The Bible teaches of times of rejection for Jesus. I am recalling Matthew 13:53-58 (New International Version)
When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
The son of Mary, Jesus, hurries up a slope as though a wild animal were chasing him. Someone following him asks, ‘Where are you going? No one is after you.’ Jesus keeps on, saying nothing, across two more fields. ‘Are you the one who says words over a dead person, so that he wakes up?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Did you not make the clay birds fly?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Who then could possibly cause you to run like this?’ Jesus slows his pace.
I say the Great Name over the deaf and the blind, they are healed. Over a stony mountainside, and it tears its mantle down to the navel. Over non-existence, it comes into existence. But when I speak lovingly for hours, for days, with those who take human warmth and mock it, when I say the Name to them, nothing happens. They remain rock, or turn to sand, where no plants can grow. Other diseases are ways for mercy to enter, but this non-responding breeds violence and coldness toward God. I am fleeing from that.
As little by little air steals water, so praise Is dried up and evaporates with foolish people who refuse to change. Like cold stone you sit on, a cynic steals body heat. He doesn’t feel the sun. Jesus wasn’t running from actual people. He was teaching in a new way.
This poem is my Christmas gift to the lovers and followers of Jesus. When Jesus ran across the fields, I believe he hoped we would run from cold-hearted cynicism.
Cherries are on sale at my local grocer. In my mind, cherries are connected with one of the tales in the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. I have mentioned on numerous occasions that there is a great sympathetic vibration between these dervish tales and the teachings of the New Message from God. It is occurring to me to demonstrate this by commenting on this dervish tale as it proceeds.
There is a wise perception of the present
This tale is attributed to Sufi Abdul-Hamid Khan of Qandahar, who died in 1962. He was the Master of the Afghan Mint, a man with one foot in the dervish world and the other in the world of modern technology. This tale is called “Valuable – and Worthless.” I will put my commentary in brackets.
A certain king one day called a counselor to him and said “The strength of real thinking depends upon the examination of alternatives. Tell me which alternative is better: to increase the knowledge of my people or give them more to eat. In either case they will benefit.”
The Sufi said “Majesty, there is no point in giving knowledge to those who cannot receive it, any more than there is point to giving food to those who cannot understand your motives. Therefore it is not correct to assume that ‘in either case they will benefit.’ If they cannot digest the food, or if they think you give it to them as a bribe, or that they can get more – you have failed. If they cannot see that they are being given knowledge, or whether it is knowledge or not, or even why you are giving it to them, they will not benefit. Therefore the question must be taken by degrees. The first degree is the consideration: ‘The most valuable person is worthless and the most worthless person is valuable.'”
[We have now learned that the counselor is a Sufi, a dervish. I consider the knowledge being spoken of here to be knowledge in the ordinary sense; data, information, education. But the Knowledge spoken of by the New Message from God also requires skill and desire to be attained. The deeper spiritual intelligence that God has placed in every person is indifferent to satisfying idle curiosity.]
“Demonstrate this truth to me, for I cannot understand it,” said the king.
The Sufi then called the chief dervish of Afghanistan, and he came to the court. “If you had your way, what would you have someone in Kabul do?” he asked.
[We now know this tale is set in Kabul, Afghanistan. I believe that the Sufi is responding to a royal command for a demonstration. I believe that the Sufi is responding to a sincere request to learn. As there are monastic orders, there are dervish orders. As monastic orders have leaders, dervish orders have leaders.]
“It so happens that there is a man near such-and-such a place who, if he knew it, could by giving a pound of cherries to a certain necessitous man, gain a fortune for himself and also great advancement for the whole country and progress for the Path,” said the chief dervish, who knew of the inner correspondence of things.
[I imagine the king thought to himself, “This is the very thing I was asking about in the first place, the benefit of my people!” I consider “the Path” to refer to the dervish path and its participants. I make no claim regarding the inner correspondence of things. But one of the outward manifestations of the Knowledge I seek to reclaim is wise perception in the present and in the future.]
The king was excited, for Sufis generally do not discourse upon such things. “Call him here and we will have it done!” he cried. The others silenced him with a gesture. “No,” said the first Sufi, “this cannot work unless it is done voluntarily.”
