King James Version: Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes index
Ecclesiastes is said to be the last testament of King Solomon before he passed away. Reading it, one can see why. Read it through the eyes of an old man, who during the span of his life, has had everything that he could ever wish for: unlimited power, wealth, and women. At the end of his life, he looks back upon it all, and realizes the pointlessness of all these things. He begins to see the truth. I really like Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes is — along with John’s gospel, the Book of Job which is quite a mindfuck, the plant-induced trip that was the Book of Revelation, and the intoxicated erotic love poetry in the Canticles — the core of the Judeo-Christian Bible for me. And yet reading it, Ecclesiastes does stick out like a sore thumb.
Persecute me all you like, but I think that these two texts are cut from the same spiritual cloth, as it were. Compare Ecclesiastes’ refrain of, “All is vanity (literally, “vapor”)” with the Heart Sutra‘s “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”
It is Solomon talking here indeed. And one result of the fact he has experienced earthly riches and excess is that he writes of its significance, in the way a poor man would most likely not; for example, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.”
It is one thing to realize that wealth is vanity, but quite another to believe that poverty is better.
The thought seems to portray a betrayal of earthly privilege, much like the Buddha then, which stands in complete contrast to the idea that it is a harder for a rich man to go into their kingdom of heaven, than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
Ecclesiastes suggests that attaining great wealth may be a precursor to understanding the vanity of such wealth, providing one possesses wisdom and the mind to cultivate it.
This Old Testament book in question probably strikes the average Western Christian — no doubt any average Christian follower — as inherently depressing, the most nonspiritual, and the least inspired word of their god. But that just shows their bias. Yet even in the Kabbalah, which represents (depending on your interpretation) the most decadent outgrowth of the Hebrew religion, or its most shining offspring: the void is the ultimate reality, and thus the ultimate nature of their god. Umberto Eco successfully made the Kabbalah, for me at least, possess some fascinating structure and yet a horrifying absurdity in Foucault’s Pendulum. I dunno. Also. For some reason, Rimbaud’s Eternity reminds me of the Sephirot.