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

The Final Image of the Church Year

A mystical fruit tree stands at the final hours of the Church Year.

Today is the last day of the year for many a Christian Church. Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent, which is also the beginning of the new Liturgical Year.

A fruit tree, the Tree of Life, is on the final page of the Bible, Revelation 22, and it appears in today’s Readings; these are the year’s final readings.

In this final image of the Bible we have a wonderful merging of metaphor: There is a crisp, clear river of the water of life, a street in Paradise, and this miraculous Tree of Life, which seems to appear on both sides of the river/street, and which gives fruit one time each month, 12 times per year. Here is a part of the reading from Revelation 22:

“An angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [power is evidently shared equally in heaven] down the middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit 12 times per year, according to the month one each yielding its fruit. And the leaves of the trees serve as healing medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found anymore . . . . Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign . . . . And the angel said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true, and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, sent (apesteile) his angel to show his servants what must happen with speed. Behold, I am coming speedily. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this scroll’.”

The words in italics discuss the Tree of Life and its fruit. Both the exact form of the tree, and the exact distribution of its fruit (in 12 kinds?) are not easy to describe precisely, as the original text (Greek) seems to be deliberately imprecise. The one tree may have 12 parts, but then, to make the picture (and the tree) more multi-faceted, the 12 parts of the tree go under the street and the river and have exact counterparts on the other side. This being the case, the one tree has 24 main parts. The tree might look like this, viewed from an aerial vantage point (imagine the river and the street running between the left and right sides of the tree):

12                   12

11                    11

10                   10

9                      9

8                      8

7                      7

6                      6

5                       5

4                      4

3                       3

2                       2

1                        1

Of course, this is the same shape as the Mystical Psalm Ladder. So the final image of the Book of Revelation, and of the entire Bible, is the Mystical Psalms Ladder. This is important. Additionally, the brief discussion of the Tree of Life in the text is full of connections to Psalm 1, the beginning of the Book of Psalms. Psalm 1 speaks of a tree, its fruit, its leaves, and the yielding of its fruit at its proper time, just as this Revelation text does.

In fact, if there is an orderly progression of the fruit from 1 to 12, then we see a blooming of fruit imitating the steps of a person climbing of the Ladder, in measured intervals of time (12 months, once per month), from bottom to top. Like a pulsating rainbow of ribbons and bands of brightly colored fruit.

This text has connections to many more passages in the Bible. The word “Blessed,” makarios, is both the first word of Jesus’ first public teaching, the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, and it is the first word of Psalm 1 (ashre in the Hebrew).

Also, after an unusual conversation with Nathaniel at the end of John 1, Jesus says, “Behold, you will see greater things than this. You will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (future of humanity, child of humanity).” (John 1:51) This is one of the clearest allusions in the New Testament to the Mystical Psalms Ladder.

Thus, we see that this final word of the Bible has powerful connections to at least three (3) beginnings in the Bible: 1) Jesus’ first preaching in the Bible, at the Beatitudes, and 2) the beginning of John’s Gospel, and 3) the first Psalm of the Book of Psalms. Indeed, this ending image of the Bible joyfully celebrates beginnings. Perhaps we shall always be growing into new beginnings. (A 4th and obvious connection would be to the trees in the Garden of Eden, in the first chapters of Genesis.)

Today’s Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 95. It urges us to joyfully sing, with each other, songs to God, which is exactly what the Psalms do. Psalm 95 ends on a mysterious note, with the Promised Land being cut off from the weary traveling Hebrews of the Exodus. But this could be a form of ancient Semitic humor, such as we find in the final verse of Psalm 147 at the end of the Psalter (Book of Psalms). It’s just a matter of time before all the saints come marching in. (It’s probably the case that God wants everybody to be at the final party, and won’t take “no” for an answer (although some might require some difficult purgation and cleansing).) And it will be fairly impossible not to be happy once one has arrived. In fact, yesterday’s Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 84, perhaps the most central Psalm of the Psalter, and a Ladder Psalm. It celebrates pilgrimage and arriving at the destination: the New Jerusalem. And Psalm 84 has more appearances of the Beatitude term “Blessed/Happy,” ashre, which is in Psalm 84 three (3) times, more than any other Psalm.

Tomorrow, the First Sunday of Advent, has some wonderful readings, the first of which is from the Prophet Isaiah. This first text of the New Church Year speaks of Jerusalem, and of our climbing/ascending to a transformed, revitalized Jerusalem. This famous text from the second chapter of Isaiah also mentions that swords and spears shall be transformed into plowshares and pruning hooks. “One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2:4)

This is speaking of an evolved humanity, a humanity that has learned how to love. A Humanity that has learned to see the Other, that has learned how to say “I and Thou.” This is our true pilgrimage, our true goal, our true Jerusalem.

These are intimations of paradise on earth. And we as humans, in God, can begin to achieve this. God clearly is leading us to such a “place.”

The reading from Isaiah concludes, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

Owen Dodson’s Knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures Revealed in “Powerful Long Ladder”

 

This is the first of two introductory essays that will discuss Owen Dodson’s Powerful Long Ladder, and show how this volume of poetry is in deep dialogue with the Psalms and with William Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

However, there is a difficulty. Dodson’s poetry is so powerful, and the dialogue with both the Psalms and the Mystical Psalm Structures is so intricate and profound, that I purpose to begin with a small section of his book in this first brief essay, and then, after having made some relatively basic observations, proceed to the more massive part of the task at hand in the second essay. (Additionally, the next essay shall serve as more of an introduction to Dodson and his work.)

The Book of Psalms of the Bible comes to us in 5 parts. The final redactors (editors) of the Psalms almost certainly did this intentionally. On the one hand, it echoes the division of the Torah (Pentateuch, 5 Books of Moses) into 5 books. And Psalm 1 mentions the Torah twice. Therefore, the Psalms are recommending themselves to intertextuality, that is, to conversation with other texts. The Book of Psalms is saying that the Psalms, or any book of Scripture, is meant to be in living dialogue with other books of Scripture. Without experiencing this powerful but often hidden dialogue with other books, we miss huge realms of meaning within the Scriptures.

This is perhaps why Owen Dodson’s incomparable Powerful Long Ladder is also given to us in 5 books, 5 sections. That Dodson is speaking directly to David and the Psalms is clear from the fact that he quotes the Psalms several times, alludes to them many other times, mentions the memorizing of the Psalter (Book of Psalms), and has a poem entitled Jonathan, who was the best friend of David, the mythical author of the Psalms.

Dodson, who knew the Bible extremely well, would have, with his poetic mind and acting skills, have been very attracted to the Psalms, those amazing poem-prayer-songs.

Another person who was both an actor and a poet was William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s entire main book of poetry, his Sonnets (which number 154), are also in a hidden dialogue with the 150 Psalms of the Bible.

And Owen Dodson broke the code. He broke several codes.

He knew the Mystical Psalm Structures. And he knew, profoundly, what Shakespeare was secretly doing in his Sonnets.

Dodson’s knowledge of the Mystical Psalm Structures will be more fully discussed in the next essay.

In this essay, I shall focus on the central section, the 3rd of 5 parts, of Powerful Long Ladder. This central section is entitled Poems for My Brother Kenneth. There are nine (9) poems in this part of the book, and they are simply titled by Roman numerals, from I to IX.

One more poem is connected to this group. After the 3rd part of the book, the 4th part of the book is entitled All This Review. And the first poem of this section is Countee Cullen. (The poet Countee Cullen was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.) For reasons that shall become obvious, this poem is connected powerfully not only to its own Part 4 of the book, but also to the 9 poems that make up Part 3 of the book.

This essay shall consider only these 10 poems. (There are 48 poems in Dodson’s entire book, and some of them, in other sections, are quite longer than those that we shall be discussing here.)

The Interwoven Menorahs

of the

Mystical Psalm Structures

Dodson and Shakespeare are both aware of the Mystical Psalm Structures that are hidden in the Book of Psalms. One of these hidden realities is the Interwoven Menorahs. These are two candelabras, menorahs of 9 branches each, that are intertwined with each other. These amazing menorahs are hidden in the Psalms. They were placed there not by human redactors (editors), but by the Holy Spirit.

The following essay introduces the Mystical Psalm Structures, and in its discussion of the Interwoven Menorahs, discusses Jesus’ Beatitudes:

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

One of the amazing features of the Interwoven Menorahs is that in the 18 Psalms that form the 2 menorahs (9 Psalms form the 9 branches of each menorah), there is a 350% greater appearance of the word “light” than in the other 132 Psalms of the Psalter. This is an amazing statistic, especially because “light” goes well with candles. Additionally, these 18 Psalms emphasize loving couples, children, families, and community.

The 9 poems of the central section of Powerful Long Ladder dialogue with, and re-present, the Mystical Psalm Menorahs.

But there is much more. Jesus’ first real, public words in the Bible are the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7, and this great discourse begins with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes, therefore, are Jesus first real public words. And what he does there is amazing. He re-presents the Mystical Psalm Menorahs in his own words.

Dodson knows what Jesus is doing in the Beatitudes. He knows that Jesus is making a new word-picture of the Interwoven Menorahs.

Dodson does this too. After his 9 central poems have replicated the Interwoven Menorahs of the Psalms, the first poem (Countee Cullen) of section four (All This Review) of his volume imitates and replicates the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The purpose of this essay is to show these 2 maneuvers of Dodson.

The Interwoven Menorahs in the 9 Poems of

Poems for My Brother Kenneth

The menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures have 9 candles each. Powerful Long Ladder has a central section entitled Poems for My Brother Kenneth, and there are 9 poems therein, numbered from I to IX. These poems are making a picture of the Psalm menorahs.

Poem III gives us just a hint of the Menorahs with its phrase, “blow a candle out.” Psalm 112, a Menorah Psalm, shows three of the candles of a menorah being lit, in an artistic way. Dodson is performing a mirroring, opposite action to the Psalms here.

In Poem IV Dodson tips his hand, giving us hints about the languages of the Holy Spirit. In verses 13-14 he says, “There is a new language to learn/ And I am learning like a truant child.” This new language could be that of the Holy Spirit, which we may actually begin to learn in this life. As Dodson knew the Mystical Psalm Structures, and as his life knew much suffering, he most certainly had entered such a direct relationship with the Holy Spirit. Yet Dodson admits that learning this language is either more difficult, or very different, than the kinds of learning he has hitherto engaged in: “And I am learning like a truant child.” What does this mean? He could be chastising himself for playing hooky and missing school. Or, it could mean that the Holy Spirit is teaching him in entirely new ways—as if the Spirit has ordered him to depart from standard paths, to “play hooky” and to skip normal routines, so that the Holy Spirit could have all his attention. The Spirit can be demanding like that.

Or, the “truant child” could mean that on occasion the Holy Spirit browbeats us humans, and reminds us that we have to grow a great deal. We are all like children when we start learning the deeper ways of the Holy Spirit.

The next verse, 15, begins, “I do not understand this code . . . .” Well, it’s clear that Dodson had already learned much of the some codes, because he’s broken codes in the Bible and in Shakespeare. However, as he knows too, there’s always more to learn. Sometimes the communication of the Holy Spirit can be difficult to grasp.

Jumping almost entirely over the first four poems, we shall consider poem V, which is the center of this collection and perhaps the center of the entire book:

 

V

If we had counted all the stars

And made each constellation clear,

I’d recognize more than this spear

Swinging from the solid side of Mars.

 

But when we went, not long ago

Exploring all that silver land,

I would not stay because the snow

Turned ice within my hand.

 

 

Here is the poem again with emphasis placed on words that we’ll discuss:

V

If we had counted all the stars

And made each constellation clear,

I’d recognize more than this spear

Swinging from the solid side of Mars.

 

But when we went, not long ago

Exploring all that silver land,

I would not stay because the snow

Turned ice within my hand.

 

We have 8 lines of poetry here, like the 8 regular branches of the 9-branched menorah. The ninth branch, the movable lighting rod, is called the shamash. And it is clearly present in the word “spear.”

The menorahs may also have sexual imagery. The 8 candles, 4 on each side, are the female sexual organ, and the shamash is the male sexual organ. In the center of the poem is a gap, and, heavily swinging next to this gap, is “this spear/ Swinging from the solid side of Mars.” This is the center of the poem, the section, and perhaps the entire book, Powerful Long Ladder. As we’ll discuss in the next essay, the “Ladder” can be seen as feminine too.

Back to the spear and the partition, or gap. After the “spear,” i.e., the lighting rod or shamash, lights the menorah’s candles, it is returned to its own place, which is often in the center of the menorah, with 4 candles on one side and 4 candles on the other. If the spear would be placed in the center, then we have exactly that image here.

Additionally, “counted” and “silver land” refers to Sonnet 12 and Psalm 12, respectively. These are important for the Psalm Ladder, and for Shakespeare’s discussion of it. “Snow,” “ice,” “side,” and “Mars” refer also to Sonnets 153 and 154, which conclude the Sonnets in a secretly shocking, evolutionary manner. Future essays shall discuss these. For now, we’ll just say: Dodson knows precisely what Shakespeare is doing.

Poem VI takes up this development, and also has allusions to Shakespeare. The Sonnets are engaging in multiple conversations at once. So when Dodson writes, “The two shine contrapuntally . . . ,” he is referring, among other things, to Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ ability to speak in multiple themes at once. He is doing the same himself in Powerful Long Ladder. The word “contrapuntally” relates to “counterpoint,” which Merriam-Webster defines as:

-a combination of 2 or more melodies that are played together

-a melody played in combination with another

-something that is different from something else in usually a pleasing way.

Shakespeare and Dodson are both doing complex feats with counterpoint, with the Psalms and with other themes.

This part of the essay has briefly considered some links between the Interwoven Menorahs and the central section of Dodson’s volume. There is much more to discuss, but we must proceed to the next section, which is the main part of this essay.

 

Part II

Countee Cullen and the Beatitudes

As mentioned above, the first 9 lines of Countee Cullen re-present the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew’s Gospel.

The Beatitudes themselves are in the shape of the Interwoven Menorahs. Just as Psalm 1 discusses the Torah, so do the Beatitudes discuss the Mystical Psalm Structures. Intertextuality includes the conversation, clear or hidden, between various texts. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Dodson’s Powerful Long Ladder continue this great and long ongoing conversation.

For ready reference, here are the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel, with emphasis added:

 

Happy/Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy/Blessed are those who mourn,

For they will be comforted.

Happy/Blessed are the meek,

For they will inherit the earth.

Happy/Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they will be filled.

 

Happy/Blessed are the merciful,

For they will receive mercy.

Happy/Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they will see God.

Happy/Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called children of God.

Happy/Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Happy/Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

These nine (9) Beatitudes are 8 + 1. There are eight (8) “3rd Person” Beatitudes, which begin, “Blessed are they….” But then the 9th and final Beatitude shifts to direct 2nd Person address, “Blessed are you….” This change in person clearly differentiates the 9th Beatitude from the previous 8. In a similar way, the menorah’s 9th candle, which is the lighting rod or shamash, is different that the other 8 candles, which do not move (or which are added and lit over a period of time). In fact, this 9th Beatitude is the shamash, the lighting rod, to the other 8 branches of the menorah, the first eight (8) Beatitudes.

Other literary clues indicate that the Beatitudes form a picture of the Interwoven Menorahs. The “promise,” or, the second strophe, of the 1st and 8th Beatitudes are identical: “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This makes the outermost Beatitudes a pair, just as there is a pair of the outermost candles in a menorah.

Additionally, Jesus himself mentions menorahs in his next breath. Two verses after the Beatitudes, he says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it give light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16)

In the original Greek text of Matthew’s Gospel, the word for “lampstand” is luxnian. This Greek word luxnian is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew word menorah. In fact, in the first ancient translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) into Greek, the Greek word luxnian always translates the Hebrew word menorah. Jesus is clearly beginning his public speech in the Bible by painting a picture of the Interwoven Menorahs of the Mystical Psalm Structures.

Dodson knows this, and is commenting on this Biblical reality in his poem Countee Cullen.

Countee Cullen is the 1st poem of the 4th part of Dodson’s book. Before getting to the menorahs that he places in this poem, it is necessary to discuss how Countee Cullen is powerfully connected to the last poem of the central section of the book, the poem entitled “IX.”

The following important words or thematic vocabulary groups appear in BOTH Countee Cullen and in “IX”:

Earth, blanket, cold, hemlock are words that appear in both poems.

-Both poems have varieties of birds, and varieties of plants.

-Both poems have time units: “IX” has “day” and “month,” while Countee Cullen has “year.”

 

Obviously, these poems are connected with each other, and form a strong thematic and linguistic connection between the 3rd and 4th parts of Dodson’s book.

Here is the first poem of the section entitled All This Review:

 

Countee Cullen

(1903-1946)

Now begins the sleep, my friend:

Where the cold dirt blanket is, you will be warm,

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.

The dilapidation of our earth is left for us to order.

Your heart that was strong will help us carry

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like hope to smile our lips

—We would be ugly now except for hope.

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:

You showed us that men could see

Deep into the cause of Lazarus,

Believe in resurrection.

You come back to us

Not unwinding a shroud and blinking at known light

But singing like all the famed birds,

Nightingale, lark and nightjar.

You come back to us with the truth

Of your indignation, protest and irony.

Also in your brave and tender singing

We hear all mankind yearning

For a new year without hemlock in our glasses.

 

The nine (9) poems entitled I-IX form the Interwoven Menorahs, as discussed above. The 1st nine (9) lines of Countee Cullen re-present the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel. This is the topic of this part of this essay.

The 1st eight (8) lines of the poem echo the 1st eight (8) Beatitudes.

The 9th line is in the place of the 9th Beatitude, and is the shamash of the menorah, and even has a dash, “ — ” to signal its uniqueness and its role.

Here are the 1st nine (9) lines of the poem again, with emphasis and notes added to show the Beatitude-like and menorah-like qualities of the poem. The lines of the poem are generally to the left, and the commentary is added to the right, in italics:

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:                                 fulfilled promise of Beatitudes

Where the cold dirt blanket is, you will be warm,         sounds like a Beatitude

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.               promise of Beatitudes

The dilapidation of our earth is left for us to order.   3rd Beatitude, inherit the earth

Your heart that was strong will help us carry         6th Beatitude, pure (strong) of heart

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,         8th, 9th Beatitudes

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,           7th Beatitude, Happy the peacemakers

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like hope to smile our lips       Happy” is

       in all Beatitudes

—We would be ugly now except for hope.               Hope: In Dodson’s 8th and 9th lines

 

The word “hope” in lines 8 and 9 clearly echos the Beatitudes, as Matthew’s 8th and 9th Beatitudes share words with each other.

We see here many connections between Dodson’s lines and the Beatitudes.

Yet there are more ways in which we can analyze and study this poem. One of these ways is to also look at the chiastic connection, the mirror images, of the 1st eight (8) lines. In a similar way, the branches of the menorah form pairs with their opposites:

Branches 1 and 8 form a pair, as do 2 and 7, 3 and 6, and finally, 4 and 5. Here are these lines presented in a different format, to show how they balance and mirror each other:

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:                                                                -friend

Where the cold dirt blanket is, you will be warm,                                           -warm

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.                         -seed, root, flower

The dilapidation of our earth is left for us to order.                   -dilapidation

 

Your heart that was strong will help us carry                            -strong, help,

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,                  -blossoms in spring

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,                                                        -hot anger

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like HOPE to smile our lips     –happy, smile

 

—We would be ugly now except for HOPE.

 

Lines 1 and 8 have “my friend” and “smile our lips”; friends often smile when they see each other.

Lines 2 and 7 “blanket” and “eyeLIDS,” both of which cover things. Additionally, verse 2 has “warm,” and verse 7 has “anger,” which can make us “hot.”

Lines 3 and 6 have “root,” “flower,” and “springs.” However, in poetic reversal, Dodson notes that when “trouble springs” it does not raise the person, rather, it can “hunch our backs,” thereby lowering the deforming the person.

Lines 4 and 5 present “dilapidation” meaningfully set against “Your heart that was strong will help carry us.” Such is the work of heroes such as Countee Cullen.

This has shown chiastic, or mirroring, connections among the lines of the poem. In the same way, the candles of the two sides of the menorah are connected to each other in pairs.

 

Returning to the Beatitudes, there is another way of analyzing the relationship between the Beatitudes and these lines of the poem. As mentioned above, the 1st eight (8) Beatitudes are indirect 3rd Person address: “Blessed are they….” But then the 9th Beatitude turns and engages direct 2nd Person address: “Blessed are you….” In a similar way, Dodson changes “person” in his nine (9) verses. He picks up where the Beatitudes left off, utilizing direct 2nd Person address; but then he changes person to 1st Person, the most inclusive form of speech: Us, our, we. Just like the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer. Here is a chart to show the transition from 2nd Person to 1st Person in these lines, and to compare this to the Beatitudes:

 

 

Matthew’s Beatitudes       Dodson’s Beatitudes

1st                    3rd Person                  2nd Person (1st Person Possessive Pronoun)

2nd                   3rd Person                  2nd Person

3rd                   3rd Person                  2nd Person

4th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

5th                   3rd Person                  2nd Person, 1st Person

6th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

7th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

8th                   3rd Person                  1st Person

 

9th                   2nd Person                1st Person

 

What is the purpose of this transformation? Perhaps it shows the ongoing working evolution of humanity. Perhaps it shows the necessity of us, all of us, becoming more like family and less like enemies. It shows our unity.

 

There are more connections between these verses and the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have obvious and subtle repetitions murmuring through the stream of nine (9) units, and so do Dodson’s verses here. This shows some of the repetition occurring in this part of the poem:

Now begins the sleep, my friend:

Where the cold dirt blanket IS, you will be warm,

Where seeds begin to root, you will flower.

The dilapidation of our earth IS left for us to order.

Your heart that was strong will help us carry

Whatever trouble springs to hunch our backs,

Whatever anger grows to sty our eyelids,

Whatever unexpected happiness comes like hope to smile our lips

—We would be ugly now except for hope.

This shows some of the obvious and subtle forms of repetition that are happening in these verses. As mentioned above, the repeated “hope” in verses 8 and 9 echoes the shared words between the 8th and 9th Beatitudes.

Verses 2 and 3 of the poem have a “Where . . . , you will . . .” formula, which directly mirrors the “Happy are those . . . , for they will . . .” statements of the Beatitudes.

Additionally, the repetition of “Where” at the beginning of these verses, and the triple repetition of “Whatever” at the beginning of verses 6, 7, and 8, most powerfully form a parallel response to the formulaic beginnings of the Beatitudes.

And the two appearances of “Where” appear in the first four lines of the octet, and the three appearances of “Whatever” appear in the last four lines of the octet, which again emphasizes the two distinct halves of the menorah.

 

Very briefly, here is the rest of the poem Countee Cullen, with notes added in italics:

 

Now begins the sleep, my friend:                     repetition of line 1

You showed us that men could see                     cured blindness

Deep into the cause of Lazarus,                           resurrection

Believe in resurrection.                                         Mary, sister of Lazarus, believed

You come back to us                                          Lazarus, Jesus

Not unwinding a shroud and blinking at known light -(shamash candle, again,

         physically much longer than all other lines of stanza)

But singing like all the famed birds,             singing, Psalmody, poetry, music

Nightingale, lark and nightjar.                     2 of these are birds of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

You come back to us with the truth             Shakespeare’s hidden knowledge of Psalms

Of your indignation, protest and irony.       William S hid facets of his life in his Sonnets

Also in your brave and tender singing         David, Shakespeare, and Countee Cullen

We hear all mankind yearning                     David, Shakespeare, and Countee Cullen

For a new year without hemlock in our glasses.

 

There are many themes herein that connect to both the Psalms, the New Testament, and Shakespeare. These shall be addressed in future essays.

(There is much more going on in Matthew’s Beatitudes, which we cannot discuss now. There is also much more going on in Dodson’s poem, and we can only present certain aspects of his poetry now.)

This paper has merely presented some of the literary structures in a small portion of Powerful Long Ladder. The meaning of the poems has hardly been addressed at all in this initial essay.

The next essay will be deeper in scope, and will be more complex in its treatment of the literary structures that Dodson employs, and their connections to the Mystical Psalm Structures. And a caution: The next essay might be more emotionally evocative. (It may be very emotionally difficult reading for some.) It will also discuss the commentary that Dodson offers on the situation of African-American people in late 19th century and 20th century America.

Although he chose to keep his dialogue with the Mystical Psalm Structures and with Shakespeare’s Sonnets hidden (or was instructed to do so by the Holy Spirit), Dodson now clearly has placed himself as a vital stage of the secret mystical river of great poets who are engaging the living mysteries of the living God.

The Jesus Prayer, Mantras, and Meditation

Yourself, Peaceful, and, Effective

Part II

The Jesus Prayer, Mantras, and Meditation

 

Repetition, rhythm, harmony, and beauty are the creative base of music, poetry, and other kinds of art. We are attracted to goodness, beauty, and truth. We are attracted to music and poetry.

A mantra is connected to this reality.

The Mantra

A mantra is a word or phrase that holds special meaning for us. Mantras have been made from all of the cherished Scriptures of the globe.

These words, or verses, from our various Scriptures carry immense significance for us, and give us healing and integration at many levels of our being. They communicate the Divine life and knowledge to us. Although we never finish understanding the words of our Scriptures, mantras allow us to understand some parts of our Scriptures at profound depth. We dwell deeply with particular Sacred words. We get to know them better. The Scripture begins to merge with us.

Then, to this word or phrase, we add the elements of time and repetition. A form of musical rhythm, and powerful repetition, takes the Sacred word to different places in our soul. We repeat the mantra many times. It begins to operate in us in manifold new ways.

These mantras can have many powerful good effects in our life. They calm us, as does music and poetry that we choose for that purpose. They enlighten us. They comfort us in times of difficulty, trial, and emotional extremes. Mantras lead us into prayer, or can also be the entirety of our prayer. They become very familiar to us, like our favorite gloves on a cold day.

 

Mantras are in all religions, and various verses from all Scriptures have been used to form mantras.

Mantras are connected with our breath, and all traditions know the importance of our breathing—how spiritual our breathing, our breath, is. The words of the mantra are in two phrases; the first phrase is said on the inbreath (inhale), the second phrase is said on the outbreath (exhale). The prayer is meant to be said silently, not aloud. (Notice that we can only physically speak or sing when we are exhaling.)

We repeat the mantra in intentional times of prayer, or, at informal times. Such informal use of the mantra can be extremely helpful. When we are riding the bus or subway, waiting in line, placed on hold during a phone call, we can instantly convert otherwise wasted moments into spiritual fruitfulness.

Teachings about mantras vary from religion to religion, from community to community.

The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a specifically Christian form of prayer. It is like a mantra (although technically, it’s not a mantra, but it’s own category of prayer). It involves the name of Jesus and a plea for God’s mercy, which is God’s own love that sustains the universe from one moment to the next.

Although we don’t know precisely when the Jesus Prayer started, some think it began with the great desert monks of Egypt, those wonderful Ammas and Abbas, about 300 years after the time of Christ. From there it spread through the entire Eastern Mediterranean region, invigorating Eastern Christianity. For centuries it has been the central spiritual practice for great numbers of people, most dynamically in the Greek and Russian churches, and in many other communities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Eastern Europe. While it has been long known and practiced in western monastic circles, in the last century it became much more popular throughout the larger western world also. Today, it is prayed around the globe. A friend who is a Christian monk recently wrote a book in Chinese about the Jesus Prayer.

