Frederick Douglass: Mystic of the Bible and of the Holy Spirit–The Hidden Structure of His “Narrative of the Life”

 

Frederick Douglass the Mystic,

And the Hidden Structure of His First Autobiography:

His Employment of the Mystical Psalms Ladder

Introduction

Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography, entitled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, has long been known as an immensely powerful account of the evils of slavery, and of the kinds of sufferings undergone by millions of slaves. Additionally, Frederick Douglass’ skills as a writer, thinker, orator, champion of moral Truth and decency, and tireless worker for Justice, are also known and enshrined in national and global memory. He may be the most authentic American hero we have.

What has not been known is that Frederick Douglass is also a mystic. His Narrative is overflowing with references to hidden mystical realities in the Bible. Shakespeare does this too. Douglass himself will nod to Shakespeare’s hidden discussion of the Mystical Psalm Structures, as we shall see.

A central Psalm Structure is the Ladder.

The entire Narrative has been carefully constructed by Douglass to present anew the Mystical Psalms Ladder in the very architecture of his book. He does this in multiple ways.

This essay is a first attempt to chart how Douglass incorporates the Mystical Psalms Ladder into the very structure of his Narrative.

As a prelude to the discussion of the Ladder, the first part of the essay will discuss how Frederick Douglass was in a mystical relationship with God, with the Holy Spirit. Douglass, like other mystics, was in a living relationship with the Holy Spirit.

After that treatment of the holiness of Frederick Douglass, the rest of this essay will discuss how he engineered the Mystical Psalms Ladder into his work. Part II will discuss the Ladder Structure he uses for his work, the amazing Chapter X of the Narrative, and other realities. At the end of the work is a discussion of how Douglass and Shakespeare also make

(The text used for this essay is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (Written by Himself), in the edition by Barnes and Noble. The fine Introduction and Notes for this volume are written by Robert G. O’Meally.)

 

Part I

Frederick Douglass the Mystic:

His Direct and Indirect References to the Holy Spirit

 

Frederick Douglass became closer to God. While he does not speak much about his relationship with God, what he says is revealing.

To say it from another angle: It being the case that there are hidden mystical structures in Douglass’ book, it should not be surprising that he speaks directly (if briefly) of his relationship with the Holy Spirit. Here is an excerpt from the next-to-last paragraph of Chapter V:

…Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity. I have ever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence which has ever since attended me, and marked my life with so many favors. I regarded the selection of myself as being somewhat remarkable.

And two sentences later, the final paragraph of Chapter V:

I may be deemed superstitious, and even egotistical, in regarding this event as a special interposition of divine Providence in my favor. But I should be false to the earliest sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion. I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise.

However, after this initial declaration of the Holy Spirit’s closeness to him, and the obvious fact that he is a beloved child of God, the references to the Holy Spirit become more veiled. The rest of this section shall explore these later allusions to experiences of the Holy Spirit.

In the third paragraph of the next chapter, which is a long paragraph, his current ‘master’, Mr. Auld, scolds Mrs. Auld, because she had the audacity to teach young Frederick the initial lessons of reading. Mr. Auld goes on a tirade about why this would be a bad development for white people, who benefit from the unpaid work of slaves, and for the slaves themselves. Now, this conversation had a profound effect on young Douglass. Immediately after Auld’s rant, Douglass writes:

 

These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I wanted, and I got it at a time when I the least expected it. Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master.

Now, this might seem less like the Spirit’s guidance, and more like overhearing a nasty conversation between the master and his wife. However, a Spiritual teacher once said that we can learn from any thing that we might hear, spoken by anyone. To say it differently: the Holy Spirit can give us valuable hints and knowledge through any medium the Spirit chooses, including words of idiots and enemies. In the second sentence of this paragraph, Douglass indeed calls this discovery a “special revelation.”

Words of people can hold messages that last a long time for us. In Chapter VII, he meets two kind Irishmen who suggest to him that he break for freedom. He remembered their suggestion for a long time afterwards, starting a habit of thought that helped lead to his eventual freedom.

The long Chapter X is perhaps the most important chapter of the Narrative. It begins with Douglass, on his first day at a new farm with a new master, being ordered to do something he had never done before. The evil Mr. Covey gives too-hasty instruction to Douglass about the means to guide the left-hand and right-hand oxen of the cart he was to move and load. Why does Douglass give us this information? The story he tells could as easily have been told without this information about the ox on the right and the ox on the left. And Douglass does not waste words.

However, it happens that “left” and “right” are part of the language of the Holy Spirit. Chapter X is full of hints and allusions to the subtle but direct communication of the Holy Spirit, as we shall see. Douglass begins the chapter with a nod to a concrete and real part of the (yet hidden) language of the Holy Spirit.

Right after this is a strong allusion to a highly spiritual author, Dante. In the Comedy, his main work, various guides appear and lead Dante through the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, resulting in a glimpse of the Beatific Vision. After the yoke of oxen take off running out of control, crash the cart, and cause general chaos in the forest, Douglass writes, “…How I escaped death, I do not know. There I was, entirely alone, in a thick wood, in a place new to me.” This solitude in a new strange forest is a direct reference to the first words of Dante’s Inferno.

Because of this fiasco with the oxen, Douglass is severely whipped.

A few pages later, we come to one of the low points, a nadir, a depth, such as we encounter in the Inferno. Douglass says that he has finally been broken by the evil Mr. Covey. “I was somewhat unmanageable when I first went there, but a few months of this discipline tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” And paragraphs later we have another echo of the Inferno, as Douglass says, “I am left in the hottest hell of unending slavery. O God, save me!”

It is telling that Douglass speaks of the “soul” and the “dark night.” The “dark night” is a technical term in spiritual conversation. It is a time when God enters our life more intimately. It seems at first to be all smoke, confusion, pain, chaos, and suffering. However, it is ultimately positive, as God is doing powerful healing work in our soul, and equipping and preparing us to be greater accomplices of the Holy Spirit. The “dark night” yokes us to the Holy Spirit. Recall the yoked oxen from the beginning of the chapter. St. Luke, the Beloved Physician, competes with St. John as the most spiritual writer of the Bible, if such an outrageous statement can safely be made. In his Gospel and in his Acts of the Apostles, Luke shows numerous times how profoundly he understands the ways in which the soul and the Holy Spirit can learn to work and dance together. If we learn how to access the deep subterranean rivers of Luke’s work, he is teaching us constantly the language of the Holy Spirit! This journey that Luke describes has difficult times and suffering, but leads to union with Christ, and to Paradise.

Back to Dante: In his journey to Paradise, Dante must pass through the depths of hell first. St. John of the Cross, who is one of the best writers on the “Dark Night of the Soul,” says that we must pass through the Cross.

This is a cross-time, a crucifixion, for Douglass. Having escaped the worst evils of slavery in his early youth, the first part of this year that he is forced to spend with evil Mr. Covey, however, is a living hell.

He was tempted to murder Covey, then to take his own life. However, he “…was prevented by a combination of hope and fear.” This too is the Holy Spirit at work. The Holy Spirit understands humanity with more intimacy than we can imagine. The Spirit knows precisely how to activate our emotions to assist us along the path that we must walk in the healing and growth that the Spirit wants to give us. “Hope” keeps us going. “Fear” keeps us sane and stable while we undergo the wildness of the Spiritual Journey. “Fear of the Lord” is a great virtue in the Bible; it could also be translated as “Awe of the Lord,” and could be interpreted as “Frequent Sheer Amazement with new parts of the Journey and of Life.” When we really see the handiwork of the Holy Spirit, it is stunning. Frederick Douglass knows that there is a Divine friend helping him. Quoting Job, Douglass says he knows that, “There is a better day coming.”

A few pages later, still in Chapter X, we see Douglass working hard in the afternoon of one of the hottest days of August that year. He was sick, and he collapsed. Mr. Covey hears the stoppage of the work, and comes storming over. Evil Covey takes a wooden stick, and smashes Douglass’ head, which will soon cover him in blood, from the “crown of my head to my feet.” We are reminded of the Passion of Jesus. Douglass collapses back to the ground. However, right after this, Douglass is able to make a temporary escape from evil Covey to his main “owner,” a move which saves Douglass’ life and prepares the way for his eventual permanent escape. A very slight line, just four words, shines a hidden but huge light upon the close observation of the Spirit upon the situation of Douglass. In fact, in this very slight line, it seems that the Holy Spirit directly intervenes. Right after Douglass receives this shattering blow to the head, when he is already sick and weak, Douglass says: “In a short time after receiving this blow, my head grew better.” Well, how did that happen? Usually, people who are sick, weak, and undernourished, when they are struck a vicious blow on the head, tend to become more unwell and immobile! So how did “my head grew better” to be able to walk the 7 miles to his more permanent master and to effect the eventual escape that will propel Douglass to a new mode of existence? Perhaps this was a direct intervention by the Holy Spirit. There is not a document scribed in gold to mark the occasion. Rather, there is a subtle but clear healing. He is able to rise, temporarily escape, and find refuge 7 miles away. A few minutes later, Covey realizes Douglass has fled. Furious, Covey pursues him, but fails to find him.

Finding a temporary haven with Master Thomas, he rests that night, and achieves some recuperation. However, the next day, Master Thomas sends him back to the evil Covey. Covey spots his arrival, and approaches Douglass with “…his cowskin, to give me another whipping.” Seeing this, Douglass gives him the slip and hides in the cornfield. It was as if he did this unconsciously. He says, “My behavior was altogether unaccountable.” This too is highly Spiritual. When we are working more deeply with the Holy Spirit, sometimes we do things that surprise us. We react and respond in situations with new skills we did not know we had, as if a sudden inspiration bequeathed new gifts to us.

Douglass makes another temporary escape-retreat, and runs into his acquaintance Sandy Jenkins, a slave who has a free wife. Sandy gives him a mysterious lesson about the ways and language of the Spirit. “He told me, with great solemnity, I must go back to Covey; but that before I went, I must go with him into another part of the woods, where there was a certain root, which, if I would take some of it with me, carrying it always on my right side, would render it impossible for Mr. Covey, or any other white man, to whip me.” (The italics are Douglass’.) Douglass is immediately skeptical, and rejects the idea. However, Sandy really got his attention, “with much earnestness,” imploring and reasoning with Douglass to do it. Douglass did it. It worked.

Now: Neither the Holy Spirit nor Douglass abide by witchcraft or spells or other forms of “magic.”

However, Sandy could be impressing upon Douglass some truth about the right side.

In the language of the Holy Spirit, the “right side” often means “No.” It can also signify to the person receiving the signal that they should resist whatever is happening, or being said, in an encounter with another person. In the remaining six months that Douglass would spend with Covey, perhaps the Holy Spirit was shifting gears with Douglass, teaching him powerful skills of resistance.

So the main import of this story is not the magical talisman effect of the unnamed “root.” Rather, the Holy Spirit was coaching Douglass on the activation of the hitherto dormant portions of his animus (that part of the psyche complementing the anima), bringing his soul to a greater state of integration and power. After this, Douglass indeed becomes more and more an eminently powerful person, and will grow in virtue and strength for the rest of his life.

The new posture, the new attitude of Douglass, will soon be tested. In one of the most thrilling episodes of the book, Covey cunningly bides his time, and then eventually tries to corner Douglass and give him a severe whipping and beating for his previous disobedience and independent behavior. What happens next is nothing short of a revolution in the life of Douglass, enabling everything that follows in his glorious life to develop.

In the fight that Douglass eventually has with Covey, Covey and his sidekick “attempted to tie my right hand.” They failed. It is as if they are trying to restrict the developing portion of Douglass’ psyche, his ability to resist. Douglass sharply kicks Covey’s assistant under his ribs, knocking him out of the melee.

Another liminal, spiritual event occurs later in Chapter X. Douglass and several of his friends were planning to escape on a Saturday evening. Friday night was a sleepless one for Douglass, as one might imagine. He was especially anxious, because he was the leader of the group. He writes of Saturday:

“The first two hours of that morning were such as I never experienced before, and hope never to again. Early in the morning, we went, as usual, to the field. We were spreading manure; and all at once, while thus engaged, I was overwhelmed with an indescribable feeling, in the fulness of which I turned to Sandy, who was near by, and said, ‘We are betrayed!’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘that thought has this moment struck me.’ We said no more. I was never more certain of any thing.”

Why would the Spirit inform him that his first attempt at escaping was about to fail? Perhaps so that he would not be stunned when the owners and authorities confronted them. He would be prepared when it happened.

Additionally, he had to destroy the fake permission-to-travel letter that he had previously written, and he needed to have his wits about him to destroy it. Indeed, the destruction of that letter seems to be another plan of the Spirit. When the slaves are captured before they could make their departure, a fight broke out between them and the authorities: “During the scuffle, I managed, I know not how, to get my pass out, and, without being discovered, put it into the fire.” The Spirit was helping him here.

In conclusion to this part of the essay, near the end of Chapter X, when Douglass is kicked in the eye, this may be a reference to a mystical experience that accompanied the difficult incident. We shall discuss this more below.

This section has considered ways in which Douglass clearly or quietly alludes to events that reveal action of the Holy Spirit.

 

Part II

An Overview of the Mystical Psalms Ladder

In the Narrative

 

Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography is in the shape of a Ladder, specifically, the Mystical Psalms Ladder that the Holy Spirit hid in the Book of Psalms.

Some necessary background: The Holy Spirit chose the least organized book of the Bible, the Book of Psalms, to be the bearer of amazing mystical patterns, which are both beautiful and important, and which carry a great deal of meaning and application for us today. A forthcoming book shall present these wonders. Because is has not been published yet, this part of the essay could be a bit dense; however, one may still understand the basic developments that are being charted in this present essay. Here is a rough draft of the introduction of the Psalms material; this introduction provides pictures and information about the Ladder of the Psalms:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

In the first 12 or 13 centuries after Christ, there are at least twenty theological Christian writers who know of the Mystical Psalm Structures. All the Evangelists and most of the New Testament writers know these marvels. Later Christians who know the Mystical Psalm Structures include St. Antony of Egypt, St. Evagrius Ponticus, the unknown author of the Gospel of Thomas, St. Benedict (Founder of Western monasticism), and, much later, St. Teresa of Avila, her friend St. John of the Cross, and, in Greece, St. Gregory Palamas.

Perhaps with Petrarch in the 13th century, the river of “those-who-know” picks up and switches riverbeds, over to the poets. From Petrarch, the knowledge eventually moved to some of the English Sonneteers, including Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare, Lady Mary Wroth, and later, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

It makes sense that the poets learned, or were shown, these wonders. After all, the Psalms are poem-prayer-songs.

Later English-speaking poets who know include Wallace Stevens, Owen Dodson, and Maya Angelou. (Angelou alludes to several features of Frederick Douglass’ work.)

Rainier Maria Rilke, the German poet, knew, as do Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda, who wrote in Spanish.

Although theological themes inundate his book, and although his writing is often inspired and extremely powerful, Douglass’ Narrative is neither poetry nor theology. It is prose literature. And the Narrative may be the first prose literature to include a knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures. The fact that this literature is an autobiography of a slave who becomes free is telling.

A bit more background: Until now, all of these authors have kept their knowledge secret. They have not shouted out what they knew about these Mystical Realities in the Bible. This is fully in accord with the plan of the Holy Spirit, who wanted and planned for these matters to be kept in precise small circles of those who know. Now, however, is the time for Humanity to embrace these wonders—indeed, they are not for Christians alone, but also have tendrils and rivers of connection to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and more.

Such a thing might seem impossible. However, it is true.

Section A:

The Shape of the Narrative

            The hidden Ladder of the Psalms has 12 steps. Douglass’ Narrative has 12 parts. Using Roman numerals, there are 11 numbered chapters in the Narrative, I – XI. And there is the Appendix, which is the 12th part.

The 12 parts (11 chapters, plus the Appendix) of the Narrative form a direct parallel with the Ladder and its 12 steps. This is an important and basic feature of the Narrative; it is one of the ways in which Douglass’ work incorporates the structure of the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

Here is the shape of the Mystical Psalms Ladder, from the link given above. The numbers that make the Ladder are the numbers of those Psalms:

 

          150

144                 138

132                 126

120                 114

108                 102

96                   90

84                   78

72                   66

60                   54

48                   42

36                   30

24                   18

12                   6

 

Note that the left side of the Ladder is formed by the numbers that are multiples of 12, all the way to “12 squared,” 144. The 25 Psalm title numbers that form the Ladder are all multiples of 6.

Douglass gives us many clues that he knows about the Ladder, and uses it as the main architectural structure of his book.

THE WORD “LADDER”

The word “ladder” appears once in the work, in Chapter VII. It is in a paragraph that begins, “In the same book, I met with one of Sheridan’s mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance. The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights.” Douglass is here referring to the Irish and Catholic fight for liberty out from under the horrific enslaving and colonization of Ireland by Britain. Ireland won its fight for freedom in the early 20th Century, but the repercussions from their brutal enslavement are still being worked out and healed in the society today. (Today, the Irish are champions of liberty, helping people in other parts of the world in their struggles for freedom and Justice.) In Northern Ireland, the British still rule over the land, a situation which had led to a great deal of fighting. Recently, in the 21st Century, a fairly successful peace has been in place for some years now.

Sheridan’s book helped Douglass awaken and realize the sheer injustice of slavery. At first, Douglass had no idea what to do in the predicament, that is, the predicament of his better understanding the history of slavery and its wrongness. Douglass: “It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out.” (Emphasis added.)

The “pit” is actually in the Psalms Ladder, at its bottom. Psalms 6 & 12, which form the bottom and first step of the Ladder, are both strong laments. Psalm 6 has personal bodily illness and suffering, and Psalm 12 has societal sickness (which applies well to the scourge of slavery). Additionally, the three Psalms on the lower right side of the Ladder, Psalms 6, 18, and 30, all have the pit of hell mentioned, “sheol.”

Of those people in history who have known of the Mystical Psalms Ladder, the vast majority (of whom I am aware) are Catholics. Did a Catholic at some point teach Douglass of these mystical realities? Did a Christian from another denomination teach him? Did the Holy Spirit teach him directly? These are questions I would like to discuss with scholars of Frederick Douglass.

The next paragraph in Chapter VII again mentions Irish allies. Douglass says, “The light broke in upon me by degrees. I went one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters…” This is an allusion to the opening lines of Plato’s great dialogue, The Republic. We shall discuss another Platonic dialogue later. Returning to the quotation: “I went one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two Irishmen unloading a scow (large boat) of stone, I went, unasked, and helped them.” A conversation ensues, and it is here that the Irishmen suggest that he escape to freedom. This conversation helped move the teenage Douglass to further consider the option of escape. He “remembered their advice, and from that time I resolved to run away. I looked forward to a time at which it would be safe for me to escape.”

THE NUMBER 12

Another powerful reminder of the Psalms Ladder in the Narrative is the frequent appearance of the number 12. (Recall, the Ladder has 12 steps.)

There are many numbers that appear in the Narrative, and a disproportionately large occurrence of the number 12 features among them.

12 is the first number that appears in the book, and it appears 3 times in the short Chapter I. The number 12 will appear 9 times in the volume, including a matched pair of instances of the word “dozen.”

7, 12, AND THE ANGELS CLIMBING ON LADDER

The Ladder of the Psalms represents many realities. One of the realities symbolized by the Ladder is the Feminine, the Woman.

The fourth paragraph of Chapter I is a heart-wrenching account of how his mother visited him a handful of times when he was a child. She had to walk 12 miles, after her work was done, at night. (Jacob, in Genesis 28, sees an early version of the Ladder at night.) She then had to be back to her place by dawn the next day to work. She left when she had gotten little Frederick to sleep. (Jacob saw the Ladder in a vision in his sleep.) This appearance of “12” is already the third appearance of the number in the book, and it appears close to the number “7,” in the same paragraph.

It is clear that at this early point of his book, Douglass is referring in many hidden ways to the Ladder. These hints dance in the liminal space of our psyche. Further, the placement of “12” near “7” is not an accident:

Psalm 12 has the number “7.” Every literary mind knows that 7 x 12 = 84. This formula is hidden in Psalm 12, and sends the angels in flight to their next destination, Psalm 84, at the middle of the Ladder. This is the first flight of the angels on the Ladder, and it starts the long flight process of the angels up and down the Ladder. St. Luke the Evangelist, in his Gospel, gives us this same formula in Chapter 2, when the Holy Family enters into the temple. The Prophetess Anna is exactly 84 years old at the time. She was previously married for 7 years. She was a member of the tribe (of which there were 12) of Asher. In case we miss this appearance of the number 12, a few verses later we are told of Jesus being in the temple again when he is 12 years old.

Douglass’ mother was an angel ministering to him, at night, as often as she could, until she died when he was a tender 7 years old.

21 & 12: THE PILLAR AND THE LADDER

A quiet and understated fulfillment of the Narrative is in Chapter XI (Chapter 11) when Douglass marries his wife, Anna.

In the Psalm Structures, the first structure is the Pillar, which is made of the Psalms that are multiples of 21. These 7 Psalms form the Pillar. Here is a representation of the Psalms Pillar:

 

147

126

105

84

63

42

21

 

The masculine Pillar goes with the feminine Ladder. And the climbing of the angels on the Ladder can represent physical love between husband and wife.

The Ladder and the Pillar have three shared numbers: 42, 84, and 126. These numbers are also alluded to in the Narrative.

Chapter VII has the number 7 in its first sentence, just as the number 12 is in the first chapter of the book, in Chapter I. However, there are other numbers in Chapter VII that we’ll here focus on.

Later in Chapter 7, Douglass says to some young friends on the street, “You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one (21), but I am a slave for life!” (The italics are Douglass’.) Three sentences later, Douglass reflects, “I was now about twelve (12) years old, and the thought of being a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart.” (Again, the italics are Douglass’.) So we have two sentences that are connected to each other by the same words being italicized by the author, Douglass. And in these two sentences are the numbers 12 & 21.

The words “I am” are also italicized in the first sentence. This is the name of God, a name which Jesus applies to himself, and which he encourages us to use as well, like the man born blind in John 9, who also applies the name to himself. (See also Jesus’ discussion of Psalm 82 in John 10.) In John’s Gospel Jesus wants to give us the fullness of life. However, it is obvious that a slave might find it rather difficult to experience the fullness of life while a slave. Likewise, it could be difficult to know oneself to be a child of God, while a slave.

He describes his won freedom in Chapter XI, and this is something like Paradise at the top of the Ladder. Soon after Douglass escapes slavery, he marries Anna, and 12 & 21 unite. They will have five children together.

This section of Part II has considered how the shape of the Narrative is intentionally echoing the shape of the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

 

Section B

Apparent Departures from the Ladder Schema,

And the Amazing Chapter X;

Cross and ‘Chi’;

The Ladder Re-Built

 

Section A has considered how the Narrative directly incorporates the shape of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. However, there are also ways in which the Narrative departs from, or makes changes to, the form of the Ladder.

The first 9 chapters of the Narrative are fairly short. In the editorial arrangement of the fine Barnes and Noble edition, each of the first 9 chapters is between 3-6 pages. However, Chapter X jumps out to a sharply contrasting, much longer, 29 pages in length. This is intentional. Douglass is telling us something. What is he telling us?

Following Chapter X, Chapter XI also more-than-doubles the length of all the first 9 chapters, at 12 pages long. And the Appendix is 7 pages long.

(I am not attributing significance to the “number of pages” of the chapters, which is an editorial happenstance of each particular printed edition; however, the title numbers of the chapters themselves, like the numbers of the Shakespeare’s sonnet titles, are specifically chosen by the author. Nevertheless, the number of pages of each chapter is a reliable benchmark for showing relative lengths, which is the only point I’m making here.)

We’ll now turn to the vital Chapter X:

 

Some Features of Chapter X

 

Why is Chapter X, the 10th chapter, so long?

This is the chapter where Douglass stands up to one of the most evil masters he had, and turned the tables on him. There are many other things occurring in Chapter X as well.

The length of Chapter X does at least three things:

1) It makes the shape of a Cross.

2) It makes the shape of the Greek letter chi, which looks like ‘X’, and which is connected to the literary technique of chiasmus.

3) It makes the Human Person, with two arms and two legs, represented by the letter ‘X’, situated on/in the Ladder.

Please bear with me here. We’ll tap a few different topic areas, but they are all related with each other.

-The New Testament’s original language is Greek. Christ is spelled like “Xristos.” The Greek letter chi sounds like a “K” and looks like a large X. Entire lectures could be given around these facts. The ancients report that the shape of chi, the X, is writ large in the heavens, and re-presents Christ there. We shall discuss this below.

-The Psalms Ladder also forms the shape of a human person, as well as the shape of a house.

-Chapter X is the chapter in which Frederick Douglass beats the system and stands up straight, an erect freedom-searching man who has taught himself to read and write, and who is consciously planning his escape. And he slaps down a violent attacker, a “master,” who intended to do him harm. It is the great pivot point in the life of Douglass. His soul, his person, stands up straight for the first full time.

-The erect person is one of the themes of the chapter. The “ X “ represents the full measure of a man, of a human person, who is in the image of Christ.

-This erect standing person is between two straight lines. The Roman numeral X is flanked by numbers IX and XI. So with some contraction, we have:

I X I                 (the person within the two sides of the Ladder)

This is the tall standing person in/on the Ladder, in the House. The ‘I’ on either side of the person, ‘X’, are the two sides of the Ladder. Recall that ‘X’ represents the person, standing tall and strong. The dignity of God’s image and likeness.

            The comparative great length of Chapter X represents Frederick Douglass standing up straight, standing tall, climbing the Ladder, being the Ladder, and eventually heading up, north, due north, to freedom. To a more ‘heavenly’ status. (There are other meanings too.)

Chiasmus and Cross

The shape “X” is also connected to the literary form known as the “chiasmus.” In his excellent introduction, Robert G. O’Meally speaks of how Douglass utilizes chiastic structures throughout the Narrative. I am indebted to Professor O’Meally for pointing out the central chiasmus of the book. In Chapter X, Douglass says:

You have seen how a man was made a slave;

You shall see how a slave was made a man.

Robert Louis Gates also speaks of the importance of this chiasmus.

If we take this sentence and present it in its chiastic elements, we could portray it like this:

 

You                             man    slave

You                             slave   man

 

More simply, we could put in letters as symbols for the words “man” and “slave”:

A C : C A

Or:

A          C

C          A

 

As we see, the “man-slave” and “slave-man” arrangements form an X. This is the basic form of the Chiasmus, which is frequently found in the Bible, other forms of ancient literature, and some kinds of poetry.

The pages of the Bible are overflowing with this kind of literary structure.

The word “chiasm” itself has the letter “chi,” X, in itself.

With his repetition of “You,” that is, “Us,” he establishes his own personal journey of development as a new model springing directly from the ancient Biblical model. And he sends out a bridge from himself to every person who reads his work. Douglass has become a Full Member of the Body of Christ. Like the great saints before him, he can speak with a fuller authority now. The Spirit has taught him.

The form “X” also represents the cross, especially the Cross of Christ. Many of the ancient theologians of the Early Church spoke of how the chi, “X,” is written in the heavens in the meeting of the celestial equator and the ecliptic. (There are many internet sites that discuss this phenomenon in our astronomy.) Together, the celestial equator and the ecliptic form a giant “X” in the heavens, from our perspective here on Earth. The ancients spoke of how this is both Christ, and the Cross, writ large in the Universe. Plato’s Timaeus discusses this 400 years before Christ. The character Timaeus, from this dialogue of the same name, later appears blind in Mark’s Gospel, and is healed by Jesus! The Christian writer and martyr, Justin, also claims this as a sign of Christ (Xristos in the original Greek) writ large in the skies. Here, however, the Cross is also the Door, the Portal, the Gate, that it truly is. Here the Cross is written in a large glorious letter in the Heavens.

Paul says, “Through the cross of Christ . . . the cosmos has been crucified to me, and I to the cosmos.” (See Galatians 6:14) This powerful act of joining, having traversed the portal of the cross, becomes a good joining, a glad union. Today, we might connect this to Jungian Synchronicity: A sign of spiritual maturity is when external events in the world/cosmos have a special correspondence, or ‘synchronicity’, with internal events in our thoughts, imagination, or past. This is a sign that our personal self, the microcosm, is coming into alignment with the macrocosm, the exterior cosmos. It is the Holy Spirit that guides this process.

The same happens for Frederick Douglass. Early in Chapter X, there is the beautiful and poignant account of how on Sunday Douglass stands looking down on the Chesapeake Bay, and sees many sails of wondrous ships moving on the water, travelling around the globe. The globe is here known to be a sphere, and represents the macrocosm. At the end of Chapter X, the microcosm that is Frederick Douglass will achieve enlightenment when his “eyeball” nearly explodes from a vicious kick. The spherical “eyeball” represents Douglass, in his semi-spherical “head” (another theme of the Timaeus); through his suffering and virtue, Douglass has come into harmony with the sphere of the cosmos. Spiritual awakening. The microcosm of the person achieves synchronicity with the vast macrocosm of the universe. After this, the language of the Holy Spirit is constantly available to him now.

The Length of Chapter 10 Forms the Cross-Bar of the Cross,

and a Line of the Chiastic ‘X’

The chi-X-structure is also in the structure of the Narrative; at the same time, the structure of Douglass’ work is also a Cross: The first 9 chapters are uniformly short. Chapter X is long, much longer than the previous 9. It is the Crossbar of the Cross; it is also the second line of the chiastic ‘X’. The slave is Christ on the Cross. The freed slave, having passed through the chiastic portal, is similar to the Resurrected Christ, or is similar to the tall person (X) standing on the Ladder.

What is the Cross? It is a door, and it is also a time of passage. Paul, again, sees the cross as the instrument of his mature joining to the cosmos. Through the Cross, Paul and Douglass learn the language of the Holy Spirit. Because it is so important for us today, let us repeat: part of the language of the Spirit is Synchonicity. Carl Jung speaks of this. We have “inside” us a cosmos that is the endless infinite glorious expanse of each individual soul. And we have “outside” us the cosmos that we physically see and participate in. When a soul advances in direct relationship with the Holy Spirit, that soul may experience many instances of Synchronicity. We might think of Synchronicity as “Meaningful Coincidence.” It has been said that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Such a concrete, discrete, accumulation of events of coincidence, of Synchronicity, in the life of a growing soul, is a sign that the person is growing in relationship with the Holy Spirit, and is achieving Integration.

Paul and Frederick Douglass and Christ, through the Cross, have been joined to the cosmos, and the cosmos to them. They became Integrated Beings.

 

Frederick Douglass teaches, as do Christ and Paul, that through our sufferings, through our crosses, we attain greater dimensionality, a fullness of relationship to the cosmos. If you look at a photograph of Douglass, you know that you are seeing an enlightened human being.

Douglass stands up. Chapter X jumps out to great length. His long trek north is not narrated in this book, surprisingly, because Chapter X represents it in a more full way. He escapes from 2 dimensions of reality into 3 dimensions of reality, or to greater dimensionality. Like Christ and Paul and so many others before him, he is joined to the great ‘X’ of the heavens, and his interior cosmos, his soul, enters a state of greater conscious relationship with the cosmos that we see day and night, the universe about us.

The Ladder Person, or, the Person Who Climbs the Ladder

There is much more happening in the Narrative.

The shape of the book itself, from first chapter to last, shows this astounding growth of the Human Person. Above, we discussed this shape, the image of the Ladder Person, the Person Climbing the Ladder:

I X I

Notice that there is some, but not much, discussion of love and marriage among the slaves, because the “masters” made life so difficult for them, and would often break up relationships and families when they sold slaves.

Nevertheless, Douglass makes literary connections between the growing stature of the person, and their participation in love relationships.

Here is yet another way of seeing a structure of the Narrative:

 

Chapter I        The desecration of person & marriage

Chapter X       Growth and Desire

Chapter XI     True Marriage Achieved

Appendix       Mockery of erect person—a warning for us

 

Chapter I has the shocking description of the whipping of his Aunt Hester by the evil rapist Mr. Plummer, whom Douglass describes as a “savage monster.” As we shall see, his is like the evil demon Asmodeus from the Bible’s book, Tobit. He kills the marriage relationship, among other things.

At the end of Chapter I, we see a false and brutal elongation of the human person, a mockery of the Ladder Person. Hester is a beautiful woman. The evil Mr. Plummer takes her to the kitchen to whip her savagely. “After crossing her hands, he tied them with a strong rope, and led her to a stool under a large hook in the joist, put in for the purpose.” Notice that he chooses the verb “crossing”; additionally, Hester’s hands and arms now form an “X,” the “chi” that we have discussed. She will be crucified, like Christ.

“He made her get upon the stool [Ladder mockery], and tied her hands to the hook. She now stood fair for his infernal [Psalm 6 of the bottom Step 1 of the Psalms Ladder has the word “hell,” or “inferno”] purpose. Her arms were stretched up at their full length, so that she stood upon the ends of her toes.”

Her position here is a mockery of the full stature that the person achieves in Chapter X. Her status and the treatment of her body and her entire person is a mockery of the person represented by the Ladder, which the forthcoming book refers to as the Ladder Person.

She is fully stretched, not for glory yet, but for torture and demonic hatred.

She is brutally whipped by Plummer, as the “warm, red blood” flows, “amid heartrending shrieks from her.”

The child Frederick, terrified and shocked, hid in the closet.

Why did Plummer do this to Hester? He wanted to rape her, and she wasn’t there in the evening to be raped by him. So he was angry with her.

Why wasn’t she there? Because she was friends with another slave, Ned Roberts, and had spent time that evening with him. This is the reason for Plummer’s brutal treatment of Hester. Not only did his plans for rape/entertainment get foiled by her not being there, but she was also independently enjoying a love relationship with a man that she truly cared for. He really is like Asmodeus.

In Chapter X, the human person grows. Specifically, it is Frederick Douglass, of course, but it is also a template for all of us. Chapter X has the central chiasmus of the book, which we discussed above, in which Douglass tells us that we will see a slave transform into a man.

Douglass says, in the middle of his fight with Covey, “I rose.” The verb “rise” is a Resurrection term from the Gospels. Eternal Victory achieved through the Cross.

Again, as discussed above, using Roman numerals, the shape of:

I X I represents also the Ladder Person, which will be discussed more in the book on the Mystical Psalm Structures.

In Chapter XI Douglass marries his love, Anna.

In what seems like a modest description of a modest wedding, when Douglass has made his escape, he is joined by his “intended wife,” Anna.

It is also a felicitous coincidence, perhaps divinely arranged, that the name “Anna” itself has a chiastic structure! Her name is also a palindrome; it is spelled the same forwards and backwards.

In Chapter I, Hester’s tied wrists formed a terrible chiastic x.

In Chapter XI, the Beloved Anna’s name forms a chiastic X, as does every loving couple.

However, in the Appendix, there is the mockery of the erect, standing person. We shall discuss this below.

 

Doors and Gateways

Jacob, in Genesis 28, has a mystical experience. He sees a divine ladder in the night. God and angels are there. Angels are ascending and descending the ladder, which connects and joins Heaven and Earth. (This ladder is alluded to by Jesus at John 1:51; Jesus gives us something far better than what Jacob was made to understand. In John’s Gospel, Jesus, and Humanity, become the Ladder. We are the Ladder. Douglass is teaching us this fact too.)

The next morning, Jacob is completely thunderstruck at what he had experienced in the preceding night. He says, “This is none other than . . . the gate of heaven!” (Gen 28:17)

The Psalms Ladder, which is related to the ladder Jacob saw, is also a gate.

Douglass uses “gate” and “door” language in a fascinating way in the Narrative.

In the final words of Chapter XI, the last chapter, Douglass says that doing the work of speaking up for Justice can be like a cross for us. Yet this is also a door of promise. Perhaps Douglass is giving us, here and now, a prophetic message: Solving race relations in the world today is not easy; however, it is the door, the only door, to the survival and thriving of our human family. Each person must become aware that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God. Let us proceed in Love. If we can achieve this realization, everything else will be taken care of.

 

The Terms “Door” and “Gate” in the Narrative

The words “door” and “gate” occur 27 times in the Narrative. 16 of these appearances, well over half the appearances of these words, occur in Chapter X. Again, Douglass is trying to get us to see something.

Among other themes, some of which we have discussed, this chapter is emphasizing how it is a portal of the book, and of Douglass’ life. As the chiastic structure of the cross nears its center, where the crossbar is nailed to the cross, here in the density we find the door to life and the expansion of the human heart.

 

The Numbers “12” and “6” in the Narrative

One of the complexities of mystical writing is that the author may be referring to several things at once. This is the case with much writing that employs metaphor and symbol. However, there is a special density of intersecting meanings when the Psalm Structures are involved in a literary work.

A Slight Digression with Psalms 114 and 120

Chapter X, the 10th chapter, is, as we have mentioned, parallel to the 10th step of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The 10th step of that Ladder is formed by Psalms 114 & 120. We shall see references to both these Psalms in this chapter. When Douglass fights the evil Covey, and grabs him by the neck, Covey is terrified. “He trembled like a leaf.” In Psalm 114, terrified mountains, at the sight of the exodus, jump up and down, trembling, as it were. When he grabbed Covey hard by the throat, at the same time he says that “I rose.” This is also like the exodus, the journey of spiritual maturity, that occurs in Psalm 114.

Psalm 120 is especially about the anger and rivalries and the tough fighting, the bitter strife with others, that often occur in life. Chapter X has the only four references, all subtle, to the number 120 in the book: 1) “6 miles” and “20 years old” appear in adjacent sentences, within a very bitter story of a woman who was forced to get pregnant and bear twin slaves whom would be owned by Covey (6 x 20 = 120). 2) When Douglass has his epic battle with wicked Covey, the struggle lasted for two hours (120 minutes). Does this seem a bit long? Is Douglass employing poetic license here? He could well be poetically expressing the human bitterness that occurs in life, especially a life that has known much suffering, especially the life of a slave. 3) Later, when he is about to be betrayed the first time he is planning their escape, he says, “The first two hours (120 minutes) of that morning were such as I never experienced before, and hope never to again.” This describes the dread and tension of the waiting period, before they found that they had indeed been betrayed. 4) While working at the shipyard, he states that he needs “a dozen pair of hands,” which would be 120 fingers. This may seem humorous, but it’s a typical example of the mystical authors’ language, which includes mathematical formulae, when they refer to the Psalm Structures.

In the language of the Holy Spirit, one of the things that the number 120 represents is bitter strife. Additionally, Psalm 120 is on the 10th Step of the Ladder, which is parallel to Chapter X of the Narrative. Hence, the four subtle appearances of the number 120 in this chapter.

 

Back to “12” and “6”

So as we have seen, Chapter X is true to its place on the Ladder, and speaks of Psalms 114 and 120. However, there seems to be a new true beginning in Chapter X. Douglass enters the most mature phase of his life. For this reason, we celebrate a good appropriation of the 1st step of the Ladder, a joyful sense of the entrance to the Ladder. So Douglass will return us, in this same Chapter X, to a new consideration of the numbers 6 and 12, which we find on the first, or bottom, step of the Ladder, far below 114 and 120.

In the above diagram of the Ladder, we see that the bottom step is formed by Psalms 6 & 12. Douglass has subtle references to the numbers 6 and 12 at perhaps ten places in the Narrative. However, six of these ten references to “6 and 12” occur in Chapter X. This is again a tremendous concentration of a particular literary theme in Chapter X.

The Ladder is a door, a gateway, as we have discussed. Psalms 6 & 12 have a special role as the “gate of the gate.” Their being the first step emphasizes their role as a portal. They are also the only Psalms to have the musical term “hasheminith” (which appears in the Hebrew superscriptions of both Psalms), emphasizing their partnership, like a pair of decorated gateposts at a gate. The only time this word appears in the Book of Psalms is in the superscriptions to Psalms 6 & 12.

Chapter X has the great turning point in Douglass’ life, when he turned the tables on the evil Covey, and fought for his own dignity. This is the crucial prelude to his escape.

We are at the center, in several ways. There are the multiple appearances of 6 (6 of 12) months.

The “center” or “turning point” is also emphasized by the fact that Chapter X has a heavy emphasis on pairs. The chapter begins with the pair, the yoke, of oxen. Right after this story, Douglass says, “I lived with Mr. Covey one year. During the first six months, of that year, scarce a week passed without his whipping me.” This is the first time that Douglass divides the year into two groups of six months each. A bit later in the chapter, “wretched woman”, the “miserable woman,” Caroline, gives birth to twins. Another pair. Douglass begins the next paragraph: “If at any one time of my life more than another, I was made to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery, that time was during the first six months of my stay with Mr. Covey.” This is the chapter’s second mention of the division of the year into a pair of 6-month halves.

Douglass continues to emphasize the neat division of the year into matching halves: “I have already intimated that my condition was much worse, during the first six months of my stay at Mr. Covey’s, than in the last six.” Note that here we have the word “six” twice in the one sentence. He continues: “The circumstances leading to the change in Mr. Covey’s course toward me form an epoch in my humble history. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man. On one of the hottest days of the month of August, 1833 . . . (emphasis added)”

Back to the chiasmus: Here, at the third mention of the division of the year into two very different six-month segments, we find the moral center of the book: the powerful transformation that happens in the soul and life of Frederick Douglass. This is the portal through which he passes to become the champion of humanity we know him as. At the same time, he is placing subtle if strong emphasis on the numbers 6 & 12, which Psalms form the first step of the Ladder, the “gateway of the gate.”

Yet there is more happening here too. Due to the contract signed by his master, he spent a calendar year working for Covey, from January 1, 1833, to January 1, 1834. The beginning of the story of his radical transformation happens in August, which, as Professor O’Meally also notes, is the 8th month of the year, not the center of the year. So again, the author Douglass is employing artistic license in forming his story, dividing the year into two halves of six months. Now, this could be simply to form a nice doorway through which he will emerge to freedom. Or, by his real emphasizing of the numbers 6 & 12, he is pointing to his true discernment of the Ladder and his flight up this Ladder to the North, and to a stage of life closer to Paradise.

That Douglass is taking his turn as the “Person on the Ladder” is brought home after his minor escape from Covey, when he returns to his more permanent master: “From the crown of my head to my feet, I was covered with blood.” This reminds us of the cruel treatment of Aunt Hester in Chapter I. However, it is also more positive than that: this is also Douglass’ beginning passage into the state of an enlightened, stronger soul. It is an image of a warrior on the battlefield, or of an infant being born.

Two pages later, the emphasis of Douglass being born through a portal appears again, when he is “half out of the loft,” working hard, when Covey attacks him, beginning the epic battle. In the beginning of the fight, they converse. Douglass writes, “He asked me if I meant to persist in my resistance. I told him I did, come what might; that he had used me like a brute for six months, and that I was determined to be used so no longer. With that, he strove to drag me to a stick that was lying just out of the stable door. He meant to knock me down. But just as he was leaning over to get the stick, I seized him with both hands by his collar, and brought him by a sudden snatch to the ground.” This is the fourth time he mentions the division of the year into two halves of six months.

We emerge into the better, second half of the year: “The whole six months afterwards, that I spent with Mr. Covey, he never laid the weight of his finger upon me in anger.” This is the fifth and final reference to the numbers 6 & 12 of that year.

The next paragraph, glorious, is full of allusions to the Ladder:

This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free. The gratification afforded by the triumph was a full compensation for whatever else might follow, even death itself. He only can understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled by force the bloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before. It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom. My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.     (italics and underlining added)

 

His resurrection traces the direction of the Ladder. The Psalms Ladder has hell at the bottom of the Ladder and heaven at the top. There are more allusions to the Ladder throughout the rest of the chapter. Speaking of the year following the pivotal year with Covey, Douglass says, “The year passed off smoothly. It seemed only about half as long as the year which preceded it.” Why does Douglass add this impression? “Half as long….” This is another re-fashioning of a year into a 6-month segment. AH! He is building the next steps of the Psalms Ladder. St. John, in his Gospel, does the same! Both authors are building the Ladder before our eyes! If we take half a year and add it to the 12 months of the preceding year, we have 18 months. And Psalm 18 is the first half of the second step of the Psalms Ladder. The conclusion of the second year takes us through 24 months. And so we have the full second step of the Psalms Ladder, smartly worked into the text by Douglass.

This warping of time by Douglass matches and reverses another similar experience. In Chapter VIII, he must go back to his original master’s place: “I was absent from Baltimore, for the purpose of valuation and division, just about one month, and it seemed to have been six.” Yet again, we have the time span of 6 months. This time, however, it is imaginary, an entity of our inner experience, just like our experience of the Psalms Ladder!

At this point, an earlier text appears in a new light: the first sentence of the same Chapter VIII has the phrase “three years and six months” in it. Three years is 36 months, and Psalm 36 is the second Psalm of step 3 of the Psalms Ladder. The extra “6 months” he mentions would make a total of 42 months. And Psalm 42 is the first Psalm of step four of the Psalms Ladder. If we have not yet connected this to the Ladder, he gives us an additional clue: “ . . . after a sail of about twenty-four (24) hours, I found myself near the place of my birth.”

“42” is also an interesting number because, as a multiple of both 6 and 21, it is both a Pillar Psalm and a Ladder Psalm. Psalms 84 and 126 are the only other Psalms that share this quality. Later in Chapter X, there shall be an allusion to the number “84.” And there are also very subtle allusions to the number “126.”

 

Enlightenment and the Psalms

The conclusion of Chapter X has other sets of connections to the Psalms.

Near the end of the chapter he is working much more independently, building ships at Fell’s Point, in Baltimore. He assisted “in building two large man-of-war brigs.” When he arrived there, there was a rush, driven by the yard owner’s contract, to quickly finish building the ships, and Douglass found himself “…at the beck and call of about seventy-five men.” The number 75 reminds us of the journey of the ancient Israelites into Egypt, from which they would make their exodus hundreds of years later. (See Acts 7:14) That journey of about 75 persons was led by Jacob, on the way to see his son, and former-slave, Joseph; and Jacob had previously seen the ladder in Genesis 28. However, 75 is also half of the number of Psalms, 150. And in the small part of the chapter that follows, we shall have that number, 150, referenced three times.

There is also a lot of chiaroscuro in the rest of the chapter, a combination of light and shadow. At first, despite the hard work, the shipyard seems to be a relatively happy and free workplace, where “white and black ship-carpenters worked side by side,” with many of the black men being free. Eventually, however, troubles arose, and Douglass found himself about to be attacked by four white men: they “…came upon me, armed with sticks, stones, and heavy handspikes. One came in front with a half brick. There was one at each side of me [like the crucified Jesus], and one behind me. While I was attending to those in front, and on either side, the one behind ran up with the handspike, and struck me a heavy blow upon the head.” Douglass was stunned, and fell. The four began beating him. Douglass regathered his strength, and began to rise. “Just as I did that, one of their number gave me, with his heavy boot, a powerful kick in the left eye. My eyeball seemed to have burst.” At that point, the attackers left him alone.

When Douglass is perfectly surrounded by his attackers here, he is alluding to Psalm 88, which is the most hopeless Psalm in the Psalter. The enemies form a perfect circle around the Psalmist, as if an atom is about to be split. Yet directly after this Psalm, according to the sequence of another of the Psalm Structures (the Interwoven Menorahs), there is resurrection.

While the injuries were painful, the nearly-exploding eyeball could also represent enlightenment, as is discussed above. Douglass was tenderly cared for by his master and mistress after this, and perhaps, unknown to them, he was also visited by God’s own angels, who taught him mystical realities, including the Psalm Structures. Immediately after the fight, Douglass writes, “All this took place in sight of not less than fifty (50) white ship-carpenters, and not one (1) interposed a friendly word…” This “1 and 50” is the first allusion to the number 150. This is exactly the language that people enlightened by the Holy Spirit use to speak of such things.

In the second-to-last paragraph of this long chapter, there is an evolutionary hint about the movement from the 7-branch menorah to the more universal 9-branch menorah. Douglass also says, “…my wages were a dollar and a half a day.” This, of course, makes $ 1.50.

In case we don’t get this, Douglass underlines and emphasizes it at the beginning of the chapter’s final paragraph: “I was now getting, as I have said, one (1) dollar and fifty (50) cents per day.” (emphasis added)

In the Appendix, he will write the word “psalm.”

After this conclusion to the chapter, my own partially-educated guess is that Douglass had the Psalm Structures revealed to him directly by the Holy Spirit, by God or God’s angels.

Chapter XI (Chapter 11) and the Ladder

The discussion of the Ladder continues. Douglass speaks of the underground railroad and the upperground railroad (his italics) in the same sentence. This is not an actual rail line, but the secret system of helping slaves escape along certain routes and sheltering havens to freedom in the north. Harriet Tubman is a famous conductor of this railroad. Literally, however, the train tracks of a physical railroad are the shape of the Ladder: the two rails are the two sides of the Ladder, and the wooden railroad ties are the steps or rungs of the Ladder. Maya Angelou, another mystic who knows of the Ladder, will make use of this fact in her poetry.

In the same paragraph, he mentions “step,” “footprints,” twice mentions “flying,” once mentions “flight,” and “hover over him.” These are all terms that allude to the climbing motion on the Ladder. In the same paragraph, the terms “south,” “north,” “line,” “infernal,” “enlightening,” “watchfulness,” and “light” all allude to various stations along the journey on the Ladder.

 

Section C

Frederick Douglass and William Shakespeare, Employers of Irony

(Parodies of the Ladder Schema)

 

Frederick Douglass was born a slave and suffered exceedingly in the first two decades of his life, until he won his freedom.

Shakespeare’s was a different kind of suffering in his very young years, as a forthcoming book will discuss.

Both men are great writers, wordsmiths at the uppermost reaches of their art.

Yet both men knew incredible suffering, and had, either in their past or at the time of their writing, anger at God. Such anger at God is righteous, and, happily, it is not permanent. It is a necessary part of our developmental process. God can take our anger; human beings are much less equipped than God is to receive the brunt of our anger.

The Psalms often direct anger directly at God. This is Scripture. God likes it when we take out our anger before God. When a person has reached that level of growth, that level of intimacy with God, then God likes direct and frank conversation. The Psalms can help us to express our anger to God. One Psalm calls God a drunken warrior who missed the battle. Another Psalm refers to God as the shepherd who let his sheep be plundered by the enemy (Douglass makes fine use of this latter image).

Both Shakespeare and Douglass vent major spleen, either towards God, or about people, utilizing the Mystical Psalm Structures. Each does this in unique ways.

The forthcoming book on Shakespeare discusses how Shakespeare was badly abused as a child. Without the help of psychologists, it took him quite a few years to get himself sorted out and recollected again. And the recollection left astonishingly wide spaces and gaps in his psyche. He seems to have been in love with both a man and a woman—such confusing situations can happen in the wake of childhood abuse. (We are just now beginning to have mature understanding and conversations about such trauma in the lives of people; this will bear positive fruit, as we can better help their healing, and prevent such abuse in future generations.)

For now, however, let us leave the discussion of Shakespeare’s life at that; enough has been said for the purposes here.

Shakespeare’s re-presentation of the Mystical Psalms Ladder in the Sonnets is an amazing achievement. It is highly complex and richly textured, incorporating many levels of reality and Scripture and poetry and history, in the volume’s 154 sonnets. (Douglass published his Narrative when he was a very young 27 years old; the Sonnets is a work that Shakespeare spent decades on, by far his most complex and developed work…) However, Shakespeare also pulls a prank on God. The top step of the Psalms Ladder is formed by Psalms 138 and 144. In Shakespeare’s parallel Sonnets 138 and 144, Will makes a stunning parody of the Ladder:

Please permit a brief discussion of some of the poems near the end of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I do not want to take the attention away from Douglass, here at the end of the essay; however, to see the lethally cutting parody that Douglass is here employing, we need to take a look at Shakespeare’s treatment of the same part of the Psalms Ladder.

Shakespeare and the Top of the Ladder

Psalms 138 and 144 are the top of the Ladder. Psalm 150 is the heavens above the Ladder.

It is striking that Shakespeare’s parallels to these, Sonnets 138 and 144, were known to have been shared by Shakespeare years before the publication of the Sonnets in 1609. Perhaps Shakespeare had planned, early in the process of the composition of the Sonnets, to have 138 and 144 in their respective places, forming the top rung of the Sonnets’ version of the Ladder.

One can see why Shakespeare has done this.

Both Psalms are parodies of relationship, and more and less humorous. However, in comparison with their parallel partners in the Psalms themselves, these two sonnets are spastically funny.

Psalm 138 speaks of an arriving among the Elohim—this term “Elohim” could mean “God,” or “angelic beings,” or even real, virtuous leaders among humanity. In this wonderful company, whoever belongs in this gathering, praise of God shall be sung. One is meant to receive the strong impression that a good sense of fulfillment and happiness and community accompanies this pure joyful singing.

Shakespeare, however, is reflecting in Sonnet 138 about how lovers may lie to each other to avoid having their relationship hit rocky turbulence. The imperfections of the two individuals have not yet been worked out, “And in our faults by lies we flattered be.” (138.14) So instead of Psalm 138’s health, arrival, and celebration of friendship in realms divine, the two self-conscious lovers lie and, topically flattered by these lies, achieve an uneasy peace and harmony.

He sews the structure of the Psalms Ladder into this sonnet, saying that “On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed,” alluding to the two sides of the Ladder. (138.8)

On the top step of the Psalms Ladder, Psalm 138 is paired with Psalm 144, which is a celebration of incredibly joyful human community. In a rare appearance of the words “daughters” and “sons” both, together, there is also a cosmic fecundity; Mother Earth responds to this peaceful joyful human community by blessing us, all of us, with bounteous harvests in every way.

Constructing the top step of his version of the Psalms Ladder, Shakespeare pauses to reflect on the hurts of his own life. The ungodly sufferings he went through as a child, most of which the world has not yet known about… The ruptured community he grew up in, and suffered in, following difficult religious civil wars… The awful parodies of human relationships that he was trapped in as a mere child in school, tricked and treated badly by an adult… The very difficult, albeit finally successful recovery from these things, having been ultimately saved by Anne Hathaway…

Shakespeare is speaking to God directly in Sonnet 144.

It’s personal.

Will is saying, “You really mauled me God. (Or, God, you stood by while these things happened to me.)” Now, Psalm 144 celebrates sweetness of community and growth among humans. So Shakespeare responds to this by saying that this blessed community of Psalm 144 is an unfulfilled promise, unreal—or, if not unreal, well, it has certainly not yet been achieved in his own life. (Douglass was a stronger person than Shakespeare; and Shakespeare, fairly strong and good at recovery, may here be simply making humor; as a mystic, Shakespeare had faith that God will follow through on his promises, and he had reaped much bounty himself in life, knowing his plays and poetry are among the best ever made…) Nevertheless, his Sonnet 144 is a parody of the Psalms Ladder, of Psalm 144, and of the Holy Trinity, as his sonnet has a love triangle, the passing of venereal disease, much cheating, psychological doubt, the failure of what today we might call the “normal binary” of male-female sexual relations, intentional betrayals, and generally vile behavior and attitudes.

Mocking the Ladder, angels fall from heaven to hell. And even the upward climb of the angels on the Ladder is mocked: A good angel gets fired out of hell like a cannonball, after having suffered corruption!

Conversions happen, but bad ones: an angel becomes a “fiend.” (In Chapters VI and VII, Frederick Douglass recounts his shock when his new mistress treats the young Frederick with kindness and love. However, the “fatal poison” of being involved with slavery in any capacity turns this once kind person into a nasty one, “and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.” Douglass is here seizing upon the fallen angel of Sonnet 144, comparing the angel repeatedly to his fallen mistress!

Forming a nice parallel to the words “both sides” (of the Ladder) that appear in Sonnet 138, so too does Sonnet 144 have the words “both” and “side.”

What are we to conclude? Here at the top of the Ladder, has Shakespeare turned on us, or will he show us the way, through tremendous suffering and hurt, to love?

The Triumph of Love in Sonnet 150

Love wins.

Humanity is growing. Love is growing among humanity.

The sonnet begins, “O, from what power hast thou this powerful might/ With insufficiency my heart to sway?”

A bit later the plaintiff asks, “Who taught thee how to make me love thee more [?]”

Something amazing happens in the final line of Sonnet 150, which is a parallel place to the very end of the entire Book of Psalms.

Shakespeare writes the word “beloved.”

“Beloved,” in Hebrew, is cognate with the word “David.” It is also cognate with God’s nickname for Solomon, “Jedidiah.” Jesus, a much later fruit of the “line of David,” is also called “Beloved” by God. Douglass called his fellow slaves, with whom he studied the Scriptures for a blissful though brief time, “beloved.” (see Chapter X)

Psalm 150 is a rocking party jazz dabka big band swing throw-down blues concert fiesta party in the house, in the gathering place, in the town square, in heaven. There is much music and dancing and pure celebration. It is a par-tay.

Psalm 150, and the Book of Psalms, concludes, “Praise Yah!” Allelu-Yah!

This “Yah” is a diminutive of YHWH. A nickname for YHWH. Like ‘Jedidiah’.

YHWH is still the great God of the Old Testament.

But Shakespeare is playing with this, and he’s replaying what Psalm 84 does, in the orbit of equidistant (and largely identical) Psalms 60 and 108. All three are Ladder Psalms. All three Psalms have the word “Beloved.” But Psalm 84 applies this, right in the center of the Psalms, to God! God is the little beloved darlin’ of humanity! Yahweh is a love object, hunted and pursued by humanity!

Shakespeare makes it all a glorious hot mess.

If we read Sonnet 150 from the point of view of God, then God is the beloved, and wants to be beloved of humanity.

If we read Sonnet 150 from the point of view of Humanity, then Humanity is the beloved, wanting to be beloved of God. Knowing that we have earned this (sic—theology would not agree, however…).

So. After the rough and tumble of life, Shakespeare has realized that God’s plan is really good. Love grows. That’s the basic reality of the state of things.

We all want to love, and we all want to be loved.

 

Douglass’ Appropriation of Shakespeare

Douglass knows what Shakespeare is doing. He knows that Will is mocking the top step of the Ladder.

But Douglass’ situation is more urgent. And Douglass doesn’t merely mock the top step, no, he throws it right out the window. Into the trash. There is no Chapter XII. He stops short. He blows up the bridge.

Or does he?

He knows that slavery is rotting the heart of the nation. It is evil for slaveowners, for slaves, and for those who have to live anywhere near this situation. Douglass would strongly get our attention focused on this great evil in society. Because he knows its corrosive affects on all souls involved.

He is saying that if we do not fix this great injustice in society, we will be crippling our community, and rendering everyone incapable of accessing the Ladder. Although there is no Chapter XII, Douglass does provide for us a 12th part, the Appendix to the book. Like Shakespeare’s 12th step, this Appendix is also a parody of the top step of the Psalms Ladder.

 

To summarize:

The Bard makes of bawd of Psalm 144, and the entire Ladder, and life under God, in the ludicrous Sonnet 144.

But Douglass has a far more urgent situation in which he exists than does Shakespeare. Millions of his brothers and sisters are living in the hell that is slavery. And Douglass is writing this 20 years before the end of the Civil War. Perhaps it is tough for him to imagine what would have to happen for slavery to end.

When Douglass figured out Shakespeare’s Ladder schema, and his mockery of the Psalms, he perhaps smiled briefly? Perhaps he was not able to laugh. Maybe he laughed later, after the Civil War? I don’t know. (For the first time in decades, I picked up the Narrative mere weeks ago, saw his structure, and realized that I could not delay in writing this initial survey. From this present point of my life, I shall be studying Douglass until they bury me.)

Douglass does not engage in the poetic burlesque of Shakespeare. He keeps his language and his content much more noble than Shakespeare’s language and conversation; however, Douglass is just as familiar with the worst ills that can appear in human society, the just plain boiling livid situations that sometimes obtain. Douglass wants us to rise and meet the challenge. To overcome the ills that happen. He wants for Christians to actually be Christian. For all to get along in love and harmony. Although the Appendix is a parody, actually, parts of Chapter XI of the Narrative show the paradise that is promised in Psalms 138 and 144, atop the Ladder. We can achieve a just and a loving society. He urges us to.

So we see here that Douglass is doing something more serious than Shakespeare. And yet, there is much more than this going on in the final parts of the Narrative.

Frederick Douglass is doing something far more serious. He is saying that if we do not become a society of love and equality, then we will destroy the Ladder, for all people.

Either we all climb the Ladder, or none of us do.

This is the challenge for our time.

Douglass’ referrals to Shakespeare’s parodies are not humorous. Nor are they subtle personal conversation between him and God. No. They are directed at all people on earth. They are for you and me, today. It is the perfect time capsule from the past to the present now. Douglass is grabbing us by our lapels, saying, Now! Now! Now! Now is the time for people to drop the fear and the greed that has been destroying our progress, causing more evil wars, and making a mockery of our political institutions. Now is the time to reach out to each other in the reality of trust, mutual respect, and love. Because this is the only reality that a future humanity can abide in. If we do not now reach this societal stage of sharing, interdependence, and love, we are all going to be toast. Goodbye, world. Goodbye, humanity. What a horrid thing to do to our children.

Let us look more closely at the Appendix of the Narrative.

After a fairly happy Chapter XI, the attack on false religion, especially false, fundamentalist Christianity, takes off in the Appendix.

Douglass begins the Appendix by making a big distinction between the “slaveholding religion” and true Christianity. He says that there is the “widest possible difference” between them.

Frederick Douglass will have many references to Shakespeare’s parodies in this Appendix. For example, he gives us selections from two poems, which is itself an allusion to the two poems of Shakespeare at the top of his Ladder, Sonnets 138 and 144.

The second of these Appendix poems is actually entitled “Parody.” This is a shocking statement, coming at the end of the book.

There are more ways that Douglass recasts his angst and anger, similar to the Bard. We have discussed Sonnet 144, and the absolutely side-splittingly funny mockery of the Mystical Ladder that Shakespeare has made for us, and especially for God. Sonnet 144 is like Shakespeare’s own complaint to God.

Douglass alludes to Sonnet 144 five times in the Appendix! He does so also elsewhere in the Narrative, but the Appendix has a flashing neon light pointing right at Sonnet 144! It is very clear. However, Douglass is directing this anger to us, not to God.

In the first paragraph of the Appendix, Douglass quotes the Scottish poet Robert Pollok. Regarding the evil admixture of slavery in Christian society, he says, “Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in’.” While this instance here is a direct quote from Pollok, it is not too far from the sentiments of Sonnet 144. Douglass shall soon draw much closer to Shakespeare. He makes a close pass to the heart of the Hebrew Scriptures: “The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.” Maybe this is why none of the slave owners were led to an awareness of the Mystical Psalm Structures.

In the above essay we have traced the development of the Ladder Person, that is, how the emerging and growing human person rises in stature, integrity, and true nobility. But the more full stature of humanity, which has begun to arrive to us in Chapter X and Chapter XI, is also mocked by Douglass here in the Appendix: “The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other.” (Emphasis added.)

There is the Appendix’ second allusion to Sonnet 144: “Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

A bit later Douglass quotes most of Matthew 23, where Jesus really lays into the Pharisees, chief priests, and scribes! This quotation contains the words “heaven” and “hell,” and so we have a third echo of Sonnet 144.

Douglass then says what Pope Francis and so many other great Christians have said: “They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen.”

Then Douglass presents a mocking song-poem entitled “A Parody.” It is a parody of a popular hymn from the South called “Heavenly Union.” The first line of the parody has “saints and sinners,” a fourth allusion to Sonnet 144.

The 4th and 5th lines of A Parody say, “And preach all sinners down to hell,/ And sing of heavenly union.” This is the fifth allusion to Sonnet 144.

The parody also has allusions to the Psalms and the Ladder: “We wonder how such saints can sing,/ Or praise the Lord upon the wing…,” and “lay up treasures in the sky,” and “fly.” Quoting a creature from the Psalms, they’ll “preach and roar like a Bashan bull,” and two verses later “seize old Jacob by the wool.” Here, Jacob, who saw the ladder in Genesis 28, is a slave.

Perhaps the harshest part of A Parody is this stanza near the end:

 

Another preacher whining spoke

Of One whose heart for sinners broke:

He tied old Nanny to an oak,

And drew blood at every stroke,

And prayed for heavenly union.

 

Douglass seems well aware of several mystical veins of ore in the Bible, not just the Psalms. He is strongly alluding here to the death of Absalom, dangling in the “heart” of the “oak tree,” when nasty Joab comes over and drills three javelins through his “heart.” Slaveowners are, um, Joab. Or even worse than Joab. And Absalom is a difficult foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the Old Testament, if parallels the “raising” of Solomon to the throne, and for a brilliant nanosecond, Solomon represents the integration that will permanently enter Creation through the Cross and painful elevation of Christ.

But just because Jesus made this possibility of global integration possible for us, it does not mean that we have automatically achieved this (sic)!

No, we have to work on our implementation of the good human integration that Jesus and the Cross have made possible to us. Jesus wants all of us to become mystics and holy and strong and good and intelligent and integrated and wide-seeing and big-hearted and loving people, just like Frederick Douglass.

Obviously, we have not gotten there yet. Some people have, but we have yet a mighty ways to go.

Part of our challenge is learning how to share the more-than-ample resources that we have in the world. There is no reason for people to be starving or homeless or uneducated.

Frederick Douglass knows the Bible and the Bard. But his message is more urgent and more Biblical than Shakespeare’s. And by virtue of his incredible journey, Frederick Douglass can command more moral authority than Shakespeare. Today, Douglass is a voice of prophetic Justice. He speaks of the demands of Justice for all our world today.

Let us thank God, and Frederick Douglass, for this stunningly beautiful and Truthful work of American literature. A prayer: May we learn from him.

 

 

Note:

For those wishing to do research on the Narrative, some notes and links, including all the numbers in the text of the Narrative, are available here:

https://www.academia.edu/34628354/Rough_Notes_Frederick_Douglass_1st_Autobiography

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Our Imagination, Poetry, and the Holy Spirit

 

Basic Exercises for Learning the Communication

of the Holy Spirit

Wallace Stevens and William Shakespeare:

The Holy Spirit, Poetry, and the Training of the Imagination

First Essay

            Poets Wallace Stevens and William Shakespeare have the same accents (stresses) on their names, and the same initials. Their names are double trochees, with the accent on the first syllable of all four first and last names: WOLL-iss STE-venz and WILL-yam SHAKE-spear. Of these four word-names, ‘Shakespeare’ is drawn out to a greater length, and occupies more airtime, and takes more time to pronounce, when we say it aloud. There is also a longer pause between the two syllables in the name, Shake—Speare

Stevens, no doubt, gave some thought to this reality, as the poetry of Shakespeare is a large inspiration and source to the poetry of Stevens.

These two poets are among a series of poets who secretly discuss mystical realities of the Bible in their poetry. Some of the important contributors to this tradition include Petrarch (who may have originated it among the poets), Philip Sidney, Shakespeare, Lady Mary Wroth, Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jorge Luis Borges, Stevens, Pablo Neruda, Owen Dodson, and Maya Angelou. This list is not at all conclusive: other poets know, and perhaps many others know. Personally, I do not know how they kept all this a secret for so long. The Holy Spirit can be a stern taskmaster, however, and that may be the answer to this part of the puzzle.

This series of essays will show the working relationship between two of these poets, Shakespeare and Stevens. A separate book is being prepared, discussing Shakespeare, whose Sonnets may be the most complex reflection on the Psalms and the Mystical Psalm Structures that has been made by humanity. At this point of my research, if there is an author who comes the closest to Shakespeare in depth of commentary on these mystical realities, it is Stevens.

This Essay

            This essay will start the series slowly. It will show how several of Stevens’ poems are clearly about vital topics and episodes of the Bible.

But this is only part of the story. The poetry of Shakespeare and Stevens is a poetry that has overly many levels of meaning and reference. The poems often have many levels, and are very deep.

A purpose of their poetry is to train us.

What is their poetry intended to train us for?

It is intended to train us to learn the languages of the Holy Spirit. Then, when we are more familiar with the various methods of the Holy Spirit’s communication with us, we are more free to live and move and have our being in the world with more and better conduits of input and inspiration for our actions, words, and thoughts.

The imagination, the somewhat regulated use of the imagination, is a central part of the training that we undergo to learn the Spirit’s languages. Making up a potential tremendous storehouse chock full of references that are the content of the languages of the Spirit, for each one of us individuals, is the Bible. And the Qur’an. (Shakespeare and Stevens both have references to the Qur’an.) And there are other storehouses of language content too.

The training conducted by the Spirit, especially if we want to learn Her ways deeply, can have difficult learning times, a bit like boot camp. However, the younger a person starts in learning the languages of the Spirit, and in learning the Bible, the better. (In the future, if we help build the way for the future generations, the most difficult thing that they will experience in their youth and education will be the study of human history.)

Poetry and the Spirit

            A phrase, even a word, can activate acts of connection-making in the psyche, involving consulting our memory. And the context in which a phrase or a word appears can also help the phrase to tap a particular memory. Or a number of memories. The context that a poem creates can help steer a word to its mark.

Shakespeare and Stevens are masters of referring to one or multiple other realities by the use of a word or small group of words. In their huge range of art, they can make these allusions in many different ways. The Holy Spirit likes this versatility, flexibility, and precision these two poets have used to make these allusions. And the Holy Spirit wants us to develop our own versatility, flexibility, and precision in reading these allusions by these great makers of poetry.

This activity takes us to greater meaning. And to a greater density of meanings. This accessing of greater meaning, and of greater densities of meaning, helps develop our soul.

All of this helps our relationship with the Holy Spirit. We understand Her and Her languages better. Also, the more our faculties get practiced and happily resolved to working with Her, the less energy it takes to follow Her gentle guidance.

A final caveat before we begin: Every so often, in reading the poetry of Stevens, there are terms that seem to be racist. Stevens, however, was not a racist. He is making commentary on the culture of his time, and on the culture of earlier times. We shall discuss this in greater detail in future essays. It is good to know that he wants the human soul and mind to be utterly as free as possible. Any sort of prejudice would clutter the human mind. In The Man with the Blue Guitar, for example, Stevens wants to jangle and peel all prejudices out of the human person’s psyche.

Some Poems of Stevens,

And Their Referents

            In this main part of the essay, we’ll present some poems of Stevens. Questions will be asked, like, “What is this poem referring to in the Bible?” Already, that question is a bit too advanced and complex. It is better to start with questions like, “What does that word connect to?” and “What mood do you feel in the way Stevens has set this scene?” Then, it is easier to ask, “What is this poem referring to in the Bible?”

(Shakespeare and Stevens both knew the Bible incredibly deeply. Although both are credited in dealing in exciting new ways with secular topics, which is true, they know and refer to the Bible so very often. Shakespeare may have helped translate the King James Bible, and had the Psalms memorized. And he may have placed his own name in the KJV of Psalm 46. He was practically personal friends with David, Uriah, Bathsheba, Paul, and Jesus Christ. They all dance in and out of so many verses of his writing. Stevens knew this about Shakespeare, and he himself learned the Bible well as a child. Learning this, then, about Shakespeare, he would have redoubled his study of the Bible. His first volume of poetry was published when he was 44 years old, after he had studied the Bible for decades.)

The first volume of poetry he published is Harmonium, which has 85 poems in it, according to the version of Harmonium given in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. The 7th poem of Harmonium is Domination of Black.

 

DOMINATION OF BLACK

At night, by the fire,

The colors of the bushes

And of the fallen leaves,

Repeating themselves,

Turned in the room,

Like the leaves themselves

Turning in the wind.

Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks

Came striding.

And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.                                                          v. 10

 

The colors of their tails

Were like the leaves themselves

Turning in the wind,

In the twilight wind.

They swept over the room,

Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks

Down to the ground.

I heard them cry—the peacocks.                                                                            v. 18

 

Was it a cry against the twilight

Or against the leaves themselves

Turning in the wind,

Turning as the flames

Turned in the fire,

Turning as the tails of the peacocks

Turned in the loud fire,

Loud as the hemlocks

Full of the cry of the peacocks?

Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?                                                                     v. 28

 

Out of the window,

I saw how the planets gathered

Like the leaves themselves

Turning in the wind.

I saw how the night came,

Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks

I felt afraid.

And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.                                                          v. 36

 

 

Questions for Domination of Black:

What does the first verse remind you of?

Hint: What does it remind you of in the Bible? In the New Testament? What does it remind you of that is repeated in all four Gospels? What difficult night? For whom?

In the Bible, Moses and David dealt with guilt for actions they committed. So did Peter and Paul in the New Testament. There are repetitions. The first four verses of the poem seem to be outside. Then, the fifth verse tells us that we are in a ‘room’. Why this switch, or transition, or unexplained movement, or double reality?

What are the hemlocks?

What are the peacocks?

The last verse of the poem has an act of memory that is caused by an emotional state. When Peter, later in his life, recalled thousands and thousands of times his mild (compared to Judas) betrayal of Jesus, is it possible that the event itself, which in the hours after Jesus’ suffering and death caused him such shame and grief—is it possible that after the Great Turn, after the Resurrection, that the cry of the rooster could for him be a source of joy and encouragement?

Could the cry of the rooster each morning be for him a healthy dose of humility (self-knowledge) and a gentle, humorous greeting from Jesus? A reminder and a prod to start the day well, on fire as Peter was with the Holy Spirit?

Next Poem

            The Biblical Psalms that are numbered in the 50’s have several references, in the Biblical superscriptions of those Psalms, to the life of David.

In your copy of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, it is useful to take a pen in hand and number the poems of each collection in the book. At the first poem of each volume in the book, write “1” or “1st” by the title of the poem, and so on.

If night and darkness were themes that vied to hide the tremendous colors of the peacock in Domination of Black, this following poem immediately bursts not quite with color but with outrageous play of language, and wildness, as if of sportive behavior in a wild springtime:

 

BANTAMS IN PINE-WOODS

 

Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan in caftan

Of tan with henna hackles, halt!

 

Damned universal cock, as if the sun

Was blackamoor to bear your blazing tail.

 

Fat! Fat! Fat! Fat! I am the personal.

Your world is you. I am your world.

 

You ten-foot poet among inchlings. Fat!

Begone! An inchling bristles in these pines,

 

Bristles, and points their Appalachian tangs,

And fears not portly Azcan nor his hoos.

 

 

Questions for Bantams in Pine-Woods:

This is the 51st poem of the book.

Psalm 51 is about David’s big sin with Bathsheba. And then, with Uriah.

What things in this poem remind you of David?

What things here remind you of the famous springtime of 2 Samuel 11?

Are there connections between this poem and Psalm 51?

In the title of the poem, why is ‘Bantams’ plural?

What is going on in this poem?

 

‘Purgation’, ‘Purgatory’, and ‘Karma’ are areas where there is a tremendous amount of overlap between Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism (including Zen). This area has already been explored in interreligious dialogue, and promises exciting new venues of sharing in the future. Now, in this poem, the number 10 appears. And there are 10 verses in the poem.

Could this be related to David and Absalom? Recall that when David picked up and fled from Jerusalem because of the approach of rebellious Absalom, Absalom was advised to rape David’s 10 concubines on the roof of David’s palace, in the sight of the sun. Absalom followed through on that advice, committing that sin(s). A short time later, when Absalom is hanging in the oak tree by his hair, stuck and immobile, Joab is told of his presence there, and wanders over, surrounded by a group from his army. Joab picks some brutal brutes from his troops to torture Absalom for a while. How many torturers does he choose? 10.

So Absalom performs a purgative/karmic time when he’s hanging in the oak tree, which is also an image of Christ hanging on the cross.

But this episode of purgation-karma of Absalom is told within a wider episode of David’s own purgation-karma. Recall that on the same roof of the palace, he either seduced or raped Bathsheba. And then killed Uriah. His own purgation-karma for this was the death of his son Absalom at the hand of Joab. David wept and grieved.

This is the circumcision of David’s heart, and the strengthening of the human heart and conscience for our evolution forward.

The circumcision of David’s heart is reflected in Absalom his son’s death. The Hebrew text mentions the word ‘heart’ twice in one verse: Absalom, awkwardly hanging by his hair, is in the ‘heart’ of the oak. After Joab’s 10 soldiers do their work on Absalom, Joab strolls over and rams 3 javelins through Absalom’s ‘heart’. A sort of union happens here, as this is also the circumcision/maturing of David’s heart.

Third Poem

            This next poem has to do with geography, and with the relationship between nature and artifice, constructed realities that people make.

 

ANECDOTE OF THE JAR

 

I placed a jar in Tennessee,

And round it was, upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill.

 

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.

The jar was round upon the ground

And tall and of a port in air.

 

It took dominion everywhere.

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

 

Questions for Anecdote of the Jar:

How many verses is this poem?

Regarding this poem, is it a coincidence that Tennessee and Israel have the same number of syllables? Additionally, is it a coincidence that TEN-nes-SEE and IS-ra-EL have stresses on the first and third syllables of both words?

David was the subject of the previous poem. Soon after David was his son Solomon.

This is the 52nd poem of the book, immediately following Bantams in Pine-Woods. What was Solomon allowed to build that David was not allowed to build?

How many verses are in this poem?

What is Stevens saying about the old stone temple?

Tennessee is far from Palestine. But have Christianity and Islam reached Tennessee?

 

4th Poem

 

PALACE OF THE BABIES

 

The disbeliever walked the moonlit place,

Outside of gates of hammered serafin,

Observing the moon-blotches on the walls.

 

The yellow rocked across the still façades,

Or else sat spinning on the pinnacles,

While he imagined humming sounds and sleep.

 

The walker in the moonlight walked alone,

And each blank window of the building balked

His loneliness and what was in his mind:

 

If in a shimmering room the babies came,

Drawn close by dreams of fledgling wing,

It was because night nursed them in its fold.

 

Night nursed not him in whose dark mind

The clambering wings of birds of black revolved,

Making harsh torment of the solitude.

 

The walker in the moonlight walked alone,

And in his heart his disbelief lay cold.

His broad-brimmed hat came close upon his eyes.

 

Questions for Palace of the Babies:

Psalm 84 celebrates the temple in Jerusalem. In Psalm 84 a mother bird raises baby birds in the temple of Solomon, or, more likely, in the second temple of Jerusalem. How does this poem remind you of that?

What later baby was presented in that temple on the 8th day of his life? (see Luke 2)

If Wallace Stevens is making a direct interpretation of Psalm 84 and the temple children/baby birds as referring to Jesus, how could the plural baby birds become the 1 Jesus? Could Stevens be referring to the Body of Christ? Is the Body of Christ the new temple?

Also: The new temple is the human heart. This is already in the Old Testament. In various books of the Hebrew Scriptures, as Solomon receives instruction about the temple-building from David or from God, and as Solomon makes prayers and prepares the people for the building of the temple, the word “heart” appears frequently, receiving great emphasis. The entire purpose of the stone temples in Jerusalem was to prepare humanity to receive the Holy Spirit.

In fact, it would be perverse of humanity to return to that type of temple, with its blood sacrifices. Actually, The Man with the Blue Guitar, mentions “the sewers in Jerusalem” (v.187); this refers to the blood sewers of the two ancient temples of Jerusalem; blood sewers were needed to take away the blood of the sacrifices. Stevens, like the New Testament, is showing how we have evolved beyond this. Stevens’ Sunday Morning mentions “The holy hush of sacrifice” (v.5); he is again referring to the ancient Israelite temples, as “silent Palestine” is mentioned a few verses later (v.14) and the “dominion of blood” (v.15).

It is disturbing that there are fundamentalist Jews today who want to destroy the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque and build a third temple. They want to have sacrifices there, so, yes, there would be blood sewers there once again.

Paul says “You are the temple of God.” He also says, “You are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.” The entire thrust of the evolution of humanity is about how the human person is intended to grow in intelligence, goodness, and strength as we evolve, with the guiding help of the Holy Spirit.

The “palace of the babies” is also the woman, and the womb. The Mystical Psalms Ladder also represents the womb. A forthcoming book on the Mystical Psalm Structures shall take this up at greater length.

 

5th Poem

 

LIFE IS MOTION

 

In Oklahoma,

Bonnie and Josie,

Dressed in calico,

Danced around a stump.

They cried,

“Ohoyaho,

Ohoo” . . .

Celebrating the marriage

Of flesh and air.

 

 

The dialogue by the cross in John 19 is one of the culminations of everything in the Bible. The Beloved Disciple takes into his own self the mother of Jesus. This is an icon of human integration, and the possibility for all of us to do this in our own lives. A forthcoming book, The Red Line of Hope, discusses this in greater depth.

With this information, how can this poem be considered to be discussing the crucifixion of John 19, and the dialogue at the cross?

 

 

Bonus Section:

 

 

6th Poem

 

Here is Sonnet 53 from Shakespeare.

Why is this sonnet proof that the Bard of the Avon visited Florence?

 

53

What is your substance, whereof are you made,

That millions of strange shadows on you tend?

Since everyone hath, every one, one shade,

And you, but one, can every shadow lend.

 

Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit

Is poorly imitated after you.

On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set,

And you in Grecian tires are painted new.

 

Speak of the spring and foison of the year:

The one doth shadow of your beauty show,

The other as your bounty doth appear,

And you in every blessèd shape we know.

 

In all external grace you have some part,

But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

 

 

What famous statue is in Florence?

Could the hair of Michelangelo’s David be being referenced in the second verse?

In the fourth poem above, Palace of the Babies, in the final line where the “hat” is pulled down, could Stevens be referencing a different Florentine statue, the David of Donatello?

How might this also be alluding to Peter? (The final line; also, Peter’s shadow in Acts of the Apostles)

 

7th Poem

This poem is the 29th poem from the second volume of Stevens, Ideas of Order, that is in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens.

How is this poem in dialogue with Sonnet 53 from Shakespeare?

 

 

ANGLAIS MORT À FLORENCE

 

A little less returned for him each spring.

Music began to fail him. Brahms, although

His dark familiar, often walked apart.

 

His spirit grew uncertain of delight,

Certain of its uncertainty, in which

That dark companion left him unconsoled

 

For a self returning mostly memory.

Only last year he said that the naked moon

Was not the moon he used to see, to feel

 

(In the pale coherences of moon and mood

When he was young), naked and alien,

More leanly shining from a lankier sky.

 

Its ruddy pallor had grown cadaverous.

He used his reason, exercised his will,

Turning in time to Brahms as alternate

 

In speech. He was that music and himself.

They were particles of order, a single majesty:

But he remembered the time when he stood alone.

 

He stood at last by God’s help and the police;

But he remembered the time when he stood alone.

He yielded himself to that single majesty;

 

But he remembered the time when he stood alone,

When to be and delight to be seemed to be one,

Before the colors deepened and grew small.

 

 

What things in this poem remind us of David? Of Shakespeare? Of Peter and the first poem above, Domination of Black? (especially the last line of Anglais…)

Stevens can be playful. If we exchange the word “Psalms” for “Brahms,” with which it rhymes, how does this make David appear more in this poem? How Peter?

“Anglais” and “police”; what might these words be alluding to?

Perhaps angels?

When Paul was on the steps of the temple in Acts 21:35, could the “police,” the Roman soldiers who carried him on the steps, be in Stevens’ mind?

“Ruddy,” from verse 13, is a David word. What else in this poem could be describing the final years and death of David?

How is this poem related to Palace of the Babies, above?

In the penultimate line, there is the number “one.” How does this relate to Sonnet 53?

 

8th Poem

 

How is this poem proof that Shakespeare visited Rome?

 

 

Sonnet 48

How careful was I, when I took my way,

Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,

That to my use it might unusèd stay

From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust.

 

But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,

Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief,

Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,

Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.

 

Thee have I not locked up in any chest,

Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art,

Within the gentle closure of my breast,

From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;

 

And even thence thou wilt be stol’n, I fear,

For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

 

 

What is shown in the Arch of Titus?

Shakespeare is not making fun of the Romans taking of the 7-branch menorah from the temple at the time when the temple was destroyed. He is celebrating the transition of humanity to something far greater. The Mystical Psalm Structures have, as one of the main mystical structures there, the Interwoven 9-Branch menorahs. These celebrate the human family around the globe, celebrating each person, and every human society. This is Sonnet 48. Psalm 48 celebrates Jerusalem. Sonnet 48 celebrates the entire globe becoming holy, and Humanity with it.

All, or nearly all, of the 154 Sonnets have similar hidden structural orderings in them. This architectural ordering, hidden, of nearly all the Sonnets emphasize the two interwoven 9-branch menorahs of the Interwoven Menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures. This file shows this pattern in the Sonnets:

https://www.academia.edu/26004294/The_Chiastic-Menorah_Structure_of_the_154_Sonnets_Addendum_to_Chapter_3_of_William_Shakespeare_and_the_Psalter_of_Fire_

These menorahs are about the evolution and bright future of humanity.

Back to Sonnet 48: The word “even,” which has within it “Eve,” is in verse 13:

This sonnet is celebrating:

-The transition from Adam to Eve; her “birth” from Adam; the new emerging Feminine

-The transition from Jerusalem to Rome, and to the entire globe

-The transition from the old stone temple to the living Body of Christ; all humanity is now the place of the Holy Spirit’s residence in our hearts.

 

The first five of these poems have shown how Wallace Stevens is able to refer to specific episodes from the Bible with the adroit use of words, tone, and context(s).

Our being able to recognize these is good practice for the kind of image-recognition and situation-recognition that the Spirit likes us to be able to perform. The more we can do this, the more productive work we can do with the Holy Spirit.

 

The last three poems show how the conversation and the references can become more complex, and how one poem can move through different eras of history.

Priscilla Teaches Paul the Ways of the Holy Spirit

 

Priscilla and the Role of Women

In Paul’s Hidden Journey of Growth and Integration:

The Vast Interior Exodus of Paul

In Acts of the Apostles

(An Appendix for the Red Line of Hope)

 

 

Simply standing there, Paul appears first to us as a mystery.

As we read Acts of the Apostles, we know that eventually Paul, the fiery, assured, evangelizing Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, converts to Christianity. But how will this happen? Will Paul remain the same person and merely switch sides, becoming a Christian? Or will he go through a radical and long transformation as he more deeply enters the Christian Way, as he more deeply participates in the Body of Christ?

Reading the New Testament, one could think that when Paul converts to Christianity, he simply switches the same drive and confidence and zeal from the narrow confines of Pharisaical Judaism over to the Christian Way. Indeed, Paul seems to have the same energy of conviction, the same fiery zealotry, for the God he serves, pre-conversion and post-conversion alike.

However, this is not the case. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke will describe, in a very subtle way, the long trajectory of development that Paul undergoes. And a married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, will play a huge and central part in Paul’s growth into becoming the St. Paul that helped found the Church and still intervenes for us today. Indeed, a key part of Paul’s growth and development is his discovery of the Feminine, and, like Solomon and Jesus before him, his ability to be taught and led by the Feminine.

This appendix will trace Paul’s growth, as it is presented to us by Luke in Acts of the Apostles. Although Paul starts being a vocal supporter of Christ and the Church immediately upon his conversion, his conversion also marks the beginning of a long, and far more subtle and important, series of transitions in Paul’s life and service to the Way, to the growing community of the Church, the Body of Christ. This appendix will trace especially these more subtle stages of Paul’s growth, stages that have to do with Paul’s ongoing strengthening (purification), ability to work Directly with the Holy Spirit, his growing capacity to appreciate and listen to the Feminine, all of which result in his continually better love and service to the community.

How Paul First Appears

His first Biblical appearance (in the canonical order of Bible) is Acts 7:58. He is simply standing there. He stands silent, without much description, during the stoning of St. Stephen, who had moments earlier seen Jesus and God in a vision, in heaven. Stephen has been quite loud in reporting his vision, at the end of his absolutely magnificent speech. However, Saul has stood there silently, taking it all in; if he does say or do anything, we are not told it.

This passive appearance of Saul/Paul, as cloaks are laid on the ground at his feet, piques our curiosity. Who is this? What is he like? Is he a monster? As readers of the text, it draws us further into the story, and into the mysterious initial appearance of a person who will later become the very vibrant Paul. But it will be a while before we reach that person, that stage of Paul’s development.

Luke, of course, is operating on several levels at once. The passive and undeveloped Paul also represents each one of us. How will we respond to the call of Christ in our life? How will we celebrate through our thoughts, words, and actions the sheer stunning fact that we are participating members in the Body of Christ?

The hidden growth of Paul has much to teach each individual person.

After Stephen,

And a Glance Forward

            When we last left Saul, he was standing before us, saying nothing, observing Stephen’s martyrdom. Two verses later, to begin Chapter 8, we learn that he “approved of their doing away of him (Stephen).” So we learn about Saul’s will, and his desire. He approved of the act of stoning Stephen to death. Still, we do not yet see Saul in motion.

Then we hear of a persecution that began against the Church that day.

Finally, at 8:3, we see Saul in action: “But Saul was ravaging the Church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.”

Besides telling us about Saul, this verse provides a sort of mirror-reverse image of Paul’s later ministry and development. Saul, a rabbi and a Pharisee, sees the old stone temple, with its sewers to transport away the blood of the animal sacrifices, as the center of the universe (a separate appendix deals with the transfer of the temple to the human community and the human person’s heart). Christianity will soon teach, in Paul’s inspired words, that “You are the temple of God,” and that “You are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.” The human person, and the human family, become the main location of the Church. The family house, the human “beit” (the old stone temple was called the “house,” beit) becomes the new center, replacing the old stone temple, the cultic “beit.” Saul, a Pharisee, saw the temple as the true “beit,” or house, the true center of the cultic rites.

For Christianity’s first few centuries, because of many persecutions, before Churches could be built above-ground in public, the human family home was also the place where the Eucharist, the Agape Feast, was celebrated. Later, we will see that Priscilla and Aquila have such a Church in their own home.

Saul, however, invades the first House-Churches, wanting to destroy these places, and destroy all Christianity, chasing proper cultic worship back to the stone temple with its blood sewers, confining it there.

Later, as a Christian himself, Paul will go from city to city, house to house, establishing such Churches, and teaching people the Love of Christ, the Love of God, the Way of the Holy Spirit.

As we shall see, Priscilla and Aquila are huge helps to Paul in his amazing trajectory of evolution. They teach him surprisingly much.

Additionally, we see the Greek text of Acts very specifically tell us that Saul was “dragging off both men and women,” and throwing them in prison. It is highly noteworthy that the text mentions “women.” Saul, a strict Pharisaical rabbi, would have thought very little of women. He formerly had utterly no notions about “equality” between men and women. “Woman” was responsible for the Fall, in his eyes, and was no more than a lesser image of the “man.” Rabbi Saul was no friend of women.

However, by the end of his evolution, Paul is happily appointing women as leaders of churches, and organizers of the Church community. He is taught by Priscilla and other women. He learns that the Holy Spirit loves the Feminine, and has myriad Feminine traits Herself. By the end of his women-led training, Paul’s smart but cramped intellect finally clicks and comes alive, blossoming into a beautiful Cathedral organ, capable of playing many notes, chords, postures, songs, and accompaniments.

This is how Acts of the Apostles, and Luke’s two books in the Bible, end: With Paul achieving integration. The last verses of Acts of the Apostles are sheer understated magnificence. Luke is also presenting Paul to us as a model for integrative growth in each of our individual lives. And, perhaps we will not be surprised to learn that Acts of the Apostles, which may have been written after the initial version of John’s Gospel, has references to the great scene of integration, the crucifixion of John 19, where the Feminine finally reenters the Masculine.

And the individual Paul will love both the women and the men equally.

Towards the Conversion

            When we left Saul, he was charging into Christian homes, hauling the people off to jail, and basically destroying the Church in the first verses of Chapter 8. He then disappears from the textual narrative for a while. We next see him in Chapter 9, where we learn that his early animus and anger has not abated one bit: “Meanwhile, Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2) The next verse begins the story of Paul’s famous journey to becoming a disciple of Jesus himself. Paul is knocked off his horse by Jesus, and sees the light of Christianity, and has an initial understanding of the Body of Christ. (The horse is not actually mentioned in the text of Acts, but there may be spiritual reasons that it has become part of the living history of the story.)

By verse 20 of the same Chapter Nine, Paul is beginning to evangelize for the Way in the city of Damascus: “And immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’.” (Acts 9:20) The Greek term here for “proclaim” is ekerusse, which is cognate with the word “Kerygma,” a term which Christians often cite as expressing the core realities of Christianity. This word reappears many more times in Acts.

Two verses later Paul is still increasing the pitch of his proclaiming for the Reign of God: “Saul became increasingly filled with power and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.” (Acts 9:22) In the next verse, Paul begins to be persecuted by the Jews, and must flee from Damascus in order to continue his preaching.

Upon returning to Jerusalem, “He went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they [too] were attempting to kill him.” (Acts 9:28-29) Despite the fact that they were trying to kill Paul again, he continues speaking more boldly, and arguing for the faith.

The Church is growing: “Meanwhile, the Church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear (awe-wonder) of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.” (Acts 9:31)

The storyline of Acts then switches back to Peter for several chapters, in his final actions of the Bible; Paul then returns again in Chapter 13, and becomes the main character of Acts for the rest of the book. Of Paul and his companions, the text says, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit . . . when they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.” (Acts 13:4a, 5)

And John joins Paul here. This likely is historical fact. At the same time, this could be a nod from Luke, to celebrate the literary friendship between the authors of John’s Gospel and Luke-Acts. These two authors, perhaps more than any others in the Bible, are keenly aware of how the Holy Spirit operates, and of how human beings can learn to be direct co-operators with the Holy Spirit. They have much to teach us that we have not yet discovered in these sacred texts.

The verb attributed to the apostolic group here, “proclaimed,” katengellon, is related to the Gospel word “evangelize.” Paul, on his first “official” mission for the Church, is certainly on fire with the enthusiasm of someone who loves their new faith and vocation. His old personality has made a strong switch over to the Christian Way. He has not yet learned subtle ways of communication, as his old strength and force-of-habit are evident as he shares the message and spreads the Word of life. A few verses later, he encounters a capable, intelligent proconsul named Sergius Paulus, who is currently being counseled by an erring magician, a false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. Saul, here becoming “Paul” for the first time, goes for the proverbial jugular in his tirade against Bar-Jesus: “But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him, and said ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” (Acts 13:9-12, emphasis added) [This entire episode is a fascinating study of how the Holy Spirit can direct us in specific actions we encounter. A separate essay discusses this, here.]

Obviously, Paul is still breathing fire on occasion—although he’s now doing it along a more Christian axis. The Holy Spirit is using his talents as they are, and will also be teaching and schooling Paul, as his own education is far, far from complete.

In the next 1½ chapters, Paul will:

-speak out boldly (13:46)

-shake the dust off his feet as he’s forced out of a town (13:51)

-go into a Jewish synagogue and speak (14:1)

-proclaim the Good News (14:7)

-with Barnabas, be mistaken for Zeus and Hermes (14:12)

-get (nearly) stoned to death, then get resuscitated (14:19-20)

-proclaim the Good News to another city (14:21)

In all of this, it seems as though we are seeing a Christian version of the same old energetic, zealous, and fiery Saul.

However, we also see that there is a slow awakening to more subtle modes of communication from the Holy Spirit. And with this awakening, there is a greater concern for individual members of the Way. Paul’s charity, his love for human beings, grows. It seems that Paul is slowly learning a deeper resonance with individual human beings, rather than being a blaring loudspeaker for rabbinical Pharisaism who merely changed his tune over to Christianity. Paul begins seeing people. For example, in Iconium and Antioch, “They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith.” (14:22a) He is tending to the people, not merely shouting words of dogma and doctrine.

Paul’s learning is not without a combination of suffering and great humor. After he is stoned to death’s doorstep, he immediately teaches the people, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” (14:22b) This is Luke, and perhaps Paul himself, employing humor. Like Paul, Peter’s ongoing healing and growth also sees much comedy, as the above link discusses.

Acts 15 features the Council of Jerusalem, the first Council of the Church. Traveling to the Council, encountering some individuals who started saying that Christians had to be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them . . .” (15:2) More arguing, we see.

Then, after the Council, Paul and Barnabas argue with each other, and go their separate ways. “The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company.” (15:39a)

Paul is still strongly preaching and disagreeing with people, but, as he leaves the Council, he is also obediently delivering the decisions that the Council of Jerusalem reached. This too has a profound blessing on Paul’s personal life. Slowly, he is becoming more mellow, more able to listen, and more open to the mysterious manifold operation of the Holy Spirit. “As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the Churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.” (16:4-5)

And Paul is learning obedience directly to the Holy Spirit as well as to the human leaders of the Church. In the very next verse, after showing that he can obediently be a part of the Church’s operations, he receives direct commands from the Holy Spirit: “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” To receive a direct command from the Holy Spirit, even if it’s a command to do the opposite of what one would expect or desire, is a grace and a privilege.

Soon after this seeming rejection from God, to which they are nevertheless obedient, they have a dream-vision, and discern that the next leg of their missionary journey will be to Macedonia. In Paul’s dream, a man of Macedonia beckons them to help. So they go there. And there they have an experience that reveals something feminine in a masculine setting. They arrive in Macedonia, to the city of Philippi, which is “a Roman colony.” (16:12) The literary context is quite masculine: It is a colony conquered by the ‘masculine’ Roman legions. Additionally, there is the “man of Macedonia.” And the city is named after the great emperor Philip, but is now ruled by the Roman Empire as a colony. The setting is highly masculine.

Suddenly, as if by serendipity, they encounter a precious woman, and the color purple: “On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.” (16:13-15)

Notice that the narrator has surprised us by switching to the 1st-person-plural voice, “We . . .” In the verses right after he obeys Church and God, and is persuaded by a woman, he starts participating more deeply in the Body of Christ, the lived experience of the entire communal Church. We. He is no longer just an isolated zealot, no, he is learning that he is a member of the Body of Christ, and he is actually participating more consciously and more fully in that Reality. And he suddenly is surprised by never-before-seen capacities of the Feminine.

Paul may have been deeply affected by witnessing the transformation that occurred in Lydia, as she “opened her heart . . .”

Next, Paul encounters a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination. Paul acts selflessly, merely being the mouthpiece for the operation of the Holy Spirit, as he says to the spirit possessing her, “’I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her’.” (16:18) He does not pridefully command the evil spirit in his own name, rather, he now better knows his connection to the Body of Christ, and invokes the name, Jesus Christ.

However, this upsets her owners, who have Paul and Silas seized and dragged to the agora. There, they are stripped and beaten with rods. They spend the night in prison, until God or an angel breaks them out. Before the jailbreak, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (16:25) Note the transformation. Paul is singing. The action he is engaging in is more like Peter and John and the others at the very beginning of Acts. Paul is becoming a more well-rounded person. Song, music, the body making beautiful song, also shows Paul’s slow transformation. Indeed, Lydia, the open-hearted lover of gorgeous color, has already affected him too. The narrow confines of his psyche are becoming expanded, under the caring guidance of the Holy Spirit. Next, the divinely-triggered earthquake knocks the prison doors wide open, unfastens the chains, and shakes the foundations of the prison. From a psychological perspective, Paul’s psyche is being lovingly massaged and opened by the Holy Spirit.

Paul then not only prevents the jailer from committing suicide, he baptizes his entire family.

The Transformations of Chapters 17 & 18

Paul’s ongoing journey of integration continues with subtle clues in Chapter 17.

Recall that Paul was just in prison, and had an experience of being subjugated by the law and authorities, just as he/Saul had done to the early Christians. No longer the Pharisee, he simply must have had greater empathy for the prisoner and the downtrodden. He understood them better, and therefore better appreciated the conditions that they were emerging from.

Additionally, Lydia’s home, for a short time, became home base for Paul. He spoke often with her. For the first time, the verb “dialogue” appears in Paul’s actions, signaling a greater opening to the Spirit and to people on his own part.

Coming forth from Lydia’s home for the last time, he travels through Amphipolis and Apollonia, arrived at Thessalonica, and entered the synagogue. What does he do in the synagogue? Still in his masculine habits and one-track mind, Paul does what it was his “custom” to do. “And as the custom with Paul, he entered to them (in the synagogue), and on three sabbaths reasoned-dialogued with them from the Scriptures, opening and setting forth that the Christ must have suffered and to have risen from the dead, and saying, ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I announce to you’.” (17:2-3)

This is tremendous progress for Paul. He echoes the verb that Lydia has performed before him—he “opened” the Scriptures. The masculine habits, his “custom,” are still there. He was still preaching at them about the Scriptures and about Jesus, and what he said was “right”; it was not “wrong.” However, his manner was still lacking. He himself was not as open, available, and divinely flexible to his listeners as he might be. Paul was not a fully formed student of the Word, although he is growing considerably.

And the new verb dielegeto appears here, which can mean reasoning, arguing, or dialogue, with which it is cognate. This is an advance for Paul too. Perhaps Lydia inspired this in him as well. This verb has a spectrum of possible meanings. We shall see Paul growing in these two chapters, 17 & 18, in the continuum of meanings of this term. Priscilla and Aquila will convey him far along this conduit.

Dielegeto is also cognate with Logos, with Word-Speech-Act, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus the Christ. We are all words spoken by God, developing words, yearning and reaching for the fullness of our meaning. Paul is developing too.

This is another connection between John’s Gospel and Luke’s Scriptures.

And just a few verses later Paul would converse with more Greek women, and his journey would continue to Athens, the ancient home of the initial discussions of the logos, the word, in the more pre-Christian sense. (17:12, 15)

Paul will, in fact, engage the verb dielegeto for the second time, in a synagogue in Athens, and also with goyim, Gentile Greeks in the agora, every day, probably at the same times each day. So Paul is expanding his scope, trying to engage both Jews and Greeks. This expansion is vital to the real growth of the Logos in Paul’s mind, soul, communications, and being. When we allow the Logos to dwell within us and work deeply with us, the Logos works in so very many ways within us, most of which we cannot see.

So Paul engages in dielegeto with both Jews and Greeks! Paul, already knowing multiple languages, is also learning how to “be” in many different cultures and interpersonal settings. The full interior keyboard of his skills is slowly being opened and tuned by the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the verb dielegeto is meant to continue into next verse where Paul has some argument-discussion-dialogue with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (17:18). However, these fellows have no idea what Paul is talking about, so the term dielegeto seems here to have achieved a very low end of the spectrum of its potential meanings, more like and argument, or a disagreement. Positively, Paul is engaging an ever-widening spectrum of human beings. He is learning that there are many different human journeys in this world, and that all people are fascinating and have things to say and contribute to the human conversation. Athens, for Paul, is an explosion of new logoi, new words and philosophical outlines of understanding reality. In a humorous turn in Athens, some of the philosophers say that Paul is a spermologos, a chatterer or babbler, someone who throws words like seeds everywhere. This may have negative and positive connotations at the same time, and perhaps it reminds us of the proto-parable, the Parable of the Sower, found in all three Synoptic Gospels, and referred to in other ways in John’s Gospel.

Yet through all this, Paul is learning love.

He’s seeking his neighbor. In trying to incorporate all people into the Body of Christ, he realizes that this is not easy work. Positively, he’s learning to see people. For who they are. In themselves. He is learning to see them with God’s sight. And when this happens, his love for them automatically grows. And this growth in LOVE is what allows Paul to more deeply enter, himself, into the Koinonia, into the Body of Christ.

Paul then gives his famous speech in the Areopagus of Athens. Verse 17:30 speaks of history and human evolution, but we cannot delve more deeply into the verse here. Paul is also evolving in his own life, certainly, as all of us do in our own individual journeys of faith. Additionally, he sees the shape of history, 1½ millennia before ‘history’ becomes a science. He understands something of the will of God for the macrocosm, for all being. Just as there is history, and a forward-driving purpose, a telos, for the entirety of Creation, so is there also a trajectory of development for every individual life, the microcosm, including the life of the individual named Paul of Tarsus.

 

Paul is ready. Paul is now ready for a great new school and teaching from God. Paul is now ready for Priscilla and Aquila.

Before we proceed to the major events of Chapter 18, one more item, first. At the end of the speech in the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris joins the Way.

Athens is the first home to both the Logos, Word, and also to Sophia, Wisdom.

Wisdom is venerated not only by the Greeks; Lady Wisdom is an important figure in the Old Testament. Her only New Testament appearance, at the literal level, is in Luke 7:35, where, shockingly, She is said to be a mother to both Jesus and John the Baptist. Jesus is the one who mentions this. However, Lady Wisdom has been said to be behind every word of the New Testament.

Now, with both Sophia of the Greeks and Lady Wisdom of the Old Testament in our minds, let’s go back to Paul’s first appearance, which is also St. Stephen’s final appearance, when Stephen is making his glorious exit via his great speech and subsequent martyrdom. Paul is inert. It’s like he’s only half there.

Paul is missing the Feminine. He doesn’t understand it, although he is now growing in this regard. In his speech at 13:16, reviewing the history of Israel, Paul never mentions the Feminine, or any female characters from the Old Testament.

Does Stephen mention the Feminine?

Oh yes.

Not only was Stephen instrumental in resolving the disputes between the Jewish and Greek widows in Jerusalem, he mentions an important woman in his speech: Pharaoh’s daughter, who was also Moses’ foster-mother. Moses was surrounded by loving women, like a river of life, in his first months and years of life: His mother, the midwives who disobeyed Pharaoh’s order, his sister, and the Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him. But Stephen goes beyond merely mentioning Pharaoh’s daughter. When he is discussing her, he also brings in Egyptian Lady Wisdom!

“And when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the Wisdom of the Egyptians…” (Acts 7:21-22a)

In our Bible today, there is actually Egyptian Wisdom Literature in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Proverbs.

St. Stephen, in his final appearance of the Bible, is already far more open than Paul is after Paul visits Athens, and where he gives yet another major speech without mentioning the Feminine. Paul will grow much in the next years, happily.

Stephen is described as “a man full of grace and the Holy Spirit.” (6:5) Perhaps he was already wise too, because when the Twelve mentioned that the Seven should be chosen for the table serving, they said that the men chosen should be “full of the Spirit and of Wisdom,” and Stephen was chosen for the Seven. (6:3)

“Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” (6:8) He was challenged in argument by many, “But they could not withstand the Wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” (6:10)

So Stephen was arrested on trumped up charges, and put to death. Saul witnessed his death, and heard his speech…

Even after his conversion, Paul is not yet this advanced as Stephen yet. Stephen has referred to women in Salvation History, and to Lady Wisdom. Paul has not mentioned women yet, although he does sense that something is missing.

In Paul’s speech in Athens, Paul knows that he has not found the fullness of the full picture yet. He knows that it’s not merely in Plato, or Aristotle, or Homer, or the Stoics or Epicureans, or any of the other enormous Greek literary or philosophical figures. What is it that Paul senses is missing, as he talks of the Unknown God?

Stephen has mentioned, positively, the Feminine, Wisdom, and Foreign People who are important. And this is what Paul is missing, and what Paul is waking up to.

At the end of his speech, Stephen, who is obviously capable of great lateral, horizontal openness and bridge-building, as he speaks positively of women, Egyptians, and Egyptian Wisdom, (the Feminine Turn) suddenly has a shockingly vertical mystical experience, the Spirit Turn. He sees the “heavens opened,” a reference to the Mystical Psalms Ladder (see John 1:51) and sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Paul has utterly no notion of any of these Realities, either.

Even after his conversion, it will be quite some time before he arrives at a greater understanding of these things. The Holy Spirit, after his further human integration, will lead Paul there.

The Wisdom Literature of the Bible, especially the Book of Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon), the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), parts of Baruch, and Proverbs give us some tangible hints, as do many places in the New Testament, about this mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit now sends Paul to meet Priscilla and Aquila.

Acts 18:

The Tentmakers

Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila. This is very important. They were teaching him about the deepest interpersonal relationship and communication that Paul would have in his life.

Priscilla and Aquila make three (3) appearances in Acts of the Apostles; the three appearances are all in Chapter 18. Immediately after each of these three appearances, the Apostle Paul will register great evolutionary leaps in his ongoing growth, in his own personal development, in his working relationship with the Holy Spirit. The author Luke has made these giant steps forward for Paul, despite their importance, quite hidden in his very subtle art.

 

The scene is already set by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of Chapter 18. Both parties have unusual events that make their meeting opportune. Priscilla and Aquila and all Jews have just been kicked out of Rome by the pagan Emperor Claudius. This will also happen in brutal ways to the Christian community, with persecutions later. And Paul, in a departure from the norm, has peacefully parted ways with his traveling companions Silas and Timothy (17:14). He is free and unburdened by fellow travelers, and is ready to learn from these experienced Christians.

#1) The first appearance of Priscilla and Aquila

The chapter begins:

“After this he (Paul) left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. He (Paul) went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers.” (Acts 18:1-3)

Thus Priscilla and Aquila make their first of six appearances in the Bible. To a new reader of the Word making a quick perusal of the text, this sounds calm, even homely; a nice break from the constant comings-and-goings of Paul.

However, there is quite a lot going on here, once we start attending to the text more closely. Recall the vital scene in John 19, where the Beloved Disciple (all of us, potentially) takes the Feminine, the mother of Jesus, into his very self. Something similar is happening here. (The fact that the name ‘Aquila’ means ‘eagle’ is another Johannine connection, as the eagle is the symbol of John.) Priscilla and Aquila take Paul into their residence, into their hearts, into their work, into their relationship. Additionally, there are hints that Paul does not have much to teach them, and that rather, it is the other way around! They teach Paul! Paul’s name is not even mentioned in the first four verses of the chapter (according to the best Greek manuscripts). They are not daunted by his grand reputation. He immediately becomes their student, and he recognizes this fact as clearly as they do. He is being taught deep communication by them. They lived and worked together. They would have gotten to know each other very well. Paul, it seems, never married. He would have learned loads of knowledge of relationship by living and working with them, having not had the “school of charity” that is married life. The Holy Spirit is nothing if not relational. Priscilla and Aquila were a strong loving couple, and they knew hardship; they were kicked out of Rome by the Emperor Claudius, perhaps losing much in the process. Such hardships as they endured are often a sign that the Holy Spirit has been working with them.

Priscilla would have been schooling him. For the first time in his adult life, this former hardline Pharisee would have been being taught, and subtly ordered, by a woman.

The caring couple sent him like a schoolboy to teach at the synagogue each sabbath. Note that Paul’s name is not in the fourth verse of the chapter either, when he’s in the synagogue. Meaning: This is not the same old Paul preaching in his traditional ways. He is doing new things in his proclaiming, things that have been taught to him by Priscilla and Aquila. Additionally, his teacher-hosts, Priscilla and Aquila, would have been evaluating Paul on every talk he gave in the synagogue: “Every sabbath he would argue-dialogue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.” (18:4)

To try to convince someone is proof of the fact that the speaker is actually cognizant of the condition of the psyche and/or soul of the other person. Again, Paul is no longer merely throwing down dogma, and moving on to the next waiting group of ears. He is more deeply engaging the people. He is learning from Priscilla and Aquila.

To further emphasize his change: Missing is the phrase from Chapter 17, “as was his custom.” Paul, following the lead of his teachers, is charting new terrain, even though the outward appearances of events look quite familiar.

Soon thereafter, the new audience opposes Paul, rejecting his message. Paul’s response (sic) is fascinating: “When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’ Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, become a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized.” (18:6-8)

Notice Paul’s greater flexibility and improvement in ability to strategize. He says he’s going to the other side of the world from the Jewish establishment, to the goyim, the Gentiles, and he goes to the house next door to the synagogue, just a few feet away! Obviously he remains interested in the Jewish community there, because the leader of the synagogue leaves the synagogue and goes to the family house to join Paul and Christianity! Paul is becoming a better strategist as well, thanks to his coaching from Priscilla and Aquila. (Titius Justus’ house was where Paul gathered the community for Eucharist and preached and taught, not where Paul lived.)

At the same time, Paul is genuinely open to the new. Another sign of openness and life. He starts to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.

He continues to live with Priscilla and Aquila. In fact, when Paul leaves Corinth after 18 months there, Priscilla and Aquila leave with him. They make a voyage together. And so we have the three tentmakers making a voyage together. This is the Exodus that is being recalled; this is Paul’s Exodus towards greater integration, which we will discuss just below. (Recall that tents played a key role in the Exodus in the Book of Exodus.)

For a moment let us respect and try to imagine the enormous change that Paul is undergoing here. Perhaps this is the reason why Jesus appears to him in a vision as 18:9, and reassures him. Paul, you are on the right course. Jesus encourages him, telling him to continue speaking and doing his evangelization.

#2) They Exodus together: The Second Appearance of Priscilla and Aquila

Here is the next account of Priscilla and Aquila. Again, they are intimately involved with Paul’s life and journey:

“After staying there for a considerable time, Paul said farewell to the believers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut, for he was under a vow. When they reached Ephesus, he left them there…” (18:18-19a)

1 and ½ verses summarize the Exodus. This is Paul’s Exodus journey of integration and further growth in the Spirit, taught by two masters, Priscilla and Aquila.

Again, the amazing Luke hides what is happening under typically Pauline actions. “When they reached Ephesus, he left them there…” More likely, Priscilla said to Paul, “Go now. Get to work.”

Notice also that Priscilla’s name precedes the name of her husband, Aquila, here. This is very important. In the ancient world, if a woman’s name was mentioned at all, it was always after her husband. Luke does an inversion of the usual order here to show her importance and her leadership.

There may be something else at work here. Paul made a vow. He cut his hair. Recall in our above study of the Book of Judges, there were some episodes where women got treated very badly. Jephthah the Judge makes a stupid vow, to sacrifice to God whoever he sees first when he returns from his victory. He sees his own daughter. He sacrifices her in obedience to the vow. (Judges 11:29-40)

Paul may have been doing deep inner healing in his final time with Priscilla and Aquila.

They travel together. Exodus. Paul’s voyage of growth. Tentmakers, making the new Ark, the Church, in human hearts and families and communities.

Perhaps we might call this voyage “Paul’s Exodus towards the Human Person.”

#3) The Microcosm-Icon of Apollos; Paul’s Magnificent Growth: The Third and Final Appearance of Priscilla and Aquila in Acts of the Apostles

It seems that while Paul is out of the picture for a moment, Priscilla and Aquila have one more thing to do. Here is their last appearance in Acts:

“Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man well-versed in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.” (18:24-26)

This is a picture of precisely what Priscilla and Aquila did for Paul!

Luke paints a picture of Apollos that could almost perfectly be Paul. Even their names sound alike, poetically, in the original Greek: Paulos and Apollos. And the description of Apollos’ evangelization sounds like the early Paul, as he thundered away in the synagogues. While the name ‘Apollos’ reminds us of the mighty ancient god Apollo, recall that Paul has already been called the god ‘Hermes’, and in Chapter 28 some residents of Malta will consider him to be a god.

Slightly strange things abound here, as in a parable. Things that are just a bit odd, or a bit too coincidental, seek to get our attention to engage in something.

I propose that Luke, in giving us this snapshot picture of Apollos and his time with Priscilla and Aquila, is in one stroke showing us what Priscilla and Aquila actually did for Paul. Apollos’ appearance here is a microcosm-picture of their total teaching of Paul. They brought him into deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit.

There is another clue that Luke gives us: Isn’t it a bit odd that they transferred their entire deeper knowledge of Christ and the Way to Apollos by merely “pulling him to the side” and having a quick chat? Again, perhaps this minor incongruity is meant to get us to think about what else is being said here by Luke. The parables in the Gospels often work in this way, by having a bit of an odd detail that, when pushed by the reader, unlocks the parable for us. Luke’s “Parable of Apollos” here is much more subtle than the great parables of the Gospels, however.

So too, the knowledge that the Holy Spirit may choose to impart to us is far more subtle than “regular” channels of teaching can communicate.

Continuing on this tack, a look at the Greek shows that Priscilla and Aquila did not merely pull Apollos to the side; actually, they “took” him. This is perhaps stronger language. And this word, proselabonto, is cognate with the verb when the Beloved Disciple “took,” elaben, the mother of Jesus into himself, just as Priscilla and Aquila took Paul into their lives to teach him more deeply the ways of the Spirit.

Apollos and Paul have similar Spirit-words to describe them. Apollos is “boiling in the Spirit,” zeon toi pneumati. Earlier in the same chapter, Paul is “pressed by the Spirit,” suneiketo toi pneumati.

Other questions abound. Why does Apollos appear only at this scene, to then disappear for the rest of the book? Why does Paul circle immediately back to Ephesus precisely when Apollos leaves, to occupy the place where the triad of Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos had been a very short time before? (This is not to say that Apollos is a fictional character; he is a real person, he appears in Paul’s letters, and is a saint throughout the Christian Churches. However, Luke is also free to use him in a literary manner as a mirror of Paul, and to use this episode as an icon of the entire program of Priscilla’s teaching of Paul. In fact, special dyads, that is, friends and brothers who appear in pairs, are very present throughout the New Testament.) The brief snapshot appearance of Apollos further supports the claim that Luke is tapping him in this discussion to show a facet of Paul, a different perspective of Paul, without actually saying that this is Paul. Luke is saving this knowledge for those who unlock his text, and for those of future times.

All of these similarities between Paulos and Apollos invite, urge, us to take the single story of Apollos, to see it as a template, and to then apply this template to Paul. What Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos is a mini-snapshot, an icon, of what they did for Paul over 1½ years. Paul himself will say in his letters, “We are all parts of each other.” So Paul and Apollos mirror each other and shift places with each other for a time. Voyages over geography mirror voyages in the soul.

In the ancient world, Christians lent themselves to literary usage for related causes. In the great Life of St. Antony by St. Athanasius, Athanasius puts particular theological arguments into the mouth of Antony at the end of the book, arguments which probably Antony did not take up. However, Antony’s self, his being, his life, had become an open book of the Gospel. In fact, this vita, this Life of Antony, spread like wildfire through the Mediterranean region, taught about the connectedness of the Body of Christ, reached millions through the centuries, and helped bring Augustine and countless others into the Church.

Concluding the discussion of Apollos, here is a list of some common realities shared by Paulos and Apollos:

-names, which echo each other’s

-places; both were at Ephesus right after each other, then Corinth

-both spend vital time with Priscilla and Aquila

-Luke gives similar descriptions of them, including:
-love of Scriptures that both men have

-their powerful rhetorical style in teaching

-similar experiences of the Holy Spirit

-both have conversations regarding John’s Baptism and the Spirit’s Baptism

Paul the Human Being

That this is precisely what Priscilla and Aquila have done for Paul is apparent in his next appearance right after the final mention of Priscilla and Aquila. We see Paul engage in his most human, most compassionate, most understanding dialogue of the entire New Testament. Paul actually, in the text itself, asks questions of people! He gauges where they are at! He might even be, finally, interested in the opinions and thoughts and feelings of other people! This is a tectonic plate shift of evolutionary advance in the development of Paul’s psyche and soul, and his ability to work with the Spirit. And yet, at the first few glances, it looks like merely another episode in the long story of early Church work:

“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—altogether there were about twelve of them.” (19:1-7)

Clearly, Paul has grown a great deal already, thanks to Priscilla and Aquila. And at this point, Paul certainly would be a great champion of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia; earlier in his career, Paul would have been made nervous by it, because it is not a literalist, fundamentalist document; a fundamentalist document would not have to be concerned about interpreting the Scriptures, but merely applying the laws that other people had instituted, or reading the Scriptures at merely the surface level. But now, years later, when Paul understands so much more about the need to meet people where they are at, Paul would love Amoris Laetitia, the work of a great pastor of souls. In fact, St. Luke is called the Beloved Physician, which also reflects a warm and clear light on Luke’s great pastoral emphasis as well. (Col 4:14) To see this, one need look no further than his very detailed yet subtle charting of the amazing development of Paul’s soul. Like a doctor working on a patient’s charts.

Paul has done almost a carbon copy of what Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos. He is, at the very least, imitating Priscilla and Aquila. Or, more deeply, he is engaging in a different activity altogether, an activity taught to him by them:

Part II

Living with the Holy Spirit

What is Paul doing? What are Priscilla and Aquila doing in their teaching Apollos/Paul about the deeper baptism, the deeper engagement with the Holy Spirit?

What if this is not about a mere different baptism? What if this is about not merely the “baptism” of the Spirit, but about learning how to work directly with the Holy Spirit?

They are teaching about how to work directly with the Holy Spirit. And when we work more directly with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit wants us also to expand and to develop our humanity, to become more human, to discover and to activate and to utilize the full spectrum, the entire keyboard, of the talents and abilities that are latent in our souls.

Iranaeus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Today this phrase is used as an antiphon in the prayers at monasteries.

Priscilla and Aquila taught Paul life. They taught him how to live as a fully alive human being.

As a more developed, expanded, well-rounded person, Paul also has become a much better co-worker with the Holy Spirit.

This is one reason why Acts of the Apostles is so important for us today. Pope St. John XXIII said something shocking: He called today, the time a Vatican II, a “Second Pentecost.” This means 1) a new immediacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit, and 2) a new birth of the Church. This is a shocking thing for a Pope to say. What did he mean? Perhaps he meant that we can have a deeper relationship directly with the Holy Spirit. This is happening today. Perhaps the Church Herself is going through this Pauline transformation… Some people today have already become deeper cooperators, co-operators, with the Holy Spirit. Usually there is some training, a ‘spiritual boot camp’, that us new recruits have to go through before we arrive at this place of more-enabled discipleship, just like what Paul underwent in his 18 months with Priscilla and Aquila.

And Paul will need these skills. For the wildest part of Paul’s journey has not yet begun.

His trip to Jerusalem, where he is arrested, is a powerful conclusion to his “free” public ministry. We see Paul having to think on his feet, and having to dialogue with many people in many walks of life. He also shows a great understanding of the mechanisms of civil, military, and religious power structures, utilizing all of his abilities to continue his journey towards Rome, ultimately.

Then there is the shipwreck. Luke’s telling of this story near the end of the book, in the last two chapters of the 52 chapters of Luke-Acts, is telling. The shipwreck happens over many days, and yet Paul keeps everyone focused on what they must do, and all souls survive the shipwreck, safely arriving at Malta. Paul is preaching at great depth at the same time that he’s arguing and giving instructions about the best way to keep the ship in the best condition, and avoiding further destruction. During this extended episode, some scenes border on the comic, the ludicrous. He stops the soldiers from murdering prisoners. Imagine the onboard chaos of a ship stuck on the rocks. Only his deep relationship with the Holy Spirit, and the development that has happened in his own self, allows him to pull off this heroic feat.

There is something else about Paul’s echoing of the discussion of baptism and the Holy Spirit, right after Priscilla and Aquila discuss this with ‘Apollos’. Again, Luke the physician and teacher of US is making something here seem a bit special, a bit out of focus: This again is a powerful literary link between Apollos and Paul, but it is acausal, it is synchronistic. The connection of these events is not causal, no—it is synchronistic. And the Holy Spirit likes working with synchronicity, with cycles and repetitions and coincidences in our life. When unusual repetitions occur in our life, let us perk up our ears and listen deeply: the Holy Spirit may be knocking, inviting us to a deeper stage of relationship.

Events and Statements that Show Paul’s Greater Integration

and Development in the Last 10 Chapters of Acts of the Apostles

(As the book has not been published yet, parts of this section may appear particularly dense and abstract. The reader is invited to jump ahead to the conclusion.)

Paul has already achieved some of the most significant thresholds of learning that he is to achieve in life, thanks to Priscilla and Aquila and many others. In this section we shall quickly move through the last chapters of Acts, leading to his arrival in Rome. We shall highlight a few important events that reflect Paul’s greater insight and growth, and the deeper operation of the Spirit rendered more visible.

The Holy Spirit is now far more prominent in Paul’s thoughts:

-At 19:21, Paul “resolved in the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem. This voyage to Jerusalem will build up tension and excitement as he moves closer to his goal. It will be his final journey as a free man. (Similarly, a decisive turning point in Luke’s Gospel is after the Transfiguration, when Jesus too resolves to go to Jerusalem. Much of Luke’s Gospel occurs during this journey of Jesus.)

-Paul says that he is eager to be in Jerusalem, “if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” The Feast of Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church, the day when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples of Jesus with a powerful new closeness.

-Paul explains that he is making this voyage as a “captive of the Spirit.” (20:22)

-In the same discussion, he adds that “the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Good News of God’s grace.” (20:23-24)

We see that he speaks of the Holy Spirit much more than previously, and that he is living in a real and truly direct relationship with the Holy Spirit. Such a relationship is possible for us to achieve today too.

There is a density of meaning in the next parts of the voyage:

-Women and families appear again when Paul and his company arrive and prepare to depart from Tyre:

“When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went onboard the ship, and they returned home.” (21:5-6)

-Soon thereafter they arrive at Caesarea, “and we went into the house of Philip the Evangelist, one of the Seven, and stayed with him.” (21:8) In the list of the Seven he appears right after Stephen! (6:5) He, like Stephen, helped at the “tables” and worked with the Greek and Jewish women of the community in Jerusalem. As Stephen spoke of the Feminine and of Wisdom in subtle powerful ways, Philip’s own family will seem to physically incarnate the women of the Red Line of Hope: “He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.” (21:9) It is as if the women of the Red Line of Hope have come to congratulate Paul on his growth and his recent embracing of the Feminine and the Holy Spirit.

-Then we get a scene that reminds us of Jesus’ prediction of forced suffering that Peter will undergo, from John 21. Immediately after the four daughters of Philip appear, “While we were staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us and took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’.” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.” (21:10-12) In John’s Gospel, Jesus says something similar to Peter at the end of John 21. Peter and Paul both truly become physically joined to the will of God, with force, despite the fact that Peter and Paul are radically free souls at those later points of their life.

What happens next is absolutely fascinating. Recall that above we considered the circumcision of David’s heart, an important part of his personal evolution. Something similar happens to Paul. As everyone is here imploring Paul not to go to Jerusalem, he says in a rare moment of revealed personal emotion, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?” (21:13) David wept like never before at the death of Absalom. The circumcision of David’s heart here concluded.

Happily, David’s purification resulted in his being better able to know the will of God. This happens much more powerfully for Paul. Paul’s conscience, after having been a murderer, is becoming cleaner and stronger, allowing him to be more receptive to the very subtle communiqués that tell him directly the will of God. Paul says in the next verse, “The Lord’s will be done.” (21:14) Paul, now more advanced in the Spirit, will also mention the Lord’s will and human conscience at more points as the story proceeds (22:14; 23:1; 24:16) (The two letters of Peter deal in magnificent hidden ways with the connection between the will of God and the enlightened human conscience.)

They arrive in Jerusalem: “When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present.” (21:18) The elders tell him to do something that may be connected to both the current religio-political situation, and connected also to Paul’s earlier sins of killing an undisclosed number of Christians in Jerusalem, before his conversion. The elders say, “So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them and pay for the shaving of their heads.” (21:23-24a)

Above, we considered a density of meaning at Tyre, then a greater density of meaning at Caesarea with Philip, his four daughters, and others. Now, at the temple in Jerusalem, we shall encounter a simply tremendous density of meaning.

“Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.” (21:26) There is a deep process of healing, restoration, and atonement occurring here, on multiple levels. The Holy Spirit likes multitasking, or, to say it better, a plethora of converging meanings in a sign or in an event. The learning Christian soul relishes the opportunity to work out these hidden meanings.

Suddenly, some Jews from Asia recognize Paul, and tell the Jews of Jerusalem about him! And they say that “he has brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (21:28b) The Jews then come together in a scene that reminds us of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Gibeah: “Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.” (21:30) Recall that at Sodom, Gomorrah, and Gibeah, as we discussed above, the doors were all slammed shut and locked. Also like Sodom and Gibeah, the crowd of men wanted to drag a visiting man out of the house. The towns-people united in violence. The quest for meaning had ceased, and they were riveted to a violent intent.

The people were trying to kill Paul, but were interrupted by the arriving Roman soldiers, who intervened and saved Paul. The tribune ordered him to be bound with two chains, reminding us of the shani, the double-cord, that is the Red Line of Hope. This comes not many days after Paul met the four prophet-daughters of Philip, who also are the Red Line of Hope, come to life.

Recall that we have just discussed how Paul’s life represents not only the moving-evolving from Saul to David, but also from David to his son Solomon (with references to another son of his, Absalom). We shall see that latest progression here at the temple:

Solomonic Moments,

Absalomic Moments:

Paul on the Ladder, the Steps of the Temple

            Luke 2 presents a gentle converging of things ancient and new, as the Holy Family goes into the temple on the 8th day of young Jesus’ life. The temple, in an early instance of literary personification, comes to life and welcomes Jesus in the persons of Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, who is “very old,” and who then is described as being precisely 84 years old, and who had been married for precisely 7 years at an earlier time in her life. Simeon then sings the temple’s swan song, the Nunc Dimittis (or Canticle of Simeon), for the long work of the old stone temples is now finished, and the temple will disappear some decades later. The scene is one of the most beautiful in the Bible, and packed with many levels of meaning; for example, the numbers that generate the flight of the angels on the Mystical Psalms Ladder are here given us by Luke.

On the other hand, when Paul appears at the temple at this fairly late chapter of Acts, there is a riot, attempted murder, the throwing of dust in the air, a foreign intervention, and all manner of chaos. All this was caused by Paul walking into the temple.

Recall in the book above that David was a moment of human evolution far beyond crazy old King Saul. David registered many positive developments, including an appreciation for the Feminine, a desire for God, and a slow awakening to compassion and mercy. And David allowed also for this progress to continue developing after him. This is seen in the elevations of his two sons.

Paul’s own life retraces this evolutionary movement in the three generations of people centered on David’s life (Psalm 72 also has three generations of people around David). Paul was born as Saul. Then he became Christian, and his growth really accelerated, similar to David at various points of his life. And, Paul will also have moments that echo David’s sons, continuing the evolution beyond mere David.

In the book above we discussed how Absalom and Solomon, two sons of David, in their contrasted moments of being ‘raised’, are a matching pair of icons, a diptych of the good and the difficult parts of our human evolution. Both of these moments, the suffering of Absalom hanging in the tree, and the Wisdom and integration happening with Solomon in his snapshot appearance as a good, just king, raised to the throne, are apparent in Christ’s crucifixion. Of course, the suffering is only momentary, and the good developments develop into eternity.

Paul, too, has a moment of incorporating both these “Absalom and Solomon elevations” into his own life. It happens on the steps of the temple.

The entire scene is ‘Absalomic’ in a sense, because Paul is arrested, vulnerable, and charged with crimes against Israel and God, similar to Absalom hanging by his hair in the tree, when he has rebelled against the rule of his father David, and is about to be killed by the menacing Joab. From this event at the temple, Paul will eventually be executed too.

Yet the author Luke, the Beloved Physician, also sews gentle reminders back to the best moments of Solomon, when he too was raised, raised rightfully to the throne of his father David. Recall that this is the moment when Solomon/humanity achieved an early integration with Lady Wisdom/ the Feminine/ Bathsheba, as a throne was placed by his own precisely for her. Then, his first decision as king is to quell a rebellion. He thus secures the kingdom and consolidates his rule.

