Proverbs That Last Forever


“However, a much older Near Eastern origin is suggested by a near equivalent in the 6th century BC Proverbs of Ahiqar: ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying’.”

I love finding proverbs that have somehow survived 25 centuries of linguistic translations and societal changes. Such proverbs are almost certainly somewhat accurate (in the right context), because the only way people would keep saying them for 2,500 years is if they feel like they have a decent reason to do so, themselves, and to teach their children to say them, too.

Interestingly, it’s possible that personal adherence to old texts of philosophy, poetry, mythology, scripture, and fable–stems from the same phenomena; and that, therefore, religion, philosophy, ethics, and more are a result of old thoughts being consistently seen as worthwhile enough to repeat and teach future generations to repeat.
The historic use of force to enforce adherence to ideas skews this effect, somewhat. This includes classic examples of European churches imposing laws and punishments, as well as popular non-religious philosophies making law with legislation and court cases (incl. case law), and punishing those who violate those laws. It can’t really be argued that the modern law and punishment is as brutal or authoritarian as ancient law and punishment; but when an armed person can come to your home and put you in shackles (handcuffs) for not obeying, one can neither argue that this isn’t the use of force. Sure, the methods are different, but disobeying gets you punished.
How do we decide whether and when old ideas are more/less valuable to us than new ideas? How effective have those uses of force been in making a given idea persist? Does an idea that has been appreciated (even/especially out of pure expediency) for 2.5 millennia have more (objective) believability than an idea that’s been around for 50 years? Each person chooses how to weigh these and other factors to create a personal philosophy. Then, they explain their philosophies to their children using proverbs.

The Universal Tongue


This is an essay I wrote for an English class in college (around 2001).  It pertains to the book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” which is a gripping true story about an American Hmong family and their epileptic daughter, Lia, and their struggles to define what “good care” is, and the cultural clash that ensued with non-Hmong Americans who wanted to help.  Per my then-professor’s requirement, the thesis or “claim” of the essay is highlighted in yellow.  (Please forgive the bad formatting; copy/paste doesn’t work very well from LibreOffice to WordPress, and I may or may not get around to cleaning it up.)

 

The Universal Tongue

By Dane Mutters

(The claim is highlighted on page three.)

‘“…And what absolutely blew me away was I, well, I was afraid they were going to blame me for what happened, but the mother showed me compassion. She understood—somehow she got the—she, well”—Neil was scrabbling uncomfortably for words, but he was determined to forge ahead—“well, I think part of it was that I was crying. What she did was, she thanked me. She hugged me. And I hugged her.”’

—Excerpt from The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Fadiman 213)

In a heroic breach of cultural barriers, Neil Ernst and Foua Lee, longtime adversaries concerning Lia’s medical treatment, suddenly connected emotionally to such an extent that the Lee family exempted Neil and Peggy from the category of “bad American doctors,” and began to see them for what they always were—(unsuccessful) proponents of Lia’s well-being. Why not before now, or even the first time that Lia was successfully treated for acute status epilepticus? The prolonged agony of dissent among the doctors and family of the patient seems, in retrospect, unnecessary. Although the Lees did not understand the methods of treatment, they should have at least realized that the doctors meant to help Lia, and would thus not lie to them, or knowingly overmedicate her. Likewise, why had it taken the doctors at the Merced Community Medical Clinic so long to start seeing their troubled Hmong patient as more than a severe annoyance, but rather as a sick child?

The ever-present struggle between the doctors and the Hmong family was a manifestation of the power differential between the Hmong and the American doctors. In the minds of the Hmong, to learn the basic principles of American medicine, and to do explicitly anything the doctors told them to do, was a way of yielding to a higher power, and thus partially assimilating into the American status quo—something, the essence of which, the Hmong have resisted for hundreds, even thousands of years, under much more invasive governments and cultures than our own. In this society, however, the Hmong were irreparably immersed. Any animosities that may have existed solely on the basis of having somebody else tell them what to do were heightened due to their inability to escape American law and customs for fear of having to deal with a justice system that they didn’t understand, and thus infused into their relationship with the doctors at MCMC a feeling of having been conquered, and with that, a feeling of deep resentment.

Therefore, how could one expect the Hmong to sympathize with the doctors’ efforts to cure Lia’s illness, even at great expense and personal sacrifice? Under such a pretense of hatred, one would be rather inclined towards a disposition of obstinance. This disposition proved rather difficult to deal with from the doctors’ perspectives, even to the extent of warranting the apprehension of Lia so that she could be placed with a more “compliant” family. From the perspective of the Hmong, who value their children above all else, this appeared to be an act of hostility and a demonstration of power, and thus perpetuated feelings of animosity. With such a powerful cycle in place, how did the Lees eventually come to feel compassion for Neil and Peggy Ernst—the very doctors who had their child taken from them?

When Neil’s nearly statuesque composure dissolved under streams of tears, he demonstrated that he did not possess the heartless objectivism of other American authority figures. By bearing his feelings to Foua Lee, he was able to communicate in the universal human language of love, allowing her to understand that he too felt compassion for Lia in a way similar to that of her own parents. In this manner, when feelings of love are put into plain view, one can cross even the densest cultural barriers and allow each participant to ascend into understanding.

Rooted in every human being from the time of birth is the innate notion of giving and receiving love. Babies love their mothers as their mothers love them. Even Lia Lee, in a near-comatose state, was able to recognize her mother’s touch (Fadiman 211). Love is the means by which we are able to accomplish great things as a civilization; it encompasses the desire to help one’s fellow human beings by being the best one can be; it allows people to reach past first impressions in order to achieve a common goal. Furthermore, love is the platform on which equality stands.

In her essay, “Love as a Practice of Freedom,” Bell Hooks states, “A culture of domination is a culture of anti-love” (Hooks 246). She goes on to focus on the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., saying that he “decided to love.” In that manner, King expressed that in order to live as equals, people must love one another. Otherwise, the sense of animosity which stems from not loving and not being loved will manifest itself in the form of social hierarchies, in which those with wealth and influence do not feel obligated to share their good fortune with those who are less fortunate. Also contained in King’s statement is the premise that love has a way of being reciprocated; otherwise, loving one’s oppressor would serve no purpose.

Indeed, this principle, as demonstrated to be successful during the non-violent movements of both King and Gandhi, is a corner stone of the Christian faith:

“…every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them.” (Mosiah 23: 15)

However, since in Hmong folk lore (and in their religion) most of the great antagonists are evil spirits, bent on eating people and drinking their blood, many Hmong heroes, such as Shee Yee gained their fame through thinking up cunning ways of killing or otherwise defeating their adversaries, thus perpetuating the characteristically Hmong ethic of resisting coersion from powerful people or beings (Johnson 26). That adds to the above stated predisposition for obstinance that serves to separate the Hmong-Americans from other Americans. These premonitions served to practically vaccinate the first-generation Hmong-Americans from full cultural integration. Additionally, because part of cultural integration involves learning the language, the Hmong tended to be rather “difficult” during negotiations with the MCMC medical staff.

Even though the Hmong were fairly strictly against being colonized, they were able to befriend Lia’s American foster-parents, Dee and Tom Korda, on the grounds that they were taking good care of Lia. Why then, did they not initially feel moved to befriend the doctors at MCMC?

Primarily, this was because they didn’t believe that what the doctors were doing was helping Lia. Hmong parents hold fast to the belief that if a child is sickly, it is because they were not given proper care in their previous life. Therefore, in order to remedy the child’s spiritual afflictions (quag dab peg, literally, “the spirit catches you and you fall down,” is believed to be a matter of losing one’s soul), it was necessary to treat the child with special care, even to the extent of partialism over the other children in the family (Fadiman 20). The doctors at MCMC, however saw Lia’s afflictions as purely a physical matter, and thus did everything in their power to keep her physical body from damaging itself further. This included tying her to her bed, sticking foreign objects down her throat and prodding her with needles in order to systematically extract her bodily fluids. The Lees recognized these actions as things which are likely to scare away her soul by making her unhappy. The Lees responded in the only way they knew how—to cease all things which made Lia unhappy (Fadiman 180).

Such is the purest form of love, the desire to make someone happy. Regardless of whether a person refers to it as “treating the patient,” “calling her soul” or simply “good parenting,” it is that desire which expresses a person’s need to love and be loved. Although the Lees did not understand Lia’s course of medical treatment, they eventually came to realize that the doctors had much the same intentions as them. Such realization came quicker in the case of the Kordas, because the Kordas’ method of giving love was much more similar to their own.

A second form of love is service. Of the countless visits to MCMC that the Lees made over the period of Lia’s childhood, not once were they required to pay for treatment or negotiate with insurance companies to that effect. Neil Ernst once calculated Lia’s cost of medical care at a staggering sum of $250,000, not including the salaries of the medical staff (Fadiman 254). Additionally, both Neil and Peggy could recall countless nights when they had to stumble out of bed and rush over to the clinic in order to insert an IV into one of Lia’s impenetrable veins and negotiate a course of treatment with her obstinate parents. Yet for all of this, they expected nothing. Their primary goal in these valiant efforts was not money or thanks, but rather a sense of satisfaction gained from helping a troubled Hmong girl. In serving the Lees at great cost and personal sacrifice, the doctors at MCMC showed that without knowing the Lees, or even being able to talk to them, they were willing to display unconditional love. Yet that love was not immediately returned.

At the time of service, the Lees did not understand the doctors’ pure intentions, but instead assumed that their willingness to “help” stemmed from their desire to continue medical research, using Lia as a test subject. In that context, it’s no wonder that the Lees felt apprehensive about the treatment, even to the extent of discontinuing it on multiple occasions. They could not, under the circumstances, fathom the idea that in such a money- and power-driven society ruled by the white upper class, somebody would want to help a family of poor Hmong refugees who neither knew the language nor wanted to take part in mainstream American culture. Therefore, it was not until Neil put his love into a language they could understand that they recognized the doctors’ goodwill towards Lia.

Throughout Hmong history, they have been persecuted for their differences and individualism to the extent that those which would have them integrate into their own culture have only caused them to seclude themselves further, out of fear and resentment; thus, in no way could the oppressors have won the confidence of the Hmong. In fact, the greater the power differential and the oppressors’ desire to use it, the more obstinate the Hmong have become in their policies towards that group. At MCMC, however, the pressure to integrate was accompanied by good intentions and selfless service, allowing for the chance that the Hmong patients would see the doctors’ perspective and thereby develop at least a small degree of trust and confidence in that group. However the desire to do good was not enough. The doctors had to put it into a form that the Hmong could understand—the almost parental love that Neil and Peggy felt toward Lia. Once these feelings of love were out in the open, each side was free to cross the cultural barrier and embrace one another as mentors and benefactors of Lia Lee.

Could the same have been accomplished without love? Possibly. A good translator who was affluent enough with Hmong culture may have been able to explain the doctors’ wishes to Foua and Nao Kao, but without Neil’s display of pure emotions, this understanding would have been purely objective, even to the extent that the Lees may have continued to suspect that the doctors were testing new methods of medicine on Lia. In light of this alternative, I stay my claim that only when feelings of love are put into plain view, can people step across cultural barriers and gain a complete understanding of each other’s motives and intentions. One can thus only hope that people are able to step outside of their comfort zones and communicate in a language that everybody can understand, thus breaking down the barriers of hatred, prejudice and cultural misunderstanding, and thereby finding common ground between them on the basic platform that is humanity.

Works Cited

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York: Noonday, 1997.

Hooks, Bell. Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.

The Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.

Johnson, Charles. Dab Neeg Hmoob. St. Paul: Linguistics Dept., Macalester College, 1985.

