What if?

Recently I had a very deep philosophical discussion with an atheist friend of mine. It’s always a very engaging discourse and always sparks thoughts in my mind about what my beliefs are, what they aren’t, and how they’ve evolved over the past several years. The overwhelming question is always the same though: What if?

What if there is no life after death?
What if love is just a chemical reaction in the brain?
What if the Bible is just Bronze Age mythological nonsense?
What if God does not exist?

Could billions of people have been duped into what those with “enlightened minds” consider simple-minded dogmatic nonsense? Have countless hours of Bible Study, Torah teachings, and Sunday Sermons over the course of the last 2000 years been an abominable waste of time and effort? I would be lying if I said that I haven’t questioned with boldness the existence of God or the reliability and credibility of the Bible. To truly believe requires the suspense of reason and a leap of faith. However, one could argue that to not believe also requires a similar leap. Does belief in God and the study of Scriptures parallel what the modern organized churches execute? Maybe the question could be posed as – What if the churches have got it all wrong? It’s pretty clear that many of them get it very wrong. I recall a gentle and kind Jewish man saying “Love one another” and another one saying “faith without works is dead“. Yet we see angry people cursing, judging, and condemning other people because of “sinful lifestyles”. That’s a bit hypocritical don’t you think? Especially when “judge no one” is a tenet. We could go into the not so distant past to see a number of church led atrocities, but that’s not a path to take for this post. The fact is that to many churches place dogmas over morals and tithing over charity.

True religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

So let’s take the position of atheism. Let’s say God doesn’t exist and that the Bible is irrelevant. Then we are merely carbon based globs of cells with no purpose, no significance, and no accountability. We are just specks of dust amidst a vast immeasurable universe. Love, compassion, morality, and evil are mere chemical reactions equivalent to burps and farts. Well, that’s a pretty bleak view isn’t it? Of course the secular defense would be that morality and justice in a godless world are possible because they “feel right” and are qualified by using “reason” and “common sense”. Well, where do those things come from? There has to be a common thread that weaves all mankind together when it comes to matters of morality, love, and the thirst for knowledge and truth.

What if God is incomprehensible?
What if the Bible needs to be studied (personal studies not just in a group) in order to be understood?
What if love is the breath of the divine within our souls?
What if our sense of morality is a divine influence?

The idea that our existence is just pure happenstance could be a fact, however there is no reason we have to live it that way. If our lives are the only lives we will ever have, shouldn’t we be as productive as we can and leave a legacy, maybe leave the world just a little better than when we got here? Science can explain a lot of things, but why let it reduce us to a state of hopeless meaninglessness

It has often been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. The idea being that when a person finds themselves in a life threatening situation or is in the deepest state of despair they always look up. They cry out to someone. Sure, they may not recite a prayer or cry out “My God, why have you abandoned me?“. But, they do cry out, they say “why me?” or “what did I do to deserve this?”. Well, just who the heck do you think you are talking to? What if it’s God and you just don’t realize it?

The Apocalypse Revisited

It is always darkest before the dawn. So if there is to be an ending in which evil falls and good finally prevails, then an apocalyptic showdown is inevitable. Much has been written on the matter and none of it comes without some level of allegory or esoteric context. Whether they be Biblical, natural, or philosophical, any prophecy or prediction of how it will all end is merely hypothetical. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the concept that the same essence that created life, the cosmos, and the intricate laws which govern it, did so with the intent of destroying it all at some point. However if that be the case, I would like to offer my view as to how this final showdown will play out. I will use as my reference the themes found in the following Biblical texts: Genesis, Job, Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew, John, Revelation, and personal inspiration (quite possibly divine in nature).

