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


Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Fertile Earth

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb [ that ] yields seed, [ and ] the fruit tree [ that ] yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed [ is ] in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb [ that ] yields seed according to its kind, and the tree [ that ] yields fruit, whose seed [ is ] in itself according to its kind. And God saw that [ it was ] good.
Genesis 1:11 & 12 

To be perfectly blunt, procreation ( normally-there ARE exceptions to this rule ) requires a male & a female, with their complimentary reproductive organs. I'm  no scientist, but I've heard of certain creatures that are not one or the other, but 'both/and', but even in such rare or unusual cases, the creature in question possesses both male & female reproductive organs & thus, impregnates itself. Of course, we also have the famous Birth of Jesus ( Matthew 1:18-25 ), which, according to a literal interpretation of the English Bible, occurred unnaturally, or supernaturally, without the introduction of human male sperm. We've been over this, though, so we'll go no further down that rocky road!

Everybody knows that, under normal conditions, if you plant a seed in the ground ( Earth ) & provide it with plenty of water, after some time, the seed will germinate ( death & resurrection ) & a fresh green sprout will soon appear above the surface of the ground. However, how many of us really think about the process involved? Beyond that, how many of us further ruminate on the mystery of it all & how the miracles here 'below' echo the realities 'above'?! In some way, it might be noted that the concept of 'as above, so below' has been lost on an overwhelming majority. Or at least, so it would seem....................

'As above, so below' is a very spacious term! While it may refer literally to the heavens above ( outer space ) being reflected in Life on Earth, one should understand as well that what is observable is simply a manifestation of truth originating on a higher plane. By 'a higher plane', I mean, of course, that everything begins in the mind, personally speaking, whether the conscious or the unconscious. What/how we then manifest in this limited biology is the product of what first begin in our thoughts, or our head, if you will. 'A higher plane' refers, more correctly, though, to that spiritual plane, or realm, where we grasp our Divinity, where we commune with the Source of All Life. Understanding our own Divinity, it need not be a great stretch to see that the Earth Herself carries that Spark as well, though most would probably disagree as to the extent, if they admit that She does at all!

A popular Christian concept, though based on biblical terminology ( Genesis 1:3 ( John 1:1 ) et al. ) , is that Yahweh simply spoke the Word & Life as we know it came into existence. As arguable as this may be, to this blogger, it remains clear as day that this biology had a beginning. More than that, it had an Intelligent Designer! The Beginning in view here was most likely a lot longer ago than many, especially most Christians, seem to think. Millions, even billions of years are probably not out of the question!  

Biblically speaking, then, when God ( Elohim )  said, 'Let the earth bring forth...........' something ordinary, though quite miraculous, occurred; the Earth Herself was shown to have Life in Her! One might even go so far as to say that this event was significant of the True Union of Heaven & Earth! 'Ordinary', I say, because this event, though nothing short of miraculous, was quite natural. As mentioned previously, when a seed is planted in the ground, or Earth, granted it receives the correct combination of nutrients, water & light, it won't be long till it sprouts & brings forth Life of its own, after its kind. We could even go further to say that the water & light ( from the 'heavens' ), together with the necessary nutrients ( from the 'earth' ) could be likened to the fertilization of the human egg.. Beyond that, even, we find ourselves 'knocking on Heavens door', so to speak, exploring the depths of the human consciousness, even the Mind of God!

It was in the Mind of God, then, we may safely conjecture, that this biology, however old it may be, had its True Genesis. The Divinity visualized the beauty of this material creation those millions or billions of years ago & lo, it, or She rather, came to be. One might even read of this mystery in our English Bible, though it is technically more of a covenant Story than a literal textbook of the material ( biological ) creation. 

Call it 'natural processes', call it 'evolution' or what you will; when the Earth brought forth all this natural beauty that we see & even that which She continues to 'birth', the glorious concept of 'as above, so below' is shouted from the rooftops, or the mountaintops, as the case may be! Even our English Bible echoes this with 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament[a] shows [b]His handiwork.' ( Psalm 19:1 ). The prophet Isaiah also recorded an angel ( messenger ) singing, 'Holy, holy, holy [ is ] the Lord of hosts; the whole earth [ is ] full of His glory!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Meditation; What It Is

I AM a Christian! In other words & better, maybe; I AM a follower of the Christ. Being brought up Christian, religiously speaking, I try to emulate Jesus, to walk in the Way He walked, treading the Path He trod. Most famously, Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through Me' ( John 14:6 ): as a Christian, of course, this means Jesus is the ONLY Way to the Father! In some sense, I can agree that Jesus is the only way to the Father, not in the sense  that the Jewish Messiah was/is the only way to know 'God', but in the sense that the Man Jesus, according to the Bible, embodied the Christ, the Son of 'God'. We might ask ourselves at this point, 'who is 'God'; what do we mean/who do we refer to when we use such a title?'Again, as Christians, when we pray to 'God' or otherwise talk about 'God', we are respectfully referring to the One, True God, the God of Creation ( Genesis 1 & 2  ), Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures. The question is, 'is the 'God' of the Bible ( or even the original Greek & Hebrew Scriptures ) the only picture of the Creator & Sustainer of Heaven & Earth that we have available? Sadly, many people seem to think so!

