Healing Arts with Patrick Moore

Sweetwater Trail, Saguaro Nat’l Park
January 15, 2018, 7:42 pm
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A wonderful way to do “activism” is by using creative arts like painting! Betina Fink shows an excellent example of doing this in her recent post…

Betina Fink


Park lands in the western states are being threatened on a daily basis. The natural beauty and stark intensity of desert lands just aren’t important to some people in power. The land is seen as valuable only in terms of what it can give up for money: mining, uranium, rooftops.

Close to my home are the Tucson Mountains, and the Sweetwater Trail, which still has National Park status, but lots of new rooftops dotting the pristine hills. I had a free day and went to walk the washes and animal trails just off the main human trail. Found a spot to set up and do an oil sketch.


It was so peaceful, yes warm because it has been the warmest recorded temps for this time of year, regardless of what some might say. But no snakes! Just coyotes howling a little in the distance and some birds rustling about.


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Prince of Peace 1985
August 18, 2017, 11:10 pm
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I was just sharing this story with some friends last night and I thought it would be worth sharing to a larger audience..

In 1985 I went to the Prince concert, Purple Rain tour at the Tacoma Dome.

Prince of Peace 1985

The line was long getting in to the Tacoma Dome. As we moved so slowly in the line we noticed a protester carrying a sign. The sign said, “Jesus is the REAL PRINCE of peace.” I thought, that’s not such a bad protest. The guy was probably twenty or thirty feet away from us.

Years later I found out that Prince was a Jehova’s Witness. My friend John followed Prince and told me Prince would actually go out door to door just like all the other Jehova’s Witnesses. I thought that was integrity.

I remember playing a Prince album and noticing there was some garbled message at the end of the LP. I knew that some hard rock bands from the 70s had put messages recorded backwards on their albums. So I unplugged my turntable and ran the turntable backwards with my finger, to hear the message. The message was Prince singing, “I’m so glad / that the Lord / is coming soon! / Coming / Coming / soo–ooon. / Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.” I thought that was pretty clever and cool, since the 70’s bands had put satanic or demonic messages on their albums, and Prince was doing something like the opposite. Some of his songs spoke of things like “positivity,” which enhanced his value to me.

A few years ago I was telling the story of the protester at the Purple Rain concert, now with the added knowledge that Prince had been a Christian evangelist, which I didn’t know in 1985. And something occurred to me. I think the protester was Prince, in makeup and a costume so we couldn’t recognize him. I think he protested his own concert! I think he protested his own name, “Prince,” or rather he used it as a way to celebrate another Prince whom he revered far more, the Prince of Peace.

I have never read or heard anyone talk about this. But if he stood outside with a sign at the Tacoma concert, he might have done the same at other locations in his Purple Rain tour in 1984-85. Did anyone else notice a protester with this sign?

I drew this drawing to show the picture in my mind of the moment. It wasn’t actually raining. There was a lot of concrete, with the dome in the background. I was wearing a pink long sleeve button down shirt with a skinny purple tie. I had a haircut something like David Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust album cover.

Personal & Spiritual Growth
June 3, 2017, 10:42 am
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Way to be thorough, Stephen Bruno! I will buy this book when it is finished.

Embracing the Muse

Here is a list of a few concepts from a new book about personal growth and spiritual process that I plan to publish by the end of this year, that covers some of what I teach in workshops and share in my Life Coaching. As the book nears publication, I will post the information here and on my social media pages.

• The seven elements of essence
• Respond rather than react
• Influence rather than control
• Unconditional compassion rather than unconditional love
• We use 90% of our brain to keep us believing we only use 10%
• Embrace rather than comprehend
• Service rather than self-serve
• Understanding rather than judgment
• Embracing our essence rather than following our enculturation
• Lifestyle versus career
• Friendship rather than isolation
• Natural rather than normal
• Power rather than force
• Curiosity rather than fear
• Depth rather…

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30 % WHOLE Facts
June 2, 2017, 8:56 am
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My wife, writer Traci Moore at her “fun desk” this morning, made me this collage:



generously blended with


roasted and kneaded

born of century old

tradition, faithfully produced

IN A COOL DRY PLACE the Swiss Alps!

Incomparable flavor!


I believe this inspired message comes from her training in the “Wild Mind” process that she’s been learning in Alameda and will be teaching in new workshops this summer… traci-moore.com

A Little Princess and Is the Sun Conscious?
October 28, 2016, 8:45 am
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Literature again meets Science meets Religion, with Eriksonian Stage-Psychology

This morning I listened to a podcast that asked the question, Is the Sun Conscious? The two scholars who spoke seemed to say, yes, it is very probable the sun is conscious, or it could be. Here is the link for the podcast but don’t listen to it yet… http://www.sheldrake.org/audios/science-set-free-podcast

I would start differently. Because we are likely to answer the question to immediately to ourselves, before we even read it. Instead I suggest you just imagine it as a thought-experiment. Like, I don’t believe the sun is conscious but what if I were reading a sci-fi story of the future, or fantasy story from the past, of a race of people (say Egyptians) who considered the sun conscious?

I think it is important to start off with this skepticism, and I will tell you why. I think those who listen to Rupert Sheldrake podcasts are probably already convinced. He is preaching to the choir. That is fine to do. My life goals are different. I would like to non-preach to the non-choir. I would like for there to no longer be choir members and choir non-members, but one group of humans who consider many things, with an appropriate balance of appropriate skepticism and appropriate willingness to consider new things.

What I would like to talk about in today’s paper is not whether the sun is conscious or not, but what it would mean to individuals, to shift from a belief of no, to a belief of maybe.

I read a lot of psychology classsics as I have blogged about in the past: Kohlberg, Maslow, Perls, Burns, Ellis, and their antecedants Epictetus, etc. One that bears on today’s question is Erik Erikson’s Identity Youth and Crisis. For a person to go from a no to a maybe, would trigger an identity crisis. Most people cannot tolerate an identity crisis and so they stop short. New models that threaten the identity cannot be considered. The individual personality has several extremely potent methods of dealing with information that threatens how one identifies oneself. The information seems to vanish.

We have seen this in literature and history. Or, we should see more of this in literature. Let me paint a story the way it should be written. Take A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett. I love the movie. My daughter and I watched it numerous times together and I always got a tear in my eye at the reuniting scene.


But it is not realistic to how Erikson accurately describes youth identity. The story goes like this: During WWI, a girl and her father are separated because the father must go to fight in the war. She is told he died in the war, which makes her an orphan. The comfy living is gone, and she must work for Miss Minchen, who shames the girl and makes her do endless chores. In the movie the girl maintains an identity, I am a princess. All girls are princesses, because my father said so. But in reality her personality would develop around the reality of her situation: I am a low class servant, I am shameful and bitter. Life dealt me a cruel blow when it took my father from me. Life continues to cruelly assault me daily because this is a world in which life is cruel. I am a low class shameful bitter person. Years after the war, there is the discovery of a man who has lost his memory, and it turns out to be her father. They are reunited and everything is wonderful. She is restored to her status of princess. But in reality, a child whose personality has formed around the identity of shameful bitter low class, would not be flexible enough to adjust itself to the new discovery. Even though the new situation is preferable, personalities just don’t do that. They resist even truth, even reality. The girl would resist believing this was her father, and even if she were reunited with him, she would continue to behave as if life were cruel and she were shameful and low class. Because personality is formed early. Now, some will argue with me. Yes, if the girl’s personality were fully formed and resilient before the father went off to war, she might be able to continue her identity as princess even through all the tortures of Miss Minchen. It all depends on when personality formation begins and ends. Experts are pushing it earlier and earlier. Some are now saying personality structure is completely formed by age 3.

How does A Little Princess relate to Is the Sun Conscious? We humans perhaps once (experts on Egyptology tell us in the podcast) considered themselves children of the sun. It is likely that 20,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, the sun was considered Our Father. At some point we were taken from this father, and then we were told this father had died, and then we were told this father never existed, it was just a superstition. Those of us alive today would not even dream that the sun could be our father. Our personalities were formed under different circumstances. Our identities are invested in a much different “reality.” To listen to a podcast today, and hear the sun may be our long lost father, is inconceivable. Of course it is farfetched, at least to modern thinkers. But besides being farfetched, it is literally inconceivable because our personalities forbid our conceiving it. Why do our personalities forbid our conceiving it? Not because it wouldn’t be good for us, it could be fantastically good for us to think this way. We are forbidden from conceiving this because it would mean the identity we have built for ourselves, is built upon faulty assumptions. Were we to conceive that the sun could be conscious, and that it is like a Father to humanity, to individual humans, this concept would question the foundation upon which we have built our identity. To even conceive this possibility means our identity could be built upon sand. Our personalities find it intolerable to ask: if who I always thought I was is not true, then who am I? It is too painful. Our personality replies: Creating the first identity was painful enough! You want me to recreate a new one, now that I am fairly secure? NO WAY!  

According to Erik Erikson’s theories of youth identity formation, for us to have a reconsideration, a complete review of the question, who am I, or even, WHAT am I? would lead to an identity crisis. Most of us are unwilling to face an identity crisis. Our personality simply puts on the brakes. No way. Dealbreaker. I am not going there. That’s the end of the story. We will go to our deaths grasping at an identity that is not accurate. Those of us who have dealt with, or are dealing with aging parents know this is true: they will hold fast to an outdated identity, one that does not even serve them in today’s world, one that limits their sense of freedom and fulfillment in life, until their final breath. Because they are unwilling to go through another identity formation, to pass across an identity crisis.

Passing across an identity crisis doesn’t have to be walking on coals. If there is someone to help you, who has done it already (perhaps multiple times), then it can be like a vigorous hike. Or a series of vigorous hikes over uncharted territories.. But the personality fears the unknown so dramatically that it will put in all kinds of resistance and diversions rather than go there.

Think of it from the personality’s perspective: facing a reformulation of identity, is like death. The personality thinks it is going to die. It isn’t going to die, in fact it is going to be improved, greatly improved, since it will be able to perceive far more of reality rather than filtering so much out. The potential for fulfillment will be multiplied a hundredfold. Relationships all improve. Intelligence improves. There is no downside except the struggles during the rites of passage. But the personality does not know this. None of my friends have done this. Our society has not done this. The whole culture and society is formed around defending the old identity, and only this one guy Rupert Sheldrake, and other outliers are suggesting this new identity. It seems like a bad wager, and most people pass before they even give it a second look.

