Sep 202007

As I sat down to write a continuation on how the Bible came to be distorted into something more than it was, I would first direct the reader to my previous posts on the topic of bibliolatry. Those posts can be found at:

What probably bears some mention is the effect that the Protestant Reformation had upon this issue. I have to be cautious here, because of my Catholic background, of simply writing the whole Protestant Reformation off as a colossal mistake, so let’s be clear about how necessary it was that SOMETHING had to change.

The authority structure of Christianity had become extremely rigid by this time. The Dynamic Quality of the Spirit mentioned in the earlier articles had solidified into authoritarian structures of Static Quality, and these centered around the persons of the Pope and his Bishops. While not formally declared infallible until Vatican Council 1 centuries later, the Pope was regarded as having divine power and prerogative to dictate the truth in religious dogma and moral practice.

It was clear, particularly to the more educated class of men who had access to the texts of scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, that the doctrine and practice of the Church was becoming more and more removed from the Dynamic Quality of the teachings of Jesus. Rather than embracing the uncertainty and ambiguity of Dynamic Quality, however, the Reformers opted for a somewhat unfortunate alternative – opposing one form of artificially absolute authority with another artificially absolute authority.

Episcopal Bishop Spong, whom I suspect I’d have a lot of disagreements with in many areas, nevertheless describes this situation very cogently:

“Martin Luther, on seeing corruption he could not ignore at the heart of the church, moved to challenge that which he felt distorted the gospel. He sought to confront the authority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy with Holy Scripture and in this manner to recall the church to the purity of his perception of the New Testament vision. Luther wanted to purge his beloved church of superstition, clerical manipulation and false doctrine. His was a crusade which began in a sincere religious conviction…. When Martin Luther countered the authority of the infallible pope, he did so in the name of his new authority, the infallible Scriptures. This point of view was generally embraced by all of the Reformation churches. The Bible thus became the paper pope of Protestantism. Protestants historically have matched every extravagant papal claim with an equally extravagant biblical claim.” (“Hope and Fear in Ecumenical Union” – John Shelby Spong)

Historical circumstances, in other words, forced the Bible into an impossible position. It could not simply be regarded as sacred or inspirational writing, but had to be artificially invested with an infallibility equal to the Papacy it was challenging, in order to provide believers with the static certainty they craved in their religious beliefs. But that certainty comes at a rather high price. Quoting from Spong again:

“Hiding behind claims of revealed truth that were not allowed to be questioned and of infallible authority that could not be challenged, Christians have condemned Galileo, Copernicus, Darwin, Freud and many other great breakthrough thinkers in the various fields of an exploding human knowledge. Seeking to protect power and authority, Christians have had to be literally dragged by the knowledge revolution into the 20th century.”

I believe, on the contrary, that while the static documents of the Bible are invaluable – the heart of “faith” is not to clutch resolutely at a supposedly infallible standard. That is not faith, but fear – terror of the foreign territory into which God might lead us if we allow it. True faith, on the other hand, is to imitate the pilgrimage of Abraham and follow the lead of God, without knowing the destination in advance.

Sep 042007

A Paraphrased Parable

A successful businessman lived a few blocks from the Baptist church he attended. One Sunday, on leaving church, decided to cut through an alleyway as a shortcut on his way to a restaurant for breakfast. No sooner had he entered the alleyway when he was jumped by a gang of thugs who beat him badly and took his wallet, his watch, and even stripped him of his expensive suit. They left him half dead.

The pastor of the church walked by a few minutes later and noticed someone lying in the alley. “Drunken bums…” he muttered under his breath. “They never change”. And he hurried off. Not long after, the local Catholic Priest walked by, on his way to breakfast with a wealthy parishioner. He saw the man, but he was worried it might be a trap (and it would almost certainly make him late) and he hurried along.

