Category: Hope

ELIHU’S KEY – Mal Garvin : Preface to almost completed book




This book will reveal a force that is at work in all our lives. It is the subtle but barely visible influence of the human spirit, and is illuminating and active in every human soul. Bewilderingly, it is even more active amongst those who think they are neither religious nor spiritual, yet is largely missing from the consciousness of modern materialistic persons.

In this book I will not only reveal its subtle and all pervasive influence, but will also share the secret of how one becomes more consciously engaged with its life-affirming illumination.

We can see it at work in small children whose eyes light up with joy when they recognise someone they love, or when they are applauded for naming something accurately. Some of us can already recognise a certain aliveness within when something moves us deeply. There may be a mysterious internal uplift in response to a beautiful sunset, a child’s spontaneous delight, an act of kindness or sacrificial courage, or a moment of any kind that touches the heart with a release of joy.

Yes, we are also capable of experiencing the negative emotions of fear, threat and hopelessness, and we brace ourselves against them, but the best part of us knows hope and joy are to be found elsewhere within us. Our special capacity as human beings to be touched profoundly by love, beauty and truth, is a mark of our unique human hunger for the sublime and transcendent.

This book will show that our awareness of the underlying presence of the human spirit can and will, grow in much the same way as the awareness of cars the same model as the one we’ve recently acquired. Like some kind of revelation they seem to be everywhere. We’re surprised, not only by their number, but also by the sense of connection we now have with their owners.

Some things are so familiar we have difficulty recognising them.

For over 40 years I had a syndicated radio segment that covered all the major media markets in Australia which gave me the privilege of taking the pulse of a nation every day. Initially I was focused on producing good radio that would fit comfortably into the popular commercial radio format. In time however, I became fascinated by a consistent pattern of what the audience cared about.

There were times when, what I believed to be profound insights, would get a bored yawn by way of response. In contrast, on other occasions a simple throwaway line from me could get a deluge of mail. That’s when I decided to ask what the universal yearnings of my audience were. What hooked them?

At the same time, I was committed to entertain the audience – essential if I was to stay on air – but my goal was not only to engage and interest them, but if possible, to communicate at a more profound level. I might be able to entertain them but could I reach the deeper parts of their being? Could I, in a short highly produced radio segment, engage them, put a smile on their face and sometimes even move them to tears of joy? Was I expecting too much? My burning question: Was a nationally syndicated radio segment capable of being both personal and universal?

I was on more than 100 stations. What was the secret of making it so personal that listeners felt I had been reading their mail? What could I say that would be as relevant to listeners in Hobart in the south, Darwin in the extreme north, Sydney in the east, or Perth, the world’s most isolated capital city, in the far west of our big brown continent?

My great discovery

The search for answers to my questions engaged me deeply in a quest involving every aspect of my life’s work – from therapeutic work with schizophrenics, classroom work in high schools, right through to human resource training and consultancies with large public companies.

A significant phase of my journey of discovery came when I took the time for a fascinating global tour to study what was distinctive of various western cultures. It focused my question, “What is deeply personal, what is uniquely local and cultural, and what on the other hand, can travel because it is profoundly universal and transcendent.”

I had to leave home to see it with new eyes.

The journey took me to a Broadcasters’ Conference in Brownsville, Texas, where I had many fascinating conversations with seasoned broadcasters. From all over the U.S.A. I received invitations to visit. In Washington D.C. I saw the great monuments and asked why they mattered. In Nashville I sat in a recording session, and visited the Grand Ole Oppry, where I interviewed a number of country music stars. I had a most illuminating time with Johnny Cash’s late father who helped me grasp the southern psyche and what moved them to tears. Then I was off to converse with program directors of radio stations across rural America and in big industrial cities like Detroit and Chicago.

Many of them, fascinated by my quest, generously shared with me the Insights and instincts they’d relied on to get to the top. They explained to me the focus groups and the research techniques they used to arrive at their understanding of their audience. The focus of most was to pitch their unique selling proposition to prospective advertisers. It was all very impressive and interesting but it would be some time before the penny dropped for me, and understanding started to crystallise. Strangely enough, it happened while I was in the U.K..

We all laugh, but we don’t laugh at the same things.

Through a connection with a BBC executive, I found myself getting a behind the scenes look at the making of a British T.V. sitcom. It was there it dawned on me, that while all humans love a giggle it was clear that the Brits laugh at different times from the Americans. I was, of course, comparing them both with my fellow Aussies. We all like to think we are normal, but sometimes we have to leave home to catch a glimpse of the culture we’ve come from. It was a profound experience.

All individuals, groups and races are similar yet different.

I walked the back streets of London, and went north to Leeds to watch Aussies play the English in a game of rugby, where I heard the working class lads scream out “Kill the convicts.” Despite my country’s British roots I knew I was not English. This became even clearer as I went further north to the old town of York, still surrounded by Hadrian’s Wall built by the Romans in 122 A.D. I bought sweets from a shop originally built by the nephew of William the Conqueror. Before leaving Australia I had never seen any buildings more than 190 years old!

No matter where or when we live, there is a unique part of us that I now know to be the human spirit. It often rises spontaneously and can surprise us by breaking through our defences, rising from deep within. It triggers responses that make us want to laugh, cry, and go “Wow!”’ Exactly where and when we feel the permission to cry, laugh out loud and go “wow,” is shaped by our unique personality. The sense of self that filters the reality we tell ourselves about is usually unknown to us, and has been shaped by our personal and cultural history.

This unique process shapes our character. It is what makes us profoundly different, yet there still is an undergirding, shared humanity, and at the centre of that shared humanness there is the profound animating dynamic of our soul – the human spirit.

This shared spirit is nourished by hopeful and positive narratives, and the kind of leadership that can tell a unifying story that illuminates the path to a realistic and preferred future. In recent history we can see its catastrophic power. In the right hands however, it can unite, empower and positively transform people and whole societies.

Exploring these themes

It is these deeply felt narratives that have the capacity, if grasped and respected, to inspire in such a way as to call human beings out of their innate self-interest, and to lift and unite hearts. In doing so they can unite communities and nations and thus promote global peace. Sadly, too often, we also see the tragic results when that same human spirit is either lost to view, or abused.

Both sides of the equation: The mystery in view

The goal of this book is to explore both sides of the equation and in doing so to lift the veil on what is so often a huge and bewildering mystery for us. The Bible tells us of the two great mysteries, the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of godliness. Both will bewilder most of us however brilliant we might be, because they can’t be grasped by reason.

We brush up against them daily – the problem of evil – that man knows what good is but is still inclined to choose otherwise, and the strange phenomenon that we currently call our better angels – that profound sense of what good is, that surprises us and beckons us to another way. We can be quite surprised by the religious responses that surface in all of us from time to time, throwing light on our decisions and influencing our commitments if we take them seriously.

It may not be kosher to talk about these subjects but they creep up on us and confront us daily. There is always much more going on than reason alone is able to grasp or explain. In the words of Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities: “There is more to knowing than knowing can ever know”.

There always is another reality gently knocking at the door of our consciousness. We may be haunted by it, yet we don’t quite know how to grasp and apprehend it. It is like an exquisite existential itch that is beyond our capacity to scratch and we dare not allow ourselves to become aware of it because we fear its capacity to claim us. There is a sense this lingering and ghostly finger that beckons us on to know beyond reason, that can no longer be denied, yet as 20th century French philosopher Henri Bergson said, “The forceps of the mind do violence to the things it tries to grasp.” Why? Because the mind itself, and our conventional way of knowing, is clouded by archaic emotion and is often distorted by ego needs.

We need another mode of engagement with this multidimensional realm of reality.

The human spirit not only gives a sense of hope and future but if developed, can give courage, patience and humility, to help us work complex issues through to an undistorted reality. It enables us not only to be moved by a beautiful sunset, to laugh spontaneously with a friend or respond empathically to their pain, but also enables us to grasp the eternal, to be sensitive, to be excited by a dawning truth, and at the same time discern distortion or spot a phony.

Over my years of satellite talk radio It became clear that while there is a part of us that wants to be entertained, there is also a part in each of us that, while suspicious of empty sentimentality, wants to encounter deep meaning. This part is where the best of who we are lives. It is the part that often responds to things that bring joy, and delights in encountering the beautiful and ineffable in everyday life.

Over many years the audience taught me where their hearts were.

The radio audience gave me the growing understanding that in every human heart there is a sensitivity to the ineffable – to something bigger than time and space. Tied to that sense of the transcendent, deep within all those who have even the most rudimentary awareness of people, there is the sense that we are on earth to do more than make a dollar. A part of us knows will never quite be at peace until we have found the reason we are here; the task, or assignment we are here to fulfil. In the words of Mark Twain “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.”

We all need help to find our place in the eternal scheme of things. We have a dilemma though. Most of us find it almost impossible to separate the gentle promptings of the spirit that show us our vocation, from the more desperate attempt of the soul or ego to think well of itself.

What is our spirit, and does it weigh 21 grams?

The film 21 Grams starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts begins by declaring “They say we all lose twenty one grams at the exact moment of our death.”

The inference is that this is the weight of our human spirit. While I have no idea of the exact weight of the human spirit, when we die something leaves us that has been a profound and animating aspect of our personal existence. The award winning movie is a complex mosaic of people struggling to make sense of life. There is a criminal trying to go straight by finding faith, a man waiting desperately for a heart transplant and a woman wrestling with a drug problem. They are all brought together by an accident that looks meaningless. One wonders how meaning can come from this.

At the end of the movie the statement is there again: “At the moment of our death we lose 21 grams.” It begs the question, what has gone and what in fact is the secret of our mysterious life? What is this animating life dynamic that distinguishes us from the animals? What is it in our personal and collective consciousness that is able to ask, What is our life, and what can be its meaning?

What is it that also leaves with our last breath?

In the ancient book of Job, a clear eyed young man named Elihu embodied the spiritual sensitivities of my radio audience on their universal and profoundly human quest for meaning and community. It was Elihu who gave me the key to the understanding of the role of the human spirit in our existence. This young man gave me the key to understand, not only the highest yearnings our spirit, but also the ugly source of human destructiveness.

It was Elihu who opened my eyes to what has gone missing from our now diminished daily life, our education, our marriages, our economy, our therapy, our modern media and our politics. Those who in the past, enriched human existence, knew the secret. But we self-absorbed materialistic creatures have completely failed to recognise, let alone nourish, the treasure that is our human spirit. This, in spite of clear and powerful evidence that its yearnings for expression and validation are everywhere to be seen in the cultural history of mankind. Let’s see if this young man Elihu can help all of us see the unseen, and relocate this source of our highest and most beautiful yearnings;

Can Elihu help us, so that awareness of our spirit becomes clear and sharp to our consciousness

Spiritual Life & Sanity in the Modern World – From Elihu’s Key – Mal Garvin




“Mental health requires that the human will submit itself to something higher than itself. To function decently in this world we must submit ourselves to some principle that takes precedence over what we may want at any given moment.”
Scott Peck

We are body, soul and spirit. It is not that we have a body, soul and spirit; the three are feeding into our experience of reality all the time. 1 Thess. 5:23

Through my body (my soma), my five senses I can immediately be in touch with the world around me, that is, assuming I’m well and my soul with its anxieties and archaic emotions doesn’t intrude.
Through my soul (my psyche, my ego), I have a sense of myself however distorted by my emotional history or tortured by the underlying exquisite ache demanding I do things to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. This part of me is on an endless quest to help me think well of myself.
Through my spirit (my pneuma), if my ego doesn’t intrude, I can have a sense of the transcendent, the big and awesome reality which is bigger than my sense of me. When I’m attuned to my spirit, the power of the need to think well of myself evaporates. I can then have a sense of the eternal values that enrich life – love, beauty, truth and that timeless sense of hope that draws me on to an awareness of personal destiny and divine purpose.

The human awareness of a big and rich life waiting to be known:

In Job 33:4 Elihu unveils the secret we all half know, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me real life.” What is this real life?

In Latin the word spiritus means life and breath. There are two Hebrew words for spirit, ruach and neshamah, and we are told God breathed into man’s nostrils the neshamah of life and man became the completed being. The breath of God is not simply the air that fills the lungs; it is the divine breath that fills and enlivens the soul and brings spiritual energy to the body. We’re told in Proverbs 20:27 “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.”

It is this remarkable spirit referred to by Elihu that gives life its meaning, puts a sparkle in the eye, gives life to the whole being and personality and helps us move forward with hope toward shalom or peace.

What is life and what gives life?

If I took a mosquito pulled it apart then glued it together again with super glue, would it be a mosquito? No, it may look like a mosquito but it would lack the unique life of a mosquito. It would have the external characteristics of a mosquito but will not have that unique x factor that makes a mosquito a mosquito.

The human X factor

In the same way humans have certain ways of being. At our best, we have the capacity to be loving and compassionate and to see the bigger picture; we have a moral compass that enables us to know right from wrong and to choose right even when it’s difficult. We have the capacity to look over our own shoulder and tell ourselves unpleasant but honest truths about ourselves, and when we’re integrated we feel fulfilled. Sadly, we’re not always like this but if we could be convinced we could sustain it, it’s the way we would love to live.

