HERETIC ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Meaning of the Buddha: the Dharma Initiative

'Please don't deify false gods'!

This, in response to my recent affirmation of the teachings of the Buddha. I say 'the Buddha', because, like Jesus, who was given the TITLE 'the Christ' ( 'anointed one '), 'the Buddha' is simply 'an awakened one'. Like Jesus the Christ, we have been used to looking at a singular person with that particular title, but as we look at the title of the kings of Egypt, the Pharaoh, or certain of the Roman Emperors who took the title 'Caesar', we see that it was merely a status, achieved, if you will, by whatever means. By dying on the cross, according to Scriptures, Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God, having become the Messiah of Israel. According to certain Scriptures from the Far East, the Buddha was any person who achieved enlightenment to a degree unimaginable. 

Fear is the single biggest issue facing humanity today! Wars are fought because one nation ( or tribe ) fears that if they don't strike first, the other will & they may not have a chance to strike back, especially in the case of nuclear attacks ( WWIII? ). Fear of the Unknown plays a big role in almost every aspect of human life, although it need not. Most people naturally seek protection from those fears through exterior means, whether it means hiring a bodyguard or making a preemptive strike
( act of war ). Of course, fear is not relegated to just war-time scenarios; it is part of our daily lives. Many have learned to control, or at least hide their fear fairly well, but really, when you think about it, Fear is the motive behind much ( if not most ) of what plagues our culture, even what motivates our culture itself. This is to say nothing of the myriad cultures around the world!

Some have questioned whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy, simply a way of life, like true Christianity. Yes, one might say; Buddhism IS a religion, but is that not what true religion is, a way of life, based on a sort of philosophy? When comparing modern Christianity with Buddhism, one might note that they seem almost worlds apart ( which, in fact they ARE-'as far as East is from West' ). When comparing the plain teachings of Jesus with the teachings of the Buddha, whether it be the one we know as Siddhartha Gautama ( Buddha ) or Buddha Shakyamuni ( there ARE others ), however, one may note that, aside from cultural differences, they're saying much the same thing. Much of our problem, here in the West, with failing to note the striking similarities is that, for ages past, we have tended to view the Scriptures as a western, rather than Ancient Near Eastern document!

Part of our problem as well, here in the West, stemming from the one just mentioned, is misinterpretation; misinterpretation has led to the founding of many a doctrine that really should not hold that title. On top of that, we have the differing manuscripts & texts, certain books ( writings ) that never made it into the canon, some that questionably shouldn't have & others that clearly should have. All this, of course, was decided by men, men who had an ulterior motive of one sort or another. ( what's that they say about good intentions? ) When we understand all this, it should not be too hard to differentiate between the true doctrine & what is false, or engineered by men. Even so, we must understand as well the cultural differences. For instance, the cleanliness laws ( 613? ) laid out in the early books of the Bible: some Christians today will fairly consistently follow these laws, as well aspracticing a strict adherence to the Ten Commandment, but the majority of Christians will admit, usually with the exception of the fore-mentioned Ten Commandments, that these laws were for ( ancient ) national Israel. To imagine that they should apply to us in 21st-century America is really quite ridiculous!

The concept of Dharma, which admittedly varies somewhat in meaning in the several ( main ) Eastern religions, is the idea of protection. Because of our fears ( for they are many ), we tend to seek for protection, often, wherever we can find it. Here in the West, we almost habitually look outside ourselves for that protection, while the ( ancient ) Eastern religions looked to the innermost being, not for protection so much as to resolve the heart of the issue, the fear. More & more people here in the West, though, having gotten fed up with the hypocrisies & inadequacies of Western religions, are actively pursuing the Eastern religions in their search for 'God'.

Buddha, in the sense that many or most here in the West think, was not a god, nor did he claim to be!
The fact that he achieved the status that he did ( not unlike Jesus ) speaks volumes about whether he was a god or not: as far as I know, no claim of equality with the Designer of the Universe has ever been made in reference to the Buddha, nor should it, though it should be noted that, as we are, in our innermost being, of the same Essence as the God of the Bible, we are in that sense gods, as even Scripture says ( Psalm 82:6 ). 

