The Nature of Creative Intelligence

The religious powers-that-be describe the qualities and characteristics of their particular deities in various ways. For example, the supreme being of Islam, Allah, and the ‘Father God’ of Christianity are loving, fair and merciful, but mete out stern justice to non-believers in the afterlife. These beliefs are a matter of faith and rely solely on ancient ideas captured in scripture written long ago.

G_d

I don’t believe in this kind of g_d, but I do believe that there is a Creative Intelligence underpinning and infusing everything. Many quantum physicists – including Einstein and Max Planck – agree. This Intelligence is certainly not a person, but a ‘presence’ or ‘principle’.

Its qualities can be inferred from science, experience and common sense. The world around us provides plenty of evidence that intelligence is at work. It has beauty, order, meaning and intent. What kind of power could produce these effects? Only a positive, bountiful and constructive life force. What would life on Earth be like if this were not so? Could we exist? How long would we survive? Could life on this planet, where everything is in perfect balance, have been created by a malevolent power? A negative life force would surely destroy its own creation.

Since Creative Intelligence is inherently good and it flows through everything, then everything must in essence be inherently good. Only human ignorance and stupidity disturb the balance of nature. Imagine if we were to disappear like the dinosaurs millions of years ago; the Earth would soon be returned to its natural state of harmony.

If humans were to raise their consciousness, rise above their destructive behaviours and work together to create a perfect world, who knows what would be possible?

©David Lawrence Preston, 23.7.18

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

365 Spirituality book

Science and Christianity

Christianity has always had an uneasy relationship with science. Many scientific discoveries have appeared to question the very basis of this religion.

The problem for Christians is that some of the statements in the Bible are just plain WRONG. For example, at the time the Genesis creation stories were written, the Hebrews believed that the Earth at the centre of the universe, it was flat and covered by a dome above which were ‘the waters’. Occasionally the dome leaked (it rained). The sun and stars were fixed to the inside of the dome, and below the ground was the place of the dead, portrayed by the ancient Greeks as Hades.

It’s hardly worth stating that we know better now.

In the Middle Ages, scientists were harshly treated for publishing theories which were perceived to contradict Biblical teachings. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) published an astronomical model in 1543 which had the sun at the centre of the universe and the Earth and the other planets rotating around it. He did not attract the censure of the Catholic Church at the time, but Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) was not so lucky a century later when he propounded a similar view. The church declared his findings false and contrary to scripture and forbade him to promote his theory.

Galileo later defended his views in his ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’, which angered the Pope and the Jesuits, both of whom had supported him up until this point. He was tried by the Holy Office, found guilty of heresy and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It took 359 years to rectify this wrong. In 1992, Pope John Paul ll acknowledged in a speech that the Catholic Church had erred in condemning him.

For several hundred years, science and religion staged an uneasy standoff. Scientists avoided making contentious statements about religion and vice versa. Then came Charles Darwin, the author of ‘The Origin of Species’. He was declared ‘an enemy of God’ for daring to advocate a theory that refuted the church’s view of creation. Even so, he never lost his belief in a creative force behind the universe. He wrote, ‘When I wrote The Origin of Species, my faith in God was as strong as that of a bishop.’

Some pioneers of science had no difficulty seeing science and religion as compatible. Albert Einstein was viewed as a heretic by the church, yet he had a profound belief in a universal mind, spirit or creative intelligence that transcended the universe and was beyond our comprehension. He and many others, including Sir Isaac Newton and the ‘Father of Quantum Mechanics’, Max Planck, shared a sense of humility and awe at what they discovered in the natural world and gave the credit to this creative intelligence.

Nowadays the church is more comfortable with scientific research. The Catholic Church, for instance, employs ordained scientists to investigate such diverse subjects as the big bang, epigenetics and global warming, but their starting point is always the Bible teachings. They seek to fit the data to the Bible teachings, not find the best explanation that fits the data. We are without doubt gaining a greater understanding of how the material universe works, but are no nearer to understanding why the universe is as it is than were the ancient Hebrews or Greeks.

©David Lawrence Preston, 12.6.18

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Front cover 201 things

Where are you at?

In his best-selling book, Further Along the Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck pointed out that we are not all at the same place in terms of our spiritual growth. He identified four ‘stages’ of growth. If you had to pick one which most accurately describes you, which would it be?

Stage One

Stage One people have little or no interest in spirituality. They appear to have few moral principles and live chaotic lives. Some, however, rise to positions of power, including some politicians, business leaders, etc.

Stage One people occasionally become painfully aware of their situation. Some rise above it and some self-destruct. Some convert to Stage Two. When this happens, it can be sudden, for example, a dramatic religious conversion.

Have you previously rejected the very idea of spirituality but are now beginning to take an interest? If so, it’s possible that you are ready to move on from Stage One.

Stage Two

State Two people look to authority and are dependent on an organisation for their governance. This could be the military, a business organisation, public institution or religious body. According to Peck, the majority of traditional religious believers fall into this category. They rely on their religion for stability and to deliver them from uncertainty.

Sooner or later some Stage Two people (often the young) question the need for an organisation with rigid structures, rituals and superstitions and begin to move to Stage Three.

Are you a person who likes conformity, respects authority and likes rules? Do you look outside yourself for leadership and control? If so, you’re probably at Stage Two.

Stage Three

These people dislike authority and feel no need to look to an organisation for direction. Some are agnostics or atheists; some are drawn to other philosophies. They are truth seekers without being religious in the usual sense of the word. They are often involved in causes working for peace and justice.

Stage Three people often regard Stage Two people as brainwashed and gullible, while Stage Two people feel threatened by them because of their lack of respect for convention.

As they develop, they begin to glimpse a bigger picture and may even begin to take an interest in some of the mythology that engages their Stage Two associates. At this point, they begin to move towards Stage Four.

Have you turned you back on organised religion yet have a sense that there must be more to life than you’re currently experiencing if only you could find it? If so, you’re probably at Stage Three.

Stage Four

Stage Four individuals believe in the underlying connectedness between all things. They are comfortable with the mystery of life and seek to explore it more deeply. They are inspired by some aspects of the great religions, but not bound to them.

At first sight, Stage Two and Stage Four people appear opposites, yet they have much in common. They may recognise the same passages of scripture, but interpret them differently.

Stage Three people are baffled by Stage Four. On the one hand, they aspire to their awareness and spirituality, while being puzzled about their interest in those old myths and legends.

Peck acknowledged that people do not always fall neatly into categories and that there is some overlap. For instance, Stage Three or Four people may turn to the church at times of celebration or stress, drawing strength and/or comfort from its rituals. They are also to be seen on religious premises when rites of passage take place – what clerics call ‘hatching, matching and dispatching’.

If you have a sense of your own spirituality and the one-ness of all things, you are probably at Stage Four.

If not – let me take you there!

©David Lawrence Preston, 28.12.2017

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

365 Spirituality book

How To Books, 2007.

Front cover 201 things

Balboa Press, 2015

 

Buddhism, Animals and the Environment

I was first attracted to Buddhism because it seemed to me to be more eco-friendly than other traditions. It seemed more enlightened than Christianity, Islam and Judaism!  But recent investigations have made me wonder if this is really true as we shall see.

In ancient times when the world’s major religions were created they had no notion that the life support systems of our home planet could be destroyed by human activity. But  we now have a global view and we have seen what bad stewardship by humans can accomplish – overpopulation, polluted seas and atmosphere, global warming, deforestation, soil erosion, animal, fish and bird species dying off at an alarming rate to mention just a few.

In Biblical times animal sacrifices were considered desirable as a means of pleasing the deities, and the Roman rulers murdered living creatures for entertainment. It is said that on one day alone 70,000 animals were slaughtered in the Colosseum just for the spectacle. They had no notion that entire species such as lions and tigers could one day be threatened with extinction forever.

We simply can’t interpret 2,500 year-old ideas in the light of 21st Century knowledge and priorities.

Ethical attitudes and the place of animals

In principle Buddhist attitudes to the natural world are very clear. The First Buddhist Precept states ‘I undertake to refrain from harming living beings. Abstaining from violence is a requirement of the Eight Fold Path incorporating Right Action and Right Livelihood. A modern interpretation by Thich Nhat Hahn (in his ‘Order of Inter-being’) includes:

  • 11th Precept: Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans or nature.
  • 12th Precept: Do not kill. Do not let others kill.

Could that be any clearer? No harming, no violence, no butchering or hunting. No profiting from destructive and cruel activities. Non-violence towards all beings and the planet.

Should animals be considered as equal worth as humans? Other religions also have strong views on this. The Hebrew Scriptures (OT) tells us that God granted humans stewardship over the Earth and all living creatures.  Does this mean we have divine permission to exploit them?

Not in Buddhism. Buddhism says we should respect all sentient beings. Fair enough, but what is a sentient being?  Elephants, dolphins, horses, sheep, fish, birds and so on for sure. But how about insects, bacteria, single cell life and viruses – does the First Precept apply equally to them? Clearly not.

It is complicated in Buddhism by the belief that there is a possibility of being reincarnated as an animal and maybe having been animals in previous lives. How could we harm a creature that may once have been our mother?

In my opinion all creatures have just as much right to a dignified and cruelty-free life in their own natural environment as we do and Buddhism seems to agree. Good karma arises from taking care of vegetation, waterways, forests and minerals too. Caring for the planet, not exploiting it indiscriminately is a good thing. And so it should be.

A hierarchical world

Even so, like other religions, Buddhism assumes a clear hierarchical structure. Humans are central to Buddhist teachings. Its goal is to encourage advancement towards personal enlightenment.  So humans are above the animals. The idea that all beings are of equal worth and interdependent is not a prime motivator, although there is ‘merit’ in taking care of the natural world.

For me it is disappointing that the welfare of some species considered more important than others. For instance, when a bullfighter gets injured in the ring, who do I feel sorry for? The bull, naturally.

How the Four Main Virtues relate to animals and the natural world

The Four Main Virtues in Buddhism are:

  • Loving kindness
  • Compassion
  • Joy
  • Equanimity

With respect to the natural world they raise a number of questions, such as:

  • Is it OK to cull some animals (e.g. badgers, foxes, seals) to protect perceived human interests?
  • Is killing a whale, elephant or lion worse than killing a dog, snake or hedgehog?
  • Is it loving kindness to destroy an animal’s natural habitat (e.g. by cutting down trees and draining marshes) so that it becomes extinct?
  • Where’s the compassion in removing a calf from its mother, stealing her milk and then slaughtering the young? Or in keeping a calf in a tiny pen so it can’t move, and feeding it on an unnatural milk-based diet to make its flesh white for the veal industry?
  • Is it OK to placing a hen in a cage and steal her eggs?
  • Can we stand back with equanimity as human activity destroys the natural .environment?

Our current relationship with the natural world is often bereft of loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. It is highly exploitative and far from harmonious!

Plant life and the environment

Some Buddhist texts forbid causing injury to seeds, crops and vegetation and state that there is merit in planting trees, herbs and other plants. But is this because plant life has worth in itself, or because it is offers utility to humanity, for instance, trees provide shelter, beauty, fruit and timber?

Buddhism is equivocal on whether plants are sentient or non-sentient beings, therefore deserving of the same respect as the higher animals. Even so many Buddhists see living in or close to nature as beneficial (the Buddha himself lived in the forest). And so it is. Humans need sunlight, natural earth resonances and fresh oxygen to thrive.

Again, while the natural world is not the prime objective of good environmental practices, at least it in an indirect beneficiary and we should all be thankful for that.

Vegetarianism and veganism

Buddhist principles strongly suggest a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but this isn’t followed by all Buddhists. Some say it is alright to eat meat providing you have not knowingly had it killed for you, so, for instance, monks are permitted to eat meat provided they were not complicit in its killing.

On the one hand there are those among Buddhists and the general population who argue that eating meat is natural and healthy and eating is essential to control certain animal populations.

On the other hand, others say (as I do) that rearing animals for meat is uneconomic and wasteful, destroys the balance of nature, damages the environment (e.g. methane), causes suffering to living creatures, and is unnecessary for human health.

So why is it OK in my country to eat a sheep or a pig, but not a dog or cat? And if we are unwilling to kill are we willing to let others kill on our behalf? Could you kill a cow or a sheep and chop it up for  food? Moreover, is it acceptable to use animal products without killing, e.g. milk, eggs, honey. How cruel are we allowed to be? And what about the by-products of the meat industry – leather, gelatine etc.

Once again, Buddhist principles seem clear, while practice does not.

Animal experiments

Is it acceptable or justified to subject a living creature to suffering and probably premature death on the off chance of relieving suffering and illness in human beings.

Conclusion

We are the only animal stupid enough to deliberately destroy the very life support systems of the planet that nourishes us. But they didn’t know that in the Buddha’s day.

Nowadays one of the most pressing questions for humanity is ‘How do we create a lifestyle for all than benefits all creatures in the long term and is sustainable?

Self-restraint, the notion that only if everyone voluntarily restricts the demands they make on the planet can it be saved, is the key but seems to be impossible in capitalist societies (and I include China). It is very much in line with mainstream Buddhist thinking  – but not necessarily followed by all Buddhists.

But there are tensions in Buddhism between the pursuit of individual advancement and environmental concerns. There is no assumption in Buddhism that humans are part of nature and Buddhist virtues such as loving kindness and non-violence are not always extended to the natural world.

That’s not just a pity – it’s a matter of long term survival of all species. Including us.

©David Lawrence Preston, 21 Oct 2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter

How to Books, 2007

Is G_d an information field?

Before Einstein, the world was thought to be a collection of atoms and molecules behaving according to certain inviolable ‘laws’. Space was exactly that – empty space, nothing there. Now we know that matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration and even space is not really empty: it is an inexhaustible potential that manifests in places as matter.

What appears to us to be solid matter is actually 99.9999% empty space: billions of tiny particles flying in formation, all held together by an invisible force field. Incredibly, when subatomic particles are studied in detail, they do not actually exist. They are not particles like, say, particles of dust. Rather, they appear and disappear millions of times a second and move at inestimable speeds. Moreover, physicists state that we cannot assume they continue to exist when they are not being observed.

Everything, including us, came out of a formless world of energy. Somewhere in that field of energy is something that determines what we are and what we will become – an information source. Information is everywhere. It’s in every wave and every particle; every atom and every cell. There’s information we see (printed information, TV, internet, GPS) and information we don’t see. Wherever we are, we are surrounded by and infused with information. We may not always have the means to access it but it’s still there, just as a person without their mobile phone on cannot access a signal.

This is hardly a new idea. Thousands of years ago the Indian Rishis knew that matter is not ultimate reality and in his ‘Theory of Forms’ 2,500 years ago, Plato argued that behind every physical thing is the idea of that thing (i.e. information), and it is the idea that is real. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews states that all visible things come from the invisible and are dependent on the unseen for their existence. More recently Max Planck (1858 – 1947), the theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, wrote:

‘All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.’

What exactly is this conscious and intelligent force, this stream of life? Frankly, I don’t know, and nor do I believe anyone who says they know for sure. As Max Planck wrote, ‘Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.’

We are getting closer to solving the mystery; the only question is just how close will we get. Every generation, scientific knowledge advances and spiritual awareness unfolds. But what if the entity described as  G_d were really an information field as recognised by science? The ultimate information field that provides the blueprint for the universe and everything in it? That constantly communicates with us and responds to our communication, reflecting our thoughts and words? Now there’s an idea!

 

Copyright David Lawrence Preston, 19.7.2017

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Front cover 201 things

Balboa Press, 2015

 

Warnings from history

Religions get interpreted by their followers in many ways. Some have been very positive (such as affirmations of love, compassion and forgiveness), but they have also been used to justify violence and repression. In the past few years Muslim suicide bombers, for instance, have frequently set out to kill innocent people with the words of their prophet on their lips. It is clear, however, that anyone claiming to be a worshipper of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful, and also claims that such terrorists die in glorious martyrdom is guilty of the clearest blasphemy.

Similar actions have not been uncommon in the Christian world down the ages. For example, a Roman Catholic guidebook published in 1486, the Malleus Maleficarum (literally the Witches Hammer), was used to justify widespread torture and murder of women. It instructed believers on how to spot witches and what to do with them. They have to be rooted out and eliminated.

No religion – old or new – has been exempt from such episodes, and they continue even in this modern age. So we must be vigilant and oppose such actions wherever they occur.

©David Lawrence Preston, 29.1.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

How to Books, 2007

 

Religious texts

There are many wonderful religious writings. Most were written in allegorical style and were never meant to be taken literally (although some people do); others are reasonably accurate records of events as far as we can tell. Some reflect the best information available at the time of writing, but were subsequently proven to be untrue. And others are downright malicious or misleading, making a mockery of truth.

Even so, religious texts can be great sources of wisdom once you know how to read and interpret them. The secret is to look for the meaning behind the words rather than the taking the words literally, and not to be drawn in by someone else’s ideas if they conflict with your own. Learning passages of scripture off by heart can be harmful if taken as a substitute for your own experience.

Many of the most spiritual people I know have never studied a religious text in their lives!

The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is an excellent example of a religious text that is symbolic and metaphorical. The title means, ‘Song of the Divine One.’ It is an ancient Hindu text, written in Sanskrit between 500-50BC. It tells the story of the warrior Arjuna (who represents the human soul on the battlefield of life) and what he learns in conversation with his divine teacher, Krishna.

It begins with a plea to shed all worry and grief so that one can begin spiritual practice with a calm, clear mind. This frees the individual from the dominance of the ego so he or she can embark on a path leading to enlightenment. Arjuna finally achieves spiritual freedom, inner peace and a state of unconditional love.

The Bhagavad Gita is often described as a concise guide to Hindu philosophy. It explains that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identification with the ego and instead identifying with the immortal Self, (the Atman). Through detachment from the material sense of Ego, the disciple is able to transcend his illusory mortality and attachment to the material world and enter the realm of the Infinite.

The Bible

The Bible is a collection of writings. They were originally written over a period of ten centuries by people keen to record their notion of G_d. It has been translated, edited and rewritten many times that we no longer know what was said in the original text. Charles Fillmore, a great biblical scholar, wrote:

‘Modern research has thrown such additional light upon the original meaning of the scriptures that it is not safe to assume that a single paragraph of the Bible is understood in our day as it was intended at the time it was written.’

The Bible uses stories and events that are symbols of our own lives to help us in our individual quest for truth. When we interpret it metaphysically, we find it contains deep truths. As we discover them we change and grow, and then the meanings in the Bible evolve too.

The Qu’ran

Muslims believe that G_d’s final message to man was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad and recorded in the Qu’ran. They believe it contains the exact words of God as dictated by the Angel Gabriel. Those who accept the Qu’ran will be rewarded on the Day of Judgement; anyone who turns away from it will have a life of hardship in this world and will have to account for their actions on Judgement Day.

The I Ching

The I Ching, also called ‘Book of Changes’ is the oldest of the classic Chinese texts, dating from around 2,800BC. Its philosophy centres on three ideas:

  • The dynamic balance of opposites;
  • The evolution of events as a process; and
  • Acceptance of the inevitability of change.

The book consists of a series of symbols, rules for manipulating those symbols, plus poems and commentary.

Warnings from history

Religious texts get interpreted by their followers. Some have been used to justify violence and repression. Muslim suicide bombers, for instance, have set out to kill innocent people with the words of their prophet on their lips. It is clear, however, that anyone claiming to be a worshipper of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful, who also claims that such terrorists die in glorious martyrdom is guilty of the clearest blasphemy.

Similar actions have not been uncommon in the Christian world down the ages. For example, a Roman Catholic guidebook published in 1486, the Malleus Maleficarum (literally the Witches Hammer), was used to justify widespread torture and murder of women.

No religion has been exempt from such episodes. And they continue today, albeit in a different form.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 29.1.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

How to Books, 2007

How to spot a fake prophet

Teachers, philosophers and prophets 

Throughout history, humanity has benefited from the leadership and inspiration of many great teachers. but all too often their followers made a god of the prophet, created a mythology, established dogma, and lost the original message.

Once a religion is established, it becomes possible for an elite ‘priesthood’ to control their flock, claiming that their authority comes from a dead, disincarnate or supernatural being and that they are the chosen channels for this power.

Seek out what the enlightened masters taught (not what their successors and devotees want you to believe they said) insofar as this is possible. Don’t be taken in by anything that doesn’t feel intuitively right for you.

Many charismatic individuals have claimed to be great teachers; there was a procession of them in the late 20th Century. How do we spot a fake?

  1. Genuine spiritual teachers have no selfish motives. They avoid ego, worldly power and material gain.
  1. They inspire a real sense of truth and integrity in a spirit of humility.
  1. They encourage you to experience things for themselves rather than encourage neediness and dependence on them.
  1. They walk their talk; live what they teach. Be especially wary of any that preach a simple life while stuffing their bank accounts and collecting luxury cars.
  1. Above all, they show you how to go within to where the real teacher may be found.

Seek truth wherever you can find it. Paths are many, but the truth is one. No teacher, religion or cult can have sole possession of the truth. Beware of anyone or any group that believes theirs is the only truth!

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 25.1.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

How to Books, 2007

Anatomy of a religion

All religions have certain things in common:

  1. They separate ‘us’ from ‘them,’ believers and non-believers, members and non-members.
  1. They lay down set beliefs, creeds and rites of practices. Usually they insist that followers subscribe to the whole package.
  1. They usually expect followers to contribute financially.
  1. An appointed ‘priesthood’ or ‘clergy’ sporting special robes and/or role symbols.
  1. Have sacred days, festivals etc. in which followers observe certain practices such as feasting, fasting, visiting a place of worship and exchanging gifts.
  1. They are willing to distort or discount scientific and other evidence that conflicts with their beliefs.

Some religions also:

  1. Look down on non-believers and try to scare people who don’t agree, e.g. by preaching eternal damnation.
  1. Are exclusive to a certain race/group of people They dismiss other cultures on the grounds that, ‘he or she is not one of us.’
  1. Encourage followers to believe that they can only connect with a Higher Power with the help of an intermediary and by taking part in specified rites and rituals. For example, you could live as ‘Jesus’ intended and still not be regarded as a good Christian if you do not attend church and observe the sacraments.

Wisdom, love, peace and truth are not a result of belonging to a particular religious group (although this may help some), but understanding spiritual truths such as right thinking, humility, love and forgiveness – and putting them into practice.

©David Lawrence Preston, 25.1.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

How to Books, 2007

 

Where should we look for the secret of life?

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.’

(T.S.Eliot)

 

There’s an old Eastern story: Long ago, four senior gods met to decide where to hide the greatest secret of life. They knew they needed a safe place because if humans ever found it they couldn’t be trusted to use it constructively.

The first god suggested hiding it at the top of a high mountain, but they soon realised that humans would eventually climb to the top and find it.

The second suggested that the bottom of the deepest ocean would be better, but agreed with the others that humans would eventually explore the depths too.

The third suggested the centre of the Earth, but they realised that humans would one day dig deep enough to find it.

Finally, the wisest spoke. ‘There’s only one place to hide the great secret of the universe – within the human heart.  They’ll never think of looking for it there.’

The secret of life cannot be found in holy books for it lies within.

©David Lawrence Preston, 23.1.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter@David_L_Preston

How to Books, 2007