Never gonna give you up..

 Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you…  Yes, I just lured you in with a Rick Astley song.  For whatever reason I thought that set of lyrics was pretty relevant to what I am going to cover in this relatively brief post.  My recent post “Who’s in control?” garnered the biggest single day number of hits for this blog.  It also had a good number of comments and email responses.  It seems my Christian friends have taken issue with my position that as human beings we are not wretched, worthless, disgustingly sinful beings.  That we are not building up a debt of sin that will justify eternal torment and punishment forever, which can only be paid and forgiven by belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That all of our actions and imperfections somehow get erased by faith alone.  Well, aside from the fact that the words of Jesus himself contradict the concept of faith alone in favor of “what you do to the least of these my brethren you do unto me“,  it really doesn’t portray God as has often been the Christian position that God is love

So, is God love?  I believe so.  Mostly because no science has been able to prove what causes love and that particular feeling or emotion is the thread that weaves humanity with a concept of morality.  So what exactly is love?  The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know I have been pretty critical of, wrote one of the most inspirational chapters of the Bible and it happens to be perhaps the greatest description of love.  The chapter, for those of you who may not have guessed it, is 1 Corinthians 13.   As the Bible has multiple translations this chapter reads differently from version to version.  The most obvious difference is when comparing the KJV and the NIV.  (to those not familiar – the KJV is the King James Version which was translated in 1611 and the NIV is the New International Version which was translated in 1984. These are the 2 best-selling translations)  The KJV doesn’t use the word Love, it uses the word Charity.  To the skeptic this would seem to be a problem, but not to me.  Charity is, after all, a tremendous example of unconditional love.  When one exercises charity, they give for the sake of giving, with no expectation of reciprocation.  There is no doubt that is love.  So, if God is love, why not use 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God.  For the sake of brevity, let’s just take the core of  the chapter which are verses 4-7 and replace the words “love” and “it” with “the Lord” (note- I am removing a few “it’s” for the sake of flow):

The Lord is patient, the Lord is kind. The Lord does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.  The Lord does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.  The Lord does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  The Lord always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now I ask you again: Is God Love?  If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be.  Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often?  The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else.  It seems that for many people it really is the other way around. 

For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you.. – Deuteronomy 4:31

Why am I a Mason?

Recently someone questioned me as to why I am a Mason.  At times this question is usually followed up with the ridiculous accusations that we are some kind of a cult or New World Order.  Since Masonic philosophy makes up a significant portion of my own philosophical views it seemed relevant to share my reply to them:

I am a Mason for a number of reasons. Mostly because after leaving the military there was a camaraderie void that I deeply needed to fill. Contrary to a lot of public myths, Masonry is not a cult or an anti-christian organization. We aren’t a New World Order, which to me is the funniest of accusations because we can barely organize a BBQ. It is not a religion either. Anyone who claims it is really doesn’t know anything about it. It’s pretty much a fraternity with some deep philosophical roots. The description “A moral institution veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols” simply put just means we use the Bronze Age method of teaching moral truths – we tell stories (or parables) and use symbols. The problem that the big churches have with the Masonic Fraternity is over our stance that we require belief in Deity, but that the choice is up to the individual who they believe in. So we have Jewish, Christian, Muslims, Deists, and others amongst the membership. When you have multiple faiths gathered together like that and you require all men to act in a moral way and be held accountable to their God, an invocation, or prayer, is required when we open and close our meetings. So, in order to not offend the Jew or Muslim by invoking the name of Jesus, or offend the Jew and Christian by invoking the name Allah, or confuse the heck out of the Christians and Muslims by saying HaShem – we simply say Grand Architect. It’s not a made up God, it is just a universal name that is used because as Masons we consider each other as equals and builders of an allegorical temple of human morality and brotherly love. Just as builders get their directions from a blueprint (or Bible) and the designer (or author) of that blueprint is the Grand Architect (or God).

