The time has now come for Jesus to begin his mission in Israel. He will enunciate the principles that he will embody for the next three years.
With John the Baptist
“Now, on the morrow Jesus came again and stood with John beside the ford; and John prevailed on him to speak, and standing forth he said…” (Aquarian Gospel 67:1).
Very early on in my first visit to India I learned that those with true wisdom had to have it coaxed out of them, much like you have to poke a honeycomb with your finger to get the honey to flow out. In contrast, the jackasses would corner me and expound philosophy endlessly, always referring to me as “my dear” throughout the ordeal. I would have thought them extremely over-familiar in using that expression, but I had read enough turgid nineteenth-century translations of the upanishads to know that “my dear” was sprinkled throughout, and these nuisances had obviously read them and so were putting themselves in the role of upanishadic sages. But I was no “chela” or “shishya”–I was bored. And disgusted. Anyhow, I learned to quickly get away from the My Dears and do my best to get the quiet jnanis to impart their understanding to me. Jesus was one of them, so his first public discourse was at the request of Saint John the Baptist. As at his baptism, he is showing us how things are done.
John and the multitudes
Now we have Jesus’ first words:
“You men of Israel, Hear! The kingdom is at hand. Behold the great key-keeper of the age stands in your midst; and with the spirit of Elijah he has come. Behold, for he has turned the key; the mighty gates fly wide and all who will may greet the king. Behold these multitudes of women, children, men! they throng the avenues, they crowd the outer courts; each seems to be intent to be the first to meet the king” (Aquarian Gospel 67:2-5).
The kingdom is at hand. Usually this refers to the fact that the kingdom of spirit is always with us, within our grasp, for the reaching out and taking. But in this instance Jesus is saying that the New (Piscean) Age has come, and through the teaching of John it is possible to enter in.
I say “enter in” because it is not enough to believe the New Age has come–we must intentionally step into it and begin to live in it. For an Age is not a matter of history, but of the opening of possibilities on the inner levels of being that previously were inaccessible. It is a completely interior matter that is realized by bringing it out into the outer life of the seeker. It is not automatic, but a lifetime endeavor. An Age is never a “movement,” always an individual matter, even if many enter it. So to say: “The Aquarian Age is here” means no more than saying: “The plane has arrived” when we have no ticket, because we have no real intention of traveling. An Age is only a potential–we must provide the actualization that is the real “coming” of the Age for us.
Behold the great key-keeper of the age stands in your midst; and with the spirit of Elijah he has come. Behold, for he has turned the key; the mighty gates fly wide and all who will may greet the king. There is always an Announcer of the coming Age. Sometimes it is the master teacher of the age himself, and sometimes it is a great adept who prepares the way for the teacher by helping people understand the Advent and the way to get ready for the teacher’s arrival.
John was not just a messenger of the Piscean Age, he had the power, as Master of the Essenes, to actually open the gate to the Age so people could eventually enter. (Again, it is not enough for the Age to arrive, its gate must be open and we must know how to enter.) The “key” was his own inner spiritual realization and his unique relationship with Jesus–for they were “twin” souls, although Jesus had ascended to higher evolution than John. That was as it should be, for John had been Elijah in his previous life, and Jesus had been Elisha. The reason Elisha surpassed his master is given in the book of Second Kings:
“And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
“And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.
“And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
“And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.
“And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
“And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.
“And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.
“And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
“And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
“And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
“And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
“He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
“And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
“And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him” (II Kings 2:1-15).
It is a fact that through their perfect devotion to God, great saints can bestow more than they have–that is, God gives of His infinite bounty out of His love for them when they ask it. Elisha asked for twice the spiritual development of Elijah, and it was given him, but he had to work for it, as his subsequent life revealed. Next he was born as Isaiah the great prophet of the Messiah (so he was prophesying about himself, which is understandable since great sages often know their future lives and speak of them to their close associates, as did Sri Ramakrishna and Yogananda). Isaiah was Master of the Essenes (as John was when he was Jesus). The life of Isaiah was spiritually glorious but no breeze, and he was martyred by the religious authorities, who had him sawn in half by a wooden saw! So there are no shortcuts, only incredibly intense times of development.
Through contact with John the Baptist people were made able to meet the Messiah, the King of the Inner Kingdom. Sri Ramakrishna said that saints are like matchmakers that arrange the meeting of the soul and God. John had been telling them about the coming Messiah and now he was present.
Behold these multitudes of women, children, men! they throng the avenues, they crowd the outer courts; each seems to be intent to be the first to meet the king. There is no doubt that many believed John about the coming of the Messiah and wanted very much to meet him as soon as possible. But wanting is not attaining, so Jesus continues:
“Behold, the censor comes and calls, Whoever will may come; but he who comes must will to prune himself of every evil thought; must overcome desire to gratify the lower self; must give his life to save the lost” (Aquarian Gospel 67:6, 7).
