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“Spirituality? No, we don’t do that here.”- When Religious Institutions Go Wrong

In the spirit of our membership site’s upcoming unit on spirituality, we thought it was time for a little perspective on all the ingenious ways we humans find to avoid that very subject.  Religious institutions, or at least large parts of them, tend to become masters of the art of avoiding spirituality! 

The reason is simple- like many human institutions, religions often start with a powerful sense of purpose, but over time, people with vested interests make the institution less about that purpose than about them.  At that point, anything that might lead the membership to think that the institution is about more than the rules laid down by those in power becomes a liability. And spiritual life is the ultimate liability- after all, what person in power wants pesky little enlightened people popping up here, there and everywhere, upsetting the applecart and undermining their authority with inconveniences like truth, love and integrity?

That being the case, we thought we’d give you a short tour of some of the clever devices which religious institutions have come up with to avoid such a disastrous state of affairs.  As the saying goes, it is better to laugh than to cry, although we have to admit that sometimes it’s hard to know if these things are the product of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor in all of his diabolical sincerity.

 

Anyone who lives in North America has experienced moveable-letter church signs, from the pointed…

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to the cringe-worthy…

 

 

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to the laugh-out-loud hilarious.

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We will be using these signs, along with a goodly selection of cartoons, to signpost our tour through the mind of corrupt religious institutions, and by extension, corrupt institutions everywhere.

 

The real danger to any corrupt institution is from within.  As the word ‘corrupt’ implies, the people occupying positions of authority are neither toeing the straight and narrow themselves nor are they particularly interested in finding out whether any of their peers are.  What they are all deeply interested in is making sure that no one else ever looks too closely, or if they do that they don’t find anything, or if they find something that they’re discredited, or if they’re not discredited that at least they can’t do anything about it.  To quote a much-loved British sitcom, “When you set the cat among the pigeons, you let the dog out of the bag.  If you spill the beans, you open a whole can of worms!”  In short, a sticky situation. 

 

If something bad has happened once, it’s probably happened more than once, and if it’s happened more than once, there may be something wrong with the system, and if there’s something wrong with the system, the whole house of cards could collapse.  That’s why certain other corrupt systems (the USSR) made it quite clear from the start that it was alright to criticize, but never to generalize.  It’s never the fault of the system.  That kept a lid on pesky critical thinking for a few decades, but since religious institutions don’t always have gulags and firing squads to make sure the people are minding their manners, other, rather more painful processes for burying cans of worms have been found- specifically, denial.

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The first thing degenerate institutions do to help them in the cause of denial is to deprive their people of a central set of principles by which to evaluate the central principles and mission of the institution.  In a religious context, this means leaving people without the tools to evaluate the contents of their religious traditions.  That way, traditions go from ‘golden thread of wisdom reaching down to us from the ages’ to ‘anything that one of us thought or wrote in the past, no matter how moronic or trivial,’ until you get

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Some have gone so far as to declare war on reason altogether.  Of course, reasoned faith is quite possible- but letting your people expose their faith to reason might turn up all sorts of nasty little inconsistencies and moral problems with the gospel-according-to-you, and is therefore to be avoided at all costs.

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Cognitive dissonance is unavoidable in these situations where one has to declare war on morality, sense common or otherwise, and critical thought of any kind. Even so, religious institutions have realized that this is hardly a showstopper.  After all, the key to the propaganda machines of all totalitarian regimes has been not to persuade people, but simply to say something so often that it is accepted as true no matter how laughable it is, because no one dares to speak against what everyone else accepts as obvious truth- in short, new-think.

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Division is a favorite tactic of institutions throughout the ages.  In the 19th Century, nascent European nation-states started wars because they believed that it was the best way to cement national identity.  The surest way to demarcate “us” is by identifying all the evil “them”s.