To me, as well as other Masons who actually study the philosophy and theology behind the fraternity – religion is not what the public perceives it to be.  Religion actually has a Biblical definition – “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27

I hope this answered your question and perhaps cleared up some false impressions you may have of us. We actually have some great guys amongst our ranks. Guys like – George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, FDR, Harry Truman, Gen. McArthur, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), John Wayne, Dave Thomas, Walt Disney… I could go on but, that should give you an idea of the type of organization we are.

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?

Reason vs. Religion

Nothing defines the battle that is going on in my mind more than the words Reason vs. Religion. A child-like faith is not possible to the open and contemplative mind. It is Masonic philosophy that faith begins where reason ends and this is unequivocally true. How would someone deduce with any shred of reason events like the 10 plagues, Jonah and the giant fish, and the resurrection of Jesus? What about the pillar of fire by night and smoke by day, the parting of the Red Sea, the turning of water into wine (that I would love to learn) or even the Apocalypse?

The fact is you can’t rationally explain any of these things, nor with any facts prove that they actually occurred, but this is where faith comes in. Faith allows one to believe that the laws of science and nature can be suspended and that the Creator is capable of anything. While I do not personally believe that any of the events I have stated actually happened, I cannot resign myself to believe that the same Supreme Source of all things is governed by what we as people perceive as the laws of science and nature.

So am I rejecting the Holy Scriptures?

No, not really. It is necessary to acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures are the works of men and regardless of whether they were divinely inspired or not, no original manuscripts exist and there is a constant debate over what manuscripts are the most authoritative. As such, given that they are the works of men, I do not view the Scriptures as being inerrant and without flaws. For the Jewish Scriptures (or the Christian Old Testament) is the Masoretic or Septuagint the most accurate and authoritative text? What about the New Testament? Are the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian Text, the Byzantine text, the Codex Vaticanus, or the Codex Sinaticus the most accurate and authoritative text? When translated what is the most accurate? The KJV, NKJV, NIV, TNIV, MKJV, ESV,NASB,NET, NLT, NWT,NJT,JPS….

But 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Yes, this is true however at that time the New Testament didn’t exist and I can assure you Paul didn’t think he was writing scripture. The only scriptures that existed at that time was the Jewish Scriptures (or Old Testament). To circle back to my position on the Holy Scriptures and what my opinion of them is. Please consider that I refer to them as the Holy Scriptures, Holy Writings, or the Great Light. So while I do not consider them without error, I do sincerely believe they are inspired in some form or fashion and that within those texts all of life’s trials can find answers, pain can find solace, and sorrow can find comfort. That is not to say that other sacred writing are of no use though. The Holy Quran, the Zend-Avesta, and the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Emerson, Locke, Hall, and Pike – just to name a few – are unquestionably inspirational and worthy of study.

But which one wins, Reason or Religion?

Well, let’s do some comparative analysis:

  • Religion can not reveal the chemical properties of salt and Reason can not reveal the source of love.
  • Religion can not accurately explain the source of life and the creation of the cosmos, neither can Reason.
  • Religion gives hope and Reason leads to inquiry and knowledge.
  • Religion gives a person a moral compass and Reason enables a man to determine right from wrong.
  • Religion is restrictive and at times oppressive, Reason deems everyone to be equal and of independent thought.

It is my belief that a person can be happy with either religion or reason. However, faith in God and adhering to the rites and tenets of a religion does not automatically bring a person happiness and the use of Reason does not automatically make a person intelligent or an intellectual superior. As with all things they must both exist and it is the responsibility of the individual to find the right balance.

Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Life is a blessing, not a curse

Sometimes it is all to easy to forget just how lucky a person is to just be alive and well.  The fact that we are even born is nothing short of a miraculous event.  It is a hard-fought battle just for the seed to make it to the egg to begin with and then once it does, there are so many things that can go wrong before the embryo actually becomes a little person.  Even then a myriad of other things varying from irregular heart beats, to slowly developing kidneys, to autism, and even death can still occur while in the womb.  If by chance you are lucky enough (blessed is a better word) to be born, even more challenges lie ahead as one goes from infant to toddler to child to adolescent to adult.

With life itself, being the miracle that it is, why do some people seem to be more concerned about an “after-life” instead of enjoying the every day miracle of life?  Why do some religious teachings harp on how wretched we are or even worse, that we are cursed at birth due to someone else’s impulsive dietary error?

Life is a blessing. To deny that is to destroy the basis of all religion, natural and revealed. The very foundation of all religion is laid on the firm belief that life is good; and if this life is an evil and a curse, no such belief can be rationally entertained. – Albert Pike
And why hope for an after-life?  Why not enjoy the life you actually have?  We have no guarantees in this life, so the idea that there is an everlasting one that follows defies reason and logic.
 
Wait, don’t panic…. I am not saying there is no life after death.
 
What I am saying is that regardless of what religions teach, we really don’t know what comes after death.   So we should focus a lot more on this life.  If you are reading this then you probably have a computer or a smart phone (or a friend does and they printed it for you).  You probably also live in a house with running water and electricity.  Did you know that those very simple things alone – things that you can’t imagine living your life without – make you wealthier than at least a BILLION other people on this planet?  Yet, there is little doubt in my mind that you probably wish you had more.  I am guilty of wanting more as well sometimes, however I have gotten a lot better at appreciating the things that I have and not “coveting” the things I see that others may have. 
 
If people spent more quality time with their families and less time at work, more time outdoors and less inside watching trash TV, more time being thankful for what they have instead of always wanting more; maybe, just maybe life can be seen as the blessing that it actually is.
 
Typically a cancer patient wants just one thing – to live.   Why should a healthy person be any different?
 
Life is a blessing.  Live it!
 
 
 

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.

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

Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

Cover - Jefferson Bible after treatment

Image by national museum of american history via Flickr

Thomas Jefferson is a personal hero of mine for several reasons.   Obviously because he  was one of our founding fathers and the author of the Declaration of Independence , but also because he was the epitome of  what it meant to be a “Seeker”.  I have mentioned The Jefferson Bible a few times but, I have recently stumbled across a website that lets you look at the original.  For those that don’t know Jefferson struggled with the miracles and magic in the Bible.  He believed in God and he held Jesus in a high regard.  He was theologically somewhere between a Unitarian and a Deist.  He read a lot and the Bible was one of the books he read the most (he had the Bible in Greek, French, and the good old King James Version you can read today)  Eventually Jefferson narrowed his view of the Bible to just the life and teachings of Jesus.  So he took a razor and some glue and literally cut the passages of the Gospels that he felt best reflected the teachings of Jesus and pasted them into a blank book.  He then used this as his Rule and Guide in life.  For a long time members of congress were given a copy of this book when they took the oath of office.  The rise of evangelicalism in the 50’s saw this tradition come to a quiet end.  It’s a shame when you think about it.  Imagine if members of  Congress followed the precepts taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

Here is a link to The Jefferson Bible

http://americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/the-book/?page=3&view=transcription#dl

I own a copy of this and have set it aside for a little to long as I have focused so much on Torah study.  In fact, due to some recent discussions with a very intelligent author I have decided to revisit the Christian Scriptures.  I am sure that the new reading lenses that I have developed from rabbinical Torah study will no doubt prove useful in reading about the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  Who knows, maybe I’ve been wrong about Paul too.  Stay tuned the Quest is about to go into yet another direction.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

The Illusion of Atheism

Contrary to what an atheist may try to convince others and even themselves, the entire concept of atheism is a mere illusion.  Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher are all very public about being atheists and are antagonistic to the adherents of any and all revealed religions.  However, I can provide a strong argument that neither they nor anyone else can possibly be atheists with 3 words:

