Yield – Chapter Three
The symbolism of the New Testament
Yield – Chapter Three
Thou Art My Beloved Son
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.’
“Now when all the people were baptised, it came to pass, that Jesus also was baptised – of John in Jordan – and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased.’” (1)
And I prayed to Life which had caused me, thus opening myself to its influence. And I called it Father as an expression of my tenderness and love, because it had created me and upheld me all my days. So too came the word Mother to my feelings, for I had released my heart from the imprisonment of reason, and it poured out the love in it to Life, its Mother and Father. And I wept in the abandonment of being able to speak such simple words from deep within myself. ‘Mother – Mother’ I called, and I fell into her love. ‘Father, my Father’ I cried, and immediately I was strengthened.
Thus I beheld the Lamb of God, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to undo; the spotless Lamb sacrificed at the beginning for our redemption. For in the beginning was the vast and the deep, the formless and the void, the ALL. And in it there was no separation, no I or Thou. One Life only, one mind, one love. Then, out of that Love and Life and Thought arose desire to give, to create, to share, and the One became Two. ‘Let there be light’ Life said, and there was light and darkness, matter and energy, male and female, awareness and unconsciousness, life and death.
In this way did the Lamb arise and die for us. For the Lamb is no other than the Light, the Energy, the Male, the Awareness and Life; and it was without blemish, or spot, or error. Out of Love it sacrificed itself, diving and dying into the Darkness, the Matter, the Female, the Unconsciousness. Thus the One became many; the unseparated, now clothed in matter, veiled and but partially aware, lost consciousness of the whole, knowing itself only in part, in degree, in space, in time, in separateness. For Time is awareness of fragments of the Timeless – Individuality is awareness of but units of the Whole. Dying from its sense of oneness, the All thus created man and woman, planet and sun, herb, tree and creature, which are but tiny facets of the featureless.
And the Lamb, dying and willingly slain by the world and the Universe of Matter, redeems us from our singleness; and we rise up from death, from the grave, and become alive in the one life. But, out of One, you, my Mother and Father, have, like Abraham, become a multitude. You came forth and multiplied, and we come back as your children, a universe of separate souls, within the one eternal life.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the Light of men. And the Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that through him all might believe. He was not that Light, but was to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…..”
And John, asked of himself, said, ‘I am the voice of one crying the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.’
“And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, ‘Why baptisest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?’
“John answered them, saying, ‘I baptise with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not: He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me.’ (2)
Speaking of the birth of God awareness within us, and of John the Baptist, Rebecca Beard says:
“A young man once climbed a very high mountain peak. As he reached the topmost rock he leaped up with a victorious shout, but the guide drew him back with a warning: ‘Do not stand up; the wind will blow you off! You stand on this peak only on your knees!’
“The first step on the journey must be man’s acknowledgement of his own impotence and the Omnipotence of God. Pain and suffering may have to come before we are willing to begin the journey. That was my experience. Pain may be spiritual, emotional, mental or physical, but until it becomes manifest in the body it is more likely to be born without an admission of failure of the little self, or a willingness to turn in surrender to a higher power for release.
“Perhaps no one is more fortunate than he who is told in no uncertain terms by the doctors, that there is absolutely nothing more to offer in the way of drugs or treatment for his particular malady or disorder – if that person has any measure of faith. For when he comes to the place where there is nothing offered by material science he necessarily turns for help to spiritual sources.
“If the verdict has been wholly negative, there is either utter hopelessness or willingness to yield at last to the greatest power of all and to place oneself completely in the hands of Divine Wisdom. In these circumstances one has less temptation to turn back, or to try to lean on the material side with the thought that perhaps there is something that has not yet been found, an alleviation or a help that has not yet been tried. The entire hope is cast into the spiritual world and its power becomes more and more real to that individual.
“Of course, it is difficult for one facing this ultimatum to recognise his good fortune and to give thanks for the seemingly desperate situation, but truly man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity.
