“Getting out from under : moving towards a well grounded
It comes to this: each of us needs to get
out from under our faith (or lack-of-faith) community's beliefs and
expectations, and to base our faith on what we have experienced and
discovered for ourselves. To do that, we don't necessarily have to
reject our faith community: it's only that, if we lack personal
experience of Spirit, spirit-talk is just words that we don't really
understand. I suppose we can regard our churches as
schools, where the pupils range from the very young to the very old,
and all are at varying stages of development. A good church will be one
that encourages us to mature and think and experience Spirit for
this issue, Nate Cull (a fellow worshipper in our small Anglican
congregation) writes, “But is the tide turning, and are we at
least seeing a way to integrate seriously thought out mystical concepts
both with practical, lived common-sense science, and with traditional
religion? For my part, discovering [the work of Bohm and many others
is] like a literal answer to prayer: ideas which bridge the
between religion and science without compromising either.”
could be said to be “getting out from under” the
rigid boundaries of an exclusive Pentecostal church in which he was
own case, what I am trying to get “out from under”
is a reasonable Liberal Christianity together with the secular study of
theology that I did at Oxford, together with academic studies of
psychology and philosophy founded on philosophical materialist
reductionism. Many other-dimensional experiences of my own have led me
to become neither liberal nor conservative, but towards trying to base
my faith partly in my faith community, and partly on personal
experiences of Spirit, together with open-minded science. Guess why I
have been editing this journal, the past four years!
Biblical scholars with their passionately varying pictures of Jesus,
are thorny thickets, like tar babies, to get stuck in. Professor
Geering is certain that Jesus was a wandering folk wisdom purveyor,
Bishop Spong that Jesus was a politically correct American Liberal,
Professor Allegro that Jesus was the founder of a mushroom eating cult,
Tom Harpur is certain that Jesus was really the Eyptican god Horus, and
that Mary was Isis, -and of course Albert Schweitzer in his Quest
for the Historical Jesus, describes a host of other
certainties about the nature of Jesus. I thank God for Marcus Borg's
reasonableness and lack of wish to be startling and mind-blowing. Hence
the section on Marcus Borg in this issue. He too helps us to get
“out from under”
Sjoerd Bonting: On the need for a well-grounded personal faith.
A Netherlands government advisory committee
in a 2007 study reported that 26% of the population considers itself
'unbound spirituals', slightly more than 25% church members. The
remaining 49% comprise humanists, Muslims and non-believers.
The beliefs of spirituals and church members are also compared. I have
written an article in Dutch that presents the confused belief
set of spirituals (and to some extent of church members). It is a
picture of religious confusion, further illustrated by a recent book of
protestant pastor Klaas Hendrikse under the title "Belief in a
Non-Existing God". The sad fact is that the main churches do not seem
to be able to reply to this situation. In my paper I present data and
an analysis. Although the situation in the Netherlands is rather
unique, I believe that this development will spread to other western
countries. We should all rethink our beliefs and how we communicate
them to our neighbours.
“Sensing Murder” and the
November 2007 issue of The Ground of Faith
Our Nov. 2007 article was mentioned on the
front page of the March issue of the Methodist TOUCHSTONE. Journalist
Katherine Armon balances varying views on Sensing Murder very well, and
ends with the words, “How should Christians approach the
question of psychic mediums? The question is vexing, and many people do
not want to share their views. Surely the way forward with an issue
like this is to bring it out into the forum for healthy discussion with
open minds, open hearts, and God's word to guide us.”
Her article inspired an email from sillybeliefs.com editor John Ateo.
In response to that email, I would like to correct impressions given in
the November issue, that Ateo was a pseudonym: it is his correct name,
and that although sceptical, he is not a member of the NZ Skeptics.
I've no quarrel with John Ateo's integrity. If I have a quarrel, it is
that his site is better described as “debunking”
rather than as sceptical. We need skepsis and doubt, otherwise we will
never change, and never grow. But there is a big difference between
open-minded scepticism and closed-minded scepticism. However, in the
light of the correspondence, I have revised the November issue, and it
can be read at http://thegroundoffaith.net/issues/2007-11/#2
I believe it gives a fairer picture of
what Ateo had to say.
of the past 150
years of psychic research is very arguably the best over all refutation
of the belief that consciousness is "nothing but" electrochemical
processes in the brain. With 600 pages plus 200 pages of references it
is the most comprehensive refutation published. There are of course a
multitude of good books treating more limited aspects of that
refutation. It is available in New Zealand on Library interloan, and we
discuss it in detail at http://thegroundoffaith.net/issues/2007-09/#10
"Your Eternal Self" R. Craig Hogan, Ph.D
This can be read as an
e-book by clicking http://youreternalself.com/coverlink.htm
(It can also
be bought.) This
is an extremely simple and well written picture of spiritual
reality as it seems to emerge from 150 years of psychic research.
