Kolob

I know of a lot of people who think Mormons aren’t “real” Christians. I always thought that was an interesting and hypocritical view because so many of the Christian denominations spun off because of a similar view of another denomination. To my knowledge, Mormonism is the only one that stood away on its own because of an additional revelation and not just a new understanding of the same scriptures used by everyone else. (Although, to a smaller degree this did happen when Protestantism became a thing and so there’s a difference between the Catholic and Non-Catholic bibles.)

I recall one gal I am fond of, and who is a very devout young lady, telling me that Mormonism is a cult. To that I simply reminded her that in its own formative years, original Christianity (which of course wasn’t called that then) was THE picture definition of a cult: Smallish group of people who saw a human as a man-god and made a new religion from it. (AND a Middle Eastern cult, no less, which really made her cringe)

For a lot of reasons I won’t go into here, I explore Mormonism when I have the time. It’s low on my priority list because I’m not at all looking to change paths, but I do like to understand the world as much as possible and I’m somewhat curious by nature. I’ll tell you now that I’m usually more intrigued by what I read than I am put off. If you remove Mormonism from arenas like politics where it’s too easy to force views onto other people, and just start digging to see how deep you can go just to see the religion as religion, then you may be surprised. As a gay person, I can say that there is certainly a hard line that prevents Mormonism from ever being anything I could seriously consider – too much on their various sites confirms a general consensus that I am, at best, second class and in need of fixing. Been there, done that (with the Baptists) and I have no interest in a repeat. But all that aside, which is really putting aside A LOT,  there are many things about the Mormon path that I find to be encouraging and helpful.

In some of my studies, I sometimes find things that most who are simply curious would maybe not come across. I’m usually looking for things that set it apart from being just one more bland denomination of Christianity. One of those is “Kolob” and I wanted to write just a little about it because the hymn has very much impressed me.

Below you’ll see a short, modern music video of a hymn that is uniquely Mormon and to say I love it would be a great understatement. It’s called “If You Could Hie to Kolob” and I love it because it seems to parallel some deep teachings of Hinduism in some unexpected ways… At least, that’s the case from where I sit, and I love seeing where religions overlap. Before you read more and start to feel the need to correct me on anything let me be clear about something: I’m viewing this through Hindu lenses. My understanding or interpretation may or may not fall in line with what Mormonism teaches, but that’s not at all my concern. Anyway, there are a number of YouTube videos showing different renditions of this hymn and I encourage you to search them. You can click here for a display of the lyrics offered by the Latter Day Saints, although below I’ll share more about the lyrics.

 

 

 

 

From various LDS sources (misc. websites and blogs, etc…which I’m not going to cite here) I’ve learned much. I’ve learned that Kolob is a planet-star that is physically the nearest to the actual physical location of Heaven or God. My understanding of the Mormon layout of the universe has Kolob as among the very first of all creations in the physical universe, thus the physical proximity to God, Itself. Creation expanded out from God which is the Source and Center of all and everything and there also seems to be a natural hierarchy and status of everything which correlates directly to a thing’s proximity to God in the physical universe. So the farther you are from God the “lower” you are… kinda. Get the idea?

With that understanding, Kolob is extra special, extra exalted, and extra symbolic. From a physical standpoint, Kolob is the nearest to God and so presides over what is less near. Additionally, Kolob symbolically represents Jesus who is the Christ of the Christians. Jesus is the first “creation” and sits nearest the Father and has dominion over that life which is less near to the Father. And this extra layer of meaning, regardless of the mistakes I might have just made in explanation, is one way the hymn really impresses me.

The first verse of the hymn (284) goes like this…

“If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye, And then continue onward with that same speed to fly, Do you think that you could ever through all eternity, Find out the generation where gods began to be?”

Speakers of modern English don’t know the word “hie.” It’s basically synonymous with the verb to hasten. “If you could hie to Kolob” is kind of explained by the second line which uses “twinkling of an eye”… AKA If you could get to Kolob REAL fast. But stopping at the closest place to our Source isn’t enough – we need to actually get there if we can (“… and then continue onward…”). The end of this first verse ties it directly into the second one.

If you could speed your way toward God, toward the Source, then you could pass the generation in which the first gods arose, the grand beginning where space came to be, and (in my interpretation, at least) into even the last cycle of the universe when gods and matter ceased. The last three lines of the second verse really speak to something Heartfulness and Sahaj Marg and Hinduism consider among the most supreme ideas: The idea of pure space where nothing has a place is the Zero, the Central Region. Most religious people, regardless of how they define words like “God” or “Gods,” won’t entertain idea of what might have been “before,” but here it seems to be a direct consideration.

