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Spiritual Technologies of the Ancients

The disappearance after about 150 AD of the visible and outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power lead to Christians and Christianity emphasizing the personal and corporate adoption of methods and practices that would contribute to developing, enhancing, and maintaining their spirituality and connection with God.  These are the spiritual disciplines, and have proven useful for over 18 centuries. 

It may be justly asked why I am examining these practices when the concept of symbiosis, as applied in the first two essays in this section, has been far more effective in my life.  My reason is to avoid the fetish of modernism, where it is held that more recent findings and practices are necessarily superior to, and thus merit totally replacing, older practices and knowledge.  The fetish of modernism substitutes human judgment of good and bad, right and wrong, with a glace at the calendar.  This is as equally shallow as the practice of looking on the outward appearance to judge character.  One argument that Muslims make in favor of Islam is that it is younger than Christianity and Judaism, and so must be necessarily more correct in the same way that Christianity, being younger than Judaism, was more correct.  Not so: Islam attempts to resurrect victory in war as a criterion for doctrinal correctness, when a proper reading of Scriptures reveals that God used miracles to validate Moses' message before the Hebrews fought the Amalekites, and validated the message of Jesus and the Apostles without recourse to war at all.  The latest is not always the greatest.

Drug companies know better than to distain ancient knowledge: many of the drugs we use today, such as asprin and quinine (for malaria), were initially discovered by anthropologists investigating the herbal remedies of tribal medicine men.  Did the fact that they were used by technologically backward people groups in a less than optimal form make them useless?  Not at all: the drug companies rightly surmised that drugs found effective in such a challenging environment had to have great potential effectiveness if administed in a purer form under more conducive circumstances.  Naturally, their medical anthropologists had to get past the "inactive ingredients" and "mumbo-jumbo" theatrics that were thrown in by the medicine men to create a placebo effect or to enhance their status to get at the true active ingredients.  Rather than picking at nits, they applied their skill to "prove all things", tossed the nonessential, concentrated on the essential, and held fast to that which was good

One of my goals in this essay is to follow the same example: prayer, fasting, systematic acts of charity, bible study, and visiting the Temple continued to be practiced by the Church, the Apostles, and Paul: if it benefitted the first actively symbiotic Christians, it will definitely benefit us.  At the same time, we must not be judgmental about how fellow believers practice the spiritual disciplines: for starters, the first serious doctrinal controversy in the Church was about the carry-over and mandatory imposition of "spiritual disciplines" of a strictly Jewish character upon Gentile believers, such as abstaining from unclean meat, meat offered to idols, blood, and circumcision.  In that case, the Church leadership wisely opted to impose only the relevant requirements of the Noachide commandments on the Gentile believers.  When women insisted on pouring perfume on Jesus' feet in an exercise of the spiritual discipline of worship, it was opposed by those who insisted that it was a waste, and that they should have exercised the spiritual discipline of charity instead.  In every case, Jesus rebuked the disciples, implying that worship of him was more important on the scale of things than charity.  The apostle John is very uncomplimentary in this regard: he points out that it was Judas who instigated the pious objection.  Judas did it for money then, and I have more than a passing suspicion that those who do it today do it for vain-glory or the approval of men.

This essay may be somewhat brief in places because those topics will be more fully developed and explored in later essays, so that the discussion will be given within the context most appropriate for comprehension.  Another goal of this essay is to convey the need of you to continue in those spiritual disciplines that have benefitted you in the past by fitting them into the same intellectual framework that supports symbiosis, challenge you to try out ones you may have abandoned to see what Symbiosis brings to the table, or situate them within a hierarchy so you don't mistake a "nice to do" for a "you must do this".

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