(M.J.E. Spirit / Thu., 24 Dec., 1998)

Spirit Dialogues

Explorations of Spirit
by Michael Edwards

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Thursday, 24 December, 1998

      Michael: Good evening, Bivalia. How's things?

      Bivalia:[a] Very well, thank you, Michael. And how are things with you?

      Michael: Oh, okay, I guess. I guess I'm a bit limited in time, because I have to get up early in the morning (early for me, that is), because my mother's going to telephone to wake me at 9.30, whether I've had enough sleep or not. And that, of course, is because of the family get-together on Christmas day.

      Bivalia: Are you looking forward to that?

      Michael: Oh, so-so. I guess I like company, as I am often lonely; but the ritual of Christmas doesn't impress me, and in fact I think I feel more and more uncomfortable with it each year. I find all the rush, the gift-giving, and so on, artificial, and quite crazy.

      Bivalia: You don't see it as an expression of love?

      Michael: Well, it might be for some. But I find it difficult to see how something like that, so surrounded by tradition and etiquette and unspoken expectations, can be an unsullied expression of love.

      Bivalia: Sullied it may be; but need that exclude genuine love, even if it is mixed with other less desirable aspects?

      Michael: No, it need not; but, in our culture, I think the less desirable aspects, such as those I briefly mentioned, predominate. If I see something that I know someone wants (at any time of the year), I am quite likely to buy it for them, and when I give it to them, I won't ask for payment, so it is a gift. And I try not to accept money for it, although sometimes they insist. I like that. That's the sort of gift giving I enjoy; but I think it is a far cry from institutionalized, ritualized gift-exchanging, where you are effectively dictated by a list of people you just must buy something for, at a particular time.
      But I didn't start this session in order to make a diatribe against Christmas.

      Bivalia: No, I know you didn't.

      Michael: People talk about some vague thing called the "Christmas spirit"; but I'm afraid I have to admit that I have no idea about that; it's just something I don't feel at all. I am sceptical about such things.

      Bivalia: Well, there is a Christmas spirit, you know.

      Michael: Yes, I realize that. You are probably meaning that in a slightly different sense to what people colloquially mean by that phrase.

      Bivalia: Yes, it is different in one sense; but perhaps not as much as you imagine. We've talked before about spirit in many different contexts, including particular spirits such as that of Indian summer, of the forests or mountains, of sunsets, of red sunsets, and so on. You obviously have a keen sensitivity to some of these spirits. We have generalized from these to saying that everything without exception has spirit of some kind, of such a kind that it is the very essence of that thing, so that what manifests (the physical things or phenomena that you can touch or observe) is simply the inevitable physical reflection of that spirit.

      Michael: Yes. I guess that's about my view, to put it in a nutshell, although a brief description such as that hardly does justice to the idea.

      Bivalia: Quite. We both understand that in more detail, and have spent many enjoyable pages discussing it, so there is no need to go over all that again now. But I just want to suggest that, in exactly the same kind of way, Christmas has a spirit, and (surprise, surprise), it is especially active in the month of December each year, and reaches its climax of activity on the 25th of that month. That spirit is simply the origin of all emotions, activities, phenomena, or objects which are specifically connected with Christmas. It includes the religious aspects, the secular ones, and even the frankly greedy, commercial ones; it is a diverse spirit that simply includes all aspects of Christmas. Of course, if you like some aspects better than others, you can concentrate on those, and even consider them as a subset to constitute another, smaller, spirit of Christmas, which you might call the "true" spirit of Christmas (as against the parts you think false).

      Michael: I have no trouble with the idea you're getting at. But, even if I isolate some supposedly "true" spirit of Christmas, it's just something I have no feel for. I certainly don't deny its existence, nor do I deny that it might be a very nice thing for people whose hearts it is close to. I'm not (at present) one of those people. Of course that could change one day; nothing I say precludes that possibility.

      Bivalia: Fair enough. I know it's not why you came now. But you don't mind discussing other things along the way, do you?

      Michael: Of course not. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't want to, because I realize you don't force an agenda on me. You may at times gently suggest things to me, but basically you let me go the way I want to. I typed out a couple of things I thought I might want to mention, and Christmas was one of them.
      But I didn't want to go into it in great depth, so I might move on.
      I must admit I've thought recently that my channelling is slipping a bit, and in fact I've been feeling a bit apart from Spirit. But perhaps over the last couple of days I've been feeling it again, and I want to talk about it with you.

      Bivalia: Of course.

      Michael: Well, the thing that prompted this feeling was to do with the twilight sky, and the fact that that has prompted me to write more haiku verses: three of them in a row, on successive nights, on the same theme.

      Bivalia: Would you like to quote them for me, please?

      Michael: Yes. I'll give them now, as I typed them out.

                              Summer twilight:
                                  droning cicadas, the new moon -
                                  and Venus, too; it's been so long.

                                                                              ca. 9.30 p.m.
                                                                              Tuesday, 22 December, 1998.

                              Again - cicadas, the moon, Venus:
                              a little different now.
                                  All things change - even truth, even Spirit.

                                                                              ca. 9.30 p.m.
                                                                              Wednesday, 23 December, 1998.

                              Again, the moon higher, Venus brighter;
                                  the cycles of life go on,
                                  but all will be fulfilled.

                                                                              ca. 9.30 p.m.
                                                                              Thursday, 24 December, 1998.

      Bivalia: Well - there's quite a bit of feeling in those few words. And look at the way you wrote them on three successive nights, at about the same time, too. What's behind that?

      Michael: Well, it reflects the fact that on those successive nights (the most recent time just a few hours ago) I was in the same place at the same time, and saw the same things, three times in a row.

      Bivalia: Three times in a row. It has certain resonances for things to happen in threes.

      Michael: What I saw was the twilight sky; and it evoked something of that sense of longing and wonder I've talked about before. This, more than anything else, seems to suggest spirit to me.

      Bivalia: Indeed it does.

      Michael: And I noticed the spirit of the evening each time, and it was basically the same kind of evening, but subtly different. The crescent moon got a bit bigger each time (as of course it does when waxing), and Venus, the evening star was a bit higher above the horizon each time, and a bit brighter, although it was still just a pale dot in the yellow afterglow of sunset, not the brilliant jewel-like thing it can be at other times. But I imagine we'll get to that later on, because this was the first time I'd seen it as evening star for quite a while (as the first verse says), and obviously it has recently begun moving away from the sun (as seen from earth).
      The evening star has certain memories for me, because I was quite preoccupied with heavenly phenomena a while ago, especially in the 1970s, and, although back then I hadn't formulated in any coherent way the view of spirit I now have, I think even then I had a dim awareness of the suggestion of spirit in the moon, planets, and so on. It also tied in with my interest in science-fiction.
      In the second verse, I seem to draw an analogy between the slight difference between the two evenings, even though they were basically the same kind, and the fact that truth, and spirit itself, are not static things that can be completely described or defined in doctrines or rules, that maybe they change and evolve, or at least that our perspective on them, our insights into them, change.

      Bivalia: Yes, spirit is evolving, just as humanity is; and humanity is helping God's evolution just as much as he is helping humanity's.

      Michael: And I think when the last verse came to me, I was thinking of the fact that there seem to be two different kinds of world view amongst religions or spiritual paths.
      One is cyclic, and it has the wheel of karma, rounds of incarnation, and so on, presumably going on practically forever. People who take this view often see the ordinary cycles of life (the seasons, day and night, birth and death) as somehow analogous to this, and they like to cite the maxim "As above, so below". I guess I can relate to parts of this view, but other parts of it disturb me or depress me a bit, making life seem a bit like an endless treadmill. I dislike the assumption that often accompanies this view that pain and darkness and hate are an inherent part of the cycles of life, and are simply the balancing counterparts of pleasure and light and love.

      Bivalia: Yes, I know you have trouble with this; there are reasons for it, and you are in no sense being called upon to abandon your views on such matters.

      Michael: I couldn't change them at present, anyway, even if I were being called upon to do so. I've grappled with them for over 20 years, and my views on that don't seem to change.
      The other kind of world view puts less emphasis on cycles, and deals with one-off events, or singularities, as I think they are sometimes called. Traditional Christianity is more inclined this way: you have the creation, which took place once only, and you have one life on this world, and there is the final judgement, and (in some versions) you go either up or down, and that's final for the rest of eternity. There's the concept that the saved finally unite with God, and never have to leave him again - and so on.
      Well, perhaps I could accept parts of this view that puts more importance on once-only events; but I would have trouble with parts of this, too. I think there might be some sort of happy medium between the cyclic view of life and spirit, and the once-only view, and I think this is another of those things I've been pondering (on and off) over the years.

      Bivalia: You're right about the happy medium; there is some degree of truth in both views, much more than the opponents of either view imagine there to be; but neither view by itself gives a complete picture of the reality of things. And you are right that people generally seem to go very much for one view or the other, and overlook the possibility of a compromise between the two.

      Michael: I think this issue of cycles versus once-only events is roughly what I had in mind in writing the third haiku tonight; somehow the juxtaposition of the cycles of nature I was observing with my own view of spirit prompted these thoughts. But I don't think my haiku really answers any definite questions about this.

      Bivalia: Haiku rarely do answer questions; rather, they raise possibilities and prod the mind and emotions.
      Perhaps your haiku says nothing definite about the matter, but it certainly shows an awareness of the potential dichotomy between the two views.
      On one side of the matter, yes, the cycles of life do exist (the earth rotates, which explains why you could see the moon and Venus at the same time on successive nights; but those bodies have their orbits too, which are cycles of different duration, and so they look different on those successive nights). The conflicting interactions between different cycles can lead to a curious mixture of great changeability and stability, and it contributes to the subtlety and complexity of life.
      The verse seems to hint at an awareness of the cycles of life, and suggests (without hitting you over the head about it) that there may be subtle connections between this and the realm of spirit. But on the other side of the matter, it also seems to suggest that the cycles are not everything, that maybe there are matters that transcend them. As you said, "yet all will be fulfilled". That seems to suggest an achievement that is not dependent on cycles.
      In actual fact, the higher realms of spirit are interwoven in an incredibly complex way with cycles and with things that happen once only. That addresses the concerns of people who are sceptical of heaven because once eternal bliss is achieved and there is nothing left unfulfilled, it will be incredibly boring. Of course this is not in the least so. Anything you want to do will reach fulfilment, and yet there will be always new things to start out on. There is a degree of union with God that from your perspective seems final and ultimate; but in reality union with God is a process, not an event: a journey, not a destination. It is a journey that gets better and better all the way, so that at any point along the way you have a sense of fulfilment, not of incompletion; yet there is further to go, as far as you want to go.

      Michael: I understand that, and the supposed boredom of heaven (if we want to use that theologically loaded term) has never been a problem with me. I think (although I hadn't thought about it to that level of detail until just now) this was part of the thinking that prompted the verse I wrote tonight.

      Bivalia: So, all in all, the twilight you saw three times recently has given you quite an interesting spiritual lesson.

      Michael: Maybe you could say that. I don't know if I'll be there to see it a fourth time, because I'm not sure whether I'm going back to my mother's after Christmas at my brother's.

      Bivalia: Well, let happen what wants to. There's no reason why you should make a special effort to experience it yet again. That lesson could quite well be over now, because after all there's a saying that portentous things happen in threes.

      Michael: That's only fairy-tale stuff, isn't it?

      Bivalia: Maybe - but don't knock it. Sometimes such ideas originate because there's a grain of truth in them. I don't know if things really do happen in threes or not; but I dare say that if someone believes they do (perhaps because it symbolizes the Trinity) they might well set up the astral machinery to make things happen in threes, and so confirm their belief.

      Michael: It's rather curious that I have taken to writing haiku in the last couple of years. I would never have expected it. I put all I had written into the same file last night, and there are 17 now.

      Bivalia: Well, I think your haiku are a wonderful channel through which to receive the touches of spirit which can illuminate your life.

      Michael: They're probably not genuine, or even nearly so; there are in fact a lot of rules about writing haiku, which I don't even know.

      Bivalia: If you want to enter haiku contests, you would do well to learn and observe those rules; but if you want to express spirit as you see it, I wouldn't get too hung up on that.
      You've already shared some with me earlier this year. Would you like to bring me up to date on what ones you've written since then?

      Michael: Well, there are a few more which I haven't already told you about. There's a group of three whose ideas came to me close in time, and which I finally put in words on the same day, round about March and April of this year. They simply capture moments of beauty I saw here and there, and other than suggesting a spiritual sense of wonder, they don't seem to have any deep message.

                              Pitch-black hillside;
                                  sinking amongst the trees,
                                  the moon's crescent, needle-sharp.

      This was something I saw in my own driveway one night. It is self-explanatory and needs no special comment.

                              Outside my window, a sunset world:
                              a hillside composed of orange-green light.
                                  I go outside to belong to it.

      The next one was a mountainside scene on Don Rd. as it winds upwards towards Mt. Donna Buang.

                              Sudden look-out on the autumn mountain-side:
                                  I tower over the misty valley
                                  bathed in liquid gold.

      They're just pleasant memories of little moments of beauty, nothing more.

      Bivalia: Nothing more?! You live in a society which has little time for beauty because of the rush of life, but you are fortunate enough to be able to appreciate it - yet you seem to belittle it somewhat. Don't undersell yourself, my friend, and don't underestimate the value of those little moments of beauty; they are very precious.

      Michael: Well, yes; I suppose that's why I wrote those verses. I certainly don't think they all have to be imbued with half-meaning.

      Bivalia: Any more?

      Michael: Yes, there's one more, which came to me just a month or two ago. It's rather gloomy, actually, in spite of being prompted by an incredibly beautiful scene. It's one of those very lonely ones, of which in a previous session I quoted to you a couple of early examples. It goes like this:

                              Weighed down by heaviness,
                              I long for the moonlit, pearly clouds overhead;
                              Spirit itself calls me in vain.

      Bivalia: Oh dear, oh dear. What was going on that night?

      Michael: I felt gloomy for no reason that I could identify. I was at my mother's, and she had just gone to bed round about 10 o'clock. I went outside (which I sometimes do for no special reason, just to see what there is to see), and the sky was covered with these incredibly beautiful wispy sort of clouds of that sort I love so much, and they were illuminated from behind by the full moon, quite visible, although a bit misty because of the clouds in front of it. The whole sky was suffused with this wonderful, deep yet luminous blue, and I could imagine the whole sky alive with cloud spirits, moon spirits, air spirits of all sorts, doing incomprehensible, wonderful things. I felt I had gained contact with spirit in one sense, but I still felt gloomy and unable to respond to it. That's pretty well what the verse says.

      Bivalia: Yes, spirit was reaching you; but you need not imagine that it was as vain as you suggest. If it had been truly vain, you would not even have had those feelings in the first place. But in fact you lingered outside for 10 or 15 minutes to drink in the atmosphere.

      Michael: Yes, but it made no difference to me.

      Bivalia: In the broader sense, this doesn't matter. These things nourish you, and it is not necessary (from the spiritual point of view) to actually change in the moment because of it.

      Michael: Well, I felt as if spirit was there, but veiled from me, and that's why I wrote the verse the way I did. I would have liked it if I could have written a verse about that wonderful moonlit sky with a more uplifting spiritual connection to it, but that isn't the way it came to me.

      Bivalia: Never mind. Many things happen in life, you respond to things in many different ways, and you should let your haiku reflect that.

      Michael: I regretted that, because that sky was one of the most wonderful I've ever seen, and I should have had wonderful thoughts about it.

      Bivalia: There's no "should" about it.

      Michael: Well, I think it's regrettable that I didn't; put it that way. That sky was the sort of thing that would usually make me think that maybe there's a purpose to life, that maybe spirit is real, that maybe there is a grand future hope. A scene such as that seems to contain an essence that is just so wonderful. I just wish I could fathom out why it fascinates me so much, what is so wonderful about it; but I can't. It makes me think there is something great and wonderful I am somehow missing.

      Bivalia: It will always be there; it will wait for you. There is no hurry. I cannot give any simple answer to your wondering. You will see what it is you long for one day. These things have to take their own time, and you will see that indeed spirit is connected with it, and that is why you get that feeling of spirit being involved. Spirit (God, if you prefer, which at times you seem to) is what all of us long for; every time we long for something, it is really spirit (God) that we long for. It manifests in your world in various ways, and sometimes the medium of manifestation can be confused with the real thing itself. No matter; these things will become clear in their own time.
      Are there any more haiku?

      Michael: No. Well, there's one that started to come into existence, but it didn't get beyond that. I typed out the following notes for a possible haiku, which simply describe a confluence of circumstances I happened to see together one evening:

poss haiku 24 Oct 1998

      Silent, cicadas burst into song
      light on distant hill
      trees black against blue and yellow sky
      lone bird circling overhead
      new crescent moon
      summer begins early
      bird after cicada
      cloud of insects gathers overhead

      There's too much there for a haiku, which by nature is brief and condensed, suggesting as much as it states, and I couldn't select which items most conveyed the spirit of that evening, because all of them seemed equally to belong - so I did nothing more about it.

      Bivalia: Perhaps you could have written a verse of more than 3 lines; there would be no problem, because you wouldn't need to even pretend it was a haiku.

      Michael: Well, maybe; but it would probably still give the impression of feeling like a haiku, but not being right because it's too long. Anyway, although I have those notes, I've probably lost the essence of the evening, so maybe it's too late to capture it, even though I still remember it fairly well. Maybe I can't capture its essence in words now any more than those notes already do. [b]
      Last night I heard this program about the poet Judith Wright. I wasn't paying all that much attention to it, and it was just on. But Sister Veronica Brady, a well-known academic and nun, who is apparently an expert on Judith Wright, spoke, and said something which I questioned, even though I've heard her before and she seems quite open-minded. She said that poetry is not about self-expression at all (and I began thinking she was being a bit puritan here in that Catholic kind of way), that there was nothing twee about it (which I found a puzzling remark), and that it was something to do with spell-myth incantation, and was sacrificial (I understood that even less, and the quotation is probably only approximate anyway).

      Bivalia: Well, not having the context before us, I'm not quite sure what she meant either, but she does seem to be suggesting a spiritual connection with poetry, which I imagine neither you nor I would quibble with.

      Michael: Well, yes; but it seems to me that poetry is self-expression, as much as anything is. I really don't understand what she meant by that, unless it is puritanism. She seems to think that the spiritual side and self-expression are mutually exclusive.

      Bivalia: You and I know that that is not so; or, at least, it is so only if one believes it, and thus makes that limitation operative for oneself.

      Michael: She doesn't, in general, seem puritan, so I have to just say I don't know what she meant. But, on the face of it, her statement seems to be one I would have to disagree with. She might have been commenting about Judith Wright's outlook rather than her own. Earlier on, she did in fact say that to Judith Wright poetry was not about self-expression.
      Anyway, it doesn't matter. I suppose it stuck in my mind because I had just been writing a little poetry myself.
      I also heard Phillip Adams talking with a man called Michael Screech, who had written a book about the history of laughter in religion, and about how laughter had influenced the growth of Christianity. I think he was a clergyman also.
      It could be an interesting book, and it seems unusual to write a book about laughter in religion, something I would think religion is sorely in need of, and peculiarly devoid of. But apparently the laughter is not always nice. The book was called Laughter at the Foot of the Cross, apparently because it seemed likely that people had laughed at Jesus on the cross, and it was not nice laughter, a bit the way people used to laugh at people locked in the stocks, or like when they would visit the lunatics in an asylum and laugh at them, just for a Sunday afternoon's entertainment. He also said there are parts of the Bible which almost have a laugh a minute, if you know where to look; but it was not usually nice laughter at all.
      He seemed a nice sort of guy, quite open-minded, and he didn't believe in hell or damnation. He admitted that might be a heresy.

      Bivalia: Well, he's a man after our own heart, isn't he?

      Michael: Yes, it seems so. He thought it would be terrible for anyone to be damned for eternity so we up in heaven could look down on them and watch them suffering. I think there's even a bit in the Bible about how the smoke of their torment rises up before God for all eternity. I think there are some terrible things in the Bible.

      Bivalia: Of course, they reflect human nature, not God or his love.

      Michael: Well, there would be those who would disagree; but let's not go into that. Michael Screech didn't think there was anyone at all he would want to be punished eternally, not even Hitler.

