84 Comments
Apr 2Liked by James Taylor Foreman

This was tremendous. Dawkins and Hitchens both helped bring me out of Christianity when I was young. It was necessary (level 4/5?) for me to keep ascending. I deeply appreciate the beauty of Vishnu and Shiva that I saw in my family, and still feel drawn to self-creation narratives of non-theistic spirituality like Buddhism. But there is that sense, as you put it, that these immense gods pale in comparison to Christ the carpenter who died on the cross. It’s so odd, so particular, yet I do have this unshakable belief that through Christ all things are possible because that’s what has been said! Even if I wasn’t a believer, and sometimes I don’t feel like one (what’s so special about Jesus really?) the narrative and historical power alone says everything.

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AH, this is exactly the kind of comment I hope for in a post like this. Thank you. I feel exactly the same way.

Just curious: do you go to church at all?

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Apr 2Liked by James Taylor Foreman

I went last Sunday! I’ve noticed I’ve become like my dad, he’d go to church once a year. I have been wanting to go more though for community: I light up with aspiration when I hear a friend goes regularly. I also have been wanting to explore local Buddhist monasteries to deepen my practice. Curious what you think about churchgoing.

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I go regularly and I (obviously) consider myself a Christian. I believe that I can sense Christ's "body" in the interactions of the church's people. It's really incredible once I let go of the idea that I knew anything at all and just let the worship happen to me.

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Mar 31Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Brilliant writing and explanation of Wilber's levels. More people will settle around seven over time, as they tire of the dead ends at five and six.

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That's very true and I like that framing. It's something older people seem to "get" and roll their eyes when you try to challenge them.

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Mar 31Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Can't say enough about how insightful, inspiring and instructive this was for me. You're going to help so many people as you work all this out with fear and trembling. Thanks, Taylor.

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Thanks, Kyle. And thanks for all the insight you gave to this coming together.

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Jun 18Liked by James Taylor Foreman

James, I feel this story so deep in my 39 year old bones... I'm from a small town in Arkansas and in 2016 my ego died and had to be resurrected, that moment brought me in contact with level 7. I encounted all the people (from youtube) that you didn't mention in this wonderful Metaphor. Had a similar moment in which I was able to understand that Dawkin's atheism was simply another narrative structure held up by "secular humanism" and "Darwinian evolution". Atheism needed these narrative structures to become rational, the 2-D cd image at level 6 made so much sense, yet there are stories that are, at level 5, objectively and more meaningful to people in the places and societies . I live everyday choosing not to return to level 1 as well...

Your whole story floored me and I found so much resonance in it. If you are open to it I'd be delighted to have you on my podcast called "Yours Truly: A place we go to think out loud" where the conversations are heavily informed by newly and old-ly religious people's experiences related to and downstream from Jordan, Jonathan, and John "university" -

Podcast ling: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVdyuKdUJ45CuLY-O7c5ADb9e96YkCvPB&si=b0cElF2tIIbTKfL4

Please reach out if you are interested: chrbaxter.yt@gmail.com

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Incredible piece. Two questions:

1) Many of the arguments and quotes reflect Jordan Peterson's line of thinking. I wonder where you might situate him on your hierarchy of consciousness?

2) What duty to you feel (if any) to "evangelize" or in some way help others along to level seven? Presumably you feel some desire to help others along given this essay, but does that duty to evangelize manifest differently for a level 6 vs. a level 5 vs. a level 4? How do you approach a level 4 who is firmly God-fearing, but is also dogmatic and unlikely to change? Are they "close enough" to level 7 to let them be, or would you lean in and encourage a deeper, more Jungian, but also potentially more uncomfortable understanding of their faith?

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1) Peterson helped me see this stuff a few years ago. I have a ton of respect for him. Without his anger, Jung and co's ideas would have never bothered me enough to explore them. However, I sometimes feel his dedication to explanatory knowledge holds me back from having a true experience of God. I'll still listen to him sometimes when he talks to Pageau, Vervaeke, or McGilchrist. His political stuff turns me off.