In America we often say: “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” and that is absolutely true. Nothing at all is free–there is a price that must be paid for everything. Sometimes we pay before we receive and sometimes we pay after receiving, but we always pay. In America we also used to jokingly say: “No tickee, no washee,” and that is another way of saying the same thing. So Jesus gives the people some sobering information–and right at the beginning as it should be. He does not hype and peddle the spiritual life, but tells them the price to just meet the King, much less enter the Kingdom.
The censor comes and calls. The “censor” may be a person or simply the operation of spiritual laws, but the seeker desperately needs the message:
Whoever will may come. The key word here is WILL. Jesus does not say that those who wish to, realize they should, or feel like it–“inspired” or “moved” or “called”–may come, but only those who put forth their intelligent will in sustained effort can meet the King of Spirit.
I once saw a cartoon in which a drunk was lying in a gutter and asking a Salvation Army woman: “Can you save me here, or do I have to go somewhere?” This is the attitude of most “seekers;” they want a free handout with no obligations. It will not happen. Even the Prodigal Son had enough sense to say: “I will arise and go” (Luke 15:18). We must elevate our consciousness and then leave our present status behind and press on to the heights of spiritual realization. Swami Vivekananda’s message to the world was: “Awake! Arise! and stop not till the goal is reached!”
There are a lot of actions that accomplish very little, so Jesus now tells what must be done to meet the King of Glory.
But he who comes must will to prune himself of every evil thought. “Thought” includes all frames of reference, attitudes, and mental conditionings that perpetuate ignorance and delusion–the only real evils without which no evil words or deeds can occur. When purification of the mind–which includes the heart–is complete, then we will see for ourself that the Kingdom and the King are truly at hand, welcoming us.
Must overcome desire to gratify the lower self. The lower self is all that we call ego. When the ego is not given even a scrap to feed on, then we will feast in the Kingdom of God. We must not placate or stifle the ego, we must banish it entirely, dissolving it forever.
Must give his life to save the lost. It is not enough to stop being selfish; we must start being charitable and merciful, doing all we can to uplift others and encourage them in their evolutionary journey, sharing what we have been given. “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23, 24).
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).
These are the simple facts. It is not that God’s standards are so high, but that man’s standards are so low. As John Oxenham’s poem “The Way” says:
To every man there openeth
A Way, and Ways, and a Way,
And the High Soul climbs the High Way,
And the Low Soul gropes the Low,
And in between, on the misty flats,
To rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A High Way, and a Low.
And every man decideth
The way his soul shall go.
That is the complete picture. Therefore Jesus says:
“The nearer to the kingdom gate you come, more spacious is the room; the multitudes have gone” (Aquarian Gospel 67:8).
Worldly people are obsessed with numbers. (“Four out of five New York doctors recommend…” sold a lot of cigarettes when I was a child.) When they decide to play religion they either seek out a big, mega-organization or a small, elite group in which they shine as the proverbial big frog in a little pond, one in which they will be noticed and catered to. But the Forecourt of the Kingdom is very spacious because few are truly seeking what it has to offer. The world is its very effective competition, and the multitudes crowd its ways. The King is not disappointed, for He knows that it has always been this way, and always shall be, yet in time all will come and enter. This is the law of evolution. Yogananda said that when man tells God: “I have no time for You,” God says: “I will wait.” And so he does, knowing that after many ages we shall all enter and dwell with Him. The Path will always be trodden by the blessed few, and the wise make sure they are one of the blessed.
“If men could come unto the kingdom with their carnal thoughts, their passions and desires, there scarcely would be room for all. But when they cannot take these through the narrow gate they turn away; the few are ready to go in and see the king” (Aquarian Gospel 67:9, 10).
It is really the conscious choice of each person. That is why we have free will.
“Behold, John is a mighty fisher, fishing for the souls of men. He throws his great net out into the sea of human life; he draws it in and it is full. But what a medley catch! a catch of crabs, and lobsters, sharks and creeping things, with now and then a fish of better kind” (Aquarian Gospel 67:11, 12).
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away” (Matthew 13:47, 48). This is a very important principle. The way of the world is to try to hang on to every single person and swell the ranks, but the way of Heaven is much different. There is a screening and testing, and “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Actually this latter phrase is a play on words in Greek. Many are kletos–called or invited–but few are eklektos–chosen. They form the ekklesia, the Church, the “called out.” It is up to us to make ourselves “fish of better kind.”
A sobering example
“Behold the thousands come to hear the Wild Man of the hills; they come in crowds that he may wash them in the crystal flood, and with their lips they do confess their sins. But when the morrow comes we find them in their haunts of vice again, reviling John, and cursing God, and heaping insults on the king” (Aquarian Gospel 67:13, 14).
I wish I could say that my observation is different, but it absolutely tallies with these words of Jesus. Most of the time “seekers” end up rejecting and even reviling what they so sincerely sought in the past. Most “conversions” end up the same way, or else they become hypocrites, having reverted to their old ways, but hiding under a cover of false religiosity.
Two friends of mine had been intensely involved in drug use, including heroin. Wisely, they put themselves through a self-detoxification program and became free of their addictions. For three to four years they were drug-free and very involved in a yoga organization, both of them being Sunday School teachers. Then they went back to heavy drug use, which including blowing marijuana smoke in the faces of their little children, including an infant son. But they stayed in the yoga organization and eventually became the national directors of its Sunday School program. Today in old age they are the same, and exceedingly contemptuous of all who do not belong to their particular yoga group and follow their guru.
Most, however, just drop away and begin justifying themselves with all kinds of rationalizations and accusations of their former associations. A few times our ashram was visited by a man who had joined a yoga institution and given huge sums of money to it, even purchasing ashram and retreat facilities for them, and living as a monk in the organization. At his last visit we were amazed to find him defaming a major spiritual figure of the group who was deceased. He claimed that he had lost all respect for him because he had recently met a woman at one of their centers who revealed to him that the yogi had been an inveterate womanizer. He expressed both anger and disgust about this. We knew that the defamed man was really a saint, having met many whose lives had been changed forever by coming into contact with him. But we kept quiet, for he was obviously immovable in his opinion. After a few months we wanted to invite him to our ashram for a special event, so we called the ashram where he lived and learned that he had quit and disappeared. Through mutual acquaintances we learned his telephone number, hoping we might help him get back on track. But when one of the monks dialed his number a woman answered–oh, oh! And when “honey” called him to the phone he was very sour and abrupt. He had joined the ranks of the guilty who point the finger at the innocent so no one will think of looking at them. Behind a big front is a big back. It is a good idea to run from and avoid the “I Used To Be…” types.
“But blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see the king. And blessed are the strong in heart, for they shall not be cast about by every wind that blows” (Aquarian Gospel 67:15-16).
Purity of heart is not mere sincerity or emotional devotion. Rather, it is the very real purification that alone comes from the disciplines and practice of yoga. A lot of people “get religion” and become “earnest devotees” of this or that group or teacher, but only those who change themselves through sadhana (spiritual practice) can even see the King, much less enter into communication with Him.
Most of God’s “friends” are the fair weather kind. The moment any kind of adverse or distracting “wind” blows they fall right over and crawl away. That is why Jesus said, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark:
“Behold, there went out a sower to sow: and it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
“And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:3-10; 14-20). These last are those “strong in heart” who cannot be deflected from their quest for the Kingdom.
“But while the fickle and the thoughtless have gone back to Egypt land for leeks and carnal herbs to satisfy their appetites, the pure in heart have found the king” (Aquarian Gospel 67:17).
Jesus is referring to the complaints of the Hebrews when they had escaped from slavery in Egypt and were in the wilderness on their way to the Land of Promise. “And the children of Israel also wept again, and said, We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numbers 11:4-6). This of this–they had escaped from slavery and were being fed on the miraculous food of heaven. As David said: “They believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation: Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and man did eat angels’ food” (Psalms 78:23-25). It is the same with “the fickle and the thoughtless”–they return to slavery “to satisfy their appetites.” Regarding such people, Solomon had said: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). And Saint Peter the Apostle: “It is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:22).
Reversion occurs for many reasons–usually absurd and equally petty. I knew a man and woman who had been born into one of the most useless and boring of fundamentalist Protestant sects and had raised their children in the same. Later in life they came to see the futility of their religion and began investigating higher pathways, progressing to increasingly metaphysical philosophies until they became authentic esotericists, both philosophically and practically. They became members of an esoteric Christian church, the husband began studying for ordination to the priesthood and at the same time headed a spiritual study group for whom he wrote marvelously wise articles, some of which were published.
One of their children was mentally retarded, though able to work in a very simple job. Considering their age, they began to encourage her to move out of the house and become fully independent. This resulted in her accusing them of no longer loving her and making quite a racket about the whole thing. So they wrote to their other children asking if they would take her in if they should die or be forced into a nursing home. One daughter wrote back that if they would “repent” and rejoin their original church, of which she was still a fervent member, they could all three come and live with her and she would look after her sister. Not only did they do so, but they began sending propaganda to their esoteric friends, trying to convert them to that church! It was bad enough that they had returned to a diet of their old vomit, but they wanted to get others to eat the same swill, including us (they even sent us videos to convert us). For the rest of their life they ate vomit and rolled in the mud and excrement, knowing full well what they were doing. And were brazen about it. But their case is not hopeless, for Jesus continues:
“But even those whose faith is weak, and who are naught but carnal manifests, will some day come again, and enter in with joy to see the king” (Aquarian Gospel 67:18).
