Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Seeing God

I have been reading The Hidden Gospel by Neil Douglas-Klotz, Ph.D. (Theosophical Publishing House, 1999), which is about understanding the teachings of Jesus as they might have been understood by someone who heard them in Aramaic, which was the language spoken by Jesus. I will be writing more about this book later, but a few explanations are needed now.

The author does not claim to know exactly what words Jesus used in Aramaic, because the oldest manuscripts of the Gospels are in Greek. There is a very old version of the Gospels in Aramaic, but most Western scholars believe that it is a translation into Aramaic from Greek, rather than a version of the Gospels that pre-dates the Greek versions. The author therefore uses the Aramaic Gospels to explore possible different understandings of what Jesus taught, and makes no claims about what Jesus "really" said or meant.

I had only reached the second chapter of the book when a translation at the beginning of the chapter stopped me in my tracks. The Beatitude that is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," (Matt. 5:8) was translated from Aramaic into English as "Ripe are the consistent in heart; they shall see Sacred Unity everywhere."

The KJV version is mystical and to me, largely incomprehensible, even though it is familiar. The Aramaic version somehow had instant meaning for me, even though it was unfamiliar.

I had already read that the Aramaic word for "ripe" also meant "good" and "ready." The phrases "consistent in heart" and "see Sacred Unity everywhere" reminded me of an experience from several years ago that profoundly affected my view of the world. As I explained in a much earlier entry, on "Holiness," I once did an exercise in silently blessing those I encountered during the day, and as a result I began to see those I blessed (and myself) differently. Remembering that experience as I read the phrase "consistent in heart," I realized how important it was for me to bless everyone, without any judgment about them In that consistent view of those around me, I saw what I would now (as a Quaker) call "the light within." By consistently viewing all of those around me as blessed children of God, I had "ripened" and come closer to seeing God (the "Sacred Unity") itself.

It may seem like a self-fulfiling exercise, but my experience has been that, if you consistently look for that of God in everyone, you will see God in everyone, and will see that which unites us rather than what divide us.