Moving on to verse two….

“Or see the grand beginning where space did not extend? Or view the last creation where gods and matter end? Methinks the Spirit whispers, ‘No man has found pure space, nor seen the outside curtain where nothing has a place.'”

The rest of the hymn is descriptive and continues to add to the layers of meaning and insight – a very Hindu trait.

“The works of God continue and worlds and lives abound. Improvement and progression have one eternal round. There is no end to matter; there is no end to space. There is no end to spirit; there is no end to race. There is no end to virtue; there is no end to might. There is no end to wisdom; there is no end to light. There is no end to union; there is no end to youth. There is no end to priesthood; there is no end to truth.”

That’s most of the rest of the hymn and chunks stand out like shining stars to me…. Worlds and lives abounding, improvement and progression having an eternal round, no end to matter or space, no end to wisdom, no end to light, no end to truth. I’m sure I’m seeing these is some ways very different than the meaning meant in the Mormon context, but I don’t think that matters. I’m sure my view and theirs are more alike than not and even if that’s not the case I’m still very much enjoying to find such possible depth in a place so surprising to me.

I’ll close by spelling out a last verse of the song, which shares two very significant lines from the hymn – there is no end to love and there is no end to being.

“There is no end to glory; there is no end to love. There is no end to being; there is no death above.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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After You’re Gone

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Some time ago, I ranted on Facebook about how offensive I found the Mormon practice of “baptizing the dead.” I feel very strongly that this practice violates some kind of cosmic rule of live and let live. When I ranted, a number of my own family members who became Mormon after my grandfather’s passing, spoke up and said that I was wrong about that ritual and that I shouldn’t speak out about things like this because it makes me some kind of hypocrite. To be clear, it’s my understanding that this kind of baptism merely presents the dearly departed with a chance to accept the Mormon belief structure and gain the Mormon afterlife. Also, the hypocrisy referenced by my disgruntled relatives is apparently in regard to my critical attitude about someone else’s views or practice which my family members – knowing next to nothing about Hinduism – think goes against Hinduism. In this case, they would perhaps not be wrong within certain contexts, but in this context specifically they are still not necessarily right, either.

This weekend I’m spending more time at the computer than is usual because it’s my turn in my department’s on-call rotation. As I was logging on recently, I saw some kind of news headline mentioning that two popes were gaining sainthood “to bridge a divide” or something. It struck me… These two dudes were resting in peace, burning in hellflame, or maybe tossing crowns at Jesus’ feet or something (do only Protestant souls do this or Catholics, too?) and now their own afterlives are about to change entirely when they are sainted and begin interceding on behalf of Catholic believers who want something.

All this afterlife meddling. WTF?

Whatever happened to simply offering food and a little homage to our deceased relatives and letting past lives be past lives? I’ll admit, it’s a little tough for me to understand how devout people can be cool with trying to change the afterlives of their loved ones without their permission. But who am I?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Neti, Neti(Neti)

It’s pretty much been a month since I last wrote here. No good reason exists for this, really, aside from sometimes I feel like I’m about to pop and need to step back from a number of things. As much as I enjoy having a presence here, and as much as I enjoy hearing from you all on here, bloggering is currently an easy thing to step back from. So, with that said, please excuse my distance and my silence, and thanks for continuing to read my words.

The saying, “Neti, Neti” means essentially, “Not this, not that” and is employed be jnanis, among others, in the process of discerning Brahman’s nature and attributes. Because of the absoluteness of Brahman, a truer and truthfully more accurate way of knowing Truth is often found in knowing what Truth is not, thus, Neti-Neti. I sometimes use this when asked where I want to eat for dinner. I might not know what I’m in the mood for, but I can usually tell you what I’m not in the mood for, and so the process of refinement begins as to where dinner will be served.

I feel this concept applies to each of us as we’re on our journey toward Self-Realization, toward our real Nature which is Brahman. Obviously, because of our egos and individual experiences and individual karmas, the most base application of Neti-Neti is as it pertains to our minute, personal, human experience.

In that context, as far as my personal experience of Brahman in my life, I tend to view the episodes in my life as part of this process of elimination/refinement. I have an experience. Does it point to Truth or doesn’t it? Hinting at Truth is something everything everywhere does, so that doesn’t count. But does an experience, or a person, or dogma, or anything…does it definitively point to Truth? If not, learn from it and move on. Such is the case, in my life, for Christianity.

A co-worker, as part of our discussion today, stated that Mormonism is an un-Christian cult. I suppose if I looked more into it I might could agree with this, but that would be irrelevant. For the sake of balance, I responded that in it’s beginning what we now call Christianity was viewed as no different by folks who weren’t Christians. They were indeed, a small dissenting group of people who wandered around claiming their leader is God. Mormons were never fed to lions by the Romans for entertainment, but otherwise there are actually quite a number of parallels between the Mormons and the rest of Christianity. My co-worker didn’t care for these remarks and the conversation ended quickly. Apparently what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the… goose.

I’m currently taking a humanities class in which, as part of a recent assignment, I’m basically being asked to pretend I’m either Christian or Jewish. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say I’m not happy. The concept is just fuzzy enough that the school can get away with it, but the work is still clear. I think part of what’s so vile about this assignment, beyond pretending to be something I’m not, is that I have to pretend to promote and condone what I don’t agree with. Sugar on top? One of my co-students and team mate on this project is a middle-aged woman who is unapologetically Christian and when we were hashing out responsibilities for this project she was quick to point out that not only is Christianity the only religion on the planet that encompasses all others, but that the cross is the only religious symbol which is found in all other religions.

Jesus-Fucking-Christ… this is what I’m dealing with. Before this class is over, there may well be a scene because after allowing my toes to be stepped on a few times by the school’s curriculum and classmates’ remarks, I’m actually quite liable to tell a bitch to go to hell and slide her some hand-written directions.

So, the convsersation today… class work from last week… Now let’s back up quite a bit. Let’s revisit my teen years briefly.

For a short time, during my teens, I was the only Christian in my family. To say I was a monster for Jesus would probably be something of an understatement. My intentions were as noble as they come, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t also vile at their source. I’ll spare most of the details, because they amount to this: I was about as typical as it could get for being a zealous Christian teen. The only way it would have been worse is if my parents were Christian, too.

This business lasted a few years until I was around 17 or close to 18. It was just before 18 that I began makng it known to my church youth group that I found a lot of evidence that the Bible/Jesus/God didn’t condemn gays. I was doing this rather gently and secretly because I intended to work my way into a position to come out to them. However, the youth pastor decided to nip the whole thing in the bud(butt?) and called me to his home one evening.

Sitting in his library, he said it’d been brought to his attention that I was spreading “false doctrine.” I explained, as best I could for being neither an adult nor a Bible scholar, that I didn’t believe Christianity condemned gays. His next move was to asked, “Do you consider yourself a homosexual?” I answered in the affirmative. Upon receiving that answer, he assured me, “There’s no place in the youth group, or anywhere else in the church, for someone like you.”

Sitting on his couch alone, and virtually defenseless, I could do nothing by look toward my feet and begin to sob. In the years leading up to this moment, I had actually done more than plenty to distance myself from my family-for the sake of Jesus. And here, an actual man of god was dismissing me entirely. The following months brought the best that church could offer in “therapy,” which amount to nothing. I had already cried myself to sleep numerous nights because I didn’t understand why I am gay. I sought out hetero porn, thinking it might “stick” and change my inclinations. I had girlfriends. I prayed at home, hidden in my bedroom’s closet (irony, no!?!?), the most private place I knew… and I’d prayed down front at my church’s altar. Nothing-which I’m so very thankful for.

I know many good people. Very very dear people to me, who happen to be Christians. Many of these folks would claim people like those others “aren’t real Christians.” That’s simply not true, though. These Christians who are dear to me, I think exhibit the purest Christianity, but chances are great that the vast majority of all the other fellow Christians on this planet still say my old church is correct. In fact I know this to be true, even in my life today. It wasn’t enough that I was literally kicked out as a teen (I had to sign some paper, too, after being asked “one last time”), but now as an adult Christians are the leading reason for why I’m unable to marry the man I’ve dedicated the biggest chunk of my adult life to.

As disappointing as this is going to sound, and forgive me for sounding jaded/hurt/judgemental, I’m convinced that nearly everything Abrahamic is violent and destructive. Throughout world history, into today, and in many places in my own life this has been the truth of experience. When I consciously and conscientiously seek Brahman, and encounter most things Abrahamic, the “still small voice” within invariably chants, “Neti, Neti.”

Om Shanti