W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming:Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
October 10, 2023
Day 4—I woke up at 3am with my heart and mind on Israel. I am following i24News, which I highly recommend (internet or YT)—it is fair, balanced, and reliable. The first story I watched was of the report of over 100 bodies recovered from Kibbutz Be’eri…and scores from Kfar Aza–both including many babies. They are just now this morning going through all the kibbutzim and towns that were ravaged on Saturday. I am filled with fury, sadness, love, and stunned silence. The Hamas charter is almost identical to Isis in its goals for the Middle East and the world…these horrors have nothing to do with the rights of Arabs living on the West side of the Jordan. It is about human rights, freedom, democracy, and decency.
The horrors unfolding this weekend are unspeakable. Many write of behaving like “animals” but we need another category. Those animals who kill almost always do it for food, except in cases of social or individual anomalies…and many “do no harm” to other creatures at all. In Hebrew a good term is אֲנָשִׁ֣ים רֵיקִ֔ים–lit. “empty people.” I think the venerable KJV used “worthless fellows,” which also fits, but does not pick up on the sadistic evil.
I believe this is the Valley of Decision for our world—people, groups, religious communities, and nations are being separated. Russian, Iran, North Korea, China and others—of varying degree of culpability—plus each and every person who learns what is happening, is being judged…
I wish peace to all humans of good will…always–as all good people do. But we all know we live in a world “outside the Gates of Eden” (thanks Bobby Z), with that horrible mix of “the good, the bad,”–and yes, let’s add “the ugly,” (thanks Clint Eastwood).
My life has come to a halt this week. I am not posting videos on YT, blog posts, or anything else–I don’t have the presence of mind right now. I am following the news and unfolding events. I am closely connected to several of the dead—and one of the abductees–and since Israel is such a tight knight country, from those I know I am immediately told of untold others that those friends are connected to. I lived through 1967 and 1973—and two intifadas and five Gaza attacks—with 73 trips to the Holy Land, sometimes staying for two or three months. I know and love Jews, Christians, and Muslims…but I tell you this is different. It is a watershed. We are back to 1936…and the nations are being weighed in the balance.
There are countless dichotomies of the human species collectively called Homo Sapiens–or if you prefer Homo Stultus.
Good and Evil; Strong and Weak; Smart and Stupid; Male and Female; Poor and Rich, and on and on it goes…
The one that I think most defines and separates us all:
“What’s it all about–Alfie Types” and “I never really think about it Types”
If you don’t get the Alfie part ignore–it’s from a movie . . .but in my limited observation of individuals this dichotomy might be the most crucial. I would not venture to even guess about percentages–and some might exhibit one type and end up another, in either direction, over the years. Taking up the Quest or Giving it up out of disappointment. I have been on the Alfie path for as long as I can remember, discouraged at times, but never for a moment able to forget the Big Question…in which the very asking puts you on one side of humanity or the other.
The Whole is more than the sum of its parts, but it can not be less than any one “part.”
When I speak of God, that word means to me the unseen force of all forces that drives this universe and cosmos of which we are cognizant and makes you and me the creatures we are with all the mystical existence we know and enjoy upon this earth.
Jack Pyle, personal letter reflecting on our “Closer to Truth” conversations
It’s easy to confuse a soulmate with a mirror.
On the jagged edge of the world I’ll roam, and the realm of the wolf shall be my home.
The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.
The past is hard to face sometimes. Time moves us ever forward. Consequences remain. Maybe we should all be judged by what we do today.
I am really looking forward to this new series on Youtube.
Please like and share this short introductory video, as I think many others will want to follow these studies. Here is the link for a PDF of article I mention in the video that I am asking you all to at least begin reading. Enjoy!! “What the Bible Really Says About Death, Afterlife, and the Future,” in What the Bible Really Says, edited by Morton Smith and Joseph Hoffmann (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989 (Harper & Row paperback, 1990), pp. 33-51.
Most forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–not to mention more “eastern” modes of thinking, have gone down this path pretty much wholesale–that this earth is not our Home–a kind of alienation from the world. Salvation is beyond. I call this the “bad” idea that took over the world. I prefer Robert Frost’s line Birches: The earth’s the right place to be; I don’t know where its likely to go better…”
Please subscribe to my Youtube Channel if this looks interesting to you. I have uploaded nearly 200 videos since I began last year–with much more to come.
This video lecture that I did in 2015 covers some of the most basic presupposition of an upcoming series I am doing on Youtube on “Death, Afterlife, and the Future” in the ancient Western world. See what you think. I am convinced that the core idea has permeated every facet of our culture–religious as well as philosophical. It is like it is in our mother’s milk.
Thirty years ago…Some of my readers remember, others were not old enough, but heard from parents, and some not even born–like many of my students in their 20s. I asked an undergrad class of 70 last year–Who has heard of Waco, the Branch Davidians, or David Koresh? Five hands went up, but none knew much about it. The rest had no reference point with any of these three key terms.
My parents remembered FDR’s death, Pearl Harbor, and D-Day. I remember the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy, Viet Nam, and the 1960s. Waco was 1993. But even September 11, 2001 is becoming too long ago for our college age kids.
That I was even so closely involved in the Waco confrontation with the BATF/FBI is a story in itself. My field is ancient apocalyptic ideas, not new religious movements–but in this case the overlap and “fit” between understanding Waco and ancient constructs was rather tight. See my article, “Patterns of the End: Textual Weaving from Qumran to Waco,” which you can download and read free of charge.
So whether you remember April 19, 1993 or not, here it is In One Hour–the good, bad, and ugly of it all…This is one of the tightest summaries the whole Waco story that I have done over the years–from origins of the Branch Davidians in the 1930s to the disastrous end at Mt Carmel after the 51 Day siege in Waco, TX in 1993 (Feb 28-April 19).
I surely understand existential alienation, as I think we all surely do unless we have “fallen” for a comforting illusion as per Herrs Freud and Nietzsche—but the love of life for me is best captured by Frost in “Birches,” and that chilling line…”The earth’s the right place for love, I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” And yes, I too have climbed those birches, but always swung back down on the good earth…
That the Hebrew Bible has little to NOTHING about life after death or the immortal soul or resurrection or the age-to-come, other than the kind of visions of the future imagined by the Prophet Isaiah (see chapters 2:1-4 and 65:17-25), which remain very much “in and of” this world. This outlook sets it apart as an odd set of documents for the late Persian, early Hellenistic world of gnostic like dualism that so pervades late 2nd Temple Judaism and the neo-Platonic ideas that were merged with Christianity in the 2nd through 4th centuries–culminating in Augustine’s City of God.
Message A: Our purpose is to find forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in the incarnated God—made Christ—who gave his life for our sins so we can go to heaven when we die, unworthy as we are…leaving behind this dark world of sin and death for eternal life with God…
Message B: World gone Wrong (thanking Dylan here)…very much our Home and only Home, where we totally “belong,” but who will take up the Abrahamic call to model the Way of truth, love, and justice for all nations—and thus advance things toward “fixing” the mess we have made—and thus advancing things toward a “completing” of the potential of emergent creation—sentient moral creatures who echo and reflect the character of the Creator—in Hebrew terms: Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and righteousness? Those who hear that call are “not far from the Kingdom of God,” but are as mortal as a fallen leaf.
But what about death–and afterlife? One shouts out. Is that not the main question?
May the “secret things” remain with the Force of all Forces, the “Ground of our Being,” as we get on with the business of life itself–full enough of wonder to satisfy anyone with insight and imagination.