Three year study shows that spiritual sensitivity is a common fact of life.

A recent three year international study from Oxford has concluded that a sense of God is an essential part of our human nature – that we are naturally predisposed to have an awareness of a divine presence and that some vital part of us survives death. Co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg said the research shows that religion is not just something a peculiar few do on Sundays instead of playing golf. “We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that spiritual awareness is a common fact of human nature across a whole range of different societies.”
He said, ”This suggests that attempts to suppress spirituality and religion are always likely to be short lived. Human thought itself seems to be anchored in spiritual concepts such as the existence of God, supernatural agents and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”
We instinctively know there is more to life than human thought can grasp.

Elihu’s Excerpt: excerpt Ch. 1 – good vs evil





Both sides of the equation: The mystery in view

The goal of this book is to explore both sides of the equation and in doing so to lift the veil on what is so often a huge and bewildering mystery for us. The Bible tells us of the two great mysteries, the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of godliness. Both will bewilder most of us however brilliant we might be, because they can’t be grasped by reason.

We brush up against them daily – the problem of evil – that man knows what good is but is still inclined to choose otherwise, and the strange phenomenon that we currently call our better angels – that profound sense of what good is, that surprises us and beckons us to another way. We can be quite surprised by the religious responses that surface in all of us from time to time, throwing light on our decisions and influencing our commitments if we take them seriously.

It may not be kosher to talk about these subjects but they creep up on us and confront us daily. There is always much more going on than reason alone is able to grasp or explain. In the words of Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities: “There is more to knowing than knowing can ever know”.

There always is another reality gently knocking at the door of our consciousness. We may be haunted by it, yet we don’t quite know how to grasp and apprehend it. It is like an exquisite existential itch that is beyond our capacity to scratch and we dare not allow ourselves to become aware of it because we fear its capacity to claim us. There is a sense this lingering and ghostly finger that beckons us on to know beyond reason, that can no longer be denied, yet as 20th century French philosopher Henri Bergson said, “The forceps of the mind do violence to the things it tries to grasp.” Why? Because the mind itself, and our conventional way of knowing, is clouded by archaic emotion and is often distorted by ego needs.

We need another mode of engagement with this multidimensional realm of reality.

In Search of Better Road Maps – from Elihu’s Key by Mal Garvin




On a visit to Leningrad in August 1968 during the week of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia E.F. Schumacher, economist, noted thinker and author of the book ‘Small is Beautiful,’ had an experience that was to shape his perception of the spiritual blindness of the modern world and its approach to education.

He reported, “I was consulting the map to find out where I was, but could not make it out. I could see several enormous churches, but there was no trace of them on my map. Finally an interpreter came to help me, and he said, ‘We don’t show churches on our maps.’ Contradicting him, I pointed to one that was very clearly marked. ‘That is a museum’ he said, ‘not what we call a ‘living church.’ It is only the ‘living churches’ we don’t show.”
He continued: “It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map that failed to show many of the things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge of which there was hardly a trace of many of the things I most cared about and seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance for the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity was complete; and I found there was no interpreter to come along to help me. This perplexing condition remained right up until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps.”

The premise of this book is predicated on the idea that not only have we not been given current and useful life road maps, but a whole generation is in trouble and suffering a loss of meaning as a result.
I’m reminded of the words of Alvin Toffler who said, “Just as education conveys a vision of the future so too if the vision of the future being conveyed doesn’t adequately prepare them for the future, those same educators will betray a generation.” Maybe this is why one of Australia’s leading adolescent therapist’s said, “Today’s adolescents are spiritually anorexic.”

ELIHU’S KEY by Mal Garvin – Spiritual intelligence and the fortunes of the self.




    Chapter 41 – short excerpt

“We consciously practice spiritual intelligence when we intentionally choose spirit over ego, love over fear, the highest good for all, over self- interest.” Dietrich

The fascination and joy of tracing the source of our fantasies

We can discover the deficits that were shaped in our first five years of life. They fuel our fantasies which are largely designed to help us transcend our frustrations and limitations. Our problem is that our fantasies tend to become obsessions. It has been well said “Our ultimate desire is our ultimate delusion, unless our ultimate desire is to fulfil the words of God.” (Verner & Lotte Pelz)

So here is the human dilemma – a yearning that by its very nature will create obsessions that can never be realised. The incomplete and unfulfilled sense of self, the ego, is motivated by these deficits and is always wanting to go beyond its self to escape the exquisite ache. Viktor Frankl says that the most significant feature of the human personality is our desire for self- transcendence.

Our fatal flaw: We cannot transcend ourselves by focusing on ourselves.

In our subconscious search for fulfillment we are unwittingly on the journey toward self- transcendence. Hence the fatal flaw we human beings have – we can never transcend ourselves by focusing on ourselves. In a narcissistic world that continually tells us how to gain satisfaction by indulging ourselves, we find we are deceived into a self-destructive morass of self- absorption. Down deep within, we know it’s not working. No wonder Mick Jagger’s song “I can’t get no satisfaction” and U 2s’ “I still haven’t found what I’m searching for” are the anthems of a generation.

Small wonder we still haven’t found what we’re looking for.

Only the most unaware among us can ignore the destructive impact of unfulfilled dreams or the fulfillment of self-indulgent dreams for attention, wealth and celebrity. Thanks to the merciless probing of the media every day we see so called stars who supposedly have it all, self-destruct before our eyes.

The love orientation that can save us from our ego

Viktor Frankl believes there are two options – to give ourselves to a cause greater than ourselves or to love someone unconditionally, both of which take us beyond ourselves. But there is another one that the likes of Mother Theresa and Francis of Assisi believed was the answer. It is to let the voice within lead us to an awareness of God’s love for us, then respond to life from that position. After all Jesus called it the first and great commandment, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” ie: get this mind-set right and all the other orientations will fall into place.

ELIHU’S KEY – M.Garvin : The Source of Illumination – short excerpt




“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” Victor Emil Frankl

The double attractiveness of jihad is that Westerners fear it yet need it
.
While it started as a call to self-control, jihad was eventually re-framed to mean the battle to bring the whole unbelieving and rebellious world into submission to Allah.Hence its appeal to fanatical Imams who ask their vulnerable recruits, “Are you willing to give your life to bring in God’s rule on earth? It is the only hope your children have for a better world.”

Most Westerners have no high and holy calling that demands something of them.
We are no longer asking young Westerners to do anything other than have fun and consume. Why? Because we’ve been told we have a sacred duty to keep the ground of our being, the economy, ticking over.

The motto of modern Western man is “I shop therefore I exist.” But what if, in an attempt to save the economy, politicians have chopped programs and have shown lack of respect for the existence of young people and the battlers? What if the economy sidelines the unemployed without disposable income, who simply can’t shop? Why would they feel a loyalty to a system that leaves them feeling bereft?

We were meant to live a life beyond our possessions and our ego.
If abuse is, as I believe, my using you to meet my needs without taking into consideration your highest good, a case can be made that Western young people have become the victims of a mindless and abusive economy. This is even more galling when we that our economy is in trouble because those we trusted to run things, whom we were expected to emulate, have themselves lacked inner moral values and have surrendered to the seduction of greed.

Time and again, when there is an economic downturn, the first services to be cut are those that are meant to support the vulnerable and the young. After all, they are not a part of a power block and are probably not able to vote any way. So when governments have to tighten their belt, the first services to go are not the wages of the captains of industry, or the politicians. No! Out go resources for youth, family, health and educational services.

We have fed our young people on the husks of consumerism and wonder why they are spiritually malnourished, and extremely vulnerable to any plausible call to a cause greater than themselves. The most sensitive among them can tell they have been betrayed. Any society whose young people feel it has forgotten its responsibility to them, should prepare itself for a generation that will feel no responsibility for it.

We have fed them with husks and wonder why their spirits are hungry for more.
The cultural elites of the West have taken aim at our cultural roots – the Judeo- Christian God and the revelation of moral values and life they provided. Some, either deliberately or unwittingly, began a process designed to undermine the cultural underpinnings of the West. In doing so, they mindlessly began to drain the heart commitment to the rich spirituality that had grown in the West over the previous 2,000 years. Marriage, family, duty , the need for honesty and self- discipline – the very things that made the West functional and productive – have been undermined. We have chopped down the tree of the Ten Commandments and Judeo -Christian values, and now wonder why we hunger for the fruit they used to bear.

When a commitment to a shared moral frame- work disappears, so does trust.

Regrettably, Western Christianity had let itself get caught up in the sectarian quest for power. The vicious internal Protestant vs Catholic battle for power and influence presented itself as an ideological battle. During the Reformation, logic and so-called reason, recruited the left hemisphere of the brain to fight for the supremacy of certain religious ideas, seducing the universities and colleges of Europe. Unfortunately, the inner disciplines and awareness essential to the emergence of truth and justice tended to become blunted and removed from the centre of consciousness.

