Last revised: 25 December 2010
The language of mystery
I’ve said earlier that some religious teachers met a violent end. For them to be able to discuss the mysteries in a manner explicable to those with ears to hear while going over the heads of the worldly-minded, the religious teachers of other days sometimes spoke in code. In these essays, we shall take up point to a few examples of that code and translated their encoded words back into plain and simple language again, as best we can.
The Biblical code is a repository of metaphors, parables, and proverbs relating to profound realities. For example, “the fire ever burning on the altar” usually means the immortal Self, the Christ, the prince of peace and Light of the world in the heart; (1) “the temple of God” is usually the human body that houses the Self; (2) “the garments” or “clothes” often represent the desires and thoughts in which a person is dressed that obscure the Self from our view; (3) “clouds” and “glory” often refer to the Holy Spirit, as do the phrases “Word of God,” “Amen,” “Wisdom,” etc. (For the Biblical code as it relates to the Holy Spirit, see “The Divine Mother or Holy Spirit” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/mother.html. )
Sometimes these metaphors are used to make a difficult topic more easily understandable. Pseudo-Dionysius describes this work that the code does.
“We … grasp these things in the best way we can, and as they come to us, wrapped in the sacred veils of that love toward humanity with which scripture and hierarchical traditions cover the truths of the mind with things derived from the realm of the senses. And so it is that the Transcendent is clothed in the terms of being, with shape and form on things which have neither, and numerous symbols are employed to convey the varied attributes of what is an imageless and supra-natural simplicity.” (4)
More often, the code was used to couch profundities in a veil of mystery, as Jesus explained to his disciples.
“The disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. …
“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (5)
It was not given to the worldly to understand the mysteries. Of them St. Paul says:
“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost [in worldliness]:
“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” (17)
Even the religious masters of Israel, like Nicodemus, were to be found among the ranks of the worldly. Here Nicodemus, having asked Jesus for the truth, cannot penetrate his seeming riddles.
“Nicodemus said unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? …
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? …
“If I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (18)
All such metaphors as being born again, being redeemed, raised up, saved, sitting with Jesus in Paradise, or returning to the temple and going no more out are all synonyms for enlightenment, the realization of God the Father, which we have seen to be the purpose of life.
Jesus is telling Nicodemus that a man must be born again — that is, he must experience the death of the ego and the realization of the Self or Christ — before he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus’ own disciples sometimes had trouble with his sayings. But they were his sheep and he held out to them the promise that one day (the day of enlightenment) they would understand all.
“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” (19)
My understanding is that Jesus has spoken until now in proverbs and parables in order to conduct a public ministry and yet reach only the ears of the spiritually ripe. The times in which he preached, as history showed, were intolerant. But he promises that that a day will soon come when he will show his disciples the Father plainly. This is the promised day or redemption or enlightenment. (See footnote 20 for an instance of the Master showing the ripe disciple the Father plainly.)
There is a poignant moment when Jesus tells his disciples a deep spiritual mystery in a single sentence. We have had occasion to examine that statement before. It is Jesus summarizing the spiritual parabola, the sacred arc, away from and back to God. He says: “I came forth from the Father, and I am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” (21)
His disciples take Jesus literally and respond: “Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.” (22) But Jesus has uttered a highly-compressed proverb, a kernel of truth, with several layers of meaning, which appears to have escaped them. Such was the ignorance that surrounded the master that he chose to wrap his nuggets of wisdom in timeless but enigmatic parables and jewel-like proverbs even with his own disciples.
A Treasury of Enlightenment Motifs
With the help of the many commentaries and interpretations now available to us, we can interpret parts of the scriptural code and reveal the Bible for what it is — a rich treasury of enlightenment formulas and motifs, tableaux and dramas. Its word-pictures have already burnt themselves into our collective memories, each there recording something vital about enlightenment.
I am going to take one example and develop it at some length. It suggests that the Biblical masters had knowledge of the chakra system and the kundalini. We start with a passage from Exodus:
“Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto Mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.
And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks and herds feed before that mount.” (23)
St. John of the Cross explains the significance of the divine drama of Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai. St. John shows us that the ascent is a consciously-directed set of actions, designed to leave in our recollection an enlightenment tableau.
“When God ordered Moses to climb to the top of the mountain … He commanded Moses not only to ascend alone, and leave the children of Israel below, but to rule against the pasturing of beasts on the mountainside. [Ex. 34:3] The meaning is that a person ascending this mount of perfection to converse with God must not only renounce all things, by leaving them at the bottom, but also restrict his appetites (the beasts) from pasturing on the mountainside, on things which are not purely God. For in God, or in the state of perfection, all appetites cease.” (24)
St. John of the Cross furnishes us with one clue to the drama here. In another section of his book, he gives us a second clue to unlock the full meaning of the Sinai drama. St. John of the Cross was spiritual director to the nuns and monks of the reformed Carmelite order. He drew a picture once of the ascent up Mount Carmel which he counselled them to undertake. What was the Mount Carmel he depicted? It was the human head. (25)
St. John depicts the human spine ending in the brain. He is testifying to the knowledge of what Easterners term the kundalini, which Da Free John called “the current of immortal joy.” (26) There are hints in his works that he knew of the chakra system. For instance, he describes his enlightenment experience, making reference to “lilies,” which could be his term for the chakras.
“I abandoned and forgot myself,
“Laying my face on my Beloved;
“All things ceased; I went out from myself,
“Leaving my cares
“Forgotten among the lilies.” (27)
The ascent of the kundalini figured prominently in the enlightenment of Franklin Merrell-Woolf. Let us hear a modern-day description of that spiritual energy.
The Current is clearly a subtle, fluid-like substance which brings the sense of well-being already described. Along with It, a more than earthly Joy suffuses the whole nature. To myself, I called It a Nectar. Now, I recognize It under several names. It is … the ‘Soma,’ the ‘Ambrosia of the Gods,’ the ‘Elixir of Life,’ the ‘Water of Life’ of Jesus, and the ‘Baptism of the Spirit’ of St. Paul. It is more than related to Immortality; in fact it is Identical with Immortality. (28)
To the sensuous consciousness It appears as of the nature of a fluid, for there is a sense of ‘flowing through.’ It penetrates all tensions with the effect of physical release. Spots that are not so well feel both rested and stronger. All over and through and through there is a quality that may well be described as physiological happiness. The organism feels no craving for sensuous distraction in order to find enjoyment. The external life of the individual could appear highly ascetic and austere to others, but all the while it would be profoundly happy. …
I wish, by every means possible, to make the point clear that in the Current lies the highest possible value which, from the relative standpoint, we call enjoyment. (29)
Sri Ramakrishna tells us that “a man’s spiritual consciousness is not awakened unless his Kundalini is aroused.” (30) The climb of the kundalini from the base of the spine to the crown of the skull is the real ascent of Mount Sinai or Mount Carmel that results in enlightenment. Sri Ramakrishna describes the entire course of the Kundalini up the spine.
“The Kundalini dwells in the Muladhara [chakra, at the base of the spine]. When it is aroused, it passes along the Sushumna nerve, goes through the centres of Svadhisthana, Manipura, and so on, and at last reaches the head.” (31)
“With ordinary people the mind dwells in these [first] three planes, at the organs of evacuation and generation and at the navel.” (32)
“The awakening of the Kundalini is the beginning of spiritual consciousness, and its union with Siva in the Sahasrara [seventh chakra], ending in samadhi [absorption in God], is the consummation.” (33)
St. John’s drawing of the ascent of Mount Carmel implies knowledge of the importance of the body’s spiritual energy system. St. Paul was probably also aware of it. If we know that what Christians call the Holy Spirit Hindus call, among other names, Shakti (Energy) and Mother Kundalini, then we can see the special significance in St. Paul’s observations that the Holy Spirit dwells in the temple of God, which is the human body, as the spiritual energy or kundalini.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (34)
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (35)
The body is wholly an artifact of the Holy Spirit, who made matter itself and who resides in the body as the kundalini energy. (See ”The Divine Mother or Holy Spirit” at hhtp://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/mother.html.
King Solomon also betrays knowledge of the kundalini system when he states that “wisdom hath builded her house [the body], she hath hewn out her seven pillars [the chakras].” (36)
The image of Moses climbing Mount Sinai, leaving the Israelites and the beasts of the field at the base of the mountain (probably the fourth chakra, where one experiences the first enlightenment or “spiritual awakening”) and ascending the hill to the top (the seventh chakra) where he receives the law (that is, where one experiences God-Realization or Brahmajnana) is a tableau that prepares us to know the work of the kundalini.
After the spiritual energy reaches the fourth chakra, all our thoughts and appetites (represented by the Israelites and beasts) fall away from us and we journey alone from there (i.e., without the worldly desires of the mind). When the kundalini reaches the seventh or crown chakra, we are united with God and blessed with profound wisdom (i.e., we receive the law).
This encoded enlightenment motif has been impressed on the minds of those who have read the dramatic tale of Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai; later enlightenment teachings can be mapped onto it. What we might have questioned or rejected if described in straightforward language has been accepted without difficulty when acted out or ensconced in the Biblical code.
Nor is this use of a code restricted to the Bible. Here it is discussed in the Koran. The angelic author testifies to depriving the worldly of the ability to understand the secret lore contained in the scriptures. His words hauntingly echo those of Jesus. Says he:
“We have cast veils over their hearts, lest they should understand Our words, and [have] made them hard of hearing. Call them as you may to the right path, they shall never be guided. (37)
“Allah leaves in error whom He will, and guides those who repent and have faith; whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah.” (38)
He couches his descriptions of enlightenment in metaphors, knowing that scoffers will not be able to penetrate them: “We coin these similes for the instruction of men; but none will grasp their meaning except the wise.” (39) Thus the scriptural practice of speaking in code was not limited to the Jewish and Christian traditions.
For full details on these sources, see Bibliography at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/bib.html.
(1) “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” Leviticus 6:13.
(2) I Corinthians 3:16.
(3) Genesis: 35:2; Exodus 19:10.
(4) CWPD, 52.
(5) Matthew 13:10-11 and 13
(6) Matthew 7:6.
(7) I Corinthians 2:7-8.
(8) Colossians 1:26-7.
(9) CWPD, 149.
(10) Ibid., 58.
(12) ESO, 49. Cf. Paul in Romans 8:38 and Colossians 1:16-7.
(13) CWPD, 52.
(14) ESO, 51
(15) Proverbs 1:6.
(16) Matthew 7:6.
(17) II Corinthians 4:3.
(18) John 3:4 and 10.
(19) John 16:25.
(20) Paramahansa Ramakrishna offers a very interesting example of the the Master or Personal God showing the ripe aspirant the Father or Impersonal God plainly. He had a vision of Shiva (the Personal God) at the Banares burial grounds revealing Brahman (the Father, the Impersonal God) to the aspirant upon his death.
Said Siva to the aspirant: “‘This is My aspect with form, My embodiment in maya. I assume this form for the sake of the devotees. Now look. I am merging in the indivisible Satchidananda!’ Uttering these words, Siva withdraws His form and enables the dying person to see Brahman.” (GSR, 584.)
(21) John 16:28.
(22) John 16:29.
(23) Exodus 34:2-3.)
(24) CWSJC, 83.
(25) Ibid., 66-7.
(26) KOL, 157.
(27) CWSJC, 69.
(28) PTS, 31.
(29) Ibid., 20-1.
(30) GSR, 830.
(31) Loc. Cit.
(32) Ibid., 245.
(33) GSR, 22.
(34) I Corinthians 3:16.
(35) I Corinthians 6:19.
(36) Proverbs 9:1.
(37) KOR, 94.
(38) KOR, 142.
(39) Ibid., 194
For Bibliographical references, see Bibliography, http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/bib.html.