Seeking betterment for one’s communities

Those of us who contribute to the betterment of our communities would, I dare say, have some difficulty in understanding what drives us. The flow of circumstances in one’s life, like the flow of a fast-flowing river into which one has fallen, can involve one in an unplanned activity (like swimming with great gusto).

For example, when I was conned into becoming a ‘shop steward’ for my public sector union (and I am far too aware of the thuggery of some unionists and the undesirable influence unions have in the political arena), I was progressively invited to contribute to the work of my union (I tended to generate useful ideas for policy). My decade-length work on career protection resulted in a Meritorious Service Award.

Similarly, following a question I raised at a Parents & Citizens meeting at my daughter’s first year at school, I found myself the Vice-President. Within a few years I was the foundation chairman of the school board, re-writing the school policy, and drafting an outline of a program for religious education in primary schools. Following my offspring into high school, I found myself president of that P&C; I changed our work from raising money to teacher-supported discussions about education.

I then became involved in teaching public speaking and chairmanship, through Australian Rostrum, to the community; formed a primary schools competition in public speaking, and co-founded a national speaking competition for secondary schools.

I did not choose to be involved in these activities. However, there was another strand in my contribution to civil society. I consciously chose to be involved in communication with others; and to contribute to my society.
To begin with, in primary school, I used to write my thought for the day on a palm-sized paper, which was surreptitiously circulated among my neighbours. In high school, at university, and in other organisations, I contributed to newsletters. Why would I want to do that? Since retirement, for 4 years I was on 4 different committees in my first coastal residence; in the next 20 years, I served 5 committees, one of which I formed from members of 3 churches. I rationalise my involvement by claiming that one should put back something into the community which sustains us.

Now, a quite different thought has overtaken me. I now suspect that our past lives overtake us, in the way even a quiet sea will carry floating objects to wherever the cross currents, with help from the ever-present winds, eventually take them. However, when I worked for the betterment of the various communities I was involved with, I did not realise that it was a sense of justice which filled my sails. It is that very sense which leads me to chastise religious leaders for not making a sufficient contribution to the institutional betterment of their followers in terms of their life-chances, if not their bellies!

What if I had actually fought for justice in a recent past life? This thought arose when a casual clairvoyant (who ‘sees’ things beyond our capacity) said ‘I see you on a black stallion, carrying a long curved sword; what is the name for it?’ Is this why my right palm itches for the feel of a scimitar when someone seeks to persecute me? Since I will not have a scimitar in my next life either, how will I cope with my foolish self-selected enemies, for I have never sought to harm anyone?

Indeed, my intention is merely to benefit my communities, even through my blog.

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We are bonded to one another

“How do I see karma? In the Hindu framework I have set out above, it reflects the confluence of reincarnation and the law of cause and effect.

As we paddle as best we can on our personal rivers of life, we exercise our free will to pay our personal cosmic debts, to access any opportunities to learn whatever we need to learn for our personal development, and to prepare for the next life. We thus effectively create, as a consequence of bumbling through life as best as possible, the cliffs through which our river of life will flow during our next sojourn on Earth, and the rocky impediments and chasms we will find on the way. How we deal with these and the cross-currents created by other personal destinies related to us will determine our future lives. No gods, saints, or spirits are therefore necessary as determinants. However, they may be able to intrude, to help, if they choose to; presumably they too have free will.

Since each of us is an integral part of a number of collectives, there will result a complex network of personal destinies. The expected web, and possibly nested mesh, of personal destinies would presumably be reflected ultimately in tribal and possibly national destinies. These might influence species development, although a major contributor might also be genetic mutations, which are truly accidents of nature.

What place is there for the major religions? Divested of the detritus of dogma deliberately designed to distinguish each sect or faith from the others, and then to enable a claim of an unwarranted theological superiority, and thereby an exclusive path to heaven, two core beliefs are shared by these religions, except Buddhism. First is a claim of a creator god. The second is that, since humans are the products of this creation, we are bonded to one another.

What a wonderful concept. It is a great pity that it seems to apply only within the boundaries of each religious sect. The others are outsiders, heretics, heathens, etc. and are therefore not going to be ‘saved.’ Thus, in the name of their god, each priesthood is likely to display or even preach prejudice towards those not under its control or influence. There will, of course, be great exceptions – priests within each religion who are truly ecumenical (accepting related sects within their religion as non-competitive), or who are freethinkers in their tolerance, even accepting other religions as comparable paths to the one God of mankind. I have enjoyed conversing with some of these enlightened exceptions.”

