Honour thy Father and Mother

Misunderstood the world over

Honour thy Father and Mother
so that you may live long
and that it may go well with you
in the land your God is giving you.

The Bible, New International Version, Deuteronomy, 5:16

The rule to honour thy father and mother can be found in many religions around the world. Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Confucianism all share this principle.i And, they all interpret this rule in its literal sense.
Given our human longing for respect and obedience this comes as no surprise. But even for the many daughters and sons, who, like myself, love their parents dearly, it somehow does not feel quite right. Native Americans used to say:
God is the Father, Earth the Mother
With all things and in all things, we are relatives
In Japan, the Oracle of the Deity of Atsuta (Shintoism) says:
Do not forget that the world is
one great family...
Regard Heaven as your father,
Earth as your mother,
and all things as your brothers and sisters.
And then Jesus himself says (the Bible, Matthew, 23:8-10):
And call no man your father upon the earth
for One
is your Father which is in heaven.
Another interesting view can be found in the teachings of Silvanus, an old document which is part of the Nag Hammadi Library that was discovered near the upper-Egyptian town Nag Hammadi about 65 years ago:
But before everything else, know your birth.
Know yourself, know from what substance you are made,
from what race you are or from which dynasty.
Understand that you have come into being from three sources:
from the Earth
from the Formed
from the Created.

The body, of earthly substance has come into being from the earth.
The formed, for the sake of the soul, has come into being from divine memory.
The created, however, is the consciousness that is created in the image of God
but the soul is formed according to her own heart.

What I mean to say is
that she, the soul, is the companion of that which is created in His image.
Finally, matter, is the substance of the body, which has come into being from the earth.
Note that in Silvanus' view your biological father and mother are not even worth mentioning. Instead it seems that he would rather support the idea of the earth as your mother, the divine as your father and your soul as the little baby that during her life grows according to her own heart.

Seeing the earth as our mother and the divine as our father gives a whole new outlook on the commandment 'Honour thy Father and Mother'.
It makes the second part of the rule 'so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land your God is giving you' so much more logical and reasonable.
But it also means that generally we are not very good at keeping this commandment, particularly if you look at the way we treat the earth.

That is when it becomes clear that limiting our understanding of this golden rule to its literal sense has had disastrous effects. We forgot who we are and where we came from. And we forgot to honour those who really matter.
Who gave me her stone to build my house from?
Who gave me her wood to build my fire from?
Who gave me her water to drink from?
Who gave me her fruit to eat from?

Was that not you
my dear mother Earth?
But, my dear mother Earth,
for what it's worth
I love you too!

who gave me the ability
to weep and to laugh
to love and to hate
to sift the grain from the chaff
and to determine my own fate?

Was that not you
my dear old heavenly father?
Why then, my dear old heavenly father,
are you such a big mystery
to me?
    Your Daughter

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  1. Jeffrey Moses, Oneness: Great principles shared by all religions, Ballantinebooks, New York, 2002, p. 48
© Brigitte Franssen 2012
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