The similarities between the teachings of the Buddha & the Christ cannot be denied! Our Western concepts are what stands in the way of our understanding this glorious truth. Returning to the Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek Scriptures as examples of Ancient Near Eastern literature, rather than trying to foist upon them our Western point of view, may be the first step in our journey of awakening, of realizing that, no matter the cultural perception or personal prejudice, we can know the God of Creation outside any religion, though all religions bear the Image!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Truth About Jeremiah Bereano

I heard the news today; a good friend of mine has passed away: into the next life, that is! Jeremiah had always been a good friend of mine: though he could be a bit of a bullfrog, I had always listened to him whine. From a distance, anyway; if I had to deal with his crap anywhere but over the phone, he probably would have passed a lot sooner! I never got the chance to meet Jeremiah Bereano face-to-face, but I felt like I knew him ( maybe better than most ) anyway. So good, that he almost seemed to know me better than I knew myself. The distance between us seemed insurmountable, but it felt like, no matter the distance that separated our mortal bodies, or how long since we had last spoken ( on the phone ), it seemed that when we most needed comforting or a swift kick in the ass, we were there for each other: I will miss Jerimiah!

Maybe we found such great kinship in our mutual struggles: we both had similar experiences ( though different ) when it came to the fairer sex; when it came to matters of religion, we were probably more on the same page than either of us would have liked to admit, although I tend to imagine that if he knew how far I have expanded my horizons since last we spoke, he would most likely call me a heretic! ( Oh, wait......) He was definitely more of a stickler for 'that old time religion' than I was, even though he, like I, had a penchant for questioning the unquestionable! In retrospect, I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't exploring the same rabbit-hole as I!

From my many conversations with Jeremiah Bereano, I had begun to suspect that he was not quite 'normal' ( 'what IS normal, right?' ) It was not that he couldn't carry on an intelligent or intelligible conversation: in fact, that was probably what attracted my attention in the first place. No, Jeremiah could most certainly hold his own when it came to theological discussions, though he definitely had a rather unorthodox style. His eccentricity ( if that's the right word ) came into play when the topic of conversation strayed outside his comfort zone, even, it seemed, into matters of ordinary, everyday life. Obviously, at least from what little I was able to glean from our conversations, he had been able to lead a fairly normal existence ( 'again.....' ), but I guess my opinion of him had, for the majority of our acquaintance, been that he was a bit of an 'idiot savant'!

I'm not being overly harsh, speaking ill of the dead, or anything, because he was definitely NOT what most would call 'mentally handicapped'! I could always empathize with his whining ( even if my first thought WAS to kick his ass! ), because I could feel his pain. Coming from similar backgrounds, facing similar ( though different ) obstacles in life, Jeremiah and I shared a kinship that, though never named, was felt strongly, but never mentioned ( between us ) as such. In fact, our kinship was SO strong ( some might call it 'kindred spirits' ) that I have a very strung hunch, a feeling, you might say, in my innermost being, that I have not heard the last of Jeremiah Bereano!

Before hearing of his passing, I had not heard from or about my friend for quite some time, so when I DID hear about it, although I was not too surprised by the news, I almost felt a pang of regret that we had not spoken more recently than we did. What's done is done, though; I know that Jeremiah will never be on the other end of the line with me, nor will we ever meet face-to-face, but his spirit will always be with me, his wisdom will always be there to guide me as I follow the crooked path that has been set before me.

I will never forgot the hurdles that he often presented me with, or the way he encouraged me ( though, usually it felt like he was kicking MY ass! ) to explore my own stance. Jeremiah Bereano, though I never actually ( physically ) met him, was, as far as I'm concerned, was a giant among men; the world would probably be a better place if there were more like him! But who knows, maybe if there's something to that 'reincarnation' thing, the world will see him again!

No RIP for Jeremiah ( the bullfrog )!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, April 09, 2018


What did Jesus mean when He told Martha, 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'? For the most part, the English translations researched by this blogger translate Jesus' words to Martha, as recorded in John 11:26, in this way. However, when we come to what may be the more literal translations, like the Douay-Rheims, we read 'And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever', giving the impression that Jesus is simply re-iterating what He had just stated, that 'he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live'. Young's Literal Translation puts it similarly; 'and every one who is living and believing in me shall not die -- to the age'. Both these translations ( there MAY be others like them ) seem to cast doubt on the clear intimation of what Jesus actually meant when He made the statement.

