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Post Canonical Guidance


tariki
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For various reasons I have become interested in what could be called "post canonical guidance" - by the Holy Spirit.

 

How such relates to the Canonical texts. The difference - if any - between the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance provided by "Tradition".

 

How can a Christian actually judge the validity of any post canonical writing? For instance, the writings of the various Christian mystics, some of whom have often appeared to be "near the mark" when it comes to what is generally recognised as orthodoxy!!

 

Is the final decision hidden within the "inscrutable wisdom and mystery" of God (and I say that not in a facile sense, I see it as perhaps the only possible answer) , or are there objective criteria for anyone to decide just what is Christian and what is not?

 

We even have "Christian Atheists"!! Just how far can the "spirit blow where it will"? And who is to judge. And how do we judge? Just what limits can be set upon the evolution of Christian "revelation" in terms of Christianities self-understanding?

 

Thank you

Derek

 

P.S. I write as a Pure Land Buddhist who has a genuine interest in this.

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Biblically one could say there are no limits. John 14:26, "... He will teach you all things ..."

 

Now Bible-believing Christians will declare a standard that nothing the Spirit says currently can contradict anything in the Bible. Maybe the most widespread characteristic of liberal Christianity is not finding the Bible to be so perfect that way. So for liberals such as myself the standard is like it is for anything else in life. Is it consistent with everything I do know in life or if it is incompatible with that, is it so compelling that I am willing to see life entirely differently? The criteria for something being so compelling? I suppose if one has to consult criteria, it's not that compelling.

 

I wish I knew a better answer. There is so much fantasy, not only in religion, but in politics, in every part of life. I long ago started praying and trusting what came to me. If something wants to deceive me in that setting, I will be deceived. No one is so clever as to be immune to fantasy. Unless God can protect me from spiritual fantasy, any protection I have is flimsy, unless I cut myself off from spirituality completely. Part of what strengthens me regarding beliefs is scientific experiemce, part personal experience. It's never revelation alone that I hear, but an extension of what I know otherwise.

 

I'm sure the Spirit is limited that way, limited by the language we speak, both the concepts we know as well as the words and grammar. Maybe that's why it takes time for spirituality to evolve like anything else.

 

My basic approach has been that if there is a God to help me with this, I want to give that God every chance through prayer to help me. If there is not such help, humans are way too short-sighted, provincial, and defensively proud to trust with any knowledge except the most obvious and tangible things.

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DavidD,

 

Thanks for your response. I am asking my questions in a variety of places and often I am receiveing a less liberal viewpoint and understanding than your own!

 

I can indentify with much that you have said. Perhaps I misunderstand you, yet you seem to imply that there are ultimately no guarantees, that we just have to approach our life with a certain awareness and openess, a willingness - or "disposability" - towards receiving "guidance". To a certain extent, I can see that to demand "guarantees" could in fact involve the stifling of the "spirit" that seeks to "blow where it will"! A "guarantee" could only ever be - in a sense - a formulae, a set of words, against which to "judge" any fresh insight that is given - as you say - possibly to guide as into seeing life entirely differently.

 

My early interest in Buddhism was Theravada based, which is the way of "Buddhas only point the way, each has to walk the path themselves". In Pure Land terms, a "self power" path. The Theravada texts are often prescriptions, descriptions of "techniques" to be followed, and which can be "verified" by personal experience within meditation. Various "layers" and "levels" of attainment are described which the meditator passes through................it even gets to the point where the actual number of future lives to be lived through prior to final liberation is known. For me, this all belongs to the monastery, and it is indeed monastic based. Although I did meditate, the Theravada path seemed unreal and unrelated to my actual life as lived and experienced each day. I sought a path where the "dojo" (training ground) was lay life, not the cushion. For me it was all a case of true integration of genuine insight with actual life.

 

Sorry, I did not really intend to turn this into some sort of autobiographical tome!

 

Other factors were my aversion to the the use of such words as "attainment", and my own love of such expressions as that of Thomas Merton when speaking of the "humble man"...................."who seeks to beg a share of that which everyone has received". (I claim no particular "humility" myself!)

 

But what I am getting at is that the guidance of which you you speak, in the way you seem to understand and express it, does seem to have resonance with with my own leanings towards the Pure Land teachings of "Other Power", even of "grace". Even towards the "way of unknowing" spoken of by various Christian mystics (Pure Landers speak of "no-calculation" where "true working is no working").

 

I seem to have rambled a bit.

 

Thanks

Derek

:)

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David and Derek:

 

I would agree with much of what you both say. To me "the way" is to make myself and my life as open and transparent as possible, and then I am always in a position to receive guidance from spiritual messages that are, I believe, "given" to me. They are usually visual or emotional as opposed to aural ( no hearing of voices).

 

They indicate a pathway for me to follow which, for the last twenty years or so, has not been really harmful to who I am or what I have been placed here to do, IMHO. However. my commitment to this method has caused some temporal suffering, but then we all have that in our lives no matter how we approach living.

 

flow.... B) .

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flowperson,

 

Thanks.

 

Could I just bring in another idea regarding Christian "revelation" that would also influence and relate to any understanding of "post-canonical guidance.

 

It is the idea that Christian revelation comes from a realm (or a "being"?) totally transcendent to our own, such that the unaided human intellect would never have been able to know of such - or access such - without the prior revelation. This is an idea I have problems with. I think it is sometimes referred to as the "supernaturalist" view, and I always feel more at home with Christians who reject it.

 

(To my understanding the conflict within Christianity between the "naturalist" and "supernaturalist" views is reflected in some of the arguments surrounding Don Cupitt and his "non-realist" school of thought)

 

Have others here any thoughts on this? It does seem to me that if we consider that any "guidance" is coming from a total "beyond", then the "game" changes in dramatic ways!!

 

Please be assured that my questions are not "cold" and academic" . As I have said before, I have a great interest in this for a variety of reasons.

 

Thanks

Derek

:)

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If there is any guarantee, it's that we are not going to know anything perfectly from our limited perspective. Yet that doesn't mean the world of our senses is meaningless. My understanding of how the gravity trying to pull me down through my chair right now is countered by electromagnetic forces between the chair and me and within the chair is perfectly valid and workable. If I try to connect that with some grand, ultimate reality, I'm going to lose my way at some point, but I still know what I know and can be confident in that, as I get constant feedback that I mostly know what I'm doing.

 

Of course in my intellect I know the world could be as great an illusion as The Matrix, but it's hard to live that way. We have many levels of knowledge, from different types of knowledge to different levels of certainty.

 

I know how Marcus Borg has written of supernaturalism. I believe that more than he does, though not as traditionalists believe it. I do believe there is a spiritual side to reality, which we have no direct access to. Our senses don't penetrate there. How can we know unless something spiritual tells us? The Spirit does tell me on occasions that I drag things out of Her, but it's not like I can do that except by accident, and I'm sure love has something to do with why the Spirit allows that.

 

So yes, I believe there are spiritual truths that cannot be reached physically. To reject that requires belief in a universe that is not dualistic. Some have a lot of confidence in that belief, but I don't see why. I see a God who is completely ineffective physically, where there are self-regulating systems that don't need Him at all. Now maybe everything is self-regulating, and there is no God. I would not give up my illusions then, because they work for me. I'm not sure I would do anything different.

 

One thing that makes me suspicious of rejecting a spirit world is that it seems to come from people wanting to do things for themselves. This is childish, the desire to be independent and escape the dependency of younger children. No one can be as perfectly independent as some want to be. Yes, many have been burned by relying on others, but one can learn whom to trust. In my work helping people, I see all sorts of people who have trouble asking for help. I wonder if this belief that no help is required relates to that.

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Derek:

 

You have hit upon the one issue that prevents progress in any viewpoint concerning belief most often. IMHO. supernaturalism defines prophecy and mysticism, and those who must have an ordered life and world or risk becoming partially or meaningfully disordered themselves if they accept and believe in such things have always worked very hard to suppress such revelatory information. These are trans-historical and trans-generational phenomena.

 

Such information comes from a spirit realm which is, by its very physical nature, an uncertain place. David and I had some discussions about this several months ago, and if I recollect correctly, his view then was that to be accepted as real, it must somehow be observed or provable. He seems to have shifted his view somewhat since then in that like me, he accepts information from a spirit realm more readily than not. He is a trained and formally educated scientist. I am not, but I worked closely with scientists and engineers at a research university. So we both understand in some important ways how the engine of scientific/economic progress grinds its way forward.

 

Do not get me wrong, There is a rational and emotionally driven discernment process that goes on in my head and heart to determine the information's validity before I use it in what I write, say, or do. That's what humans were meant to do with such information, IMHO.

 

It's so difficult for me to understand how prophecy was so revered, admired, and used to formulate progress in older days, and why now it is so reviled and suppressed these days. Societies driven by science, techology, and economic gain from the commercial exploitation of their potentials have a lot to do with this probably. Everything must be provable these days to be accepted and adopted. Some things concerning belief simply are not provable. Hence the dilemma.

 

flow.... ;)

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Actually, flow, for years my terms have been to divide reality into the physical universe as physics defines it and some spiritual side to reality, “spiritual” just meaning “nonphysical” to me. You and I may have been talking about only the former being objective – that I would say and mean. I don’t remember, but I do believe in something spiritual, though I can’t be sure. I need it because I can’t make sense of the God I’ve encountered without that, unless the atheists are right and everything I know of God is just a better part of my consciousness.

 

Two years after my road-to-Damascus experience, I had a vision that I remember clearly because it gave me a place to put God, whether the details are exactly right or not. What I saw was a five-dimensional structure. You can’t actually see that unless you contract the spatial dimensions, but then it was just like seeing multidimensional spaces back when I was in school. All you need is one extra dimension to have a place for God. The same way one can define an “up/down” dimension for anywhere in space and time, any extra dimensions can touch everywhere in the universe at once, maybe even everywhere in time. So if God is off to one side in this fifth dimension, then we who only experience four dimensions may actually have a position in this fifth that defines how close we are to God, affecting our behavior, who knows what. Everything in our four dimensions would be the same. It’s not like someone would disappear from existence in four dimensions by moving in the fifth any more than something disappears by changing temperature any number of degrees.

 

It was a vision. A thousand words aren’t enough when it comes to five-dimensional structures. The point of it wasn’t that this is exactly correct. It was one way of visualizing a real God out of many possibilities. There might be many more dimensions to account for spirituality. It might be something else hidden rather dimensions. But what I did know after that vision that I didn’t know before is that there is at least one way the idea of God works, with only one extra dimension, which is very easy in cosmology. Someone else could quibble that it works. I don’t care. It wasn’t their vision. It was my vision. It worked for me.

 

Now what was this? The natural thing to say is that it is imagination. Oh really? I’ve imagined a lot of things. I even imagined multidimensional spaces in math and physics classes, but I never have seen anything like this. I try to see it now, and it’s so crude. I can shrink the four-dimensional universe down to a disc, so this fifth dimension is perpendicular to that, one direction being toward God, the other direction away from God. This I can see, but it’s memory much more than imagination. I don’t think there’s any chance I ever would have imagined such a thing on my own. And at the time there was much more. There was a display of the various peaks and valleys of individuals being closer to God or farther away. There was a display of things changing over time. I just watched, and the meaning came to me.

 

Inspiration? What does that mean? If there’s something purely physical that does that, it’s as poorly known as the exact location of God. For me, I look at this and say it was something spiritual, like all these other spiritual experiences I have that don’t fit any science I know. It gives me a place to put them to say they’re spiritual. Someone who says they all fit in the physical world needs a lot more than vague and abstract terms to demonstrate that. I’d listen to anyone who wants to be precise about that, but who does? I don’t find things like that except from God. He speaks my language. So does She. So do all of Them, one Spirit, many voices.

 

Now to find the right words for anyone else to experience vicariously what I experience is very hard. I often encourage people to ask God themselves, but maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it is when people are sufficiently motivated. Maybe only then are people willing to not get so caught up in exactly what the truth is and just learn to follow God. I guess it matters if someone is just exploring or if they have a more urgent need. I’ve explored a lot. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it took some desperation to accept as much as I have, though. Some would say it’s nuts. Some would see parallels with what they know or believe. That’s what spirituality is like. It works for me.

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flow and davidD,

 

Thanks so much for your responses. To a certain extent I have seen and recognised certain problems in the area of what could be called "self-power", by my own gravitation towards the Pure Land teachings of Buddhism. These revolve around "Other-Power" ("Tariki" is in fact the Japanese word for "Other-Power") Yet within Buddhism, this all remains within the realm of "non-dualism"..............understood not as the polar opposite of Dualism, but as itself "embracing" dualism. As a small "taster" of Pure Land expression, the words of the PUre Land "saint" Saichi.......

 

"O Saichi, will you tell us of Other-Power?

Yes, but there is neither self-power nor Other Power.

What is, is the graceful acceptance only"

 

Which can lead into the expressions of the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart....."The eye in which I see God is the same eye in which God sees me. My eye and God's eye are one eye and one seeing, one knowing and one loving."

 

I am not seeking to give myself "airs" and "graces" here! My own "realizations" are mundane. All is aspiration and perspiration! Not accomplishment.

 

Speaking from my own experience, I would just say that there can be fundamental "shaking of the foundations", self doubt and self judgement within the Buddhist path - my own rejection, or aversion to, a "spirit" realm totally distinct from the "physical" notwithstanding! (I suppose 17 years of "non-dualist" study within the Buddhist tradition has taken its toll!)

 

As well as my practice of the Pure Land path, I read with pleasure the letters of Thomas Merton, who seems to add direction to my own understanding. The "way of unknowing" seems to figure prominately in his writings in one form or another, yet based unmistakeably on fidelity to God and Christ. For whatever reason I have always preferred "mystery" to "explanation"...............

 

"If we wish to be sure of the road we tread on, we should close our eyes and walk in the dark" (St john of the Cross)

 

Anyway, getting back to the questions....................!

 

:)

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Derek:

 

Reading and accepting the words that have led those in the past to understanding may be helpful to us today while we are on our journeys. But they are of the past and are reflective of those environments and the internal understandings that developed in those wise beings who wrote them. The world is so different today, so while we may gain insight and inspiration from them, we really are tasked with developing and passing on our original views, reflective of our unique understandings. IMHO. that is the purpose and mission of TCPC and like venues, since the written words of books these days sometimes are not contemporary enough for our situations to bring understanding to our circumstances.

 

The world around us is speeding up in its transfer of information and understandings among us, each day now. And I believe that this acceleration will only become faster in our lifetimes. This makes it very difficult for anyone to fix their beliefs in time.

 

flow.... ;)

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I had another vision in the late nineties. I was at a Midwestern university medical center, where there are many interconnected buildings, for when the weather is bad for months at a time. Between the bridges, mostly one story above the street, and corridors connecting them, one could walk a circuit around the center that would take about twenty minutes, for exercise and diversion, as many times as one cared to walk it.

