Unknown year, September talk, Serial 00644

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Year Talk 2/2

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I bow my knees before the Father, of whom every family in heaven and earth is named.
In all Christian prayer, there is first of all the Father.
The Father is the source, the origin of one of whom God is, of whom everything comes,
the whole creation, and every family in heaven and on earth.
That according to the riches of His glory, He may grant you to be strengthened with His
might through His Spirit in the inner man.
And from the Father, from the source, comes the Spirit.
The Spirit is God's self-communication, giving Himself to the world within the Spirit.
And we each receive that Spirit.
It is received in innumerable different ways in every religion the Spirit is given.
It opens the heart of the Father to the source.
And then, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
It is first of all the heart of the Father.
The Father sends the Spirit.
And then in the light of the Spirit, we recognize God in Christ.
This is the Trinitarian mystery that we discover, the mystery of the Godhead,
the Father, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
That is the Christian revelation, this unique way in which God and His relation to the world is conceived.
And others have their validity, each in its own way.
This is a particular Christian revelation, among which it is meaningful for those who share it.
So, that's the basis of it, this relation to the person of the Trinity.
They are being rooted and grounded in love.
And we have tried to comprehend with all the saints.
And from this experience of God in the Spirit, comes this gift of love.
The Spirit is love.
The Spirit of God is poured into our heart, and the Spirit is reversed.
So, the effect of this experience of God in Christ is love, charity, self-giving love.
And then, we have tried to comprehend with all the saints who have read the name behind the death.
This is very important.
From that love comes knowledge, wisdom, jnana.
You see, in India, we have made a great deal of jnana, this knowledge.
And in the letter to the Ephesians and the Gnostic reading, St. Paul came in contact with this Gnostic tradition.
And he saw in Christ his fullness of knowledge, of wisdom.
So, Christian fullness is not simply love.
Many of us think it's simply in terms of love.
But it's not only love, it's also knowledge.
Knowledge which comes from love.
You see, wisdom is the knowledge of love.
And when love is poured, it gives an insight into the whole mystery of creation, of humanity, of the Church.
And it gives this jnana, this knowledge.
It is not ordinary knowledge, but knowledge of God is given as a gift.
And it includes the length, the breadth, the height, and the depth.
You see, it's the total comprehensive knowledge of the mystery of creation.
And to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.
That's the key text, you see.
To know the love.
We have the gift of love, comes to us in the Holy Spirit.
And to know the contemplation of the knowledge of love.
It's reflecting on the mystery of love, coming to understand it, to experience it, to know it.
And that is contemplation.
So, it's to know the love which passes knowledge.
It's the ordinary knowledge that cannot express this.
But through love, you get a deeper knowledge, this insight, this jnana.
And that leads to a comprehension.
Not full comprehension.
We always remain defective.
We never fully realize the mystery to which we go beyond.
But in our present life, we still find this insight into the mystery.
That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
This fullness of the pure omer in Greek.
The same is poured out in Sanskrit.
We say, Gauramara, Gauramitam.
That fullness of being which is the Godhead.
Which we meditate in the fullness of the creation.
So, we share in that fullness.
To be filled with the fullness.
It's to be open to the total reality.
It's very important to realize.
You see, it's such tremendous promises and offers are made.
And many people live a Christian life without the faintest understanding of all this.
And many think it's simply love.
Being kind to your neighbor, sharing with people, being good and so on.
Well, there is essence, of course, of religion.
But there's something more than that.
You can't stop simply at that.
This is what is offered.
This knowledge of this fullness of the experience of God.
Now, to him who by the power of his work,
is able to do more abundantly than all.
We don't do this of ourselves, you see.
It's a gift from God.
Nobody can get this by himself.
It's simply a shared gift.
Agathe is the love which is poured into the heart.
And he is able to do it, you see.
His power is there to do it.
More than all that we ask or think, you see.
God can do more in us than we're capable of asking or thinking.
If we're very open to that gift.
To him, the glory of the church and Christ Jesus.
So, this is a wonderful summary, you see.
It was a Christian contemplation, what we may call, to experience.
This is a very interesting perception here
of Christ ascending above all things
and descending to the lower parts of the earth.
He says, in saying he ascended,
what does it mean that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth?
He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens
that he might fill all things.
This idea of transcendence and immanence is extremely important, you see.
Christ ascends above the whole creation of angels and men,
in the presence of God.
At the same time, he is he who also descended to the lower parts of the earth.
And we have to translate that, Christ's consciousness,
into the depths of the unconscious, you see.
All these levels from the lowest level of the unconscious
to the highest level of consciousness.
And Christ descends in his death,
going to the depths of the unconscious,
redeems the unconscious,
and then ascends above all creation, above everything,
that he might fill all things.
It ends our belief today that Jesus ascended,
the body and soul, to the beyond,
that he fills the whole creation.
It's significantly true that Christ is present in the body and everything, everywhere.
And this is one of the texts which makes that most clear.
And don't forget this letter to the Ephesians,
this Ephesus, which was one of these centers of Gnosticism.
And Paul was certainly in contact with this hand of wisdom,
this Gnosis, which understood these things.
And then he speaks of the various gifts given to the church.
And rather important, first of all, he always puts apostles,
and then prophets.
And the prophets have gone out now.
In the early church, they were very important,
always after the apostles, to mention these prophets,
who were, we would call them charismatic people,
who went round the different churches.
Normally they weren't stationary,
and they sometimes would tell the future,
but more seeing the signs of the times,
it's more people with insight.
And it was rather sad that they went out to the church.
We still need prophets.
We've got plenty of priests, but very few prophets.
A prophet is one who has this insight
into the inner reality of things, to the mystery of Christ.
And so you have, first of all, the apostles and the prophets.
And then you have evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
And there are different myths in the different letters of St. Paul,
but they're all much the same.
And there were a great variety of ministries in the church at the time.
You see, there were evangelists, pastors, teachers,
elsewhere he mentioned administrators, helpers.
So there was a great variety of ministries,
all given by the one spirit, you see,
to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ.
And today many few, which have had a much more varied ministry,
got stuck with the bishops and priests
after the second and third century,
and all the other ministries went out.
Today we would like to see a much more greater variety
in which both men and women would take their place.
So that's the hope of the future.
Then he goes on,
I told you all attained to the unity of the faith
and the knowledge of the Son of God,
to mature manhood to the measure of the stature
of the fullness of Christ.
Very impressive, to mature manhood.
You see, it's a curse to both humanity.
It was very important, you see,
that the gifts of the Spirit build us up as human beings,
make us all completely human,
make mature human beings
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
And Christ is totally human.
It's also totally divine.
He's totally human.
And the aim of creation is that the human and the divine should meet.
And in Jesus, the human and the divine meet,
fully human and fully divine.
That's really the goal of all human existence.
And then he goes on,
he said that we no longer be children tossed to and fro,
and there can be wind of doctrine,
and cunning and mad,
and they can't succeed for a while.
He's probably thinking there were many of these Gnostics
and people going around at that time.
There always are people with all sorts of strange doctrines,
and one always had to be aware of that.
But rather speaking the truth in love,
that's a beautiful phrase,
it's very easy to speak the truth
and then to forget about love.
And it's often easy to be loving,
but not really to cross the truth.
But to speak the truth in love is really,
that is wisdom.
Wisdom is the knowledge of love.
And you may grow up in every way,
taking with the head into Christ,
with whom the whole body joins and lives together.
It's an idea of the churches,
and then humanity as a body
in which Christ is the head.
It's an organic whole,
your body is an organism,
and every part of the organism works for the good of the whole.
And disease, of course,
is when a part begins to grow on its own,
a cancer is the worst example of it,
and part of the body begins to work
and oppose to the rest of it,
and it kills it.
And the healthy organism,
on which every cell in the body works together for the good,
that is the model of humanity,
and Christ is the head,
guides, leads, directs the whole of this organism.
And what they use is they knit together by every joint,
which is the thyroid,
and each part is working properly,
makes bodily growth and builds itself in love.
See, an organ is all the parts working together
and building themselves up in love.
It's a marvellous image, this, of this body,
Paul goes at it again and again.
I think it's the most effective for society, you see,
because we have a tendency today
to think that everybody's equal,
which means everybody's the same.
Everybody ought to be exactly equal to everybody else.
But the fact is everybody's unequal.
Of course, nobody's equal to anybody else.
We've all got differences.
And the real thing is no organ in the body
is the same as any other, you see.
They're all different.
They're all needed for the fullness of the body.
So each person has his own gift from God
and is needed for the whole,
but each must respect the gift of the other,
not make all the same
and not make some dominate over the others.
People together work together to build up the whole body.
You couldn't get a better model, you see,
for a human society or for the church
or for any group of any kind.
It's huge.
Questioner's letter to the Ephesians is wonderful.
It's not a book, it's not an initiation.
It's the innermost part of the Christian history
at every level.
And this is an important passage we have today.
It's putting on the new nature.
First of all, he says,
no longer give us the Gentiles
to do with the futility of their minds.
Their darkness, their understanding,
alienated in the light of God
because they didn't understand their hardness of heart.
And St. Paul and the Jews as a whole
took a totally negative view of the Gentiles.
They were all considered sinners,
outside covered with God
and without hope in the world.
You could only be saved if you were converted.
And of course that's really a very false view,
but of course it's true in a certain sense.
There always are people, millions today,
who are darkened in their understanding,
alienated from the light of God, and so on.
It's our human tradition.
But it's mostly on the other side of it.
People who go very far in one way
often got something very profound in another.
So you can't just put people black and white right there.
And then one has to be aware of that.
It's really common in the Bible as a whole
and in the New Testament,
to sort of reject people as being bad
and totally rejected
and to oppose them to others.
But as we know, you can't just reject people.
People who've got terrible vices
and do terrible things also
have something very positive in them.
And you have to be aware of that,
of what that is,
it's not just making people black and white.
Just a little evidence,
I mean, some people think black people are all bad,
others think white people are all bad.
We all make these judgments, you see,
where we simply blanket cognizations
which are never right.
But then he goes on, you see,
you did not so learn Christ,
assuming that you had heard about him
or were taught of him,
as the truth is in Jesus.
And undoubtedly, you see,
the Christian people did come
with a new vision of human life
and the duality of a whole human way of living.
And so he said, put off your old nature.
Literally, I think it's the old man,
the old man which pronounced your form of animal life
and is corrupt with deceitful lust.
And this is the deeper truth, you see,
it's good that some people are bad
and some people are good,
but everybody has a nature which is evil,
has an evil tendency in their nature,
it's a real sin.
And it goes through all people
and everybody has something good in them.
So we have to recognize both the good and the evil
in ourselves as well as in others.
So there is an old nature
which belongs to a former manner of life
and is corrupt,
and you renew it in the spirit of your mind.
It's a beautiful phrase that, you see,
the renewal comes in the spirit of the mind.
The mind is the more general thing,
we call it the reasoning faculty,
but the spirit is the deeper understanding of the mind.
It's the awakening of the mind to a deeper truth.
That is where the renewal comes,
in the spirit of the mind,
and put on the new nature, the new man,
created after the likeness of God,
through righteousness and holiness.
The idea is man is created in the image of God,
and the Fathers made that distinction.
The image is always there.
Every human being is in the image of God,
but the likeness is destroyed.
In the Salem, when you do evil,
you finish the likeness of God,
and when you put on the new nature,
then you put on the likeness of God,
you become like God,
in righteousness and holiness.
And that is the whole end of human existence,
is that the image of God in us should grow into the likeness,
that we become sons of God,
we share in the divine nature, you see,
that is the end of our lives.
But that's really what St. Paul is saying.
So if I say this is a real initiation,
a real initiation of the deep mystery of Christian life,
which is also human life,
the end of all human existence.
Continuing this letter to the Ephesians,
this account of Christian life,
Christian conversion,
where we said put off the old man,
the old nature,
put on the new nature,
into the image of God.
And then he describes this,
or rather he continues it,
putting away falsehood,
everyone speak the truth with his neighbor,
while we are members one of another.
It's really important, you see,
that continual existence,
when members one of another,
in the fight of the whole human family,
and when we speak the truth with one another,
with a neighbor,
we establish confidence.
And one of the greatest tragedies in life
is when we lose confidence,
when we find people are telling lies, deceiving us,
it upsets the whole human relationship.
We're no longer members of one another,
we become divided.
I think one of the most tragic things,
as soon as people begin to deceive you
and you can't trust them,
then your whole human relationship is upset.
It's worse than open anger and so on.
It's deceit.
Then he says,
be angry and do not sin.
That's a song, it's a little strange,
it doesn't really mean you should be angry,
it means if you are angry, don't sin.
You can't help being angry sometimes,
it's an emotion,
but you needn't give way to it.
If you give way to anger, that's sinful,
but anger in itself,
as soon as it comes up,
is not sinful, let's say.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger,
that's a great lesson we always say,
make it up before the end of the day,
at least make it up when you can.
And give no opportunity to the devil.
And the devil is the evil power
which can take possession of us.
You see, you get a feeling of anger,
you can't help that,
you're angry with somebody,
but then you give way to the anger
and say something nasty or do something nasty,
and then it can take possession of you.
You get a spirit of hatred and violence and so on,
and that is diabolical, you know,
something demonic comes into one's life,
and that is happening again and again,
and you hear all these murders and things,
and even the Tamils now in Sri Lanka
killing one another,
it's a demonic force taking hold of people, you see,
and they can't control anymore.
They let the thief no longer steal,
but let him labour doing honest work with his hands,
to be able to give to those in need.
It's interesting, presumably they expected some thieves
among their Christian communities,
all these people were thieves.
You see, they weren't righteous people,
their Christian communities were made up of very mixed lot.
I mean, let's look at Corinthians,
where many scandals took place.
So I'm sure you should remember that.
They were very awful human communities,
but they had this calling to respond to the grace of God
and to transform their lives.
So a person who's used to stealing,
he's asked to do honest work and to labour with his hands.
Let no evil talk come out of your mouth,
only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion,
may impart grace to those who hear.
That's another very important thing.
In a cult group of artists done by loose talk,
people just begin talking about other people,
spreading rumours and talking about other people's character,
and you can do so much harm in that.
It's very easy, you can sort of get into it,
each one is curious to know about the other, and so on.
And that's really what it means,
let no evil talk come out of your mouth,
such as is good for edifying.
Edifying means building up, you see.
Evil talk destroys a community,
like it's losing trust, you see.
And good talk edifies, builds up a community,
and gives grace to those who care.
And then a beautiful phrase,
do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
whom you will see on the day of redemption.
All this really takes place in the presence of the Holy Spirit,
you see, beyond our body and soul, as we always say,
the human being in us,
is in the very presence of the Holy Spirit.
Once we're aware of that, then we begin to act, to speak,
in the context of this indirect spirit,
and it brings the Holy Spirit,
when we get angry, when we say evil things, and so on, you see,
in whom we were sealed for the day of redemption, you see.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is a kind of seal,
and it's preparing us for a fulfilment.
It's always a preparation,
we experience something in the presence of the Holy Spirit,
and we're waiting for it to take possession entirely,
and the Transformer snap comes at the end,
and the time of redemption takes place.
Yet all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander
be put away with all malice.
And St. Paul has a very clear idea of what's wrong, you see.
Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, slander,
these are the things, and malice,
these are the things that really upset the human life, the community.
And then he puts the other side of it,
be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
And this is a very Christian view, this emphasis on forgiveness.
Remember, after Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer,
his one comment on it was,
if you do not forgive your brother, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.
And there he says, be kind, tender-hearted,
forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Unless you're aware that you've been forgiven and you need forgiveness,
you're able to forgive others.
But if you think you're all right and you don't need,
then you judge others and you condemn them.
There's a very deep sense that if we've been forgiven
and we need to forgive,
that's very disproportionate to Christian human nature.
Questioner 6
There's a lot of confusion and falsehoods about this ideal of Christian life.
And he says, therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children,
and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave us over
to make a offering and sacrifice to God.
Be imitators of God.
It's Jesus who started, you should be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
That is the cause.
That is calling, of course, to pray of people,
but it's a call to imitate God.
Particularly, of course, in love.
God is love. Walk in love.
As Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.
So that's the Christian calling.
Of course, we say, love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength,
but may we serve self.
That is the Christian calling.
And then he puts the other side of it.
Fornication, impurity, covetousness, it's not even been named.
Filthiness, silly talk, or devity, which are not fitting.
But for these, thanksgiving.
That's also very characteristic.
The opposite of all these things is thanksgiving.
Because when we recognize that everything we have comes from God,
then we get this attitude of thanksgiving,
and we're not grasping over other things.
You see, all this business of covetousness and so on,
is because we're not satisfied,
and we want to get something for ourselves,
and then we get conflict with other people,
and sin, and quarrel, and so on.
But when we accept whatever we have from God,
and accept everything in His hand,
then we get the spirit of thanksgiving.
And then we have another difficult question here.
He says, be sure of this,
no fornicator or impure man or one who is covetous,
and I thought...
No one who is covetous has an inheritance
in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
And there's no doubt that the early church
expected everybody to be a saint.
They recognized they were not saints,
but they thought that everybody was called to be a saint.
And anybody who didn't try to live up to that,
fornicator, impure man, or covetous,
was outside the church, outside grace.
And that has prevailed at different times in the church,
but gradually it came to be realized
it was a church of saints, but it was also a church of sinners.
And of course, the majority of people in the church are sinners,
as we all are, in our different degrees,
and some very seriously so.
And it's a church of sinners where sin is forgiven.
So, obviously, you know,
they were trying to establish a standard in the church,
and there's a great deal of immorality
that's always in the world around,
and the Christians expected to live a moral life,
to be holy, to have this standard.
And anybody who felt belittled was considered
to be unworthy of being called a Christian
and was outside the church.
So, this is one example where the church
has had to change its attitude.
You can't expect everybody to be a saint.
You have to learn that everybody's a sinner,
and that people have various degrees
in which they try to get beyond their failures,
their weakness, and to respond to the grace of God.
We have no one to save you, and so on.
Therefore, do not associate with them.
Once you were darkness, you are now light in the Lord,
walk as children of light.
And again, a tendency to see the church as a place of light
and the world as a place of darkness.
Everything is a place of light or darkness, black or white.
And of course, it's not so.
There's a great deal of goodness and grace in the world,
a great deal of sin and evil in the church.
So, we have to modify the language here.
One can see how St. Paul speaks in that way.
At the same time, one can't accept it as it stands.
And then he says,
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness,
then expose them.
What a shame even to speak of the things they do in secret.
And of course, to the world today,
there's the works of Paul,
there's a vast amount of immorality that goes on all the time.
And I suppose in a sense, you see,
he says, don't take part in it, but expose it.
And there is a certain call to expose sin and evil.
But I think on the whole,
it's more necessary to have understanding.
You see, I mean, we're reading a book in the evening,
any of you know, of course,
Original Blessings by Matthew Fox.
It's an extremely good book, I think.
He advocates what he calls a creation spirituality,
as opposed to a sin, fall and redemption spirituality.
And his thesis is that for centuries,
since the time of St. Augustine in the 5th century,
the church has been dominated by a fall redemption spirituality.
We're all fallen, we're all sinful, and we've been redeemed.
And he wants a creation spirituality,
the whole creation is good, we are created,
not in sin, but as a blessing,
and grace and love are with us always.
I think it's a bit one-sided.
And yesterday he was saying that original sin is not found in the Bible.
That seems to me a great exaggeration.
When you think of the psalm,
I was born and lived in sin, did my mother conceive me?
I think it was fundamental in the Jewish outlook.
And St. Paul says, as in Adam all die,
so in Christ shall all be made alive.
So I don't think you can sustain that thesis.
But what he is doing is insisting
that this fall redemption has been over-emphasized.
We're all sinners, we're separated from God,
we're miserable people,
and we long simply to be saved from this state.
And forgetting that the creative love of God is always with us,
grace is always with us,
and we have this original blessing,
just as much we have original sin.
So I think we have to balance it.
And so also here, as I was saying,
the tendency was to say that all the world is in sin and in darkness,
it's fallen and it's lost,
and only those who convert it and change,
who come into the church can be saved.
So we have to modify that
and recognize how much sin and evil there is in the church,
and how much goodness and grace there is outside,
and then we get a more balanced world.
Then he says,
Awake or sleep and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you life.
And that applies to everybody,
we're all sleeping to a large extent,
we're not living in the presence of God,
realized that we should.
And again and again we have to awake and arise
and get this light,
and that's something that goes on.
In a sense, sin and redemption are the law of life,
we're always falling back into sin,
to egoism, to self-centredness,
we're always being called to surrender,
to go beyond, to open ourselves to the grace and to the light of God.
So I think we live in this world,
sin and grace fall,
but also redemption.
We read this rather famous passage from the letter to the Philippians,
and it's interesting, it begins with us,
with a moral encouragement,
and then goes into a very deep theological position.
First of all, he says,
it's of any encouragement in Christ,
any incentive of love,
any participation in the spirit,
any affection and sympathy,
complete by joy.
It's always interesting that St. Paul
always unites the divine and the human,
the encouragement in Christ,
the incentive of love, of ever-faith,
participation in the spirit,
they all belong to the divine gifts in us,
but then affection, sympathy are human characteristics.
So Christian life is both divine and human,
as to Jesus himself was,
complete by joy,
by being of the same mind,
having the same love,
being full accord of one mind.
And this is his call to unity,
and it comes when we go beyond ourselves, you see.
Once we remain on the human level,
there are always diversities and differences and conflicts.
It's only when we go beyond the human,
to the spirit,
to that presence of God in the spirit,
which is present in every human being,
then we get beyond these differences,
and then we get this inner unity.
So it's always going beyond the mere human limitation,
the waking, the presence of God within,
that is the source of unity.
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit,
but in humility count others better than yourself.
And the source of all this division is egoism,
it's centering on oneself,
that is what causes all divisions and plurality,
and we go beyond the ego, to the spirit,
then we get beyond these conflicts.
May each of you look not to his own interests,
but also the interests of others.
And then, you see, he goes now
into a very deep theological consideration.
Some people think this was an ancient hymn or something,
but it's one of the earliest testimonies
to what the early Christians thought about Jesus.
So he was in the form of God,
he did not count equality with God a thing to be cast,
but emptied himself into the form of a servant.
I think the meaning of this, being in the form of God,
really means that Jesus was in the image of God,
and he's been compared to Adam, you see,
who says he did not count equality with God
a thing to be cast at.
And Adam, you see, was made also in the image of God,
but he grasped after divinity,
he wanted to become like God,
and therefore he lost the grace of God.
And Jesus was the opposite,
those who made him in the image of God himself,
he didn't grasp after divinity, but he emptied himself,
he became...
emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of man.
