Yield – Chapter One
The symbolism of the New Testament
Yield – Chapter One
Who Are You
Have you ever had the strange feeling that your real name is Joachim or Anna?
This is a serious question, but perhaps you do not understand it. After all, are there not many areas of your life you have forgotten? Do you recall all of your childhood, babyhood, or being born? Might it not be that somewhere along the twisting course of your development you lost memory of your real identity, your purpose, and the name truly yours?
Certainly this is not impossible; and might there not be some mysterious metamorphosis of self thrusting us into birth, and, as Wordsworth says, ‘forgetting’. In his words, ‘Our birth is but a sleep, and a forgetting; The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar.”(1)
You might believe this is poetical idealism – just poetry. You might be right. If you are not, then it is more than a poets fancies, it is a cry from that forgotten part of ourselves.
This forgotten, and often rejected part of us, calls to us from every corner of our world – ‘Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al, it was Al all the time. Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal, Buddy, can you spare a dime? (2) (* Numerals refer to sources listed by chapter at the end of the book.)
“Then began he to curse and to swear, saying ‘I know not the man’. And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, ‘Before the cock will crow thou shalt deny me thrice’. And he went out and wept bitterly.” (3)
Do you dare to remember how many times you have denied your deepest love, your deepest wisdom, or the very power of Life in you? Peter’s bitter tears are nothing to ours. His denial was only three times, ours is often every day and all our lives. And when the morning of realisation is upon us, how may we weep?
This forgetfulness lies upon the world like a blanket of fog, a daytime night. We walk in it and call our darkness light. Believing in what we have as knowledge, we label the gleams of light reaching us, myth, legend, poetry, religion or mere nonsense. Yet the legend and dream persist in man’s awareness through all the changes of his so-called rational beliefs, his science, his logic. Scientific attitudes constantly change, and with them the logic which depends on them, but fairy stories are as old as time. Or, to be more precise, the living experience in the story remains forever within us, though the outer details change. Thus the underlying essence of the stories of Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Baldur, Mithras, Osiris, and the others, are strangely alike. Echoes of our lost names, perhaps?
Ah yes, “We are shattered, tattered, demented remnants of a once glorious army. Among us are Princes and Captains of Armies, Lords of Battle, amnesic, aphasic, ataxic, jerkily trying to recall what was the battle the sounds of which still ring in our ears: is the battle still raging? If we could make our way back to join the main body of the army.”
“A soldier on the wall at the furthest reaches of the Empire – looking out towards the darkness and danger. The next nearest comrade is out of sight. I must not desert – I will be recalled to the Capital in good time.” (4)
“Twenty thousand boots, slogging through hell, and I was the guy with the drum. Say don’t you remember, they called me Al, it was Al all the time. Say, don’t you remember ………?” (2)
“Gropings, orientations, crumbs, fragments, bits of the jigsaw, a few demented ravings that may help the reconstruction of the lost message. I am just beginning to regain my memory, just beginning to realise I am lost, just getting faint sounds of old familiar music – snatches of old tunes, moments of deja-vu, a reawakening of a long-numbed agony – an unendurable realisation of what a debacle it was, what a shambles, what betrayal, horror, stupidity, ignorance, cowardice, craven lust, wretched greed. Faint recall of a raving nostalgia, for the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, Paradise lost.” (4)
No, maybe we cannot yet remember the details of who we are, of our past, of how we came to be what we are, but we can feel homesick. We do walk through the houses and people and sometimes draw back into a side street and feel the fear in the question: ‘Oh God, where am I – who am I – what am I doing here?’
“And when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (5)
Surely you can hear the distant music, the forgotten drums! Listen – can you not feel the desire to dance as of old – to sing again as you did then? Know you not your Father’s house? Do you not know in yourself as we talk, that even now your Father looks far in the land for you, eagerly awaiting your return? Come then – return and remember.
Often unknowing, we seek to arise out of our forgetfulness, and journey to where our homesickness leads us. But where shall we begin? It cannot be at the beginning, for that is where we seek to go, back to our beginning. Somewhere, somehow, we have lost the path on our circuitous journey. But though we may be lost in the dark wood of our unknowing, as soon as we seek the way back to Life, from which we have wandered, our gaze if lifted from self sees the ever present guiding star. There are even maps for us, put together from the torn fragments of memory concerning our former state. The poet in his verse, the artist with his brush, composer in sound, trace out what they discern of this way. There is even an old, old story that many believe untrue, while others swear it concerns the life of one man only, which can be our guide. If we but follow the route it gives, then we can discover for ourselves its truth or falsity. Is it a legend – or a message from our long-forgotten? Only you can answer – and then only to yourself. And as we cannot begin at the beginning, we will begin where we can, where we are. Hear then, as I tell you the old, old story – of yourself.
There was in Israel a man and wife known as Joachim and Anna. Although elderly, wealthy, and giving of their wealth to the Temple, they became ashamed, for they had no child. Therefore, with his unhappiness upon him, “Joachim retired into the wilderness, and fixed his tent there, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying to himself, ‘I will not go down either to eat or drink, till the Lord my God shall look down upon me, but prayer shall be my meat and drink.’ In the meantime his wife Anna was distressed and perplexed twofold, and said ‘I will mourn, both for my widowhood and my barrenness’.”
When Joachim had been in the wilderness some time, “on a certain day when he was alone, the angel of the Lord stood by him with a prodigious light” and said when God shuts the womb of any person, he does it for this reason, that he may in a more wonderful manner open it again, and that which is born appears to be not the product of lust, but the gift of God …. Therefore Anna your wife shall bring you a daughter, and you shall call her name Mary” Afterwards the angel appeared to Anna his wife saying “Fear not, neither think that which you see is a spirit: For I am that angel who hath offered up your prayers and alms before God, and am now sent to you, that I may inform, that a daughter will be born unto you, who shall be called Mary, and shall be blessed above all women .”
Perhaps you cannot yet recognise yourself. Or maybe you are surprised that a story about you could include God, while you may be Godless. Tarry awhile and look again into this mirror as I show you your own features. For just as you may dream of setting a fierce dog upon a friend, and then awake sorrowfully to realise how your anger has torn him as literally as any dog might do, so too our story reveals you as an allegory.
Have you emotions, longings, some part however secret, that can be wounded by lovelessness? Is it lonely, or lost? Have you feelings you can seldom show, or often never act upon, played upon perhaps unwittingly by a parting friend, a lost mother, a foolish line in a book, a dog now dead, some unsuspected incident? If you have, this is your Anna – your feeling self.
Somewhere too, in the drama of ourselves, there act our thoughts, oft deserting our feelings or making war on them. We use them, too, as bars against our heart, but not always. We have our ideas, our blueprints of what life is about, however blurred they may be. Our thoughts may be married or separate from Anna; they may include or exclude God; be centred on oneself or others; of scientific, romantic or careless vein, but we have them. This is Joachim our intellect, our worldly active self, the part of us that does things, thinks things rather than feels things.
Who is Anna? She is that in us which all unbidden can pour love or tenderness out of us, though we appear to others as a fool. She is the gentleness in a man which bends him to lift up and close hold a child. She is the giving of self, the patient nurturing of others, though the cause be lost, for love is never worried about causes. “Her delight is in serving, and willingly and more than willingly, for without thought, she breaks the ‘vase of precious ointment and wipes the feet of the beloved with the hairs of her head.” (7)
But Anna is also our peevishness, our lusts, our pride, all our inner state of being caused by emotions, which, if reason alone prevailed, would not exist. Thus she is the Delilah who deprives Samson of his source of strength – she is the fear, anxiety or sense of failure, which drive strong men to the asylum.
