Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep 17: True Religion

Welcome to Episode 17 – our final episode – of the Modern Relevance of God Podcast Series on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head. I’m Richard Lloyd Jones. 

You know, as I think about it, 17 is kind of an odd number for the final episode in a series about spirituality, isn’t it? It’s not particularly a number of completion … although I guess adding one and seven together equals eight and eight brings balance between the material and spiritual worlds in Numerology, so maybe that’s something. But I’m not much one for the esoteric in these things anyway – a holdover from an upbringing rooted in practicality-as-the-correct-path in life. I’ve wanted this series to be as down to Earth as possible in my desire to illustrate how God is relevant in our modern world, which has been severely stripped of spirituality through a domination of positivistic science and robust materialism and all the other things we’ve discussed in these episodes. In that light, our series, which considers more archaic wisdom that has been largely dismissed in modern thought, is like a throwback.

And a large part of our series has been our attempt to rescue that ancient wisdom as still relevant in our world. After all, the fundamental questions of human existence still remain don’t they? And if you don’t find yourself wondering about the meaning of it all from time to time, I suspect you’re in the minority. Norberto Keppe though, who has not spoken directly in these episodes but whose voice echoes through every moment of them, saw very early on in his work, that human problems were profoundly spiritual, much more related to philosophy than material. After all, if we’ve elaborated any structures or followed any way of doing things, that’s come from a way of seeing things. And if we’ve seen things wrongly, if we’ve embarked on individual or collective organization from a skewed perspective, we’re going to wind up with out of whack institutions and laws and practices.

Norberto Keppe’s discovery of inversion, which we discussed back in episode two, is the missing link here. The one which allows us to reintegrate theological and philosophical wisdom back into science, so that scientific practicality can expand to providing really significant understanding of our human experience. True transdisciplinarity, I think. Through understanding that we’re inverted, we can admit that we’ve rejected God because we’ve mixed Him up with religious institutions and considered all that irrelevant, evidence of inferior minds, unimportant in a world that’s evolved beyond these superstitions. But exactly the opposite is required if we’re to right things on this planet and restore our society to its original state: Paradise Regained in the ancient consideration, the Promised Land. In our final episode, let’s consider what practical spirituality would look like in these troubled times with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 16: Humanity’s Deep Need for God

We’ve been attempting here to make the scientific case for the relevance of a more theological consciousness in our everyday lives. I’ve been impressed with the idea Dr. Joseph Ghougassian elaborated in the preface he wrote to Keppe’s, Glorification that if we have religions in the world, this must be because of a metaphysical dimension in us. “Worshiping is natural to the soul,” he wrote, “And not something imposed by institutions.” Otherwise it wouldn’t have been so practiced through the millennia, long before we built churches to formalize the ceremonies. This goes deep to the nature of faith, then, and the acknowledgement that anyone acting morally or ethically is doing it out of a belief that it’s important, regardless of whether the moral practitioner is a member of any congregation or not.

And what is faith anyway? Fidelity to the truth, goodness, love, beauty for one thing, although our relativism muddies the waters with questions about who defines the truth and who has the final say on beauty? Keppe describes faith as the direct knowledge of the essence. And you have to have a metaphysical view of a correct and initial beautiful reality to grasp that abstraction, not an emergence from the primal mud and alterations over mutations in time. That latter won’t arrive at any satisfactory conclusions for understanding the big religious questions that percolate in all of us, irrespective of dogma or belief. Faith provides the answers that reason cannot achieve by itself.

Tennyson wondered about that:

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Now, I recognize that the “show me the money” practicalists listening might bristle at that, but I take heart that anyway, you’re still listening. And that indicates another level of acceptance at work than just the grey matter between the ears. I’ve been there and put together this episode to try to address those tendencies of painting spirituality and religion with the same brush. Let’s distinguish them in this episode, again with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep.15: Resonance with Mother Mary

I’ve been impressed in my personal journey of discovery with the rational arguments for the existence of God throughout history, by Augustine and Anselm, and more recently, as I mentioned back in episode 11, by the logical argument for Jesus elaborated by Oxford’s C.S. Lewis. They all make provocative reading. 

But for me, a devout and believe-it-when-I-see-it modern materialist, it wasn’t until Brazil and the surprising revelations of my latent hidden spirituality that unveiled during the psychoanalysis and study with Claudia Pacheco and Norberto Keppe that I began to understand in an elementary way the essential relevance of theology in my life. Keppe writes about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and even demons in a lucid, practical, scientific way that’s very tangible – especially when accompanied by studying his profound work and exploring reactions to it through the interior exploration provided by personal psychoanalysis. 

Keppe’s books, Glorification and The Universe of the Spirits were turning points for me – Glorification even being marked for publication in the U.S. before being ultimately turned down by the editorial board of a large and prestigious publishing company. Keppe wrote in Glorification that any discussion about what is obvious is a waste of time. Keppe maintains that we reject the obviousness of a creator because of our extreme envy, which causes us to invert our perception, rejecting, ignoring, or distorting reality and denying the true spiritual and material riches that God has created. Religion, after all, in the true sense of the word, which means to bind, to reconnect, religion is within us. And that inner journey can lead to some surprising revelations, let me tell you that. 

Our episode today was another eye-opener for me back when Claudia Bernhard Pacheco and I talked about it in a far-reaching discussion for this series. The importance to humanity of the Holy Mother, in today’s episode. 

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 14: Resonance with Jesus

Welcome to episode 14 of the Modern Relevance of God audio course here on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head. I’m Richard Lloyd Jones.

My dad used to say the problem with the human being was we were born without an owner’s manual. I used to nod in agreement, but now I’m pretty sure my father was a little simplistic in his understanding. To be fair, I think he meant it in a lighthearted way, a joshing comment not meant to be scrutinized as to its theological accuracy. But like all things related to my spiritual understanding, I have to respectfully disagree with my dad’s conclusion while obviously valuing the naive and guileless way he expressed it. For not only do we have numerous written documents outlining correct behavior one with another and nation to nation, we have the universal knowledge deep in us from birth guiding us to act in conformity with the principles of goodness, truth and beauty. We feel ashamed when we’re caught in a lie. We recognize and feel repugnance towards injustice. We try to hide our peccadillos.

Universal knowledge, “infused” Plato called it, is in us from birth. “The one in many” is how it’s defined and these universal principles come to us intact and complete. And they form the basis of everything we do in society that’s right – from personal commitments, to looking after our health, to negotiating business deals. “The fingerprints of God in the human soul,” is how Keppe defines it.

And we have examples to follow, too. Just in the last century, we witnessed grace and generosity in the face of injustice in Gandhi and King and Mandela. We have saints throughout history who were more virtuous than normal. So virtuous their bodies lie uncorrupted – in defiance of the usual process of returning to ashes and dust. And we have the greatest example of all time in the life of Jesus. More than a great moral teacher – and he was certainly that – Jesus reminded us of what it was to be a true human being, elevating us to our correct level. Let’s delve into that now, with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 13: How We Miss Paradise

Welcome to episode 13 of the Modern Relevance of God audio course here on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head. I’m Richard Lloyd Jones.

As I’ve been developing this series, I have to admit I’ve been wondering about the acceptance of its premise in the English-speaking world. Living in Brazil for the past 20 years has coloured my perceptions and tastes in ways I wasn’t expecting. My Anglo-Saxon feeling of assumed superiority has been challenged here in surprising ways. I imagined the typical cultural challenges of language and bureaucracy and doing the exchange in my head about the cost of stuff. I traveled to Europe for long stretches back in my backpacking years after all, but now have come to understand the difference between those mostly tourist concerns and the deeper questionings and soul searching that mark the real existential stirring provoked by making home somewhere else.

I can characterize this with a story. One of my Brazilian colleagues at the language school I work with here in Brazil was giving a Portuguese class for foreigners one day. A diverse group: an American, a couple of Colombians, a guy from Argentina and a young woman from France. One of the Colombians was talking about his spiritual and religious beliefs in one class, openly expressing his reverence for life and God. The French woman rolled her eyes dismissively and uttered something in French about how backward this was. To her surprise, my colleague speaks French, and to her greater surprise, he jumped in immediately with a gentle rebuke. “No, no,” he said. “We’re in Brazil now. Here we don’t ridicule people for their beliefs.” 

It must have been a sobering moment for the European, a consciousness that on this question of tolerance, Brazil is light years ahead of the rest of the world.

Well, exactly that cultural arrogance has also been challenged in me. My worldview, nurtured at the breast of a secular education which indoctrinated me in modernization and often vehement criticism of religious consideration in human affairs, has been challenged here. Especially in Norberto Keppe’s science, which I’ve been deeply studying and working with. This is a science based on extensive clinical practice that doesn’t exclude philosophy or spirituality in treating human beings, and it’s brought ample opportunities to question my deep-seated biases and personal philosophies. At the end, I’ve found basic fundamentals of my philosophy of life inadequate and even profoundly wrong in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. 

One of these wrong ideas is corrected in this episode, with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 12: The Ceaseless Attack on Christian Values

This is episode 12 of the Modern Relevance of God audio course here on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head. I’m Richard Lloyd Jones.

I think one of the greatest difficulties I’ve had in coming closer to spirituality has been a pretty common one: mixing up God with religion. If God was all the mess stirred up by the church over the centuries, I wanted nothing to do with Him. It’s a frequent oversimplification, one which doesn’t require that much thinking actually. Just a knee jerk generalization in the same vein as all Chinese people look the same. And just as lacking in sophistication. 

God never created a church after all. Neither did Jesus. This is something we do a lot. A phrase uttered by a politician whose party we don’t like is worthless and evil, by definition. The Montreal Canadians are hated by Toronto Maple Leafs fans automatically. 

And vice versa. 

I heard a Serbian soldier in Bosnia back in the war years there say, “The Croatians are animals. I can’t even bear to breathe the same air as them.” And that after centuries of integration and intermarriage. 

We have this black and white mentality, which serves us well in life threatening situations: “The fire is there, so I’m going over here,” but this on/off, zero/one digital mind is very poor at the more complex and subtle abstractions we require when considering meaning of life questions. So lumping God and religion together as one pathological partnership to be vehemently discarded is a little too smug. 

Anyway, I want to suggest that this attack is not only against the Church; it’s against the spiritual values that the church — for all its faults — preserves for us. And that is much more problematic.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 11: Are We Victims of God?

How many times have you heard this phrase: “I don’t believe in God anymore because how could a loving God allow all this misery on Earth?” Usually it’s a Bruce Willis-like character in a war zone in some desolate African country squinting his eyes and muttering weightily, “God abandoned this place a long time ago.”

The writers mean this to be profound. a world-weary comment on the state of Man, but it’s really overly simplistic. After all, is it God’s hand working in evil and terror, or Man’s? Isn’t it a little unethical of us to blame God for actions we’ve been taking for millennia? Like the serial killer who blames his victims for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, blaming God for our wars and cruelty also avoids the crucial missing condition: our participation. After all, if the hammer is only a tool that can be used for good or harm, aren’t we the ones making the choice?

It seems we’ve become experts at blaming others for what we are doing. But this doesn’t absolve us of blame; it merely illustrates our corruption in avoiding the responsibility. 

Are we victims of God? Episode 11 with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 10: The Problem with Atheism

Can God and science exist together? I think that’s a fundamental question. I’ve heard some of the more vocal scientists proclaiming that a belief in God is the sign of a weak mind. Well, one thing I’ve discovered: the deeper I delve into the theological and philosophical knowledge, the more I encounter rather brilliant minds, actually. Some very intelligent people have speculated about, argued for, worshiped and drawn inspiration from what they believe to be a higher power. So I don’t think you and I are losing any brain capacity in wandering a little down that well-trod, but increasingly abandoned, pathway.

Belief in God in many so-called developed countries is at an all-time low. Well, maybe it’s more a lack of belief in organized religion that’s really being expressed in any of these studies that are quoted, and I’m reminded that we mustn’t confuse one with the other.

And I wonder about the real beliefs of some self-professed atheists and agnostics anyway, who profess no belief, but live their lives according to strong ideals of goodness and service. Why are they doing that? There’s a belief in something being evidenced there, even though they might cringe at that being called God.

In episode 10, I explore the problem with atheism with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 9: The Psychotic Separation from God

The Dark Night of the Soul. In the theological canon, this signifies a spiritual crisis in a journey towards union with God. In more secular language, that would be the transformational journey that takes place when you’re suffering. 

A journey of transformation. A conversion, even. A deep repentance for a path ill chosen. And at the end, “the sudden reception of grace,” as Aquinas called it. Surely that’s what slave trader John Newton must have gone through on that wild stormy night as he stood on the wind-swept deck and surprisingly found himself muttering, “May God have mercy on our souls.” Apparently that caused some reflection when he retreated to his captain’s chambers below. An atheist, and self-avowed scoundrel appealing to divine salvation in a time of need. And a questioning that led him to repent his misspent ways in the slave trade. eventually becoming an Anglican minister and penning the unforgettable words, “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Amazing grace, indeed. 

Victor Frankl talked about man’s search for meaning, and he declared that this was to be found in overcoming oneself, giving oneself to a cause, or even to another to love. He speculated that being truly human meant being directed to something or someone other than ourselves. He called this “the self-transcendence of human existence” and witnessed it frequently, even in the depths of despair that was Auschwitz. 

But I’m wondering now, if the transcendence we’re seeking isn’t something more than just moving beyond ourselves, but is in fact a search for something, not other than ourselves, but greater than ourselves. Something to believe in certainly, but also something to explain our existence and all of this magnitude we live inside. And for this, we need theology. We can’t get there through apps or economics. We need that wisdom that plums the depths of human experience to find the answers to the questions, not just more questions. 

The country of Portugal was established based on this dream of a new world, a Fifth Empire that would initiate a period of 1000 years of justice and peace and spirituality on Earth. “The Kingdom of God,” they called it. It’s a dream that resides like a memory inside the human breast and the desire for this signifies that we recognize the loss of it. We’ve become separated from it, and even from the consideration of it, and this has had enormous ramifications for our daily lives. The Psychotic Separation from God, in this episode with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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Special Podcast Series: The Modern Relevance of God – Ep. 8: The Origin of Evil

So far in our series, we’ve been looking at the nature of life and God, and how that knowledge has been pushed aside from our daily considerations and from scientific inquiry, obviously. The concretization of the scientific method was an attempt to free the human being from superstition, squalor and medieval cruelty.  

The cherished ascendance of reason that emerged out of the philosophy at that time, however, while successfully challenging the corrupted church authority, also diminished the importance of the theological themes that are still relevant to our understanding. The nature of man, the struggle between good and evil – those got buried, too. 

And where does the ascendance of reason leave those iconic stories about the presence of evil in human experience? The stories from the sacred texts of all philosophies, what do we do with those now? How do we understand the depth of Dante or even Jekyll and Hyde or Faust with only reason at our side? 

Norberto Keppe’s recent work has been concerned to reintroduce the analysis of evil and the evil influence in daily human life, but scientifically. The advancement he has made in seeing the spiritual battle between good and evil in more scientific terms is a huge step forward. And backward at the same time, reaching into the ancient knowledge and bringing it into the modern light, stripped of its superstition and fantasy. Welcome to Episode 8 with Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco.

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