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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Body of the Christ; A Living Sacrifice

I beseech[a] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [ which is ] your [b]reasonable service.
Romans 12:1

To some, this amazing statement may be a very clear, plain one, but it seems, in this day & age, even among many Christians, to have lost much of its impact.What did the apostle mean when he penned these mysterious words? Most understand, at least in theory, that he was speaking of the offering of ourselves, our time to the service of God; ministering to/sharing with others the gifts that God has given us. This is true enough; we should offer our services, share our gifts, with those less fortunate, but does that really cover it?!

Of late, in the pages of this blog, we have explored the notion that, rather than Jesus' last name being 'Christ', just as 'Caesar' was not Julius', Augustus', etc. last name, but was simply a title; Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah for Israel. 'Christ' is the Greek equivalent, biblically speaking, of the Hebrew 'Messiah'. Etymologically speaking, the word 'Christ', meaning, 'the Anointed One', is closely related to & barely distinguishable from 'Chrism', or 'anointing ( oil )'. As a Christian, the arguments I have presented have been along these lines; 'though Jesus was the Christ, as presented to the Hebrews, then to the wider world through the Gospel; we, being the Body of ( the ) Christ ( scripturally speaking- I Corinthians 12:27 ) are thus the Christ as well, at least in potentiality!'

Whether one claims to be a Christian or not, seeking the good of others is the ultimate service, the highest good. Christianity is not the only religion that teaches this! As Christians, we have been taught to fear or despise these other religions, even though they may contain some semblance of truth, to view their subscribers as lost & in need of redemption in Jesus. In some sense, one could almost see the truth in such a statement, but only in the glorious fact that Jesus was the Christ. Not to be too repetitive, but Jesus was the Christ to the Hebrews! How many other 'Christs' ( 'Messiah's' ) have there been? To the Chinese, the Japanese, Nepalese, etc., etc. From the pages of the Bible, having been translated from the original Hebrew, Greek & Aramaic Scriptures, we read the claim that Yahweh was the One, True God & that Jesus was His Only Begotten Son. Jesus also made the ( somewhat ambiguous ) claim, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me' ( John 14:6 ). Was Jesus not saying this simply as the Son? Are we not ALL Sons? Are we not, as Christians, the Body of ( the ) Christ?!
Whether Jesus said 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me' on His own ( human ) authority, or as the Son of God ( deity ), one may note the universal truth in this statement. Yes, as the Son of God, Jesus was the only Way ( for the Hebrews ) to the Father.
( Pardon me while we take a short side-trip ) Here is where a deeper understanding of the nature of the Scriptures is important; when Jesus made this statement, He was battling the false notion that salvation was of the Law. The Pharisees were the staunchest defenders of the Law in Jesus' Day & they thought the Law & their strict observance of it was their salvation. Jesus, however, came along to show that only the Christ was 'the way, the truth, and the life'!

Sons of God ourselves ( Jesus even said we'll do 'greater' things-John 14:12 ), it might well be noted that WE, just as Jesus was to the Hebrews ( Jews & Gentiles ), are 'the way, the truth, and the life'. Not in our humanity, necessarily, though that is not unattainable, but in our true nature, the Spirit Within, whether as a Christian, a Buddhist, or Hindu ( for example ). The Christ is the ONLY way to God & without going into physiological detail, suffice it to say that, as 'fearfully and wonderfully made' as these biological bodies are, it should not be at all surprising that the 'Chrism' lies within. Again, we are the Christ ( as far as that goes ) wherein we bear within us, in our human physiology, the means to do 'greater' things than even Jesus did. This is not to say that we would then be greater than Jesus, just that we mirror His work for the Hebrews to the rest of the world. This can be best accomplished, one might argue, as a Christian, but it could as successfully be argued that one doesn't have to be a Christian to love his or her neighbor!

Sacrificial living is a concept not well-known in this day & age, even among many so-called Christians! I say 'concept', but it is really a way, THE Way, of Life. Living sacrificially may mean giving ones biological life for another ( dying that another, or others might live ), but more to the point, offering ones body as a living sacrifice means 'dying to oneself' ( as the popular phrase goes ), giving precedence to the needs of others, though we must make sure that we ourselves are strong before we can strengthen others. To offer our bodies ( as ) a living sacrifice doesn't mean that, at every opportunity we should offer to take another's place on the chopping block; it means using ( not abusing ) our biological bodies as Jesus did ( for example-one can refer to Gandhi, the Buddha, etc. ), in service to the Collective.

Service is a dying art! Thanks be to the Creator of this wonderful biology; it is, however, making a comeback! This world in which we live seems to be chock-ful of selfish people, to the point of forcing others to die that they might live ( the life ( style ) they want ). This turmoil has a silver lining, though; it tends to bring out of the woodwork those who maybe had not previously manifested  that kind of life. War is hell, but as in all such disasters, this is the one good thing that transpires from it! 

To wrap things up; though it might actually include giving up ones biological life that another, or others might live ( it hasn't quite come to that in this country, yet ), sacrificial living means giving of yourself for the good of others, not to ones own detriment, by first coming to the realization that, in reality, there ARE no 'others'.  Sacrificial living means living in such a way as to benefit ALL, for really, we ARE ALL!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Sharist Returns!

Pain! Exruciating, almost unbearable pain: yet, at the same time, somehow comforting.....

There was darkness at first, the feeling of an engulfing moisture, but even that, though it almost felt smothering, was comforting too, even moreso, but in a different way.

As the pain subsided, the soul that had been known as 'Jacob' became more aware of its surroundings. There was no physical sense of sight yet, but used-to-be Jacob felt warmth, comfort &, yes, Love: Love had brought 'him' back  Love, 'he' knew, would carry the day. There were faint memories of the past, subtle familiarities, telling the soul that was Jacob's that everything would be okay, that this life would be easier, though more difficult, than previously. The blessings would be great, but the pain was only beginning!

Everything was not okay! Even at this stage, it was clear that something was not quite right. Even the fetus, unformed as it was, felt it. During creation, something foreign had entered the mix & all was not progressing as it normally should. The One formerly known as 'Jacob' felt all of this in its very being, though as yet, it was not mature enough to decipher these signals.As time wore on, it would become clearer & all would be revealed, but for now, all that mattered was that Time marches on & the responsive creation would be a blessing, though through hardship!

Time did indeed march on & the Day arrived when the Creation left the comfort of its 'egg' & emerged, sputtering gloriously, into the light of day, even though, at first, it seemed to be cold & cruel. At first, the bright was almost overwhelming, even though it was filtered through some kind of membranous covering. Gradually, the new creation become accustomed to the harsh realities of this glorious biology. He, for it was a 'he', continued to evolve, growing into the fully functioning human being that all others view as 'normal'. But, as Time continued its march in Infinity, others began to notice that something was a bit different about this One. Where others thrived, this One was clearly uncomfortable. Again, where others feared to tred, this One was not afraid to make waves, to go where others became uncomfortable. All of this is not to say that 'he' ( we'll call him 'Christopher' ) was perfect; not by any means! Though, in the greatest sense, 'he' WAS perfect, the perfect One for the situation, for those times.

Christopher was a normal human being in most respects. Growing up, as most fetuses will do, he had a mother & father, two loving co-creators who had carefully executed the existence of this new 'shell'. For a few years, Christopher seemed to be almost helpless when it came to doing anything for himself. This was fairly normal behavior though, so his parents didn't even seem to take note, though his mother surely hid these things in her heart. It was not till he had passed the age of accountability, as it is often called, interestingly enough, that others began to take note of what Christopher had known from the start. He was not 'normal'! Sure, he would often run, jump & play like the others, but something was different. What others found fulfillment in, Christopher became quickly bored with. He just didn't see the point in the ramblings of what others saw as 'normal'.

Christopher was a 'strange' one, at least, as viewed through the eyes of almost everyone with who he came in contact. A young man now, this One that had experienced such a normal beginning had begun to manifest certain traits, habits that would eventually set him apart from others. This is not to say that Christopher was somehow better than the others, he simply tended to make different choices & though his choices weren't always good, they weren't necessarily bad either, though they might have seemed to be 'evil', at the time. The choices that Christopher had become accustomed to making were not always made in his own best interests, he was human after all, although, for some strange reason, Time had a habit of proving that they were, indeed, for the betterment of humanity!

Although he had what many would call 'a hard life', Christopher explored the limits of his biology, proving to those others that it truly was the manifestation of the One that truly matters! In this life, he had learned to make different choices, based on his own experiences, as well as those of others. Not that, even now, Christopher's choices were the best for all concerned, though that was arguable, but his consciousness had evolved to a degree well beyond that it had previously enjoyed.  When it was Time for the next round, he felt certain, things would be different!

As Christopher's eyes closed for the last time, years later, there was a sensation of pain. When 'she' opened 'her' eyes, 'She' was aware..............

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, May 06, 2018

One World, One View

In the world of the 21st century, one might note, there are many different 'worlds' co-existing at the same time, side-by-side, so to speak. While this is an undeniably glorious fact, one might also note that herein lies the crux of the problem: there ARE many different 'worlds', yes, & while many of them enjoy a more or less peaceful co-existence, working side-by-side, as the case may be, some 'worlds' have clashed to the point, it might seem, of no return! Because these 'worlds' are inhabited, made up, really, by human beings, some more, some less, all with differing 'world-views', we hear a lot about wars & rumors of wars. With the Mainstream Media, for the most part, controlling what 'news' the American public sees, these events are often either blown out of proportion, down-played, or just not covered at all. Again, much of the cause for our disturbance lies in the fact that we all have our difference & most of us think our way is THE way: when others don't follow OUR way, most of us seem to think that everybody needs to kowtow to US, or else THEY are just not thinking right & must be brought around to OUR way of thinking; either that, or destroyed!

Our English Bible presents two worlds; the 'world' of the Jews & the 'world' outside the covenant that the Creator God ( 'YHWH' to the Hebrews ) made with the children of Israel, beginning with Adam & Noah, all the way up through David, Solomon & the kings of Israel, finally culminating in Jesus who was the Christ. Whether through misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the original text, most Americans, Christians in particular, have adopted, to differing extents, the notion of 'us versus them' , of our correct world-view as opposed to their incorrect one. It must be noted that a Christ-centered world-view is indeed the view that works best for all concerned, but again, the problem we run into, the brick wall, so to speak, is that everyone seems to have a different perception of what composes a Christ-centered, or Christian worldview!

In some sense, there ARE many world-views, or ways to view our world; one might even note that there are several different ways in which to view one's own particular 'world'. In such a case, just as in how one views the world at large; the choice is ours. Our perception of the world around us, whether it's the world at large, which we have relatively no control over, or our own particular 'world', over which we can exercise the greatest control, is what determines our worldview. As we noted above, particularly in the case of most Christians, the Bible, with its varied translations & perceptions, is also a big factor in determining one's worldview.  However, we should note that there is truly only one way in which we should view the world, both our own particular circle of influence & the larger scope of the global community. This way of viewing the world in which we live, though it includes what is often called 'the Christian worldview', is not necessarily Christian in origin, though it should be noted that it is what might be called 'Christ-centered'. Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism & the plethora of other Eastern religions, though they carry the key ( as does Christianity ) to this One worldview, are not the Way either!

The worldview of which I speak, Christ-centered as it is, is based upon the fact that the Christ dwells within us all! Now, before a brick wall is thrown up here & for some, it's probably too late already, when I speak of the Christ Within All, I simply mean that we all have a choice as to whether or not to manifest the Anointed One, which is the meaning of the Christ.. In much the same way, the Buddha, which simply means the Awakened One, is within the purview of every human being, within reason, of course. This is not to say that every human being alive or has ever lived has awakened the Christ or the Buddha Within, though numerous historical examples, for instance, Jesus Himself, could no doubt be named. To awaken the Christ Within, in fact, might in some sense be likened, even equated, with finding one's inner 'Buddha'!

The one that most think of when one names the Buddha, much like when one calls on the Christ, is the one we know as Gautama Buddha. As Jesus is the Christ of the Bible, so was Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha of most Americans limited knowledge. Again, before you hang me up by my toenails, I challenge you to, with an open mind & clear head, mentally review the sayings of Jesus & see if the Gospel I'm preaching has any merit! Yes, Jesus was the Christ! There is no other figure, within or without the pages of history, particularly the Bible, to make that claim, although there are arguably numerous ones who filled His shoes, so to speak.

Getting back to the One Worldview ( One- world View ), it cannot be stressed enough that, throughout this gloriously diverse world we live in, there are many & varied world-views. It is our diversity that make us the beautiful human beings we are, but is our spirit, our innermost being, that make us One. In fact, one might note, it is the human Ego which makes us manifest differently,which makes us perceive the 'world' as 'us & them'. When the human Ego clashes with another, remember, we ALL have a choice, the temptation is to say that it is only OUR perception which is the correct one; OUR way is the ONLY way & if the other ( which exists only in our mind ) doesn't see OUR point of view, then 'heaven help that poor, deluded soul!'

The 'world' that we, particularly as 21st century Americans, live in is NOT the same 'world' that Jesus lived in, though, looking at society today, one might note some frightening similarities! Though in some ways 21st-century America is not too far removed from Ancient Israel, it is very different; almost as far as east is from west, one might say. The Hebrews we read about in the Bible, living in a much different culture than we are used to, thus enjoyed a different economy, though one might say our own economy is based, however loosely, on theirs. Most American Christians, reading the Hebrew Scriptures, derive their worldview from their own perception ( or their pastor's or some great theologian's )| of what those same scriptures say. The One Worldview, or One-World View, may be found within those Scriptures, but it is not only with the Hebrew Scriptures that such Truth can be found. It is within the hearts of every living human being & it is there we must seek it, or it will never be unearthed!