In disguise, in order not to influence the man’s choice, the three of them went straight to the Kabul bazaar. Divested of his turban and robe, the chief Sufi looked very much like any ordinary man. “I will take the part of the exciting cause,” he whispered, as the group stood looking at the fruit. He approached the greengrocer and wished him good day. Then he said “I know a poor man. Will you give him a pound of cherries, as a charity?” The greengrocer bellowed with laughter. “Well, I have heard some tricks, but this is the first time that someone who wanted cherries has stooped to ask me as if it were for charity!”
[So now we know that the man who could have given the cherries was a greengrocer, and the cherries were part of his inventory. I imagine the king being crushed on the inside as a golden opportunity was lost forever.]
“You see what I mean?” the first Sufi asked the king. “The most valuable man we have has just made the most valuable suggestion, and the event has proved that he is worthless to the man to whom he speaks.”
“But what about ‘the most worthless person’ being valuable?” asked the king.
The two dervishes beckoned him to follow them.
As they were about to cross the Kabul River, the two dervishes suddenly seized the king and threw him into the water. He could not swim.
As he felt himself about to drown, Kaka Divana, whose name means Insane Uncle – a well-known pauper and lunatic who roamed the streets, jumped in and brought him safely to the bank. Various other, more solid, citizens had seen him in the water, but none moved.
When the king was somewhat restored, the two dervishes intoned together: “The most worthless person is valuable!”
[There is a wise perception of the present. Don’t ask me how the dervishes knew that Kaka Divana would save the king. Don’t ask me why the king didn’t honor and enrich Kaka Divana for saving his life. Don’t ask me why the king didn’t have the dervishes executed. I think the answer to these things is “Elaborating on this would disrupt the arc of the story.”]
So the king went back to his old, traditional method of giving whatever he could – whether education or help of any kind – to those to whom it was decided from time to time were the most worthy recipients of such aid.
The poetry world is celebrating the life and mourning the loss of Mary Oliver, who died on Thursday, January 17 at the age of 83. Detailed obituaries have appeared in many places, including the New York Times and the Boston Globe.
A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own
Minnesota poet Robert Bly introduced me to Mary Oliver sometime in the 00’s. He included some of her poems in the anthology “The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy.” “Maybe” is one of those poems. I have shared other poems by her in this space. Enjoying her appreciation, her astonishment of nature is for me like drinking clean spring water. Even when she was unhappy, as in the poem “Extending the Airport Runway,” there wasn’t a trace of bitterness or smartassery.
A person who took the journey.
Steps to Knowledge is the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God. A fellow student of Steps to Knowledge shared the following Mary Oliver poem with me as a description of the Steps to Knowledge experience. This poem is called “The Journey.“
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice– though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do– determined to save the only life you could save
She wrote of the journey. She took the journey.
“The Journey” is one of the relatively few Mary Oliver poems where audio of her reciting the poem is available.
Did she accomplish her mission?
I don’t know. Maybe she had an entirely different mission than loving the world. But I’m glad she loved the world. Maybe she had an entirely different mission than being married to amazement. But I say it was a fruitful marriage. She wrote of a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own. I say she heard that voice.
The science fiction community is celebrating the contributions and mourning the departure of Jerry Pournelle (1933-2017) on September 8. The most well known obituary in national media I know of is the one written by Glenn Reynolds in USA Today. There are a number of things I wish to share about his life.
He spoke to our strength, dreamed of our success
Jerry Pournelle will be remembered for his collaborations with Larry Niven. Niven is an acclaimed science-fiction writer in his own right. Their partnership started in 1974 with The Mote in God’s Eye, a tale of humanity’s first contact with non-human intelligent life. This fertile partnership would continue until 2012, with many books, collections, and sequels. I consider this an illustration of one of the steps and teachings of Steps to Knowledge, the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God. What’s a group effort? Everything. Everything that matters. Everything that helps someone. Step 45 of Steps to Knowledge declares:
“Alone you can do nothing. Nothing has ever been accomplished alone, even in your world. Nothing has ever been created alone, even in your mind.There is no credit to be received by doing something alone. Everything is a joint effort. Everything is the product of relationship.”
Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven had a fruitful relationship.
He spoke to our strength, dreamed of our success. Niven and Pournelle explored various aspects of humanity’s emergence into a greater community of intelligent life. In the 1985 book Footfall, humanity experiences an alien invasion. I realize that doesn’t seem particularly inventive. But the invasion is an act of desperation by a race whose home world has experienced environmental destruction. The value of this book is the why, as opposed to the what.
He spoke to our strength, dreamed of our success. Maybe there are conflicts out there in Known Space, as Niven called it. How will humanity respond? Larry Niven introduced us to the Kzinti, a warlike species of cat-like aliens in the 1960s. Pournelle and Niven presided over fourteen volumes of the Man-Kzin Wars series as writers and editors.
He spoke to our strength, dreamed of our success. One of the distinctives of the New Message from God is a great deal of teaching and emphasis on humanity’s forthcoming emergence into a greater community of intelligent life. The books Greater Community Spirituality and Life in the Universe are instances of this. The interstellar neighborhood described in these books doesn’t resemble what has been imagined by Pournelle and Niven, but I appreciate the effort made to contemplate the future.
He spoke to our strength, dreamed of our success. The only Niven and Pournelle book I have actually read is Fallen Angels, written in 1991 with Michael Flynn. I took enjoyment in this book because it imagined a world where science and technology have been rejected in favor of crystals and feelings. It imagined a world where combating global warming had succeeded all too well and resulted in an ice age. Finally, it was a valentine to the golden age of science-fiction fandom in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
He spoke to our strength, dreamed of our success. Pournelle and Niven were known as “hard” science fiction writers. That means they not only imagined certain futures, but wrote about how the futures they imagined might actually exist. Fallen Angels is an instance of this, where there is a discussion of global temperature over the past few thousand years. And because of this, there was a certain strength to their optimism. In the future of Niven and Pournelle, humanity has a future. In the future of the New Message from God, humanity has a future if and only if it will prepare for it.
It is common for the source documents of many religions to be organized into smaller units to facilitate study and reference. The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form. It has 26 chapters, with each chapter having both a number and a name. Early Christians created chapter divisions for the books of the Bible. The ones used today were formulated in the 13th Century. The verse divisions used today were created in the 1500’s. Each of the surahs or chapters of the Quran have both names and numbers. The surahs are divided into ayahs or verses.
Volumes and books and chapters and verses. One could consider the Bible as existing in two volumes (Old and New Testaments), with Volume 1 having 39 books (Genesis to Malachi) and Volume 2 having 27 books (Matthew to Revelation)
Volumes and books and chapters and verses. The book God Has Spoken Again is the first book to be released in verse form. The verses aren’t currently numbered, but they could be in the future. The existing books will be re-released in verse form in the future. Therefore, the larger vision is that each part of the New Message from God will be identifiable by volume, book, chapter and verse. For example, the portions of the revelation “The Proclamation” on which I have commented are Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 1, Verses 1-12.
What has been declared thus far? Just as God has spoken to humanity on certain occasions, God is speaking to humanity again. God is speaking to humanity again because humanity faces unprecedented challenges. This is the sixth paragraph.
The New Message from God is here to alert, to empower and to prepare the human family—people from all nations and religious traditions, from all tribes, groups and orientations.
It is prophetic in alerting people to the Great Waves of change that are coming to the world and to humanity’s position in the universe, especially regarding your contact with other races.
[A New Message from God? Why is it here? “The Great Waves of change” refer to an ongoing series of global-scale disruptions of what passes for normal life in the not-too-distant future, including disrupted climate, environmental degradation, declining resources, economic turmoil, involuntary human migration, wars of economic desperation, religious wars and intervention from outer space.]
It calls upon the great spiritual presence within each person—the great endowment of Knowledge that has been given to the entire human family, which must now be cultivated, strengthened and brought forth.
[A New Message from God? Why is it here? Knowledge is a key technical term in the New Message from God, and is mentioned in one form or another in almost every revelation. The book Steps to Knowledge describes this phenomenon in great detail. While Knowledge is described in many ways, Step 10 of Steps to Knowledge, “What is Knowledge?” says “Let us say that Knowledge is not the things that are usually associated with it. It is not ideas. It is not a body of information. It is not a system of belief. It is not a process of self evaluation. It is the great mystery of your life. Its outward manifestations are profound intuition, great insight, inexplicable knowing, wise perception in the present and in the future and wise understanding of the past. But despite these great achievements of mind, Knowledge is greater than this. It is your True Self, a Self that is not apart from life.”]
It speaks to the great spiritual need of the individual—the need for purpose, meaning and direction.
It speaks to the needs of the world and the needs of the future. In so doing, it brings purpose and recognition, unity and cooperation, wisdom and strength to all who can receive it, who can learn it, who can follow its steps, who can contribute it to others and who can share its wisdom in service to other individuals, to families, to communities, to nations and to the whole world.
[A New Message from God? Why is it here? About a dozen books of the New Message from God have already been published. Some of these books address the subject of individual development, such as Steps to Knowledge and Greater Community Spirituality. Some of these books address potential futures for humanity, such as The Great Waves of Change and Life in the Universe.]
“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;”
Many new planets swim into our ken
I mention this to share two items of space exploration news. The first item is the sixth anniversary of the launch of the Kepler space telescope. Many times scientists conduct experiments expecting to find certain things. Many times they fail to find what they had hoped for. But the Kepler mission has found what was looking for in abundance.
Many new planets swim into our ken. How many? Kepler has found 1,019 exoplanets, planets outside our solar system. By “found” I mean “found possibilities of exoplanets which were later confirmed by independent observation.” The above image shows an artist conception of 5 of those exoplanets who share the same star. In addition to this, Kepler has found possibilities of an additional 3,100 “candidates” which will either be confirmed or discarded in the future. The mission scientists believe that 90% of the candidates will be confirmed as exoplanets, although I don’t know how they know this.
Many new planets swim into our ken. Where does this figure of 1,019 exoplanets fit into the larger picture of exoplanet exploration? At this point, NASA reports a total of 1,827 confirmed planets. The first exoplanet was discovered in 1992. In other words, Kepler has discovered more planets in the past six years than all the efforts from 1992 to 2009. And that’s not counting the candidates. Even though crucial components of Kepler failed in May of 2013, I consider the Kepler mission to be a smashing, groundbreaking success.
Many new planets swim into our ken. How many of them are habitable? These scientists say “62, or around 3%, so far.” On the other hand, astronomer Charlie Lineweaver posited that the average number of habitable planets per star is 2, plus or minus 1. Since there are somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, that’s quite a few habitable planets.
So far, I have shared my Amazon reviews of two of the eleven books of the New Message from God. Here is my review of The Great Waves of Change. Here is my review of Steps to Knowledge. I haven’t read all of the books of the New Message yet. I plan to do this in the near future. However, I have read the book Life in the Universe, published in 2012. Here is my review of that book.
As I read this book, I considered this sector of space to be a lot like the National Football League (NFL). In the NFL, while injuring the other players is forbidden, teams seek to identify and exploit the weaknesses of their opponents. In this sector of space, while outright war is forbidden (and bad for business, besides), spacefaring races go to great lengths (competition, espionage, seduction, persuasion, mental manipulation) to get other worlds over a barrel in trade relationships. As I read this, I recalled Trader To The Stars (Chronicles of the Polesotechnic League), where Poul Anderson’s Polesotechnic League had the motto “All the traffic will bear!”
People who appreciate advances in technology are going to find this book greatly challenging. It’s as if humanity is facing a choice between two futures. In one future, advancing technology not only makes us hit the wall of declining resources, but makes us more machine-like and less human. In another future, the road less traveled, humanity becomes one of the rarer freer worlds, emerging into space with its sovereignty and self-sufficiency intact.
What is on humanity’s to-do list to successfully arrive at the end of the road less traveled? Oh, nothing much. Unite as a species, arrive at a just way of sharing dwindling resources, develop skills used by spacefaring races in the mental environment (psychic and memetic warfare?), develop and enforce rules of engagement for visiting races, stop being a weak, divided, easily exploitable collection of warring tribes, reconsider the gods of its religions as parochial, tribal deities, keep its collective mouth shut and stop broadcasting every detail about itself into space.
Just as new professional football players recall their “Welcome to the NFL” moment, one day, humanity will look back and recall its “Welcome to the Greater Community” moment.
At the 2014 Encampment of the New Message from God, Patricia Summers, the wife of Marshall Vian Summers, asked a question. She asked, “What are the ingredients of someone who has what it takes?” In the four years in which I have been engaging with the New Message, I have lost count of the number of times Patricia has asked this question in one form or another.
The heart of a finisher
I understand her to mean, “Who has the capabilities to faithfully serve a great cause?” “Who can calmly consider tasks orders of magnitude beyond their current capabilities?” “Who can live a meaningful life while preserving their vitality?” “Who can represent a purposeful life in a world which rejects the very idea of purpose?”
These questions are hardly idle speculation. There have been many people over the years who have recognized the benefit that this body of material would bring to the world. There have also been many people over the years who, for whatever reason, could not bring forth or keep what was required to stay with it. It requires a certain intellectual, a certain imaginative, a certain intestinal fortitude to engage with this material. How is it developed? How is it maintained?
On Day 4 of the Encampment, some answers were offered to those questions in the form of short phrases.
Tempered competence. The sentence in which this phrase occurred was, “We don’t need idealism, we need tempered competence.” The context suggests “stable-tempered competence.” Many idealistic individuals have come and gone over the history of the New Message. While these individuals have made many excellent contributions, they aren’t making any contributions now. The heart of a finisher gives of itself today, and the next day, and the next day…
A life fueled from heaven. The context suggests developing the strength to do things other than what I would do, to develop capabilities other than what I would develop. The heart of a finisher can keep from indulging its preferences.
Reckonings – facing one’s self. There are things inside me that have kept me from working successfully with other respondents. The heart of a finisher can take an inventory of its emotions, its thought life, its imagination?
Verication. Verication is a New Message practice of moving toward greater certainty regarding some idea or action with the help of other people. The word was first used in the book Greater Community Spirituality. The heart of a finisher sings in an ensemble with many other hearts.
Secret room explorations. What is the secret room? A place in a person where confusion, ambition, shame, etc. are not only tolerated but maintained. I consider the idea of the secret room to be very sympathetic to Carl Jung’s idea of the shadow. The heart of a finisher is unafraid to face that shadow.
Simple pleasures. It seems to be part of this long journey to cultivate things I enjoy, and can enjoy in moderation, for no other reason than that I enjoy them. The heart of a finisher can enjoy simple pleasures.
If someone were to ask me, “What is the heart of a finisher like?” I don’t believe I would have offered the above list. But there it is. I pray that I would have the heart of a finisher.
Renew and rejuvenate is a call to release the mind from its clutter and unproductive thoughts.
There are many places in the teachings and revelations of the New Message from God that speak of the value of having an uncluttered mind. The practices in Steps to Knowledge call for having a still mind and entering into stillness to enhance and gain deeper insight into the idea presented in the particular Step for the day.
One of the New Message books I find particularly helpful and inspirational is called Greater Community Spirituality(you can download it for free at this link). It is a new revelation for the new millenium. It is a doorway into a greater universe. It provides the greater context for realizing the purpose that brought you into the world at this time. It contains 27 chapters, each answering a fundamental question about the meaning of life, our relationship with God and our destiny, all from a Greater Community perspective.
Part of the recommended reading for the new November/December session of the Free School of the New Message called “God, Cosmology and Creation” just happens to be Chapter 13. What Must Be Unlearned? from Greater Community Spirituality, and it directly addresses this dilemma of having an uncluttered mind.
“Stand within your mind and it will seem to engulf you. Stand outside your mind and you will be able to see through it, direct it and use it.”
It goes on to say that in order to renew and rejuvenate the mind, it must be emptied, it must be opened, it must be free. The analogy is given of a house stuffed to the ceiling with all the possessions you have ever owned—everything. You have never thrown anything away. You say that you want to bring new things into your house, but there is no room. You want to create new feelings and a new atmosphere in your house, but there is no space for it. Everything is cluttered and you feel cramped and increasingly uncomfortable. It is as though you are imprisoned there and spend all your time maintaining everything you have accumulated.
Just as you can only bring new things into your house if you throw out the old things, free up space, renew and rejuvenate, so it is with your mind. You can only embrace new experiences and thoughts after you clear your mind of its accumulated clutter. Just as old possessions that no longer serve any purpose fill your house, so old thoughts clog up the space in your mind, but you are loath to let them go. They are part of the past you so dearly cling to without even realizing how unproductive and even detrimental they now are. You cannot be free to embrace the new if you are clinging to the old.
The following struck me deeply as I read this chapter: “How can you release something if you are holding on to it? The only way to release something is to go where it is not needed, where you cannot take it with you and where it has no relevance and no importance.”
It is really as simple as that.
Renew and rejuvenate
If I do not renew and rejuvenate my mind, allow it to become uncluttered, not only will I not have enough space for new thoughts, my mind will become hard and brittle.
This is also pointed out in the chapter in Greater Community Spirituality mentioned above:
Here you are frozen in the past and bound to reinforce it at all times. Without a greater authority in your life, this is what the mind will do. It will calcify and become hard and brittle.
This is confirmed by other great writers such as Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe who said:
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”