Chapter 22: Tribulation

Down the Rabbit HoleThe outside world, in and of itself and without the luminosity of the Father, is a barren field, an empty shell. The vast majority of people in their everyday world do not recognize the radiance of the Father, which is a personal perception. No matter what we do, we can never truly show the world to others through our eyes. Psychologically, the outside world is a battle of conflicting internal ideas. Carl Jung writes: "The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves."8 In other words, those who don't recognize their inner deficiency, no matter what it is, are doomed to act it out on the world stage, to project it outwardly and often to repeat it until it is recognized. The world is comprised of such deficiencies. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, passage 56, Jesus says: "Whoever has come to know the world has discovered a carcass, and whoever has discovered a carcass, of that person the world is not worthy." We can define the Second Coming of Christ in this context. The Second Coming then is a moment outside of time and space, when the sage's consciousness is pierced by the message and his center is shifted. As we see in 1 Corinthians 15:52, he is changed: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." The message is now in the realm of his experience or better yet, he is now in the realm of the message, moving through that Landscape, and is changed by it. It is a moment of resurrection, of affirmation and understanding, in the same way that a work of art pierces our hearts and captivates our consciousness in a flash. Jesus attempted to express this redemptive perception to his disciples and to the multitudes knowing that only a few may grasp it. Jesus was often speaking through his disciples and across centuries, across the chasm of time, to children of children, to those who might be seized by the perception or the Idea, smile and nod in affirmation and understanding. We can see this idea manifested in our physical world in a variety of ways. We know from genetics that some mothers are carriers of certain mutated genes, whether for better or for worse, and pass them on to their progeny. Although these mothers may not manifest the physical traits or effects of these genes, they carry them within their genetic code and pass them on to their children or grandchildren. These children in turn may exhibit them physically. Likewise, Jesus was looking to pass on this Gene through his disciples.

In verse 24:3, Matthew speaks of the tribulation in similar ways as Luke and John: "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?' And Jesus answered and said unto them, 'Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.'"

Again, these passages do not primarily refer to an external event but an internal one. Curiously enough, Matthew uses the phrase, "All these are but the beginning of the birth pains", in verse 24:8. This is an indication that there is something being born or developing. Something is struggling to come forth. This idea presents two interrelated viewpoints with regard to Matthew's depiction of the tribulation but related to this notion of rebirth. The first has a social inflection and describes a conflict between the demands of the world and the inner demands of the shift in perception. The second speaks of the personal journey, the Path, or struggle taken up within the individual. Here the individual is coming to resolution within himself, with that part of him that was molded by or reflects the world in order to let Christ shine through him.

The first idea tells that those who walk the narrow path will have to contend with social pressures, manifested in different ways. That is apart from the fact that an ignorant world, uninterested in self-examination, will freely wage wars and cause great destruction and suffering (refer to Carl Jung's preceding quote above). With regard to the individual, the world demands constant outward attention in the form of work, of paying taxes, of family obligation, of social duty and of umpteen other things. There is constant tension between the personal and the social and fear plays a major role in this battle. Jesus warns time and again of the pressures of the world. We read in John 17:14: "I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." And in John 14:30 we read: "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me." And finally, John 9:39 says: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Clearly for Jesus the world can be a source of obstruction and impediment to the inner life. Those who think they know and are arrogant in their knowledge are blinded by the idea or concept of truth. Their "truth" is an obstruction for attaining a more profound understanding. The world in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is our ignorance which gives rise to fears and desires. The problem is with the way that our consciousness is directed or positioned. The demons are within us. There is always some pressure to assimilate into society, to give in to the world. One may feel pressure to give up a passion in life in exchange for more money at a job that is anything but satisfying. One may feel pressure to marry out of convenience, not of love, and escape the criticism of family. Life is filled with such pressures and people give in to them daily; but those who "shall endure unto the end" will enter into life. The initial challenge for the sage is to learn how best to live in the world but not be of it, or ignorant of its processes. In essence, the challenge is to retain that unique, personal essence and not let it be snuffed out by the world. In fulfilling this challenge, the sage will need to overcome many obstacles and on the way, his character and determination will be tested. Again, we refer to our math student. On a very small scale, the experience of that math student is similar to the challenge described here. For the student, there are constant temptations outside of himself that attempt to break his concentration. There is the temptation of going to play with friends or eating a snack or watching television or sleeping and so forth. In and of themselves, these activities are neither good nor evil. They simply are what they are. However, the student has a tendency to be drawn by them, to be drawn outward and away from the task at hand. If he retains his focus or meditation on the problem, if he endures to the end, he will be able to resolve it with great satisfaction.

