The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge
We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.
– G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)
Only one thing is necessary: to possess God – All the senses, all the forces of the soul and of the spirit, all the exterior resources are so many open outlets to the Divinity; so many ways of tasting and of adoring God. We should be able to detach ourselves from all that is perishable and cling absolutely to the eternal and the absolute and enjoy the all else as a loan. To worship, to comprehend, to receive, to feel, to give, to act: this our law, our duty, our happiness, our heaven. –
The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Meister Eckhart, became for me the key opening the door to the way. We must be able to let things happen in the psyche.
A Mystical Retelling of John 1
The old master walked along the path with his students. “Tell us what happened long ago” one said, “in the very beginning”
“With God there is no beginning” replied the master, “neither is there any ending. The transient forms of finite things in this world begin, and they end. These forms are like the words of a story told by God. They begin and they end, but God does not begin.”
“Tell us about the beginning of these forms then” said another student.
The master gazed far off at the horizon, as if casting in the depth of his mind for a distant memory. “In the beginning, the Form came to exist. The Form was with God. And the form WAS God. This was the beginning. All finite things in their infinite variety came to be, flowing from these forms. For God became the Form, without ceasing to be God. None of the finite forms exists apart from his infinite existence.”
“Does that include evil forms? Forms of darkness and destruction?” asked one student.
“If God did not withdraw his light in some forms, he would have nowhere to manifest his light in other forms. All would be indistinguishable. God separates his being into light and darkness, and each have a part to play. He withdraws from a void of darkness and death, so that into the darkness, his light may shine, and the darkness can never overcome it. The purpose of the darkness is to be overcome by the light.”
“If all the forms also God” asked another student, “then what of us, who are forms as well?”
“God, the Form becomes flesh, and dwells within you,” said the master. “He is in the world, and he creates the world. He is in you, and he creates you. You are his own body.”
The students murmured among themselves. “How can we accept this?” said one of the louder ones. “We aren’t God! We don’t see God dwelling in ourselves!”
“You will never see it by identifying with your finite self. That is because you remain in the darkness in which God hides from himself” said the teacher. “To overcome this darkness, God sends a special demonstration. He unfolds for humanity a story in which his presence is manifest in all its glory in a single human being, a Christ, full of grace and truth from his birth – the glory as of God’s only son. Those who accept God’s glory in him are given power to become children of God themselves – not by their own finite efforts, but by God within.”
“Are you this special Son of God, this Christ?” Asked his students.
The master smiled. “I am not that light. Like you I began in darkness and awakened to the light. I remain here to testify to you of that light. You are as much children of God as I. You have all received of his fullness, but don’t yet realize it.”
“If we follow the morals of our religious tradition, will we find this light? Will we see God?” asked a hopeful student.
“The finite self does not see God in the finite world” said the teacher. “But in the Christ, God is manifest, and seeing him in Christ, you have the grace to see him in all things, even yourselves. And when God awakens in you – you will have no need of your moral tradition. Grace will flow from you.”
This project is an ongoing effort to gather those verses in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, which we believe have a hidden (or even direct) metaphysical or mystical meaning. We also hope to comment on these verses, as well as gather commentary from various mystical writers on these verses and topics, and parallel passages from the writing of other religions. The point of this project is to demonstrate that the “Perennial Philosophy” is, in fact, something that can be illustrated from the pages of the Bible.
In collecting these passages, we will follow the general outline of the “Perennial Philosophy” – which is described by Huxley as “— the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being” We have established, then, the following outline, into which we wish to collect and organize the passages in question. This outline is reproduced in the menu selections for the “Hidden Gospel” project. Please feel free to comment on any section, and we will consider your comments in future versions. :
Metaphysics: There is a Divine Reality behind the world of things and lives and minds It is uncreated It pervades all things It is paradoxical (panentheism) It uses both good and bad It leaves us free but compels us It is beyond reach or description, beyond all opposites
Psychology: There is something in the soul that is similar to or identical with the Divine Reality It is divine It is separate from the ego The ego is selfish, insatiable and craves divinity It is the true self It does not have the desires and limitations of the ego
Ethics: Man’s final end is knowledge of that imminent and transcendent Being. The ego must be killed By purification By detachment and selflessness By humility and obedience But it cannot be achieved by effort It is a gift It is by grace It is a realization Mystical union is achieved It is a rebirth It is the kingdom of heaven now Two kinds
Effects: Effortless morality Extraordinary powers Supreme peace and happiness Absolute freedom Identification with the divine
All the Christian mystical authors, from John of the Cross to Eckhart to Merton, see mystical meanings in scripture that most of us miss. Seeing we see not and hearing we hear not. Based on their ideas, I though it would be interesting to rework the major ideas of sections of the scripture into narratives that emphasized their mystical character.
These pages explore those mystical meanings.
Someone asked me a question below that I started with an easy answer to, but which grows a bit more interesting the more I think about it. Basically, his point was that, given there is a metaphysical/mystical meaning that can be found in the gospel accounts of Jesus (as there is in the accounts of other religions.) Can we simply discard the historical reality of the gospels? regard them simply as “myths” and still derive all the benefit or effect that they are intended to have? Can we still have Christianity without a historical Jesus?
Of course, most Christians would answer with an emphatic “NO!” citing such scriptures as “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:17) To such Christians, the literal, historical facts ARE what Christianity is all about. But I’m not so sure it’s a simple black and white dilemma between regarding the gospels, with scholarly detachment, as interesting myths (which I agree has very little personal benefit) and regarding them as scrupulously literal history.
Malcolm Muggeridge suggested that the truths of the gospel were “artistic truths” or we might say “mystical truths” which he regarded as infinitely more important than historical truths. I can see a lot of merit to his reasoning. Which is more important? that God loves us, or exactly what words Jesus said from the cross?
C. S. Lewis seems to imply something similar in his children’s tale “The Silver Chair”. In that Lewis told a story of several children, accompanied by a strange pessimistic creature called a “marshwiggle” named “Puddleglum” who descend from the kingdom of Narnia, ruled by the good lion Aslan (Jesus) and enter a subterranean kingdom ruled by a witch-queen to try to rescue a kidnapped prince. Once there, the witch puts them under a spell of confusion and forgetfulness. She gradually convinces the children that there IS no world above ground, no sun, no sky, no Aslan. They become convinced that these are all simply children’s tales and dreams – projections they have created in their minds from the drab and ordinary objects in the miserable underground world ruled by the witch. Only Puddleglum rebels.
“One word, Ma’am” he says to the witch, “All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face on I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we HAVE only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours IS the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
Now of course, in Lewis’ story, Narnia is very real indeed, and the doubt only an illusion. But I think Puddleglum’s point has wisdom nonetheless. You’d be better off living your life as a Narnian than to content yourself with strict materialism. The truths of Narnia were a good deal more important than the bare rock and the darkness.
Important mythical truths tend to be felt as having a very solid reality – a reality that seems to yearn for physical expression. Take for example the recently created myth of ?The Lord of the Rings?. My children became so enthralled with this myth that they began to speculate if there couldn?t have been a time in history, or pre-history, or (if all else fails) a parallel dimension that actually exists wherein this world is REAL (They felt the same way about Narnia when they read THOSE books 😉 The point is, I think human beings sense very deeply that mythic truth is indeed Truth, and tend to associate historical truth with it. I have to admit, for example, that when I read the Bahagavad Gita, I find it very easy to feel a strong sense of “reality” about the personality of Krishna. Furthermore, Jung would contend that powerful mythic archetypes tend to actually PRODUCE in historical reality, embodiments.
In summary – I think one could get some benefit as a mystic out of the Christian gospel while doubting its historical elements. But ONLY by realizing the following: mythic truth is not LESS real than historical truth, it is MORE real.
Take the case of the Catholic who has an intimate, intercessory prayer relationship with some saint who’s historical existence is now in doubt. St. Christopher or St. Philomena for example. I’ve asked St. Philomena for intercession myself – even knowing that virtually everything we know about her is based on conjecture, or ecstatic religious visions. To me, she represents a part of God that is very much interested in me – regardless of the historical details that may or may not have embodied that part of God. On the other hand, for many people, the importance of the historical reality is so powerful in their minds that prayers to a saint of dubious authenticity are useless, as would be Christianity, were it not historically literal to a very high degree.
by Ken Wilber
The witnessing of awareness can persist through waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The Witness is fully available in any state, including your own present state of awareness right now. So I’m going to talk you into this state, or try to, using what are known in Buddhism as “pointing out instructions.” I am not going to try to get you into a different state of consciousness, or an altered state of consciousness, or a non-ordinary state. I am going to simply point out something that is already occurring in your own present, ordinary, natural state. So let’s start by just being aware of the world around us. Look out there at the sky, and just relax your mind; let your mind and the sky mingle. Notice the clouds floating by. Notice that this takes no effort on your part. Your present awareness, in which these clouds are floating, is very simple, very easy, effortless, spontaneous. You simply notice that there is an effortless awareness of the clouds. The same is true of those trees, and those birds, and those rocks. You simply and effortlessly witness them. Look now at the sensations in your own body. You can be aware of whatever bodily feelings are present-perhaps pressure where you are sitting, perhaps warmth in your tummy, maybe tightness in your neck. But even if these feelings are tight and tense, you can easily be aware of them. These feelings arise in your present awareness, and that awareness is very simple, easy, effortless, spontaneous. You simply and effortlessly witness them. Look at the thoughts arising in your mind. You might notice various images, symbols, concepts, desires, hopes and fears, all spontaneously arising in your awareness. They arise, stay a bit, and pass. These thoughts and feelings arise in your present awareness, and that awareness is very simple, effortless, spontaneous. You simply and effortlessly witness them. So notice: you can see the clouds float by because you are not those clouds-you are the witness of those clouds. You can feel bodily feelings because you are not those feelings-you are the witness of those feelings. You can see thoughts float by because you are not those thoughts-you are the witness of those thoughts. Spontaneously and naturally, these things all arise, on their own, in your present, effortless awareness. So who are you? You are not objects out there, you are not feelings, you are not thoughts-you are effortlessly aware of all those, so you are not those. Who or what are you? Say it this way to yourself: I have feelings, but I am not those feelings. Who am I? I have thoughts, but I am not those thoughts. Who am I? I have desires, but I am not those desires. Who am I? So you push back into the source of your own awareness. You push back into the Witness, and you rest in the Witness. I am not objects, not feelings, not desires, not thoughts. But then people usually make a big mistake. They think that if they rest in the Witness, they are going to see something or feel something-something really neat and special. But you won’t see anything. If you see something, that is just another object-another feeling, another thought, another sensation, another image. But those are all objects; those are what you are not. No, as you rest in the Witness-realizing, I am not objects, I am not feelings, I am not thoughts-all you will notice is a sense of freedom, a sense of liberation, a sense of release-release from the terrible constriction of identifying with these puny little finite objects, your little body and little mind and little ego, all of which are objects that can be seen, and thus are not the true Seer, the real Self, the pure Witness, which is what you really are. So you won’t see anything in particular. Whatever is arising is fine. Clouds float by in the sky, feelings float by in the body, thoughts float by in the mind-and you can effortlessly witness all of them. They all spontaneously arise in your own present, easy, effortless awareness. And this witnessing awareness is not itself anything specific you can see. It is just a vast, background sense of freedom-or pure emptiness-and in that pure emptiness, which you are, the entire manifest world arises. You are that freedom, openness, emptiness-and not any itty bitty thing that arises in it. Resting in that empty, free, easy, effortless witnessing, notice that the clouds are arising in the vast space of your awareness. The clouds are arising within you-so much so, you can taste the clouds, you are one with the clouds. It is as if they are on this side of your skin, they are so close. The sky and your awareness have become one, and all things in the sky are floating effortlessly through your own awareness. You can kiss the sun, swallow the mountain, they are that close. Zen says “Swallow the Pacific Ocean in a single gulp,” and that’s the easiest thing in the world, when inside and outside are no longer two, when subject and object are nondual, when the looker and looked at are One Taste. You see?
– Ken Wilber