Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What Does it Really Mean to Repent?

The Baptism of Christ by Francesco Francia 1509
“Repent,” “turn,” “stop sinning,” “ask God for forgiveness,” is the clarion call from pulpits all over the world. Is it clear what we should actually do? This preaching comes from these Bible texts:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:2 and “‘From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17
“but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." Luke 13:3
What are we to make of this today? What does it actually mean to repent? Don’t we need to know what it means if we are to do it? In fact, we could even ask what it means to be good, i.e. not sin. We can only find some real answers to these questions if we first consider human consciousness, and assess how conscious our mind is.
We also need to consider the ways in which human awareness changes over time; the way we use our mind evolves and our consciousness becomes increasingly individualized. If we accept this, it means we are thinking for ourselves much more than we ever did, just as a child does as it matures. Unless we understand the way in which our consciousness - our mind and awareness - changes we can’t begin to fully understand the Bible, especially words like repent and sin.
Observing the way our consciousness changes as we age is a good way of grasping the idea of changing human consciousness. We also know that we think differently from our grandparents and even our parents. Apart from this difference between generations, there is another important way to look at changes in consciousness. If human consciousness changes over thousands of years, couldn’t we compare this with the way it changes in one human being during their lifetime. For example, we could say that if primitive man thought like a 10 year old, then at present, by comparison, we now think like a 35 year old.
If this were the case, it would mean that when the New Testament was written people’s thought processes were less mature than ours are today. This might lead us to question, as many people do, the relevance of the Bible for us today. The question that arose for me personally was whether the Bible was written for a certain kind of consciousness or whether it can be applied across time and still be relevant - particularly when I came across certain words like repent and sin, among others.
I have been writing reflections on the Bible since 2003 and have studied it since 1983, which has led me to see the Bible as a map of developing human consciousness. I have found many examples of this over the years as I looked at the original Greek meaning of words, and it amazes me how pertinent these ideas are for us in the 21st Century as we move from local to global interactions. I see how our expanding awareness means that we have to think differently on many levels. At the same time, many people seem to live their lives unconsciously even though they have the opportunity to be more conscious than ever before. It is time for all of us to wake up!
What does this have to do with repenting? Just as we re-engineer the work place to accommodate the changing ways we do business, so we must also re-engineer our mind. As Einstein famously said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Furthermore, when we start to understand how our consciousness can change, that in itself changes it! It is as if we put a magnifying glass to our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
We also know that the pace of change is quickening. Just as technology always needs updating, so do our patterns of thinking and ways of living. I can see that the human race has reached a point of intensity in its development in which we are asked to repent. It happened two thousand years ago, and it is happening now. It could even be a perpetual thing.
So, what does it mean to repent? This word means something quite different from the way we use it today. It isn’t about being sorry or regretful, and it certainly isn’t about asking for forgiveness; it could be about changing our mind, but how?
In the Greek language, the word repent is metanoia which literally means ‘to perceive afterwards’. It implies that we can see the consequences of our actions before we act. We could call it foresight although it is more than that. It is about placing ourselves in the future and consciously experiencing firsthand the effects of, not only our actions, but also our thoughts, and feelings.
Repent means to be very observant, acutely aware. This level of awareness applies to our speech, our emotions, and our intentions. It means that we accept a new level of responsibility. Each day the news reveals how many people do not consider the consequences of their actions before they act. They feel free to express themselves without concern about the effects of their words and emotions on others.
To see ‘in real time’ the affect we have on the future changes everything about us. This is what it means to repent.

First published on Huffington Post

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Bible Unlocked

Sacred texts intrigue me and although they can be difficult to read, I often find little gems that shine like diamonds in my mind. It is as if they have the power of a seed to sprout over time, tickling my brain with a new thought. We can find inspiration in any of these ancient books; The Bhagavad Gita, The Vedas, The Tanach, The Quran or The Bible.
It may have escaped our attention that we are now free to read any of these books. Previously it would have been necessary to be a devotee of a particular faith before we could have access to its sacred texts. Not only that, only a few hundred years ago not many people could read, but also, only the religious leaders were allowed to read these sacred texts to their followers according to certain guidelines.
Today, many sacred texts are freely available on The Sacred Text Archive
The question then arises about how we can understand these texts. This has been my mission for over thirty years. My biography explains my journey. Beginning on New Year’s day in 2003 I first began writing about hidden meanings in the Bible. These hidden meanings are not associated with any religious philosophies; they apply across the board and appeal to many kinds of readers.
I would like to take you on a journey through the Bible, mostly the New Testament, to show you how it can make sense to our modern outlook. I will start by explaining how some of the words translated into English lose their true meaning. I will also introduce some ideas about the makeup of the human being which are necessary if we are to make full sense of what the Bible actually means.
Take this text for instance.
“May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit (pneuma) and soul (psuche) and body (soma) be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Th 5:23
Why would St Paul bother describing us human beings in this way? Never mind what he meant by “kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I will come to that because it doesn’t mean what we think it does).
One of the first hurdles to overcome when reading the Bible is our understanding of the nature of the human being which is usually limited to its physical substance of flesh and blood. A closer look at human nature reveals three different human characteristics; body, soul and spirit, each of which expresses itself differently.
If we think about ourselves and how we function in the world, we know that we are beings who think ideas; have sensations, feelings, and emotions; and we act according to how we think and feel. It is these three essential human faculties; feeling, thinking and acting, that we need to be more conscious of. They are tangible; we experience them every moment of each day. Not only that, each of these three faculties is linked to our body, soul and spirit.
Psuche, from which we have the word psychology, can be translated in the Bible as heart, life, mind or soul, and refers to our soul which gives us our capacity to feeling and sense things. Pneuma can be translated as breath, life, spirit or wind, it is our spiritual nature associated with our ability to think, it is suggestive of thoughts that can blow through our mind. Our body, which is the earthly vehicle of the soul and spirit, in Greek is soma, the centre of human activity and mobility, which we can identify with the human will.
In 2 Corinthians we can see how these bodies are referred to in other ways. It is interesting to note that without our spiritual body we are naked, which is a direct reference to events in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve saw that they were naked.
“For we know that if the earthly tent [physical body] we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God [spiritual body], a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed” 2 Cor 5:1-4
Finally, the words from Thessalonians 1 5:23, “kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” have a very specific meaning, which in broad terms refers to the work we must do to become aware of our full human potential. The word sound is tereo which means to watch, observe, become conscious of. What are we to become conscious of? Ourselves as beings of body, soul and spirit.
Blameless is amemptos, which means perfect, without fault and is a direct reference to our values and motives. Are our actions motivated to benefit ourselves, or for the benefit of everyone? This text is really saying become conscious with good values and motives.
It is surprising to notice how we change when we consider these small things about ourselves. I welcome any comments and experiences that arise for you as you consider these thoughts.
First published on Huffington Post