The Five Greatest Stories in Sacred Texts

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The Five Greatest Stories in Sacred TextsThe following piece is written by Lillian Ann Slugocki, Co-founder, with ModernLifeBlogs author Deborah Oster Pannell, of Project Mavens, and Publisher of their digital imprint, BlueViolet Press.

The criteria for my choices:

1. Beautifully written

2. Devoid of orthodoxy, ideology and doctrine

3. Rich in allegory, and metaphor

4. Life lessons from great teachers

1.  From the Old Testament and the Kabbalah

The Song of Songs

I am a rose of Sharon,

a lily of the valleys.

as an apple tree among the trees of the forest,

so is my beloved among the young men.

With great delight I sat in his shadow,

and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Exegesis:

Two lovers search for each other in this mystical allegory, found both in the Old Testament and the Kabbalah. It is a dream inside of a dream. It is a man searching for a woman.  It is a woman searching for a man. The writer gets inside of human desire and renders it in some of the most sensual language that has ever been written.  Some scholars claim that it’s an allegory for the marriage of God to His people.

Other scholars believe that it is an iteration of an even older ancient Near Eastern text, which in turn is an iteration of an even older oral tradition, and so it goes. Time out of time.  Within this context, the man and the woman represent a union of opposites, a mystical marriage, that not only ensured the fertility of the earth, but mankind itself.  I tend to believe the latter.   The Song of Songs is meant to be read out loud— by candlelight and a glass of cold white wine.  Preferably when the moon is full. It doesn’t hurt to have someone standing close by, in case you want to reach out and touch someone.  Read the full text here.

2. From The Gnostic Gospels

The Thunder: Perfect Mind

The Gnostic Gospels  were discovered, buried in the sand, in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, December, 1945, along with a copy of Plato’s Republic. The best account of this is by Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton. And these gospels, of course, are very different from the canonical gospels— found in standard editions of the Bible, for example, King James.  The good news in the former is that God is inside of you.  And can either be male or female.  Further, you  do not need an intermediary to make this connection; you do not need priests, rabbis, monks, brothers, bishops, cardinals, popes or even nuns. I don’t see how any woman can read The Thunder: Perfect Mind, and remain the same. The strong female voice rings with authority, with confidence, with agency and divinity.  Also thought to be part of an even older, oral tradition. As a woman brought up on the virgin/whore dichotomy of the Catholic religion, I read this on a regular basis. For validation.  For joy.

For I am the first and the last.

I am the honored and the scorned,

I am the harlot and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.

I am the m[oth]er and the daughter.

I am the members of my mother.

3. From The Mahabharata

Bhagavad Gita

I am Rama:

of sea monsters, Makara;

of river, the Holy Ganges;

of creations, the beginning and end

and the middle as well. Arjuna of knowledge,

knowledge of the Self;

of oraters. I am Speech.

Exegesis:  

Bhagavad Gita, or song of the Lord, begins  a very long time ago, on the eve of a great battle.  In this stunningly powerful Sanskrit poem, a warrior chief speaks to his charioteer about his misgivings, his fear— the day’s fighting promises to be fierce.  Many lives will be lost, blood will run like a river, alongside the Ganges.  The charioteer is Krishna, the warrior is Arjuna.  We are perhaps meant to view the battlefield as a metaphor for our lives, for our constant struggle to strike a moral and ethical balance within our actions, or thoughts, even our dreams.  This excerpt of the poem references Makara, an avatar of the ideal man.  Also, Rama, a sea monster from Hindu mythology, said to guard the gates of temples.  I hear a series of riddles, written in a distinct contrapuntal rhythm, the answers to which, speak of the true nature of both God and Man.  My translation: I am all the things that you know and you see, I have been here since the beginning of time, I am words, I am language, I am river, I am monster, myth and man.

4.  From Reflections on the Art of Living, edited by Diane K. Obson

Lecture Notes from Joseph Campbell

The goal of the hero trip

down to the jewel point

is to find those levels in the psyche

that open, open, open,

and finally open to the mystery

of our Self being

Buddha consciousness

or the Christ.

That’s the journey.

Exegesis:

Joseph Campbell, teacher and mythologist.  Seeker, student, scholar, human.  He unleashed the power of the hero’s journey, by connecting it to the trajectory of our own life. This is an old, old story, Campbell tells us, and it’s been around for good reason: We are everyman, and our lives are a quest, and we need teachers and tutors, we need belief and courage.  We meet devils and angels, we carry on, even when we are weary, and sometimes when we finally return home, we are transformed.  The divine resides inside of us, in our psyches and in our souls.  For Campbell, the journey, or the quest is the search for this truth. The path of individuation. That is the transformation, that is “Buddha consciousness or the Christ.”  From a Jungian point of view, it is the collective unconscious.  The hero’s journey is also a monomyth, one that exists across all cultures and all times.  I find the image of “the jewel point” particularly compelling; a metaphor of the light inside of us, the grace, and the divinity.

5. One with All of Thee

Growing Your Sacred Connection

What you have learned to do in this existence is to depend on your sheer will to overcome obstacles, that which you do not want in your life. Determination is considered a virtue. Perfection is something for which you strive. But perhaps you are looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps you should change your perspective.

Exegesis:

A couple of months ago, as publisher of BlueViolet Press, it was my job to copy edit a new manuscript, One With All of Thee.  About a woman in North Carolina who is receiving messages from a higher being. You may have read about it here.  To my surprise, I was profoundly engaged with every single word I read.  It possessed the voice that I’d come to expect from reading all the other, more famous, sacred books; compassionate, wise, non-judgemental, filled with love. Reading the above marked a turning point in my life.

I was editing the manuscript in a small city park— in the shadow of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and a canopy of ailanthus trees.  Sunday afternoon, late May. An idyllic, but by no means, extraordinary day.  Until I read the above quote. In literary terms, this would be an epiphany.  In religious terms, this would be a miracle.  In psychoanalytic Jungian theory, the anima turns and recognizes the animus.  In the Bible, a revelation.

For years, I had been struggling with a particular issue.  The harder I worked, the worse it got.  The worse it got, the harder I worked. I worked like Sisyphus pushing that big rock up a hill, only to have it roll right back down again.  Perhaps you can relate. But in that moment, in the park, my laptop on a picnic table, in the shade of the ailthanus trees, I let it go. I  changed my perspective. Weight lifting off my shoulders.  I never imagined the resolution of this conflict would be so graceful, so easy.

Conclusion:

Find a story, any story, and tell it to yourself every chance you get.

To learn more about One With All of Thee: Growing Your Sacred Connection, come visit our Facebook page and let us know if you Like us!

Image Credit : Joe Mangrum

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Project Mavens is a boutique content branding firm specializing in editorial and literary content, multimedia design and collaborative partnerships. They create websites, blogs, newsletters, business copy, live events, and books.
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