“When my colleagues – I being a doctor – said to me, ‘You must put your affairs in order, for you cannot hope to go through another heart attack and live,’ I was brought to such an extremity. There was nothing more to be done. There was nowhere to turn. Yet, when I sought help from another source, I was moving into unknown territory.
“Up to that time I had faith of a kind, but like a great many people today who have been educated in material science, it was faith in an intelligence which gives rise to order and dependability of natural law. Whilst I knew that behind the everything was an unchangeable power and intelligence, I had not come to a place where I could actually touch that power intimately. Only when my physical need became desperate did I begin my outreach for this same power which I felt, instinctively, must be integral in the spiritual world.
“It was very difficult. Everything I had tried to do seemed to be ending in a blind alley. I cannot say that I prayed for healing. I prayed for deliverance. As I went down on my knees for the first time in my life both figuratively and literally, I asked for contact with the order which I felt was in the universe about me. I needed an immediate awareness of the intelligence responsible for that order. I wanted the comfort and love and a sense of being cherished and cared for. Whether that contact brought life and strength back to my body or whether it took me on into further expression in another life did not seem much to matter at the time.
“I had a deep sense of the on-goingness of life. The vehicle through which I was expressing might change, but I felt life itself would go on. I had a sense of its continuity – that it is always moving on, never stopping. So my plea was, ‘Either take me out of this expression which I seem to have snarled up so pitifully and put me into a fresh expression in which I can at least begin with parallel threads in my loom, or in some way, which is beyond my comprehension, untangle these threads and let me start afresh here.’
“The illumination that followed was so profound that for hours afterwards I was scarcely aware of my surroundings. I could as easily have been transported to another realm as to have been there in the room which was familiar to me. Everyone had left the house for the day and the night. I was alone and uninterrupted. There was nothing to disturb the long silence and the almost unconscious state in which I struggled towards an unknown source of strength.
“At first as I knelt by my bed and looked at the wall before me I saw a black cross outlined there. It was terribly black; there was no light in it. But as I groped and asked, light came into that cross, and it was not light similar to the light of combustion. It was not a flame. I recall clearly that the outline of the cross was never blurred or indistinct as flames would have blurred it. Nothing leaped over the edge of it. But it was white with a whiteness I cannot describe for there is no whiteness that I know that is like it. It was luminous and it was alive, but it was not fire or flames as we see them. Nor was the illumination only a visual thing. The change from black to light still stands as a symbol to me of the change that comes in people through conversion or through physical healing. It is a change from negative to positive, a change from the blackness of despair, frustrations and helplessness to the revelation of light in life, a glimpse of the reality – the real life – which is behind the observed life.
“Before morning came, I managed to get up and throw myself on the bed. I was there all the next day. I knew I was healed Moreover, I knew that the rest of my days would be given to witnessing to that light and to that power which was able to untangle the threads I had snarled and bring them again into order.
“Shortly after this experience, my husband and I planned to go to England for the summer. And there grew upon me, as we stayed in England, a necessity for contact with a deeper source of wisdom.
“When we returned in the autumn, we moved into a quiet residential district in St. Louis. I answered the insistent urge to give up everything in a systematic search through what the Easterners call Samadhi, or the silence, for the Reality that I had touched the night when I was healed. With the exception of a very few old friends and patients, we no longer invited personal appointments, so it was possible for me to go into a period of contemplative life. My conviction was that I must find the kingdom of heaven and all the rest would be added. ‘But seek ye first . . .’ stood out as an imperative. Apparently this search must come before all else.
“Using the few signposts I could find on how to develop the contemplative life, I laid out a programme that was deliberately made difficult, because I found it was not easy for me to be still for any length of time. I had led an extremely busy, active life, meeting people all day long every day. I knew it was not going to be a simple thing to step out of that pattern and learn to be still within myself. So I took four appointments round the clock: six in the morning, twelve noon, six in the evening and twelve midnight, every day. I let nothing interfere with these appointments.
