Monday, September 26, 2005

Musings on Truth

This has been a subject that has fascinated me for some time. About a year ago I took a paranormal psychology class where we studied the reasons that humans have such a strong tendency to ignore facts and science and focus our energy on beliefs that have no empirically backed evidence.

Our text, Wings of Illusion by John F. Schumaker, presented us with the theory that the evolution of the human mind has crossed a mental gulf, a cerebral Rubicon that can never be turned back from. At this point humans began to develop a new degree of self-awareness, language capabilities, information processing, and hypothetical and abstract thinking. Survival began to depend more on intellectual capability than physical prowess/dexterity. Humans attained death perception and had to adopt paranormal beliefs to counter the horror of death and chaos. The brain’s function was divided; half works with reality while the other half works at repressing it so the human doesn’t go mad.

Without paranormal belief systems humans would go insane; religion and other paranormal belief systems serve to insulate us from the reality that life is meaningless and the threat of death is imminent. The idea presented is that if we weren’t crazy we’d be insane. In other words, if we weren't crazy enough to believe in the paranormal we would fall to the insanity of the threat of our impending death and the meaningless of our short existence.

I have found this theory fascinating and horrifying because of the implications that it has for my own paranormal (religious) beliefs. I took this class at a time that I was already questioning my religious beliefs and earnestly seeking the truth on my own. As a Mormon we know that the truth is manifested through the whisperings of the spirit or a burning in the bosom. In essence, our emotions will tell us whether something is true or not.

These feelings of the spirit, transcendence, enlightenment, or whatever you wish to label them are created physiologically through chemical reactions in the part of the brain called the amygdala. Whether something truly paranormal initiates these chemical reactions causing the feelings, I don’t know. There are certain conditions that precede these kinds of reactions. What I do know is that the brain can be manipulated to produce feelings of euphoric spirituality or transcendence. That scares me. That means that the only source I have for truth is empirical evidence. That means that my past spiritual confirmations are dubious. I can still choose to have “faith” in those feelings but that is also a choice to ignore what I’m learning in school. I know that sounds really absolute and extreme but that’s how I feel. I feel depression and forlornness and also power and hope.

Ernest Becker said that if we have a passion for the truth, we shall encounter a “temporary period of forlornness.” He added that joy awaits us on the other side of this forlornness. He said that “disillusionment must come before wisdom.” Becker also admitted a belief in God before he died.

I’m still in a stage of disillusionment right now but I’m also excited by the terrifying prospect of the truth. It will be my endeavor to continue the search for the understanding of spirituality and how it affects us physically and emotionally.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Creating Life

There is, or should be, something intensely spiritual about being pregnant.

Actually, this is how I want to feel. Truly I fit in to the "should be" category.
I often have to tell myself to feel magic and amazing and remember what is really happening. It's certainly an excersize.

Often, the reality is pain, both physical and spiritual, and a strange sort of disconnect.

Perhaps it will feel more real as time gets closer to the actual birth.

Is this the right blog for these kinds of thoughts?
I think so.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I am reading the Book of Mormon.

This is what I am reading right now.
I haven't ever read the Book of Mormon all the way through. I will finish it by the end of the year.
It's pertinent to what we are discussing. It's my spiritual journey in a nutshell. Can I know what God wants me to do? Can some other man like Nephi tell me? Will God tell me if I inquire? Is God separate from me? Is there really a devil and really hell? Is there such a thing as filthy and unclean? Is faith necessary to be close to God? What the hell is Faith? Do I need a Redeemer? Why? What's so wrong with me right now?

Sometimes, I just open the book and read one word, cause I believe that there is power in there and it gets on me if I open the book.



Lehi’s seed are to receive the gospel from the Gentiles in the latter days—The gathering of Israel is likened unto an olive tree whose natural branches shall be grafted in again—Nephi interprets the vision of the tree of life and speaks of the justice of God in dividing the wicked from the righteous. [Between 600 and 592 B.C.]

1 AND it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.

2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.

3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be aunderstood•, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.

4 And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.

5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine aafflictions• were great above all, because of the bdestruction• of my people, for I had beheld their fall.

6 And it came to pass that after I had received astrength• I spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.

7 And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the aolive•-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.

8 And I said unto them: Have ye ainquired• of the Lord?

9 And they said unto me: aWe• have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

10 Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will aperish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and aask• me in bfaith•, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

12 Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a abranch• of the house of Israel?

13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have adwindled• in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the bMessiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the cgospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the dGentiles• unto the remnant of our seed—

14 And at that day shall the remnant of our aseed• bknow• that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the ccovenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and dcome• to the eknowledge• of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.

15 And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their arock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true bvine•? Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God?

16 Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be agrafted• in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree.

17 And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be arejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.

18 Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy aseed• shall all the kindreds of the earth be bblessed.

19 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake much unto them concerning these things; yea, I spake unto them concerning the arestoration• of the Jews in the latter days.

20 And I did rehearse unto them the words of aIsaiah•, who spake bconcerning• the crestoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel; and after they were restored they should no more be confounded, neither should they be scattered again. And it came to pass that I did speak many words unto my brethren, that they were pacified and did dhumble• themselves before the Lord.

21 And it came to pass that they did speak unto me again, saying: What meaneth this thing which our father saw in a dream? What meaneth the atree• which he saw?

22 And I said unto them: It was a representation of the atree• of life.

23 And they said unto me: What meaneth the arod• of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?

24 And I said unto them that it was the aword• of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would bhold• fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the ctemptations• and the fiery ddarts• of the eadversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.

25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give aheed• unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the bfaculty• which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

26 And they said unto me: What meaneth the ariver• of water which our father saw?

27 And I said unto them that the awater• which my father saw was bfilthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.

28 And I said unto them that it was an awful agulf•, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God.

29 And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful ahell•, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked.

30 And I said unto them that our father also saw that the ajustice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming bfire•, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.

31 And they said unto me: Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of aprobation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the bdeath• of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?

32 And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their aworks, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of bprobation.

33 Wherefore, if they should adie• in their wickedness they must be bcast• off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be cjudged of their dworks•; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be efilthy•; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot fdwell• in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.

34 But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of afilthiness prepared for that which is filthy.

35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that aawful• bhell of which I have spoken, and the cdevil• is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that djustice of which I have spoken.

36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that atree• of life, whose fruit is most precious and most bdesirable• above all other fruits; yea, and it is the cgreatest• of all the dgifts• of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2005

From our first discussion

Here are some thoughts, questions, and quotes from our first discussion that should live on:

"Is experience with prayer proof that God exists?"

"Is it the force of our will that creates something to happen?"

"There's definitely power to it" ..... "That's why I'm determined to believe in God."

"Why is it easier to feel closer to spiritual experiences in the wilderness?"

"Why do we have to have those experiences all the time. (Meaning, you don't.)"

"Is it our belief that creates it - or a connection to something outside ourselves."

"Where is that access to that something outside ourselves?"

"God will help us through any medium WE choose."

"When you feel things external 'why are we feeling that'?"

"I think anyone who wants to reach to God, he will respond."

Not everyone agreed with every statement, or bought into every question.
Much food for thought.

My only complaint is that I didn't have more time to explore with these good people even further.
I will have to wait for next week.

What is Prayer?

This was our first topic. I've been thinking about it a lot lately.
There have been so many times in life where I felt connected to something outside myself, where I had that "spiritual experience" of love, peace, and/or an answer.

This came in many ways. Sometimes, it was through what I had been traditionally taught was prayer. Sometimes through meditation. Sometimes through yoga practice, or piano practice, or singing in a great choir, or listening to a great choir, or creating any art, or experiencing someone else's art, often through nature and being surrounded by people I love.

I was discussing the empty, nothing feeling that I get when I seek for this feeling and can't find it easily. "How is God speaking to you?" A friend asked. At that time in my life, I was getting nothing from the structure of prayer I had been taught. But I was getting everything through art. Yes, God was speaking to me through art.

But then, my concept of what/who God even is was thrown into great questioning, and the feeling of "God speaking to me" has been ever more elusive.

So what is this prayer thing anyway?
Is that feeling of being spoken to something that stems from within us? A belief system we create so much so that it becomes reality?
Or is it something that truly comes from someone/something else; external?

Thus began our first discussion.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Our Spiritual discussion group begins this Sunday. We will study, explore, and discuss our questions with each other. I'm excited to begin.

I came up with the idea for this when attending church was becoming more and more mentally/emotionally difficult for me. I would sit quietly, unable to say that I disagree. And I was beginning to disagree with more and more of what I heard. But I kept wanting to go to church. Church used to be so fulfilling for me, but as I discovered that I didn't believe in it the way I thought I had, I felt at a loss.

So I examined. WHY *had* church fulfilled my spiritual desires?

Was it the talks people gave over the pulpit?
No. I often would just pick up a theme and go on with a self talk either in my head or in my journal.

Was is the community?
Tough one. Growing up, no. I did not fit in with the other girls at all. I hated activities about make-up and walking like a model, and announcements about how tan all the girls were because they just got back from cheerleading camp. But, I did have the very strong knit community of my family, and socially, where would I be as a non-member growing up in Utah. Most of my friends were LDS, even if they weren't in my ward. So, yes. But then the only people I seemed to connect with at church, once out on m own, were those who would sometimes be self described as "on the edge." I would talk to my friends when they said they had a hard time admitting to being "Mormon" because of some of the things it implied (those things, they said, were self-righteousness, homo-phobic, pro-war, Republican, and judgmental.) I had friends who considered themselves "not just Mormon" but maybe Mormon-Buddhist, or Mormon-Pagan, etc. The further I lived from a high population of Mormons, the fewer LDS close friends I had, and the more non-member friends I had. Sometimes, I would have ONE friend from church. Strangely, at my wedding party, not one of my friends from church came. My bishop, stake president, and relief society pres came, as well as one LDS couple in our ward who new us from dancing, but not one of the *friends I made through the church came.
When I began going to the family ward, I loved seeing little kids. But Relief Society, the one place where I really felt like I could speak up, and we could actually have a conversation, no longer felt safe. Once again, they were talking about make-up ("Goodness, a true friend will tell you if you're about to teach and your lipstick has worn off. Can't let that happen!") and how good and important it is that we're at war ("I know God has sent us to free those poor people. He wouldn't let us go if it weren't right") and I no longer felt comfortable even mentioning my opinion. Not to mention my husband is not LDS, so I have a big black mark until the ward converts him ("don't worry, we'll get him" -- have you asked if I he or I want you to?) Like I won't be ok, I can't really be accepted, until he's part of it too.
Socially yes, socially no.

What is it socially that fulfills me?
The thing I like about Mormonism, that makes me adverse to really seeking any sort of replacement Church, is that there's not one preacher. Everything is run by peers. Therefore, I felt safe disagreeing. If the Sunday School teacher says something I feel is wrong, it's (usually) ok to raise my hand and say so. If someone's teaching style doesn't do anything for me, I may have the option of another class or just wait until someone else becomes the teacher.
I would definitely not be ok with the idea of one person preaching, and the rest of us accepting. I don't like the idea of one person with all the answers. I like the idea of our own personal relationships with divinity, and our own personal applications of that relationship.
And, I like to talk. Just listening to spiritual ideas doesn't do much for me. Just keeping them to myself doesn't do much either. I have a much harder time with private prayer than I do with public prayer. I like to process outloud, and to shore it with someone. I don't need them to blankly accept everything I believe or say. I also don't want to debate it, convince or be convinced of another way. I just want to talk, to explore, discuss, share.

And I don't feel ok doing that at church anymore. Not just because I don't truly feel comfortable with the people. Mostly because I have so many questions and disagreements right now that I couldn't honestly say how I feel without being shocking or "contentious." Church is not the place for that. I don't want to cause or contribute to contention. But I do want to ask my questions and openly seek answers, not just accept things like "you have to take it on faith" or "sometimes we just don't know, what's important is obedience."

To me, faith IS exploring. I wrote a long essay exploring the process of faith. To me, it's exactly like the scientific method. You observe what works, you come up with why you think it may work, and then you fully actively explore if that is true or not. Of course, what you discover from one round through the process is still just a theory (faith!), but there is no law, no knowledge until every possible cause has been explored. We're only limited by the possible causes we can imagine and our abilities to explore them. "Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainace" explore this idea well, I think.

So, I'm creating a group of people I can discuss and explore with. Perhaps they are exploring different things in different ways than I am. That's ok. I just want to feel safe talking about it, with others who want to talk about it.

Would you like to join us?