Hell: The Fallen Doctrine

by Joshua Tilghman on April 5, 2016

hellWe are all familiar with the concept of the Christian hell: A fiery place of eternal torment where the rich man begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue. Such imagery makes us think that hell is a terrible place. But does the Bible really teach that hell is place of everlasting punishment for those who have rejected God’s ways?

Even the question itself would be ridiculous if you read the Bible without contemporary Christian influence. A logical examination of the Old and New Testaments shows that hell is nothing evil, permanent, or a type of punishment. In fact, hell is a necessary experience for all of us.

In this brief post I’ll focus on the concept of hell in the Old Testament. In part 2 of this short series I’ll use the New Testament story of Lazarus and the rich man (who supposedly went to everlasting torture) to show you what hell really means.

Hell and the Old Testament

Before we get into the subject, I would like to point out that the Torah (the foundation of the Old Testament), doesn’t mention any kind of specific afterlife. Rather, the Law of Moses focuses on immediate rewards and punishments for our actions. This fact has led some Christian scholars to believe—incorrectly—that the author had no specific belief in an afterlife. But this is silly. The Torah never delves into the afterlife because its authors accepted the doctrine of reincarnation, or more specifically, the transmigration of the soul. The transmigration of the soul was such a prominent belief that any kind of teaching on the subject would seem trivial. Does the Bible need to teach us that we need food and water to sustain the physical body? Of course not. This is how the ancient Jewish writers of scripture viewed the concept of the transmigration of the soul.

The word translated as “hell” in the Old Testament comes from sheol. It simply means, the state of the dead, or the grave. If you read every scripture (literally) where the word sheol is translated hell or grave you would get many conflicting ideas of what it really means. This is why there is still much confusion on the Old Testament idea of hell. Remember, the confusion and contradictory ideas come when the scriptures are read literally. For example, a literal reading of Psalm 88:3-5 and Isa. 38:11 tells us that the dead were completely cut off from God. But Psalm 139:8 specifically tells us that God’s presence reaches into hell. Which is it? In addition, a literal reading of Ecclesiastes 9:6-10, Job 10:21-22, Psalms 88:6, and Psalms 6:5 gives the idea that hell is devoid of love and hate, thought, and memory. But a few other places seem to indicate that one went through at least a little suffering. Job 26:5, Psalm 88:10-12, and Isaiah 14:9-10 would make you believe that no one can even hope to ever escape hell’s gates. But then we get a sense of relief in Isa. 25:8 that hell will no longer swallow up the dead, but instead God will swallow up hell! What in the world is going on here?

Some Christian scholars, confused by these literal renderings, now teach that afterlife reality was a revelation revealed to the prophets in increments, until Christ fully came. In other words, earlier beliefs of hell in the Old Testament were unknown until the New Testament, with only hints of a resurrection from hell sprinkled in Isaiah. It is called, Progressive Revelation. This is all ridiculous. The problem, as you can see, is reading the Bible literally. The Bible is one big metaphor. When read correctly, we get a much clearer understanding of hell.

The overall picture we get of hell when reading the Old Testament is that it is a gloomy place where individual consciousness is vague and foggy, almost like a dream. In this state we are cut off from God and the land of the living. Its inhabitants are similar to decrepit shades or ghosts. But all these descriptions are metaphors for the soul as it incarnates between physical lives until one is awakened with the Christ nature. This is how we appear to be now until the resurrection. But it is not about attaining a physical resurrection. Rather it is a spiritual one. Common sense tells us that flesh and bones that have rotted and turned to dust will not be reassembled and a soul put back into them. Such an idea is ridiculous, and only a literal reading of a book that is meant to be symbolic will give us such silly fairy tale notions.

If you read the fourteenth chapter of Job very carefully (while remembering that it’s metaphorical!) you will see that the author most assuredly believed in reincarnation. He compares the life of a man to a tree that lives again. Obviously the tree symbolizes reincarnation. At first he asks if the man can live again as the tree has, but then later in the chapter states he wants to be hid in hell / the grave until a time when God will remember him and he is changed. In fact, Job 14:13 states,

“O that thou wouldest hid me in the grave [sheol], that thou wouldest keep me in secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!”

True: some stubborn apologist will advocate that this supports the resurrection, but such an interpretation obfuscates the greater symbolism taught through the entire Old Testament. Even in the beginning chapter of Job, we get this scripture:

“…naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…” (Job 1:21).

If you return to the mother’s womb naked where you have once been before, how do you get anything other than the transmigration of the soul?

I often have readers write to me and say that the Bible doesn’t mention reincarnation. I don’t have time to go into all the scriptures here, but the Bible is actually full of it! In fact the ancient Jewish concept of Gilgal means the revolving wheel of life. Gilgal is mentioned over forty times in the Old Testament. See my post, Gilgal: More Scriptural Evidence for Reincarnation, to learn more.

So what is hell really? Hell is the physical plane. It is the place of soul growth. It is the place where even the Son of God had to learn obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:8).

The great Joseph Campbell once said:

“If that soul of ours, that sheath of the spirit, belongs to earth rather than heaven, the Spirit will have to remake it, and that means hell until every earth-born desire has been renounced and overcome as such, and transmuted into its spiritual counterpart.”

Hell as a fiery place of torment is mainly a Christian invention of the Middle Ages. Literature such as Dante’s Inferno helped evolve this concept, which is actually found nowhere in the Bible when read correctly.

It would be more accurate to equate hell with a time of intermittent suffering and happiness over a period of time, so that the soul can learn life lessons. For an excellent article on this, read http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1594422/jewish/Do-Jews-Believe-in-Hell.htm

For more information on hell specifically mentioned in Old Testament scriptures and what it means, read:

http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/tbhell.html

Although I recommend the above link, keep in mind that the above author is still not trained in the esoteric and symbolic interpretation of scripture. While the article above certainly proves that there is not concept of hell as eternal punishment taught in the Old Testament, I don’t believe Mr. Thayer and all the scholars he mentions truly understands the overall esoteric concept of hell that the original scriptural writers conveyed. With that being said, enjoy!

In the next part we shall delve into Lazarus and the Rich Man to get a complete understanding of hell in the New Testament. Blessings!

Robert April 6, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Josh,

I would like to try to address two issues as you get started in this series about this very controversial subject. I first want to give you recognition for your personal friendship, your extensive knowledge of esoteric beliefs and excellence in presenting them, article after article, in a well-written and captivating manner. They continue to enlighten and inspire me even though I have taken a different fork in the road in representing what you have kindly referred to as a more conservative perspective in the spectrum of differing approaches to understanding the spirit of the scriptures. I appreciate that you are not offended by my comments that challenge some of your theology and am touched by your high level of tolerance which is highly commendable.

There is so much confusion about the meaning of Sheol, etc., and so much at stake. One thing that I am sure we can fully agree on is that this is “one hell of a topic”. So with that in mind, allow me to address your core statement. You write:

“Hell as a fiery place of torment is mainly a Christian invention of the Middle Ages. Literature such as Dante’s Inferno helped evolve this concept, which is actually found nowhere in the Bible when read correctly.”

I will grant you that there is some truth to your statement, in that without the New Testament to complete the perspective on salvation and judgement, it is much easier to ignore the purpose of the Old Testament verses which hint of the same salvation and judgement which were yet to come when they were written. The OT speaks about the grave or Sheol as a place where all souls journey to when the body dies, but not as a permanent abode. There are also incidences in the OT that describe lower levels of this place that are associated with wrath and fire. It also describes the wicked as going down to the pit, and never describes the righteous going to the pit. More clarity on the subject is provided in passages that deal more closely with the future, like in Daniel, although it is still slightly cloudy because the angel instructs Daniel not to reveal everything that was shown him:

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nation began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace. But those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. As for you, Daniel, keep secret the message and seal the book until the end time; many shall wander aimlessly and evil shall increase.” (Daniel 12:1-4)

So we begin to see a picture of salvation to the righteous and judgement for the wicked in the OT at a future time to those who have died and gone to the grave, and that there is a part of the grave that is referred to as the pit that is reserved for the wicked.

In my own thinking it would seem an act of compassion for God not to fully spell out the ultimate consequences for wickedness until such time when an opportunity for the wicked to be redeemed would finally be revealed during the appointed time of Jesus Christ’s ministry, who went down to the grave when he died and is believed to have offered that opportunity of salvation through belief in him to those in the grave, before he rose out of it, resurrected. Otherwise the Jews born before Jesus lived would have been subjected to unnecessary doom and gloom without any promise of a remedy. It was important in Jewish culture for people to go through a mourning process when their loved ones died, by praying to God for their departed loved ones, so that their survivors could be comforted and arise through the various stages of grief. This tradition of praying for the departed on the Sabbath is still practiced in the synagogues today.

In regards to the defining the word hell, what I am discovering is that words can evolve in meaning from their original definition to something entirely different, due to popular usage. Take for instance the word “cool” when used by pop culture after the 1960’s to mean interesting, acceptable, or hip. The same is true of the word “hell” and the word “inferno”. In the strictest sense, the word inferno comes from the Latin “infernus” which means underground, not a blazing fire. But if you look up the definition, only one out of five modern dictionaries mention this; the others ignore this and skip to the currently popular definition of blazing fire, which was not the meaning in Dante’s day.

So it is safe to say Dante’s inferno was describing the underground, which had many levels through which the soul progressed, one of which could be a fiery, tormenting punishment, but other levels had various other qualities. Dante is also known for promoting the concept of purgatory, where some of the wicked after bodily death might be refined through great tribulation to attain salvation and enter heaven. The idea of the soul having the capacity to be purged after death of the body is not mentioned in the bible. It may have been encouraged in the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church which at that time accepted donations for the purpose of improving the destiny of loved ones who had died. But purgatory after death is not scriptural. Hebrews 9:26-28 makes this perfectly clear:

“But he (Christ) has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

As you have mentioned, there is a lot of confusion about the meaning of the word hell. Is it Hades, Sheol, Gahanna? Is it a neutral holding place or a place of punishment? My input to the issue is this: various sources of information are just like modern dictionaries; different sources report different outcomes, often ignoring the ones that are not popular or do not suit the source’s purposes. The unpopular evidence is that there actually are quite a number of scriptures in both testaments and some beliefs in Jewish cultures at different times in history that support destruction and punishment of the wicked as if consumed or tortured by flames. Thayer who contested this a century before Campbell may not have been directly familiar with Campbell’s ideas, but uses a similar approach of using metaphors and not so relevant generalizations, thus trying to discourage the idea of accepting judgement of the wicked, what naïve human sentiment and its shortsightedness have a hard time doing. Plus, as I shall point out later, like Campbell, Thayer had a predisposition for wanting to contest the biblical concept of judgement.

As a point of reference, Revelations is very graphic in its description of a place of torment for the devil and his angels, and anyone whose name that is not written in the book of life. Other New Testament scriptures also describe a fiery torment. So the idea of punishment is included in the soup mix of meanings of hell. Both Campbell and Thayer decided to interpret out the punishment part with their various arguments and extreme generalizations. Thayer was a Universalist, a group that already prided itself with having a strong predisposition against punishment, plus a number of other unusual and unorthodox doctrines that are based on a naïve form of human sentiment, not on scripture, thus denying the bible’s claim that God’s ways are far above and beyond human understanding.

It is very possible that when any one of us decide to challenge the direct meaning of scripture by simply claiming that it is “ridiculous”, that we are actually denying that God’s ways are greater than ours, and that our naïve, short-sighted sentiments are superior to God’s infinite wisdom. We are either putting self before God, or deciding that self is God, regardless of what state the self is in at the moment. We may be in the same emotional state of the mother of a psychopathic killer who keeps escaping from prison or putting other prisoners lives at risk, pleading with the court to be merciful to her son.

I have noticed this appeal to human sentiment by labeling something ridiculous being used on TV by a branch of the Seven Day Adventists and in other situations where the intent was to circumvent the direct meaning of scriptures in the ears of the audience so they would turn inward to their own momentary feelings and accept the speaker’s conclusions.

So Thayer was a Universalist. Whatever Campbell was isn’t quite certain. He knew a lot about comparative religions, mythology, and had an attraction to Eastern Mysticism. His critics complain that he focused too much on trying to see common patterns between religions, and ignored their differences, so that his conclusions are gross overgeneralizations, and he used those gross overgeneralizations especially to attack Christianity in his writings, teachings, and TV appearances. Whatever his religious background was, his comments and writings indicate that he had a strong disdain for Christianity. And so he was an outsider and a stranger to the particular differences that make Christianity and the claims of Jesus Christ unique and special. For instance he promoted the idea that the virgin birth was just another version of pagan themes that existed before Christianity, implying that it was the same old thing borrowed by Christianity, or a pagan influence contaminating it. But he ignored the fact that the pagan mythical themes involved the actual impregnation of virgins by superhuman figures, usually with flaws, whereas the virgin birth by Mary involved no actual impregnation, which is a very important, unique and distinctive aspect of the Christian virgin birth that Campbell chose to ignore, and which supports the claim that Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God.

Also, Campbell’s ideas about myths and the “hero’s journey” (also referred to as the monomyth), which implies a common theme is imbedded in the human psyche similar to Jung’s architypes, became popular in Hollywood after PBS (public television) ran a series by Bill Moyers on Campbell’s theology. George Lucas and other Hollywood producers picked up on it because it was appealing to audiences, thus highly marketable, and it fit in well as a form of storytelling that followed the kind of climatic arc that captivates audiences and produces catharsis. Out of this came the pantheistic calling cry of modern science fiction “May the force be with you”. But the bottom line is that this is all about entertainment, not the truth about salvation.

Added to this, there is evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls (and other documents found in the Qumran community) that a religious concept of fiery punishment for the wicked existed in the Jewish community as early as a century before Christ, more than a millennium before Dante. I have this from various internet articles and from personal discussion with Rabbi Seth Clayman, leader of a well-established local Messianic Jewish Congregation, who studied this extensively as part of his doctoral thesis in Jewish Studies at Duke University, and who, in addition to being a rabbi, is now also an adjunct professor of Jewish Studies.

My purpose is not to discredit your sincerity, passion, good will, and remarkable skill in promoting certain aspects of esoteric beliefs, but I am concerned about some of the influences of Joseph Campbell. I want to provide an opportunity for you to revisit his arguments based on the evidence I have presented. I certainly have not explored esoteric beliefs anywhere as long as you have and with as much depth, so there is probably a lot I do not know, but on the other hand because I am not so invested in it, it may be easier for me to stand back from it and look at the bigger picture. So I think it is important to report my observations to you and for other readers to consider.

Blessings,
Robert

Joshua Tilghman April 15, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Robert,

Thanks for your comment and your opening kind words. I appreciate it!

Now as to assessment of Hell in the Old Testament:

Of course hell as a fiery place of eternal judgement has been promulgated through the Middle Ages, and even in to today with cartoons like Tom and Jerry.

The Bible does talk about Sheol as a place where all bodies go when they die, but it also talks about hell as a situation of our present predicaments. Think David. Think Jonah. Jonah called the belly of the whale hell, which is full of symbolism and not really about being in a whale either.

The scripture in Daniel 12:1-4 is also full of symbolism, which would take an entire post to address. These are not literal descriptions.

In one section of your comment you state:

The idea of the soul having the capacity to be purged after death of the body is not mentioned in the bible. It may have been encouraged in the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church which at that time accepted donations for the purpose of improving the destiny of loved ones who had died. But purgatory after death is not scriptural. Hebrews 9:26-28 makes this perfectly clear:

“But he (Christ) has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Why do you preclude an idea of purgatory (which comes from the original Jewish concept of the transmigration of the soul) based on that scripture? Of course it is appointed unto every man to die once. Reincarnation is in perfect agreement with this. Every physical body perishes, and a judgement happens when the ego gravitates back towards that which it craves from former lives. Just as Jesus said that if the disciples could believe that John the Baptist really was Elijah, they would have gained an extra level of truth about life. John the Baptist was not Elijah, but rather a culmination of Elijah’s soul and every other soul that had been transmigrated before him. And they all died. When Christ comes within the individual, so does salvation. This is part of reincarnation also. Purgatory was born out of the idea of reincarnation. It was a natural evolution of a purer form of Christianity where traditional Christianity began to take hold. The idea of reincarnation was excommunicated from the church when it was declared heretical when the emperor Justinian desired it to be so.

Addressing your next paragraph, how do you punish a soul, a non-material entity, with physical fire? It doesn’t matter than some Jewish beliefs express a fiery torment. The overwhelming majority of the Jewish people don’t see it that way. I concur.

You also speak of Revelation as describing a literal hell. Not so. The book of Revelation is filled with so much symbolism that to take any of it literally is to contradict the overall obvious theme of the book: that it is within where hell, the judgement, and all of the plagues are experienced at ego-death. If it were all literal, then Jesus would be returning on a horse with a tattoo on his thigh probably fighting tanks and nuclear bombs.

You have also stated:

“It is very possible that when any one of us decide to challenge the direct meaning of scripture by simply claiming that it is “ridiculous”, that we are actually denying that God’s ways are greater than ours, and that our naïve, short-sighted sentiments are superior to God’s infinite wisdom. We are either putting self before God, or deciding that self is God, regardless of what state the self is in at the moment. We may be in the same emotional state of the mother of a psychopathic killer who keeps escaping from prison or putting other prisoners lives at risk, pleading with the court to be merciful to her son.
This is true, Robert, but the pendulum swings both ways. If the scripture really is meant to be literal, than my challenge would be dangerous. However, if it were really meant to be symbolic, as I am willing to invest in, then it is dangerous to see it literally (and history has already proven that literal interpretations is the very thing that is responsible for so much ignorance and murder, across all religions).

Furthermore, anybody that has studied Joseph Campbell has to admit that he was a brilliant man that had an intuitive insight into human nature and the human condition that surpasses most traditional understandings in mainstream Christianity. In my opinion, when it comes down to scripture, he was a great. That’s why his interpretations are so marketable, because his interpretations speak for themselves.

Thayer, regardless of his background, was also brilliant. His scholarly contributions to scriptural interpretation cannot be dismissed as he is both thorough and relevant on many Old and New Testament topics. Especially on hell. Anyone who studies what many early Christian scholars since 1850 have revealed about the concept of Hell in the Old Testament will most likely come to the conclusion that it was never truly a place of eternal punishment.

About the Dead Sea Scrolls: I am unfamiliar about traditional hell concepts being a part of them, but in a very large way they very much go against traditional Christian doctrine. If they are to be part of this discussion, the Dead Sea Scrolls as a whole would not be in favor of any kind of traditional mainstream Christian belief. We don’t won’t to open that can of worms!

In respect of what you said, I in no way want to discredit your passion and commitment, either, Robert. You know I have a great respect for you. I will always appreciate that commitment. And these discussions are healthy.

I will get to the rest of your comments soon.

Blessings, my friend.

Robert April 16, 2016 at 10:13 pm

Hi Josh,

I think you will find when reading the rest of my comments that transmigration of the human soul in not a Jewish concept in the way you are trying to imply, but was taken from ancient pagan religions and artificially injected into the Lurianic Kabbalah in order to create a movement in the Middle Ages that would attract masses of Jews who were losing interest in dry Talmudic studies, who were looking for some kind of hope in perilous times, and were taught not too look to Jesus Christ for their hope. It is a corruption of 2900 years of Jewish belief that came before it and of biblical Judaism.

Regarding brilliance, I have always viewed it as an intellectual aptitude, not a virtue, and it can be a hindrance to knowing and following God as King Solomon discovered. The Gospel was never meant to be evaluated and judged and deconstructed by “brilliant” men. The bible says “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor 1:27) and “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’ ” (1 Cor 3:19, Job 5:13). The Pharisees and Sadducees were brilliant, but Jesus called them vipers and sons of the father of lies.

What I believe is an underlying issue here is whether man is supreme or God is supreme. According to the bible, God created the universe and has a presence outside of his creation. Man is a created being in his likeness inside creation, subject to its limitations. Most of the conflicts in the bible result from men who do not acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

So just as a heads up, my friend, these may be recurring themes in our follow up discussions.

Blessings,
Robert

Joshua Tilghman April 16, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Robert,

Mainstream Christianity and it’s traditions are also pagan. What traditional Christianity today calls paganism actually produced some of the most enlightening spiritual concepts for the soul. Think Christmas…Easter. And all the concepts behind them. In fact, it all stems from paganism in some fashion or other. Whether its esoteric material or Christianity.

And I am puzzled that you don’t believe reincarnation or transmigration of the soul has been in the history of Judaism for thousands of years. Even Josephus stated that the keepers of the Dead Sea Scrolls believed in it. It was not just a part of Kabbalah in the Middle Ages. Who’s to say when Orthodoxy really began? Who’s to say Orthodoxy as it is known today is truly correct. Using the New Testament we can even see it’s grip. Remember, the disciples asked Jesus was this man born blind because of his sin or his parents? And besides, it wasn’t just the Pharisees that believed in reincarnation. It was rampant or else it would have never been declared a heresy by the Catholic Church.

Regarding intelligence: this does not get one into the kingdom of heaven. Agreed. No argument there. Intelligence isn’t really what’s at stake. It’s more intuitive, which is developed over time. But intelligence is very handy, as it can give us the ability to eliminate doctrine from also being needed to have someone saved.

Think about this, Robert. If the traditional version of Christianity is correct, then one has to make a conscious choice in order to be saved. Where does this leave the infant? The mentally handicapped? If we say they are automatically innocent, and receive heaven as an automatic reward, then how do we justify a crown for them? And does God automatically give them a grown up self aware experienced consciousness after death. And if so, is it robotic if it wasn’t gained through their own experience?

Man is not supreme. But man is connected to the supreme, and it can never be severed.

Robert April 18, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Josh,

It would take a whole separate blogsite for me to explore issues about infants and handicapped. They are legitimate questions. They are important questions. I am going to have to pass on those for now. I’m glad you brought them up.

I think we are making progress, in that I now know you believe man is not supreme. I believe like you that man can be connected to the supreme. The promise of Jesus in John is that he will keep those who the Father has given to him under his care and will raise them up on the last day (John 6:39). Jesus promises never to abandon anyone who comes to him. Still, if a soul is given free choice, can a soul choose to sever from God? Or is this impossible in your opinion? Is separation from God a type of severing? “Your sins have separated you from God” (Isah 59.2). Paul says God removed the branch of Israel from the vine, but remains true to his everlasting covenant with Israel to restore it when the Jewish nation comes to Jesus. That’s comforting. I do not think you or I are severed from God? But I would want to hope that we are both presently on the vine?

Robert April 8, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Josh,

Just a quick comment about Chabad. I would be careful about referencing Chabad as a source for normative Jewish culture and ideas. We are talking here about a particular sect of Hasidic Jews with some very unusual views who have been criticized by other Hasidic groups and by all the mainstream non-Hasidic orthodox Jews throughout its history. Some of the Chabad still believe Rabbi Schneerson who died some time ago in the 20th century was the Messiah.

Joshua Tilghman April 16, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Robert, there will always be fringe movements in every religious group, and branches with differing beliefs that break off and evolve their own doctrine. Normative cultural ideas in any religion is really relevant to the observer. For me, higher spiritual revelation is just that. And doctrine is doctrine. I believe you will always find some aspect of truth in any religion and in any group.

Robert April 18, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Josh,

I realize what you are saying and agree. Yet, I am interested in finding something more than an offshoot of an evolving branch of human manufactured religion, courtesy of the latest guru or brilliant insights of men. The bible paints a different image of divinity, one that is absolute. “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal 3:6). This is not just about God himself, but about his covenant with Israel, which is a testament to his existence, immutability, and faithfulness.

I am also interested in finding truth, which the bible defines as not the letter of the law, and not a relative human viewpoint, but Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This is pointed toward the Son of God who is the revealer of truth. Jesus tells Phillip when he asks him to “show us the Father”, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” and later indicates that since he knows Jesus, then he now knows the Father. Phillip knows God because he knows Jesus and beholds who Jesus is, not because of some activity Phlip has done to raise his consciousness.

