Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Shekinah

Certain rabbis spoke about the Spirit of God brooding over creation (Gen. 1:2 ?) and they compared it to a rider of a horse. While the rider is on the horse the rider depends on the on the horse, but the rider is never-the-less superior to it and has control over it.

When God “steps” into our natural universe from His external, eternal, and supernatural (holy – kaddosh) state, we could only see the “ripples” of His steps, like those in a pond. This is the part that enters Creation, the only aspect of God we can perceive. This is God's echo or ripple or emanation. This aspect of God is very much dependent on our created universe for it would not – could not – exist without our universe – much like the rider is defined as such by his mount. He ceases being a rider if he has nothing to ride.

The term Shekinah comes from the Hebrew word shakan, that means “to pitch one's tent”. The Shekinah was not a conceived, separate divine being, but the presence of God in our world. A personification of the Jew's Shekinah, much like Sophia (God's Wisdom in Proverbs 8:12 & 24), it is a “begotten” being in the sense only because it exists as God communicates and interacts within our created universe. The personification is the ripple that emanates from God's foot dipping into the pond we call our universe. This was the Jewish rabbinical concept of the Shekinah.

A parallel is God's presence in, first, the Ark of the Covenant, then the Tabernacle (tent), and finally Solomon's Temple. It is also in the same matter that the Shekinah is connected to prophecy in Judaism and Christianity.

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It was He who made His tranquillity [sakina] descend into the hearts of the believers, to add faith to their faith...” (Qu'ran 48:4)

says the Qu'ran. This sakina is Tranquility, or the Spirit of Tranquility; God's blessing of solace and rescue. Qu'ranic verses also call Sakina reassurance, or the Peace of Reassurance.

“God was pleased with the believers when they swore allegiance to you under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts and so He sent tranquillity [sakina] down to them...” (Qu'ran 48:18)

The Sakina is said to have descended upon Muhammad during their unarmed pilgrimage to Mecca.

In “Muhammad: A Biography of a Prophet”, Karen Armstrong relates the Sakina to the Shekinah as both being God's presence in the world.
“The sakina it will be recalled, seems to be related to the Hebrew Shekinah, the term for God's presence in the world.”

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In some Sufi writings, the inner peace of Sufi contemplation – residing in a sancturary or in one's heart – would seem to solidify the relationship between the Sakina and the Shekinah both. The Sufi's sa-ka-na means both stillness and habitation, implying it's indwelling nature and it's presence of God's Spirit within.

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The female energy of Hindu gods, Shakti has been seen as compatible by some comparative religionists. Interesting more-so when we consider that the rabbinical view of the Shekinah, the Spirit of God hovering over or brooding over Creation is most definitely female as in Proverbs 8:1,1-2, 11 etc.).

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In Christianity this indwelling Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit and is even fully credited for all prophecy:

“For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”
2 Peter 1:21, NIV

Although the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Shekinah, is no longer viewed as dwelling in the Temple in the Christian Epistles of the New Testament, it is most definitely seen as God's presence or indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer. (The believer himself being the new temple).

Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 1:1-28) strongly suggests that God's presence was not a sacred one nor restricted to the priestly elite nor to the Solomon Temple. In John 4:20-24 Yeshua confirms this in saying that God's presence is manifested outside of, and beyond the Jersalem Temple (a shift from the Sacred/Secular to an almost panentheistic paradigm). He even goes on to suggest how far beyond in John 3:8 when he speaks of the Spirit being like the wind, not knowing where it comes from or where's its going; being uncontrollable by men”

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes fro or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”.

It has a mind of its own and is not bound by political, geographic, or religious borders or claims of religious exclusivity.

Yeshua's perception of the Spirit of God seems to be in perfect alignment with the Shekinah and the Sakina.

Interestingly Yeshua also listed one sin – and only one sin – which was unforgivable (and thus a guarantee for damnation) and that was blasphemy against the Spirit. (He even includes saying that speaking a word against the Son of Man – against Himself – shall be forgiven).

“Therefore I say unto you, Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come." Mat. 12:31-32

The emphasis doesn't seem to be the denial of Christ as Lord (which the New Testament Epistles focus on), but denial of some indwelling Spirit of God; Shekinah.

Holy Spirit – Shekinah – Sakina – Shakti – Sa-ka-na.
Outside of cultural differences; other than linguistic nomenclature, I see little difference between these presences of God... for like the wind, God is not bound or restricted to the confines of man or our claims of exclusivity.

I'm not quite sure Yeshua of Nazareth's primary emphasis was on accepting himself as one's Lord and Saviour so much as accepting the presence of God among and with us.

This idea of the Shekinah answers for me a concern I've harboured for quite some time. If the indwelling Spirit of God (name it what you will) is the only sign of a true believer, and that is restricted to one faith and only one faith, then that makes God a bigot.

It makes God a bigot because he discriminates against people born and raised in different geographic locations, cultures, nations, races and colours.

The Shekinah – as I understand it and have attempted to describe it here – shows the very real possibility that God has revealed his presence to all people of the world and is in no way a bigot.

I believe the Age of Exclusivity must come to an end. This is Tribalism and the way I see it, Tribalism – just like Bigotry – is a far too human trait for God to exhibit.

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