Christ In You

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Postby anna » March 6th, 2005, 11:40 pm

Yes, yes, "life is simple, not easy" - aint' that the truth! :shock:

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Postby Ihavesayso » March 8th, 2005, 12:39 am

If there wern't "this," there would be "that," and all would still be well!

Believing does not make it so! - Arlo R. Hansen

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Postby That I am » March 8th, 2005, 3:29 pm

You're quite right! These are things you've got to experience DIRECTLY! Do YOU experience it directly, Ihavesayso?

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Postby Ihavesayso » March 8th, 2005, 9:01 pm

“Everything that happens is as normal and expected as the spring rose or the summer fruit; this is true of sickness, death, slander, intrigue, and all the other things that delight or trouble foolish men.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I cannot say it any better than that, That.

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Postby W4TVQ » March 14th, 2005, 4:17 pm

Anna, I've been quite interested in your observation that "With respect to the statement attributed to Jesus "I Am the Way", there are numerous individuals, both living and dead, before Jesus's time, and after, who have uttered the same words with the same conviction, the only difference being that most cultures prefer to limit that statement to their own chosen deity." I've gone back to refresh my memory concenring the Comparative Religions courses I had in seminary, and am interested to know to whom you refer. I could find no claim on the part of any teacher who actually existed to be God -- Buddha made no such claim, and Mohammed certainly did not. Nor did Confucius, nor Lao-Tse. Such claims were attributed to persons who did not actually exist, but were mythical figures, such as Krishna, and the gods of the Greek and Roman pantheons. And we can hardly count deluded people like David Koresh on the same level with any great teacher.

In none of the above cases was there ever either an incarnation or a resurrection. The Greek and Roman gods appeared in human form, but such appearances were rather like actors donning a costume; they did not identify with the human race.

The uniqueness of the Incarnation was that He Who is El Shaddai, the Creator Himself, identified intimately with us by becomng one of us, rather as if we were to see an anthill on a field destined to be plowed, and "became ant" to tell them to get out of the way. We are told that "the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Nor is there a resurrection in any other religion, aside from the myths concerning Osiris and/or Mithra, who did not exist but were merely mythical figures.

What sets Jesus apart, as I see it (and everything I post is my opinion, of course) is contained in the following: that
(1) He actually existed; there is no doubt of that;
(2) He claimed to be God -- not a messenger of God, but God Himself. The seven "I AM statements" (e.g., I am the Way, I am the Alpha and Omega) could only be taken by his hearers as an identification of Himself with the One they knew by the name I AM. He asserted that "I and the Father are one," and the words used indicate not merely a unity of mind but "one and the same thing." He also stated that "he who has seen Me has seen the Father." And He claimed to forgive sin, which His hearers knew only God could do -- that is why they tried to kill Him; they understood what He was claiming.
(3) He alone proved what He claimed by experencing actual death and rising from the grave to walk around and be seen my hundreds of people, then ascending into Heaven and now being seen and personally encountered by millions of people.
(4) He fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection ALL 300+ prophecies concerning Him in the Old Testament. The odds of anyone fulfilling even 48 of such prophecies are 1 in 10 to the 157th power!
(5) He still does what He did then, and fulfills His promise to empower His followers to do the same works, wherever He finds men and women with the faith to accept His commission.

The difference in the faith He left us and the faiths of the world's religions is that they call the hearer to a philosophy, and He calls men to Himself. Christianity is not a philosophy, a theology, a "Way," or anything else: it is simply and only a personal relationship with Jesus Himself. And still today there are "signs following" in the form of healing and in the restoration of countless hopelessly tangled and broken lives. The practicality of the faith is that which recommends it most: people with actual diseases need actual healing, not assurances and encouragment to go on suffering. Peope with broken lives need Divine power to overcome, not philosophies aobut the value of endurance. Encouragement and assurances are not wrong; they are simply not enough. I would have died fairly young, affirming my faith to the end, of progressive kidney failure; but I prefer to live and serve Him with kidneys that He healed in His great and gentle mercy. That's religion in the practical mode.

I rather like the way C. S. Lewis puts it, in the marvelous book Mere Christianity: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic -- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (That's the last Paragraph of chapter 3).

Well, that wraps up my long sermon. It is submitted with respect and love by
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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Postby zoofence » March 17th, 2005, 8:37 pm

Art, your recent post about C. S. Lewis and the statement "I am the way" and your post addressed to Anna raise important issues which have bounced around in my mind (for which I thank you) with the results listed below. They are presented here in random order, more or less, and I am fully aware that there is overlap and repetition throughout. Of course, it is all expressed as I see it; this is my opinion, even where not specifically so indicated, and is therefore binding on no one anywhere at any time.

1. It is virtually impossible for human beings to consider anything without “editing to suit our individual mentality” (as you put it). The human sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, etc.) retrieve energy waves (I am not a physicist, so please make allowances) which they report to the brain which translates them into words (thoughts) that we can understand and react to based upon our memories. For all practical purposes, that process is editing, and it cannot be avoided. The result of it is that each of us perceives the universe according to our own collection of existing thoughts. To be sure, in many instances, the perceptions of one another are very close, but not identical, and never devoid of personal bias or bent.

2. In the context of this discussion particularly, but as seekers generally, we need to remind ourselves that the man’s name was not Jesus Christ. I suppose no one knows what his name was for sure, but it was probably something like Issa Ben Yussuf (Ben Yussuf meaning son of Joseph). And, of course, Christ is not a name at all; it is from a Greek word meaning anointed, which is a reference to the oil anointing associated with the Hebrew concept of messiah. As you know, in early times the messiah was expected to restore the Davidic monarchy (which is apparently what Judas and perhaps others expected of the Gospels Teacher); only later did the concept take on its current eschatological meaning.