“In the beginning it was difficult to get up at six in the morning, and once up, it was hard to keep awake. I always got out of bed, and sat in a chair. That made it easier not to lapse. Gradually, my subconscious mind became trained to waking me at that hour. Later, I was able to awaken at any hour I might determine beforehand.
“I chose the same room for all meditations and used the same chair. I tried to keep the conditions as uniform as possible. At first, I could not hold the silence for more than five or ten minutes. The time lengthened as I persisted and the silence grew deeper and more satisfying.
“The noon meditation was difficult for many reasons. I found it difficult to sit quietly while the potatoes burned. A friend lived with us who did some of the cooking. When she put the potatoes on and forgot them, I could hardly resist going to the rescue when I smelled them burning. To be able to say, ‘There -are other pans; there are more potatoes; there is only one kingdom of heaven; seek ye the kingdom of heaven; seek ye the kingdom FIRST,’ was real discipline.
“This kind of schooling and training is not necessary for everyone. There are rare souls who do not need it, but for the majority of us it is vital. The word “meek” as Jesus used it in The Beatitudes, has been translated by some students of the Aramaic as debonair. The same word may also be translated ‘trained’. The debonair and the trained are blessed because theirs is the kind of discipline that makes a disciple. Jesus knew this discipline and the necessity for it. He knew that it was necessary for His disciples to develop a certain indifference to outward things in order to gain an inward sense with which to listen intently to the voice of guidance.” (3)
A man’s dream well illustrates other aspects of this discipline: “I was in a large prison cell with about four other men. Although I was not the same person as when awake, but of a different country and different age, yet I was not an onlooker, but very much the man himself.
“The cell was large enough for the five of us to sleep in. I seemed to know that it was somewhere in Spain, perhaps at the end of the 19th century. We were never allowed out of the cell, and ate, slept, woke and defecated there.
“I knew I had been there a long time; knowing also that at first I had gone nearly crazy with hate and desire for vengeance at being imprisoned. But after some time I had realised that my own actions had been the cause of my situation. Nevertheless, I still felt shut off from ‘real life’, from people, from doing things. Life was slipping away and I was rotting in a cell. Yet gradually this too had changed. Some deep part of me, just as it had helped me to see how my own actions had led to imprisonment, thus ridding me of hate, now led me to further realisations, releasing me from yet more bondage. For I had begun to see how none of us are ever out of prison, even in the so called freedom of everyday life. This is because we are forever in bondage to certain hopes, drives, ideas and emotions. Take ambition for instance; a man may slave all his life to escape from his present situation. We struggle and crush each other to ‘get somewhere in life’; to be recognised; to become great. This, I saw, was as much an attempt to escape from imprisonment as my own.
“In marriage too, we are seldom satisfied, often believing that if we could but escape this partner, we could find a better one who would bring us happiness. Many religious people try to escape their life to go into what they believe would be some wider realm. They try to break free of the bondage of sin, even though Jesus said resist not evil.
“Then we have people hoping to win a fortune or become rich through acumen. It all seems prompted by the desire to escape from our present situation, from ourselves. We are not happy, we feel trapped. shut in, restrained, locked up with people we find intolerable, with our own past, failure, actions, tears, and memories – with our own turbulent nature: and we believe that if only we had more money, better friends, more satisfying job, more loving partner, better behaved children, greater leisure time, quiet surroundings, more entertainment, we would be happier. Yet history shows this to be a lie. The rich, the famous, the great. the idle, the lecherous, the unrestrained, do not attain any greater happiness than ourselves
“This brought me face to face with a tremendous realisation. One is just as imprisoned outside of a cell as inside. Not by bars, but by one’s desire, hopes, fears, lusts, strivings. My cell was but an intensification of everyday life. It was life made obvious as-iron and bricks. Then I saw that every pain I suffered, in or out of a cell, came from a desire, a feeling, an idea, an instinct. For instance, if a man is ambitious and after long planning and effort a bid to achieve his ambition fails, he is likely to feel great pain and turbulence. If a woman in love is told by her lover he has found somebody else who is so wonderful it makes her look shoddy, she might be so hurt as to commit suicide; and so on and on.
