Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #2Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #2
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on May 2, 1975
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover...And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.” (Mark 16:15-18)
In this controversial passage, who is the Master talking to? Who is to go into the world and preach? Who shall preach everywhere and have the word confirmed by the signs that follow? On the surface, it would appear that Jesus was addressing the eleven disciples as He appeared to them following the resurrection. It seems to be a final commission to these men whom He had organized to carry on His work.
The Christian Church has always believed that this was, through the disciples, the commission for the Church. Thus it has seen the entire Gospel directed primarily toward the Church, rather than to the individual. The Bible thus comes more of a set of Church by-laws than a Universal Truth for application by all men. One variation on this theme is that man lives only for the Church, and only by supporting it can he gain righteousness and salvation. Another variation has led missionaries to all the darkest corners of the world to face great hardships and sometimes brutal deaths.
The church has followed the idea of baptism to the letter, stressing the idea that unless a person is baptized, either by sprinkling or total immersion, he cannot be saved. They have taken the statement, “But he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” to be a command rather than a basic statement of cause and effect. Thus we have seen the most un-Christian denunciations of those who do not believe.
Many religious sects, again misunderstanding the final commission, have literally sought to “babble in tongues”, have made the handling of deadly snakes an initiation into belief, and have even drunk poison to prove their belief.
Now an enlightened minority within Christianity, and certainly mystics and great thinkers throughout all time without organized religion, have believed that Jesus’ commission was really a Universal challenge to all men everywhere.
Jesus was not giving instructions for a Church to follow. I do not believe that Jesus organized a Church as such. As a matter of fact, many of the accepted practices and organizational ideals of modern churches are the very things Jesus condemned in the religious institutions in His day. Jesus organized a little band of disciples to convey His message of Truth, to carry on the teaching of the Truth that would make them free and would help them find abundant life. His was an organization, not of doctrine, but of ideas.
When Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”, this refers to the world within. We can never be of any great influence in the world without until we have converted the world within! Thus, man’s first job is to discipline his own thoughts, to bring every errant thought into captivity to the Divine Process, and to preach the Gospel to every cell and organ of the body.
How the idea of baptism has been labored over in Christianity. We recall that John baptized people in the river Jordan as did some of the disciples. This was an outward symbol of a spiritual ideal that Jesus merely tolerated. He said, “Suffer it to be so now.” Jesus did not baptize people with outward symbols. The only form He ever used was when He breathed on his disciples the holy breath of spirit.
The word baptism comes from the Greek word, “baptisma” which is a wonderful and powerful word. The real meaning is, “To become overwhelmed completely by an element (any element) to the point of saturation.” Jesus had in mind an immersion in cosmic awareness—as Paul said, “in Him we live and move and have our being.”
The “Baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins” which the Church has made into an outward form, is, in fact, a simple and beautiful matter of thought training. The Greek word from which we receive our word “repentance” is “metanoia”. It has been interpreted as admonitions to God of sorrow for past sins and a resolve to be good in the future. In the sense of goodness, of course, the whole Christian world has failed...failed to discern the Christ teaching about mental laws. The true meaning of metanoia is to change one’s mind. Jesus did not mean that we should condemn those who do not believe or repent. He was stating a law of Truth: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” To believe in God is to make contact with the source of life, substance, and intelligence. It is the very key to living abundantly. To disbelieve, to close the mind, is to open the way to want and suffering. The disbeliever veritably condemns himself, as does a person who refuses to turn on a light switch, to walk in the darkness.
“And these signs shall accompany them that believe.” Again, this is not a command to do something, but an indication of the law of cause and effect. The person who keeps conscious contact with God in faith will experience blessings.
“In my name shall they cast out demons.” The word demon refers to a multitude of inner conflicts and complexes... states of consciousness that have been developed because the creative power of man has been used in an unwise or ignorant manner. There are demons in all of us, such as inferiority complexes, because in human consciousness we have become confused and filled with obsessions and mental aberrations. But when we lift our consciousness and work “In His Name”, we find that we can speak with authority of spiritual truth, and the demon states will be cast out.
To “speak with tongues” actually means to have the spiritual ability to speak in harmony and understanding with people in all different states of consciousness. Jesus had that ability—He could translate his thoughts into everyone’s language. This is one of the signs we carry when we truly believe.
“They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them.” We must remember that Jesus did not hold deadly serpents in His hands just to prove His power. He would not even turn stones to bread to prove this power. The serpent in the scriptures always refers to elemental life. Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This refers to the lifting up of individual consciousness from sense awareness to the consciousness of man’s divine nature. Taking up serpents represents lifting up consciousness without being hurt by sense reactions.
“They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover...” We must remember that all these things are the signs that accompany those who believe and are elevated to spiritual consciousness. There can be no real healing in human consciousness—cure yes, but no real healing. This has been the weakness in Christianity—it has tried to carry the signs as the divine authority, and has layed on hands only through rituals and ceremonies. But YOU are the one that the signs must accompany. You must carry the signs, you must believe, you must be immersed in spiritual consciousness. You must go forth to your world to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons.
To “lay hands on the sick” is a figure of speech. It does not necessarily mean to make physical contact. It means rather to take the sick person into your consciousness and hold the person in your consciousness of the all-pervading life and love of God in which there can be no imperfection.
We find a vital key to all this in the final phrase of the Gospel of Mark:
“And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.” Remember that the “word” in scripture always means “Law”. The law worked with them, then. It seems obvious, but is easy to forget. The law is always working on our side when we are in the right consciousness, and it becomes our servant. When we speak the word of Truth, the Law works with us and results in health, overcoming and demonstrations of good. Remember,
“All things are possible.” You make the difference. You carry the signs.
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth