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Original Sin

I have spent most of my spiritual life avoiding argument. It is usually a better idea to find common ground where one can and let people have their own spiritual truths. The exception would be if someone’s religious beliefs promoted violence, oppression, inequality, or caused physical harm. There are aspects of these negatives to most religions, particularly Monotheism, in which, not only is only one specific deity is recognized, but the worship of the deity is specific to one religion or religious sect. However, most people recognize the importance of extending the courtesy of religious freedom to others that they themselves would want to have extended to themselves. It prevents war.

This argument is really more of the bomb throwing kind. I’m not actually looking to start a fight, but I could easily avoid one by not making the following thesis: The Adam & Eve story is so ridiculous that it could never have been meant to be taken literally. That is; it was written by someone who thought the very idea of what they were writing was too ridiculous to be taken literally. It was probably a kind of teaching story that we lost the lesson part of in the ensuing millenia.

Here’s what I mean: Adam & Eve are created without original sin by an all-knowing, all-powerful, Loving, forgiving God. A God so loving and forgiving, he eventually sends Jesus to save mankind from itself. God places Adam & Even in the Garden of Eden, where they can eat or drink anything they want. The world is literally their oyster. With one notable exception: They cannot eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. You will probably agree that this is a very specific kind of tree. It’s not the tree of bad haircuts, or the tree of drunk driving; it’s the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And, although, the completely new, innocent and inexperienced Adam and Eve can eat from any tree in their garden, they can not eat of this tree. that’s also in their garden, where they can eat anything they want.

So at first they do pretty good. But then the devil comes as a snake in the grass to tempt Eve. And it works. She eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And then she tempts Adam into doing it. And then God, who is everywhere, comes to the garden. The all-knowing God asks Adam and Eve what they were up to. Well, they hide, because what do they have now that they didn’t have before? Knowledge of good and evil. So they know they’ve done something wrong. So the All forgiving, loving God, what does He do to these first offenders? He Sentences them to death! And not just them; but all their progeny for all time. That’s me and you. We didn’t eat from the damn tree! Why are we being punished? So the all-knowing, all-wise God gave Adam and Eve free will and the all-powerful God put the temptation in their garden. In their refrigerator, if you will. “Hey, I’m gonna stock your fridge with food, you can eat whatever you want, but not this fruit that’s basically the same as all the other fruit except you can’t eat it.” “k. by.!”

What was the name of that tree? The tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, they didn’t know good from bad before they ate from the tree? So they couldn’t know it was wrong to do it? And God being all-knowing, knew they would eat from it. Hell, I knew they would eat from it, and I’m not all-knowing. So the all loving all forgiving, Just God punishes Adam and Eve for doing something they couldn’t conceive was wrong in the first place. And He’s punishing us for it, when we didn’t even do it! He gave them free will. He put the fruit tree in their garden and told them not to eat that one.

At this point, I would like to point out that I often use the analogy of a kid who sticks his finger in an electric socket when his parents have told him not to. The electric shock the kid suffers is not punishment for disobeying his parents, but merely the consequence of putting your finger in the socket. That’s not what’s happening to Adam and Eve. We are told specifically and repeatedly that this is punishment for disobeying God’s commandment. This God is an asshole.

That’s why I think this story was not meant to be taken literally. As Tori Amos says; “I thing the Good book is missing some pages…”

I think most of the fables in the Bible are meant to make us think. There are also some teachings that contradict others. There are some that I just don’t agree with. I think this is a case of “we don’t have the whole story.”

But it won’t make you think, if you just take it literally as this is how things are and how God operates. It’s not how things are, and it’s not how God operates. Learn to think, to ask questions.

I worship an all knowledgeable, all-powerful, all Loving God. This story does not depict that God.

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Devotion

Often when we engage in spiritual or religious conversations, some varient of the word “Devotion” is part of it. We art devoted to our path, devotees of our diety, and we measure our success by the amount of devotion we commit to our cause. When I met my first spiritual teacher, we talked about the life long commitment I would be undertaking. I don’t spend every minute of every day contemplating my relationship with the Source, but I do spend time everday, even spare time, not just, “ok, I have to spend a half hour meditating”, but throughout the day, because it is what I am most interested in, I come back to it over and over again.

