Healing by Jesus and Reiki (#1)

Japanese Jesus Lightworkers,

There are Christians who believe that the Japanese healing technique of Reiki  is demonic. This judgment means (so I infer) either: a) demons give people the idea that something harmful (Reiki energy healing) is actually healing;  and/or b) the use of Reiki healing methods invites demons into one’s life. This explanation supposes  the reality of demons, i.e. unclean or evil spirits, which cause confusion, chaos, and morally debased actions.

In the youtube video below, please find the testimony of a former Reiki master, who meets up with a Christian evangelical group in Denmark, led by Torben Sondergaard.  (For a critical article about this leader see: Torben Sondergaard Article).

Apart from the question of the efficacy of Reiki — which I will not evaluate, here — the video raises a serious scruple about the Christian teaching of this Danish evangelical teacher. Before I make this critique, note that this group, called the Last Reformation, may have good things to say.

However, their critique of Reiki, and their larger theology, contain some dubious premises.  The leader of this group argues, in this video, that the Fall of Adam into Sin characterizes our lives unless we accept Jesus Christ as savior and the baptism by the holy spirit. So far his theology sounds like a standard evangelical Christian teaching.

If we listen more closely, however, it emerges that the God against whom we sin in our pre-saved predicament (i.e.  before accepting Jesus) resembles a tyrannical demon himself. This part of Sondergaard’s theology seems to promote a God who condemns us to guilt and fear.

For instance, Sondergaard says that when we come before God at Judgment Day, because God’s holiness is absolute and unparalleled — (infinitely grander and vaster than any human virtue or goodness)– our every sin will sink us. No matter how much good we have done, it will be our sins not our virtues, our evil not our goodness, that will be measured and judged.

According to Christian teaching, however– so it may be urged — God is infinitely good and wise. He or She rewards acts with the greatest mercy. Those who love God and have faith, even as small as a mustard seed, will obtain mercy. Though our sins be scarlet, he will make them as white as snow. Would a good and infinitely wise God really judge sinners in the manner of a tyrant or demonically angry Despot — as Sondergaard’s theology of intimidation suggests?

Is God himself a Vindictive, Suspicious, Angry Deity ? Such a characterization approximates the personality of a demon, according to  Webster’s Dictionary, whereby a demon is: a) an evil spirit angels and demons; b) a source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin. This Pseudo-God (advanced by the Danish evangelist) seeks our harm, evil , distress, or ruin, insofar as anybody who fails to be baptized by the holy spirit and to recite the proper creeds will be condemned because of the slightest sin, no matter his or her goodness and righteous deeds.

Whatever one believes about Reiki in relation to Christian healing, it is surely lamentable that a Reiki master should fall prey to such a distorted preaching of the Christian Gospel. This kind of theology can make one suspicious of practices, like Reiki, which are either benign or innocuous in themselves.

Happiness and Healing : the example of Martin Brofman (1940-2014)

A puzzle about the Gospels: how does spiritual healing actually work? Did healing take place as described in the Gospels? and if so, how does spiritual — or specifically Christian healing — apply for our own day? Occasionally, we post about healers and healing (by spiritual means), in order to probe this question.

Martin Brofman (not a Christian) was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, while he was still a young man. He decided that if he had only a small time to live anyway, he would live his remaining days in peace and freedom. He began a quest for happiness, to mold his life according to his deepest desires.

In the process, he healed himself — against all the odds — and taught others to do the same. Surely, this interconnection between happiness and healing follows from, and confirms, a spirituality of abundant life and love. That is good news.

 

Crossing Cultures: Algonquin Bible (1663): First Bible Printed in the USA

Hello Lightworkers, and other spiritual non-conformists,

How do cultures and religions mix, so that each party has an equal standing with the other? May such free exchanges occur? Or does religion tend to take hold and spread only through conquest and rank aggression? As I will indicate, certain figures play mediating roles, between cultures, even in times of strife or warfare. Such was the case in colonial America.

Please note before we start that I am not an expert about this complicated and controversial episode in the history of North America. However, I am judiciously concerned to raise some questions about the history of missionary pursuits and intercultural religious exchange.

Throughout  US history, Indian culture and religion came to be curtailed and rudely suppressed by the government. There were massacres. Yet, episodes of equal exchange, mutual curiosity, and reciprocal aid, may have punctuated early Puritan history.  In the 1600’s, in fact, the English colonists in North America to the “new world” were often quite eager to find refuge, welcome, and hospitality among the Indians. In turn, the Indians may have been comparatively reluctant to assimilate to European ways. (See: Crossing the Cultural Divide: New Englander and Indians).

John Eliot, the 17th century Puritan, “apostle to the Indians,” who translated the Bible into Algonquin, an Indian language, undertook his work in collaboration with Indian allies. A biblical scholar, adept in translation and ancient biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek), Eliot had the linguistic ability to translate not only the Bible but also documents, called the Indian Library, which preserve Native culture for later generations and other cultures. Eliot may have served, also, to defend Indians against the more rapacious colonizers, among Eliot’s compatriots, who would seize and plunder their land. Eliot immersed himself in the culture of the Indians and learned Algonquin, a difficult language, so well that he preached in the Algonquin language, for the first time in 1647. He set up towns of Praying Indians, which governed themselves. He advocated for the Indians with the British King.

Many of the colonizers, and missionaries to the Indians, were exiles from their own homelands in England and the continent. They had lost their religious home. They were, themselves, deracinated.  Such was John Eliot. In the process of leading missions to the Indians, he was escaping religious persecution, directed at him as a “non-conformist” in his native England. If the colonizers knew persecution and violence first-hand, some of them – like John Eliot – refrained from inflicting the same on Indians in the new world –while others perpetrated such ills against them.

Indian figures like Squanto (who died in 1622), and Samson Occom (an Indian convert to Christianity and preacher during the Great Awakening), established concord with the Christian white people, although their peace and kindness were later repaid by betrayal–(at the hands of other men). According to the Life of John Eliot, the Apostle of the Indians, by John Wilson (1828), similarly one Indian named John, a Sagamore, requested of a Boston clergyman, on his deathbed, that his son might learn about the God of the English.

Conquest, kidnappings, and the cruel suppression of Native American cultures did occur in US History. Was the Algonquin Bible, however, a counterexample and a testament to amicable relations, across cultures?

Such questions cluster around the first printed Bible, in the Algonquin language, produced by John Eliot. The Indians he met in Massachusetts did not read or write. They relied on their spoken language.  Eliot taught them the English (Latin) alphabet. He then used this alphabet to transcribe, phonetically, the Algonquin spoken language.

Thus, the first translation into a Native American language of the Bible may exhibit a spirit of friendship, between the English and the American Indians, thus modeling a certain parity and amity. Some scholars do regard John Eliot as an inter-cultural mediator of beneficent impact (see: Eliot as Mediator). Eliot may have protected the Indians, and advocated for their rights, with his own more bellicose compatriots.

Below is a leaflet from the first edition of the Algonquin New Testament. Here is a reprint of the Algonquin New Testament: Algonquin NT. Dartmouth holds Eliot’s originals : Eliot Collection. Here is some information about religious persecution in Europe of the period: 17th century religious persecution

leaf_eliot1663

Vision of Female Christ (Early Christian Female Visionaries and Prophets)

Dear Lightworkers,

Our devotional lives depend on the imagination. A rich imagination prospers our emotional and spiritual foundations. We connect personally to a God/Spirit who comes to us in forms that arouse our yearnings or our curiosity. Why then is the contemporary imagination, pertaining to Jesus Christ, sometimes rather fixated on the maleness of Jesus? It was otherwise for early Christians.

Here is a report — from the second or third century — about a vision of the female Christ, which came to a female prophet. We learn of this vision from a church writer and heresiologist Epiphanius.

To be clear, the vision of a female Christ that Epiphanius reports may not be a literal and accurate report. This church writer may have been defaming and slandering the group, against whom he argues, by imputing to their female leaders a vision of the female Christ. Nevertheless, the passage is intriguing and may speak to the actual devotional practices of early Christians.

Epiphanius of Salamis, Cyprus (c.311-403)  put together a book called Panarion (literally: Medicine Chest), in which he makes a collection of heresies (figuratively: diseases) and orthodox truths (figuratively: medicines).  He writes about the Montanists, a group which adhered to the teaching of the prophet Montanist, and Maximilla and Prisicilla, two female prophets. They lived in the mid-second century in the area of Phrygia (in modern day Turkey).

Their movement, at its inception, was called the New Prophecy, and went through a number of iterations during the several centuries of its lifespan.  Besides accepting females as leaders and prophetesses in their movement, the group were millenarian, who supposed that heaven would come to earth in the Phrygian city Pepuza. [See below for a link to more writings about the Montanist movement].

In one report Epiphanius argues against a certain off-shoot of this movement, called the Quintillianists. Their prophetess had a vision of Christ as a woman. Although Epiphanius does not favor this group – he conceives them to be heretics – we, as modern people, are free to examine the matter from their side. In any case, we have evidence, here, of the visionary richness of the early Christian movement.

Here’s the report from Epiphanius, Panarion 49.1:

  1. … The Quintillianists or Priscillianists say that either Quintilla or Priscilla (I am not sure which one, but one of them), as I mentioned before, slept in Pepuza and Christ came to her and he slept next to her and it happened this way according to the misled woman: “Christ came to me dressed in a white robe,” she said, “in the shape of a woman, instilled into me wisdom, and shared with me how that this place is holy, and that Jerusalem will come down from heaven here.” And, because of this, even down to this day, they say, that certain women and men also are initiated there on the site, so that those people can wait for Christ and see him [themselves]. They are women in this group whom they refer to as prophetesses.

**Tertullian (155 – 240 CE), the North African Christian theologian, was an adherent to the New Prophecy. Later writers, of which there are a great number, argued voluminously against the Montanists. For a comprehensive set of documents, see Montanist Archives

***For female Christ images see: Art that Dares

 

 

 

Faith Healing: How to Prove or Disprove?

The_Faith_Healer_(1921)_-_Isis_Theater,_Indianapolis,_Indiana

Hi All,

The evidence for faith healing relies not on statistics and scientific procedures, primarily, but on personal testimonies. Testimonies, which are designed to strengthen one’s own faith while convincing or converting an audience, can be faked and dissimulated.

Semantically, a healing testimony or faith claim enacts an exchange between the giver of the message and its recipient. If the recipient doubts, the faith testimony has failed, in a sense, since it has not achieved its goal of converting the listener. If the giver of the message is lying, then even if the listener believes it, this faith healing is untrustworthy.

Nor does quantity of evidence matter so much as quality, when it comes to healing miracles. A multitude can be tricked and deceived, just as a single person of discernment may be sufficient to vouch for the truth of a miracle or faith claim.

Further, proof of spiritual matters — such as healing or prayer – can be quite elusive. One believes in the causality of the Spirit, through prayer or healing, once one receives its benefits. Yet, the mind and ordinary reasoning kick in very soon afterwards. Doubts crowd in and ordinary explanations assert themselves, thus undercutting the validity and credibility of one’s faith or healing testimony.

How then do we decide faith healing claims?  It may be that the mode for gaining trust in a faith claim is not unlike our ways for ascertaining a trustworthy character or a reliable experience of love.

The heart can be deceived, yet after some time, and some testing, by our intuition we do know, if we are honest with ourselves.  We recognize the one we love, the one who loves us. We can ascertain who is trustworthy. Likewise, we know when faith plays a role in healing; it will be obvious to the heart that is open and discerning.

Some have made use of new scientific paradigms in order to test phenomena like distance healing and the use of thoughts or intentions to provide beneficial outcomes. See, for instance, the interview (below) with Lynne McTaggert, author of The Intention Experiment.

Here are some resources, for your own exploration.

1. Here’s a discussion of the science of healing, prayer, and paranormal experiences by the researcher Larry Dossey : a podcast interview and an older article

Dossey Interview podcast

Dossey NY Times 90’s

2.  Here are testimonies of faith claims by Christians:

Christian Scientists: Christian Science Healing Video

#2 Christian Science Healing Video

Evangelical Christians: Testimonies: Christian Assemblies International

3. Fraudulent Faith Healing

Faith Healing Scam Article

James Randi : Skeptic

4. Interview with Lynne McTaggert about distance healing and such phenomena:

 

 

Jesus in India: Hoax or Hidden Reality?

JesusKrishnaHello Lightworkers,

Nicolas Notovitch (1858-1916), a Russian, popularized the notion that Jesus had travelled to India in his The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. I am linking to the audiobook version and to the PDF copy of his book. This Russian doctor, while traveling through the Himalayas, over the Vale of Kashmir, stayed in a Tibetan convent. There he learned about a Tibetan legend, called The Life of St. Issa, about Jesus’s sojourn in India and Tibet.

