Posts Tagged ‘God’


Pilgrimage Statistics 

 Consecutive Days Riding:  83                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 84 

 Today’s Mileage: 6                                              Total Trip Mileage: 687 

 Happy New Year to all my family and friends! I decided to let myself have a little reprieve today.  I will be riding the bike of course, but instead of composing my typical blog ramblings I have posted several quotes and beautiful images.  They are words and images to ponder as we prepare our resolutions for a new year.  I hope you enjoy both as the gifts they are… see you tomorrow! 

Awaken to the New Year and its Possibilities!

“Go back?” he thought.  “No good at all!  Go sideways?  Impossible!  Go forward?  Only thing to do!  On we go!”  So he got up, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit 

 “Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.”  G.K. Chesterton 

What mountains will we face in the New Year?

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  C.S. Lewis 

“A friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.” Mahatma Gandhi

Embrace each new day as a gift!

“A good man is not a perfect man; a good man is an honest man, faithful, and unhesitatingly responsive to the voice of God in his life.”  John Fischer 

“Belief is truth held in the mind; faith is a fire in the heart.”  Joseph Fort Newton

How will you celebrate the beauty on your path?

“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Frederick Buechner 

“God’s heart is the most sensitive and tender of all. No act goes unnoticed, no matter how insignificant or small.” Richard J. Foster 

The days grow longer... the cycles of nature unfold!

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” The Dalai Lama 

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” “A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.” “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be truly fulfilled.” “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”     Lao Tzu

Be kind to the children... no cruel jokes please!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 69                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 70

Today’s Mileage:  10                                         Total Trip Mileage: 609


The red line marks our progress.

Holidays and Holy Days on December 18 :

Hijra – Islamic celebration of the emigration of Muhammad and his followers to Medina from Mecca in 622 c.e.


As I ride the bike I think about the Islamic holy day being celebrated today.  The Hijra marks the escape of the Prophet Muhammad from his enemies in Mecca to the city of Medina.  From there he grew in strength until he returned to take control of Mecca the holiest city for the people of the Arabian Peninsula. The importance of this event is that the Islamic calendar marked the year of this move as the beginning -Year 1 of the calendar.  Today is the year 1430 AH (after Hijra).

We are of course, fast approaching the Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Christ.  The importance of which can be seen on the Gregorian calendar as all time is marked as either before or after the year of this event. Today’s date is 2009 AD.  This led me to wondering about other cultures and religions and their calendars.

 According to the Buddhist calendar, today is the year 2553 BE (Buddha Era).  With a few regional variations their calendar starts with a significant event in Buddha’s life.  This event is defined as Buddha’s parinirvana and represents the entering into the final Nirvana which occurs upon the death of the body of one who has attained complete awakening.  It implies a release from the cycles of rebirth.

According to the Jewish calendar, today would be the year 5769 AM (in the year of the world).  This calendar is numbered from the epoch (starting point or the first day of the zeroth year) that, by Rabbinical reckoning, is the date of the creation of the world by God and reported in Genesis.  

The Hindus have a calendar system that projects itself back millions of years to the beginning of the universe and move forward into shorter and shorter epochs. The epoch of the current era, also called the “dark ages,” of the Hindu calendar began some 5106 years ago.

The Chinese and Japanese calendars number their years to indicate the number of years from the accession of the current emperor, regarding the calendar year during which the accession occurred as the first year.  In both cultures the Emperor was seen as a representative of God on earth.  The Emperor’s actions helped to either gain the favor or disfavor of the Gods.

There are other calendars I have not included. What this short review highlights is that each calendar starts from an epoch, which is often chosen to commemorate an important historical, mythological or religious event. While the Gregorian calendar is now used through much of the world it can be argued that this use does not represent an acceptance of Christ’s birth as the most important historical event, but occurs because of convenience or convention.  Other faiths and cultures might very well argue for the superiority of their system.  Are there other alternatives?

 In an effort to be “scientific” and avoid an association with any historic or mythological event we might use the system embrace by much of the field of astronomy: The Julian Date.  It was originally developed by the Renaissance philologist Joseph Scaliger.  This system is multicultural: it combines a solar and lunar cycle that coincided on January 1, 4713 BCE.  This date is then used at year one of the calendar.  Meaning that today’s date is December 18, 6722 JD.

However you number it and whichever holiday you are celebrating I wish you and your loved one a happy holiday!

Rising or setting there is only one source!

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 61                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 62

Today’s Mileage: 5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 535

The red line marks our progress.

As I ride the bike today we are preparing to pull into our twelfth pilgrimage site.  Today’s site is unique and some people might question why it warrants a designation as a spiritual pilgrimage site. We are stopping at the Edison Museum and Winter Estates in Fort Myers Florida.  The roadways we have travelled are populated by a great many churches, but finding sites that speak to the wider array of expressions of spirituality can be more challenging.  I happened upon the Edison Winter Estate site at the same time I was researching the Koreshan Unity Village Site we visited last week. 

In the lab!

With the Koreshan movement we had a charismatic leader and followers who combined religious revelations with quasi- scientific thinking to create a utopian dream. At the same time just thirty miles up the road, we find Thomas Edison, who many would view as the archetypical inventor, solving the world’s problems in practical ways.  Through his innovations he created a new world of electrical lights, phonographs, and movies. He accomplished his feats with little formal education and a lot of hard work.  Edison is often cited as an example of ingenuity, perseverance, and a “get it done” practicality. Among his many quotes that adorn bumper stickers, t-shirts and office walls are: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” and “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” He was not theoretical like Einstein; he was practical, hardworking and no-nonsense. “”Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  He reframed the whole concept of failure: “I have not failed. I’ve just fond 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

First Banyan tree in the US planted by Edison in his garden.

His personal spirituality and approach to the divine is less clear. I’ve found references that labeled him as an atheist, an agnostic, a freethinker and a deist.  He attended a Congregational church near his home which in memorial to his membership changed it name to Thomas Edison Congregational Church.

 In a New York Times Magazine interview conducted in 1910 he stated: “Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving… nature made us – nature did it all – not the gods of the religions.”  These remark generated a great deal of controversy, and although he did not allow himself to be drawn into a public discussion he clarified himself in a private letter by stating: “You have misunderstood the whole article, because you jumped to the conclusion that it denies the existence of God.  There is no such denial, what you call God I call nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter.”

Edison statue with Banyan tree.

His involvement with causes such as nonviolence and Civitan appears to attest to his belief in the importance of social action over professed beliefs. A visit to his winter home site also emphasizes the importance he placed on nature, with his beautiful gardens, dock into the bay and cherished Banyan trees. All of this make one wonder if he represents a scientific thinker who experienced moments of nature mysticism.

 Again I am struck by the synchronicity of my site visits. With one site we find a cult-like community, dreaming of changing the world based upon religious revelations and questionable scientific theory.  Its “New Jerusalem” is now a state park housing RVs and sun worshipers. Existing at the same time and just a few  miles away, we find an individual embedded in a practical science, who was described as logical, reasoning and creative.  He surrounded himself with the beauty and inspiration of nature and changed the world! 

Edison provided a source of light, helped capture visual and auditory memories for future generations, provided inspiring words and left us a pilgrimage site that attests to the power of perserverance, creativity and engagement with the world around us. 

Fort Myers' sunset.

To visit the Site please click on the tab at the top of this page labelled Pilgrimage Sites. A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 40                                 Consecutive Days Blogging: 41

 Today’s Mileage: 9                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 344

In yesterday’s blog I raised a question: how do we make a virtuous choice when the allure of vices may have a biological component? It seems to me we have several choices. First, we can appeal to a higher power, turn the struggle with the apparently irresistible urge over to God. We can petition our deity to take away the urge and then wait for divine intervention. While it is understandable that such an approach is appealing, most ministers I have talked with note that while God might show us the way and offer support, we have to make the trip ourselves. I once heard a family therapist state it this way: A marriage may be made in heaven, but you have to do your own maintenance! Ultimately we are the ones, whether with or without God’s assistance who have to turn and walk away from the vice’s allure. We could wait for science to find a medication that will rid us of the urge toward addiction, but it may lead to a dulled and passionless existence.

Take a nature walk.

According to several prominent psychology theories, the answer has to do with the nature of habits. If you want to take a more spiritual/religious perspective you might say it all has to do with rituals! Religious rituals have different functions. One of the intrapersonal functions is to help a person maintain some beneficial behavior, like prayer or meditation, and thought processes, like a daily contemplation of sacred teaching.

William Glasser in his formulation of Reality Therapy hypothesized that one aspect of human nature was our propensity toward addiction. He argued that the most important question was: What are you addicted too? He speaks to the presence of Negative Addictions, like drugs, obsessive shopping, or anger and wrath. These addictions produce an array of negative consequences with respect to our health, our relationships and ultimately to our level of happiness. Positive addictions such as creativity, prayer, meditation, exercise, produce positive impacts on our health, our relationships and our ultimate happiness. These positive addictions, just like negative addictions, can be experienced as a profound deep need to perform the activity. Missing the appointed or regular time for the activity, exercise, meditation, prayer can lead to increased anxiety and discomfort and a strong almost irresistible “need” to perform the ritual act.

Light a candle as a prayer offering.

 While we may spend time asking ourselves why we are drawn to the negative addiction, Reality Therapy would argue that the more practical and pragmatic things to ask is: What do we need to substitute for the vice? What new habit or ritual do we need to develop and promote? If you want to start your morning with a prayer, or a visit to an intriguing daily Blog, or exercise: create a habit or ritual that brings about the desired change.

A meditation ritual.

My minister, Pat Jobe, in a recent sermon on addiction noted that it is almost impossible to just walk away from something that bring us pleasure, even if it is a “short term” fix, or leads to negative consequences. However, it is not so hard to walk away, if we are walking towards something that offers equal or greater satisfaction and happiness.

But how do you do this? How is it done? There is no simple answer or template that fits all vices for all individuals. Each situation is different! However, within psychology the fields of Behavior Therapy and Learning Theory outline numerous procedures for creating new habits, and extinguishing old ones! Now, that is the topic for another posting!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 36                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 37

Today’s Mileage:  5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 316


     As I ride my bike and we approach our next Pilgrimage Site, I want to speak about mysticism.  Several viewers have asked me to define it and to describe types of mystical experiences.  To answer these questions in the depth they deserve it would take more time and space than one Blog posting can offer.  As such today I will be presenting only a cursory review.


Blazing Sky!

     Mysticism can be defined as: the pursuit of an understanding or relationship with the ultimate reality we call the divine, through direct experience, intuition and insight.  This relationship may include a desire to enter into a communion with, identification with, or achieve a conscious awareness of this ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God. A mystical experience may be minor and uplifting, like a walk through a beautiful garden, or it may be profound, intense and a life changing event, such as a near death experience!

daodejing1     Mysticism usually focuses on practices that are intended to nurture this direct experience or awareness.  All of the major wisdom traditions either place mystical experiences at the core of their practices, primarily within the eastern traditions, or have mystical branches within their traditions, such as Kabbalah within Judaism, Sufism within Islam, Christian mystics within Christianity. The mystical branches of these Monotheist traditions are often treated skeptically by the more orthodox branches of the faith due to the emphasis the mystic person places on their direct experience and living realization over doctrine. In contrast to orthodox branches which often look only to the sacred scriptures for revelation and direction.

      Mystics believe these experiences of divine consciousness, enlightenment and union with God that are made possible via the mystical paths, are available to everyone who is willing to follow the practice. No one is denied or excluded from the practices or the experiences that result. While some mystic traditions may exclude the validity of other traditions, most tend to be more accepting than the non-mystical versions of their faiths. In general, mystics are more inclusionary and pluralistic.



Alchemist's Star

   How are these mystical experiences classified? In general they can first be divided into dualistic, which maintains a distinction between the individual and the divine, often called Theist Mysticism, and non-dualistic, where the distinction is blurred or no distinction exists.

     These non-dualistic experiences can be further divided into those where there is a mystical consciousness of the unity of all reality superimposed upon a person’s perceptions of the world (i.e. when I, as a young boy, stood transfixed in the face of a gigantic thunderstorm as it and all of reality “passed through me” and became one).  This can be called Nature Mysticism and may be experienced in any moment of intense passion, creativity, or connectedness with other people and natural objects.  If the experience involves a “going inward” and the “falling away” of one’s identity to the point of “divine nothingness”, or bliss, this can be called Monist Mysticism.

  julian-holycard1   You might ask: is a person limited to just one form of mystical experience?  The answer is No!  I myself have experienced both Nature and Monist mystical experiences.  I have never experienced the divine as a deity or a spiritual presence.  My partner has experienced all three.

