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My Personal Spiritual Salad

My Personal Spiritual Salad

My Personal Spiritual Salad

Himalayan moonrise, Hundar village, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

This post is dedicated to my father, Prof. Zvi Adar, who taught me the humanistic, universalist aspects of Judaism and gave me the English “Pocket World Bible” with quotes from all written religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Parsi, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Confucian and Taoist. 

With his iconic fountain pen he wrote on the first page a quote from the Jewish philosopher, the Rambam: 

Since reality (existence) is good without doubt. 

Table of Contents

Intro;

My Personal Spiritual Salad

 Salad and Tapas; The Physical mealnge; More salad ingredients; Rest

Milestones

Double S.F. blessing; How many paths?;

How many wells?; Celibacy – not my path;

The Base

Childhood literature ; My Jewish legacy; Who doesn’t like Christmas?Issues with Judaism;

 Theological Ramblings

Monotheism – Unifying or divisive? Inclusive monotheism – it is possible; Male? female? both?; Mono and Poly; none?  

The Core

Earth; The deeper core;  Beauty, a fundamental quality of the universe; After we die;  

Appendix: Politics – Spiritual?

No to Package Deals 

For technical reasons, in some cases it might necessary to scroll down a little bit to get to the linked title.

”One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”  – Winnie the Pooh

The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao

Lao Tse

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes, 3, 11

 Note: The terms God, Divinity, The Goddess, The Great Spirit, The Universe, The Divine, Truth, are used interchangeably in the text to describe what cannot be described, and according to what suits the context.

Intro

  As this writing is fairly lengthy, you are invited to use the Table of Contents above to navigate it.

This post follows in an organic way on the “Spiritual salad” and “spiritual Scene” articles in the Israeli Phenomenon in India series. After describing this amazing sociological phenomenon, I felt a calling to try and analyze where I personally stand in this statistic, to look inside.

Not so easy…

Being who I am, the post is a mixture of the “light”, even the humurous, and the “serious”. I leave it to the reader to decide which is which… 

The first part largely describes “practical aspects” of my personal spiritual path or, rather, the mixing of the various salad ingredients in my actual, daily life. 

The second part describes milestones on my spiritual journey and my spiritual “base”. 

In the third part I got carried away into some theological ramblings regarding monotheism, polytheism and atheism, gods and goddesses.

The last part gives a brief glimpse into the “deeper core” of my personal perception and view of the Universe. More on this in future posts.

The appendix touches on the topic of spirituality and politics.

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Note: Everything written below is mine alone. Nobody but me is responsible for any of the opinions expressed here.

  Readers are invited to share about their own personal spiritual salads in the comments section below.

My Personal Spiritual Salad

Salad and Tapas

Some people eat the same lunch every day, and are apparently happy and even healthy, but I must admit, I love mixing. Throwing many elements in to make a salad or soup, enjoying the blended flavors. 

Interestingly, a new CNN article about the long-living Okinawans describes a variation on the topic: 

Okinawans typically eat seven different fruits and vegetables, 18 different foods a day, and more than 200 different foods and spices regularly in their overall diet. In the United States, we are lucky to consume a dozen different foods in our regular daily diet, total.

This wholesome diet consists, then, of small portions, each with a distinct taste, much like the Spanish tapas, the Arabic salad appetizer plate, or what we call “mazettes”. The overall is rich and complementary nutritionally.

Mixed, or separate, the variety of ingredients creates a sustaining, healthy whole. 

The Physical Melange

As in food, I have an eclectic attitude to my personal spiritual/physical practice.

Even though my base is yoga, as I elaborate below, I bring many different elements into my daily life.

In class, garden, or living room

With others

Ideally, I “should” practice every morning (or evening) on my own, but it is also rewarding and enriching to go out and study with a teacher, be in a group. So in real life I juggle between the two.

These days I take bellydance classes and Pilates, the first primarily for the soul, the second more for the physical benefits. Though, as I explain below (“It all connects through the breath” section), both these aspects are inextricably intertwined. My choices depend on my body and mood at the time, and on what’s available and accessible. Resonance with the teacher is an important factor as well.

At two periods of my life I was blessed to have teachers for classical Odissi (East Indian) dancing, and overtime I experimented also with Chi Gong, Tai Chi, African-Haitian dance, Sufi, Falun Dafa, modern, even Israeli folk. 

In a different way, I also enjoy dancing and moving in large groups as in the various festivals I attend around the country, or the wonderful Boogie Dance gatherings in Jerusalem. There is a special energy that builds up. 

Sola

As I already mentioned, my main personal spiritual practice is yoga, and I prefer to do it on my own. Although many classes are offered today, I choose not to get confused with too many interpretations. At least on this track, I try to stick with a teaching that generally worked well for me (see below), dig deeper into that well.  

My sola practice can take the form of free dance in the living room, doing asanas on a mat in the garden or, as a minimum, stretching in bed. Ideally, I follow Satchidananda’s Integral Yoga routine: Hatha (asanas), Pranayama, relaxation, sitting meditation, but usually I just do a part. Due to my knee problems, I skip on some of the asanas. 

Into that base I mix in other physical elements picked up from many different disciplines. This last week, in the Sufi festival, I learned basics of Caucasian Yoga, a different system that combines movement with a specific type of breathing. Seeing the benefits, I have already started integrating some of it into my practice. 

“Something” every day

My sola personal spiritual practice can be long and comprehensive, or just a short stint of one element, depending on time and energy. Shabbat is a good time to do a longer practice. Otherwise, due to laziness or distractibility, I often do no more than some Pranayama and stretching in bed as I wake up. I know in my deepest heart I should do more, but at least I adhere to my motto of doing something every day….

In the free air

That something is usually walking. Big muscle movement is the minimum I do daily, and I don’t need to “force” myself or struggle to get up and about. If I don’t go out to walk or swim, I simply go bananas…!

Walking in Har Eitan, Jeruslame vicinity

Walking takes me into Nature, a spiritual practice all on its own (see below). Sometimes I combine a short walking meditation into my stroll. That allows for a deeper immersion into the Life around and inside me.

It all connects through the breath

Body and mind are one. Therefore, I see all physical disciplines as spiritual practices, especially if there is a focus on the breath, which is the link between the two, as yoga teaches us.

There are so many body-centered ways, something for every one. Obvious ones are dance of all forms, yoga, Chi Gong, Tai Chi, and other systems which intentionally focus on the body as a conduit for Spirit and Soul. Martial arts, athletics, swimming, walking, can all be performed in a mindful, soulful way. Ball games enhance spiritual values of concentration and camaraderie. There is spirituality even in systems like Pilates or weight lifting, that essentially view the body as an assemblage of muscles. 

Belly dancing to me is almost as spiritual as sitting to meditate. All paths lead to the Great Spirit.

Using the breath consciously spiritualizes every physical activity.

Raga, a performance of Indian music by Israeli musicians, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, May 16th, 2019. Sitar – Tavor Ben Dor, Tabla – Tamar Kalufer, Voice – Adi Kraus

Music, a physical-spiritual practice

I consider making music, either vocally or instrumentally, to be a physical-spiritual practice. As “abstract” as music is, its production comes from the wholistic body that extends itself out directly through the voice or indirectly through the hands and into an external instrument. Any musician knows that her/his body, the external instrument and the sound produced are an inseparable continuum.

In practice, I can chant the Buddhist “Om Mani Padme Hum” when I do the dishes or drive, sing the Hindu mantras and Bhagwan I learned from Nidhee, my beaultiful Indian music teacher in Dharamsalla, but also Israeli, American, Spanish folk songs. I now sing on a Ladino (Jewish Spanish) choir.

Additionally, I play piano, recorders and melodica, don’t shy from hitting a drum. I love listening to just about any form of music except rap and opera… Nothing like music to uplift one when you are there with it. I wish I did more on this path, but as I expound below, unfortunately, I never dug deep enough into any of the wells…

Arts

What I say here about music is just as relevant to the other arts, in my case photography and writing.

And something for the brain

Additionally and separately, I also try to practice my poor brain with Duolingo – now with learning Italian, formerly with French. Crosswords.

More Ingredients of my Personal Spiritual Salad

Crystals

Here comes the New Age element… Sometimes I use crystals to heal and balance myself. I place them on my chakras lying down. Breathe.

Wisdom

To wrap up my internationality, I also throw the I Ching once in a while, only at crucial life junctions, though. Somehow the readings are always right on, and an incredible source of wisdom and inspiration. I have a hard copy with an introduction by C.G. Jung, but you can get it easily on the Internet and even “throw” the coins online. I did that once, and it was still amazingly accurate. How does that work??

Additionally, by my bedside I have the “Feast of Days” with daily spiritual wisdom, advice and inspiration by an incredibly wise woman of the Cherokee tribe, Joyce Sequichie Hifler.  

             

The “other things”

Generally speaking about my personal spiritual “practice”, I know I should, and hopefully would, do more, and more consistently, especially on the “sitting quiet” part, but this is where I am right now, and that means I also watch some TV series, movies, newscasts, read novels, non-fiction, etc. … After all, as I mention below, the human is inherently a story-telling animal

Rest - the Ultimate Personal Spiritual Practice

”Sometimes the thing to do is nothing.” – Winnie the Pooh

On hammock, Shankar Palace, Pushkar, Rajasthan

Rest is a recent discovery. Formerly, “rest” was almost alien to my busy life, kind of a bad word…

Nowdays rest means lying on my back with my feet on the Pilates ball, in the hammock, in Nature or in bed.

It means:

Not meditating,

Not trying to focus on the breath

Not trying to focus on a mantra

Not trying to follow the thoughts, or disengage from them

Not exercising in any way

Not intellectualizing in any way

Not following any story

Not socializing in any fashion

Not working on this website

No screens, no pages

Not blaming myself for taking the rest.

Rest just Is,

And is totally delicious.

”Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” – Winnie the Pooh

My personal spiritual salad is a work in progress. Below is a description of the personal history and the cultural “base” around which it sprang and unfolded.

Milestones

I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.” ― Winnie the Pooh

Double S.F. Blessing: San Francisco, Santa Fe

Serendipity? 

I arrived at the Integral yoga Institute on a stroke of “luck”. If there are crucial watershed moments in life, of the type you might think of as “serendipity”, or “the hand of God”, this was one. 

The year was 1982. I was coming back from my 2-year sojourn in Latino America, worn-out and tired, to meet an ex-boyfriend in California. We had a row and he suggested I moved to a hotel, but that meant $60 a night. I was used to spending $1-3 a night south of the American border, so that was not an option. “You could probably sleep the night in the Yoga Center”, he said. “I will leave you in the best hands.”

“I am a nun”…

I was brought to the door of a beautiful 3-story Victorian house on Dolores Street, San Francisco. The sign said: “Integral Yoga Institute“. An angel in a flowing orange robe opened the door and after a short exchange with my friend, introduced herself as Swami Diviananada:

“Swami?”

“Yes, that means I am a nun.

You are welcome to stay at the yoga Center. We are glad to have you”. 

I was shocked. A nun? But her kind eyes and words gripped me.

“You can sleep in the reception room on the carpet. There is a yoga class at 7:30 in the morning on the third floor. You are invited to join”. 

I slept on the soft, fuzzy carpet for six months, studying yoga, eating wholesome vegetarian food at the communal kitchen, making friends. Eventually I could move to the dorms on the second floor when one of the residents moved out. I got the top bunk bed, full access to the kitchen and free yoga classes, all for $300.

Integral Yoga Institute – My Sojourn into Paradise

I cannot elaborate here (perhaps in a future post) about everything I learned in the yoga center. It was one of the most intense learning periods, as well as one of the happiest phases of my life. The Universe opened up to endless possibilities. I did two teacher trainings, several retreats, fasts and karma yoga, learned massage and Shiatsu in another yoga center, taught yoga at the institute and worked several odd jobs, including as a massage therapist in a sauna shop.

Living in San Fransisco in the 80s, with some of the highs of the Big Experimental Period of the 60-70 still lingering in the air… Ah…. 

I am deeply indebted to all the wonderful people I met, befriended, studied with in that wonder of a city.

[Writing this, my heart breaks to hear about what San Francisco has turned to nowdays…]

Santa Fe – San Francisco Junior

One of the residents in the Institute told me once: “There is a town in New Mexico, like a small upcoming San Francisco. It’s called Santa Fe”.

Little did I know what this innocent piece of information, given casually, was leading me to. Via another auspicious chain of events, I ended up having a family, home and life of body and spirit for more than 10 years in that marvellous town. Wonderful are the ways of the Universe. 

Santa Fe is rich in arts, alternative spirituality, healing practices and schools, beautiful seasons, views, Nature, and, for its size, is surprisingly international. The Native American / Hispanic/ White American mix is highly enriching. I will write more about Santa Fe in the future. Here it suffices to say that the city has a Goddess spirit, is conducive to higher energies and open to new ways of Being.

On my first week there I saw a sign posted on the bulletine board in the public library: 

We are all individuals.

How Many Paths?

RIver Patterns, Road Manali-LehHimalayan river. The road from Manali to Leh, Ladakh.

By defining one transcendental goal, but many paths to reach it, you allow people like me to breathe.

What I liked most about Swami Satchidananda, my “guru” in the Integral Yoga Institute, was his motto:

Truth is one, Paths are Many

Source: https://www.yogaville.org/services/lcaf-lotus-center-for-all-faiths/

Breath of fresh air

When I first heard this, it was like a blood tranfusion into my veins. There was accumulated tiredness of all the arguments and cultural wars over Judaism and secularism. The mixing of religion and politics in Israel was exhausting. The “all or none” dichotomous choice, deeply unsatisfying. Hartman Institute aptly describes our plight. Israel in their word is

an either-or society of secular pragmatism versus religious spiritualism”.

I was tired of the lack of choices, the linearity, the framing of the mind vis-a-vis one ancient human story with its expansive system of rationalizations and justifications.

Plus, the “religious spiritualism” did not feel to me spiritual at all. The levels on which our religion talks to me are the social and historical ones, as I describe in detail below. As a personal spiritual path it doesn’t do much for me. Many aspects of the way it is practiced, especially the segregation of men and women in orthodoxy, are outright anthitetical to who I am. 

Reducing the pressure

By defining one transcendental goal, like “Truth”, “Divinity”, or “Spirit”, but many paths to reach it, you allow people like myself to breathe. There’s no need to be dogmatic – pro or anti. One is not obligated by a harsh set of rules, but by the same token, you are not thrown into an alien universe with no anchor. You can choose your personal spiritual way, and there are many.

I am not even sure of the word “Truth” here, maybe because the minute you say “Truth”, you start arguing what Truth is. So for me I will susbsitute it for “spirit”, as in

All paths lead to the Great Spirit

This, again, will be my motto, not anything anybody else “should” choose as theirs. That said, due to what “truth” had become in the Trump era, it might make sense to stick by the original, just to make sure 2+2 continues to be 4.

Gandhi talked about Truth as the highest aspiration.

Integral yoga teachers graduates with staff and affiliatesIntegral Yoga Hatha teacher training graduates with staff and affiliates. I am in the seated row on the right. 1982 (83?)

At any rate, I connect with the term “Great Spirit”, so will leave it at that. Basically, it all comes down to:

Live and Let Live, find your personal spiritual path/s, or experiment, try things, shop around, search.

Make your own spiritual salad or tapas combo if you prefer that to a single, well-trodden road. Eventually some things will fall into place. Something will feel and be right. Something you can live by.

Even dancing…

Even painting, making music, dancing, doing science – all can be paths, if followed with the right set of mind. Look at the Japanese. In that culture, preparing sushi, or molding tea cups is spiritual training. You can reach enlightenment polishing your carpentry or weaving skills if you do them in a mindful, spiritual way. Or planting rice. Or being a mother (a non-perfect one, preferrably, but a caring, loving one). You can meditate, do postures, read psalms every morning on the bus, pray to Jesus. It is all OK. It all leads to the center of the mandala. What a relief!!!

