How The First Amendment impedes Our Understanding of The Middle East

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Intolerance breeds injustice. Injustice invariably leads to rebellion and retaliation, and these will lead to escalation on the part of both making reconciliation almost impossible. It would appear that during times of stress, despair and frustration, people become increasingly irrational, and they do things which they never think they are capable of. And so we see hideous brutality perpetrated by the most gentle people.

Once started religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility.” Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, addressing the World Evangelical Fellowship on 2001-MAY-4. 4(excerpts)

We live in a country that was founded on the desire for religious freedom. We have carried through, for this reason, the separation of church and state. The Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock came here from the same type of environment that exists in Africa and the Middle East today.

“The separation of church and state is a legal and political principle derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” The phrase “separation of church and state”, which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, where Jefferson spoke of the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.”…

“Early immigrants to the American colonies were there motivated largely by the desire to worship freely in their own fashion, particularly after the English Civil War, but also religious wars and disputes in France and Germany.[2] They included a large number of nonconformists such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims, as well as Catholics (in Baltimore). Despite a common background, the groups’ views on broader religious toleration were mixed. While some notable examples such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn ensured the protection of religious minorities within their colonies, others such as the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony had established churches. The Dutch colony of New Netherland had also established the Dutch Reformed Church and outlawed all other worship, although enforcement by the Dutch West India Company in the last years of the colony was sparse. Part of the reason for establishment was financial: the established Church was responsible for poor relief, and dissenting churches would therefore have a significant advantage.” – Wikipedia

Without an understanding of history and what this means, we cannot understand what is happening in Iraq. In actuality, we went to Iraq to defeat Saddam Hussein, operation Iraqi freedom was supposed to free the Iraqis from the oppressive rulership of Saddam. We won that war in 2003. The problem is that we did not, and do not understand the region and what happens to a region when Church equals State. Winning the war was easy what we are unable to win is the peace. Why is it that we cannot with the peace for the Iraqi people?  Why are the conflicts in the Middle East so hard for us to enter into with success?

Imagine that instead of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, as political parties, we had Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Imagine too, that the Christians, are further divided between Roman Catholics and the various groups of Protestants. In this scenario our government is run by the Roman Catholic group of Christians. They declare Catholicism as the ruling religion of the country, banning the practice of any other religions. Now, Texas is predominately Baptist. Texas is an important region because of its oil fields. New York City, which is largely Jewish, is also important because of its financial institutions. The country is under oppressive Catholic rule, many who rebel against being forced to worship in Catholic Churches are being massacred. Now a third party, let’s imagine it is China with an economic stake in the stability of our country, and with no religious leanings, enters our country to free us from the oppressive Catholic rule and manages to defeat the strong-hold of the Catholic government. With the mighty Catholic military disbanded, the other Christian groups, begin to fight for power amongst themselves. At the same time, the Jews and Muslims begin to gather strength in their own states to gain religious control over our country for the sake of their own religions and our country becomes divided into religious territories.

In the midst of all this turmoil created by the dismantling of the strong Catholic Military, China decides to back a Muslim government. Backed by the Chinese military, the Muslim government begins to enter each state and take control. Jews, Baptist, and even Catholics rise up to prevent this from happening – China calls these religious groups, “insurgents” that must be put down. The only way is to cleanse the regions of each group, city by city. Feeling that if our country is taken over by the Chinese backed Muslims it will be the greatest offense against God, Jews, Christians, and Catholics come from all over the world to join in the fight against the Muslim government, seen by many as a puppet regime of the Chinese trying to control the worship of God in the US. The biggest battles are being waged in Texas, where the Baptist, many of them devout Christian Fundamentalists, refuse to allow the rich resources of their state to go to the benefit of the Chinese backed Muslim government. However, violent fighting among all of the religions ensues nationwide as each religion attempts to build a stronghold in a particular state. Money, guns, and ammunition are being smuggled into the country by Protestants, Jews and even Catholics from around the world to support the fight of their particular religion. All of the religious groups are united in their animosity towards China because each group sees that the only peace that China can bring to our country, will cost each religion their faith in God. This scenario is imaginary – only because of the First Amendment to The Constitution.

We have had four hundred years of desire and practice in the separation of church and state. We have had four hundred years of living side by side with so many religions that we forget the world before. We think of ourselves as a nation and its people, not of a religious faith and the affront to God of any other faith existing in the same territory.

The “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia was the Orthodox Christian Serbians “cleansing” the country of Muslims. The conflicts in Israel are not Arab vs. Israeli, they stem from the fact that Israel was established as and needs to remain a Jewish State. If the Palestinians, mostly Muslim and Christian were granted the same rights under the law as Jews, which would of course include full voting rights, Israel would soon cease to be a Jewish State, in effect, it would cease to be Israel. In India, the religious and political battle over rulership of the country was between the Hindus and the Muslims, it was only resolved by the formation of the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.

Religion has no borders. Shiite Muslims will fight from all over the world with and for the Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Sunni’s will fight from all over the world with and for the Sunni Muslims in Iraq. The people of the United States are here because they have chosen to live or remain after birth in a country where one is first an American Citizen and then a Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or Jew. Because of the separation of church and state that we enjoy, loyalty to the country does not require loyalty to a particular form of worship. This is our Democracy. It is the Democracy, envisioned by our Constitution, which can only survive in a nation where there is an explicit separation of Church and State. Today there are 56 religious based “conflicts” including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Uganda, Chechnya, the Philippines, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Sudan, the Middle East and Kosovo. The Problem with our intervention in any religious conflict, the problem with any outside intervention in any religious conflict is that whatever group we back, we are backing a religion. In removing one religion from power and replacing it with the only alternative, another religion, we simply buy a temporary cease fire. Soon enough the worshipers of the defeated faith, feeling repressed, afraid, and more determined than ever to fight in the name of God, will gather support from the unlimited well of followers devoted to their faith, and God and rise up, and continue the battle. It is not a battle that is won or lost on earth but in Heaven. It is not a battle for a place on earth but for a place in Heaven. If they lose their place on land by fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of God, they guarantee their place in Heaven.

We have won the war in Iraq that we set out to win. We cannot win the peace, because we are fighting a battle over borders, and they are fighting a battle over love, honor and devotion to God. Where Church, Temple, Mosque, or Ashram, equals State, we can only make things worse.

If there is any lesson that we should learn from this, it is that what prevents us from becoming them, what prevents the United States from becoming Iraq, Serbia, or any of the other nations embroiled in religious wars, is the First Amendment. Those who would like to see it abolished, or even relaxed should pay close attention to what is happening in Africa, Asia and the middle east because the First Amendment is all that separates us from them.

A Worst Case Scenario for 2012

Many people I speak to are disappointed with President Obama, and I can understand it, I have had my moments of downright anger. I believe that the biggest reason for this is not that he did this or didn’t do that, but that we have not seen any change. Unlike Congress, he does not owe the corporate lobbyists for his election, he owes the people. The funny thing is that the founding fathers gave Congress only two year terms to guarantee that they would not be in office long enough to corrupt the government. They believed that the people would catch on quickly to any corruption and those who were partial to special interests would not have enough time to do any real damage. Little did the founding fathers know, that because they only had two years, they would have little time to do anything for the people because they had to guarantee that the corporations that paid for their campaigns, would pay for the next. So their allegiance is to the money and not the people. However, the President’s campaign was paid for by the people, and he has only three years to secure their support.

I have peeked over the shoulders of the Fates, and seen the path ahead of us, so I was not expecting him to fix the economy, or put an end to war. I was hoping for mind blowing, never saw that coming CHANGE. I was hoping for something like an executive order putting a moratorium on foreclosures, I was hoping for a change, like attacking the problem from the bottom up, instead of the same ole, same ole trickle down method, which never quite ends up actually trickling down. I was not hoping for a solution, as I was hoping for a new paradigm in the way the government goes about seeking solutions. I was hoping for a change. Now, I know that most of the Republicans in Congress have no intention of doing anything except protecting the interests of the corporations that keep them in office. And many others have the singular goal of making sure that anything that could keep President Obama in office, fails. Yet, I hoped that in this unprecedented time of suffering for the citizens of the United States, he could declare a state of emergency and by executive order, do something wild and outside of the box to help the people. That would be a change, one not seen since FDR. I really feel that the only thing that that can lead us at least in the direction of better is different.

As we face 2012 with understandable trepidations, and as we Astrologers face a configuration that is very difficult to gloss over because it has never passed without notice. The last time we saw this set up was the great depression and WWII. I have been saying to people that there was not going to be some devastating event. But I am not too sure anymore. We are facing a minefield, one in which we would be well served to revisit the history of that last time we saw this lineup. It would do well to revisit Germany, because they were experiencing a terrible depression. People were going through exactly what we are experiencing today an environment of fear and helplessness. Then a man came from obscurity to power, a man named Adolf Hitler.

Sadly, when people lose hope, they seem to find solace in being given someone to blame, someone to punish – because it is something that they can do to relieve their helplessness, and even shame. Find a bad guy, eliminate the bad guy, and live happily ever after. So, regardless of what is happening in the televised economy, the people are living in a growing climate of joblessness, homelessness, and increasing hopelessness. If something drastic is not done soon to effect the lives of those Americans who once lived in homes along Main Street, but now are living on the sidewalks, in parks and cars along Main Street, there is no telling what will happen. However, history tells us that those ingredients have always made a volatile cocktail.

The thing that scares me is that 2012 is an election year. Whom we elect could be the spark that ignites the fire. It will depend entirely on whether or not President Obama can justify the hope that he gave us, in exchange for our votes. Because I fear, it was all the hope that we had left. If he cannot deliver for the people, if he cannot deliver a reason for our hope, then I am very much concerned that whoever runs against him in the next election, as in Nazi Germany, will deliver a scapegoat for our rage.

The Journey’s End is the Only Cause of Death

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts the sickle, because the harvest has come”. The Gospel of Mark, Parables 4:26-29

Everything grows; a dream grows towards becoming a reality. A journey grows towards its destination. A project grows towards completion and a search grows towards the finding. Everything alive seeks to reach higher, a plant and a tree grow towards the sun, their source of life. The body grows towards the sun, its source of life. The ego grows towards the soul its source of life. The soul grows towards God, or The Source, its life.

It is that growth which pushes us. It is an aching, the aching of the seed, the aching of the plant, and the aching of every life on earth. We seek growth in everything that we do. We challenge our bodies through sports, and through weights. We challenge our minds through puzzles and through overcoming obstacles, finding a new way. We challenge our souls through the obstacles and sorrows that we place before ourselves in life.

What is the reason for growth? It is to unite with our Source, become one with it. Our dreams grow to unite with reality. Our ideas grow to unite with form. Once the light is reached the journey is over. The process is complete. When that is achieved, the seeker becomes that which was sought. The journey becomes the destination. The being becomes its purpose for being. Everything grows to reach its light because it is that light which gives it life. We exist to seek the light, the light enlightens our way, and the light is the force within us that motivates our journey.

The light is the beginning, and the end, the alpha and the omega. To reach the light is the culmination, the highest point that we can achieve, and yet, at the same time the light is the death. It is the end. It is where we begin, our purpose for the journey and the end of it. To die is not to end it is to finally become. The seed dies to become the tree, the caterpillar dies to become the butterfly, the idea dies to become the creation, the dream dies to become the reality. It is a never ending process of birth, death and resurrection. There is no end. We leave one life when it is done. We are born at the moment that God destines our journey to begin in this life, and we die when God destines that it is over. My birth might be called a fluke, my mother could not go into labor, she had already lost one child for that reason. My father stayed out all night, one of many all nighters that he pulled. This night, she decided that he would not spend the next day resting up in bed as was his habit after an all nighter. This night, she decided that he would suffer. So, the next day when he came home she told him that she was in labor and he had to take her to the hospital. To her surprise, the umbilical cord was strangling me and she had to have an immediate emergency C-Section.