Once an Indian yogi came to speak at the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles. When asked about incorrigible children, he replied that sometimes corporal punished had to be administered. When asked what to do if that did not work, he simply remarked: “Well, there is always rebirth.” He meant it jokingly, but Jesus knows that in most cases it is reincarnation that will open the gates for higher life. In time everyone will “enter in with joy to see the King.” However, we should not wait for them, but get on with our pilgrimage. Who knows, perhaps in a future life we will help them enter the gates of Life–or they may help us, having travelled faster than we did. Either way, assured hope is ours.
Four life-changing counsels
“O men of Israel, take heed to what this prophet has to say! Be strong in mind; be pure in heart; be vigilant in helpfulness; the kingdom is at hand” (Aquarian Gospel 67:19).
Take heed to what this prophet has to say. It is a wise thing to listen to those that have progressed further along than we have. Naturally, we must use our intelligence in deciding whether or not the words we hear or read are relevant to us and whether we will will accept and act upon them or not. The same is true in relation to sacred scriptures. Sri Ramakrishna said that all things–including scriptures and other books on holy topics–contain a mixture of sugar and sand. The wise take the sugar and leave the sand. So it must be with us. Nevertheless, we must listen to the oracles of Spirit and sift through them. Just listening to ourselves–at least for a long distance along the path–will get us nowhere, for our spiritual intuition is not fully awakened and therefore not perfect.
There is more to this. Even though our intuition may not be perfect, yet it is there, and it often leads us through our “hunches” or inner feelings. In the story of the rich man and the beggar, Jesus said that the rich man, who had died, prayed to the patriarch Abraham about his brothers on earth. “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him [the poor man who also had died] to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31). This is plain truth. If a person is not spiritually developed enough to be prompted by his intuition to listen to holy books and holy people, no miracle or sign can get the message across. History has proved this. See how Pharaoh kept reneging on his promises no matter how astounding and even devastating the miracles were that he witnessed. So he ended up being drowned in the Red Sea, pursuing the Hebrews so he could enslave them again. Often miracles anger negative people and incite them to harm and even kill those that work the miracles.
Yogacharya Oliver Black, one of Yogananda’s most advanced disciples, told me about his ability to sense oil deposits in the earth. Consequently he was asked to find oil by being flown over areas where it was believed oil might be located. He did this many times and was always right in indicating where oil would be found. Yet, some of the people he helped in this way would not accept that he had this ability–even though they drilled where he told them and made vast fortunes from it. He told me that in one day he found nearly thirty oil deposits for a man who, at the end of the day, said: “Aw, there’s just got to be some trick to it!” Another man drilled where Oliver Black told him and found over two dozen oil wells. But since one place did not yield oil, he told Mr. Black that he was a fake!!! “Did you drill in at an angle like I told you would have to be done?” asked the Yogacharya. “Well, no,” the man answered. “Then do like I told you and the oil will be there.” “No, I’m not going to.” So the foolish man kept on saying Mr. Black was a fake. As Yogananda said, “People are skillful in their ignorance”–and outright blatant, too, as in this case.
Many people have negative intuition and avoid all possibility of spiritual contact and knowledge. They will not hear divine prophets.
Be strong in mind. It takes intelligence and will power to succeed in anything, and this is especially true of spiritual life. Wishy-washy people never get anywhere at any time, but just keep waiting for a “tomorrow” that never arrives. That is why the greatest recorded spiritual teaching in history was given on a battlefield in the Bhagavad Gita. The sword of divine wisdom spoken there had two edges: “Be a yogi” (6:46), and “Go forward and fight” (3:30)
Be pure in heart. This means to remove all obscuring elements from our consciousness–our real heart–and to fill it with the Divine Light. Then, as Jesus says, we shall see God (Matthew 5:8).
Be vigilant in helpfulness. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” is spoken many times in the Bible. We must be actively concerned with the welfare of others, helping wherever we can, manifesting Divine Love without which the world is doomed to sorrow and destruction.
The kingdom is at hand. These simple yet profound rules will open that kingdom to us, for we alone can open the kingdom, just as we alone have been keeping it closed for countless lifetimes. As Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
“When Jesus had thus said he went his way, and with his six disciples came to Bethany; and they abode with Lazarus many days” (Aquarian Gospel 67:20).
May he abide with us, as well.
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: The King and the Kingdom