His second decision as king is to decide the difficult case of the two women fighting over the one live baby. Not an easy situation to wade into and resolve. Solomon says after hearing both women speak, “One says, . . . , while the other says . . . “ (1 Kings 3:23). There is a back-and-forth, unresolvable seemingly, and the discourse is stuck.

The same thing happens with Paul before the people. After the tribune arrives, and Paul is bound with two chains, “Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.” (21:34) After the multiple references to the Red Line of Hope, we have a clear reference to the Mystical Psalms Ladder, just as we did back in Luke 2: “When Paul came to the steps the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers.” (21:35) Here, Luke the Magnificent paints a comical picture of the Ladder, as the Roman soldiers become the ‘angels’ carrying poor Paul up and down the steps!

The high comedy continues: “Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, ‘May I say something to you?’ The tribune replied, ‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’” (21:37-38)

The tribune has clarified for us that Paul is not Moses.

Yet this also implies that Paul is a sort of new Moses. And Christianity is a religion of love.

This is also a gentle mockery of the founding myths of the Israelites, who, even according to Joshua and Judges, murdered their way into the Holy Land after arriving from their desert sojourn.

The proper interpretation of the Torah, more and more as history develops, is about Love and universality, and less about fixed religious borders, the temple, and cultic rites.

To form an inclusio around the “Moses question,” we have again the word ‘steps’. Paul has received permission from the tribune to address the people, and “Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying…” This echoes the moment when God gave to Moses the 10 Commandments. “God spoke the following words, saying…” But also, St. Luke the Intelligent seems to make a mistake here. The people spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. It was the language of the people of Palestine at this time. Everyone spoke Aramaic.

Why does Luke do this? Perhaps because he is getting our attention to look at something related but different. Luke has just written the words “Greek” and “Hebrew.” It turns out that the Mystical Psalm Structures are best seen in the Hebrew numbering system of the Hebrew Scriptures, not in the Greek Septuagint, that is, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which has a slightly different numbering system for the Psalms. Luke is giving us yet another clue about the Mystical Psalm Structures. In the middle of the riot at the temple, Luke is giving us further direction about the Mystical Realities.

(Another parody of the Psalm Structures’ Ladder happened at 19:35, where a legend claims that a statue of the goddess Artemis fell from heaven to earth, for the good people of Ephesus to venerate.)

During his speech to the people, Paul says “After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Jesus…” (22:17-18a) This is a clear reference to Jacob’s vision of the Ladder in Genesis 28. Jacob saw the Ladder in a vision in his dream. The next morning, Jacob “was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’.” (Gen 28:17) The Mystical Ladder is a new house of God, a new temple, and the gate of heaven. Jesus says the same thing in John 1:51, when the Son of Man/ Future Humanity becomes the Mystical Ladder, the new temple of God. And Paul says, “You are the temple of God.”

Jacob names the place where he slept, the place where he had a vision of the future humanity, Beth-el, the house of God.

As the Torah does, so too does Luke stress the goodness of blessing over cursing, of charity over violence. Paul’s speech is ended when he mentions the vision in the temple, and Jesus’ words to him, telling Paul to go to the nations, the ethne (similar to the Hebrew insult term goyim, nations).

But the people cannot take any more. They start shouting, “Away with such a fellow from the earth!” (22:22a) Luke gently takes their angry words, and converts them into a charitable wish: may Paul ascend the Ladder from earth to heaven!

There is another radical displacement here. The second time that “steps” are mentioned, the steps from which Paul is now speaking are the steps of the barracks, not of the temple. The temple is no longer central to the faith. The earth, the cosmos, all space and time, are now holy. The Shekinah has left the ‘house’, the beit. The Holy Spirit is now in human people, and every place is holy.

Some more wry humor is coming from Luke: Another appendix deals with “The Abimelech Errors,” a Biblical string of apparent mistakes that confuse names in the Hebrew Scriptures, often related to the high priest of Israel. Mark 2:26 is a New Testament continuation of this string of mistakes, as Jesus apparently mistakes Abiathar for Ahimelech. Well, the string of errors continues here with Paul, who is addressing the council a short time after the riot at the temple. The high priest orders that Paul be slapped, and Paul is slapped. Paul retorts, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?” (23:3) The people nearby explain to Paul that this is in fact the high priest, whom Paul had insulted. Paul says, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people’.” (23:5) And so “The Abimelech Errors” continue, making here what is perhaps the Biblical conclusion to this fascinating string.

However, the high irony continues, and focuses next on a kind of dis-uniformity in the Jewish religion. Paul notices that there are Pharisees and Sadducees in the council (sanhedrin), and mentions that he himself is a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. The text says “One part is Sadducees, and the other Pharisees,” echoing the language of the two women fighting over the one baby before Solomon. (23:6)

He adds, “I am on trial concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead.” (23:6) This causes discord and consternation among the two sections of the sanhedrin, as they disagreed with each other. Luke adds, almost as a parenthetical remark, “The Sadducees say there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.” (23:8)

 

Often during times of closeness to the Holy Spirit, when we are learning and being trained to be better co-operators with the Spirit, there are periods when we have less contact with our birth family. This helps break old habits, among other things. And to this point of Acts, there is no detail of Paul’s interaction with his own family members given to us.

Happily sometimes, after some Spiritual training has been done, we might have a sudden reconnection with our family. This happens for Paul.

There is a plot to kill Paul, including vows and fasting on the part of the would-be Jewish assassins. Suddenly, like an interesting deus ex machina, “the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul.” (23:16) Paul then perfectly works the Roman system of authority, communicates this information, and the detail assigned to guard Paul is given heavy reinforcements, and Paul’s journey happens without event. Paul’s family appears in the nick of time and saves him.

Then, Paul must defend the faith before various leaders and kings. The irony continues. When Paul speaks to the political-executive leader of the area, the Roman governor Felix, the poor fellow becomes frightened when Paul begins talking about justice, self-control, and the coming judgment. (24:25) Luke even uses the dialogue word, dialegomenou, here, to explain Paul’s attempt to communicate with Felix. However, the effort did not achieve much ‘high dialectic’ here, because Felix is holding out in the hopes of a nice bribe.

Felix, whose name means “happy,” is replaced by Porcius Festus, whose name means “Pig Fest” or “Pork Festival.” Porcius becomes good friends with the Israelite king.

Paul gives his famous defense, or ‘apology’, before Porcius and king Agrippa and their wives. Paul has just been welcomed into the presence of Agrippa for the first time here, and addresses him primarily. But eventually Porcius cuts Paul off during his speech, and informs Paul that he is insane. Porcius and Agrippa beat a hasty departure.

The Sea Voyage and the Shipwreck

            The long journey over the sea to Rome is a masterpiece of Lucan literature, but we cannot delve deeply into it here. Here, Paul must show extreme calm and more adroit management skills while he holds together sailors, soldiers, prisoners, concerns for cargo, concerns for whether or not the prisoners should here be simply executed, all as the ship slowly disintegrates over days, as it suffers under a violent storm, then is grounded upon a shoal, eventually shattered into pieces.

Paul’s cool leadership saves the day, and not a single life is lost.

A quick note about contemporary Church theology: Pope Francis has likened the Church to a field hospital. A field hospital is not, for example, as neat and orderly as Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. At a field hospital, there can be injuries and difficulties that the medical staff does not have the proper equipment to treat in established procedures, and so some spontaneous decisions have to be made to make the outcome the best possible for the patient, to help them on their way to full health. It would be nice if hospitals all had perfect suites of medical professionals and the exact equipment needed for each medical emergency. But that is fantasy, not reality. So in a field hospital, we try to help everyone in the best possible way, making many judgment calls along the way.

This is exactly what Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia calls for, this kind of loving, caring response to people in confusing and unfair social situations, where the resources of the world are so grossly and unfairly and disproportionately not yet shared among all people.

Paul would agree with Pope Francis. At the end of the shipwreck scene, those who could swim swam, and for the others, planks and other materials of the ship were used as floatation devices. “And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” (27:44b)

A few years ago, in an essay on religious formation before a conference for religious formation teams, a wise teacher who knew the Bible very well wrote, “In today’s flood, we need to teach people how to swim to each other.” Indeed.

They land on the island, and build a campfire to warm up. Carrying wood for the fire, a snake leaps out of the branches and bites Paul, fastening onto his hand. This reminds us of the serpent on the pole in the desert of the Exodus, and how anyone who looked upon the serpent was healed of their snakebites. (Numbers 21:8) Today, the symbol of the medical profession is the based on the Rod of Asclepius, a serpent on a pole. This too is another image of Absalom, and of Jesus on the cross. (And of Jesus the healer.)

Having landed at Malta, Paul cured many people on the island.

In the final chapter of Acts, there is another reference to the twins, Perez and Zerah, of the Red Line of Hope. And there is another nod to Apollos, and the teachers of Apollos and Paulos, the dear Priscilla and Aquila: “Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, and Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.” (28:11) The word ‘figurehead’ could also be translated as ‘ensign’; the Greek word is parasemoi, which is cognate with ‘semiotics’, the science/art of signs.

They eventually reach Rome. Paul has become a great leader in many ways. At the same time, he is not merely independent, he needs the Church, he lives and moves and has his being in the Body of Christ: “The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” (28:15)

In a dramatic non-statement of what was becoming well known in the ancient Church community (the Mystical Psalm Structures), Paul taught about Jesus both from the “law of Moses and the Prophets.” (28:23) Luke skips over the “Writings” of the Hebrew Scriptures, the ketuvim, which include the Wisdom Literature and the Psalms, which by now Paul loved very much.

Conclusion

            The last two verses of Acts are stunningly understated. A first glance at the text seems to reveal that Paul lived in relative ease for two years in Rome, and taught people about the Faith. But the reality is much more—Paul has, in the last two verses of Luke’s Biblical writing, achieved total freedom and total co-operation with the Holy Spirit. As much as is possible in this life, Paul’s will has become one with the Will of God. This is the grand achievement of Paul’s life. To make it more wonderful, Paul, now totally integrated and totally free in the Spirit, will teach souls in Rome for two full years. (Presumably, he then goes to his martyrdom.) Paul is burning his most pure fire and living the most productive life in these last two years, his time in Rome. Here are the last two verses:

“He lived there for two whole (holen) years at his own (idioi) expense/rented dwelling and welcomed all those coming in to him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all freedom and without hindrance.” (28:30-31)

There are many remarkable things here. Paul is still in physically restricted by a chain (28:20), but has achieved what the book above has discussed as integration. He has perhaps finally worked out the karmic/purgative atonement for all his sins of murdering Christians and any other sins he may have committed. More than that, however, he is interiorly free. The Holy Spirit, as part of Paul’s ongoing journey of integration, healing, atonement, growth, and spiritual fruition, has given Paul a lot of challenges. However, for the two last years of his life there is physical stillness. His exterior battles are over, as are his physical journeys. Now, having worked hard for the faith and having cooperated in the Spirit’s program for his own spiritual growth—that is, having helped the Spirit’s plan for his own life to proceed—Paul is now to reap a profound harvest at the end of his life. For two years, at the height of his powers and the most developed Christian self that he has developed in his life, Paul will be a pure teacher and guide for the faith. The Christians of Rome, and Italy, and beyond, will pour to Paul for teaching and help in those years. Having already founded Churches in Asia and Europe, and assisted the Church in Palestine, he will now give immense teaching and guidance to the young Church in Rome. In fact, Luke deliberately describes these two years as “two whole (holen) years,” indicating that they were an abundantly full time. And as holen is cognate with our words whole and holistic, this is also an indication of the integration and wholeness that Paul has achieved. And for two years he will be a font of this teaching, as a being entirely in tune with the Holy Spirit. We can only imagine the conversations that transpired in his cell.

Finally, there is the matter of Paul’s self, or of his dwelling, his idioi. This is the same word, with a different ending, as the idia of John 19:27, when the Beloved Disciple took the mother of Jesus into his own self, into his very being. We discussed how this is one of the culminations of the entire Bible, and represents the integration of the human person and the entire human society, along the horizontal Feminine-Masculine axis. We become humanly mature. And seconds after this, Jesus will breath forth the Holy Spirit from the cross, allowing our mature Humanity to now grow exponentially with the Spirit along the vertical axis, connecting and joining heaven and earth (Spirit and Humanity).

Paul has been helped by women and men, especially by women like Priscilla. He lived with a deeply and powerfully married Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila (with Aquila representing the eagle of John’s Gospel). Now, like the Beloved Disciple of John 19, he has achieved integration, thanks to them. And for two whole years, two opulently full years, he will take into his soul all who come to him, welcoming them. This is also an important picture of the Body of Christ, which Paul speaks of often. Paul, through his growth, learned about how we are all parts of each other in the One Lord. Now, he is teaching other early Christians about this Reality also. And with Priscilla and Aquila having helped Paul achieve a deeper understanding of, and participating with, the Holy Spirit, we might rightly imagine that Paul was teaching many levels of instruction, teaching perfectly all people, at whatever level they were able to receive.

 

 

Notes:

1)        Professor Merrilyn Mansfield has a superb essay that charts New Testament discussion of “John’s Baptism” and the “Baptism of the Spirit.” While this appendix has a different focus, her research is important. Her paper, Priscilla and Aquila Teach an Apostle, is here:

https://www.academia.edu/4072844/Priscilla_and_Aquila_Teach_an_Apostle

2)        Special thanks to Dr. Peter Ajer, with whom I discussed this material.

3)        To avoid putting too much information in this appendix, I have not mentioned that following Paul’s time with Priscilla and Aquila in Chapter 18 of Acts, there is another sudden abundance of hidden references to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Perhaps they taught him about these marvels too. The forthcoming book on the Psalm Structures will take this up in greater detail. Those wishing to see an initial account of these Mystical Realities can read this draft here:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

A Rare Huge Mistake at Mint Press News

Hi Friends,

I’m very disappointed that Mint Press News has not lived up to its usual level of journalistic excellence. In this, my first written response to this poorly-researched, inaccurate, attack-article on Pope Francis, I only want to report one thing.

The main article that the author, Whitney Webb, draws upon, is one by the Church-hating Bill Van Auken over at Global Research.

Van Auken’s article was published three days after Bergoglio became Pope. In his hateful haste to attack the new Pope and the Church, he wrote a deceitful and sloppily-researched article. In fact, it’s so bad, that he claims to have a photograph of Bergoglio and the truly rotten dictator Jorge Videla. Only problem: the bishop in the photograph is not Bergoglio! HA HA HA!

Whitney, your vicious attack on the Pope, who is truly a good and holy man, is based on an article that does not even have the right picture! It misidentifies the bishop in the picture as Bergoglio, but the future Pope was not even made a bishop until 1992, many years later. So, Ms. Webb, the fellow in the picture is about 30 or so years older than Bergoglio was at the time. HA HA HA!

You see, Fr. Bergoglio had been a priest for less than 4 years when he was put in charge of the Jesuit province of Argentina.

Additionally, the fellow in the photo is bald, and Bergoglio has never been bald in his life. HA HA HA!

Wow. Talk about garbage reporting. Research much, Whitney?

Here’s the link to her serio-comical source article:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/jorge-mario-bergoglio-the-dirty-war-pope/5327022

And here’s a link to the unfortunate hatchet job by Ms. Webb at Mint Press News, from a couple of days ago:

http://www.mintpressnews.com/pope-francis-dark-past-agent-u-s-backed-argentine-military-junta/229324/

This brief note has highlighted the fact that the source article does not even have the right photograph for Fr. Bergoglio. There are other things to mention too, which, regrettably, I hope to get to soon. I dislike wasting my time having to clean up after the mess that is Ms. Webb’s sloppy-false screed. And I’m simply aghast that Mint Press News published this trash.

The Dialogue between the Qur’an and the Psalms

The Qur’an identifies the Book of Psalms by the term Zabur three times. On the first two of these occasions, the Qur’an refers to the Zabur and also to Dawood, David (see Ayat 4:163; 17:55; 21:105). And within these three verses, or Ayat, the Psalms are emphasized in special, quiet ways.

Everyone who has read our Scriptures knows that there is much conversation between the texts. Themes and characters from the Hebrew Scriptures are discussed in new ways in the New Testament, and then they are considered in fresh and different ways yet again in the Qur’an.

We see this ongoing conversation present, quite obviously, on the literal level of the text. Every page of the New Testament is in overt dialogue with the Hebrew Scriptures. And every page of the Qur’an is in open communication with both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures.

However, this dialogue between the Scriptures also has numerous other levels, levels that we have only begun to discover.

For example, the individual Surahs of the Qur’an have a direct parallel relationship with the Psalms of the same title number. Surah 1 shares literary features with Psalm 1, Surah 2 with Psalm 2, and so on, all the way to Surah 114 and Psalm 114.

This essay demonstrates and explores this connection between our Scriptures. It shall present the strong literary ties between 9 pairs of Surahs and Psalms of the same title number.

 

Surah 1 and Psalm 1

A clear and effective way to see the connections between the Surahs and the Psalms is simply to compare Surah 1 and Psalm 1.

Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are both short, yet have many shared words and themes, including:

-Both discuss the good path, and the unhelpful path.

-Both infer choices we are to make. Both guide us in making good choices.

-Both discuss the Day of Judgment.

-Both discuss negative types of behavior that are good to avoid.

-Both make interesting use of the word “and.”

And there is a more subtle, but powerful, connection:

-The Hebrew name of the Book of Psalms is Tehillim, which means, “The Praises”; and the second verse of Surah 1 of the Qur’an states “all praise is due to Allah”; meanwhile,

-The word “Qur’an” means “The Recitation,” and the verb in Psalm 1 that we humans are encouraged to practice, “higeh,” means to recite, murmur, repeat, ponder upon, and wrestle with.

-Therefore, the title of each Sacred Scripture, the “Quran” and the “Tehillim,” is mentioned, in translated form, in the first verses of the Other sacred text!

It is now abundantly clear that Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are connected with each other. Allah-God loves this sort of deep and meaningful wordplay and relationship between the sacred texts.

The Qur’an and the Psalms begin with each other, with a dialogue. (Psalm 1 blatantly begins in this way, in that it mentions the Torah, twice, in its first verses. So the Book of Psalms begins by recommending itself, and all Scriptures, to inter-textuality and dialogue.) This is tremendously important.

As this dialogue continues, it grows more subtle.

By the time that we arrive at the final Surah of the Qur’an, Surah 114, the connections between each Surah and Psalm, while remaining highly meaningful, will be much more understated.

 

Surah 22 and Psalm 22

Psalm 22 is the main Psalm of the Crucifixion of Jesus. While the New Testament’s deep discussion of Psalm 22 cannot be taken up here, important appearances of Psalm 22 in the New Testament are: Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Jn 19:23. Additionally, Luke 23:43 is reminiscent of the joyful conclusion of Psalm 22.

Also, when Jesus is mocked during the Crucifixion, there are further references to Psalm 22.

Surah 22 of the Qur’an has at least forty-five (45) allusions to Psalm 22. This is a conservative count, not including the very subtle connections between them. Here are a few demonstrations:

Verse 1: “O people! Guard against (the punishment from) your Lord; surely, the violence of the hour is a grievous thing.” Jesus, in John’s Gospel, speaks of the “hour” that he will go through at his Passion and Crucifixion. Indeed, Psalm 22 highlights exactly the difficulties and the violence of this event, as does this first Ayah of Surah 22.

The Qur’an’s next verse discusses pregnant and nursing women. Echoing this, the Psalmist of Psalm 22 says: “For you (God) drew me forth from the belly, and made me secure on the breasts of my mother. Upon you I was cast from the womb, from the belly of my mother you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:10-11) Surah 22 is entitled The Pilgrimage (Hajj); we see in the transfer of the infant Psalmist, this movement from the womb to God, a powerful repetition of the theme of life, development, and pilgrimage of Surah 22. In Psalm 22, the Psalmist is undergoing a difficult passage of this pilgrimage, as difficult as the shock and outrage that the infant feels when being born/delivered from the womb.

Again, the suffering people in Ayah 22:2 are so stunned and bewildered by the punishment that they seem to be “intoxicated”; likewise, the ranting complaints of the Psalmist in Psalm 22 are of similar hyperbolic expanse, because of the great pain. Ayah 22.2 concludes, “the chastisement of Allah will be severe.”

Just as Psalm 22 alludes to the actual process of delivery at birth, a few Ayat later, at 22:5, there is another mention of “wombs,” and Allah will “Bring you forth as babies, then that you may attain your maturity, and . . . (eventually) die.” This again is echoing the processes of birth, life, and death of Psalm 22. There is much more hidden in this one verse, Ayah 22:5; recall that at the two-thirds mark of Psalm 22, there is a radical shift in perspective, as the Psalmist suddenly has been given insight, knowledge, and possibly a mystical experience—and the Psalmist spends the rest of the Psalm praising God in some of the most joyful verses of the Bible. Jesus, on the Cross, certainly recited this Psalm to its conclusion, celebrating the Resurrection that he had rock-solid faith in, even as he was dying in pain. Ayah 22:5 also speaks of the Resurrection, without mentioning Jesus by name. The end of this Ayah speaks of sterile land being transformed by rain; with the rain, the earth “stirs and swells and brings forth of every kind a beautiful herbage.” This too echoes the Resurrection experience at the end of Psalm 22. And the earth itself gives new birth.

In its own right, Psalm 22 concludes with future “unborn generations” of new people who will attest to these things themselves, in joy.

Again praising these true processes of life, Ayah 22:6 declares, “This is because Allah is the Truth and because he gives life to the dead and because he has power over all things.”

Although Psalm 22 begins with bitter suffering, it ends with radical joy and praise, without mentioning actual “Resurrection.” However, for Christians and Muslims, the notion of the Resurrection is clearly present in the Psalm’s final verses. Psalm 23, following Psalm 22, is often read at funerals, because it too speaks powerfully of the processes of life, of our ongoing pilgrimage, and also speaks of the Resurrection without mentioning that term. Ayah 22:7 says, “Allah shall raise up those who are in the graves,” and Ayah 22:9 mentions “the day of Resurrection.”

Again, echoing the good things promised by the approaching Psalm 23, with its restorative waters and meadows and feasts, Ayah 22:14 promises, “Surely Allah will cause those who believe and do good deeds to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow…”

In fact, Surah 22 has glimpses of the future joyful harmony of Córdoba and Andalusia, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in peace. Ayah 22:17 mentions “Jews” and “Christians.” Forecasting the shared worship spaces of Córdoba, Ayah 22:40 speaks of “cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered…”

Nor does this picture of harmony in civilization preclude the tough work of healing and repentance that all individual souls must undergo. We have discussed the exuberant “reversal” or “change” that occurs at the two-thirds point of Psalm 22. In a complex literary maneuver, Ayah 22.22 reverses this reversal! Sometimes the healing and purification last longer than one might choose (sic): “Whenever they desire to go forth from it, from grief, they shall be turned back into it, and taste the chastisement of burning.”

Following this verse, Ayah 22:23 sounds like Psalm 23 again: “Surely Allah will make those who believe and do good deeds enter gardens beneath which rivers flow; they shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and (with) pearls, and their garments therein shall be of silk.” This ongoing transformation, this Hajj, this pilgrimage, changes our own speech and capacities of communication: “And they are guided to goodly words, and they are guided into the path of the Praised One.” (Ayah 22:24) Human speech improves.

Ayah 22:35 mentions hearts that “tremble,” just as Psalm 22 speaks of the fear/awe of the Lord.

The Qur’an’s dialogue with the Psalms often employs hidden humor. Psalm 22 mentions that the Psalmist feels like a “worm.” Surah 22 transforms this into a way of speaking of the creative power of Allah, as the unbelievers’ false gods do not have the power to create a “fly.” (Ayah 22:73)

The humor itself has multiple purposes. For example, it shows the manifold ways in which Allah can transform suffering and shame into goodness and celebration. This is a good model for spiritual leaders, who can often assist in times of healing and transition by the discerning deployment of humor.

Ayat 22:58, 59, 61, 63 and 66 allude, in unique ways, to the transformation from the suffering of Psalm 22 to the gardens of Psalm 23.

 

Surah 23 and Psalm 23

The previous section discussed how Surah 22 and Psalm 22 address developments and processes, which are connected with pilgrimage and Hajj. These journeys of growth and transformation often have difficult episodes that lead to better states of being and higher orders of awareness.

Early in Surah 23 this entire developmental process is rehearsed in verse 23:14, “then we made the seed a clot, then we made the clot a lump of flesh, then we made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then we clothed the bones with flesh, then we caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of creators.” In addition to its resonances with Psalms 22 and 23, this Ayah has connections to Ezekiel and Paul.

A single reading of Surah 23 reveals at least twenty-five clear echoes from, and allusions to, Psalm 23, the famous shepherd psalm. Ayah 23:1 says, “Successful indeed are the believers.” This is an obvious parallel to the sense of “arrival” or “success” that is found in parts of Psalm 23. Ayah 23:2 continues examining the process of those “Who are humble in their prayers,” showing that the “successful” nature of the first Ayah is attributable entirely to Allah-God. And the term “prayers” reminds us of “psalms.” Humility, already highlighted by the Qur’an, will increase even more in importance at the conclusion of the Qur’an.

Part of Psalm 23 is the re-appropriation, or actual first appropriation, of the Garden, of the fullness of Creation. Ayah 12 reminds us of this: “And certainly we created humanity out of an extract of clay.” The next Ayah discusses “resting place,” which also reminds us of Psalm 23.

Ayah 23:19 brings us deeper into this garden paradise: “Then we cause to grow thereby gardens of palm trees and grapes for you; you have in them many fruits and from them do you eat.” Although we cannot explore it here, the next verse moves from palm tree to olive tree in what is perhaps a ‘softening’ or intentionally ‘gentle’ interpretation of the Torah: “And a tree that grows out of Mount Sinai which produces oil and a condiment for those who eat.” (Ayah 23:20) We also see in this Ayah the olive oil and the banquet of Psalm 23. The feast continues in Ayat 23:33 and 23:51.

The overflowing cup of Psalm 23 becomes an overflowing valley in Ayah 23:27. The “valley,” of course, is another feature of Psalm 23. (Valleys that have suffered also become joyfully watered in Psalm 84, as a result of pilgrimage.)

The “paths of righteousness” of Psalm 23 are mentioned in Ayah 23:49, which has another allusion to the Torah: “And certainly we gave Musa (Moses) the Book that they may follow a right direction.”

Immediately following this, Ayah 23:50 sweetly brings Mary and Jesus into the paradise of Psalm 23. In doing this, the Qur’an unites two New Testament people in a setting within a Psalm of the Hebrew Scriptures: “And we made the son of Marium and his mother a sign, and we gave them a shelter on a lofty ground having meadows and springs.”

 

Surah 78 and Psalm 78

Psalm 78:23-24 speaks of the doors of heaven being opened, and food raining down upon the Israelites in the desert. Recall that Jacob, in Genesis 28, called the Ladder that he had seen in the vision the “gate of heaven.”

Similar to Psalm 78, there is an opening of heaven in Surah 78: “And the heaven shall be opened so that it shall be all openings.” (Ayah 78:19) There are many other verses in the Qur’an that speak of heavenly doors being opened and good things being bestowed upon humanity.

There are other connections between this Surah and Psalm. Also, this opening of the heavens is related to the Mystical Psalm Structures, discussed in a forthcoming essay. See also John 1:51.

 

Surah 82 and Psalm 82

Once in a course at the GTU in Berkeley, the esteemed Professor Donn Morgan (of CDSP) asked the class a question: “What do you think that John Dominic Crosson says is the most important Psalm?”

Unbeknownst to the class, Professor Morgan had obtained the newly published Soundings in the Theology of Psalms, in which Crosson, one of the most famous Biblical scholars of today, is discussed by J. Clinton McCann Jr. At this time, I was doing my initial research on the Psalms, and so when this question was asked, I thought of key Psalms I was working with.

When the class had made various guesses at the answer, Professor Morgan surprised us: “Psalm 82.” I probably made a look of incomprehension, but then, the more I reflected on it, it started to make good sense.

Crosson goes even further, saying that Psalm 82 is the most important Scripture in the entire Bible.

Psalm 82 excoriates bad leaders.

Psalm 82 rehearses how leaders have been given their place and their power by God. Unfortunately, bad leaders knowingly choose to abuse this power over the lives of other human beings. For this, God will give them a most severe demotion, and a tumultuous death, says Psalm 82.

Similarly, Surah 82 is about the Day of Judgment, and about the cleaving apart of the heavens that will occur on that day. Additionally, on that day, the souls of all people shall be clearly seen. The deeds that they have done on earth will be entirely visible.

Surah 82 mentions beings who guide humanity, similar to the leaders of Psalm 82: “And yet truly over you there are guardians.” (82:10) Who are these guardians? Unlike Psalm 82, these “keepers” seem to be higher than humans, possibly angels. The Study Quran reports, “Guardians refers to angels who preserve the record of all the deeds of human beings . . . most maintain that each individual has two angels solely responsible for recording the deeds that he or she performs in this life.” (TSQ, pp. 1485-1486) Actually, Psalm 82 calls societal leaders “elohim,” which can mean “human potentates,” or “angels,” or even “gods.” They lose this position, however, by their bad leadership, and they will “die like mortals.”

A few Ayat later in the Qur’an, the punishments of the wicked are discussed, but a new word is used to describe this wayward group: they are called “profligate,” or “libertines,” which makes a subtle echoing back to the spoiled leaders of Psalm 82.

This analysis has considered falls from power and lost opportunities to truly construct good things in society. Of course, all is not lost. We shall return to these themes, in transformed and vibrant ways, soon.

 

Surah 84 and Psalm 84

Psalm 84 is a central Psalm of the Psalter. It is integral to many of the Psalm Structures, which space does not permit us to discuss here.

Likewise, Surah 84 speaks of the “hard striving” of life, and how life itself is like a pilgrimage.

Psalm 84 says of the pilgrims, “They advance from strength to strength (yelku mechayil el chayil), each will appear before God.”

Surah 84 says of humanity, “Oh Humanity! Surely you must strive (to attain) to your Lord, a hard striving until you meet Him.”

And Surah 84 is keenly aware of the internal transformations that the pilgrims progress through: “That you shall most certainly enter stage after stage.” This expands the Psalm’s journey “from strength to strength.”

Already, so soon after the dramatic errors of Psalm 82 and Surah 82, God is reassuring all people that it is always possible to turn back to Allah, and to receive mercy, and to grow in love.

 

Surah 88 and Psalm 88

The call and response between our Scriptures is often both deep and lively.

For example, Psalm 88 is the most despairing of the Psalms, and, on the literal surface level, is the only Psalm that expresses no hope. God is sought, but nowhere to be found. The Psalm ends in a shocking discussion of loneliness and abandonment. The Hebrew is intentionally murky, and the Psalm concludes by saying something like: “My only acquaintance has disappeared into the darkness.”

Friendly faces flood Surah 88 (see Ayah 88:8). Indeed, this Surah has a beautiful, tranquil list of many of the wonders that await us in Paradise.

The Psalmist of Psalm 88 is hurt and alone, asking demanding questions of God.

By way of contrast, Surah 88 implores us to ask Allah about the wonders of this physical creation, and of the cosmos.

Just as the distress and anguish of Psalm 22 is followed by its joyous conclusion, and a serenity which continues into Psalm 23, so too here we see a more mature and advanced development: the sheer hopelessness of Psalm 88 is followed, and answered, in the Qur’an, by lists of good things that Allah provides for us in Surah 88.

 

Surah 112 and Psalm 112

Are humans similar to God? If so, how? Can we grow more like God in our life?

Something remarkable happens in Psalms 111 and 112: The Divine attributes of God that are presented in Psalm 111 become human attributes of the virtuous person in Psalm 112.

Psalm 111 describes God as “gracious and compassionate,” chanun ve-rachum. This sounds like the Basmalah, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” that begins 113 of the 114 Surahs of the Qur’an. But in the next Psalm, 112, these attributes are attributed to the ‘just’ person, who is also “gracious and compassionate,” chanun ve-rachum.

Surah 112 makes a profound reply to this development in the Psalms. Just two Surahs before the end of the Qur’an, Surah 112 is short, having only 4 verses:

1) Say: “He, God, is One,

2)  God, the Eternally Sufficient unto Himself.

3)  He begets not; nor was He begotten.

4)  And none is like unto Him.”

In the light of this Surah’s connection with Psalms 111 and 112, is the Qur’an making a mild rebuttal to the great development that occurs within this pair of Psalms? Nothing is like Allah. We cannot become like God. It is impossible. We shall forever be kept at a very great distance from God, in that we can never become “too much like” the Divine.

The Qur’an here is emphasizing a basic doctrine of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: There is an insurmountable difference between Creator and creation. Despite having created creation, the Creator is infinitely far above and beyond creation. With all the material and matter of creation, for example, we could never build a bridge to the Creator, so far is God beyond us.

Yet we can begin to act like some of God’s own traits. And the Qur’an shows this just as the Psalms and the New Testament show this.

