Day 56- Different Languages- Saying The Same Things

If you know me at
all, you probably know my “spirituality” is all over the place.  I was raised as a fundamentalist, heaven and
hell Christian, became an evangelical, through a crisis of faith then became a
universalist, went through a Deist phase and have come around full circle to
the belief that God is in control (in a manner of speaking).   I have studied many religions, at least on a
surface level. I have read the entire Bible from front to back (wow was that
painful).  I have read the Bhagavad Gita,
the Dhammapada, some of the book of Mormon, a little of the Quran and I have
read many, many books about all of these traditions.  From all of this I have distilled my own
“faith”, my own spirituality, my own model of how human beings and the universe
work and our roles in the universe.  In
as few words as possible I’m going to try to summarize that.

Through 54 years
of exploring all of this I have come to the conclusion that God is not nearly
as limited as the atheist thinks he is (not) or the Christian thinks he is. The
God your typical  Sunday school level
Christian believes in is the god the atheist rejects and the god I reject as
well.  I am a panentheist which means I
believe we are all a part of God, everything is God, but God in addition to being
immanent (ever present) is also transcendent. God is not just the sum of the
universe(s), God goes beyond that, so far beyond that that I have given up on
even trying to comprehend God.  It’s just
too much for my tiny little brain, like an amoeba trying to understand what a
human being is.  If you think you can
understand God, then clearly you have not grasped how awesome God is.

In my travels, I
have been in contact with people of all sorts of faiths and of no faith. My
family is still pretty fundamentalist and I’m sure a lot of them think I’m
crazy, gone off the deep end, but what’s amazing is often when I’m talking with
them and they’re talking about faith the most fundamentalist of them will say
the same thing one of my whacky New Age friends will say, just using different
language.  

Free Will versus
God’s Will versus Fate

I’ll give you an
example. The other day I was talking with my uncle about Shayna’s death and he
mentioned something I have heard many times “God’s perfect will and God’s
permissive will”  Frankly, I’ve never
really paid a lot of attention to this concept because by the time I heard it,
I was more of a Deist viewing the universe as morally neutral and something God
pretty much wound up and set in motion. Cancer is random. People get into
accidents. The universe isn’t cruel or dangerous, just uncaring.  I could not square God’s perfect will versus
God’s permissive will and how our free will plays into that, so I just chucked
the whole concept.    Now, I was at lunch with Nico, my deeply spiritual
but non-religious friend, a few days after talking with my uncle and we were
talking about coincidences and serendipity and synchronicity. Nico declared
there are no coincidences. He said there is free will and some things are
relatively fixed- like our birth and our death (even though he mentioned there
are various exit points we can take), but what is is what is meant to be and is
for the growth of our souls. What seems terrible will work out for the greater
good in the end. How is this so different than what my uncle had tried to
communicate to me a few days earlier?  It’s
not. It’s the same principle told from people coming from what, on the surface,
are polar opposite views. The way I’m seeing it now is like we’re going down a
river. We can swim against the tide so much. We can steer one way or the other,
but we’re going to hit the major points we’re supposed to hit no matter what
because our control is limited.

OOBEs and Talking
to the Dead

I have been
studying Near Death Experiences Out of Body Experiences, etc. for decades.   Many
people, even those who say they believe in “heaven”,  think when you’re dead, you’re dead. At best
you sleep until some day when Jesus comes back to wake you up.  And, having an out of body experience. Well,
that’s  just of the Devil.  Well, let’s look at the Bible.  In the First Book of Samuel Chapter 28- Saul
goes to see a woman who summons the spirit of Samuel.  First Saul sought answers in dreams, from
prophets and from the Urim and Thummin (magical devices approved for use in
ancient Israel- look them up).  When he
didn’t get the answer he wanted he went to a …. Wait for it… medium.  Saul had to go in disguise because Saul had
driven all the necromancers out saying it was forbidden to talk to the dead,
but obviously he thought it possible.
Now the story doesn’t end well for Saul.
He’s told by Samuel he will be punished for this and he is defeated in
battle the next day, but the point I’m making is talking with the dead was
considered possible and Saul did it.  Saul
had to die for doing it because the priestly caste who wrote the Old Testament
had to make their point.  

Jesus also talked
to the dead.  In Matthew 17, Jesus takes
three apostles up to a mountaintop where He has a conversation with Moses and
Elijah.  Uh, Jesus- didn’t you know you’re
not supposed to do that?  Paul, had what might
have been an OOBE.  He did not use those
words, of course.  In 2 Corinthians 12 he
describes an experience when he says “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years
ago- whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God
knows—such a man was caught up into the third heaven.  And I know how such a man whether in the body
or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and
heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”  This sounds like an OOBE to me. Paul was
taken up and shown things in heaven that human eyes have not seen.  I wonder if Paul was meditating, I mean
praying, when he had this experience. Paul also saw a vision of the dead. The
(dead) Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Acts Chapter 9. Bright
light, disembodied voice, the whole nine yards.

So, why is it we
read these accounts of people talking to the dead, of Paul having an OOBE of
Paul seeing a bright light and hearing the voice of a dead guy and take them
all in stride, but if someone tells us that they have spoken with the dead or
have had an OOBE, we think they have to be crazy?  Isn’t God the same today as he was
yesterday?  If it happened in Biblical
times, why can’t it happen today?  

Reincarnation

Some say the Bible
teaches against reincarnation and can pull out a handful of verses to support
it.  I don’t think the Bible teaches
against (or for) reincarnation, but consider these words of Jesus:  Truly I tell you,
among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the
Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been
subjected to violence,d and violent people have been raiding it. 13For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15Whoever has ears, let them hear.ruly I tell you, among those born of women
there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least
in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been
subjected to violence,d and violent people have been raiding it. 13For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Also consider the case of the man born blind and the question “Who
sinned that this man was born blind- him or his parents?” Were they not talking
about karma created before birth? Could he have sinner in the womb? Then there
is this.  When Jesus asked the disciples
“Who do men say that I am?” Why did they say Elijah or one of the prophets if
they didn’t believe in reincarnation?
Why didn’t Jesus correct them about reincarnation if they were wrong?

Where things diverge

So far I’ve talked about where things
between other faiths/traditions and Christianity might line up only using
different language.  For me this is
interesting because it confirms my belief that most faiths mostly get it right
and that God talks to everyone, not just ancient Jews, not just Christians. God
speaks many ways to many people. And just as Paul could have been (and was)
inspired, Neale Donald Walsch who wrote Conversations With God a few years ago
could have been inspired.  Your friend
who says her dead grandmother appeared to her in a dream or as an apparition
might have really seen her dead grandmother.
You believe Paul saw Jesus.  You
believe Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah (in front of witnesses). The guy who
today who says he nearly died and went to heaven, maybe he had an experience
like Paul’s OOBE.  Why not? 

This still leaves the bigger questions
for me. Why are we here? What is the purpose of the pain of life?  Why do we die?  Where do we go when we die? This is where
some things diverge from the Bible or my Christian background for me.  The model I have developed in my mind works
for me to explain the way things are and to bring some sanity to what can seem
to be an insane situation.

Maya and Original Sin

I know some of my Christian friends
believe that death was not part of God’s plan. Death is an enemy to be defeated
and I know the Bible can be used to back this up.  I don’t buy that.  There was no paradise where lions ate grass
(because of no death they couldn’t hunt meat). Adam and Eve weren’t placed in a
garden with a tree and told not to touch a certain fruit (with a snake to tempt
them on top of that). God was not surprised when he left them in the garden and
they ate the fruit. How could he not have seen that coming? This isn’t plan B.
This is plan A. This life is designed with pain and death built in. It’s part
of the plan.  Pain is here to cause us to
focus.  Pain forces us to make
changes.  Pain gives us opportunities for
growth. Others’ pain gives us the opportunity to practice compassion and
empathy. Pain, as much as we hate to admit it, is necessary.   We
might ask why so much pain. Well, the opportunity for growth is proportional to
the amount of pain there is. If we only stubbed a toe every once in a while
there wouldn’t be much opportunity for growth or compassion or empathy.  And any amount of pain we have we are going
to call “unbearable”, just like the toddler who falls down and screams bloody
murder like it’s the end of the world.
Pain also keeps us from clinging too tightly to this world.  As beautiful as it can be, pain is a reminder
that it’s not home. When Shayna passed, that came into sharp focus for me.  I had gotten comfortable here. I was settled
in.  No more.  I am focused on home now. I am trying to focus
on the big picture.

Hindus believe in a concept called Maya.
They believe we are souls having an earthly experience and that we are deluded
about who we are. So far, I’m tracking with them, but they seem to believe this
life is a punishment.  Karma is a treadmill
we run on until we can get up enough velocity to escape it. It seems the gods
have conspired to make us keep living over and over until we do it well enough
to escape.  I agree with the first part-
that we are living in a in illusory world in order to have experiences for soul
growth. I disagree that it’s something inflicted upon us.  I think we choose.

My Views

So, what we here to accomplish?  I believe we are here to grow, to develop and
to have experiences.  We know when we
come there will be a certain amount of suffering. I don’t think God just hands
out assignments.  I believe he looks for
volunteers. As a believer in reincarnation I also believe we come in in soul
groups- teams of people who come here and do this over and over- together.  We agree to play certain roles for ourselves
and for each other so that we can grow through different experiences. We want
to experience difficulties not only so we can grow but overcoming them is
interesting.  If you’re a gamer, you may
be familiar with the concept that when a designer is designing a game, he has
to hit a balance. The game cannot be so difficult that you can never achieve
any advancement.  People would quickly
become frustrated and give it up. But, the game cannot be so easy that it
simply hands out points or tokens every time you pressed a button. People would
grow bored of that even more quickly than the impossible game.  We need a certain amount of challenge to make
the game interesting. We need obstacles to overcome to improve our skills.  

I believe that when we die we go to
“heaven”, but heaven isn’t somewhere far away. It’s another dimension. Whether
it’s a state or mind or physical and just on a different vibrational level, I
don’t’ know. I know most of us can’t access it directly and we can’t sense it
with our five senses or measure it. I do believe it’s every bit as real (more
real those who have been report) than where we are now. I also believe the veil
is a like a two way mirror, when we look at it from this side, we just see
ourselves reflected back, but when they look from the other side, they can see
us. They not only can see us, they stick around and they participate in our
lives.  

So making this personal.  My belief is that Shayna, Kayla, Ty and I are
in a soul group that has probably done this many times before in many
circumstances. For whatever reason, Shayna volunteered to go out first or maybe
I volunteered to stick around because this sure is the harder role.  We knew before we came what the general
trajectory was going to be but the details are determined as the roles are
played out. When Shayna passed, she did not die. She did not go away. She went
into a space where she can still be with us, but we have to work harder to
perceive her.  Not only will we see her
again someday, we can continue a relationship with her up until that day.  We will all be reunited. We’ll review how we
did with the plan and we’ll more than likely do this again, maybe playing
different roles.  

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