“Lost” and “found” in the Temple
“The great feast of the pasch was ended and the Nazarenes were journeying towards their homes. And they were in Samaria, and Mary said, Where is my son? No one had seen the boy. And Joseph sought among their kindred who were on their way to Galilee; but they had seen him not. Then Joseph, Mary, and a son of Zebedee, returned and sought through all Jerusalem, but they could find him not.
“And then they went up to the temple courts and asked the guards, Have you seen Jesus, a fair-haired boy, with deep blue eyes, twelve years of age, about these courts? The guards replied, Yes, he is in the temple now disputing with the doctors of the law. And they went in, and found him as the guards had said.
“And Mary said, Why Jesus, why do you treat your parents thus? Lo, we have sought two days for you. We feared that some great harm had overtaken you.
“And Jesus said, Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?
“But he went round and pressed the hand of every doctor of the law and said, I trust that we may meet again. And then he went forth with his parents on their way to Nazareth; and when they reached their home he wrought with Joseph as a carpenter” (Aquarian Gospel 20:1-11).
After Jesus, at the age of twelve, had demonstrated by His questioning of the teachers in the Temple that they had nothing to teach Him, He returned to Nazareth for a while before seeking out the master-teachers of India that had come at the time of His birth. (“Three persons clad in snow-white robes came in and stood before the child and said, All strength, all wisdom and all love be yours, Immanuel.” Aquarian Gospel 3:6,7) He assisted Saint Joseph in his carpentry work.
“One day as he was bringing forth the tools for work he said, These tools remind me of the ones we handle in the workshop of the mind where things are made of thought and where we build up character. We use the square to measure all our lines, to straighten out the crooked places of the way, and make the corners of our conduct square. We use the compass to draw circles round our passions and desires to keep them in the bounds of righteousness. We use the axe to cut away the knotty, useless and ungainly parts and make the character symmetrical. We use the hammer to drive home the truth, and pound it in until it is a part of every part. We use the plane to smooth the rough, uneven surfaces of joint, and block, and board that go to build the temple for the truth. The chisel, line, the plummet and the saw all have their uses in the workshop of the mind. And then this ladder with its trinity of steps, faith, hope and love; on it we climb up to the dome of purity in life. And on the twelve-step ladder we ascend until we reach the pinnacle of that which life is spent to build–the Temple of Perfected Man” (Aquarian Gospel 20:12-21).
The Ladder Of Divine Ascent
Whether it is coincidence or not, I cannot say, but as I begin writing this essay the CD by Robert Slap entitled Ascension To The All That Is is playing right next to me. This is fitting, as Jesus here speaks of the ladder by which we ascend to God Consciousness and ourselves become Christs.
One of the most crippling effects of the Protestant “faith and not works for salvation” dogma is its thorough distortion of the nature of our spiritual ascension. According to this dogma, we need only “believe” in and “accept” salvation…and we have it! That there is nothing to do but “receive” it, since Jesus did it all for us. Faith is, indeed, an essential ingredient for successful spiritual life, but it is only one ingredient–the stimulus which impels us to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) as Saint Paul exhorts us. Like him we must “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). For “the labour of the righteous tendeth to life” (Proverbs 10:16). And those heed Jesus’ exhortation to “strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24) will find that it involves a lot of those “works.” The wise, then, still ask the question: “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28). Since there shall be bestowed upon “them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality: eternal life” (Romans 2:7), the life of the spirit. Hence Saint James challenged the “faith only” people, saying: “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works”(James 2:18).
The workshop of the mind
Jesus’ exposition is inestimably valuable to us, for it first of all lays down the principle that we have to consciously work on our hearts and minds, that even though we meditate and participate in a sacramental life, we cannot trust to everything needful taking place for us involuntarily. Part of our necessary development is the strengthening and perfecting of our will, and the best way to do that is to get to work on our own self in the workshop of our mind “where things are made of thought and where we build up character.” If we do not consciously and willfully reshape ourselves we will not succeed in our spiritual endeavors and will not become “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (II Timothy 2:15).
