Lesson 17- A Review of Concepts
Before picking up my topic where I left off at the end of my last program, I would like to review some of the key concepts from my previous talks in order to bring any new listeners up to where I am and also to prepare my regular listeners for a quantum leap in their understanding. Too often, we fail to understand what the Bible and the Church are teaching us because we are using words that are symbols for deeper truths that we dont and cant understand until we replace the symbols with the reality. I have referred to this before as religious algebra because, like algebra, it uses symbols to express truths that, even though they are true, cannot be fully understood until we replace the symbols with the reality for which they stand. Therefore, let me start off by talking about the realities that lie behind our religious terminology.
Jesus, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, is the Incarnate, which mean image into flesh, Wisdom of God, whom the Creator used as His Craftsmen to make the universe. When Jesus refers to himself as the "Bread of Life", He is telling us that He is Wisdom because, as I have mentioned in previous programs, the Jews considered that there were two dimensions to every human being: the outer person or flesh which ate regular bread and the inner person or spirit which ate Wisdom. They considered it very foolish for anyone to feed the outer person or flesh that was going to die and to starve the inner person or spirit that was destined to live forever. Thus, one of their terms for Wisdom was the "Bread of Life." Once we know this, the mystery behind the Eucharist becomes apparent and all the algebraic confusion disappears. Listen to the words of the hymn of the "Bread of Life" with this new insight.
"I am the Bread of Life; you who come to Me shall not hunger
You who believe in Me shall not thirst
No one can come to Me, unless the Father beckons.
Now lets translate that into less mystical language by removing the symbols and replacing them with the reality. I plain language what this is saying is: I am the Wisdom of God for which your soul hungers and if you believe in Me, your soul will never hunger or thirst again. But you cant come to Me, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, unless my Father, who is Goodness Itself, attracts you.
Do you remember when I told you that the Medieval philosophers said that our minds were composed of a Blind Will, which could be compared to a powerful sightless giant, and a Seeing Intellect, which could be compared to a powerless, seeing crippled man. The Will, they said, was made to seek the Good or God, while the Intellect was made to seek the True. They said that if our Blind Will went searching for the Good without the Seeing Intellect it ran the risk of ending up with a False Good or god. However if it, in its pursuit of the Good, followed the directions of the Intellect, which was seeking the True, it would end up with the Truly Good or the True God.
Let me tell you, as a person who has gone through a conversion experience, what this means to me. There was a time in my life when my will was pursuing a lot of false goods and there was emptiness within in my soul. I was laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. Finally, I reach a point of despair where I realized that the goods that I was pursuing were not truly good but false. However, not knowing what was really good, my soul simply cried out "I want what is truly good even though I dont know what it is! And that was it! The Good or God was beckoning to me. Now, I was ready to follow the Truth.
Suddenly there rose within me a hunger to know the Truth. It put me on a path where I began to read and search for the answers to the deeper questions within my soul. What I was hungering for was the "Bread of Life" or Wisdom. Jesus had said, "Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened unto you" and, as I sought and knocked, each morsel of truth that I found resulted in a fullness and satisfaction which filled my being and an inner peace began to replaced the inner turmoil in my soul. For the first time, my Blind Will was following my Seeing Intellect and together they were moving toward the Truly Good or the True God. It was as though that before this happened I, like the blind and deaf men in the Gospels, "had eyes that couldnt see, and ears that couldnt hear" and now, Jesus had restored sight to my eyes and hearing to my ears.
We think that the days of miracles ended with the Apostles and fail to see the real miracles that continue to take place to this very day. Our flesh wants physical healing and thinks that when this takes place, that a miracle has occurred. But Jesus never was too interest in healing the physical ailments of the people and He only did so to demonstrate that He had the power to heal the soul. He was a Spiritual Physician not a physical one. He had come to heal the blindness and deafness of our souls not of our eyes and ears. He wanted to free those who were imprisoned in the emptiness and darkness of their souls not those who were imprisoned in jails. He wanted to heal those with crooked and crippled perspectives not those with crooked and crippled limbs. These physical ailments were in the flesh and would end when the flesh died. But, the spiritual illnesses would last forever. But we, who are rooted in the flesh, think that healing the physical is the real miracle while God know that healing the spiritual ailments of Mankind is much more important and impressive. When the followers of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked Him if He were the Messiah, He answered by saying, "Tell John that the blind see and the deaf hear, and the lost have the Good New of the Kingdom preached to them." Do you get it? Do you understand what His answer really meant? Well consider this.
When the Pharisees complained when He told a cripple man that his sins were forgiven, He responded by saying, "What is it easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven" or "Take up your pallet and walk?" But so that you may know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, I say, "Take up your pallet and walk" and the crippled man stood up and was physically healed." However, it is obvious that Jesus was more concerned with the crippleness within his soul than with the crippleness in his legs, just as He is more concerned with our spiritual eyes and ear than with our physical ones. But, like the Pharisees, we are more impressed by physical healings and miracles, which rarely happen, while we barely pay any attention to the spiritual healings and miracles that are taking place all the time. Jesus is alive and well in the 21st Century where He continues to heal the blind and deaf, just as He did in the 1st Century. I say this as a person whom He has healed.
So now that we know that the "Bread of Life" refers to Wisdom and that Wisdom is the food of the soul, and that the soul is destined to life forever, lets look at the rest of the word in the song "Bread of Life" from this new vantage point of greater understanding. The words of the song continue by telling us that Wisdoms promise is that of eternal life:
And I will raise you up; and I will raise you up
And I will raise you up on the last day.
The Bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world
And you who eat of this Bread; You shall live forever...You shall live
And I will raise you up; and I will raise you up
And I will raise you up on the last day.
And I will raise you up; and I will raise you up
And I will raise you up on the last day.
Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God
Who has come.... into the world.
And You will raise me up; And You will raise me up
And You will raise me up on the last day.
What a powerful song, which, of course, is based directly on scripture. It really disturbs me that, often, when my wife and I are playing a guitar Mass and singing this song that the congregation sits there silently and distracted and, having eyes to see they do not see and having ears to hear, they do no hear, the power and meaning that these words have. To them it is like algebraic formulae whose truth they admit but whose meaning they do not understand. But let me continue exposing the rest of the religious algebraic expression that are equally befuddling to the mass of believers.
Jesus is also referred to as the Word of God, which God spoke at the beginning when He said, "Let there be Light!" He is the Word that St. John speaks of at the beginning of his gospel where he writes: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and everything was created by the Word." In Greek, the language in which that gospel was written, Word is spelled LOGOS from which we get the word Logic. Therefore, it would be proper to say, "In the beginning was Gods Logic and Gods Logic was with God, and Gods Logic was God, and everything was created by Gods Logic." According to St. John, this Logic was the Light that shone in the Darkness and it was found in every human being. Did you hear that? This Logic was found in every human being not just those who are Christians. Thus, if we knew where Logic was located in human beings, we would also know where the "Jesus within us" is located.
The word "Sin" comes from a Greek word that was used by Greek archers and it means, "to miss the target." In other words, when God created everything, His Logos or Logic created it with a logical purpose in mind. For example, food was created for nourishment and sex was created for the reproduction of life. We could say that these logical purposes were the Will of God and since sin, as defined by the Church, is a willful offense against the Will of God, then it logically follows that whenever we miss Gods logical purpose for things, we sin.
The Bible says that the "wages of sin are death" and that "we will reap what we sow." Obviously this means that "sin" because it violates the Wisdom, Logos or Logic of God will produce unwise or foolish results. In other words, Gods way produces order and harmony and is pro-life. When we sin by substituting our will for His will, we "miss the target" and produce disorder, and chaos and the results are anti-life or pro-death. The road to life leads to salvation, which is the "fullness of life", and the road to death leads to damnation, which is the "emptiness of life."
Therefore, the statement, Jesus saves us from our sins" in plain language means "The Wisdom or Logos of God, by showing us the Truth, will lead us out of Mental Darkness, and thereby, by removing the spiritual blindfold from our eyes, save us "from missing the logical targets or purposes" that He created from the beginning of time. Therefore, by not doing the "sins" we are saved from the chaotic consequences that would logically follow from stupid behavior. Therefore, it logically follows, that being saved from our sins means being saved from the doing of our sins not from the punishment because the punishment is not a punishment but, rather, the logical consequences that flow from stupid behavior. Once we realize this, then the role of Jesus, the Wisdom and Logos of God, is not condemnation but rather salvation. He has come to lead us out of Darkness.
If sin is "missing the rational or logical target" then morality must be "hitting the rational or logical target." Thus, we can agree with St. Thomas Aquinas when he states the principle that "a thing or action is good or bad according to how well it serves the logical purpose for which it was created." A good eye sees and a good ear hears and good food nourishes. We can also agree with him when, seeing that most things can have more than one purpose, that we should call the major logical purpose of the creator, the primary purpose, and all other purposes the secondary purposes. When evaluating secondary purposes in relation to primary purpose, St. Thomass rule is "that secondary purposes, which can come either from the creator or user of an object or function, are alright so long as they either help or at least dont interfere with the primary purpose." In other words, it is all right to eat for "taste", which is a secondary purpose for food, so long as the food is also nourishing, which is the primary purpose. However, it would not be all right to eat good tasting food that had no nourishment. Its all so logical and when we apply it to reality, everything is so clear. For example, why is lying wrong? Answer. Because the primary purpose of speech is to communicate information so that human knowledge can advance. Lying "misses the target", or sins, by communicating misinformation and thereby undermines the advancement of human knowledge. Isnt logic wonderful? Its the source of our rational mind that the medieval philosophers referred to as "The Divine Spark" within us because it is the Logos that is found in every human being.
So now we know we know that morality is based on logical purpose. If a thing has no logical purpose, then there is no right way or wrong way to use it. Everyone would be free to use it for any purpose that they wanted. In other words, it would be "different strokes for different folks!" However, once a thing has a logical purpose given to it by its creator, a purpose that St. Thomas referred to as the primary purpose, then there is an objectively right way and wrong way to use it. The primary purpose of a pen is to write and it was determined by the person who created it. However, it can also be used to advertise a business or product, which would be a secondary purpose. The creator of the pen, keeping in mind his primary purpose, makes sure that the lettering on the advertisement doesnt become so large that the pen, in order to bear it, become larger than the user can comfortably write with. Good creators always keep in mind the proper relationship between their primary and secondary purposes. However, users can also invent secondary purposes, such as using the pen to punch holes in a box. When this happens, the same principle applies. It is all right to use it this way so long as the secondary purpose doesnt interfere with the pens ability to write.
What we are observing here is an objective, rational basis for morality that takes us out of the world of feelings and places us in the world of facts. And of course, the greatest moral questions for us is "What is the primary purpose of human life?" because, then all of our secondary purpose would have to be evaluated against it. I'll leave that question for you to mull over and return to it again in some later program.
Now, unless you and I created the universe and all of the natural functions that are necessary for the survival of life, then the natural moral order must be based on the logical purposes of the mind that created it, which, of course, is the mind of God. If there is no God, then there is no objective morality and, as one philosopher put it, if there is no God, then all things are possible," meaning there would be no limits on what human beings could do. Some people, especially some college professors and their students, think that this is a wonderful, freeing idea because all they imagine is the unlimited fun and good that we might do. Unfortunately, the premise also contains the unlimited evil we could do. Freedom without limits is just another name for chaos and chaos is just another name for hell. Which brings us to our next religious algebraic expression. What is hell?
Well every child knows that it is a place of eternal fires and the very thought of it is designed to "scare the hell out of him." If the truth be known, it is worse than that. Its tortures may not be physical at all. They may be more mental and spiritual and, quoting a friend of mine who suffered through five nervous breakdowns, he said, " Id rather hold my hand in a blazing flame any time than to go through the mental suffering involved in my breakdowns. Later, while talking to an ex-alcoholic about the difference between physical and mental pain, he answered, Thats a no-brainer. Mental pain is much worse than physical pain. Why? Because the human heart, says St. Augustine was made for God and God is Love and without love our hearts are overcome with an unbearable anguish. So what is hell? Someone, without knowing it, once wrote a song about it entitled air World Without Loves Think about it. Take away all the things that we attribute to love and we will start to have a near but incomplete picture of hell. It will be incomplete because there are a lot of things that we take for granted that, in their final analysis, are a reflection of love because they resulted from someone caring about our well-being even though we didnt know each other. This program, for example, is a reflection of my caring for the well being of my listening audience even though we may never meet. I am paying money out of my own pocket to teach you which is insignificant to the time that I have to take out of my life just to write these programs. The firemen and policemen who risk their lives is another example. Anyone who gives of their "time, treasure, or talent" for the benefit of others is a reflection of the power of love. Try to imagine a world in which no one gives of their "time, treasure, or talent" for the benefit of others and that is hell. Its the world of "self."