So it's the opposite, the sin of man
is when he sort of tries to get Godhead for himself,
as the ego tries to get.
And it's a surprising comment, you know,
how many people really think they are God,
even if they don't put it in that way,
their ego is really their God.
And Jesus is the opposite,
though he's in the form of God,
yet he empties himself and takes the form of a servant.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself, became obedient unto death,
even death on the cross,
therefore God is highly exalted in him.
So this is the deep message, you see,
that as you humble yourself,
you recognize your limitations,
your need, your want, you're taken up.
God enters in and you are transformed
by this indwelling power.
Jesus empties himself on the cross
and then he's taken up in the resurrection
and it goes above every name,
you have man on earth.
So that is the Christian history.
As I say, this is one of the earliest statements of it,
this descent into humanity,
so to raise humanity to Godhead.
That is really the meaning of it.
It's here, look carefully then how you walk.
Others are unwise, but it's wise,
making most of the time because the days are evil.
I think it's important, look carefully how you walk.
The Buddhists speak of this awareness,
being aware of what you're doing
when you're walking, when you're talking,
whatever it is.
And there is a way of being aware
of what one is doing, be watchful.
It's another word in action, be watchful.
That is what Paul is talking about here.
Not as unwise, but as wise.
And making the most of the time
because the days are evil.
And it's the sense, of course,
in which all days are evil.
There is evil in all days, let us say,
but of course it's also good.
And it's learning to discern.
Do not be foolish,
but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And this discernment is seeing the will of God
in each situation.
See, very easily we just don't discern it,
we just take it on the surface,
react to them as if we feel.
But when we are wise,
then we discern the action of God.
There's a book, some of you may know,
in French, it's La Bande en Providence Divine,
Abandonment to Divine Providence,
or Surrender to God.
And the theme of it,
I'm always much impressed,
was that every event in one's life,
God comes to us in each situation.
Whether we assemble to prayer,
God comes to us calling us to prayer.
When we assemble for supper,
God calls us to supper.
When we go to bed, God calls us to bed.
We're encountering God in every situation,
the people we meet, the things we do.
And that is discerning the will of God, you see.
God comes to us in each situation,
we discern his action.
And then he says,
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit.
And notice there's a resemblance
between getting drunk and being filled with the Spirit.
But why people get drunk is they want to get their worries.
They drink and you get your worries for the time.
Of course, they come back afterwards.
And they speak of being drunk with the Spirit.
You go beyond your...
You see, the mind that worries is the rational mind.
And when you get drunk, you lose your rational mind
and you have a certain experience of bliss for a time.
But when you go into prayer or meditation,
you go beyond your rational mind,
and then you're kind of drunk with the Spirit.
And that's really what one has to see.
And then, of course, it doesn't change.
It's establishing in that Spirit.
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns,
the spiritual song,
singing a melody to the Lord with all your heart.
A beautiful expression, you see.
Singing songs, spiritual songs...
I'm sorry, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
That's exactly what we've been doing.
We've been reciting a hymn,
the one-day Satchitananda.
We sang a psalm, we said a psalm.
And then we're going to sing a bhajan.
A bhajan is a spiritual song, you see.
So we're really keeping very close to what St. Paul says.
Making melody to the Lord with all your heart.
I was thinking that reading we had from Kabir,
which is very much the same thing.
He says,
So this is very important.
When you enter into the Spirit, you see,
you go beyond your ego,
beyond the limiting human circumstances,
and experience that freedom of the Spirit.
And then you make melody to the Lord with all your heart.
This sort of surge of music, of joy comes up in the heart.
And always and for everything giving thanks
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again and again, as we've all come back to that,
giving thanks.
And we give thanks because we see everything coming from God.
The good and the evil.
The evil, the suffering, the conflict, the frustration,
all that also comes from God.
When you see that, then you're not overcome by it.
Then you can accept it and be peaceful.
So in everything giving thanks
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So all this letter, the opinions I say,
it's a very wonderful sort of summary
of the idea of Christian life.
I don't think I can reflect on it too much.
It's so deep and so broad.
...to blame.
Action on the nature of damage.
It depends a little what we mean by being subject.
You see, he says he's subject to one another
out of reverence for Christ.
And that seems to be a universal relationship.
When we think of subject,
we think of a slave to a master
or he's to somebody who's under the control of somebody else.
And it's not a very attractive way of speaking.
And I think that's not...
It's not really what's important.
Because obviously, if you're subject to one another
out of reverence for Christ,
obviously, God will be...
If we're all subject to one another,
they're all equal to one another, in a sense.
So I think we have to take it more in the sense of being...
The understanding we have today,
more of complementarity.
And St. Paul puts it very wonderfully
in other letters where he speaks of the Church
as the body of Christ.
There are so many members.
But one member is not subject to another,
and one member complements another
and they work together.
So the husband and wife, the wife's not subject, really.
She's complementary to the husband
and they share with one another,
each giving their own unique gift to one to the other.
So I think if we take it in that sense, it's meaningful.
Otherwise, people object to this idea
as she suggests that the wife is somehow subservient
and under the control of...
Mind you, I suppose there was that aspect.
You see, in the ancient world,
the woman was legally subject to the man and so on.
So that lies behind it.
But we can remove that aspect of it
because then it's a very profound vision he has
that the relation of husband and wife
is like the relation of Christ to the Church.
And again, you don't think of the Church
as actually being subject to Christ.
Each one of us is, as he goes on to say,
is a member of the body of Christ.
So the members of the body are not subject.
They're all complementing each other.
So I think if we have to take it in that sense...
And then it's very, very profound, you see,
that everybody has this mutual relationship,
husband and wife, this unique relationship,
and this relationship of basic equality.
All the members of the body are equal
and yet all are different,
and all have their own proper function.
So the husband and wife are different
and yet they're complementary
and they fulfill one another
and they build up the body of Christ together.
Then he says, husband, love your wife.
He acts as Christ loved the Church
and gave himself up for her,
that he might sanctify her.
That's very profound, you see,
this kind of love, which is a sacrificial love,
a love which gives Christ love to the Church
and gave himself up for her.
So that becomes very clear.
And then he speaks of the Church,
that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water,
he might present the Church to himself
without this splendor, without a lot of spots or wrinkles,
any such thing.
It's a very ideal conception of the Church, of course,
very, very far from it.
It's probably human with spots and wrinkles
and there are much worse things than that, actually.
But behind all the errors and the conclusions of the Church
there is this mystery, you see,
of the hidden presence of Christ.
In each person there is a presence of Christ
and that is a holy presence, you see.
And as far as we're in Christ, in the Spirit,
we are in that state, without spot or wrinkle,
without this fullness of life in Christ.
So I think we can accept it in that sense.
Then he goes on,
so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
Well, there again they used to speak of the body being subject to the soul.
But today we wouldn't speak in those terms.
In yoga, for instance, there's never a question
of the body being subject to the soul of life.
It's a total interrelationship, an organic relationship,
one working with the other.
The whole art of yoga is the mind is united with the body
and the body with the mind.
So, again, it's much deeper.
The whole idea of subjection, I think, is objectionable
and we have to substitute a more deeper understanding
of what St. Paul was really intending.
Because it's very, very deep, you see, this idea,
no man hates his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it
as Christ does the Church.
So the relation of the soul with the body,
of human being to his body, is one of love.
And this very interesting book they're reading in the evening,
Original Blessing by Matthew Fox,
he brings out very strongly this thing
that the relation of soul and body is essentially
a relation of a love relationship,
not fulfilling the other,
and not a relation of subjection,
still less one of dominion and putting the body down, as it were.
So, he who loves his wife loves himself.