2) I think "evangelism" is another instance of the Church accidentally taking on level 5 thinking. Because of that, they think that the most important part of Christ is saying the right words and having the correct level 5 "beliefs." They spend way too much time talking about it very literally, and too little time just embodying the Logos.

If someone feels like a level 4 to me, I think they are better off than almost anyone. I'm not afraid to talk to them about these ideas, but I don't care to "convince" anyone of anything. My perspective is personal to me and therefore extremely limited. If I thought I knew "better" I would do more harm than good. Love is the shorthand answer. If they are called higher, they already know.

Level 5s are more likely to be the target audience for this piece. They respond more positively to a little anger "get off the stool and dance, you fool." That's just an intuition. That's what I needed when I was stuck there.

Level 6s are incredibly open-minded. They usually feel that this stuff is interesting, but not "the final Truth." That's their destiny. Whatever. If they feel that not having a central structure to their belief is fine with them, then they are probably right. I still believe God works through them. Most settle down when they get older.

Discomfort is always the force that takes someone higher, so I don't mind saying firmly what I believe. But, personally, I always want to make sure my overarching motivation is that of love, not resentment. That's something I pray about.

What do you think?

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Ditto on Peterson. Incredible popularizer of Jungian ideas which I think are necessary to get to a 7, so I respect his message and work but agree there's something missing. That said, the element that's missing is probably what allows 5s and 6s to take him seriously, rather than just being lumped together and dismissed with the other 4s. Agreed on his politics. Can't tell if he's just out of his area of expertise or more cynically just loves causing a scene. Either way, major turn off.

Great perspectives on question 2). I'm still struggling through much of this myself, both internally and with others. I'd say I'm an aspirational 7 trapped in a 5's body. Still some work to do to escape my 5 intuitions, made tougher because 5s like Pinker and Roser do have a lot to show for their worldview. I think I have a 5 worldview with a 7 cherry on top, rather than a fully embodied 7.

I also agree there's a huge difference between espoused belief and lived belief, and evangelists can focus too much on the former. This is Bonhoeffer's cheap grace. The problem with cheap products is they are easier to sell, so if evangelists are trying to maximize sales, cheap grace becomes the product of choice.

There's the problem for me. If we're called to evangelize, what should that look like? Is cheap grace better than no grace? Is a 4 preferable to a 5 or 6? If yes, should we engage in level 5 thinking to push 5's to level 4? If no, then shouldn't we push 4's just as hard as we push 5's and 6's towards 7? These are rhetorical questions that don't need to be answered here, and I know it's not as simple as a math equation, but these are some of the questions I'm actively working through. I'm glad your piece has given me a good framework for doing so!

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These questions are fantastic and really got my brain going. So I don't mean to minimize when I say I think the answer is "die to the pursuit." Dive into the deepest shadows of death in our own consciousness and watch the world around us strangely and unexpectedly transform. A personal sacrifice is able to move mountains, while a projection of power only creates more fortitude in the enemy.

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Physician, Heal Thyself. There’ll be lots of time later for other people’s motes once your own beams are cleared out. 😃

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Mar 31Liked by James Taylor Foreman

A great Easter essay—or better, proclamation—it’s uniquely personal and therefore truly universal.

It’s interesting you’re using your given name “James” today—in First Corinthians Chapter 15, Paul mentions James as the only other person, along with Peter, whom he specifically names as being one of the many people to whom the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared.

Happy Easter Brother—Christ is risen!

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Good to see you in the comments, Chris.

Yes, I decided to go with James Taylor Foreman on a sudden insight I had day before yesterday. Love that fact about the name.

Happy Easter!

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Mar 31Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Beautiful, the point about “if we’re just chemicals then music is just vibrating air” is one of the most convicting renouncements of level five thinking I’ve ever heard and I will be using it from here on out, outstanding work.

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That's a fun one. Really, the argument isn't much more than "come on!" But that's enough for me, now. Thank you!

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Apr 1Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Maybe that’s all the arguments that needed sometimes, I often wonder if many anti-Christians aren’t more hostile because they’re on the edge rather than far from it.

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Apr 29Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Thank you. I am at a cross roads, have been for years. I know now having read your journey to take the lowly road and listen and trust in the still small voice and not the noise of the world. Thank you.

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author

A profound thing to read, Stephen. Godspeed

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Apr 10Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Your record of your journey to the faith is inspiring. I have been wanting to write about my own journey from atheism to Hinduism for a while now. There are some similar patterns here, including a “want to believe”. When I read Christian articulation of their religion, it inspires and deepens my commitment to my faith. Hopefully one of these days I will finally write about it.

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Would love to read that. Please send it to me if you ever do.

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Cool - I’d be interested in reading this if you end up writing it!

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Mar 31Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Great writing, but I found your conclusion unsettling, so I ran it through Chat GPT. Here's the conversation:

The article "Why I am Christian again" by James Taylor Foreman explores the author's journey from embracing scientific rationalism to rediscovering the value of Christian faith. Foreman details his initial rejection of Christianity in favor of a worldview shaped by science and reason, symbolized by his admiration for Richard Dawkins and the concept of the "selfish gene." However, after experiencing life's complexities and the limitations of a purely rationalist perspective, including challenges with relationships, existential crises, and the search for meaning, he reevaluates his stance. Foreman's return to Christianity is not a rejection of science but an acknowledgment of the limits of human understanding and the need for a narrative framework that provides meaning and guidance beyond empirical evidence. This personal narrative underscores the intertwining of faith, science, and the human quest for purpose.

For a full read, you can visit the article here.

User

Why did he return to Christianity

ChatGPT

James Taylor Foreman returned to Christianity as a way to navigate the complexities of life and the limits of a purely rationalist worldview. He sought a narrative framework that could provide meaning, purpose, and guidance beyond what empirical evidence and scientific rationalism could offer. This shift reflects his acknowledgment of the intricacies of human existence and the need for a belief system that addresses the existential questions and moral foundations of life.

For more detailed insights, you can read the full article here.

2 / 2

User

What are the flaws in his conclusion

ChatGPT

Critiquing James Taylor Foreman's conclusion about returning to Christianity requires an understanding of the potential philosophical and logical considerations he navigates. While the article itself must be the primary source for understanding his personal journey and conclusions, common critiques in such discussions might include questioning the necessity of a religious framework for finding meaning and purpose, the potential for confirmation bias in returning to familiar beliefs, and the challenge of reconciling scientific understanding with religious faith. These critiques don't invalidate his experience but represent broader debates on faith, reason, and the search for meaning.

User

Why Christianity?

ChatGPT

James Taylor Foreman's return to Christianity, among various options for spiritual or philosophical guidance, seems rooted in a search for a deeper meaning and a framework that offers both a narrative for understanding the world and a moral compass for navigating life. While the article doesn't detail a comparative analysis of Christianity against other faiths or philosophies, it's implied that his choice is influenced by personal history, existential search, and perhaps the cultural and societal context that framed his understanding of meaning, purpose, and morality. For a comprehensive view, consider reading the full article here.

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This is sad. Why do you feel the need to have an AI attempt to explain it to you? Especially since we know Chat GPT hallucinates. Maybe, try reading it again? Ask the actual author a question. Have a conversation

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Apr 6Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Beautiful!!!---amazing how things seem to pop up just when you need them by simply not looking so hard. God Bless!!!

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Apr 4Liked by James Taylor Foreman

I think this is the article I needed in this rather scary time

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Apr 2Liked by James Taylor Foreman

This is a landmark essay and I'm really glad you finished it and impressed with the final product. As always, there's something novel here, something uniquely Taylor, and also there's a lot going on, too much to comment on, a lot to digest, but that's ok too. I think what you did best was highlighting the first several levels, and telling your own story through those levels.

