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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity





Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Earth's crammed with Heaven
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees takes off his shoes


Editor's Note: This article is part of a series; see the 8 link-icons below - each is best reviewed within a wide corpus of knowledge. My research, for 55 years, attempts to get at what's real and true. Concerning priority of the topics, there's a song-lyric, "love changes everything" - so it is with the scientific evidence of the afterlife; its reality changes everything.

Afterlife Bible Hell God
Jesus Christ Clear-Thinking Satan Summary




the most debated topic of history

Dr. Mortimer Adler, well known for his distillation of history's 102 "Great Ideas," informs us that the subject of "God" is most discussed among the 102 down through the centuries.

However, this topic has brought out the worst in human beings (but not to Divine discredit) as "God" serves another "first" - the flashpoint and proximate cause of most of the murder and violence staining the chronicle of Man's story.


we know so little about "God"

Despite all of the heated interplay, and the bravado of those who are certain, we know so little about "God" - almost nothing, hardly anything. Not only do we "know little" but information here is virtually "unknowable." As mystic-thinkers suggest, the best we can do is to state what "God" is not; this is firmer ground. 


writing about the "unknowable God"

Only with great difficulty might one proceed here. And yet, it is possible to know some few things. I invite you to survey the best thought and investigation on this subject; a personal collection gathered over many years.


bite-sized packets of information

Providing a certain sequence of thought, the following sub-article writings, it is suggested, are best reviewed in the order presented.


please click on each link-icon

The reason behind the reason for what most people believe.

Why only the virtuous find the truth.

Quotations from various thinkers on the subject of God

The Day Jesus Became God: How Constantine's church-council vote, 300+ years after the birth of Christ, changed the legacy of Jesus.


Roman Emperor Constantine, one of the great despots and butchers of history, murdered his own relatives as rivals; as such, it was safer to be his pig than his son; further, in unparalleled cynicism, Constantine delayed his own baptism until his deathbed. Why the delay? An efficient potentate must engage atrocity, right to the end, for the maintenance of the realm, so why not play one’s “get out of jail free card” in the bonus round? Taken in by his own legal-fictions, he believed his own propaganda that bloody hands might be cleansed one minute before midnight, allowing him to skate lily-white, on a technicality, to endless reward and bliss. Meanwhile, Constantine's efforts to solidify power-and-control over the rioting masses caused him to support, and railroad to implementation, a raft of fear-and-guilt “holy teachings”, playing on the universal fear of death, designed for psychological warfare - all of which, today, Christendom piously promotes as infallible and heaven-ordained. But none of this royal chicanery, of course, touched upon the real teachings of Jesus. Honoring Constantine's doctrines-as-dissimulation would be like enshrining, as eternal truth, the oppressive Third Reich policies of gangster Adolf Hitler.



The Gospel Of John was written as polemic against the Gospel Of Thomas. The ‘John Christians’ were threatened by the teachings of the ‘Thomas Christians’ and attempted to marginalize this earliest view of the nature and mission of Jesus of Nazareth.

The gospels of Mathew, Mark, and Luke say that Jesus is man, but John directly contradicts this assertion by saying he was God.

Editor's Essay: “Why the world doesn’t need Superman”: Pondering the question of God’s seeming unconcern and uninvolvement regarding the suffering and calamity on planet Earth.

Dr. Amit Goswami: What quantum physics tells us about the scientific rediscovery of God. How does a non-material God, without exchange of energy, interact with material objects in a 3-D world?

Dr. Gerald Schroeder: "The Eternal our God is One" - that is, God is Singular Pervasive Reality. Everything, without exception, is manifestation of an eternal unity, a transcending consciousness. There is nothing else, other than this Singular Divine Totality.

Darwinistic randomness cannot be mathematically supported and, therefore, is untrue. This opens the door to Intelligent Design.


hey man, let's hear about God realization for a change 

Concert for George
Royal Albert Hall
November 29, 2002

Horse To Water

you can take a horse to the water but you can't make him drink, oh no, oh no, oh no, preacher at my church likes to talk about Satan, could be that he knows him, he acts like he's possessed, I said, "hey man, let's hear about God realization for a change," he said, "we ain't got time for that, first hear of the evils of fornication," you can take a horse to the water but you can't make him drink, oh no, oh no, oh no, you can have it all laid out in front of you, but it won't make you think, oh no, oh no, oh no


listen to Sam Brown’s sensational version of “Horse to Water” at the Concert for George


One of my most astonishing discoveries about the afterlife: there is no religiosity over there - no harps, cherubs, or hallelujahs. It's a normal world of real people, living real lives, enjoying work and social activities; further, they still debate what God is like, even, whether s/he exists.

Part I: The "God" of the Bible reflects common views of deity in the ancient world: the atrocity of sexually brutalizing young girls as the spoils of war.

Part II: The "God" of the Bible reflects common views of deity in the ancient world: the "forever after" principle.

Part III: The "God" of the Bible reflects common views of deity in the ancient world: the appeasement of disinterested and aloof gods with prayer and sacrifice

Part IV: The "God" of the Bible reflects common views of deity in the ancient world: the "30 Art Masterpieces of the Ancient World" reveal an unholy union between military leader and high priest, creating a world view to support notions of god-ordained authority


each gets a chance to say something on how God personally offered a lesson 

“So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared  with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight… Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you will all learn from each other.”

the apostle Paul, I Corinthians 14:26-33, The Message translation

"A universal theology is impossible," says the Course In Miracles, "but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary." Paul’s small-group house-churches brought this principle to life in a practical way.

Each person was encouraged to share with the group how she or he had received an insight or lesson-for-living from God. Memorizing or quoting scripture was not emphasized, as the resultant numerous interpretations would only divide the group and then the world into thousands of sects and denominations; instead, Paul instructed,

“Tell us how God taught you personally, even in a small way, this past week. Maybe just a glimpse or brief flash of light. When you searched your own mind, when you meditated and communed with your own soul, what did you see, what were you given from God?”

God has no favorite kids but impartially teaches all, individually, who are willing to learn. God does not offer knowledge with a closed-shop, command-style, holier-than-thou, top-down pedagogy. The letters of John, as well, declare that God, via the spirit, will personally teach us about all the big issues of life (I John 2:27). This is the real "word of God," delivered to each human heart and mind, opened to receive it.

There can be no societal division or separation when religion is approached with this non-hierarchical, non-dogmatic, individual-centered mode of teaching but, instead, a “universal experience” based upon each person’s account of God’s private tutoring.

William Ralph Inge, (1860-1954), Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London: "On all questions about religion there is the most distressing divergency. But the saints do not contradict one another. They all tell the same story. They claim to have had glimpses of the land that is very far off."

Editor's note: Paul’s decentralized formulation of religious instruction reflects not only a respect for the dignity of each individual but a Gnostic perspective.

A pastor friend of mine, a good man, when he read the above item concerning Paul’s house-churches, commented with sincerity: “But isn’t there a danger in following one’s own ‘revelation’? How can we know if these messages are from God?” I responded, “Yes, there is a danger. For this to work as it should, one must be very honest with oneself, and not veer into illusion. The dysfunctional ego loves to wear a mask of piety and it will attempt to deceive with thoughts of pride and self-promotion.”

All this acknowledged, let us explore the alternative. The caution voiced by the pastor, in various forms, has been codified as official position in the Church at large: “The people are sheep. They will go astray if there is no representative of God to lead them. Thinking for oneself is the playground of the Devil (if there were such a being). Much better for all to adhere to time-honored doctrine; this way, we all speak the same thing, which promotes harmony and unity in the Church.”

In other words, that “alternative” is to allow someone else to do your thinking for you. Surrender your brains when you walk through the church door. Keep your opinions to yourself; better yet, stifle them, and believe.” The very word heresy means “opinion.”

The so-called “Church Fathers,” writing in the few hundreds of years after the time of Christ, often attacked the Gnostics, authors of “The Gospel Of Thomas” and many other documents (some of which pre-date the canonicals). In the missives of “the Fathers” the Gnostics were lampooned for allowing followers of Jesus to offer their own “revelations” at church meetings, pretty much exactly in line with what Paul promoted in Corinthians. “They trust in their own imaginations,” said the Fathers, “are all over the place with various crackpot ideas and concepts. Who can keep track of them all? This will end badly with a great many splinter-groups representing a hodge-podge of beliefs.”

Strangely, history unfolded precisely opposite to what “the Fathers” predicted. The Gnostics, allowing each to speak, with their many interpretations of how God works in the world, enjoyed relative peace and harmony – while “the Fathers,” the forerunners of Big Religion, would witness, over time, their efforts at strict mind-control devolving into tens of thousands of factions which have divided Christendom to this day, and continue to do.

For more discussion see the article on “The Gospel Of Thomas.”




A male-dominated Church hierarchy speaks of God employing masculine metaphor; but, an ignored part of the Bible reveals God also in feminine terms and symbols.

The Image of God, Male and Female: Part I

The Image of God, Male and Female: Part II

The Image of God, Male and Female: Part III

Primal Joy: the secret life of baby animals and the unguarded, unpretentious mind of God

Eckhart Tolle: "The word honey isn’t honey. You can talk about honey for as long as you like, but you won’t know it until you taste it; and you can talk about God for the rest of your life, but does that mean you know the reality to which the word points?"