The Greek transliteration 'ou mē', translated 'never' in the majority of our English Bibles simply implies just that, 'certainly not, not at all, by no means'. Because of the differentiation in usage here, with the additions of  'for ever' & 'to the age', the idea that Jesus simply re-iterated what He had stated previously has been proffered; while this explanation may bear further examination & the burden of proof, it by no means negates beyond all reasonable doubt the fact that Jesus said what He meant & meant what He said!

So, what did Jesus mean? Clearly those who live ( in Him ) & believe ( in  Him ) still die, or do they?! Was Jesus misleading His disciples, Martha in particular, telling them that those living & believing in Him would never die, biologically ( physically ) speaking, or was He alluding to the fact that they were more than the humanity that served to house their true Self, their Innermost Being?

The traditional ( orthodox ) Christian belief ( doctrine ) of 'the resurrection of the dead' seems to be predicated on the notion that physicality is at the crux of redemption. In other words, that even though one dies ( physically expires ), that one will not stay dead forever ( see Douay-Rheims, above ), but that at the Resurrection, which is misplaced into our future, their physical body will be reanimated ( returned to life ). This is the notion that Martha, like most Jews, had about resurrection. However, look at what Jesus said in response, leading into our central theme; 'I am the resurrection and the life': He told her that, in Essence, the Resurrection had come, that it was happening even then, both for her brother & others who had died, as well as those who were presently alive, into Eternity!

So, when Jesus spoke those words of comfort to Martha, He wasn't telling her that one who believed in Him would inhabit this biology forever ( that's really kind of ridiculous, unless one believes that Jesus wasn't the Resurrection ( as He said ), but would simply BE the Resurrection at some future date ). In other words, since Christians still die physically, He couldn't have been referring to biological life!

We have always known that we were MORE than just human beings, just what we see on the surface, or what we can view through a microscope! For a multitude of varying reasons, though, this knowledge, to a large extent, has been all but lost. No Christian will deny the fact that we are made up of 'spirit, soul, and body' ( I Thessalonians 5:23 ), but most will cling voraciously to the notion that our physical bodies are somehow not yet redeemed, though our souls ( spirits? ) are? Are there TWO Resurrections? Most Christians believe, as they must, that there ARE two separate resurrections, that Jesus ( yes, as THE Resurrection ) must needs come again to redeem this biology, in particular, our physical bodies: talk about a 'Gap Theory'!

More time need not be spent showing from Scripture how biology HAS been redeemed & what Jesus meant when He said ( also recorded by John alone ), 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. Whether one takes Scripture literally ( at our English 'face-value' ), or recognizes the esoteric Gnosis in them, it should be clear that, just as there is more to us than meets the eye, so there is more to Scripture than what we have been used to reading with our Western understanding!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Eternal Soul & the Illusion of Individuality

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, the definition  of 'soul' is, primarily, 'the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life'. Secondarily, according to the same source, it refers as well to 'the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe'. Other such sources do not stop with humankind, saying that the soul is 'the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.' Whether or not one agrees with these definitions, they would have to go to great lengths to even challenge the prevailing notion of the immortality of the soul!

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28

The English transliteration of the Greek word translated 'destroy' in the passage above, 'apollymi', simply means 'to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin'. Many people in today's theological landscape, believing in the immortality of the soul, seem to also think that even though, according to the verse above, God can destroy the 'soul' in 'hell' ( gehenna-referring to the Valley of Hinnom, Jerusalem's garbage dump ), yet still, when the 'soul' is in 'hell', rather than being destroyed, it burns eternally. There are other passages in the Bible, admittedly, that seem to indicate that these 'souls' will suffer eternally. Passages like Revelation 20:10, 'The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever', torn from the 1st-century context in which they belong, seem, in our Western mindset, to say that such a concept  ( as 'eternal conscious torment' ) actually has a firm foundation. For this reason, among others, there are some that, while not necessarily rejecting Christianity in whole, have distanced themselves from orthodoxy, making such sensical statements as, 'a loving God would never punish one of His creatures for eternity'.

