A continuation of our series of postings on the early Christian writings, the mystical Odes of Solomon, written in Apostolic times.
I will give thanks unto Thee O Lord, because I love Thee.
O Most High Thou wilt not forsake me, for Thou art my hope.
Freely I have received Thy grace, I shall live thereby.
My persecutors will come and not see me.
A cloud of darkness shall fall on their eyes, and an air of thick gloom shall darken them.
And they shall have no light to see, so that they may not take hold upon me.
Let their counsel become dull, so that whatever they have cunningly devised may return upon their own heads.
For they have devised a counsel, and it did not succeed.
They prepared themselves wickedly, but they were found to be worthless.
For my hope is upon the Lord, and I will not fear.
And because the Lord is my salvation, I will not fear.
And he is as a garland on my head, and I shall not be moved.
Even if everything should be shaken, I stand firm.
And if all things visible should perish, I shall not die.
Because the Lord is with me, and I am with him. Alleluia.
–Ode 5 of the Odes of Solomon
- I will give thanks unto Thee O Lord, because I love Thee.
This entire creation has been spread out for us to make possible our evolution into conscious and perfect sons of God. To truly thank God we must use his creation for the intended purpose: our ascent to Divine Consciousness. That is why David sang:
“What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalms 116:12-13).
In other words, seeing the blessing of God David has determined to drink of the cup of immortality and be saved from all limitation and ignorance that attends relative existence. The purpose of a school, however excellent its physical facilities may be, is to learn and leave. We are good students if we avail ourselves of this very birth to liberate ourselves from further birth.
What is real bhakti?
But the odist says love is the motive for his thanks. What, then, is love of God? The most accurate analysis of the nature of love is to be found in Swami Yukteswar Giri’s The Holy Science, where he demonstrates that love is a positive magnetic attraction which brings that which is separated into union with the attractor. In spiritual life this union is a merging of identities in which the individual Self, the atman, experiences the Divine, the Paramatman, as the infinite Self of his finite Self.
“Among the virtuous, four kinds seek me: the distressed, the seekers of knowledge, the seekers of wealth and the wise. Of them, the wise man, ever united, devoted to the One, is pre-eminent. Exceedingly dear am I to the man of wisdom, and he is dear to me. All these indeed are exalted, but I see the man of wisdom as my very Self. He, with mind steadfast, abides in me, the Supreme Goal. At the end of many births the wise man takes refuge in me. He knows: All is Vasudeva. How very rare is that great soul” (Bhagavad Gita 7:16-19).
Love is not blind, it is perfectly clear in its seeing; therefore Krishna calls a lover of God one who is characterized by viveka, by discrimination between the unreal and the Real, between the temporal and the Eternal, between not-God and God. A worthy person seeks to love God for the right reason based on the knowledge of one’s Self and God. In the book of Revelation the liberated souls sing unto God: “Thou art worthy” (Revelation 4:11). A true lover of God lives out this statement through his arduous practice of yoga which will bring him to God and make him one with God. To love is to seek, to find, to become one. As Swami Sivananda said: “Bhakti [loving devotion] begins with two and ends with one.”
The Sanskrit root of bhakti is bhaj, which means to love, to adore, to revere, and–most significantly–to share in. And so the sequence is: we love, reverence, worship and finally share in the Being of God, for in both Greek and Sanskrit the words translated “worship” literally mean “to draw near.” Sri Ramakrishna likens the true devotee to a salt doll that enters the ocean and melts, merging with it so it can no longer be separated from the water. Yet it is present in the water, it has not ceased to be or lost its identity, as the salt taste proves.
- O Most High Thou wilt not forsake me, for Thou art my hope.
In a recorded talk Yogananda said that looking back on his life there is one thing he has learned above all: God never forsakes the devotee. How could he? It is not in his nature to do so. God, “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), is our hope because “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (II Timothy 2:13). That is why the odist further sings:
- Freely I have received Thy grace, I shall live thereby.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “grace” is charis, which means to be calmly joyful. Interestingly, it has the definite connotation of being impersonal: the grace-filled rejoice, not in their egos, but in God. It also has the implied character of happy optimism. Charis also means to live out that divine joy. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,” from which that light of grace shines out into the world (II Corinthians 4:6). “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). So to live is to be in divine joy, not drunk on the false inebriation of the ego, but alive and awake in the vision of God that comes about from union with God. “In sacred joy I live, in sacred joy I melt,” declared Yogananda. There is really only one “thing” after all: God.
