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 Seeking the Kingdom
By
Savitr Ishaya

All told, its been more than two years since I wrote a series of articles on Hebrew and Aramaic as sacred language. For some time now, I’ve wanted to write about certain key concepts that have emerged in my continuing exploration, because I’ve found them so profoundly integral to an understanding of Ascension — and vice-versa. Far from being intellectual detours that take one away from the experience of the Ascendant, for me they’ve been avenues toward an expansion of that very experience.

There has been a lively debate emerging of late as to whether the Christian gospels were originally written in Aramaic or in Greek. Several modern scholars who have examined both sides are beginning to argue for the former — a position that has always been held by the Eastern Orthodox churches — whereas the bulk of western scholarship leans heavily (and very conservatively) toward the latter. Every authorized translation used by the Catholic and Protestant churches, including the Latin Vulgate, is from Greek texts.

It has never been convincingly argued, however, that Jesus actually taught in Greek. True, Jesus lived in Hellenistic times, and Greek was widely spoken: But Jewish spirituality was the product of a centuries-old Semitic culture, and was directly related to language capable of expressing its every subtlety and nuance.

Argument over the original language of the gospels is academic at best: There can be no doubt that the Rabbi Jesus, in advancing the spiritual consciousness of his Jewish followers, would have spoken to them in words they fully understood. Religious leaders who invest so much energy in debating Greek versus Aramaic primacy would do well to ask, “Which results in greater spiritual understanding: the exclusivity and limitation produced by either / or, or the expansion and integration that can result from both / and?”

It therefore stands to reason that, if we want to understand Jesus’ teachings in their fullness, we must also look at their Aramaic and Hebrew expressions. But we ourselves are products of western cultural views, and our biblical doctrine comes from Greek and Latin translations. Are there any fundamental concepts of which we need to be aware, in order to avoid even deeper misunderstandings? Actually there are many; but we will begin with three, and allow others to evolve as part of later discussion.

First, it’s important to understand a bit about the composition of Aramaic and Hebrew. Each letter is considered a building block, as it were, of the universe, and as having particular qualities that interact with the qualities of every other letter. Groups of two or three letters form expanded meanings and, when combined with other groups, form words and sentences that can be read at many different levels of understanding. It is not enough to understand the definition of a word; to understand its meaning, one must understand all of its roots and patterns as well. This is where most of our biblical translators have done us — and themselves — a tremendous disservice.

The second has to do with the western tendency to “interpret” the bible “literally” (we seem to have ignored the fact that this is a contradiction in terms). This is contrasted by the Middle Eastern approach, in which interpretation or Midrash is a scholastic art in itself, and essential to a full spiritual experience. A truly significant text can have up to four levels of understanding, in which each level is enhanced and expanded — but never contradicted — by the next. These are:

Pashat, meaning “simple.” This is the literal meaning of the text. One might hear the Parable of the Sower, for instance, and come away with some good advice on gardening.

Remez, meaning “hint.” This is the implied meaning to which the reader is being directed, i.e., God’s word is the seed and it is up to the listener to become “fertile ground.”

Drash, meaning “search.” There can be even deeper, more cosmic or allegorical meanings, that are revealed by the deeper readings of certain words, or by comparing the text to others with similar intent. Why, for instance, does Jesus never use any of the traditional names for God, instead using forms of Abba (father) and Alaha (Sacred Unity) exclusively? Why is there so much agricultural imagery, with its emphasis on renewal, nourishment, and Holy Wisdom’s sumptuous banquet?

Sod, meaning “hidden.” This is the mystical, or secret, meaning of the text, and by definition realized as personal revelation. The reader is required to go deeply inside him/herself and meet the text at the level of pure experience, beyond the reach of intellect. This is true understanding, the essence of the ancient word gnosis.

Approaching scripture with openness toward ever-deepening understanding was “standard operating procedure” in Jesus’ era, as it still is in Jewish and Islamic practice today. That this is an important key to spiritual evolution is coded into the process itself: The initial letters of the four steps form the Hebrew word PaRDeS, which we translate as “Paradise.”

The third area has to do with a common misunderstanding about the history of western Christianity. In our era, the Church has been so dogmatically antagonistic toward meditation, mysticism, and any other form of personal gnosis that we tend to assume this has always been the case. But these and many other “interior” practices were all very much a part of mainstream Christianity until banned in the 15th century as an overreaction to the heresy of Quietism. One’s personal relationship to God, as an experience to be lived, was understood as central to the teaching of Jesus—and is currently being revived as a precious heritage of modern Christianity as well.

Having laid down a new and hopefully more expanded foundation, I’d like to re-explore a concept that is central to the teachings of Jesus as well as to Christian theology: The Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven. I hope to show that it is also vital to a better understanding of Ascension, especially as it enables us to use familiar symbols to understand experiences to which the Ascension Attitudes are opening us.

I think we’re all familiar with the definitions we’ve inherited from our western traditions and translations: “Kingdom” means “realm, kingship, royal rule, and reign;” “heaven” means “sky or firmament as opposed to earth,” and also “the dwelling place of God, the angels, and the righteous dead;” and “God,” of course, means “God.” I took these definitions directly from my Translators Dictionary of Biblical Greek, but everyone should find them very familiar; we can all agree that the definitions are fairly rigid — there’s just not a lot of “wiggle room” here.

So let’s contrast this with an exploration of the Aramaic understandings. Since written Hebrew is very similar to Old Aramaic, I will use a more modern font for contrast. This is the font used in the Aramaic Bible, and the reader should bear in mind that these languages are read from right to left, and use no vowels. I will transliterate the basic words, to illustrate:

The Aramaic word we translate as “kingdom” is malkutah, or 0tuklm ( Ah-T-K-L-M); the word we read as “heaven” is shemaya, or 0ym4 (Ah-Y-M-Sh ); and the word that Jesus always uses for “God” in this particular context is Alaha, or 0hl0. (Ah-H-L-Ah).

If we could imagine a western-style Grammar based on the Hebrew alphabet, it would be correct to say that the meaning of a word is presaged, or foreshadowed, by the meaning of its first letter. The first letter of malkutah is Meem ( m), which is an extremely feminine letter and which, at the beginning of a word, refers to a very proximate reality. Moving directly to the patterns formed by the individual root letters, we find the following: M-L = A full, or completely formed, expression; K-T = Envelopment, mystery, a hiding place; and Ah (Alap) by itself, meaning God, Sacred Unity, The All that gives birth to the all.

It is important to remember here that, according to our method of investigation, less subtle understandings are never contradicted, only enhanced. It is effortless and graceful to expand our western understanding of Kingdom, opening to it as feminine rather than masculine, as an immediate and enveloping mystery, the completely formed expression and presence of God. Clearly, we are talking about a condition of being, or of relationship, rather than merely the political “turf” of a sovereign.

Another rule in our imaginary Grammar is that Semitic words with similar spellings have meanings that are interrelated. The primary homonym of malkutah is makultah — another feminine word, meaning nourishment. Definitely more food for the mind: The nourishment being evoked by the homonymy is much more spiritual than physical.

I’ve dealt at length in previous articles with shemaya or shamayim, meaning heaven, so I’ll try to be concise here. The first letter, Sheen ( 4), signifies the harmony or peace that comes from moving beyond duality; hence its presence at the beginning of words like Shalom (fulfilment, peace) and Shabbat (Sabbath). It also evokes the indwelling and movement of Holy Spirit.

The combination of Sh-M produces the word shem — literally name, but meaning much, much more. As in Sanskrit, the Semitic concept of name is a uniquely personal spiritual expression: It is, holistically, the light, sound, radiance and vibration of a thing. Its power as radiance is expressed in the word shemesh, meaning sun. Its power as sound is reflected in shem’a, which means hear, hearken, understand, declare — “Shem’a, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One!” Its power as name is such that Ha-Shem (The Name) means God in Jewish tradition.

Mayim is a wholly feminine word first and last, with the final meem referring to unification and movement into infinite space. The Yodh ( y ) in the middle signifies both personal and transcendent consciousness, the bindhu point between Life’s infinite Source and its infinite Goal. Some forms of the word incorporate the letter Alap ( 0 ), meaning The Sacred One; in other forms it is merely, but always, implied. The literal meaning of Mayim is ocean; it requires no great imagination to see that it also refers to the cosmic ocean of consciousness so often discussed in the Sanskrit Vedas.

For a quick summary of Alaha, I will quote Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz: “In Aramaic, the name ALAHA refers to the Divine…. It means variously: Sacred Unity, Oneness, the All, the Ultimate Power/Potential, the One with no opposite. It is related to the name of God in Hebrew, Elohim, which is based on the same root word: EL or AL. This root could be translated literally as the sacred “The,” since it is also used as the definite article in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. If we think deeply into this, we find it suggests that every definite “article” — every unique being — should remind us of the one Unity. If only one Being exists, then every other being must have a share in it. Individuality is only relative in this view of God.1

To recapitulate our progress so far: If we perceive the word Kingdom as sovereignty, we must understand “sovereignty” as “that which is a ruling presence in the individual life.” It is neither a terrestrial nor an extra-terrestrial territory; it is, more than anything else, a context within which one CHOOSES to exist. The idea of choice is not contained within the word itself; but it is certainly conveyed by its New Testament usage, as we shall see.

So The Kingdom of Heaven expands, at deeper levels of understanding, to mean The ruling, nurturing, and overwhelming presence of the Cosmic Ocean of consciousness that is the light, sound, vibration and radiance of the Sacred One. Whew! Better read that again a few times to take it all in. Similarly, The Kingdom of God expands into The nurturing sovereignty of the Sacred Oneness that is God, that is the All. And, Jesus uses these terms interchangeably.

Before moving on, let’s take a look at the word shemayim (heaven) from a different perspective; i.e., as it is used in the opening of Genesis. The first verses of the Torah comprise an immensely, awesomely powerful spiritual and mystical treatise, about which — in spite of the fact that entire volumes have been written about them — very little is understood. The first lines run thusly, with my amplification:

In the beginning [B’reshith: “In principle; in unmanifest form; as archetypal or cosmic potential.”] God [Elohim: Literally, “The One that is the Many; Being of beings.” See earlier discussion.] created [bara: “created,” but directly related to barech — “To bless; to inspire; to enliven with the breath/spirit; to bring something that is ‘other’ into oneness.”]
heaven [eth ha shamayim, see previous]
and earth [w’eth ha aretz: In juxtaposition with shamayim, aretz is the tendency toward limitation, solidity]

[skipping ahead just a bit:] And the spirit [rouach: Spirit, breath, wind, the radiating forth of Life Force into the cosmic playground of Universal Life] of Elohim moved upon the face of the waters [ha mayim: The cosmic ocean of consciousness]

And Elohim declared, “Light Is!” and light was. And Elohim knew the light, that it was fruitful: and Elohim distinguished the light from the darkness.

The words of Genesis 1:1 are the seed from which the entirety of Torah springs: As such, they are fundamental to an understanding of true Judeo-Christian spirituality. Jesus fully understood every nuance of these words, and an exploration of them can take us to unparalleled levels of understanding and experience. But — as we proceed here — I would also ask you, the reader, to be conscious of your “eyes-closed” experience of the Ascendant, no matter how limited you may believe it to be.

How is the shamayim being described? B’reshith means that nothing is yet being cognised into manifest, physical existence; everything is happening at the level of the Unmanifest, the Absolute Reality that underlies all relative existence. Shamayim is created as blessing — as an act of unconditional love — and, therefore, as the embodiment of love and blessing. It is conscious; in fact, it is the Ocean of Consciousness from which all later Creation is birthed. The M’s of mayim are the Feminine principle: M is the Hebrew symbol for womb: as the initial letter it is very local, present; at the end, it moves out to infinity. The single letter separating the two M’s is Yod, which signifies the movement of God into temporal existence. Though inanimate, the shamayim is full of life; though empty, it is burgeoning with pregnant potential. Oddly, the shamayim seems to be a “place” where all duality exists in Unity, where opposites are not opposed; even Light and Dark exist undifferentiated, until Elohim separates them.

Many Ascenders describe their first experiences of the Ascendant as feeling like “being back in the womb,” or “being wrapped in a blanket of Love.” Later, they begin to realize they’re touching the Infinite: There are many more parallels in the paragraph above, but these must be for you to discover, either now or later. There is no “getting it right,” or “getting it wrong”; there is only your experience.

The point I want to make — and for you to discover from personal experience — is that what we call the Ascendant, and what Jesus calls Shemaya, are one and the same. The intellectualising and philosophising about them may seem quite different, but the personal, one-on-one experience of them are identical. Thus, when we talk about structuring Perpetual Consciousness by “Choosing for the Ascendant,” we are advocating the same process that Jesus described as Entering the Kingdom. This is an extremely important parallel, in its potential to help our minds “conceptualise” what we are choosing for, and how to go about it — because most Ascenders have a very narrow concept of “Choosing.”

The idea of choosing to live within a feminine kingdom-ness that embodies the light, sound, vibration and radiance of the Cosmic Ocean of Consciousness (the Sacred Unity-in-diversity) that is also the full expression and blessing of God is a powerful, powerful, powerful concept! Much more powerful than taking a short break from our dramas to “check in on” the Ascendant and say, “Oh, yes: it’s still there,” then fully immersing ourselves back in our dramas. The former means we are choosing for an entirely new reality base within which, and from which, we will live the fullness of our lives — insofar as we are able, until we have made a habit of it. The latter — drama — may keep us involved in the ethic of “doing,” but it won’t advance us very far at all.

When one “enters the Kingdom,” the old maps and rule books don’t apply anymore. One has committed to leaving the old playing field and entering a totally new game — thankfully, one of joy, expansion and infinite love — and mastering it requires diligence and patience. It’s not difficult, but it can be challenging and it does take time; this is what builds one’s spiritual muscles. It involves transitioning away from “My worth comes from what I do,” and into a radical new unlimited worthiness of being, in which all creating and “doing” flow effortlessly, harmoniously and productively from one’s centeredness in Infinite Presence.

The original Covenant of the Jewish faith was Torah, a word that derives from Aor, the Hebrew word for light — the same light described in Genesis and many other times in the Bible. This light / Torah / Covenant was embodied as the direct Heart-to-heart communion that YHWH2 offered mankind, and for which the Commandments were substituted when it was rejected. The New Covenant promoted by Jesus was the kingdom of heaven (or of Sacred Unity); living totally within the overwhelming Presence of “ I am That!”

In the Ishaya Tradition, the Ascension Attitudes are the tools we use to “knock on the door” of the Kingdom. As we practice Praise, Gratitude, Love and Compassion as antidotes to our personal root stresses, we begin to see why our religious hymns are so full of the same principles. Then — as the Ascension Attitudes heal the nervous system and we begin to experience and explore the kingdom of heaven itself — we can know, first-hand, the depth of words spoken two millennia ago in Galilee.

Our investigation has only taken us only partially into the second (Remez) and third (Drash) levels of understanding outlined earlier. There is a lot more that can be received, for those who don’t mind a little effort. Rereading any sacred text through the eyes of personal experience can be quite mind-boggling, and a lot of fun. Play the game yourself with the New Testament — try substituting, for instance, “Alaha” (including all of its subtle nuances) wherever you encounter the word God. Does deeper understanding alter the meaning of the words on the page? Let’s look at a few occurrences (King James Version) of “the Kingdom” from our new (Expanded) perspective, to see what patterns of meaning are being compounded in the aggregate:

Matthew 3:2 etc:
KJV: “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Exp: “Return to your Source (Tab), for within reach / being offered (qerevah) is malkutah d’bshemaya!”
[cf. Sanskrit bramacharya, study of the One.]

Matthew 5:3 etc:
KJV: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Exp: “Fortunate are they who have surrendered everything to spirit (l’meskaynay b’rukh), because to them is malkutah d’bshemaya!”
[cf. Sanskrit ishvara pranidhana, surrender to the Supreme Being.]

Matthew 6:33 etc:
KJV: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Exp: “But be irresistibly drawn (Law), from the very depths of  to malkutah d’alaha, and3your original Being and your very blood (l’uqdam) faithful alignment (zadiquteh) with it; then all things will be added in fullness as you surrender your smallness to the Infinite One (mithtuspan).”
[cf. “Choose!”]

Matthew 13:11 etc:
KJV: “. . .It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…”
Exp: “To you it is given to know the mystical meanings and interior pathways (raza) of malkutah d’bshemaya”
[cf. Sanskrit svadhyaya, study of the Self.]

Matthew 13:45 etc:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
[cf. Commitment; choice; and Sanskrit samtosha, contentment.]

Matthew 16:19 etc:
KJV: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Exp: “And I will give you the keys of malkutah d’bshemaya, and whatever you tie yourself to (tesrun)in the manifest world (b’ar’ah), to that extent you will be constricted (asir) in [your experi­ence of] shemaya;and whatever you let go of (tishron) in earthly things (b’ar’ah), to that extent you will be freed (shri’) in shemaya.”
[cf. Sanskrit aparigraha, non-grasping; non-attachment; tapah, austerity; bramacharya, self-restraint.]

Mark 10:15 etc:
“Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive malkutah d’alaha like a little child will by no means enter it.”
[cf. Perfect innocence.]

John 3:5:
KJV: “...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Exp: “If a man is not born from interior and cosmic consciousness (maya) and spirit (rukha) he is not able to enter into malkutah d’alaha.”
[cf. Sanskrit svadhyaya, study of the self; bramacharya, study of the One.]

It is my hope that, by merging these Aramaic understandings with our discussions on choosing for the Ascendant, we’ve cultivated a new awareness — and recognition! — of what the Goal is and how to move toward it. If we’ve enlivened some old dogma by moving it back into the realm of living experience, so much the better; but if we’ve enlivened the journey toward the Goal, we’ve accomplished something truly worthwhile. May your journey be one of increasing beauty and grace, and may you find your days ever more filled with the promise of Isha and the Ishayas:

“I will give to you what no eye has looked upon, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, and what has not arisen in the mind of man.”4

Notes

1 The Hidden Gospel, page 27. Even the concept of self, as understood in first century Judea, admitted of no boundaries; it implied infinite extension, both inward to the qualities of one’s most essential being and outward to one’s neighbours, one’s surroundings, and all the way to the stars. Of course this doesn’t mean that the Jews of Jesus’ time — or even his disciples — lived as one with all of humanity; as always, it is the enlightened ideal rather than the human reality that is being reflected in the language.

2 YHWH as a name for God is too all-inclusive to be bound by words, which is why it can never be pronounced. [“The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.”] To approach it, think of the Manifest and the Unmanifest, separate and One, together — having been, being, and becoming, all at the same time.

3 QDM points to Genesis 1: Dam refers to anything that flows, such as blood, sap, wine.

4 Gospel of Thomas 17.1

 


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