September 16, 2016

About Heaven

Introduction

The concept of heaven can be found in many theological traditions and religious doctrines. A discussion about heaven is usually more optimistic than our thoughts about hell. We seek it as a destination in the afterlife. Thoughts about heaven are usually inspirational constructive and positive. By contrast, our fears about hell tend to be event or place specific, unpleasantly negative, and self-destructive.

Western theology favors the concept our soul, and our body in an altered form, continue to exist after our physical death. At the time of death we are judged by a divine being who assigns us to a specific realm based on the quality of our thoughts and deeds while we were among the living. Worthy souls are sent to heaven, or to a purgatory which prepares us for heaven. The sinful soul is sent to hell for punishment and purification. Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian belief systems also anticipate that at some time in the future, all of the worthy dead will be brought back to life through a process of resurrection. 

Eastern philosophy, by contrast, frequently emphasizes that after our physical death we are reborn into this physical world to begin a new life cycle. This cycle of birth, death and rebirth continues until we become one with the ultimate spiritual experience. The physical form of each reincarnation is determined by the purity of our thoughts and deeds in a prior life. Sinners are reborn to a lower form of life. Worthy individuals are reborn to a higher plane of existence. There is no divine judgment. The determination of our fate is based on our accumulated Karma.

The concept of seven heavens is one of the more interesting concepts of religious cosmology. Ancient astrologists identified seven heavenly objects (the planets) which they envisioned traveled in seven different concentric circles around the earth. The number seven became to symbolize perfect completion (a week has seven days, for example). After death, the soul ascends upward through the seven heavens. Each one is a place of learning. This experience continues until the soul is united with God in the highest heaven. A variation of this belief found its way into Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.
 

Historical Evolution

First: A note.
Most religions are a collection of related beliefs. Individual faithful may have differing philosophical points of view. Thus, within every religious experience, one may find multiple views of heaven. What follows is a brief comparison of typical beliefs within each religious philosophy. It is NOT meant to be a complete analysis of religious philosophy or spiritual theology (which would take several volumes).

Eastern Mediterranean

Early Egyptians (after 2400 B.C.) worshiped Osiris, the Lord of the Dead, who offered eternal life in his Kingdom of the Dead to those who were judged worthy. A belief in life after death was a driving force for elaborate funeral preparations. Eternal life would only be given to persons who had been given a proper funeral, mummified, and entombed.
Life has purpose. The divine dwells within us. One must combine the spiritual (symbolized by the heart) with the physical (actions symbolized by the tongue). Death was considered to be a temporary condition. Entrance to the Kingdom of the Dead demanded a sin free heart, memorization of text from the Book of the Dead, and passing the test of admission. When a person died, a portion of the soul in the form of a body double and a person’s personality were taken to the Kingdom of the Dead. In the Hall of Two Truths, the deceased’s heart was placed on a scale. It must weigh less than the feather of truth and justice, which was placed on the other side of the scale. If the heart was heavier, the soul would be devoured by a demon.

If a person passed the test of the Underworld, and the weighing of the heart, they would meet Osiris and live forever with the Gods in the Fields of Reeds. Ordinary people paid their respects to the Gods, and worked in the fields or fished in the river to provide the deceased with food. There was no change to the division of social classes. The Pharaohs maintained their social status as Gods.

Ancient Greeks believed most souls must cross the river Styx to reach the cold, dark tomb of Hades after death. The soul continued to exist without any body. Later mythology included the concept of judgment. Sinners were sent to the Asphodel Fields, the Fields of Punishment, or Tartarus (hell) according to the gravity of their misdeeds. Only those who are pure of heart are allowed to enter the Elysian Fields, a paradise of warm sunshine, green fields, and beautiful mountains.

It is worth noting the Zoroastrians believed in a single universal God, and that newly purified souls cold achieve a perfect unity with God. They also believed the last purification of the earth at the end of time would include the destruction of evil by a savior-figure. These ancient Persian (Iranian) religious concepts would find their way into Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theology.

Hebrew

The Torah and the Talmud describe the afterlife in vague terms. There does not appear to be a cohesive and generally accepted view of heaven among the various Jewish sects. But two themes recur in Jewish theology.

The rabbinic concept of resurrection appears to have entered Jewish theology after the Torah was completed. There is conscious life after death. On the Day of Judgment, righteous people enter heaven (the Garden of Eden), a place of joy and peace. The wicked are doomed to hell. Those who are neither righteous nor wicked go through a period of instruction in order to gain sufficient wisdom to appreciate God. During the period of instruction, one experiences emotional and spiritual discomfort for past sins. At the end of this period, no longer than a year, the soul takes its place in heaven. 
  
A belief in reincarnation is not uncommon among contemporary Jews. Reincarnation became a popular concept in ancient Jewish theology, and references can be found in the Yiddish literature of the Ashkenazi Jews.  These ideas are also found in a number of Kabbalistic works from the 1200s, and among the mystics of the late 1500s.

It was originally believed the Cosmos included three elements: heaven, earth and the underworld. Heaven was the home of God, and in later literature, the dwelling place of righteous dead. Around 300 CE, this three tier view of the Cosmos was replaced by a newer model in which the earth was the center of several heavens. According to the Talmud, the universe includes seven heavens (or seven levels of heaven). After death, the soul ascends through these heavens to its original home.

Christianity

Christianity inherited its belief that heaven is the home of God from the Old Testament. Although Christian views of heaven vary from denomination to denomination, most Christians believe in some kind of heaven where believers are made one with God and are liberated from suffering and sin. Only the pure of faith are allowed to enter heaven. Deism, which gained popularity during the enlightenment, taught that the expectation of a reward or a punishment in the afterlife motivated moral behavior.

Among Christians, the idea that heaven is a reward for good behavior coexists with the concept that entrance into heaven is solely determined by the grace of God. We will be judged. Entrance to heaven is also made possible by accepting Jesus as one’s savior. The idea that one can “earn” a place in heaven by making charitable donations and other good works (popular 1200 – 1600 AD) is discouraged. Existing theological emphasis is placed on the immortality of the soul.

Although the Christian concept of resurrection is based on earlier Jewish canon, the idea that the body is not separated from the soul at the time of death appears to be based on later Greek concepts of immortality. But some Christian theologians teach that the soul dies with the body and will not live again until resurrected when Jesus returns to earth, while others believe all human souls will eventually be reconciled with God and admitted to heaven.

In Roman Catholicism, the largest relatively cohesive congregation of Christians, the soul is judged after the body dies. A righteous person who is free of sin goes directly to heaven. Unrepentant sinners are sent to purgatory for the purification of their souls before going on to heaven. Through resurrection, the body is transformed into a spiritual and imperishable being.

Most Christians believe Jesus Christ will eventually return to earth. During His Second Coming he will destroy the forces of evil, rid the world of sin, establish peace on earth, resurrect the dead, and reward His followers with life everlasting. 

Unfortunately, the Bible reveals few specific details about heaven, its location, or the process by which one ascends into heaven. The New Testament does teach Christians Jesus is the path to salvation: 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord"
John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Islam

Allah created the earth and the heavens. The purpose of life is to worship Allah because he will provide a path to heaven for the worthy. Faith is incomplete without a belief in heaven.
All humans are born pure. Individuals have a direct relationship with God. Being faithful to Allah qualifies one to enter heaven in the afterlife and – rarely – some may enter heaven while still alive. Those who have only worshiped Allah, faithfully practiced the five pillars of Islam, and performed righteous deeds while alive are qualified to enter heaven. The five pillars of Islam are:
1.        Have an unshakeable faith in one God, Allah.
2.       Turn toward Mecca (Islam’s holiest city), to pray five times a day (dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening), and attend a congregational service every Friday.
3.       Give alms to assist with the welfare of the community equal to 2.5% of an individual’s net worth excluding family obligations. Social responsibility is a service to Allah.
4.       During the month of Ramadan, one must seek a deeper and richer personal perception of God by fasting.
5.       At least once in one’s lifetime, make a pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca as a sign of faith and Islamic unity.

There are additional rituals within the different sects of Islam.

Life on this earth is thus a test to determine whether we are destined to go to heaven, or will be condemned to hell. Unless Allah intercedes, both are everlasting. There are seven levels (or layers) of heavens, each one above the other. Those who are sent to heaven go to a level appropriate for their worthiness. In heaven one is rewarded with an existence of riches and happiness. Only Muhammad is close enough to Allah to be admitted to the seventh heaven.

The Qur'an, 2:29  “It is He Who created everything on the earth for you and then directed His attention up to heaven and arranged it into seven regular heavens. He has knowledge of all things."
The Qur’an 71:15-16  “See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the Sun a Lamp?”

Buddhism

Religions that follow the theological philosophy of Abraham characterize life as having a beginning and an end. Birth is followed by death. At the time of death, God makes a judgment that commits one to either hell or heaven. By contrast, eastern theology describes life as a continuous experience through a series of planes. There is birth, death, and rebirth. Each plane offers a new experience. If we are wise, we create our own heaven in this (human) life. If we are foolish, we create our own human hell. Rebirth in any plane below Nirvana is viewed as a process of purification. Buddhist texts describe ten planes (or states of existence) in the universe. Four are below the human plane, and are places of suffering. As one ascends to higher planes, there is an ever greater sense of tranquility. One does not exist on a plane forever, and upward or downward movement from plane to plane is governed by one’s accumulated karma (actions, deeds or thoughts). 

