Tag Archives: Atheism

Eric, Who Believes in Jesus

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

*(see footnote below)

 

 

New Start—271

Jesus and My Bicycle Hiawatha

When I was eight
I went out for little league
The first day when it was my turn at bat

I couldn’t see the ball
Could and couldn’t
Because for something I couldn’t see

It sure was scary
Steerike one!
Steerike two!

Steerike three!
Yer out!
(You pathetic little wimp)

But when I played Lucy in right field
He went too far
He called me sleeping Jesus

I could no longer feel insulted
I was a Jesus fan
Jesus and my bicycle Hiawatha

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

When I left off last time (in this series of biographical sketches) I was with my three brothers back with our father and his second wife. He’d never had a lot of independent desire to live with us (e. g. never fought for custody when my mother was having us declared wards of the court, on our way to orphanages and stuff like that) But later he married a couple of Aunt Pollys who were determined to civilize us.

The first time was better than the second.

Barbara was the first, an impressive lady who had the presence of Lauren Bacall. She was a bigshot in the Campfire Girls organization and every summer we were with them (two or three? My father had a high burn rate wife-wise.) we went with her to their deserted High Sierra camp Waswaygon. Or so it sounded phonetically. It was an old Indian name. I forget what for.

We didn’t get to meet any girls though. But Barbara did post in the dining hall a group photo of us volunteer boys shoring up a log bridge across a creek.

The principal trouble with Barbara was she had baggage. She had a son named Robby about Robin’s age (two years younger than I). He was spoiled rotten.**

Back to Barbara. She still took naked baths with Robby. ‘Nuff said.

Except for the time when we were to be punished from one of Robby’s lies, and so she took Robby out to dinner leaving our dad instructions that we were not to have any.

So when she left, we said to Dad, “You know don’t you that Robby is lying?”

He allowed that to be so.

So next question what’s there to eat in the fridge? And he said no he was honor bound to enforce Barbara’s rule.

But he wouldn’t have any either.

But he probably snuck down in the wee hors d’oeuvres hours and raided the fridge. Just like he had done with my tootsie roll from a neighbor lady when I was four.

Perhaps you are sensing a lack of filial respect. Yes, my father was hard to like. In this particular time, living with Barbara, one episode stands out as a reason for my filial distance.

Jim at this time was fifteen and only two years short of being a starting lineman for a league champion football team.

And Jim never jumped through anyone’s hoops (I could tell you such school stories!) and so when he refused to obey my father, the latter, soon finding the idea of a belt laughable, was reduced to fists. (And my father when he was seventy could still do one handed push-ups.)

So it was like two people in a prolonged attempt to murder someone with fists.

Call me old fashioned, but I say if punishment has to go that far the game isn’t worth the candle.

I adored Jim.

Not sure that I ever forgave my father.

I think that fight was the death knell of our stay there. And indeed, the stars had gone dark in the skies of his wife’s eyes. And we got tired of these wives as well, especially the next one, the Nazi wife (not an exaggeration. I mean fire breathing John Bircher stuff). Stay tuned.

So after a year or so it was time to move on.

Fortunately by then Mom had hooked up with a Mormon lesbian lady***who was really into family and talked Mom into wanting us back. It IS interesting is it not, those times when just when you need it an earlier barred door opens, and leads on to a chain of adventures, the latest chapter of which leaves you smiling? Or at least, engrossed in interesting analysis. At least on a good day.

I call my life that, and in spades.

But can you imagine a good adventure story without danger and the struggle for hope?
 
 

It was a strange and not well remembered transition from friendly popular boy (I was class president in fifth grade) to chip on my shoulder atheist at age twelvish on. I would go up to people and ask if they believed in God and if they said yes, I would ridicule them mercilessly. Belittle their bird brains. Stuff like that. And I was pretty good at it. So good no one in high school ever crossed me, though I looked the nerd out of central casting.****

And just two years earlier I was begging my brothers to type me out stuff that Jesus had said in the bible and could they please use the red ink just like the bible did, for Jesus’ words?

You must remember these older brothers (three and four years older) were then my only friends. Especially if you define a friend as someone you might call to chat with after school, etc.

Nope.

No friends.

You know they say that military kids who are always moving from one fort to another, soon give up; they know any friends they make will soon rip their heart out again . . .

It used to drive me nuts every time I applied for a college (and I was fickle!) they would all want to know the dates and duration of every school I had ever attended. So I know. We moved just about every six months. At least between the orphanage and Grandma Dorothy (in high school)

So then atheist brothers start looking good. And it was a good mystical lesson, because it taught me a taste for challenge. I mean let’s see you try to keep the respect of older brothers who were eloquent and wielding rapiers of wit and they kept making fun of “Eric, who believes in Jesus.”

Funny I can’t remember the transition to atheism.

Or the transition from being nice.

Here’s my theory: betrayal and unkindness is just too ugly to look at. At least at first.

So it got it repressed.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I wanted to put up an illustration on a Jesus theme, and Sufi-self-servingly I chose a photo of my drawing of the Virgin Mary. I say Sufi-servinglyn because the Anatolian Sufis (albeit from Muslim extraction) were noted for their fierce regard for Jesus’ mother.

**My mother always denied any lesbian connections, though she lived for years (sleeping in the same bed) with a six foot tall 200 pound woman with a mustache. And I once had found a box of lesbian novels in the garage. But I had naively never thought of that, though years later I was talking to my debate partner best friend Ralph, saying as a champion debater (We won the Los Angeles tournament) he could make a case for anything. Like I bet he could make a case that my mother was a lesbian. How so, what was the evidence? I told him about the large lady friend and the box of novels and also the butch other friends that never came with men. Rough ladies with names like “Hoxie.” Ralph’s response? Sarcasm. “Oh you think I might make a case, do you?”

*****Just like Donald Lee in the orphanage, who would follow me and shove a sharpened shovel down just behind my bare heels (in the orphanage they didn’t always issue you shoes). Just like in the westerns when the baddies shoot at your feet yelling, “Dance!” Of course I was older and bigger and so I punched him out but predictably he then went crying to Mrs. Hunt the Wagnerian shotgun wielder, his Catherine the Great grandmother saying that I had hit him and when he was only being polite. And so I was sent to bed without Disneyland, the most feared punishment in those days.

But as you can see I have forgiven and forgotten.

****My mother worked in a sanitarium for rich people, working as a masseuse and all purpose what not. One of her clients was a rich widow who, hearing she had sons, gave her her husband’s antique tuxedo. The old fashioned kind with tails and a top hat. And a black ribbon down the outsides of the legs. The top was for a guy with a pinched-in chest, but the pants fit me perfectly. I proudly wore them to school thinking that was high class. (I had enough sense not to wear the hat)

Now ordinarily a guy who dressed like that in school would be the object of ridicule. But nobody dared make fun of me or attack me in any way. I was a verbal attack dog. I would give them a nickname that would haunt them in the halls. As I have hinted at, in this atheist period, I wasn’t very nice.

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

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Lunar Eclipse–
Photographer
Patrick McCullough

New Start–91

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

In Sufism atheism doesn’t make sense
Unless our atheist has first tried God
(Tried the Sufi God)

Because fair is fairest of them all:
How can you judge a God you have denied
Before you even tried?

And here’s atheists thinking small thinking
They’ve got me in a cul de sac of argument:
They say with a clever entrapment smile

“Which God?”
And so I say to that well deny this:
The God that would be beautiful to you

Try to talk to that God
(In the walk-in closet of your heart)
Because in Sufism one picks one’s God

One chooses a God from the heart
A God specially designed closer than antibodies fit
With their locking ports which admit no strangers

Even my atheist friend
Said she wished she could believe
These reassuring fairy tales

But she never tried to talk to God
Not even the version of Whom
She’d have liked to believe in

Not even to present her terms of belief
She might be surprised
It worked for me in fact

God made me a counter offer
I couldn’t defuse: I was kissed
By a lunar eclipse

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
First apologies for the lengthy lapse in posting. I have been travelling (each year I revert a few weeks worth to my erstwhile natural habitat. I refer to California, where I was born and raised. Well, raised is a loaded term in my case. I used to joke saying, (about some instance when I’d known what I was doing) “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies.” But then I would add, my mommy never raised anybody.

Indeed, she put me in a sort of orphanage at age five. There is a reference to that below, and the backstory of that will be dealt with in more detail by an upcoming blog post (s?), to replace one or some from an earlier set of biographical blog posts that were lost by some apparently malevolent hacker of my website (see asterisk below).

Just now, however I am committed to continuing with the current theme of the issue of the existence or not of God.
I am having trouble finding where I left off. There was a promised fourth part of a four-parter that dealt with the issue. I am having a difficult time organizing the fragments that were to make up that fourth one, and so I am giving myself a reprieve, since I came across an old post from August, 2013* which deals with this very issue. So, I will post this again, as a way of stalling for time vis a vis the fourth part mentioned above.

The good news is this one is largely ready to go, hence there will be less further delay in my long overdue postage due type derelict awol by our blog boy (Me).
And so here it is (or was):

Gentle Readers,
If you want, without further ado, an explanation for this poem (see above) being included here, best to go straight to the “About” section (see above) which deals with my miracle “conversion.”

At age twenty.

From a state of atheism.

The following stuff though deals with the roots of all that, which I do believe are relevant to my story of how I have dealt with the issue of if God or not.

