DOGMA - "Doctrine put forward by some authority, especially a church, to be accepted as true without question."
We expect to find dogma in the realm of the church, especially those churches who classify themselves as Christian. Why that is I can't say. It seems to me the entire basis of Christianity is built on the concept of the absolute need to become humble, to not judge others, and to show love for those who disagree with us, rather than condemnation. But somehow the scales of justice have become topsy-turvy in that organization.
Christianity however is not the only place we find the elitist attitude exhibited. Not by a long shot. If I wear green, and you wear blue, then in my opinion you will be doomed to an eternity in hell for not recognizing the wisdom I exhibit into the ways and the will of God by the wearing of the green.
When I was a youth in my formative years, those years from twelve to fifty two, I tried to make sense of this big blue marble I found myself on. I looked into the philosophies, the religions, the various life-enhancing practices such as est and TM. I imagined that the illogical aspects of life may be nothing but a dream, and my dream life, as strange is it was at that time (and still is, according to what I eat or experience that day) was reality.
Why am I here? Where did I come from? (which is the first question of substance a child asks his or her parents). Did I exist before I was conceived in my mother's womb? Will I continue to exist after I depart this earth? Will I in fact either go to some kind of heaven where all is bliss? Will I be sent to that "other place" where I'll serve as entertainment for a demented devil with a tail and a pitch fork? What's the purpose in all this anyway?
As I explored the religions and the philosophies of the great minds of this and past generations I discovered, among other things, that they were all trying to discover the meaning of life, and understood it no better than I did when I joined the ranks of adolescence at the age of twelve. One great mind, and one religious system, would picture this world and its purpose in a completely opposite way of another great mind and religion. Which is right? Can I trust any of these supposed authorities to direct me in the way to salvation and peace? Or will turning my trust and allegiance over to one or the other lead me to that other place that everyone seeks to either deny or avoid?
Realizing that I'm not the only person in this world who wonders about the meaning of life, I turn to those of my ilk who might be in search of truth and peace of mind. What have they found, if anything, as their road to Utopia? Firstly I find that most follow the same route, they walk into a church or other such organization, fill out the card handed to them, go through the initiation process, be it baptism or some other ritual, and keep their mouth shut if something is presented to them that makes no sense. On the other end of the teeter-totter I find those who dismiss the whole idea of purpose in this life, other than to satisfy one's self, and deny the existence of an afterlife. In this day and age when we're taught from birth by those experts on life and death that we are nothing but monkeys without tails, that evolved from bugs, taking on such a complacent attitude is not only easy, but almost essential in order to be a functioning part of society.
How easy it would be to simply lay back and go with the flow of this complacent generation. Live life as it's presented to us, make the best of what we have, strive to be the one with the most marbles at the end of the game, then settle into a coffin when the game is at an end. Somehow this concept, as appealing as it may appear to be, does not set well with my psyche. I need substance in my life, purpose, and a direction. So I look to the alternative to flowing with the go, and I turn an eye once again to the great minds, the seekers of wisdom.
What is there in the arena of the philosophies that we can learn? Of course we can, and are expected to learn what is taught by these knowledgeable thinkers, but is there anything specific, anything outside the covers of the book we can sink our teeth into?
The first thing that comes to my mind in the realm of importance is what's most apparent in each of the philosophers. I see Buddha, and I read his writing (or the writings that are attributed to him). I see a pot-bellied man sitting in an uncomfortable position forever, or so it would seem by the images of him. I don't desire to be a pot-bellied man sitting in an uncomfortable position, nor to follow such a one. Then I turn my eye westward and I see Socrates. This man I can relate to more fully, however I have never developed a taste for hemlock tea.
Moving beyond the absurdity of the apparent, there are certain things I take special notice of such men as Buddha and Socrates. Buddha was an advisor to the rulers of the nation. As far as I've seen he did not set himself up as a know-it-all as did one of his followers (considerably later) which I'll leave nameless. Nor do I see Buddha as a person with designs on creating a religion after his name. I see this in such people as Martin Luther as well. I may be in ignorance in both cases, but it seems to me it's those who came after such men who established the religions. The men considered founders of the religion were merely presenting what they believed to be true. Other examples of this same type of situation are those who spread the belief that Bruce Lee and JFK would come back to life long in the future. These men, those so acclaimed, did not start the rumor, and they may very well resent the fact that such a rumor has been propagated, if they were to know about it. They were men just living their life the best way they knew how, not necessarily trying to create a doctrine or a legend.
Socrates did not write of himself as far as I know. What we read attributed to Socrates was written by one of his students, Plato. What I particularly appreciate about Socrates was his apparent humility through such incidents as when he admitted he didn't know the answer to some questions he posed to some of his disciples who thought they knew it all.
In the Christian realm we have Jesus, who if anyone might be considered the philosopher of the philosophers. He also did not write about what He did or what He taught. He was too busy teaching and doing to write. It was those who heard Him, and who followed Him in one form or another who wrote His words and recorded His deeds. Unlike the others I mentioned, Jesus had the full intent that there would be a "religion" based upon His teachings and His purposes.
Philosophies and religious teaching extend through a spectrum that ranges from the benign to the very dedicated. On the one hand we have those such as the Atheist who denies the existence of a god or other supreme being, and the Agnostic who is either unsure of such an existence or who believes such knowledge can not be had, and so therefore live their life for this, the moment they have been given on earth. Then on the other hand we have the monks who live a life of austere abstinence in order to please their god, and those who burn their bodies as a supreme sacrifice, and the Martyr who pushes through to the end for his or her beliefs. Then between these extremes, we have the rest of us. And it's these, the rest of us this article is about:
Anyone who has ever looked into the religions and the philosophies of the world has noticed (I'm sure) the wide variety of opinions on every subject imaginable. The following as a very brief summation of a few of the concepts such a seeker might find:
Polytheism: There are those who, as was so common in ancient history, believe there are many gods who have influence over the lives of mankind to one degree or anther. Some of these gods are seen to be a benefit to man, and others to take no notice or to have any concern as to the goings on here on earth. I'll include in this section the belief that God has revealed Himself through many incarnations, such as Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha and other such well-known religious figures.
God: Besides seeing God in many forms and through many identities, there are those who believe that god can be found through looking into ourselves as an individual, that god is in each of us if we look for him (it). There are those who seek this discovery, or the fulfillment of such a search, through the process of reincarnation. Through many successions of life we are (or should be able) to reach a state of nirvana, or perfection, and cease our search. In some cases this means becoming a part of a spirit being, or a part of nothingness, whichever is seen to be what god is in one's system of belief.
Closely relating to the concept that we are eternal spirits, created long ago and will return to the realm of the spirit is the belief that each of us is a spark of God sent to earth for an experience. A Christian should be able to relate to this concept since it varies little from the idea that Jesus is an element of God sent to earth to demonstrate what God is like: "If you want to see the Father, look at me."
God the creator: The most well known of the many gods in the pantheon of deities is God the Creator of the universe. Most commonly held of these monotheistic views is that of God the ruler of the universe, is personally involved in the lives of mankind. There are some religions and denominations, mostly of recent vintage, that hold to the concept that God created the earth, then either died, or lost interest in His creation and we are therefore left on our own to fend for ourselves. In the Christian realm this could be an easily assumed attitude since God, after being so actively involved in people's lives for thousands of years, has become exceptionally quiet since the death of the original Apostles, nearly two thousand years ago. And though many, if not most Christians profess to possess total faith in the Scriptures as the living Word of God, by the lives of so many of these it's apparent that their belief extends no farther than the surface of their profession.
Science: Of course the Atheist looks to science as a contributing, if not a governing factor as to what is truth, which is to be expected of them. However I'm discovering that it's not only the Atheist, but also some dedicated Christians who also look to and place great confidence in the findings of those who explore the field of science. This is in complete contrast to my own set of beliefs. It's my contention that God works through the impossible, that if it can be explained or duplicated by science, then the chances are it is not of God.
Reality: As described earlier, in my youth I questioned the reality of my life, and life in general. Trying to make sense of the world was beyond my capability, and beyond the capability of everyone else it seems. There are those who follow this line of reasoning and claim that there is no reality, nor is there matter, nor is there good and evil. Some people hold to the belief that all there is, is the moment, and that reality is what we make of it in our mind and our actions. A take-off of such thinking might be seen in the "name it and claim it" philosophy, or theology if it's part of a particular church doctrine. Some of the churches believe that by merely claiming to be perfect, or a god, that they are in fact what they claim. Then there are those who teach that by simply believing a person can be a great athlete, or in many notable cases, an accomplished actor. Taken into the field of human endeavor, a person can become healed by simply believing that they are no longer ill. For myself I take as my belief what is said in Luke 12:25-26.
One view of this healing process is that a person can find healing by looking deep within themself to find the real "me," or their center, or balance. Once this is achieved, then the person, or their soul, reaches a state of perfection, distinct from the materialistic world of pain and death.
Afterlife: Some of this topic has been touched on in other areas. There is the view that through reincarnation we are able to achieve our destiny or afterlife, or that our afterlife begins here in this existence. There are those who hold to the belief that our life was laid out for us from the beginning, or even long before the beginning of this earthly journey. Many Christians hold to this view by the title "predestination," and far more believe in such a concept in that they believe God knows our destiny, and what will be the outcome of our life, long before we were even born. At the same time, these same people, firmly believe that we are given free will to choose our own destiny. I for one can not jell these two conflicting views, but some apparently believe they are able to do so.
The view expressed in the paragraph preceding this could easily be called a fatalistic view. With a fatalistic concept we have no control over our life, therefore no control over our eternal destiny, if there is one to be had. Those who deny the existence of an afterlife are likely to hold to the Epicurean belief that life is for little more than to enjoy it and get as much out of it as possible. Such a person might be heard to say "grab life to the fullest, you only go around once," or something to that effect. The media and the commercial ads abound with statements directed toward this very thing, pleasing oneself and ignoring the wants or the needs of others.
Life's purpose: Why are we here? Of course everything written on this page is directed toward this primary question. However there are some elements of the question that can be addressed directly. What is there about this life we treasure so highly? There are those, far too many in this affluent nation it seems, who have much to keep them occupied and entertained. But what of those who are in desperate need? What of those in great pain, or / and standing at death's door? Why do they cling tenaciously to a life they wish to abandon? What is it in our human makeup that causes us to value so highly something we wish to be rid of? Could it be we fear the unknown that accompanies death? We all have to die sometime, so why do we work so hard to avoid the unavoidable?
Setting this question aside, we have those who attempt to make something of themselves, or at least to make the best use of their time here on this big, blue marble. They are not content to "do their time," then shuck off this mortal shell. What are the processes these go-getters utilize to cause their stay on earth to be of value?
There are far too many reasons for continued existence to be listed here, which is not my purpose in this writing anyway. But some things come to mind that do fit the criteria of this article. And these purposeful quests most often involve the satisfying or the enlarging of the ego.
Besides the rising to a higher position in eternity, there are those who see reincarnation as an opportunity to increase their life experiences and to add to their bank of "enlightenment." Enlightenment as a pursuit is sought by those who belong to a kindergarten fraternity as well as those belonging to a secret lodge that only admits those who have attained to a certain level of enlightenment.
What is enlightenment? According to my dictionary enlightenment was originally a movement that placed much emphasis on reason and individualism. However, it seems to me that every organization has within its ranks, and ranks itself as the "enlightened ones." Consider the school you attend(ed). Your school is like any of the other schools in the nation, but your school, regardless of statistics, is the best school. If you're in the Navy, then you know full well that the Navy is better and more important than the Army or the Air Force. If you belong to a certain church denomination, your church is the correct one, the one with no discrepancy or error in its doctrine, and the one going to Heaven, while all others are going straight to hell. That's the design of the church, and of human nature. Whatever we happen to belong to is by nature the best, and the most "enlightened."