The "virgin birth" teaching not only was added to church doctrine many centuries after the time of Jesus, but its entire basis of validity in Matthew rests upon one single mistranslated Hebrew word - just one skewed word - from Isaiah, which, in all of the Old Testament, is never, ever translated as "virgin." 

Carl Sagan: What science should be teaching us about the mystery and marvel of God: "How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?' Instead they say, 'No no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way'."

We know so little about God. God is not a “thing” in the 3-D universe. But, like the wind, we might discern something of God’s nature and essence via inference.

The brain research of Dr.Wilder Penfield offers compelling evidence that mind is separate from, and much more than, brain. In Penfield’s findings, we see that the mind is immaterial in essence, directs the body and the brain, and from this superior position, leads us to a reasonable conclusion of the existence of spirit and God.

Analyzing the typical religious attitude.


one does not die in a procession, one dies alone

From “The Vital Message” (1919) by the great afterlife researcher, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of "Sherlock" fame:

“But the commonest failing, the one which fills the spiritual hospitals of the other world, and is a temporary bar to the normal happiness of the after-life, is the sin of Tomlinson in Kipling's poem, the commonest of all sins in respectable British circles, the sin of conventionality, of want of conscious effort and development, of a sluggish spirituality...

fatted over

"fatted over by a complacent mind and by the comforts of life. It is the man who is satisfied, the man who refers his salvation to some church or higher power without steady travail of his own soul, who is in deadly danger. All churches … are noxious the instant that they allow him to think that by any form of ceremony, or by any fashion of creed, he obtains the least advantage over his neighbour, or can in any way dispense with that personal effort which is the only road to the higher places….

one dies alone

"One can get through this life very comfortably following without question in some procession with a venerable leader. But one does not die in a procession. One dies alone. And it is then that one has alone to accept the level gained by the work of [one's] life. And what is the punishment of the undeveloped soul? It is that it should be placed where it will develop, and sorrow would seem always to be the forcing ground of souls.”



Father Robert Benson: "God is man's greatest and truest friend, not his dreadful judge. He is not a merciful God, for he has no mercy to give because God is never offended and has no wrath. Mercy only exists as between men upon earth."

An ancient Spirit Guide, 3500 years on the other side, asserts that crushing burdens of sin and guilt are caused by humankind’s failure to enter into higher self-realization, a relationship between the thinking mind and the deeper person.

What Einstein believed about God. 

What did Einstein mean, "God doesn't play dice" with the universe?

Editor’s Essay: After 30 years of investigation, here’s what I’ve found as the most convincing evidence for post-mortem survival.

Pastor Dr. Leslie Weatherhead analyzes the New Testament gospels and informs us that, late in his ministry, Jesus changed his mind regarding the nature of his mission and what the Church should be.

Late in his ministry, Jesus began to view Institutional Religion as the great enemy of spiritual society, a "den of thieves," robbing and pillaging the people, keeping them from true relationship with God.

How to start a religion.


Big Religion became the most powerful institution in the Western world by manipulating the fear of death, thereby controlling whole continents and civilizations

Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, PhD philosophy, PhD computer science, interviewed by Beshara Magazine:

“[Scientific] materialism didn’t become mainstream without reason. One of its biggest advantages is that in one fell swoop it eliminated the biggest fear humanity has had throughout its history, which is: what are we going to experience after we die? In Christian terms, are we going to go to hell? This fear has dominated human life to the point that the Church could control whole continents and civilizations and became the most powerful institution in the Western world. It is this fear that makes us feel guilty, which imbues us with anxiety and a sense of responsibility for what we do. But if we don’t believe in anything beyond material existence, we don’t need to worry.”



How a dysfunctional view of God becomes an opiate of the people, a hindrance to clear-thinking, and a barrier to authentic faith.

Dante's Divine Comedy: "abandon hope all ye who enter here"

Acts 20:35. The apostle Paul quotes 'Jesus [who] said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.' But the churches today use this verse in a manner exactly contrary to what Paul said

Why God Does Not Want, and even Disdains, “Worship” Offered by the Churches.

Beauty, Part I: All great theories of science have in common a profound “elegance or simplicity of assumption,” Roger Penrose. This principle relates directly to our discussion of God.

Beauty, Part II: The abundance of beauty, at all levels, in the universe cannot be accounted for by appealing to chance. It is, in fact, substantial evidence of God's existence.


there is a saying 'we create God in our own image' but this is only part of the misrepresentation

The great psychologists inform us that unenlightened humankind creates civilization as means to repress itself.

