Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tao Bible - Leviticus 23:2

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
~ King James version ~

Tao cares not if people choose to celebrate The Way.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel about a host of ordained festivals.

Tao is not vain. Tao is not interested in feasts or festivals. Tao cares not for reverence. These are human-created expressions in regards to the Grand Mystery of life.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

A Bit of Disconnection

When I went downstairs awhile ago, my wife was watching John King's political program on CNN. The focus of the segment was on the economy. As a preface to a question to a guest, King was talking about the concerns of "ordinary Americans". The first two concerns he listed -- jobs and health care -- were on target, but his third concern clearly illustrates he must be unfamiliar with the lives of ordinary people.

What did he think the third concern is? Whether children should be sent to public or private schools!

I've got some news for Mr. King. Ordinary folks don't have the financial resources to send their children to private schools. The children of ordinary Americans go to public schools. It is the ONLY viable option, other than home schooling.

All this statement tells me is that John King spends all of us time hanging out with people in his own economic class. He is clueless of the key issues faced by the working class, the vast majority of his countrymen. This ignorance makes it next too impossible for King to present an objective or quasi-balanced view of the news.

In many ways, it underscores that he is not that much different from his Fox News counterparts. They view the day's events through the narrow lens of the Christian Right. King, on the other hand, gazes through the narrower lens of the well-to-do and tries to extrapolate -- unsuccessfully, I might add -- their concerns with people struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.


In all honesty, I have been perplexed by the tremendous amount of animus and vitriol that has been brought forth by fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution. Of course, I understand that scientific discovery has contradicted much of the Bible and, on this ground alone, this has provided the fuel to resist the acceptance of the evolutionary process. However, from my perspective, the loathing of the theory seems to go even deeper than this and I have been at a loss to understand why...until now.

While I'm only about one-third of the way through the book The Evolution of God by Robert Wright, I can honestly say it is one of the best books on any topic I have read in the past few years. As the title indicates, in a very easy-to-read and engaging manner, Wright shows that religious belief itself has evolved over several millennia. His underlying thesis provides the explanation that has eluded me.

From the standpoint of the evangelical movement, their beliefs today mirror those of the time of Jesus and before. Their position is that their belief system has NOT evolved through the subsequent centuries. In their view, it originated suddenly as a revolutionary concept -- one God and one chosen people -- and has stayed the same through today.

If evangelical leaders were to accept the scientific basis of evolution as it pertains to organisms, their fear is that adherents might apply the very same methodology to the belief system as well. If this was done on a mass scale, then evangelicalism would collapse under its own weight! Therefore, it must be resisted at all costs.

Needless to say, their own premise that their religion has not evolved over the years is patently false. Anyone who seriously reads the Christian Bible from front to end can see for themselves that the foundations of Judeo-Christian thought changes through the years. Wright makes a persuasive case that, in its earliest form, what became Judaism started out from a polytheistic base and slowly progressed to monotheism, borrowing concepts and ideas from other religious belief systems along the way.

Even in modern times, we can see an evolution in regards to Christian belief. At the outset of the American experiment, slavery was an accepted practice and Christians only need point to various citations in the Old Testament to justify God's approval of it. Today, however, I know of no official evangelical organization or association that sanctions slavery. This offers but one example of how evangelical thought has evolved.

There is another bit of evidence that proves that evolution is more than some offhanded theory: our own lives. To take myself as an example, my knowledge, skills and views of the world have changed as I have aged. The way I understood the world around me at age 5 is not the same understanding I have today at almost age 53. As I have learned new information and experienced new experiences, my thought process has evolved. It will continue to evolve -- I can't do a thing to stop it -- until I take my last breath (maybe, beyond).

So, in my estimation, the evangelical movement is fighting a losing battle. The weight of evidence and personal experience ultimately will fold their house of cards. For me, this explains why they are behaving so loudly and nastily now. Their backs are against the wall and they are prepared to fight to the death (mainly figuratively).

Line by Line - Verse 8, Line 4

The excellence of a residence is in (the suitability of) the place;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

In dwelling, be close to the land.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Dwelling with the right location
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Keep your feet on the ground.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Why has humankind struggled since its inception to lead lives of peace and harmony? One explanation is that, as we have "progressed," we have gradually moved away from living as a part of nature!

So often, we view nature as something external to ourselves and society. It is something we experience on vacations far from home! But if everything is a manifestation of the One -- Tao -- then everything is a manifestation of nature. In other words, it is everywhere we are!

By getting in touch with the natural world that envelops us every moment, we stay close to the land.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Don't Shake Your Finger at Me!

Obama told Rolling Stone that it’s “inexcusable” and “irresponsible” for Democratic voters not to turn out in droves on Nov. 2. “Buck up,” he said.

And Biden said Democrats should “stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives.”

But Democratic voters, and for that matter, progressive and independent voters, aren’t children who can be sent to their rooms without supper until Election Day.

They’re citizens. And many of them are disillusioned with the Obama Administration, and for good reason...
So writes Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive.
This election is not about rewarding the Democrats and Obama for a job well done or punishing them for a job poorly done but one of defense and voting for the least evil and distasteful. Put your disappointment in your pocket and realize that not voting Democratic and returning the GOP to power is the worst possible of all scenarios for the country. As badly as you and I feel we have been betrayed by Obama and the Dems, and we have, it is nothing compared to screwing we will get from the Republicans...
So writes the Fallenmonk.

Democrats have not provided me with enough reasons to vote for them. They have become almost a non-factor in national politics. They can't seem to muster the will to block bad bills when they are in the minority and they can't seem to muster the will to pass good bills when they are in the majority!! All they seem good at is begging progressive-minded folks to hold their noses and give them another chance.

While I respect Fallenmonk a lot, I disagree with him in this instance. His argument is the same one that gets trotted out every two years. If I had chosen to hold my nose as often as the Democrats have begged me to do so, I would have perforated my nose by now! All that would be left was a hole in my face.

