Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bible commentary and faith/reasoning case study

Here is another case study regarding the use of faith and reasoning. This is an important example because I address some of the tremendous errors in both faith and total lack of reasoning based on genuine science that is rife in society today. In this case study I demonstrate how science has explained much of how the human brain and psyche works, and how one particular phenomenon that gives rise to error in Biblical interpretation and even worse, occult practices and beliefs, is actually a natural human neurobiological phenomenon.

There has been some coverage in the press recently of a discovery that was made some years ago regarding the “blind spot” that every human has due to the structure of the eyes. Because of the way that human eyeballs are structured and placed every single person has a blind spot where they literally cannot see any object that is placed there. So why do people not lack vision in reality there? Why do people “see” things that are in the blind spot? Because the human brain evolved so that it uses logic to “fill in the blank” of what it can’t see. So when an object is held in front of a human in the exact blind spot, the person still perceives its existence and “sees” it because the brain keeps memory of what that object looked like when it was not in the blind spot. You can do an Internet search on this for more information.

We also know about “phantom limb” syndrome, where a human who has lost an arm or leg still often has sensation or feeling of it, often with genuine continuing pain. The brain is hardwired to retain memories of how the limbs work and feel, even when they no longer exist. This is another example of how the brain “fills in the blank” (though here it is more of a problem than an aid) where a person still “feels” their arm, quite genuinely, even though the arm is no longer there.

Another example of how science explains how the brain “fills in the blank” is seen when one studies how babies learn. When a baby is first born he or she has strong powers of observation (for example, seeing and recognizing facial expressions after only a few days) but he or she does not yet have the knowledge or experience to understand the context. Babies don’t realize that they are an individual being and that mom and dad are separate human beings until several months have gone by. The brain’s ability to “fill in the blank” is how the baby learns about his or her world in this way. Baby eventually observes that mom and dad are separate beings, and that they still exist even if they cannot be seen. That is why “peek-a-boo” is one of the favorite games of most babies and toddlers! Peek-a-boo is a very life affirming game for babies and children because they are learning to “fill in the blanks,” to trust that a human still exists even though they are temporarily hidden or out of sight.

In a practical way, think about how early humans survived by hunting and gathering. What if the human brain could not “fill in the blanks?” A deer could run behind some trees or rocks and the pursuing hunter would not realize that the deer is “still there” if the brain did not use logic to “fill in the blanks.” But humans are hard wired by their biology, and honed through evolution and individual learning, to comprehend the world, even if one temporarily cannot see an object.

So why am I discussing this in a Biblical context? It seems rather obvious biology when one reads the examples that I’ve given above. That’s good, because indeed, my first point it to explain that the Bible (and the Koran) is given to actual human beings with actual neurobiology that can be explained by science. In this case study I am laying the foundation of what we know and what we are still discovering about human neurobiology so that we can start with what is known and true, and then explore how this knowledge is lacked or skewed in very problematic ways.

First, understand that this neurobiological need and desire by humans to “fill in the blanks” never really turns off. It’s not like humans use this talent only to compensate for the blind spot in their vision, and as babies learn, and to logic their way through situations where some information is hidden. Humans tend to crave “filling in the blanks” and THAT is where there is risk of filling in the blanks with garbage. Let’s first start by looking at perfectly understandable ways of how humans “fill in the blanks” in ways that are not strictly true, but are part of their emotional well-being.

In the most innocent examples, think of a child’s dream. A child may dream, for example, that Santa Claus appeared to them and told them that they are going to get a great present for Christmas. This does not mean that Santa Claus made a spiritual visitation to the child, obviously, as any rational adult understands. The analysis of the dream is that the child wants a good present for Christmas and has some excitement or anxiety about it. So the child has a dream about receiving a good present for Christmas and this is the type of dream that we call a “wish fulfillment” dream. The child’s brain uses a dream to process the excitement or anxiety that the child has about getting something for Christmas. Santa Claus is a “fill in the blank” figure. The desire for a Christmas present-and the accompanying anxiety or excitement-is the “raw material” of the dream. But to smooth out the edges, to make the dream safe and to make it “complete” the child’s unconscious adds the safety figure of Santa Claus. Santa Claus can be trusted and Santa Claus is the one bringing the gift.

I could give more examples but want to just quickly make this point so we can move on. This is why dreams are populated by symbolic figures (Santa Claus, angels, demons, godlike figures, aliens, mythical creatures, the Queen of England, etc). It is not that those figures are actually “making an appearance,” “sending a message” or are even real. Rather the dreamer is dealing with the core contents, the raw materials, of their dream and then embellishing the dream with “fill in the blank” figures to make the dream a more complete and more contextual experience. For example, suppose that a person has a dream that involves a demon. Even though the sequence of the dream may be as follows: 1) demon appears in dream 2) action takes place and dream proceeds and 3) dream concludes with or without some sort of resolution or bottom line the actual sequence of the dream is 1) the unconscious mind has raw material that needs to be processed and so a dream will now take place and 2) because the material is of dubious due to moral or other anxieties a demon is utilized as a “fill in the blank” figure to appropriately categorize the dream for the dreamer.

Therefore, far from a demon being “sent with a message” to the dreamer, the dreamer is having a dream about raw material that is fraught with content that is most appropriately labeled as being in the category of a matter that would be best symbolically expressed by an imaginary demon figure.

Just to make sure that I am being clear in this explanation, let me use a silly example before we move on. Rather, the example is very serious and sad, not silly, but I will show you a realistic explanation and compare it to a totally silly explanation. Suppose that a war veteran has a recurring traumatic dream that involves helicopters. It may or may not be a repeat of an actual war experience that he or she had or witnessed. The repeating motif of the helicopter is a “fill in the blank” object. It symbolizes the context of the raw material of the dream and a genuine dream interpreter can help the individual to understand how the helicopter provides some sort of fill in the blank context for the raw material anxiety of the dream (whatever the point of the actual dream may be). Someone who does not understand the “fill in the blank” neurobiology of the mind and body of the dreamer, on the other hand, might tell the dream that the “spirit guide of helicopters is sending a four bladed messenger from the spiritual junkyard of where all deceased helicopters go.” LOL, I wish I was kidding, but I am not.

Before there was radio, television, cinema and of course computers, video games and “fantasy genre of literature,” despite what moderns think previous generations of humans used to be extremely reality based. Most humans lived in a world that was only one season of bad weather away from starvation, and one day away from an illness or injury that could destroy the breadwinner of a family. Modern humans like to think that previous generations were “superstitious” or “ignorant,” but actually the total reverse is true. Modern humans are totally superstitious and ignorant, while previous generations were totally reality based and fantasy had little or no component in their life.

This is a modern problem due to two reasons. The first reason is that exposure to all the imaginary entertainment material that I listed above has over-stimulated the “fill in the blank” mechanism, turning it from a survival trait and aid into a phenomenon that is actually counter to survival. The “fill in the blank” survival trait is being used by moderns as an actual hindrance to common sense, reality and ultimately survival and thriving in real life. That is due to the second reason which is the pandemic of pride, egomaniacal beliefs and inflated feelings of one’s own importance in the world order and indeed in the spiritual order. Genuine humility is the total antidote against the modern pandemic of egomaniacal “fill in the blank” misuse and distortion.

Because of ignorance, lack of reality and egomaniacal individuals and culture we have a situation where everyone thinks that he or she is a player on some sort of stage of the divine matters of the world. No longer does a child have an innocent dream of an angel appearing and saying something nice: now the family declares the child who has a dream with an angel to be “psychic” and “gifted” with a “messenger.” A mere fifty years ago people still had common sense and would brush off these dreams as interesting but normal, and would just reassure their child accordingly. No one but a handful of nuts would run around thinking their child is divine or that they are some sort of important players in spiritual reality.

Suppose a child today dreamed that she received a purple dress from an angel. Years ago sane and logical parents would realize that the child had a dream about clothes, usually a wish fulfillment type of dream (wanting special clothes or having anxiety about not having nice clothes) and that the angel was simply fill in the blank material to make the dream safe and nice for the child. What would happen today? I wish I was joking but here we go.

The parents, aunts or uncles, grandparents or ‘spiritual directors’ of the child would declare her a “seer” who is being “visited by angels.” They would declare the child (and of course the whole family) as being “special” and “gifted” in “spiritual matters.” They would make the child hypersensitive, and even imbalanced, about her every dream and nutty thought, raising her up to be someone “different” and “in touch with universal forces.” They’d ruin her life and worse they as a whole would walk away from genuine salvation through God, creating, instead, their own false gods and beliefs. But it would not stop there.

If this family had money and influence they would declare “purple” to be “their” color. They would start to reckon that the angel gave their child a purple dress in the dream as a sign that they are special and will be rewarded. The color purple would therefore become their false idol and their tool for inflation and exploitation. They’d build businesses around the color purple and block others from “using” “their” color. So they’d start to make money and power and influence using the concept of purple, concluding that it is their “due” since, after all, an angel “gifted” their little darling with that right and “connection.”

