Posts by MLS

lovers of spirituality and the Bible from plural perspectives

Generosity : the Samaritan Woman

Gospel of John #29

Hello Generous ones,

I continue today our study of the Gospel of John. Please subscribe (on the left via the drop down menu) if you’d like to study along with us. You may also scroll through to read the 28 posts before this one, all about the Gospel of John.

Today, we start on John 4 (see text below), which depicts a meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Our theme concerns guilt vs compassion, and envy vs good will, in spiritual and religious life — and in practical matters of finance.

[Please note, as we have indicated throughout: the Jewish religious leaders in John are portrayed as the enemies of Jesus and the epitome of religious hypocrisy in this Gospel. However, Jesus himself was a Jew. Let us recognize and critique rather than reproducing ethnic stereotypes, and anti-Semitism, that may be embedded in this sacred text.]

In the opening of the chapter,  Jesus is being hunted down by the religious authorities, who are envious because of news that Jesus has baptized a good quantity of new adherents to his sect. The narrator is quick to confirm that this news is a rumor, since Jesus, in fact, performs no baptisms himself. Because Jesus directly harnesses the divine source (as we shall soon discover), i.e. the fountain of Life, it is not his function to perform ritual signs (i.e. baptisms).

Such religious rivalry plays out, subsequently, in the dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. The Samaritan woman expects religious or ethnic barriers to be upheld; she notes that as a Jew, Jesus would not be expected to share table fellowship (i.e. a drink) with a Samaritan. The Samaritan woman’s caution about this regulation suggests a worldview motivated by customary ethnic and religious rules.

That the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman takes place at the well of Jacob, an ancestor sacred to both Jews and Samaritans, symbolizes the universal allegiances, common to different religious sects, both Jew and Samaritan. Rather than fighting over religious property rights — i.e., in a competition over whose cult or ancestors are superior –a more generous approach will be to recognize a common source of vitality behind both religious claims. Both Samaritans and Jews draw from a single source: the fountain of Life itself.

Jesus overturns the competitive worldview, fostered by ethnic segregation.  He counters regulations, which restrict the gifts of God, by offering free and inclusive access to the living source itself of abundance:  v. 10:“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water;” and: 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Let’s see now how this idea may be applied in our lives. I will sketch the implications of living within a world of abundance (symbolized by the universally flowing water), rather than a world of scarcity (characterizes by guilt and envy).

Money, so economists say, is ruled by laws of scarcity. Yet, in practical reality, generosity and giving may produce greater wealth than holding back.

The author of the Seven Laws of Money (c.1974), Michael Phillips, notes that compassion produces generosity while guilt does not. As a financial expert, the master-mind behind the Whole Earth Catalogue, and a leader of several foundations (including the Glide Foundation in San Francisco), Phillips has a record of tangible financial success. (For the book, see: Book: Seven Laws of Money). Based on his experience in lending money and in soliciting donations, Phillips underscores the priority of right motivations for giving. If one gives money because of coercing or guilt-tripping, how generous will one feel in doing so? How motivated will one be to participate in the ongoing projects to which one donates? A guilty giver may donate once and never again.

The worldview that underlies guilt is constricted. One endorses the limiting notion that people must be pushed to do good things, against their will; people are thus untrustworthy.  Resources are limited.

By contrast, if one is compassionate, then one finds every way to assist another, whether that entails giving money, material resources, or so-called spiritual gifts (like talent, service, wisdom). One’s underlying worldview, based on compassion, is open and unlimited. One trusts the heart to to give freely out of caring.

In the case of guilt, one experiences fear of punishment or negative consequences; in the case of compassion, one experiences faith in benefits and positive outcomes. A contrast between guilt and compassion thus differentiates a world of scarcity (regulated by fear and coercion) from a world of abundance (regulated by faith and freedom).

Give Generously and Freely!

TEXT (NIV) version Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

I Ching and the Bible : An Oracle

Joseph Murphy, a metaphysical author of the early twentieth century, combined the I Ching (aka : The Book of Changes), an ancient Chinese oracle, with the timeless wisdom of the Bible. The I Ching consists of 64 hexagrams. One throws coins or lots in order to derive a hexagram in response to one’s question. Murphy linked a biblical verse or idea with each hexagram.

Here I will dispense with Murphy’s philosophical rationale and simply offer you a sample of his oracular offerings. I asked a question about whether a certain relationship will be restored.51IamP75kGL._SL300_

I received: Hexagram 50 with changing lines 1 and 5.  The relating hexagram, which is derived from the changing lines, is hexagram 1.

I have reproduced, below, the commentary on this Hexagram (with moving lines) as described in the traditional I Ching, translated by R. Wilhelm. I place, alongside this reading, Joseph’s Murphy’s biblical rendition of the same hexagram.

In the traditional I Ching (see Wilhelm text below), hexagram 50 represents a caldron, which is a vessel that was used to cook food as offerings in a Temple, for ancestors, or at banquets.  This hexagram points to the inner changes that need to be nourished in order for something good to be accomplished. The moving lines indicate (1) that something impure (causing stagnation) must be removed from the caldron; one may have to accept an inferior position (i.e. being a concubine) for the sake of a better future or result (i.e. represented by one’s son). In moving line (5), the caldron has jade handles, enabling a person to carry it correctly. This indicates readiness; the things in the caldron are cooked. The person carrying the caldron shows proper respect for the offering being made.

With respect to the question asked, the hexagram suggests that the relationship has led to inner transformation; or inner transformation is necessary for the relationship to go forward. With regard to the moving lines: a) There is some stagnation in the relationship; an obstacle needs to be removed. One must accept the inferior conditions, currently, for the sake of a future benefit. b) Eventually, inner changes, represented by cooked things inside of the caldron, will produce a readiness to move ahead again.  Things will be cooked, prepared, and settled.

It is unclear whether the hexagram is to say that inner changes are the goal, to which the relationship has led, or whether the relationship will, in fact, be restored.

The relating hexagram is hexagram 1.  This hexagram indicates new and vigorous beginnings. The inner changes, produced by hexagram 50, will completely renew the relationship or the person asking the question will be renewed — or both.

Joseph Murphy’s biblical I Ching relates the caldron image to two biblical verses: “Out of his nostrils goeth smoke as out of … a caldron” (Job 41:20) and  “… the caldrons and the candlesticks … ” (Jeremiah 52:19). For Murphy, the caldron represents one’s subconscious mind, which is full of wisdom and intelligence. The smoke represents one’s spirit.

Murphy cites other pertinent biblical verses in explaining the changing lines. The first changing line cites this biblical verse: “This city is the caldron … I will bring you forth out of the midst of it” (Ezekiel 11:7). Here, “the city is your mind (caldron),” from which must be removed  “negative patterns.” The changing line in the fifth place cites this biblical verse:  “And two golden rings shalt thou make …” (Exodus 30:4). Here, the “ring is symbolic of love, peace, and unity with God. A ring, being a circle, is also a symbol of Infinity and of God’s love. In simple, everyday language, all it means is that you are now getting your conscious and subconscious mind to agree on harmony, health, peace, and right action. As you adhere to this procedure, you will, by the law of attraction, get others to aid and assist you in the realization of your heart’s desire.”

Murphy’s biblical I Ching offers a thought-provoking set of images for scriptural meditation. A more thorough analysis of his book would be required, in order to assess whether his biblical glosses correspond, in any substantial way, to the traditional interpretations of this Chinese oracle.

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HERE ARE THE TEXTS OF THE TRADITIONAL CHINESE ICHING (WILHELM) AND MURPHY’S BIBLICAL ICHING

50. Ting / The Caldron

above LI THE CLINGING, FIRE
below SUN THE GENTLE, WIND, WOOD

The six lines construct the image of Ting, THE CALDRON; at the bottom are the legs, over them the belly, then come the ears (handles), and at the top the carrying rings. At the same time, the image suggests the idea of nourishment. The ting, cast of bronze, was the vessel that held the cooked viands in the temple of the ancestors and at banquets. The heads of the family served the food from the ting into the bowls of the guests.

THE WELL 48 likewise has the secondary meaning of giving nourishment, but rather more in relation to the people. The ting, as a utensil pertaining to a refined civilization, suggests the fostering and nourishing of able men, which redounded to the benefit of the state. This hexagram and THE WELL are the only two in the Book of Changes that represent concrete, men-made objects. Yet here too the thought has its abstract connotation. Sun, below, is wood and wind; Li, above, is flame. Thus together they stand for the flame kindled by wood and wind, which likewise suggests the idea of preparing food.

THE JUDGMENT

THE CALDRON. Supreme good fortune.

Success.

While THE WELL relates to the social foundation of our life, and this foundation is likened to the water that serves to nourish growing wood, the present hexagram refers to the cultural superstructure of society. Here it is the wood that serves as nourishment for the flame, the spirit. All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order. Here we see civilization as it reaches its culmination in religion. The ting serves in offering sacrifice to God. The highest earthly values must be sacrificed to the divine. But the truly divine does not manifest itself apart from man. The supreme revelation of God appears in prophets and holy men. To venerate them is true veneration of God. The will of God, as revealed through them, should be accepted in humility; this brings inner enlightenment and true understanding of the world, and this leads to great good fortune and success.

THE IMAGE

Fire over wood:

The image of THE CALDRON.

Thus the superior man consolidates his fate
By making his position correct.

The fate of fire depends on wood; as long as there is wood below, the fire burns above. It is the same in human life; there is in man likewise a fate that lends power to his life. And if he succeeds in assigning the right place to life and to fate, thus bringing the two into harmony, he puts his fate on a firm footing. These words contain hints about fostering of life as handed on by oral tradition in the secret teachings of Chinese yoga.

THE LINES

Six at the beginning means:

A ting with legs upturned.
Furthers removal of stagnating stuff.
One takes a concubine for the sake of her son.

No blame.

If a ting is turned upside down before being used, no harm is done-on the contrary, this clears it of refuse. A concubine’s position is lowly, but because she has a son she comes to be honored. These two metaphors express the idea that in a highly developed civilization, such as that indicated by this hexagram, every person of good will can in some way or other succeed. No matter how lowly he may be, provided he is ready to purify himself, he is accepted. He attains a station in which he can prove himself fruitful in accomplishment, and as a result he gains recognition.

Six in the fifth place means:

The ting has yellow handles, golden carrying rings.
Perseverance furthers.

Here we have, in a ruling position, a man who is approachable and modest in nature. As a result of this attitude he succeeds in finding strong and able helpers who complement and aid him in his work. Having achieved this attitude, which requires constant self-abnegation, it is important for him to hold to it and not to let himself be led astray.

MURPHY

50. TING/THE CALDRON Above: Li, the Clinging, Fire Below: Sun, the Gentle, Wind, Wood

The Judgment “Out of his nostrils goeth smoke as out of … a caldron” (Job 41:20). The caldron is another name for your deeper mind, which is full of wisdom, power, and love. The smoke coming out is your exaltation; the Spirit within you is God. You are inspired from on high and everything you do will prosper. The Image “ … the caldrons and the candlesticks … ” (Jeremiah 52:19).

It is said man is the candle of the Lord, symbolizing the fact that you are to shed your light (intelligence) in all phases of your life. Believe that God is guiding you and that Divine-right action governs you in all ways and the caldron (your subconscious mind) will then respond. From this, you will find harmony and peace in your life.

The Lines

Six at the bottom: “ … This city is the caldron … I will bring you forth out of the midst of it” (Ezekiel 11:7). The city is your mind (caldron), and you must cleanse it regularly and systematically by giving yourself a transfusion of faith, confidence, love, joy, and goodwill. As you fill your mind with these qualities, you neutralize and wipe out all negative patterns in your subconscious mind (the caldron). The lower is always subject to the higher. You are on the way to great accomplishments and achievements.

Six in the fifth place: “And two golden rings shalt thou make …” (Exodus 30:4). Gold means power, purity; a clear sky and fair weather, a clean mental and emotional atmosphere. A ring is symbolic of love, peace, and unity with God. A ring, being a circle, is also a symbol of Infinity and of God’s love. In simple, everyday language, all it means is that you are now getting your conscious and subconscious mind to agree on harmony, health, peace, and right action. As you adhere to this procedure, you will, by the law of attraction, get others to aid and assist you in the realization of your heart’s desire.

Murphy Ph.D. D.D., Joseph. Secrets of the I Ching: Get What You Want in Every Situation Using the Classic Bookof Changes (p. 160). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born from Above

Gospel of John #28

Hello, Lightworkers:

John 3:7-8: “Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

To be born “from above” (also translated as: “again”) means that I let go of the effort to control my origins and my destination. One who is born of the Spirit is like the wind. We do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes.

How do I actually implement this advice?