Yes, the GOP does not represent my interests, but neither do the Democrats. Over the past decade or so, both parties have failed my litmus tests over and over again. Since no grassroots (i.e., not funded by corporate interests) independent or third-party candidate has a realistic shot at upsetting the two party applecart, it leaves me completely unenthused with this year's elections.

So, I'm choosing to make the ONLY statement that is left to me: I refuse to vote! And I will continue to refuse to vote until which time there is a political party (or a specific candidate) that represents the needs of average people over the desires of corporations and the egregiously rich. If that is provided, I will be more than glad to participate, but NOT until then.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 4, Part 1

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

I would just like to thank you this morning, Sue-tzu, for all the help you have given us in finding our true paths.

You are most welcome. We gathered here spontaneously and our time together has arisen of itself. I have played no greater part than have any of you. And now would seem to be an appropriate time to remind you that our gathering and discussions may very well be entirely fictional. And any transcription of our discussions might be entirely fictional as well. And more importantly, I would that you consider, too, that I, Sue-tzu, may be totally full of shit.

Perhaps I have no experience of that of which I speak. Perhaps you would find more truth among the Baptists or Hare Krishnas. I do not say that these things are so, but that you should consider that they might be so.

I am suggesting that you entertain doubts and see what they bring. If the thought that I may be in total error frightens you, then I suggest you seek to understand why it is so. Each one of you must pursue his or her own adventure, travel your own path. Grasp nothing. Believe nothing. Believe no one.

There is only one authority. And that authority is you. “If you allow your mind to guide you,” wrote Chuang-tzu, “who can be seen as being without a teacher?”

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tao Bible - Leviticus 21:14

A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or a harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.
~ King James version ~

Love is one determinant of whom a person will partner with.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God instructs Moses that the high priest shall only marry a virgin.

Tao does not care who a person (even a priest) marries or seeks a partnership with. There can be many reasons why consenting adults from all walks of life decide to join together, love being one of them.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

One or More

When engaged in a discussion or debate with a fundamentalist Christian -- one who believes in the literal and inerrant Bible -- it's not uncommon for a non-theist to bring up Genesis 1:26.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
This verse presents a grave problem for the modern-day believer. It clearly indicates that there is more than one God by use of the words "us" and "our" instead of "me" and "my".

The biblical literalist must now perform a shuck and jive dance to try to show that what this verse clearly states is not what it means, while concurrently sticking to their mantra of a literal and inerrant document. It is often a wonder to behold!

As Robert Wright points out in The Evolution of God, the more likely explanation is that, at this point in Jewish history, religious thought had not yet evolved from polytheism to monotheism. While Yahweh may have been the chief God, it was understood by all involved that he certainly wasn't the ONLY God.

Wright expounds on this point further in a way that, frankly, I had never considered before.
The scriptures warn Israelites not to "serve other gods and bow down to them" lest "the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you." Would the Bible's authors (here and elsewhere) have warned against "serving" other gods if those gods didn't even exist? And would Yahweh have declared himself a "jealous god" if there were no other gods to be jealous of?

266 - Remember

The appreciation of life does not require wealth or plenty. It requires only gratitude for the beauty of the world.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 266 ~
Every one of us has bad days. In fact, I'm sure there are those who may have more bad days than good days. But, as yin and yang flow through everything in the cosmos, for every bad thing that we feel or happens to us, good things come our way as well.

I'm not suggesting the good and bad will balance out like on a tally sheet. There will be times when the bad greatly outweighs the good and there will be times when it is the other way around.

When life is pressing down on us, it can be difficult to see beyond the muck. It is of vital importance, however, to remember the beauty that life beholds.

A smile, laugh or giggle.

The warmth of a friend.

The kind word -- spoken or not -- of a parent or lover.

A gentle breeze.

The innocent gaze of an infant.

This chance to live this moment.

Question: Is God into Witchcraft?

I was under the distinct impression that, historically, Christians have not been too fond of witches and sorcerers. During the Middle Ages and beyond, it was the church that led the crusade against supposed witches. More often than not, all it took was a mere accusation and the alleged witch was immediately put to death.

Knowing this, I was a bit shocked at God's directive to Moses in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 5. According to God, if a husband suspects his wife has been cheating on him, he is to bring her before the high priest. It is the duty of the priest to determine if the husband's suspicions are well founded or not.

How is he to make this determination? God says he is to take some holy water and to mix it with the dirt from the floor of the tabernacle. This is really mucky dirt as lots of people have trampled on it and there's a better than even chance that some of the remnants of sacrificed animals are mixed in. Yuk!

The priest will then forced the accused wife to drink this concoction.
And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. (Numbers 5:27-28)
If the woman becomes ill from drinking the brackish water, then she is deemed to be guilty. If she somehow does not suffer from the obvious ill effects, then she is to be deemed not guilty.

I don't know about you, but the examination would seem to bring about a lot more guilty verdicts than not guilty ones. It would also seem to use the very kinds of methodologies that the medieval church charged witches with.

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.

Line by Line - Verse 8, Line 3

the low place which all men dislike. Hence (its way) is near to (that of) the Tao.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

It stays in places that people dislike Therefore it is similar to the Tao
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

It flows without thinking about where it's going...just like Tao.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
In most of our lives, we seek to reach the pinnacle. We are consumed with gaining wealth, popularity, influence and power. No matter how much we gain, we can't satiate these desires. If we obtain x amount of power, we want x amount more. All this striving does is generate tremendous amounts of internal stress and, the more we struggle for more, the less balanced and secure we feel.

Water, on the other hand, always flows downward. By flowing downward, it strives for nothing. Water goes where the flow of life takes it. Because it is not fighting to increase itself or to go a specific direction, there is no stress.

Might we learn a valuable lesson from water?

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Love and Marriage

The evangelical movement in the US has made it abundantly clear that one of their bread-and-butter issues is marriage. Many support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Many have suggested that the best way for a single mother to get off of "welfare" is to accept a marriage proposal from almost any man that will have them. Time and time again, marriage is viewed as a key issue, front and center.

At the same time, most fundamentalists seem to favor conservative fiscal policies. They tend to oppose the minimum wage, unions, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance and just about ANY strategy that maintains or boosts the social safety net. By and large, they favor a strong military, low taxes and policies that benefit the already well-off. You know, the sorts of policies that have landed the US in our current economic quagmire?

I bring up these two seemingly unrelated issues because data from the US Census Bureau underscores how conservative economic policies are exerting an effect on the "sanctity of marriage."
In America, marriages fell to a record low in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.

The never-married included 46.3 percent of young adults 25-34, with sharp increases in single people in cities in the Midwest and Southwest, including Cleveland, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, N.M. It was the first time the share of unmarried young adults exceeded those who were married.

Marriages have been declining for years due to rising divorce, more unmarried couples living together and increased job prospects for women. But sociologists say younger people are also now increasingly choosing to delay marriage as they struggle to find work and resist making long-term commitments...
While I'm sure that many fundamentalist Christian believe that the decline in rates of marriage is the result of our "Godless" and "Satan-worshiping" society, it turns out the real culprit may be the policies they support and the candidates they vote for!

Kind of ironic, don't ya think?

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 3, Part 12

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

What is a ‘dark sage’?

One of the anonymous authors of the Book of Chuang-tzu speaks of the ‘tao of the dark sages’; these are the sages that follow their tao quietly and without self-publicity. It is among them that true wisdom resides.

I will tell you now: Beware the sages that call themselves teachers, change their names to seem more profound, and call the world to themselves through meetings and books! The True Tao is hidden and only the hidden walk in the Tao.

Lao-tzu himself said, ‘I have freed myself from knowledge, from the spiritual and from being a sage.’ But who was Lao-tzu? Did he even ever exist? His greatness is only apparent in his anonymity. ‘Who can free himself from achievement and fame,’ asked Chuang-tzu, ‘and descend lost amid the masses of men? He will be like the Tao itself, Unknown.’

What is it to learn to fly?

Right. I said that emptiness is to be empty of content so that intuitive understanding can grow. But there is more. When you have lost every false support there can only be total openness and surrender to the Unknown. Learning to fly is flowing free with all that is, all that comes, all that goes. Flying is complete surrender, thankfulness, aimlessness and purposelessness.

And despair?

What is despair? Is it not a function of the ego-self? Is it not the a refusal to accept what is because what is does not conform to the ego’s concepts or wants? How can despair survive the dissolution of the ego-self? How can despair exist in emptiness? When you are in free-fall through nothingness only surrender arises. And with surrender comes trust. And with trust comes affirmation and profound peace. These are the fullness of which I spoke.

Do these come from the Unknown?

Fullness is. Fullness spontaneously arises. Does the Tao cause the flower to bloom? “Heaven produces nothing, yet all life is transformed. Earth does not support, yet all life is sustained.”iv We are mistaken when we assign agency to that which we do not know. Enjoy the gift of life. Relax in the gift of joy.

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

My Recurrent Nightmare

I have been having a mighty time trying to sleep lately. Every time I think I will escape, my recurrent nightmare finds me!! I bolt awake, panting for air. It's driving me bonkers!

A friend -- who just happens to be a mad scientist -- recently inserted a chip in my brain to film, as it were, the images that are driving me mad. I present them here in this medium so that, maybe, one of you can tell me how to make it all stop. P-L-E-A-S-E, I'm counting on you, my virtual friends.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tao Bible - Leviticus 18:22

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
~ King James version ~

Love shared by consenting adults is THEIR business, not yours.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God degrees that male homosexuality is a big no-no.

Tao cares not if love is shared between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. When love is shared freely among consenting adults it represents the beauty of understanding a deep interconnection between one self and another.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Such Mindless Dribble

Earlier today I shared an article about a recent survey which shows that many believers don't know as much as they think when it comes to their own or other religious belief systems. As far as Christians are concerned, I am gaining a better understanding of why they may not understand their own faith very well -- A great deal of the Old Testament is mindless dribble!

As I slowly wend my way through the first books of the Bible for the Tao Bible series, I must say that I had forgotten what a boring read it is. There are countless lists of people's names, specific building construction measurements and nit-picky instructions on too many mundane facets of ancient life.

It's really maddening and so hard for me to believe that a supreme entity would care one iota for the vast majority of this crap. It's no wonder far too many Christians don't know very much about the Jewish heritage their faith system was built upon.

Reading federal tax codes would be more interesting than this! (I plan to trudge onwards, nonetheless.)

Question: Why Isn't There Christian Outrage Over GM Crops?

I read an article recently that stated that over 75% of all corn and soybeans grown in the United States are from genetically-modified (GM) seed. There is a big fight going on at the FDA over whether or not GM foods should be so labeled. While industry maintains that GM foods are safe, many scientists and activists dispute these claims.

I don't recall ever reading or hearing of fundamentalist Christians having anything specific to say on this issue. I am not aware of any evangelical preachers haranguing their congregation over the ungodliness of GM crops. Yet, if a person reads Leviticus 19:19, it appears abundantly clear that the Christian God believes that GM seeds represent e-v-i-l.
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.
To mingle means: To mix so that the components become united; merge; or To join or take part with others. GM seeds incorporate genes and other biological organisms from one species to another. In my mind's eye, that certainly constitutes mingling.

If adherents believe that the Bible represents the inerrant word of God, where is the pious outrage on this issue?

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.

162 - Riding Dragons

People think that Tao can only be known through fairy-tale stories of old men in the mountains or obscure poetry about gods riding dragons. Others declare that elaborate ritual, frightening talismans, and mumblings from the depths of spirit possession are necessary for understanding. This is simply not true. Why put another's experience before your own? Tao is in each of us.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 162 ~
While the stories of Scott Bradley contain many layers, I think the thrust of what he's trying to impart to each of us goes to the core of the above quote from Deng Ming-Dao. It is also a point I reiterate again and again in many of my posts.

Finding Tao within each of us is a personal experience. You can't find the key to unlock the door by reading the Tao Te Ching, Zhuangzi or anything written on this blog and others. There is no one who possesses secret knowledge. There is no one who has greater capabilities to discover what is inside of you than...of

Others can certainly help light the way, but they can't lead us to where we each need to go. They can walk with us for a time, but when we pass through the veil of our inner being, they are forced to wait outside.

The last steps to the throne of our heart must be taken alone.

Line by Line - Verse 8, Line 2

The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving (to the contrary),
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Water give life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

water is good for all living things.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
A person can live a few weeks without food, but not so without water. Every cell in our bodies begins to revolt and breakdown without this liquid tonic.

Yet, in and of itself, water has no distinct purpose. It doesn't grow, rule or create things. It is a substance that nurtures others to fulfill their internal natures. In other words, its role in life is to give and not take.

When we live like the metaphor of water, we let go of the self to serve others.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

The Religiously Illiterate

It may come as a shock to some, but despite the fact that religion is often front and center in US society, far too many Americans are religiously illiterate! This sad conclusion is indicated on a poll to be released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Interestingly enough, atheists and agnostics seem to score better than many other groups. (Could it be that people in these categories watch Faux Nooz far less?)
Among the findings:
  • Atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons scored the highest, outperforming evangelical and mainline Protestants and Catholics on the survey.
  • Mormons and white evangelicals knew the most about Christianity and the Bible.
  • Jews, atheists and agnostics were most knowledgeable about world religions and the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
As for their own faith traditions:
  • Nearly half of all Catholics surveyed did not know their church teaches that the bread and wine in Communion actually become the body and blood of Christ.
  • More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
  • And four in 10 Jews did not know that the medieval philosopher Maimonides was Jewish...

Durkheim Versus Marx

Thus far, I am thoroughly enjoying Robert Wright's The Evolution of God. Yesterday I read the chapter about shamans and today I'm just about through with religions in chiefdoms. Taken together, the research presented has gone a long way toward answering a question I've always had -- Did politics arise out of primitive religion?
The shaman's role in cultivating antipathy and violence, both within the society and beyond it, is more evidence against the romantic view of religion as fallen -- having been born pure only to be corrupted later. Apparently one of religion's most infamous modern roles, fomenter of conflict, between societies, was part of the story from very near the beginning.
As Wright explains -- and commonsense would dictate -- any individual who could convince others that he had a personal relationship or inside track with the gods, set himself up as someone who could wield tremendous political power. By and large, whether shamans were viewed as de facto leaders or not, people looked to them as the mouthpiece for the spirits who impacted their lives.

Now, the title of this post has to do with the two schools of thought in regards to the analysis of whether or not religion has served humankind well. On one side are the "functionalists" like Emile Durkheim who hold that religion has served "the interests of the society as a whole." On the other side, there are the cynics or, what Wright labels the "Marxists -- not because they're communists, but because, like [Karl] Marx, they think that social structures, including shared beliefs, tend to favor the powerful."

As I'm confident any regular reader of this blog would surmise, I definitely fall into the Marxist camp! Thus far, I've read little in this book that would dissuade me from that position.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 3, Part 11

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

If I may change the subject a little? You speak of fullness when you are empty. Can you explain what this fullness is and how you can be both full and empty at the same time and where this fullness comes from?

I’ll try. And that should cover that topic!


I have told you that you must be empty in order to be full. Only an empty cup can be filled. Now, let me ask you all rhetorically, would it be possible for a cup to be empty of air but full of water? Or empty of water, but full of air? I think that you would agree with me that yes, these things are quite possible. Now the question is, of what are we to be empty and of what might we be filled? Who can tell me of what we must be empty?

Of false-knowledge and belief.

Yes, and we can call these things ‘content’. They are objects upon which our mind focuses and dwells. And why do we need to be empty of content?

Because that which we seek has no content?

An excellent answer. Yes. Because that with which we would have communion lies beyond all knowing. A mind fixed on content cannot be open to that which has no content. It is an altogether different kind of knowing that experiences the Unknown. We learn to exercise this intuitive knowing only when we are free from contentful, objectifying knowing.

“A foot only touches a small part of the earth, yet people can walk far into the unknown”, Chuang-tzu tells us. That still, small voice of intuition can only be heard when the clamor of ideas is put to rest. Then, how wonderfully far we can go!

But there is more. I was not using hyperbole when I said that you must totter at the edge of the abyss in dire peril of despair. I am glad we discussed not-knowing who I am because this reality seems more than any other to thrust us to the very edge of the abyss and over.

What is this abyss? The Void. Nothingness. One of the dark sages, Mark-tzu, once asked me what I was standing on when I said I was standing at the edge of the abyss. Seeing the answer I realized such a profound emptiness that there was nothing left but to be full. Can anyone tell me what I was standing on?


Right you are! Nothing! I was standing on Nothingness! When you have truly experienced that you do not even know who you are you will find even the edge of the abyss crumble beneath your feet. You will find yourself free-falling through nothingness with no hold anywhere, nothing to grasp, nothing to which to cling. And it is only then that you can learn to fly.

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

Eye in the Sky

Do beings from outer space exist? That's an age old question. Yesterday, some people who believe in the affirmative told their stories.
Seven former U.S. Air Force personnel gathered in Washington Monday to recount UFO sightings over nuclear weapons facilities in decades past – accounts that a UFO researcher says show extraterrestrial beings are interested in the world’s nuclear arms race and may be sending humans a message.

At a news conference at the National Press Club, the six former officers and one ex-enlisted man recalled either personal sightings or reports from subordinates and others of UFOs hovering over nuclear missile silos or nuclear weapons storage areas in the 1960s, '70s and '80s...I realize a lot of people will say this was nothing more than a publicity stunt; space aliens simply do not exist except in the mind's of crackpots, publicity seekers and loonies...
What do I think? I see no reason not to believe that there is intelligent life beyond our planet. If it could happen here, why not somewhere else?

