Archive for February, 2013

Reflection On The Many Meanings of March 1st and Hope

February 28, 2013 - 2:01 pm 24 Comments

Pastoral Reflection: How Nature Reveals Problem-Solving

When I was a child, back in cold damp, New England, there was an expression the Old Yankees would use concerning this day on the calendar, and it went something like this: ” March… comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb…”

March would be, under normal conditions, the last month of winter weather. If all went well, from the Groundhog’s prediction to The Farmer’s Almanac (I guess they didn’t know about El Nino… Or global warming in those days) they could count on Spring starting sometime in March… .

As it was explained to me, the weather can progress from being fierce to being more gentle, and that this pattern of Nature was capable of happening in a short period of time… one month.

It was a common sight for me, to see snow still piled up at the beginning of March, and it was truly a wondrous and hopeful sight to see, once we past the Ides, that, in a few bare spots, those brave and courageous little crocuses were trying to push their way through the  thawed ground announcing the coming of the long awaited Spring.

This weather phenomenon points to lessons in our apprehension and anticipation- to how we can begin to dread the beginning of a project, a responsibility, or a change in one’s life, and then with greater openness to possibilities, a d a shift in our perceptions, be able to warm up to it and reach its completion with a sense of peace and joy. Like the first of March, our problems and challenges can appear fierce and lion-sized. We can imagine ourselves bracing for the worst, instead of expecting the best from ourselves, our society, our situations in life- we dread, we worry, we are fearful, instead of looking optimistically at our potentials…

Like the stormy chill of the late winter, we can effectively act like wet snow blankets or at least pour down freezing rain on our best efforts. Hope is what renews us. Only as we allow ourselves to emphasize our possibilities and potentials does Spring truly arrive; When Spring is in the air, our willingness to hold fast to our purposes, helps us to endure until the greening of the year, until the color and warmth returns to our lives, and optimism and courage takes its rightful place in our hearts.

From a certain metaphorical perspective, weather is the energetic result of our collective thoughts… and those thoughts, if not directly affecting our world, truly can control the emotional climate of our lives. Based on that outlook, I will confidently predict that it is our reactions and our ability to expect what is good, and rehearse those ideals, versus dreading what might never be, and rehearsing those desperate empty scenes, that could control the warmth we feel and share among us.

Similarly, it could be the “whether or not” patterns in our own thinking that will set the range of temperature in our caring, in our openness that we have toward love and life. If life is currently like March 1st, an old bellowing lion, not happy with his portion and dissatisfied with his lack of attention, take heart… become encouraged… for the peace, warmth, affirmation you seek is not far away. Spring is almost here!

As lion and lamb, may the days of our lives not be spent in worrying whether or not you will receive a fleecing by life, or that you might be devoured by any of life’s challenges and changes. Instead, we can follow nature’s rhythms and give ourselves the gift of time, of patience, acceptance, and a little endurance, and within a few Sundays, your problems can melt, and you, too can bravely bloom with greater optimism and hope for the year… Happy March 1st!

From an upcoming Book, Tilling The Soul, comes this family reflection on March 1st…

One more family reflection:
March 1st carried an interesting little ritual with it… Well, maybe not a ritual so much as a repeated expectation of hearing my grandmother Concetta’s words: “Martza Paze!” This phonetic sound that exclaimed that March was crazy month! It always held the surprise of weather extremes- a few tantalizingly warm Spring days, and the specter of one last looming snow storm… Each year it would be different and unpredictable! She would mutter these words, and sometimes she would declare them with all the emphasis of both exasperation of having to endure another a long winter in New England and the eager expectation of the return of warm weather, going outside, and of course, cooking for Easter, and getting ready for her tomato garden!

 

The Oscars And The Spiritual Ideals Or Lessons They Can Teach

February 23, 2013 - 4:54 pm 41 Comments

Faithful Citizenship

One Day More: Spirituality at the 2013 Oscars

This year’s Best Picture films seem to espouse a common spiritual message: You have to get up every morning and do the work, where you are, with what you have.

By Greg Garrett, February 17, 2013

 

 

Some years, it’s easy to see big overarching themes in the Oscars’ Best Films. In 2008, faced with There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, and the un-nominated but top-grossing The Dark Knight, Jon Stewart pointed out the dark themes of these end-of-the-Bush-era films and asked, “Does this town need a hug?” In 2011, the year of The Social Network, I suggested that the ten Best Film nominees had in common the theme of human connection. This year there are individual films with huge spiritual themes. There’s the monumental hymn to grace and forgiveness that is Les Misérables. There’s the vital post-9/11 question, “What do you have to become to bring a fugitive to justice?” in Zero Dark Thirty.

But what the majority of the Best Picture films seem to espouse is a common spiritual message that is also common to almost every wisdom tradition: You have to get up every morning and do the work, where you are, with what you have. In movies as diverse as Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Les Miz, and Life of Pi we are introduced to characters who are stuck in situations that may or may not be of their making. The reason is unimportant. “Are we born into our time?” Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) asks, late one dark night of the soul. He ultimately concludes: we have to act with what we have, use what is right in front of us, do the right thing so far as we can see the right. Tony Kushner’s script rightly ends not with the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, but with a flashback to his delivery of the Second Inaugural Address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Let us strive on to finish the work we are in. In my tradition, early Christians spoke of their pursuit of faith as “The Way,” and what I am still most drawn to in my faith is the idea of daily progress toward holiness. Jews speak of, pray for, and work toward tikkun olam, the healing of the world, justice in their daily lives that spreads out into the larger world like ripples in a pond. Buddhists seek to act with compassion and practice mindfulness, the process of being totally where they are when they are rather than wishing to be elsewhere. Whether in the Benedictine tradition’s awareness of ora et labora, that all of life is prayerful labor, or in Thich Nhat Hahn’s story about washing dishes in The Miracle of Mindfulness, we are ourselves reminded to be present, to work out our salvation in the here and now, to do the right thing.

So you find yourself stuck in a lifeboat with a ravenous tiger? Make it work out for the both of you. (Life of Pi) So your wife left you and your brain doesn’t work the way it ought to? Be a stand-up guy. Get over your delusions, and see the wonderful person standing in front of you, and work together to make some sense out of this crazy world. (Silver Linings Playbook) So you’ve been given the task of rescuing people in a dangerous situation and the best chance you have is to pretend they’re scouting a movie in Revolutionary Iran? Well, then—make the best imaginary movie you can (as Alan Arkin’s Lester Siegel says, “If I’m doing a fake movie, it’s gonna be a fake hit”)—and save them. Save them. (Argo)

Compromise when you have to. The great drama of Lincoln is that by allowing some of those in the process to get something they wanted, the nation got justice in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Stand firm when you must: in Les Miz, while Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean is willing to submit to justice again and again when confronted by the law in the person of Javert (Russell Crowe), he refuses to do so until after he’s fulfilled his promise to Anne Hathaway’s Fantine and rescued her daughter:

Believe of me what you will There is a duty that I’m sworn to do. You know nothing of my life — All I did was steal some bread. You know nothing of the world — You would sooner see me dead. But not before I see this justice done!

Above all, be brave. There are plenty of spiritual pitfalls revealed in Zero Dark Thirty, but ultimately Osama bin Laden is located and punished because of perseverance (Jessica Chastain’s Maya pushes aside obstacles, puts down her own impulses toward compassion) and courage in the face of real danger (hers and those of the Navy Seals, all of whom raise their hand when asked, in a helicopter, how many of them have been in a helicopter crash).

One of my favorite fictional characters said to another fictional president, Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen), “There are people who have it a lot worse than you.” In this year’s Oscar films, these fictional heroes—dealing with the death of slavery or the death of a bunch of slaveholders; with an epic journey with a raging tiger or the everyday journey with their internal raging tigers—can remind us that the spiritual life is about showing up, doing the little things well, doing the big things when they cross our path.

Lincoln says to his rebellious cabinet, who are angry at the compromises he has had to make to have a chance of passing the amendment, that what matters is

Now now now! . . . See what is before you! See the here and now! That’s the hardest thing, the only thing that accounts! 

Tomorrow will take care of itself. If we do what we can today, here, now, then these movies will have taught us well.

Love & Compatibility- its many descriptions and dimensions

February 11, 2013 - 11:39 am 14 Comments

The Four Kinds Of  Love

Excerpted from Rollo May’s discussion of Greek Thought

The words in Latin are from Thomas Merton’s Lectures….

 

Highest:

Agape/Delectio    Unconditional or Holy Love. Love that has a spiritual, altruistic and unselfishness basis. All human interaction based on an active dialogue/tri-alogue with the Divine.

 

Eros        Committed, objective loving relationship based on equal responsibility for the growth, stability and evolution of the partners . Historically considered to be heterosexual; but not exclusively. Includes concerns for children.

Philos/Fraternis  The love bond of true friendship. Mutual support, admiration, equality, and respect.  Between men and men, women and women, but not clear on its possibilities of a loving friendship between women and men

 

Lust          Physical or carnal appetites needs, or drives.  Procreative urges. Pornographic stimuli; the sexual and primarily self serving approach that sees a partner as the object of your personal satisfaction.

 

The Four Kinds Of Compatibility

Physical:

Sex, but also levels of compatibility concerning privacy; touch, proximity; levels of physical comfort (hot vs. cold) habits or health routines; house styles, decor, etc. & cleanliness; sleeping patterns, etc..

Emotional:

Degree or level of emotional maturity; ability to express feelings clearly and openly; Level of independence/dependence; importance of family ties/parents; the roles one plays/expects from their mates.

Mental:

Ideas that one generates;  ability to express those ideas clearly and rationally; and hold in common- level of communication skills: Interests, hobbies; social concerns, personal opinions; openness to new stimuli; educational levels, etc.

Spiritual:

Religious compatibility; ideals, goals, aspirations. Sense of purpose and ultimate concerns for their lives; Beliefs, standards of morality and the degree of shared foundational values. Quality of inspiration, understanding, and disciplines one is willing to practice for personal, relational and mutual growth.

 

The Six Questions Before Sex

1) Is this person trustworthy? Benevolent? How does she/he treat others in their life? Will he/she use me or empower me? Is he/she spiritually/ethically mature?

2) Would this person be worthy of my love, respectful of my vulnerability, and act non-judgementally toward me? Do they understand equality/reciprocity?

3) Would this person honor our relationship by keeping its intimacy? Would they keep its privacy, and would they continue to respectfully care for me after we have been together?

4) Would this person be a willing parent to any child conceived between us?

 

5) Is this person a qualified spouse? that is, do they share my spiritual

commitment and my sense of clarity and responsibility for our couple?

 

6) Is this person truly “right” for me? or am I wishing to satisfy ego needs and desires?  Are we able to consecrate sex together or at the least be sure that  we will “cause no harm” or by being together will create no pain?

After A While

[After a while, you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul… And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning, and that someone’s company doesn’t mean security, and you begin to learn that kisses aren’t compromises, and that presents are not promises, and after a while you begin to accept your defeats…

Now, with your head up and eyes looking clearly toward the future, now with the inward grace of being a woman or a man, no longer clinging to the grief of the child, you learn to build your tomorrows on the strength of your todays….

And so you plant your own garden, and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers…

And you learn, you learn that you truly can endure, that you truly have a value and a worth in and of yourself…

You learn that from failure, comes wisdom, and from wisdom, comes the risk of a new and real love, one that opens your heart and frees your soul….]

 

An Adapted version of the poem by Vernica Shortwell

A Sufi Love Poem/Dance

This 13th century Sufi poem (author name begins with M..) is one of the popular dance songs  used in the Dances of Universal Peace. It is rich in marriage preparation metaphor and alchemical symbolism as it depicts the mystical path of the heart toward the realization of love, and the allness of God as Love.

“Go, sweep out the chambers of your heart….

Make it ready, make it ready…

To be the dwelling of the Beloved….

When you depart, love will enter,

When you, void of yourself, God will display true beauty…..

 

An Exegetical Synopsis:

 

In Sufism, the goal is unity with the divine, through the path of the heart. It is a relational spiritual quest where the person welcomes love into their reality by making ready sufficient room in one’s appreciation and awareness for such reality to become dominant in their mind and heart. That means moving the you or the ego out, or diminishing its centrality, so that a sustained sense of “The Blessing of Belonging” can predominate.

 

As a statement of  the alchemical marriage between God and the soul, and between serious, spiritually attuned sexual partners, this poem speaks to the need to empty out all the historical preconceptions of self and one’s sexuality and be open to experience its connections and its depths freshly, innocently, and allow that level of  vulnerability to bless one another…

 

We have to learn to radically accept the essence of the other person; their spiritual core that lives and sustains their being that exists deep within, within and beyond all the hold of the cultural norms and all the wounds of their psychological identity.  Only as the ego recedes, does fear diminish…. Only as we identify with the spiritual qualities, noble virtues, and are guided by the requite levels of unselfishness, does the heart begin to heal and the lotus petals of the true self unfold…. .

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson gave us this reflection on the importance of love in our lives… He declared:

 

Give all to love; Obey thy heart- Friends, kindred, days, estate, or fame

 

Plans, credit and the Muse- Nothing refuse!

 

It’s a brave master; Let it have scope: Follow it utterly, hope beyond hope. It was never for the mean; for it requires courage stout.

 

Souls above doubt, valor unbending, it will reward-

 

They shall return, more than they were, and ever ascending….

 

Some selected quotes on Love…..

I define love thus; The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.                                    M. Scott Peck

If you would be loved, then be worthy of being loved         Ovid

Love and dignity cannot share the same abode.

Love consists of this: that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other. …

For one human being to love another, that, perhaps, is the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The absolute value of love makes life worth while, and so makes Man’s strange and difficult situation acceptable. Love cannot save life from death, but it can fulfill life’s purpose.                                                                                          Arnold Toynbee

 

Few people know what they mean when they say, “I love you,” … Well, what does the word love mean? It means total interest. I think the reason very few people really fall in love with anyone is they’re not willing to pay the price. The price is you have to adjust yourself to them.

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get– only with what you are expecting to give– which is everything. What you will receive , in return, varies.

You give because you love, and cannot help giving. If you are lucky, you may beloved back. That is delicious, but it doesn’t necessarily happen.

Katherine Hepburn

One can discern the direction and the depth of one’s soul by HOW they love;

For as the Epistles state, that we are known by our love, then how we show that love or how we demonstrate it to others is the crucial indicator that shows how and how well we understand the higher nature and deeper purpose of love.                                PEL

 

 

Chinese New Year- The Year of The Water Snake

February 7, 2013 - 7:52 pm 11 Comments

 

The         Snake

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means your family will not starve. This could be taken metaphorically to mean that a Snake could never have a problem with his family starving because he is such a great mediator, making him good at business. Or it could mean that a Snake would be willing to sacrifice his possessions, something the Snake  has a lot of, in order to pay for his family’s food. Any way it is interpreted         is representative of the Snake’s character and is a measure of the value he puts on his material wealth. The Snake is keen and cunning, quite intelligent and wise.

Years         of the Snake

Snake Years are sixth in the cycle, following the Dragon Years, and recur every twelfth year. The Chinese New Year does not fall on a specific date, so it is essential to check the calendar to find the exact date on which each Snake Year actually begins.

1905*1917*1929*1941*1953*1965*1977*1989*2001

THE SIGN OF THE SNAKE

The Snake is the intuitive, introspective, refined and collected of the Animal Signs. They are attractive people who take cries with ease and do not become flustered easily. They are graceful people, exciting and dark at the same time.

Contemplative and private, the Snake is not outwardly emotional. He can appear cunning and reticent and works very modestly in the business environment. The Snake  will plot and scheme to make certain things turn out exactly as they want them to. They are not great communicators and can become quite possessive  when they set their minds on achieving the interest of a partner.

SNAKE FACTS:

People born in the Year of the Snake share certain characteristics. The Snake Sign is an abbreviated way of characterizing that individual’s personality. Following are features associated with the Sign of the Snake.

Sixth in order, Chinese name—SHE, sign of the sagacity

Hour—9am-10:59am Month—May

Western Counterpart—Taurus

CHARACTERISTICS

Acute, Aware, Cunning, Proud, Vain, Vicious

IN         YOUR ELEMENT

The characteristics of the Snake are tempered by one of the five Chinese elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth overlaying a 5-year cycle of characteristics on the original 12-year cycle.

 

THE METAL SNAKE         1941 AND 2001

Metal Snakes are extremely willful individuals who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. These people will have their guards up 24-hours a day in order to protect themselves from any failure or possibility of it. They place a great deal of importance on money, but are more concerned with the possessions their finances can         bring them. They are in and out so sharply and so silently that they are often unheard and unseen. You must be careful with these Snakes because,  although they can be generous, they are always out for number one.

 

THE WATER SNAKE         1953 AND 2013

Water Snakes are influential and insightful. They manage others well and tend to be good for organizations to utilize as staff. They are quite motivated and intellectual, very determined and resolute about success. They will have what they desire, despite the         conclusion or outcome they generate because it is worth it to them to not only be recognized for their efforts, but to be rewarded as well.  hey are affectionate with their families and friends but do not show this side of their personality to colleagues or business partners.

 

THE  WOOD SNAKE 1905 AND 1965

The element of Wood,  like in most Animal Signs, gives the Snake a bit of solidity and foundation. Wood Snakes are not as self-preserving as the rest of them, as vanity s not really his style. These Snakes have a stable group of friends and family to hang out with and love each of these people quite deeply. However,  t is rare that the Snake utilize his group of loved ones for advice or  listening, often opting to go at it alone. Kindness and genuity are two of this Snake’s greatest characteristics.

 

THE FIRE SNAKE         1917 AND 1977

Fire Snakes can be a bit loud, speaking their minds and smothering you with their opinions. This does add a twist to his dynamic and vibrant character, as he is quite   the extrovert. These Snakes have a great wisdom. They are intriguing communicators  who leave you breathless after a conversation. Fire Snakes can change even the most obstinate mind with their powers of persuasion, convincing      you their opinions or ideas are better than yours. This does make them a little self-centered, but you can’t say they aren’t driven for success.  

       

THE EARTH SNAKE         1929 AND 1989

 

Earth Snakes are the most relaxed of the breeds. They lead calm lives and offer a down-to-earth appeal to any conversation or outing. This may make them seem more friendly, as you may not feel the need to wonder what he’s got up his sleeve. They may also shun the need to lash out or take risks, but it isn’t from paranoia.         They figure their good sense and work ethic will pay off and bring them much fortune and material satisfaction.

HEALTH AND HABITAT

HEALTH

Snakes become easily  stressed and have to avoid hectic schedules or noisy atmospheres. They do not get a rush from adrenaline, instead, a headache. They need calm and quiet to thrive and succeed. A Snake must have sleep and relaxation to live a long, healthy life.

AT HOME WITH THE SNAKE

The Snake is very sophisticated and cultured in his choices for home décor. They like muted colors and prefer to have one very expensive chair rather than three reasonable priced ones. The Snake is elegant and graceful and places emphasis on his comfort when deciding what to decorate with. As we know,  the Snake must have peace, so you may find relaxation or sounds of nature         tapes next to the stereo. Snakes do not deprive themselves of luxuries  either, as one of everything never seems to ease his mind. He is materialistic and therefore must have as many of everything, if not more than his friends  and family.

CAREER AND FINANCE

THE SNAKE AT WORK

Snakes become bored easily and therefore change jobs quite frequently. They are very conscientious and diligent at work. Since they are such relaxed individuals, they can often seem to be slacking off at work when in reality they are at the height of their creativity. They are organized and precise. Snakes can make lightening deadlines and can problem solve quickly. Sometimes, because they like to work alone, they can seem as though they are withholding information or being secretive about company initiatives.

MONEY AND THE SNAKE

A Snake’s worst nightmare  is jumping head first into a financial deal or a shopping spree. The Snake can be successful as long as he avoids extemporaneous spending. Although he is intuitive, the Snake will often dive right into decisions without weighing the consequences, which can cause him financial ruin.

SNAKE CAREERS

Those born in the Year of the Snake share the same kinds of goals and objectives in life. The occupations best suited for the Snake are listed below:

SNAKES MAKE  EXCELLENT:

Scientists, Potters, Analysts, Jewelers

Spiritual Leaders, Sociologists, Dieticians, Astrologers

Magicians,  Investigators, Painters

 

CONGENIAL BUSINESS         PARTNERS

Whether Snakes are compatible with their business partners depends on whether their signs are harmonious or antagonistic to those of their business partner. Considering the congruity of their own characters and the characters of their business partners can also be very useful.

 

LIKES AND DISLIKES

Since Snakes are born under the same Animal Sign, they often share likes and dislikes. Following are similar likes and dislikes of the Snake personality.

Color Preference:         Red

Gems and Stones: Topaz,  Jasper, Bloodstone

Suitable Gifts: binoculars, Tarot cards, oils and lotions, stamp collection

Hobbies and Pastimes: Astrology, painting, touring, photography

Snakes Dislike: Being interrupted, being mislead personally or professionally, failure

EAST  MEETS WEST

ARIES SNAKE

This combination brings         forth bravery and motivation. Snakes like to make money and are more apt         to do so when trying to accomplish a reward. They are fairly open-minded         with their money and make great stay-at-home parents.

TAUREAN SNAKE

These Snakes remember         everything for they have quite a vivid memory. Don’t underestimate the         capabilities of this Snake, for he will forge on until he gets what he         wants.

GEMINI SNAKE

These Snakes can talk         their way out of anything, so a confrontation with them is a lost cause.         They are well-educated and a bit amenable, making them quite intriguing.

CANCERIAN SNAKE

These Snake love to         be recognized for their efforts. For them, working hard to provide for         their family is first priority.

LEONINE SNAKE

Confident and proud,         the Leonine Snake hates to come in second place. They fuel on kudos from         others, but will become a bit obnoxious if it goes to their heads.

VIRGO SNAKE

These Snakes love         to tell others what to do. They enjoy using their energies to run a successful         organization and use their intelligence to improve their title and rank         at work.

LIBRAN SNAKE

One of the most beautiful         breeds of the Snake, Libran Snakes are graceful and kind. They are always         being pursued by someone interested in them and fall deeply in love with         the right partner.

SCORPIO SNAKE

These individuals         have hidden emotions and feelings that rarely ever surface. They are quite         guarded with their thoughts and opinions and do not upset easily.

SAGITTARIAN         SNAKE

Born with great taste         in everything, these Snakes are the classy and sophisticated of the breed.         They enjoy cultural things and will find a partner who will share the         same ideals.

CAPRICORN SNAKE

These Snakes build         their bank accounts through organization and motivation. They can be seen         as snobby, when in reality they are simply the quiet types.

AQUARIAN SNAKE

Intelligent and open-minded,         Aquarian Snakes like to have a partner to depend on. However, they hate         to be tied down and need to have space.

PISCEAN SNAKE

These Snakes are compassionate         and sensitive to the needs of others. They take everything quite emotionally         and when they fall in love, they are committed comopletely.

Deepak Chopra on God and The Future

February 6, 2013 - 2:30 pm 7 Comments

Does God have a future?

Monday March 15, 2010

Categories: Consciousness, Spirituality

Off and on for twenty years I’ve thought deeply about God and his chances of survival (for “his” you can substitute ” her” or ” it’s” since an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present deity doesn’t have a fixed gender). But this Sunday, God’s survival became the subject of a debate before an audience at Cal Tech.

If you’re interested, the debate will later be televised on ABC’s Nightline. My debating partner was noted author and spiritual teacher Jean Houston. On the side representing atheism was Dr. Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine, and Sam Harris, who wrote the bestseller, Letter to a Christian Nation. (I’m writing this preview before the actual event, but the article will appear afterward.)

This won’t be the standard argument about whether God exists, with believers declaring their faith on one side and doubters declaring that there is no evidence for God on the other. Rather, both sides will look at the current state of science to see if we are getting closer to finding a supreme intelligence in the universe or further away.

In the past few years the camp of skeptics, atheists, and doubters has been emboldened to use science as a weapon to ridicule faith. The British evolutionist Richard Dawkins is associated with this attitude, and compared to his loud, disdainful voice, the efforts of scientists who believe in God, such as the eminent geneticist Francis Collins, have been relatively muted. As the head of the human genome project, Collins is far more credible about genetics than Dawkins, however, and he argues strenuously that evolution is consistent with a principle of intelligence in the formation of life. But no matter who wins any debate on a given night, the future of God is by no means settled.

Socially, God is waning in the developed countries, if you measure this by church attendance. The U.S. traditionally has had higher church attendance than any European country, but in both places the trend has been steady decline for at least four decades. Science has been viewed as the enemy of religion since the time of Darwin, when the Christian world was shocked to discover that Homo sapiens evolved from primate ancestors, thus turning Adam and Eve into a myth.

In the face of evolution, which serves as the bulwark of the atheist argument, the devout have been forced to fall back on faith. In a scientific age, faith is bound to lose out to facts in the minds of most rational people. Which is why millions of us are worried about God, even if the majority haven’t decisively renounced him.

My position is that advanced science has actually turned the tables, giving us new ways to defend, not God as a patriarch seated on his throne in the sky, but God as a field of intelligence that gives rise to evolution itself and all that goes with it: creativity, quantum leaps, time and space, and expanding consciousness. As we learn more about these things, we will reshape God into something new and far more powerful than the traditional Judeo-Christian conception.

In a word, the future of God depends upon human evolution. As we look deeper into our own awareness, we will meet the field of infinite awareness and intelligence that is our source, and on that path we will encounter God. What supports such a view? First, there are a host of mysteries that current science, with its fixation on materialism, cannot remotely explain. Let me list a few.

1. The Big Bang: Almost all physicists and cosmologists conclude that the universe began in a single moment referred to as the “big bang” 14 billion years ago. At that moment the universe burst forth into creation from an infinitely dense dimensionless point of pure energy. The laws of physics operate after the first 10-43 seconds after the big bang. In the first 10-43 seconds what happened is not only unknown, but unknowable as the laws of physics breakdown and don’t exist. As the eminent astrophysicist Robert Jastrow said, “At this moment it seems that science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation.

For the scientists who has lived by his faith by the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries. ” Stephen Hawking commenting on the big bang states “it would be difficult to explain why the universe begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings just like us.”

2. DNA

: So far as we know, DNA is the most complex microstructure in the universe, surpassing by millions of times the next most complex organic molecule. To claim that the universe developed human DNA, with its three billion codons, at random is like saying that a hurricane can blow through a junkyard and create a Boeing 757. Francis Collins argues two things: We have no idea how the lifeless “prebiotic soup” of the early Earth developed the first DNA, and in fact such a leap, which produced a self-replicating molecule form which all life emerged, may be totally unknowable.

3. Human intelligence

: Science currently insists that the brain is the source of intelligence, but no one can identify where this mysterious component entered into us. The brain is composed of water, sugar, and proteins. Are we to say that these chemicals are intelligent? If so, then why isn’t a sugar cube equally intelligent? The most advanced neuroscience has not come close to explaining such a basic thing as memory. There are no chemical traces of memory inside any cell of the brain. In addition, no one can explain how separate areas of the brain “light up” simultaneously, involving billions of neurons, without communicating to each other the way we communicate on the telephone, by passing along messages.

