Monthly Archives: January 2016

World domination, Alexander the Great and Snakes

A poem about those who plot world domination followed by a continuation of the story of Alexander the Great with a digression on snakes.

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Preparing for a birth of new creativity January 2016

A brief exposition of the solar, lunar, and astrological influences as we move closer to the birth of a new spring. I forgot to mention the Chinese New Year. On February 8, we will be entering the Year of the Monkey. Peace be with you. Let go of the old to prepare for the new.  This is  cleansing time.

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Heaven

Last week I started writing about “Our Father who Art in Heaven.” I only got as far as “Our Father…” Now I’m going to try to explore the rest “…who art in Heaven.”

In the last piece I looked at translations implying that Jesus was addressing The Lord’s Prayer to a loving parental being who was the source of all that is and breathes life into all being. The completion of this phrase indicates that this being is in Heaven.

So what is heaven and where is heaven? For the past few weeks I have asked a number of people where they think Heaven is. I haven’t gotten a lot of answers.

One friend of mine told me that he believes Heaven is an actual physical planet somewhere in the universe. Other than that, no one I asked had a definite answer.

So I decided to look it up in Wikipedia. The article is quite interesting and talks not only about the Jewish and Christian views, but other religions and even has the opinions of neuroscientists about more recent near-death experience.

The impression that I come away with is that Heaven is experienced as a place but not necessarily a physical place. As Saint Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago– whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows– such a man was caught up to the third heaven.

And I know how such a man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows–

was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

So Paul attested as a fact that there is a heaven and it has at least 3 levels. It appears that this idea of multiple heavens is held in common amongst various religions. Often those who say they have had some like experience have done so “out of body.”

This challenges the present day materialistic view of reality. If these experiences are true, it suggests that there are dimensions of experience usually referred to as “spiritual.” There are beings, including ancestors and  angels, who inhabit these realms. The higher realms are referred to as paradise or heaven and the highest heaven is the realm of the Most High God.

So when we open The Lord’s Prayer we are addressing our prayer to the central being or source of being who dwells in the highest realm of love, truth, and unity that is the creative center of all realities. We are beginning our prayer with the expectation that we can enter into personal communication with God.

I find that very reassuring.

I encourage people to take time and reflect on the words, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” I also encourage people to talk with others and research the meaning of these words.

Sometimes when I start The Lord’s Prayer, I don’t get beyond the first line, thinking about God and thinking about heaven.

Amen

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Our Father who art in Heaven

the Lord's prayer in English and Aramaic

the Lord’s prayer in English and Aramaic (Click to view larger)

I love The Lord’s Prayer. I say it in my mind almost everyday. I find that it connects me to some higher realm of spirit and provides strength and solace. Saying it deepens my faith, motivates me to serve others, alleviates my anxiety, liberates me from guilt, makes me more forgiving, helps me to end unhealthy behaviors, engenders a sense of gratitude, and opens me up to new possibilities and opportunities every day.

This short prayer provides an inexhaustible well of contemplative thought and meditation. I am fascinated by each phrase.

For instance, the opening phrase, “Our Father who art in Heaven” raises many questions.

Jesus instructs his  followers to begin their prayer by addressing a personal male being who lives in Heaven. I must pause here to remind myself that Jesus did not speak English. Most probably, speaking to the common people of the time he spoke Aramaic.

If you would like to hear The Lord’s Prayer as it may have sounded here’s a recording along with transcription.

The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic

As far as I know, there is no historical record of The Lord’s Prayer as Jesus spoke it. The Lord’s Prayer first appears in the gospels, once in Luke and once in Matthew. It was also recorded in the Peshitta in Syriac, which is similar to the Aramaic of Palestine during the Roman period. Scholars think, however, that it was translated into Syriac from the Greek.

For those interested, here is the Lord’s Prayer in the original Greek.

I am not a Biblical scholar or an authority on ancient languages so I am not going to delve into biblical and historical criticism.

The point is that Jesus did not say, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” The Lord’s Prayer was first written in Greek and then translated into Latin and other languages. Centuries later it was translated into English, of which there are several different versions.

If and when Jesus spoke The Lord’s Prayer he probably opened it with something like “Avvon d-bish-maiya,” that may translate into English as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”

Often as I recited The Lord’s Prayer, I would hastily go over the Our Father. But over time, as my spirit nursed more deeply on the prayer, I had to stop.

Why “Our Father?” My first reaction is that it reveals a deep personal relationship with a divine parental being. But it also identifies that parental being as masculine. It indicates that God is male.

Throughout all that exists there is a differentiation of male and female. Genesis 1:27 says

God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them

This statement in Genesis appears to say that God is male and female. When I looked at some of the modern translations of the Aramaic, several rendered “Abwûn” in a number of ways: one who breathes life into all being, the mother/father creator, etc. Here are some examples from The Lords Prayer – The Nazarene Way.

I will let you draw your own conclusions. I recommend whatever most effectively opens the door for you to a personal relationship with the One. When you feel this connection in mind, soul, and heart you can ask the One directly to guide you into the truth.

There is another very important issue that arises in the words, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” The saying implies that we are the Children of God.

This is a main sticking point between Christianity and Islam. The Quran does not say that people can not have a personal relationship with God. On the contrary, it tells us that God is Al Rahman, the Compassionate and Beneficent, Al Raheem, the Merciful, Al Mujeeb, the One Who Hears All Prayers. There are many more Names that imply a loving God who seeks an intimate relationship with us. Mohammed said that Allah (God) is closer to us than our jugular veins. The Sufis encourage us to be not only servants and slaves of God but also to be Allah’s friends and lovers.

However, the Quran and Islam adamantly deny that God has children. In my understanding this is because the central affirmation of Islam is that there is no God but Allah.

This is a difficult problem. I believe that it is a reaction to the Trinitarian doctrine that there are Three Gods in One – God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – and that Jesus is both fully man and fully God. This doctrine of orthodox Christianity, which was arrived at only after hundreds of years of theological turmoil within early Christianity is indeed a stumbling block.

There are many aspects to the theological conflict between Islam and Christianity. Too many to explore in a blog of this nature.

Personally, I believe that it is possible to have an intimate relationship with the divine One. I believe that God has a parental heart and loves all his creation. Allah loves us as a parent loves his children. He also loves each and every animal, every plant, every atom, every ray of creation, because love is essential to reality.

That does not mean that I am the One – although in some sense I am. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains in his commentary  on the Bhagavad Gita that every person has a divine spark in his heart. That spark, the soul, is divine and comes from God. Jesus said, “Do you not know that you are gods?”

Prabhupada uses the analogy of the sun and its rays. Every ray of sunlight is connected to the sun and carries its energy, but it is not the sun itself.

the_lords_prayer_in_hebrew_poster_matthew_6_9_13-r64211679023644f9aa55c613ba1dcc57_wva_8byvr_512

These are all metaphors not worth arguing over. The important thing is for people who have lost the life-giving connection to the source of the universe “Abwûn” to regain that connection.

As I said in the beginning, The Lord’s Prayer is a profound source of inspiration, contemplation, and meditation. My experience is that it is really much more than that. I encourage you to experience it for yourself.

I have only shared a few brief thoughts on “Our Father.” I haven’t even gotten yet to “who art in Heaven.” That’s a fertile field too.

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