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

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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 ) the only true one & especially not 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

Monday, April 09, 2018

More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank


Monday, April 02, 2018

The Eternal Soul & the Illusion of Individuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank