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Tree of Life
In the story of Genesis 2:9 this is a sacred tree planted in the Garden of Eden, representing eternal life.
When Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge, they are cast away from the tree of life and become mortal.
For conservative Christians, only through the redemption of Jesus Christ does mankind regain everlasting life.
The tree of life was a popular symbol in the ancient world, appearing on seals, reliefs, pottery and literature. It forms an important prelude for aspirants in the mystical tradition of the Kabbala. Hindu mythology ascribes all sorts of magical properties to different trees. And the Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment under a bodhi tree.
Some Christian theologians say that non-Christian precursors and parallels to Jewish and Christian stories and symbols does not indicate that all stories are just myths of equal value, an idea forwarded by figures like Joseph Campbell and sometimes by the psychiatrist C. G. Jung.
Instead, traditional Christian theologians usually say that non-Christian symbols act as a kind of rough and abstract “blueprint” for the perfect manifestation of God’s true revelation–i.e. the Christian Bible, the Word Made Flesh, and so on.
Not surprisingly, this reasoning has been critiqued and debated from various angles.
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According to Buddhist legend, the Bodhi Tree the tree under which the seated Buddha-to-be resolved to find Truth.
Apparently the future Buddha was first pursued by demons and then received what he believed were heavenly visions.
Rejecting both as temporary and unreal, he attained Nirvana, which for him and his followers is the ultimate, true and unchanging reality.
The term Bodhi Tree also refers to a number of trees that Buddists believe are descendents from the original Bodhi Tree. Wikipedia explains:
The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri Maha Bodhi. According to Buddhist texts the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude.¹
Buddhists preach about non-detachment and anatman (no-self) and yet, like adherents of most other religions, tend to venerate a whole series of ritualistic objects, from this kind of tree to well-kept rock gardens. In fact, one could argue that some Buddhist monasteries – not unlike some Christian monasteries – appear more like well-funded middle class havens instead of a place where any kind of real letting go of worldly things occurs.
That would be fine if admitted as such. But the sanctimonious preaching about renunciation that often comes from these places sometimes seems facile and, perhaps, a touch hypocritical.
Related Posts » Buddhism
- Why Bodhi Tree? (vijayaraman.com)
- March 18, 2013 Critical Commentary: THE HOLY BODHI LEAF AT MAHABODHI TEMPLE (worldreligionnews.wordpress.com)
- Under the Bodhi Tree (lifeisavacation.wordpress.com)
- Roots (cloakedmonk.com)
- Buddha Groove Adds New and Artistic Buddha Statues (prweb.com)
- Zen (noontimephotography.com)
In Jewish and Christian belief, based on the book of Genesis 2-3, Eden [Hebrew Eden: delight, pleasure] is the garden of paradise in which God first created mankind.
According to the Bible story, the first humans were vegetarians. God allowed them to eat of any fruit in the garden, except the fruit from the tree of knowledge (either an apple or a pomegranate).
Later in the Bible story, after the disobedience and expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, God gives his chosen people (the Israelites) prohibitions concerning which meats are permissible to eat and which are not.
In the Book of Ezekiel Eden symbolizes Israel’s promised redemption after being in exile.
Eden is also mentioned in the Koran. And a rough parallel to Eden is found in the Sumerian Dilmun, a mythological place where everyone lives forever and never gets sick nor dies.
- The Garden of Eden: Between two trees (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
- Bible Challenge – “GARDEN OF EDEN” (pjsprayerline.blogspot.com)
- Eden – The First Earth-Home (brakeman1.com)
- How Long Were Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden? (jeffandcindy.wordpress.com)
- It’s official – Adam and Eve, er, weren’t. (wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com)
Genesis (Hebrew Bereshit = “In the beginning”) is the first book of the Bible, containing the two different versions of the Jewish and Christian the creation story. Among other things, Genesis tells the tale of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, and God’s involvement with the apparently chosen people, the Israelites.
Although Genesis is the first book to appear in the Bible’s collection of different books, scholars say it’s not the oldest written biblical material. The following is a transcription of the first few verses of Genesis:
1:1 In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets.
1:2 The earth was without form and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths, but God’s spirit moved on the water’s surface.
Veha’arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.
1:3 God said, ‘There shall be light,’ and light came into existence.
Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or.
1:4 God saw that the light was good, and God divided between the light and the darkness.
Vayar Elohim et-ha’or ki-tov vayavdel Elohim beyn ha’or uveyn hachoshech.¹
The author of Genesis was traditionally thought to be Moses. But modern scholarship looks to several different anonymous sources, and academic theories are always changing as to why and how this book came about.
Genesis is also the name of an English progressive rock group which recorded the notable album, Selling England by the Pound (1973), along with other, arguably less achieved albums like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974).
The band’s mature sound was, for the most part, complex and introspective (some nicknamed the band “Genesnooze”) but they remain an important influence in the history of rock.
The band also spawned commercially successful solo careers for Peter Gabriel and drummer/vocalist Phil Collins. When Gabriel left the band in 1975, the remainder of Genesis (with Collins taking up lead vocals) began to produce more radio-friendly singles. But some hard core Genesis fans felt that the departure of Gabriel left behind a watered down, flimsy remnant of the “real” Genesis.
The Genesis space probe was launched by NASA in 2001 to study and collect samples of solar winds. It was the first spacecraft to return material to Earth since the Apollo missions.
Unfortunately the Genesis recovery parachute malfunctioned. So in 2004 the probe crash landed in Utah, resulting in the loss of some otherwise valuable data.
Genesis I is the name of an experimental space habitat launched by an American firm in 2006.
The habitat is inflatable, making launch easier due to its initial deflated diameter of 1.6 metres. Fully expanded, the Genesis I measures 4.4 by 2.54 metres.
¹ Source » http://bible.ort.org/books/torahd5.asp
- Peter Gabriel (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 10 (newwestminsterchapel.wordpress.com)
- The Genesis of Modern Psychology (dirteaters.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 1:16-19 (biblicaljournal.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 1-3: History or Allegory? (ldstalk.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 11 (newwestminsterchapel.wordpress.com)
Abraham Abulafia (born 1240) says that unlike Old Testament prophets, who passively experience different degrees of God‘s light through grace, the meditating Kabbalist consciously ascends through levels of light to the final realization of God.
Not unlike the Hindu mystics and their beliefs about Sanskrit, Kabbalist mystics believe that the Hebrew letters are both physical and spiritual. The three primordial Kabbalist letters (aleph , mem and shin) are said to contain all of the potential elements of the universe.
Because all Kabbalist letters are ruled by angels, when pronounced properly, a single letter is said to evoke its corresponding angel. And merely writing a Hebrew character apparently can transport the mind to a higher sphere.
While the Zoharic school of Kabbala advocates contemplation of various spheres within a ‘cosmic tree,’ Abulafaria says this is only a prelude to the contemplation of Names, leading to the Divine Name.
Abulafaria openly defies the chain of secrecy that has been maintained for centuries by previous Masters. In the Light of Intellect he claims to have been the first to bring this wisdom to the ordinary person (to include non-Jews), making him popular among Jews and Christians alike.
He also warns his students against the false meditation manuals found in the Middle Ages, which aimed at worldly power through magic.
The most prominent Kabbalist, Israel ben Eleazer, a.k.a. the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Holy Name), further popularized Jewish-based mysticism, making it universally accessible.
The Baal Shem Tov founded what is now called Hasidic mysticism. Following his example, the Hasidim democratized the Torah, delivering it from privileged scholars to the ordinary person.
As for the dangers of the Kabbalist mystical quest, Perle Epstein is worth quoting at length:
Kabbalists who uttered God’s Names and altered their breathing patterns were making use of the third rung of the soul’s ladder, the breath which tied them to the spiritual world. By binding himself mentally to a specific ‘spiritual being,’ the Kabbalist could either elevate himself further (as Abufalia taught) or he could obtain significant information about the future. This second practice was dangerous, for it often resulted in making contact with shedim, demonic beings who altered and confused the meditator’s mind. Along this path lay the danger of insanity. The ‘breath,’ or third level of soul, was therefore regarded as a two-edged sword. Only utmost purity of purpose assured the Kabbalist safe passage to the next rung. But spontaneous ecstasy would occur here, too-a condition in which the mystic, without any conscious effort, might find himself flooded with a rush of divine bliss. Yet even this level of ‘divine inspiration’ was not really considered true ‘prophecy.’¹
¹ Perle Epstein, Kabbalah: the way of the Jewish mystic, Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1978, p. 143.
- Kabbalist Lindsay Lohan (lukeford.net)
- Introduction to Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah (epages.wordpress.com)
- Lilith (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- The Eulogizer: Rock music producer, Chabad kabbalist (jta.org)
- William James, part 6: Mystical experience | Mark Vernon (guardian.co.uk)
- Mysticism (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Mystic (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Unique Judiaca & Jewish Gifts for Valentine’s Day (play-it-forward.org)
- Jewish holiday symbolizes spiritual growth, enviromental concern (heraldnet.com)
- Kabbalists Have a Dance Party to Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ [VideUhOh] (gawker.com)
M. H. Abrams says that at the most fundamental level a symbol is anything that signifies something else.
Abrams also notes that a distinction is often made between the public and private symbol. The public symbol, such as the cross, is apparently understood by everyone in a given culture whereas the private symbol, such as an obscure poetic allusion, isn’t.
This distinction, however, seems open to debate: Surely not everyone in a given culture interprets the cross in the same way.
In literature a symbol is
a word or phrase that signifies an object or event which in turn signifies something, or suggests a range of reference, beyond itself (A Glossary of Literary Terms, 2005, p. 320).
In depth psychology, Carl Jung says the symbol is a meaningful image that mediates healing or destructive forces from the collective unconscious to ego consciousness–for example, the symbol of the Cross or Serpent.
Jung says symbols arise from the unknowable archetypes but are recognized as archetypal images. Archetypes interpenetrate among themselves; likewise, archetypal images are discrete but exhibit similarities. For Jung the flow of psychic energy between the collective unconscious and the symbol is a two-way process.
Jungian Erich Neumann says that the symbol acts as both as an “energy transformer” and as a “moulder of consciousness.” As an energy transformer the symbol facilitates the ego’s experience of the numinous, arising from the collective unconscious. As a moulder of consciousness, the symbol operates on the level of collective consciousness by contributing to the ideology of a given culture.
Jung says the interconnected conscious and unconscious aspects of humanity cannot be severed. He’s widely quoted as saying in The Undiscovered Self (1958):
You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.
Likewise, political leaders of the mass state cannot avoid being glorified or demonized. This occurs through brute force, clever calculation and also through public fascination and projection.
Jung believes, for example, that a mass-produced placard image of Joseph Stalin expresses an archetypal force articulated on the conscious level that both sways and oppresses individuals.
A more contemporary example would be the disempowering psychological effect that massive bank towers (symbolizing ‘Big Business’) have on the poor and disenfranchised. And in ancient cultures such as Greece, Rome and Egypt, impressive architecture apparently had a similar effect on slaves, the exploited, the underprivileged and on less powerful visitors from foreign cultures.
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Adam (Hebrew, adam = Man) is a key figure In the Bible’s Old Testament book of Genesis, Adam is said to be the first human being, fashioned from earthly clay and brought to life with the living breath of God.
According to Genesis his female counterpart, Eve, was created from his rib. It is noteworthy, says St. Thomas Aquinas, that Eve was not created from Adam’s head or from some other body part, such as his foot.
Being created from his rib signifies a woman’s traditional role, so Aquinas says, of fulfilling her role in marriage and offering humble service to her husband. In Genesis 1:27, however, we find another version of the creation story in which God creates male and female in his image. No mention is given of Adam’s rib in this verse.
With Eve, Adam is said to represent the ‘first age’ of mankind, this being The Fall and Sin because the original sin of Eve (and shortly after, Adam’s sin) brings evil to the world. Now Adam and all subsequent generations must work hard to survive.
Joachim of Fiore says this introduction of evil necessitated the rule of “the Law”—that is, the Ten Commandments given to Moses.
In Christian theology Jesus Christ, the ‘second Adam,’ is portrayed as God’s perfect redeeming solution to the evil disobedience of Adam. And the Virgin Mary is often regarded as the ‘second Eve,’ the perfect counterpart to Eve’s original sin.
Some branches of Jewish mysticism believe that we can return to the “Original Adam” (the perfect man before the Fall) by contemplating God. But for Christians, the perfect, sinless man (Jesus) can only be imperfectly imitated by his followers and never equaled.
¹ Seth is also the name of an alleged disembodied spirit that the channeler Jane Roberts wrote about. We find with many channelers that the names of these unseen beings are often derived from the annals of mythology and religion.
- Covered by a Sacrifice (wherelivingbegins.wordpress.com)
- Where Was Adam with Eve When She was Deceived by the Serpent? (peterdavid28.wordpress.com)
- ‘The Evolution of Adam’ by Peter Enns: Mini Book Review (christianityandvirtue.wordpress.com)
- Adam and Eve (Like a Virgin) (jaguarpf.wordpress.com)
- Just call me “helper.” (lorischulz.wordpress.com)
- Our Parents: Adam & Eve (ourfathershavetoldus.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 1-11 (ashleyharroldblog.wordpress.com)
- The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (therookietheologian.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 3 (whymyfamilywilldisownme.wordpress.com)
- In Adam All Die (ourfathershavetoldus.wordpress.com)
Buddha (Skt. “awakened or enlightened one”)
The Buddha began as Prince Gotama Siddhartha, born of the brahmin caste (c.563-483 BCE), likely in the Mountain valleys between what is now India and Nepal.
His father was a king (raja) who apparently sheltered him from the vicissitudes of life outside the royal palace.
When Gotama reached 29 he left his wife and traveled beyond the borders of his insular world.
Legend has it that upon seeing death and disease outside the palace gates, he became disillusioned with his father’s rose-tinted restrictions.
Siddhartha resolved to find Truth. At first he explored the opposite of his formerly privileged life by becoming stringently ascetic, eating only a few grains of rice to survive. But this didn’t bring him enlightenment as he came to understand it.
After much inner and outer experimentation he advocated a middle-way between the extremes of excess and renunciation. He is said to have found enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi Tree, thus becoming a Buddha.
Although Christianity is often criticized for being based on scriptures written 45 to possibly 140 years after the death of Jesus, for some odd reason few of these critics seem equally concerned that Buddhist scriptures were not written until some 300-400 years after the death of Gotama.
As for the idea of “enlightenment” or being “awake,” many people use these terms probably with different meanings. We probably have no way to understand exactly what the Buddha found, the true nature of his inner experience, etc. And with so many schools of Buddhism existing today, its hard to know just how effectively they can facilitate the kind of altered psychological state that the Buddha, himself, actually encountered.
- Yoga, India, Indian, Hinduism? (mydailyyogapractice.wordpress.com)
- Jesus AND Buddha (larkarama.wordpress.com)
- How do you Know? (thearahant.wordpress.com)
- No ‘System’ can hold the Dhamma (thearahant.wordpress.com)
- The convergence of Buddhist enlightenment and Christian salvation (damascusroads.wordpress.com)
- Understanding the Role of Women in Buddhism (womenshistory.answers.com)
- Under the Bodhi Tree… (postsfromthepath.com)
- Foundations of Buddhism – some notes (buddhismnow.com)
- My Mother Kuan Yin and Father Buddha (floweroflifemagick.wordpress.com)
Michael H. Brown (19?? – ) is a Catholic writer who talks about his personal encounters with odd and unconventional mystical perceptions in day to day life. A former columnist for the New York Times, this makes him different from many paranormal writers. His works tend to be well-written and lacking in the abstract woollyness that mark so many New Age publications.
In Prayer of the Warrior Brown says he left his post at the newspaper because of an increased perception of spiritual pollution in the business world. He believed he saw Satan lurking practically everywhere—in downtown streets, during business lunches, and within the popular media.
Quite outspoken, the following is a good example of his views about the influence of Satan in popular culture:
Instead of Yoruba drums, we had movies, the stereo, the television. One of the hit TV shows was called Bewitched.¹
If a bit overzealous at times, Prayer of the Warrior illustrates a popular belief in the importance of humility and prayer in overcoming what many religious traditions see as “attacks” from evil spiritual beings, forces or powers. In Catholicism this idea is generally understood to fall within the realm of “Spiritual Warfare.”
Related Posts » Spiritual Attack
¹ Milford, OH: Faith Publishing Co., 1993, p. 103.
David Bowie (1947 -) is a British musician, record producer, arranger, actor and visual artist. Originally David Jones, apparently he changed his surname to avoid confusion with the popular Monkee of the time, Davey Jones.
Most would agree that Bowie is in a rare league of iconic rockers, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Madonna and Elton John.
His best music synthesizes existing idioms to create something fresh and often exploratory. And because of his considerable talent, his musical explorations rarely go off the grid.
Bowie the philosopher, if you like, also takes us to new dimensions often passed over by status quo thinkers. His song “Starman” (1972) ponders the idea of extraterrestrial life and its potential impact on humanity.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
And in “Loving the Alien” (1984) he sings:
Believing the strangest things
loving the alien…
Meanwhile, Black Tie White Noise (1993) looks to the meeting of spirit and the body, a topic that sometimes scares away so-called intellectuals who think they’re smart but really are quite narrow-minded:
Where the flesh meets
the spirit world
Where the traffic is thin…
You’ve been around
but you’ve changed me
In Bowie’s heyday the press often depicted him as “going away” from this world into some kind of creative journey and then “returning” whenever he produced a hit single.
There might be some psychological truth to this, as found in “Little Wonder” (1997):
Enter Galactic, see me to be you
It’s all in the tablets, Sneezy Bhutan
Little wonder then, little wonder
You little wonder, little wonder you…
Sending me so far away,
so far away…
Not unlike the Hindu Shiva-Shakti dyad, Bowie plunged into cross-dressing before this was considered chic in the music industry.
But there’s more to Bowie than meets the eye. Connecting him to religion and spirituality is far from spurious, considering his interest in parapsychology, as found in “Sound and Vision” (1977):
Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision…
I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Within Asian systems paranormal abilities are known as siddhis, and in Catholic mysticism those which come from God are called called interior locutions, insights, perceptions and private revelations.
Bowie himself, however, is often critical of organized religion, as expressed in this chant from The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), released several years before the Catholic sex-abuse lawsuits hit the media:
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
And the church
And the church
Bowie might someday be regarded not just as a musician but as a visionary or futurist. Considering the looming global water crisis the following scenario from “Looking for Water” (2003) doesn’t seem too far off:
Silver leaves are spinning round
Take my hand as we
go down and down
Looking for water…
I’m looking for water
Looking for water
I’m looking for water
Looking for water…
Pythagoras linked musical harmony to cosmic order, while Orpheus used his lyre to wrest his wife Eurydice from the underworld lord of death, Cerberus. But like Lot’s wife, and against a dire warning not to look back while escaping, Orpheus foolishly cast a glance backward, losing Eurydice forever.
This story speaks to the wisdom of accepting and trusting in the future, an idea summed up in Bowie’s tune, “Changes” (1971):
Turn and face the strange
ch ch changes…
time may change me
but I can’t trace time
Bowie has also ventured into acting and composing soundtracks for film and video games. For some time he hosted a lively, free internet forum called “Discourse” at davidbowie.com, which now charges membership fees.
Although criticized for being cheap when it comes to charity, Bowie replies
I can never make my mind up, I’m so f***ing flippy floppy. I can see both sides of everything and it’s really awful. Source » “DAVID BOWIE – BOWIE’S CHARITY STRUGGLES” at contactmusic.com
Cheap or not, for his considerable import as an artist he was awarded the 2008 Andromeda Award at earthpages.org.
Around 2004 Bowie suffered a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery. Since then he’s understandably kept a low profile, appearing here and there, and endorsing his son’s 2009 “Moon” movie.
All that changed when on his 66th birthday he released a new album, The Next Day (2013). Keeping true to form, one of his videos for the record upset the Catholic League. And so far it’s the fastest-selling album of 2013.
Other interesting things about Bowie:
- he was offered but declined a knighthood
- his actual religious views remain somewhat mysterious
- he just wants to make records now (and not give concerts)
- he’s apparently vowed never to do public interviews again
Earthpages.org’s Very First 2008 Andromeda Award!
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- Caitlin Moran on TV: Whenever pop is ambitious, it’s thanks to Bowie (thetimes.co.uk)
- David Bowie … Heroes, 1977 (frithstreetpost.com)
- David Bowie is (tonicdaily.wordpress.com)
- David Bowie – Five Years, BBC Two, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bowie’s back – 8 January 2013 (paulsmith.co.uk)
- David Bowie’s TV appearances: a history (guardian.co.uk)
- David Bowie talks like a chimney sweep from Mars (telegraph.co.uk)
- Ricky Gervais on David Bowie: ‘We chat about music and comedy’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- The Multiple Readings of David Bowie (loveandlifeproject.com)
- David Bowie Swipes The Catholic Church In The Next Day Video (noise11.com)