Now in saying that, it means also that I’m not trying to ‘help you’ or improve you.
I accept you as you are.
I am really not over here, trying to save the world.
But say, like, when a stream, a bubbling spring flows out from the mountains, it’s doing it’s thing. And if a thirsty traveler helps himself, well that’s fine.
When a bird sings, it doesn’t sing for the advancement of music. But if somebody stops to listen and is delighted, that’s fine.
And so I talk in the same spirit.
I’m just doing my thing.
I don’t have a group of followers. Nor am I trying to get them, because I work from the principle of say, a physician, rather than a clergyman.
A physician is essentially, trying to get rid of his patients and send them away healthy to stand on their own feet, whereas a clergyman is trying to get them as members of a religious organization so that they will continue to pay their pledges, pay off the mortgage on an expensive building, and generally belong to the church, boost its membership, and thereby prove by sheer weight of numbers the veracity of it’s tenants.
I’m afraid some of my friends and family, do not approve of this attitude, because it is widely believed and said that in order to advance in ones spiritual life- whatever that means to you- it is essential that you have a pastor, spiritual teacher, or guru, and that you should accord to that ‘teacher’ perfect obedience.
And so the question was brought to me, is it really necessary to have a spiritual teacher?
I can answer that only by saying, yes, it is necessary if you think so.
In the same spirit as it is said that anybody who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.
Of course, there is more in that saying than meets the ear, because if you really are sincerely concerned with yourself and are in such confusion that you feel you have to go to a psychiatrist to talk over your state, then of course you need to go.
Likewise, if you are in need of someone to tell you what to do to practice meditation or to attain a state of liberation, nirvana, moksha, or whatever it may be called, and you feel that necessity very strongly, then you must have it, because as the poet William Blake said, “The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.”
However, I do want to point this out.
What is the source of a person of this type of teachers, authority?
They can tell you that he can speak from experience.
And you have his word for it.
You have the word of other people who likewise agree with him.
But each one of them and you in turn, agree with him out of your own opinion and by your own judgment.
And so it is you that are the source of a teacher’s authority. And that is true whether he speaks as an individual or whether he speaks as the representative of a tradition or a church.
You may say that you take the Bible as your authority or the Roman Catholic Church.
And the Roman Catholic following very often says that the individual mystical experience is not to be trusted because of it’s liability to be interpreted in a whimsical and purely personal way, and that it has to be guarded against excess by the substantial and objective traditions of the church.
But those traditions are held to be substantial and objective, only because those who follow believe it to be so- they say so.
And if you follow it, you say so.
I was once asked;
“If one believes that this universe is in charge, by an intelligent and beneficent God, don’t you think he would naturally have provided all of us with a totally and plainly, infallible guide to behavior and to the truth about the entire universe?”
And of course I knew he meant the Bible.
I said “No, I think nothing of the kind. Because I think a loving God would not do something to His children that would rot their brains.”
Because if we had an infallible guide, we would never think for ourselves, and therefore our minds would become atrophied.
It is as if say, my grandfather left me a million dollars: I’m glad he didn’t.
And therefore before one begins any discussion of the meaning of the life and teaching of Jesus, we should first look at this thorny question of “authority.”
And especially the authority of any type of Holy Scriptures.
Because in this country in particular, there are a number of people, who seem to believe that the Bible descended from Heaven with an angel in the year sixteen-hundred and eleven, which was when the so-called King James – or more correctly Authorized – version of the Bible was translated into English.
I once knew a person, who believed that every single word of the Bible was literally true- including the marginal notes.
And so whatever date it said in the marginal notes, that the world was created in 4004, B.C., and he believed it as the part of the Word of God. Until one day he was reading – I think – a passage in the book of Proverbs and he found a naughty word in the Bible.
And from that time on he was through with it.
… You know, how Protestant can you get?
Now, the question of “authority” needs to be understood, because I am not going to claim any authority in what I say to you, except the authority – such as it is – of history.
And sometimes, that’s a pretty uncertain authority.
But from my point of view, I DO believe the four Gospels are, I think to be regarded, on the whole, as real historical documents.
One could even grant them as miracles.
Because, speaking as one heavily influenced by oriental philosophies, in the last five years, we’re not very impressed with miracles.
The traditions of Asia – Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and so forth – are full of miraculous stories.
And we take them in our stride. We don’t think that they’re any sign of anything in particular except ‘psychic power’.
And we in the West have by scientific technology, accomplished things of a very startling nature.
We could blow up the whole planet, and Tibetan magicians have never promised to do anything like that.
The whole answer to the story of miracles is simply imagine that you’re God and that you can have anything you want.
Well you’d have it for quite a long time. And then after awhile you’d say “This is getting pretty dull because I know in advance everything that’s going to happen.” And so you would wish for a surprise. And you would find yourself right now, exactly where you are, reading this.
So, I mean, that is the miracle thing.
I think miracles are possible.
That doesn’t bother me.
And as a matter of fact when you read the writings of the early fathers of the church – the great theologians like Saint Clement, Gregory of Nissa, Saint John of Damascus, even Thomas Aquinas – they’re not interested in the historicity of the Bible.
They take that sort of for granted but forget it.
They’re interested in its DEEPER meaning.
And therefore they always interpret all the tales like Jonah and the whale- they don’t bother even to doubt whether Jonah was or wasn’t swallowed by a whale or other big fish.
But they see in the story of Jonah and the whale as a prefiguration of the resurrection of Christ.
And even when it comes to the Resurrection of Christ, they’re not worrying about the chemistry or the physics of a risen body.
What they’re interested in is that the idea of the resurrection of the body has something to say about the meaning of the physical body in the eyes of God.
That the physical body – in other words – is not something worthless and unspiritual, but something which is an object of the Divine Love.
And so therefore I’m not going to be concerned with whether or not miraculous events happened.
It seems to me entirely beside the point.
So like I was saying, I regard the Four Gospels as on the whole as good of a historical document as anything else we have from that period- including the Gospel of Saint John!
And that’s important!
It used to be fashionable to regard the Gospel of Saint John as late.
In other words, at the turn of the century the higher critics of The New Testament assigned the Gospel of Saint John to about 125 A.D.. And the reason was just simple.
Those higher critics at that time just assumed that the simple teachings of Jesus could not possibly have included any such complicated mystical theology. And therefore they said, “Well, it must be later.”
Now, as a matter of fact, in the text of the Gospel of Saint John, the local color, his knowledge of the topography of Jerusalem, and his knowledge of the Jewish calendar is MORE accurate than that of the other three writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
And it seems to me perfectly simple to assume that John recorded the INNER, ESOTERIC, teaching which Jesus gave to His disciples, and that Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded the more EXOTERIC teaching which He gave to people-at-large.
Now, early in its history, the Christian church, rejected the movement within the church, known as gnosticism- from the Greek ‘gnosis’ meaning knowledge.
And in a way, there was some sound reason for doing so- because the gnostics were what I call ‘anti-materialist’.
They divided human beings into three classes, that were called, respectively; pneumatic, physic, and hylic- from the Greek’ “hylē’-meaning wood.
So the people were, spiritual, psychological, and wooden.
And that is to say, the wooden people were those most absorbed in materiality, and most closely identify by their bodies.
And Orthodox Christianity rejected this sort of distinction, because of the perfectly correct idea, that material existence, is not inconsistent with spirituality.
This is something most Christians have forgotten.
But they do believe as the central principal of Christianity, in what’s called the incarnation- that Jesus of Nazareth, Almighty God, did in fact become material, become human.
And by this process initiated a transformation of the cosmos.
In the words of St. Athanasius; ‘God became man, that man, might become God’- only you don’t hear that from the pulpit very often.
Now, in most faiths, this idea, is dangerous.
Many faith organizations control people’s beliefs via spiritual authorities such as ministers, gurus, priests or scriptures.
It happens all over the world—in Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, for example.
Furthermore, as children, most of us were taught that even a smart, good person needs teaching from someone who knows better.
It’s actually a trick question.
When we yield to a spiritual authority—any authority—what’s really happening is we are giving away responsibility for our spiritual learning to someone else.
But we do it because it’s traditional and because it seems easy.
The fatal flaw is that no other person and no piece of writing can carry the weight of our individual spiritual knowing.
The only authority we can completely trust is the pure, quiet voice inside.
All of us are children of the Divine.
All of us are Love in action.
I stand firm in my own knowledge of the Divine.
I hear the whispers in my heart, and I trust the universe to teach me perfectly.
I know that my intention is pure.
And thus, I trust myself and I trust the Divine Essence.