It has been very important for Orthodox Christian spirituality, and has been a staple of monastic life in Egypt, Ethiopia, North Africa, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Iran, Iraq, India, Eastern Europe, and many more places, for centuries or millennia. For example, in Mount Athos, a peninsula in Greece that is and has been home to dozens of monasteries and hermitages for more than 1,200 years, has always practiced the Jesus Prayer. For some of the monks of Mount Athos, the Jesus Prayer is almost the entirety of their spiritual life—these holy monks pray the prayer without ceasing. Many of these monks find the prayer waking them up for their vigils in the middle of the night. When they are sleeping in light sleep, they feel the prayer praying itself in their heart. Likewise, the prayer has been central in the Russian Orthodox Church. A famous anonymous story about the Jesus Prayer, The Way of the Pilgrim, has been frequently read around the globe.

Typically, the Jesus Prayer is said with these words:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,                (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner.                                   (outbreath)

 

However, modification of the prayer, and personal tailoring, is certainly allowed.

People today have wider psyches, and many more things to integrate in our life. In today’s world, many individuals cannot identify in their own prayer with the notion of being a “sinner”; it is simply too much for them. This is especially true for victims of abuse and people who have suffered much. Therefore, today many people like this formula:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God                 (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Me, Your Sister (or Brother)         (outbreath)

We say this. And then we repeat it. That’s it. We repeat it as much as we want. That is the whole prayer. We say it once a day, or repeat it many times at dozens of opportunities during the day, or whatever we like. It’s that easy and flexible. If we’re walking down the street and we see a beautiful tree, we might remember to say the prayer in thanksgiving for the amazing tree. But what if a friend suddenly rounds the corner? Well, drop the prayer and respond fully to your friend. The Jesus Prayer does not need formal beginnings or endings. It is meant to be very flexible and easy for us to use. When we are done talking with our friend, we are free to begin saying it again. But we don’t have to.

The key words are “Jesus” and “Mercy.” Remember, God’s own Mercy is not a bit of pity or a small token of kindness. Rather, God’s Mercy is the Love that sustains the universe from one moment to the next.

Another version of the prayer is:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,                (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Us, Your People                              (outbreath)

 

Another version:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,                                  (inbreath)

Have Mercy on Me                                                    (outbreath)

 

Or:

Lord Jesus,                                         (inbreath)

Have Mercy                                        (outbreath)

 

Once we have a formula that works well with us, it is good to stick with it for a while. This allows for the Prayer to grow roots in our heart.

Variations of this prayer have been popular all over the world. In the 20th Century, many people would instantly pray, “My Jesus Mercy!” upon hearing some difficult news concerning themselves or others.

There are prayer ropes that are made specifically for the Jesus Prayer, and many forms of beads as well.

Benefits of the Jesus Prayer

The prayer gathers us. It unifies and focuses us.

When we are praying it, negative thoughts are kept away (this is important for all people, especially the young members of the community, as negative forces can prey upon young minds that have nothing good to occupy them). Today, many people are susceptible to fear. But the Jesus Prayer drives away fear and gives us confidence. The word “confidence” means “with-faith-ness,” from the Latin word for “faith,” fides.

Additionally, having divine names, and words from Scripture, constantly circulating through our mind and psyche, does immeasurable good for us.

There are two main ways we can say the prayer:

One is the formal way: We intentionally sit in prayer time for 2, 10, or 20 minutes, or whatever we choose. We say the prayer interiorly. When (if) we move into the silence, we are free to continue saying the prayer, or we can stop saying the prayer and simply be in pure silence.

Another way is the informal way: We say the prayer when we are walking, standing in line, riding the bus, and at many other times. This converts otherwise wasted moments into awesome prayer time. Turn your bus ride into a cathedral or zendo. We can begin and end the prayer at any moment, and, as mentioned above, we do not need clear ‘beginnings’ and ‘ends’ for the informal prayer. The next time that we have an open moment on our hands, we simply start praying again.

This ‘informal’ way of the prayer is extremely powerful and centering.

Another note on our breathing. ‘Ruach’ in the Hebrew and ‘Pneuma’ in the Greek both mean Spirit, breath, and wind. That’s a remarkable fact.

The prayer is woven into our breathing. All religious traditions celebrate the importance of our breath.

The Jesus Prayer, and Meditation

A brief note about the ‘formal’ practice of the prayer (or any form of meditation): As soon as we sit to meditate, a bunch of thoughts surge into our consciousness. These are regrets/anger/shame about the past, or worries about the future. It is completely normal for these thoughts to arise. They need to come up, and it is good and healthy that they appear. Each time we become consciously aware of them, we turn our consciousness back to the prayer. Gently. We don’t get frustrated, we don’t get angry with ourselves. We simply return to the prayer. Just doing this is great prayer.

We’ll notice our prayer deepening with time. This also has the benefit of letting issues surface. If/As issues arise, it is good to talk to one of our advisors/spiritual directors/counselors about them.

Prayer likes consistency.   Same time each day, if possible. If we cannot do that, ok. A practice of the ‘informal’ prayer will suffice until we can get meditation back on the plan. (The ‘informal’ prayer needs no schedule.)

Other Ways of Meditation

There are very many ways of meditation in the world. A book that gives an introductory overview of meditation practices from different religions is Journey of Awakening, by Ram Dass.

Also, a superb discussion of the theology of the Jesus Prayer can be found in The Power of the Name, by Kallistos Ware. Bishop Kallistos is a Metropolitan Archbishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a monk of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos, which is the legendary place of the vision and writing of the Book of Revelation, and, he is a professor at Oxford. This holy booklet of 29 pages delves into many wonderful facets of the Jesus Prayer.

