Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Beyond the Grave

In the past couple of years I did some investigations into near death experiences by reading three books that told near death experience stories.  The books were 1) Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo; 2) Visions of Glory as told by John Pontius; and 3) Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.  I would highly recommended all three books to see the common threads of the experiences from that of a little boy who died, to a Mormon, to an agnostic neurosurgeon.  The only real differences in the three stories were the theological perspective of the stories being told.

In Heaven is for Real, the little boy saw heaven as reflected by the theology of his evangelical-pastor father.  In Visions of Glory the stories and visions reflect the Mormon theology.  The story teller sees other righteous people in heaven who had not been Mormon, but assumes that they must have converted to Mormonism at some point in order to be in heaven.  Both the little boy and the Mormon see Jesus in their near death experience.  In Proof of Heaven, the neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, experiences heaven without memories due to his damaged cerebral cortex.  In contrast to the little boy and the Mormon he does not see Jesus.  He sees only God who is energy emanating pure love from a concentrated source at the center of heaven.  The notion that God is pure love seems universal in all of these near death experiences.

After reading these books, I read a fourth book titled Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg.  According to Wikipedia, Emanuel Swedenborg was born on 29 January 1688 and died 29 March 1772.  He was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, revelator, and mystic who is best known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell published in 1758.  In this book on the afterlife, Swedenborg saw different religious communities in heaven, but all within the community were good people filled with love.  Even though their theology was incorrect, they were in heaven because love connected them to God and others.  Angels were in the community instructing them in the truth.  There was even a Muslim community of loving people who were told that they had followed a false prophet, but were good people and had God’s love within themselves.

In Swedenborg’s book, God’s light was concentrated in the center of heaven and the further from the source of light the darker it appeared.  There were many people on the outskirts of heaven where it was quite dark.  These souls were self-centered, hateful ones that refused to learn and move towards God’s love, light and truth.  They preferred to bicker and fight with each other.  Interestingly, angels were present in their midst trying to instruct them in the truth, but they seemed blind and deaf to the angels presence because of their self-love.  A soul’s position in heaven seemed to be determined by the level of self-love of the soul with those souls with the most self-love in the furthest, darkest reaches of heaven.  A place that they had put themselves in by their choice to love themselves above God and others.  In essence they had voluntarily separated themselves from God and created their own hell and were surrounded by other souls filled with self-love with which they quarreled, each soul seeking to establish themselves above the others.

Near death experiences of today seem to support Swedenborg’s view of heaven where God is pure love and those filled with love are in communities in heaven that reflect their particular religious views.  We are all on different spiritual paths that reflect our religious beliefs and myths.  We are all on a path of learning and seeking spiritual truth.  The key to staying on the path and progressing is in the amount of God’s love that we channel through us.  For we are all connected to the source of life itself (God) and have free choice to allow his love to flow through us to be a blessing to this world and those around us.  We all comprise the physical body of our Creator, if we choose to be filled with God’s love and implement God’s will.  So, be the best part of God’s physical body that he created you to be!  If you were created to be a teacher, be the best teacher you can be.  If you were created to be a cook, be the best cook you can be.

Humans were created as composite beings, both physical and spiritual.  By choosing selfless love over selfish love, we are choosing to emphasize our spiritual nature and rise above our animal nature.  Choose to be a human and not an animal.  Be the best human you can possibly be and fulfill the tasks that the Creator has designed you for.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Buffalo Encounter at Yellowstone National Park July 2016

Buffalo at Mammoth Hot Springs YNP
Photo credit L.M. Hoskins

I was traveling on my way to a fish and wildlife meeting in Cody, Wyoming from Ogden Utah.  Since there is no direct driving route to Cody, I decided to take the scenic route through Yellowstone National Park.  As fate would have it, I hit road construction south of Island Park, Idaho on highway 20 on my way to West Yellowstone.  I sat in the sweltering 90 plus degree heat for over an hour before resuming to the west entrance of the park.  It was already late in the afternoon by the time I paid my $ 30 entrance fee to travel through the park to Cody.  Not too many miles into the park I encountered more road construction signs so decided to avoid additional road construction by taking the northern loop to Mammoth Hot Springs and then swinging back to the south to Fishing Bridge to exit out of the east entrance to Cody.

