William Edelen Blog – The Contrary Minister

William Edelen: Thanksgiving Thoughts


The Contrary Minister (2002)

My mind is filled with thoughts of Thanksgiving. Thursday is the day we set aside to remember blessings that have enriched our days and graced our lives.

I sit back in my chair and let my eyes once again caress the walls of my study, feeling their energy feed my spirit. The book-lined walls, how I love them.

My heart pours out a very special thanksgiving to all of the great and magnificent spirits whose thoughts and words fill these shelves and offer a feast, waiting only for my mind and soul to partake.

Goethe is there, with Albert Schweitzer and Meister Eckhart, the German theologian. There is Jung, Russell and Whitehead, Loren Eiseley and Suzuki, the Zen master, with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. There is Learned Hand and Oliver Wendell Holmes, with e.e. cummings, Robert Frost and hundreds more, waiting to once again fill my spirit with food that is timeless.

William Edelen: Apology for Christianity…

The Contrary Minister (2002)

“For the understanding of religions… a complete understanding of myth is mandatory.” -Mircia Eliade.

[…] When Alfred North Whitehead was the chair of philosophy at Harvard University, he made this observation: “Christian theology has been the greatest disaster in the history of the human race.”

Was he correct? A brief review:

391 C.E. (A.D.): Christians burn down one of the greatest libraries in the world in Alexandria. Over 700,000 scrolls were destroyed.

500 to 1000: The church takes over and brings with it the cancer of the Dark Ages, destroying almost everything that defined civilization. The Christian church all but wiped out education, technology, science, medicine, history, art and commerce. During this period the church amassed enormous wealth.

1099: Christian crusaders take Jerusalem and massacre Jews and Muslims. In the streets were piles of heads, hands and feet. Millions were killed as a result of the Crusades.

William Edelen: No Violence… No Dualism… No Absolutes…


The Contrary Minister (2002)

When asked “What am I?” I always answer by saying I think of myself as being within the historical stream of Mysticism where there is no violence, no dualism and no absolutes.

No Violence: The vast majority of all the religious violence of the last 2,000 years has come from the “believers” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam… the people of the “book,” the bible. Carl Sagan called the burning of the library in Alexandria by Christians in 391 one of the most obscene atrocities in the history of our species, Homo sapiens. Had there been a world view and philosophy of mysticism there would have been no burning of the library, but a celebration of the wealth of knowledge stored there… nor would there have been the Crusades… the Inquisition… the witch slaughtering… nor would there be a Northern Ireland nightmare… nor would there be a West Bank or Gaza strip killing field… Such violence would be unthinkable and obscene to anyone living within the world view of mysticism.

No Dualism: We must rid ourselves of the dualism that infects so much of our orthodox religious views of the earth and the universe. Dualism constantly separates man and woman from the sacred… nature from man… and spirit from matter. Several  years ago the giant Zen Master, D. T. Suzuki, was lecturing at Stanford University. He opened his address by stepping up to the front of the stage, leaning toward the audience, and saying, “Man against God… God against Man… man against nature… nature against man… God against nature… nature against God… a very, very funny religion.”

Willian Edelen: Holy Smoke

s 3

The Contrary Minister (2002)

One of the most fascinating subjects in my studies in Anthropology was the history of tobacco. It has been associated with the sacred for thousands of years in almost all primal cultures, as well as the far more sophisticated ones. Tobacco was divine and had magical powers. Smoking was one of the few universal habits in the Americas, from Alaska to the Maya/Aztec/Toltec area of Meso-America. The arriving Spaniards found the Mayas with tobacco being used everywhere by all ages. It was not only used socially for pleasure and relaxation but, even more important, had profound religious and mythological implications. It influenced their entire life, folklore and art. Over 600 words in American aboriginal languages and dialects have been used to designate tobacco.

William Edelen: The Sanitized Life


The Contrary Minister (2002)

As usual, Mark Twain said it best: “There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and movable which has in any way a shady reputation. They pay this horrible price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.”

The knee-jerk and hysterical people who are on a never ending crusade to sanitize our lives are not only boring, but lose their case by hyperbolic obsession. It is almost impossible today to read a magazine or newspaper  without being overwhelmed by the latest news on what is bad for us to do, eat, drink or smoke. We are told to stay clear of fat, milk, ice cream, butter, cream, sugar, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, red meat, white meat, shell fish… the list would take up the rest of this entire article… of all that will destroy us. How I love that Julia Child, the great goddess of cooking, who uses real butter and real sugar and when asked the secret of her abundant health and energy in her mid-80s replied, “Red meat and gin.”

Perhaps I would change my habits for the better if only anyone was sure what “better” was, or is. I am told to “walk more” and yet Arnold Palmer who has walked 5 miles a day all of his adult life came down with prostate cancer. I would give up my wine at dinner, except that I remember “The French Paradox and the fact that Bertrand Russell sipped about a fifth of bourbon daily and was still strong and productive in his mid-90s, as was Winston Churchill, who not only sipped his bottle of brandy daily but went through a box of expensive cigars, daily.

William Edelen: 2000 Years of Disbelief


The Contrary Minister

I ask this question raised by Carl Jung: “Why are so many millions of people willing and eager to turn their lives over to outside authorities?” Why are so many today willing to turn their mind/brain… soul/spirit over to outside individuals, institutions and ideologies, whether it be Jewish, Muslim or Christian “authorities” of dogma? Or whatever the outside authority might be that is telling you what to think, what to believe and how to live your life.

I ask then, how do we withdraw from such a childish dependency if we want to reclaim our mind/brain and our very own life? I answer this by saying that first you must begin by taking a long, hard critical look at all so called religious authorities wanting to control your life, and be willing to accept the risk that goes with such courage and independence.

Our first six presidents had the courage to do that. American history scholars, writing for the Encyclopedia Britannica, have stated that our first six presidents were Deists and not Christian. I quote: “One of the most embarrassing problems for the nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that not one of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists.” (1968, vol 2 p. 420, Mortimer J. Adler, editor in chief. The Annals of America: Great issues in American Life: A Conspectus).

Thomas Jefferson used these words to express his view: “On the dogmas of religion, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” (Jefferson to Carey in 1816, ms 1V).

William Edelen: Albert Einstein


The Contrary Minister

It is a shame that people think of Albert Einstein only in terms of his genius in physics. He was a prolific and brilliant writer on many subjects.

He was a true mystic who valued intuition and imagination above logic. I quote: “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy, imagination, has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge.”

“To experience the Mystery is the cradle of true art and true science. He who can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead.”

“I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends or my family. I have never lost a sense of distance and the need for solitude.”

William Edelen: Women Without Superstition

Elizabeth Cady Stantonw2
The Contrary Minister

Women Without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters, by Annie Laurie Gaylor, is a very moving, educational and inspirational book. Ninety women are portrayed, women who had virtually no status or respect as individuals. And yet, what a tremendous difference thy made in the life of our nation as they challenged the Christian church, the clergy and organized, orthodox religion.

Two women in the book are such inspiring examples of courage, guts, intelligence and integrity.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote: “We need the courage to go to the source and strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power and canon law. I can tell you that the happiest period of my life has been since I emerged from the shadows and superstitions of the old theologies.”

She was the author of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote. She was the first to call for women’s suffrage in the United States. She fought tirelessly to free women from legal constraints and from the blight of religious superstition.

William Edelen: An Ultimate Role Model

The Contrary Minister

On Monday Sept 22, I went to the front door and picked up my LA TIMES, took it to the kitchen with my coffee, and gasped. A Huge OBIT was written for GERALD LARUE, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at USC, and one of my true “kindred spirits”, “role models” and friends.

He was 98 years old. An internationally respected scholar, a maverick, free thinker, humanist, and “Debunker of biblical stories” in the words of the LA TIMES. His books are treasures filled with the thousands of contradictions and errors in the bible… that the bible thumpers still comically claim is “without error” and “infallible”. It is very similar material to what I have been writing in my newspaper columns for 50 years, and what Joseph Campbell and other biblical scholars have been trying to teach the very gullible and naive public for years.

Our wonderful friendship started at a delightful and stimulating “book signing” event in that incredible book store on “Fashion Island” in Newport Beach, years ago. (Hope it is still there?) We both had written essays for a new book with the title of “THE BOOK YOUR CHURCH DOES NOT WANT YOU TO READ.” Essays included, not only present biblical and religious scholars, but also historical ones of monumental stature, such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc.

William Edelen: My Morning Meditations

The Contrary Minister

During the last 40 years that I have been writing essays, as well as being ordained in the Presbyterian and Congregational churches, many have asked me “do  you pray?” My answer has always been “not in the orthodox sense to a “cosmic bellhop, just waiting for me to ring”… but as “meditations” and “reflections”, yes. My morning meditations are on this MYSTERY beyond comprehension, this planet earth… the Cosmos, the Mystery of creation… and finally the Mystery of you… and me. The “ETERNAL LIGHT” as the source behind the creation.

Eternal light… to whose mind the past and the future meet in our eternal now… we seem to be the creatures of shifting time… to whom the past is soon forgotten… and from whom the future seems veiled……..

This day seems to be but a gleam of light between two nights of dark… between two mysteries which are yet ONE… we still sense, and we feel that we are more than we seem… that somehow in some way we are connected with and are a part of the eternal source…

William Edelen:  A spiritual union – mountain and desert 


The Contrary Minister

In the Coachella Valley, where I live, there exists what could be one of the most powerful energy fields on the planet, with Mt. San Jacinto at near 11,000 feet hovering over, protecting, watching, loving the desert of the eternal valley called Coachella, the result of an ancient lake that covered the entire valley and long ago receded to the ocean.

The sun, like a jealous lover, hovers over the desert in a protective manner, unique and unknown to rain forests and the endless waters of the ocean.

The desert reduces everything to essentials, to the basics of whitened bone. The desert, perhaps more than any other place on earth, speaks of silence, simplicity and solitude. The desert calls to men and women who being wasted away by the stress, confusion and anxieties of city life, yearn for a spiritual retreat, an escape from the demon time, the clock and the calendar that that so enslave us.

All great spiritual traditions began, from a desert or a mountain, with the vision quest of one lone, single individual who, in solitude and silence, saw through the veil of the superficial into those realms and dimensions of reality that were of the timeless and eternal.

William Edelen: The Web of the Universe


The Contrary Minister



Stanley Kunitz
Twice Poet Laureate of the United States 

The AMERICAN INDIAN would agree.

EINSTEIN would agree.

The DALAI LAMA would agree.

CARL JUNG would agree as he wrote eloquently in his classic book “THE EARTH HAS A SOUL”. Quote: “It remained for modern science to DE-spiritualize nature through its SO-CALLED “objective” knowledge. Man’s mystical identity with nature was curtailed as never before. We have been cut off from the earth through more than A THOUSAND YEARS OF CHRISTIAN TRAINING. This is the SICKNESS of Western man and he will not rest until he has infected the whole world with his own GREED.”

William Edelen: It’s In the Genes — The Bright Light of Truth

eMy maternal grandparents: Papa and Mama Deaver

The Contrary Minister

Over the entire 40 years that I have been writing “religious” columns… I have received, literally, hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls saying “THANK YOU… for setting me free from the mental prison of organized doctrine and dogma”. Maybe my column today will have a similar effect on human lives, suffering from this issue.

My subject is about ‘GENETICS’ and family history. Why am I writing about that? Because TRUTH matters. And truth is not as bad as our ignorant and half formed fears about it. Everybody today is knowledgeable about DNA (genetics) and its value in family history… relationships… paternity… and so forth. But many remain ignorant about the value of genetics in shaping a human being with values and personality traits and habits. “MAN IS A THINKING MUTANT,” wrote Pascal. And so it is.

 William Edelen: Albert Einstein and the Dalai Lama — kindred souls with the American Indian…



Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for his THEORY OF PHOTOELECTRICITY, and of course his THEORY OF RELATIVITY is known throughout the world.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, is the head of state and also the spiritual leader of Tibet.

In every other area of life and living, apart from physics, these two men were truly kindred souls with shared views on almost every subject and identical AND with the spirituality of the American Indian… whose cosmology and beliefs were also almost identical.

The Dalai Lama said, “I am NOT a Buddhist. I live by the principles found in many of the great spiritual traditions” and “We can live without religion and meditation. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy or theology. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.”

William Edelen: Leviticus and Homophobics

The Contrary Minister

Don’t you just love the homophobics, the bigots and clowns of the Christian Coalition and fundamentalists? “The bible is God’s word,” they yell at us… “the bible is true… every word… and by God himself… and we live by that book… and what it says… we do. And it says right there in Leviticus 18:22 that you shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

Now, if we live by that archaic, ignorant and superstitious book, just look who else is going to hell. Ah, what fun. Practically all the political leaders in Washington, that’s who. “And God said you shall not marry a woman divorced from her husband.” (21:7). How I love that bible. There went Reagan… Dole… Gingrich… Buchanan and all those other big shot Republicans and Democrats who have broken God’s law and married divorced women.

William Edelen: Reflections On My Own Death

The Contrary Minister

At age 92 and facing reality and natures laws, I know that my days are now “dwindling down to a precious few.” (September Song). I write my reflections on this subject as an essay as my gift to you. In all my years as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, and my own unique Sunday Symposiums from Santa Rosa, CA to Palm Springs, CA, the one question that has been asked me THOUSANDS of times is… “BILL, WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ABOUT DEATH… AND BEYOND… WHAT DO YOU THINK REALLY HAPPENS?”

Many Christian churches have promoted and thrived on a FEAR of death and dying and the JUDGEMENT that goes with it from a “hit man” anthropomorphic “God”. The biblical St. Paul writes, “The last ENEMY that shall be overcome is death.” In Buddhism, Zen and Taoism, they laugh at this absurdity and stupidity of DEATH as an ENEMY. How could anything as NATURAL as death be an enemy? EVERY living organism dies. It is a natural and beautiful part of birth and life. I totally agree, and as a former lecturer in Eastern thought on this subject find the archaic “fear” and “judgment” preached by many Christian pastors illiterate, insulting, degrading, cruel and outrageous.

William Edelen: Robert Ingersoll

The Contrary Minister
[Repost Celebrating Ingersoll’s Birthday August 11]

What is surprising is that Robert Ingersoll is so little known in our time. He lived from 1833 to 1899 and was internationally known as the “great Agnostic,” one of the most brilliant thinkers, lawyers, orators, debaters and authors of his day, or any day. Twelve volumes of his works are still available and are a collector’s treasure. He lectured all over the United States and abroad to standing-room-only audiences.

He spoke on many subjects, but thousands upon thousands turned out to hear him demolish the absurdities of orthodox religious dogmas. He found them repugnant due to the damage they did to the human mind and spirit. He and Thomas Jefferson shared similar views regarding organized religion. And yet, on a deep and profound level he had a sense of the mystery that was breathtaking.

I can tell you that without exception his funeral eulogies are the most beautiful that I have read in the English language. The poet laureate of the universe, Walt Whitman, said that only one man could speak at his funeral, and that man was Robert Ingersoll.

Carl Sandburg said of Ingersoll’s eulogy of Whitman, “It was a most precious treasure.”

William Edelen: The Language of the Soul


The Contrary Minister

Music is the language of the soul and the cathedral of the human spirit. More human beings have been moved, healed, inspired, up-lifted, redeemed and transformed by music than by all of the philosophies and contradictory theologies ever written. If a “God” is beyond human comprehension, then “theology” is a pseudo-science without a subject matter and the theologian is one who does not know what he is talking about. But, through music, joy, love, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter and meditations find a voice that fills our hearts.

Dr. Lewis Thomas, former Dean of the Yale University School of Medicine, writes these words in Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony: “Music is the most profound mystery of human existence. No one has the ghost of an idea about what music is, or why we make it and cannot be human without it. How does the human mind make music on its own, before it is written down and played? Nobody can explain it. It is the greatest mystery of the human mind.”


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