This is a continuation of our series of postings on the early Christian writings, the mystical Odes of Solomon, written in Apostolic times.
As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
I am putting on the love of the Lord.
And his members are with him, and I am dependent on them and he loves me.
For I should not have known how to love the Lord, if he had not loved me.
For who is able to distinguish love, except the one that is loved?
I love the Beloved and my soul loves him, and where his rest is there also am I.
And I shall be no stranger, for with the Lord Most High and Merciful there is no grudging.
I have been united to him for the Lover has found the Beloved, And because I love him that is the Son I shall become a son.
For he who is joined to him Who is immortal, will also himself become immortal.
And he who has pleasure in the Life, will become living.
This is the Spirit of the Lord which is not false, which teacheth the sons of men to know his ways.
Be wise and understanding and vigilant. Alleluia.
–Ode of Solomon 3 [Ode 2 has been lost.]
- I am putting on the love of the Lord.
At the moment we are clothed in the material body. The Zoroastrian sage, Kaspar, said:
“Man was a thought of God, formed in the image of the Septonate, clothed in the substances of soul. And his desires were strong; he sought to manifest on every plane of life, and for himself he made a body of the ethers of the earthly forms, and so descended to the plane of earth. In this descent he lost his birthright; lost his harmony with God, and made discordant all the notes of life. Inharmony and evil are the same; so evil is the handiwork of man” through the body which the Essene teacher Elihu called “the body of desires” (Aquarian Gospel 58:25-28).
“The lower self, the carnal self, the body of desires, is a reflection of the higher self, distorted by the murky ethers of the flesh. The lower self is an illusion, and will pass away; the higher self is God in man, and will not pass away. The lower self is the embodiment of truth reversed, and so is falsehood manifest” (Aquarian Gospel 8:7-9). It is the body of desires that separates us from God by turning us outward away from the inner kingdom of God toward the transient world and creating in us a myriad desires, none of which can be fulfilled because nothing in the world can ever be possessed, but only grasped and eventually lost.
There is, however, another body, the “body of union” that is the immortal spirit. Regarding this the Essene teacher Salome said: “Now spirit loves the pure, the good, the true; the body of desires extols the selfish self; the soul becomes the battle ground between the two” (Aquarian Gospel 9:28). Those who ensure the victory of the spirit over the flesh are the ones who truly love God, for true love results in the union of the lover and the loved.
- And his members are with him, and I am dependent on them and he loves me.
Sri Ramakrishna said: “God cannot be seen with these physical eyes. In the course of spiritual discipline one gets a love body endowed with love eyes, love ears, and so on. One sees God with those love eyes. One hears the voice of God with those love ears. With this love body the soul communes with God.” “Devotees acquire a love body, and with its help they see the Spirit-form of the Absolute.” In actuality this love body is also the Body of God. The eyes with which the illumined behold God are the divine eyes. The ears with which he hears the divine voice are the ears of God. All the members of his love body are really the limbs, the faculties of God. The love that flows to him from God is immediately turned back toward God as an offering.
This is why alchemy is often used as a symbol for spiritual life. In alchemy a substance is taken and its fluid completely removed. Then the dry and the liquid elements are recombined and once more separated by distillation. This may be done many times, for in alchemical theory each time the separation/union is accomplished the substance is profoundly changed and its natural properties are immeasurably increased and made pure. So it is with God and his devotees as their love moves in a continual cycle like a single breath moving within two bodies. Each time the individual pours the divine love back into the infinity of God, just so much more it increases in potency and is returned by God to him.
Knowing that the ability to reach out for God is a capacity given to the questing soul by God, that in the realm of divine experience only the divine faculties are awake and functioning, the spirit says: “I am dependent on them.” This is the secret of real religion, of genuine spiritual life and transformation. Being a purified image-reflection of God, it ascends to divine love and loves God with his own love. It truly does live in and by God.
- For I should not have known how to love the Lord, if he had not loved me.
So it is: until we reflect God we do not seek or love him. A person’s seeking of God is proof that that God is drawing near to him. We never upstage God. He is always there before us.
Swami Muktananda Giri, the mother of Anandamayi Ma, was the embodiment of perfect humility. Her quiet simplicity was a marvel. From my first meeting with her a singular thing occurred: I never managed to pronam (salute her with joined hands) first. She always saluted me first. The moment she glimpsed me she would put her hands together in salutation. After a few months I decided that I was going to salute her first the next time we met, for it was I that should be showing respect to her, not the other way around. Early one morning I entered the gate of Bhagat House, the home of the Raja of Solan in Hardwar. The gate was forty or fifty feet from the doorway to the hall where Ma often sat with Giriji, as we called her. As I turned right into the gate I was thinking that this time I would pronam to Didima first. But when I looked from the gate toward the door of the hall I saw Didima sitting there looking at me with joined hands! In this way she taught me what I have written in the previous paragraph.
