Metaphysical meaning of Stephen (mbd)
Stephen, ste'-phen (fr. Gk.)--surround; encompass; encircle with a crown; royal diadem; victor's wreath; crowned.
"A man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit," one of the seven men chosen in the assembly of Christians at Jerusalem to look after the distribution of food among the believers there (Acts 6:6); the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:59).
Meta. The word "Stephen" means encircle with a crown, crowned, victor's wreath. Crowns are worn on the head, and the head is the seat of the intellect. Therefore Acts 6:8 means that the intellect has been illumined and has received power to demonstrate in the outer realms of consciousness.
Stephen really represents the man who is baptized of the Holy Spirit and gets intellectually a clear understanding of the truth of man. The heavens are opened to him; he sees the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. The Son of man is God's idea of man expressed. When the illumination of the Holy Spirit comes to one, there is a discernment, a perception, a prophecy of man, given to the one who is illumined. One who has had this experience can see the possibilities of man, far beyond what has been demonstrated. These possibilities seem so real that they become a moving factor in life and the illumined one goes forth preaching them, talking about them as if they had really come to pass, as if all had been demonstrated.
Stephen was in that illumined state of mind, and in that state of mind he is typical of the students today who receive the Truth, who perceive it, not with full understanding, not with demonstration yet, but with an illumination so strong that they become enthusiasts. They are what we call our "newly illuminated" students, and they do wonderfully effective work in those early stages --but their work is done in the enthusiasm of the intellect. The full regeneration has not yet been established in them.
When the enthusiasm of the intellect begins to adjust itself to the regenerate states of consciousness in man there is apt to be friction. We must remember that there are two great states of consciousness--the spiritual and the material. These work in mind and body, concurrently; they are interpenetrating, and when illumination comes a great energy is generated. The activity of mind is increased at a tremendous rate. The thoughts become swift, and they can be felt moving here and there in the organism.
The thoughts in the heaven of man's mind must, sooner or later, find their places in the body. Mind works through brain cells, and the brain cells are made more active or inactive according to the character of the ideas. Thinking about the omnipotence of the power of God sets up in the body a force, a power, a swiftness, that it never had before. The effect on the organism is that some of the thoughts, which have crystallized in cells, respond. There is increased activity; healing and harmony on inner planes of consciousness take place, but the outer crust does not at once respond. That requires what we call time, and adjustment. In the story of Stephen the delay represents the opposition of the Jews. Formal religion resists spiritual consciousness. It does not receive and adjust itself to the high understanding.
Stephen was argumentative: he wanted to prove to the whole world that the Scripture was true; that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, prophesied from the earliest teaching. He showed and proved that, all the way down from Moses, Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy; the King for whom they were looking. Stephen became so enthusiastic that he suffered a reaction. The people, because of lack of understanding, could not receive those truths all at once.
Similarly we find in our mind that we can receive such high statements of Truth that the brain cells do not respond to them. Our ideas have been so different that there is no receptivity. If we would avoid a chemicalization such as Stephen had, it is necessary that we go slow in the beginning, that we use caution about setting up opposition. We should listen to Spirit and adjust ourselves to the new ideas that are being poured into the mind. Where there is no receptivity we should not talk to people about Truth. As Jesus said, do not "cast your pearls before the swine."
The Spirit of truth within one is judge as to where one shall express Truth and where one shall not. It is a guide and an equalizer. It will put us in touch with the universal Spirit. When trusting it we know just where to sow the seed; we know just when to be very enthusiastic and under what circumstances to be silent.
Those who observe these points are as "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." We can escape the hard conditions that make martyrs of Christians, if we know the divine law, if we know when to be still and when to let Spirit work in the silence. There is a silent force that we carry deep into our mind and can manifest in our daily living. In the end it will result in a larger expression of Spirit than can be had by talking, by proving in an argument to unbelievers that we have found Truth. The enthusiastic believer should not stop all conversation with unbelievers, but he should be wise; he should be discreet; he should listen to Spirit, and drop a word of wisdom here and there. This manner of working will harmonize the within and the without.