In the brain, neurons in different locations get the same message all at once. Also, new ideas crop up spontaneously, without reference to past brain activity.

But the most obvious flaw in brain research is that while it is obvious that we have organized thoughts, the action of atoms and molecules can not in any way explain subjectivity, or the mechanics of intention, free will, choice making, insight, intuition, imagination, inspiration, or creativity. There are neural correlates to our subjective experience, of course, but correlation does not mean causal relationship. Neural networks do not compose music or poetry just as your radio set does not compose songs.

4. The Self

: We all know that we have a self, but science has never located it. There is no area of the brain where “I” exists. This has led materialists to claim that the self is an illusion created by the brain’s complexity. But this leads science into a self-contradiction, because the very researchers who say that “I” doesn’t exist must themselves be an illusion. This is a subtle point, and we must also consider the Buddhist position, which says that the ego-self in fact is an illusion because reality is consciousness itself, without boundaries. Trying to contain the self inside an individual mind and body is a mistake, because all of us are part of the same infinite field of consciousness. This comes close to Erwin Schrodinger’s statement that “consciousness is a singular that has no plural. ”

5. Evolution

: Francis Collins points out that Darwinism cannot be attacked for having gaps. As a model of how a multitude of life forms developed from the first strand of DNA, Darwinism seems elegantly true. But Collins also asserts that the impetus for such a perfect model requires an intelligent principle, giving rise to “theistic evolution, ” as Collins dubs it.

The picture of creatures with selfish genes fighting for survival, with the fit passing their genes on while the unfit perish, is a leaky boat of a theory. There are countless examples of cooperation in nature that allow two creatures to survive by sharing the same food and shelter, the way squirrels and birds share the same tree and serve to warn each other of approaching predators.

Also, traits can be passed along from one generation to the next without new genes. The latest research indicates that it’s the action of our genes, whether they are switched on or off, that shapes us as much if not more than which genes we were born with. Behavior can be passed from parent to child without having to develop a new gene for that behavior. This undercuts the materialist notion that we are essentially zombies moving at the whim of molecules.

6. The Intelligent Universe

: Although the Big Bang is considered the starting point of the universe no one knows why or how it occurred. However, a deeper point needs to be made – the universe has evolved, not simply expanded. Swirling, superheated gases began to form complex molecules, and there has been no backsliding. One inexorable force called entropy leads to the cooling of the universe and the breakdown of complex forms into simpler components (the way a corpse decays after death). Entropy was supposed to be all-powerful, yet another force, called evolution, keeps defying decay by creating such complexities as DNA and the human brain.

Traditionally, highly evolved forms were considered anomalies, little islands of “negative entropy” that exist by accident. This seems unlikely, however, since the universe has been creating more complexity for 13 billion years, not less complexity. There is a strong implication that the universe may be aware of its own evolution. Mystical as that sounds, the opposite idea — that only human beings are aware, a trait we chanced upon by accident — is an arbitrary tenet developed through rigid faith in dogmatic materialism.

I’ve barely sketched in the many arguments that can be mounted against materialism. I haven’t used the word God, however. This is because no one can win a debate based on faith versus lack of faith. The only way to bring God back to life, and to give the deity a future, is to move beyond the superstition of materialism.

Material objects even those organized as complex organic molecules can not process meaning, purpose, or the longing to know how we came into existence. Even an organ such as the human brain seems to function as a quantum computer that processes symbols that represent meaning generated in consciousness.

A revitalized God won’t look like the God taught in Sunday school. What will the deity look like? He/She/It will reflect our own state of evolution. Insofar as we understand our own consciousness, we will understand where it came from, which is God.

Published in the San Francisco Chronicle

Deepak Chopra on Intent.com

deepakchopra.com