The other metaphorical reading of this passage offers a personal inflection, seemingly separate from the outside world. It has to do with our own personal predispositions that we have acquired from the world, from society, and from our parents. These tendencies are at odds with the requirements of letting go, with transformation. The end of the world described by Jesus is a symbolic dissolution of our personal worldview and more importantly, the end of the concept as reality, of that which we think we are. Jesus is speaking of an internal struggle to transform our consciousness. And again, he is using strong imagery to illustrate the trials that take place on this very personal journey. Words such as earthquakes, famines, pestilences evoke a difficult time and when such words are pondered, in reference to a personal struggle, we begin to get an idea of the earthshaking transformation ahead. Those who endure a physical disaster and manage to live through it often speak of a total transformation. Their lives, their behavior, their attitudes, and their view of the world often change completely after the incident. Many mystics have written of this torturous, painful personal experience in their devotion to God. As a matter of fact, psychologists and theologians believe that mystics and many artists go through certain universal psychological stages in their development, one of which involves such a painful experience of varying degrees, called Purgation. This stage, often attributed to Purgatory in the Catholic Church, is a purifying process by which the self, the one who clings to dualities, to worldly things and identity, is dissolved. In this stage, the soul is battered against the walls of dualities in frustration, and in an instant, taken from the heights of heavenly joy to the depths of utter misery and back again. This bouncing back and forth of the psyche ultimately yields to a complete surrender. The psyche is stretched to its limits and finally snaps. Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226), Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447 – 1510), Saint. John of the Cross (1542 - 1591), and Saint Teresa of Avila (1515 - 1582) are just a few examples of many mystics who wrote of their purgative experiences. Suffice it to say, at the end of this torturous process, with purgation being one of several developmental stages, the mystic is engulfed by transcendence. Consciousness is transformed and the sage recognizes his wholeness, which is reflected in the notion of unification with God.

Referencing the same passage, we turn to the Gospel of Thomas mentioned earlier. The same question is posed to Jesus here and his reply, although somewhat similar to that in Luke 17:20, has quite a different implication. In passage 113 the disciples ask Jesus "When will the kingdom come?" [Jesus responded] "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, the kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it." This important response affirms that all things, when viewed through a transformed consciousness, radiate the mystery and beauty of God. Reported earthquakes, pestilences, famines, wars and other horrific disasters in the world do not transform our consciousness; they do not change our inner lives unless perhaps we happen to personally endure such disasters and live to be psychologically affected by them. We hear of such disasters almost daily in the news and yet we remain unchanged. For many, these catastrophic events may as well be happening on a cinematic screen, which is often the case (mistaking the concept for reality). In this passage, Jesus is saying that heaven can be found in the midst of the sorrows and tribulations of this world. Our reality, our lives, and our world are largely a product of our attitude, our awareness, our consciousness. We often become that which we contemplate. Through the seeming chaos of this world, there is the kingdom of the Father. It is a sacred Place within each of us, a sacred Eye that cannot be put out, a Sanctuary that cannot be disturbed or destroyed, but also that cannot be seen, dissected or studied. It is the ground of being, the source of our lives. We see then that the battle we wage with the world and with each other is a reflection of our inner conflicts.

8 Carl Gustav Jung - AION: Christ a Symbol of the Self

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