What I am proposing is rather than creating a difficult regimen to stick to, instead think about just how important your devotion is to you. I like things to not be too structured so that my life can happen organically and I can still make time for what’s important to me. I was lucky that at some point on my journey, I heard a priest being interviewed for the radio, NPR’s “On Being” which is a fascinating look at how various people approach the divine. In anycase, the priest said that he liked to think of God as someone to have over for dinner, in an informal setting. His point was that rather than make every interaction with God formal, you make time for God in your everyday life, wearing your everyday clothes. Yes, there’s time for formal ritual, but I’m a believer that every moment of every day is worship, whether we mean for it to be or not, so how we act when we’re not “at church” is more important than the show we attend once a week.

Much of my work is devoted to the spiritual, but not all of it is specifically focused on that. I figure what I devote to God because I want to will have a better quality than doing it because I feel obligated to do it. There are many ways to devote yourself to God: all the way from simple prayer to becoming a monk or priest. How we treat each other is of primary importance.

I’m trying to keep this vague because whatever path you’re on, I want that to work for you. My understanding of the Deity evolves over time, which I think is healthy because if you have a perfect idea of the deity to start with, and no further understanding is needed then your education on this plane is complete, and you would no longer be confined to it. It may be useful as we go along for me to be specific about my beliefs, which I will do for the sake of getting from point A to point B. If the details of my beliefs don’t mesh exactly with yours, feel free to substitute your specifics for mine, if you find that to be helpful. It can be useful to bring us closer to our Higher Power to have details fill in blank areas that aren’t really turning points in spiritual advancement. For instance; I was raised Catholic, and Catholics believe that Mary was a Virgin when she conceived Jesus. This story helps some people realize the divine nature of Jesus, but to me, my faith in the divinity of Jesus doesn’t hinge on this detail. In some ways this is a story that brings the culture of the ancient world to us so we can enjoy being part of something ancient. On the other hand, it seems to say that even sex between to holy reverent people is somehow bad and Mary conceived Jesus without sex. (The idea that sex was involved, just not w/Joseph, since he was technically not Jesus’ father smacks of a kind of Zuesian tale, which it may in fact have been. My point is all this is a distraction from the teachings of Jesus, which are the focus of the religion.) I know it opens a can of worms to bring up this particular story, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a huge distraction from what important about Christianity. Just one point further on this argument: one often hears that God does this to show that all things are possible through God. Well, then why isn’t it possible for God to do it the conventional way? Of course, God is trying to make a point by doing it uncovnetionally, but I don’t think the point is that all things are possible, it’s that Jesus is more divine that human conception can yield (but if all things were possible to God, human conception could yield a divinity like Jesus; it’s that God is making a point, not that God is constrained.

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tàijítú Yin Yang Tao Calligraphy symbols

The tàijítú is the name of the symbol commonly known as “yin/yang.” It is a symbol for the complementary nature of opposites; night defines day, shadow defines light; an inhale isn’t complete without an exhale… All existence can be seen to utilize this seeming duality to for a unified whole.

These pieces are rendered using a zen technique that infuses them with chi (the “ji” in “tàijítú”). They are aproxamately 8×10 in size. They are rendered with gold, purple and sumi ink with a sumi brush on lokta paper; a paper made in the Himalayas from materials indigenous to that region.

each piece is $30 plus shipping.

In the form below, enter your name, email address and which style you want and I will execute one especially for you. Please note: as you can see, each piece is individual to itself. The technique used creates a unique piece with each execution. Your piece will not look exactly like any of these but will be the tàijítú (yin yang symbol) rendered on the paper and ink you specify. Your choices of paper are Natural or Red (you can request yellow or blue or purple though they are not shown). Your choices of ink are black (sumi) purple or gold (blue and purple are available but not shown) Note that Contrasting colors such as gold on red will show better than gold on natural.

