The Creation of Kindness by Cora E. Cypser
Section 10.1 of Chapter 10:
The Theory of Love and Power
Recycle of The Holy
There are always new poems to make
but never a new God; always
new truths to state, new perceptions
through new eyes. But looking ahead
through the mists of the stars in the universe
we see back around to infinity
the back side of God
who creates all and is ever creating.
We strive to reach ahead and be like God
only to find that we were like God
when God created us, and that we continue
in God's holiness with every breath, and, yes
the Messiah of God is risen, is with us
always, or we would be as good as dead.
10.1 Domestication of Populations
In Genesis 1:28 God blessed the human beings and advised them to fill the earth and subdue it and to control the animals. We are to treat the earth with care and concern. God does not say that we are to control each other. However, the human being has put into place all manner of structures to control other human beings. Herders gathered together wild animals and tamed them for the purpose of making a livelihood off of them. Some religious professionals did likewise with populations. However, not all those seeking greater truth about the eternal were guilty of such grand domestication or control of their associates. More often religious leaders were altruistic and working for the fulfillment of those in their charge.
Domestication has taken place in diverse circumstances. Domestication of populations by war lords or conquerors or priestly establishments takes place most often several centuries after a charismatic religious figure has proclaimed an ethic of love for oppressed people. Domestication can also take place in times of great inhumanity, before a major prophet preaches the need for reform. A population can be made pliable for God's word in a situation such as the Babylonian Captivity (586-516 BC). Political unity and political domestication have also sometimes fostered religious domestication. The role of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was not to promote an existing religious belief, but to consolidate the known kingdoms. Then in the subsequent Roman Empire, at the time of Constantine (325 AD), the new religion of Christianity was more readily spread through out the area.
The many religious beliefs such as the multi-god systems of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the one-God beliefs of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and the ethical beliefs of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, are preserved by structures designed to keep their groups orderly. Often this order is maintained through a combination of hope for personal betterment and through fears of damnation or community disapproval. Does God keep earth orderly through power, through weapons, through fear, or does God give us freedom to act out of personal responsibility and concerned love? In having groups of humanity reach their goal through binding religious forms, we may be short-circuiting humanity from its proper path of responsible love, and encouraging argumentative differences among power structures or leaders.
Is it necessary to have a power structure to carry the message of love? In Egypt the common people were content to believe in the goodness and healing power of Isis. At some point the stronger god Ra was enthroned in the temple and serviced by priests who received a portion of his sacrifices for their upkeep. Many peoples followed this cultural pattern, and generations later, many of the societies of the earth seem convinced that it is necessary to worship God in temples made with human hands and to pay intermediaries (priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, etc.) to oversee the worship in these temples.
Frequently throughout history, prophets have spoken up and proclaimed the availability of God to all. Ordinary people who are listening rejoice at this proclamation, and many devote their individual lives to God's service without feeling the necessity for a go-between. On the other hand, some individuals are followers rather than leaders. For those who prefer a leader, the methods used to guide, facilitate, or control the flock can be gentle and peaceable. There may be prayers for healing. Places may be declared sacred. Shrines may be set up. Statues and symbols may be put in place to make worship easier. Sometimes the god or his spokesperson becomes more demanding. They want better behavior, more sacrifice, and perhaps even a grander temple. The religious leader may build his community by complaining about the misdeeds of those outside the community. It may seem then as if the god permits the mistreatment of populations who do not worship at his temple.
Violence. Side by side with the evolution of concerned love, we have seen the spread of weapons of war as if one was somehow related to the other. We can imagine that many an early man lived in a loving community. He wanted to protect that community against the outsider, so he organized power groups for protection (because he loved the insiders). These power groups invented weapons- swords, dynamite, crucifixions, tortures- often out of fear for their own lives and the lives of those they loved. However, those who use swords must expect that swords will be used against themselves. Those who employ violence against others must expect violence in return.
The threat of violence may occasionally be necessary to lead us toward permanent peace. It sometimes seems that only because we view the cruel results of discrimination, slavery, pogroms, and racial genocide, are we impressed with the need for love and understanding for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Without the presence of power, evil, weaponry, and persecutions, we might never have evolved to see that all nations, creeds, races, and sexes would profit from concerned cooperation.
In this evolution of forced cooperation (arising out of fear), groups selected leaders in order to crusade against other groups. Kings were expected to go out to war. Gods were selected to go out to war with the king who worshiped them. Their belief in their god as the one supreme Lord and the righteous leader of the community fostered inflamed nationalism. If we are taught that our God is the one true God, and that other people have other gods who are evil, the unthinking among us will be easily influenced into killing other humans like themselves. They will see the other person as evil and deserving of death. They may even feel that if they die as a result of opposing these others, they will be rewarded with a blissful after life. The maniacal god of war marches to war with the soldiers, and the gods or goddesses of concerned love are left behind at the hearth side.
Today when all human beings can see the hideousness of harming civilian populations when "great powers" fight with bombers and tanks, how can any human being risk being a soldier in such an army? Too often, leaders incite followers by emphasizing religious differences, and term their cause a religious war in order to encourage thoughtless participation. How can one follow a leader who looks only for power and control, and thus fly in the face of loving concern for other human beings? Soldiers are people who can contemplate on what is just and good. They can be used to help. Many soldiers are trained in skills and can help to build homes for the homeless. Some can teach others to grow better crops, or heal the mentally and physically ill, or be role models in the inner cities. Soldiers don't have to be relegated to the sole category of trigger pulling.
Power Versus Love. When we look back at the history of our earth and the story of civilization, we must try to learn what pieces of our searching were helpful for all humanity, and what pieces distracted or took away from the general well being. There was much that was helpful in the wisdom dispensed by the philosophers. There also must have been some good aspects of power and authority. It surely took strong and powerful leadership to rid the world of child sacrifice in China and human sacrifice in Mexico. Were these improvements based on power or love? Will it be power or love that rids the world of war? Perhaps we need a dedicated combination of both. Communication has made the world into a global village. Communication can support power and control. It can encourage racial hatreds and sexual improprieties, through manipulation of minds. Communication must be used for community betterment. It is necessary to communicate a new religion of love and tolerance throughout the world in order to preserve the world.
We have seen how God created the heavens and the earth, and how the human being came on the scene. This human being behaved in a vacillating manner. She could love, and she also could hate. She was capable of doing terrible things to her fellow human. We hope that God's purpose in creation was not to have us inflict misery on one another. Some of us humans believe that God is all-powerful, but some of us worry that God started something that got out of control. Those in positions of power and authority in the church or in the state, remind us that there are controlling forces. They warn us that if we don't behave, there will be consequences that our actions have instigated.
Moses tried to establish a loving community in the wilderness showing us the concern of God for wandering tribes. David took this wilderness community structure and bound it together with a power play. He used the seeking-after-goodness-and-justice that resides in the hearts of all people, and invited many tribes to come and be part of his community. This kingdom of David's was held together by dedication and trust as well as political and military power. Because David rose to power in Israel, the people-oriented God of Moses was enshrined as the God to be worshiped. Because God uses both love and power, the words of gentle prophets are set in place by authoritarian rulers. God may use the forces of both love and power to encourage us to our optimum fulfillment. Cruel leaders may rouse the people to desire justice. Ice ages may encourage genes that withstand adversity.
Sometimes evolutionary pain is conveniently blamed on God because we can't see any other purpose in it. Or does God allow evolutionary pain as part of a larger birthing process? In our looking back, we suppose that the dinosaurs may have become extinct because they developed in the wrong directions. It is possible that God corrected this backsliding by allowing a meteor or other environmental conditions hostile to the dinosaurs. The Bible says that when humans became obnoxious, God sent a flood. Having promised not to use the flood tactics again, God perhaps allowed the explosion at Thera to shake up civilizations that were getting too set in selfish ways. God's power was perhaps being used to urge the world community towards greater understanding of others.
Law. When we cast our eyes around the world, and observe behavior, we might decide that law and order is the only way to go. Without the pressure from authority, people are inclined to be irresponsible and to do what seems good for them. We often feel that if we obey laws (which may be unjust and biased), we will have order, and we will save the world. However, laws may be sitting too heavily on those in low places; the oppressed may be plotting revolt against laws that you and I believe to be very reasonable. Laws are to be obeyed by those who make up the laws, but we cannot always expect those who do not have a chance to give input, to obey the laws we make. Understanding and communication are better methods to peace than rule by law.
Law may have its problems, but it is not all bad; it gives us guidelines to follow, and it tells others what we are about. Enforcing laws through police power can be helpful as well as hurtful. Power can contribute to a sense of order. God gave us freedom to choose our directions, but we need guiding knowledge to make wise choices. Children need parents who set bounds to their behavior. Grown people also need guidance that contains a measure of authority. Unfortunately, some authorities often profess to know more than they really know, and act as if they always did everything correctly. This hypocrisy is annoying to those they are supposedly helping. Those who try to help must be listeners before they are advisors.
Love and Hate. Over the ages, God seems to be guiding us to be more loving. Let us try to define love more explicitly. If we enlist the assistance of previous cultures as given in the Bible, we might describe the concept of love as pity for the needy. Love, where commitment to God is concerned, might be described as a spontaneous feeling which impels to self-giving. Deuteronomy 6:5 and 13:4 talk about love when it is directed towards God, as being a transformative power of soul in the inward person. Our soul chooses to direct our body to be useful to the creation. We are to help the needy because they are a part of God's creation just as we are. If we are forming responsible souls, we will seek to transform ourselves and others to be kind and noble.
There are other kinds of love besides the transformative and the altruistic. There is love between man and woman as described in the Old Testament by Jeremiah and Hosea. There is the love of a father for his son as in David's lament for Absalom. Love can be between equals as well as between the one giving and the recipient. Love has to do with respecting the other and acknowledging her rights. Love seems to be a quality inborn in the human, passed between generations, and even possible when one generation is considering a future generation, or past generations. Sexual love can strengthen the spiritual bond between two persons and can enhance family life, but when sex disrespects women, aborts babies, or brings unloved and unwanted children into the world community, it is not furthering the good of humanity, and cannot be considered to be positive.
We cannot command love to happen. We cannot prod the pervert or the addict to love themselves and others. Love is a non-legal quantity. We cannot encircle it with legal directives. A person can obey all sorts of minute rules and regulations, and be a totally unloving automaton. We cannot force one person to love another, but when love is flowed into the human container, then it flows back out to others.
We cannot command hate either. It is easy to see how we can cause someone to fear, and how the path of fear often leads to hatred. If we suggest to a person or group that another is liable to harm them, we start them thinking negatively. If we want to encourage love, we must be constantly affirming, constantly enumerating good qualities in the other group, constantly praying for the other's fulfillment. Our words and actions have the power to change fear into active interest, which leads to knowledge, to trust, and to love.
The Bible advises us to have loving concern for both the fellow national and the enemy (Deuteronomy 22:1-4, Exodus 23:4). Ezekiel 47:22 advises that aliens are to be treated as citizens. We are to share the goods of the earth with others. It seems that some of our early ancestors thought ahead to future generations and had loving concern for those who would come after them. Some ancestors such as the mythical Abraham looked forward in time to the well being of their descendants. Do we, the people of the world, living today, have this concern for those who will participate in the future of this earth?
The Search for Fulfillment. Hunting and gathering people were here 500,000 BP. God certainly knew about them and their hopes and their vagaries. They were pretty much like us. The mothers loved and protected their young. In 9,000 BC there were many towns dotting the landscape. Along the Nile rulers of cities were wielding power (6,000 BC). In Mesopotamia there were trading cities, there was writing, and soon there were soldiers marching. God knew about all that. God saw both the giving and the greedy. Greedy rulers wanted MORE; they wanted more land, more people to bow before them, more bronze and tin. What did they really want? Did they go marching, marching, just to see the world, or were they looking for a little excitement? Were they escaping from the humdrum of daily living? From generation to generation we search. Rather than needing the domestication offered by power structures, perhaps we need to develop our own internal motivations in a wholesome search for our fulfillment. We think we may find fulfillment if we have a little power, or money to buy material goods. Some of us seek for a comfortable mind, for our fulfillment. We search for love, for admiration, and for someone to love and to share our resources. Sometimes our drive for power seems to be a search for someone to adore us. We have a basic need to be appreciated. As we escape from subservience to our animal appetites and learn how to work with our environment, as we escape from our selfishness, by choosing to be considerate to one another, we will have less need for power grabbing and aggression. As we meditate on our beginnings and on the God who created all this, we will get a clearer idea of how the One God dreams of our fulfillment.
Series of Theories
A portion of Chapter 6
People of God
People worshipped God when there was no Bible ...when there was no church ... when there were no priests, no altar servers, no theologians ...
Abraham worshiped God. He had no Bible. He had no church. He believed he was special with God. The story goes that he was called The Friend of God.
We all like to think that we are special with God. After all, some wise energy created us, and this energy is doubtless wise enough to protect us and encourage us.
As we are all people of God, we all have our stories about how God made us, how God chooses us, and how God gives us food and land. The Bible gives us myths. The Polynesians have their myths. The Amerindians have theirs. Where did all these myths begin?
People of God
We are ALL people of God, the children of one creator. We are called to loving community with one another.
When God promised the land to God's people, who were those people, and what territory was being promised? We have read the myth of the chosen people written down in the Bible, where certain interpretations of God credit God with being exclusive. Some people say that God is God of the oppressed, and that God will destroy the rich and powerful. This sounds like a pretty violent God, destroying those who have more material goods. Those of us who have a lot of things don't like the sound of a God who plays favorites. There must be a mistake.
One possible explanation of the myth of the chosen people in the land of Israel might be that the Israelites were able to write it down. Before the time of the Kingdom of David in Israel, there was not too much writing ability. David is credited with uniting the tribes that were in the land of Israel. Tribal leaders pledged themselves to blood brotherhood by slitting their veins and mixing their blood together. Many of these tribal groups came from the east, and likewise many of their legends came from the east. They told their myths orally around the campfires, and many of the legends were about the same things, such as the exclusion from a beautiful garden and being kept from that garden by fire, the legend of a great flood, tales about an angry God, and also about the love of God for God's creatures.
Surely God loves God's creation, loves ALL that creation. In Genesis we hear that God finds the creation good. God has loving concern for everybody, for blacks and whites, for homosexuals and heterosexuals, for males and females, for poor and rich, for prisoners and those who guard them, for both sides in those countries around the world whose citizens are killing each other. God loves everybody. But this myth about God loving one chosen race in particular got written down about the time of the Kingdom of David, and got to be associated with a particular group of people, as opposed to the other nations and peoples who had the same inner feelings about God's love, but who had not written down that a particular spot on earth belonged to them. Writing can do a lot of good to encourage loving community, but when used by one group to exclude another group, it can do harm. The group that is being excluded can become very frustrated and react negatively. We can see this sort of reaction in the land of Israel today.
The Old Testament writers recognized God's love and spoke about how God loved people. We find this love of God expressed more fully in the New Testament. We find God's forgiveness in Luke 6:27, the Sermon on the Plain where Jesus says, "Love your enemies. Bless them who curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you."
We are all different. We come from different cultures. If we want to be respected, we each must respect the differences we find in others. In I Corinthians 12:12 we are told we are many parts, but we are all one body. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. I Corinthians goes on to say that we are the body of Christ. Just what is the body of Christ? It is the community that contains God's love. In that community of love, we each have our special gift. Some are prophets, some are healers, some are there to serve, some are to lead, some to teach, some to comfort.
In our present world, we like to think that we are God's special people, superior to the animals, and at the top of the food chain. The first thing we should agree upon is that God created us all. We are wonderfully made from star dust. All people on the earth (according to 1 Peter 2:9-10) are a chosen race, the human race, a royal priesthood to serve each other, prophets to encourage one another when we get depressed or discouraged or fearful. How should we act in order to properly fulfill the roles of prophet, priest, or ruler? What do you think God had in mind when we were created? Were we created to call each other names and wield power over each other? Or were we created to serve one another with kindness?
Slaves Are Our Relatives
One incredible myth still in force today is the acceptance of slavery. How could we buy into the idea that certain of God's people were doomed forever to be considered of lesser quality? Those of us with pale skins in America who have ancestors in the southern states may be quite closely related to some of our darker brothers and sisters. It was customary for early Virginians who had slaves, to have children by those slaves. Those of us who are descended from pre-Civil War Southerners have a high probability of being related to the offspring of former slaves. Present day black people don't like to think of their ancestry springing from a forced rape. Slave holders would quote the Bible believing that if Abraham and Sara had slaves, slavery is the right way to go. Others justifying slavery quote the Bible on the sons of Noah believing that Ham's children should be subject to the children of Japheth and Shem (Genesis 9:18-27). It is illogical for a spontaneous reaction of a son to a drunken father to be taken as a sign that he and his descendants forever should be enslaved to his two brothers and their descendants. Rather, the Bible is describing the horrors of living in a dysfunctional family, and the irrational behavior of those who become intoxicated. For the southern states who were economically dependent on slave labor, it was convenient to interpret this section of the Bible as justifying slavery. Other verses in the Bible demanding that one's neighbor be treated kindly, and the redemption of slaves tend to get ignored (Deuteronomy 23:15-17).
