TheGroundOfFaithThe Ground of Faith
Exploring Science, Mysticism and Experience Together

April 2008

**Getting out from under : well grounded personal faith**

Editors: The Rev. Michael Cocks and The Rev. Victor MacGill


**Getting out from under : well grounded personal faith**

Editor: “Getting out from under : moving towards a well grounded personal faith”

Sjoerd Bonting: On the need for a well-grounded personal faith.

“Sensing Murder” and the November 2007 issue of The Ground of Faith

"Your Eternal Self" R. Craig Hogan

Ross Keane: The Experience of Doubt

Marcus Borg: A Portrait of Jesus, From Galilean Peasant, to the Face of God

Teshuvah, Metanoia: Nate Cull

Victor Macgill's spiritual pilgrimage

The Mind in Theological and Scientific Perspective

Sjoerd L. Bonting

Michael Hampson: God without God, Western Spirituality without the wrathful king

A. R. Wallace: Evolutionist and Spiritualist

Mike Tymn of the ASPSI

Victor Macgill: Evolution and Creationism

   Editor: “Getting out from under : moving towards a well grounded personal faith”

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 ourselves.

In 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 gap between religion and science without compromising either.” Nate could be said to be “getting out from under” the somewhat rigid boundaries of an exclusive Pentecostal church in which he was brought up.

In my 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 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 I believe it gives a fairer picture of what Ateo had to say.


This  study 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

YourEternalSelf"Your Eternal Self" R. Craig Hogan, Ph.D

This can be read as an e-book by clicking 
 (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:;   mindstudies.comg

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 late middle section tends to be an unsupportedpersonal opinion in contrast to the well researched and evidenced."

Ross Keane: The Experience of Doubt

Ross KeaneIn 1985, Dr Ross Keane, of Sorrento, Queensland, wrote a doctoral dissertation, “The Experience of doubt and associated learning in Religious men.” He had been a Marist Brother: “I entered 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 long-standing sense 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 and to check it against the experience of others rather than to assume that others' experience is automatically valid.” His thinking is very relevant to the theme of this issue, “Getting out from under – our personal grounds of faith”. We summarise his thought from tables 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 saddle” that 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 – often over a period of three to five years – as a series of insights 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 was initially,
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 meant a 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 of doubt

Ross identified a number of inner movements that were commonly spoken of  by those who shared their journeys in doubting..  He named these inner movement or inner shifts – “learning processes” that people in his study typically experienced.  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 their world.
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 gradual mastering of (learning) various new ways of being in the world. These moves in Ross’ findings involved the following “movings from” to “movings towards”

FROM: Viewing helpers and experts as sources of instant and magical knowledge and answers    TOWARDS Viewing helpers and 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 non-negotiable realities.
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 them being unavailable as sources of self knowledge TOWARDS Greater sensitivity to contrasts in one’s own feelings and a readiness to determine what these are saying about the self – in fact a better 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 self
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 memory flashbacks.
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.

 Marcus Borg: A Portrait of Jesus, From Galilean Peasant, to the Face of God

borgMarcus 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 from

1997-2005 "A Portrait of Jesus" web site created by Cam Howard based on the work of Dr. Marcus Borg.

For him, religions originate in experience, especially experience of the sacred, and they are nourished by ongoing experience.

Focuses on gospels as a developing tradition:

A layered tradition

Contains earlier and later material

Has two voices: Jesus and the community

Jesus was a:

Jewish Mystic / Spirit Person - One of those figures in human history who had frequent and vivid experiences of the sacred.

Jewish Healer - The historical evidence that Jesus performed paranormal healings is very strong; he must have been a remarkable healer.

Jewish Wisdom Teacher - He taught a subversive and alternative wisdom.

Jewish Social Prophet - Jesus stands in the tradition of the great social prophets of ancient Israel who challenged social systems.

Jewish Movement Founder / Initiator - A movement came into existence around him which embodied his alternative wisdom.

Christian experience is born in the Easter experience.

Easter does not have to include something happening to Jesus' body.

The foundational meaning of Easter is that Jesus' followers experienced his continuing presence as a living reality.

An empty tomb is one way to talk about that experience.

The community speaks of Jesus as:

Light of the world : Bread of life : Messiah : The way, the truth, the life : The only way

These are images/metaphors people used to describe their experience of Jesus.

They are profoundly true though not literally true.

Jesus did not speak of himself in these ways.

They are vivid testimony about how the community experienced and thought about Jesus.

The post-Easter Jesus can also be the word, light, and bread, of God for us.

Read the whole website <>

NateTeshuvah, Metanoia: Nate Cull  (Our Webmaster)

February 8th, 2008

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).

Both 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?

JonahReturning 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.

At the moment the idea resonates strongly in several books I am reading:

J W 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.

Dunne 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.

In 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

dragon[When the dragon stirs.. by Victor MacGill]

My 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 met me at the door. She asked the question, “You do believe in God don’t you?” I replied, “yes”, but left wondering if I really did.
By age 15 I remember being 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

bontingSjoerd 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

HampsonMichael 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. God without GodSeeing 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,2330,n,n  where Hampson's book is referred to, and not unkindly.

A. R. Wallace: Evolutionist and Spiritualist

Mike 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.

While 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 Oxford University.

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.

Dr. Wallace, what were your early views relative to spiritual matters?

     "Up 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." 

Read the rest of the interview

Victor MacGill: Evolution and Creationism

Co-editor of this journal: a recent address:

VictorThere 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 famous book.

What 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.

Natural 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.

Read the rest of the address

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