Who is Joachim? Elbert Hubbard says that “Men who discover continents are destined to die in chains. That is the price they pay for the privilege of sailing on, and on, and on, and in.” The man is that in us which goes on in the outer world despite all. He is the one who builds the bridge when it has already been washed away six times. He is the one who goes to his comrades under fire carrying his own faeces in his trousers. He it is who can harden his heart to his wife’s weeping to go when duty alone calls.
Joachim in us can also murder, and kill the heart unwisely. He can live in thought only, a dried out travesty of living; for thought of things is never things themselves, however near it comes. So Joachim can build a wall of thought about himself a barricade against the need to feel and experience – against living.
Are you not these things? Do you not sometimes think instead of living in, or dwelling on, other people’s adventures instead of being adventurous? Do you never hide your tide of love and laughter under scorn, or bitter words grown out of too much thinking? If you do not, then read no further, for you are already beyond humanity, and need not hear the story.
A man dreamt he was within a church. In front of him a dark haired woman sat, along with many other people. In the pulpit a doctor spoke of life and living. Guest for the day, he told of things as he saw them. For him, all was law and material processes, visible and defined. Life was action and discipline and knowledge. There was for him no room for feelings, hopes or awe. Attack and command, govern or be governed, this was his message. He poured out scorn upon those who believed in prayer, or God or love, as powers in the world. To him these were but poor excuses for weakness, failure, lack of knowledge and strength.
As he spoke on, the woman writhed to tell him his mistake, but held herself in check until his words had done. Hers was the world of God, of humbleness, of love. She knew the inner worlds of prayer, the touch of unseen wisdom, the power of the hidden God to mend a life, to make strong a soul to face the worst of life or death.
When he had done she told him of his ignorance about the inner life. He smiled and told her of her ignorance of the outer life. He lacked the power to search and enter a human heart, to stand aside from self and let Life act in him. She lacked the power of thought, of using mind and strength to wrestle with the world until it spoke its secrets, until she could direct events, coerce the laws of life and use earth’s substance as a king.
Watching this the dreamer saw the strength and weakness of them both. He knew the man lacked insight into the human soul and hidden side of life. She lacked the outer skill and strength to wield what she had found within into a force to change the world. The dreamer also knew these TWO as aspects of himself, that for completeness must be wed.
The story speaks of God and angels too, and what are these? God, Allah, Buddha, Brahm, Ahura Mazda, Jehovah Aum, Tao; what are they but meaningless words? Speak them to a dog, a fly, a new born baby and see what powerless and empty words they are. But so are words like cake, or gold or love or sex. Meaningless, unless we know of what they speak. Unless we, too, have tasted, felt, experienced and known as ours, the touch and look of gold; the taste, smell and texture of a cake; the flood or peace of love; the mystery or commonplace of sex; what meaning have these labels we attach as words?
Yet love, in Germany, France, Russia or Japan is in each a different word. Is it then a different experience? What is it then a man or woman knows which bears the name of God? What experience lies beneath Allah? What sense or touch or taste, or hate, what something is known as Brahm, or Buddha, Jehovah or Tao? Are they perhaps like Japanese or Russian love, the same beneath a different word? But no, love in different climes is different. Here simple, there complex, lightly given or weightily accepted, sin for one, delight for another, agony and pleasure, accepted or rejected. God may be one and the same as Tao – yet different too.
Behind the word? Well, look behind yourself and see. What do you say? ‘What is there to see?’ Let it be put this way then. Do you deny that you exist? If not, what has caused you to exist? Does it seem purposeless, remote, or pure fancy? No, do not jump to conclusions. No limit has been placed upon your answer; but would it seem an eye or brain arose from something without purpose – are you remote from yourself – or is all pure fancy? Whatever your reply, whatever you believe has caused you, whether the word you label it with is biological, chemical, chaotic, comical or divine, it has caused you and brought you into being. At this very moment it supports you.