Of course, the mainstream position is that there is no evidence whatsoever to support such beliefs. Each and every UFO sighting falls into one of two categories: a) It can be explained away through plausible human-caused or nature-caused rationale or b) It's a hoax.

I often buy both of these arguments. Probably a majority of these sightings fall into one or the other category. Still, even if EVERY single sighting could be explained away, that wouldn't explain away the innate possibility.

I think that the prime reason the very notion of "alien beings" is so pooh-poohed by the establishment is that it would seriously call into question the entire foundation of Christianity (other religions too).

For one thing, Christians believe that humankind was created in God's image. In other words, our species is the chosen one. But if a more advanced life form was found to exist, it would cause many to wonder if this new life form, not humans, were the ones created in the creator's image.

Another area of potential damage is the Bible itself. If alien beings made themselves known to all, many would ask why "God" failed to mention their existence in the Bible. As it stands now, it's bad enough that dinosaurs are listed nowhere in the Book of Genesis, but fundamentalists somehow squeeze around this patent omission. It would not be easy at all to explain away the lack of information on one or more life forms from beyond this world.

However, I think the biggest brouhaha would come when many wondered if they had been worshiping the wrong entity all along. What if God is not the creator, but these alien life forms are? What if they planted the seeds that sprouted up to become the world we now know?

I'm not suggesting that this is how things are. All I'm saying is that I'm open to the possibility. I see no reason not to be.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tao Bible - Leviticus 15:19

And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
~ King James version ~

Never be ashamed of your bodily functions.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God tells Moses and Aaron that a woman on her menstrual period is unclean and must stay away from other people for a specified amount of time.

All beings with a body function in different ways. These basic functions serve biological purposes. One should never be ashamed nor disgusted with what comes natural to the body. It is part of that body's internal nature.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Sound Bite History

We live in the era of the sound bite. It is a time in which complex ideas and policies are boiled down to no more than 15 seconds of explanation. Of course, this tack conveys little substantive information and it helps to explain why Americans seem so uninformed on a wide variety of issues and topics.

It certainly goes a long way toward understanding how some conservatives and Tea Party adherents could have the audacity to call the president a socialist. Not genuinely understanding what the concept of socialism entails, it becomes a word that means solely whatever the person uttering it wants it to mean, even if that definition is 100 miles away from what the term ACTUALLY signifies.

Our "sound bite mentality" affects not only the way we view current society but our view of history as well. Instead of trying to learn about the myriad of complex issues that shaped any historical event, people are much more prone to cherry pick simplistic phrases or renditions of days gone by. Glenn Beck did this very thing recently when he laughably declared that he was picking up the mantle of civil rights activism from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr!

What made Beck's choice of symbolism so absurd is that the conservatives of today were the kinds of people King was struggling against then. While I have no doubts whatsoever that Beck himself recognizes this dissonance, it played well with angry voters who know little of the true struggle Dr. King and his cohorts were involved in.

There is a good article, "Today's Tea Party Isn't Quite Like 1773's," posted today on NPR. It illustrates quite well that many in today's Tea Party movement have a comic book-like view of the real Tea Party of the American Revolution.
Kathy Laughlin makes sure her students know the difference. Laughlin, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. history at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va., says she has been teaching her students about the Boston Tea Party as part of a "Road to Revolution unit" this school year.

She pre-empted questions about the contemporary Tea Party. "I explained that the current movement deals with big government and excess taxes much like the colonials did, but that the colonials truly had no representation in the legislature that was instituting their taxes," Laughlin says.

Laughlin goes on to explain to her students that today's Tea Partiers have representation; they are just not pleased with the representatives. "Therefore," she says, "the present movement's goal is to unseat incumbents and elect ultra-conservative members to congress..."

Protect Us From the Peacemongers

According to an article today from the Associated Press,
Broad new regulations being drafted by the Obama administration would make it easier for law enforcement and national security officials to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications like social networking Web sites and BlackBerries, The New York Times reported Monday.

The newspaper said the White House plans to submit a bill next year that would require all online services that enable communications to be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap order. That would include providers of encrypted e-mail, such as BlackBerry, networking sites like Facebook and direct communication services like Skype.

Federal law enforcement and national security officials say new the regulations are needed because terrorists and criminals are increasingly giving up their phones to communicate online...
It sounds like such a legitimate need, doesn't it? We must work to insure the American people are protected from vile people bent on destroying our way of life. We must give up some of our cherished freedoms for security purposes, lest we provide a mechanism for those individuals who seek to do us in.

I might be a wee tad more sympathetic toward this proposed strategy IF I truly believed the focus would be on shadowy terrorists and mafia-like crime figures. But as the recent stories have hit the news about intense scrutiny of various peace activists planning nothing more than civil disobedience at the Republican National Convention in 2008, my worry is that the government is far more interested in having legals tools to spy on political dissidents, particularly those who are on the left side of the political spectrum.

It's even more worrisome when you take into account that it appears that many FBI agents don't seem to understand "the bureau's policies for conducting surveillance on Americans." As reported by NPR in "Report Finds Significant Exam Cheating By FBI Agents",
The troubling review of the exam on surveillance rules follows Fine's report last week on the FBI's scrutiny of domestic activist groups. That investigation found that the FBI gave inaccurate information to Congress and the public when it claimed a possible terrorism link to justify monitoring an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002. That IG report also criticized the factual basis for opening or continuing FBI domestic terrorism investigations of some other nonviolent left-leaning groups.

In the inquiry into the exam, the inspector general looked at only at four FBI field offices and found enough troubling information to warrant a comprehensive review by the FBI.

In one FBI field office, four agents exploited a computer software flaw "to reveal the answers to the questions as they were taking the exam," Fine said.

Other test-takers used or circulated materials that essentially provided the test answers, he said.

Fine said that almost all of those who cheated "falsely certified" that they did the work themselves, without the help of others...
This indicates that many in the FBI don't truly know what's legal and what is not. If an agent is unsure where the line is drawn, you can be confident that most of them will end up crossing it!!

