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EBUP74: Whither Goest Thou

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #74

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — Whither Goest Thou

This talk is so powerful that the audience applauded for a half minute at the end. Eric deserved it. He spoke about how we build walls for protection and how the fortress we build up becomes our prison. This lesson is based on an Old Testament story from Zechariah and Eric concludes "The prophet’s ideal is not a world of fortress cities and societies, but unwalled cities and free and open communication and commerce between nations… Jerusalem should be inhabited as a village without walls." Whew! What a lesson for today!


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Well, we are one week into the new year, 1989. Just a few weeks until Christmas. As good students of truth, perhaps you’ve taken an honest inventory of your life. Perhaps you’ve shifted some directions, set some new goals, made a new beginning and this which we decree would be the very best year of your life.

As Paul so dramatically says, “That which is past, forgetting that which is past, stretching forward to that which is before, I press it on to the high calling in God.”

This morning, I’d like you to share with me in a commitment that I’ve made for this year, is to get just a little more involved in the Bible. My plan is to give at least one lesson a month, give over to purely metaphysical interpretation of the scriptures. This in part because of several requests from some of you and in part because I feel it’s an important step in pressing on in my own quest.

The great enigma of Western religion is the very source book of the Judea Christian tradition, the Bible itself. It has been presented as a book about God written by God himself. So, the work is infallible and beyond question, so we’re told. But because of its incredibilities and impossibilities, sometimes even obscenities, it becomes suitable only to be used in services of worship on holy days.

So, even as we have kept the commandments as sterile cliches in golden packages, so many of us have possessed the Bible as something to swear on, to record births, marriages and deaths in and to piously display on a symbolic family altar.

This is sad of course, because whereas philosophers of all ages have agreed that man is but to know himself to discover the secrets of the universe, and rightly understood the Bible as the finest mirror of life in which we can get the most revealing insight into ourselves. But of course there’s no such mirror effect if we read the Bible as a historically true document.

Actually, there’s little to be gained by reading the Bible as a book. Anyone who’s ever set out to read the Bible, as they say from “kiver to kiver”, has eventually given up in despair and total confusion as to its message.

The Bible was written by people, not just by pens. They were poets, not historians. As poets, they use symbolic words and forms. As for instance, Shakespeare wrote of the Forest of Arden, in it one could find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything.

Literal minded person might say, “I never saw tongue in a tree or a book in a brook or a sermon in a stone.” What does the poem mean? We sometimes ask. What does the artist’s painting mean? What does the symphony mean? They do not mean, they simply are.

We should avoid dogmatic or generalized interpretations of the Bible, even in a metaphysical sense. The Bible has no meaning, it simply is. As a teacher, I fail you if I give you the interpretation. That’s been a statement that is not expressed often enough in teaching, but you can find meaning in the Bible and meaning yourself by dealing with the scriptures at the level of your need and the consciousness of your own divine flow. The insights revealed through that flow within you.

As an example, I’d like to have you join me in examining an obscure passage in the book of Zechariah, one of the minor prophets of the post-Exilic period. After the Jews were set free, following a long period of exile in Babylonia, returning to Jerusalem, they found the city in ruins and the temple in shambles.

Of course, their chief concern was the confusion and ineffectiveness of their religion because there was no temple, which had always been the central feature of Jewish spiritual life.

Zechariah became a sort of cheerleader, seeking to encourage the disheartened people, urging them to rebuild the temple. He has a series of dreams or visions which he recounts, one of which we’re going to consider in part today.

Reading from Zechariah, the second chapter, first through the fifth verse (Zech. 2:1-5). I lifted up my eyes and saw and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. And I said, “Where are you going?” He said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its breadth and what is its length.” And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward and another angel came forward to meet him and said to him, “Run, say to that young man Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. I will be to her, a wall of fire around about says lord. I would be the glory within her.”