- For who is able to distinguish love, except the one that is loved?
In Night of the Iguana Tennessee Williams speaks of “man’s inhumanity to God.” This at first is a shocking, even seemingly absurd, idea, but reflection will prove its validity. Human hardheartedness toward the loving God is a sorrowful wonder. Yet it cannot be otherwise, for until the active love of God is mirrored in the heart there is simply no way a person can realize the love of God for him. Only God can awaken us to his love. “And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), said Saint Paul.
- I love the Beloved and my soul loves him.
The emotions, senses, mind, and intellect can conceive attractions and even addictions for objects: that is their nature, they cannot do otherwise. But they cannot love God. Only the spirit loves, and spirit can only love spirit. Consequently our spirit can love nothing else but God. But our lower self loves everything else, including its fantasy-idols of religiosity and its pathetic distortions that it thinks are valid concepts of God and spiritual aspirations and love of God. Only when such things are expelled from us can there be hope of loving God. Idolatry is the prevalent sin of us all. Without an awakened soul how could there be love of God?
- And where his rest is there also am I.
In Hebrew and Aramaic “rest” does not mean something done when a person is tired, but rather it means a place of retreat, with the implication of the point of a person’s origin, his native place. Therefore the “rest” of God means his primal, essential being. Since the individual spirit is one in essence with God, its rest is the same: God. That is why Saint Paul wrote: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
The lover of God knows this and seeks that rest, that oneness with God, alone. The attitude of a true lover of God was expressed by Jesus when he said: “The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The human being can come to rest nowhere but in God. Relative existence offers no rest or shelter for the wise. But only love of God reveals this truth to the questing spirit.
- And I shall be no stranger, for with the Lord Most High and Merciful there is no grudging.
How can we be a stranger to him who is our inmost being? Only through the deluded experience of estrangement from God. We think: “I am one and God is another,” but no such illusion taints God. Therefore he does not grudge us being one with him. We, on the other hand, grudge God’s unity with us because it interferes with “our” ways and thoughts. We desire separation from God: this is the depth of our perfidy toward him “with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). We do not need to “win God’s friendship,” we need to stop being inimical toward him. “Clinging to egotism, power, haughtiness, desire and anger, these malignant people hate me in their own and in others’ bodies” (Bhagavad Gita 16:18).
- I have been united to him for the lover has found the beloved.
This works from both sides. God “finds” us and we “find” him. The “findings” are simultaneous, as are the “seekings.” As they say in India: “When anyone chooses God, it is because he has already chosen them.” (“You did not choose Me, but I chose you” John 15:16.)
- And because I love him that is the Son I shall become a son.
The concept of a trinity within the Divine Nature is found in all viable religions, expressing the transcendent, immanent, and active aspects of the One. In Christianity this is conveyed by the symbolic terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The “Son” is the Mahat Tattwa, the Presence of God within creation. This is the aspect of God that is communicable and knowable to us. It is the intermediary between the individual spirit lost in the maze of relative existence and the transcendent Reality, the Father. Those who love God in his approachable aspect become united to him and also become “sons of God” in their journey to perfect identity with the transcendent Father. Love is the uniting force: love arising from the spirit.
- For he who is joined to him Who is immortal, will also himself become immortal.
He who is joined to Christ will become a Christ: this is the literal meaning of the word “Christian.” How far from this glorious truth have Christians strayed and become Churchians instead. As long as we are separated from God we shall be mortal, bound to the endless cycle of birth and death; but as soon as we are united with him we shall transcend that cycle–as does he.
- And he who has pleasure in the Life, will become living.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [materiality]” (Matthew 6:24). We cannot love the illusion that is “the world” and love God at the same time. (By “the world” I mean the world of human folly and illusions, not the world of God’s creation.) They cancel each other out automatically. We cannot delight in the nothing that is relativity and delight in God as well. However, the lover of God does not renounce the world: he is freed from it! It is no longer real enough to him to either dislike it renounce it. It is nothing in his eyes, for he has seen the ALL.
- This is the Spirit of the Lord which is not false, which teacheth the sons of men to know his ways.
All that has been said by this ode is, according to the singer, the Spirit of the Lord: that is, the effect of the Spirit of the Lord in the life of the questing spirit. The Spirit of the Lord teaches the sons of men the way to become the sons of God. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Corinthians 3:17) from all bonds and errors of earth. And: “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). Therefore:
- Be wise and understanding and vigilant.
May it be so!