R.I.P.

By Carl S ~

Why anyone would take sacred texts seriously is a question usually left up to historians, sociologists, and psychologists. Just thinking about the times in which they were written is a red light blinking, warning us to beware of any wisdom claimed to be in them. Reading scriptures is a good way to see how much ignorance reigned in those days. But, the writers had no ways to prove any of their claims, so who can blame them, unless they were conning everybody, which is possible. Rather than calling them con men, let’s give them the benefit of a doubt. Let's assume they wrote from their sincerely held beliefs. All the same, we must admit that sincerely held beliefs, at any period of history, have no bearing on what is true. Are dreams "true," or are they scientifically explainable? What about the evidence for dreams in scriptures? Centuries later, we are still researching for explanations. Don't spices, intoxicating beverages, hallucinogenic substances, drugs, etc., affect our dreams?

Notice how much emphasis the old and new testaments place on dreams as being supernatural sources of instructions, even to accessing an inexplicable and senses-confounding "realm" unrelated to known reality. One can understand how this came to be included in biblical writings of nomadic tribes for, after all, dream interpretation among pagan cultures was already traditional. And do dreams figure into beliefs in another life, one after death? When a gospel text says, "He is not dead, but sleeping," is it giving us a clue to conventional thinking at the time it was written? Perhaps death itself was looked upon as eternal sleep and, who can say, which included eternal dreams? Aren't the words "eternal rest” still used in prayers for the deceased?

These thoughts came to mind last night, after I abruptly woke up from one of those bizarre dreams we sometimes experience. I thought about unrestful sleep and eternal unrest, and eternally dreaming. I remembered the words from requiem masses I heard as a child: "May eternal light shine upon them, and may they rest in peace," (Of which Kurt Vonnegut asked, "How can you rest with light shining on you eternally?")

Do not deceased friends and relatives appear in dreams, talking and acting? Curiously, isn't this a typical theological description of meeting them in heaven? Are not the descriptions of after-death torments comparable to descriptions of nightmares? You'd think that doctrinally, after-death, the believers will rest with eternal peaceful dreams. Otherwise, they would be unpeaceful, living out nightmares, eternally, without the possibility of escaping them through awakening. Was the fear of such an after-death existence transferred into one of a Hell, although originally THAT fear? And wouldn't that superstitious after-life terror have preceded and, perhaps, eventually driven any religious doctrines based on it?

Now, when someone tells you, "No one has seen nor has anyone heard, or has it entered into the mind of man what wonderful things God has waiting for those who have served him,” we can reply, "In your dreams!" Religious beliefs are the stuff of which dreams are made.

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