God and Man

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God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:24 pm

Hi All

I believe Jacob Needleman's book: "Lost Christianity" raises some important questions as to the value of religion both for oneself and for society. The question is how can it be done.

http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Christianity-Jacob-Needleman/dp/1585422533

But to serve its purpose it now seems necessary to consider both Man and God in a new light. Here is the preface to "Lost Christianity:


"Do You wish to know God? Learn first to know yourself" -ABBA EVAGRIUS, FOURTH CENTURY

"Never in recent memory has the world been at once so deeply drawn toward religion and so troubled about it. As it is now clear, all self assured predictions that the march of modern science would marginalize religion have proved false. As far as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are concerned, we are, on the contrary, in a period of religious expansion throughout the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. At the same time, it is clear that with the very survival of our civilization hanging in the balance, the question relentlessly insists itself: Is religion a force for good or ill in the life of humanity? Does the actual influence of religion, in fact sometimes intensify the very defilements of human nature - ignorance, fear, hatred, - from which doctrines and practices are intended to liberate us?


As once again we witness the horrific engines of war being fueled by religious zeal of one kind or another, and under one kind of name or another, the answer to this question is obviously to be: Yes, sometimes: Yes often! Have not the darkest crimes of world history - the insane barbarism of genocide, the bloody crusades, the murder of innocents, and the depredation of defenseless cultures - have not many, if not most, of these crimes been committed under the banner of religion or through a quasi-religious frenzy attaching itself to religious ideals? Put next to these endlessly recurrent horrors, the intimate comforts of personal religious faith and day-to-day individual efforts to live religiously may seem to count for little in the balance scales of human life on earth. Little wonder, then that so many of the best minds of the modern era entirely rejected religion as a foundation for both ethics and knowledge. Just as the scientific turn of the mind seemed to have entirely eclipsed religion's claim to knowledge, so - it has seemed to many - the same modern turn of mind must inevitably displace religion's claim to moral authority. Just as religion can no longer show us what is true but must yield that task to methods of thought that are independent of religious doctrine, so neither can religion, it was claimed, show us what is good, but must now surrender that task as well to the secular mind of modernity.

But in fact, no assumption of moral authority by secular humanism has taken hold or now seems in any way likely or justified. The modern era, the era of science, while witnessing the phenomenal acceleration of scientific discovery and its applications in technological innovation, has brought the world the inconceivable slaughter and chaos of modern war, along with the despair of ethical dilemmas arising from new technologies that all at once project humanity's essence-immortality onto the entire planet: global injustice, global heartlessness, and global disintegration of the normal patterns of life that have guided mankind for a millennia. Neither the secular philosophies of our epoch nor its theories of human nature - pragmatism, positivism, Marxism, Liberalism, humanism, behaviorism, biological determinism, psychoanalysis - nor the traditional doctrines of the religions, in the way we have understood them, seem able to confront or explain the crimes of humanity in our era, nor other wise and compassionate guidance through the labyrinth of paralyzing new ethical problems.

What is needed is either a new understanding of God or a new understanding of Man: an understanding of God that does not insult the scientific mind while offering bread, not a stone, to the deepest hunger of the heart; an understanding of Man that squarely faces the criminal weakness of our moral will while holding out to us the knowledge of how we can strive within ourselves to become the fully human being we were meant to be -- both for ourselves and as instruments of a higher purpose.

But this is not an either/or. The premise --or rather, the proposal -- of this book is that at the heart of the Christian religion there exists, and has always existed, just such a vision of God and Man. I call it "Lost Christianity," not because it is a matter of doctrines and concepts that may have been lost or forgotten; nor even a matter of methods of spiritual practice that may need to be recovered from ancient sources. It is all that, to be sure, but what is lost in the whole of our modern life, including our understanding of religion, is something even more fundamental, without which religious ideas and practices lose their meaning and all to easily become the instruments of ignorance, fear, and hatred. What is lost is the experience of oneself -- myself, the personal being who is here, now, living, breathing, yearning for meaning, for goodness; just this person here, now, squarely confronting ones existential weaknesses and pretensions while yet aware, however tentatively, of a higher current of a higher current of life and identity calling to us from within ourselves. This presence to oneself is the missing element in the whole of the life of Man, the intermediate state of consciousness between what we are meant to be and what we actually are. it is perhaps the one bridge that can lead us from our inhuman past toward the human future.

In the writings and utterances of the great teachers of Christianity over the centuries, one may begin to discern, like a photographic image gradually developing before ones eyes, the outlines of this vision of what is called in this book "intermediate Christianity." But modern man can no longer perceive that vision or hear that language that has been associated with it. Words like "humility," "purity of heart," "contrition" are no longer understood to require the individual, existential struggle, for what the early Fathers called "attention in oneself." On the contrary, it is assumed that such qualities of character can be ours in the distracted and dispersed state of being that is more and more characteristic of life in the contemporary world. The result is self deception which masks, and perhaps even intensifies, our weaknesses and which inevitably leads to the disillusionment with religious ideals that has been one of the hallmarks of the modern secular worldview. Of course, the modernist attempt to establish ethical life without religion itself ignores the same lost element in human life that has been forgotten in the conventional understanding of religion. The result is often a sad ineffectuality under the name of rousing moral formulae - or, ironically, the decay of what began in opposition to perceived religious tyranny into its own brand of quasi-religious dogmatism and violence - as witnessed for example, in the fate of communist ideology.

Whether it is conventional religion or secular humanism, or any other modern program of morality or inner betterment, the question remains: Can there be any hope or our becoming what we are meant to be without first becoming fully and deeply aware of what we in fact are, now, here, in just this moment of our lives? Whether religious or not, is there any hope for man who has lost this capacity, or forgotten the need, to know himself and to be alive and present in himself?

The great ideas and ideals of Christianity continue to offer hope and comfort to the world, as do the ideals of Judaism and Islam -- and all the world's great religions. And as do the ideals of humanistic morality, with its passionate commitment to justice and to human rights. Yet we see, we see, we cannot help but see that now, as ever, something is missing, something has been forgotten about ourselves and in ourselves. Our children see it as clearly as we sometimes do; more clearly! The words of St.Paul never sounded more distinctly than they do now in the lengthening shadows of our civilization.

"For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do......Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" -Romans 7

I'd like to ask you about this paragraph in particular:


What is needed is either a new understanding of God or a new understanding of Man: an understanding of God that does not insult the scientific mind while offering bread, not a stone, to the deepest hunger of the heart; an understanding of Man that squarely faces the criminal weakness of our moral will while holding out to us the knowledge of how we can strive within ourselves to become the fully human being we were meant to be -- both for ourselves and as instruments of a higher purpose.

What new understanding of Man and God could allow us to become what we were meant to be assuming there should be more to our existence then continued wars? Perhaps you think it is impossible and what you see is what you get.

But suppose we can establish a God/Man relationship that could satisfy both mind and heart, what do you think it could be and how could we transcend in our "understanding" in order to actualize it?

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Re: God and Man

Post  joyceychen on Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:01 pm

so essentially, what is the purpose/role of humans? Everything has a purpose, everything happens for a reason (Emerson), so there is a reason for the creation of humans. but what is it?
for religious people, maybe it's to spread their faith/religion (though that sometimes ended up with wars and we're trying to look past that. so maybe in other nonviolent ways, then)
for others, it might just be to love.
but this has been like the biggest question of all time. maybe, as my 9th grade English teacher would say, "The purpose of life is to find the purpose of life."

one question I've always had is somewhat similar to your last one. Amid all these teachings of transcending, the universal laws/forces, such as Law of Attraction or universal being, how does it fit in with religion?
in your excerpt, it says: "Of course, the modernist attempt to establish ethical life without religion itself ignores the same lost element in human life that has been forgotten in the conventional understanding of religion", which i read to mean that without a feel of any religion, we're still missing that something (though having religion still cannot fill the hole?)
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Re: God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:45 am

Hi Joyce

I believe that the question of human meaning and purpose will be answered at least theoretically through cosmolgy or the levels of reality the universe is strutured upon. It explains many thing that cannot be explained any other way including consciousness itself. I'll try to begin a thread on it since it can mean a great deal for all those interested in transcendence.

one question I've always had is somewhat similar to your last one. Amid all these teachings of transcending, the universal laws/forces, such as Law of Attraction or universal being, how does it fit in with religion?

Prof. Needleman goes on to say:

Whether it is conventional religion or secular humanism, or any other modern program of morality or inner betterment, the question remains: Can there be any hope or our becoming what we are meant to be without first becoming fully and deeply aware of what we in fact are, now, here, in just this moment of our lives? Whether religious or not, is there any hope for man who has lost this capacity, or forgotten the need, to know himself and to be alive and present in himself?

In order to truly "Know Thyself" or have the experience of oneself that allows our being to grow, it requires help from above in the form of grace and conscious influences. What but the esoteric forms of religion encourage this. Society doesn't want it. It threatens the status quo society seeks to control. New Age thought prefers to degenerate it into opinions of ourselves which deny the reality of self knowledge.

This is the first step but only a few are open to it. You know that if a person writes a book called "I'm OK, and You're OK" it will be a best seller. If another writes a book called "I'm and Idiot and You're and Idiot," it won't sell. The ego isn't attracted to it yet it is more true.

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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Sun Jun 21, 2009 2:30 am

I cannot assume, but I am asking the question , using the capital G of God you are referring to the Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? Analytically semantic you are then referring to man a religious man who tills the land, and is not savage: therefore not gathering; but planning ahead; prudence which is a virtue; by forethought. Religion, and Theology are not the same usage: religion is practiced; theology is the understanding. The scientific method takes from theology, and religion: which is a philosophy; once something becomes science, and it tested ; it ceases to be a philosophy. You are stating that we are a moral human beings (enlightened person); morals come from the conscience (I think); in some respects I believe in a "flowing," and in some respects I do not. I am not sure if I understand your last comment: '...human being we were meant to be -- both for ourselves, and as instruments of a higher purpose'; enlightened for whom, or what. You bring in science, and then philosophy, and religion, mixed in with theology; I do not understand? But then I doubt on the basic level of thought, and well what I see is thinking. Philosophy made us think with the mind, not the heart. Science proved to us we have a mind, and the heart pumps the blood. The Abrahamic God is the god of war: chariots of fire; militant Moses; the never to be understood hermit John from the book of Revelation; the Abrahamic God is the god of war from the Ancient Egyptian polytheistic religion; and you are questioning war? Why the basis of the religion is war! The heart again does not think, or have thoughts quite being literal in your thinking, use the philosophy you so endear, and have thought's of reason. Well let me say this about transcend it is philosophy from a "war-like" society. I do not believe what the Judaic, Christian, or Islamic Koran states it is a philosophy of the past, and needs to be forgotten. We need to live in the present, and not the past. Use your head, and logically figure out how the books contradict each other, you figure this out. I hope I did not rain on your "parade." But gave you comments to help you understand.
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Re: God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Sun Jun 21, 2009 5:51 am

Hi Bob and Steve.

First of all, is there any reason why science would accept a personal God? I doubt it. Can the God concept be other than personal? Yes. If God is beyond time and space and is the source of the laws of creation within time and space. Science can recognize these laws.

How can we understand Man in a way that opens him to human meaning and purpose that is not ridiculous to science? If science is true and the essence of religion is true, what appears as contradiction can only be due to our own misconceptions. Secular religions and new Age cannot satisfy this. Is it possible that Man can be understood through levels of meaning and purpose or relative "necessity?" Yes, but it requires those willing to be open to levels of reality as in cosmology. But only a few are aware of it. Simone Weil was in her own way as she makes clear in this inspired excerpt:

“The sea is not less beautiful to our eye because we know that sometimes ships sink in it. On the contrary, it is more beautiful still. If the sea modified the movement of its waves to spare a boat, it would be a being possessing discernment and choice, and not this fluid that is perfectly obedient to all external pressures. It is this perfect obedience that is its beauty.”

“All the horrors that are produced in this world are like the folds imprinted on the waves by gravity. This is why they contain beauty. Sometimes a poem, like the Iliad, renders this beauty.”

“Man can never escape obedience to God. A creature cannot not obey. The only choice offered to man as an intelligent and free creature, is to desire obedience or not to desire it. If he does not desire it, he perpetually obeys nevertheless, as a thing subject to mechanical necessity. If he does desire obedience, he remains subject to mechanical necessity, but a new necessity is added on, a necessity constituted by the laws that are proper to supernatural things. Certain actions become impossible for him, while others happen through him, sometimes despite him.”

Now we are unconscious creatures of necessity with a good imagination serving a mechanical necessity that denies the conscious experience of human meaning and purpose.

We have to decide if we need to imagine ourselves or acquire the conscious experience of ourselves which transcends our role as unconscious creatures of necessity along with the rest of organic life on earth to be worthy of the name "Man."

The sad part is that without becoming more conscious, there is a good chance we are doomed from our own mutual destruction as a normal result of our cyclical imagination that creates the cycles of war and peace as described in Ecclesiastes 3..

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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Sun Jun 21, 2009 6:23 am

I was not writing about a personal god, but a revealed God. Science is not the means to an end. Man is religious am I to understand this is how you are using the word? Humans are what came before Judaism. Science also called the Scientific Method it sprang from philosophy, and tests things, and when science takes over it ceases to be a philosophy. No, science has not been able to prove that spirituality exists. Secular is not a "religion," I really don't know that much about "New age" religions other than they "brain wash" even more. I'm an Existentialists you read for my meaning, and purpose. The way you are using the word "relative," and "necessity" have different meanings in philosophy, so I don't understand. You sound more like "solipsist": The position according to which nothing exists, neither the things I call other people nor the things I call physical objects, except as ideas in my own mind is known as "solipsism." Reality is different for everybody (I got a good talking too about this in a philosophy class, and I was the target of a mis-used word, so don't try, and argue reality with me!) I really don't understand what you are trying to say with your words. Imagination is reason. Conscious is just your senses. Well I have stopped trying to figure you out. Unconscious you are going to have to define: unconscious; relative; necessity, transcend; creatures, man. everything really. If in doubt just define next time please, and I don't like my intelligence insulted. Just words to the wise.
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Re: God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:02 am

Bob, you've lost me.

The basic question is if you believe a God conception is possible that would not be absurd to science and at the same time feed the heart in its need for meaning and purpose that transcends what can be provided by the world. Solipsism has nothing to do with it nor is there any attempt to insult anyones intellignce. It is just a basic question. If you have ideas, feel free to post them and it is no inuslt to just say IYO it is impossible.

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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:04 am

Theological realism, and antirealism
If the notion of entities beyond our experience can be argued to be a necessary presumption in contemporary science, it hardly seems an objection to religion that it wishes to refer to the transcendent. Yet the debate between realists, and antirealists has become as fierce in philosophy of religion as in has been within the philosophy of science. This emphasizes how realism, and antirealism can appear in many guises. One could for instance be an antirealist about morality, and a realist about tables, and chairs, or an antirealist about the latter, but a realist about sub-atomic particles. There would certainly be no contradiction about being a realist in science, and an antirealist in religion. John Hick, himself, a realist, makes this point when he says: "There are in fact probably no pan-realist who believes in the reality of fairies, and snarks as well as of tables, and electrons; and likewise few if any Omni-non realists, denying the objective reality of a material world, and of other people as well as of gravity, and God" (Runzo 1993, p.4.) In fact solipsism is the limiting case of antirealism. Just as an emphasis on objective reality totally unrelated to our understanding can lead to skepticism. (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion 1997, p. 213-214, Blackwell Companions to Philosophy.)
You just insulted my intelligence again. That was not to try, and look "cool" in front of kids either.
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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:08 am

Oh yeah, by the way do you know the difference between "God," and "god?"
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Re: God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:52 am

Bob

I'm sorry that your intelligence is insulted but I don't see how any of what you write addresses the basic question if you believe a God or god conception is possible that would not be absurd to science and at the same time feed the heart in its need for meaning and purpose that transcends what can be provided by the world. How does "Theological realism, and antirealism" relate to it?

I guess this means that for you it is impossible to unite science and religion. OK, that is what you believe. We disagree. Nothing to be insulted about.

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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:17 pm

What is the difference between"God," and "god?" The answer is very simple. I will then know who I am addressing, and how much I need to "demonstrate." As far as I understand you need to take a basic philosophy class, or begin a reading on philosophy texts.
Do you understand defining terms? The terms are typically used in connection with perception, but John Hick, for example, talks of naive religious realism "which assumes that divine reality is just as spoken of in the languge of some tradition." (Runzo 1993.) He contrasts it with the kind of critical realism which refers to a transcendent divine reality, but "is conscious that this reality is always thought, and experinced by us in ways which are shaped, and colored by human concepts, and images." "...the spiritual project of our existence" can continue beyond this life.
Does this confront your limited understanding?
If you need help, just as ask, I will do it for the children Wink .
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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:34 pm

Let me give you some charity Laughing it should be thought that one has to chooose between being an out-and-out realist, or non-realist. School children have stumbled across a deeper philosophical problem, how much is discovered, and how much is invented? Let me put it to you this way? Idea A philosophical realist is someone who believes the pursuit of knowledge is about discovery.
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Re: God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:39 pm

Bob

I see you are an "expert." The trouble is that at this point in life I'm taking the Einstein approach and have become wary of them.

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." - Albert Einstein

"is conscious that this reality is always thought, and experienced by us in ways which are shaped, and colored by human concepts, and images."

Prof. Needleman has pointed out that this tendency has created an unrealistic view of God, Man, and the God/Man relationship and suggests that we have to come to grips with it since our very survival may depend on it.

You apparently do not think it possible and prefer to argue about solipsism, theological realism, and antirealism. Why bother if it's not possible? Have a cold beer and go down with the ship.

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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:15 am

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." - Albert Einstein

In your quote, you are reffering to what?
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Re: God and Man

Post  Bob on Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:48 am

I do not use drugs! Real smart of you to refer to drugs as an escaping problems that you do not want to confront! I will confront you: I have defined the terms; you stomp on them; or you just plain do not understand them. I do not think you have an understanding of any of the quotes you posted. If you did you would not have posted them in the context that you did, as you do not understand them!
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Re: God and Man

Post  Nick_A on Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:14 am

Bob

You are fighting over nothing. Going down with the ship" is just an old expression that means being attached to disaster.

I am not a star. I just happen to be aware that what is most hated by society is essential for our survival. Plato refers to this hate in the cave analogy:

[Socrates] And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

Jesus said that the world must hate the message. This message that reveals the human condition is even mentioned in the Buddhist parable of the Burning House.

http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/lotus1.html

As much as it is hated, I still like to post it for those open enough to consider these ideas such as a conception of God and man that saistfies both the mind and heart. Maybe one person comes to sense something and reads up on it. I feel I've done some good. If you get insulted it has nothing to do with anything especially since there is no intent insult.

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