The body of the baby dies to become the toddler. The body of the toddler dies to become the child. The body of the child dies to become the teenager. Look at pictures, each resembles the other but each does not share the same body of the other. We die most deaths without know it anymore than we notice the birth of the toddler, or of the adolescent or adult. At the end of each life, there is simply no more script to read, no more lines for our character, it doesn’t matter how old or how young we leave this incarnation, some souls choose to accomplish a great deal in a short time. If a baby survives for only a minute, that baby has still changed the life of the mother who carried it into the world and the family that waited for its arrival. A life touches others for as long as it is written into the play. God allows the soul to choose the length of its stay. And the purpose that it is here to accomplish. We arrive on time and leave on time. The way that we leave is the way our plot ends. It completes the story, the story we chose, and the one chosen for us. They are one in the same. No one causes the death of another as no one causes the birth of another.

The Bhagavad-Gita is a spiritual epic about life, death and our relationship with God in between. As is so very appropriate today, it is the story of Arjuna, a warrior at a time when each person had a role to fill, teacher, ruler, warrior, etc. It is a story of a great battle lasting between warring families and the kingdoms that are their allies. Because of his birth, Arjuna is forced to fight in this battle. Before the battle begins, he asks his charioteer, Krishna, to drive him into the center of the battlefield so that he can see clearly who he will be fighting. He sees that he will be fighting those closest to him, his family members, teachers, mentors, brothers and father-in-law. He is overcome with grief at the prospect of fighting those he loves dearly.

“Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.” “I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Krishna, killer of the Keshi demon.” “I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.” “O Govinda, of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield? O Madhusudana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, why should I wish to kill them, even though they might otherwise kill me? O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhritarashtra?”… “Better for me if the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapons in hand, were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield.” “It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though desiring worldly gain, they are superiors. If they are killed, everything we enjoy will be tainted with blood.”

I didn’t know, when I read this years ago, why it felt so important to me. It was not only the message, but the context of war and the inner conflict that any good hearted man or woman must struggle with that stayed with me. Arjuna is a warrior, battle is not his conflict but with whom he must fight. In his argument laments the fact that although the perpetrators of the war are only fighting out of greed, why must he kill, knowing that it is wrong. He cannot understand how in killing those he loves, knowing it is wrong, he is not equally as sinful as those who do not care who they who kill.

The soldiers know that we support them, but not the war that they are fighting. We have learned from Vietnam not to fault the soldiers, but to love them, pray for them and support them. Yet, it does not matter to the soldiers that we support them, because we are supporting them without really knowing what they are doing that we are supporting. If you tell me that you believe in me, but I cannot tell you what I am really doing, or that I cannot believe in myself for doing it – I gain no comfort from your support. Most Americans do not really know, or really want to know what our soldiers must do and must see. There is no way to erase images that are emotionally or traumatically imprinted on the mind. But what can be done to in some way help those who are suffering loss, or are struggling with the guilt and or shame of feeling responsible for causing the death of another is to help them open up to the possibility of accepting that what we see as death, is a transition, and not one that man, regardless of his actions is capable of causing. The moment of our birth and the moment of our departure from the body are two moments more fated than any other in our lives. As Krishna told Arjuna:

“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”… “That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul.”…“ One man believes he is the slayer, another believes he is the slain. Both are ignorant; there is neither slayer nor slain. You were never born; you will never die. You have never changed; you can never change. Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies. Realizing that which is indestructible, eternal, unborn, and unchanging, how can you slay or cause another to be slain?
As a man abandons his worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out a new one is acquired by the Self, who lives within. The Self cannot be pierced with weapons or burned with fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundation of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.”
( Bhagavad Gita 2.19-25)

When all of the pieces come together we become complete. To become is to die as we were. We die as that which seeks fullness, and are reborn as that which is full. We die as the question and are reborn as the answer. We change into the form that we seek.

Death is not the end of life; it is the end of a form, the end of an experience. It is the completion of a quest, our search for the Pearl. We each go out into the world for a reason, and when we have found what we were looking for or done what we went out to do, we all return home. We wear the garments appropriate for our journey. When we return home, we remove them. This is as it should be. It is when we return home that we are truly together.

Our lives that were once so connected with each other will die. We each go on to build new lives in new places and regardless of how much we loved each other while we were together; the time comes to move on. This is death. It is not the ending of a life; it is the ending of an experience. The act of dying is simply the ceremony, the ritual attached to that moving on, to that removal of our outerwear. Death comes much more peacefully than birth. There are many old souls who would rather die a thousand deaths than be born once more.

I was sitting with a friend of mine at the New Jersey shore, when she told me about a man who had been standing in the bay fishing when a helicopter fell out of the sky and landed on him. Needless to say, he died. She then remarked that there was no doubt that it was his time. We all have our time it is that moment when we have completed all that we came here to do. It does not matter where we are when our time comes because when it comes we will leave. The means of our departure is part of our journey but not the cause of its end.

We establish, before we incarnate all of the things that we are going to accomplish while here. In some lives there are many major events that we need in order to complete our mission, and our lessons. For others the lessons are very few, sometimes everything we experience in our lives is only to support one lesson. Sometimes we just come in to help another soul that we are close to, as in the case of many children who die very young. It is not for themselves that they come; it is to help their families with a lesson and sometimes to effect the whole society as in the case of Ryan White. The length of years that we spend here is not the issue. There are times when in order to connect with all of the souls that we have agreed to connect with we must spend many years on the earth. There are times when it is but a few hours.

Often the time of death is chosen in order to fit in with lessons of those close to us. Perhaps the experience of our dying is a group experience. Or perhaps it is a part of a lesson for those closest to us. So the time when this can best be accomplished will be our time, that time when we graduate to the next level or need to move to another life for our next set of lessons.
When it is our time there is no reason for our soul to stay incarnate. This has nothing to do with our ego attachment to being here, the ego does not rule the lesson, and it is only one of the tests. Often we will place other points in our lives where we may or may not die and although these points do not mark the end of our lesson here in this life, they still mark points where we may end our time here if our souls are ready. We are given the choice. These are times when things like prayer are very important. These are times when we are able to build our faith. We are brought to the edge and allowed a miracle to bring us back. We are able to make a permanent connection with our spirit and see it manifest in our lives. This is a gift to us.

Sometimes we need to come close to death in order to prepare for the next step in our lives. In other cases we need to be brought to the point of choice so that we can make a conscious decision to be here. Once in a while a soul just cannot appreciate being here because he or she may feel that it was not their choice. If that person has a near death experience and makes a choice to return, life then has a different value. When we die it is always our time, it is a time that has been predetermined and agreed upon by all of our soul family. It is a time appointed by God. It is the right time. It happens in the right way, and we are grateful for what it brings to our souls through the experience. It is a completion, a graduation. When someone we love departs from the physical body, we can always feel their presence if we open ourselves to it.

It is important to understand that when someone leaves his or her body, the connection that they had with the souls left behind does not end. The work that we came together to do must be completed. We have to accept that everything in the physical world has a beginning and an end. Yet the end is in effect a merging with a new beginning. Any guilt or regret should be redirected to positive changes for future situations. Nothing is left unfinished, we may not like the conclusion, but death is the period at the end of our sentence on earth, but by no means the end of our story.

When we leave this earth plane and look back on our time here, it is neither the pain nor the joy that we remember, it is the fullness, the richness of all of both pain and joy combined. It is the roller coaster ride that is life that we long to return to. Birth, death, and the time in-between are all points on the circle, which is life. There is really no beginning and no end, those are just illusions. There is just life, continuous, changing and yet always remaining the same, Life.