good news.” They want to see the good news in action. The church doesn’t hold revival meetings and call it a day — we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, dig wells, and staff medical clinics. Social action isn’t an optional part of evangelism; it is evangelism. This is an important correction to the overspirituality that dominated evangelical Christianity just a generation ago. But the both/and of holistic mission still misses the heart of Jesus if we don’t see that the church needs the poor as much as the poor need the church. Jesus didn’t embrace the poor only because he pitied them or because he knew he had the resources to help them. Jesus embraced the poor because they were rushing into the kingdom ahead of the scribes and Pharisees — those who called themselves God’s people. Jesus welcomed people who knew poverty because they were ready to receive what he had to offer. Religious people, he said, could learn something from them. Our spiritual lives are linked to the material conditions of our life. When we feel like we don’t need much materially, we often have trouble remembering why we need God. We comfortable Americans can go through an entire day without thinking of God. But Jesus gave the poor more than food to eat and relief from their sickness. He restored them to God’s beloved community.
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good news.” They want to see the good news in action. The church doesn’t hold revival meetings and call it a day — we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, dig wells, and staff medical clinics. Social action isn’t an optional part of evangelism; it is evangelism. This is an important correction to the overspirituality that dominated evangelical Christianity just a generation ago. But the both/and of holistic mission still misses the heart of Jesus if we don’t see that the church needs the poor as much as the poor need the church. Jesus didn’t embrace the poor only because he pitied them or because he knew he had the resources to help them. Jesus embraced the poor because they were rushing into the kingdom ahead of the scribes and Pharisees — those who called themselves God’s people. Jesus welcomed people who knew poverty because they were ready to receive what he had to offer. Religious people, he said, could learn something from them. Our spiritual lives are linked to the material conditions of our life. When we feel like we don’t need much materially, we often have trouble remembering why we need God. We comfortable Americans can go through an entire day without thinking of God. But Jesus gave the poor more than food to eat and relief from their sickness. He restored them to God’s beloved community.

-Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

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[The goal is] "liberation from the bondage of rebirth. According to the Vedantists the self, which they call the atman and we call the soul, is distinct from the body and its senses, distinct from the mind and its intelligence; it is not part of the Absolute, for the Absolute, being infinite, can have no parts but the Absolute itself. It is uncreated; it has existed form eternity and when at least it has cast off the seven veils of ignorance will return to the infinitude from which it came. It is like a drop of water that has arisen from the sea, and in a shower has fallen into a puddle, then drifts into a brook, finds its way into a stream, after that into a river, passing through mountain gorges and wide plains, winding this way and that, obstructed by rocks and fallen trees, till at least it reaches the boundless seas from which it rose.""But that poor little drop of water, when it has once more become one with the sea, has surely lost its individuality."Larry grinned."You want to taste sugar, you don't want to become sugar. What is individuality but the expression of our egoism? Until the soul has shed the last trace of that it cannot become one with the Absolute.""You talk very familiarly of the Absolute, Larry, and it's an imposing word. What does it actually signify to you?" "Reality. You can't say what it is ; you can only say what it isn't. It's inexpressible. The Indians call it Brahman. It's not a person, it's not a thing, it's not a cause. It has no qualities. It transcends permanence and change; whole and part, finite and infinite. It is eternal because its completeness and perfection are unrelated to time. It is truth and freedom.""Golly," I said to myself, but to Larry: "But how can a purely intellectual conception be a solace to the suffering human race? Men have always wanted a personal God to whom they can turn in their distress for comfort and encouragement.""It may be that at some far distant day greater insight will show them that they must look for comfort and encouragement in their own souls. I myself think that the need to worship is no more than the survival of an old remembrance of cruel gods that had to be propitiated. I believe that God is within me or nowhere. If that's so, whom or what am I to worship—myself? Men are on different levels of spiritual development, and so the imagination of India has evolved the manifestations of the Absolute that are known as Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and by a hundred other names. The Absolute is in Isvara, the creator and ruler of the world, and it is in the humble fetish before which the peasant in his sun-baked field places the offering of a flower. The multitudinous gods of India are but expedients to lead to the realization that the self is one with the supreme self.