So many people were deluded into thinking that our move toward a police state would change direction once the "Man of Hope" became president. It doesn't look as if we've changed course at all.

Be afraid, be very afraid! They may be watching you right now.

Line by Line - Verse 8, Line 1

The highest excellence is like (that of) water.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The highest good is like water.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

The highest goodness resembles water
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

"Doing the right thing" is like water;
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
You can't read the Tao Te Ching and not run smack dab into the metaphor of water! It is one of the quintessential images of philosophical Taoism. It's not hard to understand why. It is one of the elements that makes life possible and, unlike the air, a person can see it or hold it in your hand.

Water was crucial to ancient humankind -- not to suggest that it isn't now -- that counted on agricultural crops to survive. A drought meant the deaths of thousands or millions! Consequently, many religions and religious rituals surrounded the act of asking the sky (gods) for rain.

More importantly, water gives of itself to anyone who seeks it. Rain falls on the just and unjust. Like Tao, it is impartial and provides each of us with a grand model by which we may live our lives in harmony.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

A Set of Challenges I Face

Anyone who has a blog (or even a website) knows the challenge of coming up with topics to write about and to do so in a consistently fresh manner. What I've found that a lot of people do -- and it CERTAINLY makes sense -- is to draw upon their daily lives. As they interact with others in a wide variety of situations, these interactions become fodder for blog posts.

Most people my age not only have children but grandkids as well. As they watch their progeny grow, they share in their success and commiserate with them for their failures. Parents and grandparents typically have a front row seat as they watch the next generations learn about life on-the-fly and, ultimately, spread their own wings. This process provides excellent material to write about.

Most adults are employed in a job or occupation. The daily grind contains a wealth of subject matter. With the global downturn, the number of employed souls isn't as high as it has been in the past, but even those looking for work still find a multitude of source material.

And, of course, most people engage in daily interactions in a multiplicity of social settings. There are neighbors, social groups, clubs and churches that offer a wealth of situations and circumstances that can serve as the impetus for a daily post.

I often amaze myself at the number and frequency of posts I share with you each day. My amazement comes from the fact that the three areas noted above predominantly are missing from my life. I am not a parent and I don't live anywhere near any nieces or nephews; I know very little about their lives anyway. I don't hold a job and I'm not looking for one. And, of course, because of my autism and social awkwardness, my social contacts are very limited and measured.

Consequently, aside from news, books and ideas I derive from reading YOUR blogs, most of the stuff I come up with is pulled straight from me own little noggin. Mind you, I'm not complaining at all. My life is what it is; I accept and embrace it. I'm simply stating a fact -- I have far less external stimuli to draw from than the average blogger.

That's neither good nor bad. Like Tao, it just is. :-)

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 3, Part 10

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

Sue-tzu, what is the Tao of Nature?

Why, the Unknown, of course!

When we speak of the Tao of Nature, we mean the Tao as manifest in nature. If we were to intuitively understand the simple existence of a wildflower blooming and dying unseen in a hidden crevice on an unknown mountain, then we would experience the Tao beyond our wildest imaginations.

“Consider the lilies of the field...” “Look at the sparrows....” suggested a sage named Jesus. Metaphysics are for....well, metaphysicians, I guess. Not for the follower of the Tao. Alan Watts relates what, for me, is a most beautiful story: When an ancient Zen master lay dying, he heard a squirrel chattering on the roof. “It’s just this,” he exclaimed, “and nothing else!”

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

What Some Think

About two weeks ago, around the time of the anniversary of 9/11, I was tootling around the web looking at a variety of information. I happened upon a website called World Public Opinion. As the name would indicate, this group conducts polls to gauge how people from around the globe feel about different topics. One of the many issues concerned 9/11.

Here, in the US, many Americans are suspicious of the "official version" of what happened on that infamous day. Public opinion has vacillated, but I've seen a few recent polls that indicate that a majority of people here believe there was something fishy about the whole ordeal. While there are those who believe it was all the work of Muslim terrorists, a not insignificant number of Americans believe our own government had some sort of hand in the process.

Knowing this, I was interested to read what citizens thought in other nations. On the whole, only 46% believe that 9/11 was the sole responsibility of al Qaeda. A full 15% believe the US government played a key role -- that's a tad bit less than 1 in 7! Another 25% simply don't know.

As to the percentages per nation that believe the US government had a major role, I think some of the numbers will surprise most people. On the one hand, it should not be surprising at all that 36% of respondents in Turkey and 27% in the Occupied Palestinian Territory lean that direction. But a full 30% in Mexico and 23% in Germany lean that way too!

When one thinks of all the work that has gone into selling the "official version" -- a version marketed strongly by the government AND the mainstream media -- it simply astounds me that, regardless of where a person hails from, less than 50% buy it!!

For the record, I don't buy it either. Call me a wacko conspiracy nut, if you must, but I'm one of the 1 in 7 who believe my own government played a key role in the tragedy. I'm certainly NOT suggesting the Bushies orchestrated the entire affair, but I won't discount that notion either.

All I do know from my research on this important issue is that the "official version" doesn't stand up to muster. Something smells awful fishy.

(Of course, now that I've made this statement on a public blog, maybe the FBI will come raid my abode like they have done lately to a lot of peace activists in the Midwest.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tao Bible - Leviticus 13:3

And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.
~ King James version ~

Disease is part of the life process. No one loses their intrinsic worth because of it.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
This entire chapter of Leviticus details God's discussion of the unclean nature of individuals afflicted with leprosy or other severe skin diseases.

Disease is part of life. It is caused by organisms that, like all other beings, do what they must do to survive. People who become sick are not to be punished for becoming ill.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Gutsy Play

While there has been more than one flotilla taking aim at the Israeli blockade of Gaza this year, the one currently underway is quite different than the ones that came before. This intended blockade-buster is filled with Jews!
A boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Germany, the U.S. and Britain set sail on Sunday for Gaza, hoping to breach Israel's naval blockade there.

