"And this is life eternal, that they might know God." (John 17:3)1
I want to start this article of "Knowing" by adding this parable I read a year or two ago:
Imagine that you are in a gigantic mall where there are hundreds of movie theaters. You look around to see what's playing, and you notice a movie that has your name. Amazing! You go inside the theater, and it's empty except for one person. Very quietly, trying not to interrupt, you sit behind that person, who doesn't even notice you; all that person's attention is on the movie.
You look at the screen, and what a big surprise! You recognize every character in the movie—your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters, your beloved, your children, your friends. Then you see the main character of the movie, and it's you! You are the star of the movie and it's the story of you. And that person in front of you, well, it's also you, watching yourself act in the movie. Of course, the main character is just the way you believe you are, and so are all the secondary characters because you know the story of you. After a while, you feel a little overwhelmed by everything you just witnessed, and you decide to go to another theater.
In this theater there is also just one person watching a movie, and she doesn't even notice when you sit beside her. You start watching the movie, and you recognize all the characters, but now you're just a secondary character. This is the story of your mother's life, and she is the one who is watching the movie with all her attention. Then you realize that your mother is not the same person who was in your movie. The way she projects herself is completely different in her movie. It's the way your mother wants everyone to perceive her. You know that it's not authentic. She's just acting. But then you begin to realize that it's the way she perceives herself, and it's kind of a shock.
Then you notice that the character who has your face is not the same person who was in your movie. You say to yourself, "Ah, this isn't me," but now you can see how your mother perceives you, what she believes about you, and it's far from what you believe about yourself. Then you see the character of your father, the way your mother perceives him, and it's not at all the way you perceive him. It's completely distorted, and so is her perception of all the other characters. You see the way your mother perceives your beloved, and you even get a little upset with your mom. "How dare she!" You stand up and get out of there.
You go to the next theater, and it's the story of your beloved. Now you can see the way your beloved perceives you, and the character is completely different from the one who was in your movie and the one who was in your mother's movie. You can see the way your beloved perceives your children, your family, your friends. You can see the way your beloved wants to project him- or herself, and it's not the way you perceive your beloved at all. Then you decide to leave that movie, and go to your children's movie. You see the way your children see you, the way they see Grandpa, Grandma, and you can hardly believe it. Then you watch the movies of your brothers and sisters, of your friends, and you find out that everybody is distorting all the characters in their movie.
After seeing all these movies, you decide to return to the first theater to see your own movie once again. You look at yourself acting in your movie, but you no longer believe anything you're watching; you no longer believe your own story because you can see that it's just a story. Now you know that all the acting you did your whole life was really for nothing because nobody perceives you the way you want to be perceived. You can see that all the drama that happens in your movie isn't really noticed by anybody around you. It's obvious that everybody's attention is focused on their own movie. They don't even notice when you're sitting right beside them in their theater! The actors have all their attention on their story, and that is the only reality they live in. Their attention is so hooked by their own creation that they don't even notice their own presence — the one who is observing their movie.
In that moment, everything changes for you. Nothing is the same anymore, because now you see what's really happening. People live in their own world, in their own movie, in their own story. They invest all their faith in that story, and that story is truth for them, but it's a relative truth, because it's not truth for you. Now you can see that all their opinions about you really concern the character who lives in their movie, not in yours. The one who they are judging in your name is a character they create. Whatever people think of you is really about the image they have of you, and that image isn't you.
At this point, it's clear that the people you love the most don't really know you, and you don't know them either. The only thing you know about them is what you believe about them. You only know the image you created for them, and that image has nothing to do with the real people. You thought that you knew your parents, your spouse, your children, and your friends very well. The truth is you have no idea what is going on in their world—what they are thinking, what they are feeling, what they are dreaming. What is even more surprising is that you thought you knew yourself. Then you come to the conclusion that you don't even know yourself, because you've been acting for so long that you've mastered pretending to be what you are not.
With this awareness, you realize how ridiculous it is to say, "My beloved doesn't understand me. Nobody understands me." Of course they don't. You don't even understand yourself. Your personality is always changing from one moment to the next, according to the role you are playing, according to the secondary characters in your story, according to the way you are dreaming at that time. At home, you have a certain personality. At work, your personality is completely different. With your female friends, it's one way; with your male friends, it's another way. But all your life you made the assumption that other people knew you so well, and when they didn't do what you expected them to do, you took it personally, reacted with anger, and used the word to create a lot of conflict and drama for nothing.
