Jesus said, Men think, perhaps, that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know that it is dissension which I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. For there will be five in a house: three will be against two, and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father. And they will stand solitary. (16)
Men think, perhaps, that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. Yogananda remarked that human beings are skillful in their ignorance–especially in maintaining and justifying it. In religion this is supremely true. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the motto of all religions based on an avatar or prophet seems to be: “Ignore the message and adore the messenger.” One of the most amazing examples of this is the way Buddhists manage to ignore the fact that Buddha said his dharma would have vanished from the earth within five centuries after him. Another is the Prince of Peace slogan that we hear every Christmas, even though Jesus himself said: “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Luke 12:49-53).
And what about these predictions he made regarding his disciples? “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake” (Luke 6:22). “The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). If this is “God’s peace plan,” what is his war plan?
They do not know that it is dissension which I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. Jesus, who said: “the words that I speak unto you, are spirit” (John 6:63), meant fire, sword, and war in a purely symbolic sense–as spiritual symbols. Fire is tapasya (don’t forget, Jesus had spent most of his life in India). Sword is the will directed to vanquish inner negativity and ignorance. War is the great conflict, the fight unto death with ignorance and bondage, the transmutation of mortality into immortality. The “judgement” presented in the book of Revelation is a purely internal phenomenon that takes place when the process of spiritual alchemy becomes dominant and enters the final stages. It is awesome–and awful–and requires intense will-power to maintain. It is riding the tiger: fall off and you get eaten. This is why there is no place in authentic spiritual life for sentimentality masquerading as devotion and weakness masquerading as gentleness and humility. Jesus said it quite plainly: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). That is why the Gita is spoken on a battlefield. And also why the largest amounts of saints in any religion have arisen in imperialist and militarily-oriented cultures. Having imbibed the strength, courage, and determination of those cultures, they transmuted them into spiritual powers within themselves and thus won the inner kingdom.
For there will be five in a house: three will be against two, and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father. Jesus also said: “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). Painful as this is on both sides, it is not at all uncommon that those closest to us will oppose our spiritual life. Yet we must persevere. In time there may be reconciliation and even appreciation. (In some cases the opponents become convinced of the value of spiritual life and take it up themselves.) Often it is society that is the opponent, and things can get extremely petty and extremely vicious. Courage is needed. This is even more true when the conflicts are internal, when we are at war with ourselves.
One of the most spiritually gifted persons I have known was also extremely caught up in pure idiocy. It was really grievous to see this great soul bound to such meaningless values. Destruction seemed so inevitable, and yet she would have been a saint in this life if she had only shaken them loose. Through the years I have seen so many evolved and worthy people cursed with spiritual schizophrenia. Those that were in conflict at least had some hope, but most were going right along with their inner enemies, harming themselves with each day of neglect. The enemy outside can always be resisted, but what of the enemy within?
There is a hint here of the subtle anatomy of the human being. We are composed of five concentric sheaths or bodies (koshas): the annamaya (physical), pranamaya (life-force), manomaya (mind), jnanamaya (intellect), and anandamaya (bliss) bodies respectively. The three lower–annamaya, pranamaya and manomaya bodies are called “the earth” and the two above–jnanamaya and anandamaya–are “heaven.” In an evolved person there is a necessary antagonism between the three and the two–just as Jesus says. This conflict arises only when a goodly level of inner growth has occurred. Simply stated, the three lower bodies are the realm of material consciousness and the two upper bodies deal with higher feelings and perceptions, especially intelligence and will power. Whereas the three lower bodies have no spiritual aspects, the upper two can be either merely human or a mixture of humanity and spirituality. These two become dominantly spiritual when the requisite level of evolution is attained. Then spiritual life becomes much easier and success becomes inevitable through perseverance.
When this yogic knowledge is possessed by the seeker, spiritual life becomes an altogether different matter than before. The torment, frustration, and confusion that can overwhelm the struggling seeker who is unaware of the real facts of spiritual life is absolutely terrible. I speak from personal experience and observation of others. For years I lived in a low-level hell of doubt and fear in the midst of exuberant happy-time Fundamentalism. I seemed to have a spiritual life, and even had what seemed to be spiritual experience. But like the young man in the Gospel I cried out: “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20). All around me I saw people who had the same dilemma, but they all gave up in one form or another. Most suppressed their inner voice, drowning it out with loud professions of faith and trust, and in time their heart’s monitor was silenced. Others dropped out totally and became enmeshed in the crassest and most tedious aspects of material life. A few desolate souls kept on trying, consulting every new minister, hitting the “mourner’s bench” at every revival, consulting in desperation any person or book they thought might help. They fasted, prayed, and even travelled to other places seeking help. They cried out for peace, but there was no peace. I have known some who believed they had committed “the sin against the Holy Spirit” and were irrevocably damned. I am sorry to say that I do not know of a single one who eventually managed.
Well, I know of one: myself. Walking by a drugstore one day I saw a brightly-colored cover on one of the book racks. Afraid of being late for school, I went on, but that afternoon on the way home I went in and looked at it. In my dimness I did not realize what it was, even though I had hoped it would be a book on spiritual matters–a hope that must have really been an intuition. Because of the blurb on the back and the format of much of the text, I thought it was only an ancient poem. My disappointment was really sharp, and every day when I passed by I would look in and see the book and wish it had been what I had hoped. Nearly seven years later I bought the book at a college book store, read it, and experienced a life-change I would not have believed possible. That little book was Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God translated by Swami Prabhavananda. Next I read Autobiography of a Yogi, which gave coherency and direction to my new life. I cannot say the rest is history because it is still going on.
The immense relief I experienced when through those two books I understood what had been happening to me cannot be expressed. The inner enemies were identified and their nature revealed along with the knowledge of how to vanquish them. It would take a lot of work, but at last I knew what I was doing. Confusion, fear, and doubt were over. I had become a yogi. And I knew what Jesus meant when he told his disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Here is how I wrote about it some years back:
“In the late afternoon a day or so after finishing Autobiography of a Yogi, just as dusk was coming on I was pondering the revelations I had received from my reading while at the same time getting ready to go out with my parents and some of their friends. Suddenly I felt a great peace descend upon–and within–me. It was the ‘good and perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of Lights,’ of that I had no doubt. I realized that for the first time in this life I was finding out what it was to be truly blessed. Although I was absorbed in my extraordinary experience, I was able to behave as usual.
“A couple of hours later as I sat in a restaurant savoring my inner banquet, the words came into my mind: ‘You do not hurt inside any more,’ referring to the internal pain that had been with me without interruption since my mother’s death. My grief had not only been inexpressible, it had proven ineradicable. I never got over my mother’s death, but continued to mourn through the years. Naturally, in order to function with a semblance of normality I had to submerge my interior suffering beneath my ordinary consciousness. I learned to genuinely laugh and enjoy things, but if I became very still and turned my awareness inside I would find a continuous sorrow flowing within me. Inwardly I shed perpetual tears of desolation.
“As I say, I had adjusted to this through the years, so to be told by some mysterious intuition that I no longer had any inner anguish was the most incredible idea that could have occurred to me. Yet it was true. I turned my attention within and probed around. Profound peace alone was to be encountered. I was healed. It was as simple as that. Equally simple was my conviction that this healing had come from Yogananda himself. My gratitude and amazement were equally without limit.”
And they will stand solitary. Some translations have: “And they will stand alone.” Both the spiritual aspirants and their opponents will “stand solitary.” The aspirants will find that except for God they can rely on no one but themselves, that if help does not come from within there will be no help at all. Even the wisdom of great masters means nothing it we do not apply it diligently. This is why we can apply to spiritual life the popular saying about the Westward expansion in America: “The cowards never started; the weak died along the way.” The opponents will “stand alone” in that they will be totally and solely responsible for trying to destroy the spiritual life of another. And in time they will be the opposed themselves, for what they sow they reap.
False teachers promise effortless attainment, the most shameless of them even claiming: “I have done it for you already,” and insisting that their dupes need only “surrender” to them. Rare are the honest teachers like Jesus who will spell out what the seeker can expect. Only the true teachers believe in the seekers’ capacity to succeed by their own divine nature and power. A sensible gardener knows that however much the soil is prepared and watered, the seeds grow only from within, actualizing their inherent nature. It is the same with human beings.
Read the next section in The Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: The Divine Gift