In relationships, it is common to break up with somebody — or to have a falling out — while harboring the expectation that the relationship will come back, and be reborn, in some fashion. The same kind of expectation may occur in other spheres of life; for instance, as one may watch another’s death while praying for a recovery.  The recovery may, indeed, occur. Yet, if we let go of the sick person – or the relationship –  only on the condition that they may return, we do not exactly let these cherished things die so that they may be reborn. We cling to the effort to control the direction of a relationship, or a sickness, its origins (or: its inception and raison d’être ) and its destination.

A prerequisite for being “born again” or “from above” is that we let go of who we are now. If you think about it, when you are actually living your life fully, you are often governed by a power that is not your own, in its origins and destination. To deliver oneself over to that power is to release the self. How may I release the self (let the self die, spiritually) if I am still attached to a preferred outcome or reward for doing so?

“I will let go of control,” I say, “only if I may be assured that in doing so, I will become who I want to be or get what I want. I will let go of a habit of anger, for instance, only if the obstacles in life (which make me angry) are cleared away in the bargain. I will release my attachment to my professional role (which causes me anxiety) only if I am assured that I will perform even better in my profession without my anxiety than I did while being overly attached.”

Such demands constitute efforts at exerting control over outcomes, thus defeating the intention to let go of control. I seek to control the origins of my self (i.e. the animating power that propels me) and my destination (what I will become).

How may I be born from above? By standing constant in the intention to let it happen, unconditionally, no matter the outcome. A hard bargain! Except for the exhilaration and peace that I experience when I do so.

Jesus Fresco PLUS Lazarus

fresco-depicting-jesus-with-a-cruciform-halo-early-christian-fresco-ERG2G5

Fresco depicting Jesus with a cruciform halo. Early Christian fresco in the Ponzianus catacomb, Rome, Italy. Third to sixth

26 fresco healing of blind man and raising of lazarus

The Miracle of Christ Raising Lazarus from the Dead; Spain, ca. 1120-1140; fresco transferred to canvas. NY Cloisters

350_Tombstone for loculus burial of Young Man_Roman, Second half 4th Century_Vatican, Pio-Cristiano Museum

Tombstone for the burial of Datus Roman, Second half 4th Century Vatican, Pio-Cristiano Museum The inscription reads: “Given by his parents for their well-beloved son, Datus, who lived 20 years, in peace”

1315_Workshop of Pacino di Bonaguida_Scenes from Life of Christ and the Life of Blessed Gerard of Villamagna _Italian (Florence), 1315-1325_Morgan_MS M643.007r

Possibly Jacopino da Reggio, Raising of Lazarus from a Psalter Italian (Bologna), End of the 13th Century Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS Smith-Lesouef 21, fol. 16

 Lazarus Art Collection: See Link

 

 

 

 

Stardust: A Finely Tuned Universe (Polkinghorne)

Hello Stardust,

In this post, I ask you to consider three points: 1) we are made from explosions of stars; 2) the universe may be finely tuned and intricately designed; 3) there is an intelligible structure of the universe, which makes prayer possible.

Here are some passages for you to consider, on these points, from an essay by John Polkinghorne, a physicist and theologian.

And for more, read: his essay, John Polkinghorne, SO FINELY TUNED A UNIVERSE of atoms, stars, quanta & God (originally published, 1996 Commonweal).

1. We are made from explosions of stars.

On Stardust:

“The stars have another tremendously important thing to do. The nuclear furnaces that burn inside the stars are the source of the chemical elements which are the raw materials of life.”

 

“If you’re made from stardust, there’s got to be some dust from stars around for you to be made of. You’ve got to have stellar explosions.”

That means that we share the essential substance with the rest of the galaxy. When I look up at the stars, I know that we are one.

2. Regarding a finely tuned universe, consider how chance interacts with purposeful design. For instance, if you meet your soul mate, is the meeting random or purposeful? Here is another articulation of the matter by Polkinghorne.

 

“John Leslie, a philosopher at Guelf University in Canada, writes about these questions. He has written the best book about the anthropic principle, called Universes. He’s a beguiling philosopher because he does his philosophy by telling stories, which is a very accessible way for those of us who are not professionally trained in philosophy to get the hang of it. He tells the following story. You are about to be executed. Your eyes are bandaged and you are tied to the stake. Twelve highly-trained sharpshooters have their rifles leveled at your heart. They pull the trigger, the shots ring out—you’ve survived! What do you do? Do you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, that’s the way it is. No need to seek an explanation of this. That’s just the way it is.” Leslie rightly says that’s surely not a rational response to what’s going on. He suggests that there are only two rational explanations of that amazing incident. One is that many, many, many executions are taking place today and just by luck you happen to be the one in which they all miss. That’s a rational explanation. The other explanation is, of course, that the sharpshooters are on your side and they missed by choice. In other words there was a purpose at work of which you were unaware.

 

That parable translates well into thinking about a finely tuned and fruitful universe.”

3. Concerning prayer, prayer only makes sense if there’s some correspondence between our own minds or intelligence and the structure of the world. Otherwise, how could our own intentions, which we lift to God/the Spirit in prayer, have an impact on the world?  As Einstein said, “The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

For more on this them, see the Polkinghorne essay.

Eclipses: spiritual significance (links)

1. Atlantic Monthly Article: Eclipses and Religious Significance

This article offers a balanced perspective.

2. Here’s a good survey on the spiritual significance of eclipses in religious history:

Christianity Today on Eclipse

Note: Some predict doom and gloom. The eclipse today, they suppose, is a divine portent for judgment; they cite scriptures from Joshua, Joel, and Revelation.  As this article points out, however, today’s eclipse is a natural occurrence: “The events described in Joshua, Joel, and Revelation are not regular natural occurrences, they are special supernatural events.”

3. Bible Verses on Eclipses

See link above

4. Jewish Prophecies re: Eclipses

See link above — for your interest

The Flat Earth Hypothesis = Life without Rebirth

Gospel of John #27 : John 3:3-8 (passage is reproduced below)

Hello Lightworkers,

Side Question: Why is it that scientific knowledge makes progress while religious knowledge often stays in the dark ages – as if antiquated ideas are holy, never outmoded, and spiritual truths are incapable of being surpassed ? Or: are spiritual ideas actually eternal in a way that scientific ideas can never be? A puzzle.

Today’s puzzle bears on the concept of spiritual rebirth. Is rebirth by the Spirit an ancient and eternal truth or instead something new, which abrogates our customary religious ideas?

Main point: The single-birth hypothesis, I suggest, rivals the flat-earth hypothesis. The single -birth hypothesis posits that we have one lifetime to live, which is counted in years and measured according to space in three-dimensions. Thus, if one is elderly or middle aged, one has lived a long time temporally, having experienced lots of life (as if life were a finite substance), while one’s life is draining away, too, since one is closer to death than before.

Life is measured by time and by corporeal metaphors.

This single-life hypothesis, because it depends on sensory experience, resembles the flat-earth hypothesis.

Evidently, the flat-earth hypothesis – which has no theoretical basis – is making a come-back even while climate change is regarded by some as a hoax. Not everything true can be confirmed by our senses. The earth looks flat. But, the hypothesis of a flat earth is not coherent according to science.

For instance, the round-earth and heliocentric hypotheses, stipulating that the round earth revolves around the sun, allows scientists to explain biological life, and the role of our planet earth in the larger cosmos, while the flat-earth and earth-centric model of the universe lacks such explanatory power.

Take a look at this article. Flat Earth Hypothesis

Jesus confronts the single-life hypothesis in John 3. In order to see the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, you must be born again (also translated as: born from above). Yet, the concept of being born again contradicts our common sense.

In fact, as Nicodemus (Jesus’s dialogue partner) objects, “How can someone enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be reborn?” Nicodemus measures life according to time and space. Jesus replies that many things that are real are in fact invisible in origins and destination. Like the wind, so the Spirit (which gives rebirth) leaves a sensory trace (one can hear the wind blow) yet its causality and direction cannot be perceived by the senses.

If you suppose that life is invisible in its essence, spiritual by its nature, and a continually renewable resource (rather than a limited and finite quantity), then one may be born again (or: born from above). Just as a round-earth and heliocentric model explains the relationship of the earth to the larger cosmos, so the hypothesis of spiritual rebirth explains facts about life in the spirit, including: forgiveness, miracle, and love.

Such spiritual realities are not well accounted for by a single-birth hypothesis. If we love according to the amount of life that a person exhibits, then it would follow from the single-birth hypothesis that there would be less to love as a person’s biological life moved towards its expiration date.

Spiritual life follows principles and laws that confound sensory experience and logic.

John 3:3-8
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”