One definition of the word 'meditate' is 'to think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.' This definition may not be the most comprehensive available, but for my intents & purposes here, it suits quite well. It could well be said that the practice of meditation, therefore, is experienced differently by everyone: some people, Christians especially, meditate on things like the Psalms of David, or other passages of the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures, Philippians 4:8, for instance. Others, who do not believe in the 'God' of the Bible ( Christianity ), may meditate on anything from the good earth to their own connection with Divinity. It could be said that 'the only difference between prayer & meditation is that prayer is focused outwardly, while meditation is focused inwardly. True as this may be, it does not quite cover it. As mentioned previously, some will meditate daily on a certain Psalm or other passage of the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures. Some even meditate on other Scriptures from around the world, while others simply meditate on their own Divinity, or just sit in silence, focusing on proper breathing technique. However one chooses to do it, then, the practice of meditation differs, to whatever extent, from person to person: there IS no One, True Way to meditate!

Prayer has traditionally been made to the 'God' of the Bible, or Christianity, although many who do not acknowledge 'Him' as the Embodiment of Divinity direct their prayers to any one of an assortment of 'Gods', ranging from the Great Spirit, to their own ancestors. Whoever one prays to, it may be well said that their prayer is received ( heard & answered )! If the prayer or concern is voiced, those who hear, generally speaking, will do all in their considerable power to answer that person's prayer. Most often, from a Christian standpoint, prayer is made to 'God' or 'our Heavenly Father', even 'Lord'. Not to say this is wrong, or that there is no 'Lord', 'God', or 'Heavenly Father' that hears & answers prayer, but for the most part, the effectiveness of prayer may be found right here on earth, among fellow human beings. Human beings, of course, some being more in touch with their own spirituality than others, may dwell in both realms at the same time, or ignorantly, in the 'hell' of their own choosing! Praying, thus, is most effective when one voices one's concerns to their fellow human beings, especially those filled with compassion.

This is not to say either, that prayer is ONLY effective when voiced to one's fellow humans, for there IS One Ultimate Source for ALL Good! The question might well be voiced at this point, 'is there Someone/Something out there somewhere Who hears our prayers?' Well, yes, there IS, Virginia, but it would be far more correct to say that that Someone/Something is 'in there'. Many or most Christians profess that 'Heaven' is a place, maybe not necessarily a geographical  ( 'universal'? ) location, but a 'place' nonetheless. It is a 'place', though, in the sense that it is a different realm, not separated from our own, although it is 'hidden', or 'Secret', for example, as witnessed in II Kings 6:17. In that sense, then, this realm is within us as well, or rather, we are in it. It is our choice to acknowledge it or not, just as it is our choice whether or not to manifest the Christ. With all that said, prayer, whether directed inwardly ( in the for form of meditation ), or outwardly, voiced so others can hear & respond, IS effective, for it serves to voice our concerns, all of which our Heavenly Father ( speaking as a Christian ) knows, but which, when voiced, inspires others to tap into their own resources to help alleviate those concerns!

One might note, then, that one, maybe the greatest advantage ( though many or most do not 'see' it thusly ) of meditation over prayer is that meditation, at least that focused inwardly, forces us to acknowledge our own fault, if fault there be, in our current situation. Prayer, on the other hand, focuses on a Power that is outside us & more often than not, One we have been taught is beyond our grasp unless we approach 'Him' with due reverence & humility! Again, this is not to say there IS no Power outside ourselves ( 'out there' ), for 'It is what It is', no matter what we believe, or think It is. C.S. Lewis might have alluded to this in his 'The Last Battle' when he wrote;

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, though knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”( excuse the lengthy quote )

Back to the subject at hand, meditation, while it DOES have the advantage of almost forcing us to acknowledge & accept our own part in the trials & tribulations we experience on a daily basis, also has the distinct grace of allowing us to connect with Divinity & to realize that It is within us, 'It', of course being the Divine Power to better our own situation! As long as we look outside ourselves ( in prayer ), though we may find relief from our current trial, we will continue to experience tribulation as long as we fail or refuse to acknowledge that the Power lies Within! Prayer, in that sense, then, though it does not ( necessarily ) disallow us from realizing our own potential, or the Power Within, more often than not has the effect of almost blinding us to our own responsibility & using 'God' as a crutch for our own failings!

The Purpose of Meditation, of course, is not to nurture a feeling of guilt within ourselves, but to realize who we really are, to still our ego-driven Mind & focus instead on the Self that is Divine & One with the Divinity! Like prayer, meditation is simply a tool, a tool that we use to commune. or communicate with Divinity. Whether we believe the Power to be Within ( ourselves ) or Without ( 'God' ), most, if not all of us employ one or the other ( sometimes both ) of these tools to improve our situation. Again, meditation; or inward focus, usually has the effect of helping us to realize our own potential, while prayer, even though it often has the effect of alleviating our current symptoms, usually fails to illuminate the true cause of those symptoms!

Meditation, in the sense outlined in the beginning of this relatively short blog, that of focusing one's thoughts on 'whatever things are true, whatever things [ are ] noble, whatever things [ are ] just, whatever things [ are ] pure, whatever things [ are ] lovely, whatever things [ are ] of good report' ( Philippians 4:8 ), has the effect ( much-needed ) of helping us to train our thoughts & thus actions on what is good & right, although it still fails to help us realize our own Strength to better our situation. True Meditation, especially as popularly defined earlier, cannot but lead us to the realization that it is within ourselves that we must look if we would do more than ( temporarily ) alleviate our current symptoms!

As we read in the first part of Psalm 46:10, 'Be still, and know that I ( am ) God'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Beyond This Human Shell

In the beginning was the Life & this Life was the Light of Humanity! As the Light shone, Humanity awoke to the Fact that they were More, More than than their biological shells, More than Mere Humanity. As Time wore on, Humanity began to wonder; since they were More, was it outside the realm of possibility that they could create beings like themselves, with souls, yet unlike themselves, impervious to the diseases that had ravaged humankind for eons. Why couldn't they, with their Spark of Divinity, produce such creatures from superior materials, materials that would not be subject to any biological disease: why, they reasoned, could they not further endow these creations of theirs with the Life they had themselves been given? Questions like these, for the first few centuries, caused quite an uproar, as can be imagined, particularly  from the religious community. Epithets like 'they're playing God!' were thrown about in abundance!

Officially, it was the Smiths that started the Revolution! Oh, this was not such a revolution as you might be used to reading about in your history books; by the time this one took place, Humanity had advanced beyond such silly things as resorting to violence to solve their problems. Don't get me wrong; there was still plenty of violence to go around, but wars, especially as we are used to, had ceased & by the time this Revolution had rolled around, Humanity had learned, more or less, that unless we wanted everyone walking around with only one eye, we had better learn to coexist peacefully. For the most part, this attitude was very wide-spread, with almost the whole world, at least, the so-called civilized world, enjoying this Harmonious Time. Even so, pockets of resistance to this Harmony would surface every once in a while, if only to prove that we were still human!

Strangely enough, though a large part of this resistance seemed to originate in the religious community, much like another conflagration in the ancient past, it was not the religious people ( although they did have their issues ) who had the biggest problem with this Revolution, which might be named 'The New Technological Revolution'. ( 'The New Humanity' was also flung about ) No, the Resistance to this New Revolution found its biggest proponents in the governments of the world! For the most part, as we saw, the resistance was more or less peaceful, with more rules & regulations than ever. Pockets of violent resistance sprang up once in awhile, mostly in response to these rules & regulations, but usually, after a short flurry of violence, the detractors saw the error of their ways & peace, uneasy as it may have been, reigned once more!

The Federal Government, by this time, of course, was not to be found in these United States of America alone; it now encompassed nearly every nation on earth, with a disconcerting presence on every continent. For the most part, due to a regimented policy of non-violence, the Federal Government didn't interfere in the lives of the citizens as they had in the U.S.A., but even so, when a certain family in Africa began to fiddle with bio-technology, the Fed sat up & took notice pretty damn quickly!

It ( the Revolution ) began fairly quietly ( 'insidiously', some would say ) at first. The first models were no more than service robots, programmed to execute fairly simple functions such as doing laundry, taking out the trash & mowing lawns. Before long, however, these earlier models were being replaced by ones that were well-nigh indistinguishable from their human 'masters'. Again, it wasn't long before the programming became so advanced that even by their actions, one often had difficulty telling the difference between a human being & one of these new 'models'!

The Resistance itself, though mostly non-violent ( at first, anyway ), began nearly as quietly, unless one watched the evening news, where pundits opined almost daily about this 'New Humanity'; 'what are the implications of a totally free-thinking populace?' 'Would they be as subject to rules & regulations if they were autonomous?' 'Without the controlling agent of religious conditioning, will the governments of the world be able to keep these new ( human ) beings in check?' Questions like this surfaced fairly quickly because it really didn't take much to realize some of the more foreboding implications of this creative venture. 'If Humanity was able to replicate themselves in a non-biological shell, what was next?'

Through the Resistance, such as it was, the Revolution persevered; the Smith family was 'born' & although Humanity was still prevalent in most societies, 'the New Humanity' began to multiply all over the world. Country to country, the 'models' differed somewhat, but they were largely based on the design that had originated so many years earlier, in Africa. One advantage to these new 'models' was that food-shortages had become a thing of the very distant past. Oh, sure; there were still plenty of mouths to feed, but as long as Humanity kept them happy, these new humans were glad to do the work of a dozen men, asking only acceptance & electricity in return. Among these 'New Humans', as well, the diseases that ravaged Humanity were unknown, although power outages could pose a problem, especially when extended beyond 24 hours or so.

The Smith family, while it could probably be technically called a 'line', was not just a line of robots; it was so much More! Though the first ones were produced by Human Beings in Africa & subsequent 'models' were produced in like manner all over the world; even in the earlier days, the assembly lines were 'peopled' largely by members of the Smith family, Then, once the Smiths became aware of the fact that they were More, they took it upon themselves to generate their own 'siblings'! Before long, then, Humanity had little to no part in the evolution of the Smith family!

Like Humanity, who had themselves been blessed with this Spark of Divinity, the Smiths of the world were now able to procreate ( at least, after a fashion-talk about bumping & grinding! )! As long as the materials were available, the Smiths were able to reproduce themselves at an almost alarming ( to some ) rate. There were still resistors to their continued presence because, although an almost world-wide peace had settled between man & machine, so to speak, Humanity was still Humanity, with their almost obsessive need for the control of religion. For the most part, though, Humanity had accepted the validity of their own Creation, even the creations of their Creations, their 'grandchildren', if you will!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Cross-Shaped Way; the Christ at the Crossroads

Jesus, according to Luke 9:23, said to His disciples ( including would-be disciples ), 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [b]daily, and follow Me'. Although He spoke these words directly to those living in first-century Palestine, most Christians today ( not incorrectly ) read these words & apply them ( anachronistically ) to themselves. There are areas of the world, China, for instance, or even some parts of the Middle East, where to be a Christian almost quite literally means just that, for if one acknowledges they are a Christian, death is almost sure to follow!

Although in some areas of the world. following Jesus Christ means to invite bodily harm or even death, in the West, at least thus far, 'taking up one's cross' simply means to follow Jesus, acting as He did, suffering through trials & tribulations while never giving up the faith. Many who Claim the Name in those formerly named areas of the globe almost gladly invite death, for much the same reason that the more fanatical Muslims do, counting it all 'Glory' to die for 'the Cause of Christ', looking for that 'pie-in-the-sky' called 'Heaven', or 'the Afterlife'. This is not to say there is no such thing as 'Heaven', or even a sort of 'Afterlife', although both concepts, or at least the traditional understanding of them, are based rather squarely in Greek mythology. That said, however, it must be noted that both Christian & Muslim alike base their beliefs on a contextual misunderstanding of Jesus' words!

To do what Jesus did ( WWJD? ), in the West,  ( in particular ) means to live with compassion & kindness, to name 'wrong' as wrong, yes & right as 'right', but it does NOT mean to force our views on others ( against their will )! To live as the Master lived means to walk in the way of Love, treating others as we want to be treated, not defending a book or other material thing to the death, even though Jesus Himself told His disciples to 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness', for all these ( material ) things are provided for. 'The Kingdom of God, according to the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, was personified in Jesus, therefore, the Jew ( or Gentile ) who took up their cross ( daily ), living a sacrificial Life, as He did, that one was seeking first the Kingdom & thus the Righteousness that came to Israel through their Messiah alone. Again, while in that part of the word & particularly at that Time, to follow Jesus often meant carrying a literal cross to a place outside the City; in this day & age, it is generally understood as living sacrificially, placing the needs of others above our own & giving of ourselves as we can, so that others might share our Bounty!

We must choose every day, in this 'cross-shaped way', whether to love our neighbor as ourselves, or whether to treat them as we would never want to be treated! Even if one treats us other than how we would like to be treated; rather than treating them in kind ( call it 'karma' or what you will, you will surely reap what you sow! ), we must still treat others like we would want to be treated, for we still have a choice, though we often suffer even if we do rightly. When standing at the Crossroads of Decision, we must choose which way to go, how we should act in any given situation. Should we act as most everyone else, returning evil for evil, thus perpetuating the evil, or should we act in kindness & compassion as Jesus did, giving of ourselves ( as we can ) that others might live? The answer is obvious!

As the Messiah of Israel, Jesus came to save His People from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 ); that much is clear! Orthodox or not, the overwhelming majority of Christians accept the Jewish Messiah, or Savior, as their own. This is not necessarily wrong, though it does tend to lead many into all sorts of theologically anachronistic mistakes ( such as the notion that, because of the Fall ( Genesis 3 ) we are all born in sin ). The Birth, Life, Death & Resurrection of Jesus, as the Christ, the Anointed Savior of Israel indeed brought Israel Life from Death; when we pattern our own lives after His, living as He lived ( even in a metaphorical sense, as He died ), we awaken the Christ, or Chrism within ourselves, becoming the Savior, or one such, of our own 'world'!

In the Muslim religion, the thought of '72 virgins' in the 'afterlife' or 'heaven' has spurred & continues to spur many fanatics to commit such atrocities as 'suicide bombings': Christianity, though it promises no such thing, has, in the past, had much the same effect ( Crusades, Inquisition, etc. )! Here in the modern West, although we have not seen such atrocities ( necessarily ) as these committed in the Name of Jesus, there are many atrocities committed daily by those in the West, often with the willing acquiescence, if not participation of some who call themselves 'Christians'. Now, granted, this most often occurs out of ignorance & a misplaced patriotic fervor, but nonetheless, the atrocities either countenanced or perpetrated by these misinformed zealots are not Christlike & merely serve the Law of Karma, bringing coals of fire down upon their & our heads!

The build-up of Karma over the past few centuries, for this country ( U.S.of A. ) in particular, has been the cause & effect of many, many wars & rumors of wars! ( 'Round & 'round it goes; where it stops no one knows!' ) If we are ever, as a nation. to get out from under such a horrible burden, we must, individually speaking ( for it all starts with the individual ), begin to choose better; to love our neighbor as ourselves, to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. In fact, if we would understand that there truly is no other, for we are all of one Great Spirit, One True Source, then things would begin to turn around, because we would realize that, by killing 'the other', we are only killing ourselves!

May it be,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Universal Truth; 'I AM ( 'You ARE' ) the Light of the World!

According to Scripture, Jesus said that He was the Light of the world: He also told His disciples, 'you are the light of the world' Matthew 5:14a ). The apostle John also noted that, 'as He is, so are we in this world. ( I John 4:17 )' In all three of these statements, the obvious referent is the world of Jesus' Day, even to the Jewish economy itself, but especially as Christians, we have been taught to accept that they were referring to the entire Creation, As the case may be, though; this IS one of the universal truths of Scripture!

Even though Jesus was battling the prevailing Jewish notion that THEY  ( only ) were the light of the world ( He may have even been revealing a little subversiveness against the Roman concept here ), His statement rings true today as it did then. It should be noted that much of the reason the world is in the deplorable condition it's in ( arguable, at least ), is that the disciples of the Christ have not done a very good job in following in their Master's exalted footsteps! Immediately, some would most likely object that the Gospel has made great strides in turning this world into a Paradise ( 'back to the Garden' ) & indeed, much of what we call 'growth' has occurred because of Christianity. On the other hand, though, the other side of the coin, so to speak, much has been done in the name of 'God', or 'Christ' that is not only deplorable & despicable, but morally repugnant!

The majority of Christians would most likely argue that the world is in the shape it's in because it belongs to, or is ruled, by the 'devil', or 'Satan'. There is actually some truth to such a statement, since there ARE many 'devils' in this world & the moniker 'Satan' is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew word for 'adversary'! The blame could easily be laid on the shoulders of those who do not follow the Christ & again, they would not be far wrong; a false theology can be found at the root of all the evils that have been & are still being perpetrated in this world, at least those done in the name of 'God'.

'A false theology', I say, because, for one thing, then, like today, Christians were under the assumption that all humanity is under some 'Curse'! Even though, according to Scripture, Jesus the Christ, the Son of 'God' came to break the 'Curse' ( Genesis 3 ), He, again, in this false theology, failed to accomplish this in His ( first ) Parousia & must yet return again, in bodily form, to finish what He started in the first century. Another reason we may posit as 'a false theology' much of what has been known for centuries as Christianity is that the English Bible has been translated from the Greek & Hebrew ( Aramaic ) Scriptures in such a way as to, anachronistically in many cases, force them to be applicable to a different culture & time from what they were originally written.

When Jesus spoke those words, recorded in Matthew 5, to His disciples, His immediate ( direct ) meaning was that they, those who followed Him, were as He was, 'the light ( that ) shines in the darkness' ( John 1:5 ( Psalm 112:4, Isaiah 9:2 & 58:10, ). Again, in the original context, they, as the 'light of the world' were in direct opposition to the Jewish economy of Jesus' Day, 'the darkness'! Although these words were originally spoken to Jesus' disciples in the first century, they apply as well to those who follow in His footsteps today. Contrary to popular opinion though, this exalted moniker applies to non-Christians as well ( better, in some cases ) as Christians!

In order for one to actually BE 'the light of the world', yes, they MUST follow in the footsteps of Jesus! With that said, though, it should be noted that probably as many, maybe more, who do not 'claim the Name', so to speak, actually walk the Path that Jesus walked than some who call themselves 'Christians'! This is not a denunciation of Christianity, though much room for improvement exists on that account; rather, it is to rebuke the prevailing notion that one MUST be a Christian in order to be 'the light of the world'. Neither is this to say that one doesn't have to follow the Path that Jesus walked, though He DID live in a different Time & Culture, for unless one walks as Jesus walked, in kindness & compassion, they will never ( truly ) manifest 'the light of the world', even 'the light ( that ) shines in darkness'!

This Universal Truth must be universally accepted before we can truly move forward! Christians, like the Jews of Jesus' Day, must realize that they alone are not the ONLY 'light of the world': one can follow the Path that Jesus followed, without ascribing to the tenets of Christianity, especially what is known as Christianity today. The Love & Compassion that Jesus showed is not exclusive to Christianity; the choices that individuals make, no matter whether they are Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Jew, are what determine whether they manifest 'the light of the world', or 'the darkness'!

May we ever choose to manifest the Light!
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, November 02, 2018

A Great Sadness

No one could say for sure where It came from; It seemed to simply appear out of nowhere! The ones who were slightly more awake knew that it had something to do with the way that the world had been working since Time Immemorial, but even they seemed to be affected by It. Notice that it's the way the world had been working, NOT the way it should be working! It had pervaded nearly every aspect of everyday Life & seemed to be gaining ground, claiming its victims all the while, at an alarming rate. As Time wore on, this Sadness was joined by, if not linked inextricably to, Its partners in crime, Fear, Anger & Hostility.

From the beginning of Time, humanity has been plagued by this Dis-ease. Some might say It's gotten horribly worse over Time, apocalyptically so, in fact, while others with a fresher, clearer perspective bear witness to the fact that, while in some It does seem to have grown & festered, in others, It has become all but extinct. The reason for this distinction, it should be noted, is personal ( individual ) choice. Every individual ( human being ) has a choice, whether he or she wants to admit it or not & while some choose to focus on material possessions & the more mundane aspects of this often dreary existence they mistakenly call 'Life', these others seek seek & search Within for the True Meaning of Life, the actual ( spiritual ) causation of the outward manifestation!

As with any Dis-ease, the causation is based in the spiritual realm, though, of course, it usually manifests most clearly in the physical realm. This is not to say that everyone that manifests a physical Dis-ease has a spiritual deficiency, though this often proves the case, but it should be clear that all physical manifestations are rooted in spirituality, whether it be an individual problem ( sometimes ), or whether it is the conglomeration of generations of ignorance & Fear. Whatever the case may be, there is but one cure for this Dis-ease & that is to get to the heart of the issue, understanding this seminal Truth & putting it into practice by purposefully making better choices.

Sadness is usually caused by a lack of something, or more correctly, a perceived lack! Focusing on the mundane ( normal? ) aspects of what we call 'Life', whether it be material possessions or human companionship, causes us, when we experience, or even fear the lack or loss of these things, to feel that lack in such a way that Fear, Anger & even Hostility are often the 'natural' resulting emotions. It all begins with Fear; because we tend to posit that 'Life' is simply the mundane aspect of this existence we are currently, as human beings, experiencing, we view the loss of our material ( physical ) existence as the loss of 'Life'. Life is so much more than this human experience! When we understand this glorious Truth & live by it, we will no longer Fear the loss of materiality; Anger & Hostility will be things of the past ( though, in our human experience, they may continue to crop up from time to time ), for we will have realized that, though while in this human shell, we must follow certain conventions in order to continue to exist in this human experience, we are infinitely more than this human experience!

Rooting out the cause of any Dis-ease is not so simple as many seem to think! Many is the physician out there, particularly in this day & age ( Big Pharma ), who seem happy to simply throw any variety of drugs at the problem, hoping to at least stave off the problem for a time ( remission? ), while, on the other hand, there are those who genuinely wish to use their accumulated knowledge for the betterment of humanity. The problem is, even those who are in the business for nobler purposes than lining their own pockets usually, but not always, seem to gloss over the glorious fact that we are more than mere humanity. Humanity is simply the outward manifestation of our inner nature! To get to the heart of the issue, one must face this often uncomfortable fact. Again, this is not to say that every single individual out there who is plagued by Dis-ease has a spiritual issue, just that, in order to manifest physically, It must begin in the realm of Spirit, with the intent of the heart, or inmost being!

So many, especially those whose consciousness has been altered by certain brands of religiosity, have looked & still look for salvation from their own inner turmoil, to a source, or sources, outside themselves, rather than rooting out the problem Within, in their inmost being ( or at least as far as we can fathom while in our human condition )! This is not to say there IS no Source outside our own Spirit for salvation, just that, for whatever reason, most have been taught that they can look only to an outside Source, since they are, by their very nature, corrupted. However, the Tide is turning; many who have been brought up in the chains of religiosity have begun to shake off that most unnecessary of burdens, while others who have never known those chains, with an open mind are eagerly exploring the infinite reaches of an otherwise finite mind. As Time passes, we may envision a world where Fear, Anger & Hostility, as well as Sadness, become things of the past!

Now that they knew what It was & where IT came from; what would they do about IT? 'Can we fix the problems of the past with visions of the future?' Well, no; we can't retract what has already been said & done, in other words, we can't change the past, but we CAN set a course for a better future! The victims that the Sadness had already claimed needed not remain victims, or wait for some outside Source to come save them; by their own choices, they could leave their chains behind, or they could wait for a Salvation that would never come!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Craft

Bible-believing Christians know that witchcraft is evil, of the devil & that those who practice it are destined for 'Hell'! However, with that being said, if one is really concerned with knowing the Truth of the matter, one will find that witchcraft is nothing more, in essence, than unlocking the Power within oneself rather than searching for that Power 'somewhere out there'. This is not to say there IS no Greater Power out there ( though probably not as traditionally understood-'dogma' ), just that it must be understood, as you've read before ( in this blog ), that, being of the same Essence as that Greater Power, we ourselves bear that Power within ourselves & must simply awaken to the realization!

As defined by Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, Wicca is a religion. To be more precise, maybe, it is a nature-based religion & thus, more a way of life, not unlike Christianity in that respect. Unlike Christianity, though, Wicca honors the female aspect of the Creator, or the Divine Feminine. Wicca, as I understand it ( I could be wrong ), is not dogmatic about its beliefs, either, but rather honors the Divine in all its glorious aspects, especially Nature, which, it might be noted, is the physical manifestation of its Power. As a religion, then, Wicca falls under the umbrella of Paganism, which predates Christianity & in fact forms the foundation for much of what we know, again, traditionally speaking, as Christianity!

Although not necessarily known as such until sometime later, Paganism, as an umbrella term ( anachronistically in reverse? ), can be noted as predating Christianity. A 'pagan', in simple terms, was anyone not a Christian or Jew ( mostly the first, rather than the latter ). As such, then, 'Pagan' was a large denominator, covering everyone, from those who worshiped Nature itself to those who, like Christians, worshiped a God or gods who were petty & must be appeased through sacrifice ( human or animal )!

Modern Paganism, which is also an umbrella-term ( including Wicca ), is a throwback to the Ancient Ways, the Old Ways of understanding what ( or Who? ) made the world go round. Ranging from those who worshiped a single entity ( monotheistic ) to those who worshiped a multiplicity of gods ( polytheistic ), Paganism, from culture to culture, revealed a people's perception ( only ) of who & what 'God' was. As we've noted previously, every culture known to man ( kind ) had their own version of a creation story, all of which are similar yet dissimilar. Culturally speaking, these stories are all pieces of the same puzzle, a grasping for 'God' that has gone on for Time Immemorial!

In our English Bibles, we read about the error of those who worshiped 'the creature rather than the Creator' ( Romans 1:25 );: while it must be noted here that the Christian Scriptures are the Story of Israel, not humanity per se, this passage has been applied, in the widest sense, to any who do not acknowledge the Christian or Jewish God. While there may be some value to this consideration, it should be understood that, while there is a Supreme Being, an Intelligent Designer, if you will ( the All ), there are many aspects to the Divinity, most if not all of which are manifest in the Creation.