All of these tools are inner powers we all possess by the mere fact of our being human beings, rather than outer influences. I say this because of a background in a religion that continually referred spiritual matters to external “authorities” that told us what was to be done. But Jesus is speaking of those who have evolved in consciousness enough to intuit the way their lives should be shaped and transformed. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18).
Let us enter the workshop and take stock of our tools.
We use the square to measure all our lines, to straighten out the crooked places of the way, and make the corners of our conduct square. Having tied all the knots into our consciousness–and therefore into all our bodies–we have to untie them and set things in order. Here Jesus lists the steps.
First, we have “to measure all our lines” and come to understand the real meaning and scope of our thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. The yardstick of spiritual truth has to be laid alongside every component of our life to determine its “length”–is it too little? is it too much? is it relevant or irrelevant to spiritual life? And this is the first step. We must take stock of everything in our inner and outer lives and honestly evaluate them, facing up to their realities. Self-delusion has to give way to self-honesty.
We have to go to God in a straight line–no wavering, no deviation, no twistings and turnings. (Saint John Vianney used to say: “Go straight to God like a shot from a cannon.”) After straightening out our thoughts, attitudes, and priorities, then we have to straighten out all our “ways.”
Next the corners have to be made square. “Cutting corners” is a favorite pastime of heedless “seekers” who have no intention of finding or arriving. But this cannot be done if we would prepare for the Kingdom. We have to fill out anything that is lacking–every little bit. And there can be no ragged or angled edges. Everything must be square and exact. The seriousness of this cannot be exaggerated. Thought and deed must be perfectly aligned to the Goal. Both mind and body must be squared in relation to God in all their activities.
We use the compass to draw circles round our passions and desires to keep them in the bounds of righteousness. There is a most informative Buddhist sutra in which Buddha counsels his hearers to adopt the right attitude regarding right conduct. He gives them a list of wrongdoings and tells them to affirm: “There shall be stealing; but we shall not steal. There shall be lying; but we shall not lie.” Many are the evils he mentions, but each time he says they should acknowledge that such things shall indeed go on–but not in their own life. The idea is that we must realistically understand that on the earth people do wrong; but the fact that others do wrong has no relevance to us: we should do no wrong ourselves. Nor should we condemn them for wrongdoing and try to get them to stop. We should tend to ourselves and act righteously.
Denying our passions and wrong desires is not positive but destructive for it is lying to ourselves and others. So Jesus tells us to acknowledge and clearly see these impulses to folly and evil and to imprison them in the circle of our will, not letting them roam and do their will. Yes: repress and suppress. No “Freudian” rationalizing here. A friend of mine lived for many years in an ashram in northern India. As a Hindu she would not kill any living being, but occasionally scorpions would get into her kutir (small hut). What to do? Her solution was excellent. She would put a bowl or bucket over the scorpion and wait for a few days until it was weak from lack of food and water. Then she would easily scoop it up in a dish or tray and gently carry it outside and put it on the ground. Everybody was happy. The same should be done with passions and desires. They are merely energy whorls that get stronger if added to and weaker if isolated. In time they expend themselves. Meditation will transmute them completely, but in the meantime we must draw the circle and hem them in. We do not struggle with them, hate them, or bewail their existence. We just confine them. There is great power in a simple No. It is only the ego that gets upset–and the ego must be encircled also.
By saying that we should “keep them in the bounds of righteousness” Jesus is implying that some passions and desires are not negative in themselves–only when they become exaggerated or out of control. Even good can be overdone when it is a passion or a desire grown out of proportion to wisdom. Buddha was very insistent on this. Exaggeration is never healthy. But neither is minimization. That is why the Middle Path is the only path.
