Thursday, September 7, 2017

Peace - are we doing it all wrong?

Syrian child

Peace is such a popular word, we use it frequently as a Christmas greeting, we use it daily when stressed, and we use it in response to war.

The strangest thing about peace is that there is always an expectation that it will come from an external source, “I send you Peace and Joy,” or “Give me some peace!” or “We want peace!”, or “Let us declare peace!” This kind of peace comes with a price: the price of compromise and protracted negotiations. It usually calls for a peace treaty, not only between governments but also in personal relationships - a contract that imposes conditions of agreement.

When we really understand what peace is we realize that this view of peace is superficial. To deepen our understanding of peace we can explore its meaning in the Bible where we find terms life Prince of Peace or Lord of Peace. Why is Jesus Christ referred to as the Prince of Peace or the Lord of Peace? His path to the cross was less than peaceful. Only when we ask the question: is peace given to us? or is it up to us to find this peace? can we begin to discover the true meaning of peace.

Stillness by Haris Tsappis

Eirene is the Greek word for peace and indicates freedom from disturbance, stillness. Shalom is the Hebrew equivalent and means soundness. This means that peace means to be still, to be sound, to experience inner harmony. This is a personal experience, not something that comes to us through others. We harmonize all that is discordant within us. Indeed, we can say that the noblest response is for us to be peaceful in the face of adversity, and the lowest response would be to expect someone else to do something so that we experience peace.

Imagine what it would be like if people took up the responsibility to achieve harmony within themselves, to be still, to achieve their own peace whenever their peace was disturbed.

I have written about this process before where I suggest that each time our equilibrium is disrupted we can place ourselves in the upper room. To achieve this we create the imagination of the disciples meeting in the upper room after the crucifixion, and Christ appears among them. It says that he walked through the wall (because the doors were locked), and the disciples experienced intense fear. To help build a vivid imagination read the story in the Gospel of St John, Chapter 20:19-31. Three times Jesus says, “Eirene humin,” “Peace to you” which essentially means remove the disturbance within you and reinstate soundness.


Appearance of Christ in the Upper Room (Cenacle) by James Tissot


If we try to do this when something fearful happens to us we know how hard it can be. The human condition is one of fear (which we will explore another time) and therefore we need all the help we can get to deal with fear. I have suggested that whenever we experience inner disturbances that we create in our minds an image of Jesus standing before us saying, “Peace to you.” This reinforces our own ability to reinstate inner harmony. By repeating this practice over time, it will become second nature and be of great assistance whenever we are alarmed. When we do this with success, we know that we have to create peace within ourselves. If we wait for it to approach us from outside we will never experience it.

This is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read about peace and love.
“In May 1945, immediately after the end of World War II, George Ritchie, a young American soldier, found himself with a group of American physicians in a German concentration camp near Wuppertal.'" They offered medical assistance to the thousands of former prisoners who were close to dying of starvation. In the midst of this unimaginable misery, Ritchie encountered a man who made a profound impression on him. He stood out among the other prisoners because, in contrast to them, his bearing was bolt upright, his eyes clear, and he had a virtually inexhaustible energy. 
Since he spoke five languages fluently, the Americans appointed this man interpreter, in the course of which he was tirelessly busy helping people for 15 to 16 hours a day. He radiated an atmosphere of love and compassion from which others drew nourishment. Ritchie called this man, a Polish Jew, 'Bill Cody'. To Ritchie's astonishment he had apparently spent many years in this camp, during which he lived on the same starvation diet as all other prisoners and slept in the same disease-infested barracks. But unlike the others he did not look like a living skeleton. 
Each group in the camp seemed to regard him as their friend. If a quarrel erupted he was called to arbitrate and mediate. He also continually talked with the former prisoners, who were so locked into hatred that they wished to shoot every German on sight, and urged them to forgive their enemies. When Ritchie comments that this will not be easy for them after all they have experienced, Cody tells him his own story, as follows:
We lived in the Warsaw ghetto, my wife and I, our two daughters and our three small sons. When the Germans reached our street they put everyone against the wall and opened fire with their machine-guns. I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me on a forced-labour crew. He pauses for a moment and continues: At that moment I had to decide for myself whether to hate the soldiers who were responsible for this or not. It was in fact not a difficult decision. I was a lawyer. In my practice I had seen all too frequently what hatred can do to people's body and spirit. Hatred had just cost the lives of the six most important people in my life. This is why at that moment I decided that for the rest of my life—whether this was a few days or many years—I would love everyone I came in contact with. 
Ritchie suddenly realized that this—love for everyone—is the force that had kept this man, Bill Cody, so healthy and fit despite all the misery and deprivation he experienced.”

