Reflection 2

Mysteries of Birth, Life and Death week 2

Reflection: incarnating on earth


The mighty, divine plan of creation is carried out in great freedom, creativity and joy by intelligent and advanced beings that are concrete manifestations of God: a host of angels and human entities that belong to the divine hierarchy and the universal Brotherhood. We cannot perceive them with our earthly senses because they do not have physical bodies but have more diaphanous, immortal vehicles. We can at best experience only a minuscule part of all their works.

In the beginning was the Word, that is the creation plan that comes from God and is one with it: the Word was with God and the Word was God. Without that plan there would be nothing: without this plan, nothing would have become what it did become. Because the participants in the divine hierarchy work to realise the plan of God – because they thus speak the creative Word – they are inspired by the Spirit, the holy breath: in the Word was Life. Thanks to that inspiration, human entities can take a path of continuous development in which they become ever greater, more powerful and radiant: this Life was the light of the people.

But then a big problem developed: man separated himself from the world of Light by identifying with his personality. Because of this ‘fall’, which is described in Genesis 3 in the form of a myth, he distanced himself from the Spirit and thus lost his receptivity to the divine Light. That state of separateness is formulated as: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it’.

Yet we humans have the potential to once again become part of the god-human hierarchy and  have full disposal of our lost powers. How? By opening ourselves to the true light that shines over every person. Then we receive the power to become children of God again. In this way we come to the true purpose of every authentic religion: to offer people opportunities to reconnect and realign with the divine origin from which we came. Fortunately, from time to time great souls incarnate on earth with a mission to testify of the light on behalf of the universal Brotherhood. They make people who are ripe for it and hunger and thirst for the lost paradise, aware of their fallen state, and provide them with teachings, methods and power to be healed in the broadest sense of the word.

The living water

John the Baptist was such an emissary, as were Moses, Jesus and Elijah. John was linked directly to the divine origin, standing in the living water of the divine river that springs from the Primeval Source, symbolised by the Jordan. In its waters, he baptised his followers who had decided to become disciples of the soul. Water baptism is a ritual by which, among other things, the soul in a human system begins a process of cleansing and purification as a preparation for receiving the Holy Spirit: the baptism by fire. In the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, we read that the births of John and Jesus were anything but ordinary.

It is important to realise that stories in sacred writings about the birth of great prophets or world teachers are not just reports of their actual birth, but narratives that tell us how it is apparent from the beginning that the child will grow into an influential person who will undertake a great spiritual mission. Many such birth stories are also symbolic of the inner birth that can take place in ourselves, as has been discussed extensively in the book ‘Spiritual Christmas’.

It is told of the Chinese sage Lao Tzu that he was born from the left armpit of his mother. According to the story, when he was born he had grey hair and could walk immediately. According to other ancient writings, the birth of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was also an impressive event: all the worlds were flooded with light, blind people could see again, the deaf could hear again, the lame walked, and prisoners were freed from their chains. According to the evangelist Luke, angels sang while Jesus was born. This was in Palestine during a period of occupation by the Romans.

Moses probably arrived in Egypt around 1300 B.C. into a state of slavery in Egypt. Like Jesus, his life was threatened by child murderers commissioned by the king. That is why his mother placed her vulnerable baby in a rush basket on the bank of the Nile, where the bathing daughter of the pharaoh found him and subsequently adopted him. She then arranged for the education and training of Moses at the court in Egypt.

I called my son from Egypt
Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus fled to Egypt to escape the violence of King Herod. Later, Jesus taught his disciples how to return to the Father’s house they had once left. Moses led the people of Israel through the Red Sea and the desert to the border of Canaan, the promised land. That is why the Jewish prophet Hosea wrote that God said: ‘When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt’ (Hosea 11:1).

Holy writings can be interpreted in several ways. The most obvious interpretations are the literal and historical interpretations. Many, however, are not interested in these because they concern events from past times that are not relevant to life here and now. It is also very questionable whether these historical reports are factually correct, because most biblical writers were not interested in historiography but rather in the transfer of inspiring ideas.

People today can be touched by Bible stories from way back then if they recognise themselves in them. The question whether the stories are historical or not is irrelevant because the texts offer recognition, hope, courage and inspiration. The reformer, philosopher, theologian and pedagogue Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670) writes in his book ‘Unum Necessarium’:
‘Every time a Christian reads the sacred texts, it is of the utmost importance to pay attention to the fact that he does not regard what he finds there as something that is outside himself and does not concern him, but as something that directly concerns his person, as when he looks in a mirror. He must always put himself in the place of the ones who are addressed in these texts, be they devout or wicked. He always has to apply everything he hears or sees to himself.’

The symbolic journey through the desert is very recognisable to many of us: they have left behind their old lives in which they are trapped – symbolically represented by Egypt – to go to the promised land. For them, earthly life has lost its sheen. They feel lonely and abandoned and suffer inner and sometimes also external hardships. This desert phase can sometimes take a long time– symbolically, and perhaps even literally, forty years – but it will pass if the pilgrim perseveres. Seven sinful tribes must be exterminated in an inner struggle before the land of milk and honey can be inhabited (Deuteronomy 7). Jesus also refers to this inescapable inner conflict and the resulting struggle when he says: ‘Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34).

For a deeper understanding of the Bible stories, it may be useful to know the meaning of the names used. Moses literally means ‘Pulled from the water’, symbolising that he came from the divine river of living water, symbolised by the Nile that makes Egypt fertile. The Greek philosopher Plutarch represented the Egyptian name for Egypt as Khēmeía, which translates as ‘black earth’. This phrase indicates a materialistic vision in which the perceptible reality is regarded as the only reality, as expressed in a verse in the prologue to John: ‘The light shines in the darkness (Egypt), and the darkness did not comprehend it’.

Israel is the name which the patriarch Jacob received after he wrestled with an angel of God; it means literally ‘wrestler with God’ or ‘hero of God’. However we should view the people of Israel
in a much broader sense than being just Jewish people, the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob who became the twelve tribes of Israel. Every human being who undergoes the inner struggle to emerge from the dark world – regardless of religion, convictions or nationality – belongs to the people of Israel, the chosen people. Jacob becomes stronger because of the inner struggle he endured. Inner strength is more important than external strength. That is why the author of the Book of proverbs wrote: ‘He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city’ (Proverbs 16:32).

The universal wisdom can sometimes also be found in biblical texts, recognised by analysing the numerical values of letters and words. The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet all have a characteristic numerical value. Therefore a value can be assigned to each word consisting of the sum of the numerical values of the letters in that word. For example, the Hebrew name for Egypt is ‘Mitsrajim’ which translates as ‘land of distress’ or ‘land of oppression’. It is spelled as m-ts-rjm and has a word value of 380. This word value can first be reduced to 3 + 8 + 0 = 11 and then to 1 + 1 = 2. The total value of ‘Canaan’ (spelled as k-n-a-n) is 190 and can first be reduced to 1 + 9 + 0 = 10 and then to 1 + 0 = 1.

Making the two into one
Thus: Egypt stands for 2 or duality, while Canaan stands for 1 or unity. On the spiritual path, the ultimate goal is to make the two into one, to connect time and eternity, the horizontal with the vertical. Jesus expresses this beautifully in Logion 22 of the Gospel of Thomas. The well-known professor of church history Gilles Quispel (1916-2006), the foremost Dutch researcher into gnostic texts, believed that this apocryphal gospel contains authentic words from Jesus that are not in the New Testament. Quite a few colleagues of his opposed this view, but nowadays this is fairly generally accepted. In Logion 22 we read the following.

‘Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, These nursing babies are like those who enter the Father’s kingdom. They said to him, Then shall we enter the Father’s kingdom as babies? Jesus said to them, When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the kingdom’ (The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 22).

In the prologue of the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is referred to as the Word that has become flesh. We thus see that the natural man Jesus, who was born of Mary, was connected with the Christ Spirit through his baptism in the river Jordan, and that he thereby became fully and completely Man as ordained in God’s plan, the Word. Jesus was ‘anointed’ with the Spirit from on high. The name Christ means literally ‘anointed one’. All who take Jesus Christ as their example and thus open themselves to Christ’s power are enabled to become children of God, therefore creating, eternal and divine.

Moses, Elijah, John, and Jesus were all destined to go and teach a spiritual way – a path of spiritual awareness and renewal. Their lives differed greatly from each other, but there are also

The famous American mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) studied countless Bible stories, myths, legends, legends, fairy tales and other stories. In these he discovered a basic pattern that he describes in his standard work ‘The hero with a thousand faces’. Campbell distinguishes a number of steps and combines them into what he calls The hero’s journey. He describes the hero as someone who unselfishly gives his or her life to something bigger than himself.

There are many ways to schematically display the steps of the hero’s journey. Here we use the tried-and-tested process model of the enneagram, which distinguishes three main elements that are represented in a triangle: the hero or heroine; his or her mission; and the help received from outside, also referred to as grace (see image 2). This approach is cyclical: after a clockwise cycle in time, a new circle always starts in which experiences are on another, possibly higher, level if all has gone well. The six-pointed figure in the circle shows the sequence of thought processes again.

The steps are as follows: the protagonist first leads a normal life but runs into certain difficulties. At one point he then receives the assignment to solve these problems. This assignment can be one given by another person, but it can also be a task that is taken care of independently of others. For example, Moses learns from a burning thorn bush of his commission by God to lead the people of Israel out of their slave existence in Egypt (Exodus 3:10).

Unexpected salvation

The hero or main character becomes irrevocably involved in all kinds of tests in the execution of his mission. It is important for him to endure these tests completely and to persevere and persist. At a time when the need is highest, he receives unexpected help. For example, in the story about the exodus of the people of Israel, we read that there a way through the sea opens, that food descends from heaven in the form of manna and that living water flows forth when Moses hits the rocks that are obstructing the path with his staff.

People become purified through all these experiences and thus become suited to undergo an inner transformation, after which it is possible to return to his former ‘ordinary life’ as a renewed person. Then his mission is accomplished and he receives the assignment of the inner Christ: ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).

Many great stories, such as those about the lives of Moses, Odysseus, Hercules, Job, Jesus, Percival, Dante and in our time Frodo Baggins (‘The Lord of the Rings’) and Harry Potter, contain all the themes of this heroic path, but there are also stories with only one step or just some of the steps that were mentioned above. It is very surprising that the structure of the path of the hero(ine) applies not only to such life stories but also to the spiritual path that every person can go.

The way of the hero is also your way. You have received the assignment to live your life on earth. You are free to make your own choices, but it is good to realise that many choices have already been made for you. We humans are led mostly by the forces of nature, but fortunately also by spiritual beings who are more advanced in their development than we are and are part of the divine hierarchy, of the universal Brotherhood.

It is said that a human entity who wants to incarnate on earth will get an overview of his coming earthly life, of the people with whom he will enter into a relationship and of the life lessons he has to learn through experience. In this context, it is sometimes regarded as a sacred contract that the person concerned signs by connecting his microcosmic system with a fertilised egg from which a completely new physical body is formed. The conscious memory of that sacred contract disappears because the evolving earthly personality must be placed in circumstances he himself would not consciously choose, but ones that are nevertheless necessary in order to be healed as a microcosm.

Light birth
When you came out of the mother’s womb as a small human body, you were born into the outer light. As an adult, you can now contribute to the inner light being born within yourself. This light birth, this inner Christmas, gives insight, joy and renewal. The term ‘light birth’ is composed of the words: ‘light’ and ‘birth’. This does not refer to light and birth as we may experience in the sensory world, but to inner perceptions that bear a certain resemblance to what we experience as light and as a birth in the outer world. If the birth of light has taken place within you, then the so-called resurrection body may grow within you as discussed in the book ‘Spiritual Easter and Pentecost’. We conclude this reflection with part of a parable by Pablo Molinero about twins in a womb because it reveals something of the mystery of life.

‘There were once twins in a womb. As the two fetuses matured and their brains began to function, they became vaguely aware of their environment and their own existence. After a while they also discovered each other. Weeks and months passed. They started to notice all kinds of changes in their bodies and in their experiences. It was clear to them that a big change was in the offing and they started talking about this.
‘We are changing,’ said the one, ‘what can that mean?’ ‘It means,’ replied the other, ‘that we are going to be born.’ The two shivered and became frightened because they knew that their birth would bring an end to their present existence and that they would have to leave the world in which they now lived. ‘Do you really believe in a life after birth?’ the one asked. ‘Yes, I do. Our life here brings us growth and development in such a way that we will be sufficiently prepared and powerful enough for that existence.’
‘Nonsense, I don’t think it exists. What must I imagine by such a life after birth?’ ‘I do not know that exactly. But surely it will be much lighter and brighter than it is here. And maybe we’ll be able to walk around and eat with our mouths.’ ‘What nonsense! Walking around, indeed! That won’t work at all. And eating with our mouths, what a strange idea. Don’t we have our umbilical cord that feeds us. Moreover: walking around is impossible because our umbilical cord is far too short for that.’ ‘Still, I’m sure it can be done. It’s all just a bit different than it is here.’
But no one has ever returned from this “after birth experience”. With our birth our life has come to an end. And life here is just darkness and a torment. If our conception and all our growing and development signifies nothing else than that it all ends with birth, then this whole existence is completely absurd.’ ‘And still, even though I do not know exactly what life consists of after birth, we will at least see our mother and she will take care of us.’
‘Mother? You believe in a mother? Where is she then?’ ‘Well, everywhere around us. We are and exist in her and through her. We would not exist without her.’ ‘What utter nonsense! I have never noticed or seen anything of a mother, so she does not exist.’ ‘Yet, sometimes when we are really quiet, you can hear her sing for us. Or feel her caressing our world.’