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"why Do We Sometimes Act Without Love?"


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AllInTheNameOfProgress @ May 29 2009, 10:42 PM

 

Thank you , all, for clarifying to me the differences between Jesus as entity and Jesus as oneness. It is why I visit this site frequently - I learn so much. I would be willing to attend a church where messages about God as the "ground of being" or "cloud of unknowing" or "collective unconscious" or "ultimate meaning" were part of the message, but I admit that it is not the language that currently speaks to me, drawing me closer to the Holy. . . . maybe we are "worshipping" together, just by earnestly pursuing a better understanding of God!

 

Can you guys help me understand something, because I think it might just be a language issue. If we are not separate entities from God, then why do we sometimes act without love? One of my friends started calling me a goddess, and it was difficult for me, because while I try to live to reflect God's glory, I don't feel like I am simply reflecting myself.

 

Dear AllInTheNameOfProgress (Janet),

 

Jesus here.

 

The line you wrote above, which is highlighted in bold -- "If we are not separate entities from God, then why do we sometimes act without love? -- is the $64,000 dollar question. It is the question I wish every spiritual seeker would tattoo on the back of one of their hands so they can constantly remind themselves what their goal is.

 

Their goal, regardless of what faith tradition they claim as a starting point, should be to answer this question intelligently.

 

By intelligently, I mean they should be using old-fashioned educational skills such as, oh, like education. I mean they should be learning how to research, learning how to develop strong literacy skills, learning how to work effectively in groups, learning how to sift and sort facts.

 

The question of why people sometimes act without love is a question that cannot -- I repeat, cannot -- be answered satisfactorily using theological explanations alone. Other sources of information must be studied objectively and integrated fully into the spiritual process.

 

This hasn't stopped generations of people from seeking answers that are purely theological, however. The cost of this single-sided, unbalanced approach has been high. The cost has been that millions of people have been lied to by their religious leaders. Pauline Christianity -- which is the branch of Christianity practised by the majority of Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations -- has imprinted the Western mindset with the dualistic idea that human beings sometimes act without love because they are basically flawed, tainted, and unworthy of optimism (because, according to this theory, souls are separate from God, and therefore must be flawed). Later thinkers reacted against this pessimistic view of human nature by introducing liberal notions of ongoing progress (eg. 19th century Social Gospel). These liberal Christians "tweaked" the old dualistic system, but never seriously challenged its underlying assumptions. As a result, the tide of "ongoing progress" hit some serious reversals (eg. WWI and WWII).

 

Still other thinkers have tried to overturn the Pauline dualistic approach by sweeping everything but "Oneness" off the table. The solution here is, again, purely theological. "We are all One" is a "feel good" solution that continues to sidestep the original assumptions of Pauline duality and fails to challenge them. It works well for a time, but it cannot help people deal with the most troubling questions that arise from human experience -- questions about tragedies such as the European Holocaust, the Cambodian Holocaust, and the Rwandan Holocaust, along with smaller-scale but no less devasting tragedies such as Columbine.

 

To address these experiences of deep suffering, I would suggest to you that what is now called for -- even pleaded for by God -- is a re-visiting of the core theological assumptions that are holding people back. Paul's core assumptions about the soul, which are Platonic and Gnostic, need to be contested. Just because Paul's beliefs are "traditional" doesn't mean they're right. Lots of ancient traditions belong in the wastebin. "Old" isn't necessarily better. Examine what Paul said. Do the research. Look at primary sources from theologians throughout Church history, and observe how many times Paul is quoted in relation to the Synoptic Gospels (Paul wins by a landslide). Be realistic. Be honest. These teachings have been followed faithfully by the Church, and at what cost? Look at the cost. Look at the damage these teachings (and their "descendants") have created for people. These teachings have prevented people from having a relationship of trust, integrity, and forgiveness with the God who loves them.

 

Look also to the science. You can't answer the question about why people sometimes act without love without looking at the science. You must be balanced in your research. You must be willing to open up the discussion to other fields, other ideas outside theology and religion. The researchers out there who are looking into issues of poverty, of education, of neurobiology . . . they're all on your side! Those researchers (most of whom are secular) are God's children, too, and their research contributions can help people of faith EXPAND their faith, and see God's wisdom and compassion shining in many different spheres of human endeavour.

 

I would like to conclude with a quote from a magazine article by Jonah Lehrer in the newstand magazine called Seed. If you can track down the article, and read it in its entirety, I recommend that you do so, and I recommend that you bring the article to your church study groups, including youth groups and confirmation classes. It's a groundbreaking piece of writing for Progressive Christians, although it wasn't written for a religious audience. It was written for a secular, scientific audience. Nonetheless, for those of you who are interested in social justice, it's a must-read article.

 

Jonah Lehrer, "The Reinvention of the Self" in Seed (Vol. 2 No. 3, Feb/Mar 2006), pages 58-67:

 

"Eight years after [Princeton psychology professor Elizabeth] Gould defied the entrenched dogma of her science and proved that the primate brain is always creating new neurons, she has gone on to demonstrate an even more startling fact: The structure of our brain, from the details of our dentrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inward. The mind is disfigured.

 

The social implications of this research are staggering. If boring environments, stressful noises, and the primate's particular slot in the dominance hierarchy all shape the architecture of the brain -- and Gould's team has shown that they do -- then the playing field isn't level. Poverty and stress aren't just an idea; they are an anatomy. Some brains never have a chance."

 

* * *

 

See where I'm going with this? See how many helpful, balanced answers you can find in these two paragraphs from a magazine article? This article, without having to resort to any false theological assumptions (eg. original sin), clearly, if partially, explains why so many people make such unloving choices: their families, their communities, and quite probably their churches have provided boring, stressful, and hierarchical environments instead of engaging, emotionally healthy, non-hierarchical environments that would allow human beings to reach the potential they're born with.

 

Educators already know this. Some medical researchers already know this. It's time that faith communities know this and act on this consciously and confidently. When faith communities feed and clothe the poor, they intuitively participate in this community-healing reality, but they often undermine their own important mission work by privately endorsing false theological beliefs about the soul, original sin, and people's relationship with God that are hierarchical and stress-inducing. In other words, many Christians have unwittingly been giving with one hand, and taking away with the other.

 

Christians have to stop shooting themselves in the foot this way.

 

Love Jesus

June 7, 2009

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Jen,

 

I suffer from chronic PTSD.

 

"Eight years after [Princeton psychology professor Elizabeth] Gould defied the entrenched dogma of her science and proved that the primate brain is always creating new neurons, she has gone on to demonstrate an even more startling fact: The structure of our brain, from the details of our dentrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inward. The mind is disfigured."

 

Gould was not alone, but somewhat incorrect. It is more than the brain stopping the creation of new cells. It is also the accelerated destruction of cells due to the the release of CRF/CRH in the brain. For some reason, the hippocampus does not replace neurons as easily as other brain centers and the hippcampus is very sensitive to CRF/CRH. Brain plasticity varies as you move from the most primitive to the most recently evolved structures. The hippocampus is part of the "old mamllian brain" and not as flexible as the higher level cerebral cortex.

 

Myron

Edited by minsocal
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Jen,

 

I suffer from chronic PTSD.

 

Myron

 

Myron, I'm sorry to hear about your PTSD. I hope you're finding treatment helpful.

 

Jesus, in his discussions with me about brain chemistry, has frequently mourned the failure of the medical establishment to understand that intense medical intervention is required immediately following events of extreme emotional and psychological stress to prevent the huge boluses of stress hormones from causing the damage you describe.

 

Gould was not alone, but somewhat incorrect. It is more than the brain stopping the creation of new cells. It is also the accelerated destruction of cells due to the the release of CRF/CRH in the brain. For some reason, the hippocampus does not replace neurons as easily as other brain centers and the hippcampus is very sensitive to CRF/CRH. Brain plasticity varies as you move from the most primitive to the most recently evolved structures. The hippocampus is part of the "old mamllian brain" and not as flexible as the higher level cerebral cortex.

 

I'm familiar with this research. I would go farther, and say that damage to the hypothalamus and thalamus is even more calamitous to a person's health than damage to the medial temporal lobe.

 

We're still in the beginning stages of this research. In the meantime, those of us on the spiritual path should do everything in our power to protect our brains. When I was growing up, we never wore helmets when skating or downhill skiing. Today, I would wear a helmet. (Same for bicycling.)

 

Jen

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Myron, I'm sorry to hear about your PTSD. I hope you're finding treatment helpful.

 

Jesus, in his discussions with me about brain chemistry, has frequently mourned the failure of the medical establishment to understand that intense medical intervention is required immediately following events of extreme emotional and psychological stress to prevent the huge boluses of stress hormones from causing the damage you describe.

 

 

 

I'm familiar with this research. I would go farther, and say that damage to the hypothalamus and thalamus is even more calamitous to a person's health than damage to the medial temporal lobe.

 

We're still in the beginning stages of this research. In the meantime, those of us on the spiritual path should do everything in our power to protect our brains. When I was growing up, we never wore helmets when skating or downhill skiing. Today, I would wear a helmet. (Same for bicycling.)

 

Jen

 

Jen,

 

Thank you for your concern. I have two good resources for dealing with my PTSD. I have a therapist who understands psychological functioning in all domains, including the spiritual and I have a caring church community.

 

The problem with some of this research is that it takes far too long for it have an impact on patient care. We need to be able (and willing) to move faster and we need advocates who prod those making the decisions. I see Jesus as one who would (and did) prod the status quo when necessary.

 

Myron

Edited by minsocal
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Jen,

 

Thank you for your concern. I have two good resources for dealing with my PTSD. I have a therapist who understands psychological functioning in all domains, including the spiritual and I have a caring church community.

 

The problem with some of this research is that it takes far too long for it have an impact on patient care. We need to be able (and willing) to move faster and we need advocates who prod those making the decisions. I see Jesus as one who would (and did) prod the status quo when necessary.

 

Myron

 

Yesterday, I cracked open the May 2009 issue of Discover magazine, and found a feature article about a man (David Ewing Duncan) who volunteered to have his brain studied and scanned by several different neuroscientific researchers. Duncan includes a fascinating section about what happened inside his brain when researchers asked him questions about God. There are no conclusive answers, but lots of intriguing and novel points for launching a discussion.

 

Near the end of the article, the point is made that "neuroscience right now needs a meta-approach linking all of this together." So research is focussing more on overall patterns than on individual patient care, the tardiness of which you've noted, Myron.

 

Fortunately, a good therapist -- one who understand psychological functioning in all domains -- can bring healing to patients without ordering an expensive brain scan. They've been doing it for centuries (regardless of what their official "titles" or occupations were), and I have every confidence that they'll keep on doing it, because every society in every time and place needs talented therapists: they're the go-to people who help others make sense of their pain and suffering.

 

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Yesterday, I cracked open the May 2009 issue of Discover magazine, and found a feature article about a man (David Ewing Duncan) who volunteered to have his brain studied and scanned by several different neuroscientific researchers. Duncan includes a fascinating section about what happened inside his brain when researchers asked him questions about God. There are no conclusive answers, but lots of intriguing and novel points for launching a discussion.

 

Near the end of the article, the point is made that "neuroscience right now needs a meta-approach linking all of this together." So research is focussing more on overall patterns than on individual patient care, the tardiness of which you've noted, Myron.

 

Fortunately, a good therapist -- one who understand psychological functioning in all domains -- can bring healing to patients without ordering an expensive brain scan. They've been doing it for centuries (regardless of what their official "titles" or occupations were), and I have every confidence that they'll keep on doing it, because every society in every time and place needs talented therapists: they're the go-to people who help others make sense of their pain and suffering.

 

Jen

 

Jen,

 

As you probably know from reading my posts, I'm a fan of C. G. Jung. Late in his career, he called his vision of psychology "complex psychology". He was a critic of those who studied psychological processes in isolation and those who rejected the spiritual (esp. Freud). He, and a growing number of theorists, accept the concept that "the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts". The anthropologist Richard Schweder talks about three primary domains: The individual, the social, and the spiritual. For a long time therapists could not touch the "spritual" with clients, but that has changed, and for the better as far as I am concerned.

 

It was once called "the curing of souls". Ministers, priests, and shamons understood it, and how do it. They still do. The core of the "cure" is to bring a person back into all three domains. Wholeness.

 

Myron

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"This article, without having to resort to any false theological assumptions (eg. original sin), clearly, if partially, explains why so many people make such unloving choices: their families, their communities, and quite probably their churches have provided boring, stressful, and hierarchical environments instead of engaging, emotionally healthy, non-hierarchical environments that would allow human beings to reach the potential they're born with."

 

Jen - Thanks so much for the article reference. I'll look for it. I appreciate your addressing my original question. I am not a believer in "original sin," but I also feel far from divine myself. I asked the question while trying to explain why I find the thought that "I am God. We are all God" from eastern religions difficult. I'm certain it is more a semantics issue than anything. I feel completely comfortable with the idea that God's holy spirit is indwelling us, but sometimes we ignore the spirit's pull because of old habits and wrong thinking.

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"This article, without having to resort to any false theological assumptions (eg. original sin), clearly, if partially, explains why so many people make such unloving choices: their families, their communities, and quite probably their churches have provided boring, stressful, and hierarchical environments instead of engaging, emotionally healthy, non-hierarchical environments that would allow human beings to reach the potential they're born with."

 

Jen - Thanks so much for the article reference. I'll look for it. I appreciate your addressing my original question. I am not a believer in "original sin," but I also feel far from divine myself. I asked the question while trying to explain why I find the thought that "I am God. We are all God" from eastern religions difficult. I'm certain it is more a semantics issue than anything. I feel completely comfortable with the idea that God's holy spirit is indwelling us, but sometimes we ignore the spirit's pull because of old habits and wrong thinking.

 

Thanks, Janet. I hope you're able to find the article. It has a lot of helpful things to say for Progressive Christians.

