Meta. The Pharisees (Matt. 12:24) were the religiously educated of Jesus' day, and to their minds all who claimed to do the works of the Lord were spurious unless they were members of the Pharisee cult. No matter how good the work of the outsider, the Pharisee always attributed it to an evil power.
In individual consciousness Pharisees represent thoughts that arise out of the subconsciousness, binding man to external forms of religion without giving him understanding of their real meaning (John 3:1).
The Pharisees, the religious thoughts pertaining to the realm of form, do not know that Truth comes into expression in the consciousness through understanding; they seek a "sign" in the external realm. No sign of the presence of Christ can be given to the pharisaical state of mind, for the things of Spirit are spiritually discerned (Mark 8:11, 12).
In Mark 7:1, the Pharisees represent the state of consciousness that is concerned with the formalities and customs of the external realm. The scribes represent fixed ideas built up in consciousness through one's adhering to tradition and superstition.
Mark 7:2: The disciples of Christ--that is, the thoughts that have been established in the Christ consciousness--become a law to themselves. Mark 7:3, 4: Excessive thought relating to the realm of form leads to narrowness, bondage, and enslavement. "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."
Mark 7:7: The doctrines and precepts of men that have their foundation in personal opinion or traditional custom are profitless. To worship God is to conform to an entirely new principle and teaching. God is Spirit and must be worshiped "in spirit and truth."
Mark 7:9: The adverse consciousness in man rejects the Christ; man, in a degree, recognizes that this is so. Jesus imparted a life principle direct to the people through His teaching, and only by keeping His words can the adverse consciousness be overthrown.
Mark 7:10: Moses represents the phase of consciousness that is concerned with the moral law. This serves a purpose in disciplining the thoughts, but is only a preparation for the advent of spiritual law.
In Luke 18:9-14 the "Pharisee" in consciousness is a selfish state of mind produced by the intellect. It is this self-satisfied mental attitude that causes man to lose sight of the real needs of soul and body, and finally results in dissolution of its own false structure, often at the expense of man's body.
The "publican" is the spirit of meekness that opens man to the inflow of cleansing, illuminating Truth. "He that humbleth himself," has reference to the crucifixion of personality. One who has crucified or humbled himself is "afar off," but empty and receptive to the love and wisdom of God, while the consciousness is being illumined and the Christ exalted.
Pharisees are religionists who have become unbalanced through giving undue attention to the forms of religious rites. Such persons lose sight of the principle back of the symbols. They go through the motions of one living a spiritual life, but the living substance is not present.
There are more Pharisees today than in the time of Jesus, but they have changed their symbols. Standards of life and action for Christian people have gone through many transformations, but the crystallizations in the realm of forms are found on every side. The omnipresent God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is forgotten and ten thousand symbols of Him are worshiped instead (Mark 7:1-13).
A Pharisee observes the forms but neglects the spirit of religion. Henry Ward Beecher said: "A Pharisee is one who worships instruments. Whoever believes that churches, or books, or institutions, or customs, are more valuable than men is a Pharisee."
You will have more trouble with your sectarian thoughts (Pharisees and chief priests) than with all others. They are very close to the spiritual realm in your consciousness, and therefore more powerful than the more material thoughts (John 7:32).
The old-established religious thoughts belonging to the intellectual domain never miss an opportunity to reason with and to dispute every true, spiritual idea that is presented to the consciousness. This is symbolized by the Pharisees, who would keep only the letter of the law. When the spirit of the law is taught it overthrows the outer forms and ceremonies that belong to the letter; so they who are strict in observing the letter usually oppose the spirit of the law. The Truth that the higher self is always bringing to every part of the individual is missed by the pharisaical phase of consciousness.
The Pharisees are exact in performing every little detail of religious acts, but they lack love and mercy, the deeper and higher consciousness of Truth. The intellect must be enlightened by the Christ mind, in order that it may be saved from the woes that are brought upon it by the reaction of the condemnation that it has bestowed upon others. When this enlightenment comes, the spirit of mercy and forgiveness enters into the religious ideas of the intellectual man and the reason will then no longer be inclined to condemn; neither will it lie in wait to assail the Spirit of truth at every point.
It is the Pharisee in us that causes us to love the forms and ceremonies of religion. It is the Pharisee in us that refuses to go deep into the consciousness and cleanse the inner man. It is the Pharisee in us that is ambitious for temporal honors and loves to be saluted with high-sounding titles. It is the pharisaical thought that exalts and sustains personality.
We can overcome the Pharisee in ourselves by receiving continuously new inspiration from the original fount of being within us, and by refusing to be bound by old, effete, religious thoughts (Luke 11:42-54).
Jesus taught that the kingdom of God would not come in a form whereby it could be observed externally; that men should not look here or there in the outer for it, because it is within. But the old established religious thoughts that belong solely to the intellectual consciousness, the Pharisees, cannot comprehend the inner overcoming, and the establishing of Truth in consciousness that causes one to become aware of the kingdom. As soon as a person attains a certain degree of intellectual understanding of Truth he becomes self-righteous, pharisaical; he is inclined to think that he has all of Truth and should demonstrate at once the fullness of the kingdom in his outer life. However, he must learn to use aright the beginning of Truth that has been revealed to him, that he may become worthy of a place in the kingdom.
Those who come into the spiritual understanding and practice of Truth outgrow their old pharisaical beliefs that forms and ceremonies are fundamental in religious worship. As the scribes and the chief priests and the Pharisees of the Jewish people ever sought to trap and destroy Jesus, however, so the old established religious thoughts of the intellect are always trying to find some discrepancy in the inspirations of the great Teacher. The coldness and the hardness of formal religion would kill out the understanding of divine love and wisdom, if they could (Luke 20:19-26).