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Playing the victim is a derivative of this tactic of division, except that rather than attacking the enemy you’ve identified directly, you can talk about how much he’s oppressing you.  The advantage here is that you can treat any attempt on his part to express an opinion different from your own as further oppression.  If you’re particularly talented, you can get so much credit for being that victim that the more violent and unreasonable your reactions, the more everyone will bend over backwards to placate you.

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One of the surest signs of a religious milieu gone bad is that it will attempt to dictate the politics of its members.

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Closely connected with trying to dictate the politics of their members, corrupt institutions will often seek to colonize territory- that is, to make themselves as exclusive as possible in a given area and turf out all other influences and ways of thinking,

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which is why after just a small taste of government by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the world population distribution of Coptic Christians now looks like this:

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Fear is the ubiquitous weapon of all institutions-gone-wrong, but where bosses and bankers can only threaten your money, religious institutions have a somewhat broader repertoire.  Hellfire and brimstone is the old favorite…

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because it seems people are easily intimidated and will do anything to spend eternity with someone when they hear he’s thinking about spit-roasting them.

 

Another tactic is the attempt on the part of a religious institution to divorce its clergy, and even its membership at large, from genuine understanding and contact with the society around them.

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When all else fails, when you have nothing else going for you, when the cognitive dissonance between your agenda and any sort of objective reason and morality is enough to make even Andrew Jackson baulk, dispense with the implied intimidation and just threaten to kill them.

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Of course, there are certain strategies which almost guarantee that your institution won’t survive.  It’s alright to predict the end of days, for example, but if you give an exact date, well, you’ve just put an expiry date on your viability.  Of course, originators of doomsday cults aren’t in it for the long haul- they just figure that people are less likely to guard their wallets while they’re waiting for the rapture.

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All joking aside, the point is not to vilify faith or the faithful (although many atheists make a self-serving and one-sided argument in that direction) but rather to bring home the point that religion tends to include two of humanity’s most dangerous weapons- institutions and ideas.  It’s important to test both when you’re looking for a spiritual home.  The blessing is that even in the most decrepit institution, there are small, unnoticed islands of sanity and grace.

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~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

 


Identifying "Spiritual Life Gone Wrong"

Today we begin a two-part series on something at the very heart of the issues of our time all over the world: what happens when religion goes wrong…


In its most extreme forms, we see the results worldwide every day – radical evangelicals preaching violence against gays, a papacy in deep denial over the scale of sexual abuse in its midst, mass rioting and random killings throughout the Muslim world at the mere rumor of an anti-Islamic publication in the West, and the list goes on and on.

Those extreme forms are just symptoms, though.  They’re symptoms whose causes remain largely hidden from us as a civilization because we no longer understand a fundamental truth – not everything that passes itself off as “spiritual” is good, healthy and beneficial.  Far from it…

In fact, as a civilization we’ve become so divorced from real spiritual life that our ability to sort out false spiritual paths from healthy ones is marginal at best.  We no longer know the distinguishing criteria of each, the questions to ask or the tell-tale signs of each.  


In reality, asking most people today to distinguish real spiritual paths from false ones is about as useful as asking a Kalahari bushman for advice on your next family car.  



The Vital Importance of Spiritual Resilience



To get anywhere close to figuring out what spiritual resilience means, we first have to define the word “spiritual”, which is no simple task.  


So let’s put it this way: just as resilience itself is a path toward maximizing your potential on all levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual), spiritual resilience is the act of opening yourself to the deepest truths of your existence in this universe so that you can become everything you’re meant to be. 

Not surprisingly, you can never become truly resilient and fulfilled as a human person if you ignore your own spiritual dimension, since that is, in reality, the deepest layer of your own being.


What I’ve called “authentic ancient traditions” in my bestseller, The 5 Pillars of Life*, are ancient, tried and proven approaches for doing exactly this.  And, contrary to what we assume, they have a boatload of evidence to back up the authenticity of their discoveries.  



Religion vs. Authentic Ancient Traditions



Here’s a short excerpt from The 5 Pillars of Life* to help you wrap your head around the differences between what we usually call “religions” and something much deeper:


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All fantasies, especially that of religion, are caused by a short-circuit at the centre of the human personality.  This short-circuit, which exists between the heart which pumps blood (the circulatory system) and the spinal cord which circulates spinal fluid (the nervous system) is only repaired by ceaseless prayer in the heart.  It is only when the short-circuit is repaired that you begin to be liberated from the realm of fantasy.
– Rev. Dr. John Romanides in “Religion as a Neurobiological Illness”[i]
Startling, isn’t it?  – A world-renowned Orthodox priest and theologian calling religion a “neurobiological illness”!  But he’s right – Orthodox Christianity is not a religion in the conventional Western sense of that word.  And for that matter, neither are other authentic ancient traditions.  What Westerners conventionally call “religion” is a term that applies almost exclusively to their own approach to life as it has developed historically over the last thousand years or so.
“Religion” in the Western sense the word has a number of particular traits.  And generally speaking these traits apply to the vast majority of Western people who “practice their religion”:
  1. Religious teachings are ideological statements divorced from real life and which people subscribe to based on emotional considerations.  Teachings of authentic traditions are based on an experience of true life, and practitioners adhere to them based on observable verification.  
  1. Religion provides psychological comfort and self justification in the face of its failure to cure psycho-spiritual (noetic) illness.  Authentic traditions take you from sickness to health; religions tell you your sickness is health.
  1. Religion shifts the blame for good and evil, and for the final outcome of life, onto a deity or process (saying, for example, that illness is a punishment from God or that God decides whether to forgive you and send you to heaven or to damn you to hell).  Authentic traditions know that the Absolute Reality never does harm and that the only real danger to us in this world or hereafter comes from ourselves.
  1. Religions and authentic traditions both have a ceremonial aspect or some collective manifestation, but the religious version exists to provide psychological comfort or aesthetic pleasure, whereas the authentic version is there to lead you to self-transformation.
  1. Religion is always reduced to a compartment of life, whereas training in any authentic tradition involves every moment of life.
  1. Religion’s “transformation” of human life is limited to the superficial aspects of the personality, is often based on a tedious list of prohibitions and is geared toward social acceptability.  Religion produces nice people; authentic traditions produce extraordinary ones.
  1. Real self-transformation is not a goal of religion; the knowledge and methods required for self-transformation are absent and there is no access to a lineage of transformed people.  Life degenerates into “salvation by association” (I’m saved because I’m part of the group) and “salvation by conviction” (I’m saved because I hold a particular opinion).
   
  1. Religion is ignorant of the technical terminology of self-transformation and interprets it in a general and nebulous way.  The religious version of a tradition will seldom have any real idea what the authentic version is talking about, even if they use the same language.   
 
  1. Religion is comfort-loving and presents no real challenge to its adherents, whereas authentic traditions take you beyond your comfort zone and into realms that religion knows nothing of. 
  1.  Religion abhors mystery and tries to explain everything with concepts.  These concepts can be controlled and manipulated by a cadre of “experts” for the good of the institution, whereas transformed people – saints, immortals or bodhisattvas – are notoriously hard to control.
Given these traits of religion, it is not too surprising that Father Romanides classifies religion as a “neurobiological illness”.  What this means is that religion has its origin in the fallen state – where the neurobiological malfunction characteristic of life in the fallen world has not been healed – and that it perpetuates this unhealed state as if it were normal.  So it is not surprising that religion prevents countless millions of people from finding true fulfillment and happiness.  And like all illness, it leads to untold suffering and misery.

