The New Testament

23 08 2010

Karl Koenig, “a Jewish man”, founded Camphill in 1939, with several other Jews.

During Camphill’s infancy, Koenig (Jewish) said to his peers (also Jewish), “We should read the New Testament.”
Everyone said, “NO!”
Koenig said, “Okay.”

Three months later, the same dialogue unfolded. This event repeated every few months.

A year later, Koenig said, “I really feel that we need to read from the bible every week.” Upon such insistence, his peers agreed, and Saturday evening ‘Bible Suppers’ came into being, as well as the Sunday morning service, dubbed the ‘Festival of Offering’. To be part of these events, one needed to be a member of Camphill.

Twelve years from their start, Koenig decided he wanted any one to be able to participate in the ‘religious’ events, be they members of Camphill, or living in any other circumstance. Koenigs’ peers, initially so adamantly opposed to the bible, were now reluctant to let other people participate, for they had grown so attached to the event. Eventually, they accepted the proposal, and Bible Suppers now occur at (most) Camphills, and anywhere else anyone wants to have them, reading a world-wide specified selection each week.

What does Camphill do with the bible?

Every morning, every house meets in their living room (around 7:15) before breakfast. A candle is lit, and the weekly passage from the New Testament is read. The same passage is read in every Camphill house in every Camphill village throughout the world, like a wave of this passage passing through time zones.

Saturday evening, we dress up fancy and use the nice dishes, a table cloth, and drink grape juice at supper. First, we sit in silence in the living room for fifteen minutes. Then, we have a fine meal, chatting and in-joying each other, perhaps with a bit more awareness. Once the meal is finished, children can go play, while we ‘adults’ discuss the weekly bible passage.
The discussions are philosophical in nature — What is the significance of this phrase? This action? This event? How does it apply to us? To me? To my life?
I do in-joy college philosophy discussions; Bible Suppers are great fun for me! The New Testament, if nothing else, serves as symbols and parables and quotes we can discuss the excellence of, to apply to our lives, or to become more aware of not applying it, to create better and better versions of our selves.

The Sunday morning Festival of Offering is a forty minute sit down / stand up, while three leaders read poems and hymns (I think from the bible, but I’m not sure if they all are).  This is a more passive experience: have “religion” spoken to you, and you sit and think and feel in response to it all; kind of like a movie, whereas the Bible Supper is more like a play that we’re partaking in. In the Festival, there are a few songs sung by a few appointed singers; their harmonies are chilling and beautiful. The leaders also touch every one (who show they want to, by standing up) on the forehead, saying something about ‘The Spirit of Christ flowing through Us / I / You”.
I find the service a little silly. They’re not personal, and for some one like myself, who tries to live every moment honoring the sacredness of all moments, forced services feel a bit superfluous. It still reminded me “NOW is holy”, which was nice, but I prefer to dream holy dreams Sunday mornings instead, and meditate later in the day (being my current day off, I am allowed to do that, although last Sunday, I woke up early and just read.)

Why the Bible?

When Christianity was spreading, it adopted Wiccan holidays (i.e. equinox and solstice festivals) so other people would more readily accept Christianity. Perhaps that is one reason Anthroposophy adopted Christianity—it’s popular, and more people would like it.

But I don’t think numbers is what’s important, and I don’t think that’s what Koenig had in mind. What’s important is the quality, and I do believe the New Testament has a novel quality to it, compared to other religious documents. (I have a fairly good knowledge-base of the Old Testament, some Indian scriptures… some Buddhist teachings… and very little of the Quran, or any others.)

The Old Testament is filled with talk about God. God has no form; God is personified with huwan emotions and thoughts.

The New Testament talks about a person who is the embodiment of God. Jesus serves as an example of God-In-Action, or simply, an enlightened huwan being living a fully awake, fully conscious life. While the Old Testament has epic stories, the New Testament is more like a manual for individual people, perhaps the first “Living A Holy Life, For Dummies” book. Jesus says plainly, “Forgive! Forgive! Forgive! Love each other!” No Old Testament examples of the power of forgiveness come to mind. The Old Testament has more fire and brimstone and floods—God as a vengeful, wrathful… smiter. There is also a lot of ritualistic instruction, whereas the New Testament has more individualized, people-to-people instruction.

Of course, one can find anything one is looking for in any book.

If the New Testament is read, not as a literal, “surrender your life to some dude who died 2,000 years ago”, dogmatic, life-bound, fearful, obedience trap… there is profound wisdom in there. Jesus was a great rabbi (teacher). He also had a posse that followed him everywhere, made up of twelve men and a prostitute, so Jesus musta been a groovy, righteous, FUNNY fella to be around.

Goddess is all things. I reckon the New Testament is some great fodder for any one to read, contemplate, and consciously choose to live their life in a more holy way; and we could all be more holy. Actually we are all-ways as holy as we can be; we could simply be more aware of it, and thus, live as we truly are—blessings. We could all be more conscious; and that is what the New Testament is about (to me, and how it’s been talked about with me here at Camphill): how to be more conscious, more present, more alive, more inspired (in spirit).

At Camphill, valued more than religious tradition and ritual, individuality is encouraged. Be your self, and feel what You feel; for indeed, that is where true religion rests: in the self. And with true religion comes true peace. And with true peace comes harmony. And with harmony… a fantastically conscious, compassionate, community life.

Self-work: indeed, the work of lifetimes.

The Gospel of Thomas was my first introduction to Jesus, a few years back. This collection was intentionally excluded from the Bible, though I’m not totally sure why. Something about sacrilege, questionable teachings… but this IS what Jesus actually said (according to Thomas). Here, you will find 113 one-liners from the walking, talking Christ, 2010 years ago. Read ’em with an open mind. Meditate on ’em. Don’t be scared to change; don’t be scared to grow 🙂

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