We may or may not see it as confirming the picture of reality
presented through Christianity, but we may perhaps agree that it is
well worth having a look at. See also his other web-sites: 30ce.com; induced-adc.com mindstudies.comg reaterreality.com youreternalself.com
This site is
presented here for
your interest. It is not a statement of the editors' beliefs.
Co-editor Victor MacGill comments, "The e-book is great. The
middle section tends to be an unsupportedpersonal opinion in contrast
to the well researched and evidenced."
Keane: The Experience of Doubt
1985, Dr Ross Keane, of Sorrento, Queensland, wrote a doctoral
dissertation, “The Experience of doubt and associated
Religious men.” He had been a Marist Brother: “I
the world of five men, who, like myself, shared a common lifestyle
within a religious community by asking them to discuss their doubting
experiences”. “The struggle involved a
of unease about self worth, competence, identity and life commitments,
and the inability to address it.” On the last page he writes,
“it illustrates a new readiness to trust my own experience
check it against the experience of others rather than to assume that
experience is automatically valid.” His thinking is very
to the theme of this issue, “Getting out from under
personal grounds of faith”. We summarise his thought from
that he included to illustrate how people can move (or not) from doubt
towards its resolution.
One of his
central findings was that the “burr under the
drove the doubters to continue searching was the need to escape from,
or find relief from, the strong negative feelings that were being
experienced. Strong feelings kept the search going
over a period of three to five years – as a series of
into one’s present perspective eventually resulted in a
transformed and larger perspective on self.
The Appearance of Doubt was always signalled by a sense of
disorientation, an inner awareness of tension and strong negative
feelings. The responses to these feelings and this awareness
EITHER- Recognising and being prepared to intentionally pay attention
to the discomfort. This involved acknowledging the awareness,
particularly of the strong emotions and choosing to look at the
feelings and thoughts in all their aspects. Part of this
preparedness to suspend personal judgement
OR Avoiding/denying what was happening and ignoring the
discomfort, suppressing feelings or rationalising the feelings
this avoiding having to face into the call to explore a potential area
Ross identified a number of inner movements that were commonly spoken
of by those who shared their journeys in doubting..
named these inner movement or inner shifts –
processes” that people in his study typically
Through gradually making these inner shifts over time (up to five years
in many cases) people worked their way through to new, more expansive,
inclusive and always ultimately freeing perspectives on themselves and
These learning processes in doubting that eventually resulted in
transformed perspectives involved moving from a current view of self
and the world towards a new view. They are described as a
mastering of (learning) various new ways of being in the world. These
moves in Ross’ findings involved the following
from” to “movings towards”
FROM: Viewing helpers and experts as sources of instant and magical
knowledge and answers TOWARDS Viewing
experts as resources that can be used in finding one's ones own answers
FROM Assuming existing boundaries and circumstances are non-negotiable
and therefore having to work unquestioningly within them TOWARDS
Actively testing the limits, boundaries, circumstances and assumed
FROM: an uncritical acceptance and advice and information from only
trusted sources TOWARDS: Seeking information and assistance from a
variety of sources, and adopting a more critical and selective stance
towards all advice and information
FROM Alienation from one’s own feelings that had resulted in
being unavailable as sources of self knowledge TOWARDS Greater
sensitivity to contrasts in one’s own feelings and a
determine what these are saying about the self – in fact a
integration of the messages of one’s feelings into self.
FROM Insensitivity to messages contained in recurrent and persistent
symbols or images TOWARDS An more open and receptive stance to images
and symbols, seeing them as bearer of important information about the
FROM unawareness of the way the unconscious can speak through dreams
and reveal important information about the self TOWARDS Openness to,
searching for, and trust in messages from the unconscious self in
dreams and other manifestations such as fleeting thoughts, unexpected
FROM Feeling lost and confused in the multidimensionality of change
TOWARDS a capacity to identify and name patterns of behaviour when
making sense of change
FROM Indiscriminate grasping of every possible source of help TOWARDS
An understanding, and seeking out, of those forms of assistance which
one came to recognise best matched one's preferred learning style.