Many of us suffer from bodily ills through unbridled enthusiasm. The power of Spirit is thrown upon the organism with such force that there is resistance between the inner and the outer. The outer man must be dealt with as we deal with an unbelieving and material-minded person. Besides the spiritual mind we have a material mind that deals with seemingly material things--it believes that it is body, a material body. We must adjust ourselves to that state of consciousness. If we do not, the little cells of the organism begin to react and we feel the pounding of the stones of material thought. After a high illumination some persons feel a stiffness and soreness all through the organism, as if they had been pounded. The explanation is that there has been the precipitation of a spiritual force into the body and the material cells have resisted.
Spiritual thoughts are real. The body can appear and disappear, but the thought abides. If an arm is cut off the sensation of the hurt and the arm temporarily remains in consciousness. This shows that the thought is the source of sensation and the source of consciousness Then it must be the real thing; in this instance it is the real arm. In all our work of regeneration there must be a wise adjustment of Spirit and of so-called matter.
The Scriptures portray the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews, in their highest sense, represent the regenerate. They are those who come into consciousness of the power of the spiritual man. They are the "chosen of God"; they are the people who are coming out of generation, who are coming out of the material, carnal, animal man, into a higher man. The Gentiles are those who are in generation. They are under the law of the man of flesh.
We set spiritual ideas working with just one object in view: the introduction of the regenerate consciousness. When we have received the full baptism of Spirit and have come into the Jew consciousness, we are conscious of a new spiritual formation within us. This is the new creature in Christ Jesus, and the carnal man is transformed, readjusted, and lifted up into unity therewith.
When Jesus spoke of salvation's being from the Jews He meant that salvation is of or from the regenerate man. There is no salvation without regeneration. One must put on a new mind; one must take the ideas that are presented by Truth, and adjust the whole man to them. Every department of man must be lifted up. There must be a new man in Christ Jesus and the old man must pass away.
Metaphysically interpreted, this change is what took place in Stephen. The old state of consciousness passed away. We are told that he fell asleep, but the language expresses an important metaphysical fact: everything of a material character crystallizes, falls asleep; it passes from the positive to the negative pole.
The positive pole of mind is spirituality; the negative pole is materiality. The first is I AM; the second is I am not. When the I-am-not thought gets possession of a life, that life goes down into negation, or falls asleep. The word cemetery means "sleeping chamber." Everything that relaxes its I AM energy, I AM power, I AM life, falls asleep. If in our daily experiences we relax our hold upon the high spiritual ideas, some part of our life is falling asleep. It may be that the eyes are the "sleeping chambers" of the thought; perhaps it is the ears. But if, with Stephen, we keep making conscious affirmation of the I AM Spirit--I AM life, I AM that I AM, I AM the Son of God sitting at the right hand of the Father and exercising the power of God--we shall see what he beheld. He saw the real man, and saw that man in himself. Let us see this divine man in ourselves. Let us rise to the standard of the regenerate man, not questioning what is going to become of the race if all people are regenerated. God will take care of that. All that we have to do is to know that there is a new possibility for man, a new possibility for you and for me, if we will accept Spirit and the law of Spirit as laid down by Jesus Christ.
Let us agree to enter the new race, become one with Spirit, and reap the reward of Spirit in a new state of consciousness, a new possibility that includes health of mind, health of body, spiritual understanding, and all other things that we have desired.
The stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) also shows that the final outcome of exercising arguments and zeal continually is to bring about resistance. Stephen is extolled as the first Christian martyr, and thousands have made themselves martyrs by taking his life as a literal example, instead of learning from it that violent martyrdom for Truth's sake is the result of zeal without wisdom. It is not necessary to be a martyr in the cause of Truth. To obviate martyrdom, or useless persecution, do not argue, do not dispute, do not let your zeal run away with your love and consideration for those who do not see things from the same standpoint that you do. Even though one sees the error of others, he should not be too ready to condemn. If it is necessary to quote Scripture to fortify your cause, do so without heat; then the hard, material thoughts of those with whom you are talking will not fly at you like stones ("they stoned Stephen").