It is likewise convenient for some land owners today to lean on an erratic biblical interpretation. I Chronicles 16:18 says, "Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance." The Hebrew roots of the myth call this marvelous promised land, the land of Canaan. Was the land of Canaan another name for the land of Israel? If it was Canaan's land, why should it be given to Israel? Certainly not from the pronouncements of Noah against his offspring Ham, as in Genesis 9. What are the in-depth early meanings of the names and myths associated with the promised land? They reflect earlier tribal or religious rivalries. Interpretations of myths are like theories. One doesn't really know if one has the correct interpretation. We have great difficulty in thinking like the ancients thought. We are not of their time or culture. We were not there. We do not know.
Interpretations of a myth carried over from the time of Abraham continue the thought about justification of slavery into New Testament times (Galatians 4:30). Abraham may have been a patriarch, but he was not perfect. Picture this tribal elder dumping in the wilderness the slave maiden whom he had raped and her son whom he had fathered. "The child of the slave woman shall not inherit with the child of the free woman." It could be that this verse applied primarily to Abraham's two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Some people still quote this verse as a reason for Jews to exclude or mistreat Palestinians, or for a reason for whites to ignore blacks. This is a frightening misinterpretation.
What is slave and what is free? We are in bondage when we are enslaved by fear or hatred. We are free when we are forgiving and kind and show respect for other people. Using these definitions for slave and free, who in Israel is enslaved? Those who are forgiving and kind inherit the fruit of their actions.
Inheritors in the Land of Israel
All the tribes that were in Israel at the time of David are figuratively described in the Bible as "sons" of Israel through his two wives and their two handmaids. This story telling gives the reader some figurative relationships, and implies that some tribes have more approval or political clout than others. Mother Leah, representing a daughter of white man Laban and his wife of unknown color, had six sons;- Reuben (meanings connected with friend or shepherd), Simeon (has to do with hearing or obeying), Levi, the protector of Dinah from Sechem, meaning judgment, Judah the rapist of his sister Tamar, meaning lion cub or praise of the Lord, Zebulon (meaning sea shore dwelling), and Issachar (meaning recompense). Her handmaid Zilpah contributed two more sons, Gad (meaning happy troop) and Asher (meaning blessing). Gad and Asher, as children of the handmaid, are less connected to David's tribal collective, and may have come from foreign shores. They may not have been as light colored as the six sons of Leah. Zilpah, as slave, may have had almost any shade of skin. Rachel, the daughter of Laban and sister of Leah, had two sons Joseph and Benjamin. These were Israel's or Jacob's favorite sons, or the people who really belonged in the land. Joseph means increase, and Benjamin means Son of the Right Hand. Rachel's maid, Bilhah, had two sons, Naphtali (meaning swift hind) and Dan (meaning judge). The tribe of Dan may have been the tribe of the Goddess Diana, a religious and justice-oriented group. Israel's "son" Joseph had two sons, that somehow were added to the tribal list. Ephraim, meaning that which brings fruit, and Manasseh, that means forgotten. We don't hear much about Manasseh. He is forgotten.
David unified the tribes in the land of Israel. The first part of Israel, Is equals man. The end part, El, means God. One meaning for Israel is people of God. El means God of the Mountain. The second name for the land, Canaan, comes from the name Cain, the brother of Abel. Cain slew Abel, and his punishment was that he was sent away. Cain became a trader, wandering over the world, probably by boat, because the God of the Polynesians Ka ne has a similar name. The leader of China is called Kahn, which means Lord or Prince. Thus Canaan may mean The Lord's Land. Traders also do business on land, and the land of Canaan was a place where many land routes crossed. Many nations met and traded in that area bringing their ideas of God with them. The land of Canaan may be interpreted as comprising the trade routes of the earth and the spiritual ideas of all the earth.
Inheritors in West Coast North America
David had a wise solution for competitors for the land in his era. Each tribe was recognized and assigned a spot. In the myths of the Columbia River tribes we hear about tribal land and cultural assignments. The spiritual hero-animal, Coyote, designated the Chinook Indians to live near the mouth of the river. They were to be traders. Others would live along the coast and be fishermen. The Klickitat would live along the rivers that flowed from the big mountain into the Columbia and be famous for their horsemanship. The Cayuse would live along the Columbia and be powerful with their war clubs. The Yakima would live along the Yakima River to the east and be helpers of the poor. The Nez Perce would live in the valleys of the Wallowa and the Kookooskia and be great in council and speechmaking. All these early placements helped to keep the status quo and kept the people peaceful. People dwelling in the Columbia Valley today feel no obligation to respect the land designations of earlier people whose numbers have diminished and whose communities have faded away. There is no similar need for those who believe they are David's descendents to push other people out of Israel/Palestine.
Laws Set Down by Mother Earth
Communities set down laws that encouraged sharing among people and tribes. David called the people in Israel a brotherhood, implying they could work together. In Peru the people speak of Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth. A Yakima (Washington State) legend describes a female mountain named Pahto (today called Mount Adams) as a mountain goddess who gives all the foods and animals freely to human beings. The myth teller says, "That is why I always give freely, why I feed the hungry without pay. It is the Law, the shining Law, lifted high where it is painted by the Sun and blanketed by the clouds. Since they are the gifts of the Great Maker, the foods which were planted for his children must all be free."1 This philosophy was encouraged by the practice of pot-latch, in which tribes gave gifts to one another.
The Shining Law is praised in Psalm 19:7, "The Law of Yahweh is perfect, new life for the soul; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple." Isaiah 1:17 promotes generosity and sharing with the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed as fulfillment of God's law. Isaiah 1:19 says, "If you are willing to obey, you shall eat the good things of the earth." For those who treat their neighbor with kindness, there will be a land of peace. Peace is given to those who promote peace. "If you live according to my laws, if you keep my commandments and put them into practice, I will give you the rain you need at the right time; the earth shall give its produce and the trees of the countryside their fruits. ... You shall live secure in your land. .. I will give peace to the land." (Leviticus 26:3-15)
Laws as seen by religious believers incorporate kindness to others. It seems that natural laws are put in place that guarantee justice for those who try to be just. These laws as interpreted by religious leaders and authoritative rulers usually encourage positive behavior.
Observing natural laws and recognizing consequences of disobeying laws, helps to build strong communities. We recognize the needs of others to food and housing. We recognize the need for self-esteem and the urge to reproduce. People were instilled with the need to reproduce their kind in order to evolve to something good, we know not what, as yet. We do not know what we shall be.
This process of change in humanity comes through two ways, cooperation and competition, and also through genetic adaptations. Humankind's cooperation, competition, and adaptation built early tribal law, the Ten Commandments, Muslim and church laws, Hiawatha's potlatch ritual, and Jesus' Law of Love. The future of humanity opens up to possibilities of friendly sharing. We may miss this opening to greater good if we get stuck in retaliation. It seems there is an evolutionary opening at this point in time for our development, if we practice compassion towards ALL people, and calm the urge to retaliate and use weapons out of fear.
Similarities Between Biblical and Amerindian Myths
Speaking about Amerindians in Indian Legends of The Pacific Northwest, Ella Clark finds that "readers acquainted with the folk literature of the Old World will find striking parallels between it and the oral literature of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest."2 Aesop's Fables sound very much like the animals in Amerindian stories. "A skillful Indian storyteller is actor as well as narrator." In a similar manner, the ancient Greek storyteller sang and acted.3
This book by Ella Clark is mainly Pacific Northwest myths, Washington and Oregon. There are stories that remind us of biblical lore. How did the Amerindians think of God? Was God an all-powerful spirit, a motherly provider, some force to be worshiped, a marvelous animal, or a Supreme Being? Probably different Amerindians thought differently. Our wise people today still do not have the answers to "Who is God?" The myths of the Amerindians can be just as informative about the nature of God as parables in the Bible. Those who see no connections between Amerindian myths and European religious tales can always claim such resemblances are coincidences. Examples are listed below.
Coyote and Anubis: The Amerindian Coyote is an animal that had god-like qualities, or was on very good terms with the great creator. Anubis is the Egyptian God of the Dead and is represented as a black jackal with a bushy tail. These godly creatures are each sometimes pictured as a four footed animal with a standard, somewhat like the later day representation of the Lamb of God. On cave sites in Oklahoma, the animal is drawn with a flag coming out of its back. In Plain Sight by Gloria Farley4 describes these cave sites. She believes that the Anubis figure in these caves cannot be Coyote, that Coyote would not be wearing the Egyptian crown or carrying the Egyptian symbol of authority, the flail. We do not know what the crown and the flail might be in an Amerindian picture. Coyote might have two horns coming out of his head that appeared like a crown. The flail might represent a pack of arrows making a rope to reach to heaven. Again, the head symbol might represent the sun, and the object on Coyote's back might represent fire which Coyote had stolen for the good of humankind. We do not know if the Anubis symbol came from Egypt to Oklahoma, or if the Coyote symbol came first and was taken to Egypt.
The Naming of Creatures: With the Amerindians of the Pacific northwest, myths describe an earlier race of animals who acted like real people, but may have had animal heads or bodies. Egyptian tomb drawings also picture such creatures with eagle heads or cow horns. Raven was the benefactor animal in the Puget Sound area; Coyote was the benefactor east of the Cascade Range.5 In an Okanogan myth the Spirit Chief gives names to the animal people. When he names Coyote, Creator gives him special power to change himself into any form. With this power Coyote is able to help the human beings who eventually arrive on the scene. In another Colombia River Valley legend, Coyote himself gives names to all the animals.6 In a similar manner Genesis 2:19 has God turning the naming of the animals over to Adam.
Following the naming, laws are laid down for beast and human. Genesis 9:5b "I will demand an account from every beast and from man." The beast is a leftover from the Amerindian myth where Coyote overcomes a monster and gives him a new law, "You can no longer kill people as you have been doing."7 As all creatures are given admonitions to take care, so they must be given the words of salvation. We find that as recently as the Gospel of Mark, early Christians are asked to "proclaim the Good News to all creation." This is sometimes translated "all creatures." (Mark 16:16)
The Garden of Eden and Volcanoes: Adam and Eve were turned out of the Garden and could not return because of an angel with a flaming sword. Flame sounds like meteors or volcanoes. People may have relocated because of volcanoes. Legends relate these events and describe how many people were buried by the rocks. The Three Sisters Mountains once were one mountain that blew its top and became three peaks, in Amerindian language Klah Klahnee.8
Patriarchal Dominance: Another story in Genesis that may have the same origins as the In the Beginning story of the Nisqually of Puget Sound, is God's proclamation to Eve (Genesis 3:16b), "Your husband will lord it over you." The Spirit Chief tells the woman, "You will serve man and be useful to him in these ways. He will be your master." The Spirit Chief told the Nisqually that there were two powers, one good and one evil. He himself had been sent to them by the good power.9 The Zoroastrians seem to have belief in that myth, and some Christians, too, believe in God and the devil.
The Myth of The Destroying God: The theme that God will destroy people is found in Genesis 6:5-8 and also in many Amerindian myths. When the Great Spirit lived on the summit of Mount Takhoma (Mount Rainier) in Washington State, "he was angry because people and animals were wicked and did many mean things to each other. He decided that he would rid the earth of all of them except the good animals and one good man and his family."10
The Myth of the Flood: The Bible relates how Noah built a boat of reeds and wood (Genesis 6:14,15). This sounds like the myth came from either Egypt or Lake Titicaca, places where reeds were used in boat construction. When Thor Hyerdahl made a raft to float across the Pacific, he used reeds and balsa wood from the Lake Titicaca area. Could Noah have started off from Ecuador and floated across the Pacific? With so many different Amerindian tribes, there are a variety of boat constructions. One legend starts off on a floating island that breaks apart. Could this be an iceberg, as the male flood survivor catches a whale, and then he and his wife are able to make a canoe or kayak and paddle eastward (!) to safety?11
Hebrew myths used Mount Ararat as the place of landing, but the Squamish of northwest America named Mount Baker as their haven. Their belief is that in a large crack halfway up the slope of Mount Baker, is the outline of the giant canoe that saved them.12
Another legend in the Yakima country reports that a good man said, "I have heard from the land of the spirits, that a big water is coming that will cover all the land. Make a boat for the good people. Let the bad people be killed by the water." The good people chipped a cedar with stone and with antlers of elk and burned it hollow with fire. The boat came down on Toppenish Ridge. The Yakimas believe it is still there and that it can be seen on the east side of the ridge.13
In another flood myth, Coyote, as a human with bow and arrows, ran to the top of Mount Shasta to avoid the flood. All the animals followed him. When the waters went down, the animals scattered all over the earth.14 The deluge is recorded by another Amerindian tribe using Mount Jefferson, the second highest peak in Oregon, as the saving mountain. The people made a great canoe, and put their children in it accompanied by a sixteen year old maiden and her baby and husband. It is said that you can still see the big canoe near the top of Mount Jefferson, for it was turned to rock.15
Creation of Languages: Chief William Shelton told a story about Pushing Up The Sky. "In the beginning, the Creator and Changer made the world. He created first in the East. Then he slowly came westward, creating as he came. With him he brought many languages. He gave a different language to each group of people he created."16 Commenting on this direct quote, I would like to say that the use of he to describe the creator may be of necessity. Some languages use the same word for he and she and for what may be either. In this way language may have contributed to those who did not understand language, to think of God as male. This creation of the world and people and language started in the East (where the sun comes up). The legend is from the west coast. This Creative God may have given language in South America, gone a bit north west to Central America, and lastly gotten to the west coast and to Puget Sound. He, She, or Great Spirit scattered many languages at Puget Sound. It must be that there were many people coming in boats and settling around Puget Sound. The story goes on to say how the people had this urge to make the sky higher. This sounds like the story of the Tower of Babel and the diversification of language.
The Myth of Language Confusion: A myth from the Swinomish Reservation gives the reason for language variation. Three sisters built a high house, because they wanted to go up to the sky to see the Creator. Was it made of wood or stone or brick? We do not know. They built it higher and higher. By the time the house was finished, they could not speak the same language, and they could not understand each other. That is why there are so many different languages today.17 Genesis 11:1-9 tells about the Tower of Babel. As tribes moved eastward they decided to build a tower in Shinar (Babylonia? China?) and make it out of bricks, baked in the fire. Technology had reached a point where tribes people were able to bake bricks. But language had reached a point where people could not communicate. This myth is applicable to us today. Our technology is marvelous, but our communication skills are stuck in the Dark Ages of hate, militarism, and competition.
By definition, people moving eastward, come from the west. The biblical term for people from the west is Amorites which is how America got its name. It was the place in the west where the boat-traveling Amoricans came from. We are not to believe the rumor that America was named after Amerigo Vespucci. The opposite is the case: Amerigo was named after the continent that he mapped. The Greek term for the boat traveling people who had red or purple sails was Phoenicians. The Phoenicians came with Cadmus. Cadmus brought the alphabet to Greece. Cadmium was an element found near Thebes in Greece. Cadmium is used in batteries. Copper is used to produce wire that transmits electrical current. The Phoenicians may have been the red men who brought copper from the mines near Lake Superior. Can we trace the building of a high building to reach the sky, from Amerindians in northwest America to copper traders in the Great Lakes, and from there to a journey across the Atlantic through the Mediterranean to a plain in Babylonia?
Process of Becoming
by Rudolph J. and Cora E. Cypser
To Be Somebody
If we are to search for fulfillment, perhaps we'd best first get some idea of what we are; try to shape some kind of hypothesis on what we are destined to become; and try to discern what we want to have as the meaning and purpose of our lives. What does it mean to "be somebody"?
One of the more interesting hypotheses, that affects our sense of what we are, is that of evolution. Based on incomplete but fairly comprehensive evidence, this theory depicts the world in a process of change, over billions of years. The startling conclusion, by many thinkers, is that the change is still going on, and has a direction, - towards increasing complexity. A corollary is that the increasing complexity is accompanied by increasing consciousness, involving ever more sophisticated cooperation among components.
The notion of 'consciousness' has to be greatly broadened to take into account the vast differences in matter: molecules, cells, insects, animals, and mankind.1-4 Proceeding gradually, and then in quantum jumps, this consciousness takes on dramatically more complex characteristics, as evolution unfolds. Primitive cooperations among cells, and then shared responsibilities in communities of insects, are followed by almost human-like caring and sharing in families of some animals. The most recent quantum jump, to the reflective man, brings the capability for selfless or caring love which has deeper and broader dimensions. This gradual evolution of consciousness is a hypothesis that can have tremendous impact on the meaning of our lives and on the roles we play. One's consciousness apparently can be sharpened by acts of will. On the other hand, unfortunately, consciousness can be allowed to slip back to an animal-like level. We can choose our personality, at least to some extent, to be in tune with this evolution of consciousness or to oppose it.