While people were arguing and not listening, the ego-driven mind with its need to look good and be right, was taking charge. This ego-dominated lack of true spirituality, produced arrogance, two World Wars and the atom bomb.
Had Christians spent more time living by faith rather than arguing about it, they would have given the 21st century a moral map equal to its challenges. But the battle continues to rage. Who will do the work? History has frequently shown us what happens when the ego’s quest for power is overworked to the detriment of a quest for illumination and the recovery of the inner spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual discipline would have nourished the masses.

This is the inner discipline that would enable the uneducated masses to hear the voice of God through their spirit, and to discern for themselves – from the Bible, their sacred text – life giving values for daily living. Religion and spirituality are often tainted by ego needs and a quest for power, so are seen as more of a problem than a potential help. As an apprentice jeweller in precious-metals I found there were many disciplines that needed to become trade skills before I could go about the business of designing and crafting high class jewellery. Many of us are unable to create happy marriages and beautiful families, neither can we find our unique life purpose, because we have not had the life mentors to teach us the disciplines.

It is interesting to note the early followers of Jesus saw themselves as life apprentices, or disciples. A disciple is one learning the disciplines of their life profession. It is also interesting to note that the word disciple is mentioned 269 times in the New Testament while the word Christian, is found only three times.

It was Viktor Frankl who said, “If we no longer know what we ought to do we will no longer know what we want to do and we will find ourselves in an existential vacuum the clearest evidence of which, is boredom.”

ELIHU’S KEY – The small group of friends who grow together & change the world.




“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Our authentic nature is always bigger than any role we may settle for.
The important news is, that at the core of who we are lies our spirit that is always bigger than any roles we have taken on ourselves, or been given by others. These roles may support our identity in certain narrow and defined aspects of life, but there is always more for us to become.
There paradox is, the more we strive for significance through trying to be perfect, the more we can’t help but be driven by messages that come from our archaic needs.

Self acceptance is easier if somebody else accepts you.
Carl Jung said, “To strive for perfection is futile, but we must strive for completion; but the path to completion always goes through the doorway of self acceptance.”
Many Christians last century believed they had to be perfect because of a faulty translation in the authorised version of the Bible. It read,“Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” Sadly, many carried a heavy, and unnecessary burden, because the original was literally, “become completed as I am complete.” In the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5, it says “Blessed are…” The word blessed literally means being complete in yourself; in other words needing nothing outside of your spirit to make you feel whole.

Ouspenky says, “We are all uncompleted people.” If we want to continue the journey to completion we need to be prepared to leave the comfort of our roles and to transcend the neurotic part inside of us that wants equilibrium, status, and significance.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “I push on toward the mark of my high calling.” Like him, we need to be ready to leave things behind to do it – the roles that define us, patterns of thinking that trap us, and the habits of living that give us equilibrium. As Carl Jung reminded us, he had never come across a happy and well adjusted person in middle age who had not come to terms with the spiritual dimension of their existence.

A part of us will all ways struggle with the anxiety that comes along with the unknown in the face of the adventure. This is where the discovery of faith is essential.

Fixing ones gaze on what is unseen
Faith is not crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. It is tuning in to the part of you that can see the invisible. The apostle Paul says in the book of 2 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 13 to 18 that with the “spirit of faith,” he is able to see differently. In verse 18 he says “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.”

When you look at an apple, what do you see? Cut it sideways and you will see a magical star; in that star you will see seeds that hold the DNA of what could become thousands of apple trees. It is invisible, but it has a latent life that can travel off to the great forever. When in God’s company and with his help we are traveling with him down “the path of life” (Psalm 16:11), we will find we have the resources that bring life to a whole new tomorrow.

Finding our narrative in bringing life for tomorrow
It won’t happen if we cling to the identity that is shaped by our past. The apple seeds have to leave the apple, go into the ground and even look as though they are dying, before they are transformed. First there is the frail seedling, then the young sapling, and finally a productive tree that can produce more apples, and more seed, to grow thousands more trees.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot (martyred missionary)
Could it be that Job had been so shaped by his status and role in the community that he felt God had to answer to him, not the other way around? Could it be that instead of being a faith pioneer he had become a settler? Sometimes it is the great difficulties and life challenges that force us off our psychic posteriors and get us moving on to pioneer again. Elihu, the fresh young recruit, could see things Job and his erstwhile comforters were blind to. Job’s comforters had probably envied his status and significance and almost enjoyed his fall, while Job was feeling it was not fair for a man in his position to have to cope with what he was going through. He and his comforters were not seeing the situation from the same paradigm.

