The Pagan Path

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Our Father in Heaven, Our Mother the Earth

Though most pastors, if not down-right steering clear of the Song of Solomon, or at least treading VERY carefully through it ( 'tiptoeing through the tulips', so to speak ), this beautiful book ( of poetry? ) is revered as one of the most beautiful love letters ever written. Of course, it is doubtless avoided by many for its almost x-rated language & almost uncomfortable graphic license. Reading this lovely book, one should understand that, positioned in almost the center of the Hebrew Scriptures as it is, it is a love story, not simply about King Solomon & his lover, but one that is an encapsulation of the Story of Israel & Yahweh's love for Her. But that's not what I'm here to talk about; I'm here to talk about sex!

It almost goes without saying ( ? ) that in order for creation to occur, sexual intercourse must happen. You may wonder where I'm headed with this, especially in reference to creation, because we've all been taught, especially as Christians, that 'God', ex nihilo, ( 'out of nothing' ) created the heavens, the earth & everything that we see, even what we don't. This is not necessarily wrong, biblically speaking, although careful study has revealed that the creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2, rather than speaking simply of the creation of the material universe, are referring to the institution of a covenant of marriage between Israel & the Creator God, known as Yahweh to the Hebrews. Whatever the case may be, whether the Creator God did indeed speak the worlds into existence, or whether the Universe, as some refer to the Source of All, simply has always been, eternally existent, one thing should be very clear, none of what we see in the material world came about by accident: two Forces had to come together in order to create what is!

The miraculous Story we read in the first pages of the Gospel accounts of Matthew &  Luke, respectively, relates how a certain young woman named Mary was chosen to be the Mother of the Christ, or Messiah of Israel. According to the Story, or at least the clear inference, is that Mary conceived the Child who would be the Christ, without having had sexual intercourse with a man. While this may or may not be totally accurate, Scripture makes very clear that the Holy Spirit of the Creator God overshadowed ( 'came upon' ) her & she was found to be 'with child' ( pregnant ), not having been intimate with a man. As the case may be ( many battles have been fought over this ), whether one believes that this actually transpired or not, it should be noted that such doctrine could lend credence to the belief that the 'giants' of Genesis 6 & elsewhere were the offspring of fallen angels ( devils, demons ) & female human beings!

It is entirely possible, of course ( please don't get me wrong) that the Creator God bypassed His own Laws of Nature in order to present the Perfect Seed, the Scion of Zion & I'll let the reader take it from there, if he or she so wishes. The point to be taken here is that, even though Scripture 'plainly' reveals these 'truths' to us, we must remember first, that we as 21st Americans ( English ) are endeavoring to comprehend an Ancient Hebrew document & two, that this document is written in an apocalyptic style to reveal certain truths using symbolic & hyperbolic language. In other words, though it seems, to our Western eyes in particular, to be speaking of the creation of the material universe, it is primarily a covenant document, relating the proposal of the Creator God to His Creation. But, as usual, I digress.........

By now, many of my readers are no doubt wondering, 'what has all this got to do with 'Mother Earth'? Well, I'm glad you asked! Keeping in mind, of course, that we have in our hands a Covenant Document, primarily about the relationship between Creator & Created, we should note that there IS universal creation being cursorily referred to, in the background, so to speak. In the first chapter of Genesis, we read, 'Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb [ that ] yields seed, [ and ] the fruit tree [ that ] yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed [ is ] in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb [ that ] yields seed according to its kind, and the tree [ that ] yields fruit, whose seed [ is ] in itself according to its kind. And God saw that [ it was ] good. So the evening and the morning were the third day'. We should note, looking back at the very first verse or so ( of Genesis 1 ) how similar the language of Creation is to the Announcement to Mary, as related earlier; 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [ was ] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.' One could almost read here, in the manner of Scripture ( Genesis 25:21, Deuteronomy 7:14, II Kings 2:21, Psalm 113:9, ( Isaiah 54 ) et al ) that the earth was 'barren'. Whatever the case, clearly, the earth produced seed, much as the Virgin Mary produced THE Seed!