Some groups take the concept of enlightenment to a higher level than that of the sandbox and the denominations. They have formed secret organizations that hold to certain truths beyond the capabilities of the average human mind. These might be (and often are) called "the enlightened ones." This enlightenment might be given to them from God, or a god; or it might be something they have acquired through study of certain special books written by the enlightened ones.
For many, if not all these special organizations there is an initiation one must pass before being accepted as one of the elite. We find this initiation processes not only in the higher echelons of the intelligentsia, but in other levels of human endeavor as well. Initiations are found everywhere from the elementary school playground to the White house. I venture to say there's not a segment of life where some form of initiation can't be found in one form or another.
On the other end of the spectrum of human existence we find the search for happiness and health without the obligation of initiation or the fulfilling of hard and fast rules. Although there is always the possibility, and the draw to advance in these arenas, no such requirement is in place that prevents even a detractor from becoming a part of the organization or the activity. We see this search for health or personal enlightenment in such forms as TM (transcendental meditation), est, yoga, or even bio-feedback. Although these are derived from or a part of a larger system of beliefs, they can be used independent of the belief system without condemnation or loss of benefit.
There's also the opportunity to be a pew-warmer in one of the many churches scattered throughout the world. In most of the churches, especially the churches of today, those sitting in the back row with the lowest number of gold stars adorning their attendance record is promised the same reward as those up on the stage standing behind the pulpit.
After reading the preceding lists of partial truths and incomplete descriptions you might be asking yourself "is there a point to all this gibberish?" In answer to your unasked question, yes, there is a purpose to all this disorganized gibberish.
DOG - (definition 5) "A despicable person."
Despicable means to be worthy of despising, contemptible." Those who are dogmatic in their view, who hold to the idea that they and they alone hold truth, consider those who do not agree with them as dogs, as beneath their dignity. They may not say so, and they may vehemently deny they feel this way, but by their actions we can know it to be true.
Recently I've been the object of despising. I have been seen as a dog, as a nothing, as of no value other than to be an ear to people who feel they are in control of their life. They have reached "enlightenment," and it's their job to cause all those who disagree with them, and who view the world differently than they do, to see the light. Of course these people have no idea that is what they are doing, and the reason for their lack of awareness is their trust in their own enlightenment.
Age has two particular benefits if none other, but of value only if allowed to be utilized. Age offers a wealth of experience from which to draw from. The more a person has experienced (not just the years that they have been alive), and the more mistakes they have made, the more they can see themselves in others. And they can see the errors of their ways reflected in the errors and the ignorance (lack of maturity) in others. Along with this awareness comes the recognition that we can not judge others because of their lack, or their wrong behavior. Not is it of any use to try and instruct, or to inform that person of their lack. They will either find this lack in themselves when they reach maturity, or like so many others who have reached elder-hood, they will fail to see themselves and their lack of growth.
As usual I was on my bike ride along the river when I spotted a motorcycle loaded to the brim with backpacks, bags, and every other item that might be strapped to a motor vehicle. Although the bike was still standing, it seems next to a miracle it hadn't fallen over, which it was trying hard to do. The seat of the cycle was barely visible due to the luggage piled on it, and if the rider of said vehicle had weighed an once more than what appeared to be a hundred and forty pounds he would have had to run along side the bike for lack of space aboard the saddle.
As per usual I stopped my bike and quarried the young fellow as to his destination. He said he was on his way south, and he was living on the road. Then he began to tell me about himself, his many "accomplishments", the wisdom he had gained along the way, and his life's aim. I always like to hear about what others are doing, so I settled back and listened to him speak of himself and his philosophies. After having listened to the young man speak for an hour or so, he apparently ran out of anything to say and walked off. I was still attuned for more, but the "more" was not forthcoming.
This young man stated that he was nearly 40 years of age. He had just recently begun his venture into the unknown. With much pride he stated that he had reached the point of inner balance, and he had rid himself of the need of material possessions. He was now a free soul independent of the material world in which he lives. One look at his bike, as I described above, would cause any listener to doubt that claim.
