Considerable righteous indignation is wasted by self-appointed critics who attain self gratification by condemning the hypocrisy of their fellow citizens who 1) devote Sunday mornings to church, prayer and visible righteousness but who then 2) variously seek personal advantage at the expense of their fellow citizens the rest of the week. Any definitive distinction between the critics and the hypocrites is unclear. Some of the critics are themselves churchgoers, though a majority are of secular mind—often adamantly so—and see no need for churchgoing at all in order to be ethical and treat fellow citizens accordingly.
The lot of them—the secular critics, the churchgoing critics and the churchgoing hypocrites (quite a few fill each category)—all miss the point. (A fourth category, sincere and non-hypocritical churchgoers, are not a focus of this writing.)
That “good-and-holy feeling” some Christian folk attain for an hour or two on Sunday mornings, and then don’t think about again until the next Sunday, is really supposed to be foremost among one’s feelings at all times—where “all times” means every lived moment throughout a human lifetime, beginning at least as soon as childhood has matured to a minimum level of conscious awareness of oneself among a world of equally valuable other selves. The same may be said of Jews and Muslims who use other days and hours equivalently, and even Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists and other folk who observe religious rites but not equivalently.
The point here, lest any fast reader miss it, is that, if properly done, each and every one of us is supposed to “become” that good-and-holy feeling one hundred percent of the time through our Earthly lives.
The point is clarified and reinforced by reference to teachings uniquely delivered to us by persons who have had a near-death experience, and who encountered spiritual beings who shared knowledge and understanding during that experience, then survived to return and tell the details of what they learned during their time at or near bodily death. Those details cover a lot of ground. Among other significant details, the most significant of them tell us unequivocally why we are here living this lifetime, and what we’re supposed to be doing with it. Following are some explicit examples.
For each of us as individuals, our purpose for living this lifetime is to attain spiritual growth. In this, some succeed and some fail, the difference being fairly obvious for all to see. We attain spiritual growth in two principal ways. First and foremost, we are told that we should love and help others. In accordance with this mandate direct from the divine Creator of the universe, as repeated in thousands of reports by near-death experiencers—helping others is how we grow in spirit. In close second place, we are to attain knowledge…and increase our understanding…and grow in wisdom…so that we may better help others.
That’s it. These two mandates—to help others and attain knowledge—stack up as fairly simple and direct ways to grow in spirit—especially when compared to the complex encyclopedia of manmade doctrines that have grown up over centuries and millennia within each of the manmade institutions known as religions. If we can achieve some reasonable measure of 1) helping others and 2) attaining knowledge, in balance with 3) the normal daily pursuits of making a living and sharing our lives with friends and relatives, that constitutes a pretty full plate. Nobody’s perfect, but quite a few actually achieve it.
And when it’s actually achieved, the matter of Sunday hypocrisy becomes a non-issue. One doesn’t “seem to be religious” for about an hour on Sunday mornings only (or on Saturdays, or five times daily, or certain holidays, or however one’s preferred religion has it). All that becomes unutterably irrelevant. So does the very word “religious.” One graduates beyond these into a state of spiritual growth.
That fleeting temporal commitment turns into a lifetime commitment to be helpful and to learn that is felt, and constantly expressed, in every moment of every hour of every day of every week, every month, every season and every year. Through a lifetime thereafter, be it ever so long, this Godly Mandate is the ever constant context and background of a human lifetime devoted to keeping oneself in good enough condition to help others and attain knowledge. Funny thing is, this works or everyone—the secular critics, the churchgoing critics, the churchgoing hypocrites, the atheists and agnostics, the Buddhists and all, of every ilk, belief and description.
The context of this helping and learning, of course, is love. One is supposed to love one’s fellow humans, all of them—even the unlovable ones who so vex us, who must be constantly picked up after because they seem destined to charge offensively through life leaving behind messes everywhere they go. Near-death experience reports are full of the Godly Mandate—words telepathically conveyed direct from the unconditionally loving great spirit experiencers perceive to be God: Love and help others; Love yourself; Love the person you’re with; Love plants and animals; Love the unlovable; Love each other; Love people, animals and nature; choose Love over fear. Experiencers report it in dozens of ways, this mandate in different words, but the bottom line is that if you love them, you will naturally want to help them.
