Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #94
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on December 1, 1975
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I’m always grateful to receive letters from listeners, especially those, who mention areas you would like me to discuss, and I have a couple of letters today that seem to fall into this category. One listener is very concerned about explaining to a grandson what Jesus means when he talks of “hellfire.” Another letter queries about the devils This is a very important subject especially in our time when there has been quite a bit of concern over Satanism.
In the Gospel story the words “devil” and “demon” have been totally misunderstood. The Aramaic word “sheda” and “shedana” are colloquially used to refer to people who have queer ideas and talk too much; they refer to anyone whose actions are not approved. So when the phrase “cast out demons” is used, it refers only to healing the mentally unbalanced or insane. In most cases actual sanity was not involved, but only someone who carried around a torch of anger or bitterness or hatred or fear. This essentially is what the term “devil” means figuratively throughout the Gospels.
Let us look at it allegorically. A caterpillar crawled through the grass, and looking up he saw a gayly colored butterfly wafting on the breeze. He said to himself, “One day I’m going to have wings like that.” It was a totally impossible dream, but he kept on dreaming it. One day the caterpillar began to experience strange sensations; his whole being was ravaged with pain. He was tormented in body and soul and was enshrouded in a cacoon. He suffered a series of convulsions worse than death itself. He wondered what he had done to warrant the pain and if he was doomed to a life of pain and limitation. Suddenly, the shroud began to break up, and miracle of miracles, the caterpillar had wings.
Actually, this is an allegory from real life, and it happens to people as well as to insects. Consider for instance the story of Job, a pious, prosperous man who lived a good life. But he had divine discontent, and he began to experience a spiritual hunger which changed him from a mere believer to an active seeker. Then began a series of troubles that figuratively speaking led Job into the very bowels of hell. In one of these states Satan became a harassing power; Satan deviled him constantly and painfully. Through all his tragic experiences Job tried to see and understand God, but of course God seemed very inadequate and unjust. He was even led to curse God. But through all of his trials there was something in Job working that he was not aware of and could not sense. In time he came to realize that there is a spirit in man, and that “the inspiration of the almighty giveth him understanding.” He began to see this troubles through God, rather than God through his troubles. He came to see and to sense an orderly universe. He discovered that the greatest need was not to set things right, but to see them rightly. So finally. Job let go of Job; he discovered that the Satan that had possessed him was simply the resistance within his own growth experience which concealed his understanding. Seeing with spiritual insight, Job was now free, and we are told that the latter stages of his life were greater than the first.
How often is this experience of Job repeated in life, even in the life of Jesus. We have been taught that Jesus was very God, a divine person, absolved of sin and limitation, but this is not the story of the Gospels. Jesus was not God becoming man, but man becoming God through the disciplined work of mastery. Jesus too demonstrated wings, but like the caterpillar it was not easy. He too had to go through the experience of entombment, through the hellfire as it were; he too died in his shroud, and like Job he had his painful temptations. “Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the wilderness, and there he was tempted by the devil.” The spirit led him to a place of growth; the temptation evidenced a negative limitation of his own consciousness that still had to be worked out. This wilderness experience is a key to understanding the mission and the message of Jesus. If we accept the traditional concept of a real devil with horns, then we are immersed in a dualistic universe of God and the forces of evil locked in a death combat. We miss the beautiful ideal of the Christ in man.
The Aquarian Gospel gives a great insight into the problem of the devil: “The only devil from which man must be redeemed is the self, the lower self. If man would find his devil, he must look within. And when the demon-self has been dethroned, the saviour love will be exalted to the throne of power. The devil and the burning fire are both the works of man, and none can put the fires out and dissipate the evil one but the man who made them both.” Now this is important you see. Jesus like Job was struggling with the human self. Of course, Jesus was on a very high plane of consciousness, but the process was the same. Whenever one commits himself to growth, there is a force of inertia that sets in; a tug of human consciousness exists to continue in former ways. This is what temptation is, the strong pull of the human fighting the change of direction, resisting the very chrysallis that is producing the wings of the spirit. In a sense in the wilderness the human self of Jesus was saying, “Look, be smart. You can be the ruler of the world. You can have riches exceeding Solomon. You could be master of the elements and work wonders in the world.” But Jesus demonstrated his true mastery by saying, “Get thee hence; get thee behind me.” With his extra sense Jesus knew that his commitment to the path of mastery would have to lead him through his own furnace of affliction, his own hell of fire. He knew that to let Christ out, the human man must die. It was a transcendent vision few can understand.
So with striking clarity Jesus saw both sides of the coin at the same time. If you examine coins of American money, you will notice that there are two very different sides with two different meanings. One side of the coin will say how much the coin is worth, delineating its material limitations, but on the other side of the coin are the words, “In God We Trust,” showing the idea of limitlessness. The same coin can be a symbol of limitlessness or limitation depending upon how we see it.
Now this is very important you see. The devil, which we remember is the creation of man’s own consciousness, departs; the temptor which is the symbol of the painful process of growth passes on and is defeated. The first important milestone on the way to the birth of the Christ is passed. The devil served its purpose as a crisis or a crossroads of a decision, and then he moves on. In other words, he is through. The devil is seeing things from the wrong side—seeing money as limitation, seeing living as aging, seeing relationships as conflicts. The devil becomes a force to contend with when we resist and fight life’s changes because we do not understand them. We desparately try to set things right while the need is to see them rightly from the right side of the coin. We need to see “In God We Trust,” to know that the devil has passed.
Now I know this idea of the devil has plagued man from the beginning of time, and it is difficult for man in human consciousness to understand life as a whole. Man has tried to understand God and the universe through his experiences, rather than trying to understand his experiences through a changeless understanding of God. Only in the minds of a few teachers has the concept of oneness been clear, has the consciousness of the cosmic whole that begins with God as the one presence and the one power been understood.
Jesus gives us a key when he says, “Agree with your adversary quickly.” The adversary is the adverse reaction in your own mind. When problems hang on it is because consciously or subconsciously there is a holding on to them in bitterness. Jesus doesn’t suggest that you give in to the negative forces but that you deny them of the only power they have, the power of your limited thought. Remember, the devil is the work of man, and no one can dissipate the evil one but the one who made it, who is you, your own thoughts. So let it go, agree with your adversary, turn your back on it, and give thanks to the unfolding process of good in your life. Know that God is all there is, that there is no force of evil, no personality of evil, no devil except the deviling work of your own negative thoughts and beliefs.
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth