King of the World
It is one of the most iconic movie scenes of all modern times. A young immigrant lad sneaks onto the deck of the world’s most advanced (at the time) ocean liner with a girl from the upper crust of society. He climbs onto the railing of the ship’s deck, leans out over the ocean and proclaims: “I’m king of the world!”
The reign of any human being is subject to time, politics, and other aspects of mankind. Those who rule the longest tend to be mere figureheads while those with real power either are overthrown or subject to term limits. The Greek Zeus, known to the Romans as Jupiter Optimus Maximus Soter or simply Jupiter, is perhaps the beginning of mankind’s shift from polytheism to monotheism although some eastern spiritualities might argue that with good evidence.
In his epic poems, Homer refers to Zeus as the all-knowing, a foreshadowing of the characteristics given to the monotheistic deity known by many names that are summarized by the one – God. Homer spoke of the mind of Zeus, “nous” as well as the will of Zeus, “boule”. Homer’s drama seems to follow some divine plan that hints of a predestination that could not be understood by mortals. This directly contrasts with previous polytheistic cultures.
Yesterday we touched upon the Egyptian sun god Aten who was singled out by the Pharaoh Akhenaten for greater adoration than other deities. The Persian Zoroaster also referenced a chief deity, Ahura-Mazda, both deities being those we will discuss in the coming months. Even in Mesopotamia, deities such as Anu, Narru, Shamash, Marduk, and Ashur were given special attention over other gods and goddesses.
Another Greek poet, Hesiod, in his epic “Theogany”, described Zeus as being supreme over the other deities: “But when the blessed gods had finished their toil, and settled by force their struggle for honors with the Titans, they pressed far-seeing Olympian Zeus to reign and to rule over them, by Earth’s prompting. So he divided their dignities amongst them.”
In discussing the one god of the Abrahamic religions which some have called mythologies based upon one man known as Abraham, a passage from Deuteronomy, chapter 32, stands out in similarity to the description from Hesiod: “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided up humankind, he set the boundaries of the peoples, according to the number of the heavenly assembly [the sons of God].”
In his book ‘The Evolution of God”, Robert Wright addresses the fact that the early Israelites were indeed polytheistic. The character of Moses, found in the holy writings of all three Abrahamic faiths and a central figure in the education of the people in learning the desires and teachings of this monotheistic deity, makes reference to this culture as well as the offering of sacrifices. It is, therefore, not surprising and extremely important that one of the names of this singular deity makes sure that the believers knew he/she was indeed the god of all, the king of the world – real and spiritual.
The name for this god, “El Bethel” appears only once in the above-referenced holy writings. Bethel was the name of a town near which it is said that a faithful believer known as Jacob, constructed a ladder from earth to the heavens. The word “el” literally translates as “God” and “bethel” translates as “house”. The name El Bethel was to reference the one god of the house of God, the one above all, the singular deity for all.
“El” appears in various forms throughout our languages. Many names that ended in “el” were said to have special religious meaning and most are defined as being connected with this god. Names like Michael, Daniel, among others were used in these holy writings to identify chosen humans or special angels, lesser deities among the religion and its literature. It also appears in the English language as a prefix, both in the spelling of “el” and “al”.
In making the move from many gods that controlled practically every aspect of living, the shift was made to mankind bearing some of the responsibility for this living. Having been gifted with this creation of life, mankind no longer put the blame for everything on multiple deities. Some of that “blame” became consequences of action.
I do not know what purpose faith serves in your life or the lack thereof. For many people, faith is itself a ladder by which they advance in their life both spiritually and realistically. Their faith is a compass by which they move throughout the world. There are also others for whom the lack of faith is just as important. They pride themselves on being too smart to need faith, too rooted in reality to believe in unseen spirits. The wind to them is merely the movement of air, caused by the earth’s rotation and movement through time, time being simply the passage of the sun across the galaxy and our planet.
There are those who proclaim science is their master, not the imaginary deity or deities of the past, based upon ramblings of scared ancient cultures that were ill-equipped to deal with their environs. Even Science, which could rightly be called their god, has a quest to discover what it has termed the God particle, that one ultimate beginning moment of creation.
The religious would claim ancient man already discovered the God particle in the monotheistic creation stories of their doctrines and beliefs. The cynical would claim that materialism has become the god of the masses, that modern-day mankind has become too attention deficit in its religious and/or spiritual holdings to be anything other than lost.
It would seem that the ancient writer who coined the term “El Bethel” might have prophetic in our need to be reminded that whatever deity we make supreme, it should be, in fact, above everything else in our lives. Life has become one big game of competition: religion versus spirituality; science versus faith; conviction versus materialism; socialism versus democracy; dictators versus equality. Just as nature competes and each is a step on the ultimate food chain of the living, that which feeds our souls has become simply a step to be occasionally used when nothing else seems to work.
I offer no easy answers in this series; this entire blog is just a conversation win which questions are asked and, hopefully, questions pondered and maybe resolved at some basic level. Sir Isaac Newton was said to have written more interpretations of the Bible, holy writings used by two of the three Abrahamic faiths, than he did of his beloved laws of physics.
The scientists among us will perhaps be happy I used a spectral representation synthesis in sorting through ancient literature to point out the overlapping data. The historians among us cannot deny the overlapping of beliefs around the world and the sequence of events which have led to them. The religious among us will probably argue my use of the term mythology in referencing their faiths and claim them to not be simple stories but evidence of the existence of “el Bethel”, the one and supreme God in the house of gods.
Arguments are simply the sharing of viewpoints, hopefully in a calm manner so that all can be heard respectfully. Mankind has debated these issues throughout time and I certainly do not expect to be the one to resolve them. What I do hope is that you resolve them within yourself. Whether the air is the breath of a deity or the movement of air currents across one’s face, it is the lifeblood of us all. Just as different languages have different terms for “air”, so our minds have words for that which created our world and being. I hope today your deity lives within the house of your soul and that your living strengthens your ladder to the rest of your life.