Frame of Reference - Index

III Gods

Nonus Stele

Myths - Telos

1) For many people this may be the first introduction to the word 'Telos' or 'teleology.' This obscure technical term is used here to stand for beliefs, purposes, goals or reasons that answer the questions: "Why take such and such action?" or "Why did this or that happen?" Many religions teach the incontrovertible force of moral law enforced by either punishments, rewards or both. The word 'Telos' stands for the reasons behind the consequences we experience or choose. These become motivating factors, often emotionally laden and closely related to psychic needs. (see Vicesimus Tres Stele: Medicine, verse 31). These motivating factors are connected to god myths; these influence the development of our conscience and explain both human, and for some, natural events.

For Atheists it is not possible to see destiny or the hand of god in the circumstances of their lives, much less feel any compunction from the threat of the wrath of god. For these freethinkers there are many positive goals and purposes that answer some of the questions. In any case, Telos has to do with the commanding motivational factors that explain events and actions, and teleology is the simple notion of studying these explanations, providing persuasive explanations for one's actions, understanding what is behind obedience to laws and the causality of events. Explanations both before and after the event or action thus get thrown into the same wash.

People often seek explanations for tragedies, victories or past events, they might say: "(----) happened because of (that)" and thus they are making a teleological assertion after the fact based on their belief. From an Atheist's perspective, knowing 'why' (understanding the Telos) leads to taking responsibility for one's actions, even if this explanation is based on an ethical argument that one has with oneself.

2) WHY

The question "Why?"
Is a gift of language
-- from culture --
Which intrigues us to challenge the unknown.

3) The key to all Aboriginal rights is land. Land is identity; to own none is to be no-one, invisible. Their land is also essential to their theology. In Aboriginal myth, the Australian earth, its valleys, hills and waterways, together with all that grows there and lives there, was shaped by ancestral beings during a period called the Dreamtime. When these ancestors withdrew from Earth, they left the humans and sacred laws incorporated into their dances, songs and images that describe their world-making acts. These images show how the spirits of the dead were continually absorbed into the land and recycled into the newborn living. Therefore to Aborigines, land is far more than real estate, it nurtures the continuity of human life from one generation to another. In their struggle for rights land is the key element.

4) In every society
There is a moral imperative
-- interrogative pronoun --
That invigorates the inquisitive human mind.

5) Certainly there are many different conceptions of god, and more than a few systems of belief that fit under the category of Myths. The suggestion that a god gives direction and advice to people -- revelations or scriptures -- is elemental to many myths. This advice or god's commandments become 'why,' directives to take certain action and not others. Consider the popular Ten Commandments of Jewish and Christian faiths: these come from Jehovah (or God) and these are connected to the Telos of these religions. Where does the persuasive force of these commandments for believers come from? This is studied as part of teleology. Another example, the goal to transcend the mundane cycles of life by living a virtuous life and obtaining 'nirvana' is a frequent element in myth. This goal, the reward, becomes the 'why' and motivating factor for leading a virtuous life, thus it is properly studied by teleology.

6) So common place
On the tip-of-our-tongues
-- this question -- [Why?]
Lies central between problem and solution.

7) On the south slope of Mount Parnassus, in Greece, one finds the residence of the most famous oracles of the age, 1,000 BC. This cluster of temples, shrines, a stadium and sports field is idiomatic of Greek life as well as central to the mythical pattern of their religious practice. According to Greeks, Delphi was believed to be the center point of Earth, and of course it is. (Any point on a ball can be considered the center of the globe surface.) This center is symbolized by a huge ornately carved rock called the omphalos, meaning 'navel.' This was also the home of Phytho, Earth goddess who dispensed instructions and blessings.

Among the intriguing and awe inspiring features of Delphi is the Temple of Athena. These gods directed and gave purpose, Telos, to the lives of the Greeks.

8) Is there any rule
Which dictates its use,
-- boundary limit --
To distinguish when not to use this question?

9) "Four Hebrew letters, YHVH (which appear 6,823 times in the Old Testament), form the Hebrew name for God: Adonai is a substitute for these sacred letters. Adonai is never pronounced by pious Jews except during solemn prayer, and with head covered. When God is mentioned in ordinary discourse, a devout Jew changes even the substitute names: instead of 'Adonai' he says 'Adoshem;' when saying 'Elohim' he makes it 'Elokhim.' Orthodox Jews, writing or printing the name of the Lord, omit the vowel, to make G-d.

"It is not known how YHVH was pronounced by the ancients: There are no vowel letters in Hebrew; vowel sounds are indicated by diacritical marks (dots, dashes). Today, YHVH is rendered vocally as "Yahveh." (Jehovah, which first appeared in Christian texts in 1516, is simply incorrect -- based on a German papal scribe's reading of YHVH with the diacritical marks meant for Adonai, which had been added in the margins of a scroll, as aids to pronunciation; so YHVH became, in transliterated Latin, YeHoVaH.) The King James version of the Bible usually translates YHVH as 'Lord'." (Leo Rosten, Jewish Quotations, 1972) So great ideas sometimes come from inconsequential acts.

10) There ought to be
A talent or art
-- some guidance --
That displays the limitations of language.

11) An individual's sincerely held belief can be part of a system-of-belief, religion, or independent, as part of a deeply held individual conviction. In either case these beliefs incorporate a Telos, assumptions about goals, psychic needs, rewards, 'the master plan' and punishments, that influence the value judgments we all make. But actions always speak louder than words, and believing in something that does not influence one's actions is like being a bag of hot air, hypocritical or the proverbial cooked spaghetti that cannot push anything up a hill. So teleology is concerned with what actually determines action, and looks at both confessed beliefs and real life motivating factors -- and compares the two.

12) If there were such
Natural prohibition
-- sublime science --
Some problems could gain respect as true mysteries.

13) Plato (427?-347 BC) complained that Homer offered no set of moral commandments or divine ordinances but only epics of a long-past heroic age. However, this very ambiguity contributes to their durability as artistic myths. Beginning in 1200 BC and for seven hundred years (first verbal then written) until Plato's time, these two epics, Iliad and Odyssey, were the basis of religion and morals for educated Greeks. These were the chief source of history and even of practical information on geography, metallurgy, navigation and shipbuilding. These were part of the oral tradition until about 700 BC when the Greeks adapted the Phoenician alphabet into their own language. Even more remarkable is how for 3,200 years these Homeric epics have inspired our imagination and influenced our lives in poetry, language and art.

14) Not that questions
Should ever become scorned
-- sacred, taboo --
But we could understand the limitations of answers.

15) For those who have no particular belief system to lean on, and hold no particular deeply held or even casual convictions, there is still the need to have reasons to explain actions. Positive goals can be internalized as part of finding the meaning in life, and thus freethinkers and Atheists can develop a thoughtful rationale for their actions. The questions "What to do?" and "Why did that happen?" are still relevant to agnostics, theists and Atheists alike. Identifying these motivating factors is the job of teleology.

From a slightly different perspective however: "Rationalists are admirable beings, rationalism is a hideous monster when it claims for itself omnipotence. Attribution of omnipotence to reason is as bad a piece of idolatry as is worship of stock and stone believing it to be a God. I plead not for the suppression of reason, but for a due recognition of that in us which sanctifies reason." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men are Brothers, 1960)

16) There is in philosophy
That mysterious art
-- Teleology --
That studies what is behind the answers we give.

17) Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo, an important Olympian deity, virgin and huntress. She presided over women's transition from virgin to tamed woman, she was responsible for protecting women in childbirth and with similar transitions to adulthood for men, including certain aspects of war. She is often shown in art and sculpture with a deer and with bow and arrow. The Spartans sacrificed a goat to her before battle, while the Athenians, before the battle of Marathon, vowed to sacrifice to Artemis Agrotera as many goats as enemies killed, of at least 500 per year, which they subsequently did. Artemis Orthia was a cult closely associated with the long process through which Spartan boys became elite warriors and citizens.

