The following thoughts are borrowed from Deepak Chopra’s wonderful book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Buy it or check it out of your library. It is tremendously helpful. His seventh spiritual law of success is called the law of Dharma which is your calling or purpose. To succeed you must answer the question, “Why are you here?” Romans 8: 28 says, “For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.” For there to be harmony that blesses your life with good things even out of bad things you must love God and be living your calling or purpose.”
To live out your purpose you must make the following commitments. First seek your highest self. Jesus promised, “ Seek and you shall find.” In finding your highest self or soul you learn the way of God for you are connected to God. Realizing this connection you respond to life as your best self with love.
Second in discovering your highest self you must discover your unique talents. As you find them, have fun with them. Enjoyment occurs when you choose to use your talents for the good of others. Doing this brings you into a timeless awareness for you become aware that you are participating in eternal life at that moment of service. You become aware that your life shall never end. When we enjoy the work we are best equipped to do and doing it to help our fellow man, we live right now in a state of bliss.
Take time to answer these two questions: Ask yourself, “If money was not a problem and you had all you needed as well as time, what would you do?” If you would still do what you are currently doing then you are in your calling, because you have passion for what you do—you are expressing your unique talents. Then ask yourself: “How am I best suited to serve humanity?” Answer this and begin practicing it.
When you do this you will discover how you are that which God is, pure potentiality in your consciousness, in your soul. You discover something of your own divinity by finding your unique talents and serving humanity with them. In doing this you will create all the wealth you want. It will spontaneously flow to you. And you will know true joy and success and deep ecstasy of your spirit. You will be living the purpose that Jesus teaches us to live.
The spiritual wizard following Jesus’ teaching knows that he must be alert and awake to coincidences, for they are messages from God. They are guidance, signs of God’s love and care, proof that the universe organizes itself to fulfill the deepest desires of our soul. Theologically we call coincidences miracles but they are natural miracles in an amazing way not supernatural or beyond nature. God works only through and according to nature for He is the creator of it. God is not beyond nature but in it and He sends amazing coincidences to the seeking soul.
I recently moved to Plainview. I have moved many times in my life and have always let moving stress me more than it should have. So this time I released my intentions and desires into the Divine Consciousness, which is God and also my own soul, for this to be our smoothest and most efficient move ever. And it has been. I have handled it with more confidence and less worry than I ever have.
My ancient pickup, however, broke down. It was too old to fix or sale. So I took it to the nearest auto salvage hoping to get two to three hundred dollars for it for scrap. They guaranteed me the scrap price of $270 but told me to come back the next day to see if they thought it was worth more.
The next day I ran into an acquaintance on the way to auto salvage and told him what I was doing. He said, “I wish you had told me about it for I would have given you $400 sight unseen for it, for I could fix it cheaply and get some service out of it.” That was the day’s first coincidence for me.
So I went to the auto salvage and told the proprietor of the $400 offer. I asked him to look at the pickup and tell me what he would offer. I looked into his eyes, which always reflect the fire of a man’s soul, and saw that he was disappointed at this development. Thus I knew it was worth the $400. He looked it over and did not take long. He did not even check some of the parts’ prices on the computer. He tried to look diffident but I could tell, again, by his eyes, that he knew he had a good deal. I got a little over $400 and everyone was happy. Coincidence # 2 for the day. If you get your ego out of the way in negotiation and try to serve your fellow human beings you often get what you want and make the other fellow happy also. Not listening to your selfish ego means always seeking a win-win situation in all relationships.
As I was departing I mentioned to Mr. Auto Salvage that I needed to shop for some box springs for one of our beds. He excitedly told me that he had purchased a brand new box springs at a local store last week on sale for a mere $40. I thanked him and proceeded downtown and got me what I needed for $20. Coincidence # 3 and the business day was only an hour and a half old. Life is exciting and full of magic and enchantment for the spiritual wizard.
Walking with Jesus of Nazareth we learn how to turn the time bound into the timeless. We enter into eternal life her and now and life becomes enchanted. We become spiritual wizards.