But a cook from an all-night diner, on his way home from the night shift, walked down the alley and saw the man, and stopped. He was recently released from prison. In prison, he had become a Muslim and had amended his life. Remembering that Allah is merciful, he approached the man and saw that he was in serious trouble. Carrying him to a safe location, he phoned for an ambulance and accompanied the man to the hospital. Since the unconscious man had no identification, he even signed the paperwork promising to be financially responsible for the man’s hospital treatment. Shortly afterward, as he waited at the man’s side, the police arrived and he was taken to the police station to make a statement and answer many suspicious questions arising from his former criminal record.

Nevertheless, he returned to visit the man the next day and check on his progress and recovery.

Now, which of these three, the pastor, the priest or the Muslim, was truly following the teachings of Jesus?

There’s a story (perhaps apocryphal but instructive nevertheless) that a professor at a theological seminary once devised an experiment to force his students to examine their hearts. He asked them to prepare and deliver a sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan – then arranged that as each of them in turn was on his way to the auditorium to deliver the sermon, they would pass buy someone who appeared to be homeless and unconscious and had been strategically placed along the route. As you might have guessed, very few stopped to check on the man.

He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now. He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and doesnt know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

(1 John 2:9-11 WEB)

Apr 202007

The Church of the Holy Archangels is an independent ministry in the process of affiliation with the Home Temple under the jurisdiction of Bishop Lewis Keizer. 

In form we are part of the Independent Catholic movement, with lines of authority from most if not all of the surviving branches of apostolic succession. We administer the sacraments to any who wish to receive them, without membership or doctrinal requirements and without charge.

We have no fixed body of dogma, but reverence the Master Jesus. We believe his gift to us consisted primarily in spiritual power and transformation, rather than a set of statements of belief.

Our understanding of the spiritual world is not bound by any one tradition, but is influenced by many traditions, including orthodox Christianity, Gnosticism, Vedantism and other Eastern philosophies, and the teaching of various Esoteric Schools.

Sep 082006

Near the end of his life, Mark Twain said: "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” How many hundreds of hours have we spent agonizing over possible problems that never actually happened?


Ralph Waldo Emerson said it more poetically:


"Some of your hurts you have cured,

And the sharpest you still have survived,

But what torments of grief you endured

From the evil which never arrived."


The Peanut's character Charlie Brown is notorious for this kind of worrying. Eventually he said, “I’ve developed a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day at a time".


The Master Jesus doesn't want us to dread the future. Not even one day at a time. He wants to introduce us to the "Perfect love which casts out fear." He tells us in his teachings not to fear the future. Now the version of this we have in Matthew is a bit confused. It makes Jesus into Charlie Brown. Jesus says there, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Now I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a very good rendering of what Jesus actually said. Jesus never focused on troubles and he would hardly advise us to do so. I suppose if he had, we could make a fortune marketing the “Don’t Worry About Tomorrow” Christian day-planner. It wouldn’t have a calendar – just a page that says “Today’s Troubles”.


I suspect what happened was that some poor neurotic scribe a hundred years after Jesus read Jesus’ statement to “not worry about tomorrow” and thought “How can Jesus be serious? How can we not worry about tomorrow?? Oooohhh – it must be because there are so many horrible things to worry about TODAY!!” He apparently doesn’t notice that two verses earlier, Jesus tells us not to worry about TODAY either! Here’s how Bishop Keizer renders this entire teaching in the Simple Word of the Master Jesus:


“Therefore, do not WORRY (!) or say, what will we eat? Or, what will we drink? Or, how will we be clothed? For your Heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things. But seek first the guidance and justices of God’s INNER kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not fear the future; rather, entrust the problems of the day in prayer to the Father, and then act on Heaven’s guidance. For the transformed present will produce a transformed future.”


The Master Jesus wants our attention in the here and now. In the present moment – the only moment where we can actually change anything. The past doesn’t exist. The only contact you have with the past is in your memories – in the present moment. The future doesn’t exist. The only effect you have on the future is caused by your actions right here and now, in the present moment.


Does this mean we SHOULDN’T use an appointment calendar? No, that’s not what it means at all. It’s fine – even helpful, to use “time” for practical purposes. Who do you think worries more about tomorrow – the person who consults their appointment book and knows they have three appointments tomorrow – or the person who doesn’t HAVE an appointment book and THINKS they may have appointments tomorrow. The person without the appointment book may spend hours trying to remember where they are supposed to be and at what time, or making calls to find out.


Even if you aren’t consciously thinking about your appointments and things to do – if you don’t have a good planning and appointment system, your commitments will always be there in the back of your mind or in your subconscious, giving you a faint feeling of anxiety as your mind tries to keep track of everything. So the purpose of organizing your plans and appointments isn’t to worry about the future, it’s to NOT worry about the future. Once your mind knows that your commitments are captured in some external system that it knows you will check when you are supposed to – it can relax, and let you focus back on the present moment.


Of course, if organizing and reorganizing your day becomes your hobby – if you spend more time organizing than actually DOING, then you’ve let your organizing pull you away from the present moment.


So let’s get back to the present moment. Because the present moment is the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven


I’m going to make a statement that may seem extreme, but I ask you to consider it carefully. Almost all of our worry, fear, stress, frustration and anxiety comes from refusing to accept the present moment as it actually is.


Next time you’re worried about a relative or stuck in a traffic jam, notice your feelings. At the bottom of your frustration you’ll find a deep feeling of resentment and hostility against the reality of the present moment. When we worry about the future, what are we really doing? We may be rebelling against the fact that our reality has uncertainties in it. Or we are unhappy with our present reality and want to focus on our plans for the future – but they’re not coming fast enough. There are too many setbacks. We’re not getting out of this terrible present situation as fast as we’d like to. Or perhaps we fixate on the past to escape the present moment. We linger in the sweet sadness of memories of a past that we prefer to our current situation.


We fight and we resist and we run away from the only thing that actually exists – the present moment.


Why do we resist it so?


Well, one thing that may worry us is an idea in the back of our minds that if we accept the present moment, and are content with our current situation – we’ll never get out of it. We’ll be stuck here. Forever. We think that with our discontent we can bribe or threaten God into changing things for us. But if we let him think we’re content – he’ll just let us languish. That doesn’t say a lot of good things about our image of God, does it? It sounds like the kind of God who if we ask for bread will give us a rock. But it is love and gratitude that open the windows of heaven, not discontent.


If we drop our resistance to the present moment, does that mean we are stagnant? That we can’t change? Of course not! It means that our change begins with an objective, loving assessment of out situation as it really is. It’s like a person who falls into quicksand. By resisting – by flailing around like a lunatic – we only sink deeper – because our activity is irrational – not productive. But if we keep ourselves calm – if we don’t resist the reality of our situation, then we can plan our escape more efficiently. And the universe will help us. Perhaps we will notice a branch nearby that we can grab. Something we wouldn’t have noticed if we were flailing around. Perhaps we can explore the quicksand and find a gentle handhold or toehold somewhere. And we make progress.


The next time you find yourself in the grip of worry, or resentment or anger some other strong negative emotion, try this exercise – completely surrender to the present moment, including all its risks and possibilities. Don’t resist. Know that everything is just as it must be for the moment. Suspend your judgment of other people, or the situation or yourself.


What you will find is that a space opens up in the spiritual atmosphere. There’s a feeling like a fresh breeze blowing away your problems. You may still feel anxiety or some other emotion – but you won’t be lost in it. You won’t BE worried – you’ll be a person aware of experiencing a feeling of worry. And that’s a much different feeling. And when you do, you’ll find that your emotions will settle down. Negative emotions like worry don’t like to be watched. They’re bashful. Be the witness of your emotions instead of being possessed by your emotions.