For some reason I find it a fascinating issue, the one about the existence of God. I can’t remember if I’ve already done a post about that (You don’t post to be repetitive). But here’s a caveat; I do repetitive. But I hope each time it’s more like Cummings was repetitive always talking about spring, or John Donne, things that are rings.

So beware, there may be future posts as well on this theme (The existence of God). Come to think of it, my last (from August, 2013) post segues nicely into this issue since as I recall it ended talking about C. S. Lewis and his “proof” of the existence of God (i.e. The Case for Christianity and the radio commentaries that was based upon)

So, as a preamble to my no doubt subsequent posts on this subject, I may as well delve again into biographical hence explanatory (and to some, exculpatory) material. Even though some people might then say adversarily that I turned to God out of desperation rather than for any “good reason.” But the great mystic Meher Baba talked about a state of “divine desperation” which was given as the pretty universal explanation for these “conversions.”

I mean it’s even quite possible that what on the surface was a misfortunate orphanage situation, really was a roundabout long-way-around-is-the-shortest-way-home kind of thing. I mean it was a pretty useful desperation then if my happy now is rooted in it!**

Time for some backstory:
As a child, I adored Jesus. And Christmas, And not just for the gifts, more for the candles and the songs . . .

I wonder if I started out so pro-Jesus because I’d been “abandoned” by my mother. I put that in quotation marks because it was not a complete physical abandonment and in important respects, never an emotional one. But it makes sense doesn’t it? I mean to suspect a lonely child might sooner “turn to the Lord” than a happy child would. Every thing else being equal of course.

Honesty insists now that I tell you a bit of horrific sounding stuff but which wasn’t so bad (You had to be there) as abandonments go.***

Oops! Times up!

More next week . . .
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Some of my faithful followers may remember that a while back my website was hacked and mysteriously all but a few most recent posts had been deleted. Now I am a neophyte techie and so I don’t understand how and why that could have happened. But the good news is I have kept a separate documentation of almost all of my blog posts, going back to the first one (On April Fool’s Day, 2013). And guess what? This is one of the missing ones. (I am gradually refilling out the online archives).

**This corroborates one of my favorite quotes from Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi order I was initiated into: “For every loss, there’s a hidden gain. And for every gain, a hidden loss.” His point being since apparent “good news” has a hidden cost, which may exceed the apparent value, and vice versa concerning the apparent “bad news,” it’s best not to either get too excited about the “gain” or too depressed about the “loss.” I mean, I was put in an orphanage, which sounds bad. But if it made me unhappy and lonely such that I was desperate enough to successfully appeal to God, and then came out happy, it (the orphanage situation) was a great investment was it not? Another example is when I was fifteen I was hit by a car and suffered compound fractures, in a cast for nine months, resulting in a slightly short left leg, which kept me out of Vietnam! If it didn’t save my life I bet it at least saved my sanity! Goes to show you never can tell.

***Here I refer to the orphanage and how it came about, But that will be reposted after I finish with the existence of God theme. (Remember, there is a fourth part coming, though this does make it at least five.)

As for the orphanage, this poem shows the loss/gain thing also in perspective:

At the Orchard End of the Orphanage

I remember the sweet peach blossom breeze
At the orchard end of the orphanage
Where I would think endlessly and enviously
Of if no orphanage

Or of if again I felt
My mother’s fingers in my hair
(The mother who had abandoned me there
For a few years)

How it would be different then
In an unorphanaged situation
But now I think of when my mother
Finally did take me back

But struck me
(Through her tears)
With her fistful of wistful
For her lost true love:

She was earnest to explain
To show me in the mirror drain where
My now brown eyes this time
Would have been blue

Gratitude, Which Is a Kind of Grace

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Lud Dimpfl's Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

I am the dark haired guy in the back row, just in front of the left white doorjamb

New Start–75

Gratitude, Which Is a Kind of Grace

Mind if I ask you a personal question?
I don’t hear a yes so here goes:
Do you ever suddenly feel grateful?
For what?

Oh I don’t know but well
Like just now (out of the blue)
I was looking out of my own brown eyes
Just at the dinner I was fixing on the stove

And though I wasn’t fixing to cry
I started to anyway
I don’t know why
Oh yes I do (it has to do with love)

I was thinking of the many people
Who don’t have a dinner in front of them
And even don’t have eyes to see through
(On account of they haven’t been born)

And just for that you see I was torn
And all at once I started to cry
Just out of gratitude and too for even just
The beatitude of my own gratitude

Which is a kind of grace
(Comes from seeing the face of the stars)
And you know
Even those falling ones are tears

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
For those just tuning in, this is the third of a four part (in this series, but no doubt this will be an ongoing theme, hence will be revisited from time to time. So many skeptics, so little time!) set of posts which discuss the question of the existence of God. The post of December 30 was getting too long in the tooth (but, I hope, not in the truth) and so it is continued here. And this too, will be cut short with the rest coming next post. (to spare you gentle folk a too long-winded analysis)

I had earlier talked about eyes. Since so many demanding proof of God have demanded to see it with their own eyes.

I quoted the revered seer in India, Meher Baba, as saying none can see God but with eyes divine. Which makes sense since our eyes are a finite instrument and God by definition is infinite. Meher Baba has said that to expect to see God with your eyes is like expecting to be able to see with your ears. They are not the apt instrument. The best instrument we have to “see” God is the heart.*. Otherwise we are blind to the business. Fortunately, our uncorrupted** hearts (“The heart of man is the shrine of God”–Hazrat Inayat Khan) are a sort of Seeing Eye God.

But back to eyes. They do of course make for a dandy metaphor, in the sense that the saints are said to “see” God.

In other words though you have to be God to see God, you can, as ascending saints, get a closer and closer successive approximation. Fortunately, said Meher Baba, (and yes, Buddha, in his fashion) this is an eminently possible thing. But perforce it is a slow process, as you might imagine. (Nothing as stupendous as God comes cheap and easy) But this is the purpose of reincarnation. (Count ‘em! 8,000,000 plus lifetimes, and that’s just as a human being!). Just as the cutting edge of water eventually created the Grand Canyon.***

But enough theoretical speculation. I have in my own life seen proofs of the existence of God.

For instance, the divine is in our nature. And like seeks like. A proof of that is this: we all like to be in the presence of love.

Okay well, that would only be a proof of God (read love) if you were a pantheist (like me, and like Meher Baba) who said that nothing exists but God.****

And this is also a Sufi thing as per Hazrat Inayat Khan’s invocation (see above):

“Toward the One, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, THE ONLY BEING, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.” (Pantheism strikes again!)

But back to loving to be in the presence of love; children love to hang with their loving parent. My cat sleeps on my lap.

And there’s a divine quality we often see in people, (and yes, animals*****) which is called gratitude. And right there is a proof I am part divine, because boy am I grateful. (See poem above)

For part four, see next post (when I get into the nitty gritty of the proofs)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Hazrat Inayat Khan and all the Sufi mystics say this. And as I keep saying, this is a Sufi blog. Because Sufism is close to my heart and I have spent more than half of my life in the study of it (in my fashion). I was even officially initiated by an authenticated Sufi murshid in 1972. True, she threw me out unceremoniously seven years later. (I had confessed too much, you see). But guess who came to my defense? Lud Dimpfl, her assistant, my preceptor. And it was him that I loved, and without whom likely would have left the order of my own accord. So my heart rests satisfied. The story of my gratitude for Lud is told (among many others) in this old blog post, What They Do to 33 Year Old Carpenters. Here’s the url: https://rumi-nations.com/2014/01/13/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-2/. It also deals with how I got thrown out of the Sufi order.

I do believe that I was accepted as a Sufi because of my display of gratitude. I remember Lud being impressed by my tears when I explained about the miracle that had turned me from atheism to a believer at the age of 19, when I said to him I was so grateful not to feel alone . . .

If you are curious about this miracle, it is explained in the “ABOUT” section above.

**I need to clarify here. I do not believe the heart can ever be “corrupted.” But it can be unjustly imprisoned, and just as a light can be obscured by putting a blanket over it, the heart can be put out of action. Can pine away for not being attended to. Which in Sufism is the source of all unhappiness. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said (Matthew 5:15) “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, (archaic word for bowl) but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

***To get accepted as a Sufi in the San Francisco Group (in 1972) I had to be interviewed by the eighty year old Murshida, (the successor to the successor of the founder Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died in 1926). We (my then wife Judy and I) were informed as we were leaving that Murshida had decided to accept us as two of her 300ish mureeds–historically, no mean feat. (Sufi initiates are called mureeds). And her parting words were an admonition that it was an incredibly long haul getting to the goal of being God. But she was happy with my reply which basically said, that didn’t bother me. Even a small percentage increase in the direction of such a vast store of light was by comparison to the relative gloom I had been suffering under, such a wonderful contrast that I believed at each step, at each increment of advancement, my cup would be overflowing as was said in the psalms.

****And here I refer you to Baba’s also short essay, “God Alone, Is.” Strange when you stop to think about it how it should involve such a long process just to arrive at one’s own true identity. I guess we will just have to bear up and accept that we must live (read: have adventures!) for millennia . . . (Sigh)

*****(in re gratitude in animals)
I remember seeing on PBS or such a documentary, part of which concerned a man who had lovingly raised a lion cub. And then he turned him over to a nature preserve, thinking he would be happier in his natural habitat. But he came back for a visit a few years later and when the lion saw him he rushed him as if to attack, and all around were worried. But it was just the lion’s eagerness to stand upright and lick his face in pure excitement to see him again.