The Hidden Meaning of Noah and the Ark; Part I

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With the recent release of Darren Aranofsky’s “Noah,” much discussion and controversy has been bandied about concerning the film’s biblical accuracy and the director’s artistic license. For anyone who saw the film, certainly they can attest that Aronofsky’s version doesn’t follow the biblical narrative “note for note,” but whether or not that is acceptable is up to each individual. For those who see the Bible as a book of literal history, “Noah” will be at worst heresy, at best confusing. For those who understand the Bible as a literary record of God’s acts in history (and in this case, pre-history), “Noah” will be seen as a Midrash, the Jewish tradition of storytelling that explores the ethics and values in the text, often using “what if” scenarios to flesh the story out (this is Aranofsky’s own approach). But for those who understand that the Bible is also trying to tell us something that not only happened “once upon a time” but is always happening, Preston Harold has something to say that will delight you. I will quote him at length…

The Noah legend depicts most dramatically a “recital” of all man has known in animal life, even as it enfolds, poetically and with a surprising degree of accuracy, aspects of the birth process, as may be seen in the following parallels:

When the ovum is pierced by the sperm, development of a very special growth called the placenta, cake, because of its shape, begins. When Noah is pierced by the Word of God, he goes to work and following most explicit instructions builds a very special structure upon high ground: the ark.

Through the umbilical cord that connects the embryo and placenta, the embryo derives oxygen and food; it develops its own blood, circulatory, and digestive systems – that are at all times quite distinct from its host’s. Noah was instructed to build a “window” and a “door” in the side of the ark, “and take unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shall gather it to thee, and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.”

The inner membrane of the ovum, or amnion (lamb), fills with a pint or more of water. In this the embryo floats. The ark (incorporating both placenta and embryo in symbolic form) is set afloat as the waters rise, Noah and his company shut within it.

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As the embryo develops into fetus, soma or “body” cells multiply by division, assuming special shapes to fit them to form the tissues and organs of the body. Noah’s company may be seen as a group of “body cells: there in reproductive capacity, and the company may be seen also as a sort of recital of all man has known in the realm of animal flesh, Noah and wife, his sons and their wives, representing the factors that carry the genetic code. The legend says that when the company of “body cells” comes forth, all are “after their kinds,” or are “arranged in families” – as are the soma cells which form the tissues and organs.

With the spilling of the birth waters, the fetus emerges from the womb to the dry ground of life. Noah waits until the waters have drained away and then his company emerges in a body, leaving the ark behind as the placenta is “after birth.” By the time the fetus is past the seventh month, its body is basically complete; but it is not uncommon for the fetus to delay until well into the tenth month before emerging. The legend says that by the seventh month, the “ark is grounded,” but the story enfolds also the lengthier term – “till the tenth month the waters steadily subsided, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains were seen.”

So what happens after the emergence onto dry land: the birth of the human being? We will consider that in our next post. Until then, peace…

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The Mystery of Mankind

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The biggest question human beings can ask is the question of existence.  Who are we and why are we here?  Is there a reason?  Is it all just meaninglessness and nonsense?  Lots of people have claimed to have the answer to the delight or consternation of many.  In his “Cipher of Genesis,” Carlo Suares muses that once you really try to comprehend your true beginning and why you are here, you come upon a brick wall of meaningless that is utterly hilarious.  There really is NO reason; nothing “out there” will provide the answer!  And it is then that you become born of God, your search for meaning truly beginning as you are left to find it completely within yourself.  Preston Harold tells us the Bible doesn’t tell us in a scientific, objective way where we come from but rather WHO WE ARE.  And WHO WE ARE still remains a great mystery:

Ardrey observes, “Were a brotherhood of man to be formed today, then its only possible common bond would be ignorance of what man is.”  Perhaps the question of man can never be answered to the satisfaction of scientists, but as each man seeks to answer it to his own satisfaction there is a source to which he may return that by its very nature should inspire his confidence: humanity’s legends…  The Genesis legend may be viewed as telling the story of man from the dawn of life, retelling it through each day.  It tells the story from every point of view and it is also a mound of truth enfolding the inner facts of life just as a “Tell” enfolds artifacts that reveal the lives of those who built and rebuilt upon the same spot.

