The Eternal Observer
Encounters with God, Creation and Religion
and watched over millennia as the Almighty Supreme Being (ASB) frequently
communicated with the sapient species of His creative ingenuity (that’s us). I
took note of the ASB’s interventions to corral and control us and His attempts
to placate and win us over.
patiently wait for the apocalyptic time when the end of
the world will no longer be nigh – I
wonder if there might ever be another Great One, a Chosen One, a Mahdi, a
Messiah. I’ve watched so long in hopeful expectation; but am fast accepting my
lot as the forlorn eternal observer.
Supreme Being and Creation
documented communication between the ASB and his created species was a shining
example of equal opportunity and sexual equality. No glass ceilings here. Adam
and Eve were in it together. Equal partners. They were told with incontrovertible
clarity what the rules were; and what was expected of them. In return they had
free run of Eden.
all fell apart when they were caught-out behind the apple tree. And the hapless
apple has ever since worn the blame to cover for them.
days, the ASB mostly went under the nomenclature of Yahweh from the Hebrew
language in which the early communications were recorded.
much easier way back in those days. There weren’t very many people and Yahweh
could pretty much talk if not to all of them, then, at least, to the main
characters. He certainly had a lot to
say to Adam and Eve. He had made it clear what they shouldn’t eat. It was Eve
who got caught with her mouth full and so copped the worst of Yahweh’s wrath: “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will
rule over you” (Gen 3.16).
watched this pantomime unfold at the time, I’m still baffled that the outcome
reduced Eve to a state of perpetual submission to be at Adam’s beck and call to
do what she was being punished for!
lost on me, even back then, that Yahweh was knowingly setting up a precedent for
the way His male creations in the earthly world of the surrounds of Eden would
treat His female creations.
didn’t much improve over the ensuing years. Yahweh took a dislike to one of
Adam and Eve’s kids; and instigated Cain’s expulsion from the expanding family.
In doing so, Yahweh, in effect, initiated the institution of antagonistic clan
and tribal animosity; and the perennial fight for land, stock and women that
became so characteristic of it.
thinking at the time it was a bit disingenuous of Yahweh to express regret that
He had created what anthropologists millennia later would call homo sapiens. I mean, He had the power
to call it all off; but curiously continued to communicate extensively with
Noah, to whom He had taken a liking. Yahweh gave Noah specific instructions and
specifications for the building of an ark big enough for his extended family
and a representative smattering of animals so He, Yahweh, could wipe out the
rest and let Noah lead a revival.
chapter in creation began with the first real appointment by Yahweh of someone
on Earth that could claim to be His choice as a messenger or spokesperson. This
was Yahweh’s first covenant with a mouthpiece from among His created homo sapiens. He told Noah “I have
placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and
with all the earth” (Gen 9.13).
It took a
long time before it was fully realised that having the rainbow as a sign of His
covenant was Yahweh’s way of continuing the commitment to sexual equality that
had been manifest with Adam and Eve.
descendants of Noah and his family and menagerie multiplied and filled pockets
of the Earth in an expanded area embracing what Eurocentric geographers would
come to designate as the Near and Middle East. Unfortunately, even with the
postdiluvian revival of civilisation, Yahweh’s initial creation of clan
animosity and warfare regenerated and thrived.
think Yahweh rather enjoyed the spectacle with its thrills and opportunities
for manipulation. He came to side with a clan He dubbed the Israelites and put
all His money on them, so to speak. It wasn’t exactly a level playing field,
with Yahweh frequently intervening to give the Israelites the upper hand. For Yahweh
it was simply a game of thrones.
first foray into the world of tribal warfare, which became a veritable way of
life for His mortals, was to nominate Abram as his favourite with whom He would
have a special line of communication. Yahweh’s first instructions to Abram were:
"Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and
go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation” (Gen 12.1-2).
became confident that He’d made the right choice in selecting Abram, He further
expanded His covenant with him. It made sense to change Abram’s name to Abraham
signifying father of many nations, but I never understood why Yahweh was so
obsessed with the next bit: “every male among you shall be circumcised. And you
shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of
the covenant between Me and you” (Gen17.10-11). Maybe He could never let go of
what happened at Eden. Problems Emerge
in the Scheme of Things
I can’t say I agreed with all Yahweh’s tactics. He certainly pushed the
envelope with His stunt to get Abraham to sacrifice his son. It was really more
to do with Yahweh’s self-assurance than testing Abraham’s loyalty. However, the
relationship built a solid foundation for an everlasting, if diverse and even
divisive, embrace between Yahweh and the vast majority of his creation –
certainly of those who trace their heritage to Abraham’s clan or, at least,
claimed to have inherited his values and ethics as much as his beliefs.
