Showing posts from November, 2009

Constantine's Sword

Wow, what a book! I didn’t fully appreciate how pernicious is the only-through-Jesus stance that I critique in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky , until I read Contantine’s Sword . To everyone interested in my writings I enthusiastically recommend this book by James Carroll. I expected to pass on its revelations of the Catholic Church’s war against Jews. But it gets closer to my themes than that. James Carroll brings us the entire history of Catholics degrading Jews by articulating a theology of the cross that blamed Jews for killing God. The Church herded Jews into ghettoes, stole their children to baptize them, ruthlessly restricted Jewish mobility and commerce, nearly forced them to become moneylenders and then despised them for usury. Carroll shows us canonized saints and revered scholars spewing anti-Semitic venom, with the ever-present undercurrent of conversion to Jesus as the only option for any life. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, Jesus “is the absolutely necessary way of salv


The name Spinoza kept coming up in my readings and I love philosophy, so when James Carroll devoted a chapter to him in Constantine’s Sword , I paid attention. I'm surprised by the similarity between his ideas and trends in spiritual thinking today. Baruch or Benedict Spinoza was Jewish by birth but branded an atheist, anti-religionist, materialist, and pantheist. He was banned and banished, investigated by the Spanish Inquisition, and excommunicated by an Amsterdam synagogue. He endured abuse from the other side too, as his Jewishness was targeted by non-Jews, a common sport during his lifetime (1632-1677). He was actually intensely aware of God, a saintly man of whom someone wrote, “one of the most exemplary human beings ever to have lived." He continues to influence discourse about spiritual matters. Spinoza (1632-1677) synthesized science with the philosophies and corrected Cartesian dualism. René Descartes (1596-1650) was the first to clearly identify the mind with co

Trinity by Ken Wilber

Many Christian philosophers, even non-Christians like the Buddhist Thich Nhât Hanh, have described the Trinity. In EnlighenNext (September/November 2009), a magazine for evolutionaries, I read an articulation of Trinity—although he doesn’t call it that—by the contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber that appeals to me. Here’s how Wilber with EnlightenNext editor Andrew Cohen describes three faces of God that easily harmonize with Christian language. 1st person—I. “First-person Spirit is the great I AM, the pure radical subjectivity or witness in every sentient being.” If you have used Buddhist prompts to meditate, this dimension of Spirit may be familiar to you. As I interpret Wilber’s description, it’s found in the deepest part of our selves, the Higher Self, the Christ. 2nd person—You. “Spirit in second person is the great Thou,” something immeasurably greater than we can possibly imagine, something before which surrender and devotion and submission and gratitude are the only appropriat

Not religious but spiritual

Tom Shepherd writes an excellent column, “That’s a Good Question,” for Unity magazine, which fosters “practical spirituality for daily living.” In the November/December issue, he comments that those who claim to be “spiritual, not religious” disparage organizations dedicated to the Divine. Good point. But I find the distinction “spiritual, not religious” useful for communicating with persons turned off by religion, atheists, for instance, and some agnostics. To my observation, they can be intensely spiritual but hate religion, seeing nothing good in it and resisting evidence of any good done by it. Atheists are driven by spiritual conviction. Because of it, they are disgusted by religious corruption and aggression, but they deny that they have spiritual beliefs because they conflate them with religious beliefs. Religions are types or brands of spirituality, in Shepherd’s words, “a trail of settlements along the path to support” our spiritual journey, but I see that atheists practice s

Food, shamans, atheists, lesbians

I’m still coming down from this past weekend when I gave two presentations and heard three others. Since 1992 I have not missed the annual Women & Spirituality Conference in Mankato, MN, always a source of sustaining inspiration, and this year was one of the best. Where to start? The keynoter was Vandana Shiva , a scientist and, in my view, one of the most admirable persons in the world. The outrage of seed patents—the pretense that corporations create seeds—turned her from nuclear science to food activism. She analyzes the pathology of the Western mindset that thinks conquest of the earth is a good thing, that nature exists only to serve “man,” that animals are only factories to produce goods, that artificial is better than natural, that Monsanto’s genetically altered seeds deserve priority over centuries of indigenous expertise, which had produced drought-resistant, flood-resistant, and pest-resistant seeds. She made us aware of the insanity of industrial agriculture with its rel