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Myth & Metaphore


    One of the most important things a person can do on the spiritual path is to throw out what is false and accept what is true.  In truth, this is something everyone should do no matter what spiritual path you practice.  As I have done this in the course of my walk on the path, some very curious things have happened.  I discovered that many of the concepts of God that I had were immature and therefore false.  I discovered that the literal approach to the Bible used in Christian fundamentalism doesn't work.  This happened as I grew in knowledge and maturity and I must add that many aspects of this process where not what I wanted, were totally unexpected and sometimes very painful.

    In my initial exposure to Christianity I was told that the resurrection and ascension literally and physically took place.  That Jesus actually rose up into the sky and went to heaven.  I took these statements at face value, without questioning them, like I'm sure most people do.  Unfortunately doing so, does not place you on the path to higher understanding.  In fact this is the road to ignorance.  So what are the questions that arise out of this situation?  First and foremost is, "if this heaven is an actual place then where is it?"  Second is, "how did he get there?"

    I can answer the first question by answering the second one.  If we are to accept that Jesus literally rose up into the sky and that heaven is somewhere out in space or in the sky, then this place is positively verifiable.  Yet I ask you, how many times have you seen heaven out the window of your Boeing 737 as you were flying through the sky?  How many pilots have reported seeing angels with wings during their workdays at 35,000 feet?  So obviously heaven isn't in the sky and if you say that it is out in space, then where in space is it?  It obviously isn't between the earth and the moon or the Apollo astronauts would have seen it.  So it must be further out still.  There were no pictures of it from Voyager, so it must be further out than Voyager has flown.  Well let me lay a little factoid on you.  If Jesus left the earth for heaven and traveled there at the speed of light, which is a velocity that can't be exceeded by any known physics today, he wouldn't have left the milky way galaxy by now.  So again I ask you, where is this heaven?  Obviously from the facts, heaven is not a physical place.  But if it is not a physical place then what could it be?  How about a state of mind, a place in consciousness.

    Accepting that Jesus went inward into the inner depths of consciousness is far more easier to accept than stories that defy the laws of the universe.  For those of us experienced with meditation of any kind, it is easy for us to accept the idea of places in consciousness because we have experienced them first hand.  For those of us who have experienced astral travel, places in consciousness are an undeniable fact.  Unfortunately most Christians don't know the first thing about meditation or the study of the functioning of the mind because these practices were eradicated by the early Christian church.  It was mostly practiced by the Gnostic Christians and to date we know very little of their teachings and methods thanks to their elimination.  This situation then brings rise to another question.  If this statement from the Bible is not to be taken literally, then what else in the Bible is of a similar nature?  This is the difference between denotation and connotation in metaphor.  Metaphors are the only tool that can be used in writing to express something that is beyond the realm of words and that is why the Bible uses them so much.

    Can you see that there is a fundamental shift in perspective when you approach the Bible as a metaphor instead of the history book everyone wants it to be?  When you accept that what is frequently written in the Bible is a metaphor and learn what is meant by the symbolic language it uses a huge number of incongruencies are reconciled in one stroke.  For example take the story of the rapture.  If you take the literal approach, at some point in the future, thousands of people will simply vanish off the face of the earth and meet Christ in the sky, where they will be given new bodies.  If you use the metaphorical approach it is not their bodies that will be transformed it will be their consciousness.  All without leaving the comfort of their own chairs.  Which version seems more plausible to you?

   The teachings of Jesus state that God is a just and loving God.  The God he is referring to is supposed to be the same God of the Old Testament.  Yet the accounts of this deity are hardly the kind of behavior one would expect of an enlightened being or even an omniscient being.  As is typical of most Gods the first thing this God tried to do, is to eliminate the competition and demand that people worship only him.  And to make it really difficult for us he refused to give us his name.  How egocentric can you get?  Then there is the account in the story of Noah where God regrets punishing man by nearly wiping out humanity with a global flood.  I find it very interesting that this perfect, all knowing, all seeing God is capable of making a mistake.  Or is the story of Noah not to be taken literally and is intended as metaphor instead.  This statement does not negate that Noah ever existed or that some of these events ever occurred.  Just that it didn't happen exactly as it was written.

    I think it is imperative to remember the culture that produced these stories.  By our standards today they were primitives and yet there are people today who are living and thinking on that same level and insist that you aren't a Christian unless you do it too.  The best that any spiritual path can be arises out of the culture of the present time.  That is why going back to the primitive practices of religion that has existed before today is a mistake.  Must we go back to the religious practices of animal and human sacrifices to connect with the divine?  Or can we accept that some of our religious practices of the past were the result of a very primitive and immature society that couldn't accept the idea that man doesn't have all the answers.

    Another incongruence occurs when you bring up the idea of the chosen people or the righteous people.  Either way it makes no difference, you are still concerning yourself with a select group of people to the exclusion of others.  By making man live under the threat of eternal damnation in the fires of hell by not being included with the righteous people, God has introduced compliance through fear and intimidation.  Is this the work of a loving and just God?  Or is it more plausible that things aren't going to happen the way they are literally written?  One of the permutations of the word INRI is Igne Natura Renovatour Integra which translates from Latin as "The whole of nature is regenerated by fire."  Could these statements of the fires of hell be referring to a process of purification, much like steel is purified in furnace?  If this is true then all beings shall be redeemed, not just the righteous or the chosen.  It must be very comforting to allot of people today to know that their ancestry has assured their membership in Gods club or that we will enter the gates of heaven because we are so good.  Can you see that this position only serves to assuage primitive doubt and fear of the unknown?  Doubt and fear that is generated by minds of limited capacity.  Truly I tell you it wont happen that way.  If God is God of all then he is a universal God and not a God of the select few.  This being the case then the door is open to include everyone, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists etc. A true disciple knows another's Lord as his own.

    Another discrepancy deals with the subject of Christ's forgiveness.  Some people will tell you that because they are believing Christians that all of the sins of their past have been forgiven and that through Christ's grace they have been made perfect and are incapable of further sin.  How do I know this?  I was told this by a Pentecostal when I was 25 years old.  Now going back to the old time religion of Judaism, sin was forgiven through animal sacrifice and burnt offering on the day of atonement.  The reason for this is that the God of the Old Testament demanded the spilling of blood as a means of forgiving sin (such an enlightened and civilized deity).  Then Christ came and took on the position of sacrificial lamb for us.  I only have one problem with this way of thinking.  If I eat too much does that mean that Jesus gets fat?  Likewise if I'm sick and you swallow my medicine instead of me, will I get well?  Surely not.  On a symbolic or metaphorical level, sins have been forgiven by Christ.  That doesn't however absolve me of responsibility for my own actions or eliminate the part that I play in all of this.  Likewise on a symbolic and metaphorical level all persons who have had communion or as the Catholics refer to it, "The Eucharist" are vampires and cannibals.


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