“Lead us not into temptation…”
The section of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Lead us not into temptation…”, is a prayer that cannot fail to agitate or perplex all thinking minds. The why question must surely arise. Why would the creator of life (aka Our Father in Heaven) be in the business of leading its creations into temptation?
Does it mean there are beings in our dimension created for the purpose of leading other created beings to have a desire to do evil deeds? If there are, what are the fundamental purposes of these forces or beings that manufacture evil and induce or seduce humanity to partake in it? Why would a loving ‘father’ tempt ‘his’ sons/daughters or allow them to be tempted with thoughts or deeds, which will endanger their physical or spiritual well-being? What kind of father will do anything either in the physical realm or the spiritual realm to injure or disturb the natural harmony of the life of his children?
Let us put on our thinking cap and utilise our natural common sense as we discourse the meaning of the concept of temptation. Temptation in popular usage is defined as a “desire to do something, especially something wrong”. From the theological perspective, temptation “is act of enticing someone to sin”.
In the Middle Eastern religious tradition, every desire a person has is supposedly induced from outside by malevolent beings or spirits. It therefore seems that this section of the Lord’s Prayer is seeking the assistance of the gods to prevent us from following the natural or the unnatural desires to do something wrong.
We can assume that a desire, which is put in our mind by the devil (‘the tempter’) can be called unnatural. Anyone who has opened the ‘holy bible’ will be aware that right from the first book, there are found stories of either the gods or devil tempting mankind. Examples abound, such as, devil tempting Eve in the garden of Eden; God tempting Abraham to sacrifice or butcher a son; devil tempting Job with the permission of God; satan in the temptation of Christ in the desert, etc.
In this discourse, we shall try to align with the common sense perspective as we look at temptation. The desire to do or not to do something is a function of the mind. Temptation starts its journey from our senses of perception. It is what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel that lead us to act or not to act. Our desires are stimulated by how our minds interpret the sensations received by the senses.
If the above is true, then we must remind ourselves about the body-mind-soul complex of mankind that we mentioned in Note IV. The body is an intricate structure, which we need to know intimately. It is the closest material possession we have and yet many of us haven’t got the foggiest idea about how it is structured anatomically and how it functions physiologically and psychologically. Let us do a bit of digest study using a short story.
The Mysterious Planet
There is a planet that contained roughly about 50-75 trillion citizens. The citizens of this planet have variable lifespan ranging from few days, few weeks, few months and to the life of the planet. The planet is divided into 78 countries/counties. It has no particular king since anyone of the citizens can be a king at any time. By a natural design, one of the countries acts as a control centre.
The 78 countries with its 50-75 trillion citizens live together in relative peace and harmony. Each country is self-sufficient with a particular processing or manufacturing plant for the production of the planetary needs. Each country and her citizens have specific and special role to play in the upkeep of this planet. The citizens perform their duties without any compulsion. Each country is independent in function but cooperate voluntarily with other countries to share common needs and services and for the maintenance of the planetary life.
You must be wondering if this is a mythical planet concocted out of my imagination. This planet is real; it is the human body. Our body consists of 50 – 75 trillion conscious cells grouped together into 78 major and minor organic systems. The brain is the master organ and the control centre; while other major organs are: heart for pumping blood, kidney for filtration and purifier of blood, lungs for respiration, liver for detoxification of poisonous substances, etc. All the organs work simultaneously and in unison but in an emergency any of the cells or organs in more serious need can have preferential or pre-eminent attention. In other words, any of the sense organs can command and dominate the affairs of the body for a moment or a longer period of time.
We have gone to this extent to enable us understand how the composition of human body relates to temptation. Since each cell or a group of cells have the capacity to seize power and influence the direction or actions of the whole body, there is bound to be a kind of power tussle between the over 50 trillion cells in the body to gain attention, power and control. It is apparent that a cell or a particular group of cells is not in a position to understand the larger picture of the body and the social and physical environment that impinge on it. Hence, its demands, even though it might be a normal and natural demand, can sometimes run counter to the overall interest of the body.
The brain, which is the central control system of the body does not censor; it reacts and gives the appropriate response to the electrical demands forwarded to it by any cell or group of cells as per the natural design and programme. The brain has no ethical or moral sense to judge the right or wrong of the sensory demands of the organs. The computer is a man-made replica of the brain that functions solely on the basis of the programme written for it. The brain functions like a programmed electrical tool that responds to incoming signal of pain or pleasure mechanically. It is programmed to avoid pain and programmed to desire pleasure. Anything else in between is lottery, a game of chance.
Looking at this design, there is a need for proper check and balance if mankind desires to live in social and mutual harmony with each other. Society must define and regulate rights and wrongs for peace to reign. If each cell or a group of cells that has limited social consciousness is allowed to dictate the affairs of the body, no society can emerge or survive for long if it emerged.
Origin of Moral Principles
It becomes the duty of the very few conscious Homo sapiens that have the wherewithal in brain capacity to think about life generally and to design appropriate principles and institutions for the society based on their interpretation of what life means. By using the intellectual power of a self-developed mind, thinkers set and map out personal and social boundaries for morality on wrongs and rights. It is on the basis of these socially defined ethics and morals that each person can self-assess or be assessed by others as to what constitute right or wrong behaviours or actions in a particular society.
Unfortunately for mankind, a host of the moral obligations set down for the guidance of societies have been couched by the followers of these ancient thinkers as direct dictations from the Almighty (father in heaven). Such heavenly dictated moral principles always end up in the protective custody and under the administration of princes of religion – priests, imam, rabbi and gurus. As a result and regardless of the stage of mental and scientific progress of mankind, this age-long (sometimes archaic) principles would henceforth be written in stones (holy books). It will no longer brook a rethink, or adjustment or rework.
This is where we need to address the role of the mind as a check and balance to regulate the moral imperatives of the demands of our body in general. A properly cultivated mind is able to hold in check the waywardness of some cells/organs to some extent. However, an uncultivated mind is at the mercy of various egregious cells/organs that are likely to lead the body into a precarious end. A well-grounded mind is an interim solution to temptations.
In other words, what lead mankind into temptation are the various body cells and organs that are vying for total control of the human body at a particular point in time. A thorough knowledge of self and the world in which the human body lives is the antidote or girdle that can restraint the unguarded impulses of the human body parts.
The knowledge of how the body works based on the science of biology and psychology is the secret behind the successes of the art of salesmanship and marketing techniques. Using the open windows of our sense organs, sales and marketing gurus are able to TEMPT us into buying anything, both the needed and the useless. The department stores make use of special incense/perfumes to stimulate and attract the olfactory organs; spectacular arrangement of colours for the organ of vision; carefully selected sensuous music for the auditory organ; and soft psychedelic lighting to stimulate a cool and sensual feeling. With all these ‘psychobiology’ artefacts in place, clever entrepreneurs will definitely be smiling to the bank since the inflow of tempted customers who are ready to ‘willingly’ part with their money will never stop coming into the store.
The Task of Mind Cultivation and Soul Awakening
The personal effort placed into the seeking and searching for knowledge is solely for the purpose of cultivating the mind and of nurturing it so as to grow into a sturdy resilient memory bank or mental resource library. A properly cultivated mind is imbued with a strong foundation and reinforced pillars for the construction of a palace fit for a king.
A mind built with loving-kindness and careful attention to details of selected educational materials in the search for truth will become like a furnace-structure that can withstand the firing power and heat of an awakened soul. An awakened soul is a generator of spiritual fire and light. The burning fire of truth in a weak mind has the capacity to cause structural damage to the physical/mental body.
However, the ultimate solution to overcoming temptation is found in the awakened soul. The message of the Teacher of Galilee that says, “Ye must be born again” is about the attainment of a spiritual state of being. This spiritual state is achievable through personal effort and devotion to the onerous task of knowing and understanding oneself.
The Teacher reinforced this admonition by urging his listeners to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mathew 7: 7-8).
This important admonition has often attracted diverse interpretations. Particularly, interpretation that relates to securing “Daily Bread” or material prosperity.
However, for our discourse we shall rely wholly on interpretation that asks, seeks and knocks on the door of spiritual prosperity and freedom. It is in the knowledge of the truth of self that the true meaning of life can be revealed. The true knowledge of self has a good chance of activating the soul into active service to manage the exuberances of both the body and the mind.
Essentially, all the efforts made to cultivate and to build the mind pay off eventually, as the mind becomes a beacon sending spiritual signals to invite the soul to come and take its natural place in one’s life. A properly cultivated mind is the palace or kingdom of heaven where the awakened soul dwells as its true king. The soul, as the third component of the Body-Mind-Soul Complex and sometimes linked to wisdom, is expected to be the occupier of a well-built mind and to make the mind its permanent place of abode.
A quick analogy will draw this lesson home clearly. Watching the courtship scenarios of birds in the wild in David Attenborough’s Planet Earth (TV) series, we see the effort made by male birds to build and adorn a nest that will be beautiful and gorgeous enough to attract a female bird. A female bird who is attracted by the sing-song of the male comes along, takes a look at the nest and if it is not good enough for her taste, she skids off quietly to inspect the nest of other suitors nearby.
This scenario is similar to that of the soul that is forever courting mankind for attention, visitation and residence. The only place worthy for it to stay in our body is in the mind. As we said earlier, the mind is in the hands of mankind to make and unmake. Among the three properties of Body-Mind-Soul complex, the mind is the only one that depends on our passionate effort for existence. A host of humanity passes through planet earth without making effort to build their mind to a level above the instinct and so they lose out on the fellowship of the soul. The soul, by its peculiar nature and as a perfectionist, cannot reside in a poorly constructed or ramshackle mind.
The Creator of Life and Temptation
Let us go back to the question we asked above, “Why would the creator of life (aka Our Father in Heaven) be in the business of leading its creations into temptation?” The answer should be a capital NO. A little knowledge of biology, as we have described, has shown what leads mankind into temptation. The body follows a kind of “republican principle”, where every cell/organ is free to pursue its own interest as long as it does not injure or disturb the well-being of its neighbours. Since each cell or organ has not got the full knowledge of the conception of the larger picture of human existence, it sometimes makes understandable error, which might translate into the breaking of a particular taboo (SIN) of the larger societies outside of the body.
Such natural mistakes of omission or commission would be very minimal in a person with a cultivated mind. The cultivated mind must have learnt or programmed itself to operate under a rationality principle that depends wholly on facts or reason before action. This is the state of being that The Powers That Be or the Controllers of our world are daily working hard to prevent humanity from attaining. The deliberate corruption of educational curriculum that dumb down the pursuit of knowledge to a narrow specific end of acquiring ‘clever’ work skill for the pre-eminent goal of securing prestigious and lucrative job in the labour market and eventually raking in loads of money is the greatest cause of the downfall of our specie as a spiritual being.
This leads us directly to another question we asked in the second paragraph, “Does it mean there are beings in our dimension created for the purpose of leading other created beings to have a desire to do evil deeds?”
In The Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL