Exodus 34:14 Exodus “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God…”
What a difference a word makes.
This word, “jealous,” was one of the words that got me out of organized religion. I had started meditating and experienced that my soul, when unencumbered with ego, was in alignment with God, no matter what. I’d become convinced that Identification with ego is the issue, and that it’s this way with everyone. It was a type and power of liberation that I had never experienced. So many things, including self-labels that I had been carrying for decades, simply dropped to the floor like poorly fit clothing – which had only looked good in a hall of mirrors in the first place. Compassion for humanity arose like a wildflower from the wreckage of my old self. Self-love bloomed.
While I’d never been a “jealous” person, now I could see that the genesis of any jealousy was a particular flavor of fear that starts with a belief in ownership around which unhealthy egoic identification forms.
Consider these lyrics from John Lennon’s, “Jealous Guy:”
“I was trying to catch your eyes
Thought that you was trying to hide
I was swallowing my pain
I was swallowing my pain
I didn't mean to hurt you
I'm sorry that I made you cry
Oh no I didn't want to hurt you
I'm just a jealous guy.”
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that this could be a hymn as much as a pop song.
Either way, this particular emotion asks, “If I don’t own or control that, then who am I?” The subject of the jealousy might be someone to whom Favor has apparently attached itself (and not me, boo-hoo), or it could be that a lover has found someone more interesting. Either scenario means that I’m “less,” damaged, unfit.
In its most common form, jealousy implies the potential of loss of self by the absence of something outside the soul, apart from the Self. It’s the embodiment of the idea that we can be more by having more.
Applying this to Deity is particularly problematic, for reasons I won't get into here, but that might be apparent to most.
At the point in time that I found it necessary to leave the religion of my ancestors, I’d never considered that jealousy had no appropriate place in me or in God. I had read, “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle, another key to my escape. Oprah did as well, and then, because she’s Oprah, she did a ten-part Skype interactive interview with Tolle. I listened to these over and over and over in my attempt to understand my terrifying break with the Church.
During one of these podcasts, I think the second, Oprah told of a similar experience with the word. It had also landed oddly with her. “God is jealous of me?” she had asked.
I’m not a scriptural scholar, but I did teach the Christian gospel for decades. I taught adults as well as youth. Eventually, I taught adult teachers how to teach young people. So, while I’m not trained in Greek or Hebrew, I think I understand something about sacred Christian writ.
Part of that understanding has to do with the imperfection in the process of bringing sacred transmissions from any discipline into the consciousness of humanity. We could talk about the human-heavy translation process through which the Bible itself has passed; centuries of polluted political waters pouring into a stream of simple, pure consciousness that definitely changed the original teachings. This turned them into something that left a flavor of the original message, while conveniently making it more useful to political agendas. It has remained this way throughout the world.
In many ways, this miscommunication has been allowed to flourish because we’ve over-valued words to the exclusion of the inner glow of individualized spiritual experience. If we can memorize chapter and verse, thereby possessing them, actually living the messages become less critical. After all, ego, that most likely to attempt memorization, is concerned with illusion. It wishes to retain its fragile reality. Soulful integrity then takes a back seat while ego cruises the backroads. This is what has given rise to the serious problems we find today in both Christianity and Islam in particular (but not exclusively).
Does this mean that religion has no place? Am I implying we throw out sacred writ because it uses words to describe spiritual things? Not at all. Let’s not throw out the proverbial baby with the “eau de funk” in which he sits. Returning to Exodus, when I read that verse by the light of my own experience, I can sense that the intent of it is correct.
I submit that the original message, the one communicated to Moses, wasn’t about God being jealous at all. This word was, however, the most convenient to use at the time, the most accurate that could be used by translators to transmit a specific message into one as soulless as English.
But as is often the case in spiritual writings, the word is simply inadequate to fully describe the concept. Rather, the message of this verse is simply this:
“Don’t let anything that arises in the Present stand in the way of Connection with the Eternal.” That’s it.
And how does that apply to today?
If you’re like me, once a practice starts working – feeling more grounded and centered after a few weeks of meditation in a row after a “pause,” for instance – things louder than a contented soul start demanding attention. The soul is generally quiet and the world, generally noisy. So, we tend to those things, instead. And, once we take the foot off the consciousness gas pedal, the rule is that we go where our attention goes. The karmic consequence is that we are less conscious, less at peace. We had Understanding once, and now it seems less, since we can’t hear the “still, small voice” as readily. From this point of view it can appear as if God has pulled away from us. This applies to any spiritual practice.
To egoic eyes, then, it’s almost as if God is… jealous; mad at us for allowing our attention to stray. It follows (eventually, egoically, religiously and politically) that we are unworthy creatures, doomed to hell for our disobedience. But this is not the case. Consider another quote from Tolle:
“Man made God in his own image.”
There’s certainly plenty of evidence to substantiate that claim.
In fact, it’s egoic mankind is prone to jealousy, rather than God. The opposite idea, however, is what has been translated into that which is called, "scripture." The idea that this verse and all like it are a result of this significant misunderstanding and the inherent limitation of language are all the more evident when we consider the nature of Spirit through the voice of our own experiences, no matter our level of "righteousness." This is always the most effective way to read sacred writ, from Rumi to Revelations, from the Tao to the Torah. This practice of “feeling into original intent” even applies to the interpretation of our own dreams.
There are real consequences for pulling away from our practice(s), to be certain. But they don’t include unworthiness, God turning his back on us or damning us to hell – all of which are implied with the word, “jealousy.”
When we feel the effects of the very human practice of being distracted from our path, we’ll find it easier to return to alignment as we remember three things:
God is not mad at us (or jealous of some other entity) when we allow ourselves to be distracted from our path.
Ego and soul are not the same thing. They’re interrelated, but separate.
And the beginning of the return to peace and Connection is merely a conscious moment away.