What on earth does that mean? The first thing is to realize that the Bible is your story. SO this is the story of one person, you. Every aspect of that bit of scripture deals with something in your consciousness, a state of awareness. The young man in the vision, typical of any rising generation, was more eager for city walls than for the temple. More concerned with houses, lands and possessions than with spiritual truths. He’s seen with a measuring line in his hand, he wants to set limits to the city and surround it with a protective wall.

But a wall designed for protection ultimately leads to limitation and exclusion as we’ve discovered, time and time again in history. Note the great wall of China, which the emperors had erected to keep out the Asian hordes, which ultimately caused the destruction of the empire because it was cut off from the vital flow of civilization and decayed from within. The vision being, the angel calls for Jerusalem to be unwalled, open like a great village.

It was the dawning realization that a city is best protected, not by her walls, not by laws of prohibition or by locks and bolts and bars on the windows, but by the faith and spiritual commitment of its people. This was the birth of the modern city and the vision for the future of nations, which could be saved and protected, not by military defenses or by iron or bamboo curtains, but by the moral and spiritual character of the people.

The prophet’s ideal is not a world of fortress cities and societies, but unwalled cities and free and open communication and commerce between nations. So he sees Zechariah as an apostle of peace.

Metaphysically, Jerusalem means habitation of peace is the abiding consciousness of spirit within every person and his awareness of it. Result of continuous realizations of the truth, is the state of being centered in one’s inner roots. Actually, it’s the desire for the centering that is the ceaseless urge for wholeness. That when misread leads us in the endless quest for things and achievements and relationships, a hunger that becomes materialistic and sensual. So, we go forth with our measuring line in hand and the spirit within, the watchman of the night confronts us with the question, whereth goeth now? Where are you going?

And the human other’s responds, “I’m going to measure Jerusalem.” In other words, “I’m going to make my fortune and we’re going to make her earn the where with all the house, my family, to feed and clothe them, and of course to find the security, to protect them from harm.” Reason enough, of course, but the message comes back. The angel has got an idea that it shall be as a village without walls. We tend to measure our money, and so often we say insufficient. We measure our age and we say too old, too young. We measure our prospects for success, and sometimes we say the odds are against me. The sense of limitation, they motivate us at times to look for alternate ways, shortcuts. Interesting thing, even the shocking thing, is that most of the goals we set in life no matter what the motivation, by and large rationalized as right and righteous ends, that’s the person with the measuring line in his hands symbolizing the relentless drive for power and possessions and the means to secure them, “Where they goeth now?”

You would probably say an effect, “I’m going down to measure the length and breadth of Jerusalem and bring out into the world to make my success.” On Wall Street, those who carried stock trading and leveraged buyouts into gray areas and beyond are merely going down to measure Jerusalem. In the beginning, they were bent on the attempt to find security for themselves and their families. Of course, it was all out there at the circumference of life building walls. You might wonder why the alarming increase in incidences of insider trading, and the shocking revelations and irregularities even criminal intent in the defense department in Washington, various other things that we see going on. In society, are that immoral?

Unfortunately we do not realize that it is more than a question of immorality, because morals by definition deal with accepted rightness. This often allows for the rationalization that everybody’s doing it. What is needed is not morality, but what I call a meta-morality and knowledge on the adherence to a spiritual principle is ignorance of the law of compensation. It leads people down the endless round of trying to get something for nothing hoping for the lucky break, finding the shortcut to advancement and success, is this limited view that motivates the thief, the gambler and the compulsive speculator.

One of the great problems is that we’re conditioned to believe that life is lived from the outside in. Under this fallacious belief the whole purpose of life is to go out into the world to get learning, to get friends, to get money, to get success, to get power. When our whole cultural system is built around the idea of get get, get, is it a wonder that getting there becomes the universal goal no matter by what means? Under the success syndrome, the means of getting there are too often justified even if the ethics are slightly in the gray area. We even have a tendency sometimes to glamorize a sophisticated criminal because he got there. As I say so often, success is not getting there it is earning the right to be there, building the consciousness within.

So, if we find ourselves looking longingly in the direction of a shortcut to success or prosperity, even looking hungry to get lottery tickets is the key to fame and fortune, let the angel or God idea within come forward and ask, “Where they goeth now?” What are you doing? Where are you going?

