Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
This is another challenging one, because -- If God is going to getcha for this, then I, and every other straight man I know will be going straight to Hell. I really don't believe that's on the program, but then what is this doing in here?
Neither Mark nor Luke mention this saying. The story called 'The Woman Taken In Adultery' could be a later interpretation of it, because -- aside from being thoroughly in character, that story doesn't seem to have been part of any of the known Gospels; while it provides the only place in the tradition where Jesus is said to write anything whatsoever.
The absence of a saying in other Gospels could mean anything or nothing. This particular saying looks like it could be 'Matthew's' elaboration of Jesus' emphasis on inner righteousness above mere observance of external rules.
All the Gospel authors would have participated in groups where what people remembered of the tradition would have frequently been recited; and the material in those recitations would have been 'the same' in general while also being 'different': depending on local conditions and on who wanted to emphasize what on any particular occasion. No particular rendition was the original, 'real' gospel. There would have been overall agreement on what belonged to that but -- until it was eventually written in some form -- room for elaboration within that agreement.
Whether or not this saying goes back to The Guy -- What should it mean?
Everyone likes to see other people, to look at other people, whether or not those people appeal to us sexually: young women, young men, old people, children. God didn't make people good-looking just so we could turn that pleasure into something dumb & ugly.
People whose presence pleasantly twangs our sexual feelings, well -- That's even better! -- except. Except that, (for any of a long list of reasons) following through physically on those feelings would in most cases be a really bad idea.
I think (and prefer to think!) that Jesus is saying, as in the 'Woman Taken' story, that we've got no business condemning anyone for responding to such feelings foolishly, because any of us might have done that (and are lucky if we didn't!)
At the risk of potential inconsistency with the following passage, I'm going to say that we aren't being told to go around with opaque bags over our heads, not being told to suppress sexual feelings for anyone but our spice... It doesn't do to cling to such feelings, to seek them out or dwell on them, but that is another matter.
Given that God can give us anything we ask for... Isn't it a bad idea to nurse desires that would really screw things up if they materialized?
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Well, there would also be a 'carnal mind' that reacts pretty automatically to ideas & emotions, so that people experience its products as being just as 'self-evident' as what comes in via the traditional five senses (I understand that at least some Buddhist views see that mind as essentially just another such 'sense'.)
On this matter of 'looking' -- Another consideration is that people feel that from other people 'in their presence' (which might be spatially defined, though I suspect it isn't.) One can particularly notice this in situations like walking alone in the early morning, when having someone show up suddenly contrasts strongly with what one felt immediately before. If that gets sexual -- In one of Stephen Gaskin's old dharma talks he speaks about people picking up an emotion like anger -- and not knowing who to attribute it to. If they think it's theirs, they might start thinking up reasons -- and if they think it's the other person's, they might not recognize their own contribution.
I think that happens a lot on the net, where we can share a certain situational 'presence' without some of the background of acquaintance that would normally give us perspective. But even physical presence doesn't always make for understanding....
The mind is the battleground between the spirit and the flesh.
James C Schultz said:
The mind is the battleground between the spirit and the flesh.
Too much like speaking of one child as a battleground between his brother and their parent. Everything is the product of spirit... Is a canvas 'a battleground' between an artist and her painting?
if you mean the artist's concept of his or her painting I would say yes it is. It's where the action takes place.
Okay, so there's usually some conflict between a person's 'mechanical' mental processes -- which I'd say were what Paul meant by 'flesh' -- and their deeper intuition. No matter how well-made a mechanical control-process might be, you'd still want a human being's full attention available to keep it on track.
VandeWettering retold one of his teachers' stories: Once upon a time a man went to the flea-market and saw a sallow humanoid creature, about the size of a large dog, crouched in a cage there. "What's that?" he asks. "That's a devil. A very useful devil; I'll let you have him for $50. He's sturdy, smart, hardworking; he'll do anything you tell him to." The man decides he could use some help with odd jobs around the place, and digs out $50. The vendor takes the money. "Since you haven't haggled about the price, I'm going to add a warning." -- "What do you mean? There's something wrong with this devil?" -- "No, no, he's a perfectly good devil. You just need to keep him busy, otherwise he'll get up to something. Never let him run out of things to do." Of course, there comes one day when the buyer runs into an old friend in town and forgets to come home to give his devil the night's orders; the next morning he finds that things have turned truly nasty thereabouts.
That's what happens when machines start making the decisions, or when a person lets his thinking get too automatic. Someone needs to be awake and critical in there.
If you stick to a metaphor that portrays the situation as 'a battle', doesn't that add unnecessary violence to a situation where it's really you, and really God's work, on both sides?
I don't think so. I think the mind has to make constant decisions on how to interpret and act on the messages it gets from the material world based on information it has classified, rightly or wrongly, as truth/morals. In many cases choosing between immediate gratification and some level of safety or security. Some would refer to their conscience as the arbiter of right behavior but that is probably another discussion. So the mind is where decisions are made on how to act in real life. Just like a battle some decisions are easy and others not so much. One lump or two in my tea? One more drink before I go home? Call a cab or just drive the half mile home? Where to shop? Fair trade or not? Turn the other cheek?Nah! Just nuke em!
Okay, our mind needs to maintain ongoing vigilance & discernment. Not just about 'messages it gets from the material world', but about 'messages it gets from thoughts, habits and fixed ideas.'
This is no more intrinsically 'battleground' than what my old tai chi teacher said about the kind of vision to maintain during practice: eyes open but not fixed on anything, ie ready to register anything incoming.
The essence of discernment isn't about 'fighting' anything or about continual monitoring of what life and our own minds throw our way; because that would reduce to behavior like: 'The wicked flee when no man pursueth.' We simply can't, in other words, double-check everything without becoming effectively paralysed. The answer isn't in any decision-making procedure, but in striving to maintain attentive connection to God.
With the limited amount of that I can manage, lapses are only to be expected. But I find them covered.
As usual I find we don't actually disagree about anything but language. It's been a pleasure as usual.