sure if Yahweh planned it this way, but Abraham’s eldest son, Ishmael, and his
mum were taken by Abraham to Mecca and stayed on there. Ishmael’s progeny grew
into a nation of people that came to be called Arab; and would later include
Muhammad amongst their number. But I’m jumping ahead.
returned from Mecca to Canaan, Yahweh’s attention stayed with Abraham’s second
son, Isaac, whose son Jacob Yahweh named Israel. Jacob (or Israel) had twelve
sons who later gave their names to what history identified as the twelve tribes
of Israel. The tribe of Judah became the most powerful and a unifying force for
a time. Its members became known as Judaists or Jews.
commentators would refer to the Abrahamic
heritage or tradition. It became a key component common to what many millennia
later came to be described as the three great monotheist religions. Monotheist,
of course, means believing in one
god: so essentially Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Not that they all
interpreted their heritage in the same way.
message from Yahweh was expanded in His communications with Moses through the
10 commandments. All three monotheist religions adopted them albeit with
Obedience, Murder and Mayhem
years rolled on, Yahweh took great delight in watching the ferocious battles
between clans, tribes and individual champions. He particularly liked seeing
the Israelites being hammered and brought to the point of abject defeat before
stepping in and effecting a change of leader whom He would empower to take out
the conquering tribe or tribes. Gideon was but one of many examples of this
phenomenon (Judges 6). He revelled in
the plagues, the trumpets that would bring down city walls, the fire balls that
hit with digital precision and even the fleeing armies with their wounded and
dying. The never-ending disputes, antagonisms, battles, wars between family
units, clans and tribes continued and proliferated. That was simply the way of
life virtually from the time when Yahweh created homo sapiens.
advantage the Israelites had – this was the “great nation” that Yahweh told
Abraham would become his – was its endorsement and support from Yahweh Himself.
It prospered on that basis. There is a myriad of stories in the Torah, the
Bible and the Koran that attest to the Abrahamic heritage.
that remained the status quo for a
the ASB was Himself eternal so temporariness was irrelevant to Him, it was surprising
that He started to get bored with all his manipulations. By now the world had
grown and people had dispersed across continents and oceans. The ASB didn’t
really care much about them. Canaan – the land of the Israelites, the Levant
(in 21st century speak Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria) was His
playground and the Israelites His toys. Maybe He had grown battle weary. He
wasn’t even prepared to ‘play the game’ when the Assyrians moved in or when the
Babylonians took most of the Israelites into captivity.
A New Testament
until the Romans colonised and occupied the whole land that He finally sat up
and decided to be Yahweh again. He plotted the most devious move of all. Even
I, who thought that I has seen it all, was blown away with its audacity.
He came up
with the idea of an avatar. In hindsight, it’s probably just as surprising that
He hadn’t thought of it before. I suppose the burning bush for Moses was getting
close to an avatar. But this time it would be a full-sized look-alike homo sapiens. Rather than try to create
something that he would have to design, He decided to wait until a suitable
person emerged naturally. That happened when a non-descript carpenter started
to preach some novel approaches to life and relationships, including relating
to Yahweh. This was Jesus of Nazareth.
have worked out better for Yahweh. He simply had to spiritualise Himself into
Jesus’ psyche. Nothing seen; nothing felt; no emotions altered. Jesus remained
physically, mentally, intellectually and emotionally the same Jesus who was
naturally conceived and born to Mary and Joseph.
This was a
very different Yahweh to the one I had become accustomed to; the Yahweh that had
revelled in tribal warfare, manipulating the odds for the Israelites; the Yahweh
that used circumcision as both a sign of submission to Him and a weapon of war
against the enemies of the Israelites.
Now it was
a Yahweh who, through Jesus, was saying “Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the
merciful. Blessed are the peacemakers. Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you.” (Matt 5). Yahweh was careful not to sound too radical by
cautioning his listeners “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or
the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matt 5). And
the admonition that really had eyes rolling: “Do to others as you would have
them do to you” (Matt 6).
I’d have to
agree the messages, in addition to being outrageously novel, weren’t entirely
consistent. There was little doubt he
was preaching principles, values, ethics, virtues and morals that challenged
the traditional Judaist way of life in so many respects. It was little wonder
that people were muttering in bewilderment as they ambled down from the mount.
But it was Yahweh’s call.
