Christian Yoga Part 7
Who will you be?
Which is to be your way though? Is it to be a rigid and uncompromising morality and restraint imposed upon yourself from without? It cannot be this, for Mary is a living open heart surrendered to the invisible. Any rigid morals would close the door to this action upon you. To initiate upon yourself a discipline you have read or been told, even in a holy book, is to believe that you know what is best for you. 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 that 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, or the yoga self-imposed disciplines, of self-asceticism. He is our love that 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.
Up until the point of baptism, what has been happening may be largely unconscious, but baptism represents your conscious self dipping deeply into the experience of the wider life of the spirit – a taste of eternity and its wisdom. It also represents a transition from the body centred life to the spirit centred life. This is shown by the descent of the dove. This new life is described in the New Testament:
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.
The choice to make
So baptism is a definite and conscious experience. A man here describes it as he met it in a dream.
The night before leaving home to fly to Australia, dreamt I was looking at a newspaper cutting about a page in size. Near the top left was a photograph of two trees. One was down and the other upright and alive. The feature was about opening oneself to the flow of life. It was presented by an enthusiastic group of people who had a religious approach to this openness. The trees illustrated the ‘dead’ or cut off state of people who have not let the experience of this flow into them.
As I read I realised my experience and theirs was the same, but they brought to it more pleasure, more enthusiasm, more expressed sense of having something wonderful in their life. It helped me feel a greater sense of privilege about my own openness. I saw that each of us have this flow active in our body – causing our heartbeat for instance, but most people never open their ‘self’, their conscious personality to it. The group urged people to be baptised in the wonderful influence. They suggested with enthusiasm that it was worthwhile to surrender to the inner influence.
From this I renewed my ‘pledge’ to this inner life to let it vibrate or flow through me – not by will, but by getting out of the way. It moved through me and touched other people’s lives. I felt wonderful, and this has carried through into waking.
J. P. Barter, describing his own experience, says:
“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 that was flowing gently past. At the same time it recalled the mild exhilaration that 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.” (Towards Subud, by J.P. Barter. Gollancz, 1967)
Baptism as a symbol shows the human identity, Jesus, the Son of Man, choosing to immerse himself totally in a river. Having done that, another power touches his being – the Holy Ghost, and he is acclaimed as the Son of God. As a human person our area of choice and will is limited, and there are definite boundaries to our awareness. Although we exist as an integral part of a body, we have very little personal awareness of what is happening at a cellular, atomic, or even organic level. In most cases we are even largely unconscious of the social forces that gave birth to our sense of identity, and which continue to play upon our being. Many of us are so unaware that we may even deny the existence and influence of a spiritual force acting upon us leading us to a refinement of the qualities of our soul.
Baptism means that we acknowledge how limited our choice and awareness is. We admit how little we know about our own being, and we yearn for a fuller participation with the flowing process of life – the river. We open to that flow so that it can cleanse away the dross, and we can become aware of our transcendental life within humanity and the cosmos.
In plain language, and using the Gospels as a guide, John the Baptist represents your willingness to be washed clean by the flow of divine life in you. We each live within possibilities we hardly sense. The openness of the Mary meditation allows such possibilities to become active in your life. From this arises the birth of a new awareness and relationship with these possibilities. Then comes the conscious willingness to surrender to the process and changes this is bringing about. Out of that you know your own divinity, represented by the descending dove.
The ancient people who wrote the gospels were not ignorant superstitious peasants. They had found a wonder in the realm of human possibility and experience. They had defined psychobiological processes and how to work with them. The details of this they had written in the manner of their times, in symbolic story form. The story is in fact an amazing document describing the hidden processes of the your life and what potentials it has.
So baptism is experienced as a flow of energy, a process working in you that brings to the surface, to consciousness, the previously unconscious pains, resentments, habits and desires, that were blocking the flow of the divine life. This cleansing may be uncomfortable. It is like a river that starts to flow in a dry riverbed. Rubbish of generations has been dropped in the riverbed, and the flow starts to push it away. It is unmistakable when it happens to you. In the terms of today’s psychology this is called self-regulation, but in terms of the Gospels, it is the divine action upon us. And this divine action is not something that happened only to ancient people two thousand years ago. The principles the early Christians described in the gospels are universal processes of nature, open to anyone in any period of history, and from any race.
Here is an explicit description of such action in the life of a man who had experienced the birth of the holy child, and had gone on to seek baptism.
For some time I had been earnestly surrendering my life to the action of God by offering my body and mind in any way. I was feeling very ill and depressed at the time, and longed for healing, but could feel no definite change. Nevertheless I sat every day with a ‘waiting’ or ‘open’ attitude. I deeply pondered the question of how the action of God showed itself. Maybe I wasn’t aware of it. I had noticed that while I slept my body experienced a subtle vibration, like you feel when you put your fingers on a smooth running electric motor; even my wife could feel it if she touched my body. But I could observe no changes in myself from this.
Then one night, B., my wife, got out of bed because the baby was crying. When she had settled I got up and went to the toilet. Just as I was getting into bed again I heard a voice speaking to me. Literally a loud voice came from everywhere around me. It said, “You have asked what are the results of God’s activity upon one – now watch closely.”
This was an extraordinary thing to experience, and waiting for sleep to overtake me again I had a mood of expectation, waiting for something to be shown me. In the morning I remembered the following dream.
I was in a huge theatre, or amphitheatre. The stage was on my right. The part of the play I observed was where the actor walked up to a mirror and looked at himself. Then somehow the activity gradually began to take place on my left. First of all an orchestra was playing on a slope facing left. Then everybody was moving to see a big event that was going to take place on the left. This was at the opposite end to the stage.
There was no immediate ‘big event’ in my life apart from the voice and the dream. But looking back I can see from my dreams and outer life that an enormous process of preparation was taking place. This culminated in the pouring up from within me of old hurts, such as childhood medical operations, and inflicted traumas. It took several months between hearing the voice and the start of these outpourings. But the result was that healing had begun, and it carried me toward a level of wholeness and a sense of the eternal life, that I had never known before.