The Parable of the Circular Track


Imagine that life is lived upon a circular track.  It’s not a race, of course, but rather, an event wherein every participant uses this opportunity to better themselves.  Here, we seek to become more physically and mentally fit.  We seek to improve our running, jogging, and walking techniques, and to learn proper pacing.  The more we learn, and the harder we work at it, the faster and more steadily we are able to proceed around the track.  Eventually, we decide we’ve had enough, and walk off, hopefully better than we were when we stepped on.

There’s a huge throng of people on this track–everyone who’s alive right now.  It’s crowded, and we often bump into each other, sometimes becoming annoyed or aggravated.  Still, we do our best to see what’s ahead, and to respect and travel peaceably with those around us.  Some people on the track have gotten into better shape than others.  Some have learned pacing better than others.  The most sought-after teachers are those who have learned how to better themselves and those around them at a great rate.

The Runner In Front

About 50 feet ahead of you is a runner who’s moving a bit faster than you are.  He appears to be confident and in decent shape.  Naturally, you assume that this person would be good to learn from, so you shout ahead, “Please share your understanding with me, so I can go faster, too!”

The runner glances back, and, seeing that you’re moving slower than he is, begins to tell you everything he’s learned, since–obviously–he must have some insights that you haven’t gathered, yet.

The Runner Behind

About 50 feet behind you is a runner who’s moving at about the same pace as you.  She’s in decent shape, but seems to have little or no interest in going faster.  Consequently, you shout back to her, “Let me show you how you can go faster!”

Assuming that, because you’re in front, you must be more skilled than her, she accepts your offer and tentatively begins trying to emulate you.

Teacher vs. Student

The reality is, however, that the person in front of you is actually almost an entire track-length behind you; and the person behind you is almost an entire track length ahead of you!

The person in front has no grasp of pacing, and keeps urging you to run faster; and the only reason you can see him is because he keeps trying to run faster than he has strength, and has repeatedly fallen down due to exhaustion.  At the moment you see him, he’s desperately trying to catch up, again, still confident that if he only runs fast enough, he’ll be able to re-join his friends.

The person behind you has no immediate interest in running faster because she’s found her rhythm: by running just a hair’s breadth faster than you are–imperceptible to the untrained eye–she’s able to consistently out-pace everybody else on the track.  She doesn’t care who’s going faster or slower, but is still keenly interested in improving herself, and is willing to take advice from anyone who gives it, in hopes of learning something new.

So, whose lesson do you really want to learn?  Chances are, you can learn valuable lessons from both people, but you’ll only be able to run alongside one of them for any noteworthy distance, before the other vanishes from sight.

The Lesson This Track Teaches

Sometimes, we latch onto the teachings of those who appear to be more wise than we are, because we desperately want to speed ahead and improve ourselves as fast as we possibly can.  In doing so, we primarily rely upon our perceptions of social currency, and trust that whomever has the most (according to what we presently value) must be the person(s) most fit to teach us.  We look to gurus, priests, PhDs, celebrities, popular friends, and others, and do everything in our power to emulate them.  Simultaneously, we dismiss or seek to teach–but not learn from–those who, by our current standards of perceived social currency, seem to have nothing to teach us.  Only after we’ve spent years, or even a lifetime following those who are more clueless than we are, do we sometimes come to realize that we’ve been valuing the wrong things.

So, here’s the lesson:

Sometimes, the person who’s the least attractive to our current sensibilities is the person most fit to teach us the things we desperately want or need to know.

Eternal Truths: Q and A


Foreword:

After being prompted repeatedly (in the spiritual sense) to use my gifts more to help others, I’ve made the offer, below, to several groups on Facebook.  I’m aware that to some, it will sound presumptuous or outright looney.  I hope that those people will either withhold judgment until after praying and meditating on this content; or if not, refrain from commenting.  This post will be updated as questions come in.

The Offer:

I’m about to make a very strange offer. Those of you who know me well probably suspect that I get a lot of curious information from “above.” I’ve recently gotten a strong, “kick in the pants” prompting, so here goes…

My offer is this: if there’s any one thing that you want to know about the nature of reality, the universe, God, etc., ask me, and I’ll tell you. If you don’t believe my offer is genuine, or that I can fulfill it, please pray about it. (In fact, please pray about it, in any case! If you do decide to ask me a question, it’s best to ask one that will actually help you…) This question should not pertain to another person (i.e. please tell me a secret about so-and-so); the offer is for eternal truths, only.

One per person, please (since the answers might take a while to explain). Private messages are welcome.

Questions and Answers

Q: Is murder forgivable? What is the eternal destiny of murderers? Where will they go?

A: Yes and no.  First, we need to define murder.  For the purpose of this question, I believe this definition will suffice:

“The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.”

So, this rules out killings in self-defense, and all other killings that have been deemed acceptable by the laws governing a given individual or society.  Why do mortal laws matter?  The short answer is that all people will be judged according to the laws with which they are familiar and understand to be true/valid.  This applies to both mortal and spiritual laws.  Naturally, this gets into the “sticky” topic of moral relativism, which can, itself be broken down into roughly two categories:
1) The sense of morality or ethics that a person has inside, as influenced (but not necessarily dictated by) social and religious norms.
2) The “cop out” that some people use to decide that they can violate what they know to be right, based on the above sense of ethics and morality.  This always requires some amount of self-deception, and is, essentially, invalid in the spiritual sense.  Someone trying to justify this kind of moral relativism might use a phrase like, “it isn’t wrong because I don’t think it’s wrong;” whereas if they truly believed it wasn’t wrong, they would probably say, simply, “there’s nothing wrong with that.”  (Of course, the language used isn’t always a good indicator of what’s happening; try not to judge people falsely because of it.)

