The Realms of Revelation
In essence, what we have said thus far, is that Revelation is Being Itself offering guidance so that we might reach our full potential at an individual level, ultimately leading us to fulfillment at the collective level. The means, or the realm of this revelation is the realm of symbol which is expressed through our unconscious.
There are two forms in which this realm of revelation manifests itself. The first is at a personal level, taking the form of dreams, hunches, intuitions, feelings, impressions etcetera. We will cover this in depth in a later section of this chapter.
The other form is collective, the dreams of humanity so to speak. As already implied, they take the form of myth (sacred stories), which are manifested in Scriptures, literature, music, art, folklore, and religious beliefs of peoples all over the globe. It might also be safe to speculate that some of our science and technology may come from this realm if we carefully look at the origins of many of the ideas that have come to some of the great innovative minds.
If revelation is to continue to serve us, we need to look at it in a different light than we presently do. We need to remove such concepts as revelation being the Word of God, replacing them with a recognition that all such can ever be is the inspiration of God. This inspiration is expressed in a symbolic way that is always filtered through human perception and interpretation.
To view revelation in this way, theology needs a new word to define revelation, one which can fit the diversity of God's inspirations, one which acknowledges that such inspiration can come in a variety of forms, and one which can recognize that God's inspiration is to all peoples. So from henceforth, we shall try to view revelation in terms of myth; defined as, the Sacred Symbolisms which convey ideas that can potentially benefit an individual, and/or humanity. It is in this way, the concepts expressed in the myths are actualized into truth.
This idea that God would use metaphor, symbol, and parable is not so far fetched when we consider that many of our great human teachers, from the Greek philosophers to the Eastern mystics and the Holy Sages, including Jesus himself, have all used these methods. We, ourselves, often use such approaches to convey moral principles, ethics, and values in our children.
God's Inspiration becomes no different in design if we approach it seeing the Parental Creator conveying the lessons about the gift of life She had bestowed upon His children.
The Realm of Revelation is a realm reaching beyond time and space, and thus, the limitations of time/space must not apply in a rigid manner when we approach it for its meaning. Revelation, in order to be useful, must not be looked upon as being literal, or portraying historical accounts, or construed as edicts of the truth.
It is a realm of truth, but it is truth as seen from the whole, and thus, it cannot be constrained in the limitations that bind human communications. The truth of the revelation is in the message it delivers, not the wording of the delivery. Until those who seek to interpret God's Word realize this, the true messages of revelation will continue to allude them.
When we enter the Realm of Revelation (the world of myth), we must realize that the collective, or God's, vision of reality is a total and complete vision; therefore, it is far beyond us. We must consider that such revelation isn't meant to give us answers; but rather, it is constructed to help us find answers in our limited perspective. In other words: GOD WANTS US TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IS SAID, which is vastly different than just accepting what is said. Acceptance implies passiveness, while thinking causes us to interact. Inspiration becomes nothing more than words if it does not interact with our lives. This interaction should be productive leading to harmony, rather than, reductive and divisive. Revelation is inspiration designed to help us solve our problems, not complicate them. Revelation offers guidance, that offers hope, leads us to inner peace, and helps us to interact with others in the family of humanity. Theology must avoid interpretations which emphasize judgement, which thwarts hope - or wrath and punishment, which instills guilt leading us away from inner peace - or dogmas, which alienate men from one another.
Before we discuss any criteria for approaching this realm, we need to discuss how it must be read. Revelation must be read through the heart first, as with a poem or a great work of art. Viewing it this way also helps us to understand that the inspiration may be presenting different things to different people, a point responsible theology cannot overlook. The passage may even hold special meaning for the individual reading it, far different from the way it is ordinarily interpreted.
Myth, as revelation, is designed to take us to the core of the reality of the paradox we experience as life, helping us to provide the balance and harmony necessary to live this experience to its fullest. The collective inspired word should help us to stand outside the ego-conscious, leading us to the totality of the self, which includes: a paradox that houses the Divine, our intellect, our primal animal natures, and the soul of a human being. In order to achieve this state we need to see revelation as a statement of Divine feeling more than Divine facts.
The responsible theologian must keep in mind as he/she approaches the realm of revelation, that, from the prospective of the Divine, there may be many ways to convey the same ideal or truth. If we deal with God as Paradox, then God Herself is Diverse (yet balanced), and can arrive at the same point in many different ways at the same time. Often, if we were to just open our minds; what we thought was so cut and clear, takes on new dimensions of vision with depths of greater meaning. In dealing in the mythical realm, openness is the most wholesome approach a responsible clergyman can take. It is not the role of religion to make God say what they want Her to say; rather, it is to expose the inspiration which can lead us to more productive lives - to accent the inspiration which makes us aware that we are all children of God!
There is a common mistake that many people make when approaching the realm of the sacred, the mythic realm, the world of revelation. Joseph Campbell sums it up nicely in a chapter of a book written by Alexander Eliot, entitled "The Universal Myths":
That [the sacred expression) is the ethnic inflection of an elementary idea, which in itself, however, is without location - as all sages know, BUT DEVOTEES AND FANATICS DO NOT. This unfortunate misunderstanding then throws them seriously off center, so that while imagining themselves to be grounded in the Ultimate Ground of Being, what they are actually grounded in is NO MORE THAN THE GROUND OF THEIR OWN SYMBOLIC SYSTEM. One of the GREATEST DANGERS to be avoided in the INTERPRETATION of all symbolic systems IS THAT of MISTAKING THE SYMBOL FOR ITS REFERENCE --- which, curiously, seems to be a mistake more likely to be made by teachers and students of our own symbolic heritage than ever by the illiterate hunters.
One of the best examples of what
Putting aside any argument having to do with the historical reality of the Gospels, these Gospels remain a intricate part of this world of mythic revelation as we are defining it here. If we truly examine the messages of the Four Gospels, we will quickly see that faith is most secondary to love, and that, the worship of Jesus is not even hinted at. Jesus seemed much more concerned with our interactions with each other over our words of faith. His emphasis was on changing our hearts, not in proclaiming our praise. Words were a hypocrisy to Jesus if they were not lived as preached.
It was Paul who told us our Faith will save us, but Jesus never said that. Instead, he preached a Gospel of Love containing a religious humanism that seems to get lost in the worshipping of the messenger. Theologians are often so concerned with the Nature of Christ, they loose sight of the Divine message that shouts from the pages of these holy words. Too often, our faith in 'Christ the symbol' is overshadowing the message of love and personal responsibility that he delivered. Jung summed it up when he said:
It is high time we realize that it is POINTLESS TO PRAISE THE LIGHT AND PREACH IT IF NOBODY CAN SEE IT. It is much more NEEDFUL TO TEACH PEOPLE THE ART OF SEEING.
(PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY, p13)
Our religions are often so lost in the symbols, in the supernatural implications of these ancient manuscripts, they loose sight of the importance of the simplicity of the words themselves; of the importance of those words in our everyday realities.
To touch on the core of most Christian belief , which is the redemption doctrine, where it is often interpreted as our human salvation being earned upon the cross. This doctrine goes on to declare Jesus the Savior of mankind. Jesus is a Savior; but, if we read what Jesus proclaimed - that salvation was no earned upon the cross. In fact, he did not save us. Instead, the cross is the symbol of our true salvation, which is the ultimate example of love that Jesus demonstrates for us there. (this will be explained in much greater detail when we deal with the Redemption). The real onus of salvation in the Gospel message of Jesus is on individual responsibility, in the "taking up our cross". Jesus becomes the example for all messiahs, of which every individual one of us is.
If we look to the mythic realm with a closed mind, seeking to make it fit our preconceived ideals; then, we will only see what we want to see. If we approach the myth in the manner Jesus suggested, childlike (open-minded and inquisitive), then we may see with much more insight. Our receptiveness will strive to absorb the true facts; instead of, acting like Cinderella's evil stepsisters who try to fit their feet into the glass slipper which really is not theirs.
If we are ever to find out what God wants of us, we need to strip ourselves of the personal agenda. We need to free ourselves from the confines of hearing what we want to hear and listen to what God is really saying. Scripture needs to be filtered through the heart before it can be understood by the intellect, although there is some intellectual criteria we should keep in mind in approaching the realm of revelation.
In his book "MYTHOLOGY," David Leeming says about mythology:
The words and images of mythology EXPRESS MAN'S SENSE OF WHAT HE IS IN RELATION TO THE COSMOS [ or one might say, man's sense of what he is in relation to the Creator who is the cosmos*]. As man's life has changed over the centuries so have the external forms of his myths - BUT THE INNER STRUCTURE OF THOSE MYTHS HAS REMAINED ESSENTIALLY THE SAME. As a result, any given mythic story [or Sacred Writing*] is a combination of superstition and religious truth, of primitive fears and universal understandings. This being the case, it is illogical if not IMPOSSIBLE to approach mythology [*revelation, inspiration*] FROM A SINGLE POINT OF VIEW. Instead, this elusive yet intriguing subject must be explored from several different viewpoints, from divergent perspectives that will provide us with A COMPREHENSIVE COMPOSITE PORTRAIT.
(Newsweek Books, 1976,p7)
*Bracketed statements are by the author
Leeming goes on to describe the criteria for approaching myth. Using his outline we can apply these same criteria to the theologian, or clergyman, who seeks to be responsible to the faithful as well as God and is striving for guidelines to apply to their intellect:. All Sacred Writings, no matter bow they are expressed, should be approached with due consideration to all of the following. The reading must take place with the heart, but to understanding we need to consider the following:
1, CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE - that is, viewing it from the social/economic influences, belief structures, and understanding of science and nature of the particular people who recorded the myth or Sacred Writing. These criteria will help to identify any bias that may be contained in the message.
2, HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE - We need to know as best we can what was going on in the world that might influence the tale in any way, and how the myth or sacred document might relate to those particular events.