My advice: don’t commit to the new identity, be skeptical, but do give it a second look. Treat it as a thought-experiment. What if the sun were conscious? What would that mean for me personally? How difficult would it be for me to adjust my personality, my lifestyle, my relationships, if I were to even agree the sun COULD be conscious?

I do not advocate identity crises. It is more likely to end in a reversion to the old way, when it is too sharp, too painful. I advocate gradual transition. Don’t listen to Sheldrake’s podcast. Just consider that there are other ways to identify oneself than the ways I identified myself when I was 3 or 6 or 9. And see if in a year or two, you actually want to listen to Sheldrake’s podcast. At some point it will feel like a drink of cool water after a long hike. Even if you don’t buy Sheldrake wholeheartedly, it is still refreshing (for those rebuilding their identities) to get as many different perspectives as possible.

Profession-Ethics from Plato to Spinoza
October 26, 2016, 2:15 pm
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Six hr. workshop with Patrick Moore Monday, Oct 31, 2016


What is Ethics? 

Ethics is figuring out what is right or wrong behavior. Once you know what is right or wrong, ethics includes convincing others of your choice and making recommendations for how to behave.

This definition brings up a bunch of questions that are very difficult to answer:

How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Where do ethical standards come from? Religion? The great philosophers of the past? Universities? Government? 

Are ethical standards created by humans, to fit certain situations at certain times and places? Or are they universal truths?  

Are ethical standards arrived at by faith, by reason, or some other method?  

Is every person capable of correctly discerning right behavior from wrong? If everyone is capable, why do we disagree on what is right and wrong to do? 

When everyone expects standards to be upheld, the big questions do not have to be answered. For example, if everyone expects murder to be prevented and punished, we don’t have to ask why murder is wrong. Profession-ethics fit into this niche, of what is expected of a certain profession.

For example, doctors are expected to:

  • Do only that which increases the person’s health.
  • Disclose when they do not know how to help, and refer to other professionals who may know how to help.
  • Maintain privacy.

What is ethical to do with packrats? Killing is bad.. but if you don’t kill them, they breed and damage your neighbors’ property… ?

Why Have Profession-Ethics?

A. to protect the Profession:

If a few rogue doctors were to do procedures designed only to make them rich, that ended up harming patients, this would damage the reputation of doctors everywhere. People would stop trusting doctors. The good doctors would lose patients and lose money, which would be bad for doctors everywhere. This harms the profession. Profession-ethics prevent rogue doctors from doing things that damage the reputation of the profession.

B. to protect the public:

  • To stop professionals from doing things that would be unsafe for an individual, that could actually harm the person’s health or kill them. For example, you need to be licensed and tested before you are allowed to do brain surgery, otherwise people undergoing brain surgery might be harmed or die.
  • To protect people from other embarrassments or discomforts. For example, doctors sometimes need to see people with their clothes off. An unethical doctor could take advantage of this situation and tell everyone to take their clothes off and inspect or touch private parts when it is not necessary for the procedure.
  • To stop professionals from doing things that would be a waste of the individual’s money. Professionals have access to more education than average people do. This gives them access to tricks that most people would not know about. Practitioners can easily take advantage of this to do unnecessary procedures, procedures that will not be effective, but take many sessions, bringing in lots of money.
  • Protecting the public trust of that profession, serves the public. When the profession loses credibility, people stop using that profession and they suffer for the loss of something that had helped them. For example, when people stop trusting doctors, they do not receive procedures that could save their lives. When people stop trusting police, they do not call the police when their lives could be saved.

We are glad for profession-ethics! There is profession-ethics for builders, so that we know it is safe to drive our cars over bridges, that buildings will not fall down when the wind blows, that we will not die from asbestos inhalation. There is profession-ethics for loan officers, to protect us from getting loans that we are unlikely to be satisfied with in the long term. There is profession-ethics for teachers, clergy, counselors, lawyers, police, emergency medical technicians, social workers, food handlers and many other services.


A Profession-Ethics Problem: Rules or Outcomes?

Imagine a doctor is in a situation where he thinks, “If I lie to this person, it is likely to save his life. If I tell him the truth, he is likely to die.” What should he do? In a rule-based ethics, he must always tell the truth. But that means his patient will probably die. In an outcome-based ethics, he should do what saves the person’s life, even if it breaks the rules. Would you prefer doctors to operate using rule-based, or outcome-based ethics?

Do you view the massage therapy profession as having rule-based profession-ethics, or outcome-based? How do you personally operate as a therapist: rule-based or outcome-based? Or do you have another basis for your ethics? Can you give examples for your view?


Ethics Questions for Massage Therapy:

Financial Gain Ethics:

  • A local area is “saturated” with massage practitioners. A massage school is aware of statistics that show a very low percentage of graduates have been able to remain employed in that area. Basically, their money has been wasted. Is it ethical for the school to continue taking in new students?
  • A person comes to you with a symptom of “headaches.” When the session is over, you ask if the headache is reduced and they say, No, but I really liked the massage. Can I come again next week? Is it ethical to take the person’s money for “massage therapy” when you are pretty sure it will not help them with their health goal? Will you do it anyway? What thought process goes into your making your choices?


Boundaries (2 hours)


Transference is when the recipient begins to see you not for who you are, but as someone from their past. In particular, people lying nude on a table while you stroke them with warm oil, are likely to begin to view you as their mother. Massage therapy standards of conduct and codes of ethics tell us to “avoid transference.”

Countertransference is when a therapist’s feelings toward a client become redirected. The therapist becomes emotionally entangled with the client. Massage therapy standards of conduct and codes of ethics tell us to “avoid countertransference.”

Dual Relationship is when one power differential is created at work, and then when you meet outside of work with the person, the same power differential is likely to occur. Massage therapy standards of conduct and codes of ethics tell us to “avoid transference.”

  • A good-looking person comes in. While you are professional, and the person is polite, still you feel a tingle of connection. Working on the person is a joy. Your draping is very professional, but your hands feel as if they are expressing love as they glide over the person’s body. You find yourself smiling the whole way through, and you are in a very good mood when it is over. After the session, the person expresses that it was the best massage they ever had. They want to come back every week. The person is gushing with praise. After they leave, you wonder, is this a good idea to continue? How will you decide?
  • Have you ever worked at a ritzy resort spa or “professional” dayspa where the customer is “queen for a day”? If she is queen, that means you are her servant. This creates a power differential in which she has the greater power. Have you ever met that person again outside of work? What was it like? Did the person take advantage of you? What can you do about this situation? What does ethics dictate you do? What will you actually do?
  • Do you ever encourage people you massage to see you as motherly, or nurturing? Do you hand them a bottle of water or let them get their own water? Do you speak to them in a different voice than you use for equal friends? Do you encourage them to sleep and protect the quiet so they can sleep? Do you dress differently for massage than for friends?


New Findings in Body-Countertransference

A study was done with female therapists in Ireland. These were talk-therapists, working with traumatized people. Researchers Egan & Carr asked them if, and how often they felt these symptoms. For the following list, up to 26% of them said, “Yes, this happened to me often in the last 6 months”:

  • Sleepiness
  • Muscle Tension
  • Unexpected Shift in Body
  • Yawning
  • Tearfulness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach Disturbance
  • Aches in Joints
  • Throat Constriction
  • Loss of Voice
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

These symptoms indicate countertransference had occurred, the researchers conclude. Therapist’s bodies reacted as if they were the traumatized person. Therapist’s emotions become entangled with the client’s emotions. The therapist’s feelings toward the client had been redirected. The researchers hypothesized that mirror neurons caused therapists to feel like the traumatized people feel. This research shows it is very difficult to “avoid countertransference.”

  • What is bad about countertransference, that our profession tells us to avoid it?
  • If it can’t be avoided, what should we do about it?


Plato’s Ethics: The Bag of Virtues

Plato avoids the problem of rules vs. outcomes by suggesting we be virtuous. For example, be patient. Be tolerant. Be humble. Be curious. A rule is something you do. A virtue is something you are.

Many have called Plato’s ethics “the bag of virtues.” But this is not accurate. A bag of anything is something you own. It is not who you are. Plato would have said no, virtues are not something you possess. You cultivate them until they are you, as you as any attribute of you-ness. Plato’s way is a way of being. Plato called our being, our essence. Virtues are not something you learn, they are something you are, that you develop. Virtues are attributes of your essence. You are created curious, so ethics is discovering and developing the curiosity that you already are.

Plato does not focus on outcomes, for determining if something is ethical. His ethics does not promise the outcomes of health, wealth, security or comfort. Plato describes Socrates as the virtuous man. Socrates lost his court case. He was sentenced to death. He lost his wealth, security, comfort, rights, status and admiration in the community. In fact, he lost his life. But Socrates explained on his death bed that what he gained (by being virtuous) was far more valuable to him than anything, even life. Earthly outcomes are unimportant compared to being true to one’s essence, in Plato’s view.

Plato wrote no books telling us: do this, don’t do that, this is right, that is wrong. He only wrote dialogues with characters having discussions. Most of the dialogues had Socrates as the main character. Socrates was a real person and some of Plato’s dialogues about him are accurate to history. Other dialogues are fictitious. In some of the plays, Plato wrote Socrates as being less astute than other characters. Plato didn’t give rules, not even through his character Socrates.

Socrates had a little voice in his head. When he was puzzled by an ethical question, he would pause and wait for it to speak to him. Maybe this was his essence.

Would Plato’s ethics work for massage therapists? What virtues would massage therapists BE?

Can you think of an example where being virtuous would be better (or worse) than following rules? If you were virtuous with a client but broke a rule, would that be ethical? If you followed a rule only because it helped you indulge some vice (like judgment), would that be ethical?

Can you think of an example where being virtuous would be better (or worse) than working toward outcomes? If you saved a man’s life by being non-virtuous, would that be ethical? If you were virtuous with the man, but he died, would that be ethical?


Jesus’ Ethics

Jesus did not write any books but gave verbal ethical teachings. Some of his sayings include:

  • Do not judge.
  • Love others as you love yourself.
  • Love your enemies.

He also taught by example. He apparently saved no money but relied on a daily basis on his ability to serve others as a healer and teacher, and the others’ willingness to give him food and shelter. Like Socrates, Jesus was brought to court and given the option to retract the teachings he had given, or face the death penalty. Like Socrates, Jesus would not retract the teachings. So he too was put to death.

Would you say Jesus was an ethics teacher? Many scholars, though they debate other things about Jesus, agree he was a teacher of ethical principles. Did Jesus teach ethics as a set of rules, as outcomes, or as being virtuous? I read Jesus as being more of a virtue teacher than a rule-teacher or outcomes-fighter. Jesus urged us to be nonjudgmental. Be unconditionally compassionate. Don’t be a hypocrite but be the opposite (non-self-important). Be vulnerable.

Did he add new ways of teaching ethics besides rule-based, outcome-based and virtue-based? Yes he probably did. If you think yes, how would you describe these ethics methods?

Would Jesus’ ethical teachings apply to service professions today? After all, he was in a healing profession, often touching his clients…

An interesting note is that “profession” originally meant when someone made a profession of faith, or vows to a holy order. “Professional” ethics were first applied to those in holy orders, and then hundreds of years later were applied to other professions like law and medicine.



Epictetus was born a few years after Jesus’ death. He earned his freedom legally, and then made a living teaching morality, spirituality and ethics. Epictetus’ main point was that you can’t change other people, you can’t change life’s events, but you can change your own thinking and actions. He learned this the hard way: as a slave, you really can’t change what the slave-owner will do, especially what he will do to you. But that does not mean life is without meaning. Even a slave has power over his own thoughts, attitudes and interpretations. In fact, no matter how much the slave-owner does things to your body, he cannot touch your mind. It is interesting that by discovering these things, he earned his freedom.

The serenity prayer goes back to Epictetus:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Epictetus probably would have added a few words:

               …to accept the things I cannot change: other people,

…to change the things I can: my own attitudes,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Epictetus did not write any books, but the conversations and teachings he gave were written down by one of his students. Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis consider Epictetus to be the inspiration for 20th Century talk-therapy method they call Cognitive Therapy. Cognitive Therapy is where the therapist helps you examine your own interpretations, to see how they lead you to unwanted emotional reactions and unhelpful behaviors. When you recognize you have power to change your interpretations, you can think more accurately and flexibly. Then you have much nicer emotions and behave more helpfully. It is a very clean, efficient method of talk therapy. There is a do-it-yourself cognitive therapy book called The Feeling Good Handbook by Burns, which makes the teachings of Epictetus into practical step-by-step exercises.

Did Epictetus teach ethics? He did not tell us what is right and what is wrong. He described how to have clarity, and how to have more power over the things truly within your power. With more clarity, you actually gain wisdom, intelligence, intuition and good choices. By using your mind for you instead of against you, you end up behaving more ethically.

Later in life, Epictetus adopted a child and raised it as his own.

When massage therapists get stuck in ethical questions, we could ask ourselves, how am I interpreting this? Can I change the other person? No. Can I change how I think and act? Yes. Would this process help us to be more ethical as therapists? Would it help us to be more fulfilled in our work? Would it help us to be more effective therapeutically?



Plotinus said that we humans are tiny slivers of shards of God. From this idea, we all would possess God’s attributes, just little splinters of slivers of those attributes.

Did Plotinus teach ethics? You might say this model provides a perspective about right and wrong behavior. For example, we can be loving and merciful, in our way, because our qualities of love and mercy are reflections of reflections of God’s love and mercy. Plotinus’ ethics is not rule based, not outcome based and not virtue based. It is a new way to do ethics, by having a model or perspective.

Would thinking of yourself as pieces of parts of God, help you to be more ethical in your therapy profession? How? If not, why not?


Spinoza’s Ethics

Spinoza wrote a book called The Ethics. So we know he had something to say about ethics, otherwise he wouldn’t have gave the book that title.

Spinoza had a very interesting life. He was a Jew living in Holland at a time when most of Europe was killing Jews. Holland was one of the last places that would allow Jews to live. As a child, Baruch Spinoza learned Hebrew amazingly quickly. He learned the Bible so well they decided to educate him to become a Rabbi. But he began asking sticky questions of his teachers, like, If the promised land was promised to Jews as a contract, and the Jews broke the contract, isn’t the contract now void? He was not irreverent–in his mind. He believed strongly in God but felt that most people had misinterpreted God. It was the other people who were being irreverent, in his mind. For sharing his ideas, he was put on trial before the Jewish community. He was offered an opportunity to back down from his positions. He did not back down. A murder attempt was made upon him. That did not work, so the elders excommunicated from the Jewish religion. In the written decree, Spinoza was called an atheist, and his soul was cursed to eternal damnation. All Jews were forbidden to speak with him on penalty of being excommunicated themselves. This was while he was a teenager. He changed his first name from the Jewish Baruch to the Latin Benedict. He began wearing a ring on his hand that said, “Caution.”

Like most smart boys of the early 1600s, Benedict was fascinated by the philosophy of Descartes. So he studied Latin and Descartes, moving into the home of his teacher. He fell in love with the teacher’s daughter, who though she was younger than Spinoza, was his Latin tutor. There was another guy who liked the daughter. The other guy was a fool but had money. She went with the other guy and Benedict’s heart was broken. That was the only romance of his life, but he carried the sense of betrayal, sadness and jealousy for many years. Not to mention the horrific traumas of the murder attempt, being shunned by your family and community and damned for all time. It is important to know about his emotional early life, to understand his writing.