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Are Angels Real?

The Angel Of The Annunciation by Lorenzo Lotto

In 2009 the results of a survey about what people believe in was published in an Australian Newspaper. In this survey (which of course is never representative) it says, “51 per cent of respondents say they believe in angels”. I would like to ask those 501 people what exactly they think angels are.
The Greek word angelos means messenger. We know that a messenger takes a message from one place or person to another and the purpose of a message is to inform. Therefore, we must ask several questions.

1. What is the source of the message that the angel receives?
2. In what form of communication can a message be conveyed to us?

It would be over-simplifying the situation to say that the Angel carries a message from God. In another post Who or what is God? I discussed that there are different ‘gods’ or spiritual beings who have certain responsibilities in the universe to keep everything in balance. Dionysius the Areopagite listed them, and in later posts I will explore them further.

Angels feature often in the Bible, in this quote bringing a message about the birth of Jesus.
But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; Matthew 1:20

One reason for this communication between Joseph and the Angel is the fact that Angels are the closest spiritual beings to man. They are the interface between the physical and spiritual worlds. Angels are beings who are one stage higher than human beings, as animals are beings one stage lower than humans. As we care for our animals, so Angels watch over us. Archangels like Gabriel and Michael are one stage higher than Angels, putting them two stages higher than humans.

We could say that Angels are like human beings without a body. This assists us to understand these beings but we should also know that when we no longer need a physical body we will be greater beings than the present Angels are now. This is because we are in a different evolutionary stream. The difference between Angels and human beings is that human beings have the I Am, the element which makes us unique. St Paul tells us about our relationship to Angels in Hebrews:
Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, Hebrews 2:7
The present task of the Angels is to be intermediaries who help and guide the evolution of human consciousness. We could even say that they are interpreters of what higher spiritual beings want to convey to us; what they ‘say’ is then made intelligible through the Angels. Of course, they wouldn’t use language; they speak to us in images – the universal language. For example, the image of a tree means the same thing to every human being on earth.


Genealogy Tree by Vladimir Kush 

While some people might doubt the validity of these ideas, I could point out that animals communicate with each other, and with us, in ways we do not fully understand either. Communication is an important topic for human beings at present. We live in unsettling times where fake news is a thing. We could ask ourselves if we are willing to believe fake news without any fact checking, why can’t we also believe in Angels?

If we can remain open to ideas about the presence of Angels and other spiritual beings not visible to our physical senses, we will be surprised by the new insights we will have. We each have a Guardian Angel watching over us. The messages we can receive from the Angels can give us an inner sense or feeling that confirms something is true. Not that we should just believe anything, the ideas we receive should be continually tested. In this way, we can be lifted out of the present darkness that our mind cannot penetrate. For each of us this is a personal experience, we do not need to convince others of it; we can only hope that others come to their own experience of the angelic beings in this universe.



Friday, July 28, 2017

When should women be subordinate?


When someone knocked on my door wanting to explain the Bible to me, I told him that I was already a student of the Bible, at which point he enthusiastically suggested that he come in to compare notes. As I was thinking about how he would not enjoy that, he quoted St Paul to me. I responded saying, “St Paul didn’t like women.” He looked shocked and quietly left. I wonder if he has been studying 1 Corinthians ever since to try and work out why St Paul speaks about women the way he does.
Take this verse for example:
"the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home." 1 Cor 14:34,35
How can such a doctrine stand today when the importance of gender equality is broadly recognized? A closer look at the actual Greek words St Paul uses reveals quite a different meaning, especially if we apply them to what goes on within our consciousness. After all, it is within our consciousness that we recognize gender equality.
The Greek word translated as church is ekklesia from ekklÄ“tos meaning called, from ekkalein to call out, from kalein to call. In what circumstances do we call out? We can call out for help, we can call out to get someone’s attention, or we can make a call to challenge in some way. Behind the word ‘call’ is the activity of bringing attention or awareness to something.
What are we called to become aware of? Primarily, we are called to become aware of the activity in our soul; our feelings, thoughts, and intentions. So many thoughts, feelings and intentions are active in our consciousness in a robotic, impulsive way. It can be quite a shock to become aware of them. When we call them out (ekklesia) we gather or assemble them in a focussed way. This sounds like a church doesn’t it?


Now we must ask: what is the wife and the husband within us? In a very basic, generalized way we know that the feminine nature is the nurturer, filled with feeling. The male nature is more practical, more pragmatic, based on thinking. Our task is to encourage these two to work together so that feeling warms the coldness of our thinking and thinking guides our feeling to be practical.
With these ideas in mind, a new picture of what St Paul is saying emerges. When St Paul used the word ‘subordinate’, which in Greek is hupotasso where hupo means under, and tasso means to arrange, we can understand that he is saying we arrange our feelings under our thoughts and in this way we keep our emotions under control.
Then St Paul says,
“If there is anything they (women) desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home."
Continuing on with the idea that Paul is speaking about the activity in our consciousness; we can ask questions of our thinking in the privacy of our own home, i.e. our inner being. This should always be the case, to question our thinking, which in turn makes us aware of our thoughts. This is when we can discover how often they are negative, fuelled by our emotions. With this awareness, we can keep them silent, “not permitting them to speak.”
What does this say about knocking on people’s doors with our own ideas about what the Bible means! Unlocking the Bible is now up to each individual person. Asking the husband-thoughts within us to assist us to make sense of sacred texts, and not letting our wife-feelings run away from us, is important work for every human being.
As published on Huffington Post

Thursday, June 8, 2017

When is the Judge a Killer?


Glorification of the Eucharist by Salimbeni

After consider the topic of God in the last post, it would be good to have a look at the word judgment which is so often linked with him. The image of the man with the long beard sitting on a throne watching and judging everything we do is a bizarre concept. It suggests that God is a giant stickybeak!

Take, for example, these words from the Gospel of Matthew which records Jesus saying:
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' Mt 5:21
Let’s ask what is being killed and who is judging? Sure, in the next verse Matthew’s report continues about being angry with your brother but the logic of my ideas about verse 21 applies also to the subsequent verses when we identify the brother as something within us.

The Fall of Icarus by Reubens
The specific Greek word used here for ‘kill’ is phoneuo which means to murder. Murder means to kill secretly when no one is aware of what we are doing. What happens within us secretly that no one is aware of? The forming of our opinions! All day long we decide what is good and bad mostly without being fully informed. Therefore, in our consciousness, with our thoughts, feelings and intentions, we secretly take the life from people and things that displease us. What is more, we think it is our right to do this while at the same time demanding that someone who physically kills another person is punished with a jail sentence or a death sentence.
So who is the judge? The judge is actually the killer. Judgment in Greek is krisis and means separating (analyzing) and then a decision. Yet how often do we separate out all the facts? Modern life is full of quick decisions. If we want to stop being the killer, the one who takes the life out of something, we must take the time to do the separating.

This Greek word krisis is similar to the English word crisis that means a critical moment or a turning point. In daily life it is our opportunity to be aware of all the fact before we make damaging statements, or act prematurely. This means we need to be much more aware of all the issues so that we stop, separate out all the facts, and put them back together differently before making decisions - then the judge is no longer the killer.

Also published on Huffpost

Friday, April 7, 2017

Who or what is God?


The Creation by James Tissot

One of the most astounding things I heard when I began to really study the Bible was that there were many gods. Not in the sense of the ancient Greeks and Romans looking towards Olympus - although that could hold some answers as well - but in the sense that God-God, the Highest One, needs other mighty beings to implement His intentions.

Take for instance the first words in the Bible,
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

In Hebrew this text goes like this,
Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'arets.”

The word translated into English as God is Elohim. Who is this Elohim character? For the Hebrews God was Jehovah or YHVH, but they also had other gods as described in Wikipedia:

El Elyon ("Most High God"), El Shaddai ("God Almighty"), El `Olam ("Everlasting God"), El Hai ("Living God"), El Ro'i ("God of Seeing"), El Elohe Israel ("God, the God of Israel"), El Gibbor ("God of Strength")

It will be no accident that there are seven. Then there is Moses’ famous conversation with God at the burning bush, when Moses asks God what his name is (Exodus 3:14) and the response is Ehyeh asher ehyeh, I am that I am. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to this I Am often using the Greek words ego eimi. Notably when he was challenged about where his authority came from in John 8:58
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”


Landscape with Moses and the Burning Bush by Domenichino 1600-10

Understanding the I Am can provide answers to questions we may have about God. link to I Am post.
Amidst all this confusion, it is perfectly understandable when people say, “I don’t believe in God.” They have the courage to admit that, so far, they have no information to assist them to have any plausible understanding of God. Blind faith doesn’t do it. When they come across ideas about God they do not experience any inner confirmation that the information makes sense.

When I first heard that about the Elohim-God I felt liberated. The Elohim are one level of the nine levels of spiritual beings that put the highest God’s intentions into action. These nine levels of spiritual beings were described by Dionysius the Areopagite and using his list we can find them identified throughout the Bible, specifically when the words, power, authority, might, principalities, among others, are used.

The Greek word for Elohim is Exousiai and is rightly translated as power – the power to create. Furthermore, the word Elohim is plural and feminine. I have come to understand why this is. They are the creators of form, like a pregnant woman, and we see their work in every form on this earth. This is like seeing the finished house from the architects plan.

It is clear that no one can explain God to us, we must remove the blindfold ourselves and intelligently discover not just one God but all the Gods who uphold this universe and keep it in order.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Disciples as Mind Traits 4

Road to Emmaus by Alexandra Ross
When we think of Jesus and his Disciples, we should be equally mindful of the mighty Cosmic Spirit called Christ gradually becoming infused into the body of Jesus. Only when we think of it in this way can we approach the truth of the situation. Two beings; Jesus the man and Christ the Being who had never experience life in a human body before. Imagine that! This happened for the first time in the whole universe. Think about what it is like to do something for the first time; learning to swim, learning to drive, learning to ski, taking your first roller coaster ride or first bungee jump. Magnify that thousands of times and we may get some idea.
The other side of this story is that humanity cannot move forward without Christ. That is why he went through the process of entering into the man Jesus. We cannot evolve without Christ - not that he does the work for us, no, quite the opposite, we do the work which he has made possible, and he enhances it.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Jn 14:12
For Jesus to go through the mighty transformation of taking into himself this mighty Cosmic Being required the support of the disciples, just as we need support when we learn to swim, drive or ski. Stop and think for a minute what it would be like to be infused by a being of the stature of Christ. Luke knew when he wrote about the Son of man - the Christ infused human:
"For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day." Lk 17:24
Are we ready to be struck by lightning? For that is what it is like when Christ becomes active in our being. For that lightning to be effective, we have to make some choices. Otherwise it will burn us or kill us. To survive the strike, the 12 mind faculties represented by the disciples have to be activated in a positive way.
It is a work in progress and we should go easy on ourselves. We can be so critical of ourselves it can be crippling. It is about building pictures for ourselves and taking baby steps. The last three disciples speak strongly about choice. Having choice is so free making; always mindful that if we can make a choice in one direction then we can also make it in another.
Disciples James Alphaeus, James Zebedee and Simon the Cananaean
James Alphaeus: James the son of Alphaeus represents order, especially creating order in chaos. He is also known as James the Less, or James the Just and is a half-brother of Jesus. James is connected with the use of the word; speech is a very creative thing, primarily because it gives us choice. We can choose to speak or not to speak, and we can choose what to say or what not to say. We can also release a power in what we say, as Jesus did when he said, “Laz’arus, come out.” for instance. James is associated with the power in us to say something, perhaps something difficult. James is also the discipline in us not to say something. Our speech will be orderly according to how conscious we are.
James Zebedee: James the son of Zeb’edee represents the faculty of judgement or discrimination within us. Judgement is that higher ability not be swayed by our self-will, or the will of others; to resist being drawn back to the past and to stand in the present, in the new situation, and seek to express our higher will. Within us, our intentions are our will; without, will is visible in our actions.

Simon the Cananaean: Also known as Simon the Zealot who probably belonged to the Zelotes, an extreme Jewish sect. This sect was also known as the Cananaeans. Simon was the brother of James and Jude. After the martyrdom of James, Simon became head of the Church at Jerusalem. In hermetic tradition, the zelator is the one who is able to approach the fire. Simon the Cananaean stands for zeal, enthusiasm; this motivating energy is optimism for the future.

Published on Huffington Post September 11, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Disciples as Mind Traits 3



JACOB’S DREAM BY JAMES TISSOT


Why did Jesus have disciples? Couldn’t he go it alone? Asking such questions can lead us to different perspectives regarding our own spiritual journey. If we are totally honest with ourselves, all we want is to understand ourselves. Then, the next thing we want is to understand others. Looking into the lives of the disciples can assist with this.
When we look at the disciples the first thing we notice is that each disciple is different, yet they walk together, and they walk with a leading principle called Jesus. This does not mean that we should look for a leader outside ourselves, but rather look for a leading principle within us.
When we look at the characteristics of the disciples we will identify with one more than another. This can reveal to us the path we are on, and another disciple can reveal the path a friend is on, this should not be cause for disagreement. Yet this is often the case; unless you agree with someone you are against them is a common principle today. This has a stifling effect because unless you have the strength to support your own ideas you are silenced in one way or another.
Apart from describing our different paths, each disciple represents mind traits. We can think like Thomas in one situation, and respond like Judas in another. Understanding the twelve traits revealed in the nature of the disciples, we can understand ourselves better, and find ways of responding to life differently. Also, if we can identify where other people are coming from - a Judas or a Thomas trait - we will meet their ideas with understanding and life will be more harmonious.
The next three disciples show that the conventional interpretation of them is actually the opposite of what they really represent as mind qualities. This is often the case when we investigate beneath the surface to discover spiritual meanings.

Nathanael Bartholomew, Judas and Thomas

Nathanael Bartholomew: Nathanael means gift of God. He is known by his family name, Bartholomew, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. St. John calls him Nathanael. In my book on the Disciples I show how Nathanael is the faculty of imagination within us. Not fantasy but real imagination - a spiritual imagination able to create concepts as living images. By creating moving pictures in our mind when we try to understand a concept brings it to life. Also, these concepts will be much easier to remember. This is a method used by people who have excellent memories and inventors also think this way as they work out the detail of their invention.
What this means is that we ‘see’ things differently. Here is an excerpt from my reflections about Nathanael seeing,
“Jesus points out to Nathanael that this is only the beginning: “You shall see greater things than these.” This must always be our expectation, to see greater things. We should always strive to have firsthand experiences, by hearing Philip within us saying, “Come and see.”
Judas: Judas represents the generative, reproductive energy within us which can work in a positive or negative way. Judas is said to be the Greek version of the Hebrew name Judah which means ‘praise Jehovah’.
And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, "This time I will praise the LORD"; therefore she called his name Judah; then she ceased bearing. Gen 29:35.
The reproductive force within us is motivated by conservation; survival of the species. Judas is also associated with betrayal, however, the word ‘betray’ also means to ‘reveal’. Judas gives us the opportunity to act in a higher way.
“There are two sides to the Judas energy within us. He can assist us or assail us. Mostly he works within us without our knowing. It is up to us to become conscious of what he is doing. Jesus was.” Twelve Disciples byKristina Kaine 
Thomas: Thomas represents reasoning, understanding. Thomas’ central role in some of the Bible stories alerts us to the imperative of reasoning. He doesn’t take things at face value, he wants to understand and experience things fully. His questioning can be described as a lack of faith or disbelief, however, blind faith is like a blind person crossing a busy road alone.

The Thomas in us continually tests the facts from every side to reach a full understanding. Generally people do not do this, they stop at the first understanding that meets with their satisfaction which is usually only a fraction of the truth. This is lazy - taking the easy way out so we have instant answers and don’t have to put in much effort. What is not realized is that the effort we put in awakens our consciousness. We don’t need to find the ultimate truth, or have it given to us by others, what we need to do is to strive.

First published on Huffington Post