Was  The Life of St. Issa, and the general proposal of Jesus’s sojourn in India, a deliberate hoax? Here’s a 19th century article arguing that it was just such a fiction: Hoax article

One Swami Abhedananda, however, purported to confirm Notovitch’s evidence. During his travels in the region, he found a Bengali translation  of Notovitch’s text (two hundred twenty-four verses).  A Russian philosopher Nicholas Roerich  (1925) followed suit and corroborated Notovitch’s discovery.  (See: Notovitch: Corroborating Evidence )

Here’s the PDF of Notovitch’s work: The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ

Bread, Freedom, or a Kiss: John 6 / Grand Inquisitor

j6hj3k43Hello Lightworkers,

This post is for our Gospel of John study #35 (see the text reproduced below– all the way below the second picture):

The Grand Inquisitor, in Dostoyevsky’s parable, asks Jesus to justify his claims to freedom and his refusal of Satan’s offer. Satan offers Jesus the chance to prove his abilities, in turning  stones into bread. In Dostoyevsky’s episode, the character Ivan (who speaks for the Grand Inquisitor) argues that the ability to feed the multitudes is the basis for both political and religious authority. Human beings require to have their stomachs filled and where one aches in hunger, freedom will count as whatever thing may appease one’s appetites and guarantee one’s survival. Thus, if Jesus had wanted a popular following, he should rightly have accepted the Devil’s suggestion, to turn stones into bread.

In John 6, while Jesus does perform a miracle of feeding, he refuses to become a political king on this basis; even though the crowds wish to make him a king, Jesus escapes from their grasp.  In effect, Jesus dissents from the Grand Inquisitor’s worldview (as spoken by Ivan) and from seizing for himself spiritual authority on the basis of an economic and political platform.

In what does freedom consist? And must our survival be assured (our material needs satisfied) before freedom can be enjoyed? Dostoyevsky provides an answer which bypasses this alternative: a Kiss (this will be explained below).

In John 6, Jesus continues his miracles by feeding the five thousand (John 6:1-15). The feeding of the five thousand occurs in all four gospels. John interprets this miracle as a sign to the crowds that Jesus is King. Jesus is the long awaited “prophet like Moses,” who was expected to become King, while doing miracles reminiscent of a legendary time in Israel’s history. Just as God fed the people in the wilderness with manna, so Jesus will do so with bread. Yet, if the crowds expect Jesus to be King, it is a role that Jesus refuses: John 6:15 “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

In this historical period, while Israel rose up against Rome, the imperial overlord, a number of leaders performed miracles, while claiming to be prophets and kings. One may read about such movements in the works of Richard Horsley here: Bandits, Prophets, Messiahs. Significant for John is that Jesus refuses the role of popular political leader or king.

Later in this chapter, Jesus will make the baffling claim that unlike Moses, he does not merely feed people with bread. Rather Jesus is himself the Bread given for the world, John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. We will discuss this saying further in the next post of our Gospel of John study series.

Jesus’s refusal may be elucidated then by the Grand Inquisitor episode in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Here is the audio book version: Audio Book: Grand Inquisitor . Here is the full text of the episode: Text Grand Inquisitor Episode and here: Grand Inquisitor.

In this episode, Ivan claims that if Jesus were to return, he would be arrested by the Church and prosecuted by the Inquisition, specifically for his refusal of Satan, when Satan challenges him to turn stone in to bread. Ivan’s challenge pertains also to John 6:15, where Jesus refuses to become an earthly King, whose job is to feed and improve the material conditions of people’s lives.

The masses, Jesus says, require a political ruler who will give bread to eat. Virtue and freedom lack utility and have no substance, when economic conditions are unstable.  Regarding Jesus’s claim to provide the bread of heaven rather than earthly bread,  Ivan says: “And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly?”

Ivan’s question is alive in our own day: how may we live in freedom, if our basic needs are not supplied? Shouldn’t bread come first and our needs be satisfied? Before freedom can be genuinely claimed and lived?

The response of Christ to Ivan’s challenge in this episode mirrors the response of his brother, Aloysha, who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and it echoes a scene earlier in  the book, where the monk Zosima’s gesture to their brother Demitri, by bowing before him. Jesus responds with a kiss, which reverses the kiss of Judas, from the Gospels. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, kisses Jesus to reveal his identity to the arresting party. He trades Jesus away for money. It is Judas who has argued that the perfume, which Mary squanders by anointing the feet of Jesus, ought to be sold and donated to the poor. Judas puts material needs above the intrinsic dignity of life itself.

Christ’s kiss in Dostoyevsky’s story does the opposite. This kiss affirms the intrinsic dignity of life and the human being. Each of us is beloved. Our beloved stature before God, not bread alone, gives us our freedom.

the-arrest-of-christ-kiss-of-judas

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

John 6  (NIV) Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.