Glenn A Knight

Glenn A Knight
In my study

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Meditation and Sacrificial Worship

I have begun practicing meditation. I am a rank beginner, but I'm finding meditation relaxing. It's a good way to shuck the strains of work and daily life.

Personally, I don't expect to achieve oneness with God or to see spiritual beings, but I may come to understand more of what mystics and sufis experience, or report that they have experienced.

The very personal, very inward practice of meditation makes a strong contrast with the public, representive, and formalistic religious practices prescribed in Exodus and Leviticus. There isn't a word about about Aaron and his sons achieving oneness with God, although there is a lot about the burning of unblemished sheep or goats creating an aroma pleasing to the Lord. And most of the congregation just sits or stands somewhere in the temple (or tabernacle) enclosure to watch the priests make the offerings to God on their behalf.

The practices defined at length in Exodus and Leviticus remind me strongly of the sacrifices described in the Iliad. Leviticus is more explicit about which parts of the animal must be burned (God's portion), and which parts can be eaten, and by whom, but there is very little doubt that the worship service bore a strong resemblance to a barbecue.

So far, my favorite mantra for meditation (although I usually don't use a mantra at all) is bismallah, ar-rahman, ar-rahim. (In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.) It's just about the right length to pronounce on a long breath.

Does anyone else have any meditative practices or experiences you'd like to share?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Bible on the Ground

I have a book called A Traveller in Rome, by H. V. Morton. It is a very good travel book, first published in 1957. (I have a 2002 paperback reprint from Da Capo Press.) There are two other Morton travel books I would like to have: In the Steps of St. Paul and In the Steps of the Master.

I was reminded of these today when I ran across and article in Slate by David Plotz. This link is to the first of the series of articles on travelling around Israel finding Biblical sites. The one I first read today was the fifth in the series, and it was about day spent finding sites associated with Jesus. In particular, there is a nice account of Plotz' visit to Capernaum, "Jesus' own town."

I took a lot of photographs, mostly in the form of slides, when we lived and travelled in Turkey. At some point I took a selection of them, featuring sites mentioned in the book of Acts or otherwise of interest to Christians, and assembled a slide show for a Biblical tour of Turkey. (Not only are a lot of New Testament sites in what is now Turkey, but my personal choice for the location of the Garden of Eden is along the road between Malatya and Elazig, a path I travelled a number of times.)

I am reading the Bible, and, as always when reading a book with included maps, I'm checking out the maps as I go. I am also reading James L. Kugel's very good book How to Read the Bible, which I am beginning to think is a "must-read" for anyone interested in biblical history. And I think David Plotz' series in Slate is a nice addition to the literature of "walking the Bible."

By the way, I think I've heard of a book or TV series, or both, called "Walking the Bible." Comments from anyone familiar with this material would be welcomed.