In this self-imposed darkness, the dysfunctional ego alternates between seeking to abuse and to be abused; to rule over others and to be ruled; to use others and to be used.

The Eurythmics sang it for us:

egoic dreams are made of this...

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

everybody's looking for something
some of them want to use you
some of them want to get used by you

some of them want to abuse you
some of them want to be abused...

And part of that civilization we’ve created – for, as Krishnamurti instructs, each one of us is the “world” and “society” because each one carries the seeds of evil within – part of this civilization issues as popular concepts of “God.”

When we want to abuse others, we conveniently imagine God -- thereby granting ourselves license to deal unjustly -- as harsh, unforgiving, stoically unmoved before the world’s suffering. In this re-creation of “God” we refer to him as “king” or “ruler” or “lord” or “father” or some such image of august personage.

But this high-and-mighty iconography does double duty. When the dysfunctional ego seeks to live as a fearful little child, in non-culpability, hiding under the mantle of a powerful potentate, then, in a switcheroo, the images of unapproachable “All-Father” now serve as shield, a convenient Peter-Pan excuse not to grow up, a reason to simply “believe” rather than to exercise one’s inborn rational faculties.

Popular conceptions of “God” have nothing to do with the real God, but reflect the egoic heart of darkness, which has created all civilization, including ersatz and plastic images of “God”, along with faux versions of ourselves, as well. See more on the “Cultism” page.



How did the ancient Greeks, a religious people, manage, almost single-handedly, to create what we call philosophy? Why is it that the beginnings of so many important modern fields of enquiry find their roots in the ancient Hellenic culture?

Profiling The Atheist, by Michael Tymn: Atheists tend to exhibit a certain psychological profile.

Does God believe in tithing?


the following was written for the "metapardigm" page

materialism, like an odorless gas, stealthily pervades almost every aspect of society, even the religious domain: believe what people do, more than what they say

Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, PhD philosophy, PhD computer science, for many years worked at CERN, the large hadron collider in Geneva.

“It is nearly impossible for any person inserted into a modern cultural context to escape the haze of the zeitgeist and develop a truly unbiased, critical, and personal worldview…

“No society on Earth has a single worldview coordinating the lives of all its citizens, though many a dictator would like just that… [Perspectives such as] religious fundamentalism, material consumerism, showbiz hysteria, political activism, spirituality and New Age, scientism, militant skepticism, and so on. Each of these … entails a particular way to relate to oneself and to reality at large

  Editor's note: 

more than drinking the koolaid

The long reach of cultism encompasses much more than crackpot churches. The root idea of cult offers the sense of "cut." This core concept of "cut" leads us to images of refinement and refashioning and, by extension, development, control, pattern, order, and system.

Cultism as systemization finds a ready home in religion and philosophy which seek to regulate and redistill the patterning and ordering of ideas. However, in a larger sense, the spirit of cultism extends to every facet of society. We find it scheming and sedulously at work in politics, academia, family, corporations, entertainment, science, artistry – anywhere power might be gained by capturing credulous and fear-based minds.

See the “cultism” page for a full discussion.


“Yet [despite this variety] there is [a certain commonality of belief, a metaparadigm, which would unite almost all of these] – a core worldview – that holds more influence than [other views. This is so] even among those people who outwardly [and often most vociferously] declare their allegiance to different belief systems. I am speaking, of course, of Western metaphysical materialism.

“Materialism subtly pervades … nearly every aspect of our lives. Take, for instance, people who consider themselves deeply religious, holding beliefs about the immortality of the soul and the reality of heaven: they, too, often fear death and resist death as if, deep inside, they actually believed that it represented oblivion. They will pray to a divinity to spare them and their loved ones an early demise. They will subject themselves to horrendous medical procedures to extend life for a few more weeks or months. They will weep in anguish at the loss of loved ones as if, deep inside, they believed the dead were lost forever.”

Editor’s note: Kastrup highlights an Amazon rainforest tribe, the Zuruaha. A study of them was done nearly 50 years ago before the advent of any culturally-contaminating materialistic influence by the West. These primitives so closely clung to a view of reunion with departed relatives -- for them, a greater reality -- that suicide was often chosen. This occurred despite generally excellent health - even at rates approaching 85% of the adult population! The desire to be with loved ones had been so deeply internalized, had come to represent the tribe's metapardigm, that suicide was often viewed as the better way to deal with life’s crises.

