Friday, 23 March 2012

We need to remember that the universe is on our side and laughter is the antidote to everything!


I tend to take a lot of things seriously, and I know I take too many things too seriously too much of the time but the angels, helpers, guides who hover around me often lead me where I need to be.

Today it was to a book of which I had not heard but do plan to read, called Pronoia is the antidote for Paranoia and it had me laughing heartily.

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings [Paperback]

Rob Brezsny (Author)

PRONOIA (or Pronoea) was an Okeanid nymph of Mount Parnassos in Phokis (central Greece). She was the wife of the Titan Prometheus and, as her name suggests, the goddess of foresight. Prometheus' wife was also named Hesione and Asia.

Pronoia was closely identified with the goddess Athena who, according to several ancient writers, was worshipped as Athena Pronoia at Delphoi. As an Okeanid she also resembles Athena's mother Metis.

Athena has always been a favourite of mine, sitting as she does, by the side of my Virgo Sun, with Saturn on the other side - how perfect paranoia and pronoia - why did I not know that?

There is so much misery in the world, there really is and we do need an antidote to it. laughter is the best antidote of all and yet within the humour there is such truth in Brezsny's book - spiritual truth which we forget even in the instant that we remember.

And in that synchronicitous way of things it followed upon a long conversation with someone who is convinced there is a plot to control the world; something I have studied and read about for some years and something which, given the nature of human beings and the nature of this material world and our spiritual reality, I simply do not and cannot believe.

But there are many people who are convinced the world is 'going to hell in a basket,' ignoring, or perhaps remaining ignorant of the facts of history which clearly show that at this point in time more people live with greater freedom and a better quality of life than have ever done before! That is a fact. But misery and fear and foreboding remain a constant.

How hard it is for us to hold to the best of things and the beauty of this world and this life; even in the depths of the darkest parts of it.

I have printed out some excerpts which I intend to read daily to counter the constant instants of forgetting which sucks the joy from life and I doubt that Brezsny would mind me sharing them - I have bought his book after all.

And it is with laughter and a lightheartedness that I share - responding to his cause celebre, that we need to remember that life is a wonderful adventure, created for us and created by us.

DEFINITION: Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It's the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It's a mode of training your senses and intellect so you're able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

OBJECTIVE OF PRONOIA: To explore the secrets of becoming a wildly disciplined, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, scrupulously curious, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lyrically logical, lustfully compassionate Master of Rowdy Bliss.

HYPOTHESES: Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is your birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.

PROCEDURE: Act as if the universe is a prodigious miracle created for your amusement and illumination. Assume that secret helpers are working behind the scenes to assist you in turning into the gorgeous masterpiece you were born to be. Join the conspiracy to shower all of creation with blessings.

GUIDING QUESTION: "The secret of life," said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, "is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do." What is that task for you?

UNDIGNIFIED MEDITATIONS TO KEEP YOU HONEST: Brag about what you can't do and don't have. Confess profound secrets to people who aren't particularly interested. Pray for the success of your enemies while you're making love. Change your name every day for a thousand days.

MYTHIC ROLE MODELS: Prometheus and Pronoia. In Greek mythology, Pronoia was the consort of Prometheus, the divine rebel who pilfered a glowing coal from his fellow gods so that he could slip the gift of fire to humans.

TOP-SECRET ALLIES: Sacred janitors, benevolent pranksters, apathy debunkers, lyrical logicians, ethical outlaws, aspiring masters of curiosity, homeless millionaires, humble megalomaniacs, hedonistic midwives, lunatic saints, sly optimists, mystical scientists, dissident bodhisattvas, macho feminists, and socialist libertarians who possess inside information about the big bang.

DAILY PRACTICE: Push hard to get better, become smarter, grow your devotion to the truth, fuel your commitment to beauty, refine your emotional intelligence, hone your dreams, negotiate with your shadow, cure your ignorance, shed your pettiness, heighten your drive to look for the best in people, and soften your heart -- even as you always accept yourself for exactly who you are with all of your so-called imperfections.

POSSIBLE REWARDS: You will be able to claim the rewards promised you at the beginning of time -- not just any old beauty, wisdom, goodness, love, freedom, and justice, but rather: exhilarating beauty that incites you to be true to yourself; crazy wisdom that immunizes you against the temptation to believe your ideals are ultimate truths; outrageous goodness that inspires you to experiment with irrepressible empathy; generous freedom that keeps you alert for opportunities to share your wealth; insurrectionary love that endlessly transforms you; and a lust for justice that's leavened with a knack for comedy, keeping you honest as you work humbly to liberate everyone in the world from ignorance and suffering.

USAGE NOTE: We employ the adjectival form "pronoiac" rather than "pronoid." That way, it rhymes with "aphrodisiac" and resonates with "paradisiacal" instead of being conditioned by "paranoid."

DISCLAIMER: Material in this book may be too intense and controversial for some readers. It contains graphic scenes of peace, love, joy, passion, reverence, splendor, and understanding. You will not find any references to harsh, buzzing fluorescent lights in a cheap hotel room where a heroin dealer plots to get revenge against the authorities at his old high school by releasing sarin gas into the teachers' lounge. There are no reports of Nazi skinheads obsessed with re-creating the 14th-century Tartars' war strategy of catapulting plague-ridden corpses into an enemy's citadel.

Completely absent from these pages are any stories about a psychotic CEO of a Fortune 500 company who has intentionally disfigured his face to help him elude the CIA, which wants to arrest him for the treasonous sale of his company's nanotech weapons technology to the Chinese. You should therefore proceed with caution if you are a jaded hipster who is suspicious of feeling healthy and happy. Ask yourself: "Am I ready to stop equating cynicism with insight? Do I dare take the risk that exposing myself to uplifting entertainment might dull my intelligence?" If you doubt your ability to handle relaxing breakthroughs, you should stop reading now.

Mirabilia Report
(Mirabilia n. events that inspire wonder, marvelous phenomena, small miracles, beguiling ephemera, inexplicable joys, changes that inspire quiet awe, eccentric enchantments, unplanned jubilations, sudden deliverance from boring evils; from the Latin mirabilia, "marvels.")

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research reports that the average cloud is the same weight as 100 elephants.

* The seeds of some trees are so tightly compacted within their protective covering that only the intense heat of a forest fire can free them, allowing them to sprout.

* Thirty-eight percent of North America is wilderness.

* Anthropologists say that in every culture in history, children have played the game hide and seek.

* With every dawn, when first light penetrates the sea, many seahorse colonies perform a dance to the sun.

* A seven-year-old Minnesota boy received patent number 6,368,227 for a new method of swinging on a swing.

* As it thrusts itself into our Milky Way Galaxy, the dwarf galaxy Sagittarius is unraveling, releasing a thick stream of dark matter that is flowing right through the Earth.

* A chemist in Australia finally succeeded in mixing oil and water.

* Except among birds and land mammals, the females of most species are bigger than the males.

* The South African version of TV's Sesame Street has an AIDS-positive Muppet named Kami.

* The sky not only isn't falling--it's rising. The top of the troposphere, the atmosphere's lowest layer, is slowly ascending.

* To make a pound of honey, bees have to gather nectar from about two million flowers. To produce a single pound of the spice saffron, humans have to handpick and process 80,000 flowers. In delivering the single survivor necessary to fertilize an ovum, a man releases 500 million sperm.

* Some Christians really do love their enemies, as Jesus recommended.

* Kind people are more likely than mean people to yawn when someone near them does.

* There are always so many fragments of spider legs floating in the air that you are constantly inhaling them wherever you go.

* "The average river requires a million years to move a grain of sand 100 miles," says science writer James Trefil.

* Because half of the world's vanilla crop is grown in Madagascar, the whole island smells like vanilla ice cream.

* Your body contains so much iron that you could make a spike out of it, and that spike would be strong enough to hold you up.

* In his book *The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead,* physicist Frank J. Tipler offers what he says is scientific proof that every human being who has ever lived will be resurrected from the dead at the end of time.

* In the Ukraine you can buy Fat in Chocolate, a food with a layer of dark chocolate covering a chunk of pork fat.

* Robust singing skill is correlated with a strong immune system in songbirds. Male birds with the most extensive repertoire of tunes also have the largest spleens, a key measure of immune system health.

* Bali has 80,000 temples.

* Romanian physicists created gaseous globes of plasma that grew, reproduced, and communicated with each other, thereby fulfilling the definition for life.

* In an apparent attempt to raise their volume above the prevailing human din, some nightingales in big cities have learned to unleash 95-decibel songs, matching the loudness of a chainsaw.

* There is a statistically significant probability of world-class athletes and military leaders being born when Mars is rising in the sky.

* Some piranhas are vegetarians.

* In the pueblos of New Mexico, bricks still measure 33 by 15 by 10 centimeters, proportions that almost exactly match those of the bricks used to build Egypt's Temple of Hatshepsut 3,500 years ago.

* Childbirth is often joyful even though it's painful.

* In hopes of calming flustered lawbreakers, Japanese cops have substituted the sound of church bells for sirens on police cars.

* Scientists believe they'll be able to figure out why cancer cells are virtually immortal, and then apply the secret to keeping normal cells alive much longer, thereby dramatically expanding the human life span.

* Clown fish can alter their gender as their social status rises.

* When she is born, a baby girl has all the ova she will ever have.

* Bluebirds cannot see the color blue.

