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Many paths to God


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#21 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 05:09 PM

No, but assuming there is some spiritual force/consciousness/being that interacts with humans, I'm sure individual Orthodox might learn nuggets of truth. If any of those nuggets of truth can be explained instead of simply experienced, then they might have found their way into Orthodox beliefs. (Of course I believe the same thing about other religions.)

Atheist is probably the best label for me. I think Jesus was probably just a fanatical Jewish cult leader who thought he was a prophet of a coming Kindom of Heaven within the lifetime of his followers. Obviously he was wrong.

On the other hand, I have experienced things that seemed to fit the Christian story. So that's my problem. The most rational explanation is that my subconscious uses Christian imagery as its vocabulary, but sometimes I wonder if the source is a spirit of some kind instead of my subconscious.

Bob, what you think "obvious" is only obvious given materialistic assumptions, which exclude a priori the existence of nonmaterial beings. Given those same assumptions you must interpret your experience of what seems to be a spirit or spirits as merely your subconscious at work. But you could also choose other assumptions and reason just as rationally from them that spirits do exist, that Christianity is right and true, and that maybe what you experienced was actually spiritual (just maybe because it could still have been your subconscious imagination).

 

Your choice, but whichever assumptions you choose, you should recognize and accept what follows logically from them. What follows logically from materialism is quite bleak -- no help from beyond, no hope beyond the grave, no reason to do good and tell the truth if we have to suffer for it, no such thing as right or wrong except as objects of individual desire, no such thing as true beauty except as nonrational personal preference, and sometimes, as in your case, conflict between actual experience and the dictates of materialism: You must deny your own experience, not because materialism is true or more rational but because your willful choice of materialism requires it.

 

Another reason not to choose materialism is that many others have also experienced wonders that are hard to dismiss as hallucinations because they actually make good sense according to clear-minded reason.


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 20 November 2014 - 05:19 PM.


#22 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 06:03 PM

Re the last sentence of post #20, a fortiori when wonders are experienced by more than one person. Thus, it is a commonplace that Orthodox Christians (and indeed others) experience fragrance from the relics of the saints - a non-materialistic 'wonder' - which yet makes 'good sense' in Orthodox terms.



#23 Bob L.

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 06:34 PM

Theology and Mysticism in the Tradition of the Eastern Church
 
by Vladimir Lossky
 
http://orthodoxinfo....ssky_intro.aspx
 
 

The theological doctrines ... can be treated in the most direct relation to the vital end—that of union with God to the attainment of which they are subservient. Thus they appear as the foundations of Christian spirituality. It is this that we shall understand in speaking of 'mystical theology'; not mysticism properly so-called, the personal experiences of different masters of the spiritual life. Such experiences, for that matter, more often than not remain inaccessible to us: even though they may find verbal expression. What, in reality, can one say of the mystical experience of St. Paul:
 
 

 
To venture to pass any judgement upon the nature of this experience it would be necessary to understand it more fully than did St. Paul, who avows his ignorance: 'I cannot tell: God knoweth.' We deliberately leave on one side all question of mystical psychology. Nor is it theological doctrines as such that we propose to set forth in the present work, but only such elements of theology as are indispensable for the understanding of a spirituality: the dogmas which constitute the foundation of mysticism.

o.k. if I understand correctly you are saying mystical theology is the system of practices and ideas that facilitates mysticism? So the church is only concerned with mystical theology and can't pass judgement on any mysticism that happens to individuals? (I suspect I didn't comprehend everything you wrote unfortunately. Some of the concepts are unfamiliar.)

#24 Rick H.

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 06:45 PM

The entire post by Mr. Papas was written by Vladmir Lossky, this is part of the introduction to Lossky's book named above.  I'm not 100% sure what the point of this post is myself as it relates to this discussion.


Edited by Rick H., 20 November 2014 - 06:50 PM.


#25 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 06:54 PM

I think Lossky is saying here that we can speak dogmatically about mystical experiences like Baptism and the Eucharist because something about them has been revealed to us first by Christ and then by the Apostles and Fathers. What has been revealed is mystical theology. But what we can't speak dogmatically about are the mystical wonders that we ourselves and others have experienced because they are, by definition, mysteries. We can however judge whether someone's interpretation of a mystical experience accords with Christian truth, and we can be pretty sure that if you hear a voice telling you to kill your brother you should not assume the voice to have come from God.

 

For example, when my elder daughter was baptized at age three, she told us she saw angels in the baptismal font. We cannot say whether she did or didn't see angels, but we can say that she received the regeneration that the mystery of Holy Baptism effects.


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 20 November 2014 - 07:08 PM.


#26 Bob L.

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 07:00 PM

Bob, what you think "obvious" is only obvious given materialistic assumptions, which exclude a priori the existence of nonmaterial beings. Given those same assumptions you must interpret your experience of what seems to be a spirit or spirits as merely your subconscious at work. But you could also choose other assumptions and reason just as rationally from them that spirits do exist, that Christianity is right and true, and that maybe what you experienced was actually spiritual (just maybe because it could still have been your subconscious imagination).
 
Your choice, but whichever assumptions you choose, you should recognize and accept what follows logically from them. What follows logically from materialism is quite bleak -- no help from beyond, no hope beyond the grave, no reason to do good and tell the truth if we have to suffer for it, no such thing as right or wrong except as objects of individual desire, no such thing as true beauty except as nonrational personal preference, and sometimes, as in your case, conflict between actual experience and the dictates of materialism: You must deny your own experience, not because materialism is true or more rational but because your willful choice of materialism requires it.
 
Another reason not to choose materialism is that many others have also experienced wonders that are hard to dismiss as hallucinations because they actually make good sense according to clear-minded reason.

I agree that to some degree I choose to believe materialism. Christianity upset me when I believed it. I don't know how to explain my feelings other than: "this is not the way it should be". After several months, I became depressed and started suspecting that Christianity was designed to imprison me in fear and prevent me from finding the truth. Obviously most of you are Christians and would disagree, but that is what I began to suspect. Many of my "experiences" seemed to be intended to show me the problems in Christian theology. Some of my "experiences" seemed to be guiding me towards Hinduism. I don't know much about Hinduism, but that is my interpretation.

It's simpler to tell myself that I had a nervous breakdown followed by some intermittent hallucinations. The problem is that my experiences usually lasted for only a few seconds or minutes and then I would be normal for several weeks or months. Also I remember an experience when I was 13 and another when I was about 24 and another when I was 30. I didn't have the nervous breakdown until I was 42.

A month ago, I overcame one of my delusions that had been bothering me for the last 5 years. I was afraid that my friend was trying to harm me, but when he came to visit I realized he was normal. I remember all kinds of strange behaviors from this friend, and they must have been imaginary. So I felt like I was making progress back towards atheism and materialism and sanity. But it is slow.

Edited by Bob L., 20 November 2014 - 07:01 PM.


#27 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 07:17 PM

I agree that to some degree I choose to believe materialism. Christianity upset me when I believed it. I don't know how to explain my feelings other than: "this is not the way it should be". After several months, I became depressed and started suspecting that Christianity was designed to imprison me in fear and prevent me from finding the truth. Obviously most of you are Christians and would disagree, but that is what I began to suspect. Many of my "experiences" seemed to be intended to show me the problems in Christian theology. Some of my "experiences" seemed to be guiding me towards Hinduism. I don't know much about Hinduism, but that is my interpretation.

You may indeed have had a bad experience of Christianity. All of us here have probably had some bad experiences, too, but we recognize those experiences as not representative of the whole of Christianity or of Christ Himself, which is where we strive to keep our focus. Mere men will let us down and even harm us, but Christ will not.



#28 Lakis Papas

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 08:40 PM

Bob L.  please let me offer you an advice. 
 
Look for other people and try to make loving relationships with them and  trust them - without preconditions. (this may initially look restrictive and cause some kind of fear). But believe me this is important, and less important is to look for Christianity as a personal way to find an exit of any problematic situation.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 20 November 2014 - 08:42 PM.


#29 Bob L.

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 11:17 PM

You may indeed have had a bad experience of Christianity. All of us here have probably had some bad experiences, too, but we recognize those experiences as not representative of the whole of Christianity or of Christ Himself, which is where we strive to keep our focus. Mere men will let us down and even harm us, but Christ will not.

 

I had a bad experience with our priest, but my objection to Christianity went deeper. Christianity is too awkward and creepy. The truth should be elegant and familiar. It is hard for me to explain.



#30 Bob L.

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 11:19 PM

Bob L.  please let me offer you an advice. 
 
Look for other people and try to make loving relationships with them and  trust them - without preconditions. (this may initially look restrictive and cause some kind of fear). But believe me this is important, and less important is to look for Christianity as a personal way to find an exit of any problematic situation.

 

Thanks. That is good advice. I'm very isolated socially due to circumstances and personality, but I know you are right.



#31 Phoebe K.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 02:53 PM

Bob L

 

I know how hard it is to accept the personal Truth and come into a relationship with him, I have been through this process myself and it can be a real rench to admit that our own logic is falty.  I went through many troubles in my way to true faith and suffered at the hands of many so called christians in the western churches.  The process if admitting our pride and submitting to the Church is hard but as our Love for God and our Spiritual Father grows the rules cease to be a restriction and rather become a freedom.  To our fallen nature the truth is forren, however once we turn around and chose to follow God in his way the truth becomes simple and elegant yet still entirely different from the world, for the Gospel is foolishness to the world.

 

The best image I can use to explain this is training a fruiting bush on a trellice, it can seem hard when it is first done but it makes the plant bare more fruit, so with us in our spiritual lives through training and discipline we bare more fruit.

 

I would encurge you not to give up on Christianity but rather for this season of preparation for and celebration of the Nativity chose a local Orthodox Church (one where English is the dominant language would probably help you understand things more), in a good community you will be welcomed but not overwhelmed and be allowed to find your feet in the community.



#32 Bob L.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 03:34 PM

Bob L
 
I know how hard it is to accept the personal Truth and come into a relationship with him, I have been through this process myself and it can be a real rench to admit that our own logic is falty.  I went through many troubles in my way to true faith and suffered at the hands of many so called christians in the western churches.  The process if admitting our pride and submitting to the Church is hard but as our Love for God and our Spiritual Father grows the rules cease to be a restriction and rather become a freedom.  To our fallen nature the truth is forren, however once we turn around and chose to follow God in his way the truth becomes simple and elegant yet still entirely different from the world, for the Gospel is foolishness to the world.
 
The best image I can use to explain this is training a fruiting bush on a trellice, it can seem hard when it is first done but it makes the plant bare more fruit, so with us in our spiritual lives through training and discipline we bare more fruit.
 
I would encurge you not to give up on Christianity but rather for this season of preparation for and celebration of the Nativity chose a local Orthodox Church (one where English is the dominant language would probably help you understand things more), in a good community you will be welcomed but not overwhelmed and be allowed to find your feet in the community.

Thanks. :) I'll give that some thought.

#33 Bob L.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 06:19 PM

Bob, Orthodoxy can be called many things.

If you read the Gospel of John all the way through (or perhaps watch a video depiction if you learn better that way), and follow the words of Christ, there is one thing that becomes very clear in his speaking.  He says, "In earnest I tell you" (also translated "In truth, I tell you" or "I am telling you the truth") over and over again.  He makes a very strong statement that those who wish to see the truth will listen, and those that don't.
 
In your writing, you keep distinguishing God from Jesus.  However, there is the Father (who is the God of Jesus) and Jesus (who is the son of the Father).  Both are God to us, bound in a way that is similar in the way that photons are both waves and particles at the same time, that is by their very nature and "substance" they are divine.
 
God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  And God is truth.  So, in a sense, if you are honestly seeking the truth, God will reward you.  If you do not love the truth (even when it hurts) then you are just deluded and there really is no point.  However, if you are seeking truth, God will reward you.  It may not come for a long time.  So, it is a test of stamina.
 
Often, people turn it around and act as if truth is God, and that is truth as defined by a limited perception.  That is effectively making God out of an imperfect "image" and is not in truth.  That is creating an idol.
 
Your question title is "Many paths to God" and I wonder out loud, what does "God" mean in the statement?  If you don't define your terms, then discussion will have limited (if any) usefulness.

Thanks for the post. :)

(I removed my ideas about atheism, because I don't want to be preaching atheism here.)

Edited by Bob L., 21 November 2014 - 06:21 PM.


#34 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 06:21 PM

Orthodoxy is not a denomination.



#35 Bob L.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 07:08 PM

Orthodoxy is not a denomination.

That brings up a variation of the question in the OP. When I asked my question, I was thinking about non-Christian religions, but what about alternate forms of Christianity (Baptists, Catholics, etc.)?

#36 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 08:45 PM

I don't know what OP is. Baptists, Roman Catholics and all other Christians are denominations. This means that to the extent to which they are human constructs, they are more or less distant from the truth which is Orthodoxy. Although Orthodoxy does not have a monopoly of the truth, it has the fullness of the truth which no denomination has. Obviously, non-Christian religions are very distant from the truth, and those which some are attracted to such as eastern meditation are spiritual suicide.