Now it's easy to understand why there is so much conflict between humans. The world is populated by billions of dreamers who aren't aware that people are living in their own world, dreaming their own dream. From the point of view of the main character, which is their only point of view, everything is all about them. When the secondary characters say something that doesn't agree with their point of view, they get angry, and try to defend their position. They want the secondary characters to be the way they want them to be, and if they are not, they feel very hurt. They take everything personally. With this awareness, you can also understand the solution, and it's something so simple and logical: Don't take anything personally. (The Fifth Agreement, Don Miguel Ruiz)
A week ago, I had a misunderstanding with a local shop owner. I went to explain I meant no offense. As I tried to explain, he just smiled at me. In his own mind had me completely figured out. He knew I had tried to take advantage of him, which wasn't true and despite my sincerest attempt to explain otherwise. I was shocked at his reaction and received a wound from my brother.
What I have learned, is that while I may want to love everyone, almost none want to return or build that kind of relationship. They have been hurt and become defensive or are simply uninterested. But I have also learned, that loving them regardless is the only effective means available to knock down those walls and be able to see eye-to-eye. This can happen in moments of profound truth and clarity only to be partially forgotten again as suspicion and fear set back in, or it can be a long process. How it comes about almost always depends on how much offense there is to be frankly and freely forgiven. I have made some of the most poignant experiences of my life in a timespan of about 10 minutes.
In each person there are a million life experiences that shape who they are. Many of them are likely even forgotten. What is called personality is also a large factor that shapes an individual. Their thinking and processing of their experiences is likewise unique. I think it is really impossible to truly know someone, what motivates them, their thoughts, struggles. We are all nearly total mysteries to each other. Realizing this, at least for me, is a disturbing thought. I think we all have an innate desire to know people, and instead of really knowing them, we label and categorize them into buckets we form in our minds, and it becomes nearly impossible for us to allow that person to escape our narrow view of them. From this comes the familiar term of how important "first impressions" are. It isn't a failing on the part of the individual met for the first time, it's a deeply seated failing of the person forming the impression. It is so hard to withhold judgment that we wind up placing the blame on the other person, because they failed to make a "good first impression."
If we really knew people, I think we would at the same time be both shocked at how much we are the same, and at the same time bewildered at how different and incomprehensibly complex they are. I think we would have greater compassion as we observe what they've done to cope with love, loss and trauma in their lives.
In the book Beloved Enos, the creation of individuals is described thus:
"It is absolutely essential to the process of “creation” or “conceiving” for God the Father to have a female consort or Mother God. If we were the product of only one mind’s thought, or word, or intelligence we could never act independently of the one mind. Everything about the conceived individual would be under the exclusive control of the one mind. Therefore such an individual would be wholly predictable and subordinate in all of its acts to the single mind. Only when two are jointly conceiving an individual does it become possible for the individual conceived to be independent of control. So long as both have input, neither one can fully control what the personality will choose to do. The life’s choices, the story-line, the events and decisions of any given personality cannot be fully controlled by either the Father or the Mother when both are allowed to create, conceive or organize the personality. Intelligences require parents in the plural; otherwise they could not acquire independence of thought.
"When the Father and Mother hold the thought (or word, or intelligence) long enough, with faith in the existence of this new creation, while neither one is fully controlling the individual intelligence, then existence becomes possible. The person has everything necessary to exist in her own right. It becomes possible for the intelligence to make her own choice. Only when the intelligence accepts that right and makes a choice freely, without control by the Father and Mother, does the intelligence begin to exist. “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” (D&C 93: 30.) It was an act of faith by God the Father and His consort to cause the intelligence to be conceived or organized. But it requires an act of faith on the part of the intelligence to exercise her own free will to accept its creation. Unless she is free to act by making her own choice and actually does so, there is no existence." (Beloved Enos, Chapter 1)
William Irwin Thompson writes:
"The world of the angelic hierarchy was an evolutionary stream of light in a steady-state, but the creation of Adam from matter disturbs that primordial steady-state; it generates the creative disequilibrium necessary for change, transformation, and evolution. Nothing is more awe-inspiring than an angel, nothing more seemingly unimpressive than a human being, and yet contained in that handful of dust is the signature for the entire universe of space-time. God is up to something, and not even the proud angels who will defy Him can fathom what will become the ultimate Cabbala, the Logos, the Christos to come. Time, rather than being remote from Divinity, now begins to be a most favored and intimate expression of Godhead. With the creation of Adam, history itself becomes a mystery school for the elect of God." (The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, p. 15)
The universe itself and the intelligence contained within it, only becomes more and more complex. Managing those complexities (on earth) with people in organizations cannot be done, except in managing by generalities and principles.
