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Angels, Their Existence And Purposes
The Theology and Divinity Behind the Charismatic
Movement in the Roman Catholic Church
Angels, Their Existence And
Angels, Their Existence And Purposes
To know the reality about Angels, their existence, their kinds and their purpose have always been an effort of the humans. Angels are believed to be Celestial beings. All religions are concerned with the relationship of human beings with the supernatural realm. In ancient Greek religion, in Judaism and Christianity, and in Islam this relationship is thought to involve angels. According to a medieval hierarchy there are nine classes of heavenly beings, which are: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominations, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim. Angels can be broadly described as personified powers mediating between the divine and the human.
The Existence of Angels
The Jewish Concept of Angels
Purposes of Angels
by Donna Evans
The Nazarites and Seers of Ancient Israel;
This is a summary of a research into the origins of Christianity that I and
another colleague were asked to participate in by two professors at Hebrew
Union College while they worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. This occurred in
the early 1990's when the Dominican Order in Jerusalem and their associates
called the Ecole had their Monopoly on the scrolls broken. We were given
the work of researching the history of the Possible sects that may have written
these Ancient Manuscripts. We were told to find any credibility or validity
in the hypothesis of a Professor Eisenman at California State University.
He theorized that the Qumran Scrolls were written by ancient Jewish Gnostic
and Kabbalistic Sects like the Elkasites, Ossaeans, Ebionites, and the Nazareans
that dwelled in the Jordan River Valley area. He also theorized that there
may have been a relationship between the Qumran Origins and the Jerusalem
Church of James the Just, who was the Leader and the Successor of Jesus over
the Jerusalem Church. Thus His theory implied that Christianity had its origins
in the Jewish Esoteric and Gnostic Community of ancient Judea.
What we find now in this investigation is very, very intriguing! The Disciples of the Nazirite Prophet John the Baptist, who formed his Nazarene Sect have become known to this Day as the Mandeans (Gnostics). It is a known Fact, that Jesus had to separate from the Nazarenes of the Jordan Valley because of the changes he made in the Doctrine of John. And He Started HIS OWN NAZARENE SECT! This Nazarene Sect of Jesus became the Jerusalem Church! The Nazarene Sect of Jesus the Nazarene was a Gnostic and Kabbalistic Sect that had its origins in the Oral, Esoteric Tradition of Judaism. In ACTS 24:5, We find The Apostle Paul being Called "A Leader of the Sect of the Nazarenes". Thus the Evidence is Compelling that the sect that Jesus Christ Started was His own Nazarene sect that emerged from the Mysteries of the Nazarene Kabbalah and Jewish Gnosticism of the Esoteric tradition of Israel. We find also that the Doctrine of the Nazarene Sect of Jesus opposes the Fundamentalism, Legalism and Exoterica of Orthodox Christianity today. The evidence is there that the James the Just, the successor of Jesus over the Jerusalem Church and his Brother is described as a Jewish Nazirite--Mackay, "Rise and Progress of Christianity". Thus we have found that Professor Eisenman's theory has gain some considerable Validity in Scholastic Circles.
Daniel 7:21," As I looked, This Horn made war with the Saints and Prevailed over them. Until the Ancient Of Days Come and Judgment was given to the Saints of the Most High and the time came when the Saints receive the Kingdom."
Daniel 7:25-27,"(The Horn) shall speak words against the Most High and shall wear out the Saints of the Most High and shall think to change the times and the Law. And (the Saints)shall be given into his hand for 3 1/2 times. But the Divine Court shall sit in Judgement and the Dominion of the Little Horn shall be taken away to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the Kingdom and the Dominion and the Greatness of the Kingdoms under the whole Heaven shall be given to the Assembly of the Saints of the Most High; Their Kingdom shall be an everlasting Kingdom and All dominions shall serve and obey them.
"A Woman Clothed with the Sun, With the Moon under her Feet and On Her head a Crown of 12 Stars."
The Theology and Divinity Behind the
"All of you are Christ's body and each one is a part of it. In the Church God has put all in place. In the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers: then those who perform miracles followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help others or to direct them to speak in strange tongues. They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers. Not everyone has the power to work miracles or to heal disease or to speak in strange tongues or to explain what is said. Set your hearts then on the more important gifts." - 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
With these two preceding passages I hope to introduce my intent to bridge my insight into the Theological beliefs of the traditional Roman Catholic Church and the Divinity behind the emerging charismatic movement within the church. I would like to Theologically provide a basis of the traditional Roman Catholic system of belief's and then attempt to explain why more and more Roman Catholics throughout the world are turning to the more Divinity-based Charismatic movement.
The Roman Catholic system of beliefs are in essence based on the love of three entities of God. They are God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Another part of the foundation is allowing the Holy Spirit to move freely through us to "love our neighbor as ourselves." It also teaches us to take responsibility for our actions: to not make the same mistake twice. The whole truth is the salt for our emotional wounds. Fasting is a physiological way of cleansing the body and its is more importantly a time to renounce the way of the world.
Then there are the seven sacraments, the hundreds of canonized saints and what they represent, the dozens of clergical orders, the Doctrines, symbolisms, Rights and Acts which would take dozens of pages to even begin to attempt to explain. For that reason I will insert some of my favorite passages and thoughts that I found in some of my Catholic printings. I chose these because they are a part of Catholic Theology and they all have touched my life.
"Our Highest happiness consists in the feeling that another's good is purchased by our sacrifice." - Fulton J. Sheen
"I will instruct you and teach you the ways you should go: I will counsel you with my eye upon you." - Psalm 32:8
"Your hands to work and your hearts to God and a blessing will attend you." - Mother Ann Lee
"Give me all that is thine, and I will give you all that is mine." - Mechthild of Magdeburg
"Anyone who is not with Me is against Me and anyone who does not gather Me scatters." - Matthew 12:30
"It is handed to you but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, back, your brain, and then -- only then it is handed to you." - Annie Dillard
"By renouncing the world we conquer the world, rise above its multiplicity, and recapitulate it in the simplicity of love which finds all things in God." - Thomas Merton
"To ask someone to pray for us-a friend-means that we confess to them our needs sometimes we confess not only our needs but our failings. Our confessions can also be private-to God alone. We confess because we want to be known, and to share what we ordinarily keep hidden... To confess is also to make a request. We ask God for help in correcting our mistakes. We ask God to inspire us to change and to forgive us.' - Kathleen Norris
"The externals are simply so many props; everything we need is within us." - Etty Hillesum
"It is a perverse mistake to identify the religious need solely with intuition and emotion, science solely with the logical and rational Prophets and discoverers, painters and poets all share this amphibial quality of living both on the contoured dry land and in the boundless ocean." - Arthur Koestler
"I find a heaven in the midst of saucepans and brooms." - St.Stanislaus Kostka
"Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for God has said "I will never leave you or forsake you." - Hebrews 13:5
"I pray when I play. Giving thanks to God can come in any form. You don't have to get on your Knees to give thanks. When I am truly grateful for something, I pray, and I pray when I don' t have anything." - Wynton Marsalis, trumpeteer
"God does not love us because we are valuable . We are valuable because God loves us." - Fulton Sheen
"I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." - John 6:35
"If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the spirit, you will reap eternal life from the spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we reap at harvest time, if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:8-9 Top
"Another intriguing story is when the Corinthians asked Paul, in effect, what were the most important or lasting attributes of life, and he responded 'Those you cannot see' This somewhat mysterious answer derogates the ambitions we have for wealth, prestige, security...and reminds us that the simple things needed for success are available to anyone; commitments to peace, justice, humility, service, forgiveness, compassion, love." - Jimmy Carter
"You go to pray: to become a bonfire, a living flame, giving heat and light." - Blessed Jose Escriva de Balaguer
"I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." - Elie Wiesel
"A pilgrimage is not a vacation, it is a transformational journey during which significant changes take place. New insights are giving deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received. Healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes." - Sister Macrina Wiederkehr O.S.B.
"We were born to make manifest the Glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others." - Nelson Mandela
"Christianity is a very simple thing; love other persons as you love God. Be as perfect as your father in heaven. Live in the Spirit of God, making the best of things, in the best possible way, for the best purposes. Even a child can understand these ideas yet a great mind cannot improve upon them." - Theodore Parker
"Jesus saw the crowds and went up a hill, where he sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them: Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor, the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them! Happy are those who are humble, they will receive what God has promised! Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires, God will satisfy them fully! Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! Happy are those who are pure in heart; they will see God! Happy are those who work for peace, God will call them his children! Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers; be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets before you were persecuted." - Luke 6:20-23
"The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses' Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don't practice what they preach. They tie onto people's backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry yet they aren't willing to even lift a finger to help them carry their loads. They do everything so that people will see them. Look at the straps with scriptures verses on them which they wear on their forehead and their arms and notice how large the are! Notice also how long are the tassels on their cloak! They love the best places at feasts and the reserved seats at the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have people call them 'Teachers'. You must not be called 'Teacher' because you are all brothers of one another and have only one Teacher. And you must not call anyone here on earth 'Father' because you have only the one Father in Heaven. Nor should you be called 'Leader' because your one and only Leader is the Messiah. The greatest one among you must be your servant. Whoever makes yourself great will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be made great." - Matthew 23:2-12 Top
Today more and more people are looking towards naturopathic to cure what is ailing them many of which are recorded in the Bible or recorded as visions. This is a subject that I definitely wish that I knew more about. Sister Hildegard of Bingen was a twelfth century German nun with no medical training. She based her healthcare program on her visions and it is still used today and growing in popularity. She emphasized preventing disease, eating a proper diet and living with the knowledge that a body cannot be healthy without an equally healthy mind and spirit. She has written a few medical books, three of which are named De Operatione Dei ( on the Activity of God), Causac et Curae (Causes and Cures) and Physica ( Natural Things) She describes illnesses such as cancer and heart disease among others. Amazingly, she was about 800 years ahead of her time. According to Wighard Strehlow who is co-author of the book Hildegarde of Bingen's Medicine, several hundred German naturopaths borrow some or all of her treatments and about a dozen medical doctors in Germany an Switzerland integrate her remedies with traditional medicine. Hildegarde's key health concepts can be boiled down to the following:
1. Fertile beginnings -- Salvation and healing are powerful antidotes to the drying up of one's essential life force. With that in mind, good health, vitality and procreation are possible.
2. Moderation -- Moderation encourages balance.
3. Healing the mind -- Certain behavior and thorough patterns influence health. One must change the negativity and address any spiritual problems.
4. Wonder foods -- she considered Spelt to be a wonder food and recommended that it be consumed three times a day along with a healthy, balanced diet. It is a nutty flavored grain that is high in protein, B vitamins and iron.
5. Cupboard cures -- Some are very simple such as taking psyllium for constipation and some are more complicated. Some call for gems and other stones, placing them directly on the skin or dropping them in water overnight then drinking the water. Top
6. Taking out the trash -- she also suggested cleaning and detoxifying the body by means of fasting, saunas, hot and cold showers and bloodletting.
"Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles:
"As a result of what the Apostles were doing, sick people were being carried out into the streets and placed on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow would fall on them as he passed. And crowds of people came in from the from the town around Jerusalem, bringing those who were sick or who had evil spirits in them; they all were healed."
The actual definition of a disciple is what the Charismatic movement in the Roman Catholic Church is based upon. A disciple is a person who follows and learns from someone else." Based on the preceding passages, one could conclude that almost any devout, sincere Christian has the potential to heal, speak in tongues or to be visionaries.
On October 1,1973 (coincidentally this writer's birthday), Pope Paul VI gave his blessing to church leaders gathered in Rome at the International Leaders Conference for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. It was then official. Pope Paul VI said that the charismatic movement fostered:
*A deepening desire for personal and communal prayer.
* A desire for total commitment to Christ.
* A greater openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
* An accent on the Praising of God.
* Diligent study of the Scriptures.
* Increased community and willingness to be of service to the Church. Top
Pope John Paul had made a few official statements on March 14, 1992 to church leaders regarding the Charismatic Renewal. He said "The emergence of the Renewal following the second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church... Certainly one of the most important results of the Spiritual Awakening has been that increased thirst for holiness which is seen in the lives of individuals and in the whole Church."
Cardinal Suenens described the renewal as a "moving of the Holy Spirit " and as a High Voltage of Grace which is coursing through Church."
International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services is based in Rome and acts as the center of communications within the whole wide Charismatic Renewal. It also serves as liaison between the Charismatic Renewal and the Vatican. Catholic Charismatic Renewal is active in 130 countries and is fully supported and encouraged by the Bishops of the Church. It supports the philosophies that we are all disciples of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we all have the potential to heal, be visionaries and speak tongues.
There are many forms of " faith Healing" and it is still being debated as to what constitutes "Faith Healing". There are many working practitioners that could possibly be considered just that, such as, medical intuitives, message therapists, hands on healers who specialize in chakras, gemologists, aura readers, aroma therapists, spiritualists, acupuncture specialists, herbalists and naturopaths to name a few. Concerning the power of prayer, there has not yet been discovered a definite link between belief and revenge. There is evidence however, that supports the notion the spirituality has a positive effect on the patient-- that has proven to be true for me on a few occasions. In 1996 there was a survey of 296 physicians from the American Academy of Family Physicians that indicated that 99% of those physicians surveyed were convinced that religious beliefs can heal. In another attempt to scientifically back this belief, a doctor by the name of Dr. Randolph Byrd from San Francisco General Medical Center took another survey. He studied 393 coronary-care patients. They were randomly selected to receive daily prayers from strangers. Both groups received the same medical care but the patients who were prayed for had fewer complications then those in the non-prayer group.
Researchers in Israel examined a group of people over a sixteen-year period and found that the most religious ones had a 40% lower risk of cancer and heart disease. In 1995, a study at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center concluded that one of the best predictions of survival among 232 heart patients studied was the amount of comfort and strength the patients received from their faith.
Critics argue that religious people lead healthier and more stable lives because they tend to smoke less, drink less and avoid risky behavior making them health for their lifestyle. So which came first then? The faith, the lifestyle, or the health? Others argue that faith's role in improved health is merely a placebo effect.
In whichever case, there is a growing scientific evidence that a strong link between the two. Cancer patients obviously have had similar outcomes. Approximately 1 in 80,000 patients have experienced S R C, Spontaneous regression of cancer. It is also called St. Peregrine Tumors. In the 176 cases studied, every patient attributed their remission to a religious ecstasy that they felt shortly beforehand. St. Peregrine was the first to experience this and he was a canonized saint.
Energy healers have made some references to Judeo-Christian terminology. I will briefly discuss some of them.
It is believed that the human body has seven energy centers, or chakras. There are also seven Christian sacraments and the Kabbalah has seven corresponding teachings. All three instruct us in how to direct the life force that runs through our system. In effect, this would imply that we hold these seven teachings in our "power systems." To continue on a bit further, it is written in the book of Genesis that Adam's body was created "in the image of God."
Taken literally and symbolically, this could mean that people are energy duplicates from our Divine one-God. In many cultures of the world, for example, Greek mythology, Hindu teachings, Chinese and Mayan teachings, there is belief in what Jews and Christians call the Annunciation. There is a belief that God and goddesses send messages to be born amongst human beings or mortals.
Saint John of the Cross was a pioneer for this way of thinking He also brought it to public attention that the word Catholic means " universality" (of thought). This also proves that the Roman Catholic Church is the original Christian Church.
He began the union between Eastern and Western beliefs. To touch on the Roman Catholic Charismatic belief in visionaries, the Bible lists over thirty-six.. I believe that there are over one hundred Biblical prophets. Modern day prophets are intuitive, receive messages directly from God perhaps in the form of stigmata, receive messages in dreams or in meditation. Other means are more controversial for the Catholic church like psychics and Tarot cards . Unfortunately I was unable to find much more information on Catholic visionaries although several are mentioned in the Bible.
As for the third basis for the Charismatic Renewal, speaking in tongues, there is not much need for that anymore. Not in the traditional sense. Today there are translators and interpreters, there is the internet, jet airplanes and pocket translators. In very few circumstances is it necessary and I have not come across any recent documentation of actual "speaking in tongues." Many, many people claim to be able to speak in tongues (I have seen a few) but it is not considered to be legitimate unless the foreign language is comprehensible and unless there is an immediate need.
Could this mean that the people who have this gift from the Holy Spirit are the authentic translators and interpreters? That is the topic worth more investigation.
In closing, I hope that I was able to compare and explain the purpose and basis of the Charismatic movement within the Roman Catholic Church. Hopefully I was able to provide insight backed by accurate information and moreover, food for thought.
You are like salt for all mankind. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless so it is thrown out and people trample over it. You are like the light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and put it under a bowl: instead he puts it on the lamp stand where it give light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they see the good things you do and praise your father in heaven.
by Pilar Minaca
Palestinian Israeli Conflict
History and different perceptions of history are the most important issues in the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There are several varying accounts of history and depending on the religions or religious beliefs; interpreting history is used to justify claims and negate claims and to give credence to your own analysis. My research has shown that a balanced overview does not exist and most articles that I reviewed are intended to convince rather than to inform. In the Middle East, the results of this process have been a dramatic weakening in the power and influence of precisely those democratic, progressive and secular forces in the region that have been most committed to a just and peaceful solution to the Israel/Palestine crisis. My opinion for which this paper is intended is regardless of the cause, even if both sides are at fault, the terrorists serve to destroy the process based on a inflexible religious belief supposedly derived from the Koran. It has been said that the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Middle East is essentially a struggle over land, that religious differences are not the cause of the conflict. While in the strictest sense of the conflict this may be true, we should not discount the strong religious overtones or underpinnings that are also at the core of the conflict. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the biblical and historical elements of the current conflict.
The territory called Israel and Palestine is approximately 10,000 square miles of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. During its long history, the area, population, and ownership have varied greatly. Today, Israel formally occupies all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Egypt in the south, Lebanon in the north, and Jordan in the East. The recognized borders of Israel constitute about 78% of the land. The remainder is divided between land occupied by Israel since the 1967 six-day war and the autonomous regions under the control of the Palestinian autonomy. The Gaza strip occupies an additional 141 square miles south of Israel along the sea coast, and is as of today's writing under the control of Hamas with all Israeli settlements totally removed.
The origin is recorded for us is in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
Sarah, Abraham's wife, had not born Abraham any children and was very
concerned, so she offered to Abraham a maid servant of hers named Hagar.
Abraham slept with Hagar and as a result a male child was born, Ishmael.
Abraham asked of the Lord that his son Ishmael might enjoy God's blessings.
It is said that God heard Abraham's request and said fruitful and will
greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers,
and I will make him into a great nation.(Genesis 17:20). But soon Sarah
would become pregnant herself and bear a male child of Abraham also, whom
they would name Isaac. God would tell Abraham Do not be so distressed
about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever
From the 16th century to the end of World War I, the Middle East was
a part of Ottoman Empire. During World War I Great Britain captured part
of the Middle East, including the area known as Palestine, from the Ottoman
Empire. In 1917 the British had promised the Jewish People a national
home in the Balfour Declaration, and on this basis they later were assigned
a mandate over Palestine from the League of Nations. Jewish immigration
and land purchases met with increasing resistance from the Arab inhabitants
of this land, who started several violent insurrections against the Jews
and against British rule in the 1920s and 1930s. In response the Jewish
People established self-defense organizations like the Haganah. After
World War I, Britain and France dominated the region, and started playing
various national and ethnic groups against one another. The territory,
which was under British rule, Jewish immigration was welcomed and Jews
were pitted against Arabs in a bid to maintain English control. It is
here where the current day problems began. Before 1948, this land, that
both the Jews and the Palestinians claim, was known as Palestine. However,
following the war of 1948-49 the land was divided into three parts: the
state of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The drawing of the
lines and the division of the land was a decision of the United Nations
(U.N.). Originally it was to be divided into two states, one Jewish and
the other Arab. But the Palestinian Arabs and surrounding Arab states
rejected the plan. War broke out, and in 1949,
The Arab-Israeli conflict persisted as Arab countries refused to accept
the existence of Israel and instigated a boycott of Israel, while they
continued to threaten with a war of destruction. In May of 1967, the conflict
escalated as Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran for
There is a historical fact that must be understood. There has never been a civilization or a nation referred to as "Palestine" and the very notion of a "Palestinian Arab nation" having ancient attachments to the Holy Land going back to time immemorial is one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated upon the world! There is not, nor has there ever been, a distinct "Palestinian" culture or language. Further, there has never been a Palestinian state governed by Palestinians until the Arab-Palestinian national movement until 1964. Yasser Arafat is Egyptian! Israel first became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years before the rise of Islam. Thus the claim that Jews suddenly appeared fifty years ago right after the Holocaust and drove out the Arabs is preposterous!
The Palestinian national movement has been characterized by efforts to
forge its own national identity to create viable institutions, and to
develop a stable base of popular support. Devastated by the 1948 war,
it was revitalized by the emergence of armed terrorists groups in the
late 1950s, and the subsequent creation of the PLO. The movement's influence
expanded dramatically after the 1967 war, and beginning with the first
intifada in 1987, the Palestinian struggle has became nothing less than
a mass uprising of the entire population of the occupied territories.
The demand for a Palestinian state is accepted by most people, including most Israelis, as a reasonable one. There is, however, a serious question-is their objective a Palestinian state alongside Israel or to push Israel into the sea. In other words is the issue the size of Israel, or the existence of Israel? There has been since the creation of the State of Israel a strong Arab movement for the elimination of Israel entirely. The United States, Israel, and Palestine must deal with this issue. There must be a way to assure the Israel State that a move to the creation of a Palestinian State is not just one step closer to a move of eliminating Israel completely. The former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now a top advisor to Iran's supreme leader as recent as November 10, 2003 stated, "The mere existence of Israel is contrary to Tehran's national interest.
The primary cause for the Arab-Israeli conflict lies in the claim of two national movements on the same land, and particularly the Arab refusal to accept Jewish self-determination in a part of that land. Furthermore fundamentalist religious concepts regarding the right of either side to the entire land have played an increasing role, on the Jewish side particularly in the religious settler movement, on the Palestinian side in the Hamas and similar groups.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is further complicated by preconceptions and demonizing of the other by both sides. The Israelis see around them mostly undemocratic Arab states with underdeveloped economies, backward cultural and social standards and an aggressive religion inciting to hatred and terrorism. The Arabs consider the Israelis colonial invaders and conquerors, who are aiming to control the entire Middle East. There is resentment concerning Israeli success and Arab failure, and Israel is viewed as a beachhead for Western interference in the Middle East. In Arab media, schools and mosques anti-Semitic stereotypes are promoted based on a mixture of anti-Jewish passages in the Koran and European anti-Semitism.
Since the Oslo peace process however, a broad consensus has been formed that an independent Palestinian Arab state should be established within the areas occupied in 1967. Polls on both sides show that majorities among Israelis and Palestinians accept a two state solution, but Palestinians almost unanimously stick to right of return of the refugees to Israel, and most Israelis oppose a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. The main obstacle is the agreement on the right of Israel to exist from the radical Muslims.
In 2003 Israel started the construction of a separation barrier along the Green Line and partly on Palestinian land. These measures led to a strong decline of Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel, but also to international condemnations. Especially the dismissal of Palestinian workers in Israel led to increasing poverty in the territories. Although both parties accepted the 'Road Map to Peace', launched by the Quartet of US, UN, EU and Russia in 2003, no serious peace negotiations have taken place in recent years between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli did take unilateral measures such as the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but he demanded an end to Palestinian terrorism before they would engage in negotiations with Arafat's successor Abbas concerning final status issues. Plans for further unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank were stopped after Hamas won the elections in early 2006, thousands of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and border attacks took place from both the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon.
Therefore, I feel the current state of the conflict between the Jewish nation of Israel and the Palestinians is over land within the region, but the roots of such conflict go back centuries and are at the very core of a strong religious background.
1 Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar, "Palestine, Israel
and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer," 01 March 2000; available
from the Middle East Research and Information Project,
Robert J Lieber, "U.S.-Israeli Relations Since 1948,"
Middle East Review of International Affairs, Volume 2, No.3 - September
1998, available from
The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, Third Edition, Published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East
"We Are All Star Stuff:
The Interconnection of Man and His Spirituality With the rest of the Universe
- A Thesis in Two Parts by Nikki J Delaney
"Use the Force Luke" - The Desire and Striving for Connection with the Divine
George Lucas, through his characters Obiwan Kanobi, Yoda, and Luke Skywalker presented to the baby-boomer generation a visible possibility of how they might tap into the inner core of themselves, and, with practice and dedication, into something deeper, that essential spark of "knowing", a connection with the divine.
For many centuries, progress, growth and technology have served to separate us from our connection with the oneness of all things in the Universe. This separation has reached the point where the connection has become the side-plot of science fiction movies in modern culture rather than it being a part of everyday life. There are very few cultures that exist today which have the deep connection to their environment that man's pre-industrial age forefathers did. Modern man has much to learn from those few cultures that are still intimately connected to their physical environment. Cultures in places such as the Nepal and Bhutan mountain regions where they live in the high, remote areas with a daily understand of what it feels like to be outside in the forest, at night, in the dark, knowing that there truly are man-eating animals about. Few today live in an environment where one simple mistake can cost you your life. In the modern world it is difficult to conceptualize such an experience, much less survive one should it happen to them. Those that do have such an experience are forever changed by it. Modern western man experiences a less intense form of this connectivity at various random points in his life. Those little hairs standing up on the back of the head; thinking of a friend and the phone ringing with them on the line; the knowing when something has happened to a loved one far away - what some call synchronicity. After the experience it is normal to only be able to recall just a "feeling." These, however, are mere vestiges of the information available compared to what one truly connected to "the force" or divine is theoretically capable of.
Through practice and training the human spirit can accomplish miraculous things. The meditative states of eastern mystics are said to transcend the physical. The trance induced stamina of those who endure ritual piercing and suspensions from skin hooks are indicative of what the human mind can do. The piercing appears to cause little pain, and there is little to no bleeding, yet tremendous decorations, structures, and weights are hung from the piercing rods prior to, or sometimes as, the participants walk the procession route. This is a process of what is commonly referred to as "mind over matter."
Yuri Geller and other charlatans of his ilk have done considerable damage to the potential growth of the human spirit. Fakers and con artists have chosen "special skills and psychic powers" as a way to increase their finances by attempting to dupe a willing public. When the "special or psychic skill" is put to the test, it dissipates under the light of scientific scrutiny. However, we seldom hear of the admittedly small number of individuals who have withstood the rigors of scientific testing and authentication.
Granted, man as a race is a far cry from achieving his full potential in this arena. Due to the intolerance of fear, bigotry, and ignorance, there are few that would even dare attempt "mind over matter." Even though in the mid-1970s the theory met with mainstream medicine and psychology in a practice called biofeedback. Biofeedback is a process wherein a patient focuses (normally a form of meditation) and influences an autonomic bodily function such as heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Top
This medical "breakthrough" used in the physical or recuperative therapy of surgery patients, treatment of migraine sufferers, heart patients, psychiatric patients and many others is but a dipping of the big toe into the pool of potential available to mankind. But, as when entering a hot tub of water, one must go slowly and carefully, not rushing into the steaming water. If one rushes entering the tub the experience will be burning and unpleasant. If one enters the tub slowly, allowing time for the body and nerves to adjust to the sting of the water, one is rewarded with a soothing, pleasant experience. Thus, man's re-entry into that connection with the divine that allows him to become part of the essential oneness must be taken with small steps and infinite care, less he be burned. The human species is still solidly set, poised above the steaming pool as the hot water stings its collective big toe. The species as a whole must enter the pool slowly, in stages, allowing time for the body and mind to adjust, for man has long been away from the waters of the pool of the divine.
Mind over matter and the power of positive thinking are but different manifestations of the same type of connection with the divine. Where mind over matter seeks to have a control and affect on the physical, the power of positive thinking is focused more on the intangible, although it does often produce tangible results. For example, in the mind over matter theory, Joe actually changes his body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure during meditation using standardized techniques. Thus he creates tangible, direct, physical reactions that are recordable on scientific equipment, and repeatable and reproducible in execution. There is a direct correlation between Joe's actions of thought and the tangible affects recorded. Conversely, with the power of positive thinking Joe has no proof one way or the other if his positive thinking had any affect on the actual outcome. For example: Joe mentally pumps himself up for an important job interview. During the whole process from the time he first found out about the job until the final notification Joe has intentionally maintained a positive mindset about getting the position. To even hedge his bet he chants "I know I am the best candidate for this position" and other positive affirmations. Two weeks after he first heard about the job and interviewed for it he is offered the position at a much higher salary and better benefits package than he had hoped for. Did Joe's tapping into the connection with the divine through the power of positive thinking influence the outcome of the endeavor? Would he have gotten the job if he had been negative? Would he have been offered as much money for the position? There are no definitive ways to measure what, if any, influence Joe's positive thinking had on the situation, but Joe knows in the depths of his soul that the positive thinking did have an affect and no one can shake his complete conviction of that positive influence. Joe's experience has proven to him that there truly is power in positive thinking, but there is no measurable affect of his positive thought meditations on the outcome. However, as Joe well knows, just because it is not measurable does not mean it doesn't exist. How does one measure love? Yet few would argue that love does not exist.
The search for religion and/or spirituality is a way to reconnect with that elemental primordial part of us that is always in contact with the "one" or, for lack of a better term, the "force". In losing that connection mankind has lost an essential and integral part of itself. In our modern culture the average person cannot tell you the current phase of the moon. Whether it is waxing, full, or waning. When at the time of the birth of Christ, the phases of the moon and stars were common knowledge. Today light pollution prevents the unobstructed view of the stars and moon that modern man's forefathers experienced, especially in the major population centers. Through technology man has essentially separated himself from something of which he is an integral part, and, in return that which is an integral part of him.
With his controlled and constructed environments man has lost the capability of feeling the cycles and rhythms of life around him as an autonomous response. Now he must make a conscious effort to connect with that indescribable force. Although comforted physically and lives' burdens eased by modern conveniences, the species of man lost a very integral part of itself when it lost that automatic and intimate connection with the Divine. Top
Statistics from the United States National Parks Service indicate a continued increase in the use of wilderness park areas to overflowing levels in the 1999 camping season. (The last season for which complete figures are available.) There has been a revival in the last thirty years to a return to getting out into nature to reconnect with the elemental self. Sprouting out of the ecological movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, there has been a steadily growing respect for other living things that share the earth, and the environment they share with us.
Eco-tourism, unheard of just a few years ago, has become a booming industry in and of itself. No longer does the family vacation consist exclusively of a trip to a theme park. In today's eco-tourism industry, a family can take a vacation with National Geographic and help track the penguins on the tip of South America. White water rafting trips combine with ecological scientists to create a vacation rafting a river while completing a survey of the flora and fauna. Not only is mankind beginning to consider the way in which he treats his environment, he is becoming willing to "put his money where his mouth is" both financially and physically in regard to nurturing it.
Urban sprawl is becoming an ecological nightmare with the destruction of literally square miles of natural habitat each week. Urban/forest interface is forcing residents to return to an awareness of their environment. Every year the evening news has features of a few more stories of meetings between man and bear, moose in swimming pools, mountain lions bedding down in backyards and other peaceful and not so peaceful encounters. Remote communities in bear habitat areas are enacting ordinances requiring bear proof trash cans for outdoor trash containers. The essential call from within to reconnect with that which has been lost in embracing the comforts and lifestyles of the modern age manifests itself in myriad forms and in doing so creates its own set of problems.
The trappings of civilization have prevented man from remaining in close concert to his truly natural place. For this lack of attention to his essence he has paid the price of becoming disconnected from the spark of the divine that resides within all members of the species. Through advancements and material interests man has set aside the natural order for the species' comfort and material growth. Now he must focus on his spirituality in order to continue to evolve.
Before man can continue on that natural growth pattern as a species he must first relearn what he has forgotten. He must relearn how to live his life with his connection to the divine intact, strengthening it by continued use. He must be true to that essential force in all living things from which he has lost much of his connection. This will be a slow process as the disconnect though never total, has been growing over the eons. It will take time to regain what has been lost as each individual will have to enter into that pool of hot water at their own speed. The process has started although it is still a trickle within the potential flood stream of humanity's more than six billion souls. Top
Native American hunting traditions included the thanking of the animal for giving it's spirit so that the hunter may provide for his tribe and a prayer was said to honor the spirit of the dead animal. Waste was kept to an absolute minimum if there were any waste at all, so that the sacrifice of the animal would not be dishonored. Wastefulness was not only impractical it was an insult to the spirit of the animal from whom it had come, and, by extension, all life in general. In the modern disposable culture tons of meat, poultry and produce are thrown away each day with no thought of where it came from. The saying of grace at table before eating has become blasé and a thing of the past in many families, so in effect the sacrifice is no longer honored and waste is rampant. In order to establish his connection with the divine man must relearn to appreciate how well he lives and the bounty of his existence. In the softness of his modern lifestyle he must continually fight the potential to loose track of his elemental self. There are many applications of the oft-turned phrase "waste not-want not".
If the average urban dweller were dropped in the middle of the bounty of nature with few resources and nothing but their wits and a few other people he or she will have a difficult time almost to a person. The current television hit show "Survivor" is a good example of how inept many of us have become in man's true natural environment. The true "natural" environment is out in nature, living in close proximity to his fellow denizens of this planet. The comfort man enjoys, he has created, and it is not "natural" to his environment. It doesn't mean that the comforts are negative or bad, just that they are not part of nature, or natural. I don't propose that we return to wearing skins and living in caves, that is not the issue. Man can, and will, learn to not only enjoy his creature comforts (where, on the norm, he stands now) but to also learn to reconnect with his most elemental self.
Just the lack of capability to be able to make fire in survival situations is blatantly displayed in "Survivor". Not to mention the fear evident on contestants' faces when they were visited by their first pride of lions. It is interesting to note that after the "Survivors" had been there a while, allowing time for a connection to develop or for the individual to adjust and retune their connection, reactions of the contestant to meeting the local wildlife had changed considerably. For some of the contestants the connection to the divine allowed them to enjoy the experience and look forward to additional encounters. The individual equipped with the mental and physical fortitude displayed by Tom Hank's character in the widely acclaimed movie Castaway is rare indeed. Although fictional, the movie does an excellent job of portraying the strength of spirit and self-knowledge that comes from one's mettle being truly tested. At one time in our species' existence, our mettle was tested on a regular basis. Now it is rare and unusual, definitely the exception to the rule as opposed to being the norm, which at one point in our distant past, it was. Those that are equipped with a strong will to live are on the whole very strong spiritually, and are either already connected to the divine or are willing to do the work to become connected (or some are forced into a situation where one has to). Survival researchers contend that the will to live is the single most determining factor in survival situations. The will to live can sustain an individual to feats of heroic magnitude.
As a species humans are a part of an interlocking interdependent system - that of the biosphere earth, and, in the fullest extension the Universe. Man began separating his connection with that interdependent system when, inside his structures, he was able to not only protect himself from the environment but to also create light in the darkness. By the age of the Industrial Revolution man had long ago lost the primary cords of his connection with the divine? During the Victorian age the spiritualism movement spread across the western world. On the one hand the Victorians strove for a connection to the divine with their spiritualistic escapades - some of which are quite alarming in retrospect. On the other, by virtue of their inventions and progress, they were unwittingly severing some of the final strands of that very same connection for which they strove. Top
Although Islam is the fastest growing organized religion at this time, new age bookstore sales indicate that interest in non-traditional religions continue to be on the rise. A considerable number of those that participate in these non-traditional religions are normally solo-practitioners. (It needs be stated here that this author is making no value judgement on any religious practices.) For centuries, religion has been an institutionalized practice with stated dogma, scripture and law. Organized faiths either dictate or infer that mere mortal man was incapable of establishing a direct connection with the divine presence, or "the force". This intercession, albeit that it may have begun with the best of intentions, has only helped to exacerbate the spiritual disconnect created by separation from our natural environment. Instead of serving the intended purpose of assisting man to reconnect his spirit with the spark of the divine that is within him, many religions unintentionally, and some intentionally, serve as a block in the flow of energy between the spirit of the individual man and the divine.
First, millennium fever, and, more recently, the terrorist strikes on Washington and New York have shaken the American spirit. After fighting flagging attendance and tightening budgets in the later part of the twentieth century, religious institutions in the United States celebrated the highest attendance figures in decades in the year 2000. Book publishing industry sales statistics indicate a steady increase in the sale of religious based books over the last several years. This return to chosen spiritual paths for the safety and security it provides - a mode of conductivity that connects man back to that spark of divine in a nearly tangible way is one of many small steps in the right direction.
As the world turned to a new century there was a resurgence in earth-based religions such as Druids, Shamanism, Celtic Wisdom, and some forms of Wiccan to name a few. Even among practitioners of more traditional judo-Christian belief systems there was a trend towards more respect, care, and concern for the natural world. Though the paths the various religions choose may be widely disparate, they all share in a basic commonality in their search for the divine presence, it is the form that presence may or may not take and how it should be worshipped that is open to much debate.
The recognition of the earth as a biosphere (what affects the one affects us all) by the scientific community, along with ecological crises in recent years have caused an outcry. Man is beginning to slowly work his way into the social conscience of the divine. We, as a species, are being forced to become more aware of our environment and the earth which sustains us. Thus moving us closer as a species to our connection with the spirit within. The increased concern over the environment is an example of man's capability of reconnecting to the divine. Mandatory recycling is becoming commonplace. Government incentives are extended to companies for recycling and alternative energy programs. Even state and federal buildings have recycling stations within the building. We wear clothing made from recycled materials. In the grocery store we are encouraged to buy earth friendly products. The environment has become a part of our social consciousness. This is a great step towards renewing the connection of the species to the divine.
Hence, it is no surprise that with the renewed focus of connecting to the bounty of nature and the concerned efforts for preservation of the same that we are beginning to see a reawakening of that connection to the true spark of the divine great spirit in us all on both an individual and species level. The industrial revolution freed us from physical concerns with the wonders of machinery and mass production that gave the common man the leisure of following pursuits of the mind which bore us into the technological revolution. Now, in an age of technological wonder, we are also witnessing the greatest wonder of them all - the steady increase of the number of individuals who are connecting with the divine inside themselves is on the rise! Top
In it interesting to note that there has been a rapid increase in the number of "solo-practitioners" of various faiths, both traditional and non-traditional. In our twenty-four hour a day, seven-day a week, always-connected, plugged-in and receiver-on society, increasing numbers of people are choosing to focus on their personal relationship with their god. In homes across the country small personal alters are being created for the individual celebration of religious practices. Whether it is an Amerindian Medicine Wheel or a simple Buddha with a candle and bowl of rice, man is striving to respect that which is sacred and divine.
Psychics, clairvoyants, wise men and women, gifted, blessed, or charmed, all are names of the same essential truth. Rather than being the norm they are now very much the exception to the rule. They are individuals who are capable of connecting to the spirit of the divine. They are not only capable of "feeling" the force of the divine; they are able to focus its benevolence. Where an "unconnected" person may feel prickles on the back of their neck, someone who is in touch with the divine may receive a mental image warning them of danger ahead, and someone who is strongly rooted in their connection to the divine may just know that there are two teenage thugs with a knife waiting behind a dumpster just ahead to attack unless the intuitive changes his intended course to avoid the confrontation. Like a muscle, the more the connection to the divine is used, the stronger it becomes. There are increased numbers of us who are intentionally concentrating on connecting with this spark and expanding our appreciation and connection with the divine.
