In 1641, French philosopher René Descartes wrote in his work Meditations on First Philosophy, which would be republished in Latin (from the original French): “Cogito ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am.” In this deductive conclusion that is still studied today, Descartes challenged the proof of a physical world. He deduced that nothing sensed, which seems quite real, can actually be proved as existing at all. Everything one experiences in life can be nothing more than a series of illusions, designed to trick one into belief in a false reality. The only thing that one can prove as a certainty is that the brain – a physical organ of the body – produced these images as thought; and because the one who possessed the thoughts of the brain knew them – the soul that gave life to a body – the thoughts were proof that the one receiving the thoughts indeed existed.
Descartes is considered a dualist. “The main influences for Dualism were theology (soul) and physics (body) and how the two interact.” (Wikipedia) In this sense, Descartes concluded that two were necessary to make one functional unit: a body needs a soul for life; and a body needs a brain for life functions. One of this necessary pair controls the physical actions (the brain), while the other influences those bodily actions to be spiritually inclined (the soul). Descartes would advance this idea in a later work, Passions of the soul.
I have been reminded of René Descartes’ philosophy while contemplating the Genesis story of God testing Abraham, by instructing Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. It causes trauma in some who read this story, thinking that God would test humans in such a dangerous manner. I wondered how that can ever be a problem for those who are far from being like Abraham, so unpriestly, so lacking in devotion to God, that most people in the world today (I presume over 99%) would never hear the divine voice of God suggesting any scenario. Why, then, would God testing Abraham be so traumatic?
If that is difficult for some to swallow, due to belief in an “All-Loving God,” then I imagine they equally struggle with Matthew’s telling how Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) To further that statement, which sounds so contrary to the beloved nature we think of when we think of Jesus, Jesus then paraphrased the prophet Micah, saying:
“For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Micah 7:6)
Jesus was saying he would fulfill that prophecy, in the same sense that Jesus would test the devotion of human beings to God, just as God tested Abraham. From that realization that Jesus spoke for God, just as God spoke to Abraham, God said through Jesus, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Abraham gave up his life when he heard God tell him to leave Ur and go to where the LORD would lead him. Since that was well before the presence of Jesus of Nazareth (born in Bethlehem), Abraham gave up his life for the sake of God and the birth of the Mind of Christ. That made Abraham a prototype of Jesus Christ and, thus, Abraham found eternal life through that sacrifice of his former life. Abraham was a priest, and Jesus was one too; the difference being Abraham built altars and made sacrifices to the LORD, while Jesus was a rabbi, teaching disciples to make willing sacrifices of themselves to the LORD.
Also consider the writing of Mark, where Jesus went into a home in Nazareth to avoid the crowd he attracted. Jesus had gained so much attention that those flocking to his entourage had become so large that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat a meal without being disturbed. The scribes of Jerusalem were there, claiming Jesus was possessed, such that Jesus’ family came to remove him from that house. They sent someone inside the house to call upon Jesus to leave and go with them. We then read as Mark tells:
“A crowd was sitting around [Jesus], and they said to [Jesus], “Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.” Answering them, [Jesus] said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around him, [Jesus] said, “Behold my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”’ (Mark 3:32-35)
Those words of Jesus explain that Abraham was doing the will of God, without regard to outside opinion. Certainly, had Abraham heard God tell him to kill his only son in a ritual sacrifice to the LORD and had Abraham then called a family conference to discuss the matter first, before acting upon God’s instructions, then Sarah and Isaac might have tried to sway Abraham to go against the will of God. Abraham did not do that because it is not the place of the slave-priest to question the master that is God. Likewise, Jesus refused to leave his disciples and go against the will of God. Therefore, one has to be tested as to one’s devotion to God, by going against those on earth who one loves most. It would be too easy to show one’s obedience, if God only asked a disciple to kill those the disciple feared and thought were contrary to belief in God.
Such unquestioned obedience explains the story of Abraham taking Isaac to land of Moriah as a sacrifice, as all priests to God will be asked to choose, “Who do you serve?” The choices are two: God or self. This is the dualism of which René Descartes pondered.
Another way of seeing this dualism is the brain’s dilemma of choosing between the influences of Satan (urges to serve self) or the thoughts received to obey righteousness (God’s influence). When the scribes of Jerusalem were saying Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub, they saw his righteous acts as inspired by evil. Jesus responded to them with the parable of a house divided will fall. We read:
“And He called them to himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.” (Mark 3:23-27)
The meaning of that comparison was that those who loved the title of “God’s chosen people” were fighting over who they thought God chose most. The leaders of the Temple and the leaders of the people (Pharisees and rabbis) had to stick together to find their lives being rewarded on a material plane, while they fought hard to quiet any who said they spoke for God on earth. Those who followed the leaders became the weak links, or the bad mortar, which would cause a house to fall. The house that stuck together with the bond of God within could resist all attacks upon its foundations.
Because Abraham is considered to be the father of those people who were promised to become a great nation, those who would fulfill that role were not simply offspring of Abraham. The Arabs were such descendants, but they never possessed the quality of complete devotion to God. Moses would try for forty years, conditioning the Israelites to stop seeking to find an individual life of importance, instead to lose their individuality of self, by total sacrifice to God … through compliance to written laws. That plan had failed when the Israelites sought to have kings and be like other nations. Thus, the Jews of Galilee and Judea were already from a fallen house … trying to defend the fallen rubble surrounding a rebuilt Temple. They were far from being the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of Abraham, willing to follow their father to their own sacrifices. Therefore, the parable told by Jesus spoke of that lack of faith and solidarity.
While it is easy for me to see God’s test of Abraham, in the instruction to make Isaac a holy sacrifice to the LORD, as a basic requirement of all who seek to serve God, the image of that story is hard for today’s Christian to digest. Any outcries about how a loving God would never call upon anyone to give up on a loved one, as if God would test Christians or Jews by making them lose a son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife, is like those outside the house where Jesus dined, who complained from ignorance. Their complaints and calls only showed the lack of faith that Jesus saw in Galilee.
Had Abraham actually killed Isaac in a holy sacrifice, who knows what reward Abraham would have received? Who can say how his story would have changed? Isaac might have been resurrected by God, in order to show death of the body, to be reborn of the Spirit, is nothing to worry about. However, the stopping of the sacrifice by an angel of the LORD, to replace Isaac with a ram, IS in effect symbolic of Isaac’s resurrection. Isaac then was modeling that story of Jesus still to come.
The problem with reading stories from antiquity is we normally interpret them as historic, and firmly attached to a distant past. We can make assumptions now, from a time far removed, which sees evolution and adaptation in God. A flow of knowledge has been inherited by us, which gives modern Christians a sense of higher mind, simply because “We know some things.” We think the God of old is not the same God of today. We have a loving God, who is the Father of a loving Christ, and all good things come from God and Christ. However, God has not changed at all and Jesus Christ told us (along with the Apostles’ writings) that thinking God is there to serve all mankind, regardless of their sins, is a trap that is set by Satan.
God is all-loving to those whose souls are in an all-loving relationship with God. One who is an all-loving relationship with God serves God willingly, from their hearts. Such all-loving servants do whatever God instructs, without questioning God’s motivation or purpose. If God says, “Sacrifice your only son to Me, at the place I tell you,” a true servant simply says, “Will do.” End of definition for “all-loving priest to the One God.” An all-loving God requires a multitude of loving slaves to do the work of God, in order to bring more souls to fall in love with God.
A marriage between a Christian and God produces the offspring of Christ – Jesus reborn. This birth cannot be possible without the marriage of a human heart to God, with complete subservience to the Husband (God) by the wife (any human). The reward of that union is the Christ Mind born again, which replaces the individual human brain with a mind that does not question the guidance of the LORD. Abraham, Jesus, all the Apostles, and all the others of complete devotion to God in the Holy Bible were the wives of the LORD, with the Mind of Christ causing them to answer every call by their Master, by saying “Here I am!”
Because modern Christians have become confused about what a relationship with God requires, we read the Biblical stories and cannot relate. We need explanation, which often adds to the confusion we feel. Instead of an all-loving heart for the One God, we have closed hearts. We are filled with doubts, rather than understanding. Abraham and Jesus seem like impossible to grasp characters who must have lived in simpler times, when everything available today was absent. We cannot see how Abraham could go to the brink of murdering his son, and we have no clue why Jesus would talk so meanly about his family. We do not realize that the sword Jesus brought was a sacrificial knife or slaughter knife.
This is where the philosophy of René Descartes comes into play. We need to stop thinking in terms of the antiquity of Biblical stories. We need to see all the imagery that comes from Scripture as the illusions of a world that cannot be proved. For as real as Abraham and Jesus appear, they must be discounted as tricks our brain is playing on us. The trick is the distance we feel, from distant times to now. Time is the illusion, as there is only now. Everything is only relative to now.
In terms of René Descartes’ philosophical conclusion to the tricks of the mind, we need to conclude that because I think of the Abraham story, I am that story. That story is not about any illusory characters, it is about me.
For anyone who has ever investigated the realm of dream analysis, the common explanation of meaningful dreams is that every character in our dreams is a reflection of our personality – our self. The brain is processing a message from a higher mind (God) to us, which we receive as metaphorical guidance. We have to then remember the dream’s specifics, and look at the symbolism the dream elements project. As such, prophetic dreams can be seen as verification of Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.” The dream’s play is a message only relative to me.
This means that every story in the Holy Bible that one encounters is a call to each individual to personally contemplate: How do I see myself in this story, song, parable, or history? A story of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac has only to do with God calling the individual to sacrifice his or her own ego, as a test of his or her subservience to God. Every story in the Bible that one reads, or hears read aloud, is intended for each individual brain that receives that dream to interpret it on the level of self. When one imagines Jesus sitting inside a house in Galilee, saying, “Here are my brothers and sisters,” God is asking, “Where are you in relationship to God? How are you inside the house and how are you outside?” When one sees the illusion of Jesus saying, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” can you see how God is once again calling you to make a self-sacrifice to righteousness?
The question boils down to the brain-soul union. If one has not yet become married to God, through deep-seated love in one’s heart, one struggles to understand the messages of dreams and Scripture. Jesus sat inside a house where he was surrounded by those willing to listen to the Mind of Christ, which speaks for the Father, as a subservient wife to the LORD. The disciples heard the call of God and answered, “Here I am.” Those outside the house were the distractions of the world, which are always calling one to turn your back on that holy inner voice and remember those who will support your life’s return to sin.
Descartes’ conclusion was like asking, “Do you believe the illusions of the brain are external to you; or do you believe those imaginary characters are designed to enlighten you to a higher self?” We must ask, “How am I Abraham?” Still, we must also ask, “How am I Isaac? How am I the angel of the LORD? “ and “How am I the ram caught in the thicket?” If we struggle with this story, we are full of doubt. However, if we can see ourselves in each character, we will conclude like René Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.”
“Here I am, LORD,” we must reply to the call. We must understand that the LORD will provide (land of Moriah) for those who are obedient and subservient. Through the Mind of Christ we know the meaning of Scripture instantly. Thus we conclude, “I think righteously, therefore I am filled with the Holy Spirit.”