Category: Food For Thought, Wednesday’s Notes

Food for Thought: Truth and Self-thoughts from Philosopher James Allen, February 19, 2020

Food for Thought: Truth and Self-thoughts from Philosopher James Allen, February 19, 2020

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Discussion Primer: Truth and Self—thoughts from the philosopher James Allen

I do not presume to know who this is, except for the one article of his that I found and printed. I have no particular affinity for him or desire to promote his ideas. The article just caught my eye in an internet search! Here is the link to the article: http://www.worldspirituality.org/two-masters.html

Two masters: Self and Truth

The master self is that rebellious one whose weapons are passion, pride, avarice, vanity, self-will, implements of darkness; the master Truth is that meek and lowly one whose weapons are gentleness, patience, purity, sacrifice, humility, love, instruments of light.

There is self and there is Truth; where self is, Truth is not, where Truth is, self is not.

I will interject here to say that I know that he is defining “self” in a very narrow sense and the actual word and concept could be talked about in a more positive sense. But, just to run with it a while (short as that may be), let’s start with his definition!

The self that Jesus says must be ‘denied’
The self that Buddha says must be annihilated

The ‘unmistakable’ signs of the truth lover from the Bhagavad Gita

Fearlessness, singleness of soul, the will
Always to strive for wisdom; opened hand
And governed appetites; and piety,
 And love of lonely study; humbleness,
Uprightness, heed to injure nought which lives
Truthfulness, slowness unto wrath, a mind
That lightly letteth go what others prize;
And equanimity, and charity
Which spieth no man‘s faults; and tenderness
Towards all that suffer; a contented heart,
Fluttered by no desires; a bearing mild,
Modest and grave, with manhood nobly mixed,
With patience, fortitude and purity;
An unrevengeful spirit, never given
To rate itself too high–such be the signs,
O Indian Prince! of him whose feet are set
On that fair path which leads to heavenly birth!” 

Religion’s aim:

(again, according to Allen) The absolute denial, the utter extinction, of self is the perfect state of Truth, and all religions and philosophies are but so many aids to this supreme attainment.

What is Truth:

Truth in its very nature is ineffable and can only be lived. He who has most of charity (love) has most of Truth.

Truth is not a formal belief; it is an unselfish, holy, and aspiring heart…

Other quotes:

The follower of self takes up arms against others. The follower of Truth takes up arms against himself.

There is but one religion, the religion of Truth. There is but one error, the error of self.

Men cannot understand Truth because they cling to self, because they believe in and love self, because they believe self to be the only reality, whereas it is the one delusion. When you cease to believe in and love self you will desert it, and will fly to Truth, and will find the eternal Reality.

All suffering is self. All suffering ends in Truth. (very Buddhist)

Have you suffered much? Have you sorrowed deeply? Have you pondered seriously upon the problem of life? If so, you are prepared to wage war against self, and to become a disciple of Truth.

Other Silliness:

This episode of the Simpsons was mentioned by a few members after the mention of the Bhagavad Gita.  I post the episode here for those who would like to see it.  If you do not get the reference, don’t worry, you are not alone.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulDC1w1ydLI

 

Food for Thought: Prayer, February 5, 2020

Food for Thought: Prayer, February 5, 2020

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Prayer

Here are 5 questions to consider and get the discussion started.

Is there something that you do regularly that you might call prayer in the sense of seeking to communicate with something outside of yourself?  What is it like for you?

Is this a rational thing to do?

What makes us reach outside of who we are to anybody at all, furthermore a presence (being? consciousness?) which we cannot sense with the normal human senses.

If you are a regular prayer person, what do you think it has done for you in both individual instances and over time?

Is the notion of “wordless prayer” confusing to you, or perhaps pointless?

 

Food for Thought: The Relativity of Wrong, December 12, 2019

Food for Thought: The Relativity of Wrong, December 12, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Here is a link to the article written by Isaac Asimov titled “The Relativity of Wrong.”  Enjoy.  https://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm

Food for Thought: Sheep and Goats, August 7, 2019

Food for Thought: Sheep and Goats, August 7, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Sheep and Goats

But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ 

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’ 

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 Reasons I picked this story:

  1. It is practical.
  2. It is quite dualistic. Sort of a counterpoint.
  3. It emphasizes the core social justice element of the gospel.

Question to get us started:         What do you think of this story OR, as an alternative, how does this story make you feel? (There are no wrong answers)

Questions that might point to meaning:

Who is “gathered” at this throne (judgment seat) as the recipient of this judgment?