This striving for connection to the divine is well articulated by James Redfield in his Celestine Prophecy series of books. His fictionalized account of a spiritual striving to connect with the oneness of the universe was a New York Times bestseller. When one strips the fictionalization from the story, the three volumes are essentially a guidebook on how to heighten one's resonance - another metaphor for strengthening the connection with the divine.
The experience of connection to the divine is not predicated on any one particular religion, spell, belief system, intermediary, or activity. Down through recorded history both the literature and folklore of all but a very few cultures and belief systems have a type of wise woman, spiritual guide, clairvoyant, medicine man, or some other spiritually gifted person. Many Native American Indian tribes treated the insane as touched or gifted by God. Operas, plays, stories, poems and songs all have examples of people who are connected to the one. Not all these references are positive. Who can forget Maleficent in Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" or Darth Vader from Star Wars? As these characters show, the concept of a dark side of the divine exists in the manifestations of the battle of light versus dark, or good versus evil.
Although man has taken eons to get here, the species as a whole, and western society in particular, is reclaiming that which was sacrificed on the alters of progress, money, and science. Man is once again developing and focusing on the desire to strive for and connect with the divine and through this beginning mankind will someday all know how to "use the force Luke."
Part II Top
"We Are All Star Stuff" - The Potentials of Man and the Connection With The Divine
"And an old priest said, speak to us of Religion.
Who can spread his hours before him, saying "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"
All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
And take with you all men:
During the moralistic upheaval of 1920s America a poet and philosopher by the name of Kahlil Gibran, born in Lebanon published one of his most renowned works, The Prophet. As quoted above from his work Gibran attempts to communicate the totality of oneness of all things through short discussions from the prophet to his audience. The above passage on religion poetically encourages the individual to search for the divine in the mundane, hence encouraging the connection with all living things and the equality of man with the universe.
In the late 1950s a literary hoax was unintentionally perpetrated upon the American public. In an inadvertent mix-up, Desiderata was thought to have been found at Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore, Maryland and date back to 1692. In actuality, Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) wrote the Desiderata . At a time when the spiritual journey was again being embraced even if it was primarily by the sub- or counter-culture minority, of pre-WWII America Mr. Ehrmann created a document that was ageless. Desiderata's introduction of "Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence" shows the depth of Ehrmann's innocent understanding of the feeling of the rightness of the existence of man as a spiritual being. Considering the political upheaval, social change and general sense of conscience of the time, the Desiderata hit the American pop culture by storm in the Vietnam War era. At that time it struck a cord with the nation. A recording release of it became a number one hit in many cities across the country in the early 1970s. Nearly every poster shop of the era had the Desiderata in various sizes and print styles, fake parchment being one of the most popular.
"You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars, You have a right to be here and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." The recording of the Desiderata brought this essential truth to the American psyche in a way that touched us spiritually. At a time when we had just accomplished the impossible of putting a man on the moon philosophers of the day pondered the impact of such a feat on our perception of our place in the universe. There are few who were alive on that day who don't remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when Neil Armstrong made that one small step for man and a giant leap for mankind. The Desiderata hung in many a teenager bedroom, coffee house, pool hall, and church. The reinforcement of our belonging as a race, and at the same time, as an individual helped many begin to open their minds to non-traditional possibilities and experiment with their spirituality, thus allowing them access to the flow of the divine.
Many perceive there is a distinct confrontation between scientific research and religious or spiritual belief. Some even feel that science is of the devil or evil because science is out to prove their belief system wrong. The last three decades have brought God and science closer together than they had been in many years. We have come far from the days when Galileo bent his knee to the Catholic Church recanting his scientific findings at its command. Today science and faith systems appear to be operating more closely in parallel to one another rather than the competition of ages past. Archeologists still are using the Bible, Koran and Torah as guidebooks to ancient sites in the Holy Land. The scientific preservation and translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls is giving judo-Christian religions an important opportunity to cross-reference current religious texts with writings extant with the beginning of Christianity. Science has accomplished great feats - "miracles of science" we call them. But the true miracle of science is that in all its accumulated knowledge of the eons, we have only learned enough to begin to grasp the concept of how very much there may be for us to learn.
This paper explores the silence and seclusion which are embedded in the design of monasteries. It questions the seemingly correlation between the freedom to interact and self realization; that is - that the existence of arenas for random interaction is essential for a social system to properly work. In order to do so, a pilot survey was conducted at the Israeli (branch) monastery of the Monastic Family of Bethlehem and the Assumption of the Virgin of the Church Order. The main findings of this survey indicate that the well-established lifestyle conducted so efficiently for many years in monasteries prove the opposite; that communal life is possible on a shared belief and purpose despite limiting conditions; that although the nuns refrain from administrating conventional communication, their interest in beauty and aesthetics contribute to their ability to produce and sustain.
While seclusion from the world in closed religious communities was common practice among Buddhists as early as the sixth century B.C., the majority of monasteries today are affiliated with the Christian Church. Since Christianity's earliest days, men and women have been drawn to a life of solitude, sacrificing the possibility of family life in order to devote themselves to God.
Archaeological evidence indicates that communities of monks lived in the Judean Desert as early as the first century B.C. The earliest written records of monastic communities date back to visits by pilgrims to Mount Sinai around 250 B.C., in the vicinity of Mount Horev, the site associated in Christian tradition with Moses' confrontation with God.
Around 300 A.D. Saint Macarius established a "Le'orah" monastery in the Faran desert north of Jerusalem. It was the first in which the monks lived a largely solitary existence within a closed community framework. The Le'orah consisted of a number of caves or isolated cells, with centrally-situated communal facilities, the most important of which was the prayer hall. There, the monks would assemble on Sunday mornings to pray, eat and converse. On Sunday evenings, each monk would retire to his cell, taking sufficient bread, water and work materials to supply his needs for the rest of the week.
It was during this period that Hilarion and Chriton established monasteries in the area of Bethlehem, and Saint Anthony settled in Egypt. The spread of Christianity brought the monastic tradition to other regions and in the Middle Ages monasteries became popular destinations among pilgrims, who created around them religious communities. During Crusader times, pilgrims began to make offerings for the more revered monks, and accordingly, a monastery's size came to reflect the prestige of its religious order. Gradually, distinctions developed between contemplative monasteries and those which actively participated in the life of the community through teaching, tending the sick, and distributing alms to the weak and needy.
However, the principal influence on the architecture of a monastery was the degree of communal activity among its inhabitants, the monks or nuns. In some monasteries the residents lived in complete solitude; in others, the members of the order combined solitude with periods of communal activity; and in others, daily life was completely communal.
The Monastic Family of Bethlehem and of the Order of the Assumption of the Virgin of the Church (or the Sisters of Bethlehem) was founded in France in 1950, and today includes more than 500 monks and nuns, scattered among thirty nunneries and three monasteries in eleven countries. In 1973, the order adopted Saint Bruno, founder of the Chartreuse Monastery near Grenoble in 1084, as its patron saint. Bruno modeled his monastery on the ancient Le'orah tradition, and his adoption by the Sisters of Bethlehem indicates their belief that the ancient Le'orah tradition is the appropriate model for a life of contemplation in a monastic community. Accordingly, the nuns have sworn a vow of silence, spending most of their time alone in their cells, in work and prayer, while eating two meals a day only.
Life and layout
Since monasteries are cut off from their surroundings by definition, most of the inner life take place in a central courtyard (cloister), around which the private cells and the monastery's communal facilities are arranged. This pattern, which provides protection from the outside world while allowing free conduct of community life, is a tradition derived from the ancient way of life in the first desert monasteries.
The overarching importance of solitude is reflected in every aspect of the monastery's architecture. For example, the interior organization of the chapel is unlike that of a regular church; instead of a central prayer hall where worships face the alter, each monk has a separate prayer cubicle, where he may pray at the pace that suits his personal needs. Yet, to understand the spatial organization of the monastery in case, it must be remembered that the nuns' daily schedule is divided into periods of solitude for prayer and private contemplation and periods of communal activity. A round of seven prayers frames the daily life of the monastery. Five of these prayers are recited by the monk in the solitude of his cell, and twice a day the monks meet for common prayer in the monastery's chapel. Hence, there is a clear distinction between the sections of the monastery dedicated to solitude and those for communal activity.
The visitor arriving at the monastery is guided through a vestibule past a reception room, a handicrafts shop, a small lecture hall and a prayer hall whose design makes reference to an Islamic mosque. An arched corridor leads to the main hall, followed by another prayer hall, this time decorated with symbolic references to Judaism. From here the visitor can reach the galleries of the main church, by means of a stairway and a long path that passes along the roof of the building. The route taken by visitors is calculated to surprise and delight, helping to remedy the impression that the building was randomly designed. In contrast to the winding route taken by visitors, the nuns use a shorter route to arrive at the assembly hall, the library located in its upper level, the church and their private cells.
An important factor of the monastery layout is the social hierarchy. A monk's status is first determined by the level of commitment he has made to the monastic way of life. A novice monk or nun first undergoes a period of self-examination, indeterminate in length, until he or she is ready to dedicate his or her life to God. A transition period follows, until the abbot or abbess reaches the same conclusion. Only in the third phase, after the monk or nun has resolved all inner conflict, does he or she take lifetime vows.
Despite the decisive role of solitary activity in their lives, the nuns do provide sisterly companionship to one another, and in times of need they are assisted by the Mother Superior or elder nuns. Following ancient tradition, the nuns meet on Sundays for a communal meal, which is eaten in silence while a passage is read from the holy scriptures. After the meal, the sisters may break their silence during a nature walk, which is followed by informal discussions on various religious matters.
Belief and Aesthetics
In Christian tradition (unlike Jewish or Moslem), beauty is regarded an integral aspect of the liturgy. Considerable thought and effort is invested in the construction of churches, so that they may express the full glory of the spiritual realm. In contrast, monastic life is based on introspection and a minimization of needs. This raises the question, why do so many nuns, who have dedicated their lives to prayer, also engage in artistic activity? The answer is that seclusion from a life of material pleasures does not dull the need for aesthetic expression. On the contrary, the monk or nun who is engaged in a quest for spiritual sources of inspiration is able to enrich his or her creation with fresh ideas.
Aesthetics as a means of living
The survey conducted at the Beit Gemal monastery near Beit Shemesh, central Israel, clearly reveals how the solitary lives of individuals make for a collective productive community life. The spatial organization of the monastery at Beit Gemal is characteristic of other "silent" monasteries, consisting of an upper house containing the nuns' private cells and communal facilities, and a lower house where guests of the monastery are received. Yet the establishment is unique in that it supports itself through the artistic endeavors of its inhabitants. Every detail of the monastery expresses a restrained symbolism, a minimalist desire to avoid the superficial or superfluous. The architecture of the monastery is not functional in the customary sense: i.e. it is not based on utility of design, but on a ceaseless searching and thirst for spiritual experience.
The convoluted route of access is quickly revealed as the monastery's most conspicuous design flaw. According to nuns who contributed to the planning of the building, it is a flaw that arose from the lack of experience of the planners and repeated attempts to remedy the original error. However, the disrupted entrance also has a ceremonial value, serving to separate the public entrance from the living quarters of the nuns, which may only be accessed from the rear of the building, ensuring that their unique way of life is preserved.
Isolating successfully the "real" and essential underlying factors in monastery design from the normative and visual ones, this thesis may serve as a basis for the actual design of future monasteries based on similar principles. Using the tools offered by the Theory of Space Syntax , the research has partially resoled the so far unseen correlation between semantic (of daily practice), the semiotic (of believing in a shared purpose) and syntactic factors of the monastery design.
LDS theology teaches that every man and woman who has ever lived in mortality had a "pre-existence" before their physical birth where they lived as a literal spirit child of our Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. Here on earth we are made in the image of this God and Goddess, and we will hopefully return to live with them again as an eternal family after we die. This view of the Christian Plan of Salvation is unique for two primary reasons: the LDS Church was the first Christian denomination in the modern era to proclaim both a pre-existence of spirits and the existence of a deified Heavenly Mother.
Historically, the concept of a Heavenly Mother developed early on in Mormonism. Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion, was the first to teach it privately to a few members of the early Church. One of these members was his polygamous wife, Eliza R. Snow, who wrote the first public declaration of an LDS belief in Heavenly Mother in the form of her poem "Invocation - or the Eternal Father and Mother" which later became the hymn "O My Father." In the third and fourth stanzas of her poem Eliza proclaims,
"In the heav'ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare! Truth is reason; truth eternal Tells me I've a mother there. / When I leave this frail existence, When I lay this mortal by, Father, Mother, may I meet you In your royal courts on high? Then, at length, when I've completed All you sent me forth to do, With your mutual approbation Let me come and dwell with you." [To read the entire poem, click here: O My Father]
This groundbreaking poem not only proclaims the existence of a Goddess, co-Deity with God the Father, but also sets Her on equal par with Him, indicating it is their mutual approbation that will enable their children to dwell in their "royal courts on high." Brigham Young, successor to Joseph Smith, proclaimed Eliza a "prophetess" after the publication of her poem. His sentiment was later echoed by several other prophets of the Church, as well.
After Eliza's poetic declaration several leaders of the Church began, over the years, to make statements regarding the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother. Most of them were simple defenses of the logic of the doctrine; if we have a Heavenly Father, they reasoned, we must of necessity have a Heavenly Mother, since how can you have a Father without a Mother? This was the limit of theological development on the matter. Erastus Snow, an early LDS Apostle, used this logic when he spoke the following:
"Now, it is not said in so many words in the Scriptures, that we have a Mother in heaven as well as a Father. It is left for us to infer this from what we see and know of all living things in the earth including man. The male and female principle is united and both necessary to the accomplishment of the object of their being, and if this be not the case with our Father in heaven after whose image we are created, then it is an anomaly in nature. But to our minds the idea of a Father suggests that of a Mother" (Journal of Discourses, 31 May 1885, 26:214).
Erastus goes on to develop a more unique position regarding Heavenly Mother by proposing that God is composed of a male/female partnership, as opposed to a Heavenly Mother simply being a second divine personage tacked onto God the Father:
"'What,' says one, 'do you mean we should understand that Deity consists of man and woman?' Most certainly I do. If I believe anything that god has ever said about himself, and anything pertaining to the creation and organization of man upon the earth, I must believe that Deity consists of man and woman .there can be no god except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way .There never was a God, and there never will be in all the eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female" (Journal of Discourses, 3 March 1878, 19:269-70).
Since there is such a lack of a real theology surrounding Heavenly Mother, the few authoritative statements we have about Her role tend to be based on individual men's views of the role of women. Some LDS General Authorities have characterized Heavenly Mother as simply a baby-maker, others as just one of many polygamous wives, others as a refined spiritual nurturer devoid of sexuality. Instead of asking Heavenly Mother who She is and what She does, and seeing Her as a model of true womanhood, the Mormon leadership tends to model Heavenly Mother after the image of Her mortal daughters, who themselves are imperfect representations of a greater, yet unknown, Being. When the membership asks for further clarification on the matter, the Brethren make it clear that all that will be given (sometimes qualifying the statement with "at this time"), has been given. This, in turn, raises suspicions regarding the Brethren's motives among many members of the Church. After all, as one Mormon feminist wrote, the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother "is a truth from which, when fully realized, the perfect 'emancipation' and ennobling of woman will result" ("The Divine Feminine", Deseret News, 28 Apr 1902). It is hard to believe the Lord would not want to reveal this sacred truth and accomplish this worthy goal. It makes one ask, "Is the Lord not revealing, or are the Brethren not asking? And if they're not asking, why do they not want an answer?"