The Highest Levels of Consciousness
Human consciousness can have many colors. When one person loves another, there can be reverence for the other's personhood, appreciation of the sheer internal as well as external beauty of the person, a realization of the further growth potential of the other, and a desire to maximize the good and the growth of the other. The Greeks even had three words for our word love: eros, filios, and agape. Roughly, eros represented the psychic urge to reach out and relate to another, as well as the spirit of togetherness to be found in sensuality, celebration, and sexual love. Filios represented the sense of common heritage and common bonds, being of a common creation, the brotherhood of all humankind, members of a common family, and brotherly love. Agape stood for the deepest relationship. It involves really understanding the other, and such a close association with another as to be willing to sacrifice one's own interest in favor of the other's. We are primarily concerned with agape, as the greatest love a human can have; but agape may be accompanied by or spring from eros and filios as well. Agape love can have many associates. For simplicity, we'll refer to that composite agape as caring love.
Caring love involves decision and effort. It means giving to another, - gladly, and not just from one's surplus. It means reducing the benefit to one's self, or at least expending one's energies in favor of benefiting another. Strangely, this is usually an exhilarating experience that enlarges rather than diminishes; many would say that there is no higher joy and sense of achievement in life than this. Practicing caring love, and thus nurturing others, is the best example we have of enlightened self-interest. In this practice we stretch ourselves; we grow. Thus we find we're exhilarated and rewarded with longer lasting joy. Empathy, we think, is the peak achievement in consciousness. It is the ability to put yourself' in the other person's shoes', to understand where he or she comes from, to realize the other's needs, and finally to feel the other's joys and sorrows, almost as if they were your own. Empathy rests on respect for the other, and an appreciation of the other's inherent or potential worth. Acts of kindness (for example, compassion, tenderness, clemency, gentleness, generosity, and so forth) spring from empathy and caring love. To be fully effective, empathy must apply to all persons. It can apply despite distractions of poverty, poor dress, poor education, physical disability, and differences in race or religion. In short, empathy can concern itself with the inner person and not with the coverings.
Referring back to the Greek ideas of love as eros, filios, and agape, we find empathy in all three. One might say, in fact, that empathy is the heart of agape; empathy is the foundation of filios, and eros is best when it is guided by empathy.
The highest levels of consciousness need to be experienced to be understood and appreciated. Hearing about them or even seeing their effect on others does not suffice. Fortunately, almost everyone has a taste of empathy, caring love, and kindness along the way. That taste must be deliberately savored, however, if the full realization of their value is to be perceived. The taste is wonderful.
Human consciousness can have great breadth, in part because we are able to perceive in space and in time. Events and persons, near and far removed, around the world and beyond, plus situations of all kinds in the distant past, the present, or remote future, all can be perceived. Awareness of the local space and the present time can be conditioned by awareness of the beyond. Relationships, particularly with other persons, and groups of persons, are similarly conditioned by this multidimensional awareness. Levels of consciousness can expand, from concern for immediate survival, to concern for others, both now and in the future. The highest levels of consciousness, then, are characterized by empathy, caring love, and kindness, in a broad sweep of space and time.
Maximizing the good over some space may require our personal sacrifice in order to benefit another. Maximizing the good over future time will often involve action today; however, that action may not promise satisfaction today; in fact, it is likely to be a more or less painful payment, - an investment, so to speak, for a return in the future. Our greater fulfillment, over that time span, thus requires the ability to defer gratification, and even to suffer early in order to obtain greater rewards later. All this we can do; these are the proud capabilities of humankind; but no one claims it's easy.
In the relatively short time of human existence (a few million years); it appears that this capability for reflective thought and space/time consciousness has grown. The increase in the sheer size of the human brain, over several millions of years, is cited as a corollary of this. The hypothesis of evolution in consciousness goes even further. It opens the possibility of future growth in consciousness, and in the capacity for selflessness, which optimizes love over space and time. All of creation is still 'in the process of birth'. It is startling to appreciate that we may be the result of evolution from fish. Obviously, if that's the way it was, those fish had little conception of the advanced stages that have since been reached. Similarly, we can hardly conceive of the advanced stages that may be still to come. Nevertheless, we can see the general direction in which we have evolved thus far. A major difference, now, is that we ourselves can partially control the environment that affects our change! Everyone can contribute to his or her own development of consciousness, to the total environment, and hence to that worldwide birthing of empathetic consciousness! That's both consoling and motivating.
To thus grow is to change; and change is often so
very painful. As we evolve our individual consciousness, we often need to give
up older ideas, patterns of behavior, even what we once accepted as goals. It's
often said more dramatically, - we must continually die to self, in order to be
born anew into a better state. This periodic giving up of something important
really hurts; but the consequent joy and satisfaction of a fuller life. also
seem to be well worth the price. Each person, then, is still becoming. Every
person is valuable, at least in the potential he or she possesses to become a
true person, - operating in triumph at the highest levels of consciousness of
which we are capable.
2.2 THE ESSENCE OF PERSONHOOD
The Process of Becoming
Becoming a person is an impressively long process. The stream of life, we know, comes to each of us across many generations, through both parents, in the form of DNA and the code of life. These carry the potential for increased consciousness. The DNA codes, apparently, are evolved across the millennia. In a sense, our lives begin back there, at all the contributors to that stream. 'Then, our own unique code is set for us at conception, but that is still only a potential, and the creation of consciousness continues further. The time when a child has the 'use of reason', and is able to take full responsibility for his or her actions, has been thought to be about the age of seven, when the Catholic church recommends the sacrament of reconciliation.6 Moreover, the courts grant 'youthful-offender' status, and lighter sentences, to criminals under the age of 18, on the theory that they are not yet mature. Still, we all know middle-aged people who are not yet mature either. Some, who were battered children, may have been prevented from maturing. It seems, therefore, that we are all in a very long process of becoming, both before our birth and then throughout our lives; and some of us mature towards full personhood more rapidly than others.
In particular, we become aware that each of us is the product of the lives and the struggles of a long line of our ancestors, - our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and on back ten, a hundred, a thousand generations. They all struggled to survive and to make their lives worthwhile, as best they understood it. They each probably strove to pass on to the next generation something they had gained or learned. It's like each of us is the prow of a great ship which is our heritage extending back in time. If their spirits are somehow still in existence, then, we suspect, ,they all are rooting for each of us now. In some way, their heritage and their hopes support us. We each, therefore, have a responsibility to those that went before us to make the most of the opportunities they labored to give to us. We each also have an obligation to ourselves, to become as full a person as we possibly can.
In this wonderful on-going creation that is humankind, the most cherished thing that we can influence is consciousness. As we study, the possibility of this change begins to dawn on us. We realize that, in part, we are like a machine, but we are able to modify the machine, and steer the machine into a direction we choose. Attaining consciousness, then, is connected with the gradual liberation from complete mechanicalness. It includes a realization of our purpose in life, a determination to pursue some 'fundamental options' that we choose to govern our lives, and the fuller use of our capacities for higher level qualities like empathy, caring love, and kindness.
In the pursuit and exercise of this full personhood, one seeks not only quiet satisfaction, but also a zest for living, - a love of life itself. Living fully also means to appreciate beauty wherever it can be found, and to exercise the capacities we have for creativity. We can be mechanical and unthinking or we can enjoy being creative as we tend a garden, build a chair, attract a new client, write, day-dream, study, sing, dance, or paint. We can be creative, too, in justice-making, compassion, forgiveness, and in being kind. In fact, we've all experienced that most activities can be creative and artistic. The degree of creativity depends on how much we draw upon inner resources, how much we intellectually 'process' the subject, and how much energy we invest in it. In all of this, there can be a 'fundamental option' of building the kind of identity we want. Then we make each creative process contribute to the building of that identity. Thus, the most creative, and most important work we can do is to steadily exercise our freedom of choice and creativity in helping to create ourselves.
What then, is the general nature of the identity we want? We seek an identity based in part on what we hold to be truly valuable. We orient that identity towards some ideal that we believe is worth striving for. The ideal must be at least partly achievable. It is not necessarily static, and will usually mature as we grow and our perspective changes. Then, if we are serious about it, we devote time and energy to it. The pursuit of that ideal, and the accompanying evolution of that identity, builds self respect, purpose, and meaning. However, that self respect comes only if our approaching identity merits respect, in our personal judgment.
Our chosen identity, in fact, may be our best view of ourselves, somewhere between reality and our ideal. The protection of our identity, and hence the preservation of our sense of being whole, demands that we resolutely seek the achievement of our ideal. When we yield ourselves to something that is contrary to our chosen identity, - say, anger or some self indulgence, for example, then we, in effect, exchange our identity for that other level. The pressures of our culture, in fact, may constantly encourage such an exchange of our identity, so as to better conform to the norms of the day.
Our image of ourselves may also suffer under the
impact of constant put-downs. The person with dyslexia who therefore can't read
is constantly reminded of that unfortunate inability. The student who doesn't do
well in test-passing is wrongly categorized as inferior and carries that burden
into life. The prison guard who delights in treating prisoners as sub-humans,
the boss who continually belittles the employee, the husband who psychologically
abuses his wife, and those who constantly criticize others, all help to tear
down people's self image. For most people, it's a struggle to maintain that
sense of dignity that is so essential to personal motivation and fulfillment.
Preserving our identity, then, is a never ending battle. On the other hand,
being a co-creator of ourselves is also an opportunity and a responsibility; and
it also can be a delight. How could life be boring and superficial if we in fact
can help to fashion ourselves
The Leading Edge
Our ideal may be anything, from the trivial and the ridiculous to the profound. In a broad view, what ought it to be? Returning to our scenario on evolution, each person is the tip of the arrow, the most recent and the leading edge of an ancient process resulting in growth of consciousness. To participate and to contribute to this process, we suggest, is our purpose and our destiny. In this hypothesis, a person lives fully, and achieves his full potential, only to the extent that he uses, and even extends, his capacity for full consciousness. That full consciousness involves an extended capacity for empathy, caring love, and kindness. To approach this ideal is what we mean when we speak of achieving full personhood.
We are not talking about seeking to be loved. On the contrary, seeking to be loved can become selfish and ultimately self destructive. However, we all find that when one nurtures others unselfishly, then that caring love transforms the server, and that attracts the love of others. Thus, the end result is not only the growth of the server, but also the gift of love, from others, that was not sought.
In the exercise of this personhood, one uses the capacity to decide. First there is the decision to be aware of one's self, to have an identity, and to become something; then there's the decision to follow the ideal of being a loving person; and then there are the innumerable decisions, in specific instances, to follow that resolve, and to maximize love in each situation. This, then, is one definition of the essence of personhood, and the purpose and meaning of life:
To decisively use and extend our capacity for full consciousness, and so to contribute to the plan for evolutionary progress.
Maximizing this good in space and time seems to be like seeking the path of steepest ascent on a mountain. Do we go mostly east and a little south, or due south, or where? Each decision involves many variables, and many consequences. If we were a computer, we might check the effects of changes in each of the variables, in space and time, and then select those changes in each variable so that the combined effects, over some future time, would yield the maximum 'benefits'. In practice, we guess a lot about which course is 'best'. We take small steps 'going up', and correct as we go, to find the best path, which seems to maximize empathy, caring love and kindness in all the space and time we can comprehend. This, it seems, is the search for the path to the fulfillment of humankind's destiny. It is, we suggest, the way to personal joy and fulfillment as well.
As we look back, we can see that each generation has worked on this 'path seeking', with many a 'pioneer' choosing the path that then seemed. to use his or her full consciousness. Despite frequent suffering, this course has produced much joy. Though scarcely perceptible, at times, the continued growth of the consciousness of the average inhabitant of earth, is a hope we hang onto. That this growth will continue to occur, in parallel with the awesome technological advances we see all around us, is the basic hope of the future. We find that when they think about it, most persons are determined to participate in and contribute their small bit to this movement. Hoping to operate at the 'leading edge', they strive to 'be somebody' in their daily lives, by being the kind of person that really matters in the grand scheme of things. In this way, they reinforce their vital sense of self worth. They find their place in this vast creation process, which contributes greatly to their renewed sense of purpose, their peace of mind, and their being at home in the universe.
The Rocks Are Shouting
by Cora E. Cypser
In My Own Backyard
Who could have advised the spirit of Yahweh, what counselor could have instructed him? Whom has he consulted to enlighten him, and to learn the path of justice and discover the most skillful ways? (Isaiah 40:13,14)
1.1 The Beginning
The rocks are shouting! They are shouting at me;- all over, no matter where I am, they shout. There are rocks on mountain tops, rocks near streams, and rocks in my own backyard. They are all vying for my attention.
There was a time when the rocks were silent. I hardly realized they existed. They were a part of the earth that I walked on, and I didn't think too much about where my feet trod. But that scenario has changed. The earth and the rocks have attracted my attention. I hear their perturbations, and I find myself talking back to the rocks. After all, when someone speaks to you, it is polite to answer.
It was a chance encounter that brought me into this conversation with the rocks. I do volunteer work in prisons for the Alternatives to Violence Project. People who are imprisoned need to know about the possible alternatives to a violent situation. People who are not in prison could profit by learning some alternatives to the violence that happens to all of us, and to the violence that we do to others.
The Alternatives to Violence Project had an organizational meeting one beautiful fall day at a camp on the Rondout Creek near Kingston, New York. At a break in the meeting, two of us took a walk down by the river. There was a rock wall on the opposite side of the stream, and in the afternoon light, I saw markings on the rock that looked like a deformed E turned sideways, with a few miscellaneous lines thrown in. I wondered why anyone would go to the trouble of putting meaningless lines on the rock, not realizing that while these lines were meaningless to me, they were full of meaning for their designer.
When we returned to our meeting, another participant asked me, "Where did you go on the break, and what did you see?"
I laughingly said, "We went over by the river and saw ancient writing on a rock wall."
She replied, "Don't laugh. I just read a book by Barry Fell called America BC.1 He thinks there were sailors from the Mediterranean who did trading in America before the time of Christ."
When I returned from the meeting, I went to my local library and looked up America BC. I learned that the author, Barry Fell, recently deceased, had spent time on different island and seashore locations as a marine biologist. While pursuing his profession, he occasionally noticed inscriptions on the rocks. This piqued his interest in ancient alphabets and their associated languages. Ancient lettering became his hobby. He was someone who would have been able to decipher the writing I thought I had seen on the wall.
After reading Fell's book, I went back to the Rondout Creek with my newfound knowledge, and observed the wall again. I wanted to put the design down on paper, but this time the inscription was not visible. The lighting and humidity were different. I wondered if I had been imagining lines and letters.
It was a long drive from my home to the Rondout, and I didn't want to return empty handed. I reasoned that if there were ancient sailors in the Phoenician era, they would have had a problem getting around the falls that were between the campsite where our Alternatives to Violence Project met, and the city of Kingston where the Rondout flowed into the Hudson. So after my disappointment at the rock wall site, we drove a few miles to High Falls (aptly named) where there are sections of a more modern canal system, remnants of old stone buildings, mill stones, and other antiquities to delight one curious about early history. Walking below the falls, we came upon a small section of rock with more letters. We photographed it and left it where it was. (When we went back six months later, it was gone.) It was probably only part of a larger rock.
Having had two experiences of finding strange writing chipped in rock, I began to believe that pre-Phoenician script was very easy to find, if one knew what to look for. I found myself investigating rocks whenever they appeared and seeing meaningful lines when they probably weren't there.
In a second book by Barry Fell called Bronze Age America, there was a picture of a sculptured rock which he chose to call a Druid's chair.2 This name comes from the fact that there are stone chairs in the British Isles which have been associated with Druid priests. The stone chairs may have nothing to do with Druids, but the Druid religion may have erroneously been connected with Stonehenge, and thus, in the popular mind, a stone seat may be seen as the throne of a high priest of a mysterious religion. There is a definite connection with Druid chairs and priests, for holy persons did worship God under oak trees, and the word druid is equated with the word oak.
There are mentions in the Bible of famous ancestors using oak trees as places of worship. Abraham is spoken of, as worshiping under the oak at Moreh, Shechem's holy place (Genesis 12:6). In order to properly worship the God who heard him in distress, Jacob hid the foreign gods under the oak by Shechem (Genesis 35:4). Joshua set up a stone of witness under the oak in the sanctuary of Yahweh (Joshua 24:26). Some oaks were held to be sacred. A Druid's chair might be considered as the judgment seat of a prophet, wise man, or someone who could advise those distressed.
When I saw the picture of the Druid's chair in Barry Fell's book, I exclaimed, "I have a chair like that in my own backyard!" I had observed this rock formation in 1981 shortly after we bought the property. The rock chair had a small tree growing in it. This tree was probably not an oak, but an ash, which is also considered to be a "holy" tree. The oak and the ash conduct lightning at a greater rate than average and thus may have been looked upon as the favorite trees of lightning-bolt gods!
My husband cut down the tree that was growing in our Druid's chair, but he could not remove the root without damaging the chair. The root is still attached to the chair, but does not get in the way of anyone who wants to sit in the chair and meditate. It is easy to imagine carved lines on each "arm" of the chair. One side appears to contain an X and the other side, a backwards J. The chair has a footstool, so that one can step up easily to sit in it.
While admiring the Druid's chair, I remembered a rock seventeen feet away from it, that I had previously noted and wondered about in an absentminded way. This rock was standing in an upright position. If it had fallen from the nearby cliff, it would have fallen closer to the cliff. There was very little chance that a rock that tumbled down would have landed with such straight posture. Besides, this rock seemed to be a different type of rock than the other rocks in the vicinity. It had bits of mica in it that made it sparkle when the sun touched it, and it looked very much like someone had chipped at it to make it conform to a certain shape. Some of the chipping seemed to have created a jutting-out upside-down V-shape on the southern side that I could imagine to be a horse's head or a snake's head. The north side was a triangle, with a smaller triangle nestled at the bottom. The west side had possibilities of some tiny etched crescents. I asked myself what these carvings and chippings could possibly signify.
This rock was below a small rounded cliff, and I searched for further human-type chippings and carvings. Directly above on the top of the cliff was a rock with a view of the Muscoot Reservoir. This reservoir is a dammed up section of the Croton River which carries overflow from many Putnam County and Westchester County lakes and reservoirs, emptying this water into the Hudson River at Croton-on-Hudson. I find this view to be exceptionally beautiful, and the early people who chipped and carved here must have felt the same way.
On the rock where one can see this view, someone had chipped a big X with another line that bisected the top of the X.
The large rock, the Druid's chair, and the mysterious X with its added line, sparked my curiosity. I joined an association called New England Antiquities Research Association and consulted with local archaeologists. I learned that there are two extremes of opinion on rocks that may have prehistoric significance. There are people who do not want to believe that any people lived here before the local Amerindians. They also want to believe that there were very few of those Amerindians. They choose to believe that our European ancestors were given this land as our right from God who rewarded us for our just attitudes. Those who deny that there were multitudes of previous people, believe that those few "savages" who were displaced by the European immigrations didn't worship the right God, or work as hard as the Europeans. They believe that the rock formations in my yard were either scrapings left by the last glacier, or the work of a revolutionary-era farm lad. Their school-assisted belief is that there were no intelligent people in the Western Hemisphere before Columbus.
Hearing all these fancies asserted as absolute truth made me rethink many of the ideas that had been drilled into me in many years of schooling. I found it necessary to state my beliefs and to convince myself that my opinion had as much weight as another's opinion. I came to see that a lot of so-called facts are private opinions that have been quoted, because authors are too pressed for time to check out their references. Many references are like the rest of us humans,- quite fallible. Many newspaper reporters who don't have time to check out their facts, or who grab on too readily to a misinterpretation, encourage and perpetuate misinformation.
On the other hand, I met people who had information about strange rock inscriptions and megalithic stones all over America, even in areas where the glaciers had not reached. Lines on rocks in some of these areas could not be blamed on glacial scrapings. These more liberal thinkers were searching for ways to date these megalithic constructions. They were attempting translations of the strange letters, and asking for reasons about carvings and placement of rocks.
Between those denying possibilities of human engineering and those questing for information, there was a wide range of protagonists and protestors, and the amount of information that came my way was astounding. I began to look carefully at the ground I was walking on. I noticed the lines of stone walls along streams and roads. I became able to differentiate among modern stone walls, colonial stone walls, and pre-colonial walls. I investigated back roads and mountain tops for stone chambers and monoliths. The rocks were shouting at me, but I still didn't understand their language.
1.2 Other Voices from the Past and Present
I concluded that it was more important for me to believe my senses than to acquiesce unthinkingly to the authorities who taught history. Surely they had good reasons to teach what they taught, and to believe what they believed. After all, our ancestors made maps and designed what they thought were the most reliable maps possible. Early writings give us names of countries and names of rulers associated with those countries. Other ancestors told myths to let us know what went on. They knew about seas and far away lands. Early mapmakers had names for places and for the oceans and for the land in between the oceans.
The Bible has set down names of places of which scholars are not too sure of the location. Ezekiel 38:2 has a prophecy directed to the prince of Rosh. "Son of man, turn toward Gog and the country of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him." Ezekiel 39:2 implies that the dwelling place of this king is far to the north. Ezekiel 39:6 threatens, "I will send fire to Magog and on those living undisturbed on islands."A footnote of the Jerusalem Bible explains that Gog cannot be identified, that the countries of which he is called "the prince" with the names of Meshech and Tubal may be recognized as nations from the far north, on the Black Sea borders. Gog is perhaps a type of the victorious barbarian from the north.3 Rosh means the head, or the top of, or the beginning. It has the meaning of distant headland. Punt means the land across the sea. The Bible may be telling us about early Norse sailors who traveled along the Black Sea shoreline. It may be referring to Chinese or Mongolian traders from the White Sea, the Barents Sea or the North Sea. It may be telling us about sailors from beyond the Strait of Gibraltar. Gog and Magog are distant places. Ancient sailors relating to the name Magog might call offshore islands to the northwest by that name. This name might have been applied to Greenland, Newfoundland, or Canada. Indeed, there is a city in Canada called Magog, on Lake Memphremagog, which may have been on an ancient river and sea trading route associated with the Saint Lawrence River. The experts don't know.
We can speculate about the terms Magog and Rosh. We can investigate ancient rocks in Canada. We can find the translation of Amerindian names. We may come up with new and interesting information about past history. The experts are not sure, but they feel compelled to supply information to fill in the gaps. If they don't know who else was in on the "discovery" of America, they will affirm that Columbus was the successful person. If they don't know how Jesus Christ is related to God, they will make an elaborate statement about this relationship, as if they really knew. Many authorities build houses of cards that are quite collapsible, in their determination to prove a point to others less knowledgeable.
One such prevalent misconception has to do with the name America. Westward from Europe and the Mediterranean was the Atlantic. The Celts called lands beyond Gibraltar on the Atlantic coast, such as in France, Amorica, meaning amiable and rich. Other lands beyond the setting sun were thought of in this way. Sailors from Spain and Portugal had a collection of maps from previous sailors that had covered the globe in both directions. One historical opinion is that the Western Hemisphere continents were named after the map maker and traveler, Mr. Vespucci, but it is also possible that the man was named after the continent. Vespucci had studied many ancient maps and was knowledgeable about latitude and longitude. Vespucci may have been nicknamed for his interest, as Amorica Vespucci.
Another historical opinion that should be opened up for discussion is that Columbus was the first European to contact American shores. Around 10,000 BP (where BP means years Before the Present which is the same as 8000 BC where BC means Before the time of Christ) was a warming up period after a cold glacial interlude, with temperatures similar to our climate today. Travel in small boats from England to Iceland to Newfoundland may have been a fairly pleasant summertime experience. Foolhardy young men may have enjoyed the challenge of the journey, and being bewitched by far away maidens, may have chosen to live out their existence on foreign continents. About 5000 BP (3000 BC) there was documented travel by boat in the Mediterranean, and traders crossing the Alps by foot. In the Americas there may have been similar development. Between 10,000 and 5,000 BP we do not know what groups may have traveled in what direction between the "old world" and the "new world". Columbus was certainly not the first to "discover" America.
Another so-called fact is that Columbus believed the people he encountered on the American offshore islands to be Asiatic Indians. Columbus was an intelligent person who made good use of maps that were available. When he arrived in this hemisphere, he did not call the people he met here Indians. In his correspondence telling of his trip he states that they were back-to-nature people, by dubbing them "en dios" the Spanish for "in God." He observed that they would make good slaves. This en dios was twisted into the name Indian by those who had little knowledge of the earth's proportions. In this writing I will refer to the native Americans as Amerindians in order to avoid confusing them with a people in southern Asia, but more importantly to give them an affirming name which emphasizes that they are an en dios people who live in harmony with nature.
In my pursuit of knowledge about the rocks, I felt that I was somehow challenged to investigate what might be possible misconceptions about early people. It is said that the victors are the ones who write the history books. One does not hear about the defeated people who are forced from their homelands. Ignorance of the truth can be crippling and can lead to stereotyping. Not only did I feel compelled to search out historical details, but I had to tell about what I had learned. My motto became-- If you have something important to say, speak so that even the deaf can hear! I learned that many people live in the present and are not really interested in what went on before their time. I also learned that many people are not interested in what will take place after their time. The present becomes all consuming. We are kept very busy with the nitty-gritty of our everydays.
1.3 In The Same Neighborhood
Now that my eyes were partially open, I could see all sorts of interesting possibilities in every day happenings. I could dream dreams of the past and imagine many different realities. I did not have to believe what fallible people assured me was the truth. I could question different viewpoints. I could assimilate these other viewpoints, but I also wanted to test my ideas with others. I needed others to listen to my beliefs, and to comment on them.
Because of my desire for open exchange of information, I would like to relate about my finding of a piece of jewelry. This amulet or talisman may not be what I wish it is. However, what I have learned from possessing this piece of jewelry and making inquiries about it, is very precious. There are opportunities for insight, even in the very ordinary. The gifts of God are all around us, but we don't often recognize them or appreciate them. You must look in your own heart for what is wonderful in God's world. You must search your own neighborhood for God's gifts, both material gifts and spiritual gifts. God is always giving us opportunities to be kind and to gain wisdom.
The story of the jewelry is as follows: As we were walking, I noticed an item on the ground. I picked it up and examined it and thought, "This is a junky piece of jewelry. I don't want it. I'll just throw it down where it came from." It looked like a pendant from an earring. The ear piece attachment wasn't there. What good could it be to anyone? I believed it had a horseshoe theme, so I thought it must have belonged to someone who liked horses. This find was across the street from a neighbor, and I thought of taking it to their house to ask if they had a visitor who might have lost a piece of earring. The man of the house was quite ill at that time, and I didn't want to disturb them. Again, I almost left the jewelry there in the street, but a little voice inside prompted me to put it in my pocket. My inner thought was that this imaginary friend of my neighbor might be made happy by having the piece of earring returned as it might have some tremendous sentimental value to her.
I took the jewelry piece home and placed it on my kitchen counter where it remained for at least six months while the neighbor died, and his wife recovered from the sad situation. One day when she was out walking her dogs, I told her about this piece of earring. She couldn't imagine any of her friends who would have had a horseshoe earring, and told me that the jewelry was mine. She had no claim to it, and I could do with it what I wished. I returned home, and was relieved that I could take the piece off my kitchen counter. Again, I thought of throwing it out, but the little voice inside said, "Save it. One of the grandchildren might be able to get a few moments of fun out of it."
So I popped it into a decorative can where I put other odds and ends like screws that appear from nowhere, unclaimed buttons, pieces of plastic games, etc. There it remained for another year, unthought about, unrecognized, patient.
It was made of pewter or silver and had a tiny blue gem that was crushed as if it had been run over by a car. Perhaps it was the clarity of that mangled gem that prevented me from trashing it.
In the meantime I read Barry Fell's book, and saw a picture of an Astronomer's Eye. Coincidently, someone in my family asked me if I had seen a particular button, and I was required to dump out my can of odds and ends to sort through its contents. When I picked up the piece of earring, I no longer saw the horseshoe, but an Astronomer's Eye, and a sparkling blue eye. Another name for this design called the Astronomer's Eye, is the Eye of Horus or Eye of Osiris.
Just who are Horus and Osiris? There is a story that originated in Egypt more than five thousand years ago, about a troubled family situation. Osiris and his sister-wife Isis ruled Egypt wisely. Their jealous red haired brother Set killed Osiris and dismembered the body. Isis went through many tribulations, gathering together the dismembered body parts and conceiving a child from this dead husband. Her child was Horus who attempted to avenge his father by battling with his Uncle Set.
When the eye is reversed horizontally, it becomes the RX of drug store fame. The pharmacy RX is the symbol for healing medicine. Isis was famous for her healing ability, and the Eye reflects the healing qualities of Isis, Osiris, and Horus. The Detroit Institute of Art displays two enameled Eye of Horus amulets.
When I turned the amulet so that the eye was right side up, I could see that the horse shoe was still there, but perhaps it was not a horse shoe but the letter omega in its upper case form (w).5 There appeared to be a shepherd's crook, and a background circle that could represent the eternal heavens. I did not know what the semi-triangular shape was. Perhaps it was a sail, having to do with the God who sent the wind for seafarers. Perhaps it was a flail. Osiris was often pictured holding the flail and crook, which represented power. As people developed sturdier weapons, the flail and crook changed into the ax and sword.
I was delighted that I had received this amulet because whether it was ancient or modern, just its appearance had given me an insight into earlier religious beliefs. I wanted to find out more about this item of jewelry, how old it was, who had used it, and what it had meant to them. Did it appear just now because it had been dropped at this location 2000 years ago? Had it been buried in a tomb site that was recently uncovered? How old was the road? Where did they get the fill to build up the road? Could it be a modern copy of the Eye of Horus made by some New Age jewelry enthusiast? There were so many answers that I wanted. Perhaps I was just exercising an overactive imagination. At the same time, this seemed to enhance the possibility that the Druid's chair in my backyard might have belonged to an early wise person.
Early religious leaders carried charms on their persons. The Bible mentions the urim and the thummin (Deuteronomy 33:8, Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65, and Leviticus 8:8). People often give to objects a certain symbolism and power. Some rocks are believed to have special properties, such as the rock at Mecca. When walked around and venerated, such a rock seems to have a psychological or magnetic interaction with people. Talismans may have the same ability depending on the faith of the believer.
The God who was worshiped in bygone times was the same God we worship today. There was only one God who made the heavens and the earth. There is only one First Cause that set in motion the whole process. There is only One Process that leads us from the Beginning Alpha a and guides us through time to the Omega-Point Goal and End w, where we return and dissolve back into this Eternal Being. The Greek letter omega w is similar to the two letters U and V written together. The U represents maleness and the V represents the female. Thus, UV or omega is the male/female Allness of God.
How human beings conceive of this God and how they worship this God varies with time, place, and culture. The Egyptians have separate names for the different aspects of our healing God. One of their myths names Ra as the God who contains all being, both male and female. This God, being all things, was able to produce the male and female Gods, Geb and Nut. From this Trinity, six more aspects of God came, including the one who watches over the dead by the name of Osiris. We, too, believe that God watches over our dead.
As we are all one species on this earth, our worship ideas are quite similar. Often, we make God like ourselves as we self-centeredly visualize these selves as the highest form of wisdom. Some view God as a loving mother; some view God as a powerful male figure; some view God as containing both male and female qualities, as Infinite Being that comprises all. Some view God as a bright light, and omit the problem of God's gender altogether.
Amerindians often viewed God as Great Spirit, sometimes as Mother Earth who gave of her abundance to all. Around the Mediterranean, Mother Isis was popular with sailors, who may have brought her worship and the idea of her healing to the American continent. However, culture may have flowed in the opposite direction. Mother Nature may have been brought by sailors to Egypt and renamed Isis.
God does not change, but God's name can change with changes in language and culture. Ish may be an early name for man, and isha or isis may be the word for woman. There were shrines to Isis all around the Mediterranean, even as far away from Egypt as Great Britain. She was frequently pictured as dark skinned, and in the Christian era, some of these shrines were turned into shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As societies changed, those in need of religious comfort or healing would implore help before statues or wood carvings of the Black Virgin.
1.4 The Gift of Music
I wondered if the Druid's chair in my yard had anything to do with worship of a male God, a female Goddess, or a Great Spirit. Did people gather together centuries ago in my yard to dance and shout praises to the Great Spirit? A little ways across the Hudson River from my town is a point jutting out into the river called by the Dutch settlers by the derogatory name of Devils' Dance Chamber (Danskammer Point). There they had observed the local Amerindians gather for religious celebration.
When we worship today, we gather in groups and we sing and have liturgies. Thinking of worship gatherings in the past, I wondered how the people sang and worshiped four thousand years ago. I tried to imagine what sort of people were in my back yard away back in time. In order to appreciate my train of thought, you must try to go back with me into the past four thousand or more years. It is a long journey, and, of course, we cannot see too well or hear too well, because it is all in our minds. Our minds are not too well accustomed to meditating on the past, although the past is often available to us through writing and through general historical knowledge. Some gifted individuals are given the ability to see into a future which hasn't even happened. Surely, if we make a small effort, we may be able to get a glimpse of what went on before our time.
In the early morning awakening, there seems to be a moment before the present trounces onto our consciousness, when we can slip back into the past. Early one morning while still only half conscious from sleep, I tried to re-enact in my mind a moment of worship in my yard that might have occurred sometime ago. This moment was before the sunrise, and families were gathering quietly and sitting in different spots with their children and relatives. They had gotten up in the middle of the night, and walked quite a distance in the twilight to watch the dawn together. It was all silence and expectation. I felt that it was like an Easter morning sunrise service in which is celebrated a commemoration of a human resurrection out of death.
I visualized the people gathering, and at some moment, someone in the crowd began to chant. Then others joined in, chanting in harmony. In my half-dream state, I became somehow a part of that crowd. I knew in my mind that my moment would come to sing, and when the moment came, I would sing. There was no director, but each person in that group knew as I did that they would have a part in the great song, and that when their moment came, they would sing out. In my mind I heard the chorus. It was so beautiful that I wanted to hear it better, and I strained my ears to hear. The more I strained, the less I heard. Then I realized that I could not hear too well, because there was this wide gulf of time between myself and the performers. This realization woke me up thoroughly. I regretted that I wasn't able to slip back into the dream and listen. I remain very thankful for the dream.
