Sunday, May 1, 2011

God Speaking, Humans Hearing, and a Nice Jewish Boy Meets Rabbi Jesus

I recently made the acquaintance of a person by the name of Ben Johnson, who is a Christian active in interfaith activities. We exchanged books, and he asked my opinion on a particular chapter from one of his books. The basic premise of the book, The God Who Speaks is that humans not only can communicate with God via prayer, meditation, etc., but that God also communicates with humans, and this communication remains available and is not just a thing of the past from the time of ancient prophets and teachers. The particular chapter he asked me to comment on posed the idea that the incarnation of Jesus was one form of God speaking/expressing/communicating with humans. Following is my response, slightly revised, that I would like to share now with a broader audience, that I originally shared with Ben, appropriately, on Easter Sunday:


You asked me to share with you my thoughts about Chapter 2 of your book, The God Who Speaks. I thought it might be helpful to also read the Introduction and Chapter 1, which I did. First off, I agree with you that this is an important subject to address, and I agree with your assertion, contrary to other viewpoints, that revelation, prophecy, God’s voice, guidance, etc. has been and remains accessible. I also agree that there are issues as to how to ascertain genuine Divine Guidance and distinguish it from imbalanced, delusion, egoic fantasy and imaginings. I once took a little online course with a Jewish teacher that touched on this subject and these issues. His answer was that there are some qualities by which to ascertain real revelation from false revelation. One factor was that the communication is always stated in the present tense. Another factor is that the communication is devoid of any emotional charge, that it is provided in a very matter-of-fact, non-emotional manner. There may have been one or two other factors that I cannot now recall (another may have been that the communication will not advocate any form of violence or harm to others), but the above two rang true for me.

Getting to the specifics of Chapter 2, and trying to keep this communication somewhat brief, I will address a few issues from an interfaith perspective. Chapter 2 is premised upon the idea, taken as fact and an essential core belief of most Christians, that Jesus was an incarnation of God. The first issue concerns the common Christian claim that Jesus was the one and only incarnation of God that ever was and ever will be. I believe that common Jewish and Islamic belief is that there is no such possibility as an incarnation of God. The common Jewish definition of the Messiah does not include the Messiah being an incarnation, and of course, Jews do not recognize Jesus as fulfilling the definition of the Messiah. My understanding of the basic Islamic belief is that Jesus was one in a line of great prophets, including all of the Old Testament Prophets, concluding with Mohammed being the last in the line of these great prophets of The Book. For them, the New Testament is like The Book, Volume 2, and the Koran is like The Book, Volume 3. Of course, Jews only recognize Volume 1 and are thusly a bit annoyed at Christians referring to Volume 1 as the “Old” Testament, which Jews call the Tanach. Sometimes, out of deference to this sensitivity, I will refer to the New Testament as the Christian Testament and the Old Testament as the Tanach, a practice that interfaith Christians might want to consider employing.

A common Hindu perspective would be that Jesus is one of many incarnations of God. Hindu scriptures and lore are full of stories including divine incarnations, virgin births, miracles, transfigurations, etc. as found in the Christian Testament. I have heard an argument from some enlightened Christians that perhaps the correct translation is that Jesus was a son of the only God, not that Jesus was the only son of God. This viewpoint is also in keeping with the perspective of many in the western esoteric traditions, such as Theosophy, which consider Jesus one of many Masters. 
My personal viewpoint lies somewhere between the Islamic and Hindu views, but may be closest with the Theosophical view. I have many questions about traditional Jewish and Christian concepts of a Messiah, enunciated in Chapter 15 of my book, IVRI. The whole idea of an incarnation, from a Christian or Hindu perspective, poses many provocative issues that I do not wish to delve into here for the sake of brevity. It seems like there are many questions as to how to define an incarnation/avatar and distinguish that definition from other beings who are not incarnations. If God is omnipresent, how can God be more present in Jesus or Krishna than in other people? Transfiguration is also something recognized by Hindus as one sign of yogic achievement. It is my understanding that those involved with The Vedanta Center and other followers of Ramakrishna regard him in much the same way as Christians regard Jesus, although they would be more willing to acknowledge other incarnations and not make a claim to exclusivity as most Christians do. I personally feel most aligned with the Jewish/Islamic/Theosophist view that there are great agents of the Divine who can lower their operating frequency to participate at the physical level, but who can also elevate their frequency to slightly higher than physical levels. Such beings, when appearing in the physical realm, are capable of entering without the agency of human physical birth as we know it, and can leave without the process of human death as we know it, although they may also appear to be born and to die as normal mortal humans. I’ll just leave it at that for now. 

I did want to share with you one of many profound benchmark spiritual experiences in my life, this one relating to Jesus Christ. It was a revelation/vision that happened many years ago in which I experienced a very traditional image of Jesus Christ (handsome white guy with long hair and a nicely trimmed beard) emanating out of my heart and also appearing within the hearts of everyone and as the essence of everything. It expressed the pure Divine Heart/Divine Love that exists as a unifying substratum of all manifest existence. It was sort of like a double-exposed moving picture film, where I saw everything in manifest existence as usual, except that there was a second underlying image of Jesus everywhere at the same time, including in my own heart. I would look around and see a tree, grass, the sky, other people, but at the same time, there was Jesus Christ underlying it all. It was like images of the separate entities were superimposed upon this one unifying image of Christ. At the time, I had been studying the Bhagavad-Gita with the local Hare Krishnas, and they described a concept they called the “Supersoul”, which was basically this same experience, only with the image of Krishna instead of Jesus. This experience did not lead me to convert to Christianity or become a Jew for Jesus. I considered that because I was in the US, with Christianity being the prevalent religion, that this image appeared in this manner due to it being impressed in the collective unconscious of the region, which I was accessing. I imagined that if I had been in India, it might have been a different image, perhaps of Krishna or Shiva or Vishnu. In any case, it was not accompanied by any message of Jesus being Messiah or Saviour or dying for my sins so I could be saved. It was just an expression of profound universal/unifying Divine Love and Light. So that is my Easter revelation-sharing with you!

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Quote of the Week 381 - Heaven

Heaven is all round,

Translated to sound.

--Michael Hedges



Announcing Publication of New Book, DIMENSIONS: Navigation the Spiritual Spectrum

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum, now available at Amazon, in paperback print and Kindle versions. It is easily found by searching my name, or by searching the full title and subtitle. You can also click on the image of the book in the right hand column of this blog.

What a great way to start the New Year, cozying up to a fire, real or imagined, and reading a new spiritually inspiring book, sure to become a classic!

DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum

Grounded in the traditions of Torah and Veda, Steven J. Gold takes us on an oceanic tour of the depth and breadth of spiritual consciousness. Sharing personal stories and insights into various traditional scriptures as examples, he urges us to adopt a spiritual worldview, to “ponder infinity, awake and arise,” to “find your inspiration and follow it.”

“The chapters…are records of what happens when Steve’s right mind, and heart, are given full freedom to wander where they wish. As discoveries and correlations are made, his well-trained left mind and sharp wit give his observations shape and form…” – Brother Shankara, Resident Minister, Vedanta Center of Atlanta

“Universal Ice Cream: Dive deep into Steve’s wonderful book to help find your favorite flavor on the Spiritual Spectrum.” – Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Spiritual Leader, Congregation Shalom B’Harim, Dahlonega, GA

“Steven J. Gold’s Dimensions is an exploration of spirituality from the inside out. If you are looking for a guide through the pathless land of truth, read this book.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of The World Wisdom Bible

Interfaith/Inter-Spiritual Contemplative Groups

Please check out the following, which is an ongoing activity that may be of interest: