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I know that my previous post doesn't seem to belong on this forum. It's a religious issue, not a depresion issue, right? Well it's important to me, and I've never been able to discuss it with anyone. ANYONE. EVER. That used to make me sad and despondent. now it makes me realy angry. I posted the same question at several religious forums. Forums designed for theological debate. I got the same answer everywhere. DON'T ASK! One sight even banned me from the forum, accusing me of attempting to dislodge the fatih of others. Their administrators first posted in my thread that "the above person is not asking serious questions. People like this just want to destroy your faith, and have nothing to offer in it's place. Do not respond to this person.. blah blah blah...

That made me so angry!!! I don't get angry. But I am furious now. I responded to that post with a statement that such a whitewash of another person's search for answers is cruel, and thuroughy unchristian. I stated that my inquiry was sincere, and that i was searching for answers that would renew my faith. I also told them that such a response reveals several things: that I must have hit a nerve, that there really is no truth to anything that church's preach, and that christians really are the most hateful and judgemental people on this planet. I'm sorry t any REAL christians out there, the ones who actually practice what Christ taught, somthing called compassion and understanding. The people are NOT what Christ had in mind!

I asked a question that their "script" doesn't have an answer for, and they silenced me. Might as well have called me a heretic and burnt me alive to purify their community.

I've tried very hard to refuse the notion that education and religion are mutually exclusive, but the more I learn, the more I am turned off by religion. At this point I don't have to turn away from religion. Religion is turning away from me!

I was raised christian. The fear of God is threaded too tightly within the wravels of my mind. I'd say I was morbidly afraid for my own soul, but this fear goes way beyond mortal fears. I am eternally frightened for the future of my being. i have no support of any kind in this matter. i am alone, and God refuses to send me any aid.

I have only the inqusitive mind that God was so GRACIOUS to give me. I don't know how tostop asking questions, and i am unable to have faith without those questions answered. God infused me with the inability to believe in Him. I hate Him for that. He has cursed me.

My mother believes in predestination. She believes that some people are destined for hell. I'm afraid I'm one of them, and I have absolutely no choice in the matter...

God help me...

oh, wait, He's already decided my fate...

I'd cry if I had tears for crying...

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Guest Bradley

euthyphro

You seem to be out to prove people wrong in your above post and by your visits to other religion forums from what you say. What happens when you do prove them wrong and you have rewritten the bible and you have converted everybody to your beliefs. What then? You have a willingness to learn and find out things for youself. That can be good, but it might not be as important as people make out.

You do not have to accept your mother's beliefs, but you need to develop to gradually grow appart from your mother. That can be painful and scarry. One thing I have always taken from religion is the need to respect our parents. You do not have to agree with them or you do not even have like them, or even to see them, but it is essential that you respect them. Respect that they brought you into the world if nothing else. They brought you into the world and that is something you can't change.

Best wishes

Bradley

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Guest art.chick

Hi E,

It is pointless to argue with people of faith. Some are trained to debate these issues because they have been to seminary schools that prepare them to answer such questions, but most have not. The difference between faith and inquiry varies wildly. Some can entertain a lot of "holes" in the logic of their cosmology, and some simply do not look there. That is their business. If you want answers to such questions, you usually are not going to find them among believers. You have to ask the scholars.

IMO, that part of the Bible is very much colored by the views of the times in which it was written. Hint: God did not have a secretary observing this scenario and recording it, so it is likely that figurative cosmology of some believer finally recording in writing spoken word tales that had been circulating around campfires for centuries. It is my personal belief that Adam and Eve were not actual personalities like Moses or Jesus or St. Paul. I believe the whole Eden scenario is symbolic. I do not think you have to take all the parts of the Bible literally. I was taught that much of it is figurative, the way the parables are figurative.

The whole belief in pre-destination did not come about till what, the 1600s? There were a lot of social changes coming about then, and someone had to explain the differences between those who were pretty lucky in life (born into wealth) and those who were unlucky (born poor and desperate). So some theologians concluded that this was an outward sign of God's favor, a sign that God had "chosen" some and not others. It was more confortable to the large donors than the idea that the priviledged were simply taking advantage of their earthly power to dominate others in some very unBiblical ways. Ah, things would be so much simpler if someone had editted out that "camel in the eye of the needle" passage, huh? But if you feel that this teaching does not ring true for you, don't even consider it. No need to trouble yourself with a belief that does not seem right to you.

Now, about seeking affirmation for departing from such beliefs. Have you noticed how desperately some new converts try to sell others on their beliefs? It is often just a need to be echoed in others to affirm one's own belief. Non-believers or questioners can do the same - need lots of affirmation to support their belief or non-belief. Why? To make sure we are not going to H3ll? We are already IN H3ll when we make ourselves crazy with the details. It is fine to ask, but if you don't believe it, you don't believe it. The compulsive need to get others to feed your views with arguements or support just keeps your anxiety going. The idea of belief or non-belief is to find peace within oneself. If you cannot support the belief that God lies and misleads and that the devil tells the truth, then don't take that chapter as literal truth. Just accepting that this is the symbolism of a primative people and moving on may be your key to peace. For some, this is not a "lie" and it IS literal truth. If they are at peace with this, they have found their basis for conscious contact with God. So let them have that. But for you, perhaps the journey does not end with accepting the literalness of the Bible. You don't have to. Even many Christians do not.

So where does this put you on your journey? I would say just drop the need to resolve this question. There may be some old and wise Rabbis who can answer, but don't bother Fundies and Evangelicals about it. Most of the people in the congregations are not trained to argue that way, and you probably are just disturbing them as they try to solidify their own faith. Seek your contact with God where you CAN find affinity. Are you interested in staying within the Christian tradition, or are you considering other paths? There are many ways to God. Perhaps the slowest one of all is picking at a passage that you don't really believe.

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I'd like to change the name of this thread, because you guys are right. It has nothing to do with what's really bothering me.

To answer some of your questions I'll tell you briefly about the path that has gotten me here. I was a good Christian as a child, always had questions, always got the same ansers. You're right, it never rang true. When I went to community college I studied communication and a lot of philosophy (for fun). I got an AA in humanities, and another in communication. Then I went to University as a major in religious studies. I did take a lot of classes, asked a lot of questions, and the more I studied, the less I believed. I pretty much gave up and changed majors. I spent two quarters as a Geology student. Hated it. Now I'm at the tail end of my 5th major, Literature/Writing. I could have finished years ago... But that's beside the point.

The point is yes, I have been searching for some kind of affirmation. I haven't found any. I've tried other readings; Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam mostly. The eastern philosophies are the ones that ring truest. When I read the story of Siddhatta Gotama (Buddha), I felt like I was reading a story about myself, except he was able to succeed in a long journey which I have only just begun. I haven't studied Buddhism enough, and don't practice it enough to call myself a Buddhist, but I'm leaning that way. School and work make such studies difficult to find time for. But I am still plagued by the loss of my faith in Christianity. Once in a while I poke around, tryin to find someone with the answers I've been seeking.

I don't want the question that started this trend to gain so much importance to this issue. It is not really the issue. I fully accept that. It was merely a probe to test the waters with, before I even put my toe in. The response that it received has taught me a few things. Firstly that the waters are still very hot, and two; that it is a very dull instrament with which to conduct an inguiry. I have never believed that Genesis should be taken literally. That's not the issue. The issue is the expectation of the church for it's followers to accept SOME words as absolute, and SOME as merely symbolic. If Eden was an allegory, we have as much reason to believe that the crucifixion was as well. I know that with such resounding doubts I'd probably be better off dropping the whole thing. It would be the healthy choice. But I don't know how to escape the fear that I'm dead wrong, arrogant, and destined for a very unpleasant eternity.

Artchick, eloquent and insightful as always, you've made some really solid points. I realise that I AM desperate to hear my own convictions (though I hate to call them that) repeated to me. I feel more than a little ashamed of how juvenile I've been with this. It shows me that I've been dealing with this issue the same way since I was a child. I do the same thing, get the same results, and don't change my methods. The sign of a true amateur. I know that ideas like predestination and even even H$ll are the invention of modern man. Thanks Dante. (actually I'm a big fan of Dante, not because I'm preoccipied with h*ll, but because it's simply a great piece of poetry. I'm also in love with Milton's works.) But I don't know how to keep such ideas from creeping in. I've been traumatized by them.

From this thread and others, I've heard a lot of feedback about how aggressive my posturing is when I present ideas. I can probably thank my debate experience for some of that. But it's not somthing I'm new to hearing. I've simply refused to acknowledge it. I'm trying very hard to do so. I'm trying very hard to change. I don't know how though.

How do I let go of these old fears? How do I pull back the reigns of an aggressive behaviour that I can scarcely recognize?

As always, thank you all for your input. Please know how much I value it.

Edited by euthyphro
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Hi Euthypro-

I don't know how old you are, but I'm guessing early 20s?

A lot of what you are feeling is normal. A large part of our development from adolesence into adulthood is about learning to go from a viewpoint of external validation (as you so aptly described as childish) to developing an internal validation system. We all go through this phase--some in our teens, some in our twenties. You are not as unusual as you might feel right now in this struggle.

If we grow up in an environment where our ideas and opinions and feelings are not heard and celebrated, it's going to take us longer to move into a place where we can validate ourselves. This could be some of why you are still having trouble getting to that point. If you are used to having your ideas and feelings rejected, you tend to go one of two ways--yelling them in an effort to be heard, or hiding them. Sounds as though you have gone the route of yelling them, challenging people to prove to you they won't reject you or by your rejecting them before they can reject you.

Hav you ever thought about some therapy? Some work on communicating and on boundaries might prove very helpful for you to curb the aggressive communication style that you've developed and to be more comfortable within your own skin.

KA

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KA, I have been considering therapy. My college offers couseling services for free. Thats all i'd be able to afford anyway. But I am very hesitant. I have the phone number taped to my desk with the rest of my notes, but I've resisted calling all summer. I don't feel, to abuse the term, validated in seeing a therapist because there are so many ppl out there with much worse problems. A boy attempted suicide last quarter. What if he didn't get the help he needed because ppl with superficial problems like mine too up all the counselors time?

I am also reluctant because I've never had good experiences with therapy. When I was much younger, in 6th grade, my parents divorced and I was sent to counseling because at the time I was suicidally depressed. The therapist kept trying to force the idea that the divorce was the cause of my depression. I didn't agree, still don't. All that time, and my parents money was wasted on idle discussion about matters that didn't matter.

Do you know of any books that deal with this topic of aggressive communication?

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Guest Bradley

euthyphro

I understand your views on therapy. I had therapy a few years ago. I got it free on the NHS here in the UK. I had to wait 18 months for it and I was very disappointed with it. It was Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the therapist was very well quallied, but I felt that all it was the therapit telling me that my feelings and responses to a certain situation were not appropriate or that they were only feelings and the reality was different to what I was feeling. However, I thought that the situation was serious and that my response should not be belittled by someone who does not fully understand me.

I am not saying that therapy does not totally work. It obviously does in certain situations. I get the feeling that the private therapy is not as good as the NHS therapy or the free college therapy as they can only provide it to people in need. I get the impression that the private therapy is sometimes just self-indulgent feel-good stuff for people with money.

With regard to books on controlling agression? Again, I will be negative on this one. I have read a lot of self-help books and have come to the conclusion that 99% are useless. In fact I read somewhere that they should be called "help" books because what we are doing is asking for help from the author of a book. In other words you are asking a complete stranger for help. A person who is getting your $10 along with perhaps millions of others for writing something which sounds plausable. I found that I ended up asking strangers for help because I did not trust people I knew - mostly family memebrs. I went through a period in my life when I was lonely and anybody who who showed an interest in me, I would latch onto immediately. Often these people were the wrong people for me. They were attracted to my company for different reasons than I thought. Many were people who were bullies and saw in me a person they could bully. Some were gay, who were attracted to me in a sexual way, while I am hetrosexual, others were women who wanted to mother me.

I found that I really had to start giving a lot more of myself to people and demanding more from them at the same time. I needed to be a lot more choosy about with whom I became friends.

I am afraid I am a bit negative in my posts of late and this one is no different. I guess I am still searching for answers and I am finding it hard going as well.

Best wishes

Bradley

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How do I let go of these old fears? How do I pull back the reigns of an aggressive behaviour that I can scarcely recognize?

Great, that you are choosing to address your real issues! Not that I have an answer for you.... :)

As KA (I think it was) said, you are at a point of development and you are being proactive in learning how to validate yourself. It is a difficult process, and as hard as it is, I think you need to be proud of yourself for actually proceeding with it. So many people just deny their issues and avoid them for a lifetime. You are choosing the harder, but more rewarding, route, I think.

You are very intelligent and well-read. That often makes it harder to accept anything that smacks of requiring "faith." Don't despair! Keep seeking, and you will find the answers that bring you peace. You already know that there are an infinite number of beliefs as far as religion goes. All you can really do is keep seeking and find what is right for you.

Probably because of your past bad experience, you have a special problem with the more traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs. I'd suggest you just try to keep an open mind. You may not find answers to all of your questions, but you will find what works for you. That is what matters.

I'm pleased that you "tested the waters" here and feel comfortable to continue sharing with us. DF is very fortunate to have many open-minded, caring members. I think you will find some interesting discussions and hopefully support in your seeking, wherever it takes you.

I hope you were sincere about wanting to change the title of your topic. I am going to do so, and I will PM everyone who has been involved here with the new title. I will call it euthyphro's search. Hopefully that will better describe this thread.

Best wishes to you in your adventure!

Karen

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Euthypro-

I understand your hesitancy toward therapy.

But please believe that your pain is as valid as anyone else's. It's better to seek therapy now, before your depression worsens and ineffective coping habits become more ingrained than to wait. Think of it as treatment for any illness--early detection yields a better and more effective course of treatment.

Emergency cases, like someone who is in danger of harming themselves, will be taken quite seriously by the university and those people will receive care immediately. How do I know this? Because I was one of them when I was in college. ;) The college took me to a therapist in the community rather than on campus--paid for it as well.

I also understand being hesitant because of poor results in the past. When I was 13, my family was forced into therapy because my sister finally told a teacher about the abuse going on in our home. We were forced into family therapy. My parents lied through their teeth and it was clear that we were to lie as well or there would be even more abuse whan we returned home. Talk about disappointemt--a lifeline just out of reach. Not a great therapy experience.

I've gone to several different therapists over my lifetime, and some have been great, and some have been bad. Like any other profession, 50% of therapists graduated at the bottom of their class. ;) If you don't like the first therapist, try again. You are hiring them--the same way you'd hire a plumber or a car repair specialist. If you aren't getting what you want, move on to the next one.

I would also tell your therspist about your hesitation and your past experience. That should allow you to get these types of concerns resolved pretty quickly with the new therapist.

As for books--Codependent No More by Melodie Beatty is a wonderful place to start. You should be able to find it used on amazon for a very low price.

KA

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Bradley,

I am sorry that you had such a bad experience with therapy. I am a big fan of CBT, but it sounds as though your therapist failed to try to create trust between you both before diving right into the CBT.

CBT is very focused, usually time defined, and doesn't spend a lot of time delving into how you got these habits, it just works to change them. I liked CBT so much probably because I already had been to a few therapists, regurgitating my past pains, exploring how I got where I was. Knowing how I got where I was didn't give me tools to move forward however, so I was in the right mindset and point in therapy to jump into CBT when it was offered I guess. I may not have liked it either if it had been offered to me earlier in the process.

KA

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I just want to add my support to KS's words about therapy. I, too, had many traditional analysis-type therapists over the years. Some of them were a good fit for me, and some weren't. I always encourage folks to try one therapist - and give him or her a decent chance as you won't get to real work in just one session - but if it is not going well, try someone else. In my experience, about 1/2 of the therapists are adequate, maybe 1/4 were lousy, and 1/4 of the ones I've been to were excellent for me. Someone else might find a similar ratio, but may also find that it is completely different therapists who are best for them.

I also loved CBT, and will go back if and when I feel the need. But as KA said, I think I had reached the point where I was ready for that limited, forward focus. If I'd not already been through so much analysis of the past, I don't think I'd have benefitted from CBT.

Good luck to both of you, Bradley and euthyphro. Keep seeking help and trusting yourselves.

Karen (ados, currently on in admin capacity)

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Guest art.chick

I do not mind that you are in an exploratory phase of your journey. Sometimes a few questions start a conversation that takes some unexpected turns. Here is what I would suggest - there are some authors with strong theological backgrounds who are not trying to win anyone over to their belief system, mostly because they are enlightened beings who have no need to adhere to a denomination anymore: Alan Watts (former Episcopalian Priest), Matthew Fox (former Domincan Catholic Priest), and Ram Dass (was a Jewish professor at Harvard, did acid with Timothy Leary, and found himself exploring Hinduism). Watts does not teach practices, but compares cosmologies. You can get a feel from him whether a tradition addresses things in a way that is believable to you. Ram Dass presents items from a variety of traditions so you can see for yourself what the connections are. Matthew Fox is a joy to read - he has, thru the serious study of old-school Christianity, found common ground with a lot of other traditions.

You say you are mourning the loss of your solid ground. That is true of many of us who grew up Christian but have found ourselves on a journey that went off that path. We mourn the time when everything had a pat answer, when our concepts were comfortable. We miss thinking of God in a certain way and knowing that we were "saved." But whether you stay on the Christian path or shift to another teaching, eventually, you face the breakdown of your illusions, your notions of what heaven, and Christ, and the Divine are all about. That is a sign of growth. Just getting more and more confident in our own illusions about God is NOT spiritual growth. It is not necessarily "evil," but it does not allow us to be adults in our own souls. Matthew Fox was talking, in his book, "On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear," that he found that seminary school graduates at age 25 were spiritually on the same level as 11 year olds several decades ago. They had memorized more rules, knew more history and lore, but they had not evolved beyond their childhood images of what God was. The saints we all admire often had taken other steps to get to know God personally, and those steps are not usually available to the rank and file worshippers. So we have to seek them ourselves. For the Christian meditator, there is Fr. Basil Pennington and his meditation guides, such as "Daily We Touch Him." But you cannot find many churches where the sermon is supplanted by a fully instructed meditation session. Most people would not want it. But if you do, you must seek it out. In many ways, the old koans that tell about seekers wandering in the mountains seeking a master are still very true. We are on our own in finding masters.

I have heard the arguement before that if the Bible is just PART "true," (literally true), that this would invalidate it all. This is a very simplistic approach to interpretting sacred scripture. One must acknowledge that God did not hand a "Bible" down from Heaven one day. It is a collection of books that a council of Bishops agreed on in a council centuries ago. Then, in a further council, after the Protestant Reformation, some Catholic Bishops reconvened to add some books that had been omitted before. But the Bishops had always known that there were a lot more books that could also have been added but were not chosen. It is as if centuries from now, someone found one of those Readers Digest anthology volumes and said, "How can it be that one part rhymes, another is very airy and figurative, and another is very gritty and ******?" Well, there are different authors, spanning different times, slightly different cultures, and different skill levels of writing. Thomas Jefferson "editted" the New Testament to get rid of all that he suspected, based on lingual differences, had simply been added later by people trying to "tart up" the Bible. He came out with a nice but not very miraculous story. So the idea that the Bible has to be cohesive, uniform in tone, and all written in the same voice is contrary to reality. I say this with respect to those who have chosen as a basis of their faith to believe that God DID just hand a finished Book to his people. That is their choice to believe. I do not believe it, and appearantly, you don't either. I think that if you let go of the idea that either the whole Bible is literally true or it is all garbage, you can find some peace with the idea that God can exist without the Bible making "sense" all the time.

God has had many, many seekers looking for the REAL God. You are allowed to be on the path without having a definite idea of what God should be. He is bigger than our ability to encapsulte anyway. So you may as well be looking here and there, seeking information and inspiration. Some will be dead ends, but it is good to start a practice at some point soon anyway. You really can only gain so much from books. Then it is all about direct experience. That is the chasm you must leap - letting go of the intellect as your soul source of perception and surrender to the big infinite that seems to be empty for the moment. It is not.

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Guest I am Cat

As usual, AC says it well... as do many here.... I'm sure, as a literature major, you have read "The Praise of Folly" by Desidirius Erasmus. The last Chapter... The Christian Fool:

IV. The Christian Fool In the fourth and last chapter,
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Cat, thanks for the recommendation. I haven't read it, and I know you're right about it because I nearly laughed my drink out my nose when i read a few of the quotes you offered. it also reminded me of somthing that i used to say a lot:

first comes the bliss of ignorace, then the angst of wisdom, then the peace of elnightenment. once you've stepped beyond ignorance, you will forever be condemed to sorrow, until you someday achieve enlightenment, and find peace.

Artchick, you are a noble sage. I'm going to search out those authors you mentioned, and mention one of my own. Karen Armstrong. She has written sevrl books that i absolutle loved. The History of God, Holy War (about the cursades and their impact), and Buddha (a biography about Sadattha Gotoma [sp]). All three books are very deep in their analysis of historical infuences on religion. Her book about the Buddha is what turned me on to Buddhism, and I hear a lot of Buddha's teachings in your advise Artchick. He was all abut traveling the path to enlightenment. His journey was difficult, and he took many paths along the way. I cherish his story, and relate to it more than anything i've read in the bible. Can you suggest any further reading about Buddhism? I have also read "living Buddha, Living Christ" by Thich Nhat Hanh. It's a compelling comparison of their teachings.

as for the rest of the comments made, I would like to go on an comment upon them, I know I've been away from tis thread for a few days. I've been very busy, and am still digesting a lot of what you guys have said. I appreciate everything you've all offered. I'll make another post soon to fill you guys in on how I'm doing.

thanks again.

Euthyphro

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Guest art.chick

And, Cat, St. Francis was called "God's Fool." Wonderful points made therein, Cat-o-9. Thanks for that.

Karen Armstrong, eh? I will have to look her up. I like historical analysis very much. We tend to imagine that our standards of thinking, our presumptions are "normal" until we delve into how much things change over time, how much what we believe is influenced by our time. Perhaps that is why in faith, we have certain eternal truths, things that are supposed to stay standard over the ages.

If you know Thich Nat Hahn, you must also already know Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield, both American monastics of the Buddhist tradition. For me, the Vedanta is more my current path than Buddhism, per se, but I really value the simple and applicable thought of Buddhist teachers. Books have helped me a lot, but the practice is the heart of our conversion. The books help redirect thought from the non-constructive inner turmoil to productive inner peace. They pave the way for our growth in the practice. You will hear a lot of teachers advising NOT to get too into books, however. What are they talking about? Are they saying we are better off happy and ignorant? No. I do not believe that ignorant and innocent is a replacement for the hard dusty road to enlightenment. THat is not to say that I do not see the place for the natural-born "Fools" who make up an important part of the community by their steadfastness. It is their place in this life to focus their growth elsewhere, and perhaps in a future life, they will make the spiritual journey. That is between them and the Divine. E, this lifetime is YOUR garden of Eden - the crack in the wall shows, and now you cannot ignore it. YOu must walk thru it and find out what you are supposed to do next. Others are welcome to stay in Eden for now, but you no longer have the option. I believe it is a great cop-out when we see things that do not add up on our path to try too hard to ignore them and proceed as if we never noticed. Do that with your house, and a wall will collapse on ya!

What is meant is that books cannot "Do" enlightenment for us. We can change our perspective because of what we read, and most of us need a lot of change there. But only the practice, taking the teachings into the field and into meditation can bridge that gap for us. For the intellectually oriented, the books are an end in themselves. It is very very interesting to be on a strictly intellectual path, one where we get to keep learning new things about new teachers, new customs, new cosmologies. But when we find OUR path, we are best off following it to our enlightenment. When we become enlightened, it won't matter if we feel like visiting a Baptist church one weekend and a Wiccan festival the next, and doing a HIndu puja afterwards.

I was at a spiritual bookstore one night and a man new to the Vedanta was seeking restlessly the shelves of Hindu teachings. He asked me about my guru. I did not know how to answer some of his questions. So he moved on to a man from India. He had the spirit. He told us something very simple: "See this author? (Osho) He has dozens and dozens of books out. He is all in his head. He has all this time to write and lecture because he is all intellect. Now, look over here - (a swami I had never even heard of) he has only a few small books, a biography someone wrote on him, and a collection of his songs and poems. But if you read them, all are steeped in spirit. That is who I would follow." For some people, it is a very simple matter to find their teacher and their path. For others, it takes a lot of seeking. Certain things will ring true for you, E. And you will be drawn to those truths. Other things will seem roundabout, implausible, and even depressing. Hard to say what that will do to compell or repell you. Over time, you may practice a number of different things. Ram Dass says that is just fine because we are intended to explore and get to a next level thru this exploration. When we have done with the growth process with that teacher, we move on. No hard feelings. A real teacher knows that people come and go on their way somewhere else sometimes, and they want you to find your true guru. This is why I do not personally subscribe to the admonisions directed toward "smorgasbord Christianity," taking bits of what you like and leaving what you don't. Many people believe that you must take a teaching in its entirety or leave the whole thing. IMO, we have minds specifically so we CAN spit out what did not taste edible and take another helping of what was delightful and nourishing. If we must swallow the bitter, the spoiled, the P**kly, and the unpeeled just because it is on OUR table, and we cannot even have a look at what is on the Dim Sum cart rolling thru, why eat at this restaurant at all? If the idea of not being at a smorgasbord is to avoid "sin," I wonder how we are supposed to grow? If one is in a spiritual practice, the taste for excess, abuse, and carnality subsides naturally anyway, so you don't need to fret so much over the occasion of temptation.

Sure we have weakpoints, but Alan Watts once told a story about 2 monks who were supposed to attend a conference for their order, and on the way, they stopped at a brothel for a weekend. When they left, one monk wailed about what they had done. The other monk said, "what do you mean? WHat women? What brothel?" He had left the whole experience behind, while the other persisted in the torment. The story is not about excusing one's repeated mis-steps - it is about whether a person can leave their mistakes behind and move forward or if they indulge in such heavy guilt that they are spiritually paralyzed by the memories and shame. This is one of the things I love the most about my temple - we do not say, "I am a sinner." We say, "I am Divine, but I have been in delusion. I need to dig out of that." And we do, but not by guilting and accusing ourselves. God made this freakshow we call "earth," and he knows perfectly well that we are like children playing with toys. As we grow up, we realize that someone gave us the toys, and we become more interested in the giver than the gift. WHile we are children, we just play. I hope I am not boring you with my thoughts. Just felt like sharing them here.

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Not boring at all artchick! I reallly like reading what you have to say. I think i know what you mean about Buddhist teachers steering away from too much reliance on reading. There is a Buddhst story that I read in Armstrong's bio of Buddha. The Buddha told his apprentices not to blieve anything he said, and not to remember anything her said. He wanted to guide them on their own paths. He wanted to avoid dogmatic teachings. It was summed up very nicely with this: If you build a boat to cross a river, will you carry that boat across the land as well? The point being that the lessons are meant only to get us across the river, from there those teachings are useless in that form.

I now i'm doing a very poor job of paraphrasing. She said it much more eloquently. But you get the idea.

I am very intellectually motivated though, and readings do help me a lot. especialy when i'm new to something, it's how i get my bearings before setting off.

I think you'll really like Armstrong. She was a Catholic nun who realized one day that her devotion just wasn't getting the job done. She threw off her robes, and went to school. She has since become a very talented scholor of religious history, and teaches at a Jewish school. Her analysis is always framed by historical context. And her she offers a lot of insight. It takes a while to get through ne of her boks, but you'll come away from them with your eyes opened a little wider. She also wrote a book about her spiritual journey, that i hear is very good. I've not read it though.

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Armstrong sounds like my kinda gal. Funny how our paths all have their own meandering trajectory. She left the monastery, and Dr. Edith Stein, a Jewish philosophy professor, went into the convent to become St. Theresa Benedicta. The story you relayed makes sense this way - we start in out boats, and when we reach the shore, we leave them at the waterline. So we don't have to be in the same conveyance for life. Growth to me may mean leaving a New Age community to join a very traditional monastic order. To you, it may mean leaving a sedate Protestant community and embracing Sufism. That is why the Buddha did not want his students to take on his teachings as rigidity. So many religions codify things in a way that actually prevents people from seeking by their hearts. At the temple, a monk told a story of God and Satan walking together when God spied an object on the ground and picked it up. "What is that?" The devil asked. God said, "Don't you know? It is faith." The devil grabbed it and said, "Oh, let me organize it for you." I am not saying that a template is a bad idea. I really believe that children are better off being raised in a religion than not. They have some starting point, and may stay right where they are. But even if they totally change their beliefs, they have some grounding in what has been done to find God.

What bothers me is how stiffly we are corralled into a system. Looking at the Rule of many Catholic religious orders, you find some true gems - ways to organize the day to leave the mind and heart free from making big choices about when and where and what to eat, ideals to live by, ways to resolve conflicts in the community, priciples governing the common good, the chain of command, etc. But then you find patently silly stuff about dress and hygiene and what materials one can be exposed to. This is how you used to find nuns in Denver going barefoot in the dead of winter; nuns in Hawaii sweltering under layers of wool. The Rules had been written in specific countries (Italy, Spain, Germany, or France), and imported to places very different. We see a lot of the same in other faiths - suspicion of any custom, music, or symbology from another religion. Indeed, Orthodoxy stops being Orthodoxy if it coopts too many outside influences, and there is some benefit to preserving Orthodoxy for the world. But the admonition that you are going to be punished for finding a way to access the Divine that is not prescribed by that organization is, to me, unfair. What I loved in the most recent of Basil Pennington's books is his growing respect for a swami in India who he was studying with. Pennington is a Trappist who lives at Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky. He heard the devotees calling this swami "Guru Dev," which means, "Beloved Teacher," and is a term of personal endearment. YOu would not call someone else's teacher, "Guru Dev" most likely. But Pennington calls him that. I am not sure if that is because he DOES consider himself to be a student of the Swami and has crossed over from factionalism to accepting the unity of all Faithful, or because he just thinks it is a nickname that anyone would call this guy. Either way, it charmed me.

It is suspected by those who follow the Bible and the Gitas that Jesus, the Christ was teaching meditation to the close disciples like an Eastern Guru, that He was an avatar like Babaji and Krishna, but that the teachings for those closest to him were not written down, as they are meant to be taught verbally to those who come closest and are the most committed. Those who believe thusly think that the New Testament writings are kind of a recollection of a diary of what happened, but what REALLY happened was that, at the Pentacost, the meditation students were given the "touch" of the guru that led them to instant enlightenment, and that is how they could suddenly remember languages from past lives and perform miracles themselves. So where are those teachings now? Did anyone keep that tradition going? Or was the diary kept and the real teachings lost on the way to Emperial Christianity? In some Melchite hermitage in the remote reaches of the Middle East, is someone today receiving the touch that Jesus has passed from one student to another for generations? Is there an unbroken lineage of Christian gurus that trace their source right back to Jesus? Or does that not even matter now, as there were clearly a lot of saints who, perhaps spontaneously, perhaps due to past life events, became conscious? What was lacking was a methodology for the common man. That is what Pennington is trying to provide for all who seek, so that Christians can stay in their churches and still find God the way that the desert masters supposedly did.

I am going a bit afield of the topic of Religion's role in depression, E, but I want to affirm you in the vastness of what is out there for our taking. There is no need to debate people who have made up their minds. They have found their place on the path, and why knock them off of it? It is like a vine with fruit for all, and if someone is happily munching on their grapes, why interrupt and say, "but look, aren't those dates over there? Should we perhaps go have some of those?" Let them enjoy the delicious grapes. NOW - if they want to force grape jelly down our throats, that is another matter, but nevermind that.

If your intellect takes the lead, then let it, but remind it to step aside when the emotions and the spirit show up to do their part. In faith, we take a lot of steps that we did not expect to take, find things that contradict our prior assumptions, and humble us absolutely. But nobody regrets taking the journey. I have yet to read the writings of the saints in which they say, "when all is said and done, I probably should have gotten a job at a bank."

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Thanks for sharing the story about if you built a boat to cross a river, would you then carry it over land. I liked that. I've been reading some similar ideas lately, from J. Krishnamurti. I keep coming back to his books. I would like to share some of his ideas. I'm curious what you think.

He says there is an eternal, living reality, call it what you choose, but it cannot be described, or measured by words. It has to be experienced. I seek to know about this, but in all honesty I seek it as a means of escape from my depression. Therefore, my conception is natually unreal, as it must conform to my prejudices. Whatever is preconcieved by my mind, limited by my biases, must essentially be false (don't be afraid to tell us what you think, he he).

When there is fear in my heart I will find the exploiter who gives me what I demand. When I am uncertain within myself, I will establish someone who will make things certain for me, and I will call him my teacher. I will naturally choose things that give me satisfaction, whether it be true or false, and so I am exploited through my own craving born of fear (i knew I was being expoited I just didn't know who was doing it).

Truth cannot be found through a system, through a guide. Religion cannot show the path to truth because truth, or God, or life, whatever name you give it, can be realized only through individual awareness.

These ideas rocked my world, in a good way, when I first was introduced to them. I'm from a background of the Dutch Christian Reformed church, where there is only one way and we should all live in fear of the large arm reaching down, or maybe we've already been condemned because we might not be one of the chosen (it's all predetermined anyway don't you know). It's refreshing to me to read I am the source of truth. I must decide and even more, experience, what I believe.

I was taught we are all created evil, (if only Adam had fasted) and it is only through a life of right action we may eventually know salvation. They gave me the ten commandments but they didn't tell my why I should follow them, other than it is the correct way. That's like asking a question and getting a response of what the policy is. I feel no connection, no power from the idea of following. What if I choose to think for myself, am I then going away from truth? What value is obtained by blindly following another? Maybe stability, tradition, culture, are maintained. But we humans, given teh thousands of years and countless generations we have been on this spaceship have not figured out how to be kind to each other. I'm curious what church is like today. It's been over 20 years since I've been a member of a congregation.

In contrast to the idea of the original sin I choose to believe I have all the capacities of a Buddha and we all share a similar essence, which is love. I wish there was a way, a method, a path, to change the way I think and feel. I've been trying to do just that. Ironically, I have found for myself, when I resist my feelings, when I supress my nature, I tend to stay right where I am, confused and uncertain. Power, clarity even, seems to come from relinquishing my sense of power. That's curious to me and I do not understand, but it is what I have experienced.

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while reading through the recent responses i was reminded of a few more ideas that have highly influenced my life, and my thinking. the first that came to mind is the idea that God is just another word for truth.

here are a few more ideas that i enjoy:

imagery of reincarnation: the turmoil of our lives is like the flame of a candle. when we die, that candle is held aloft, and if that flame still burns, it will light another candle. our goal should be to put out that flame, so that when we die, no more candles are lit.

Buddha's accent: when Saddarttha Gotoma became the Buddha, having reached enightenment, he could have entered Nirvana. His flame could have gone out, and he could have achieved absolute peace, and escape from the urmoils of earthly life. but he did not proceed. instead, having achieved full enlightenment he was struck with compassion. having found the path, he realized that he should not continue alone. his enlightenment showed him the truest form of compassion. he turned away from Nirvana so that he could show others the path.

that idea continues to strike me down with humility. i am in awe of it. it ties so well with the lesson of christ's life as well. compassion demanded that he open the way for others to enter heaven. that is the lesson we must remember. no matter how far we go in life, we must always be active in helping along those who follow. in this way, we carry eachother out of life's despair. that strikes a cord with the function of this forum as well. We are here to help eachother, to share our individual experiences, and to grow from that sharing.

here is another concept i've always enjoyed: there are 7 billion people in this world; therefore there are 7 bilion different worlds. or put another way: the truth is the sun. we all look from a different vantage point, but none of us can look directly at it. only through our cooperation can we even begin to envision it.

What you mentioned DD about a 'living reality' is what i beleive everyone experiences, but attribute to varied ideas. I can't agree more with the idea that "God" is just another word for truth, or for anything that we are aware of but cannot understand. when i go hiking i get a sense of the divine within everything. early forms of religion, called animism, are in reference to this same thing. we FEEL the presence of God, or turht, or wisdom. it is all the same thing we're tapping into. sometimes we get ahold of a strong curent, other times it is difficult to detect. but we all seek it out in our own ways. take a look at my blog entry: treatise on religion.

Edited by euthyphro
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I very much agree that God is alive, conscious, can feel and think. I also sense the Divine energy in living things, in natural places. To me, calling God "Truth" is fine for those who do not find my concept plausible, but it does not ring true for me.

What you are talking about with the Buddha agreeing to come back although he had no karma left to work off is typical of Avatars. Avatars take on earthly bodies to help others even though their journey has already taken them to Nirvana, a state of being the pure flame, without form. If my guru's concept of Jesus is correct, then Jesus is an avatar who was done with his earthly trials, AKA, had no "sin," and just wanted to, because of his fully realized Divinity, reach out to souls still groping in the dark. To some, this idea makes Jesus less special and unique, but to me, it increases the hope that, as Dawg says, we all have the Buddha potential within us.

It is good to hear you, E, sounding focused and positive. I hope that you are now starting to move beyond the roadblocks that were keeping you in suffering where belief was concerned. It is so much better to follow one's inner compass (IMO) than stress out because one cannot force the self to accept teachings that do not ring true. For some, the teachings you first mentioned are just fine. To them, it would be a struggle to have to reason thru what we are discussing now. That is why it is important for everyone to be free to follow their own path. OTherwise, we get so bogged down in details that we never grow spiritually at all.

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I'd be fascinated art.chick, if it's not invasive of me to ask, for you to outline what your spiritual beliefs are. Don't worry, I'm not looking for a source of emulation. I really enjoy the input you've offered to this discussion and would like to know something of the source of your insights. That goes for everyone else too. Since we are all on our own unique paths, it would be fun to hear the steps you've all taken. From what I've heard from you guys, I know there won't be any judgemental hangups.

As far as the personification of God goes, I do miss being able to envision a consciousness not unlik our own. But it seems to be the source of al the problems in religion. That's blasphemous, I know, but I can no longer think of God as a he or she. Nor an it for that matter. That's the beauty of God. God is ineffabilty. God is by the nature of divinity beyond our comprehension. That idea is comforting to me, for reasons I do not yet understand. In my blog I gave a very obscure outline of how I've come to terms with such an disembodiment of God. The fact that God represents all that we do not yet understand, couple with the fact that as humanity has grown, God has grown more obscure, opens a path to al of us to achieve unity with God. To some, that's blasphemous as well. But It fills me with hope. I'm not saying I expect to become a God. Without the personification of God, unity with God is not what it sounds like. It is synonymous with Nirvana. With that ultimate enlightenment. It is the goal we all seek. This makes possible the codevelopment of figures, or Avatars as artchick describes them, like Jesus and Buddha. These are people who found a shortcut, and having learned the Truth, understood that they still had work to do, which was turn around and help the rest of us along the. Since then people have tried to synthesize that information in easily communiaple ways. The results are great for some, troublesome for other. I agree that personification of God allows many to find their way to Him, and I'm truly happy for them. For me it is debilitating. I'm envious of those for whom the beaten path is still an option. I've simply beun to steer myself off that path, and am searching the wide country for a new path, looking for a path that work for me. Along the way I'm taking notes though. I'm learning from others. You can't simply climb a mountain, you ave to have some kind of methodology in your approach. I want to adopt the tecniques that others have used to aid me in my ascent, and maybe come up with a few maneuvers of my own.

I want to leave off with a return to our common appreciation for the divine in nature. I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did when I first read it. It's an exerpt from the writings of John Muir:

"A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fibre thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temple, and the more they are cut down and hewn into churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord."

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