An essay contributed by Bill McKeen
Theological Musing: My Search for Truth
A young man was walking from one casino to another on the Strip in Las Vegas when he came upon a beggar with no legs, sitting on the pavement. He leaned over and whispered to him; "Do you believe that life is nothing more than a crap shoot?" "Yes" said the beggar who then quoted the words of Solomon"
"The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to people of understanding, nor yet favor to people of skill; but time and chance happens to them all."
Seeing that the beggar was a very wise man, he asked another question. Do you believe in divine intervention? " Yes" replied the beggar, "but it is exceptional and rare. God does not like to tamper with His creation in the world of Yin and Yang." Being somewhat perplexed the younger man then asked," Where do you get the strength and courage to face each and every day." The beggar then answered, " It is through prayer, grace and charity that I am a survivor." At that point the young man took out a hundred dollar bill and placed it in his tin cup before heading to the next casino.
Pain and Suffering:
I look ahead, I look behind, I look to the left, and I look to the right and what do I see. A lot of pain and suffering. In their faces and demeanor. I see struggle, fear and anxiety. I see tension. I see those who are suffering from mental illness and addictions. I see all those people who must endure physical pain. I see the poor and neglected, the deaf, the blind and the crippled. I see suffering in old age with all it's infirmities, And for what reason must all this be? I ask God for the answer and none is yet to be found. The cause, as the expert surmise, is for two reasons, one the free will of man, be it for good or evil and the other from the constant laws of nature, as in in birth, growth and decay with time and chance at play. I don't question the the system and I how it works. I understand it completely. The larger question for me is what purpose does it serve? In the aeon of time this echo has never been tendered. C.S. Lewis summed nicely when he said "God speaks to our conscience, whispers in our pleasure and shouts in our pain."
It is subjected to the laws of cause and effect. The parameters of Free Will are established early in life through our culture, upbringing and environment. Dysfunctional childhood leads to bad choices. Trauma produces bad choices. Deficits in education and training contributes to bad choices. How can we assign Free Will with the responsibility for our actions if they are greatly influenced by past events?
The thoughts of mind are partial to the wishes and whims of the ego which is bound to the body and the will. Gratification or fulfillment of desire is the big player. Without it life would dull and mundane. Everyone needs that next big thing to keep them going. It all goes away, (along with the pain and suffering) when the body dies and the soul evolves. Hopefully, to a realm of absolute peace, knowledge, and bliss.
In my thirst for knowledge and meat for the soul, I am limited within the perception of my own reality. What is there, is there. No matter how I pour it, a gallon is a gallon. No matter I slice it, a pound is a pound.
Knowing that I was not a church member, a person once asked me "Do you think you will go to heaven?" I explained that I believed in the spirit of the Word more than the letter of the Word and referred to the two great commandments of Jesus and I replied,
"I love God and I love people."
He said nothing more and walked away.
God reaches out to different people in different ways. With Christians; it is in Jesus and the New Testament. The Jews; Moses, Abraham and the Torah. With Muslims; Allah, Muhammad and the Qur'an. And Native Americans; the Great Spirit speaking through dreams, omens and signs. Without proselytizing, I like to think, regardless of the road traveled, if you do good in your life, you shall be rewarded. 2 And I would love to believe that this is what Jesus implied when he said:
"In my Fathers house there are many mansions."
Emanuel Swedenborg (1668-1772):
The great Swedish theologian had an interesting take on the afterlife. (Heaven and Hell). He believed, in so many words, that when we die, we each take with us, our preferences and disposition. We get to meet many other departed spirits, including our loved ones, family and friends. When we do meet with other spirits, we communicate not in words but in thoughts. None are hidden, all are revealed. Mutual compatibility will determine the length our our stay. Depending on our preferences and disposition, we may move on and gravitate toward other spiritual beings. So, in Swedenborg's view of the afterlife, the swine will be among the swine, friends among friends, and angels among angels.
Near Death Experiences (NDE):
Only twenty percent of people who have been declared clinically dead for any length of time have reported a NDE experience. No one has yet been able to prove or disprove the validity of this experience. It makes for an interesting study and It does makes you wonder.
With much emphasis in the Gospel of Mary, a reference is made about the mind as being between spirit and the soul. And Jesus also spoke of the kingdom of God within. The brain does command a lot of our attention with its hundred billion neurons connected by a hundred trillion synapses. With a brief cessation of brain activity it appears that the "All Knowing" can be had either through deep meditation, prayer, mysticism or NDE.
