Introduction: From A Different for Sacred Texts Are Merely a Good Start Perspective
About one year ago, I invited several male friends to join me at a morning prayer breakfast in Sunnyvale California. The prayer breakfast was held at a mainstream Methodist Church in the area. There were about 20 men in attendance, and the topic of the morning was ‘the soul’. We all sat around a group of tables that were pushed together, and engaged in a discussion of the soul as we joined in prayer and dined on a sumptuous breakfast.
After listening to most of the men in the prayer breakfast provide their perspective on the soul, I asked if a friend of mine, who I introduced as ‘Rising Eagle’, could provide the group with his perspective on the soul as opposed to the Eurocentric explanation of the soul, the pneuma, the wind …
Rising Eagle, a full-blooded native American explained that his people believed that the soul was in everything, the wind, the land, the birds … A hush fell over the room after he spoke. I smiled inwardly thinking, uh oh, here he we go for this was something that western Christians were simply unprepared to hear. The men were tolerant, but needless to say shocked.
I noticed a Buddhist sitting at the table, so I invoked the phrase, transmigration of the soul. And as I suspected, the Buddhist who was in attendance, lit up and began to expound on what he had been taught about the soul. Obviously, my intention was to get the 90% majority of Christian men to hear other perspectives on the matter.
Even though I caused some discomfort, I knew that the exercise was worthwhile. As one gentleman began to reinforce Canonical teachings, mostly Pauline, about the soul, I decided to engage him in his folly. I reminded him and the room of an often overlooked scripture in the Canon from the Hebrew Scriptures. In this familiar text, Job said, according to the poet who wrote the book of Job, ‘Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return to the Earth womb’, begging the question what did Job or the author of the book of Job believe was the womb?
There are so many different versions, texts, interpretations and translations of the Christian Canon, and each one says something different. However, what stood out for me regarding the term womb, as it was translated in the original texts, was that
the writer of the book of Job believed that he was referring to the Earth (as the womb), not Job’s mother’s womb.In the new Testament, Nicodemus, see the 3rd Chapter of John, had some problems with Jesus’ explanation of a man being born again. Nicodemus wondered how a person could enter the second time in his or her mother’s womb.
Again, the sacred texts (in this context the Canon) have their problems don’t they? I have been troubled for years, given a change that was made in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, particularly where he said, “thy will be done in Earth, as it is in heaven”. The question being, why did modern translators change the term from ‘in earth to on earth. The significance of that simple change can alter the entire context between man and God.
Was Jesus referring to his will being done inside earth beings, which would be understood by pantheists to prove that God is in everything, matter itself – the same matter that humans are composed of. Or, the fact that the interpreters and translators of late, changed the phrase to ‘on Earth’, does that have any significance at all. I suspect that the former has significant meaning, a meaning that was just as important of the significance of the phrase thy will be done in heaven.
Think about it for a minute. If the scripture read, thy will be done on heaven, as it is on earth? Or how about, thy will be done on heaven, as it is in earth or finally, thy will be done in heaven as it is in earth, one can easily see that the whole context changes.
Humans need not take everything that they read in sacred texts, literally, and most humans would it agree with my conclusion when it comes to sacred texts that are not endorsed by their particular religious persuasion.
Humans, I believe ought to seek after what is real, because not only have many of the sacred texts been willfully tampered with, there are also numerous translation errors, interpretational errors, chronological errors and numerological errors. The Canon for example, we know is not 100% error proof!A church member, when I was visiting her church on one occasion, asked me a question with reference to the lyrics of one of the songs that was frequently sang at her church. A line in the chorus was, “Every promise in the book is mine, every book, every chapter and every line”. For some inexplicable reason, she asked me were those lyrics true. I answered, no!
I answered, "no, not every book, line, chapter promise ... is for you"! And to another inquirer who wanted to know whether or not today’s Christians are required to observe the Sabbath, I asked, what day is the Sabbath? She really didn't know.
What do I believe? I believe that all humans who care enough about themselves and others to ought to seek after what is real. And there are many ways of doing so, the most important being to seek what is real through yourself, and to use everything that is at your disposal to accomplish your aims.
I suspect that all of what you need, with a little tutoring perhaps from someone more experienced than you, is likely all that any of us really needs. Sacrilege? I know ...
Why should you utilize all of your abilities? I believe that just as we have all been provided with what we need in order to exist and to thrive in the cosmos, we have what we need to understand who, what, when, why and where... If that is true you say, what is wrong?
I suspect that most of us have been taught away from utilizing what has already been provided us, The latter includes the kind of innate knowledge that we are all born with that would facilitate our understanding of what is real. We should have a greater respect for our own inherent abilities, rather than rely on Ted Haggard’s, David Koresh’s, Pat Robertson, Jim Jones and any of the other leaders, pedophiles … who would lead us astray. Remember, God spoke to Moses at burning bush reportedly, and to Elijah through the wind.
We should utilize everything at our disposal, cognitive abilities, sensory apparatus, reason ... Instead, we have been conditioned and taught to suppress certain instincts, to turn off certain abilities … and to accept wholesale ideas from what have come to be known as sacred texts, whether they stand up under scrutiny or not.
Jesus said to his disciples, Have not I said that you are gods? Well, assuming that he really said it, and the phrase was not added, as many phrases have been added to the Canon, what did he mean? Was Jesus being facetious? I can recall when someone repeated this scripture, without explaining where it came from on a prior occasion, and a very sincere Christian that I knew of almost lost it. She came to me and said, Reverend …, said that “he was a god” according to the scriptures.
She asked, is there a scripture in the Bible that reads as such? I answered, yes that scripture is in the Bible and I told her where to locate it is in the Bible. Well folks, are we gods or not according to the scriptures? Are we the gods ourselves that everyone has been searching for, and we simply do not realize who and what we are?
If you were to ask the average minister if we were gods or not, or better yet what that scripture meant, you would find yourself inside of the dance of your life. The minister would likely spend the next hour explaining to that the scripture did mean what it said, having said that the same minister would explain that the Canon is inerrant and was inspired by God (all scriptures).
I solved that a problem long ago when explaining scriptures. Often, I would simply say that what is written in the 66 books is subject to interpretation, for it comes from a compilation of books that have been tampered with, there have been additions …
I also tell my audiences that I believe that you can skip over bible courses (for example Survey of the Bible for example) in order to get to know God, just as apparently individuals in the bible did before us.
Think about the examples that were given in the Bible, most converts did not spend years in catechism, they were not provided a written text (with one book much less 66), they were not told to join themselves to a group in order to know God, instead, they were simply told, to change and to permit God to be awakened on the inside of themselves.
For example, a friend of mine entered Seminary years ago, and after having done so, he came to me one day and said, “some of my teachers at the Seminary do not believe that there is a God and one doesn’t believe in the Resurrection …! My point, you can learn all of the sacred texts from which ever religious group you prefer. You can master the texts and even teach the texts, and in the event that you were to do so, it doesn’t mean that you have been converted to what you read.
Conversely, some of the least educated people, apparently have more knowledge of the esoteric than the ones who know the most knowledge about the sacred and religious texts.
So what should everyone do, in my opinion? I can't speak for anyone else, however in my opinion –
I said it before - seek the truth, and it will find you!Why? I suspect that all of us harbor the truth somewhere within, however, that we have been conditioned to suppress the truth oftentimes as a result of all of the indoctrination that we have receive since the time that we were children.
If you think about it, most religious teacher's claim is that their purpose is to help guide others to ‘the truth’, or if you will, ‘what is real’. Remember the most important is that you are talking about is your life, and therefore you should take responsibility for your life.
Oftentimes when talking to religious people, the answer that you will receive to most any question that you ask them is, a recapitulation of what some other person said or wrote in some ‘religious text’. And the problem with that is that most of what has been written is flawed, misinterpreted or misunderstood in one way or another. Who are some of these teachers, how about Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell or Jim Jones ...!
And to those ministers, preachers, prelates, imams, rabbis, laypeople … who are upset with what I have written, ask yourself one question. Do you believe or obey everything that is written within your particular sacred text? I am not a Salman Rushdie, however, I have found him to be more honest in terms of his search for truth than most religious people happen to be. Salmon is not angry with God, as a Madelyn Murray O’Hair was, he simply wants to know the truth and what’s wrong with that?
Perhaps Mr. Rushdie ought to be proud of his quest for truth, which trumps that of most religious individuals and religious groups. Wouldn’t it be something in the end that God, as we refer to it, would say: Actually, Salmon more accurate in terms of his understanding, than most of you religious people have been.
As one writer once wrote: We are not at the end of knowledge, we are only at its beginning! And to that I would add, that we should employ everything possible on our journey, because sacred texts only represent a starting place – they do not represent the end of the matter. Is God perhaps, everything and in everything?
How dare Rising Eagle, or anyone else for that matter have an idea that differs from Eurocentric religions or others!
Rev. C. Solomon