Category Archives: Ancestors

Wisdom From 1400 Years Ago

“Attend to these instructions.  Listen with the heart and the mind;  they are provided in a spirit of goodwill.”

“These words  are addressed to anyone who is willing to renounce the delusion that the meaning of life can be learned; whoever is ready to take up the greater weapon of fidelity to a way of living that transcends understanding.”

“The first rule is simply this: live this life and do whatever is done in a spirit of Thanksgiving.”

“Abandon attempts to achieve security, they are futile.”

“Give up the search for wealth, it is demeaning.”

“Quit the search for salvation, it is selfish.”

“Come to comfortable rest in the certainty that those who participate in this life with an attitude of Thanksgiving will receive its full promise.” ¹

¹ A modern paraphrase of the beginning of The Rule of Saint Benedict, by John McQuiston II, in Always We Begin Again, ISBN 0-8192-1648-8

A Trip Down Memory Lane

In early childhood I once fell in with naughty little boys behaving in naughty little ways, with no great evil resulting from our juvenile pranks.

Nevertheless my mother could see that first steps had been taken on a road that could in future lead to more seriously negative results.

She admonished me gently, noting that although it might seem easier to do wrong than to do right, always choosing the hard-seeming right over the easy-seeming wrong was the best way to live.

“Why, Mommy?”

In essence she replied that although I was too young to understand, she wanted me to trust her, and always to choose the hard-seeming right over the easy-seeming wrong.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered years later that no less a luminary than Maimonides, (1135-1204, Spain),¹ wrote in a way that closely harmonizes with my mother’s admonition:

¹ “Prefer the truth and right by which you seem to lose,

  to the falsehood and wrong by which you seem to gain.”

For your wisdom, Mother, across the grave, respectfully, I thank you.


Living the Indian Way

With the exception of certain documentaries its fair to say that Hollywood productions are unreliable sources of accurate information about almost anything, particularly indigenous cultures found anywhere in the world.

Having for years been steeped in Hollywood representations of American Indians, imagine my surprise when, as a young adult, I discovered writings by highly literate, acutely perceptive Native Americans, describing their histories, cultures, traditions, religious beliefs, and more.

Cultural differences notwithstanding, it seems that at one point in recent time, an inter-tribal council of elders agreed upon a code of ethics suitable for Native Americans of whatever tribe. ¹

The main points are presented below—

1- Each morning upon arising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you, and for all life and for the good things the Creator has given you and others, and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day.

Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better person. 

Seek for the things that will benefit everyone.

2- Respect—Respect means ‘to feel or show honor or esteem for someone or something with deference or courtesy.’  Showing respect is basic law of life.

  • Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the eldest elder with respect at all times.
  • Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers, and community leaders.
  • No person should be made to feel ‘put down’ by you; avoid hurting others as you would avoid a deadly poison.
  • Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
  • Respect the privacy of every person.  Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
  • Never walk between people that are conversing; nor do you interrupt people who are conversing.
  • Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers, or others to whom special respect is due.
  • Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
  • Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
  • Treat the Earth and all her aspects as your mother.  Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world.  Do nothing to pollute the air, the water or the soil.  If others would destroy our mother, rise with wisdom to defend her. ♠
  • Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
  • Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they are saying is worthless.  Listen with your heart.

3 – Respect the wisdom of the people in council.  Once you give an idea to a council or a meeting, it no longer belongs to you.  It belongs to the people.  Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail.  Indeed, you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if  they are quite different from the ones you have contributed.  The clash of ideas brings forth the spark of truth.

  • Once a council has decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided.  If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.

4 – Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.

5 – Always treat your guest with honor and consideration.  Give of our best food, your best blankets, the best of your house, and your best service to your guests.

6 – The hurt of one is the hurt of all; the honor of one is the honor of all. ♠

7 – Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family. ♠

8 – All the races and tribes of the world are like the different colored flowers of a field.  All are beautiful.  As children of the Creator, they must all be respected. ♠

9 – To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation, or the world, is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created.  Do not fill yourself with your own affairs, and forget your most important task.  True happiness comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others. ♠

10 – Observe moderation and balance in all things.

11 – Know those things that lead to your well being, and those things that lead to your destruction.

12 – Listen to and follow the guidance given to you your heart.  Expect guidance to come in many forms: in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise elders and friends.

Not bad for supposedly ignorant savages !

♠ The following Shinto saying dating from 6th century Japan hints at a similarity of world view across ancient cultures:

“Regard Heaven as your Father, Earth as your mother,

all things as your brothers and sisters,

and you will enjoy the divine country that excels all others.”

It seems also to hint at harmony with a finding of quantum physics—that everything is interconnected—that everything affects everything else.

¹ Sacred Tree – Reflections on Native American Spirituality, ISBN 0-941524-58-2, is the source of the code of ethics.


Disclosure statements: 

I am not a Native American.

I have no financial interest in any publication cited anywhere on my blog.

Is God A Verb?

This post, likely to rank as the most abstract, theoretical effort so far, is an invitation to read, draw no conclusions, let the contents rest easy in your mind, and see what comes to you.   

All major religions agree there’s no limit to The Almighty.

No limit = beyond all categories because any category implies limit; if you’re tall, you’re not short, if you’re rich, you’re not poor, if you’re unconditional love you’re not judgement and hate, etc.

Stating that The Almighty is infinite means not merely “beyond all limit”, but also that The Almighty is everything.

So it would be true that what we call “God” is both noun and verb, more accurately all nouns and verbs. 

Equally true, “God”, (“The Almighty”, whatever you want to call “it” ¹), is all cause and all effect, as well as the Creator, the creation, and the container of creation.

If you really want to torque your head, try this:  If “God” is beyond all limit, then it logically follows that “God”, (“The Almighty”, whatever,) is both limitless and limited, simultaneously. ²

Parts of various scriptures, philosophical writings, and some poetry seem to hit all around this notion of God as The All without scoring bulls-eyes.

If history reveals anything it is that dissolution and growth have been aspects of the same phenomenon.  Growth has not occurred anywhere without involving dissolution.  Every major cultural change throughout history has involved the two-fold process of death and emergence.” ♥

“Die and Become.

Till thou hast learned this

Thou art but a dull guest

On this dark planet.” ♠

“The seed that is to grow

must lose itself as seed;

And they that creep

may graduate through

chrysalis to wings.

Wilt thou then O mortal,

cling to husks which

falsely seem to you the self?” ♦

“A death blow is a life blow to some

Who till they died, did not alive become;

Who, had they lived, had died, but when

They died, vitality begun.” ♣

“Oh, let the self exalt itself,

Not sink itself below:

Self  is the only friend of self,

And self Self’s only foe.

For self when it subdues itself,

Befriends itself. And so

When it eludes self-conquest, is

Its own and only foe.

So, calm, so self-subdued, the Self

Has an unshaken base

Through pain and pleasure, cold and heat,

Through honor and disgrace.” ◊

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: ³  I the Lord do all these things.”

¹ If “God”, or “The Almighty” or whatever, is everything, then labels such as He/She/Father/Mother, all limiting, are all equally inaccurate.  On the other hand “it”, while gender neutral, strikes English speakers as insultingly disrespectful.

On the other side of the world, Indians have a similar attitude.  Both cultures choose respect over strict accuracy, assigning masculine pronouns to refer to an Ultimate Reality freely acknowledged to transcend all limiting categories.

² Paradox—A statement that seems contradictory, unbelievable, or absurd, but that may in fact be true.  So…”The Almighty” as resolution of all paradox? Make up your own mind.

³ Tanakh, The Jewish Bible, reads: “I make weal and create woe…”

Bernard Eugene Meland—1899- ?, American philosopher, professor of religion, from an article in The Personalist.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—1739-1832, German philosopher, poet,  in Selige Sehnsucht

Wu Ming Fu—Chinese philosopher, poet, in Patterns in Jade

♣ Emily Dickinson—1830-1886, American poet.

Bhagavad-Gita—The “New Testament” of Hindu Scripture, first century B.C.

Old Testament, KJV— Isaiah 45:7


A Moslem Comments On ISIS

I’ve long held that the Moslem community in my country, ( USA ), is frequently misunderstood, if not deliberately misrepresented.

The link below connects to a post, (July 17, 2015),  expressing a Moslem doctor’s comments on ISIS, incidentally providing a few tidbits of perspective on Moslem beliefs, practices and prophesy.

Concerning Breath (1st)

” Religions are numberless

sects many

yet all follow only two ways:

one takes you to knowledge

and the other to love.

Reaching the goal

one discovers with surprise

that there is no knowledge

separate from love;

that, truly, love is knowledge

and the secret gate to both is one:

the breath.” °

“It has been known for centuries that it is possible to induce profound changes of consciousness by techniques which involve breathing.

The procedures that have been used for this purpose by ancient and non-western cultures cover a wide range from drastic interferences with breathing to subtle and sophisticated exercises of the various spiritual traditions.

Thus the original form of baptism as it was practiced by the Essenes involved forced submersion of the initiate under water, which typically brought the individual close to death by suffocation.

This drastic procedure induced a convincing experience of death and rebirth, a far cry from its modern form involving sprinkling of water and a verbal formula.

In some other groups, the neophytes were half-choked by smoke, by strangulation, or by compression of the carotid arteries.

Profound changes in consciousness can be induced by both extremes in the breathing rate—hyperventilation and prolonged withholding of breath—or a combination of both.” ¹

“Respiration has a special position among the physiological functions of the body.  It is an autonomous function, but it can be easily influenced by volition.  Increase of the rate and depth of breathing typically loosens psychological defenses and leads to release and emergence of the unconscious (and superconscious) material.” ²

As the foregoing quotations indicate, controlled breathing can work changes in our lives.

For most of us, the first thought in our minds would be, “Who knew?”

No special knowledge is required for what we’d all call “normal breathing.”

It just happens. 

But when we begin to practice controlled breathing, its helps to know some of what our ancient ancestors knew about using such techniques and what results they expected.

More on this later.

° C. M. Chen as quoted by Frederick Leboyer, The Art of Breathing, (London, Element Books, 1979, pg 1

¹ Stanislav Grof, The Adventure of Self-Disccovery, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1988, pg 170

² Grof, The Adventure of Self-Discovery, pg 171

Our National Heroes

History – A Fable Agreed Upon By The Winners

On Columbus Day we celebrate a sort of Star Trek “boldly going where no one has gone before.”

Columbus discovered America!  He was a hero! 

Well, maybe not.

To begin, he wasn’t the first European to reach America.  Vikings beat him by a few centuries. 

And when he arrived he didn’t play nicely with the locals, the Arawak Indians, a tribe inhabiting the Bahama Islands.

The following quotations provide a grim summary of Columbus’ shortcomings in the hero department:

“The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.” ¹

“Endless testimonies. . .prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives. . . . But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then. . . . The admiral, (Columbus), it is true was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians. . . . ” ²

“What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortés did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.” ³

Unlike some critics of prominent historical figures, I don’t advocate condemning them because, judged by our present day standards, they fall far short.

To judge past conduct exclusively by present standards is laughably irrational.

Historical figures should be judged first according to the standards of their time, and only afterwards by the standards of ours.

Columbus was no hero, but neither was he a total failure as a human being.

To sail westward into the vast Atlantic ocean with no reliable charts, in three little ships, (the largest barely one hundred feet long), with only the vaguest idea of where he would end up required superb seamanship and immense courage.

Re-evaluating our national story / heroes more realistically can’t hurt us.

Accurate knowledge of our past is part of a good foundation of national mental health.

¹ Christopher Columbus, Mariner, 1954,  by Samuel Eliot Morrison

² History of the Indies, by Bartolomé de las Casas, (a contemporaneous record)

³ A People’s History of the United States, 2003, by Howard Zinn


Ancestors (3rd)

Our Ancestors—Safe When They Walk The Streets Of Our Minds?

Most of us believe we’re much more “advanced” than our “crude” ancient ancestors.

In my opinion we’re quite unnecessarily self-congratulatory—consider this simple chart:

Ancient Classical Elements

Fire                          Air                      Water                 Earth

Modern Physics—States of Matter

Plasma                     Gas                    Liquid                  Solid

Modern Earth Science

Magnetosphere      Atmosphere      Hydrosphere      Geosphere

We’re quick to point out what we know that our ancient ancestors didn’t know.

Nevertheless, the above chart suggests that, while none of them would qualify for a job at NASA, they were far from ignorant and could be brought up to speed faster than we might think.

After they added our store of knowledge to theirs, (some of which we have lost, forgotten, disregarded, or mocked), would teaching then be strictly one-sided?

When considering the abilities and achievements of our forefathers and mothers, is it fitting to approach the subject predisposed to arrogance and smug self-assurance, or with respect and humility?


Ancestors (2nd)

Ancient Technology—Useful or Useless?

To the extent that we ignore ancient technology, we rob ourselves.  Our ancestors’ motivation to avoid pain, sickness, poverty, old age, and death was at least as intense as ours.

There having been no structural change in the human brain in the last 100,000 years, its a statistical certainty that ancient human populations contained a number of outright geniuses.

Granted, their science database wasn’t as lush as that presently available to, say, a recent MIT graduate.  On the other hand they generally possessed comprehensive awareness, acute and subtle ¹, of the natural world.

Add to that creativity and desire to survive and thrive and its likely they achieved much that’s lost to us without digging, (often literally), for it.

Researching ancient ways has already revealed that our ancestors were sometimes better than us moderns at solving certain problems, performing certain tasks.  We should keep digging, and put to good use as much as possible.

¹ That we moderns have been divorced for quite a while from an “acute and subtle” awareness of the natural world is well illustrated by the following:

North American white hunters were after wolves.  They were assisted by an Eskimo tracker, who at one point casually informed the hunters that one of the wolves was rabid.

The white hunters asked how he knew this.

His answer: Rabies caused tension in the wolf’s body, which caused change in the way it placed its feet, which the tracker detected by noticing subtle differences between the rabid wolf’s paw prints and those of its healthy pack members.

Not bad for a supposedly “ignorant native.”

Ancestors (1st)

Their “Toolbox” Contains Useful Surprises

A while ago western scientists and Tibetan Buddhist monks somehow found themselves in discussion of quantum physics.

Though dealing with a considerable communications problem they got down to business.

The physicists thought they would be bringing backward monks up to speed.

They were astounded to realize the monks, who had never attended a modern university, and had no other access to training in modern math or science, nevertheless had  a grasp of quantum physics and thought it no big deal that they did.

Well, how?


The knowledge came from within—through meditation.  All faiths have a meditation tradition, but a specific religious orientation isn’t prerequisite to practice.

Our ancestors, it seems, learned much by “going inside”.  Through the centuries it has been said repeatedly that within each of us there exists a “living book of revelation”, constantly available.

All we have to do is learn to quiet the mind.  ¹

The possibilities are endless.

¹  For a simple, non-sectarian introduction to one type of meditation, check out 8 Minute Meditation,  by Victor Davich, listed on my Reading List page.