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Meditation part 1

madonna blueMeditation is an important part of my life. My pursuit of authentic meditation has fueled my spiritual path. When I was a teenager, I was curious to learn about spiritual paths other than the Catholic faith I was born into. A child of divorce, and of a parent who had been previously married, I felt that the rules I had been taught about my family and my soul were not that of a loving and understanding God.
It wasn’t until College that I really became pro active in researching spirituality. Until that point, my thinking was still centered on what had  been drilled into my head since I was born. So I worried that other religions might lead to damnation. Yet I became more and more certain that the people who had been building and guiding the Church were not as divinely guided themselves as they claimed. I was still building a case against my indoctrination into a religion that I had accepted and loved growing up.
I finally came to the conclusion that God showed Himself to different people in different ways. I was certain that God didn’t love Europeans more than Indians or Asains. Why would He expose some people to certain religions and others to other ones if being born in India was a sure ticket to Hell. I also concluded that God would want us to use our brains and our hearts to figure out for ourselves what religion was best for us. Just automatically accepting what I was born into as the only right way to worship seemed arrogant and lazy to me.
I began reading and taking classes that taught comparative religion. I am part Native American, so I went to sweat lodges. I learned about Wicca, which predated Christianity in Europe. Some will take offence at calling it that because it is a modern term. It’s just the term I learned about the worshipers of the Earth Mother Danu. Their way was almost completely wiped out and Danu’s Consort, the horned god, became the image of the Christian devil. Leave it to a Patriarchal society to completely miss that the main deity is a woman.samhain 001

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Sanctuary of the Beloved

devi

I recently had an experience that made me realize that I need to rededicate my life to what I’m passionate about. I have been concentrating on writing and illustrating children’s books, which is one of my life’s deepest passions. However, this is a long, arduous process, even when I’m self publishing and eliminating the middleman of trying to find a publisher. In the meantime, I need a creative outlet and focus to keep me centered in the moment. This has always been mainly spiritual work for me. I do sacred calligraphy, spiritual paintings, poetry and things of this nature. I have always just sort of worked on calligraphy until I feel like I need to work on children’s books and then I want to paint a landscape and then a painting of Mary, and back to calligraphy, and then I make a painting of the Goddess. And then they just sort of get piled on to my website in their various spots.

madonna blue

There’s nothing wrong with this per se; but I had the inspiration to create a space dedicated to my spiritual work, thus giving it a more cohesive feel.

 

The things I create can provide inspiration and solace. We are all given ways to help each other, and I don’t have to be the leader, I can be an artisan that creates little talismans that help people to focus on their spiritual goals, mantras, inspirational motifs.

The space I want to create for these things; for people to come to is the Sanctuary of the Beloved.

The Beloved is the Source. Some may refer to this Source as God, or Goddess; Buddha, Devi, Jesus, Allah; to me all rivers spring from the same Source, and they all lead to the Ocean. The Beloved is how I refer to Her. To me She is Love itself.aditiwc

I once had to evaluate the qualities I would look for in God. Who could I dedicate my soul to? Who could I rely on for steadfast guidance in all things at any time? Was is the God I was raised to worship? The patriarchal figure that gets angry at the slightest provocation? The one who condemns to hell people who aren’t born into the correct religion and perform the functions and rituals just so? The one to whom we ascribe all suffering to being a test? The punisher with a long list of what’s acceptable and what is not?Untitled5

I realized that I was also told that God is love. literally. Not metaphorically. This made sense to me. Here was a God I could do business with. Also, I thought that in all likelihood, the patriarchal idea of God was created by men, human men, to keep women in line. In ancient times some societies were not patriarchal, they were matrilinear; that is men and women were equal, but lineage or birth lines were traced through the mother, not the father. This makes sense because you always know who the mother is. Patriarchal societies had to have strict rules about sex to insure that the king passed his kingdom on to his son and not some other guy’s son. The best way to insure that everyone knew men were in charge was to say that God was a man, and He said men were in charge. We’ve been dealing with this for five thousand or more years. So to counteract that deep subconcsious embedding that God is a man, I celebrate the Goddess, from whom we are all born, who nurtures us and protects us. Who deserves respect and is every bit as wise and powerful as any male deity. A God who was truly Love wouldn’t care what religion someone was. Monotheist religions are meant to control people, not help them to grow spiritually. Besides, Male and female are not complete without each other. If God is a single source, than God is neither male nor female, but God.

Goddess

God as Love is someone I can dedicate my life to; dedicate my soul to. In any situation, you can choose love; You can stop and say, what is the loving thing to do? All the other rules either hold up to this or they don’t. Everything becomes much clearer, much easier. I’m not perfect, but I don’t have to be. because God is Love.

I may go into more detail about my personal beliefs another time. Here, I just want to lay the ground work for the Sanctuary of the Beloved.

The Sanctuary is the heart.

Visit the Sanctuary here

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Free Download! Om Sanskrit Calligraphy!

Download your free digital copy of this hand rendered “Om” Sanskrit Calligraphy! Print it out on your home computer and hang it up to decorate your yoga studio, your meditation space, or for inspiration in your home or office.

Om is the Sanskrit word that represents the sound of the universe; the vibration of this sacred sound creates, and sustains everything around us. When we chant this ancient word, we align ourselves with the universe, spiritually and physically.655697b3-95a6-47d2-886b-5fe73554cc55In order to download this file, click on the image, when the image shows full screen, right click on it and select “save image.”  If you appreciate your free “Om” download, please let me know in the comments. Enjoy!

Note: Only images specified for free download are eligible. All images on this website are the property of rodhillen.com. Any unauthorized downloads constitute theft.

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Yoga t-shirt

Hand done Sanskrit calligraphy on Tibetan paper and placed on a t-shirt just for you! What a great way to exercise! Isn’t it great how that worked out?

$22.50

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Blessed Devi Watercolor Print

devi bag

Devi is the Sanskrit Goddess who manifests as all the goddesses in the pantheon. She is Parvati, the wife of Shiva, who is also Uma and Sati. As Shakti, she is the energy of the Cosmos and truly the counterpart to the Consciousness that is Shiva. She further manifests as Durga and Kali, warrior goddesses who destroy evil and delusion. Shakti is also known as Kundalini, the serpent goddess dwelling within us at the base of our spine,  waiting to awaken us to eternity.

She is also Lakshmi, consort of Visnu. Lakshmi is the goddess of prosperity and wants us all to do well.

She is Saraswati, goddess of the arts, creator of Sanskrit. She is the infinite Aditi, the watery goddess Ganga.

She is Love. And I am her devotee.
$30









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Sufi Madonna Print

sufi madonna

I painted this during the “Ground Zero Mosque” scandal. I won’t dignify the petty and cowardly story by telling it here. However, the gist was to make people fear Muslims. It occurred to me that the Christian Virgin Mary and the nuns who imitate her dress wear similar clothes to the traditional female Islamic dress. Indeed, it is a sign of our shared culture. So, I studied various versions of the Abaya and Hijab, and came up with the Sufi Madonna. I also wrote a prayer that she would say on our behalf:

Blessed Creator, I pray for your children of the world. That we may be brought together in friendship; I pray you guide us to forgo our petty rivalries, Forget our differences, forgive our mistakes & Forge a new bond under the unity of our commonality. By your grace, yur love & your divine wisdom, amen.

There is a print available of this image with the prayer below here.

 

“We are all God’s children” attests the Sufi Madonna. She is a symbol of all religion as she prays on behalf of mankind.
This is a digital print of an original watercolor painting. print is 5×7 on 8×10 acid free rives BFK printmaking paper.

$30 plus shipping









 

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Uriel, The Angel of Light Watercolor Print

blueangelprintUriel, the angel of light teaches us to see into our hearts and discover the shining light waiting there to guide us on our path and dispel the darkness which would obscure the way.

8×10. Printed on luscious Rives BFK printmaking paper, this lovely angel will bless any home.

$30 plus tax.