3. If Jesus Christ was not the man’s name, how should we address him? He himself answers that question: as Master or Teacher. That rings convincingly true to me, because every True Teacher I have come across has claimed, even demanded, the very same appellation. Their preference almost always (I say “almost” because, although I cannot think of an exception, I realize there probably are some) is to be called Master or Teacher or Guru or Swami or Sheikh or Rabbi or some similar title in other languages/cultures, but not by the name given to them by the parents of the physical body they seem to us to be inhabiting. Why? Because a Self-Realized Teacher (please replace “Self-Realized Teacher” with whatever term you prefer) knows what we only believe: that they are not the person we perceive them to be, but rather a direct, immediate, perfect manifestation or expression or embodiment (here I do not know the right word, if there even is one) of the Divine One. That is, Self-Realization is not a change from “being a separate person” to “being Christ”. Rather, it is (and, again, here I am perforce groping) the Sudden, Unattained, Gracefully Imparted and Revealed Knowledge that “being a person” never was, and “being Christ” is always so, without beginning and without ending. That Place has no name, and so is quite rightly addressed namelessly, by what it means to us (Teacher, Provider, Protector, Preserver, Restorer, and so on).

4. Therefore, at Self-Realization, Issa ceased to exist. When did that happen? He answers that question too: At the so-called Last Supper (it never ceases to amaze me that we label that magnificent moment not by its Cosmic Significance but by what it meant to us!). There, finally and totally, he released his bodily attachment and perception as he handed “the morsel” (which he himself identified as “my body”) to Judas, and said “what you are going to do, do quickly”. Of course, the Teacher knew what his disciple was going to do, which was, in effect, to give the earthly identity Issa to the earthly king, Caesar. (“Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.) How do we know this is the moment of Self-Realization? Again, the Teacher tells us: “Now is the son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified”. When was that again? Note that "now". Not at the virgin birth, not by the miracles, not at the crucifixion, not at the resurrection, but now, at that very moment. He is practically begging us to pay attention, something my own experience confirms that Teachers do all the time; they know that their disciples or devotees (or whatever word you like) are constantly “editing” everything they perceive to suit their own individual mentality, and so they beg us: Please pay attention! Please listen to me! And, no surprise, the Gospels report that the disciples at that table two thousand years ago did not understand what the Teacher was saying. Throughout the Gospels, the Teacher speaks of those “with ears to hear”; I believe this is what he is talking about: those with ears that are open, those who are really listening.

5. Like virtually all the True Teachers -- (I realize that, as I define the word Teacher, there can be no such thing as an Untrue Teacher, and therefore the term True Teacher is a redundancy; but my seeker’s mind likes it, because it marries Truth and Teacher nicely) -- the Gospels Teacher makes it clear he is not the person the rest of us perceive; that is, he is not Issa. Just so, he tells us Mary was not his mother, and he specifically tells us to “call no man father” (which of course we ignore, to the immense benefit of the greeting card industry!), by which I think we can safely assume that he called no man father. Are statements of this kind hyperbole on his part? Maybe, but I don’t think so, again because it accords with what other True Teachers tell us. Nisargadatta insists “I was never born”. The Buddha, when asked who his teachers were, replies, “I had no teachers”, even though the person Gautama is known to have had teachers. Likewise, when Muhammad was asked when he became a Prophet, he replied, “I was a prophet when Adam was between water and clay” (in other words, forever). They are not lying; they are not exaggerating. Rather, in those kinds of statements, the Teacher (and, again, there really is only one Teacher, the One, regardless of whose voice or writing we perceive) is telling us Who He Is (and who he is not). The One, the I AM, has no parents, no teachers, no name, no time, no space.

6. By my reading of the Gospels (including those not canonized, and let’s remember, that choice was made by human beings, all undoubtedly male, for human reasons), I do not hear the Teacher telling us he is offering a new religion, a new structure or a new or different framework. Rather, I hear him telling us to re-focus our attention on the Truth, and to distill out all of the curlicues that had been stuck onto it by, in that cultural and historical context, the priestly authority and adaptations to Greek, Roman and other influences. In a word, get back to the basics. This is a classic, recurring argument among the Hebrew/Israelite prophets, and indeed is restated over and over again by Teachers in virtually every culture and historical period. It is the natural tendency, apparently, of humans to alter, amend, embellish, distort, and so on. Accordingly, every so often, the Creator manifests among us as a Teacher telling us to straighten up and fly right. Thank God!

7. I believe (indeed, I am convinced) that the “I AM” spoken by the Gospels Teacher is the same Divine I AM expressed frequently in the Jewish Bible (let’s remember, Issa was a Jew): YHVH, which, as you know, is from the root verb “to be” and is translated variously as I Am The I Am, I Am What I Am, I Am That I Am, and so on, but always I AM. Thus, “I am the way” or “I am the life” is the Teacher’s way of reminding us that JHVH (Divine Being or Being-ness or, that in each of us that knows I Am) is the way, the life, and so on. Again, this lesson accords with virtually all the Teachers I am aware of; indeed, its very consistency and universality is some of its Power. Thus we are told, Know thyself. Ask, Who am I? Look within to your essence (from Latin esse, to be). Thou Art That (Tat Tvam Asi, which is meaningful only when we know who “thou” is!). And so on.

8. The argument you attribute to C. S. Lewis raises this question in my mind: If the Gospels Teacher meant that he was speaking about himself personally, why does not the “I am the way” statement appear in all the Gospels (including those not canonized)? When someone in authority, particularly someone we love and admire and, in this context, whom we believe is the one and only ever source of salvation, says something pivotal about himself, and therefore pivotal to our own reality, it seems to me that more than one person would have reported it. Surely, the disciples would have said among themselves, “Did you hear that?!” and reported it to others. But if the statement was, as I believe, a restatement of existing (but undoubtedly ignored) Teaching, a restoration of Divine Lessons already in place, then I can see why some reporters of the scene might think that writing about the miracles, for example, would be more important, not to mention more interesting (readable). After all, those living then had been reminded by countless prophets and so on to re-focus on YHVH (and like so many of us, ignored them all), so his restating that Truth was not news. But walking on water, turning water into wine, raising the dead, now that’s news, and so that’s what most of the reporters wrote about. Speaking for myself alone, as I read these words, when the Teacher says, “I Am the Way”, I believe he is at once teaching me and scolding me. Indeed, at the same time he says, “You already know the way” (to which his disciples respond with a characteristic “Huh?”). In other words, again, he is telling us that his words are nothing new; that if we had been paying attention to all the Teachers heretofore, we would know that YHVH (I AM) is The Way, the only way. It is our intransigence that requires the restatement, over and over and over and over again.

