Secrets of Successful Farming: Good Seed, Deadly Pesticide, and Lots of Miracle Grow
All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Ghost. --St. Ambrose
In his Christ the Eternal Tao, Hieromonk Damascene -- an Orthodox Christian monk -- makes the claim that today we "are given much more than those who were born before Christ, for while pre-Christian prophets and sages were united with the Tao after their death, we have the potential of experiencing a foretaste of that eternal union during our earthly life. During his life on earth, Christ gave special means -- physical 'channels' of immaterial, Uncreated Teh -- by which to help effect this union." Teh refers to the uncreated power of ultimate reality, or what we might call the "energies" of O, or (↓).
Yes, the Christian message is universal, but every revelation has an exoteric side and an esoteric side -- an outer teaching and an inner teaching, a primarily informational component and a more transformational component (although, as we shall see, the two can only be artificially separated, for this complementarity is analogous to the body and soul that constitute the living person).
Even so, the inner teaching is surrounded on all sides by no-nonsense cherubim with flaming swords who prevent flaming assouls from barging in without the proper protocol. Rather, only those with sincere humility and childlike innocence know the passWord: amen for a child's job!
And while no one is sufficiently childlike to place themselves above dogma, I agree with Abhishiktananda, who wrote, "let us not confuse the vessel with the treasure it contains.... as long as man attempts to seize and hold God in his words and concepts, he is embracing a mere idol." Thus, "in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal." (The book on Swami Abhishiktananda comes with Petey's imprimatur, in that it is 90% Coon-friendly.)
In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables to the multitude, the implication being that he doesn't speak that way to them. "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."
Of course, everything Jesus said was provocative, layered with multiple meanings, and well worth pondering. But it would appear that the exoteric teaching -- the parables -- are there to instruct those who can discern their meaning. But they are also vague and ambiguous enough to serve as a sort of protective barrier over the esoteric side -- like the shell of a seed that surrounds and protects the kernel.
In fact, after the above comment, Jesus proceeds directly to a parable involving a seed. When this seed is planted in "good ground," it "indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23). And although he is being "figurative," he is also being quite literal, is he not? But the uninitiated will have no earthly idea -- or only an earthly idea --what he is talking about. At best, they can imagine what it is, and pretend that this is an adequate replacement for the experience of "harvesting" all that fruity goodness.
In Mark 4:33, it says the same thing: "And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.... And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus? Also, note that the limiting factor is within the disciple, i.e., "as they were able to hear it." This means that the disciple must expand his inner horizon in order to make himself adequate to the fullness of what is being transmitted. You must stretch your mental ligaments, not contract them. Limber up and my yoga's easy.
Exoteric teaching works from the outside in. But esoteric teaching works from the inside out. Clearly, this is where the third person of the trinity comes in, the "helper" promised by Jesus. There is no way to reconcile this helpful uncreated energy with anything found on this side of nature. It is intrinsically esoteric -- an important point, for otherwise it sounds as if one is talking about some kind of arbitrary magic. But aligning oneself with this force is one of the principle aims of the Christian life, because with it "all things are possible." Possible, mind you, not necessary. It's not like some kind of machine.
Hieromonk Damascene quotes a number of eminent authorities on this matter, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, who says that when Christ assures us that "The Kindom of Heaven is within you," he is "referring precisely to this seed of the Grace of the Holy Spirit implanted in the human soul."
Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig."
As we have said before, it's all about farming; if aligning oneself with the Holy Spirit is the principle aim of the Christian life, "digging" into ourselves is the principle method -- turning the soil, planting the good seed, exposing oneself to sufficient light on a daily basis, irrigating with the waters of life, keeping the weeds and parasites out, nurturing the immature saplings, and especially, watching over the field.
For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition." It is a law of embodied existence that, no matter what, we still fall downward 32 feet per second per second. It seems that the narcissistic lower self digs itself so much, that it creates its own existential hole and then jumps in and keeps right on digging.
Another way of expressing it is to say that there is an inevitable circularity, or "curvature" to our worldly existence. That is, if we make an initial step in the right direction, that is not enough. Without a second step, a third step, a fourth step, etc., a certain inertia will set in that returns us to the place we started.
This cosmic inertia -- in Vedanta it is called tamas -- is a force that must be constantly countered. In order to alter its inevitable course, it must be acted upon by a force external to it. Repeatedly. This is why being "born again" just once will not cut it. Rather, one must pent and repent as necessary.
Hieromonk Damascene calls this "continuous metanoia." In order to achieve it, the ancient Christian ascetics developed the idea of "watchfulness," which involves "a state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety." This kind of "inner attention" has very obvious parallels with raja yoga and Buddhist mindfulness meditation, although there are also important differences that need to be respected.
Jesus did not just say "pray." Rather, he said to watch and pray. It's easy. First watch. Then pray while watching.
Hieromonk Damascene quotes one of the greatest authorities, St. John Climacus. In his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he wrote, "Close the door of your cell to the body, the door of your tongue to speech, and your inner gate to evil spirits. Ascend into a watchtower -- if you know how to -- and observe how and when and whence, and in what numbers and what form, the robbers try to break in and steal your grapes.... Guarding against evil thoughts is one thing, keeping watch over the spirit [nous] is another. The latter... is far more difficult to attain. Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."
Hieromonk Damascene eliborates on this point, writing that watchfulness involves pulling our awareness "back into an objective state of observant mind, thus keeping watch over [the] spirit or 'higher mind'." In essence, it is a reversal of our primordial fall -- our worldward descent into distraction, fragmentation, and dissipation -- or, alternatively, congealing, thickening, and hardening. "Attention" and "distraction" are antonymous. In the words of Christ, our eye must again become "single," so that the "whole body will be full of light."
Man is a microcosm, and only by opening up in a man the foundation of his being can the Spirit transform and spiritualize the cosmos to its depths. --Swami Abhishiktananda