We use the axe to cut away the knotty, useless and ungainly parts and make the character symmetrical. Ouch, that hurts! Axes are no feathers or powder puffs. Axes are not particularly subtle, either, nor can they be used in tiny or gentle strokes. Bang and Whack is the order of the day. That is because “the knotty, useless and ungainly parts” are always very hard and resistant. They are barnacles, not bubbles. Diplomacy does not work with them nor a polite request to go away or shrink away. No. Bang and Whack–no other way.
It does not matter if a character trait is not intrinsically evil or harmful. If it is useless and unbalancing it will in time bear the fruit of evil and harm. Our character must become perfectly proportioned and balanced. And it is no artistic matter, but one of direct attack and eviction of the undesirable elements. There is no delicacy here, just straightforward assault. Egoic sensitivity (read: touchiness) will definitely feel itself violated, but that, too, needs a good cutting off.
We use the hammer to drive home the truth, and pound it in until it is a part of every part. As with the axe, there is no subtilty in the hammer. Nails hold things together, and in the same way the truth of God holds our endeavors together and keeps them safe. But a nail does no good until it is internalized–“pounded home,” as we say. Truth in all its practical manifestations must be driven into our very fibers, it cannot be a superficial veneer or cosmetic. It must drive deep within. Nor can there be any inconsistency anywhere in our being or any part into which the truth does not penetrate. Therefore Jesus declares that it must become “a part of every part.” Every bit of us must be embodiments of the truth–consistent throughout. We must be living Truth, walking holy scriptures. According to Jesus we do not believe or follow the truth: we become the Truth.
We use the plane to smooth the rough, uneven surfaces of joint, and block, and board that go to build the temple for the truth. More cutting; more discarding; more ouch. Aquarian Christians are tough people. And they do it all themselves. There are laws that govern all things, and those that govern the spirit are more exacting than any others. Those things which go to build up our spiritual temple, which being “fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21), must be planed to perfect smoothness. There must be nothing either extraneous or insufficient. Balance, harmony, and “thusness” are requisite. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, chair, and bed, we must be “just right.” Then God the Truth will dwell in us as in a temple.
The chisel, line, the plummet and the saw all have their uses in the workshop of the mind. The chisel or adze is much like the axe, but smaller in scope and finer in detail, removing the small irregularities from the building parts. The line makes sure all are straight and true, fitting together seamlessly to make a perfect unity. The plummet or plumbline tests the perpendicular balance seeing that nothing leans right or left, forward or backward, but is completely “true” in alignment. The saw ensures that the size of each part is exact, that all unneeded is eliminated.
All the tools enumerated are powers of the mind by which the mind itself is “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
The twelve steps
And then this ladder with its trinity of steps, faith, hope and love; on it we climb up to the dome of purity in life. The nine tools when perfectly applied are also nine steps in the ladder upon which we climb to higher life. The final three steps are faith, hope, and love.
Faith is not simple belief or blind trust. Pistis means strong conviction and confidence in the truth that is born of experience. It also means fidelity to that conviction and further means to be in harmony with the truth and live in conformity with it. A minor meaning is to be a friend of truth.
Hope (elpis) means to look forward with anticipation and expectation and confidence, to eagerly desire what is to come.
Love (agape) is a deep and profound pull toward something, and in Greek always means a drawing to spirit, not mere friendship (phileo) or physical attraction (eros). It means to feel that something is profoundly dear to oneself. The Hebrew, agab, means to think on constantly and yearn after. Literally, it means “to breathe after,” to live for, to orient the entire life toward the object. Obviously God is the only object worthy of agape or capable of responding to it.
The first nine steps are purificatory and correctional. The last three are focusing the whole mind and heart on God, fulfilling the commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).
By this ladder “we climb up to the dome of purity in life.”
A lifetime occupation
And on the twelve-step ladder we ascend until we reach the pinnacle of that which life is spent to build–the Temple of Perfected Man. We spend our entire life, every moment of our time and every atom of our strength, to build the Temple of Perfected Man, the Temple of the Christ. The effort is great, but still finite, whereas the result is infinite–Infinity Itself.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: Nazareth to India