Reflection 7

Mysteries of Birth, Life and Death week 7

Reflection: becoming free from illusion

In logion 7 of ‘The Gospel of Thomas’, Jesus says: ‘Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human’. This statement is quite remarkable because it was and still is very unusual for people to eat lion meat. Of course, it is undesirable that people are eaten by lions, but why would it be good for a lion to be eaten by a human being?

If we take this logion literally, we cannot do much with it. But as soon as we realise that the ‘lion’ represents the animal state in the human being and ‘man’ the incorruptible state, then the solution of the riddle will become clear at once. We were created as human beings, but we are not yet a finished product, not yet a being as it was meant in God’s plan. We are half animal and half human, or as Hermes Trismegistus says: ‘mortal as to the body and immortal as to the essential man’. This duality is aptly represented by the Egyptian sphinx, a mystery animal with the body of a lion and the head of a man.

When we live from that which is really human within ourselves, from the spirit-spark in the heart, and the god-human nature in us guides our being, then the animal nature will be subordinate to it and thus serve its inner master. Then the lion is symbolically eaten by man. However, when the lion king reigns in us, if he symbolically eats man, then the divine nature cannot grow within us and we remain a cultivated human animal, powerful perhaps but completely earthly. When you come to think of it: why are there so many symbols, stories, and parables in the Bible and in all the other sacred scriptures? Why don’t the authors just write clearly and directly what they want to convey so that everyone can understand their points immediately? Why all these mysteries and veils?

The disciples had this question, too and asked Jesus why he spoke to the common people in parables. He then answered: ‘Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given’ (Matthew 13:11).

People who go a spiritual path learn to tune in to the domain of the soul. That is the pure astral world of the concrete archetypes that will enter our consciousness in the form of symbols, analogies, correspondences, myths and similarities. Our inner understanding will grow if we are connected to this experiential world, called the hall of learning in the book ‘The Voice of the Silence’. Jesus therefore advises: ‘Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed’ (The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 5).

Inner understanding

Many assume that they will understand immediately what is conveyed to them, especially when it comes to so-called veiled knowledge. This view is incorrect, because the development of inner understanding and discernment demands perception, sensitivity, meditation and time. If you talk to children about life, you have to do so in simple images and words, because their understanding is still limited. And if you want to understand scientific theories, it requires a years-long preparation. Many holy texts not only have a conventional meaning, a literal interpretation, but also a higher meaning which reveals itself only when a person is ready for it. Thus the parable of the talents has a deeper meaning than an urge to use our talents for someone for whom we work.

In his book ‘The new man’, Maurice Nicoll maintains that all sacred writings have the purpose to transfer higher knowledge and a deeper meaning on the basis of ordinary knowledge that is only the starting point. According to Nicoll, parables were deliberately intended to be understood first at an ordinary level of consciousness but at the same time to influence us in such a way that later, when this ordinary level of consciousness is lifted to another level of understanding, then the embedded message becomes possible. From this point of view, a parable is thus a stepping stone between a lower and a higher level in the development of our understanding. Nicoll therefore calls a parable a meaning- transformer.

How can we now, through this insight, interpret the parable about the rich man and poor Lazarus? The story starts telling us about a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen and enjoying life to the fullest. Thereafter we hear about the miserable state of Lazarus: a poor man who is leprous, hungry and must beg for bread. Both of them die. Lazarus is carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man comes into the realm of the dead and suffers greatly because of the heat there. This could indeed be a correct sketch of what two completely different people may experience following the death of their physical bodies. After discarding the earthly covering, the microcosm arrives in a location that corresponds to the inner vibrational key. Poor Lazarus experiences the heavenly consolations of the spiritual tradition to which he adhered, one that began with the patriarch Abraham. He cannot as yet enter the kingdom of heaven but makes his abode in a pleasant place in the realm of the dead referred to as ‘devachan’ in theosophy.

Unlike Lazarus, the rich man receives no consolation, but instead suffers the pains of the fire of purification. He finds himself in an intermediate sphere known in the Catholic tradition as purgatory or the mountain of purification and in theosophy as ‘kama loka’. In the microcosm which we now inhabit, many residents have lived before us in all kinds of circumstances. Perhaps they were personalities that resembled the rich man or poor Lazarus. Poor people and sick people can draw comfort and hope from this parable about the rich man and poor Lazarus because they know that death will put an end to the miserable condition in which they find themselves because it will bring a deliverance from their needy situation and offer them the prospect of more pleasant circumstances. Conversely, it would be wrong for rich and healthy people to interpret this parable as if a terrible judgment awaits them after death, because there is nothing wrong with enjoying good things, it is okay to be rich and it is fine to be healthy. When interpreting teachings and parables, it is important to take the context of the narration into consideration. Then it will be easier to discover its deeper meaning.

Hypocritical people

Jesus tells this parable because some greedy Pharisees belittle him. The Pharisees formed a fundamentalist movement within Judaism in the time of Jesus. They maintained a strict observance of the rules of the Torah. For many Pharisees, the laws of Moses were no longer a means, but their goal. They derived their identity and self-confidence from their encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jewish religious laws and the high respect they received from other people. They pretended to be holy, but in reality, they were focused on acquiring more and more property, power and fame. In chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew, we read how Jesus confronts these hypocritical people with their lack of authenticity, their sneering remarks and the resulting evil consequences.

‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel! Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity’ (Matthew 23:23-28).

The Pharisees should recognise themselves in the rich man in the parable, who lives lavishly, dressed in purple and fine linen. When a person has the colour purple in his aura, it indicates that he or she is spiritual, mystical and harmonious. The Pharisees probably did not have it, but to keep up appearances, they wore purple outwardly, in fine linen coloured with the expensive purple dye that was extracted from certain sea snails, and quite the fashion for dignitaries.
In ‘The Gospel of Thomas’, Jesus says: ‘If a blind person leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole. Damn the Pharisees! They are like a dog sleeping in the cattle manger: the dog neither eats nor lets the cattle eat’ (The Gospel of Thomas, logion 102 and logion 34).

Most of us are aware that in each of us there is a Pharisee, or for that matter a lion, with a natural urge to spoil the true and higher human being in ourselves and in others. You can master the hypocrite and the lion within yourself by being vigilant and not giving them power. If you have read this book so far, you can safely assume that there is also in you a poor, sick Lazarus who wants to be nourished, comforted and healed.

Poor in Spirit

The name Lazarus is derived from the Hebrew word Eleazer and means: God has helped. Lazarus is the inner man who raises his eyes to the mountains from where his help will come. He knows from within that he cannot walk the way back to his father’s house on his own but that his help must come from the Lord (Psalm 121:1-2). He receives help from the Brotherhood because he listens to the soft voice emanating from the spirit-spark.

Lazarus experiences that he is poor in Spirit. He mourns because he feels that his entire human system is severely ill compared to the original man. He is meek because he can empathise with the difficulties of others because of his own experience. He is hungry for the bread of life and yearns for true righteousness. If a man with this signature advances inwardly, despite his dire personal circumstances – or perhaps because of them – he hears the blessed beatitude from the mountain.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:3-6).

The beautiful consolation of Bethlehem, which are the blessings of the birth of light in the heart of the human being, can be experienced in the here and now. The condition is however that you do not serve Mammon. If you pay too much attention to this god of money, its consequences are comparable to those of committing adultery, as Jesus teaches in Luke 16:18. There is nothing wrong with money in itself. In our economy it is defined as undifferentiated purchasing power that is used as a means of exchange, means of payment and a unit of accounting. It is in fact crystallised astral power that is important to all of society and with which people may expand their possibilities and develop themselves and others In society, and also on the spiritual path, money will become a problem only if all our desire and attention are directed to it. Greed can lead to a person being overshadowed or even possessed by the dark forces of the astral sphere, which also includes the realm of the dead. Unethical practices arising from selfish motives that cause damage to yourself and others are usually the result of such behaviour.

The idol of money and the forces that accompany it deceive us and can therefore be seen as aspects of Satan or Mara – the great trickster – who will do everything to make people live in illusion and delusion, so that they remain slaves of their desires and their divine potential cannot develop within them. Unfortunately Mara, the great trickster, is active in all areas of life. We speak of illusion when this deception is directed at the sensory perceptible world, and of delusion when this deception pertains to the astral world. Rudolf Steiner calls these forces Ahriman and Lucifer. Ahriman is the god of darkness and evil in Zoroastrianism. He sends death and sickness to the people to plunge them into misery in order to remain powerful. Lucifer is the name of the angel who revolted against God, was expelled from heaven and thereby became the devil, the leader of fallen angels or demons who deceive the people.

Ahriman and Lucifer

The Ahrimanic forces promote materialisation and deceive people by guiding them to a fascination with among other things possessions, money, materialism, sensual pleasures, technology, media and systems. Luciferic forces promote dematerialisation and deceive people by making sure that they become lured by fame, art, pseudo-religion, pseudo-spirituality, mysticism and occultism, for example. The urge to defy the world can also be explained by the influence of Luciferic forces. Both Ahriman and Lucifer connect with a person’s ego and cause the spirit-spark to be encapsulated as a result of fascinations, conflicts, addictions, depressions, fears and magical powers of the ego. Ahriman and Lucifer are opposites, but also often work together to steal the life energy from people and exploit them as slaves, for example via the internet and mobile phones.