“Through this I saw that the only reason I could not be happy in this cell was because I was imprisoned by my own desires. These were my pain. These were my real prison. So I had for some time been recognising my restlessness, my desires to escape, my feelings of bitterness, my thoughts of what I might do if I were ‘free’, for what they were – shadows – ghosts which haunted me with false promises, illusionary desires, abortive hopes. For even if I was ‘free’, these ghosts would then begin to haunt me with fresh hopes, further quests, new feelings of being trapped by family, lack of money, the government, society, and the other host. And each time my ghosts had come up, I had looked at them squarely and said – ‘you are an illusion – you will trouble me no more.’ I kept dropping them, and dropping them, instead of allowing them to move me to moodiness, despair and hate. And it worked. Gradually a great quietness grew within me. Acceptance of my situation arose, and it mattered not whether I was in a cell or out of it, for my happiness and calm were within me, and no longer attached to the circumstances of my life, such as wealth, position, relationships, or environment.
“Then, when this calm had deeply penetrated me, and evening was closing another day, I sat on my bed, quietly dwelling in the peace within. Something had been growing in me for some time, and suddenly it was as if it burst open in me – or as if the last ghost, the last barrier to inner freedom died and fell away, for a great torrent of light and joy burst within me, and I cried out with the bliss of it. It seemed almost as if I were physically lifted up in the tremendous power of joy and wonder. My face appeared to me to be shining out a great light, and I saw my cell mates looking at me with awe. Some of them shouted for the jailer. He came running and they all stood looking at me, while this flood of living wonder poured through me and penetrated them. And I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.
“For me, this dream was a sort of baptism, washing away many false ideas and ideals I had held. It left a remarkable influence with me, which would have faded no doubt, but I nurtured it by frequently reminding myself of the dream, and trying to live its insight, and building the calm again by meditation.
“At the time I was helping my wife with a business I was not particularly interested in. I had to spend a great deal of time looking after the children, and house cleaning, and felt somewhat imprisoned. My own desires and ambitions had little or no chance of expression, and this often led to feelings of being used, or being second best, or smothered. Sometimes these flared up, but whenever possible I remembered the dream and saw these feelings as phantoms. When I did this they vanished, and gradually, a little of the peace of the dream grew in my life. Similarly, the other phantoms that haunt us have been less real to me, but only through the steady discipline of bringing the strength of the dream realisations into everyday practice.”
Few indeed have entered deeply within themselves without this discipline, and Edward Carpenter says: “Beware how thou seekest this for thyself and that for thyself. I do not say Seek not; but Beware how thou seekest. For a soldier who is going on a campaign does not seek what fresh furniture he can carry on his back, but rather what he can leave behind; knowing well that every additional thing which he cannot freely use and handle is an impediment to him.
“So if thou seekest fame or ease or pleasure or aught for thyself, the image of that thing which thou seekest will come and cling to thee – and thou wilt have to carry it about; and the images and powers which thou hast thus evoked will gather round and form for thee a new body – clamouring for sustenance and satisfaction; and if thou art not able to discard this image now, thou wilt not be able to discard that body then: but wilt have to carry it about.
“Beware then lest it become thy grave and thy prison – instead of thy winged abode and palace of joy.” (4)
At one time I believed that to be religious, or to pray, or to surrender to God was for weaklings only. But it has been proved to me through the years, and through being allowed to see more deeply into human beings, that only the very courageous and the very strong can dare to commit their lives to God. If it is not the very strong, then it is the very desperate person, made courageous through his pain and misery, or his extremity.
A man, of huge stature, once said to me, ‘But if I let go of myself, if I surrender my thoughts and feelings, I will be nothing, nobody. I will become weak, without character or personality.’ This attitude is echoed by many in various ways, and shows the mistake we make in what we take to be an understanding of ourselves. This is because we tend to believe that letting go of our will to God produces a milksop, a weak-willed, a vacillating and indecisive person. But if we look at milksops, at indecisive and weak-willed people we will see our mistake. These people are all moved or held in bondage by a number of apprehensions, fears, dependencies upon other people’s will, or lack of direction. Because of this, they cannot let go of these fears and phantoms. Such people usually do not have the strength consistently to let go of their own emotions and feelings and thus become free of them. Instead, they let go of one thing in their time of prayer, and are possessed by another. So it is that they begin to surrender, and to open as Mary, only to fear the consequences, or feel it is not getting them anywhere, and stop, or go on to something else. Only the strong willed can continue in the face of such a fear or setback, pressing past them. Or if weak-willed or fearful persons continue in their practice despite all, then their real will emerges from behind their fears, and begins to flourish in their daily life also.
This is the meaning of John the Baptist. He represents the strange paradox between giving up our effort; in letting go and letting God – and in the very wilful discipline we are called upon to live. For, as I said above, the act of surrender is a supreme effort of will. It is, true enough, a surrender of the will, of the ego: but to continue it in our life calls forth all the resources of our ego and its will. This is simply because, in surrendering, we are not letting go to our fears, our feelings of failure, our desires to become someone great, or to achieve enormous power. These will undoubtedly arise in our surrender, but it is to God we marry our soul, and the will is needed to keep our aim upon the formless and the ALL; and to resist being carried away by our own hopes and cares.
John is the trained human will, brought into play by our love for God, to make straight the way of the Lord. For although we may have touched that higher Life through our prayer as Mary, it can only enter unto our consciousness fragmentarily while we are still largely possessed by our mental, emotional and passionate life. Like the poem, we have to be ‘waiting the Word of the Master, watching the hidden Light; listening to catch His orders in the very midst of the fight; seeing His slightest signal across the heads of the throng; hearing His faintest whisper above earth’s loudest song.’ (5)
The fight is our inner turmoil, and earth’s song our sensual impacts. It needs discipline to remain open to God and yet not closed to them, and this is our task.
Which is to be our way though? Is it to be a rigid and uncompromising morality and restraint imposed upon ourselves from without? It cannot be this, for Mary is a living open heart surrendered to God. Any rigid morals would be to close the door to God’s action upon us. To initiate upon ourselves a discipline we have read of or been told, even in a holy book, is to believe that we know what is best for us. It is to say, ‘I must do this work, not God. I have grown myself from the womb by my own power, not Life. I know where I am going, and by my own efforts will get there.’ But such an attitude takes us right back to the impotent Joachim and Anna.
Obviously though, without discipline we will be lost. As Kierkegaard says: ‘To tear the will away from finite aims and conditions requires a painful effort and this effort, ceaseless repetition.’ It is this very repetition of will which enables us to follow Meister Eckhart’s message. “I will give” he says, a rule which is the sum of all my arguments, the key to the whole theory and practice of the truth.
“It very often happens that a thing seems small to us which is of greater moment in God’s sight than what looms large in ours. Wherefore it behoves us to take alike from God everything he sends us without ever thinking or looking to see which is greatest or highest or best but following blindly God’s lead, that is to say, our own feeling, our own strongest dictates, what we are most prompted to do. Then God gives us the most in the least without fail.
“People often shirk the least and prevent themselves getting the most in the least. They are wrong. God is everywise, the same in every guise to him who can see Him the same. John the Baptist is therefore a strange paradox. He is the remaining influence of the Mosaic, self-imposed, law – of the ten commandments imposed from without, or the Buddhist eightfold path, of the yoga self-imposed disciplines, of self-asceticism. He is our love which impels us to heroic acts of self denial, yet is not worthy to lift the shoe latchet of Jesus. For while John may pave the way, by working from without, Jesus initiates by working from within.
But John leads us to the inner working, the God-given way; the completely individual path suited to Our own needs. Let us see how he does this. He lives in the wilderness; he calls upon all to repent; he baptises with water.
The wilderness is our own barren soul as we wait, open to God. Nothing, or little, Life-given is there. As we open to Life, like Mary, we realise how little real life we have in us – how empty – how desert-like our inner life is. The act of waiting calls forth our love. Our love calls upon the many parts of our emotions and thoughts to repent, to hand themselves over to God’s influence. John also calls us to discipline ourselves, and to be baptised.
If we look upon this call for discipline and baptism as an inward thing, what do we see? It is not, if looked at carefully, a call to impose upon oneself rigid formalities and austerities. It is, as John says, merely a means of making straight the way of the Lord. That is, a way of making the outflowering of Life in us easier and less blocked. It is a removing of obstructions, rather than imposing of rules. Mary opened the door, now John has to clear the piled rubbish out of the way.
Look at some of the rules, taken from all religions, and ‘ways’ of all ages:
Do not kill.
Do not steal.
Do not lie.
Do not worship anything or anyone, except Life – God in
Do not covet.
So materialistic have we become, that we see such rules as applying only outwardly, as did the Israelites. They burnt and sacrificed innumerable animals, despite the utterance in Isaiah: “‘To what purpose do you offer me the multitude of your victims?’ saith the Lord. ‘I desire not holocausts of rams and fatlings, the blood of calves, and sheep, and goats. When you come to appear before me, who hath required these things at your hands? Offer sacrifices no more; your new moons and festivals I cannot abide; your assemblies are wicked. My soul hateth your solemnities; when you stretch forth your hands I turn away Mine eyes, for your hands are full of blood.’ (7)
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a lowly and contrite heart.”
So did the Aztecs, whose traditions said to give a living heart to God. So we, too, materialise our disciplines, scourging the body, restraining ourselves from food, applying a cloak of truth, honesty, love and worship, while within us, as our dreams show, we carry on with our rape, murder, lying, and lust.
‘No, I have never killed,’ we say. Yet all the time we kill our love for each other by our self-righteousness, fear or selfishness. We kill our thoughts in self-imposed meditation. We kill our passions or emotions through feelings of guilt, of fear, or through stabbing them to death with a sense of sin. We kill Life in us by not being open like Mary; by our egoistic will, because of fear as to what Life will ask of us. Through abortion of our finest feelings, of our tenderness and worship, we kill. We murder our innocence every day through living in our pride, our envy, our ambition and greed.
And we say, ‘No I do not steal.’ Yet we steal other men’s ideas and hope, because we have impoverished our own, because we will not trust our own inner light. We steal another’s strength because we are tearful of opening to our own within. We steal someone else’s wife, or love, because of our own inner emptiness and lovelessness, which we will not admit. We steal another person’s religious faith, because we lack any ourselves; and perhaps when we have their faith, know not what to do with it, and destroy it. We steal another person’s message from God, and try to fit it into our own life chapter, twisting not only the story of our own unique life, but also denying that God is constantly speaking to us.
You say you do not lie? But you lie to yourself whenever you deny Life, and thus you say, God does not exist. You lie every time you believe your life is not without error. You lie every time you do not act out of your deepest feelings, but compromise, or live a fear or a doubt. You lie every time you say God has deserted you. It is you who have turned away from God. You lie every time you say – ‘I don’t need you’ to your husband, wife, or child every time you wound a soul. You lie every time you believe you have no purpose, no wonder, no place in the scheme of things.
And have you not worshipped money, sex, objects, position, authority, excitement, entertainment, people, other people’s abilities; and thus sold your own soul to an outside influence? Or coveted another person’s spiritual development so much you would not get on with your own?