You may object that the whole performance that I have described was only a dream. Are we humanbeings able to partake of peace that occurred before the present? Do we partake in the sorrow of previous generations, such as battlefields? Do we empathize with those who are located on the battlefields of today? Do we separate ourselves from the misery that is often portrayed on our videos? Do those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, or the servants of Allah, or dedicated to peaceful pursuits as Buddhists, proclaim kindness, or do we muzzle our voices, impelling the stones to cry out?
Those who believe the teachers who promote the "Columbus discovered America" theory will insist that there were no people in pre-Columban New York State of any consequence or capabilities. However, the rocks in my yard seem to be telling me that there were people in my area who lived lives like ours today, people who were pressured by their needs to eat and make a living, people who had positive and negative relationships with one another, people who believed in a nurturing God. I want to find out more about these people. I want to know what they believed. I wonder who were the first people to look out from my X-marked rock and look at the view and thank God for such beauty. One of my most serious wonderings is if these people still look at the marvelous view and are thankful for it. Is there a spiritual existence today for those who walked in the world of yesterday?
If we are all immersed in an ocean of love, as some people theorize and others hope, then there must be possibilities of an exchange in this medium of love. The past, the present, and the future must be united somehow, as God is united in God's continuous being. Thus it seems reasonable to believe that people of the past can contribute to us who are living in the present.
Off the Patriarchal Glasses
by Cora E. Cypser
A Portion of Chapter 9
9.2 Disciples and Rabbis
One thing we have to investigate more thoroughly in dissecting John 21:24, is the word disciple. To do this properly, let's think about the word chairman in the year 1900. A dictionary of that date would define chairman as a man who chaired meetings. About 1940 a dictionary would define chairman as a person who chaired meetings. In 1960 a dictionary would add on in its listings under chairman, a second word chairwoman, as an additional help to understanding the morphology of the word chairman. In 1980 you would have the word chairman, and further down the page there would be separate listings for each of the words chairwoman and chairperson.12 Our language is a living thing, reflecting changes in our social customs and in our historical happenings. Our language is also a force that often binds us to outmoded customs, to constricted viewpoints, and to stereotypical interpretations.
As it is with the English word chairman, so it is with the Greek word disciple. In the year 30 AD all disciples were supposedly men by definition.13 In the year 33 AD Jesus' disciples could easily have been both men and women, but there was no word to distinguish a male disciple from a female disciple, other than calling her a female disciple, as people in 1940 would describe a lady chairman or a lady postman. The only New Testament use of the word disciple as referring to a woman (namely Tabitha) is in Acts 9:36 written about 90+ AD. A new word had been invented with proper feminine endings that combined the thought that this person Tabitha was both a disciple and a woman. In her work Luke written about the same time as Acts, Lucy uses the custom of the earlier time about which she was writing (30 AD) and calls the women "followers" of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3). There is the possibility that when Lucy wrote of 50 AD as in Acts, she set down a word that she knew was in use in the later period. It is also possible that a later copyist of Lucy's work, recognizing the name Tabitha as feminine, set in the word mathetria which didn't come into prominent use until much later. Mark 15:40 written in 70+ AD also refers to Mary and her friends as "women followers" to distinguish them from the male disciples.
Because there were feminine Christian disciples of Jesus, people found that they needed a new word in their language. They took the masculine word disciple (the Greek word in anglicized letters being mathetes) and put a feminine ending onto it. We find this feminine Greek word for disciple in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter written about 150 AD:_ "Now early on the Lord's day Mary Magdalene a disciple (feminine mathetria) of the Lord - which being afraid because of the Jews ... had not done those things which women are accustomed to do" (for their beloved dead). We see that there is a development in the word disciple during the time of early Christianity. There now was a special single word that meant female disciple, rather than having the need to designate that a woman was the person behind the male noun.
The Greek language differs from our English language in that all modifying words associated with a noun, have to refer back to that noun and take on the gender of that noun. English nouns do not contain male and female designations, so we are not accustomed to this practice. We can see it in other European languages such as Spanish and French which carry over from the Latin and Greek this agreement of noun, modifiers, and pronouns which refer back to the noun.
In Jesus' time, the Greek pronouns and verbs that were associated with the male word disciple would all be of masculine gender even though the disciple were a female. Disciples studying with a rabbi were assumed to be men, and a condition of their discipleship was that they were to carry on the thought of their rabbi. As women could not legally witness, they could not carry on these thoughts. The rabbinate of the school of Moses, was to carry on the thought of Moses. It is not just the first generation disciple, but the disciples of that disciple, and so on, so that in John 9:28 we have the teachers of the Jews, many generations away from Moses, claiming, "We are Moses' disciples!" In Acts 9:25 we hear about the disciples of Paul. Disciples are to keep alive the thought of their teacher. It is questionable if the task can be performed perfectly by any human. Moses' disciples warped his teachings. Paul's thoughts on women came out a little differently through the mouth of his follower who wrote in I Timothy 2, and set the insert in I Corinthians 14:34-35 (which does not jibe with I Corinthians 11). Finally, what have we Christians done to Christianity? What are the teachings of Jesus that we are to transmit to others? How do we perform this task?
Most teachers today are sought after by their students if they have a good reputation. We hear students saying, "I want to get So-and-So for philosophy. He doesn't give any term paper." Today's students pick their teachers. In first century Palestine Jesus picked the students he wanted. He called his disciples, whomever he wished. We hear about the Twelve. We hear about others, such as Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38) and Cleopas (Luke 24:18). We hear that there are those who do not choose to answer the call, as they have married a wife, or purchased a field (Luke 14:18-20).
When a person accepted the call to discipleship, he entered into a very special relationship with his rabbi. There were certain guidelines that were to be observed. The only proper attitude of the disciple to the master was one of obedience, reverence, and love. The rabbi assembled his disciples around him in a rabbinic circle, where the privileged position was the spot at the master's feet reserved for that student who best assimilated the teachings. We note that Paul "sat at the feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3) as the prize student of that excellent teacher.
The rabbi's teachings or formal explanations, as exemplified in Matthew 5 and the spiral discourses in John, were to be passed on or witnessed to others. The word witness is very important here. As women could not legally witness, they could not legally be disciples. Also, one man would not be able to witness. Two men were legally required to witness together. There would be more likelihood of two getting the teaching correct. The Holy Spirit can work effectively when two or three discuss together. Thus we have Jesus sending his disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1). This was the customary way to proceed. In our quest for the woman's place in this performance, could we consider that Jesus may have disdained certain biases in his society and sent out both men and women?
Women were usually by-passed as disciples, not only because they couldn't legally witness, but because of the general position of women in the Jewish society. From the viewpoint of the patriarchal priesthood, women were considered to be unfit for the work of teaching or learning. There is one historical exception that proved this rule. Beruria, who was the daughter of Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion and the wife of Rabbi Meir, was admitted to the circle of rabbis and allowed to express herself equally with her male counterparts about 150 AD.14
For purposes of illustration, we might compare the rabbi and his circle of disciples in Judaism to a present day teacher and the students in his class. The classroom situation is different, the ages of student and teacher today vary, but there are certain norms that we observe today, and there were certain norms that were observed in the time of Jesus. In a college philosophy class today you will find a teacher with specific qualifications, whose students are usually younger than he, and are there for the purpose of acquiring particular career abilities. They may ask the teacher to come home with them for dinner, but he would certainly never approach them and tell them that they should fix his evening meal, as a rabbi had a right to do in Judaism. It was accepted for Jesus to invite himself to the home of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) and to tell his disciples to prepare the Passover meal (Luke 22:8), but he was going beyond proper bounds when he asked his students to bring him a donkey (Matthew 21:1-3). Students were not required to supply transportation. His disciples obeyed him in this, not as his students, but in their belief that he was the Messiah. In the ordinary rabbi-disciple relationship, Jesus would have to go after his own donkey.15
The gravest breach of discipleship was desertion of the rabbi by the disciple. Today students drop courses with no qualms whatsoever, but, in Judaism, desertion made the disciple no longer fit to be a witness. This rupture of their important relationship by all the male disciples of Jesus (who forsook him and fled according to Matthew 26:56) and especially Peter who refused to witness for him and denied him three times (Matthew 26:69-75) made all these men legally incapable of witnessing. A disciple's proper duty was proclaimed by Peter in Mark 14:29, "Even though all forsake you, I will never forsake you!"
Jesus' women followers did not forsake him. Although they were women, their legal status as witnesses may have been better than that of deserting men. A very important question at the death of Rabbi Jesus must have been, "Who is more qualified to carry on his teaching, the women or the men?" Although most rabbis did not have women in their retinue, Jewish culture in the time of Jesus was inclining to more freedom for the female as a result of Hellenistic influence. Due to this slight warm-up in the treatment of the female, it may have been possible for the women followers of Jesus to be accepted as witnesses of the truths that Jesus taught.
When a hopeful doctor fails the medical exam for his state, he is not allowed to practice there. So it was with deserting disciples of a rabbi; they were not allowed to preach the master's message. They were in a lesser category for their time, than spoiled priests are today. Peter in particular was disenfranchised. He had failed the course. Such a "spoiled" disciple, by rabbinical tradition, might recover his place, only by becoming a student of a disciple who had remained faithful. To be reinstated as followers of Jesus, the men would have to become disciples of the women who had not denied their teacher. The gospel readings lead us to believe that only the women were faithful to Jesus. Thus in order to be reinstated, the men would have to rid themselves of their Jewish prejudices against female rabbis, and temporarily accept one of these women as their rabbi and as true bearer of the truths of Jesus. In studying under this woman and learning from her, they would be able to renew their dedication to the teaching of Jesus. The women followers of Jesus were the tenuous thread through which the restoration of the men as disciples of Jesus, was possible. When Jesus appeared to recommission his male friends (John 21:2), the women were very much on the scene as unnamed disciples who were useful instruments to this proceeding.
9.3 The Beloved Disciple As Mary Magdalene?
Now that we know that up to about 100 AD the word disciple and the pronouns that referred back to it, could only be male, let's go back to the Bible again and see what the Gospel of John has to say about the beloved disciple and the other disciple.
With our new knowledge, since the male or female pronoun is not distinguished in Greek, we can translate John 21:24 as possibly, "This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down and we know that her testimony is true." There were many women followers of Jesus, and when the term other is used, it may mean other than male. Some women followers mentioned are Martha, Salome, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Susanna, and Mary of Magdala. Only one of these earned the title of beloved. Upon careful consideration we find that the most likely female candidate to fit this possibility of beloved witness is Mary Magdalene.
The disciple that Jesus loved is mentioned as being at the Last Supper (John 13:23). If this were Mary Magdalene, the story describes her as reclining next to Jesus. It is possible that there were women present at this supper. At special feasts that were patriarchal in tendency, the women would be in the vicinity, because they would be expected to get the meal. They may have eaten their share in a removed corner, or in a separate room, but they may also have eaten at the table with the men.16 Jewish culture at the time of Jesus had been impregnated with certain Greek and Roman freedoms, so that we are given historical instances of a hostess presiding at her husband's table, and shortly after the time of Christ, we have the female rabbi, Beruria, being part of a rabbinic circle.17
When John 13:23 speaks of the beloved disciple sitting in the favored spot next to Jesus at supper, it's entirely possible that the author is speaking of Mary Magdalene as the disciple who best understood her rabbi's teaching. As honored friend of the host and as the superior student, she could well have been acting out the part of hostess at her master's table. That this beloved disciple sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper, was probably a fact set down by women to emphasize to later generations that Jesus had no sexist bias. Unfortunately, this important piece of information has been misinterpreted century after century. Male artists have compounded the misinformation with their all male, Last Supper masterpieces, which are beautiful works of art, but which may not represent "gospel truth."
Early church fathers, believing that Mary was a terribly sinful woman, because of other misinterpretations, wouldn't want to believe that Jesus would allow such a tainted woman to get near him. Because they had trouble treating women as equitable human beings, they supposed that Jesus wouldn't know how to act in the company of women. As Jesus knows all things (John 21:17), we must trust that he knows also how to best draw out the good in all people, and that he can sit next to any woman at a supper table and make it a salvational situation, not just for that particular woman but for all the other men and women with whom that woman may interact.
Mary Magdalene wasn't as sinful as we have been led to believe. We are told that Jesus cast seven devils out of her (Luke 8:2). This may be a very positive statement. About 100 AD there were Gnostic believers of all shades and colors. Gnostic has to do with knowing, and these religious groups thought they knew all sorts of secret knowledge. Different Gnostic groups had different beliefs. One belief that was rather common divided the world into the pure and the lustful. However, they didn't use the words pure and lustful, to describe these opposing dualities. They used the words male and female. As it was a patriarchal society, the male was the pure, superior being, and the female(as misbegotten male in a formula deriving from Aristotle) was the male gone wrong. If you called a man male, you meant that he was pure and truthful and perhaps ascetic. If you called him female, he was lustful and engaged in sexual relationships with women and probably wouldn't be a good bet to preach the gospel. Calling a man female was a shortened form of saying that he ran after females, and was frequently to be found in the company of the "wrong kind" of females.
Besides confusing the adjectives, these male-female connotations also contributed to further patriarchy and to non-egalitarianism. To be a female was to be associated with a tempting and sinful lot. What did the word male mean when applied to women? Back in 100 AD if you said that a woman was male, it was highly complimentary. It meant that she was probably ascetic, pure, and truthful, and a good candidate to instruct other Christians in the gospel.
In one of the apocryphal gospels Jesus tells the other disciples that he will make Mary Magdalene male.18 This sounds a little hairy, but if you understand the background vocabulary, you quickly see that Mary was being made into a pure and truthful disciple, worthy to perform all services for her fellow Christians. If you are going to make someone pure, there are various ways to describe that action. Instead of saying that Jesus took away Mary's femaleness or lustfulness or impurity, the author of Luke 8:2 chose to say that Jesus totally destroyed all the negative vibrations within Mary, that Jesus cast out all possible enemies that would keep her from being less than whole, that seven devils had gone out of her. As "seven devils" means all possible devils, this leaves Mary as the one wholly fulfilled disciple of Jesus. It doesn't necessarily mean at all, that she was the world's worst sinner.
Some would connect Mary Magdalene with the adulteress story of John 8 because she anointed Jesus as Messiah in Luke 7:36-50 and is described as a sinner in that incident. The following indicates that these two women most likely are two separate individuals. The synoptics have taken a different slant than John on the anointing story. A hasty reading of their versions might tend to make us believe that the woman with the jar of ointment was a worse sinner than the rest of us (Matthew 26:1-18; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50). As Luke describes this woman as a sinner, we might want to conclude that her sin was adultery, and tie her in with the adulteress in John 8. In the version by Luke we are inclined to judge the woman from the Pharisee's viewpoint, which may be a very poor spot from which to judge. He viewed the woman's past life and felt that compared to her, his life-style was pretty clean. That certainly wasn't Jesus' viewpoint. Jesus stressed the greater love of the person pouring out the ointment. For Jesus, the important thing was love. Love overcame imperfections. Jesus spoke of the woman as a shining example of great love. In all of this there is no necessary connection between Mary Magdalene and the adulteress of John 8. John's gospel actually gives two separate incidents to keep us straight:_ one story tells of Jesus humane treatment of an adulteress, the other story tells of the anointing by Mary Magdalene.
Thus as Mary Magdalene was not necessarily a great sinner, but an example of great love, the main author of John, X-2, might be describing Mary at the Last Supper as the most perfect disciple of Jesus, in the privileged place at the table (John 13:23). When there were reclining couches, the privileged spot was towards your host's breast, rather than towards his back. We have a second confirming example of Mary in a privileged spot. When a rabbi was teaching, his disciples sat around him on the ground. He himself was usually seated. The best student sat at the spot by his feet. Thus in Luke 10:39 we see Mary Magdalene in the privileged spot in the rabbinic circle, "at the Lord's feet." It is easy to conclude that Mary Magdalene as the beloved disciple was doubtless at table with Jesus and the other disciples in the upper room at the Last Supper, as a favorite would not be relegated to a corner.
If you are reading the incident in John 13:23-25 and being disturbed by the he pronouns, keep in mind that these pronouns are required by Greek agreement to be masculine in order to be of the same gender as the noun disciple. They do not denote the sex of the person being spoken about, but only the gender of the word disciple. A proper English translation of the Greek could just as easily say, "Simon Peter signed to her and said, 'Ask who it is he means,' so leaning back on Jesus' breast she said, 'Who is it, Lord?'" If the familiarity of a woman leaning on a man's breast bothers you, picture an oriental table with low couches, and observe that it is easy to make a quiet remark to someone sitting slightly behind you. You do not necessarily come into physical contact with them. The description is intended to let us know that Mary had the opportunity to speak to Jesus privately.
