The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Christ, the Light of the World

'As long as I am in the world; I am the light of the world.
John 9:5

From a purely Christian point of view, the Creator God sent His Holy Spirit to invest the virgin, Mary, with a Son, His Son, so that He might grow to become the Messiah, or Savior, not for Israel alone, but for the whole world ( John 3:16 ). On the other hand, though, there are those ( for lack of a better term, maybe, we'll call them 'Pagans' ) who choose, not necessarily to refute or refuse the principles of life laid out for us in Scripture, but to acknowledge the Divine Presence in other religions of the world, even in those places, or circumstances, where no particular religion is claimed, or followed. What are we, as Christians, to do with those who do not follow our religion; should we, as in times past ( still do today ) strive to 'evangelize' them, bringing them around to our way of thinking, as though Christianity is the only religion that has the Truth?

Jesus told His disciples they were the light of the world ( Matthew 5:14 ): this is a good example of one of the many universal statement in the Scriptures! Looking at both the historical & covenant context of such a bold statement, one may note that Jesus spoke these words to His followers in the first century, in opposition to the Jews of the day, who thought the nation of Israel, or the Jews, was the Light of the World. Others might go so far to state that Jesus' words apply only to those who follow the religion based on the Name most closely associated with Him, the name 'Christ'. But what if 'Christ' is NOT a name; what if it's a title, like, 'THE Pharaoh', THE Caesar?!

According to the Merriam-Webster ( online ) dictionary, the title simply means 'messiah'.it functions basically as the Greek version of the Hebrew term, though in actuality, it means so much more! The Greek 'Christos', in biblical usage, means 'anointed' & is closely related to the word 'chrism'. Semantically speaking then, it would be more correct to use the term, 'the Christ' in reference to Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. In the same Spirit then, so to speak; would it not be acceptable to refer to those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus by the same title? In actuality, we are! As Christians, we are 'little Christs'. Traditionally, this title was assigned to the followers of Jesus as a derogatory term, by His detractors. In this sense then, one might say that it's only those who follow Jesus that can truly bear this title with honor!

The truth of the matter is, only those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus can bear this Name, or Title with honor! What is it then to follow in the footsteps of Jesus? Is it only those who adhere to the religion named after His exalted Title that can be called 'the Christ', or 'little Christs'? It must be noted here, that we are 'little Christs', little Messiahs', if you will, for we are NOT the Creator God, we are simply of the same Essence, of the same Being. We all have one Father ( for lack of a better term? )! Being of One Essence ( though all do not realize, or acknowledge it ), we all have the potential to be 'little Christs', to awaken the 'Chrism', but sadly, some choose not to & these go their own way, selfishly acting according to only their own interests, while yet others look outside themselves for some future salvation!

To follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it might be argued, is to do what He did, which was to exercise judgement. His judgement came as a two-edged sword though; it fell, ultimately, on His covenant people, when in AD70, the Romans bore the sword in the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, for all intents & purposes, destroying the Jewish economy. Secondly, it served to separate the wheat from the chaff, biblically speaking, effectively revealing the Remnant, or those who had been Chosen, out of Israel of Old, to represent True Israel. This was the Purpose of His Parousia, in celebration of which we now observe what may be the most Holy of days, Christmas.

Christmas, however, is not just for Christians, although it might be noted here, that 'everybody is a 'Christian' on Christmas'! Pagans of all shapes & sizes celebrated the day, or season we call 'Christmas' long before we did! The Coming of the Light, AKA the Winter Solstice-the day when the light begins to linger longer, has been celebrated by Pagans from time immemorial! Constantine, if memory serves, simply renamed & restructured these old traditions when he Christianized the Roman Empire. 

As Christians, we believe that we ( alone ) have that True Light of the World, although some Christians, like the Jews & Muslims, are still waiting for that Light to be revealed from above! Almost every religion around the world, to whatever extent, believes theirs is the true religion, the True Light; are they wrong, while we're right? Or do WE have it all backwards & THEY'RE right, while WE are the ones who're wrong? Not saying that we ARE the ones who're wrong, but then again, we haven't got all our ducks in a row, either. It has been said there is truth in every religion; this is verifiable, not because all religions are ultimately the same ( they're not ), but because while some individual adherents to those religions choose to adhere to that religion, for religions sake, others choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, judging, as He did, by spreading Love rather than Hate, Freedom rather than Fear. They shine their Light in the midst of a dark & dreary world, because, though they may not realize or acknowledge it as such; they ARE the Light of the World!

Jesus, as the Messiah of Israel, was the Christ ( some would put the emphasis on 'THE', as in the only One )! However, as we are ( to be ) to the world as Jesus was to Israel ( He being our Great Example ), we, as Christians, should strive to shine our Light into every dark corner, as He did, bringing forth those treasures hidden ( struggling ) in the darkness, that they too, may realize their Purpose. It is not only as a Christian, religiously speaking, that one may be a follower of the Divine Principle that Jesus followed; Pagans too, though they may not acknowledge Him that we acknowledge as 'the Christian God, yet still follow that Divine Principle, shining their Light into dark places & bringing into the Light treasures previously hidden. We are not alone in this world & no man, or religion, is an Island!

In this Christmas season, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus as the Coming of the Light: Pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice as the coming of the light; either way, whether it's the Sun or the Son, it's simply a religious holyday, or holiday! From the original Purpose, we have come a long way ( or should that be, 'fallen a long way?' ) what with the commercialization ( business ) of the holyday. Some have  selfishly & greedily chosen 'the bottom line' as their messiah, while others have chosen to save themselves & the world be BEING the Light, by loving their neighbor as themselves, showing them that indeed, THEY are Light, if only they would choose to shine!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Bloody Bible

You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:13

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones,
and kill every woman who has known a man intimately.
Numbers 31:17

'Why did Yahweh ( God ) command the children of Israel to kill the inhabitants of Canaan?' This question, in other words, maybe, was presented to me recently by a friend who, like many others, is having a difficult time reconciling a God of Love with One who seems, in the Hebrew Scriptures anyway, to be filled with a 'holy hatred', One who instructed His people to kill their enemies & even further, to murder complete strangers. Then we come to the Aramaic & Greek Scriptures, where we find Jesus telling His disciples to 'love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you' ( Matthew 5:44 ). Many people, Pagan & Christian alike, find these passages hard to read, wondering how a loving Creator could order His Creation to be destroyed!

You may have heard, by way of explanation, that when Jesus came along, He tamed His Father down so that unlike the petty, vindictive God He is often painted as in the so-called Old Testament, in the so-called New Testament, He is now a kinder, gentler God, One who, rather than killing His enemies, loves them to death! This almost seems reasonable, until one considers that Jesus & God, according to traditional orthodoxy anyway, are One & the Same. To suggest that the God of the Hebrews would or even could change is to fly in the face of orthodoxy! Scripture tells us in at least one place, in no uncertain terms ( Malachi 3:6 ), that He does not change. Plenty are the passages that intimate the same, though admittedly, there are a few that seem to indicate that He's had regrets & gone back on His word ( Genesis 6:5-8, Exodus 32:10-14 ).

Those who like to 'cherry-pick', on both sides of the fence, choose certain passages from the Scriptures & almost ignore the context, both historically & culturally speaking. For instance, the context of the passage above, from the book of Numbers, tell us that this was a drastic situation, a time of war. Further, we should understand from Moses' words in verses 15-17 that it was more for the sake of purity than anything else that they were commanded to kill even those they had captured, the women & children. From the Ancient Near Eastern perspective, one which survives almost intact to this day, we may understand too, that killing the male children, but keeping the female children alive might discourage any further retaliation from their enemies.

The Scriptures, both Old & New Testaments, DO portray a vengeful God, one who judges those who take a stand against Him & His people with everlasting fire, but again, we must understand this from both a cultural & historical context. From a cultural perspective, we can see that Yahweh ( God ), by His seemingly genocidal commands, simply meant to purify His people Israel by removing from before them any temptation. We see how this worked out for the Israelites, though, particularly since they failed to remove those stumbling blocks as they were instructed. Furthermore, as with the Law given through Moses, these commands merely served to show that the temptation was really in themselves!

There can be no doubt that the History of Israel which we read in the Scriptures is indeed a bloody one; however, did Yahweh, or the Creator God mean for His human Creation to kill their brothers & sisters? Yes, the Lord commanded His people, as Judges of the Earth, to carry out His vengeance on the nations around them, but as we have seen, it was more for the sake of separating out a holy people for Himself with which to purify those nations than to actually exterminate them. This is not to say that He never ordered a genocide, of sorts, but the God of Israel, contrary to popular opinion, was not the petty, vindictive God that some have made Him out to be.

'Proof-texting', or 'cherry-picking', involves the mistake of taking a verse totally out of context & hanging certain beliefs & doctrines on them. The doctrine of Hell is one such doctrine. When taken out of their context, passages like the Parable of the Rich Man & Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 & Revelation 20 put 'the fear of God' in many people, when it comes to 'hell-fire & damnation'!

In Exodus 4 ( 23 ), we read that Yahweh did indeed instruct Moses to tell the Pharaoh of Egypt, 'let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn'. The Lord ends up, as He promised, killing the firstborn, not only of the Pharaoh, but of all Egypt, those anyway, who refused to heed the word of Moses. In fact, before Moses even got to Egypt, Yahweh, it is recorded, tried to kill Moses' firstborn because he had not been consecrated in the way that Moses had been instructed!

'The Bloody Bible', it should be noted, is stained with not only human, but animal blood! This is a cultural phenomenon. Israel, at its conception, was rooted in a culture that operated largely on sacrifice; sacrifice to a pantheon of gods. Although human sacrifice was not uncommon in that culture, we can see that Israel was instructed to offer animal, not human sacrifice to Yahweh. Even in the History of Israel, we can see echoes of human sacrifice from the nations around them as Israel began to apostatize.

The Truths of the Bible are unavoidable! Many choose, right or wrong, to ignore the bloodier parts of it, but the truth is that these bloody parts are a part of our past. We were not born, most who read these words, in that part of the world, much less in that ancient culture, but even here in America, we have experienced bloodshed, almost, it would seem, on par with that of ancient Israel! Bloodshed seems to be an almost necessary part of life; for one to eat, it would seem, something must die, whether it be animal or plant. In the case of war, which I do not recommend, by the way, it would seem that one must kill or be killed. I will not judge in this matter, except to say that war is a veritable hell! In the case of self defense, much the same dilemma exists, 'kill or be killed'; which is the better choice? Would you rather lose your humanity, or become a murderer ( killer ) really, what's the difference? ) yourself, even if it's in defense of a loved one?

Then we come to the question that is at the heart of the History of Israel; 'what's it all about?' We tend to focus overmuch on the physical aspect of life, as indeed the earlier Scriptures seem to do, but when we, as Jesus did, focus on the heart of the issue, the spiritual aspect of life, we begin to see that, though the spiritual must affect the physical, much as the tiny & unseen rudder steers the much larger ship, we are spirit beings more than we are human beings! This puts things in a different light, as it should; for example, when Yahweh commanded His people Israel to drive out, even kill those Canaanites, was He actually instructing them to commit murder, or was He simply telling the Israelites it was time for the Canaanites to move on?

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Covenant World

'God became Man that Man might become God.'

One problem that many have noted with preterism, beside the fact that it's just another 'ism', is that 'if it's all fulfilled, than what do we have to look forward to?'; 'if Jesus already came back, why are we still reading the Bible?': 'YOU MEAN, THIS IS IT?!' The 'problem' is exacerbated with a Covenant Eschatology ( NOT to be confused with 'preterism'! ), which leads naturally to Covenant Protology
( Covenant Creation ( CC ), or the fact that Genesis is not about the formation of Planet Earth, but rather the formation of the Land & Man in the Land; 'the Land', of course, referring to what we call 'the Promised Land', or even, 'the Holy Land'! It must be noted, though, that 'the Land' itself referred, not to the physical geographical features, but to a greater spiritual reality, ultimately, 'God with us'!

Throughout Scripture are scattered what may be called 'Universal Truths': while some may beg to differ on the existence of these 'nuggets', they are rather self-evident! Probably THE most famously memorizable verse in the Bible, John 3:16, reads, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'. Read in context, some would say, making note of the Greek word translated 'world', this promise was given to the 'world' of the 1st century, both Jew & Gentile. Given that Covenant Protology posits that the 'cosmos', or orderly arrangement, whose creation is recorded in the first chapters of Genesis, is simply the creation of covenant, rather than the material, or physical creation, then it would follow that the 'world' spoken of in John 3:16 is not ( necessarily ) the physical ( biological ) creation, but that same covenant creation. We are faced, then, with the question, 'What constitutes a covenant?'

A covenant, most would probably agree, is an agreement between two or more people, for mutual benefit. In short. a covenant, unlike a mere contract, connotes relationship, of whatever sort & to whatever extent. The Covenant that we see in the Scripture, being personified in Jesus the Christ, infinitely surpasses the legal definition of 'covenant', for one, because it IS personified & for another, because it was constituted by the Creator God Himself, Scripturally speaking of course. One way to put it is that Adam did not asked to be created, or formed; he did not even ask for a wife to be brought to him. Even so, Israel did not agree to be singled out from among the nations. However, both Israel & Adam were in relationship with the Creator God, known as YHWH to the Hebrews. As anyone may note for themselves, this relationship was pretty bumpy at times!

Throughout the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, we come face-to-face with the notion that the Creator God is our Father & we are His Children, not ( necessarily ) because of physical generation, but through spiritual regeneration ( this is most clearly pronounced in the Greek Scriptures ). Like any good father, He 'chastens'  His children ( Hebrews 12:6 ( Deuteronomy 8:5 ). This is not to say that He holds any malice for them, or delights in their punishment, but because of the Covenant, He disciplines them in order to have a better relationship with them.

Although the Creation recorded in Scripture indeed entails that of a special Covenant, that special Covenant involved the Creator God dwelling with Man, as Man! As this special Covenant, through Israel, blessed all the nations ( Genesis 12-17 ), so we may note that many of these truths, such as John 3:16, are to be understood universally. Matthew 24, for instance, should be understood as a prophecy of the coming destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, although, even in this fulfilled prophecy, one may note universal truths.

Covenant implies relationship! The relationship recorded in Scripture, between YHWH & His people Israel, was a special one, intended to ultimately bless the entire Creation, not just spiritually, or covenantally ( again, 'Scripturally speaking' ), but physically, or geographically as well. The relationship between a father & his children, as any father ( or mother ) can attest to, goes far beyond the limitations of any writ or agreement! Simply through generation, though rocky at best sometimes, the relationship, or covenant, if you will, still stands. Just as Adam & Israel did not choose to be singled out for special duty, neither did we choose, humanly speaking, to be born into a certain family.

It should be fairly clear by now that the Covenant with Israel was a special One, not simply because YHWH singled them out, but because He Himself personified the Covenant! That the Covenant extends to all Creation should be clear as well. The uniqueness of this Covenant does not require agreement because it is not based merely on one's willingness to enter into a relationship, but on the fact that all Creation are in a relationship with the Creator God.

The Universal Truths of Scripture, then, though not defined as covenantal ( by Scripture ), are yet covenantal in nature. Because the End Goal of the Covenant History of Israel was 'God with us', the Covenant was shown to include all Creation, not just those who chose to 'enter in'! 'The Land' promised to those who would enter in, including the Greater Spiritual Truth of  'the Christ in us', was indicative of the Creator dwelling with ( in ) the Creation! The History of Israel served its purpose, in that through a proper reading & understanding of it, we bear witness to the fact that the Creation is in fact One with its Creator, that Heaven is indeed One with Earth, 'it is what it is' & 'it's all good'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Christ at the Crossroads

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.
And its desire [ is ] for you, but you should rule over it.”
Genesis 4:6 & 7

Life is full of choices, some easy, some hard; some harder than others, some easier than others, but in all cases, a choice must be made or we will end up doing nothing! Sometimes it seems there is no choice to be made, for good or evil, even for better or best, or the lesser of two evils, but, on a purely physical level, there is always a choice, whether we like it or not, like, even if we don't acknowledge or perceive it as such. When we do perceive & acknowledge the choice, then the real difficulty presents itself; for instance, in the case of one dying in order that hundreds, even thousands might live, especially if that one is innocent or even a loved one ( family or friend ), how do we make the choice? Do we let that one person in the world that we are most attached to slip away, or do we allow hundreds or thousands of people to die who are significant to others? However one looks at it, the choice is not an easy one!

'I get it!' From a purely spiritual perspective, in the mind of universal consciousness, there is no choice, only a BE-ingness, but we do live on a 'plane', in a dimension, if you will, where choices must be made. On a very mundane level, we make the choice everyday of whether to stay in bed or to get up & go to that job we love to hate, whether to wear blue socks or red, what to eat for breakfast; cereal or eggs? One may choose to live their life in this biology free from the choices of everyday life, choices like this or that, right or wrong, good or evil, but they have still made a choice! We may choose ( I heartily recommend this, BTW ) to say things like 'it is what it is' & 'let it be', but even in this case, passively or not, we have decided it's not worth worrying our pretty little heads about, or winding up with spiritual constipation.

As much as I've exalted ( in words, anyway ) the Christ Within, one would think I'd be making better choices! In my defense ( I'm not the only one, either ) it IS much easier to say, or write about it, than to put those words into practice! Life in this biology is about the hard choices; if you're not faced with hard choices everyday, you're probably doing something wrong! This is not to say that choosing the easy path is automatically wrong, though the easy way is not usually the best, but when are faced with the hard choices, it's a good sign that we are facing reality, because life is not easy, especially where people are involved!

People ( others ) make their own choices, like it or not, that we automatically perceive as right or wrong, good or evil. For instance, we are inclined to think ( many of us ) that abortion is murder & therefore wrong! It is easy to condemn the act, but when we dig into the reasoning behind the other person's decision, it becomes harder, say, in the case of the mother's life or her baby's, to choose one way or the other. Another may condemn the act of killing enemy combatants in a wartime situation, but when faced with the reality that the other person is going to kill us if we do not kill him or her first, what then? It's easy to say, one way or the other, in the comfort of our own home, but an unimaginably hard choice when faced with such a situation!

These choices, however, MUST be made & like it or not, people must make them! We may ( should ) choose not to live from the Person, or Ego, like Cain did in our Story, but that doesn't guarantee that the other will do the same. There ARE many out there & the number is growing, who, though undeniably living in the Person, refuse to live any longer FROM the Person! Who knows, maybe it will be our example of living from the Universal Consciousness rather than from the Ego that encourages the other to do the same!

'What IS this Universal Consciousness?' you might ask. Realizing the Universal Consciousness, in my way of thinking, is equivalent to realizing the Christ Within; it is the idea, the reality, in fact, that there IS no 'other'! Understanding that, though we are fated, for whatever reason, to living in the Person, in this biological existence, one might say, we need not murder or mutilate the 'other' ( Person ) in order to further our own existence. In other words, by not looking at People as the 'other', we see them as they are, One & the Same Spirit manifesting in different ways, not necessarily wrong or right, just different; it is our perception, whether because of our feelings on the matter, or because we read it in some book, that make it good or evil in our eyes!

The Christ is within every person! 'Is every person, then, the Christ?' God Forbid! By making such a controversial, even heretical statement, I simply mean that it is through our choices in this biological existence that we manifest our Spirit. When we choose to let the Person or Ego ( the Bible terms it 'Sin' ) rule over us, over our spirit, as Cain did, then we end up as Satan, as devils, doing the opposite of what we should. Manifesting the Christ Within, though, means ruling over, or conquering our Ego, not acting on its selfish & animal desires, but according to the knowledge that we are all children of our Heavenly Father & gods in our own right. The choice, my friend, is up to you; will you manifest the Christ, or will you be a Satan? Choose wisely!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Forest For the Trees; 'Away in a Manger'

Question; did Jesus' lowly birth occur in a stable, as we have assumed, or was it in a house, as Matthew's Gospel seems to imply?  Matthew, Mark & Luke are called 'The Synoptic Gospels' , but some of the details of Jesus' birth can be a bit confusing when read in context. Mark, for instance, says nothing of His nativity & Matthew has more to say about the circumstances surrounding the event than about the Event itself. Luke gives us the clearest picture of where this blessed event took place. Luke, however, doesn't even mention the wise men ( three kings? ) from the East, while Matthew seems to recount their adventures in some detail, placing them at a house in Bethlehem when they presented their gifts. Fairly commonly, it has been thought, because of Herod's killing spree & the specific ages he targeted ( Matthew 2:16 ), that Jesus would have been, or could have been, around two years old at this time. Trying to mesh the two Gospels at this juncture, again, proves somewhat confusing, though; according to Matthew, Jesus' parents are forced, along with their newborn baby ( ? ) to flee to Egypt, after the wise men visit Him in Bethlehem, while Luke totally ignores this seemingly important event & moves Jesus, with His mother & father, back to Nazareth, assumably before He reaches the age of 1. Confused yet?

One thing that's pretty plain is that Jesus was placed in a manger after He was born! He wasn't 'born in a manger', per se, because that would just be, well......uncomfortable ( poor Mary! ) & probably not very feasible. The Greek, according to Thayers, translates very well here, plainly rendering 'phatnē' as 'manger'. The reason Luke gives for Jesus being born in such lowly conditions is that there was 'no room for them in the inn', although Matthew doesn't seem to be concerned with this important fact! The fact, though it is understandable & seemingly happenstance, that there was no room found for them at an inn in a Jewish city should give us pause. Why would Luke take such pains to record this seemingly minor detail when no one else corroborates it? Then again, why does Matthew record the visit of the wise men, whereas Luke doesn't see fit to mention it? Both details are of significance, are they not?

The story I've heard is doubtless the one you may have heard, that Matthew's & Luke's accounts differ, particularly on this point, because Matthew was concerned more with the kingly nature of Jesus' nativity, while Luke was more concerned with showing His humanity. This does make some sense, although, as we saw, it can be a bit confusing when trying to nail it down, chronologically speaking.  That Jesus was born is of utmost importance! Both Matthew & Luke record the involvement of the Holy Spirit in this blessed event & both seem to uphold what we call 'the Virgin Birth' ( Isaiah 7:14 ). Matthew makes us aware in at least two different places that Mary & Joseph were not, as husband & wife till after Jesus was born ( wow; flashback to the Garden narrative-Genesis 2:5 ), while Luke has Mary acknowledging to the heavenly messenger that she does not 'know a man'. ( it's useful here to understand the idiomatic meaning of 'know' )

Plainly speaking, then, we can naturally ( safely ) assume that Joseph & Mary did not engage in sexual relations, according to Scripture, until after the birth of Jesus. Other tales may enter the picture here, like the writings of Josephus, but solely from Scripture, it is plain that Mary was a virgin when she & her husband married. The importance of the Virgin Birth is that though this Event, the 'virgin of Israel' ( Jeremiah 18:13, 31:4 ) was redeemed. It was not, as some have postulated, that Jesus' blood might be sinless, or some other ridiculous assertion!

'Why a manger, cousin?' Well, a manger was a trough of sorts, for feeding, you guessed it, animals! One doesn't necessarily have to believe in a covenant creation in the first part of Genesis to understand that animals in Scripture were often representative of human beings outside the 'land' of Israel, outside the Covenant, Scripturally speaking. Peter's vision, recorded in Acts 10, makes this clear. The fact that Jesus, as a newborn baby, the very Son of God, was placed in a trough ( crib ) where animals were accustomed to feeding, is significant of the Gentiles feeding upon the Word of God. Luke alone records the 'manger' ( I surmise ), because, as a Gentile, he understood that Jesus would be King, not of the Jews alone, but also of the Gentiles!

'Was Jesus born in a house or a shed? I was recently asked this question & while I naturally assumed for years, like most everyone else, that He was born in a stable, or shed of some sort, because they laid Him in a manger afterwards, we tend to forget the historical & cultural context of the Event. I know enough of that culture to know that a manger, along with animals, in the house, would not be a strange notion. We envision, especially in our day & age, as well as our Western culture, that this manger was most likely in a rough-hewn cave, built at least partially into the rocks, or possibly one of the three-side structures we are familiar with, but is this really important? Does it really make a difference if Matthew's version doesn't quite jive with Luke's, if Jesus was born in a house or a stable, if the wise men visited Him in Bethlehem or Nazareth, when He was 2, or when He was born? The important Message here is that He WAS born; that He spread the Gospel beyond the borders of national Israel & that He lives in us, as the Fulfillment of that Gospel!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Heaven on Earth?

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:22 & 23

'God became man that man might become God.'

As the Messiah of Israel according to the Story of Scripture, Jesus came to 'save His people from their sins'. Today, depending on who you listen to, this translates to anything from 'going to heaven when you die' to, 'it's all about Israel'! In context, we can see that it IS all about Israel, but then the question becomes, 'who IS Israel?' If indeed 'Israel' is simply the People of God, of all ages, or aeons, then yes, it's all about Israel. If Israel is a certain people, however, from a certain ( specific ) region of the world, of a certain lineage, then we might be faced with other concerns & considerations. But I digress...............

Jesus told His disciples quite plainly, 'I go to prepare a place for you.[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, [ there ] you may be also' ( John 14:2b & 3 ) The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Church at Thessalonika ( I Thessalonians 4:16 & 17 ), wrote, 'For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive [ and ] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord'. These passages & others like them might seem to lend credence to the traditional ( orthodox ) notion of 'Heaven' being our Final Destination, the end goal, so to speak, but nowhere in Scripture does it specifically say this. In fact, reading these passages in context seems to point the other direction, telling us that, rather than 'going to heaven when we die', those who belonged to Israel would join Her Messiah in a 'Heaven on Earth', not after biological death, but here & now, as a result of that salvation!

The apostle Paul also wrote to the Church at Colosse ( Colossians 1:27c ), concerning 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. In his letter to the Church at Ephesus ( Ephesians 3:17 ), he prayed 'that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith' ( John 14:23 ). From these words & others like them, we may deduce that the whole point in Jesus coming as 'God in the Flesh', was not so that we could go to some 'pie-in-the-sky' ( 'Heaven' ) when we die, but so that we could once again dwell with our Creator, as in the beginning ( Genesis 3:8 )!

In John 14:23, Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.' With these words, in particular, we see plainly that those believing in Him would not go to some special place when they died, but that He would come to them, living/dwelling with them where they were. It is here & now that we dwell in the Presence of God; in a different realm, one might say. The phrase 'God with us', which is the true meaning of the name 'Immanuel', seems to have lost some of its original impact! When Jesus walked this earth, some 2,000 years ago, He was, in Essence, in Reality, God in Flesh: He showed the unbelieving Pharisees that Man could indeed be God. The Pharisees ultimately killed Him, by way of Rome, for this blasphemy, as they called it. 'God with us', however, should tell us clearly, again, that rather than us joining Him in 'Heaven', He brought 'Heaven' to Earth, to dwell with us, in us & through us!

Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, was a Man who was revealed to be God Himself! Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary conceived the Son of Man who later proved, through His Crucifixion, Resurrection & Ascension, to be the very Son of God. The Creator God Himself deemed to enter the realm of His Creation to show the Way into Heaven itself, His very Presence. He dwells within us now, so that we may present 'Heaven' to those around us.  Heaven & Earth have been joined in us, we who follow the Christ, the Savior of all Israel. As we present the Christ to our neighbor, then, we represent the Dwelling of God, what we call 'Heaven'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sitting in Samadhi

Be still, and know that I [ am ] God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
Psalm 46:10

According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, 'Samādhi, also called samāpatti, in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is the last stage or ultimate stage of meditation, when the person is out of physical consciousness. In samādhi the mind and soul are in equal balance. It is meditative absorption, attained by the practice of dhyāna. In samādhi the mind becomes still.' This definition sounds almost surprisingly similar to the Christian prayer. Not what we know as 'The Lord's Prayer', surely, but like deep, heartfelt prayer nonetheless ( more on this later ).

We, in the Christian tradition, have been instructed that Christianity is THE Way, that other paths may travel, for a time, somewhat parallel, but that ultimately, unless one accepts Jesus as Lord ( the Christ ), he or she has no real hope. Jesus DID say, according to Scripture ( John 14:6 ), 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'. For the first half or so of my short life in this biology, I received these words as gospel. However, in the past few years, I have come to see that, though there are universal truths in Scripture, the volume is, first & foremost ( primarily ), a history of Israel. Not only is it written to a completely different culture, it was written in differing languages, to an ancient culture. That's a lot to swallow!

Here in the gloried West, we think we're pretty hot stuff, not unlike our western ( European ) forbears that thought the earth was at the center of it all! One must acknowledge here, though, that as far as their limited abilities allow, many scholars have deeply researched the idiosyncrasies of the original languages, the culture of the day ( audience relevance ), etc, though obviously, not without prejudice. Despite this fact, which should be comforting, we are yet faced with a multitude of Christian denominations, some of which are saying basically the same thing & an equal amount, if not more, of versions of these precious Scriptures. The Story in these pages has been handed down from generation to generation ( roughly 6,000 years of history, based on a literal reading of the text ) & while it is ENTIRELY possible, as we were taught from childhood, that 'the Holy Spirit preserved the Scriptures'; the question then becomes; 'which version? which text?' Well,. the obvious answer, according to some, is 'the KJV & the Textus Receptus!'

The problem with this theory, that 'the Holy Spirit preserved the Scriptures', is that 'they ALL say that!' They all say the same thing about their precious versions & while it is fairly clear that the same Story is recognizable throughout most of these, the interpretations vary fairly widely in some areas. It is self-evident that, though the Story of Scripture, the Story of Israel, has survived the ages, more or less intact, it has not emerged from the battle unscathed: with many & differing translations, to say nothing of interpretations, it should not be difficult to understand that the prejudice of man has tainted our understanding of its hallowed words.

As we have seen. the main difference between the majority of the texts, including the oldest manuscripts we have available, is semantical. One can read through most of the versions out there & though the words may be slightly different, or appear in a slightly different order, the main theme of redemption & reconciliation is found throughout. The Scriptures, as originally given, or written down, according to internal evidence, tell the Story of how the Creator of Heaven & Earth ( 'God', as Christians call Him ), or 'YHWH', made Himself known to a certain family/tribe in the Middle East, in order that they in turn might spread that knowledge to the nations around them. Through their supposed failure, the knowledge of the Living God, as opposed to the false deities these nations tended to worship, spread like wildfire & ended up turning the world ( a very limited perspective ) upside down.

At this point, most of my readers are probably thinking something like, 'I thought this post was supposed to be about Samadhi?' Well, it is; I said all that, to say this: 'you can all go Home now!' No; quite seriously, the only difference between deep prayer & deep meditation is that prayer is focused outwardly & meditation is focused inwardly. Samadhi, in Christian terminology, might be rendered as 'peaceful bliss', or something to that effect. Whether or not one goes into all the Eastern Mysticism normally associated with 'Samadhi', the general theme is not so different than what Jesus taught His followers; to love ones God, their neighbor as themselves ( 'how are we supposed to do that unless we see them as ourselves?' ) & to treat others as we want to be treated. For that matter, whatever your personal belief  ( religion ), these are universal truths, acknowledged worldwide as the way of lasting peace.

One may read stories of gurus/yogis, however they're named, who simply sit in a sort of perpetual Samadhi, not eating or drinking ( very little, if they do ) & while this may be very beneficial, both to them & to those around them, even far away, it is not necessary! To sit in Samadhi, one need not be actually sitting. To my limited understanding, Samadhi is more an inner peace than an outer silence, even lack of motion. Christians love to quote, 'the peace of God, which passes all understanding': much like Samadhi, I believe we can say, it is something we carry with us, another dimension, if you will, in which we reside, apart from the necessary evils that we must endure bodily. Does this not sound very similar, if not identical, to our Christian walk? Are we not to distance ourselves, in a manner of speaking, from the evils of this world, in order that we might enjoy the Peace of Heaven?

Any readers of this blog of late may realize that I have begun to focus more on the Chrism than the Christ, on the Story of Scripture as relating to the physiology of humanity than a historical narrative of the journey of a fairly obscure nomadic tribe, from rags to riches, as it were. The Christ Consciousness, I believe, resides in all human beings, though some have almost totally managed to obliterate it, or at least deface it beyond human recognition. The Christ Consciousness, or the Chrism, from which the word 'Christ' ( 'anointed' ) comes, is a part of the human physiology, again, to my limited understanding & can be 'awakened' through deep prayer/meditation. As Christians, we must realize that the Spirit of the Creator God, as His Kingdom ( 'Heaven'-Luke 17:21 ) is within us! So, when we pray, it should be more an inward meditation than a prayer to 'someone out there'. Or rather, maybe it should be to 'someone out there' in the sense that we often receive aid, physically speaking, from those who hear our prayers on this physical plane.

It is through deep prayer/meditation that we experience this Samadhi, or inner peace. Maybe this is why we are instructed to be constantly in an attitude of prayer ( I Thessalonians 5:17 )! Is it really necessary to go through all the steps of transcendental meditation in order to achieve Samadhi? Many would certainly tell you so, but more to the point, 'YES'! To truly be at peace in the midst of the evil that surrounds us, whether one believes in the Christian God or simply a Higher Power, call it the Christ Consciousness, or what you will. one must first still their mind, realizing there is a Oneness; that It simply IS, no matter the evil that we perceive.

One final note; what we call the Lord's Prayer, the prayer that Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, was a specific prayer for their specific time. I've covered this in previous posts, but the prayer He taught His disciples was relative to the ever-worsening situation they faced in the first century. Even in this prayer, though, we can see universal truth, for He taught them how to find peace in the midst of turmoil ( tribulation ). So whether one finds more comfort in laying their cares at the feet of the Christian God or in meditating within themselves, relying on their Higher Power, we find our rest in An Attitude of Samadhi!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, November 13, 2017

'No Possessions, Too?'

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
Acts 4:32

When John Lennon composed 'Imagine', early one morning in 1971, it's doubtful that he had this famous, almost communistic proof-text in mind, though it's possible. Many Christians immediately apply the brakes with the first line of Lennon's song, where he sings, 'Imagine there's no heaven.....', but if one dares to continue searching, they might see that John's lyrics are predicated on the notion that 'Heaven' is somewhere out there, up there in the sky, out in space, etc. John Lennon was not a Christian, by any stretch of the imagination ( most likely Buddhist, if he followed any religion ), but he seemed to be aware that the Greek word translated 'heaven', ouranos, simply means 'sky'.