It seems that level 5s really frustrate you, and it feels often in this essay like you are personally attacking Dawkins and others like him. I think, based on your story, and on some of your responses to comments, that it's because primarily you view level 5 as a place where lots of your contemporaries get stuck and end up causing a lot of damage in their hubris. And also because you got stuck there. And also that the way forward is to move beyond that.

It does seem like an unspoken assumption that there is something beautiful and good about each level. Intimacy in one-on-one relationships is powerful. So is the family, or the team, as well as the tribe. And it seems that even level 7 is only accessible on rare occasions. So perhaps the best solution is to be able to access all of the levels, at different times, depending on the situation.

And then the other question on my mind, which others have raised as well-- how do you prevent people from doing harm at a specific level and/or how do you help them? Drunks and addicts hurt themselves and their families by being stuck at level 1. Codependents or people locked in conflict hurt each other in level 2. Families that isolate themselves are stuck in 3, dogmatists in 4, hyper-rationatlists in 5, pomoers in 6. Can someone even do harm in level 7? Maybe people addicted to psychedelics and "meaningful experiences", who don't actually help anyone or provide any value in the world. I know some people like that.

Anyways, good stuff

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Thanks for the kind words. As I said at the end, I couldn't write this stuff without the conversations I'm lucky to be part of, so thanks for that.

I think your breakdown here is touchingly spot on. Level 5 is the level that responds best to anger (the left hemisphere mostly handles the emotion of anger, as I learned yesterday, handily). But the anger here is hopefully nestled in love. I honestly really love Dawkins and I think he's more Christian than almost anyone alive (he would hate that).

I do think there is beauty in every level. I think that's what I discovered while writing this that I didn't understand before I started. Level 7 is the realm where all levels are made whole and good. And it is a place that can only be visited occasionally. Prayer and meditation.

I don't know but I THINK that there is something special and transcendent about level 7 (maybe why it's a God number?) It seems to unify all the good of other levels, and therefore allows you to exist in any appropriate level while you need to be there. It is the meditating force that allows you to climb up and down Jacob's ladder.

I think the people addicted to psychedelics and such are actually level 6. But I'm not sure.

Does that seem right to you?

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Apr 3Liked by James Taylor Foreman

So the idea is that once you reach a level, you kinda stay there, but can go down and back up when you choose.

Theoretically, people could be level 7 and choose another narrative than Christianity, right? So maybe those people choose something like “the unity of all things,” which feels very Buddhist and an excuse to focus on being to the exclusion of doing. So maybe that’s how you do harm in that level and what the psychedelic dudes are up to. It’s not quite 4, 5, or 6, but it’s also missing the point

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Apr 2Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Read it twice and still cannot comprehend how a thinking person rationalizes belief in a myth, how to be comforted by something that defies logic.. Sad that you're sad..

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author

I understand, Jeff. Thanks for reading.

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Apr 2Liked by James Taylor Foreman

Nice! You might like my thoughts on a similar topic below

https://ranas9.substack.com/p/the-curse-of-knowledge

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Apr 30·edited Apr 30Liked by James Taylor Foreman

I just loved this! Thank you! I, too, have come home to Christ in a real way after many incarnations at various levels. I almost died literally and then died spiritually via the Benzos they kept prescribing me--truly a dark (4-year) night of the soul--throughout it all, like some Hallmark card, the knowledge that only God was carrying me. Have you read Rene Girard about scapegoating and why Christ's self-sacrifice changed that pagan behavior forever? It seems very close to what you are getting at...

On a lighter note, I was watching The Chosen with my 82 yo mother last winter and after the Christ character gave the Sermon on the Mount she said, "I don't care if it's not true. It's still the best philosophy for living there is..." Framing, indeed!

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