The Greek word praus translated “meek” also means humble, gentle, and mild. This Beatitude is especially important at this point in time when glorification of the ego is the order of the day–more so in metaphysical circles than in the secular world. Since the late 1960s, the number of “disciples” that have quickly overthrown (they would say “gone beyond” or “risen above”) their “masters” and emerged as the latest lights of the New Age is truly remarkable. Also, the number of people utterly deluded by their own egoic minds–or by lying astral entities–into believing that they are persons of extraordinary import and destiny, whose every dream or whim is a profound inspiration, is as the sands of the sea or the stars of the sky. And the number of them who awake from their fevered dream and realize their delusion is practically nil. “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5) is still an attractive lie.
But the wise say with Saint John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). For only when the false “I” is removed is the divine Self–God–revealed. Our petty ego-identities are the clouds hiding the sun that is Him of Whom we are an inseparable part. He, being the Life of our life, the Essence of our essence, imparts His divinity to us. The waves are all part of the ocean, but never can an individual wave say: “I am the ocean,” although it is certainly inseparable from the ocean and an integral part of its total existence.
The great Master Tung-Shan, founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, wrote:
If you look for the truth outside yourself,
it gets farther and farther away.
Today, walking alone,
I meet Him everywhere I step.
He is the same as me,
yet I am not Him.
Only if you understand it in this way
will you merge with the way things are.
This perspective must be maintained if we would not sink (while thinking we are rising) into spiritual insanity–a process in which many if not most of today’s “seekers” are actively engaged. (And note how theistic this poem is despite the modern insistence that Zen is atheistic.)
Known unto God alone
Those who conform to this Beatitude have the sensible wish to pass through this world quiet and unobserved–unknown to any but God.
In the northern desert of Egypt there lived two monks, Abba Arsenios and Abba Moses. A visitor went to see both of them. Abba Arsenios did not speak to him at all, but simply sat and wove palm baskets as he continued to pray interiorly. Abba Moses, however, spoke to him very graciously regarding spiritual life. When the visitor told the monks that he much preferred Abba Moses to Abba Arsenios, they decided to pray to see whose way of life was the best. One of the monks was given a vision in which he saw a great river, and upon the river a boat in which Abba Moses was riding. As he sat in the boat he was being fed honey by angels. Then there came another boat, and in it he saw Abba Arsenios alone in silence with the Holy Spirit of God. Like Mary, Abba Arsenios had chosen the “good part” (Luke 10:42).
In the Indian scriptures the return of the spirit to God is likened to a river flowing into the ocean in perfect silence or as “the dewdrop slips into the shining sea.” Wherever there is noise or commotion of any sort, there is no contact with God. In silence alone does the spirit commune with Him. The Christmas hymn says: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” This is as true of the birth of the individual spirit into God as it was of the birth of Christ into this world.
To be known to God! How minimal is the fleeting notoriety of this world in comparison. God Himself has said to His devotee: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16). Just as men sometimes have the name of someone they love tattooed on their hands or arms, so God has engraved the remembrance of us upon His hands. Where else can such lasting love be found? Indeed, what else is worthy of being called love but this love of God for us? The hymn rightly says: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my love, my life, my all.”
Those who wish to make their mark in this world will be compelled to return to see it. But those who wish only to be known to God will arise beyond this world to behold themselves reflected in the perfect mirror of His face. The choice is ours.
Inheriting the earth
Yet, this Beatitude has a second part: “they shall inherit the earth.” (A better translation is “they shall be given the earth.”) How contradictory! If we are interested in God alone, what, then, will we do with the earth when it is given to us? We will give it back into the hands of God.
O, could you offer every earthly treasure,
Diamonds and pearls of the sea.
Then turning from them I would gladly whisper,
“Christ has set me free!”
In God nothing is lost. In possessing Him we shall possess everything–even this world. Yet first we must put it aside and fly to Him. This is one of the divine contradictions, like the losing and the finding of our life.
Also, “the earth” symbolizes our lower, material nature which is mastered through humility alone. Without such mastery there can be no ascension to higher states of consciousness. This is the thorn which sticks into the flesh of most spiritual aspirants, for they do not want to set aside their involvements with materiality, whether it be from lust, greed, vanity, or ambition.
Why should we master these lower forces? It is quite simple: No man can serve two masters, as our Lord has told us. The higher and the lower oppose each other, like the two poles of a magnet. We cannot hold to both. Rather, as our Master further said, we will come to despise one and to cling only to the other (Matthew 6:24).
To those immersed in materiality and sense experience, the subtle perceptions of the higher regions of creation–and the higher states of consciousness as well–seem like vague rumors only. Therefore to seek them by laying aside involvement in grosser experience seems a gamble rather than a surety. Even more, the lower, “earth” forces exert a kind of hypnosis or a state of forgetfulness on the individual, causing him to forget or become unaware that such higher conditions even exist. When grounded in materiality, the individual is positive that it alone is real, and that the higher reaches of existence are “pipe dreams.” But when the consciousness ascends into and possesses those higher levels, leaving behind the “earth” in order to ascend into the “heavens” of the spirit, then it is “earth” that is seen as a pitiful dream–unreal and worthless. Just as we cannot be in two rooms at the same time, so we must move out of the “earth” condition if we would enter the “heavens” of exalted consciousness.
There is a state in our development, however, where we may vacillate back and forth between “heaven” and “earth.” This is a very dangerous point, and we must ruthlessly take ourselves in hand and voluntarily, even violently, impel ourselves toward transcendence of “earth.” Otherwise we will fall back into its forgetful sleep. The path to God is strewn with the sleeping spirits who awoke for a while and then were pulled back into the dreams of “earth,” thus forfeiting their birthright of higher consciousness. There can be no reconciliation! We must choose either “heaven” or “earth.”
Since we must climb up to “heaven,” that involves effort, whereas “earth” only requires that we let go and slide back down into dimness of heart and spirit. It is much easier to fall than to ascend! Therefore those who are lazy or have no strong urgings toward the divine kingdom will fall back after a brief time of awakening. This is one reason why aspirants are tested–to determine whether their aspiration is dependable and steady or whether it will expend itself after a little effort at climbing the Divine Ladder.
Notice that we do not cut off or destroy “earth.” Rather, we “inherit”–that is, master–it and gather it into the kingdom of God through our transmutation. Of this thing the spiritual traveler can be assured: nothing is ever lost or abandoned along the way. Instead, it is changed along with us “from glory to glory” (II Corinthians 3:18).
A valuable parable regarding this is given in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. There, a man is controlled by an evil little red lizard that perches on his shoulder and whispers in his ear, persuading him to turn away from the light and go back into darkness. An angelic being keeps asking the man: “May I kill it?” When the man says “Yes,” then the angel strikes the lizard. But the lizard does not die. It becomes a beautiful and powerful white horse (horses are symbols of life energies). The man then leaps on the horse and rides away triumphantly into the Light of God.
So it is with us. We may think we are giving up some part of our inner makeup, or destroying or denying it. But once we have made the transition we will find it is still with us, but this time as a helper rather than a hindrance. As the song says: “Even though it be a cross that raiseth me.” This is a great secret of spiritual life: we never lose or leave behind a single thing. But it is only those who are willing to “deny and lose” that will find this truth manifested in their own lives. Therefore Jesus said that only if we are willing to lose our life will we instead be enabled to find it. Those who hang on to the lower life of “earth,” attempting to “save” it, will find to their grief that it will be snatched from them by the changes of earthly life–and ultimately by death itself. “Earth” is a losing game–only “heaven” is a sure thing. We must realize that and act accordingly.
The thirty-fourth Ode of Solomon tells us this:
There is no hard way where there is a simple heart, nor any barrier where the thoughts are upright.
Nor is there any whirlwind in the depth of the illuminated thought.
Where one is surrounded on every side by pleasing country, there is nothing divided in him.
The likeness of that which is below is that which is above.
For everything is above, and below there is nothing, but it is believed to be by those in whom there is no knowledge.
Grace has been revealed for your salvation, believe and live and be saved.
Before we pass on to the next Beatitude we should perhaps look at the nature of genuine humility. Humility is not despising or degrading ourselves, spending our time in negative obsession with ourselves, condemning and decrying ourselves. Such an attitude is really backhanded egotism. Humble people do not act humble, they simply are humble. The difference is sublime.
Real humility is an inner attitude, it is how we see ourselves and God. Or, more accurately, it is the way we do not see ourselves, but see God alone. The truly humble person does not have a low opinion of himself. Rather, he has no opinion of himself, having filled his mind and heart with contemplation of God. The face of God fills all the horizon of his consciousness, and he has no room for any exposition of himself. Or, more to the point, he is utterly absorbed in his true Self, God, and has no time for his illusory ego. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita: “Burnt clean in the blaze of My Being, in Me many find home.”
Read the next article in Gnosis of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.