Tuesday, November 15, 2005


When I read (as distinct from skimming) a book I put a line in the margin against anything which grabs my attention - and a double line for ideas which I must ponder again and again.

Here are my double-lined markings in Tom Butler-Brown's 50 Spiritual Classics.

But first, a disclaimer: I'm impressed with St. Paul's market-place dialogue with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens (Acts 17): although he disagreed with many of their presuppositions he was willing to quote their poets when he agreed with them. I believe strongly that our Christian apologetic should follow a similar pattern. On this point I diverge from the stance of most of my fundamentalist friends, who somehow feel contaminated if they read or think about something alien to their conservative understanding of the Christian faith. If we are in dialogue with folks from a postmodern/ new age/ secular / whatever culture we ought to be familiar with what they're reading/thinking, and give credit to whatever wisdom we find, without necessarily agreeing with all they believe. Richard Rohr quotes Aquinas with approval: 'He does not ask where it came from, but if it is true: "If it is true, it is of the Holy Spirit".’ Jesus said 'Whoever is not against us is for us' (Mark 9:40). And remember Gamaliel's wisdom: 'If it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God' (Acts 5:30).

For some comments on the book in general, see http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/16306.htm


* In 'The Way of the Peaceful Warrior', the Dan character makes a great discovery: 'There are no ordinary moments!'

* There is a Persian proverb: 'Seek truth in meditation, not in moldy books. Look at the sky to find the moon, not in the pond'

* Asad [a convert from Judaism to Islam!] was not blind to the intellectual and material decay in many Muslim societies, which had led them to become scientific and economic backwaters

* If we could see that the nature of the universe is love, and that we are all part of an undying conscious life-force, we can no longer experience fear or doubt (Bucke)

* Physics and spirituality are two sides of the same coin (The Tao of Physics)

* The old man tells him (Castaneda) to constantly be aware of death lurking behind him. If he has this awareness, he will live differently

* Blessed is the one expecting nothing, for that one shall enjoy everything (G K Chesterton)

* The straight tree is the first to be chopped down; the well of sweet water is the first to run dry (the Grand Duke Jen to Confucius)

* Chuang Tzu's idea of the perfect person is someone who does not try to be their own source of light for the world: they act as a clean channel of that light whenever and wherever it is appropriate for it to shine

* Agrippinus is said to have remarked: 'I am not a hindrance to myself'

* [Gurdjieff] told his son to cultivate a space within his mind that was always free, and to develop an attitude of indifference to everything that normally disgusts or repels others

* Just by existing we have a debt to repay, and we do so by being fully alive in each moment, not worried about past or future (Hammarskjold)

* Things perish within time; time itself does not change. We should not speak of the flow or passage of time but of the flow or passage of space through time... Jews celebrate the Sabbath on a Saturday, Christians on a Sunday, and Muslims make Friday special, which suggests a basic human need to regain a still mind on a regular basis, to have time for meditation or contemplation even as the world continues to rush on (Heschel)

* Aldous Huxley died in 1963, on the same day as C. S. Lewis and President John F. Kennedy

* Jung: 'collective unconscious' - a larger human mind of which every individual is a part; 'synchronicity' - the occurrence of seemingly meaningful coincidences that go beyond the realms of normal probability

* Malcolm X's father was brutally murdered by the Black Legion, a white supremacist group

* 'Strive to see supernal light, for I have brought you into a vast ocean. Be careful! Strive to see, yet escape drowning' (Isaac of Akkor)

* Neither is there a hell in which people suffer interminably. Instead, some souls who have done bad things in life are separated from the main spirit world for a time of solitary reflection (Michael Newton)

* Loosen up, and see what is special in ordinariness (John O'Donohue)

* Offer a donkey a salad, and he will ask you what kind of thistle it is (Sufi teacher Abdull-Azziz)

* Angels understand eternity to mean an infinite state, not an infinite time (Swedenborg)

* Prayer is not for getting things, but for drawing closer to God and his will... Pray, even when you don't think it is effective... There is a time for penance, and a time for partridge (Teresa of Avila)

* The poverty of the West is not only a poverty of loneliness, but also of spirituality (Mother Teresa)

* We are addicted to thinking. By getting us to think all the time the ego gives us a sense of identity. Yet continual thinking prevents us from simply enjoying the moment... When we are in love, the other person makes us feel whole, but the downside is a growing addictiveness to this individual and the horror of any possibility of losing them (Eckhart Tolle)

* For thousands of years people have disbelieved the promises of God for the most extraordinary reason: they were too good to be true (Neale Donald Walsch)

* God specializes in giving people a fresh start (Rick Warren)

* The soul's natural inclination to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses in order to win it and open it to the breath from on high (Simone Weil)

* The 'transpersonal' is an awareness of the universe unclouded by the ego or the normal self... Human development is a successive decrease in egocentrism (a world in which each mindset turns on the other to win) (Ken Wilber)

* He is a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom (Yogananda)

* If we are to achieve authentic power, aligning our personality with our soul must be the main concern of our life... To someone ruled by their five senses, intuitions are not really considered 'knowledge' and so are disregarded, treated as curiosities... For intuitions to be received, we have to clear our mind of mental toxins in the form of unexpressed emotions: only through the emotions can you encounter the force-field of your own soul... We chase fame, money, and position because we feel a lack of power inside, but without soul knowledge real power will always elude us (Gary Zukav)

Rowland Croucher

November 2005

Tom Butler-Bowdon, 50 Spiritual Classics (2005)


Over the next few days I'll be publishing some articles which form the core of my thinking.

Was Jesus a Christian? Of course not, he was a Jew. 'Christians' came later.

But the 13 or so Christian groups each claim him as theirs. Pity. Remember our title/motto? 'Victoria Concordia Crescit' - 'Victory - or truth - grows out of harmony'...

Visit here for more 'core' articles by Yours Truly...


Christians come in about 13 varieties. These varieties (or mindsets) can be found in all religions. You mustn't judge any religion simply on its caricatures. My theses:

Each mind-set makes *part* of Christianity the *whole* of it.

There's nothing wrong with the parts. But like a car, if you've only got parts lying around you're not going anywhere.

Jesus rejected all these mindsets (but not the essential concerns of each of them).

For convenience I'll use terms from early Christianity, and for the sake of brevity I'll oversimplify each mindset:

Sadducees are rationalists. If your *reason* can't comprehend something (miracles, resurrection, angels) you don't have to believe it. Their God is very reasonable; their theology is 'liberal'; they inhabit mainline church seminaries.

Zealots are passionate about *justice*. Justice is all about fairness, the relationship of the strong to the weak, the right use of power. Their God sanctions terrorism; their theology is 'liberationist'; today they're priests and others who advocate the violent overthrow of oppressive Latin American regimes.

Herodians love *power*. They climb to the top of religious institutions. Their God bestows favours on the 'haves' who are 'born to rule'. They do not realize that love of power is inimical to a devout spirituality.

Scribes, elders, teachers-of-the-law regard *tradition* as master, rather than servant. Their religious way of life is ruled by precedent, what has been. 'Come weal, come woe, their status is the quo'. If it's new, it's suspect. Their God is unchanging, not merely in faithfulness, but operationally.

Essenes are liturgists. 'If only we get our *worship* right, the Messiah will come.' Their God is 'wholly other'. Their liturgies are exact, their worship-forms utterly predictable.

Mystics major on *experience*. They are right-brain, rejecting rationalism, cerebralism, dogmatism. For them prayer (perhaps divorced from labour) is the essence of the spiritual life. They sometimes form monastic orders.

Gnostics are syncretists. They believe there's truth in every *religion*. They invite us to make up our own identikit picture of God. They're at home somewhere in the New Age Movement; they develop conspiracy theories from the Dead Sea Scrolls; they love the Gospel of Thomas.

Sophists or sages place a high premium on *knowledge* or *wisdom* (they're not the same). They develop beautiful theories about redaction criticism, whether the four gospels are 'reliable' when they describe what Jesus said and did. They write learned papers, which like those of their predecessors, will be seen in future academic circles to be largely nonsense.

Sign-seekers love *miracles*. With Herod (in Jesus Christ Superstar) they'd love Jesus to 'walk across their swimming-pool.' Their God wants everyone to be healthy, wealthy (but not necessarily wise: academia is suspect). Anything can be cured, instantly, given enough faith.

Materialists measure everything, not just *money*. The bigger, faster, more brilliant, the better. Bigger churches are better than smaller churches; brilliant preachers than ordinary ones. Success, fame, ambition, optimism, 'imaging' are their watch-words. They attend Amway conventions.

Do-gooders are given to paternalism. They do works of *mercy* for their own benefit, not just for the sake of the one done good to/against. Thoreau said of them, 'If you see someone coming towards you with the object of doing you good, run for your life.' These 'people-helpers' don't realize they're in it to solve their own problems: pure altruism is very very rare.

Antinomians despise holiness - at least for themselves in private. As the term implies, they're 'against law' and misuse *grace*. 'God loves to forgive, it's his business' - so they give God every opportunity to do just that.

Finally, Pharisees are preoccupied with two things - *law* and *doctrine*. So they become legalists and dogmatists. They talk a lot about 'truth' and 'error'. Their God is unambiguous, reducible to creeds and doctrinal statements. Their 'gospel': repentance precedes acceptance (with Jesus it was the other way around). The acid test: their non-concern for social justice and mercy amd true faith (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, cf. Micah 6:8). They're fundamentalists, and proud of it.

All the entities *emphasized* are O.K. as part of a religious system, but are deadly if divorced from any/all of the others. Jesus did not align himself with any of the above groups: go and do likewise!


Rowland Croucher


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