paul sin
Today we discuss the key practices and processes by which individuals come to know themselves, others, and the divine, according to Timothy Ashworth's interpretation of the Apostle Paul's thought in his book Paul's Necessary Sin. Since 'The Fall', humanity has suffered from a 'darkening of the mind' or an identification with the things created - our own physical existence - and a blindness to higher realities. But this devolution, or 'sin', has a constructive component built in, when the knowledge of sin, as sin, becomes recognized and pointed out for what it is. When an individual sees this in oneself, he or she can then make the choice to think and act differently. The state of sin was necessary in order to gain knowledge about the nature of good and evil.

Paul saw this potential transformation as a way for people not only to form a better connection to others, but also as a path towards humanity's greater and more direct connection to God; a vivifying experience that raised the children of humanity into adults - who no longer required 'the laws' as a guide to living - but whose internal and living connection with the 'unseen' could then direct their lives: what Paul calls "righteousness through faith".

Running Time: 01:02:15

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Our previous show on Ashworth and Paul: Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Welcome back to MindMatters. Today we are going to continue our discussion of Timothy Ashworth's book Paul's Necessary Sin. We're going to be getting into some of the things that he talks about in part four of the book, there are four parts.

So, before doing that I just want to give a summary of some of the insights that he gives in the first three parts of the book. We discussed some of them last week and I want to kind of just recap them and maybe get into it a little bit more detailed just to flesh those out so that we've got the proper foundation for the things that come out in part four of the book.

So, three of the main themes or concepts that come out in the first parts of the book are the opposition between law and faith, the nature of sin, and why it is necessary in Ashworth's view and in Ashworth's interpretation of Paul's view, and the nature of an 'adulthood' in spirit and contrasting that with 'childhood'. And that comes out in the discussion of sin as well.

So to look at the first one, the difference between law and faith for Ashworth, in Paul's letters the law, so the Torah or any religious law and faith, both of them are means of discerning the will of God, God's intention. And they are means of coming into alignment with that. So the law and faith are two of, in the Greek word - Stoicheia. These are things that keep one in 'alignment'. They're rules to follow or things to give direction.

The difference between law and faith is that law is an external list, essentially, of rules, things to follow, externally imposed rules. And faith, in contrast to that, is something that is experienced from within, a direct connection. It's almost like the law could be God's laws, but that are filtered through someone else, and then given in an external written form. That will apply to any religious laws, not just Judaism but the pagan systems too, whereas faith, like I said, is that direct experience. So if the law comes through a prophet for instance, that prophet has a direct connection, like we were talking about in our shows on Zoroastrianism, had that connection and the prophet can then disperse that wisdom to the masses. Whereas for Paul, that same thing is going on but each individual now has access, has that direct connection to the direction-giving something that comes from above. And that is faith. One of the main features of faith is that absolute trustworthiness and responsiveness to that inner word that is experienced.

So, when God's will or God's intentions or laws are experienced from within, then naturally an external source of those laws is no longer necessary. That's why for Paul, the law, the Torah in this instance, is no longer necessary because why would you need these external rules when you have a direct experience of the truth, and what is needed to guide your behavior?

That dichotomy, in a just in a nutshell, he devotes several chapters to and then returns to it in every chapter after that, so it adds a bit more to the picture. That is directly related to the nature of sin. Sin is not just a action that you do that is wrong, for Paul. Of course those will be classified as sins but he has in mind something much more comprehensive. I'll read one short extract from the book to give an idea of what he means by that. So Ashworth quotes a passage from Romans, letter of the Romans. Paul writes:

"For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift ... (Rom 3:23f)"

So Ashworth comments:

"All are under the power of sin. Paul's focus here is not on individual actions but on a fundamental condition. Paul considers that this fundamental state affects and informs all human actions so that even an apparent right action, a good action prescribed by the law and carried out dutifully, is still carried out by a person under the power of sin."

So for Paul, the state of sin is, like we talked about last week, that state of deadness, that state of mortality in which we can't do the right thing, because - this is a result of Paul's interpretation of the fall - we are in this state of slavery all the time, everywhere for all time, until now. And that was made possible in Paul's mind by this crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

So that's how he sees it, and one of the ways to think about this that we touched on last week, is as an analogy to childhood, where the child has this expansive curiosity about the world and goes out seeking, but needs restrictions in order to prevent them from basically getting into too much danger. That restriction is then felt as this imposed - like the parent telling the teenager they can't do what they want to do - and that in itself while protecting the child, also fuels this rebelliousness, which is part of why Paul calls this the 'necessary' sin. Because in order to gain the understanding of the parent, the child has to go through this stage. A child who just listens to everything the parent says and takes it in externally, doesn't have the inner experience of why certain things are wrong, or not safe to do.

So you have to burn yourself before realizing why it is that you should avoid fire. If you could imagine a child who just never experiences the pain of touching something burning, something hot, then there's something lacking in their experience. They haven't learned that lesson. For Paul, sin is almost like touching the fire. Humanity as a whole had to touch the fire, collectively and figuratively, in order to learn about things, to then learn that lesson and come to a higher understanding of things. Basically you have to know what sin is by experiencing it for yourself, in order to know that it is sin. You have to do what's wrong in order to actually know what's wrong.

And that has been the collective state of humanity, in Paul's mind, for all time up until his time, that state of collective childhood of rebelliousness, of rebellion. In practical terms for everyone, what that means is that we are still in that state, that condition that all of humanity shares where there's something lacking. We're missing that connection that we originally had, and that's the connection that he sees in Genesis, that original direct connection between humanity and the Divine. That has been severed. We've become so identified with our individual physicality and our separate minds, or the illusion of those things, that we lose that connection, both with the higher reality and with each other.

So that leads to, like I called it last week, enmity and isolation. Paul is presenting this inner transformation that will re-establish the connection with other people, and get rid of that strife and that division, so that people can actually unify. It's taking this multiplicity of things, of people, and unifying them again into one corporate body, what he calls the body of Christ. That's an important part of Paul's thought. Reality is experienced now in a new sense, a corporate sense, corporate in the sense of part of a body, a real community, a community of like minded individuals and like minded in the most literal sense possible where for Paul, they actually do share in the same mind.

So through them all having this bit of spirit that is inside them, they all share the mind of Christ and therefore all share each othersè minds. There's this almost 'spooky action at a distance' thing, where they're all sharing in something even though they're still in their separate bodies.

I hope that's a good enough summary of the nature of sin in this book. And that ties into now the nature of adulthood because for Paul humanity has been in this collective state of childhood. Now with this first gift of the spirit you have some people kind of getting things. They've got this bit of a connection established. But even then for Paul the early Christians, the people he's in contact with, are still children in Christ.

They're still not there yet. There's still a process they have to go through. If you look at the actual adults, it would be Paul and his fellow Apostles. So for Paul and the Apostles they've got their inner channel to the Divine like wide open, to the point where they themselves have been totally transformed and are totally driven to their aim. They know what they're here to do and they're actually doing it. So there's nothing that stands in their way, from an internal perspective.

But for the children in Christ, the members of his churches, they are still struggling and battling with the flesh. So they're still in a state of having to struggle, whereas for the 'adults', in Paul's terminology, are past that struggle and it's their role to now actually guide the children through this process.

So those are the three main ideas that are in those first parts of the book. It's the fourth part of the book that gets, in my mind, to a more practical level. One of the things also that comes out in those first sections, is the nature of prophecy as this direct connection and faith in the living word, so faith in this direction giving something that guides behavior and guides your thought, and guides your actions, and that prophecy then plays a role in the church itself, in the community itself.

That's what these last chapters get into. They get into two main ideas. One is the actual meaning of the crucifixion, why it was important for Paul and what it actually meant for him, and then how that played out in the practical realities of interacting with other people, and what they did, what the Apostlesè role was for interacting with people, with these Christians and then initiating them into this transformation process that Paul himself had experienced. So that's just a summary of what these chapters actually get into.

Elan: Well, the ideas that he puts forth is the forgiveness of sin or embracing the seat of forgiveness, which is reflected in a word called hilasterion, which I'm probably not pronouncing correctly. The idea is that individuals in, atoning for or becoming aware of how they have sinned, how they have done wrong, is a crucial part in the individuals' experience in actually communicating with God.

One of the ways that this comes about is with the Apostle, in this case Paul or his colleagues, actually directly addressing those wrongs with the people that he has under his tutelage, the people he has been writing letters to, the people that he has befriended. And it's direct feedback in the way that you might expect to see from Samenow's book Inside The Criminal Mind, where there's someone who has a very deep character and sense of right and wrong, and has this moral attitude or strength that enables him or her to communicate to the person listening, what those things are that that person has done which effectively keeps them separated from God and from other people and identified with their own individual selfishness and urgings for self- gratification, and isolation from everyone else.