Couldn't be any deeper than that, you see.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
so it will become one flesh, of course.
That is the vision of the Book of Genesis,
and again it's very profound, you see,
the union...
I think today the preachers in America are all angels,
but I imagine we have these angelic hosts,
these spiritual powers,
and that was good and evil.
And today it says,
put on the whole armor of God
that you may be able to stand against the wilds of the devil,
who you are not contending against flesh and blood,
but against the principalities, powers,
the world rulers of this present darkness,
against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
And these are these demonic powers,
and I think we really have to recognize, you see,
that our angelic powers, powers of good,
which are working through the world,
through the world of nature and through humanity.
And the Fathers thought,
particularly each nation had its own angel,
and each, actually, individual has its own angel,
but they also have their evil angels,
their forces of destruction, of disintegration,
of violence, of hatred.
These are also working through the world,
working in nature and working through humanity.
And that is what Paul is talking about,
and the depth psychology, you know, would recognize
that beyond the normal human repressions and so on,
there are these demonic forces,
we all used to call them autonomous entities,
forces which are autonomous, they are not coming from you,
they come from some part beyond.
And there is quite definitely, you see,
and when you see these tremendous evil,
like Hitler is, of course, a great example,
and there's no doubt that Hitler was in touch
with these spiritual powers, you know,
that sort of occult powers that he was calling on,
these forces, and Stalin would be another,
Luk√°cs and many others,
they are very prominent throughout the world,
these collective forces of the unconscious, you see,
they take hold of a whole people,
or a whole tribe, or a whole nation, it may be,
and they are driven by these forces,
and that's what we contend against.
And on the other side, you see, you have these angelic forces,
these powers of higher consciousness,
you see, there are all levels of consciousness,
beyond the human, there are higher levels of consciousness
going to God himself, and then there are the lower levels
going right back to the cosmic powers
which could begin the world.
So, these are the... what's he talking about?
Therefore, take the whole armour of God
that you may be able to withstand the evil day,
and then he describes all this armour
girded your loins with truth,
and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
you see, truth and right,
these are the base of all religion,
and of all married human life,
and it's a bit important, you see,
it's something we all agree, for instance,
the Mokha of India, Satyaya Vajrayate,
truth always prevails,
and Gandhi said, God is truth, truth is God.
And so, truth and right,
these are the two things which are basic to all human life.
And then, the equipment of the gospel of peace,
when we live in truth and righteousness,
we live also in peace.
Then, behind this, the shield of faith,
which you can quench all the flaming darks of the evil one,
and faith is the capacity to go beyond the merely human,
you see, it's the precise capacity to go beyond the mind
with its limited ideas and concepts and so on,
and to open oneself to the transcendent,
and that occurs in every religion,
it's faith is a faith.
And then, take the helmet of salvation,
of the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God,
faith leads one to commit oneself to God,
you see, to the truth, to this transcendent one,
and the sword of the spirit is the word of God, you see.
The word of God is that illumination of the mind
which pierces through all the darkness,
all the confusions of our mind,
and reveals the truth, you see,
that is the sword of the spirit.
And then, keep alert with all perseverance,
making supplications for all the saints,
and of course the saints, it's an important language,
are all Christians,
and we can say all holy people throughout the world.
And also for me, that utterance may be given me
in opening my mouth to the gospel,
for which I'm an ambassador in chains.
This letter purports to be written from prison,
maybe in Rome,
but today most scholars feel that it probably
wasn't actually written by St. Paul as it stands,
it's not a matter of great importance,
because it's his thought, it's very deeply realized here,
and it's one of the greatest missions of the New Testament.
So I think we all need to reflect
still on this business of the angels.
It's extremely important, because so many people
think it's just a superstition, or fancy, or whatever,
and if you ignore these things, they become more powerful.
You always say, by denying the existence of the devil,
you give him his power,
because it's when you know about it and face it,
you can overcome it.
When you don't know, you're caught by it,
and they come in dreams,
they come in all sorts of other fashions,
these demonic forces work upon us,
and as I say, they're connected forces throughout the world,
so we're all subject to these powers,
and we have to recognize it,
and we also have a power over them,
and the Holy Spirit is the power against all such forces.
You can read this letter to Professor Lerner today,
which has completed the Ephesians,
which was the high watermark of all St. Paul's writings,
and come back to this, it's his earliest letter,
the earliest document of the New Testament, actually,
from about 50 A.D.,
and it gives us a very, very good impression
of the earliest preaching of the Gospel.
You know, the Thessalonians,
St. Paul went through Asia Minor,
what is now Turkey, across the straits,
and then entered into Greece,
first preaching in Europe,
reached to Philippi and then Thessalonia,
and that is how the Gospel first reached Europe.
And all this language is very interesting,
because he says to the church of the Thessalonians,
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
when we are baptized,
we live in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ,
we enter into a new mode of existence,
we share in the inner life of God,
the Father, and the Christ, and the Holy Spirit,
into the life of the Trinity,
which is our new way of living.
And then he says, we give thanks to God always,
and it's constantly mentioned in our prayers,
remembering the Father, our Father, your Word.
And that's another very characteristic,
St. Paul always prays for all his disciples,
and living in this experience of God in Christ,
and then he brings all his disciples
and all his fellow Christians into that prayer,
and prayer isn't just saying things in words,
it's a whole way of sharing together with people in Christ.
And that's really what we all seek, to live in prayer.
As the moral says, pray always, pray without ceasing.
And he speaks of your work of faith,
and of the labor of love,
and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
And there are three virtues that come right from the beginning,
you see, faith, hope, and love.
They are the three conditions of Christian life,
we believe in God, the Father, and Jesus Christ,
and that gives us hope of the future fulfillment,
and it communicates love,
and love is this presence of God,
a mass, a presence, I don't know, limiting forms,
but waiting for its fulfillment.
And then we know, Reverend, that he has chosen you,
for our gospel came not only in words,
but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit,
and with full conviction.
This question of being chosen, you see, is very important.
It doesn't mean that other people are not chosen,
but each person has his own unique relation with God.
So each one is chosen, you have a unique calling for God.
And it comes in power and in the Holy Spirit,
with full conviction.
You see, you can so easily pass on the gospel
with just words and some explanation,
but that's not really the gospel.
The gospel is this experience of God in Christ,
even through the Holy Spirit, sir,
of sharing in that life, that love which comes from God,
through Christ, in the Holy Spirit,
and with full conviction.
You know what kind of man you proved to be,
we proved to be among you,
and you became imitators of ourselves, the Lord.
And there are some other aspects,
and Paul always sees himself as communicating Christ to others,
and in a sense being a model of Christ.
He was so conscious that Christ was living in him,
that I live, that I no longer, Christ lives in me.
And so he did not feel himself just an isolated person,
but a presence of Christ among them.
And he received the word in much affliction,
with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,
so he became an example for all.
That's another aspect which is very common,
that joy and affliction go together.
You often think of joy as when everything is going well,
but there is a joy which comes also with affliction,
with suffering, with extreme pain,
a person could be dying of cancer,
and they have extreme joy in their heart.
It's very important to realize it's not an emotional level,
it's on the level of the Spirit,
and it can be a permanent joy, it's an ananda, you see,
it's the joy of the Spirit,
and that is compatible with great suffering, great sorrow.
Then he says,
Not only the word of God sounded for you in Macedonia,
the cure of faith in God has gone everywhere.
Macedonia is the north of Greece,
and Achaia is the west of Greece.
So this is the preaching of the Gospel in Greece,
at a very important stage in the whole.
Never forget, you know, how the Gospel is read from Palestine,
then through Asia Minor, as we call it, what is now Turkey,
and then into Greece, and to Rome, and to Europe,
and then it spreads around the world.
So that's the passage of the Gospel.
And they themselves report concerning us
what a welcome we had among you,
how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.
And that was the condition of the Greeks at that time.
And we must remember there was a deeper Greek religion,
there were the mysteries,
and also there were great people among the Greeks
who really had a profound idea of God,
but there was a prevalent kind of worship of idols,
which was rather a very limited kind of religion,
and that's what St. Paul was against, this worship of idols,
to serve a living and true God.
And always the idea was God is this living and true,
it's awakening to life and truth.
You see, you go beyond all outward forms, images,
and you experience the life and the truth coming into your life
and bringing you this truth, and that is the awakening,
that is this enlightenment, you see, which we all need.
And then a rather characteristic, you see,
at this very early stage, the preaching of the Gospel,
they were waiting for the return of Christ,
to wait for his son from heaven, who will be raised from the dead,
and Jesus will give us the wrath to come.
And all these early stages of the Gospel,
and it lasts quite a long time,
they lived in that expectation,
and I think it's very significant in a way, you see,
it's a reminder that this world is passing away.
It may go on for us, ten, twenty years,
but certainly we have angels to always behold
in the face of my father in heaven.
And I was suggesting we can think of the angels
as these spheres of consciousness beyond the human,
all these different levels of consciousness,
and in our civilization we've lost touch with all these levels.
All the ancient world, we were fully aware of it.
In India, we recognized with the seven levels,
others even beyond that of consciousness.
In the Christian tradition, we have the nine orders of angels
leading up to God, to the Supreme.
And for many centuries now, the Western world,
turned away from the whole spiritual world,
concentrate on matter, to study matter in all its aspects,
and of course they've done marvels with it,
throughout this whole civilization,
all this science and technology,
but completely lost touch with this other dimension of reality,
and it affects us all.
Whether we're Christian or whatever religion,
we tend to think in terms of the sense material world
and the rational scientific world,
and imagine that's the real world,
and then the angels, they become sort of myths, answers.
But of course it's the opposite.
The material world is the shadow,
it's the limit of the lowest level of being,
and beyond that are these different levels,
and our human consciousness, our normal rational consciousness,
is the lowest level of intelligence.
And above it are all these higher levels,
and we can get in touch with those higher levels.
In India we've had a long tradition of the sages and jnanis,
who open themselves to these other levels of consciousness,
and it's not difficult by meditation,
by concentration, by self-surrender,
to discover deeper levels of consciousness,
and we can all do that if we really seek it.
And when the first level we go beyond
is this level of the guardian angel.
You see, we have our own irrational consciousness,
and we judge what we ought to do and what we ought not.
That all has its value at that level.
But beyond that there is a deeper level,
and I'm sure many experience it,
when you're doing something, some work you have to do or something,
and particularly when you find your own resources running out,
you pray and you ask for some help,
and you get guidance.
Something comes into your life from a higher level of consciousness,
and you become aware.
And one can form that habit of relying on this guardian angel,
this inner guidance.
It's an inner guidance, you see, which can come in whatever we're doing.
And the more we rely on it, the more we discover it.
I know many people find so many coincidences in one's life.
Things happen apparently without any reason.
Then you begin to see that there is a pattern in it.
It's not a rational level at all, it's on this super-rational level.
Things happen in your life.
You meet people, you go to places, you read a book, it may be,
and it all works in to guide you in a certain direction.
And we have to follow that direction.
And many people think, oh, it's just a coincidence, it just happened,
and so you lose the insight.
Then you realize it, then you see that these higher forces are guiding our lives.
They're there.
If we choose to ignore them, their influence becomes less and less.
If we choose to open to them, their influence grows constantly in us.
And it's not only, of course, the guardian angel,
but all these levels of angels.
There are angels of communities, you see.
We have our own individuals, rather, but there are communities.
Whatever community they belong to,
it may be an ashram community, it may be a church community,
it may be a national community, a racial community,
they all have their angels, they all have their spirits.
And we're under the influence of their spirits,
the national spirit, for instance.
And, of course, these angels are both good and evil.
That is the problem.
You can say we have a guardian angel, but we have even a guardian demon.
There is a demon also in us, you see.
These levels of consciousness have both the good and evil forces in them.
And that's why we have to be aware of these forces
and aware of the negative, demonic forces.
And they're in us individually.
We all experience demonic forces in us,
anger and hatred and violence and so on.
And then there are these collective demonic forces,
these racial and national and caste and class and all these other forces.
These are collective forces of the unconscious,
and these are these demonic powers.
But they're all real, you see.
There are all these spheres of consciousness, of power, surrounding us.
And those people have lost sight of it, you see.
They just limit themselves to the sense of rational consciousness.
And then we get shut up in a little prison and we lose sight of the other self.
So beyond the guardian angel are these collective forces, the unconscious,
and then beyond them are the cosmic powers.
We speak of the angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, thrones.
These are all cosmic powers working through the whole creation
and building up creation.
And also, of course, there are destructive.
We read in Ephesians these powers of wickedness in the high places, you see.
These are the cosmic powers of destruction.
And we see them in the world around us all the time.
It's terrible.
You see, a country like the Lebanon, for instance.
I visited the Lebanon about twenty years ago.
It's a beautiful place, very peaceful.
Christians and Muslims have been living there for centuries.
They've worked out a wonderful system.
Christians have it in certain places, the Muslims have it.
And it was prosperous, the sort of, what do you call it,
the economic center of the Middle East.
It was very prosperous.
And then this disaster came upon it.
And year after year it's been torn to pieces by these cosmic forces, you see,
working through the Arabs, through the Christians,
and through the different forces around them.
So this happens.
These demonic forces take possession.
The same is Sri Lanka, you see.
You have exactly the same.
It's peaceful people, great prosperity, beautiful island,
and torn to pieces in this atmosphere.
And the same is happening in India, of course.
You have the Sikhs, you see, great people, wonderful religion,
one of the most progressive communities in India.
And suddenly now all this violence and hatred and conflict has risen among them.
So these are angels, you see.
The Sikhs have their angels, their guardians, who brought them the grants of and all that wisdom.
And then they are exposed to the demonic forces in their community.
And those forces are disrupting, they're destroying it at the moment.
So this is the world we live in, the world of the angels.
And it's stupid just to ignore it, you see.
You can ignore it, but then all these things happen.
You don't stop them.
You just don't know why it is people suddenly begin destroying it.
Because you've allowed these demonic forces and you've not opened yourself to the angelic powers.
They defend you against these demonic forces.
When you become aware of your God, your angel, it protects you from all your violence within you.
And when you become aware of these community powers of race and of caste and of nation around you,
they also protect you, you see.
And then, of course, beyond all the angels, there is the supreme power.
God himself is working through all these levels, and we have to be open to the supreme.
As I was saying yesterday, we must never stop at any level below the supreme.
We have to go beyond every created...
The angels are created to go beyond the created world to the uncreated.
And that also is in us, you see.
God himself, the infinite power of uncreated beings, is in every human being.
And we are in that being.
And that is our real being.
And we discover ourselves in him.
So, as I say, this is the world we live in and the world we have to discover.
And it is a discovery.
And as we discover it, our whole life changes as we begin to see the real meaning and purpose of life.
And millions today have no understanding of the meaning and purpose of life.
They seem to be lost in this world of...
simply a sense material world with these material forces working down them all the time,
with money and power and so on, simply destroying the world.
So, we have to be aware that there is something beyond that,
and it can overcome all those evil forces.
And the meaning of Christ and the gospel is that that power has come into the world,
and that power is able to destroy, to overcome all these evil forces.
That power is in us, each one of us.
That power and salvation is present to overcome the evil in ourselves and the evil in others.
Questioner asks a question in English.
He says to that person over there, he says,
you have these very personal letters of support,
and it's not a very human touch to us.
And especially here, he says,
his word, we'd already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know.
As you know, when he went to Philippi, he was in...
in Spain, I think, and then in prison,
then an earthquake took place, and they released him from the prison.
So he was shamefully treated, as he says,
and we had the courage to declare to you the gospel of God in case of great opposition.
And then he says, our appeal does not spring from error or uncleanness,
nor is it made with guile,
but as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel,
so we plead not to please men, but to please God who has our hearts.
And Paul obviously had this very, very deep conviction.
Of course, it stemmed from his conversion,
his overwhelming experience on the road to Damascus,
the conviction that Christ had taken possession of him,
and that he'd been given this commission from God,
and his whole aim was to please God, not to please men,
to respond to this call, to this power which had come into his life.
And he says, we never used words of flattery or to cope with greed as God is witness,
nor do we seek glory from men or you or through others.
So we might have made demands of the process of Christ.
He often brings that up, you know,
that as an apostle he could expect to get his living,
but he always preferred to work with his hands.
And that comes out a little later on, it's rather important.
And then there are two very remarkable things there.
The first is, he was gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children.
And again and again you'll find he preaches the gospel,
the spirit of authority and power,
but he has an extremely human understanding,
and he's like a nurse with her children, you see,
a very feminine image.
Paul is not a very feminine character,
he's very masculine and very powerful,
but he's also got this other side, and it's rather important.
So being affectionately desirous of you, you see,
we're ready to share with you not only the gospel of God,
but also our own selves,
because you have become very dear to us.
So it's a love, an agape love of God,
but it's also a human love.
And I think it's very interesting,
all through these early letters
you get this very, very personal feeling for his disciples,
a sense of total oneness with them in the gospel,
but also as a whole community.
And you remember our neighbour in Troy,
we worked night and day
while we preached you the gospel of God.
Remember he earned his living as a tent maker,
and wherever he went apparently he earned his living by work.
Mind you, that was a tradition among the rabbis, you know,
almost every rabbi had his own trade
and earned his living in that way.
It was a very good custom, really.
A former opportunity was inherited there.
And then he says,
you are witnesses how holy and righteous and blameless
was our behaviour to you.
It's a little embarrassing in a way
that he speaks of himself as being holy and blameless and so on,
but as I say, it's always this sense that it's not himself,
it's Christ in him,
that gives him that courage to speak in that way.
And then he goes on to say, you know,
how like a father with his children,
he exhorted each one of them,
encouraged you, charged you,
referred to what is a nurse with her children,
then a father,
and elsewhere he says, like a father,
I begot you in Christ.
The sense of tremendous human sharing
when this took place,
and a very human relationship established.
I think it's a little important
because religion can become rather impersonal,
and even inhuman at times,
when there are all these laws and regulations made,
and Paul breaks through all that
to this very human, very affectionate,
very loving relationship with his disciples.
While we exhorted him to be the life worthy of God,
he calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
In a beautiful expression,
he calls you into his kingdom and glory.
And the kingdom, of course,
is what Christ himself preached,
that kingdom of God which is in our midst,
and the glory which is the fulfilment of the kingdom,
if I understand.
So, again, you see, you get the full compass of the Gospel,
this message of salvation, of grace,
of the kingdom of God,
and coming down to earthly realities,
earning his living as a tent-maker,
by defeating his disciples,
his children, his people,
who he had this deep affection with.
So it gives us a very good picture of the early church.
Thank you.
I've read this more than once,
but it's reflecting on many times.
First of all, it's on prayer,
and everything about prayer and supplication and thanksgiving
that your request be made known to God.
And that is a sort of normal way of praying.
First of all, have no anxiety.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus,
do not be anxious about your life.
And that anxiety is of clinging to life,
of thinking everything depends on oneself,
and on the situation,
and not realizing that it depends on God.
And then you turn to prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
And there's three aspects, you see.
Prayer is asking for things.
Well, prayer is more general.
Supplication is asking for things.
Thanksgiving is giving thanks for things.
There's always two aspects.
We ask God, and we give thanks,
and the two should always go together.
Then the peace of God which passes all understanding,
the peace of our hearts and lives,
and the Christ Jesus,
and Paul comes out with these wonderful phrases,
so deep and meaningful and so full of function,
they call it,
full of, so deep,
fills the heart with the presence of God,
the peace of God which passes all understanding,
the peace of our hearts and lives.
And then he gives this list of virtues,
which is rather rare.
These are general virtues, as we say.
They're not specific to Christian,
whether it's true, whether it's honourable,
whether it's just, whether it's pure,
whether it's lovely, whether it's gracious,
whether it's ecstasy, whether it's worthy of praying.
These are a kind of Christian humanism.
It's always very important that Christianity
keeps open to humanism,
because we can often lose that.
And on the other hand,
when we get rid of all Christian humanism,
something deeply meaningful,
I think of Thomas More as a good example
of a great Christian humanist.
Then, what you've learnt and received
and heard and seen in me, too.
You come across that many times.
Paul sets himself as an example.
What you have learnt, he teaches,
and you receive, the gifts he gives,
and you've heard the Gospel he preaches,
and see him in me.
He sees himself as a marvellous,
I say, as Christian being,
that pure and God-pleased with everyone.
So, it's a good example, you know,
of the way he puts his message across
with such very deep understanding
and such...
coming out of such a deep experience of God.
I don't know if you've ever got struck by that.
I don't know if you've ever got struck by that.
The earliest etchings of Paul that we have
are a rather primitive kind of Gospel teaching,
in some ways.
First of all, he says,
Let me thank God,
because you receive the Word of God
which you heard from us,
not as the Word of man, but what it really is,
the Word of God,
which could work in you, believers.
And this Word of God is really an experience of God.
You see, Habesha Karnan, you know,
very perceptively,
that Jesus didn't actually teach anything particular.
He communicated experience.
He didn't experience the sonship of the Father,
which he communicated to his disciples.
And this Word of God is that communication
of the presence of God.
It's an experience.
Later on, of course,
that experience had to be put into words,
or Paul himself was put into words to some extent,
and then people began to believe more in the words
and the doctrine than in the experience.
And that's one of the problems of religion.
What originally is an experience
becomes put down into language, into words,
and then people believe the words and the ideas,
but they don't have the experience,
and that makes all the difference.
But at this time, you can see quite clearly
this Word of God,
something transformed people's lives,
and it was seen as a Word of God,
God coming into your life.
You became imitators of the churches of God
in Christ or in Judea.
You suffered the same things
that God had cut when they did from the Jews.
And the sign of this, often at this early stage,
was this suffering.
You had to experience a great deal of opposition
and so on, and that tested your faith
and your adherence to the Word.
And then he goes on to speak about the Jews
who killed the Lord Jesus in the Prophets
and drove us out of this peace God
and opposed all men by hindering us
from speaking to the Gentiles.
So as always to fill up the measure of their sins.
And this conflict between the Jews and the Christians
went on right from the beginning,
and it had various stages.
At this stage, Paul was obviously feeling very frustrated.
You see, the Jews were opposing him all the time,
and he felt very angry with them,
and he felt God was punishing them.
But God's wrath has come upon them at last.
But as time went on, he had a more moderate view.
Later on, he said that the Jews had been sent,
had fallen away, that the Gentiles might come in,
and then Israel itself would return.
A much more ecumenical view of Judaism.
And today, of course, we're trying to recover
the ecumenical understanding of Judaism,
not as an enemy to be denounced,
but as a way of experiencing God
because it's very validity,
and the Jews are still a force in the world.
