My question

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enigma
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My question

Post by enigma »

I subscribe to a magazine called The Week which writes about what other magazines and newspapers are writing about. There's a story from the Netherlands that made me think of this forum. It says that a Roman Catholic bishop who served in Indonesia says that Christians there call God "Allah", and so he suggests that if Christians in Europe did so too, it might help to bring us all together. Here is a quote "The word is simply Arabic for "god." So why, he asked, shouldn't all monotheists call the deity by the same name?" That makes pretty good sense to me. The article concludes that Christians say Allah is not the same God as the God who is the Father of Jesus. Here is the question that came to my mind. How do they know that?

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W4TVQ
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Post by W4TVQ »

The problem I have with this idea is in the idea that the One Who Is "has" a name at all. Asked about it by Moses, He simply identified Himself as "I AM." Every "name" for The one minimizes The One; each name is a tribal designation, whether it is Allah, or Yahweh, or simply "God." So why not just call Him "Charles" or "Buford"?

In my perception -- and I emphasize, only in my perception -- the name "Allah" is now attached to something viciously negative, the wholesale murder of innocents to further a political agenda which is unhappily justified by religion. Of course those who use the name "Allah" in this way are a minority of Muslims, but they are the ones getting the press. They have attached simply too many connotations to that name now for it to succeed as a generic "name" for God outside of Islam, IMO.

Not that His Name is "God" either. He (She, It) is I AM, period. Names differentiate, and God is not susceptible to differentiation except in our temporary perceptions. How could the ultimate Ground of Being have a name?

I fear that until we all gain the perspective of the enlightened we will all be operating within the limitations of the universe we perceive, and will find it very hard to overcome the tendency, all so human, to labeling and naming. But I agree with you that we should at least consider whatever possibilities exist that might help erase the labels and the names. As Paul said, "We know not yet what we shall be, but we shall be like him." Then the labels will be gone, and we will all be manifestly Him.

Stay tuned: I expect ZF will have a far more useful answer for you.

Jai Ram
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"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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zoofence
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Post by zoofence »

Good question, and good answer.

Specifically,
The article concludes that Christians say Allah is not the same God as the God who is the Father of Jesus. Here is the question that came to my mind. How do they know that?
I suppose the answer is, they don’t know it, they believe it, and that’s enough. Whether or not it is enough to kill each other over is another question altogether.

I applaud the bishop’s effort to sow peace where there is anger, but I doubt this gesture will do it. As I see it, the religious violence we see at all corners of the globe is religious in name only, and certainly not over the name of God. What’s at play are long-held historical, political, economic, cultural, geographic, territorial, and so on issues, not religious differences, despite the appearances.

Consider Northern Ireland. There, both sides called God “God” and even worshipped the same “Prince of Peace” even as they dynamited school buses full of each others’ children. And in Iraq (and elsewhere), Sunnis and Shiites all call God “Allah” even as they cut each others’ throats. These fights are not about what they seem to be about, and any potential cure will take only if it addresses what the fight is really about.

That’s the outer phenomenon. On the inner, my experience has been that true seekers welcome the opportunity to call God by different names, to search for God down unfamiliar paths, to reach for God by new practices. Why? Because seekers know (1) that to experience God’s Being Infinite, they must be able to discover Him anywhere and everywhere, and to recognize Him and to relate to Him identically wherever and however He may appear and by whatever name He may be addressed, and (2) that habit can be a terrible obstacle to growth. For a seeker, the explanation “I do it this way because I have always done it this way” is an excellent reason for change.

Thus, at TZF’s Definitions page, I have this suggestion for seekers: “A rule of thumb: If you come across a form of address for God that makes you uncomfortable, it is probably time to adopt it.”

jenjulian
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Post by jenjulian »

On the inner, my experience has been that true seekers welcome the opportunity to call God by different names, to search for God down unfamiliar paths, to reach for God by new practices.
I like this encouragement you give to seekers. I think an obstacle for many to do this is the practice of Christian groups to teach that if you follow these 'other' paths, it could be satan. Some groups will not even allow their members to meditate because they believe that this can allow the devil a way in. This kind of fear tactic works and I have learned to be very careful about how open I am when talking to others about how I follow the path. I suppose the ego is in force to protect itself in a group setting just as it does in the individual. Eckhart talks about this and I think I'm in agreement.
Last edited by jenjulian on August 31st, 2007, 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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anna
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Post by anna »

Ah, yes, SATAN - the great fear monger. How many things have been done in the name of God, but were actually done in the name of ego-centricity, and therefore, Satan. Satan is an externalized, or projected image of what is within - this is basic psychology, and Satan is no more than "me", "mine" as opposed to "your's" or "ours." The externalization of this vulnerability of being separate has allowed so many of us to refuse to grapple with the inner conflicts that being human inevitably foist upon us. Put it "out there", and I don't need to deal with it "in here".

I recall early on in my own process that my greatest stumbling block was not so much Satan, but a more subtle expression of the same thing - that somehow, by straying forth and away from "THE CHURCH", I would be lost. Sounds Catholic, but it was basically episcopal - I suppose, in many ways, the same thing. I was outraged when I realized, eventually, how this conditioning and stamp of fear had controlled both my mind and my spirit, and had held me literally hostage to the propoganda - it was no more than that, and yet it was so powerful that I had to walk through a kind of fire to get past it. This, to my way of thinking, is one of the worst aspects of organized religion, whatever the discipline, it is not limited to Christianity. You find it in ALL groups, both big and small, and in particular, in religious circles. Only when you look back do you see the obviousness of the power struggle and control this aspect of groups exerts over its followers. To the spirit, it is anathema. That said, it has its place if its object is to control and coerce the public into acceptable behavior, so perhaps it has its limited place in the scheme of things. But for the devotee of God, it can stop most progress beyond the most fundamental of realizations. Fear can do that.

jenjulian
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Post by jenjulian »

I have started ACIM and how interesting that you have talked about this more subtle fear. I have experienced it today while reading and it is like you said, a feeling that you are veering too far away from what you have been conditioned to, whatever that may be. I think W4QTV was touching on this same feeling when he posted on another thread about needing to stay attached to something so he doesn't get lost out there. (please correct if I have misinterpreted either of you) This is what I'm feeling now. I almost wanted to stop reading because I was feeling this fear of stepping out and not being able to find my way back. How strange to be confronting this wall of fear as I'm reading about what fear is. :wall:

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W4TVQ
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Post by W4TVQ »

I know whay you mean about ACIM. There's a sort of progression of response that many (not all) of us go through with ACIM, almost in this same order: delight ... amazement ... discomfort ... fear ... resistance ... violent resistance ... acceptance ... liberation ... delight.

What ACIM has done for me (among many things) is release me from religion. As both Anna and ZF have observed, there is a vast difference between "religion" and "spirituality." In my book (which I called Christ, Yes: Religion, No) I recall making the distinction that religion is a set of propositions, and a set of rules and regulations geared to those propositions, and a set of rites to unite the followers of those propositions... while spirituality is simply one's orientation towards or away from God. I'd have to modify that some now, because one cannot be oriented away from that which one IS. I'd have to say "spirituality" is the degree of one's awareness of or ignorance of what one IS. Religion represents all the things that man, in varying degrees of awareness of God, has tried to do about God -- except, of course, for being still and knowing He is God. Eric Butterworth makes the distinction, for example, between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus, two entirely different things.

I think the phase of fear and trepidation that comes with the reading of ACIM and of other extraordinary spiritual works like The Door of Everything is a most wonderful sign that the inner awakening is starting to happen ... that the little grain is about to cease being this in order to become that. St. John of the Cross called it "the dark night of the soul." Scare me, God, so I can wake up! ACIM describes it just that way: we are having a nightmare, and Mother's voice is quietly, gently, calling us to awaken and see that the nightmare is not real. But those last few moments before awakening can be the scariest part of the dream. Guess that is the truth in the cliché that "it's always darkest before the dawn."

Namaste
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"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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zoofence
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Post by zoofence »

Excellent points. I particularly like W4TVQ's "release me from religion". Very nice.

It seems to be inescapably true that every seeker has to experience each of these steps for himself or herself.

I suspect that the amount of fear a seeker feels when seeming to veer off the approved path has to do with the environment of his or her upbringing in childhood. After all, parents are our first encounter with authority figures, and, at least as long as we are infants (and, for many of us, subconsciously probably much longer), they hold the power of life and death over us. In many ways, parents define our limits for us as long as we allow them to do so. That is surely part of the reason the Gospels Teacher urges us to “call no man father” and virtually every other tradition urges a break with childhood affiliations.

Here, it helps to remind ourselves that many Teachers, including the Gospels Teacher, were and are considered heretics by the orthodox authorities of their time.

I take comfort in this: If God is Infinite, as virtually every tradition I have encountered agrees, then God is all there is; and if God is all there is, then what am I worried about?

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W4TVQ
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Post by W4TVQ »

I agree, Stefan, with that: I take comfort in this: If God is Infinite, as virtually every tradition I have encountered agrees, then God is all there is; and if God is all there is, then what am I worried about?

Jesus said it: Can you by worrying add one inch to your height?

Buddha exhorted us to stay absolutely in the now, and so does ACIM.

On my refrigerator I've posted this and read it every day:

Worry does not prevent disaster: it prevents joy.

Maybe if I read it often enough It will "take." Then will I be awake at last?

Jai Ram
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"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

windabove
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Post by windabove »

I fear that until we all gain the perspective of the enlightened we will all be operating within the limitations of the universe we perceive, and will find it very hard to overcome the tendency, all so human, to labeling and naming. But I agree with you that we should at least consider whatever possibilities exist that might help erase the labels and the names. As Paul said, "We know not yet what we shall be, but we shall be like him." Then the labels will be gone, and we will all be manifestly Him.
Well put. We still largely live from a sense (belief) of perception, through a glass darkly I believe it is said. We regard the realness of objects/others as being outside our self, instead of as symbols of and within our self. Yes it seems that we are long way off from living in comprehension, where there is no not-I, but we may be closer than we think.

Ever notice how we can easily employ 10,000 words to describe a heavenly taste, yet not one of those words are contradictory or contentious? They're all in agreement because it would be insane for even one argue with what we perceive as real. Sensing words, feeling words, we never tire of; we love to say and hear them over and over, it's like music. We can't get enough even though every word is perfectly satisfying. That instant knowing, that we largely reserve to perception, is really intuitive (spiritual) comprehension, and it naturally precludes the existence of negation. The appearance of misunderstanding is just a round about way of proving conclusively that understanding must be the truth, the pervasive underlying fact.

It's good to remember how adding a dash of taste will make our words a lot less separate from us.

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zoofence
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Post by zoofence »

windabove, Nice to see your name again!
We regard the realness of objects/others as being outside our self, instead of as symbols of and within our self.
Too true. But here's the question: If our Divinely Inspired Function (raison d'etre) is to experience a sensate life, then we "regard the realness of objects/others as being outside our self" precisely because that is the way we were created to regard them.

In other words, if the Infinite Divine One cannot experience itself or anything else (being infinite, it is all there is), and extended itself as us for that purpose, then we are in effect the answer to the One's question, "What does it feel like to feel?"

If so, then our charge may be to live our lives properly, cleanly, enthusiastically, fully, and so on, but without judging our sense of separative-ness because that may have been the basis of our being.

Eventually, we come to think as seekers, to wonder if the objects we have been seeing, experiencing, etc. outside ourselves may in fact be "symbols of and within our self". In other words, we begin to wonder about (to remember?) the Truth of our Nature.

What prompts us to do that? Is it possibly that the "Creation Momentum" begins to run down? The trajectory to descend?