With whatever word you have labelled the cause of your existence, you must, even in your most foolish moments, realise that your puny sound, or thought or symbol or curse or sneer, cannot, does not, encompass the mystery of it. Your word is not the thing itself.
Looked at in this way, you must feel foolish if you have ever been annoyed or superior when you have heard some people label it God. Is your label better than theirs? Does your label describe the mystery of your own existence more fully, more practically,
more beneficially than theirs? Certainly the way we approach a cake influences the degree of our enjoyment and even our digestion. Is it not even more certain that the way we approach our own existence matters even more? If something creates me, whether chemical or divine, and I kill the process by THE way I am, then I, too, die with it. But if I release its workings, then I, too, expand and become more than I was.
God then, is another word for Life, or that which has caused you to exist. You do not have to look further than yourself to see the full workings of Life, and even a glance shows at least two main aspects of Life or God in us. One is the part of our nature that is visible and realised. Our hand did not at one time exist. It has been brought forth by the processes of Life. Just as our hand was once only a potential in Life’s processes, but is now actual – so there remains much of ourselves or Life, which is not yet visible or manifest. We have the visible and invisible, the known and unknown, the formed and formless, active and passive sides of Life. You are Life made visible. But what of Life still remains unknown within you and around? Men have looked upon themselves as not life as not God and lost the wonder of seeing Life in action as themselves, for we are God visible.
There is yet more to Life. Our body is made of millions of cells. Each cell has a life of its own, and can be kept alive if taken from the body, by being placed in nutrient fluids. But when separate, each cell simply goes on dividing and dividing without definite form or purpose. In the body are many different cells. The liver cells are differently shaped, and perform a different task from the cells of the heart or those of the eye. So too with the kidney, stomach, muscle, blood, hair, and skin cells.
Yet all these millions of cells, besides each having an individual life, have a corporate life. This interdependence upon one another has been expressed as Body Health <> System Health <> Organ Health <> Tissue Health <> Cellular Health.
Something links all these millions upon millions of individual lives into a meaningful whole. This is sometimes simply called the Unifying Principle. When just one cell does not follow the direction of this unifying principle, the body is to that extent in disharmony. If many cells become out of harmony, then cancer or some other disease result.
As visible parts of Life, we are cells within the enormous body of Life. The unifying principle behind all nature has been named God or Spirit. If we are out of harmony, then individual, social, national and world sickness, war and conflict comes about “For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all members rejoice with it.” (8)
The very Life that we are, and the Life we are thus bathed in, is the divine something we so often deny. St. Augustine, realising this, cried out, “Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty, ever ancient yet ever new Too late have I loved Thee! And behold Thou wert within me and I abroad, and there I searched for Thee, and deformed as I was, I pursued the beauties Thou hast made. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee.” (9)
Because we all depend upon Life for our existence, because we all either cooperate with or block the Life processes of our being, and are thus either in or out of harmony with Life and all it has created, we also have the formula World Health <> National Health <> Town Health <> Family Health <> Individual Health.
How can we be sure of God? We do not have to be sure of God, for we have said, God is just a word. All we have to be sure of is ourselves. Can we for one moment deny our existence? Can we deny that a mystery underlies this existence? If we cannot deny, then we are certain – more than certain – convinced of God. And if uncertainty through the arguments of the world and mind should overshadow us, let us be still a moment and be aware once more of our own existence – here and now – and of that dark mystery underlying it, and we will once more be sure. And if you cannot see form or feature in that dark mystery, except in as much as you know already of yourself, be patient; look longer into the featureless and unknown, and it will speak to you and make itself known. There is nothing else to concern yourself with except what you are at the very core of your being. This is the kernel of all religions, and does not require us to search for an external or indefinable God. The central command is still, ‘Man – know thyself!’
