THE 23d chapter of Matthew is a philippic against ritualism. Jesus arraigns the scribes and the Pharisees before the bar of the divine law and charges them with a long list of crimes committed in the name of religion. He makes charge after charge of delinquency in spiritual observance of the law and warns His disciples and the multitudes to beware of the works of these blind leaders of the blind. Among other accusations He says:
Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders ... all their works they do to be seen of men ... they ... love the chief place at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues ... and to be called of men, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even the Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye
compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves. . . .
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel!
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. . . .
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchers of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
All these "woes" are to those who are living in the letter instead of in the spirit of the law. But Jesus did not condemn religion, nor religious organizations. His denunciations were aimed at those who profess to teach and to follow the law but fall short in carrying it out in their lives.
Right here, however, religious teachers should be on their guard in framing tenets for religious organizations. Do not dogmatize in creed, or statement of Being, as a governing rule of thought and action for those who join your organization. These things are limitations, and they often prevent free development because of foolish insistence on consistency. The creed that you write today may not fit
the viewpoint of tomorrow; hence the safe and sure religious foundation for all men is that laid down by Jesus, "The Spirit of truth ... shall guide you into all the truth." A statement setting forth the teaching of a religious institution is essential, but compelling clauses should be omitted.
The Mosaic law had been framed for the benefit of the Hebrews, but their priesthood made it a hindrance to spiritual progress. Jesus was an iconoclast, and He made it His special business to break nearly every rule of action that the priests had evolved. For example, they had thirty-nine prohibitions in regard to the observance of the Sabbath. These were nearly all trivial, such as preparing food, riding on a beast, drawing water, carrying a burden, going on a journey; yet death was the penalty for transgression. Labor of any kind on the Sabbath was punishable by death. To roll grains of wheat in the hand was considered labor, so when the apostles of Jesus plucked the ears of grain the Pharisees said to Him: "Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?" Then Jesus gave them a sermon on freedom from their narrow rules governing the Sabbath day; He ended with, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."
The fact is that the Sabbath as an institution was established by man. God does not rest from His works every seventh day, and there is no evidence that there has ever been a moment's cessation in the activity of the universe. Those who stickle most
for Sabbath-day observance are met on every hand by the evidence of perpetual activity on the part of Him whom they claim to champion.
We are told that trees, flowers, planets, suns, stars, and sidereal systems are the work of God; that it is God who sustains and governs, controls and directs them. Yet trees, flowers, planets, suns, and stars are active the first day and the seventh day of the week, just the same as on other days.
It would seem proper that, if God ordained a certain day of rest and rested on that day Himself, as is claimed, He should give some evidence of it in His creations; but He has not done this, so far as anybody knows. The truth is that Divine Mind rests in a perpetual Sabbath, and that which seems work is not work at all. When man becomes so at-one with the Father-Mind as to feel it consciously, he also recognizes this eternal peace, in which all things are accomplished. He then knows that he is not subject to any condition whatsoever and that he is "lord even of the sabbath."
Man can never exercise dominion until he knows who and what he is and, knowing, brings forth that knowledge into the external by exercising it in divine order, which is mind, idea, and manifestation. Jesus horrified the Jews by healing the sick, plucking grain, and performing other acts, which to them were sacrilegious, on the Sabbath day. The Jews manufactured these sacred days and observances, just as our Puritan fathers made life a burden by their rigid and absurd laws governing the religious
acts of the people. For centuries the Jews had been binding themselves to the wheel of religious bigotry, and the Puritans accomplished a like task in a shorter time. The length of time was the only difference.
But Jesus knew all the exacting ecclesiastical rules to be man-made. "He himself knew what was in man" and He attempted to disabuse those benighted minds of their error. He tried to make them understand that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. They had wound themselves up in religious ceremonies until their ecclesiastical machinery dominated every act of their lives. Not only were they subjects of their sacred law, but they were its absolute slaves.
It was the mission of Jesus to break down this mental structure which had been reared through ages of blind servitude to form and ritual. The Mosaic law had been made so rigid that it held the Jews in its icy bonds to the exclusion of all reason and common sense. Jesus saw this, and He purposely overstepped the bounds of religious propriety in order that He might more effectively impress on them the fact that the old Mosaic dispensation was at an end. He told them that He did not come to break the law, but to fulfill it. He was speaking of the true law of God, and not their external rules of sacrifice, penance, Sabbath observance, and the like. He knew that these rules were of the letter—purely perfunctory; that they were in reality hindrances to the expression of the inner spiritual life.