Of late, on this blog, we have explored, to whatever extent, the fact that we are 'spiritual beings having a physical experience'; in essence, that our innermost being, at the heart of the matter, one might say, is One with the Universe, the Source of all, or, as most people put it, 'God'. Being what we are, the physical bodies that make up our humanity, our biology, are simply manifestations of that Spirit, or Essence. Now, before we travel too far here, let me just reiterate that I'm not suggesting that the skins we wear are simply manifestations of our individual spirit, for that is what might be called 'the Illusion of the Ego'. No, the biology we are ensconced in, while affected ( to whatever extent ) by the Illusion of Ego, is the product of the Intelligent Being that stretched the canvas of the Universe, the Intelligence which, in effect, might well be equated with the Universe itself ( as a physical manifestation, of course ).

The Universe, about which there have been many postulations, is limitless, at least as far as finite human beings are concerned. To my knowledge, no telescope has ever been produced ( probably never will be ) that can explore the farthest reaches of Space. For that matter, scientists have only ever been able to theorize about Deep Space because no one, not even the best, farthest-reaching telescope has ever been able to really search out its great reaches: the most we've been able to accomplish, maybe ever WILL be able to accomplish ( as mere humanity ) is to view it at a great distance!

The point is, as much as Science has theorized, however correctly or incorrectly, about the nature of the Universe, so has Religion about the Creator, or Source of All! As Science is the study of physical manifestation, so Religion, True Religion, is the study of the heart of the matter, the ( Spiritual ) Source of it all. Every religion around the world, in particular, those most affected by the illusion of ego, has a doctrinal statement, or theory, about the nature of the Source of All. Depending largely on the corner or the world ( culture? ) that one calls 'home', our perception of the nature of this Source could be anywhere from a pantheon of gods to one mean, vindictive son-of-a-bitch!

The God of Creation, also known as the God of the Bible ( Hebrew & Greek Scriptures ) is a Spirit. As Christians, in particular, we are used to referring to 'Him' as the God of Creation because 'In the beginning God ( 'elohiym )  created the heavens and the earth.' ( Genesis 1:1 ). In orthodox terms, 'He' is referred to as 'Father, Son & Holy Spirit', or what is called in our Bibles, the Godhead. Whatever the case may be, this 'God' is our perception of the True Nature of the Source, which, one might say, is Pure, Intelligent Energy. This is not, of course, to say that the Source of all is merely the manifestation of our ( individual? ) perception; It is what It is, no matter our ( limited ) perception!

The Ego, the individual mind, while itself divided, is a manifestation of the ( individual ) soul, though it is an illusion; it exists, though it is not real, if that makes any sense! The corporate nature of humanity is such that the individual soul has become attached to the idea that we are individuals, rather than being of One Essence & thus, through the Politics of Religion, we have accepted the notion that the variety of the Ego is our true nature, when in actuality, it is the Mind which accepts its Oneness with the Universe that is the manifestation of our true nature, our true Self.

The Illusion of the Ego, or our individual perception of what IS ( real ), has convinced us, to whatever extent, that what we as human beings perceive ( with the physical senses ) is what is real, therefore, because there are as many perceptions as there are ( individual ) people, we are divided in mind because everyone thinks that what they perceive is reality, when in reality, the true nature of anything cannot be perceived with the five senses: it is only when one realizes their own true nature ( spirit ) that one is able to correctly perceive ( spiritually ) the true nature & thus usefulness of anything.

The Immortality of the Soul is a doctrine that, in one form or another, can be found in every corner of the world! Anything from, in today's vernacular, especially, being equated to what might be called the spirit, to its biblical reference, in some cases, to the whole being, including the person; the soul, while seemingly getting a lot of the attention, has really, thanks to religion, not really gotten enough! The focus, not just relegated to Christianity, has been on what is usually called the afterlife ( 'saving souls for the afterlife' ) so that the true nature of the soul has almost escaped the notice of orthodoxy. Being what it is, the Soul ( Spirit ) or Essence of Humanity, speaking perceptively, has in essence been degraded, being viewed as simply the manifestation  of some outer influence, rather than that which in reality moves us. As the Scriptures say, 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [ they ] are life' ( John 6:63 ) Of course, traditionally we interpret Jesus here as speaking of the Holy Spirit, also called the Third Person of the Trinity, but upon further investigation; we should understand that He was referring to the Spirit which gives us all life, though in context, we might extract other meanings from this passage.

The Reality is that the Soul IS immortal! It is what drives us all, whether we're in Blessed Communion with our Heavenly Father or not. Though not all acknowledge it, even biological life ( existence? ) would be impossible with some sort of covenant, even some sort of communion with the Source of All. One might call It 'God', another 'the Great Spirit', while yet another calls this Source 'the Universe' ( or simply chalks it up to Darwinistic evolution ), but whatever one's perception, all acknowledge this necessary tie, even if it's simply by existing!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, March 23, 2018

Our Father in Heaven, Our Mother the Earth

Though most pastors, if not down-right steering clear of the Song of Solomon, or at least treading VERY carefully through it ( 'tiptoeing through the tulips', so to speak ), this beautiful book ( of poetry? ) is revered as one of the most beautiful love letters ever written. Of course, it is doubtless avoided by many for its almost x-rated language & almost uncomfortable graphic license. Reading this lovely book, one should understand that, positioned in almost the center of the Hebrew Scriptures as it is, it is a love story, not simply about King Solomon & his lover, but one that is an encapsulation of the Story of Israel & Yahweh's love for Her. But that's not what I'm here to talk about; I'm here to talk about sex!

It almost goes without saying ( ? ) that in order for creation to occur, sexual intercourse must happen. You may wonder where I'm headed with this, especially in reference to creation, because we've all been taught, especially as Christians, that 'God', ex nihilo, ( 'out of nothing' ) created the heavens, the earth & everything that we see, even what we don't. This is not necessarily wrong, biblically speaking, although careful study has revealed that the creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2, rather than speaking simply of the creation of the material universe, are referring to the institution of a covenant of marriage between Israel & the Creator God, known as Yahweh to the Hebrews. Whatever the case may be, whether the Creator God did indeed speak the worlds into existence, or whether the Universe, as some refer to the Source of All, simply has always been, eternally existent, one thing should be very clear, none of what we see in the material world came about by accident: two Forces had to come together in order to create what is!

The miraculous Story we read in the first pages of the Gospel accounts of Matthew &  Luke, respectively, relates how a certain young woman named Mary was chosen to be the Mother of the Christ, or Messiah of Israel. According to the Story, or at least the clear inference, is that Mary conceived the Child who would be the Christ, without having had sexual intercourse with a man. While this may or may not be totally accurate, Scripture makes very clear that the Holy Spirit of the Creator God overshadowed ( 'came upon' ) her & she was found to be 'with child' ( pregnant ), not having been intimate with a man. As the case may be ( many battles have been fought over this ), whether one believes that this actually transpired or not, it should be noted that such doctrine could lend credence to the belief that the 'giants' of Genesis 6 & elsewhere were the offspring of fallen angels ( devils, demons ) & female human beings!

It is entirely possible, of course ( please don't get me wrong) that the Creator God bypassed His own Laws of Nature in order to present the Perfect Seed, the Scion of Zion & I'll let the reader take it from there, if he or she so wishes. The point to be taken here is that, even though Scripture 'plainly' reveals these 'truths' to us, we must remember first, that we as 21st Americans ( English ) are endeavoring to comprehend an Ancient Hebrew document & two, that this document is written in an apocalyptic style to reveal certain truths using symbolic & hyperbolic language. In other words, though it seems, to our Western eyes in particular, to be speaking of the creation of the material universe, it is primarily a covenant document, relating the proposal of the Creator God to His Creation. But, as usual, I digress.........

By now, many of my readers are no doubt wondering, 'what has all this got to do with 'Mother Earth'? Well, I'm glad you asked! Keeping in mind, of course, that we have in our hands a Covenant Document, primarily about the relationship between Creator & Created, we should note that there IS universal creation being cursorily referred to, in the background, so to speak. In the first chapter of Genesis, we read, 'Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb [ that ] yields seed, [ and ] the fruit tree [ that ] yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed [ is ] in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb [ that ] yields seed according to its kind, and the tree [ that ] yields fruit, whose seed [ is ] in itself according to its kind. And God saw that [ it was ] good. So the evening and the morning were the third day'. We should note, looking back at the very first verse or so ( of Genesis 1 ) how similar the language of Creation is to the Announcement to Mary, as related earlier; 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [ was ] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.' One could almost read here, in the manner of Scripture ( Genesis 25:21, Deuteronomy 7:14, II Kings 2:21, Psalm 113:9, ( Isaiah 54 ) et al ) that the earth was 'barren'. Whatever the case, clearly, the earth produced seed, much as the Virgin Mary produced THE Seed!

Though scientists now think they have found a particle that seems to be capable of ex nihilo creation ( 'where did that particle come from?' ), it is a scientific fact that two forces must work together in order to produce ( there ARE exceptions to this rule ). Thanks to Science & Technology, we now have artificial insemination, where the female, human or animal, need not be penetrated by a male in order to produce, but the seminal specimen from the male is still necessary to the fertilization of the egg. To my knowledge, no scientist has figured out how to fertilize an egg without the sperm from a male.

Something doesn't come from nothing! Certain scientists may theorize & we may speculate ( 'have faith?' ) till we're blue in the face, but when it comes right down to it; 1 + 1 = 2, 0 + 0 is 0: no matter how hard we try, 0 + 0 will never equal 1 ( though I'm sure it's been theorized ). A woman must have a certain part ( or parts ) of a man enter her uterus in order for there to be conception; that's the simple truth of the matter! Whether the Creator God artificially inseminated the Virgin when He 'overshadowed' ( hovered over ) her, or whether he simply 'spoke the Word' as in the Beginning, it should be very clear that there is more to the Story than meets the eye.

For many Christians today, this seminal subject is a rather uncomfortable topic of conversation, if not almost downright taboo! Like some pastors seem to avoid an in depth examination of the Song of Solomon, so many Christians seem to avoid this most seminal of subjects. Whether we're talking spiritually, psychically, or biologically, this subject of subjects cannot be avoided if we would get to the heart of the matter!

Throughout the Scriptures, both Hebrew & Greek, if one is willing to accept it, the concept ( of sexual intercourse ) is hidden in plain sight, if one is but willing to look & accept it. The heavens & earth were conceived in this way, just as Jesus the Messiah was. Pretty much every one of the prophets, to one extent or another, wrote about Yahweh's love for His people, sometimes using language that would make one blush if they really thought about it. Maybe I have a dirty mind, but if we knew more about Hebrew idiomatic expression, I'm pretty sure that we'd be a little red-faced when reading certain portions of Scripture. As the case may be though, the Story of Israel, as with any story with a beginning, would never have gotten off the ground without sex!

Humanity was engineered for sexual intercourse, let's make no bones about that! As the Scriptures say, in the words of wise King Solomon, 'To everything [ there is ] a season, a time for every purpose under heaven'. In certain situations, wisdom tells us that we should not engage so ourselves, but in the right context, sexual intercourse is the most beautiful & glorious act of worship that we, as human beings can perform!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Home Sweet Home

As the saying goes, 'Home is where the heart is'. What we must ask ourselves, especially in relation to this all-too familiar & much-used phrase is, 'where is our heart?' ( understand that when I say 'heart', I mean our emotional attachment, in that sense, our 'love' ) Sometimes, we tend to 'love' a certain place more than certain people: I'm as guilty of this as anyone & sometimes its hard to blame some people when they choose the former over the latter. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in a beautiful place find it hard to leave, but when the choice is between a certain beautiful place & certain beautiful people, the choice should be clear; beautiful people are much harder to find & of much greater value, than any beautiful place one can name!

Who can find a virtuous wife?For her worth [ is ] far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:10

I made the choice, a little over 7 years ago, to leave a place which had its own beauty & certain people who had lost their beauty ( as far as I was concerned, anyway ) & re-locate to a place that has undeniably greater aesthetic appeal. Once re-located, I found what I felt to be more beautiful people than those I had left behind. I still experience those 'what if?' moments once in a great while, but over all, I do not regret my decision. In some sense, one might say I found myself here, which is the greatest beauty, for if we do not recognize beauty in ourselves, how can we hope to find it in another?!

