A NEW DAY
© 2010, Dr. Laurence H. Kant
Essay for the Evolutionary Envisioning Circle of the Annual Great Mother Celebration, September, 2010
A new day emerges, as so many have in millennia past. Once, after we foraged and gathered, we became hunters. Once, after we hunted, we became farmers and shepherds. Once, after we lived in villages and small enclaves, we became city dwellers. Once, after priests and kings ruled, leaders came from the people. Once we did not know what was on the other side of the ocean; now we can not only travel there by boat or jet, but we can be virtually present on other continents when we’re secure at home half a world away. Once we thought that mass violence and genocide were normal; now we don’t. Once we did not even have a word for genocide; now we do.
Each time we move a few steps closer to the land of Eden, where, amidst friendship, dance, love-making, study, and work, we will dine again with God, the Source of All That Is. The sparks of fire that scattered at creation slowly come together to create a flame that lights our world in times of dissolution and chaos. We move from confusion toward knowledge, from fear toward courage, from despair toward hope, from separation toward unity, from pieces toward wholes.
What is wholeness? In Hebrew and Arabic, shalom/salaam connects to a Semitic root that means “whole” and “complete.” Some say “peace,” but that’s only part of the story. In its mystical sense, shalom/salaam really means interconnected oneness. It is that place where difference and oneness coexist, where each being finds its own unique purpose and self-expression as part of one planetary tableau, one eternal poem, one cosmic body, one collective consciousness, one Source.
During the shift, the ego (the I) recedes, and the authentic person emerges from its mother’s womb. The true self, the person You truly are, takes its place in the chariot palace, near the blazing wings of the multi-headed cherubim and the flashing heat of the serpentine seraphim. There it dines with other new-born true selves to seek wisdom in the new Temple of Knowledge and Love. Feminine and masculine energies, whose significance we assumed we understood, reveal unexpected meanings to thinking bodies and heart-filled minds. Days of pleasure and collective communing finally allow a slumbering species to shed its ego hide and put on a healing garment of shared awareness.
What will wholeness mean for evolving human culture? “Conformity” means a mass of individuals forming a collective mega ego (an I). Genuine “community” means a critical mass of individuals building a whole that transcends the individual egos and creates a collective Higher Self.
The events we see on our television sets and computer monitors—boiling, jittery delirium and tumult accompanied by earth’s eruptions, swirling storms, and disappearing ice—signal a shift from one age to the next. There will be many more such shifts in the future. But, for now, at this moment, our twenty-five-hundred-year sojourn at the inn of familiar habits, nations, and institutions has ended. Dying structures make way for new. Another day of travelling begins toward another inn on the road circling back and forward from and toward Eden. Here, in another time long, long ahead, we will be able to eat of both trees—of life and knowledge—but with experience enough to do so as humble partners of the Source, adult co-creators, sharing in the miraculous birthing of new worlds.
Instead of using a word for “God,” perhaps we should simply form an out breath–a glottal stop, like the Hebrew letter, “alef.” When you want to say “God,” just speak with an exhalation.
These are examples of my new translations of two small portions of Genesis: © 2007 Laurence H. Kant: http://mysticscholar.org/talkspubs/translations-of-genesis/
Because of the anthropomorphic connotations of the English words, “God” and “Lord,” because of the human tendency to use “God” as a thing or object (thereby objectifying “God”), and because of their inherently gendered meanings (”Lord” as opposed to “Lady” and “God” as opposed to “Goddess”), these words have too much baggage to use in current translations of the Hebrew Bible. Therefore, I often replace “God” with “THE ALL” and “LORD GOD” with “ALL THAT IS.” For “LORD,” I simply use “SOURCE.” This will no doubt prove strange for many readers, but de-familiarization is part of the process of reacquainting oneself with the deeper meanings of the biblical text. These translations also have the advantage of preserving the actual significance of the Hebrew words which have become ossified in English (and other modern languages) translations and consequently lost their original meanings.
YHWH comes from the Hebrew word, “to be” (hayah), and is explicitly associated with being, becoming, existence, etc. By using a verb to describe the Divine, early Jewish writers imply that the Divine is fundamentally not an object or a thing, but rather that it is relational in nature. One might describe it as “energy,” because it is a force, not an object. The English word, “Lord,” reflects the Hebrew vowel pointing of YHWH as adonai (a – o – ai), used by Jews from antiquity to the present day to avoid saying the Divine name. There are other circumlocutions used by Jews to avoid saying the Divine name: e.g. “the name” ( hashem) and “the place” (hamaqom). By using “SOURCE” or “ALL THAT IS,” I maintain the original meaning of the word without using the Divine name.
Elohim is the word that normally translates “God” (from El, the chief deity of the Ugaritic pantheon), but it is a plural form that naturally implies a multiplicity of deities. In the Hebrew Bible, it normally indicates the deity of the Jewish people: the One God, the Eternal. Occasionally it directly indicates more than one god (such as in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22), but even there the notion of oneness persists. As a plural form, Elohim suggests that one cannot limit the Divine to a single thing (which a singular form would connote) and actually implies that the Divine is so all-encompassing that no thing falls outside of its compass. Elohim means unity. From a metaphorical perspective, one might see the Divine as a choir rather than a soloist; here the many become one. This is why the term, “monotheism” (which implies singularity rather than oneness or unity) is inadequate for describing the Jewish and Christian concepts of Divinity. “THE ALL” preserves the all-encompassing character, relationality, unity, and oneness of the Divine.