 

On the question of whether "we are all God," I think you're being very thoughtful and kind in saying that it's "more a semantics issue than anything." I'm really not too sure it's a question of semantics. I think it's a fundamental theological question, and there's really no way to reconcile the "I am God, we are all God" position with the "God is a person who is separate from me, but God loves me anyway" position. It's true we can all treat each other with dignity and empathy regardless of our respective theologies (and I hope we do!). But it's not true that both positions are the same, and it's not true our daily choices are unaffected by our core theological beliefs. Our theology shapes our choices. So it's best that each person knows what his or her theology actually is. There aren't a lot of people in the world today who understand the history and internal logic of their own theology, let alone the history and internal logic of other people's theology. Other TCPC members have been making this point, too.

 

To say that "we are all God" is not the same thing as saying "Spirit works through us or in us." I think (if I've read your posts correctly) that you also see a difference between the two statements.

 

I came across a quote from a person who was interviewed by Abraham Maslow (atheist founder of the modern humanist psychology movement). Maslow was trying to figure out what it feels like to be a "self-actualizer." One of the self-actualizers he interviewed said this:

 

"I could see that I belonged in the universe and I could see where I belonged in it; I could see how important I was and yet how unimportant and small I was, so at the same time that it made me humble, it made me feel important."

 

This quote really hits home for me, because it describes the feeling -- the way of living -- that Jesus has taught me. It's the feeling that you're not God, but that you're incredibly important to God despite the fact that you're not God. This is the feeling that you're one child of God, and that you're kind of small, but at the same time you can do really big things with the way you love other people (who also happen to be small, but who cares, because everybody needs each other anyway.)

 

You don't actually end up feeling divine when you're in touch with God and your own soul. In fact, you end up feeling about as far from omniscient and omnipotent as it's possible to be, and you end up realizing how incredibly much you need God because you're not God.

 

Does this make any sense?

 

Jen

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(snip) I asked the question while trying to explain why I find the thought that "I am God. We are all God" from eastern religions difficult. I'm certain it is more a semantics issue than anything. (snip)

 

Janet,

 

I would agree with you. I also find that it is more a sematics or word/phrase definition issue. To really know what they mean by such a saying I think requires a study and paractice of that religion or a close relationship and exchange with the one making such a statement. Just my personal opinion.

 

Joseph

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Jen,

Yes, I have experienced myself to be other than God and yet so important to God. In the past I thought those who would say "We are all gods" were egotists who were falling prey to their own desire to be divine. Yet, I have not experienced that with the people I know who talk that way. So, I've been trying to understand. I loved your post and the way you put it. We are very much on the same page.

 

Janet

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Thanks, Janet. I hope you're able to find the article. It has a lot of helpful things to say for Progressive Christians.

 

On the question of whether "we are all God," I think you're being very thoughtful and kind in saying that it's "more a semantics issue than anything." I'm really not too sure it's a question of semantics. I think it's a fundamental theological question, and there's really no way to reconcile the "I am God, we are all God" position with the "God is a person who is separate from me, but God loves me anyway" position. It's true we can all treat each other with dignity and empathy regardless of our respective theologies (and I hope we do!). But it's not true that both positions are the same, and it's not true our daily choices are unaffected by our core theological beliefs. Our theology shapes our choices. So it's best that each person knows what his or her theology actually is. There aren't a lot of people in the world today who understand the history and internal logic of their own theology, let alone the history and internal logic of other people's theology. Other TCPC members have been making this point, too.

 

To say that "we are all God" is not the same thing as saying "Spirit works through us or in us." I think (if I've read your posts correctly) that you also see a difference between the two statements.

 

I came across a quote from a person who was interviewed by Abraham Maslow (atheist founder of the modern humanist psychology movement). Maslow was trying to figure out what it feels like to be a "self-actualizer." One of the self-actualizers he interviewed said this:

 

"I could see that I belonged in the universe and I could see where I belonged in it; I could see how important I was and yet how unimportant and small I was, so at the same time that it made me humble, it made me feel important."

 

This quote really hits home for me, because it describes the feeling -- the way of living -- that Jesus has taught me. It's the feeling that you're not God, but that you're incredibly important to God despite the fact that you're not God. This is the feeling that you're one child of God, and that you're kind of small, but at the same time you can do really big things with the way you love other people (who also happen to be small, but who cares, because everybody needs each other anyway.)

 

You don't actually end up feeling divine when you're in touch with God and your own soul. In fact, you end up feeling about as far from omniscient and omnipotent as it's possible to be, and you end up realizing how incredibly much you need God because you're not God.

 

Does this make any sense?

 

Jen

 

Maslow was also well known for his hierarchy of needs. Psychology distingushes between needs and desires. Needs are unconscious, while desires are conscious. The difference is crucial for self actualization and the ability to distinguish between self and God. I would argue that, for me at least, thare is a difference between needing a relationship with God and desiring to "walk humbly with my God". Hope this makes sense, if not I will add more.

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In the past I thought those who would say "We are all gods" were egotists who were falling prey to their own desire to be divine. Yet, I have not experienced that with the people I know who talk that way. So, I've been trying to understand. Janet

 

 

Hi Janet,

 

Thanks for your comments. I think you're a lucky person if you haven't experienced the spiritual betrayal that results when a person you know IS falling prey to their own desire to be divine. (You can probably tell from my comment here that I have experienced such a betrayal.)

 

The desire to be divine isn't restricted to any one faith tradition or any one theological belief. Some Christians fall into the egotistical camp -- also some people who claim the position that "we are all gods/God."

 

The person I'm especially thinking of happened to be in the New Age community, but she drew on spiritual beliefs from any faith tradition, as long as those beliefs reinforced her conviction that she was divine and "special" -- special in a "chosen" or "messianic" sort of way.

 

In my experience, the words a person speaks are the least reliable indicator of egotism or lack thereof. The woman I knew spoke eloquently on the theme of "we are all one, we are all equal, we are all God." But when push came to shove, she was one of the nastiest, controlling, hypocritical, abusive people I've known in my life.

 

One day she admitted out loud that she gets a high out of abusing other people, and that's the reason she does it. She likes the high.

 

She was one of my most important spiritual teachers because she taught me what a spiritual teacher should NOT be.

 

Jen

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Maslow was also well known for his hierarchy of needs. Psychology distingushes between needs and desires. Needs are unconscious, while desires are conscious. The difference is crucial for self actualization and the ability to distinguish between self and God. I would argue that, for me at least, thare is a difference between needing a relationship with God and desiring to "walk humbly with my God". Hope this makes sense, if not I will add more.

 

Hi Myron,

Yes, I'm familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and I have rejected the pyramidal structure of Maslow's hierarchy (which says we have to meet the four needs sequentially) in favour of the model Jesus has taught me that uses a "Celtic Cross" to represent the "Way" to balance all four needs simultaneously. The fifth need -- self-actualization -- is the natural result of successfully balancing the other four needs.

 

I would be interested in hearing more about your thoughts on the difference between needing a relationship with God and desiring to "walk humbly with my God". I no longer see a distinction between these two; for me, it's just two different ways of saying the same thing.

 

Best,

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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I've been thinking since yesterday about the woman I mentioned above in Post #12, whom I've written about in the past, and have called Tabitha. As I said above, Tabitha spoke eloquently on the theme of "we are all one, we are all equal, we are all God." But when push came to shove, she was one of the nastiest, controlling, hypocritical, abusive people I've known in my life.

 

Why did she so often act without love?

 

Other people's explanations for her unacceptable behaviour say a lot about about their respective views of themselves and their relationship with God.

 

Some Christians would say she acts without love because of Original Sin: her soul is flawed because of Adam and Eve's sin, and there's nothing she can do to change her behaviour. All she can do is hope for a gift of grace.

 

Some fundamentalists would say she acts without love because she's a woman, and women are inferior to men and can't help themselves, poor things.

 

Some religious people would say she acts without love because of the Devil/Satan/Evil: she's being attacked by a conscious force of Evil because she's trying to teach spiritual growth.

 

Some people would say she acts without love because she has no soul, or because she had a soul and "lost" it.

 

Some people would say she acts without love because of karma: in a past lifetime, she acted immorally and caused harm to others, and now she's trying to understand her past mistakes and learn from them in this life.

 

Many people would say she acts without love because it's genetic: in the genetic lottery, she drew a bad set of genes, so it's not her fault she can't control her behaviour. Besides, from the evolutionary viewpoint of "survival of the fittest," she may have a genetic advantage, because she's willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

 

Some existentialists would say she acts without love because no one taught her to make good choices: all choices have been open to her -- which is a fearsome burden -- and she is one of many in history who have chosen immorally instead of morally.

 

Some people would say she acts without love, but it doesn't matter, because God will forgive her without comment, and so should we.

 

Some people would say it's an illusion that she is acting without love because that would imply there are right choices (those with love) and wrong choices (those without love): we are all sparks of God, all experiencing different aspects of Godhood, and there are no right or wrong choices, only different aspects of one divine Self.

 

Some (including some Christians) would be more charitable and say she acts without love because she has a combination of some of the explanations above: troublesome genes combined with poor mentoring that led to poor choices on her part. They may also fear the Devil without wanting to say so out loud.

