Lesson 16- Gehenna And The Rightlobe
As I ended my last program, I was exploring the meaning of the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light after we have stripped the religious algebra away from them. By religious algebra I mean the use of religious terms that symbolize a deeper meaning of which many of us are not aware. The Kingdom of Darkness, as I had explained at the end of my last talk, is the Biblical term for the place ruled by the Prince of Darkness, the devil, who is known also as the Father of All Lies. He is the opponent of Jesus, the Truth and Light of the World, who leads us to the Kingdom of Light. Of course, both of these kingdoms refer to what we normally call heaven and hell and, thus, if we understand what Light and Darkness really refer to, we would have a better understanding of what heaven and hell are all about. And if we understood what heaven and hell were all about, we would have a better understanding of what salvation and damnation were and how following Jesus, who is the Incarnate Wisdom or Logos of God, affects our salvation.
I have already described how I came in contact with a scholars Bible in which God and the Devil were talking about Gehenna and how the footnote explained that Gehenna was the Old Testaments word for hell and, instead of meaning burning fire, it meant empty thought. The obvious implication of this is that hell, at least from this perspective, is the kingdom of Mental Darkness, where Gods Wisdom and Truth, which is the Light of the World, is absent and the blind impulses of the animal kingdom reign. In other words, it is the kingdom of the Blind Will that Medieval philosophers talks about which, although it was made to seek the good, was prone to miss the target or sin whenever it sought the good without the vision of the Intellect.
Animals, these philosophers said, were all Will and no Intellect and therefore, even when they did the right thing, they did it for the wrong reason. They ate for taste and had sex for pleasure, both of which are hedonistic methods that are used by God to lead intellectually blind creatures to perform necessary acts for the survival of life. In other words, God used the secondary purposes of taste and pleasure to lead them to perform His primary purpose of nutrition and reproduction. You might remember the principle for making moral decisions that established by St. Thomas Aquinas that said, secondary purposes, which come from the Creator or user of an object, are alright so long as they either help or, at least, dont interfere with the primary purpose. Of course when God makes a secondary purpose, it is designed to lead His creature to the primary purpose. Thus animals are impelled to have sex during periods of heat when fertility is present. However, a problem arises when another being with an intellectual dimension to its mind decides to create its own secondary purposes while blocking the primary purpose. Only Man is capable of creating artificial foods that taste good but have no or little nutritional value or to invent uses of sex that, while providing pleasure, frustrate or block its function of reproduction. Thus, it seems that the flesh referred to in the Bible is a reference to the animal kingdom and our animal appetites which, like the animals, drive us to perform important life essential acts without any conscious understanding of why we must do them. When we add an intellectual dimension to these passions, we create a being who, having eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, is morally capable of sinning, because he can uses his intellectual gift to serve his own will rather than the Will of the Creator. This, of course, is the Original Sin, the intellectual sin of Pride, which animals, lacking an intellect, cannot commit.
Consider the fact that in Western literature the devil, an Angel of Light possessing great intellectual gifts, is portrayed as a manlike being with horns on his head, hooves on his feet and a tail. His connection to the animal kingdom is obvious and it suggests that our unrestrained animal passions, when improperly guided by our intellect, are linked to our damnation. It also suggests, that because of his intellectual dimension that suggest the presence of free will, that he was the Father of All Rebels. He was the first to say, I will not serve; the first to say, Im doing my own thing!
I believe that the children at Fatima hinted to this connection when, if I remember correctly, they were shown hell. They described it as a pit in which grotesque animal like creatures and human being with a glowing ember in their chests were tumbling out of control. Obviously, the symbolism contained in the vision suggest that hell is a place of chaos where grotesque animals forms are intermixed with human beings who are ruled by their passions, symbolized by the burning embers in their chest. In other words, theses humans were part of the natural world and had never gone through a born again experience that would have raised them to the supernatural level where Gods Wisdom and grace were available to lift them out of the Kingdom of Mental Darkness into the Kingdom of Mental Light. The animal beings, of course, lacking a left-brain where the Logos or Logic resides were there as a natural part of their condition. The humans, on the other hand, having a left brain that was logical and containing the Logos, were there because, although they had the potential for moving from the darkness of no understanding or misunderstanding into the light of understanding, chose instead to neglect this rational power that made them in the image and likeness of God and, instead, chose to live as animals on the impulsive level. Truly, as St. John said, they were condemned because the Light of Understanding came into their world but they loved the darkness of no understanding. Their lives were occupied with amusement- a word whose prefix a means without and muse means, to think. In other words, living lives without thought; they preferred the empty thought of Gehenna to Wisdom and Understanding which was the truth that would have set them free from their darkness. They were part of the crowd that was on the road in Proverbs 8 where Wisdom or Understanding was standing on a hill overlooking the road and calling to them but they couldnt hear or see him because they were too busy boogying down the road listening to their Walkmen. They were the party animals that make up the college crowd that visits Fort Lauderdale during the Easter Break. Theyre the drug addicts who, not satisfied with the natural highs that come from productive efforts, try to steal the high without the effort through the use of drugs. They are all the people who fill their lives with meaningless chatter and activities while the great drama of life is being played out before their very eyes. They are the great-unwashed masses whose apathy towards the great goals that God has set before us, led Jesus, in the Book of Revelation to say, I wish that they were hot or cold but because they are lukewarm, I will vomit them out of my mouth. They are the ten unprepared virgins who missed the Wedding Banquet because instead of being prepared for the arrival of the Bridegroom, they had to go out at the last minute to find oil to fill their lamps. They are all those people who think that God created us to play rather than to work and who, when He arrives are found asleep on the job or amusing themselves with some worldly distraction. In other words, by avoiding reality and Truth, by refusing to become involved in the great issues of life, they have written themselves out of the Book of Life. While great moral issues like abortion, slavery, pornography, child prostitution, the destruction of the family etc were being worked out on the stage of life, they remained neutral because they were too busy wondering what their favorite soap opera or rock star was going to do or whether their favorite sport team was going to trade one of their key players. They were rooted in the issues of the flesh which were temporal and indifferent to the issue of the spirit which were eternal. In other words, they went to hell because they were fools who lacked the Wisdom to know the important from the unimportant. These are just some of the people who are found on that left road that leads to darkness.
The scriptures say that the flesh can not please God and in my last program I attempted to explain why this was so. The reason is because the flesh being part of the natural world operates on the hedonistic principle of whatever gives me pleasure is good and whatever gives me pain is bad and thus it is motivated only by the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. This can never please God, no more than it would please any parent if their children became adults and never got beyond this immature motivation. It is obvious that this type of motivation is flawed because, when faced with difficulty and pain, it will always be repelled by them. In like manner, when tempted by pleasure and comfort, it will always move towards them. Therefore, you can forget any expectation that a creature ruled by the flesh will choose the difficult road over the road of ease. And because of this, they will never find the salvation that is found in the Cross of Christ that says St. Paul is foolishness to those who are headed for perdition or hell.
A number of years ago, two of my married friends who were inclined towards mystical experiences told me of a vision that was had by the wife. She and her husband were sitting at the dinner table and were praying, as they were accustomed to do, after dinner. As the wife was praying, she said that she saw a vision in her mind in which the Lord appeared to her. He was standing at the top of a road and He invited her to follow Him down it. As they traveled down the road, they came to two forks: one went to the left and the other went to the right. The Lord turned to her and said, May, lets take the road to the left. As they traveled down it, she said, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the path was smooth and even. It was glorious and within a short time, they came to the end of the road where there was a door. The Lord said, Open the door, May and when she did, a soul chilling darkness came rushing out which almost frightened her to death. The Lord closed the door and led her back to where the road had divided. Lets now go down the road to the right, He said. They began down the road, she said, and it was as difficult as the other road was easy. There were storm clouds, thorny bushes, jagged rocks, and the road descended into steep valleys and rose up steep inclines. It seemed many times longer than the other road and when they finally reached the end, there was another door. Open, the door, May, He said. When she did, a brilliant, loving, soul-warming light came rushing though and embraced her in its loving arms. After closing the door, she and the Lord returned to where the road had divided. He turned to her and said, May, I offer these two roads to every human being and they are free to choose either one. They may, at any time, change their mind and choose the other road. However, once they reach the end of the road, they must go through the door.
Do you get it? The first road was the road of pleasure to which our hedonistic flesh is drawn. Its the Walt Disney world which we wish God had made where everything is nice and sweet and easy. Its the road of static existence and stagnation. Its the world of the easy highs where amusement and pleasure are used to fill the emptiness of life and the inner emptiness of our souls. Its the road taken by persons who habitually spend endless days and hours in Atlantic City pulling the lever of a slot machine while the important challenges of life which God has set before them for their growth and development go unnoticed or ignored. Its the road taken by persons who have buried the talents that the Lord has given them and/or refuses to use them for the benefit of GodsKingdom. And, of course, we know what happened to them. They were stripped of their talents that were then given to those who had used and expanded their own. Truly God attitude is Use it or lose it! It really bothers me that I, with limited musical talents, have offered myself freely for over 32 years to play and sing at guitar masses and other religious functions, while I know of people who are much more talented than I who sit at home and refuse to donate any of their God-given talents. My only consolation is that, according to the Bible, I will be given the voice and musical talent that they never used.
The people on this left road are the persons who choose to ignore the Church call for them to share their time, treasure, and talent because it would require some type of sacrifice and involvement in something larger and more demanding than their own selfish pleasures. In other words, they are the people who choose to exist and fill their time with amusement instead of choosing to develop by accepting the challenges or crosses that are placed before them. The Bible says without a vision the people perish and the people on this road of hedonism are perishing because, lacking a vision of anything greater than their own comfort and pleasure, they are locked in the world of Self.
They dont get it when Jesus says, It is in giving that you receive or when St. Francis says It is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life. They miss the entire meaning of the Crucifixion where Jesus replaced the Old Testament misconception that God wanted animal sacrifices, with the New Testaments truer understanding that what God really wanted was self sacrifice out of love for others. And the sacrifice doesnt have to be as drastic as dying on a cross. Sacrificing our time, treasure, and talent for the benefit of GodsKingdom would be a good start.
The second road, which went to the right in Mays vision, is the road of struggle, difficulty, and sacrifice. Its the road that our flesh will never willingly choose and yet it is the path to the fullness of life because only on this road is our spirit tested and strengthen by the crosses that God has put there for our growth and development. Its the road that Jesus flesh in the Garden of Gethsemane begged to avoid but then, with a supreme act of will, he freely chose to go down it because He knew that it was His Fathers will and the only way to the fullness of life. He was showing us what St. Francis has told us, It is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life. In other words, Jesus, through His passion and death, didnt tell us the way, which is how you communicate with the verbal left hemisphere of our brain; instead, He showed us the way, which is how you communicate with the nonverbal right hemisphere of our brain. By communicating with our animal nature, he was showing it the way to the fullness of life and salvation.
To those Christians who, like the ancient Hebrews, believe that to follow God is a guarantee that they always will have good luck and all their difficulties and frustrations will go away or, like the Manicheans, believe that all the problems of the world were invented by the devil, the message is If you want life and you want it fully, then pickup your cross and follow Jesus, the Truth who will set us free. If a Christian life was a trouble free life who wouldnt want to be a Christian. However, some of the greatest Christians saints lived lives of hardship and suffering. That doesnt mean that Gods way isnt the better way because, obviously, living a life based on Divine Wisdom has to have better consequences that one based on Invincible Ignorance. However, there will still be trials and difficulties. What changes is not so much what happens to us but rather how we react to what happens. According to the scriptures, God is capable of bringing good even out of the evils that seems to befall us and, thus, to a Christian, every event, every situation, is an opportunity for learning and growth. In fact, without these difficulties, deeper learning and growth might not be possible.
If we think that this is a new way that had replaced an easier way, then listen to the Book of Sirach 2:1-11 has to say:
Son, when you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in times of adversity. Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways. Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and God will help you; trust in him and he will direct your way; keep his fear and grow old therein.
Consider the line that says, For in fire gold and silver are tested and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. The Original Sin was pride and it appears that whenever things are going great for us our arrogance level rises and we begin to feel invincible. Our pride becomes the major obstacle to our relationship with God and maybe this is why Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If this is really the case, then the worst thing that can happen to us, from Gods perspective, is to have the life of ease, comfort, of the idle rich. Consider our own country in which there seems to be an inverse relationship between wealth and our devotion to God and the things of God. The wealthier we become, the more decadent our culture becomes. As soon as tragedy befalls us, the churches are overflowing but as soon as things quiet down, the numbers decrease. There is a line in the song Hosea which says, The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak which pretty much describes the sorry condition of the human races relationship with God. It takes a wilderness experience for most of us to pay Him any mind and, it appears, that reality is set up to bring about those conditions for when we ignore Him by sinning, which is just another word for stupid behavior, we create the very chaotic conditions which forces us to go searching for Him. We may try many ways but, in the last analysis, there is only one way: His way that is based on Wisdom and Love.
If hell is really the Gehenna of empty thought spoken about in the Old Testament of the Bible then it appears that it is a world of mental unconsciousness. This is very interesting because it appears that the right lobe of our brain, which is related to the animal kingdom, lives in an unconscious state while the left lobe, which is the basis for rational reflection, lives in a state of consciousness. To illustrate this point consider the following analysis.
There are people, who look just like you and me, that dont have any elbows, wrists, or knuckles. The reason is because their culture never named them. They always existed as part of their arm but, until they are named, they cant come into a separate conscious existence. In fact, there was a time when you and I didnt have them either. As little children we were told that we had arms and it wasnt until later that we were informed that the arm could be divided into separate parts such as the wrist, hand, knuckles, fingernails etc They always were there, they just werent conscious to us.
It appears that there is a direct connection between language and consciousness. If, for example, we pretend for a minute to be dogs and someone was able to ask us what is in our room, if we, having the power of language could answer, we would say There is no thing in the room because we could not identify or separate the existence of any item from any other item until we have given them separate names. When we say table, we separate it in our minds from what we call chairs or floor. In fact, without language, everything is the room would be connected and touching, at least in our perception and awareness. The floor is touching me, who is touching the table, which is touching the chairs, which are touching the wall, which is touching the ceiling and anything else in the room because, without language to mentally separate one thing from another, everything is one. This, by the way, is the perception that the Eastern religions, like Hinduism, have.
Thus, it is through the power of language that we call into conscious existence everything around us. This being the case, we could further conclude that people with larger vocabularies are more conscious than people with limited vocabularies. For example, my wifes conscious understanding of a car is limited to doors, headlights, seats, radio etc These she consciously knows and understands. However, anything under the hood is a complete mystery to her. My brother, on the other hand, who is a professional mechanics know the name of every part of a car and is consciously aware of them and the function that they perform. Therefore, he is much more consciously aware of the car than my wife, even though they are both looking at the same reality. This suggests that the larger ones vocabulary, the greater is ones consciousness. Adults are more conscious than children because their vocabulary is so much greater. At birth we all were locked into a world of empty thought or nothingness in which we totally lacked any conscious awareness. In other words, we were in Gehenna just as animals, who also lack language, are locked in Gehenna. However, since they lack the capacity for language because both of their brains are nonverbal, they cant get out of the unconscious world of Gehenna because they lack a logical, rational left lobe of their brain that is able to speak and reflect on the right lobe. The child, on the other hand, having a rational, reflective left lobe begins to emerge from Gehenna as he learns to apply names to the objects around him. Little by little, he learns the proper names for things and, as he does, they are moved from unconscious awareness to conscious awareness. Without the logical, reflective, left lobe of his brain, he would remain a simple animal destined to spend the rest of his life in Gehenna, the unconscious world of empty thought. This reminds me of a song that we used to sing in church called the King of Kings that speaks of how God created everything out of the empty void that existed at the beginning of creation. It starts by saying:
In the beginning the Word of God came; creating everything by calling its name.
Let there be light, and call it the day. Let there be night, O hear and obey.
What this indicates, of course, is that God brought everything that exists out of a chaotic void or emptiness through His Logos or Word. Whenever, through His Logos, He spoke its name, it moved from the chaotic void into the organized world of created matter. He said Hydrogen and out of the chaotic subatomic world, one proton with a positive electrical charge united with one electron with a negative electrical charge and the basic building block of the universe moved from darkness into light, from chaos into order. There is a deep mystery here that we are just beginning to understand.
The mystery deepens when we consider that this Logos is the same Logos or Word that St. John said, became flesh and dwelt amongst us in the person of Jesus Christ. And it deepens once more when we consider that this Word or Logos was the Light that St. John said was found in every man. The Light of what? The Light of Understanding.