What little space I was given to express my views, I told the youngster that I understood his quest since I had lived on the road most of my life, riding a bicycle, possessing only what could be carried in my saddlebags, and was nearly twice his age. He gave appropriate acknowledgment to my statement, and continued to tell me about himself and his accomplishments and beliefs.
During this exchange I learned a lot about a philosophy I knew nothing about, and care to know even less. What the young man said appeared reasonable enough on the surface, but it was fairly obvious to me that he had reached a level of head knowledge regarding the philosophy he espoused, but he was unable to apply any of what he had learned to his life or his experience.
At one point, far into our conversation, or rather his monologue, I pointed out an area where he could improve his communication skills (something he said was a problem since people wouldn't listen to him for any length of time). He replied that what I said does not apply to a master-student relationship. I didn't understand what he was referring to at first, then I realized that in his mind we were not having a conversation as I had supposed, but rather he was the "master" advising me, the "student." I allowed the implication without comment since it wasn't my purpose to teach this young man, only to learn as much about another human being on the same road I travel as possible.
At the beginning of our conversation there were things he said that led me to believe that he was a fellow Christian, and I heard what he said through the filter of Christianity and the Bible. But after a friend of his arrived on the scene, and the conversation (mostly between the two of them) enlarged, it became apparent that he (they) didn't believe the Bible at all. They just considered Jesus another philosopher, and agreed with Him where He agreed with them.
I was a "dog" to these young men (the second man on the scene said of himself that he was 52 years of age, still 21 years my junior), an outsider who couldn't understand the wisdom they were trying to impart to me. I don't mind being a dog, I've been called worse. My only interest is to learn, and in so doing to discover how I react in a given situation.
Yesterday I was again riding my bike, and again at the river a very short distance from where I had met the young man described in scenario one. This man was on a fancy bicycle the cost of which is more than I make in a year. He rides over twice the distance I ride every year, and unlike the first young man or myself, he is well off in material goods. He was not looking for austere simplicity in the way the previous rider was in that he lives stably, though fairly independent of what we consider the niceties of life.
This man was also a philosopher, a person who has his own set of doctrines (teachings) that he was more than willing to share with me. Again I thought the two of us were having what I would consider a conversation, that is, he would speak, and I would respond in kind. But this was not to be. Unlike the first example above, this young man (of 45 I believe he said he was) did not get all flustered when I replied in such a way as to either question what was said (inquire as to the meaning) or to give an example of what he had said out of my own well of life experiences. However, with each of my responses, he would interrupt and "correct" me in such a way that I could make no sense as to his meaning. When I feel I'm on target with the conversation, and I'm cut off and redirected on to the other person's channel, I tend to become flustered. I am able to accept the first hundred times or so unabated, but eventually I do "lose my cool" and wonder where we're going with the conversation. Unlike in the past, I didn't pack my bags and go. I stayed with the conversation trying to learn, and to understand where the missing link was in our conversation.
After many times (and the number of times increasing with the passing of time) of him saying "that's how you scripted your life," and "he wasn't really there," I broke into what I was saying and asked: "Let's go back to the beginning. What do you mean?"
It was at this time I learned that he was on another road that I had never seen or heard of before. In the minute or so he laid out for me his view, not nearly enough time for me to even get my foot in the door of understanding what he was telling me, a friend of his arrived and the conversation changed and I became a third wheel on a one wheel vehicle. So I said my good-byes and finished my ride.
What the young man said is that we all existed from the beginning of forever (my words as I can't recall his precisely), and the life we live here we "scripted," which I take to mean we wrote the script for our lives, and we're playing out that script here on earth. The people in our "play" (my word, I have no idea what he was really saying other than the few words I'm relating here) don't actually exist. And since this is our own play, and nothing actually exists, we have no reason to worry or concern ourself with others or with our own life. It's apparent to me that his belief works for him since he seemed very relaxed and comfortable with his life. But then of course he would since he seemed to have everything a person might desire, and since life isn't real, and the end is the same regardless of how we live our life, there's nothing to worry about. However, I can't help but wonder if he'll feel the same way if he loses everything, if his health fails, or when the Grim Reaper chooses his door to knock upon.