#37 Rick H.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 09:20 PM

"So I started wondering if something (a universal consciousness, our higher selves, etc.) interacts with humans through the subconscious where things like religious concepts are stored. A Christian naturally interacts through Christianity, a muslim through Islam, etc."

 

 

Is this the question in your opening post that you are referring to?


Edited by Rick H., 21 November 2014 - 09:22 PM.


#38 Bob L.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 09:27 PM

"So I started wondering if something (a universal consciousness, our higher selves, etc.) interacts with humans through the subconscious where things like religious concepts are stored. A Christian naturally interacts through Christianity, a muslim through Islam, etc."
 
 
Is this the question in your opening post that you are referring to?

Yes. After reading it there, I can see how it might be confusing.

I think Reader Andreas was able to give a good response in spite of the confusion. :)

#39 Rick H.

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 11:38 PM

Okay, I think I understand the question now.  I have read other individual 
Christian theologians, from other Christian Traditions, who in their later years
make a move to a kind of 'theology of hope.'   This theology of hope would allow
room for what you are considering.  It always seems to be as these men age and
mature, some like the Baptist Billy Graham to the Reformed Jurgen Moltmann
to the Roman Catholic Thomas Merton, that they make a move in this
direction.

I used to have a good understanding of the current state of
many of the kinds of Christian groups that you are asking about, but I have lost
touch in the past several years.  But, up to this point, I would say there is no
Christian group or faith tradition as a whole that would endorse what is being suggested in your question.

Possibly, as you already know you would
have to look towards something like the Universalist/Unitarians or Hinduism
(Shakti expressed through Kundalini), or maybe even a kind of 12 step program to
start to find support for the higher power or universal consciousness that works
through us regardless of one's affiliation or denomination.

Actually, again possibly as you already know, to suggest what you are to a
Christian is to ask him to consider something along the lines of the God behind
the Trinity.   While some Christians express hope or subscribe to another
stance, a kind of unknowing, most will not go anywhere near a consideration of
the question you are asking because of the logical end result of any likelihood
of it being correct.

Edited by Rick H., 21 November 2014 - 11:41 PM.


#40 Bob L.

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Posted 22 November 2014 - 01:30 AM

Okay, I think I understand the question now.  I have read other individual 
Christian theologians, from other Christian Traditions, who in their later years
make a move to a kind of 'theology of hope.'   This theology of hope would allow
room for what you are considering.  It always seems to be as these men age and
mature, some like the Baptist Billy Graham to the Reformed Jurgen Moltmann
to the Roman Catholic Thomas Merton, that they make a move in this
direction.

I used to have a good understanding of the current state of
many of the kinds of Christian groups that you are asking about, but I have lost
touch in the past several years.  But, up to this point, I would say there is no
Christian group or faith tradition as a whole that would endorse what is being suggested in your question.

Possibly, as you already know you would
have to look towards something like the Universalist/Unitarians or Hinduism
(Shakti expressed through Kundalini), or maybe even a kind of 12 step program to
start to find support for the higher power or universal consciousness that works
through us regardless of one's affiliation or denomination.

Actually, again possibly as you already know, to suggest what you are to a
Christian is to ask him to consider something along the lines of the God behind
the Trinity.   While some Christians express hope or subscribe to another
stance, a kind of unknowing, most will not go anywhere near a consideration of
the question you are asking because of the logical end result of any likelihood
of it being correct.

 

Thanks, I wasn't aware of those things. When you say most Christians won't contemplate the God behind the Trinity due to the logical end result, I assume the end result is that the person no longer believes in Christianity?

 

On the other hand, if Christianity becomes only an avatar of the real theology, then that real theology is free to overcome the problems in Christianity. A Christian can be aware of the contradictions and limitations of Christian theology without being troubled, because the Christian knows that Christianity is only a tool kit of stories and practices developed by a culture to interact with the real supernatural world. A Christian might continue to imagine Jesus or Yahweh as the deities, because these avatars are more familiar and meaningful from childhood indoctrination.

 

BTW I am on the fence. I prefer to believe in metaphysical naturalism, but sometimes it seems hard to believe. Also I don't mean to offend people by making skeptical comments about Christianity. It's just what I think, and I don't claim to be an expert. :)


Edited by Bob L., 22 November 2014 - 01:43 AM.





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