Excerpt for The Evolution of Homo sapiens: A Spiritual and Scientific Perspective by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Evolution of

Homo sapiens



A Spiritual and Scientific Perspective



By Frank A.J. Braun

Published by Ruah Publishing

Distributed by Smashwords

Copyright 2017 Frank A.J. Braun





This paper is extracted from the author’s e-books, The Spirit and Me and The Unruly Spirit published by Ruah Publishing and distributed through Smashwords. Copies of this partial overview may be made for personal use, but all other copyrights are reserved as stated in the author’s books.







Introduction

God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

To understand the evolution of Homo sapiens and the cognitive system which enables humans to interact with God, other beings and things of the environment, a basic comprehension of creation is necessary. Our Judeo/Christian scripture in the first three sentences of Genesis describes the Universe at the origin of creation as a dark formless wasteland [mass] surrounded by a violent wind [energy] into which “God said, ‘Let there be light [knowledge].’” Science posits that the evolution of the universe started with a “Big Bang,” obviously involving a bright light, followed by the formation of encoded electrons (energy), along with protons and neutrons (mass) that formed the first atoms. Scientific discovery reveals that over a period of fourteen billion years, the basic components of the universe—elements, organic cells, and animate life—evolved.

These three constituent components that form and compose the known universe and all its parts are abstracted from God’s triune attributes: omniscience (infinite knowledge), omnipotence (infinite power) and omnipresence (infinite presence-mass). Under quantum theory, scientists describe atoms as two-fold, consisting of encoded (intellectualized) electrons which provide autonomic (self-governing) energy; and protons and neutrons (nucleons) which provide mass. Is it plausible that the encoding of electrons came as knowledge infused by the light of the explosion? The second evolving components of the universe are organic cells composed of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), proteins and carbohydrates. The third component of the earth, animate life—including the incarnated human soul—are comprised of a mind, spirit and body. Each of the three constituents (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) that form the elements, cells and animate life are derived from knowledge, energy and mass, respectively. This causative theory also applies to the supernatural creation of humankind—mind, spirit and body—in the image and likeness of the triune God.

The following pyramid graphic illustrates the incarnate soul and its cognitive system. Pythagoras, considered by many to be the father of Greek mathematics, hypothesized that the tetrahedron pyramid provided the dimensions for the simplest solids. Borrowing from this idea, let’s picture the Creator encoding a measure of His mind (nous) into a measure of spirit (pneuma) and infusing it into a measure of His body (soma). The three, upon integration, harmoniously unite to complete the structure of the living soul (psuche), with a specific identity, the “I” (psyche).





CHAPTER 1: AMAZING GRACE

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. Psalm 139:13-14

Scripture tells us over and ­over that we are created in the image and likeness of our Creator. Yet throughout history, it has been hard for humanity to accept the fact that we are so wonderfully made; that it is with measures of God’s own triune attributesomniscience (infinite knowledge), omnipotence (infinite power) and omnipresence (infinite presence-mass)—that we are created. God has endowed every human being from conception (supernaturally and naturally) with these attributes and the derivative forms of grace that flow from them. In fact, the attributes of knowledge, power and presence are the underlying essence, the baseline of all creation. Thus, it is with measures of these triune attributes and their sub-forms of grace that the incarnate human soul, the “I,” (psyche) is formed—mind, spirit and body—with its cognitive components—intellect, instinct and senses—that operate through the nervous system and are seated in the cerebral cortex, limbic system and brain stem, respectively.

A model of the soul and its cognitive system is illustrated as follows.



The above model draws on theology, philosophy, psychology, pneumatology and science to illustrate how these attributes and their derivative forms of grace are utilized by incarnate human beings in everyday life. Psalm 19 tells us that everything in the universe resounds its voice; nothing is unheard. The image and likeness of every object, organism and being is communicated back and forth through spiritual forces, an energy exchange, which psychologists refer to as stimuli. Stimuli, radiated in the forms of abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence, enable humans to read and interact with self, other living beings and objects in their environment, and vice versa.

In the above cognitive model, the soul is depicted as having three horizontal graphic subdivisions, viewed as the sides of a tetrahedron pyramid and converging under the “I” to form the intellect, instinct and senses of the mind, spirit and body respectively. The ‘I’ is often sub-defined as the ego, super-ego and id of the intellect, instinct and physical senses. The above model is also sectioned into three linear groupings: the normsconscience, habits and conditioning; the functionsmental, spiritual and physical; and the facultiesconscious, unconscious and subconscious. These norms, functions and faculties, working in conjunction with the “I,” form the cognitive structures of the intellect, instinct and senses.

The norms that form the conscience, habits and conditioning are encoded principles which are inherited, learned and adopted by the soul. Norms enable the “I” to initiate spontaneous intuitive thoughts, emotions and reflex actions through the intellect, instinct and senses respectively. To deviate from this spontaneous process, the “I” must access the rational faculties of the intellect to form deliberative (effortful) thoughts supplemental to normal thinking and/or to change the norms of the conscience, habits and conditioning. The functions of the intellect, instinct and senses—perceive, discern and sense, respectively—act as the receptors, processors and effectors of the three types of stimuli—abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence—accessed through the neurons of the nervous system. The faculties of the intellect, instinct and senses—conscious, unconscious and subconscious, respectively—are derivatives of the God-given attributes (types of actual grace) that form the basic constructs of the soul’s cognitive system. Humans have awesome control over their cognitive systems through these faculties.

Another exciting fact is that the three types of faculties under the intellect and instinct are listed in scripture as spiritual gifts. The faculties of the intellect are found in Isiah 11:2-3 as—the spirits of wisdom and understanding, the spirits of counsel and strength (conviction), the spirits of knowledge and fear of the Lord (awareness), and delight in the fear of the Lord (volitional). The faculties of the instinct—call (instinctual); spiritual gifts (nine charisms), ministries (services), works; faith, hope and love—are from 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 12:4-6 and 13-13, respectively. The body faculties (neural, generative and musculoskeletal) are of physical origin and creation.

Theologically, grace is defined as the unmerited favor of God; spiritual forces endowed through the Holy Spirt to sanctify and enrich human lives, with salvation being the ultimate gift. However, it is much more and should never be construed as a reward for goodness. Rather, it is the sharing of the God’s own knowledge, power and presence and their derivative forms of grace; the very nature and essence of the Creator.

Theologians teach that there are basically two forms of grace: actual grace (natural) and sanctifying grace (supernatural). Actual grace is the sub-derivative measures of knowledge, power and presence that form the basic norms, functions and faculties shown in the above model and are encoded naturally at birth. It constitutes our essence, our humanity; that which forms us as an “I” in the image and likeness of our Creator and serves us in our daily lives as temporal cognitive beings.

Sanctifying grace is the fulness of God’s supernatural knowledge, power and presence to which humanity has been granted access over the course of human evolution; historically and personally. Access to God’s infinite grace is for the perfection and empowerment of humankind’s temporal cognitive faculties, functions and norms—the ultimate purpose being to provide humans reunification with their Creator. As an example, a type of sanctifying grace called habitual gracefaith, hope and love—perfects and empowers the temporal behavioral habits (virtues and vices) manifested through the instinctual faculties, functions, and norms of the spirit. Both actual and sanctifying graces are treated in depth in the chapters that follow.

Grace provides the substance, formation and workings of the cognitive system for the incarnate soul. It shapes our thoughts, our instinctive interactions and even our physical well-being. Perhaps this is the reason John Newton’s poem, which is sung as “Amazing Grace,” has become so popular. It touches believers with an unexplainable feeling of God’s authority, magnificence and benevolence.



CHAPTER 2: ABSTRACT KNOWLEDGE

The woman saw the fruit was good… and desirable for gaining wisdom. She took some of the fruit and ate it; and also gave some to her husband, who…ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened… Genesis 3:6-7

As noted in the Introduction, the first three sentences of Genesis define the pre-existing Universe as a dark formless wasteland (mass) surrounded by a violent wind (energy) into which “God said, let there be light (knowledge);” also that science posits a Big Bang origin of the Universe. In both scenarios, an intense light was obviously involved in the formation of the first elements of the Universe. Both theories suggest that something set in force the physical law that inaugurates the rhythmic order for all celestial bodies and physical objects in the universe.

The word ‘said’ implies that light was spoken into existence with authoritative knowledge. Hence, both knowledge and light are significant in understanding the beginning of creation. Both are often treated synonymously; however, knowledge and light are defined differently depending on how they are used. Albert Einstein defined light scientifically as quantized forms of photons having a duality of wave and particle properties. On the other hand, knowledge is generally defined as an abstraction that enables beings to recognize and interact with points of reference. Along with wisdom and counsel, knowledge is the faculty of the intellect which provides the “I” with the ability to form intelligent thoughts.

Quantum science recognizes the atom as having only two main parts: the encoded (self-governing) electrons (energy) and the nucleus, which consists of neutrons and protons (mass). Did the presence of light initiate the encoding of the electrons in the elements? In the structure of the organic cell, the building block of biology, it is the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which encodes (intellectualizes) the proteins and their constituent parts, which in turn activate the carbohydrate elements that grow, vitalize and multiply the evolving cells. On the highest level, the animate, it is the intellect of the mind which encodes the instinctive behavioral habits of the spirit, which in turn, activates the physical conditioning and neural system of the body, as displayed in the Cognitive Model of the Soul illustrated in Chapter 1.

Again, quoting from Psalm 19, every created thing “speaks”; it transmits evidence of its three creative attributes—knowledge, power and presence—through stimuli, which in turn are “heard” by the created things that surround the transmitter. These radiated signals—in the form of abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence—are informative energy forces that flow within, from and between all things in existence. As stimuli they enable all things in creation to read and know; to experience and interact with each other. Thus, these three types of stimuli may be considered the catalysts that trigger things to unite, repel and/or be indifferent to each other—be they atoms, molecules, cells or animate beings.

Abstract knowledge is controlled by the intellect: the seat of the mind located in the cerebral cortex (the walnut shaped sheath at the top of the brain). The intellect provides humans with the ability to perceive radiated abstract knowledge, to form thoughts, and to interact with self, others and the environment. As stimuli, abstract knowledge from both internal and external sources is constantly being transmitted within, to and from the intellect via the neurons of the nervous system.

The intellectual norms, functions and faculties of the cognitive system endow humans with the means to perceive and process knowledge into two different methods of thinking. In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his pioneering work with Amos Tversky in decision making, describes these two modes of thinking as: intuitive (System 1) and effortful (System 2). Intuitive thinking (System 1) is thought formed spontaneously and directly from the intellectual faculties of knowledge, wisdom and counsel previously affirmed by the conscience as norms and stored in the memory structures of the cerebral cortex. Effortful thinking (System 2) is thought formed deliberately through the rational faculties of awareness, understanding and conviction. Both methods of thinking are carried out consciously by the “I” through the volitional faculties of choice, covenant and assent.

To augment these two types of thinking, humans can seek supernatural counsel. Some insight into how this occurs is provided by Fr. Richard Rohr of Albuquerque, New Mexico in his June 29, 2017 Daily Meditation: “Two medieval Christian philosophers, Hugh of St. Victor (1078-1141) and Richard of St. Victor (1123-1173) wrote that humanity was given three different sets of eyes, each one building on the previous one. The first eye was the eye of the flesh (thought and sight), the second was the eye of reason (meditation or reflection), and the third was the true eye of understanding (contemplation).” This third form of intellectual insight, referred to as contemplation and/or meditation, is formed from messages of insightful spiritual origin, discerned via the spirit and perceived in the mind. These forms of consciousness may be thought of as Psalm 19 types of thinking, in which the mind is centered on the supernatural and/or natural qualities of the being, object or subject, and lets it “speak.” We like to think of contemplation and meditation as intervention from the Holy Spirit, but it can also be of other origins, including the spirits of darkness.

Additional forms of consciousness are sensations, feelings, imagination, fantasy, dreams, etc., that form a constant flow of stimuli (spiritual forces) through the faculties of the cognitive system. For instance, the body is constantly messaging the mind with its needs and vice versa. Perhaps of greatest influence on the mind is the addiction to compulsive behavioral habits. Influenced by the behavioral habits (virtues and vices), the instinct constantly induces both healthy and troublesome thinking, e.g., kindness, gentleness and/or guilt, depression, etc.

These latter spiritual forces can incite obsessive, compulsive and even demonic behavior. In Chapter 6 of my book, The Spirit and Me, I suggest the dark negative forces be referred to as demonic parasites, products of Beelzebub (Satan), meaning “Lord of the Flies” (Matt 12:24). Thankfully, we have the gift called discernment of spirits; the tool that enables humans to identify and distinguish both the source and the nature of the types of intellectualized spiritual forces that impact the cognitive system of the human soul, be they of supernatural, ethereal, earthly or internal origin.

Another important influence on conscious thinking is things of physical origin, such as the multitude of substances, drugs and neural transmitters in use today. Also, many neuro and mental diseases and physical issues have devastating intellectual effects. Lastly, perhaps the greatest influence on thinking is that of parents, peers, teachers, role models and social customs and traditions.

Whether approached as a Creationist, an Evolutionist or a belief in both origins of creation, it is a fact that at some point Homo sapiens was endowed with their unique, God-like cognitive system. The Book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve, the first humans, were created in the image and likeness of God; that God then endowed Adam with an incarnate body; and formed Eve’s from one of Adam’s ribs. One can only surmise that initially they had only a childlike innocence, because it was not until they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—God’s infinite knowledge—that they were endowed with wisdom and their eyes were opened. The Genesis story further relates that as Adam and Eve left Paradise, God said: “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad!” What an awesome yet mysterious account to explain this most gracious yet troublesome gift to humanity.

Although humans, because of their finite nature, are only able to grasp a limited measure of the Almighty’s omniscience, the whole of God’s infinite intelligence is available to every rational being. Humans can reach back in history to its origin by studying the objects of creation (Romans 2:19-20); they can learn from prior generations and others; they can experience the present; and they can envision the future. As living souls created in the likeness of God, humans, through the intellectual faculties of knowledge, wisdom and counsel have exposure to all that exists; to all that is real; to the past, present and future.

Study of the Old and New Testaments, as well as other religions and philosophies, indicates numerous names for the Author of the Universe, the One who spoke it into being. Generally, the understanding of this Supreme Being’s relationship with humanity is the same in all cultures. He (she in some cultures) is the First Cause, Father or Mother of the living, the Creator, the All-Powerful One, the Great Spirit, the God to whom a person owes his existence and blessings. For the Hebrews, El Shaddai was the ultimate mind of God. He conceived, willed and held the destiny of the world within His control. He was the authority, the One who originated and spoke life into being. This theme runs throughout Old Testament scripture. He is the God of gods, the all-knowing Supreme Being. Even Jesus referred to Him as Abba and deferred ultimate decisions to Him (Mark 13:32). Truly He is a Father, gracing humanity with His divine attributes and calling them to be earthly co-creators and heirs in His Kingdom.



CHAPTER 3: BEHAVIORAL POWER


You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you. Acts 1:18 Tongues of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:3-4


Hopefully I have been able to flesh out the theory, illustrated in the Cognitive Model of the Soul, that the mind, spirit and body are equal constituents in the three-part formation of the human soul, the “I”; and that the intellect, instinct and senses with their norms, functions and faculties form its God-like cognitive system. Now in a more specific way, I will show how the spirit autonomically empowers and articulates the human cognitive system, imbuing it with the ability to function consciously, unconsciously and subconsciously. I will also illustrate how the spirit acts as the mediating power between the mind and body. While each of the three constituents of the soul mediates between the other two in its own way, the mind and body are static in that both are dependent upon the spirit for their empowerment. Coupled with the energy provided by the electrons in the atoms and the protein molecules in the organic cells that form the physical body, the encoded (intellectualized) spirit is the dynamic self-governing force of the soul.


It is the instinctive faculties of the spirit–survival, community and creativity–that provide and safeguard the well-being, call and propensities of the human soul. These faculties, commonly referred to as the basic instincts, provide the autonomic (self-governing) propensities for survival, communal bonding and creative endeavors. Supporting the instinctive faculties are encoded habits, formed and empowered by patterns of behavior (vices and virtues) categorized and stored as habitual faculties in the limbic system of the brain. When triggered by stimuli, from an internal or external source, the instinct unconsciously responds with emotion, positively or negatively, in accord with its encoded habits, e.g. with faith, hope love, or fear, indifference anger, etc. In normal life the behavioral habits also trigger the emotions to activate the motivational facultieswork, service and charisms. The instinct is a necessary unconscious aid in everyday life, but it can also be problematic, bringing about both good and bad spontaneous behavior.

In the sixth chapter of my book, The Spirit and Me, I posit the understanding that the word spirit is to be understood in two different ways; as spiritual beings and as spiritual forces. God, angels and even we humans in our supernatural state (at birth and after death) are commonly referred to as spirits (spiritual beings). Spiritual forces and their derivative sub-categories that evolve from God’s omnipotence (infinite power) provide the encoded (intellectualized) energy for all created things, be they electrons of atoms, proteins of cells or the spirit of animate life. Thus, it is with measures of these encoded spiritual forces that the cognitive system of the incarnate human soul is formed and empowered.


Again citing Psalm 19 that all things in creation “speak;” everything exudes its specificity, behavior and presence. Nothing is unheard. It is through spiritual forces radiated as stimuli in the form of abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence, that these attributes are perceived, discerned and sensed through the intellect, instinct and senses, and vice versa. Received through the nervous system and conveyed by neurons to the cerebral cortex, limbic system and brainstem, respectively, abstract knowledge, behavioral power and physical presence provide humans with an awareness of reality and the ability to act, react and interact with self, other beings and things. Thus, even from birth, humans are gifted with the ability to communicate and interact.


As the purveyor of power for every thought, emotion and reflex action, the spirit, in conjunction with the neurons of the nervous system, catalogs, conveys and stores these cognitive interactions as norms in the cerebral cortex, limbic system and brainstem, the respective depositories for the conscience, habits and conditioning of the mind, spirit and body. Thus, every repetition or change of thought, emotion or deed, good or evil, positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy, is registered and categorized as a norm in the appropriate structures of the brain. While the “I” of the intellect can consciously deviate from and/or even spontaneously change its encoded norms through reasoning, the instinct and senses can only act and react impulsively in accord with their pre-programmed habits (patterns of behavior) and conditioning. Only the intellect can willfully affect changes and/or override the norms of the conscience, instinctive habits and physical conditioning.

Scientific study has determined that the physical senses are the first to be triggered by incoming stimuli, followed by the instinct and finally the intellect. This means that unless an interaction is consciously initiated or overridden by the “I” of the intellect, stimuli will first trigger the physical reflexes of the body, then the behavioral emotions of the spirit and finally thoughts of the intellect. This unique cognitive process enables humans to carry out multiple tasks with a minimum of intuitive (System 1) or deliberate (System 2) thought, e.g. while doing routine household chores, caring for a baby, driving and performing repetitive work. A problem occurs, however, when an inappropriate or erratic stimulus triggers undesirable behavior or reflex action, e.g. misconception, fear, depression, anger or the impulse to strike another.

In much the same way that the spirit and its physical energy supporters—atoms and cells—provide homeostasis for the internal circuitry, organs and structures of the body, it also acts cognitively as the lifeguard for the human soul. For instance, our bodies and minds enter a period of rest each day, but the spirit is always on guard. It monitors our organs, alerts us to problems and awakens us as needed. Since the spirit never rests, it continues to modulate the day’s happenings with what is already stored in the soul’s memory structures. New habits are put into place, established habits (good and bad) are reinforced or diminished and dreams are fomented.

The human spirit, endowed with spiritual forces (both gracious and evil), not only activates every conscious thought of the intellect, but initiates a substantial quantity of our interactions unconsciously and subconsciously, through the instinct and senses, respectively. For the most part, it is the spirit, through these pre-encoded behavioral habits and conditionings (customary physical practices of the body), that mirrors our true conduct, character and personality. “The good man produces goodness from the goodness in his heart [spirit]; an evil man produces evil out of the store of his evil. Each man speaks from his heart’s abundance” (Luke 6:45). As scripture indicates, our spirits (hearts) can mirror love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, mildness and chastity; or lewd conduct, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, bickering, jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions and factions (Galatians 5:19-21; 22-23). Recognition and study of the mind and body are important, but are we overlooking the part played by the spirit and spiritual forces?

My goal in this article is to emphasize the importance of seeking the infilling grace (spiritual forces) of the Holy Spirit, which is available to every human being. The Holy Spirit is our recharger, our source for accessing God’s infinite attributes and grace. Jesus, in His last instructions to His disciples, told them the Holy Spirit would replace Him (John 14:16) and that; “[He] will instruct you in everything,” knowledge, (John 14:26); “[H]e will bear witness on my behalf”, be present, (John 15:26); and “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you,” empowerment, (Acts 1:8). Additionally, Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks, receives. The one who seeks, finds. The one who knocks, enters.” (Mathew 7:11).

It saddens me to hear people say they have no idea how to solve or seek a solution to a difficult problem or situation. In the search for a solution, the spiritual forces of darkness and even noxiousness can take control. At times like these, we need to look to the presence and assistance of the Holy Spirit and/or His angels, or even good human spiritual counsel for a word of knowledge, wisdom and guidance.



CHAPTER 4: PHYSICAL PRESENCE

Moses! Moses!.. I am the God of your father…the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Exodus 3:4-6

Of the three God-given attributes, omnipresence (presence-mass) gets perhaps the least emphasis. Yet it is finite measures of presence that form the materialization and structure (mass) that gives all things a point of reference, as well as the means needed to birth, grow and multiply. Presence, in the form of mass, is exemplified in the neutrons and protons of the atom, the carbohydrates and companion molecules of cells, and the physical body of the human soul. Presence gives the atom, cell, organism and incarnate soul specificity and reality; the ability to stand apart or unite; even to bond with other forms of presence.

The Genesis story tells us that eating fruit from the tree of good and evil gave Adam and Eve wisdom and understanding of right and wrong. Through this act, the human species was given access to God’s infinite knowledge: the ability to experience, rationalize, compound and pass intelligence on to others and future generations. However, scripture relates that the price for this privilege was the loss of their Creator’s personal infinite presence and infinite power, the tree of life. Nevertheless, there was an implication of hope for humanity’s eventual restoration of God’s personal presence based on His forewarning to the serpent when Adam and Eve departed from Paradise (Genesis 3:15); and His continued contact with members of the human race, as evidenced in religious and cultural historical stories.

