With this Commandment we are coming to the lengthy section of Do Nots in the Commandments. Nobody particularly likes being told what to do, but even more we dislike being told what not do–that is just human nature. But since we are really gods and not mortals, our perspective should be that of the questing spirit rather than that of egoic impulse.
The acts which the Commandments enjoin are processes that will facilitate our eventual union with God, and those they prohibit are those which will prevent that union and increase our estrangement from the divine Source. The Ten Commandments do not make us abject slaves of a peevish and whimsical God, as some have mistakenly supposed, but rather they place our spiritual destiny directly into our own hands–the only hands that can accomplish our salvation (Philippians 2:12). Again we must remember the prior statement: We should look upon any commandment given by God or the Masters of spiritual life as being prefaced with the unspoken words: if you would live. For that is the bottom line of the whole matter–the regaining of Life.
Sowing and reaping
The Ten Commandments are a practical guide for those of us who would live in intelligent conformity with the law that exactly what we sow we shall indeed reap (Galatians 6:7). There can be no canceling of the law simply because we say, think, or hope we are sorry for our sins. To truly understand the folly of past actions is good if it helps us avoid such actions in the future. To feel with Lady Macbeth that “a little water” of repentant tears “clears us of this deed” is to be sadly self-deceived. Through meditation and the Sacraments it is possible to dispel the inner darkness brought about by our past evil actions, and that eliminates the karma. Easy to say, but it entails a great deal of spiritual work. The best and safest way to escape the law of karma is to transcend the state of consciousness that makes karma possible. Some times, though we simply have to “stand up and take it,” realizing that in reaping our negative karmas we are clearing up ancient debts, and that in the future we must ensure that we create no more of them.
Also, the Commandments are for the shaping of our future. If we do not lie, we shall not be lied to; if we do not steal, we shall not be stolen from; if we do not kill, we shall not be murdered, and so forth.
At first glance it would seem that this Commandment does not at all apply to us who are seeking higher consciousness since we are surely not going to murder anyone, but according to The Complete Hebrew/English Dictionary the Hebrew word tirtzach means “any kind of killing whatsoever.” In a sense it applies more to us as seekers than to anyone else. For there is an unseen form of murder: the murder within the heart. The Beloved Apostle tells us: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Many murderers move among us, seemingly fine people, but in the eyes of God they are murderers for they harbor hatred for another human being–oftentimes for many human beings. How easy it is for the externally virtuous to be internally foul. And we must examine our own thoughts and attitudes toward others lest we, too, be as they.
What is “killing”?
What is killing? It is taking life. Now, life has many forms, therefore killing has many forms as well. We will try to consider all of them.
“You shall not take life” is the command. An integral part of life is consciousness, so we can never take conscious life–that is, any form of life above plant life (and we should respect the lives of plants as well).
Obviously, then, we do not kill other human beings (including the unborn, since conception is impossible without the entry of the spirit) or contribute to their physical destruction through either action or inaction, directly or indirectly. For the evil of killing is not in giving pain to another–otherwise painless murder would be allowed by the Commandments–but in the stopping of another being’s evolutionary passage to God by destroying his body. Although the halting is only temporary because of the law of rebirth, it is still evil to interrupt the development of another being. When we see how both animals and men cling so desperately to life–even when living in defective or painful bodies–we can somewhat gauge the trauma of being murdered, and understand the enormity of such an act.
We have been speaking of human beings, but the killing of animals is also prohibited by this command. When we eat the flesh of an animal we kill in two ways. First, we kill the body of the animal. Even if we do not do the actual act of killing ourselves, the moment we purchase or eat the animal’s flesh we incur the karma of its murder. Second, we kill our own consciousness, both through the psychic desensitizing produced by eating animal flesh and through the resulting darkening of our consciousness through the eventual absorption of the animal’s consciousness into our own.
Truly, the highest meaning of this Commandment is the prohibition of the destruction of our higher awareness, so we might just as well consider it in detail right now.
The perspective of the spirit
The Path of the Spirit is to a great extent the path of purification. Since the human being is composed of many aspects or levels in his fundamental makeup, it is necessary that the process of purification be instituted and maintained on all those levels. Since it is the physical level that dominates the horizons of our consciousness, obviously the process should begin there.
The purification of our subtler levels depends upon the purification of our physical entity. This makes sense when we realize that all the components of a human being are formed of energies of various types, and that the only sources of these energies are the sunlight, air, and food which are taken into the physical body. Though light and air are essential sources of energy, it is food that provides by far the greatest amount of the energy from which our multilevel complex is shaped. When we further realize that physical objects have all the levels that we have–the physical, biomagnetic, sensory, intellectual, and will bodies–we can understand the importance of the kind and quality of food we eat. For not only does the physical substance of the food become assimilated into our physical body, the subtler energies become united to our inner levels.
We cannot produce a marble statue from clay, nor can we get wheat bread by using barley meal–the end product will be formed of the material we began with. So it is with all our bodies, gross and subtle. They will reflect the qualities of the food that has gone into their formation.
The esoteric christian motive
Because of this, the Christian Church from the beginning urged its members to abstain from various harmful substances which adversely affected either the health or the consciousness, for fully effective spiritual practice is much more easily accomplished by to those who live in total abstinence from what are known as “the Soul Killers”–those substances which “kill” our capacity for higher consciousness.
It is surely wise to avoid any substances that are addictive or that produce a distortion or dulling of consciousness–anything that produces an abnormal or unbalanced state of mind. This is because our body chemistry, which is produced by whatever we take into our body, is the most potent influence on our mental states. Therefore it is wisdom to scrupulously avoid all animal flesh (including fish and eggs), tobacco (nicotine) in any form, alcohol in any form, and mind-altering drugs (including many legal ones).
A matter of energies
As has been already stated, no thing exists as a purely physical entity. All objects consist of innumerable layers of energies, ranging from the grossest material (atomic) vibrations to the subtlest, almost spiritual, energy. Therefore, whatever we eat does not merely enter into our physical bodies, but into all levels of our being! That is a very sobering–if not actually frightening–thought. Our minds, our emotions, even our wills are masses of subtle energies, and whatever we eat or drink enters also into those energy levels and affects them profoundly.
What sensible person would want the mind, emotions, and instinctual impulses of animals grafted into his own mind, emotions, and will? And since tobacco, alcohol, and drugs so poison and distort the physical body, brain, and mind, what must they do to the higher aspects of our being, especially our wills? All four of the Soul Killers are addicting to the human body, and therefore erode the will. And without the will intact, what are we?
It should be understood that these substances are not evil in themselves. It is their effect on us that is negative. To take them into our bodies is to misuse them. Everything is good in its right place, but our bodies and minds are not the right place for these things. For anyone, the use of these substances is a form of mental and spiritual suicide–and often physical suicide, as well. A person who tries to follow the path to Christhood while continuing the use of such things will eventually find that he is making no significant spiritual progress. Further, as he advances to higher levels of advancement he will find conflicts arising within himself, as is only natural, for he will be working to elevate himself to the life of illumination while at the same time feeding on death and darkness through his use of these destructive elements. Gnosis and folly are not compatible.
A deadly way of life
Observation will demonstrate that vegetarianism is not an automatic key to higher consciousness. A vegetarian can have as degraded a consciousness as any meat-eater, especially someone that is a vegetarian only for health reasons. For the major form of self-killing is not diet, but the way we live. That is, if we follow a mode of life that continually plunges us into material consciousness, however often we may “come up for air” by going to church or reading or speaking on religious or spiritual topics, we are killing our souls. We all find ourselves in this material world, encased in a material body, and compelled to maintain that body through material actions. Nor are we self-sufficient hermits. We must live in the midst of a society composed of the spiritually unaware and interact with them. At the same time we must not be drawn into the whirlpool of the world and drawn down to spiritual death.
In India they tell of two friends. One went to a religious discourse and the other went to a kind of boozy “dive.” The man who was hearing the religious discourse kept thinking longingly of the fun he would be having if he had gone with his friend to the dive and wishing he had done so. The other man, however, in the midst of the raucous “fun” of the dive kept thinking how foolish he had been to not go where he could learn of spiritual wisdom and the joy of God. That night they both died. The one who went to the temple was judged as a libertine and the one who went to the dive was judged as a spiritual aspirant, and their next births were ordered accordingly. For it was their inner dispositions that determined their real character.
From this we see that it is the inner disposition of the mind and heart that determines whether we are “in” or “out” of the world. It is simply a matter of the intentional positioning of our consciousness. Because of this, it is not the external experience of life but the internal response to it that indicates inner life or death. Those who gladly immerse themselves in the foolish and petty activities of each day, devouring each facet with avidity and diluting themselves in the world around them, are committing spiritual suicide and are self-murderers. Those, on the other hand, who amidst all the tiresome silliness of worldly activities determinedly keep their minds on God through invocation of His Name and who rush to their homes as spiritual havens at the end of the workday, shedding all thought and concern for the passing scene of earth, and there immerse themselves in divine remembrance through meditation and other spiritual pursuits, even now live and move with the saints and angels–citizens of eternity.
Death by drowning results from breathing in water instead of air and the consequent dilution of the blood. In the same way, those who dilute themselves in the world, even though maintaining a token spiritual life are dead. Of such the Lord Jesus himself said: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). This is a diagnosis, not a condemnation. But if we are wise we will ponder the nature of our daily life as to whether we, too, are not drowning in the world, fooled by the metaphysical “ecstasy of the deep” into believing that we live while meriting the words of Jesus: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Read the next article in Gnosis of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Thou shalt not commit adultery.