 

I was doing this one day when things took on this otherworldly quality. This roughly 10 feet by 10 feet tube I was walking through could be the physical universe, with the two-dimensional cross section I was walking through representing the three dimensions of space and the route I was walking the dimension of time. This would make our physical universe a toroid or donut, which is not its actual shape, but this is metaphor. Outside this toroid path I was walking, everything else I could see was vast. There were bus lines and a light rail stop leading to places very far away, and that’s just in this city. Beyond this city is the Earth, the galaxy, the physical universe. Yet this is just adding a couple more dimensions to the basically one-dimensional path I was walking. And all of the vast reality of the physical universe could be represented by this small path, while the spiritual side of reality would be everything beyond this small path, an incredible imbalance, not just some one-dimensional shift between heaven, Earth, and hell, or even the multiverse that many believe.

 

There is always construction going on at this medical center. Something told me this is what it’s like in the spiritual side of things. People wonder so intently about this small path we’re on when beyond the path, just over there, there’s a 20-story building going up on the spiritual side of reality. One can see a lot of this in twenty minutes.

 

Now in contrast to a vision like this, I have read many schemes to explain reality beyond what science can do, mixing what I would call physical and spiritual into one. There is Ken Wilber’s scheme, which many love. This is a hierarchical scheme with “non-dual awareness” at the top. Wilber claims to have had this state of consciousness constantly for a number of months, before an illness broke the spell. It is to see the physical and spiritual as one. Only that means to see them as about the same. They don’t have to be.

 

String theory says there are 10 dimensions instead of three spatial dimensions, seven curled up so we can’t experience them. Even curled up that is so much more than tripling the complexity of things. Just one curled up dimension provides possibilities for incredible variation on the physical world, cutting across the physical world we can sense, making the possibilities for our existence indescribably large. And there’s more than one.

 

The physical and the spiritual are not so close in size as to have them both in the same space, as unimaginably vast as the physical universe is. Now anyone can call me a fool for saying that, and some are so partisan that they have. I can’t prove it. I can’t really do justice to visions that have demonstrated that to my satisfaction. But I was there. I was the one who saw. And if my brain can do this without any help from outside, I‘m glad science has a shot at someday explaining how, because I would have wanted so much more of this. Only I don’t think my brain can do this by itself, or I would be doing that right now instead of remembering this.

 

There is so much more one can learn from the Spirit than from human beings. The only way to know that is to come to The Spirit and let Her teach you. I don’t know how much it’s that people can’t do that and how much it’s that people don’t want to. Either one kills the process. I do know that few people try that hard, even all these people I meet who have become disgusted with God, saying they’ve tried everything and gotten nothing from Him. Oh really, everything? How about a complete surrender? How about giving up every idol we cling to, every bit of theology and prejudice, every bit of pride?

 

Maybe they’re right, and God cruelly plays favorites. Maybe God isn’t all that loving or good. Even if that’s the case, He’s still God and I’m not. Reject Him if you will, but God will always be whoever and whatever God is, not what someone says He is. From what I’ve seen, I see no chance of any human being understanding that on his or her own. Few people even understand quantum mechanics, and quantum mechanics is easy to learn from a textbook and experienced physicist if you can follow the math and the experiments. Yet most of what people say of quantum mechanics in a popular forum is nonsense. It’s become this drawer of false hope for people to put all sorts of weird ideas into, and then tell others. The physicists who didn’t understand quantum mechanics at first started such mysticism in their confusion, but since then it’s just flowered to an amazing degree.

 

Some say the story of spirituality is the same, that at it’s core there is some truth, some truth not much different from the physical world. From that core people supposedly have created so much more out of false hope. I don’t believe that. I believe the true hope in spirituality is inexpressibly vast. But you have to go in the right direction. I don’t think any direction will do, but anyone is free to try any direction they want. That is the physical nature of our existence. Yet it might not be the whole story or even a small piece of the story.

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Tariki,

 

It seems to me we all go through progressive revelation in our personal journey, it never ends. I liked the quote from Meister Eckhart; also the term "graceful acceptance" (not that I know anything about Pure Land Buddhism). I've read some Classic mystic writers, there are passages that speak to me and much that doesn't, but I don't think there could be any rule of thumb to determine what is true for anyone in particular. Can we trust the spiritual insights we feel through praying, listening to our lives, reading, sharing? I think so, just as the new covenant of the gospel replaces the old covenant of the law in the bible.

 

David,

 

I've been watching some DVD's on quantum theory, atomic particles etc and I gotta say, what happened to physics seeking the simplest possible explanation for things?!

 

I've never had a problem with science and faith each being true for their own purposes, separate fields or disciplines. It drives me nuts when people try to force them to be 100% consistent with each other. Like the attempt to find a unified field theory. Just my humble opinion.

 

flowperson,

 

"Prophecy was so revered...now it is so reviled." I see your point, but is that really the case, with so many books on God becoming best sellers, and a TV reality show with amateur preachers competing, etc. Almost seems like people are looking for a contemporary prophet. Did the biblical prophets call themselves that? I wonder.

"Things concerning belief are not provable"---that is true by definition, isn't it...faith is the opposite of certainty, a matter of radical trust.

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I don't know if this makes sense, or is even relevant, but I don't think the Bible is the last word. The first one, maybe. ;)

 

We each have to progress from it in our own way. Our lives are "post canonical."

 

Bravo ! Bravo !...listen to the audience applaud ! I believe that Elvis has just left the theater.

 

Could be that sacred writings are devices which are meant to employ our analytical talents to entangle us in the complexities of the past, rather than to untangle the daunting problems facing all of us in the future that we alone must create. Looks like such devices are still working quite well these days.

 

flow.... B)

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I don't believe that revelation from God ever ceases. For that reason, I have a hard time with the very concept of a canon. The first several generations of Christians practiced their faith without a canon. Over time, various writings that were appreciated and revered began to be collected. Some of the revered writings made the cut and were designated "scripture", while others were designated all sorts of things--in some cases, they were consigned to the category of "heresy" and largely forgotten. The whole process was somewhat arbitrary. Just because one group of people centuries ago decided that certain writings made the cut and others did not, we are now expected to live with that decision in perpetuity. Yet who is to say that we should automatically find more scriptural value from, say, Paul's letter to Philemon, than from 1 Clement, the Didache, or the Gospel of Thomas?

 

More to the point, people didn't stop being inspired after the canon was settled. There may well have been, and there will continue to be, valuable, insightful, and inspirational works written by individuals who have lived since that point in time when the New Testament was definitively named.

 

Where the canon is interesting and useful, in my view, is as a historical record of the way certain people early in the history of the faith evolved and developed a certain normative understanding of God. I say "certain" people because many others, the losers in early theological disputes, were also developing the faith at the same time. But because those others were defeated, they got excluded from contributing to the canon. The other point about the canon is that the books of the New Testament were written anywhere from the 50s to the early 100s, which is to say that we have no direct record of the experience and lives of Jesus's contemporaries at the time of his life or early after his death. So in a sense, much is missing from the historical record that we get from the canon--the very early process that led to the evolution of what became known as Christianity. Instead, what we get are Paul's writings, produced some 20-30 years after Jesus died, and the gospels, which were written over a span from around 40 to maybe 70 years after Jesus's death. How I would have loved to have had a record of the evolving process of Christian thought in those first 20 years after he was crucified! In other words, there was a pre-canonical period in Christianity that is missing from our record but which also was deeply involved with revelation from God.

 

(We can speculate on what went on in those pre-canonical years. Spong's book, "Resurrection: Myth or Reality?" does a very interesting job on speculating on what took place in the immediate aftermath of Jesus's death.)

 

In any case, my point is that I consider revelation to be broader and deeper and more complex than the canon.

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David,

 

I've been watching some DVD's on quantum theory, atomic particles etc and I gotta say, what happened to physics seeking the simplest possible explanation for things?!

 

I've never had a problem with science and faith each being true for their own purposes, separate fields or disciplines. It drives me nuts when people try to force them to be 100% consistent with each other. Like the attempt to find a unified field theory. Just my humble opinion.

 

I know people invoke Occam's razor a lot, but I've never seen it used in science. Whether it's physics or biology, people work on theories to explain all of their data. If they find more than one theory, they try to find predictions that differ between the two and do the experiments that will prove one or the other is wrong. That's been done when it come to Newton's gravity and Einstein's general relativity. When it comes to light bending around stars, Newton's theory is inadequate and general relativity is perfect. Yet when it comes to sending spacecraft to Mars, Newton's version is perfectly adequate and easier to use, so that's where the calculations come from to put a spacecraft on target at that distance. It's what works that matters, not a philosophical principle.

 

A good unified field theory already exists for the three forces other than gravity being different manifestations of the same principle. Theorists would like to do that for gravity, too, but in string theory they have a theory that so far cannot be tested. I'm not sure why that upsets you.

 

I agree with Father George Coyne, the Jesuit priest and professional astronomer who is director of the Vatican Observatory. He has said that the only conflict between faith and science involves those who don't know faith or don't know science. Of course that's ambiguous. Fundamentalists would say that Genesis and real science don't conflict, but Father Coyne would say they're wrong about both faith and science on that one. What Coyne is saying is that mainstream science has limitations that allow anyone to believe in God and be trusting and devoted to Him, without needing to believe that science is wrong about anything. That's not the same thing as saying the structure of any nonphysical reality is off limits to analysis.

 

I needed to have at least one way to say that there might be a place for God in reality. I didn't ask for or make up my visions. I just had them. They gave me one thing I need in seeing one possibility for how God could interact with us. They gave me another thing I need in impressing me that the possibilities for a spiritual reality are vastly greater than physical reality. I don't take seriously theologies that don't consider that. That's my belief. If that offends someone else, why does it? I know some people are offended when I say I never have seen evidence for physical miracles that will withstand scrutiny. I have much evidence for mental miracles in myself and in others. I've prayed a lot for direction, strength and comfort, and received direction strength and comfort that certainly don't seem natural to me. Both of these statements are just my experience, yet some say that I have no right to believe my experience, that God can override nature anytime He wants and it's wrong for me to contradict that, not you rivanna, but it's a general problem.

 

I can certainly acknowledge that somebody else has a moral system that says I should be just as they want me to be and not say things they don't want me to say. I don't think that's much of a moral system, but that's just me. I share my experience and what I conclude from that. Anyone can take whatever they want from that, even nothing.

 

I guess I would like to get across that what I was writing about is not whimsy. They are experiences from God. If no one else believes that, they are still experiences from God. I understand if no one gets anything from them but me, but they are certainly not some forbidden or unhelpful speculation.

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I've read through all the various posts, but have not truly digested them! One or two thoughts arise from my own "viewpoint".

 

Speaking of a "spiritual" or totally "transcendent" realm beyond the "human". From my own understanding, it is not so much that there is no such thing, more that it is the ONLY realm. The problem lies more with the sense of "self" that sees itself as being distinct. It is more the stripping of "illusions" and misconceptions that "reveals" truth, rather than "our" need to access a "transcendence" beyond ourselves. As I said previously, "non-dualism" embraces duality, it is not its opposite. In Pure Land imagery, the undifferentiated nature of "enlightenment" is symbolised by gold, and the unique suchness of each individualiity is represented by the Lotus flower. In the Pure Land there are infinite golden lotus flowers! Not so much the "dew drop slipping into the shining sea", more that the shining sea is made up of infinite dewdrops! Anyway, enough of that.

 

And flow, reading your post it seemed to speak almost of a total discontinuity between the past - and its writings etc - and the present. As if each new generation needs to "access" reality anew. Sorry if I misrepresent you here. I agree that often, to say the same thing, one must say it differently. Times do change. Yet I see many of the writings of the past as being fundamental intuitions into the true nature of "being"/reality. They are not out of date prescriptions/descriptions, asking to be "believed", but call to be realised and embodied. The parables of the Gospels, the stories of Chuang Tzu will never be "out of date"......they point beyond themselves to that which is timeless. Well, such is my understanding.

 

It seems to me that it is when a degree of genuine "realization" is achieved that we can then seek to relate to our own times. I say "achieved"..................I tend to think more in terms of the beautiful phrase from the Gospels, from the parable of the growing seed............"for the earth brings forth fruit of herself". All is grace, gift. Given, perhaps, when "we" get out of the way! Then we can "return" with a sense of gratitude rather than a sense of "achievement! (I think I'm beginning to waffle, perhaps I should stop while I'm winning..............or is it losing!)

 

As I intimated at the beginning, I will read through this more carefully and respond again. Thanks to all. I intend now to transpose a quote taken from a book of Christian theology, reasonably "mainstream" , regarding the relationship between Canonical Text and Tradition etc etc. Perhaps others here could read through it and comment as appropriate.

 

Thanks

Derek

:)

 

"Scripture is not itself revelation, but it is one important way (not the only way) by which the community of faith keeps open its access to that primordial revelation on which the community has been founded. The scriptures do not indeed automatically lay this revelation before us but, in conjunction with a present experience of the holy in the community of faith, the scriptures come alive, so to speak, and renew for us the disclosure of the holy which was the content of the primordial revelation. This power of bringing again or re-presenting the disclosure of the primordial revelation so that it speaks to us in our present experience is what is meant when we talk of the 'inspiration' of scripture. Such inspiration does not lie in the words (it is not 'verbal inspiration') but belongs to the scriptures only as they are set in the context of the whole life of faith in the community. Once more our attention is being directed to the close but puzzling relationship between present experience and the past occasion of the communities classic revelation..........Scripture, as bringing again the disclosure given in the primordial revelation, has a stability and even a certain kind of objectivity as over against the vagaries of individual experiences in the community. The scriptures of a community are a major factor in maintaining stability and a sense of continuing identity in the community itself. We find therefore that scriptures become a norm in the theology of the community, and along with tradition provide a safeguard against the subjectivist excesses that arise from placing too much emphasis on the deliverance’s of present experience.........(BUT) as was asserted above, the Bible is not itself revelation. The Christian revelation comes in a person, not in a book..........(it is a misuse) of the Bible which absolutizes it and then makes it (or tries to make it) the exclusive factor in theology....."

 

And of "tradition".........."the fact is that tradition always has had its place in helping to determine the doctrine and practice of the Christian community, and that, properly understood, tradition is no rival to scripture but is its necessary complement. For scripture is not a frozen or petrified record, but something that comes alive only in the ongoing life of the community which first gave birth to scripture and has since proclaimed and interpreted the teaching of scripture."

 

As given in "Principles of Christian Theology" by John Macquarrie.

 

 

Any comments?

 

Thanks

Derek

Edited by tariki
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Tariki,

 

"If we wish to be sure of the road we tread on, we should close our eyes and walk in the dark" (St john of the Cross)

________

 

I like that. Yes, we don't have to have everything figured out in our head in order to be able to proceed. Sometimes we just have to plod on. As Carlyle said "Do the duty which lies nearest you." Our daily tasks are part of the Way.

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I've always called it," learning by doing". Most of the important things that we learn along our "way" are not read in books, watched on TV, or downloaded from the net. They are learned by interacting with people and mutually benefitting and learning from those interactions.

 

flow.... ;)

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Hi David, Jean, Flow, Tariki and all,

 

Very interesting thread. I would like to address the question posted by Tariki of revelations to the Christian outside of the Bible but still in line with NT teachings.

 

Is is supernatural? I don't know what to call it cause what is natural to one may not be to another. Does it come from a being or realm? It may depend on definition but from my experience it comes from within my own being (cannot differentiate at that moment the difference because no difference is to be found). Let me share my personal experience on this matter.

 

In the NT Jesus clearly indicated to his followers that when they are taken before councils they should not plan in advance what they were to say for the holy spirit shall tell them in that selfsame hour what to say. Jesus also said he did not speak his own words but that which he heard the father speak. (I can provide more detailed quotations to that effect if any desire.) As a christian, I believed this and have many times experienced God speaking. Most of the time not in words but in a knowing beyond all doubts, sometimes in a vision while wide awake in public, sometimes as a complete understanding without effort, and on 2 rare ocassions in what seemed like an audible voice that I'm sure others present did not hear. In all cases it was as a gift and not under the control of my conscious mind. It just came as I surrendered.

 

Now the first thing a christian would usually say to me is "how do you know it wasn't another spirit talking to you or the devil, the scripture says there are many voices in the world" :lol: All I could do was quote back "His sheep know his voice and another they will not follow" or " which of you asking bread of the father will he give him a stone? To those who require the canon there is more than ample 'biblical proof' (if that means anything to the person).

 

However, no biblical proof is necessary for the experiencer. Why? Because at the time of 'hearing' , 'knowing 'or 'seeing' one is walking in the dark with his eyes closed. One is trusting as if falling off a log backwards and there is complete trust. One is experiencing the very divinity that is the source of ones very existence itself. It is recognizable beyond the conscious mind and there is no possibility of doubt at that moment. At least for me, there has been no magic button to push. There is no control on my part, just a surrender. It is not a perception of the mind as it bypasses thought though one can witness the event with ones mind as if on the sideline. Is there revelation outside the canon writings. To me, yes without a doubt.

 

When I read history of the church, I find that the NT canon as we know it didn't come about til 367AD and yet Christianity grew like wildfire. Many of the gentiles couldn't even read and there were no printing presses. Documents were slow to be copied and the mail was slow. :lol: The Spirit of truth which resides as the light in all men (and women) has full access to all truth. Only in my experience enough obstacles have to be removed so that light can be seen and comprehended. Religious concepts are put in place by the founders to help aid in removing these obstacles so that the truth or divinity in men manifest in which is hid all wisdom and knowledge. In christianity, it is hid in a concept termed 'Christ' which is the hidden mystery that has now been revealed and is being revealed which is stated in the NT as 'Christ in you the hope of Glory'. (the presence of divinity).

 

I hope this is some positive contribution toward your question Tariki.

 

Love in Christ,

JosephM

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JosephM,

 

I appreciate your answer, and the time you have taken to explain. To explain all the various contexts in which my queries and questions are asked would take a full autobiography......which would take far too long, not to mention boring the living daylights out of anyone foolish enough to attempt reading it........

 

What you said about there being "no possiblity of doubt at that moment".................there is a real sense in which I agree with you, and this brings me back to a thread I attempted on another forum regarding "verification". This in turn followed on from another which involved the various "verifications" that could be claimed within certain Buddhist texts, texts that prescribe modes of meditation, techniques to gain insight, and which could be "verified" by personal experience within meditation itself. It was claimed by those who followed such practices that within other faiths - certainly Christianity - there were in fact no "verifications"....that all was "belief" and that in a very real sense this left those faiths "below" the level of the Buddhist paths. Although a practicing (Pure Land) Buddhist I disagreed deeply with this view, yet felt unable to "prove" anything. Put simply, Pure Land is the way not of "self-power" but of "Other-Power", the way of "grace/gift and gratitude", not a way of "attainment". It is way of the "heart".............and, yes, this DOES sound soppy and wishy washy and unverifiable. Yet it does have its "verifications", yet how to explain them?

 

For me the problem is compounded by my own preference for the "way of unknowing", where any "progress" is left to the intuitive unconscious (well, what else can it be called?) To prod too deeply into "interior states" is to become bogged down with a "self" that just becomes a burden - and to become a victim of "spiritual materialism" and "spiritual gluttony"!! Compassion - or whatever- becomes an "object", a state, that "we" possess..........as opposed to others who do. Instead of the "wound of compassion" - which truly hurts - it becomes a badge to wear with pride. Or the same with any other "attribute"....love, whatever.

 

Thomas Merton, the Catholic Trappist monk, has spoken well of the "spirits guidance" in various letters to a whole host of people. He ended one particular passage by saying......"If you ask Him, and believe, and be quiet and let Him work it out in His own way, that is enough. But above all, give yourself the silence, once in a while, to listen to Him. He says most when he says nothing." This can seem like "gobbledegook", and as Merton says later....."In general religion has not learned the language of science, and I am afraid that I myself do not speak the language". "Gobbledegook" or not, it is the only way I know. Perhaps we DO have to plant the seed in some way, yet the "earth brings forth fruits of herself", and when harvest time comes it always seems to come with a sense of grace. (And yes, flow, perhaps Elvis has a song for THAT one as well! :D )

 

Perhaps we do seek - unwisely - to apply "the language of science" to religion. The "verifications" of the laboratory!