Religion divides; that's all there is to it! As Christians, traditional, anyway & orthodox, we understand that division is not necessarily a bad thing, but is it really a good thing? We are used to viewing the world & humanity in two main categories; us & them, in traditional Christianese, those who are headed for heaven & those who are destined for hell. The Bible DOES say, 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you' ( II Corinthians 6:17 ( Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel  20:34, 41 ), but when read in context, it should be noted that these were written in the days of that first [ age/covenant ], thus being directed at true Israel. As a matter of fact, the communistic-sounding statement at the beginning of this post should also be taken in context, with the understanding that the Christians who thus divested themselves of their property ( 'possessions' ) quite probably did so because they knew that it would soon be worthless, as the city was about to be destroyed.

Speaking of possessions, we now come closer to the heart of the matter! What is the biggest cause for fights, even wars? Quoting at some length here, from James 4:1-3, 'Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do [ they ] not [ come ] from your [ desires for ] pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend [ it ] on your pleasures'. Say what you want about John Lennon & his ideals, but at least he seemed to understand, maybe better than most, that it's not about possessions, what you have or don't have, materially speaking, anyway. We read elsewhere in Scripture ( Romans 14:17 ) that, 'the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit'; Again, it's not about possessions, materialistically speaking, it's a spiritual reality, basically how we treat our fellow human beings: as John put it, 'the brotherhood of man'!

Possessions, though, are not a bad thing; like riches of any kind, the problem is not in having them, but how we come by them & what we do with them once we get them. James mentioned that the Israelites were guilty of breaking the tenth commandment, which instructed them, 'You shall not covet.................................' ( Exodus 20:17 ). 'He/she has something I want & they won't give it to me, therefore I will take it from them!' The problem is not in the having ( of possessions/riches ); the problem is in doing whatever is necessary to get them, usually whether it's right or wrong. Lennon was not saying that it would be ideal not to have anything of one's own, but rather, that we should look at what we have been blessed with as not simply ours, but a blessing for the collective whole, for the good of humanity. Hence, the line 'Imagine all the people sharing all the world'.

We tend to view our possessions in the same way that Gollum viewed The Ring, in the epic, 'The Lord of the Rings'; 'My OWN, my prrrrrrrrecious!' Witness what he did to retrieve his 'prrrrrrecious': he would have done whatever he could to get it back, even if it meant murder. As it 'happened, he simply bit Frodo's finger off before he himself perished, along with the Ring. The point is, that looking at what we have been blessed with as 'our possessions', ours & ours alone is what has been the cause of many battles & wars, even if it's only within our own hearts. James also ask the question, 'If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what [ does it ] profit?"' ( James 2:15 & 16 ); when we fail to share our blessings with those in need, simply because they are ours ( 'I' worked for them! ) then we fail to live as Jesus taught.

So then, when read in the context of the current situation, at the time of Luke's writing ( Acts 4:32 ), we may correctly ascertain what was originally meant by those words. Not so much a plea for
Christian Communism, but rather a sharing of what they were blessed with, although it was probably made easier by the knowledge that these possessions would soon be worthless anyway. However, the point is; they did not look at these things as their own ( 'MY prrrrrrecious' ), but as a blessing to be shared with those in need! This being a universal truth; how much need is there in the world today? Our 'world', even? What should we do, then, with our possessions?

I'm not saying that we should not have anything of our own; I'm simply saying, as I believe Lennon was, that we should not cling to what we have been blessed with, but that we should share, without expectation, with those in need. 'The brotherhood of man' does not extend only to those who live & believe like we do! What we have been blessed with is not for us alone; it is to be shared with the world, regardless of whether we think they deserve it or not.

Agree with John Lennon's life or not, his ideals were lofty & true; what he imagined was a world at peace rather than a world at war, no heaven above, but rather, 'heaven' here below. He 'imagined' a world where the collective consciousness ruled the day, not one in which some were destined for 'heaven', while others were headed for 'hell'. As the unorthodox 'heretics' that we are, fulfilled believers know that it is not the traditional 'heaven' or 'hell' scenario, but rather that Heaven is here & now, that in sharing its blessings, we embrace 'the brotherhood of man'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Butterfly Effect ( Chaos Theory ) & the Flight of the Bumblebee

It has been said that when a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, a tornado might touch down in central Texas a few weeks later. A bit extreme, maybe, that something so seemingly insignificant & fragile could cause something so destructive, but Cause & Effect is something that must be considered, down to the smallest detail, if we are to make sense of this thing we call life. The Science of the matter, to be honest, is quite beyond this blogger, but to be honest, that's really not the point of this post! The point is; how often do we really think about how our actions, no matter how seemingly innocent or insignificant, affect the conditions around us? Can we really do anything without consequences of some sort?

In the past, the question of how a bumblebee can remain aloft has proved to be enigmatic for Science, though recent discoveries have somewhat lessened the apprehension & expanded the comprehension. Though maybe more understandable now, it is no less amazing, as are many enigmas that have been revealed to humanity through heightened Science & Technology. 'The size & weight of the bumblebee', 'the apparent fragility of its wings', to say nothing of its aerodynamics, seem to be more than enough to cast a shadow of doubt, or wonder, really, on how such a creature can fly.

Thanks in part to astronomical advances in Science & Technology, humanity has learned many things about the Creation that were previously regarded as some of life's great mysteries, though sadly, many of these discovers have been chalked up to mere naturalistic evolution, apart from an Intelligent Designer. The fairly recent discovery of the Higgs Boson, the so-called 'God Particle', is an indication of this. Adaptation might be a better word for the changes that the animal creation in particular goes through & has gone through, though plants as well have been noted in this phenomena. Evolution though, of a sort anyway, is hard to deny, though a better way to say it is that this Intelligent Designer, call IT 'God', 'the Creator', 'Source', 'Energy', even 'the Universe', if you will, has programmed into the marvels of biology the ability, even the propensity to adapt to any given situation.

If Life is nothing more than a series of unfortunate events, just a haphazard scramble of ingredients, then what IS the point of it all?! Every man, woman & child has been given a free will, a choice of whether to adapt to any given situation, or to die. Animals have this ability as well, though in most animals, we don't recognize the innate intellect, or the conscious ability to make these choices; we tend to chalk it up to instinct, but there again, 'where did that instinct come from?' Through the wonders of Science & Technology, humanity has begun to recognize that we are not the only creatures in this biology that have been gifted with intellect, however limited.

Speaking of animals, how much do we consider the effects of our actions on them? For instance, when we feast on them, as in the case of cattle, chicken, turkey, even wild game, do you ever wonder if how we treated them in their relatively short life might have an effect on our consumption of them? The way that corporate growers raise the meat we eat has begin to give many people pause as to whether its even consumable. We might ask ourselves, 'Do animals feel pain?' Most don't think twice about how cattle, chicken, etc. are slaughtered, much less how they are raised, for human consumption. For human beings, we know that close quarters often don't make for healthy living, but how does that translate when it comes to the meat we eat? To compensate for the unhealthy & unsanitary living conditions that we force most of these animals to grow up in, they are pumped with antibiotics & who knows what else: it just makes sense that this artificial 'healthiness' then transfers to us, the consumer. It might be asked, too, if the pain that the animals suffer is not somehow transferred to us, both physically & psychologically. Are WE ultimately responsible for our own health?

Dolphins, along with chimpanzees ( arguably, one of our evolutionary ancestors ) & certain species of dogs, have long been known to possess an intelligence above & beyond other animals ( even some humans ), but does it really stop there? Are these the only animals with the ability to reason? Ask pretty much any pet-lover & they will tell you their animals are smarter than a lot of humans! On the other hand, there are those out there called 'pet-owners', those who simply 'own' their pets. For this reason we now have what are called 'rescue animals'; there are whole clinics, even official organizations specifically designed for the purpose of rescuing these pets from their owners. Thankfully, not ALL owners of pets treat these animals in such a way that they need rescuing!

Life is NOT simply a series of events, no matter how seemingly fortunate or unfortunate! Life is what we make it & though there are certain things that seem to just 'happen' to us, beyond our control, even in these events, we still exert some control. We may choose, for instance, how we will respond or react to the event, or we may even choose to so order our own lives as to limit the chance of such & such ever 'happening' to us. No matter the case, whether you believe there is a Supreme Being who ordered the Universe, it is clear that we, along with the animal, even plant creation, are sentient creatures, with the ability to choose, to judge for ourselves.

Not being a scientist, I will not even endeavor to take a glimpse into the whys & wherewithals of how a bumblebee can fly, or why they were not designed with better aerodynamics: I will, however simply, say that without an Intelligent Designer, the bumblebee would not be able to wing its flight, much less exist! Much the same could be said of really any part of the material creation, maybe the human biology most of all.

Any action, great or small, WILL have some sort of consequences! There is nothing we can do that won't have an effect on the environment around us. We cannot take one step, for instance, without something feeling the effects of our weight. We leave footprints wherever we go! When we sneeze ( which the average is about 200 mph ), there is a transference of whatever germ caused us to sneeze, if germ it be, to countless surfaces, as much as 10 feet away or more. A butterfly in Brazil doesn't sound so strange now, does it?