So one has to take this in its historic situation,
because this conflict was very violent
between the Jews and the Christians,
and each side reacted very violently to it.
And not long afterwards, the Jews introduced curses
on the Christians into their prayers, and so on.
So that has gone on for so many centuries.
But then, he says, it goes on to the more personal note,
in which we were bereft of you for a short time.
In person, not in heart.
Never the more eagerly.
I mentioned yesterday, you see,
this extraordinarily deep bond with his disciples,
so that when he's separated, yet he's with them in heart.
And we had this desire to see you face to face
because we wanted to come to you.
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of boasting
for our Lord Jesus, is it not you?
So there's tremendous sense, you see,
that this word of God, which has come to him,
transformed his life, he shared it with others,
and their lives were transformed by it,
and filled with hope and joy.
And waiting for that coming, you see,
the full analogy is at his coming, at Jerusalem.
So they were all living in the expectation of the coming.
So it's a very dynamic religion,
the word had come to them, it transformed their lives,
they were waiting for it's fulfilled,
the second coming is really the fulfillment of the word,
and we encounter him face to face, you see,
that's what they're waiting for.
And it still remains true, we're waiting for that coming,
we should see him as he is, John says, you see.
Now we see under the veil of darkness,
then to see face to face.
Questioner 2
I know this letter to the Thessalonians is very personal,
and comes out very strongly here,
Saint Paul said, when we could bear it no longer,
we were willing to be left behind in Athens alone,
we sent Timothy, our brother, our servant in the gospel,
to establish you in the faith and exhort you.
That you don't want to be moved by these afflictions.
He's afraid these disciples of his will be disturbed and upset,
and he can't bear to be separated from them,
and he sends Timothy to make sure that things are all right.
As I said, he gets tremendously involved with all his disciples,
a deep personal commitment he has to them,
and it's all accompanied by these afflictions.
Saint Paul is tremendously involved,
involved in suffering and affliction,
involved in deep love and sympathy with people.
He lived a profoundly emotional life,
yet of course it was all under the direction of the inner spirit all the time.
The spirit of God was working through everything.
Then he says, you yourselves know this or thou not,
for when we were with you, we told you beforehand
we were to suffer affliction that has come to pass,
for this reason, and I could bear it no longer,
and I said, we know your faith.
So, there's two aspects of it, you see.
The affliction, which he accepts as his lauded life,
and perhaps we need to reflect, you know,
sometimes the impression is given that Christian life
is necessarily a life of affliction,
and that the saints suffered greatly and so on,
but I think we should have a balanced view of that.
It's not necessary. Affliction is one way in which God works in people,
but joy, happiness, is another way,
and sometimes you get the impression that Christian life
must be a life of great suffering,
and some saints have certainly lived there,
but there are other saints who have not lived with great affliction.
My own patron saint, Bede, I always take as a model,
he became a monk when he was seven years old,
and he lived in the monastery until he was about sixty when he died,
and he had a very gentle life, all his life.
He studied, he meditated, he prayed,
he was not even a charitable person,
and that was his way to God.
So, we don't always have to have afflictions to suffer it.
It comes, and if God gives it, we have to accept it,
but if it doesn't come, we must think,
something's wrong if I'm not suffering,
there's something wrong in my life.
So, we take that as it is.
And then he says, he said,
Timothy, they might know your faith,
if you have somehow that the tempter attempted you.
It's interesting to see, he feels faith is something very precarious,
something which is, of course, it is very new,
they've just received this new life,
and they've opened their hearts to it,
and he's afraid that something may throw them away from it.
But now, Timothy is calm and has brought the good news
of your faith and love,
that you always remember us kindly for this reason,
that all our distress and affliction
have been comforted about you through your faith.
And now we live as we stand fast to the Lord,
so that in the midst of all these afflictions,
he could also have great joy,
great thankfulness and great peace.
And I think that's very important,
that we should always, again, if we do get affliction,
you see, some people are overwhelmed by everything,
and it rarely goes wrong,
some disease or loss or whatever it may be,
and to learn to bear with them,
and to get a balanced view,
it's always in the Bhagavad Gita, you know,
again and again, to be the same in joy or in sorrow,
it's not at all easy,
but it's that kind of balance in life which is really needed.
And then, he says,
for thanksgiving we render to God for you,
for all the joy which we feel for your sake,
before our God.
So, it's for the affliction,
he has this great joy of thanksgiving with God,
praying earnestly, night and day,
until they see you face to face,
supply what is lacking in your faith.
Quite extraordinary, isn't it, to think of it,
I mean, there were many churches,
as Paul is associated with,
and yet this one little group,
he has this tense love for them,
such concern for them,
and he's only happy when they are happy,
he's distressed if there's any danger to them,
and he has this tremendous commitment of love,
which he makes for each of his communities,
so I think we can all learn what to do.
The included of the Thessalonians, as you know,
was the earliest letter which we have as to Paul,
and it presents a very primitive eschatology,
as they call it, concept of the end of the world,
and one should remember that the end of the world is a mystery,
it can't properly be expressed,
it's the end of the whole of our present world of consciousness,
this world of experience,
and therefore you have to use symbolic language,
this whole concept of the second coming of Christ is symbolic,
and St. Paul here uses a rather,
as I say, a rather primitive form of this,
he says,
we would not have you ignorant brethren
concerning those who are asleep,
you may not grieve if others do have no hope,
but since we grieve that Jesus died and rose again,
even so should Jesus,
God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep,
that means, of course, that the dead will rise again,
but just as Jesus rose from the dead
and appeared to disciples
and went up into the heavens, the sky,
so, in the early stages,
they believed that the dead would rise in the same way
and would ascend with Christ,
so he goes on,
he declares to you by the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive or left and are becoming the Lord
shall not perceive those who have fallen asleep,
apparently there was a dispute, you see,
as to what was going to happen when the day came,
with the people who were already dead,
what would happen to them,
and Paul says those who have died will rise to meet the Lord,
and we who are alive,
who are left until becoming the Lord,
shall not perceive those who have fallen asleep,
clearly he had the belief that he himself
and the other disciples
would be alive at the coming of Christ,
it's a little surprising for us
because it's very remote from the truth,
and yet, as I say,
when we deal with this eschatology, the end,
the whole concept of time and space
has to be modified, you see,
the end is going to be beyond time and space,
and if you're going to think of it in time and space,
then you get various images,
and so St. Paul has this,
as I say, primitive concept of time and space,
he thinks the time, we'll still be alive,
and for space, the Lord himself will descend from heaven
with a cry of command,
with the archangel's call,
with the sound of the trumpet of God,
and the dead will rise.
So this is clearly apocalyptic imagery, you see,
you're imagining this situation,
and it has a symbolic meaning,
and it still has a symbolic meaning,
as I say, we have to think in symbols,
and if we're going to conceive the end of the world,
we have to have some symbolic imagery,
and Paul uses this,
and Jesus himself uses similar images,
so we have to accept this symbolic language,
which is what it is.
And so he goes on,
the dead in Christ will rise first,
then we who are alive, who are left,
should be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
In this idea, Jesus ascended,
and a cloud received him out of their sight,
and so they conceived that the dead would rise
and ascend into the clouds and meet the Lord in the air,
and so we shall always be with the Lord.
And that really takes it beyond, you see,
the clouds and the air, these belong to this world,
but the resurrection is going beyond this world,
beyond this air, these clouds, this world altogether,
into the presence of the Lord,
and so ultimately it's going beyond time and space,
experiencing the transcendent reality,
and that is what we attain today,
all this temporal-spatial imagery,
we accept the symbolism,
but the reality is that we pass beyond this world
and time and space into the eternal reality
and experience the total presence of God,
and that is our hope and our expectation,
and that's really the meaning behind all these symbols.