We of Judeo-Christian heritage are told God again restored His personal presence in contacts with Abraham, Moses and finally the whole Hebrew Nation. To Moses and the Egyptian slaves, He introduced Himself as Yahweh, meaning “I Am the Devine Presence.” (Exodus 3:13) To prove His infinite presence to His Chosen People, He delivered them from slavery through signs and wonders. He established His order with Commandments and rituals, and provided guidance to the tribes of Jacob through the Prophets. Fullness of God’s physical presence came with the promised Messiah, Jesus, who told His listeners, “…I am the gate for the sheep.” (John 10:7) Jesus promised before His crucifixion that after His death and return to the Father, He would send another Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, who would endow the “People of God” not only with His continued presence, but also infinite power–the tree of life–that would provide entry into the Kingdom of God; fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.

St. Paul and early evangelists stressed the importance of God’s enduring presence through the Holy Spirit in the Good News, but with time Church dogma and doctrine emphasized rituals and standards of righteous living as the means to a heavenly afterlife. Reception of the Sacraments and being in the “state of grace” at the time of death set the ideal for Christian living. For the errant, confession and repentance were the way back. For a scrupulous person like me in my early life, seeking forgiveness was a revolving door. Confession was not unlike the temporal animal sacrifices experienced by the Hebrews. God was up there, and I could only expect his help when I was in a “state of grace,” an unreachable state for me. This is pretty much the way it was for many people until Vatican II.

Thankfully for me, at age 40, this changed when I participated in my first Cursillo, a form of retreat. My spiritual counselor, a wise old Monsignor, asked: “How can I help you?” I informed him of my problem with scrupulosity. He then asked my occupation. I told him I was an insurance adjudicator. His next question was, “Do you have problems with your claim decisions?” My emphatic answer was, “No! I try to make an honest decision and never look back unless I later learn that I made a mistake.” His response: “Apply this to the rest of your life decisions. Remember, God is always present to help you. Reflect on your decisions just as you do with claims and always remember: In case of doubt, God will rule in your favor!” Then, contrary to the teaching at the time, he told me not to make any more daily “examinations of conscience.” If I committed a wrong or later became aware that I erred, I was to note it and resolve it then and there. Praise God, I was healed.

Several years later, while preparing a talk from the Cursillo Manual, I read: “To live a life in grace one must have a personal relationship with Jesus.” As I recall, I yelled out: “Jesus, this is what I have been looking for all my life!” While I did not see Jesus, to my surprise a sense of His presence became real to me and has been with me ever since. A year later I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit and learned that it is through the Spirit that Jesus is present to us. Also, life experience has taught me that God never tires of hearing us contritely say, “I did it again!”

The Jews communally performed animal sacrifices, the sprinkling of blood and other rituals to celebrate the Lord’s presence and to seek His forgiveness and blessings. Most other religions and cultures have similar beliefs and/or rituals recognizing a Supreme Being. We Christians submit ourselves to the presence of God through the Sacraments, starting with Baptism. We celebrate Jesus’ Real Presence with us in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharistic Banquet. Lest we have concern, as some people do, about the un-Baptized; thankfully, we are taught by our theologians there is also a Baptism of Desire.

In my book, The Spirit and Me, I provide a graph that illustrates how through the three historical God-man encounters, humans were endowed with access to the infinite attributes of knowledge, power and presence that open the gate to the Eternal Kingdom–infinity with God. These epiphanies (God-human encounters) occurred when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (infinite knowledge); when Moses and the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt (infinite presence); and when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples during Pentecost (infinite power).



Whether we use the Genesis story or the theory of evolution, there came a point in history when Homo sapiens were endowed with access to the infinite gifts of knowledge, power and presence; when the human race moved from the temporal status of living souls to servants, and finally to heirs in God’s Eternal Kingdom. Through teaching and rituals, religious leaders introduce us to these benevolent epiphany encounters, but there must also be an acceptance, understanding and willingness on our part to receive and utilize these unmerited gifts on our journey of life. As Jesus told us, just ASK: Ask... Seek... Knock!




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