So there was that element of it as well. It's interesting to think that Paul is beseeching his people, he's encouraging his listeners, to form that direct connection to God through faith, so that they can hear the correct direction or the truth that would help to guide them in their everyday thinking and doing and behavior.

At the same time, not unlike the laws, but perhaps a little different in the way that Paul describes it, is also this external feedback mechanism, where the person has enough trust in the Apostle and those leading this new faith to accept the words, the criticisms, the observations that have been made about their behavior, in an effort to induce a sense of atonement, to induce a sense of remorse and conscience about those things that keep them separated from everyone.

So that was an essential part in all of this that I felt was pretty interesting and profound, given the fact that it's not so different from what people in a family might do who are insightful and have wisdom and just want the best for the other person in pointing out a person's flaws. But it does require a high level of trust and intimacy in some ways, and yet Paul was advocating for this feedback mechanism in the context of coming closer to God.

Corey: Just to touch a little bit on the idea of faith that Paul had, it was something brand new for Paul, that it was an experience that he had, that liberating experience on the road to Damascus. This new faith came because of the death of Christ that was now available to everybody to be shared and to instruct them in their daily lives. Now that you have this new faith, you can rid yourself of the law basically, because the law was just a childminder but now you actually have the spirit of God telling you what to do.

But Ashworth goes into what kind of faith Paul was talking about and it's a very interesting passage where he goes line by line through all the times that Paul is referring to faith in Christ, and how it could just as easily be translated to the faith of Christ, that it's not that you'll be saved by faith in Christ and the story of the Gospel and what Christ did and that you have faith in that, but rather that you will be saved if you have the same faith that Christ had, which was that you are completely and utterly obedient to the word of God, up to and including your own death. But that your own life you would sacrifice your own life for the word of God, to do what God told you to do.

That is just a bold way of viewing reality that it is a distinct split between the life of a 'sinner' and the life of someone who has this kind of salvation. This person who has this salvation is now free from the constraints and the restraints of the material needs of the flesh and what they do instead is that their life is of a service to something much higher, and that they're not being seen or judged by the world or letting that influence them in the same way. Now to the world they're just fools, but they have such little regard for this fleshly body that we have that it's just a matter of time before you're off into the other unknown realms of spirit, to pursue the new creation, and that this life is not as important as the pre-faith mindset.

Harrison: There are a few things I wanted to say in response to that. One is the nature of the inner voice. You gave the example of having the faith of Christ, that total obedience to the word of God. I'd like to make one statement on that. Hearing that, the first thing that comes to mind is, how's that any different than experiencing the word of God through the law, through reading any religious text? I think of what Ashworth and Troels Engberg-Pedersen would say, is that there is totally different experiential dimension to it.

You can feel it in yourself when you have a rule that you're supposed to follow which you don't understand for yourself, and that you just know is a rule you have to follow. It might be some tax law, a tax rule when you're doing your taxes, 'oh I know I have to do it, but why do I have to do this, it's so dumb', and you might even fudge your numbers on your tax return in order to get around it. But there's nothing inside you that says 'oh this is really the perfect law, the perfect tax regulation. I just feel it inside me so I'm going to go with it because it just feels right'. Well, no one probably feels that with taxes at all, but for the inner living word, there's an external and an internal dimension to it that Ashworth highlights. It is experienced as coming from some other realm, from somewhere else. But it is also internal in the sense that it is totally internalized, you feel it as your own too. So it's more like two individuals being of the same mind, sharing an opinion, sharing a value or a thought on something, where they have that in common.

That's the nature of this reconciliation between humanity and God; it's them coming into alignment. So you feel that guidance as much as your own as it is from elsewhere. It's not like you are doing your taxes because you have to do them but because on the inside you know that that is the perfectly right thing to do. Again, taxes is a totally a dumb example because it's kind of on the level of that religious law. No one experiences that because it's such a mundane, fleshly thing. But the principal's there where the inner living word is experienced as your own, as something higher than yourself and as your own at the same time.

I also wanted to get back to the things that you brought up Elan, about the nature of this process and what actually is being said in these encounters that Paul is having with people. I want to read some things from Ashworth. This is on the nature of what he calls 'the ministry of reconciliations'. What exactly is that? What is being reconciled? What is the nature of this ministry? First he quotes a bit from Corinthians, the second letter of the Corinthians, where Paul says:

"Indeed, we live in the flesh, but we do not wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)"

So here he's talking about spiritual warfare and he's saying it's not earthly warfare, it's not fleshly warfare. We're not taking our swords and going to battle. We're actually battling thoughts, we're battling arguments, we're battling proud obstacles that come up in someone.

Ashworth comments about this. The nature of this ministry is not only of peacemaking in the sense of liberating from sin, because that is experienced as a liberation, as something peaceful. You're now in harmony with the people around you. But there is an element of warfare to it. There's an element of struggle to it and of discomfort, and even of suffering. So that's what he gets into.

So he calls it 'Paul exercising the divine power to oppose any fleshly human assertion'. That human assertion comes back to the nature of sin, the state that we're in, this constant identification with the self, this inherent and almost inescapable selfishness and self-centeredness. The role of the Apostles is to oppose that. So what they're actually doing on a practical level is opposing that in each individual case, in each individual moment, to identify it and then expose it for what it is.

The next section is called 'exposing what is wrong'. He quotes from various letters and comes up with a few words that Paul uses in this context. The kind of words he uses for this kind of ministry are 'being called to account', 'a close examination', 'the open statement of the truth', and as Ashworth summarizes all of this, it is to expose the wrongness of something or someone.

So that's what all of these things have in common. It's not this peaceful, 'lovey dovey', feel good approach to things. This is actually these serious people, his Apostles, with the authority within themselves to challenge that self assertion in others which, if you've ever experienced it in a serious setting and not just blowing up at someone, if you actually experienced it, it's not comfortable at all to have that image of yourself, that vision of yourself given to you. 'Well this is what you're actually like'.

Elan: It's a little bit like a death.

Harrison: Right.

Elan: It can be visceral. To say that it's an uncomfortable thing might be understating the experience quite a bit. But that's what he's talking about here. He's talking about dying to become alive, dying to the old self-identified, selfish, individualistic, proud self, to embrace something that is much larger. And I think what he's also getting at is the possibility of internalizing this process for one's self because there are potions in Ashworth's book where he quotes Paul - and I think you might have mentioned this in last week's show Harrison - how Paul would much rather, when he's visiting his acolytes, just have a nice time and sit down for diner and chat and do whatever it is that they would normally do. He would rather not have to go through the process of explaining how wrong-headed, and just wrong his acolytesè behaviors has become.

On that point I want to read a passage called 'The Darkened 'ind', which does speak to some of this, it speaks to humanity's state of being. Here it goes:

"In Paul's account of the fall, the loss of the appropriate response to God, which Paul says is to honor and give thanks to God, worship and serve God, is tied together with the coarsening of human consciousness - 'they become futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened' - and a descent into idolatry.

The implication of this is important for understanding Paul. The assertion of futile human thinking is tightly linked with the loss of the ability to perceive the invisible things of God. The 'futile thinking' and 'darkened mind' is bound up with this situation in which God is not glorified and thanked and, as a further consequence, is no longer known.

Once, according to Paul, the perception of the invisible things of God is lost all that can be perceived is that which is created. The fall, according to Paul, is a change of perception, a loss of the perception of the divine connected with the assertion of futile human thought and a darkening of the heart.

The consequence of this is that humankind can only see clearly the physical and comes to be identified with the physical stuff of human existence. This is 'the lie'.

Having been created to be the image of the Creator in the world of what is created, doing the creative work of the Creator, humankind ends up blind to the invisible things of God and identifying existence with what is created - physical, visible and mortal. And, very importantly, 'the invisible things of God' includes that 'image of God' in humankind itself."

Ashworth goes on to discuss 'exchanging the truth of God for the lie'.

"To further demonstrate the consistency and importance of Paul's understanding of the plight of humankind presented in this early section of the letter to the Romans, several points can be drawn from 2 Corinthians 3:5, an important passage which will be returned to..."

'Seeing God's glory'...

"In the first section, Paul is comparing the old law of Moses with the new covenant of the Spirit. Central to his argument is a discussion of the glory that lasts completely overwhelming the fading glory which was present in the giving of the law."

Well, just to get back a moment to this 'darkened mind' idea, there was so many implications that it had in reading it, so many things that we've been discussing here on this show that it brought up for me, and reflecting upon it, one which was intelligent design and our inability, because of this veil of physicality that we are subject to, of not seeing how certain things could only have been created, for lack of a better word, by a higher intelligence, or something closer to God than we are.