“[M]aterialism influences our ‘subconconscious’ reactions, attitudes, and values in many other aspects of life, not only our beliefs regarding the after-death state. For example … the Western love affair with things. It is our often ‘subconscious’ belief that only matter truly exists that drives our urge to achieve material success. After all, if there is only matter, what other goal can there conceivably be in life other than the accumulation of material goods? …

"[This causes] people to work long hours, often having to tolerate unpleasant circumstances, in order to improve their status and financial condition well beyond otherwise acceptable levels. It is also this belief that motivates people to spend hard-earned income on unnecessary goods and premature upgrades. The materialist worldview has caused many of us to project numinous value and meaning onto things.”

Editor’s note: Subtle forms of materialist belief also lead many to be hoarders, Silas-Marner misers in the night, garage-sale addicts, collectors of trinkets and junk, inveterate shopping-channel devotees -- stuffing our lives with sterile things.

Dr. Kastrup explains that an undercurrent of materialism leads us to value too highly the opinions of materialist science. High priests in the temple of only-matter-is-real, today’s physicists and chemists, are granted too much deference as they shape perceptions of reality for the masses. Matter cannot give us meaning and deeper answers. Materialistic science can discover patterns and regularities of the natural world, but it cannot speak to an underlying purpose of the universe, of life and love, of why we’re here and how we should live. As such, we should also be allowing the microphone of opinion to be shared by philosophers, poets, artists, mystics, and spiritualists. Instead, to our great detriment, one that invites societal perdition, our materialistic world listens solely to those who proclaim a metaparadigm of “matter is the true and only reality.”

many of Big Religion’s doctrines are materialistic in nature

How can this be? you might ask. Religion ever speaks of God, heaven, sin, redemption and the like. How can this be materialistic? The answer here concerns thoughts in our head. Thoughts about God, and talk about God, are not the same as accessing the real God. Thoughts are just thoughts, seemingly pious though they may be. The problem with worldly religion, despite its profuse reference to “the spirit”, is that it conceives of God, too often, as some sort of anthropomorphic entity, a “sky god,” living in some spatially-oriented place, sitting on a throne. These concepts are grossly materialistic. God, the Bible says, is Spirit, not “a spirit”; that is, God is being itself, is consciousness itself. And this contamination by materialism also extends to misperceptions concerning what we are as human beings. The religious view, essentially, is Newtonian: we are machines and cannot change. There is no growth, no personal change, in the afterlife, Big Religion is wont to pontificate. And despite all of its talk about change or growth here, in this world, they don’t really believe in change, not as you and I might speak of change, but rather subscribe to a magical “make-over,” which is why third-party sacrificial atonement and redemption is emphasized. All these are but subtle forms of materialism: God is not within but “out there,” there is no power to change deep within, and we cannot grow, not in the ordinary sense of the term, but are like machines, static and stagnant, requiring an overhaul and re-facing. See the article devoted to this topic of religion as a form of materialism.

READ MORE of Dr. Kastrup's work on the “quantum mechanics” page



The Old Testament law is very clear: Not only is tithing commanded, but three tithes are mandated; plus special offerings. For literalists, those who believe that every written "word of God" is infallible and pure – are you paying all this?

Does God require us to observe a seventh-day Sabbath?

Elizabeth Fry: One of my very favorite afterlife-teachers comments on the nature of God. 

Krishnamurti: one of the universe’s great paradoxes: true spirituality, one’s higher sentience, a better level of consciousness -- finding God, finding the truth -- is not obtained by working or trying very hard, by religious rituals, by prayer, fasting, vow, or pilgrimage - but simply by quietly observing the inner disorder.

How Big Religion and the world have created a concept of God in their own materialistic image.


The Dazzling Darkness is a concept representing a frame of mind untrammeled by the dysfunctional ego. Therein, freed from illusions of the base passions, one might apprehend not only the identity of one’s true mate but also a realization of the living presence of God in one’s life. READ MORE


Editor's Essay: Noting a sunrise as messenger of a new day is not the same as discerning the dawn as dreamily enchanting. The sublime awareness allowing for such is untainted by utilitarian concern. In this spirit of abundance, God creates the world of beauty. Twin Souls, 'made in the image,' recapitulate divinity’s focus on beauty’s deeper meaning, and, as they do, their sparkling love issues as a form of worship.

A channeled report from the afterlife informs us that God has highly honored our Red brothers and sisters for their natural religion, an elevation far beyond and above that of the materialistic Big Religion of Western civilization.

Four articles which define the essence of authentic spirituality.

What is true religion? - a discussion by Jiddu Krishnamurti. How to face one's life honestly, without distraction. Is it possible to change our lives?

The Course in Miracles insists that “God has no secrets. He does not lead you through a world of misery, waiting to tell you, at the journey's end, why He did this to you.” The Course teaches we can know God’s open, not secret, mind, and there are no plans for reincarnation in it.

The Course in Miracles, with Plato, teaches that learning of the most important aspects of life, including God, is a remembrance.