But once again, to fully understand hell, we have to get past the algebraic symbolism that is used to describe it and that is where I was when I ended my last program. Let me review this with you be repeating the ending to my last program.
I was talking about the fact that hell is often referred to as the Kingdom of Darkness that was ruled by the Prince of Darkness, the devil, who is the Father of All Lies. I ask the question, "What does the Bible means when it talks about the Kingdom of Darkness?" and then mentioned that I came across of scholars Bible in which the devil and God was talking about Gehenna. The footnote said that Gehenna was the Old Testaments word for hell and it meant 'empty thought." This reminded me of the fact that Dr. Sperry is split brain operation demonstrated that the right lobe of the brain in most people is nonverbal while the left lobe is verbal. From that I demonstrated that consciousness is connected to words because we cant be consciously be aware of anything until we have named it. Thus, there are many things in reality which, although we can see them, we have no conscious awareness of them because we have not given them names. For example, we always had elbows, wrists, fingers, knuckles, and fingernails but until someone told us their name they existed in our minds only as "the arm." It is through words that we separate and divide reality into its parts and without them, everything would blend together as one.
As a test, I suggested that we imagine that we are in a room, and like our dog, we had no words for the objects in the room. If we were asked what was in the room and had the power to answer, we would answer there is "no thing" in the room." Thus, we would be living in a world of "empty thought" or mental unconsciousness. In other words, a Kingdom of Mental Darkness ruled, as the animal kingdom is ruled, by feelings, impulses, and passions. What this kingdom is like is difficult and almost impossible for us to imagine even though, before we learned to talk, all of us lived there but we have no recollection of what it was like when language first entered our world and began to life us from Mental Darkness into the world of Mental Light.
According to what we now know about the structure of the brain, this first happened when the logical left lobe of our brain, which is the Logos within us, began to exercise its ability to bring into conscious awareness the items in the objective world by naming them. The song "King of Kings" says, "In the beginning the Word of God came, creating everything by calling its name" and, in a sense, as we learn to speak, we were doing the same thing as we named those thing around us. As God was calling into existence out of the chaotic void of the subatomic world those pieces of organized reality that made up His creation, so we call into conscious existence from the chaotic world of "no thingness" those pieces of reality that make up our conscious world.
As I ended my last program I was quoting from Helen Kellers book entitled "My Religion." Helen, you might remember, was born normal but just as she was learning her first word- "Wawa" for water- she contracted a disease that left her deaf and blind. Without the aid of these senses, she was unable to develop her language skills any further. That is, until Ann Sullivan manage to break through into her world of Mental Darkness and reawaken in her the understanding of the connection between language and things. Helens misfortune was our blessing because she alone has a memory of that pre-language world from which we all emerged and she has shared her knowledge with us in the piece that I was quoting as my last program ended. Let me start again from the beginning of the piece so that we can grasp the full impact of what she said. She begins by saying:
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. 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, 'It's 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?"
We could entitle this piece of writing as "The Voice From Gehenna" because it is obvious that Helen was living in the world of "empty thought." It is the world that animals live in all the time and the world that all of us would live in if the left hemisphere of our brain did not have the ability to talk. It is this left hemisphere and its capacity for logic and language that lifts us out of mental darkness and into mental light. If Gehenna is really hell, and hell is really "empty thought" then it means that we are not going to hell because we were all born in it. Rather it means that we are trying to get out of it.
This throws an entirely new perspective on our idea of salvation because it suggests that our left hemisphere, which is the source of logic and rationality, is the "Logos that is found in every human being" which St. John speaks of in his gospel and that through its capacity for language it is leading us out of the unconscious world of "no thingness" into the conscious world of "somethingness."
There is much more that I have to say about this but I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.