“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).
First let us consider the more external aspects of this Commandment, although the true keeping of it can only be done in the esoteric aspect.
Change–the root of suffering
Being within–and through mistaken identification a part of–this world of constant change, we, too, are constantly changing, or at least are experiencing and identifying with constant change. Everything–even the flight of a bird or the sighing of the wind–works changes in the fields of vibrating energies that are our minds and bodies.
When Buddha pondered the problem of human suffering, He came to this conclusion: The essential nature of a human being is unchanging consciousness. Yet, the human being in this world is caught up in the experience of constant change. This not only conflicts with what he really is, it causes him to forget himself and to identify with that constant change. As a consequence, he suffers. And the only way to freedom from suffering is that of freedom from change through re-establishment in his own true nature.
But in our mistaken identities we spend lifetime after lifetime pursuing and grasping that which is always changing, in the vain hope that through possessing it we shall become stable through contentment in its possession. Since this is impossible, we become frustrated and suffer. In every life we say to ourselves: “If I have this or that I will be contented.” But we are not, either because the desired objects do not come up to our expectation, or because we lose them or become interested in something else.
In Hebrew the word for world is olam, which means “to roll.” In Sanskrit the word for this material mode of existence is samsara, which basically means the same thing. The sad truth is that even though it makes us suffer we have become so used to constant flux that we cannot bear even the prospect of being without it, although that is our only hope.
To wean us from this deadly addiction, the external Sabbath was instituted. At least one day in the week we need to stop, catch our breath, take stock of our spiritual life, and work on its improvement by shifting our gears into a more reflective state of awareness–not by frittering it away in “recreation” activities that themselves may be more tiring than our daily work. We do not “get away from it all” by simply running off to another area of the “all” and spinning around over there.
In the weekly whirl we sometimes lose sight of eternal values as we become distracted by involvement with the temporal demands of ordinary life. Losing our spiritual sight and perspective as we attempt to cope with the never-ending stream of external problems, entire lifetimes drain away without our being aware of it until death closes each life-chapter, and then it is too late. The continuous cycle of rebirth in this world is called gilgul in Hebrew, which means “rolling” in the sense of ceaseless motion. We have wasted countless lives just because we permitted ourselves to become drawn into the whirlpool of outer life, forgetting the real, inner life. Attempting to “save” our earthly life with its vicissitudes, we “lose” our real life. This is a deadly serious matter, and we must strive to impress upon our minds just how deadly serious it truly is.
We are like a runner so intent on running that he no longer sees where he is and so risks the danger of becoming hopelessly lost. The Sabbath observance is meant to aid us in keeping sight of where we are as we race through life.
A practical observance
Every religion has its special day for increased spiritual activities. The original Sabbath was Saturday, but for Christians it became Sunday, the first day of the week–“the Lord’s Day”–as that was the day of Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1). Although there is an esoteric significance to Sunday for Christians, what really matters in the context of this commandment is for a person to regularly set aside one day of the week and dedicate most of it to spiritual pursuits–especially meditation and study. That one day in the week we must regain the perspective of who we really are and what our true purpose is for coming into this world. We must regain the awareness of ourselves as immortal spirits with the high destiny of union with God and realize that our real “work” in this world is not making money, gaining notoriety, or winning public favor, but our work is to enter into oneness with ourselves and with God, the Self of our selves.
A university psychology class conducted an interesting study in self-concept. The students went into neighborhoods and knocked on doors at random. When someone opened the door, they immediately asked: “Who are you?” and wrote down the spontaneous answers they received. The majority of people answered that they were their profession–“I am a carpenter,” “I am a housewife,” “I am a doctor,” and so on. They thought they were what they did, rather than who they were.
We often hear people lament about the depersonalization of modern civilization, but the only remedy is restoration of the consciousness of who we really are. Of course that might be embarrassing, for then we would realize that we are living almost totally in a self-created world of fantasy, ignoring the reality of our own being. And not knowing the reality of our own being, what can we know of any other reality?
We must come to know–and manifest–that we are the immortal sons of God (I John 3:2). To help us in accomplishing so great a work we need the Sabbath observance. Unhappily, in our materialistic world we have come to feel that a “day of rest” means a day on which we whimsically fiddle away our time in aimless and useless pursuit of so-called pleasures and recreation. Frequently we hear of people who need time to recover from the strain of such a day of rest or from a supposed holiday.