Man cannot grow into the understanding of
Spirit, nor be obedient to its leading, if he is hampered by external rules of action. No man-made law is strong enough, or true enough, or exact enough, to be a permanent guide for anyone.
If in your path toward the light you have fixed a point of achievement that attainment of which you think will satisfy you, you have made a limitation that you must eventually destroy. There is no stopping place for God; there is no stopping place for man.
If the church goes back to Moses and the old dispensation, ignoring the lessons of Jesus, it is no guide for you. If you want to be His disciple, you must unite your spirit with His.
Paul, with his dominant beliefs in the efficiency of the old way, at times loaded those beliefs upon the free doctrine of Jesus, but that is no reason why you should be burdened with them. You can never be what the Father wants you to be until you recognize that you stand alone, with Him as your sole and original guide, just as much alone as if you were the first and only man. You can hear His Word when you have erased from your mind all tradition and authority of men, and His Word will never sound clearly in your mind until you have done this.
It is not necessary that you despise the scriptures of the Jews, of the Hindus, or of any people, but you are to take them for what they are—the records of men as to what their experiences have been in communing with the omnipresent God. As Jesus said to the Pharisees: "Ye preach the scriptures, because
ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me; and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life." From all sacred writings you can get many wonderfully helpful hints as to the work of God in the minds of men. You should treasure all pure words of Truth that have been written by brothers in the Spirit, yet they are not authority for you nor should you be moved to do anything simply because it is written in the Scriptures as a law of God for the specific guidance of man.
Mortal man loves to be dominated and whipped into line by rituals and masters, but divine man, the man of God, oversteps all such childish circumscribings and goes direct to the Father for all instruction.
It is your privilege to be as free as the birds, the trees, the flowers. "They toil not, neither do they spin," but are always obedient to the divine instinct, and their every day is a Sabbath. They stand in no fear of an angry God, though they build a nest, spread a leaf, or open a petal, on the first day or on the seventh day. All days are holy days to them. They live in the holy Omnipresence, always doing the will of Him who sent them. It is our duty to do likewise. That which is instinct in them is conscious, loving obedience in us. When we have resolved to be attentive to the voice of the Father and to do His will at any cost, we are freed from the bondage of all man-made laws. Our bonds—in the form of some fear of transgressing the divine
law—slip away into the sea of nothingness, and we sit on the shore and praise the loving All-Good that we are never more to be frightened by an accusing conscience or by the possibility of misunderstanding His law.
But we are not to quarrel with our brother over observance of the Sabbath. If he insists that the Lord should be worshiped on the seventh day, we shall joyfully join him on that day; and if he holds that the first day is the holy day, we again acquiesce. Not only do we do God's service in praise, song, and thanksgiving on the seventh day and the first day, but also on every day. Our minds are open to God every moment. We are ever ready to acknowledge His holy presence in our hearts; it is a perpetual Sunday with us. We are not satisfied with one day out of the seven set aside for religious observance, but, like the birds, the trees, and the flowers, we join in a glad refrain of thanksgiving in and out of season. When we work and when we sleep we are ever praising the holy Omnipresence that burns its lamp of love perpetually in our hearts and keeps forever the light of life before us.
This is the observance of God's holy day that the divinely wise forever recognize. It is not in churches nor in temples reared by man in any form, that he finds communion with the Father. He has found the true church, the heaven within himself. There he meets the Father face to face; he does not greet Him as one removed to a distant place, to whom he communicates his wishes through some prophet or priest,
but each for himself goes to the Father in closest fellowship.
$commentary_settings = array ( "commentary_nid" => '12588' );
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." This does not mean that a personal man, named Jesus of Nazareth, was sent forth as a special propitiation for the sins of the world, or that the only available route into the Father's presence lies through such a person. It simply means that God has provided a way by which all men may come consciously into His presence in their own souls. That way is through the only begotten Son of God, the Christ consciousness, which Jesus demonstrated. This consciousness is the always present Son of the Father, dwelling as a spiritual seed in each of us and ready to germinate and grow at our will. The Son of God is in essence the life, the love, and the wisdom of the Father himself; through us the Son is made manifest as a living individuality. He cannot be killed out entirely; He ever grows at the center of our being as the "light which lighteth every man, coming into the world."