What is John’s discipline then? It is not an outwardly imposed one. It is simply the will to remain open to all Life brings us, without killing our passions, our thoughts, our emotions, our fears, our black side, but existing in trust that God will take and place our house in order, finding a use even for those things we judge as useless. 53
It is to remain open to all Life gives us, using the talents, ideas and feelings we have, and not being tempted to steal other people’s. To wait trustingly, feeling that even if we do not presently understand why nothing great is happening, not to steal higher consciousness by drugs, austerities, excessive reading, or force; but sit in the knowledge that the great Law of Life, which brought us up from babyhood, will raise us to spiritual maturity, if we wait, if we are patient.
It is to remain open to Life, living as much of our innermost truth as we can. By admitting our failings to ourselves and others. By being sincere and keeping true to our self. It is by not giving up to anything less than the Best. To open ourselves up for a-moment is an easy thing, almost anyone can do it. To remain open needs all that we have, for all that we are leaps into the openness trying to close it. Thus our restlessness, our fear, our ambition, our doubts, our guilt, our problems, our self, all rise up against this activity. To persist calls on us to:
Be willing to go along with a process issuing from an intangible part of self.
Be willing to cooperate with this process intellectually, like Joseph, who put aside his doubts.
Be sufficiently trusting of Life or God to release the contents of our unconscious to be healed and redeemed. To allow the worst side of self, or the painful parts of self, to be brought up and remoulded by this activity.
Be willing to be changed, and in this willingness holding out all we are to Life.
Be patient, feeling that as we do not know what is ultimately best for us, then perhaps exactly what is happening, even if it is a feeling of being lost, of not getting anywhere, of not being in contact with God, is also part of our growth, and right for us just now.
Be tolerant and open to new ideas in an explorative way, lest our bias for things outward acts as a block against new things God may present to us.
Be capable of as wide a range of our human feelings and attitudes as possible, lest being fixed in any way we resist God’s activity upon us. Therefore we have to be capable of tears and laughter – quietness and activity – attraction and repulsion – to be born and to die – giving and receiving – like and dislike – seriousness and frivolity.
Be capable of forgiving and thus accepting one’s parents, culture, teachers, religion, the past, and one’s family, and be thankful. Then we can build. Otherwise we are still chained by the feelings we have for them. We do not have to hide their faults, only forgive them – thus we can integrate our past.
Be capable of admitting one’s errors, and failures.
Be humorous, and have a sense of proportion.
All these seeming disciplines are not disciplines at all, but merely the results of letting go of ourselves in numerous ways. To go along is to let go of our hold on what we want from life. To co-operate intellectually is to let go of fixed ideas we may have. To release our unconscious hurts and fears it to let go of our feelings of Life having wronged us – of our self-judgement and self-expectations. To be patient is to let go of graspingness, of hurry, of expectations and our belief we know what is best – and so on. It is in this way that John is a paradox, for he is the way of discipline which is really a letting go of discipline.
And what of Baptism? It is an immersion into the running waters. These are the waters spoken of throughout the Book. For it says:
Their hearts melted and became as water. (Josh. 7.5.)
I am poured out like water. (Ps. 22)
He leadeth me beside the still waters. (Ps. 23)
Cast thy Bread upon the waters. (Eccl. 11.1.)
And he said, ‘bid me come to thee on the water.’ (Math. 14.281
Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3.5)
And Jesus walked upon the water, and calmed its storminess. (John 6:19, Luke 8:23.)
What is water – what is this stream men call Jordan? What is the sea Jesus walked upon? It is Life: Life streaming through us, as a trickle or a torrent. In those sick within themselves it is a trickle – in the saint, a flood. And the sea is the Ocean of Life in which all things live and move and have their being. In that ocean of Life arise Love, Wisdom and Power, for Life is all these. This Ocean arises from the earth of man’s body as the Life Force, the indefinable something which is felt yet not graspable; which builds the might of an oak, yet can be torn apart as easily as we, in careless mood, tear apart a flower. It is the force which develops us from the womb through to maturity and death. It is the wisdom built into the intricacies of our cells, the functioning of our liver, or the wonder of our eye. It is the love that supports us despite all we do to it.