Meanwhile, God had other plans for that girl that the family now totally blocks since they are no longer alert to the guidance of the genuine God through the genuine Holy Spirit. As the old saying goes, when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. Modern children and adults are now in the belief that every little dream, burp or nutty thought they have is being “spiritually gifted.” I mean, if you think I am joking, do an Internet search on “indigo children.” That is just one example where people have enabled, both individually and through the freak show society, a total lack of understanding of and a humility regarding the reality of the human being and how unreachable the authentically divine is to human beings.

The Bible and the Koran are, of course, the places to “detox” from out of control “fill in the blank” thinking and thus regain a sense of the reality of the human and the divine. So the second part of this particular blog entry is to demonstrate how to combine the scientific neurobiological knowledge that I have pointed you toward with proper understanding of God’s word and revelation, to regain humility and reality and, hopefully, eventually genuine wisdom, not false “spiritual insight.”

People who don’t read and study the entire Bible have developed erroneous stereotypes and beliefs that are kind of a combination of anecdotal cherry picking of Biblical events combined with lack of understanding of actual history and culture of the time, instead of looking through distorted modern filters. To make a joke but a pithy point, it’s like they read the Bible looking for clues about how teenagers in ancient Israel programmed their IPODs. Modern people think that Biblical people (and hence God himself, since he revealed himself to those ancient generations) think and feel like modern people and that’s totally not true.

So to make a specific example, modern people seem to think that Biblical people were “open” to “messages from angels” and this was some sort of honored and common place thing. In fact, the opposite is true. If a family announced that their little darling had a dream of an angel giving her a purple dress and claimed some sort of spiritual gift, they’d get themselves killed, probably by stoning, as a result.

How do we know this is true? Just read the Bible and understand the timeline. God went long times, often for hundreds of years, without saying a single thing or sending a single message to any person or prophet AT ALL. Far from “everyone” being “open” to divine messages, God is often totally silent to absolutely everybody. The Bible offers absolutely no justification for thinking that little Madison or Brittany is receiving a “gifting” of “spiritual insight” from an “angel” or anyone else. People understood that a dream was just a dream. In fact, they were the experts in discerning genuine divine revelation 1) exactly because the genuine thing is so rare and 2) God’s usage of selected prophets was well known.

The obvious proof of how Biblical culture was in reality is clear when you look how Jesus was treated. As soon as people heard that he was not denying being the Son of God they sought to stone him. Jesus was actually the Son of God and performed thousands of miracles to authenticate his representation of God the Father on earth, yet people of his home town sought to push him over a cliff and to stone him. Even with abundant proof there was a reality based resistance by the people of any danger of false prophets and idolatry. Therefore, far from the people of the Bible being “open” to “frequent” “angelic visitation” etc, God demonstrates in his holy scripture how rare such an authentic event is. It is so rare that when the “real deal” of the Messiah came along and performed works that only God himself could provide through Jesus, many viewed Jesus presenting himself as being of the divine as an abomination.

I’ve taught and I repeat again that understanding the Bible means understanding both what is actually said and what, equally important, is NOT said. Only by reading the entire Bible and understanding its complete context can you start to discern not only what takes place in Biblical times, but you start to notice the gaps, the things that simply do not take place. The more you read the entire Bible the more you realize how rare any sort of divine communication between God and humans is in truth. Here is an example of learning from what “did not happen.” We are going to look at some scripture here as one example of the pattern of what actually happens, and does not happen, throughout salvation history. The bottom line is that you will see that a handful of people throughout the ages are called by God at the time when God is ready to use them. Until that time they lead normal lives and they certainly are not “cultivated” to be “spiritually elect.” Let us look at King David.

The first King of Israel, Saul, has become unsuitable in the eyes of the Lord God, so God summons Samuel, the priest who God has designated as the consecrator of kings in His name.

1 Kings 16:1
And the Lord said to Samuel: How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, whom I have rejected from reigning over Israel? Fill thy horn with oil, and come, that I may send thee to Isai the Bethlehemite, for I have provided me a king among his sons.

Samuel obeys God and goes to Bethlehem. When the ancients (the elders of the city) wonder, with some fear, why Samuel has come to their city, Samuel assures them that he is there only to perform a sacrifice to God. Samuel then invites Isai and his sons to attend the sacrifice so that he can look them over and figure out which is the one that God intends to become king. As Samuel is meeting each of the sons of Isai God is speaking to him, giving him general direction.

1 Kings 16:7

And the Lord said to Samuel: Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him, nor do I judge according to the look of man, for man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart.

Just as an aside, notice that God is teaching not only Samuel but also those in the future who will read his Word in the Bible not to judge each other according to appearances. That is the Biblical foundation for the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” referring to people, of course. How far has society come from the Lord God’s very instructions! All people seem to do these days is to judge people by their appearances. This is another example of how sinful this society has become, and how vanity has caused humans to do the opposite of what God has told them to do.