FROM Strongly clinging to the secure and known and avoiding risk taking
because of fear TOWARDS Finding the courage to letting go of security,
to face fears, and be prepared to experiment with new behaviours and
risks in seeking understanding..
FROM Passive acceptance of personality and learning deficiencies
TOWARDS Seeking new ways to develop one’s lesser developed
functions and abilities
FROM Accepting personal reluctance, resistance or avoidance as barriers
or obstacles and reasons for remaining stuck in the present state
TOWARDS Viewing reluctance, resistances or avoidance as challenges and
opportunities for knowledge about self and further personal growth.
Borg: A Portrait of Jesus, From Galilean Peasant, to the Face of God
Marcus Borg with regard to Jesus,
is very helpful in our “Getting out from under
– and establishing our personal grounds of faith”
The following material comes
For him, religions originate in
experience, especially experience of the sacred, and they are nourished
by ongoing experience.
on gospels as a developing tradition:
earlier and later material
two voices: Jesus and the community
Mystic / Spirit Person - One of those figures in human history who had
frequent and vivid experiences of the sacred.
Healer - The historical evidence that Jesus performed paranormal
healings is very strong; he must have been a remarkable healer.
Wisdom Teacher - He taught a subversive and alternative wisdom.
Social Prophet - Jesus stands in the tradition of the great social
prophets of ancient Israel who challenged social systems.
Movement Founder / Initiator - A movement came into existence around
him which embodied his alternative wisdom.
experience is born in the Easter experience.
does not have to include something happening to Jesus' body.
foundational meaning of Easter is that Jesus' followers experienced his
continuing presence as a living reality.
empty tomb is one way to talk about that experience.
The community speaks of Jesus as:
of the world : Bread of life : Messiah : The way, the truth, the life :
The only way
are images/metaphors people used to describe their experience of Jesus.
are profoundly true though not literally true.
did not speak of himself in these ways.
are vivid testimony about how the community experienced and thought
post-Easter Jesus can also be the word, light, and bread, of God for
Read the whole website <http://www.aportraitofjesus.org/>
Metanoia: Nate Cull (Our Webmaster)
A friend of mine said recently
‘I’d like to go to churches, but they’re
always talking about sin‘.
One of the fundamental theological
concepts in Christianity is ‘repentance’. There are
at least two words translated as this English word: the Hebrew
‘teshuvah‘ (returning), and the Greek
‘metanoia‘ (change of mind, or more literally,
thinking beyond, or thinking about thought).
of these words, looked at as words, seem to carry a very different
resonance than what the word repent! conjures up for English speakers:
dark suits, forbidding expressions, angry scowling faces, crazy people
waving placards, endless guilt and inner torment. But the idea also
constantly recurs in spiritual writings that seem on the face of it far
more gentle. Some even go so far as to say that the entire purpose of
life on Earth is to learn to repent. So what does it mean?
suggests that there is something to return to: something more
fundamental, more healthy, more integrated, more real than what what we
consider ‘human nature’ to be.
‘Metanoia’ is almost the inverse of this idea, but
parallels it: it looks to the future, considers the human mind
considering itself, and suggests that everything is open to
re-evaluation, meta-judgement; that all our decisions can be
re-evaluated in a different light.
moment the idea resonates strongly in several books I am reading:
Dunne’s The Serial Universe, from 1938,
argues that time is a construct of mind which allows us to easily
experience the self observing the self in a recursive progression. In
other words, at least as I parse it, the reason we live in time is so
that we have the luxury of changing our mind, of observing and learning
from our mistakes: metanoia, mind-thinking-about-mind.
is a mystic, but also a logical thinker, and I find him fascinating; he
argues as would a professor of computer science, but the wisps of a
wider world wind around his thinking.
1982’s The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes
edited by Ken Wilber, David Bohm and others (but most interestingly
Bohm) discuss a very similar world-view friendly to both mysticism and
science, in which things and minds are aspects of an interpenetrating
whole, which itself is the merest aspect of an intelligence beyond
which cannot be contained in human thought. Read the rest of the article
Co-editor Victor MacGill
writes of his spiritual pilgrimage
[When the dragon stirs.. by
father was a Theravada Buddhist and my mother was a Theosophist, but I
was brought up in a foster family as an Anglican, so it is probably not
that strange that I should grow to have some unconventional beliefs.
