Category: Religion and Spirituality

Karl Marx: Theses On Feuerbach. 1845

Karl Marx wrote his “Theses on Feuerbach” in the Spring of 1845. Friedrich Engels made some editing changes, and the short and sketchy text was published much later (after Marx’s death) as an appendix to Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy in 1888.  Source: Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One, p. 13 – 15. Introduction The “Theses on Feuerbach” are eleven short philosophical notes that were meant to outline the first chapter of the book The German Ideology. The 11th thesis became famous and was used on Marx’s grave. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various...

Max Horkheimer: Theism and Atheism. 1963

Source: [easyazon_link identifier=”178168023X” locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]Critique of Instrumental Reason. Max Horkheimer.[/easyazon_link] Published by Continuum 1974. Crimes committed in the name of God are a recurrent theme in the history of Christian Europe. The ancients practiced torture and murder in war, on slaves (who were supplied by the wars) and as a form of entertainment: the circenses. But in spiritual matters the emperors were relatively tolerant. If the Christians were singled out as scapegoats, it was because they did not yet at that time place the state above all else and still recognized something higher than the empire. But since Constantine in...

Jacques Maritain: Man and the State (1951)

The State is not the supreme incarnation of the Idea, as Hegel believed; the State is not a kind of collective superman; the State is but an agency entitled to use power and coercion, and made up of experts or specialists in public order and welfare, an instrument in the service of man. Putting man at the service of that instrument is political perversion. The human person as an individual is for the body politic and the body politic is for the human person as a person. But man is by no means for the State. The State is for man.

Debate on the Existence of God – 1948.

Father Frederick C. Copleston (Jesuit Catholic priest) versus Bertrand Russell (agnostic philosopher.) (The portion on “Contingency” is slightly edited.) This debate was a Third Program broadcast of the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1948. It was reprinted in several sources. Summary Copleston put forward his argument which concentrates simply on contingency. There are things in the universe which are contingent – that is there was a time when they did not exist, e.g. you and me. Everything in the world is like this. Nothing in the world contains within itself the reason for its own existence – nothing is self-explanatory. The...

Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the “New Age”

This official text of the Catholic Church on New Age movement is the result of a six-year study on the New Age movement. It was published in 2003, and is critical of the movement. The Vatican theologians consider New Age philosophies to be based on “weak thought” and highlight the differences between Catholic thought and the New Age paradigms. The Vatican wants to warn Catholics against mixing Christian meditation with Eastern approaches to spirituality. The document also discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, which it characterizes as “a paradigm for our engagement with truth”. The document concludes that “..there is never...

Christianity

Summary of Christian Beliefs It’s hard to define what Christian belief actually includes. The following list is modeled after the Catholic Church requirements;  other Christian groups may not agree with everything on this list. That there is one supreme, eternal, infinite God, the Creator of heaven and earth. That the good will be rewarded by him for ever in heaven, and that the wicked who die unrepentant will be punished for ever in hell. That in the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, coeternal, coequal: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That the Second Person of...

The Roots of Religion

Thanks to modern science, we now know more about religious history than ever: Scientific archaeology began in the 18th century, and since then excavators have been discovering and interpreting evidence, ranging from tiny goddess figurines carved from mammoth ivory to entire sacred landscapes, such as at the Giza plateau in Egypt. The archeological evidence enhances and corrects our knowledge derived from books and other preserved objects. Ancient graves, statues, temples, stones, sacrificial offerings, or places of initiation – they all express the universal human search for spiritual power and understanding. Archaeology provides evidence that is very different from historical writings like the Bible or...

No Room for Form

The Zen teacher says, “The secret is in you.  You are the secret.” What does it mean? The truth offered in these two short sentences is cryptic, and almost tautological. The meaning of my search for truth is in me. If I have found myself, the secret is gone, because I have realized that it was in me all along. In order to find it, however, I need someone to help me, and in this case it is the Zen teacher. Furthermore: The truth is not conceptual. the secret is not a thing, and it is never something that can be found. It is right here,...

The Message of Jesus

During the Fall of 2015,  I was teaching a class on mysticism, and the question was raised, what are the central teachings of Jesus? Is Jesus a mystic? What are the ingredients for a genuine Christian life? These questions are important because one cannot claim to be Christian and at the same time ignore the examples set by the life of Jesus. It is not enough to proclaim that “Jesus saved me and will save you” in order to be a true Christian, despite  the claim that salvation occurs through faith alone. What are the central teachings of Jesus, and what are...

What is Zen?

Thomas Merton describes in his 1961 book “Mystics and Zen Masters” how the tradition of Zen resonates and overlaps with mystical traditions worldwide. He also examines various Christian monastic traditions in order to show us the similarities and differences in the search for mystical experience across cultures and religions. The following comments, based on quotes from his book, illustrate that he understands the Zen insight as a direct grasp of being in itself, not an intuition of the nature of being. It is not an intellectual act, and also not the result of contemplation or other meditation practices. Merton also...

Western Mysticism – A Timeline

This page covers people and movements in the tradition of Western mysticism, from the early Greek period to about 1700. It is arranged chronologically, and it’s purpose is to give a short overview of Western mysticism with links to other websites. As much as possible, I try to link to the etexts for the mystical writings of these authors. The original version of this page was created a while ago by Bruce B. Janz from the University of Central Florida “for the free use of scholars and students of mysticism.” I could not find his original version on the Internet anymore, but the credit for...

William James: The will to believe.

“The Will to Believe”  is a lecture William James gave to the Philosophical Clubs of Yale and Brown Universities. Published in the New World, June, 1896.  It defends, in certain cases, the adoption of a belief without prior evidence of its truth. James wants to defend the rationality of religious faith, even when sufficient evidence of religious truth is lacking. James argues that to some degree, the evidence for whether or not certain beliefs are true, depends upon first adopting those beliefs without evidence. James argues, for instance, that it can be rational to have unsupported faith in one’s own ability to...

Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most historically important texts in Buddhism, in part because a copy of it is the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world (868 A.D.). Also known by its Sanskrit title Vajracchedika, the Diamond Sutra states that something is what it is only because of what it is not. The text challenges the common belief that inside each and every one of us is an immovable core, or soul. Instead, it proposes a more fluid and relational view of existence. The text is full of negative, or seemingly paradoxical statements by the Buddha, such...

Aquinas: Human actions, goals, free will

What is the relation between human action and natural teleology? In these articles from the beginning of the second part of the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, he answers that we have to distinguish between human acts that come from a deliberate will, and therefore they are the proper domain of humanity, and actions that are natural even if they re performed by humans. He also argues that all human actions have a final goal, and it cannot be infinity itself. The principle in the human intention is the last end; consequently, it is not possible to aim directly at infinity, ...

Aquinas: Is the Incarnation necessary?

John 1,14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  The incarnation is probably the aspect of Christianity that is hardest to grasp. In the following articles from the third part of the Summa Theologica,  Thomas Aquinas explains why this was necessary for the salvation of human beings. God could have saved us in many ways, but the incarnate Christ is the most elegant and easiest solution. Here is his reasoning: (The text is quoted from the New Advent website.) Article 1. Whether it was fitting that God should become incarnate? Objection 1. It would seem that it was...

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chögyam Trungpa was one of the important exponents of Buddhism to western students. The 14th Dalai Lama said about Trungpa in 1981: “Exceptional as one of the first Tibetan lamas to become fully assimilated into Western culture, he made a powerful contribution to revealing the Tibetan approach to inner peace in the West.” Biography Chögyam Trungpa was born in Geja, Tibet in February 1939 and at 13 months old was recognized as a “reincarnation” of the tenth Trungpa Tulku, the 11th descendant in a line of teachers of the Kagyü lineage, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He...

Sermon on the Mount

The  “Sermon on the Mount” is a central to the teachings of Jesus. It is a sermon that he gave to his disciples relatively early in his journey, and it contains the famous “Beatitudes”, blessings of people who are in the eyes of the world poor, stupid, unfortunate, or suffering. It also contains the “Lord’s Prayer,”  the direction on how to pray. This text is from the Gospel of Matthew,  and I quote chapters 5 to 7, from the “New International Version (NIV)” translation. Introduction 5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat...

St.Paul: Letter to the Romans. Law and Sin.

The text was written around 54/55 in Corinth, Greece.  It is one of the core texts of Christian theology, and discusses the relations between nature, law, sin, and redemption.  I am quoting chapter 7, and the beginning of chapter 8. The translation is from the  New International Version, and the numbers in the text represent chapter and verse numbers. 7 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to...

The Rule of the Franciscan Order

The Catholic Church contains groups of people who are particularly dedicated to it, and who organize themselves in religious orders. They are tasked in various forms with the spreading of the faith. One of the early orders are the Franciscans, created by Saint Francis in the early 13th century. Saint Francis lived an exemplary life of poverty and compassion, thus emulating Jesus. The legend says that he was so joyful and peaceful that even the animals wanted to be around him, therefore he is often depicted surrounded by animals. He quickly had many followers in the human world as well....