Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 7/29 Post

Thanks, Mike. A couple of quick comments before getting to “the children of God” idea.

First, as you well know, I tend to be very broad brush in my thinking, and you are of course right to bring up pathological violence and irrational violence. There will always be violent people who suffer from illnesses that cannot be cured or controlled, and who must be put away for their sake and ours.

Second, thanks for bringing up the order of repair. In Hebrew these two efforts are called tikkun and teshuvah, repair and return. Do I repair the world with godliness, and then return to my true nature as a manifestation of God? Or do I return to God first, and then engage the world with godliness? The fact is tikkun and teshuvah are different ends of the same pole. You may start toward one side or the other but in the end the whole pole is engaged.

Lastly, I appreciate your definition of unity as “becoming aligned with God's nature and purpose.” While we differ subtly on this point, we end up in the same place regarding action.

So, on to my thoughts on the “children of God.”

I take my starting point from Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE-50 BCE), the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who read the Torah with an allegorical eye. In his work, Confusion of Languages (28, M. i. 426) he defines “Children of God” as referring to all those “who have real knowledge of the one Father of all.”

The rabbis, and perhaps Philo himself, understood this as a kind of knowledge as Imitatio Dei, Imitation of God: to know God is to do godly. This they linked to Leviticus 19:2 where God says to Israel, “Be holy as I, YHVH, am holy.” This is God’s correction to the serpent’s distorted promise in the Garden of Eden that “you shall be as gods,” (Genesis 3:5). The serpent’s view leads to the alienated god-playing ego. God’s version leads to the peacemaking and fearless Child of God.

To be holy as God is holy implies that humanity and God share a common essence. Just as Jesus is fully human and fully divine, so each of us is fully human and fully divine. This is like an ocean wave being fully a wave and fully the ocean. It is not that the wave includes all of the ocean, but that the ocean includes all of the wave.

When we realize that God embraces and transcends all things, we realize that all things, without giving up their uniqueness, are yet part of the One Thing, God. In short we realize that “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30).

This makes perfect sense to me. The previous Beatitude spoke of the “pure in heart” as those who “see God.” Being “pure in heart” means being transparent, allowing the Light of God to shine through us as us. When we see this, we are free from fear, free to make peace, and free to reveal the good news that wholeness, not fragmentation, is the true nature of reality.

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