9. In a word, it is not Jesus, not Issa, who says “I Am The Way” but JHVH. It is JHVH (I AM) manifesting or appearing or whatever verb you like as the Gospels Teacher. And JHVH does so in virtually every spiritual tradition I am aware of through the mouth or words of virtually every True Teacher. Just so, Muhammad says, “Whoever sees me sees the truth” (and in Islam, as you know, the Truth to which he refers is Allah, the very same JHVH). An almost word-for-word identical statement is attributed to the Buddha. In the Gita, the Teacher (Krishna) says to Arjuna (us), “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, bow down to Me, sacrifice to Me; having thus disciplined yourself, and regarding Me as the Supreme Goal, you will come to Me”. In all these instances, the “I”, the “Me”, is JHVH (“I Am”).

10. You wrote, “nor is there a resurrection in any other religion”. If by resurrection you mean: appearance in the flesh on the earth after physical death, then there are countless such reports, many of them fully documented. A good primer for this kind of stuff is Yogananda’s Diary of A Yogi. I think a report of Neem Karoli Baba’s being seen in the flesh after his physical death is in Dada Mukerjee’s book By His Grace but it may have been in another book. Also, there are numerous reports of Christian saints and Sufi masters being witnessed after their physical death, even in current times. And others. If the definition of resurrection demands that the body disappear at death (that is, no physical remains), Sogyal Rinpoche discusses that phenomenon and offers examples of it in his great book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

11. There are two very real dangers that face every seeker. The first is presentism, the practice of evaluating and interpreting past events and people by present-day values. Virtually every book in the Bible, including the Gospels, was written, copied, redacted, translated, copied again, redacted again, and so on, by human beings for human reasons for specific audiences at particular times in history in particular cultures. We are free to ignore all of that, and sometimes it is right and proper that we should do so; but we need to be honest about it when we do it. Similarly, the second danger too may also be a virtue. As seekers, we naturally adore our Teacher, and so we should. But as humans, we routinely attribute to the Teacher things (events, words, attitudes) that are not and were not his (or hers). I have no doubt that the disciples of the Gospels Teacher did that; indeed, I would be surprised if they did not. On several occasions, disciples of currently living Teachers have told me stories about their Teacher or made claims about him that are clearly and obviously exaggerations, sometimes totally untrue, and attributed words to him that he never spoke. Similarly, the disciples of another living Teacher have reissued an autobiography which he wrote many years ago with numerous references removed to events in his life that the disciples consider are not complimentary to him or appropriate to a Teacher. Again, this kind of stuff is perfectly normal; it is an expression of devotion. But we need to recognize the tendency in ourselves; with respect, Art, I think that's what prompts your writing something like "there is no resurrection in any other religion". In another example, the consort of a living Guru told Anna and me once that her Guru was "the only true avatar [incarnation of God] that has ever existed"; when she saw our surprise, she quickly added, "All disciples say that of their beloved Guru". And she's right, they do, and so they should, but all the while remaining self-aware of their reasons for doing so.

12. Finally, if any of the above sounds like the C. S. Lewis statement you quoted, “I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God”, then I have misspoken. The fact is, I am little interested in the Gospels Teacher’s moral lessons; I do not believe that the function of the spiritual process is to make us better citizens, although it may coincidentally do so (or not). My interest in the Gospels Teacher is as the Teacher, again the label he himself commanded us to use. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the Teacher in the Gospels (including those not canonized) is the Very One, JHVH, the I AM that alone is, the Divine, the Supreme. The Teachings there are as powerful, as clear, and as overwhelming as any I have come across. Indeed, if I had not memorized so much of it, the Gospels would probably have replaced the choice I mention in another post as the one book I would take to a desert island. But having said that, I must add that so far in my search, I have come across nothing in the Gospels or anywhere else that limits God to Issa’s voice box.

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Postby mjoel53 » March 18th, 2005, 1:37 pm

Hmmm. Yes. It never ceases to amaze that it is pointed many times by the phrase "I am the way" and the mind (ego) latches on to a belief that "He is the Way" and creates religions that lead astray of direct simple Truth.

This diversion apparently strengthens the ego and guarantees everlasting life - evil, holy, or repetitious, perhaps in the form of a soul, or endless earthly lives.

If there's one thing more than anything that the ego does not want to do - its face the terror of its own annihilation.

Must be the devil's work. :lol:

Well ... no harm done ... really.
--Michael

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Postby W4TVQ » March 19th, 2005, 4:18 pm

Wow. Thanks for the lengthy and fascinating reply, Stefan. It will take me some time to assimilate it and respond properly. For the nonce, just two quick thoughts that popped into my head:

(1) This is all really heavy stuff. Not that I object to the intellectual faculty of man, but I do think that real truth is and must be something quite simple, so that even the intellectually-challenged may grasp it, and "he who runs may read." That is why I value the approach of the Christian faith: that the Truth is not a Way, or a philosophy, but a Person, and to adhere to that Person is to know the Truth, which, as He Himself said, will set us free. If the Truth is a "way" or a "philosophy" then many are excluded from it per se. But you know that: your own summary of your approach to spirituality is entitled "The Simple Way."

(2) I know there are reports in Yogananda, and other works, including "Masters of the Far East," of resurrections occurring. It strikes me that these reports are verified only by the books that mention them, and that none of these "resurrections" made much of an impact beyond the small circle of those who read the book. Nor was any redemptive value attached to them. The resurrection of Jesus turned the world upside down, made time stop and start over (even our calendars reflect that), and was offered and accepted as a one-time sacrifice for atonement in place of the repetitive offering of the paschal lamb. It was witnessed by hundreds, and He is continually seen, heard, felt and touched by millions to this very day, myelf included.

I'll be back to respond to you when I get all this assimilated. Enjoying this discussion muchly!!

Shalom
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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Postby W4TVQ » March 20th, 2005, 12:15 am

Okay … here we go! Let me preface all this by saying that I did not read your post looking for things to disagree with, and I can’t say I really found much to disagree with in any case. Some things I see from a different perspective. We are in some respects like the blind men who described the elephant after feeling different parts of it. All the descriptions were accurate, but from a different viewpoint. And it was all about the same elephant.

Now: You mention that His Name was not Jesus Christ. Actually, in all likelihood His name was Yeshua ben Yosef, the name Yeshua being the equivalent of the name we translate in the Torah as “Joshua.” “Christ, as you said, is not a name but a title. He was in fact “Yeshua ha-Meshiach,” which would translate as “Jesus the Christ” or Anointed One. The name Joshua would have had special significance, as it was Joshua, not Moses, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, and the choice of that name was doubtlessly meant to convey that He (Yeshua) would do the same. Thus the angel announced that “He will save His people from their sins.”

Of course, no one in the recorded pages of the NT called Him by His Name; as you note, they called Him Master or Teacher … and, more significantly, Lord (“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”). As Master and Teacher He could expect loyalty, obedience, and respect; as Lord, He could demand these things, and in addition expect absolute fealty without reservation. In accepting this title, He identified Himself with the One His hearers knew by that Name – YHWH Himself.

I can “amen” your description of the Teacher as “a direct, immediate, perfect manifestation or expression or embodiment (here I do not know the right word, if there even is one) of the Divine One.” From a Christian perspective, the word you seek would be “incarnation.” From my perspective, I can apply that definition only to Him; all the other great teachers, however luminous, show flaws and clay feet at some point; He alone was without spot or blemish. To become the perfect substitutionary passover lamb, He had to be perfect; otherwise, the events beginning in the upper room and ending on Golgotha would be without meaning.

Because that is, in my view, what the final meal in the upper room was all about. For 2000 years the Jews had killed and eaten the passover lamb every year for atonement for their sins, smearing the blood on the doorways in remembrance of their deliverance form Egypt. Suddenly, in this little upper room, Jesus stunned His followers by announcing that there would be no more passover lambs; that He Himself would be slaughtered as the once and for all passover lamb to atone for the sins of the whole world; and that the bread and wine He passed to them signified the eating of the flesh and the handling of the Blood of the new passover lamb. That was the import of His words, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” That is why He did not say “It is finished” at the end of that meal; it was not finished. Had the passover lamb not been slaughtered, there would have been no atonement; likewise had He not actually died, and in fact stayed dead and begun to rot, before rising from the dead to demonstrate Who He really is, there would have been no atonement and His life and crucifixion would have been to no avail. It is the “last supper” that tells us not only Who He is but what He came to accomplish and precisely how He would go about accomplishing it.

Of course He was not “starting a new religion” or even trying to; He said He had come not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill. He was the fulfillment of what was until then only symbolic; He filled it full of meaning, of significance. There are over 300 prophecies of the messiah in the Old Testament, and all of them – all of them – were fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. Basically, His words “This is my Body” meant “I’m it, guys. It’s all summed up and incarnated in Me. I AM the Truth that you have only heard about in words up until now.” The Word was made flesh…

Actually, the fact that the synoptic writers do not record the I AM statements does not seem significant to me. They were primarily concerned to write down a biography, and the teachings they recorded were all things they either remembered or got from interviews, included to flesh out the biography. The Gospel of John is a different sort of document entirely. John was the last document written of those we have in the canon of Scripture commonly used by Christians today, written possibly as late as 100 AD. John had returned from his exile on Patmos, and was pastoring the church at Ephesus in his (very) old age, setting down records of materials he had come to understand were of vast importance but had been omitted from the earlier writings about Jesus. Much is found in John that is not found elsewhere, partly because its significance had not been noted except by John, and because John, as the most intimate of Jesus’ companions, possibly heard things the others did not hear. John is more of a theological treatise than a biography: where the others begin with “There was John the Baptist, then Jesus came, and here’s His family tree,” John begins “In the beginning was the Word…”

I see your point regarding “presentism” and the possibility of developing myths around any great and beloved figure – such myths have even developed about Lincoln, never mind Buddha or Jesus. From my perspective (here’s that elephant again), I do not think this is a problem. I accept on the basis of my own experience with him that the Scriptures were indeed the handiwork not of men but of God, and that He not only provided the inspiration under which they were written but also has managed to protect them from corruption to the very present day. Whenever ancient manuscripts turn up, they contain the same words and wording as the ones used to provide us with our English translations. The textus receptus seems to be accurate after all.

As you say, nothing limits God’s voice to Jesus' voice box. After listening to the entirety of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, I have leaned back and thought, “well, in that case, all is well in Heaven and on earth.” God speaks through any instrument at His Hand to convey messages that are not susceptible to encapsulation in words. But when I seek knowledge that is conveyable in words, it is to Him that I turn, because He is not offering me a philosophy alongside other philosophies, but the entirety of Himself – i.e., He IS the Word.

Again, I offer these thoughts in respect and love. I am sure the elephant does not mind that we have differing perspectives on his total nature. So long as we do not turn him into a giraffe.

All is well with us, by the way. My second book, That Same Persistent Chase, details the encounter I had with Jesus and some of the implications I understand that to have for my life, and I have included some poetry therein as well. Peg is working now as a public health nurse, with the Florida "Healthy Start" program, trying to help young pregnant women figure out how to have a healthy baby in spite of themselves and their drug habits and their abusive boyfriends. We managed to survive the onslaught of hurricanes last year, and are praying fervently to be spared more of them this year.

I'm so pleased to be in this fascinating dialog with you. Much love to you both from both of us.

Shalom
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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Postby Speculum » March 28th, 2005, 3:44 am

Art, I share your enjoyment of this discussion. I hope others are enjoying it, too, and, equally importantly, I hope those that feel like participating in it are doing so. Although some of this particular thread may look like a dialogue between Art and me, that’s just a coincidence, an optical illusion; the field is open!

Okay, back to it:

1. You wrote, “in all likelihood His name was Yeshua ben Yosef”. I suggested Issa Ben Yussuf because I think that by the time in history we are talking about, Aramaic had replaced Hebrew as the language of the area (except in theological/ecclesiastical circles, where Hebrew was still used, sort of the way the Church in Rome uses Latin). And I think that Yeshua ben Yosef is Hebrew, and Issa Ben Yussuf is Aramaic. The two languages have much in common, like Spanish and Portuguese, but they are not the same. As you know, Hebrew remained a “dead” language (that is, not popularly spoken anywhere in the world) from that period until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, when the government in Tel Aviv (the nation’s capital at that time) made it the official language of the country (thereby forcing Jews in the region and elsewhere to learn it, a welcome boon, I expect, for the language school industry!). Anyway, it is likely that carpenters and fishermen and other common folk spoke Aramaic, and so knew the Gospels Teacher by his Aramaic name, whatever it was.

2. You wrote (paraphrased here), “From a Christian perspective, the word for Teacher would be incarnation”. Actually, in my mind, “incarnation” is a good word for every Teacher. As I have written here and elsewhere on TZF, as I see it, there is only One Teacher, and there only ever will be: JHVH or Allah or the One or Satchitananda or the Supreme (or whatever nameless name). (The trouble for me with the word “God” – which I use much of the time – is that in my mind at least, it suggests an “other”, as if “God” were a name, not a Reality. That is, me here, God there. The other terms work a little better for me because they seem more nearly nameless.) Anyway, to me, a Teacher is the clear and self-evident Presence in our midst of the Supreme effected and/or characterized by the sheer absence of separative egoic personality. In my mind, that is what Self-Realization is, and it is, I must re-emphasize, not attained but revealed or delivered or presented. Thus, a Teacher is like a tear in the fabric of the egoic reality through which is visible the Light, like a window flung open. Just so, when you wrote, “He is the Word”, I agree; the difference between us, I expect, is that I can say that about every True Teacher, because in my experience, every True Teacher is the absence of a person and the Presence of the One. Again, that’s what a Teacher is (to me). The incarnation appears to us to be in the person of a person because that is the way we perceive reality; everything we perceive seems to be in the form of something else. But in Truth there is no such thing as “a person”, no such thing as “something else”.

Virtually all of the spiritual traditions have references to the inability of a human being to see God or to look upon God; to my mind, that’s what this is about: The finite cannot see the Infinite because to do so must annihilate or extinguish us. And so the Teacher is the prism through which we see the Infinite finitely. And we can do that precisely because the blurring, blocking effect created by the presence of a “personality” is gone. That’s why, in my view, virtually all Teachers in virtually all traditions insist that a seeker must have a Teacher. The fact that the Teaching “no one comes to the Father but by me” is echoed in virtually every tradition is not mere coincidence, it is a Cosmic Reality. (And remember, it is not a person who says that, but JHVH, the One.) It isn’t that a seeker must belong to a particular religion; it is that the Teacher (who appears to be manifesting as a person associated with a particular religion) is the method, the instrument, the vehicle (what word?) by which, through which, in which (?) our apparently separate, separative minds can see the One.

3. You wrote, “From my perspective, I can apply that definition only to Him; all the other great teachers, however luminous, show flaws and clay feet at some point; He alone was without spot or blemish”. Geez. Here, we really are at an article of faith, beyond the scope of discussion. I can’t tell you how many well-intentioned, genuinely motivated disciples and devotees of present and past Teachers have told me, “My Guru alone is Perfect”. As I wrote earlier, this is normal and proper. A seeker’s devotion to his or her Guru must be total; otherwise surrender is (probably) impossible. And so I would expect no less adoration from the Gospels disciples.

And however contradictory it may sound to hear the disciples of two different Teachers say, “My Guru alone is Perfect”, it really isn’t. Just as a man might say, just as I do say, “My wife is the most perfect wife in all the world”, while fully realizing that other men undoubtedly say the very same thing, and that all are correct. The statements sound contradictory in theory, and I suppose they are; but in practice, they are perfectly compatible.

What’s more, if, as I perceive it, the Teacher or Guru is not a person, even though it seems that way to us, but God, then it is True that the Teacher is Perfect. In the final analysis, the real question about a Teacher or Guru is not what does he or she look like or how does he or she behave, but what is his or her affect on each individual seeker. The question a seeker needs to ask is not “What do others say about this Teacher” but “How does he/she affect me … on the inner”. The answer to that question determines whether that incarnation is addressed to you, whether your “eyes” are able to see through that tear or that prism.

4. You wrote, “There are over 300 prophecies of the messiah in the Old Testament, and all of them – all of them – were fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection”. This too is an article of faith. Sadly, these kinds of statements bring to mind the awful odor of flesh burning at the stake, and make me very uncomfortable. A reincarnationist might say that's because one of my former lives was in Salem or Spain during the Inquisition. Maybe. Or maybe it's because this body was raised in a European country that was up to its ears in the physical and emotional rubble of Nazism & Fascism. Or maybe I'm just over sensitive! Anyway, consider, as one example, the prophecy of the virgin birth, which I presume is one of the “over 300” to which you refer. As you know, it is a reference to Isaiah 7:9. But when read in its context, the passage in Isaiah is pretty clearly not a messianic prophecy, but rather a literary use of the period of pregnancy as a measure of time. But more importantly, the original Hebrew version speaks of “a young woman”, a phrase that was incorrectly translated into the Greek version as “a virgin”; and the Greek version is what the Gospels writers used. The way I see it, the Gospels writers knew that their readers were more familiar with the Greek version of Isaiah than the Hebrew version, and that 7:9 had probably come to be considered “a prophecy”, particularly as the sense of an eschatological messiah grew in the continuing presence of the Romans, so they incorporated it into their story. Were they lying? No. In their eyes, the Gospels Teacher, their very own Teacher, was/is the fulfillment of every prophecy, indeed the fulfillment of everything. And so that’s what they wrote. But we need to be aware of that, not as historians, but as seekers, so that we will be aware of the very same tendency in ourselves.

All of that said, the concept of a virgin birth works for me. In my mind, at some point in every seeker’s life, there is indeed a “virgin” birth, but it is not about a physical birth to a physical woman. That is, there Grace-fully occurs (not achieved, not attained) a “rebirth”. In the Teacher’s words, we are “born again”. This expression may sometimes be used incorrectly or too loosely, or to have evolved into other meanings; but it nonetheless describes a True phenomenon.

5. You wrote, the authors of the Gospels “were primarily concerned to write down a biography”. If so, we need to ask ourselves why they omitted the three decades of his life from early childhood until near the end. Perhaps those two periods were the most important, but even so, it seems likely that a “biography” would have included at least some brief mention of where he was, what he did, how he fared during the thirty years which comprised the bulk of that incarnation. The absence of those years in the texts suggests to me that the authors were not writing a biography, at least not as we understand the term today; they were writing something else. And if we will remember the time and place and culture in which all of this was going on, that makes sense. The biblical tradition of that culture (and others?) was not to write history as we now understand the term. Today, we think of history as something of a science; we expect historians to tell us what happened and when it happened. In that period, the approach to history was different; it was theological history. Theological history is limited to reporting events which, in the author’s view, have theological significance. Theological history is not about what happened when, but about the relationship of God to events, how events reflect God’s presence and activity and interest in the people and the times being written about. That’s the kind of history that appears in the Tanakh (the Jewish bible, essentially the Christian Old Testament). It is beautiful, it is often poetic, it is inspiring, it is wondrous; but it is not history. And it is the kind of writing that the disciples and devotees of the Gospels Teacher would have been familiar with, and could be expected to follow.

6. You wrote, “the Scriptures were indeed the handiwork not of men but of God”. As I see the Universe, God is all there is, so I have no problem with that statement. But I think my meaning is not your meaning. Thus, I read your statement as distinguishing between the Judeao-Christian scriptures and everything else; if so, that too is an article of faith. The idea that “The Bible” is inspired writing unlike any other writing, and that it is free of error, and not open to question in any way, is an article of the Christian faith. I have no argument with that; faith is mankind’s most redeeming, most miraculous quality. And faith can overlook or ignore contradictory evidence because faith is not the province of the mind, but of the heart. But that does not mean there are not inconsistencies. For example, did the flood last 40 days or did it last 365 days? Was the order of creation man, plants, animals, and woman, or was it plants, animals, and then man & woman? Is Moses the sole author of the first five books of the Old Testament as scripture claims, or, as the evidence increasingly suggests, was he the author of none of the five, or at most of only a small section of one of them?

Specifically as regards the Gospels, scholars and theologians are generally agreed that Mark, which along with an undiscovered fourth source (so-called Q from the German word for “source”) forms the basis of much of Matthew and Luke, was written for Christians and Jews in Rome, and that explains its Roman bias. The most telling example of this is the portrayal of Pontius Pilate, especially his allowing the crowd to decide the fate of Jesus, a practice historians agree was unheard of in Roman colonies or territories anywhere, but which was written into Mark’s report to relieve Rome (and by extension Mark’s intended readers) of any guilt in the verdict by placing the blame squarely on the local Jews (“Kill him!”). The original Mark document is thought to have been written after the revolt and fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE (AD), when Rome’s view of Jews was undoubtedly particularly unfavorable, and so making them the heavy in the story was an obvious decision. As you know, that portrayal of Jews generated centuries of unjustified and unforgivable, not to mention brutal, anti-Semitism, even up to the present day. It is hard for me to see that as “God inspired”.

Similarly, some of the letters attributed to Paul by the Bible are now recognized almost certainly to be the work of other author(s). Those apparently universally considered so are 1 and 2 Timothy, Colossians, and Titus, and those likely so but not universally agreed are Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, and Hebrews. Now, this likelihood diminishes the beauty and wisdom and power of these letters not in the slightest; but it does raise the question, if the Bible is the handiwork of God, why are there these errors of attribution.

7. Further, as regards the Gospels, we don’t know what criteria the Church Fathers used to create the New Testament; that is, how they decided which writings to include and which writings to exclude. But considering that it took place three centuries or so after the crucifixion, I think we can safely assume that a large number of groups and sects and cults had developed throughout the region and beyond, and that the motivation of the Church Fathers was to solidify the movement around an accepted and acceptable core, and to discard everyone and everything else, forcefully if necessary. Perhaps they were inspired. But my experience has been that people in authority like to maintain their position, and I can’t help thinking that it was probably like that back then, too. Thus, I believe that the Church Fathers, whatever they may have claimed at the time and whatever may have since been claimed in their name, made their choices based on what served the growing institutional church of which they were the authority. After all, the history of the Christian Church (and others!) is replete with examples where anyone who did not keep himself or herself squarely in conformity with the core was severely punished. None of which is to say that the Gospels are not beautiful and inspiring and wondrous and, yes, inspired, for they are all of that and more. But so are some of the books the Fathers rejected. And I suggest to you that they were rejected less because they were not inspired, and more because because they represented or were the product of sects the Church Fathers did not approve of or felt threatened by. In a word, politics. Here, too, that is perfectly human, and therefore perfectly okay. But as seekers, it behooves us to recognize it, because in doing so, we recognize and acknowledge our own nature.

8. Once again, none of the foregoing detracts from or threatens or in any other way affects my deep and intense and unwavering devotion for the Gospels Teacher. As a seeker, I am not concerned with who wrote the Gospels, when the Gospels were written, or whether they are an accurate representation of the events they report. My relationship with the Gospels Teacher, my relationship with the Teachings of the Gospels, and my relationship with JVHV however and wherever manifested or perceived in my life, is on the inner. And that has nothing to do with “history”. Of course, it is reflected on the outer, for as I have written repeatedly on TZF, and as my own personal experience confirms, our lives are our selves perceived outwardly. But it is not an outer thing, and nothing on the outer has or can have significant impact upon it.

Or so it seems to me.

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Postby W4TVQ » March 29th, 2005, 9:45 pm

"As a seeker, I am not concerned with who wrote the Gospels, when the Gospels were written, or whether they are an accurate representation of the events they report. My relationship with the Gospels Teacher, my relationship with the Teachings of the Gospels, and my relationship with JVHV however and wherever manifested or perceived in my life, is on the inner. And that has nothing to do with “history”."

Bingo.

At least in this you and I are in perfect agreement. As usual, I'll print out your reply and ponder it before essaying a reply. No, I'm not becoming a New Age convert any more than you are becoming a fundamentalist, but as we have agreed, this discussion is most fascinating. I think it will resolve itself ultimately into the question of what is meant by "believe in" when spoken in reference to Jesus (the Christ) of Nazareth, and that in turn will be dependent on the issue you have raised, as to whether the Teacher is a person or not.

Back at you later...

Shalom
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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Postby Speculum » March 30th, 2005, 12:15 am

Art, I know you will forgive my going way out on a limb, and suggesting that on the inner, you and I are identical. Indeed, I suppose all of us are identical on the inner. It's on the outer -- the brain-controlled sense perceptions -- where we differ, and, dare I say it, where we have all the fun! I look forward to your reactions and responses, and I thank you for taking my too-long reply seriously enough to print and consider! And, once again, to all others here, please do not feel constrained from jumping into this conversation feet first, for truly it is not a dialog but a, uh, multilog.

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Postby anna » March 30th, 2005, 1:25 am

Perhaps it would be useful in this discussion to separate two very different criteria here: the personal, intimate experience of a devotee or disciple with God, or her Master, and the ramifications of that experience on the individual, as opposed to the political, sociological and historical ramifications of that same experience when it becomes a "movement." I think that too often we assume that because something is followed by large numbers, it therefore makes that movement more legitimate than one which is more secret and less popular. In other words, just because Christianity has a large following, or Buddhism, or Islam, or Hinduism, or any other religious sect, does not necessarily make a statement about the perfection or legitimacy of that movement. It only states that it has a large following.

I would suggest that instead, we can only judge the legitimacy and value of a movement, however big or small, in which we believe or follow based on its effects upon us personally, as well perhaps on others, also in an equally personal manner, and by no other measure -- at least within a spiritual perspective, because the spiritual perspective is always personal and intimate.

In other words, size does not matter. Only potency does. For example: If I were to be transported to sit in heaven, beside God, through the interaction with a mere humble unknown individual in the densest of backwater woods, that individual would so transform my life and world that I would need no other to facilitate my search, for I would have found God. Whether or not a movement evolved from this event would be insignificant with respect to the potency or legitimacy of that individual, or the effect he had on my own life.

However, if I were then to go out into the world, spreading the news about this person as an avatar that had brought me to heaven, the political process would have begun, and his effect on me would slowly become less important than his history, and the effect would be less spiritual, and more political and sociological. Two entirely different processes, with two entirely different end results, don't you think????Maybe not..... :roll:

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Postby Clarence » March 30th, 2005, 2:45 pm

Well, I guess you finally got me. For weeks, I have been enjoying eavesdropping on this conversation, but now that you have moved them out of sight, I guess I have to show my face, so I have registered, and here I am.

I agree with Anna’s comment quoted in part below. I wonder if it matters that Anna is my mother’s name? That’s not you here, is it, mom!

If I were to be transported to sit in heaven, beside God, through the interaction with a mere humble unknown individual in the densest of backwater woods, that individual would so transform my life and world that I would need no other to facilitate my search, for I would have found God. Whether or not a movement evolved from this event would be insignificant with respect to the potency or legitimacy of that individual, or the effect he had on my own life.

However, if I were then to go out into the world, spreading the news about this person as an avatar that had brought me to heaven, the political process would have begun, and his effect on me would slowly become less important than his history


When you came out of the woods, you would want to tell everyone about your experience with the man you found there, wouldn’t you? You would want others to experience his power as you did. Would they believe what you told them? I think not because they would not believe that a “mere humble man,” as you described him, could do what you said he did. So maybe you would not call him mere and humble, but maybe you would describe him in words and pictures that would convince them that he is the savior type. I think it may be that is how some of the history you mention comes about.

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Postby W4TVQ » March 30th, 2005, 8:32 pm

Sometiomes I wonder if I'm in deep water here without my life vest ... but here goes.

You wrote that "the trouble with the word 'God' ... is that ... it suggests an 'other,' as if God were a name, not a Reality."

Now, I am aware of (and respect) your position, which I gleaned from reading your books, and from earlier posts in this thread as well, that the existence of the individual is perceptual rather than "real." This is one point at which we differ. I do not perceive the individual as an emanation of, or simply a manifestation of, the One. I see some problems with that point of view, at least from where I stand on the path. For one thing, in such a case, Divine love for us would be simple narcissism. For another, I subscribe to the Biblical viewpoint, which is that "it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves." That's from Psalm 100, but lest I be accused of proof-texting let me note that it is repeated in many other places in both Testaments, including Psalm 119 and most notably in the book of Job (which is the earliest known book of the Biblical canon). As I understand the act of creation, God was seeking to bring into existence a being who could love Him and be the object of His love, and that would suggest an "other." Since He can do anythng He wants, He could certainly choose to establish a separation between Himself and the "other," to allow for Love to exist instead of either self-adoration or the devotion of a robot.