Even though science has gifted humanity with great strides in knowledge and will continue to do so (it has by no means exhausted its promise), it does have its limits.  Our author states…

 Freud’s contribution to knowledge cannot be denied, and the value of Darwin’s work is inestimable, but together their theories do not suffice to explain Homo sapiens.  

ImageFrom the beginning, Darwin’s theory was questioned by Wallace, who could find no explanation for the sudden, unparalleled growth of brain evidenced by man.  Adler added to Darwin’s theory Lamarck’s: that the least fit often survive and become superior.  But in the combination one still cannot find the germ through which was born in an animal the feeling of guilt for killing an enemy, the idea of a supranatural diety, and the concept of life after death.

And thus the need of Homo sapiens for legends and the search for meaning: 

…the Adam legend says that man was sired by an energy or spirit proceeding from a non-animal being.  ImageAlthough man is born into the animal world, he is of this cast only in the sense that all in creation is of the supreme Creator… Humanity’s legends, man’s pristine and continuing concept of God, of deathlessness, and his conscience make of him a mystery that science has scarcely touched upon and psychology has served only to deepen.  Freud wrote, “The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence, “ but in truth the man who does not ask this primary question – or who does not admit that he asks – is sick, sick of evasion of the only reality he knows: himself in being.

How many among us in this day and age are sick?  Kyrie Eleison.  ImageUntil next time, peace…

The Good Book

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As promised in my last entry, we will now look at the concept of a “book.”  Of course we know books as a collection of paper leaves, bound together in between two covers via a spine.  As Harold mentions, though, a book as we know it today did not exist in the ancient world, but rather was known as a roll – a scroll.  Psalm 40:7-8 says:

Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, Oh my God; your law is within my heart.

Notice the words in this prophecy: “I am,” “the book,” not a book, and “your law is within my heart.”  We have the name of God, the definitive article describing “book,” and the vital organ of the human body is described as the very dwelling place of God’s nature.  Where is this leading us?

Let’s skip ahead to the Book of Revelation.  In his masterful work, “The Apocalypse Unsealed,” James Morgan Pryse enlightens us as to the meaning of the “book,” or scroll.  We are directly confronted with this issue in Chapter 5…

1 Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; 2 and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” -Rev. 5:1-2Image

The scroll is a mysterious document which it has taken the God æons to write, a Bible which, when rightly read, discloses cosmic and divine mysteries. It is simply the human body, and its seals are the force-centres wherein radiates the formative force of the Logos.  These seals are the same as the seven Societies (Churches) and the lampstands.  The expression “written on the inside and on the back” refers to the cerebrospinal axis and the great sympathetic system.

So the human being itself is the book in which Messiah comes when a man’s consciousness is transformed from being grounded in his lower mind to his higher mind. Image This is done via the activation of the “force-centers,” or “seals” which run up the human spine. Isn’t it interesting that Pryse describes the human being as a “mysterious document – a Bible” which must be “rightly read to disclose cosmic and divine mysteries?”  Let’s remember what Harold says about the Bible itself…

The Bible, as Messiah, possesses glory, grace, and reality… In sum, it contains the expression of humanity: it is Homo sapiens’ complete picture of himself, from Genesis to Revelation.  Beginning with the advent of man’s realization of God-consciousness, symbolized in Adam, it reaches it’s climax in man’s realization of God incarnate in his being, symbolized in Jesus as Son of man, Lord, with which one’s consciousness may have but brief encounter – and then it bears witness to the transformation in consciousness this encounter evokes.

Notice that Harold understands a transformation of consciousness is of paramount importance here.  In the next post, I will explore this idea of transformation of consciousness as necessary if we are to correctly “open and read the book.”

Historical Judaic Messiah

What is the prophecy that Harold says “no man can fulfill?”  If Jesus in His person is not Messiah enough, then what else is needed?  For me, this is where THE SHINING STRANGER really started to get interesting.  Harold says:

Jesus appears to have realized that the Logos in man is man’s understanding of who and what he is, the “truth that I am” [not “the truth that I have”], and that the truth of man’s being is the truth that governs men; He appears to have understood also that if Messiah is to bear the truth of man’s being to humankind and dwell in a body among men, then words of truth must take a form of their own: Messiah could come only in the advent of a Book. By insisting that His words would not pass away, (Matt. 24:35) Jesus prepared the ground for His return in the advent of the book written of Him.  

This can certainly be a challenging statement.  Not impossible, but challenging!  Harold goes on to explain his point…

If one sees His second coming in the advent of the Gospels, the mystery of His statement, that the disciple, John, was to survive until He “came back,” (John 21:20-22) is reconciled… Jesus lived until his record was set forth – that is, John’s understanding of Jesus lived until Jesus came back and spoke again in The Gospel According to Saint John.

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Well, THAT is certainly an interpretation I’ve never heard before; and I LIKE it!  What else does our insightful author have to say about the Bible?  

The Bible, as Messiah, possesses glory, grace, and reality – not as THE only expression of the Logos in man, but as an only or one whole expression of it.  The Bible was centuries in the writing, product of authors widely separated in time, but it has a marvelous unity of thought although it has also many contradictions – as many as man himself.  It continues to be the most controversial book in the Western world because, like man, it is a supreme paradox. Image In sum, it contains the expression of humanity: it is Homo sapiens’ complete picture of himself, from Genesis to Revelation.  Beginning with the advent of man’s realization of God-consciousness, symbolized in Adam, it reaches it’s climax in man’s realization of God incarnate in his being, symbolized in Jesus as Son of man, Lord, with which one’s consciousness may have but brief encounter – and then it bears witness to the transformation in consciousness this encounter evokes.

What a beautiful description of the world’s most popular book!  And an effective vaccine against fundamentalism of all stripes!  

Oh yes, what about that prophecy?!  Here it is:

Thou hast no desire for sacrifice or offering;

it is a body thou hast prepared for me – 

in holocausts and sin-offerings thou takest no delight, 

So I said, “Here I come – in the roll of a book

this is written of me – 

I come to do thy will, O God.

(Psalm 40:6-8 and Hebrews 10:5-7)

We’ll finish today’s post with Harold’s understanding…

In Jesus’ time, a book was a roll – a scroll… Jesus gave this command:

“Go and learn the meaning of this word, I care for mercy, not for sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13)

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Thus, one must seek to understand His mission through the prophecy quoted above, for in the face of this command, He cannot be viewed as seeing Himself in terms of a sacrifice or sin-offering.  …if Messiah is to fulfill this Scripture, the one who filled the Messiah role could not be an atoning Lamb to ransom man, a sacrifice for man’s sin.  

Viewed in another light, the poetic words of this prophecy also say that Messiah’s advent is in the “roll of the book” written of the one who comes, a prophecy no man could fulfill.  If Messiah is to “tell us all things,” only a book encompassing the words spoken by countless truth-bearers to span the last reach of human consciousness could be Messiah to all men.

The “body…prepared for me,” for the one whose work would bring forth the book, is to be seen in the Scriptures into which Jesus wove His life and words, but it is in the volume of the book “written of me” – God, Son in man – that Messiah, the Bible, comes, comes as a roll, as a wave that surges upon the shores of the world through fulfillment of the missionary task Jesus imposed.  Through the Bible, He came back.  Through it, historical Messiah comes, fulfilling the Judaic promise to bear the whole body of truth to man: the truth embodied in man’s sacred writings in every language, in legends, for all these speak the same word and the Bible enfolds their like.

And there we have it.

At this point on our journey I’d like to step aside a bit and look further into the concept of a “book.”  We’ll do that in the next couple of posts.  Before that happens, though, I’m taking a week off for Holy Week/Spring Break.  Have a blessed Easter, and I will see you in April.  Until then, peace…

THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 3

It’s time for the last of our 3 foci, “the objective.”

To understand the objective of THE SHINING STRANGER, we will all have to become poets.  But what exactly is a poet?  Of all the definitions I’ve heard, I enjoy Dr. Cornel West’s the most:

The great (Percy) Shelly used to say that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ What did he mean by that?  He wasn’t talking about versifying.  To be a poet in the most profound sense is to have the courage to release your imagination and your empathy…

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True poetry is full of contradictions, paradox, mystery, conundrums, and riddles.  Many people say the Bible cannot be trusted because it contains many contradictions.  Others say “if the Bible says it, it must be so,” and can’t see any meaning beyond the plain sense of the text.  Both sides are barking up the wrong tree.  Harold says…

Dr. Henry A Murray writes that an “important fact not generally acknowledged is…the Bible is poetry, in its best parts, magnificent and edifying poetry….Some devout Christians overlook the fact that the stirring and sustaining power of the Book they live by depends on the wondrous emotive language, the vivid imagery and figures of speech, with which its wisdom is transmitted….If the New Testament…had been written by a modern social scientist in the jargon of his profession, it would have died at birth.”

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As does (George) Santayana, Dr. Murray sees that the playing down of the “crucial import of the Bible’s poetry,” hand in hand with the playing up of its historicity, is the greatest fallacy of Christianity, for thereby the scope of its traffic with and judgement of reality is severely limited.  Poetry does not obscure fact – it presents it in words that act as leaven in the mind to make room for it to house there.  Poetry is dazzling in its completely open and full use of words that have, as John Ciardi puts it: “…far more meanings than anyone thinks about in reading factual prose.  A word is not a meaning but a complex of meanings consisting of all its possibilities: its ability to identify something, the image it releases in making that identification, its sound, its history, its associations-in-context…” (emphases mine)

Plato equated poetry with creation: “All creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making.”  Poetry comes from the subconscious, and Harold sees in Jesus the universe’s Poet Laureate…

Jesus spoke poetically, but if His words are true they must be a correct, albeit poetical, description of reality.

Until a man has grasped the full implication of Jesus’ words, “the kingdom of God is within you,” he cannot begin to understand Him.  His every word is predicated upon this revelation.  It is the woking of the inner kingdom He reveals.  If the kingdom of heaven is within, there is no heavenly place of the abode for the “redeemed” to go – the realm of heaven is now an individual state of being, a potential mankind shall in time realize.  It is inward reality as opposed to the outward illusiveness of life (and of matter, which Jesus proclaimed long before the physicists discovered it).

Jesus saw life to be infinite, saw that man’s religions form one-to-one correspondences of truth, and that each man is a one-to-one correspondence with God, truth, life, and with each other man.

Jesus saw the Ten Commandments as classical psychic law.  He realized, however, that quantum psychic law underlies the classical law, and this secondary law governs the inner, real life of the individual – this is the law he enunciated.

In saying that the kingdom of God, an unknown realm, is within each person, Jesus proclaimed the existence of that psychic reality now called the unconscious – revealed its working and power.  He made of Himself a symbol of the Authority within this psychic realm: the vital Self-of-selves abstracted from consciousness for which man yearns – which is unto each his own, “the Lord, your God.”

Jesus strove to heal the breach in man’s thinking upon reality, strove to rejoin the divided physical and spiritual realms, saying, poetically, that the energy which gives life to man is, potentially, in a “stone.”  Identifying Himself and mankind with primordial energy, light, He dramatized and phrased in poetic terms the most important of the secondary laws of physics, enfolding His answer to the question of the universe in the sign positive (+)….whether by design or because he knew how to tap the fount of truth in His unconscious, He presented in drama, symbol, and poetry the underlying physical and psychic laws that are today being revealed.

From these observations Harold derives the objective of THE SHINING STRANGER:

The objective, then,  is not to present one or several new aspects, but rather a whole new concept of Jesus, for, as Albert Schweitzer points out, “What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.”