      Bivalia: Yes; and there's that passage in Conversations with God, where God says something that is too shocking for most people: "Hitler went to heaven".

      Michael: Well, I suppose it is a bit confronting; you get to think he should be brought to account in some fashion, perhaps not eternally, but he should have a hard time for a good long while.
      But I see the point behind the statement. Maybe Hitler would have to face a few facts about himself and what he had done, and that might be painful. He would have to change quite a few of his ways. But in essence he's no different to the rest of us, even if the degree is different.

      Bivalia: That is so. [c]

      Michael: In general, Michael Screech thought God was a much kinder being than we have usually given him credit for. I wish we could hear more people say it.

      Bivalia: So do I; so do I.

      Michael: But Michael Screech did say one thing that I thought was neat. The idea wasn't new to me, but I don't think I'd heard it put so neatly. He addressed the problem of what it means to be just, or to be good. He said that either justice is merely defined as what God does, or else it is something so great that God himself conforms to it. Similarly, he thought that either good was simply whatever God's standards are, or else it is something greater than that, which God himself fits in with, because he is good. (And I'm probably giving the quote only approximately.) On these questions, Michael Screech was inclined to the latter view (not merely defining them as what God does, but considering them as inherent things God conforms to). On the face of it, I would agree with him on this.

      Bivalia: On the face of it, so would I; but there are assumptions built into this question, whichever side you take. If qualities like justice or good or love are simply defined as "whatever God does", they would seem to be arbitrary, and might be almost anything. God might as well be unjust or hateful, yet with this approach we would have to define these attributes as justice or love, if God claimed these qualities for himself. But it seems a highly unsatisfactory and arbitrary definition. If this is what we believe, we might as well abandon such names as "good" or "justice" or "love", which seem to have meanings that go beyond this, and simply refer to the way God is, perhaps inventing some phrase or term for it.
      But, on the other hand, if we reject this approach, then we have to acknowledge that these qualities exist outside of God, and God can either conform to them or not. But if they don't originate with God, where do they come from? We usually think of God as the source of everything (although this itself has assumptions built into it).

      Michael: A neat little theological conundrum, isn't it? Although it seems a paradox when put into words like that, somehow the question doesn't seem to bother me all that much.

      Bivalia: Yes, I think it is to some extent merely playing with words. But let's follow it a little on those terms and see where it leads. I think the fallacy lies in having too much of a person-like image of God, and limiting that with various human attributes (whether they be what we think of as good or bad).

      Michael: Well, should we think of God as impersonal, then?

      Bivalia: It's one model that may suit some people. But I would think a super-personal God is a better image to use.

      Michael: Some Christian writers have said that when non-Christian believers talk about a super-personal God they really mean an impersonal one. (There's usually a faintly derogatory or critical feel to such remarks.)

      Bivalia: They're free to think what they like; and people are free to believe in an impersonal God but call him super-personal. But it doesn't mean we have to do that.
      It's all very fine and well to think of God as embodying the best of all those qualities we think of as personal, which we value; and, the way I see it, I would fully go along with that in general, even if my way of doing it might be a bit different in some ways. But there is another side to God as well. I won't go into the contentious question now of whether God is the origin or source of things which are bad (destructive, unloving, separating, however you like to define "bad"), or whether he creates only good, but some things then go bad, or even whether there might be a devil who is bad.

      Michael: Yes, that's a whole topic of its own; I don't remember if we've discussed it before, but I'm sure we've touched on it, and implied some sort of view on that.

      Bivalia: But perhaps we could agree that God is the source of all that is good. Not merely that he created it like a potter creating a pot, but that he is in some deep sense the source of it, the essence of it. Perhaps one way of putting it is that he is the spirit of all that is good.

      Michael: I think that might be a circular definition.

      Bivalia: I know, but I think you see what I'm getting at.

      Michael: I guess so.

      Bivalia: In this sort of discussion, words tend to trip us up, to get in the way as much as help us.
      If we can avoid being limited by an exclusively personal view of God, perhaps we can see that both the views expressed by Michael Screech are in a sense true. God is good, so of course he follows those principles which are good; yet he is in a sense the spirit of good himself, the source of it, so it is within him, too. I can't really put it in words better than that, although I know it sounds a bit contradictory. I think it's one of those things you either feel into, and wonder what the fuss is all about, or else you don't, in which case no argument will help.

      Michael: Yes, I see what you mean. As I said above, I've never really felt it to be an issue. Not because it's unimportant, but because I feel I have an understanding of it that I can accept for the time being.

      Bivalia: Both views of this are true, like most of those old spiritual conundrums that polarize people. We talked about the Trinity in an earlier session, and used an off-the-cuff parable to illustrate the way I see it. There's the question of whether God is immanent or transcendent, which has been the subject of theological debate; and you won't be surprised to learn that of course he's both, depending on the perspective you view it from.

      Michael: Yes, I accept that also. I don't habitually use those terms, but I understand "immanent" to mean that God is part of the universe, bound up with its essence somehow, and "transcendent" to mean that God stands outside the universe, which is merely his creation.

      Bivalia: I'm not well up on theological jargon, but that's approximately how I meant the terms. I think it is at least approximately what theologians mean by those terms.
      When there are opposing spiritual views about any of the deep questions, usually there is some truth in both sides. In fact, the more contentious the question, the more it divides people into opposing camps, the more it is so that both sides have truth in them. The view a person takes on one of these great debates tells us a lot more about that person than it does about God.

      Michael: Well, Bivalia, I think I've brought up the main things I wanted to: that is, about those evenings whose spirit I seemed to tune into, which suggested those haiku. I really must go now, and I'm already not going to get enough sleep. I'm willing to take the risk of missing sleep for the sake of doing a good channelling though. And I suppose it's been -

      Bivalia: Uh-uh! Don't judge whether it's a good channelling or not; it's just what it is. What we talked about was what you needed to talk about at this time. Another time it will be something else, or you might pursue the same themes further. But don't judge it as good or bad, or better or worse than another session.

      Michael: Okay. I can't help having such feelings about the quality of a session, but I see your point.

      Bivalia: Well, Michael, it's been nice to see you again, after three months or so.

      Michael: Yes, the last time was that series of short daily sessions (with a couple of gaps) you suggested I do. That was only a moderately successful experiment.

      Bivalia: Don't judge it. The point of it was not to pass a test of any kind, or to get enough marks. You did it, for a few days at least, then decided not to continue in that fashion for the time being. But it is always open for you to do that daily kind of session again in the future if you want to.

      Michael: I think I found it a little less effective than I thought it would be, and felt I couldn't sustain it.

      Bivalia: Fair enough; it was a useful experiment, and you know you can do it again if you feel you need to.

      Michael: Thanks for being with me, but I think I must finish up now; and I think I've run out of things to say anyway.

      Bivalia: Thank you for being with me, too. Good night.

      Michael: Good night.


[a] Tuesday, 26 March, 2002 - "Bivalia:":
      See the first
note at the end of the dialogue for Monday, 13 June, 1994, for the meaning of the name "Bivalia", and why I adopted it in these dialogues as the name for my Higher Self. [Back]

[b] Saturday, 17 February, 2001 - [Apropos of the foregoing discussion about haiku written by myself]:
      The haiku quoted and discussed can be found on the main part of my web site, on various pages all accessible from
http://www.foxall.com.au/users/mje/Haiku.htm. As you will see on that page, there are separate pages which also quote the verses and give some commentary on how I came to write them.
      Please note that this page, and all pages leading off it, are quite separate from the dialogues web site you are presently in, and most of these page don't have a link back to any dialogues pages. (Two pages of relevant interest do, but those links may be a little hard to find. See here for my reasons for not making links to the dialogue web site more prominent, which goes against my usual policy of making links very clear and easy to find.) Therefore if you think you might want to come back to this page, or to any other dialogues-related pages, it might be better for you to either open the haiku page in a separate window of your browser, or else, when you are finished with the haiku pages, use the "Back" button in your browser to reverse through any pages you pass through to arrive back here. [Back]