* Gregorian chants can cure dyslexia.

* Bob Hope donated half a million jokes to the Library of Congress.

* Bees perform a valuable service for the flowers from which they steal.
* "Leafing through Forbes or Fortune [magazine]s is like reading the operating manual of a strangely sanctimonious pirate ship," wrote Adam Gopnik in *The New Yorker.*

* Revlon makes 177 different shades of lipstick.

* Your tongue is the strongest muscle in your body.

* The most frequently shoplifted book in America is the Bible.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The truth slips out .... there is little evidence that women are our equals.....

As conversations continue the truth does out -  a comment regarding the lack of evidence for women as equals..... sigh ..... this is the sort of things they said in less enlightened times, and which was not uncommon in recent decades.  How far we have not come and how little has changed where religions are concerned.

For all the talk of how scripture 'raises' women or acknowledges their value, here we have the nub of it, slipping out unintended I am sure, that 'there is little evidence that women are our equals,......'

My Mormon friend said:

I would ask that you consider the context of the quote from Elder Scott: he was speaking to an all male audience and his purpose was not to flatter women but to convince men of women's equal worth. This is something we men have to take on faith because there is but little evidence that women are our equals in sports, business, chess and any of a number of other areas of achievement which are of interest to men.

I've been a student of classical music all my life and there aren't any female composers of the stature of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, Dvorak, Handel etc. It's nice when a big talent like Amy Beach comes along and shows what a woman can do but even she cannot draw the same audience responses year in and year out that the great masters do.

And I replied politely, not really cutting to the core of it because, after all, he is just a man and I am sure, a decent and enlightened person who is largely unaware of just how deep his prejudice has burrowed: 

It still suffers from the same problem - 'talking women up' when what we want is equality. If women are equal there is no need for them to be splendid or supreme - she just is. In the world in which I live, even most of the men I know, would be shocked that he thought such things even needed to be said - or that there was a need to make a case for the specialness of women.

As to women being equals - when you look at how hard it has been for women to get an education and to compete in the world what is remarkable is how many women have achieved so much.

In addition, the victor writes 'history' and there have been 'herstory' books written showing how much women have been written out of history along with their acheivements. How many female Bachs, Beethovens, Mozarts etc., lie in their coffins clutching their music and their genius to mouldered breasts?

Let's be honest with each other - at the time these men were achieving women were considered to be almost feeble-minded and unless they were very rich and very independent minded, were not considered either suitable nor capable of education!

More to the point, how many Bachs, Beethovens etc., would have been able to write their music and make their mark if they had been producing babies every two years; looking after house and children and husband and generally playing servant to their in-laws and parents? Not many. 

Who couldn't create if they had a wife to make a life for them; to do most if not all of the work and to ensure they had the time and solitude they required? Would Charles Darwin have ever written his famous book if Mrs Darwin had not been toiling in the background to make it possible for him to take the time he needed to do so? Not to mention nursing him (and their children) through numerous illnesses.

The famous line from Ginger Rogers comes to mind when talking about dancing with Fred Astaire:  I do everything he does I just do it in high heels and backwards!

The same applies to authors. Look at the women who did make their mark in the patriarchal past - mostly unmarried. How I, as a writer, would have loved a wife to run my home, my life, my family while I could write away the hours in solitary bliss.

Men have had it so easy for the past 5,000 years that one could ask the question: Why did it take so long for patriarchy to actually improve the lot of people? Perhaps if women had not been so repressed we would have dragged ourself out of the cosmic gutter centuries ago. It is certainly likely, that in a world of gender equality, there would have been a lot less murderous and destructive war although I do believe that women are as capable of violence and destruction as men are.

In fact, while male historians ignore it, armies of the past always included women as soldiers and not just as followers and women have always fought in wars - including your Civil War and war of Independence.

The achievements of men in the history that we know have been made on the 'backs of broken women' and I have absolutely no doubt that if patriarchy had not so repressed and subjugated women that there would have been all the female achievements and more in all the fields you cite.

Sport of course is so male dominated that the sports which men like are the ones deemed important. Women perform just as well as men do at sport but men like the sports and support and fund the sports which display male brute strength - the patriarchal glass ceiling is tougher over the realm of sport than even the business world.

We already know that women outperform men at long distance running, so who knows what they will achieve when we do live in a world of gender equality?

As to chess - well, let's wait until we have a world where gender equality is a reality before we judge what women can do. It is also a fact that girls consistently outperform boys academically but I doubt you would cite that as a sign of the greater academic ability of females and neither would I wish you to.

The reality is that even in the enlightened West women still have a very long way to go to achieve true gender equality - no-one gives up power lightly or easily and men are no different, fighting still, in more subtle ways to maintain their domination over the greater proportion of humanity - females.

And, in this male dominated world it is hardly surprising if everything is influenced by the way men have been thinking (and what they like) for the past few thousand years. Hardly a level playing field and I could almost sense in your comment a belief in the superiority of men when you say there is 'little evidence that women are our equals.....'

But the reality is that the 'differences' you cite were exactly the same sorts of arguments men put up in defence of refusing women the vote and refusing them admittance to universities. On that count, we clearly have come some way toward justice and equality.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The 'elephant in the room' is sexism in religion - maybe it is time to sue God!

There really is no getting away from it but that does not stop people trying - the 'elephant in the room' of religion is sexism.

In this day and age, in the developed world at least, you can take a Golf Club or sporting organisation to court on grounds of sexism -  and win the right to play the course or become a member, so why not with religion?

Probably because most women who belong to male dominated patriarchal religions believe the propaganda and are just as brainwashed as the men. Although I have heard that such challenges have been made in the US and lost because, given the religiosity in general of the society and it's Christian affiliations in particular, the courts are going to be full of people who seriously do believe that women are inferior to men when it comes to religious systems and they should be kept in their place.

But that doesn't apply in quite the same way in places like Britain, Australia or even European countries where fundamentalist christianity does not hold sway as it does in the US. So has any woman or group of women sued the church or a religion for sexism?  Although there is no doubt that the system, still patriarchal in many respects, gives religion an 'out' by setting it apart from the norm! How convenient!

Not that the internet is the absolute in sources, far from it, but I could find no trace. If you can sue a corporation for sexism then why not sue a religion which is also a corporation, merely a theological one - the profit being souls not dollars. Although even as I say that I remind myself that of course it is not true. Religions are very profitable corporations and one supposes that the men running the religious corporation prefer to keep their hands on the 'purse strings', so maybe it is about profit as much as power.

Perhaps one reason why religious systems maintain their sexist attitudes is that it is women who traditionally make up the bulk of congregations and who, with equality, would dominate the church. So at core, just male fear, yet again at the source of female subjugation. But if men won't free women, and they won't, then women have to do it for themselves just as they did to get the vote and to get a decent education. But they too are part of the system and in that tragedy for women, the war they must fight is against those they love - fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands - the men in their life.

As an article in the New Stateman titled, Is God Sexist? says:

Yet because of the prevailing public etiquette that says that religious views should be accorded particular respect, and sometimes legal privilege, religion as such is rarely called out for its underlying sexism. Instead culture gets the blame, or fundamentalism, or a patriarchal conspiracy that we are assured has taken control of religion and twisted it for its own ends.

Of course there are progressive, even feminist, voices within all the major religions. But they are historically novel and even today may struggle to get their voices heard. It's unlikely to be a coincidence that the most religiously observant countries tend to be those with the worst records when it comes to the position of women. Or that the most secular and least religious countries score highest in terms of sexual equality.

Religion, almost every religion, views women primarily in terms of their biological function. It takes certain commonplace observations and draws from them conclusions that have restricted women's participation in society and undermined their sense of themselves.

Because women bear children, religion has moralised about their sexual behaviour far more than about that of men, promoting in many societies a cult of chastity that has made women prisoners of their fathers and husbands. Because women tend to be smaller and less physically powerful than men, religion teaches them to defer to their husbands as they would to God ("for the husband is head of his wife as Christ is of the Church", as St Paul once charmingly put it).

Because heterosexual men enjoy looking at women's bodies religion castigates sexually confident women as harlots and temptresses, inculcates shame and teaches that "modesty" requires covering up any part of themselves that some passing man might possibly find attractive.

But my Mormon friend had me pondering yet again and still, this gross injustice 'nailed on the patriarchal cross of bigotry' in all religions, to lesser and greater degrees, as he responded to my last post with something which looked like agreement, but was in fact not. It is this circling of the subject which I find so interesting and I can only assume that intelligent, decent, informed, educated and thoroughly decent people, as he appears to be, have to refuse to look at the 'elephant in the room' in order to maintain their sanity and some substance of defence.

I mean there is no way in this modern world that you can defend discrimination against people on the basis of gender - absolutely no way. There is no defence, except they would argue, theological dogma, which of course is no real defence in any true court of law, nor any defence to a rational mind. And so it goes.

He said:

Just want to share with you part of a message to the priesthood of the church by Elder Richard G. Scott which seems to indicate that he largely agrees with you!
The purpose of priesthood authority is to give, to serve, to lift, to inspire—not to exercise unrighteous control or force. In some cultures, tradition places a man in a role to dominate, control, and regulate all family affairs. That is not the way of the Lord. In some places the wife is almost owned by her husband, as if she were another of his personal possessions. That is a cruel, unproductive, mistaken vision of marriage encouraged by Lucifer that every priesthood holder must reject. It is founded on the false premise that a man is somehow superior to a woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The scriptures confirm that Father in Heaven saved His greatest, most splendid, supreme creation, woman, to the end. Only after all else was completed was woman created. Only then was the work pronounced complete and good.

And I replied:
As I touched upon in the last post, these comments, while appearing 'positive' are highly sexist, but I can appreciate that is not how you see them.

And that is because to try to say woman is the greatest, supreme etc., creation is discriminatory to men but it is also disingenous because you know and everyone else knows that the church denies roles to women because of their gender and that the church is run by men. Based on no more than a God-given distribution of hormones and a variation on the theme of body parts - although all males begin as females and simply develop physical differences because of hormones - women are denied positions and powers in your religion and many others.

There is no justice in that and it could not be defended in any court of law in any truly enlightened country. Perhaps it could in the US which is sourced in such Christian religiosity that courts are stacked with people who hold to such views but it could not be upheld in any court in any other developed nation.

You can no longer deny, even in the US, a job to a woman because of her gender - the last bastion of this outdated view is religion. If you cannot deny a job in the secular world to someone because of their sex then you should not be able to deny a job to anyone anywhere because of their sex.

It is also patronising to anyone who believes in equality. Women don't want to be supreme, splendid, greatest etc., they simply want their rights - and that is to be seen as and treated as absolute equals on every count - no exceptions ever.

There is nothing done in less developed countries, cultures, religions or systems to women which has not been done by all in the past - at least during the patriarchal age. The only difference is that what we call the modern world has become enlightened enough to realise that men and women are and should be treated as, absolute equals. There is no doubt we still have a way to go given that women in many developed nations still get paid less for the same job, but the acceptance of the justice of gender equality is pretty much a given even if we still have to fight the 'glass ceiling' which patriarchy still tries to hold in place.

The exceptions to this view remain only in those countries, cultures, religions, systems which have not yet developed enough (for a variety of reasons) to allow them to 'see' the justice in gender equality, or, even if they see it, to have the wisdom and courage, to change their religion, culture, system etc., so that gender equality is a part of it.

And if it is Lucifer (something in which I don't believe - I think and feel that human beings are more than capable of demonstrating evil (ignorance) and creating evil in this world) - who is responsible for the false idea of marriage then why is it not also Lucifer who is responsible for the clearly false idea that women are not equal to men in this material world - this being the reason they are denied their rights within the Mormon religious system and many other religious systems.

I mean if Lucifer can be instrumental in one wrong then why not in another? And I suspect that even as you support your church you are enlightened and intelligent enough to know in your heart that discrimination against anyone based on gender, race or creed is well, quite simply wrong. There is no reason why women cannot or should not be able to take on any role in the Mormon Church - as they do for instance in the Anglican Church (without the wrath of God smiting all involved) - because we all know in this enlightened age that women are just as intelligent, just as capable, just as strong and just as suitable as men are. And vice-versa.

I also dislike the patronising attitude which people often take to men as caregivers. Men are just as good at looking after babies, children, homes, doing the cooking, the ironing, the gift-wrapping, the tending the sick etc., as women are. Just as there is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot, so, beyond bearing children and giving birth, there is nothing a woman can do that a man cannot. This is accepted as reality in the developed world at least.

There is no job that a woman cannot do and vice-versa, there is no job which is now denied to a man because of his gender - at least in the non-religious world. The limiting of women in religion is an anachronism in the modern world and one which will end in time - for the sake of all religions, if they wish to have relevance to modern women and if they wish to hold up their heads as defenders of justice and human rights - the sooner the better.

Monday, 12 March 2012

There is liturgy and there is life and often the two do not mix

Photo: A witch-hunt in Africa where Christian teachings encourage a belief in a war against Satan, and 'witches', often children or old women, are seen as they were centuries ago, as being in league with the Devil.
The conversations continue with my Mormon friend but as time goes on I find that it just serves to re-inforce the reasons why I left religion behind long ago. From talking about why sexism is wrong in religion I moved on to why racism is wrong and then found myself thinking about the impact which Christian teachings about Satan are having on Africans today - immersed as they are in the most fundamentalist of Christian teachings preached by the hordes of missionaries, mostly American, who come here to live for a time to construct churches and converts.

Africa's tragedy, far removed from something as simple as a discussion about religious belief, is that the Christians have not brought God to this benighted land as much as they have brought Satan!

Apart from the fact that fundamentalist religions of all kinds demand high levels of non-thinking from their followers - faith must be absolute and questions are the work of the Devil - I cannot help but think that surely someone, sometime either pondered the impact of Satanic teachings on people who implicitly believe in witches, demons and Devils of their own making, or has since reflected on the impact such teachings have on the belief in witchcraft. But probably not. And so the cries go out from pulpits around Africa, including Malawi, putting the fear of Satan and of God into people and fuelling an increase in atrocities committed against those unfortunate enough to be 'identified' as witches.

The atrocities committed in the name of Christianity's war against Satan continue today, in Africa - a continent which has seen so much suffering at the hands of foreign meddlers that it does not deserve more. Certainly, Africans are more than capable of contributing to their own suffering but why could they not have had a gentler, less paranoid and vengeful form of religion imposed upon them? For it is imposed - the missionaries work hand in wallet with government officials to do their work and they always have.

And while funds come from many countries, it is Americans, goodly Christians in the main, who dig deep into their pockets to mostly fund this 'work' - believing as they do that they are doing good and remaining unaware or perhaps uninterested, as to what the outcome of all this 'goodness' is. There is a saying that, 'no good deed goes unpunished' and that was never more true than of missionaries in Africa. The tragedy is that it is not the missionaries who are punished, it is their congregations.

But beyond the miseries which religion brings to Africa, it also reminds me why I wish religions could reform themselves so that they could be constructive and functional in a modern world because there is no doubt many people seek, need, desire and benefit from the best that religion has to offer. The problem is that mixed in with the best is a lot of 'worst' as I am constantly reminded living in Africa.

I don't actually care if a historical Jesus existed or not and nor do I care if there is history in the Bible - what I care about is what impact these religious beliefs have on individuals, societies, cultures and nations. None of the goodness matters if the end result is the opposite of that which is good, as in, constructive, compassionate, healthy and enlightened.

No amount of theological dogma or religious liturgy can make up for religions which are destructive in impact. I find that the religious response is to quote liturgy written or concocted hundreds or thousands of years ago and to ignore the reality of the day: the effect that these teachings have, by ommission or commision, on how people think and act.

Too much religion is at odds with itself where 'do as I say' translates into the very opposite when it comes to doing.

My friend wrote:
Here is a brief review which I wrote a few years ago. If the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be it is 'absolute proof ' of the reality of Jesus Christ both as an historical personage and as a contemporary resurrected personage with power to accomplish his purposes.
         To me The Book of Mormon is the greatest miracle of modern times. I have marvelled repeatedly at the power of the teachings of Jesus and his servants (such as Abinadi,Alma,Lehi,Nephi,Mormon himself and many others) to help me find peace and healing in the midst of life's struggles. I know this book is true and thank God for providing it so miraculously as a witness of His love for all His children. I've read this book many times and read many comments by authors both pro and con.

I can, in a measure, understand why this book bores or even antagonises some readers who don't share its world view. On the other hand, many who ignore it for any of many reasons might be surprised were they to carefully examine its actual content. This book has had more influence than any of us realise! Scoffed at for its 'plagiarism' of the Bible, it is often very independent in the very readings of Isaiah and others which it transmits. One of my favourite examples of this is Isaiah 14:2 which says that Israel will make their oppressors their possessions - servants and handmaids. Whether this passage was used to justify slavery in antebellum America or not, the 2 Nephi version allows no such construction: "And they shall return to their lands of promise. And the house of Israel shall possess them [lands not people:] and the land of the Lord shall be for servants and handmaids... etc.

I really don't know if this variant text had anything to do with motivating the proslavery Missourian mobs who drove the Mormons from their homes and farms in 1833, but I like to think it might have.

Certain it is that Mormons disbelieve in slavery or any other form of oppression, whether paternalistic, priestly, bureaucratic or otherwise. Christ said " ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." I invite anyone to prayerfully consider the stories, sermons, psalms and prophecies of this powerful book and ask him or herself whether it does not strengthen faith in God and desire to love and serve mankind.

I can only think that if the religion can oppose slavery in a literal sense and it was prepared to remove racism towards men with black skin then why cannot it oppose slavery in the sense that women endure it within religious systems which demand a penis before you can be a preacher or more importantly, be an equal participant at every level of the religious system?

And I replied:

        Don't get me wrong, I do believe that there are elements of inspiration in all spiritual writings it is just that I have found they are woven in amongst many things which clearly cannot be spiritually inspired but speak more of the minds of men.

        I am sure you would appreciate that as a woman, coming from a First World country and one where what I would call fundamentalist religious beliefs are rare, that as a woman who was born believing that gender equality was a must, not an option, that I am going to 'see' things in writings which a man may not. Or rather, things are going to resonate with me in a negative sense in a way they are not likely to do so in a woman who has been brought up in a religion which teaches the superiority of men, at least within the religious structure, nor with a man brought up in the same environment and who, because he is a man will not perceive sexism when it appears.

        In the same way that you are unlikely to understand racism unless you have black skin or belong to a group defined as inferior by the greater and dominant community, as indigenous peoples have been during the early days of colonisation of your country and mine, and as Palestinians are still treated today by the Israeli occupiers and colonisers and as Tibetans are by the Chinese and West Papuans by the Indonesians, to name just a few - I feel that few men really understand what it is like to be confronted with sexism. Yes, we are all discriminated against at times but sexism and racism are the worst kinds of bigotry because one cannot escape – you are marked as inferior for all time, if not for all eternity in some religions.

        Such injustices have gone to extreme levels in the past within Christianity and still do so today in some religions. Living in India I was horrified, but not surprised to learn, that Hinduism teaches that if you are born a woman it means you were evil in your last life; if you are born crippled it means you were evil in your last life and it also teaches that the blacker your skin the more evil you were in your last life. A crippled woman with very black skin, of which there are many in India, did not have a chance. And because black skin is considered inferior in India still, the marriage columns of the newspapers would specify variations on acceptable skin colour for women – ‘wheatish’ being a common term. Now, because women are evil anyway and more evil with black skin what you rarely see is a wife who is as dark-skinned or darker than her husband – she will always have paler skin – that no doubt negating some of the evil which the husband by necessity draws into his life.

        And no, Christianity at its worst is not this bad in the First World but it once was and it still contains teachings which bring suffering. What saddens me is that it still discriminates against women and I don’t care how ‘small’ that discrimination may appear to a man or a church dominated by men, to a thinking, feeling, modern woman that discrimination is enormous. And it can never ever be justified.

        What also saddens me and sometimes angers me is that this form of Christianity – and there are even worse versions than Mormonism or Evangelicals – is what has been exported to Africa; a country where patriarchy reigns anyway and where now, Christianity just re-inforces and intensifies that injustice. African cultures like Indian culture are more than happy to subjugate and beat their wives and when I see the Christian God intensifying that I just wish that all the missionaries would go home and leave Africa alone. And yes, I know the teaching is 'don't beat your wife,' but this is Africa - of course they will demonstrate their power over an inferior whether it is a woman, a child, a dog or someone from another tribe!

        Another impact of Christianity of the fundamental kind on Africa, and you may not know this, is that it teaches a war against Satan – which fits ever so neatly, cruelly and bloodily into the endemic African beliefs in witchcraft. Rather than diluting witchcraft, the kind of Christianity which sees us pitted in a war against Satan, empowers and fuels it and atrocities committed against ‘witches’ – mostly children and old women and some old men – are increasing all the time. Malawi is no exception to the damage done to people in the name of an evangelical war against Satan and demons!

        While it is one thing to sit safely in your home in the First World and to discuss rationally, theological dogma about Satan (to me a ridiculous concept because it is so simplistic) and a battle between 'good and evil,' it is quite another thing to impose such beliefs on a radically different culture and one sourced in a belief in such 'wars' anyway, where Satan is more than an ephemeral figure, but seen in human beings - women mostly, but also those who are disabled, different, mentally dysfunctional and even worse, most often in children.

        I am not saying this is something Mormonism does although if you have missionaries in Africa and given the beliefs in Satan, there is no doubt it will have this impact whether intended or not. Understanding how someone else thinks, feels and functions is crucial to any true understanding. Whether Africans in general or women in particular.

        My husband and I have a marriage and relationship of equals and we always have and he is one of the most balanced and decent human beings I have ever met, but when I become passionate, as I have and still do, about how far women have to go to be treated as equals, I remind him that he is a member of a privileged group in the world: he is male, he is white and he is also an only child. I would add that he is also highly intelligent and very successful, so, as sensitive and aware and compassionate as he is, he still has no idea how it feels to be a woman (or a black) and he never will.

        As the saying goes: 'You must walk a mile in the others shoes to really understand' and no man can ever truly understand what it is to be a woman and subjected to sexism and misogyny, however small or great it may be and however it manifests - just as neither of us can know what it is to be discriminated against because we have black skin or belong to a group deemed inferior.

        I would argue though that a woman will always have more of a capacity to understand how it feels to be subjected to racism because we have felt the force of discrimination for millenia and even in the developed world, where much has improved, we feel it still.

        So, what I am really saying is that having read dozens of religious tracts from most religions I have an awareness of the sexism and misogny inherent in all of them which quite simply annoys me and that distracts me. Therefore I prefer to find my spiritual teachings either in religious writings which have been edited and had sexism removed or in spiritual writings which are not and were not sexist in the first place.

        However, having said that I do believe that we are all different in this world and we are all meant to be different and that may way is right for me and your way is right for you. I don't think God cares what path we walk or what we believe, only how we live our lives and our own truth and how we treat others.

        When Mormonism removes from its teachings sexism in the same way that it removed racism in the late seventies, then I shall be more than happy to explore in greater detail, it's version of spiritual 'truth.' And I shall have a more open mind to Christianity when it gives up its Satan teachings - or matures enough to interpret them metaphorically not literally.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

More conversations about Mormonism.... although perhaps becoming circular

Oil on Canvas: Ocean, 2012, Roslyn Ross

There is no doubt I keep learning things. I mean I had no idea that until the late 1970's Mormons had laws against Africans - or negroes - becoming members of the church, let alone leaders.

I am sure it was easier to re-interpret, re-write and re-work to allow non-white males to enter the church leadership than it was to do so in regard to discrimination against women. Racism is I am sure, harder to defend within the strictures of Christianity than is sexism. Women have, it seems, raised this discrimination in law and the courts have always ruled in favour of the religion - hardly surprising in the United States given how pervasive fundamental Christianity is, although hardly just or right.

The more exchanges there are, the more I can see commonalities of belief in Mormonism - it is after all sourced in Christianity and all religions are sourced in a common spirituality, albeit one heavily disguised with dogma. But Mormonism is, at the end of the day for me, just another religion with all of the faults, flaws and bigotry that the others display.  But, as long as we communicate there is connection which offers insight, if nothing else.

You said: We are taught that before the world was created there was a grand council in heaven in which our Heavenly Parents and all of us, their spirit children participated

This fits with much esoteric belief although different terminology might be used. I don't relate to grand councils etc., but I could be wrong - however I do believe that this world was created consciously.

You said:. The plan proposed that we come to this earth to obtain physical bodies,

Yes, ancient spiritual teachings of many kinds hold this sort of view and I believe we are spiritual beings having a material experience.

You said: forget almost all of our premortal experiences,

This is a theme found in many myths and legends and of course makes sense. If you remembered then it would be confusing and would limit the materiality of the experience. The River of Forgetting in myth and legend is the River Lethe, named after a Goddess.
LETHE, the stream of oblivion, was one of the rivers of the underworld and its goddess. The others were the Styx, Akheron, Pyriphlegethon and Kokytos. She was sometimes identified with the Daimon Lethe, the personification of forgetfulness.

'Past life research' is a new field of study in psychology and offers further insight into why forgetting what has been can have positive and negative effects. One wonders if cases of multi-personality are sourced in 'rememberings' of other lives. Such cases are particularly interesting given that there are clear physiological changes - eczema or allergy disappearing for instance - when the 'new' personality takes over the body.

Forgetting before we enter this world seems very sensible.

You said: and learn by our own experience here the difference between good and evil - by making choices and implementing them

This is also a common theme, particularly from the patriarchal age but it is not the only theme. Much spiritual teaching would have that because we live in a world of matter we live in a world of opposites and that we are here to learn to live in this world of matter and of opposites (not good and evil specifically) in order to make the spiritual manifest in this material world.

You said: We were told that because we would make mistakes it was necessary that a means for justly dealing with those errors and their consequences would be provided i.e. the 'Lamb slain before the foundation of the world' , what we now know as the Atonement of Christ.

Other teachings would have 'errors' judged solely by the individual - the Christ factor would be that the Higher Self, Soul, or Christ Consciousness of the individual would work with our 'ego' to help us learn both in this world and the next.

You said: Lucifer argued against this plan claiming that he could save all of us presumably by programming us or our circumstances so that we would all choose correctly. Lucifer's ideas caused a war in heaven and he was cast out (along with those whom he deceived) and will not obtain a body as we all have nor be able to be resurrected as we all will be.

This only makes sense to me read metaphorically or symbolically. Again, it is a common theme in many religious and spiritual beliefs but not necessarily one taken literally. Lucifer means 'light-bringer' and the name is associated with the ancient Goddess religion - it is one of the Latin names for the morning star, Venus. Given how hard the Christian church worked (actually all religions have in the patriarchal age) to demonise the religion it supplanted, that of the ancient Goddess, there is a good argument that the demonisation of Lucifer is merely misogynistic re-writing of ancient  spiritual belief.  Lucifer may well have symbolised the Double Goddess and as such could have no part in religion once God became a Man!

You said: Michael, a leader in the war in heaven, was chosen to become Adam, the father of us all; I suspect that another great and noble leader was chosen to become Eve and yet another to much later become Mary, the mother of Him on whom our redemption largely depends. Gabriel when he visited her said 'Hail thou that are highly favoured among women'.

Again, I could make sense of this reading it metaphorically not literally and in symbolic terms, yes, you can find similar teachings in many spiritual sources. Just as an example - Mary represents the feminine which is the source of our spiritual nature and Adam represents the masculine, the spirit sent forth from the source, focussed consciousness arising out of diffuse awareness but the truth of who we are (what saves us) is sourced in that which we define as feminine. The terms masculine and feminine have been so literalised their meaning is often confused - but the qualities they represent are in each and every one of us.

You said: I'm sure our Heavenly Parents discriminated very carefully in choosing her as her son's mission had to be accomplished perfectly in order for their promise of redemption for us to be kept.

It is all a bit too organised for me. More fable, parable, metaphor than possible reality. Our 'heavenly parents' - equals God, sends from the source, that which we call feminine, the son, spirit, out into the world of matter in order to make soul manifest in a world of matter; redemption being the creative expression of the spiritual as material.

You said: Jesus was born, lived a perfect life and paid the maximum possible penalty by his sufferings in Gethsemane and Golgotha. This created an Infinite Atonement giving us all an equal chance to repent and have our mistakes washed away in the blood of the Lamb. Prophets have testified of this plan of redemption from the beginning and have more often than not been rejected because repentance goes against the grain of human nature.

Yes, this never made sense to me in any literal way. Symbolically full of meaning - literally, non-sense. The literal reading is just too small, narrow, petty and unlikely. These literal and patriarchal interpretations of the bible run counter to common sense and our spiritual realities as expressed throughout history.

You said: Jesus taught ' Blessed are ye when men shall revile against you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake - for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.'

It is metaphor. What this means is that when we deny our Christ nature - our spiritual nature then we deny the truth of who and what we are and that it is not easy to either remember one's spiritual nature, nor if one does, to expect others to believe it.

You said: The repentant (not the perfect - only Jesus was or could be perfect) -

Why? If Jesus was a mortal man then he clearly was not perfect. If he was not a mortal man then there was no literal Jesus. Nothing is 'perfect' in this material world - that is the nature of it - opposites or as you would say, good and evil.

You said: are those called to 'spread the word' and the measure of our repentance is usually closely related to our effectiveness as servants to our fellow beings.

I simply do not see a need for repentance. I believe we are all utterly perfect, because we are God in essence, and we should never be judged anyway by our actions, which can be constructive or destructive - but then that is also subjective often. I believe one may condemn the act but not the individual.

You said: We don't need to worry about the justice or mercy of God - that has been demonstrated.

I don't worry. Not in the least. I don't believe any God which could exist would have a need to judge or be merciful - God is Love and Love is unconditional. To my mind it is very simple - if I am wrong then it is oblivion and I won't know about it anyway and if I am right then we all end up in the next world, not so dissimilar to what we are in this world, just without our material body - continuing on our path of becoming.

You said: We do need to consider our own ways. How just are we? How merciful?

Of course we do, within the limitations of our natures and within the woundedness that we all possess. If I learned anything growing up with a mentally ill mother (and I had a mentally ill mother-in-law) and a damaged father, it was this and I hold it as an absolute truth:

'People are more damaged than evil and more frightened than cruel.' Neither my mother or my father were capable of being more than what they were - they did their best from their place of woundedness, as did my mother-in-law and as does everyone.

You said: We are promised that as we judge others so shall we be judged (which I believe confirms what you have said about NDE experiences).

Yes, except that we are not so much judged as we re-experience our life completely including the effect we have on others - we live or re-live all that we are and all that we have been to others. But the other thing which comes out of NDE's is that there is absolutely no judgement - we just get to understand who we have been and what we have been to all those with whom we came in contact.

You said: It will be interesting to see how it all works out in the resurrection but I am sure we will all come to know that we have been fairly and mercifully dealt with and that our Heavenly Parents do in fact love us all equally.

I don't believe in a resurrection. It doesn't make sense. It is Christian dogma and not something found in most spiritual teachings throughout history.

I believe that if there is a next world it is a spiritual one as opposed to material but a better version of this - As Above;So Below. I have also read one theory, in varying forms, which does make sense to me and that is we get the heaven we expect - in other words, consciousness creates reality and if you are a Hindu you find what you expect to find, etc., and, over time, as you re-member who and what you are, there are Higher Souls, angels, pick a word, who guide and help you to move on - to other worlds perhaps or to another re-incarnation.

You said: I would refer to you Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants in which Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw a vision of the degrees of glory in the resurrection - also Section 138 in which Joseph F. Smith in 1918 reported a vision of the redemption of the dead.

Visions are tricky. Many religious and spiritual leaders had visions - there are common themes but I also feel that visions more than anything else, like dreams are meant to be interpreted metaphorically. There is very interesting material in books on Shamanism and psychology/psychiatry, showing the common archetypal themes to which we all have access through the collective unconscious as Carl Jung called it.

We 'know' subconsciously more than we know we know - as Donald Rumsfeld so famously was perhaps trying to say! One very interesting case documented by Jung, who studied astrology, mythology, I Ching and various esoteric writings was of a patient in the mental hospital who saw the sun with a phallus - a common mythic image which Jung later could recognise, but of which the man, completely illiterate, had no knowledge. And, at the time of the man's vision, Jung had no knowledge either and it was meaningless to him. Later he found instances of such 'visions' in various spiritual teachings.

Needless to say, as with all things, there are countering arguments as to the veracity of this 'story' but there is no doubt that broad and extensive reading of shamanism and mythology provide enough connections to make the original story believable. In essence, as with all things, based on our knowledge and perspective, we make up our minds what we choose to believe.I find the links between physics/science/mythology/nature/spirituality/art/religion .... well all of life actually, fascinating.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

More conversations with a Mormon......

In all honesty, having trawled through so many religions I am at the stage where I don’t, won’t, can’t believe that any religion could, would or should have more answers than any other and given the inherent levels of sexism, they are not the answers for me anyway.

I increasingly am reminded, when reading about fundamentalist or orthodox versions of Christianity how much it reminds me of the game of Bridge - a game which is in essence very simple but which, for reasons perhaps of boredom or perversity, the players have made incredibly complex if not confusing, with layers of rules, regulations and laws. In fact, this 'layering', mainly patriarchal in nature and source, can be found in all religions from what I can see. No doubt it reflects the inability of human beings to express and explain the ineffable.

Whatever the reason it has made something very simple and meaningful into something very complex and meaningless.

To me religion puts fences around God – sets conditions, and never more so than about women, despite what is said. As I know little about Mormonism you might correct me if I am wrong in my belief that the religion has males as superior in the Church – as the leaders – and men seen as heads of household. If I am wrong and women have equal opportunity and responsibility in church and home then I am happy to be corrected and grateful that the religion is more enlightened than many others.

You said:Around 75 B.C., a lawyer in the city of Ammonihah named Zeezrom got into an exchange with the prophet Amulek in which he accused him and his fellow-prophet Alma of being contrary to law because they had cried repentance to the people of that wicked city. In this exchange Amulek clarifies what is meant by the resurrection:(Alma chapter 11)
" 42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

I think I said before that all religions at core, say the same things, and all religions talk about this spiritual Self and death as being a purely material thing. So I can relate to this as something which makes sense, but it is not particular to Mormonism.

You said: 43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

This is similar to things I read or heard in Anglicanism and Catholicism. Given what I now believe I would read this symbolically and metaphorically, not literally, as in material flesh and bones being put back together like a piece of equipment – but the body existing in perfect form as spirit, not material – and ‘standing before God’ simply means awareness of our God nature – recognising our God self – and ‘bright recollection of all our guilt’ fits with ancient spiritual/religious/esoteric teachings and the experiences of NDE’s that when we pass over we ‘relive’ every moment of our lives and we see and feel all that we have done, not only for ourselves, but experiencing the feelings of others. ‘Guilt’ is from a human mind – not the mind of God – it is punitive – and the NDE experience re-inforces ancient teaching and says there is no judgement, other than our own and the fact that we feel everything we have done or caused in others. Which seems far more just to me than some God – parent figure wagging a finger and threatening punishment as so much of Christianity would have us believe.

I always found the discrepancy odd between this rather unpleasant God and the forgiving gentleness of the Jesus teachings – but of course, the former is sourced in Old Testament and the latter in New – one presumes there was some enlightenment and progress across the thousands of years.

You said: 44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil."

This fits with the scenarios described above except for the use of the judgemental words which don’t play a part in NDE’s and are not a part of much ancient esoteric knowledge. Wicked and righteous and good and evil and judge are words from a material world, not a spiritual one and words from the mouth of humans, not from the mouth of God. The son and father also puts me off immediately – sure there is a Spirit which could be feminine but she is only a ghost. I find the genderisation of God in religious dogma to be sexist if not misogynistic. I mean why can it not be Mother, Father, Child – or, as some ancient teaching sensibly had it, Mother, Father, Daughter, Son? The message would remain the same – the gist would remain the same – it just would not discriminate against women.

You said: If 'not so much as a hair of their heads shall be lost' I conclude that those organs which enable us to propagate our own kind shall also be restored to us and that if we have honoured our marital covenants in faith that we will be restored to our family relationships as well. The prophet Lorenzo Snow stated: 'As man is God once was and as God is man may become'. His sister Eliza, who was married to the Prophet Joseph Smith, wrote a poem which we still sing as a hymn and which includes the line 'truth is reason, truth eternal tells me I've a Mother there' i.e. in the eternities. So when I wrote about a Mother in Heaven I wasn't referring only to Mary but also to that divine, though unnamed being who is the mother of our spirits because of the marital covenant she honoured with Heavenly Father aeons ago on another planet. It is my thought that she has chosen to remain anonymous so as to help her spirit children focus on the all-important atonement of Christ and the way of light and truth he taught.

It smacks of a small human view of what the next world, or the real world might be about. From all I have read and from thinking about it I suspect sex is likely in the next world – As Above: so Below – but with an energy, spiritual body, not a material one – I see no reason though why that body should not look as the material body does.
The last bit can certainly work – there are many teachings in many cultures which hold that this earth was ‘seeded’ by beings from another planet. That we are spirit children.

I don’t have a fixed view on this. It makes sense, it might be possible but given that I believe our true nature is spiritual I don’t think it matters how this material world and our kind came into being.

You said: I see nothing in Christ's teachings about a need for loss of faith (at least not in anything true) but much about the need for a faith in him which will result in our being healed of all our sins and infirmities through that infinite Atonement which he accomplished at Gethsemane and on the cross. To quote Amulek once more:(Alma chapter 34)

I draw upon far more than Christ’s teachings as the basis for what I believe and I also feel that the teachings, like the bible, have been so literalised, that the true meaning has been lost or remains hidden. It simply doesn’t make sense to me that we are born sinful – we are God and I believe we are born perfect and remain perfect, but are in a process of learning and becoming through material experience. I also believe that ‘sin’ is ignorance and the only healing required is understanding we are spiritual beings and operating in this material world from and with that knowledge. It doesn’t make sense to me that humans should be born sinful and need someone – Jesus – to make it up to God for them. That sounds to me like Man, not God. More to the point, it can’t work given that millions of people have never heard of Jesus, so why should they suffer? It is not their fault. And millions are also mentally disabled so would not understand anyway – they should not be punished for their afflication – punished more for their affliction. It not only makes no sense it is unkind, unreasonable and unjust.

"13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.

This sort of thing no doubt worked well in Sumeria a few thousand years ago but doesn’t make sense read literally in this day and age. Read symbolically and metaphorically one can find meaning. ‘sacrifice’ means surrendering or ‘dying’ to belief as much as any literal sacrifice – blood represents the life force and when we ignore or deny our spiritual or Godselves we ‘waste’ or ‘shed’ our life force – we are less effective. Moses is another light-worker or guide – ‘law’ is another word for teaching – so in essence, all is as it should be or as Hildegard of Bingen so famously said, one of my favourite quotes: ‘all is well and all is well and all manner of things are well.’

You said: 14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

This is a human approach – one big fix and all is set to rights. If you read it literally. If you read it symbolically and metaphorically as I would – I would read this as saying the ‘final surrender’ realising we are spiritual beings not just material means that we surrender to the truth of who and what we are – eternal beings – and what needs to be surrendered or sacrificed to do that, what needs to ‘die’ is our focussed consciousness – represented by the Masculine, the Son – so that (as Buddhists and Hindus teach) we may immerse ourselves in and know ourselves to be the source – the feminine, the Mother, the eternal One. In this way the masculine and feminine energies, through sacrifice, are united in the sacred marriage – the Hieros Gamos.

You said: 15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance."

Read literally this is thoroughly unkind and unjust – believe in Jesus and you get to be saved. Tough luck for the rest. Read symbolically it is much better – believe in the Christ energy within you, your spiritual self, and you are ‘saved’ from a purely material existence.

You said: The reason I try to be obedient to the Word of Wisdom and other teachings of Jesus is not so much fear of ill health as a desire to show faith in him and hope to receive the promised 'great treasures of knowledge'.

And I am sure that is the path for you and I respect that. I was not suggesting it was a fear of ill health, just that Smith was more preacher than herbalist or healer. He should have stuck to the day job! But I don’t believe in the sort of absolutes which all religions require – for me it is nonsensical to believe that the teachings of one person are the only way you get to be saved – actually it is nonsensical to me to believe that one even needs saving. I have lived around the world, much of it in the Third World and just as I could not believe my deeply damaged and often destructive parents were deserving of either judgement or punishment, so, when I look around me at the struggle, suffering, courage, integrity, nobility and decency of so many people who don’t, won’t or can’t believe what you suggest it is clear to me that such ‘saving’ is not from the mind of any God but from man…. Given the discrimination against women … I have to say men.

You said: Centuries later, after the destruction of the Nephites, the great prophet Moroni, son of Mormon, wrote of how the truth of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets he sends can be verified:
"1 Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.

I realise that this represents truths for you but the fact is that I don’t hold the Bible itself to be true in any absolute sense so I would no more hold the writings of Joseph Smith, however inspired, to be true in any absolute sense. Smith is like Mohammed in many ways – a man of his times, who clearly had some sort of mystical/spiritual experience and who set about writing down a set of rules or laws or teachings sourced in his existing spiritual/religious knowledge but impacted by the values and mores of the times.

 The most sense Islam makes is when the Koran is read in light of the times in which it was written. The excesses of Islam came not from Mohammad, who actually wasn’t particularly sexist for his era – his wife was older than him and had her own business – but from men tinkering, editing and propagandising later. I am not saying Smith is the same – I have read more of the Koran than Mormonism. But what you write here just looks to me like a ‘case’ for his cause. There’s nothing wrong with that but if I don’t believe the bible is very factual, then why would I believe anything else is? I wouldn’t.

You said: 2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

Well, exhort they may but I never believe everything I read – I think about it, read more, read all sides of a position and then it has to be compassionate, just and sensible before I will consider accepting it as a possible truth. Much of the bible and most religious/spiritual teachings I have read fail on all counts.

However, I could interpret this symbolically and metaphorically where it could make more sense.  But there are better writings and teachings about such things anyway.

You said:        4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."

Apart from the fact that Father raises my Hackles immediately I would interpret this as – open yourself to God, to all that is, in the name of your spiritual Godself, and through the power of your heart (your literal heart both thinks and feels) instead of just your brain, have faith in your Christ nature, your spiritual self and you will have access to greater truth by the power of your feminine Self. The masculine energy (in all of us) reflects focussed consciousness and is sourced in the feminine (in all of us) which represents diffuse awareness. The feminine gives birth to the masculine - the implicate order makes manifest the explicate as the physicists would have it.

You said: Roslyn, I have carried into practice this exhortation of Moroni ; I have , over many years, read, pondered and asked in faith and in Christ's name about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and can testify that many times God has indeed manifested its truth to me by the power of the Holy Ghost. Millions of my fellow Latter-day Saints can likewise so testify which is why the Book of Mormon has gone from being an almost unsaleable, completely misunderstood and vilified book to being a mighty influence for good as another testament of Christ.

Mark I think that is wonderful, I honestly do. I believe that we all have our own ways to walk in this world and this is not an easy place to be. What matters is not what someone else does but what we do as we follow our own truth – your truth is not my truth and my truth is not your truth but the God in which I believe wants each of us to only be true to ourselves that we may become to the very fullest, all that we are and all we are meant to be.

And I have no doubt that the book of Mormon, like any inspired book - for such things arise from inspiration, mystical experience, has some wisdom and truth and insight - but it also reflects the values and attitudes of the man who wrote it and no-one ever gets it all right!
I don’t believe as you do but I can also say that many times, and still, and frequently, what I call God has manifested as a reality in life and as companion, guide and friend on the path.  For me this manifests both as material and spiritual – synchronicities – happenings, circumstances – material angels and spiritual angels – through daily life, dreams, meditations and through books, signs, symbols and insights. And often through the most wonderful sense of humour - important for me as I have a tendency to be quite serious, just not taking anything too seriously - which is also an Australian cultural attitude.

And that is how it is meant to be. Your way is right for you and my way is right for me. I have absolutely no problem with people choosing a religion as their spiritual structure, just as I have absolutely no problem with people who choose to be atheists or agnostics or who choose similar paths to mine. I don’t believe any of it matters. I believe we all live eternally and the only task we have is to experience this material world as spiritual beings and to grow in consciousness so that we may be more effective co-creators with what I call God.

You said: One of its most often quoted passages is the teaching of Sariah's visionary husband Lehi to his son Jacob around 580 B.C. " All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time that he may redeem the children of men from the fall." I'm sure our Mother in Heaven desires nothing so much as that as many of her spirit daughters and sons as will may be redeemed and restored to her presence to enjoy the sacred privileges she and our heavenly father enjoy. Our acceptance of Jesus and his atoning sacrifice is the key to the fulfilment of that desire.

It is good to see the feminine get a look-in. I don’t know if you have studied Gnosticism but the fact is that the feminine and the female were much more a part of Christianity in the early years. Men beavering away with quill in hand have spent centuries writing women out and writing in some of the most sexist and misogynistic teachings we have known. And not just in Christianity – Hinduism, Judaism, Islam – all have suffered from the poisonous pen of patriarchy.
You said: Whether or not any of this makes any sense to you I hope you will have come away from this conversation with an understanding that Mormons are believers in Jesus Christ and that a war against women is not one of their objectives!

Thankyou it does make sense to me as to what you believe –it doesn’t make sense to me often, as a belief. And yes, I can see that Mormons are believers in Jesus Christ but it just seems like a variation on the theme of patriarchal Christianity.  I don’t believe a war against women is the objective of any religion no matter how misogynstic they may be.

What I believe is that all religions have suffered from the patriarchal age and that distorts all of their teachings. If this were not the case then women would play equal roles in all religions. They do not. The Anglicans have gone further than most and are probably the most enlightened with women priests and an active attitude of gender equality. And the Quakers were an exception but they are a small group.

From what I can see and correct me if I am wrong, Mormonism also spells out specific roles for men and women, roles which leave women subordinate if not subjugated. That to me is the sign of religious teachings which are not only out of date they are out of place in a modern, democratic and enlightened world.

However, having said that, if people find fulfilment living in such a way then that is their choice and I respect it. It is not the way I would ever choose to live and neither would it suit most people I know although there are some exceptions amongst Indian Hindu friends who are sourced in one of the most misogynistic cultures on earth.

So the really good news is that you are happy with where you are and I am happy with where I am. It is all good! And, at this stage in the process I know even more clearly why I made the decision many years ago to stick with God and forget about religion.

The conversations continue this time with Mormons....

The internet has been throwing up a variety of conversations on religion, spirituality, women  in religion and the Bible and it has been and remains an interesting learning curve. I have never been exposed to Mormons, despite the young men who so often came to the door seeking to convert and whom I always greet graciously and converse with briefly - although some of the more determined ones have left with nothing more to say after I have countered all of their theological arguments with spiritual answers of my own.

But my knowledge of Mormonism, like Fundamentalist Christianity, has been minimal. Recent conversations however have made no inroads onto the impressions I had of both of them.

And so I reply to my new Mormon friend:

I do find discussions like this interesting if only because I think and feel it is important to ask questions even when you think you have answers. And this is long because I wanted to go through what you said carefully, think about it and respond carefully. I am nothing if not prolific – I warn you.

You said: My Dad had a volume in our family bookshelves entitled "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours". When I perused it (at age 11 or thereabouts) it challenged my faith. But noticing Dad's continuing activity in Church, (he later became Bishop of the Philadelphia Ward) I put it among my unanswered questions until in my late teens I read a sermon by Joseph F. Smith pointing out that all this material is evidence that the Gospel in its fullness was given to Adam (including the necessity of an atonement to be accomplished by the sacrifice of The Only Begotten, 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world') and that the many variations on the theme are simply the results of men's innate tendency to embellish and substitute priestcraft for revealed prophetic truth. The relevant scripture is Moses 5:5-15 in The Pearl of Great Price (also available at

Interesting that you had seen the book. I have not read it but have read quite a few others. By the time I started reading this sort of book I had read a great deal of mythology and history - European, African, Asian - and I could see the substance.

I would find it very hard to believe that any God would give all there was to know to one particular person and religion and that 'all knowledge' was in one source. The more I read about world religions, mythology and history the clearer it was that they all said at core the same things.

I have to say what you have posted here by Joseph Smith as an explanation sounds to me like a theological quickstep - that's like a parent saying you will do it because I say so - Smith says, well, I am right and they are wrong because I say so - they embellish and substitute but I have the truth. Inherent in this is a demand that people accept on faith that Smith had the truth.

I don't believe any person, religion, culture or system of belief has the truth - it all reminds me of the story of the blind men and the elephant - they all had hold of a bit of the elephant and they were convinced they knew what it was but they did not have enough 'vision' or 'sight' to see the whole thing. Each was convinced of the absolute nature of his own truth - religions are like that.

You said: I am not a scientist, but do from time to time enjoy reading about science.

I am not a scientist either but science, amongst many other things, fascinates me and I have been reading and continue to read for 40 years.

You said: This short summary is in response to a novel by John Updike in which one of the main characters,Clarence Wilmot, loses his faith because he finds himself unable to refute the reasonings of the popular agnostic lecturer Robert Ingersoll around 1910. I don't feel qualified to comment on the work of Charles Darwin, so I shall abstain from such comment.

I worked for a Catholic priest years ago, my editor – an erudite, educated and wise man, who said that everyone needs to lose their faith or ‘throw away their religion’ at some time particularly if they have gained their faith as a child. He said this was the only way to return to faith as an adult.

Since then I have read so many wonderful books on the loss of faith and the spiritual search – the most recent Thomas Moore’s Dark Night of the Soul and I almost see the loss of faith, of any kind actually, as the Hero’s (using that term for male and female as these days we say actor for all and don’t use actress.) Quest.

You said: Science and the scriptures are in complete agreement about the finite time during which life has been and shall be sustainable on earth.

I would disagree with that from what I have read although I do agree that a case can be made for agreement between some scientific and religious positions. In all honesty, I don’t actually consider it to be important given that I believe this world exists ‘eternally’ in another dimension and as Einstein so famously said: ‘Energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed.’ All is energy, ergo: nothing is destroyed. But explaining such a concept is hard enough for me to do for myself than to anyone else.

You said: Both science and the Bible say that at one time the earth was 'void', unable to sustain life,

Certainly and the same teachings are found in Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Goddess Religion and countless other spiritual and shamanistic belief systems. To me this fits with the universe as more ‘thought’ than ‘machine’ and the ‘void’ being the eternal, timeless consciousness which is God. The unable to sustain life is a reference to material life as we know it. Given that we don’t and can’t know what, if any other life forms exist on other planets, neither can we know what existed in on this earth before ‘life’ as we would define it.

You said:  and that at some future time life on earth will be destroyed, most probably by fire.

I believe religious and scientific theory is open to interpretation and ‘fire’ in an esoteric and symbolic sense is ‘thought’ or consciousness. In other words, to me, this ‘fire’ could be no more than consciousness changing what is for if nothing can be destroyed, which science and spirituality maintain cannot, then destruction, like death, can only be transformation. In other words, we advance and move beyond this material world because we no longer have any use for it and no longer need to create it.

You said: There is a consensus among those possessing the acquirements necessary to rightly assess historical truth that David and Solomon lived, as did their successors and ancestors.

The difficulty here is that so much of the ‘evidence’ is biblically sourced. There is virtually no solid archeological evidence for their existence and when reading sources for biblical evidence it always has to be borne in mind that much of it comes from people who believe the Bible and set out to find the evidence which supports the theory as opposed to strict archaeology which finds the concrete evidence and then looks to find support for the theory.

But again, I don’t think it matters if they did or didn’t. I know it does to Biblical scholars because the more they can find proof of history the more they can claim that more of the Bible is true.

You said:  The destruction of Jerusalem around 586 B.C. is recognized as fact by both the scriptures and qualified historians.That Augustus Caesar, Herod, Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Jesus, Herodias, Salome, Pontius Pilate, Saul of Tarsus and others lived and acted the parts attributed to them in the N.T. is generally agreed by qualified students of that era.

Again I would disagree. I have read sources which support the ‘official story’ and sources which provide different stories and interpretations. There is a credible case for Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus, if one is to believe enough to accept Jesus as a historical figure and that is definitely not a part of the official story and definitely not agreed on. It isn’t important to me if Jesus Christ were a real figure or a mythic creation – nor if he married or not. But I know it is to orthodox Biblical scholars.

You said: The scriptures contain many passages which are enigmatic, tantalising, and mysterious, but few if any which have been scientifically disproved.

There is a massive difference between being scientifically disproved and scientifically proven. I actually find science has too much of a materialist mindset and limits its capacity for knowledge but I also recognise that as a system of assessment it has its strengths. There is also much evidence that a lot of what is said to be history in the bible is wrong. There is in fact no archeological or scientific evidence for an Israel or Jerusalem as cited in Judaism or Christianity – rather the evidence supports the existence of Hebrew tribes, just like numerous other tribes, inhabiting Canaan/Palestine.

There is also a credible argument that the Hebrews gained their monotheistic beliefs living in Egypt during the reign of Akhenaton, a fascinating figure who, it could be argued, was the first to come up with a monotheistic religion. And at the time the Hebrews went to Canaan it was an Egyptian colony so there is a better chance that they were expelled after Akhenaton died, because they followed him and he was in disrepute and they did not invade and kill the Canaanites but were allowed safe passage by the Egyptians.

It is all fascinating and we may never really know – I am struck though by the linkages between the Ancient Egyptian religion and Christianity and Judaism. The word Amen I suspect comes from the Egyptian – Amen Ra – their Sun (Son) God! It is these connections which litter myth, history, religion and spirituality which fascinate me.

You said: There have, of course, been a plethora of interpretations of the scriptures which have been shown to be wrong (for example Isaac Newton's conclusion that the world would end around 1867.) Time has shown that Newton was interpreting the enigmatic texts using incorrect premises- but the texts themselves,while still enigmatic, are not either proven or disproved by science.

I don’t hold science as a given when it comes to proof or lack of it anyway. But I don’t need the Bible to be literal.

You said: To reject the scriptures as mere myth or legend when they contain so much accepted truth is not reasonable, but far be it from me to accuse our flawed-but-still-lovable human race of any sort of consistent reasonableness- especially when my own thoughts and actions so often fall short of consistent rationality!

I don’t reject them as such. I don’t reject them at all, I just don’t believe they are meant to be taken as literally as they are. I believe the scriptures have some history in them but do not amount to historical record. I believe they are a collection of history, myths, legends, theories, beliefs, propaganda and policies which contain some truth, some lies, some misinterpretation, some mistranslations, some confusions and some poetry.

In simple terms I don’t believe the bible has been read correctly because the literal interpretations are so often, well, quite simply unkind, if not intolerant that I can’t believe they are sourced in any true spirituality. In other words the biggest problem with the scriptures is human agendas! More to the point masculine human agendas.

You said:  The miracles related in the scriptures have been debated but not disproved. Many have the support of multiple credible witnesses.

No, they don’t have credible witnesses because the Bible is not a credible archeological or historical record. Although I don’t think that matters.

You said:  In a day in which DNA sequencing and cloning are everyday occurrences the eventual resurrection of the body has never seemed more reasonable.

I agree that given what we know about this world today – and given what spiritual teachings, the Hindus and Buddhists in particular, said millennia ago, long before Judaism and Christianity, and given what Quantum physics is now finding, I think we are in a much better position to re-interpret some Biblical stories and to find greater levels of understanding.

Eventual resurrection doesn’t make sense to me – the spiritual or energy body leaving at the death of the material body does make sense and is what survivors of NDE report and what mystics and shamans have talked about for millennia. The Doppleganger effect, which has been documented, is evidence that we possess both a material and an energy body. We don’t need to resurrect at a later date because we never die. Only the material body dies and that is not us – it is a costume we wear in this world.

You said:  To ridicule the Virgin Birth of Christ in a time when artificial insemination is routinely practiced by mere mortals seems to me ludicrously out-of-date.

I can see what you are getting at but I am not sure it is so much ‘out of date’ as lacking greater perspective. I don’t happen to think it matters if there were a Virgin birth or not – what I do think is that a Virgin birth is unnecessary and more likely to be a neat patriarchal twist. But then as I said, I lean more toward JC not being a historical figure.

But if he did live then there is absolutely no reason why he could not have been created normally. In other words, no need for ancient IVF. However, given what I believe about this energy world in which we live, anything is possible.

I do believe that there are Advanced Souls, call them angels if you like, or lightworkers, who are here in this material dimension but in spiritual or energy form – Jesus could have been one of those and the Virgin birth explanation just the only way people could make sense of it at the time.

You said:  Healing by faith among believers is now and has often been rather commonplace and is abundantly documented. I am myself an eyewitness of such healing.

I agree completely. Materialist science disagrees completely although advances in physics and Allopathic medicine are bringing greater awareness and understanding of the energy body/bodies we possess along with the material. The Hindus and Buddhists and the Chinese (without religion) have known about these things for millennia – long before the Bible or the Torah.

I find it exciting that these truly ancient spiritual teachings and more recent healing methodologies sourced in such beliefs, like Homeopathy, are being utilised and better understood.

The research into the Mind/Body connection, which even some aspects of science and medicine are beginning to accept, fits with some of the most ancient spiritual teachings and makes it clear that Mind does affect Matter and that we do ‘create our own reality’ in a very material way.

You said:  Of the miracle of the raising of life from a dead, void earth we are all eyewitnesses.

I have no problem at all believing that someone who is clinically dead can be returned to life. Near Death Experiences have also been recorded for centuries but there are more and more of them today and they are clear evidence that death is merely a transition to another world.

 You said: For that to have happened randomly, seems far more miraculous and improbable to me than if it happened by an omnipotent Father's plan.

I agree on the random but I don’t think it needs to be part of a plan and neither does the omnipotent force need to be genderised as male. I disagree with Darwinism, the evolutionary religion of science, because like a lot of religions as we know them, it is too literal, too absolute and too dogmatic.

I see evolution as a part of the explanation not the only explanation.

You said:  But each of us is given the capacity to freely choose how to interpret the miracles of our lives- that too, according to the scriptures, is part of our Father in Heaven's plan.

The Father bit puts me off and always did. I might have stayed with Christianity if there were not so much He, Him, Father, Son stuff – I wouldn’t have liked the female version of it either although what I like about the Goddess religion is it doesn’t do that in the same way – but God without gender is an absolute for me. I think someone did produce a non-gender version of the bible which is a step in the right direction.

As to it being part of a plan – I have moved toward the view that we do come into this world having planned our life in terms of experience – as the Arabs would say: ‘It is written,’ and as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, ‘All the world’s a stage and we must play our part,’ …… so I don’t think we can necessarily choose again in this world what happens to us but I do think free will allows us to choose, within the limits of our nature and circumstances, what we do with it.

I think the choosing is done before we re-incarnate. Although I do wonder about the ‘String Theory’ aspect of Quantum Physics and extrapolating on that, if we do in fact follow different paths when we make different choices – in other words – the ‘play’ we wrote for ourselves in the Real World, that world beyond death, has a multitude of ‘endings’ depending on how we use our free will and the choices we make.

I am still pondering that one but it makes a lot of sense to me.

You said: Unfortunately many, like Updike's Clarence Wilmot, are "carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Paul, Eph.4:14)

Well, astrology and my version of String Theory can also explain this. Some people are carried about but perhaps that is their journey, their lesson, and a lesson for others. I actually believe our main task is to increase consciousness but I am nowhere near fixed on that as a view either given that excellent people live excellent lives without becoming particularly conscious.

Although I believe there are cosmic life experiences just as there are personal life experiences and astrology also supports that, and to that end, I believe or feel, we are at a point in history where consciousness is increasing and is meant to increase to take us closer to the truth of our spiritual selves and our role as co-creators with God in this material world.

You said:        The moral standards and teachings of the scriptures have abundant and increasing support in well-accepted social science, medical and legal literature.

I don’t have a problem with this as long as those teachings and standards are just, fair and compassionate. And that they make sense.

You said: One example: The Word of Wisdom, a revelation given through Joseph Smith February 27, 1833 from which I quote: " Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation- that inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him…….

This smacks of Man not God to me. Human beings have been creating alcoholic drinks since the beginning and there are few, if any, tribes or groups which did not or do not make alcoholic drinks. I see alcohol as God’s gift to the world – beats pharmaceuticals any day and, as with all things, if used in moderation is both food and medicine.

And of course this is not a general Christian teaching but one specific to Mormonism. Jesus according to the stories was not averse to wine and Anglicans and Catholics and other versions of Christianity do not have a problem with it either.

You said: And, behold, this should be wine, yea pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

Except that the Christians have been instrumental in making alcohol for millennia and the monks and nuns made many strong alcoholic drinks we still have today as medicines. It is silly to say it is not for the belly. Many liqueurs and aperitifs are invaluable digestives in a physiological sense.

And recent studies show people who drink no alcohol are less healthy and don’t live as long as people who drink some alcohol.

You said: And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgement and skill.

This is a man talking, not God or a healer. Tobacco is a herb, absolutely and an invaluable one. It was originally recommended for asthmatics among other things. The problem with smoking is not tobacco, it is the chemical cocktail which cigarettes have become and the over-use of them which is the problem. Nicotine settles the gut and has a medicative effect on a number of diseases, which is why nicotine is now administered in drug form as a treatment. It’s calming effect is also why those in traumatic situations are more likely to smoke – soldiers, doctors, nurses, police, ambulance and emergency staff etc. Moderation in all things is the key.

You said: And again hot drinks are not for the body or belly....all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen"

That’s a bit of a tall order for avoiding hot drinks and doesn’t make sense either. Coffee, tea, chocolate, herbal teas etc., are all medicinal and good for one if drunk in moderation. And to be honest, if someone purporting to have a hotline to God tried to tell me that I couldn’t drink tea, coffee or anything hot because it was unhealthy and because it would get me Brownie points with God, I would think he was delusional.

Smith may have been a better preacher than herbalist if he says these sorts of things. There is a wealth of advice about the body and my view is that we are all different and if it works for you then great, but if not then don’t bother with it. The Chinese, who have developed one of the most effective and remarkable healing methodologies in the world, one thousands of years old, believe that drinking iced water is bad for you when the weather is cold because it impacts digestion. That makes sense. They also say that it is worse for some people than for others and worse more at some times than other times. That also makes sense.

A general rule banning hot drinks does not make sense and even less sense if keeping to cold drinks keeps people healthier given that few people in the world abide by that and the world population keeps growing. And the longest living groups of people in the world consume hot drinks! I am guessing this is a Mormon rule – it is the first time I have ever heard of such a thing. And I am guessing that most Mormons live in the US but the best longevity rates show the US doesn’t even make the top ten – Australia comes ninth. Andorra, in France is first, then China, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland – none of which have any bans on hot drinks. But here’s one thing they all have in common – a respect for and enjoyment of good food!

There is an Arab teaching that we come into this world with a certain number of breaths and that makes sense to me. Our health is sourced in our genetic, astrological, circumstantial and physiological inheritances and conditions. We have free will over how we live but I am not convinced that how we live predicates on when we die. Some people smoke, drink, live on fast food and live long and healthy lives – others eat mung beans, exercise, fast, vegan, whatever and die while cycling of a heart attack in their fifties.

There is some very interesting research done and continuing on twins, revealing that certain medical conditions are likely to appear regardless of what one eats, drinks or does. I am for moderation and I listen to and observe my body – I do believe that there is more nourishment in food which is as natural as possible, organic and locally sourced but I also believe the crucial thing is that one enjoys what one eats or drinks. If you enjoy it then it does you good. Enjoying food or drink, taking it in consciously and with gratitude is what I call prayer.

Having lived in India for four years and various African countries for the past dozen or more I simply don’t believe that half the food/drink/exercise rules preached at us in the West,  make sense or provide any guarantees of health or longer life. Apart from which some of the true delights of my day are my coffee mid morning and afternoon and after dinner – my tea at breakfast and lunch and my wine or spirits in the evening – that and some excellent food cooked with love and enjoyment and eaten with those I love… or alone if need be. My drink of choice beyond tea, coffee, wine is water!

It has been interesting going through your post and pondering as I post in reply. Thanks for taking the time to write. I really don’t expect you to read this all but I found it interesting to go through what you said and formulate responses.