Opening Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we thank you for life, for the day, for opportunities to learn about the world about us. May the words from my mouth come into each mind to convey whatever thought is needful in that life. Amen
Good afternoon. I am Ken Wear. I am a Southern Baptist by immersion; if you are familiar with Southern Baptists you realize they prefer to take the Bible as factually correct. But I am a scientist by virtue of studying physics at Georgia Tech. I worked in research for a number of years, part of that in support of this country's space program, but I was forced into other trades by economic events. For many years I attempted to explain teachings of the church in terms of physics and other scientific disciplines. Then I realized that much of the Bible is allegorical rather than portrayal of happenings as a newsman of today would report them. If you visit my web site you will discover that I have successfully correlated science and interpretations of the Bible for a couple scriptures. But I concluded that the story of Noah's flood is contrary to the behaviour of water; more than that, the dimensions given in the Bible, since the cubit is taken as 18 inches, cannot possibly be correct for either the size of the boat or elevations in the terrain where Noah lived. Hence, you must realize that the story of Noah is not an accurate description of an actual event. I have no doubt there was a flood, but its description has been embellished.
I think it was the "theo" in Theosophy that drew me to the Theosophical Society. I have taken part in your services but I have not studied the writings of Madam Blavatsky. I sensed in the Theosophical Society an interest in things that are beyond the explanations of science as we commonly understand science.
There have been a number of incidents in my life that have no explanation in science and they have brought me to understandings that lie on the fringe of Baptist teachings. I will describe some of those since that is what led me to Rational Theism. But my purpose here today is to describe an approach to religion that embraces those incidents. I will describe as best I can the implications of Rational Theism. Most of what I will mention today appears at my web site but is scattered among various discussions.
I have had a number of experiences, whether you want to call them psychic or paranormal, that fall outside the ability of science to explain. I think that is because, if you cannot see it or touch it or measure it, science cannot deal with it, and these experiences did not involve anything physical that science can measure. I recall vividly when, as a child of 5 or 6, I suffered a bout with pneumonia -- and I wonder why such an experience remained in my memory -- I recall looking down from a corner of the room at the ceiling at a child in bed and a woman bending over him in prayer; I was that child and the woman was my mother. That image remained in my mind over the years and it was more than 60 years before I realized that what I had experienced was an out-of-body event where my spirit had temporarily left my body and was watching from a vantage point at the ceiling. I can still close my eyes and see that scene, it is so sharply etched in my memory.
I have recently read of research scientists who recognize there may be something real in such experiences and who are looking for ways to submit them to plausible research.
The next psychic event that I recall was at the funeral for my brother -- I was about 21 at the time -- and I was very distraught at his death, which was by suicide. As I was going up the steps at the church, headed for the sanctuary, I distinctly heard my brother's message telling me that in time I would understand. That was immensely soothing and the mental torment was replaced by acceptance.
I have never thought of it as a psychic event, but one afternoon I was on the bus riding home from work. I had been pondering this thing called predestination when I experienced what I have called an encounter with God. I realized predestination is not correct and that, more than that I could use my own mind to search for truth. What a revelation!
I married and my children grew up before I had another experience that I recall and regard as psychic. I had come to wonder about reincarnation and took a college course, which was, as college courses are, a series of lectures. My wife found a book by a hypnotist describing his work with prior lives recall. And I joined a six-week series of meetings whose purpose was to experience prior lives recall. Our lecturer used a relaxation technique rather than hypnosis and, after two sessions and a fraction describing the technique, she conducted us through our first prior lives experience. In the relaxation technique the client is dependent on his guide to suggest what to do and what to look for. She told us that, because so many people had lived in ancient Egypt, we would journey in our minds back to that time and place. After getting us relaxed and tuned in to her words, she led us to examine various commonly experienced events; strangely I did not call up any imagery at all and simply listened until she suggested we examine our burial place. At that time I saw a sarcophagus of stone with a broken door half open; the door looked like polished marble and was broken into two pieces. I have interpreted it that the tomb was of a client of mine and that I had not myself lived in ancient Egypt but had visited the tomb of my client.
