Awakening To God
"He entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them."1
From the beginning of the Christian Church the entire Bible was interpreted as a book of esoteric symbology. An exactly literal interpretation of the Bible was not considered illegitimate, but such an approach was always considered less than secondary both in practice and importance. This was nothing new, as many Jewish commentators before Christ also interpreted the Holy Scriptures in a symbolic manner. When we read the works of the great Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo we find this approach brought to perfection.
Although many early Christian writers wrote on the books of both Old and New Testaments from the symbolic–and therefore esoteric–perspective, the best known was Origen, who compiled the first critical editions of the Bible and wrote more than three hundred books. A few centuries after his death nearly all his works were destroyed by the zeal of the Byzantine imperial Christians whose degraded exoteric view of Christianity was contradicted by Origen's works. However, the original approach to the Bible was not completely annihilated and has survived, although feebly, within the Eastern Christian Church.
I say all this because we are going to consider the verses quoted above in an exclusively symbolic manner. This is not to imply that the account given is not historically accurate, nor to imply that the historical event was not of great importance within itself. But it has always been the feeling of the Church that the symbolic interpretation is the most relevant for it deals the most directly with the matters of spiritual evolution.
First of all, we are told that Jesus entered into Capernaum "after some days." This is an indication of the awakening of consciousness within the human being. The mystic poet Rumi speaks of sleeping as a plant, dreaming as an animal, and awakening as a human being. Although the divine essence is within every form of existence, yet it is for all practical purposes slumbering and operating only on an unconscious level. As the individual spirit moves from lower to higher forms its capacity for consciousness proportionately increases. But until it reaches the human form the consciousness is submerged in the subliminal and instinctual levels of the developing (evolving) mind.
The ancients stated that the trait which most dramatically distinguished human beings from animals was the power of logos–of "word." Looked at simplistically it would seem that they merely meant that the difference between humans and animals is the ability of speech. But anyone with a modicum of experience with animals knows that they do indeed speak their own kind of language and are also capable of understanding human words and even human concepts. Since this is so, were the ancients wrong in their statement regarding the unique power of human beings? No, for logos implies far more than mere verbalization. In its fullest sense it means the power of self-conscious thought–that is, the ability (and we might say even the impulse) to be aware of oneself as a conscious entity and to objectively reflect upon its own nature.
The consciousness of the animal is centered in sensory experience and instinctual response. Intelligence is certainly displayed through animal behavior, but it is utterly responsive. That is, the animal consciousness is totally turned outward and is actually incapable of internal contemplation. The human being, on the other hand, possesses the power to live a fundamentally internalized life. Because the evolving soul has recently been in animal form, primitive human beings do not greatly manifest this capacity for self-contemplation. Nevertheless it is there in its full potential, awaiting for the moment when it can manifest in the simple question: "Who am I?" Once this thought arises spontaneously within the mind true humanity has been attained.
The arising or "entry" of full consciousness is a matter of evolution, an event that occurs only "after some days." The conscious search for God is the capstone of human evolution. The whole idea of being human is not to make better gadgets or get more possessions or to have influence over others. The evolutionary current of humanity, when not deflected or impeded, leads toward one thing: the vision of God. Only in sainthood do we find a fulfillment of our humanity.
In esoteric philosophy we often speak of transcending humanity, but we do not mean this in a sense of rejecting or casting away our humanity. Just the opposite. We mean the full realization of our human potential. This being so, true religion is the only real "human potential movement" possible.
What Is Implied
The fact that spiritual consciousness is a product of evolution implies two very significant points. The first is that spiritual consciousness is inevitable, for evolution never ceases. It is indeed true that in our presently-flawed universe the evolutionary force can be diverted or even reversed, but such a bending or deflection is only temporary. (I use the word "only" when looking at the matter from the standpoint of the soul's eternity.) In time the evolutionary stream must lead right back to the place from whence it began–the heart of God. No matter how bleak the picture may be, we can be optimistic and affirmative about the eventual destiny of all human beings. Beneath the veneer of delusion and confusion lies the reality of the ultimate return of every spirit unto God.
The second significant fact brought out by an evolutionary understanding of spiritual life is the truth that spiritual consciousness can never be imposed from the outside. Rather, spiritual consciousness must arise from deep within. Moreover, it must arise spontaneously. Although we can physically awaken a person by shaking him or making noise, it is quite different with spiritual awakening. That must come from within the individual himself. Of course, it arises from the "advent" of God in the person's consciousness, but God is also within each one, and the awakening is an interior condition and movement. It is true that we have all experienced moments where external occurrences, objects, or persons have evoked a spiritual stirring or response in us. But these events were like the falling of ripe fruit from the tree during the blowing of wind. In one sense the wind did cause the fall, and in another sense it was the condition of the fruit which caused it. As with all realities there seems to be a contradiction when examined by our limited intellects.
Basis Of True Religion
The important thing, though, is to realize that all true religion must be based on the interior nature of the human being. A religion which only concerns itself with intellectual philosophizing and dogma is no religion at all. Neither is a religion which concerns itself obsessively with external observance–whether in the form of moral acts or religious duties. Obviously since we are rational beings, we do need some intellectual principles and understandings upon which to base our attitudes and actions. Further, without discipline there can be no spiritual progress any more than there can be progress in any science without methodology and routine. But still, in the context of spiritual life, all ideas, actions, and refrainings from action, must point back to our interior being–must have an interior effect–to be spiritually legitimate. Thus religious principles, practices, and disciplines must be only those which reveal and further the inner evolutionary movement of the individual soul toward divine perfection.
Signs Of Our "Time"
How do we know that this point in our evolution has come to us? As I have mentioned more than once, one ploy of the ego is to tell us we are not "ready" or not "evolved" enough to take up spiritual life seriously and commit ourselves to working at it faithfully. The gospel reading gives an indication of when that time in our growth has really arrived. It tells us: "and it was noised that he was in the house." That is, the word was spread about that Jesus had come there. The same thing happens in our life. We begin to hear the truth about our spiritual destiny as perfected sons of God. Sometimes we hear it in conversation, sometimes we read it from the printed page, or we hear it on the radio or even learn about it from television.
Sometimes the first "noisings" we hear are in the form of negative statements about this truth. I well remember hearing a radio preacher in western Canada fulminating about those who meditated and tried to turn themselves into "cosmic nothings." As Babe Ruth commented, it does not matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your name right. Once I met a man who was going to visit a great spiritual teacher in India because he had read a lengthy and defamatory denunciation of the guru and realized that the author was at fault and that the master was truly genuine. In my own experience, I rejected the first intimations of spiritual reality I encountered. But they persisted, and in time good sense dawned.
So our lives become filled with the "noise" of the truth that we are sleeping gods. Sometimes we discover that spiritual opportunity has always been at hand, but we either never knew about it or had somehow managed to let it go by when we encountered it, not realizing what it was. But it has been the experience of many people that as soon as the awakening began in them they also discovered many "intimations of immortality" arising all around them. This is only reasonable, since our inner and outer life is truly one.
Yet Saint Mark is not speaking to us about the din of mere external religion that surrounds us on all sides. Nor is he speaking of exoteric religion–liberal or fundamentalist–that does not speak to us of our own spiritual reality as "gods within God."2 For Saint Mark does not tell us that the word went around that Jesus was somewhere walking the streets of the city. The message was that Jesus was in the house. That is, the word comes to us that true spiritual life is an interior matter, that God is to be found at the core of our being, that God is in truth the Being of our being. More important, the truth is presented to us that we can directly experience this truth by entering into mystic communion with God in the depths of our consciousness by means of meditation. The truth comes to us, declaring that we can awaken the sleeping Christ within and manifest that Christ throughout our life, proving the truth of Jesus' assertion that those who really believe in Him would do all that He did–and even more.3
Rest–Or More Work?
It is the hope of all of us that when we take up spiritual life from that point on all will be smooth sailing. Such a state would be spiritual death, but we do not realize that. For life implies change and struggle, and we must reconcile ourselves to the fact. Some struggle for the things that perish, and some struggle for the imperishable things of the spirit. Having worn ourselves out through so many lives in our frustrating struggles for material things, it is only to be expected that when we decide to turn toward spiritual things we would assume that at last we can get a rest since the objects of our pursuit are so different from the things we sought in our previous lives. But if our path is an authentic one, we soon find that it is just the opposite. Saint Mark tells us that as soon as people learned that Jesus was in the house "straightway many were gathered together." The same will happen to us.
Heretofore we had passed our life completely unaware of the multitudinous aspects of our being–especially of our mind. Also, we have been utterly unaware of so many details in our thought and action–what to speak of our environment–that need to be corrected and brought into conformity with our new life in the spirit. Beforehand, we were coasting along, thinking that we were without a care, thinking that we are pretty good people who are doing rather well. Suddenly the light of reality begins to dawn, and we find that our lives and souls are not the paradise we had assumed, but are more like a wrecking yard or a disaster area! This is no fun, but we should be grateful to at last see the truth of things regarding ourselves (or more exactly, regarding the layers we have to get through to discover ourselves). The foregoing is especially true of meditation. For when we turn within, we find a clangorous multitude of chaotic and negative forces–forces that hitherto have completely dominated our thought and life while usually remaining hidden from our conscious minds.
Reacting To New Life
Saint Mark further tells us that the multitude was so great "insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door." That is, we discover such an incredible number of things clamoring for our attention (and usually elimination), that we find ourselves utterly incapable of dealing with them. Because of past life habit our initial response is to cut and run. This is why so many people are happy to read books on spiritual life and metaphysics but rarely meditate, making various excuses to avoid the rather terrifying inner confrontation which meditation produces. And it is indeed a good question: How are we going to deal with all these things? How can we possibly bring any order out of this explosion, and how shall we ever have the strength to deal with these demands and distractions? The answer is that on our own we can do absolutely nothing.
But we are not alone. Just as Jesus was in the house, so He is within us–especially He is present to those proficient in meditation. Saint Mark says that "He preached the word unto them." Our entire being is yearning for the Word of Life–the word of which David said: "He sent his word, and healed them."4 This inner call to life is the "deep calling unto deep" that David referred to.5 It is the god within calling unto the God without for the ending of that duality, so that at last there will be not two, but One: God, the perfect Unity.
The multitude pressing at the door of our minds and hearts will be cured if, like Jesus, we ever speak to them "the word" of immortal life within meditation. For the light and "word" born of meditation dispels all darkness, transforms, and heals all things within and without, so that Jesus will say to us as He did to Zacchaeus: "This day is salvation come to this house."6