In The Ethics, Spinoza revives Plotinus’ shards of God concept. Only we humans are even further removed from God than Plotinus said. We humans are beings with two of God’s attributes—minds and bodies. God has millions of attributes—no, billions—no, God has infinity attributes. We possess only two of that infinity of attributes. The number 2 divided by infinity… that’s close to 0% of God-ness in us! But it’s there. And the two attributes of God we possess, we don’t even possess—we are merely modes of those two of God’s attributes. All this rigmarole in the beginning of The Ethics is to demonstrate that it’s like Plotinus said; only we are even further diffused from God.

The good news is, we are created finite but reflecting God. Which is a pretty good way to start out.

Spinoza also revives Plato’s essences of things. Our essence is godlike, but in a finite manner. Our essence is actually god-derived. A derivative of a derivative of God’s essence. That gives us a sense of … pride? Birthright? Responsibility?

For those who don’t believe in God, Spinoza gave an option: Nature. A phrase that appears multiple times in The Ethics is “God, or Nature.” Nature with a capital N. It’s sort of like a lot of people today say The Universe, as in, The Universe is giving me some challenges lately but I know it’s for my own good. While Spinoza is wholeheartedly reverent to God, he writes his book friendly to atheists too.

Like Spinoza’s God, Spinoza’s Nature has infinite attributes or qualities, two of them being physical body and mental process. We humans are finitely derived from infinite Nature. Again we feel the dignity and responsibility of how we were originally formed.

The beginning sections of The Ethics give a very detailed picture of who we are. Spinoza must consider self-knowledge to be an important part of Ethics. Would you agree that to be ethical, you need to know who you are? Or that it helps? Can you give an example of someone being ethical without knowing who or what she is?

If we were formed so nobly, how did we get to be so petty? Spinoza explains this better than any other philosopher does. Because of desires and aversions, we get conditioned into processes that hinder and hide our true nature, our essence. The hindering processes, Spinoza calls the passions. Later sections in The Ethics give specific recipes for how each of the passions began in us, and then directions for how to resolve each of them. These last sections of the book are the first self-help how-to book. Spinoza tells how to restore yourself to the original essence you were created to be.

In these later sections, he doesn’t write any sordid memoir. But since we know from other sources how he was betrayed by his church, betrayed by his girlfriend, jealous of the other man and angered by the murder attempt, this gives us understanding when he describes how jealousy, anger and betrayal operate upon the human mind, and how to unravel them.

When you are jealous of another massage therapist, or of a client, would it help you to understand how jealousy got started in you? Would it help you to be able to follow it back through the steps how it led you away from your essence? Would this knowledge help you as a therapist, to be more ethical, more serving and more effective therapeutically? I think it does help.



Like the heroes of ethics, I also give no rules in this handout and workshop. Like Socrates, I ask you good questions and hope your essence inspires your own enlightenment. Like Plato, I suggest virtues rather than rules or outcomes. Like Epictetus and Spinoza I help you figure out your own knots and help you unravel them.


The Spirit / The Muse?
September 27, 2016, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The word, spirit, literally means wind in Hebrew, with the additional meanings, voice, because voice is operated by breath, which is a kind of wind. Spinoza begins his Tehologico-Political treatise  , describing the many uses of “Spirit” in the Hebrew Bible.


The Spirit and the Muse

Spinoza said the Bible is the record of God’s messages spoken through the Prophets. Since God is so vast and inconceivable to a finite human, an intermediary is required. The Holy Spirit, Spinoza said in 1670 (Theologico-Political Treatise) The Holy Spirit, Spinoza defines, is that intermediary that conveys God’s Will into words. So the spirit sort of works the Prophet’s voice for him. The Prophet needs to be that kind of person who can set his ego aside, to allow his body to be the mouthpiece of this Higher Power. The Prophet would then stand and shout the message to a crowd of people.

Then we have other authors of the Bible. These works were not copied-down speeches by Prophets, but were originally composed in writing. Writing is not breath work. Does that mean it is not of the Spirit? Spinoza answers, yes. He said that the written parts of the Bible were not God’s messages, but human interpretations. But I differ with Spinoza in this. I imagine the writers, like the prophets, set aside their egos to allow Something Greater to move their hands. What I don’t know, is who or what moved the hands of Bible Writers? Was this the same Being or Process that vibrated the voices of the Oral Prophets? Even though I don’t know the answer, still I feel strongly this is worth asking and discussing.

The inspiration of writers has traditionally been called The Muse. Is The Muse the same being or process as The Holy Spirit? Was there a Special, Holy Muse that inspired the Bible writers? And was this a different being or process from the Muse that inspires secular writers?

Rescuing the Bible — the Literary Approach

I am reading a book called the Literary Guide to the Bible, compiled in 1987 of twenty-ish experts. The Literary Guide attempts to give new validity to the Bible as a work of poetry or literature. This movement seems to have been motivated in part as a reaction to a prior movement of Textual Analysis that most people thing began in Germany in the 1800s.