In a creation mythology that I am trying to locate (will update this article if I find it), there is a story about people who are born back-to-back and can't see each other. In Miguel Ruiz's writings he talks about a creator who couldn't behold himself, and so the way to remedy this problem is to create individuals. The individuals could then behold each other, however they were mysteries from each other yet reflections of themselves. "smoky mirrors" as Migel calls them. Housed in a tabernacle, their inner self longs for discovery and knowing, and the goal is to reunite in ultimate joy and go through the process again: the creator breathing out into tabernacled individuals, and breathing in, into glorious reunion and knowing.
I believe there is a trauma coming to terms with this world; a trauma that is experienced by all children. And in order to cope with that difficulty, relationships are built on false premises. When the adult desires to return and know God, there is another trauma experienced that is the result of creating the first coping mechanism, and dealing with the coping mechanisms of everyone else, and that is the trauma of the void of, and desire to develop substantial and meaningful relationships, and understanding what constitutes love.
For Christians, Jesus laid down his life for everyone. He learned how to succor us, because he bore every trauma, bore every love and loss. He meekly supports the just and the unjust from moment to moment, sending rain upon all. From the accounts I have read in the people Christ has appeared to, the commonality is that he knows them intimately and loves them eternally—not because they are good or worthy, but because He is.2 His love is so great, that like a beast of burden, he joyfully bore3 their troubles, and won a crown for himself by what he was willing to bear and suffer, for the glory of God is truly intelligence. His crown, is a crown of love.4
His goal in appearing is not to correct scriptural misunderstandings, we can seek to correct those any time, his goal is to correct our false judgments, and misunderstanding of who and what He is. Within a framework of knowing him, all other misunderstandings of teachings can be eventually resolved.5 After we know Him, our thoughts, ideas and attitudes can then be formed around, and governed by this foundational knowledge. But when the foundation is wrong, everything built on top is crooked, unstable, and unable to save.6
To Mormon Christians, Jesus' condemnation of 1820 Christianity7 (and multiple subsequent condemnations of Mormons themselves8) was not that that they didn't baptize correctly, or that their interpretation of grace and works wasn't spot-on, it was that their hearts were far from His, claiming to be His minister, without really knowing him. Giving a false measure of our Lord in a manner that would cause many to turn away from Him in a "war of words and tumult of opinions."9
The Book of Mormon was not taken seriously by the Mormons who claimed its namesake. The book is a manual on receiving the Testimony of Christ, directly from Christ (bringing all men on equal grounds, for God is no respector of persons). Time after time, the book records various people that are brought into the actual presence of God, or receive the "Second Comforter" (a phrase derived from John's description of "another comforter" in John 14:15-18) and learn his character. What the Mormons wanted was authority and keys and a New Testament-like church—they got that, but strained at a gnat in the process. Because they rejected the weightier matters, they find themselves in the same position as the Jews. Having a form, but without the power of Godliness.
To know God, if I trust the experiences of others and ask God myself, is to know that He is Love. Jesus taught, that the way to know whether we were his disciples, was only one test: we would love each other. Not feigned love, not conditional love, but Godly love, who is meek. He repeated this again in the parable of the sheep and the goats as the one means of determining who would be His sheep. None of this was to win converts to a creed. When Luke was writing his record, was he careful to omit the wise astrologers from the east who didn't conform to modern Christianity's way of thinking? Were they baptized by proper authority? Did they have a correct understanding of grace and works? We don't know and it's absurd to ask, but the scriptural record calls them "wise" who were able to correctly identify the Son of God when almost no one else could.
"He that is not with me is against me"10 isn't about accepting a set of beliefs (nor about starting a world war), it's about the state of your heart. The great gulf that the rich man could not cross was his heart. His heart in time could not love the man of great value who, to his eyes, was poor, unwise, stupid, and probably smelled. It was in eternity, that he saw the truth which caused his mind to light aflame in torment.
Enoch's heart showed this gulf, until the heart of God was revealed to him.
"And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever; And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
"The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood; And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them. Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also. Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren. But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them. And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment; Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook."11 (Moses 7:28-41)
God didn't weep because they joined the wrong church, he wept because they hated each other, which "Raca" began in their hearts and led ultimately to bloodshed, or at least they didn't care enough that such widespread violence was occuring.
I believe that if we knew how God views us, that we would lay down all our contentions. That our differences, while still existing, would cease to be of importance, and instead of constantly judging people in our minds, we would seek to love them, to help them overcome their own judgments that have borne them down and disfigured them into something that is not in the image of God, as we have also been disfigured.
We may not know each other, we may never be able to comprehend so great a mystery, but we can build on the foundation taught to us by Christ, and by so doing, be His people.12
Reaching into eternity, word made flesh, into physical world.
1. I have removed the phrase "only true" because this is assumed in my writing, that is what we are searching for. There is usually a need for a qualifier due to the many false gods and false concepts about God that people worship. But instead of including "only true" which can be a great distraction and hang-up to people, I left it out. I also left out the phrase "and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" not because I'm trying to exclude Christ, because I believe Jesus was the exemplification, or perfect incarnation of God, the perfect image of who God is, and being thus a perfect representation, he can appropriately be worshipped. What I am trying to avoid is assisting the statement of those who inherit Telestial glory, who some are "of Christ" (D&C 76), yet cannot attain to the understanding of knowing God. Therefore, I thought it was more appropriate to make those clarifications in a footnote for those interested enough to read it. Most of the Christians I have listened to idolize (or have what I believe to be a false concept of God) the man Jesus, without really digging into what he was trying to teach, or understanding how to attain to that teaching and example.
2. "Worthy is the Lamb!" (Revelation 5:12)
3. "And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me." (Moses 7:47)
"And I [John] saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." (Revelation 5:1-5)
4. His crown and kingdom is an everlasting dominion forever and ever without compulsory means. The kingdom we are to inherit cannot be governed on any other principle. "The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever." (D&C 121:46)
5. "Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. 'How?' responded the gentleman; 'to us it is very difficult.' Mr. Smith replied, 'I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.'" (John Taylor quoting Joseph Smith, "The Organization of the Church," Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, 339.)
6. "Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, The idea that he actually exists. Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes...." (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture 3)
7. "the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (Joseph Smith History 1:19)
8. "And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion." (D&C 84:54-58)
"For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood. For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me. But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me. But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God." (D&C 124:28, 31-32)
"...the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God..." (Joseph Smith, HC 3:20)
9. "My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" (Joseph Smith History 1:8-10)
"…and looking about I saw an angel standing at my right hand, who said: "Yes, my friend, it is midnight and late; the hour of midnight is approaching; alas, what shall I save? love has grown cool among the members. Oh, that this were not so among those who are Brethren in the faith!" … And the Saviour and the Father stood on the other side of the water, and the Saviour called the innocent by name, one after the other, to go in. …These two, the Father and the Son, stood together on the other side. Then they also came to the water and preached, the Father to the godless, the Son to the pious." (Vision of Catharine Hummer, 1786. Source: Chronicon Ephratense, pp. 268-276 in 16 Precedents to Joseph Smith's First Vision, by Thinker of Thoughts, Nov 19, 2013] http://dlvr.it/MyL4lr
10. Matthew 12:30.
11. This is why I believe charity is something that is revealed. Something is revealed to us about the nature of God. Something we need to remember.
Obtaining Eternal life and the Kingdom of God, I believe, was never something that God said we would obtain after we die, but something we were to claim, anytime we followed Him. Just as Eternal punishment is God's punishment, because "Eternal is my name" and not something that denotes something that will never end, but rather denotes a quality of life obtained upon receiving a knowledge of God, which affects the quality of their life here and now, until we again begin to forget, and again go through the process of remembering.
12. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35)
On Children, by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.