According to the Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh Elohim brought order out of the chaos that was the creation, about 6,000 years ago, give or take a few millennia. Although there are things, like the two Category Five hurricanes the Virgin Islands experienced several months ago, that seem to just 'happen', we must understand that NOTHING ever just 'happens; there is ALWAYS a Cause & there is ALWAYS an Effect! Again, I'm not a scientist, so I won't even try to explain the intricacies of how hurricanes are formed, or why they seem to strike at random targets. Events like these seem to make Chaos Theory plausible, but when you think of the Order behind it all, that all these things work together for our benefit, one still wonders why Chaos seems to reign supreme. Like, if the
Universe was Created & is controlled by a Supreme Being, then why do 'bad' things happen to 'good' people?

It's all about choice! Whether our own personal choice, or the choices of others, our actions most often determine the course of events. We know that if we do this, that will most likely occur as a consequence & vice versa; if this, then that. To an extent, we ourselves control the outcome of any given event. Even when it comes to the actions of others, which we can't choose for them, our own actions often positively influence their actions so that what we feared may never transpire. If, despite our most fervent efforts, though, something untoward does happen, we are yet faced with how we will respond to the Call. Will we respond in kind, or will we act ( or not ) in such a way as to stop forward momentum?

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

'Which Witch is Which?'

First of all, what is a Witch? Despite what some people seem to think, witches are most often no different than you or I, except for the fact that, for some strange reason, they seem to be healthier than a lot of 'regular' people! As Çhristians ( of whatever denomination ), we have been taught to shun them, even to fear them, because their works are 'of the devil', 'they're in league with Satan', or some other such nonsense. To be honest, yes, there are no doubt some out there that call themselves 'witches', who use their 'powers', their 'craft' for evil purposes, but is this really any different than others who work craftily for their own selfish purposes, including many so-called religious people?

An interesting fact discovered during research for this post was that, in only a handful of versions ( including the KJV ) does the term 'witch' even appear & that one or two times, at the most (  Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10 ) 'Witchcraft' appears 6 times in the NKJV. Interesting as well, is that, though Exodus 22:18, in the KJV anyway, reads, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live'; the context of these words tells us that it is written for the Israelites under that first [ covenant ]. Secondly, this passage is telling them ( NOT us ) that they should have 'no other gods before Me' ( that is, before Yahweh- Exodus 20:3 ); In other words, the word 'witch' is transliterated from a word referring to worship ( apparently there was a problem with worshipping 'the creature rather than the Creator' ( Romans 1:25 ).

The word itself, which, as far as I can tell, is rooted wholly in the English language, according to most of our modern dictionaries, means something like, 'a woman thought to have evil magic powers. Witches are popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat, and flying on a broomstick.' Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary has this primary definition; 'one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers; especially :a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or familiar :sorceress — compare warlock'. A 'witch', in this day & age, can also be anything from a spiteful woman to one who is particularly beautiful & charming.

The point is, that because of our Anglicization of Scripture, true witches, or those described as 'keepers of the Old Ways of Love for the Earth and all Her creatures', have been given an evil name! Are there witches out there who are worthy of the stigma that is usually attached to the term? Sure; just as there are 'Christians', as well as Muslims or pretty much any other 'religion' out there, who act contrarily to their stated beliefs, people make choices, for good or evil ( as we see it ) & therefore, some 'witches' truly are Satan-worshippers ( self-serving ). The same, however, may be said of certain people who Claim the Name, as well as the Pagan who serves only their own interests!

One might ask if certain 'Christian' rituals, especially those involving the use of 'blood', are really any different than those employed by certain witches! Now, before the Sign of the Cross is automatically deployed against me, please hear me out. I'm simply pointing out the fact that any ritual can be practiced with good or bad intentions. It is therefore not the ritual itself that is necessarily wrong, but the intention of the one practicing the ritual. Most Christians, as many religions do, believe that theirs is the Only Way to relationship with the Creator. Witches, as far as this blogger can tell, believe this can be accomplished, not just by living in harmony with humanity, but with the rest of the material, as well as immaterial creation.

'Love for the Earth and all Her creatures' sounds like a good goal to me! Actually, it sounds like one that Jesus Himself wouldn't have been averse to. The One who, from the beginning, pronounced all these things 'good' was therefore very arguably NOT referring to what we in America call 'witches' when He denounced 'kashaph' as 'evil'. To have a relationship in this way, with the Creator, should be the Goal of humanity. Because this is NOT the Goal, however, we have what we have; wars & rumors of wars. We are a people divided, because 'our way is the only ( or simply 'best' ) Way'. Everyone seems to think that, because they place their Faith in a Book that was admittedly translated over thousands of years by biased translators, 'witches' should be condemned. As we have seen, yes, there are some 'witches' who use their knowledge for their own purposes, rather than for the Glory & Honor of the Creator & His Creation ( read 'God & Goddess' ), but, though these give the rest a bad name, we must remember that there are other religions in which this is the case as well!

The etymology of the word in question, though admittedly not researched to a great extent by this blogger, can therefore be noted as one of those words, like 'judgment', even 'love', or 'hate', whose meaning, or perception anyway, has been altered. If we can begin to look at 'witches' as ''keepers of the Old Ways', as fellow humans to be embraced, rather than an evil to be shunned, or even killed, then maybe we too, even as Christians, as Keepers of the Divine Principle, will see Peace on Earth, not through force of arms, as some religions seem to teach, but through an all-encompassing 'Love for the Earth and all Her creatures'!

A witch, then, is no different than a Christian! Let that sink in. Witches simply follow a different religion; in fact, one far more ancient than Christianity. As opposed to most Christians, though, witches do not seem to think that their way is the only way. ( I may be mistaken in this matter, but I'm pretty sure that this is not a 'blanket' statement, either, but would depend on the witch. ) Not all witches are bad, just as not all Christians are good, or all Muslims are evil. Everyone of us has a choice, as a human being, whether to act in Love, or to act in Fear, of which our own Scriptures say 'There is no fear in love ( I John 4:18 ). Witch or not, Pagan or Christian, Buddhist ( Hindu ) or Muslim, we are in this together & humanly speaking, if we can't learn to live & love together, there will never be Peace on Earth!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Idols We Fear

'Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law,
when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.'
G.K. Chesterton

Christians, the overwhelming majority of them, anyway, are not exempt! For centuries, they have led the battle against Evil, often where there is no evil, but simply difference. As Chesterton noted, the evils of alcohol have been rammed down the throats of many a confessing Christian, when they should be looking inward, not outward for the heart of the issue. We have learned to fear war, or economic loss, rather than looking at our own lack of confidence. When men & women look outside themselves for either salvation or condemnation, they have set up an idol!

Idols come in many shapes & sizes: whatever one sets up in his or her life as important above all else, especially if it be something that must be aspired to, often becomes an idol to them. An idol need not be an object or person even; it can simply be an ideal ( how close is 'ideal' to 'idol'? ). To be rich, monetarily speaking, is the aim of many: it is not wrong to be wealthy, nor are riches themselves evil. As the Bible says,  it is 'the love of money', which is 'a root of all [ kinds of ] evil ' ( I Timothy 6:10 ), not money itself. Jesus further said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man' ( Mark 7:20-23 ) We should understand that it is not the object itself from which the evil emanates, but from the heart of the one who holds it, if evil there be!

Not to over-use the phrase, but a wise man once said, 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself'. This a true statement, not because there is nothing to be afraid of, for there is much to be concerned about, but it is how we react to things, for evil or good, with love or fear, that determines the outcome. If we approach with Fear, the thing becomes an object, or an idol, but if with Love, it remains a subject. Love, rightly understood & practiced, is the only way to refrain from idolatry! If we would learn to Love, not Fear, much that most now fear in the world, whether it be the imminent collapse of the economy, war, or the so-called 'evils of alcohol', would be done away with. What it all comes down to is Choice; we can choose to take that next drink, the one that may send us over the edge, so to speak, or we can choose to let wars & rumors of war affect us adversely; we can use the failing economy as an excuse not to live our lives to the fullest, or we can choose to use all of the above as an opportunity to Love, to heal all the hurt that has been caused by Fear!

Fearing what may come, whether it be from the economic situation we have placed ourselves in, the wars we have embroiled ourselves in, or the alcohol we try to drown ourselves in, sets up idols in our lives, no matter if we admit them or not. Simply by not accepting the responsibility for our own actions & then placing the blame on an object outside ourselves, we admit that we are subject to it & indeed, ascribe some kind of worth to it, in fact, worshipping it as an ideal, or an idol. Though maybe a bit out of context, historically speaking, we may understand the apostle John's words universally, when he wrote, 'Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.' ( I John 4:17 ) These words were fulfilled in the first century, yet they are fulfilled ( filled to the fullest ) today when we do not fear what ( judgment ) may come, but face it with the Love from on high, the Love that we are!

The idols that this world has set up, whether false gods or false devils, cannot help but come tumbling down, for they have no life in them, but are subject to the ones who have set them up. Whether we, on our own, forsake the idols in our lives, or whether it be through what is called Divine Intervention that they crumble; crumble they will, for in the Face of Love, there is nothing to fear. Love knows no Fear, for Being the Object, it is Subject to none, but is the Ruler of All!

Christianity itself, or at least, what many have passed off as Christianity, has been found guilty of setting up both false gods & false devils! While not all who have taken the name 'Christian' have sullied the Name by prostrating themselves before these idols, many have committed atrocities in the name of their God, acting against the principles that Jesus taught in the very Scriptures they claim to uphold. The term 'Christian', meaning 'little Christ', has been applied loosely to those who have filled themselves as well as others with fear, by perpetrating or else perpetuating wars & other such evils.

The best & most that we, as true followers of the Way, can do is to expose, not merely these false gods & false devils, but to expose these false Christians, to show a watching world what it truly means to be a Christian. By doing what Jesus did, of whom it was said He came, not to 'condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved' ( John 3:17 ); we may begin to redeem the world rather than to condemn it by setting up idols.

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Life in This Human Shell

'Do androids dream of electric sheep?'

When someone asked this of Joe, he didn't know quite what to say; he had no idea what the other was talking about................not at first anyway. After he'd googled it, he understood what had been asked of him, but really, it was a stupid question! The latest entry was recorded well over 500 years ago & even that was referencing something that had long passed. An android, from what he could tell, was basically a humanoid robot with an AI, or Artificial Intelligence, brain. It actually sounded somewhat familiar to him, but Joe just couldn't wrap his brain around why the other might ask such a question; an 'electric sheep'?!

Life had been going on, as far as anyone could remember! To suggest that Life had a beginning was pretty funny sounding to most. 'If Life had a beginning', as the reasoning went, 'then Who, or What, was the did it all start?' Though most did not even register this as a valid question, there were certain religious groups that posited that at one point in Time, a Divine Being had created the first human being, putting It's own Essence into a biological machine. Human beings, over Time, with the aid of Science & Technology, had learned to create other biological machines in their own image. The problem was, for the first couple centuries, that they, for whatever reason, were not able to replicate humanity. The biological machines were simply just that, machines, though covered with flesh & blood!

As Time wore on, the evolution of human beings brought them to the point that they were able to create an artificial intelligence for their 'robots' At first, this AI program was pretty simple & prone to viruses. Hackers often found ways to 'bend' these androids with AI to their own 'evil' whims! Eventually though, these Android systems were honed to the point that they were well-nigh impossible to hack & most hackers turned their talents elsewhere. While the new systems were nearly impervious now, to viruses & other such 'tinkering', there had been a time when lobbyists had called for prohibition of AI; in particular many in the religious community.

The accusation brought against the creators of the Android systems was that 'they're playing God!' This brought about much discussion that needed to unsurface. Humans, from Time immemorial, had fought over the control of others, for this very reason. 'If we can control others', they reasoned, 'then we can make them do our 'dirty work' for us. The problem was, as the AI systems evolved, they began to become autonomous, like they were independent & not like 'robots' at all. The religious sector did not like this & they tried to nip it in the bud, to shut them down, so to speak!

By the time Joe's immediate family had been generated, most of the accusations had been stifled & the Smith family advanced beyond their years, which was quite a feat in those days! What had begun on an assembly line with many human & android contributors was now accomplished with nano-engineering. Yes, Science & Technology had advanced to the degree that these bio-engineered human beings were able to procreate; within their own bodies carrying all the necessary & marvelous tools to create Life!

Having come such a long way, these biological machines had surpassed their creator's hopes, having evolved far beyond the ability to be hacked. Having their own free will, they were susceptible to outside influences, just like any normal human being, but the biology they possessed had become impervious to many, if not most of the diseases that had plagued humanity thousands of years before. One of the reasons for their 'stability' was the fact that they were little more than machines, biologically intricate as they were. Thanks to nana-technology, their creators had been able to fashion these biological machines to exactly mimic their own Creator's Divine Opus!

Though the religious community had fought them for centuries, even millennia, common sense, along with Science & Technology had finally won the day! Realizing the ability to create even as they were created, humanity evolved to the point where they were no longer afraid to stretch their creative legs. They had even found, after quite some Time, that they were able to impart the Spirit with which they had been gifted, breathing into the nostrils of their own creations the Breath of Life!

At this Time, then, the Smith family had advanced so far that, just as Joe had a tough time with the phrase 'electric sheep', so it was that the word 'android' was, for all intents & purposes, almost unrecognizable. Bio-engineering had rendered mere humanity almost useless & indeed, indistinguishable from the Smith family, except for their penchant for disease. Because of their innate inability to stave off infection, humanity had all but faded away Though finally free from religious oppression, humanity had discovered too late their ability for bio-engineering, that they themselves could create beings such as they themselves, who had been created by the Supreme Being.

It seemed eons had passed since the question, 'do androids dream of electric sheep?' made any sense to anybody at all, much less to someone like Joe Smith. The electrical impulses that powered the Android systems that powered this New Humanity were the very same impulses that powered the human biology ages ago; yes, even the biology of animals such as sheep. As we consider the possibilities, being so far removed from such a future as we might think, Joe finally, many, many, many years into that future that so many fear, realized what was meant by the others question!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Search For The Sacred Feminine

Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code', besides its entertainment value, is an intriguing read for some of its finer, subtler points. For the hero of the book, things get rather 'interesting' PDQ ( pretty damn quick )! Although the adventures of Robert Langdon are exciting, to say the least, it is more what is going on behind the scenes-behind closed doors-so to speak, that really captivates. The scheming of the Roman Catholic Church, though maybe largely speculation on the part of the author, is nonetheless very believable.

The traditional concept of the Virgin Birth of Jesus is a matter of almost the strictest confidence! By this is meant simply that, according to at least one of the Creeds, if one does not subscribe, most importantly, maybe, to the Virgin Birth, one cannot be called a Christian. The Scriptural, or biblical 'proof' for this Virgin Birth is questionable, to say the least, though to many Christians, it is very plain. The announcement of the birth of Isaac, for instance, in Genesis 18:10, sounds strangely similar to the announcement made to Mary in Luke 1:28-38. It is fairly well-accepted that Isaac was fathered by Abraham, physically speaking, but to suggest that the birth of Jesus was of similar ( natural ) means is almost heretical!

The Sacred, or Divine Feminine is a subject that most traditional theologians of this day & age ( up to & including the past hundred years or so, give or take a millennia ) seem almost loathe to even consider. Although, according to some accounts, the Study of the Divine Feminine disappeared, for the most part, from theology over two thousand years ago, if one pays close attention, on may notice it extant in the text of Scripture, even the Bible itself. The ascendant role of women, in particular their role as the mothers of Jesus, or Israel, is an indication of this.

The Age of Puritanism, in the opinion of this blogger, anyway, did much to pervert this most holy & pure of functions. The function in question, of course, is sexual intercourse, which was relegated by the Catholic Church at one time, as only to be entertained solely for the purposes of progenation. Biblically speaking, thanks in part to Psalm 51:5, sexual intercourse was deemed a shameful, even sinful action, redeemed only by the propagation of the race. However, this very natural & necessary function is one that was given by the Creator, not just for the purposes of propagation, but for our enjoyment as well. Studies have shown that it builds up, not only the intimacy of the two involved, both sexually & spiritually, but also has many positive effects, physiologically speaking.

It goes without saying that there is a time & place for everything; there are certain situations that would negate the positive effect of sexual intercourse, but even these, in a certain light, can be viewed as efficacious. With the advent of birth control aids, such as the condom, which is not always so efficacious, the practice of free sex for the sake of enjoyment alone saw an immediate rise, especially as witnessed by the 60s generation. The infamous 'Roe V. Wade' Supreme Court decision of 1972 further bolstered this movement, since now, even if conception occurred as a result of 'free sex', one could simply & legally discard the conceived child!

The role of the woman in the birth of new life is beyond question; if one is never born physically, biblically speaking ( John 3:6 ), it goes without saying that one cannot be reborn spiritually. Such, anyway was the argument that this blogger used to uphold. Much has occurred in the past decade or so, theologically speaking, to reform my thinking. It is now clear, to me anyway, that rather than the rebirth that Jesus speaks of, most notably in John 3, had a primary contextual reference to 1st century Israel, not so much to 21st century Americans, though a secondary meaning may certainly be applied. With that said, then, the role of women is important, not so much in the realm of child-bearing, though it certainly is that, but in the domain of intimacy, both physiologically & spiritually speaking.