Yogaville – all paths lead to the center of the mandala

This accepting, open approach is very Indian. It is not mainstream Jewish. It is not mainstream Christian. Definitely not Muslim. In general, openess in monotheistic religions seems to have actually declined from one religion to the next, with the notable exceptions of Baha’i and Sufi (see below).

Loptus shrine at yogaville, VIrginiaLotus shrine at Yogaville, Virginia. Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/375487687662919112/?lp=true

All religions meditation hall, Yogaville AshramAll Religions Meditation Hall, Yogaville, Virginia. Source: https://hiveminer.com/Tags/ashram%2Cyogaville

The Yogaville shrine (above) is a beautiful manifestation of Swami Satchidananda’s dream of a temple where all religions – past, present and future – can worship in the same space, with one auspicious center in the middle. Each known religion has a niche, and there is one niche for all unknown or unnamed religions as well. People are invited to sit and meditate or pray in the respective niches, follow their group or personal spiritual road.

The common mystical core

In the Yoga Center I learned that all religions have a mystical core that is one and the same. Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam (see below), Kabbalah the mystical branch of Judiasm, Yoga the mystical core of Hinduism, and Christianity has many mystical traditions. The idea behind “Unity in Diversity“, the way Swami Satchidananda presented it, was that the mystical core of all these religions is one. This is the place where they all meet. That is why the Lotus shrine in Yogaville has many petals that lead to the center of the flower. 

How Many Wells?

So, the “Truth is One, Paths are Many” motto captured my spirit, but Swami Satchidananda also said that it is much better to dig one well and go deep until one reaches the water, rather than dig many shallow wells to no avail. It makes sense, but I admit I flanked on that score. As I already disclosed in this post, I am too eclectic by nature. Even when I lived in the yoga center I also took aerobics classes…

Don’t make vows you can’t fulfil

Chocolate and yoga

On the other hand, I did not flank on my vows.

I don’t have too many bad habits – don’t smoke, take drugs, drink alcohol – but I found out the hard way I can’t live without chocolate. When we got initiated as yoga teachers, we were asked to make a vow – quit something, abstain from something.

When two years later I realized I could not keep my chocolate vow, I quit on being a yoga teacher. Earnestly.

The guru, on the other hand, apparently flanked on his vows of abstinence, as many female disciples testified, but he did not quit… So I can live with myself. 

The Guru’s “mistakes”

Luckily, I was not involved with Swami Satchidananda personally, or with any other “guru”. I received his teachings, which I still uphold as reasonable, moderate and inspirational, through the filter of two incredible female disciples of his – one from a Jewish background, the other from a Christian background.

They were running the institute in San Fransisco, and he was based in Virginia. One of my teachers quit the swamihood after the scandal became public; she was too disillusioned… The other one chose to stay, as she felt this was her calling this life around, the guru’s “mistakes” notwithstanding…

The two times I’ve seen him in person, he did not “click” for me. I noticed he treated his Indian female disciples dismissively, while adulating on his Western female disciples, and that bothered me. Also, I did not like his response to a question I posed to him about the Israeli situation. He discounted it with: “Israel does not need you. Move here”. I found this response insulting and insensitive. It actually gave me an incentive to do the opposite: go back to Israel and teach yoga there, which I did for a while.

Today, yoga is very commonplace in Israel, nothing new or revolutionary, but at that time I felt I was a woman on a mission, delivering a message to my homeland.

Teachers, not gurus

In contrast to the Guru, my wonderful female teachers, his disciples, filled my life with light I still bath in to this day. I learned what I needed to learn from them. And that did not include personal worship. Thank you, gentle and strong ladies.

Celibacy? Not My Path.

From the first moment in the yoga institute, though, I was clear that celibacy and me don’t go together. Celibacy was not required, but was highly encouraged. There was the alternative path of the householder, which was, in principle, equally respected. It was obvious, thought, that celibacy and swamihood were considered a higher level, a more direct path to enlightenment than changing diapers.

That’s one thing from my Jewish and Israeli background I cherish and uphold, and it saved me in this situation: the prime importance of family and children. This basic tenet stopped me from continuing on the path the yoga center might have led me to.

Any religion where priests are forbidden to have families and expected to refrain from sex and family life seems to me a recipe for corruption – unnatural, not healthy. That applies to both Catholic priests and to Hindu gurus. 

Sex and sensuality are a part of our innate nature, and in my opinion, of the nature of the Universe. If done with the right attitude, it can be a straight path to the true Yoga.

Yoga means Union.

Adity - Divine LoveAditi – Divine Love

The Base

Childhood Literature - The Base

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them” (The little Prince).

Image result for original images the little prince

 

 

 

 

 

“The men where you live,” said the little prince, “raise five thousand roses in the same garden− and they do not find in it what they are looking for.”  

I’ll now go a bit backwards, describe my original spiritual base.

This is perhaps unconventional and many people might raise eyebrows, but I hold that my childhood books played a very significant role in my personal spiritual formation, shaping my values and views of the world for life. 

My real Bible and the book I will take to an isolated island has always been “The Little Prince” by Saint Exupery. 

Other books like Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Pipi Long Stockings, Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, The Never Ending Story – molded my spiritual world more profoundly than any so-called holy books. Harry Potter does the same to millions of children around the world today.

E. H. Shepard, For a long time they looked at the river beneath them. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Source: https://news.artnet.com/market/winnie-the-pooh-illustration-sets-auction-record-at-sothebys-193091

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” – Winnie the Pooh

A story-telling animal

The human is a story-telling animal. Limiting the stories one hears or reads to just one sacred book or one saga, as great and as profound as they may be, impoverishes our world.

Judaism, like the other book religions, promotes one story, one narrative. Orthodox people shun all secular books. A devout Muslim reads nothing but the Koran. In the library of Tushita Meditation Center , all books were about Buddhism.

In the next section I describe what I do take from our religious narrative.

Jewish Legacy - The Base

I’m incapable of “buying” package deals. That applies to both political worldviews/parties and to religions/spiritual paths. For example, I refrained from going on the celibate track when I was in the Yoga Institute. Here, Judaism with its positive attitude to family affected my choice.

The following two sections describe what I take and what I do not take from Judaism. Clearly, this is a bit simplified since Judaism is practiced in many different ways by different people/groups.

Family

As mentioned, from our religion I adopt the positive attitude towards children and family and my misgivings about celibacy, a non-existent practice in our religion.

Jews like to claim we have a positive attitude to sex. A man is in principle ordered by rabbinical writings to satisfy his wife. At least on paper, Judaism is not opposed to sexuality generally and to female sexuality specifically. The reality is, of course, way more complex.

Still, family is the center of Israeli life, and Israel has one of the better age distributions in the world. I’ll write more about this, and about other positive aspects of Israeli society in a future post. 

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Population pyramid of Israel

Israel’s age distribution.

Source: https://www.indexmundi.com/israel/age_structure.html

No person is above fault

Najvajo rugs deliberate imperfectionsThe Navajo art of deliberate imperfections. 

Source: https://www.amusingplanet.com/2017/08/the-art-of-deliberate-imperfection.html

Navajo rugs are made intentionally with imperfections.

My father instilled in me an admiration to the way our Bible, the Old Testament, does not “allow” anybody to be perfect. That was revolutionary in the ancient world that idolized heroes and kings. Moses sinned and was punished. So did David, the glorified king, Saul, his predecessor, and the People of Israel in general. 

In principle, at least, Judaism should be beyond veneration of an individual person, though today rabbi cults have become common.

This understanding is another reason why I did not vibe with Guru worship.

I do not like the Messiah idea for the same reason. I believe we, as humanity, with all our imperfections, are the ones who should improve society and the world, no external forces or agents can do this for us.

Justice

The pursuit of Justice

Justice, justice thou shalt pursue“, as the Torah (Deuteronomy 16:20) ordains and the prophets elaborated on, is a good base for trying to improve society and the world. The word “pursue” requires/demands active/proactive action.

Having a class of “untouchables” will not be acceptable in Judaism.

Having the rich pay lower taxes than the poor is against the spirit of The Book. 

Communism and Capitalist “Christianity”

Communism can perhaps be seen as a political attempt to put this principle into practice. Unfortunately, it has caused more human misery than it saved. The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, like any dictatorship, is a very bad and dangerous idea. Period. The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that everybody should have the same income or be equal financially, or that government should have control over all financial affairs of the people.

By the same token, just because Communism failed, does not mean that the exaggerated form of Capitalism rampaging the planet today is anything accceptable.

I find it hard to comprehend how a party that supports making the rich richer at the expense of the poor and plundering God’s Creation, calls itself more “Christian” than the opposition.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15) 

The Golden Economical Path

Another lesson delivered to me by my father, following Aristotle (and the Jewish philosopher, the Rambam, who ) – is the Middle Road or Golden Path. This philosophical approach is applicable to national economical systems as well as to personal life.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is a very bad and dangerous idea. Period.

Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam is a Jewish effort to bring humanistic values into the world in order to “fix” injustices and help in situations where help is needed. Here is an article about Israeli efforts to bring about Tikkun Olam. Israeli agricultural projects of Tikkum Olam, Africa Israeli agricultural Tikkun Olam projects in Africa. Source: http://www.cultivaid.org/new_pro-2/

In this context, tough, one thing for me is beyond dispute:

In order to help with Tikkun Olam, the one and only Jewish state has to first of all exist and prosper.

Tikkun Olam starts with ourselves, our families, our nations and all the way to humanity and the biosphere, but it is conditional before all else on our very survival…

Food issues

In my understanding, Kashrut and food restrictions in other religions, come from a basic, deep sense of guilt humans have about eating animal meat in the first place. The best solution is then to simply not eat it, or as little as possible. 

I am vegetarian or rather, pescatarian. That takes care of all these admonitions about meat and milk. No meat, no problems with Kashrut. (Or almost none. The rabbis erected a superbly complex system of restrictions that go beyond the mixing of meat and milk. I don’t care about any of that, and will not elaborate about it here).

In my understanding, Kashrut and food restrictions in other religions, come from a basic and deep sense of guilt humans have about eating animal meat in the first place. The best solution is then to simply not eat it, or as little as possible. 

Shabbat

Shabbat is without doubt the greatest Jewish contribution to the world, and it makes no difference which day you actually celebrate. A day of rest once every week. How could we all survive without it???

A change in vibration. A time for spirit and for ourselves. Even if one does not relate to any spiritual/religious aspects of Shabbat, it’s essential to just take the day off work, for heaven’s sake. It’s our chance to remember who we are separately from our boss, the demands of the workplace, the studies, career, whatever it is we deal with the other six days… Time for family, relaxation, getting out in nature, reading a book, enhancing our relationships. I often do my yoga practice on Shabbat.

Of course, I do not support the extremes some orthodox Jews go to, defining the day by a series of endless prohibitions, and I don’t like the dogmatism they attach to something that should, indeed, be very wonderful. It is beyond belief that people have all these rules against carrying small bags on Shabbat, or tearing toilet paper, but no problem with throwing stones on secular people’s cars on a holy day…

Shabbat is our chance to remember who we are separately from our boss ...

Shabbat, or a weekly day of rest, is the greatest social human right Civilization as a whole has embraced and adopted since the onset of the slave-dependent agricultural empires. 

Any anti-socialist people are willing to give up on their weekends? 

Here is a nice take on this topic: Shabbat, an ecological spiritual delight

Holidays

I also like the variety of the Jewish holidays. They go from the somber to the very light, plus there is Tu Bishvat, a holiday for trees! Anybody who browsed my site will notice my love for trees.

Some holidays are religious, others are historical, agricultural or national. Most are combinations. Something for every season and every taste. But I take them all in a mild form!

Another nice aspect is that Jewish holidays are primarily family events, and most are geared and adapted for children.  

Do/ don’t do unto others…

Oh, and last but not least: Rabbi Hillel, when asked by a prospective convert to Judaism to teach him the whole Torah while standing on one leg, replied:

“That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”

The same saying also came from Jesus (in a positive form) and from Confucius.

Unfortunately, many concentrate on the “go forth and study” rather than on the heart of the matter. (It’s hard. No wonder Hillel said this is the whole Torah… and everybody knows Judaism is hard… ).

Who doesn't like Christmas?

Speaking of holidays, who doesn’t like Christmas?

When I lived in America, we hung lights on the trees in the yard and gave our daughters gifts. Why not? A nice Jew was born 2000 years ago and spoke about love, forgiveness, peace. 

Santa Fe celebrates Christmas in a unique and beautiful way thanks to the custom of the farolitos – candles in paper bags – that decorate all walls on the town’s east side. We would all go out strolling the streets, enjoying the Luminarios, the singing and the atmosphere.

Christmas farolitos on Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New MexicoChristmas farolitos on Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Source: https://www.daily-journal.com/life/travel/santa-fe-glows-with-luminaria-and-history/article_dda89962-9a23-5b56-be01-38ac972f1d21.html

Easter is another matter, being so entwined in the Jewish collective memory with persecutions, “alternative facts” (called blood libels) and the rest of Antisemitic justifications. But Christmas in its American common version is benign and beautiful. 

Celebrating what unites us

Having a tree did not turn any of us into a Christian, Sufi whirling did not turn anybody attending the festival into a Muslim, participating in a puja did not make me a Hindu….

Similarly, President Obama and his family did not become Jewish by celebrating Hanukkah in the White House

The idea is to celebrate what unites us, not what separates us!

Issues with Judaism

And yet…

With all its wonderful aspects described above, and there are many more, the way the Jewish religion is practiced and imposed on our laws and ways of life in Israel today is not how I’d like to see my country evolving. The situation upsets me profoundly, but I try to keep my cool not to throw the baby with the bathwater. For that reason, I first wrote about what I do like about our religion.

I now turn to what I do not like:

When girl soldiers are not allowed to sing on Memorial Day in order to not "hurt the feelings" and sensibilities of male religious soldiers, the country is seriously going down a slippery slope!!!

How many plagues did God inflict on the sea?

The Exodus story is magnificent and powerful as the quintessential story of Liberation, and much of the world has adopted its message, but the Talmudic “pilpuls” in the Passover Hagadda take away from the original rather than add to it. They blur the deeper meaning to a point you can’t see the forest for the trees. That applies, in my mind, to Rabbinical Judaism generally.

The bearded man on the celestial throne

Further, I like many Biblical stories, but cannot separate God from “His” patriarchial image. Even if monotheism formed a good base for abstract thinking and led indirectly via Albert Einstein to the United Field Theory (see below on connections between Jewish thought and science), in practice our religion, and its daughters, are still paramountly male-based and male-imaged.

More on God’s “gender” , below.

Divorcing the religion from the state

Israel is well-known for its openess, liberalism and tolerance to other religions.  Tourists enjoy all their sacred places. Minorities can worship as they like. Persecuted creeds like the Baha’i (see below) find a safe haven. And, yet…

Yet, we ourselves, Israeli Jews, do not have a proper Constitution protecting our rights. The reason? Religious coercion by the ultra-orthodox. As I describe in the appendix, Israeli politics force minority rules and preferences on the majority of the population. 

Dangerous combination of demographics and politics

These days, due to a dangerous combination of demographics (the Bible commands uncontrolled procreation) and politics, there is a serious concern for the future of our country. If we, seculars and traditionals, fail to stop extreme ultra-orthodox takeover of our public life, Israel will be unrecognizable in another generation. We, women, will be the first to have our rights withheld, our freedoms tampered with. 

Jerusalem, my childhood city, has already practically transformed, seemingly irreversibly, into an ultra-religious stronghold [see my poem: Jerusalem’s Alternative]. When I came back from America, I discovered I could not anymore walk in shorts in my childhood neighborhood without hearing comments from religious passerby. The suffering secular population for the most part sheepishly just gives in, gives up and leaves the city. Some try our hand at dialogue, co-existence. Let’s hope it is not a losing battle.

Alienating other Jews from our religion

The ultra-orthodox creeping takeover also means, among other things, that Reform, Conservative and other Jewish renewal movements do not get the acknowledgement, place and voice they deserve in our country. This issue is inextricably entwined with women’s rights, as the fight over the Kotel women’s right to pray in their way demonstrates.

In my small way I personally set a ban on the Western Wall and have refrained from going there since 1968, when the unequal gender segregation was implemented!

I cannot accept being a second class citizen in what is supposed to represent the holiest site of my religion. 

In contrast, one of the better Jewish experiences I had in my life was a Yom Kippur service by an alternative Jewish group in San Francisco. The service was conducted entirely by women who were dressed in long white robes. The singing was angelic, the message pertinent, and I felt a genuine spiritual uplift I do not feel in “regular” synagogues.

Fears of change

Absurdely, the ultra-Orthodox would rather have us secular than Reform. They are so threatened by any changes to their doctrine…Their establishment has an extreme phobia of any religious innovation, openess, especially of allowing women to carve our own lives, dress as we wish. For that, and to keep their control over conversions and marriages, they apparently don’t mind alienating so many Israeli Jews, and the majority of the Jewish diaspora, distancing it from Israel, the only Jewish country in the world.

Covering up, shutting up

Fears of the modernity bring some to new extremes:

Jewish Jewish “Taliban” lady walking down a Jerusalem street. Source: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4703307,00.html

When girl soldiers in our liberal army are not allowed to sing (a sexually-paranoic Talmudic prohibition) in order to not “hurt the feelings” and sensibilities of male religious soldiers, the country is seriously going down a slippery slope!!!

Moreover,our religion does not provide me with what I seek 

Too verbal

With all the nice elements of moderate Judaism mentioned above, our religion does not answer my deeper needs and cravings. It does not provide me with tools I can practically use for my personal spiritual journey. Where are the ancient schools of female mysteries?

Everything in our religion is verbal!

The religion is centered on words. There’s no reference to the body/mind, except for music. Even the mystical branch of Judaism, the Kabbalah, is based in letters…Fortunately, some amalgams of yoga with Kabbalah are now winding a way in.

Prayers and blessings

Praying, as in reciting ancient texts whose meaning I don’t connect to, does not work for me. In addition, prayer pre-supposes a transcendental god to whom we have to offer supplications, plead our individual issues. 

The way I see it, God is everywhere, inside us and all of Life-a-la-Grand. Though highly natural and comforting to us, humans, prayer represents just one possible channel of communication. There are other methods to connect with the Divine, make our lives flow with the energies of the Universe.

I like the idea of food blessings, new day blessings, etc., but prefer to do them in my own words or in silence. 

If anything, the shamanic practice of thanking the four directions, the elements of the natural world, resonates better for me than prayers recited indoors from books. I also love sitting in an American-Indian style sweatlodge connecting directly to Mother Earth.

Too home-bound

Most of my childhood’s free time was spent outdoors. Anybody who browses through this website knows I am a Nature lover.

Traditionally, Orthodox Jewish women spend most of their lives at home A princess glory is in her chamber. The men sit and study in yeshivas. Everything is taking place indoors. What about the beauty of God’s Creation? 

Fortunately, this is starting to change. Ultra-orthodox families and youth groups are getting out and about more, traveling on holidays when they are not prohibited to drive. The inevitable need to send “their” women into the job market will hopefully also mellow down the extremes, open up these secluded sects into the larger world.

Too patriarchial

I cannot support any religion that promotes separation and segregation of women in any way.

I cannot support a religion that gives men the prerogative to prestigious religious practice while assigning women to limited domestic roles. 

Clearly, Reform Judaism and other Renewal movements have been trying to correct this. And, indeed, new ways of celebrating Judaism without alienating 51% of the population and suppressing the feminine half of our psyche, are emerging and taking hold in many circles. Unfortunately, Reform Judaism and the other renewal movements are restricted and hand-tied by the politicized ultra-orthodox establishment in Israel (also see below: politics).

For a full discussion on the gender of god see the sections:Male? Female? None? Both? and: Mono and Poly

An Interim Summary 

To reiterate from the previous sections, and as an interim conclusion to all the above:

Discovering the yoga philosophy that connects physical practice with the mind/spirit was a game changer in my life.

I also benefitted from other traditions I enountered over my journeys, like the Buddhist, the American-Indian, the Sufi.

I uphold that all current religions and practices must reform to give an equal, dignified place for women’s spirituality.

I still cherish some Jewish religious values and practices and try not to throw the baby with the bathwater.

I do not follow any tradition fully, but concoct my own personal spiritual salad. 

Om

Issues with Monotheism and Other Theological ramblings

Monotheism - Unifying or Divisive?

The highway to "killing all infidels", as well as to the Unified Field Theory, is monotheism. 

Monotheistic record in history

My main issue with the “great” monotheistic religions is not about meat and milk concerns. It is about the core idea of monotheism. 

As in science, it makes sense to judge a hypothesis by the outcomes of relevant experiments.

The Communist experiment, for example, failed miserably just about everywhere. No justifications or rationalizations can cover that up. Even Marx would be in shock had he seen North Korea today. 

What is the actual record of monotheistic religions in our world?

As unifying as they proclaim to be, in actuality monotheistic ideas promoting an all-powerful male god were used to justify imperialism, colonialism, forced conversions and violence. God’s name was used and is used over and over to exculpate institutionalized intolerance and aggression. It was and is still hailed to give license for mobs to act out their worst impulses, for armies to execute indefensible abominable atrocities.

Vegetarian crusades?

Anybody interested in finding out numbers of historic casualties caused by Christianity and Islam is invited to make their own Google search. It runs in the hundreds of millions for each. There is difficulty to come by hard, exact facts because interested parties try to hide and coverup, and because so many sources seem unreliable. Still, the picture is fairly clear, and the numbers, give or take a few millions, are mind-blowing. Both these religions did not create their empires worldwide through vegetarian crusades…

For clarification, empires, conquests and atrocities seem to have characterized human behavior from way before the monotheistic surge. The only new element these religions introduced was the hypocricy, using slogans of love and peace to justify the unacceptable.

The dangers of “The” Truth

Monotheistic religions should have been inclusive in principle, since they promote a unified view of Divinity, but lamentably, in practice, they generally do the opposite. Whereas polytheistic or animistic religions are likely to be flexible and open towards other creeds, monotheistic religions tend to be competetive, dictated hierarchically and exclusive. Since there is “one truth”, small sects that inevitably arise, claim that their take on this Truth is correct to the exclusion of all others. That tendency is common in both Christianity and Islam.

Monotheistic abstraction can inspire a genius like Einstein to see the world as a Unified Field, but on the other end, it is also the highway for simpler folk to justify “killing all the infidels”. 

One God, but for one people

For Jews, on the other end, there is one religion for us, while the rest of the world is exempt and free to choose. To our credit, we at least do not try to force our religion on anybody else. Conversely, we make it absurdely difficult to join. That does not mean the Orthodox are not trying to do missionary work on other Jews.

Once the idea of the one God set in historically, other nations could justly complain that this god could not be the exclusive national property of any specific group. There is a lot of Jewish apologetics around that, including that “choseness” was meant only to carry a heavier load than the others (unfortunately, a self-fulfiling prophecy). Still, there’s no easy way around the central issue. Either God is universal, or “He” is tribal.

The paradox of monotheism in Judaism

In other words, paradoxically, the one abstract universal god still needs to fulfil the ancient human need to adopt a protector and a totem for one’s own group. It would not have been a problem when tribal gods were the norm. That dilemma is made explicit in the Biblical book of Jonah, when each sailor prays to his own national/ tribal god to save him from the raging storm, while Jonah prays to the “God of Heaven, who made both sea and land.”(Jonah, 1,4-9).

The problem inevitably arose when Jews came out with the proclamation that “our god” was the one and only. A bit awkward, or even childish, if looked at from a modern perspective, but apparently progressive enough for its time and place to indirectly bring about a worldwide religious revolution.

Unfortunately, this paradox or conflict resulted in very harsh realities for us.

No justification for hatred

None of these arguments or criticisms justifies any of the anti-Jewish sentiments and actions, misnomered Antisemitism. Other peoples called themselves chosen and did not suffer from persistent vitriol hatred like we did. Some examples are the Sioux, the Japanese, the Mormons,  even the Rastafari… Christians in general consider themselves a chosen people. American talk about Manifest Destiny.

Besides, the monotheistic revolution, for good or not, was bound to happen, one way or another, just like globalization today. We were just the vehicle.

In conclusion, the Indian principle of Unity in Diversity, or rather, Diversity in Unity, is even more important today than ever. India is about Unity in DiversitySource: https://calendar.utk.edu/event/unity_in_diversity_in_india#.XOO63cgzZ1stake on

Inclusive Monotheism - It's Possible

Above: Whirling at the closing main whirling event. Sufi Festival, Shittim, Arava, Israel, May 2019

Fortunately, some monotheists made sincere efforts to overcome the inherent difficulties in their faiths.

Swami Satchidananda proclaimed that the mystical core of all religions is one and the same, only we usually operate on the superficial surface.

It is possible that this core is much more ancient and actually precedes the advent of all the religions common in the world today.

330 million gods in One – Hindusim

I mentioned in my series on the Israeli Phenomenon in India, that the rabbis gave Hinduism a Kosher certification as a monotheistic religion. The site Speaking tree.in explains this mono/poly dichotomy well.

India is still renown for its overall religious tolerance (see poster above). The sound of the Muezzin dominates the airwaves over the predominantly-Buddhist town of Leh five times a day…Temples of various religions stand side by side on the streets of holy cities. Families worship gods of their choice.

An inclusive monotheistic religion – Bahai

A notorious exception to theological exclusivism in the strictly monotheistic field is Bahai, a relatively new religion with high universalist ideals Mainstream Islam has ruthlessly persecuted it for this very openess and versatility. Eventually Baha’i found its safe haven in Israel and have their central temples in Haifa and Akko (Acre).

Baha'i Temple, Haifa, IsraelSource: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/israel/haifa/attractions/baha-i-gardens/a/poi-sig/1444834/361051

The Baha’i promote total gender and racial equality. It is inclusive to all other religions. Baha’i see religions, especially religions of revelation, as an evolving school. New revelations come with time to suit the era and the people. Paradigms can change as humanity gets more educated and evolves (hopefully). Even the “truth” is a concept in progress.

God is above knowing, but Baha’i use prayer and meditation to connect to “It”. Still, Baha’i basically worhip the same male god, have a male prophet and a set of fasts and rules, though not too heavy. They make a sincere effort to transcend, but are also subject to the time and place of their prophet.

Istanbul in Santa Fe

I’ve been to one Baha’i meeting in New Mexico, and was impressed. It was the most diverse crowd I’ve seen in a religious setting, something like the human mix you see at the Istanbul airport. The crowd was not the usual white middle class show typical of New Age spiritual groups, but “the real thing” – a sample of humanity. That by itself was a total joy. Men and women together, both genders taking part in everything that was going on. A positive, loving vision.

Sufi, bellydancing and scuds

Sufi dolls in Istanbul market by Topakti PalaceWhirling derwish dolls for sale in a market outside Pokapti Palace, Istanbul

So many lucky things happened to me in alternative America. One of them was Adnan’s Sufi dancing workshop in Santa Fe. Adnan, a Sufi master, would come to town several times a year and teach 3-hour workshops. They would start with belly-dancing in a circle, then upper body movements in a seated position in rows, and a drumming session in which he would go deep into sound and rhythm. The drumming would eventually wind down into meditation or deep relaxation. Sometimes we would chant the names of God.

Only in America

During the First Gulf War I addressed Adnan, originally an Iraqi, after the class:

“You know where I am from?”

There was a weird moment, when we both looked at each other intensely. My parents were sitting with gas masks on their faces in a sealed room in Jerusalem, as Saddam was firing his Scuds over cities he’d never known, trying to kill people he’s never met, and here I was studying spirituality with an Iraqi master.

This is the blessing of open, eclectic America.

Or was…

Sufism – removing the boundaries

Sufi Inayat Khan recognized the multi-religious roots of Sufism and its relevance for people of all faiths today. In 1907, he was instructed by his teacher to bring Sufism to the West, and delivered a message of “spiritual liberty”: 

Every age of the world has seen awakened souls, and as it is impossible to limit wisdom to any one period or place, so it is impossible to date the origin of Sufism.

According to the article, Sufism removes the boundaries which divide different faiths by bringing into full light the underlying wisdom in which they are all united.

Update: As I was editting this post, my luck brought me again to Sufism, this time in Israel (see video and picture above). I just attended a marvellous 3-day Sufi festival in the Desert Ashram in Shittim, Southern Arava. More than a 1000 Israelis were dancing to Allahu music…

In an upcoming post I will describe the message and impact of this festival.

Keep posted.

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The Unitarians

There is also the Unitarian church, where Jews can feel comfortable in Christian America without abandoning Judaism. The church even published a book titled: Being Both- embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family”.

Of course, Antisemites always put down Jewish “unitarianism” and “universalism” as a proof we are trying to take over the world, but there’s no way I will relate to that nonsense.

In this context, see my side note – Spiritual Salad and mixed families in the post: The Israeli Phenomenon in India part 5 – Music, Grass and the Spiritual Salad.

Inclusive,tolerant religions don’t proselytize or enforce themselves

Have you ever asked someone: “What is your secret? What do you do to be that way? What do you practice, believe in?” You must have noticed some qualities in that person that you wanted to emulate, adopt. You wanted to learn something from that person. How different is this approach from the usual religious coercion of the mainstream monotheistic religions.

Baha’i do not proselytize. They believe people will be drawn to their religion by their personal example. 

People from all over the world flock to India because they are drawn to the teachings and the teachers.

There are even souls who want to convert to Judaism, a very seclusive religion, despite all the hardships.

To me, forcing a religion on others is a grave mistake causing a lasting disruption in the harmony of the world.

Male? Female? Both?

He, she, it

When it comes to what most people call God, they usually refer to the male facet of Deity. Even those religious Jews and Christians who, to placate women, will say God is “beyond” gender, still talk and think of “Him” as male. That is what the Hebrew language, and most other languages, prescribe, and it affects thinking, perception, behavior and the social mores. Even enlightened people who say that “He” has no form, no gender, and is totally abstract, generally still cannot percieve of “It” as even partially female (by the way, there’s no “it” in the dichotomous Hebrew language).

All hell might break loose

The daily prayers keep pounding into our brains that “He” is “Lord of the universe”, “Father”, “King”. In that format, monotheistic religions have no appeal to me. For a mind exercise one can try substituting these titles into: “Lady of the universe”, “Mother”, “Queen”. All hell will break loose for the patriarchial religious establishment and for most of its adherents.

I want to emphasize here that this post is an attempt to describe to myself, first of all, what my personal spiritual take on the world is. I don’t have an issue with anybody who wants to worship a single male god. I just hope they see it for what it really is without the usual apologetics and obfuscation.

Historically men rarely bothered to challenge any of this until feminists started to shake the pillars of religions. They were in their comfort zone. In Judaism, a predominantly male-oriented religion, feminists now find solace in Shabbat the Queen, or the Shekhina, who went on exile with The People. They try to revive the female rituals of the new moon. That is nice, but not enough for me. I want us, women, to share the front seat in the world of Divinity.

Mono and Poly

As I elaborate below in the “None?” section, I do not support a view of a created world in the anthropomorphic sense of the word. Still, I see a social benefit from changing our imagery of Deity.

This is complicated. I wrote previously about goddesses and the “attraction of the forbidden” of polytheism and religious eroticism for Israelis in India.

Our imagination is a power of the universe

An abstract god and bulls attacking cows

If Moses saw God face to face ( Exodus 33:11), there was something to see. He obviously heard Him several times, as did Muhammad, or we would not have had the Torah or the Koran. God apparently even got into the minutia of disputes between neighbors over a bull attacking a cow. So, overall God is pretty anthropomorphic even if we pretend He isn’t. What is certain is, that abstract or in-form, “He” is related to in the masculine.

Strictly speaking, there are no Jewish or Muslim images of God. That does not mean people do not have some image in their minds. As I said, God is repeatedly referred to as Lord, Father, King. That sets an image. The Christians helped with their art (below) to show what kind of images came to mind over the ages.

Imagine there’s no heaven…

Ergo, if we can imagine God the Father

Source: By Damiane – parliament.ge, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7467005

then we can just as easily imagine a Goddess in earth or in sky :

Below: Earthy Brighid – Mother Goddess of Ireland, as depicted by Jo Jayson on her webpage, “Expressions of the sacred feminine”.

brighidweb2 copySource: http://www.jojayson.com/expressions-of-the-sacred-feminine/

and: ISIS, Egyptian goddess of sky:

Source: https://quantumstones.com/healing-lapis-lazuli-stone-seeing-egyptian-sky-goddess-isis/

I brought the ISIS image to demonstrate that the sky was not always perceived as the undisputed territory of male gods, as we were conditioned to believe. Here’s a lengthy list of sky goddesses. 

Populating our world of imagination

In other words, we can populate our personal spiritual mental space with images that speak to us.

That can carry a social message whose time had clearly come.

Abstract and form

Jewish roots of science

I agree it is more evolved and truer to “Truth” to have a perfectly abstract God, or no God at all, but humans work through imagery, and that imagery mimics the world we see and hear as well as helps create it. 

Bringing back the imagery of the divine feminine can help heal the alienation from body, sexuality and Earth, created by patriarchy. 

The idea of an abstract God might have enhanced scientific progress and our widened conceptualization of the Universe. In a compilation on “How Jewish thought influenced science” , various Jewish writers share their views on this connection or lack of it.

Gerald Schroeder says: 

Jewish philosophy tells us that the world is a single, unified system. This means that the universe makes sense—that one part shouldn’t conflict with another—and allows for deductive reasoning.

Religious imagery

Few people, though, can actually perceive, cognize a purely abstract god, or be satisfied with no god at all, just like very few people can understand Relativity or Quantum Physics.

For the majority, therefore, I don’t see issue with images to characterize qualities and ideas. As in Hinduism, though, it should be understood that this is but imagery. This is not a call to bring back idolatry. For most modern people this is obvious, originally thanks to Biblical admonitions, and now, thanks to science.

Hardly anybody thinks the imagery is more than just that. Images are there to help us connect to what cannot be grasped.

The main advantage of re-introducing polytheism or the Goddess element of the Divine, is that it brings back the sacred feminine that was missing from large swaths of this planet for millenia due to male-centered monotheism. This bears in a significant way on women’s voice in society, our family lives and intimate relations. It affects humanity’s relationship to Earth and Sea, animals, plants and each other.

Bringing back the imagery of the divine feminine can help heal the alienation from body, sexuality and Earth, created by patriarchy. 

The Big Gender Bang

Speaking of imagery, I’d like to draw from the story about the origin of love in Plato’s Symposium, to create my own version of cosmological mythology. In that version, the Universe itself, or the Primordial “Egg” was “hermaphrodite” until it broke in a “Big Gender Bang” . Since then, the two halves keep seeking each other or whirling around each other, as in atoms or in stars, to reach original wholeness.

The Hindus show Shiva as half male half female (below).

I’d rather perceive of the world as inherently erotic rather than asexual, dead, mechanical.

Ardhanarisvara. Androginous Shiva, Elephanta Island, Maharashtra, India

Reintroducing animism

On another level, a modification of animism, the original religion, is in my mind the natural and logical outcome of current scientific insights and developments. I develop this idea below in the “core” section and will elaborate the concept of “scientific animism” in a separate upcoming section of this website.

Keep posted. 

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None? 

The omnipotent God in control of everything sets the stage for the social hierarchy, especially in the family. I believe this is why it still keeps its appeal to so many.

Truth and social functions

Now to Truth.

It can be fun and socially-transforming to play with imagery of gods and goddesses, especially in order to ressurect the feminine aspect of Deity, as I expand above. The main function of institutianalized religions is social, anyway.

The ultimate Reality, though, has nothing to do with any of that. 

Eastern “religions” in that sense reflect a much more sophisticated and scientifically-sensible way of thinking. 

Coming to the bottom of it, the idea of a creator god and the arguments for it are fairly simplistic and based mostly in anthropomorphic thinking and common everyday experience. A table is created by a human and its existence cannot be explained otherwise, but how is this in any way relevant to the totality of the Universe? In space there’s no need to keep pushing an object for it to move! And, of course, the scientific view of the world goes way way beyond that.

The monotheistic anthropomorphic God as omnipotent and in control of everything sets the stage for the social hierarchy, especially in the family. I believe this is why it still keeps its appeal to so many who cannot let go of this order. Theologically, I don’t see how this concept in its Biblical or Koranic form applies to the Universe the way we understand it today.

The Eastern take on the Universe

Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism don’t have a God. Some streams of Hindu thought are also non-theistic.

To me there is a sea of difference between atheism that tends to be no more the dichotomous negation of theism, and Eastern "spirituatlity" that transcends both.

According to Jainism, the universe and its constituents – soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion – have always existed. The universe is uncreated. There is no omnipotent creator god. 

Buddhist thought  also rejects the notion of a creator deity. All phenomena arise in dependence on other phenomena. There’s no primal unmoved mover. Buddhist gods roll on the Wheel of Samsara like everybody else .

Wheel of dharma with gazelles, Shanti Stupa, LehWheel of Dharma, Shanti Stupa, Leh, Ladakh

Likewise, Taoism does not have an omnipotent creator and controller beyond the scenes. The Universe arises from the Tao, that “impersonally guides things on their way”, but the Tao is not God and is not worshipped. 

The famous book by Fritjof, “The Tao of Physics”, demonstrates the compatibility of Eastern nontheistic “religions” with modern science.

The Tao of Physics by Fritjof CapraSource: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/23766/the-tao-of-physics-by-fritjof-capra/9781590308356/

Many “gods” but no “God” – Hindu nontheism

Hinduism is a very large and diverse system, but it also has non-theistic offshoots: 

The famous Nasadiya Sukta hymn from the ancient Rig Veda poses an open question:  “The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?“. 

The Yoga of Patanjali holds Samadhi, “union”, as its ultimate goal, but does not consider God’s existence essential or necessary for achieving it:

“The supreme Brahman is without any beginning. That is called neither being nor non-being”. 

Brahman is “Without attributes, indivisible, subtle, inconceivable”. That means that it lacks properties usually associated with God such as omniscience, perfect goodness, omnipotence. Brahaman is identical with the whole of reality, rather than being a causal agent or ruler of it.

I personally see a sea of difference between these views and sheer atheism. Atheism tends to just be the dichotomous negation of theism. Eastern “spirituatlity” goes beyond both.

My personal spiritual salad is a work in progress.

But it’s not all in the air. There is a foundation.

Here’s a taste of the “core”.

The Core

Not Totally in the Air - Earth!

Pins, erosion, river on the Manali-Leh roadErosive river bank, Himalayan road from Manali to Leh

There's always at least a small piece of Nature one can find, even when there are no Walden ponds in the area.

It’s not all in the air. The bottom line and the foundation for my spirituality is Nature.

On the practical level, almost every day I spend my 20 minutes in the wadi near my home, walking up and down the hill, breathing, looking at the flowers or the prickles, listening to the birds and the bees, watching the changes in vegetation through the seasons. I sometimes sit on a rock, meditate, perhaps integrate  a short walking meditation. It is a wonder how the world comes alive when you slow down.  

An essential aspect of this Nature spiritual practice is that once a week I collect the plastic wrappers and other garbage from the wadi.

When I lived in Santa Fe, I would go to an arroyo behind Frenchie’s Field park, or to the hills. In Eilat it was the mountain walk or the sea promenade. In Grofit, the agricultural fields, or the loop around the Kibbutz. There’s always at least a small piece of Nature one can find, even when there are no Walden ponds in the area.

Wadi Hayovel by my Jerusalem home. Here I walk almost every day, watching this small piece of God’s/Goddess’ land change with the seasons.

An essential aspect of this Nature spiritual practice is that once a week I collect plastic wrappers and other garbage that accumulated in the wadi. I don’t want to imagine what it would look like if I, and some other concerned souls, would not do that. Cleaning Nature up is for me just as important as keeping a temple immaculate.

My real temple is the “great outdoors”.

Additionally, there is the “small outdoors”, my little garden, a wonderful personal spiritual practice. Highly recommended to anybody blessed with at least a small piece of Land.

The Deeper Core

DNA is alive. So are proteins. So are the atoms that compose every marvellous living entity.

As to what I “believe”…

The Universe is Alive

The Earth is alive. You can call her Gaya if that suits you. The Universe is alive. We are on a continuum from subatomic particles atoms to galaxies. There is spirit in everything. “We” did not “invent” it. DNA is alive. So are proteins. So are the atoms that compose every marvellous living entity. There is intelligence in everything. “We” did not “invent” that either.

Call it “scientific animism” if you must put a label on it. 

The word “believe” is faulty by default. It is not a matter of “believeing”, and I am still far from a moment of “knowing”. But it is the best description I can give to the way I perceive the world, outside and inside, after 65 years of living here. It is how the Universe manifests in me, to me and through me. 

But, humbly speaking, and as I acknowledge below, the mystery is bigger than my ability to grasp it with the human tools I was born with. 

Free will evolves in form, like everything else. An electron has its own level of free will. That's why you cannot know simultaneously its momentum and location

The universal law of free will

In my perception, free will is everywhere. Humans are not the only ones operating by it! Free will evolves in form, like everything else. An electron has its own level of free will. That’s why you cannot know simultaneously its momentum and its location. By definition, we are always bound, but are also always free. That applies to electrons within their universe, and to ants in theirs.

Science got it upside down

In my view, then, mainstream science got this upside down. Instead of defining us as mechanized chemical robots, let’s go the other way and spiritualize everything, like “the primitives”, the indigenous people did, but perhaps in a different way, based on our different ways of acquiring knowledge. 

Free will, spirit, intelligence, all evolve.

Science got it all upside down. Instead of defining us as mechanized chemical robots, let's go the other way and spiritualize the atoms...

Beauty is a Fundamental Quality of the Universe

The house, the stars, the desert−− what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible!” (The little Prince. St. Exupery)

Beauty is an essential fundamental quality of the Universe at large, and cannot be explained by any utilitarian considerations. Beauty is a reflection of the Universe on itself.

Deep space nebulasSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOpvMbT4Pm4

https://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow/phytoplankton-strange-beauty-sea-microscopic-plants/

Image result for diatoms beauty images

Without instruments we would have never seen the beauty in space or in the microworld. 

That also proves that fundamentally we are part of this larger Whole, as our perceptions coalesce with its inherent beauty.

Awe in front of Nature's beauty, micro or macro, is a proof we are part of a larger Whole, with beuaty as its essence.

I will elaborate about my “beliefs”, perceptions and understandings in a new section of this website, dedicated to my scientific views. Up and coming.

Keep posted. Subscribe

And After We Die?

Salad, enlightenment and insurance agents

What happens when we die? Don’t know!

But, today, as I was cutting tomatoes for my salad, I saw myself all of a sudden from the outside – a planetary body operating actions on other planetary bodies, subconsciously employing super-complicated chemical-physical processes all the way from the individual cells to the myriad body systems involved in this seemingly simple action.

Krebs cycle

Source:https://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2011/09/14/140428189/lord-save-me-from-the-krebs-cycle

I was aware of everything “I” was doing and of myself or whatever “it” was that was observing. I guess that’s the first baby step towards what the masters call “enlightenment”, but as long as I panic when I lose my keys, or get into a rage when a phone rep tries to sell me another insurance policy, I am still miles away from those blessed shores.

The cosmic loop

Interestingly, at age 8 I already set myself up for this path. I remember one blue morning as I was walking to school, I caught myself for the first time thinking about my thinking. There was a stop in the normal thought process, and it all went into a temporary halt. I got myself into a juicy cognitive loop. 

Basically, like a busy hamster, I am still running on this loop many years later, but with a twist… 

Now, in case this first bud of so-called “enlightenment” will continue to blossom into a wondrous flower, I promise to notify y’all with a mighty online primal scream

But, practically speaking, the chances I get enlightened anytime soon are slim, as long as there are several TV series in queue that I still need to watch first…

So, if I stay unenlightened and will need to keep rolling on the Wheel of Samsara, please Goddess, rebirth me as a deep sea octopus next time… Having eight arms feels like a lot of fun…

Deep sea octopushttp://www.tracydeephotography.com/octopus-escape/strange-deep-sea-creatures-documentary-hd-octopus-escape/

 

Bottom line

It is all an enormous mystery

in Life as in Death.

Yet at the same time,

so familiar, oh, so familiar…

If you find any of this interesting, or even entertaining and you want to hear more of the meanderings of my mind, then

Subscribe. Keep posted.

There is more to come.

Om Shanti

Om Shalom 

Appendix: Politics - Spiritual?

Politics - No to Package Deals

If spirituality is defined as a path for bettering oneself, evolving towards a higher existence, then politics, defined as a way to improve and elevate society at large, could and should, in principle, be counted as spiritual. Unfortunately, for the most part that is clearly not the case.

Can’t follow

As can be seen in all I’ve written above, I must be one of those people who simply do not, or cannot, “follow a path”.

I am not capable of “buying” package deals. That applies to both religions and political parties.

I never voted for the same Israeli party twice. As implausible as it sounds, it is very feasible! There are (and were) so many political parties, and they are always changing – combining, splitting, perishing and then reappearing in a new form and under a new name. A new deck of cards every election…

My decision at the time always depends on what is most important for me this particular election cycle: security, economics, social issues, diplomacy, ethics, personalities, etc. Oftentimes I sacrifice one area because of another priority. I might agree with a group on one issue, but not on another; favor some people in a party, but not others. 

Whatever you vote for, is by definition a mistake.

Not my identity

At bottom, I do not take any party line as an identity label, or a “home”, as they like to call it here. I usually decide according to what seems the least worst option at the moment.

Voting tends to be a negative choice. Generally, you vote against something, rather than try to support what you really wish for. At best, it is a compromise. In that sense, politics is in direct opposition to the concept of spirituality, which is based in a daily choice of positivity over negativity on the path to the Light.

Some people, though, make politics and social change their calling, and I salute to their strength and tenacity.

Clearly, a personal spiritual path, with all its challenges, is still easier and more satisfying to follow than an attempt to influence millions of people, governments and institutions.

Working to better others’ lives in whatever capacity – family, friends, acquaintences, customers, students, patients, even strangers – is an achievable goal for most of us. Utopias are for the self-deluded, but it’s nice to strive for them.

Some elections I had high hopes for. Sometimes I made mistakes. But that’s politics. Whatever you vote for is by definition a mistake.

Shall I move to Turkey?

Unfortunately in Israel, the way coalitions work, you get what you don’t want in the government even if “your party” wins.

Why can Turkey, for example, have civil marriage, while we can’t? 70% of the population will support this. But that’s the marvel of the Israeli art of coalition-making. Basically, regardless of who I vote for, they are going to make deals with the merchandise of my vote. No matter who wins, the ultra-orthodox parties will by default sit in all coalitions and decide for the rest of us how we marry and how we die. So shall I move to Turkey?

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