December 5th, 2008

Generic Meditation Issues: Scripture

Western religions share another characteristic beside monotheism; they all place an inordinant importance on their "holy books."
If something is unreasonable, illogical, or even immoral and its in the book, it is ok or even required.  Eastern religions have their sacred texts as well, the Vedas, the Upanishads, Tripitaka, the Tao te Ching, the Analects come quickly to mind.  But these books do not seem to have the same hold over adherents of their respective religions as the Torah, Bible, and Qoran have over Jews, Christians and Moslems..  (I have no personal knowledge of the Avesta or the Granth and their readers)  These texts have mindblowing ideas beautifully phrased, but they also contain material that is ridiculous and dangerous.  If they are all "the word of God" then who am I to try to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

When the lector reads a particularly obnoxious reading and concludes, "This is the word of the Lord,"  my mind jumps from devotional (or whatever other state it is in) to argumentative.  I do not wish to give my mental consent to myths without a clear understanding that I am consenting to legend rather than history or mystery.

Of course this is my problem, not the Bible's, nor the Pastor's, nor the believers.  Scripture is scripture because somewhere, someone found these words to be inspired by what they believed to be the spirit of God.  I should listen to what the reading has to say to me spiritually and morally; higher criticism belongs outside the sanctuary,

 The Quran is only scripture when it is in Arabic; so called translations into other languages are actually interpretations or commentaries.  All Moslems, I think, are able to read and speak Arabic well enough to recite the Quran.  I was able to complete training for the Methodist ministry without learning any Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.  My Bible was a collection of English translations (Wycliffe, King James, Rheims Douay, Revised Standard, Goodspeed, Phillips,. and Jerusalem)  I have no idea what the words I am reading would have meant to a 9th century bc Judean or a 1st century ad Greek.  Yet billions of people, no better informed than I am, think they are reading the "word of God."  But. hey, maybe they are.

Contemplatives and mystics make surprising little use of the scripture of their religion in their meditation.  When they do, their choice of scripture is often a little deviant.  (For John of the Cross it was the Song of Solomon).  This is not surprising, because the mystical path is different from either the Institutional Church or the Prophetic Sect, and will not necessarily rely on the same tools

When I read or listen to scripture,. I will try to apply the following strategy.  This is not supposed to be a lesson in history or science.  Is there anything here that I can use in a positive way?  If I am in disagreement is this real doubt or just some ego tripping.  I will take what I need and leave the rest for those who needed that..