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Cult of World Order

December 5, 2016

Excerpt from from my upcoming book, Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment. This is taken from a chapter titled “The Cult of World Order,” touching on my time at the UN Millennium Forum.

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   The most intense gathering of Subgroup Six happened on Thursday afternoon, and with it, an interesting side story.

   Each morning and afternoon started with plenary assemblies to help set the tone for our working committees. Early in the week I found myself sitting a few chairs away from a cheerful, young lady who was representing a youth-based organization. Thereafter, we sat in proximity during most of the plenaries, and frequently engaged in a few minutes of conversation before going our separate ways. Following the afternoon plenary on Thursday, she asked which subgroup I was with, as her committee had bogged down in trivial matters. I invited her to our next working session – “Citizenship and Governance: From Local to Global Democracy.”

   On the surface the title sounded dull. “Citizenship and Governance” has all the panache of a high-school class you wished you had skipped. But there was nothing boring about it.

   Our job for the afternoon was to flesh out tangible plans for a permanent World Assembly. The UN Millennium Forum was, after all, an experiment along those lines. The room filled quickly; a lot was riding on this meeting. The two moderators, each representing a world order NGO, started the afternoon by placing their organization’s action plans on the table. The rest of the session was a whirlwind of debate and contention as differing groups, all wanting similar ends, clashed with the moderators and each other over how to “collectively invent a new type of democracy, a world democracy.” It was a heated meeting.

   Two main avenues were explored: the creation of a Global Peoples Assembly, and the establishment of a World Parliament. One body would be built around NGO delegates and the election of “world citizens,” and the other would be a scaled-up version of the European Parliament at the UN level. Variations of these two models were considered and contrasted. Questions arose from the floor: What would these bodies’ relationship be to the United Nations? Would they pass enforceable world laws or just make suggestions? How much political power would be entrusted to them? Should another Assembly be attached to the International Monetary Fund? Could regional Assemblies and Parliaments be established on each continent? What mechanisms would ensure national compliance?

   As our meeting progressed it became evident my visitor was growing uneasy; the topic and its implications were obviously distressing, and it showed. Seeing her agitation, one of the moderators stopped the discussion and pointedly asked if there was a problem. Catching the seriousness of the moment she immediately composed herself and the session resumed. We stayed until the closing gavel dropped.

   “This is the beast,” she muttered as we exited the building. “This is the beast…”

   Quietly I asked, “Are you a Christian?”

   “Yes.”

   I explained that I too was a believer and briefly told her my purpose in attending.

   She asked what else my group had been planning and I gave her a quick review. For someone unfamiliar with the scope and tactics of world order pressure groups, Subgroup Six was a staggering experience. She had witnessed the attempted construction of a political Frankenstein dressed up as a global savior.

The Postmodern Self

November 17, 2016

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment. It is taken from a section exploring  Post-modernity.

 


 

Fundamentally, Postmodernism was and is a reaction to and rejection of foundational truth claims and the narratives supporting them – first in terms of Modernity, but also the assertions of Christian revelation. Biblical doctrine had been overshadowed by materialist dogma, but now both were being pushed aside. How truth was measured and considered by other generations no longer applied. Past approaches were and are viewed as too narrow and associated with oppression, linking knowledge with power and the placing of gatekeepers to bar the way for others. Therefore, historical truth claims remain as claim only and are treated with suspicion. Grand narratives and their related worldviews are no longer relevant to the post-modern mind.

 

We are left with questions but no defining answers, and no tangible framework to develop a coherent worldview. The slope immediately becomes slippery. Judgments resting on previously held truth claims melt away. History fades into oblivion. The meaning of language bends. Tolerance without definition becomes the new norm. Inclusion and broad interpretations represent the progressive path, and personal transformation means conforming to ever changing cultural cues. Traditional standards are diluted as society attempts to scrub out reminders of “privileged” exclusivity. What was once virtuous is vilified, and what was morally shameful is celebrated. Truth and falsehood are no longer discernible, and what is known to be factual becomes blurred and distorted – including biology, identity, and sexuality. Higher values are lost in the fuzzy daze of a wandering culture.

 

Does this sound like today?

 

In such a milieu there is an almost irresistible pull to elevate self. Certainly, self-actualization and experiments in self-identity are lauded within the post-modern context. Our “personal reality” is fashioned in the image of our “felt needs.” The psychological cult of Selfism, a “form of secular humanism based on worship of the self,”[1] attempts to fill the vacuum of lost value. Yes, mankind has always struggled with pride and hubris, but Selfism elevates vice to virtue and packages it as illumined personal discovery. Selfism, a product of the human potential movement, feeds our desire for meaning while stroking our ego. The Self rises as a divine spark. We are each divine selves.

 

This is manifestly different than the Christian approach to the individual. Stanly Grenz, author of A Primer on Postmodernism, reminds us that the Biblical position recognizes “God’s concern for each person, the responsibility of every human before God, and the individual orientation that lies within the salvation message.”[2] It was also different than Modernity and its tendency to integrate the person into humanist systems, or assign you a number. The cult of Selfism, rather, was a “horizontal heresy, with its emphasis only on the present, and on self-centered ethics.”[3]

 

And how could this not be? For decades, public education and mental health services washed our brains in the “holy waters” of the human potential movement: the theories of Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow.[4] Following Sigmund Freud’s guilt-based theory of human development and B.F. Skinner’s behavioral models, Maslow’s teachings on self-actualization – the “third force” in psychology – saturated Western thinking. From the experiential encounters at the Esalen Institute[5] to your neighborhood clinic, from daytime television to church pulpits, the feel-good mantra of Selfism rang across the land: “Express thyself, Accept thyself, and Esteem thyself.”[6]

 

In an eerie symbiosis, the celebrated Self and materialistic consumerism walk hand-in-hand. We line up for the hottest deals on Black Friday and then, armed with our wireless devices, proclaim moral indignation and denounce the “evils of corporations.” A universe of selfies are snapped with our smartphones and pasted to social media. Seated in the third row of the concert hall we watch the live-performance through a three-inch wide screen, digitally capturing the experience of “being there” while living through our technology. We are consumed with the image itself. We are the symbol of our things.

 

A fitting analysis was given over two decades before Web 2.0 existed.

 

“Selfist psychology emphasizes the human capacity for change to the point of almost totally ignoring the idea that life has limits and that knowledge of them is the basis of wisdom. For selfists there seem to be no acceptable duties, denials, inhibitions, or restraints. Instead, there are only rights and opportunities for change. An overwhelming number of the selfists assume that there are no unvarying moral or interpersonal relationships, no permanent aspects to individuals. All is written in sand by a self in flux.”[7]

 

But the need for some kind of larger acceptance, connected to a foundation of truth, tugs at the human heart. Where do we turn now that we have rejected the relationship with the transcendent Creator? And in rightly criticizing the application of naturalism to society, we distanced ourselves from the suffocating structures of Modernity. What now will we clothe ourselves with?

 

We stand naked, and we know it.

—————-

 

[1] Paul C. Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p.9.

[2] Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), pp.167-168.

[3] Vitz, Psychology as Religion, pp.95-96.

[4] Erich Fromm, who was attached to the Institute for Social Research – better known as the Frankfurt School – celebrated humanity’s independence from God and described Man as intrinsically good. Carl Rogers focused on the experiencing of oneself and encouraged therapists to sense what client’s feel in the quest for self-realization; The highest ideal of the self is for the person to become unified as an experiential flow or movement. Maslow introduced a hierarchy of felt human needs and believed that the highest achievement was an enlightened self-actualization.

[5] The Esalen environment was a primary vehicle for Gestalt techniques in whole-person self awareness, and was an important point of contact for Maslow’s human potential movement. Educators, psychologists, cultural leaders, and clergy form liberal churches would gather at Esalen in the 1960s and 1970s, looking to experientially raise personal consciousness, advance self-awareness, explore alternative religious practices, and engage in sexual discovery. See Marion Goldman’s book, The American Soul Rush: Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege (New York University Press, 2012).

[6] Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), p.56.

[7] Vitz, Psychology as Religion, p.38.

“We are one with the one” – chapter excerpt.

August 19, 2016

Excerpt from chapter six of my forthcoming book, Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment. This chapter documents my time at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Game of Gods Cover

   Thousands of exuberant voices filled the cavernous space of the main plenary hall. It was a time of worship, a place for introspection, a space for emotional release. Multitudes lifted their voices in melodic affirmation and the assembly room, with its 30-foot high ceiling and massive cement walls, pulsed with female energy.

   “Remember who you are,” sang out Vandana Shiva. “Goddess, Mother, Shakti of this Earth.” The crowd intoned back: “Goddess, Mother, Shakti of this Earth.”

   It was going to be an interesting morning.

   Speaker after speaker impressed upon us our sacred duty, swelling our sense of unity and shared spiritual purpose.

   “What if the world were a place where it was effortless to recognize our common humanity, our shared virtues and concerns, and our collective devotion to the Earth?” asked Rabbi Amy Eilberg. “What if the whole world, all seven billion of us, were like this?”

   Heads nodded in affirmation and voices shouted in solidarity.

   Ojibwe “Grandmother” Mary Lyons told the multitude: “When you breath in, you breath in a breath of Mother Earth. And when you exhale, those are your ancestors.”    

   More heads nodded.

   New York Times best-selling author and New Thought personality, Marianne Williamson, wowed the audience with her charisma: “Every woman here who is a healer is a priestess. Every woman here who is a teacher or an educator is a priestess.” Her call to sacred femininity energized the great crowd, bringing attendees to their feet again and again during her eight-minute speech.

   “A Divine Goddess is not just beautiful, she’s fierce,” Marianne exhorted with a growl of intensity, leading to an emotionally charged call-to-action. “And when you mess with her babies… and you mess with her earth, she’s had enough of that sh*t. And we’re here on her behalf… you know what to do, go do it!”

   The response to Marianne was more than a standing ovation. Women sobbed, danced, raised their hands, shouted and whistled and clapped. Someone yelled, “Marianne for President!” Drums around the room pounded in support. To my immediate left a woman was bowed low, weeping profusely, the wellspring of her soul cascading down her face. On my left a plain-looking, middle-aged lady was fist-pumping the air with grave intensity, lips pursed, face set like stone – a “Divine Goddess” ready to burst forth, fierce, and eager to battle for the sake of Mother Earth.

   Following Marianne, Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, invited us to be “political actors” and reshape the world. More cheers rose in solidarity, the great crowd empowered to march as social justice warriors.

   “We are strong,” bridged the moderator, building on the passion of the morning. “We are woman. Make no mistake of it – we are strong.”

   The Women’s Plenary, titled Faith in Women was a rousing invocation to goddess empowerment. But it was not a stand-alone event. The day before was the Inaugural Woman’s Assembly, and I had attended this too.

   “We are one with all life,” explained an Assembly speaker. “We are one with all people. We are one with the one.”

   The masses responded back: “We are one with all life… We are one with the one.”

 

Enchanting Ourselves – Excerpt From “Game of Gods”

July 29, 2016

The following is an extended excerpt from my forthcoming book, Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-enchantment, chapter 6 – titled “Enchanting Ourselves.”

Game of Gods Cover

———–

   Kirtan music floated in the background. Colorful silk saris and white arched windows and exotic pictures of an ancient culture greeted my eyes. Miniature deity statues stared amidst the peacock feathers and souvenir trinkets. A small but tempting buffet beckoned, filling the air with the rich aroma of curry and cloves, and the subtle notes of cardamom. I made a beeline for the food.

   After my second helping of palak paneer – a savory dish of spinach and paneer cheese – and too much mango lassi, the guru beckoned to join him in a cozy sitting area tucked under a white staircase. A painting hung over his bench; adoring women and cows were watching Krishna playing a flute. The staircase ascending above our heads, I assumed, was the inside access to the temple space.

   “When you came in,” my host gestured with an exaggerated sweep of an arm, “the smells and sights caught your attention, yes?”

   “Yes,” I answered, “and the food was very tasty.”[1]

   His wife and assistant quietly joined us in what became a mostly one-sided conversation. English was not my host’s native tongue, and he had much to say.

   “Why here?” I interjected. “Why Utah?”

   “Krishna directed us to this place.” 

   Since 1998, the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple – also known as the Lotus Temple – has been a landmark in the predominantly Mormon community of Spanish Fork. Located approximately 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, the Temple is comprised of gleaming white domes, over 100 arches and columns, a grand outdoor staircase guarded by two bronze elephants, and a spacious upper level walk-around patio. This edifice, set against a mountain backdrop, is visible from Interstate 15. 

   Established as part of the ISKCON network – the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna Movement – the Lotus Temple’s spiritual heritage is built on the teachings of the late A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Thirty-nine other ISKCON temples and Vedic centers currently dot the United States, each one advancing the mission of Prabhupada.

   Noted for his influence upon Western culture and his voluminous writings, Swami Prabhupada’s message was one of religious universalism and conscious transformation.

   “Actually, it doesn’t matter,” Prabhupada famously explained in 1974. “Krishna or Christ – the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age.”[2]

   The name chanted is Krishna, the avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu. In repeating the Hare Krishna mantra and through the practice of bhakti yoga – devotion through yoga – the follower embraces the unity of religions. Prabhupada said it this way,

“To practice bhakti-yoga means to become free from designations like Hindu, Muslim, Christian, this or that, and simply to serve God. We have created Christian, Hindu, and Mohammedan religions, but when we come to a religion without designations, in which we don’t think we are Hindus or Christians or Mohammedans, then we can speak of pure religion, or bhakti.”[3]

   While I was at the Lotus Temple, the resident teacher told me that Hinduism has been evangelizing the West through yoga, and to a lesser but growing extent, the Holi Festival of Colors.[4] The thought struck me: The West is being Hinduized in-fact but not in-name. We are not converting to an organized form of the Eastern religion; rather, we are embracing its thinking and spirit as we mimic its religious practices.  

   Pointing to his own community of Spanish Fork, the guru boasted: “Every Sunday, 100 to 150 Mormons come to the temple for yoga and the Maha Mantra.”[5]

   Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna…

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NOTE: Game of Gods: The Temple of Man in the Age of Re-Enchantment, is slated to be released later this year. Watch for it!

[1] Later I discovered the buffet is blessed twice a day by the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna. The situation reminded me of 1 Corinthians 8 with its discussion of food offered to idols.
[2] The full conversation between Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen and Swami Prabhupada can be found here: http://www.krishna.com/krishna-or-christ-name-same.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Its more consumer-oriented expressions are the popular 5k color runs and associated color festivals. 
[5] Each Sunday the temple puts on a Hara Krishna Love Feast, a time for lectures, worship and yoga, and a fellowship meal.

Book Title and Cover: “Game of Gods”

July 9, 2016

I haven’t posted for a while, simply because my time has been and continues to be consumed by one of the most difficult yet rewarding projects I’ve undertaken – the writing and developing of a book.

Although the book is still months away from being released, here’s the cover and title!

Game of Gods Cover

 

“DreamHouse”

March 28, 2016

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book. Enjoy!

———————

It was my fourth drive around the poorly lit neighborhood, and I was baffled. This was where elite world thinkers were meeting, in an old residential section on the north side of Chicago? All I could see were aged homes, brick-clad apartments, and townhouses. Address numbers were practically invisible in the autumn darkness, and I was coming up – once again – to what was supposed to be the location for a “Global Peoples Assembly.”

I had to be lost.

The date was November 7, 1997, and when it came to big cities I possessed a country-boy naivety. To someone who had grown up on a grain farm in the Canadian prairies, Chicago felt like another planet, and earlier that evening my inexperience shone through.

Needing to book a room for the night, I found, a dozen or so blocks from my meeting destination, a 1950ish looking motel. A bed is a bed, right?

“How many hours do you want?” asked the elderly female receptionist, barely looking up from the boredom of her newspaper. This should have been my first clue.

“All night,” I answered, passing the money for the posted rate of a single-bed. Scowling at the cash in her hands, the lady piped-up: “Well, how many are going to be using the room?”

Dumbstruck, I stumbled out an apologetic, “Just me.”

“Oh…” with a little smile, her eyes came up to meet mine. “You want it for sleeping!” Later, I discovered that “sleeping” was not a priority in my chosen establishment.

Dropping off my luggage in a small, grimy room, I left to find the Global Assembly. After driving in circles for twenty minutes, I parked my car and nervously walked up the steps of an empty looking brick building – the only one that seemed plausible in relationship to the directions on my map – and there, in the shadows of the door awning, I found the address number and a taped-up piece of paper with simple type.

Walking in, I was welcomed to “DreamHouse.”

A Scientific World Society: 5 Jaw Dropping Quotes from Bertrand Russell

January 22, 2016

Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher, a social critic and peace activist, noted mathematician, a world-recognized author with dozens of published books and essay collections, and a widely celebrated humanist. He was an outspoken proponent for a “scientific civilization.”

Here are 5 quotes from Bertrand Russell on the “scientific society.”russell-2

 

 1. “…a scientific world society cannot be stable unless there is a world government.” – The Impact of Science on Society (Simon and Schuster, 1953), p.104.

 2. “The need for a world government, if the population problem is to be solved in any humane manner, is completely evident on Darwinian principles.” – The Impact of Science on Society (Simon and Schuster, 1953), p.105.

3. “I believe that, owing to men’s folly, a world-government will only be established by force, and will therefore be at first cruel and depotic [sic]. But I believe that it is necessary for the preservation of a scientific civilization, and that, if once realized, it will gradually give rise to the other conditions of a tolerable existence.” – The Future of Science (Philosophical Library, 1959), p.34.

4. “A World Authority, if it is to fulfil its function, must have a legislature and an executive and irresistible military power. Irresistible military power is the most essential condition and also the most difficult to fulfil.” – Has Man a Future? (Penguin, 1961), p.73.

5. “I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing. There are others, which, one must suppose, opponents of birth control would prefer. War, as I remarked a moment ago, has hitherto been disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective. If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full. There would be nothing in this to offend the consciences of the devout or to restrain the ambitions of nationalists. The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of that? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s.” – The Impact of Science on Society (Simon and Schuster, 1953), pp.103-104.