3, LANGUAGE PERSPECTIVE - Striving to understand what people meant to convey with the words recorded. This needs to include, or at least consider, words that might have been slang or may be alien to our understanding of their language. It also needs to include language barriers; that is, whether the translation has a true English equivalent and whether that translation is an accurate portrayal of what the original author had in mind.
Bishop John Shelby Spong
gives an excellent example of how these first three of the criteria can affect
the way we approach a Sacred Story. For years the Christian Church has used the
The issue of homosexuality is another reality in sexual thinking
and practice that places pressure on Holy Scripture. Once again, this prejudice
is so deep, so widely assumed to be self-evident, that all the major churches have
in the past simply quoted the Bible to justify their continued oppression and
rejection of gay and lesbian persons. THE
Yet a closer reading of this narrative reveals it to be a strange story involving hospitality laws in a nomadic society that our world of superhighways, bright lights, and chain motels cannot even imagine. It is a story about gang rape, which cannot ever be anything but evil. It is a narrative that expresses violent malevolence toward women that few people today, even among the fundamentalist, would be eager to condone,
In the biblical world of male values, the humiliation of a male was
best achieved by making the males act like women in the sex act. To act like a
woman, to be a passive participant in coitus, was thought to be insulting to
the dignity of the male. This, far more than homosexuality, was the underlying
theme of the
The Story goes on to say that
(John Shelby Spong, RESCUING THE BIBLE FROM FUNDAMENTALISM, Harper Collins,1991, p7)
The point the good Bishop makes so
eloquently is that in this oration, when you understand the culture of these
people, the story takes on a different message having to do with the dignity of
men; not the sexual mores of future generations. He sees it as saying: no man
has the right to strip another man of his dignity; which is the point of many
mythic metaphors. Today's sexual values had no input into this story, as is obviously
illustrated by the Biblical descriptions
We accept this criteria readily when it comes to most of the literature in our world. Plato, Shakespeare, Goethe, and so on: are all the more meaningful when we know of the culture, the history and the language of the era when they were written. Shakespeare, for example, uses many everyday terms that are unfamiliar to us today. We may misinterpret, or fail to understand the meaning, or at the very least, not be able to appreciate what is said if we do not take the time to familiarize ourselves with the terms and there meanings for the individual authors. Such logic begs the question: if we include such criteria with our great writers, why is it so often overlooked when it comes to what we profess as the Sacred Messages of God?
Once we have considered the first three of these criteria: culture, history and language, there are three more categories which must come into play:
4, THE IDEAL PERSPECTIVE - What is the central theme, point, or reason for the recording of the story?
5, THE UNIVERSAL PERSPECTIVE - What is consistent in this myth, Sacred Writing, or concept that expands beyond this one culture and one time?
6, THE RELEVANCE
FACTOR - And this is particularly true for religion. It needs to examine if the
ideal of the myth is applicable to the real world, applicable to our time, and
Spong looked at the story of
There are many who criticize the so called word of God, seeing the danger in some of the interpretations. What we need to realize is the problem is not with the word of God, the problem is in the way human beings approach Her inspiration. It is not the word that causes the good, evil or indifferent acts that men cite in its name; its the application of the words by those who claiming to follow and know its meaning.
What we must come to realize is God only helps us; She does not do for us. This applies to our understanding of Him as well as to the solutions to our human problems. If we approach God in the ignorance of blind faith, we are going to carry with us no more than the empty words of men. If we work to educate ourselves in the language of God, we just might find in His words the guidance needed to solve many of those human problems on our own. God cannot save us from ourselves for our being rests in the free will She has chosen to give us. God has given us the manual, and just as we must work to understand a computer manual if we are to run the machine right, we must learn how to use and apply the terms in God's manuals.
Bill Moyers in the introduction to Joseph Campbell's THE POWER OF MYTH sums up for us just what the mythic realm is all about; His impression of what Campbell stood for:
"The Images of God are many," he said [Joseph
Campbell], calling them "the masks of eternity that BOTH COVER AND REVEAL the
Face of Glory." He wanted to know what it means that God ASSUMES SUCH
DIFFERENT MASKS in different cultures, yet how it is that comparable stories
can be found in these divergent traditions - stories of creation, of virgin
births, incarnations, death and resurrection, second comings, and judgement days. He liked the insight of the Hindu
Scripture: "Truth is One;" the sages call it by many names. "All
of our names and images of God are masks," he said, signifying the ultimate reality that by definition
transcends language or art. A myth is a mask of God, too - a metaphor
for what lies beyond the visible world. However, the mystic traditions
differ, he said, they are in accord in calling us to a deeper awareness of the
very act of living itself. The unpardonable sin, in
(intro, 1988, p XVII)
If theology is to become relevant in today's world, helping to solve human problems in unity and love, it must open its eyes and pull its head from the sands of preconception. There is a boundless treasure in the sacred of all cultures, and for us to refuse to see them is a sin of ignorance, which only serves to slow our evolutionary process, both physically as well as spiritually. Responsible Theology needs to apply its sight two the greater perspective and seek to enlighten men as to the MESSAGE OF GOD; rather than , proclaiming the word of God.
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