      Depending upon the religious tradition you are trying to conform to, these experiences may be embraced or looked upon with suspicion.  I believe no single type or combination is the true or desirable experience.  You cannot command mystical experiences to occur. However, you can maintain practices which increase their likelihood of occurrence.  You can pray, chant, dance, meditate, do yoga, or take nature walks to name only a few. A deep level of despair may visit a mystic who has lost this connection with the divine i.e. the Theist to whom God fails to speak, the Nature mystic who feels nothing at the feet of natural beauty, or the Monist who cannot penetrate  layers of ego and desire that block the way to the sacred core. It has been said that “Behind every addiction lies a search for the divine.”  False paths to the divine do exist but that’s a topic for another posting.

     Most people I know who have mystical experiences view them as profound gifts.  As with any special gift, one shouldn’t hoard it, but share it with others.  It may be shared when it inspires caring, loving behavior towards others, as inspiration for a poem or piece of artwork or the topic of a discussion.  There are many paths, many experiences that will take the seeking pilgrim to the mountain top, to a knowledge of and relationship with the divine.  Which path is “your path?”  There is no more important question in life!

     For more information the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at www.plato.stanford.edu  contains a good academic discussion of the topic under mysticism.   In addition, a wonderful movie is available called A Still Small Voice, narrated by Bill Kurtis (of recent “I found the internet” fame) which includes presentations by people who have experienced all three forms of mysticism.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  31                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 32

Today’s Mileage: 7                                              Total Trip Mileage: 287


Holidays and Holy Days on : November 9, 2009

Celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9th 1989.


    I spoke yesterday about the importance of Pilgrimages of Remembrance and we visited a site that houses the memories of the Jewish community in south Florida.  It seems to me that sites of remembrance can exist on three levels:  First on a personal level for an individual or family, such as the roadside memorials that spring up after car accidents that claimed the  life of  a loved one or returning to a childhood home. Second, a site may be representative of a community’s shared memories, like the museum we visited yesterday or a local war memorial. And third a remembrance site may speak  a more universal message, to countries (as with Independence Hall in Philadelphia), a religion (like Mecca to Muslims) or to all of mankind.

thcanyon by R. Nance

Roadside Memorial

     The site we are visiting today represents this type of universal site.  It has a message for the whole world.  The occurence of the holocaust, while doubted by some, is accepted as one of the low points in human history.  It carries an important message and a warning of the extreme degree to which human motivations can turn against the welfare of other human beings. The aftermath of WWII left the world reeling not just because of the level of destruction visited on both the east and west, but because of the questions it raised about human nature and the source of evil.

     Is evil a separate entity that gained control over a nation and directed it to destroy other nations and peoples?  Is there a God, and if so how could he let so many innocent people die? How could a Christian nation (Germany) become this evil monster? Is evil  a dark side that resides within all of us, held in check by our better side?  Is evil a deviation of our human nature to love and care for others, that can be strongly influenced and hijacked by outside forces (political movements, religions and cults)?

washington dc

Washington DC Monuments.

    I don’t have answers to these questions, as most of them are better left to philosophers and theologians.  As a therapist I do witness people struggling with the choices between healthy and prosocial versus addictive and selfish choices.  I agree with Abraham Maslow the Humanistic Personality theorist that the “pull” of  deficiency needs (sustenance, safety, possession, ego, etc) is for many individuals stronger than the being needs (self-actualization).  Like the line for the Indigo Girls song Closer to Fine that states: “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” I believe  it is crucial that we as individuals and as a community and nation, ask the hard questions. How do we ensure that our better nature and needs predominate over those needs that subjugate, demean and lead ultimately to the destruction of other human beings?

     I believe this struggle between good and evil rages within all of us. I believe  it is a spiritual journey and struggle. I hope you find today’s visit to the Holocaust Memorial of Miami to be insightful.  It will jolt you, as it has me, to remember that  individual choices can and do contribute to larger movements.  Please ask yourself: do these movements represent and promote growth and connectedness or decay and separation from others?

     Now please visit the site by clicking on the Pilgrimage Site button at the top of the page.

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