(The above extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ will challenge those of a superior mien who just know that they are on the right track to Heaven; perhaps on the sole track, were their priests to be believed. I have been on the receiving end of ‘We know best’ recruiting campaigns.

I find it fascinating to see how the Old Testament is treated by some of the people I know as the be-all and end-all of guidance to the Pearly Gates. Are there not multiple paths in the jungle of existence that one could follow to the exit?

These extracts also raise the issue of personal destinies being in a ‘nested’ relationship with all other destinies, comparable to the nested fields of force in physics. In the event, the implication is not only that we humans are bonded to one another, but that the totality of all that is represents a significant mesh of inter-dependent relationships.)

Evolution through free will?

Are there not patterns everywhere? Almost all human behaviour would seem to fit into discernible patterns. Indeed, could it be that, once we have identified the template which defines each one of us (for, we are indeed unique), we would be able to anticipate, if not predict, future behaviour? Have we not, as children, wondered how our parents somehow knew what we had secretly done? Had we not occasionally intuited what some nasty boss had planned for us?

In a comparable manner, are there not perceivable patterns in society, in international relations, and in the universe we inhabit? Since change and occasional improvement (evolution?) seem ubiquitous in Nature, what could we expect in the Cosmos at large? Hindu commentators have indeed referred to the Creator having set up a system capable of evolution.

The following extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ are offered as part of my belief that there is order in the Cosmos.

“There seems to be clear evidence, comparable to the stability of patterns found within chaos, of purpose within the complexity and apparent unpredictability of life, and of a uni-directional path of species evolution, and the personal development of many individual humans.

In the event, all that a Creator had to do was to set up a mechanism capable of evolving by itself, even as it related to the sentient forms within creation, and these forms too would evolve. An arm’s-length Creator, not an interventionist god of the kind who baffles supplicants and frustrates the priesthood, makes good sense.

Such an objective analytic approach would fit life as experienced. There seem to be trajectories for the universe we think we know, for the observable galaxies, individual suns, and planets, and for us occupants on planet Earth. The pattern of an individual’s existence and the associated path of any personal development reflect, in my view, what might be termed as personal destiny.

This is not fate, not something unavoidable. It is a pathway for one’s current life created by each of us for ourselves, both reactively and through free will, during past lives. With free will, one can also choose, during each life, to obey the imperatives of one’s own self-crafted destiny or respond in some other manner, much in the way a motorist might behave in a well-policed crowded city.

There is no need for the modified Hinduism of the New Age theorists of the Western world. New Agers like the idea of a reincarnating soul choosing (often in a dialogue with appropriate others) the life to be led. This deterministic Western approach (‘I can choose to be whatever I want to be’) denies the concept of karma as an automatic and autonomous mechanism. Worse still, the millions of babies born into a life of suffering in under-developed nations can be held by the New Agers to have chosen that suffering! Unfortunately, there are Hindu gurus whose lack of understanding of karma also allows them to ignore the suffering of fellow Hindus as something deserved!!”

Discovering a belief in God through logic

I was born to be a believer and a sceptic. I prefer my beliefs to be based or derived from logic, hopefully supported (where possible) by some evidence (however intangible). Scepticism protects me from charlatans, especially those who offer certainty in an ephemeral arena. With a mind which is open, I believe that one can overcome the limits of scepticism. Perhaps a sense of justice or fairness may also be involved.

How I decided that there is (probably) a sole Creator or God of all that is will fall out from the following extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’ I hasten to point out that all my beliefs are temporary; and that I preserve a right to change my mind in the light of new understanding. My next abode, the insubstantial one in another dimension, may lead to a new perspective.

“ … … as a primary school boy, I was sent to the Pilleyar (Ganesha) temple at examination times, although I topped my class by a large margin every term, except once. … … I then lost the family’s savings through a spectacular academic failure. So much for faith and fervent prayer.

My future was thereby destroyed, as clearly forewarned after my father’s demise by a perambulating yogi … … So much for temple rituals and the priesthood. I gave away God, Hinduism and all religio-cultural rituals.

Then learning and logic took over! Studying the belief systems of the simpler societies at my university, and dipping into some anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the major religions, I realised that there has been, and is, an innate need in many, if not most, of us to understand what we humans are, and our place in the Cosmos.

I realised further that: the complexity and beauty, as well as the observable but inadequately explicable aspects of the experienced world; the exceedingly complex patterns of inter-linked cause and effect, action and reaction, and the inter-dependencies of the physical, chemical and electro¬magnetic forces affecting us; the uniformity, the invariability, the predictive capacity of the laws of nature; the ecological balance between mobile and fixed forms of life; the intuitive yearning by sensitive souls for communion with sublime or higher forces not clearly understood; and the inferred influence of the spirit world, all of which affect our lives, could not have occurred purely by chance.

Instead, they might, I felt, reflect the mind and soul of a Creator. How else could all that have occurred? By chance? Is that another name for an inexplicable cause, akin to the gods of simpler people?

I did conclude, logically, that there had to be a Creator of all that exists. I then noted, with great interest, that an academic and confirmed atheist had reached the same conclusion after a lifetime of non-belief in a Creator, for exactly the same reasons. There has to be a Creator, he now accepts, thereby upsetting most severely his former fellow-believers in that causal mechanism named Chance. Like me, he doesn’t claim to know; only that a creator god makes (unverifiable) sense.”

The continuity of human life

If human existence on Earth has any meaning whatsoever, then the concept of reincarnation is needed. It would appear that, throughout recorded history, almost all settled cultures believed in some form of an after-life. Then, the clever people who converted a new offshoot of Judaism into Christianity apparently decided that they would guide their followers; it would simply not do for their followers to decide their future after death on Earth.

Regrettably for these gentlemen of the desert, there was a belief, now referred to as reincarnation, which had been around for centuries (even millennia) before. However, the new boys on the block have done well; millions of people permit leaders of their religions to deny self-direction of their souls.

Believing in freedom, not guided control by others, I offer extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’

“This belief in the reality of the world of souls supports what I was taught to believe in my youth, enhanced by my recent understanding of Hinduism. This understanding was obtained late in life through my reading of the Upanishads. These writings represent, to me, the highest level of metaphysics of any religion. A succinct summary of my beliefs follows. I have been reading about religion and society since I was about 24.

At death, I would join the souls of my predecessors (except those who have been reincarnated). After a period of learning in whatever dimension I find myself, I would be reincarnated on Earth. Let me make clear that I was never taught to believe in a spirit domain from which the soul of a former relative or, for that matter, the soul of perhaps a guru, could enter my life and offer me advice. Or that those in this domain might be able to influence the direction of my life at some significant point – as has apparently happened more than once!

Moving on – each Earthly life would involve me paying for the sins of my past lives while being offered opportunities to learn to better myself morally, possibly spiritually. After many, many rebirths, I might be permitted to return to that Ocean of Consciousness from which, it is said, we had originally arisen. The ultimate objective of this extended process? To improve the stock of human souls? So, is there meaning and purpose in human existence?

The above belief would give meaning where none exists for the unbeliever. It would give more meaning than the claim that human existence has meaning but only for each Earthly existence. A concept embodying continuity through lifetimes, of opportunities to move up some moral scale life by life, of exercising free will rather than being carried blindly through time on Earth, is enticing, because it offers a path of purpose, and of hope – with free will.”

The fallibility of claimed knowledge

I stand for freedom of thought. I want open minds in research, whether of a scientific nature (looking into the material realm), or of an ethereal nature (investigating or even experiencing spiritual matters). Egoism is the only explanation for the two-century scientific barrier against cosmic cataclysm (all change in the universe and on Earth being allegedly gradual, contrary to evidence). Egoism seems to explain some religious dogma. Prejudice against ‘foreign’ faiths, beliefs, and speculative thoughts (a Eurocentric stance) has kept humanity divided. To what end?

The following extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ touch one or two of these issues.

“Some attempted explanations by scientists of matters inexplicable are highly questionable. For instance, we are offered ‘punctuated equilibrium’ (a lovely example of semantic sophism) to explain the sudden appearance of totally new and complex forms of viable life without the expected evidence of a gradual transformation of a species through a series of genetic mutations normally fitting the term evolution. Is that a scientific explanation or a re-label¬ling? In science, an explanation or theory must also offer a testable prediction. Otherwise it is mere speculation or belief.

A significant problem I have with some ‘scientific’ conclusions is that the researchers seemed intent upon proving that extra-sensory or extra-terrestrial or spiritual or psychic influences are neither real nor necessary. For example, there is a prevailing assertion that the human mind reflects nothing more than the operation of the brain. How could any clear thinker reach such a conclusion? Where is the evidence? It is very similar to an atheist claiming that there is no creator god. These are clearly statements of belief. The Hindus say, on the contrary, that the mind is only an instrument of consciousness. That surely is also a statement of belief.

The great cosmologist Stephen Hawking recently offered yet another statement of belief; there is no need for God. Presumably, the Cosmos has been explained. Uni-dimensional vibrating ‘folded strings,’ or fragmentary particles flitting in and out of existence (in the manner of sparks of a fire?), forming the substratum of all materiality? Has the role of ‘dark matter or energy,’ said to account for 75% of all matter, been explained? Are these facts, or tentative theories, or mere speculation?

The post hoc claim that a very human Buddha had been preceded by a large number of imagined Buddhas over aeons of time comes to mind. Why do scientists like Hawking and some leaders of institutional religions profess to know what is clearly beyond their competence to know? While atheistic scientists cannot impose their pet theories upon mankind, authoritarian or autocratic religious leaders are allowed to by their followers.

To seek to know what it is that one does not know, and possibly what one can never explain, is surely a sound measure of human intelligence. Controlling priests and know-all scientists: what a constraint to free and exploratory thought they are. Add to that any claim to infallibility, and we remain at the stage of intellectual and spiritual development of Primitive Man!”

A little Christmas hope

“Don’t be silly, child”, said her mother to Lucy. “There are no angels.” On sighting the
shocked face on the little girl, she went on to say, with more kindness in her voice, “I’m
sorry to tell you this, love, but you cannot see anyone or anything, can you?”

The mother was right. In the darkness which had surrounded her since birth (and before),
Lucy could perceive no objects, that is, anything with form. Indeed, both shape and
substance define objects, do they not? How then did Lucy ‘see’ this shimmering persona
who had recently begun to ‘appear’ before her, not only by day, but also during her
sleep?

Had this strange capacity to ‘see’ in an eyeless way existed during her stay in her
mother’s womb? Scientists are no wiser in answering this question as they are with the
preceding question. On the other hand, psychics claim that eyesight is only one way of
seeing. And there is some casual, non-repeatable evidence to support that view.

Amidst the confusion created by the purveyors of institutional religion as to when the
soul enters a living human, and similar semantic definitional issues, there is clear
evidence (again both casual and non-repeatable in a scientific sense) that a new-born
human baby can soon display both memory and a sense of justice. Recently, little babies
have been observed to avoid (that is, to look away from) unjust, unfair or bullying
characters depicted in cartoons on children’s tv. And any adult who can remember being
a child, or who has observed children carefully, can confirm that many very young
children do display a sense of justice which is clearly innate or inbuilt; that is, without
any prior learning or experience.

Metaphysical issues aside, little Lucy, abandoned at birth because of her blindness, and
subsequently adopted by an older couple, was now seemingly talking to a friend who is
neither visible nor audible to her parents. Fearing that the child might take refuge from
the material world in the world of her mind, her practical parents sought to ground her,
gently but realistically, in the inhospitable and unkind world of deprivation, cruelty, and
other very human attributes.

But, Lucy was not so easily deflected. One day, she said to her mother, “My friend
Angie says that she is here to look after me.” To this, her mother replied, “Your father
and I say ‘Thank God for that.’ We could all do with some help in difficult times.” Even
as she thus responded, she feared that her little one might be sorely disappointed. Lucy
went on to say “On Christmas Eve, Angie will take me with her on a trip to help other
children like me.” What was her adopted mother to say to that? She did the only thing
that anyone in such a confusing situation could do. She prayed – and prayed. But, could
that deflect an angel from implementing her charter?

What Lucy could see in her mind’s eye was a tiny shimmering silvery presence. If she
had sight, she might one day observe something similar – the sunlight sparkling sinuously
on slow moving water in a manner which satisfies the souls of sensitive humans.
Without any words, Lucy and the presence she named Angie continued to exchange
thoughts, in the manner of a clairvoyant conversing with the souls of persons now dead.

One day, Angie said to Lucy, “The real world is what it is. It must remain so. However,
on special occasions, we can stop time, and share wondrous experiences with those who
do need such experiences to lift their spirits.” Somehow, little Lucy understood.

So it was with joy in her heart that Lucy looked forward to Christmas Eve. On that night,
for a while, time did stand still. Angie appeared before Lucy and took her by the hand.
She then mysteriously led her on a tour of all those places in the world where little
children were in dire need of sustenance or solace. Accompanied by a host of other
shimmering presences, they were magically able to lift the spirits of these children in
their sleep.

When the sun rose sequentially in these hitherto sad places, the children faced a new day
(and the rest of their lives) with more hope than they had previously held. And both
Angie and Lucy were pleased at this role of Christmas – of uplifting the human spirit.