Herman Hesse defines this problem for us, and answers it as follows – “Slowly the thinker went on his way and asked himself: What is that you wanted to learn from teachings and teachers, and although they taught you much, what was it they could not teach you? And he thought: It was the Self, the character and nature of which I wished to learn. I wanted to rid myself of the Self, to conquer it, but I could not conquer it, I could only deceive it, could only fly from it, could only hide from it. Truly, nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as the Self; this riddle, that I live, that I am one, and am separated and different from everybody else, that I am Siddartha; and about nothing in the world do I know less than about myself, about Siddartha.
“The thinker, slowly going on his way, suddenly stood still, gripped by this thought, and another thought immediately arose from this one – it was: The reason why I don’t know anything about myself, the reason why Siddartha has remained alien and unknown to myself is due to one thing, to one single thing – I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself. I was seeking Brahman, Atman, I wished to destroy myself, to get away from myself, in order to find in the unknown innermost, the nucleus of all things, Atman, Life, the Divine, the Absolute. But by doing so I lost myself on the way!” (10)
The search for oneself, as we are, and as we can be, is no different from the search for God – except in the eyes of the blind. We so often, like Siddartha in Hesse’s story, attempt to crush ourselves, our personality, to find God. Or we make God an excuse to run away from the pains and pleasures of who we are as an individual. In this way we forget Life gave rise to us, and to run from one is to run from the other. Although it may not at first appear to be so, as we travel the path of self-discovery, we find God was lost to us because we had been unknowingly turning away from ourselves.
What then of angels? Is an angel anything other than a messenger? Have you ever heard of an angel who did not bear news or tidings, or worked the higher will? But a messenger between what and what?
As Algernon Blackwood says in The Centaur: “We are much greater than we know, and there is a vast subconscious part of us. But, what is more important still, there is a superconsciousness as well. The former represents what the race has discarded; it is past; but the latter stands for what it reaches out to in the future. The perfect man you dream of perhaps is he who shall eventually combine the two, for there is, I think, a vast amount the race has discarded unwisely and prematurely. It is of value and will have to be recovered. In the subconscious it lies secure and waiting. But it is the super-consciousness you should aim for, not the other, for there lie those greater powers which so mysteriously wait upon the call of genius, inspiration, hypnotism, and the rest!”
While there is yet a conscious and unconscious part of ourselves, while there is realised and unrealised, there must yet remain messengers between the two states of our existence. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.” (11)
And our angel comes to us as our hopes, as our urge to search for who we are, as our dreams of instruction, our quickenings of love, or voices from within, and visions in our silence; but we put them down, for we deny ourself even unto sickness and pain.
Therefore let us look upon ourselves again within this story, and then say if we can – ‘Not I.’ Who are we but people, like Joachim and Anna, often full rich of life’s experiences, yet barren of purpose or meaning. We, too, in our activities in the world and within ourselves, lack the power, by ourselves, to bring forth that which would fulfil us and express us to the world. Like Anna and Joachim we know the emptiness and barrenness, the loneliness of our lives. We hide from it in a thousand meaningless activities and pleasures. In drink and parties we try to muffle the hurt of it, In the screaming whirl of ambition and business we obscure the sound of its weeping. In duties, morals and penances that only we have set upon ourselves, we make a lifeless effigy of what should flow from us as life-full as a mountain stream. And when life gently tries to take this dead doll from us, we hug it to us terrified of the empty feeling in our arms and heart and guts.
Somewhere we have lost the rhythm, we have got out of tune, out of timing with the great dance and surges of Life. For it is not our own power that gives life, that creates in us and through us, but Life itself. And inasmuch as we have blocked the stream of Life through us, turned it back upon itself, run from it, denied it, to that degree have we become barren, lifeless, meaningless and without a place in the world. Like Anna and Joachim, we are rich with experiences, old with memory and its burden, but lacking that fertility, that creativeness, that alliance with Life, which alone will satisfy. Only as an ally, a lover perhaps, can we really dance in time with the power that gives us life.
“Rhythmical movement call it then. To share the life of the Earth is to dance and sing in a huge abundant joy And the nearer to her great heart, the more natural and spontaneous the impulse – the instinctive dancing of primitive races, of savages, of children, still artless and untamed; the gamboling of animals, of rabbits in the meadows and of deer unwatched in forest clearings – you know naturalists have sometimes seen it; of birds in the air – rooks, gulls and swallows. All life simple enough to share the enormous happiness of her deep, streaming, personal Being, dances instinctively for very joy. The natural movement of the great Earth Soul is rhythmic. The very winds, the swaying of trees and flowers and grasses, the movement of the sea, of water running through the fields, even the trembling of earthquakes – all, all respond in sympathetic motions to this huge vibratory movement of her great central pulse. The mountains rise and fall and change; our very breathing, first sign of stirring life, even the circulation of our blood, bring testimony; our speech as well – inspired words are ever rhythmical, language that pours into the poet’s mind from something greater than himself. And not unwisely, but in obedience to a deep instinctive knowledge was dancing once – in earlier, simpler days – a form of worship. You know, at least, how rhythm in music and ceremony uplifts and cleans and simplifies the heart towards the greater life You know, perhaps, the Dance of Jesus…….” (12)
“Dance, dance, wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the dance says He……”
But stay your tapping feet, for you are not ready to be danced yet. Have you acknowledged the music, are you yet ready to take your cue from the conductor?
A woman dreamt that she was waiting backstage to go on and play her part, but she had forgotten not only her cue, but also her words. Yes, we have got out of timing, we have looked away from the conductor, and the whole dance is turned into chaos by our clumsy movements which spread like ripples into the world and cosmos, creating ever-spreading disharmony as strife and misery on our world.
A man, full of his own misery, walked alone along a deserted roadway. What was the point of living if year after year were to be filled with this pain and meaninglessness? Better end it than live such a life. But why should we exist for such darkness, why should we have been brought into being anyway?
Thinking thus he climbed a small hillock and looked across bleak winter fields. Apart from a few black specks of birds against the evening sky no other sign of life could be seen. Outwardly the view was to him as lifeless, cold and lonely as his inner world.
Then, in the midst of this blackness of soul, there came to his lips as if of themselves, strange words. Strange because he was not given to repeating them.
|Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.Thy Kingdom come,Thy will be doneIn earth as it is . .|
But he never finished them, for suddenly a love burst upon him which seemed to bathe him through and through, and he wept to be so embraced by it. Then the Love spoke, yet there was no voice, and it showed him things, yet there were no pictures. And what he saw was his life stretching away ahead of him, year after year, as full of the difficulties and restrictions and emptiness as he had been running away from. Then the voice said ‘None of this shall be taken away, for I give you life and its events out of love. It is given that through it you come slowly to develop as a soul. For through difficulties you learn strength and discover your own wonder, and through life as a whole you slowly find this Love I have waiting for you. Then, when you are one with the Love, you can take part with Me in Creation.’
Who hasn’t felt an emptiness in daily life, or marriage, or work? It is this emptiness, this feeling, upon seeing the mass of people around us, of being of no consequence, of no purpose, which Anna and Joachim depict. But Anna and Joachim also depict the turning to God for help experienced by the man on the hillock. Despite our inner torment, so very few take this step of acknowledging their condition and reaching to Life itself for an answer. Yet when we do, as with Joachim and Anna, angels appear to us in the form of inspiration, uprising hope, or the voice of Life and its love for us.
Victor Gollancz, in his book Darkness to Light, tells of his own angel. “For an hour past I have been the prey of a vague anxiety; I recognise my old enemy – - – It is a sense of void and anguish; a sense of something lacking: what? Love, peace, God perhaps? The essence of my hell was outlawry. By the sin which, as I felt, I had committed, I had broken the links that united me with universal living: I was separate, alone, without lot or part in the everything. I had deprived myself, treacherously, of it: I had deprived it, quite as treacherously, of me.
“One forenoon, when my terror and despair seemed to be at their height, I set out for a walk with my wife. We went very a total insomnia that had lasted for twenty-two days, and every muscle and nerve ached …About half an hour later we turned, sharply, left, into a dark and narrow path that descended: and soon came out into a great open space – a sort of water meadow, with herds grazing, and a high inland cliff just in front of us. There was dappled sunlight everywhere, and a slight breeze. I felt suddenly very still: and then I heard the inland cliff, and the grass and water and sky, say very distinctly to me ‘A humble and a contrite heart He will not despise.’ When I say I heard them say it, I mean, quite literally, that I heard them say it; a voice came from them: but they were also themselves the voice, and the voice was also within me I said to my wife ‘The trouble is over’, and that night I slept a little.” (15)
The very first step on our journey is framed in these questions: Do I as a personality and conscious being, arise out of my own self and will, or has something I know little of caused me to exist? Do I acknowledge frequently my dependence upon that something, called Life? If not, am I impractical not to open my will, heart, passions and mind, my whole being, to that influence without which I would not exist?
These are the questions Joachim and Anna in us ask themselves as they realise their barrenness; and Joachim goes then into the wilderness. When we ask ourselves these questions in sincerity and earnestness, we become aware of the wilderness of our own inner thoughts and feelings – of how little grows in the desert place of our own being; of how empty of real life and satisfaction, of nourishment, it is. To fast is no longer to indulge in, to partake of, the habits and activities arising from our own will only. We have realised that our will alone can accomplish nothing if Life in us does not choose to cooperate. For we could not even lift our arm if the Life processes within our being withdrew their support. Thus does Joachim and Anna see that only by opening themselves to God’s influence can their barrenness be removed. Then God, and they, together, can bring forth new life.
To fast is also to deny oneself of the ideas and conceptions and emotional fixations we have about the nature of life. We may believe that life is a game of chance, or a divine plan. Whatever we think or feel, we must realise these are but our beliefs or convictions, and may not accord with Reality. Thus we for a while put them aside until Reality itself communicates with us, as with Joachim and Anna, through an Angel.
And wonder of subtlety, the angel is of our own being “neither think that which you see is a spirit. For I am that angel who hath offered up your prayers and alms before God.” By our acknowledgement of dependence upon Life; by our opening of self to Life’s influence, a meeting point is made linking us with our Creator. This meeting point, this open door, this humble attitude, is itself on the one side the angel who listens to the voice of God in silence; and on the other side the angel who speaks to us of what God has informed us.
Pak Subuh says, “The man who seeks to achieve a form of worship which will enable him to touch the Great Life is well advised to stop the arising in him of imagination and thinking. Under such conditions he can really deprive his passions of their force and humble his human science and human wisdom: the meaning of which is that he, as a man, submits and surrenders himself with complete sincerity before God who rules within him.” (16)
Through millions of years, Life has struggled to realise itself. This spontaneous drive onwards we have called evolution, and it is this urge or power that at last raised up a man who could stand erect, and unlike any other creature on our planet, say, I AM. It is this self-awareness that is the root of humanness. It is this that has enabled us to make our own choices, whether self-destructive or creative, It is this which enables us to choose whether we wish to cooperate with the Life Force which has brought us this far, or whether we wish to turn our back on it and cut Life off from us, For this is our choice. Life has carried us through the mighty deeps of a great sea of unconsciousness, and washed us up on the shore of self-awareness and self-will.
Do we now wish to go on with the great journey – together, and fully aware? If we do, we must make a conscious decision. It cannot be otherwise. If it were, then we would have to remain asleep and lacking our own will. But now we have will and decision, we must use it – consciously.
God appeared to be saying, “I have been here always, and I shall be here always. I wait to welcome and protect you, but come only when you are ready, only if you wish.” (17)