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AvatarEdwardStephenson
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Reading assignment Lesson 1 WK2

P.21 Levels of Aspirants
1)Aspiration–at this level there is an awakening of the spiritual self
2) Striving–at this level there is a purgation of the self (mind and body) through spiritual discipline surrendering the ego identity to the divine inner self
3) Established—at this level the person becomes identified and united with God whereby there is an appreciation and experience of the divine presence during reflection and meditation

P. 22 personal Assessment
1) My knowledge of religion and philosophy
In talking about religion and philosophy we must first, I think, make a distinction between Eastern and Western conceptions of both disciplines. within an Eastern of African context, religion, philosophy and psychology were are seen as being integrally connected whereby the spirit is given an ontological status and is thus the basis for all existence. This worldview, it may be argued, made for the possibility for a superior form of consciousness and cultural reality as evidenced in what had existed in ancient Kemet. Embodied in the religion was a philosophy that embraced the sacredness and unity of all things and gave divine eminence to all that existed. Epistemologically, one came to know the world and God by knowing oneself thus making self knowledge the basis for all knowledge.

While Western religion and philosophy has its roots in Africa, it was transformed in a way that gave primacy to the physical and material existence which one came to know using empirical methods. With the advent of such a material/empirical worldview, the spirit came to be seen as a non entity. Such a western worldview lead to a transformation in the individuals relationship to the self and to nature. Nature came to be objectified seen as an entity separate and apart from the self and having lost its inherent sacredness became an object to be manipulated, dominated, exploited, and controlled. Similarly, religion became divorced from spirituality so that it lost its mystical dimension and with this the possibility of connecting with and coming to know the divine within oneself and the world. What was left was a religion in which the divine came to be seen as an external figure that directed the course of one salvation based on a system of beliefs that were grounded on political and social imperatives. Ritual lost their symbolic significance as tools to facilitate connection to the divine and instead became instruments for establishing communities divided among each other and having little spiritual value or function.

2) The greatest obstacle to my happiness and fulfillment

When I think of what makes me most happy it is when I experience intuitive wisdom and divine love in a sustained way. The major obstacle for me achieving this I would say includes my “Ari” or karma in terms of how my mind has been conditioned to engage in the illusionary dance of life.

3)The most important need I have

Here I must make a distinction between lower and higher level needs. In the case of the former, I find that the need to feel filled through eating is a challenge for me. Even though I know food should be used to sustain us and to ensure optimal health, for me it appears to have much emotional significance whereby I use it to feel fulfilled but being aware that when I do, it leaves me feeling spiritually empty.

My higher level needs revolve around connecting to the divine and in so doing experiencing the expansion in consciousness, intuitive wisdom, and love that is associated with the religious experience. I realize that in the eyes of some such a felt experience may be seen as being illusionary but for me in the phenomenological sense it is very real.

4) Previous religious affiliation and how it relates to what you are doing now

My previous religious affiliation was Rastafari which was for a long time (30 years or so) the foundation of my spirituality and the source of my spiritual and cultural redemption. It was also the source of my healing as far as this involved overcoming the wounds resulting from racial and cultural oppression. Through Rastafari I was able to purify my mind and reconnect to my soul dimensions of self having undergone experiences in which I was lost and alienated from self, my culture and my people. Since embracing the Neterian tradition my spiritual practices have changed in certain ways which includes the following:
1) I no longer use herbs (Marijuana) which in the Rastafarian tradition is used as a sacrament in connecting to and communing with the divine. It is also used as an tool in facilitating the mental and physical purification and finally as a tool for mental and physical healing.
2) I no longer read the bible as a method of devotion

Regardless of these changes, even though there are differences in the myths and rituals between both traditions they however have many things in common including the mystical component which center around finding the divine within oneself. They also have in common a “livity” that views the body as sacred and the food that one consumes to be natural and pure so as to promote spiritual, physical and mental health. They also have in common placing Africa as the root and center of civilization and the desire to recover a culture and consciousness that had existed in that particular space and time. They also share the belief in reincarnation and that spiritual growth is a process that involves moving from the lower to the higher dimensions of self and the necessity of grounding oneself in a firm moral foundation (clean hands and pure heart). Both traditions believe that we are in charge of our redemptive journey and ultimately the controllers of our own destiny. Both embrace the belief that our ultimate purpose in life is achieving transcendence or enlightenment and the need to purify the self as a means of doing so.
While rastafari engages in a process of contemplation (self reflection and critical self examination as a means of purifying the mind, Shetaut neter prescribes meditation. While Rastafari recognizes the importance of keeping the body healthy through exercise, Shetaut Neter emphasizes Yoga postures which I have come to value highly. (While this is not an institutionalized practices it is embraced by some Rastafarians). For Rastafari selfless service
is promoted by giving to those in need–the hungry, homeless etc–. For Rasta devotion takes the form of prayer, studying the bible critically and the myths contained therein doing so with a recognition of how western Christianity has used religion as a tool of oppression. devotion also involves drumming and singing and listening to music that affirms the divine. And so both traditions remain close to my heart; both compliment and enrich each other as though they were from one family which they are. I feel that Rastafari directed me to Shetaut Neter which has served to bring greater light and direction to my spiritual path and has enriched the meaning and practice of my spiritual journey. Through Neterianism my knowledge of the divine has been expanded particularly as this relates to the feminine and the important role this dimension of the self has in contributing to the success of our spiritual journey.

5) The role that religion and philosophy plays in your life
Religion and spirituality serves as the foundation of my existence and the primary source through which I give my life meaning

6) Previous Yoga instruction
Not really–went on a Vippassana meditation retreat which was life transforming allowing me to see more clearly the connection between the mind and the body and how emotions can become embodied giving more value to the benefits of yoga a therapeutic tool

7)Advanced religious instruction
None other than that which I received from Rastafarian elders

8) How do you see your life
As a journey home towards the City of Abdu (Zion)

9) My potential to succeed
If success is defined as enlightenment and all that it encompasses, I feel that at my age, like Moses, this may not occur in this lifetime. I accept my life for what it is and feel this is where I am supposed to be. I feel that God is my shepherd and through his/her guidance I will find my way home.
10) if you could what would you do with your life
Love nature, Love others, and love the divine in all things