Ahriman and Lucifer “prowl around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) to ensnare humanity in illusion and delusion. They kill souls. In recent centuries, we have experienced a shift in attention from theology to technology, from Luciferic to Ahrimanic forces. The Bible contains many stories in which we can recognise Ahrimanic and Luciferic forces. The Pharisees were intensely occupied with numerous religious precepts, but completely ignored what really matters in faith. This is Luciferic, because it is pseudo-religion. The reference that the Pharisees are greedy indicates that they were also controlled by Ahrimanic forces. The powers of Ahriman and Lucifer are also mentioned in the Bible, but under different names.

Ahriman and Lucifer can be recognised in chapters 40 and 41 of the Book of Job. They appear in the form of two monstrous animals that we do not find in nature. They are referred to as Behemoth and Leviathan. Some Bible translators wrongly replaced these names with hippopotamus and crocodile, because these animals are well-known and somewhat meet the characterisations which describe them. This interpretational error illustrates how successful Ahriman (or Behemoth) is in making people believe that the material world is the only reality.
Two fearsome animals also appear in chapter 13 of the ‘Revelation of John’, in which we can recognise Ahriman and Lucifer: the beast from the earth with the two horns and the beast from the sea with ten horns and seven heads.

Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings are not monsters in the sensory world, but in the astral world. It is important that we realise that the astral world is heavily polluted and that we can be more easily victimised by delusion there than in the physical world. Misleading forces also use the teachings and symbols from the universal wisdom doctrine but distort and abuse them. In Goethe’s fairy tale (The green snake and the beautiful lily), two so-called will o’ the wisps, symbols for Lucifer and Ahriman, lick the gold from the walls of the house of the man with the lamp, symbol for an initiate in the gnostic mysteries, and then deal with this spiritual gold in a very careless and irresponsible way.

The astral world reflects everything that humanity produces, desires and expects, and is therefore also called the mirror sphere or the reflection sphere. All kinds of elementals, nature spirits, deceased human entities, demons, archons, eons as well as angels dwell in this astral sphere. A range of strata can be distinguished there, from very grim, hateful and depraved to brilliantly enlightened, loving and exalted.

Reflection sphere

It is important to know that everything in the reflection atmosphere is very plastic. Images and impressions are quickly created there that match the awareness of the person who experiences them. Today a huge number of texts containing words from ‘the other side’, received from an ascended master or even an angel, are being channelled and distributed. They are mostly beautifully phrased platitudes that people like to hear or read but they are all imitations derived from the reflection sphere. Satan presents himself thus as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), but is in fact a Luciferic being transmitting illusions.

The aura of a person offers a certain protection against forces from the reflection sphere that do not match with one’s own being. But when, for example, there is fatigue, irritation, anger and
depression, then low astral influences can penetrate the aura, causing a certain degree of overshadowing. Those who use alcoholic beverages or drugs open themselves to disastrous astral powers. Cracks may even occur in the aura through which a person may be captured by astral and etheric scum, which then often cause endless misery.

Influence from the reflection sphere takes place at all levels of society, from the bottom to religious leaders, CEO’s of multinationals, presidents and monarchs. Usually without being aware of it, they are controlled by archons and eons who hold humanity in their grip and benefit when people cannot think for themselves, are divided, are dependent and weak, sick and anxious. When people live in fear, they are more easily manipulated.

Undoubtedly you have regularly experienced the influence of the reflection sphere yourself. During sleep for instance your astral body separates from your physical body and your etheric body, and you travel to the astral plane. Sometimes you may remember this in the form of vivid dreams, but you remain unconscious of much of these travels. Sleep is sometimes called the little brother of death, because there, too is a cycle through first the physical plane of existence and then through the reflection sphere. You will probably have had the experience that you entered a room where an uncomfortable atmosphere prevailed, while there were no perceptible indications for this. At that moment you experienced something of the etheric and astral atmosphere there.

Sometimes the surviving partner of a recently deceased person perceives that the deceased is still with him or her at certain moments. That is usually no imagination but a real experience, although not a physical presence but an astral one. In the Bible, we are advised in several places not to maintain contact with the dead. The dead are in a process of letting go of their earthly attachments and then continuing their journey in the reflection sphere and in some cases even to areas above it.

Image 7 is a schematic representation of the cycle that the microcosm experiences in the physical and the reflection spheres: from the cradle to the grave, from the grave to the cradle, from the cradle to the grave, and so on. The American researcher Sukie Miller conducted extensive scientific research into the human consciousness after death and she distinguishes four stages: waiting  evaluation of the past life (kama loka) – resting or working (devachan) – and preparing for a new incarnation.

