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


Friday, September 14, 2018

Beautiful People

People are strange when you're a stranger
Faces look ugly when you're alone
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted
Streets are uneven when you're down
 The Doors

The phrase, 'Beauty is ( only ) skin-deep' is most likely familiar to my readers. The sad thing is, while it gets a lot of 'air-play' ( along with phrases like, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder ( or 'beer-holder' )' ), this is a total misnomer, based on a wrong assumption of 'beauty'! Like anything else, True Beauty starts on the inside, not with the 'person', but with the True Self. Don't get me wrong, there are men & women out there who possess what many call 'beauty', but inside, they are empty of what defines True Beauty! Then again, there are those whose physical appearance is more of what we would call a 'Plain Jane' ( at best ), but inside, one finds that they are a delight to know! On the other hand, though, there are those whom we would call 'drop-dead gorgeous' or 'beautiful' ( aesthetically pleasing ) who truly shine from the inside out.

Perception is the key. In the lyrics above, penned by Jim Morrison, one should note that it is our perception that makes people seem 'strange' or 'ugly'; when it comes to 'wicked women', this too is based on our personal experience. To one person, certain men or women may seem 'wicked', people may be 'strange' or 'ugly', while to others, they may be 'beautiful'! One reason that this occurs, the main reason, actually, is that many of us allow our emotions to rule us, to rule our actions ( some call this the 'Ego' ); when a person whom we desire does not return that desire, our Ego is wounded; when this happens, the object of our frustrated desire often tends to become 'ugly' ( or rather, we to them ), 'strange', or even 'wicked'. This, of course, is based in 'the person', with its desires & fluctuating likes & dislikes; one moment, we may like another, but then, for reasons outlined above, our 'like' may turn to 'dislike'!

People are either beautiful or they are not; our perception of them matters not ( except to us )! If we really take the time to get to know them, we would find that there are more beautiful people out there than not, although there are those so wrapped up in the 'person', who define themselves by the 'Ego', that they have become, for all intents & purposes, 'ugly'. This is not to say, however, that there is no hope for such a person ( there's always hope ), but, as the saying goes, 'some people, you just can't reach' ( or 'you can't fix stupid' ); in such a case, all we can do is lead by example, gently educate & hope for the best!

As I alluded to earlier, a person may have a sort of outer 'beauty', in fact, they may be 'drop-dead gorgeous', but inside, from the heart, so to speak, they are so encapsulated by everyone else's perception ( of 'beauty' ) that they focus on their 'person' ( 'Ego' ), thus limiting & even neglecting their inner selves, which is where True Beauty lies! When a person takes the time to truly know themselves ( their True Nature ), they will soon realize that, if they don't take of themselves on the inside, anything they do on the outside, however aesthetically pleasing they try to make themselves, will have no lasting effect, at least, no good effect. Again, this is because people, when limited to the 'person', tend to change like the weather; when ruled by the emotions, one moment it's 'love', the next, it's 'hate'!

True Beauty, therefore, is NOT 'skin-deep'; in fact, it has nothing to do with 'skin' at all! Now, don't get me wrong, True Beauty on the inside ( inner self ) WILL manifest outwardly; if a person DOESN'T limit themselves to their 'Ego' ( outer person ), but develops their True Selves, they will become Truly Beautiful, no matter what they look like on the outside; in fact, one should note that, the outward appearance ( to certain people ) will be so softened, that, no matter how 'plain' they are, to the right person ( s ), they will become very attractive.

In their very Essence, one might say, EVERYONE is beautiful! Many have, however, lost sight of this glorious fact & limited themselves to their particular society's perception ( standard ) of what IS 'beauty', thus viewing themselves as 'ugly' or not 'beautiful'. Again, as before, these people tend to become, for all intents & purposes, 'ugly', whether because of being 'jaded' by their experiences or for some other reason. These, again, are not beyond hope; with the right education & love out-poured, they can be convinced of their own worth, but first, they must convince themselves! This is not an easy thing to accomplish ( kinda like 'forgiving oneself-these are strangely inter-related ), but it CAN & MUST be done!

If we cannot see Beauty in ourselves, we will not be able to see it in anyone else! In the same vein, if we do not recognize the Beauty that is us, it while be hard, though not impossible for others to see that Beauty in us. Sometimes it takes that one special person, that one beautiful soul, to help us see ( recognize ) that we are indeed beautiful, contrary, often, to what our particular society has taught us. When we do recognize that Beauty in ourselves, that Beauty manifests on the outside & we understand that rather than being 'skin-deep', 'True Beauty is as Beauty does'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Love of God & the Pain of the World

'Where was God on 911?'

Gone, but not forgotten, disasters like the terrible events of September 11, 2001, have caused many to wonder ( as though they hadn't before ), if God was so loving & all powerful, either we've been fed a lie for a long time ( God is NOT omnipotent ) or He had something against all those who died during that travesty, both in the planes & in the towers. Was it because the people in both the planes & the towers were not Christians, therefore not offering God His due? This scenario presents further problems, like, 'is God just a petty tyrant who kills people for not believing in Him? If He could, in His omnipotence, have prevented it, but didn't; again, we're left with a petty, vindictive God: either that, or One who's not as all-powerful as we've been taught! Then again, maybe, just maybe, as some have no doubt postulated, He simply allowed this tragedy because the Twin Towers housed one of the largest financial centers in these United States. It goes without saying that Money has become a god/God to the majority of Americans, including many Christians. 'Why let the people die though, God?' Oh, yeah; it was their just punishment for having other gods before Thee!

Like it or not, Pain has become the biggest problem in this world; one might even say that it's the Root of All Evil!  ( 'Wait; I thought that was 'the love of money'?! ) Pain has been the cause of wars around the world, whether it's the pain of jealousy or the actual physical pain of remembering what this group of people did to that group of people, oh, so long ago. 'PAIN of Jealousy', you say, 'why would something like jealousy cause pain?' Well, not only does the one who's jealous of another feel the pain of emptiness inside, more often than not, the possessor of the object of desire feels the pain, both physically & mentally, of separation when his or her possession is wrested from them, often ending in death. When a death like this occurs, depending on the situation, of course, war ( of some sort ) isn't far behind!

The Pain of the World, like the pain of individuals ( for that IS the pain of the world ), even if/when self-inflicted or deserved, is still pain! As Christians, are we not to be those healing leaves that John wrote about in  the Revelation? Although there are many Christians who act the part ( of 'healing leaves' ), there are as many or more who stand staunchly behind the war effort, claiming 'just cause' or some such. Though this blogger is personally against war, this is not an anti-war post, per se, though war is both the cause & effect of much of the pain of the world!

War. of course, is not the only cause & effect of pain in the world, nor is pain the only cause & effect of war in the world. Fear also factors largely. In fact, one might note that Pain is often simply the physical manifestation of one's Fear. Fear of losing one's possessions ( including one's life ) is probably the number one cause of much of the evil that we witness in this world. 'Fear is the mind-killer', a wise man once said: when people identify with the Ego, limiting themselves to the confines of their mind & that fragile mind is threatened, there are no lengths to which that person will not go to protect what is theirs.

In many cases, Fear has been the leading cause of war; in modern times especially, though it is not necessarily a modern concept, the 'preemptive strike' has factored rather largely in the pain of the world. Because of the fear, unwarranted or not, that this person or group of persons ( country ) will annihilate 'us' unless we strike 'them' first, innocent people have suffered & died! These deaths, then, with the Pain they bring, often have the effect of creating enemies where there were none before, only those who just wanted to live in peace.

Of course, much of the problem could be alleviated if more people realized that they are greater than their Ego, which has its seat in the Mind. Once the Ego/Mind was under the control of the Spirit ( the true nature of our BEing ), jealousy would cease, for people would no longer be controlled, as Cain was, by the weakness & limitations of our Ego. Because Jealousy, which might be called the Root of Fear, would cease, so would War. A wise man once sang about a 'world' where no one had any 'possessions'; if no one owned any possessions, but simply shared the wealth of the world, there would be no cause for Jealousy; therefore no Fear & thus, no Pain!

That last passage may sound like a bunch of gobbledy-gook to some of my readers, in fact, one might say I'm a dreamer, but much of the Pain the World is suffering right now, all of it, really, is seated squarely in the Mind/Ego. When we let it control our actions, rather than acting purely from our BEing, we unleash all manner of Pain & suffering on a weary world! For our part ( for that's all that's up to us ), we must realize who we really are, stop identifying with the Mind/Ego & start BEing what we truly are, Beings of Light & Love, just like the One in Whom we live, move & have our BEing!

Speaking of the Source of all Life, we tend to blame much on 'Him', or 'His' arch-nemesis, 'Satan' that is really only the Laws of Cause & Effect! People go around thinking they are limited to the Mind/Ego, acting according to the weakness of this concept & thus causing Pain according to what they themselves are experiencing because of the limitations they have placed upon themselves.

So, did God allow the tragic events of 911? Obviously, it was the Mind of Man that executed them. Unless you want to blame it on some poor 'Devil' ( Satan ), you'll end up with a God that could've saved all those people, but chose not to, for whatever reason, or a God that's not so all-powerful as we've been led to believe! ( I'm sure there are other choices ) Whether one claims to be a Christian or not, either of the two choices seems rather distasteful.

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Hidden Divinity ( of Man ); Identity in the Midst of Diversity

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 
if indeed you have tasted that the Lord [ is ] gracious.
Coming to Him [ as ] to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, 
to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
I Peter 2:1-5

First of all, let me clarify that the passage just quoted is, in context, speaking of Jesus the Christ. He was rejected as the promised Messiah of Israel, not by all men, or even many men, universally speaking, but by a select group of men, the majority of whom were the religious leaders of the House of Israel in the 1st century. Whether one believes that Jesus was THE Son of God, in Essence, a unique historical figure, or whether one accepts the Truth of the Christ, or Chrism within all, it should be understood that the words above are not unique to the first century, or even to a peculiar people, but put forth a certain universal truth, one which should resonate with all human beings!

The Diversity of Humanity is so blatant that it needs no lengthy introduction. Personally speaking, every single human being on the face of this planet has different wants & needs, likes & dislikes. Most people, when it comes to relationships, from intimate to business, find some sort of compatibility, but even on more or less common ground, disagreements, from minor to major, tend to surface at any given point. Though these disagreements do not always cause problems, issues stemming from our diversity are bound to crop up.

The Divinity of Man ( kind ) is, in certain religious circles anyway, rather a taboo subject. This is rather a sad commentary, for even our own Scriptures point to this glorious fact! To be sure, there are certain Scriptures, like Psalm 51 & I John 1:9, for instance, that seem to point to man's innate sinfulness & wickedness. Jeremiah 17:9 is another such 'proof-text' that shows unequivocally that humanity is 'bad to the bone'.  Although it is hard to deny, in the case of certain people especially, that man ( kind ) is not born in sin, due to the fall of the biblical 'Adam' ( Genesis 3 ), it is hardly a foregone conclusion that humanity, in general, is destined, either for 'Heaven' or 'Hell'.

In the Eastern religions, particularly the Far Eastern ones, but even in some of the more esoteric traditions of the Ancient Near East, the Divinity of Man is not only explored, but even accepted & glorified. The possibility of every human being to manifest the Christ ( depending of course on the culture one comes from ) is taught as a universal truth. The steps necessary to achieve this exalted status do not include following any certain ( established ( institutional ) religion, but are wholly dependent upon the individual & based upon their own personal choices. 

The Divinity of Humanity is a glorious fact! Although, as we've seen, all do not manifest this divinity & so become more animalistic in their nature, there are those who do choose to manifest the Christ Within & thus show ( prove ) their Divinity. These become Masters, or Teachers & every Teachers must, of necessity, have Students. Thus, as Time marches on, we will see more & more of the Students become Masters, or Teachers themselves; so will the Circle of Life continue until, as our Scriptures say, 'the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea' ( Habakkuk 2:14 ( Isaiah 11:9 ). Both of these passages, though they hold universal truth, are again primarily referring to the fulfillment of events in the ANE ( Ancient Near East ) in the first century A.D..

It is well-known that in the East, not the West, we have what is called 'The Cradle of Civilization'! It was there that humanity first began, through religion ( which, as per usual, became corrupted ), to seek the Divinity Within. Humanity, though not through what we have known as 'The Fall' ( Genesis 3 ) has an innate tendency to prove that old saying, 'power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely'! Every man, woman & child has the free-will choice to decide, as Cain ( Genesis 4 ) did, whether to rule over our emotions ( 'ego'-you name it ) or whether to let our desires rule over us. Depending on those choices, we manifest the Christ Within, or we allow our animal nature to rule us & more often than not, end up by murdering our brother.

However we choose, according to our human nature or our divine nature, we remain, in Essence, One with the Divine ( Creator, Source ). Whether in this life or the next ( or the next ), the evolution of the soul will inevitably prove the glories of this divine fact! As humanity gradually awakens to this awareness, more & more will seek Masters to guide them in their spiritual evolution ( 'development', if you wish ), then, becoming Masters themselves, will attract more & more Students, thus completing the ever-expanding circle.

The notion that Man ( kind ) is born into sin, biblically speaking, is as false as the day is long! As above, it is hard to deny the inglorious fact that there are those, whether based on some sort of religious conditioning or not, have chosen to allow their lower, animal nature to rule them & so have squelched the Spirit Within ( I Thessalonians 5:19 ). However, the choice remains; it is not because of some inheritance ( although we do, in our evolution, develop certain tendencies ) that we are prone to miss the mark. Our conditioning helps us to decide whether we will act wrongly or rightly, according to our human ( animal ) or divine nature.

In the midst of our diversity, as human beings, we must realize our true nature, that of divinity, or in Essence, Oneness with the Source of Life. Even the worst, most animalistic human being ( so that he or she can barely be called 'human' ) bears this Spark so that, no matter the amount of Time, they  must eventually, through the evolution of the soul, come to realize this true nature & reach the culmination of the ages, to become who they were meant to be, personally speaking, according to the design of the Creator.

The Hidden Divinity of Man ( kind ) is such that one will eventually, whether in one or many lifetimes, realize their Oneness with the Divine, with the Source. Even according to our Scriptures ( Acts 17:26 ), we, as human beings, are all cut from the same cloth, so to speak. so why do we murder one another? Why do we tear one another down? It is because of our diversity, our different likes & dislikes, that we tear at one another like rabid dogs do with a piece of meat, but it is also because of, not in spite of, our diversity that we compliment each other. ( If we were all the same, humanly speaking, how compatible would we really be? ) We each, individually & personally, have a choice; we can allow our lower, animal nature ( emotions-not that emotions are a bad thing ) to rule our actions, or we can let go & divinely choose to awaken the Christ Within, the Chrism that resides within each & every one of us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

A Country Without Borders

And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:15‭-‬16 NKJV

Imagine, if you will, a place where there are no lines drawn in the sand. A 'place' where no one fights over fences; 'this is my property, that's yours; you stay on yours or we might have a problem!' A wise man once referred to this place when he wrote, 'Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too; imagine all the people living life in peace'. An equally wise man had previously written, concerning this 'place', 'Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away' ( Revelation 21:3 & 4 ). ( In context, one should note, these words were meant primarily for a certain audience, but there is a universal truth in them. ) This 'heavenly country' is not, then, a geographical location, though, geographically speaking, 'it' can be anywhere. This realm is what we call the 'spiritual realm'; it is within each one of us, every single human being, though many do not & have not duly manifested it!

On the North American continent, we live in a country called the United States, nestled almost uncomfortably between Canada & Mexico. A bit over 200 years ago, these United States of America fought the British & their mercenaries, winning their 'independence'. As a friend of mine commented the other day, they simply traded an oligarchy for the monarchy they had labored under for roughly a hundred years or less. Some might argue too, that these United States of America never really freed themselves from the British Empire or its tyranny. Be what it may, Americans traditionally celebrate the 4th of July, which again, is traditionally the day that representatives from the original 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, in effect telling the British to 'FUCK OFF!' The British were not pleased, of course, with THEIR errant 'children' & officially launched the Revolutionary War, a bloody conflict, which, though deemed necessary, could really have been avoided & arguably, should have been!

Much, if not most conflicts across this world of ours have been the direct result of greed. Oh, sure, excuses have been made, excuses like 'saving the world for democracy' or  'rescuing the Holy Land from the Infidel'. The nobility of the Cause is hard to deny & especially the ( needless ) sacrifice that countless men & women have made for this country, but did they really have to die?! John Lennon, as quoted above from his song, 'Imagine', later wrote ( in the same song ), 'Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man, imagine all the people sharing all the world'. No matter if you are a Christian or a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Jew, we all believe, in other words, that one Creator made this world ( Earth ) in/on which we all dwell & that all human beings are made of the same flesh &  blood ( there MAY be exceptions there, according to some ). That being the case, one might be made to wonder, then, is why we can't all just get along like John Lennon envisioned?!

James 4:1 & 2 reads, 'What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?[b] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask'. While Christians might quote this passage from the Greek Scriptures as the reason why we as human beings have a tough time getting along ( attributing it, of course, to our 'fallen nature' ), we may apply this passage from James' letter to the Hebrews as the impetus behind such evils as the wars & killings this world has been plagued with for many, many thousands of years. Much of the reason for this, unfortunately, especially for the past few centuries, comes from a misinterpretation of the same Scriptures, as well as from the Hebrew Scriptures.

As we read above, from the letter called 'Hebrews', the 'Heroes of the Faith', as they are often called, sought 'a heavenly country', that is, in Scriptural terms, one 'not of this world' ( John 18:36 ). Textually, of course, Jesus was referring to the 'world' of the first-century Jews, but, as in many cases, we can see that this is a universal truth, for His Kingdom lies within, in our innermost being. Seeking any kingdom but this sort of 'Kingdom' was what the apostle ( James ) railed against. The Kingdom of Heaven, or God is not one that is won through force of arms ( violence ) or any political means; quite the opposite, in fact. In order to enter this Kingdom & win your true independence, all one had to do was accept it. Accepting its true nature & ours as well is what rewards us with true independence; the rest is transitory ( impermanent ), merely the outworking of what we have realized in our innermost being!

The Revolutionary War & other ensuing wars, may have, on the surface, anyway, or for a time, won their independence from British tyranny, but I challenge you to prove that we are not under much the same tyranny as they suffered under! Yes, you might say, 'we are on American soil, not British; the United States of American is its own country, not a bunch of British colonies!' True enough, but we might be surprised to learn how much of a stranglehold Britain has on our 'own' economy! Although we have a President of these United States, unlike the British Isles, much of our 'own' government, in principle ( however loosely ), is based on theirs! Are we still a British Colony? Not technically, but one might be surprised at how close we are to being just that!

The Kingdom of Heaven might well be called a 'Kingdom of the Heart'. By 'heart', of course, is meant 'the innermost being'. The 'heavenly country' referred to in the beginning of this blog has no specific geographical location ( like 'the Holy Land', or some such ), except as those who manifest it in their own lives effect it in the world around them. As such, then, this Kingdom of the Heart is forever expanding, as more 'hearts' open to the realization of this Spiritual Truth. The fact that, as human beings, 'we' have certain unalienable rights, cannot be denied. The pursuit of Life, Liberty & Happiness is something we are all afforded by the Law of Nature. The ownership of property is among these rights, but when these rights become idolatrous, as often happen, they become no more than the chains that bind us, even enslave us. When we remember that we are citizens of a 'a heavenly country', not of any of a transitory nature, we have thus won our Independence & can truly enjoy its benefits!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Missing Link; the Interdependency of Life

'Our lives are not our own.'
'We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.'
David Mitchell- 'Cloud Atlas'

'Does sacrifice necessarily imply pain?' In this day & age, the world that we live in, the most ready & immediate answer would likely be 'YES', but must it really?! If our answer was 'yes'; we should then ask ourselves, 'why?' Why, unless life is linear rather than circular, would it cause pain? Another way of saying this is that the plant dies so that the animal may live, the animal dies so that the human might live, then the human body, when it dies, returns to the ground, becoming food for plants, which in turn become food for the animals, etc., etc. In linear thinking  ( 'it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment' ( Hebrews 9:27 ), there is no cognizable link between life & death: death is viewed as a punishment, something to be avoided at almost any cost, instead of what it truly is, an inevitable, even necessary part of life!

This world is riddled with pain & suffering; there can be no denying this horrendous & horrifying fact! Again though, we should as ourselves, 'why?' Why do we feel such pain & suffer ( loss ) so much? Is it not because we have become so attached to what is impermanent & transitory? We fight to keep these biological bodies from perishing ( as long as we reasonably can ), in fact, we tax ( to the breaking point ) our resources to keep healthy, or to rebuild our health & stay healthy. This is not to say that there is anything necessarily wrong with any of these propositions, because in order to most beneficently utilize our time in this biology, we must stay healthy ourselves! As Jesus, the Great Master to the Hebrews, said, 'Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father' ( John 20:17 ). We, human as we are, have a tendency to cling (voraciously ) to what we perceive with the 'five senses', being programmed, by our environment, yet still through our own individual choices, to 'forget' that we are possessed of a greater sense yet!

That sense, which some have called 'consciousness', might also be termed 'spirituality'. It is the awareness, or consciousness, that we are all connected, not just with others, as human beings, but that in order to survive in this biology, we must realize our interdependency, our relationship, if you will, with all living things. As Christians, we are well acquainted with the concept of spirituality, but we also tend, as above, to think linearly, simply speaking, vertically, rather than horizontally. By this, I mean to say that though we usually ( again, as Christians ) view life horizontally, at least from a biblical purview, the tendency, among most Christians anyway, is to look at life from a vertical standpoint, in essence, that we must pursue a blessed relationship with our Heavenly Father in order that we might enjoy an eternity in 'Heaven' ( up there ). This is actually true, but more from a horizontal viewpoint!

In order to experience 'Heaven', we must enjoy a blessed relationship with our Heavenly Father; on that point I want to be abundantly clear! Notice, I did say 'experience' rather than 'go to' ( when we die ). Even biblically speaking, especially from the teaching of Jesus, Paul & the apostles, we should deduce that 'Heaven', rather than being somewhere we 'go' when we die, is our experience in blessed Relationship with the Creator & His Creation. In fact, when Jesus said 'indeed, the kingdom of God is [g]within you' ( Luke 17:21), He was, in essence, telling them ( us as well ) that 'Heaven', as the abode of 'God' was within us all. As Christians, especially, we can also point to the universal truth of what Jesus told His disciples, recorded in John 14:23; 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'. We've been over this ground before, but since the so-called 'God-head' ( Father, Son & Holy Spirit? ) has made His ( Their? ) Home with us, it should not be too much of a leap to ascertain  that 'Heaven' is in us!

The Kingdom of Heaven is not simply an experience of course; in order to experience something, it must of necessity be, well....a thing! It has been said that 'Heaven is the Presence of God'
( a wise man said, not really, it was just me! ) & though that is true, it is in defining ( as if  IT can be defined! ) the Presence of God, even 'God' Himself, that we run into problems, even sometimes, brick walls. Whether defined collectively ( in a group ) or singularly ( individually ), most everybody has a slightly different perception as to what that Presence should look like. From a biblical point of view, it might look like anything from the Holy Spirit-filled Christian, all the way back to a Divine Intelligence who created everything to run like clockwork. Some would even say that 'God is in everything & everything is ( in ) God'. The perspective of this blogger is that the Creator is our Heavenly Father & that He has set Natural Law in place so that those who live by this Law are blessed, while those who do not do not enjoy its blessings!

This Natural Law then, is such that says, 'if this then that' ( like the biblical injunction of 'whatever a man sows, that he will also reap' - Galatians 6:7 ). The Law of Consequences is known to most, if not all, but too often, it would seem, this realization extends mainly to like beings, specifically, 'human beings'. More & more, with the Evolution of the Soul, people are realizing just how inter-connected, indeed interdependent humans are with & on ALL forms of Life, even the most microscopic, some probably, which have not even been enumerated as of yet. As more come to this startling realization, we will see the Peace of  God rule in a way that we had not witnessed before ( except maybe in fairy-tales & such  ); even wars will cease as people realize they're only killing themselves, both literally & figuratively. Even the way we eat will change, when we begin to realize the Circle of Life ( then we'll truly understand the meaning of 'you are what you eat' ); no more will we herd cattle into slaughterhouses, like we have for centuries; rather than raising food for the Almighty Dollar, we'll be more careful to respect the Cycle, according to the Creator's Natural Law!

As the world stands now, there is & has been, much pain & suffering! Through faith ( ? ), the pain of that suffering has been somewhat alleviated, but the suffering is still there. Some will say that 'suffering is a human condition'; indeed it is, has been for millennia, but must it be? Must we be so attached to what is only temporary that we feel actual physical pain when we are separated from it? I'm not saying that it's wrong or weak, somehow, to feel pain at say, the passing of a loved one ( I do not say 'loss', because we do not 'lose' them ), or when our body is at dis-ease. Such pain, regrettable & unfortunate as it is, is now almost a Fact of Life in this world, although it need not be. The Evolution of the Soul helps us to realize the true facts of life, that all is not as we perceive. In this sense then, it could well be said that 'Pain is in the Perception'!

The Pain of Sacrifice comes from the loss we feel when we give up something so that another may have it, or even something else. But that is not the Essence of Sacrifice; the Essence of Sacrifice is in sharing, whether it be our life or our ice cream cone. To give of yourself is what sacrifice is all about.  Sometimes, yes, as it has in times past, Sacrifice calls for one to lay down his or her life that another might live. This is humanly speaking, though; how often do we think about the plants, the animals, that have given their lives, usually without much complaint, not so much that we might live, but that we might enjoy 'the finer things in life'?!

Speaking of Pain, sad to say, much of the pain we experience, though at first it seems pleasurable, comes from those 'finer things in life'! There's nothing wrong with enjoying a good steak, now & then, don't get me wrong; I myself, enjoy a good filet mignon once in a while. But are we at all concerned with how the 'T-bone', the 'New York Strip' or the 'Filet Mignon' were raised, how the cattle that we so callously consume were treated before their lives were wrested from them? Awareness is on the rise, but I think it would fairly safe to say that the overwhelming majority of consumers do not care where their food (beef ) comes from.

Our lives are not our own! Whether one puts a Christian 'spin' on this phrase or understands it more from an Eastern perspective, the truth is that we are only beginning to understand the depth of it. It goes without saying that, as individual ( human ) beings, we live our lives individually, but once we begin to understand how connected our lives are ( to each other ), we can't help but to begin to live more carefully How we treat, not just the Muslim next door, but the homosexual couple across town that wants us to bake a cake for their wedding. We will think twice before ordering our favorite steak. (did the cow that gave up their life have a comfortable environment as he or she was being raised for slaughter? What did THEY eat?! ) Can we long survive in such an environment? History has shown that we can, but the question might well be asked; 'is mere survival really living?' I would say not!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Connections; Ripples in a Pond


What is your only comfort

in life and death?