9.4 The Witnesses At The High Priest's Palace
Jesus and his disciples left the scene of the Last Supper, and headed for a garden in the Kedron Valley. These disciples may have been both men and women. If there were women at the Last Supper, these women would not have been left behind unless they were assigned to kitchen clean-up. One of the male disciples, Simon Peter, carried a sword. The action in the garden was a little bit bloody, but it is faithfully reported in John 18. Any one of the disciples might have told the story of the arrest. The soldiers took Jesus to Annas and Caiphas, and Peter and another disciple followed behind. As this other disciple is nameless, she may be a woman. As she is not called the beloved disciple, she may be another woman than Mary Magdalene. This other disciple was known to the High Priest, and followed Jesus into the palace. This other disciple may be Joanna, the wife of Chuza, who was the High Priest's steward (Luke 8:3). The wife of your steward would certainly be allowed into your dwelling without question. If she chose to bring a woman friend with her, that person would also be admitted. If she spoke to the doorkeeper, and told her to let Peter in, the maid servant at the door would be glad to accomodate her. The entrance of Peter introduces the questioning of Peter and his denials of Jesus, yet no one questioned the other disciple, or got a denial from him. If this other disciple were the woman Joanna, she would not be considered a worthwhile witness. It would not have been important that she was a hearer of Jesus' word, because as a woman, her testimony didn't matter. An interesting fact about the Hebrew name Joanna is that in some Biblical translations, it is the same in the masculine as the feminine. The male name Joanna is used in the genealogy of Luke 3:27. It would be very easy to confuse a female follower of this name with a male disciple.
A second female possibility for the witness reporting the scene at the High Priest's palace, would be Mary Magdalene. We may be dealing with two different people when we speak of the other disciple and the beloved disciple. Joanna may be termed the other disciple, as a word to distinguish her from the male disciples, or the son of Zebedee. We might have Mary Magdalene being called the beloved disciple because she was the best student of the rabbi Jesus. On the other hand the beloved and the other may be a single individual.
9.5 The Beloved Disciple At The Foot Of The Cross
The soldiers took Jesus from the High Priest's palace to the judicial court of Pilate. Certain things were said and done. The crowd asked for Barabbas. If the disciples were in the crowd, wouldn't they have rooted for their master? It is highly likely that they were not in the crowd. As witnessing males, the men were liable to questioning and to prosecution, and would not be anxious to show their faces or express an opinion, in fear for their lives. Yet this scene at the judicial court is recorded by a witness. Who was the agonizing disciple hiding in the crowd? Who was the court recorder? A woman could have been present without risking her life, as she would not qualify as a witness in legal proceedings, and would not be asked by the authorities to give testimony against her master. It must have been a woman who heard and recorded the words, "You would have no power over me, if it hadn't been given you from above"(John 19:11). It must have been a woman who saw that from that moment, Pilate was anxious to free Jesus, but that the politics of the situation made it expedient for Jesus to be crucified.
This star reporter followed him to the place of crucifixion. Our reporter may well have been Mary Magdalene, because she is mentioned as being at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's relative, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." There is no mention of a male disciple John. All the male disciples had forsaken their master and fled (Matthew 26:56). John's gospel does not mention the name of Joanna as being at the crucifixion, but Mark 15:40-41 and Matthew 27:55 mention that there were many other women at Calvary. This other or female reporter could easily be Joanna or Mary Magdalene.
The next verse (John 19:26) brings back the name, beloved disciple. The apocryphal gospels have some interesting thoughts on the disciple whom Jesus loved. In The Gospel of Philip when Jesus is asked why he loves Mary so much, Jesus' indirect answer is that she is the manifestation of Sophia, or Holy Wisdom.19 In The Gospel of Mary Peter says to Mary, "Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of the women. Tell us the words of the Savior that you remember."20 Again, Mary is the favorite, perhaps because of her grasp of Jesus' teachings, as the disciples ask her to repeat those teachings. Further on in the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, speaking of Mary Magdalene, Levi says, "Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us."21 Jesus who could look into hearts loved Mary Magdalene the most of his disciples as she was his most understanding pupil.
In John 19:26 Jesus looked down from the cross and saw his best student, Mary Magdalene, and his mother Mary. We must keep in mind that disciple is a male word and likewise the pronouns that refer to it. To his mother, Jesus said, "Woman, behold your son!" It is the duty of a Jewish son to care for the aged mother. Mary Magdalene, present at this death scene, is given this "son" role. Jesus is designating to his mother that she is to accept this female disciple as the person who will care for her in her old age. Perhaps Jesus believed, that in spite of the contrary cultural notions of his day, a female could take care of an aged parent as well as a male. Jesus then turned to Mary Magdalene, and said, "Behold your mother." The final statement says that the disciple took Jesus' mother to the disciple's own house. The pronoun his modifying house, refers back to the male word disciple and not to the gender of the person involved. We have often had this scene interpreted as Jesus giving his mother to the whole human race in the person of a male disciple. It is possible that it should be correctly reinterpreted as Mary becoming our mother through the person of a female disciple.
9.6 Mary Magdalene At The Tomb
Chapter 20 of John is liable to upset all this theory that Mary Magdalene and the beloved disciple are one and the same, because they are mentioned here side by side, as two separate people. However, because chapter 20 has an insert in verses 2-11, we will have to examine the situation more carefully. This insert appears to be traditional Johannine material, woven together with another piece of Johannine material, in an attempt to make one consistent story out of two threads. This scribal interweaving can be compared to an error in translation. If many translators combine their efforts, the Holy Spirit has greater opportunity to make use of talent, and we are presented with a much more effective translation. If scribes and theologians consult with one another asking for guidance of the Spirit, we can understand more clearly the message which God is giving to us in his Word. If the person who made this insert had had greater opportunity to consult carefully with those around him in the community, the Holy Spirit would have been able to work more effectively through him. His attempt at combining two separate pericopes could be compared to a less than perfect translation of available material due to a fundamental lack of knowledge.
We must not be distressed with translations and interpretations that are consistent with the culture of the time in which they were expressed, that do not fit in perfectly with the knowledge of our time. The Holy Spirit working through the minds and hearts of men, can be trusted to tell us all that is necessary for our salvation. In John 20 not only was the vital message of the resurrection preserved for us, but we are given two separate traditional stories that we can disentangle from each other to give fuller revelation. Perhaps it is not too late for the Bible scholars of today to labor with this early scribe's endeavor and to come up with a more comprehensive structure and a more fulfilling interpretation of John chapter 20. Perhaps this is an opportunity to polish and hone the wonderful tool that is the Bible, in order to make it more effective for the salvation of humankind, both men and women.
The fact of the empty tomb is a very important tenet of Christianity, and for early Christianity, it was absolutely necessary to have two male witnesses to ascertain this fact. All the gospels agree that Mary Magdalene was the first at the tomb and the first to see the resurrected Lord. Jesus appeared to her first, as she had maintained her rabbi-disciple relationship with him. It may have been only through her belief in his words and her eager witnessing, that the others could be restored to right relationship with Jesus. Peter and the male disciples knew this and knew the necessity of having a disciple (even though she were a woman) who had not deserted the rabbi to carry on the continuity of his teachings. We have this same notion today in our apostolic succession.
Second generation churchmen were inclined to dismiss this rupture between Jesus and his male followers. They did not want to take the illegal word of a woman witness. They wanted to believe that the men could witness for Jesus, and they chose not to understand that Peter and the others of the Twelve had accepted the respected disciple, Mary Magdalene, as temporary rabbi, or leader, to re-establish them in the Jesus tradition. Mary was the connecting link, the first feminine church leader. The second generation Christian communities forgot the rabbi-disciple breach, and looked only for the established male legal witness for the resurrection. They were no longer in a time period that encouraged the greater freedom of women. Hebrew culture, especially after the disastrous times around 70 AD, had a tendency to put women back in the home and under the patriarchal thumb, so as to better "protect" them from the violence brewed up by other patriarchs. Times were such that the women were willing to be protected in this manner.
These second generation church people felt a necessity to have two witnessing males in the gospel of John, affirming the empty tomb. One of them inserted the material of John 20:2-11 in what he thought was a logical place, in order to tie together two traditional pieces of church material. His beliefs are set down to emphasize the primacy of Peter in the church, yet at the same time the author has heard that there was another disciple that "outran" Peter. He assumes it is a male, because his generation now had a word for a feminine disciple, and he may not have realized that thirty years earlier there was no such word,_ that in the Judaic culture when these traditional pieces of material were written, the male word for disciple had to service both genders. The person making the insertion may have sincerely believed that he had a piece of traditional material that stated there was a male disciple that outran Peter. The Holy Spirit may very well have been working effectively through this man's lack of understanding, as the existence of the church and the important work of carrying the gospel message may well have depended at that time on the authority of accepted male leaders.
When we examine chapter 20, we find that verse 1 starts off with original material. Mary Magdalene is at the tomb weeping. Next we have some of the inserted material. The inserter takes Mary Magdalene from the tomb and has her going to Simon Peter and the other disciple, not realizing that the other disciple may be Mary Magdalene herself. The physical impossibility of Mary Magdalene running to tell herself about the disappearance of the body is due to the excusable ignorance of the inserter and to the will of the Holy Spirit. Certain beliefs were necessary for the church to function well in the second century. In the insert of John 20:2-10 Peter shows himself to be capable and assertive by entering the tomb first. The woman, or other disciple held back, but then she went inside the tomb and saw and believed. We must keep in mind in translating this, that the word disciple is masculine, and any pronouns that refer back to it, are masculine. Any he pronouns that refer to the second disciple must be changed to she. The insert is tied to the previous action at the tomb, by having Mary run to Peter and tell him what she tells the angels in a later verse (John 20:13). We must keep in mind that the other disciple in this section of John may also refer to Joanna. This particular female disciple is not referred to specifically as the beloved disciple.
From verse 3 on, the insert will read in the following manner:
"So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; she bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following, now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head: this was not with the cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; she saw and she believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. The disciples then went home again."
The Gospel of Luke appears to confirm that Peter was the only male disciple to run to the tomb, after being informed by the women that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:12). The scriptural insertion in John 20 could be interpreted to state the equality of men and women in the service of Christ, as it speaks of a man and a woman running together to the tomb, and coming to belief together. Both men and women are equally capable of loving Christian service and of witnessing to the love that is in Jesus.
Unfortunately, down through the centuries, having absorbed patriarchal dispositions from the Roman empire, many in the structured church have continued to be blind to the effective leadership ability of women, and have refused to see certain interpretations which seem to be available in the Gospel of John. Now, eighteen centuries later, when scholarly exegesis has reached appropriate levels, believing Christians should consider new possibilities of interpretation. We should take off our patriarchal glasses, wipe our enculturated eyes, and take a long clear look at the shocking possibility that Mary Magdalene may well have been the first pope. We should consider that the writer of the second Epistle of John was neither the male disciple John or using the word sister as a descriptive name for the church community, but was a female presbyter or priest writing to another female presbyter or priest. As Jesus freely accepted women into the circle of his disciples, those men who claim to be his followers should also be accepting of women, and should not callously dismiss them from service in the priesthood by saying that the shape of their bodies is unacceptable. What does the shape of one's body have to do with being able to lead others to Christ? Indeed, Jesus may not have visualized the structured priesthood that we use today to carry his message; he may have looked into the future and seen all men and women as prophets, priests, and facilitators, all lovingly guiding each other to fulfillment in God's kingdom.
Covenant and Consensus
by Cora E. Cypser
THE USE OF LAW TO BUILD COMMUNITY
The law is not our master, but our tool. Likewise, a leader should not be our master, but our servant to encourage us and to guide us to fulfillment. However, our humanity often displays imperfections. We must realize that some expert guidance is necessary as we learn imperfectly. We must expect that leaders drawn from a pool of such imperfect learners will be fallible. We must accept the fact that all of us, even the chosen leaders amongst us, often need wise guidance and well formulated directions.
When we are making duck soup, it helps to have a recipe. Of course it is possible to boil a duck and make soup from the drippings, but this off-the-cuff method may result in a soup that is greasy and indigestible. On the other hand, given a talented cook using a tried recipe, duck soup can taste like ambrosia. In making duck soup and in forming community, it pays off to consult the successful practitioner.
The most important ingredient of the ideal community is freedom. God evidently felt this first need when he created the earth. He made human kind with the ability to choose.
Not too many people have their freedom to do as they please or to do as they feel they are led. People who live under any form of government hesitate to criticize the form of government that is in power. If they are employed by that government or in its army, there is even less chance that they will speak their minds freely. Church men think twice before they tell their superiors that they see room for improvement in either the structure of their church or the leaders of their church.
Fortunately there are always a few people who are willing to think creatively, and let their ideas be known. These ideas usually meet with opposition from those entrenched in seats of power, and from the mass of the people who feel comfortable with where they are. As long as their bread is buttered, people won't complain too heartily. When their bread isn't buttered, people are often too weak to complain.
Thank God for the creative thinkers of this world! They come in all shapes and sizes. We even hear women's voices in their midst. Some niches only a woman can fill. Women in the Catholic Church have a marvelous opportunity to speak out on issues that seemed dead or settled to the leadership of the male hierarchy or to the average acquiescing Sunday-morning church goer. Members of the hierarchy would rarely think like a woman, and would be even more hesitant to bring matters into discussion that might displease those in authority in the church.
Although women have been shunted off to the sidelines, and not given much opportunity to express themselves on how they are being governed, like many of those who are oppressed, they are anxious to find new ways of doing things. Women seeking a fair share of jobs, wages, and recognition, try to make modest changes in socially accepted norms. Women left out of the governance of churches, sit quietly and observe, and notice what the busy people at the top of the power structures, fail to notice. Yet in the final analysis, it may be only women who are able to speak out in freedom about church governance, as men in power will not take them too seriously and may even condescendingly humor their outbursts. Fortunately, in this type of sexist oppression, most women are not left to starve, so they have the physical stamina to continue to protest injustice and imperfections.
Women must undertake their struggle against unjust structures carefully. They must be warned to keep at heart the importance of loving relationships. As soon as they stride on the scene shouting, their male hearers are liable to throw up defenses. For women there is "the temptation to enter the public sphere in a purely competitive spirit seeking enhancement of prestige, wealth, and power, rather than entering the public sphere in a spirit of service, of compassion, of solidarity."1 If we want a government that guides us in a spirit of service and compassion, we must be compassionate ourselves, and not be grabbing for power and authority.
8.2 The Need for Laws and Rulers
Moses found the group that he guided through the desert to be an unruly and thankless lot. God offered to take them off his hands and make of Moses' line a holy people (Exodus 32:7-10). Moses pleaded with God to give them all another chance, and in hopes of improving the whole situation, The Tablets of The Law were given.
The purpose of this law was to help the whole group to be considerate of one another. It gave suggestions for maintaining order in the community in an acceptably cultural way. The law did not enshrine certain people in authority. The law was not put in place to glorify specific people as rulers, but as guidelines for the total community. "From this you know that now, if you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations shall be my very own, for all the earth is mine. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). There was a covenantal aspect to the law which encouraged the community member to think about how his or her actions affected personal relationships with God and man. The law was used as a guiding light to illuminate truth, by the judges in Israel, and was not used as a tool to control by their rulers until after the Davidic kingdom was established.
The injunction, "Thou shalt not murder," speaks equally to the king and commoner. There is no way that this can be interpreted as a privilege for the ruling authority to behead his subjects. The law was given as guidelines to keep order in a loving community; it comes from the authority of God only as the human interprets God through the moral consensus of humankind. This consensus must be continually updated in order to meet the challenge of new situations of human invention, which arrive upon the earth. When we discover that our leaders, either self-appointed or elected, are not following given guidelines for optimum loving and truthful community, we are ethically required to bring this to their attention, as the prophet Nathan did with David (II Samuel 12).
The law can be used wisely as guidelines to remind the people of their ethical standards. The law helps to maintain an orderly community. Some structure, not necessarily a king, might be useful to encourage people to renew the covenant in their hearts. Often a king does nothing for order, but in his imperfect humanity and desire to keep power, he may foment hatred between nations, kill people, not recognize true statements from false statements, and treat his subjects with inconsideration. He may observe the poor in his kingdom, become poorer, and the rich become richer, and feel no compunction, as the rich are his supporters and enable him to maintain his own selfish personal image. Some may feel that a king is necessary to enforce the law, but if we are to follow holy scripture, it seems that God reserves for God's self, the right to pay back those who do evil. "Vengeance is mine, and requital, for the time when they make a false step" (Deuteronomy 32:35).
If the law is used in covenantal fashion, in which it is a set of guidelines agreed to by both the community and the individual, then it encourages freedom of thought and holy expression. If the law is handed down authoritatively and imposed from without by others, it squelches the individual's and the community's ability to follow God in freedom.
8.3 Church Canon Law as a Community Builder
Having said all this about laws, we will investigate the effect of one set of laws on a particular community group. This chapter and the next will address themselves to the problem of canon law in the Catholic community. Those of other faiths may feel that they have better rules and regulations which enhance personal freedom and responsibility, but I am using this particular Roman Catholic body of law as it illustrates dramatically how a slight bending of present structures might open up vast areas of understanding. Present authoritarianism with competitiveness to stay on the top of the heap, might bend gracefully to a new method of governance using cooperation and social interaction.
For a long time, Christians did without written law. Jesus had proposed the law of love and as a good Jew, supported the Jewish Torah. As different church communities formed, and acquired habits of worship, regulations were put in place to uphold these habits as the community grew in their togetherness by doing things in what they considered to be the proper way. While maintaining belief in loving care of one's neighbor, each group had variations on the worship theme, due to different cultural backgrounds. When church authority became centralized in Rome, those in the seats of power began to feel uncomfortable with these expressions of freedom and creativity. There is often a notion that if someone is not doing things my way, then they must be doing it incorrectly. Consequently, there were attempts to mold Christians into conformity. Down through the centuries many minor rules and regulations were proclaimed by those heading up different church areas.
In 1983 a rather important development took place in the Roman Catholic Church. This subset of the people of God were presented with a body of guiding laws which will standardize procedures and assist those certain individuals who are drawn out from the group to facilitate and to organize, to serve their brothers and sisters wisely. It is a very comprehensive code of law, touching on every aspect of life in the Catholic body of believers. The specific canons that are mentioned here will be taken from the English translation of the code, prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland and published by W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.2
The recent code of canon law promulgated by the Catholic Church is written with the equality of all persons in mind, in the majority of its directives. The purpose of this canon law is to foster love, growth, and order in Christian communities. Code regulations should enable the people of God to work for justice, love, and truth "with all things being done decently and in order" (I Corinthians 14:40). The church government should reflect the rights and responsibilities of individuals to serve one another, and thus should make opportunities for both small intimate local communities, as well as larger overseeing bodies.
Although the purpose behind the making of all laws for humankind, is to further cooperative community, there is the danger of law having the opposite effect if it is employed in an authoritarian manner. We have horrifying examples in history of law being used for dubious purposes. There are the well known examples of Hitler's legal measures used against the Jews, and the shameful Catholic Inquisition. Even today in Israel-Palestine we find government officials employing the negative aspects of several different bodies of law in order to deny rights to minorities in their country.
Canon law is a relatively recent development, and another purpose behind its promulgation is to assist in maintaining the tradition of the Catholic Church. Those who promulgate the law must search honestly and deeply for the true Jesus tradition, and make sure that their law, power, or authority, does not wreak havoc on the good news of Jesus Christ to the poor, to women, and to all creation.
8.4 New Code Written By Conservative Classicists
Until 1917 there was no Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church. The purpose of the 1917 code was to collect into one place, all the rules and regulations that seemingly promoted order in the church. There had been means of governing, creeds, and laws since the time of primitive church communities, but in an era of mass communication, it seemed wise to gather and standardize this information. With the breath of fresh air that characterized Vatican II, it was decided that these laws collected in 1917 themselves needed revision to make the church more in tune with our contemporary society. Unfortunately this revision like the 1917 collection, was not done in a consentaneous manner, and has a tendency to reflect the minority classicist male viewpoint. It has been criticized "for paying more attention to technical detail than to the practical experience of the church since Vatican II."3
Perhaps we are expecting more of this code than it is designed to give. The average American Catholic sees this code and immediately assumes that all these laws are to be obeyed without question. We should rather understand the code more in the terms of Roman Law, where certain guidelines are set down, and exceptions can be made. Having a comprehensive body of law is a rather new development in the Catholic system, although clerical churchpeople have been making rules for the laity to obey for centuries, without the consent or advice of lay persons, as if parishioners lacked mental ability or were deficient in possession of the Spirit of God. One of the purposes of the new code is to get the response, advice, and consent of the governed, even advice from women. Laws require the "Amen" response from the people;4 in a similar manner the blessing of Eucharist in the Roman Catholic service awaits the people's "Amen", and the Sinai Covenant was ratified by the people (Exodus 24:3). The Catholic laity should be asked if it will agree to obey the law, and what is its opinion of the law, in order for there to be a workable relationship and positive growth. Some of the writers of the code realize the need for this covenantal response.
For sixteen years after Vatican II intensive work went on to produce the New Code. Teams of canon lawyers poured over problem sections when they had a free moment from marriage tribunal duties. Their work was reviewed by cardinals, and further advice was sought from the Roman curia, the bishops of the world, and the faculties of Catholic universities. The majority of these workers were conservative churchmen, and they didn't change much in the law, or give much room to the liberal viewpoint. In corporations where optimization and ultimization are necessary for the pursuit of the almighty dollar, stale department heads are reshuffled in order to give new insights, and to inject fresh oxygen into the blood. In the service of our country and of Almighty God, politicians and churchmen are more lax, and use men (and seldom women) who often seem adverse to new ideas, and more interested in secure retirement benefits, with maintenance of the status quo. Thus the new code "gives less scope to episcopal collegiality than Vatican II may have desired."5 It "honors less the insights of the council concerning the laity than the dignity of God's people would demand."6
Law may be described as an instrument whose purpose is to aid in bringing on the fulfillment of society. It serves as a facilitator and orderer and helps to preserve historical progress.7 The law must be appropriate and true.8 It must be good for today, yet encase what we learned from yesterday. As humans display diversity, the law should be written with this diversity in mind. This same diversity should be represented in the committees who write the laws, but this did not seem to be the case in the writing of the New Code.
The conservatist or classicist sees law as the controller of human activity. The historicist sees community and law as the result of the common experience of human living. The historicist of Vatican II saw a need and urged that a New Code be promulgated. Unfortunately, it was the classicist that was given the job of writing it.
The classicist, an expert in Roman law, still expects to get input from the people, but from hind sight, and built into the new code lengthy time elements, such as thirty years or a hundred years, before allowing legislative change. By the time the changes are allowed, the laity may have given up in disgust and proclaimed their dissent by not being there to be the objects of legislation. The voice of the lay people was heard at Vatican II, and was ignored by the writers of the code in most instances. Normal historical progress was given a setback. The classicist remained tied securely to his abstract principles, and refused to follow the leading of the historicist in his urgings to revise those principles in the light of new authentic human experience.
A clear historicist voice was trumpeted forth from the American Catholic Bicentennial Consultation in Detroit, October 1976. Resolutions were produced urging that women and married men be ordained priests. Open discussion led to consensus on many agenda. Historicists saw this meeting as "a new way of doing the business of the church in America."9 Classicists saw the meeting as being a group of children attempting to rewrite the constitution. As the Detroit meeting was only consultative, no person with power was required to act on its deliberations.
8.5 Reaction to The New Canon Law Code
The 1971 synod of bishops declared that any church that presumes to preach justice must first practice justice itself.10 How should the church people and the world in general react to a code of law whose interpretation continues to make women into second class citizens, or less than citizens? When will the bored unloving judges "give her justice?" (Luke 18:5) How will the world react to a code of law that seems to encourage a class system similar to what we have abhorred in India, where who is on the top of the heap, does not depend on heredity as in India, but on celibacy and gender? How will the world react to a code of law that can be interpreted as seeking to enforce antiquated modes of government whose injustices and unholy emphasis on divine right have proved to be illicit means for keeping in power?
Perhaps this is the best code we can expect from a church whose governmental roots twist back into Pax Romana. However, we believe we are led by the Spirit of God. We image God as just judge and loving law giver. God is love and made us with the great purpose of our fulfillment in mind. Parts of the New Code do not seem to lead to the fulfillment of humankind. They are written from a position of authority, and do not consult with the human experience of those whom they have placed under their authority. Instead of consultation, we find coercion. The New Code itself condemns coercion. The Spirit is thus seen working in the New Code to protect the people of God. If we interpret the New Canon Law non-coercively in all its codes, it will assist in the fulfillment of the Christian people.
8.6 The Problem of Authoritative Structure In The Catholic Church
It is difficult to draw out a loving easy-going interpretation of canon law, when we find ourselves in a church structure that is hierarchical and authoritarian. Often it seems that the hierarchy wants the laity to stay in its place, and to acquiesce dutifully before their supposedly more knowledgeable superiority. Ours is to obey, and they want no suggestion. If they are required by law to ask for suggestions, it often seems like they do the opposite of what was suggested, in order to maintain their authoritative position. We of the laity want to feel that we are a part of the church. We want to give something of ourselves into our church government. We know that we are prophets, priests, and rulers, not merely a collective pillow for the hierarchy to rest upon. The Pope and the most ordinary lay catholic are equal partners in the Christian community.
The average Pope may not feel that he has bonds like this with the laity, humble people who may include priests retired because of marriage, or ordinary women, yet he should feel this unity. Father Richard Rohr tells of the Maryknoll sister who went to serve in Peru, who realized that even in her missionary poverty, she was so well off that she could establish no bonds with the poor around her.11 She understood that they could receive nothing from her with dignity, unless they were able to give something of themselves, or the relationship between her and them would be a cold, authoritarian, rich American - poor peasant, affair. She hit upon the happy idea of asking them if she could borrow a hoe for a couple of hours, using it to garden. Thus, they were able to give her something, and when she returned the hoe, she could give them words of friendship and appreciation. On this give and take basis, she could contribute loving service. Those who find themselves in a privileged position in the church, need to establish ties by asking for help and information from others, if they truly hope to serve others. Perhaps the Pope would like to borrow my hoe.
There is this same give and take relationship set up by Jesus in his meeting with the woman at the well. He does not start off the conversation by telling her he has come to save her. He begins by asking her to do him a favor. He asks for her considerate action in giving him a drink of water. Then in their further conversation, she tells him about the Messiah. In our church experience, is there any of this give and take? We may not even recognize that we bring gifts to the altar. All is done for us by church. Do we hear Jesus in our heart asking for a drink of water? Do we shoulder our bucket and plunge it into the well? Does the church grab the bucket from our hands and say, "Let me do that. You don't know the correct way to do it!"
Is there give and take in the organizational structure of the church, between the laity and the hierarchy? In revising the Code of Canon Law, input from the laity was not requested. The laity is given a body of regulations and told authoritatively what religion is all about. Sometimes it seems that the Word of God in the Bible is not even consulted. We might compare the development of church hierarchy and its laws with the constructional history of the tea ball.
The average tea ball is egg shaped, made out of metal, and has a chain on it to hold it to the top of the tea pot. One might surmise that at some point in time, there were tea balls made out of wood, but these may have tainted the tea with woody or poisonous flavors. Originally tea was allowed to float around in the pot, and some people today don't mind floating tea, or tea leaves in their cups, but it doesn't seem to be customary to consume straight tea leaves. Water was hard to come by, as it had to be carried from a distant source of supply. You can imagine that if a woman had to boil eggs for her family to eat, that she would not throw out the egg-boiling water, but that upon removing the eggs, she would throw in some tea leaves, and serve tea to drink, with the meal. In her tea-leaf disposal problem, she may have scooped out the leaves with a handy left-over egg shell. If the shell had a convenient crack in it, she could have strained the tea juice through the crack. In all this supposing, if she were suddenly confronted with another guest for dinner, she may well have set the soggy leaves in their egg shell, back into some fresh water to brew another cup of tea. The first tea ball may well have been two sections of an egg shell, jammed together.
Let's equate the Holy Spirit to the tea, and humanity, to the water. One can mix tea and water, or rather Spirit and humanity, and get a Spirit-filled human being. This can happen naturally, or a prophet can act as a catalyst to bring God to the people. Moses was a type of egg-shell container, that held the tea (Spirit) in the water (humanity). He operated rather spontaneously, but the Levitical priesthood that followed him, was more structural and confining (like a wooden tea ball) and didn't give the Spirit as much freedom to mingle with the people. Skipping over the tea saturated interval of Jesus, we find that our tea balls are being made out of fairly unyielding metal, with small controlling holes in them called sacraments. They frequently have a chain on them, to anchor them in one spot, as a bishop is anchored to his diocese. This metal tea ball was probably invented by man, as a more practical and orderly way of doing things. It was an excellent solution for its particular era, but today we have light weight disposable paper tea bags to hold our tea. We have passed the point where we are dependent on rigid authoritative structures. God wants us to consider all things with our informed consciences, and come to consentaneous action in loving communities.
Although we see canon law as part of the rigid structure of our church organization, or as a vehicle created by men to control the spirituality of other men, the Spirit has guided us to this law to assist in keeping order and in facilitating the growth of Christian love in our communities. In its part as rigid metal tea ball, it also holds the tea that insists that all catholics have rights and that laws to guide these catholics should be made with their consensus. A new form of church government lies dormant in the Code, waiting for the opportune moment to sprout and to blossom.
8.7 History of Government
Ever since creation, humankind has been experimenting with different ways of government, so that there will be relative peace in which to perform our God-given function of tending the earth. Caring for the earth is a community project, usually accompanied with rules and regulations. As the leaders drawn out of the early church community to guide the group, cast their eyes about for a vehicle to promote their purpose, their first glance fell upon the civil government of their time. They admired the pax romana of the Roman empire, with its hierarchical steps leading up to Caesar. They incorporated the household codes of Roman law into their teachings. When Christianity became the official religion of the empire, it seemed natural to set down as church law, regulations that were similar to the civil law of the day. Thus our church, our schools, our whole mode of society are based on the authoritarian regime of Rome, rather than on the humble words of the Nazarean, who requested that his disciples not have a ruling structure like that of the heathen powers (Mark 10:42-44).
Many centuries later we have the privilege of seeing that there are many other forms of government than that of rule from the top. We have debunked the divine right of kings, and we have come to new understandings about the infallibility of the Pope. We have seen mindless democracy in action, and we have watched bloody dictatorships come and go under various guises. We have observed the expressions of opinion in town meetings, and run organizations by means of Robert's Rules. We have seen crowds moved by mass hysteria, and the rise and fall of religious groups such as Jonestown. We have learned about the apparent failure of a communism that gives power to an elite group, as there seems to be a built-in defect that stratifies this type of society into lowly workers and elevated leaders. Even the most well meaning democracy contains this stratifying effect. What is left to try? How do you get leadership that really serves? How do you get rules and regulations that lead to each human "enjoying peace under the fig tree" (Zechariah 3:10)? If we want the promises of the Almighty to become reality, it seems reasonable to put into practice the insights that God has given us. As we "ought to obey God rather than men,"12 our governance and laws might advantageously reflect the decrees for the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25) and the forgiveness and humility displayed by Jesus, rather than a show of material power.
Who is eligible to oversee humankind's conformance to Jubilee type regulations? It seems that it is necessary to have some sort of structure to promote the Gospel of Love. Would the flimsiness of a tea bag do? Yet isn't the flimsiness of the individual human being designed to hold the spark of the Spirit of the Most High God?
Jesus spoke to the woman at the well as if he felt her capable of utilizing the living water of God's Spirit (John 4:10). Did Jesus foresee an educational structure? He seemed to feel that if people knew the truth, they would willingly conform. "Go to all peoples and teach them!" (Matthew 28:19). Servants of the truth must discuss this truth with others, so that all people can freely give their "Amen" to this truth. They must also have the freedom to reject and to revise this proferred wisdom. As long as humankind is human, it will need consultative guidelines to help it to tend the earth and to assist it into positive relationships. These guidelines should not be imposed from above, but should spring from the experience of the people, as they dwell as neighbors together and consider each other's needs.
The right to vote on a matter is a first step in this direction, but being able to say yes and no, and following the lead of the majority doesn't take into consideration the equally well motivated minority. If this minority is set aside, they will develop discontents that can upset the peace of the community and lead to terrorism.
Some believe that you can really see democracy at work in a town meeting, where neighbors get together to thrash out a problem. In a Christian community people should listen considerately to one another's views, and try to reach agreement, not on what is best for oneself, but on what is best for the community. There are pitfalls in this type of governance, as we are very human, and frequently can see only from our own selfish viewpoint. The Quakers, in trying to perfect this system, have developed a method of consensus, which contains the following major points:
(1) There is no voting; agreement must be unanimous.
(2) Agreement is reached by controlled discussion.
(3) An individual who disagrees with the group can agree to stand aside, or to stand in the way of a final decision if she/he feels strongly on the matter.
(4) If discussion becomes heated, anyone can call for a moment of silence.
(5) The position of facilitator for the meeting is a rotating appointment, and the facilitator is not entitled to express an opinion on the matter being discussed.
(6) If the meeting does not reach consensus, no action can be taken on the matter.
Consensus is very difficult to achieve, but it is in creatively overcoming problems, or approaching partial solutions, that we grow as human beings and gain fulfillment. We have God's promise that the Holy Spirit will be with us, and if the community makes an earnest effort, God will assist it, and bless the earth.
8.8 Problems of Leadership
The problems of our governments to rule objectively and peacefully, are not due simply to their structure, but also to poor leadership. Democracy does have potential; majority rule has made this nation prosperous. Still we can look around and see graft and inefficiency on every side. For example, some in authority profit from illegal drugs that destroy the minds of others. Our state laws imprison those addicts who have acted with drug-mutilated minds, yet we often find that their destroyers go free to enjoy illicit gains if bribe money has been passed in the right places. Money is not the only way of bribing. Individuals act out of a variety of self-interest motives. Often people view security as a continuance of forms and regulations to which they have become accustomed. They might see the continuance of poor leadership, as being more secure for them, than experimenting with new ways and new leadership.
What can be done about the problem of corrupt or inept leadership? We in the Catholic Church can't turn our backs on the problem and say, "This doesn't apply to us. We have all these saintly priests and sisters to be leadership for us." We are all called to be leaders, to be saints, to be prophets, priests, and rulers, and to join in the process of consentaneous government. Very often it is the inspired or inspirited laity who are obliged to be the life of a parish that is headed up by a priest grown too old or too comfortable in the prestige of his job.
We might take a hint from industry. Large corporations have as their primary goal, the making of money. For this they need active and enthusiastic leadership. Several years ago corporations in this country noticed that the Japanese corporations seemed to have busier workers, better managers, and bigger profits. The secret was the quality circle, which some of our industries immediately imitated. Workers would get in small groups with their managers, and discuss where and how improvements could be made. The managers did not lead the groups; each time they met, leadership was rotated among the workers. Implementation of this model was a boon to American business. It could be used profitably in the managing of our religious and political organizations. It would be an excellent way to revise church and political governance.
8.9 Canon Law As A Special Type of Law
We must not make the mistake of assuming that canon law is a rigid body of doctrine, and that we must toe the line or pay the penalty. There is a wide variety of different types of law in the new code. Some of these laws are rigid; some are guidelines; some codes bow before custom. Some are divine laws, as we believe God has given them to us in scripture and in revelation. Others are natural laws, those that relate to human nature or to the care of the nature around us, yet on which we do not feel we have divine pronouncements. There are liturgical laws that instruct on how to perform ceremonies, which are merely rules of order that may be changed if another method of operation arises that is preferable. There are exhortations and recommendations. There are ecclesial laws that assist in church discipline. There are theological statements, which are open to further elaboration by theologians. The whole code is given to assist those who govern the church into the best possible governance of the church. Written into the codes are descriptions of various gatherings of people. These gatherings are for the purpose of assisting priests, pope, and bishops to know the wisdom and will of the people, so that those in governance with a wise and understanding ear, can make appropriate changes in the rules and regulations for the good of the community. It is the desire of the church that the new code of canon law be a bridge, and not a road block, to better community.
8.10 Canon Law Regulations Should Further Loving Community
Jesus saw the law as a living thing, changing to meet the needs of people, and himself the fulfillment of the law, his statement of love giving life to the letter of the law. He proclaimed himself to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Canon law is to further the life of Christ in the community. Christian laws should support and encourage the weak and the oppressed. They should not be made to explicitly protect those in power. Our Christian code of law hopefully is not given by a certain group of men to support their power structure, but to insure the development of all individuals in an orderly manner.
If we believe that the church is the people of God, we must be conscientiously concerned about listening to the people of God when formulating our codes. We should implement information-gathering consensus groups as the quality circles of church organization, being careful of the possibility of a power mongering facilitator trying to influence consensus. For this reason it is very important that the office of facilitator should be rotated through the whole group.
Certain terms in the code come out of stilted and archaic usage. Using our God-given freedom for the purpose of more open church governance, we can interpret the titles of Supreme Pontiff, Holy See, or Bishop as servant or facilitator. Discussion of the College of Cardinals brings up the term collegiality. Collegiality and Subsidiarity to describe governing groups set up by the code, have stratification connotations. Collegiality as used by the code, means the gathering of a brotherhood of priests and equals, to advise a bishop or superior, who does not necessarily have to listen to the advice of these brothers. As the group of sisters is excluded from this priestly brotherhood, there is no true collegiality in this group, and it seems far from the positive performance of the quality circle.
The Subsidiarity group is the sub-group of those on the lowest level of the totem pole. The regulations seem to assume that the parish with its common people make up the lowest level in the church. I find this term very discriminating as the dictionary definition of subsidiarity implies aid from a subordinate of inferior status. The parish should really be considered on an equal level with the hierarchical priesthood, especially when you consider that it is the people who know in their hearts what type of wise governance they need. The terms collegiality and subsidiarity when applied to stratify groups, make one question the purpose of these information gathering groups. Are they bridges or road-blocks? Are these circles being used to put down and weed out the non-conformers, so that the elite may know what discontents lurk in the lower strata and effectively squelch them through various types of mind control?
We are all human and we grab for power as a subconscious or conscious means of self-preservation. Even in writing these words, I am making a bid for a tiny piece of power. It is much easier for the controlling elite to put people down, than to try to understand their needs in love, to be responsible for them in their peculiarities, or to act as mediator when problems arise. Service to help solve the problems of the troubled is much more difficult than slapping on a law, and insisting on YOUR authority, and THEIR obedience. But such loving, dedicated service is the message of Christ.
Every law and regulation in the new code should be examined from the viewpoint of: (1) Is it loving? Does it put anyone down? (2) Does it come from the heart of the people, or from an authority figure?
8.11 Biblical and Historical Instances of Consensus
Deuteronomy 1:12 describes church organization according to Moses. "'How can I alone bear the responsibility for settling your disputes? Choose some wise, understanding, and experienced people from each tribe, and I will put them in charge of you.' And you agreed that this was a good thing to do. So I took the wise and experienced leaders you chose from your tribes, and I placed them in charge of you. Some were responsible for a thousand people, some for one hundred, some for fifty, and some for ten. I also appointed other officials throughout the tribes. At that time I instructed them, 'Listen to the disputes that come up among your people. Judge every dispute fairly, whether it concerns only your own people or involves foreigners who live among you. Show no partiality in your decisions; judge everyone on the same basis, no matter who he is. Don't be afraid of anyone, for the decisions you make come from God.'" We have here an example of the quality circle, without the advantage of rotating leadership. However, the leaders are urged to exercise no partiality.
The New Testament relates consensus in the early church when Paul goes to Peter and confronts him face-to-face (Galatians 2:11-14) on a matter of church custom. Acts 1:15-26 describes an open meeting with the decision left to the Holy Spirit, rather than to a human opinion. When we get into the later books of the New Testament such as Timothy, we find a tilt to authority, and instructions on not listening to consensus. Gnosticism is creeping on the scene with strange new ideas, and there is a fear to listen in love, as there is a threat that the right to rule may be taken from one's hand. The author of Timothy trusts less to the Wisdom of God, than in his confidence in the man Timothy's ability to hold the fort. This authoritarianism is reflected in the description of the marvelous elder of I Timothy 3 who is without fault. Are there any men without fault? Are there any women without fault?
The churches in Revelation speak of possible consensus. The church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18) tolerates a certain woman, so at that time they were practicing freedom of expression. However, they are advised to be tolerant no longer. We do not know if they silenced the woman, and destroyed their quality circle.
Another purely historical example of the use of consensus was with Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage. Instead of using the terms collegiality and subsidiarity, Cyprian applied consilium and consensus, to both fellow priests and laity. Cyprian was not under obligation to follow the advice of these groups, but he evidently made it his policy to implement their considered judgments. When persecutions forced him into hiding, and he was therefore unable to consult with his constituents, he apologized for this deviation from the norm. Cyprian defined the church as consentientis populi corpus unum13 meaning one consentaneous body of people. He refused to act without the consensus of the people, as then the group would no longer be church, but a dominated and stratified assembly of disparate individuals. Under his guidance there was both a clerical and lay voice in the selection of bishops.14 Cyprian made a good start in the right direction, but later church fathers found the monarchical form of government easier to implement.
Revelation 21 tells us of the New Jerusalem, the perfected community, as opposed to the evil community of Babylon in Revelations 18. Thrown into the sea with evil Babylon are all the things that keep a community or humanity from realizing their full potential as loving brothers and sisters. These negatives might include selfish power, greedy luxury, refusal to see the needs of others, economic oppression of poorer neighbors, improper treatment of God's gift of sex, debasement of women, and not listening to the needs of others. On the contrary, the Holy Community dwells in harmonious consensus. God is in its midst, and its citizens are all rulers and thus equals. They walk actively in peace. The name Jerusalem means to tread in peace. Babylon who has been disposed of, takes her name from the confusion of tongues. No one can achieve consensus in her city limits, as consensus requires the ability of people to listen and to understand one another. One hopes that the code of canon law is urging humankind to tread in peace together. John Alesandro in his article, "The Revision of Canon Law," comments that canon lawyers can't get to basic meanings because of a language conflict which he terms Babelization.15 It is up to us, the loving community, to set this code in the proper city. New Jerusalem may or may not be an historical example of consensus as it is not yet a part of history. Perhaps New Jerusalem is not achievable; it may only be a goal after which humanity should strive. Then again, it may be a process with which we are presently working, the already here-and-now section of God's kingdom/queendom, God with us in the present, whenever we do things in a Christian manner.
8.12 Present Day Instances of Non-Consensus In The Church
If there were more consensus activity pervading all areas of the church, certain inconsistencies in church teaching might be more apparent. The South African Bishops took a commendable stand against apartheid in 1977. In their declaration they try to eradicate all possibilities of racial discrimination, such as suppressing "the customs still lingering in some places of having different sections of churches appropriated to different race groups." Women think immediately of the sexual discrimination legislated in our church against women on the altar. The anti-racial declaration goes on to desire "to do all in (its ) power to speed up the promotion of black persons to responsible and high positions in the church."16 Women know that the word person here does not refer to black women. Women are usually put in their place, and it's not a high or responsible place that they are put in!
The treatment of women is a blatant example of how lack of consensus can blind those in authority. We are told that leaders are drawn forth from the community to lift up the community. When the community is made up of both men and women, it is strange that only men are drawn forth to lead. Dentists are called forth from the community to serve the community. Teachers are called forth. So are firefighters. All of these can be of either sex, but when it comes to serving others as dispensers of religious tradition, some are excluded from this role, even though they are baptized members of the community and qualified with a theological education.
Setting up requirements for a standardized theological education is another example of church leaders exercising discrimination against applicants for the priesthood. If leaders are to be drawn from the community, they should come from both the educated and the uneducated. One might question here if it is wise to set up stratification in leadership with educational qualifications. Often the Holy Spirit is heard better from the lips of a child, than through the voluminous words of the authoritarian.
Other obvious examples of historical non-use of consensus in the Catholic church, are the disbelief in the knowledge of Copernicus and the tortures of the Inquisition. The church did not listen to the voice of its children, but assumed that an elite subset of celibate males had the total truth. We are deceived by this same belief today when we assume that an up-to-date theological education is necessary for a church leader. When we look at the havoc wrought by the Inquisitors, we might question that assumption. Is it wise to submit the Spirit filled minds of the loving community of people, to the iron rule of the wisdom of authoritative men, who feel they have captured the fullness of God in hearts that are just as self-centered as anyone else's? A celibate male trained to conform to the power structures of a church that does not listen to its heart, would need tremendous help from the Holy Spirit in order to know what would be the best actions and beliefs for a humble woman grounded in love for her family.
God loves us, and God gives each of us a model of God's loving care, that springs from out of the way we have been brought up, and which works for us. For example, some of us may work out of a guardian angel model, where a messenger of God has us in its special care, and takes the pressure off God. We feel that God must be terribly busy with important affairs like assisting presidents and holding up the earth, so as not to have any spare time to handle all the work of caring for the little people. Some find angels a concept that is too childlike and would rather picture God as total knowledge and love answering all the prayers for help directly through God's self. Some turn to the saints or to dead departed relatives that they feel are concerned with their needs. Others feel that God is available through a concerned community of the living. If a loving community gathers with a request for one of its members, then, they believe, God hears.
Giving God the right to change God's mind or to say no allows these models to work. God makes God's self available to God's beloved humanity. The mistake happens when one group of believers becomes elitist and thinks that another group is wrong. We must be loving and tolerant of other groups. The harm enters when we start referring to the other group as heretics when their model has been just as effective for them as ours has been for us. How can one group condemn another group of fellow humans beings who are equally in contact with the God who made us all? If we all listened to one another in consentaneous groups we would develop love and understanding for one another, that would keep us humble and non-elitist.
8.13 Necessity of Consensus for Action of The Holy Spirit
God's Spirit speaks most clearly through a loving and prayerful community. It may be true that the oracle of Delphi was a loner, and yet proclaimed the message of the gods. We do have our Padro Pio's and our Jeannie Dixon's. However, most of us are a little out of touch with truth and with God's reality, and we have had at least one Pope who at times was out of touch with even human reality. Thus it seems odd for the Vatican to insist that all religious are obliged to obey the Holy Father as their highest superior in virtue of the vow of obedience.17 Peter, who may or may not have been our first Pope, insisted that we ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). It wasn't just Peter, either; it was the other apostles in consensus with him! Jesus also tells us that where two or three are gathered in his name, inviting his Spirit, that he will be in the midst as advising love (Matthew 18:20). Nowhere does he assert that his friends and apostles are to obey fallible Peter as their highest superior. Obedience should be related to understanding the will of God as discovered in a consultative group of equals.
On the one hand we must respect the Spirit of God working in people, as we feel that God is in prayerful consensus. On the other hand, we must be wary of giving too much respect to individual wisdom, in calling any man father. Jesus gives this advice in Matthew 23:9. Do not relinquish your God-given freedom of reasoning before the authority of any human, who may well be working out his subconscious frustrations on your pliable id. Perhaps the code is implying that it's not the Pope that the vowed religious should be obedient to, but the consensus of the loving community, of which the Pope is a visible sign. This authority that the superior is to claim over the vowed religious, comes from God through the church or community, when the church or community have consentaneous beliefs and actions, and deliver them to the superior who is to act as spokesperson. Even the title of Superior is unchristian. Jesus said that in his community there should not be one person lording it over another as was customary with pagan government (Matthew 20:25-26). It would be much better to use the title of spokesperson rather than superior, and to have the position rotated frequently so that delusions of grandeur don't set in. A human being in authority often comes to believe that he/she merits that authority, and people set under that authority, often have a tendency to adulate the person who is merely representing the abilities vested in that office.
It is necessary for God's word in the community to be spoken to the community and to the individuals in that community. This word and the power to speak it, do not originate in the spokesperson, but this temporary facilitator in his capacity as server of others, should be able to relay the message to those who need it. If God truly lives and speaks in a community, it seems logical to consider the many opinions possible in the community, and not to relinquish all authority to a truncated section of it. A loving community should give listening room to all of its members. It also should make allowance for changes that take place over time, as often the Spirit speaks differently in a different age, or even only several years later, or the next day, depending on what sort of thinkers are included in your community group. Different people should be able to express individual feelings on topics under consideration. With many viewpoints there would be a fuller picture containing more opportunity for truer input from the Holy Spirit.
The Baha'is have thought about this community process, and have come up with a form of governing called Consultation.18 In Consultation "there are two important factors which Baha'is must always remember. First, that every individual has the right to self-expression: he is free to declare his conscience and give his personal opinions. Second, that once he has expressed his views, he must not dogmatically cling to them with utter disregard for other people's opinions. He should always be prepared to look into ideas advanced by others and consult with them on every matter in a spirit of sincere fellowship. When the principle of consultation is carried out in an Assembly, the decision arrived at is usually very different and far better than anything the individual members first had in mind when they started their discussions."
The Baha'is emphasize the need for love and understanding among members, and the necessity to pray for help from The Realm of Glory. Discussions are to be confined to spiritual matters that have to do with "the training of souls, the instruction of children, the relief of the poor, the help of the feeble throughout all classes in the world", and other matters that concern the proper caring for God's gift of the earth.19
Unfortunately the Baha'is don't go far enough in their consideration of minority viewpoints. When they come to a time consuming disagreement, they yield to the voice of the majority. "If (a unanimous decision) does not happen, the vote of the majority becomes the decision of the Assembly."20 It is easy to see that a church schism might result with the minority group leaving to form a new community. If you close off discussion with even one group member, you limit the full disclosure of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church closes off discussion with more than fifty percent of its members. It does not consult with women, children, and a majority of its men. I am convinced that what the Holy Spirit wants to say through this unconsulted group, is of vast importance to the human race.
8.14 New Code of Canon Law Contains a Vision for The Future
When arguing for consensus, and against monarchical authority of the Pope or of a religious superior, we must keep in mind that the Code of Canon Law is not a dead weight. It has a positive thrust. It is a document in which change is expected. It is a document whose purpose is to enhance love in the community. Like your average person, it is far from perfect, but hopefully headed in the right direction. A person is considered to have a good fundamental option or purpose in life, when that person opts for Jesus or decides to act responsibly in love. You might say that the hope or option of the code is that the monarchical authority of the past will be replaced by a genuine collaboration,21 collaboration which does not entail token collegiality or gently degrading subsidiarity. The code looks into the future and envisions a unity in a diversity that is represented by both male and female, lay and cleric, in every aspect of church structure.
We apologize for limiting this critique to the Catholic construction. Other churches may have an equally well designed format to guide their organization, or one that encourages even better community, yet we are not acquainted with these other groups. It is necessary for us to speak out of the culture in which we are immersed. We are actually very pleased with the broadness of the rules and regulations that direct the Catholic Church, and also with the broadness available in their interpretation. We see possibilities in these guidelines to enhance the flows of life and love and to change the course of the world.