It might be noted at this point that Zen Buddhism has had a long practice in the use of a koan in its attempt to achieve Nirvana or total enlightenment. It involves intense focus and total concentration on a meaningless statement such as " the sound of one hand clapping." It is an attempt to close down the mind just enough to allow both the spirit and the soul to come together.
Spirit of Light:
The Sun has all the attributes of the Creator and provides the living spark for all organisms. In ancient times it was thought of in the terms of a deity and worshipped accordingly. It was to them, as Thomas Paine once said, "The great visible agent for the great invisible God."
Summer of 1954 "Mystical Insight:"
The ALL is the essence in all. A thing in itself is nothing. Only in relation to something else does it become. In its becoming it is either positive or negative.The interaction or encounter between what comes in, what goes out, what is given, what is received, determines what is this, what is that. That which is the strongest or most dominant will prevail.
It was closing time at the Church where I worked part time. The church organist and I were walking together in the enclosed walkway between two buildings. I thought I could hear music, which was surprising because I am severely hearing impaired. I looked at him and inquired, he said he could hear it as well. I said," There must be someone rehearsing in one of the other rooms". He replied, " No, there is nobody else in the buildings " We just looked at each other perplexed and moved on. There is more here than meets the eye.
Quantum logic with its double slit experiment has proved that with observation and focus you can increase the probability of making a thing happen. Prayer falls into that category. However, by focusing on the one you lose sight of the other. For example, focus on the tree you lose sight of the forest. Focus on the forest you lose sight of the tree. An even better example, focus on God you lose sight of reality. Focus on reality you lose sight of God. The extreme differential of the latter example can be found in the writings of both C.S. Lewis and A.Schopenhauer. The following is but a small sample.
A.Schopenhauer: "Nature is indifferent to the destruction of the individual, but careful to ensure the maintenance of the species"
C.S. Lewis: "You cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."
A. Schopenhauer: "One cannot serve two masters, so it must be either reason or Holy Scripture.
A. Schopenhauer: "In life and misfortunes experienced look not at your own lot, but at the lot of the whole of mankind and you will be come a knower, not a sufferer."
C.S.Lewis: "Free will, though it makes evil possible, is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having."
C.S. Lewis: "Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want."
Without God, Satan would not be known.
Without Satan, God would not be known.
With two together there is something.
With one alone there would be nothing.
After 40 days in the wilderness Jesus did not say to the devil, "I will destroy thee." Instead he replied, " Get thee behind me, Satan" and when it was all said and done, the devil departed to await another time or season.
The Road to Damascus:
Many biblical scholars believe the Pauline Epistles predated the four Gospels. Why did the apostle Paul, the nearest contemporary of Jesus, always speak to the spirit of the word and not sometimes to the letter of the word? The Epistles and early letters makes no mention of extraordinary events in the life of Jesus, nor is there any reference to his words, prayers and parables.
Many of the miracles reported in the first three "synoptic gospels"'are missing and few if any parables can be found. Which to some liberal and spiritual theologians find to be interesting. The only part of this Gospel I find uncomfortable is in John 14:6 " I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." When narrowly interpreted it does not bode well for an awful lot of people and it just doesn't seem to fit in with the true divinity of Jesus.
"No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life"
In the letter of the Word I stumble. In the spirit of the Word I glide.
Things of the "Here and Now" can not be changed. God and his laws of nature are at work; but for things far and away the Holy Spirit will work its magic. Make your petition and plant your seed. Set your sail in the direction you want and wait. More times than not, God's grace will come unto thee.
Rendition of the Lord's Prayer:
Make no show of piety. Pray to the Father in your own simple way. In private and from the heart. 3 Extol His greatness. Accept His will, here and above. Petition your daily needs. Ask pardon for a wrong done and give in kind for a wrong received. Pray that you not be tempted within and delivered in kind from things without.
Conclusion: "My Search for Truth:"
"I beheld all the work of God, that a person cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a person labour to seek it out, yet they shall not find it; yea further; though a wise person think, to know it, yet shall they not be able to find it."
"I know that there is no good in them, but for people to rejoice, and to do good in their life. And also that everyone should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all their labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God does it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God does it, that all should fear before him."
Note: Above verses without gender bias quoted from The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, (KJV)
If any of the written material above looks familiar, then it is coincidental. ("except where noted") I believe that there nothing in this world that has not been said before in one way or another. Still, I like to think that everyone has a little different stroke when it comes to using the same paint brush.
Related essay by Bill McKeen:
Musing on Life
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Bradley Voytek, "Are There Really as Many Neurons in the Human Brain as Stars in the Milky Way?," Scitable, 2013-MAY-20, at: http://www.nature.com/
- See: Matthew 25:31-46 - The Sheep and the Goats section.
- See: Matthew 6:6.