Chapter 16: The Concept vs. Reality

Down the Rabbit HoleWe know from the Bible that Jesus was well versed in the Scriptures of his day. Luke 2:46 reads: "And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers." He is depicted as knowing the Commandments and the Prophets. Throughout his ministry, we see Jesus reinventing or reinvigorating the teachings of his day. He lived in a region driven by laws whereby religious and social ideas were intimately intertwined. As told, Jesus aimed to turn the attention of the people of his day from the outside world to the inner life, to self-knowledge. In Matthew 23:25 we read: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess." Through metaphors, Jesus was speaking out against blind tradition here and against those who follow the rituals, who go through the motions of their religion but who remain unchanged within their hearts. Whether or not Jesus truly aimed to integrate the Jewish tradition with his own vision, we see him in the Scriptures as building a bridge between the old and new covenants rather than completely departing from the Jewish tradition; otherwise, Jesus – or the writers of the Gospels - would not have been able to engage the people's attention and give weight to his ministry. In addition, it was necessary to show that Jesus is an heir to or a culmination of God’s law. Whether or not this was something that Jesus necessarily thought about systematically, his vision was an organic process that grew out of his passion and conviction. An artistic creation, in its most powerful form, is oftentimes revealed in a flash, whole, much like Athene in the mind of Zeus, without any meddling from the analytical mind. Later after the "act" it may be picked apart to reveal a logical pattern or structure.

The parable was the preferred vehicle for Jesus. In Matthew 13:34, we read: "All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: 'I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.'” Even his disciples ask him to speak in plain language in John 16:29: "His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speak thou plainly, and speak no proverb." So why did Jesus speak in parables? Parables are short stories that illustrate a certain idea or theme. It is almost futile for me to concisely outline, through intellectual means, a metaphorical perspective of the message of Jesus. Were I eloquent enough, I would write this entire book in parables; for then I would have a better chance of engaging my audience's deeper intelligence. Through the parable, Jesus plants a seed in the imagination of his disciples; he invokes their inner experience. Parables are also riddles and are often filled with paradoxes. It is the listener's task to unlock the mystery in them, to crack them wide open. Jesus was seeking this shift in consciousness in his disciples. It is not something that can be discussed or explained. One has to experience it for oneself and the only way to do so is to delve within one's own mind. Most orthodox Christians believe that Jesus "did all of the work" on our behalf and that all we have to do is call upon him to save us. That is certainly one level of understanding; however on a much different level, Jesus tells us that the only way to reach a new point of intimacy and experience with "the Father" is to "do the work" ourselves, to awaken to the grace of the Father.

Here is another way of looking at this point. In modern society we generally shop at convenience stores. We go to the market and buy our food that comes neatly prepackaged in little containers. The meat we buy is usually ground up or cut by the butcher so that it resembles nothing of its original form. This is the experience of the modern consumer. However, imagine if we lived in the wilderness and had to hunt for food. We would be forced to learn to hunt and to kill animals and plants for food. We would have the personal experience of killing an animal with a spear or a bow and arrow or a rifle. We would have the personal experience of separating flesh from bone and of cooking the flesh on an open fire. This visceral experience produces quite a different consciousness from that of the modern day consumer. The hunter's experience is personal and intimate. For one, it puts the hunter in touch with nature and with the notion that his life is intimately intertwined with that of the animal or plant that he has killed for food. The consumer, on the other hand, is disconnected, detached from this experience. The jarring and enriching experience of the hunter is not available to the modern-day consumer. In those terms, the hunter is the sage who has the experience personally, who becomes intimate with the sustenance of his own inner life. And so orthodox Christians can certainly call upon the name of Jesus and accept salvation that is neatly prepackaged and available for the taking; however, they rob themselves of the experience of the hunter, which occupies an entirely different and living landscape. Jesus even tells us that few are those who go out in the wilderness to become hunters. In Matthew 22:14 we read: "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Awakening this perception is neither a choice that is made by a divine authority nor a choice that we make at an individual, conscious level because that type of thinking is based on a fragmented and illusory world. This awakening does not require that we “do” something or reach out for truth, but recognize that the idea or image we have of ourselves, as individual units, is a mere illusion. This recognition comes upon surrender of the idea or concept, which is always a fragment, as a substitute for reality, which is whole. Our modern lives are based on a model consisting of individual concepts and ideas rather than interdependent relationships. Science has been telling us that this is an illusion and that there is great evidence suggesting that all of the matter and energy in the Universe is somehow interconnected. When we speak of a tree, for example, we get an image of a thing that is composed of some parts: the roots, a trunk, some branches and some leaves. This image is a very anemic description of the actual magnificent phenomenon that we call "tree." A tree is really a multitude of dynamic processes and interdependent relationships; it lives when certain conditions in the environment are met and is dependent on the orchestration of certain processes. If we take a close look we can see that it is virtually impossible to describe or really capture all that is going on in that movement we call "tree." The process of photosynthesis that takes place in the leaves, for example, is a miracle in itself, transforming light into an aid for nourishment. We can easily see then that we have shifted our attention in the modern world from the actual, the real to the conceptual. In that shift, something fundamental and vital is lost. Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden. Paradise has been lost.

No concept or train of thought or method of study can lead us back to the real world. Many spend a lifetime of meditation and self-discipline, only to simply surrender at the end all of their efforts and desire to achieve a certain "state" or what is called enlightenment. But by recognizing that no method can lead to truth and by rejecting false pretenses, one is in the presence of truth. Those who arrive at this juncture internally open their eyes to the world as it is.

Comments powered by CComment

Order the Book Now



Order The Forbidden Heights Now