In our next session our lecturer led us again, this time through a darkened tunnel into the light. Upon emerging I saw on my left a ladder of light resembling a telephone pole with spikes, but the spikes were also light. She directed us to turn right and proceed down the dirt road. She had us look at our pants -- I was wearing knickers -- look for age spots on our hands, look at our shoes -- mine were like pictures of what the Pilgrims wore. ---- Then around a bend in the road to the left where there was an abandoned house on the right with thatched roof with the near corner broken. We went inside. It was a two room house with no floor, just dirt. To the right under a window was a wooden structure apparently used for preparation of food; there was no furniture. A wooden beam separated the two rooms and I looked across the beam into the other room; thre was no window so it was completely dark and apparently empty. But I looked out the back door and there was my ladder of light. I abandoned our guide, went up the ladder into a space ship and soon found myself in a cubicle making a report. I did not have any sense at all of the content of my report.
If you have not experienced prior lives recall, but images are vivid and in remarkable detail.
In our next session we students paired off, and when my guide introduced me to a past life, I woke up in bed under a green coverlet but with two huge legs outside the cover. We walked around a bit, with everyone avoiding me, and came into what was supposedly the kitchen, which had large tables with animals awaiting butchering and two huge fireplaces with huge pots suspended somehow -- I didn't see how. I assumed, from people avoiding me, the coverlet on the bed and my size that I was well fed and well placed politically, and we were likely in my castle. Toward the end of the session my guide asked me what lesson my Karma had dictated for this lifetime, and I answered as though I had been rehearsing: Might as well be king of the dung heap. That statement struck me with such force that I regard it as one of the most meaningful statements that has ever crossed my mind. Here was the lord of the castle. "Might as well be king of the dung heap."
The most influential psychic experience I have had was a visitation from my mother, dead some 50 years at the time. Regardless of how I tried to refute the idea, she had commenced with a validation that was so powerful I was forced to accept the visitation for what it seemed to be. She said "Don't feel badly toward us about" and then I had mental images of incidents from early childhood where I had been punished for disagreeable stunts by my older brother. I wondered how in that context I could have been reminded of events from early childhood that had grated on my memory while I was growing up. Because of that validation I could not escape the reality of that visitation. Following the validation was the statement "We love you:" plural, present tense. And then her reason for visiting, which dealt with my recent divorce, with the statement: "Sometimes bad things happen but they make way for other experiences." That statement restored me to rational thought.
When I rationalized how it was possible I had experienced that visitation I was forced to recognize that the spirits of the departed still exist, and there has to be some mechanism that makes that possible. That visitation was the crucial event in forcing me to recognize the context that became the foundation of Rational Theism.
I have had one additional psychic experience, this one this past summer. I had had an 8-year close relationship with a woman who died this past May. I was standing in the kitchen between sink and dining table when I was overcome by the sense of the presence of her spirit. That was around noon, but I did not learn of her death until some six hours later in early evening. Somehow I knew it was her spirit, and I suggested (in my mind) that she could now visit her late son, who had died a year earlier. The sense of her presence left instantly. It did return in early evening and remained overnight. I have marveled at her instant response to the suggestion she visit her son and the later return of her spirit's presence. I have on and off since then felt her spirit was nearby although I have not at any time sensed any sort of message.
So much for a recitation of why I believe as I do -- why my religious interpretation of life has taken the turn that it has. Let me now describe where my application of rational thought has taken me. The foundation is this: The universe -- the galaxies, the stars, our solar system with its Sun and Earth -- comprise the Physical Realm, which includes life on Earth. And the Physical Realm is a component part of a much more inclusive Spirit Realm where individual spirits are recognizable as individuals without birth or death. Individual spirits are from time to time assigned to human bodies undergoing development. So we are spirit beings, each of us has a body of bone, flesh, blood and mind that is the home and servant of the spirit. While the brain controls the body, the spirit governs the mind.
It's remarkable enough that it is known in the Spirit Realm that a new body is undergoing development. But there must be a match between an individual spirit awaiting his turn in physical life and a physical body. Matching spirits with bodies must take into account the spirit's Karma, the inheritable characteristics of that body and the situation into which that person is to be born. Apparently it is anticipated that the combination of inherited characteristics of the new person and opportunities presented by the context of the parents' life will afford opportunities to influence that spirit's Karma. I think it is obvious at this point that this arrangement precludes any thought of predestination. Each of us has the ability to make choices as he sees fit. There is no master plan for the life of any of us, so what choices you make are the product of your own free will to choose as you wish within the constraints of your life.
