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The Throne of God
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The Christian Sun God
Revelation (Ch.4 v.2-7 ) is accurately translated by the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) :
This is not a portrait of Jehovah (Yahweh), Elohim, another Old Testament name for Jehovah, or the Father of the Gospels, though it is a portrait very much in the centre of that Tradition, going back to Ezekiel. The same tradition honoured by Islam.
This may have been prompted by the developing theology of the Trinity which requires the recognition of a transcendent deity to unify the Three Persons, above and beyond the Old Testament Jehovah. After all, the Trinity is not ‘Three in One of those Three’, an idea which caused Isaac Newton’s logical mind a great deal of objection, almost ruining his career.
Ultimately this divine Spirit of God is beyond duality, male and female, good and evil, these temporal, temporary masks.
One of the great Kabbalists, Moses Cordovero, who lived in Palestine after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 : ‘ Do not say "This is a stone and not God." God forbid! Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.’
The Kabbalah, the Tradition, of the Tree of Life, on which the essence of the Old Testament is based, recognises the Spirit of ‘Ain Soph’ as the ultimate Spirit of holiness in the universe. Not ultimately a personal God, with a long white beard or other obvious human characteristics. Though humanity may carry the imprint of its Creator, the imprint of the Tree.
Ain Soph, ‘Infinite,’ ‘Without Limit,’ is the Spirit from which everything has come and which lies within, throughout Creation. It is finally indefinable, beyond comprehension yet all Creation is it’s testament, its manifestation and all lesser spirits as well as all material things come from it and remain part of it. Moses Cordovero compared it to water which may appear different in different coloured glass vessels, yet remains ever the same. So Ain Soph manifests through all Creation. The common Spirit of life apparent beyond the surface appearances.
A Buddhist sage defined this ultimate reality only in the negative to convey this ‘beyond ’ concept, “Neti, neti.” “Not this, not this.” Equally, contradicting, Moses Cordovero is right in saying, ‘No, do not look for God beyond Creation.’ God is manifest in every cell, the oldest cold stone. There is nothing that is not God. Not just the spirit within but the outer form too : metaphysically the earth spirit as well as the quintessential ether. God is male. God is female. God is both. God is Good. God is even evil. Whatever we can say of God is true, except, perhaps, that the One is limited by any of our definitions, that any definition excludes further definition. Of course this means God is also strictly limited and definable as He has been in practice for millennia for millions.
God is Love
The Spirit of the Sun is the most potent, plenipotentiary, ambassador for our little world of that vast Spirit from which the universe continues to be created, directed and sustained. (Just as the Sun is the Creator for us physically.) This is the One spirit which created and rules our world and our hearts. Within us all, the still, small voice of our unconscious, better selves. We can listen or ignore all too easily. Above and beyond us all, everything, seeing all, knowing all, all powerful.
It is said that the Christian God is Love. Love expresses the active principle of life. As the different parts of the body co-operate and support one another because of their mutual dependence, the stomach giving selflessly from its store, the lungs its air, each confident it will receive in return the blood, the bacteria, the nourishment, and perhaps the joy in life it requires to survive. Each part rejoices in the well being of the others because their inextricable dependency and harmony is obvious.
We may not always recognise the exquisite harmony with which all creation is intrinsically linked in a mutually supportive and dependent harmony but most of those who study nature continually reaffirm this is so. Just as spiritualists and poets affirm that every life lost diminishes us too, every flower unseen, across continents, enriches our lives.
If we understand the same spirit that sustains or destroys the rainforest in the Amazon, sustains or destroys the little copse of woodland at the bottom of our favourite country lane, we begin to glimpse the interdependence of all life in our global village. With God within, we too see the meanest sparrow fall, albeit unconsciously.
Before World War II we could talk indifferently of a far-away country called Czechoslovakia. Now millions worldwide take to the streets to defend the people of Iraq. We care much more than our forefathers would have dreamed possible. Yet we have barely begun to discover the love that lies deep inside : the realisation that we are all One, no man is an island, we are bound by a common life. We are bound in love, the common bond of life. Hate is the fury of frustrated love, when we cannot manage this love, the daily difficulty of living with differences, not properly understanding.
As the impossible opposites, man and woman, can be reconciled in the ultimate unity of love, so all opposites can compliment and enrich us. Humanity was born for problem solving. Reconciliation.
The Cross models the conflict, the opposition of the four elements : water, our emotions; air, our rational thoughts; earth, our physical needs and common sense and fire, our instinct for action. All united in the centre, our heart, our immortal spirit, which sees these as dream delusions in the awakened day of ageless eternity : ‘Of course it’s all alright.’
This is the Christian ideal of the reconciliation of the opposites in love,
‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
When Jesus is asked, ‘Who is my neighbour ?’ the parable of the Good Samaritan paints the portrait of a pariah of a hated faith who saves his oppressor.
This astrological symbolism is copied from Ezekiel (Ch.1 v.5-10 ) where the four figures each has these four faces, rather like Brahma. In Egyptian funerary texts, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, we find the throne of God attended by figures with a lion’s face and the hooves of a bull, an extraordinarily close parallel. Except that Egypt was the next-door neighbour, there is only One God for all of us and the metaphysics of astrology and the Tree of Life were universal.
The early Church Fathers assigned these four mythical beasts to the four Evangelists and the four Gospels but there is less agreement which is which. Mostly Mark is assigned the lion, Luke the bull, and Matthew and John variously the man and the eagle. Never on very convincing grounds. This uncertainty subtly suggests the early Church Fathers did not ultimately understand this astrological, Kabbalistic symbolism. They did not really understand the metaphysics behind their faith. We should not be surprised, therefore, if the theology they have produced is not always in accord with the metaphysical truths on which it finally depends.
It is unlikely the Gospels were deliberately written in this way. Rather, when the Church found itself with four officially recognised Gospels with four different views, they brilliantly dignified these differences with the symbolism of an astrological attribution. In the same way people see things differently according to the different elements animating us. These differences should be celebrated and respected, as we celebrate the ultimate conflict of the Cross. (This principle of recognising four different, often contradictory, views is behind the modern masterpieces of T.S. Eliot and Lawrence Durrell, Four Quartets and The Alexandrian Quartet.)
John’s Gospel may suggest a vision coloured by the spirit of the Water Carrier. The Gospel famously opens with the apparent definition of Christ as the Logos, ‘the Word,’ the spirit of Wisdom on the Tree of Life, the spirit of Uranus and Aquarius. Far from the nature of the Pisces Messiah, the Fish, the true vine and sacrificial Lamb. This view is construed through Aquarian spectacles and will continue to confuse. Yet it helpfully embeds hermetic definitions.
The twenty-four elders, quoted in the opening, emphasise the usual rule of twelve, the zodiac signs, the basis of the Kabbalah of the Tree of Life, as for Judas and the Twelve Apostles and the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The elders have been linked to the twenty-four orders of priest in I Chron. 24. These are clearly mirrored by the twenty-four orders of cantors in the next chapter, 25, where the rule of twelve is further emphasised : each cantor is one of a family of twelve !
The significance of the four around the One is explored further in relation to Brahma.
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