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One here is reminded of GK Chesterton’s quote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Although THE SHINING STRANGER is a difficult work, we will not leave it untried.  I hope we are up to the challenge ahead of us.  Until next time, peace…

THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 1

The title of Chapter 1 gives us three foci, of which we will explore in order of importance.  Today’s post will focus on “the problem:”

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The decline of Christianity, religion of the West, bespeaks the decline of faith in the Pauline interpretation of Jesus’ meaning to mankind…

Jawaharal Nehru states: “Essentially, our problems are those of civilization itself.  Religion gave a certain moral and spiritual discipline; it also tried to perpetuate superstition and social usages.  Indeed, those superstitions and social usages enmeshed and overwhelmed the real spirit of religion.  Disillusionment followed.”

The pace of Christianity’s decline, in terms of declining beliefs in its tenets, accelerates.  J.B. Priestly writes: “…if we all joined a Christian Church tomorrow the fundamental situation would be unchanged, because no church existing today has the power – and we could not give it this power by joining it – to undo what has been done…the symbols no longer work, and they cannot be made to work by effort on a conscious level…No matter what is willed by consciousness, that which belongs to the depths can only be restored in the depths.” (emphasis mine)

The depths, huh?  Well then, can psychology help?

Today, psychologists explore and interpret the depths of man, but thus far psychology serves only to present again in professional terms the notion of original sin…man is victim of primordial sex drives incorporated in his being when he is expelled from the paradise of the womb.

(Psychology) cannot defend man against the dehumanizing collectives, or restore in his depths the hope that declines as religion declines – indeed, the human problem is compounded by psychologists theories, and man must seek defense against them.

But…

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Freud and those who followed in this field opened Pandora’s box, but they also presented humanity with vital knowledge, which must be dealt with now, just as nuclear power must be dealt with now – and just as the vacuum created by the decline of religion must be dealt with now, for in Priestly’s words, “it is doubtful if our society can last much longer without religion…”

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Harold believes that for Christianity to thrive, it must look past the Pauline interpretation which has dominated the past 2000 years, and try to make sense of Jesus’ words in the light of today’s knowledge and understanding. As a fan of Paul rightly understood I have a bit of a problem with this, but let’s let Harold have his say…

In orthodox theology, St. Paul’s compelling interpretation of Jesus is highlighted against the background of the disciples messages, obscuring much of their content.  The pre-eminence of Pauline doctrine precludes the idea that there could be another valid concept of Jesus and His mission.  But in the four Gospels another view of Him is precisely drawn, a view as natural and different from the Pauline concept as non-Euclidian geometry is natural and different from Euclid’s.  Since the advent of the Bible, which drew together fragments of His picture, this answer to the question of Jesus has lain before men’s eyes.  It is an answer St. Paul could not give.  In the early days of Christianity only a hint of it could be discerned, and was discerned by Saul of Tarsus – his mighty work is not to be decried.  Nor could this answer been given by those who followed and through the ages developed the Christian religion.  Indeed, not until the twentieth century, when the writings of Darwin, Freud, Einstein and many other scientists had been circulated throughout the world, and science had suffered it’s great revolution, and mathematicians had been freed of the limitations of Greek thought, could the concepts of Jesus to be offered in this study evolve as His own words, works, and drama are measured against the data now available.

After reading the book, it is my understanding that Harold’s problem with Paul doesn’t rest so much on Paul’s actual doctrine, but rather what the Church teaches regarding Paul and it’s understanding of his message.  But Harold will still take us into uncharted, ripe territory, and if he had to bypass his understanding of Paul in order to do so, I am certainly willing to forgive him.  The fruit is delicious!

Harold leaves us on a positive note concerning our present problem:

The problems confronting man in the twentieth century are colossal, but opportunity looms equally large: “…the present situation is a new one, in which new facts and new knowledge are available over new fields to an unprecedented extent, and could be distilled to provide us with the truth that alone can set us free.” – Julian Huxley

In the next post we will explore the crucial questions, and then move on to the objective of the book.  Until then, peace…