[c] Saturday, 12 May, Friday, 6 July, 2001 - [Foregoing discussion about Adolf Hitler]:
      In these very politically-correct times when the issues surrounding the Holocaust seem more hypersensitive than ever before, some people who read this may possibly think I'm making light of the terrible things Hitler and the Nazis did to Jews and others, and they might even find it offensive for me to speak the way I did.
      Don't get me wrong. I don't mean any offence, and I write this footnote to make this clear, and to show that I am aware of people's sensibilities. I think what happened during the Holocaust was as terrible and shocking and obscene as anyone thinks it is, and I think Hitler must have been one of the greatest human rights violators and one of the worst atrocity perpetrators the world has ever seen.
      I was really addressing a theological point, and using Hitler as an example - not expressing a view about Hitler and the Holocaust (my views on that not being in the least controversial). The theological point was to consider, and argue in favour of, the idea that no-one is condemned literally for ever, and that all humans are eventually rehabilitated spiritually, and all of them ultimately grow spiritually and reach God. Quoting Michael Screech, I used the Hitler example precisely because his crimes were so extreme; so I was effectively saying that even if he will ultimately achieve salvation and spiritual growth, then it shows what a basic and fundamental principle I see universal salvation as, and how utterly unacceptable I see the concept of eternal damnation as being.
      My use of Hitler in my reasoning was not meant to show that the terrible suffering he caused wasn't quite so bad after all; rather, it was meant to show how ultimately terrible and obscene I find the idea of eternal damnation, and how fundamental I consider the idea of universal salvation.
      If you find that unacceptable, and the ultimate salvation of Hitler as obscene, then so be it. I am not responsible for how you react, and we have to agree to disagree on certain theological issues. If I hold the theological point I just made to be central (as I do), I can't make an exception for certain individuals just because I happen to think they committed especially bad deeds - not even Hitler.
      If you believe in the concept of eternal damnation for some people, and you find obscene the very idea that Hitler might not be tortured for ever, then we must part company. But, before we part company on this issue, just consider this: if God does allow the eternal torment of some people in hell (presumably including Hitler), then that makes him worse than Hitler - far worse. In fact, it makes him quite literally, mathematically, infinitely worse than Hitler. Hitler (or his minions), however intense the suffering he could impose on people in concentration camps, torture chambers, and so on, could only impose it for a limited period of time: a single human life-time at the very most, or probably less than a century - and he imposed it on a fairly small proportion of the world's population. But the God who, it is claimed by millions of Christians, sends non-believers to hell is condemning them to a literally infinite period of torment that by common assent is very intense - and he's doing it to a major proportion of the world's population, for no reason more serious than that they don't happen to believe in Christ.
      An infinite time of suffering is literally infinitely many times worse than any finite period of suffering, however long. In mathematics, any finite number multiplied by another number, however large, still falls short of infinity, so infinity is literally infinitely many times as great as any finite number. And therefore hell as it is usually depicted is quite literally infinitely more atrocious than the Holocaust, or any other horrors mankind is capable of perpetrating.
      If anyone disagrees with me on that, I challenge them to read the truly horrific article on Hell in the Catholic Encyclopedia before coming back to debate it with me. If you are interested, this can be read at
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm. In arguing the case for the barbarity of this doctrine, this article needs no help from me; indeed, I am in awe of the sadistic mind that conceived the ideas expressed here (whoever it was - and it may not be the author of the article, who may merely have formulated doctrines and ideas that originated elsewhere).
      To be sure, this was written over a century ago, and I don't know how strongly the Roman Catholic Church still adheres to this view, although I've never heard that they officially repudiated it. But it is a particularly vivid expression of the kind of thinking that can still be found overtly in many "charismatic" churches (I use the quote marks quite deliberately - sorry, but charismatic is the very last thing I find this kind of faith), or Pentecostal or other fundamentalist churches. And when talking with members of mainstream middle-of-the-road Christian churches, I find that, while they don't overtly express such a view of the ultimate fate of non-believers, they do nonetheless say things that hint that such a view is still very widespread amongst church leaders and members, even if it is sometimes only semi-conscious. Most often, if you try to bring it up with church members or clergy, they get very uncomfortable and evasive, and try to change the subject, and might say something about preferring to focus on the positive benefits of faith in Christ than in negative thinking about hell. [Back]

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