Friday, April 18, 2003

"Empowerment..." "Interconnectedness..." Keywords applied to the Council of All Beings. John Seed and Joanna Macy would like us to "rediscover our 'deep ecology'....Through interactive exercises while we let go of our 'socially constructed, isolated self and come home to our interexistence with all life forms' so that we can act on behalf of the earth." The Council will help us to do this. The Council is structured around the process of finding and speaking for an "ally." John Seed's introduction to this procedure offers a description of the process. Some things Seed recommends keeping in mind when looking for an ally: - The ally is a non-human being since human beings are not welcome at the Council. - Non-human beings may be animals; plants; or features of the landscape such as rivers, lakes, rain, clouds. - Our ally will find us - when we invite it, the spirit of something will come. - The ally usually comes as an inspiration when we go into a childlike space. - Participants will walk in the woods meditating, possibly defocusing vision into a blurr. - Finding the ally is something like a fairy tale. It should be thought of as a kind of play. - No one ever fails to find an ally. - Surrendering to the ally is an important part of letting go of usual boundaries of identification of what is real and dignified. In speaking of the Council, Joanna Macy writes: Quote: According to theologian [Fr.] Thomas Berry in THE DREAM OF THE EARTH, the "shamanic personality," which can understand and speak for other life-forms, is essential to our survival. It helps us to break free from our culture's anthropocentrism and dispel the trance of industrial civilization. The life-giving powers shaping creation from the beginning of time are still present within us. The Council of All Beings has shown it can evoke these deep spontaneities. Here no fasting or drugs or arduous disciplines are needed to awaken the inner shaman. The Council does not claim to involve channeling or shapeshifting, or to engage any capacities beyond the moral imagination. All that is required is clear intention; it is like opening a door in the mind and walking through. At times people do experience another voice "coming through" that is beyond any conscious editing on their part. This is not surprising, given the close relation of this work to the shamanic experience. Macy rejects any notion that the search for an ally is "channeling or shapeshifting" but says that a voice may come through--a voice over which we do not have control. So what is the nature of that voice? And what is the nature of the "inner shaman" that we are to awaken? Deep ecologist Elizabeth Ann Bragg, Ph.D., co-presenter with John Seed of deep ecology workshops, says of the Council's shamanic journey: Quote: As J. V. Downton (1989) suggested in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, "guiding metaphors of...transformation need to be found which provide a clearer idea of what to expect when the forces of the collective unconscious break through into consciousness and the individual is transported across a barrier - like death - into a new reality." He suggests, as I do, that shamanism provides such a metaphor for understanding. Shamanism, as Downton defines it, is "a transformational ordeal of dismemberment and rebirth recorded for centuries among tribal peoples of the world." A 'shamanic journey' is a healing experience, which is both nurturing and empowering.... The workshop is usually woven with ritual, often spontaneously emerging from participants, and choosing the non-human beings for whom we speak takes the form of a mini-vision quest or a shamanic journey where the spirit of our 'ally' chooses us. Shamanism, a religious experience of indigenous people, is foreign to a Catholic. What does it mean to be a shaman? To find an answer to that question, I turned to The Foundation for Shamanic Studies founded by Michael Harner, Ph.D., a non-profit incorporated educational organization. In their website is an article titled "The Reality of Spirits," written by Edith Turner, anthropologist and Field Associate of the Foundation who teaches at the University of Virginia. Turner says: Quote: ...it happened that in July 1987, before I went to Alaska or knew the ecology at first hand, I attended Michael Harner's shaman workshop in Virginia. He was teaching the workshop participants how to make a shamanic journey while lying down in darkness. We were to visualize a climb upward, up a tree, or mountain, or building, or the like. After a first stage of visualization, the experience itself was liable to take over, and we would meet a "teacher" of some kind. In the case of the Council of All Beings the "teacher" is known as the "ally." Turner says further: Quote: ...I have taken note of the effects of trance and discovered for myself the three now obvious regularities: frequent, nonempirical cures; clairvoyance, which includes finding lost people or objects, divination, prediction, or forms of wisdom speaking; and satisfaction or joy - these three effects repeating, almost like a covenant. Divination? Clairvoyance? This, at last, is familiar territory. The CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH speaks of them in CCC 2116: Quote: All forms of divination are to be rejected; recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. It would seem, then, that when Fr. Thomas Berry is quoted speaking of "shamanism," when John Seed, Joanna Macy, and Elizabeth Ann Bragg speak of "shamanism" practiced in the Council of All Beings, what they are really talking about is sin against the First Commandment. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Thursday, April 17, 2003

"The task for a Christian is to drown evil in an abundance of good. It is not a question of negative campaigns, or of being against something. On the contrary, we should live positively, full of optimism, with youthfulness, joy and peace. We should be understanding with everybody." Those are the words of St. Josemaria Escriva which Pope John Paul II quoted to the participants in the annual UNIV international university congress on April 14, 2003. The theme of the congress was "Building Peace in the 21st Century." The theme of peace is the central focus of United Religions Initiative as well, and it is a theme of the Council of All Beings. One of the United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circles used the ritual called the "Council of All Beings," as Lee Penn noted in his article below. Since URI and John Paul II both focus on peace, it is no surprise that both URI and the Catholic Church have made use of the "Council" ritual, since its co-creator, Joanna Macy, "works with worldwide movements for peace, justice, and ecological sanity." Some of you may remember Michael Rose's account of the 1998 EarthSpirit Rising Conference sponsored by the retired bishop of Covington, KY, William Hughes; by 31 religious orders; by two Catholic colleges and two Catholic retreat centers; and the Diocese of Covington. The article was available at Peters Net October 13, 2001 when I last accessed it. It may no longer be there. At the Rainforest Information website, the Council of All Beings is described as, "a series of re-Earthing rituals created by John Seed and Joanna Macy to help end the sense of alienation from the living Earth that many of us feel....Rediscovering our 'deep ecology' - our interconnectedness with all beings - we find empowerment as agents of healing change." CarrieTomko@aol.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I had every intention, today, of blogging on the Council of All Beings which is referenced in Lee Penn's report posted on the 14th. It's not going to happen. In checking sources from past investigations I've discovered so much development in the use of this ritual that it's going to take longer than I planned to write comments. In the meantime, keep the Council of All Beings in the back of your mind and read this article from The Christian Challenge... URI Gains RC Support, Despite Vatican Opposition Report/Analysis By Lee Penn The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC) March 22, 2002 The Vatican has firmly opposed the "syncretism" of the United Religions Initiative (URI) founded by California Episcopal Bishop William Swing, but that has not stopped some U.S. Roman Catholic leaders from supporting the controversial interfaith venture anyhow. In fact, the worldview of the URI, which some believe can lead only to a one-world religion, now appears to be common among U.S. Catholic leaders as well as Catholic religious. The 2000 URI Annual Report's list of donors includes the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California (the first Catholic diocese in the U.S. to give official support to the URI); women religious from six orders, and male religious from two orders. Newer URI backers within the U.S. Catholic Church include the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Interfaith forums and services which took place January 24 show that the Archdiocese, while not officially endorsing the URI, is cooperating closely with it. Moreover, several prominent Catholics in the Archdiocese, including the director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, serve on the URI board of directors. The interfaith forum and prayer services held in San Francisco January 24 to coincide with the papal interfaith prayers for peace at Assisi the same day, show the extent to which URI beliefs and practices now influence the local Catholic Church. At the Mass for Peace held at the National Shrine of St. Francis on January 24, Monsignor Robert E. McElroy, preaching about the parable of the Good Samaritan, said in part: "We must...create a common vision of the new heavens and the new earth which can be created by the conversion of the human heart: from war to peace, from hatred to love, from power to justice...Let us unite in prayer and action with the Hindu and the Orthodox, the Jew and the Buddhist, the Presbyterian and the Muslim, so that we can journey forth as Samaritans all, united in the search for true peace and true community." On the afternoon of January 24, the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the University of San Francisco (USF) held an "Interfaith Dialogue," attended by 100 people, including Archbishop William Levada, who sat impassively as some Catholic speakers fudged on the Christian faith. The event featured a multi-faith panel of discussion leaders, among them Fr. Francis Buckley, S.J., head of the theology department at USF. Buckley asserted in part that "All human religious traditions contain something of truth and value planted there by God, and a respect for God urges us to appreciate that truth and value, take it into our own hearts, and be enriched by it." "Hence Catholic universities like the University of San Francisco should try to make Jewish students better Jews, Muslims better Muslims, Hindus better Hindus, Baptists better Baptists, and Catholics better Catholics. This calls for a paradigm shift,"from "distinguishing 'us' from `them,' to envisioning a powerful magnetic force, drawing all persons and institutions toward a mysterious center, and thus drawing them closer to one another." Another one of the several speakers, Fr. Francis Tiso of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish in Mill Valley, California, avowed his love for "my Lord Jesus Christ" more clearly than the other Catholic speakers. He also noted that religious extremism is not the only cause of violence in the world, and that the faithful are persecuted. Nevertheless, Fr. Tiso followed Bishop Swing's lead in going from rejection of religious violence, to rejection of evangelism, and linking the first with the last. He said, "Could we restrain ourselves from proselytism and coercion?" He also proposed that would-be converts to Christianity be sent back to their native faiths. Bishop Swing described the URI's history, and said that people now see interfaith work as "essential" after September 11. He said, "We have to come to grips with the violence in our own scriptures, with all the times that we call people heathens, pagans, and infidels, and ... with how much of the religious market we wish to corner." In contrast to all the other symposium leaders, Imam Abu Qadir Al-Amin of the San Francisco Muslim Community Center spoke clearly and unapologetically from within his own tradition, explaining how the tenets of Islam are conducive to interreligious peace and dialogue. Archbishop Levada wound up the event by quoting an aphorism by Catholic dissident theologian Hans Kung that is a favorite of Bishop Swing and the URI: "No peace among nations without peace among the religions; no peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions." On the evening of January 24, there was a "Interreligious Prayer Service" at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. The bulletin for this service listed eight URI board members as prayer leaders or participants in the ceremonial lighting of candles for peace; they included Swing and one other Episcopal cleric, a Hindu nun, and a Muslim. During the service, also attended by Levada, there were prayers and scripture readings from Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sufis, and Bah'ais, along with prayers and scriptures offered by Jews and Christians. This--the sequential offering of prayers and holy texts from representatives of many religions during a single service-gave the archdiocesan prayer service an appearance of syncretism that the papal service in Assisi avoided. In Assisi, the members of each religion prayed and held services in separate rooms, before gathering for speeches and non-religious ceremonies in common. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that Christians and followers of other religions "cannot pray together" because their prayers are expressions of different faiths. *The Coming New Religion* The Episcopal Bishop of Oregon, Robert L. Ladehoff, was listed as a 2000 donor to the URI. Other Anglican prelates who have stated support for the URI include former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold; James Ottley, former Anglican Observer at the UN; Samir Kafity, former Bishop of Jerusalem; and Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster (Vancouver), Canada. The URI also has attracted support from New Age and pagan quarters. Donors include an elder of the Wiccan Covenant of the Goddess and the Lucis Trust World Service Fund. The Lucis Trust promotes the writings of Alice A. Bailey, a mid-1900s Theosophist who claimed to channel the "Ageless Wisdom" of the Tibetan spirit guide Djwhal Khul. Theosophy is a Gnostic movement that arose in 1875 and has had significant influence on New Age and occult movements worldwide since then. Dale McKechnie, Vice President of the Lucis Trust, said in 1998 that the teachings of Alice Bailey "oppose what would be called orthodox Christianity. The one overshadows the other." A key URI supporter who has longstanding links with the theosophical movement, Robert Muller, a former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, has hailed Swing as a sage equivalent to Plato and Aristotle. In a vision of the world as it might be in 2013, Muller wrote, "Humanity is now a united world community of nations, not only economic and political, but also spiritual, following the path opened in the last century by Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant in the United Nations, by Robert Schuman in Europe, and also throughout the millennia by prophets and founders of religions, and by great sages such as Plato, Aristotle, Maimonides, Huxley, Albert Schweitzer, Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, Bishop William Swing and others." Muller assigns an ambitious role to the URI: "The role and responsibility of the new United Religions Organization and of the World Parliament of Religions will be no less than to give humanity a new spiritual, planetary, cosmic ideology to follow the demise of communism and capitalism." Muller views the UN as central to the coming New Religion. In My Testament to the UN, he wrote: "At the beginning the UN was only a hope. Today it is a political reality. Tomorrow it will be the world's religion." *Sources available upon request ======================== Permission to circulate the foregoing electronically or reprint it is granted, including to other media outlets, provided that there are no changes in the headings or text. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Monday, April 14, 2003

A recent article from Lee Penn... UNITED RELIGIONS "ENCOURAGES A LOWERARCHY" Bush Praises URI Initiative By Lee Penn January 5, 2002 The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC) Was it a Freudian slip, or just a coincidence? It's hard to say. But a lot of Christians reading the current issue of the URI Update, the official newsletter of the United Religions Initiative, might be surprised to learn that "a lowerarchy, not a hierarchy" was recommended as a structural model for the URI--the controversial interfaith venture founded by California Episcopal Bishop William Swing. Attentive readers of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters may remember that Screwtape, a senior demon, tells his nephew, Wormwood, that some strategies for tempting people are "decided for us by spirits far deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and I." The eye-catching reference appears in an article in the latest URI Update about selecting the URI Global Council (the board of directors). Its author, Sally Mah´┐Ż, noted that: "At the 1999 URI Global Summit, 100 participants offered their highest vision for the URI Global Council. Some comments: 'Encourages a lowerarchy, not a hierarchy.' 'Service of love, not power.' 'Inspires spiritual citizenship.' Visions like these have inspired and carried the URI into being." Organizational activities apparently according with this "vision" in the U.S. and overseas show what the URI means by its stated mission to "create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the earth and all living beings." In one of them, the URI "Cooperation Circle" (local chapter) in Asheville, North Carolina "held the Council of All Beings for people to experience being part of a ritual where the human species is only one voice among many." It was not disclosed whether the non-human participants in the ceremony were animals, plants, rocks, spirits, or all of the above. MEANWHILE, TCC has learned that President George W. Bush has lauded the URI and Swing--who was recently in the news for blaming all religions for fostering terror, albeit with a sterner eye toward Christianity than Muslim extremism. In a November 6 letter from the White House, Bush congratulated Swing for receiving the 2001 Citizen Diplomacy Award from the International Diplomacy Council, a private organization that works closely with high-level State Department officials to assist overseas groups who visit the US. At the end of the letter, Bush said, "Both the United Religions Initiative and the International Diplomacy Council exist to foster a greater understanding among peoples. I salute these organizations for their roles in facilitating interaction among people and nations." Gray Davis, the Democratic governor of California, joined Bush's tribute. In a November 14 letter from his office in Sacramento, Davis said, "By promoting peace and tolerance through the United Religions Initiative, you have made a positive and lasting impact. Your outstanding dedication to fostering international goodwill is an inspiration to us all." Frank Damann, manager of membership for the International Diplomacy Council (IDC), said that the Secretary of State is familiar with the work of IDC; in addition, George Shultz, Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, is a member of the IDC Advisory Council. It appears that Bush's commendation of the IDC and the URI was at the suggestion of senior officials in the State Department. It was not clear that the President was aware of Swing's post-September 11 statements claiming that the terrorists did not hold a corrupted view of Islam, since all religions foster terror, a view Bush would be unlikely to endorse. URI staff did not return phone calls asking for comment on these developments. =============== The letters from Bush and Davis praising the URI are - as of December 20, 2001 - on the Internet at http://www.diplomacy.org/PresLet.html and http://www.diplomacy.org/GrayDavis.html. Sources for this story also included ch. 20 of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, and issue 10 of the URI Update, pp. 1,3, 7, and 8 =============== PERMISSION TO CIRCULATE the foregoing is granted, provided that there are no changes in the headings or text, and the story includes this notice. For permission to reprint the foregoing, please contact THE CHRISTIAN CHALLENGE, 202/547-5409, fax 202/543-8704; e-mail: CHRISTIAN.CHALLENGE@ecunet.org CarrieTomko@aol.com

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Excellent article about the history of Gnosticism and it's contemporary manifestations, written by Fr. Alfonso Aguilar. This statement from the article is a bullseye: "Modern times witnessed the resurgence of Gnosticism in philosophical thought - the Enlightenment, Hegel's idealism, some existentialist currents, Nazism, Jungian psychology, the theosophical society and Freemasonry." Fr. Aguilar goes on to describe gnosticism in the movies, including The Matrix, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. Of Star Wars he says: "Consider the Star Wars series. "The force" is the good godhead opposed by "the dark side of the force," which the emperor (the demiurge) and his siths (the archons) employ to enslave all peoples. Only the Jedis (the Gnostic) are capable of transcending the physical laws of nature and join "the force" to use it for the salvation of all. Each Jedi acquires gnosis with the help of a master. Yoda, for instance, trained Ben Kenobi, and Ben Kenobi trained Anakin and Luke Skywalker. In the last scene of The Return of the Jedi, you see Yoda, Ben Kenobi and Anakin "saved" - "energized" with "the force." Interesting in light of my current focus on United Religions Initiative. URI is housed at the Presidio in San Francisco. So is Star Wars. And Berit Kjos sees Star Wars and URI as being compatible travelers. As Kjos puts it: "George Lucas will surely add strength to the entire Presidio project. His universal power source provides a perfect model for the new global spirituality needed as a foundation for the planetary oneness." CarrieTomko@aol.com

Perhaps the use of Vibrant Parish Life in the Cleveland Diocese has something to do with the clergy abuse situation here. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer story: The newest lawsuit in the past year's unprecedented wave of sex-abuse litigation against the Cleveland Catholic Diocese could prove to be the most contentious yet. Rocky River attorney Jay Milano filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the diocese on Thursday, saying he will seek access to records never before viewed by laymen outside the locked vaults in Cathedral Square. Milano wants to see the secret file of every priest who works in the eight-county diocese, plus financial records from all of the different corporations the diocese owns and operates - businesses that Milano contends are used to hide and protect property, and to shield assets. And a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge is expected to decide in June whether to release a roomful of investigative files compiled by the county prosecutor's office that deal with more than 1,000 sex-abuse allegations against 496 suspects, including 145 priests. The article also indicates a chapter of Voice of the Faithful is forming here. At this point it is difficult to say how the diocese will cope with a combination of the sexual abuse prosecution and the severe shortage of priests that we are destined to experience within a few years when those serving now reach retirement age. Some of our parishes are already priestless. Parishes that enjoyed the benefits of having three priests in the recent past are down to one priest today. That includes my own parish. CarrieTomko@aol.com

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