(The icon at the beginning of the essay is Christ Pantocrator (6th Century), which was discovered mere decades ago at the Monastery of St. Catherine, at Mount Sinai in Egypt.)

Yourself, Peaceful, and, Effective

 

 

We are a young Humanity. We are growing, developing, and evolving now.

Do teenagers ever go through awkward, even infuriating times? Sure. Growth can be messy and painful, with lots of missteps and misadventures. However, God can use everything from our past to help us forward into a better level of integration and growth. Ultimately, the biggest disasters, failures, and hurts of our life will mean very little. At some point in the future, we’ll look back upon them and laugh. Even the worst times. What is more, these difficult times can even be highly useful for our growth. The Divine can operate in various ways, and turn the most painful things from our past into capacities for tremendous spiritual gifts. And joy.

We have much growth ahead of us, even in the next life.

However.

While we’re walking this walk in this life, it sure is good to have some ability to make sense of things, and to pray deeply. To be centered. To be able to achieve calmness if we need to.

(Additionally, there is the entire quest to deepen our prayer life and become closer friends with God, and to understand the ways of God better.)

This is especially true today, as there are some chaotic situations in the world. Additionally, as humanity has registered so many new things—not exactly neat uniform growth—but advances and progressions, some of which are technological, there is a lot for us to integrate.

With techonology, and modern tugs on our attention, we are often very distracted.

This can have a positive side: It is preparing our minds to receive, and engage in, more kinds of activity.

But we must integrate this new growth, so that we return to health.

We have to learn how to integrate things.

When we have integrated these things, and rediscovered our center, then we will be more potent human beings. We are meant to be strong, intelligent, caring, loving, expressive, and thinking. And spiritual. And happy. The word “happy” is a very important term in all Sacred Scriptures. It is deeply connected to the proper being of the Human Person.

Ok. So how do we get there? How do we become centered in this life?

There are ways.

Actually, there is a wide spectrum of techniques and tools that we are free to choose from.

Some background: For 6 years I was a monk, and learned some things about spirituality. (In all my adult life I’ve been interested in the soul and the spirit, and in God.) I’ve had some really good teachers. I’ll spare you the details of my own development, but lately I’ve been thinking about returning to some forms of prayer and meditation that I have not done in a while. Maybe changing things up a bit. And as some people are distracted today, and as many people have been asking me for advice about this, and as I’m far behind on responding to emails in this regard (for which, my apologies), I thought maybe a few brief reflections might be helpful to people.

These comments will be in two categories:

1) Attitude(s)

2) Practices

 

Attitude

 

1) Changing Frames (Also Known as the ‘Big Picture’)

 

It’s good to step out of our box and survey our attitude(s). It’s good to have dexterity of perspective.

For example, let’s say that something is bothering us.

This is a mind-obstacle that can happen to us fairly often in life, especially if we have not yet become practitioners of centeredness.

So then. To avoid being trapped in this small trap, we can say to ourselves, “Our universe has trillions of galaxies, and that’s only what we know about. I’m going to befriend them and know them all some ‘day’. Also, this universe started 13.7 billion years ago. And some ‘day’ in the future, I’m going to know all time. And I’m getting to be better friends with God, who is bigger than all that anyway. So I’m not going to let a little problem affect my mood. Because I’ve just recalled one snapshot of the bigger picture.”

A person whose mind is as strong as a diamond can often shift their perspectives quicker than quicksilver (mercury).

And they don’t lose their center in the process.

Notice how children get stuck in “ruts of mood.” Once they land in a particular attitude, they remain stuck there until an external event of larger gravitas than their present mood totally switches the entire landscape for them. This external event could be the promise of an ice cream cone, or a fascinating image or object that they have never seen before, or when a child of the same age suddenly is brought by their parent into the same aisle of the supermarket where the child and her/his parent is. When this happens, and their mood changes, the child does not even realize that their mood has just been instantly transformed.

Adults who are centered (and even mature children) can do this themselves, without the external stimulation. (Or, to say it better, their bedrock state is stable while they freely move between particular expressions, maybe slightly tasting those emotions.)

Yes, it is good to be able to fluidly change our perspective, or, to look at a bigger picture. After a while, things don’t even bother us. (Or at least not as easily as before.)

 

2) Let nothing scandalize you

 

Up until a couple centuries ago, in any religion, if you had the ‘wrong’ religious views, you could find yourself in hot water.

St. John of the Cross lived in Spain as a Carmelite priest in the 1500’s. He was good friends with St. Teresa of Avila. Both are Huge mystics and Doctors of the Church. They knew God. (St. Teresa used to get angry at God when God levitated her during Mass in the chapel at her monastery when she was the Abbess there. So she had metal rails put in on either side of her chair, so she could hold herself down to earth when he levitated her. They are still there today.)

Well, earlier in his life, John held views that his superiors in the order didn’t agree with. So they imprisoned him in a latrine sewer. For some months.

He survived the experience and become a giant of the contemplative life. One of his sayings was, “Let nothing scandalize you.”

Think about it.

If someone does something that strikes you as being radically wrong; Or if another’s views are something so incomprehensible that you think that they are from a different species: Their behaviors or attitudes are radically different.

In such cases, it is easy, and tempting, to put up the walls of separation. (These attitudes can spread into prejudices. For example, don trump has perhaps never had a meaningful conversation with a person of Mexican origin. So he wants to wall off an entire nation, a huge realm of the Earth with its population of Human Beings.)

It is easy to say, “Oh, trump himself is all bad. He is Radically Different, Radically Other, and so I’ll have absolutely nothing to do with him or society.”
Of course, the vast majority of us think that trump’s views are bonkers crazy. His views of people from other nations are views that are racist and wrong.

But the fact that the person named “don trump” has those views means that people can get mangled up enough to eventually land in these views.

But if we think about it….

One way of looking at our lives is that they are made by our choices. And if a person has made some unfortunate choices, that often lands them in deteriorating situations, in which the person makes yet worse choices. And so the downward spiral continues. Some drug addicts have grown up in poverty.

The person, or the person’s actions, reach a point where they seem to us to be monstrous. We might think of that person as a monster.

And don trump was born with a silver spoon in his ear. Obviously, his lack of parental love and his being a brat have had negative effects on his life.

If a person does the unconscionable, if a person does the ridiculous, well, that just means that a person can arrive at that situation. A person can simply get to that place. That’s all. We are still somewhat the same as that person. They have merely had different choices and different life situations that have led them to their (unfortunate) actions and attitudes.

The Duke of Wellington won the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most decisive battles in the history of warfare. Upon the return trip back home, he and his entourage passed a small village, where a person who had done something wrong was being led out to be hanged. One of the Duke’s attendants made a comment about the poor chap. The Duke of Wellington merely said, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

At a moment of huge victory, of giant personal accomplishment, which is a chance for pride, the Duke remembered the intimate connectedness of all people. And the shared status of our being Creatures, who, all of us, have been created by the same Creator out of the same Earth with the same Spirit within us.

No, we don’t need to accept the horrible behavior from an individual(s) in society. We can organize and move to stop evil legislation, for example. However, instead of reacting angrily to it, how might we look at it differently? From that new point of view, from that fresh perspective, how might we respond in a truly creative manner? How might we guide a person, or a government, to health?

And, if we remain centered, we’ll be able to get trump out of office as quickly as possible.

 

3) A Focus that Teaches; A Focus that Redirects Small Mistakes

 

Humanity is meant to be having an effect on creation.

Our pets and animals can learn from us. We have effects on them.

How much more do we have effects on other people.

We are social beings. (Capable also of thought and individuality.)

The word “virtue” is related to the ancient Latin word for “strength.” The Latin word for “man” is also cognate with the term.

If we are in a clear position of leadership, with employees, students, or children, how we act is the biggest way in which we can transmit models of behavior for them.

For example: It is good to have a classroom of students in which the young people really care about each other. (I have been a teacher at several places.) At specific times I would give the students brief spans of time when they were permitted to talk. On Friday afternoons I would open the playground and gym for them to have recreation, and it was all a great time.

In class, if two of them were talking at a time when I was teaching, I would try to use the smallest measures possible to refocus their attention. Without skipping a beat in the lecture, I would put my hand out and make motions to get the talkers’ attention and remind them to save their conversation for later. This worked most of the time. No need to get angry at them, to put them down, or to get myself flustered. Simple.

We can do the same with our own person. Instead of getting angry at ourselves about whatever, we say, “Ah, mental note, try to improve on this….” Or: “Ah, mental note, when this situation recurs next time, try to act in this way….”

We tend to respond better to small suggestions for course corrections.

Turning the rudder just a little bit can bring about significant, positive changes.

 

4) Forgiveness.

 

Well, an entire essay or book could be written just on forgiveness.

One of the desert monks used to invent reasons why he should forgive people.

The Song of Songs says: “Love is stronger than death.” How is that connected to forgiveness?

 

5) Every dawn is a new Creation. A New Genesis.

 

Love renews.

God is Love. (1 John 4:8; 4:16)

God wants us to learn to be Love.

God wants to share God’s being with us, and God’s being is Love.

Shunryu Suzuki was a master of Zen Buddhism who came to the U.S. from Japan. He wrote a wonderful book that has one of my favorite book titles: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. We are always beginning. We are always starting afresh. Our being is infinite because God created us and loves us. The more we tap into this reality, the more we will be able to constantly begin again. The more we can begin again, the more we incarnate this Reality in our living life.

We travel lightly. We begin again. We always start over. We always begin. With this attitude in place, we make wonderful progress in God’s good Creation.

 

Part II

Techniques

 

There are practices and thoughtful acts of attention that we can do throughout the day to make things better and more integrated in our lives.

 

1) Breath

 

With every breath we breathe we give life to the billions of cells in our bodies.

Breath is highly spiritual in all religions. In a moment of silence, even on the subway or bus, we can focus on our breathing. This centers us.

 

2) Stretching

 

body, muscles

mind

Stretching is good for our overall integration. If we stretch, our body and mind are closer together. Our mind is able to take some time and focus on our body. How the body feels, the joy of the body, the health of the body.

(If you have not been stretching recently, before you start, it would be good to consult a good video, book, or knowledgeable person about this.)

 

3) Enjoy a cup of tea

 

Having taught children and adults in urban, suburban, and rural areas, I’ve learned some things about helping people avoid stress and unnecessary tension. All people, including children, can have various stresses upon themselves.

For children, school itself can be stressful.

After work or school, go home. Prepare yourself a cup of tea. How you like it. Sip it in a relaxed way. Enjoy it. Taste it. No other agenda for this time.
(A lot of benefits come from this practice.)

 

4) Mantra

 

What is a mantra?

A mantra is a word or phrase, often from our favorite Scripture, that we repeat. Silently, interiorly. This radically simple practice has many benefits for us.

Part II of this essay will discuss mantra.

 

5) Meditation

 

There is a wide range of verbs, nouns, and practices that come under the term “meditation.” This word has been used in many ways.

 

The next part of this essay will discuss this at greater length too.

 

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