Reincarnation is an essential principle of Buddhism. The levels of heaven and hell exist in both our perceived world, and in places that are beyond this world. But they do not describe physical locations. Rather, they describe a state of being. Wherever there is suffering, that place is a hell to those who suffer. Humans suffer the physical and mental fires of hell by experiencing lust, hatred, illusion, sickness, decay, death, worry, lamentation, pain, melancholy and grief. Existence in heaven brings sensual pleasure. Entering hell brings physical and mental suffering. Existence on any plane is temporary. One must be continuously reborn, sometime to a higher plane, sometimes to a lower plane, until reaching the ultimate peace and happiness (enlightenment) of Nirvana. There is no divine judgment that leads to punishment (or heaven), and although one’s existence on any plane may be for a very long time, it is not eternal. Every individual moves from plane to plane according to one’s accumulated karma. 

The Buddha taught a non-aggressive moral philosophy (Dhamma) that advocates the practice of a golden mean which will bring us to supreme wisdom and freedom from all evil. Heaven and hell exist in many worlds, including this one. As he said: “The wise man makes his own heaven while the foolish man creates his own hell here and hereafter.”  Where there is more pain and suffering, there is hell. Where there is more pleasure or happiness, there is heaven. Human existence is a mix of both conditions.

Each state of rebirth is temporary. Existence is a repetitious process that continues until one eventually arrives at the “Right View” which can then lead to the ultimate happiness of Nibbana.

If during our life in this realm we are compassionate, generous, loving, and seek to meld knowledge with wisdom, then we can expect to be reborn in a higher plane. The higher we go, plane by plane, the greater our sense of spiritual tranquility.

The Sutta Nipata is a Buddhist scripture from the Khuddaka Nikaya collection, part of the Pali Canon of monastic Theravada Buddhism.  It is among the oldest parts of the Pali Buddhist canon. 

From the Sutta Nipata

Discourse on Good Will

May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
The strong and the weak,
The great and the small,
The mean and the powerful,
The short and the long,
The subtle and the gross:

May all beings everywhere,
Seen and unseen,
Dwelling far off or nearby,
Being or waiting to become:
May all be filled with lasting joy.

Let no one deceive another,
Let no one anywhere despise another,
Let no one out of anger or resentment
Wish suffering on anyone at all.

Just as a mother with her own life
Protects her child, her only child, from harm,
So within yourself let grow
A boundless love for all creatures.

Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.

Then, as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.

Hinduism

It is likely that Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion, spanning a lifetime of more than 4,000 years. Aside from a belief in the unifying principle of Brahman, Hindus may be followers of Shiva or Vishnu (the one true God), or they may look inward to the divine self.

From the Garuda Purana we learn the body is merely a shell for the soul. The soul, which is indestructible, lives multiple lives in a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Upon death, the soul leaves the body and is reincarnated in another body. If one has accumulated “good” Karma by living a good and righteous life, then after death one is rewarded for a time in a joyous heaven. Upon returning to earth, the soul with good Karma acquires a new body that will live a better life after the next rebirth. Conversely, if one has accumulated “bad” Karma, then one may suffer for a period of time in hell, and then go on to live in the body of an animal or other lower creature. The bad deeds of the prior life will haunt the soul until its newly acquired body eventually dies. There is a repetitive cycle of death and rebirth until the accumulation of good Karma allows the soul to merge with the greatest soul (god).    

Hindu beliefs also include the concept of seven heavens. There are fourteen worlds, seven higher ones (the heavens), and seven lower ones (the underworlds). God lives in the highest (seventh) heaven.

Taoism

Taoism (Daoism) emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (Dao) which means “the way”, or the “path”. The Tao is the source and driving force for everything in our universe. In the "The Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution", death is neither feared nor desired. Life is eternal. Birth is not a beginning, nor is death an end of existence. The afterlife is within life. The longer one lives, the closer one is presumed to have become one with the Tao. Eventually, one hopes to achieve Tao - to be in harmony with the universe.

Where Is Heaven?

There is a problem with our traditional thoughts about heaven... It’s not “up there”.
Popular mythology often describes heaven as a place somewhere in the clouds. There is a set of “Pearly Gates” through which one must pass in order to enter heaven. Like a stern school master, St. Peter carefully looks up the record of our life in order to determine if will be permitted to enter heaven, or sent “down” to hell. Elsewhere in the clouds, God sits and watches over human events as they unfold on earth.

But heaven obviously does not exist “in the clouds” or in the space between the planets. Its physical existence would obviously be far too large to hide in the clouds, or for that matter, anywhere in our universe. Although one could imagine heaven exists out there “somewhere” in the vast reaches of outer space, perhaps many light years away, such a probability raises the same problems we contemplate when we ask the question: where is heaven?

Both heaven and hell exist, and they are located very close to us.

 

Heaven Exists

We just need to look.  Let us start with the world we know.

Most of us yearn for a life after death. No matter how tough life has been for us, no matter how many sorrows and frustrations, we want a life after death that is free of the physical and emotional tribulations of this physical universe. Most of us wish for the experience of heaven in this life. No matter how tough life has been for us, no matter how many sorrows and frustrations, we would like to experience moments that are free of the physical and emotional tribulations of our physical existence. We yearn for happiness and peace.

Here, on this earth, in this life, we are able to experience moments of heaven: the joy of love; the peace and contentment of companionship; and the warmth of friendship. Paradise is fulfillment. Our emotional and physical needs are completely satisfied. God gives us the opportunity to create the experience of heaven in this life.

After death, the worthy find their way to heaven. It is not a reward. We have already been judged while we are alive. Our fault or innocence has already been established by our peers and the observation of an omnipresent and omniscient God. Passage into heaven is a continuation of our spiritual existence. Our soul embraces a new tangible form.

Those who are worthy are encouraged to find the Angels’ Footpath. It leads us to the golden portal of heaven. Step through it, and we pass from this physical universe to the realm of another dimension.

Ron

August 21, 2016

Can We Connect With a Personal God?

For educated 21st century Christians, the image of God as a nice old man with a long flowing white beard is charming mythology. We believe this cannot possibly be true. But then, this raises a question: how should we characterize God?  What does he look like? If he doesn’t sit upon a cloud high above us, then where is he?

And perhaps the most important question of all: are we able –each one of us – to have a personal God?

Unfortunately, our human concept of a Christian God has not changed much in almost 2000 years. Jesus wisely framed our understanding of God in terms we could understand circa 2030 AD. Jesus clearly believed in a personal connection with the God He knew and loved. He encourages us to embrace our own personal relationship with God, either though Him or through sincere prayer and sensitive states of consciousness. But how do we make this connection?

Fortunately, 21st century scientific knowledge, philosophical concepts, and enlightened theology do give us the clues we seek. We need to sort through all the available information in order to develop a consistent and logical answer to the questions raise in the first paragraph of this essay.

As I proposed in Summa 21, God the Holy Spirit (the spiritual force that is consciousness) exists in another dimension of our universe. That means God is everywhere, surrounding us at all times with compassion, love, and the energy of life. The more open we are to God, the closer we get to the moral life-force that exists throughout the Cosmos.

All over our planet there are persons who use meditation as a means of connecting with the universal consciousness of the Cosmos. They become aware of a higher level of spiritual being. However it may be expressed, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Christian theology all support the reality of this connection. For some, a connection with a higher consciousness (or higher plane) is a sufficiently rewarding spiritual experience. But for many of us, we yearn for a one on one connection with God.

And we can. Does it not seem logical that if God is powerful enough to create heaven, earth and living creatures, then God is also able to manifest Himself in the form of a familiar person? Universal consciousness becomes human by linking with our core consciousness (or inner being) though the process of quantum entanglement. We are usually unaware of any activity within the core of our conscious self because these processes occur within the neuron (rather than between cells). For some observers, quantum theory suggests we may have a profound spiritual connection with the universe at this level of consciousness. If so, it is the link to our most powerful sense of the beautiful, the majestic, and the noble.

The separation between the dimensions of our familiar universe, and the dimension within which The Holy Spirit dwells, is but a very thin veil in the space time continuum. If we are willing to look, The Holy Trinity (or God, if you prefer) can be discovered through introspection and communication with God as the Holy Spirit. If we make an honest, sincere and humble attempt to seek God, He will listen and counsel. We will discover God is love, as He has taught us through the words of Jesus Christ, and is ready to engage with us on a very personal level. As taught by Jesus, we are able to connect with The Holy Trinity (God), through sincere prayer and sensitive states of consciousness.

Ron

July 30, 2016

Reality

Let’s start with a fundamental concept. Reality is (sometimes) unpopular. We may not like the reality of our existence. We may choose to ignore reality because it does not support our self-image or beliefs. Our perception of reality is likely to be influenced by multiple factors including – among other things - the physical condition of our five senses, our psychological state at the time of our observation, how past experience manipulates our interpretation of the present.

Reality, it would seem, is subject to interpretation.

We thus have a subjective reality that is perceived as a true representation of our personal physical universe. In addition, there are degrees of reality. There is anything we can imagine; there is everything we can observe; and there is the immediate environment which demands our attention. These realities are all simultaneously present in our personal consciousness.

If you and I exist in the same space time reality, then our perception of reality is framed by the same laws of physics. If however, we do not share the same space time reality, then your observations will be different from mine. If we are in the same universe, our experiences will be bound by the same laws of physics. If however, you move into another universe, then your experiences will be governed by the laws of physics of that exist in your new universe. Those laws may, or may not, be the same as those of the universe you left.

Let us look at this from a different perspective. What it is like to be a dog cannot be fully understood by a human because a dog’s experience can only be fully understood from a dog’s point of view. In like fashion, what I experience can only be understood from my point of view, and even though you are near me in space-time, your experience can only be understood from your point of view.

Reality is relative – and it is subject to personal interpretation.
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July 23, 2016

Abraham

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are called Abrahamic faiths because all three religions trace their roots back to Abraham (a father of many nations).  The story of Abraham includes his two sons Ishmael and Isaac, who also play important roles in the founding of these faiths. It is likely Abraham’s narrative is a literary construct that does not relate to any period in actual history.

In Jewish tradition, Abraham (Abram) was born about 1800 BC and is regarded as the patriarch who established the Covenant (contract) between the Jewish people and God.  He is regarded as both the biological progenitor of the Jews (the first Jew), and the father of Judaism.

Abraham is often mentioned in the Qur’an. He is called a monotheist (believes there is only one God), a Muslim (one who submits to God), a patriarch, and a prophet. Mohamed depicts Abraham as the perfect Muslim. In Islamic tradition, Isaac is revered as a prophet of Islam, and the father of the Israelite's. Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael is regarded as the ancestor of the Arabs. Abraham and Ishmael journeyed to Mecca to build Islam’s Holy shrine the Kaaba, and Ishmael, along with his mother Hagar are thought to be buried next to the shrine. The Qur'an commands Muslims to believe in the revelations given to "Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Patriarchs".

For Christians, Jesus is the Messiah who brings God’s message to humanity. Abraham is recognized as the first person to believe in a single powerful God (monotheism), and his son Isaac links Abraham to Christian tradition. The divinity of Jesus is a key construct of Christian theology that separates Judaism and Islam from Christianity. In Judaism and Islam, Jesus is not regarded as being divine and is only seen as one of many prophets.  

Judaism holds that one becomes a descendant of Abraham through birth. Christians theoretically believe one becomes a descendant of Abraham through faith. Islam holds that one becomes a descendant of Abraham through both birth and faith. Because Islam draws much of its tradition from the Old Testament, many of its beliefs are similar to those found in Jewish literature.
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June 30, 2016

Abortion is Now a Form of Birth Control

Democrats have gotten what they wanted. Thanks to the Supreme Court, abortions are now classified as a legal procedure, any time, any place, and by anyone who wants to play doctor.

Is this really about woman’s health? What the Supreme Court has done is to permit abortions to take place in a facility that is unsupervised by public health, may not be sterile, may not have the equipment necessary to complete a difficult procedure, may not have trained staff, and may not understand emergency procedures: (forget dialing 911, that would look bad for the “clinic” and hurt business).

Anyone with a rusty coat hanger can play doctor. Good luck with that.....

Democrats say this is about “women’s rights”. Nonsense, this is about killing a baby because birthing is just too darn inconvenient. Liberal women want the right to kill a baby, but they do not want to be responsible for getting pregnant. Women’s rights now include wanton sexual freedom without any constraint on irresponsible behavior.

With Hillary Clinton’s full support, the democrats have included abortion as a form of birth control in the 2016 democratic party platform. For them, it is just as moral as removing a wart, trimming nose hair, or filing a nail. A baby, after all, is just a collection of unwanted tissue. The DNC platform calls for the removal of ALL restrictions on abortion, including the gruesome procedure of late term abortion - slicing up a baby so its parts can be removed from the womb. One bloody piece at a time. (Reference)

Of course we want abortion to be available for medically risky pregnancies, or where birthing would endanger a woman’s life. Local cultural preferences may also encourage abortion where the woman is a victim of incest or rape. These are tough moral choices which should be made on a case by case basis. 

And most women understand “a woman’s right to choose” must necessarily include being responsible for each choice a woman makes. Right infers personal responsibility. We frequently hear that inference from women who value Christianity and women who take pride in their independence.

But the democrats intend to encourage unfettered use of abortion as a form of birth control. They apparently believe human life has no value until it is able to walk.
...

Reference 1:
The proposed Democratic platform completely ignores the rights of a fetus. Under this statement of intent, abortion can be performed at any time during a pregnancy, even during birth. 

From the Democratic Platform:

***DRAFT

DELIBERATIVE AND PREDECISIONAL***
Version July 1, 2016

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. (Anytime, anywhere, by anyone who is “legally entitled” to perform “safe” abortions.)

We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and well-being. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. (It is unclear when a baby, even after it has been born, receives the protection of law. Given what some democrats have previously expressed, this omission is deliberate. It gives a mother the right to murder (sorry: abort) her baby if she decides she doesn’t like it at any time - even after it has been born. This raises a question: if the democrats have no intention of protecting a baby from harm, at what age does a child receive the protection of law?)  

We need to defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.

We will address the barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexuality, race, income, and other factors. We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence based sex education, and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

And we strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services. (Nice afterthought.)

Reference 2: 
For example: Kermit Gosnell’s abortion “clinic” is described by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic (April 2013). (Paraphrase) “It was a house of horrors: blood, urine, trash and filth everywhere, unsterilized equipment, untrained personnel administering anesthesia. At least two patients died. Gosnell repeatedly violated Pennsylvania's laws against aborting babies after they were medically viable. Gosnell often made sure they were dead by cutting their spinal cords with scissors. Bloody remains were stored "in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers."

Reference 3:
As for our courts: “admitting-privileges and ... surgical-center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking ... abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.” - Justice Breyer
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April 24, 2016

Stephen Hawking, Black Holes, Another Universe, and Creation

Many years ago I concluded the “Big Bang” theory of creation never happened because it was illogical. The idea our universe with all its matter, anti-matter, energy, dark matter, and dark energy came from a singularity (sometimes described as a highly dense ball of “stuff”) just does not appear to be plausible. While doing the cosmology research for Summa 21, it also became apparent there is a conflict between the theories of Quantum Science and the Standard Model of physics. The theories of Quantum Science suggest the existence of multiple universes, the nature of which we do not understand. In addition, although there is a divergence between western and eastern interpretations of spiritual reality, both eastern and western theologies assume the existence of alternative states of being, perhaps in “another place”, without giving much thought as to where they are located.

It would appear all of these phenomena are interrelated. Although we need to leave the Quantum Science versus Standard Model challenges to further scientific investigation, a sudden inspiration answered the question of creation. Our universe came from another universe. My conclusions are discussed in Summa 21.

For the purposes of this article it is sufficient to recognize there are - apparently - many theologians, scientists, and philosophers who are headed in the same direction. Although a consensus is several years away (and may never happen because we humans are habitually contentious), the role of Black Holes in the formation of multiple universes is an intriguing area of study.

Enter Physicist Stephen Hawking.

Physicist Stephen Hawking says black holes do not conserve physical information. Only their mass, angular momentum and electrical charge are retained. “Apart from these three properties, the black hole preserves no other details of the object that collapsed...  For example, the final black hole state is independent of whether the body that collapsed was composed of matter or antimatter, or whether it was spherical or highly irregular.”

Black holes discharge particles, gradually lose mass, reduce in size and disappear. “What happens to all the particles that fell into the black hole?” Hawking asked. “They can’t just emerge when the black hole disappears. The particles that come out of a black hole seem to be completely random and bear no relation to what fell in. It appears that the information about what fell in is lost, apart from the total amount of mass and the amount of rotation. “Hawking said it’s possible that black holes could be as massive as the distance from the sun to Jupiter (about a billion miles) or any size down to the mass of a mountain.

“It might seem that it wouldn’t matter very much if we couldn’t predict what comes out of black holes...  but it’s a matter of principle. If determinism — the predictability of the universe — breaks down in black holes....”

Thus black holes remain an enigma. Black holes are thought to form when a massive star exhausts its nuclear fuel and collapses under its own gravity. Though light and matter can’t escape from them into our known physical universe, there may be a portal into another universe. “Black holes aren’t the eternal prisons they were once thought,” Hawking said. “Things can get out of a black hole, both from the outside and possibly though another universe.” He no longer believes that the contents of that matter are destroyed.
....
Stephen William Hawking CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is a highly respected English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.

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The Black Hole Creation Hypothesis

Theories of multiple universes, multiple dimensions, and energy in forms we have yet to recognize (let alone understand) pose an interesting challenge. Can they be linked to explain the origins of our perceived physical universe? The answer is yes. Quantum theory and the Multiverse Hypothesis suggest there is more than one universe in our Cosmos. We need only add one more observed phenomenon:

- Black holes.

Our black hole creation hypothesis starts with the probability there are multiple universes in the Cosmos. Each one is unique in time and space. Then we add contemporary astronomical observation.

Cosmologists have observed “Black Holes” in the universe whose gravitational pull is so strong that even light cannot escape being pulled down into a seemingly limitless vortex. But where do the black holes go? Do they eject the accumulated energy, light, and matter back into our universe? Or do they create a new singularity in another universe? Is it possible there are “white” holes at the opposite end of (some) black holes? Could they be the physical counterpart of (some) black holes? Does the stuff of a universe travel through the vortex of a black hole and reemerge into a different universe? If white holes exist as opposite ends of some black holes, then more than one physical universe is possible.

Will science reject the possibility our universe was created when an incredibly large black hole developed in another universe? Did all the original source material for our universe come from another universe? A white hole that expels into a different universe would need a huge source of “stuff” from the parent universe, and the transfer would take millions of years. In addition, a source black hole may be unstable. Is it not logical the white hole from whence our universe came eventually collapsed and disappeared? Or is it out there, waiting to be discovered?

It would appear this is a better explanation of the sequence of subsequent events and the huge volume of “material” that constitutes our perceived universe. It would also appear current scientific theories about gravity and light, the fundamental building blocks of matter, and the characteristics of energy we have developed would not need “drastic” alteration. Only the source of the “big bang” is different. Furthermore, in another dimension, the speed of light may not be a limitation of distance traveled per unit of time, and the laws that govern how things work may also be different. That means the “genetic” makeup of the original flow from another universe could have been quite different from its evolved current state in our perceived universe.

The creation, expansion, function, and collapse of black and white holes appear to be a natural and continuing process of our Cosmos. These cosmological events may occur in many different universes.

As difficult as it is for western intellectual philosophy to understand,
this process of creation and destruction also suggests time has no beginning or end.

There was no “beginning” in the sense the “stuff” of our universe never existed before creation. It was simply located in another universe. Our universe was created by a black hole “event” which transferred matter and energy into our universe from a different universe. We may not understand all the mechanics, but the process of discovery promises to be exciting.

Is it possible that during this century, science will confirm the existence of multiple universes? In order to discuss the beginning of our universe, do we need a theory which combines General Relativity with quantum theory? Will the role of black holes in the process of creation and destruction of individual universes become a challenge for future scientific study?

This hypothesis is certain to be the genesis of many thoughtful discussions (and occasionally rancorous debates).

Ron
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April 12, 2016

I Was in Heaven

The frosty chill of a New England Winter stung my cheeks as I left the drug store and turned right to walk up Central Avenue toward the railroad tracks. The last rays of the afternoon sun struggled to brighten a disappearing blue sky. At street level, it was already night. My way was guided by the dancing lights of store signs, show case windows, and street lamps.

The delightful aroma of the precious paper package so carefully snuggled in my mittens promised moments of savory delight. As I approached the tracks, the railroad crossing alarm bell sounded and the gates slowly came down. A train was coming! I walked quickly to the gates and looked south past the station. And there it was, the headlamp of a steam locomotive pierced the darkness, coming right at me, the glare of its powerful beam seemed ominous as it rumbled closer and closer. Puffs of smoke and clouds of steam filled the air. I quickly crossed Central Avenue and looked down the tracks from the gate keeper’s little shack. The noisy clang, clang, clang of the locomotive’s bell combined with the hiss of steam as the train drew closer, and closer. Billows of steam blew out across the tracks as the brakes were applied. Then, with a moan of steel on steel, the big steam locomotive came to a stop, not more than 10 feet away.

It was a thrilling experience. Steam locomotives have always fascinated me. One wonders how all those pieces of iron and steel somehow work together. The gate man raised the crossing gates so traffic could proceed on Central Avenue. After a few more puffs of steam the great engine settled down. It appeared to be taking a rest, quietly sending little jets of steam into the air, and occasionally making gentle chung, chung sounds. The 2-6 Mogul steam locomotive was pulling 6 baggage and passenger cars. I slowly walked from the front of the locomotive to its tender, carefully examining every inch; running gear, steam pump, compressors, cylinders, rods, drivers, pipes, valves, boiler; the works. The six big driving wheels were taller than I could stand, even on my tiptoes. I took off a mitten and began to unroll the top of the warm bag I was carrying. The sweet buttery aroma .....

But wait. I am way ahead of myself. This story actually began some 24 hours earlier when a snow storm swept over New England. It left maybe 5 inches of light powder on our town. That meant opportunity. The lady on the next block would want me to clear her front walk and back porch steps. For real money. It was a simple job. No big deal. But I was glad to have the work. When I turned 12, my father made it very clear: if I wanted any spending money, I would have to earn it. And so by 8 o’clock in the morning I was busy clearing off the snow. When she came to the door to pay me, I had a sudden inspiration. Instead of paying me in cash, could I come down to her Rexall Drug store and receive my reward in nuts? Not just any nuts, mind you. These were hot, roasted, buttery, salted beauties: pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds, and even the big Brazil nuts. My mouth watered at the thought of having a delicious treat. Taken back with surprise at first, she smiled and agreed. She would be minding the store late that afternoon. Could I come then?

Sure thing.

Just as dusk was descending I entered the store - and there it was, right in front of me; the hot glass display case with its rows of nuts, popcorn and other goodies. The smell of hot buttery nuts swirled around me, tempting my senses with delicious promise. I saw nothing else. All of the other display cases in the store were nothing but a blur. I agonized for the woman to see me. After what seemed an eternity, she came to the case and opened the rear door. She smiled as she ladled a few choice nuts from each bin into a small paper bag. When she handed the bag to me, I peered into it. Which treat would I eat first? I thanked her for being so nice, and turned to leave the store.

The station porter had pulled and pushed a rumbling station wagon to the baggage car door. There was much scurrying about as the bags were sorted and loaded. Sounds of sorrow could be heard from people who were saying goodbye to departing loved ones. Sounds of excitement filled the air as friends and relatives greeted arriving passengers. One little girl squealed in delight: “grandma, look at what we got in Boston!”

Carefully opening the bag, I took out my first warm buttery treat. I would slowly eat each nut, one at a time, extending my happiness for as long as possible. Then a steam safety valve at the top of the engine blew open with an incredibly loud hissing sound. It was more than I could stand, so I backed away from the engine to the gatekeeper’s shack. He grinned at me, and then motioned for me to stand away from the gate. To my surprise, he began to lower the crossing gates again. Puzzled, I walked around the shack so I could see down the tracks. And there it was. Another bright light pierced the darkness, more puffs of smoke and steam, and another ominous rumble of steel on steel as a second steam engine pulled into the station. It pulled up exactly side by side with the first engine. After it stopped, the gatekeeper raised the gates and I crossed the tracks to look at the front of second steam engine. It was obviously larger, much shinier even in the faint light of the station lamps, and appeared more important. The gatekeeper called out to me: “That’s the express. Passengers from the local going on to Portland will transfer to the express and passengers from the express going to a local stop between here and Portland will get on the local”.

And so it was. I positioned myself between the two locomotives (not very safe - please don’t tell my father) to watch the activity. Conductors laid steel ramps down to connect the doorways of both trains. Passengers began to scurry from one train to the other. The baggage porters tossed or carried bags from the local’s baggage car to the express baggage car, and then vice versa. It was all very hurried, but also very efficient. I stood in amazement, looking at these two steam locomotives, mesmerized by all the activity, and thrilled by being so close to two steam locomotives at the same time.

Cold night air nipped at my fingers, chilled my skinny legs, and frosted my face. But as for my thin torso... my sweater and heavy coat were so warm I was actually steamy damp with sweat from my neck to my hips. So there I was, standing between these two big steam locomotives, half freezing cold and half steamy warm, savoring my warm buttery nuts one by one as I watched the activity.

I was in heaven.

The conductors called out for any stragglers, picked up the steel plates that linked the doorways of the two trains, and closed the passenger car doors. The gatekeeper called out for me to come back to the gatehouse. He brought the gates down again, but neither train moved. The shrill whistle of another steam locomotive filled the air. Looking north, a third passenger train thundered across Central Avenue and into the station. It slowed to a stop, leaving just enough room behind the last car so that people could use the sidewalk. Three trains in the station at the same time! My joy was unconstrained. Then steam hissed out of the cylinders of the express locomotive and it began to ease forward.  It was a powerful 4-6-2 Pacific class steam locomotive which quickly picked up speed, effortlessly pulling seven cars by me. The train soon disappeared around the bend, accompanied by the fading clickity clak of the passenger car wheels passing over track joints. Again the gates went up. The friendly gateman called out to me: “The local will leave as soon as the block clears.”

We waited for maybe four minutes for the red block lamp to change to yellow. With that the local’s conductor called out the familiar “all aboard” and the engineer opened the throttle. The local eased out of the station blowing steam from the cylinders and black smoke from the stack. It was equally effortless, but somehow the local seemed to have less authority than the express. After it chuffed its way down the track and around the bend, the station seemed to be eerily quiet. The gatekeeper raised the gates and traffic again began to flow on Central Avenue. Standing there for a brief moment; cold feet, legs, face, and ears; warm moist body; I took one last delicious buttery nut from the bag.

Wistfully, I looked at the south bound passenger train. I could have walked down the station platform to look at the steam locomotive, but it was time to head home. I reluctantly began the long cold walk up Central Avenue, my shoes making a crunch crunch sound as I carefully picked my way over treacherous gray ice and snow covered sidewalks, and past piles of snow covered with soot.

The thrill of seeing these three steam locomotives circulated in my imagination over and over again. 

For this skinny kid, it had been a supreme event of absolute joy. For a few brief moments, I had lived in heaven.


Ron

PS: As this story suggests, our experience of heaven is less likely to be physical, and more likely to be spiritual. Although I was aware of physical reality, it was the emotional content of a conscious experience that captivated my awareness.
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