“Do you think I could come to the ancient Jews in the same way I came to the seventh century Chinese? to Americans today?”

I had been told that culture is a factor in divine revelations.

“Lord, why is culture so important?”

That’s like saying, why language?  If I am going to communicate with people, they need a language.  For the same reason, they need a culture.

“They need a culture, but why such a variety of cultures?”

There are many ways of realizing (actualizing) the human story.  Culture enables lives of different (types of) significance (meaning).

“But why, in terms of Your story?”

I need to come to people in all their particularity, not to mankind-as-such.  The Chinese is one way of being.  The primitive is one way of being.  I come to each in its own terms.  Each enables Me to show a different side of Myself.

Do you think I could come to the ancient Jews in the same way I came to the seventh century Chinese? to Americans today? to you?

“It’s a mistake to try to control God . . .”

My first impressions of the ancient Egyptians were formed in Sunday School, put to music by gospels such as “Go Down Moses,” and brought to the silver screen by Cecil B. DeMille.  It was not a pretty picture—false gods, harsh rulers, fake magicians, and slave-drivers wielding the lash.  Egypt was on the wrong side of everything.

But now I was told that God was sending divine messages to every culture.  So I had to look at the land of the pharaohs through different eyes, Egyptian eyes.

Written in hieroglyphs that were already old when Sumerian cuneiform was young, the Pyramid texts date back almost five thousand years.  Chiseled into the walls of the dark corridors beneath these monumental tombs, these texts provide the deceased Pharaoh with the keys to a successful afterlife:  how to overcome each obstacle on the way to the divine realm and what words to speak to the guardians who block the way.  One strategy was to enter the cyclical course of the cosmos and accompany the sun god in the barque that transverses the sky each day.  The deceased king went so far, according to one inscription, as to kick the sun god overboard to make room for himself in the divine barque.

The complex mythology of the Egyptians far surpassed the simple piety of preliterate polytheism.  But, however complex, these greedy efforts to compel or trick the divine powers seem spiritually retrograde compared to the sensitive cave paintings and the humble peasant honoring a stream with a pile of stones.

“Isn’t that right, Lord?”

Yes, it is a fundamental mistake of man to try to control God rather than the other way around.  Do not exaggerate it.  It is no different from (no worse than) trying to bribe the king’s mistress or learn the password that goes you through the palace gates, but it is not high spirituality, and in fact is not really a kind of spirituality at all.

“It is a mistake of man to try to control God rather than the other way around.”

My first impressions of the ancient Egyptians were formed in Sunday School, put to music by gospels such as “Go Down Moses,” and brought to the silver screen by Cecil B. DeMille.  It was not a pretty picture—false gods, harsh rulers, fake magicians, and slave-drivers wielding the lash.  Egypt was on the wrong side of everything.

But now I was told that God was sending divine messages to every culture.  So I had to look at the land of the pharaohs through different eyes, Egyptian eyes.

Written in hieroglyphs that were already old when Sumerian cuneiform was young, the Pyramid texts date back almost five thousand years.  Chiseled into the walls of the dark corridors beneath these monumental tombs, these texts provide the deceased Pharaoh with the keys to a successful afterlife:  how to overcome each obstacle on the way to the divine realm and what words to speak to the guardians who block the way.  One strategy was to enter the cyclical course of the cosmos and accompany the sun god in the barque that transverses the sky each day.  The deceased king went so far, according to one inscription, as to kick the sun god overboard to make room for himself in the divine barque.

The complex mythology of the Egyptians far surpassed the simple piety of preliterate polytheism.  But, however complex, these greedy efforts to compel or trick the divine powers seem spiritually retrograde compared to the sensitive cave paintings and the humble peasant honoring a stream with a pile of stones.

“Isn’t that right, Lord?”

Yes, it is a fundamental mistake of man to try to control God rather than the other way around.  Do not exaggerate it.  It is no different from (no worse than) trying to bribe the king’s mistress or learn the password that goes you through the palace gates, but it is not high spirituality, and in fact is not really a kind of spirituality at all.

“Any religion that does not allow for this aspect of My presence is missing something.”

It sounded as if there were something true in polytheism.  Abigail’s father had also been a philosophy professor and I married into his library, which included Martin P. Nilsson’s Greek Popular Religion, a classic on ancient Greek polytheism.

According to Nilsson, anything that had potency or an aura was regarded as holy.  Spirits lurked inside striking features of the landscape such as trees, forests, lakes, and mountains.  River crossings and cave entrances would be marked with stones or statues.

“Were these valid responses to You, Lord?”

You lump them all together.  We would have to take them one by one.  You see them as generic types of actions.  I see them as specific communications or acknowledgements.  One person looked at a stream and saw the current of My energy running through it and marked the spot in homage.  Another was superstitious and marked the spot for good luck.  Some were fearful and thought they might drown crossing if they did not place a token on the bank.  Some actually stopped and prayed or meditated or sang a song of praise.  These are very different kinds of communications, with different degrees of reality.

If your question is whether streams and mountains and so forth do in fact embody My presence, the answer again is not so simple.  Of course, everything embodies My presence and it is always a good thing when someone pauses to acknowledge that.  But some things do embody it more.  There is truth to the sense that I am more distinctively present in aspects of energy and force than in matter that is relatively more inert.  We would have to go into physics, into the physics of the future, to discuss that in detail.  At particular times, I am especially present in a certain place or to a certain person.  It is not mere superstition that causes (people to) pause before the fact of death, for example.  That is a moment and place of particular interaction between Me and the deceased and their survivors.  However, there are some dramatic elements of nature, such as lightning, that might be appropriate symbols for divine power but are not in fact times and places of special presence or interaction.

But, in general, did polytheism respond to a divine reality?  Yes, it did.  And any religion that does not allow for this aspect of My presence—My presence in nature, in objects, in places, and in forces—is missing something.