Like a bubbling spring rising out of the ground, it flows through our body, made clear or muddy by our thoughts, our actions and our food. It rushes through us as feelings of tenderness, love, wonder, beauty, creativeness and self-sacrifice. But where it is blocked by fear, or pain, or jealousy, or aught else, the love becomes hate, the creativeness destruction, the intuition of Life’s wisdom a darkness and ignorance. And the Lifestream Jordan separates the old from the promised land, for it is a stream which flows from the divine to the outer world of the senses. Thus can we choose to look at the source, or at that which it enlivens; for the outer world has no life, no meaning, nothing, except that this stream rushes out of us giving light, life and love to our outer world. And if this stream be cut off, then for us the world is lifeless, without meaning, without love, or aught else, and for the dead it exists not at all, for here their river enters the great sea. We cross over Jordan when we leave the bondage of our material values, our sense of individuality, and turn our awareness to our source. Then John, our human love turned discipline, immerses all we are within this stream, to purify and make whole – to join the many separate parts of self into a brotherhood, made one by their immersion in the waters of Life.
When we open to God through sincere surrender, and John in us keeps open the door, he gently immerses us deeply in this stream of Life Force. A man who had thus surrendered says, “Then, one evening, as I was sitting at home reading a book, I found that I was not reading the book. I became aware of a strange sensation in the upper part of my face, nose and brow. I had no conscious perception of the moment when this started. It was just there. It was a very pleasing sensation, though not readily describable. It took the form of a continuous vibration from brow to cheek. A momentary sense of disturbance, of half panic that something was happening to me over which I had no control, swept through me. But the vibration, shimmering through or about me, was (in the eighteenth century use of the word) so genial, that it was impossible to be afraid. I let the book rest in my lap, and turned all my attention to what was taking place.
“Although the vibration resembled the impact of a caressing West wind, there was something more in it, which was other. It made me think of being under water, in a stream which was flowing gently past. At the same time it recalled the mild exhilaration which occurs when one bathes in gentle sunshine. I thought of Wagner’s Rhine music, of the Rhinemaidens beneath the water of that river, and of the Jordan in which John the Baptist did his baptising. And so it seemed that the meaning of this was baptism.” (8)
One day, as I prayed, I began to tremble, for a huge and wonderful rush of love flowed through me like a river, and my body moved under the impact of this streaming life in me. And I knew, because my inner voice told me, that this was life flowing through. It was divine, as all life is divine, and I had known it so many many times before. I had felt its uprush and joy when I listened to the great waves of music; or heard an organ played in a church; or seen the meadows surge in the wind; or watched children running and dancing; or the time when I watched infants doing the nativity play; or when someone said they loved me; or when I held my baby. How can we ever say we do not know or experience God while we have these things; They are little springs from this great reservoir of God’s love and life.
And when we pray, we open up these springs, they rush up, they cascade through us like rivers of joy, of love, of God.
And the streaming of these waters makes us clean, they ‘wash all our troubles away’, cleansing us of all the sickness and error of body and soul we have built into ourselves through our self will. Then the dove of descending grace, of higher consciousness, becomes ours, and never again can we doubt God’s existence. For the Jordan is the river of life rushing up through us from the depths of our body; and the dove is the descending force of the inner Sun, which gives power for our soul to grow beyond its present capabilities, and live in unity with all creation.
John, take me into the Jordan,
John, lead me into the stream,
Hold me John under the water,
Washing my being clean.
Bring in my feelings and passions,
Bring in my’ loves and desires,
Catch hold of my mind and its longings,
And all of my darkness and fires.
Thou Art My Beloved Son
Keep on with me John, and be patient,
Each part of me wash in the stream,
Until you find that in me holy,
The power of Christ to redeem.
So Jesus goes down under John into the water and is immersed. He who is in us the incarnation of all the opposites, here once more unites within himself the-two great streams of God; the Jordan and the Holy Ghost – the rising and descending. And he says, I come not to condemn, but to redeem.