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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Meaning of Life, Revisited

"A man that I was working for at the time, about 15 or so years ago; asked me, kinda out of the blue, one day, “Charlie; what IS the meaning of life?”. Without really thinking about it, because at that time, I wasn't as mature as today; I replied; “Jesus is the meaning of Life!”. Looking back at that statement today, and thinking of the profundity and brevity of it, I can't help thinking, “where did that come from?”, but it is obvious to me, that God was guiding my steps from day one!

“What is the meaning of life?” is a well-worn phrase that many people, from all walks of life, have asked themselves, and others, over the course of the years. It it a question that, in all it's deeper meaning, could have 'eternal' consequences!

The Bible, I think that most of us would agree, seems to say that in Jesus only, is 'life' to be found!

Maybe the better question would be, and this is the subject of this paper; “What is life?”! Is 'life' simply physical existence; is it blood coursing through the veins, being pumped by a beating heart? Or is 'life' a spiritual reality, which comes only through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?"

The above quote, written 20 odd years ago by this same blogger, comes from an article of the same title ( The Meaning of Life ). 'As above, so below'; I still consider myself a Christian ( if ANY label is necessary ), personally speaking, but, at the time of that first writing, I was still ensnared in the religiosity of Christianity. Currently; I have advanced beyond many ( most? ) of my brethren & presently consider myself to be 'Beyond Christianity'! This is not to say that I no longer follow or obey the main tenets of what is known in most circles as 'Christianity' although I now divine between what was instruction for the Ancient Near Eastern peoples of that age ( when the Hebrew & Greek scriptures were written ) & what is Universal Truth ( for all people of all ages ).

In the last few sentences of the quote above, I posed the question, 'What IS life?' The conclusion reached, of course, which MUST be 'reached' ( realized ) is that Life Is More that blood being pumped through the veins by a beating heart. It IS More than simply existing ( as a person ), Life IS a 'spiritual reality', though not necessarily in the terms I outlined those 20 odd years ago. Life, one might say, DOES come through the knowledge of 'God', the same 'God' that Jesus taught about & indeed, engendered, though the 'saving knowledge' part of that statement had reference to the 'instructions' above. In some sense, this 'saving knowledge' is a Universal Truth as well, because, when one realizes the truth of 'The Meaning of Life', a salvific effect tends to follow!

The Meaning of Life is somewhat two-pronged; on one hand, one may might understanding that by it, one is questioning the purpose, but on the other hand, the definition of 'Life': Life IS More than simple existence, with blood coursing through the veins; it IS a spiritual reality, but what is meant by a 'spiritual reality'? Is it simply that, in order to experience this spiritual reality, one must first have 'a saving knowledge of Jesus ( the ) Christ', or is it deeper than that? The apology herein is that one must have, not a saving knowledge of a historical ( or not ) Ancient Near Eastern person, but rather that they should realize, or come to know the Christ, or God Within. According to Orthodox Christianity, this kind of statement more than borders on the heretical. To most it is blasphemous & worthy of censure or even 'crucifixion'!

The Liberation brought by the knowledge of oneself, not as a mere human being, but a spirit being of the highest order, part of the 'God-head', so to speak, is glorious! Realizing that one has the Power to change their own situation, the manifestation that we know as physical existence, the knowledge that there is not 'An Angry God' up there in the sky ( 'Heaven' ) that we must appease by following 'His' Law, brings a joy to the soul that is almost unknown in most religious circles. We don't have to obey every 'jot & tittle' of some list of commandments ( just words ) written for an Ancient Near Eastern people. 'As above, so below'; this is not to say that these 'words' have no merit: on the contrary, there is much meritorious in following most of these tenets as a matter of principle! Loving ones neighbor as oneself, to say nothing of treating others like one wants to be treated are a Universal Truth which need no explanation. This, of course, is speaking on a personal ( individual ) level: when one realizes their place in the Universe, it's not too long before we realize that we are, in Essence, One; 'the Other' is merely a social ( cultural? ) construct!

'The Other', though a social construct, is a 'reality' that must be faced in what most people call 'Life'. 'Life' IS More than physical existence, but in the 'here & now', though we realize we are NOT this experience, it is in this biological construct that we MUST operate, as human beings. As More than Human, we understand that when our property, for example, whether it's our own body, the physical lives of those we love, or simply real estate is threatened, it is not us which is threatened, but merely our biological existence, something which, from all accounts, is temporary anyway. Those 'Others' who threaten our 'Way of Life' cannot harm us; they can only cause harm to this biology, which WILL bring ( negative ) 'Karma' to bear & they WILL reap what they've sown!

Individually speaking, there will always be differences which are cause for division, but must they actually cause division? Not to make light of questions like 'Why can't we all just get along', but why CAN'T we?! The reason we DON'T ( not 'CAN'T' ) get along is because of the ( personal ) Ego! Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all saying that the Ego is necessarily a bad thing; 'it is what it is', but there is always a choice of whether to reign over ones Ego, or to let It rule our actions. Here is where realizing ones true nature comes into play: once we understand that we are NOT defined by our Ego, but rather, that we define IT, it becomes second nature to treat 'others' as we ourselves would like to treated, we then realize what it REALLY means to love ones neighbor as oneself!

The original definition of 'heresy', condensed into a single word, might be 'division', It is the division of the One we are that is True Heresy! Division is not necessary, even on a personal level ( although many would probably disagree ) in order to exist side by side. 'As above, so below'; there will always be differences to deal with, choices to make, again, on a personal level, but they need not separate us; in fact of the matter, individual differences are what make this life ( physical existence ) worth living! When we allow our Ego, threatened by another's existence, to rule our actions, bloodshed WILL follow & negative Karma WILL kick in! By reigning over our Ego, we begin to understand that no harm is meant to us ( necessarily ) by what we view as another's negativity. For all we know, what we perceive as negativity might in actuality be a positive thing to them!

Life is not defined by our differences! Life is defined by our sameness, our Oneness! Our individuality, especially as human beings cannot & should not be denied, but we should not allow our differences to rule our actions when it comes to 'others' who may not live, think & talk like 'us'! For millenia now, the Ego has seemingly reigned supreme & thus we have what we have, 'wars & rumors of wars, people killing each other over a piece of dirt, or better yet, 'all the oil under the sand'!

This is not 'Life'; this is 'Death'!

Let's stop dying & start living; we need to stop spreading death & deastruction & start sharing life & prosperity! This should be an easy task, for we ARE Life itself; we ARE The Meaning of Life!

Charles Haddon Shank



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Sacred Space, Revisited

In the previous post of the same name ( a good three, almost three & a half years ago ), my readers may recall that I came to the conclusion that we ARE the Temple, 'a traveling 'Sacred Space' if you will. My conclusion remains the same as it was those few years ago, though it should be noted that my understanding has expanded! We ARE the Temple, yes, but maybe not in the sense one might get from reading the Holy Bible, which is, after all, merely the West's translation of an Ancient Near Eastern text. Having been there before, we will explore this avenue no further, except to quote a ( fictional ) wise man, who once said, 'I do not think it means what you think it means'!

The apostle Paul, according to the Greek Scriptures ( AKA, 'New Testament' ) quoted a Universal Truth when he wrote, 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit'. In the context of his writing, of course, he referred to the fact that, as opposed to the Judaistic notion that their Temple ( built by the hand of Man ) was the Dwelling of 'God' on Earth, they themselves were that Glorious Dwelling! 'As above, so below': Paul's statement is true enough, but not in the sense, maybe, that many Christians understand it! Our biological bodies ARE the Temple of what most Christians call 'the Holy Spirit', though not for the reasons we have been taught; we are not the Temple because we 'invited Jesus into our heart' ( ? ), not because we were adopted into the 'Family of God', but because as spirit beings, we are part & parcel with the Source of ALL Life. Call it 'Divine Energy', call It what you will, 'It is what It is', whether we, as human beings ( personally speaking ) choose to manifest that Divinity to the outside world or not, We are, at heart, in our inmost being, ALL Divine & so Temples!

'The Hebrew & Greek ( Aramaic ) Scriptures were NOT written to us!' There; I said it ( again )! I will say it till I'm blue in the face if I hafta ( though I'm pretty much over all that )! The understanding ( of said Scriptures ) that's been handed down to us is therefore clearly a false one. It is more clear to some than to others that the current understanding of the Majority is in dire need of revision, but as the case may be, even in the case of most 'fulfilled believers' ( preterists ), the fact that our whole theology ( as Christians ) is based on a misconception, argues, even screams for a new Reformation. The Hebrew Scriptures, to begin with, although they too hold some Universal Truth, were primarily, if not wholly, written to & for an Ancient Near Eastern ( peculiar-Exodus 19:6 ) people. 'As above, so below'; these Scriptures, which we as Christians call OUR 'Holy Bible', DO have the effect of transmitting to us some Universal Truth, though great care must be exercised in divining what is Universal Truth & what was meant for the Hebrew people alone!

'Any theologian worth his salt knows the difference between the Law given on Sinai & the so-called 'cleanliness laws' ( 603? ). Okay, that was said kinda 'tongue-in-cheek'! The so-called 'Ten Commandments', that many Christians are ready to 'throw down' about if their freedom of display ( courthouses, parks, etc ) is threatened, are actually part & parcel with the 'cleanliness laws' ( all part of the so-called 'Mosaic Law', or 'Law of Moses' ). The 'cleanliness laws' ( 603? ) can even be seen to hold some Universal Truth! For instance, EVERYBODY ( well, those in their right mind, anyway ) knows that 'bacon makes everything better'! Most of us know, though we try to ignore it, that just like the 'Mosaic Law' says, it's actually not all that good for us, if at all! Muslims & Jews, whether they realize this fact,  or just 'blindly' obey the 'law', ( for the most part, anyway ) follow this instruction to the letter & thus are probably somewhat healthier than many Americans! I love bacon myself & will most likely continue to consume this 'unclean' meat, not because I believe, as most Christian do, that 'What God has [f]cleansed you must not call common' ( Acts 10:15 ). I used to believe, even teach this ), but because I ( personally ) DO love it, though in limited quantities.

Getting back to the subject at hand, just as the 'Ten Commandments' ( even the so-called 'cleanliness laws' ) hold Universal Truth, so we, as modern Americans, may divine ( 'glean'? ) Universal Truth from both the Hebrew & Greek ( Aramaic ) Scriptures. Again, when the apostle Paul wrote the words quoted earlier, we should note that our ( biological ) bodies are indeed a Temple ( in fact, as much as I hate to say it, we probably SHOULD cut way back on our consumption of bacon, if not cut it out of our diets completely ). This means that much of our practices bear revision! As Christians ( in particular ), though, we NEED ( desperately ) to understand this, not because we are in some Covenant with YHWH ( the 'God' of the Hebrews ), but simply ( Divinely ) because these ARE Universal Truths & as that 'traveling 'Sacred Space', our bodies are the vehicles in which we present 'God' to the world!

It is interesting to note, in conclusion, that even in that first post ( Sacred Space ), over three years ago, it's clear that I was headed in the same direction as I am now! 'As above, so below'; in that sense, I have not abandoned my Christian faith ( although certain aspects of it have definitely 'gone by the way-side' ); I have simply followed its logical conclusions & progressed beyond Christianity! 'So, one might ask then, 'is it correct to refer to our biological bodies as Temples, since the apostle was referring to the misconception of the Jews?' To this I would respond with a resounding 'YES'! What is a temple but the place where 'Heaven' meets 'Earth', the 'Sacred Space' where ( a ) 'God' dwells?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Junction of Heaven & Earth; the Temple

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body [g]and in your spirit, which are God’s.
I Corinthians 6:19 & 20 

Let me first make this caveat: quoting from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures ( or at least, an English interpretation of them ), as I do above ( quite often, too ) does not mean that I believe that they are  the 'end-all'! Both the Hebrew & Greek ( Aramaic ) Scriptures DO contain much of what I call 'Universal Truth' & we see an example of such in the first part of the quotation. It it when we reach the second part, however, that the line blurs. The apostle Paul's instruction here is a direct referent to the Judaistic roots of the Christian religion. While, as I believe I've said before, I will always call myself, personally speaking, a Christian; it should be noted that, again, personally speaking, I AM 'a heretic of heretics' & would likely be asked to remain silent in most Christian 'churches'!

As I understand it, first the tabernacle in the wilderness ( Exodus 26 ), then the temple of Solomon's time ( as well as Herod's ) were designed so as to represent the place where 'Heaven' ( as the dwelling of 'God ) & Earth ( as the dwelling of 'Man' ) met together. We read later, in the Christian or Greek Scriptures, such as the apostle Paul's quote above, that rather than this meeting-place being a building ( or tent, as the case was in the wilderness ), it had become ( or was it always? ) the people of 'God' or simply, 'just' people. Not only Christians, but all those who deal justly with their neighbor, love mercy & walk humbly with their 'God' ( whoever He/She/It may be ) thus fall into this category. 
( This is one area in which I have departed from 'Christianity'. )

Jesus of Nazareth, he who was born King of the Jews, is known in Christian circles, as 'the God-man'. He was/is 'True man, yet very God' according to Orthodox Christianity. The term 'God-man' ( maybe especially the concept ) does not however, belong to the Christian religion alone. As a conception, if not in such terminology, it is much older than Christianity, going all the way back to the ancient Egyptians & Mesopotamians.  Before the written record, no doubt it goes back even further than that. Greek mythology, for example, includes many stories of how the gods came down & had children ( interestingly, only sons ) with female humans. This is not to say that Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, was merely a myth; there seems to be some historical evidence that he did exist, but the point is that the Jews & Christians are not the only people that claim a 'God-Man'!

Eastern religions, as I understand, teach that it lies within all people to manifest the 'God-Man' ( or 'God-woman' )! The understanding ( knowledge ) of our true nature, that of Spirit, or Source ( Divine Energy ), rather than merely a human ( biological? ) being is the beginning of true wisdom. Even the Hebrew Scriptures iterate this truth; 'The fear of the Lord [ is ] the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One [ is ] understanding' ( Proverbs 9:10 ) Here, one must, of course, take into account the Hebrew context, first, with the ancient concept of a fear of the gods & secondly, with the double statement, whereas 'fear of the Lord' corresponds to 'knowledge of the Holy One'. 'The Holy One', of course refers, in my understanding, to our Higher Self, or more correctly, to knowledge of the Source & our intimate connection to it!

Although the term 'Christ', to my limited knowledge, was never used in any religion but Judaeo-Christianity, the concept is very nearly the same as the title 'Buddha'. The latter ( title ) means 'awakened one', while the former means 'anointed one'. The difference, it should noted, is that one connotes an inner action, while the outer refers to an outside influence. The necessity of the outer influence is based on the biblical notion that man, or human-kind, is merely a fallen creature & thus incapable of helping him or herself. This again is based on an English interpretation of Ancient Near Eastern ( Hebrew ) literature concerning the supposed 'Fall of Man'. The Hebrew story of the Fall of Adam & Eve, according to at least one modern scholar, was likely a later addition to the so-called '5 Books of Moses', written during the Babylonian Exile. What we read as Genesis chapter 3 then, would be the story, in metaphor, of how Israel disobeyed Yahweh & was sent/taken into Exile, East of Eden ( the Promised Land ).

'As above, so below'; we've already noted that it is when one realizes their true nature that the 'awakening' process begins. It cannot be by an outside influence, though that may help one in realizing certain truths; no, 'awakening' must be an inner process, followed by outward action, similar to becoming a Christian, except again, we run into the difference of the inner action as opposed to an outside influence. It is when a man or woman, realizing their true nature, their Higher Self, chooses to follow that Higher Self rather than their Lower, or animal nature, that one becomes 'awakened' & in that sense, 'the Buddha': this process has also been called 'Awakening the Christ Within'. In this sense, through their own choices, not by some outside influence, one either saves or damns themselves, becoming the 'Savior' or 'Satan' of their own lives!

As a veritable 'God-Man' ( or 'God-Woman' ), each of us-every human being-has the latent ability to choose for themselves whether they will do justly & love mercy or take dominion ( control ) over their fellow human beings, asserting their own will over that of another. It is a fairly well-known phrase, especial among those interested in health & fitness, based on the quotation at the beginning of this blogpost; 'treat your body like a temple'. In those terms, it refers to the fact that if we wish to have a pleasant experience in this life, we should be careful how we treat our biological body. In truer terms, we should note that we are in actuality the meeting-place of Heaven & Earth, or the Divine & the Mundane!

'Be the Temple!' Whether one follows the apostle's teaching above & acts as if his or her body is 'the temple of the Holy Spirit', or whether one simply realizes they are the 'God-Man', when we follow the dictates of our Higher Self ( 'Be still & know....................' ); we will naturally do justly, love mercy & walk humbly with our 'God'. We will take care of our biological bodies because they are the physical vehicles through which we exercise our love for all of Creation. We ARE the Temple where the Divine meets the Mundane, so when we allow our Divinity to flow through the Mundane, we will manifest 'Heaven' on Earth!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Freedom to BE! ( 'What gives you the right.........................' )

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are
 Cat Stevens - If You Want to Sing Out
This formerly great nation of ours just celebrated its official 243rd birthday just the other day-that is, it's 243rd year of independence from Britain. While most Americans continue to celebrate this holiday with a nationalistic fervor, many are realizing that we, legally speaking anyway, are not as free as we formerly thought. For example, the legal definition of a 'license', loosely speaking, is 'permission to do something which is otherwise illegal'. One doesn't have to think very hard to make a ( growing ) list of everything we 'need' a license for these days! It's 'the American Dream' to own your own bit of 'Heaven', but if you don't pay your rent ( taxes, etc ), just see how long you hold onto your 'dream'. One can barely even make any improvements on said property ( house OR land ) without first acquiring the 'necessary' permits ( permission ) for said improvements. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans, complaining about taxes ( etc ) all the while, can't seem to put two & two together, failing thusly to realize that much of what our Founding Fathers fought, bled & even died for has been slowly gushing down the drain! There are many 'freedoms' we still enjoy in this 'great' nation, but for how long & at what cost?!

The Founding Fathers, with their carefully thought out documents ( Declaration of Independence, Constitution ( a while later ) & Bill of Rights ( even later ), knew they weren't granting us any rights or freedoms; in fact, they wrote thusly ( along with other reasons ) to guarantee our inalienable rights & freedoms in preparation for what they saw looming on the horizon; the proposed 'rule' of the majority by an elite minority, which is what we have now. Those who are supposed to be governing FOR us ( in our place ) seem to have gotten it into their heads that they're governing US! As our indentured servants ( to use archaic language ), they're supposed to be subservient to us & instead, as it turns out, we're actually serving them, having created something called a 'career politician'. We hold 'elections' for them every year or so, to keep the illusion going that we actually have a voice still in who gets to be be 'set for life'. Legally speaking, we seem to be loosing more of our natural rights every day. But not really.............

Whether one is a Christian or a Pagan, Jewish or Islamic, we should ALL realize that we are not granted the right to 'Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness'; those rights, as human beings, are part of our very nature! What the majority fail to realize, though, is that we, as more than human, are thus more than our rights; in other words, when 'they' trample on our rights; they're not really doing US any harm, it's just a battle of Egos ( whose is stronger? ). The Ego has no rights ( that's where the 'illusion' comes in ), but since most people have been taught from day one that they ARE the Ego, the Person, this is the prevailing theory & thus, we have what we have; a disproportionate battle of Egos, where the greater the Ego, the better chance of winning & being 'set for life'!

'Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness' are a 'given'; if you're a human being, you HAVE those rights! The above-mentioned ( Founding ) Documents simply enumerated & reiterated those rights. Through them, the Founding Fathers strove to guarantee & protect those rights, but personally speaking, greed & the lust for power got in the way; those documents proved their worth. The Ego proved stronger than a mere document & Americans ( at least, the average Joe ) began to loose their rights. Again, humanly speaking, those rights can neither be given OR taken away, but legally speaking ( egoically, one might note ), they are slowly disappearing down the drain of human consciousness!

The ( personal ) Ego tells us that we have the right ( which IS correct ) to 'Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness', although we should know that we ARE those things! 'As above, so below';: we don't need a piece of paper or even our Ego telling us that we HAVE those rights: all we hafta do is just BE! If we harm none, we can do what we will! No one but the Ego will tell us otherwise, whether it be ours or theirs. Speaking of the Ego ( as we must ): it is what tells us that THIS makes us Happy, THAT is what Life & Liberty look like, but that is only illusion; only we, in our true, inner nature ARE Happiness; WE are Life & Liberty itself! We don't need any Ego, theirs or ours, to tell us that we have these rights; we should know to just BE, but sadly, the majority, for whatever reason, do not realize this glorious Reality!

While the fore-mentioned documents were meant to protect ( guarantee? ) our rights as human beings, they only serve that purpose as far as the Ego is concerned. Our 'rights', as above, are part of our very nature, inseparable & inalienable. We are, by nature, More than mere human beings: as such then, being spiritual in nature ( part of the Source ) we can only exercise those rights as human beings, through the ( personal ) Ego. We should not allow the Ego, however, theirs or ours, to dictate whether we will or even can exercise our natural 'rights'. When we allow the Ego to rule our actions, then Greed & the Lust for Power crop up & that is what causes fights & wars among ( in ) us!

When we realize, as many have begun to do, that we are NOT our Ego, with that realization will come the freedom to just BE! Wars, both within & without, will cease, for we will have begun to understand that, in order to enjoy our rights, we do not have to take a stand; we do not need to fight anyone for them: we must not fear lest they are taken from us. Now, on a personal level, lest some accuse me of dreaming of some fanciful Utopia; I'm not saying that this will happen anytime in the near future, if at all, but with the Ego put in its place, so to speak, people will no longer be ruled by it, but will live as they ARE, as Life, Liberty & Happiness!

Charles Haddon Shank