in/at my left ear saying, “And I love you, _______” – the name was indistinct. Startling — and puzzling. I mused how I have never totally bonded with the nickname I’m known by. Later I was intrigued to notice, in the book of Revelation, God’s saying, “I will give the one who overcomes a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” [2:17]. Probably this refers to a new name for God, not the recipient, but at the time I reflected how it makes sense that if we are all God’s children, God wouldn’t name a bunch of us exactly the same! Years later when I told this story to the seminary’s guidance psychiatrist, he at once probed for schizophrenia, pointing out how high my score was on the MMPI abstract scales, just below the numbers warranting concern. Was there schizophrenia in my family? he wanted to know. In the end, he seemed satisfied that I was ok enough, but I found that interesting. A disappointment to me was that the voice I “heard” definitely sounded like a male voice – deep. I had rather it sounded like tower bells!
[From “theological journey” ]
Yet I know many have auditory experiences that are horrible and patently false — voices telling them to kill someone, or that they are being watched — hallucinations. And pleasure or pain, contentment or depression, can not be a sure guide to reality. We may feast on a diet of brownies, but that’s not a guide to what’s objectively good for our bodies.
Recently I’ve been reading, podcast-listening, and video-watching more about what consciousness is, and what the astronomers and theoretical physicists are hypothesizing about the universe/s. Seems like that should help my ruminations. But I’ve been a sporadic reader/listener/viewer so haven’t gotten much further than to think it’s all staggeringly complex, and that theories that everything boils down to the same elementary “stuff” seems plausible.
So — I will just try to stay tuned to what I experience. When I walk, or just stop to mind-rest, I don’t think I am connecting to another person-like “being,” as I used to growing up. But there does seem to be a possibility of something “compatible” going on, that is not totally non-mind, a bit different from what one of my heroes wrote & which I read just a few minutes ago:
What particularly sticks in my throat (or gives me indigestion) is the popular notion that being in a natural setting somehow elicits, evokes or emotes a sense of “connection” or “relation” described as “spiritual experience.”
Some First Nations communities (and “First World” folks who want to be like them) speak of nature in very personal terms — both as a personality (or personalities) or simply as an environment for personal “transcendence.”
I get that. But I can’t accept that. It seems to impose a lot of humanity and human imagination on the world. I honestly can’t stomach the anthropocentric (human-centered) view that says, “I go into nature so God can speak to me.” Is that all nature is — a useful tool for “spiritual” feelings?
[Chris Highland “Highland Views” April 2017 ]
As I’ve read Chris in the past, his “nature” seems definitely separate from our experience of consciousness, whereas I think I leave the possibility of something along that line open. It’s not “using” nature, but seeing it as maybe part of a continuum.
So — staying tuned for experience : )
And… when I use or hear these terms now, this is how I’m translating them (thanks in some part to Kaufman, Geering, et al)
God — our conception of the best, the Good — total love, justice, compassion, etc
Jesus — the selections I think are best — including Crossan’s and Borg’s nonviolent revolutionary — always acknowledging that my picture is formed using my idiosyncratic blindspots and may need drastic correction
Holy Spirit — a way of talking about God
prayer — not: “praying to a being who can decide what to do about something” — but participating in whatever connections there are in the universe/s — a la the non-locality or entanglement that theoretical physicists hypothesize ….Maybe my thoughts/energy affects what happens. And of course there is Heschel’s famous description after marching at Selma with Dr. King: “I felt my legs were praying.”
salvation — increasingly participating in unconditional love and radical inclusion
worship service lifting spirits — what happens when you focus on unconditional love and radical inclusion
Can be very biblical if one thinks of I John’s “God is love” : )