Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life - "Please give this sermon a try. I think it has much in it that will be of interest to a wide range of readers: philosophy, cosmology, evolutionary theory, and science fiction, as well as theology. And nothing in it depends on believing in God at all." Abstract: As an enlightened form of atheism, I turn to teleotheism. Teleotheism is the view that God comes at the end, not at the beginning, where I am defining “God” as “the greatest of all things that can come true.” In this view, the quest to discover what are the greatest things that are possible is of the utmost importance. The best of our religious heritage is just such an effort to discover the greatest things that are possible. (via; previously)
Can evolution explain acts of kindness, and morality? [The Guardian]
We arranged a debate between a sceptical Tom Stoppard and the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. Stuart Jeffries acted as referee. We arranged for the two to meet recently in the grand boardroom of Wilson’s London publishers to discuss their differences, and reflect on two hard problems – what is the proper scope of science, and what is it to be human.
America’s Changing Religious Landscape: The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life has published the results of a new study of the religious affiliations of Americans, and finds a precipitous drop in the share of Christians since the last such study in 2007, along with a massive increase in the share of "nones" (which includes atheists, agnostics, and believers with no religious affiliation) and a small increase in the share of non-Christian faiths. Highlights below the fold. [more inside]
Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
Ross and Carrie are "curious investigators who love asking questions about spirituality, fringe science, religion and the paranormal." They investigate by joining religions, attending events, trying out alternative treatments, and just generally participating in anything weird. [more inside]
Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating: Since January 29 of this year, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious sect, has been residing in a freezer in his ashram in Punjab. His followers claim he is in a "deep meditative state (samadhi)." Doctors, however, have declared Maharaj clinically dead and his family have sued to have his death be investigated and to have his body released for cremation. The guru's son also alleges that Maharaj was murdered and that his followers are trying to gain control of his estate, said to be worth $170 million. While traditional yogis have claimed extraordinary powers, including the power to stop one's heart, the evidence for these claims has been lacking.
Your parent dies. You hurt. You weep. You mourn. You do and say the necessary things even as your daemon’s disciplined askesis has you (against your will) coldly taking notes on what the emotion feels like, how others around you react to the death, what the corpse of your parent looks like, how you feel while looking down at it, what voids there are in that feeling, what pretenses, what posturings. It's all part of finding your daemon that dwells perpetually in the Condition of Fire. Other entries in Dan Simmons' series On Writing Well.
Crazy Horse’s actual quote translates into English follows: “To day is a good day to die for all the things of my life are present." [more inside]
Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? [Adam] Grant, 31, is the youngest-tenured and highest-rated professor at Wharton.... Grant might not seem so different from any number of accessible and devoted professors on any number of campuses, and yet when you witness over time the sheer volume of Grant’s commitments, and the way in which he is able to follow through on all of them, you start to sense that something profoundly different is at work. Helpfulness is Grant’s credo.... For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity. In some sense, he has built a career in professional motivation by trying to unpack the puzzle of his own success. He has always helped; he has always been productive. How, he has wondered for most of his professional life, does the interplay of those two factors work for everyone else? [more inside]
Over a thousand monks and laymen are revered in Tibetan Buddhism as the incarnations of past teachers who convey enlightenment to their followers from one lifetime to the next. Some of the most respected are known by the honorific "rinpoche." For eight centuries, rinpoches were traditionally identified by other monks and then locked inside monasteries ringed by mountains, far from worldly distractions. Their reincarnation lineages were easily tracked across successive lives. Then the Chinese Red Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and drove the religion's adherents into exile. Now, the younger rinpoches of the Tibetan diaspora are being exposed to all of the twenty-first century’s dazzling temptations. So, even as Tibetan Buddhism is gaining more followers around the world, an increasing number of rinpoches are abandoning their monastic vows. Reincarnation in Exile. [more inside]
"Every year thousands of westerners flock to India to meditate, practice yoga, and seek spiritual transcendence. Some find what they're looking for. Others give up and go home. A few become so consumed by their quest for godliness that it kills them."
"At PSFK Conference NYC, Vikram Gandhi spoke about his latest movie Kumaré - The True Story of A False Prophet. While he was born in New Jersey, the film director spoke about how he had been noticing how the Indian-heritage culture he had experienced as he grew up, was being used by Americans and other Westerners to help solve their emotional and spiritual issues. To explore this idea further he dressed up as a guru, created a backstory with YouTube video and website, spoke like his grandmother and recruited followers in Arizona. What's unique is that throughout the film is that he tells everyone he was an illusion and asks his followers to look in a mirror to solve their own problems." [more inside]
Study shows those who think analytically are less likely to be religious: Why are some people more religious than others? It may come down to whether they rely more heavily on an analytical or intuitive thinking process, at least according to a new study [abstract; supplementary materials] performed at the University of British Columbia and published in the journal “Science.” [more inside]
Both an ingeniously choreographed crime film and a moral drama influenced by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Pickpocket marks the apotheosis of Bresson's stripped-down style. There’s little or no psychological realism or conventional drama at work in Martin La Salle’s portrayal of a master thief who plies his trade at the Gare de Lyon and easily outwits the cops who seek to ensnare him. See it once to appreciate the spare elegance of the pickpocketing scenes, and then a second time to appreciate how subtly Bresson accomplishes the story of a man’s self-willed corruption, his liberation through imprisonment and his redemption through love, all in less than 80 minutes.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.
"Frequencies is an experiment. The experiment is simple: Ask scholars, writers, and artists what they think of when they think of the word spirituality." So began a project that's now 71 entries strong. Every weekday, Frequencies features scholars and artists on such topics as Burning Man, espresso, highways, Philip K. Dick, companion animals, and Dr. Oz. [more inside]
Teachings on Right Practice by Shunryu Suzuki, as compiled in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, read by Peter Coyote: "Posture", "Breathing", "Control", "Mind Weeds", "The Marrow of Zen", "Bowing", "Nothing Special"
“Life is fulfilling when you are rooted in the essential Beingness of ‘I Am.’ . . . Then you bring that state of consciousness—that spacious state of consciousness—you bring that into your interactions with other people of great importance. It’s only then that you will stop treating other people as possible sources of fulfillment or as a threat.” —Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher and author, on his June 26 live meditation broadcast.
Currently making the rounds. A qualitative study in Sociology of Religion looks at "spiritual atheists" in science. A call for Humanist Chaplains in the U.S. armed forces. And The Freedom From Religion Foundation becomes certified to perform weddings in Tulsa.
Foucault in Iran: Revolution, Entropy and Equality By way of introduction to the Wu Ming Foundation's (previously) re-vamped blog, one of their more substantive essays re-assessing Foucault's notorious enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution.
Animals as spiritual, and the role of animals in spirituality. "Some religious leaders welcome pets to worship services, memorialize them at death and discuss them as spiritual beings without distinction from humanity" ... "Factory farming, green living among topics sparking discussion." [more inside]
Science vs. Religion: a new book, Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, discusses the results of her detailed study of 1,646 scientists at top American research universities. Among her findings: ~36% of those surveyed not only believe in God but also practice a form of closeted, often non-traditional faith. They worry about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. Interview with the author from the Center for Inquiry's Point of Inquiry podcast. Also, here's a webcast from an author discussion forum held at Rice University on April 7th. [more inside]
Does John of God really heal the sick? Or is it just carnival tricks? John of God aka João Teixeira de Faria is a farmer who has been healing people close to his ranch in Brazil for close to 50 years by chanelling the energy of medical spirits. Sometimes he uses visible surgery and sometimes he uses invisible surgery.
Harvey Cox, one of the foremost American theologians of the twentieth century, recently retired from Harvard, where he held the oldest tenured professorship in the nation. You've seen him discussed here before for more bovine pursuits. But more importantly, he has argued that atheism is a passing fad; his new book contends it emerges in response to factors that will change the face of faith in the coming generation. Why should you care about an old theologian's last hurrah? His prior predictions have been right.
An American Sadhu - A seeking of holiness, resulting in disillusionment and abandonment. A very good read about one man's experience meeting a guru and his disciple, and ultimately coming full circle to "you get the guru you deserve".
The Global Oneness Project is exploring how the radically simple notion of interconnectedness can be lived in our increasingly complex world. They travel the globe gathering stories from creative and courageous people who base their lives and work on the understanding that we bear great responsibility for each other and our shared world. [more inside]
Actor Rainn Wilson has launched a community-driven discussion blog focused on life's big questions, such as do we get what we pray for?, why do we spend so much time talking about other people?, and do the imaginations of adults need a serious kick in the balls?
Surrendering to the Spirit Vine. Artist Alex Grey (previously) describes his experience with "the champagne of ayahuascas."
Dear God is a global project for people around the world to share their innermost hopes - and fears - through prayer. Some photos NSFW.
Esalen: Where "California" Bubbled Up (one photo mildly NSFW) For many others in America and around the world, Esalen stands more vaguely for that metaphorical point where “East meets West” and is transformed into something uniquely and mystically American or New Agey. And for a great many others yet, Esalen is simply that notorious bagno-bordello where people had sex and got high throughout the 1960s and 1970s before coming home talking psychobabble and dangling crystals. In short, Esalen is in every way, even geologically, California at its most extreme. It is its caricature, as well as its noblest expression.
The Temples of Damanhur. Behold the Eighth Wonder of the World (according to the Italian government). [Via Boing Boing.] [more inside]
Supreme Master TV. As advertised on the very back page of this week's Economist Newspaper. It's great when spiritual leaders just come right out and say it. Check out the awesome paintings.
Searching for God in the Brain. "Researchers are unearthing the roots of religious feeling in the neural commotion that accompanies the spiritual epiphanies of nuns, Buddhists and other people of faith." [Via MindHacks, which points out a few niggling omissions in the article.]
Peter Stafford, psychedelics investigator and author of the Psychedelics Encyclopedia (PDF preview), has died. [Via BB.]
Love on Campus: Why We Should Encourage an Eroticism (of the Mind) Between Professor and Student. Yale English professor William Deresiewicz argues that the newly-emerged stereotype of professors as "pompous, lecherous, alcoholic failures" is in the main due to our culture's fear of and inability to understand the true intimacy between professor and student: that of the mind. Cf. controversial Hindu teacher-student relationships, the same in Christianity, or merely observe Oscar Wilde: "I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself."
Entheogens and Psychotherapy. A 2001 paper by Canadian psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar on the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics and his own experience with LSD. Now, because of this paper, he is no longer allowed to enter the U.S. [Via MindHacks.]
The Spy of the Heart - The story of an American's exploration of Islamic spirituality within the turmoil of Afghanistan. Full book (PDF) available free onsite.
The Hostile New Age Takeover of Yoga [print version]. Standard "omg commoditization" rant, but has a delectable anecdote wherein someone mistakes clingy navel-gazing for reflection. ("What part of no don't you understand?" his note said. "I never want to hear from you again.")
Yoga Action Squad! Episode 1: Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Vibrations --- The Yoga Action Squad, an elite team of yogis and yoginis from Santa Monica, spring into action to stop the very negative Dr. Bad Vibes and his overpaid bitchy assistant, Lethargo.
"SeaWorld bespeaks the essence of Orlando, a place whose specialty is detaching experience from context, extracting form from substance, and then selling tickets to it."
"All over Orlando you see forces at work that are changing America from Fairbanks to Little Rock. This, truly, is a 21st-century paradigm: It is growth built on consumption, not production; a society founded not on natural resources, but upon the dissipation of capital accumulated elsewhere; a place of infinite possibilities, somehow held together, to the extent it is held together at all, by a shared recognition of highway signs, brand names, TV shows, and personalities, rather than any shared history. Nowhere else is the juxtaposition of what America actually is and the conventional idea of what America should be more vivid and revealing."
"Welcome to the theme-park nation." [more inside]
"Welcome to the theme-park nation." [more inside]
I Love You Kenisha. My dear sweet Kenisha, If you find this page, please forgive me for my failure to be a the kind of leader in our marriage and our home that God has called me to be. When ever you decide to come home, I'll be here waiting for you. If I'm 100 years old, and on my death bed, and you haven't come back yet, I'll still be waiting for you!!! I love you with all my heart!!!
From organically-farming Zen centers to celebrity-cultivating Scientology centresTM, California is a seedbed of the most earnest (and most frivolous or worse) branches of spiritual inquiry. What's in the water in the Golden State that has made it The Visionary State? In an interview with editor Geoff Manaugh of the excellent BLDGBLOG, author Erik Davis -- whose published passions have ranged from an analysis of Philip K. Dick's "divine invasions" to erudite musings on Led Zeppelin's fourth album to an ode to the joys of being a teenage bongeur -- talks about the formerly chic devil-worshipper Anton LaVey, Beat Zen, Aldous Huxley, the Watts Towers, and beyond, with great photos by Michael Rauner, who collaborated with Davis on the new book.
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