Let’s come back to the present moment again. There is another reason we run away from the present moment. This reason is rooted in the nature of our being. It’s a metaphysical reason. That doesn’t mean it’s weird or complicated. Just the opposite. It means it’s so basic it’s sometimes hard to see.


The Master Jesus says that the Kingdom of God – God’s dominion or God’s dimension – is within you – within each of you. If you could reach down to your innermost nature, your heart of all hearts – you will find the presence of God. Your innermost essence – is God’s essence. That is the secret of all secrets. That is the core of all mystical teaching – the root of all true religion.


But this inner kingdom is hidden from us. It’s covered up by huge amounts of emotional turmoil and mental noise. Anyone who has seriously tried to practice meditation knows that – even when you don’t want it to – the mind keeps spewing out thoughts like some unwanted television set that’s impossible to turn off.


Eckhart Tolle tells a story of sitting on a bus next to a woman who was mentally disturbed. She was talking to an imaginary person in a loud and often hostile voice. Lots of profanity. She was a running stream of conversation. Later as he washed his hands in public bathroom, Eckhart thought to himself “I’m sure glad I’m not like that woman” – and the man at the sink next to him gave him a strange look. Then Eckhart realized he hadn’t THOUGHT the phrase to himself – he’d actually said it out loud!


We’re all “crazy people”. We all have a running stream of mostly useless, mostly repetitive thought going on in our minds all the time. The only difference is that the “normal” people manage not to let it come spilling out of their mouths – at least MOST of the time.


A lot of those thoughts are hopes and plans, and especially worries, about the future. They pull us like a strong swift current away from our grounding in the present moment. And it is in the present moment, and only there – that we can find the gateway into the inner kingdom of God.


You won’t find the Kingdom of God in some grandiose plan for the future.


You won’t find it in some cherished memory of the past.


God, your inner nature – is reality. And there is only one point of contact we have with reality – that pinpoint gateway – that eye of the needle, between the remembered past and the imagined future. The doorway to the kingdom of God that fills up the reality of the present moment.


Be in the present moment. Don’t think about it. Experience it. Surrender yourself in a complete and loving acceptance of the present moment, and the door begins opens to you. And behind the door is the essence of the Godhead, the Buddha Nature, closer to you than you are to yourself.


And as you become more at home in the present moment, you realize that you ARE the present moment. It is timeless. It has no past and no future. It is only now – eternally now. Forms and manifestations come and go. They appear in the field of Now and then they disappear – but the Now remains, and YOU remain – at peace in the vibrant energetic emptiness of God – wanting for nothing, worrying about nothing.


And here’s the paradox. When you seek first God’s inner kingdom, all the rest falls into place. The universe aligns itself to your purposes because you are aligned to the universe. Just at the moment when you begin to lose your desperate grasping after the external things of the world, the things you need begin to come to you almost without effort. And you can enjoy them fully – free of worry, because when they go, as all finite things do, they don’t take a part of you with them. You are connected to the source of all manifestation.


This is the kingdom of God, and the home country of all mystics. It’s a place where worries and problems subside, because you are no longer at odds with the purposes of God manifesting in your life. Many teachers of different traditions have commented on this.


Listen to the Catholic mystic St. Theresa describe it:


Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you

Everything passes / God never changes

Patience / Obtains all

Whoever has God / Wants for nothing

God alone is enough.


The Indian Guru Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said:


"You are all drenched for it is raining hard. In my world it is always fine weather. There is no night or day, no heat or cold. No worries beset me there, nor regrets. My mind is free of thoughts, for there are no desires to slave for."


And here’s one of the most famous quotes from “A Course In Miracles”


"Nothing real can be threatened.

Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God."


Put aside the unreality of your worries about the future, your longings for the past, your impatient desires. Surrender to the reality of this present moment.


And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.





















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Jul 282006

The Synoptics

Of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, even traditional scholars agree that and that Matthew, Mark and Luke were written first, and John written sometime later. Traditional scholars also know that Matthew, Mark and Luke include a lot of the same stories, events, teachings and viewpoints. For this reason, they are called the “synoptic gospels” the word “synoptic” meaning “seeing together” or “similar view”.

But these stories and events aren’t just similar, as one might expect. In many cases, they are word-per-word identical. Now any schoolteacher, presented with three reports that use many identical phrases, knows what’s going on. Someone is copying. The question is, who is copying whom? The synoptic writers could be copying from each other, or all of them could be copying from a common source or sources. This isn’t some modern skeptical viewpoint. As early as Augustine (who was no dummy after all) careful readers knew that someone had copied. Because Augustine accepted catholic tradition, he assumed that Mark and Luke had copied from Matthew.

But modern scholars aren’t as ready to accept catholic tradition. The gospel writers don’t even identify themselves after all. The title “The Gospel of Matthew” that you read in your printed Bible is simply a traditional title. The manuscript itself makes no claim to have been written by Matthew. The traditional authorship makes some sense in terms of the emphasis of each gospel. Matthew seems to have a Jewish slant, for example. But tradition needs validation. I’ll continue to call these authors “Matthew, Mark and Luke”, but we really aren’t sure who they are.

Who Copied Whom?

Scholars try to decide which sources are earlier – not by comparing the verses where they are exactly the same, but the verses where there are subtle changes. Either through early copying errors or slightly different emphasis, there are many examples where the synoptic gospel writers are slightly different from each other. Usually, two gospel writers agree and one will have a slight variation. This usually means the variation is NOT the original. For example, if I have three versions of a phrase:

1. Bill took a nap 2. Bill took a nap 3. Bill, being tired, took a nap

I can deduce that “Bill took a nap” was probably the original and “being tired” was a later addition to version #3.

When we apply this method to the synoptics, it turns out that Mark seems to be the original. Sometimes Luke changes something, sometimes Matthew – but rarely are Matthew and Luke in agreement against Mark. And in many of the cases where they ARE in agreement against Mark, the very earliest manuscripts are different, and the agreement is a later “patch up” job.

Mark Wrote First

So it appears, and the majority of scholars (though not all) think, that the author of Mark wrote his gospel first, and that the authors of Matthew and Luke each had a copy of Mark sitting in front of them when they wrote their gospels, and used Mark as a framework. This also seems likely from the fact that Mark is the shorter gospel. Compilers of scripture tend to add to their sources, not abbreviate them. They are reluctant to throw away anything that might be precious.

Matthew and Luke each added from their own sources in the framework Mark provided. Each of them added (somewhat contradictory) information about Jesus’ birth and genealogy for example, and added material about his passion.

The “Q” Source.

One of the things that both Matthew and Luke add to Mark are a number of “sayings” of Jesus. Once again, these sayings of Jesus are so similar in wording in Matthew and Luke that there must be a common source for them. Scholars call this common source “Q”, for “quella”, the German word for “source”. However, each gospel writer puts the sayings in different contexts. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, in Matthew 5, happens on a plain in Luke 6. Jesus saying which begins “are not five sparrows sold for a (two) farthings” is used by Matthew as part of Jesus instruction as he is sending out the twelve. In Luke it is part of a teaching to a much larger gathering. Why don’t Matthew and Luke seem to agree on when and where Jesus said these things?

The reason is that the source (“Q”) that Matthew and Luke are copying from is probably a collection of “sayings”. This was a popular form of ancient literature – the collected sayings of a wise man. Proverbs is an example of this kind of collection. Matthew and Luke had a collection of Jesus’ sayings in front of them, but no clue as to exactly where or when these sayings fit in the life of Jesus. So they put them into the narrative of Mark wherever each author thought they best fit.

Layers in the “Q” Source

Further study has shown that the “Q” source may consist of several layers of tradition, based on differences in language, style and theme. The very earliest of these (Q1) is primarily a collection of Jesus’ “wisdom” sayings. They are generally short, pithy sayings and parables and don’t have a lot of explanation surrounding them. The subsequent layers (Q2 and Q3) deal largely with apocalyptic themes and judgment against those who reject him, and are more verbose. For a scholarly reconstruction of what the “Q” source may have looked like, with the layers indicated, see:

All of this analysis is not to say that Matthew, Mark and Luke were doing anything wrong. They are not trying to take credit for someone else’s work (in fact, they write anonymously). They are simply trying to assemble the best history of Jesus they can provide from the sources they have available. Even a conservative view of scriptural inerrancy doesn’t demand that the gospels be in exact agreement about when and where Jesus made a particular statement. It’s of no importance to anyone’s spiritual condition to know exactly what altitude Jesus was at when he taught the Sermon on the Mount (Plain).

But having these educated guesses about the gospel sources is of help in analyzing other materials, particularly the Gospel of Thomas


The tentative dates, then, for these gospels and their sources is thought to be something like this:

Q1 – the mid 50’s AD Q2 – 60 to 70 AD Q3 – the mid 80’s AD Mark – 65 to 80 AD Matthew – 80 to 100 AD Luke – 80 to 130 AD

Jul 262006

I have said, at various times, that at the most basic level, God cannot be coherently denied. Here is what I mean.

I submit that there is no coherent way to deny the following premise:


Whether you hold with Descartes that it is the conscious self which undeniably exists, or prefer space-time as your bedrock – whether that which exists is a Platonic ideal or whether you are a solipsist and deny reality to anything but your own thoughts – SOMETHING out there (or in there) IS. It has reality. Put another way:

1B. Something is real

If the “real” exists – then there must unavoidably be a “reality” – a foundation of some kind for the “real” – which makes one thing REAL and another not. Some philosophers call this the “Ground of Being” but I find people get confused by “being”(they tend to think it implies consciousness) So let’s call this thing “The ground of reality” (just in case there are layers of it, let’s be clear that we’re talking about the foundational layer, whatever that may be).

The Ground of Reality – quite simply, is God. It is the Ultimate Object of Concern. Now you can object, quite rightly, that the Ground of Reality (let’s call it the GR) hasn’t been shown to have any of the qualities we associate with God. We haven’t proved that it is loving, or personal – and most certainly haven’t shown that it goes around thundering commandments from mountaintops. We know very very little about it so far. All we can claim at this point is that it IS, and that it is the Ultimate Object of Concern. Once you run into the GR, there is no further back you can go. This would still be enough, in my book, to make it the object of supreme awe or reverence. It would be “God”, even it it were a quite different God from what we imagine.

Now looking back at the “religious experience” line of inquiry, we find that one of the universals cropping up in descriptions of mystical experience is the idea that what is being experienced has the qualities of being the foundation of reality – the GR. Some examples:

“every being has a secondary existence of its own apart from the Godhead but that this disappears before the penetrating gaze of the mystic which uncovers the unity of essence behind it.” (Jewish)

“… God presents himself in the inmost depths of my soul. I understand not only that he is present, but also how he is present in every creature and in everything that has being, in a devil and a good angel, in heaven and hell, in good deeds and in adultery or homicide, in all things, finally, which exist or have some degree of being, whether beautiful or ugly” (Catholic)

“…He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them… “ (Protestant)

“He is the pure Being by which ‘that which is’ is. “ (Islam)

“There are three classes of devotees. The lowest one says, “God is up there,” and he points to heaven. The mediocre devotee says that God dwells in the heart as the “Inner Controller.” But the highest devotee says: “God alone has become everything. All things that we perceive are so many forms of God.” (Hindu)

“… we and all sentient beings fundamentally have the buddha nature as our innermost essence… “ (Buddhist)

“Worlds and particles, bodies and beings, time and space: All are transient expressions of the Tao” (Taoist)

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