For most of us ordinary imperfect spirits, some of the unlovables present more of a challenge than others. But when love is actually achieved, so that we actually want to help all who obviously need helping—and quite a few people do manage to achieve this higher level—then one has in effect created one’s own church, one’s own personalized religion. The false distinction between “religious” and “secular” becomes quite irrelevant—one is simply both of these and neither of these, all day every day.
To the person who has achieved this, all those manmade churches and religions, and all their endless thoroughly manmade Thou-Shalt-Thou-Shalt-Not doctrines, are moot. Irrelevant. They are not needed. They never were. Humankind has simply been misled by a subset of manipulative, control-minded people who make a parasitic living by inventing and perpetuating religions—some philosophical and partly helpful (Oriental), some controlling and partly harmful (Abrahamic), others just silly products of human ignorance and credulity. For millennia now. Mygod.
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The mandates to help others and attain knowledge—as one’s life purpose, in order to grow in spirit—come from the best of all possible authorities: i.e., communication direct from God and/or other spirits to persons who temporarily experience death or a near-death situation, but then survive (usually thanks to modern medical technology) to live out the remainder of a mortal lifetime. Tens of thousands of such reports are now in the public record, their stories banked in the archives of organizations like IANDS, NDERF and ACISTE (international Association of Near-Death Studies; Near-Death Experience Research Foundation; American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences) and more.
And those tens of thousands of reports all say the same things, all in their own words, though the people who wrote them are strangers to each other and represent every possible walk of life across the planet—rich and poor, scholars and uneducated, religious and atheist. They all met God. Now they know.
The sheer quantity and consistency of their thousands of reports constitutes evidence of the first order—of at least equal veracity with inferential scientific underpinnings of quantum physics—about what is factual and true, e.g.: we are all spirit/souls and we are immortal; our lives continue after bodily death in a spiritual Otherwhere that the English language calls “Heaven”; God exists, God has a sense of humor, God created the universe and set in motion the laws of nature by which it operates as lately discovered, in part, by science; we humans are tiny bits of God-Spirit set loose on our own with free will and a mandate to work our way “back up” to reunion with God. The decision to experience a mortal lifetime—incarnated or reincarnated, and wholly integrated within an Earth-evolved mortal body—is in every case a personal choice, freely chosen as a divinely granted opportunity to achieve spiritual growth.
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In this broad context, the divine mandates to help others and attain knowledge-understanding-wisdom can be elaborated into a set of ethical maxims whereby to live this mortal lifetime. I call them…
THE PHOENIX VALUES
- LIVE THE GOLDEN RULE. Always treat others the way you would like them to treat you. Avoiding vain presumption of preaching that others must believe as you do, live in such a way that your life will be a beacon of hope, growth and goodness, and—by your lived example—many will see and be raised thereby.
- HELP OTHERS. Be ever mindful that your foremost reason for living this lifetime is to help other people become all that they can be, and that your own spiritual growth is advanced through thoughtful acts that help others in ways large and small. Your worth for helping others should not be underestimated simply because your reach is limited. If you help just one other person, that one may be the justification for your whole life—but your reach may also be farther, and touch more people, than you will ever know. Your intentions are as important as your acts, because purposeful intention always precedes action.
- ATTAIN KNOWLEDGE. Your second-highest reason for living this lifetime is to Attain Knowledge as widely as possible and integrate it with other Knowledge… pursuant to Understanding … pursuant to Wisdom … so as to better help others and thereby advance your own spiritual growth. Honor and respect the elders, for only they have lived long enough to enable the possibility of deep Understanding and Wisdom.
- VALUE LIFE ABOVE ALL THINGS. Honor and respect all life, plant and animal, upon the earth. Understand that human life begins when the free-will spirit chooses to integrate itself into a particular earth-evolved infant body sometime around the time of birth; respect bodily death and spiritual graduation as Earth-life’s final inevitability. Never take a human life except in self defense when there is no option but to kill or be killed.
- HONOR THE EARTH. Honor and protect the earth, its environments, its habitats and its resources on which all humanity and wildlife depend for life sustenance. Never exploit the earth in excess of your adequate needs or your society’s adequate needs, or merely for profit.
- HONOR ALL THE PEOPLE, AND THEIR COMMUNITY. In all your actions pursue the collective best interest of all the people in your local, regional, national and international communities. Never permit any action or rule that will privilege or promote some people at the expense of others, for rising above the norm is individual responsibility to be achieved on personal merit alone.
- ENSURE ECONOMIC RIGHTS.* Arrange your economic system with natural incentives to cooperate and to share national wealth so that every person is guaranteed a financial foundation adequate to attain basic Economic Rights* throughout life. Ensure equally that no person is prevented from exercising initiative that may attain financial gain above and beyond adequacy so long as such attainment does no harm to the basic economic rights of others, and does not create gross imbalance of personal wealth.
- ENSURE POLITICAL RIGHTS. Ensure equal rights to every citizen by first ensuring all citizens’ understanding that political rights and economic rights* are two aspects of one freedom, and neither is secure unless both are secured. At all times rigorously maintain separation of powers, with checks and balances against human frailty, designed to maximize economic and political freedoms under democratic representative governance. Banish immediately any organization, system, concept or construct that would harm any person or treat people with less than absolute legal equality.
- ENSURE CIVIC EDUCATION. Ensure that all citizens from preschool through adulthood are well educated of their great responsibility to maintain these Phoenix Values, and remain well informed of the status of these values in daily life. Always look for the third option when people needlessly consign themselves to bipolar opposing views.
- BE GRATEFUL. Always feel gratitude when your basic needs are adequately met. Never covet more than adequacy, and if adequacy is exceeded feel grateful for the excess.
The Phoenix Values: If we fail to preserve this civilization, perhaps these will help a better one rise.
*The Eight Basic Economic Rights
Notwithstanding any other consideration whatsoever, personal after-tax income shall in all circumstances be sufficient to purchase the eight basic living needs which are Economic Rights for every United States citizen. These eight rights include personal income not less than the cost of:
ECONOMIC RIGHTS REQUIRED TO SUSTAIN LIFE:
1) food adequate to ensure healthful nutrition; 2) clothing adequate for all seasons; 3) shelter, including utilities, of adequate size and quality for individuals and families, respectively as applicable;
ECONOMIC RIGHTS REQUIRED FOR ADEQUATE LIFE SECURITY:
4) health care including preventive dental, hearing, vision and mental health, medical treatment for physical and mental disorders including all needed therapies, and hospice care; 5) transportation that is dependable and according to need; 6) insurance that is required by federal, state or local law; 7) Seniors: adequate retirement income; and…
… 8) Young adults: the cost of college education, or equal value of cash savings spendable for business startup or first-time home purchase.
By assuring at least minimum adequacy to every citizen, these economic rights obviate any need for labor unions or government welfare. Nor do they limit personal initiative. Any income and wealth that perchance may be attained over and above the cost of purchasing these eight minimum economic rights—whether attained by inheritance, personal initiative or otherwise—is a privilege of being an American citizen, but it is not a right. Excessive privileged income and wealth may be moderated by taxation in deference to the common best interests of all the citizens of these United States in mutual aid and support of each other. Recognizing that the costs of obtaining these economic rights vary in different regions and sub-regions of the United States, income tax scales—in consideration of after-tax remainder income—shall logically correlate with regional and sub-regional living cost differentials for a single taxpayer, and for a spouse and family members as applicable, as annually recalculated for each U.S. region and subregion by the federal government, and such correlations shall be directly reflected in the Adequate Living Wage required by federal law to be paid to employees in each subregion, respectively.
Details concerning the eight basic economic rights, and third options for fixing our economic mess, appear in the book Populist Corrections (2021: Fixy Populist Publications, PO Box 1367, Frankfort Ky 40602).