The world is in darkness and immorality reigns supreme. The rejection of the Creator is commonplace and people worship money and put faith in themselves. Then suddenly there was a windstorm coming out of the north —an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light and the earth is unraveled and laid flat. Then from within the light a royal court appears. There are 3 thrones, a large throne and 2 smaller thrones, one to the left of the large throne and one to the right. In the larger throne is a being that is made of pure Light. The body is like gold and silver and the face is unable to be seen due to the brightness emanating from it. Seated to the right is a man in a white robe with gold piping. He looks as human as everyone else, with a gentle and familiar face. The throne to the left is vacant and made of pure gold with red velvet padding. Then the being in the center speaks and the voice booms like thunder “Where is the Accuser, the Prince of the Earth?” Then the man in the throne to the right rises and says, “Father, Sovereign of the Universe, he is roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it”. Then he said, “Prince of the Earth, come forth.” Suddenly another man appeared seated in the throne to the left. He looked very similar to the man in the throne on the right except his robe was worn and ashy. He spoke, “Eternal One, what is your command?” Suddenly, the people realized that the being in the center throne was God and to his right was Jesus, the Prince of Heaven and to his left Lucifer, the Prince of the Earth. Then God said, “All will be judged”. Then Jesus and Lucifer rose up from their thrones and faced God, both bowed and Jesus spoke first. “Eternal One, I have the righteous and plead their case. They fed the hungry, provided drink to the thirsty, and comforted those who fell by the wayside.” The God said, “What of the faithful?” and Jesus said “Faith without works is dead”. Then God spoke to Lucifer, “What say you of the condemned?” Then Lucifer said, “You commanded me to test the faithful and to lure the weak. This I have done and many have strayed from your ways.” Suddenly there was thunder and lighting and a smoldering abyss of fire and smoke appeared. “This will be the eternal place of torment for all who have fallen short of my ways.” God said. Lucifer fell to his knees and cried, “Eternal King, I did your bidding. You sent me to tempt and I tempted, you sent me to accuse and I accused. Their souls were weak because of me. Show mercy on them.” Then God said, “They showed no mercy to the poor and destitute. Why should I show mercy upon them?” Then Jesus said, “They rejected my teachings and served themselves. Why should they enter the kingdom?” Then God said to Lucifer, “Do you take the blame for those you have deceived?” Then Lucifer bowed again, “I do”. Then Lucifer said, “I have put every evil thought in their mind and prodded them to do evil. It is because of me that all have failed”. Then God said, “I gave all of them the Prince of Heaven too. Yet, they chose you over him. Why should I not condemn them?” Then Lucifer said, “If it be your will condemn them, but you must condemn me as well”. Then Jesus said, “Father, I shall take this cup.” Then God said, “My son, you already have”. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than of the one who will lay down his life for his friends and the Prince of the Earth has offered to pay their price just as I did. Should the price be paid again?” “Now, in the final hour are all are to be forgiven?” said God. “You created every living thing and when man chose to take the yoke of knowledge of both good and evil, many times they choose evil.” Jesus said. “Yet, the Prince of the Earth was tempting them the whole time, making the path of evil easier than the path of righteousness. How are they to compete with the power of the Prince of the Earth? He was the craftiest of all your creations.” Then Lucifer said, “I am powerless before you Great King. For aeons I have suffered separation from you and tempted your creation. I did your bidding and now I take this yoke and accept their punishment.” Then God said, “My children, all will be forgiven. Those of who have done evil must first be cleansed and then they will enter my kingdom.” Lucifer bowed to God and then bowed to Jesus. Jesus picked Lucifer up and embraced him. The final battle is ended.

I have quoted several lines of scripture in this story. I have also written it in 3 layers. To many of you the surface layer may contradict what you believe to be church doctrine. You are going to have to look past that and dig deeper. As always comments and emails are welcome.

Who is in control?

The notion that we are all sinful wretches worthy of punishment and that the physical world is the dominion and under the tyrannical control of a being known as Satan, is a dogma that I have always opposed. Satan, as Christianity perceives him, did not originate until the Gospels and Epistles. The very few references to Satan in the Jewish Scriptures paint this being in a far different way then the mainstream belief of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Satan is not the serpent in the creation account found in Genesis, nor is he the Prince of the Earth (whatever that means) that we see portrayed in gospels and epistles. Satan, in Jewish Scripture, is the “accuser” and “tempter”. He is not a fallen angel, as some wrongfully interpret Isaiah 14:12 (which when read in full context is an allusion to King Nebuchadnezzar). Satan, according to Jewish Scripture, is and always has been a servant of God. The servant who test one’s faith and resolve, but as clearly displayed in the book of Job, Satan acts and operates at the will and pleasure of the Almighty God.

So where did the concept of the evil, horned, red body-suit wearing, pitch fork carrying sovereign of hell come from? Well, truth be told, the devil that billions of Christians despise and the Hell they hope to avoid by having faith in Jesus are NOT Biblical. Both of them find their origins in a fused interpretation of Dante’s Inferno, the Divine Comedy and the Greco-Roman character known as Hades. The very few references to hell that exist are all in the Gospels and Epistles and they are better translated as the “pit” or Gehenna, which was an area outside the Jewish tribal camps (and later Jerusalem) where the worshippers of Baal and Molech would sacrifice their children by fire. This was an area that the Jews knew physically existed and they feared it. If Torah observance was not strictly adhered to one could get thrown out of the camp or city and face the threat of the “pit”. How a physical place was spun into a place of eternal torment is the crafty work of Augustine and it’s purpose, one could argue, was to scare people into conformity.

Let’s now apply reason and a rational view here. If God is all-powerful than he is all-powerful and the Sovereign of the Universe that Abraham claimed the Almighty to be. This means God and only God is in control and not a rebellious servant in the fiery bowels of the earth. If we are created in the image of God, than we have all the attributes of the Divine. We could not therefore be insignificant wretches that are full of sin and because of poor choices we may have made are somehow worthy of ETERNAL punishment. Let’s think for a minute about this gross implication of injustice. Most people live less than 100 years. What kind of justice is displayed where the mere lack of believing in something for the decades we spend on earth would somehow justify an ETERNAL sentence to torture and punishment? Not a life sentence, but a relentless and unending sentence with no hope for reconciliation or even parole. Where is the grace mercy and peace of the Father? Would the very Creator who created all things and imbued us with Reason and intellect really require that faith and faith alone ensure eternal bliss? Would the divine inspiration that is claimed to have been revealed to a small number of sages in the most primitive and ignorant corner of the earth, be the only source of this critical message? If this be true, why would the message be so cryptic and have so many examples of injustice within it?

Let me propose the following:

  • You are not a filthy wretch.
  • You are not unworthy of love.
  • You are not flawed.
  • You are not a disgrace.
  • You are not worthy of punishment.
  • You are not under an inherited curse of a sin that someone else committed.
  • You are not under the dominion of a powerful evil being who’s out to get you.

What you are is a living, breathing, and beautiful person. You have good attributes and you have bad. You have the freedom to choose how you use the strengths you possess and how you surrender to your weakness. If you have read this far, than you have a contemplative sense of reason and are willing to go behind the veils of dogma and uncover the purest source of truth. Everyone has the need to feel a sense of hope and an element of higher purpose. The idea that we are merely a carbon based collection of molecules and cells that act in repetitive and sometime meaningless ways and are destined to be inanimate patches of dust, is hardly inspirational to most people. This is why people feel deep within the recesses of their mind and soul that there must be something greater than ourselves. How can the wonder of time and the majesty of nature be the product of a Divine Judge that places matters of thought over physical actions?

Am I speaking against Scripture? No. I am merely providing my view of the Divine, just like the authors of the various books of Scripture did. Call me heretical if you want, but we know a lot more now about the universe, earth, the human genome, physics, medicine, human psychology, and a host of other quantifiable facts than any of the Bronze Age authors of Scripture ever knew. There is a strong argument that Biblical inerrancy is only in context not in content.

But Nelson, my pastor says this or Joel Osteen says that, or Joyce Meyer advocates this and Rick Warren wrote that… Well, why don’t we compare their motivational factors to mine. What exactly am I asking you for? Have I passed around an offering plate? Have I told you to call my prayer line and contribute to my ministry? Have I told you that I need you to “give all you can” and promised a ten-fold blessing from God in return for your offering? Nope. I am just on a quest for light and have welcomed you to accompany me on it and nothing more.

All I have ever asked is for 2 very simple things:

That you think with an open and rational mind.
That you love one another.

Ask yourself this question:
If this is the only life you will have and there is no resurrection or after-life, are you living life to the fullest?

One more question:
Why not?

Beware the Golden Calf

Worshiping the golden calf, as in Exodus 32:1-...

Worshiping the golden calf, as in Exodus 32:1-35, illustration from a Bible card published 1901 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Biblical tradition after the Israelites were liberated from bondage of the Pharoah of Egypt they arrived at Mt. Sinai where the first and only mass revelation of the Almighty Creator of the world occurred.  The mountain was shrouded in thick smoke and fire blazed as the voice of the Almighty uttered the Decalogue (or 10 Commandments).  The people feared for their lives and begged Moses to go up to the mountain and act as an intermediary between themselves and this awesome manifestation of the Creator.  So Moses went up the mountain where it is believed the rest of the Torah (or first 5 books of the Bible) were communicated to him over the course of 40 days.

