The first thing that struck me when I picked up J. Gordon Melton’s book The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena was one of the pictures on the cover. It depicts a statue of the Mahayana Buddhist goddess Kuan Yin, and I immediately thought of the artist renderings of the Flatwoods Monster reportedly encountered during a 1952 UFO sighting in Braxton County, West Virginia.It has the same flowing gown and distinctive spade-shaped hood, collar, cowling (or whatever it is) behind the head. In my search for other images of Kuan Yin, only a few others include the spade shape; most do not, indicating that this is not a feature that is necessarily associated withher.
So I concluded to my satisfaction that the similarities in the images of the goddess and the Flatwoods “alien” were mere coincidence.I don’t think the Buddhist goddess was making a Fatima-like appearance to the three children of Braxton County. (Although other similarities to Fatima include the sighting of lights in association with the apparitions, and that the being initially appeared to three children, two of which, in both cases, were brother and sister. Other researchers have noted the parallels between the Fatima phenomena and some UFO experiences.)
That is not
the most interesting thing about The Encyclopedia of Religious
Phenomena, however. Aside from its detailed entries on the phenomena
you expect it to cover, it also has a good deal of information on
phenomena, events, and people you may never have heard of. Yes, it
includes theShroud of Turin, stigmata, the Marian apparitions at
Fatima and other locations, and many more familiar mysteries (although
the book inexplicably omits the allegedly incorruptible bodies of
various saints), but there are also quite a few that are not so
Several saints are credited
with the power of bilocation – the ability to appear in two places at
once – during their lifetimes. Melton’s book provides the example of
Martin de Porres, who in the 17th century was reportedly seen in places
as distant as Mexico, northern Africa, China, and Japan, although he
never left his home country of Peru. He made this claim of bilocation
himself, often able to provide detailed descriptions of the places he
visited in his other body.
Panpsychism is perhaps the most fascinating of all the metaphysical belief systems that attempt to explain the ultimate reality. As with most ontologies there is more than one form of it. This page will be concerned with the monistic pantheist form, rather than the dualistic panentheist form. An accepted definition of panpsychism would be that all matter is in someway conscious or sentient.This does not mean that rocks can think. It does mean that the individual atoms in the rock feel or experience each other and are somehow connected to the entire universe.The explanation of panpsychism I liked best was by Christian de Quincey. He said, "If both mind and matter arereal, and are not separate substances, and neither can emerge or evolve from the other, then both matter and mind have always existed together, are coextensive, co-eternal and in some way, co-creative.
Panpsychism, variously called panexperientalism or radical materialism, proposes that matter (or physical energy) itself is intrinsically sentient or experiental, all the way down." (When de Quincey says, "all the way down," he means from the entire universe down through the sub atomic particles or waves.)
rejects Materialism because it needs a supernatural miracle to account
for consciousness. Panpsychism doesn't have this problem because it is
an ontology where matter and mind are not separate substances. It is
consciousness. Most scientists are materialists and almost reflexively
reject the panpsychist belief that matter can besentient. All too
often they attempt to ridicule it by saying, "Thinking that rocks have
feelings is silly!" While panpsychists do believe matter is sentient,
most of us do not believe that rocks have feelings, but we do believe
that individual entities feel or experience.
Charles Hartshorne (a
disciple of Whitehead) attempted to answer the critics of panpsychism
by referring to (1) the distinction of knowing from within and without;
(2) the difference between aggregates and compound individuals; (3) an
indistinction of sensory perception. The microscopic world is far from
If you have ever looked at
a drop of pond water under a microscope you begin to believe that even
single celled organisms have some sort of primitive consciousness. They
search for food, avoid danger and their waste products, and move about
with a purpose. I doubt if theyhav......
Give the three wise men of the East more credit, says Carol-lee Lane, a Baha'i who lives in Shoreham. She thinks they knew what they were doing; they weren't shooting in the dark. "Baha'is are very explicit that science and religion should go hand in hand," Lane said last week. "Religion without science is superstition. Science without religion is potentially dangerous to civilization. There's a balance to be had."Someone -- a Zoroastrian astrologer, probably -- did the calculations for the Magi, she said. But that notion doesn't detract from the magic they bring to her appreciation of the gospels."I recognize in the Christmas story the appearance of the three wise men and the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of a wonderful prophecy," she said.But not the first and not the final prophecy in mankind's spiritual history.
The Baha'i believe in an ongoing progression of divine manifestations on earth. "A lot of religions forecast the return of a prophet. Zoroaster predicted his return with some celestial certainty. The manifestations of God always predict their return. They always give clues.
"I have a
deep and abiding love of Christ," she continued. "But I believe
Baha'u'llah (who founded the Baha'i faith in 1863) is the most recent
manifestation of God. To look further back could be counterproductive.
It would be looking backward. I want to look forward."
Lane grew up in a Methodist family. She played roles in the church pageants.
"Dad was a lay leader of
the church; Mom was queen of the choir. They were central to their
congregation and they set a wonderful example of commitment. I grew up
seeing religion as a very real thing in the world," Lane said.
But Christianity presented her with too many emotional and intellectual incongruities.
"I needed something more; something that let me be a thinking person and a woman with my integrity intact," she said.
She embraced the Baha'i
faith in the early 1970s. Later, she found she could celebrate it with
her husband, Barry Lane, who grew up Jewish and is now a Baha'i.
"I believe Baha'u'llah is
the return of Christ," Carol-lee said. "Baha'is who grew upas
As shoppers fumble from store to store with bags full of packages, the point of the season can get lost amid the materialism. For many, Christmas has deeper meaning than just setting up a tree and waiting for Santa Claus. The birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the son of God, is celebrated each year on Dec. 25.But that's not the only celebration happening this time of year. People of many spiritual traditions also celebrate holidays in the months of November, December and January. While Christianity is the most commonly practiced of Western religions, many Americans choose other traditions. United States CensusBureau data from 2001 identifies at least 20 other non-Christian religions practiced by Americans.The same survey by the U.S.
Census Bureau found 77 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, with Catholics and Baptists making up 53 percent of those self-described Christians polled in a random survey of 50,281 U.S. households. Census Bureau data from 2000 shows 39.9 percent of Michiganders attended Christian churches, ranking Michigan the 13th lowest state in Christian population in the U.S.
In Calhoun County, several people who practice non-Christian religions were asked what this time of year means to them and how their religious beliefs affect their holiday celebrations. Core beliefs differ, but most traditions center on giving to others, spending time with family and being thankful for the blessings inlife.
African Way to GodShawna McCaden-Buster of Battle Creek doesn't call it a religion. She calls it a way of life. McCaden-Buster, 34, practices African Spirituality of the Akan Tradition, derived from the West African country of Ghana.She became interested in the tradition in 1997 after a trip to Ghana. She has been tracing her mother's roots back to the Ghanaian region. Her second trip to Ghana was in 2000, and she plans to go again this coming year."It's really important to me, as a person of African descent ... to go back and restore the traditions of my ancestors, lost through the Middle Passage," a soft-spoken McCaden-Buster said, referring to the forced transportation of Africans to the New World for the purposes of slavery.Several symbols of her faith adornMcCaden-Buster......