Just where is this Logos found in every man? Well, when Dr. Sperry split the brain of his patient at the corpus collosum, he discovered that his right brain, like the brains of animals, was nonverbal, and thus lived in the world of no thingness, but his left lobe was verbal. This left lobe was the source of Logic and language that is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Without it, we would be mere animals destined to spend our entire existence locked in a world of Mental Darkness.
This is hard for us to imagine because we cant remember what it was like to be without language. However, we are fortunate that there is a human being who does remember and is able to tell us what it was like. Her name is Helen Keller and she wrote an account of her experience in a book entitled My Religion.
Helen, you might remember, was born a normal child and we developing quite well until, just after she had learned her first word, Wawa for water, she contracted a disease that left her blind and deaf. Without these two senses, she was unable to advance any further in her language skills. In essence, prior to language, she, like an animal, had a right and left lobe that were both unable to speak. In other words, she was imprisoned in a subjective, unconscious, world of empty thought.
In the movie The Miracle Worker the story of her emergency from this world was told. It portrayed the animal like existence that she lived from the point of her illness till the point where her parents hired Ann Sullivan, a partially blind person herself, to try to train and discipline her so that they would not be forced to put her into an institution. The highpoint of the movie occurs when, at the end, Helen suddenly becomes aware of the connection between the symbols that Ann has taught her and the concrete objects in reality. I highly recommend that my listeners rent this movie to better understand what I am describing. However, let me quote her own words from the book My Religion in which she describes this event when she emerged from the nonverbal world that she occupied for many years. She says:
For nearly six years I had no idea whatever of nature, or mind, or death, or God. I literally thought with my body. Without a single exception my memories of that time are related to touch. For thirty years, I have examined and reexamined that part of my development in the light of new theories, and I am convinced of the correctness of what I am saying. I know I was impelled like an animal to seek food and warmth. I remember crying, but not the grief that caused the tears. I kicked, and because I recall it physically, I know I was angry. I imitated those about me when I made signs for things I wanted to eat, or helped find eggs in my mothers farmyard. But there is not one spark of emotion or rational thought in these distinct yet bodily memories. I was like an unconscious clod of earth. Then, suddenly, I knew not how or where or when, my brain felt the impact of anothers mind, and I awoke to language, to knowledge, to love, to the usual concept of nature, of good and evil. I was actually lifted from nothingness to human life. (Gehenna?)
When the sun of consciousness first shone upon me, behold a miracle! Down in the depths of my being I cried, Its good to be alive! I held out two trembling hands to life. The world to which I awoke was still mysterious, but there were hope and love and God in it, and nothing else mattered. Is it not possible that our entrance into heaven may be like this experience of mine?
Several years later my life enlarged when I learned to speak. I can never cease to marvel and be excited by that event of thirty-six years ago; it stands out so isolated, miraculous, baffling. Think of changing mute, soulless air into speech in the midst of midnight silence. Literally, I had no concepts of speech, and my touch was not enough to convey to me the thousand vibrations of spoken words. The pain and disappointment I have endured (in learning to speak clearly) are incalculable; but they are a price worth paying for the joy I have in being able to keep this living bond between the outer world and myself. As I learned to talk and to put feeling into what I said, I sensed more and more the miracle of all time and eternity-- the reality of thought! Thought, out of which are wrought books, philosophies, sciences, civilizations, and the joy and the woe of the human race! Even as if the lonely blind man who has traveled many years in midnight gloom should suddenly stumble upon the sun and all the glories of a sunlit world, so it was with me when the light of understanding flooded my mind, and realized that words were precious symbols of knowledge, thought, and happiness.
The normal human being is familiar with he use of words, and he cannot remember when he first began to use them. I have had a different experience. I was nearly seven years old when I began to acquire language, and I remember distinctly the feelings I experienced... It was a wonderful day never to be forgotten. Thoughts that ran forward and backward came over me. Now I see it was my mental awakening. I think it was an experience somewhat in the nature of a revelation. That first revelation was worth all those years I had spent in dark, soundless imprisonment.
What a commentary! To think that here we have a person who was actually in the world of empty thought and remembers enough to tell us about it. Ill have a lot more to say about this in my next program but my time is now up. Heres Dom!