The Course in Miracles instructs that our grievances, which are attack thoughts, occur when we identify with the mortal body and the ego. The flesh encourages a fearful self-perception of "I am not enough." It leads us to believe that God is like what we have made of ourselves.

The most important thing I would share about this subject 


the beauty of the world, a streaming song, even as God’s ‘love letter’ to us

Hina Khalid writes in Beshara Magazine, "Participating in the Divine Playfulness," exploring the theological aesthetics of Rabindranath Tagore:

One of the most enchanting notes of the world’s polyphonic ‘love-call’ is that of beauty, which silently streams through the spring flowers and the serene night sky. Tagore presents worldly beauty as a constantly streaming song and even as God’s ‘love letter’ to us, which many of us have – unfortunately – not yet read. As a result, the blissful encounter of love to which we are called remains unrealised. God could have set forth a regal display of the divine power, Tagore writes, which would force us to turn to Him, but instead He seeks to gently woo us through the innumerable beauties of the world – the delicate dreaminess of dawn and the soft serenity of sunset. Indeed, God takes the ‘risk’ that these unfoldings of His beauty will be ignored by us and even that we will reject this beauty as ‘futile’. But still, He will not compel us in any way.

'this tender abundance,' this beauty born of a spirit of 'excess'

Outlining this tender abundance, Tagore writes that whilst we must acknowledge and align ourselves with the fact that the sunrise heralds a new day – and pursue our daily work accordingly – we are not under any compulsion to discern the dawn as ‘beautiful and supremely peaceful’. Our loving attentiveness to its beauty is thus entirely free, but this [this free-spirited non-compulsory acknowledgement of underlying and sometimes-subtle beauty in the world] is itself a freedom to which we are, in a higher sense, bound [bound or intimately aligned with, in that we ourselves are expressions of God's delight to freely create beauty; a beauty which is non-utilitarian in nature, for God did not create us as private advantage to Herself] – for it is only in our free submission to beauty’s call that we inhabit the infinite truth of human life and come to know that this existence is, in fact, ‘a birth of joy’.

One type of loving response to this divine call of beauty is crystallised for Tagore in the vocation of the artist. Tagore presents art as a joyful meeting of the divine and the human, which recapitulates in and through time the love-infused lila of the primordial divine artist. Like God’s cosmic lila [playfulness], art has its origins in the realm of ‘excess’, because we create art not as a means to an end but for freely delighting in the beauty of the world. In other words, when we renounce utilitarian or instrumentalist imperatives...

[instrumentalism: the variety of pragmatism developed by John Dewey, maintaining that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem and that the value of ideas is determined by their function in human experience]

... in and through artistic creation, revealing the ‘wealth’ of our inner life, we reflect the God who ‘takes joy in productions that are unnecessary to him’. The artist offers herself and her art to God in perpetual iterations of re-turning, and utters in response to the world’s call...

Endowed with this vision into the plenitude of finite reality, the artist sees more truly, and this is, in short, because she sees with the illuminative lens of love. To see through love is not to veer away from truth but to enter more fully into it, for love, in the worldviews of both Tagore and Pieper, is not a fleeting sentiment or subjective fancy but constitutes the ontological heartbeat of all created reality. As Tagore affirms, love ‘radiantly reveals the reality of its objects’, and, in Pieper’s formulation, the contemplative gaze is only truly itself when it is ‘guided by love… for a new dimension of ‘seeing’ is opened up by love alone’.

This attentive attunement to the truth of things marks, crucially, not a feat of mastery, as though the artist has domesticated the object in her imaginative purview, but heralds an opening into mystery, where the object, and thus the artwork that bears witness to it, tantalisingly resists final capture. What we encounter in art is not an object of the ordinary kind, which we can hurriedly assimilate into our mundane classificatory schemes, but an ineffable horizon of meaning which recedes as it reveals, eludes as it illuminates, and entangles as it enchants. In Pieper’s words:

[…] what do we really perceive when we look at, say, Durer’s ‘Detail of a Meadow’? It is obviously not the blades of grass, which we can observe, even more realistically, also in nature or in a photograph. It is not the blades of grass, not ‘this particular object’ at all… [and] what about songs? […] Of course we hear the words [of the song]! – and yet, provided we witness authentic and significant music and provided we listen in the proper manner, we invariably perceive an additional, most intimate, meaning that would be absent from the words alone.

Tagore echoes this observation of the ‘object-lessness’ of art. Commenting on a poem particularly beloved to him, he writes:

[…] it [the poem] has its grammar, its vocabulary; when we divide them part by part and try to torture out a confession from them, the poem, which is one, departs like the gentle wind, silently, invisibly. No one knows how it exceeds all its parts, transcends all its laws, and communicates with the person. The significance which is in unity is an eternal wonder.

