The Nature Of Authority

  1. Since the beginning of their existence, human beings have longed for some external authority to guide their lives.  The innate quality of reaching for something greater than themselves caused them to create the holy shrines where the ancients sacrificed animals to appease Adonai, El Shaddai, Yahweh or Jehovah -- several of the names the Hebrews gave to God.  The Scriptures describe the worship of Baal.  Other passages describe the need for Aaron to fashion a sacred bull while Moses was on Mt. Sinai.  Numerous deities of ancient Greece were featured in statue form or painted on pottery.  We have seen the sacred stone circles in the British Isles of which Stonehenge is an example.  Of course, the many descriptions of the Divine found within ancient Hinduism are legendary.  The need for an authoritative guidance has been central to humanity’s quest for uncovering the mysteries of the divine “Other.”  The perception of Divine guidance has inspired some of the world’s greatest masterpieces in the genres of architecture, sculpture, art and music.

  2. Humanity’s quest has led to the development of elaborate forms of worship, superstitions, rituals, liturgies and holy days designed around collective remembrances of perceived Divine acts and events that took place in faith-based histories.  The people who had the material means to experience “everything” that life appeared to offer still hungered for a state of being (peace and happiness) that neither their experiences nor their material wealth could provide.  In fact, it was soon discovered that very little in the material world could assist in the development of values that are timeless.  The author of Ecclesiastes gave verbal expression to his struggle with this issue.

  3. What is it that gives something or someone “Divine authority” to guide human beings?  What constitutes such authority, i.e., in what form must this authority come?  The answer to these questions is nebulous at best.  Often “authority” comes through the common consent of people who embrace a particular belief system.  For example: It was not by accident that biblical accounts were initially committed to memory and became part of the oral tradition of the early Hebrews.  It was not by accident that the handwritten letters of the Apostle Paul were saved and shared.  It was not by accident that the Gospels were written after Jesus’ death.  People who have awakened to the value of life-enhancing information treasure words that inspire their dreams about the nature of the Divine and the nature of their human identity.  Solomon collected wisdom, which gave verbal expression to what was humanly possible.  The hard wiring within us draws many of us toward the invisible qualities that produce inner peace, character, integrity and joy.  This spiritual hardware is universal, i.e.; it resides within each human being. Jesus’ Kingdom of God, for example, will only be given form as a useful method for interpreting life when it is accessed and used repeatedly.  For many people, this ability will remain dormant.  Such people remain more attracted to success in the sphere related to their physical existence than in a world they cannot see.

  4. Authentic Divine Authority, however, will always be a challenge to define in a way that will be universally understood by each person.  Authority is a presumption made by believers; some that have never questioned what others have handed down to them through the centuries.  Much highly revered truth has come to us in this second-handed form, e.g., God created the world in seven earth days, God saved humanity and the animal kingdom on Noah’s Ark, Moses wrote the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus was born of a virgin, Jesus died for our sins, etc.  Authority for many of us comes through what we reverence, i.e., what we have chosen to use as reference points that provide meaning and establish a Divine connection for our lives.

  5. Divine Authority, however, also has a sinister side to it.  People who claim that their perceptions are God’s truth can evoke fear within their listeners.  Taken to the extreme, this truth can be used to coerce believers into committing their lives, their financial resources and their destiny to such truth or face the threats of terrifying physical and eternal consequences.  For centuries the Church has used fear to leverage its authority over the faithful. Questions were seldom encouraged.  When thoughtful doubters surfaced, they were labeled as heretics.  If they were fortunate, they were only ostracized from their faith-based communities.  Many others, however, were burned at the stake.  The Church became the Authority.  The guidance that people once sought from God merged into Articles of Faith.  It was as though the Church said, “Thank you, God, for sharing your truth!  We can take it from here.”  The process of interpreting history through the eyes of faith continued.  The Church knew what was best for believers, including which books in the Bible should be preserved and which should be discarded who were venomous heretics and who were obedient.  The claim or assumption of Divine authority remained at the heart of many ecclesiastical decisions.  Thus, an institution gradually assumed control over interpreting what had authority over human life, something that formerly had been a natural, intuitive inclination.

  6. The faithful followed religious leaders who had organized their truth into fixed forms.  Teachings flourished as though they came from the mind of God. “Jesus died for our sins” is a belief that is highly revered by Christians, yet what does this theology mean in terms of its applicability to life?  For example, if a person gave a woman a million dollars, such a generous gift would not teach her how to invest or spend it wisely.  If a person stepped in front of enemy gunfire in order to save a friend’s life, such a generous act would not insure that the saved friend would make well-informed choices for the rest of his life.  What does, “Jesus dying for our sins” mean, particularly when such a teaching did not come from Jesus?  Reverting to truth that is intuitively assembled into a practical form may be the most authoritative.  It may be better only to build on what others have discerned than to have made their perceptions sacred by labeling them, “The Word of God.” 

  7. Jesus used his energy to make visible the spiritual path that winds through the maze of the physical world.  He spoke with authority because he had awakened, i.e.; he transcended the world of illusion.  He taught his listeners that their spirits would evolve, e.g. forgive 70 times 7.  Our skills increase through their constant use.  His trust and confidence in God allowed him to release many of the aspects of the material world that we reverence.  In so doing his teachings raised the bar for the quality of human consciousness.  Those who resonate with his vision also identify with the path he continued to point to with his life and teachings.  Jesus has had many elaborate titles, beliefs and deeds ascribed to him by believers through the centuries.  These are not necessary to validate his authority.  He saves people from the blind alleys, i.e., the detours, the glittering promised lands and the mistakes in judgment.  Jesus came into the world to sow seeds.  His Kingdom is here, but only those walking the spiritual path recognize the wealth and power that this knowledge possesses. 

The others have temporarily invested their energy in constructing sandcastles that the changing tides of history will erode.  In time, such people will either awaken or remain captive of appetites and perceptions that provide no guidance that might prepare them for what follows when they eventually leave their physical form.  However, regardless of which path is taken, all is well for each soul simply because it is God’s will that this is so.  The righteous, however, promote another gospel because they reverence fear more than the hope that God’s love has a depth and compassion that far exceeds humanity’s ability to comprehend.