So, is the unlawful, premeditated killing of another human being forgivable?  It depends on the level of moral accountability of the person who does it.  A young child (below the age of 8), for example, is not morally-accountable; this is the time when parents are supposed to instill the values of right and wrong.  Similarly, a person who is not sane, or is otherwise mentally-incompetent (such as a person with mental disabilities) is not accountable, in the spiritual sense: they who don’t know right from wrong on a particular issue, and can’t be held accountable for it.  Likewise, a person who, given everything he/she knows, including life experiences, believes that an act of killing is the right thing to do, commits murder (by the definition of others)–well, it’s not murder, so far as that person knows, so in the spiritual sense, it’s 100% forgivable.  (Note: genuine belief is required–not something that they had to talk themselves into, not simple rage/jealousy/whatever, and nothing involving even a “drop” of self-deception.)  Examples of this might include people who grew up in war zones, as well as those who were severely abused by parents or others (to the point of not ever learning right from wrong, or of having to defend themselves outside the allowances of societal norms).  Such people have no “moral compass” telling them it’s wrong, and therefore can’t be held accountable for what they don’t know.

…But what about those who commit murder, knowing fully-well that it’s wrong?  What about those who merely suspected it was wrong, or who did so in a rage, rather than with premeditation?  The best I can tell you is that it’s 100% on a case-by-case basis.  The circumstances do matter.  The level of premeditation does matter.  The level of mental/moral competence at the time of the act, and leading up to it also matter.  So, regardless of what society decides to do, or needs to do about it (such as locking the person up forever, or executing that person, in order to protect the public/set an example, etc.), the level of spiritual forgiveness that such a person can receive is 100% dependent on how that person will feel about when all self-deception is stripped away, and all emotional issues have been worked through.  (Note: this will probably have to happen over a time period that’s greater than that person’s mortal life–hence what many would call “limbo” or “spirit prison.”)

Where do people who committed an unforgivable act go?  Depending on the severity of that act (or acts), they go to roughly one of four places:

“Outer Darkness”: This is reserved for those who have near-absolute enlightenment and do something that goes against everything they know and hold most dear.  Even murder can’t usually land a person here.  A prophet who turns anti-Christ, or a Buddha who becomes a warmonger would probably land here–but it’s not even available to normal folks.

“Lowest Kingdom”: Murderers typically land here.  This place is a lot like our current earth, but people are immortal and unable to progress, spiritually, beyond this kingdom.  (Well, the subject of eternal progression is pretty complicated, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll leave it at this.)  Those who fail to follow even the most basic laws of human decency–after knowing them–belong in this kingdom.  Those who make terrible mistakes and then genuinely and sufficiently “repent”/”find a better path”/etc. and follow through with that commitment do not end up here.  (What “sufficient” means, again, depends on personal circumstances.  Since we can’t undo all of our past mistakes, sometimes, the best we can do must suffice.)  So, in other words, if you already knew that the murder was wrong, and there weren’t substantial mitigating circumstances, then it is, in fact, “murder”–so this is where you land.  It’s hard to express just how horrible this fate is, since we’ve never actually experienced such a thing in mortality.  Consider the worst disappointment you’ve ever felt for yourself, multiply it by infinity (since this is a permanent state), and add knowing that you really did know better, and acted so badly that you got sent here, anyway.  This is what’s referred to in Abrahamic religions as “eternal fire and brimstone.”  Your guilt and self-disappointment will eat you up inside as if it were fire; we just don’t have words to describe it accurately, since mortals always have a chance to progress, whereas those who are stuck here don’t.  This place qualifies for the title, “Hell.”

“Middle Kingdom”: Also a form of “Hell,” since progression is blocked–but a lot nicer.  People who, knowing better, refuse to advance spiritually, but who generally keep mortal laws end up here.  Those who commit murder but genuinely and sincerely repent might end up here, depending on their level of accountability, at the time.  These people, like all of us, had a shot at godhood, and knowingly turned it down.  So, that “fire and brimstone” description, above, still applies, but isn’t as nasty, since they at least didn’t act like complete schmucks.  People who end up here can’t progress beyond being “angels” or similar, but do minister to the lower kingdom, on behalf of the gods.

“Highest Kingdom”: People who killed, but only when they had to, or who didn’t kill at all (assuming this didn’t violate a “higher law,” such as caring for and protecting children, etc.), who did everything in their power to seek spiritual growth end up here.  In essence, this is where “really, really good people” go.  There is eternal progression and eventually godhood for such people, and they minister to the lower kingdoms (often through intermediaries).  Murderers (using the above definition) need not apply.

More Questions and Answers may be forthcoming!   Please feel free to ask anything, as described above!

The Laws of Spirituality


As you read the following, please note that nothing but the last “law” mentioned should be truly satisfactory to any of us.  Do you think you know what it is?  You’re wrong (almost certainly)!

Let this also serve as the “big reveal” for what I truly believe.

Disclaimer:

In fact, I don’t entirely expect anyone to like this post.  I’m about to challenge the beliefs of pretty much everyone on the planet.  I do, however, expect this to be quite fun (yes, my sense of humor is such!), and that, hopefully, by reading this, people will gain a better appreciation for the beliefs of others, and cease to delude themselves quite as much about what it means, or doesn’t mean to be “spiritual.”  I’ll be addressing agnostics, non-denominational spiritualists, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and anyone else who has an inkling about there being “something else out there.”  Please try not to be offended, since that precludes learning and teaching, alike.

Also, please note that while I have received rather lengthy and intense personal revelations about much of this, I can’t yet say that my understanding hereof is complete.  Also, in any semi-reasonably-lengthed essay, no matter how complete my understanding may be, I simply can’t fit it all here.  (Indeed, I’ve experienced lifetimes of memories from people who have known these things; I simply can’t write it in a short enough period of linear time to be acceptable to me–or even possible in under about 950 years..)

End Disclaimer.

The Four Laws

I’ll be using a mostly-Christian (specifically LDS) nominclature, but the concepts should work with any set of names.  (Note to my LDS readers: these terms don’t coincide exactly with the Kingdoms of heaven–except for the last two.)  There’s also, in the strictest sense, more than four laws, but I’ll be categorizing them more broadly than the 1,000+ religions of the world would otherwise allow.

Outer Darkness

Outer Darkness is the absence of law.  Strangely, this looks a lot like the Celestial Law (see below), but the motivations behind it are entirely different.