The Mormon leadership's primary excuse for not developing this theology of God the Mother further is the absence of Her presence in scripture. An LDS seminary teacher in the 1960's explained:
"Considering the way man has profaned the name of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, is it any wonder that the name of our Mother in Heaven has been withheld, not to mention the fact that the mention of Her is practically nil in scripture?" (Melvin R. Brooks, "LDS Reference Encyclopedia" [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960] 309-310).
I reject this argument for two reasons. First, it assumes that Heavenly Mother is not mentioned in LDS scripture, when She is. Mosiah 8:20, 2:36, Helaman 12:5, and 2 Nephi 21:2 (all in the Book of Mormon), speak of a Wisdom Goddess closely related to the 32 Paths of the Jewish Kabbalah. Brother Daniel C. Peterson examines the connections of this Goddess to Nephi's vision of the Tree of Life quite well in his article "Nephi & His Asherah", Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume 9, Number 2. Doctrine and Covenants 84:99-102 and 88:40-47 speak of Her in more Pagan terms, equating Her with both the Earth and the Moon and alluding to her daughters' priestesshood. Furthermore, the Holy Bible, also considered authoritative scripture in the LDS religion, is replete with mention of our Heavenly Mother, some of it much more explicit than the above examples from Latter-day scripture. These references have been explained in great detail by many Christian feminist theologians, and have shown a picture of a Heavenly Mother intimately involved with the spiritual history of Her earth-bound children. Brother Brooks' argument is also a strange attitude to be found in Mormonism since its scriptural canon, perhaps unlike any other Christ-centered religion, is still open. Latter-day Saints can and do continue to expand their doctrinal understanding and beliefs through continuing revelation. The fact that a particular principle hasn't been taught in scripture yet is no reason to believe that it shouldn't be taught.
Also, Brother Brooks' argument assumes that knowledge of our Heavenly Mother is unnecessary for the spiritual progression of the children of God. I vehemently disagree with this notion. An exceptional number of LDS men and women have stood up and said that we do need Her. LDS theology teaches, after all, that we are to strive to become as our Heavenly Parents are. It also teaches that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother have unique male-female roles, roles that we are bound to take up and emulate after our own sex. Yet, the men are given their example to follow in the person of their Heavenly Father, but the women are given little to no example of their role as women by being withheld from an equally clear concept of their Heavenly Mother. The prophets of the LDS Church have lauded motherhood as the singularly most important role in all the eternities; but it is divine fatherhood, not motherhood, which is represented the most. It is hard to believe that women's roles are just as important as men's in LDS theology when the male example is given much greater weight than the female example. It is hard to understand the LDS Church's emphasis on "nuclear" families when the eternal family it sets as an example, for all intents and purposes, is the household of a single Father, whose Mother does not reveal Herself to Her children, and whose children are not to speak to Her.
The quandary this presents for some members of the LDS Church has led many to seek a personal relationship with their Heavenly Mother to know Her as they know their Heavenly Father. Mormonism, after all, not only believes in continuing revelation, but personal revelation, especially in matters of personal importance that may not be pertinent to the Church as a whole or that the leadership might not have reason to explore. Members are then free to seek answers for their personal questions through private prayer and study, and many members have begun to do this in regard to the question of our Heavenly Mother. However, perhaps in one of the few times in LDS history, the leaders of the Church have essentially issued a "gag order" on any personal revelation of the sort.
In the early years of the Church, Elder Orson Pratt forbade worship or prayer to Heavenly Mother through the following reasoning:
"The Father of our spirits is the head of His household and his wives and children are required to yield the most perfect obedience to their great Head. It is lawful for the children to worship the King of Heaven, but not the 'Queen of heaven' . Jesus prayed to His father, and taught His disciples to do likewise; but we are nowhere taught that Jesus prayed to His Heavenly Mother. (Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage", The Seer 1 (Oct. 1853):159).
The present Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, has taken a similar stance by saying he considers it "inappropriate" for any member of the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven, and has instructed the priesthood of the Church to take disciplinary action against any members who attempt to do so. During the early 1990's he spearheaded the excommunication of several Mormon feminists, such as Maxine Hanks and Janice Allred, for opposing this policy by examining and developing an LDS theology of the Divine Feminine and practicing private worship of our Heavenly Mother together with our Heavenly Father.
This position is opposed to the Apostle Rudger Clawson, however, when he taught, "It doesn't take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mother in our affection" ("Our Mother in Heaven", Latter-day Saints Millenial Star 72 [29 Sept 1910]: 619-20). He points out that men are just as much in need of a Heavenly Mother as women and children are. If our Heavenly Mother is truly the equal of our Heavenly Father, and our Heavenly Father deserves our worship because He is our Divine Father, it would logically follow that our Divine Mother deserves the same regard. To teach otherwise not only makes inequalities in heaven, it also justifies them on earth. After all, the relationship between our Heavenly Parents is the perfect model for husband-wife relationships here on earth. As men are made in Heavenly Father's image here on earth, so are women made in Heavenly Mother's image. Our image of Her dictates the role of women in mortality. If that role is subservient and devoid of respect and power, then that is the attitude we will have toward mortal women as well. If Heavenly Mother is silent, unapproachable, and beyond mystery in heaven, is it any wonder that Her earthly daughters also feel ignored, silenced, and misunderstood, too?
It is disappointing that in a day when other Christian denominations, from Roman Catholics to Methodists to Lutherans, are incorporating a theology of a Divine Mother into their view of Deity, that the LDS Church, who was perhaps the first Christian denomination in 2,000 years to openly declare such a doctrine, is regressing to a near-denial of Her. The personal experiences of thousands of Latter-day Saints have declared that She is ready to reveal Herself, that She has always been with us, working for our good, that She is ready to welcome us into Her arms and love us as only a Mother can do. I could ask why, then, are the leaders of the Church not responding to this call, and punishing those who do? What is holding us back from a definitive revelation of God the Mother, or at least permission to pursue such revelation personally, for our own individual benefit as sons and daughters of the Goddess?
When I ask this question I am reminded of how men of color were denied the priesthood in the LDS Church for decades based on much the same justifications I have enumerated above. Many members of the Church, even Apostles and prophets, sincerely believed that black men would never receive the priesthood based on supposed scriptural injunctions against the "seed of Cain." Many cited a lack of definitive revelation on the subject and explained a host of other seemingly reasonable arguments to deny this righteous body of members the benefits of ministering the everlasting priesthood of God to their families. When the proper time came, however, when the membership of the Church could at last set aside their prejudices which were conditioned by the unrevealed tenets of their society and accept men of color as being worthy of the priesthood, without that same membership taking part in a major apostasy which would have severely crippled the work of the Lord in the latter-days, the righteous black men of our Church were finally ordained. It was discovered shortly thereafter that Joseph Smith himself had ordained at least one black man to the priesthood in Nauvoo, suggesting that this was not a "new" revelation at all, but a principle meant to be a restored tenet of the Gospel from the beginning. It also suggests that perhaps the "proper time" for the President of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve to receive and issue this revelation had less to do with the will of the Lord to change the bigoted policy than it had to do with the membership's and leadership's willingness to receive it and act on it.
So it is with the revelation of our Heavenly Mother. She is already there, in our scriptures, in our modern revelations, in our history and traditions, in our lives, and sometimes even in our hearts, when we allow Her. It is this allowance the membership of the Church must be willing to make before its leaders will be enabled to receive the revelation that will make Her more knowable to all the Latter-day Saints as a Church body. In the meantime, we must question if denying our ability to communicate and reverence Her is really the best way to begin that welcoming. As so many have already done and continue to do, we must have the courage to be the voice in the desert who cries for the Rose to bloom. Someday, perhaps, this cry will become a chorus of voices, singing the praises of our Father and our Mother in Heaven, just as Eliza Snow wrote it. [Read Eliza Snow's entire poem, O My Father]