Sunday, June 18, 2006

He Stretched a Plank

Several days ago I was watching television and several stories from the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas were recounted. I had used at least two of the stories from this gospel as teaching tales in my book, The End of Reason. But there were other stories and one story, in particular, had eluded my grasp and I did not understand it. The story went that Jesus, while still a boy, was helping his father Joseph. Joseph had received an order from a rich man to construct a bed of specific proportions. When Joseph placed the wood in pairs before him, he found that one plank was shorter than another and that the bed could not be built. Seeing this, Jesus placed the planks next to each other. He grasped one end of the short plank and stretched it so that the length of the plank was now identical to the one beside it. Joseph wondered at this miracle. As this story was recounted, I understood at once what it meant.

In the workings of the world, men have specific expectations of God and fall into disbelief when God does not work in ways that they imagine He would or should. We are all of us subject to these expectations, though we should detach ourselves from them to see the truth of things. We expect, for example, Christ to heal the blind and raise the dead just as the Jews of his time expected Christ to become king, raise an army, and drive out the Romans. But this story, that he stretched a plank, seems odd and unnecessary; surely another plank could be found of the correct size. Yet the story, though it may be literally true, makes sense from a particular perspective. Such is the operation of God in the world, and this story is a parable of it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I was recently referred to as Imam Shawni. An Imam, whether meaning a prayer leader or a Muslim scholar, is a title of respect and, as such, should not be used to refer to me. I have never received nor ever accepted such a station and am in no way worthy of it. I am the least of the believers. I’ve written some pretty books. Yet it is often wiser to say nothing at all. Consider the better fate of Zachary, the father of John the Baptist:

“For three days his tongue was locked; silence from that sage was His sign, for what tongue can move without His leave?”


Rewards may come from scriptures, from sacrifice, from austerity and charity. But the reward that is most pleasing is attained only through renunciation of worldly rewards, through wisdom and faith, and these are open to those who know Him and who obey Him and follow the path He has revealed in the age for which He revealed it.

Heaven awaits those who worship heaven; and Hell awaits those who worship Hell. Yet heaven and hell shall pass away. Those who delight in the higher nature, desiring the higher nature are requited. Those who delight in the lower nature, who desire the lower nature, are requited. But these rewards have their ending in time. Worship Him and the reward is eternal and you find liberation. He is the Word and the source of the Word. He is the Voice and the One Who sees all. You may find Him within you, for He is everywhere always present. He is the throne, and the One Who sits in the throne. He is the scepter, and the One Who holds out the scepter. He is a river to His people, and the source of all waters. He is the kiss and the One Who kisses, the embrace, and the One Who embraces. He is at one moment Rama, at another He is Krishna, at another, the Buddha. Today He is Muhammad. Yesterday He is Jesus or He is Moses. Tomorrow He is King of Glory, Ancient of Days; the One you worship is not another than the One I worship. Soma brings illusion, but the Soma of His grace brings liberation from illusion. If He offers, drink deeply and give no thought to the opinions of men.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Always alive in Him, they do not find Him until they are dead to themselves.
Always alive, but sleeping, they do not awaken until they wake to Him.
Always free from this world, they are prisoners until they let go of the world.
His living creatures wander in death, and imagine they are alive.
His sleeping children revel in dreams, and imagine they are awake.
He has set them all free, but still they cling to the chains of this world.
The world does not bind them, except that they bind themselves to the world.
These self-imprisoned ones imagine that life is death and death is life, for they lack perception.