Music and Morality

There is a widespread assumption among religious fundamentalists that their particular holy book is essential for the human expression of morality. It is believed that without the guidance provided by this or that holy book or some other apocalypse, humanity would have no basis for determining right from wrong and would then quickly devolve into terror sprees, orgies, and general pandemonium. I have come to believe that this is an incorrect assumption.

I think that this perspective is flawed because it denies that there is an innate instinctive ability in each person to sense right and wrong and a motivation to do right – a conscience. To illustrate this innate instinctive ability, I like to compare the sense of morality to the sense of harmony and rhythm in music. While there are wide and varied tastes and styles of music enjoyed around the world, all music adheres to certain rules of proportion to produce harmony and almost everyone has an innate ability to determine whether these rules of proportion are being properly followed. An experiment that could be done to illustrate this might go as follows: Choose 200 people from all different cultures and age ranges around the world, and play for them a major C-chord on a piano that is perfectly tuned, and again on a piano that has each note out of tune by 4-5 hz. Then have these people choose which sound is more pleasing. I would be willing to bet that the majority of people – even children who have had little exposure to music – would find the chord on the tuned piano to be more pleasing to the ear.

I would further venture a guess that if you had two recordings of Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, one played by a maestro and one poorly played by a novice, that a majority of people – even those who have never heard Mozart or had any formal musical training – would be able to tell which version is the better played.

The mathematical proportions that govern harmony and rhythm in music are fundamental proportions to the geometric construction of the universe. These geometric proportions through fractal programs provide an infinite variety of structures throughout the universe just as these proportions expressed in harmony and rhythm provide an infinite variety of music to enjoy.

Harmony and rhythm are the expressions of the fundamental universal proportions experienced through audible sound waves which we call music. And what of other types of waves? Everything in the universe can be considered to be a waveform – an oscillation between a positive and a negative, a give and take, a push and a pull. Light is the waveform sensed by the eyes and certain proportions in frequency (color) and intensity (contrast) and composition harmonize better than others creating both pleasing and repulsive images. The intensity of sunlight as it falls on the earth follows a waveform which we call days and seasons and years. By harmonizing our sleep and activities with the natural waveform of sunlight intensity patterns, we can have some pleasing benefits. If we clash with the natural rhythms of the sun we may experience displeasure or even harm.


Relationships can also be viewed as waveforms. There is give and take, push/pull, help/hurt, like/dislike, intimacy and separation. When people in relationships harmonize they achieve a pleasant and peaceable experience. To behave in a moral manner brings harmony. Empathy gives us the ability to feel what others are feeling and thereby creates a feedback loop between self and other which is shorter and more highly motivating than the feedback loop of action/reaction. The empathy feedback loop is like the cruise control on your vehicle which allows you to achieve a steadiness in relationships despite all of the external excitation – peaks and valleys of life.

Although I believe that a rudimentary sense of harmony in music is almost universally innate and instinctive, this sense can be developed, refined, and expanded through discipline (the ability to control one’s actions with skill), practice, and study of theory. Likewise, the same can be said for morality. Any person is free to walk up to a piano and bang on it, but it takes many hours of practice and study to play something interesting and pleasing to the ear. You’re free to bang out your noisy life with minimal discipline clashing with the environment and those around you, but with practice and study you can learn to lead a beautiful life with harmony, rhythm, and balance. This is where religious institutions and holy books can play an important role. They can take this rudimentary sense of morality and develop it. Unfortunately they can also introduce some negatives. An overbearing piano teacher can induce anxiety in a young pupil to the point where music is no longer fun. That rap on the wrist for every wrong note can produce such frustration the student becomes completely unable to play. Or by overburdening students with theory or the repetition of particular rigid interpretations of classic pieces, the student’s creativity and enjoyment will be stifled. There are obvious correlates with religion.

I have been careful up to this point to say that the sense of harmony in music is “almost” universal. There are those among us who are completely tone deaf and some who cannot keep a beat. The moral analogue is the sociopath. The sociopath lacks empathy and therefore has no feedback loop to provide him with the ability or motivation to tune his actions to harmonize with others. He must rely solely on the longer feedback loop of action/reaction (i.e. hurt/retaliation or crime/punishment) so he does not easily harmonize with society and society labels him “immoral.”

Just as the various musical schools and cultures found throughout the different regions of the world have explored the fundamental universal proportions of music and come up with different creative results, the various religions of the world have explored the fundamental proportions of the harmonies of life which we call wisdom, morality and spirituality, and they have come up with different creative results. When two waves match up and excite one another that is called a resonance. A child in the West may be raised in a Christian environment to learn from the Bible not to worry about tomorrow or not to be overly concerned with material possessions, and a child in the East may learn from the Tao Te Ching the very same wise principle. The child from the West reading the Tao Te Ching or the child from the East reading the Bible will find a tremendous resonance as the waveforms of the two teachings synchronize because they were derived from the fundamental proportions of reality – the Logos. This is not to say that 100% of the teachings of the Bible or the Tao will perfectly harmonize because both are explorations or maps of the divine proportions left behind for us by previous explorers. And like the early explorers and cartographers of the geographical structures of the world, some things were slightly out of proportion or out of tune. But by comparing many maps and models, a more accurate picture begins to emerge.

I am suggesting that there are a simple set of fundamental moral rules from which diverse phylogenies of cultural moral expression can expand. If we ever discover life on other planets we fully expect species on that planet to differ from ours, but we would also expect the fundamental rules of physics that governed the development of those species to be the same. So although our expressions of life might look different, there would be many similarities that would resonate with lifeforms on Earth.

With all this in mind, I think that we should be freed to evaluate the beauty and interestingness of a person’s life or a culture based not on the moral forms particular to one species of religion, but instead based on the way that person harmonizes and resonates with the fundamental principles of the universe. So I guess I am still a fundamentalist! But I believe that the fundamental moral principles can be discovered through the sense organ of the conscience and developed as one discovers geography or physics or music whereas the religious fundamentalist believes that the fundamental moral principles cannot be explored and developed by man but must be dictated from God solely through the language centers of the brain and reinforced with punishment and reward from established institutions.

The religious fundamentalist always argues that without an authoritative holy book to tell us the difference between right and wrong, who is to decide right and wrong? My answer is that you don’t need a book to tell you if a piano is out of tune or if someone is clapping off beat, but a book might aid you in your efforts to become a better musician. Similarly a philosopher will read many books in attempt to become wise and strengthen the natural inclinations of his conscience. Perhaps another reason we need books to help us see right from wrong is that the waveforms of morality sometimes happen on such large timescales that a feedback loop cannot be easily established and therefore a sense of harmony cannot be easily felt and instead can more easily enter through the language and logic centers. If I hit you for no reason and you cry, that is a short timescale and I might immediately feel bad for my wicked deed. But it could take hundreds or thousands of years to reap the pain of some of our environmentally unfriendly actions.

At any rate, I hope that more people will become philosophers in an effort to explore the realms of universal harmony and add to our collective understanding so that we may live ever more beautiful peaceable and interesting lives.


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Modern Dog Diggs

Well a lot has changed lately: I left behind the 1100 square foot patio home in the city, and bought a 2200 square foot home in the country along with 12 acres of pasture and a 1100 square foot shop which I might eventually use to build furniture and cabinets. My two-story tall west facing windows bring the sunsets right into the living room, and I love the peace and quiet (except for the mooing cows and the distant train whistle, which only add to the charm). The home was built in 1996 and lightly updated since. After pouring over Pinterest and Houzz I have oodles of ideas for DIY updates, which I might take the time to post here.

Along with a bigger house and more space, a bigger dog was required. Enter: Madam Banshee Bean (thanks April for helping greatly with the naming process!), or Banshee for short – a mixed breed… possibly Lab and Beagle? My girlfriend’s co-worker’s mother had this stray show up, so I rescued her from abandonment and brought her home to be Sadie’s little big sister and playmate (Sadie is my 6 year old Boston Terrier). I thought building a dog house would be a good project to get to know all the new tools I had bought for woodworking and remodeling, so I designed the Modern Dog Diggs in SolidWorks and put it together. It has insulated walls with a heat lamp fixture, Cedar siding and asphalt shingled roof. Also took an old horse stall rubber mat and put it down for the floor (not pictured). It turned out pretty nice, I think!

Dog House

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Deconstructing Demystifying Deconstructions

I’ve often heard “<Insert fantastically complex and mysterious thing here> is just <insert banal and allegedly well understood thing here.” “We’re just mammals.” “Did you know that atoms are just 99.9999999999996% empty space? So for the most part, we’re just empty space!” “The earth is just a tiny speck of space dust.” “We’re all just One Thing.” “We’re all just a bunch of bits shuffling around in a matrix.” “Love is just a chemical addiction.” “What was mistaken for closeness was just a case of Mitosis. (~Andrew Bird)” “Your brain is just a biological computer and you are just a biological robot.” “This physical reality is just an illusion.” “Life is just a dream.” “Myths are just the projections of man’s psyche.” “Religion is just the opiate of the masses.”

Interstellar black hole

Why do we repeat and ponder these words among ourselves? Is it arrogance? Perhaps a bit of hubris combined with a bit of fear? The darkness, the unknown, and the unfamiliar strike fear in the cautious side of man’s nature yet man’s courageous and creative nature longs for mystery, adventure, and a harrowing dramatic plot enlivened by uncertainty. With the rise and fall of societies and civilizations there is a corresponding ebb and flow in the concentrations of these two opposing qualities in the character of the people. The cautious side of man’s nature is necessary for his short-term physical survival and comfort. The more adventurous side of man’s nature is necessary for his spiritual progression. Very often it is the young who are most adventurous, fearless, idealistic, and unimpeded by physical discomfort or peril. With age comes pragmatism, conservatism, the desire for physical comforts, and an aversion to adventure. It is a difficult challenge to keep the spirit of adventure alive as one ages. Societies follow this same pattern. In an old and rich society, the majority of people do not want to be bothered with mystery and adventure in any real sense. They want to know that everything is business as usual and everything is all understood – no surprises and no losses. Eventually such a society loses its spirit and deteriorates. Unfortunately, in our old and rich society we have reduced and deconstructed the mysteries of existence with an endless number of “it’s just” statements. Science as an institution began in the spirit of adventure and discovery but now sits old and fat upon its achievements like a Pharisee waving away all sincere seekers with a cold canned demystifying “it’s just” mantra. “It’s just Beelzebub!” “It’s just dead matter!”

On the other hand, I believe paradigms should be shaken – regularly – and some types of “it’s just” statements can sometimes be effective and appropriate for the task. I think the issue lies in getting stuck on them and following the trend of demystifying existence to make it something beneath us and manageable by us. The scientific method is a wonderful tool that supplies us with the facts and we supply the mythos and interpretation. Science as an old unadventurous institution too often supplies only the facts or the facts with a singularly materialistic interpretation. There is no wisdom in facts alone. Wisdom lies in both the exploration and balancing of extreme mythic interpretations of those facts to both maintain equanimity and promote the mystery of existence. Every scientific fact used to justify a banal deconstruction can and should be counterbalanced  with a further deconstruction back into mystery.

For example: citing the scientific fact that we are 99.9999999999996% empty space is just a mind trick! What is the effect of this statement? We generally think of our existence as being confined to our bodies and we think of our bodies as solid (or flabby) material. We want to have solid bodies. We want to be real and have a significant presence. To ponder the fact that our perception of dense matter is in reality mostly empty space somehow seems to defeat our egocentric elevated view of the nature of our existence. If we have big egos it might be appropriate to spend a good while pondering this scientific fact with this negative connotation. Likewise it might be good to ponder the relative smallness of our blue-green “speck of space dust” that is our home planet until our ego has shrunk by the same relative amount. But when these negative truths have done their positive work on us, we have to deconstruct these deconstructions and restore the mystery to existence. Let’s deconstruct the fact that we are 99.9999999999996% empty space. “We” are beings composed of a nature that is not completely understood and our existence here is still unexplainable. No one knows why there should be something rather than nothing or why this something should be conscious, dynamic, and dramatically interesting. “Empty space” likewise is not well understood. It has been posited that empty space is not empty at all, but rather contains a thick soup of vibrating particles and anti-particles carrying out well-balanced multi-dimensional annihilations known as “zero-point energy” such that a mere tablespoon of empty space contains more potential energy than the entire material universe. Considering that the average human body contains 4,490 tablespoons of “empty space”, it could be said that the average body contains the potential energy of 4,490 universes.

Science as an institution is not the only old rich man who waves away the adventurous mystery seekers with banal deconstructions. Religion of course does this as well. The universe can be perceived as a dark scary place and certain “adventures” can be too much for even the stoutest soul to suffer. Religion with its timeless truths and myths and its air of final absolute divine authority calms and comforts us with soothingly solid simplifications. “Our years of pain and toil are just a drop in the ocean compared to eternal bliss!” “Life is just a wheel.” “Death is just a doorway.” I am not saying religion tells us all lies to comfort and pacify us. It tells us many truths assembled in such a manner that we can stand on them and feel that we are above them as if it’s all understood now. The darkness is pushed back for the moment so we can rest easy through the night. This is no different than science telling us the precise amount of empty space in the atoms that compose our bodies.

It is important to remember that all human knowledge is just a parsing of the Whole into arbitrarily defined bits of information and sewn back together with threads of logic. It is just a collection of analogies and metaphors by which we compare things incomprehensible to sensible experience. We can play with these metaphors to create the desired stylish effect on our model of reality. For the past century it seems the trend has mirrored the trend in modern art towards banality. It has been used to demystify existence to the point where the life of the average person feels terribly empty and the spirit of man formerly glowing brightly is now dying leading to societal decay and possibly civilization’s collapse. But we can also practice our intellectual stitching to restore mystery and savory poignancy to experience. At this moment, this moment is all we have, and the experience of being is the only thing that cannot be further deconstructed. Existence is and always will be the supreme mystery from which springs infinite mysteries. To restore the vital nature to man’s spirit and society as a whole, we must recall the mystery of existence and deconstruct the demystifying deconstructions.


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Preppers and the Spiritual But Not Religious

Despite the health hazards assumed by living in an age of crisis, I am happy to be alive at this fantastically interesting period of history. Entrenched institutions everywhere are being revolutionized and the ensuing conflicts and dispersions of ideas and symbols are sowing the seeds for the next period of human history.

Authoritarianism is rising with the surveillance state and the militarization of police yet is counterbalanced by the democratizing power of the internet. Technological advances allow the average person to carry the sum of human knowledge in his pocket equipping him with the tools necessary to attain personal liberty while at the same time secretive governmental institutions use these same technologies to store and spy on his every communication. The efficiencies obtained by high technologies in both electronics and financial and industrial capitalism have increased production and added to the quality of life while making the entire infrastructure of human civilization overwhelmingly dependent on these fragile technological instruments and therefore incredibly vulnerable to collapse.

This gradual awakening of the public to such knowledge has led to the development of a sub-culture of the middle class known as “Preppers” who are preparing for such an imminent collapse which could be initiated by a variety of likely bogeymen: planned nuclear war, unplanned (or secretly planned) rogue nuclear or EMP attack, pandemic, unravelling of precarious financial instruments leading to severe depression, extraordinary natural disasters such as New Madrid earthquake, or any combination of the above. At the moment the likelihood of a planned nuclear war is rising rapidly as the unipolar Western hegemony is being challenged by new capitalism and new non-dollar trade agreements in the East (or more specifically the BRICS) and in response the West is threatening to start a limited nuclear war with Russia which it wagers it can win.

The subculture of Preppers (of which I consider myself to be a member) is composed of members from every level of the middle class who have both time to research and money to invest in personal survival equipment and education. Preppers are generally 1) aware of the fragility of both the infrastructure and the societal bonds which provide for the relatively high standard of living and low death rate presently enjoyed by many in the West, 2) able to grasp at least a rudimentary understanding of the confusing and highly secretive operations of the Money Powers and the means by which they manipulate world events and institutions to their benefit, 3) highly competitive in regards to the art and game of survival and therefore consciously or unconsciously view the various SHTF scenarios as opportunities to get ahead of the unwashed and unprepared masses often described as “sheeple”, 4) are reactionary against the mainstream media, mainstream degenerate culture, and methods of psycho-social control ingested by the sheeple and foisted upon them by social engineers with occult objectives 5) fiscal and moral conservatives and classical liberals or libertarians who value individual liberty and independence above the power of institutions, 6) are strongly nationalist favoring the open rule of accountable democratic national and local government in reaction to the encroaching rule of unaccountable international government and as such are generally opposed to collusion with the UN, and the erosion of national and local sovereignty through treaties and the destruction of borders through globalism, free-trade, and amnesty for illegal immigrants, and 7) are pro-gun as history shows that an armed population deters both crime and authoritarianism, and as any collapse scenario would involve the mass casualty of those unfortunate enough to be found without means of self-defense.

The availability of knowledge to the middle class has fueled the sub-culture of Preppers as well as another sub-culture self-described as “Spiritual but not religious” (SBNR). At first glance, these two sub-cultures might not seem to be related since Preppers often have conservative Christian roots and the SBNR either have liberal roots or are still in a phase of reaction against their own Christian roots; however these groups do have common elements and so long as the internet and the free exchange of ideas exists, these groups will increasingly mingle their ideologies combining to form a new counter-culture which I will call “Proto-Aquarian” since this group has the potential to form the seeds of a new vibrant society after the present age of crisis comes to a bloody resolution and a new age of economic expansion commences.

Humans are generally conservative of energy (lazy) and therefore will not act unless forced to do so. Some humans are incapable of empathy (sociopathic) and all are selfish to a certain degree. As many have pointed out, these attributes of humanity lead to a multi-generational cycle of prosperity, complacency, oppression, resistance, revolution, and renaissance in which the balance of power see-saws between the few genius sociopaths who seek centralized control and the masses who seek individual liberty and prosperity. At present, the prosperity enjoyed by the masses (of Westerners) is beginning to fade, oppression is rising, and the balance of power has shifted to the few. Preppers are the rising see-saw reactionary force.

Both Preppers and the SBNR are a result of the present freedom of information which has made available to the masses esoteric and occult knowledge which was historically shrouded in secrecy, jealously guarded by secret societies, and vigilantly stamped out or concealed by institutions of religion and finance. For generations these institutions enjoyed the benefit of the trust of the people they intentionally kept ignorant. Today as people awaken from their ignorance to find themselves enmeshed in a sticky web of controls they are beginning to question these institutions. Once an awakened individual’s trust is shaken in one institution, he begins to research and reevaluate other formerly trusted institutions such that, for example, an investigation of the false flag 9/11 attack may eventually lead an individual to investigate church history resulting in that individual migrating from establishment or fundamentalist Christianity into broader interpretations of Christianity or even the SBNR group. There are various entry points and paths an individual may take on the journey from blind trust to knowledge and skepticism, but if persistently pursued to its end, the journey culminates in a completely revolutionized worldview that is above or detached from the deceptive institutions which provided the previously assumed worldview. Therefore, the creation of the SBNR sub culture is linked to a certain extent with the same reaction to political and social forces which has created the Preppers.

The SBNR group is as much a reaction to institutionalized religion as it is to the sometimes equally dogmatic and closed-minded institutionalized materialism in the scientific community. Materialism became institutionalized into the scientific community in the 19th century for several reasons: 1) as a reaction to the superstitious nature of religious claims that could not be verified scientifically, 2) a rise in humanism supplanted theism, 3) and technological innovations based on classical physics were realized through the industrial revolution dramatically and pervasively improving the standard of living. The third item is probably the most important. By applying the laws and models of classical physics, tangible positive effects were achieved thereby validating the classical model of the universe. Since classical physics described the universe in strictly materialistic and deterministic terms, materialism took a firm hold in the scientific community and persists even today, a century after quantum physical models have overturned classical materialist models. Materialism persists today because although it has been theoretically defeated, the implementation of quantum theory into tangible ubiquitous technologies has been minimal.

Although the mainstream scientific establishment has tenaciously maintained and defended materialist dogmas, many scientists are not materialists or atheists. A great deal of peer-reviewed scientific research has been published regarding phenomena that does not behave according to the models of classical materialistic physics. These phenomena do have properties consistent with the quantum model of the universe (i.e. non-locality, entanglement, time independent, conflation of observer and observed). These phenomena are also consistent with “supernatural” events recorded in religious histories and mythologies and anecdotally evidenced to still be occurring. The materialistic mainstream fearing a return to the dark ages where religious oppression snuffed out free scientific investigation and superstition engulfed the masses in ignorance, engages in self-censorship to prevent the growth of such “dangerous” ideas like the idea that consciousness may exist independently of the brain.

Many philosophers, open-minded religious thinkers, and some scientists have enthusiastically accepted the implications of the overturned classical materialistic model of the universe while still remaining skeptical of the dogmas held by institutionalized religious establishments. These form the enlightened nucleus of the Spiritual But Not Religious group. But without the benefit of an establishment of religion to act as a gatekeeper and arbiter of truth, the esoteric and mystical ideas and discoveries of this enlightened nucleus have fueled a great deal of not so enlightened speculation and self-serving minor establishments that tarnish the cause. As usual, truth is elusive and often misunderstood, misapplied and clouded in mystery. These shortcomings are often pointed to by religious establishments as evidence of the failure of the SBNR group to provide sound guidance and truthful information and that the SBNR group leads people into deception.

Nevertheless, the SBNR group is providing a necessary counterbalance and secular alternative to atheistic materialism which started out as optimistic humanism in the 19th century but took a pessimistic and nihilistic turn after the atrocities of the World Wars. It is the nihilistic atheistic materialism embraced by the sociopathic oligarchs and preached to the masses through pop culture that has through the comfort of pleasure and prosperity allowed society to rot and through pervasive self-absorption allowed conflicts to brew to the precariously explosive conditions that presently exist. Capitalism is based on the faulty idea that what is good for individual profits is always best for the community while socialism is based on the deflating idea that what is best for the community must be accepted by the individual (or else!). If an economic and social golden age is to be achieved, it surely must be accomplished through a balancing of individual liberty and a revolutionary understanding of the fluid nature of reality that permits the individual the ability to see his irrevocable connection to the whole. Whether such a state of societal equanimity and prosperity can ever be achieved for any length of time, I know not, but it is the goal and hope of such an achievement that permits humanity to at least temporarily swing out of the cycle of oppression. In the present circumstance where the world is wired for thermonuclear self-destruction it seems unlikely that the world can survive more cycles. Therefore, our understanding of the nature of reality must evolve to this “enlightened” state (or else!).

This foreboding sense that the end of the world might be nigh has been around for thousands of years and is reflected in apocalyptic Judeo-Christian writings which provides an additional pathway for Christians to develop into Preppers averse to world government with its S.O.P. of deception, open displays of occult symbolism, increasing control over buying and selling, and open plans to merge technology with the human body for identification, tracking, commerce, and even mind control.

While every Prepper is not a SBNR person and every SBNR person is not a Prepper, the free flow of information and exchange of ideas is creating an ever-widening highway between the two groups. The increasing oppression and dangerous environment as we enter a new age of crisis is driving more people to question the controls over their lives both political, economic, and religious. So long as these people still have the technology of the internet, this process will continue. Perhaps the best case scenario we can hope for coming out of this age of crisis is a limited nuclear exchange leading to a failed attempt at centralized control by the sociopathic oligarchs which will stir an even greater reactionary force of Proto-Aquarians energized by the prepared survivors and the enlightened hopeful who value individual liberty while seeing through the mask of individual ego.

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Authority, Meaning, and Myth

As I have developed a more mystical philosophy of life, I have had several conversations about my (heretical) beliefs. Invariably, the first questions with which I am presented are regarding authority. “Who is your authority? Do you submit to God’s authority? Aren’t you trying to become your own authority?” I want to explore the nature of authority and its relationship to meaning and myth. When I use the word myth, I do not mean a story that is factually untrue. I mean a story that conveys meaning.

Whence comes authority and meaning? Both share a relationship with myth. There is no meaning without a story. Little meanings we call definitions and definitions are miniature stories that are part of the overarching story of reality. The greater meaning of life is dependent upon the overarching story of reality. All stories have an author and the one who authors a story has “author-ity” over the direction and meaning of the story.

When we have free-will, we have the ability to author our own story. When we do not have free-will, we are characters reading a script written for us by the one who exerts authority over us. There are essentially three ways to seize authority from individuals with free-will: tell a story for which others willingly cede their own authority in order to play a role, tell a story in which others are forced to read a script under threat of violence, or swiftly end another’s story through violence.

How does this play out in human systems of authority? In a monarchical system of governance, the monarch writes the story and everyone else obeys or plays their role as he authors it. If someone does not play along, their story will be swiftly ended. He delegates his authority to others so that the authority flows downward in a pyramidal structure. In our democratic society, politicians go out every election season to tell stories. In theory, the politician who authors the most widely appealing and believable script receives the authority of the office. When the POTUS is sworn into office, his first act is to tell a story that affirms his authority and creates the meaning by which he would like the public to interpret events. When governments want to go to war, they tell a story called propaganda that targets the enemy, unifies individuals to a meaningful purpose, and justifies their actions. When a police officer attempts to exert his authority over an arrestee, he begins by telling a story, “You are under arrest for selling leaves and milk. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…” In superhero tales, the villain is not satisfied to merely capture and execute the hero, the villain craves authority over the hero which prompts the villain to author a monologue – a story about his own greatness and the hero’s weakness – prior to execution. And of course, the villain’s foolish monologue always gives the hero the chance to escape. The greatest leaders exert authority over others by skillfully telling stories that are both truthful and full of compelling meaning such that men willingly accept the roles and read the scripts assigned to them.

As humans who experience great hardships, we need meaning to live. Without meaning we are left pondering, “to be or not to be.” We hunger for meaning as food. The more we suffer, the more we hunger. The more we hunger, the more readily we accept stories and the more easily tyrants usurp our authority from us. In moments of crisis, beware the stories that are told.

So all of us who are not depressed nihilists have accepted some kind of story about our lives and our place in the universe that gives meaning to our lives. From birth we are told a story and we accept it as true until we encounter something or someone who causes us to question our story. This can be terrifying because questioning one’s story means the meaning of one’s life might be altered or disappear entirely. So most people refuse to question and instead allow their defense mechanisms to protect their myth. But those who have an insatiable curiosity and a penchant for truth will always be led question their story. When we ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” We are really asking, “What is the real true story? In what story am I playing a role? What is my role? Who is authoring this story?” Thus anyone who desires to know the true meaning of life necessarily questions authority.

There are a number of stories available by which you can make sense of the world. There are various religious stories and there is the scientific materialist story. But which story is the true story? Which story is authoritative? Well obviously, the story that was written by THE Author has authority. And fundamentalists from every religion assume that THE Author of this present reality also authored the story found in their particular Holy Book. But their stories (when taken literally) often contradict one another, so either The Author is being capricious and deceptive or The Author didn’t actually write some or all of those stories. So who is to determine which story was written by The Author? You are! Like it or not, you must decide. You can decide to put your trust in councils of men, in the violent course of history, in the traditions of antiquity, and in the hope that The Author was intentionally guiding all of this in order to place in your lap a complete perfect story containing dictation straight from the mind of the Author, or you can take it upon yourself to investigate the stories and weigh the evidence and attempt to make an informed unbiased decision. But ultimately the decision is one that only you can make. I personally do not believe any of the stories available off the shelf were authored by THE Author, but some may have been inspired by The Author the way an artist sees a beautiful scene and is inspired to paint his own representation of it.

So if I do not believe any traditional story in its entirety is authoritative, then does that mean I do not accept God’s authority? This question implies the Western image of God which is God as supreme monarch. This model of God as king is passed down from Judeo-Christian and ultimately Egyptian roots. But if God is The One, The Source, the indivisible Author of all reality, then any attempt to model God with separate concepts based within this reality will fail. This means that the model of God as Supreme Monarch is flawed. It may not be altogether useless, but in some ways it necessarily fails. The only way to approach some semblance of a true concept of God is by dialectically combining all opposing concepts of God such that nothing results.

It is due to this flawed model of God as Monarch that mainstream Christianity has been wrestling for centuries with the problem of free-will co-existing with a sovereign omniscient omnipotent God. If God is the supreme omniscient omnipotent monarch, then there can be no free-will. If there is no free will, then this story sucks and God is sometimes incredibly mean to us. Life loses its meaning. Every story ever written is based on the premise that the characters involved are acting on their own free-will. A story about robots is not a meaningful story. But if there is free-will, then God is willingly giving up some of his authority to allow us to author our own scripts. If two authors attempt to co-author a story together, and these two authors are in agreement and of one mind, the story will flow beautifully. If these two authors are not writing in harmony with one another, the story will probably not be pleasant to read. Obedience to God can be viewed instead as harmonious co-authorship or synchronicity.

In Christianity, there is the concept of the Trinity: One god expressed in three persons. Now why God is limited to only three persons makes no sense to me. In Revelation, the “seven spirits of God” are mentioned. What is a person? The word “person” literally means a mask. The Dramatis Personae of Greek dramas was the list of masks to be worn by the characters. So God wears three (or more) masks. You and I are also persons. That is to say that we are masks. We are dramatic expressions of character in a story. The universe is a great drama. Now if there is only One thing, then we are part of or contiguous with God. Could it be that we are each God pretending not to be God for the purpose of play and drama? If God is The Author, then his purpose is to tell a story and a story is all about meaning and drama. The fundamental dramatic story is the Hero’s journey. A Hero begins in the realm of the known. He hears a call to adventure. He leaves the realm of the known and enters the unknown. He experiences all sorts of trials and tribulations that help define him. He goes through the dark night of the soul when all hope seems lost. But he overcomes adversity. He learns something new about himself and about reality. He returns to the realm of the known forever changed by his experiences. This is literally the universal story. It is the story of Odysseus, Superman, Alice in Wonderland, Jesus, Siddhartha, and Neo. Since the universe (or God in play) is a great drama, we discover the nature of the universe and God in part through the exploration of the meanings of our own dramas and myths.

Let me tell you a little story that illustrates the aforementioned assertion that the Universe is a great drama: Suppose that Apple has just released a new product – the Dreamweaver. Inside this small sleek white cube lies a highly refined piece of lucid dreaming technology! Apple promises the new product will reduce the boredom of day-to-day life even more than the iPhone.

So you stand in line at the Apple store to ride the leading edge of the new wave of technology. You rush home to try it out. You gingerly place the Dreamweaver next to your bed, lie down, relax, and doze off. In dreaming lucidly you essentially can be God within the world of your mind’s creation. You can go to sleep and have authority over any story you want and you always know that you will eventually wake up and come back to this present reality. What would you dream? Perhaps at first you would explore every interest and desire you’ve ever had: the perfect home, the perfect love, the perfect car, and the perfect thrills.

Suppose this goes on for a number of nights until eventually, your version of perfection begins to get boring and hollow. You find your dreams are becoming repetitive and you always know what is going to happen next. Fortunately Apple thought of this in advance, so they included some salient features on your Apple Dreamweaver machine. Simply touch the Dreamweaver and a screen appears. The first feature available to modify your experience is called Surprise. There is a slider with “control” at one end and “surprise” at the other end. Thus far you have been dreaming with the slider pegged all the way to the control end of the spectrum, so you dial it back a little towards “surprise” and go to sleep. WOW! What a dream! You parachute into a Caribbean island, but your chute doesn’t open! As you are freaking out about your chute, you try to calm yourself by remembering that this is only a dream. You plummet into the water just off shore. But no worries, it doesn’t hurt a bit! You burst up to the water’s surface and have a good laugh. A turtle swims by and you grab hold of his back to ride into shore, but as you grab hold, he morphs into a shark and bites your arm off! Again you get a bit panicked, but you remember that this is just a dream, so you laugh it off and grow your arm back and punch the shark in the face. This sort of dreaming goes on for quite some time before it also becomes boring. Fortunately there are three remaining features on your Dreamweaver to explore: Social Networking, Internal Consistency, and Recall. By connecting your Dreamweaver to the internet, you can share your dreams with anyone in the Dreamweaver universe; however, in order to do so, your control/surprise setting must be set to 5% control or less for the simple reason that too much competition for control destabilizes the Dreamweaver universe. Dialing up the Internal Consistency feature reduces the probability of things “morphing” or otherwise disobeying the “laws” created within your mind’s universe. And lastly, dialing down the Recall feature enables you to reduce your ability to remember the fact that you are dreaming. By reducing recall, the emotional poignancy and meaningfulness of your dreams increase dramatically because you can quite literally become lost in your own powerful story; however, forgetting who you are also makes you easily victimized both by the circumstances that may arise in your dream and by other dreamers. Dreams without recall can be incredibly powerful, wonderful, and at times incredibly terrifying.

Now suppose everyone on the planet rushed out to buy a Dreamweaver, and suppose humans continued dreaming dreams thus for an infinite number of years. …Eventually someone would dream the very life you are presently living. …And this is the story of God. The creative impulse to get lost in an infinite variety of adventures and experiences and stories is what has produced you and created the present reality you are experiencing. So you are in some sense one with God only you’ve deliberately set aside your omnipotent and omniscient qualities so as to forget who you are so that you can play this role and get lost in this very emotional and meaningful story. There is a very deep part of you – call it the Divine Spark, or the Ruach ha Kodesh, or the Neshema, or the Breath of Life or the Higher Self – this part of you remembers where you came from and yearns to wake up. It is this part of you that has an inkling of recall that presses you to keep asking questions and wonder about the meaning of it all. When you finally wake up, or become “lucid” you are “made whole” or “saved” or “enlightened”. Thus you are a co-author of your story with God because the deeper part of you is and has always been one with God. When you remember who you are while still within the dream, you become “lucid” and have what is often called a “mystical experience” of the greater reality. You begin to see things the way Jesus and the other mystics did and you may even find that you can play with the “Internal Consistency” feature to perform miracles.

In a culture shaped by the Monarchical view of God, it is a dangerous thing to claim to be one with God or to be God’s son. That’s like saying, you’re the boss. You’re the authority. This was the Pharisees’ complaint about Jesus. He claimed to be God’s Son, and he preached that the kingdom of heaven was near – within you – not high above at the top of the pyramid. He claimed to have authority and he gave it away freely allowing anyone to forgive sins and even alter this reality.

But some will say: “we can’t have every individual claiming his or her own authority or things will run amuck! Isn’t it the respect for higher authority that keeps society ticking? Isn’t it the fear of God that causes us to act ethically?” If we are all children, then yes, we all need authority. A child needs to be under authority to learn discipline. Once a child becomes a mature adult, the adult (hopefully) has self-discipline. And what is discipline? It is the ability to control one’s self with skill. It takes discipline to learn to play the piano skillfully. For a child, it might take discipline AND authority. But for an adult, it simply takes discipline. Yes, you’re free to walk up to a piano and bang on it, but it takes discipline to evoke beautiful and meaningful sounds from the piano. Similarly, you are free to bang out your life as a disharmonious noise, but skillful living requires wisdom and discipline. As Paul said, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.”

Each of us was born with the potential to live freely, but we invariably have to fight to maintain our freedom to have authority over our own lives. Authority is like money, a currency through which power is exchanged, and as such it is coveted, stolen, and hoarded. Each of us can learn to have authority over our own lives. Each of us co-authors moment by moment our life story with God and we can write harmoniously or dissonantly with God. Each of us wears a mask called a personality which allows us to pretend to be an individual for the sake of this dramatic play.

One essential element of this drama is the enemy. The enemy is under the delusion that he can become completely separate, so he refuses to live harmoniously with his brothers and his environment. Instead he attempts to have greater control. He steals authority from others and hoards it. And in response, the others band together so as to be able to resist the usurper. They fight against the enemy and in the process define their own character. So they need the enemy to become fully developed just as white means nothing without black. But in this process of banding together to resist the enemy, they give some of their authority to a leader and form a government for protection. In time this government becomes the new enemy, the people rebel, and band together and raise up a new leader, and the cycle is repeated in a perpetual arms race to increase authority until we reach a point where we have our finger on the button that has the authority to end all stories everywhere on the planet in nuclear mutually assured destruction.

It is the worship of authority or power that has led us to the point where we might at any moment destroy our planet. But we are all co-authors and we get to decide whether this story ends tragically or goes on beautifully to persevere through this valley of the shadow of death. Humanity has reached an adolescent phase where its physical might has exceeded its wisdom and stupid actions have the potential to destroy our planet. Fortunately, it is also during adolescence that the drive to be free is strongest. A balance of freedom and wise discipline is required if humanity is to survive.

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The Lego Movie

It is not just for kids! The Lego Movie was one of the best movies to come out in a long while… so good I saw it twice in the theater. This CG’d stop-motion non-stop action comedy’s got jokes, and so much more! The fast paced action and silliness combined with impressive demonstrations of the ancient toy’s creative potential will keep kids entertained while a red pill of truth is slipped in for the adults. Every scene is bursting with colorful meaning and laughter.

The Lego Movie

On one level, The Lego Movie is an early 21st century American social commentary. The issues facing the Lego Universe are our issues. The main character, Emmet Brickowoski, is an ordinary trendy guy who lives in a media saturated culture and goes along with the crowd without thinking too much about the problems facing his society. The media he takes in buries the hints of coming destruction in superficial nonsense. He has an instruction booklet that tells him exactly what to do all day long, and life is great as long as he follows all the rules. The Theme song sums it up: “Everything is Awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team! Everything is awesome, when you’re living a dream!” And everyone in Emmet’s city, Bricksburg, is living a dream. They seem to be a happy, but it’s a fake prosperity, the freedoms are hollow, and it is increasingly controlled by a growing super secret police state. President Business’s Octan corporation owns all businesses from the shallow media to overpriced coffee to (rigged) voting machines. Every day Emmet and other construction workers go out to build stuff, and every evening after they head home, President Business’s military industrial complex flies in to destroy their work. There is no progress. There is only an endless cycle of consumerism and waste that empowers President Business and allows him to control the people of the Lego Universe. President Business is actually “Lord Business,” the control-freak Demiurge with the horns of Baphomet who desires his particular version of “perfection” to be imposed on the universe. He has a dark plan to whip the inhabitants of Bricksburg into a state of elation through Taco Tuesday (government welfare) and freeze them in place with The Kragle (Krazy Glue).

However not everyone is content to go along with the highly controlled society created by Lord Business. A small group of rebels, superheroes, and free thinkers called the Master Builders (a nod to masonry?) refuse to follow the instructions and build whatever they want whenever they want out of anything. They rely on their own creativity, intuition, and training (in sacred geometry?) to travel between the various realms of the Lego Universe. They are not dulled by the consumerist media driven society of Bricksburg, but they operate at an elevated level of consciousness. They see what no one else can see. One by one, Lord Business has been capturing the free thinkers and imprisoning them in his “think tank” where he steals their ideas and uses them to tighten his grip on power. The sage leader of the Master Builders is Vitruvius. (Vitruvius was an engineer and architect under Julius Caesar who’s work inspired Leonardo da Vinci to draw the famous “Vitruvian Man”, an exploration through art and science of the geometric perfection of man.) Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_ViatourVitruvius guards the Piece of Resistance (cap to the Krazy Glue), but when it is lost, he utters a made up prophecy about a future Messiah… which “must be true because it rhymes.” His prophecy becomes a religion that causes the ordinary man, Emmet, to begin to see himself as special (Emmet = I’m IT). In the end, it comes out that the prophecy was made up, but the truth remains that every man is special and every man has the creative intuition necessary to break out of Lord Business’s idea of “perfection”.  The prophecy was made up to help the ordinary man see this and find the piece of resistance. Emmet’s journey to becoming the Messiah of the Lego Universe begins with him believing that he is special and that he can trust his own divine spark of unique creative intuition.

Emmet’s journey begins when love and curiosity cause him to deviate from the rules. After taking a fall down the rabbit hole, he stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance and when he steps on his fears and touches it, he has a mystical psychedelic near-death experience that gives him a vision of the greater reality. Thenceforward the Piece of Resistance is stuck to him, and he is set on a path that expands his consciousness and makes it impossible for him to return to his previously ordinary unobtrusive mundane life.

Emmet and his crush, Wild-Style (or Lucy…Lucifer…Light-Bearer), go on grand adventures together through the various realms of the Lego Universe. In the realm of Cloud Cuckoo Land, they meet Princess Unikitty, a new-agey type whose willful repression of anything negative results in a schizo-personality. Cloud Cuckoo Land demonstrates the absurdity of a heaven without hell, the silliness of positivity without negativity, left without right, and freedom without restraint. Cloud Cuckoo Land is just as ridiculous as Lord Business’s polar opposite attempt to freeze a perfectly controlled society. The message is clear that dualism exists and the way to defeat dualism is not to try and gravitate to one pole or the other. The way it is defeated is through balance, creativity, being un-resistant to change, belief, and love.

The battle for the future of The Lego Universe is a great story and like all great stories, it is about the conflicts within our own society, our own universe, and ultimately the battle within ourselves. Left-brains want to control, to bring order, to color inside the lines, to follow instructions. Right-brains want to throw away the rules and be creative, rely on intuition, and make something new. It is only when there is balance between the left and right, order and chaos, logic and creativity, control and freedom, that a truly glorious and dynamic story exists. Our society, like Bricksburg, is pathologically left-brained and it is up to us individual Specials to restore balance, peace, harmony, and love.

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Prayer vs. Meditation

The title of this blog makes it sound as if prayer and meditation are mutually opposed. I don’t hold this view, but I know that this is the predominant view among fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims. In this blog, I want to make the case that the competition between prayer and meditation is really a competition between left and right hemispheres of the brain, and I want to make the case to my Christian friends that meditation is hinted at in the Christian Bible and that meditation complements prayer.

First of all, I want to clarify terms. When I say prayer, I mean it in the traditional Christian sense: speaking mentally or verbally to God as you would to any other person for the purpose of thanksgiving, petition, or communion: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come….” When I say meditation, I mean it in the Eastern sense of clearing one’s mind and focusing on a single point or nothing at all: “Ommm….”

In my last post, The Feedback Loop of Self, I explained how the principle effect of meditation is to temporarily stop the feedback loop between thinker and thoughts. It is this feedback loop that generates the concept of a self as an entity separate and distinct from the environment. It is the left-brain which is primarily responsible for this state of consciousness which breaks things down into pieces or words and applies sequential logic to these parts. It is the right brain which uses intuition to arrive at a unified view of all parts as one whole.

There is nothing inherently wrong with either the left brain logical or the right brain intuitive processes; however, I believe it is advantageous to strike a proper balance between the two. Prayer, as I have defined it above in the Christian sense, is a left brain activity. Eastern Meditation is a right-brain activity. Prayer uses words in a sequential logical coherent stream of thought to arrive at an intended destination. Meditation abandons words and allows the right brain intuitive holistic functions to dominate.

Since Western thought is largely based upon the orthodox Judeo-Christian-Greek understanding that truth is arrived at through the deconstruction of a whole into parts, the analyzation of written words, and of prayer as a left-brain wordy thought process, the West has glorified left-brain achievement and placed supreme value on one particular state of consciousness: the fully-alert, reasoning, left-brain, logical state. Some consider the achievements of our left-brain dominant society a triumph of reason over antiquated superstitious magical thinking that has given us wonderful technological advances. Others consider this over-emphasis on left-brain thinking a pathology that leads to selfishness, materialism, coldness, mistreatment of our environment, and ultimately the atomic bomb.

Eastern meditation and Eastern non-dual philosophy is largely based upon the holistic view that the self is contiguous with the whole and that truth is arrived at by avoiding deconstructing the whole into parts and words. The advantages of this holistic emphasis are low stress, equanimity, simplicity, and harmonious relationship with the environment (no need for an atomic bomb). The disadvantages of this philosophy are that there is no great impetus to evangelize or spread this philosophy or to protect one’s self from the left-brain, technologically-minded, achievement-oriented conquistadors.

Although fundamentalist Christianity and Western society place supreme value on the left-brain, alert, reasoning, wordy state of consciousness, there are hints of Eastern meditative type states of consciousness in the Christian Bible and traditions. Any Christian who has truly sincerely pursued a relationship with God will tell you that my definition of prayer described above is really a very shallow superficial one, and that effective prayer is much less about talking to God about your needs and wants, and much more about getting quiet and listening. Many pastors will advocate setting aside a quiet time for prayer of at least 30 minutes or an hour a day. I have tried this daily discipline of spending an hour a day in prayer. But what happens during that hour? Unless one is very loquacious, one cannot continue talking for a full hour. One’s attention begins to wander. So one disciplines oneself to continue bringing attention back to a single point: God (or one’s idea of God). And one tries to keep talking to God, but one soon runs out of things to say, so one begins to repeat things: “Thank you, God. Praise you, God. You are worthy, God. Bless you, God….” And as one repeats a mantra of praises or petitions to God, one begins to lose oneself in the exact same way as in Eastern meditation. The repetition of words or sounds is like giving the word-hungry left-brain a bone to chew on to occupy it so the intuitive holistic right brain can come out and have a chance to express itself. It is in this state of right brain dominance that intuition and insight flows more freely and this is called, “hearing God’s voice.” Studies have shown that all of us are telepathic, clairvoyant, and pre-cognitive to a certain extent. Studies have also shown that those who are creative (right brain dominant) and those who practice meditation score higher on such skills. We are undoubtedly capable of receiving information in non-local ways that bypass our senses and that information seems to come more readily through the right brain.

Most people are familiar with the story of Jesus walking out on the water, but the next time you read that story, take note of the fact that this occurred after Jesus had spent a very long time (perhaps 12 hours) on a mountain in solitude in prayer. Now if you thought talking for 1 hour is difficult, try 12! Perhaps Jesus had 12 hours of wordy conversation with our Father, but I doubt it. It seems very likely to me that this 12 hours of prayer involved a deep meditative state where words disappeared. There are numerous incidences in the book of Acts where believers are said to have fallen into a “trance” where they receive a vision or some kind of intuitive knowledge. Many Christians assume that a trance state of consciousness is only valid if God supernaturally forces a person into one, and that we should not purposefully intend to seek altered states of consciousness, but as I described above, this trance state is the ultimate result of a very long time spent in prayer.

In the same way that repetitious praises or phrases can pacify the left brain, speaking in tongues accomplishes this same thing. Many Christians do not accept that speaking in tongues is still valid, and why is that? Because our left-brain dominant society abhors illogical nonsense. In such a society, speaking nonsense is embarrassing and is something that can get you locked away in a padded cell. Some accept speaking in tongues but only if there is an interpreter, because if we can’t get any meaning out of it, then what is the point? Many Christians who are not familiar with speaking in tongues are afraid of it. They assume that it involves some outside force of God taking over one’s mouth and vocal chords to involuntarily produce sounds as directed by the Holy Spirit as if one were being “possessed.” This results in a great deal of frustration for sincere Christians who want to get “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and are waiting for God to literally take control over their bodies. But those who are familiar with speaking in tongues know that it is not being involuntarily taken over by an outside force. A person has to willfully open their mouth and freely utter nonsensical sounds. And what is the principle effect of uttering nonsense? The left brain is pacified and the right brain is in full control. The big dog left brain has a bone to chew on and the right brain can peek its head out and see what is going on from a holistic perspective.

Now that I’ve shown that extended left-brain prayer effectively leads to right-brain or synchronous meditative states, I want to explain why I hypothesize that meditative states make prayer effective. There is one thing the Bible pounds into us over and over: faith. Prayer without faith is ineffective. As James says, a man who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a “double-minded” man, unstable in all he undertakes. As Jesus said, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you curse a fig tree and wither it instantly, you can speak to a mountain and cast it into the sea. In other words, nothing is impossible with faith.

So what is faith? How do we get it? I want to propose that faith is the unification of the mind. It is bringing the left and right brains into synchronous harmony. It is no longer being “double-minded” but is returning to the single-minded non-dual state of a child where there is no separation between thinker and thought or doer and deed. Doubt comes through the feedback loop of self. When the feedback loop is broken by observing the feedback loop and collapsing it into a single point, I believe this is where a state of mind called “faith” is achieved.

Faith is often mistaken as the effort one makes to believe certain things, but if there is effort, this cannot be faith because faith is effortless. Faith is a state of complete internal harmony. If one is trying to believe something, then one does not believe it. If there is internal effort, then there is not internal harmony because there are two or more competing perspectives – the double-minded state of doubt. Meditation and Eastern non-dual philosophy is about reaching a place of effort with no effort or action without action which is synonymous with a state of faith. It is the feedback loop of self which keeps us in a place of no faith, of constant striving against ourselves, of constant division between our aspirations and our attainments.

When the feedback loop of self is broken, the mind is unified, and a state of faith or “no-effort” is achieved, then words are superfluous to prayer. They may be used or they may not be used. Jesus is said to have driven out evil spirits with “a word.” Many times, he didn’t even use words. One time he simply said, “I thank you Father that you heard me. I know that you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of those listening…” So in a place of faith, perhaps words are only necessary to help others understand something about what is going on. I believe prayer and meditation can work together to achieve positive results in one’s life and one’s environment.

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