I remember being at
about age 12
dropping something off at my local vicar’s house and his wife
me at the door. She asked the question, “You do believe in
don’t you?” I replied, “yes”,
wondering if I really did.
By age 15 I remember
fascinated by discussions of various theological themes. When I went to
university I joined the University Maori club. While learning about
Maori culture I also learned about traditional spiritual ideas and
concepts and realised that there were radically different ways of
looking at life. I was fortunate to be offered a doorway into the
mystical world of Maori traditions. This totally changed my life and
began a journey that continues today. My life became oriented to a
spiritual point of view and I met many very inspiring people.
Read the rest of Victor's story
The Mind in Theological and Scientific Perspective
Sjoerd L. Bonting
[Emeritus professor of biochemistry and Anglican theologian, Goor, the
Netherlands. The Rev. Prof. Emerit Bonting is one of our consultants
After receiving a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of
Amsterdam in 1952 he went to the United States, working at various
universities and the National Institutes of Health. In 1965 he returned
to the Netherlands to be chairman and professor of biochemistry. In
1985 he returned to the US to be a scientific consultant of NASA for
the development of biological research facilities on the International
Space Station (1985-93). He published 363 scientific papers, edited 9
books, and sponsored 52 PhD dissertations. He received 10 awards/prizes.
He studied theology in his 'spare time' (1957-1963), and was ordained
priest in 1964. During his Nijmegen time he founded and served four
chaplaincy congregations for English-speaking persons in the East
Netherlands. Since retiring from active scientific work and returning
to the Netherlands in 1993, he has engaged himself full-time in the
science-theology dialogue. He has published 6 books and 68 articles and
is a frequent lecturer in this field]
Considering the mind in theological and scientific
perspective is fraught with the difficulty that we must look with our
mind at 'the mind', which makes it difficult to avoid subjectivity.
Another problem is that the biblical data on the mind are rather
scarce, while the theological treatment - under the influence of Greek
philosophy - became centred on the soul and its moral aspects.
Philosophy and psychology, in the absence of scientific data, were lost
in the dualist-monist controversy.
Neuroscience, with the aid of brain scanning
techniques, has provided extensive understanding of the biological
substrate of the mind, confirming the biblical body-mind unity. An
evolutionary development of brain structure and function can be traced.
All human mental capabilities and traits are found to be present, at
least to some extent, in non-human primates. Thus, it is impossible to
indicate a moment of change that can be called 'hominization'. Religion
also shows an evolutionary development that can be interpreted as the
interaction between the human mind and divine revelation. Death and
resurrection are considered in the light of these findings. Read the rest of the article
[TWO ARTICLES follow on A R Wallace
whose joint paper with Charles Darwin was readat the Linnean Society of
London, 150 years ago. The first is an “interview”
of Wallace conducted by Mike Tymn, of the Academy of
Spirituality and Paranormal Studies Inc.
The second is
an address delivered by Victor Macgill, co-editor of this journal.]
Michael Hampson: God without God, Western Spirituality without the wrathful king
O-Books, 2008, 252 pages ISBN 978 1 84694 102 3
Reviewer: Michael Cocks
Hampson is an Anglican priest of thirteen years standing, is now a
full-time writer and retreat leader. From a philosophically
materialist/mechanist point of view, Michael Hampson presents a
surprisingly orthodox seeming and sympathetic presentation of
Christianity. God, for him, is love, beauty, goodness, creativity, of
“infinite compassion”. God is “the Ground of all
being”, “existence itself, and the sum of all
ideals”. He is a clear writer, positive and constructive, and
those of us who cannot accept mechanist philosophy, can still
read his book and be helped. So Hampson can be commended for being
positive, and having no wish to throw out the baby with whatever he
considers to be bathwater. Seeing
God in his way, he considers is be life-enhancing and life enriching.
On page 28 he writes, “There is nothing to fear in the
possibility that there is no God beyond the skies, that life ends at
death, that this life is all there is, with no meaning beyond itself;
that the future is non-existence, without retribution, reward or
recompense. In the contemplation of this final rest we may even
find contentment and peace.” Page 178: “It is good even to
join in those ancient poems that others have called creeds, whether or
not there is anything out there, beyond the mystery.” Fifty pages
out of the 176 pages of the body of the text are devoted to varieties
of human sexuality and Christianity.