The Lord’s Day
Therefore we desperately need a day of spiritual consciousness. “Sunday” is not the Christian term for the first day of the week. In Greek it is called Kyriaki, “the Lord’s Day” (in Latin, Dominica, which has the same meaning). In some Eastern Christian countries it is called “Resurrection Day,” which is even more meaningful, for on that one day we should resurrect our consciousness from the death of material consciousness into the life of spiritual consciousness. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5, 6).
The real purpose of the Sabbath is to lead us to the consciousness in which the life of the spirit is conducted without interruption, in which the whole of life becomes “the day of the Lord.”
But a question arises. Why, since for Christians the day of spiritual re-creation is actually the first day of the week, do we retain the term Sabbath, which means the seventh day?
Whatever their religion or spiritual tradition within that religion, the wise of all ages have unanimously taught that there are seven basic states of awareness, although there are infinite variations within each of them. Or, to be more precise, there are six states of awareness, six modes of conditioned consciousness, all of which spring from the ultimate, seventh state of pure, unconditioned, undifferentiated Divine Consciousness. We have all come out from that seventh level of being which we call The Bosom of the Father, and we must eventually return to that state–which is the real Sabbaton, the Seventh Day, in which we shall come to rest in God after aeons of constant coming and going, birth and death, changing from form to form and from world to world.
The “seven days” of consciousness
It might be good to outline the seven states of consciousness which are symbolized by the seven days of the week, the seven days of creation, and the seven days of Holy Week. In this way we can gauge where we are centered in our present state of consciousness.
- In the First Day Consciousness we identify mostly with the physical body.
- In the Second Day Consciousness we identify mostly with our emotions.
- In the Third Day Consciousness we identify mostly with our senses and sensory experience.
- In the Fourth Day Consciousness we identify mostly with our intellect and intelligence.
- In the Fifth Day Consciousness we identify mostly with our creative abilities and the manifestations of our will.
- In the Sixth Day Consciousness we identify mostly with our intuitional and psychic awareness and abilities.
- But in the Seventh Day Consciousness we no longer identify with anything, but are. We dwell in the state expressed by the words: I AM (Exodus 3:14).
Therefore we “remember” the Sabbath Day–the Seventh Day of Pure Being–so we will strive to enter into and become established therein forever.
Until we enter into the Seventh Day we will continue to identify with the Six Days which are fundamentally unreal. Identifying with the unreal, we naturally suffer. When we leave false identity behind, the attendant suffering will cease as well.
Multitudes of people suffer from brooding over the past, refusing to let it go, continuing to identify with the what of their experience rather than with the who that is the experiencer. Here is a telling example.
A woman’s mother had died when she was five years old. So great was the trauma, that as an adult whenever she met anyone and was going to tell them about herself, her first sentence would be: “My mother died when I was five years old and I was raised by my grandparents.” This continued until one day somebody asked her: “Why don’t you bury your mother?” This question seemed absurd, and she said so. Then her friend said: “You are an intelligent and creative adult with a life rich in experience and accomplishment. Yet you see yourself as a lonely orphan child living with grandparents who can’t understand you. Think of all the things that have happened to you since that time in your life. Look at all the growth you have undergone, the things you have learned and the goals you have accomplished. But you insist on being the ‘poor little girl whose Mama died.’ When are you going to break out of that self-delusion?” Fortunately, her friend’s forthright words enabled her to change her self-concept.
There is an ancient story of a lion cub who was raised by sheep and so believed that he was a sheep. But one day he saw his face reflected in a pond and realized that he was actually a lion. In the same way, in the mirror of pure consciousness we must come to behold what the Buddhists call our “original face” and “the face we had before we were born” into the world of relative existence.
The plain facts
Laying all philosophy aside, the observance of this Commandment means finding time for cultivating the consciousness of God. If we cannot find time, we must make time. For where there is a will, there will indeed be found a way. As the Odes of Solomon say: “There is no hard way where there is a simple heart, nor any barrier where the thoughts are upright” (Odes of Solomon 34:1).
We must keep the true goal of our lives in mind and shape them accordingly so that in time our life itself will be transformed into a Sabbath. As Mother Ann Lee said: “Hands to work and heart to God.”
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out…. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith” (Revelation 3:12, 13).
Read the next article in Gnosis of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Honor thy father and thy mother.