Later Jesus prays for unity of his believers to be with him as he is with the Father…so the world will know that the Father sent him. To me this about bridging the gap of separation between man and God through Jesus Christ, not man becoming God or man assimilating cosmic consciousness. It is about Christ, who appeared on earth one time in history in the person of one man Jesus, being sent by God.

Robert April 8, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Josh,

There were many places named Gilgal including the spot on the other side of the Jordan at the entrance to the Promised Land. The name Gilgal means circle or rolling in a circle, and is associated with things that are circular or rolling. These include circumcision, the removal of the foreskin sheath that encircles the tip of the penus and the rolling away of the reproach from Egypt. Both were conducted at Gilgal in a kind of mixed symbolism, and both were to signify a new beginning after being purified. These were symbolic of and pointing toward removal (rolling away) of the flesh (sinful) nature, what Paul referred to as the circumcision of the heart that is accomplished through the Holy Spirit after repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior. According to the scriptures this occurs one time in life, during the only life one has, and is made possible through the one time sacrifice of the Son of God (Hebrews 9:26-28). There is no association here with recycling through reincarnations.

Joshua Tilghman April 16, 2016 at 11:24 pm

I respectfully agree to disagree. Behind every story is a deeper spiritual revelation about mans soul and condition. Our differences in opinion on the Bible will always be there, because where you believe it is speaking literal I believe their is a deeper metaphorical explanation. The Promised Land, circumcision, etc. It all has a deeper spiritual meaning.

Robert April 17, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Josh,

I do believe there are metaphorical meanings and deeper stories; for instance, the decline of Israel under a succession of disobedient Kings who practiced the religions of surrounding nations and neglected the Torah. This included King Solomon, known as the wisest man who ever lived in those days, and in whose reign there was abundant prosperity and peace, but during which the seeds of corruption were sown that would undermine the future of Israel, leaving them to be crushed by their enemies and deported. Scripture says God was displeased with these Kings, that they did evil in his sight. Also, their neglect of some details of the Torah, like leaving the ground fallow on the seventh year, had agricultural consequences in the long run.

These all have applications in our personal lives. Human wisdom is not enough in the long run. Practising other religions is not healthy spiritually in the long run. Success, peace, and prosperity can in some instances be deceiving and can eventually lead to disaster. Industry putting short-term financial gain as a priority over protecting the planet’s ecological balance is another recipe for eventual disaster.

I believe Jonah and the whale, as well as some other scriptural passages, may indeed be fictional to various degrees, and their importance is in providing object lessons about human foibles and God’s guidance in dealing with them. And I agree that the insistence on 100% literalness is a mistake, and can actually lead to missing the point in some instances.

But I will state my objection again – those metaphorical interpretations that work to totally oppose the core biblical beliefs understood from the standard (not necessarily literal) reading of the bible have no business being used. They are an invasion of the bible’s core beliefs, instead of an elaboration on the theme. Their intention is to replace those core beliefs with a pantheistic model borrowed from mystic, mythological religions, cults, and occult practices, all of which place human consciousness at the top of the ladder above the sovereignty of its Creator. It promotes the “belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute”. It ignores the opening statement in the bible “In the beginning God (not human consciousness) created….” and proceeds to unravel every other core belief.

One of those other core biblical beliefs is that good and evil are separate, and that evil is overcome with good; they are not necessary conjugates working together like yin and yang, where each contains an element of the other. Evil is a result of man being given a free will and then making wrong choices that violate his commands and guidance (which may not be as serious if it is a violation of the letter, but not the spirit). God is good. God intercedes in creation to conquer and eradicate death and evil. The serpent in Genesis is the embodiment of evil inclinations and temptations that lead to separation from God, and the serpent will be conquered as described in Revelations, by the redemptive act (blood) of Christ Jesus accompanied by the testimony and faith of the saints.

This leads to another core biblical belief: Salvation is a gift from God to those who have faith in Christ’s redemption, not accomplished by our own efforts; for instance, by self actualization or the triumph of human consciousness. Good works is a product of salvation, not the cause of it.

Another core belief is that God does not change. God is immutable, and in that sense, is an absolute. God is truth, and in that sense, truth is absolute.

Another core belief is that Jesus Christ is the unique and only Son of God. We don’t become him, but we can become “like” him in many respects, not all of which are apparent to us, as when we look into a glass dimly. Perhaps we can not comprehend yet what it is like to be completely pure and holy, thus fulfilling our potential as a reflection of God’s projection (image) for us as perfected human beings and souls. We only get a glimpse of eternity and the full glory of God, a taste of what is waiting for us as we persist to be faithful to his message. That does not mean we become God, that we become the author of creation. It means that as humans more of our separation from God because of the sin nature is removed. We are not our own saviors when it comes to the sin nature. As psalm 3.8, 62.1,a d Rev 7:10 clearly assert, salvation belongs to God alone. Salvation does motivate us to take on the burden of cleansing ourselves from the habits we have developed as a result of the sin nature. But God defeated the strong man, something we were not able to do in our fallen state, so now it is done and we are just cleaning up.

Injecting mystical beliefs and metaphorical interpretations into scripture that destroy its core beliefs could be a form of profanity. Cherry picking verses out of context could be a form of misrepresentation and an unintentional form of deceit caused by tapping into sources that are flawed. I picked your use of the tree in Job as an example, without blaming you, but the result of being caught up in the momentum of a movement that you are enjoined to. Definitely not meant to be personal or disrespectful. Been there. Done that. Just as vulnerable to slip again.

Allow me to restake my biggest complaint about that movement. It is its pattern of overgeneralizing about superficial commonalities of all religions, attempting to blur and blend everything into one soup, ignoring their individual differences that give them their distinct identity and meaning.

When I listened to the tapes of Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell, he responded fluently to all questions except when the topic of Christianity came up. He would get upset and grump it off without explaining why. There is a disconnect there that could be revealing as to his predisposition toward the Gospel.

That’s all the time I have now. Life calls. Be illumined.

Robert

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Robert,

Thanks again for the thoughtful comment. I see your points, but what is sin? It is doing something the creator told us not to do, or is it ignorance of our true natures and of the deepest level of reality? Sin is missing the mark, which implies ignorance of reality, not doing something “bad.” It was once considered sin to live together without a marriage certificate, but you and I both know this is silly. The Old Testament defines marriage as “knowing” one another in an intimate way, and then continuing in a certain level of continuity and respect for one another, which includes sacrifice. We, as a society, somewhere along the lines got the idea that this sacrifice and continuity could not be maintained unless there were certain legal parameters to go along. To this end, laws were created to maintain that, as if we really needed that. But do we really? David, the man proclaimed to be MOST after God’s own heart had many different relationships, even adultery and murder, and yet he was after God’s own heart. What???!!! How can we reconcile this? Did the Biblical author mean to say ALL that really happened? What’s more, this is what was suppose to happen, because Christ was born through THAT line where the biggest mistake (sin) was made. Again, what?!!! Obviously there is a bigger, esoteric picture the Biblical author was trying to pain for us here. Does this make sense?

Robert April 19, 2016 at 12:22 am

Josh,

You hit on a really good point about having a heart for God. That counts for a whole lot more than we sometimes give it credit for. It was given to use as an object lesson that King Saul did not have a heart for God, but trusted in himself, even against the admonition of the prophet Samuel, and continually sinned without repentance. In contrast, David repented when his sin was revealed to him. He repented passionately as described in the psalms “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:4).

David also acknowledged he was born into a corrupted world with a sin nature, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51.5).

I would like to add that David did not try to modify the law, or lower the bar so to speak. He was content to be in God’s presence, forgiveness, grace, and future promise.

Robert April 10, 2016 at 8:22 am

Josh,

I see your point that Job gives a picture of Sheol that reflects what people thought of it when Job was written, but it is not clear to me at all that this book has any comment to make on reincarnation. I reread Job just to make sure. What I make of it is that Job is bemoaning his tragedy while he alternates from a state of shock, depression, hopelessness, anger, and bewilderment. He does not feel that he deserves this tragedy of having his life fall apart and everything he has built taken away from him. It is in this emotional condition in which his pain seems unbearable at the moment, that he complains about the pains of life, that he would rather have died as an infant than to experience this, and goes on and on about the helplessness of man being so ultimately mortal in comparison to an immortal, all-powerful God who he is subject to. When Job first learns that he has lost everything he built and loved, his anguished reaction to such a tragic loss is an explosive expression of futility and resignation that he was born into life through his mother’s womb naked and would return (depart) from life in the same state of nakedness. Everything of any worth that he may have accumulated while alive would be of no lasting value. His emotional outcry is not intended to be a comment on reincarnation or resurrection. But if it were, there would be other statements throughout the book indicating this, which would be a measure of hope for him that he could lose everything, even die, but later return to the living. Instead he just continues to grieve, commenting that his fate is worse than the tree that seems to die and comes back to life, but only emptiness and gloom awaits him. His only hope is that God will vindicate him because he has been, in his own eyes, obedient and guiltless of all transgressions.

Granted, in many varieties of pagan folklore and mythology, the tree is sometimes used as a symbol of rebirth and transformation. Some pagan religions worship trees. In some versions of folklore, the dead are reincarnated as a tree. Even in our modern culture we use the superstitious expression “knock on wood”. But the mention of a shriveled tree re-budding in the Book of Job is not applied in this way to Job himself as a sign of hope, but rather as something that man cannot attain. This is a critical differentiation from pagan folklore. In this case the differentiation is more important than the commonality of a tree being mentioned in this book. Job’s fate is not remedied by reincarnation or the hope of it, but by God’s sovereign decision to restore Job, and not based on his own estimation of his righteousness, but by God’s sovereignty. This is brought to Job’s attention by the voice of God speaking directly from out of a storm. Job is humbled when he finally realizes this. So a lot of this book is about accepting and trusting in God’s sovereignty in hard times, which we as humans often have a difficult time humbling ourselves to do. We get impatient and anxious, wanting to find a shortcut or building up false hopes in a path of our own manufacturing, or sometimes we are tempted to borrow a path from a strange religion that has some momentary appeal. There is also the downward path of drowning in self-destructive hopelessness, pity, depression, and doubt illustrated by Job’s wife suggesting he curse God and die.

I affirm by my personal experiences and by what the bible scriptures make abundantly clear … that no matter what happens, our real hope is trusting with all our heart in Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life.

This hope is something which many expert sources in mythology and comparative religions seem to oppose or obscure through the use of metaphors from mythology that never were intended to be applied to scripture. A classic example is the serpent or dragon which swallows its own tail, also referred to as the ouroborus, which had positive connotations in pagan mythology as a symbol of such things as reincarnation and deity. But serpents and dragons in orthodox Judaic culture were with few exceptions always associated with evil and every instance of the use of a serpent or dragon in the bible is associated with evil*, even the bronze serpent which is “evil on a stick” and a reminder of man’s sin nature which requires redemption, a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ raised on the cross taking the sins of the world upon him. Sects of ancient Gnostics adopted the ouroborus as their insignia and tried to inject their form of mysticism into other surrounding cultures and religions, including Christianity, giving rise to modern versions of the same attempt.

The same pattern of inserting irrelevant mystical beliefs into Christianity was conducted by the proponents of Hermeticism in the 18th century, based on a belief that all religion and spirituality have a common origin in one set of ancient mystical beliefs which are the true ones. The ancient mystical religion has often been associated with the mystery religion of ancient Babylon and is believed to have some connection to Nimrod in the OT who built ancient cities there and the Tower of Babel; and there is some connection to “Mystery Babylon” mentioned in Revelations, which is the symbolic harlot that linked herself to Satan to deceive the saints. Some of the activities associated with Nimrod include the practice of astrology and divination. His name means “The Rebel”. Other cultic movements in the 19th and 20th centuries have borrowed from or built upon Hermeticism and contributed to some sects of esoteric beliefs, all of which seem to have the common aim of supplanting the Gospel version of Jesus Christ with alternatives that deny the Gospel.

