The importance of damnation

“There is no final damnation.” That is a very scary thought if you believe that. If there was no eternal damnation then there would be no need for Jesus, or the Gospel, or even the bible. We’d all be going to heaven, no matter what we did, how we lived, and what we believed. And that would make a great deal of what Jesus said to us, a lie. Which in turn would mean that God is not perfect, but rather is sinful Himself.

From a facebook debate. It was started with this lovely quote from Cynthia Nixon: ”Gay people who want to marry have no desire to redefine marriage in any way. When women got the vote they did not redefine voting. When African-Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to the table… We have no desire to change marriage. We want to be entitled to not only the same privileges, but the same responsibilities as straight people.” It degenerated. My best contribution was after a 19 line comment: I wrote, “Yawn”. Happy dance, I nailed the man! All that earnest cogitation, dismissed in one word. Ha!

Having increased your adulation and wonderment at me a notch, I will now dissect his comment. There are (at least) two Christian world-views. This lawyer, who in his mid-forties has been able to retire, says that the life of Jesus only has purpose in order to save Christians. His sacrifice is the point of his life. That sacrifice is to propitiate the wrath of God against God’s creation in our original sin. This fits the Nicene creed-

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. The creed has the birth and the death, and nothing in between.

This means that the heart of the Gospel is damnation. It is Pascal’s wager in reverse: there is no point in following Jesus, or being Good, or worshipping, unless billions burn in Hell. The dogma is more important than people. This is why it is easy to idolise dogma over gay people, and call us abominable.

John rephrased: If there was no eternal damnation, then there would have been no reason for God to send his Son to suffer so greatly and die on the cross for our sins. I think the sacrifice was for the wrath of man, not the wrath of God, but that would be difficult to get over on facebook.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the bad are led off for eternal torment. In several parables people will be in the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The rich man looked up from his torment at Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, across a great gulf. The gospels are full of Damnation: and still I reject it as Afterlife. There may be other interpretations of those passages, but I do not know them; I do not want to explain away the passages, but live with them.

My religion

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/C%C3%A9zanne%2C_Le_Printemps.jpgMy religion is practice, not dogma.

On Sundays I go to the meeting house. T drives me, and we chat. About fifteen or twenty people gather, and chat deeply and joyously. I kiss cheeks, and have two or three good hugs.

I sit in silence in the meeting room. The last time I went in, I was assailed by the holiness of it. Or- I am aware that I have different states of awareness or attention. I may sit with my thoughts chasing their tails, thoughts I have thought before, or I may be in a state where my senses seem heightened, that I can hear a pin drop, I can see wonder and beauty in the grain of the bench. It is “holy”- it seems to facilitate in me altered states which I value. My teacher Amrita writes of silence.

I notice the other people as they come into the room. As I worship with most of them regularly, talk to them, see them in action, I know and value them. I take pleasure in their presence and being.

I may watch the clock for the hour, and think, and- sometimes my thoughts seem to move in a new or useful direction. This may be “inspired”. There are a number of stories about how this might happen. It is the Holy Spirit, moving me, as St Paul says giving words to my inarticulate feelings. Or, it is my unconscious mind, and things drift into consciousness. Sometimes I feel moved to speak this to the Meeting, and sometimes what I say has had particular meaning for others, or what they say has been where I am. Two Friends spoke of resisting this prompting to speak, and being unable to- our Quakerly sobriety lives with vibrant hearts and charismatic Movement.

Then we chat over coffee.

S says that she needs to talk of these spiritual matters, and is so delighted that she has found people who understand what she means. I joined when I felt driven from my Anglican church, when I could no longer worship disguised as a man, and found I was accepted among Quakers.

I join in with the organisation, as assistant area meeting clerk and now member of Nominations Committee.

What of dogma and doctrine? I have certain experiences, chiefly these senses of holiness or inspiration, which I choose to label with the term God. That may mean any number of things, between the evolved consciousness of this human being in a random universe through some sort of collective unconscious, race memory exhibited in instinctive behaviour, or all-powerful eternal Creator. Sometimes one idea of God seems to fit better than others: for I see in part, and understand in part, and a false understanding may help me to a truer perception.

The Virgin Birth is a story. I do not need to know if it was true in the sense that “Henry VIII had six wives” is true, for I see its beauty. I have words and stories, stimulating and provoking me, to my behoof.

Reiki I

My senses were alive, and I noticed everything. Or so it felt. The beauty of the Baker St tube station, which dates from 1863, and then the sunshine in Maida Vale. The vehicles, the buildings, the trees, the occasional pedestrian on this residential road. When R invites me in, she invites me to sit down, and I am not ready to do so. I explain how internally focused I am normally, and how in my senses I am now, and how disconcerting I find this. I am comfortable enough, but I find her crystal absolutely fascinating, and I stare at it. She found my failing to sit down disconcerting, and my explanation reassured her a little.

We start with the legend of Dr Mikao Usui. He learned Sanskrit in order to study the sutras, and then meditated on a mountain for twenty one days. At the end of that time, a bolt of light hit him in the forehead, he rose from his physical body and received Attunement, and the Reiki symbols and their meaning were revealed to him. He came down the mountain with the ability to heal. He stubbed his big toe, making it bleed, and healed himself; then healed the innkeeper’s daughter of her toothache. He ate a large meal without ill-effects, despite his long fast.

