So far the Beatitudes have spoken of interior states which by their nature are impossible to demonstrate. Therefore–either from self-delusion or the intention to deceive others–they can be claimed without really being possessed. This Beatitude, however, relates to our condition in the external world and can be easily seen. But it certainly sounds negative to most ears. What is blessed about being persecuted? Although discomfort and pain are sometimes necessary, what is so wonderful about it? Even more–does this mean that we should generate conflict with others? This latter question is quite vital, for there are walkers on the lefthand path who enjoy and even thrive on negative reactions from others. There are political and religious groups that deliberately set about to antagonize others so they can boast of their persecutions, even sometimes getting themselves arrested and jailed. We who seek to become established in the righthand path want nothing of such manipulative capers. Yet, here we are being told that it is blessed to be persecuted.
The Beatitude says “are persecuted,” not “seek persecution,” so we can be at rest on that count. Also it tells us why the blessed are persecuted: for righteousness’ sake. The same Greek word is used here for “righteousness” as was used in the earlier Beatitude on hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Since this Beatitude ends with the same promise as the first Beatitude–that we shall possess the kingdom of heaven–it is much too weighty to ignore or avoid.
The more accurate meaning
The Greek term for persecution is dioko, which literally means to be pursued or pressed upon in the sense of being hounded or pressured. Our slang term “hassled” is perhaps the most accurate translation of all. Also, this word has the connotation that the persecution is not just a reaction to something disliked, but an attempt to stop its object from persevering in something. Thus the meaning becomes clear. We are blessed when, walking the path of righteousness, the path that leads to the revelation of our Christhood, we encounter resistance and difficulties, the purpose of which is to turn us aside from the path and drive us back into the evil paths of chaos and ignorance which we have trodden for lives beyond number.
Resistance to our spiritual life
Resistance to our upward climb is not pleasant, but it is blessed. Why? Because it is undoubted evidence that we are really climbing upward. It is somewhat like getting calluses as proof that we are working hard.
What are the sources of this resistance–and why?
The most obvious source is other people, sometimes even those which whom we are closely associated. This is because the lefthand and righthand paths do not merely exist side-by-side–they are in perpetual conflict, warring against one another and on occasion vanquishing one another. They who walk those paths must inevitably come into variance with one another. The lefthanders of course react with hostility, violence, and the desire to injure. The righthanders, however, try to be conciliatory and avoid any clashes (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). But the very nature of the lefthanders makes this impossible. Tragically, the righthanders often compromise or surrender to avoid strife, and this is foolish in the extreme. Even more to the point, it is unrealistic and cowardly.
How to overcome
Undoubtedly, the righthand traveller does not want discord with anyone, nor will he return blow for blow with his assailants. Neither will he launch an offensive against his opponent. What will he do then? He will persevere. And in his perseverance he will overcome, for evil cannot really withstand the good. This is why Saint James does not counsel us to attack the enemy, but says: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Saint Peter tells us the same (I Peter 5:8, 9). In many places the Bible advises us to simply stand firm. This is very practical advice.
Those who ignore opposition and keep on walking are sure to vanquish all in time. It is those who allow themselves to be pulled into the orbit of the lefthanders by reacting with the same kind of negativity that are in grave danger of being overcome by the evil. Remember how when Herod wanted to test Jesus, He would not even speak to him. Furthermore, when Pilate cynically asked, “What is ‘truth’?” He would not answer him, but stood in silence. If Bre’r Rabbit had not struck the tar baby, he would not have gotten all stuck up in it and in danger of losing his life.
Passive resistance is still the most effective reaction to persecution. However much our enemies fume and threat, we just keep moving on, leaving them behind. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially when emotional blackmail and similar tactics are brought to bear upon us. But this is the way in which true hearts are tested and revealed. Who in the Bible that desired to be the friend of God did not endure similar trial? None. It is indeed true that this is not a path for lovers of ease.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). Those who seek the Life Divine are not just special people, they are a new order of being altogether. This is not poetry but solid fact. The spiritually-awakened has dimensions operative within his being that in others are paralyzed, and much that lies dormant in others is fully awake and operative within him.
Sometimes the opposition to our spiritual life comes from disembodied spirits of the lefthand path. This does not happen to everyone, but we should be prepared.
Negative aspects of creation
Since the treader of the righthand path is going against much of the “grain” of the material creation, which is becoming increasingly polarized to the “left,” he may meet with resistance from the currents of the universe itself–especially astrological influences. Here, too, perseverance is the victory, for the longer we traverse the righthand path the less material forces can affect us. This is especially true in relation to astrological energies.
The enemy within
A great deal of resistance to our climbing of the divine ladder comes from our own egoic nature, and therefore is perhaps the hardest to detect and resist. For the ego is ancient and cunning, wise in its ways of deceit. We have bowed before and worshipped it through many long ages, both in and out of the body.
Not all opposition to our spiritual life comes in the form of negativity. Often it appears to be most pleasant in the hope of drawing us away from our spiritual ideals. Sometimes we get attractive offers of things we may have wanted for a long time. There is a catch, though: to get them we will have to give up spiritual life. And many do, selling this divine birthright for a bit of material enjoyment, like Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). This is why Saint Peter wrote: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 5:8-11).
The Lord, knowing that this Beatitude would be the one most people would prefer to avoid, encourages us by saying further:
Read the next article in Gnosis of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.