There are a number of consequences that grow from that view of life. First and foremost, it is obvious there must be some sort organization in the Spirit Realm, and that requires a head -- deity -- for which I have chosen to use the name God. My interpretation is that the organization of the Spirit Realm embraces the entire universe, so it may well be that a subordinate spirit -- perhaps the spirit that possessed Jesus of Nazareth -- is actually responsible for our planet.
So, going from the Spirit Realm and its subordinate Physical Realm, how do we approach the various religious topics? I have to drop back to the time when there was nothing at all anywhere; it was an empty universe and time just kept running. But there was instability in that emptiness, and from time to time, here and there, there was an eruption that produced particles or energies that quickly reunited to leave the same nothingness as before. But something that happens once can happen again, and so eventually two eruptions occurred close enough in time and space that they interacted so recombination did not occur and there was a residue. In time there was a sufficient accumulation of these residues that there was combination into protons or some other elementary particles, and there was a gradual accumulation of elementary particles. Of course gravity asserted itself and particles were drawn together and eventually there was such an accumulation that there was an explosion, which was the first Little Bang. What was flung apart in the explosion remained under the influence of gravity as the process continued, so another Bang incorporated newly-formed particles and was greater than the Bang before, until there was the Big Bang that is so much talked about in astronomy.
I arrived at this picture of origins before I learned that physicists had detected, in extreme vacuum, both real and virtual particles and energies that could be observed, that had real consequences. So there has been experimental verification of my suggestion that instabilities in the initial emptiness led to our universe.
Just as the real particles and energies combined to form electrons, protons and neutrons or whatever other elementary particles there are in the Physical Realm, the virtual particles and energies combined to form the spirits that inhabit the Spirit Realm. And organization of these spirits led to a structure with its head, God. ---- Let me comment on the origin of God. Some people insist God always existed; but it is a characteristic of intellect that it must be engaged, so if God preceded everything else -- always existed -- He must have lacked intellect since there was nothing to engage that intellect. Hence the existence of God must of necessity be a consequence of the same processes that produced the physical universe. So God did not design and create the various energies and chemicals that make up the universe, including the little island Earth in that enormous sea of space. God, in carrying out His activities, has been constrained to work with the physical universe as it is rather than creating it. That says nothing about evolution of life itself or evolution of the multitude of life forms with which we are familiar.
In reaching for understanding of religion, our first attempt is to reach some understanding of God and His characteristics. Jesus said that God is a spirit -- and I recognize nothing that can contradict that -- so we cannot be physically like Him.
We do not and perhaps cannot know the interplay between the Spirit and Physical Realms. Nor can we know the extent of God's influence in shaping events that led to the creation of our galaxy or our solar system or our planet and home. Nor can we know details of how His Spirit Realm is organized to service the myriad units within the universe. But I submit that He, or His subordinates under His influence, have been actively involved in what we call evolution. Species have arisen and perished as part of an on-going saga, influenced from time to time by entities of the Spirit Realm, perhaps God Himself, intervening to influence or alter circumstances in the Physical Realm for purposes of God's choosing. Evolution proceeds at its own pace with or without involvements from the Spirit Realm. But deity and His surrogates have not withdrawn from active involvement and man is not, lest he destroy his own kind, the end of evolution.
The mind of God we cannot presume to know. I note that every creature (and indeed all living things -- the creepy-crawlers, man, sunflowers, dinosaurs) is each an individual being enjoying individual autonomy, each a product of the forces in which we are immersed. In what manner does He exercise oversight? I suggest His attention is focused wherever He chooses, but He has subordinates assigned to maintain His involvement with Earth, with mankind, and with us. Since I have benefited from the results of prayer I am convinced that, whatever the structure of the Spirit Realm, He has provided access to His wisdom and sympathies. Does God have in mind an end product for me, for our species, for our Earth, or indeed for the universe itself? I feel that He takes an active role whenever and wherever it suits His fancy for whatever end He at the time has in mind. The on-going saga is an experience for Him as much as for you and for me. And, really, from a Master Personality, what else would you expect? Part of the pleasure of observing something is the uncertainty about what is going to happen next?
As to the personality of God, however valid they may be, the only clues we have are in our religious documents and in our own experiences. God has not changed over the millennia; it is man's understanding of God that has changed. The notion that we were created in God's image, since God is a spirit, cannot indicate that we are of a physical form like Him; rather, we are in spirit comparable to Him. Jesus of Nazareth presented a picture of God as loving, wise, patient, just and merciful. To be like Him, we must reflect God's personality as described by those having a closer bond with Him, perhaps the person Jesus.
If you read -- carefully -- the Old Testament, you can discern that deity is often presented as disagreeable, hateful, vengeful, pernicious. Reflect on the origin of religion and the natural bent of men to seek dominance over their fellows. Then consider the paucity of scientific understanding in ancient times and the explanations of events we now understand differently. It seems obvious that the priesthood evolved to assert power over their subjects; it served their purpose to be the means of intervening with a disagreeable deity on behalf of their tribal members. We hope to avoid those same power-seeking incentives in today's religious leaders; we wish for humility and a desire to serve.
I was reared in an atmosphere of inerrancy of the Bible, in acceptance of the literal words -- in contemporary English -- of the Bible as the actual wording God chose. While prayer may have influenced use of specific wording, I cannot suggest it is all God's wording. God did not take pen in hand, nor did He overpower the hands of the authors or induce a trance to force the recording of words or ideas of His choosing. To what extent, then, does the Torah or Bible or Koran or Upanishads or any other collection present the words and their sequence that the deity would present for the guidance of humankind? Individual authors, true to their own vocabulary and manner of expression, wrote from their own experiences: devout people sincerely attempting to serve God through their agency in the Physical Realm, carrying out the Will of God as they sensed it at the time.
I suggest that, rather than describing physical occurrences, many presentations in our religious documents are allegorical. They are intended to present abstractions of what a description of a series of events would convey only poorly. And we have today devout people sincerely trying to present interpretations of whatever written record they honor for the enlightenment and guidance of contemporary people. (And we have our share of charlatans whose motive is first to serve themselves; if God can appropriate their efforts to His advantage, then we applaud those successes.)
Many a preacher has shouted: If you want to know God's will for your life, or how He wishes you to deal with a problem, study the Bible. I'm sure the preacher would be equally adamant that God has not withdrawn from human affairs. Yet the logic is sure: If it is all in the Bible, then the Bible must have replaced God as the well-spring of contemporary revelation. Is this not worship of the Bible itself rather than the God Who inspired men to write what is in the Bible? A God Who loves me must be my contemporary and can as surely communicate on a continuing basis now as He did then.
What leads an individual on a course he feels of service to God is a personal experience peculiar to that individual. Whatever the histories of the spirits we know as Mary (the mother of Jesus), Jesus Himself, the 12 Disciples, or the Apostle Paul, we do have a written record of some of their activities -- with, likely, some distortions; and we correctly honor them for their service to mankind (and by extension to God). There have been myriad souls who felt a divine urge to serve -- to be of value in the human saga -- so many that we could not name them all and certainly could not rank them (except for a select few) in their over-all impact on the history of our species.
I have felt that my personal Walk With God has led me to undertake a series of essays presenting what appears to me a rational description of our world and how we ought to interpret it to be consistent with the deity's role. It is my hope they will contribute to bridging the gap between reason and faith, thus helping dispel conflicts between science and teachings of the church.
I cannot question that, by virtue of our free and active minds, we are creatures endowed with the means to make choices, and that we do make choices unhindered by divine authority. I have walked a path determined on a day-to-day basis by my choices as influenced by the freely-made choices of others in my environment at the time. Even a bird selects, using its more limited brain, where to seek food and which items to consume.
Large events are the product or summation of minor events that set the stage both in physical situation and in mind-set from which a choice must be made. Thus the teaching of predestination (the pre-planning of each life), to be effective, must of necessity imply excruciatingly careful attention to the smallest details in each life that participates in a situation; I regard that as utterly beyond reason. I am not the walking embodiment of a plan formulated for my entire life in that period preceding birth; there can be no Master Plan directing my every muscle twitch or the larger goals that dominate my choices. My birth, life and death are part of an undirected saga as mankind struggles to reach perfection.
I have arrived at a concept I call the House of Man. The number of religions, faiths, sects, etc., is astounding -- overwhelming. My wisdom is not adequate to let me compare all and suggest which one is most nearly the true faith, thereby suggesting the rest are misleading. But I endorse the idea that there is a single Reality and many versions of that Reality. Visualize a structure of many windows overlooking the courtyard that is Reality. Each savant looking on that courtyard sees his vision of Reality from the perspective or vantage point of his experiences and his window onto the courtyard. Hence the concept of the House of Man.
A Miracle is the setting aside of natural law -- whether or not we understand it -- to accomplish a specific deed or event. In the annals of history it has been common to interpret as a miracle any occurrence that could not (at that time) be otherwise explained. I have noted during Bible study that many events described fall outside our present (or future) ability to explain. I also note that, in earlier times, if one could not cite miraculous behavior or events, his message was not considered worthy of attention. Thus many events are cast into a framework of miracles where otherwise a very ordinary explanation might have been offered -- or no mention at all of the event. This is not to deny the possibility of intervention by the deity or His agents -- I am a proponent of deistic evolution -- but to affirm that with today's knowledge we can often find a rational explanation, if only we are motivated to do so, and with tomorrow's knowledge may explain even more. But, because of the state of generally accepted scientific knowledge at the time of their composition, we will likely forever be confronted in our religious documents with presentations that include miraculous events, however plausible or implausible they may seem to a modern reader.
The notion of Communication with deity, or prayer, confounds many. How can a sequence of
words running through the mind, unuttered audibly, be received or responded to by deity or
His surrogates? It is one of the mysteries of faith. Yet I have been the recipient of needed
advice on many occasions through the mechanism of prayer. It has often been the case that
I have experienced origination of an idea as an immediate consequence of a mental petition
for assistance with some problem I faced, real or fancied. I could recount scores, but let
me present only these:
(1) While I was in business, I was often confronted with the need for a decision on some aspect of operation, such as how to handle a disciplinary problem with an employee or deal with a recalcitrant customer. Invariably, after I had exhausted myself searching for ideas and turned to prayer, an idea presented itself that was superior to anything I had considered. (2) after my heart attack a personal desire kept plaguing me, and I persistently in prayer asked for guidance; the response was always the same "You know what you must do," and that continued until I had completed a significant portion of my web site. The response to prayer changed to review of various possibilities. The urge to produce my web site seems a direct outgrowth of my prayers. I have no recollection of the point in producing the web site that change in response occurred, but whether that personal desire will ever be fulfilled I leave as part of my Walk With God.
Whether my prayers for material assistance have influenced other people to provide specific help or physical things such as money, I cannot know. It is difficult to insist that others have been attuned to deity to the extent that their actions were in response to my prayer. There have been many instances where people, some not at all devout or even religious, have produced for me the result I sought in prayer; I won't speculate on the involvement of deity in such incidents, but I will stoutly deny that pre-planning of all those lives (predestination) produced those results. Perhaps I have been favored in some manner as a result of my confrontation with God, which produced my Walk With God.
Who can know what goes on in the heart of another? It is between him and his god whether his notion of deity and devotion to deity is the same as yours. It is my personal preference to emphasize subordination to God, the Master Spirit; others have adopted worship of Jesus, the Son and second member of the Trinity. It is the quality of religious experience that stirs the heart or gives us peace. Open respect for personal experiences, such as in charismatic churches or public displays, should not be denigrated by those who do not understand.
Dealing with Heaven, Hell, Karma: What follows this life? I ask these questions:
1) In a physical resurrection, which is taught by many religions, including many Christian faiths, how will you, ancestors and descendants recognize each other? How can individuals from various historical settings all co-exist in a single environment? At what age will you appear so grandparents recognize the infant they knew or you can recognize your grandchildren? Faced with this question we must perceive that, when the spirit departs the body, it continues its existence as a spirit without physical substance. How they remember, how they recognize, how they communicate without physical senses is hid from our present understanding.
2) Where are Heaven and Hell located? A physical location is inconsistent with our expanding knowledge of our Universe since it must be inviolate by physical beings. We can't expect them to move as man explores beyond Earth and other intelligent beings explore beyond their home planet. I assert that a physical Heaven and a physical Hell are the inventions of preachers.
I am uncertain about Karma, how appropriate needs in another physical life can be determined since an unworthy life adds to the burdens of Karma and a worthy life reduces the burdens of Karma. As I view Karma and repeated lives in the Physical Realm, any one life may have specific lessons to be learned or worked out as determined in the selection of a host body, which has its own genetic disposition, born to parents in a setting that offers opportunities for needed activities or developments.
It is a fair question: Existence in the Spirit Realm: What is it like? I can only speculate. The organization of Reality -- the combination of Spirit Realm and Physical Realm -- seems complex well beyond my ability to understand. I sought -- and experienced -- prior life recall. Those experiences plus the visitation by my dead mother have served to convince me that the totality of existence is far more complex than is obvious in our bodily experiences here on Earth. What must it be like to be a distinct, recognizable and functioning individual without bodily apparatus of sight, sound, taste, touch, memory? How can it be possible there is memory of many prior lives when there is no physical data storage mechanism? It is no wonder there is competition in the Spirit Realm for opportunities to experience life in the Physical Realm, to have tangible organs of sense and bodily sensations; it is remarkable that entities in the Spirit Realm know of developing bodies to host spirits awaiting their turn. These are mysteries that tantalize the curiosity, but I must leave inquiry into the characteristics of the Spirit Realm for the time that I return there since I cannot imagine what means I have at my disposal in this physical life to reach enlightenment.)
What connection exists between kinship in the Spirit Realm and biological lines on Earth? I have no insight. Although members of the Spirit Realm may cluster around specific objectives and realign as time and events transpire, I suspect that all are of essentially one family with few regarding themselves as especially privileged. Assuming that, in various periods of existence on Earth, activities by the spirit possessing the body known as Jesus of Nazareth resulted in biological chains of progeny, we should not expect those chains to alter relationships of spirits in the Spirit Realm.
Your own future? Assuming there is validity to the notion of your spirit surviving death of your body and possibly having a future physical existence on this planet, what sort of environment do you expect to find? Under the action of Karma, you should expect to be in the midst of the consequences of your own deeds in a setting resulting from the environmental destruction or preservation growing from the attitudes and practices of your then-prior life. If you find that environment appealing, then you should continue your present practices. For myself, I shudder at the consequences of our civilization continuing on its present course of thoughtless greed and plunder. I would like to think of a lovely garden filled with all sorts of tantalizing creatures and vegetation; what I fear is that it will be more like a garbage dump in a community of scarcity and deprivation. You owe it to your own future to be a thoughtful steward of the environment you presently inhabit.
Whether the human body is a deliberate design by deity or the product of natural forces is a matter of little consequence. We are here; we do what we can. It seems obvious deity does not forcefully intervene to protect us from the consequences of our choices. We are creatures of thought and choose to seek a path in accord with deity's wishes or to reject what guidance is available to us. And mankind is the summation of us all with our diverse interpretations of the larger order in which we take part. Individually we contribute to the collective whole and will suffer the consequences or experience the delights common to all and growing from our constructive efforts or destructive machinations.
I regard confidence in the future as an element of religious faith.
I timed this as about 45 minutes without significant pauses.
Should here be a question about Noah's flood:
You are probably familiar with the idea of flood planes and that, at each elevation, there has historically been repeated flooding to that elevation Averaging once a decade gives rise to a 10-year flood plane; once in a century gives rise to a 100-year flood plane. We recently had a flood in Smyrna, GA, that exceeded the 500-year flood plane over quite a large area but did not reach the 1000-year level. Was Noah a historical person? Quite likely. Was there a boat? Probably. Was there a flood? Undoubtedly, possibly to a 1000-year level, or even a 5000-year level. Flooding usually doesn't last more than a few days, and the movement of water is a powerful force. So the man, Noah, owned a boat and carried family and some farm animals to safety. Likely his boat floated downstream to unfamiliar territory where he had to start all over with cultivation. And his story was told and retold for generations before finally, with a great many embellishments that showed the awesome power of God, being put to papyrus.