The concept of reincarnation was not a part of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) until it was introduced as an interpretation of the Zohar by Isaac Luria in the 16th century. Much of Kabbalah in the later period is understood to be a philosophical tool to invigorate interest in Judaism when it began to decline after the Temple was destroyed. It was a reaction of Jewish culture that chose to reject Jesus as their Messiah, became decentralized by the Diaspora, no longer had the benefit of the Temple, and had not had any prophetic input since Malachi, some 400 years before Christ. The metaphysical constructs are borrowed from other cultures such as the ancient Babylonians and Greeks. It is often regarded as hypothetical or metaphorical rather than as a real system of beliefs, something to focus on in the absence of any other inspiration to become a better person and remain in the Jewish fold. The origin of the Zohar, the central text of Kabbalah, is spurious. It was published in Spain in the 13th century by a Jewish writer named Moses de Leon who claimed it was written by a rabbi in the 2nd century. But after Moses de Leon’s death his wife claimed Moses de Leon had written it and passed it off as a work from the 2nd century to make more money from it.

My comments in no way are meant to be a personal criticism of sincere people, who like myself, have been discouraged or hurt by the behavior of so-called Christians who belong to various churches, or feel like their religious freedom has been challenged by overbearing fundamentalists, and found some relief and fresh inspiration from some esoteric involvement. I see the temporary value in seekers like myself finding a spiritual haven from the hurt and discouragement of those kind of experiences. The Holy Spirit can continue to guide us through our explorations and teach us good things even if we wander into forms of spirituality that in the long run may be off track. Some of the things we learn in these wanderings compensate for the lack of adequate teaching in more conservative religious environments. Also, we are able to stay focused on the scriptures and seeking God, when the alternative might have been to get angry at God or become atheists.

Where I begin to draw the line is when esoteric explorations take the direction of denying the Gospel. Christians and their institutions may need to become more mature in the areas of dogmatism and being overly judgmental, and assert a better effect on the society, but this is a reflection of their immaturity and lack of balanced teaching, not the truth of the Gospel. But if one is going to continue to deny the Gospels, the cornerstone of Christianity, the truth of salvation by and through the Messiah Jesus Christ, and persuade others to do the same by trying to read pagan metaphors into the scriptures that really do not belong there, then I think it would be more honest to deny Christ outright, ignore the bible, and practice something else, whatever you want to call it, but don’t call it an improved kind of Christianity or improved interpretation of the bible scriptures. If you are not ready to do that, then perhaps you should give the unadulterated claims of Jesus Christ as savior another look.

*See Wikipedia article on Serpents in the Bible at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpents_in_the_Bible which shows how different the Hebrew culture and the bible views serpents compared to surrounding pagan cultures.

Joshua Tilghman April 16, 2016 at 11:41 pm

Robert,

Thanks for the heartfelt comment. After reading all this, I focused on your statement that the esoteric view denies the Gospel. It does deny some aspects of the mainstream Christian view, but in it’s deepest and sincerest understanding, it really doesn’t. They are in many ways one and the same. They both focus on denying the ego, which is the personality. That is you and me and everyone else reading this blog. Both views place God first, whether you see this as some outside entity or the higher self. But they both reject man in his lower nature. I think we would both agree that the Apostle Paul said the end result is to be LIKE Christ, and to see him AS HE IS. How could we do this if there wasn’t some aspect of us that was Him. Think that the father is in him and he and the father and we in him. On some plane of existence we are all one.

In both views the personal ego is denied.

Robert April 11, 2016 at 10:26 am

Josh,

Regarding the virgin birth, I should explain that 21st century modern genetics confirms that it is absolutely impossible for a male human embryo to be formed in a mother’s womb without y chromosomes being introduced through impregnation of sperm from a male, even if you factor in mutation. It is tremendously improbable for a female embryo to be formed and survive in the mother’s womb, but the possibility is not ruled out. However the possibility is ruled out for the male embryo to be formed. Therefore the virgin birth is a genuine miracle, a supernatural intervention, to produce a male child without impregnation. This is what makes the Christian virgin birth stand apart from mythology.

Joshua Tilghman April 16, 2016 at 11:44 pm

Robert,

Perhaps then it is an impossibility on the physical plane for this to happen. Perhaps the beginning of your comment tells us that the Virgin birth is about a deep spiritual revelation, not an actual event.

Robert April 18, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Josh,

There may be some deeper spiritual revelation about the Virgin birth I can agree to. Not likely if it goes against the entire grain of the bible as it stands by itself. The bible goes through a lot of pages to describe the Virgin birth as not just a miracle, but a fulfillment of prophecy after prophecy that the Messianic line will be through the line of David, that Joseph’s line from David was cursed to never produce a ruler in Israel, but Mary’s line from David fully qualified Jesus to assume that role as King Messiah, rejected by his own. If Joseph had been the biological father, Jesus would be disqualified. There are a myriad of implications connecting passages all over the bible that point to Jesus being the Son of God sent to experience death and separation from God on our behalf. If there is a deeper spiritual revelation that does not throw all that down the drain I would be eager to hear it?

Claudine April 12, 2016 at 2:27 am

Hi Josh & Robert,

Re the virgin birth, are you referring to parthenogenesis?

I think “…naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…” (Job 1:21) is an analogy between “mother” earth and a man’s actual mother. Since we’re all dust and to dust we will return back to mother earth from where we first sprang? In our funeral rituals we bury the dead into the ground and it’s symbolic of embedding or re-planting them back into the earth.

The hellfire concept is interesting. My JW background taught me that Gehenna and Sheol meant mankinds grave. I always suspected (and still do) that hell was symbolic of a purifying cycle we go through when Christ is being formed in us?

Many descriptions of God in the bible say he is spirit, love, light and also a “consuming fire”. 1 Peter 4:12 says “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the FIERY trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” and 1 Peter 1:7 “…that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by FIRE—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”. Job 23:10 “… When he has tested me, I shall come up as gold”. Doesn’t fire purify metals? It brings impurities to the surface and makes iron pliable and soft for moulding. When fire burns, the heating process causes a change in form. When the heat gets turned up in our lives forcing us to change we whine and cry. It can feel like a trial and torturous because we fail to realise that what is happening is for our own good. I’m no bible expert (by any means!) but, I understand all this to mean that this purifying and refining work is the FIRE of God until all that is left is the gold within us, the Christ in us.

I realise the bible makes many references to sinners, death, hades, fire and brimstone etc being cast into the “lake of fire” and the last enemy to be destroyed is death in Revelation, but I think other non-Christian denominations also describe similar states or experiences of all-consuming fire, cleansing and transformation? I think that’s because progress on the spiritual path is nondenominational. I don’t think it’s because we belong to some specific religious group or our membership in any particular sect or religion. The same physical phenomena appear across the East or West. Since we are all human beings, how could they be different? We are all God’s creatures. A perfect example is the Eastern heat phenomenon reported by people undergoing “kundalini”. People report that this purifying heat is often felt throughout the entire body. Even various Catholic saints have described phenomenon of excessive burning heat, raging fever, fiery light, inflaming the whole body etc along their spiritual path of practice. The Jewish prophets in the Bible were no different.

I don’t think the task today should be to turn a Christian into a Buddhist or a Jew into a Hindu, because that won’t ever happen. Rather it should be to help each religious group rediscover our true paths, principles and the common thread of spiritual progress available to us all.

Sincerely,
Claudine

Robert April 12, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Claudine,

I am grateful someone with your insight and written clarity has chimed in. I think your viewpoint is shared by most SOS readers and writers, including Josh (please correct me if I am wrong), and one I greatly respect. It is a viewpoint that reflects a heart of acceptance, respect, and brotherhood involving others. I agree that each individual has a unique and separate journey in discovering how they want to define their relationship with the divine, and that the individual’s choice is sacred and honorable with few exceptions. The extreme exception for me would be, for instance, being a member of a cult that believes in cannibalism or genocide, or in overthrowing legitimate governments to set up a religious kingdom, or in hurling missiles over national borders into innocent civilian populations.

The not so extreme exception which is all the way at the other end of the spectrum would involve my concern for schools of thought that corrupt or misrepresent someone else’s religion, or that lead others astray from the purity of their own faith. My issue is not with the people who are involved in being a party to that, who I care about and respect, but with the schools of thought that promote this form of darkness that masquerades as a messenger of light. Remember, it is the school of thought, and not the people, I have a problem with.

You mentioned something I think can probably help you and others understand my viewpoint better . You stated “I don’t think the task today should be to turn a Christian into a Buddhist or a Jew into a Hindu.” That is exactly what I am objecting to when esoteric beliefs borrowed from Eastern Mysticism are injected into the bible scriptures, with the effect and intention of deconstructing its most major axioms, and especially the revelation of Jesus Christ as Messiah of Israel and Savior of the World. In effect, it is converting Jews and Christians into Hindus and Buddhists, away from the original tenants of their faith. It is not the same thing as seeing commonalities of religions when you destroy the individuality of them.

It is interesting that you are from a JW background. I have a little experience with them a long time ago when they tried to recruit me and pulled back from them because I sensed they prided themselves in being like the marines of the army of God, “better than the best and better than all the rest”. Even that was not so bad, but they were basing their theology on a corrupted version of the bible, claiming the rest of the biblical religions had it all wrong, and covering up the mistakes of their leaders about claiming when the end of the world would occur. I commend you for escaping out of that to embrace a more accepting and flexible world view. I also invite you to consider the fact that the bible presents Jesus Christ as a personal savior, and to put your faith in him as God’s remedy for fallen man, rather than man climbing a ladder to expand his consciousness, which has a similarity to building the Tower of Babel.

Blessings,
Robert

Robert April 12, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Josh,

I realize there may be an element of compulsiveness, which I recognize and admit to, in my continuing to post in-depth comments objecting to deconstructing the reality of Jesus as savior. In my defense I offer the explanation that your recent posts have inspired me to do this. They have occurred at a time that I, like you and perhaps some SOS readers, are facing some difficult challenges which, without spiritual support, would seem overwhelming to deal with. It is in this setting that I have taken the liberty on SOS to explore and rectify a situation which I would like to refer to as my spiritual dilemma.

I think most of us have learned to agree that “trouble” is a forerunner of change that can be for the better. So I am not afraid to embrace and publically describe my dilemma, believing that sharing about it will lead to good things.

Like other readers I have encountered disappointment with many features of my Christian experience. At this point in time I believe some of that had to do with me – blockages or elements of immaturity – that prevented me from benefiting from the Christian experience I encountered. Likewise, some of that had to do with deficiencies in the manner Christianity was presented to me by my peers and leaders in the Christian environment, not deliberately, but as a consequence of their own blockages and elements of immaturity.

Part of the problem may be that I have a natural type of intellectual and analytical personality that will sometimes not accept too much at face value until I have scrutinized it, challenged it, tested it for flaws, opposed it, embraced it, and turned it all around one more time so that the experience of being an insider and an outsider makes me think I have sufficient experience to evaluate it. This tends to make some peers who are not gifted (or burdened) with this type personality to think I am a troublemaker, no matter what environment I am in. I have had a tendency that once I see what I consider a substantial flaw in a person or system of beliefs, to jump to conclusions and suspect that everything they or the system represents is a fraud.

One thing I have come to trust without such questioning is Jesus Christ – the perfection of God when embodied in a human, by whom his teachings and impartations through the mystical process of the Holy Spirit keeps me from drowning in a fallen world in which I am also fallen, and leads me to triumphantly overcoming and transcending the fallen world and my own flaws. Being born again is a gift from God that awakens me to the awareness that something is wrong with me and the world, and the bottom line is that he fixes it, or rather, has enabled it to be fixed as I assume the responsibilities and passion to follow in his footsteps as much as I can, depending on him to fill in whatever I momentarily can’t, being thankful for his unending grace, drawing closer to him in the process, and also learning to bestow the same grace on others as he had done for me, and thus I grow in the capacity for giving and compassion.

Now I realize this awakening in awareness is also similar to the journey of the esoteric paths, but I don’t agree that it is through Gnosis – some spark of divinity that is inherently human. The idea of the spark can causes all sorts of problems in elevating humanity above God, leaving humanity subject to its own inventions. I believe that the awakening is through the intercession of the Messiah that was promised to the Jews in OT prophecies, and revealed more fully in the NT scripture. I also believe it is my heritage as a born-again, observant biological Jew to follow, and the destiny extended to non-Jews (in the biological sense of the word), to follow.

There is considerable proof of prophecy when considering the history of Israel and the nations that is still being played out according to prophecy in present day events. So I am anchored in the belief of Jesus being the Messiah of the Jews (to be presently rejected by the nation of Israel and eventually reconciled) and that he is also Savior of the world.

The NT describes him as the embodiment of the logos, a direct, complete, and final revelation of God and salvation to mankind, revealed in one step in one moment of history, needing no further explanations. This is the pouring out of all of the light of an almighty, immortal God into the lives of men that penetrates the darkness all at once, not in stages.

This is not the slow process of emanations from the All that become corrupted as they try to penetrate deeper and deeper levels of darkness into which an inherent divine spark in humanity, when exercised, begins to fix everything wrong by raising human consciousness. This is instead a powerful flash that is confirmed by the words “This is my beloved Son” pronounced upon Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordan and again at the Transfiguration on the mount where he is depicted as preeminent in relation to Moses and Elijah. This is like a light switch that goes from totally off to totally and brilliantly on, and stays on, producing directly from God our transformation when we cooperate with it, and which could not occur without it. This is an “I was lost, but now am found” kind of experience.

Getting back to my dilemma, it is clear that I will stick to the Gospel account as real and unsurpassed, not a myth or new copy of an old myth. And I will continue to assert that it did not arise as a human invention, but as an eye witness to the works of God. I also will not believe the authors of scripture craftily operated on a double level, encoding secrets that when revealed totally oppose the direct meaning. If that were true, how could we trust in anything as a measure of truth if it is able to encode a secret that opposes that truth? Maybe there are secrets encoded in the secrets that oppose the original secret, and where does it end?

HOWEVER, my experience with meditation and mindfulness did have a beneficial effect. I also became open to new ways of experiencing daily life more in the here and now instead of through the distorted lens of an overactive and anxious mind. The new models of theology on SOS gave me some hope and opened me to changing some life patterns. I began to understand more about non-judgement. I looked forward to overcoming some challenges in life through growing into more awareness of my connection to others. People who embraced the esoteric were able to encourage me and vice versa.

But as I have stated in this and other comments, I eventually realized that every esoteric path presented to me ended up deconstructing the legitimacy of Jesus Christ as the real Messiah, reclassifying the Gospel as a variation in mythology in a world full of mythologies, and a distortion of some “other” greater path or truth.

SO at present, this is how I am able to reconcile my adherence to the Gospel with the benefits of esoteric explorations. I believe the Gospel is real and true, which warrants my continued loyalty to it, and defense of it. I believe the institutionalizing of Christianity has unfortunately resulted in it not being administered in a manner that all types of personalities can accept, or can accept only with feeling unfulfilled in some way, and seeking for something more. The scripture says that if we believe in Jesus, then “out of our innermost being will spring rivers of living waters”. Some branches of institutionalized Christianity have corrupted that promise by limiting its interpretation to ritualistic practices like speaking in tongues, drawing people into church activities and robotic compliance instead of teaching people to open up to personal growth. They have quenched the Holy Spirit in that respect by creating a diversion of religious activities that are superficial.

Esoteric practices which have the aim of drawing light and virtue out of people helps promote the outpouring from within that has been neglected by some of the mainstream churches. So practicing that has personally opened me up some and helped remove the feeling of stagnancy by providing some momentum forward toward pouring out.

But I now sense that this is a beneficial result of engaging in a practice based on man-made mythology. It is sort of like the therapeutic benefits of role playing. The roles are not real and it is not the real life we live in. But playing the game gives us some insight that helps us in real life. But the myth is not the true faith, only a means of discovering what was missing in practicing the true faith as it was divinely intended and lost in the noise of institutionalized church activities. So in some respects, I feel a little like Abraham who went to Egypt during a drought, where he did not permanently belong, and left, surviving the drought and a little wiser and with a few extra camels, but recalled to his original mission (to establish a nation that would birth the Messiah).

I am able to draw this conclusion helped partly from insights obtained from reading some works by a psychotherapist named Stanford Kolb who uses Kabbalah as a tool in psychotherapy. In his psychotherapy, Kabbalah is viewed as a useful mythology, not a true belief. His patients are able to gain therapeutic insights on their own from working through the mythology in an atmosphere of freedom and trust that he provides, which he then reinforces through approval and respect for what the patient has accomplished on his own. Some insights are along the lines of overcoming negative, unrealistic thought patterns and becoming confident, flexible and adaptable when challenges arise, instead of self-defeating and stagnant.

Two excellent articles of his are “The Theosophical Kabbalah” at the website “newkabbalah.com/newkabbalah.html” and “The Kabbalah and Psychotherapy” at the website “newkabbalah.com/Psychotherapy.pdf.” (I had to remove the www to avoid my comment being sidelined to await moderation).

I recommend you read these. If you read these, just keep in mind that I disagree with Stanford Kolb’s opinion about Christian beliefs. But I most value his honesty about the Kabbalah as myth. I would think as a Jew who prized Kabbalah, he missed having the direct experience of Christianity as an insider, and in my view would be unqualified, as many other proponents of mythology have been, to make such judgements about Christianity.

Kolb provided the missing link I have been searching for to help to resolve my dilemma, by clearly distinguishing myth from belief in actual events, and that the myth has some therapeutic value, but not necessarily a claim to being legitimate from a spiritual point of view.

This makes it easier for me to put esoteric Christianity in perspective, and supports my case for not throwing the literal baby Christ out with the dirtied bathwater of backslidden church institutions. I can then respect and explore esoteric theosophy, but as a human manufactured form of self-edification based on mythology, nothing more. There may be some room for the Holy Spirit to maneuver in it, but it is not the real McCoy, the intended end game of genuine redemption.

I liken myself to a preacher with some rough edges who comes across an atheist with some refined mannerisms, and the preacher is inspired to pray to develop those refinements to become more fulfilled as a follower of Christ, because before he met the atheist he either didn’t realize he was lacking something, or he became convicted by the Holy Spirit that he should not be outdone by an atheist. So I am inspired to refrain from unnecessary judgements when it seems appropriate and to do what I need to do to keep my mind quiet and focused on God, trying to remember to emanate what light I have from Christ deposited within me by the Grace of God, with the security and peace knowing I am saved according to God’s promise, and not just refined or more aware.

Josh, I realize what I have now posited is what I told you I intended to do several years ago when I said I would find some way of combining meditation and mindfulness without denying Christ. I didn’t know how I would do this then and along the way I have even forgotten about it. It just kind of happened on its own. This has not been easy for me to do because there are no molds to follow. I think your recent articles, some spare time, and some recent troubles inspired me, and finally the articles by Stanford Kolb provided the missing link I needed to put esoteric theosophy into a perspective I could feel comfortable with.

I don’t know if others find my conclusions acceptable, but I am not likely to change them any time soon. I believe I have completed a divine assignment, and am very relieved that this is cleared up for me. I imagine my perspectives could offend others that have emotional investments in some things I have expressed opposition or downgraded so to speak to fit into my perspective. On the other hand, the principles of esoteric thought and belief should theoretically impel others to not get offended if they adhere to them and if those principles are sound.

What can I say? Compared to God’s infinite wisdom, we are all hillbillies. Some of us are hillbillies with cell phones, and we think we know everything. But we are still hillbillies.

Blessings,
Robert

Robert April 14, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Josh,

A quick reflection on the Didache which you wrote about in February. From my point of view I see in your treatment of the Didache some similarity of misinterpretation as I described in your comments about Job. It may not be so much your own interpretation as much as biased information extracted from sources that are predisposed to deconstructing the Gospel.

The Didache is an early catechism that instructs early Christians about baptism, attending weekly service, the eucharist, reciting the Lord’s prayer, how to treat prophets and identify false ones, and about conducting oneself in looking forward to the coming of the Lord in the end time. True it does not directly mention the death and resurrection of Jesus, but its purpose is not to give an account of Jesus’s life like the Gospels or many of the Epistles, but to instruct Christians in the details and practicalities of daily living and attitude.

The term Jesus Christ is mentioned in two places, and there is much said about looking forward to the return of the Lord when the saints who died will appear with the Lord coming in the clouds. If they believe the Lord is returning, then it follows that they believed he appeared and left.

As an interesting aside, a lot is mentioned about resurrection; nothing about reincarnation. I find this is a pattern for many authors of esoteric presentations that they seem to cherry pick on an issue they use to advance their cause, disregarding that the same material they source disproves their assertions about other issues. The entire body of esoteric arguments trying to disprove the Gospel appears to me to be grossly inconsistent, like grasping at straws, not something to bet one’s life on by denying what the bible says plainly and clearly.

Getting back to the Didache, the weekly “Lord’s day” is mentioned, not referred to as the Sabbath, which would infer that they honored the event of the passion of Christ that occurred on the Passover he was crucified. They partook of the eucharist, which was not a Jewish custom, in honor of that special Passover. The Epistle of Barnabus, another early Christian manuscript dated as between 70 and 132 C.E., about the same timeframe as the Didache, directly mentions the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

anny April 15, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Hi Josh,

I read the article from Chabad on the link you provided and clicked through to another one which addresses the afterlife and reincarnation more extensively. I was very surprised by its findings since there seems to be much more logic in it than in the Christian doctrines about this subject. You should read it if you have not done so already.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/282508/jewish/What-Happens-After-We-Die.htm

Did you know that the name Chabad comes from Chochma, Bina, Da’at? Wisdom, Insight, Knowledge?

Their view of heaven and hell also has a very strong resemblance to what we hear nowadays in channellings and reports of NDE’s about a life review after death, or a reading of the book of ones life, with the soul itself judging its life while experiencing it from all sides. It is basically the same story.

They also address the concept of the resurrection of the bodies from the graves. You write about this: “Common sense tells us that flesh and bones that have rotted and turned to dust will not be reassembled and a soul put back into them. Such an idea is ridiculous, and only a literal reading of a book that is meant to be symbolic will give us such silly fairy tale notions.” I agree with you there, although I would put it in different words because terms like ridiculous and silly put off people who have always believed this. And make them unwilling to consider the matter objectively. Well, you know my views about that.

The Chabad calls this ‘regeneration of the bones’ in this article and in a side note they write about DNA that will change and form bodies of a totally different kind. The same I have heard from other sources about our bodies though, which are not dead but are changing from bodies with two strands of DNA (and some 90% of so-called ‘junk DNA’) into bodies with twelve active DNA strands. From a carbon-based body to a crystalline body. So I could interpret this literal interpretation also as the view that deceased people will receive new physical bodies of a totally different character at the time of the resurrection. If not, what would happen to all those people whose remains are no longer there anymore, like those who were burnt after their death? Would there be no resurrection for them within this view? They distinguish between ‘heaven and hell’ in the above sense and Olam ha Ba, the World to come, which will be a physical world again. The New Earth but with totally different characteristics and matter.

[Years ago I discovered something which supports your view though that this resurrection of the bones is not meant literally. At least not in that famous text from Ezechiel somewhere where I think that idea of a literal resurrection springs from. In that text it is literally stated that those bones are the people of Israel. And the people of Israel of course are a symbol for man and more especially the spirit of man. The Hebrew word for bones is etsem and that also means essence. The essence of man, his spirit/soul will be resurrected and brought back to life again. That will wake up from the deep sleep, the tardema.]

Even though these are just outlines and I do not necessarily agree with everything, I found this article very enlightening and non-judgmental. Also their interpretation of heaven and hell.
Having said that, I also agree with your view of hell being the physical world. I think both are probably true. The physical world can also be seen as heaven though, when you approach life with gratitude and appreciation and create your world in that frequency. So both views are based on the perspective from which you view life and the way you live it.

Anny

Robert April 15, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Anny and Josh,

Anny, I always appreciate your participation. I can tell from your comments that your mind is as clear as ever and I hope this is a reflection of improved physical health. I get foggy in times of stress and struggle to be able to write as fluidly as you. Remembering Dutch is your native language, I have no idea what would happen if I had to communicate in a second language as you are doing.

I want to take a paragraph or two 🙂 to provide what information I have gathered about Chabad and Kabbalah and my opinions about them. I think they contain some element of objectivity because they come from other sources besides the Chabad websites. The two most significant institutions today that promote Kabbalah are Chabad and the Kabbalah Center in LA. They both originate from the hasidic Jewish theosophy centered on the Zohar which was published in the 13th century and reinterpreted by Rabbi Luria in the 16th century to include reincarnation and deconstruction (older belief systems must constantly undergo death and then replacement or modification in an evolving universe, thus truth is not absolute). Chabad is aimed at bringing Jews who have wandered from the Jewish community, beliefs, and identification back into the fold (more accurately into the Chabad fold). The Kabbalah center is aimed at bringing the benefits of Kabbalah to the entire world, regardless of ethnicity.

The two institutions, in between teaching about non-judgement, oppose and accuse each other of wrongdoing.

Ex-members of some Chabad groups have complained about a cultic environment that has strict rules for uniform dress (black robes and hats), repression of divergent thinking, pressure towards conformance, subjugation of women, and excessive devotion to “The Rebbe” (the late Rabbi Schneerson). I can’t say that all Chabad centers are like that. The outreach centers I had contact with when I lived in New York gave me the impression of very congenial spiritual leaders with long beards and sideburns, and elements of some of the above. They provided a generous table of Jewish foods to share with guests after the Shabbat service, which included Jewish booze some of which was close to 100 proof. If you like pickled herring and Vodka, this was the place to go. My opinion is that you can also find a similar atmosphere of peer-pressure conformance in some apostate church institutions but without the beards, heering and booze. I haven’t been to a Chabad center in over 10 years, so I can’t speak for all of them and what they may be now. I don’t know what they would think of channeling or female authority, but I would guess they would not like anyone channeling ideas that challenged their ideas or seemed strange to them.

Chabad’s rival, the Kabbalah Center, has been criticized for being too pop culture, using outreach tactics similar to Scientology in attracting Hollywood stars, or selling holy water. It is not a Gentile version of Kabbalah. The founders are modern hasids who claim their mission is to make public the heretofore concealed secrets. This group came under investigation for improper use of donations, illegal coercion to obtain donations, and has had to pay a heavy fine for psychological damage to one of its former members.

My personal theory is that Kabbalah applied to the Jewish people is a one of many mixed blessings extended to them by God’s grace after they rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah. After the destruction of the Temple and scattering to the four corners of the globe, they first clung to Talmudic Judaism based on Rabbinical commentaries on the Torah. This maintained some cohesion of the Jewish communities throughout the world that participated in its development. Issues would be discussed worldwide, so the opinion of one Rabbi from Yemen and another from Egypt would be combined with several other opinions, all documented in the Talmud and studied in Jewish schools of learning (yeshivas). This kind of cohesiveness eventually wore off as Jews in developing nations found themselves attracted to Gentile religious and philosophical ideas that did not require so much intellectual discipline. Also persecution of the Jews started to increase in Spain in the 13th century until their expulsion which destabilized Talmudic communities. The introduction of the Zohar in the 13th century provided a new kind of cohesion which at that time was badly needed, a kind of renewal of Jewish mysticism based on rituals and spells, now combined with theosophy adapted from surrounding nations. It caught on, popular with the Jewish masses, and has survived today, along with straight orthodox Talmudic version of Judaism, and the modern development of reform Judaism which is more secular in nature and allows Jews to maintain some spiritual and ethnic identity, while being fully integrated into secular society.

I believe the divine purpose of these three branches of Judaism is to provide structures for Jews who reject Jesus to rally around, to prevent them from assimilating and disappearing among the nations, until they are redeemed with the nations in the end times, in fulfillment of prophecy as described in the bible. We see that playing out in real time regarding the predicament of modern Israel. These structures, along with great suffering have had and will continue to have the effect of developing a more humane, sometimes more charitable, and less egocentric worldview. But it is not the intended endgame for the soul of the nation of Israel that is clearly and directly described by Paul as the grafting back into the vine of the heritage and promise of Messiah. It is instead the status that Hosea describes as the woman who prostituted herself spiritually and has been rescued and protected in her fallen state by God who is the husband in a covenant (marital) relationship, and she still has a heart of spiritual infidelity, and is not fully restored, so God will heal her in the valley of Jezreel through tribulation. (The valley of Jezreel is where disobedient King Saul died, thus ushering in the reign of King David, a precursor of the Messiah. It is where King Josiah disobeyed the prophet and went into battle and was killed. It is also the future site of Armageddon, where the Messiah will return and intercede to prevent annihilation of the nation of Israel, as prophesied in Daniel. It became a neglected wasteland although at one time it was a flourishing fertile breadbasket, and has been restored by modern Israelis to its original fertility. I believe the waste and restoration of the Valley of Jezreel is a foreshadowing of the suffering and future spiritual restoration of Israel, without which it cannot be at peace with its neighbors who torment her, and provoke her to inflict collateral damage on civilians embedded with its terrorist enemies in her desperate attempt at self-defence, such terrorist forces being fueled and financed by the Shiite government of Iran).

The history of Kabbalah can be traced back to an ancient religion that was part of proto Indo-Persian culture that eventually developed into Zoroastrianism of the Persians and pre-Hindu of the Indians, one similarity being what I can best describe as a quote from Wikipedia: “… a belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute, thereby putting Zoroastrianism in the pantheistic fold where it can be easily traced to its shared origin with Indian Brahmanism.”

(I often need to distinguish in my own mind the definition of “immanent” – divinity manifesting in the material world – as compared to “imminent” – quickly forthcoming.)

Some of this – belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute – was spread around to and from neighboring Babylonia and Greece. It is the same core doctrine of modern esoteric belief that also became adopted by many cults and is now reflected in New Age and New Thought spirituality.

It found its way into Jewish Kabbalah after the 13th century being passed off as the lost and secret Oral Law given to Moses. Such claim is an old and sly form of deception used by many a Jewish religious cult leader to falsely establish authenticity for their offtrack beliefs. Nobody knows what the lost secret oral law of Moses was so there is no way for the simple minded to verify that some offtrack idea is not it. The Talmudic and Kabbalistic leaders used it and their followers who were ignorant of the Gospel and desperate for something new to hope in kept falling for it. The Jewish Christians who embraced their hope in Jesus Christ were generally immune from such trickery, being warned in the bible that many false teachers would arise and that Satan can appear as an angel of light.

A fork in the road occurred 2000 years ago for the Jewish people. For those then that rejected Jesus Christ and those throughout history to this day that do so, they were (are) given a fall back plan to become immersed in emerging versions of the ancient false religion and philosophy of the nations as substitute for the Messiah, which serves to sustain them but not save them. This is my theory.

So if you find the Kabbalah interesting and attractive, wonderfully logical, then perhaps it is because you have already immersed yourself in the modern versions of the ancient religions which have as its core a “belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute”.

The Zoroastrians also developed the belief that all souls will have the chance to be saved, and that the wicked will have a chance to be purged in hell after they die, and then be subjected to a second judgment, and will no longer continue to exist if they have not changed. In some respects this is a forerunner of universalism.

Anny, from what I think I remember, I think you still adhere to the belief in Jesus as the Messiah who saves from sin through atonement by our faith in him, and that you also embrace many esoteric beliefs and engage in some practices like channeling that would be considered New Age.

My purpose in this comment is to add some input from my perspective – information I have gathered for myself to help me clarify where Kabbalah, esoteric and New Age beliefs come from, and where they differ from the Christianity I’ve chosen to follow.

To you and Josh, I am intending to convey that Kabbalah is not what you might have thought.

anny April 16, 2016 at 11:59 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your reply to my comment. I am glad that you considered it clear as my health situation is much the same as ever. Do not think you have the monopoly on getting foggy in times of stress because I am much the same and indeed, having to express myself in another language does not come easily to me right now. Which is one of the reasons I have not been commenting much lately. And that this comment will be the only one I will give on this subject as it takes me hours to write it.

So you wanted to take a paragraph or two in order to inform Josh and me about some subjects? Maybe you should brush up on your counting abilities first. I would like to put a smiley here as well but I have not the foggiest idea how to do that.

I am not all that unacquainted with Chabad as you seem to think. Of course I have seen them often in Jerusalem and the son of one of our friends, who had become a Baal Teshuva, married into their society and especially his mother and sisters, and his aunt and female cousins found themselves like on another planet when attending that wedding. We ourselves saw the video that was broadcasted in the kibbutz where he was born and where my husband worked as a volunteer before he came to Nes Ammim. He did not even look at his own mother and sisters anymore which of course hurt them terribly. I myself also experienced it as something very unpleasant whenever I met someone like that on the street and was like invisible to them. So I know how extreme they can be. I also read novels about them in order to get an inside look in their daily lives which showed different circumstances in different families. Of course it is the same as everywhere else that people there range from very loving to very unpleasant. However, my personal experiences were not too pleasant and that is why I was pleasantly surprised to read on this website what they believe. I had not at all expected something like that. And it is not that I am planning to learn something from them, or study whatever they are doing, but only that they wrote things that I recognized from my own findings.

Which are not yours, I know.

And then Kabbalah. What makes you think that I am all that involved in that? I have read something about it a long time ago and found some things that appealed to me. So I used them, because they resonated with what I am doing. Everything else I just leave for what it is and I am not involved with it at all at this time. I cannot believe however that everything Kabbalists are doing is wrong. Or right for that matter. I do not believe in any belief system being in possession of the absolute truth.

I look at the phenomenon religion completely differently than you do and I hope you can respect that. I respect your vision too. As your vision, just as mine is mine. In my view it is impossible to comprehend the Absolute Truth as long as we still live in this reality.
I do not believe in one true religion as opposed to other religions that do not quite get it. I believe in one universal knowledge, which I have heard called Perennial Wisdom, which deep down we all know already but have not yet access to in our normal state of consciousness. Re-ligion according to my view is the attempt of people to get in touch with that knowledge and with God again. Where all sorts of things go wrong of course like we know from history. I believe that it is the same knowledge that we all are trying to get access to so we can learn from each other, just because each has its own approach. I believe in unity and not in something that separates us from each other.

As you state, I still believe in Jesus as a historical person and as Messiah, however in a different way than you do. I think that my articles are clear enough about that and I do not need to repeat it here. As far as New Age is concerned, in my view that is just a label that is being given to a lot of things that are unacceptable and strange for orthodox Christians. It encompasses all kinds of things, some of them might be valuable and others just nonsense. I really do not know much about it nor do I care to involve myself in it. I do not appreciate being given a label of any kind whatever as I am purely my own person who is looking for my truth in my way. I do not acknowledge any person as an absolute authority anymore because I know how much has been interpreted in the wrong way by people with authority, resulting in the most horrendous actions towards Jews and all others who were not like them.

As far as channelling is concerned, that is not some sort of hocus pocus but it is tuning in to certain vibrational frequencies which may give you useful information. Of course it depends on what frequency etc. you tune into what kind of information you get. It is much the same as searching for a TV channel on television. I do not do any channelling myself but I do read some channellings sometimes that resonate with me. With NDE I do have personal experience as you know.

What you describe as a “belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute” sounds very credible to me. I have never heard it described as such before though and I certainly did not get a comparable view from some other religion. More from science. That is only one side to look from though. Much more important in my view is that God is Love, is One. No judgment. No separation.

From whatever source I get my information, it always has to answer to my guideline of Unconditional Love. If it does not, out it goes. If my findings are not the same as yours, then that is just the way it is. I respect your view and I hope you can respect mine.

Robert April 16, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Anny,

Yes I certainly do respect your view and more than that hold you in high regard as your friend.

If you want to make a simple “smiley” on SOS, just put a semi-colon “:” then a dash “-” and then a closing parenthesis “)” right after it. It will still look like a semi-colon, dash, and closing parenthesis when you key it in, but the software program for SOS known as Wordpress will turn it into a 🙂 after you submit your comment. The same thing will happen if you leave off the dash. If you want to learn more about this to make other kinds of smileys then go to https://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Smilies and then scroll down to “What Text Do I Type To Make Smiles.”

Just wanted to clarify a common misconception about the terms “New Thought” and “New Age”. These are not labels placed on modern schools of belief by Christians. These are a combination of the names that these modern schools have given to themselves and what neutral historians have assigned to them. These terms are used just like “Neo-Platonist” or “Monotheist”, etc. They each characterize a school of belief or movement with its own common underlying theme. You and others can verify this by looking up articles on these terms on Wikipedia or you can take my word for it.

My intention was not to label anyone but to trace the origin of these beliefs from a set of very ancient pagan religions and show that they were adopted as a kind of artificial injection into Judaic culture in the middle ages to produce Kabbalah, against the warning in biblical Judaism not to turn to the religions of the nations. And that the core pantheistic beliefs of these ancient pagan religions, which equates human consciousness with God, are the same ones that have carried forward into all the modern esoteric belief systems.

And at the same time I have been trying to convey to Josh that leaders of esoteric movements have consistently cherry-picked biblical scriptures out of context, with peculiar interpretations that frequently go 180 degrees in the opposite direction of what the scriptures individually and and a whole intended, in order to use scripture to authenticate the esoteric core beliefs.

This is precisely what Chabad has done in the extra article you came across, by misinterpreting Isaiah 25.8 out of context with the abundance of messages from various prophets, including Isaiah himself, that the victory over death and the wiping away of tears and disgrace would come through the son of Jesse, the Messianic line from King David that would give birth to the Messiah on earth who would bestow these blessings of restoration on his followers. The same Isaiah prophecies the crucifixion as atonement for the sins of many. However, Chabad ignores the overwhelming evidence for this, and cherry-picks out of one verse in Isaiah 25.8 a justification for their private Kabbalistic core beliefs, and then they claim that all the prophets support their view.

I realize the philosophical explanations Chabad gives for the afterlife are very attractive and appeal to our appreciation of unconditional love. The style of writing is very clear and pleasing. But the explanations are an artificial kind of metaphysics borrowed from pagan cultures, for instance, that we judge ourselves and decide we can reincarnate to make corrections. This is not derived from Torah-based Judaism. To accept their explanations is to deny both Moses and Christ. They appeal to some emotions connected to compassion. If we were a fish, their explanations would look like a big juicy worm. But let’s not forget that the worm has a hook. The hook leads us away from God and to trust in ourselves as God. Isn’t this the same temptation offered to Eve?

Anyway, I may have commented more than I meant to. :oops Wish you well. :lol

Robert April 16, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Anny,

Let me try that again. I commented more than I meant to 😳 Wish you well 😆

anny April 17, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Dear Robert,

Thanks for your reply to my comment to you. And for your explanation how to put a smiley on the blog. Let us try to put it in practice.  It already works here! Now let us hope that I still remember tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow …

I know that I told you that I would not reply for a second time but I feel we keep going in circles. I told you that I respect your view and only explained mine, not in a way to try to get you to change yours. And when you answer me you agree to respect my view but then start immediately to show how wrong and potentially dangerous my presumed sources are.

That is not respecting my view but again trying to make me see that you are right. I cannot work that way. If two people who have such different views about everything want to have a meaningful conversation about anything whatever, then that should mean that they each only show their own view on the concerning subject without trying to convince the other. And without repeating more of the same. Asking and answering questions of course also belong to it but not an attempt from any side to convince the other.

And when it concerns you and me, we should try to do it in as few words as possible.  Writing short and concise comments is not our strongest point, to put it mildly.

Anny

anny April 17, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Robert,

Concerning your advise how to put smileys on the blog: in my concept it immediately turned into one, however, on the blog it did not! I cannot decipher what it did turn into but not in a smiley. Is that my sublime gift of doing it wrong?

Robert April 17, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Anny,

I can’t tell what went wrong with your smiley. It looks like a box to me. This may indicate that Wordpress was not able to recognize it. I am guessing that you were using an older internet browser or operating system, even though you followed instructions. But it is the thought that counts. Smileys are over-rated. I don’t think they have a smiley that has comedy with a twinge of sarcasm built into it that I know and love about you.

Never meant to disrespect you. My apologies if you think this seems to be the case. My intentions were to inform you, Josh, and anyone reading my comments, that my conclusion after much study of the databank of sources supporting many esoteric views is that they are flawed, that some of the authors have ulterior motives, and many metaphorical interpretations are incompatible with the core Christian beliefs based on standard interpretation of scripture. It is about the databank, not disrespecting anyone’s choice of what they choose to believe or not believe.

I think it is permissible for me to express my concern that some esoteric treatments of the scripture consists of reading into it beliefs that are not there, especially if they seem to me to be invasive rather than embellishing.

I realize that I may be fighting City Hall of SOS and that it may ruffle some feathers. But from my point of view, I am not the one telling anyone what to believe, but responding to many beliefs promoted in articles that attack my own, which is is more in line with standard Christianity, and I have a right to question the legitimacy of the sources of such promoted beliefs.

You should not take it personally.

anny April 18, 2016 at 3:05 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your comment. My daughter already told me what she thinks went wrong with the smiley. I type my comment first on a Word-document because that gives me a better overview than the narrow reply box. It seems that the smiley does not survive the transferral from the document to the reply box intact. I think you are right that smileys are a bit overrated these days but sometimes they can function as a means to show that something is not meant seriously. 🙂

I want to return to my previous comment to you about New Age. I did give a rather too short version there with the result that you misunderstood. Of course I know that New Age and the other schools you mentioned are official names as well. So did the ordinary church members but they did not have the slightest idea what it was all about. Nor did I or do I. The result of this however was that whenever anybody in the churches (not necessarily my church) had ideas that did not conform with what everyone believed, it got the label New Age. So as I had already then very different ideas I got sick and tired of that. I do not get my ideas necessarily from other sources but more in a meditative state when I am contemplating things. And then I recognize things sometimes when I do happen to read something somewhere. Which does not mean that I plan to revisit that site or reread that book. Your way of gathering information is obviously totally different from mine.

Of course I know that you do not mean to disrespect me or Josh nor do we disrespect you. We just all have a different view on things, Josh and I also, but that is okay. I do not feel the need to prove either of you wrong when I disagree with you and it surprises me a little that you do. It is okay to provide some extra information once or twice but you keep doing it although you could know it does not help. What convinces you does not necessarily have to convince anyone else because we all look at any given subject with different eyes. From a different point of view. Do you know the story about the elephant and the twelve blind people? Every person gets the opportunity to feel what an elephant is like but one feels a leg, another a tail, still another a tusk or an ear or his belly. Afterwards all of them tell what the elephant is like to them but of course their stories are widely different, even though they are about the same elephant.

You should stick to what you believe because it obviously comes from your heart and you have arrived at that conclusion after having honestly and seriously considered the alternatives. I think you should grant other people the right to do the same opportunity without interference and respect the choice they come up with after having done that. I believe your choice has a much stronger foundation for you after you have been the rounds than it had before you did that.

I do not believe that articles or comments that disagree with you or state something that goes against what you believe attack your belief. They just state what the writers believe, just as you state what you believe. Well, you know my theme song, ruffling feathers is fine but attacking is not. Unconditional love should be the guideline for all of us. And unity, as far as I am concerned, unity in diversity.

And of course I do not take anything of all this personally. Neither should you. Even if we disagree with you, none of us wants to attack you or anyone else.

Love,

Anny

Robert April 18, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Anny,

I am not sure of this, but I am guessing you are uncomfortable with having your belief system challenged. Everybody does. But when I investigate claims made on SOS and find something that I am sure is not credible, and those claims are being used to advance an esoteric doctrine, do I not have the right to discuss this in this forum? Do I not have an obligation to others and in the spirit of truth to inform them?

anny April 19, 2016 at 2:50 am

Robert,

I am not uncomfortable with having my belief system challenged. First of all, I do not have a belief system anymore. I am fully aware that I am not in the possession of the Absolute Truth yet but neither are you or anyone else. We are simply not even capable of grasping it yet. That is why I call my truth my truth and why I can respect your truth as your truth. And why I would prefer to leave it at that.

What I am uncomfortable with is when someone is convinced that his or her truth is The Truth. And then it does not matter whether that someone is you, or Josh or Paul or whoever. I would be just as uncomfortable with it when someone who believes exactly the same as I do – if there even is such a person – would make that claim. I would protest in that case as well. Do you understand what I mean?

Besides that, it is no us trying to enforce your (the proverbial one) truth on anyone else as everyone looks at things through different eyes. You advance everything that convinces you and think that therefore it has to convince everyone else as well. But it can only convince people who already think the way you do and who do not need it. It does not convince people who think in another way, just because they do think in another way. It is like speaking different languages. When you, the proverbial one, speak English and I, another proverbial one, reply in French, neither of us understanding the other’s language, then we can discuss and start shouting as long as we want but we will never get through to each other, no matter how convincing the arguments of each of us are. But we can also accept the fact that we do not understand each other and only communicate with loving actions and gestures, respecting the other one for who he or she is.

You have every right to discuss whatever you wish in this forum, just like everyone else, but I do not think anyone has the right to call his or her opinion the truth and opposing opinions false. They are just different.

And I do not think that anyone is trying to advance an esoteric doctrine here. We have widely different views which we share. We are searching for the truth, just like you are and come to different conclusions. Different from yours, different from each other’s as well. But different roads may lead to the same destination in the end, as long as unconditional love is our guideline. Is not that the First Commandment? Love God above all and your neighbour (all seven billion of them) as yourself?

Love,

Anny

Claudine April 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Hi Robert,

Clearly you believe in Christ as your saviour and whether or not I believe or don’t believe, I can’t take away from the fact that you’re out there fighting a fight that you believe in and I think there’s a lot to respect about that. I take my hat off to you because it shows remarkable conviction.

You are incredibly articulate and present fact after fact and its clear you are passionate about doing serious research on these subjects like hell fire doctrine etc and that you genuinely care and love sharing your knowledge and I think we’re all the better for it and of course we must always investigate, investigate and grow. There’s nothing that I’ve read over the last couple of days however that’s made me change the way that I look at the subject. I simply can’t accept that there’s a literal place either below the earth or in another dimension described as hell that roasts non-believers alive for all eternity. The idea of it is odious, despicable and horrific to me and the antithesis of love. I agree with the esoteric version of it being symbolic as Josh’s articles point out.

Your description of militant JWs is on the money! You made me LOL “better than the best and better than the rest”. My JW mother still believes this and has told me many times that even if The Watchtower one day came out and said “brothers, there’s been a mistake. We don’t actually have the ‘TRUTH'” she wouldn’t leave because it’s still the best of the worst religions on earth meaning they still have the best version of “truth” even if they’re not 100% right. What can you say? I give up because it causes too many conflicts between us. They’re a dangerous cult that separate families and put members’ lives literally at risk so I think you dodged a bullet by pulling away when you did.

Adding to the “I don’t think the task today should be to turn a Christian into a Buddhist or a Jew into a Hindu” conversation we we’re having, I can’t help but be reminded of the countless natives and indigenous peoples throughout history who’ve had Christianity forced upon them justified through colonialism. In most cases when confronted with Christianity, they had no option but to incorporate elements of Christianity into their own beliefs creating a new system. Some of course resisted the faith of their conquerors and held fast to their traditional beliefs but, isn’t this similar to what you’re objecting to only in reverse? Those zealous missionaries’ single intention was to deconstruct their beliefs, weaken or destroy their original spiritual culture, faith and ideologies and replace it with a new Christian backbone. The Christian’s concept of heaven and hell was that if these “heathens” did not accept Christ they would never enter the Kingdom of Heaven which was the ultimate goal. “Convert or die” was their policy and they never seemed to consider that those people already had their own version of heaven or hell. I know part of this had to do with white supremacy, but they automatically assumed that these peoples were spiritually worthless and that only by accepting Christ could they be saved.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we humans cause these separation based on our prejudices and arrogance but, God is greater than all that. All religions or schools of thought borrow from each other and simply clothe them in their local traditions. No one group is “selected” in my view. I believe anyone who cultivates a genuine yearning to know God and wants to advance spiritually whether they’re Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist will find him no matter what because I think spiritual practice is basically the same across the world even if religious groups claim to be superior.

Sincerely,

Claudine

Robert April 18, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Claudine,

Sorry, I could not stop my computer from shutting down to upgrade itself. So consider this a continuation of my comment starting with “I appreciate your comments and understanding.”

Before picking up where I left off, I wanted to clarify my remarks about the Quran. I researched the Quran because I wanted to know what Muslims believe. I did see many similarities concerning many moral principles with Judeo-Christianity. I even wrote articles on SOS about them. But there are also some serious differences. The Quran teaches that it is appropriate for Muslims to not be bound to moral principles regarding infidels when it serves the interest of advancing Islam. Anything goes in that case – cheating, stealing, deception, violating treaties – it’s all good and justifiable before Allah according to Quran. Muslims believe in a resurrection, and that those who do not pass the test when they die when tested by angels will suffer in the grave until the resurrection, while those who pass the test will not suffer. Life on earth is not valued as much as in other religions, so execution for non-capital crimes, martyrdom, and the unfortunate death of innocent bystanders is “theoretically” not a serious issue, as long as the cause of Islam is advanced.

These are theoretical. In practice, they do not represent the expression of faith by moderate Muslims, thank God, and bless my moderate muslim brothers. My (step) son in law is a secular Muslim, originally from Turkey, and the last person in the world to be a terrorist. He majored in hospitality when on a student visa in the US when he met my step daughter. I can’t go into the details but he is now stuck in Turkey trying to get a permanent visa to return to the US and become naturalized, and my step-daughter is working here in the States waiting. My wife and I pray everyday that he gets the visa, and that the next President of the US does not stop all immigration of Muslims.

I mentioned this to make it clear I am not against Muslims who live righteously in accordance to standards acceptable in the US. I care about that group.

But that does not change the theoretical flaw in the Quran, one that has been exploited by Islamic terrorists factions, one that has now manifested itself in the latest long range missile launched defiantly by Iran with a message painted on the missile about destroying Israel. This is the other face of the Quran. This is not just about bad people, but about flawed principles in the Quran. Its about details in the fine print that can always be used against the good and the innocent. What will happen if moderate Muslims stop ignoring the fine print.

At least for Christians and Jews who committed atrocities, I can blame it on not following their own rules. As long as those fine print passages are in the Quran, I can’t say the same for Islamic terrorists or the Shiite government of Iran.

OK, I clarified that for the time being. Getting back to my question of what to make of all this. I conclude that we can’t judge the principles by the people who claim they follow them and don’t. And the same applies to my disappointing experiences in some churches.

I can appreciate trying to find commonalities among different religions and understanding and caring about each other as from the same dust of the earth. I don’t like the idea of one religion being artificially infused with another to produce a unified esoteric world religion. At first it would look good, so if we did that then we could all just get along. Sounds attractive when people do not have to worry about a sin nature. We could all just meditate and evolve in consciousness to where we feel calm and more interconnected. We could learn about pulling back from being egocentric and desisting more from giving into to every passion and desire by being willing to let them go. I am not being facetious. All those things are really good. But are they enough to ultimately save us from ourselves, as Jesus claims to do or has already done? Or is this replacement of salvation through Christ’s atonement just another human creed that makes sense to our own confidence in human logic and emotions, not realizing our blindness and inadequacy to plot the right course? What promise do we have that what we call human wisdom will not fall through in the end? Maybe we should not be so quick to discard and not acknowledge that we do not save ourselves? Is confidence in the sufficiency of higher consciousness to repair the universe another subtle form of egotism?

Robert April 18, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Claudine,

I appreciate your compliments and understanding. Also, I think your comments about forced conversions has given me much food for thought. I’m going to have to roll that around in my mind for awhile. It reminds me of the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” about the senseless fighting over the city of Jerusalem between the Muslim forces led by Saladin and the Christian crusaders.

I grew up in a semi-observant, agnostic Jewish family that retained the Jewish ethnic identity but had viewed religion in general as hypocrisy. This was based on their personal experiences with religious people they knew who came across that way to them. It was not based on an understanding of Torah or the NT. My father was scoutmaster of the boy scout troop sponsored by our local synagogue. The synagogue pressured the troop not to go on overnight weekend hikes because it desecrated the Sabbath and interfered with the synagogue youth attending Sabbath services. My father got together with some liberal minded fathers of the troop and started a new troop apart from the synagogue. On our first hike as a new troop some of these liberal-minded fathers persuaded my father to go drinking with them in the local town and then to visit a whorehouse while we were busy out in the woods putting up tents and making camp fires. The wives of these other fathers told my mother about it and it caused a family crisis that eventually straightened itself out in many years and much therapy. I remember my father, after he had returned to being the faithful family patriarch, complaining of a Christian friend telling him that it was OK to commit adultery because God through Christ would forgive him. Meanwhile, my older brother became a Marxist Greenwich Village beatnik. I went off to college, took a hiatus for awhile in a commune, which proved disastrous, went back to school and got saved when I was introduced to the bible and Messianic prophecies. Nothing was ever forced on me. The wonderful benefit of living in America, the land of the free, is that I was free to make a choice. I didn’t choose Jesus because I had family ties to Christianity. My fathers creed had always been “do or believe in anything you want as long as you do not hurt anyone”. I realized that creed didn’t work so well for my family when I was a boy scout. I when I got older just before I got saved, I began to realize I could hurt people without knowing it, and that was painful to me, because I could be blind or indifferent, or be too immersed in myself to see things through others eyes. The bible opened up a new approach, to believing in God and not depending so much on myself or human creeds to guide me.

I learned everything I could in church but felt out of place, and felt more in place is a Messianic Jewish Congregation. My wife who is also Jewish and came to Christ before I met her has had similar experiences. I also am disappointed in some of my church experiences with some people, and it probably goes vice versa. Learning in esoteric circles such as SOS about the ego as an obstacle to being virtuous has been very helpful to me, and something like if you had scurvy and didn’t know why or what to do about it, and someone gave you vitamin C. So I give credit where credit is due. But as we know, I was finally taken aback by what seemed to me to be repeated misrepresentations of the bible and deconstructing the role of Christ the person as savior. I understand your analogy about deconstructing, and it made me think a lot, and I am still thinking. At this present moment I would be inclined to distinguish between deconstructing a religion from the inside out from Muslim or Christian crusaders going into other cultures with a “convert or die” ultimatum.

As for the crusaders, this was an activity that went against the bible brought on by political power struggles in the dark ages. Biblical principles direct us to love those who are not the same as us. Jesus told Peter to put down his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane when Roman guards came to arrest him. Jesus brought the Jewish believers to value spiritual fellowship with non-Jews who they previously regarded as heathens. And Jesus said he did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it, and his true followers were to do the same. These principles were right, but armies riding under the banner of the cross were not following the cross. If Christians could just follow Christ, the principles will work.

I wish I could be more confident about the principles of the Quran.

What I can make of all this, is that

Claudine April 29, 2016 at 9:26 am

Hi Robert,

Although we only know each other via this website, please accept a big virtual hug and know that you are valued for your contributions and thank you for sharing your story with me. After a year of regularly visiting SOS, I’m recognising familiar commenters and I look forward to hearing what they have to say now. It’s like reading a book and getting to know the characters only in this case they’re real.

I could be on some ex-JW site instead of this one but, I’m simply not interested because whilst many of them are awakened in the sense that they’ve realised the truth behind the JW “TRUTH”, many of them never move on from that realisation. They either stay angry and become totally absorbed in JW-bashing or become fanatical atheists. They kind of lose their equilibrium and become too extreme (not too dissimilar from what they previously were).

I’ve been so busy and my time has been short. Sorry I haven’t replied to your comment properly yet. I will. I’ve been reading everyones comments from the new articles too. The Garden of Eden analysis stuff is really fascinating and everyone’s take on it is great.

Speak soon!
Claudine

Claudine May 3, 2016 at 2:49 am

Hi Robert,

Sounds like you’ve got quite a colourful cast of characters in your family. So do I. I think when we’re kids growing up it’s normal to idealise our fathers. I certainly did. My father was a hero in my naive eyes – strong, magnetic, charismatic, hard working, storyteller, influential, affectionate, kind hearted etc. However, when I grew up I saw his humanity including his weaknesses, insecurities, blind spots and the many questionable decisions he’d made. Although this realisation made me knock him off the pedestal (in disappointment) and forced me to see the real man, it was strangely liberating too. He wasn’t perfect after all and certainly not the expert or authority on everything. I realised I was free to become my own person. I still love him immensely of course and I’m always proud of him but, I’m not defined by him. I see him for what he is – an equal and a person who makes mistakes just like me. He’s an atheist these days and we get into some funny conversations lemme tell ya! “Hey dad, do you ever wonder if there could be like, this quantum mind where there’s like, this interconnectedness of all life of not only this planet but, beyond?”. “NO. And before you start, there’s no such thing as God either. Only science”. Haha it’s great and I know we both secretly enjoy our exchanges even if we don’t agree.

I hope your son in-law gets his visa granted soon. It must be frustrating waiting and not knowing. My husband and I have been to Turkey. It’s beautiful and so rich in history. We made some nice friends in Istanbul. Yes I agree that many terrorist groups have exploited the Quran to justify their criminal behaviour. I sometimes also think Islamic State has created a new strain of Islam in a way to legitimise their radical approach. They’re less radicalised Muslims but, rather more like criminals who’ve hijacked the Muslim faith to justify their barbarity. There’s been a shift in the typical profile of terrorist recruits compared to the al-Qaeda days too. Today’s recruits have the characteristics of deviant street gangs than religious extremists don’t you think? I read something lately that said security experts have noticed a trend, a pattern which is that religion as a motivational factor has nose-dived among the latest generation of Jihadists. New recruits have deep criminal roots with poor knowledge of Islam but, attracted to the violent ideology, they become eager accomplices and justify their brutality by saying they’re doing it for God. They don’t need paradise and virgins as a reward anymore because they can have it all right now.

I must admit I have not read the Quran myself so I don’t know about the flawed principles in the fine print you point out. There’s no doubt religion impacts the horrors mankind inflicts on each other. Sacred books have always been distorted and misused to justify and spread inhumanity and don’t think the bible is immune to that. I can’t help but think of the African slave trade right up until the 19th century for example, and how Christian slave traders and pastors used many scriptures in the OT and NT to justify that. Genesis 9 was used to justify inferiority of dark skinned people and was a handy convenient passage to exploit and oppress whomever they liked. There’s no shortage of mass murder examples in the OT either. There are many scriptures Christians have used to justify their violence against each other and the more fanatical, misguided ones even teach that the murder of men, women and children is the righteous reaction to all people who disbelieve in God. I use my own JW background as a perfect example of religion using bible versus to justify medical neglect of life saving blood transfusions. The bible and what it says on homosexuality justifies all the hate crimes, homophobia and violence against them. I think hatred based on religion and race is the core of the problem. I think any sacred book in the wrong hands has the potential to cause suffering where all sorts of abuses can be carried out and justified.

Sincerely.
Claude

Rick June 1, 2016 at 12:07 am

Josh,

My scriptural findings on Hell are this:

I fully agree with you on the Hebrew word “Sheol” being the Only word in the Old Testament translated to “Hell”. I also find this to simply be the resting place for All spirits, until the future coming of Jesus, when He will awaken All, and judge All. While asleep in Sheol, I get the impression that it will be the equivalent of being in a comatose state, such that Every person will have no concept of time passing while dead/asleep. Each person will feel as though, immediately upon death, awakened at judgment.

In the New Testament there is Also No Hell. There are 3 words incorrectly translated as Hell. Gehenna, Tartarus, and Hades. The funny thing is that “Tartarus” is actually a verb. Gehenna is used as a descriptive word. Revelation 20 says Hades is going to Release All of those being held there, at the conclusion of reigning period of Jesus. In the Same chapter, it says those released at that point will come alive in a better moral state : )
The pruning period is clearly temporary : )

Rick

Joshua Tilghman July 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Good comment, Rick. Thanks.

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