- My persecutors will come and not see me. A cloud of darkness shall fall on their eyes, and an air of thick gloom shall darken them. And they shall have no light to see, so that they may not take hold upon me. Let their counsel become dull, so that whatever they have cunningly devised may return upon their own heads. For they have devised a counsel, and it did not succeed. They prepared themselves wickedly, but they were found to be worthless.
Reading this I immediately thought of a song that was written by a member of the little Protestant church I was raised in. The author was one of America’s unknown remarkable people. Not only was he a hymn writer and spiritual author, he was a great healer who every day cured through prayer those who came to him. And where did he cure them? In a hospital, for he was completely bedridden for many years! Daily a trickle of people came into his room and left freed from their ills, though he himself was seriously ill. As Nagendranath Bhaduri, the “levitating saint” said to Yogananda: “God plants his saints sometimes in unexpected soil, lest we think we may reduce him to a rule!”
The protection of real bhakti
The refrain of the song I recalled was: “He keepeth himself in the love of the Lord, and the wicked one toucheth him not.” This is the secret of divine protection. If we keep elevating our vibration, especially through yoga practice, negative people will drop out of our life (sometimes not without a final attempt to drag us back down) and other negative people will just not “see” us at all. Blessed isolation!
As this ode indicates, those who live in higher awareness are either invisible to evil people or so distasteful to then that they avoid them. Exceptions may occur if there is a need to reap some special karma, such as our having bothered good people in a previous life, but not usually.
Literal invisibility also can occur if an aspirant needs protection from people intent on harming or hindering him. I know of several such incidents and have experienced it a few times myself.
When someone’s aura is very strong, any negative energies directed at them will bounce back and strike those who sent it. I have witnessed quite a few situations in which the would-be harmer was harmed himself. This is especially true in relation to yogis who are steady in their practice.
One time a yogi friend of mine walked into a newly-started business and was instantly insulted and made to leave by the astonishingly hostile owners. The next day the chief of police and the mayor (!) came in and told them they had only twenty-four hours to get out of town–and they did. I met a man from Africa who was being “prayed to death” by a witch doctor. When he contacted an esoteric Christian teacher and learned to strengthen his personal magnetism (for protection, not retaliation), the witch doctor fell dead in two days.
- For my hope is upon the Lord, and I will not fear. And because the Lord is my salvation, I will not fear. And he is as a garland on my head, and I shall not be moved. Even if everything should be shaken, I stand firm. And if all things visible should perish, I shall not die. Because the Lord is with me, and I am with him.
There are two ways to look at divinity. One is to see it as absolutely distinct from ourselves and therefore outside us. The other is to see it as absolutely one with us, and therefore within us. The results of these two views are quite different in their effect on us.
One produces anxiety, insecurity, and even fear, though there may be occasional patches of “faith” and “hope” to artificially relieve the unease. The other produces confidence, tranquility, and inner strength. Those that subscribe to the outer view of God continually speak of the need for “trusting in” and “surrendering to” God, developing a total and pious dependence on God, firm in a conviction of their nothingness and valuelessness. Those that hold to the inner view are intent on the necessity for self-knowledge and the liberation of their inner potential to manifest the divine. One group sees themselves as sinners, the other sees themselves as embryonic gods. What totally different worlds these two live in! And more: what a totally different world is created or shaped by those who hold such views.
A surprised angel
Some friends of mine had a very successful Montessori school. Quite a few of their students were “behavior problems” that were rejected by the public school system. One five-year-old had been expelled from as many schools as his age. In his second or third week of attendance he did something “bad.” He looked at one of the teachers and said: “I’m a little ‘devil’ aren’t I?” She smiled and replied: “Not to me. I think you are a little angel.” The poor boy was utterly flummoxed. “I am an angel?” he asked, his voice expressing total amazement. “Yes; you are to me,” she answered. And from that moment on his behavior was ideal. Because he really was an angel, but had not known it.
The real Gospel (Good News) of authentic Christianity is that of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Our Christ nature is potential and must be brought forth, and since we have no other nature to manifest it is just a matter of now or later.
Once we realize that the Lord is our inmost being, the words of the Ode become extremely clear. The only comment needed is this poem of Emily Bronte:
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see heaven’s glories shine,
And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life, that in me has rest,
As I, undying Life, have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and moon were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou–thou art Being and Breath,
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
- Bhakti: The Yogi’s Perspective, from “Perspectives on Yoga”
- The Odes of Solomon, the Oldest Christian Hymns