Category Archives: Good News
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…. Shakespeare, from Hamlet, Act II, scene 2)
Everything old is New Age again
In 2008, Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle and two million of their closest friends met once a week for ten weeks, online, for the purpose of studying Tolle’s 2005 bestseller, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. The live interactive seminar was reportedly the first of its kind, with all seven continents represented.
In what had to be the planet’s largest-ever classroom, Tolle and Winfrey fielded comments and answered questions via Skype, E-mail, and telephone. The ten 90-minute sessions are available free on iTunes in large-screen, standard-screen, and audio-only formats.
Here’s the thing: A New Earth, stripped of its packaging, isn’t all that new. The message is three thousand to four thousand years old. Tolle certainly deserves credit for reviving this ancient wisdom, compiling it, and presenting it in a way that appeals to millions and keeps them off the street, at least for the length of time it takes to read 336 pages of rather dense prose. If he seems to suggest that A New Earth might literally save the human race… well, who’s to say?
New Testament, New Thought, New Age, Old Story
Another spiritual-genre phenomenon, A Course in Miracles, appeared in 1976 but didn’t gain widespread attention until 1992 with the publication of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” by Marianne Williamson. Tolle owes much to ACIM and Williamson and to dozens of other authors, including Wayne Dyer (whom I greatly admire) and Deepak Chopra (who contributes the rich and ancient Hindu mystical perspective), writing in the same vein but offering original approaches and ideas as well.
My daughter refers to all this as “Christian Science Lite.” The authors’ debt to Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and her remarkable explication of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
(1875), is undeniable. Mrs. Eddy’s writings in turn reflect New England Transcendentalism, particularly the work of Emerson. They’re part of a metaphysical tradition articulated by the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, the Buddha, the authors of the Torah and the Christian Bible, and many others..
Christian Science would have gained wider acceptance, I think, had it not been for the emphasis on forgoing medical treatment in favor of a strictly spiritual approach, although my Christian Scientist friends tell me that they are by no means forbidden to seek medical attention. In any case, the New Thought movement emerged in the late nineteenth century making rather less noise about doctors and healing; today’s Unity Church is part of the New Thought legacy. I have not included the much-loved Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, as part of this tradition because Peale emphasizes faith, hope, resilience, and the miraculous intervention of a loving and very personal God, whereas authors and philosophers from Mrs. Eddy to Eckhart Tolle use, to varying degrees, the vocabulary of science and math. One exception, however, is Marianne Williamson, who combines old and new spiritual practices in a way that is graceful and beautiful to see.
(Christian Scientists are blessed with great generosity of spirit. Even so, they tend to bristle, I’ve observed, when hearing Mrs. Eddy’s complex yet practical message described as faith healing or positive thinking.)
According to Christian Science, as I understand it
- God (“Divine Mind”), being perfect, creates only perfection
- Human beings, as God’s divine ideas, are not susceptible to sickness, sin, or death
- All reality reflects God’s attributes: It is loving, spiritual, eternal, intelligent, joyful, harmonious, and so forth
- Matter is nothing but a manifestation of thought; it is insubstantial and illusory
- It is “mortal mind” (“error”) that produces the appearance of anything other than well-being
- Negative emotions proceed from the false beliefs that people can be separated from God and that matter is real
- Jesus had a perfect understanding of the divine nature, thus manifesting the “Christ principle”
- You and I, attaining that level of understanding, would also manifest the Christ principle
Thus, poverty is the manifestation of an erroneous belief in “lack.” War and family strife are examples of the “lie” of inharmony.
Compare these tenets to the “mind-body” metaphysics of modern adherents; I think you’ll find more similarities than differences. More important, though, is that you choose the guru who speaks your language. You might read something out of Chopra that resonates with you in a way Tolle’s writing does not.
How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically
Free E-Course Lesson 25
Chapter 9: Rituals and Celebrations
Part 4: Epiphany
Join now! Find details about this free E-course at Lesson 1
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2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
2:12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
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The Journey of the Magi
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
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A journey of the spirit
Bible scholars have long debated the identity of the magi (pronounced MAY-jee or MAY-jye; singular is magus, pronounced MAY-guss). Were they Persians from the ancient priestly caste of Zoroastrianism? Were they kings or exiled Jews? Were there, in fact, three such visitors? Or are they simply part of the “mythology” surrounding the birth of Jesus?
What matters, for the purpose of our present discussion, is that, biblically, the magi represent the acknowledgement by non-Jews of Jesus as not merely a king but a divine king, one to be worshiped.
The date of their arrival is, by tradition, held to be January 6 — the last of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” This date — and the liturgical season that follows it, leading up to the Lenten Season — is called Epiphany (Greek for “to manifest” or “to show). In a nonreligious context, we might use the word epiphany to describe a sudden insight or revelation.
The best poetry is language distilled, every word essential, anything superfluous filtered out and discarded. In your study of “the Journey of the Magi,” be assured that there is nothing accidental in, say, the choice of the word satisfactory to describe the arrival, or in the repetitiveness in
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
What was Eliot’s “epiphany”?
I suppose that you could make it your life’s work to study this poem and still not explain every nuance. It’s important to know that Eliot was baptized into the Church of England and became a British citizen (he was born in St. Louis) in 1927, the year this poem was published. What seems obvious (and is therefore suspect) is that the poet is alluding to his spiritual journey from agnosticism to Christianity, perhaps colored by his embracing England as his home.
Write a poem in free verse (unrhyming, without strict meter, but still using other rhetorical devices common in poetry) of no more than thirty lines about a metaphorical journey toward a life-changing realization — an “epiphany” — of your own. Identify the rhetorical devices used in your poem. Please e-mail your assignment to Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net. I will not grade your work, but I will return your assignment to you with comments.
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Publish your “little book” in an easy little way
The View from Sister Alma Rose’s Front Porch
Dear Sister Alma Rose — About a year ago I decided to put all my eggs in one basket, in a manner of speaking. I have been a writer all my life, but I have written mostly other people’s stuff, except for some poetry that won awards. I got a lot of encouragement from clients, friends, and strangers, so I took a leap of faith. I have had some small paybacks but some larger setbacks. Now what? Signed, Starving Artist
Dear Starving Artist — Sister Rose requires more information before she can advise you. Are you living in a cardboard box? Have you sold your virtue, your vital organs, your plasma? What have you written? If you have completed books, does anyone know about them? Most important, is the Universe with you or against you? How do you know?
Read about Sister Alma Rose at LifeIsPoetry.net , “The Ancients.”