Mal Garvin – “How atheists are being left behind.” (excerpt)




Time for change
There is a remarkable build-up of new evidence in the sciences, from quantum physics, neuro-science and astrophysics, all showing the scientific community it’s time for a change in thinking.

Those academics who can get past their own prejudices are starting to see there is more going on than their old paradigms have been able to grasp. Stephen Hawking, well known British cosmologist and a man known to push against his first wife’s faith, said recently in a rare moment of clarity, “The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely related.” He went on to say, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like a Big Bang ,are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.”

A spiritual understanding of the universe

This was just the kind thinking that started getting Communist party intellectuals nervous before the collapse of their atheistic empire in the old U.S.S.R. They found that their brightest young scientists were, on the basis of their science, declaring that they were beginning to believe in a spiritual concept of the universe. Stalin must have turned in his grave to hear this, followed by current president Vladimir Putin’s chastising of the West for not protecting the heritage of the Christians around the world and in particular those of the Middle East.

It’s as if the universe knew we were coming.
In the words of Professor Freeman Dyson, research physicist at the Advanced Institute at Princeton, ”The more I examine the universe and study details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.”

Noted Physicist Professor Paul Davies – hardly an evangelist for religion – said, ”A careful study suggests that the laws of the universe are remarkably felicitous for the emergence of richness and variety. In the case of living organisms, their existence seems to depend on a number of fortuitous coincidences, that some scientists and philosophers have hailed as nothing short of astonishing…This causal order does not follow from logical necessity; it is a unique property of the world and one for which we can rightly demand some sort of explanation.”

The new and active conversation between science and religion
The situation has changed remarkably. Scientist and theologian John Polkinghorne says there is now an active conversation between science and theology. He believes it began with the publication of Ian Barbour’s ground breaking book “Issues in Science and Religion.” Though published back in 1966, its influence has been unfolding and developing ever since.

The positive change in thinking was framed by Hungarian-British chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891-1976), whose writing helped free science from the limitations of its empiricist prison. This made it possible for the two disciplines, science and theology, to enter into a mutually respectful conversation.

Those who have missed the boat
Every now and then we come across the likes of Richard Dawkins who as a biologist, has completely missed out on this historic dialogue. One almost feels a little sorry for him as we discover videos of him debating those who are more than his equals, like Professor John C Lennox, Professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford. It becomes embarrassingly clear in these exchanges why many of Dawkins academic colleagues are red faced at the thinness of the philosophic underpinning of his arguments. Dr Lennox has no trouble gently blowing away Dawkins’ straw men and empty assertions that he put up as arguments.

The whole of science depends upon the predictability of the laws of nature

Richard Feynman Nobel Laureate in physics, expresses the emerging position on the remarkable order that’s found in the universe: “The fact that there are patterns at all to be checked is a kind of miracle. That it is even possible to find a rule, like the inverse square law of gravitation, is some sort of miracle.” He admits that, “It is not thoroughly understood at all, but because of its very presence, it undergirds science, it leads to the possibility of prediction – that means it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done.”

The magic of laws that can be formulated

The very fact that those laws can be mathematically formulated was for Einstein, a constant source of amazement that pointed beyond the physical universe. Allan Sandage, was widely regarded as the father of modern astronomy, and the He was also the winner of the 1991 Crafoord Prize (astronomy’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize) and the joint recipient of the inaugural Gruber prize in cosmology in 2000, and a foreign member of the Royal Society. He said “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me, is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence – why there is something rather than nothing.”

The very miracle of existence has caused many academics to think again
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All of these thought leaders have caused other academics, along with Mark Worthing, to assert that “We are undergoing a paradigm shift of such significance that a new era in the history of science and theology is being heralded.”

There is what is termed, a burgeoning of associations of scientists and theologians interested in each other’s disciplines. In Australia to name but a few: The Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science (ISCAST); The University Science Faith Network; The Symposium on Science and Theology of the Australian Theological Forum, and the Centre for Theology Science and Culture, based at Flinders University Adelaide.

The dance between science and faith is becoming more harmonious.

In his book, The Dance between Science and Faith, research scientist Dr. Nick Hawke writes, “As science pushes its frontiers of knowledge, it is beginning to bump up against ultimate questions and this has helped prompt a new dialogue between the disciplines.”

This quiet build-up to a renewed interest in human spirituality became public with a Time Magazine cover story headlined, “God is making a comeback.” It reported, “In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anyone would have foreseen only two decades ago , God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers.”

WHY THE WORLD SEEMS NICER AT CHRISTMAS – Mal Garvin -from Elihu’s Key





The love orientation that can save us from our ego

Viktor Frankl believes there are two options – to give ourselves to a cause greater than ourselves or to love someone unconditionally, both of which take us beyond ourselves. But there is another one that the likes of Mother Theresa and Francis of Assisi believed was the answer. It is to let the voice within lead us to an awareness of God’s love for us, then respond to life from that position. After all Jesus called it the first and great commandment, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Get this mind-set right and all the other orientations will fall into place.

Spirit or ego?
The spirit, not the ego, was surely at work in tens of thousands of lay workers – more than 30,000 in England alone – who became lay, or co-workers with Mother Teresa and her nuns. Co-workers did not have to be Catholic or even Christian. They were united in a common goal of “whole-hearted service to the poorest of the poor.” Loosely organized, unpaid, they operated in the most frugal manner possible.

Mother Teresa had always believed prayer led to faith, faith to love, love to service. The inspiration for their difficult work was the prayer co-workers were encouraged to pray daily with the sisters – the famous prayer of St. Francis.
The prayer of St Francis
“ Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
That where there is hatred, I may bring love;
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
That where there is error, I may bring truth;
That where there is doubt, I may bring faith,
That where there is despair, I may bring hope;
That where there are shadows I may bring light;
That where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted;
To understand than to be understood; to love than to be loved,
For it is by forgetting self that one finds;
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.”

We come either from our ego or from a spirit that is responding to love.

Put simply, we have a love relationship with the Divine Being,with this love the centre of our orientation from which all other thoughts come, or we inevitably organise our identity around the ego’s attempts to think well of itself. A love relationship with the Divine Being enables the spirit and its yearnings for goodness beauty and truth to rise beyond the limitations of the self-concept.

Motivated by renewed hope our spirit is then ready to strike out and to engage with the world with faith and love. Internally this enables greater co-operation of the brain, mind and spirit, often putting us in the zone. This can become the source of our unique faith vision. In the words of John Bradshaw, “Ego is to the true self, what a tiny flashlight is to a search light.” This is why when the ego rules, life becomes full of disappointment and very confusing.

This time each year we are reminded that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.

From Elihu’s Key by Mal Garvin: What derails our spiritual intelligence?




WHERE DID EVIL COME FROM? WHO CREATED IT?
In the Biblical narrative evil came out of the absence of beauty and light. The word Lucifer has certain connotations, but originally it meant a beautiful light. The character we now know as Satan was originally a breathtakingly beautiful angel of light. He didn’t like the idea that his beautiful light was simply a reflection of the beautiful light of the divine being. It seems out of envy he wanted the impossible; he wanted to have the source of light in himself.

The moon has no light in itself but is a reflection of the light that comes from the sun. In the same way this angel of light turned his back on the glorious source of his beauty and light and was consumed by the darkness of the great absence. This story helps us understand the source of moral darkness that produces an ill will.

Surely, If God created everything he must have created evil, and if he created evil how can we be blamed for it? This looks like a good question but on closer examination it cannot be said that sin and evil were created in the same way other things were created.

The absence of light and life

Sin is the absence of goodness, just as darkness is the absence of light. Darkness disappears when you switch a light on and darkness reappears when you switch it off. The word evil is live spelt backwards. Evil cannot create healthy life but always wants to fill its absence by devouring life. It is always envious of what it can’t have, so it spawns obsessive jealousy and greed. It might sound a little corny but sin is about the absence of goodness; evil on the other hand is the pernicious intention to propagate that which destroys goodness, beauty and truth. Of course these are the very things that promote spiritual life.

We could call evil a pernicious and willful absence of goodness

In the same way that darkness was not created because darkness is the absence of light, sin is the absence of goodness. This is why the Bible says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory God.” None of us measures up to being consistently good, let alone perfect. This doesn’t however mean we have yielded our will to evil.

Our will may be flawed but we still yearn for goodness, beauty and truth

Our will is flawed but in our spirit we still have eternal yearnings. We cannot define goodness but we always recognise it when it turns up. When it does, it releases a sense of hope and relief.