That I am not my own, 1
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 2
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 3
He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood, 4
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil. 5
He also preserves me in such a way 6
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head; 7
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation. 8
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me
of eternal life 9
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him. 10

Lord's Day One-Heidelberg Catechism

"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas   

It is definitely simpler & makes for a much easier, readier explanation just to believe, to have faith that an Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, no less, has so orchestrated our lives that we are destined either for greatness or smallness, to live extraordinarily or in mediocrity. We have a choice, of course, in between, as to how we live our lives. whether we live for God or the devil, with the hope of 'Heaven' or 'Hell' ( 'choose well' ) The notion that we are not confined to this physicality ( this body, this life ) is not, in our Western view especially, easy to digest. That our lives are not our own is clear from a Christian standpoint; as the saying goes, 'you were bought with a price', although the import of this statement is often anachronistically misunderstood. Our lives are not our own, not in an anachronistic sense, as many Christians believe, but in the sense that how we live our lives affects not only those around us, but ultimately every single human being in existence around the world, like ripples in a pond!

I was brought up, at least from my early teens, with documents such as 'The Heidelberg Catechism'. Before that, though, I was somewhat familiar with 'The Westminster Shorter Catechism', so you might say that, from day one, I was catechized, baptized, if you will, in the Christian faith.  I am not renouncing, by any means, the faith of our fathers, in exploring, even accepting such Eastern concepts as reincarnation & such. That everything is not so simple as going to either one of the afore-mentioned  'places' when you die has become clear to this blogger & though it has become clear to me that much of what I have been taught from my youth is subject to examination, it is clear as well that the Scriptures we are familiar with also hold much universal ( catholic? ) truth. This Truth is found, not in the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures alone, but Scriptures from around the world, maybe most particularly in the Far East.

The Scriptures of, say the Far East, for example, seem as foreign to us as the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures should! As Christians, though, we have adapted this example of Ancient Near Eastern literature to our Western understanding, so that now, we have a Bible upon which we base our faith, our hope, but which is also, to a great extent, misunderstood & even, to a lesser extent, maybe, misinterpreted. The doctrines we have extrapolated from these Scriptures, though not necessarily wrong, must be examined in the light of the context from which they were drawn. For example, the doctrines of 'Heaven' & 'Hell', examined in the light of the world from which they were drawn,
are based, not upon a literal, or Western understanding, but a metaphorical, or Eastern understanding. Thus, both concepts are not places, or quantitative, but rather qualitative, metaphorical of existence on this plane, although it is arguable that 'Heaven' at least, as the abode of God, exists as such, outside this plane of existence.

The Truth of existence beyond this mortal plane is one that can be gleaned, not only from the Scriptures of the Far East, but even from our own. That 'God dwells in the heavens' is clear from the Scriptures we are most familiar with, though again, we must understand this phrase in the context in which it was written, The story of the mountain surrounded by heavenly hosts found in the book of II Kings, chapter 6, verses 16-18 may be the clearest example we have in our Scriptures of this other realm, or plane, which exists outside yet inside our own.

The Ancient Wisdom of the Far East is not relegated to the Far East alone; it is also found in the Scriptures of the Near East, even what we read today as the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, our Bible, which, though Western as it is, still holds much of that Ancient Wisdom, that Ancient Truth. From the pages of the Bible, particularly in the Teaching of Jesus, we can see that He preached a gospel of unity, not division. The oneness of humanity is what brings to bear the Kingdom of Heaven.  Through our differences, not in spite of them, He taught, we find unity, one supplying this necessity, the other supplying that.

The Kingdom of Heaven, or of God, Jesus taught, is within us. It is when we realize our oneness, even though our individuality cannot be denied, that our eyes are opened to its truth, its existence. When it becomes clear to us, it manifests through our actions & soon becomes evident to all those around us, though they may not recognize it as anything but 'Inner Peace'. As our 'Inner Peace' manifests in our lives, we affect our surrounding world & we begin to see more & more evidence of the Kingdom of Heaven, not only as another plane of existence, but this 'mortal' plane.

Heaven surrounds us! Maybe a better way to put it is that 'Heaven envelops us'. Through our choices though, we decide whether or not, or to what extent we will manifest in our lives & thus to the world. Whether we pray to our Heavenly Father for Strength or meditate on the Strength ( Spirit ) Within, we choose to make the necessary changes, though it may take several lifetimes, to manifest the Light that we are.

The Manifestation of that Light, then, through the connections that we realize, will undoubtedly bring to bear the Kingdom of Heaven that we all bear! I say 'the connections that we realize', because, though the connections are ever-present, we have become so numb  to this glorious fact that many have forgotten or just downright denied it. We must remember these connections if we are ever to see the Kingdom of Heaven truly manifest, or brought to bear on this earth, in this world & the next!

As I alluded to earlier, we as Christians, particularly here in the West, tend to look outside ourselves for the source of our salvation and our condemnation when really, the answer to both lies within! It is according to the choices we make, the connection we realize, that the Kingdom of Heaven manifests, if at all, in our lives, much less in the surrounding world. As we persevere, both in this life & in the next, let us realize the connection that is there, pursuing unity with all, not just in spite of, but through our individual differences; in this way & this way alone, the Kingdom of Heaven will be made manifest, not just as a Kingdom ( of God ) in the midst of another kingdom ( of man ), but as that which it is in Truth!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The Organic Body of the Christ

Who doesn't like structure ( of some kind )? Even the most ( seemingly ) disorganized person usually has a method to their madness! We may not appreciate their methodology, but, even if they're the only one that can make any sense out of it,  most, if not everyone strives for some kind of structure in their lives. Too often, sin lays wait at our door when those who perceive that their lives are ordered correctly try to show those that they perceive don't have their lives ordered correctly how to correctly structure ( organize ) their lives. Then, when the one taught fails to structure their own life as the teacher sees fit, problems begin to surface, usually because, among other reasons, every person is different & individual situations vary, often greatly. This is not to say that the teacher has nothing to say to another, for often, a different perspective can greatly improve any given situation, but when any teacher says that his or her students must all organize their lives to exactly mirror his or her own, one must exercise great care!

Jesus did say that, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.' ( John 8:31 ) Of course, we must understand the immediate context of His words here & though they bear some universal truth, we should understand that Jesus was speaking to Jews that had been adherents of the so-called Mosaic Law all their lives. To understand His Word & what it entailed is equally important; the Gospel that He & His disciples preached was that the Kingdom of Heaven was within, not without. Jesus' Word to those Jews in the first century was that rather than the word spoken by Moses, He was the Word of Life, the Living Word!

It is when we come to the Church, what the apostle Paul calls, 'the Body of Christ' ( II Corinthians 12:12 & 27, Ephesians 3:6, 4:12 & 5:23, Colossians 1:24 ( Hebrews 10:5 ) that we tend to run into what is, in the opinion of this blogger, the biggest problem! Although any theologian worth his or her salt can find at least one proof-text ( probably more ) to support 'the theory of the local church', I cannot find one that is irrefutable. No doubt, there are local iterations of the Church, but even so, the Church is not, nor was ever meant to be, an institution!

DenomiNATIONALISM is really just an extension of the old Judaistic trinity of Phariseeism, Sadduceeism & Essenism! It is, in essence, a natural ( not necessarily good ) part of the human condition: this one cannot get along with that one because the other believes erroneously concerning a certain ( man-made or otherwise ) doctrine which he or she believes him or herself to hold to correctly.  Don't get me wrong, beliefs are important, but when they threaten to divide the Body of Christ, they must be closely examined & if necessary, thrown out!

There are not, as has been  supposed for centuries, two Churches ( one spelled with a capital 'C' & one with a lowercase 'c'-sound familiar? ), one local ( some call it 'visible' ) & One universal ( 'Invisible' ) As individual congregations, local assemblies were termed 'churches', mostly for convenience' sake. For instance, in ancient times especially, but even in more modern times, travel was not so conducive as it is now, so it was usually not feasible to have just one assembly, particularly as people began to grow in numbers & spread out. This actually, in my understanding, is where the term 'pagan' originated. There is One Church ( Body of Christ ), but like its members ( I Corinthians 12:12 ), there are many different congregations. Though they may have differing, even erroneous doctrinal stances, they are a part of the One Church! ( We must note here though, that individual members of any given congregation may or may not be members of the Body of Christ, or the Church! )

What is it then, to abide in His Word? As stated above, Jesus was/is the Word of Life; so if we abide in Jesus, we are His disciples. To abide in Jesus, contrary to what seems to be the popular opinion, is not simply to trust in Jesus, to believe what He said, but to follow in His footsteps, obeying His Law of Love, doing what He did ( John 14:12 ). In essence, to be the Christ, the Messiah ( or 'a messiah', if that makes you feel better ); as Jesus was to the Jews, or Hebrews, so are we to our 'world'!

To truly understand this blessed reality ( not everyone does ), it is helpful to have those with the gift of revelation ( not everyone does ), it is helpful to have differing gifts, leadership where leadership is necessary & love always. Structure ( organization ) is a good thing; everything should be done in order, not necessarily chronologically speaking, though that may be advantageous, but with order, not haphazardly, but with purpose. With this purpose in our hearts then, whether we gather in a specific building at a specific time, on a specific day of the week, let us not only do what Jesus did, but also strive not to do what Jesus didn't do, which was to organize the Body into separate ( individual ) denomiNATIONS, even separate 'churches'. Let us purpose to bring to Light the Kingdom of God, not hiding it under all the trappings of business.

Charles Haddon Shank