Posts Tagged ‘spiritual traditions’

What does Spirit have to do with it?

7 April 2019

With this post, I introduce a new category on this blog: Spirit.

Most people who I meet outside of my church have little or no concept of spirit beyond something like “team spirit” and similar senses. Or they may think of it as a substitute term for the soul of religious or psychological texts.

Indeed, any dictionary reflects these various meanings. Mine gives as the second definition, “the thinking, motivating, feeling part of man, often as distinguished from the body.” And the third definition, “life, will, consciousness, thought, etc., regarded as separate from matter.” It is taken from a Latin word meaning “breath.” Thus, when a body stops breathing, you may say that its spirit has left it.

Reading this, one may be tempted to ask, “Well, fine. But what difference does it make?”

In the posts I assign to this category, I will invite the reader to consider the possibility that it does, indeed, make a big difference!

In my youth I, likewise, did not see the point. Yet I, in my youth, made a simple yet perhaps quite profound observation: That a huge majority of the population of earth follow some religion. If religious concepts – including the concept of spirit – have no relevance today, why do most people still think they do?

Religious experience

One reason many people still “believe” is that many people still have “religious” experiences. These are experiences which – for lack of a better definition – are not explained by science or similar rational thinking processes. Thus, while a sudden thunderstorm may have seemed like some heavenly mandate in years long past, climatologists now understand most, if not all, weather phenomena.

While this category still encompasses a quite wide range of experiences, there are a few that are persistent, unmistakable, and if anything, better documented now than they were in the not-too-distant past. One is the experience of death (body death), obviously followed by a return of life in all documented cases. Another is the experience of being outside one’s body, whether or not clinical death occurred. Then there is the distant relative to these, past life recall.

We are not talking about anecdotal evidence here; these are carefully documented cases studied by medical doctors and similar clinical researchers. The point is, “science” is aware that these phenomena, in particular, are real. It is only that scientists, for the most part, reject a spiritual explanation for them. Religious people, on the other hand, have much less back-off in this regard, though they may display some amazing biases of their own.

The question of consciousness

While “consciousness” can be variously described, it is – most obviously – the thing or quality that leaves a body when it dies. Furthermore, in man it is the part of us that is capable of remembering and interpreting experiences, as well as inventing experiences that never happened, dreaming, and hoping for, wishing for, or working for future experiences that haven’t happened yet.

Consciousness has, as have many subjects of this kind, been approached from two main angles. The philosophic approach seeks to devise high-level explanations that will encompass – or at least shed light on – the various unexplained phenomena. And the scientific approach (typified by psychology) seeks to understand these phenomena at a more practical level, like: What can you do if someone has an experience that continues to bother them? It should be noted that “psychology” is based on the Greek psyche, from whence Latin gave us the word spirit.

The point most often made by people who think the subject of consciousness is important is that we won’t solve some of the most fundamental problems of human existence, like insanity, crime and war, until we get consciousness right. And I agree with them about that.

Having a working understanding of life

If we can get the question of consciousness answered correctly – at least for the psychologists, if not for the philosophers – it would open the door to a lot of handlings on this planet that currently seem basically impossible.

Look at all the effort that has been put into ending war, crime and insanity on this planet. Yet they all still exist, and in more threatening forms, it seems, than ever before.

Beyond that, the mystery of the origins of biological life, and of Mankind in particular, continues to elude us. And we have yet quite to figure out exactly what is holding this universe together; a problem in theoretical physics that remains unsolved.

If we had such an understanding firmly in place, how hard would it be to mend a broken marriage, a broken heart, or perhaps even a broken planet?

These articles are not being written to tell you what I think. They are being written to invite you to LOOK. The most workable set of answers – if not the only relatively complete set – that I know of has already been arrived at. Your introduction to these answers is found here: scientology.tv

I urge you to take a look!

ARC in the universe

Artwork created by CSI, 2018.

 

 

Symbols for Body, Mind and Spirit

15 April 2017

body-mind-spirit sketch

I was going through all the files accumulating on my desktop today to sort them into where they are supposed to go in my file system, and I ran across a few that I had pulled together to make a post that I never got around to making.

I didn’t write it at the time because the idea I had didn’t lead anywhere. But I will proceed to write about the general idea anyway.

Did you know that there are sites you can go to on the internet that allow you to make a drawing and then save it? I hate computer drawing programs because they are almost all mouse-based and a mouse is really not a very fun thing to draw with. I’ve preferred a pen, preferably black ink, for many years now. And though sometimes brushes and colors are nice, too, the real appeal of digital drawing is that you don’t have to scan it in from paper after you draw it. The above sketch is pretty pathetic, don’t you think? But it illustrates the idea I had. Is a point radiating some lines a symbol for a body, and is a big circle a symbol for the mind or the spirit?

I couldn’t get a good answer to my question. We all know that the traditional “stick figure” has been used to represent a human being since cave man times. But the information I found did not suggest that any consistent symbology has ever been used for non-material concepts like “mind” or “spirit.” And lookups are filled with modern artistic renditions that have little relation to ancient history.

oriental circle character

The simple unclosed circle was developed in Japan to convey several overlapping Zen ideas concerning human consciousness, or the human essence. Though a certain cyclic meaning is conveyed, the fact that the circle is open suggests that these cycles could be escaped from.

sketch of traditional depiction of buddha

However, as this modern sketch of a traditional depiction of the Buddha indicates, a circle placed behind the head in paintings or statuary has a special significance that is shared widely across the planet. This symbol is used both in the West and in the East to indicate a “holy” being.

It is of esoteric significance, perhaps, that if circles or balls of energy are perceived that seem to be alive, this would be a mental manifestation of the being creating it, as the being itself is entirely immaterial. Thus, the circle or sphere of light, according to esoteric findings as well as actual reported observations, is a very valid symbol for the being and its mind together, body absent or elsewhere, as this is how they actually tend to appear.

The symbol of rays radiating from a center has no similar homogeneous meaning that I could find. As a cross or “X” it is a letter and/or number in several languages and symbol systems. To include a head and four appendages you have to go to the five-pointed star or pentagram, which is rare or missing as a normal writing symbol but otherwise used abundantly in heraldry and design. The pentagram is so easy to draw, so regular, and there are so many things in life that come in fives, that it has been known to symbolize all sorts of things, including the body, or the body as a manifestation of a divine intention.

sketch representaing a turtle or body

I will end with another of my sketches, as it is more colorful than the more carefully-drawn symbols I could find. It was meant to imitate a Native American symbol I found of a turtle, so it has a little tail. However, unlike the stylized turtle I found, it has all five digits drawn in, indicating the fractal or repetitive nature of so many biological designs.

Isis is an Egyptian goddess

22 June 2016

All the illustrations here are listed as Public Domain except perhaps the last one.

Isis nursing Horus sketch

Sketch of a statue portraying Isis nursing Horus.

In my recent studies I came across a comment that the Madonna and Child Christian icon was lifted from the earlier Egyptian icon of Isis and Horus.

The observation seemed pertinent, as the “other Isis” has been getting a lot of attention recently.

Indeed, in ancient times Egypt and Rome became closely linked, and so a cultural exchange took place between Africa and Europe which lives on in disguised forms to this day.

According to Egyptologists, Isis was a wife of Osiris, who resurrected him after he was killed by a rival in order to have sex with him which produced the baby Horus.

madonna nursing

Amazing old painting by an unknown artist. Note all the symbolic energy radiating off the pair.

All these personages were quite well-known in their contemporary cultures.

Horus Osiris, Isis

Horus with his avian head, Osiris and Isis.

The Africa-Persia-India-Europe connection deserves more attention (by someone anyway), but this little post is only to note its existence.

Most ancient traditions involve a “pantheon” of “gods.” It is not clear that the original tellers of these stories considered all these personalities gods the way we think of them today. But certainly this collection of personalities served as the basis for numerous stories in which the tellers and the listeners could see aspects of themselves.

And so the Yoruba of Nigeria (so many of them taken as slaves to the Americas) had their own group of personalities of which stories were told. And many students of “comparative religion” have noted similarities among these pantheons, both in terms of names and relationships, and in terms of their stories.

yoruba river godess Oshun

Oshun as depicted on a mask.

As Osiris was a major personality in Egyptian stories, so Oshun was a major figure in Yoruba stories, except Oshun was a woman.

The Yoruba beliefs, practices and stories came to Brazil, where they merged with those of other African cultures, as well as Catholic Christianity, to produce what most now call Candomblé, a Brazilian mixture of religious and spiritual traditions.

In this last illustration, a little girl gets the great honor of playing Oshun in a ceremony, wearing the traditional yellow dress, and holding a fan or mirror. The beads over her face are probably there to emphasize that she is playing a part in a story about someone else.

girl playing Oshun

Girl playing Oshun in Candomblé ceremony.