The problem with this legend is that there was an earlier legend, put about when Reiki was spreading in the US: that Dr Usui was a Christian, and sought to learn the healing powers Christ promised to his followers. Mark 16:18:  “they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

I do not know the symbols yet, that is level 2. As for this Attunement thing, I have already performed spiritual healing, and felt the heat; and felt heat from others. All very well to say Reiki is a different level of vibration from the life-force other healers use. And I understand there are disagreements within Reiki between those who say the hand-positions and symbol use must be precise, in the way always taught, and those who say there were always differences and the healer should use her intuition. R and I are firmly in the latter camp.

Experiencing her healing however is lovely and relaxing. I like the five precepts.

I go to stay overnight with my friend, who moved from doing body work in an alternative therapy centre to working in an office. I have the idea that I could do this and charge for it. I could set up a WordPress site called —shire Reiki, start getting hits, and get some clients. Now that is not a business plan, but it is better than my previous indecision.

The attunement itself is beautiful. It lasts five minutes, and feels like an ordination. Then I give R a treatment, which I love, and she values, though her treatment couch is too low for me and leaning over her hurts my back. Performing kneeling is possible.

Before, leaving heart-opening experiences, I have found the city dislocating and difficult. Not today. And I have been treating myself lying in bed, morning and evening, and found that beautiful. Here are the five precepts:

The secret art of inviting happiness,
The miraculous medicine for all diseases.
At least for today:
Do not be angry, 
Do not worry, 
Be grateful, 
Work with diligence, 
Be kind to people. 
Every morning and evening,
join your hands in meditation and pray with your heart.
State in your mind and chant with your mouth.
For improvement of mind and body.
Usui Reiki Ryōhō.
The founder,
Mikao Usui.

Damned and saved

I’m sure his opinion of me didn’t change very much and he remained entirely unconscious of my being, as well as largely delusional about his own, but my new found confidence in myself, and my egoless respect for his right to simply be did bring about an unexpected change and, crucially, an easing in the anxiety I had always felt in my dealings with him.

From The Rivendale Review. I find the story inspiring and illuminating, but how many of us, do you think, are like that? Delusional, or aware?

I have been conscious of healing and maturing since February 1999. “Spiritual journey” and “spiritual growth” are other useful metaphors. Around that time I read Scott Peck’s work, who posited four stages: selfish and amoral; rule-observing; intellectual- working things out for onesself; and spiritual. The first time I read of his stage four, I did not

understand it at all; the second time, I thought I did, and decided that meant I had progressed, though Peck says that his “stage four” is only the beginning. I also read “Awareness” by Anthony de Mello, and got the idea of becoming awake, which at the time I linked to being aware of the spiritual journey and now link to Brené Brown’s “Vulnerability”. The “Saved” might be the people on the journey, or might be all of us: we heal and grow whether we are aware of it or not.

And yet, I am still groping towards seeing other people rather than projecting onto them. Perhaps this is impossible, perhaps one can only see in another what one can admit in onesself; so it helps to be able to admit the diversity and variety in onesself, in order to see others better. And I think that I do react badly to that in other people which I deny in myself- in any case it is all about me, but insofar as I can accept myself, I can see and accept others better.

Such a long path, this healing. How many are on the path? How many are further on it than I am?

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Within the process of living, we are meant to heal our energies, to make them more strong and more expansive.

From Omni Vision. So much mysticism on the web! Ordinary blogs which I happen across teach me. I almost see things as Omni Vision does: my difference remains my agnosticism of spiritual reality. My perceptions are valid, but I distrust any doctrine or dogma explaining them. And so I could follow OV’s prescriptions as valuable, even if convinced of Atheistic materialism.

Image and Reality

Pictures of God as a child in the arms of a woman are far more common, but Google Images produces a lot for the search “God enthroned”, and quite a few of them are the old man with the beard. Blake’s is one of my favourites. The old man with the beard is the perfect image for Richard Dawkins to ridicule- how could anyone believe in that- and also for a fair few fourteen-year-olds to use in their journey to atheism.

There are other images of God. There is God as life-force, immanent in all things. For the Quaker, God is Relationship, experience, the inner light which we get to know. Moving into Quakerism, I had experiences of being moved to minister, possibly of being led into action, and I found that any idea of God I had got in the way of experiences of God. I decided to be open to new perceptions of these experiences, rather than being too quick to interpret them in the way of my understanding of previous experiences. I do not necessarily attach the experience too quickly to the word “God” or other words, and this is a discipline I use to try to get to the fullness of the experience.

I now seek to apply this to other experiences: getting to know other people, for example. Really, who is this person, now?

Allison Grayhurst applies it to spiritual growth. Indeed one of the barriers to growth is my preconception of what the new, more mature Flourish might look like. And when it comes, I have not anticipated the result, except once or twice in deep communing with my subconscious. Of course I need a “world map”, an understanding so that I can navigate quotidian situations, but also I need openness to experience so that I can gain the full blessing of it.