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The new Ten Commandments

An essay donated by Steve Simmer

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The New Ten Commandments:

Moses went back up the mountain, after breaking the tablets. On the mountain, God spoke to him. “I see you’ve broken the tablets.” Moses said, “Yes, I became furious. Your chosen people had strayed from the truth path.” God said, “It is well you have broken the tablets, because you misunderstood me. It is very difficult to speak with humans. They hear me according to their preconceptions, their histories, and their emotions. To a thinker I will appear to be a God of thought, to a lover I will appear as a sensuous, beautiful woman. You see me as a pillar of fire and a burning bush, because you see me through your anger. To an angry eye, all things are aflame. Even my principles I gave you, you took as angry commandments. They are not even ‘commandments,’ as if I were demanding things of my people. They are ten pronouncements, principles which lie at the root of things.”

Moses replied, “But the children of Israel were worshipping other gods, and you commanded that they shall not have other gods before you.” God replied, “That was not my meaning. I said ‘You cannot worship other gods. Because I am the God behind all Gods. I am the God behind the Hindu Shiva and Vishnu. I am the god the Greeks refer to as Zeus, Hera, and Aphrodite. And this part I don’t expect you to understand—I am the God behind the God you and your people worship. Every God that you worship is one of the forms I take.”

Moses continued. “But I saw people taking your name in vain, and you said ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” God replied, “Again, you heard me through your anger. I said, ‘You cannot take my name in vain’ My meaning was that no names touch me, because I am beyond all names. How can I be touched by what your people say?”

Moses objected again, “You said that we should honor the Sabbath, to keep it holy, and I saw people dishonoring this day.” God replied, “Sabbath means rest, a time of emptying. When you make only one day holy, you make an idol. Every day, every instant, has a deep peace, a deep rest within it. I want you to see the emptiness and quiet in all things, and honor this.”

God went on, “You wrote on the tablets ‘You shall not make a graven image.’ My edict was that ‘You cannot make an image of me, because all images fall short of who I am.” You carved on the tablets, ‘Honor thy father and mother.’ Some might understand this to mean that they should obey and respect their parents. My meaning was that everything you do in your life is a way of honoring your parents. They cannot be forgotten, because their voices are heard in every decision of one’s life.”

God smiled again. “You wrote on the tablets, ‘you shall not lie,’ but my meaning was that you cannot lie. It is impossible to lie, even if you set out to do this intentionally. Your very being will betray you with the truth. Truth is a deep part of your nature. If you do not show your truth with your words, you will show it in your gestures, your glance, the subtle way you treat your own children which will cause your truth to come back to haunt you in the voice of your child.”

Moses said, “But your commandment against killing. Surely you meant this as an inviolable rule.” God answered, “Again you misunderstood. I do not blame you—it is difficult to translate the language of the mountain into the language of the valley and city. But my principle was that ‘You cannot kill.’ All things are made in my image, which means they are eternal, like I am. Death is an illusion.”
“Adultery, coveting, and stealing are ideas based on ownership of humans and private property. The soul, which is the essence of a thing, is detached from property and person. And thus, “You cannot commit adultery, you cannot covet, and you cannot steal.”

Moses, of course, went down the mountain with the same version of the commandments as he had before. The temper that gave form to his understanding caused him to hear everything in terms of moral law. He founded a tribal monotheism, whose principle is that “there is only one God, and he is ours.” He founded a society of laws, which are not like the Buddhist idea of law—Dharma—or like the idea of the laws of nature or of gravity. Instead, they are understood as moral precepts to be obeyed. And this religion of the Torah became the basis for the other great tribal monotheisms—Christianity and Islam. The rest is—sadly—history. But I cannot help wondering how this history would have been different if Moses had descended the mountain with insights like those of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, or like Meister Eckhart, or like the Persian mystic Ibn Arabi.

bulletI. Not: Thou shalt not have any other gods before me.
Rather: Thou canst not have any other gods before me. If you worship the golden calf, love, money—that is me. All forms of expression—the Torah, the Bible, the Koran—fall short of who I am. Don’t worry about heresy, though. Everything you do is for My sake, whether you know it or not.
bulletII. Not: Thou shalt not make a graven image.
Rather: Everything is an image of me, but every image falls short of who I am. My glory shines in everything you do. You cannot carve an image of me, because it is not you who are carving—it is I.
bulletIII. Not: Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain.
Rather, every name is holy, for I am in all things. Thou canst see my face in every thing, and hear my name within every name, from the highest to the lowest. For I am with thee, even to the depths of thy pain.
bulletIV. Not: Honor the Sabbath, to keep it holy.
Rather: Thou shalt notice the Sabbath, the emptiness, in every day, in every moment. Thou shalt notice part of you at rest, not leaving the house, doing nothing, in every moment.
bulletV. Not: Honor thy father and mother.
Rather: Every moment of your life is an act of honor for your parents. You can do nothing that doesn’t radiate their being into the world. Even denying your parents does them honor, because in the heart of every No is a great Yes.
bulletVI. Not: Thou shalt not kill.
Rather: Thou canst not kill. Nothing dies, and no one dies.
bulletVII. Not: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Rather: Adultery is impossible, because no human owns another.
bulletVIII. Not: Thou shalt not steal.
Rather: Stealing is impossible, because it is based on the illusion that things are mine or thine. That which appears to be things are flowing through our lives like water, and we cannot hold them, much less own, buy, sell, or steal.
bulletIX. Not: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Rather: Thou canst not bear false witness against thy neighbor. It is impossible to lie, even if you set out to do this intentionally. Your very being will betray you with the truth. If you do not show your truth with your words, you will show it in your gestures, your glance, the subtle way you treat your own children which will cause your truth to come back to haunt you in the voice of your child.
bulletX. Not: Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, property, etc.
Rather: Coveting makes no sense, because I have made the universe a gift to all beings, and I have made all beings a gift to the universe. You cannot own an ox, any more than you can own a rainbow.

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Originally posted: 2007-MAR-26
Author: Steve Simmer at: stephen.simmer@verizon.net

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