In Outer Darkness, we give no concern for the well-being of others; we have no care for the laws of the land (when they’re just); and would happily say or do anything that’s convenient toward obtaining our ends.

A person without spiritual law will be completely separatist, with regard to fellow beings, except when those beings provide pleasure, entertainment, wealth, or other desirables.  When a person is living this “law,” all cares become ephemeral, with the exception of a given person’s immediate pleasure.

In practical terms, this could be characterized by hedonism (see also: “drunken frat house”), malice (white supremacists, black supremacists, religious bigots, atheist bigots, etc.), warmongers, amoral capitalists, and so on.  If you don’t care what your actions do to anyone else, then you’re here.

This law cannot help a person progress, except by providing inner dissatisfaction and contrast, and thereby prompting a person to seek a higher law.  In that context, this law isn’t necessarily “evil,” so much as woefully lacking: if it helps a person progress to any place above it, then it’s doing its job.  I’d only categorize it as “evil” insomuch as a person has descended here from a higher law, and doesn’t eventually choose to ascend again.

Telestial

This is the law of basic ethics.  If you’re living peaceably on Planet Earth, and don’t fit into either of the following categories, then you’re probably here.

Such things as are included in this law are (by whatever wording, and in no particular order):

-Honor your parents/elders
-Don’t commit murder
-Don’t steal
-Don’t commit adultery (extramarital affairs)
-Don’t lie (including making false accusations)
-Don’t be a nasty to other people (whatever that means in your culture)

Obviously, more such guidelines can be included here; the important thing, is that this is the law of “ethics,” as compared to “morality.”  (Morality is discussed in the following law: “Terrestrial.”)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality

This law is fine in a secular sense–in that it does a fair job of “keeping society intact.”  If everybody lived this law, we’d be doing alright.  Of course, many people live only the aforementioned one, and we should hope that something better than simply “getting along” is possible.  See below!

Terrestrial

This is the law of morality.  Herein, we expand on the basic guidelines set forth in the “Telestial Law” to include things like:

-You shall have no other gods/religions before this one (relative to whatever religion one subscribes to)
-Keep the Sabbath Day holy (several Abrahamic sects)
-Don’t seethe a yew in its mother’s milk (Judaism/”Law of Moses”)
-Do not kill animals (certain Hindu sects)
-Meditate daily (Buddhism and other religions)
-Do not consume alcohol (“Mormonism,” some Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.)
-Treat others as you want to be treated/”Golden Rule” (Please note: I include this under “morality” because this notion wasn’t popular in most of the world for most of humanity’s existence.  Organized/popular religions brought this notion to popularity.  This is not to be confused with “charity”/true altruism/compassion/pure love!  This is just reciprocal altruism that’s been upgraded slightly.)
-Learn martial traditions to help secure your sovereignty (Morrigan Wicca)
-Hold nature to be sacred, and treat it accordingly (druidism; many Wiccan sects; some pagan sects)
-Alcohol (especially mead) is a sacred blend of fire and water.  What you speak over it in ritual is binding.  (Norse paganism)

Basically, ANY tenet that is subscribed to in religion that isn’t commonly subscribed-to in “ethics” belongs in this list.

…But why isn’t this satisfactory?

We can clearly see that the unintended result of people having morality is that of all moral people hating each other (except those whose morality is nearly exactly the same as that of a given individual).  Even though we’ve mostly gotten over the insane desire to crusade across the planet and kill “non-believers” (a misnomer in almost any case, since nearly everybody believes something), many Muslims still hate Christians; many Christians still hate non-“mainstream” Christians (often including Mormons and Catholics) and anyone who isn’t, in fact, mainstream Christians; many Mormons still hate Pagans and Wiccans; nearly every Pagan seems to hate basically any Abrahamic faith (usually with some good reasons, if only historical ones); Hindus often look down upon other faiths (for a variety of reasons)–in spite of being a generally-inclusive religion; Buddhists (in all their great tranquility) tent to hate people for not being free of hate; and for that matter, pretty much everyone in the world still hates anyone else whose beliefs differ much from their own.  In fact, how many religionists/spiritualists have real, deep respect for those who do not appear to have any faith (or who genuinely don’t)?  Have you ever met an atheist who, at some level, doesn’t disrespect religionists?  I know I haven’t.

But let’s not discount religious morality, yet.  Even putting aside Pascal’s Wager, religious law does at last three wonderful things for us:

1) Help us to put aside our vices, so as to better learn self control and ultimately obtain our greater goals.
2) Teach us beneficial things that we could not have otherwise known.  This includes health laws, such as avoiding foods that could not be properly prepared in a reliably safe fashion at the time (pork and shell fish for Ancient Israel, for example); and teaching us to avoid things that can ensnare us (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sexual addiction, etc.).  This also includes greater spiritual truths, such as are easier to obtain while living a certain way (meditation, avoiding intoxicants, prayer, etc.).  I’ll also point out again that one of the first people to popularize the idea of the “Golden Rule” (if not the first) was Jesus Christ and his followers–and this idea was considered utterly radical, at the time.  The world is quite obviously better as a result of that notion (insomuch as we practice it).
3) Set the stage for us to see the folly of this and each law below it, in order to progress to the (in my understanding) highest law: “the Celestial Law.”

Celestial

Put simply, this law can be summed up as “compassion,” “charity” (as the term is used in the Bible, not as it’s used popularly), or “pure love of all beings.”  In this law, there are no other strictures: you do as you wish, so long as you are loving of others in your thoughts, intentions, and actions.  You put the love of others on par with your love for yourself (see also: the “second greatest commandment,” according to Christ, when questioned about it).  This law is the one whereby we can truly become gods–just as the Buddhas ascended; just as did Morrigan; just as did Christ, Enoch, and others.  So, what is the “greatest commandment,” according to Jesus?  To love God above all else.  Who is God, when we get right down to it?  The human race.

I know that many will scoff at this notion; but are scriptures (of all denominations) not replete with the notion that we are “children of God;” that we participated in the creation of all-that-is; that “as man is, God once was; as God now is, man may become?”  Some versions of Genesis don’t say “God did this…” they say, “the gods did this.”  Hindu texts speak of a man who changed the constellations of heaven to compel the gods to act–but who can do so, but one who is already their equal?  I realize that those who do not want to be convinced of this simply won’t be, so I’ll leave this point where it stands; but before I end my present argument, please consider that no spiritual truth can be proven or disproven.  What you now know is something you know inside, but you cannot deductively convince anyone else of it; you can only testify that it’s the case.  I know that we are already gods, living under the illusion of disempowerment.

(If you’re of the LDS faith, and you want to know where Kolob is, look upward at noon!  Think of concentric spheres around the earth: these are the kingdoms that mortals don’t typically see.  Also reference: “Celestial Earth as an Urim and Thummim.  How can the higher kingdoms see everything?  They look down.)

All of this being said, it’s not nearly so easy to live this law and ascend as it might sound.  (My “awakened” friends, I’m looking at you!)  How can we have pure love of all beings if we are still selfish?  How can we be unselfish if we are not in control of our appetites (which is to say, not ruled by addictions of any kind, including to hedonism in its various forms)?  How can we learn to control our appetites without first placing some reasonable, (and usually temporary) prohibitions upon ourselves, until such a time as we no long need them?  If we’re busy craving alcohol, sex, nicotine, marijuana (yes, it’s addictive, if only psychologically), gossip, video games (yes, I’m still working on this one), or anything else that places the spirit in subjugation to the flesh and carnal mind, then we’re not fully living this law.  Now, don’t get me wrong; if we’re not having lots of fun, we’re doing it wrong!

To illustrate this last point, I’m going to briefly discuss the main chakra nodes (please bear with me; I’ll explain why this is important, shortly):

Note: various traditions define chakras differently.  Also, there are a lot more than are listed here–all over our bodies.  Of certain note are those in the palms of the hands, which are extremely adept at giving and receiving energy.  The classic “stigmatas”–hands, wrists, and feet–all pierce very noteworthy/powerful chakra points.

0) Between the feet.  This is the last place energy goes before it grounds.  It can come down from the root chakra (1) or out the balls of the feet.  This chakra node seems to deal entirely with waste elimination, and should not “spin” like the others; it should be an “open valve.”

1) Root chakra, at the tip of the tailbone.  Deals with waste elimination and basic physical needs (food, water, air, heat, etc.).  Energy impasses often cause problems for this chakra, and can result in numerous helath problems.  If you aren’t getting your basic needs met, or are blocked elsewhere, you will be perpetually unhealthy.

2) Sacral chakra, in the lower belly, between the stomach and tailbone.  Men: this is centered between the testes and anus.  Women: this is centered in the uterus.  This deals mostly with reproduction and sexuality, and certain aspects of creativity.  Blockages in this chakra can cause, among many other things, urinary problems, blockages in the heart chakra, and reproductive issues.  Those who perpetually deny their sexual needs (even if for good reason, as noted above, under the Terrestrial law) tend to have blockages here, and will feel sort-of “dead,” inside.  This can also lead to over-rationalism and fear of emotional intimacy.

3) Digestive chakra, centered in the stomach.  Eating foods that disagree with you, gluttony, starvation, and long-term emotional problems (among other things) will cause blockages in this area.  This can cause lower back pain, digestive problems, adrenal problems (and other endocrine problems, as with the other chakras), and more.  If you find yourself not taking pleasure in food, you might end up with a problem here.  Also, those with chronic depression, anxiety, repressed (or over-expressed) anger will have no end to problems here, until those problems are resolved.  Also includes the gallbladder and issues surrounding it (see: Chinese medicine).  This node is also the seat of personal power, so denying/repressing your personal power will cause problems here.  (In a society wherein “rocking the boat” too much causes problems, this is something of an epidemic.  See also: Ritalin.)

4) Heart chakra.  This is where theists tend to have a lot of problems.  We commonly get so tied up in what’s doctrinally “proper” that we forget to care about ourselves and others; we care perfunctorily, but we never really care.  In other words, for all the teachings to love our fellow beings (every religion seems to have this thesis, when you “boil them down”), we get so caught up in the details of how to to love that we entirely forget how to love!  I’m currently attending a church congregation wherein this problem is present in fairly epic proportions.  Blockages in the heart chakra occur when a person feels hurt, unloved, denied the “good things in life,” and so on.  Blockages in the heart chakra will destroy your social, family, and romantic life; they’ll cause people to be suspicious of you (especially certain kinds of empaths, particularly “Crystal Children”); they can even make you wish you were never born (literally).  What’s more, every part of our bodies need energy from the heart (in the form of love) to live and thrive.  If your heart is blocked, no amount of medicine will help you become fully whole.  The paradox, here, is that if we open our hearts and let that energy flow outward, our hearts will produce much more energy than we’re letting out!  If you want more of the good things of life; if you want to be loved; if you want to not be hurt (even if somebody does bad things to you), then the way to do that is to give love!  Conversely, if you find yourself shying away from someone whose heart chakra is blocked, because it’s blocked, you’re only making it worse!  If you want to help someone heal, you need to love them, not exclude them.  You’ll find that after a while of this, you’ll have this love returned, in kind (usually), or at least, you won’t be devastated if it’s not.

Special note: To church congregations and the spiritualist groups: if you can’t show love to those whom you find unnattractive in some way (especially those with hurt feelings and closed heart chakras), don’t call yourselves Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, (insert religion name here), or awakened beings; it insults the rest of us and drives people away from the light and knowledge over which you have stewardship.

5) Throat chakra: communication.  Speak your mind!  If you fail to do so when you feel the need, you’re damaging your throat chakra.  This can result in breathing problems, voice problems, glandular problems, etc.  You have light!  You have truth!  Your opinions and needs are valid!  The world needs you and your ideas.

6) “Third Eye.”  Located just above your nose, on your forehead, this is the spiritual organ that allows you to see into the spirit world.  Prophets, mystics, psychics, empaths, Buddhas, Messiahs, and others all have this chakra developed and “opened” to a certain degree.  The more open it is, the more you see and know, beyond your “natural senses” (technically a misnomer).  Also, it makes you more vulnerable to outside energies–to the extent that until you “grow into” your “second sight,” you may experience long periods of illness due to “energy overload:” you might be overwhelmed by thoughts, ideas, sights, sounds, smells, etc. that are somehow outside your physical senses.  You may find yourself getting a lot of colds and flus.  Being in crowds can be unbearable without learning certain “tricks” and eventually getting tougher to the energies of others.  On the other side, though, a fully open third eye sees everything.  The spirit realm, the past, the future, distant sight (and other senses), telepathy, etc. are all yours if you manage to open this fully.  For most people, this takes a lifetime, but it’s an amazing and extremely worthwhile journey.  This also opens the door to real “magick.”  (Also a misnomer, since you’re really just tapping into “real” reality, rather than the illusion that’s before us.)  While affecting things in the material realm (not just the spiritual realm) is usually extremely difficult, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s possible.  Even so, most people who open their third eyes learn how to “manifest” things–like getting what they want/need, seemingly out of nowhere, often with little or no effort.  If you’re looking to learn how to manifest, go here.  If you’re one of my personal friends (or a friend of a friend) and want help opening your third eye, I’ll be happy help you do so.  (Keep in mind, if you’re not ready for this part of your journey, don’t try to force it!  It’s best to start when you feel ready.)  Those who open their third eyes also begin to see the truth in all religions, independent of the mores of their current ones.  This is important, as we’ll shortly discuss.

7) “Crown,” “Divinity,” or “Lotus” chakra, positioned atop the head.  This is how we contact and receive communication from the divine.  (To my LDS readers: have you ever wondered why priesthood blessings are given through the top of the head?)  If your 7th chakra is open, you can speak with deities, hear the “still small voice,” and find your place in heaven.  You can contact your own divinity through this chakra, and affect the world as the gods do.  The degree to which you open this is the degree to which you can begin accessing the chakras above the 7th.  Many traditions consider there to be 12.  I hold there to be a functionally infinite number that “loops around,” such that our current 12 are really in the middle of a kind of “eternal cycle” of divinity.  See Joseph Smith’s teachings on this.  It’s currently held that one who fully opens his 12th chakras, and all below it ascends. (“Transfiguration,” “translation,” etc. hint at this meaning.)

For more on chakras, go here.

The thing about living the celestial law is that we cannot fully do so without activating all our major chakras.

What does this mean for the law, itself?  It means that at some point, all prohibitions must be done away, because whatsoever we deny ourselves is something that our spirits want to experience, but are being prohibited from experiencing.  Does this mean we should all go out and do methamphetamines?  Of course not–unless you feel like this is truly important for your spiritual growth.  The problem, of course, is that if you take such an incredibly addictive, destructive drug, you’ll also do damage to your ability to master your own cravings.  Also, you might do permanent damage the temple that is your body.  (A “temple” is the house of a god/goddess, right?  We live in our bodies; therefore they are our own, personal temples!)  Similarly, if you feel the need to have sex, you must also accept that there is a price to pay–emotionally, physically, socially, whatever–and that you must not let it become a vice for you, or otherwise prevent you from becoming the highest “self” that you ultimately can become (or, more precisely, become again).

So, in other words, to deny ourselves something we feel the need to experience, when we’re able to handle that experience forces us to keep certain chakras closed, to some degree.

We are here in mortality to experience things that are not possible to experience outside of mortality.  This includes both unpleasant and pleasant things.  It includes things that are generally “safe” and things that can imprison us.  What kind or mortality would this be if our spirits left it with anything short of the knowledge and experiences that we initially set out to gain?  (Obviously, this includes a lot of unpleasant experiences, as should by evident by recalling any of our own lives.)  Nevertheless, what kind of spirits would we become if we acted in this capacity, but not out of charity, wisdom, and the desire to ultimately become better?

Therefore, the greatest, and highest possible law–to my current knowledge (having not yet ascended [again])–once we understand all that we need to in order to live it well, is one word:

LOVE.

The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

Chapter 13

Paul discusses the high status of charity—Charity, a pure love, excels and exceeds almost all else.

 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not acharity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of aprophecy, and understand all bmysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the apoor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

aCharitybsuffereth long, and is ckind; charity denvieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 Doth not behave itself aunseemlybseeketh not her own, is not easily cprovoked, thinketh no evil;

6 Rejoiceth not in ainiquity, but rejoiceth in the btruth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never afaileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a aglassbdarkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth afaithbhopeccharity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

–Dane Mutters, 2013

The Zen Path to Salvation for All Beings


Even though I’m a Christian (of the Latter-Day Saint variety), I find great wisdom in many other philosophies and religions.  This is an essay I wrote for a religious studies class in 2001 on the basic tenets of Zen Buddhism.  It describes the ostensible goals and methods of the religion, and may be of some use to other non-Buddhists, much as learning about it has been to me.

 

The Zen Path to Salvation for All Beings

By Dane Mutters, 2001

 

As with most other religions, the ultimate goal of Zen (Ch’an) Buddhism is to end all suffering. In doing this, all practitioners of the Zen tradition are considered to be “Bodhisattvas,” or compassionate Buddhas. A compassionate Buddha’s duty is to first clear his own mind and reach enlightenment, then to help every other creature on the face of the Earth do the same. The primary way of doing this is through perfection of karma, or works, and thereby perfection of the results of these works.

Karma can take many forms—anger, kindness, charity and happiness are all possibilities. But how does one control this karma? Is it good to only have the most desirable karma all the time? According to Zen Master Seung Sahn, this is not appropriate. He suggests that we let ourselves be a “mirror,” unstained by concepts and preconceived notions, but utterly reflective of others’ karma. “Don’t check your mind—when you are angry, be angry. When you are happy, be happy. When sad, be sad.” (p.69) When we try to change our mood and situation, we are simply putting a mask over the way things really are.