So, there's this sense that we have been trained and taught and encumbered by a perception or a veil,to not see those things all around us that are gifts, that are creations that we couldn't possibly be responsible for. Instead, all of those things have been replaced by technology, by various ephemeral entertainments, by the spectacle, by things that have grabbed our attention that are manmade and that seem, by some almost nefarious design, to keep us from looking and acknowledging and recognizing those things that are spiritualized matter, that are things that couldn't have been created by men.

Harrison: The invisible things are important and I thought about that too. One of the invisible things is seeing the actual creativity in the universe, and that it does come from above. If you look at mainstream culture we only see our own creativity. We constantly see the creativity inherent in nature, we just don't see it for what it is. Our perceptions almost get deviated or directed out of coming to the logical conclusion of what we see. We come up with all of these elaborate explanations for what is a pretty simple idea, getting back to our shows on genetics for instance, that information is product of intelligence.

We are so blinded to the nature of creativity that mainstream culture can't even acknowledge that, can't see it, can't understand it and come up with these strange baroque contractions of the mind in order to try to explain it in some mechanical way but that's just impossible. The explanations don't end up working. For Paul some of these other invisible things are these divine qualities like righteousness, whatever that means and like glory, whatever that means, and faithfulness, whatever that means, because these are new things. Like Corey was saying, this faithfulness, this faith, is something that was brand new for Paul, something that he experienced as this novelty, this new way of being, this new way of experiencing and living.

So these are all things that have been cut off in that disconnection that has taken place as a result of the fall, and that fall is, just like Adam is a representation of everyone, the fall is a process or a feature of everyone too. We are all these fallen beings that have had their connection to the higher reality cut off and who are now blind to things. And we're primarily blind to ourselves. That's one of the essential things because we can't access the higher things if we don't have knowledge about ourselves and the ability to see ourselves.

So that's the integral part of this transformation process that gets back to what we were saying about the actual nature of this ministry. There's a good passage in the gospel of John that Ashworth quotes. The only reason he brings it up is because whoever wrote the gospel of John used a word that isn't used very often in Paul. So just as a way of showing, here's another context in which that word is used in the New Testament and it's used in basically the same manner. So this is that passage:

"For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:20, RSV)"

So what this passage is getting at is that there is this part of ourselves that does not want to be exposed, doesn't want its true motivations and its true nature to actually be exposed to yourself, to oneself, and to everyone else. We want to keep that hidden. We don't want to be exposed. We don't want to have our weaknesses projected. We don't want to accept our weaknesses to ourselves. That's why we come up with these over inflated visions and ourselves and our abilities, and we don't want other people to think that about us. We want them to think we are these great decent perfect human beings, when we're not.

So there's this fear, on a certain level, this fear of being exposed. And so Ashworth comments on this passage. First he adapts the translation because that was the RSV translation. So he brings in his translation of that word to adapt that statement to this:

"For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest the wrongness of his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:20, adapted RSV)"

That's the real core meaning of that word, 'lest the wrongness of his deeds', should be exposed. So Ashworth now comments:

"An essential part of the meaning proposed is that it is the nature of something as 'wrong' that is exposed to an individual; thats exposure leads to a judgment that the thing (a deed or an idea for example) not previously seen as wrong is so and is, by implication, seen by that individual to be in need of change."

The nature of this change in self perception, as a result of his transformation, is that the old features of our selves are now seen to be in need of change. So, you see things in a new context. You say 'oh, that actually is wrong, I didn't realize the implications of my actions there, I didn't realize how I was behaving, or what I was thinking, or what I was doing, or what I was feeling, or how I was reacting. That actually needs to change if I want to, in simple terms, become a better person.'

So Ashworth goes on, and in commenting on a passage in the first letter to the Corinthians he says:

"The prophetic word of God exposes, scrutinizes and discloses the secret wrong of the individual, in other words, reveals the personal state of sin..."

Well I'll read the passage actually because it's important. So, he's saying:

"But if all prophesy"...

This is in a church community...

"But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, his wrongness is exposed by all, he is scrutinized by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor 14:24f, adapted RSV)"

So here's Paul giving a pretty rosy picture of exposing the wrongness of someone, Imagine that, right. You've got a friend who says 'Oh hey, come over to my house. We're having a church group meeting,' right? So you come over and everyone's just like 'Here's all the things wrong with you, you're like this and...', this close scrutiny of your character and your behavior, and your just 'Wow, the spirit of God is among these people,' right? It doesn't really sound like that plausible of a scenario, does it?

I'll continue on with Ashworth's description of this, his commentary. This reveals the personal state of sin of the unbeliever or the outsider:

"As a consequence of this extraordinary activity of the community, 'the secrets of his heart are disclosed' and the unbeliever is convinced that it is not by any human ability that the truth about himself is revealed but that it is God who is speaking through the word of prophecy and hence he declares that 'God is really, 'living', 'existing' among you'. (1 Cor 14:25)

In this unique passage, Paul is describing the effect of a community led by the Spirit, actively guided by the prophetic word of God, upon unbelievers, that is, those on the outside. Something previously hidden and painful for the individual to see is revealed as an essential part of the experience of liberation.

That old live is now newly revealed as a form of slavery or death. What Paul speaks of is liberation from a fundamental state of sin that stays unexposed until it is revealed in the process of liberation; only it's consequences in 'sins', in small or great acts of wrongdoing are seen. It is this that explains why he can be both strongly positive and negative about the law.

Within the old life it is an extraordinary blessing, providing guidance from God in a state of blindness; once blindness is revealed in the coming of the new life, the law is no longer necessary, indeed it is a temptation to pull back from the demands of the adult life of faith."

In other places he comments on that passage. If you think about the possible responses, this actually is well exemplified in the gospel of Mark, in the parable of the sower, because you have the sower sowing seeds on different types of ground, on rocky ground, on ground with thistles growing up in it, and on good ground.

So the seed gets planted but depending on the different surfaces and the different things in which the seed is planted, you'll get a different response. So if someone hears the truth about themselves spoken to them, if they are good earth, that seed will be planted and they will be receptive to it. They will see - 'my eyes have been opened', they'll see 'oh, I actually am like that', 'I see that', right? And if It's thrown on rocky ground, as exemplified by the disciples in the gospel of Mark, they'll say 'oh yeah, I see it, I see it'. And then when the first conflict comes about, the first situation in which they actually have to prove themselves, then they fall away, and deny what they'd previously seen.

But the seed that thrown on, what was it, I can't remember what the name of the ground is, but on the road where there's no soil, as whoever wrote Mark puts it; 'that's when the birds snatch up the seeds right away'. The seed has no time to be planted, and the interpretation that Jesus gives in that parable is that that is Satan snatching away the seed.

Let's imagine this outsider going to this community and having that experience of having themselves and all their flaws exposed to themselves and to others. That would be the person that immediately denies it. He says 'that's not me, I'm not like that', 'I'm not disagreeable', right? 'I don't raise my voice when people tell me things about myself ' as they're raising their voice. Everyone has experienced something like that, right? You give someone feedback and they immediately manifest that exact feature that you just pointed out to them while denying it? It's pretty common.

That is how the process plays out in practice. One of the implications of this is that this process, even in the good earth scenario, the person who's receptive, is that is does lead to suffering. It is not pleasant, it's never pleasant to see one's self, essentially.

One of the ways Ashworth puts it is that suffering is the nature of actually hearing the word of God, this prophetic living word, and it's that response to truth, via conscience. That is the experience of it, that's why for Gurdjieff for instance, why remorse of conscience was such an important concept. When you see yourself and when you see the impact and the influence that your actions have had primarily on other people, ideally that will provoke and bring up a little remorse of conscience and that is a form of suffering.

Well I wanted to talk about one other thing on the nature of it. I mentioned it in passing previously, on the nature of faith, what faith means for people in that situation. We've already talked about the receptivity and obedience to that thing that gives guidance, that living word as Paul and Ashworth put it. But one of its features is having that receptivity and obedience in each moment, and for each individual. I think that's one way of saying that one of the reasons that religious laws are not the best option available, is that they're kind of 'one size fits all' formulas, right? 'In all situations, here's the rule, but...'

Elan: Well let me say something about that if I could Harrison because I just want to take a step back for a moment and discuss what Ashworth brings up regarding the law, Moses, the Ten Commandments and the transmission of that because, there was a comparison made between Moses and his reception of the law at Mount Sinai, and bringing the tablets and having to wear this veil over his head because his face was so glowing and it was so bright because of the glory that he had internalized in having this direct experience of God and of all the people that Moses was speaking to who would say 'no don't lift the veil, it's too bright in here!. We'll read the commandments you brought down on those written physical tablets maybe, but please keep the veil on.' In distinction with this is this experience of Paul, where he has also received a message from God, or inspired by something, only it's a living thing within him and something that he seeks to unveil and communicate and hopefully inspire in other people who are reading his message, which is God's message.

So there's this transmission of information about what the living Spirit is, of what living closer to God is in one's direct experience of another individual, without being blinded by the proverbial light, right? This was interpersonal communication. This was Paul writing letters. This was Paul visiting people and speaking before congregations and making everything as accessible as possible to everybody, Jews and Gentiles alike. This was the spirit of something and not the literal fifty kilo tablet that you were going to get hit over the head with by Moses, which was preferable to seeing this glowing face that would totally knock you off your feet. I thought that was a very interesting comparison.

Also getting back to this idea of giving feedback to others and possibly inducing a remorse of conscience and consciousness within an individual, this was also something that was a tailor-made experience and communication between the Apostles and the individuals, or between people who believed in the living Spirit. This wasn't, as you put it before, a 'one size fits all' way of addressing wrongdoing and one's behavior.

So, this is a reformation, this is an innovation, I think, that comes with Paul's letters and the ideas that he was trying to convey to people.

Harrison: The word that I was trying to think of was heuristic. You've got these 'one size fits all' rules, but at best they're going to be a very accurate heuristic. There are going to be situations where it's not clear what the correct response is. For instance, I often think about what Jordan Peterson says about telling the truth, always tell the truth. And I remember someone asked him a question once, something like, ÈWell what about if you're in Nazi Germany or some occupied territory and you're hiding Jews in your basement and the Nazi's come to your door and ask you if you're hiding anyone, what do you do? Isn't lying the right thing to do in that situation?" And his response was 'Well if you're in that situation things were so far gone, you and people collectively had made so many mistakes prior to that, that there's no good answer. You have to lie but even that is just a necessary evil." He couldn't bring himself to say that lying was actually a good thing in that situation.

I think that if you just look at that situation, lying is the good thing in that situation. Yeah it's kind of a necessary evil but it still shows the truth of the rule that rules aren't universally applicable. There are situations where you will have to lie, where it is the right thing to lie. If some Nazi come to your door and asks you if you're hiding people, and if saying yes means they're going to kill you and the people you're hiding, you lie.

Corey: It gets back to what Elan brought up in the last show, about the spirit of the law verses the letter of the law. This is exactly what we're talking about here. The prime difference for these communities, for Paul, was being able to hear the Spirit, and you understand and know what's right and wrong in any given situation...

Harrison: In the moment.

Corey: ...because you are aware of it, because you have a connection. That was his job as the Apostle, to increase that connection for the children of Christ until they could become adults in Christ and would be able to discern those kinds of things for themselves without having to worry about, 'am I circumcised or uncircumcised', or whatever, all of these meager laws that everyone had, like you were saying, that are heuristics. A lot of them are just horrible, just garbage made up by whatever priestly classes for whatever reasons.

But some of them actually were legitimate and important. Universally we could say that these were good moral laws, like don't kill, but that it was the spirit of the law, the spirit of what is invisible that's behind the law that gives it the power that it should have, that was important.

Harrison: Right, so the way I picture it in my mind when I'm seeing this, when I'm kind of visualizing or imagining what it must be is - well it's actually something I have experienced of myself - is you have this group of individuals, this group of people and each person is an individual. They have their own personality characteristics, their own history, and to have them, let's say share something, the response to that will have to be individually tailored to that person. That's just the way it works in practice. You can't have a 'one size fits all' thing where you just give your stock response in a certain situation to everyone. It has to be individual and has to be in that moment.

So that's where that feature of faith that I mentioned earlier is, that receptivity and obedience in each. You have to be receptive in that moment. It is a product of experience and of that inner transformation. A great exemplar of that in the more modern day is Gurdjieff, who we talked about for two shows. He would give individual guidance because he was so perceptive, he had such a great knowledge of human psychology and human personality types. He could size up a person in a split second upon meeting them. He knew what their buttons were, what their features were, he could probably tell - I'm exaggerating - but tell them their entire life story just upon meeting them. That's kind of the level of insight that he had about people.

In early Christian terms, he had that connection. He had that ability to, in any given moment and for any individual, to see what the right answer for them, where they are, would be. It's not only that different people required different answers because that's obvious. It's that each person at every stage of their own development requires a different answer. You can tell a person one thing at one point in their life and their development, that you couldn't tell them at another stage because again, it comes down to that parable of the sower. You'll be sowing a seed on what might be rocky or thorny ground.

You need to have this awareness, this ability to see the unseen. This would be another one of those invisible things of God, to be able to see, the true hidden nature of every created thing, to be able to have that understanding of that 'in every moment', to then be able to give the proper seed for that ground.

Elan: Yes. One of the things that Gurdjieff says is love without knowledge is demonic. I'm glad we're discussing such a nuanced approach to helping another or giving feedback, because really if that individual and their psychology, and your own knowledge of psychology and right and wrong and morals and character, isn't working together, isn't being synthesized to help the other person, then a person can end up doing something quite damaging in giving feedback or correcting the wrongs. It might even further push a person in the direction of doing wrong and living in the lie.

We can read what Paul has to say here and certainly take it in and see how it can become a good robust feedback mechanism for helping people along a path, and at the same time there's a great deal of responsibility and challenge that's inherent in such a dynamic. So I'm glad were saying all this because none of this is to be said lightly and there's a lot of thought and consideration that goes into 'being', for lack of a better term, a voice, an extension, an ambassador, a kind of embodiment for God or the living Spirit, if that's what one aspires to in looking at some of this knowledge. If that's what one hopes for in some way, in some way that includes quite a lot of humility and even to have humility about how little humility you have, to really think through some of these things.

This is a journey. This isn't isn't something that we can read about, I don't think, and come to be self satisfied about. This is an ongoing process of assimilating all of this stuff. Because I'm reading all this and I'm thinking 'well yeah, I get that and I get that', and you have to wonder how much of it is merely intellectual and superficial and dot-connecting from an external point of view, and how much of it is actually being, or fueling this inner connection, if such a thing is possible, a direct connection.

And what I really like about Ashworth and his examination of this is, because I was very curious about how he would end all this, and he ends it by asking a few questions of his own. He's saying, 'who is this person like Paul who's going to take us into the future?' Because that's what all this is about. It's about a real time in humanity's future when we can more or less shed the lie, collectively, and become greater than ourselves in this connection to God, and the spiritual.

So I really appreciated that about Ashworth and how he ends the book. I forget the specific questions that he puts forth but it was pretty much along the lines of...

Harrison: Well I'll read it.

Elan: Go for it!

Harrison: So the last paragraph of the book is:

"Through individuals in the early church that powerful and effective ministry of reconciliation changed the world irrevocably. Two thousand years later that extraordinary explosion of the Spirit still impacts upon us today, still raising the question: how do we come to that place of transformative self-sacrifice now? And what are we waiting for that will change the situation where the transformation of the few inspirational individuals and the glimpses of transformation of the many becomes the irrevocable and effective transformation of all humankind expected by Paul?"

So those are kind of some big questions. It's the most interesting thing about the letters of Paul. You could read them for years and they have been read for centuries without really getting into these few ideas that are actually really present at the forefront but that have just, for the most part gotten completely lost in the mix of all these years of theological and exegetical analysis and speculation. Once it's pointed out, you look at it and say 'Oh wow so that's what was going on! I can see that now.' But then you're still left without a practical kind of 'how to' manual, right? It's not like after reading this book or reading Paul's letters, that you have all the answers and can say 'Oh now I can just put this into practice and I'm set.' There are still stages that are left unsaid that you need a teacher for it, like what Ashworth is hinting at. Well who are going to be these inspirational individuals?

So that's what we try to do on this show by looking at all these different streams of thought from all over the place that say the same thing in different ways and that maybe, hopefully we'll create that initial connection, that initial draw to bring people to something in one of those traditions to hopefully find something. For instance with Gurdjieff, you can read Gurdjieff and there's a lot more spelled out in Gurdjieff than there is in the letters of Paul. It's a lot more of a practical level of 'well here are things to try, here are things to do, here are things to actually kind of kick start this process'.

So I hope that people might be inspired to look into this more, check out Ashworth's book and kind of go further. We didn't get to the ideas of the crucifixion and the actual death which is kind of central to all of this, so I think we'll save that for another show where we can focus on the nature of suffering and the crucifixion and how that ties in with everything.

You have that to look forward to, death and suffering. {laughter} We'll get to that next week. We'll all have an experience of death and suffering next week as we try to get to the bottom of this, so thanks everyone, take care.