A spiritual wizard can move back an forth in time. For example we move back and forth in time in our sleep dreams and our day dreams. The spiritual wizard awakens from his dreams in which he has gone back and forth in time and asks, “What does it mean which has risen from my past or beckoned to me from a possible future?” To a sincere seeker a true answer always comes from his inner voice which is the way the Holy spirit speaks to us.
Th answer from his/her inner voice helps the wizard to know what to do about some past happenings and learn from them the truth he needs to see or to rectify where possible some mistake. In the way the wizard takes the time bound past and turns it into a good work of the present that has timeless, eternal reward. Or the wizard sees what he/she should do in their time bound future to serve the good of humanity and turns this also into timeless reward. Bu the wizard must learn to listen to his soul where God dwells within him. This is the teaching and way of Jesus. It is an enchanted life.
A Wizard can take the time bound, repetitive, mundane chores of life and transform into timeless meaning. He views the dressing and preparing a little child for the day as a timeless act. He sees how it will help the child to walk thousands of miles in the future and be a force for good as one strand in the cobweb of the universe where everything is connected. There this child’s goodness shall send forth good vibrations to every other strand he is connected to timeless meaning and influence will continue for eons upon eons. Is this not magic? Is this not following Jesus the Nazarene. Look at his timeless wizadry.
Timeless time is created by each of us by being fully present in the moment in peace and unity with that moment fully accepting it as it is without judgment. Eternal life is lived now as well as after death by not wasting current energy by judging the moment. Just learn from it what you need. And be defensiveless. That is do not defend your opinions or viewpoint. If there is something bad in the moment you can work on it later but in that moment just accept and learn its lessons. Being fully present to the moment in this way is the Spirit’s present to you of eternal life here and now.
You see, judging the moment as to its goodness or badness is wasting energy that you need to create material and spiritual affluence here and now. The wizard believes that the universe is just as it should be at that moment. So be responsible and learn from that moment everything you can about your responsibility and then change what needs to be changed. And don’t waste time defending your opinions and viewpoint because that keeps you from behaving responsibly in the moment.
If you worry about the past or the future you are not fully present to the moment where life, eternal life is lived now because you are one with the Divine Spirit as Jesus was. Don’t you agree that leaning to accomplish is truly the work of a wizard? But we each have the power in us to do this.
I believe in fairy tales, mythology and magic. I do not believe in literal demons or a literal devil. The only demons you will ever know are the self destructive and self defeating egotistical fear and disturbed emotions you will find in yourself and others if you honestly examine life. The only devil you will ever see is the one looking back at you from the mirror. You are the enemy. But you can be your best friend. Learning to follow Jesus teaching, you can become a spiritual wizard.
And just for the record, I don’t believe in the church’s version of a literal Hell. The Christian Church created this using about a dozen of sayings from Matthew. And they are Matthew’s words which he placed on the lips of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was warning us of wasting our lives for that which is not real and winding up on a garbage heap. But even there, there can yet be redemption. Matthew was so interested in Hell because of his Jewish brethren who rejected Jesus as the Christ. So he consigned all such to eternal torment. And what a terrible legacy this has been for the Church. To believe in such a Hell is to devalue your fellow human beings. Despite what some evangelists say there is more to us than sin.
But if we seek to understand and follow Jesus’ way, we learn the magic of spiritual wizardry, much to our well being. A spiritual “wizard can turn fear to joy.” (Deepak Chopra). A wizard can do this in every moment and day. We all live with fears every day. If we don’t control these, they destroy us. When our oldest child started to kindergarten, the we experienced separation anxiety. We lived close to school so she walked to and from. I walked her in the mornings and being self employed I took time to meet her on the way home.
At my wife’s suggestion, I let her walk a little ways home by herself, and then I would meet her and visit with her till home. This was to let her feel a little independence, confidence and trust. Still for a little while I had fantasies of someone kidnapping her. My heart would freeze for a moment at these thoughts and then I would burn with rage that their could be such people.
