Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Psychic Coffee - The Nature of Time, Free Will, and Julian of Norwich

In coming to terms with my psychic experiences, there was no ignoring the bible, a book filled with stories of scientifically impossible things which modern people were always trying to explain away as some perfectly natural phenomenon. I used to be a big fan of this type of thing. The Red Sea parted due to the gigantic volcanic explosion that blew the Greek island of Thera almost off the map. The seven plagues of Egypt were biological events having to do with the flooding of the Nile and parasites. That kind of thing fascinated me.

It was time to give the bible the once over with an open mind about psychic phenomenon. I started with the bible because I was most familiar with it, as opposed to any other religious document. The truth is I was only passingly familiar with the bible.

The New Testament turned out to be the best place to start my quest to reevaluate the bible in light of my new science of the psychic world. So much of the Old Testament is very ancient and each book has such a complex history, that it would be a life time of work to try to tease an understanding of the psychic threads from the old prophets. 

How funny and distressing it was to read about the Jesus Seminar, which was a group of religious leaders who, like me, didn't believe in the supernatural. Well, I was not alone in my skepticism. But I had seen the mystery in everyday life that psychics had access to, and all my former assumptions about what was true in the bible were open to modification.

The question I wanted to settle for myself was how reliable were the gospel's testimonies about Christ's miracles and his rising from the dead. Was the reality of a supernatural God actually empirically believable in a modern scientific world? 

This in itself is a gigantic undertaking, but I did my best to satisfy my intellect. My first question was where did the bible come from. Sounds easy, but it's a long, complicated story. Suffice to say that thousands of brilliant scholars of ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin have spent their lives studying fragments of ancient biblical texts, papyri, and many other sources to obtain the most accurate reading of the New Testament Gospels. 

There are disputes about many of the details, but for my purposes, I was able to assure myself that the texts we have are close enough to the original texts to be trusted. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, there are lots of reliable, first person sources and records for the gospels from very shortly after Christ was crucified.  

I read so many books and often got only one small insight out of the whole book. The best overall book I read was 'Who Is Jesus' by Darrell L. Bock. 'Can We Trust the New Testament' by John A. T. Robinson is also pretty good.

The picture I constructed from all this various research was of a Mediterranean world that was far more sophisticated and advanced than I'd imagined. At the same time, in those ancient days, they were more inclined to believe in supernatural causes for things than we are today. Things like thunderstorms and droughts were believed to be acts of God, as indeed, we still often refer to them today. Soothsayers and prophets and the idea that some people can perform miracles was more easily accepted back then, than it would be today.

I had to believe that if there were third grade teacher looking psychics today who could hunt out murderers from unseen Polaroids, there were similar people in the time of Jesus, doing the same sort of things and subject to far less skepticism than they would be today.

Jesus, then, must have been someone quite a magnitude above this type of 'seeing,' or the things he did wouldn't have seemed so remarkable to his contemporaries. It appeared to be very likely that he was something much more than a knowledgeable rabbi who told subtle and profound parables.

As I read the letters of Paul, I was very impressed by his intelligence. He was a highly educated, sophisticated Jew from a cosmopolitan city, who was also a Roman citizen. In the end, it was those letters, written so soon after the Crucifixion, that persuaded me that something very unusual had indeed happened. Clearly, Paul was a man of substance in his community and a deep thinker, and he was satisfied by the testimonies he heard from the disciples, and by his vision on the road to Damascus, that Christ was the son of God and had come back from the dead. I am not enough of a scholar to understand exactly what was meant in those times by the phrase 'son of God.' But it seems to me, at the very least, to imply a very close relationship with the very greatest of powers of the universe, otherwise referred to as God.

Now that I had accepted that the world according to science was a very incomplete world model, I gave a lot more credence to the New Testament claims of miracles, like bringing Lazarus back from the dead, the angels at the tomb, and Christ risen from the grave. The New Testament could be looked at as partly a simple reporting of the significant events of the life of Jesus, and his attempt to make clear the spiritual meaning of his miracle acts.

Once you accept that the rules of science are somehow embedded in a larger supernatural construct, the New Testament becomes a really interesting document of ordinary men and women, who witnessed probably the most extraordinary event in mankind's history, relating what they saw and thought about it. The story of what they saw is so amazing, that it is not surprising that over two thousand years later, people are still enthralled by it.

