The Book Is Not to Blame

by Tommie on April 29, 2017

Jonah Eaten by the WhaleMy Grandmother had a large illustrated Bible sitting on a table in the center of the living room in her very modest four-room mill house. It was too heavy to lift. As a child, I was at once enchanted and disturbed by the artwork depicting tales of a man-eating whale, people drowning in a flood, and a gentle man named Jesus who was murdered for trying to change the world with love, not violence.

She was a quiet, godly woman who loved her church, her children and her grandchildren. When I stayed overnight, I would watch bull fighting and wrestling with her on a 19-inch black and white TV with rabbit ear antennas and three channels. I was always adjusting the antennas to get a picture we could see.

This was her escape. Escape from an alcoholic husband who went to work, got drunk, came home, and got in his bed. My memory of him is the glowing end of a cigarette moving up and down in the dark bedroom as he listened to a baseball game on the radio. He was never a grandfather to any of us or much of a husband to her. She stayed married to him because the Book said so.

My birth name is Thomas, as in the doubting disciple in the Bible. As a child, I was always honest about my thoughts, and I questioned everything. This drove the Bible teacher who visited our school on a monthly basis crazy.

Her name was Miss Sales. She wore caked-on makeup, bright red lipstick, a heavily hair-sprayed beehive hairdo, and she was a chain smoker. Her voice was gravelly, she had a thick southern accent and her grammar was poor. She never seemed happy, which didn’t speak well of the book she was teaching.

On a day I will never forget, she asked everyone in our class to raise their hand if they were a Christian. I was the only kid that did not raise their hand. Frankly, I was the only honest kid, because none of my classmates really knew what that meant. They had heard their parents say so.

This didn’t go over well with Miss Sales. She scolded me and sent me to the principal’s office. The principal happened to be a minister’s wife. Not a good day for little doubting Tommie.

Years later I heard that Miss Sales had taken her life with an overdose of pills. Lonely and lost, the Book did not save her. I never hated her for that moment of rebuke and embarrassment in front of my classmates. I don’t know why, but I had always felt sorry for her. Even though I didn’t know her, I shed tears at the sad news of another lonely soul lost.

When I was in college, my father answered “the call” at the age of 41. He quit a good paying job and entered a Bible college to become a minister. After all, God would take care of everything, the four children, the finances, and a place to live. The book said so.

Answering “the call” ended with my parents divorcing and my younger siblings enduring psychologic pain that still haunts them today. My father moved in with my grandparents and lived off their kindness. My mother shamelessly threw herself at every man that crossed her path and remarried two more times. Where was the book?

Even with all the times the book had seemingly failed, I still loved the book for its mysteries and mystical qualities. While recovering from a long-term illness, I had time to really dive into the book. I collected over 50 different translations, and I read the theological works of all the great theologians.

I had to know the Book’s origins, understand the original meaning of the languages in which it was written, and know who its real authors were. I wasn’t satisfied with the English translations of others, so I studied Greek, dissecting words and phrases. Doubting Tommie had to know for himself. Sunday school and 30-minute sermons wouldn’t do.

There is a longer story to be told, but in short, I came to know that the Book had been hijacked by imposters. At first this was painful, and I grieved over the loss of innocence and the responsibility of “knowing.” The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 2, rang in my head.

Jesus said: He who seeks, let him not cease seeking until he finds; and when he finds he will be troubled, and when he is troubled he will be amazed, and he will reign over the All.

Studying early Christian origins I learned of the Gnostics, and I read their Gospels. I studied their hermeneutics and the biographies of theologians like Valentinus. Through the lens of the Gnostics, hard to understand passages of Paul’s letters and puzzling inconsistencies in Jesus’ sayings became clear. To follow him, Jesus said, I had to hate my mother and father. Esoterically understood, it now made sense. The Bible became a completely different book for me. It came alive, and it was exciting.

I had come to know what the Church knew. Its secrets locked away in the Vatican library. The same Church that withheld the Bible from the masses for thousands of years. In 1536 CE, William Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. Before being turned to ashes, Tyndale said that the reason the Church forbade the owning or reading of the Bible was to control and restrict its interpretation and to protect their own power and control.

Ignorance and repression are still with us. Mainstream religionists vilify groups and individuals who would dare to offer alternative meanings of scripture. The denominations separated by differing interpretations of the book even vilify one another. Thankfully, they aren’t burning anyone at the stake as far as we know.

There is an escape from all the bickering. We visit safe places in private like this to read and share mystical insights and esoteric interpretations of scripture – the true spirit of scripture. The Book itself warns against its misuse by literalists who follow “the letter of the law”:

He [God] has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6.

The book that sat on my Grandmother’s table in the living room is not to blame. It’s the people who think they know what it says – interpreting it literally or contriving superficial meaning to support their religious and political agendas.

Love, light and truth is not confined to any book. It is already within us. God put it there. It is the divine spark waiting to catch fire, the seed waiting to grow, the life waiting to live. You might say that real scripture is written, not on paper, but in our hearts.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua Tilghman April 29, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Thank you, Tommie. I believe a lot of us here on Spirit of the Scripture can identify with this in some way. Personally, my journey was similar. I also had a grandmother that followed a more traditional route when it came to the larger beliefs of traditional Christianity, but…she always had a keen mind and was willing to listen when I had questions. Sometimes even her own views kept her out of the good graces of the church. I liken her to more of a Jean Guyon who took traditional Christianity to another level of higher spiritual understanding, although she isn’t considered a true esotericist by some. Regardless, some of her writings remain as a giant of leading to esoteric thought.

Blessings.

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jacomina April 30, 2017 at 11:40 am

Awesome share. I can relate but from a slightly different angle. Raised without an ounce of religion or an ounce of the book or prayer, tradition, must does, or any of it until I was 38. When my christian friends gave me my first bible I immediately resonated with the deeper meanings because of my neutral mind. At first, I thought I was crazy because nobody could relate to what I understood and kept insisting I was demon possessed. This is also why I appreciate your work. The book just keeps getting better and more relevant as I live it. So thank you. Jacomina

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Christine Hoeflich April 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm

What a great article! You’re right Tommie, there are so many interpretations. For example, even the Gospel of Thomas interpretation you included above, I’ve seen another interpretation of Jesus’ saying, from a scholar of theology, history and language named Father Charlie Moore (former district attorney of Santa Cruz County, CA, later a Catholic priest.)

Father Charlie Moore said the Gospel of Thomas says, “Those who seek will find, and that is a promise. Those who find, will find the truth in their own heart. And those who find that truth will be disturbed because of the conflict between what their heart tells them and what they are being told by others. Those who are disturbed will wonder and ponder, and at last they will choose the truth in their own heart. They will then become masters of themselves and become truly human, which is the best thing any human can be.”–from Father Charlie Moore’s book, “Synthesis Remembered: Awakening Original Innocence.”

I include that quote in my own book, The Spiritual Awakening Process: Coming Out of the Darkness and Into the Light” because it exemplifies well the process humanity has been going through collectively: to first get lost (and all the hard lessons that come with that) and then to find oneself again. For this is how one becomes a master of one’s life. I believe that even though those dark times were hard, they served a purpose and were indeed sanctioned by the Divine. I explain this in my book.

So this is good news. It’s really good news. It’s just that each individual has to go through their own “thing”, the final lessons they need to learn. But this spiritual awakening / enlightenment process is happening faster now than ever.

I really enjoyed your article and love the way you write. I hope you write many more.

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Tommie April 30, 2017 at 7:59 pm

Christine,

You’re amazing! Like you, my writing flows as if it had a life of its own. Thank you for your kind comments.

Tommie

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Christine Hoeflich April 30, 2017 at 10:45 pm

You’re welcome Tommie!

Christine

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James April 30, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Great writing Josh! I really enjoy your Blogs!

James

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Joshua Tilghman April 30, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Thanks James. But just wanted to throw in there that this is a guest post from Tommie. It is good writing though.

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winn April 30, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Great post… thank you Tommie.
And to add a notion that all true spiritual texts are able to meet it’s reader at their particular level of consciousness… so it’s never the book to blame but the level of consciousness of its reader… and then to expand and say also that blame is a word we can stop using if we truly trust in the great esoteric notion that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be for our learning… that each person’s level of consciousness is just right for them… even though it might pain us to see an unhappy bible teacher who eventually takes her own life… we trust that her path was divinely created and she walked it perfectly… there is no blame.
I had a powerful mystical experience one time and was shown very clearly that Shame and Blame are energies that clog true growth and learning… holding us back from ascension in very potent ways… now i don’t want to blame Shame and Blame ;-)… and trust for the collective as well as the individual that our path is divinely ordained… and! at the same time as a mystical explorer it is fun to muse and reveal.
with gratitude, love and bright blessings!!! winn

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Joshua Tilghman April 30, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Great points, Winn!

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Tommie April 30, 2017 at 9:59 pm

So true, Winn. Thank you.

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Vern McVety Jr. May 2, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Beautiful article of experience Tommie. And it’s very true that the literal letter of some of the scriptures can kill the spiritual meaning, if we don’t have eyes to see and ears to hear. And there’s a scripture I love, which I discern as the Word of God, giving immediate and inspired translucency through the literal. John 1:5.

One of the greatest blessings in life, is simply knowing that beautiful, splendorous and magnificent (sent) beams of light shine down on and through the Children of God invisible to the eyes of men. Only God can see them. The dark comprehendends not the light.

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Tommie May 3, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Beautifully said, Vern. Thank you.

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Vern McVety Jr. May 3, 2017 at 5:56 pm

That’s one of the advantages in the KJV usage of the word “comprehend” in John 1;5 instead of the later altered versions “overcome.” To me the KJV carries a more imaginative appeal.

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Robert May 4, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Tommie,

Wow, What an experience with religion you had. I think Karl Marx also experienced deep alienation from religion, but he went political not esoteric like you did. Thus his renowned statement “religion is the opiate of the people” now ingrained in the minds of generations raised in communist countries.

I think I picked up on the failures of religion in a much slower, milder process than you. But same result about it that I expressed as “hey, this isn’t working”. So I kept searching. Einstein defined insanity as the act of repeating the same fruitless approach.. something like that.

The way you and Christine related the Gospel of Thomas to your post made a lot of sense to me. It has been hard for me to understand the Gnostic gospels because they seem to be filled with so many enigmas. But your post helped me to relate to this passage.

I am glad that, as you say, we have a safe place to escape the madness.

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Tommie May 4, 2017 at 7:12 pm

I always enjoy your comments, Robert. Funny you should bring them both up. Marx saw religion as a way to create fear and Einstein saw it as a response to fear. Interesting dichotomy.

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Vinícius Otaviano August 3, 2017 at 11:50 am

Great post Tommie! Madonna sings in Get Together “down, down, down in your heart, find, find, find the secret… it’s all an illusion…there’s too much confusion…” and I think even though she may be a pop singer, she’s quite spiritual sometimes and is able to share the same teachings that our esoteric searching has brought us. I was raised in an evangelical church and just as you said, we were taught to vilify even other evangelical churches that believed in the same God as we did, and I quite never settled with it. But now I’m learning that indeed, the book is not to be blamed. It’s our incorrect and shallow interpretations that cause all this “too much confusion” Madonna sings about. Thank you!

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