Textual analysis has recently been made famous by Dr. Bart Ehrman. The Bible is critiqued as if it was intended to be a factual historical account, or journalism. You may not be surprised that under this kind of analysis, the Bible comes up short. It turns out the original facts may not have been accurate, and then things were added and subtracted by later scribes, editors and councils, for motives that appear to have human gains rather than Divine guidance. Before Ehrman, this discussion was held largely among post-doctorates in their scholarly journals. Ehrman brought this discussion into the public eye. Not surprisingly, many non-scholars have used Ehrman’s work to degrade the Bible as worthless. If it ever was Holy, if it ever was God’s Word, by the time it got into human hands it became degraded beyond all recognition of God, is the interpretation of Ehrman’s followers. While Ehrman himself has never said that, he has implied it, and done nothing to stop this interpretation.

Against this devaluation of the Bible, the Literary movement hopes to restore the Bible’s Glory and Holiness. The literary view of the Bible is, “No, it was never intended as eyewitness journalism or historical report. It was intended all along as God’s Poetry, to inspire humans to holiness. And as Poetry, it still stands, it still has Holy Power and Effect.”

I won’t take sides between Ehrman and the Literarians. Anyway, I think there are problems with both views. And I don’t have an alternative view to offer, so I apologize in advance!

A Bible Quote under Textual Analysis and Literary Critique

At twilight, as evening falls

In pitch-black night and darkness

Proverbs 7:9

This couplet has troubled some scholars. The report seems to contradict itself. Is it twilight, or night time? The difference would be a couple of hours. It is bad journalism. Maybe an editor patched-together two accounts, justifying differences as if they didn’t matter. If so, it loses credibility as history.

A literary interpretation rescues this couplet. The Hebrew word that is interpreted as “pitch-black” gets its meaning from the pupil of the eye, which is black. Did the speaker (or author) intend for hearers (or readers) to feel this effect, that blends the setting–the dimming of the evening–with the personal window of one’s soul?

The literary view of this couplet is, it was never intended to be an eyewitness report of what time of day it was. It was intended as a poetic inspiration to give a feel, a mood, an effect upon the hearer (when recited) or reader (when read). In fact, people reading it today would probably agree, this couplet is intended more as poetry than as eyewitness report. Round One goes the Literarians.

In his book, Janus Parallelism in the Book of Job , Scott B. Noegel claims the author of Job intended dual meanings in many words. The Hebrew language as originally written used only consonants. The vowels were not written. A set of consonants could mean two different words. You would know which of these were intended when that word was pronounced, because the speaker would fill in the vowels. On the page, however, you wouldn’t know which of two meanings was intended. Noegel claims that the author of Job intentionally used this ambiguity, as a poetic device, to give the poem more depth and literary richness.

Later, at some council of Rabbbis, the book of Job was given vowels. Which of two interpretations were then written? Whichever the council felt was the best single meaning. Spinoza claims this council was made of Sadducees, a Jewish sect that derived their power from the written word. They were motivated to have One Authoritative Bible, not a bunch of variant readings. So they worked to make the various texts invariant, and threw away all the originals so nobody could doubt them. Whenever that council met, or whatever their motives, the result was a bible punctuated with vowels. No longer could anyone misread the interpretation they gave the book of Job, and the rest of the Hebrew Bible, at that time.

If Noegel’s book is accurate, the author of Job would have wanted multiple readings of his work. If Job is considered part of the Bible, then Round Two goes to the Literarians.

Who Is The Muse?

I don’t claim to know who this Muse is, but I know her influence when I see it. If the book of Job was intended by its author to have dual meanings on many of its words, to me, that is the Muse at work. The Muse influences poetry and literature to be written in a way that many readers can get things beyond what the author could have achieved by narrowing his work to a single meaning. Muse-inspired writing is considered to serve a greater number of people, in a greater number of ways. Muse-inspired writing is considered timeless.

In Moby-Dick, the whale is a symbol of nature. Are we to gain from the book that nature is cruel and opposes human civilization? Do we get a sense in Moby-Dick that Nature should have a capitol N, or a small n? It appears the author Herman Melville intended for us to ask these questions. It appears the author did not care to give us a single judgment, as if his novel were a courtroom and after the evidence was brought before us, only one answer remains. I believe Moby-Dick was writing guided by The Muse.

I have participated in dozens of literary workshops, readings and critique groups. Here is a funny thing that I’ve seen many times. After a reading, a fan will come up to the author and say something like, “I really like how that word bee, also has the extra meaning of be, you know, to be?” And the author will nod sagely and accept the praise, even though that never occurred to him when he was writing it. Is this just authors taking credit where none is due? Not at all. The author gets credit! Why? Because he set his ego aside to allow the Muse to guide his hands. That’s not easy! You get credit for suspending your ego’s impulse to control the writing.

Muse-friendly writing attracts certain kinds of listeners and readers. It’s a thing. While you are there, at one of these things, when you say you found a new way to interpret the piece, this is a compliment to the author or artist. If the work can be interpreted on many levels: morally, biologically, spiritually, politically and so forth, then the compliment exponentially increases.

There was a word coined in the 20th century by E. O. Wilson: superorganism. We can re-read Moby-Dick today and say, “Hey, that Herman Melville was showing us that the Sea is a superorganism, and that all of Nature is a superorganism.” A certain kind of literary critic would say, “No, you can’t interpret literature that way. That would be anachronistic, since the term and concept superorganism had not been introduced yet when Melville was writing. Your interpretation is wrong.” But what if the Muse is … timeless? Could the Muse have inspired Melville in a way that his writing would have a new meaning in the 20th Century? Can a work set in printing, continue to give new meanings hundreds of years later? And would this be a good thing?

I am not saying it could, or it would–just asking the question.

The Unity Stance on Biblical Interpretation

There is a church–calls itself Christian–that has a Muse-Friendly policy on interpreting the Bible. Passages from the Bible are read on Sunday, just as in other Christian churches. But at Unity, the preacher does not interpret it for you. She encourages you to interpret it for yourself. How did you feel when you were hearing it? Did the passage remind you of anything going on in your life right now? That is the meaning! God works in mysterious ways, and the thoughts and feelings you have today while hearing the Bible read, are intended by God, as Her purpose in inspiring the Bible.

I’ve seen banners on churches that say, “God is Still Speaking.” I think they mean God would be pleased with new interpretations of the Bible for today’s issues, even with people making their own interpretations. These too, are Holy.

I am not advocating that, just reporting.

Wait—Can the Bible Have Various Interpretations?

We come to the main battle. The Holy Spirit versus the Muse.

The Bible contains sections that record the spoken words of the Prophets, who were instructed by the Holy Spirit what to say to crowds of listeners. The Bible also contains sections of work that was originally composed in writing. According to Spinoza, the Bible itself claims that the spoken prophecies came from God, but gives no such authority to the parts that originated in writing.

Is The Bible as God’s Word something that has a clear, single meaning, once true and always true? Or is The Bible as God’s Word something that had many meanings to many people at that time, and new meanings to new people in new times, just as valid as the old meanings? I hate labels but we could for a moment call the first group Biblical Singularists, and the second group Biblical Multiplists.

I do not know the answer. I do know there is a conflict and I am intensely curious to know more about this and to inspire more dialogue.

Unfortunately, whether you choose one side or the other, there are still problems.

Ehrman’s Critique Assumes God would Not Be Okay with Multiple Interpretations and Revision

Ironically, Bart Ehrman agrees with the Biblical Singluarists on one thing: For the Bible to be God’s Word, it must have singular meaning, that same meaning remaining true for all time. For the Bible to be God’s Word, it must not be swayed by editors in later generations toward new meanings that support one sect over another. For the Bible to be God’s Word, it must have made sense in the context of the time in which the story was originally told, and not in a later context. For the Bible to be God’s Word it must be multiply attested, by many eyewitnesses, and their stories must match. Ehrman and the Singularists agree on these tenets. They disagree on whether the Bible is successful at these tenets.

Apparently Ehrman has not considered that God might have been a Poet. God might have been fine with the editors and councils bending the old meanings to mean new things that support their sect. God might be fine with the debates today over abortion, homosexuality, and promised lands, all using different quotes from the Bible as their evidence. If God’s book, The Bible, is a Muse-Friendly book, He would support all the interpretations of his work, even those that may cause Him to cringe. At least that is how a Muse-Friendly Author would see it.

If God were Muse-Friendly, this would undermine Ehrman’s conclusion that the Bible is faulty. Ehrman’s conclusion rests on the idea, that God would not have been okay with multiple interpretations, nor with later tampering, slanting, adding and subtracting from the words on the page. But if God was okay with all that, if God was a Poet, the Bible can’t be de-authorized by Ehrman’s work.

Literarians Undermine God’s Commands

While the Literary View of the Bible may have been intended to rescue Reverence for the Bible from the likes of Ehrman, (and it may have succeeded), the win brings an unwanted loss. Once the Bible is God’s Poetry, then any and all interpretations are okay with God. There was never any original single purpose or point. Do Not Kill? Could have been intended as a metaphor. Love Your Neighbor? Could have been advocating sexual promiscuity, sort of like the dual meanings in the Crosby Stills Nash and Young song, “Love the One You’re With.”

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t take the Bible as commanding us to love others as ourselves, in some passages, and in other passages, maybe it meant x, y or z, or new letters when new alphabets come around.

Or can you? Anyone who still advocates for a literary view of the Bible, I think, would have to explain what happened to its commands. Does the literary view nullify the commands? If the commands are still valid, exactly where and when are we supposed to apply the literary view? Is it a section by section thing—this book is command, this book is literary? This needs to be explained by those who present a literary view.

Singletarians Undermine the Book of Job and other Poetry in the Bible

Many people believe, for the Bible to be God’s Word it must have only One Interpretation. I have a question.

The book of Job. Did the author of Job intend for many words to have double meanings in Hebrew? If so, can a Muse-influenced book–one intended to have dual meanings–be included in the Bible, as representative of God’s Word? For the book of Job to be included in the Bible, must each of its dual-meaning words be deliberated over in a council of religious Elders, to concur on which of the two meanings is the one God intended?

There are practical consequences. Why can’t we read a version of Job that has preserved it’s original intention? Where are the alternate meanings—are they erased from every Bible currently in print? Is the project of reviving the Book of Job worthwhile? Is it worth the time and money to invest in its republishing? Who is responsible to provide versions of the Bible that are true to their original intentions? How soon could we read a revived version of Job? And if not worthwhile, if not republished, if not soon, Why Not? Can you give any good reasons?


I hope I did not offend any particular group or belief. I consider myself a reverent and respectful person. I want to know and understand more, so that I can be even more reverent and respectful going forward. If you have comments or questions that add to our understanding, please comment. Thanks.