To this end,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

This Infinite Universe

Have you ever looked up at the stars & thought about what an insignificant speck you are? Not that you really are insignificant, but in the grand scheme of things, in comparison with say, a planet or a star, humanity seems a mere speck, a mote, if you will. It is when one ponders the miracles of this biology, with its microscopic cells & even smaller mitochondria, that we really understand how truly significant these physical shells really are; not that they are merely shells, for they are much more than that: not prison houses for the soul, as the Gnostics are accused of teaching, this human marvel is so engineered to work symbiotically with the spirit, as to manifest on this physical plane of existence what is true on the spiritual.

When Charles Darwin first published his signature work, The Origin of the Species, in 1859, you might well say that he, along with his progeny, set the religious world on its ear. Along with the Big Bang theory ( no, not the popular television series ), much of what we KNEW about the universe, both inner & outer, was overturned. Contrary to what the Bible seems to say about the origins of the universe, which is what many Christians cling to, Science has unearthed an overwhelming plethora of evidence to suggest, at the very least, that Darwin's theory of evolution & the Big Bang theory may not be too far off, though guided, of course, by an Intelligent Designer!

The God of the Bible, AKA 'the God of Christianity', is most surely one aspect of the Creator of Life, but is He the ONLY picture of the Creator God that we have at our fingertips? We throw around words like 'omnipresent' & 'infinite', but we still tend to think of the God of the Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek Scriptures as confined to the English Bible. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch, when it comes right down to it, but seriously; isn't that a bit presumptuous, to think that the God of Creation, the Intelligent Designer of the Cosmos, can only be truly known through the Scriptures given to an Ancient Near Eastern people? It is manifestly evident that the God who hung the stars is so much more than that; infinitely more!

The Scriptures, in particular maybe the Psalms, are rife with examples of what most call 'creation language', language that points irrefutably to the fact that Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, created both all that we see & what we don't see, or at least, so it would seem!  Upon further examination, though, it has been discovered that, although we may deduce that the language of Scripture clearly points to Intelligent Design, it is actually covenantal language, relating the formation of a special people, 'Israel' by name. Again, this is not to say that we can't glean universal truth from these Scriptures, though we should understand that they are primarily a Book of Covenant.

Our ( Christian ) concept of 'God' is based wholly on our understanding of the aforementioned Scriptures. No; 'God' is not merely a concept; that's not what I'm saying! What I'm saying is, that our concept of 'God', whoever He/She/It may be, is not ( necessarily ) true or all-encompassing; it is simply our perception of the Divine. 'God' is what He/She/It is; we are used to saying 'He' because that is what we have been taught for millennia, thanks to the Hebrew Scriptures. I still talk daily to my Heavenly Father, because it's been ingrained in me. Am I wrong to call 'God' my Father? Is someone else wrong to refer to the Divine as feminine? Is it for us to say?

That this universe we inhabit is the work of an Intelligent Designer is beyond question! No true scientist can seriously say that, with the intricacies of its nature, it just happened; it's way too complex for that. Even with my very limited knowledge; I can definitively say that there is much more to it than meets the eye! The limits of Space, in the opinion of this blogger, will never be explored. A fairly recent theory that Science has put forward is that the Universe is expanding. The fact, or observation that certain galaxies are exponentially receding in Time & Space, in effect, does not speak of a universal expansion, but of an expansion of our knowledge, or understanding, our perception.

Evolution, put very simply, is the process through which an organism grows in its different formations throughout what may be called 'the stages of life'. Increasing knowledge, in some sense, could be called 'evolution'. So, as a child matures & the form of his or her biological body changes to adapt to certain situations. This evolution can be observed in nature as well, both plant & animal. It is evident even in the mineral kingdom.

'As above, so below'! As these biological bodies are to the mitochondria, so, it might be said, is the tiny speck that we call home ( Earth ) to the vastness of the known universe. That's just the known universe! As our understanding, or perception of the Universe expands, however, so may our understanding of the limits of this biology. 'As above, so below'; not our perceptions of Reality, but Reality itself, not as we think it is, but as it truly is!

As an endnote; we are not this biology: we cannot be defined by the shells we wear! Our spiritual nature, though manifest in our humanity, is what ultimately defines us. Call us 'Sparks of Divinity' or what you will, as being of the same Essence as the One we call 'God', we are, in that sense infinite, though we are enveloped in finiteness. Through our study of our infinite nature, however, who knows what dreams may come!

Charles Haddon Shank

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