Eyeh asher eyeh

See, three words.  I will assume some of you don’t know what these words mean so I will explain them.  Eyeh asher eyeh is Hebrew for “I shall be what I shall be” it has also been translated “I am what/that I am.”  This statement is as brilliant as it is cryptic.  No actual name is given, no definitive divine description, just an open-ended concept of indescribable and ineffable supremacy.  There is a misconception amongst people who consider themselves to be atheists that the rejection of an interventional deity means they also reject the concept of a supreme intelligence or ultimate reality.  The use of “Reason” and “Intellect” is a valid approach to such a topic and given the advancement of science and technology over the past few centuries (especially the last decade) we have seen the scope of the Divine drastically diminish.

The Ultimate Source

Galileo shattered the long-held belief that the earth was flat, the sky was a canopy, and the celestial bodies were mere lights in the canopy.

Astronauts erased the concept of heaven being a paradise amongst the clouds in the skies, thereby casting serious doubt on chariots of fire and men “ascending into heaven”.

Medical advancements have saved people from death, even brought people back from death-like states (ie. coma).  Stem cell research has now advanced to the state where scientist are capable of manipulating and even splicing cells to regenerate organs.

Carbon dating has identified artifacts that date the age of human civilization far beyond the Biblical timeline.

However, the idea that the rejection of any religious text, creed, or doctrine or the literal or scientific debunking of them eliminates the concept of Deity is inaccurate, ignorant and irresponsible.  Regardless of how far we go with science or how many theories we develop we still have not been able to discern the origin, source, or “author” of the various laws of nature and science.  We have not been able to explain or discover the power that allows these laws to be executed in endless perpetuity.  No explanations exist for the reason or cause of human emotions or our ability to discern the basic precepts of universal morality.  This origin and this perpetual source is that supreme and ultimate reality that mankind has tried to understand.  Whether through scientific exploration or theosophic study, the Divine is ineffable and we are not capable of understanding.

Where our intellect and reason falls short

For most of recorded history mankind has made many attempts at understanding this source.  Our inability to prove or disprove the source or origin expels us from the right to deny it.  The belief that this source is an interventional God is the belief of over 3 billion people and it has been for thousands of years.  The concept of an interventional God is not based on facts though.  It is based on faith.  If one chooses not to believe in an interventional god that is fine.  It does not rule out the fact that there is a an original and perpetual source of the universe though.  If you base your belief on science, than nature or science is your deity.  If you believe there is no source and everything just happened then chaos is your deity.  However, out of chaos came order.  Where did this order come from?

Our sense of reason can serve as both a gift and a curse.  While one can reasonably discern various laws of science and morality, you can also box yourself in to your own limited knowledge of the universe which limits the greatness of it.  The Age of Enlightenment gave rise to skepticism and literal criticism of religious texts but, it did not render them obsolete.

Divine Revelation

It is Jewish tradition that the Scriptures (Torah, Prophets, Hagiographa) were written by men for men and in the language of men.  A literal interpretation of the text is not conducive to modern times as many of the mythical occurrences were similar to modern-day special effects in movies.  The scribes wrote the text to instruct the simple-minded while the learned minds of the time labored for hours over the hidden meanings and allegories.  Is an intense study of these texts still required?  Perhaps for some but, the morality that has derived from their writing are now commonplace in a civilized society.  As rich as religious text are in their allegory and moral lessons, they can easily be taken out of context mainly because, unlike the US Constitution they can not be amended.   There is a revelation that continues to evolve and is infallible – nature.  A walk along the seashore, a hike in the mountains, or a rafting trip on a river display the awesome power and beauty of nature.  Gazing at the night sky on a clear night is a mind-boggling display of the vastness of the cosmos.  Taking all of this in, is it remotely possible that there was no order, no source, and that all is chaos?

Atheism advocates the absence of an orginal source or intelligent design.  If there is no source – then universe is an illusion.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light