Could it be, as some Chinese teachings suggest (I think), that we come into this world with a set amount of "chi" (fundamental life energy, more or less), and at birth, it is tuned to the "separative perception mode"; then at a pre-determined point, or when it crosses a certain threshold, we change gears?

Remember Paul Simon's lyrics, "I don't find this stuff amusing anymore". Maybe we are preset eventually to reach that point, and when we do, we start reading Zen, ACIM, Ramakrishna, Rumi, and suchlike. We may think we chose to do so, but it may be that we are simply responding to a divine mechanism unfolding.

Just a thought.

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Gulliver
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Post by Gulliver »

“the courage to stand alone”
I find that A Course in Miracle makes a similar challenge, to stand away from the crowd. It is not easy.

the endless legalistinc debates that characterize "orthodox" Christianity
I believe that such "legalistic debates" are a form of mutual reinforcement. Sort of "if we are okay" then I, who am part of we, must be okay, too.

jenjulian
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Post by jenjulian »

Gulliver, I agree with your observation of the need to stand apart from the crowd. Simone Weil wrote a lot about the 'collective' ---I particularly like this passage from Simone Weil Reader:

"Everybody knows that really intimate conversation is only posible between two or three. As soon as there are six or seven, collective language begins to dominate. That is why it is a complete misinterpretation to apply to the Church the words "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Christ did not say two hundred, or fifty, or ten. "he said two or three. He said precisely that he always forms the third in the intimacy of the tete-a- tete.
Christ made promises to the Church, but none of these promises has the force of the expression "Thy Father who seeth in secret." The word of God is the secret word. He who has not heard this word, even if he adheres to all the dogmas taught by the Church, has not contact with truth.

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Post by windabove »

"What does it feel like to feel?"

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anna
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Post by anna »

Investigating fear, I found that fear generated by spiritual study is fear created by the egocentric mind which, particularly if the study is productive, feels its loss of control and the destruction of its buffers and barriers as a threat, and thus, we experience fear. Thus, to the extent that we are in a state of momentary expansion, or release, to that extent, the sense of fear will be felt. However, it is illusory, because it is produced by an upstart, the separate ego. Indeed, the spiritual process, if genuine, is a slow death – after all, the end result of all of it is death, of a very literal kind, because it is a death of the separated mind. The Sufis called it “cutting off the head”, Jesus called it “born again” – the only way you can be born again is to die first – the Hindu’s jnani calls it “loss of self”, the mystics call it immersion in or union with God – one cannot truly unite without loss of a separated self, nor can one immerse into something without losing its separateness.. It is the universal expansion of consciousness beyond the little “me”, or, reversed, the loss of that little me into and beyond that limitation. It should come as no surprise that there will be fear in that process, considering who it is that is generating the fear and its eventual demise. In the beginning, in particular, the fear is very persuasive and obstructionist. After all, the little me has no idea who or what it is, and thinks that it is all there is to me. Little wonder it trembles at the mere suggestion that it might no longer be dominant, indeed, might no longer be useful. Not to mention it may eventually essentially disappear.

Re the coming away from the crowd. There is a double barrier to doing this. First, our conditioning and all the mental and emotional restrictions that implies. Second, our actual physical programming to remain within the herd for the sake of survival. So, to step away, and stand alone, is both psychically difficult, but physically as well. It truly does require great courage to do so.

I particularly enjoyed reading jenjulian’s Simone Weil’s take on Jesus’s “two or more gathered together”. It is just perfect. I had usually supposed that it suggested that there had to be “more” than two in order to include the holy spirit, or spiritual consciousness, and thus took the illogical, but rational leap, to conclude that therefore, only one, was somehow lacking, or at a disadvantage. But of course, it was more than likely literal, and was meant to mean two, together, pure and simple. After all, in any conversation, it is always between the listener and the speaker, two people, not more. It is just accidental that there may be others, or more, listening to the speaker and the listener, but true communication is always intimate, and direct, between two.

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