In Tagore’s theological vocabulary, this ungraspable ‘unity’ refers to the atman, the Sanskrit term for the immutable spiritual self which abides within, and yet transcends, all individual beings. Tagore defines the atman as that ‘inner perfection that permeates and exceeds its contents, like the beauty in a lotus which is ineffably more than all the constituents of the flower’. The lotus’s beauty unifies and illumines its individual parts but is not itself one part among those parts, much like, to borrow another one of Tagore’s examples, the melodious whole of a sonata is inseparable from its constituent elements but is not reducible to them.

Meadow painting by Durer

Albrecht Dürer, “Great Piece of Turf” (1503)

Offering Back to the One

In Tagore’s aesthetic vision, then, the artist transcends her individual self to inhabit the world in attentive love, and her art, nourished in ‘self-forgetful joy’, in turn sets forth the possibility of self-transcendence for others. In this way, Tagore affirms, a true work of art is ‘always speaking’, calling the recipient out of themselves towards the other.

'through her creative offerings, the artist responds to, realises and reflects, the divine, and, in this way, art approximates something akin to worship'

The artist gazes on the world through the eyes of the heart, and through this intensive witnessing of reality, sees beyond the surface of things to inhabit, and to illumine, the silent fecundity of created being. Through her creative offerings, the artist responds to, realises and reflects, the divine, and, in this way, art approximates something akin to worship. The worshipper, like the artist, suspends her quotidian [usual, daily] self-orientation to give herself to the God who is perpetually giving Himself to the world.

Elaborating this mode of self-offering, we repeatedly find across Tagore’s poetry the insistence that, through his creative efflorescence, he is only returning to God that which God has already gifted him. Just as the spring flowers blossom in God’s time and not ours, Tagore’s poems too have their ultimate root not in anything of his making but in the One who implants in all beings their particular perfections. This joyous cycle of gaining and giving is, for Tagore, the archetype of all our finite activities: to harmonise the tunes of our individual wills with the divine will, we must continually dedicate ourselves and our works to the divine singer, in whose breath we live, move, and have our being.

On this note of the cosmic circuitry of receiving and returning, I will let the great C.S. Lewis, who echoes here the musical motifs of Tagore, have the last word:

There is of course a sense in which no one can give to God anything which is not already His – and if it is already His, what have you given? But since it is only too obvious that we can withhold ourselves, our wills and hearts from God, we can, in that sense, also give them. What is His by right and would not exist for a moment if it ceased to be His (as the song is the singer’s), He has nevertheless made ours in such a way that we can freely offer it back to Him.




well, that's just what a cultist would say


Doctor Strange (2016),
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)
and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams)


Christine: “So you joined a cult.”

Stephen: “No, I didn't. Not exactly. I mean, they did teach me to tap into powers that I never even knew existed.

Christine: “Yeah, that sounds like a cult.”

Stephen: “It's not a cult.”

Christine: “Well, that's just what a cultist would say.”


more than drinking the koolaid

The long reach of cultism encompasses much more than crackpot churches. The root idea of cult offers the sense of "cut." This core concept of "cut" leads us to images of refinement and refashioning and, by extension, development, control, pattern, order, and system.

Cultism as systemization finds a ready home in religion and philosophy which seek to regulate and redistill the patterning and ordering of ideas. However, in a larger sense, the spirit of cultism extends to every facet of society. We find it scheming and sedulously at work in politics, academia, family, corporations, entertainment, science, artistry – anywhere power might be gained by capturing credulous and fear-based minds.

See the “cultism” page for a full discussion.


In my youth, after high school graduation, it got back to me that some of my classmates, knowing of my interest in things metaphysical and religious, were reporting that I had joined a cult; even, that I had shaved my head. This really burned me. Today, 50 years later, I smile at this memory and think of a comic routine by Michael J. Fox who, when confronted with two accusations, would vehemently deny one but remain silent about the other. For me, it would have been, “Ha! How ridiculous! I have not shaved my head!”

And regarding the charge of my joining a cult, along with Doctor Strange, I will brush this indictment aside with, “Not exactly.” Technically, I had not “joined a cult” but, rather, had transferred membership from a childhood church to one of my own choosing. Thus, it was very unfair to say that I had “joined a cult.”

Well, as Christine would point out, this is just what a cultist would say.

But here’s the problem: Nobody likes to be called a cult member. Most times, when this is done, it’s just a form of name-calling, of bigotry, of putting someone down and thinking you’re better. It’s what Tom Wolfe meant when he said that "A cult is a religion with no political power." If your church – and we’ll exclude the non-religious forms of cultism for the moment – is rich and powerful, then it’s not a cult, don't you know. It’s mainstream. How can it be a cult if “everybody’s doing it”? But if your group is a minority religion, with beliefs that are a little funky, then you’re a cult. That’s how it works. It's a way of keeping people in line and feeling uppity about yourself.

But this politicized definition of cultism is not what we’re talking about here in these writings. I make people mad by calling their respectable church a cult. But, listen to Christine, this is just how a cultist would react.

Cultism, at its etymological roots, has nothing to do with not being popular, or a lack of lobbying ability, or not drinking the kool-aid. These are contrivances, narrowly construed, that people latch onto in order to make sure that their particular cult is excluded from the definition. Nice try. (See these kinds of cheap debating tricks exposed in my “clear thinking” article.)

Let me make this plain, from another angle. You, me, and your second-cousin – everyone – we’re all headed for a new world. This one’s being given up for lost. And when you get over there, if you like causing discomfort for yourself, then you can continue in the old cultish ways – be they religious, philosophical, political, ethnic, or any sort of group-delimitation suiting your fancy. As we’ve seen, they’re called “brotherhoods” by the Spirit Guides, and there are thousands of them in the next world, all populated by those seeking for a “strong father figure.” You can join any one of them. No one will stop you. Go knock yourself out and, in fear-and-guilt, continue to surrender your autonomy to some “infallible” Dear Leader.

Editor’s note: I recently reviewed Father Benson’s “Life In The World Unseen,” and was reminded of his thoughts on this subject. He reports of those who maintain their old religions on the other side:

Each denomination, of course, holds to its own particular creed and formularies, such as it had on Earth…  if the minds of people are stubborn and they are unable really to think for themselves, then do they remain shackled to their narrow religious views, thinking it to be all the truth, until a day of spiritual awakening dawns for them. Then they will see that their slavish adherence to their creeds is holding them back… they do no harm as they are, here, beyond retarding their spiritual progression. Once they realize what they are doing themselves, and take the first step forward, their joy knows no bounds. They will realize the ‘time’ they have apparently wasted.

Notice the judgment: "slavish adherence," or “unable to think for themselves,” or “shackled to their narrow religious views,” or “minds” that are “stubborn.” Yes, “they do no harm” – except to themselves.

There is one more scene from “Doctor Strange” that might help us:


The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton)


"Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all -- it's not about you."


In these writings, I very frequently reference the “false self,” the dysfunctional ego, and therefore you might suspect that an admonition, “It’s not about you,” would find support from me. Well, certainly, “you” as “egocentric you” or “you, to the exclusion of all others” is to be rejected out of hand. The problem with easy platitudes from a movie script is that sometimes these phrases are presented by those who’ve not really explored any depth of meaning. “It’s not about you,” at the surface, seems to hint at something patently unspiritual, with not a friend in the world. However, there’s a “good” and a “bad” to this.

Cultish organizations are very quick, either in explicit teaching or by subliminal message, to sell a program of “It’s not about you.” This is code-language, however, for “You are unworthy. God could never love you. You are defective. You will never reach the high-bar but for the aid offered by the Dear Leader in your friendly neighborhood cultish group.” This is how people are controlled; specifically, by a heavy diet of the fear of death, and an existential guilt of innate imperfection.

But Summerland society is not constructed on these perverse precepts. While there is a harmony and an order to all things over there, the interests of the individual are not sacrificed for the group. In a very real way, it is “about you” in the next world.

While each sane and balanced person in Summerland takes part in various charitable service projects, these do not define one’s life – because, “it is about you.” Each psychologically healthy person in Summerland is engaged in a personal development and educational program, which might include the arts, math, science, space travel, adventure, parties, personal quiet time, friends, and just doing nothing.

One might say that society over there is comprised not of a federation, not of a centralized authority structure, but more like a loose confederation, a voluntary union, often ad hoc in nature, of uniquely talented individuals – as each of us is – who come together at times for the greater good, but, in the main, are dedicated to the proposition of reflecting God’s glory on an individual level, of manifesting the one-of-a-kind “inner riches,” of simply learning to enjoy one's existence -- which is not that easy -- and is what “made in the image” is all about.

Cults know nothing of this sacred personhood and individualization -- for them, it's all group initiative, with the hierarchy leading the group, of course -- and therefore any form of cultism takes us in exactly the wrong direction, far afield, as per God’s individualized plan for each of us.

But wait. There's another supremely sorrowful reason to avoid the cults. In that darkened frame of mind, you will never find, or get to be with, your true mate, your eternal love. Just ask Christine:





Editor's last word: