HOLISM AND JOHN 21
In talking about the three-decker world, we must not get the impression that all people in the ancient world saw things the same way. Amongst the Jews there were many religious sects with many opposing beliefs. Amongst the Greeks there were many schools of philosophy with widely varying views.
All the same, prominent Greek philosophers had a strong influence both on the Jews, and on the early Christians. The writer of St John's gospel, was strongly influenced by Plato, and also it would appear, by Pythagoras. Plato and Pythagoras were Greek philosophers living hundreds of years before the time of Jesus.
Of all the New Testament writings, John's Gospel is the most holistic. For example read John 17.21-23: I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you....I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one.....
John is influenced by Plato in that he believes "reality" is "laid up in heaven", and that we on earth as shadows of that "reality". Jesus is that "reality" seen amongst the shadows. Jesus is the real light, he is the real vine, he is the real bread.. for instance.
The Resurrection story in John 21
But what appears to be the most holistic passage of all is to be found in the culminating chapter 21. And here the influence would appear to be that of Pythagoras. Perhaps you have already learned about Pythagoras' hypotenuse theorem, that if you draw a right-hand triangle, the square on the side opposite the right angle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.
Pythagoras was a Greek who lived about 500 years before Jesus, and anyone who went to school even in those days, knew about Pythagoras, even in Israel. Pythagoras was amazed at the things he discovered through his working things out in geometry, and believed that the things that he was discovering came straight from the mind of God, as he understood the Divine Source of all things. For Pythagoras geometrical shapes and numbers took on a mystical meaning. The circle symbolising eternity and perfection, and the square standing for Earth.
Pythagoras himself was part of a tradition of schools which fostered the intuitive in this manner.
With regard to numbers, we need to remember that in those days the letters of the alphabet did double duty as numbers. For those who spoke Latin, just a few letters were used for this purpose, I = 1, II =2, V = 5, VI=6 and so on.
But in the language of Pythagoras, Greek, every letter of the alphabet stood for a number. For instance a = 1, b= 2, d= 4. In that case (bad / bad)=
2+1+4 = 7. (Letters of Hebrew words could also be added in the same way.)
Not only geometrical figures but certain numbers had sacred mystical significance.
Christians influenced by Pythagorean schools, must have found some interesting coincidences when they added up the letters of certain words: the name "Jesus" added up to 888; the word "Cross" to 777; the Beast, 666; Flesh and blood, 444.
In the table to the left you can see the numerical significance of each Greek or Hebrew alphabet. [900 Not used in Gematria.]
Thus, Jesus =IhsouV = 888, Beast = 666, Cross = stauroV = 777, flesh and blood = sarx kai aima = 444.
Interesting from the point of view of the theology of John's Gospel is the number TWELVE or multiple of TWELVE. TWELVE was the symbol for COMPLETENESS, WHOLENESS, the UNIVERSE.We have twelve months of the year, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve disciples. The 144 000 who in Revelation 14.1 were said to be saved.. is 12 X 12 X 1000. Symbolically that must mean ALL!
And it so happens that the Greek words for "The Lord God" added up to 1224, another combination of 12s. So do the words "God's Creation" and "One whole of wholes". The writer of John's Gospel would have seen these coincidences of number as confirming his picture of Spirit in all through all and above all. The story in John 21, where Jesus tells us disciples to throw out the net on the other side, contains many words that add up to 1224. The writer must have seen these coincidences of number as highly significant as confirming the central vision of the Gospel, that Christ is the vine and we the branches, and the words of Jesus, “May they be in us as I am in you, and you in me.”
The story we shall now study comes from John's Gospel, chapter 21. It is a story of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead, and on the surface of things it is simply a story about catching a lot of fish. But there are some features which make us suspect that there is a Geometry and Spiritual Numbers "game" being played here. A game with very serious intent.
(Adding up the numerical totals of various words and assigning them a spiritual significance is called "Gematria" (a corruption of the word "Geometry" which in turns means "measuring the earth".)
(We are indebted to John Michell: City of Revelation London: ABACUS 1973 for discovering this story. The illustrations are his.)
JOHN 21.1-3 Some time later, Jesus showed himself to his disciples once again, by the sea of Tiberius, and in this way. Simon Peter and Thomas 'The Twin' were together with Nathaniel of Cana-in-Galilee. [3 disciples].
The sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were also there. [4 more. 3 + 4 = 7 disciples] Simon Peter said, 'I am going fishing'. 'We will go with you', said the others. So they started and got into the boat. But that night they caught nothing.
Look at this diagram no.1
Let the central small circle represent "Simon the Rock" (Simon Peter) in Greek letters. Simon ho Petros = 1925.
Let 1925 units be the circumferance of the circle.
1925 divided by Pi [3.14159] = 612 (plus a fraction) - the length of the diameter of Peter's circle, and of the radius of the big circle.
Therefore a circle with circumferance 1925 (Simon the Rock) with have a radius of 612, which is half of the diameter 1224, which in turn is the magic number for The Lord God, the Whole of Wholes, the Creation of God, as we said.
(We are not to imagine that some copy of St John's Gospel has been found with all these diagrams and numbers. But if we ourselves supply these diagrams and numbers, they fit the story so well, it would be surprising if such diagrams had not existed at the time the story was written. And after all it is a fact that people were discovering "Gematria" in holy writings, in the first century A.D. both in Greek and also in Hebrew.)
Now let us draw a circular boat (a coracle) with diameter 1224 'the whole of wholes'). Let Peter's 612 circle have the same centre as the 1224 boat-circle.
Then let us draw six more 612 diameter circles, with their centres on the periphery of Peter's small circle, and all their peripheries touching the centre of the big circle, which is also the centre of Peter's little circle. These six small circles represent the six other disciples.
They all fit in exactly and make a pretty diagram. And they provide an illustration of "Where two or three are gathered together there I AM in the midst of them". For when we are together in Christ's name, we do experience the I AM, the WHOLE of WHOLES, the 1224, the holy of holies.
Now we are studying Diagram 2:
John 21.4-7: Morning came, and there stood Jesus on the beach, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. He called out to them, 'Friends, have you caught anything?' They answered 'No.'
He said 'Shoot the net [=to diktuon to diktyon = 1224] to the starboard [on the right side of the boat] and you will make a catch.' They did so,
found they could not haul the net aboard, there were so many fish [oi ichthus = 1224] in it. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter,
'It is the Lord!'.
(An added meaning for Piscis or Fish lies in that Jesus was born at the beginning of the Piscean Age, of course known to the contemporaries of Jesus.)
The Greek word for Fish written "ichthys" in English and we have in English the word "Ichthyology" meaning the classification of fishes.
Take the capital letters of ichthys and they become the first letters of words meaning JESUS CHRIST GOD'S SON SAVIOUR Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter
Now continuing with our drawing of the net: The distance between the two places where we have put our compass points is 612.
But our fish-netting is not yet in place. So let us join the two places where we have put our compass points with the apexes of our vesicas (fish shaped ovals). Each of the two sides of the diamond shape we have made measures 1224 units, still symbolising "The whole of wholes".
Now make the net by tying in three strands of rope going one way, and three crossing them.
we have the diamond shape divided into 16 little diamonds.
all the numbers 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13
This 17-diamond figure we have drawn is a Greek symbol called the Tetractys, a symbol for the Whole of Wholes.
To continue our study of Diagram 3
John 21. 7-8: When Simon Peter heard that, he wrapped his coat (ependoutes = 1060) about him (for he had stripped) and plunged into the sea. The rest of them came on in the boat, towing the net full of fish; for they were not far from land, only about a two hundred cubits.
Enough room to fit another vesica of the same size that contained the net, between land and the 1224 circular boat or coracle. The distance between the apices of the vesica is 1060. The suggestion is that Peter is naked in the 1224 coracle because he is one with God in spirit, with the Whole of Wholes, Holy of Holies, with Christ, and with the other six disciples. So then Peter puts on his coat (his physical personality) jumping into the sea, into the vesica to the left of the coracle which has not Whole of Wholes Tetractys net, once again symbolising the physical.
John 21.9-11: When they came ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish laid on it, and some bread. Jesus said, 'Bring some of your catch.' Simon went aboard and dragged the net to land, full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and yet, many as they were, the net was not torn. It seems Christ is inviting Peter to unite the experience of being at one with the Whole of Wholes with his earthly experience.
It is noteworthy that the Hebrew Qabala Tree of Life diagram fits exactly over the diagram we have just been studying. The Qabala Tree of Life diagram is a mystical diagram known in the time of Jesus, and designed to help people to feel the many-sidedness of their relationship to the Holy of Holies, the Whole of Wholes. (The Qabala Tree of Life is described at Revelation 22. Read and note the similarities.)
ties together so well, that it is hard to believe that this diagram
was not in the mind of the writer of the story of John 21. But if it had
in fact been in his mind, then it is still amazing how the numbers
to the Holy of Holies, the Whole of Wholes, in the way they do. If
the diagram had not been in his mind, is it chance or the action of
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. We ended our chapter with a question. How are you inclined to answer it, and why?
Is your world a world in which a higher power can bring things together
in a meaningful way? Why, why not?
HOLISM, THE NEW PHYSICS AND THE GOSPEL
When we had finished our story from John 21, it was hard not to believe that when St John was telling this resurrection story, he was reminding us that the universe is One, that God is One with this universe, that in the story Jesus is in effect telling Peter to unite his earthly bodily consciousness (the shore) with the Whole of wholes. Then he would know what the resurrection really meant.
Look now at Ephesians 4 verses 3ff:
Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives, by the peace which binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all men, who is Lord of all, works through all and is in all.
These words seem to say directly what is said symbolically in John 21. And then the writer of the letter to the Ephesians goes on to talk about Jesus Ascension into heaven. Perhaps we have seen pictures in which artists have depicted Jesus as going up into the sky perhaps like an astronaut. But this is not how the writer of Ephesians sees it.
Eph. 4.9: Now, what does "he went up" mean? It means that first he came down - that is down to the lower depths of the earth. So he who came down is the same one who went up, above and beyond the heavens, to fill the whole universe with his presence
This wholistic picture seems to come out in John 15 where Jesus is made to say that he is the Vine, and we are the branches of that Vine, that Whole. And look also at John 17.21: May they all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me, and I in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I gave them the same glory that you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: I in them and you in me... "
And look at Exodus Chapter 3.14: Note the name given to God, which is "I AM THAT I AM". It stresses that God is to be identified with Being, with Existence, rather than thinking of God in human terms. But in those ancient times, the writer probably hadn't got to thinking of identifying God with ALL existence.
But the title of this Chapter is "The New Physics". Why should we now start to look at Physics, when you are attending a class to do with joining a church, and being a committed member of this church? A church member is also a citizen of a country, who has had a similar education to other people in that country, and has been faced with the same questions about what is real, and what is not real, as anyone else.
it is a confusing world that we live in, for there are all sorts of
and opinions, just as there are many more differences of opinion about
Christianity, let alone religion in general. So
to make an end to this tug-of-war in their heads, church people may
live with a split mind, and say on the one hand, "Here I have a
picture of what
is real, which I have somehow got from my church, and my Bible, and
But it is not satisfying to live life like that. Split minds either make us cynical and sceptical about people and life, or they can make us closed minded people enclosed in a fortress of belief, into which new ideas and new experiences cannot penetrate.
So how can we avoid this tug-of-war in our minds? It surprises some people to learn that the new physics can now help us somewhat in our thinking about Spirit, for physics looks at this Whole of wholes, also.
THE OLD PHYSICS
You will remember Isaac Newton and how he worked out the laws of gravity, and he worked out how, for instance, the moon can move around the earth, staying at the same distance. He taught the thing that astronauts observe, that out there in space, away from the gravitation of the earth, things stay put until you give them a push, and out there in the vacuum of space, once pushed, they will move for ever in the direction in which they have been pushed, unless gravity, or another kind of push, alters their path. The reason why the moon, or a man-made satellite keeps moving around the earth, is...
1. because the earth's gravity keeps pulling the satellite down to earth, and
because the original push to the satellite was STRONG enough to keep
Newton helped to put forward. So much do some psychologists think like this, that some have even gone to the absurd length of denying the very existence of consciousness, and that consciousness plays any part in human behaviour. Others have taught that consciousness is to the person, what the engine noise is to the engine.
THE NEW PHYSICS
The new physics that looks at happenings within the atom gives us an entirely different picture of what is real, than that gained from Newton. For instance, Newton had seen atoms as solid, like billiard balls. The new physics however gives us a different picture.
1. First think about the nature and size of an atom. Suppose we take a cricket ball, and increase its size until it is equal with the Earth. If we did that, the atoms inside the cricket ball would only be the size of grapes. But take one of those now grape-sized atoms, and increase its size to that of a fourteen-story building. The nucleus of the atom will still only be the size of a grain of sugar half way up the building.
The electrons will be 1/2000th the size of the grain of sugar, and circling 7 storeys above, and 7 storeys below.
So what is this apparently solid world made of? Almost entirely empty space. And even the atoms and electrons are not solid.. they are "tendencies to happen", and at the subatomic level mass and energy change unceasingly into each other.
There is so much emptiness in what we think is solid, that under sufficient gravitational pull, the whole solid earth could be crushed to the size of a cricket ball. There is so much emptiness in all of matter, that if all the stars of all the galaxies in all the universe were to fall into one spot, they could all crush into one mathematical point.
is believed that from such a mathematical point, perhaps 15 000 000
ago, there was a Big Bang or perhaps a Great Light, and what was to become
all the galaxies of stars was to burst from that point. And these galaxies
of stars have been travelling apart from each other ever since. Shakespeare
wrote that we are the stuff that dreams are made of. And when we
look at the structure of the atom and its emptiness, we can only
In fact there are physicists who suggest that the whole universe is like a cosmic dream, a dream of a greater and unknowable Mind, creating and embracing all things. One divine dream, with all things all times all places related together in that one Dreaming Mind, creating all things from the void of nothingness.
physicists themselves do not set out to be religious people, or
The evidence is much too complicated to present in a course such as this, and requires advanced mathematics to explain itself, but we can talk a little about one experiment that helps to give an idea of their reasons for thinking this way:
The Einstein/Podolski/Rosen Thought Experiment, also referred to as the "EPR Effect", is not so difficult to describe.
a laser beam to a point where the beam is split to travel at 90
If both the EPR and the Big Bang theory are correct, then all energy particles in all parts of the universe are instantly responsive to each other. This idea can reasonably be extended to saying that people and worlds are also instantly responsive to each other through this undivided Whole throughout the universe.
Other experiments that point in the same direction, are the Double-Slit experiment, and Heisenberg's theory of uncertainty. If the EPR effect, in particular, can be noted throughout the universe, if we take seriously all that we have said in our first three chapters, then we shall also need to DENY all the things we thought were obvious looking at things in the SENSORY mode.
For instance in the Sensory-Physical mode, "all valid information directly or indirectly comes from the senses," but according to the EPR effect information is coming instantaneously from all parts of the universe, which functions as one whole.
"All events happen in time and space," is the truth according to the Sensory-Physical mode of seeing things, but according to modern physics, there are three dimensions of space, one of time, and between seven and twenty-one OTHER DIMENSIONS not to do with time or space. "All events have a cause," it is said, but how can you show that they do or they don't, since you cannot know all the distant events which might be involved in what is going on?
"Causes occur before events..." Too simple, because there are dimensions other than time and space, and there is evidence of so much we do no know. "Objects separate in space are separate objects." Are you separate from the tree whose oxygen you breathe, and which breathes your carbon dioxide. Each needs the other to live, so are they separate?
"Events separate in time are separate events" What does that mean, when everything is connected to everything else? "All activity - movement - takes place through space and takes measurable time units to occur." The EPR effect denies this.
while we are thinking in the SENSORY MODE, we are completely denying
the truth and value of the WHOLISTIC mode. But while we are in the
WHOLISTIC mode, we are completely denying the truth and validity of the
SENSORY. It is the same universe, seen from two different angles. It
is usually while we are in the WHOLISTIC mode of seeing things, that we
meditate, feel at one with God, become aware of distant events,
open to spiritual guidance. It seems that when we are in this mode that
spiritual healing can take place. It is the mode when love comes into play,
when the creative and artistic tendencies show themselves. We use the right
brain, in this mode, while we use the language using, and computer-like
left brain for the SENSORY mode.The
HOLISTIC MODE helps us to make sense of quite a number of things
we talk about in Christianity: ·
God as creator, the omnipresence (everywhereness) of God, ·
the omniscience (the all-knowingness) of God, ·
the Love (connectedness) of God holding all things together, ·
the Spirit of God in our hearts and minds (we are connected with All that
is) so that it is not possible for that Spirit to be absent from us; ·
the idea that we are in the image of God (imaged by God), since the part
must give some idea about the Whole; ·
the idea of prayer to God for others (of course it is possible and is
for we are all one in the whole);
The idea of spiritual healing (of course it is possible for we are created in this Whole, and can be healed in this Whole, in just the same way that a cell in our bodies is created by the body, and can be healed by the body.) · The importance of faith (of course it is important, because faith is the mind and spirit of God at work, and if we work in this faith, then things eventually happen as they should in the Whole.)