                What are the criteria for the judgment of the nations? Do you think it good criteria?

                Who does Jesus call “brothers (and sisters)” here? (trick question hint—it isn’t ‘Christians’)

Discussion prompters:

                 Literal reading of this passage is not without difficulty.  (how do you deal with that, if you do?)

                “God is biased up to his eyebrows in favor of the poor.” Desmond Tutu; what do you think?

“The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.” Dostoyevsky  

Food for Thought: Second Axial Bodies by The Rev. Matthew Wright, July 31, 2019

Food for Thought: Second Axial Bodies by The Rev. Matthew Wright, July 31, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

This week we watched a video that led to much discussion.  For anybody who missed the video or for those who would like to spend some more time thinking about it, here is a link:  https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/video/second-axial-bodies-rev-matthew-wright

Food for Thought: What Do Words Mean? June 19, 2019

Food for Thought: What Do Words Mean? June 19, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Please note that we will be having our monthly potluck next week on July 26th, a time to eat and spend some time together.

Reference was made to this article by Isaac Asimov, entitled the “Relativity of Wrong.”  https://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm

What do Words Mean?

Love.    How do we know what love is?

Do we need more precision? (It was mentioned that Greek has five words, and our word can reference anything from hot dogs to mothers!)

Is a precise definition in terms of chemical and electric responses in the brain enough to define it? Why do we seem to believe that it is something more? Is that a delusion?

For that matter, what about other emotions? Are these the result of the evolutionary need for survival and nothing more?

 “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss

 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –MLK

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” –Elie Weisel

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu

 

 Truth.  

What would a definition of truth look like? Would it fill an entire book or set of books? Would that be enough?  

 What are we looking for when we search for truth? Would we know it if we came upon it?

  Haven’t we known it in portions at least before? How did we know?

What is meant by “my truth”? Is that an altogether bad idea? Is that an altogether good idea?

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”  ― George Carlin

 “The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ― Joe Klaas, Twelve Steps to Happiness

 “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”  ― Mahatma Gandhi

Food for Thought: Truth in Love, June 12, 2019

Food for Thought: Truth in Love, June 12, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Truth in Love

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -the Declaration of Independence

Self-evident:    This means that we accept these truths as-is, with no need to establish them from the outside with evidence each time we begin a debate or discussion.

And from these “self-evident” truths, a foundation for Independence at the time is derived—and a foundation for an ongoing developing understanding of liberty and equality.

I think that any system of belief has some “truths” that are accepted as foundational—as “self-evident”.  “We are going to accept these as fundamental and build on them, not re-hashing them every time we begin.”

What a task to come up with THOSE!

Can our “self-evident” truths (within a belief system) be false? (of course) One can SINCERELY BELIEVE a falsehood. (Am I willing to accept that I too am capable of this?)

How do we test those without bringing the entire house down? (in any belief system—religious or otherwise)

I see Jesus questioning things that were not supposed to be questioned.

St. Paul seems to have believed that some truth about God was “self-evident”

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

            The things that have been made are wonderful enough to not only imply, but prove, a Creator.

Yet many an intelligent and sincere philosopher would disagree!

           

Bertrand Russel: What is Truth? 

            Three requisites (requirements, necessary items) for a theory of truth

  • It must allow truth to have an opposite, namely falsehood
  • It makes truth a property of beliefs (not simply facts)
  • But that property is completely dependent upon the relation of beliefs to outside things (the truth of a belief ‘always depends on something which lies outside of the belief itself; a correspondence between belief and fact)

“We know that on very many subjects different people hold different and incompatible opinions; hence some beliefs must be erroneous. Since erroneous beliefs are often held just as strongly as true beliefs, it becomes a difficult question how they are to be distinguished from true beliefs.

Kantian Ethics and categorical imperatives:

            I have been asked to do several weeks without big words, so I apologize! It just means something like this:  It is ALWAYS wrong to lie, and you cannot make an exception based on consequences.

             Do we have examples of when lying is more in line with “the Truth” than not lying?

 What does truth look like in community?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4)

 Truth in relationship, in community

What makes woodsEnd a place where you feel comfortable saying what you honestly think or believe?

What makes woodsEnd a place where you do NOT feel comfortable doing so?

For that matter, is there a LOVING way to be your authentic self, and is there an UNLOVING way to do so?

How does one practically “put away falsehood”? Can you identify “falsehood” in yourself?

How do these work against truth?       Anger, corrupting talk (?), bitterness, malice

How do these work with truth?            Kindness, tender-heartedness, forgiveness

 

What is the role of healthy boundaries? (things you are not allowed to know about me, places you may not inquire)

 

Food for Thought: The Universal Christ with Father Richard Rohr. June 5, 2019

Food for Thought: The Universal Christ with Father Richard Rohr. June 5, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Here is a link to the video that was the foundation for our discussion on Wednesday night.   It is an interview that Oprah Winfrey did with Father Richard Rohr on his book, The Universal Christ.

http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/father-richard-rohr-the-universal-christ

 

Food for Thought: Twenty Questions (four or five of them at least), May 15, 2019

Food for Thought: Twenty Questions (four or five of them at least), May 15, 2019

Notes composed and discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Twenty Questions (four or five of them at least)

  1. What does it mean to live in the present moment? (mindfulness)

Jesus:                           Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Thich Nhat Hanh:        Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

Buddha:                       As you walk, eat, and travel, be where you are.

Woody Allen:              What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

 

  1. How does one obtain true peace?

Lao Tzu:                    When there is no desire, all things are at peace. (very Buddhist)

                                    Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.

The Bible:                 Be still and know that I am God. (Is God known better in the stillness rather than the activity of the mind?)

Jesus:                         My peace I give you.

                                    Do not think that I came to bring peace, but a sword.

Douglas Adams:     He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

 

3.  What is our greatest distraction?

Jesus:                           And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Ramana Maharshi:       Think of God; attachments will gradually drop away. If you wait till all desires disappear before starting your devotion and prayer, you will have to wait for a very long time indeed.

Ray Bradbury:             The Internet is a big distraction.

 

4.   What is the greatest quality humans possess?

Socrates:                      There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

St. Paul                        There are three things that endure: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Jesus                            No greater love has anyone than this: that he should lay down his life for his friends.

Lao Tzu:                      Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. 

Blaise Pascal:             The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to be wretched. A tree does not know itself to be wretched.

Also: The greatness of man lies in his power of thought.

 Douglas Adams:          A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Food for Thought: For Goodness’ Sake

Food for Thought: For Goodness’ Sake

Notes composed and discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

For Goodness’ Sake

I woke up thinking about “the good”, and something George has said a few times—that he looks for “the good, the true, and the beautiful”.  What is good? In particular, what is moral goodness? What is virtue? Why is real justice so elusive?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

The Ten Commandments:

You shall have no other Gods but me.

You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.

Respect your father and mother.

You must not commit murder.

You must not commit adultery.

You must not steal.

You must not give false evidence against your neighbor.

You must not be envious of your neighbor’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

Other codes were developed like The Code of Hammurabi, in pursuit of “the good” or “the just”

Hammurabi ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC according to the Middle chronology. In the preface to the law, he states, “Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.” On the stone slab are 44 columns and 28 paragraphs that contained 282 laws. Some of these laws follow along the rules of “an eye for an eye”.

 Women could also receive punishments that their male counterparts would not, as men were permitted to have affairs with their servants and slaves, whereas married women would be harshly punished for committing adultery. (Wikipedia)

Two lessons of the law in the Bible

-If you have broken one, you are guilty of the whole thing

-The law fails to bring about justice (goodness), and only acts as a restraint

Jesus and the woman caught in adultery: Why this story is central to my vision of wE. (no stones to throw)

  • It represents, for me, the heart of Jesus
  • He must subvert the law to achieve genuine goodness (like many of his followers since)

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Stoning:          Social ostracization taken to its limit

Nobody was guilty of the actual murder: “I only threw a stone”

With social ostracization, no one person is guilty of the dehumanizing, murderous rejection or hate—each has their reason for the personal choice to exclude.

Jesus instead subverts the “mob mentality” that the law prescribes and turns the exclusion on to the accusers. (It perplexes me that Paul later prescribes such ostracization, though he does say “bring him back before it kills him” in the next letter.)

I think that Jesus really has to struggle towards the good here—it cannot be simply “yep, that is what the Bible says. Go ahead and stone her!”

The people who come “packing the heat” of Scripture feel very justified in their cause.   But the good has totally eluded them.

While the people who feel the injustice struggle, perhaps writing in the sand and reaching for what they know must be the good, even when scripture seems to say otherwise.

Bartolome de las Casas was a young priest who came with Columbus to conquer Cuba, and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty (https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncol1.html)

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians…. 

The equality of women was noted by Las Casas, as was the absence of lust.

Marriage laws are non-existent men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.

Point: Their pagan culture had achieved “the good” in very different, but workable, ways.