For Jerusalem shall be a city without walls. The consciousness that emanates from the center and reaching out without limitations, because life is lived from within out. Build the inner consciousness, build the temple within, seek an awareness of your own ground of being and work from this consciousness and giving there’ll be prosperity insecurity in your life. That’s the law, that’s the principle, that’s the great message of the scripture.

The important application of Zechariah’s vision is that to put chief emphasis on building Jerusalem’s wall is to miss the whole meaning of life. As the poet says, why build these cities glorious if man unbuilded goes? You build the temple or the awareness of spiritual unity within and there can be a city without walls. You can transcend limitations, you can accomplish things you can overcome, you can.

Everyone longs for the feeling of security voice by the Psalmist. Though the earth do change I shall not be moved, but how can one achieve that kind of security? When does a person really secure? It’s a question we ask and should ask. Certainly one is not secure alone by laws and locks, for the most complicated locks can be opened by the same intelligence that made them, and the most stringent laws can be circumvented by those who pervert their innate intelligence. Laws and locks provide guidelines for the honest, temporary restraints for the dishonest, they will never stop dishonesty. So security calls for an awareness of the protecting presence within and as Zechariah says, “The wall of fire around you.” The Psalmist says, “Though the earth do change.” We’ve had a tragic example of violent earth changes in the recent earthquake in Armenia. An earthquake is a startling, terrifying experience. I’ve been in several of them, I know. One of them quite severe. It is particularly unnerving because though we may have had problems trusting people or conditions, somehow there’s a sense that the earth beneath our feet is one thing you can feel sure about.

A friend of mine used to joke, “I believe in good old terra firma and the more firma the less terra.” So an earthquake may shake the person to the core by the realization that even the earth is not really safe, it’s a shattering experience. Going down to Jerusalem with the main measure lining in your hands, he discovers that he’s unable to build protective walls. On what can you trust? What you can have your faith in? The need is to listen to the voice of the angel, the divine idea. It says that Jerusalem should be inhabited as a village without walls. Therewith peace and security shall come not from outer things, from possessions, from walls and relationships, but from the protecting presence from the center within the divine ages. This can lead to the feeling of there’s something within that no outer change can touch or hurt or take away, this relate to a true feeling of security and the experience of serenity, which we all long for.

In a very real sense we’re all walking along a road toward our own Jerusalem, usually with a measuring line in hand, that’s our hangup. The preoccupation with other things and conditions, which are all too limited or the sense of limitations everywhere, with walls and locks is there a means a security insufficient. There’s a statement I read somewhere attributed to Confucius, he must’ve been a very wise man if he actually said all the things that have been credited to him. Anyway, wherever it came from, we’re told Confucius said, “The most beautiful sight in the world is a little child going confident down the road after you’ve shown him the way.” Little child going confidently down the road after you’ve shown him the way, it’s a lovely picture isn’t it? Little child alone, but confidently walking down the road, singing, dancing, smiling, spontaneous, enthusiastic, and with no measuring line, no attempt to judge by appearances.

See in a mirror darkly, not proceeding cautiously towards Jerusalem, measuring the length and breadth of the defenses, simply going forth in faith, joyously celebrating the flow of life, celebrating it by living, living fully, completely. It’s that childlike faith that is called for, Jesus calls us to turn and become as a little child. Do you have a feeling of security? Ask yourself, look within yourself. Basically it depends on whether you’re following the highway that has been pointed out to us. Paul says, “Having therefore a boldness to enter into the way he dedicated for us a new and living way, a new and living way of truth.” It says that walking this new and living way, it gives you a feeling of security. It doesn’t say it will give you security.