It was near 7 pm when I came to a major tourist traffic jam at Mammoth Hot Springs.  There was a heard of elk milling along the road and I could see a cow and calf just standing right in the middle of the road holding up the traffic flow.  Instead of waiting in another long string of cars, I clicked my blinker on, pulled onto the right should for about a hundred feet and entered the Mammoth Hot Springs parking lot where I parked my Toyota 4Runner.

Instead of waiting in my car, I exited to walk the wooden walkway around the springs to enjoy my time waiting.  I hiked up the winding boardwalk admiring the springs and travertine deposits along the steep path until I began descending down the walk on the south side of a small hill.  A young married couple with two small children hurried up the trail towards me.

“Be careful, there is a buffalo lying next to a juniper tree near the trail just below here.”  The man cautioned me.

“Alright.”  I replied.  “Thanks for the warning!”

I slowed my brisk pace and peered down the wooden walkway as I went.  When I came around the next major curve in the trail, I spotted the buffalo bedded down by the juniper tree.  However, it wasn’t a big buffalo, it was a calf that was just a few months old.  It looked straight at me and tilted its’ head at a slight angle and grunted.  I stared back at it as our eyes made contact.  Suddenly, it was like we were connected in some mystical way.

In my mind I heard the buffalo talk as it rose to stand up.  “Would you scratch behind my ear?”
My jaw dropped down as I continued to stare into the buffalo’s eyes.  “How is it that I can understand you?”  I blurted out.

“You are Cherokee are you not?”  The calf answered.

“Well.”  I stammered.  “I am really an American mutt.  I am mostly Scotch-Irish, but my maternal great-grandmother was part Cherokee I think.  How did you know?”

“I had a dream that told me.”  The calf answered back and then nodded his head in the direction of my shirt.  “In my dream I saw a watcher with a trout on his shirt just like yours.  The Creator told me that he would help me.”

“Did you just call me a watcher?”  I asked.

“Yes, here in this place there are many watchers that do silly things.  Some get too close to the herd and we stomp them and gore them.  But just north of here is an invisible barrier where the silly watchers turn into watchers that kill us and eat us.  Somehow the watchers on the other side of the barrier turn into predators like wolves and bears and don’t do silly things.”  The buffalo explained.

“Well, if you call us watchers, what do you call yourselves?”  I inquired of him.

He tilted his head slightly more.  “We call ourselves something that translates to ‘Beings with the thundering hooves.  The Cherokee called us Yansi.  Years later the horse riders called us buffalo.  Nowadays the watchers call us bison.  I think I like the name of buffalo the best of what we are called by the watchers.”

The buffalo started slowly walking towards me again.  “Would you please scratch behind my ear?  A bug must be in there.”

I held out my hand and started backing away from him.  “Stop!”  I insisted.  “I cannot help you.  My smell will get on you and your herd will kick you out and abandon you!”

The buffalo stopped walking and dropped its’ head.  “It is too late.  I have already been kicked out of the heard and have to fend for myself.”

“How did that happen?”  I probed.

The calf let out a big sigh as he began telling his story.  “Earlier this year when I was born I heard a story of a great wildlife biologist named Yohanan that encountered the herd years ago.  He was traveling through the park and was admiring our herd while talking on his phone.  One of the elder cows overheard him say that he worked for predator control.  So she waited until he was done talking on his phone before slowly approaching him.  As she approached, she did everything she could to mentally connect with him and luckily he was open to her thoughts.  Within a short time they were communicating very well.  In exchange for key inside information on wolves, bears, and sage grouse, Yohanan agreed to control more of the predators attacking the heard.  Yohanan became a hero and legend among the buffalo.  So when he traveled through the park a few days ago, the old cow yelled out, “There he is!  It is Yohanan our hero!”  It was at that point that I made my fatal mistake.  I immediately ran to meet this wonderful wildlife biologist.  I ran right up to him and asked him to scratch me behind my ear as I had a bug in it that day as well.  He reached out and scratched it as I had requested while I stared at him in admiration.  A true living legend he was.”
“That sounds like a good story.”  I answered the buffalo calf.

“No, not for me.  For when I tried to return to my herd they exiled me because I smelled like a watcher.  I pleaded with my mother that it was Yohanan’s smell, but she said it did not matter.  The rule of the herd was supreme.  My path was sealed as an outcast even though it was a foolish mistake out of ignorance.”  The calf painfully explained.

“Well, I cannot help you.  Even though I am a biologist, I am a fish biologist.  And my supervisor gave me clear instructions not to pick up any baby bison when I traveled through the park to the meeting.  So I simply cannot help.”  I said defensively.

“Oh no!”  The calf retorted back.  “I know you cannot take me and help me.  I would not fit into your car and I cannot ride on top.  But you can help me in other ways.  There is a place at the bridge where watchers are not allowed to fish from anymore.  In that place you will find very small likenesses of buffalo.  Get one and take it back to your supervisor so that watcher can display it in their office.  Instruct everyone that works for that person to remember my fate and keep me in their thoughts and prayers.  Perhaps the Creator of all will have mercy on my plight and assist my survival through the coming months and years.  That is all that I am asking of you.”

I pondered his instructions for an instant before responding to his request.  “Yes, yes I can do that.  Should I give your likeness your name?”

“Yes.”  The calf replied.  “That way you and your fellow watchers will have your thoughts focused on me.  My name is Tar Eye Pad Eye La.  I was named after a famous range manager among you watchers.”

I told the buffalo goodbye and started heading on down the hill when he hollered at me.
“Wait!”  The buffalo commanded.  “I have one final request.  Could you scratch my ear?”
I walked back over to the calf and began scratching his ears.  The calf gave a short, low grunt of contentment as I scratched and then spoke again to me.

“You are not as good at scratching as Yohanan, but pretty good you are.  Thank you and thank you for fulfilling my humble request!”

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Love versus Hate is the Eternal Battle within each of Us

The differences we see in the world today are the result of polarization between those filled with hate and those filled with love.  You can find both types of people in any religion on the planet.  I have seen both hateful and loving Christians in the same church as well as hateful and loving Jews in the same synagogue.  Some religions contain more haters than others.  So what is it that makes the difference?

The difference is in the individual’s world view.  Those that acknowledge a creator and believe that the purpose in life is to bring the Creator’s love from heaven into the physical realm realize that they are one of many in all of creation.  They seek love and balance in life and strive to treat their fellow man and the rest of creation with respect.  Their driving goal is to do what is right and good for all.  They are humble in spirit and realize that they know very little about the Creator other than experiencing the created physical reality that they exist in.  They desire to live in harmony with all of creation.

The other group of people see the world here to serve all their selfish desires.  Instead of loving others and all of creation, everything around them is valued only as it serves to meet their needs.  They are like narcissistic children who never matured and grew up.  They are filled with arrogance in thinking only their world view is correct and as a result want to silence all others.  They are more attached to the physical world then the spiritual world and often deny the existence of a creator or other dimensions, including the heavenly one.  They are driven to conquer, use, and abuse others as well as any resources they desire.  They take what they want with little regard for anyone else.  Deep down their spirit knows the truth, but their self-love blinds them to it.

So the question arises, how do these two groups co-exist?  The answer can be seen in the traditional family unit.  As a father of six children, I remember when two of my children were arguing about the existence of the tooth fairy.  Within a short time their argument had escalated into hitting each other.  I immediately stepped in and stopped the fight.  As a father I understood that the younger child would eventually grow and mature.  In doing so he would learn, accept the truth, and abandon his belief in the tooth fairy.  So I took the older sibling aside and explained things to him.  I told him that fighting with his younger brother would not change his brother’s opinion on the tooth fairy.  That his brother was too young to understand and desire the truth of the matter.  I told him to ignore his brother and let him remain on his learning path to truth.  If his younger brother tried to fight again, then I would discipline him.  As a parent, I just wanted them to get along and love each other while allowing for individual growth and acceptance of truth.

The Creator has given us existence to discover His truths revealed in his creation.  Just like I wanted my children to tolerate different views and love each other, the Creator desires us to do the same.  We are all on a path to truth unless we already think we know it all and are filled with pride and arrogance.  And what if we continue to fight others and the fight escalates?  The Creator will reach into our world with discipline.  Discipline that He has built into the world in which we live.  To avoid this discipline, everyone needs to stop hating and start loving those around us!

In the meantime, those that are filled with love and humbleness should love all of creation within established boundaries.  You always love the other person, but you have every right to defend yourself against any hatred and harm that an individual may attempt on you.  I love and respect wildlife, but if a bear tears into my tent, I will do everything I can to defend myself and my family, including harming or even killing the bear.  The consequences to the bear all depend upon the bear’s behavior.