'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder', they say! As far as it goes, this is certainly true, especially in the aesthetic sense in which it is most often used.  In the greater, true sense, though, one could say that true beauty, which is inner beauty, cannot be beheld except with the inner, or spiritual eye. Aesthetic beauty, especially in this day & age, is a huge factor in many relationships. Thanks to the internet & Mainstream Media, among other things, we have been force-fed the notion of the 'Barbie-doll figure' for so long, that we tend to look at the aesthetics of a fellow human being as their beauty or else ugliness ( again, 'mea culpa' ). Thankfully, this is not always the case, as most learn fairly quickly that, just as inner beauty manifests outwardly ( aesthetically speaking ), so inner ugliness also manifests in the same way, making one who is beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside less attractive. So too is one who may not be that aesthetically pleasing on the outside but is beautiful on the inside; that inner beauty manifests on the outside, attracting the true seeker of beauty!

Truly blessed are those who find a help-meet with both aesthetic & Inner Beauty, for as the Scripture above says, 'her worth [ is ] far above rubies'! 'Heaven' is not a place, per se, but if we're with the one we love; wherever we are can certainly be transformed into such a place. Much as Inner Beauty transforms outer plainness, or even what some would call ugliness, when we find 'heaven' in our heart, 'Heaven' is manifest in whatever place we are, even though it may seem the lowest 'hell'. Transversely, if we don't find beauty in our hearts, even the most aesthetically beautiful place may seem to us the very opposite of 'heaven'.

It is said of some that beauty is 'only skin deep': aesthetically speaking, this is true enough, but true beauty, as we've seen, is so much more! There are many out there that most if not all people would call 'beautiful' & while they might have their own 'beauty', in a relative sense ( not everyone is everyone's cup of tea ), some people are just downright ugly. However, even that ugliness can be turned into the most beautiful flower, if given the chance to blossom. Even an ugly duckling can be revealed as a swan!

Our choices being what they are, they cannot be unmade, although, as I once advised a friend in a similar situation, 'all we can do is do better'. Once a choice is made & the action carried out, we cannot erase it, but we can return to the 'place' we call 'heaven', where we truly felt it in our hearts & thus experience 'Paradise Restored'. Where our hearts are, there is 'Heaven'. One can be in the most beautiful place on earth, but if our heart, or more precisely, what our heart is set on, is not there, we cannot truly call it 'heaven'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, March 12, 2018

Universal Truth; 'The Kingdom is Within You'

According to Luke's Gospel account ( Luke 17:21 ), Jesus related this stunning truth to the Pharisees, of all people: 'the Pharisees; really Jesus?!' How in God's name could the Pharisees have the Kingdom within THEM?! But, that's what Jesus said. In our English Bible, it is even recorded that He used the Greek 'entos', meaning, pretty simply, 'within' or 'inside'. Some versions may translate this preposition 'in your midst', connoting that Jesus was equating the Kingdom with Himself, but as the case may be, Jesus very plainly told them that the Kingdom ( of God/Heaven ) was inside them. But then, we might ask ourselves; 'if Jesus told THEM that the Kingdom was within ( inside ) them, then what does that say about those today who deny the Christ today, or are simply ignorant of the Presence of Glory ( Divinity )?'

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come,
He answered them and said,
The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 
nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’
For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Many Christians today seem to think that the Kingdom of God WILL come with observation: according to this belief, the visible return of Jesus will usher in the 'Kingdom Age' ( there ARE variations on this belief ). Probably one of the main rationales for the Kingdom ( of God ) being present with us right now is the old adage that 'God will not dwell with sin'. There may be some ( biblical ) basis for such a rash statement, but if Jesus told those in the first century, even those who rejected & eventually crucified Him, that the Kingdom was within them, then who are to say that it is not present in those today who reject Him, especially our ( biblical ) version of Him. 