That said, readers sympathetic with the aims of The Ground of Faith
will wonder why he seems completely unaware of 150 years of psychic
research, the pictures of reality presented by trail-blazing QM
physicists. Should theological writers aiming for writing
sympathetically and reasonably about religion, ignore the huge
literature produced by non-materialist scientists, leading Christian
mystics, ignore the fact that paranormal experiences referred to in the
New Testament, are common today, and the subject of much study?
Biologist Richard Dawkins, renowned for his strident defence of
materialism, has a website http://richarddawkins.net/article,2330,n,n where Hampson's book is referred to, and not unkindly.
Tymn of the ASPSI
Posted on Mar 1st, 2008 by metgat
July 1 of this year will mark the 150th
anniversary of the reading of the famous Darwin-Wallace paper to The
Linnean Society of London, a forum for discussions on genetics, natural
history, systematics, biology, and the history of plant and animal
taxonomy. It was this paper - or combination of papers
prepared individually by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace -
that announced the natural selection theory to the world.
history has recorded that Wallace (1823-1913) was co-originator with
Darwin of the theory of natural selection, usually referred to simply
as evolution, most people seem to credit the whole idea to
Darwin. That may be because Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, gave it more widespread
recognition. However, a secondary reason may be that
Wallace's reputation among scientists was tainted somewhat by the fact
that he became a champion of spiritualism.
Wallace's conclusions concerning
natural selection were arrived at after years of travel in wilderness
areas, including the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago. According to one
biographer, by the turn of the century, Wallace was very likely
Britain's best known naturalist and one of the world's most recognized
names, as he lectured extensively on Darwinism.
He was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Dublin and
Below is my "interview" with
Wallace. This "interview" is based on many of his
papers, including those assembled in Miracles
and Modern Spiritualism,
published in 1896 by George Redway, London. All responses
below are verbatim from the various papers, except for the
Americanization of such words as skeptic (sceptic) and color
(colour). The questions have been tailored and arranged to
fit the answers.
Wallace, what were your
early views relative to spiritual matters?
to the time when I first became acquainted with the facts of
Spiritualism, I was a confirmed philosophical skeptic, rejoicing in the
works of Voltaire, Strauss, and Carl Vogt, and an ardent admirer (as I
still am) of Herbert Spencer. I was so thorough and confirmed
a materialist that I could not at that time find a place in my mind for
the conception of spiritual existence, or for any other agencies in the
universe than matter and force."
rest of the interview
MacGill: Evolution and Creationism
Co-editor of this journal: a recent
There has been a huge debate particularly
over the last few years over whether life began through evolution or as
a creation of God. The scientists tell us there is no God and
everything that is, including all life, results only from physical
matter and some theologians tell us God in Heaven created everything in
seven days. There seems to be no way the two might be able to come
together. Either you believe one or the other.
We all know of Charles Darwin, who wrote
Origin of the Species and set up the foundations of the Theory of
Evolution. Not so much is known about Alfred Russell Wallace, whom some
people say equally deserves to be known as founding the Theory of
Evolution. Darwin and Wallace wrote a very large number of letters to
each other discussing various aspects of evolution over many years.
Like Darwin, Wallace travelled to many exotic locations around the
world collecting specimens and forming his ideas own on natural
selection. It was only when Charles Darwin heard that Wallace was about
to publish a book on natural selection that Darwin published his now
is also interesting about Alfred Russell Wallace is that he was also a
Spiritualist, and being a Spiritualist is one of the reasons at least,
that Charles Darwin has received far more recognition than he did. Even
though he did much to form our understanding of natural selection, he
did not think it could answer all the questions about life. He thought
there have been at least three times in the history of humanity that
some form of Divine intervention had been necessary. The first was when
life first began, the second was when higher animals gained
consciousness and the third was higher mental abilities developed in
humanity. So, Wallace believed in evolution through natural selection,
but something more was needed to explain life as we see it. There also
had to be a spiritual dimension to life for the miracles of life to
have happened and for human beings to have created all the
mathematical, artistic and cultural forms we have developed.
selection describes how creatures can change according to the nature of
their environment. For example, in humans, black skin is said to be an
advantage in tropical climates because it confers more resistance to
infections, insects, and sunburn.
rest of the address