Something’s making mobius write a book about the King James Bible. Yes, Gaia made me do it…
It may liberate you to consider that the KJV offers a series of practices rather than an obligation to believe. Even the Commandments, which would seem to be the most straight forward of prescriptions, support this inclination toward practice rather than belief. The King James Version of Exodus 20, for example, reads “ I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” What exactly are readers instructed to do here? The first part of this “command” is actually a declaration: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” “Egypt”, of course, meant “slavery” to the audience of these commandments, so it is important to remember that the very beginning of this commandment describes a pathway to freedom and that it comes from an entity whose very name, “Yahweh” means “I am” or “pure being.” This gives us the hope and expectation that these commandments are a continuation of that path to freedom, a freedom that comes from our very nature or being. Yahweh likely did not free a people in order to enslave them. How to continue this freedom?
Next, we receive our recipe for freedom:“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This can sound like an imperative that is an obligation, an order which, if we violate it, condemns us as insubordinate, rebellious, disobedient. Yet if we actually carry out this command, we find that any violation of this commandment condemns us to slavery. How so? Reflect on this passage, repeating it slowly to your self, with eyes closed: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. “ What challenges to this unique status of Pure Being In Itself emerge in your mind?
Because we do not live in Ancient Greece or Rome, we probably do not struggle with the competition of, for example the goddess Diana, whose festival was witnessed by the apostle Paul in the New Testament. But in the words of theologian Paul Tillich, “god” is that to which we trace our “ultimate concern.” To what do we, in our actions and our minds, accord the highest value?
If we are truly honest with ourselves – a difficult task indeed – we will often realize that it is our selves – a being rather than Being Itself – that is our ultimate concern. And while the very existence of “Yahweh” ( being itself) can and should be subject to doubt, you will look in vain for evidence that the doubter has any but the most fleeting of existences. Ashes to ashes…It is downright hilarious that while debates about the plausible existence of the divine provide endless entertainment, it does not occur to most of us to doubt the existence of the debaters. Irish dramatist Terence Gray, aka “Wei Wu Wei”, transcribed it this way:
Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 per cent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself –
And there isn’t one.
Wei Wu Wei, “Ask the Awakened.”
The freedom offered by the King James Bible is not a “freedom to” but a “freedom from”: a freedom from the tyranny of the self. How do we achieve this? If we practice even the first commandment not as a commandment but as a recipe, we dwindle our investment in ourselves and replace it with an ultimate concern larger than ourselves, freeing us from the worship of our local and transient existence: Practicing beyond belief in our non existent selves, we are once again delivered from tyranny.