What if the Kingdom of God, like the Creator God, is not defined solely by the biblical record?! That's probably a startling, even heretical notion to most Christians today, but if indeed the Kingdom is within; how did it get there? Is it only when we acknowledge its presence, by our acquiescence to the Covenant, as laid out in our English Bibles, that it comes to be, or is it just there; part of our make-up, our true being? Another way of putting it might be, 'Is the Kingdom of God, like the Scriptures seem to say, something we must enter into?' One must understand the first century context of passages like this though, statements that make it sound like we must enter the Kingdom. The Scriptures were written to a first-century audience. Sure; there ARE Universal Truths contained therein ( for people of all times & places ), but to really understand WHY the writers used that kind of language ( 'entering' ), one must take into account that first-century context in which Jesus made statements like 'the kingdom of God is near' ( Luke 21:31 ). If the Kingdom of God was near in those day, even 'at the doors' ( Mark 13:29 ( James 5:9 ), then how can we say, with any authority, that it is not present with us today?

The Kingdom of God, according to the biblical record, is covenantal in nature; this cannot be denied! However, as Life itself, even biological life, is covenantal, or relational in nature, can we unequivocally say that the Kingdom is found only in the hearts of those who acknowledge & accept it? Can one be part of the Kingdom of God without manifesting this glorious truth in their lives? From a strict & woodenly literal understanding of Scripture, the answer must be a resounding 'NO! Acknowledging the context in which Scripture was written, however, with the understanding of our true nature, not as human beings, but as spirit beings, we see that, as Jesus told those Pharisees, the Kingdom is within. Admittedly, it IS only when one manifests this glorious truth through one's actions that it becomes apparent, but I daresay that it was not evident in those Pharisees either!

The implication of this Universal Truth is that the Kingdom of God is present in all of Creation, whether one accepts it or not, even if one acknowledges it or not! Human beings, being what they are, may deny the Creator, but they cannot deny who they are. We are not wholly comprised of flesh & blood ( though some may insist we are ); we are comprised of what is often termed 'soul & body', or spirit & body; though our biological body is manifest to the physical senses of those around us, that biological mess of 'flesh & blood' is motivated by the Spirit Within. We often allow our Ego to rule over us, thus denying the Spirit Within & failing to manifest the Kingdom Within, but when we remain true to ourselves, our true nature, we manifest the Kingdom of God, bringing glory to the Creator, who is the Source of all Life!

The covenantal nature of Scripture, as I have alluded to before, is not such that one must agree to it before being held ( accountable ) by it: for instance, where in Scripture is it recorded that Adam even asked for a wife to be brought to him? To be part of a Covenant, or rather, held by it, one is not required to accept it or even to acknowledge its existence, it just is; we must simply live by its terms or die! Biologically speaking, of course, without the necessary nutrients ( food, water, etc. ), Life would cease; however, the spirit remains, for the spirit, being One with the Source, never dies.

In the context of Jesus' startling statement, which is the primary focus of this blogpost, He was, in some sense, equating Himself with the Kingdom of God, though His message was that 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.' ( Mark 1:15 ) Again, if the Kingdom was 'at hand' ( Greek 'eggizō' ) in the first century, how can we not acknowledge its presence NOW?!

The Kingdom of God, like the Creator, or Source, is a Universal Truth: it just IS, whether one tries to deny it or not! The ignorance of humanity does not change this glorious fact. As entertained previously, the notion that one muster into covenant in order to BE in covenant is one that may seem to have some biblical foundation, though it is by no means crystal clear & also as proposed previously, if indeed our English Bible is not the only ( written ) Revelation of the Creator God, then it should not be heretical to imagine that the Kingdom is within us all, just waiting to be manifest, or made evident in our lives!

'Did the Kingdom of God exist before the Day when Jesus came, announcing its arrival?' Most assuredly! But, as Israel had been allowing their corporate Ego to rule them, beginning with Cain, who murdered his brother because of it, the Kingdom had not manifested, or become apparent till 'the Day of the Lord'. Jesus came to reveal the true nature of that Kingdom! As a human being, He showed his first-century proponents that one could indeed master their Ego & manifest truly the Kingdom that resides in us all. Just as He revealed the Christ Within, He proved that the Kingdom begins with the heart & only then works its way out through the finger-tips!

Charles Haddon Shank