Essays contributed by Bill McKeen
Part 1: Theological Musing: My Search for Truth
1. A tale:
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.
2. 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."
3. The Laws of Nature:
As to a blade of grass. The leaf on the tree. The cat in the alley. The rose in the garden. The man on the street. As mentioned above all are subjected to the laws of birth, growth and decay. We are not alone or special. Perhaps, God made us a bit more cognitive in its application.
4. Free Will:
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 and bipolar disorders 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 by past events?
5. Human Folly:
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. The ego may be the devil in man but it is also responsible for the protection and survival of the species.
6. The Inquiry:
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. And I would love to believe that this is what Jesus implied when he said:
"In my Fathers house there are many mansions." 2
7. 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.
8. 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. For more information google the IANDS web site. In summary it seems to support what Apostle Paul had to say about the afterlife:
"The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Apostle Paul had several close encounters with death and may have experience his own NDE. 4,5
9. Steve Jobs:
He had a lot of great wow" moments when developing the Macintosh, iPhone and the iPad but perhaps none greater than the last one. As reported by biological sister Author Mona Simpson before he died. His last words were “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
10. Thomas Edison:
Days before he died he woke up from a nap and gazed upward and said "It is very beautiful over there!" As reported by his attending physician.
A lot of naysayers claim that a Near Death Experience (NDE) is nothing more than a cascade of neurotransmitters firing off in a dying brain. I'm not so sure. A near death experience is a lot like a visit to a playhouse that has a permanent stage setting with different rooms off a great hallway. Each door or room has its own identity and purpose. Some people are able to return to tell us a tale of all the rooms visited. Their stories, first hand accounts, unique in its own way but sequentially and contextually very much the same. Therein lies the great mystery of NDE.
12. As a Butterfly:
With reverence to nature and the ancient quote of "As above, so below. As below so above" Are we in a state of a metamorphosis liken to that of a caterpillar? Which over time proceeds to a process of shedding one layer of skin after another until it reaches to its own realm of freedom, peace and tranquillity.
13. The Brain:
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 1 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 and 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. 4
15. 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."
16. I think that I "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. As the Sun is to Mother Earth. Male to female. Yang and Yin and spirit to matter. A thing by itself can not prosper. To multiply itself it must first divide itself and it cannot divide itself unless it meets a force of resistance. To aid that process there are within our universe these two great forces, the positive and negative aspect of nature. The sun and Mother Earth; male and female; Yang and yin; and spirit and matter. The interaction of two becoming the one. You can see it every day, right outside your door in both the animal kingdom and in plant life.
The Way gave birth to the One; The One gave birth to the Two; The Two gave birth to the Three; And the Three gave birth to the ten thousand things.
This series of theological musings continues in the next essay.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay.
- 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 for confirmation of this opinion in a quotation attributed to Jesus.
- See: Matthew 6:6.
- In reference entry #14 Koan, it was not given to me in the sense of a Zen master imparting it to one of his student but due to happenstance. At a young age in 1954,I was studying the electrical theory of Ohms Law, one morning and most of the afternoon. Despite the all day focus, intensity and effort I just could not get or understand it! It was totally frustrating! Then suddenly, without warning I was hit with total enlightenment. Creating the awareness of the the two great forces of nature. (Resulting in entry #16 "Mystical Experience") And without logic, rhyme or reason it also gave to me the "absolute sense knowing" that THERE IS REALLY IS A GOD!
- In regards to my many references or entries on the subject "Near Death Experiences:" I have always retained a high interest on this subject. My first wife passed at the age of 47. She endured much in the way of suffering. Both mentally and physically (cardiomyopathy). In 1986 a few weeks before the end came she had a full blown NDE. From that point on she seemed to be much more at ease until the day she died.
- The International Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS) Site Directory is at: https://www.near-death.com/
Latest update : 2018-OCT-29
Author: Bill McKeen