Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Reflection: Life Beyond Belief

Before we get to our usual Friday fare, a brief update on the outcome of the effort to ban the Harry Potter literature in Georgia schools. Fortunately, the Georgia Board of Education has ruled out such a ban. That is, the books are staying in the school's library. There's an interesting footnote to that story:

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, published by London-based Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, have been challenged 115 times since 2000, making them the most challenged texts of the 21st Century, according to the American Library Association.

Now this is the kind of ass-backwards, topsy-turvy morality that we live amid in the 21st century. Too often, it seems as if all that's light is made darkness; all that's right is made wrong. It is what very commonly happens with morality: when we carve the rules of belief and behavior into stone, then anything different or difficult to fit into the iron frame of morality must be deemed the work of the Demon. Fundamentalism operates on a false principle of division; its morality actually tends to bury our natural moral senses under a shroud of belief.

This, in fact, is one of the salient messages of our banner quote author for this week: she is a teacher of the I Ching, who (like J.K. Rowling) has written a series of books that contain a wealth of insight. Her name is Carol Anthony, and the quote in the banner comes from her first book, A Guide to the I Ching.

Anthony is one of my own teachers; much of what I write down in this space is drawn from my experiences in her workshops, seminars, and publications. In the same section of the Guide's text where our quote may be found, the following observations appear—think of the "Mission Accomplished" moment of the Bush presidency:

Good luck is the result of a humble and unassuming attitude toward the Unknown. The minute we congratulate ourselves on having good luck, it disappears. We may not presume on God, so to speak...When we depend on a situation in a presuming way, we may expect it to fail.

Anthony's work is loaded to the brim with acumen of this sort; my own copies of her works are scrawled throughout with underlining, notes, and exclamations. Her work will be found valuable to anyone with an interest in self-growth and the development of a lively inner life—no experience or even any particular interest in the I Ching or Taoist philosophy is required. Here's a list of her titles, all of which may be found here:

A Guide to the I Ching
Philosophy of the I Ching
Love, An Inner Connection
I Ching: The Oracle of the Cosmic Way
(with Hanna Moog)

One of Anthony's most helpful teachings can also be found in the Guide, where she discusses the psychological basis of successful relationships of any kind. Here is an excerpt:

Conflict with others can generally be avoided at the beginning if we carefully determine fair and just terms. In business relationships the written contract serves this purpose, but contracts are reliable only if they correspond with what everyone, in his heart, would consider to be just.

As just contracts prove helpful in business relationships, thus do they also in marriage. To put that relationship on a firm footing one must take the time to allow an understanding of fair and just principles to develop. However, before we can successfully marry another, we must first marry ourself, for being true to ourself is the only basis for loyalty to others. Marrying oneself does not mean we rigidly hold to dogma or to belief systems; it means that it is our responsibility to be true to our inner feelings, and to our personal experiences of truth.

It is true love which gives space, which waits patiently, which perseveres without regard to self and reward, and which has nothing to do with surface manifestations, displays of affection, statements of love, or possession. Selfless love invisibly sustains another and pulls him toward the good within himself. It is a love whose only reward is privately to oneself; in maintaining it, we are at peace.

Carol Anthony and her teaching partner, Hanna Moog, still give regular seminars and workshops in the I Ching; if you're in New England or can travel to the Boston area anytime during the year, you may wish to see their teaching schedule for 2007—just visit their website. Their new book Healing Yourself the Cosmic Way is to be released next month.

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