John the Harbinger (Forerunner).
Matheno spoke very plainly to Saint John about the nature of death and how we must deal with it. Then he said to him:
“A crisis in your life has come, and you must have a clear conception of the work that you are called to do. The sages of the ages call you harbinger. The prophets look to you and say, He is Elijah come again. Your mission here is that of harbinger; for you will go before Messiah’s face to pave his way, and make the people ready to receive their king.
“This readiness is purity of heart; none but the pure in heart can recognize the king. To teach men to be pure in heart, you must yourself be pure in heart, and word, and deed. In infancy the vow for you was made and you became a Nazarite. The razor shall not touch your face nor head, and you shall taste not wine nor fiery drinks.
“Men need a pattern for their lives; they love to follow, not to lead. The man who stands upon the corners of the paths and points the way, but does not go, is just a pointer; and a block of wood can do the same. The teacher treads the way; on every span of ground he leaves his footprints clearly cut, which all can see and be assured that he, their master went that way” (Aquarian Gospel 15:8-16).
The appearance of the teacher
There are a lot of truths that banal people turn into cliches. One of the most worn-out–and least comprehended–is: “When the student is ready the master appears,” and is usually cited by spiritual layabouts to reprimand those who are both anxious about their possibilities for development and who express a willingness to seek far afield if need be to find the keys to wisdom. On occasion charlatans cite these words to imply: “You are ready; so here I am–your Master!”
We see that Jesus travelled all the way from Israel to India traversing the entire subcontinent to the far Himalayas and all the way down to the easternmost part of India (Jagannath Puri). Then He went all the way back westward to the Himalayas and from there onward into Persia, Greece, and Egypt. The difficulties of travel in that day made it a pilgrimage that can only be equaled in our time by several circuits of the globe.
Yet, Jesus went to India because the Indian masters had first come to Him. When Jesus was born and placed in the manger of the Bethlehem stable-cave, “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). There was much more to their visit than Levi records here. They established permanent contact with the Holy Family and in time Jesus went to India and became their disciple. According to Paramhansa Yogananda, two of these great souls were reborn in the nineteenth century as Yogiraj Sri Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. The third was the immortal master whom Yogananda simply called “Babaji,” though he is known by several names–all given to him by others, since he has not revealed his “real” name. At the time of Jesus he was known to some as Chetan Nath, and was Jesus’ main teacher. What the names of the other two were at that time I do not know, but the destiny of Jesus was bound up with all three, and still is. In the nineteenth century Jesus materialized in the Himalayas and asked Babaji to help those who bore His Name as Christians, and yet most of whom wandered in darkness and confusion. Babaji agreed to send someone to the West to teach the true understanding of Jesus and His mission in preparation for the next incarnation of Jesus. He later commissioned Sri Yukteswar to delve into the real history and teachings of Jesus as known in India. Sri Yukteswar wrote a book on the subject of Jesus in India. The manuscript was borrowed by a Christian missionary who never returned it. In time he became the guru of Yogananda, the one chosen to come into the West with the real Christ-message.
I may seem to have gone a bit off the subject in all this, but I have not. The point I want to make is that when the teacher appears it is an indication that the student’s readiness is drawing near–not that it is there already. For the spiritual ripeness necessary for conscious spiritual life is produced by contact with the teacher. This is why the usual scenario is that the disciple’s life is completely turned around by the teacher’s advent–not that it simply continues as it has been going all along. The student may have been seeking and even striving as best he could, but only at the appearance of the teacher do things really begin to happen and significant conscious progress begin to be made. There were nearly fourteen years between the appearance of Chetan Nath in Bethlehem and Jesus’ arrival in the Himalayas. Some people “flame on” the moment the teacher is met. Others may take some years to become flammable. But the initial contact is what starts it all. The coming of the teacher is a call to get ready, not an assurance of readiness. This is a significant point, since some aspirants simply have the wrong attitude from the outset. Thinking they do not need to ripen–they do not. For it is all a matter of insight and will.
Consequently, it does not matter if the greatest master that ever lived comes into the orbit of our life, or even if God Incarnate comes to us. If we do not ready ourselves nothing will come of it, except the wasting of the teacher’s time. We have to qualify ourselves, and that cannot be done until the teacher shows us the way. This is why there must be a preparation time for the student. When he sees the teacher he perceives how unready he is; but at the same time he is inspired to ready himself. And in response the teacher gives him the spiritual tools he needs. He thus knows that nothing really began for him until contact with the teacher was made. Normally the contact comes through physical meeting, but it can occur in other ways: the seeing of a photograph, the hearing of the teacher, reading the printed words of the teacher or hearing his recorded words, or even in visions and–though rarely–through materialization of the teacher. However, it cannot stop there. For it is only the beginning of the beginning. When the teacher appears the student is able to start becoming ready.