Notice too that God is allowing Samuel to discern who the right son is on his own. Obviously God knows who he has in mind, as God, being all knowing, knows everyone even before they are born, and of course what his own Will is regarding those he calls. But God teaches humans how to be the best they can be and how to discern his Will through their own God given wisdom. So God tells Samuel that God has perfect ability to behold the interior of every person’s heart, and God lets Samuel go through the review of each son to discern which is the right one.

1 Kings 16:10-11
Isai therefore brought his seven sons before Samuel, and Samuel said to Isai: The Lord has not chosen anyone of these. And Samuel said to Isai: Are here all thy sons? He answered: There remaineth yet a young one, who keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said to Isai: Send, and fetch him, for we will not sit down till he come hither.

This is where I’d like you to notice not only what happened, but what did not happen. Notice that Isai obviously did not have a clue that any of his sons had a divine mission. Even when Isai is told by Samuel that God has sent him to select one of his sons and to bring them all, you can tell that Isai had not a clue which son it would be. In fact, Isai omits bringing the youngest son, the one who will, it turns out, be the future King.

Do you see where I am going with this commentary? It is obvious that David, along with his brothers and his family, led a perfectly ordinary life with no clue of a “divine calling.” If God did not “cultivate” David with sending him and his family “divine messengers” and “spiritual gifts,” how in the dickens do modern people think that their little Dicks and Janes are receiving “callings” and “psychic giftings” of a divine nature? Such a lack of understanding, scriptural integrity, common sense and humility simply boggles the mind. The scripture must be understood as the perfect Word of God and that includes understanding that God is role modeling reality throughout the Bible, both where it is explicitly stated and where through simply reading what happened (and did not) humans can discern truthful divine reality. The Bible not only does not support the modern delusion of many divine “messages” and “gifts,” it directly refutes it through the rarity of such occurrences throughout the thousands of years of salvation history.

1 Kings 16:12-13

He sent therefore and brought him. Now he was ruddy and beautiful to behold, and of a comely face. And the Lord said: Arise, and anoint him, for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren. And the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramatha.

A ruddy face means a face that is reddened by the force of the winds from being long hours outdoors. Samuel is not saying that he selected David because of his looks, obviously, as we just read that the Lord advised him not to, and that all the other sons had already been seen and determined not to be the one. Samuel is simply reporting that David was extremely pleasing in his appearance, and that, as many sheepherders are, he had a wind burned face. Samuel had been seated, as he is the honored guest representing the Lord God, and as he sees David God tells him to arise and that David is the one to be consecrated, which Samuel immediately does. And then there is something that you, dear reader, as you read this slowly and with new attention, cannot help but see with clearer eyes: “And the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”

David was not “cultivated” or “prepped” with “guides” and “angels” and “spiritual gifting” and so forth. The opposite is true since that is reality: people lead normal lives until the moment that they are, if they are of the rare elect, called by God. Scripture documents that it was only when the totally clueless (in the sense of having no advance warning or “signs” of being “special”) Isai and his sons are presented, and David is selected, that the spirit of God descends onto David “from that day forward.” No “special dreams,” no “indigo children,” no “destiny,” no “angelic guides,” and all the other modern lying hubris that is not only taken for granted today but actually, shockingly, thought to have “biblical justification.” Actually reading the Bible for what it clearly says and demonstrates reveal human and divine reality and the way things really DO work, and how they simply do not.

Throughout the Bible one can learn this lesson that I have presented today: how rare it is that a few people have a consecrated purpose from birth or youth and how when that does happen God himself makes it quite plain when and how it occurs. It does not occur any other way. I’ll leave it to you, since that is the whole point, to read and discern what the Bible is actually illuminating for more examples of what I have shown you today. One hint is to read more about Samuel and how he was first of all coming into being because his mother so desired a son. “Angels” did not “guide” Samuel’s mother to want a son who is destined to spiritual greatness. As usual the reverse is true where it is ordinary human reality that creates the natural sequence of events. Anna so wanted a son that she prayed to God for a son and then promised that if she received a son she would dedicate him to God’s service. There was no “prompting” by supposed divine apparitions about some sort of “spiritual destiny.” Life as put into the natural order by God simply does not work that way, with the exception of Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary, and the one who announced him, John the Baptist. Virtually all other callings to service to God occur as they occur and not as some sort of spiritual “gifting,” “karma recycling” or “destiny,” which is actually anti-biblical and anti-reality. This case study of King David is beautiful in its clarity, and now that you have read this you can reread the scripture about the birth and calling of Samuel and understand the proper order of events. I’ve blogged about Samuel and his mother before, so you can reread those with these thoughts in mind too.

I hope that you have found this helpful!