We can begin to learn how to love, and how to be compassionate, merciful, forgiving.

The Qur’an seems to say that there are some divine traits that humans can learn, and some that are reserved for Allah alone. (Islamic theologies state this too.)

Please permit a brief historical digression: If we read the Qur’an from beginning to end, we are reading it in the canonical order of the text. This order, however, is different than the temporal, chronological order in which the text was received over a period of about 23 years by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The shorter Surahs near the end of the Qur’an are actually among the earlier parts of the Qur’an that were given to the Prophet in Mecca. The longer Surahs at the beginning of the Qur’an were given to the Prophet later, in Medina.

Some scholars state that Surah 9 is actually the penultimate Surah that was given to the Prophet, the next-to-last Surah he received. Only Surah 5, The Table Spread, was given after Surah 9. Then the transmission of the Qur’an to the Prophet was complete.

Surah 9 has a remarkable and poignant development. Ayah 9:117 describes Allah as “Kind and Merciful.” Near the end of the Surah, at Ayah 9:128, the Qur’an assigns to the Prophet these same attributes: the Prophet is “kind and merciful.”

The Qur’an says that the Prophet has become like Allah in mercy.

After the 23-year period of the transmission of the Qur’an, the Prophet died. To have been commanded by Allah to record in the Qur’an that he, the Prophet Muhammad, had grown in the divine quality of mercy, must have given him a powerful, if humbling, joy in the remaining time before his death. Some authorities say that Ayat 9:128-129 were the very last verses of the Qur’an to be received by the Prophet. (TSQ, p. 541)

We see here a multi-leveled dialogue between the Psalms and the Qur’an. Surah 112 seems to squarely oppose the transfer of attributes from God to humanity. Yet the very final verses (in chronological order) of the Qur’an that were given to the Prophet seem to validate the process of Psalms 111-112.

 

Surah 114 and Psalm 114

Surah 114 and Psalm 150 conclude their respective books.

Psalm 150 points to what the heavenly celebration will be like: dancing, music, joy, and loud celebration in the presence of God.

Similarly, Psalm 114, the numerical parallel to Surah 114, has emphatic action, as nature goes into convulsions at the sight of the Exodus event.

In contrast to both Psalms 114 and 150, Surah 114 is quiet and introspective. It considers how we make internal decisions, within our mind and heart.

As Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are connected with each other, so are Surah 114 and Psalm 114 connected with each other—but in a very different set of ways.

Surah 1 and Psalm 1 share a raft of vocabulary terms. And this establishes a precedent, as it happens in the first unit of both Scriptures.

Yet with Surah 114 and Psalm 114, there are not many shared words. Instead, there is a connection of call-and-answer, and a progression, and an exquisite dance between the two texts.

Psalm 114 is dramatic, and the scene of action is very exterior. It happens in the wilderness, at the Red Sea and by the desert mountains and at the Jordan River. The Psalm celebrates the Exodus.

In response to the Exodus, nature herself 1) dances like young sheep and rams in the springtime, and 2) is amazed at the sight of the Exodus. Mountains jump up and down. The Red Sea and the Jordan River are severed, their currents reversed.

Why do the land and the water, these two elements, act strangely?

It is because of the new connection between God and human beings. This connection of the people and God is the birth of the Hebrew people, as they pass through the Red Sea. This passing through the Red Sea is a birth. Broken water. Red. A birth. A new connection between God and Humanity is the birth of a new Humanity. Mother Earth, and her waters, sense this and respond appropriately with the throes of birth.

Surah 114 was given to us perhaps a millennium after Psalm 114, after much human evolution had occurred in the light of earlier Scriptures.

Its title is “Humanity”:

1) Say: “I seek refuge in the Lord of humans,

2) The King of humans,

3) The God of humans,

4) From the evil of the whisperings of the slinking (Shaitan/Satan),

5) Who whispers into the hearts of humans,

6) From among the jinn and humans.”

This utterly profound Surah is a sign of tremendous human evolution.

Whereas Psalm 114 had nature terrified and leaping before God’s theophany, and features long external human journeys, Surah 114 speaks volumes of an immense internal awareness within the Human Person.

Surah 114 asks us to repeat its words, and to make these words our words. (The Psalms do this too.) When we say these words in ourselves, our interior selves become more holy, aware, and evolved. When we say these words in ourselves, we become more aware of the internal geography of our own soul.

And what we see is awesome.

Our relationship with Allah has become so full that it must be described, initially, with three statements of who God is for us: Allah is “the Lord of humans, the King of humans, [and] the God of humans.”

We have grown to the point where we have to think of our relationship with Allah in multiple ways. Indeed, our comprehension has become more complex.

With that, there is greater responsibility that we must exercise over our thinking. We must take greater care for our mental life, our mental activity.

As more complex and evolved human beings, we are potentially vulnerable to sneaky whispers from the slinking/ withdrawing Satan. With our more developed mental antennae, we can pick up smaller “transmissions” from Satan. Satan attacks our hearts, the place of love. Satan wants to divide us, and to separate us from each other. The more we humans evolve, the more we transform into people of love. If Satan is able to stop our loving each other, than he can stop our growth, our evolution.

Love opens us up to evolutionary growth in more spectrums of reality. But we must show discernment as we enter an awareness of these realms: We are now aware of whispers that come to us from both “jinn” and “men.” This positive growth is leading us to be intelligent and reflective as we become aware that we are receiving communications from a wider spectrum of reality.

We must carefully observe and govern our expanding mental life. We must be humble, and stay close to God. This is how the Qur’an concludes.

Psalm 114 showed the Israelites being led by the hand on a big journey in wild places. Mountains leapt, seas parted. The Israelites oscillated greatly, often wanting to return to the fleshpots that they had previously known. They radically bounced between fear and anger/pride.

By way of contrast, the final Surah of the Qur’an is teaching us about our evolving life of mind and soul.

See the progression?

We might, however, find seeds, kernels, of this tremendous growth hiding, latent, in Psalm 114. This Psalm ends with a verse about God, “Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing fountain of water.” Initially, this might seem like simple powerful external imagery of God’s awesome power, with which he has been awing the Israelites and teaching them introductory lessons about their lives, their selves, and their relationship with God.

Yet we might also recall Ezekiel’s discussion of rocky hearts, and the Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and we might discern the beginning hints of something different. The Exodus journey, led by God, is softening the hearts of the Israelites, and transforming their hearts into hearts of love. During the Exodus, for example, the Israelites had to become better at community. Part of this is their growing ability to make better choices; To discern, and to make calm, just judgments.

Rocky hearts become springs of love.

The parallel relationship with the Qur’an helps us to draw out this truth from the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures! Likewise, the dramatic exterior action of Psalm 114 helps us to better see and to be awed by the huge quiet interior developments that are now happening in Humanity in Surah 114! Our Scriptures walk forward, hand in hand.

There is much more: Now that the dialogue between Psalm 114 and Surah 114 has developed our sense of the dimension, the spectrum, of time, and of evolution, and of our receiving God’s own powers and gifts—what if Surah 114 is reminding us that if our evolution continues, we shall be given tremendous powers by God, the ability to move mountains and to dialogue deeply with nature? Recall the above discussion of Surahs 112 and 9, with their nuanced discussion of our capacity of receiving God’s powers.

Again, Surah 114 discusses choices instrumental to our human evolution.

And this Surah discusses cosmic forces that arrive to us, forces that are calmly appearing, or rudely interjected, into our thoughts. These visiting thoughts may be for good or for ill. The growing human person must learn to read these thoughts, and to discern from whence they arrive. The growing human person must learn discernment.

The simple act of the decision, of spiritual/ mental volition, occurring in the quiet privacy of our own mind, is revealed to be more powerful and far more advanced than the leaping up and down of mountains, as wonderful as that might be.

Surah 114 is evolutionary, and very aware of our human need to grasp the cosmic ramifications of each and every one of our decisions.

They go together. If we make good decisions, and become a loving unified humanity, then the cosmos has no limits for us; in fact, the cosmos, created by Allah-God, will lovingly respond to a humanity that has grown in love.

Our Scriptures, united in dialogue, help us on this journey.

[A downloadable version of this essay is available at https://www.academia.edu/33048365/The_Dialogue_between_the_Quran_and_the_Psalms ]

Bibliography

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, editor-in-chief. The Study Quran. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2015.

Jacobson, Rolf A., ed. Soundings in the Theology of Psalms. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.

The Mystical Ladder of the Qur’an

Shared Mystical Realities Between the Qur’an, New Testament,

and Hebrew Scriptures

 

The Sacred Texts of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were inspired (in the case of the Bible) or given to us directly (in the case of the Qur’an) by our One God.

So when we discover mystical realities, mystical treasures, hidden in one area of the Scriptures, it should not be surprising when we find these same treasures and realities hidden in another area of the Scriptures.

We see this pattern of sharing already present at the literal level of the text. Every page of the New Testament is in dialogue with the Hebrew Scriptures. And every page of the Qur’an is in dialogue with both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures.

This same dialogue continues on the mystical and more mysterious levels of these sacred texts.

For example, there are deep connections between the Book of Psalms and the Qur’an. The Qur’an specifically mentions the Psalms three times, referring to them as the Zabur of Dawood, the Psalms of David (see Surahs 4:163; 17:55; 21:105).

This essay has two parts. The first part will show how the individual Surahs of the Qur’an are in a parallel relationship of shared literary similarities with the Psalm of the same number. Surah 1 shares literary features with Psalm 1, Surah 2 with Psalm 2, and so on, all the way to Surah 114 and Psalm 114.

This is an astounding discovery, but there is much more. The Book of Psalms contains glorious mystical structures, which a forthcoming book shall take up. The second part of the essay will show how the Qur’an re-presents the Mystical Psalm Structures. The Qur’an takes up the Mystical Psalm Structures and celebrates them in multiple ways.

 

Part I

The Parallel Relationship Between Surahs and Psalms

Of the Same Number

 

This part of the essay will take three pairs of Surahs and Psalms, of the same title number, and show their deep connections.

 

Surah 1 and Psalm 1

An extremely clear and effective way to see the connections between the Qur’an’s Surahs and the Psalms is simply to compare Surah 1 and Psalm 1.

Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are both short and have many shared words and themes. Here are some of them:

-Both discuss the good path, and the unhelpful path.

-Both infer choices we are to make. Both guide us in making good choices.

-Both discuss the Day of Judgment.

-Both discuss negative types of behavior that are good to avoid.

-Both make interesting use of the word “and.”

And there is a more subtle, but powerful, connection:

-The Hebrew name of the Book of Psalms is Tehillim, which means, “The Praises”; and the second verse (Ayah) of Surah 1 of the Qur’an states “all praise is due to Allah”; meanwhile,

-The word “Qur’an” means “The Recitation,” and the verb in Psalm 1 that we humans are encouraged to practice, “higeh,” means to recite, murmur, repeat, ponder upon, and wrestle with.

-Therefore, the title of each Sacred Scripture, the “Qur’an” and the “Tehillim,” is mentioned, in translated form, in the first verses of the Other sacred text!

It is now abundantly clear that Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are connected with each other. Allah-God loves this sort of deep and meaningful wordplay and relationship between the sacred texts.

The Qur’an and the Psalms begin with each other, with a dialogue. (Psalm 1 overtly begins in this way, in that it mentions the Torah, twice, in its first verses. So the Book of Psalms begins by recommending itself, and all Scriptures, to inter-textuality and dialogue.) This is tremendously important.

As this dialogue continues, it grows more subtle.

By the time that we arrive at the final Surah of the Qur’an, Surah 114, the connections between each Surah and Psalms will be much more understated, though of great importance.

 

Surah 22 and Psalm 22

Psalm 22 is the great Psalm of the Crucifixion of Jesus. While the New Testament’s deep and complex discussion of Psalm 22 cannot be taken up here, these are some of the obvious appearances of Psalm 22 in the New Testament: Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Jn 19:23. Additionally, Luke 23:43 is reminiscent of the joyful conclusion of Psalm 22.

Also, when Jesus is mocked during the Crucifixion, there are more allusions to Psalm 22 at those places.

Surah 22 of the Qur’an has at least forty-five (45) allusions to Psalm 22. This is a conservative count, not including the very subtle connections between them. Here are a few demonstrations:

Ayah (verse) 1: “O people! Guard against (the punishment from) your Lord; surely, the violence of the hour is a grievous thing.” Jesus, in John’s Gospel, speaks of the “hour” that he will go through at his Passion and Crucifixion. Indeed, Psalm 22 highlights exactly the difficulties and the violence of this event, as does this first Ayah of Surah 22.

Surah 22’s next Ayah includes a discussion of every nursing woman and pregnant woman at this difficult time. Likewise, the Psalmist of Psalm 22 says: “For you (God) drew me forth from the belly, and made me secure on the breasts of my mother. Upon you I was cast from the womb, from the belly of my mother you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:10-11) Surah 22 is entitled The Pilgrimage (Hajj); we see in the transfer of the infant Psalmist, from the womb to God, a powerful echo of the theme of life, development, and pilgrimage of Surah 22. In Psalm 22, the Psalmist is undergoing a difficult passage of this pilgrimage, as difficult as the shock and outrage that the infant feels when being born/delivered from the womb.

Again, the suffering people in Ayah 22:2 are so stunned and bewildered by the punishment that they seem to be “intoxicated”; likewise, the ranting complaints of the Psalmist in Psalm 22 are similar in scope, because of the great pain. Ayah 2 concludes, “the chastisement of Allah will be severe.”

Just as Psalm 22 alludes to the actual process of delivery at birth, a few Ayat later, at 22:5, there is another mention of “wombs,” and Allah will “Bring you forth as babies, then that you may attain your maturity, and . . . (eventually) die.” This again is echoing the processes of birth, life, and death of Psalm 22. There is much more latent in just this one verse, Ayah 22:5; recall that at about the two-thirds mark of Psalm 22, there is a radical shift in perspective, and the Psalmist has been given insight, knowledge, and possibly a mystical experience—and the Psalmist spends the rest of the Psalm praising God in some of the most joyful verses of the Bible. Jesus, on the Cross, certainly recited this Psalm to its conclusion, celebrating the Resurrection that he had rock-solid faith in, even as he was dying in pain. Ayat 22:5 speaks of the Resurrection too, without mentioning Jesus by name. The end of this Ayah speaks of sterile land being transformed by rain; with the rain, the earth “stirs and swells and brings forth of every kind a beautiful herbage.” This too echoes the Resurrection experience at the end of Psalm 22.

In its own right, Psalm 22 concludes with “unborn generations” of new people who will attest to these things themselves, in joy.

Again reciting this praise of the true processes of reality, Ayah 22:6 declares, “This is because Allah is the Truth and because he gives life to the dead and because he has power over all things.”

Although Psalm 22 begins with bitter suffering, it ends with radical joy and praise, without mentioning actual “Resurrection.” However, for Christians and Muslims, the notion of the Resurrection is clearly present in the Psalm’s final verses. Psalm 23, following Psalm 22, is often read at funerals, because it too speaks powerfully of the processes of life, of our ongoing pilgrimage, and also speaks of the Resurrection without mentioning that term. After Ayah 22:6, Ayah 22:7 says, “Allah shall raise up those who are in the graves,” and Ayah 22:9 mentions “the day of Resurrection.”

Again, echoing the good things promised by the approaching Psalm 23, with its restorative waters and meadows and feasts, Ayah 22:14 promises, “Surely Allah will cause those who believe and do good deeds to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow…”

In fact, Surah 22 has glimpses of the future joyful harmony of Cordoba and Andalusia, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in peace. Ayah 22:17 mentions “Jews” and “Christians.” Forecasting the shared worship spaces of Cordoba, Ayah 22:40 speaks of “cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered…”

Nor does this picture of harmony in civilization preclude the tough work of healing and repentance that all individual souls must undergo. We have discussed the exuberant “reversal” or “change” that occurs at the two-thirds point of Psalm 22. In a complex literary maneuver, Ayah 22.22 reverses this reversal! Sometimes the healing and purification go longer than one might choose (sic): “Whenever they desire to go forth from it, from grief, they shall be turned back into it, and taste the chastisement of burning.”

Following this verse, Ayah 23 of Surah 22 sounds like Psalm 23 again: “Surely Allah will make those who believe and do good deeds enter gardens beneath which rivers flow; they shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and (with) pearls, and their garments therein shall be of silk.” This ongoing transformation, this Hajj, this pilgrimage, changes our own speech and capacities of communication: “And they are guided to goodly words, and they are guided into the path of the Praised One.” (Ayah 22:24)

Ayah 22:35 mentions hearts that “tremble,” as Psalm 22 speaks of the fear/awe of the Lord.

Often Christian writers commenting, hiddenly, on the Mystical Psalm Structures use humor in discussing them; the humor becomes more clear and incisive once one has seen the hidden connection to the Psalms. Likewise, the Qur’an’s commentary on the Psalms often works with this same kind of hidden humor. Psalm 22 mentions that the Psalmist feels like a “worm.” Surah 22 transforms this into a way of speaking of the creative power of Allah, as the unbelievers’ false gods do not have the power to create a “fly.” (Ayah 22:73)

The humor itself has multiple purposes. For example, it shows the manifold ways in which Allah can transform suffering and shame into goodness and celebration. Additionally, this is a good model for spiritual leaders, who can often assist in times of healing and transition by the discerning deployment of humor.

Ayat 22:58, 59, 61, 63 and 66 all allude, in unique ways, to the transformation from the suffering of Psalm 22 to the gardens of Psalm 23.

 

Surah 23 and Psalm 23

The previous section discussed how Surah 22 and Psalm 22 address developments and processes, which are connected with pilgrimage and Hajj. These journeys of growth and transformation often have difficult episodes that lead to better states of being, higher orders of awareness.

Early in Surah 23 this entire developmental process is rehearsed in Ayah 14: “then we made the seed a clot, then we made the clot a lump of flesh, then we made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then we clothed the bones with flesh, then we caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of creators.” In addition to Psalm 22 and 23, this Ayah has connections to Ezekiel and Paul.

A single reading of Surah 23 reveals at least twenty-five clear echoes from, and allusions to, Psalm 23, the famous shepherd psalm. Ayah 23:1 says, “Successful indeed are the believers.” This is an obvious parallel to the sense of “arrival” or “success” that is found in parts of Psalm 23. Ayah 23:2 continues examining the process of those “Who are humble in their prayers,” showing that the “successful” nature of the first Ayah is attributable entirely to Allah-God. And the term “prayers” reminds us of “psalms.”

Part of Psalm 23 is the re-appropriation, or actual first appropriation, of the Garden, of the fullness of Creation. Ayah 12 reminds us of this: “And certainly we created humanity out of an extract of clay.” The next Ayah discusses “resting place,” which also reminds us of Psalm 23.

Ayah 23:19 brings us deeper into this garden paradise: “Then we cause to grow thereby gardens of palm trees and grapes for you; you have in them many fruits and from them do you eat.” Although we cannot delve into it here, the next verse moves from palm tree to olive tree in what is perhaps a ‘softening’ or intentionally ‘gentle’ interpretation of the Torah: “And a tree that grows out of Mount Sinai which produces oil and a condiment for those who eat.” (Ayah 23:20) We also see in this Ayah the olive oil and the banquet of Psalm 23. The feast continues in Ayat 23:33 and 23:51.

The overflowing cup of Psalm 23 becomes an overflowing valley in Ayah 23:27. The “valley,” of course, is another feature of Psalm 23. (Valleys that have suffered also become joyfully watered in Psalm 84, as a result of pilgrimage.)

The “paths of righteousness” of Psalm 23 are mentioned in Ayah 23:49, which has another allusion to the Torah: “And certainly we gave Musa (Moses) the Book that they may follow a right direction.”

Immediately following this, Ayah 23:50 sweetly brings Mary and Jesus into the paradise of Psalm 23: “And we made the son of Marium and his mother a sign, and we gave them a shelter on a lofty ground having meadows and springs.”

 

Part II

The Mystical Psalm Structures in the Qur’an

Let’s switch gears radically. We have discussed three individual pairs of Surahs and Psalms that obviously are connected with each other. (There are 114 Surahs in the Qur’an, so we have only begun exploring this vast topic.)

These are profound and very important discoveries, important for all human beings on the planet Earth. This shows that Allah-God wants peace between religions, not fundamentalism, literalism, or war.

Allah-God likes thoughtful, thinking people who develop skills in interpretation and communication. Making things work beautifully.

As stunning as this discovery is, there is so much more.

For example, there are Mystical Structures hidden in the Book of Psalms, discussed in this essay:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

These Mystical Psalm Structures and alluded to in almost every book of the New Testament, and in the writings of at least 20 Christian saints. (All these New Testament/Christian allusions to the Mystical Psalm Structures are subtle and intentionally hidden—probably Allah-God told the authors not to make these revelations overt yet.)

Like the New Testament, the Qur’an is in continual dialogue with the Mystical Psalm Structures.

This essay only has space to discuss one Mystical Psalm Structure: The Mystical Psalms Ladder, which is discussed in the linked essay above. The twenty-five Psalms whose title numbers are the multiples of 6 form the Mystical Psalms Ladder. In a similar way, the Qur’an’s Surahs whose title numbers are multiples of 6 are celebrating the Mystical Psalms Ladder as well, and form their own Quranic Ladder; the Qur’an’s discussion of the Mystical Psalms Ladder is much less hidden than it is in the New Testament, although it never quite becomes overt.

The Psalms have a hidden mathematical formula that generates the flight of angels on the Ladder. The Qur’an is overflowing with angels, ladders, and angels flying vertically, up and down, between heaven and earth.

The second part of this essay shall present Surahs 6, 78, and 114, and their connections to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Surahs 6 and 114 are the first and last Surahs that form the Ladder in the Qur’an, parallel to the Psalms Ladder.

 

Surah 6

Psalm 6 is at the foot of the Psalms Ladder, planted on the earth, and contains the word sheol, which can be roughly translated as “hell.” It is full of suffering, specifically, bodily illness and pain. Ayah 6:6 echoes the pain of Psalm 6, adding to it the possibility that it is related to sinfulness; however, the Ayah concludes by recounting how Allah has “raised up after them another generation,” a sign of hope.

Ayat 6:15 and 17 discuss this as well, with Ayah 6:17 stating that Allah can heal a person and show them mercy within the course of their lifetime. Ayat 6:25-27, and 6:124, likewise echo these aspects of Psalm 6; Ayah 6:71 is poignant in this regard.

A note regarding the Psalms in general: They form an opposite direction of movement to that of the Torah (see Psalm 1). The Torah is the word of God come DOWN par excellence. God handed it down to Moses atop Mt Sinai, Moses came down, gave it down to the people, and it’s been handed down to each generation since. The Psalms reverse this movement, speaking UP to God. As Psalm 12:7 depicts, human words can become Scripture, with God’s own purification. This is what happened in the formation of the Psalms. In fact, the last 3 verses of Psalm 6 form what I call the “Reverse Shema,” claiming that God has heard their prayers, and will act to accomplish these requests of the Psalmist. Ayah 6:3 alludes to this Reverse Shema: “Allah in the heavens and in the earth knows . . . your open words.”

So the Torah came down, and the Psalms go up. Here is the basic trajectory of the Ladder, which will be creatively reproduced in the Qur’an. Let’s turn to the Ladder references in Surah 6:

-Ayah 6:35 alludes to the Mystical Ladder of the Psalms:

“And if their turning away is hard on you, then if you can seek an opening (to go down) into the earth or a ladder (to ascend up) to heaven so that you should bring them a sign and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have gathered them all on guidance, therefore be not of the ignorant.” (emphasis added)

-6:8, 37, 44, 50, 84, 99, 111, 143, and 158 are all Ayat in Surah 6 that refer to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Ayat 6:8, 6:37, and 6:158 each have multiple occurrences of angels or signs descending to earth. Other Ayat of this Surah mention angels, birds, and wings. Surah 6 is overflowing with Ladder allusions, as is the Qur’an itself.

-Psalm 84 is the central part of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Ayah 6:84 mentions Dawood and Sulaiman (David and Solomon), who are so important to the Bible’s Psalms and Wisdom Literature. Psalm 84 contains the word jedidot, “beloved,” which is cognate with David’s name. It is also cognate with “Jedidiah,” which is the special name God assigned to Solomon at his birth.

 

Surah 78 and Psalm 78

Psalms 78 and 84 form a central step of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Psalm 78 speaks of the doors of heaven being opened, and food raining down upon the Israelites in the desert. Recall that Jacob, in Genesis 28, called the Ladder that he had seen in the vision the “gateway of heaven.”

Similar to Psalm 78, there is an opening of heaven in Surah 78: “And the heaven shall be opened so that it shall be all openings.” (Ayah 78:19) There are many other verses in the Qur’an that speak of heavenly doors being opened and good things being bestowed upon humanity.

Ayah 78:34 speaks of a “pure cup”; the chalice or cup is another symbol of the Ladder. Four verses later, Ayah 78 states that “the Spirit and the angels shall stand in ranks.” Like the angels spoken of here, the angels’ Ladder has 12 steps (in the Psalms) or 9 steps (in the Qur’an).

 

Other Major References to the Mystical Psalms Ladder in the Qur’an:

-Ayah 4:153 says, “The followers of the Book ask you to bring down to them a book from heaven.” Ten verses later, at Ayah 4:163, is the Qur’an’s first mention of the Zabur of Dawood.

-Angels flying up and down, and treasures being sent down to earth, are spoken of in many Ayat of the Qur’an, too many to mention here.

-Ayah 7:40 speaks of the “doors of heaven.” Again, Jacob says that the Ladder is the gateway of heaven.

-Ayah 15:14 says, “Even if we open to them a gateway of heaven, so that they ascend into it all the while.”

-Ayah 17:1 discusses the Mi’raj, when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ascended through 7 heavens, from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This motion of vertical ascent and descent is the same as that employed when climbing the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

-Ayah 52:38 mentions a ladder by which people may listen to heavenly conversation. (Some translations do not have the word “ladder” here, but it is present in the Arabic.)

-Surah 70 is entitled “The Ways of Ascent (Ma’arij),” which is cognate with the word “Mi’raj,” discussed above.

-In this Surah, Ayah 4 says, “To him ascend the angels and the Spirit . . .”

-Ayah 43:33 speaks of “silver roofs of their houses and the stairs by which they ascend…” This is another reference to the ladder/stairway.

-Ayah 57:27 may be speaking of the Christian monks who had knowledge of these mystical realities. Additionally, if the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was friends with St. John Climacus at St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, as has been conjectured based on the Ashtiname, then the Prophet and Climacus (whose name means “Ladder” and who knew of these mystical realities) could have discussed these entities together.

Here is a rough working-list of references to the Mystical Psalms Ladder found in the Qur’an: https://www.academia.edu/32710012/Ladder_and_Angel_references_in_the_Quran

Surah 114 and Psalm 114

Here is a picture of the Mystical Ladder of the Qur’an, which echoes the Mystical Psalms Ladder. We cannot in this essay discuss the many connections between these 19 Surahs, although the tendrils of connection are plentiful:

 

114

 

108                 102

 

96                   90

 

84                   78

 

72                   66

 

60                   54

 

48                   42

 

36                   30

 

24                   18

 

12                   6

 

Surah 114 and Psalm 150 conclude their respective books. Both numbers, 114 and 150, are multiples of 6 (but not multiples of 12). This fact allows both finishing literary units to be placed atop the Mystical Ladder formed by the literary units whose numbers are multiples of 6. There is less than a one percent (1%) chance that this would occur.

As Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are connected with each other, so are Surah 114 and Psalm 114 connected with each other—but in a very different set of ways.

The connections of Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are clear to see in their shared vocabulary. And it establishes a precedent, as it happens in the first unit of both Scriptures.

Yet with Surah 114 and Psalm 114, there are not many shared words. Instead, there is a connection of call-and-answer, and a progression, and an exquisite dance between the two texts.

Psalm 114 is dramatic, and the scene of action is very exterior. It happens in the wilderness, by the Red Sea and by the desert mountains and by the Jordan River. The Psalm celebrates the Exodus.

In response to the Exodus, nature herself 1) dances like young sheep and rams in the springtime, and 2) is amazed at the sight of the Exodus. Mountains jump up and down. The Red Sea and the Jordan River are severed, their currents reversed.

Why do the land and the water, these two elements, act strangely?

It is because of the new connection between God/ Allah and people, human beings. This connection of the people and God is the birth of the Hebrew people, as they pass through the Red Sea. This passing through the Red Sea is a birth. Broken water. Red. A birth. A new connection between God and Humanity is the birth of a new Humanity. Mother Earth, and her waters, sense this and respond appropriately with the throes of birth.

Surah 114 was given to us perhaps a millennium after Psalm 114, after much human evolution had occurred in the light of earlier Scriptures.

Its title is “Humanity”:

1) Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of humans,

2) The King of humans,

3) The God of humans,

4) From the evil of the whisperings of the slinking (Shaitan/Satan),

5) Who whispers into the hearts of humans,

6) From among the jinn and humans.

 

This utterly profound Surah is a sign of tremendous human evolution.

Whereas Psalm 114 had nature terrified and leaping before God’s theophany, and long external human journeys, Surah 114 speaks volumes of an immense internal awareness within the Human Person.

Surah 114 asks us to repeat its words, and to make these words our words. (The Psalms do this too.) When we say these words in ourselves, our interior selves become more holy, aware, and evolved. When we say these words in ourselves, we become more aware of the internal geography of our own soul.

And what we see is awesome.

Our relationship with Allah has become so full that it must be described, initially, with three statements of who God is for us: Allah is “the Lord of humans, the King of humans, [and] the God of humans.”

We have grown to the point where we have to think of our relationship with Allah in multiple ways. Indeed, our thinking has become more complex.

With that, there is greater responsibility that we must exercise over our thinking. We must take greater care for our mental life, our mental activity.

As more complex and evolved human beings, we are potentially vulnerable to sneaky whispers from the slinking/ withdrawing Satan. With our more developed mental antennae, we can pick up smaller “transmissions” from Satan. Satan attacks our hearts, the place of love. Satan wants to divide us, and to separate us from each other. The more we humans evolve, the more we transform into people of love. If Satan is able to stop our loving each other, than he can stop our growth, our evolution.

Love opens us up to evolutionary growth in more spectrums of reality. But we must show discernment as we enter an awareness of these realms: We are now aware of whispers that come to us from both “jinn” and “men.” This positive growth is leading us to be intelligent as we become aware that we are receiving communications from a wider spectrum of reality.

We must carefully observe and govern our expanding mental life. This is how the Qur’an concludes.

Psalm 114 showed the Israelites being led by the hand on a big journey in wild places. Mountains leapt, seas parted. The Israelites oscillated greatly, often wanting to return to the fleshpots that they knew. They radically bounced between fear and anger/pride.

By way of contrast, the final Surah of the Qur’an is teaching us about our evolving life of mind and soul.

See the progression?

We might, however, find seeds, kernels, of this tremendous growth hiding, latent, in Psalm 114. This Psalm ends with a verse about God, “Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing fountain of water.” Initially, this might seem like simple powerful external imagery of God’s awesome power, with which he has been awing the Israelites and teaching them introductory lessons about their lives, their selves, and their relationship with God.

Yet we might also recall Ezekiel’s discussion of rocky hearts, and the Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and we might discern the beginning hints of something different. The Exodus journey, led by God, is softening the hearts of the Israelites, and transforming their hearts into hearts of love. During the Exodus, for example, the Israelites had to become better at community. Part of this is their growing ability to make better choices; To discern, and to make calm, just judgments.

The parallel relationship with the Qur’an helps us to draw out this truth from the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures! Likewise, the dramatic exterior action of Psalm 114 helps us to better see and to be awed by the huge quiet interior developments that are now happening in Humanity in Surah 114! Our Scriptures walk forward, hand in hand.

There is more: Now that the dialogue between Psalm and Surah has developed our sense of the dimension, the spectrum, of time, and of evolution, and of our receiving God’s own powers and gifts—what if Surah 114 is reminding us that if our evolution continues, we shall be given tremendous powers by God, the ability to move mountains and to dialogue deeply with nature?

Again, this Surah discusses choices instrumental to our human evolution.

And this Surah discusses cosmic forces that arrive to us, forces that are calmly mixed, or rudely interjected, into our thoughts. These visiting thoughts may be for good or for ill. The growing human person must learn to read these thoughts, and to discern from whence they arrive. The growing human person must learn discernment.

The simple act of the decision, of spiritual/ mental volition, occurring in the quiet privacy of our own mind, is revealed to be more powerful and far more advanced than the leaping up and down of mountains, as wonderful as that might be.

Surah 114 is evolutionary, and very aware of our human need to grasp the cosmic ramifications of each and every one of our decisions.

They go together. If we make good decisions, and become a loving unified humanity, then the cosmos has no limits for us; in fact, the cosmos will lovingly respond to a humanity that has grown in love.

Our Scriptures, united in dialogue, help us on this journey.

Ladder and Angel References in the Qur’an

3 places the Zabur is mentioned:

4.163  [Musa not mentioned in this Ayah] . . . . Sulaiman, and we gave to Dawood a Zabur

17.55  And your Lord best knows those who are in the Heavens and the Earth; and certainly we have made some of the prophets to excel others, and to Dawood we gave a Zabur.

21.105                        And certainly we wrote in the Zabur after the reminder that (as for) the land, my righteous servants shall inherit it. [Dawood disappears, as did Musa above in 4.163]

 

—by the fact that the angel Jibreel “brought down” the Qur’an to the Prophet,

this is a proof of operation of the Ladder, and an example of how the Ladder works

 

[1        downward direction from heaven with the word “help” in Ayah 5? ]

 

2.29    7 Heavens

2.31    angels

2.58    enter the gate

2.60    staff

12 springs

2.87    souls desire

2.97    Jibreel

2.98    angels, Jibreel, Meekaeel

2.102  2 angels…….

2.144  we see the turning of your face to heaven (Psalm 144, top of Ladder)

2.150  heavens, turning face, temple-Sacred Mosque

(2.151)           151 is special Psalm of Dawood

2.161  angels

2.177  angels

2.189  houses, doors

2.196  3 days

7 days

10 days

2.197  intercourse

2.210  angels

2.214

 

2.223  wives,

2.228  created in their wombs

2.231  unjust to own soul

2.248  angels

2.285  his angels and his books

 

3.18    angels

3.39    angels

3.42    angels

3.45    angels

3.55    ascend

3.80    angels

3.87    Allah, angels, and men all together

3.124  angels sent down, to earth, to people, 3000

3.125  angels, 5000, havoc-making, patience, on guard

125 = 5 raised to 3rd power; see 25:25, and Psalm Structure of Psalm 25

3.133  Garden as heaven and earth; Ladder, Ladder Person

3.142  enter the Garden

3.145  soul and desires

3.152  weak-hearted, desired

3.162  hell

3.163  (various) grades [similar to Ladder]

 

4.12    math, base of Ladder; Psalm 12, haSheminith, 8th (also, 1/6th)

4.89    fly in Allah’s way

4.100  flies in Allah’s way; goes forth from his house flying

4.136  angels

4.153  The followers of the Book ask you to bring down to them a book from heaven….

4.154  enter the door (Psalm 114; mountains jumping)

4.163  [Musa not mentioned in this Ayah] . . . . Sulaiman, and we gave to Dawood a Zabur

4.166  angels

4.172  angels

 

(5.17)

5.21    enter

5.22    enter

5.23    enter   upon them by the gate

5.24    enter

5.33    Ladder Person (somewhat)

5.78    Dawood and Isa

5.82    priests and monks (knew about the Psalm Structures)

5.112  send down to us food from heaven (see also Psalm 78:23, where “the doors of heaven opened”; Psalm 78 is a Ladder Psalm)

5.114  this Ayah echoes 5.112

 

6.8       ANGEL SENT DOWN X 2

6.9       angel, man

6.25    Veil (over Ladder)

6.35    opening, Ladder, heaven and earth

6.36    Allah will raise them; then to him they shall be returned

6.37    SEND DOWN A SIGN X 2

6.38    bird that flies with its 2 wings

6.44    opened for them the doors of all things

6.48    messengers

6.50    angel

6.61    messengers

6.84    Dawood and Sulaiman [Psalm 84 is one of the very central Psalms]

6.91    scattered writings (Psalms and Wisdom writings—Dawood and Sulaiman, respectively) . . . conceal much

6.91    angels shall spread forth their hands (and wings)

6.111  and even if we had sent down to them angels….

6.125  ascending upwards (Ladder Person)

6.143  Eight in pairs (Psalms 6 & 12, base of the Ladder)                      wombs

6.144  wombs again. some numbers repeated. (Psalm 144 is top of Ladder)

6.157  clear proof from your Lord

6.158  angels should come (down) to them

signs of your Lord should come (down)

[ANGELS/SIGNS SHOULD COME (DOWN) X 2; this balances Ayah 6.8 from above; and 6.37, combining the two previous Ayat] –also, a difference of 150!

6.165  various grades of raising (final Ayah of Surah 6, the first of the Ladder Psalms; Surah 7 is “The Elevated Places”)

 

7.2       A book revealed to you.

7.11    angels

7.17    right side, left side

7.20    2 angels

7.40    doors of heaven, not opened; nor enter garden; camel through eye of needle

7.46    most elevated places

7.48    most elevated places

7.52    a Book

7.53    final sequel? (x2)

7.54    6 periods of time, Heaven and Earth; Ladder hints

7.124  similar to 5.33

7.160  12 tribes

                 -staff

            12 springs

manna & quails; reminiscent of Psalm 78, where doors of heaven opened

7.161  enter the gate

7.162  we sent (down) upon them a pestilence from heaven because they were unjust (Egyptians, but also the quail of Psalm 78 and the Israelites)

 

8.9       1000 angels following one another (reminiscent of Ladder steps)

8.50    angels

 

9.20    much higher in rank with Allah

9.36    12

[Surah 9 has several combinations of 1 & 2, I believe, in the Arabic. 12 and 21 are the operative numbers for the Ladder and the Pillar, respectively. The difference between them is 9.]

[9 is also a Menorah number.]

9.72    Grand achievement.              Women and men.

The holiest number in Hebrew is 72, because of connections to Yahweh. Psalm 72 is symbolically written by/about Solomon (as is Psalm 127, the only other).

One of the things Solomon is/does, is to represent human integration, the integration of Masculine and Feminine in individuals and in Humanity. This shall be addressed in The Red Line of Hope.

9.80    70 times. The final Psalm of the climbing process of the Ladder is Psalm 90. It has within it the numbers 1000, 70 & 80. As we know, 70 + 80 = 150, the number of Psalms of the Zabur. There are echoes of these numbers occurring in this Ayah. There is also a clear reference to the Injeel.

 

10.12  Ladder, Jacob….? (Written here only because of postures of body?)

10.90  Ladder hinted; Musa

10.92

 

11.1    …. A Book whose verses are made decisive, then are they made plain…. [does this “then” possibly indicate the ingredient of time in understanding the Book?]

11.12  (Ladder), Treasure sent down; angel

  1. 6 & 12….interesting….

11.21  (Pillar psalms, opposite trajectory)

11.31  angel

11.78  complaints of Psalm 78 (Exodus, spiritual growth, evolution), and the evolutionary birth pains of the people of Lut (to be resolved in the integration of Masculine and Feminine, “one right-minded man” and “daughters”.

11.81  messengers

11.82  rained down stones . . . one after another (parody of Ladder, as in Psalm 78)

 

12.6    Ladder hints, (12) children of Yaqoub

12.7    Yusuf and his (11) brothers make (12)

12.10  bottom of the pit (bottom of the Ladder, pss 6 & 12                    DESCENT

12.15, too

12.19  ‘let down’ the line = Ladder                                                                        ASCENT

[See Joseph in Psalm 105]

12.23  she made fast the doors (Tamar and Amnon, Ladder)

12.25, too

12.31  angel

12.43  7 ( x 3)

12.46, too

12.50  messenger

12.56  send down mercy     (Ladder)

12.67  my sons, do not enter by one gate and by different gates

12.72  Ladder Psalm, w word ‘Cup

[12.100]

 

13.2    Pillars: (cannot see), this comes right after extensive treatment of Ladder in Surah 12         “signs”

13.3    “signs”

13.4    “signs”                        “side by side”, Ladder reference

13.11  angels following one another; (up & down Ladder)

13.13  angels

13.23  gardens of perpetual abode; angels will enter in upon them from every gate

13.27  sign sent down

13.39  Book

13.43  messenger, Book

 

14.1    Book

14.21  no place for us to fly to

14.24  good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven…. Menorah too

14.25  Psalm 1 and Psalm structure of Psalm 25, which begins at Psalm 1

14.34  “count”, “number”; Psalm 34, hidden number 1000, twice (A, L, Ph)

14.37  hearts. . . yearn (Pillar psalms)

 

15.1    Book, Qur’an

15.6    Reminder revealed

15.7    angels

15.8    angels

15.9    revealed Reminder

15.14  even if we open to them a gateway of heaven, so that they ascend into it all the while

15.28  angels

15.30  angels

15.44  7 gates

15.57  messengers

15.71  daughters (of Lut, again)

15.74  upside down, raining down rocks (again)

15.80  messengers

15.87  7 oft-repeated verses of Grand Qur’an

15.90  send down

 

16.2    he sends down the angels

16.26  roof fell   (David, Absalom; much later, Peter in Acts)

16.28  angels

16.29  gates

16.32  angels; enter the garden

16.33  angels

16.38  raise up

16.44  Reminder

16.45  earth to swallow them (down)

16.49  angels

16.72  sons and grandchildren [Psalm 72: Jesse, David, Solomon]

 

17.1    discusses the Mi’raj; remotest mosque; [ascent through 7 heavens of Mi’raj like 7 parts of Pillar; temple is like Farthest Mosque]

-see title of Surah 70

17.5    1 & 2 (see above, )

17.13, 14, 15

17.21  some excel others, see Ayah 55

17.40  daughters from among the angels

17.44  7 heavens; connected w both v.1, Mi’raj, and v. 55, Pillar in Zabur

17.55  And your Lord best knows those who are in the Heavens and the Earth; and certainly we have made some of the prophets to excel others, and to Dawood we gave a Zabur.

17.61  angels

17.75  [Psalm 75 is a center] double x 2

17.80  enter a good entering; going forth

17.92  heaven to come down to us in pieces as you think,

or bring Allah and the angels face to face

17.93  ascend into heaven . . . ascending

bring down to us the book

17.95  in the earth angels walking around as settlers . . .

-We would certainly have sent down to them from the heaven an angel as an apostle.

17.96  between

17.97  hell

17.98  raised up in a new creation

17.101               Menorah hints; “9”

17.102               sent down

17.104               bring you both together

17.106               Qur’an; revealed x 3; slow degrees, portions

 

18.11  “number” of years

18.18  right, left, entrance (Psalms that are multiples of 18 are another special group)

18.22  “number” and numbers

18.25  300, and 9

18.27,32

18.39,49

18.50  angels

18.57  2

18.64  retracing their footsteps

 

19.18  fly

19.52  draw nigh

19.57  And we raised him high in heaven

19.60  enter garden

19.64  descend

19.90  heavens rent

19.94  comprehensive knowledge, numbered a numbering

19.96  Love (Ayah 95 w Resurrection); Psalm 96 represents Resurrection and Cosmic Love in the Interwoven Menorahs

 

20.6    beneath the ground; Psalm 6 has Sheol, “hell”

20.96  footsteps of (angel Jibreel) messenger

20.113               sent down

20.114               supremely exalted

20.116               angels

20.133             previous books [Psalm 133; brothers living in harmony]

 

Surah 21: The Prophets                   21 very important number for Psalm Structures

21.7    Revelation

21.10  Book, good remembrance

21.12  fly

21.13  fly

21.24  reminder x 2

21.30  closed, opened, the heavens and earth

21.32  heaven, signs

21.72  Ishaq and Yaqoub (and Ibraham); [Jesse, David, Solomon (whose key for Psalm 72, see above]

21.78  Dawood and Sulaiman

21.79

21.80

21.81

21.96

21.104               echoes the movement of Psalm 104

21.105                        And certainly we wrote in the Zabur after the reminder that (as for) the land, my righteous servants shall inherit it.

[this is connected with the Psalms (see Psalm 37) and the Beatitudes, and the Interwoven Menorahs, and blessedness-happiness]

 

22.15  stretch a rope to the ceiling, cut it

22.36  camels in a row

22.45  fallen down upon its roofs; deserted well; palace raised high

22.63  sends down water to the earth, green

22.65  witholds heaven falling on earth

22.75  messengers from angels and men

-Ladder and deosis

 

23.14  grow into another creation (Evolutionary aspects of Psalm Structures)

23.17  7 heavens                  Pillar

.24      could have sent down angels; Isa, Injeel    Ladder

.77      opened door of severe chastisement

23.86  who is the Lord of the 7 heavens?

109 & 118; repetition; next surah, 24.2 & 35, Light Verse

 

24.2    100, which is a number of the intertwined menorahs….

24.4    4

80       (4 + 80 = 84) woman is the true Temple of Psalm 24; or one of the Temples; the human heart being another.

24.6    4x

24.7    5th

(4 + 5 = 9)

24.8    4x

24.9    5th

(9 + 9 = 18; Intertwined Menorahs; see 23.109,118)

24.13  4

24.24  Ladder Person

24.31…………………………………………

24.35  The Qur’an Light Verse also alludes to the Intertwined Menorahs

24.41  expanded wings

 

25.1, 10          beatitude? (check Arabic)

-also, is there a resonance here w big structure of 1-49?

25.1    sent down the Furqan

.7        why not send an angel down?                     Ladder

.21      why not angels been sent down upon us? Ladder            John 1:51

-7 & 21, Pillar numbers and Lady Wisdom numbers

.22      On the day when they shall see the angels, there shall be no joy on that day for the guilty, and they shall say: It is a forbidden thing totally prohibited.

25.25  And on the day when the heaven shall burst asunder with the clouds, and the angels shall be sent down descending (in ranks). [this is 25.25]

25.32  slow revelation of Qur’an……………

 

26.4    If we please, We should send down upon them a sign from the heaven so that their necks should stoop to it.

26.24  The Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them

26.28  The Lord of the east and west and what is between them

26.87  day they are raised

.90      and the garden shall be brought near for those who guard….

-90 final psalm of climbing the Ladder (Garden)

.187   Therefore cause a portion of the heaven to come down upon us, if you are one of the truthful.

.192   revelation from Lord of the worlds.

.193    The Faithful Spirit has descended with it

.221   shaitans descend?

.222   they descend upon every lying, sinful one

 

27.15  Dawood and Sulaiman       [27 & 72; 72 and 127 are Solomon Psalms]

27.16

27.17  (communicate w angels)

27.18

27.19

27.22,23         Sheba, RLH, huge

         -and 27.34

         -and 27.52; destruction of temples, houses

27.25  what is hidden in heavens and earth

all of 27….

27.75  [CHALICE, unification of heaven and earth, clear (hidden) in a book……………]

clear book

nothing concealed in h & e, but in a clear book

28.2    book that makes clear

28.81  earth swallowed up him and his abode

 

29.6    Allah above the worlds

29.34  come down on people of this town a punishment from heaven

29.50  why not signs sent down?

 

31.10  Pillars

.20      book giving light

.27      trees, pens, seas, ink, 7 more seas               (Pillars)

.28      All in a single soul…………….

 

32.5    ascend to him

 

33       RLH

33.43  blessings, angels, light

.46      light-giving torch

.56      angels bless, Allah blesses, …. Blessings

 

34.2    down into earth, and out of it

            down from heaven, up to it

34.10  Dawood, excellence; mountains and birds join him; psalms/praise unite creation………………….iron pliant to him

34.12  Sulaiman, wind to Sulaiman

34.13  family of Dawood….

34.14  staff eaten away, creature of earth; fell down

34.40  angels

 

35.1    angels, messengers flying on wings, 2, and 3, and 4

            He increases in Creation what he pleases. (special unions in the pss&Surahs)

35.10  ascend good words; lift up good deeds………….. human climbing of Ladder

35.11  he made you pairs               no female bears, brings forth, his Knowledge

 

36       many echoes of ps 128, good conclusions of RLH

36.12  sent before, footprints

36.28  send down, hosts of heaven

36.36  created pairs of all things

36.69  poetry;            plain Qur’an

 

37       shorter ayat here

37.1    those who draw themselves out in ranks

37.36  mad poet

37.150                        angels females           153, chosen daughter in preference to sons?

37.177                        descend

38.10              ascend

38       Dvd’s sin, Iblis’ rebellion, Job’s virtue

38.17  Dawood, possessor of power; surely he was frequent in returning (Peter)

.18     mountains again, singing

.19     birds again. But gathered together now; all joined, singing

38.21              ascending over the walls (Psalm 18)

38.23  99 ewes (Menorah number)

surely this is my brother; blasts away racism for ever—Uriah, Hittite

38.24  he was sure that We had tried him, he fell

he turned time after time

38.30  And we gave Dawood Sulaiman; but which was frequent in returning?

38.31  (horses)

38.34  Red Line Hope, throne, body           (soul, heart)

38.36                                      proverb about Kings heart in hand of Yahweh

38.50  doors of garden are opened

38.71  angels

.72      complete, breathed my Spirit          (Time and Evolution)

.73      angels

.75      I created w my two hands [HOLDING THE CHALICE]

-connection of Chalice to Ladder? (75 not technically a Ladder Psalm)

 

39.6    created you from a single being

8 of the cattle in pairs          Ladder numbers

 

39.69  laid down, brought up

.71       doors opened (hell)

.72       enter gates (hell) (see 40.76 below)

.73       doors opened                        happy/beatitude

.74       angels                         praise

.75      angels, around throne, praise x 2

 

40.13  sends down sustenance from heaven

.15       highest rank

40.36  tower              (like tower of Babel, but also like Psalm Str)

.37      a means of access to the heavens

.40       female, enter the garden [access to the heavens]

 

40.76  gates of hell, like 39.71, 72 (Psalm 75 & 76 pair)

 

41.12  7 heavens (previous times above) in 2 periods. Like ps 12, #7 in 12

.14      sent down angels.     Another LADDER hint

.30      the angels descend upon them, saying

-Fear not….receive good new of the Garden          LADDER hint

.31      your souls desire

.41      Mighty Book

.44      Qur’an

.45      book to Musa

41.53  We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?

            -Microcosm/Macrocosm

            -see 51.20, 21

 

42.5    the heavens may almost render asunder from above them, (84 below!)

and the angels sing the praise/ask forgiveness for those on earth

42.27  sends down

42.28  sends down (oft-repeated verse of rain)

42.52  inspired book, we made it a light

 

43.19  female angels; is there a gnostic level here? (see S. 53)

.22       footsteps

.23       footsteps

.31       2 towns, Quran revealed

.33      ….(to make) of silver the roofs of their houses and the stairs by which they ascend                   LADDER reference

.34      and the doors of their houses, and the couches….

-LADDER AND RLH refs

.53      why have there not come w him angels as companions?

.60      And if we please, we could make among you angels to be successors in the lands.        -Ladder and RLH refs

.70      enter garden, wives, happy             Ladder, menorahs, RLH

.71      souls yearn, drinking cups           Pillar

.72      garden

.73      fruits, eat

.80      messengers write

 

47.6    enter the garden

47.7    make firm your feet

 

48.5    men and women enter gardens

48.6    sheol

48.29  Taurat, Injeel

 

49.18  unseen things of heaven and earth

 

50.10  tall palm trees, spadices

50.39  sing praise, rising sun, setting

 

51.1    wind scatters far and wide

51.20, 21  microcosm/macrocosm; see above, 41.53

         -opening of David’s inner person/ Romans 7, eso anthropon

Paul: Rmns 7, &, through cross of Christ, I am crucified to cosmos, and cosmos to me

-next is Surah 52, The Mount, which mentions Ladder, Olive Tree; the opening of the eso anthropon allows for new, unexpected developments: Olive Tree

51.33  send down stones of clay

51.47  heaven high              again, ESO ANTHROPON; makers things ample!!!!

51.48  earth wide

51.49  and in everything we have created pairs that you may be mindful

More spiritual teaching, synchronicity (53.45)

 

52.3    outstretched fine parchment; again, expansion, eso anthropon above

.4       house, Kaaba

.5       elevated canopy

.6       swollen sea

.9       heaven move side to side

all this above; see 41 & 51, expansion………………

52.38 The Mount     mentions LADDER!!!!!!!!!

-or do they have a Ladder whereby they listen….?!

52.39  daughters, sons

52.44  portion of heavens coming down

52.48  sing praise when rise

52.49  setting stars

Surah 53        The Star

53.1    I swear by star when it goes down

53.1-……..   more full, though subtle, treatment of Mi’raj, as in 17.1

53.26  how many angels in heavens?

53.27  again, angels and female names…. Gnostic truth hiding here?

(S. 43, )

53.32  earth, wombs, mothers, purity to souls

53.45  pairs, male and female

53.47  bringing forth SECOND time

 

54.1    moon rend asunder

.3       low desires (previous Surahs too)

.5       consummate wisdom

.11    opened gates, water pouring down

.13    planks and nails; ark, cross, ladder

.14    sailing before our eyes; actually seeing the angels flying on the ladder!

.15    and certainly We left it as a sign, but is there anyone who will mind?

54.29  (sword), slew she-camel

54.34  stone-storm, see 51.33

54.52  Writings

 

55.7    heaven, He raised it high, and He made the balance

55.37  and when the heaven is rent asunder, and then becomes red like red hide. –this happens in (S.84) and elsewhere, see list in Study Qur’an,

…….. RLH, LADDER

The achieving of Ladder is connected w women becoming respected, empowered

-2 before center Surahs

55.46, 50, 52, 54, 62, 66      Ladder [all Ladder Psalms are even numbers]

 

56.3    abasing, exalting; Psalm 75, center

.12      in the gardens of bliss

.18      with goblets and ewers and a cup of pure drink

.36      virgins (pss 75 & 76; virgin point)

.39 – 41         right and left hand, sort of central place, positioning

.89, ff. again, right and left apposition

-Then happiness and bounty and a garden of bliss.

 

57.3    First and Last, Ascendant     (one) Midpoint of Qur’an

-Knower of hidden things,   cognizant of all things

.4        deep into earth and out of it

-down from heaven and up into it

-LADDER

-ALSO, AT MIDPOINT OF PSALMS LADDER, THERE ARE THE TWO PSS OF JOURNEYING, 78 & 84. ALSO, THE LADDER TRAVERSES HEAVEN, EARTH, AND SHEOL

.1, 2, 4, 5: heaven and earth. Perhaps this betokens the union of, and also the union of woman and man

.9        sends down clear communications upon His servant

-LADDER

.11      double (good gift) for him; this at midpoint.

.12      on that day you will see the faithful men and the faithful women—their light running before them and on their right hand (S 56)—good news for you today: gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide therein, that is the grand achievement.

.13      wall with a door in it

-Injeel, 5 & 5 maidens

.18      doubled

.21      garden the extensiveness of which is the extensiveness of heaven and earth (6th x phrase ‘heaven and earth’ in this Surah)

.25      iron. Many echoes of pss 25 and especially 75.

                        -57 is central number of Surahs, as is 75 of pss.

Balance: also in ps 75; and ‘Book’

Iron: sexual. ‘iron, wherein is great violence and advantages to men’; same thing with history of human sexuality (RLH)

.26      Nuh & Ibrahim; prophecy and the Book (v. 25)

Balance, as in v. 25: those who go aright, and most are transgressors

.27      monkery. (mentioned earlier) THEY INNOVATED IT: THIS POINTS TO HUMAN EVOLUTION, AND HUMANITY LEARNING HOW TO SAIL WITH THE WILL OF ALLAH/ GOD; MERGING OF HUMANITY AND DIVINITY

                                    mentioned here because usually only monks knew of these things?! Monks transmitted them; Did Mohammed know of them?

                                    Footsteps, LADDER

                                    ISA SON OF MARIUM, RED LINE OF HOPE-FRUIT, GAVE HIM THE INJEEL (WHICH HAS CONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE OF PSALM STRUCTURES AND RLH)

BALANCE, AGAIN (25, 26, 27; SIMILAR TO MENORAHS

-SEE NEXT VERSE, 28!

111 TO 112; MONKS ACHIEVE LOVE

.28      2 portions (central Surah)

Light with which you walk

111 to 112

.29      DIVINE POWER TRANSFERRED TO HUMANITY

111 TO 112 (Numbers near final Surahs of Quran)

This verse is one of the very centers of the Quran, at the center of the Surah structure system. And it deals with the transference of Allah’s powers (grace) to Humans.

 

Surah 58        References to Women, and to what should be loving relationships between women and men, but no clear references to the Ladder? Check this. 58 is one of the two most central Surahs.

 

59.2    demolished houses with their own hands (relates to attitude of men in 58)

.5        whatever palm tree you cut down

 

60.10  women come to you flying

 

65.12  7 heavens, descend among them                structures

 

66.4    if both of you turn to Allah                                   RLH imperative

Jibreel and the angels after that

-the birth of love, of Incarnation, of Evolution

verse 5: wives….. virgins (57 & 58)

verse 10: wife of Nuh

wife of Lut (again)

verse 11: wife of Firon

verse 12: Marium, daughter of Imran; we breathed into her our inspiration, his books………

 

67.1    Ashre, Beatitude, 1st verse and 1st word (Ps 1, et al)

.3        7 heavens      PILLAR

 

68.1    Noon. I swear by the pen and what the angels write,

-not good community, so problems

 

69.16              v. 16    and the heaven shall cleave asunder, so that on that day it shall be frail: along w v. 14, sexual images

  1. 16 is LADDER image
  2. 17 and the angels shall be on the sides thereof; and above them 8 shall bear on that day your Lord’s power
  3. 18 on that day you shall be exposed to view—no secret of yours shall remain hidden                Evolution, Society
  4. 21, 22, 23, 24 like psalm 128, paradise

 

70   The Ways of Ascent (Ma’arij)  [S. 97: Gabreel and angels descend]

.3        from Allah, the Lord of the ways of Ascent

.4        To him ascend the angels and the Spirit in a day the measure of which is fifty thousand years

[.30     wives (2nd time)]

.38      does every man of them desire that he should be made to enter the garden of bliss?                       .39       by no means!

 

71   Nuh

.14      and indeed he created you through various grades: (Evolution)

.15      do you not see how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another?

.17      And Allah has made you grow out of the earth as a growth

 

72   The Jinn

.8        sought to reach heaven                                Ladder

.12      cannot escape Allah by flight                       Ladder

 

73   The Wrapped Up

.18      The heavens shall rend asunder….             LADDER

.20      Fractions………. Elements being pointed to?????????

 

74.31

angels

number

faith

hearts

 

75.39  2 kinds, male and female

 

76.5,15,16, 17           cup, goblet, as in Psalm 75

 

77.1    winds

77.5    I swear by the angels who bring down revelation

77.9    and when the heavens rent asunder

78.19  And the heaven shall be opened so that it shall be all openings.

-like Psalm 78, but also like 4 Creatures of Revelation who are All Eye.

(a tree is also a creature that is all eye)

78.34  pure cup

78.38  spirit and the angels shall stand in ranks

 

79.1    angels who violently pull

79.2

 

82.1    When the heaven becomes cleft asunder,

84.1    When the heaven bursts asunder,

84.19  enter one state after another [Psalm 84]

 

85.22  guarded tablet

 

87.2    then

87.3    then

87.7    hidden

87.18,19         earlier Scriptures

 

88.14  drinking cups

 

89.22  angels in ranks

 

90.11,12         uphill road

90.18  right

90.19  left

 

97.4    the angels and Jibreel descend

 

104.9  extended columns

 

 

(list compiled by Richard Murray)

copyright © 2017 Richard Murray

The Mystical Psalms Ladder in John’s Gospel: A New Discovery

There is yet another new way in which John is describing the Mystical Psalms Ladder in the Fourth Gospel.

Some years ago I saw that John’s Gospel is secretly constructing the Mystical Psalms Ladder before our eyes (the third part of this brief essay will go over this). Additionally, the final verse of the first chapter of John is the New Testament’s most overt reference to the mystical Ladder of Genesis 28.

Now, regarding these two discussions of ladders in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): Is Jacob’s Ladder the same as the Mystical Psalms Ladder? There are certainly similarities between then. The Mystical Psalms Ladder initially appears to be a presentation, with far more depth and details, of Jacob’s Ladder. In actuality, however, the story is more nuanced. In the Mystical Ladder that is hidden in the Book of Psalms, Jacob is replaced by David. In the 25 Psalms that form the Ladder, the name of “David” is emphasized in the body of these 25 Psalms (not their superscriptions) about 429% more frequently than in the other 125 Psalms. And the name of “Jacob” or “Israel” is deemphasized in these same 25 Psalms. Change—progression—is happening.

Then, when the Psalms Ladder is brought, secretly, into the powerful flow of dialogue of almost every book of the New Testament, “David” is replaced by both Jesus Christ and by an evolving humanity that prospers and blossoms in the human community that learns integration and love in the light of the Christ Event. Jesus, and Humanity, are now the focus of the Ladder.

Just yesterday I was reading a particular version of the Gospels at a great café called St. Peter’s Cosmic Coffeehouse, near Berkeley. A couple years ago Pope Francis had thousands of books of the Gospels handed out to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. All four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, were in the small volume, which was meant to be carried on a daily basis by the people receiving it. Over in the states, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made a similar book of the Gospels and Acts, patterned after the volumes given out in Rome. This portable version that the USCCB published has surprisingly extensive notes. These notes are from the New American Bible, a fine Catholic Bible.

While reading these notes yesterday, Easter Wednesday, the first note on John’s Gospel spoke of the “staircase parallelism” of terminology in John’s Prologue. And that’s when it clicked into place.

In addition to the Mystical Psalms Ladder being presented in various ways in John’s Gospel, it is also imaged in the first 18 verses of this Gospel; this group of verses is known as John’s Prologue.

 

This brief essay will have three parts. The first part discusses yesterday’s discovery of John’s Prologue’s allusions to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The second part discusses the final verse of Chapter 1 of John, which is the clearest allusion to Jacob’s Ladder in the New Testament. The third part will discuss how John’s Gospel reconstructs the Mystical Psalms Ladder before our eyes.

 

Part I

Staircase Parallelism in John’s Prologue

            The verses of John’s Prologue feature the repetition of key words. These words tend to be found at the end of one phrase and the beginning of the next phrase. Here is an example: John 1:1 has three phrases within the verse. The first and the middle phrases are united by the word “Word,” and the middle and the third phrase are united by the word “God.” Here is a transliteration, in actual literary order, of this verse:

“In the beginning was the Word

And the Word was with God,

And God was the Word.”

The third appearance of “Word,” at the very end of the verse, itself forms a strong connection to the first word of the next verse, Outos, which means “this” or “this one.” Outos is referring directly to the “Word,” and is directly representing it as a pronoun.

This “staircase parallelism” continues throughout most of the Prologue. Although this diagram shows many repeating words, this is only a part of the repetition that occurs in the Prologue.
Here is a diagram of the Staircase, or Ladder, hidden in the Prologue of John’s Gospel. A sort of culmination is reached in verse 14, with the Incarnation of the Logos in humanity, in human form, in flesh, in the person.

The numbers on the left are the verse numbers from which the vocabulary terms are taken. The numbers on the right are an initial proposal for the numbering of the steps of this ladder.

 

 

1   Word                     (In beginning)                                                                       1

Word, God                                                                                                      2

God, Word                                                                                          3

2                                  This (Word); in Beginning, God                                           4

3                                              autou egeneto,                                                        5

autou egeneto                                                 6

4                                                                      autoi,   life                   human being 7

life, light                                8

5                                                                                              light shines,darkness            9

darkness not 10

 

6 there was a human being,     named John                                                         11

7          witness                                                                                                           12

witness, light                   all believe                                                       13

8                      not light                                                                                              14

witness light                                                                                15

9                                  true light                                                                                16

enlightens every human being, coming into world      17

10                                           in world was                                                                        18

world through him became                         19

world not know him                               20

11                                                                   into his own he came                                    21

his own not receive him              22

12 whoDID RECEIVE;authority to become childrenof God,believing into name           23

13       who not of bloods                                                                                         24

nor will of flesh                                                                                 25

nor will of man                                                                      26

but of God were born                                               27

14 AND WORD BECAME FLESH AND TENTED/TABERNACLED AMONG US            28

 

 

Verse 14 is a culmination of the Prologue’s Ladder in several ways. First, it is the end of the symmetrical ladder of repeated vocabulary that the Prologue contains, and which is the focus of this diagram. The ‘physically visible’ ladder of repeated words comes down from heaven to earth.

Second, it shows in figurative speech the Incarnation. The divine Logos becomes a human person.

Third, it shows how verse 13 gives all human persons the possibility of becoming more Christ-like, even more God-like, by exercising our authority to be born, or reborn, of God.

 

In the four Prologue verses after verse 14, the internal literary relationships among the terms become more complex. There is still much repetition in the final four verses of the Prologue, but their connections comprise a far more dizzying alignment; they are no longer a mere ladder or staircase. To show a synthesis of interrelationships between the terms requires something more complex, like a flight plan. A flight plan of angels, or of angelic human beings.

 

14 AND WORD BECAME FLESH AND TENTED-TABERNACLED AMONG US

(we beheld glory of him

glory as of only-begotten from Father)

full of grace and truth

15 John witnesses concerning him

and cries out saying,

This one was of whom I said,

He coming after me

Before me has become

For preceding me he was

16 And out of fullness of Him we all received

and grace on top of grace

17                   because law through Moses given,

grace and truth through Jesus Christ came into being

18 God no one has seen at any time

the only-begotten Son,

who is in the bosom of the Father,

that one unfolds [that is, he reveals the Father in Heaven to us]

 

 

At this time I will not offer commentary on the final four verses of the Prologue, saving that for another occasion.

It is clear that the great mystic Evangelist, St. John the Divine, has once more hidden a picture of the Mystical Psalms Ladder in his Gospel, this particular manifestation being in the Prologue.

 

 

Part II

Verse 1:51

 

Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel concludes with a most unusual conversation. Philip has just become an Apostle of Jesus, and he goes to get Nathanael, to tell him about Jesus and to arrange for them to meet. Nathanael makes a joke, “Can any good thing be from Nazareth?” (1:46)

As they approach Jesus, Jesus has his own humorous retort for Nathanael. He says to him, “Behold, in Israelite in whom there is no guile.” (1:47) Jacob/Israel of the Old Testament was a shrewd, crafty, calculating, tricky fellow. He was perhaps trying to be close to God, but one would be wise not to trust him. He stole the birthright from his brother, among other things. So Jesus has a pretty good retort to Nathanael here.

A few moments later, Nathanael is completely stunned by Jesus. And he ends up saying to him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel.” (1:49)

The chapter concludes with Jesus saying, “Amen amen, I say to you, from now on you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Child of Humanity (or the Future of Humanity, or the Son of Man).” (1:51)

Obviously, this verse is an allusion to Jacob/Israel as well, specifically, to the vision of the Ladder that Genesis 28 speaks of, when Jacob is fleeing from his brother, from whom he stole the birthright. However, in Jesus’ words, the Heaven is opened, which is not found in Genesis 28. Also, here in John’s Gospel, Jesus and/or Humanity has become the Ladder. We are the bridge between Heaven and Earth.

 

As a conclusion to this section: Although the New Testament is brimming over with hidden and subtle references to the Mystical Psalm Structures, including the Mystical Psalms Ladder, John 1:51 is one of the few places in the New Testament that specifically speaks of these mystical realities. The glorious Qur’an has many references to the Mystical Psalm Structures, and is full of discussion of Ladders and angels flying between heaven and earth. The Dome of the Rock, near al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem, is the site of the Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) vertical ascending Night Journey (the Mi’raj), which is very much like a journey on the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

The Qur’an also mentions the Zabur of Dawood (Psalms of David) three times, recommending them to us. Every page of the Qur’an has meaningful dialogue with the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament.

 

 

 

 

Part III

Seeing John’s Gospel Reconstruct,

Step by Step,

the Mystical Psalms Ladder

 

Throughout John’s Gospel, there is an actual re-construction of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Back in the Book of Psalms, the Psalms that actually form the Mystical Psalms Ladder are the Psalms whose title-numbers are multiples of 6 (Psalms 6, 12, 18, . . . , 150). Here is an initial discussion of the Mystical Psalm Structures:

https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures

Amazingly, John’s Gospel reconstructs the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The construction process begins in Chapter 2, at the Wedding of Cana. There are 6 massive vessels for the purification water, each holding 2 or 3 measures of water, which is about 20-30 gallons each. Jesus turns this large volume of water into wine.

Now, any ancient literary mind would have instantly started working the mathematical possibilities of the numbers within the original Greek text. We start with the number 6. Then, 6x2=12. And 6x3=18. So we have 6, 12, and 18—the first three numbers of the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

The building of the Ladder continues in Chapter 6, in the mysterious crossing of the “sea,” when Jesus walks on the water and says, “I AM.”

After 6, 12, and 18, the next numbers of the Mystical Psalms Ladder are 24 and 30. Here in John 6, Jesus arrives in the middle of the sea to the Apostles when their boat is 25 or 30 stadia across the water. For the ancients, total accuracy was not required when reporting things, unlike the demand for proper information in today’s media, or in today’s accounting practices. The author John is clearly picking these numbers, “25 or 30,” for a reason. And now the reason is clear: he is building the Psalms Ladder for us in his Gospel.

An interesting feature of his Ladder-building project is found in Chapter 5. There, we encounter the lame gentleman by the pool near the Sheep Gate, where there are 5 porticoes. The number 5 represents the number of books in the Book of Psalms, which is mirrored by the number of books in the Torah.

But another remarkable number here is the number 38. The man has been lame for 38 years. The top step of the Mystical Psalms Ladder is formed by Psalms 138 and 144. Above this top step is Heaven, represented by Psalm 150. John is making an allusion to this top step of the Ladder by choosing the number 38.

Indeed, this entire story has many echoes of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Some manuscripts of the Gospel have verse 5:4, which says, “For an angel of the Lord from time to time descended in the pool, and agitated the water. Then the first entering after the agitation of the water became well, whatever disease he/she was held by.” The underlined words are those that relate directly to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The actual steps that lead down into the pool are not literally mentioned, though they are alluded to: the ill fellow says that others descend into the pool before him when the water is agitated by the descending angel. Jesus, who is the Ladder, tells the person to rise, to ascend. “And instantly the person became whole….” (5:9)

This entire episode is clearly another reference to the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

 

Conclusion

            And I am grateful to the beautiful operation of the Catholic Church for bringing this, yet another Biblical miracle, to my attention. Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Square, gave out copies of this special portable version of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. In America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops repackaged this volume in a portable form, which I carry with me. This version has pages of powerful and insightful notes from the New American Bible. And reading the first note on John’s Gospel in this volume instantly unlocked this treasure for me.

In this Holy Octave of Easter, I with to profess my gratitude to the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, the USCCB, all Christians, my Muslim friends who have helped my studies, and all members of the Church, past, present, and forever.

 

 

Addendum

The Prologue Ladder, in Greek

 

This addendum is simply a re-presentation of the Prologue’s Staircase/ Ladder, with the original Greek terminology.

 

1   logos                                                                                                                      1

logos, theon                                                                                                    2

theos, logos                                                                                        3

2                                  en arche, theon                                                                     4

3                                              autou egeneto,           autou                                      5

autou egeneto                                               6

4                                                                      autoi,   zoe                  anthropon      7

zoe, phos                               8

5                                                                                              phos skotia fainei      9

skotia auto ou 10

 

6 egeneto anthropos,     onoma autoi Ioannes                                                      11

7          marturian                                                                                                      12

marturesei, photos                     pantes pisteusosi                              13

8                      ouk . . . phos                                                                                       14

marturesei . . . photos                                                                 15

9                                  phos . . . alethinon                                                                 16

photizei panta anthropon, erkomenon eis … kosmon  17

10                                           en toi kosmoi ein                                                     18

kosmos di’ autou egeneto                            19

kosmos auton ouk egno                          20

11                                                                   eis ta idia elthe                                  21

idioi auton ou parelabon                        22

12 ELABON AUTON, autois exousian tekna theou genesthai,

pisteuousin eis to onoma autou                                                                  23

13       oi ouk ex aimaton                                                                                          24

oude ek thelematos sarkos                                                              25

oude ek thelematos andros                                                 26

all’ ek theou egennethesan                                      27

14 AND WORD BECAME FLESH AND TENTED/TABERNACLED AMONG US           28

Does Cardinal Burke have enough rings on to celebrate the Mass? What about Steve Bannon?

 

Cardinal Ray Burke has been critical of the Pope lately.

Certainly there are different ways in which one might celebrate the beautiful history and riches of our faith, and think and teach about the Church.

For example, while I love Vatican II and the “New Pentecost” that is happening in the Church today, I also appreciate the celebration of the Mass in the ancient Latin, a tradition of almost two millennia.

There is no reason that we cannot celebrate both the old and the new, if we are truly celebrating authentic realities of the Church.

The “ancient” certainly has its treasures. For example, priests who are authentic exorcists have noted that the use of Latin in the Rite of Exorcism is quite effective, and that the demons seem to be genuinely dislodged by it. The Latin hits them hard. Perhaps this is because the Latin liturgy was the sole liturgical language for 1500 years. That is a lot of positive spiritual history. How many millions upon millions of prayers, psalms, songs, and Gospel proclamations have been wonderfully proclaimed by the Church in Latin? This is a great contribution to our human evolution in the Holy Spirit. Plus, the demons hate it.

However, Latin is not the only way. The great ancient monks of Egypt, who spoke mostly Coptic and Greek, also have immensely helped our spiritual evolution forward and have removed many demons from human history. And the monks of Mount Athos. And the monks of Russia. And the monks of South Korea. And every lay person, every member of our Living Church of the last 2000 years. They too, and all of us, are a huge part of the immense legacy of good that is our Beloved Tradition.

How grateful we can be to the Church. Gratitude, yes, for all of the Church’s languages and peoples.

However, in his misguided attacks on Pope Francis, Burke resorts to strange tactics and funny partners.

As we know, one of the great things that our current Pontiff has done is to remind the world of our ancient and immediate need to care for the poor.

Why does Pope Francis preach this?

Because, first, the poor are noble beings in themselves. Jesus identifies with the poor. (See the Gospel of Matthew, 25:31-46.)

Second: Because caring for the poor unites our community in the most profound ways. A community that is truly caring for the most outcast is a community that is vigorously strong, a community that is living in charity and thinking of fellowship. A community that is as alive as it can be. Psalm 72 notes how the idyllic leader of israel is most concerned about helping those in society who are the most hurting.

Why?

Because then, the living intelligent earth will know that we, who are, as St. Paul says, earthen vessels with the Holy Spirit within us, yes, the earth will respond joyfully when the human community is living in harmony, when the least are cared for. When the most underprivileged in the community are finally loved and given their place, then, the community will actually be at its very best. In fact, even in ancient Hebrew, we people can all be considered to be “adam,” that is, human. We spring from the “adamah,” which is the earth. We, “adam,” are all connected to the earth, “adamah.” We are all earthlings. With a special indwelling of God’s Spirit within us.

Today, with our advances, we can finally stop hunger and poverty, globally. And the Earth, the physical planet itself, will rejoice when we have done so. (This is also how deeper forms of Koinonia may obtain on earth.)

So why is Cardinal Burke courting an alliance with someone who praises Satan, that is, Steve Bannon?

Now, I understand that Cardinal Burke doesn’t have many friends in the Church any more, because they recognize that Pope Francis is so good and is in harmony with the Holy Spirit so deeply and clearly.

True, Pope Francis does not wear as many rings as Cardinal Burke, nor does Pope Francis have little people behind him carrying his miters and meters of silken liturgical vestments, as Cardinal Burke does.

But the entire Catholic Church, and the World, love Pope Francis.

He is good. He is holy. This is clear to see.

His goodness and his holiness spring largely from his decades of self-giving service to the poorest of the poor in the barrios (slums, ghettoes) of Buenos Aires.

He is simply authentic.

He is true.

Pope Francis is alive with the Holy Spirit of God.

 

Back to Cardinal Burke. In his quest to topple the Pope, who is a gift from God, the Cardinal has had to search outside the Church. And one of his apparent new allies is Steve Bannon, who would like nothing better than to start World War III, a war which could end all life on planet Earth.

And recently, in November, Steve Bannon expressed his admiration for Satan. And Dick Cheney was included in his homage too. (Doubtless, Cardinal Burke, you remember Dick Cheney; he led us into the God-Awful War Upon the Human Beings of Iraq. All was not lost, however, in that evil conflict—happily, Halliburton turned a nice profit.)

Here is the link to the CNN coverage of Bannon’s praise of Satan: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/politics/steve-bannon-donald-trump-hollywood-reporter-interview/index.html

And here is the link to Business Insider’s article reporting this: http://www.businessinsider.com/steve-bannon-donald-trump-satan-darth-vader-2016-11

In conclusion, I gently offer a reminder to Cardinal Burke, that Satan is not who we are supposed to worship. No. We want to avoid such evil. Instead, the Church teaches us to do what is good. We Catholics worship God.

Cardinal Burke, you are a canon lawyer. Do your law books and codices agree with this? I stand confident in my faith in God. But if you peruse your rule books for reassurance, I’m hopeful that you’ll find in them that we worship God, not Satan.

And it is the Love of God that we Catholics then strive to share with all of our brothers and sisters, of all authentic religions and ways, in every land. And in our efforts to do precisely this, Pope Francis has been a wonderful shepherd and teacher for all of us, a true gift of God.

Chiastic Circuits at the Beginning and End of the Four Gospels

St. John the Divine is doing yet another amazing thing in his Gospel.

John, the last of the four Evangelists, sends a salute of brotherhood and respect to that great midrashic exegete and author of the first Gospel, St. Matthew. And in an echo of one of Matthew’s great literary maneuvers, John finishes his Gospel with a technique that draws all four Gospels into a harmonious set.

In the New Testament (which Christians and Muslims, and others, read), there are four Gospels. The Qur’an refers to the Gospel as the Injeel.

The canonical order of the Gospels, the order found in every Bible, is: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars are in deep agreement that John’s Gospel is the last of the Gospels to be written; the author of this Gospel had the other Gospels “on his desk,” so to speak; he knew them intimately. In fact, the author of John’s Gospel is in deep dialogue with the preceding three Gospels. Further, the fact that these three first Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are already written when he is writing, allows John to go in new directions, and speak of new developments, developments that have already occurred in the brief time since the first three Gospels were written. (The first three Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are called the ‘Synoptic’ Gospels, that is, Gospels written with the “same eye,” because much of the material in these Gospels is shared between them. Even if this label is not entirely accurate—these three Gospels have unique styles and very different emphases—the label does serve a purpose in showing their many connections, and also, in showing that John is breaking radically new ground.) Some tentative dates of the Gospels are: Matthew, …….; Mark, ………; Luke, …………; and lastly, John, ……….. .

So we have four beautiful, mystical Gospels.

John, writing last, has placed many obvious, and many faint, connections to the preceding Gospels in his own masterpiece. Through these connections, he carries on conversations with the previous Gospels, and also uses them as a springboard from which he soars to dazzling new heights.

Of the many ways in which he speaks to the three earlier Gospels, here is a new discovery:

In the last ….chapters of his Gospel, John hiddenly, but now, clearly, makes very many intentional connections to the first ………….. chapters of the canonically first Gospel, Matthew.

These powerful connections have many meanings.

-They draw the four Gospels into a cohesive unit. This is accomplished by the chiastic connections, the matching bookends, that John places on either side of these four books.

-These connections develop the Red Line of Hope.

-These connections teach about our human future. By developing metaphor, they show the way to human evolution.

One note before getting to the direct comparison between the early chapters of Matthew and the later chapter of John: John’s Gospel initially ended at Chapter 20. Some time later, Chapter 21 was added. Our discussion will consider both of these wondrous chapters.

Here is a brief list, without developed explanation, of what these connections and intentional echoes are:

1) As mentioned many times above, the New Testament begins with the Red Line of Hope: The four women of the Red Line of Hope (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba) are mentioned in the first 6 verses of Matthew’s Gospel. And no other women are mentioned, until, at the end of the chapter, we arrive at Mary.

There is a parallel list of women at John 19:25, near Jesus’ Crucifixion (recall that it is at the Crucifixion that Jesus achieves the great integration of humanity, which is achieved by the Beloved Disciple taking “into himself” the Feminine, literally, the mother of Jesus.

These three or four women are “the mother of him, and the sister of the mother of him, Mary (the one) of Clopas, and Mary the Magdalene.” Some scholars believe that there are only three women in the list, considering “the sister of the mother of him, Mary (the one) of Clopas” to be one woman, not two.

If there are four women, then, regarding names, there is an exact parallel to Matthew 1:3-6, where three of the four women are named. Recall that Bathsheba is unnamed, but is clearly referred to as “(the one) of Uriah.” In John 19, we have three women named: all are named “Mary.” (The mother of Jesus is not actually named, but we automatically think of ‘Mary’ with her as well.) The sharing of the same name is perhaps a sign of the profound unity to be shared by all women, both now and in the future. The unnamed sister of Mary may be an invitation of every woman to become a sister to Mary and to thereby become the newest thread, or branch, of the Red Line of Hope; additionally, to all people, including men, it is an invitation to give birth to Christ in our heart.

So in both accounts we have 3 named women and 1 unnamed woman. Additionally, we have one occurrence of a man’s name, which is another form of identifying a specific woman, in both lists: Matthew speaks of “(the one) of Uriah,” and John mentions “Mary (the one) of Clopas.” There is a further difference between them: the first one is given against the background of birthgiving: “Solomon, from (the one) of Uriah,” Solomonta ek tes tou Ouriou. The later woman, “Mary (the one) of Clopas,” Maria he tou Klopa, has not yet given birth—but at the cross, in a few minutes, there will be a grand birth: an integrated humanity.

There is another important reference to the Red Line of Hope in the culmination of John’s Gospel. It is the tunic (coat) of 19:23. Here is that verse, transliterated: “Then the soldiers when they crucify Jesus took (elabon) the garments of him and they make four parts, to each soldier (a) part, and the tunic was yet the tunic seamless/unsewed from/out of the top woven through whole.”

……….bit of explanation here…..

(There are also connections to the torn jacket of Joseph, who was left for dead by his brothers, who told their Jacob that Joseph had been killed by beasts.)

2) Jesus’ first real public words in the Bible are the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, a tremendous discourse beginning in Matthew 5. He begins that great preaching with the Beatitude word makarioi, which means “blessed” or “happy”; He begins the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor….” (Mt 5:3)

John’s Gospel initially ended at the end of Chapter 20. The final thing that Jesus says in that version of the Gospel is, “Blessed (makarioi) are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.” He says this to Thomas, at the original conclusion of the Gospel. The four Gospels ended with Jesus saying a Beatitude, just as his real first public speech in the Bible begins with a Beatitude.

This forms yet another powerful chiastic balance at the beginning and end of the four Gospels.

Also, there are many more levels of meaning in this single word, makarioi: Recall that this is the main word of the menorahs, the Mystical Psalm Menorahs; and the Hebrew version of this word is ashre. So the Gospels begin and end in the light of the Word, which celebrates the hidden realities of the Old Testament’s Psalm Structures. John’s Gospel’s Prologue says that “all things” came into being through the Logos, through Christ. The Gospels celebrate the ancient beauties of the Hebrew Scriptures being brought to a far greater fullness in their life-giving frame and conduit, the Logos. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Ego eimi ho phos tou kosmou, I am the light of the world.” In the first chapter of Revelation, the Son of Man (Jesus) is surrounded by menorahs. Jesus is the menorah, and he wants us to be the branches; just as John’s Gospel says that he is the vine, and we are the branches.

(Notes: See also Rev 22, so 2 sets of chiastic enclosures.)

3) The first word of the New Testament is Biblos, which can be translated as “book.” The same word appears at both of the two endings of John’s Gospel. At the finale of Chapter 20 there is biblioi, book. And at the end of Chapter 21 there is biblia, books, speaking of something like “all the books in the world.” Biblia is the final word of the final version of the Gospel of John, just as Biblos is the first word of the Gospel of Matthew. (Some manuscripts have a concluding “Amen,” but many manuscripts do not, and end with the word “Biblia.”)

4) Twins.

Twins emerging and returning.

The twins Perez and Zerah, and their mother Tamar, are mentioned in the third verse of the New Testament (Matthew 1:3). The Red Line of Hope was attached by the midwife to the wrist of emerging Zerah, who then momentarily pulls his hand back into the womb of his mother, Tamar. So the Red Line of Hope literally begins in the womb of Tamar.

The name of the Apostle Thomas, so prominent in Chapter 20, the original conclusion of John’s Gospel, is ta’am in Hebrew, and means “twin.” Just to make sure we don’t miss this, John also gives the Greek nickname of Didymus, “Twin,” to Thomas. A double emphasis of something in the Bible means that it is very important indeed.

Just as in Chapter 19 the mother of Jesus is literally taken into the Beloved Disciple, so in Chapter 20 Thomas places his hand into the side of Jesus, another sign of deep integration, and a conclusion of a long journey that spanned vast millennia and vital parts of our human evolution.

Then, it is to Thomas and to everyone that Jesus says his final words of the Bible, the final Beatitude (until Chapter 21 was later added).

It is interesting that the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas, found in Nag Hammadi in Egypt, forms a good brother of the four canonical Gospels. It is also an important fact in Salvation History that Pope Benedict XVI taught classes, while Pope, on the Gospel of Thomas, and encourages us to read this exquisitely beautiful book, a gift to us from the sands of the desert of Egypt.

5) egennethe; Mt 1:16, John 16:21

This word concerns “birth.” Many terms related to “birth” appear in the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel; 8 different words for “birth” appear in the first 3 chapters of Matthew, and these various forms of this word family appear 49 times therein, many of them in the long genealogy that begins the Gospel.

One of the words for birth appears in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, at John 16:21. “The woman when she bears, grief has, because her hour has come; but when she brings forth the child (paidion), no longer does she remember the distress, because of the joy that an adult person (anthropos) was born (egennethe) into the world.”

This same word, egennethe, appears just once in the early chapters of Matthew: “And Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mariam, out of who was born (egennethe) Jesus, the (one) called Christ.”

Jesus Christ is many things, means many things, and effects many things. In Matthew, a baby is born. Developing the same word, the same person, John speaks of the birth of a mature, integrated Humanity.

The suffering woman of John 16:21 can be all the women of the Red Line of Hope, and all women in history, who have helped our Human development and evolution forward, who have given love to Humanity.

6) Twins and the Order of Appearance.

Above we discussed Thomas as a twin, who initially appeared without a twin brother. It was more the concept of “twin.” ……………

Now we’ll discuss two sets of twins. Matthew’s Gospel mentions both Perez and Zerah; and we’ll also discuss the powerful balance between Peter and the Beloved Disciple (whom many think is John the Evangelist, John the brother of the disciple James).

When Tamar gave birth to her twins, Zerah partially appeared first, then disappeared again, and Perez was born first, followed by Zerah, who wore the Red Line of Hope on his wrist.

In John 20, informed by Mary Magdalene about the empty tomb, Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John) race to the tomb. John arrives there first. But he does not go in. Peter arrives and goes in. Then John goes in. “And he believed!” (This is probably a gnostic reference to the enlightenment of John: It is as if the text is saying, “No, John had already believed; now he KNEW.” He had achieved a new level of relationship with the Holy Spirit of Jesus; he was vastly more enlightened. Bruno Barnhart said “Gnosis is faith experienced.” This verse symbolizes John becoming a true man of knowledge, and beginning a new chapter of his life of faith.

We see how the motions of John and Peter echo the motions of Perez and Zerah:

“Zerah (partially) then Perez then Zerah”, at their birth.

“John   (partially) then Peter then John” , entering the tomb/womb to new life.

Incidentally, the factor of time and chronological order is also in the story of Thomas, who doubted. All the other disciples saw the Resurrected Jesus first. Thomas did not believe. A week later, he saw Jesus, and he believed.

Additionally, in John’s Gospel, Peter sometimes represents the institutional qualities of the Church; our Church gives birth to spiritual growth, and John represents one such person who has achieved radical spiritual growth, who might (wrongly) be thought to move into “pure spirituality,” beyond the confines of Church rules and rubrics—but this would be prideful, and also wrong. The Church is the Body of Christ, and if a person is a mystic, it is through the Grace of the Church. But mystics don’t scorn the Church who gave them birth; rather, they love the Church and help the Church in her difficult times of her struggles right smack in the middle of the busy world. John shows respect and obedience to Peter (the Church), and humbly waits for Peter to arrive and to enter first. Peter became a mystic and a conduit of miracles himself, of course.

The interplay between Peter and John is a fascinating motif of John’s Gospel, which we cannot discuss further here.

It should not be surprising if we hear motifs and themes from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) reverberating in multiple different characters and situations of the New Testament. Bruno Barnhart once said, “John’s Gospel works in many ways.” Paul said that we are all parts of each other. This is especially true in each of the individual women of John’s Gospel, who sometimes have powerful reflections of multiple women of the Hebrew Scriptures’ portion of the Red Line of Hope.

 

The above 6 chiastic connections between the early chapters of Matthew and the later chapters of John are among the more important of these chiasms.

The following connections are developed more quickly and briefly here. It is hoped that a longer treatment will be given to them in the future.

****************************************************************

 

7) Myrrh.

Those of us who have just celebrated Christmas know that myrrh was one of the gifts of the Three Wise Men who visited the Babe in Matthew. In John 19, Nicodemus brings 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to anoint the body of the crucified Jesus. Again we here echoes of growth, evolution, and development. This myrrh is at the beginning and the end of the life of Jesus. The Mystical Psalm Menorahs also speak of human development, both the spans of individual lives and the long arc of human development as a global family. The number 100 is connected with the 9-branch menorah too. 100 has 9 factors. Only square numbers have an odd number of factors. 10 is the median factor, and is the shamash in this hidden picture. Perhaps this is why Jesus uses the numbers 30, 60, and 100 in the Parable of the Sower, which is the first and the Prototype of the Parables.

8) Mouth: Word and Spirit.

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus “opens his mouth” to speak. This is the same phrase that Lady Wisdom does in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible (Old Testament).

Lady Wisdom also was born from the mouth of God, like a mist. ….

In John’s Gospel, at the end of his public ministry, when Jesus is crucified and about to die, he gets vinegar raised to his “mouth”; he then bows his head and delivers up the Spirit/breath. (John 19:29-30)

However, in the Resurrection of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and breathes onto them the gift, the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)

9) King.

There are various kings mentioned in the early chapters of Matthew. At the crucifixion in John, Jesus has the word “King” on a sign above his head.

10) “Translated”.

The word “translated” appears in the beginning of Matthew and the end of John. This indicates that God likes all people, and that the words of Scripture can be translated into all languages.

11) Joseph.

Matthew says that Joseph is the human foster-father of Jesus.

In John, Jesus’ human father is not mentioned. However, at the crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea boldly goes to Pilate to request the body of Jesus, and buries Jesus in his own new tomb. We have already discussed the tomb as being similar to the womb, especially the womb of Tamar in Genesis 38. The tomb is a sort of womb to Resurrection life, to a birth into Paradise. There are faint echoes of Mary and Joseph here. And there are strong echoes of the Earth giving birth from her womb, to a greater apprehension of Heaven for us.

Here, at the very end of Jesus’ life, a father figure arrives who gives Jesus his own life, metaphorically. How many fathers have done exactly this for their children? Very many.

At the end of this celebration of the Red Line of Hope, John has made a beautiful and fitting tribute to all the fathers of the world.

12) Mystical Teachings.

In the beginning of Matthew and the end of John, there are actual real concrete teachings about how we can communicate, directly and mystically, with the Holy Spirit, but we cannot go into this further here.

13) Relation to authority figures.

The Wise Men, out of good hearts and human protocol, go to the Jewish King Herod to inquire about the birth of the Messiah and to present their credentials. After they visit the newborn Jesus, they have a dream to go back by another route, and they avoid Herod like the plague. Additionally, their continued time in the region had probably made certain facts about that leader quite clear to them.

In John’s Gospel, the leading religious figures of Jerusalem are groupies about the figure of Pontius Pilate. They flock to him. They want to be looked upon favorably by Caesar, whom they say is their king.

14) Travels by night, travels by day.

In Matthew, as just discussed, the Wise Men are woken by a dream and leave another way. They have also traveled at night, in pursuit of the star.

Joseph also has dreams, and journeys at night to avoid Herod.

John will seize upon this and do another Johannine transformation.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both secret disciples, for fear of the Jews. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, initially, to remain hidden and unknown. In Nicodemus’ three appearances in this Gospel, we see him growing in strength and conviction.

At the crucifixion, both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea boldly make their loyalty to Jesus obvious for all to see.

Wise men to Herod; Priests to Pilate; Wise men to child/Joseph, and avoid Herod.

15) Searching for Jesus.

In the early chapters of Matthew, two groups search for Jesus: The Wise Men, to adore Jesus, and Herod and his troops, to kill Jesus (Isa, in Arabic).

In John’s Gospel, in a precious and humorous scene of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene is searching for Jesus out of love. She is the disciple to the disciples.

16) Brothers.

Brothers figure prominently in the beginning of Matthew and the end of John. This may be connected to the theme of twins and evolution, discussed above.

17) Unexpected clothing remarks.

In Matthew 3:4, John the Baptist, who would later be martyred by Herod, is described as wearing a belt of leather around his waist.

In John 21, Peter, who would later by martyred in Rome, is told by the Resurrected Jesus that when he (Peter) was younger, he fastened his own belt, and walked where he wished. But when he grows old, he will stretch his hands out, and another will fasten his belt, and carry him where he does not want to go. “He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.” (John 21:19)

Additionally, the stretching of the hands here is another connection to the beginning of the Red Line of Hope, to Zerah, who literally wore the crimson thread wrapped around his wrist by the midwife who aided Tamar.

18) Taking care of the Feminine, of the Mother

In Matthew 2:13, the Angel of the Lord wakes up Joseph in a dream, and tells him to “Rise up; take (paralabe) the child and the mother of him, and flee into Egypt….” Variations on this phrase occur later in the narrative of the Holy Family in Matthew’s early chapters.

In one of the most important scenes of the Bible, the Crucifixion as described by John, Jesus unites the “mother of him” to the Beloved Disciple, which is can be all male people, or even all humanity. Jesus says that, now, the Beloved disciple is her “son,” and the woman is his “mother.” The Beloved Disciple, “from that hour took (elaben) her,” not to a geographical location, but took her “into his self.” (John 19:26-27)

19) Fulfilled (Scripture).

There are many discussions of the “fulfilling” of Scripture, with words like “plerothei” and others, but we can only offer a partial list here:

Mt: 1:22, 2:15, 17, 23

Jn:   19:24, 28, 36

20) Not knowing, not recognizing.

Matthew says of Joseph that he took Mary as his wife (Gunaika), but “He did not know her (Mary) until she bore her son.” (Matthew 1:25)

So before the birth of Jesus, there was a lack of knowledge. Immediately after Jesus’ Resurrection and emergence from the tomb, in John, there is a similar lack of knowledge on the part of Mary Magdalene: “….and [Mary Magdalene] beholds Jesus standing, and knows not that it is Jesus.” Jesus says to her, “Woman (Gunai), why do you weep? Whom do you seek?” (John 20:14-15) [Also, the verbs for “know” in the two passages here are different verbs, but their meaning can overlap.]

There are other connections. In Genesis 38, Judah does not know that it is Tamar whom he is being intimate with, because she is wearing a veil. When she is discovered some months later to be pregnant, Judah orders her to be killed, an order which is, happily, counteracted by Tamar, who is working with the guidance of the Divine. Judah says, to his credit, “She is more righteous than I.”

In Matthew, we see a fruit of the Red Line of Hope over the course of our Human evolution. This beautiful stage of development is revealed in Joseph. Joseph must have been very surprised when Mary became pregnant. But his first reaction was to protect her. Whereas the Law says that a woman found pregnant out of wedlock should be stoned.

The growth of Mercy in Humanity, and in Joseph, allowed for the Messiah to be born. Like Tamar, Joseph is also called a “just” person.

The Mercy of Joseph, and of Humanity, is one of the culminations of the Bible.

21) In Matthew 5:44, Jesus suggests that we love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.

In John 20:23, Jesus, after having given them the Holy Spirit, gives the disciples the ability to forgive sins, or to retain them.

22) Sins.

Both Gospels discuss this, usually referring to the forgiveness of them.

23) God with us.

Both Gospels discuss this.

24) Whole/All

Both Gospels discuss these concepts.

25) Tree, fire, branches

26) Matthew mentions “his brother John.” (Mt 4:2)

John’s Gospel has myriad references to Matthew’s Gospel.

27) Feminine Turn and Spirit Turn

Joseph immediately wants to protect Mary (Feminine Turn)

This child of Holy Spirit (Spirit Turn), as well as Joseph’s new relationship w God

 

‘John’ took her, from that hour, into himself (Feminine Turn)

Entered tomb and believed; that is, he KNEW (Spiritual Turn); gentle euphemism

-this is related to initial ending of John’s Gospel, end of Ch 20, and interesting Beatitude that Jesus says, about believing (which is also possibly to be understood as KNOWING, a subtle reference to gnostic faith; Bruno: “Gnosis is faith experienced.”).

-Mark’s Gospel may have been recited at Baptism, and it ends w empty tomb (again, its original ending, not the verses that were added later; there too, in Mark 16, there is a ‘soft eruption’ of the Feminine). ……….. In John’s Gospel, the empty tomb is speaking, for the Beloved Disciple, of Spiritual Baptism, and incorporation into the Body of Christ in a conscious and Spiritual way. Of course, the “first Baptism” that Mark’s Gospel may have been used for is open to that possibility, and knows of it, the Spiritual or “second Baptism,” as well.

Thomas seeing, reentering adam through rib cage (Feminine Re-Turn)

Thomas exclaiming, My Lord and My God (Spirit Turn………)

-this brings us to ring structures:

-Psalms 5 & 145: My King and My God

-John 1 & 20: Son of God/King of Israel; My Lord and My God

-Qur’an Surah 1 & 114; names of Allah-God