 

Thanks

Derek

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JM:

 

Excellent post. The conditions and feelings that you described are much like the episodes that I have experienced. They were focused upon my being, and I didn't have any choice about when, how, and why these episodes happened; and. the things that I was directed to do subsequent to them.

 

flow.... :)

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What you said about there being "no possiblity of doubt at that moment".................there is a real sense in which I agree with you, and this brings me back to a thread I attempted on another forum regarding "verification". This in turn followed on from another which involved the various "verifications" that could be claimed within certain Buddhist texts, texts that prescribe modes of meditation, techniques to gain insight, and which could be "verified" by personal experience within meditation itself. It was claimed by those who followed such practices that within other faiths - certainly Christianity - there were in fact no "verifications"....that all was "belief" and that in a very real sense this left those faiths "below" the level of the Buddhist paths. Although a practicing (Pure Land) Buddhist I disagreed deeply with this view, yet felt unable to "prove" anything. Put simply, Pure Land is the way not of "self-power" but of "Other-Power", the way of "grace/gift and gratitude", not a way of "attainment". It is way of the "heart".............and, yes, this DOES sound soppy and wishy washy and unverifiable. Yet it does have its "verifications", yet how to explain them?

 

(snip)

 

Perhaps we do seek - unwisely - to apply "the language of science" to religion. The "verifications" of the laboratory!

 

Thanks

Derek

 

Flow,

Thanks for your comments.

 

Tarika,

It is of course a subjective experience however it is verifiable in others as flow pointed out by comments of having similiar subjective experiences. However, I personally find 'verifiable' an inapplicable word as by what means is it verifiable? By the science of Newtonian principles? To me, science is a dualistic concept with limitations. It can only go so far. The Oneness with God which Jesus spoke about transcends the consciousness of reasoning, logic, and scientific study. It is the world of the unmanifest that yes includes the manifest but is not limited by it and is rather the very source of it..

 

At the 'moment of this union with God', perfect peace and love transcends any desire, need for proof, verifiability, concern for acceptance by others or any other limitation of mind. "That which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is spirit". It is beyond the concept you speak of 'belief'. What need is there to 'believe' in that which is known? For me 'belief' in God is no longer existant. What need does reality have for 'belief'.

 

Is not existence itself proof enough for itself? Is not those things which are seen and impermanent not created from that which is unseen? Why do we struggle as gnats against the wind? All will be revealed in time. Mercy and Grace are on our side but I do ramble so I will stop here.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

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Tariki,

 

It was interesting, new to me about Buddhism having that method of verifying.

Kind of refreshing to think about Buddhism, with the three Abrahamic religions going through such polarization and conflict.

 

Have you read any Eckhart Tolle?

 

About guidance by the spirit--can you give a specific example where following or not following the spirit would make, or has made a difference in your life?

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It was claimed by those who followed such practices that within other faiths - certainly Christianity - there were in fact no "verifications"....that all was "belief" and that in a very real sense this left those faiths "below" the level of the Buddhist paths.

 

To further address this statement by others... ( I realize you expressed you do not share this view)

 

Yes Tariki,

 

I have heard that statement also repeatedly. Yet even in Buddhism for verification one has to honestly and sincerely do the practice to subjectively experience the results as a verification. Yet I see no difference in Christianity. To me, it is more than just "belief".

 

For many when they sincerely repent and accept Christ into their life they have a 'born again experience' that is a subjective verification of the promise of christianity. Many read about a baptism of the holy spirit experience that happened to the disciples in the Book of Acts. In their quest for this more intimate relationship many actually receive it in the same way as evidenced by a speaking in tongues that for the experiencer is not contrived but spontaneous. That to them is verifiable proof but only to the believer. There are also nine specified gifts of the spirit which sincere Christians receive as gifts singularly or in multiples and which have their verifiable proof to the experiencer by experiences in their lifes. (such as words of knowlege and revelation that come from beyond the intellect, gifts of healing, wisdom, faith, phrophecy, etc... ) Then of course there is the promise of peace and joy for practicing unconditional love. That has its verifiable experience in the christian life. The experience of the presence of God and and the absence of condemnation for those who walk in the spirit and many more of the promises which are an earnest of the inheritance.

 

So you see Tariki, I see no more verification in Buddhism than in Christianity. My Buddhist friends cannot prove to me anything anymore than I can to them. They tell me I must practice to see that which can be verified. I have found their practice to bring much peace and joy in many cases and the same can be said for my observation of sincere and dedicated christains. There are those that represent Buddhism well and those who represent it poorly. The same can be said of Christianity. Both can be verified to a certain extent by subjective experience or do I mistakenly represent Buddhism here? Either way, I have respect for all religions and exclude no one as my equal within all of creation. Your Pure Land Buddhism sounds similiar in many regards and perhaps words and the teachings of men are our only stumblingblock.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

Edited by JosephM
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