False prophets

Pupils of the soul going a path of initiation already go through these phases to a certain extent well before their death. First of all, they are faced with the task of letting go of their fascination with the sensory world, also known as the hall of ignorance. Secondly, it is important that they develop an intuitive feeling for myths and symbols which are part of the pure astral world of the concrete archetypes, so that they may work there. There is some danger in this because at the same location the contaminated astral reservoir of the earthly plane of existence is also present, which can easily be misleading. How can you protect yourself from these delusions?

If you detect a response in yourself to what your ego desires, an intention to create a heaven on earth, you can be sure that you are dealing with forces that are far removed from the original divine life field. They may seem to be light but in reality they are from the realm of darkness.
Paul writes ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and in the first letter of John we also receive some pointers.

‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the mworld. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already’ (1 John 4:1-3).

By ‘confessing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh’ is not meant that you must believe that Jesus has indeed lived and that he was the Christ. Billions of people (and demons) take this as truth! It is quite possible that some person who knows nothing of the Christian revelation and salvation is still “of God”, for what really matters is what he or she professes, whether such a person has been transformed into an instrument for the universal Brotherhood or Christ hierarchy, that is, whether he has been born again from water and spirit (John 3:5).

With false prophets, personality, soul and spirit do not form a trinity. Such prophets are not inspired by the spirit but work from their I-centred personality. Jesus speaks about this in the Sermon on the Mount when he says:

‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:15-21).

When a pupil of the soul dies inwardly as to the ego, that is, becomes free from his identifications and obstructing earthly attachments, then the influences of Ahriman and Lucifer become ineffective. This could be the symbolic meaning of the two murderers who are crucified with Jesus on Golgotha, at the site of the skull. In many even older stories about Krishna in India and Horus in Egypt it is also written that they were crucified between two thieves. Pupils of the soul must distance themselves from the reflection sphere, from the contaminated astral regions, for that is the absolute condition for an effective influence of the spirit-spark, for the blossoming of the rose in the heart. We can certainly learn from the rich visual treasure in the pure astral world of the concrete archetypes, the so called hall of learning, but we are not meant to stay there.

As humanity we have the task to live in areas that lie above the reflection sphere. We have been called to be servants of an illustrious and elevated cause and to enter into the hall of wisdom: the pure mental world of the abstract archetypes. This is beautifully expressed in the verses 21 to 35 of fragment I of the booklet ‘The Voice of the Silence’.

‘Three Halls, O weary pilgrim, lead to the end of toils. Three Halls, O conqueror of Mâra, will bring thee through three states into the fourth and thence into the seven worlds, the worlds of Rest Eternal. If thou would’st learn their names, then hearken, and remember. The name of the first Hall is ignorance – Avidyâ. It is the Hall in which thou saw’st the light, in which thou livest and shalt die. The name of Hall the second is the Hall of Learning. In it thy Soul will find the blossoms of life, but under every flower a serpent coiled. The name of the third Hall is Wisdom, beyond which stretch the shoreless waters of akshara, the indestructible Fount of Omniscience. If thou would’st cross the first Hall safely, let not thy mind mistake the fires of lust that burn therein for the Sunlight of life. If thou would’st cross the second safely, stop not the fragrance of its stupefying blossoms to inhale. If freed thou would’st be from the Karmic chains, seek not for thy Guru in those Mâyâvic regions. The wise ones tarry not in pleasure-grounds of senses. The wise ones heed not the sweet-tongued voices of illusion. Seek for him who is to give thee birth, in the Hall of Wisdom, the Hall which lies beyond, wherein all shadows are unknown, and where the light of truth shines with unfading glory. That which is uncreate abides in thee, Disciple, as it abides in that Hall. If thou would’st reach it and blend the two, thou must divest thyself of thy dark garments of illusion. Stifle the voice of flesh, allow no image of the senses to get between its light and thine that thus the twain may blend in one. And having learnt thine own Ajñâna, flee from the Hall of Learning. This Hall is dangerous in its perfidious beauty, is needed but for thy probation. Beware, Lanoo, lest dazzled by illusive radiance thy Soul should linger and be caught in its deceptive light. This light shines from the jewel of the Great Ensnarer, (Mâra). The senses it bewitches, blinds the mind, and leaves the unwary an abandoned wreck. The moth attracted to the dazzling flame of thy night-lamp is doomed to perish in the viscid oil. The unwary Soul that fails to grapple with the mocking demon of illusion, will return to earth the slave of Mâra’.