To believe on the Son is to come to His terms of expression. It is the simplest thing in the world. Just believe that He is the only begotten Son of the Father. Do not believe that there are other sons wiser than He is, and that from them you can get wisdom, guidance, and understanding, but know that He is indeed the only begotten Son.
This distinction is a vital point for you to apprehend, and when you have once apprehended it your
journey back to the Father's house is easy. "No one cometh unto the Father, but by me," the only Son is constantly saying in your heart, and you must not ignore His presence if you would know the sweets of the heavenly home where the love of God forever burns its incense of peace, plenty, and contentment. Let Christ be formed in you, was Paul's admonition. This is not hyperbole or an abstraction, but a statement of a definite rule of procedure, which you can discover and prove by making terms with this indwelling Son of the Father. His terms are not severe. They are simply obedience, obedience.
Jesus of Nazareth found this inner flame and let it burn all through His body. It so lighted Him up that His presence warms all sin-sick men to this very day.
But no one lives by reflection. You could not live a moment if it were not for this only begotten Son of the Father within you. So you cannot live and grow on the reflected light of Jesus of Nazareth. The only begotten Son of God must come forth in you as it did in Jesus. Then your life will be permanent, and the discords of the flesh will drop away forever; then will your Sabbath be revealed to you.
The redemptive, restorative, and regenerative work that the Christ of God did through Jesus is not ignored by Christian metaphysicians. However, the salvation of men from the sins of mortality was not accomplished by the man Jesus alone; it was through the power of the Christ in Jesus that God provided purified life and substance for the corruptible
bodies of men. Jesus' body was used as the vehicle through which a fresh and pure life stream and a regenerative substance were made available to all those who will accept them. The redeemed substance of the body of the Lord is just as essential to full salvation as His blood. Also, this is a salvation that is to be attained here in the earth, and not after death. Jesus' body was metamorphosed or changed from the corruptible flesh of the average man to the incorruptible substance of divine man. When we eat and drink of His body we shall become like Him in body perfection. This process of restoration of the body of man to its original purity is the basis of divine or spiritual healing. The complete redemption of the body may not be accomplished in one incarnation, but whoever accepts the Christ as life and substance, and conforms to righteous living as taught by the Spirit of truth, will finally sit with Jesus on the throne of dominion over disease and death.
There is a law of spiritual and mental growth constantly at work in the mind, a law that is raising man from sense consciousness, or Egypt, to spiritual consciousness, or Canaan. Moses means "drawn out," and represents in Scripture symbology this progressive or drawing-out process, which works from within out. As applied to the universe, this upward trend of all things is called by material science the evolutionary law. In our spiritual interpretation we observe the working of the law in the individual, because by that method we can bring home the lesson.
Through intelligent use of the hints given, we apply the lesson to ourselves with great profit.
$commentary_settings = array ( "commentary_nid" => '12589' );
Involution always precedes evolution. That which is involved in mind evolves through matter. Joseph down in Egypt portrays the involution in matter of a high spiritual idea. The spiritual idea attracted other ideas like it (Joseph's relatives), and they greatly multiplied in the land of Egypt. It is estimated that the Children of Israel increased from a few score to at least two millions. This illustrates the fact that spiritual thoughts grow with tremendous rapidity in consciousness when they have Truth as a nucleus.
Yet these true thoughts, which have so greatly multiplied are in slavery to the Egyptians (sense nature), and a special effort has to be made to free them. We have our high ideals, but because the temporal life seems so important those ideals are made to work in the most menial ways to carry on this passing show. A time comes, however, when we rebel at this tyranny; we rise up in so-called righteous indignation, and in violent ways we kill out the opposing sense nature, as Moses killed the Egyptian. But this is not the right way. We are not to be liberated by suppression of sense, or by violent overcoming, but by a steady step-by-step demonstration over every error. The Lord recognizes the rights of the physical man, and He hardens Pharaoh's heart that he may sustain for a season his rightful place in consciousness.
$commentary_settings = array ( "commentary_nid" => '12590' );
The fleeing of Moses to the wilderness represents
the discipline that we must undergo when we seek the exalted One. Horeb means "solitude"; that is, we have to go into the solitude of the within and lead our flock of thoughts to the back of the wilderness, where dwells the exalted One, the I AM, whose kingdom is good judgment. There we are in training forty years, or until we arrive at a four-sided or balanced state of mind. Then the light of intuition or flame of fire burns in our hearts, yet it is not consumed—there is no loss of substance. In brain thinking there is a vibratory process that uses up nerve tissue, but in the wisdom that comes from the heart the "bush" or tissue is not consumed. This thinking in wisdom is "holy ground," or substance in its spiritual wholeness; that is, the idea of substance in Divine Mind. When this holy ground is approached by man he must take off from his understanding all limited thoughts of the Absolute—he must put his shoes off his feet.
It is at this wisdom center within us that God proclaims Himself to be the Father of fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; thus our real Father is revealed to us as Spirit.
In our communion in the silence with the light within us, the bondage of the higher to the lower is made clear to us, and the true way of release is indicated. We see the possibilities of man and the goodness of the "promised land," to which we can raise every thought. But Moses was very meek—we feel our inability, and we say, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring
forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Then we have the assurance that God's power is with us—"Certainly I will be with thee." It is in the recognition of the power and the presence of God that all our strength and all our ability lie. Jesus, the great spiritual master, said, "The Father abiding in me doeth his works."
All great structures are erected on firm foundations. Anyone whom the Lord calls to a work will succeed in the end, if he lays his foundation deep and strong in spiritual understanding. This understanding is attained through meditation and study in the silence. Moses was forty years separated from the busy haunts of men, learning to know God "face to face."
In our silent meditations and prayers we must infuse into the inner mind realms the same energy that, used without, would make us notable in some worldly achievement. But unless we do this inner work and lay the foundation of strength and power in the subjective mind, we shall find ourselves in failing health when called upon for extra exertion in some great effort.
The angel of the Lord, the flame of fire, and the bush, are all within the consciousness of man, becoming manifest through interior concentration. The bush is a nerve center through which the universal life energy runs like electricity over a wire, making a light but not consuming. The angel is the presiding intelligence that is always present in every life action or function.
Man is first attracted by the phenomenal side of spiritual things; then, when he gives his attention for the purpose of knowing the cause, the Lord reveals Himself. When Moses turned aside and began to investigate, he found that he was on holy ground. The forces of Spirit at the center of man's body are so intense that the outer consciousness cannot stand the current and hold itself together; absolutely pure in essence, this inner fire must be approached by the pure spiritual thought. Removing the sandals is symbolical of taking all material concepts from the understanding.
The Spirit of the Lord has been evolving in the subconsciousness, incarnation after incarnation. This I AM was the moving factor in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the Lord is present in all.
Egypt is strictly material consciousness. It pertains to the physical sense of life, the corporeal organism. Canaan is life and substance in a radiant state; here Spirit finds its natural expression. The thoughts that belong in the radiant body have become slaves of material sense, and the higher self, the Lord, would set them free. But to do this the higher understanding must become part of their consciousness. All things are created by and through certain states of mind or consciousness.
The higher spiritual consciousness is infused into the mortal or personal consciousness. Personal I must take on supreme I AM. When this is first experienced there is a feeling of inefficiency. But the Lord's promise to be present under all circumstances
is a mighty inner assurance of spiritual law and order.
Christian metaphysicians have learned by experience the power of words and thoughts sent forth in the name of the supreme I AM. The word of the Lord spoken by naturally weak men has produced marvelous results, because they set their minds not on their own weak ideas of man and his abilities, but upon the mightiness of the great I AM. The Lord God, speaking through them, does the work of the Master. "I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me [supreme I AM] doeth his works."
Moses and Pharaoh represent two forces at work in the consciousness—especially that part of it pertaining to the body. Moses represents the evolutionary force of new ideas that have grown in the subconsciousness; these forces struggle with the old states of limitation and material ignorance, trying to rise out of their depths into a higher life expression. The rising into a higher life is symbolized by the man Moses, whose name means "drawn out." As a child he was drawn out of the water, a negative yet universal condition of life evolution. Pharaoh represents the force that rules the body under the material regime. The Lord is the universal law, whose impulse is always upward and onward. It is found, by those who are undergoing the regenerative process that in the story of Moses the Scriptures symbolically describe, that these two forces are constantly at work in consciousness, one holding to old ideas and striving to perpetuate them in form, and the other
idealizing the new and bending every effort to break away from material bondage and rise above its limitations. Paul says, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Looking at it from the personal standpoint, we are likely to cry out in this struggle, "Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" But as philosophers, with an understanding of the law of change, we balance ourselves between these two forces and let them work out under the equilibrium of the universal preserver of all forms, the Lord.