I think He
got to like being Jesus even if it was only at a spiritual level. It had been a
long time since Yahweh had had any direct interaction with His mortals, His homo sapiens. He enjoyed having Jesus as
a sort of alter ego as he (Jesus)
engaged with his disciples and their families. Yahweh actually got to
appreciate the real lives of ordinary people; the fun of playing with kids; the
travails of making a living whether by fishing, cropping or herding. He was
also exposed to the discontent of a people under foreign occupation.
brought to the table was, of course, His all-knowing entity. He was ahead of
even the latest of today’s modern scientific discoveries. So through Jesus He
was able to pass off as miracles all manner of cures and resuscitations that
are par for the course today; and get away with it.
might be indulgently presumptive of me to speak on Yahweh’s behalf, I should
point out that the situation of the ground at this time was politically and
socially a universe or two away from what it was at the height of Yahweh’s
involvement with the Israelites.
inevitable resentment that comes with foreign occupation and the imposition of
someone else’s laws and, especially, taxes, the prevailing Pax Romana was relatively benign. In fact, if it was asked what the
Romans had ever done for Judea, the answer might have been a long list of
economic and social benefits. The principal benefit was the Pax Romana itself: Judea was no longer a
permanent tribal battleground. The Israelites, with Yahweh’s help, had pretty
much vanquished their old tribal enemies. That probably made it easier for Rome
to move its conquering army into Judea. But, at least, the Roman occupation
squashed any remaining inter-clan disputes. So the prevailing ambiance was
susceptible to messages of peace and harmony.
The old days of clan warfare had long disappeared.
biggest problem was how to keep up the high pitch of interest in and commitment
to Jesus. Jesus’ messages kept coming. He travelled widely through Judea. He
socialised. He preached. He toiled. He garnered a huge popular following.
Inevitably, he also set disenchantment rumbling amongst pillars of the Judean
Establishment; and attracted the curious scrutiny of Roman informers.
then became to orchestrate a powerful exit that would put an indelible stamp on
the Jesus Movement to ensure a lasting legacy. The mercurial Prefect of the Roman
Judea Province, Pontius Pilot, would become the ideal instrument to play into
Yahweh’s scheme. And so it was. Mind you, it wasn’t a great ending for Jesus.
Not one he would have chosen himself. It was another captain’s call by Yahweh. There
was some mopping-up afterwards to make Jesus seem more than a mere mortal. That
all worked out but it took a bit of skulduggery to pull off.
pretty pleased about it all. Jesus’ immediate legacy was a solid cadre of
disciples deeply imbued with the ideals, values, morals and virtues of the
Jesus Movement; strongly motivated and committed to spreading them not only
throughout Judea but way beyond its borders; and supremely able to carry the
message through both the spoken and written word.
Movement rapidly spread into Asia Minor and later throughout the Roman Empire.
Concurrent with Christianity’s (as the Jesus’s Movement came to be called)
spread westwards, most of the traditional Judean social norms e.g. the
subjugation of women, became obsolete. But old habits die hard.
unexpected phenomenon was the rapidity with which Christianity spread beyond
not only Judea but the Judean diaspora of Asia Minor. That meant that Hebrew was
replaced initially by Greek and then Latin as the lingua franca of the movement. The ASB took on the new nomenclature
happens, however, disappointment follows hot on the heels of elation. The
purity and simplicity of the hallmarks of Christianity – the teachings of Jesus
– soon became captive to the machinations of the control-obsessed
administrators. Before long there emerged a maze of complex self-serving
bureaucracies that invented a myriad of doctrinal and moral detail that
transformed the Jesus Movement into a prescriptive dogmatic prison. Yahweh was
over 500 temporal Earth years – a fleeting moment for the ASB – before the ASB
or God, as He was being called within His newly created great nation of
Christianity, decided to have another foray into the life of his homo sapiens mortals.
the Third Time Round!
Ishmael? I introduced you to him much earlier in this recollection. He was
Abraham’s eldest son. It was only much later in Abraham’s life that Isaac had
come along via a different mother, who pressured Abraham to move Ishmael and
his mother out of the house. Abraham took them to Mecca. Ishmael was 14.
Yahweh had great plans for Isaac, He had a soft spot for Ishmael. He’d told
Abraham: “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I
will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar's son [Ishmael] because he
is your son, too" (Gen 21.12-13)
visited them in Mecca a couple of times. On at least one of these occasions Yahweh
finally stepped in and laid the foundations for His longer term plans. Yahweh
got Abraham and Ishmael to build what later would become known as the Kaaba –
the sacred centre of the Mecca Mosque (Quran 2.127). But that would be much
later. For now, Yahweh simply wanted a holy place for Himself to be honoured by
Ishmael and his descendants (Quran 22.26-29).