Our fears of such loss are good as a warning system, for such happenings are possible for any of us. So once we have been alerted our fears serve no further useful purpose. They are imaginings and are not real. If they were real they would have already happened. And since they are unreal they can be removed. The wizard realizes that the only thing we can ever lose is that which unreal. The real, our loved ones and our love, are eternal and can never be lost. The wizard in this case turns the fear of possibly losing his child into the joy of having the child in this moment. He stays alert to possible danger but lives fully in the present moment enjoying the one he has to love and care for. This is real magic.
Darkness is unreal. Light is real. The smallest light destroys darkness, removes it. But the heaviest darkness cannot destroy any light. The wizard knows this and trusts the light of the Universe, of God, and reflects it to all others. Follow Jesus teaching and you will be the light of the world as he was and as a wizard of light to all others you will constantly turn fear into joy. Harry Potter ain’t go nothing on us!
Jesus was a reformer of the religious and political system of his day and it got him killed. It was not God’s will that he die on the cross. What kind of God or Father would demand their son to be crucified? What kind of merciful, loving God would demand that a terrible, horrifying price be paid before he would forgive anyone’s sin? People who oppose oppressive systems and promote the liberty of all often get killed by those in power as Jesus did, as Martin Luther King did, as Mahatma Ghandi did.
Jesus was being our savior by reforming the world and improving our lives here and now with the reality of God Consciousness. He was not just dying for our sins to pay for them. He died because of our sinfulness as humanity. It often kills righteous reformers. His way of God Consciousness is a way of healing relief of pain and suffering and emotional freedom from blaming and feeling blame and guilt here and now.
The first principle of living a miracle filled life of God Consciousness is realizing that you are connected to all in the universe, to God himself. You and I are important ripples in the fabric of the cosmos. By Grace we are made in God’s image and we are co-creators with god in building better lives and a better world, in building both the spiritual and material affluence that we need. An instrument of thought to meditate upon and help you realize this God Consciousness is: “The core of your being is the ultimate reality, the root and ground of the universe, the source of all that exists.” (Deepak Chopra, “The Spontaneous fulfillment of Desire”).
The core of your being is your soul, which is your essence or consciousness which never dies. This consciousness is your true self which is connected to the True Self which is God. God is the Divine Consciousness that holds every atom of the universe together. Being born again is becoming aware that you are already connected to God and thus the universe, for God is omnipresent.
Since we are thus connected, the core of our being “is the ultimate reality, the root and ground of the universe and the source of all that exists,” (ibid) for you are connected to the eternal consciousness. For this reason the God Conscious Jesus of Nazareth can be correctly imagined as saying, “I Am.” And Jesus wants us to awaken to the fact that we have our existence by grace in God. Our consciousness is rooted and grounded in Him. Becoming aware of this we realize that by grace we co-creators with God of healing, freedom, and whole new worlds of love and affluence for ourselves and others.
Jesus taught that we can only know the Kingdom or rule and power of God in our souls. Thus to know our true self is to know the Kingdom of God within us. The Kingdom only comes in our consciousness. It does not come physically to the earth as a material government. This teaching is a product of the early Jewish Christians hopes that a material kingdom would come and exalt God’s people on earth. It is a false hope that they placed on the lips of Jesus four to seven decades after his death and resurrection. Paul and other New Testament teachings about this physical kingdom and physical return of Christ were wrong and the church until modern times has generally failed to see this in its majority opinion. Good historical modern biblical scholarship is correcting this fallacy. Christ comes to live in us in our consciousness. This is our second coming of Christ and it is all sufficient for us if we awaken to the Kingdom of God within us.
When we meditate, pray and constantly affirm our unity with God we increase our God Consciousness and we find that the core of our being is the ultimate reality where miracles constantly occur as amazing coincidences that are God’s messages to us. This is joyful living in unity and peace. It is healing, comfort and relief from suffering now. This miraculous answered prayer guides us and strengthens us daily and it comes from God Consciousness that Jesus came to awaken us to. He desired that we be one with one another and one with God as he was. This is when we discover that the Universe is a very friendly place for us.