-W. Somerset Maugham

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Like the Church the individual Christian will not be able to escape the deep ambiguities of this-wordly existence whether in its cultural, social, political or other aspects, and he too will inevitably be a mixture of good and evil, with a compromised life, so that he can only live eschatologically in the judgment and mercy of God, putting off the old man and putting on Christ anew each day, always aware that even when he has done all that it is his duty to do he remains an unprofitable servant, but summoned to look away from himself to Christ, remembering that he is dead through the cross of Christ but alive and risen in Him. His true being is hid with Christ in God.The whole focus of his vision and the whole perspective of his life in Christ’s name will be directed to the unveiling of that reality of his new being at the parousia, but meantime he lives day by day out of the Word and Sacraments. As one baptized into Christ he is told by God’s Word that his sins are already forgiven and forgotten by God, that he has been justified once for all, and that he does not belong to himself but to Christ who loved him and gave Himself for him. As one summoned to the Holy Table he is commanded by the Word of God to live only in such a way that he feeds upon Christ, not in such a way that he feeds upon his own activities or lives out of his own capital of alleged spirituality. He lives from week to week, by drawing his life and strength from the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, nourished by the body and blood of Christ, and in the strength of that communion he must live and work until Christ comes again. As often as he partakes of the Eucharist he partakes of the self-consecration of Jesus Christ who sanctified Himself for our sakes that we might be sanctified in reality and be presented to the Father as those whom He has redeemed and perfected (or consecrated) together with Himself in one. Here He is called to lift up his heart to the ascended Lord, and to look forward to the day when the full reality of his new being in Christ will be unveiled, making Scripture and Sacrament no longer necessary.

-Thomas F.

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...What I have denied and what my reason compels me to deny, is the existence of a Being throned above us as a god, directing our mundane affairs in detail, regarding us as individuals, punishing us, rewarding us as human judges might.When the churches learn to take this rational view of things, when they become true schools of ethics and stop teaching fables, they will be more effective than they are to-day... If they would turn all that ability to teaching this one thing – the fact that honesty is best, that selfishness and lies of any sort must surely fail to produce happiness – they would accomplish actual things. Religious faiths and creeds have greatly hampered our development. They have absorbed and wasted some fine intellects. That creeds are getting to be less and less important to the average mind with every passing year is a good sign, I think, although I do not wish to talk about what is commonly called theology.The criticisms which have been hurled at me have not worried me. A man cannot control his beliefs. If he is honest in his frank expression of them, that is all that can in justice be required of him. Professor Thomson and a thousand others do not in the least agree with me. His criticism of me, as I read it, charged that because I doubted the soul’s immortality, or ‘personality,’ as he called it, my mind must be abnormal, ‘pathological,’ in other, words, diseased... I try to say exactly what I honestly believe to be the truth, and more than that no man can do. I honestly believe that creedists have built up a mighty structure of inaccuracy, based, curiously, on those fundamental truths which I, with every honest man, must not alone admit but earnestly acclaim.I have been working on the same lines for many years. I have tried to go as far as possible toward the bottom of each subject I have studied. I have not reached my conclusions through study of traditions; I have reached them through the study of hard fact. I cannot see that unproved theories or sentiment should be permitted to have influence in the building of conviction upon matters so important. Science proves its theories or it rejects them. I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God. I earnestly believe that I am right; I cannot help believing as I do... I cannot accept as final any theory which is not provable. The theories of the theologians cannot be proved. Proof, proof! That is what I always have been after; that is what my mind requires before it can accept a theory as fact. Some things are provable, some things disprovable, some things are doubtful. All the problems which perplex us, now, will, soon or late, be solved, and solved beyond a question through scientific investigation. The thing which most impresses me about theology is that it does not seem to be investigating. It seems to be asserting, merely, without actual study....Moral teaching is the thing we need most in this world, and many of these men could be great moral teachers if they would but give their whole time to it, and to scientific search for the rock-bottom truth, instead of wasting it upon expounding theories of theology which are not in the first place firmly based. What we need is search for fundamentals, not reiteration of traditions born in days when men knew even less than we do now.[Columbian Magazine interview]

-Thomas A. Edison

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I pray that the world never runs out of dragons. I say that in all sincerity, though I have played a part in the death of one great wyrm. For the dragon is the quintessential enemy, the greatest foe, the unconquerable epitome of devastation. The dragon, above all other creatures, even the demons and the devils, evokes images of dark grandeur, of the greatest beast curled asleep on the greatest treasure hoard. They are the ultimate test of the hero and the ultimate fright of the child. They are older than the elves and more akin to the earth than the dwarves. The great dragons are the preternatural beast, the basic element of the beast, that darkest part of our imagination.The wizards cannot tell you of their origin, though they believe that a great wizard, a god of wizards, must have played some role in the first spawning of the beast. The elves, with their long fables explaining the creation of every aspect of the world, have many ancient tales concerning the origin of the dragons, but they admit, privately, that they really have no idea of how the dragons came to be.My own belief is more simple, and yet, more complicated by far. I believe that dragons appeared in the world immediately after the spawning of the first reasoning race. I do not credit any god of wizards with their creation, but rather, the most basic imagination wrought of unseen fears, of those first reasoning mortals.We make the dragons as we make the gods, because we need them, because, somewhere deep in our hearts, we recognize that a world without them is a world not worth living in.There are so many people in the land who want an answer, a definitive answer, for everything in life, and even for everything after life. They study and they test, and because those few find the answers for some simple questions, they assume that there are answers to be had for every question. What was the world like before there were people? Was there nothing but darkness before the sun and the stars? Was there anything at all? What were we, each of us, before we were born? And what, most importantly of all, shall we be after we die?Out of compassion, I hope that those questioners never find that which they seek.One self-proclaimed prophet came through Ten-Towns denying the possibility of an afterlife, claiming that those people who had died and were raised by priests, had, in fact, never died, and that their claims of experiences beyond the grave were an elaborate trick played on them by their own hearts, a ruse to ease the path to nothingness. For that is all there was, he said, an emptiness, a nothingness.Never in my life have I ever heard one begging so desperately for someone to prove him wrong.This is kind of what I believe right now… although, I do not want to be proved wrong…For what are we left with if there remains no mystery? What hope might we find if we know all of the answers?What is it within us, then, that so desperately wants to deny magic and to unravel mystery? Fear, I presume, based on the many uncertainties of life and the greatest uncertainty of death. Put those fears aside, I say, and live free of them, for if we just step back and watch the truth of the world, we will find that there is indeed magic all about us, unexplainable by numbers and formulas. What is the passion evoked by the stirring speech of the commander before the desperate battle, if not magic? What is the peace that an infant might know in its mother’s arms, if not magic? What is love, if not magic?No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons, as I would not want to live in a world without magic, for that is a world without mystery, and that is a world without faith.And that, I fear, for any reasoning, conscious being, would be the cruelest trick of all.-Drizzt Do’Urden

-R.A. Salvatore

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Fifteen years ago, a business manager from the United States came to Plum Village to visit me. His conscience was troubled because he was the head of a firm that designed atomic bombs. I listened as he expressed his concerns. I knew if I advised him to quit his job, another person would only replace him. If he were to quit, he might help himself, but he would not help his company, society, or country. I urged him to remain the director of his firm, to bring mindfulness into his daily work, and to use his position to communicate his concerns and doubts about the production of atomic bombs.In the Sutra on Happiness, the Buddha says it is great fortune to have an occupation that allows us to be happy, to help others, and to generate compassion and understanding in this world. Those in the helping professions have occupations that give them this wonderful opportunity. Yet many social workers, physicians, and therapists work in a way that does not cultivate their compassion, instead doing their job only to earn money. If the bomb designer practises and does his work with mindfulness, his job can still nourish his compassion and in some way allow him to help others. He can still influence his government and fellow citizens by bringing greater awareness to the situation. He can give the whole nation an opportunity to question the necessity of bomb production.Many people who are wealthy, powerful, and important in business, politics, and entertainment are not happy. They are seeking empty things - wealth, fame, power, sex - and in the process they are destroying themselves and those around them. In Plum Village, we have organised retreats for businesspeople. We see that they have many problems and suffer just as others do, sometimes even more. We see that their wealth allows them to live in comfortable conditions, yet they still suffer a great deal.Some businesspeople, even those who have persuaded themselves that their work is very important, feel empty in their occupation. They provide employment to many people in their factories, newspapers, insurance firms, and supermarket chains, yet their financial success is an empty happiness because it is not motivated by understanding or compassion. Caught up in their small world of profit and loss, they are unaware of the suffering and poverty in the world. When we are not int ouch with this larger reality, we will lack the compassion we need to nourish and guide us to happiness.Once you begin to realise your interconnectedness with others, your interbeing, you begin to see how your actions affect you and all other life. You begin to question your way of living, to look with new eyes at the quality of your relationships and the way you work. You begin to see, 'I have to earn a living, yes, but I want to earn a living mindfully. I want to try to select a vocation not harmful to others and to the natural world, one that does not misuse resources.'Entire companies can also adopt this way of thinking. Companies have the right to pursue economic growth, but not at the expense of other life. They should respect the life and integrity of people, animals, plants and minerals. Do not invest your time or money in companies that deprive others of their lives, that operate in a way that exploits people or animals, and destroys nature.Businesspeople who visit Plum Village often find that getting in touch with the suffering of others and cultivating understanding brings them happiness. They practise like Anathapindika, a successful businessman who lived at the time of the Buddha, who with the practise of mindfulness throughout his life did everything he could to help the poor and sick people in his homeland.

