Sacred texts, whether Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or Jewish are books which are revered by many all over the world. As a matter of fact they are best sellers each and every year; however, they are also the most misunderstood ones; as well as having had their context be manipulated over the years for various reasons. In many ways one could say these books could be considered “dark” regarding their meaning, but are they? Let’s examine this further…
When I use the word dark regarding these sacred texts, I am in no way implying they are “bad”, rather they could be considered like other sacred texts which are considered “occult”. The word “occult” through ignorance has been associated with malevolent forces at play, damaging to the human spirit. Yet the occult simply means hidden, which is exactly what many sacred texts like the above ones or the Gnostic, Sumerian, Egyptian texts are… “hidden books”. Some are hidden because of their double meaning, others are considered occult/hidden because those in charge decided it contradicted the story they wanted to sell. Let me reiterate then, that the sacred texts first mentioned are by the actual definition of the word, occult texts. To further explain this, I will pick only one of the sacred books already mentioned; perhaps the most known by all…the Bible.
To billions all over the world, the bible is the “source” of divine authority that legitimizes what is “good” and points out what is “bad”; unfortunately its true understanding requires a cultural and historical knowledge few have. This has made it so that most of its readers cannot go beyond a very limited understanding, which is also conditioned by dogmas; this in turn has made many people, prisoners of beliefs which in the long run have only caused harm.
The bible is actually a collection of books (as its very name indicates), which were put together to achieve a common goal; to show the way of the plan of the Christian God. However, it is evident no matter how much they wanted us to get a single message, the books within the bible varied in nature; some even contradict each other.
These books can be read in more than just one way; literally, metaphorically and esoterically. For example: Paul’s epistles can be read literally or esoterically, this is because his writings are theological and even mystical in nature; hence there is so much controversy over certain passages which have been interpreted as Gnostic in nature.
Why is there so much divergence between biblical texts? To understand this better, it is important to remember that the books which make up the bible come from different peoples and were written at various times. It took about a thousand years for those books to be written, add to that each peoples had their own complexity and history and all that implies; different realities, circumstances, conflicts, beliefs, etc.
It is also important to point out the books of the bible are not organized by order of writing; the books that appear first are not the oldest. For example, Genesis appears as the first book yet it is not the oldest in the bible (as a matter of fact Genesis was written as a copy of a book by the Sumerians about origin). Genesis; as we know it in the Bible; was written much later than other texts like the book of Kings or Judges. Similarly we see this happen within the New Testament, where the epistles of Paul which were written around 50 A.D appear after the gospels, when in reality the gospels were written in later years and not by disciples, hence the words “according to…”.
Furthermore, many texts had paragraphs and chapters added or inserted, this means there are parts older than others within the same text; a perfect example are the book of Judges and the book of kings, which could have been written around the 9th or 10th century B.C but underwent partial additions and reworkings in later centuries by priestly scribes and scholars. It was also a normal practice to write on behalf of another; a practice which carried onto the New Testament. For example: Paul’s pastoral letters, which are not actually Paul’s but were written by others on his behalf. Paul’s actual epistles are: Romans, Galatians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon. Interestingly, in Paul’s actual epistles there are Gnostic passages, while in the others the “supposed Paul” attacks those who deviate from the authority of the bishops.
We also have the limitations that translations always imply. Not only because when something is normally translated from one language to another, part of its original meaning is lost due to cultural differences, but also because we are talking about very old languages. On several occasions when a word is translated in a certain way into any modern language, it does not really capture what it meant in its historical moment. Let me give you an example where translation or rather manipulated translation was used: Matthew 8:5-8 “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed“.
The original text is written in Greek, it uses the word “pais” where the bible uses the words boy and servant. In a superficial way “pais” can be translated as a young boy or a servant; however, if we review the writings of that time and the actual root of the word, we realize the word “pais” was normally used to refer to a young male lover of a soldier–a very widespread custom at the time and which explains why the centurion; who was a captain of the Roman Guard; was so concerned and so interested in the boy getting well. Let us not forget during those times a servant meant nothing. More importantly however, is the fact that the writings of the time don’t lie; “pais” meant young male slave or lover; we cannot simply push that fact aside to make things more palatable for us, yet that is what the church chose to do. In just that small fragment which I used as an example, we can see not only a simplistic “mistranslation” but also how the understanding of the reality of those times got lost. Of course it is understandable those who composed the Bible preferred the simple translation; you can imagine why.
Reading and understanding Sacred Books is a Titanic challenge and it takes discipline, for one needs to be willing to dive in and learn rather than simply let others do the thinking. It not only implies a deep study and knowledge of ancient languages and disappeared cultures but also of history, theology and philosophy; they were not “simple” hands that composed those book but true scholars, leaders and mystics.
We should not be surprised then that in the name of these “Sacred Books”, there has been so many conflicts and discussions; people who interpret it in their own way to what best suits them and then use it as an excuse to impose a certain way of thinking and living.
Let us also remember these books conformed to following a precise political, ideological and theological criteria, for that reason many texts were not included and others were banned. For example regarding the bible, the book of Enoch which was apparently written in the 1st century B.C was not included; this happened because it did not conform to the idea the bishops of the 4th century wanted to convey–That is also why the Gnostics texts were excluded, they would not have served their political agenda and the doctrine they wanted their church to follow. In fact, the biblical canon was established for the first time in the year 393 at the Synod of Hippo; after the Council of Nicaea ( The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325. This ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all Christendom)–The Synod of Hippo refers to the synod of 393 which was hosted in Hippo Regius in northern Africa during the early Christian Church. Additional synods were held in 394, 397, 401 and 426; these means the books were put together centuries after the events took place. Similarly it more or less happens throughout other cultures, regarding other sacred texts.
Sacred books are valuable yet very complex, unfortunately the writings and lectures have been manipulated over time; because it is convenient to force dogma and get most people to simply follow than to teach them to think for themselves, to search and to discover beyond their “line” of faith. The value of all ancient and sacred texts, lies not in their compartmentalization but on study of them as part of a whole.
Reality remains, we were not there to witness any events; it is naive to say “these books were inspired by God but not those ones”, such sentence only reflects our limitations and lack of desire to know the truth; or at least get as close to it as possible. That type of thinking reveals people more concerned with belonging to a group than with understanding divinity as is. I feel it is best to approach these texts the way one would approach a puzzle; you can’t solve it if you choose to simply use some of the pieces.
More importantly, let them be of guidance not doctrine, for your heart already knows what your mind has forgotten. It comes down to approaching them not out of fear, not out of need to escape self responsibility or laziness; not wanting to do the inner work it takes to grow as a human being; but let’s approach them as one would when diving into new unclaimed territory. Let their mysteries and untamed waters flush through; who knows what you will discover as you dive deeper….maybe just maybe, we will then start to truly comprehend, maybe then we will be more humane and less concerned with earning a make belief badge to grant us access into some make belief heaven.
Heaven and hell are already here; divinity resides inside and all around; what is someone’s hell may be someone else’s heaven. In my opinion the point isn’t to separate lightness from darkness; for they both live inside and cannot be denied. They both carry within gifts (lessons/wisdom), the point is to live building a life which serves the best in you, the genuine you, which in turn will help those around you and that helps the world.