Though scientists now think they have found a particle that seems to be capable of ex nihilo creation ( 'where did that particle come from?' ), it is a scientific fact that two forces must work together in order to produce ( there ARE exceptions to this rule ). Thanks to Science & Technology, we now have artificial insemination, where the female, human or animal, need not be penetrated by a male in order to produce, but the seminal specimen from the male is still necessary to the fertilization of the egg. To my knowledge, no scientist has figured out how to fertilize an egg without the sperm from a male.

Something doesn't come from nothing! Certain scientists may theorize & we may speculate ( 'have faith?' ) till we're blue in the face, but when it comes right down to it; 1 + 1 = 2, 0 + 0 is 0: no matter how hard we try, 0 + 0 will never equal 1 ( though I'm sure it's been theorized ). A woman must have a certain part ( or parts ) of a man enter her uterus in order for there to be conception; that's the simple truth of the matter! Whether the Creator God artificially inseminated the Virgin when He 'overshadowed' ( hovered over ) her, or whether he simply 'spoke the Word' as in the Beginning, it should be very clear that there is more to the Story than meets the eye.

For many Christians today, this seminal subject is a rather uncomfortable topic of conversation, if not almost downright taboo! Like some pastors seem to avoid an in depth examination of the Song of Solomon, so many Christians seem to avoid this most seminal of subjects. Whether we're talking spiritually, psychically, or biologically, this subject of subjects cannot be avoided if we would get to the heart of the matter!

Throughout the Scriptures, both Hebrew & Greek, if one is willing to accept it, the concept ( of sexual intercourse ) is hidden in plain sight, if one is but willing to look & accept it. The heavens & earth were conceived in this way, just as Jesus the Messiah was. Pretty much every one of the prophets, to one extent or another, wrote about Yahweh's love for His people, sometimes using language that would make one blush if they really thought about it. Maybe I have a dirty mind, but if we knew more about Hebrew idiomatic expression, I'm pretty sure that we'd be a little red-faced when reading certain portions of Scripture. As the case may be though, the Story of Israel, as with any story with a beginning, would never have gotten off the ground without sex!

Humanity was engineered for sexual intercourse, let's make no bones about that! As the Scriptures say, in the words of wise King Solomon, 'To everything [ there is ] a season, a time for every purpose under heaven'. In certain situations, wisdom tells us that we should not engage so ourselves, but in the right context, sexual intercourse is the most beautiful & glorious act of worship that we, as human beings can perform!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Home Sweet Home

As the saying goes, 'Home is where the heart is'. What we must ask ourselves, especially in relation to this all-too familiar & much-used phrase is, 'where is our heart?' ( understand that when I say 'heart', I mean our emotional attachment, in that sense, our 'love' ) Sometimes, we tend to 'love' a certain place more than certain people: I'm as guilty of this as anyone & sometimes its hard to blame some people when they choose the former over the latter. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in a beautiful place find it hard to leave, but when the choice is between a certain beautiful place & certain beautiful people, the choice should be clear; beautiful people are much harder to find & of much greater value, than any beautiful place one can name!

Who can find a virtuous wife?For her worth [ is ] far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:10

I made the choice, a little over 7 years ago, to leave a place which had its own beauty & certain people who had lost their beauty ( as far as I was concerned, anyway ) & re-locate to a place that has undeniably greater aesthetic appeal. Once re-located, I found what I felt to be more beautiful people than those I had left behind. I still experience those 'what if?' moments once in a great while, but over all, I do not regret my decision. In some sense, one might say I found myself here, which is the greatest beauty, for if we do not recognize beauty in ourselves, how can we hope to find it in another?!

'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder', they say! As far as it goes, this is certainly true, especially in the aesthetic sense in which it is most often used.  In the greater, true sense, though, one could say that true beauty, which is inner beauty, cannot be beheld except with the inner, or spiritual eye. Aesthetic beauty, especially in this day & age, is a huge factor in many relationships. Thanks to the internet & Mainstream Media, among other things, we have been force-fed the notion of the 'Barbie-doll figure' for so long, that we tend to look at the aesthetics of a fellow human being as their beauty or else ugliness ( again, 'mea culpa' ). Thankfully, this is not always the case, as most learn fairly quickly that, just as inner beauty manifests outwardly ( aesthetically speaking ), so inner ugliness also manifests in the same way, making one who is beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside less attractive. So too is one who may not be that aesthetically pleasing on the outside but is beautiful on the inside; that inner beauty manifests on the outside, attracting the true seeker of beauty!

Truly blessed are those who find a help-meet with both aesthetic & Inner Beauty, for as the Scripture above says, 'her worth [ is ] far above rubies'! 'Heaven' is not a place, per se, but if we're with the one we love; wherever we are can certainly be transformed into such a place. Much as Inner Beauty transforms outer plainness, or even what some would call ugliness, when we find 'heaven' in our heart, 'Heaven' is manifest in whatever place we are, even though it may seem the lowest 'hell'. Transversely, if we don't find beauty in our hearts, even the most aesthetically beautiful place may seem to us the very opposite of 'heaven'.

It is said of some that beauty is 'only skin deep': aesthetically speaking, this is true enough, but true beauty, as we've seen, is so much more! There are many out there that most if not all people would call 'beautiful' & while they might have their own 'beauty', in a relative sense ( not everyone is everyone's cup of tea ), some people are just downright ugly. However, even that ugliness can be turned into the most beautiful flower, if given the chance to blossom. Even an ugly duckling can be revealed as a swan!

Our choices being what they are, they cannot be unmade, although, as I once advised a friend in a similar situation, 'all we can do is do better'. Once a choice is made & the action carried out, we cannot erase it, but we can return to the 'place' we call 'heaven', where we truly felt it in our hearts & thus experience 'Paradise Restored'. Where our hearts are, there is 'Heaven'. One can be in the most beautiful place on earth, but if our heart, or more precisely, what our heart is set on, is not there, we cannot truly call it 'heaven'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, March 12, 2018

Universal Truth; 'The Kingdom is Within You'

According to Luke's Gospel account ( Luke 17:21 ), Jesus related this stunning truth to the Pharisees, of all people: 'the Pharisees; really Jesus?!' How in God's name could the Pharisees have the Kingdom within THEM?! But, that's what Jesus said. In our English Bible, it is even recorded that He used the Greek 'entos', meaning, pretty simply, 'within' or 'inside'. Some versions may translate this preposition 'in your midst', connoting that Jesus was equating the Kingdom with Himself, but as the case may be, Jesus very plainly told them that the Kingdom ( of God/Heaven ) was inside them. But then, we might ask ourselves; 'if Jesus told THEM that the Kingdom was within ( inside ) them, then what does that say about those today who deny the Christ today, or are simply ignorant of the Presence of Glory ( Divinity )?'

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come,
He answered them and said,
The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 
nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’
For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Many Christians today seem to think that the Kingdom of God WILL come with observation: according to this belief, the visible return of Jesus will usher in the 'Kingdom Age' ( there ARE variations on this belief ). Probably one of the main rationales for the Kingdom ( of God ) being present with us right now is the old adage that 'God will not dwell with sin'. There may be some ( biblical ) basis for such a rash statement, but if Jesus told those in the first century, even those who rejected & eventually crucified Him, that the Kingdom was within them, then who are to say that it is not present in those today who reject Him, especially our ( biblical ) version of Him. 

What if the Kingdom of God, like the Creator God, is not defined solely by the biblical record?! That's probably a startling, even heretical notion to most Christians today, but if indeed the Kingdom is within; how did it get there? Is it only when we acknowledge its presence, by our acquiescence to the Covenant, as laid out in our English Bibles, that it comes to be, or is it just there; part of our make-up, our true being? Another way of putting it might be, 'Is the Kingdom of God, like the Scriptures seem to say, something we must enter into?' One must understand the first century context of passages like this though, statements that make it sound like we must enter the Kingdom. The Scriptures were written to a first-century audience. Sure; there ARE Universal Truths contained therein ( for people of all times & places ), but to really understand WHY the writers used that kind of language ( 'entering' ), one must take into account that first-century context in which Jesus made statements like 'the kingdom of God is near' ( Luke 21:31 ). If the Kingdom of God was near in those day, even 'at the doors' ( Mark 13:29 ( James 5:9 ), then how can we say, with any authority, that it is not present with us today?

The Kingdom of God, according to the biblical record, is covenantal in nature; this cannot be denied! However, as Life itself, even biological life, is covenantal, or relational in nature, can we unequivocally say that the Kingdom is found only in the hearts of those who acknowledge & accept it? Can one be part of the Kingdom of God without manifesting this glorious truth in their lives? From a strict & woodenly literal understanding of Scripture, the answer must be a resounding 'NO! Acknowledging the context in which Scripture was written, however, with the understanding of our true nature, not as human beings, but as spirit beings, we see that, as Jesus told those Pharisees, the Kingdom is within. Admittedly, it IS only when one manifests this glorious truth through one's actions that it becomes apparent, but I daresay that it was not evident in those Pharisees either!

The implication of this Universal Truth is that the Kingdom of God is present in all of Creation, whether one accepts it or not, even if one acknowledges it or not! Human beings, being what they are, may deny the Creator, but they cannot deny who they are. We are not wholly comprised of flesh & blood ( though some may insist we are ); we are comprised of what is often termed 'soul & body', or spirit & body; though our biological body is manifest to the physical senses of those around us, that biological mess of 'flesh & blood' is motivated by the Spirit Within. We often allow our Ego to rule over us, thus denying the Spirit Within & failing to manifest the Kingdom Within, but when we remain true to ourselves, our true nature, we manifest the Kingdom of God, bringing glory to the Creator, who is the Source of all Life!

The covenantal nature of Scripture, as I have alluded to before, is not such that one must agree to it before being held ( accountable ) by it: for instance, where in Scripture is it recorded that Adam even asked for a wife to be brought to him? To be part of a Covenant, or rather, held by it, one is not required to accept it or even to acknowledge its existence, it just is; we must simply live by its terms or die! Biologically speaking, of course, without the necessary nutrients ( food, water, etc. ), Life would cease; however, the spirit remains, for the spirit, being One with the Source, never dies.

In the context of Jesus' startling statement, which is the primary focus of this blogpost, He was, in some sense, equating Himself with the Kingdom of God, though His message was that 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.' ( Mark 1:15 ) Again, if the Kingdom was 'at hand' ( Greek 'eggiz┼Ź' ) in the first century, how can we not acknowledge its presence NOW?!

The Kingdom of God, like the Creator, or Source, is a Universal Truth: it just IS, whether one tries to deny it or not! The ignorance of humanity does not change this glorious fact. As entertained previously, the notion that one muster into covenant in order to BE in covenant is one that may seem to have some biblical foundation, though it is by no means crystal clear & also as proposed previously, if indeed our English Bible is not the only ( written ) Revelation of the Creator God, then it should not be heretical to imagine that the Kingdom is within us all, just waiting to be manifest, or made evident in our lives!

'Did the Kingdom of God exist before the Day when Jesus came, announcing its arrival?' Most assuredly! But, as Israel had been allowing their corporate Ego to rule them, beginning with Cain, who murdered his brother because of it, the Kingdom had not manifested, or become apparent till 'the Day of the Lord'. Jesus came to reveal the true nature of that Kingdom! As a human being, He showed his first-century proponents that one could indeed master their Ego & manifest truly the Kingdom that resides in us all. Just as He revealed the Christ Within, He proved that the Kingdom begins with the heart & only then works its way out through the finger-tips!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Universal Truth; 'I AM the Way, the Truth & the Life'

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
John 14:6

Is Jesus, as the only ( begotten ) Son of the Father, truly the ONLY avenue through which humanity can approach the Creator God, as we have been led to believe? Jesus WAS the Messiah of Israel; there is no doubt about that, assuming one believes the Scriptures, of course, but wasn't He more than that? Jesus was a Man; that is true enough, but He was also God, this having been the subject of many councils over the ages, ever since the biblical record ended in the first century. Being a Man, but also God; Jesus was sent ( anointed ) to be the True King of the Jews: He came to 'save His people from their sins.' One question we should ask ourselves here is, 'who are His people? To whom did Jesus present Himself as Savior & King? Was it not Covenant Israel in the first century A.D.? Yes, it included both Jews & Gentiles, but the fact that the biblical record never indicates Jesus went outside the borders of & that his disciples never evangelized beyond the borders of the Roman Empire should tell us who the biblical Jews & Gentiles were!

Christian missions, since the days of Jesus & His disciples ( first century ) have expanded the borders of what is called Christendom over the entire globe! Their message was & is met with some resistance, more in some place than others, to varying degrees of success. In many places, the missionaries found themselves fighting for their lives: some still do! In other places, the Gospel message was erroneously force-fed to those they thought beneath them, uncivilized, one might say. 'In the Name of Christ' is a phrase that has been used to justify acts of murder & other atrocities. Even though many of the ways in which it was accomplished leave much to be desired when it comes to be a true follower of the Christ; the Gospel, or the Good News of Salvation has been broadcast over the entire globe since the time of Jesus!

Most modern missionaries, unfortunately, rather than endeavoring to simply share this Good News, strive ( to whatever extent ) to spread their particular religion! Since their religion, or their interpretation of the Gospel, is the only true one, it behooves them to spread that version of the Truth & no other. One must believe, in a sense, that Jesus, the King, or Messiah of the Jews, was THE Christ, the only ( begotten ) Son of the Father. Such, according to the Greek & Aramaic Scriptures, is verifiably true, although, one must almost wring this out of the Hebrew Scriptures. There are certain passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Prophets in particular ( Isaiah 7:13, et al ) that seem to indicate that the coming Messiah would be none other than the Creator God Himself, though embodied in humanity. One must take these words, however, in the context in which they were given!

The passage in question, Isaiah 7:13 ( 9:6 ), which reads, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel', indicates, if anything, that Hezekiah was to be a forerunner of Jesus the Messiah! In fact of the matter, in some sense, anyway, Hezekiah might almost be called a Messiah of Israel. The writer of the Gospel according to Matthew later employed this passage as prophesying of Jesus. This is not a wrong application, but the original audience of this promise demands that this Messiah, born of a 'virgin', must have been the son of Ahaz, not merely a prophecy of the Christ to come!

Hezekiah was a type of the Christ, or Jesus the Messiah, one of the many we find scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures! By the time of Jesus the Messiah, things had progressed to the point, according to the Scriptures, that Israel, under that first [ covenant ] had proven themselves unable to faithfully govern themselves. They took the Law they had been given & forcing upon it their own interpretation, even adding to it ( Revelation 22:18 ) doctrines of men, they had set themselves & their quasi-law as the way, the truth & the life. Jesus showed through His Life Death & Resurrection that He, as God With Us, was everything they claimed to be & More!

As the Son of the Creator God, in all reality, the Creator God Himself, we understand that Jesus came to save Israel from their sins, the sin of rejecting, not only Jesus as Messiah, but all the previous messengers that had been anointed of God & sent to them when they strayed from the path. Much of modern Christianity has anachronistically brought those sins into our time, far separated from that of the original audience, laying them upon their own heads, indeed, upon the heads of all humanity!

This is not to say that people no longer sin, or miss the mark ( what mark? ), for there are obviously many who still reject the Christ Within! Jesus was 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' for Covenant Israel, according to the Scriptures: arguably, He is Same for the entire Created Order, though not necessarily as the Christ of the Bible. As I have recently proposed in this blog, the title Christ is not one borne by Jesus alone. Being a title, it is significant of our innermost being, one which we choose, in our humanity, to manifest or not. The Manifestation of the Christ Within, or the Chrism, or Anointing is upon us all, yet some choose to squelch their innermost being. As Jesus Himself said, 'he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful' ( Matthew 13:22 ). This Word of the Creator God, or His Law, as the Scriptures also tell us, is written on our hearts ( Hebrews 8:10 ( Jeremiah 31:33 ), in other words, our innermost being. We fail to manifest the Christ Within when we allow, as in the parable Jesus related, the cares of this world to overcome that Seed that lies within us!

Again, Jesus WAS Israel's Messiah! He came to show them that it was the Manifestation or Revelation of the Christ, the Son of God, not their Law written in stone, that was 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life'! Though our English Bible holds many Universal Truths, it is by no means the only Revelation of the Son of God! We hold these Truths to be self-evident, though we do not always manifest them. It is when we set our Ego aside that we realize in our Innermost Being, who we really are & who God is; THEN we understand the truth of what the Psalmist wrote: '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 )

Charles Haddon Shank