 

The explanation I use -- the one that Jesus taught me -- is this: Tabitha was born with a kind, loving soul (not in a state of original sin). She still has her kind, loving soul. The problem is not her soul. The problem is her human biology. Her human brain was damaged early in life. This damage was caused by a known history of child abuse perpetrated on the eight children of the family by both the alcoholic parents, and sexual abuse perpetrated by the father on Tabitha's older sisters, and on her. She developed dysfunctional coping mechanisms, including binge drinking and overeating. There is evidence for a dissociative disorder. There is a known history of treatment for major depressive disorder. There is an admitted addiction to schadenfreude. She has been in need of professional care most of her life. She has rarely received it. The abusive choices she has made towards others during her youth and adult life have generated further stress hormones in her body that have added to the damage in her human brain. Because of the choices she has made, she's gotten worse over the years rather than better, despite her involvement with faith healing, Reiki, prayer, and investigations into widely held spiritual beliefs such as karma, negative energies, and past life trauma. Her conscious refusal to take personal responsibility for the harm she has caused others is the spiritual stumbling block that prevents her from hearing the wisdom of her own soul, and prevents her from having a loving, humble relationship with God. She would benefit from a Twelve Step programme that requires her to stop making excuses.

 

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Hi Myron,

Yes, I'm familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and I have rejected the pyramidal structure of Maslow's hierarchy (which says we have to meet the four needs sequentially) in favour of the model Jesus has taught me that uses a "Celtic Cross" to represent the "Way" to balance all four needs simultaneously. The fifth need -- self-actualization -- is the natural result of successfully balancing the other four needs.

 

I would be interested in hearing more about your thoughts on the difference between needing a relationship with God and desiring to "walk humbly with my God". I no longer see a distinction between these two; for me, it's just two different ways of saying the same thing.

 

Best,

Jen

 

Hi Jen,

 

Maslow's hierarchy has been fairly well researched, with modest confirmation. I suspect your model might be more accurate. As to needs and wants (desires), I think the distinction is useful. The subject came up today in my church. We sang a hymn that deals directly with what I hoped to say in response to you question (odd how often that happens). As noted previously, psychogists distinguish between unconscious needs and conscious desires. Development specialists distinguish between dependent needs and desires in childhood and independent needs and desires in adulthood, i.e. childhood trust and adult trust, and so on with intimacy, love, etc. David Schnarch adds sprituality to the mix when he discusses level1 and level2 spritualty based on the childhood and adult models just mentioned. The hymn I mentioned, ends with a prayer that we move from the chilhood model to adulthood with integrity.

 

Integrity, mutuality, awareness of self and others are the basis of moving towards self-actualization, in my view. Some people move into adulthood and retain the dependent childhood attachment relationship to God. Others switch to the an adult model of mutuality and integrity. This provides at least two models for what it means to "walk humbly with God". For me, as one moves from unconscious needs to conscious desires that take integrity and mutuality into consideration, the "walk with God" takes on deeper meaning.

 

Best,

Myron

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Actually, Jen, I have also experienced a "new age" person who shocked me by saying she loves having "power" over others, and doesn't plan to try to change that. Your assessment of Tabitha sounds logical. We can't make anybody else go to a 12 step program, so all we can do is try to improve ourselves and our responses to other people. I have found that even gentle suggestions to others are rarely appreciated :-)

 

I would also appreciate hearing more from Myron about needing a relationship vs. walking humbly.

 

Janet

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We can't make anybody else go to a 12 step program, so all we can do is try to improve ourselves and our responses to other people. I have found that even gentle suggestions to others are rarely appreciated :-)

 

 

Janet

 

Yes, you are so right, Janet.

 

Many of us understand we can't make another person go to a 12 step program, yet we turn around and try to make another person want to be in relationship with God. People don't magically give up addictions. And neither do people magically find a loving, respectful, trusting relationship with God. People with addictions have to choose to give up their addictions, and they have to keep choosing their substance-free path every day.

 

Same with our relationships with God. People only find a loving relationship with God if they want one. They must decide it's important to them, and they must renew their commitment to this loving path every day. If they prefer to have a relationship with God that's founded on self-pity, on seeing the glass as half-empty, and on fear, nobody else can stop them. That's what free will is all about.

 

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Integrity, mutuality, awareness of self and others are the basis of moving towards self-actualization, in my view. Some people move into adulthood and retain the dependent childhood attachment relationship to God. Others switch to the an adult model of mutuality and integrity. This provides at least two models for what it means to "walk humbly with God". For me, as one moves from unconscious needs to conscious desires that take integrity and mutuality into consideration, the "walk with God" takes on deeper meaning.

 

Best,

Myron

 

I agree that integrity, mutuality, and awareness of self and others are the basis of moving towards self-actualization.

 

Sometimes I find theoretical research models to be a good starting place for helping us build a framework for insight, but it's important to recognize the limits on their applicability to real life. A research model has to be simplified and streamlined to be of practical use in designing double-blind studies. Because of this, the observations and conclusions of studies are sometimes a bit "black and white," or "dualistic," or "binary," or "linear," or overly simplified, or whatever you want to call it.

 

For me, as one moves from unconscious needs to conscious desires that take integrity and mutuality into consideration, the "walk with God" takes on deeper meaning.

 

Thank you for this lovely comment.

 

Jen

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I agree that integrity, mutuality, and awareness of self and others are the basis of moving towards self-actualization.

 

Sometimes I find theoretical research models to be a good starting place for helping us build a framework for insight, but it's important to recognize the limits on their applicability to real life. A research model has to be simplified and streamlined to be of practical use in designing double-blind studies. Because of this, the observations and conclusions of studies are sometimes a bit "black and white," or "dualistic," or "binary," or "linear," or overly simplified, or whatever you want to call it.

 

 

 

Thank you for this lovely comment.

 

Jen

 

While it is true that much research is fairly sterile due to the limitations of some research paradigms, newer methods focus on observing humans in their natural environment along with the use of structured interviews and test instruments to gain insights. Advances in statistical techniques, such as path analysis, allow large amounts of multivariate data to be analyzed on a personal computer in very short periods of time. What I find encouraging is a shift in recent years to the study of positive emotions, positive coping skills, resilience, etc. In other words, we are now gaining insight into how people thrive. Happily, psychology now accepts the spiritual as one one the three most important domains of life. In addition, many are calling for a multidiscipliary approach such as used now in cognitive science where all fields of inquiry merge to form new models that encompass the whole individual. C.G. Jung attempted such a project, but the time was not yet ripe.

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Dear all.

 

I'm being hounded (I use the word with a gentle smile) to make a return to this forum, or at least some minor contribution. Well, at the moment I have no genuine or original input to give, but was reminded of some words of Stephen Batchelor by this topic.

 

It comes from his book "Buddhism Without Beliefs"......

 

When responding to a moral dilemma, we just repeat the gestures and words of a parent, an authority figure, a religious text. While moral conditioning may be necessary for social stability, it is inadeqate as a paradigm of integrity.

 

Occasionally, though, we act in a way that startles us. A friend asks our advice about a tricky moral choice.Yet instead of offering them consoling platitudes or the wisdom of someone else, we say something that we did not know we knew. Such gestures and words spring from body and tongue with shocking spontaneity. We cannot call them "mine" but neither have we copied them from others. Compassion has disolved the stranglehood of self. And we taste, for a few exhilarating seconds, the creative freedom of awakening.

 

Well, I've offered you the "wisdom of someone else" which perhaps indicates just how few are the moments of my own "shocking spontaneity". Yet, to be fair, they do happen. And for me they bring the grace of true faith, that such moments can never be the product of such a foolish/spiteful self that I know myself to be, but can only be the outpouring of the infinite compassion of Reality-as-is.

 

So maybe thats the answer to the original question. We just don't get out of the way enough!!

 

:)

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Dear all.

 

I'm being hounded (I use the word with a gentle smile) to make a return to this forum, or at least some minor contribution. Well, at the moment I have no genuine or original input to give, but was reminded of some words of Stephen Batchelor by this topic.

 

It comes from his book "Buddhism Without Beliefs"......

 

When responding to a moral dilemma, we just repeat the gestures and words of a parent, an authority figure, a religious text. While moral conditioning may be necessary for social stability, it is inadeqate as a paradigm of integrity.

 

Occasionally, though, we act in a way that startles us. A friend asks our advice about a tricky moral choice.Yet instead of offering them consoling platitudes or the wisdom of someone else, we say something that we did not know we knew. Such gestures and words spring from body and tongue with shocking spontaneity. We cannot call them "mine" but neither have we copied them from others. Compassion has disolved the stranglehood of self. And we taste, for a few exhilarating seconds, the creative freedom of awakening.

 

Well, I've offered you the "wisdom of someone else" which perhaps indicates just how few are the moments of my own "shocking spontaneity". Yet, to be fair, they do happen. And for me they bring the grace of true faith, that such moments can never be the product of such a foolish/spiteful self that I know myself to be, but can only be the outpouring of the infinite compassion of Reality-as-is.

 

So maybe thats the answer to the original question. We just don't get out of the way enough!!

 

:)

 

Research now indicates that the basis of compassion is innate. Johnathan Haidt and his fellow researchers have demonstrated this and found evidence of innate compassion in all cultures. In addition, they have found compelling evidence that all humans are born with innate moral intuitions. This accounts for those sudden insights that seem to come from nowhere. Haidt considers compassion to be an innate moral emotion. The precursor to compassion is empathy and empathy is clearly evident in pre-schoolers. While it is true that we have natural impulses concerning individual autonomy, we are complex organisms with natural intuitions and moral emotions in the social sphere and, probably, the spritual. Haidt has found clear evidence for this in all three domains. Other highly respected researchers have found similar results. If it is true that these positive characteristics are innate, our task is to elicite and use them in order to be whole beings in relation to ourselves, society, and God. We also need to listen to our children as they develop and ecourage them to use and develop their own natures. As I write this, advocates are mounting a campaign to promote this as part of effective parenting and self-growth. For far too long, we have talked about the negative side of our nature, and we are long overdue in the examination of the positive side in all three spheres of existence.

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Greetings Tariki,

 

I always appreciate your Buddhist perspective - you have a way of helping us not take ourselves too seriously (for lack of a better phrase) and being non-judgmental, which is refreshing.

Not sure I fully understood your post, but that last sentence spoke to me.

Yesterday I was looking up an artist’s work online and her statement said at the end, “I spend a lot of time getting out of my own way. This is not as easy as you’d think.” I found myself envying her.

 

Also I was reminded of Paul Tillich saying ”We are not capable of a great and merciful divine love towards ourselves. On the contrary, in each of us there is an instinct of self-destruction, as strong as our instinct of self-preservation.” To me this is true both on an individual and global scale. It was a tendency Tillich knew as an author and in personal life, which was not necessarily physical --though that may perhaps be a small part of it. It’s the inner conflict that all human beings experience in some form or another. The challenge is to become aware of, and acknowledge that duality. Buddhists are probably far better at this than most Christians.

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Rivanna,

 

Yes, It does seem to me like there is a destructive tendency that will rise up in us to re-enforce our separateness so as to make us feel more alive as an individual as if to insure the survival of self even to the point of its own death at times.

 

Joseph

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Greetings Tariki,

 

I always appreciate your Buddhist perspective - you have a way of helping us not take ourselves too seriously (for lack of a better phrase) and being non-judgmental, which is refreshing.

Not sure I fully understood your post, but that last sentence spoke to me.

Yesterday I was looking up an artist’s work online and her statement said at the end, “I spend a lot of time getting out of my own way. This is not as easy as you’d think.” I found myself envying her.

 

Also I was reminded of Paul Tillich saying ”We are not capable of a great and merciful divine love towards ourselves. On the contrary, in each of us there is an instinct of self-destruction, as strong as our instinct of self-preservation.” To me this is true both on an individual and global scale. It was a tendency Tillich knew as an author and in personal life, which was not necessarily physical --though that may perhaps be a small part of it. It’s the inner conflict that all human beings experience in some form or another. The challenge is to become aware of, and acknowledge that duality. Buddhists are probably far better at this than most Christians.

 

rivanna,

 

hi again! Please don't assume that I always fully understand everything I quote, I'm just constantly learning. Anyway, as Paul Tillich suggests, the capacity to truly accept ourselves is the fundamental basis for many a path toward "awakening".........or whatever it may be called! And very difficult, with self conceit sometimes seeming to make the task easier than it actually is, and also with the words of C S Lewis ringing in the ears..........something about "no sooner do we hear that God loves us than we assume that we are intrinsically loveable".

 

In my own life I have just found that the pure and infinite non-judgemental compassion of Amida, which is the insight at the heart of Pure Land Buddhism, has been the illuminating light for me.

 

Not really certain just what "Buddhists" are better at...... :)

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"Pauline Christianity -- which is the branch of Christianity practised by the majority of Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations -- has imprinted the Western mindset with the dualistic idea that human beings sometimes act without love because they are basically flawed, tainted, and unworthy of optimism." - canajan, eh?/jesus

 

it's unfortunate that jesus seems to have misrepresented his apostle's ministry to the rest of us. it is quite inaccurate to imply that paul taught that man is intrinsically bad and unworthy of optimism.

 

"We are all One"works well for a time, but it cannot help people deal with the most troubling questions that arise from human experience." - canajan, eh?/jesus

 

Well here it is rightly co-emphasizing our idividuality. In this we agree the "we are all one" scenario is laden with problems as the single final answer. There needs to be a unity and a diversity to answer for.

 

Despite all that has been written on this thread, it is difficult to see where Janet's question has been actually answered.

 

The reason is, Janet, that we are separate entities from God. While we have been created in His image, we, as a race, have elected to disobey Him for much of the time. Fortunately, many of us recognize that and are seeking to correct our behavior to behave more in line with the way God wants us to behave. Since we should know we are made dependant upon what God has provided for our survival, we need also to realize we need His assistance to be individually successful at being our best selves.

Tell your friend thanks for the compliment. You're doing something right. Give the credit to God. When they see the love you have for and are getting from God, they will want it, too. That's what you wanted isn't it?

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