Ishmael wasn’t all that happy about being separated from his extended family in
Canaan but he soon warmed to the idea of being someone who stood out and was
deferred to by the locals. And he knew he would have Yahweh’s support so long
as he worshipped at the new holy place.
Ishmaelites grew into the great nation Yahweh had promised. They developed
their own culture and language; and became known to neighbouring tribes as Arab
and their language Arabic, which kept the essentials of Ishmael’s native
Hebrew. However, they drifted from the beliefs that Yahweh had imparted to them
and took up worshipping all sorts of idols.
In parallel with the descendants of Ishmael’s brother in Canaan, the
Ishmaelites continued the life of tribal warfare. This way of life was a
complex mix of tradition, survival, occupation and entertainment.
there were drastic changes to this way of life for Isaac’s descendants brought
about by the Assyrian, Babylonian and Roman invasions as well as the impact of
the Jesus Movement, none of these factors or any similar factors had the same
sort of impact on Ishmael’s descendants. They continued their intertribal
animosities long after Canaan had been subdued and the Israelites
The ASB was
quick to pick up on this situation. While He had done an about-turn with His
abandonment of interventions with the Israelites and His new-found preference
for the ideals of the Jesus Movement, He was still haunted by nostalgia for the
‘good old days.’ He saw in the Ishmaelites the opportunity to get back into the
fray. Moreover, He felt He had let their idolatry run unhindered for far too
By now, of
course, the nomenclature of Yahweh was relevant only to the remnants of the Israelites
who stuck with Judaism. The God nomenclature had expanded with the growth of
Christianity; and had even mutated into a triangle of God the Father, God the
Son and God the Holy Ghost. That had been about the last straw for the ASB. He
needed to move on. Amongst the Ishmaelites, with their Arab culture and
language, He would use the new nomenclature of Allah.
Ishmaelites, Allah spotted an eight-year-old orphan boy who had tragically lost
both parents and was being cared for by an uncle after having spent a few years
with grandparents before they died. Allah saw in him the potential to develop
into someone who could be moulded into a new Abraham, Isaac or Ishmail. The
game was on.
protective of this boy, Muhammad, as he grew up. He often intervened to ensure
Muhammad was not unduly influenced by idolatry or licentiousness. Allah would
have preferred Muhammad might have lead a more ascetic life rather than
steeping himself in the rough and tumble world of traveling merchants. But that
wasn’t an obstacle. Muhammad developed into a sound and stable man of solid
values. Perfect for Allah’s plans.
didn’t much want to repeat the open and direct interventions he had with Adam
and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses etc. He was more inclined to come up with another
scheme. He had been pleased with his avatar model with Jesus but didn’t want to
repeat that. He wanted to be a little subtler. He would come to do this by
manipulating Muhammad’s dreams – both night and day dreams. Allah often
referred to this strategy as his inception modality.
was about 40 when Allah began His inception process. At first, Muhammad shared
his dreams only with his immediate family. As he carefully extended his circle
of confidants, he was warned of the dangers of advocating the sort of ideas
coming from his dreams: that there is only one ASB, Allah, who is all-powerful,
creator and controller of this universe (Quran 85.8-9) and merciful towards his
creations (Quran 85.14), that worship should be made only to Allah;
that men would be accountable, for their deeds to Allah on the day of judgement,
and would be assigned to heaven or hell (Quran 85.10-13) and that Allah expects
man to be generous with their wealth and not miserly (Quran 107.1-7).
persisted with and expanded his preaching. The backlash was strong. His teachings were a
direct threat to both the religious traditions of paganism and the commercial
benefits of the pilgrimages attached to it.
Opposition grew from ridicule to violence. Muhammad and his followers
soon moved to Medina where the opposition was far less rabid. They were
referred to by Arabic words based on the three consonants S L M meaning ‘one
who submits’. (Like Hebrew, Arabic has no vowels, so S L M could be rendered as
Islam or Muslim.) Muhammad and his followers called themselves Muslims.
up his inception modality and Muhammad continued sharing and preaching his
dreams. And his enemies, principally the powerful Quraysh tribe based in Mecca,
grew more committed and aggressive. None of this was unexpected. And Allah
didn’t see the need for the sort of direct involvement that so characterised
His involvement with the Israelites. He was confident that Muhammad and his
Muslims through both treaty negotiation and all-out battles would win the day.
It didn’t matter much anyway, because Allah would have stepped in at the first
sign of weakening by Muhammad.
the Battle of Badr, where the Muslims had a significant victory, Muhammad moved
on Mecca. With every battle from Medina to Mecca, the new religion of Islam
with Allah as its object of worship and Muhammad as its preacher took stronger
root. Allah was pleased.
long before Muhammad took control and united the principal tribes of Mecca and
Medina into an army of and for Islam. For Allah, this was just as it used to be
with the great warriors of the Israelites. Whether the ASB was known as Yahweh
or Allah or simply God (He drew the line at Father, Son and Holy Ghost), it
didn’t matter to Him. He was the ASB; and that’s all that mattered.
Allah, back when He was known as Yahweh, revelled in the tribal battles,
invasions, victories; and all that went with the spread of the Israelites
through Judea and Caanan, He started to have reservations about the extent of
the land and peoples being conquered and subjugated by the armies of Islam in
His, Allah’s, name. The Israelites had stayed within the Levant; but these
successors to the Ishmaelites were pushing in all directions setting up empires
in what later would be identified as the Middle and Near East, the
Subcontinent, Central Asia, Africa, Spain, East Europe, the Balkans and South
East Asia. Their influence went even further, being carried by preachers on
caravans along the Silk Road to China, over the seas to faraway lands and into
the heartlands of Christianity.
happened so quickly that Allah’s only course of action was to inject some
rationality into the situation rather than try to wind back what had been done.
Fortunately, as Islam spread, the early uncompromising fervour abated; and gave
way to great and impressive centres of learning, science, culture and the arts
in places like Baghdad, Cordoba and Samarkand. That lasted for centuries and
led to a revival of everything classical as well as advancing amazing
mathematical and scientific revelations. Allah was overjoyed at these
developments, and couldn’t help commenting that it was now the older
established Christian centres that were learning from the newer Islamic ones.
sit back and see His creations working harmoniously and productively for the
betterment of lives and learning everywhere. Well, apart from the occasional
squabble. That was until a small almost unnoticed tribe from the Far East Asian
steppes started to move westwards with increasing military strength. Even for
Allah, Genghis Khan seemed to come out of nowhere. Three generations of Mongol
Khans destroyed much of what had been established and residing peacefully
enough. The most tragic event came with Genghis’ grandson Hulagu who sacked
Baghdad and destroyed everything in the House of Wisdom – the most extensive
library since Alexandria. At much the
same time, the Christian armies of Spain were hell bent on driving Islam from
Al Andalus; and in doing so swept up and discarded what centres of learning in
the Christian world had coveted and benefited from.
all unravelling at the same time as another world-shattering development had
been shaking to the core the belief and hopes the ASB had for his creation: the crusades. He wept – this was the only time I saw Him do that –
at the mindless and brutal insanity of Christian and Muslim brawling savagely
over the very places He – as Yahweh, God, Allah – had treasured and around
which He had nurtured His chosen ones. The world would never be the same.
it eventually settled down. The armies went home. Heroes were feted: Richard
the Lionheart, Saladin; but nothing was really resolved.
Israelites would regroup and reclaim a stake in the Judea they had wandered
from during past invasions. The Muslims
would lock in their hold on vast tracts of land which mostly had become nations
with colonially-enforced borders that divided natural allegiances amongst clans
and tribes. Christians consolidated their influence in the areas of the old
Roman Empire and its successor and related dynasties, culminating in its own
Papal Empire. Harmony wasn’t exactly the prevailing milieu.
It All Comes
while still invoked under His varied nomenclatures, preferred to be known
simply as the ASB. It was less complicated that way. And He could relieve
Himself of some responsibility for the way things turned out. It was probably
just as well He took this approach because He eventually felt the need to
totally eschew the name of Allah once a small band of His beloved Muslims went
totally rabid and tried to wind back history with warped and distorted ideas
about a new Islamic Caliphate.
most tragic thing for the ASB was that He was facing an ever increasing number
of His Israelite and Christian homo
sapiens (He did come to wonder about the appropriateness of the sapiens epithet) who doubted His very
existence; and now He had to watch so many disillusioned youths from His Muslim
homo sapiens (He could barely abide
the use if the epithet in this context) abandoning every element of the Islamic
faith He had created; and, worst, claiming to be acting in His name!
small consolation the ABS lives with is the inevitability of the end. It is nigh. In fact, for the ASB, it’s a blink
or two away. But for the mortals whom He has saddled with temporariness, it’s
still a few million Earth years away.
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