You may have a feeling of security when you listen to words of truth or read them, and when you meditate, but the only security you can ever have is the sense of being rooted in the eternal ground of your being. Now we just transcended to physical things. We may ask ourselves, “Whether goeth us now?” But there’s that of us that may be like the young man in Zechariah’s vision going forth with a measuring line, fighting to build security at all costs. Actually one of the greatest dangers to our way of life may be our preoccupation with security. As professor Peter Bertucci of Boston university once said, “It may be that any view of life that puts security rather than creativity first has misread life at its best, and that’s misinterpreted the cosmic process.” This is not to suggest that the desire for security is wrong, that we shouldn’t seek ways to achieve it. It seems that when we put the chief emphasis on outer things, we miss the whole meaning of life.

Life is not for a safe and secure settling in behind fearfully erected fences, life is for living, for expression, for growth, for expansion. If homo-sapiens had not risen above the inclination to be safe at all costs, we might still be living in caves, if indeed human race would be living at all.

We were children, if you’ll recall, it was exciting to measure ourselves against yard sticks and door jams, to see how much we had grown from week to week and month to month. Of course, we stopped doing that when we matured and grew up physically. We stopped using the measuring line to measure our personal growth and began using it to measure things, conditions, and people out there. A good example, you described an employer who was talking to me some time ago and he said that he was disturbed by an attitude of a young person who came seeking employment. The employer explained in the interview, the kind of work the young person would be doing, told about the opportunities that he would have career wise and all things about the job, and even its compensation. He asked the young person if he had a question, “Yes, I have one question.” He said, “Tell me about your pension plan.”

In other words, this young person is so concerned about security at the beginning of his work life and is more interested in conditions of his eventual retirement than his present opportunities. As the man said, “It’s a sad commentary in our times.” What a tragic loss of the wealth of life. Just note this, the young man is physically matured and now measuring line and hand, he wants only to live out the rest of his years in a holding operation on a walled city. Certainly every normal person at times will have concerns for his welfare, and this is right. The one who’s walking in the new and living way of truth will seek first to become centered in the creative flow within and his inner ground of being, and then with his inner centering he’ll put away the measuring line, and like the child who has been shown the way he will walk confident on the road joyously, spontaneously, enthusiastically.

You may recall when the rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus to follow the new and living way of truth, Jesus put him to an extreme test. He said, “Sell everything you have and give the entire proceeds to the poor and then come and follow me.” That’s a hard lesson, it’s what I call the RYR test. Rich young ruler test. You might think about that for yourself sometime, it’s a very hard lesson. Jesus was trying to point out, you know the infamous God of divine law by how much you’re worth and how much you’re worthy of. It’s interesting that the Hebrew word for security has a connotation toward worthy.

“How do you identify yourself?” Jesus wanted to know, Do you identify yourself with your money and as your money or as a person, a child of God, a spiritual being who’s drawn to him money out of his worthiness? The important thing is, where’s your identity? That’s what Jesus wanted to know and if the man had been willing to give up his possessions he wouldn’t have had to, the fact that he couldn’t give them up meant that he didn’t have possessions, possessions had him. That’s what Jesus was working in him. So you see, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for one to build up a net worth. We all I must recognize the importance of creating a consciousness of worthiness, and he was walking the road without measuring line, living in the unwalled city made secure by emphasis on the central temple.

Let me talk about the temple here and especially in the book of Zechariah. It doesn’t refer to partially parting religious slogans or simply joining a church on confession of faith. This would always be a matter of personal taste and rent preference, but the temple and the city of Jerusalem we’ve heard doing Zechariah’s vision, therefore is not to a temple of marble and walls, idols, alters. We first to the inmost center, the still point of the turning world within. “Whereth goeth now?” In religious seeking, there is a great need for what has been called interiority, this is one of the great problems and religion in the world today. Churches have been preoccupied with outwardisms, with ritual and ceremony. Religious experience has been essentially something you do, words you say, sacraments you partake of. In many ways religions have become walled cities themselves.

As we walked the new and living way of truth without the measuring line of intellectual and material measuring you realize that transcended religion deals not with an afterlife, but with a present life upgraded. The religion is not an escape from work and wages and the traffic of streets and housing and people, it’s the key to making them work and seeing them in the right perspective. To conceive a religion as a thing in itself, something that can exist apart from life, something kept in separate compartments called the soul, as an extra accomplishment like music or a special talent like art, is totally misapprehended, on the contrary, is that which fills all compartments, that which makes the whole life music and every separate work a work of art.

And we walked new and living way of truth, we live in a city without walls, without limitations, a city that has made strong because it is centered in the ground within focused on the eternal life. You’re inspired and rightly directed from within always. Charles Fillmore says, “There’s that in man, which when opened will place him into direct contact with universal knowledge, enable him instantly and constantly to draw forth anything he may wish to know.” (Charles Fillmore Christian Healing 98) In the city without walls. There are no limitations when he’s in tune with the divine flow as he has the guidance and the direction and the wherewithal and the energy and the substance, do all the things he needs to do without being penned up in a walled in city. And we lift up our eyes in the manner of Zechariah and behold that, that invested is going to Jerusalem with measuring line in hand, to see what its breadth and length. And there was dealing with the externalities of life in a purely intellectual material way, judging by appearances, seeing through a mirror darkly, it’s important to listen to the prompting of the spirit, to put our trust not in city walls, but bind and frustrate.

Not in things and possessions and investments, leaning on people at the expense of inner growth, but to put our trust in God and the manifestation and protection of good, which comes because we’re worthy of it. And because you’re worthy of it my consciousness, no one can take from us any way, shape or form.

And the angel from within says to the young man, “I will be to you a wall of fire roundabout, and I will be the glow ray within you.” The wall of fire represents the circle of light and love, it is the activity of the presence that is always present, which often we allow to be turned down. It’s that very something within a person that some of the early artists represented as a halo, a circle of light surrounding us. Returning within to the still point, the circle of light becomes a literal force for direction for protection, and he says, “I will be the glory within you.” Literally the glow ray, the shining center within, it is from this shining center, the glory of God, there emanates an energy that gives rise in you to faith and wisdom and good judgment and dealing with the challenging issues that we face individually and collectively as a world community. No matter how complicated or threatening, there’s always a right answer within, in the circle of cosmic light around us, in the glow ray of God within us.

Very briefly, this has been a metaphysical interpretation of of a great story of the Bible. I want you to remember that it has no meaning it simply is, but I don’t want you to think that I’ve given you the interpretation. I encourage you to turn to your Bible and read Zechariah, second chapter first through fifth verse, reflect upon it in meditation from the perspective that it is your story. What is the meaning to you for you? You have an answer. To help you to answer the question, “Whether goeth now?” That’d be to find a new direction for your life.

I’d like you to be staying with me for a moment. All that comes to us by inspiration outward direction is only valid and effective if it helps us to experience attunement with the source within. This is the key, this is what we really are, this is our divine identity. So for a moment get the picture of the little child Confucius talks about, the most beautiful thing in the world, this child going down the road after he’s been told the way. With joy, with spontaneity, with enthusiasm, with creativity, with confidence. See yourself walking in this manner, see yourself realizing the fullness of the awareness that your life should be a city without walls. There should be no limitations, no age limitation, no financial limitations, no conscious limitations, you’re centered in the ground within you.

It’s not something that you have to create. And the Bible talks about building the walls of Jerusalem. These are walls that need not be there. When I talked about building the walls of the temple, there need be no walls because the temple is the center within you, your own secret source and sacred source of oneness with God. You don’t create it, you don’t encourage it, you only allow it to be. Understand it, rest in it, act upon it. So, at the center of you is the ground of your being, the focus of the infinite process working in expressing as you. So to the degree that you’re conscious of this, you deal with all the things that you have before you in the world, insecurity and faith and creative expression of the power to overcome, to change, to find fulfillment.

You walk down your road to Jerusalem, the city of peace, the consciousness of oneness. I didn’t go the measure line, tendency to judge by appearances, see in a mirror darkly, to evaluate things intellectually and materialistically, to know your oneness. Within you with the light, a glow ray, circle of light that surrounds you and it follows you, protects you, makes your way successful and fulfilling, Wither goest thou?


So be it.