A Higher Power: Finding, Believing in, and Following It
I’m very much an ingenue in the creation of YouTube videos. And yet, when you have something to say, how many bells and whistles do you need to go along with the message? As this video library slowly grows, I suspect it will be devoted primarily to subjects involving religious faith. So far I have addressed 1) specific ways in which the organized Christian Church (some denominations more than others) has betrayed its high mission, 2) various reasons to have or retain faith, and 3) the essence of spirituality as a state of consciousness and as practice.
Series One: The Church Perverted
These discussions address how I see the Christian Church in the United States as a socially (and even economically) driven phenomenon ignoring its metaphysical objective to join political progressives in creating the “perfect society”.
The Perverted Concept of Justice in the Secular-Utopian Church The language of “social justice” resonates in publications (including the order of worship) produced by many governing bodies of Methodism, Presbyterianism, and even Catholicism. Mercy, forgiveness, and the afterlife, in contrast, seem almost to have disappeared.
The Perverted Concept of Giving in the Secular-Utopian Church Charitable treatment of the needy is not only a Christian obligation, but also a natural human inclination. The progressive church, however, has distorted this laudable motive in the direction of a vast social engineering project while ignoring the intimate familiarity with circumstance and true need required of spiritual giving.
The Perverted Concept of Asylum in the Secular-Utopian Church Extending shelter to homeless, terrified refugees is an act of which any decent person should approve–but throwing open a national border to restless masses whose sudden, immense strain on resources must inevitably induce economic collapse is a horrible disservice to all concerned. Weak-minded good intentions are no excuse for ignoring such evident danger.
Series Two: The Limits of Human Reason
These two discussions are intended to show briefly that the human mind runs into insurmountable contradiction when it attempts to turn from phenomena fully within the scope of material experience and to speculate about the metaphysical.
Why God’s Existence Can Be Neither Proved Nor Disproved Through Reason (Part I) In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant powerfully represented the paradox within the “antinomies” that lie at the basis of all human thought: fundamental laws of logic that rule our minds with irresistible authority, yet whose collective meaning is self-contradictory!
Why God’s Existence Can Be Neither Proved Nor Disproved Through Reason (Part II) The encapsulated, somewhat adapted presentation of Kant’s antinomies is completed. The verdict: that God’s existence and other propositions concerning ultimate cosmic reality cannot be reached through the operations of human understanding.
Series Three: Affective Reasons to Believe
People of faith often offer highly emotional justifications for their belief. Unfortunately, spiritual encounters of a purely subjective nature cannot bring others to one’s position. Yet there remain several kinds of argument for faith that draw upon our emotional (or affective) intelligence and also have a degree of objectivity.
The Affective Call to “Somewhere Else” Pervading Daily Life Ordinary existence offers perhaps hundreds of “wind in the leaves” or “distant train whistle” moments every day that haunt us with a sweet sadness, a sense of something that escapes our “purposive, useful” endeavors… yet nowadays we typically brush those divine whispers aside as “lapses of concentration”.
Artistic Mystery and Faith in Higher Reality (Part I) Though what little contemporary discussion of this topic exists would have us look for an answer in the art object’s content (i.e., didacticism), the truth is that all genuine art draws the beholder toward the spiritual by using its material components to stir a sense of immaterial presence–of mystery.
Artistic Mystery and Faith in Higher Reality (Part II) The discussion of how art’s mystery conduces to faith resumes–but here the stress falls upon the open and brutal hostility of academe’s “demystifying” doctrine to the spirit. (An earlier version of this video appears on another YouTube channel.)
Conscience as Evidence of God Human beings can make horrific moral blunders when claiming to heed their “inner sense of right”–but such cases reflect the activity of cultural conditioning; the very horror with which they come to be viewed in time suggests that the true inner voice comes from God and cannot be stifled indefinitely.
Voices of Angels vs. the Voice of Conscience Degrees of subjectivity are measured in this final segment. Supernatural encounters of an intensely personal nature have little persuasive power before others; the comparative objectivity of conscience is defended against those who argue that only a sacred text’s direct revelation can guarantee our moral decisions against subjective corruption.
Series Four: Faith and Time
This area of metaphysical belief, while little explored, is utterly critical. Much of our contemporary world’s resistance to faith arises from its complete surrender to a linear concept of time–a concept that is sensible, and indeed unavoidable, in practicing science; but extending it to spiritual matters is arbitrary and unprofitable.
Faith and Time: The Eternal Present Our human mind is so composed that it irresistibly organizes events into linear time, giving us a highly useful sense of scientific and historical causality. Yet this sense also impedes us from understanding spiritual realities, which are perhaps best imagined as existing in a single “chronological bubble”.
Faith and Time: Deadend Itineraries This discussion parades a quick succession of “timelines” to which people often devote their mortal lives (acquisition of wealth or fame, stages of social or political transformation)–all of them ending in the nullity of self-deception.
Faith and Time: A Brief History of Time The ironic title is in fact an attempt to compress human culture into two essential groups: the oral-traditional (or tribal) and the literate-progressive. The scientific view of time as a rigid cause-and-effect sequence has unfortunately ruptured the sense of life possessed by our ancestors as a cyclical whole.
Faith and Time: The Good Life (Part I) So just what conception of time informs the good life? Spiritual life in the “eternal present” is analogous to orbiting a luminous focus whose warmth and light radiate constantly upon each day (as opposed to life in the linear “tunnel” of serving worldly ambitions).
Faith and Time: The Good Life (Part II) Here are two specific examples of responding to the immediate conditions of a moral crisis with “in the moment” awareness (as opposed to garbling the issues through an all-too-typical “linear projection” of them into a hazy future or gross generality).
Series Five: The Afterlife
Obviously, we can assert very little with confidence about the afterlife, and virtually nothing based upon material evidence. Yet the whole of reality cannot be contained within the matter available to our perceptions and the systems designed by our scientific understanding. Supposing a “throne of goodness” is indeed fully licensed–even required–unless we are determined to shave away essential aspects of our humanity.
Why Should We Believe In Heaven? In the contemporary world, our educated elite is far too sophisticated to believe in the “fairy tale” of Heaven… and yet, no intelligible moral philosophy is possible that does not rest upon a metaphysical source of goodness.
How Clocks Run in Heaven While we must admit that we cannot prove the nature of any reality beyond the three dimensions within our human comprehension, we can nevertheless speculate about heavenly time. Many of its supposed absurdities would disappear if we imagined ultimate time as compressed–a constant present–rather than linear.
What Goes On in Heaven? Speculation about Heaven could run wild with willful fantasy and extravagant whimsy if we didn’t confine ourselves to terms that complete us as human beings. Viewing God’s house as the creation of the supremely moral being who rewards goodness, has mercy on frailty, and brings all into the light is our best approach to this challenge.
How Does Hell Fit In? (Part I) The notion of Hell as a fiery furnace seems laughably outdated in our culture–but those who would reduce the soul’s lasting damnation to ludicrous mumbo-jumbo are evading moral reality. Hell is the “real nullity” that inevitably awaits those who serve and adore chaos.
How Does Hell Fit In? (Part II) Why do people choose to oppose all natural order in an egotistical riot of assertion? Because of power: because of the ultimately damning hunger to control everything and everyone after one’s own whimsical designs.
So Where Exactly IS Heaven? Our five senses and the intelligence that processes their raw data are no better equipped to locate Heaven in space than in time; but, using the minimalism of Ockham’s Razor and the poetry of Plato’s Cave, we may surmise that Heaven is right here, right now–all around us, but not in very perceptible form.
Series Six: Recurrent Subjects of Controversy in Discussions of Faith
Sometimes particular questions involving the practice of faith are the most critical ones to spiritual seekers, for they may have noticed that abstraction can become a favorite place to hide troublesome realities. Truth must always be confronted openly, to the extent that our understanding is capable of grasping it.
Must a Christian Be a Doormat? Christ exhorts us to turn the other cheek–but this isn’t equivalent to living in a fantasy world where “nice” begets “nice”. Evil exists. We would do well to walk away from controversy when we can, but we must not turn our backs on the innocent or the helpless in need.
Forgiving vs. Forgetting When we say we’re forgiving someone for a horrible deed, we often seem merely to be forgetting in a thoughtless kind of self-preservation. In this video, I warn that such retreat from the true issues can leave victims around us feeling ignored and worthless.
Christianity and Optimism Christians needn’t bubble over with hilarity–such deportment would indeed have outraged the early and medieval Church. Christian optimism is more like an athlete’s playing out a losing game in joy and pride that the game’s rules draw forth his highest potential.
Religious Faith and Sexual Conduct In spiritual traditions much older than Christianity, virtue has been understood as requiring the mastery of will over bodily impulse. Yet today we often claim that hormones and DNA define our essential identity as human individuals! This is an error in any system which does not regard us as mere animals.
Are Extra-Terrestrials a Threat to Faith? Species from other solar systems that show clear technological superiority to us, if they exist, are not for that reason our moral or spiritual betters. Our calling to serve goodness remains the highest mission in the universe; and, indeed, that mission may extend to revealing God to aliens.
Series Seven: A Culture of Slanders and Slurs
Contemporary America, thanks to social media and the twenty-four hour news cycle (among other factors), has become a veritable cesspool of one-word slams–racist, sexist, Nazi, xenophobe, etc.–intended to sever the recipient instantly from any level of polite consideration. The tactics are as crude as they are inane; and, more than either one in the “slander masterminds” who promote them, they are morally depraved.
The Pharisaical Evil of Defaming the Past A unique sin has emerged in our time: that of denouncing the moral vileness of every age precedent to ours and then taking bows for being “better” (as opposed to actually attempting a few good deeds on our own). This abuse isn’t simply lazy: it’s wrong, and contemptible. It cuts us off from human brethren no more imperfect than we are–struggling people whose only real difference from us was that they lived a little farther back on the chronological spectrum.
Slinging Around the “Racist” Slur From the standpoint of genetics, the concept of race is virtually indefensible; and to the extent that certain general DNA profiles can be isolated, individuals in the group almost always show a degree of “bleed” into other groups. “Racism”, then, points to social malaise and unrest rather than to objective scientific facts. Lately, the word “racist” has become a rude slur meant to banish its target from any consideration as a human being… which, ironically, is just what “racists” are accused of doing to others!
Weather-Related Gulags The study of climate is immensely complex, and the claim that virtually the entire scientific community has reached a single conclusion about “climate change” often conceals a desire to shut down discussion on a wide range of unconnected issues. There are ways to make our urban jungle more pleasant that don’t involve growing the Nanny State–but the mudslingers seem uninterested in real solutions.
“Everyone I Don’t Like’s a Nazi!” Analyzing the provenance of the word “Nazi” and the historical connections between fascism and socialism will embarrass many ideologues. Yet the most dangerous connection here is spiritual: worship of a fanciful, unrealized future and willingness to play God in driving masses of people into that future.
Series Eight: Common Points of Confusion Obscuring the Christian God
These discussions specifically address objections that are often raised to the concept of a supremely moral creator. As always, I seek to probe the issues by having recourse to common sense and speculation coherent with our essential nature–not by hammering scriptural passages in a “take it or leave it” fashion. The approach is not necessarily popular with outspoken proponents of literalist faith.
Why Does God Allow Suffering? Some very intelligent, well-educated people say that they cannot believe in a benign creator because of all the suffering in the world. Do they have a point? This video stresses that our most horrendous suffering usually occurs when people deny a higher power in human events and seek, instead, to fashion an order mirroring their own egotistical understanding.
How Could a Good God Condemn Us to Mortality? Even if we exclude the suffering that our species brings upon itself through egotistical behavior, our struggles on earth remain hard for some to reconcile with the notion of an all-good, all-powerful creator. The most innocent of us still face sickness, aging, and death. Would a loving father inflict such misery? This video strives to redirect our attention to the spiritual growth we wring from our tight material boundaries. Mortality is a gift: it forces us to prioritize and choose, to recognize and admire the precious–to develop values, in short.
The “Father Sacrifices Son” Formula The sacrifice of the innocent who assumes the community’s guilt (scapegoating) is immeasurably ancient; the morph of that rite in which a father slays his son is scarcely less so. Should this formula dominate the Christian faith as it does–is the central message adequately compressed thereby? My discussion wrestles with the narrative’s moral and theological complexities in search of the all-good, deeply personal Creator.
Partaking of the Body and Blood: Clashing Archetypes Communion (called the Eucharist in some churches) conveys notions of comradely equality in the secularist view, but its origins clearly aim at a more mystical meaning. That meaning, however, is rendered tortuously complex by the collision of “bread-breaking” with what can only be called hints of cannibalism. This video urges anyone troubled by such complexity to step rather than stumble over it and to seek faith in deeds, not rituals.
Prayer: Naming Realities vs. Nursing Fantasies Though Christian practice tolerates a wide variety of prayer, today’s highly specific and individual touch to addressing God may strike the uninitiated as arrogantly familiar. In this video, however, I contend that the most meaningful distinction between right and wrong prayer is accuracy of words: do you speak truth, assigning accurate words to genuine realities–or do you build a verbal fantasy in expectation of God’s bringing it to life?
How Do We Reach the Father Through the Son? Jesus never suggests that salvation is open to the faithful of every humane religion–yet too many denominations make his words a restrictive mandate for their particular rituals. Exactly what, then, is the way that leads to the Father through the Son? I propose that we pay less attention to formulas and more to genuine adoration of a goodness beyond the reach of our vain earthly blueprints.
Series Nine: Freeing the Spirit Through Economic Activity
Discussions of spiritual awareness are all very uplifting, but… we have to eat. Our world increasingly presents us a Hobson’s Choice between the capitalist grind of following a tightly scripted career path and the socialist “alternative” of drawing freebies from a system that hasn’t enough cash to reach sundown. Young people, especially, are depressed, angry, and frightened. Is the life facing them really so devoid of breathing space?
Capitalism, Communism, and the Good Life Millennials are not completely mistaken in suspecting capitalism of promoting a soulless, cutthroat ethic–but what they disastrously fail to see is that Big Business loves Big Government. Quasi-socialist monopolies are the endgame of corporatist empires! This introductory video sets the stage for a series of discussions about how to avoid megalomaniac Marxist “revolutionaries” and careerist treadmills alike while preserving a life rich in choices for ordinary people.
Where We Once Were Happy: Free Enterprise Zones A tight community of variously talented small producers would be a place where individuals could eke out a humble livelihood doing what they love while forging profound human bonds. It’s a blueprint, in fact, whose age is older than recorded history. So why has it disappeared? Because mega-business has ushered in mega-government with an innumerable train of intrusive, crushing regulations, inspections, licensures, etc.
Floating Cities and Free Thinking A free-floating settlement, drawing food, water, and energy from its environment without leaving deposits of trash, sounds like the biosphere envisioned for interplanetary space travel. Yet the technological basis for launching such eco-friendly, durable islands upon our oceans has long existed. Why do we shut down fertile experimentation–why, except that our time’s power-hungry social-engineers are afraid of environmental solutions tolerant of greater political freedom?
Skyscraper Gardens: Freedom Awaiting a Harvest Our forefathers were healthier (though not wealthier), wiser, more humble, more independent people in their knowledge of how to turn sun, soil, and rain into food. We’ve forgotten those lessons and are urban slaves to salaries that may vanish in an economic crisis. Why do we not condition our high-tech city environments to produce a modicum of fresh food for our tables? We certainly could… but progressive social engineers, perhaps, do not want us to.
Escape From Electrotopia Obviously, a video made on an iPhone and posted on YouTube isn’t going to recommend that we chase electro-magnetic radiation from our lives! Yet forces working through both corporate America and the Nanny State clearly want us nourishing an unwholesome addiction to costly gadgets that control our thoughts and habits. Spiritual freedom and psychological balance (not to mention physical health) demand that we keep new technology aimed at specific, identified targets.
Series Ten: The Failure of Culture to Bring Us Peace and Meaning
This is the most ambitious and complex series of videos I’ve yet attempted. Somehow or other, our spirituality carries over into our culture–and every group of human beings develops a culture. Yet the spirit can access and transmit darkness as well as light; and culture, furthermore, readily supplants the individual heart’s subtle transmitters and receivers with a blaring public broadcast. Our political life is largely determined by that broadcast’s content. In its uproar, whatever words from “on high” originally circulated through the message tend to be edited out unless we take great care.
Nature vs. Culture The simplistic contrast between a wild-and-free Tarzan figure and the socialized human programmed with taboos and superstitions doesn’t produce helpful political discussions. Both ends of this cliche spectrum present people in a deterministic fashion, leaving us no room to introduce good and bad, right and wrong, in any objective sense. Common assumptions that drift around such paradigms (that “all cultures deserve respect”, that “culture warps people into stupid clones”, etc.) draw their moral premises merely from subjective whim. True understanding requires more depth of us.
Why Politics Fails Us (Part I) The political spectrum we’ve accepted since the French Revolution pits inflexible traditionalists (conservatives/atavists) against crusaders for change (liberals/progressives). This polarization can be profoundly misleading in its inattention to moral reality. The right-wing “test of time” is in fact no proof of an institution’s goodness (viz. human sacrifice!), while the left-wing addiction to correcting “problems” without end evades our mature duty to strengthen ourselves against hardship. The strain between these two poles in contemporary North America has created a moral chaos beyond the reach of purely political resolution.
Why Politics Fails Us (Part II) The inklings of goodness that inspire us as humans do not originate in culture. We irresistibly seek to transmit our highest insights to our children through cultural institutions, however. Some cultures succeed better than others at codifying moral truth–which may lead them, perversely, to forget that truth’s transcendent origins and so to subjugate their “inferior” rivals on the global stage. In a predictable reflex, ensuing generations then feel shame at their forebears’ arrogance, scorn their legacy of values, and celebrate pockets of the exotic and the primitive wherever they find them. In just such political self-annihilation do higher cultures die.
No Borders: From Multicultural to Totalitarian As mainstream Western cultures, in a laudable but misguided aversion to “bullying”, yield to exotic sub-cultures on critical moral issues, they steadily grow irrelevant. Minority competitors claim victory… for the moment. But the “post-cultural” secular-utopian elite (Marxist academics, “scientific” progressives, etc.) is merely using minorities as a solvent upon the majority prior to eliminating them, in turn. The glowing new “rational” world will prove to impose the most oppressive culture of all: the culture of mandatory permissiveness.
Cultural Foxholes: Our Last Frail Hope American society faces two stark alternatives. Either our “culture wars”, where a guilt-ridden mainstream incessantly cedes ground to unassimilated sub-cultures, will at last leave behind it an incoherent landscape to be colonized by hard-line secular-utopian ideologues… or else our diverse cultural groups will cease fighting and establish rigid, strictly honored physical borders. The latter option–hunkering down in foxholes–seems less likely in our present chaos, nor is it a happy transformation of our once harmonious liberal democracy. Yet it remains the lesser evil of the two realistic eventualities.
Spirituality and Culture Ultimately, culture has no moral value at all unless it serves as a pipeline for the higher truths that inspire us individually and point our children in the right direction. This arrangement, alas, is a double-edged sword; for even the best moral conditioning doesn’t ensure that its recipients will internalize vital principles–and when such spiritual awakening fails, we produce mere clones rather than vibrant adults. Our institutions of free speech and individualism are therefore vital. Through them, we stand the best chance of sustaining and renewing our spiritual health rather than leaving our ideals to go stale in an ossified, ritualistic kind of culture.