Sunday, 16 November 2008


"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; if ye keep my command- ments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in these things, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." - John 15:9-11

It is Paul who makes the connection between Love and the Holy Spirit overt:

"And now abideth Faith, Hope and Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love." - 1st Corinthians 13: 13

It is a favourite device of the New Testament writers to refer to the Trinity in veiled terms through the use of three parallel words. Here Paul equates the Father with Faith (we have Faith in the Father because we cannot see or feel him), Hope with the Son (who gives us the message of the future) but we Love through the Holy Spirit. Thus Love in the guise of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit in the guise of Love which completes the drama of the Incarnation, pervading everything, uniting us with each other and with the Divine:

"No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." - 1st John 4:12-13

Thus just as the great Kabbalists understood the role humanity had to play with God in healing the Universe, the great Christian Scribes of the New Testament understood how the energy of Love provided the perfecting connection to be made between God and all Creation. The great Beguine Mystic Marguerite Porete, drawing upon the ideas of Augustine, took this to its most sublime conclusion when she wrote that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were to be understood as 'the Lover, the Loved and Love':

"Beloved, what do you wish from Me?
I contain all things which were,
And are, and shall be,
I am filled with all things.
Take from me all which pleases you:
If you desire from me all things, I will not deny.
Say, beloved, what do you wish from me?
I am Love, filled with the goodness of all things:
What you will, we will.
Beloved, tell us plainly your will."
- Marguerite Porete: The Mirror Of Simple Souls.

So Love and the Holy Spirit prepare us for the final chapter of John's account of the Last Supper, the great threnody to God from Christ, unsurpassed anywhere else in the Gospels. Everything is coming to a head. The Divine connection has been made between Christ and the Godhead. The most sustained communication with the Divine in the whole of the New Testament is about to unfold. If John's Last Supper is not already Mystical, it goes way beyond the boundaries here, as ideas of Man and God, Time and Reality, Gnosis and Faith merge into one.

The Chapter starts with a continuation of the process of Glorification mentioned before. As the 'circuit' is established in the first Chapter with Judas' exit, it is continued and intensified here. As Christ speaks directly to God, the language of the lines becomes pregnant with meaning, as if something is being channelled from on high, the Divine Energy being passed on to the Disciples. In so doing, something of Christ's Cosmic Nature slips through:

"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorfied thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was." - John 17:1-5

That last line in particular is fascinating. It bends time, revealing Christ's nature as an expression of the Logos as being continuous across Time. In the wording is an echo of the words of the Sophia in the Book of Proverbs:

"The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was... Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." - Proverbs 8:22-23 & 30

Some theologians equate the Logos of the opening passage of the Gospel of John with the Sophia as well as Christ, seeing the process of Creation as being an interplay between the male and female energies of God, the Sophia becoming a hypostasis with the Trinity. For the Gnostics, this was doubly so, with the Sophia and Christ being Syzygies of each other, or two parts of t the same entity. Whatever the case, there seems to be a Sophianic echo in these words, and a stronger revelation of the pre-existence of Christ. This is, of course, not the only place that this occurs in John's Gospel. There is also the cryptic discussion in Chapter 8:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." - John 8:56-58

The inference here is that Christ as Logos appeared in some way to Abraham, perhaps as Melchizedek, as some commentators argue or as the 'three men' of Chapter 18 of Genesis. Whatever the case, there is a little timebending going on, just as there is in the description of the Trinity which begins Revelations:

"Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is (the Son), which was (the Father) and which is to come (Holy Spirit)". - Revelations 1:4

We are being encouraged to think 'eternally', or non-linearly in terms of Time. Past, present and future are being seen as one. And as Christ's nature is potentially our own, as we shall see, it is being revealed that this non-temporal state is also ours.

A significant line in the passage quoted above ("And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.") reveals the essential Mystical/Gnostic element of the Christ message. Indeed, it is in this Chapter that we can understand why the Gnostic Christians valued John's writings so highly. For when Christ refers to 'knowing' God, he is referring to the Gnosis, the 'Knowledge' of God which was so prized by the Gnostics and so denied by the traditional Christians, who placed Faith as the primary source of Christian experience. If Christ is not talking about the Gnosis here, then what does he mean by:

"O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." - John 17:25

And indeed this is where the Gnostic and non-Gnostic interpretations of Christianity should come together, contained in these central statements of Christ's doctrines. Christ speaks at length about "he that believeth in me" being rewarded, but without the 'Knowledge' of the Gnosis, which presumably lies behind the whole Incarnation, the Christ Message is pointless. Church teaching has always been about waiting until after death for the Beatific Vision of God. Here in John's Gospel, this is directly contradicted. Faith and Knowledge must come together to create the Union with God which is the centre of the Gospel message.

As Christ exhorts the Father, he brings in another element of the process of Theosis, the Name and the Word. As the Glorification continues, everything becomes about transmission of energy from the Father through the Son, onwards to the Apostles and, by extension, to all who come after. The ultimate end of this process is a relationship with each other which is identical to that of Christ with the Father:

"I have manifested my name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them mel and they have kept thy word. Now they have also known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and they have known surely that I came out from thee, and they believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine: and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one." - John 17:6-11

"That they may be one, as we are one" - what more Mystical a statement could there be? While Catholic and Protestant teaching has put a gulf between human experience and God, John compares the possible experience of the Disciples, and by extension us, as being exactly like that between Christ and the Father. So we see how the Christ Nature is potentially our own. John is not alone in this vision, of course. In Matthew Christ says "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), suggesting a state of perfection available to humans the same as that enjoyed by God. Once again, the radical nature of the Christ Message emerges. This is what Meister Eckhardt meant when he said that "The first fruit of the Incarnation of Christ, God's Son, is that man may become what the Son is by nature". Further, through the connection between Christ and his followers Christ is himself 'Glorified', just as he 'Glorifies' God and vice versa. Spiritual channels are being opened up between the Father, the Son and all humanity in which all become 'ensouled'. The image of Unification is absolutely clear. And in a passage quoted in an earlier post it is overtly described in terms of an inheritance, passed down through generations of followers from the moment of the Last Supper onwards:

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." - John 17:20-23

Again we have that word 'perfect', the term given to the Cathar leadership (Parfait/Perfecti). Surely it refers to a state of Wholeness, of completion in the Spirit, the Healing the Soter/Saviour has come to do. Wholeness and Unity - these are the key elements of these words, a Wholeness and Unity which combine Love, Truth, Gnosis, Faith and the Holy Spirit, all merged into a Union with the Father and the Son which is both within and outside Time. Of these qualities, it is Love which is the most important, and it is with this that John's description of the Last Supper, with all its Mysteries ends:

"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and in them." - John 17:26

Once more we learn of the indwelling of Love and Christ in us. There is no separation, no conditions, not even much talk of sin and very little of any kind of intermediary between humanity and the Divine.

These, then, are the Mysteries of the Last Supper, recorded at length by John. Their complexities are subtle and neverending, but lie at the heart of the energetic life of Christianity. It is no wonder, perhaps, that this Gospel out of the four has most appealed to the Mystics, whether heretical or orthodox. It expresses a grass-roots spirituality which, far from being anti-human, is profoundly humanist. The issue of what the Churches have made of this message, how it has been obscured, misunderstood, confused, ignored, denied and, let's face it, often violently suppressed, are the subject for another time. For now we may be grateful that with all the revisions and changes made to the New Testament over the centuries, somehow the Gospel of John has made it through with its greatest words more or less intact. Perhaps their obscurity has not helped, but that is the way with Mysticism, although one could also argue that their obscurity is how they have been able to survive the scrutiny of those who would happily keep us all in a spiritual prison and throw away the key. There is no concept of Original Sin here, just a description of a spiritual inheritance available to all, whether the historic expression of Christianity in our world understands it or not.

And in the hope that one can keep hold of the Spiritual Baby while throwing out two thousand years of stinking bathwater, this analysis of John's account of the Last Supper comes to an end...

Thursday, 13 November 2008


"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." - John 14:25-26

The chief agencies of this unified relationship between God and Man are Love and the Holy Spirit (as well as Belief). As we shall see, Love and the Holy Spirit are very closely related. In fact they are one. But for now, let us explore this notion of the Holy Spirit, the third and least-understood element of the Christian idea of the Godhead. In John's account of the Last Supper, Christ has certain very specific things to say about it:

"If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you." - John 10:15-17

Here and in the quote at the top of this page Christ is referring to the Holy Spirit as the 'Comforter', a rather weak translation of the Greek word 'Parakleitos', meaning "one who consoles, one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate". In this passage he also refers to it as 'the Spirit of Truth', or 'Alithea' in Greek. What is interesting here is that, just as he describes himself as potentially dwelling within us, so does he speak of the Holy Spirit, in words which suggest that it is the medium whereby God can and will dwell within us, just as predicted in the Book of Jeremiah :

"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." - Jeremiah 31:32

and the Book of Joel:

"And it shall come to pass afterward. that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." - Joel 2:28

In Kabbalah and Judaism, the Holy Spirit is known as the Ruach HaKodesh, 'Ruach' meaning, as we know from an earlier post, 'Breath'. For the Jews, this was the spirit of Prophecy, the energy with which the great Seers of the Old connected with God. For the Greeks, the word for the Holy Spirit, the 'Haghia Pneuma', meant the same: 'Holy Breath' ('Pneuma' meaning 'Breath'). In fact our word Spirit comes from the Latin 'Spiritus' which also means 'Breath', and yet nowhere has it ever been translated this way in our Churches. Understood in this way, as the Sacred or Holy Breath of God, it becomes synonymous with the Hindu idea of Prana, the Divine Breath of Brahman which infuses the Universe and gives us life. It is the energy which 'moved upon the face of the waters' in Genesis and which was breathed into the clay out of which Adam was formed by God. Suddenly Christianity connects with the primary aspects of Creation and the most universal pan/panentheistic ideas of the East. In a sense, the Holy Spirit is the point of connection between Western Spirituality and ideas such as the Dao of China or Brahman/Prana in India. It is no wonder, perhaps, that it has fallen short of the attention given to the more anthropomorphic and masculine images of the Father and the Son, and yet if Christ is to be believed, neither the Father or the Son can be understood without it. For the Gnostics, the Holy Spirit was the key to everything. In the Pistis Sophia, the so-called "First Mystery' is described as 'the Father in the form of a dove'. In other words, one cannot comprehend the higher reaches of the Godhead in any other way...

The Greek concept of the Pneuma existed long before Christianity reached the peninsular. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus posited the existence of the Pneuma as a fire-like energy which pulsed through everything, sustaining and giving life. If one reads 'Light' for 'Fire' one gets a sense of what he was getting at. Indeed most so-called 'Fire-worshipping' cultures, such as the Zoroastrians are actually revering Light, fire and flame being the most concrete manifestation of that Light-Energy available to the human eye. The subtleties inherent in the names and imagery associated with the Holy Spirit, be it as the Pneuma, Spiritus or Ruach HaKodesh point towards an extraordinarily complex and multi-dimensional appreciation of its true nature. Traditionally, the Churches have insisted that it is a male energy, thus creating an entirely masculine Godhead from which femininity is excluded, but if one looks deeper the reality is very different. At the very least the Holy Spirit is beyond gender, or is androgyne. If anything it errs more on the feminine than the masculine, as its appearance as a Dove at the River Jordan suggests:

"And Jesus, when he was baptised, went up straightway out of the water: and lo the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him." - Matthew 3:16

"And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him." - Mark 1:10

"And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." - Luke 3:22

"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him." - John 1:32

Given the non-synoptic nature of John's Gospel, the fact that it agrees with all the others over this central image suggests that it was a key one. The one other significant moment in the Bible which features a dove is in the story of Noah when, after the Deluge, a dove and a raven are released to find evidence of land. While the raven does not return the dove does with an olive branch, suggesting that the waters are receding. In Alchemy, the dove symbolises the purified White Rose which emerges from the 'Death' phase of the Nigredo. Thus here the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove represents the result of the purification process undergone through the Baptism of John in the sacred River Jordan. By any standards a dove is a female bird. Clearly, then, the Holy Spirit is not male, or at least not wholly male and, for its primary manifestation, it choses an image of femininity. Perhaps the Church should think again. But to do so would bring it line with the Gnostics who saw the Holy Spirit as the expression of the Divine Sophia. So perhaps not...

The story of the Baptism and the appearance of the Dove brings up another issue about the Holy Spirit - that of its relationship to the four elements, for as befits the highest expression of the Spirit, the Haghia Pneuma is identified with all of the elements except for Earth. John the Baptist begins the revelation of the Spirit by the distinction he draws between the Baptism he offers and that Christ will:

"And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me: Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." - John 1:33

The Baptist's point here is that with the New Dispensation ushered in by Christ, Baptism will no longer only have its material or physical dimension but will be endowed by its spiritual, more Cosmic one. The water of the earth will be transformed and transfigured by the 'water' that is the Holy Spirit. Quite literally, the Gospel is revealing the esoteric truth of 'As above, so below'. Christ reinforces this claim in his discussion with Nicodemus in a dialogue which again hints at the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit:

"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know though art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." - John 3: 1-5

The imagery of birth and rebirth, of water and the Holy Spirit all points towards feminine energy. In almost all cultures, and especially in pre-Christian ones, the transformative moment for the Soul lies in the moment of reentry into the Womb of the Great Mother, or Divine Feminine. In an earlier post we looked at how the Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone were echoed in the story of Mary Magdelene and Christ at the Tomb. Similarly, it should be remembered that the Creation was begun by the spirit of God moving "upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). In Kabbalah, the Spirit of God and the Waters here are known as the Higher and Lower Shekinah (ie Binah and Malkuth) or the Great Mother and the Daughter. The spiritual waters and the earthly waters combine to bring forth life. Thus, perhaps, in reuniting the image of water and the Holy Spirit within references to being born, Christ is suggesting a return to the wholeness inherent before the Fall. There is a connection here with the "bitter feminine waters" of Kabbalah too, sometimes referred to as 'Marah', which is the root word for the names Miriam and Mary. Once again, the Bible points towards a feminine energy when speaking of the Holy Spirit. It is no coincidence, perhaps, that in John's Gospel, one or more Marys are always present at the key miracles to do with Resurrection - Lazarus, the Tomb etc etc.

If the Holy Spirit is here identified with the element of Water, elsewhere it is Air and Fire. We have looked at how Pneuma, Spiritus and Ruach all mean 'Breath'. This makes immediate sense of Christ's references to 'the Wind':

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." - John 3:8

Once again, there are echoes here of previous cultures which also identified the Spirit as Wind as a feminine energy. For the Egyptians, for instance, Isis was also known by the epithet 'The Wind of Heaven' and was the chief agency of the Resurrection of Osiris. The Pneuma as Wind appears in the New Testament most famously, though, in the Book of Acts:

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." - Acts 2:1-4

Here the Holy Spirit is both Air and Fire. If one adds the imagery of Water, one sees that in the encounter of the Holy Spirit with our material world (Earth) everything is made whole, all four elements being united as one. Given the Spirit's transcendent nature, its oneness with God, it provides the fifth element, or Quintessence, which provides the goal of all mystical striving: Spirit, also known as Ether in the West and Akasha in the East. This in every way the Holy Spirit is the Healing Breath of God (David Bohm was always fond of pointing out that the word 'Holy' shared the same root as the words 'Whole' and 'Healing'). Through its agency, Christ fulfils his role as the Soter, the original Greek from which we get the English 'Saviour'. In its most ancient meaning, Soter simply means 'Healer'...

Monday, 3 November 2008


"I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." - John 12:46-47

Before we move on, a quick word about this idea of Christ as the Cosmic Man. Ever since I can remember, this has pretty much been the whole point of the Christ Mystery for me, although it is of course inherent in all cultures. I remember standing in a bookshop once in Oxford in front of an image on a poster of a Byzantine icon of Christ Pantokrator (Christ the Creator of All) and being taken into a sudden meditative state of being. It was as if by looking at the picture I was taken somewhere else. The sensation was of falling through Time and Space into the Cosmos. Not bad for an afternoon's shopping in Blackwell's! Since then - and of course there was a little more to it than a poster in a bookshop - any contact I have had with most mainstream Christianity has been one of bafflement. Their's was not an experience I recognised.

As I have mentioned before, every culture has its idea of the Cosmic Man. In Kabbalah it is Adam Kadmon. In Hinduism it is Purusha. The idea is of all humanity held together in one great human form, the World Soul if you like, also known as the 'Atman' in Hinduism or the 'Anima Mundi' in the West. In Christianity it is both Adam and Christ, Adam being the 'Old Cosmic Man', bound by Time and Space, Christ being the 'New Cosmic Man' restored to Wholeness and Unity with the Father and transcending Time and Space. As Paul puts it, we are all both:

"And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit... The first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly... Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." - Corinthians 16:45-51

The ideas is found first in the Upanishads, which draw no distinction between Purusha, the Atman and Brahman, the Spirit Supreme:

"Beyond the Spirit in man is the Spirit of the universe, and beyond is Purusha, the Spirit Supreme. Nothing is beyond Purusha: he is the End of the path. The light of the Atman, the Spirit is invisible, concealed in all beings. It is seen by the seer of the subtle, when the vision is keen and is clear... the knowing self in the Spirit of the universe, and the Spirit of the universe in the Spirit of peace." - Katha Upanishad

Similarly in Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon is so at one with God that it is almost impossible to distinguish them. The spiritual progression is from our own Spirit to the Cosmic Man, from which, or in which, we experience the Atman and, consequently Brahman. This, perhaps, is what Christ means when he says "I am the way and the truth and the life; no man cometh to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) and when he describes himself as 'the true vine' (another reference to Dionysus) in which we must 'abide'. Thus Christ as the embodiment of the Cosmic Man is the means, or the Path, if you will, whereby we in the West may achieve perfect union with the Father:

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast seen me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." - John 17:20-23

Words which in themselves echo another embodiment of the Cosmic Man, Krishna in the Bagavad Gita:

"I am the same to all beings, and my love is ever the same; but those who worship me with devotion, they are in me and I in them." - Bagavad Gita 9:29

Thus Christ is expressing a Upanishadic vision of the Cosmos and our relationship with God. What is interesting is that in our part of the world, as opposed to that of the East, we have needed the figure of Christ to mediate the way. Dion Fortune said that each region of the world evolves spiritually in different ways according to the karmic challenge that region represents. She argued that we in the West are the most susceptible to Matter. We feel it more intensely than other cultures and seek to overcome it, hence the immense materialism of the West and its specific development of a scientific view aimed at conquering and harnessing it. Thus while in the East the vision of the Divine was universal - Brahman, the Dao - we in the West needed the image of the Incarnation, an overt image of God dwelling in Man, to break open our awareness of the Cosmos and its presence in us. Thus while other cultures had other kinds of Incarnations - Krishna, Osiris, Dionysus, Siva etc - the knowledge was given us through the image of one who was unmistakably human. Thus Christ is one of many expressions or avatars of the One, but holds a unique place in being the means by which this Mystery of was revealed to us in the West. While Krishna and the others were more Gods with human form, Christ was clearly both a man and a God as this was the only way in which this truth would be received:

"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest though then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" - John 14:9

The key thing with the Gospels, and the Last Supper of John in particular, is that Christ hasn't quite got there yet. In the history of Christianity there have been endless centuries of debate about the true nature of Christ. Was he just a man or wholly God? The Arians, Docetists and Cathars all thought he was purely Divine or made of Spirit, others, some Gnostics believed he was a man, Jesus, who became Divine as Christ. Others still, the Unitarians, believed he was purely human and doing God's will. For the Catholics he is God become Man, for the Greek Orthodox he is wholly human and wholly Divine and so on. In John, the true nature of Christ is at its most complex. We know from the outset that he is 'the Word made Flesh' who 'dwelt among us', that is, the Logos which is the prime creative energy of God. But he also speaks repeatedly of his role solely as the agent of the Father's will and not as an independent being:

"The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me." - John 14:10

But we have seen how a prime connection has opened up at the moment of Glorification, moving him much closer to God. Perhaps it is most close to the truth to say that, while Incarnate, Christ is the Word subject to Time and Space. In other words, God existing as a human, subject to weariness, emotion and danger until the moment of the Resurrection and later Ascension, when he is able to return to the Father and, henceforward, exist outside Time and Space, in other words, in his capacity as the Cosmic Man:

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." - John 14: 18-21

Fascinatingly, all esoteric doctrines speak of a similar process for all the human race - the Soul's descent from the spiritual realms into the realms of Matter, incarnation into this world for as long as the moment when it recognises its Divine Nature and then begins the journey back (or forward, depending on your perspective) to the Source, the All. Thus Christ is an image of the fully realised man whose Divine Nature has been revealed to him and become his Soul Life. In this sense he is 'the Way' - ie the one who shows the way for the whole human race back to God. Thus, as the Gnostic Gospel of Phillip puts it, the receiving of the 'Chrism' (from the Greek Kharis, meaning 'Gift' from which we get the word 'Grace) makes one 'not a Christian but a Christ'. Should this feel shockingly heretical, it should be remembered that the opening verses of John's Gospel tell us that the Word is come to give us all "the power to become the Sons of God" (John 1:12). Likewise he tells us in the First Epistle that "we shall be like Him" (1st John 3:2). And should there be any doubt, Christ himself tells the Apostles in the Last Supper:

"Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." - John 14:12

Not insignificantly, these were the words that German Mystic Meister Eckhardt used in his defence when he was brought up against the Inquisition for heresy. With great indignation he accused his accusers of going against Holy Writ in denying the promise given by Christ of the Divinisation of the human race. For the Church at the time any suggestion of humanity coming close to the Christ-nature was anathema (it is still not uncontroversial). Nevertheless it remains central to the view of many Christian Mystics from St Augustine to Julian of Norwich, Marguerite Porete, Johannes Tauler, John of Ruysbroek, St Teresa of Avila and many others. In the East, on the other hand, among the Orthodox of Greece, Russia and others, the notion is integral to their vision of Christianity. It is known as Theosis and is the ultimate end of the drama of Christianity - the Divinisation of everyone, a perfect Union with God for the whole human race...

Sunday, 2 November 2008


"Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." - John's Gospel 14: 1-3

As I mentioned in my last post, John's account of the Last Supper takes up five chapters. This is not insignificant, as the number five makes up the number of limbs of the Cosmic Man - two arms, two legs and a head - as well as the Pentagram, symbol of the Goddess, healing and protection. That Christ represents, or is to come to represent the Cosmic Man made whole is presaged by the symbolism of the Five Wounds of Christ. In Kabbalah, five is the number of the world above the four worlds of Assiah, Yetzirah, Beriah and Atziluth. This fifth World is Adam Kadmon, the World of Primordial Man who is placed closest to God. Some commentators claim that the four Gospels correspond to these lower four Worlds, with John's pointing towards the fifth, unrevealed one. It is fitting then, that John unfolds his Mysteries accross five chapters, the first documenting Christ's betrayal and the splitting of the Jesus/Judas self, the last being between Christ and God alone:

"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee" - John 17:1

We will return to this chapter - almost a threnody to God by Christ - later, but it is fitting that this last chapter corresponds to the head of the Cosmic Man. It is the most Mystical in nature, the one in which the channel between the Father and the Son opens most powerfully. As Paul says "The head of every man is Christ... and the head of Christ is God" (Corinthians 11:3)...

As soon as Judas has departed, as soon as that part of the Divine Self has separated off, Christ begins his final words to the Disciples. His opening subject, the thing that comes before all else, is pretty clear:

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye also love one another." - John 13:34-35

Love is his subject, before all else. It forms the centrepiece of the whole of the Last Supper, indeed of the Gospel in its entirety; not Sin, Hell, mortification of the flesh or any of the other things we associate with Christianity. Christ mentions his 'new commandment' no less than three times in all five chapters, and love comes up almost everywhere as the chief agent of transformation:

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all the things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you... These things I command you, that ye love one another." - John 15: 10-15

and later:

"For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." - John 16: 26-27

Love becomes the central unifying force between Humanity, Christ and thus God, an idea given its full meaning in the FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN which is the apotheosis of Love Mysticism at the heart of these writings:

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.... Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us... he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." - First Epistle of John 4: 7-16

It couldn't be much clearer than that. Members of militant churches hoping to smite the Unbeliever, win a final showdown with Satan the Muslim and look on with glee while homosexuals, people of other religions and anyone not part of their particular team burn in the Last Days out to take heed of these passages. John doesn't buy any of that. If there is no love in someone, they know nothing of God. The Christian process of salvation starts here, in our relationships with each other. Indeed as John makes it clear here, God's love is not completed until we 'dwell in love'. This vision is not unique to John, of course. In Matthew Christ makes clear that love of God and of one's fellow man comes before anything else ("On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" 22:40) but nowhere does it get a higher expression than in John. It is the presence of love within us that is key before any other consideration. Without it we are, as Paul says, 'as nothing'. We hear much about Christ's love for us and God's love, but John emphasises our love, not just for God but for each other, as being the completion of the Mystery. He is not called the Beloved Disciple for nothing.

The description of the Apostles ceasing to be 'servants' and instead becoming 'friends' is crucial here also, along with the growing convergence of the Father, the Son, the Apostles and all of humanity. As we are given the opportunity to 'overhear', as it were, Christ's words to the Apostles, we become the Apostles. In other words, we are being invited to share of the Wisdom and to have the same relationship with the Godhead that is being offered to them. Before the Gospels, in the relationship between God and humanity expressed in the Old Testament, the emphasis is primarily upon humanity, represented by the people of Israel, serving God and keeping his commandments. Of course this is an oversimplification, as the nature of the relationship grows and changes from Abraham through Jacob, Joseph and Moses to David and Solomon, whose Psalms and Songs illustrate a more intimate, inner connection with God. But there remains a distance that has to be bridged. This distance has, for all intents and purposes, been continued, if not made worse, by centuries of Church intervention which have made it conditional on a host of human edicts, laws and doctrines such as Original Sin and a Redemption dependent upon obedience to a given Priesthood. In fact the relationship being offered by Christ at the Last Supper is a condition of complete Oneness with no mediation. If anything Christ is speaking of the end of religion, certainly not the beginning of a new one, replacing it with a direct connection with God available to all:

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." - John 14:16-20

It is no surprise, perhaps, that two of the key heretical or near heretical movements of the Middle Ages which preached a more intimate relationship with Christ were the Gottesfreunden of Switzerland and the Rhine and the Bogomils of Bosnia. Both words mean 'Friends of God'. Even the Cathars sometimes referred to themselves as 'Bonas Ames' or 'Bons Amis' - 'Good Friends' - indicating their desire to walk in this more intimate relationship with God and Man...


"Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you." - John's Gospel 14:19-20

In the much-abused religion of Christianity, preeminent among the more soulful of us are the writings of John. Lawgivers, hellfire merchants and eternal damnation enthusiasts have always preferred Matthew's Gospel or just skipped Christ altogether and gone to the more absolutist sections of the Old Testament or fast-forwarded to the mouthwatering revenge fantasies of Revelations. But for the Mystic, John's work has always been the Crown Chakra of the New Testament. From Augustine to Eckhardt to the Cathars to the Beguines, the essence of Christianity in its most cosmic form is found here. Of the four beasts of Ezekiel, John has always been associated with the Eagle. Here is where the Christianity Mysteries soar. Of course, being Mysteries, they inform but are not necessarily found much in the practise of Christainity as we have known it over the last two thousand years. Mysteries, as we have seen from the post on Demeter, are Inner Teachings, focussed often on Immortality and our Eternal Nature and thus, by their very nature, not always for everyone. This is as much because they aren't easy to understand as anything else. And yet the Christ Mysteries are what Christianity is all about, or at least should be, even though for several centuries their real implications have been deemed heretical by the Catholic and Protestant Churches at least. Before we finally kick Christianity into the earth, it might therefore be worth looking at what it might have had to offer before we risk losing it forever. Not easy considering so many peoples' antipathy to the story, largely thanks to the way it has been handled by the Churches for so long. But in the hope of not throwing the Mystical Baby out with the Material Bathwater, here goes with a discussion of John's Gospel. And those with a knee-jerk hatred of Christianity should either stop reading now, or at least read on with an open mind, because none of this is going to be familiar to anyone who associates Christianity with the Vatican or the Anglican Church...

John's Gospel is regarded as non-synoptic. In other words, it doesn't fit quite so easily with the other three, all of which seem to share a common narrative, set of characters and perspective on Christ. John's moves into completely different territory. It was the last Gospel to be included in the canon. Some commentators have argued that this was because of its popularity in spite of the authorities' resistance to it as being 'too Gnostic'. They simply couldn't ignore it without alienating whole armies of believers. Indeed, John's Gospel was always the battleground between the Gnostic sects and what was to become Christianity as we know it. Both movements claimed it as their own, something neo-Gnostics tend to forget. We have seen how the Cathars, for instance, revered it above all the others. The idea that the Gnostics utterly rejected any part of the New Testament as we have it now is completely incorrect. The many Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi were not written in opposition to the canonical Christian writings but supplementary to them. For them all these writings formed an indivisible whole. Until the second century AD there was no schism between Gnostic and non-Gnostic Christians ('Gnostic' was itself a term used by the enemies of people like the Valentinians, whose founder, Valentinus, was for a long time a respected member of the mainstream Christian Church). That came later. Besides which, elements of Gnosticism remained in Greek Christianity and even informed the Western Churches, although in a less radical way than we might hope. After all, all 'Gnosis' means is 'Knowledge' as in 'Knowledge of the Divine' and if Christ's message was not about giving us a new 'Knowledge' of God and his relationship to Man then what was it? In the end, any Mystic is a 'Gnostic' in this sense, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan or whatever. Western Mystics like Eckhardt, Origen and John of Ruysbroek all had Gnostic elements in them. Christ, like Krishna, Buddha, Moses and Mohammed, was pointing towards a greater understanding of our relationship with the One and, in doing so, by implication with each other...