To say that this was a life changing event would be a huge understatement. However, I did not shed my clothes and run around the streets shouting Eureka! But, subtly, every day, I thought in new ways about everything and everyone, wondering what I really believed was going on in this life. 

Is the supernatural the enemy of Christianity and all religion? I'm not a theologian, so I can't say. But for me, accepting the supernatural was my pathway to real faith. It opened my mind to the possibility that there is more to this world than can be found on the periodic table of the elements. Am I advancing some new system of belief? Hardly. I find myself closest in my beliefs to Julian of Norwich, an early Christian mystic and writer who had visions from God while ill. She recovered from her illness on May 13, 1373, her feast day and my birthday. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, written around 1395, is one of the first books written in English by a woman and is still popular today.

"And I saw truly that nothing happens by accident or luck, but everything by God's divine providence."

"God is the goodness that cannot be angry."

"It is true that sin is the cause of all this suffering, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

"And in this I saw that God does not want us to be afraid of knowing the things that he shows us; he shows them because he wants us to know them, and through this knowledge he wants us to love him and be happy and rejoice in him forever. And because of his great love for us he shows us everything which it is valuable and useful for us to know in this world; and the things which he wants to remain a mystery for the time being, he nevertheless, because of his great kindness, shows us in a veiled way, and from this showing he wants us to believe and understand that we shall really see them in his everlasting bliss."

From Julian of Norwich, 'Revelations of Divine Love', the Long Text, translated by Elizabeth Spearing. 

Doubt still haunts me, as do grief and fear, but my psychic experiences have given me a lot of help in strengthening my faith in God's love. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8.

I quibbled with myself over the loss of free will. What does it mean if the future can be known? Does it mean there is no free will? This idea is very uncomfortable. Does it mean that what will happen is already a given, an immutable law, unchangeable?  

Or, is it possible that time is an illusion? An important illusion, very specific and intrinsic to life on earth, but an illusion? Part of God's plan for us here on earth.

Maybe both free will and time are illusions. Maybe like Teresa of Avila says, we are only watering the garden that God has already planted. It's our loving attentiveness to him that provides the water for his garden of our virtues and his weeding out of our vices.

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14

Free will, the process of watering our God given gardens, operates outside of time, somehow, but the separating power of time, which keeps events manageable and understandable, does not work the way it appears to us, who are captives of time. As Einstein says: "Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live."

I believe that somehow free will must be important because so much trouble has been taken to show me my future visions, all of which acted to strengthen my faith in this world at this time and changed me, if not my actions. But they have changed my actions, because without those visions, I really don't know how I would have carried on or found faith in God.

Here's a quote from the movie 'The Agony and The Ecstasy', based on the Irving Stone biography of Michelangelo, which comes very close to summing it all up for me. The situation is that Michelangelo has unwillingly submitted to Pope Julius II's wishes and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. On completion of the masterpiece, the Pope confesses that he almost gave in to Michelangelo's pleas to let another artist finish the ceiling, but at those moments, Michelangelo's behavior was so irritating, that he was unable to control his anger and insisted that Michelangelo finish the job. In the movie, as he admires the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Pope then reflects on his role in the creation of the glorious ceiling, "I take no credit. I was moved by another hand as easily and skillfully as you move your brush. Strange how he works his will. Let us share pride in having been his instruments."

I believe that God does use us as instruments to work his will, even turning our worst weaknesses to good purpose.

Here is a quote I found in William Peter Blatty's new book, "Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death.

"So many people imagine that death cruelly separates us from our loved ones. Even pious people are led to believe this great and sad mistake. Death is not a separation. When our loved one dies, they do not leave us. They remain. They do not go to some distant place. They simply begin their eternity. Death has not destroyed them, nor carried them away. Rather it has given them life and the power to know and love us more fully than ever before. The tears that dampen our eyes in times of mourning are tears of homesickness, tears of longing for our loved ones. But it is we who are far from home, not they. Death has been for them a doorway to eternal home. And only because this home is invisible to our worldly eyes, we cannot see them so near us, lovingly and tenderly waiting for the day when we, too, will enter the doorway. And then we will see them." Cardinal John Henry Newman.

(In confirmation of the truth of these words, you can read about the book and how I got my rose, really more in answer to Mr. Blatty's faith than my own, but got it nevertheless, at this link: )

I hope that my small experiences of the supernatural will encourage others to have confidence in their own signposts on the journey to faith. 

Jesus said to Thomas, 'Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.' Some of us, however, have to see, before we dare to walk on water when Jesus calls us. 

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