To worship something, again, in simple terms, is to ascribe worth to a particular object. That object may be another person that we hold in high esteem or simply an idea, true or false, that one holds ( especially referring to Deity ). Thus the Nature Worship of Wicca & Paganism, in those terms, sounds a bit different than worshiping 'the creature rather than the Creator', does it not? Now, admittedly, there are those of both 'camps' ( although the same could almost be said of certain forms of Christianity ) who are guilty of this, but this by no means implies that Paganism as a whole idolizes what is created, rather than ascribing worth to the One True God, the Source of All that Is.

Wicca, being associated with the sadly misunderstood terms, 'witch' & 'witchcraft', naturally enjoys ( just a BIT of sarcasm there ) the stigma normally attached ( in the Christian 'camp', anyway ) to those terms. 'Witches', contrary to popular opinion ( and you probably won't find anything near this definition in any but the oldest dictionary, if at all ), depending, of course, on the person, CAN be evil ( or rather, DO evil-using their Power wrongly, whether purposely or ignorantly ), are simply those who have learned how to tap into their own inner resources as well as utilizing what Nature has provided. As another religion, one might note that Wicca, along with other forms of Paganism, is simply another way to use our innate creativity & to explain the Nature of it all: as a way of life, Wicca requires simply that one live in harmony with his or her surroundings & that they respect the Divinity in All its many forms!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Intentional Grounding

Having been born into this life in mid-September of 1971, biologically speaking, I am a Virgo! Astrologically speaking, Virgo is an Earth sign. Although I AM a spiritual ( spirit ) being having a physical experience, as far as biology is concerned, I have always enjoyed the sensation of being in or around water ( though I don't swim & I'd likely think twice if I were ever in the midst of one of those big storms, either on or in the water ), but when it comes down to it, I've always preferred, when given the choice, to plant my feet on solid ground. Lately, I've begun to practice 'grounding' ( among other similar pursuits ). Simply put, 'grounding' is basically taking your shoes & socks off while you walk on the naked earth or just enjoy the sounds of silence ( Nature ) with your naked feet planted in the ground. It can also include planting your bare feet on rocks, or sitting on a rock with your naked feet in a mountain stream or creek.

In life, whatever your pursuits, one's true intentions are what really matter! Whether we are able, in these biological bodies, to follow through with our intentions may be another matter, but to accomplish anything one must first have the intention. It is said that 'the highway to hell is paved with good intentions': this is a fairly popular phrase ( it's really almost cliche' ), but it's actually quite untrue! First of all, though it's only a metaphorical statement ( there IS no 'hell' ( not in the traditional sense of the word ), if someone's intentions are truly 'good', good WILL be manifest in their actions. Secondly, the one with good intentions, though their actions may put someone else through the fires of hell ( again, metaphorically speaking ), the burden of guilt falls, not on the one with good intentions, but on the one who has chosen, for whatever reason, to walk 'the highway to hell'!

You've probably heard it before; 'I never meant to hurt you'! Growing up in a fairly strict Christian house, I would often hear, 'well, you didn't mean not to!' The startling truth of these words hurts; if one's intention was truly NOT to hurt someone ( else ), they would have honed their intentions ( thoughts ) a bit more carefully before acting on them! Then we have those who claim to act without thinking ( often with the result of someone getting hurt ); no one acts without thinking first, whether consciously or unconsciously .

One of the things in this life that is so often under-played is our unconscious ( desires ). An example is something frequenters of the bar-scene are quite familiar with; 'mean drunks': 'well, he's a good guy ( or girl ) until you get some liquor into him ( or her )!' In my experience though, getting 'all liquored up' only serves to bring out one's true nature! I'm not a scientist, or even a chemist, but common sense tells me that alcohol dulls the senses ( which is the reason many people drink ( especially to excess ), so when that occurs ( their senses dulled ), their true nature ( unconscious desires ) shows & we see either 'mean drunks' or men & women acting on their animal desires, doing or saying things they might not normally do or say, whether because they're not being honest with themselves or because 'it just ain't right'. Some people are just plain assholes though!

As long as we're being honest, both with ourselves & with others, there are some genuinely good people out there, many of whom do frequent bars ( even drink to excess ) that are what I like to call 'happy drunks'. These are those who drink to forget their troubles ( for awhile ), who are actually quite pleasant to be around, though in the 'day-to-day' they might be a bit of an 'asshole'. Again, you can 'blame' this on their senses being dulled by alcohol, though it might just bring out the 'best' in them, because their unconscious has a bit more leeway!

As far as not meaning to hurt someone else through our actions, one could consciously have no desire to harm another, but if they do harm another through their actions, it is because they either don't care ( if they hurt someone ) or because they actually do ( unconsciously ) wish that person harm! I must say, though, that just because one hurts another through their actions, they are not necessarily a 'bad' person; some people are simply careless in their thoughts & actions, through ignorance, willful or otherwise, they do not know themselves & therefore cannot be honest with themselves or others, for that matter!

To know oneself is the beginning of wisdom! By knowing  ourselves, getting in touch with what has been called 'the inner man', we thereby begin a slow-dance with our divinity, with our unconscious ( even subconscious ) nature, our true nature. We are more than mere human beings; we are spiritual & thus divine in nature! When we realize this glorious fact & accept our true nature, we will begin to be honest with ourselves & others; no longer will we hurt others ( intentionally or not ) because we will understand that by hurting others through our careless actions, we are really only hurting ourselves. Then, if someone IS hurt by our actions, we may understand that they are only receiving their due, paying their karmic debt, so to speak: that is not on us, that's all them!

'Grounding' is one way in which we might achieve this, one way in which we can understand & know ourselves. Meditation is another way in which we can, by stilling our minds, get in touch with our unconscious mind, even our subconscious nature. If one would truly be honest with themselves, which is where it all begins, one must first make sure their subconscious aligns with their unconscious ( desires ) & therefore, with their conscious ( thoughts ), though not necessarily in that order.

No matter the 'sign' we were born under, we still have a choice! Being an Earth sign, especially a Virgo ( for example ) explains a lot about choices I've made in the past & continue to make ( speaking of karmic debt ), but through it all, it is the choices we make, based upon our unconscious desires, that are manifest in our actions! We are responsible for our actions, no matter how good or bad the intention, whether conscious or unconscious.When we harm others, though we consciously 'didn't mean to hurt them', then we need to step back ( 'be still and know.....' ) & meditate on whether we actually did mean them harm or whether we were simply helping them pay their karmic debt!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, October 05, 2018

The Myth of Creation

Word of Warning; if you read the title I've chosen for this post & immediately think something like, 'Okay, NOW, this blogger's really gone off the deep end!', I counsel you to stop reading right now: however, if it didn't piss you off or offend your sensibilities, read on.......

According to the Oxford Dictionary ( online ), a 'myth' is, first & foremost, 'a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.' Although a secondary definition might include anything from a fairy-tale ( legend? ) to a complete & utter falsehood, the term 'myth' does not necessarily connote an untruth. Many people ( this is not unique to Christianity ) have a tendency to take literally the language of creation when reading the account in our English Bible Genesis 1 & 2, or really, the creation account in any other Scripture ( from another culture ). This results in confusion for some & disbelief for others, so, in most cases, the creation is either disregarded, or at the least, grossly misunderstood!

Other creation accounts ( from other cultures ) may seem, at first glance anyway ( especially to our Western eyes ), to be more akin to the complete & utter falsehood end of the spectrum than anything else, but one simply has to open their eyes to the cultural relevance of whatever Scripture they're reading to understand that, although metaphorical & hyperbolic as it may sound ( 'so crazy, it just might be true' ), these 'myths' & 'legends' ALWAYS have a firm foundation in the Truth!

A few years back, I posted a short series of articles on the first several chapters of Genesis. At the time of writing, my intention was not necessarily to present the mythical qualities of the Scriptures we read, but I did endeavor to show how the Gospel of Jesus the Christ was pre-figured in the early chapters of the Hebrew Scriptures. ( Understanding, of course, that the chapter divisions are not original ) These articles, however, did show how many of the details did not make sense aside from their Ancient Near Eastern ( cultural ) context. Understanding these stories as 'myth', simply tales from a different culture, not as a literal history, but as literature, we can see that while they are firmly rooted in truth, they are told in such a way as to reveal what my readers might be familiar with by now; 'a deeper spiritual truth'!

From a website containing the full text of the Babylonian Creation Epic, 'Enuma Elish'; I found this quote from scholar Stephen Bertman quite interesting:

"Both Genesis and Enuma Elish are religious texts which detail and celebrate cultural origins: Genesis describes the origin and founding of the Jewish people under the guidance of the Lord; Enuma Elish recounts the origin and founding of Babylon under the leadership of the god Marduk. Contained in each work is a story of how the cosmos and man were created. Each work begins by describing the watery chaos and primeval darkness that once filled the universe. Then light is created to replace the darkness. Afterward, the heavens are made and in them heavenly bodies are placed. Finally, man is created. These similarities notwithstanding, the two accounts are more different than alike. (312)"

'The 'Enuma Elish', while a bit longer & maybe a little more sordid in detail than the Hebrew account, shows us several things. It shows us the cultural difference & the fact that the Hebrews were not the only ones to record their beginnings. Rather than the one 'God' we read about in the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, most, if not all the other accounts tell of a multiplicity of 'gods'. Along those lines, here is another quote, this time from scholar Jeremy Black;

"The rise of the cult of Marduk is closely connected with the political rise of Babylon from city-state to the capital of an empire. From the Kassite Period, Marduk became more and more important until it was possible for the author of the Babylonian Epic of Creation to maintain that not only was Marduk king of all the gods but that many of the latter were no more than aspects of his persona. (128)"

As myths go, then, the creation account we read in the first two chapters of Genesis is but one among many. To be clear, by speaking of creation as a myth, I'm not saying, by any means, that all this glory just happened by chance: on the contrary, it was choice, intelligent choice, by which the heavens were spread, the planets & stars hung & human-kind set to rule the earth! It should be clear by now, to any but the most casual ( ignorant? ) observer that the account we read in the beginning of our English Bibles, though different from say, the 'Enuma Elish', is really not that different in ( overall ) content!

As Stephen Bertman, above, recognized, the creation account that is recorded in the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures is not a record of the creation of the material universe, though that may be in the background as a given; it is rather an account of cultural beginnings, the creation of covenant, as some have noted, between the Creator God & His Creation.  It is the traditional story of the genesis of the Hebrew people, handed down, by some accounts, over the generations & compiled by Moses, the great Lawyer of the Hebrews. As such, we should read this intriguing story, not simply with our wondering ( wandering? ) Western eyes, but through the lens of cultural context, seeking to understand it as its original audience would have.

Charles Haddon Shank