Thoughts on Some Monday…

Paul Tillich once said, I don’t pray, I meditate. I would head in that direction, but with this change: I neither pray, nor meditate, but I try to “atune,” through most of my waking moments, to the greater ordered PROCESS that has given rise to my very being. I am particularly fond of “naming” that personal conscious Process/Force as “HaShem,” the unnamed name who cannot be limited by any diminishing proper noun.
If I have to offer anything more specific, it might be something along the lines of “The Great Orchestrator…” Not of massive events, miracles, magic tricks, or anything noticeable or dramatically impressive, but somehow, the Force of all Forces, in which our very being is grounded, witnessed by the emergence of self-consciousness and the values of justice, truth, compassion, and kindness, and connecting the dots and circuits of our lives between the millions of humans who are somehow “tuned in” to have “ears to hear,” and a “heart to understand.” There is a cosmic clear channel always open. This unfolding must involve chance and necessity, circumstance, contingency, serendipity, congruence, and all obvious realities of tragedy, suffering, joy, and love. Who we connect with in our lives. What chance idea or inclination we seem to grab out of thin air, that ends up co-ordinating with something else, that in turn unfolds in this or that course or direction, too complex for even an imaginary future Quantum Computer to factor out…but nonetheless operating at all times end places in history. The goal is to promote the good, the beautiful, the creative, the just, and the compassionate–and the outcome, finally, is pure joy

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

There are countless dichotomies of the human species collectively called Homo Sapiens–or if you prefer Homo Stultus.
Good and Evil; Strong and Weak; Smart and Stupid; Male and Female; Poor and Rich, and on and on it goes…

The one that I think most defines and separates us all:
“What’s it all about–Alfie Types”                            and                        “I never really think about it Types”

If you don’t get the Alfie part ignore–it’s from a movie . . .but in my limited observation of individuals this dichotomy might be the most crucial. I would not venture to even guess about percentages–and some might exhibit one type and end up another, in either direction, over the years. Taking up the Quest or Giving it up out of disappointment. I have been on the Alfie path for as long as I can remember, discouraged at times, but never for a moment able to forget the Big Question…in which the very asking puts you on one side of humanity or the other.

The Whole and its Parts…God as Process

The Whole is more than the sum of its parts, but it can not be less than any one “part.”

When I speak of God, that word means to me the unseen force of all forces that drives this universe and cosmos of which we are cognizant and makes you and me the creatures we are with all the mystical existence we know and enjoy upon this earth.

Jack Pyle, personal letter reflecting on our “Closer to Truth” conversations

That Force of all Forces…

The Bad Idea that Took Over the World

Most forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–not to mention more “eastern” modes of thinking, have gone down this path pretty much wholesale–that this earth is not our Home–a kind of alienation from the world. Salvation is beyond. I call this the “bad” idea that took over the world. I prefer Robert Frost’s line Birches: The earth’s the right place to be; I don’t know where its likely to go better…”  

Please subscribe to my Youtube Channel if this looks interesting to you. I have uploaded nearly 200 videos since I began last year–with much more to come. 

This video lecture that I did in 2015 covers some of the most basic presupposition of an upcoming series I am doing on Youtube on “Death, Afterlife, and the Future” in the ancient Western world. See what you think. I am convinced that the core idea has permeated every facet of our culture–religious as well as philosophical. It is like it is in our mother’s milk.

Two World Views…

I surely understand existential alienation, as I think we all surely do unless we have “fallen” for a comforting illusion as per Herrs Freud and Nietzsche—but the love of life for me is best captured by Frost in “Birches,” and that chilling line…”The earth’s the right place for love, I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” And yes, I too have climbed those birches, but always swung back down on the good earth…

That the Hebrew Bible has little to NOTHING about life after death or the immortal soul or resurrection or the age-to-come, other than the kind of visions of the future imagined by the Prophet Isaiah (see chapters 2:1-4 and 65:17-25), which remain very much “in and of” this world. This outlook sets it apart as an odd set of documents for the late Persian, early Hellenistic world of gnostic like dualism that so pervades late 2nd Temple Judaism and the neo-Platonic ideas that were merged with Christianity in the 2nd through 4th centuries–culminating in Augustine’s City of God.

Message A: Our purpose is to find forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in the incarnated God—made Christ—who gave his life for our sins so we can go to heaven when we die, unworthy as we are…leaving behind this dark world of sin and death for eternal life with God…

Message B: World gone Wrong (thanking Dylan here)…very much our Home and only Home, where we totally “belong,” but who will take up the Abrahamic call to model the Way of truth, love, and justice for all nations—and thus advance things toward  “fixing” the mess we have made—and thus advancing things toward a “completing” of the potential of emergent creation—sentient moral creatures who echo and reflect the character of the Creator—in Hebrew terms: Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and righteousness? Those who hear that call are “not far from the Kingdom of God,” but are as mortal as a fallen leaf.

But what about death–and afterlife? One shouts out. Is that not the main question?

May the “secret things” remain with the Force of all Forces, the “Ground of our Being,” as we get on with the business of life itself–full enough of wonder to satisfy anyone with insight and imagination.

New Closer to Truth Web Site–The Best Thing out There!

Dr. Robert L Kuhn’s newly designed Closer to Truth web site is truly stunningly done. Rich content, endless fascination…I know of nothing on the internet that compares. You can subscribe for free. Program content is also available on Youtube and via major Podcasts. If you are mainly interested in the “Big Questions” as I am, this is the BEST thing out there. Check it out.

Click on Image for 45s Introduction to the newly Designed Site

I am also very pleased to note my own contributor page has been wholly reorganized with videos I did not even remember I had done with Dr. Kuhn over the years, links to my books, and an updated Bio. Check it out here–a good place to start in diving into Closer to Truth!

James Tabor


John Dominic Crossan–Don’t Miss this Interview!

Over the decades I have heard dozens of interviews with John Crossan, listened to his lectures, read his books, and spent time together in Jerusalem in 2007 with him and his wife Sarah, in endless conversation, visiting some of the “off the beaten tourist paths” places with Shimon Gibson. He and I have our differences on getting at the “historical Jesus,” but we agree on far more than we disagree, and I am happy to stand in his shadow and continue to listen and learn from him.

I just finished listening for the second time (!) to his recent two hour free-ranging interview with Youtube host Derek Lambert of Mythvision Podcast–which includes an hour of Q & A from viewers–really great questions. I have never heard him better–a wonderful combination of his personal experience, his latest insights on Jesus and early Christianity, but also deep dives into his broader theological, philosophical, and scientific outlook on our lives and history on planet earth at the wonderful age of 88, with his characteristic graciousness to all, sprinkled with his Irish wit and charm! Pure delight. Don’t miss it.

What really stood out for me, beyond the many excellent historical points about Jesus and earliest Christianity in its Roman contexts, were his existential perspectives about the process of “Evolution”–which I would equate to my own understanding of what has been called “Process Theism,” as per Whitehead and Hartshorne. Terms like God, Atheism, Theism, Theodicy, Eschatology–easily fail in common usage to reflect much precision of meaning, skewered as they are by . But all in all, Crossan’s vision of “Reality” as both transcendent and distributively “just”–in the way he lays things out, I find profoundly moving.

I usually try to chose categories for Blog posts from a topical “drop down” menu, but for this one I come up with a thick cluster: Death, Future, God, Historical Jesus, Horrors of History, La Condition Humanine, Philosophical Musings, Religion and History, the Bible, the Earth, Time…as I said, “wide-ranging”!

Here is the link–I hope you benefit from the accumulative scholarship and life wisdom of “Dom,” as I have:

Light and Darkness…

I love this one. That is you and me and everyone one of us, both the child within and the adult stumbling through many paths. I will not identify it, so those who don’t recognize can have fun finding the poet if they so choose. For those who are sticklers on the Upper/Lower case for God/gods, recall that ELOHIM is the “Powers,” i.e. the sum total of the Power of all powers…so-called forces of “Nature” and all that “Is.”

The darkness is apparent in every generation, in every life…as is the light. Tales of horror, loss, and grief, alongside those of joy and amazing grace and sacrificial kindness. Thank you Buk. I love your heart and soul.

Rejecting Dualisms…

In the end moral outcomes of kindness, justice, and “truth,” with a lowercase T, I find to be a good filter for trying to discern what is beneficial and harmful on both a global historical and individual level. The firehose of history has a complexity we can only take in by bits and bites, always determined by our shifting historical and biographical POVs, with blind spots, prejudices, and assumptions. I like the words of Amos—to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly, provides some light on the paths before us, but distinguishing facts from fiction, ends and means, projection from reality, and individual mental states from
“actuality,” is an unfolding challenge. In general I prefer Freud to Jung, Minsky over Mysticism, Epicurus over Plato, but more as a safeguard against wish fulfillment and delusion, not as a statement of reductionistic truth. I am not drawn to any form of “dualism” as I find the categories presumptive and the dichotomy that characterizes 99% of so called “spiritual” or “religious” thought a kind of basic “category” mistake about the “material” and the “spiritual.” Consciousness is our only direct reality and rather than it being imposed upon a “material” world we assume to be the “real” world, it appears to emerge from what “is” whatever labels (“material” “spiritual” “physical” “metaphysical”) we impose upon it. I see rather emerging levels of sentience, on this planet at least, in contrast to the other planets in our little corner of the galaxy, with moral choice–and primarily truth and love–providing our best compass for the existential choices that come to us day by day.

I love these shifting perspectives on “Consciousness” and the mind/body ” problem as presented by Robert Kuhn in his interviews with John Searle and David Chalmers over fifteen years…

The World is so Full of a Number of Things…

As I think of “retirement,” or more properly “transition” from student oriented life to my own research and projects—and outreach to a broader mass of “students” or at least comrades along the way, from my tiny corner of the human experience and endeavor, I have this sense of stable drifting and open seas. An overwhelming sense of finitude in our complex world of history, religions, cultures, politics, science, and philosophy. What matters most, is what matters most in my mind—and determining that is an ethical challenge. But the lines of the RLS children’s poem: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,” came to mind, and of course “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…” Hoping to shine on!

Listening to that Cosmic Music by David S. Tabor