A true Zen practitioner would point out that “pleasure” and “pain” are only words, developed by those eager to conceptualize what they are experiencing, which only detracts from the original experience by taking the person away from the state of “don’t know mind” and placing him in a state of grasping, which takes him farther from satori, or enlightenment. (Sahn, p.69) This grasping causes us to create our own reality as we want it to be, instead of seeing it as it really is. For an illustration of this, I offer a koan from Beyond Marginality: Constructing a Self in the Twilight of Western Culture. Here, a disciple, Seihei is conversing with his master, Suibi:

 

“What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?”

Wait, said Suibi; “when there is no one around I will tell you.”

After a while, Seihei repeated the request, saying, “There is no one here now; pray enlighten me.”

Coming down from his chair, Suibi took the anxious enquirer into the bamboo grove, but said nothing. When the latter pressed for a reply, Suibi whispered: “how high these bamboos are! And how short those over there!”

(Muller, p. 26)

 

Why do we want to identify and categorize feelings and motivations in every experience? Why do we insist on making connections where none should exist? Does the fact that some bamboos are short and others are tall have a deeper meaning? We should not try to associate everything we see with something other than what it is, or our experience will become only that—a “thing.” Once we have created a “thing,” our experience ceases to be. It is now no more than what we have created, and thus polluted. The goal of Zen Buddhism, therefore, is to rectify all names, and thereby eliminate them.

The problem exists in that people think using words and names. How, then, if we eliminate all such names, are we going to think? The answer is, we won’t. This is not intended in the Orwellian sense, but rather to the effect that true understanding, or enlightenment, comes before thinking and thinking before words, which lead to the creation of “things,” which cloud our view of reality. The solution, therefore, is to cut off that process once we have achieved a true understanding, and therefore cease altogether to think.

Sahn has pointed this out on multiple occasions to people who have brought questions to him. His most common response is, “only go straight ahead—don’t know.” In order to illustrate this, he uses the example of Hyang Eom’s koan, “Up a Tree.”

 

“It is like a man up a tree who is hanging from a branch by his teeth. His hands cannot grasp a bough, his feet cannot touch the tree; he is tied and bound. Another man under the tree asks him, ‘Why did Bodhidarma come to China?’ If he does not answer, he evades his duty and he will be killed. If he answers, he will lose his life. If you are in the tree, how do you stay alive?”

(p. 8)

 

If you don’t know, you’re on the right path. While a rational man might argue semantics, “being in the tree does not make me the man hanging by his teeth, therefore I will keep my life regardless;” a Zen practitioner will intuitively know the intent of the question and use it to better understand himself by probing into the nothingness that is before thought. To a Zen practitioner, lingering on wording only distracts one’s view of reality.

We now come back to the topic of karma. A true bodhisattva, intending to end all suffering, links his karma to that of every other being. So as to feel what they feel and to better sympathize with them, he must clear his “mirror” of all distractions. However, in order to avoid the pitfalls of those whom he is trying to save, he must first detach from his feelings.

Seung Sahn explains this to a mother who, though a Zen practitioner, became so angry with her delinquent son as to nearly come to blows. He states that her anger before practicing the Dharma was attached anger—she claimed it as her own, and was thus only able to let go of it after a long period of “cooling-down” time. After some practice, however, she showed reflected anger; she reflected the anger of her son, but after an hour or so was able to regain equilibrium and set things aright. With a little more practice she would attain a state of perceived anger. This kind of anger is still within, but very controllable. Eventually, continuous practice would lead to loving anger, which is not felt, but shown so that others would benefit from it.

This line of (not-)thinking points to the eventuality that all feelings are no more than our perceptions of them. Following from this comes the possibility that through ceasing to assign names and associations to our experiences, we can eliminate feelings altogether within ourselves, and through charity, eliminate them in others as well. Thus we are able to reach a state of perfect equilibrium, undistracted by our particular views of things. This equilibrium is referred to as one’s “primary point.” Sahn likens the unsteadiness of emotions to the shocks on motor vehicles. “A taxi has weak shock absorbers, so it bounces up and down when it hits a small bump. A train has strong shock absorbers, so it is very steady, no matter what. If you keep your primary point, your mind-spring will become stronger and stronger. A big problem will come and your mind will move, but it will soon return to primary point. Finally your mind will be very strong, and it will be able to carry any load. Then saving all beings from suffering is possible.” (p.7)

In order to be effective as a Zen bodhisattva, it is first necessary to disassociate experiences from words, words from thoughts and thoughts from the nothingness that is before thought. Having done so, a person can reach satori,or enlightenment. Once we have thus gained a clear mind, and are fully able to empathize with others, an end to all suffering is possible.

 

Bibliography

Sahn, Seung. Only Don’t Know. Boston, MA: Shambala Publications, Inc.

 

Muller, René J. Beyond Marginality: Constructing a Self in the Twilight of Western Culture. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Not Far From Buddhahood


For those who don’t know, I’m a Christian (LDS, specifically), but I have a prominent appreciation for other faiths that teach peace, relief of suffering, and other wise principles.  This Zen koan spoke to me.  I don’t know if it’s a standard of the Zen Buddhist religion, but it seems to fit well enough with what I’ve studied of it.  This was taken from http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/16notfarfrombuddhahood.html.  I highly recommend taking a look at Buddhist philosophies, regardless of your theological/philosophical leanings.  Even if you don’t intend on converting (as I don’t), there’s a lot of unconventional wisdom to be had there, which often isn’t as clearly explained in other sacred works.

Not Far from Buddhahood

A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: “Have you ever read the Christian Bible?”

“No, read it to me,” said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: “And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these… Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”

Gasan said: “Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man.”

The student continued reading: “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

Gasan remarked: “That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood.”