While sexual intercourse should never be taken lightly, as is often the case, neither is it something to be ashamed of. Outside the Sacred Bonds of Marriage, which can be defined simply as a Covenant between two people of the opposite sex, sexual intercourse is not a wise choice for many reasons, one being that it tends to accentuate the physical needs without satisfying the spiritual. However, when spiritual intimacy occurs, the marriage is blessed, for without the spiritual, the physical will only go so far; when the spiritual occurs first, the physical need not be ever-present!

Prior to the Birth of Christianity, in many of the Pagan religions ( out of which much of what we know as Christianity sprang, by the way ), the Sacred Feminine was recognized, even worshipped & adored. To this day, as Mr. Brown alludes to in his book, some still do! As Christians, we have been taught that sexual intercourse is reserved for the marriage bed & so it is; it is the definition of marriage then, that needs reexamination! Although that may be a subject for another day; we may suffice, for now, to say that marriage, as stated earlier, is between a man & a woman, with no other involvement necessary!

Studies may show that, around the time of Second Temple Judaism, the Sacred Feminine all but disappeared from the text of Scripture, but truly, as stated earlier, there is more than enough to be found-the Song of Solomon, for instance-that gives us more than a healthy glimpse into it! Throughout the Scriptures, much like 'The Da Vinci Code', it is more what goes on behind the scenes-behind closed doors-that makes its reading so intriguing. This is not to say, necessarily, that we should haphazardly read between the lines of Scripture, so to speak, but many of it's implications are quite shocking, to say the least!

The Search for the Sacred Feminine, which is something that we all aspire to ( speaking as a man, of course ), should not be taken lightly, either! There is something missing in this world in which we live & it is something we cannot live without, either physiologically or spiritually. The importance of the Divine Feminine in what we as Christians term 'the God-head' is something that has been glossed over, in a manner of speaking for millennia, though in certain pagan religions, it is celebrated & worshipped, as it should be.

To insist on the Virgin Birth as necessary to one's salvation, then, is rendered moot! If Jesus was born in the usual way, through sexual intercourse, it does not detract from the glorious fact that He was the Son of God. In fact, Scripture seems to point to this, for in the Gospels, Jesus primarily referred to Himself as 'the Son of Man'; it was others, for the most part that ( rightly ) called Him 'the Son of God'. As a Christian, it is well-nigh useless to deny the Virgin Birth ( it could be quite harmful, in fact ), but it is not irrefutable & definitely not beyond all reasonable doubt!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, October 13, 2017

Spiritual Detox, Continued

'Look at it as just another stage-stop in The Journey!'

In some sense & to whatever extent, we are all in the process of spiritual detoxification. Some of my readers may not even realize it yet. I assure you, though, we are all affected in some way by it. My own personal journey has brought me from a strict determinist position, to a slightly liberalist, preteristic ( past fulfillment ) position, to where I am now, hovering somewhere between realizing & knowing. I know that there is a Creator, biblically speaking, the Great 'I AM', but I realize too that good things happen to 'bad' people & vice versa, for reasons that we can't seem to comprehend, sometimes. One question on the minds of many people today is, 'Why would a good & loving God allow such evil to exist?'; it is also the reason that many have left the fold, so to speak!

Just like any other form of detox, spiritual detox can be quite painful at times; to whatever extent & for however long, the estrangement of friends & loved ones might be one of the results. Emotional turmoil is yet another; baring questions like, 'how can I bear the Christ Within ( the ( Holy Spirit ), when, as the apostle states, 'I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but [ how ] to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will [ to do, ] I do not do; but the evil I will not [ to do, ] that I practice' ( Romans 7: 18 & 19 )?' First of all, when questions like this come to mind, we must realize that the author was writing to address a certain situation, at a specific time in history, We can however, apply this to our current situation as well, for we often find ourselves locked in battle with what might be called the 'Ego'. It is the ego that says, 'I don't care if it's right or wrong!' Also known as 'the Person', the ego says, 'this is what 'I' want; who cares what anyone else wants!' One might call such a person 'selfish'.

It goes without saying that we are all at different stages in 'the Journey: I say 'the Journey', not 'our
Journey', because even though, in a personal sense, we must each ( individually ) walk the path before us, it is really & truly the same Journey. The Journey toward Knowing. Knowing ourselves, finding our purpose in Life, the Purpose of it All, really! 'Why are we here?' 'Why must we endure evil?' 'Why do we keep making the same mistakes over & over?' 'What is the point of it all?' When we begin to realize that we shape our own destiny by the choices that we make, the struggle begins in earnest. Thoughts like, 'Is God really in control?' begin to surface. We ( personally ) are tempted to think, 'Well, if God was really in control, evil wouldn't exist!'

But Evil does 'exist'; so how do we rectify this conundrum? There's a saying that seems to fit the bill; Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. 
Scripture, on the other hand, says that our Heavenly Father is 'not willing that any should perish' ( II Peter 3:9 ). Aside from the fact that Peter, like Paul earlier, was referring to a certain situation, at a specific time in history, it is said that we have free will; we can choose for ourselves to do this or that, one thing or the other. We know that, in terms of biology, anyway, many have perished since the beginning of Time, so obviously, Peter wasn't referring to mere biology here, just like Paul wasn't. Just like Jesus wasn't when He said, 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' ( John 11:26 ). So, what WERE they referring to? Many people have doubtless ruminated & speculated over this in the past ( most likely still do ), but, when it comes down to it, the answer must be, 'they were referring to our true nature, that, not of the individual ( person ) but of the spiritual ( self /body )'.

Like Epicurus above, the question of whether the Creator God is a loving One, is one that many, including Christians have been asking for centuries on end. On a personal level, even as Paul was quoted earlier, we can see that it is individual choices that manifest the evil we witness in the world. Not simply our own, but the selfish, ego-driven choices that others have made from time immemorial. In making these choices, for 'good' or 'evil', people have shown themselves to be masters of their own destiny. Some have perished, in a personal, biological sense, while others have chosen to live in unity with the (spiritual ) body, knowing that all are from the Source & of the same Essence.

This Essence, whether you call it by its Christian name, or 'The Great Spirit', 'the Creator', 'Energy', or simply 'the Source', is that Divine Essence of which all things exist. It is, therefore, all good! The 'evil' enters in when people ( individuals/persons ) allow their lower ( animal ) nature, or Ego, to rule them. This is not always a bad thing, but relatively speaking, it is construed as good or evil. In other words, what one intends or accomplishes for their own good might be viewed as evil to another ( person). What is 'good' for one may not be 'good' for another; what is 'evil' to one may not be seen as 'evil' to another. The Question of Evil is another that needs reexamining!

'Then why call him God' was the question. If 'He' is truly 'Almighty', as the Scriptures say, then why does 'He' allow evil; why did 'He' give us free will, knowing as 'He' must have, that some ( many ) would use that free will to their own ( selfish ) ends, doing what was right in their own eyes. It is recorded in Scripture that Jesus Himself agreed with the Psalmist ( Psalm 82:6 ), when He said, 'You are gods' ( John 10:34 ). We are gods in the sense that we have the free will to judge for ourselves. Some have used this to their own ( individual ) advantage, while others are content to 'let it be', basking in the Glory that we ARE, as the Image of the Creator God!

Something popular these days is to run a 'detox' ( similar to a 'defrag' ), whether it involves cleaning out one's friendslist on FB or ingesting some kind of more-or-less herbal formula to flush one's system. More often than not, unfortunately, many tend to, after the painful 'flushing', even during it, because of the pain, refill their system with much of the same garbage they just got rid of, or eliminated. Spiritual detoxification often has the same effect; because it's to painful, many tend to return to wallowing in the same pit they took pains to get out of, or else they ignore the fact that it's needed because they foresee the pain it will cause.

Realizing that we ARE gods, masters of our own destiny, personally speaking & further, that we are of a spiritual, not animal, or fleshly, nature, we thus begin to understand the Nature of Evil itself! Evil is not something that some God  ( Person ) out there somewhere ('Heaven'? ) permits, or allows; it is something that WE permit, or allow! A wise man once said, 'the only thing necessary for the triumph of Evil is that good men do nothing': let that sink in! Depending, of course, on the context, one might well ask, 'are they truly good men IF they do nothing?' 'What IS a good man?!

Knowing that there is a Creator God, the Source of All Life, is half the battle, in a manner of speaking. While our spiritual nature just IS ( 'it is what it is' ), we must needs operate in the Person, even with its oft-damning Ego. What we must be careful to observe, as YHWH told Cain, the first biblically recorded murderer, 'its desire is for you, but you should rule over it'  ( Genesis 4:7b ). By ruling over our Ego, rather than letting it rule us ( our actions ), we allow ourselves to BE the Love that we ARE & begin to heal, rather than harm!

Namaste' & May it be!

Charles Haddon Shank