The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

'The Truth Will Set You Free'; Universal Truth

According to John 18:38, Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea at the time, asked a soon-to-be-crucified Jesus this bewildering question, 'What is truth?' Jesus never answered him. Why did Jesus not answer  Pilate's question? Was it simply because 'as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth' ( Isaiah 53:7 )? Was Jesus reminding Pilate ( without a word ) that he already knew the truth, that he had no need for Jesus to tell him? Or was it something even deeper? Pilate's profoundly simple question continues to be a thorn in the side for theologians today!Is Truth absolute? Absolutely! Does one person's view, or even the majority's view decide what that Truth is? How about a book? One argument you may have heard is that the Church has taught the Truth for 2,000 years; 'really?! What branch ( denomination? )? That being the case; can we KNOW what Truth is?

To give Jesus' words a bit of context; 'Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' ( John 8:31 &  32 ). ( interesting that these 'red-letter' words are ONLY recorded in John's Gospel ) Right there it is! Jesus told THEM ( Jews in the first century ) that they would know the Truth, which in turn would make THEM free! Now, I'm by no means saying that we today, in 21st-century cannot know the Truth & be made free; we most certainly can! But Jesus' words to the Jews that day told them that the truth of the Gospel ( about Him ) would make them free, free from the chains of  ( the ) sin & death ( of Adam ). The Ultimate Sacrifice that Jesus made for His People ( the Jews ), not long after He made this statement proved to them that they had in truth been set free from those chains!

In some sense of the word, it IS our knowledge of the Truth ( or, in their case, their knowledge of it ) that sets us free, but in the greatest sense, it is the Truth itself! We are often imprisoned within our own mind ( as they were-'How could a Man be God?' ), but when we allow our Higher Self to overcome our Mind & realize that the Truth, like 'God' Himself, is what It is, not our view, or perception of It, we are thus freed from that prison ( much as they were ). Since one's views ( there are manifold different ones out there ) do not determine what Truth is, we no longer have to defend the Truth! Think of all the wars that we might have bypassed if we had just taken this truth to heart! Some might argue that it is necessary to defend Truth, for as we read in John 17:17 ( b ), 'Your word is truth' Here, Jesus was asking His Father ( 'God' ) to set apart His followers through the Truth. For the Jews, Jesus WAS God's Word ( John 1:1 )! 

This is NOT to say that it was ONLY for the Jews that Jesus was God's Word, though in some sense one might note that Jesus WAS ( primarily ) God's Word to the Jews! As the Jewish Messiah, as we've noted previously in this blog, Jesus came to save HIS people from THEIR sin ( Matthew 1:21 ). The fact that Jesus was, or represented, Truth, which, like 'God', does not change, tells us that even today, in the 21st century, people are still being set free ( 'free your mind' ) by knowledge, or acknowledgement, of the Truth. Was Jesus the ONLY representative of Truth that ever lived on this earth? Like Jesus' response to Pilate, I'll let my readers make up their own mind ( if they so desire ). Whatever one person believes, it's bound to be different from what someone else believes. Who's right? Again, is one view ( of the Truth ) right simply because the Majority believe it to be so? Because a Book says so? Whose interpretation is true? Do we believe what somebody else, even our own mind, says is Truth, or do we calm ( our mind? ) & KNOW that 'God' IS? NOT what we think, or perceive 'God' or Truth to be, but what 'God' or Truth IS!