Apparently it only took 40 days for this awesome revelation to be forgotten and the Israelites demanded Moses’ brother Aaron to create a new God for them.  So all the gold was collected and the Golden Calf appeared.   It’s amazing how quickly the people turned to a new god after witnessing the awesome power of the Creator.  When Moses came down from the mountain he was outraged at the idolatry, destroyed the tablets and ordered the execution of thousands before going back up the mountain to beg for forgiveness and receive the Torah again.

It is very unlikely that this Biblical Account is based on an actual event that occurred.  To be totally honest, it doesn’t have to be based on a true event to teach a very important message.  The Bible is a highly allegorical book with veiled teachings and very little of it should be taken literally.  It has been a long tradition, that still exists to this day, to teach lessons – especially ones about life and morality – using stories (or parables).  This is why Rabbis and scholars have studied the Bible so much for thousands of years.  

So, let’s look at this allegorically and with a touch of rationalism.

Why on earth would people who had just witnessed the undeniable revelation of the Almighty start worshiping a Golden Calf?  Surely if you or I had witnessed something like this we would never had resorted to the worship of an inanimate object, right?

Wrong.

The Golden Calf is still around today and is worshiped by more people than any other god that has ever been worshiped.  In fact, at one point in time everyone reading this (myself included) has worshiped the Golden Calf.  Not the physical one, but what it actually represents.

Gold = wealth, money, power

Calf = food, sustenance, possessions

Combine the 2 and you have the formula for the root of all evil – greed.

So what’s the lesson?

We should not think that the world revolves around us.  That our problems are bigger than someone else’s.  That we are more deserving than someone else to have a bigger house or a larger income.  That personal wealth makes us better than our friends. The thought that the person who works at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s is any less of a person than the CEO of a major corporation is detestable and immoral.  The Golden Calf represents the dangers of people relying on the physical things to make themselves happy or to calculate their worth.  It’s not what’s in your bank account that defines you, it’s what’s in your heart and your mind.

In addition to not valuing the physical and monetary is the necessity to revere God.  God, is not a tyrant and not an anthropomorphic judgemental deity.  God, in the simplest of terms, is the essence of life and the origin of love and morality.

The lesson is to value life and to love one another and that morality really matters.  To accept the fact that there is something beyond our comprehension that enables life and weaves together the fabric of time and space.  That nothing we gather in life goes with us when we die.  So rather than focus all our energy on ourselves, we should focus it more on those around us.

Beware the Golden Calf.

The “power” of the mind and prayer

The human mind is an incredibly powerful and amazing creation. When you think (pun intended) about the things the mind is capable of you have to wonder why the words I can’t are in anyone’s vocabulary. The subconscious mind controls the senses, the emotions, and the essential life systems and cycles of the body. The mind truly is a terrible thing to waste on some of the mundane silliness we seem to waste it on this days (ie. “Reality TV”)

If the mind is capable of creating an entirely parallel universe while you are dreaming and if we, as it is written, are created in the image of our Creator, how can anyone doubt, question, or even fathom the limits of the power of the mind? The even greater power of collective consciousness can even be physical felt by those around it, whether they wanted to feel it or not. Collective consciousness is, in simple terms, a group of people thinking and focusing on the same thing. The easiest examples are pep rallies, funerals, and even a business conference room. Think of the almost electric positive vibe you can feel at a pep rally, the somber sadness you can feel during a funeral, or the tension in a conference room when opposing parties are engaged in a serious ideological debate.

So what does this have to do with prayer?

When someone prays it is a deep mental process (unless it’s a shallow recitation or going through the motions). So depending on the depth of a person’s consciousness, a prayer by a single person can very easily change their mood and perceptions of their situation. Now, add a few people who have the depth of consciousness and who knows the possibilities. This is where some “prayer circles” may have the “power” to impact their surroundings. I’m not saying a group of people can form a prayer circle and eliminate cancer, however imagine if for a few moments the entire planet at the same time focused on the same topic… The outcome could be astounding. I realize this may seem completely irrational to the secular mind. To those people I revert to my previous examples of the energy at a pep rally and the somberness you can feel at a funeral and ask them to come up with a better explanation than collective consciousness.

Do you know someone who is extremely persuasive? You know, that friend who can talk you into anything or that sales guy who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Have you considered the fact that this is a person, whether they know it or not, had the ability to use their mind to influence yours? Think of the scores of motivational speakers, religious teachers, even regular teachers that with their words (which originate from their mind) plant seeds of hope and knowledge into the minds of the people they speak to. These seeds then grow into other thoughts based on that person’s perspective of what they thought they heard.

In today’s world people really don’t use their minds as much anymore. The rise of technology have made things like spelling and grammar to be unnecessary skills. Studying and reading have been replaced with television and video games. As smart as we think we are, we are probably less intelligent than people were just a century ago. Think of people like Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and even further back – Pythagoras. Do we have anyone even remotely comparable to these people? In ages past some people, like Nostradamus, were so in touch with their subconsciousness that they could pinch the ripple of time and predict events that would occur centuries later.

The power of human thought is immeasurable. Sincerely focused prayer from a non-dogmatic perspective is literally a person tapping into the innermost recesses of their mind and consciousness. The possibilities of those thoughts really could be limitless.

Think about it.

The Blood, The Word, and the Reason

There are 2 passages of scripture that almost everyone has heard at one point in their life regardless of whether they are religious or not:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

and

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish…” John 3:16

The first passage is clear. All things come from God. No other being. The ultimate sovereign of the universe is God and only God. And as Deuteronomy 6:4 states: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God is One”. There is only one God and there is not a multiplicity of this God nor is there any other being – good or evil – equal to God.

So why would the second passage be necessary? Why would the Creator of all things and Master of the Universe have to sacrifice his “son” for anything? I personally have a hard time with the concept that God would have to do anything to forgive me outside of let say… Forgiving me.

This is where context and an allegorical exegesis of scripture is needed. The kind of things mainstream preachers would denounce as heresy. Frankly, I’d rather interpret scripture for myself than let someone who’s paid to do it do it for me. Jewish tradition has always held to individual commentary of scripture because only the Decalogue (10 commandments) is “etched in stone”. The Talmud, Mishnah, and Zohar are examples of that continuous search for hidden meaning. Jesus himself used parables to provide his interpretation of the Torah and the Psalms and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are perhaps the best interpretation of Torah ever uttered.

We are in the midst of Passover, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. I personally believe that there is a deeper allegorical meaning in all of these mythological events. However to keep this blog post under a thousand words, I am going to focus on the Passion of Jesus from a non-dogmatic and allegorical perspective.

The primary verse in all of Christian scripture is John 3:16. It is this verse that billions of Christians base their faith and belief in Jesus. What if there is an entirely different meaning than the one developed by the early church fathers? A tradition that was formed then that has snow-balled into a religion that worships Jesus instead of following him. Let’s take a look at another series of passages:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

“and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – John 1:14

Now I am going to paste all of these passages together:
In the beginning the One and only God created the heavens and the earth. From God’s word all things were created and through God’s word all men can be one with Him for eternity. Man was created in the image of God and wanted to be God, so man rejected the Word. Man became a mortal being and God had compassion on him. Many times God had compassion on man and many times man rejected his Word. So God made the Word into flesh so that man could know God face to face and have a living example of the Word. Once again man rejected the Word and rejected the Word by shedding blood. Man can reject God’s Word but, that will never destroy it. So therefore God so loved the world that he gave us his Word and whoever believes in God and follows his Word will be one with God for all eternity.

I know what you are thinking. I used a lot more passages than I said I was going to do. To be completely honest every single word I just wrote came from somewhere in the Bible. (all are easy to find)

But wait, there’s more. I am obviously not going to leave you hanging without talking about the actual death of Jesus. The death of Jesus was a tragedy. The greatest of all Rabbis who wanted nothing more than to teach everyone the sum total of the Word:

“Love your neighbor as yourself”. The lesson was so important that Jesus even gave us an example of the most profound act of love a person can show anyone “that a man lay down his life for his friends”.

In a world so technologically advanced it is difficult for many people to believe the miracles attributed to Biblical characters. It is also very difficult to accept that some of the very violent forms of punishment in the Bible can be attributed to a merciful and loving God. Whether the characters in the Bible actually lived or whether the events recorded actually happened is irrelevant. What is so ever critical to remember is that it doesn’t really matter what the Bible says – it is the underlying meaning that matters the most.

The Bible is unique in that it can be interpreted in so many ways – good and bad. I personally believe that to truly understand it you need to keep reading it.

