I recently encountered something rather amazing: in the Middle East, various Muslims have been reporting on direct encounters they have had with Jesus Christ. This is significant, as Muslims have been brought up from childhood having been taught that Jesus is just a prophet, and that the Bible is inaccurate. Many do not even have access to the Bible, but even if they do, they tend to not read it. And given the hostile foreign policy of the United States against the Middle East, and its biased support for Israel, they are not likely to listen to western missionaries. Given such a bias, they are extremely unlikely to have invented such a report. In some countries, they have been killed and persecuted for reporting such encounters. The first time I heard of this came from Iran - I can highly recommend the book Miracle of Miracles, by Mina Nevisa. Reading it, one is struck by the callous disregard for Christianity one often sees in the West, where materialism reigns, and religion is one of belief only, but not of life. It is about a woman who converted from Islam to Christianity, who had to flee from Iran, and the stubborn resistance concerning this from her own father - until her own father had a direct encounter with Jesus as well after many years of prayer by his daughter:
The booming voice sounded again. It said; "Do you know who I am? I am the Bread of Life."Thinking the presence was Allah, the amiable old man said, Allaho Akbar, which means God is Great. "No, you are mistaken" came the voice. "I am not Allah" it said. Immediately the old man knelt down, and then a radiant figure (Jesus) appeared in front of him.Muslims will typically reject such worship as it is regarded as the worship of a human being, or something created. What they do not understand is that while Jesus was born as a man like you and I, his soul was Divine - and upon the resurrection of his body he had transformed and expelled everything that he had inherited from his human mother, and made his body Divine. This is unfortunately not explained well by the Catholic Church nor its offshoot of Protestantism, but it is explained in detail in the revelations of Emanuel Swedenborg. One thing the Quran is correct on is that it rejects a trinity of three persons - for there is only one God here, Jehovah, who revealed himself in human form.
So are there others, beside Mina Nevisa's account? Yes there are - one significant account is that of a Muslim millionaire Nasir Siddiki who converted to Christianity after coming close to death from a very bad case of shingles which covered his neck and head. He comes from a well known Muslim familiy, which can trace its geneaology back to a friend of Mohammed. Here is a full length documentary of that from a show called, It's Supernatural, which covers paranormal events:
Upon knowing that the doctors had given up on him, he cried out in fear, "God, if you are real, do not let me die." Mohammed did not come. Allah did not come. But that night, at the end of his bed, a radiant figure appeared - and he knew it was Jesus. This figure then said two things:
"I am the God of the Christians, and I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."This is a significant statement, for the Quran replaces some stories concerning Isaac with Ishmael and makes Ishmael the firstborn, as Ishmael is the ancestor of the Arabs. So the statement took Nasir Saddiki by surprise. This is the same title that God used for himself when he was seen by Moses in the burning bush:
Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. (Ex. 3:5-6)Jehovah in the Old Testament is the same as Jesus in the New Testament, as both are known as Lord. If it is easy for Jehovah to appear in a burning bush, how much easier would it be to become incarnate in human form?
The next morning, the doctors came in and were completely surprised, as he had gone through an astounding recovery - his condition had gone into remission instead of spreading to the rest of his body. Nassir then seeks to learn about Jesus through the Bible and accepts Christianity, but as he is introduced to Christianity through Protestants, adopts two false ideas which he repeats in the interview:
1. The "Son of God" is taken as existing from eternity, rather than as the Son born in time to the virgin Mary. It is on this point that the Quran is correct and the Nicene Creed is false - Jesus is the Son of God by virtue of being born to the virgin Mary. However he is not just a prophet, he is Jehovah in human form and pre-existed as Jehovah - the human form in which he became incarnate is the Son of God.Later he marries, and then his pregnant wife develops an illness, and is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, but she is then healed later. His brother, an ardent Muslim, refuses to believe any of this despite the healings. However his brother later had a Near Death Experience, where he was declared dead by the doctors and brought to the morgue, from which he miraculously revived. Similar to the Near Death Experience of Howard Storm, his brother had seen himself descending into a dark pit in which their horrible creatures. He said not only is heaven is real, but so is hell. At the time he saw the cross, but saw himself dying on the cross. Like Howard Storm he then decided to become a Christian.
2. Protestants separate their faith from works, whereas there is no faith that is not adjoined to works. That one should live by good works, and will be judged by that, is described in the Bible but this is ignored by Protestant theology. True love is borne out in how one lives.
In the heavenly realm, in the judgment everyone will be judged according to what they know. His brother saw the healing, and had yet denied the testimony until he had his own near death experience.
Here is another direct encounter, this time by an Iranian Muslim Afshin Javid who had joined the ranks of Hezbollah. He did not have any near death experience, but instead encountered Jesus as a radiant being of light while doing his Muslim prayers. He studied the Quran extensively and was teaching his fellow comrades at the time:
While meditating on the Quran, he felt a spirit enter the room and was immediately full of fear, and commanded it to leave in the name of Allah. Nothing availed, and the presence became so strong he felt as if he was losing his breath. He was so in fear, he cried out, "God, help me!" Immediately he heard a voice:
He then replies, "Send me." Jesus then said:
"Bring the name of Jesus."He responded, "Jesus if you are true, show me yourself." At the time he had no idea why he said that, but in that moment everything returned to normal. But as he said it, that was not the time of his conversion, that was the time of his confusion - why would Jesus help a Muslim? He felt that Mohammed was the last prophet and that Islam was the perfect revelation. After two weeks of doubt, he decided to fast and pray. Apparently in the Quran it states that the paths to God are many, and no matter what path one takes they will all lead to the same mountain top. He prayed and asked God, "What is it you want me to do? Which way do you want me to follow?" After two weeks of no answer, he decided to give up and go his own way, and doubted God even existed. At that point, he felt God's presence in the room - his presence was holiness itself, and he felt the weight of his own sin and sinful nature upon him. Again he backs up in fear - for the greatest sin a Muslim can commit is to doubt God's existence. He repeatedly said, "God forgive me, God forgive me." At that point he felt a hand on his shoulder, and then heard a voice:
"I forgive you."
He then felt the weight of his sins lifted away. But again he was confused, as he was taught one has no way of knowing one is forgiven until the day of judgment. He then asks the presence, "Who are you?" The voice then said:
"I am the way, the truth and the life."When he heard this response he felt it was important, but at the time he had no idea what that meant. He still does not know who it is. He finally asks, "What is your name?" The voice responds:
"Jesus Christ, the living God."
At that moment, he felt every bone in his body broke and he fell on his face and just wept. For many years, he had tried so hard to please God, but he realized he had done nothing that was pleasing to God. And yet he was forgiven. He felt for so many years he had been deceived - he had participated in jihad and had killed in the name of Allah. And in that moment he knew what he had done was wrong. He then realized, that is not the way of God, the way of God if forgiveness. The way of God is love. He was weeping at his feet for two hours, and when he looked up, he saw many faces of different people, of different generations and nationalities, and he saw the different sins they had each committed. He then cried out, "God, I live among all these people, all of them are sinners." He then said,
"How easy did I forgive you?"
He responded, "Very easy - as easy as drinking water" - which is apparently a saying in Farsi. Then after that he corrects himself and says "No, no, no, even easier than drinking water." Jesus then responded:
"As easy as I have forgiven you, I can forgive them. Who is going to tell them?"
And that is how this Muslim Hezbollah fighter became a Christian. He next prayed for a Bible - he was in prison at the time - and the following day a cell mate came and gave him one and said, "This is what you asked for."
It is as simple as that. To be forgiven, all one has to do is simply ask Jesus. And you will be forgiven. But one has to ask for it first.
In many cases, Jesus does not visibly manifest before one's eyes, but appears in dreams and visions to Muslims who seek to know him:
I personally know a Muslim who saw Jesus in the center of heaven, and was in a heavenly Sun providing light to all of heaven. These angelic beings in white robes were walking about in a heavenly garden. She asked who was it at the center of the sun and they replied that was God, and they were waiting for Jesus to come. I then told her that in the waking visions of Swedenborg he also saw Jesus at the center of heaven as the Sun, providing light to all of heaven. I suspect there are more Muslims who have had these encounters or visions, but do not come forward due to the pressure from their family and culture. To which Jesus says:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matt 19:29)
Fascinating piece! Thanks for posting it.
One small issue: Even in the Bible's account, Ishmael is Abraham's firstborn son. However, he is not the son of his wife Sarah, but of her Egyptian servant Hagar, whom Sarah arranged for Abraham to sleep with in order to build up a family, since Sarah herself was childless. This involves some complexities of ancient Hebrew culture that seem strange to Westerners today.
It was only some fourteen years later that Sarah herself bore her own natural son Isaac when she was ninety years old, and Abraham was 100 years old. At the time Isaac was weaned, Ishmael apparently showed some disrespect, so Sarah insisted that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. At that point, Ishmael left Abraham's household and grew up on his own with his mother.
I believe the Qur'an has a different account of these events. However, in both cases, Ishmael is the firstborn. But in the Biblical account, the rights and lineage go to Isaac as the firstborn, since he was the firstborn by Abraham's own wife.
About Jesus appearing to people, your readers might be interested in this article of mine:
How does Jesus Appear to Us? Can We See God Face to Face?
I should clarify, the Quran and Islamic tradition puts more emphasis on Ishmael rather than Isaac. Where the traditions diverge is that in Islamic tradition, Abraham sacrificed a ram in order not to sacrifice Ishmael, not Isaac. This tradition persists in modern Islamic countries to this day. From wikipedia:
"In the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, Abraham is told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac and at the last minute is stopped, at which point a ram is provided to sacrifice instead. In Islamic tradition, it is typically believed today that Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Ishmael, not Isaac, though the Quran does not actually state which son. The Quranic story can be found in Surah (chapter) 37, verses 100-111,[not in citation given] wherein it only refers to him generically as a "son".[not in citation given] Due to this ambiguity, there has been a lot of debate over which son is the intended sacrifice and there are many versions of each view recorded. The narrative of Abraham almost sacrificing his son is called the dhabih in Arabic. This story, as all stories from the ancient past, has been altered and adapted over time. The multiple versions suggest that the dhabih was originally an oral story that had been circulating before being written as it is in the Quran and in additional commentaries."
As for Jesus appearing in person, it does happen, but more often than not it is in countries where they have no knowledge of him, or no access to the Bible, or for people who will not read the Bible due to having been taught it has been corrupted (which all Muslims are taught growing up). What I thought was interesting is that in one of the accounts Jesus states he is Jehovah of the Old Testament, confirming the doctrine of the New Church.
And for Muslim readers, to clarify one point - the New Church does not believe one has to belong to a particular religion in order to go to heaven, as some of the testimonies may imply. Believe it or not I got some responses from Muslims that declared these testimonies were "fake," which I guess is the typical reaction from people who do not question what their religion has taught them. Which is why I posted multiple accounts from different witnesses, there are many more.
Yes, these stories were originally passed down orally before they were ever written down. And they were revised and adapted along the way to fulfill their purpose in the particular culture in which the stories were passed down. To the original storytellers and writers, what actually, literally happened was of secondary importance to the cultural, moral, and spiritual impact that the story would have upon its hearers.
There were many variations in these stories handed down in various families and clans. The stories as they were passed down in the line of Ishmael went in one direction, and the stories as they were passed down in the line of Isaac went in a different direction, according to the diverging cultures and the moral and spiritual messages that the tellers in those differing cultures wished to impart to the hearers.
I realize this is anathema to most present-day Christians, who adhere to a literal reading of Scripture requiring that everything recorded in the Bible happened historically exactly as it was described. But this is itself an entirely ahistorical, culturally blind, and spiritually weak way of reading the text.
For those who accept a more spiritual interpretation of the Bible along the lines that Swedenborg presented in his various Bible commentaries, for the most part it doesn't matter at all what historically happened--whether it was Ishmael or Isaac whom Abraham almost sacrificed. What matters is the spiritual and divine message contained in the story, which relates to the Lord God Jesus Christ and our own spiritual regeneration, or rebirth.
Lee - on the primacy of Isaac and Ishmael, my opinion on that is that it is reflected accurately in the Biblical account, and the Arabic tradition is a later one. But, since you brought it up, if you want to see what changed in Genesis under Moses' hand you might want to compare it to the book of Jasher. Scholars regard it as a medieval Hebrew midrash, but there is strong evidence that this indeed is the book of Jasher spoken about in the OT, albeit with additions from later Rabbis.Delete
So what changed in Genesis? In Genesis we have added there the seven days of creation, which was not present in Jasher. Which is interesting, because literary scholars had pointed out the discrepancies between Gen.1 and 2 without knowing about Jasher. The other main difference is that in Genesis there is this 400 year prophecy from his time to the Exodus. This is completely absent in the book of Jasher. The other one I recall offhand is Jacob's blessing of his sons are present in Genesis but not Jasher. Things make sense if one knows Jasher was written before Genesis, but not the other way around. Scholars will probably disagree with me on this point but I can prove them wrong as Jasher contains some very accurate astronomical and chronological information that would be unknown to a medieval Jewish Rabbi. Swedenborg's visionary description of the book of Jasher matches this document as well.
So the text does evolve, but each time further spiritual information is revealed in a different manner.
Not familiar with that work by Pierre Hadot. I will check it out.Delete
However if one goes to the most ancient writings, they tend to be mythical, symbolic, and ritualistic. The priests would understand the hidden symbolism but this would tend to be hidden from the general public as time progressed. They will sometimes throw in ridiculous stories to let people in on the "joke" - that something hidden was being conveyed in these texts. As priests got more greedy with their secret knowledge, over time they eventually died off and with them died off their knowledge of these secrets. So that's why in ancient myths, especially Greek myths, you can find variant stories. But none of them make logical sense to modern readers. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one example, which reads like a quest, but hidden within it were symbols of stars and the zodiac. Thought I discovered something new when I realized that, but to my disappointment German scholars figured that one out in the 19th century.
I naturally also tend to think of the Biblical account as the way it happened. But that is more due to having a Bible-saturated upbringing than anything else. Looking at it objectively, I have no particular reason or basis to argue or insist that the Biblical account accurately reflects how things actually happened historically. And aside from a few key points such as the historical existence of Jesus and reality of the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and the resurrection in the New Testament, which are largely not subject to objective scientific study anyway, I've come to the point of thinking that it really doesn't matter how things took place historically. Although a knowledge of history and the culture of the times can certainly help us to understand the text better, the meaning of the text is within the text itself, not in the history that it may or may not accurately reflect.
This is another way of agreeing with you that most ancient writings "tend to be mythical, symbolic, and ritualistic." Swedenborg did think of the Bible after the first eleven chapters as telling the actual history of Israel. But that, to me, is not a doctrinal statement, but rather a reflection of the state of Biblical knowledge in his age, before the advent of modern historical and scientific Biblical research. I do understand that I depart from Swedenborg in thinking that the stories in historical parts of the Bible didn't necessarily happen historically as described in the Bible. However, I believe Swedenborg laid the groundwork for allowing our belief in the Bible as God's Word to detach itself from science and history and remain valid no matter what we may discover were the historical facts.
Traditional Christians--especially fundamentalists and evangelicals--believe it is very important to establish that the Bible accurately reports historical events as they actually happened. But in Christianity as Swedenborg describes it, and the nature of the Word as Swedenborg describes it, as interesting and useful as historical and scientific research into Bible times is, the results of those studies have little or no bearing on the nature or validity of the Word of God.
That's why personally, aside from the natural curiosity factor, I don't really care whether the Biblical or the Arabic tradition is closer to what happened historically. I'm more interested in the divine and spiritual meaning for our lives as it exists within the Bible text that we have.
Now about those ancient writings, Swedenborg's schema would suggest that the earliest of those writings were not talking about any material-world events at all, no matter what imagery they used from nature or from human history.ReplyDelete
They were not talking about the stars of the zodiac, even if they may have used them as elements in their stories.
They were not talking about the rise and fall of various kingdoms, even if they may have used them as elements in their stories.
They were not talking about future material-world events, such as wars between nations, nuclear power disasters, or asteroid strikes.
The earliest storytellers and writers, according to Swedenborg, simply used all of the natural-world phenomena they were aware of as elements in stories that were entirely about spiritual realities. So any "prophecies" of material world events of any kind found in these writings are mere hit-or-miss trivia, and have nothing to do with the original purpose or composition of those writings.
This is why I am completely unimpressed and largely uninterested in "amazing discoveries" that texts thousands of years old supposedly predicted various events taking place in the world today. In fact, when I read such "astounding revelations," it simply clues me in that the authors producing this stuff are thinking materialistically, not spiritually, and are therefore not worthy of my time.
In the case of the Epic of Gilgamesh, by that time you had a corrupt Babylonian priesthood and worship had degenerated into worship of the Sun, moon and stars. The signs of the zodiac are there, but yes you are right, each sign of the zodiac is symbolic of some stage in one's spiritual progression. The clue to that is Gilgamesh is searching for a plant that will give eternal life. As for hidden knowledge concerning the stars, there is some of that, for which I can recommend the book "The Sirius Mystery" by Robert Temple. In these various myths the number 50 comes up all the time, which he explains in detail. Unknown to the other I uncovered an article of an ancient Sumerian tablet which again mentions the epic of Gilgamesh and the number 50. And even Swedenborg found a hint of this in scripture, but only mentions the most universal eternal meaning:Delete
"Moreover, wherever fifty is named in the Word, it signifies full; as when it is said that the Levites were numbered from a son of thirty years and upward, even unto a son of fifty years (Num. iv. 23, 35, 39, 43, 47; viii. 25); meaning the full or final state of discharging the ministry, at that time. That if a man lie with a damsel, a virgin, he shall give unto the damsel's father fifty pieces of silver, and she shall be to him for a wife, and he may not put her away (Deut. xxii. 29), means a full fine and full restitution. David's giving to Araunah for the threshing-floor, where he built the altar to Jehovah, fifty shekels of silver (2 Sam. xxiv. 24), stands for a full price and a full purchase. Absalom's preparing for himself a chariot and horses, and having fifty men running before him (2 Sam. xv. 1), and in like manner Adonijah's having chariots and horsemen, and fifty men running before him (1 Kings i. 5), means full excellence and greatness. For they had from the ancients certain representative and significative numbers, which they observed, and which were also commanded in their rites; but for the most part they did not know what they signified." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2252.4).
As for ancient prophecies, the only ones I have been able to uncover are prophetic myths concerning the coming of the Son of God, born of a virgin. These myths are world wide, and there are so many, with so many coincidences, that some authors proposed the ridiculous idea that even Jesus is a myth. From Swedenborg we know there was an ancient revelation that long preceded Judaism, from which they had revelations. but most in the Church do not research these myths as they put it into the box of paganism and ignore it. Other than that, myths tend to not be prophetic, prophecies were found by going to the oracles. In the time of the Roman Empire these oracles kept stating a king would arise out of the Middle East who would rule the world, which is one of the reasons the emperors went in to conquer the area. The other one that comes to mind are some dream prophecies concerning a child who later became king Cyrus of Persia. But ancient oracles and dreams are a separate matter from mythical texts.
To take it even farther, I would say that the very corruption and eventual dying out of the knowledge of correspondences came about as a result of precisely the sort of thing that many such authors are doing with the ancient texts: applying them to historical events, to wars and natural disasters, to issues of physical health and sickness, and so on.ReplyDelete
The purpose of a knowledge of correspondences is to open our minds to spiritual realities that have to do with love for God, love for the neighbor, and living a life of love, understanding, and service based on them.
However, we humans, as we fall away from real, spiritual life, focus more and more on external, material things, such as money, power, kingdoms, governments, wars, natural disasters, and the state of our bodies. And as we do, we inevitably corrupt the knowledge of correspondences, turning it into magic and wizardry in our attempts to use it to change and influence the physical world and the fates of kingdoms rather than for its true use in bringing about the rebirth and regeneration of our souls.
Those later religious leaders who corrupted and then lost the knowledge of correspondences did so precisely by attempting to use correspondences to write stories whose symbolism was about material-world events rather than about spiritual world events. If some semi-ancient book can be shown to really be a symbolic account of the rise and fall of worldly kingdoms, it shows itself, not great, but an inferior work of later authors who were already on the road to materialism and corruption. Such works are precisely the ones that caused us to lose the knowledge of correspondences in the first place. I push aside, for example, any interpretation of the Book of Revelation that attempts to apply it to worldly kingdoms, ancient or modern, because it trivializes and destroys the true meaning and greatness of the text.
I'm not saying that it's impossible to draw parallels from genuine ancient spiritual texts to worldly events. As Swedenborg said, worldly events do tend to reflect spiritual events. However, any application of ancient spiritual texts to historical and material-world events is a mere superficial triviality compared to the true meaning and purpose of those works. And quite frankly, most of the stuff I've read purporting to show how these ancient text predict modern events looks to me to be as flimsy as the paper it is written on.
Swedenborg's interpretation of the ancient texts as referring primarily, and often even entirely, to spiritual events is far more precious, and far more deeply embedded in those texts from their ancient sources.
I am actually not aware of taking ancient texts and applying them to modern events - except what some have done with the book of Revelation. The only myth I know that was perhaps corrupted into a modern prophecy was the end of a cycle of the Mayan calendar in 2012, which ended with predictable results: nothing happened.Delete
So in ancient times, what happened with the corruption of these ancient myths is that there were revelations concerning a coming Messiah, and it degenerated into king worship. This can be easily seen in the most ancient Pyramid texts, where religion degenerated into the worship of the Pharoah.
Wanted to bring up with you a spiritual interpretation regarding Ishmael, who is considered to be the father of the Arabs in Arabic tradition and in the Biblical geneaology. In Swedenborg's visions, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob represent the different stages detailing how Jehovah made his human body Divine - Abraham is the internal man, Isaac the rational, and Jacob the lowest natural. The point I found interesting when I first read Swedenborg is that he was shown that Ishmael spiritually represents the human rational before it was made Divine, and the expulsion of it when Jesus acquired a Divine rational.
On a lower level, Ishmael represents human rationality separate from the acknowledgment of the Divine. One thing I have considered is that Ishmael represents Islam itself - which regards Jesus as just a prophet (a rational human being, symbolized by Ishmael) separate from the Divine (represented by Isaac). Moreover, we have this prophecy concerning Ishmael in Genesis:
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." Gen. 17:20
Which prophecy was fulfilled in his lifetime, and Swedenborg discusses the most universal eternal symbolism. But the interesting thing is that this prophecy can be extended to represent Islam itself. In Islamic Shiite thought, there are "twelve imams" - from Wikipedia:
"The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Twelver or Athnā‘ashariyyah branch of Shia Islam and in Alevi Islam."
While perhaps Swedenborgians will refer to Swedenborg's interpretation of scripture as the "one and only" interpretation, that does not hold water. Case in point is his interpretation of Daniel chapter 9, where he provides a very generic interpretation that it concerns the fall of Judaism. In another passage, he applies it to a more contemporary event - the spiritual decline of Protestants. He completely misses the actual literal prophecy, which concerns a 490 year period from 457 B.C. to 34 A.D., predicting the exact time when Jesus would be crucified.
So at a highest level, scriptural prophecy regards the Lord and his kingdom on heaven and earth, but these eternal truths manifest periodically in events concerning the spiritual development of people on earth. The most important is the most eternal symbolism, but once one understands the symbolism at the highest level one can find examples in one's life of where the Word can be applied.