Protection for Spiritual Seekers
By David Sunfellow
Friday, December 5, 1997
Little is known
about the true origins of the world's major religions -- or for that
matter, their founders. On the one hand, we have scriptural accounts
that have been passed down, often inaccurately, through countless
generations. And on the other hand, we have the founders themselves
-- mysterious figures like Krishna, Lao Lse, Buddha, Moses, Jesus
that left little, if any, "first-person" accounts of their
lives, teachings, perceptions, intentions, struggles, innermost thoughts.
And yet, billions of human beings regard these faiths, and teachers,
with awe, reverence, and in many cases, infallibility. How can so
many human beings, from so many different cultures, invest themselves
so fervently in religions that are thousands of years old without
knowing how, exactly, they came to be?
If I could, I would like to visit these ancient faiths and meet their founders.
And I would like to take the rest humanity with me. Together, we could ask
questions, poke around, see what really happened, and what didn't; we could
brush aside centuries of embellishment, biased story telling, and inaccurate
record keeping; best of all, we could view these ancient visionaries and legendary
events through the eyes and minds of 20th century human beings who know a great
deal more about our planet, human psychology, other religions, philosophies
and cultures, and life in general than our isolated, often very primitive-minded
Would humankind's great religions, masters, teachers, and prophets survive
such a visit? Would ancient seas still part with the tap of a stick, manna
still fall from the skies, virgins still give birth to glorious babes, the
dead still rise from their graves? Perhaps. And perhaps not. The only thing
that is certain in my mind is that we would come away with a very different
view of what really happened than the ones we have been spoon fed, through
multitudes of middlemen, over the ages.
One of the reasons I think that ancient history would see some dramatic revisions
if it could be revisited today, is because of how modern history has been made.
In the last few hundred years numerous religious movements have emerged, gathered
believers, and begun to shine like mighty suns in the eyes of their believers
-- even though many of these new faiths, and founders, were far from divine.
Indeed, while some of these movements were genuinely inspired, the success
of many contemporary religious movements has had less to do with clear blue
bolts of divine inspiration, and more to do with the passage of time, the glorification
of real and imagined events, and gullible seekers who didn't do their homework.
All of these movements, even those that are outright fabrications, are, of
course, meeting needs and feeding souls. The fact that so many people are drawn
to them is evidence of this. But how truly inspired are they? How reliable
are they as vehicles of human transformation? How can you and I discern which
ones to hang our spiritual hats on?
One of the central purposes of NHNE is to help create a global network of spiritual
seekers that can discern the true nature of spiritual claims, promises, predictions,
practices, ideas, movements -- and make this information available to everyone
in the world. While evaluating all aspects of human spirituality might seem
like an impossible task, I believe it is only a matter of time before we have
the resources we need to thoroughly scrutinize whatever claims and/or belief
systems are put forth -- both past, and present. Beginning with a simple, no-holds-bared
search for the truth, we will be able to find out if the stories and/or events
that various religions base themselves on are true. Does a tribe of aboriginal
metahumans really exist in the outback of Australia (as Marlo Morgan claimed
in the early editions of her best-selling book, "Mutant Message"),
or did Morgan make the whole story up (as she later confessed)? Did Joseph
Smith, the Founder of MORMONISM, really transcribe The Book of Mormon, which
claims to be "another testament of Jesus Christ," from gold plates
given to him by "a glorified, resurrected being" named "Moroni," or
did he concoct this new gospel himself (http://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/plagiar.htm)?
Is SCIENTOLOGY, which is based on the belief that 75 million years ago there
was a galactic confederation of more than 70 planets that solved their population
problem by chaining people to volcanoes on Earth and blowing them up, a bona
fide religion (as its faithful proclaim), or is it primarily a money-making
machine concocted by a troubled science fiction writer (as TIME MAGAZINE (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/time-behar.html),
FORBES MAGAZINE (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/forbes-behar.html), and
numerous other sources claim)?
When it comes to contemporary spiritual movements, we can answer these questions
with little difficulty (if we really want to). And once we have answered them,
we can document our answers for future generations, sparing them from falling
into the spiritual sink holes some of us fell into.
Ancient spiritual movements are another matter. Aside from relying on current
archeological research, modern scholarship, personal experiences and intuitions,
we might have to wait a few more decades, or centuries, before ancient claims
can be effectively evaluated. But someday, there will probably be ways that
legendary cities can be reconstructed from fragmentary ruins, prehistoric bones
can be transformed into flesh and blood, genetic material can provide detailed
personality profiles, ancient conversations and events can be revisited by
Star Trek-like manipulations of time and space. Even more likely, we will probably
be able to see how various belief systems affect our minds, emotions, physical
bodies, and relationships. And when that day comes, religion as we know it
today will cease to exist. Holy books, and codes of human conduct will no longer
be necessary because it will be clear to everyone what kind of thoughts, and
beliefs, align us with the divine, producing peace, happiness and fulfillment,
and what kind of thoughts and beliefs don't. In the meantime, good detective
skills can help us determine the validity of most spiritual claims. And so
can knowing a little bit about human nature and human history.
While most of humanity continues to cling, unquestioningly, to all kinds of
dubious notions, religious and otherwise, a growing number of people are waking
up and beginning to ask hard questions -- which brings me to the point of this
In 1936 an organization called "CONSUMER REPORTS" was created to
test, compare, and evaluate new products that were beginning to flood the American
marketplace. Now, 61 years later, CONSUMER REPORTS tests everything from cars,
computers, and stereos to wine, fast food, and cocoa mixes. It has state-of-the-art
laboratories, major offline and online publications (see "News Watch" for
information about their new website), and a long history of blowing the whistle
on dangerous, bogus, and sometimes potentially life-threatening products, as
well as providing thoroughly researched recommendations as to which products
consumers should buy, or avoid, and why. Our planet desperately needs an organization,
composed of caring, open-minded, non-judgmental, objective, truth-loving spiritual
seekers, that can tackle the volatile, ever-changing world of spirituality
in the same way. NHNE is seeking to rise to that calling.
There are, of course, other organizations that are seriously investigating
spiritual and paranormal claims. One of the most well-known is THE COMMITTEE
FOR THE SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION OF CLAIMS OF THE PARANORMAL (CSICOP), publishers
of the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER. Composed of both lay people and well-known scientists
(like the late Carl Sagan), CSICOP has a global network of supporters, numerous
affiliate centers in the United States and around the world, and growing contacts
and influence in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, as the name of their
flagship publication implies, CSICOP is an organization of "skeptics." Indeed,
with close ties to secular humanism, they are not only skeptics, but they don't
believe that God or other supernatural forces exist -- and they're putting
their money where their beliefs are by doing everything possible to debunk
every kind of far out claim, belief, and group they can.
Another organization that shared similar goals, but used cruder, less ethical
tactics, was THE CULT AWARENESS NETWORK (CAN). Originally created to track,
hound and hopefully sink various organizations that it considered to be cults,
CAN eventually went out of business due to lawsuits filed by people its organizers
helped kidnap and "deprogram." Ironically, CAN's trademark rights
and stylized logo, ended up being sold to a SCIENTOLOGY-related law firm, which
was CAN's most bitter enemy.
NHNE, of course, has no desire to go after anyone as CAN did, nor are we interested
in debunking anything and everything that suggests there may be more to life
than meets the eye as CSICOP does. Believing that we are spiritual beings pilgrimaging
through a confused world, we want to separate lies, distortions, and guesses
from the truth; once and for all, we want to know the true nature of our existence
and God's plan for us, and our world.
these purposes speak to you, we
invite you to join us!