There is a great deal of violence in the Bible. Actually it has more violence than the Koran. Throughout history people have used the Bible to justify horrible acts. The Crusades with their war, raping, and looting in the name of Christ is one example of this. Jews, Christians and Muslims have a duty to establish an interpretive tradition that emphasizes the good, helpful, healing features of their scripture study traditions.
We all must study by constructing a canon within the canon that moderates hatred and builds compassion. Biblical fundamentalism is bigoted, biased and inaccurate as is secular fundamentalism in its views of religion. All the great scholars of scripture have taught that we must interpret all scripture in a way that promotes love and respect of others. We must listen to all who differ from us with respect for always we have many things in common. But we are as a society talkative and opinionated and not good at listening.
We want immediate answers to everything. This is egotistical and self destructive. In most televised debates you can see that the opponents are not listening to each other and weighing it carefully but rather formulating how to destroy their opponent. But the other guy is always much the same as we are.
It would do no harm and great good to interpret all of the Bible as commentary upon the Golden Rule. Then we could take the violent scriptures as illustrative of what happens when we do not keep the Golden Rule central. This would be the only value then that we give to the violent scriptures. Remember the Hippocratic Oath and John Wesley’s first General Rulee of Order, “First, do no harm.”
All of the major religions teach that the constant practice of compassion will lead us to God, Nirvana, and the Dao (the Way). So an exegesis of Love must become our interpretive method. We desperately need it.
Do you remember the grand old poem of “Abu Ben Adam”? He was visited by the recording angel one night and told that his name was not on the list of those that loved the Lord. At this He smiled and told the angel then to write him down as one who loved his fellow man. The next night the angel returned and lo Abu Ben Adam’s name led the list of all who loved the Lord!
This concludes my articles on the history of the Bible and its usage. I will start another series on Jesus mission to us.
My articles on how the Bible developed are meant to show how we should use the Bible in the furure for best results. My next few articles will deal with this future usage.
The history of the Bible’s development and usage shows that many modern attitudes about the Bible are incorrect. Never has the Bible promoted slavish conformity. But often it is used that way. Rabbi Eliezer of the Jewish tradition taught that not even the voice of God from heaven could be used to force a student to accept another person’s interpretation.
From its very its very beginning the books of the Bible contradicted each other with conflicting visions. The Talmud, two Jewish commentaries, the Jerusalem Talmud completed in the early fifth century CE and the Bavli or Babylonian Talmud finished in the sixth century CE, was a text that you had to interact with and each person derive their own interpretation, their own answers. As Hans Frei correctly taught, the Bible has always been a subversive text challenging us to challenge the social, political and spiritual status quo of our own time. Ever since the prophets Amos and Hosea, the Bible has distrusted and opposed orthodoxy.
Today most groups choose proof texts to sanction their viewpoint. But this is totally out of step with the interpretative history of the Bible. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a modern biblical scholar, beautifully taught that scripture was not a text but an activity of interaction, which if you faithfully pursued it, would bring you to a sense of transcendence, a sense of more than this life, time and material existence. The Bible’s main purpose was never to back up doctrines or beliefs but bring us to the heart of the universe which is loving compassion.
Fundamentalists teach a literal interpretation which is actually a modern emphasis. Historically, figurative and innovative interpretation was preferred. For example the Bible has no single teaching of creation. And rarely was Genesis 1 ever used as a factual story of the universe’s origin. “John Calvin insisted that the Bible was not a scientific document and that those who wanted to learn astronomy or cosmology should look elsewhere.” (Karen Armstrong, The Bible, p. 223).
Throughout history different programs of behavior have justified themselves with different texts. On the question of Christ in the fourth century CE Arius said he was begotten of God and not co-equal and co-eternal with God while Athanasius said Jesus was God of very God and therefore God was an eternal Trinity. Athanasius won the battle on this at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE and Arius was excommunicated even though a good percentage of the church agreed with him and followed his teaching. It was here that the trinity was officially born, to be imposed on all Christians thereafter. Most of our Christian doctrine was born of the group that had political power and not because it was sent from God. There was no clear biblical solution to this argument so the church drew its thoughts from other sources that had little connection to the Bible.
Other examples: The Bile has been used to support slavery and free slaves at the same time, to support the subordination of women to men and to push for their emancipation. Jesus and Paul, in his seven authentic New Testament letters, pushed the equality of women. But the pastoral epistles, I and II Timothy and Titus, which are definitely second century forgeries in Paul’s name, totally demanded women to be submissive to men in all things. Ephesians, also a Pauline forgery, in a kinder way supports the same subordination of women. On so many things there is no clear answer directly from scripture. The scriptural rule of loving kind compassion as our central guideline of interpretation must always be consulted and we must be open to truth in other religions and in science, history, philosophy and all other disciplines. The way of the Lord Jesus implies that our spirituality must ever be evolving.
Christian exegetes who explain, critically analyze and interpret scripture continue to see Christ as the heart of the Bible. Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88)saw Jesus, as well as scripture, as God’s Word in human form. God is knowable and shows himself in understandable terms. However, we must constantly wrestle with difficult biblical texts because they are indispensable to us. The Bible gives archetypal stories of encounters between God and people. These stories act as model and pattern that describe all divine -human encounters. They are mythical stories but provide a prototype of how each of us encounters God in real life. Thus they help and inspire readers to pursue the divine as the most important of dimension of our lives. These stories seize the imagination like a great play or work of art. But it is impossible to draw once for all definitive fundamentals of theology or doctrine of God. They are a doorway into spiritual experience but not a blueprint that explains everything. We are never totally able to pin down absolute truth by studying the Bible. We can experience what we are able to receive. This is great but it is always open ended with more to discover and learn. But scripture is still authoritative for everybody from the Pope on down. There is a call and critique that each Christian has a duty to summon the Church to adhere to, if it sees it departing from the spirit of these stories, the spirit of the gospels.
Hans Frei (1922-88), converted from Judaism and became an Episcopal priest and Yale professor. He pointed out that in pre-critical times most people assumed the Biblical stories were historical. But after the eighteenth century Enlightenment this consensus broke down. Some did not partake of Enlightenment studies and saw the biblical stories as purely factual, forgetting that they originated as stories to give us a foundation and point to the spiritual path. Jesus was most surely a historical figure but when you study the gospel narrative of the resurrection closely it is impossible to declare what exactly happened. Frei taught that the Bible must be read with a sustained contemplation of our own times. That is read it in the historical light of our own times, juxtaposing the gospel with current scholarly knowledge and follow the spirit and attitude of the gospel as we dig deeply into the complexity of current events.
We must remember there are no easy interpretations. We must always remember the Bible and Jesus are always subversive of the power structure of society and church because they are nearly always oppressive. The Bible stories should never be used to back up the ideology of the establishment which always produces some form of enslavement. The spirit of the gospel story helps us expose the hopes, claims and expectations of our time and destruct and refashion them according to the spirit of Jesus.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith (1916-2000), formerly professor of Comparative Religion at Harvard said we must understand the Bible historically. It is impossible to understand what the Bible really means because its verses have all been interpreted in so many different ways. But people of faith, Jews and Christians, have used the biblical story to work out their own salvation within the confines of their particular stage of history with its particular circumstances. And so we can ever do if we will just follow its spirit which opens us to God and not its letter which self destructs us.
Michael Fishbane, a great modern Jewish modern Bible scholar has some sound and beautiful insights. The central theme of his work is that the Bible constantly reinterprets itself and corrects its errors which must be done in each era for it to be a living book. We must not give in to our sinful desires for security and power over others and exalt the Bible to perfection making it the equivalent of a Protestant pope. Only do we find salvation from the Bible by discovering its core message in each era and living it in the best light we can, do we find peace and salvation from its message.
Here is an example of Fishbane’s insight. It is something few ever notice. Isaiah saw all nations making their way to Mount Zion, the city of peace, saying, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh…that he may teach us his ways…since the law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of Yahweh from Jerusalem.” Micah 1: 1-5 qouted these words because he looked forward to a universal peace when the nations would speak gently to one another. But he added an audacious coda that few notice. He said that each nation, including Israel, “will go forward each in the name its own gods. Micah hoped for a time when multiple visions would begin converging on a common truth which is found in the Bible’s best efforts to portray God.
I think this vision of Micah’s is working in the world. I hope it comes to fulfillment soon. There are ways in which all religion points to the ultimate reality of God, The Divine Consciousness that holds the universe together. a
Fundamentalists are often loud bullies because they are afraid but in their aggression they tend to gab the headlines while moderate and progressive scholars work quietly away before they get major recognition and then the fundamentalists ignore or condemn them.
Modern biblical scholars have tried to revive traditional biblical spirituality in a more peaceful spirit. Jewish scholars have provided some of the most wholesome thought. Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber (1878-1965) believed the Bible witnessed to God’s presence at a time when he seemed absent. Study and interpretation of the scriptures could never stand still because the Bible represented an ongoing dialogue between God and humans. A transformed lifestyle must come from Bible study. To truly open the Bible we must be ready to be changed by what we hear. Buber pointed out that the rabbis called scripture a miqra, “a calling out.” We are to hear from the Bible a call to become involved in the world’s problems and determine to stand fast and be tuned in to the undercurrent of events.
Franz Rosensweig (1886-1928) was also a Jew and a friend of Buber. He agreed that the Bible pushes us to face the crises of the present. Readers of the Bible must respond to its “calling out.” We are to hear from the Bible a call to become involved in the world’s problems and determine to stand strong as we tune in to the undercurrent of events.
Franz Rosensweig (1886-1929) was also a Jew and a friend of Buber. He agreed that the Bible pushes us to face the crises of the present. Readers of the Bible must respond to its “calling out” as the prophets and cry out “Here I am”- volunteering to face the reality at hand. He concluded that the Bible was not a preordained writing. “Our daily lives should illuminate the Bible, and in turn the Bible will help us to discover the sacred dimension of our day to day experience.” He taught that modern people could not respond to the Bible as those generations before them. Each of us needs the new covenant described by Jeremiah wherein the law of God is written within our hearts. Each of us must appropriate and internalize in patient, disciplined study the core message of scripture which is “get involved in loving the world to betterment.”
Michael Fishbane, a Chicago Jewish scholar, pointed out historical criticism is good, helpful scholarship but it is not enough to transform the heart. Each person’s inner world is created by fragments of many different texts from the Bible and other great works of literature. These different fragments fluidly group together and react to one another and form a system of thought. The Bible does not exist in our minds in its entirety but in fragmentary form. We each create our own canon within a canon. And if we insure that our collection of texts is good, helpful, love centered then our thinking is full of power and good to bless others and ourselves.
This is how all the great helpful systems of Christian thought have been created throughout history. They are collections of synchronized fragmentary texts such as Norman Vincent Peals’ wonderful system of Positive Thinking that has bettered the lives of millions and ministers today through its literature, caring and prayer programs to 89,000 people daily. Systems of helpful thought like this have always been built by synchronizing a selection of benign texts to teach love, joy, hope and overcoming power. In all these systems the negative aspects of the Bible story are rightly skipped over. Historical criticism helps to distinguish the benign texts from the destructive ones. The selecting of the benign texts comes simply then from a devotional reading of scripture as Dr. Peale did.
The historical study of the Bible shows that there were many different aggressive competing visions of the Lord’s main agenda. But we can read the Bible as a prophetic commentary on our world of raging orthodoxies and find a compassionate distance from destructive strident dogmatism, substituting for it a loving pluralism. Also, we can, from selecting fragments of scripture build a liberating, loving and creative personal philosphy of life. We do not need aggressive dogmatism.