So, how do we KNOW Truth; as Pilate asked Jesus, 'What is Truth?' Inquiring minds STILL want to know; 'why did Jesus NOT answer Pilate's question?! Common sense tells us that it was NOT simply to fulfill a prophecy ( though it surely did that )! Like 'God', we may KNOW Truth by being still, by calming our minds, by realizing that it is NOT our perception of the Truth that makes it so. It is not even someone else's perception of IT that makes it so, even though they wrote it in a certain book millenia ago. The book in question, of course, is what we know as the Holy Bible, which has been translated, mistranslated & re-translated over the centuries! Which version do we trust? Which version is true? Some say 'This version is the ONLY true one', while others, though they might prefer one version over another, acknowledge that Truth lies within ALL versions. So; who/what do we believe, concerning Truth? Do we believe what our mind tells us is true, or do we trust our gut? Why do we not rather just KNOW ( within ourselves ) that Truth, like 'God', is what It is & stop fighting among ourselves about whose perception of Truth ( 'God' ) is correct?

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Witness

Joe was a regular guy, but there was nothing 'average' about him! Joe got along with everybody. When I say 'everybody', I mean exceptions. Of course, he had his likes & dislikes; there were those he got along with better than others, personally speaking, but when it came to being friendly, Joe certainly had no peers! Now, don't get me wrong; if Joe didn't like someone, he made no 'bones' about it, but even those who didn't quite make the cut received nothing but kindness from his capable hand. There were certain people whose energies jived better with his than others, so there were some that clearly were his preference & so received the majority of his attention, but even those who crossed paths with Joe were blessed with his empathy & loving, sharing attitude!

When everybody else was concerned with being a 'mover & shaker', what most people identified as 'success', Joe was happy to just 'let it be'! Now, again; don't get me wrong, Joe was no 'slouch' when it came to the business world: while he was no billionaire ( not even a millionaire ), by the age of 40, Joe had become a very wealthy man. He didn't have much concern for money, so he didn't have to worry about where his next meal was coming from, but the main body of his great wealth consisted of his plethora of friends. Even those who may not have liked him, for whatever reason, had a healthy respect for him & so, in their business dealings with him ( at least ), treated him in kind, with all fairness & equity.

Joe had been brought up to treat others as he himself would like to be treated, so when he entered the 'real' world at about the age of 18, soon after graduating, he began to put into practice what he had learned. Things didn't always go well for our 'hero' ( for that's really what he was ), especially at first, for many with whom Joe came in contact were not used to such kindness, having been hardened by a cruel, cruel world, where it was usually 'dog eat dog' & 'every man for himself'. 'It's a jungle out there' was a phrase that he heard quite often, particularly as he neared the end of his formal schooling, I say 'formal' because, while Joe had spent the obligatory 6-8 hours a day sitting in front of a chalkboard, his 'schooling' consisted of much more than that; his busy social calendar was the envy of his peers, for Joe believed that while the currency of the day ( money ) was important for such mundane things as keeping a roof over one's head & putting food on the table, the most important 'commodity' of all was friends, those one could count on to hold you up when you were about to fall, that would, if & when neccessary, give you the proverbial shirt off their own back to make sure you were okay!

Things had not always been so rosy for our intrepid hero! Especially toward the beginning of his rather interesting 'career', Joe fell on hard times quite often, but thanks to his truest friends, he had never lacked either a roof over his head or food on the table. Both the roof & the food had sometimes given him an excuse to grumble, for, especially in his early years, Joe was not immune to the human condition & sometimes gave way to the hardships that beset him. Overall, though, he was able to implement the teaching that he knew in his heart of hearts to be true, so Joe was able to take even his deepest, darkest failures & turned them into the greatest, most enlightening successes!

Having already been through several such 'narrow escapes', at age 21, Joe had just embarked on a new business venture, one that promised to bring great success! Like his previous ventures, this one brought him into contact with a slightly different 'breed' of people than he had been used to dealing with.  In his previous ventures, Joe had never encountered such varying levels of unkindness! It was as if these people went out of their way to be nasty! Much as he tried ( never did stop, either ) to treat these people like he would like to be treated himself, these people, for the most part, didn't seem to be phased. Even so, it was not unusual, after Joe had moved on to bigger & better things, for these people to remember his fairness in dealing & to seek his counsel when their own dealings went south.

As an example of 'how to deal', Joe was a prime one! Even those who had treated him unfairly ( to say the least ) were now groveling at his door, begging, like dogs at a holiday feast, for Joe to throw them even the scraps of his great wisdom. Though he did not view himself as possessing this 'great wisdom', Joe happily shared what 'nuggets' he had accrued over his short career. Even though he had accrued much of his 'wisdom' through the unkind practices of the very people who now 'fawned' at his door, he would not turn them away, for Joe knew in his heart of hearts that they had only treated him thus though fear & ignorance, both of which they had inherited through generations upon generations of lies & propaganda!

Joe had been taught, from a very early age, 'the Golden Rule'! Though he did his best to implement this principle throughout his illustrious career, he had always been nagged by the gentle suggestion that there was more to it & indeed there was, infinitely so, in fact! The notion of treating others as we would like to be treated is a noble endeavor, but Joe soon realized in the varied processes of his Journey that this was simply the outward manifestation of an inward reality, or realization: there truly are no others! This is not to say that we are all the same, personally speaking, for we all have different jobs to do while we inhabit these biological shells, but in our inmost beings, we all comprise One Great Spirit. It is this astonishing fact that Joe came to realize & thus enjoyed the greatest success in all his dealings in this 'cruel, cruel world'!

If only we could all learn to live like Joe & just 'let it be'! When we stop trying to make everything go our way, stop judging people as good or bad, right or wrong & just accept them for who they are ( in their heart of hearts ), dealing fairly with all, even when it's not returned in kind & showing kindness even when the general perception is that it's undeserved, even if it seems to be unwanted. Joe learned that it's those who are the most unkind that need kindness the most. Though they may never seem to be affected by our kindness, the seed that we planted will have its effect, sooner or later!

Namaste' & Blessed Be!
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Pagan Roots of Christiamity

If an open-minded person were to do a fairly cursory search for 'proof' that the modern version of what we know as 'Christianity' had its genesis in Pagan religious practices, they would find that the way we do 'church', complete with many of its trappings, including such practices as the sermon & even the special garb that some pastors wear, was practiced very similarly by Pagans long before biblical Christianity took form. At least, if you believe half of what you read on the internet! I, personally, tend to take it with a grain of proverbial salt, but still, I wouldn't disregard it entirely. Much of what is available today, at our fingertips, quite literally, reveals the fruit of countless hours of painstaking research, so while I'll readily acknowledge that one must often sift through layers of prejudice & propaganda, the Truth is out there, whatever form it may take!

'Why does it matter?' One may rightly wonder what real good it does to bring up the past, whether or not one finds for him or herself that much, if not most, of what we Christians do every Sunday as a matter of fact has its roots, not in the Greek Scriptures, but in something far more ancient? 'If what we do on Sundays has Pagan origins, does that necessarily mean that we should discontinue those practices?' For example; it's fairly well-accepted, though not well-received in certain circles, that the Christmas celebration has its roots in Paganism. Does that mean we should not join with countless others in celebrating the Coming of the Light? ( For those of my readers who were not aware of this fact, the birth of Jesus is celebrated on the late date it is, in order to coincide with the Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year & signals the Coming of the Light, when the days ( daylight hours ) begin to lengthen ) Just because the Christmas Tree is rooted firmly in the soil of Pagan tradition ( Yule ), are we being un-Christlike because we enjoy its festooned branches around this time of year? Should we ( could we? ) change the date for our celebration of the birth of the Christ-child? Jesus, according to much research, was more rightly born in the Fall, anyway, at the time of harvest, in August or September.

The word 'Pagan' does not inherently denote 'wrong'! Although a 'Pagan' could not ( technically ) be called a 'Christian' & in that sense is perceived by most, if not all Christians, to be 'wrong', even to be equated ( ignorantly ) with a 'heathen'. The word 'Pagan', in its simple meaning, refers to one who dwells in the country. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the etymology would go something like this; Pagans were those, back in the day, who lived far enough away from the bigger cities & towns that they were undisturbed by the influx of Roman Catholicism when it first reared its ugly head ( yes, I said it! ) As such, they retained the faith of their fathers & were thus distinguished from those who accepted this new religion. In modern times, much as in ancient days, just because one adhered to the Old Ways, rather than accepting the new way of doing things, that one, depending on the person, of course. was not necessarily wrong, just different!

The 'God' of Christianity, according to the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, is 'the One, True God'! In the same sense though, a Muslim would probably tell you that 'Allah' is 'the One, True God' & Mohammad is His prophet ( Jesus was also JUST a prophet ). Is one ( religion ) right while the other is wrong? Or are they both simply perceptions of the One that IS? Not to repeat myself over-much, sounding like a broken record, but why are we basing our faith on the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures rather than the Q'ran? Why not on the Scriptures of the Ancient Far East, as opposed to the Ancient Near East? To explore the manifold reasons 'Why?' would take far more research  & space than I have time ( or patience ) for, although there might need to be a blogpost on that subject in the future, maybe even a book. Suffice it to say, therefore, that the differences are largely cultural!

Again, a 'Pagan', just because he or she does not follow the tenets of 'Christianity', is not necessarily a bad person, or even 'wrong'. When a person, no matter what religion ( if any ) he or she follows, does what is right, how can you rightly say they are wrong? It should be obvious that it is not what one believes that makes the person, but what one does! Beliefs DO matter, insofar as one practices what he or she professes to 'believe', but it should also be clear as day that, what one practices IS what they truly believe, no matter what they profess! Pagan beliefs do not the person make; if however, whether Christian, Pagan, or Muslim ( even one of those Far Eastern religions ), one practices what is wrong, then that person's religion IS wrong. 'What IS 'wrong'?', you ask; well, put simply, 'wrong' is to take away another person's right, whether it's the right to life, right to property, or right to liberty & happiness. Much more could be said on this subject too, but maybe that's for a future post as well!

So, 'why DOES it matter that modern Christianity is rooted in Paganism?' Does it make a difference in how Christians practice their religion? Well, yes & no; as far as how the origins of Christianity have affected how many Christians tend to view 'Paganism' itself ( or really, anyone who is not 'Christian' ), it sure as hell DOES matter, but insofar as Pagans simply have a different ( some might say 'better' ) perception of 'the One that IS', it does not, or should not. Paganism does not worship a different 'God' than Christianity, it simply acknowledges 'the One that IS' in Its myriad forms. For that matter, not unlike the Far Eastern  religions, it also recognizes the 'God Within' each & every one of us!

Is Christianity simply an improvement on Paganism? One might well proffer that suggestion, though that is questionable at the very least! For one thing, as a religion, Paganism does not incorporate 'a' holy book ( as our 'Holy Bible' ): rather, Paganism observes a living 'Holy Book' ( some call Her 'Mother Earth' ) & Paganism, rather than being an institutionalized ( organized? ) religion like Christianity, it is more just a way of life, though, like Christianity, it does have its peculiar rites & liturgies. Another way in which it could be said that Christianity is NOT an improvement on Paganism is the purposeful omission of the Divine Feminine! However, She cannot be totally hidden from sight, but upon careful examination, can be glimpsed in the One the Roman Catholics call 'Mary, the Mother of God'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Why I ( haven't ) Renounced Christianity

I can count on one hand the number of Christians, all ( or most ) well-meaning individuals, who have nevertheless warned me, or told me blatantly that I'm headed for 'Hell'! I won't mention any names or even condemn those people, for I hold no disdain for them, just a great sadness. Most recently, I was called a son, or child ( 'spawn' ) of Satan! Okay; so maybe just a little disdain for that particular individual, though I hold no ill-will. For one thing; I hold no belief in the orthodox version of either 'Satan' or 'Hell': in fact of the matter, I don't know that I believe ANYTHING anymore!

According to certain pundits, Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.' Whether this quote may actually be attributed to the Indian 'peacemaker' or not & whether you agree with his actions or not, there is sadly much truth in this statement! The Gospel, you may note, has made great progress in this 'world' in which we live, but it must be acknowledged that, while great strides have been made in the Name of the Christ, there has also been quite a bit of digression that can be attributed to 'Christians' & Christianity. We've explored this 'avenue' previously, but the Crusades & the Inquisition are probably the most infamous examples. Missions all over the world, in the name of Christianity, have been carried out to varying degrees of success. Many Christian missionaries have lost their lives in the pursuit of cultural change, often because of a stubbornly stalwart belief that theirs was the only way. I acknowledge that such may not have always been the case, but Christians, yes, even well-meaning ones, are often their own worst 'adversary'!

Being brought up in a fairly strict Christian household, as I've said before, as far as that goes, 'I will always be a Christian', personally speaking! I realize that, as of late, especially, it seems that I'm departing more & more from what we accept as Christianity ( what I call 'Orthodoxy' )! While it is true that my personal Journey has taken me far outside the boundaries of what has been generally ( popularly? ) accepted as 'Christianity' I have not departed from the principles taught by Jesus the Christ, the Jewish, or Hebrew, Messiah! Speaking of 'Orthodoxy'' the adherents of this religion would most likely beg to differ with me on even this point, but we must remember that their beliefs are based on a ( fairly ) modern Western interpretation of an Ancient Near Eastern text. I readily acknowledge that, even though our English Bibles have suffered much mishandling ( misinterpretation, etc ) by men & women over the ages, there is much Truth that has been gleaned & still may be from its hallowed pages! Even so, as hinted at above, because of this mishandling, Christianity has been the root cause of much unnecessary suffering in this 'world' we call 'home'!

I will never renounce Christianity, per se, not because it alone bears 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' & definitely not because it bares this Truth perfectly! No, for reasons already outlined, as well as others; I will never renounce the 'faith of my fathers' because, as much as that 'faith' has been used & abused over the ages, I know that though it is not the only bearer of the Truth, it does bare the Truth & that in the form of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of Israel, who came to show, among other things, that it is within ourselves that we will find 'God', the Source of All Life. As far as I've departed from 'Orthodoxy', I will never forget the two main tenets of the religion Jesus taught; 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself' ( Luke 10:27 ) & 'just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.' ( Luke 6:31 ) More than this is simply 'icing on the cake'!
This may sound like the beginning to a most ominous statement, but 'the problem with the overwhelming majority ( not all, thank 'God' ) Christians is.....................', but seriously, much of the problem ( it IS a problem ) lies in the fact that many not only blame the Devil ( 'Satan' ) for what goes wrong in their lives, thereby basically alleviating responsibility for their own actions, they also, in a round about way, blame 'God' by quoting passages such as John 16:33b, 'In the world you [f]will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world'. Many Christians have anachronistically applied these words to themselves, fatalistically ( deterministically ) accepting the fact that they MUST endure tribulations, even though much of the time, it was their own damn fault, i.e., they brought the 'world' crashing down on their own head!

I won't deny that it still bothers me, even rustles my feathers sometimes, when people that I hold to be brothers & sisters condemn me to their own version of the 'afterlife', while still claiming to be a follower of Jesus! But that is MY problem: if I judge them for judging me, how am I any different ( I will not say 'better' ) than they? It is only a problem if I allow it to come between us. If I end our relationship, such as it is, because they believe something ( about me ) that I KNOW is not true ( about me ), then how will I ever hope to show THEM that what they believe  ( about me ) is false?! NOT that I'm trying to prove myself to anyone, for 'it is what it is', but simply that relationship is what it's all about & if I give that up for the sake of some silly belief, then we might as well all just go home!

Namaste, for 'God' IS in you!
Charles Haddon Shank