"At Patrae the festival, Laphria, in honor of Artemis Laphria included a procession in which the virgin priestess rode in a chariot drawn by deer, and the holocaust sacrifice of many animals. These animals were thrown alive into the altar enclosure, and included wild animals such as deer and boar, which were not normally sacrificed in Greek religion." (The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, 1998) So much for Greek enlightenment.

18) Such mental creation
Endeavors to cure
-- false science --
Which leads man into grandiose theories.

19) "Nature for Aristotle makes nothing without a purpose. (On the Heavens, 27-33) It has tended in modern times to seem a natural but dangerous doctrine in biological studies and wholly wrong in the study of inanimate nature. Its usefulness is clearly a matter for scientists to decide for themselves, but two points seem worth making. Normally Aristotle's teleology is not a doctrine of any over-all pattern of purpose in the universe, nor is it even intended to show how natural objects may serve purposes outside themselves. It is, rather, a doctrine of internal finality, that is, a doctrine that the end of each object is to be itself. Second, his teleology is rooted in his equation of final cause with formal cause. The study of the end or purpose of a thing [the why of it] is the study of its form, and to the extent that a modern scientist is concerned with the formal and universal elements in nature, he is, paradoxically enough, following Aristotle's approach. He would differ in supposing that the achievement of form in inanimate objects cannot profitably be described as their end." (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1963)

20) One province of Religion
Is to satisfy dreams
-- Blind faith --
Regarded as virtue, leads to divine revelation.

21) Enough is known about the Maya system (Central America) of astronomy to be astounded by the accuracy and high level of skill they had achieved some 2000 years ago. Their knowledge was equivalent to that of Mediterranean cultures and even greater because the best learning was well accepted in the practices of the religion rather than being suppressed. They accurately determined the orbit of Venus that was revered as their most important god after Sun.

Translation of Maya stele and lintels is now possible and it is known that Maya religious practice included blood letting, human sacrifice (often of enemies conquered) and other forms of tribute for the gods. Maya writing used both logograms and phonetic signs. Maya syllabic signs incorporated pictures, keys to phonetic pronunciation, such as 'ne' shows a tail, because the Maya word for tail is 'neh.' This is thus a very early form of artistic writing developed independently from other writing cultures. The zero date for the Maya was 13 August 3113 BC. (Renfrew and Bahn, Archaeology, 1991) This date was prior to the development of mathematics by the Mesopotamians in 1700 BC, although it is not known if this calendar was begun on this date. It was not necessarily the beginning of mathematics, but possibly the mythical beginning of life.

22) All living organisms
Exhibit goal orientation
-- seeking good --
From many different points of reference.

23) Having an explanation for behavior is not a trivial exercise. This logic is indisputable: an action taken without reason may be described as arbitrary. To be accused of taking an action arbitrarily is a serious insult, the equivalent of calling someone an idiot. Making a decision for no reason or taking action that is arbitrary is certainly not virtuous. Only action which follows a reason or can be traced to a 'Telos' can be subject to a rational examination as a virtuous action, and then discussed as part of teleology. Some reasons derive from beliefs, some from rational thought (rationalizations) after the fact. (The fact that beliefs can be rational goes without saying.) (see Vicesimus Alter Stele: Ethical Decisions, verse 10)

"No action which is not voluntary can be called moral. So long as we act like machines, there can be no question of morality. If we want to call an action moral, it should have been done consciously [not arbitrarily] and as a matter of duty. Any action that is dictated by fear or by coercion of any kind ceases to be moral." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men are Brothers, 1960) This assertion against "coercion of any kind" is a powerful argument against fire and brimstone, hell, damnation and other forms of emotional blackmail.

24) Fish that spawn
Follow a compelling goal
-- species survival --
Then they die contentedly released from anxiety.

25) "Brethren, whatsoever grounds there be for good works undertaken with a view to rebirth, all of them are not worth one sixteenth part of that goodwill which is the heart's release: goodwill alone, which is the heart's release, shines and burns and flashes forth in surpassing them.

"There are two ethical teachings: 'Look at evil as evil' is the first teaching.

"'Seeing evil as evil, be disgusted therewith, be cleansed of it, be freed of it.' is the second teaching..." (Buddhist teaching)

This teaching supports the suggestion that life is an art form, and that actions that are controlled by the love of life and family "the heart's release," have the highest ethical value. The Telos here becomes love and is one possible explanation for the concept that "God is Love," and this love is the highest possible motivating and creative force.

26) When these behaviors
Are thoroughly considered
-- part of a context --
The activity relates to both past and future goals.

27) Ancestor worship is a rather common religious phenomenon. In Hindu the God Brahma says: "The city of Gaya is a sacred sanctuary... A man, by simply making a pilgrimage to Gaya, stands absolved from all debts due by him to his forefathers..." Of course there is the matter of offering a prayer and sacrifices in the form of obsequious cakes. "On the blades of Kusa grass extended in my front, and with this libation of water containing sesamum, I invoke the presence of the souls of those who have been born in my family and subsequently died without any means of succor from the shades of the infernal region..." And so it goes; the supplicant can pray for relief for his ancestors and find reprieve from all the karma he may have previously developed.

28) Once these contexts
Are fully explicated
-- critical thinking --
The tendencies to theorize may be allocated to science.

29) The seven lucky gods of Japan are traditions which have their origins in India, China and indigenous Japanese gods of fortune. One is an actual historical personage, the rest are mythical. Each of these has had its own following for in excess of one thousand years. Each has a specialty, as it were, as patron for a profession, art or skill practiced by the Japanese, although there is some overlapping of influence thus the possibility that some people will adopt more than one for tribute.

During the first development of these gods the most earnest believers were merchants and the two gods to gain popularity were "Daikoku" and "Ebisu." Not long after the goddess "Benten" became the patron of the arts. "Fukurokuju," "Jurojin" and "Hotei" came from China and were accepted as wise gods, thus the first two began to have a strong following amongst the intellectual classes. "Bishamon" was favored by travelers, doctors and missionaries. As it stands in modern times all seven gods are worshipped as a group and the number seven has become sacred to the Japanese.

30) Some religions celebrate
The mystery of life
-- without questioning --
This reverence for nature's complexities becomes sacred.

31) The earliest record of the Seven Lucky Gods as a group was made in 1420 in Fushimi where a procession was held, an imitation of the famed daimyo processions. Another historical reference occurs in 1469-86 when some bandits took on this guise and extorted whatever they could from the superstitious peasants. Another account records their selection by the famed Buddhist priest, Tenkei, as benefactors for Iemitsu Tokugawa in 1623, a famous shogun.

The story of the shogun is interesting because from this point in history, the Seven Lucky Gods gained special, for many people exclusive, stature in Japan. Once the two, Tenkei and Iemitsu were discussing human nature and virtue. It was Iemitsu's opinion that nobility was of two kinds: natural and human. "Natural nobility makes peers, and human nobility consists of human virtues." said Iemitsu. "But Tenkei, what are your views concerning this?"

Tenkei bowed low, thought carefully then answered: "Lord it is my humble opinion that nobility consists of seven virtues which are absolute. These are: Longevity, fortune, popularity, candor, amiability, dignity and magnanimity. Possession of one or of all these virtues are indeed possessions of a god or one who is god-like."

The shogun was so pleased that he instructed the priest to select those seven deities whom best exemplified those qualities. Furthermore, he gave him authority to institute and supervise the formal worship of these gods as a group. Tenkei commissioned the first painting of this group of gods including:

"Daikoku" representing the god of wealth and fortune;

"Ebisu" god of candor and fair dealing;

"Benten" goddess of amiability, beauty and music;

"Fukurokuju" and "Jurojin" gods of wisdom and longevity;

"Bishamon" god of dignity, defender against evil and bringer of fortune; and

"Hotei" god of magnanimity and popularity. (see Quintus Decimus Stele, Religions, verse 9.)

32) Why are we here?
This fragile mortality
-- refutes this question --
Belies any reasonable explanation we can give.

33) The treatise known as the Aschlpius and the collection of writings known as the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetic philosophical works. Dating to between 100 and 300 AD, these are an amalgam of Greek philosophy and have obvious affinities with Genesis and Hellenistic Judaism. The ascription of authorship to "Hermes Trismegistus," a supposed Egyptian priest, encouraged the belief, incorrectly, that these writings transmitted ancient Egyptian wisdom.

Throughout the sixteenth century the Hermetic writings were eagerly read in the many editions of the Latin translation by Marsilio Ficino of Florence, Italy. The influence of this intensive study can be traced throughout the Renaissance and in theological discussions of Christians. The Renaissance magicians and philosophers discussed the animist and magical view of nature that they extracted from the Hermetic writings. The teachings of Hermetic writings directed religious attentions toward the cosmos and toward operating the cosmic powers as a Telos. Much of it is concerned with astrology, alchemy, and other occult sciences.

34) Other religions search
With a common goal
-- offering enlightenment --
Where wisdom depends on inspired, sacred words.

35) Just as all religions have their saints and martyrs, Frame of Reference has its share of heroes who lost their lives in revolution against established religion. Giordano Bruno is one of the most prominent of these. Born in 1548, Bruno was influenced by the writings of Copernicus that had been banned in 1543, although he was also a critic of Copernicus because of the latter's reliance on mathematics. Bruno was primarily interested in expounding the teachings of the Hermetic writings, as they are known, including those written by Hermes Trismegistus that concerns the worship of the divinity found in nature. In 1584 he published "De l'infinito, universo e mondi." (About Infinity, the universe and worlds) This explains his vision of an infinite universe and innumerable worlds, a universe in which the Earth traveled around the stars. This and other writings brought Bruno into prominence as an advocate for a new philosophy, cosmology, a new ethic and religion.

Bruno was a devotee of magic and numerology and he published several works about the magical arts of memory. Bruno wasn't an Atheist because he believed the reforms he sought could take place within a Catholic framework. After nine years in prison and two trials he refused to recant his heretical ways and was burned alive on the Campo de' Fiori. Aside from his championship of free speech and integrity of ideas, Bruno has little to offer a strict Atheist, although these two offerings are no mean gift. Sun worship no longer makes sense -- in the same way there is no need to invent a personal god. But one must take their heroes as they come.

36) Giving a simple teaching
Which satisfies all
-- comprehensible --
Is beyond the most brilliant ecumenical scholars.

37) It must be repeated here that according to Buddhist philosophy (Ceylon) there is no permanent, unchanging spirit which can be considered 'Self', or 'Soul', or 'Ego', as opposed to matter, and that consciousness (vinnana) should not be taken as 'spirit' in opposition to matter. This point has to be particularly emphasized, because a wrong notion that consciousness is a sort of Self or Soul that continues as a permanent substance through life, has persisted from the earliest time to the present day. The Buddha declared that consciousness depends on matter, sensation, perception and mental formations and that it cannot exist independently of them.

This is a close restatement of the concept of phenomenology in Western philosophy, but seems to be a contradiction of the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation. (see verse 45 below)

38) Yet what higher purpose
Is being sought?
-- Beyond sensibility? --
The error to this puzzle is in the questioning.

39) Roman pagan to a rabbi: "Your God abominates idolatry; why then does He not destroy the idols?"

"Would you have God destroy the Sun and the Moon because of the foolish people who worship them?" (Abodah Zarah, Talmud, 54b)

"Let us honour our opponents for the same honesty of purpose and patriotic motives that we claim for ourselves." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men are Brothers, 1960)

40) With ordinary eyes we see
All around is life
-- Feeling, touching --
Which defies need of explanation or theory.

41) "The suggestion that the course of human history may be understood teleologically -- that is to say, in terms of some underlying purpose or plan -- is very old... Kant appealed explicitly to this idea... largely derived from theological sources... the Christian... view of history takes the form of exhibiting the rise and fall of states and empires as dependent in the last analysis upon the secret direction of a divine intelligence. It tends, too, to represent the evils and disasters which befall men -- plagues, wars, famines, and the like, -- as being either fit and deserved punishments for previous misdeeds or the necessary means toward the promotion of some greater good that can finally be seen to justify them [some biblical prophecy perhaps].

"Some of Kant's ideas were incorporated by Hegel in what was perhaps the most complex, ambitious, and influential contribution to teleological speculation in history... history is essentially concerned with 'spirit.' (Geist) ...interpreted as exhibiting different stages in the progressive unfolding of this rational idea... events are then seen to be indicative of a purpose 'higher and broader' than any conceived by those who actually participated in them." (Patrick Gardiner, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1988)

42) Animals don't ask
These kinds of questions
-- living unchallenged --
They go about their daily routines unencumbered.

43) It is possible, with enough imagination, to find a purpose in Earth and Sun as well. (The Telos of Helios) A Galaxy, Milky Way for example, has many similarities with other galaxies, since they have a general form to distinguish them from nebulae or star clusters, but it probably has more disguising characteristics than similarities. Does every Galaxy therefore have a purpose, is there a 'why' that each of the billions is different in the ends they serve? The form they achieve follows laws of gravity, angular momentum, chance of approximate association of differing amounts of matter and accumulations of hydrogen and helium atoms. It is hard to imagine that a galaxy would form for a purpose, and to say that it forms to be itself is to say nothing of any importance.

44) Asking this question "Why?"
Denies the gift of life
-- freely available --
Ignoring the gratitude that should fill our souls.

45) The theory of karma should not be confused with 'moral justice' or 'reward and punishment.' These arise from the conception of a supreme being, a god, who sits in judgment, who is a law-giver and who decides what is right and wrong. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, an action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment. Every volitional action produces its effects or results. If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice, or reward, or punishment meted out by anybody or any power sitting in judgment on your action, but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law. The effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.

Buddhism says: Will, volition, desire, thirst to exist, to continue, to become more and more, is a tremendous force that moves whole lives, (beyond instinct for survival) whole existences, that even moves the whole world. This is the greatest force, the greatest energy in the world. According to Buddhism, this force does not stop with the non-functioning of the body, which is death; but it continues manifesting itself in another form, producing re-existence which is called rebirth. (Thus the apparent contradiction with reincarnation is explained.)

46) There is an arrogance
Subtle but perverse
-- overcoming spirit --
Displayed by applying this question to life.

47) "One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said -- pointing to the other -- 'This is my beloved Son, hear Him'." (Joseph Smith)

"If something had happened that spring morning in 1820, it passed totally unnoticed in Joseph's home town, and apparently did not even fix itself in the minds of members of his own family. The awesome vision he described in later years (see Primus Stele: Heavens - Universe, verse 25) was probably the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. [Similar to the account in Matthew with Jesus and Peter.] Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. Dream images came easily to this youth, whose imagination was as untrammeled as the whole West." (Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 1973) As a youth I had never heard the suggestion that Joseph Smith's vision was an afterthought. Even in Frame of Reference it can be seen to conflict with New Testament scripture. (see Undecimus Stele: Agnosticism - Atheism, verse 24) Yet this vision and the subsequent 'revelations' of Joseph Smith have provided the 'Telos' and spawned what has been called, erroneously, the only truly American religion, since by now it has matured from its initial cult status.

48) Questioning the obvious
Turning "Is" into "Why"
-- is wrong twice --
First: it ignores the reality of the world

49) Reincarnation: Buddha taught men a way to serenity and poise of spirit as well as a means to liberate themselves in the future from all craving for things that perish -- such desires are what bind men to the endless cycle of birth and death. Most men require myriad lives to achieve Nirvana. Only a few souls, such as (Gautama) Buddha become sufficiently pure to attain Nirvana in a few lives.