In Matheno John had met his teacher; in Chetan Nath Jesus met His. If anyone could possibly have made it on their own without a teacher or only with an “out-of-the-body” astral master, surely these two could have. Yet they did not. We who would attain their attainment must look and heed their example.
You must have a clear conception of the work that you are called to do. The sages of the ages call you harbinger. The prophets look to you and say, He is Elijah come again. Little can be done in this present life until we connect with our past lives. It is not the simple memory of previous embodiments that is needed, but a re-entry into the lifestream that runs through all our incarnations, the basic fabric upon which all our lives are but embroiderings. This is one of the worst parts of reincarnation. Having to start over as an infant, we can easily–if not inevitably–get sidetracked from the life-path we had been travelling in previous births. We will eventually return to that track, but in the meantime we can waste a lot of time and suffer a lot of frustration. And, as I say, mere remembering is not what we are after. Dr. Morris Netherton, founder of the Association For Alignment of Past Life Experience, sums it up like this: “You must bring the past life experiences into alignment with present-day living.” That covers it all.
Elijah and Elisha
It was needful for Saint John to remember his spiritual work as Elijah so he could build his present life on that holy foundation. The culmination of his life-work as Elijah had been his teaching of Elisha. Now Elisha had also been reborn and would in time come to Elisha-John for the washing that was the pledge of discipleship. And that would be the capstone of John’s life-mission. In the Aquarian Gospel it is recounted in this way: “Jesus with the multitude went down to where the harbinger was preaching at the ford. When Jesus saw the harbinger he said, Behold the man of God! Behold the greatest of the seers! Behold, Elijah has returned! Behold the messenger whom God has sent to open up the way! The kingdom is at hand. When John saw Jesus standing with the throng he said, Behold the king who cometh in the name of God! And Jesus said to John, I would be washed in water as a symbol of the cleansing of the soul. And John replied, you do not need to wash, for you are pure in thought, and word, and deed. And if you need to wash I am not worthy to perform the rite. And Jesus said, I come to be a pattern for the sons of men, and what I bid them do, that I must do; and all men must be washed, symbolic of the cleansing of the soul. This washing we establish as a rite–baptism rite we call it now, and so it shall be called. Your work, prophetic harbinger, is to prepare the way, and to reveal the hidden things. The multitudes are ready for the words of life, and I come to be made known by you to all the world, as prophet of the Triune God, and as the chosen one to manifest the Christ to men. Then John led Jesus down into the river at the ford and he baptized him in the sacred name of him who sent him forth to manifest the Christ to men. And as they came out of the stream, the Holy Breath, in form of dove, came down and sat on Jesus’ head. A voice from heaven said, This is the well-beloved son of God, the Christ, the love of God made manifest. John heard the voice, and understood the message of the voice” (Aquarian Gospel 64:1-14).
This last sentence is made clear in the Gospel of Saint John: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).
Some explanation is necessary. “After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.” This is a reference to an incident from the life of Elijah as the teacher of Elisha:
“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 2:9-15).
Incredible though it be, through the blessing of Elijah, Elisha attained twice the spiritual status of Elijah. Then he progressed onward to become the great Messianic Prophet Isaiah, and then to be born as Jesus. Not only had Saint John not seen Jesus for more than twenty years (at least), in that time Jesus had become The Christ of the Age, of a divine level heretofore unseen by John in any life. Therefore he did not know Jesus when he first saw Him. But Matheno had foretold this meeting. Therefore John said: “He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
From that moment on the life of Saint John began hastening to its close. As he said of himself in relation to Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
The true teacher in relation to the student
There is a hidden message regarding the teacher/student relationship in Saint John’s statement:“He must increase, but I must decrease.” The meaning is simple: The student’s “teacher consciousness” must fade away as Christ Consciousness perpetually increases to perfection. Now I know that this is not the popular view. Most people fall between two extremes: rejection of the need for a teacher and a sentimental, superstitious, and almost hysterical adulation-dependence on the teacher, substituting “discipleship” for spiritual growth.
