Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Book Review

It's been a while since I've updated this blog--been teaching, writing, hustling, forming new friendships, dissolving old ones (or, more accurartely, watching with regret while old friendships have dissolved under the incredible deformative powers of Bushnomics' reactionary social devolution and abuse).

These are hard times.

Yet, in my absence, I have encountered and been touched by so many amazing people. One of those people is John Saba--a humanist and mysitc. He is a Lebanese-American who lives just outside of Detroit in the city of Livonia, Michigan.

Michigan, like America, is very reactionary right now. The largest Arababic/Muslim/Middle-Eastern population in America is located here in the Detroit area, in the city of Dearborn, and the large Arab-American population is an occasion for anti-Arab racism among Detroiters--even Black Detroiters. This is saddening, and outrageous. I do all I can as a university professor, journalist, artist, and intellectual, to oppose anti-Arab racism, and to my shame and dismay, many of my own race exhibit this bigotry, when what we ought to be exhibiting is solidarity with those who are now suffering the racism and abuse we have historically had to suffer in America.

As many people will know, a prominent Arab-American citizen of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was unjustly arrested by the FBI following the 911 attacks, held in confinement away from his family and even his legal counsel for more than a year, then, finally deported, even though no evidence against him was ever produced by the government. Despite the efforts of his neighbors and friends in Ann Arbor, and the efforts of defenders throughout the United States, this poor man never received justice. So much for the assumption we all had and now feel less secure about, that Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan, swaddling place of the old "Students for a Democratic Society," and home of Tom Hayden, is a progressive city.

But back to John Saba. I interviewed him for the newspaper I work for here, "The Michigan Citizen," and although anyone who wishes to can view the published review at michigancitizen.com along with all the other journalism I've done for Michigan Citizen, I want to share that review with any readers of this website who come to my corner of it. John Saba, a proud Arab-American, and a man who professes compassion for the oppression of Black people, is an example of the diversity, humanity, and beauty of Arab-Americans.

As I sit here in my office on campus I think how there are many such examples here in the Detroit area. Right across the hall from me happens to be the office of a fellow professor, Alex Shami, who also happens to be of Lebanese origin, who is a valued academic and community figure here in Detroit. John Saba is not unique.

I feel I've let down my friend, Regina Rodriguez, who inspired me to begin this blog. I haven't kept up my writing here as I promised her I would. So, this is my return, and I will make more time in the future to share my thoughts with readers, and as always, it's all dedicated to Regina, with love...

“You are the Tabernacle of God”
Author: Dr-of-Divinity, John M. Saba, Jr.; Leadfoot Press; Detroit, 2004; 112 pgs.
By Rayfield A. Waller

Of Christian-Lebanese descent, Minister John Saba of Livonia is deeply spiritual. He told The Michigan Citizen he has ministered in prisons and homeless shelters in Detroit and other cities. He’s taken the gospel of Christ to street people, drug addicts, and the poor. He dropped out of medical school to study ways to heal the body rather than profit from illness.“I was working on human cadavers,” he recalls, “and after my first year of that I felt a little freakish — nothing they were teaching me would stay in my head. I believed God had a higher plan for me. I became interested in the body and nutrition.”

“You are the Tabernacle of God,” from Detroit’s “Leadfoot Press, is the result of Saba’s long, ecclectic search for that higher plan. The book is a series of carefully, minutely researched meditations on divinity and the body, an eccentric but endlessly fascinating decoding of biblical text. He uses as his tools ancient Judaism, The Apocrypha, Sophism, the mystery systems, and technologies such as acoustics, chemistry, genetics, and mathematics. Precedents for Saba’s absorbing book are both ancient and modern.His method is what I call ‘techgnosticism’: a dazzling and dizzying display of various esoteric, sacred, and scientific knowledges melded into one; a radiant synthesis of higher spiritual and intellectual precept.

The book evokes in the reader a euphoria of perception. This being the culmination of 66 years, a career in real estate, nutritional supplement sales in a company he founded, 42 years of marriage to Jeanine Saba--his ‘closest friend’, and 20 odd years of intense private research in science and spirituality with the Bible and Hebrew scriptures as his basis (taking his seminary degree in 2000). The book demands as much fearlessness and mind-wracking work of a chemist or a biologist who reads it as it would of any student of divinity. The man is deep.“You are the Tabernacle” is based on Saba’s idea that our human body corresponds to the biblical ‘Tabernacle of Moses,’ which he says was “built and torn down in the Sianai dessert thousands years before modern religion.

“It doesn’t matter though,” he says, “What type of religion we speak of—the Spirit of God dwells inside all of them, and dwells inside each of us. When we all come together as one we form the tabernacle of God. Because of the utter complexity of God, we can only see bits and pieces of him in the world and ourselves. Part of us is in each one of us, and we are all him.”It gets even deeper. Saba’s book meticulously lays out commentary on biblical quotes, concordances on the history of the Holy Land, and formulas decoding geometric symbolism in the architecture of the ancient Tabernacle, comparing it to the architecture of the body’s skeletal, circulatory, organismal, and reproductive systems. Along the way, he offers intense and surprisingly technical discussions of acoustics (the Solfeggio Scale of the Gregorian Chant), genetic structure (comparing the DNA double helix to ‘Jacob’s Ladder’), ancient Ionian and Pythagorian math, and his theory that the frequency of sound (implying sound is the voice of God) can be used to heal disease.

Saba is a victim of a bizzare incident as an infant. An intruder at his family’s celebration of his christening inserted a needle into the infant Saba’s neck. The needle worked its way slowly into his heart’s myocardium muscle. Despite several surgeries that rendered his childhood handicapped and haunted by pain, the needle was never successfully removed. He now lives, he says, with a literal ‘needle in my heart.’

Yet, his faith is intact.

“I came up as a handicapped child, which taught me compassion; for Black people, for Native Americans, all oppressed people. I journeyed to Canada for the National Day of Prayer to ask permission from First Nation Tribes to pray over their land. You know why the Rouge River was called ‘rouge’? Because it once ran red with blood — Indian blood. As for my own pain, it’s only my body, this outer junk, and bondage in this prison called flesh.”Detroit, he says, “is a spiritual center — the spiritual energy here is of an important frquency. That is why I tell everyone to pray for Detroit.”

“Tabernacle” is available from www.leadfootpress.com. 313.575.9317