Richard Kuper, an organizer with the British group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said one goal is to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians. Kuper said the boat, which set sail from northern Cyprus flying a British flag, won't resist if Israeli authorities try to stop it.

The voyage by the 33-foot (10-meter) catamaran Irene came nearly four months after Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships, including the Mavi Marmara, killing eight pro-Palestinian Turkish activists and a Turkish American.

Irene passenger Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Jerusalem in 1997, said it was his "moral duty" to act in support of Palestinians in Gaza because reconciliation was the surest path to peace.

"Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am," Elhanan, 60, said in an interview...
I wonder how, and if, the US mainstream media will cover this event. My guess is not very well, if at all.

Question: Is God a Misogynist?

When reading through the Christian Bible -- both in the Old and New Testaments -- it's not difficult to make the argument that God behaves like a misogynist! At the very outset, the fairer sex is depicted as being made from Adam's rib which means that woman would not be without man.

In the fall from paradise story, it is the woman who first eats the forbidden fruit and then beguiles the male to follow suit. In fact, in much of the Old Testament, women are treated like little more than chattel, no different from cattle or a piece of land!

While I'm certain we will revisit this central issue several times more, for this post I want to look at Leviticus 19:20.
And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.
First, we need to define two of the key words of this passage. Bondmaid is a fancy word for slave. To scourge is a nicer way of saying "to flog."

So, if a slave owner claims an exclusive right of sexual relations with one of his female slaves and some other fellow comes along and copulates with her, both are in trouble. The woman gets the sanctioned crap beat out of her, while the man (in the following verses) gets off easy by sacrificing a ram. If a sex-crazed gentleman has a large flock of rams, then he can run around the countryside screwing anything that moves and his ONLY penalty is to hand over a few rams to the priest.

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't waste a nanosecond worshiping a deity with such a messed up view of justice.

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.

Question: Is This Really a Problem?

I've got to tell ya, I had forgotten just how ridiculous most of the Book of Leviticus is! The first half of the book fixates on the disease of leprosy and all the various histrionics people have to go through to be judged "clean." The heavenly one also seems to be a bit grossed out by even the thought of a woman's menstrual cycle. Sounds like a typical man, doesn't it?

But then I ran across a verse that seeks to deal with a problem that I don't think I've ever heard of! To wit,
Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. (Leviticus 18:23)
Now, it's not unknown for lonely farm boys to experiment with farm animals. Ya know, syphilis began as a disease of sheep! But I'm not aware of any cases that I've heard about that involve farm girls and farm or wild animals.

We live in an age in which every wacky story one could think of gets plastered all over the internet. A year or so ago, I read about a guy who died while doing strange things with a horse. I simply can't remember a time when I have read about a woman attempting to copulate with a badger, llama or elephant. (Woman seem to have far more sense than their male counterparts.)

Yet, despite the fact this issue doesn't seem to be a problem of any kind, we find it spelled out explicitly as a directive from God to Moses. What's up with that? How could a person read such dribble and take a religion based upon it seriously?

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.

Real Life Tao - Like Falling Leaves

Growing up in the Midwest, I think my favorite season was autumn. Beginning in late September and continuing through early November each year, the trees shed their leaves in a most colorful fashion. The various shades and hues of green, yellow, brown, orange and flaming crimson were everywhere for the eyes to behold!

I remember taking drives in the countryside simply to take in the splendor that was autumn. Each of these short trips would be punctuated with continuous oohs and aahs. Each display would seem better than the one before. It was like immersing oneself in a make-believe wonderland.

In time, however, the colors would fade and the leaves would fall. What was once the landscape of rainbows, now became a barren landscape. The trees became naked sentinels announcing the coming of cold, blustery winter days and nights. Beyond that, spring beckoned and the cycle began anew.

When Della and I moved from the Midwest/Mid-South to Eastern Oregon in 1992, we were in for a shock when autumn rolled around. Taking up residence in the town of Pendleton, we quickly discovered that sagebrush, not trees, was the most ubiquitous plant!

With so few trees, there was no dramatic color display at all. In fact, the chief color in the high desert is tan/brown (wheat fields). In the spring and summer, the fields are a bit more golden; in the fall and winter, those same fields are a dingier hue of the same color! Consequently, from the standpoint of the eyes, it was next too impossible to discern when autumn kicked in.

Here in South Bend, autumn is different than both the Midwest and Eastern Oregon. Many of the deciduous trees begin to lose their greenness as early as mid-August! With the exception of a very few species, the leaves out here go from green to brown very quickly -- little, if any, color display at all.

Of course, the biggest difference is that we live in the Evergreen State. The majority of our trees in the Pacific Northwest are of the coniferous variety. Autumn is less about falling leaves and more about falling needles and cones! And while we certainly have our own naked sentinels standing guard to usher in winter, over 50% of our trees remain green year round.

Because I have lived in these varying locales with different climates, it has allowed me to better understand that, while each area has its own seasonal cycle, each one is unique. This same principle applies to all the various beings in our world.

We share much in commonality, but each species or each person follows their own internal rhythm. Every life runs in its own circle and, sometimes, there are circles within the circles.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Line by Line - Verse 7, Line 7

Is it not because he has no personal and private ends, that therefore such ends are realised?
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Is it not due to their selflessness? That is how they can achieve their own goals
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

They don't worry about what they can't control. That's why they're always satisfied.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Today I'm going to share three snippets from Chinese philosophers as presented in the book, Lao-tzu's Taoteching: with Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years by Red Pine. The comments hone in on this last line as well as provide an overview of the entire verse.
Those who live for themselves fight with others. Those who don't live for themselves are the refuge of others.
~ Wang Pi ~

Heaven and Earth help creatures fulfill their needs by not having any needs of their own. Can the sage do otherwise?
~ Sung Ch'ang-Hsing ~

Although the sage is a sage, he looks the same as others. But because he embodies the Way of Heaven and doesn't fight, he alone differs from everyone else. The sage is selfless because he no longer has a self.
~ Wang P'ang ~
To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

The Tao of Dark Sages - Chapter 3, Part 9

The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley

Sue-tzu! Did I hear right; you no longer consider yourself awakened?!

Yes, you heard right. Why? Does this shock you? Why does it matter? You are not attached to me or my words are you?

I don’t know. I didn’t think so, but maybe I am. I mean, what’s the point of sitting before someone to learn how to be awakened when the person teaching isn’t awakened? And yes, I know I can’t ‘learn’ how to be awakened and you aren’t ‘teaching’!

Ha, ha. Perhaps if I clarify we can smooth your feathers a bit—but not too much—there remains the issue of attachment. I honestly don’t know what the purportedly awakened have experienced, since only they, individually, have experienced it, but my guess is that what they have experienced, I have experienced. The difference is simply that I have come to understand that no such state exists in stasis.

Put simply: Awaken-ing, for me, is a process and will always remain a process. Even after satori or enlightenment or whatever you might want to call the sudden turning about which we also know as awakening—even after these, there is still process. And this process is awaken-ing. I believe I quoted Chuang-tzu before: “Great understanding comes in and I don’t know when it will end.” It would be a peculiar thing indeed if in all the universe, within the Tao of Nature, there was this one state of being that did not flow with the stream of perpetual change. Don’t you think?

Yes, I see your point. Though I am going to have to think about it for awhile. And my feathers feel smoother.

Good. As for the attachment issue, well, if you are thinking things through and weighing them carefully, then you are dealing with that already.

If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tao Bible - Leviticus 11:2

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.
~ King James version ~

Tao cares not what you eat.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
God prepares to list the various animals the chosen people are allowed and not allowed to eat.

Humans alone decide what foods safely can be eaten. Different civilizations and cultures set down their own mores and rules in this regard. It makes no difference to Tao.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

2 + 2 = 5

You know things are bad when even many conservatives think the new Republican Pledge to America is cockeyed. Listen to this report from NPR.

Get a Leg Up

As I mentioned in the previous post, you're going to see a lot of snippets from The Evolution of God by Robert Wright!
There is in the world today a great and mysterious force that shapes the fortunes of millions of people. It is called the stock market. There are people who claim to have special insights into this force. They are called stock analysts. Most of them have often been wrong about the market's future behavior, and many of them have been wrong most of the time. In fact, it's not clear that their advice is worth anything at all.

...Nonetheless, stock analysis is a profitable line of work, even for some manifestly inept practitioners. Why? Because whenever people sense the presence of a puzzling and momentous force, they want to believe that there is a way to comprehend it. If you can convince them that you're the key to comprehension, you can reach great stature.

This fact has deeply shaped the evolution of religion, and it seems to have done so since very near the beginning...
Let's face it. Most people like the idea of getting a leg up in life. We crave the inside dope, so that we can manipulate life into the way we want it to be. While others toil away, we want a path that is greased for us. We want to stand on the pinnacle of the mountain without actually having to climb it (and deal with those nasty callouses).

Since this trait seems to be nearly universal, there always are people who want to take advantage of it. So, as Wright points out, they set themselves up as experts, individuals with inside knowledge that they are willing to share with you and me...for a hefty price! That price can be in earthly wealth, mindless obedience, self-loathing and a host of other things.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Grand Mystery of life, it turns out that these self-anointed experts don't truly possess any inside knowledge. In reality, they stumble around in the dark just as much as you or I do! The elixirs they sell simply are placebos dressed up like holy water.

Loss of Intimacy

I've started into the next book in my large stack: The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. I have seen this particular book mentioned on several blogs, including NW Ohio Skeptics and, if the first chapter or so is any indication, I think I'm going to enjoy this book a lot (which means you'll be seeing quite a numbers of quotes from it)!

As an individual with two college degrees in the social sciences (BA in Sociology and MS in Social Science), I've spent more time than the average person studying various aspects of cultural anthropology. So, I was very interested to see Wright draw upon hunter-gatherer societies as the initial building block for the formation of belief systems that later became known as religions.

As Wright aptly points out, the concept of religion itself is foreign to hunter-gatherers. Their beliefs in spirits and supernatural phenomena are so woven into the fabric of daily life that they don't view it as something separate. It simply is one facet of the overall society.

One part that I found quite fascinating is Wright's contention that these societies don't have moral standards that interface with their spiritual beliefs.
The general absence of moral sanctions in hunter-gatherer religion isn't too puzzling. Hunter-gatherers live -- as everyone else lived 12,000 years ago -- in intimate, essentially transparent groups. A village may consist of thirty, forty, fifty people, so many kinds of wrongdoing are hard to conceal. If you stole a man's digging stick, where would you hide it? And what would be the point of having it if you couldn't use it? And, anyway, is it worth the risk of getting caught -- incurring the wrath of its owner, his family, and closest friends, and incurring the ongoing suspicion of everyone else? The fact that you have to live with these people for the rest of your life is by itself a pretty strong incentive to treat them decently. (emphasis added)
That last sentence really jumped out at me. In many ways, I think it goes to the heart of the general discord of American life.

In our modern society, we no longer know our neighbors. As people easily pull up roots by moving to and fro, we accentuate the feeling of separation between ourselves and everyone else. It is because we feel no intimate ties to any one community that life becomes nothing more than looking out for Number One. And it's why we are suspicious of anyone whose beliefs are not carbon copies of our own!

Just like a marriage can be torn apart when the sense of intimacy is lost, our lack of intimacy with our fellow beings has led to perpetual estrangement within the shared community of the cosmos we call home!

Line by Line - Verse 7, Line 6

he treats his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is preserved.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

He is detached, thus at one with all.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Are outside of themselves and yet survive
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

They don't hang on to things. That's how they manage to keep them.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
When we become attached to particular ideas, concepts, objects and people, we neglect others. Some are given favored status, while others are eschewed. We overlook the opportunities presented to us because we focus too exclusively on what we already have.

When we are able to free ourselves -- to become detached -- then we embrace the world inclusively. We see connection where others sees separation. We become one with Tao.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.