See how I do this in “translations of Genesis by larry” in “about mystic scholar”: http://mysticscholar.org/about-mystic-scholar/translations-of-genesis-by-larry/
By Laurence H. Kant
1) “Some Restorative Thoughts on an Agonizing Text: Abraham’s Binding of Isaac and the Horror on Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22)”: “Part 1,” Lexington Theological Quarterly 38 (2003) 77-109; “Part 2” Lexington Theological Quarterly 38 (2003) 161-94
2) “Arguing with God and Tiqqun Olam: A Response to Andre LaCocque on the Aqedah,” Lexington Theological Quarterly 40 (2005) 203-19 (this was a response to an article by André Lacocque, “About the ‘Akedah’ in Genesis 22: A Response to Laurence H. Kant,” Lexington Theological Quarterly 40 (2005) 191-201)
Jewish tradition says that every part of our body corresponds to a mitzvah (a commandment). So, when our body is in proper attunement, we will then feel the presence of the Source and act accordingly.
The last letter of the very first word in Leviticus (vayiqra’–“and the Source called”) in the traditional Hebrew text ends with an extra small “aleph.” The rabbis interpreted this to refer to Moses’ humility. Another interpretation: It refers to the silent voice that spoke to Moses, not through his ears, but through his heart and mind.
(The letter, “Aleph,” is silent in Hebrew)
This is fun and probably represents the real heath impact of Coke: What happens when you read from right to left.
I will be what I will be (ehyeh asher ehyeh): the Source cannot be fully understood (Ex 3.14).
Often translated “wind” or “spirit”, ruach in Genesis 1:2 refers to the underlying force of existence and the universe: ” “Energy.” It’s gender is feminine and is frequently understood in Jewish tradition (especially mysticism) as a feminine counterpart to a more masculine organizing creator. Whether or not these gender connotations are useful or accurate in some way, they offer a picturesque and poetic way of describing the ultimate.
Ruach is pregnant energy, partner of the Source in creation (Gen 1.2).
”Aleph” is a soundless Hebrew consonant. Perhaps it preceded Genesis 1:1, which is when the Kabbalists believed creation actually began–in silence before the light was scattered. The Bible actually begins with a “bet,” which is our “b” sound–the pressing and parting of lips.
Aleph-Beth (A-B): That’s how creation began. First breath,then the kiss of lips in voice, finally the universe.
Torah, which means “teaching” in Hebrew refers to (1) the first five books of the Bible, (2) the entire Bible; and (3) the whole of Jewish interpretive tradition, including the written Bible, the oral teachings, and various writings such as midrash Interpretations of biblical stories) and responsa (legal interpretations).
Recently Oxford University Press published a book, which looks of great interest. Though I have not yet read it and cannot vouch for it, the author presents a thesis that alerts us all (scholars and lay both) to the proverbial elephant in the room: B. Barry Levy, Fixing God’s Torah: The Accuracy of the Hebrew Bible Text in Jewish Law (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). For text critics (those who work with the original manuscripts) and those who read them, knowledge of the biblical text’s fluidity comes as no surprise. From biblical versions found at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) and from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), from the second century BCE to the first century CE, we know that the biblical text varied from source to source. Yet, most of us still work and study “as if” the Masoretes got it absolutely right in the Middle Ages: we have the correct text. Now Barry Levy apparently shows that the rabbis of antiquity did not even agree on the notion of an immutable text and recognized the need to “correct” the text. He provides a plethora of evidence. Wow. That’s kind of an earthquake. Even the very traditional rabbinic tradition seemingly acknowledged that the text of the Torah was not permanently fixed. Should provide for lots of lively discussion.
The name of God in Hebrew is yod-heh-waw-heh, with no vowel points, i.e. the Tetragrammaton (“four letters”). Originally, that word would have had vowel points, but we don’t know what they are for sure. In order to avoid saying the name of God, the Jews of antiquity changed the vowel points and said “adonai” (“Lord”) instead. Now we have others who simply say “ha-Shem” (“the name”) which makes sense because yod-heh-waw-heh is in fact the name of God. But the name of “God” for Jews is “yod-heh-waw-heh,” not “God.” The word for “God” in Hebrew is “Elohim.” Thus: “Elohim” = the concept of God; “yod-heh-waw-heh” = the name of God. Some have started to spell the word, “God” in the form of “G-d,” equating this with the Hebrew. This is English, however, and “God” is not a Hebrew word. There is no need to use the spelling, “G-d,” which in fact communicates the misimpression that “God” is also a Jewish name–it’s not. The name of God is and has always been “yod-heh-waw-heh.” The word, “God” is not the equivalent of “yod-heh-waw-heh,” but rather “Elohim.” In my opinion, “G-d” is a misnomer.
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