Here is consolation for those who chafe under the whips and cords of the regenerative law. Because of their many defeats and the snail's pace at which they progress, they think that they are off the track. However, they are not. They will attain their good if they persevere and patiently wait upon the Lord. If the energy of Spirit were instantly poured into the body it would destroy the organism because of the impurities of the flesh, but, by and through the evolutionary adjustment of the natural man, the Spirit not only preserves but raises up the substance and life of the organism. The purpose of our spiritual thoughts (the Children of Israel) down in the body (Egypt) is to raise up the body—gradually to infuse into it a more enduring life and substance. At the same time our spiritual thoughts get the substance (corn) that is to sustain their existence in the world of phenomena.
When you affirm the spirituality of the body and yearn for release from its bondage, you are making
demands on Pharaoh. In fear that he will all at once lose his hold on life, he hardens his heart, and sometimes the Lord, the universal law of equilibrium, hardens it for him. Then there seems a failure to attain that which you have tried to demonstrate. But a step has been taken in the evolution of the body, and you will find that you are gradually becoming stronger, both physically and spiritually.
There are climaxes in this refining trend of the consciousness, and in these we make a signal effort and realize a great uplift. "Jewels of silver, and jewels of gold" represent wisdom and love in an external sense, which are to be asked or demanded by the Children of Israel. (The word "borrow" in the Authorized Version is an error.) The meaning is that we are to affirm that all wisdom and all love, even in their most external manifestations, are spiritual. By so affirming we put Spirit into control both within and without ourselves, and do away with the external ruling power, which is the "first-born in the land of Egypt." The first-born of every state of consciousness is the personal I. When the flood of light from the universal is let in through our declaration of the one wisdom and one love, this I of every mortal state of consciousness is slain, and there is a "great cry throughout all the land of Egypt."
We may mentally have made our truest statements and seemingly complied with all the law, yet Pharaoh does not let our people go—there is no realization of freedom in the body consciousness. Another step toward freedom is necessary, which is
typified in the feast of the Passover.
In every change of consciousness on the physical plane, there is a breaking down of some cells and a building up of other cells to take their place. Mentally this is denial and affirmation, and this process in the body is the result of these two movements in the mind which have occurred at some previous period. We let go of the animal life and take hold of the spiritual by giving up consciously to this "passing over" process, which takes place when the old cells are replaced by the new. The lamb that is killed and eaten in the night represents giving up the animal life in the obscurity of the mortal body. The command is that the lamb shall be without spot or blemish, and be wholly eaten after being roasted with fire. This refers to the complete transmutation and surrender of the human life after it has been purified by the fires of regeneration. Fire represents the positive, affirmative state of mind, as opposed to the negative or watery state. The Children of Israel were commanded not to let the lamb be "sodden." "Sodden" is an Old English past participle of "seethe." We are not to allow the life in our organism to simmer and stew with the worries and negative words of mortality, but we must set it afire with strong words of absolute Truth.
This is to show us that there must be a physical as well as a mental sacrifice, and that "the whole congregation of the children of Israel" will join in it; that is, the whole consciousness of spiritual desire will acquiesce. Many metaphysicians think that it is
not necessary to change the habits of the sense man—that one has only to keep one's thoughts right and the flesh will thereby be wholly regulated. But the Scripture teaches that there must be a conscious physical change before the complete demonstration in mind and body is manifest. Thoughts work themselves out in things, and we get the full result of their work only when we follow them consciously every step of the way and help them along. Watch your thoughts as they work their way through your organism, and, if you find that some pure thought of spiritual life is striving to free the life in the appetites and passions of your physical Egypt, help it by consciously elevating that life to the open door of your mind. This is typified by putting the blood of the lamb on the two side posts and on the lintel of the door of the house. Do not be afraid to express your inner life to the Lord, for only in perfect candor and childlike innocence can man come under the protection of the divine law.
So long as there is a hidden, secret use of God's life in our habits and ways that we are not willing that all should know, just so long will the bondage of Egypt's Pharaoh hold us in its clutches. The whole man must be pure, and his inner life must be made so open and free that he will not be afraid to blazon it upon the very doors of his house where all who pass may read. Then the Lord will execute His judgment, and those who have purified the life of the lamb of the body will escape the messenger or thought of death.
Preceding Entry: The Twelve Powers of Man 97-109: 9. The Will Is the Man
Following Entry: The Twelve Powers of Man 130-141: 11. Zeal-Enthusiasm