exegesis on bible quotes: mystical meaning
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
What we find from the words of Western prophets is that, from the outset, they have advised us to travel absolutely naked upon the path back to the Spirit, with neither idea, nor concept, nor understanding of God.
To begin, then, it is arguable that the interpretation of Christ's words regarding how we will know when we have entered the Kingdom of Spirit (that is, "When you take your clothes off, and are not ashamed.") are in reference either to the loss of physical garments around our beings, or to the dissolution of the ego, or to the evaporation of the mental clothes we wear (points can be made for all of these interpretations, and it is likely that all are valid in one way or another, in the shedding of unnecessary traits)- though I would claim the validity of the third interpretation as a supporting analysis for this work (i.e. the shedding of mental clothes leads to the Kingdom of Spirit), for what we believe we 'know' is but a garment over the 'unknowable'; mystery is hidden behind unmystery. And I would claim corroboration for this interpretation from Thomas Carlyle's book Sartor Restorus (or, The Philosophy of Clothes), which, in its vast and eloquent ramblings, expresses largely the sense that it is our mental accoutrements which need discarding if we are to return to Heaven, for "...all Symbols are properly Clothes; ...all forms whereby Spirit manifests itself to sense whether outwardly or in the imagination, are Clothes... [And so] happy [is] he who can look through the Clothes of a Man...into the Man himself...an inscrutable venerable mystery."
Again, 'The Fall' occurs every time we divide ourselves from the unknowable One Mystery (that is, when we clothe ourselves in understanding, thus becoming ashamed of the true nudity of our ignorance) by assuming we understand anything whatsoever of the whole, and especially when we think we understand God.
And so, in attempting to help emancipate us from our mental garments, we are admonished in the second commandment to: "Make not unto thee any graven images..."
And what is a graven image? It is anything that is not fluid, fleeting, and mercurial; any fixed idea, permanent covering, notion, or concept, forming a cognitive wall or filter and inhibiting our perceptual intimacy with the livingness of life.
All images are dead, whether they are in the mind, or carved in stone. Only the spirit which lives without hindrance from preconception or memory is truly alive; the mind, anchored by concept, ceases to be fluid, and 'alive', for it is buried within static thought-structures and therefore has not the plasticity required to engage in the living moment. The supplicant, after all, must be supple.
Thus we must remain like liquid aspects of the whole (like quicksilver, as it were), without labeling or imagining ourselves as separate, perishable entities. We must see ourselves without the stasis of images- graven images- for these lead to naught but the grave.
To create static images is to divide the living whole into dying particularities. Thus we must be with God and ourselves, without a concept of what we are nor what God is, for if we have an image, any image, we are bound to that finitude and are not free and infinite.
"He who seeks, let him not cease seeking until he finds;
and when he finds he will be troubled,
and if he is troubled he will be amazed..."
Gospel of Thomas
What we are striving to accomplish is a release from the limited context of the manifest, of the flesh, of 'knowing'. We are seeking to return to the freedom and limitlessness of the soul before the fall, when all was divine, mysterious, and mercurial in nature. It is within this living mystery that union occurs between parts no longer seen as separate. That is when mankind and God shall no longer be divided. That is when God is..."Unknown and yet well known." (2 Corinthians 6:9) Unknown because God remains a mystery; known because we are intimate with that mystery.
And that is when "We are fools for Christ's sake..." (1 Corinthians 4:10), as St. Paul advised; to be a fool so as not to be divided from the great enigma. For there is one thing we can be certain of- the mind is not the savior, the mind is the trap.
Hence we are admonished that we ought never commit the sin of imagining we 'know', for that only perpetuates the Fall, and does not reunite the whole. As it is stated: "And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." (1 Corinthians 8:2)
This type of castigation is also found in the Old Testament, which contends: "These people, however, revile what they do not understand, while whatever they do know sensually as reasonless brutes, by those things they are destroyed." (Jude 1:10)
It is the reviling of the enigma that is the problem. Therefore we might better understand why the English word 'mystery' is a direct translation from the original Greek word for 'sacred'. For the essential characteristic of the sacred is its secrecy, its mysteriousness.
The unfortunate outcome of the 'Fall', however, is our utter dependence on the mind which makes us 'think we know', and therefore pitifully transforms the secret sacred into the prosaic profane.
To return to the acceptance of not-knowing is to return to ourselves before the fall.
Hence we are beckoned back to God when we are empty of all that is not-God, and if God is Unknowable, then not-God is simply everything known.
"You that are simple, turn in here!
To those without sense...
Come and eat of my bread and wine,
drink of the wine I have mixed."
So it is, that when we have faith (because there is no other option in the face of inexplicable existence), we fall into in awe, for only in that open, catholic, capitulation do we witness the Awesome.
That is when we recognize that "God thunders wondrously...and does great things we cannot comprehend." (Job 37:5)
The banquet is ready, our only duty is to come to it with our most honest hunger; to come without judgement, unfilled and empty, for then shall we be returned innocently to the wondrous delights of the Garden from which we fell.
For, "I am the Lord of good and evil alike." (Isaiah 45:5-6)
And so, "Let him become a fool, that he may become wise." (St. Paul)
For "...God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise..." (I Corinthians 1:27)
Therefore "Stand in awe and sin not..." (Fourth psalm of David)
(excerpted from THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves, by Jack Haas)