50) In search of superstition.
Asking can continue
-- infinite regression --
Until exasperation yields to hopeless confusion or dogma.

51) Most people believe that their approaching death is under the control of some mystical or higher power. Some people even ascribe their sobriety to a higher power, i.e., Alcoholics Anonymous. To the most rational of civilized Men, health, disease and the threat of death, float in a hazy emotional mist, which seems to become denser and more impenetrable as the fateful consequences of their actions approaches. When illness or traumatic accidents occur, people look for causes and wonder why these events happened to themselves and to their family members. This kind of asking why is a primitive form of teleology that persists today -- Why Me? -- and can predispose people to many forms of bizarre and superstitious conclusions and behaviors.

52) Second: Blind searching
Overlooks the beauty
-- The Art of Life --
That exists for its own sake, notwithstanding explanations.

53) "I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young, and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting... Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own. " (Bertrand Russell, What I Believe)

54) Curiously, each generation
Must learn this lesson.
-- wisdom of elders --
Maturity is hollow against native intellect of youth.

55) The philosopher John Locke (in 1691) considered it a possibility to develop "ethics in a science like mathematics... carry morality to an higher pitch;" although he also suggested "...The rules of morality were, in different countries and sects, different. And natural reason no where had, nor was like to cure the defects and errors in them... Those just measures of right and wrong,... the civil laws prescribed... But where was it that their obligation was thoroughly known and allowed, and they received as precepts of a law, of the highest law, the law of nature? ...Nothing seems hard to our understandings, that is once known; and because what we see, we see with our own eyes, we are apt to overlook or forget the help we had from others, who showed it us, and first made us see it, as if we were not at all beholden to them for those truths they opened the way to, and led us into; ...we are favorable enough to our own faculties to conclude, that they, of their own strength, would have attained those discoveries, without any foreign assistance. (see Genesis, verse 7) ...Thus the whole stock of human knowledge is claimed by every one, as his private possession, as soon as he has got it into his own mind: ...And many are beholden to revelation, who do not acknowledge it..."

But he also felt that mankind needed the command of a divine law to accept morality, and were too lazy to follow an elaborate proof, even if they could. "...hearing plain commands, is the sure and only course to bring them to obedience and practice. The greatest part cannot know, and therefore they must believe... To one who is once persuaded that Jesus Christ was sent by God to be a King, and a Savior of those who do believe in him, all his commands become principles... easy to be understood... It is all pure, all sincere; nothing too much, nothing wanting; but such a complete rule of life, as the wisest men must acknowledge, tends entirely to the good of mankind, and that all would be happy, if all would practice it." (John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, para. 243, 1691)

Discounting for a moment the impossibility of miracles, the acceptance of any myth or belief because it is a good way to control the impulses of the masses does nothing to establish 'truth' or distinguish one religion from another. To suggest that one accept a philosophy because it is politically correct says more about the need for myth and feebleness of Man than about the virtue of the philosophy.

56) Once accepted, life
As an inexplicable gift
-- full of mystery --
Becomes all the more remarkable and enjoyable.

57) "Language at best is but a poor vehicle for expressing one's thoughts in full. For me non-violence is not a mere philosophical principle. It is the rule and the breath of my life. [Telos]...It is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart. True guidance comes by constant waiting upon God, by utmost humility, self-abnegation, by being ever ready to sacrifice one's self. Its practice requires fearlessness and courage of the highest order... Truth is the law of our being.

"My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. [ahimsa: non-violence, positively the practice of love] ...I am a believer in previous births and rebirths. All our relationships are the result of the samskaras [Indelible impressions left by past action.] we carry from our previous births. God's laws are inscrutable and are the subject of endless search. No one will fathom them... the safest thing is not to worship any person, living or dead, but to worship perfection which resides only in God, known as Truth.

"I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever-changing, ever-dying, there is underlying all that change a Living Power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and re-creates. That informing Power or Spirit is God. And since nothing else I see merely through the senses can or will persist, He alone is.

"And is this Power benevolent or malevolent? I see it as purely benevolent. For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme God." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men are Brothers, 1960) If truth (or reality) is 'Telos' or a rational cause of action, it is possible to see that if it is equated to god, how one might accept that concept of god.

58) The meaning of life
Is never self-evident
-- Life defies infinity --
Unfolding as an energizing poetry each day.

59)

Spirituality: [Elder Seaburg] "You make it harder [to believe] than it should be for some reason. I'll think about you and make you my special challenge. I'll help you gain the spirituality you need.

[Elder Jack Lincoln] "There is a psychological aspect, an emotionality that controls spirituality, or so it seems. I'm still searching for the difference.

S: "The facilities of our bodies are limited, there are some redundancies and subtle interactions. Lymph fluids flow freely throughout the body, through the organs of the skin and muscle. Our spirituality is more like that and for sure it flows through our nerves and emotional system. But in an important way it is connected to the infinite spirituality of God.

L: "That's the connection I haven't recognized. I feel like I'm playing the piano without any fingers. I don't feel sensitive to any nuances other than what I can explain as emotional.

S: "You might have constructed that barrier yourself. You do have the capacity. You're not a spiritual mutant. It may appear as emotionality in most people but it's not the only explanation...

60) We celebrate life
In many different ways
-- beautiful collage --
But none so degrading as the challenge "Why?"

61) "It is the job of this third member of the Godhead to invade the heart and testify to the soul of each righteous member. The Holy Ghost would fill the faithful with the thrill of knowing the living God." According to the Mormon myth, that was supposed to happen after baptism when a member of the Priesthood gave a Confirmation to each new member, 'the baptism by fire.' [This creates the Telos, motivation for leading a righteous life.] And for many Christians it is an unpardonable sin to 'sin against the Holy Ghost,' deny one's testimony once received and apostatize from their church.

62) How to rise above?
Find peace in our lives?
-- consolation now --
Reach into your past and future for the art of life.

63) "Somewhere along the line, Jack figured, he either didn't receive the gift [of the Holy Ghost] properly or he had lost it. That seemed to be the missing ingredient in his life. He didn't feel that same stirring described by others. Possibly he had constructed some barrier or simply didn't recognize it when it came, or worse, denied it... He wanted to really know '...whether a church is a physical organization or a spiritual body is an all important question to me. Many other churches supply spiritual experience for their members and thus gain new converts. How can one distinguish a real spiritual experience, the basis of any 'true' religion, from emotional experiences'?" (IJ, Jack and Lucky, 1968)

Most people don't bother with such nit-picking, because as it turns out, as soon as you ask, you become a good candidate for Atheism. Part of the problem with 'Jack' was confusion about what it means to know, really know. Again the first essential step is to ask: "What kind of answer do you want?"

If you are looking for something, (spirituality) how can you know what it will be like if you find it, if you can't in some way describe it in advance? But the only way to describe spirituality is to have experienced it yourself. -- Cats chasing their tails. -- It's like trying to find the spelling of a word in the dictionary when you don't know enough of the language or the right beginning letters to even find the word.

64) Help your loved ones.
Show no restraint.
-- unexpurgated --
Love is the answer we carry as instinct.

65) 4 "The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,
5 "(I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to shew you the word of the Lord: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying,
6 "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
7 "Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
8 "Thou shalt not make they any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
9 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,..." (Moses and Aaron, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 5, 4-9)

Thus Moses established a cult that traveled around conquering its neighbors to secure a birthright for the cult members. But the price was allegiance to this one god, who ironically, only Moses had seen. Once the cult succeeded, and answered the demand of the people for direction, it became a religion.

66) Go tell the world
Unless you choose
-- conformity --
There is no restriction on truth and enjoyment in life.

(IJ, 1994)

67) As secular humanism expands its influence, does this indeed weaken the moral fiber of society? It could unless the power of faith, the 'fear of god,' is replaced by other well publicized and effective emotional appeals (reason is a weak motivation) for young people to be a good actor in society, develop close family relationships and 'reach out and touch someone.'

On to Decimus Stele