Reframing the 'Ten Commandments' to 'Various Vows'
Shemot, Yitro, chapter XX, verses 1 to 23
Tom Northcott, Jan. 29, 2000
(re: v.2: "who brought you out")
THANKS TO THE ONE WHO CHOSE TO MANIFEST AS THE UNIVERSE AND YOU AND ME,
(re: v.3: "You shall have no other gods beside Me." )
AND WHO SAYS : "YOU SHALL BE UNTO ME A NATION OF ICONOCLASTS!" SO, I ACKNOWLEDGE ALL PARTS OF THE UNIVERSE, BUT WORSHIP ONLY THE WHOLE, THE ONE REALITY.
(re: v.4: "no sculptured image or any likeness" v.5: "You
shall not bow down to them or serve them.")
I WILL INFUSE HABIT WITH REFRESHED MEANING, AND CREATE NEW RITUAL TO CONNECT
(re: v.7: "You shall not swear falsely")
AND SPEAK HONESTLY AND DIRECTLY,
(re: vv.8-10: "Remember the sabbath day")
AND RESTORE IN G!D'S REST,
(re: v.12: "Honor your father and mother")
AND TRANSFORM INHERITED DARKNESS INTO LIGHT.
(re: "the land which God/the One is giving you")
KNOWING THERE IS NO 'THEM' ANYMORE, ONLY 'US', I WILL SHARE EARTH
RESPECTFULLY WITH ALL LIFE,
(re: v.13: "You shall not murder")
AND FIND HEALTHY EXPRESSION FOR MY VIOLENT IMPULSES,
(re: "You shall not commit adultery.")
AND WORK TO PURIFY EARTH, AIR, WATER AND RELATIONSHIPS,
(re: "You shall not steal.")
AND SHARE ABUNDANCE WITH THOSE WHO NEED IT.
(re: "You shall not bear false witness against you neighbour.")
I WILL BE ONGOINGLY CURIOUS TO UNDERSTAND OTHER PEOPLE AND NATIONS AND THEIR
(re: v.14: "You shall not covet your neighbour's...")
AND CELEBRATE THE GOOD FORTUNE OF MY NEIGHBOUR.
(re: v.15: "All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning")
THROUGH PRAYER AND MEDITATION I WILL MAKE MYSELF AVAILABLE FOR REVELATION,
(re: "So the people remained at a distance"... "let not G!D
speak to us")
AND APPROACH CLOSELY AND SPEAK DIRECTLY WITH G!D, RELYING ON NO OTHER PERSON
OR THING TO INTERMEDIATE,
(re: v.21: "in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will
come to you and bless you.")
AND INVOKE BLESSING BY LISTENING EARNESTLY FOR G!D'S NAME.
(v.22: "if you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it of hewn
I WILL HOLD EARTH SACRED AS I EXPLORE AND DEVELOP SACRED INNER SPACE.
The 'Ten Commandments' today, Jan. 29, 2000
Shemot, Yitro, chapter XX, vv. 1-23
Paraphrasing verse 3 we are told "don't exalt any but the One G!D". That is, be iconoclasts, seeking out and exposing anything that masquerades as the One. We easily spot Hollywood, Bay Street and the Fashion Capitals of the world as promoting "other gods", but what about closer to home, in our own personalities? What have I made of myself, that 'isn't really me', in order to be popular, to be accepted, or even just to survive? How can I dismantle that falseness and 'be real'?
And since, against advice, we are going to build 'other gods' anyway, we are told in verse 5 of the mistake of worshipping them. "don't bow down to them or serve them". We can ask "What am I after? What void am I trying to fill by exalting people and things?" What future betrayal am I setting up by trusting inappropriately?
In verse 7 we are warned against "swearing falsely by the name", which is to say "don't lie about Reality, or things will go badly!" We weaken our connection with Reality when we misrepresent It. And we can easily come to believe something is true, that started out as an intentional lie. I recall being 15 and consciously lying, in enthusiastic detail, about having parachuted. A few weeks later I was telling the story again, and was shocked to realize part way through that it was false. I wonder what my earlier and deeper lies are, that I have taken for truth through my life.
Verses 8, 9, 10 and 11 concern Shabbat, too big a subject to treat here. Suffice it to say that beyond being necessary to sanity, holy rest and recovery is an art to be developed and practiced through a lifetime.
Honoring parents is the subject of verse 12. But to honor them we need to understand them, to know who we are honoring. Then we can ask the personal question, "How do their troubles influence my life?" And if there is anger and distance, how do we reconcile or at least forgive?
And as parents, how do we earn and invite honor from our children? One issue common today is called "psychic incest" which is a non-physical but still inappropriate use of a child to meet relationship needs that should be met by another adult, ideally the spouse/other parent. Wanting children to comfort us, to take care of us emotionally is too much to demand of the ones we should be comforting, caring for.
Murder, adultery, theft, falseness/perjury and envy occupy verses 13 and 14. It goes without saying that these actions and attitudes weaken society. Looking for symbolism in them I remember a dream that recurred for me, until about 6 or 7 years ago. I was always being pursued, hunted down for a murder I had committed. But I never knew who it was I had killed, though I knew I was guilty. Then one morning I woke up from the dream and 'got it'. I had been murdering myself, the true me, whoever that is. I haven't had the dream since, and I have been working on discovering 'who I am'.
Another aspect of 'murder' is alluded to by Krishnamurti as follows: "The greatest evil of our time is the denial of the evil that exists in every one of us." And Erich Fromm: "There is no human act of which I cannot consider myself the author." To say it another way, we need to be intimately acquainted with the 'dark side' of our natures, those feelings and impulses that we are ashamed of, or afraid of, in ourselves, though they are part of being human.
We are all aware of the consequences of residential and industrial adulteration of earth air and water. We may also consider how we 'adulter' the intimacy of close relationships by lying, or simply by withholding who we really are. Enjoyment of relationship decreases as pollution by dishonesty increases. Anyone need examples?
Stealing. Can a person or group's dignity be stolen? What happens when we label and dismiss, or label and fear, or label and hate? Don't we owe everyone our curiosity about why they behave the way they do?
False witness, perjury, we commit daily in the practice of blaming, of avoiding responsibility for what we know or what we have done.
When we covet, envy, we reveal our felt incompleteness, our sense of being fundamentally flawed. What are we trying to complete, to perfect? And where did we get the idea that we are not good enough, not loveable?
In verse 16 ("you encounter G!D Moses, not us!") the crisis of identity builds and we try to avoid confronting Reality. Like when we were children and a parent gave us the chance to try something new, say, to ask a police officer for directions, but we said "you do it". With Reality, if we defer to another to intermediate, we deprive ourselves of the direct experience, the possibility of intimacy with Oneness.
("...lest we die!") What is it that, when we get close to it, we fear will kill us? In certain meditations, contemplations, single and group therapy we may come close to a core truth and feel we are going to die, but somehow when we go into that chaos, that fear, we come out the other side into a bigger and brighter world. So, how much Reality can we take?
In verse 17 we are told "Do not fear", and later, "that His fear may be before you". This can be read to mean "have healthy fear of Reality, but don't let fear have you". Irrational, chronic fear (e.g. phobia) numbs the senses and separates us from Reality. How can we hold our fear in healthy perspective and make thoughtful, positive choices?
So the people, having shrunk from encounter, wait while Moses approaches the thick cloud, the Darkness. Using the analogy of the people as children and Moses as parent, we also know that one day we will all grow up and stand where Moses stood. And we will either open to revelation or stay lost. We have to slow down, to feel our way into Darkness. This is exploration of Inner Space, where we expand consciousness, and develop intuition and spiritual connection. So let us approach the Darkness where it always was, always is and always will be, inside each of us.
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