There was a time when someone got the idea that in Self-Realization Fellowship centers there should be no talks by the leaders, but only readings from the works of Yogananda. When he learned of this, Yogananda was extremely displeased. “I did not come to make you Yogananda-conscious,” he told them, “I came to make you God-conscious.” This is the way of the true teacher.
A clear demonstration of the teacher-student situation is given in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts: “The angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:26-39). There you have it. The work is done; and then it is over. Furthermore, we can have more than one teacher. Jesus did–He had three teachers. In one Indian scripture there is an account of a man who had two dozen teachers. I knew a venerable yogi in India who had twenty-two gurus. This is not common, but it is neither impossible or wrong.
We have to look beyond the herald, who is only an instrument, no matter how holy or venerable, to the Source of All. The Sons of God are messengers, but God is the Source of the Message. To keep our attention on the earthly manifestations of the messengers–their lives, personalities, and so forth–is to blind ourselves to the import of their teaching: Know God.
Jesus said: “I am the door (John 10:7,9), but the purpose of a door is to pass through it and go beyond it. This of course does not please those who claim to be the representatives of Jesus or other Great Teachers, but their claim itself proves their unworthiness. Jesus did not call people His followers, disciples, worshippers, devotees, and any such. Rather: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14,15). Having gotten the message, they then pursued their own Christhood rather than adoring Jesus as the only Christ. And in this way they became His true disciples and showed that they truly believed in Him and His words.
A true spiritual teacher is neither dictator nor nursemaid. He teaches the student what he needs to know and then sends him on his way. If possible he will be available for consultation and will assist the student in any problems or questions he might have in the future, but the student is on his own and needs to realize that. Since the kingdom of God is within (Luke 17:21), all that the student needs is within himself. If he has a worthy teacher, then he has learned how to turn within and gain whatever he needs. Another great yogi I met in India had met his guru only one time, and that when he was only nine years old. But his guru taught him what he needed to know to find God, and he applied it. Yogananda’s greatest disciple was Sister Gyanamata, who attained total liberation. Except for public functions, it was estimated that she had been in her guru’s presence for only six to eight hours during the entire time of her discipleship of twenty years. She learned the way to God and went to God. We must do the same.
Preparing for the King
Your mission here is that of harbinger; for you will go before Messiah’s face to pave his way, and make the people ready to receive their king. A spiritual teacher has two functions: to awaken us to the possibility of our own Christhood and to show us how to attain that Christhood. Yet, he cannot awaken us to that possibility unless we are capable of awakening, “ready to receive our king.” He cannot make us capable, as is erroneously thought by players of the Guru Game. In fact, he cannot do anything for us if we are not ready. Matheno wants Saint John to understand this, so he emphasizes it, continuing: “This readiness is purity of heart; none but the pure in heart can recognize the king.” The impure of heart readily “see” external authorities and follow after them, whether books or people. They can also fervently say they are Christs (though they prefer to claim Godhead). But only the pure can actually perceive the truth of their Christhood and manifest it. That is, only those whose inner consciousness has been awakened and purified are ready for the kingdom.
The teacher does not distract the student or waste time in labyrinthine theologizing and philosophizing, but concentrates on purification of consciousness in a practical manner. Methodology is the heart of his teaching–almost the whole of it. This being so, Matheno tells him: “To teach men to be pure in heart, you must yourself be pure in heart, and word, and deed.” Saint John had become Matheno’s student at the age of seven. He began his public teaching when he was thirty; so he had twenty-three years of intense practice behind his words. Only those who have successfully traversed the way can tell others how to travel it successfully. Practice is the key; the only key.
Occasionally we hear it said that it does matter whether or not Buddha, Jesus, or other great teachers really lived, that it is their ideals that matter. This is, of course, patently silly. If those teachers never lived, then their teachings are fabrications–lies–and their ideals were never demonstrated to be true; for it is the living of principles that proves their possibility and practicality. Living masters are living scriptures, demonstrations of truth. This is what the world needs, not more books claiming to be revelations from God. Matheno expresses it so well that it needs no comment:
“Men need a pattern for their lives; they love to follow, not to lead. The man who stands upon the corners of the paths and points the way, but does not go, is just a pointer; and a block of wood can do the same. The teacher treads the way; on every span of ground he leaves his footprints clearly cut, which all can see and be assured that he, their master, went that way. Now, you may never point the way and tell the multitudes to do what you have never done; but you must go before and show the way.”
As they say in the worship services of the Eastern Church: “Wisdom! Let us attend!”
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: The Value of Ritual