-Thích Nhất

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God calls his creatures to live under authority. He is our authority and has vested authority in people within the institutions he has established (home, church, state, and business). You must not be embarrassed to be authorities for your children.You exercise authority as God's agent. You may not direct your children for your own agenda or convenience. You must direct your children on God's behalf for their good.Our culture tends toward the extreme poles on a continuum. In the area of authority, we tend either toward a crass kind of John Wayne authoritarianism or toward being a wimp. God calls you by His Word and his example to be authorities who are truly kind. God calls you to exercise authority, not in making your children do what you want, but in being true servants - authorities who lay down your lives. The purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority if God. Jesus is an example of this. The One who commands you, the One who possesses all authority, came as a servant. He is a ruler who serves; he is also a servant who rules. He exercises sovereign authority that is kind - authority exercised on behalf of his subjects. In John 13, Jesus, who knew that the Father had put all things under his authority, put on a towel and washed the disciples' feet. As his people submit to his authority, they are empowered to live freely in the freedom of the gospel.As a parent, you must exercise authority. You must require obedience of your children because they are called by God to obey and honor you. You must exercise authority, not as a cruel taskmaster, but as one who truly loves them.

-Tedd Tripp

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The human world was very young and the disobedient children of God had just fallen, creating the underworld. Your God because of their desire to be like God forsook them. They craved and desired, the one thing that they should have never wanted, and that was to be as great as their creator. During this time of peace, the supernaturals traveled freely between the realms. We all knew of the fallen, the angels that had become demons, and knew that they were never to be released from the hell in which they had been cast. Their evil was beyond anything that was ever known. The leader of them, Lucifer, had declared war on the human children of God and desired more than anything to take their souls, to drag them to the hell he and his were stuck in for all eternity. All of the supernatural races were warned by an angel of God to never allow the demons from the underworld to escape their own realm. The veil was sealed by the angel and hidden from all.Unfortunately, evil always seems to find more evil. All evil things are drawn to each other, seeking out those who would help them in their cause. Though the veil to the underworld was hidden, the evil beyond it was great and as more and more lost souls were cast there after their deaths, and so the evil grew. It began to permeate the air around the veil such that other beings could detect it. There was no one who knew how to open it, but that didn’t stop them from trying.As the sons of men began to allow evil into their hearts, and as they began to stray farther from their God, they began seeking out other ways to fill the void inside them. They began to worship other beings, or objects. They sought out meanings for their lives in ways that caused darkness to creep into their hearts. God desired men to have free will and he would not force their loyalty to him. Sin was corrupting the world and Lucifer was allowed some control in the human realm. That sin gave Lucifer just the opening he needed to whisper lies into the ears of those who would listen. He pointed them in the direction divinity and sorcery where they learned how to contact the dead. They thought they were contacting loved ones who had passed on, but in reality they were drawing the demon spirits to them and giving them power, so much power that the demons began to be able to manipulate the actions of men and women still living.

-Quinn Loftis

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A friend of mine commented yesterday that she has experienced similar insights that I talked about that all enlightened Masters and founders of religion are actually talking about the same ocean, the same invisible life source, the same God. She also said that she worked in a Christan environment at the time that she received these insights, and when she tried to share these insights with the Christians she was accused of being "impure" and of being associated with the "Devil". Christians hold on to the idea that Jesus was the only son of God, without realizing that we are all son's and daughter's of God. By holding on to the idea that Jesus is the only son of God, they do not either to realize that all enlightened Masters are talking about the same God. Jesus did not talk about faith, he talked about trust. He talked about discovering a trust in yourself and in relationship to God. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within you. In Christianity, the church has become the intermediate between man and God, and people who claim that they have found a direct relationship to God are accused of blasphemy. The Christan church has become a barrier between man and God, and anyone who has declared that he has found a direct relationship to God are immediately banned by the church, for example Master Eckhart and Franciskus of Assisi. I have always had a deep love for Jesus, but it is not the picture of Jesus that the Christian church presents. I was a disciple of Jesus in a former life, and was thrown to the lions in Colosseum in Rome as one of the early Christians. Jesus had many more disciples than the twelve disciples mentioned in The Bible. In this life, I resigned my automatic membership in the church as soon as I could think for myself when I was 15 years old. I was also disgusted with an organization that said that they preached love and which has murdered more people than Hitler. My experience with these rare and precious insights are that they expand our consciousness of reality. They are gradual initiations into reality. They may fade away, but we will never be the same again after receiving them. They will also come more and more, the more committment we have to our spiritual growth.

-Swami Dhyan

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I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards—in heaven if not on earth—all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.

-Paul A.M.

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