On my ride home I gave consideration to what the young man had said. First I wondered how those who faced the ovens of Auschwitz would take to learning that they were enduring what they, themselves had scripted into their own life. I wonder about why everyone didn't "script" themselves into being rich and famous, as president of the U.S., or king of the world. Why would I script myself into a period of time thousands of years ago as a nomad on the Sahara desert when I could have just as easily written a play where I lived the life I have of adventure during a time of the end when everything is passing by quickly and new inventions come forth each day?
After I exhausted the fallibilities of such thinking, my thoughts returned to our conversation. Why couldn't I follow what the young man was saying? Am I ignorant regarding the many views possible in this confusing world? Did I not hear what he was saying? I don't think any of those options are valid. But of not them, then what?
In the above several pages I've listed but a few of the many possibilities that might exist in a person's chosen dogma, their belief system. I understand, accept and am prepared for being disagreed with, and I expect to have my opinion poo-pooed. That doesn't bother me. I try to listen to the other person's view and to keep my own view to myself unless it is asked for, which it rarely is. Besides, even if I give my view, unless it totally agrees with the view of the one I'm talking to, it will be set aside as best. That's the nature of dogma, and of people in general who are dogmatic in their view. In the dogmatist's view, those who are in disagreement with the dogmatic should either say "bow-wow" and recognize their place in society, or show consideration for one's superior and shut up.
As you can see by the foregoing list I have more than the average resources in my arsenal of dogmas to draw from, and therefore I am adequately fore-armed when conversing on most any subject that involves philosophy or religion (which in most cases is really one and the same thing). But when someone comes over the fence of expectation and brings in a new, unrecorded view, it leaves me, the listener, unable to follow the conversation. In order to see if I had somehow left a hole in my understanding of religious and philosophical views, today I asked some of the older men, more learned and experienced than I, if they had ever heard of a philosophy that espoused the idea that we all write our own script in this life. None of them had ever heard of such a concept. There are those who believe, and I tend to concur to a limited degree, that we live out our own script, written through past experiences, or better said, habits, from moment to moment. But not that we have actually written our life out in advance.
Perhaps I misunderstood this fellow, but the many times he broke in to my part of the conversation and directed me toward this way of thinking, I suspect I have indeed understood his meaning.
Less than a half hour later, still on the ride before I reached home, I was at a store, with my bike locked to a post. A man my age was admiring my hand-built trailer, the one I made from an old walker I bought at a thrift store. As we talked a lady, also about my age, was entering her car. The man I was talking to broke from our conversation and asked the lady about her car and the gas milage she got. I remained and listened, adding very little to the conversation since it was not my conversation to begin with. After about 5 minutes or so, the man left, and I took over conversing with the lady. What would have normally been a five minute conversation at the outside turned into almost a half hour with me doing the predominance of the conversing. In contrast to the men I described above, this lady had a way of listening that draws a person to say more. She would envelope a person with here eyes, showing no impatience whatsoever. It was in her nature to be interested in people, to want to hear more, and to not judge the person or what they were saying. I find this characteristic in very few people. I hope I've developed it to some degree. But where I lack this quality, I have at least learned to recognize its existence and to appreciate its value.
After I had emptied myself of the need to express my view, what I might call my introductory wind-blowing, I turned my attention to her and asked to hear her story. She then said she was late for an appointment, which I have no doubt is true because she was in a hurry to leave when all this scenario began.
What I'm saying here is that her interest was not in telling her view or expressing her doctrine or dogma, but to hear what others have to say. This is a complete reversal of what I had been experiencing, both at church and on my bike rides.
Over the years I've learned two things I consider to be of utmost importance. First I can easily look back at my life and see, in the not too distant past, where I had been treating others in the same way those youngsters had treated me, as ears to spout my views to, as students with me the master of wisdom, and not as people with stories to hear and to learn from. Secondly I've learned the value of listening, especially listening to what I fully disagree with. It's in our attentiveness, in our listening to others give their point of view that we show kindness and acceptance.
Speaking to the lady just mentioned was a clear picture of that need, and the consequence of obeying the Golden Rule.