I went to church today…

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR)

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a while since I walked into a church, today I broke that streak.  My ability to write this blog rules out any indication that I was struck by lightning for walking in those doors.  I also regret to inform my Christian friends eager for me to be born again that that didn’t happen either.  I did enjoy the service very much though and as with any occasion when the person in the pulpit is actually well-educated in scripture in a non-dogmatic way, I learned something and was impressed with his perspective.  The service focused around Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how it was a testament to the importance of prayer.  The pastor wove the necessity of prayer into how it can affect our relationships with other people.  I don’t know if the folks were listening, but he pretty much blasted the notion of self-serving prayer and crisis hotline prayers – this was a very good message!   Naturally, I went on with my day and was looking forward to everyone going to sleep so that I could take the time to read the entire Letter of Paul to the Philippians just so that I could get the complete context – yes, I will always be skeptical of another person’s method of scriptural exegesis.  It is a very short epistle and I will have to admit it is one of Paul’s better writings.  I read it in its entirety in both the KJV and the NIV and was happy to see the pastor didn’t spin it out of context.  This was a nice discovery because my kids really enjoyed the youth activity that was going on while the “big people were in the big room”.

So why did I go to church?’

Well, to be honest my kids need more stuff to do and they have some really good friends that go there and my wife and I figured it would be a good thing for them.  Mind you my wife is about as secular as it gets so if she is telling me we should go to a church, it has to be divine intervention.  The kids had a blast and want to go back so we will.

What happened to me converting to Judaism?

I can’t go through a conversion because I refuse to go into anything halfway.  This means a conversion to really be legit, I would need to go Orthodox.  That kind of thing affects more than just me, it affects the entire family.  And while I thoroughly enjoy Torah study, I do not believe any writings of man to be infallible and I still found a lot of value in the New Testament and it is really hard not to admire the character of Jesus.

So am I a Christian?

If being a Christian means that I revere the character of Jesus, respect his teachings above all others, and believe that by following his example is the manner in which a person can live a moral life – than the answer would be yes.

If being a Christian means that I believe Jesus is God and should be worshiped, and that faith in his death and resurrection will wipe away all my sins and that is all I need to go to heaven – than the answer is no.

My mind is full of ideas for more posts – this may be a busy week here at The Quest so stay tuned.

What is the true nature of God?

English: Vitruvian man by Leonardo da Vinci

Image via Wikipedia

With all the pain and suffering we see in the world one of the primary weapons an atheist has against the concept of deity is why an all-loving and father-like deity would allow bad things to happen. As we have advanced in science and technology the concept of an anthropomorphic deity is a very difficult concept to defend. Many people casually dismiss the argument with statements like “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Trust in the Lord”, but I am pretty sure in the back of most people’s minds the question of “Why?” and the statement “it’s not fair” still lingers. Blind faith is not easy for the contemplative mind and it is almost impossible to measure with any sense of reason. I know what some of you are thinking, “We can’t understand the nature of the Divine”, but I think that’s because we try to humanize the Divine way to much. Rather than try to measure ourselves up to it, we diminish the greatness of that great unknown element of the first and perpetual cause of the cosmos by applying human attributes.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Mormon, or Muslim all of scripture originates in the Torah. Regardless of your stance on reliability of translations, divine inspiration, historical accuracy, or the infallibility of the text there is one undeniable truth that no one can dispute – It was written by men in an attempt to explain the unexplainable. What if we, the more technologically advanced version of the Patriarchs, are completely missing the point? What if understanding the concept of deity is really achieved by making a real earnest effort at understanding ourselves?

The human body is essentially a microcosm of the universe and the brain a mini version of the Divine. I realize this borders on heresy to some of you, but bear with me here. The Divine is in complete control of all creation, much like the mind is in complete control of the body right? Then why did you let yourself stub your toe the other day? Why did you say such a harsh thing that you later claim you really didn’t mean? Why did you cheat? Why do you allow yourself to get a paper cut? Why is your hair not cooperating with your comb? Why do you have to brush your teeth to prevent decay? These things happened and you didn’t want them to. I thought the brain controlled everything.

Getting the point? There is a difference between Divine Consciousness and Divine Control.

I am pretty sure you have gotten angry and snapped at someone and then regret it later. Is that your mind admonishing your instinctive reaction? You ever forget something and then remember it later? If you remembered it, you really didn’t forget it. (ie. “The Lord remembered Noah“) How can I be so bold as to say we are like the Divine? Need I remind you that we are “created in the image and likeness” of the Divine. Perhaps getting to know the nature of the Divine is only achievable when we try to understand ourselves. Meditation and prayer to many, have been ways to relax and to find solace. It is a bit ironic that this is an exercise you do on your own. But are you really alone? When you close your eyes and clear your mind, focusing on each breath as it enters your lungs and is then released, you aren’t alone. In fact this is probably the only time you are focusing on your breathing when your brain has been gauging the activity of your lungs since conception. When we were created we received the “breath of life” and that one breath started a reaction within us that continues with every single breath we take and just as our body evolves, so does the rest of creation.

Perhaps the answers to our questions have actually be in right in front of us the whole time – looking right back at us in the mirror.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

In His image?

Life is full of trials and tribulations. We live in a world that has become so morally corrupt that many of us find ourselves questioning our own morality. The sad thing is many don’t even bother and have chosen to make themselves the center of the universe and that is a big problem. Especially when it’s done at the expense of those around you.  We elevate the most detestable people to almost god-like status and mock those who are open about their faith and believe they are accountable to a higher power, regardless of what that faith might be. We judge people without first putting ourselves in their shoes and we show favoritism to those whom we feel it would benefit us to do so.
 
Science and technology have changed the world so much that society has almost completely forgotten that there is an author of the laws of science and the revealer of hidden knowledge.  If we hold ourselves accountable to each other, while this is a valid pretense, it is not enough. The changes in culture and society have created a mindset of “I can do whatever I want and I don’t care what anyone thinks”.
 
What happened to Love your neighbor as yourself?
 
Since when did our own personal satisfaction outweigh the burden it could place on someone else?
 
Since when has aiding the distressed widow, orphan, and poor become someone else’s job?
 
When did charity become anything other than an obligation we have to each other?
 
We have lost our way and the less value we place on the lives of others the easier it becomes to turn a blind eye to abuse and to kill people because they live a certain lifestyle or follow a path we disagree with. When people feel this way, then the governments they control adjust their policies. When countries refuse to listen to each other than war is imminent.  If to many countries begin to fight each other than the results can be catastrophic.
 
The scariest part of all is this is it is a continuous cycle. Mankind goes through periods of enlightenment and then periods of darkness. In the Torah the creation account ends each day with “there was evening and morning”.   Have you ever wondered why this is stated and why it is repeated with each of the successive days?
 
Evening = Darkness
Morning = Light
 
Out of darkness came light and each day requires both to be complete.  Everything requires its opposing force in order to find equilibrium.  Darkness and Light, Good and evil, male and female, love and hate, liberty and oppression.  One cannot exist without  the other.
As people we can never be perfect.
 
Or can we?
 
What if “in His image” really meant it?  Is our Creator both good and evil?   What if “let US make man” meant a good god and a bad god?  That would go against the grain of monotheism and the concept of one Sovereign of the Universe. Some say our Creator is not evil and is all good.  Is that true?  How many babies died in the flood?  How many babies died during the Passover?  These were not holocausts inflicted by man like what the Nazis did.  This was a Divine action.
 
What if the Torah, the Christian Bible, and the Quran are just story books? Loosely based on facts, but mostly allegories and myths designed to teach lessons and an attempt to comprehend that Great Source of all things?
 
What if the concept of an interventional deity is completely bogus?  Not because of scripture, but because of what we see happening every single day.  If we were created with free-will out of love so that we would not be divine puppets, how can a loving father-like deity allow so much pain?  Why are innocent little children allowed to be molested and murdered? If Jesus, God, Hashem, Elohim, or Allah is an all loving God watching over us, why do these terrible things happen?
 
The argument against our Creator is the same argument that can be use to prove the existence.
 
As you gaze up at the stars and get lost in the cosmos, what do you see?
 
When you stare into a campfire at night, what do you see?
 
When you sit at the edge of the sea-shore and watch the tides roll in, what do you see?
 
When you walk outside and feel the wind blowing against your face, what do you feel?
 
The stars are beautiful, but an asteroid can fall from the heavens and vaporize everything on earth.
 
A fire can be hypnotic, can keep you warm, and provide energy.  It can also destroy everything in its path and cause a very painful death to any living thing.
 
The ocean can be soothing and provides life to billions of animals.  It can also create massive storms and tidal surges that can decimate everything in its path.
 
The wind can provide comfort on a hot day.  It can also form into a tornado and within a matter of second destroy everything that feels its touch.
 
Our every action has a corresponding reaction. Words once spoken can never be taken back and a heart once broken can never be fully mended.  The allegorical evils attributed to the Divine in all forms of scripture are myths. They are always tied to an evil provocation and the intent is to show a measure for measure form of Divine justice. This too is an allegory that shows that we have both darkness and light within us and that we ultimately decide our path.  The path we take does not just impact our own life but every person around us.
 

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

Yet Another Paradigm

King James Version of the Bible

Image via Wikipedia

Lately, I have had something tugging at my soul due to some pretty deep discussions with a few of you. So much so that I have begun to rethink what my beliefs really are (not that they have ever actually been crystal clear to begin with). For the better part of 2 years now I have been restricting my religious studies to that of Rabbinical Judaism (Torah, Talmud, Mishna and Kabbalah). The knowledge and sense of fulfilment that I have felt in this process is beyond words. However, for some reason I have felt something was missing.

Then while I was delivering a charge in the Lodge (remember I’m a Freemason) something, as if by Providence, clicked while I recited this line in the charge right as my eyes gazed upon the open Bible on the altar. For those of you who do not know, every Masonic Lodge has an altar and while the lodge is at labor (or the meeting is in progress) the Bible is open.

Finally Brethren, be ye all of one mind and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

Yes, I just quoted the Apostle Paul.

Freemasonry uses the Holy Bible as its rule and guide in life. When a man is Raised to the degree of Master Mason he is presented with a Bible. Not just any Bible but, a Masonic Bible. Now, before you conspiracy nuts get all crazy on me, a typical Masonic Bible contains the following:

  • Record Pages to record the dates a man goes through the various degrees of Masonry.
  • Essays on the importance of the Bible as the Great Light to ALL Masons
  • Concordance on Masonic principles and tenets and where to find them in the Bible
  • The Old Testament*
  • The New Testament*

*The translation used by Masons is the King James Version.

As I finished the charge I found myself staring at the Bible. As I did, all the recent discussion I’d been having started to replay in my head and I realized that I’d been leaving out the central point within the circle of Freemasonry. Freemasonry has always been a “Fraternity of men under the Fatherhood of God”. We use symbols and allegory much like the teachers of antiquity. The Torah has always been viewed by the Jews as more than just a literal text. Much literature exists – especially for the Torah – on the various ways to discover the hidden meanings in the text. So I got to thinking… I’ve been paying no attention to the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) as it was my belief that Jesus was only a radical rabbi who was the victim of the tyrannical Roman Empire.

But, wait a minute…

With the exception of Luke and Acts, all the books of the New Testament were written by Jews. Some of which were highly educated and some of which were not. All of them knew Torah and all of them wrote about Jesus. So if these men knew of allegorical meanings within text and they wrote about a man who always taught in allegory (parables), what is the possibility that the books of the New Testament also have hidden allegorical meaning? (The most obvious of these is Revelation of course).

With this in mind I put all my Rabbinical Torah Commentaries, Talmud, the Zohar, and my (dusty) Christian Study Bibles into a cabinet and for the last 2 weeks been using my Masonic Bible (refer to the above). It contains no study notes or commentary within the text. It is just the Old and New Testament and it is in the beautiful KJV translation (to be honest I prefer KJV because it forces you to focus on what you read). I focused strictly on the text itself without any commentary or other distractions to unearth the message one layer at a time. I can see allegory and I see a messianic message as well. Keep in mind that when I say messianic it is in the context that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Zerubbabel were messiahs for their time. The life, teachings, and death of Jesus had a purpose and a significant impact on just as broad a scale, if not broader, than the others. His failure to bring upon the long-awaited Messianic Era leaves me to believe that another figure will rise to the occasion. Whether it will be Jesus returning, all of them returning together, or  someone else altogether remains to be seen.

I have to be honest. I feel a comforting familiarity with reading the Gospels and Epistles again. I saw some things I’d missed before and have a new perspective on things now that I’ve sanitized myself of the dogmatic teachings I grew up with. There is wisdom, beauty, and hope.  I see parallels of  the same wisdom in Proverbs, beauty in the Psalms, and hope woven through the lives of patriarchs in the Torah. I will keep studying… The quest goes on.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light