I think that is why the Bible makes a distinction betwen the verb "to make" and the verb "to beget." God made man; the only Son was the only-begotten. If I make a marionette, it may look like me, and be endowed with characteristics similar to mine, but it is other than I. If, like Gepetto, I discover it has come to life, it is still not flesh of my flesh, but wood turhed to flesh. If I beget a son, he is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, he contains my DNA and everything I have is his.

You wrote, "the Teacher is the prism through which we see the infinite finitely." And I agree. Paul wrote of "seeing through a glass, darkly." In that day there was no clear glass. It is rather as if we tried to look through the stained-glas window at church and see the shrubs outside. It looks like a Van Gogh landscape. I think that, in the case of Jesus, we are not seeing God through Him in that sense, however; we are looking at Him and seeing God. It is one thing to be told about God by one who has seen him and knows Him, but quite another to see him and know Him in person. That ws what Jesus came to do. And invariably the response when we really SEE Jesus is the same as Job's response when he was confronted with YHWH: "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, and I repent myself in dust and ashes."

By the way, I quote the King James often because that's the one I have memorized. I really prefer the New Century Version for study and understanding.

You mentioned several times that one item or another is "an article of faith." I understand what you mean by that, but it brings up another issue, that of belief vs. faith. Most of these things you so identified are articles of belief, for me. Faith is a different animal from belief. I can believe all day that Jesus can heal me, but have no faith in that regard, and remain sick. I can believe that Jesus is the only perfect man ever to live, but unless I can take action based upon that belief it is moot, simply a mental exercise. Faith is not intellectual, but dynamic. Faith is an action. The Israelites believed that God told them to cross the raging torrent of the flood-stage Jordan and set about attacking Jericho; but until they stepped into the water it did not part before them. So it is with me, when I believe God has given me an assignment, I must take action and set about obeying before I can expect to see Him arrive to reinforce my obedience with power.

You seemed disturbed by the idea of fulfillment of prophecy. I don't see the relationship between that and the aberrant things that have been done in the name of religion. To me, the fact of prophecy is important because it provides proof of the authenticity of the Bible. No other book upon which a religion is founded contains prophecy, much less fulfilled prophecy. It proves to me that the Bible is a seamless revelation from front to back. Jesus is not suddenly "there" in Mark 1, He is "there" in every page of the entire book. We are told it was He Who was at the dawn of time creating all things by the Word of His power. People certainly use religion -- any religion -- as an excuse to do some ghastly things; Christianity has been so used, and today Islam is surely so used. Even the supposedly peaceful Hindus are becming violent -- Benny Hinn experienced that when he took his crusade to India this year. Even the placid Buddhists got involved in a riot a few years back over ownership of a monastery. But the Crusades, and the Inquisition, and the Salem atrocities, were not connected with prophecy in any way; they were the brain-children of some warped minds that used Christianity as an excuse. The point of prophecy was to point forward to Jesus, and when He came to provide proof that He was indeed the One they were expecting. One prophecy (the virgin birth, for example) would have been little evidence for His validity, but 300+ prophecies work to that end, and validate even those we find other meanings for (again, the virgin birth, for example). Prophecy shows us the line running from the beginning (In the beginning was the Word) to now and onward to the return of the Lord.

Concerning why 3 decades of His life were not recorded (except for the incident in the temple at His bar-mitzvah): I would be surprised if they had been recorded. It was to become one of us that He came, as the Scriptures make clear. He was tempted as we are in all ways, and exprienced life just as we do. That was what He was doing for those 30 years: being human, hardly noteworthy material for a bio. He worked, possibly as a carpenter, though the word translated "carpenter" quite possibly meant "stone mason." We know He was a rugged man by the age of 30 because the grizzly bunch He called as apostles would not have followed Michael Jackson. He spent 30 years demonstrating, I imagine, what the ideal obedient child of God was and would do. "My time has not yet come," He said to Mary in Cana. Yet at that point it apparently HAD come, as He went ahead with the miracle of the water and wine, thus demonstrting what He had come to do -- turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. When His time had come, He entered into His ministry, and what went before, because it had nothing to do directly with His mission, was of no importance to His biographers. They acknowledged His birth, and the events surrunding it, and the bar-mitzvah incident, and saw that what He was up to really began when He stepped into the water and had John baptize Him.

The Flood: 40 days of rain, 365 days until the waters subsided. I see no inconsistency here.
Creation: I see Genesis 1 as giving us the outline of what happened, and Genesis 2 as going into the details of day 6. I am uncommitted as to whether these "days" were 24 hours or 24 million years. Who cares? The point is "In the beginning God created."

I do not think we can blame the Gospel writers for anti-Semitism. They recorded exactly what happened, and the Romans are not really given a whitewash: they are shown driving the nails and poking the spear into His side, not to mention shown as cowards bowing to the pressure of the mob. That is why so many rabbis today are speaking out to say that "The Passion of the Christ" is not anti-semitic, any more than the New Testament is. They understand that The Jewish mob who cried "crucify" and the Roman wimps who did it were not by any means the only ones who crucified Jesus. I did it. You did it. That mob expanded to include the entire race of us. Who crucified Jesus? I did. No way we can put the blame on the Jews. Believe me, if you look at what is going on in the world today you will see that the evangelical Christians are the only friends Israel has. Anti-semitism did not originate in the New Testament. The Jews have been hated, attacked, persecuted, and the target of genocide since the time of Abraham. Only the Gospel writers, who did not hesitate to record the hostility of the Jewish mob at the Fortress of Antonia, also did not hesitate t record the story of Nicodemus, and of Gamaliel, and of other Jews who were friends of Jesus in one way or another. Saying nice things aobut ANY Jew was political suicide then as it is in many cases now. And they do not hide the fact that Jesus was a Jew. And still is. John, in Revelation, shows us that in the last hours of Earth it will be Jews who are chosen to carry the Gospel to the last few left to hear it. The source of anti-Semitism is the posterity of Ishmael and of Esau, not Christianity. Or so I see it from my place on the path.

Better stop before I wear out my fingers, or my keyboard. Looking forward to the next round...

Shalom aleichem
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley


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