Remember Me to the One Who Lives There
So anyway, it comes to pass that when Jesus is given the news that Lazarus is sick (John 11:3), he responds in that typically confident but paradoxable way of his, to the effect that Lazarus' illness is "not a sickness unto death" but "for the glory of God." Jesus then cools his heels "in the place where he was" for a couple of days, and seemingly forgets all about Lazarus.
After that, Jesus makes another curious comment about how there are twelve hours in the day, and how easy it is to walk around by daylight without stumbling, but "if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."
Note that immediately after this cryptic comment about stumbling at night, Jesus abruptly decides to pick up and visit Lazarus, "who sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." Then there is some confusion among the disciples about the meaning of Jesus' statement. Finally, Jesus says words to the effect of, "Get a clue, people. Don't be so literal. When I said 'asleep' I meant 'dead.'"
All of the themes we've been discussing are present: day, night, sleeping, waking, forgetting, darkness, light, walking, stumbling, sickness, death. What's going on here?
Tomberg recalls that in the case of the healing of the nobleman's son, Jesus' physical proximity was not required. Rather, it was accompliced through the nonlocal intermediary of the father's faith.
But in this instance, the pattern is entirely different. That is, rather than immediately healing Lazarus at a distance, he lets him go. He "forgets" about him for two days, banishing him from consciousness. Lazarus is not only gone but forgotten. Or is he gone because forgotten?
Then another curious statement, this one by Thomas, a fascinating character in his own right, who says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." The "him" is ambiguous, but Tomberg feels that it is actually in reference to Lazarus, not Jesus; that is, "Let us share the fate of Lazarus, since it is the will of the Master -- that which can only intend the highest good."
Now, is Thomas suggesting that they all commit suicide? No, that makes no sense. Rather, he is talking about committing cluelesscide, i.e., "let us put put ourselves into the inner situation of Lazarus, identify ourselves with his path of destiny, so that we also may die."
Death represents the culmination or boundary of horizontal existence. As such, Lazarus represents pure verticality, detached from the world of sickness, suffering, and toil. In Buddhism, there is a concept that is similar to divine incarnation, that is, the bodhisattva principle. A bodhisattva voluntarily renounces his verticality for horizontality, willingly taking on the suffering of existence until all beings have achieved liberation.
Christianity takes this principle to its translogical extreme, in that Jesus may be thought of as the ultimate bodhisattva, giving up an endowed chair in the Department of Trinitarian Studies in order to take his place with the struggling creatures below.
If death is the foreclosing of the horizontal for the vertical, this is the opposite, the renunciation of the vertical for the horizontal. And as Tomberg says, "there is no greater love than that of the sacrifice of eternity for the limitations of existence in the transient moment" -- and which is why, in the words of Petey, we are grateful for this undertaking of mortality, for our daily lessons in evanescence, for this manifestivus for the rest of us.
"Christian yoga," if we may call it such ("my yoka's easy"), is a strict balance between verticality and horizontality. One does not renounce the horizontal world. But nor does one cling to it as if it were the ultimate reality. Rather, one must always be in the horizontal but not of the horizontal. Excessive entanglement in the horizontal entails one kind of sleep, forgetting, and death; giving it up entirely for the vertical represents another kind: Lazarus' kind.
Shankara refers to horizontal men -- those flatlanders who are dead to the vertical -- as “suicides” who “clutch at the unreal and destroy themselves. What greater fool can there be than the man who has obtained this rare human birth... and yet fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good? Know that the deluded man who walks the dreadful path of sense-craving moves nearer to his ruin with every step.”
Similarly, the Upanishads say that “Rare is he who, looking for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self. Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death.... Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self.”
In other words, pure horizontality entails not just the end of verticality, but the death of the Self -- or banishment to a world without the central Sun (of which our sun is only a symbol), "covered in darkness."
Let's refer back to Jesus' cryptic words in John 11:10, that "if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." Note that one does not stumble because of an absence of external light, but because there is no interior light: the light is not in him.
I find it interesting that Thomas is the disciple who supposedly evangelized India. Naturally, this would have been known when the gospels were written. But when Thomas says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Lazarus," he is saying something rather suggestive.
Let's set aside the literal meaning for the moment, and interpret it to convey something like, "let us all die to the world and go entirely vertical, like one of those Upanishadic seers so that we too may be reborn 'for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through our rebirth' (referring again to John 11:4). Let's be his glowdisciples and bring the vertical Light into the horizontal darkness that the latter doesn't comprehend!" (Also interesting that Jesus mentions there being "twelve hours in the day," which suggests to me that there shall be "twelve evangelists in the Light.")
Now, since we are dealing with principial truth, it is surely no coincidence that the Isha Upanishad warns that "To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.”
Rather, “Those who combine action and meditation cross the sea of death through action and enter immortality” -- that is, through the sacred union of soul and body, spirit and matter, vertical and horizontal, wave and particle, infinite and absolute, truth and beauty, music and geometry, male and female, (↑) and (↓).
I am reminded of a long dead and little remumbled post about those coal miners in West Virginia who were buried alive. Facing death, one of the miners left us with these words:
Tell all --
I see them on the other side
It wasn't bad
I just went to sleep
I love you
It wasn't bad. I just went to sleep.
Lazarus, March Fourth!