[i] Pages 1-3.  The order of the elements in this quotation has been slightly rearranged for the sake of clarity.  Several Orthodox writers of the twentieth century noted that the word “religion” as commonly used among peoples of  European ethnic origin does not correspond to Orthodox Christianity. 
*The 5 Pillars of Life is available on the Amazon.ca website or through http://www.the5pillarsoflife.com
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Next time, we’ll talk about some of the real “dark side” of the religion and spirituality that’s out there now – how to identify it and avoid it.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 
 






















Fasting Part One: Fasting to Improve Your Health

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Ageless Beauty – Timeless Health:
Building a Lifestyle that Automatically Creates the
Health, Immunity and Longevity You Want

Toronto, Canada: June 4-5, 2011

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This is Holy Week for most Christians and a time when tens of millions of people will be fasting.  So what better time to do a two-part series on the value of fasting?  Why two-part?  Because there are two main reasons people fast…

We fast in search of better health or we fast as a method of spiritual purification.  As we’ll see the two are related.  Today, though, we’ll focus on fasting to create health, immunity and longevity….

What Exactly is “Fasting”?


That’s not as stupid a question as you may think.  That fact is, there are lots of misconceptions out there about fasting.  Some people believe that simply abstaining from certain foods or food groups, either temporarily or permanently, is “fasting”.  That’s most definitely not fasting.  That’s “abstinence”.  


Fasting is going without eating solid food, and sometimes liquid nourishment as well, for a defined period of time.  That could be a matter of hours, days or weeks, depending on what you’re trying to achieve and how.  


The Health Benefits of Fasting

So why would you bother?  Perhaps because there are few if any other health tools in your arsenal that give you such bang for the buck.  Here are just some of the primary benefits of fasting:

  1. Initiates a detoxification / cleansing reaction in the body, enabling you to rid yourself of accumulated toxins.
  2. Enables weight loss.
  3. Puts the digestive system, and the body as a whole, into “rest mode”, allowing the energy usually devoted to digestion to be diverted to healing.
  4. Clears up skin problems and the whites of your eyes.
  5. Naturally lowers blood pressure without drugs.
  6. Makes it easier to overcome bad habits and addictions, and to make a fresh start with a new, healthier diet and lifestyle.
  7. Reduces inflammation throughout your body.
  8. Reduces water retention throughout your body.
  9. Pacifies many allergic reactions and sensitivities.  
  10. Historical and biological research strongly suggests proper fasting promotes longevity.

Varieties of Fasting

You may have heard of many types of fasting for health, including water fasts, juice fasts, total fasts and many others.  Natural health pioneers like Dr. Bernard Jensen and Victor Irons used fasting together with colon cleansing to achieve remarkable results for their patients and clients for about half a century each!  More telling is that both of these great pioneers lived healthy lives to nearly age one hundred.  


Here’s a video with Dr. Nicholas Tancheff, a chiropractor who has founded a fasting retreat facility in Hawaii.  You can learn a lot by listening to how he went from the typically disastrous North American lifestyle to learning how to self-heal…





Warning: Avoid the Traps!



There are several traps with fasting, so here’s my advice on how to get started:

  1. Check in with your physician or a licensed health-care provider to help you get started.  This is particularly important if you’ve never done this before or have a pre-existing medical condition.
  2. Be clear on what you would like to achieve with the fast.  This will help you select the proper type.
  3. Don’t make it up on your own: follow a program based on reliable and tested information.
  4. Don’t overdo it.  Fasting for just a few days can provide enormous benefit!
  5. Don’t become addicted to fasting and cleansing!  These are activities you should do periodically, not constantly.  Once your fast is over, start giving your body all the nutritious food it needs to stay healthy!



If you would like to learn a whole lot more about fasting and cleansing directly from people with a lot of experience, you should consider coming to the health workshop I’m doing with Michael Morningstar in Toronto, Canada on June 4-5.


As you’ve heard from the teleseminar we did last week, Michael really knows his stuff.  And we are confident that you’ll leave our event with the knowledge and the confidence to take your health to a whole new level.


~ Dr. Symeon Rodger



 

 


Unravelling the Vitamin D Mystery

One of the disturbing facts about having done my formal training in nutrition a little over ten years ago is that some of what I was taught has been superseded by new information.

A case in point, and one very much on my mind as winter approached, was the mystery of Vitamin D.  And a mystery it is, since we don’t yet have all the answers.  However we do know the following:

  • Vitamin D regulates a large number of critical processes in your body
  • And you’re almost certainly Vitamin D deficient 

Hmmm…. sounds like the start of a serious problem you might want to nip in the bud.  

To help you understand the essential facts about Vitamin D, here’s a great explanation by Dr. Joseph Mercola:








As Winter Approached…

Back in October-November last year I did some research on the Vitamin D question and consulted some experts to try to learn more about how it contributes to maintaining your health and personal resilience.


Living in the second coldest national capital on the planet, where getting sunshine on your skin is a real challenge from November through April, I was looking for a solution for myself and my family.  Yes, it can be nice and bright outside with all the snow, but you’re all bundled up because of the cold.  Good thing you can absorb at least some Vitamin D through your eyes, as long as you’re not blocking UV-B rays with sunglasses, of course.

But that’s no guarantee of maintaining adequate D levels.  Far from it.  So I was looking at supplements and naturally ran into some concerns about the source, quality and absorption (perennial problems with supplements) when I came across the “Sunshine Mist” non-aerosol Vitamin D spray Mercola mentions in the video. 

After using it for a couple of weeks now, I can truthfully say I’m delighted with it and much more confident about getting enough Vitamin D this winter!  So if Vitamin D is one of your concerns, I’d advise you to check it out!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger  

 **The contents of this blog post are not to be considered as medical advice.  Always consult a physician before beginning / modifying a fitness program or before undertaking lifestyle modifications that could impact your health.**


The Power of Qi: Using EFT and Qi Gong to Clear Your Energy Patterns

I’m delighted to announce an upcoming live event where you will be able to learn tested and proven tools for mastering your energy, your emotions and your overall health and wellness.  

My dear friend and colleague, Dr. Carol Look, and myself are putting on a joint live event to teach you how to use the 5 top Qi Gong systems ever devised and how to apply the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT – a technique I personally consider to be priceless) to all aspects of your life.  

This event will take place in Jersey City, NJ at the end of February.  You can get all the details and reserve your place here:

http://www.attractingabundance.com/eft/The-Power-of-Qi/

Near the bottom of the page there’s an audio link where you can listen as Carol and I take you through the event’s schedule to help you get a clear idea of what you’ll get.  Just in case you miss it, you can also listen to the audio or download it from here:

http://media.attractingabundance.com.s3.amazonaws.com/workshops/power-of-qi.mp3


If you’ve ever wanted to:

  • Develop imperturbable inner peace
  • Learn to eliminate stress and reach deep relaxation on demand
  • Get relief from or entirely eliminate past traumas that are holding you back or making your life miserable
  • Master your emotional responses and finally get free of emotional patterns that run (and ruin) your life
  • Learn the same health Qi Gong methods that the Taoist longevity tradition has used for centuries to get people past their 100th birthdays in great health
  • Transform your daily grind into an extended meditation session producing great health and inner peace
  • Become stronger and more flexible on minutes a day
  • Replace negative emotions harmful to your health with positive emotional content

…then this event could be exactly what you’ve been waiting for.


Carol and I will spend 3 full days with you, teaching you, guiding you and helping you become a happier, healthier and more resilient person.  


To check out all the details and reserve your spot, just go to this page:


http://www.attractingabundance.com/eft/The-Power-of-Qi/



Energy Medicine and You



As science advances and we learn more about the various energy fields, channels and structures in and around the human body, the one thing that becomes obvious is that working with energy is the most effective means of creating vibrant, long-term health.  


At this workshop, you’ll learn a great deal about the structure of your energy body – the meridians, the extraordinary vessels, the chakras and more.  And you’ll learn about them not just in an academic sense, but how to work with them, and with all the other structures of your body – your muscles, fasciae, connective tissues, bones and marrow, joints, nervous system, blood, major and minor organs, and more.  


Carol and I hope you’ll be able to join us in Jersey City for this fabulous, fun and educational event!


~ Dr. Symeon Rodger










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