The centre point of the Johannine writings is the Last Supper. Most people are aware of the Sermon of the Mount as being pivotal to Christianity but the Last Supper is the source of its most Mystical element. If the Sermon on the Mount is the highest expression of exoteric Christianity (ie offering teachings on how to live communally), the Last Supper of John is the highest expression of esoteric Christianity. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered from a Mountain Top to the crowd, the Last Supper's conversation (and it IS a conversation and not a Sermon) is for the inner circle, the Initiates. The impression given is that we are hearing the words of Christ as they were delivered in private. They are to be read intimately, not as oratory. That John thought they were important is suggested by the fact that, of the 21 chapters of the Gospel that bears his name, the Last Supper takes up 5. That's more than a quarter of the whole book and far more than in Matthew, Mark or Luke's accounts. Clearly something important is going on here and it might be worth looking more deeply into what...

In essence, John's account of the Last Supper is an account of the Inner Mysteries of Christianity. If there is a Gnosis in Christianity, this is where it is to be found. As we saw in Eleusis, the Greater Mysteries took place in secret, in the Inner Sanctum. Here, they same is true. The events unfold in an upper room where the Apostles are gathered to celebrate the feast of the Passover, or Pesach, one of the most holy festivals of the Jewish year when the children of Israel celebrate deliverance from the Angel of Death and the beginning of freedom from the tyranny of Egypt. The doors are locked. The atmosphere is highly charged. John describes the events in extraordinarily dense and elusive poetry. Its not easy to understand everything that Christ is saying. Some of his words are as obscure as Zen Koans. Even the Apostles are baffled. But this is the whole point. Mystical truth can only be expressed through poetry and paradox. This has nearly always been the case. It is not linear in nature. It needs to be puzzled out. And in the puzzling out the Mystery is revealed.

The key to the narrative is the 'Glorification' of Christ. Fascinatingly, this can only happen once Judas has been sent out to betray him. I say 'sent out'. This is literally what happens. Christ knows exactly who is to betray him and gives him the signal:

"Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly." - John 13:26-27

Whole tomes could be written about Christ's relationship with Judas (even their names are echoes of each other Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot). This is just a Blog. Esoterically speaking, a profound ritual is taking place here. For Jesus and Judas are shadows of each other, being two sides of the same entity. John's Gospel is always associated with the Eagle, one of the four animals of Ezekiel. The Eagle corresponds to the Star Sign Scorpio, the Eagle being the higher side of Scorpio, the Scorpion being the lower. Scorpio is the sign most associated with the Mysteries of Death and Rebirth and it is surely no coincidence that this is the very nature of John's Gospel. At this moment the Christ-Consciousness is splitting in two, letting go of the darker side. In Alchemical terms, this is the beginning of what is known as the Nigredo, the dark moment when the 'dying' process begins prior to the Resurrection into the White Rose. Thus Judas' actions have to happen, for without them the whole drama of the Resurrection cannot be fulfilled. Esoterically, the earthly elements of man must die away for the divine element to rise up. Judas will betray Christ, but he has to. It is part of the process. Interestingly, John does not include in his version of the story the ritual of the Bread and the Wine. In the others this act of Communion is key and one which Judas is part of, suggesting that he too partakes of the Divine Nature. In Matthew, for instance, Jesus makes a point of having Judas eat the bread and drink the wine even after he has identified him as his betrayer. John leaves this out, but includes Judas in Christ's cleaning of the Apostles' feet which precedes the Supper, suggesting that, even though he is 'not clean', he is still part of the new dispensation about to be revealed .

If John leaves out the ritual of Bread and Wine, he creates another element which does not feature elsewhere - the Beloved Apostle, who appears in the story here for the first time. For some reason these three figures - Christ, Judas and the Beloved Disciple - are in an alignment just at the instant of the betrayal. Saviour, Betrayer and Witness are all united in this single moment. The Mystery of the interdependence between this Christ-Self and Iscariot-Self is one of the most complex in the history of Christianity and perhaps conceals the secret of its greatest failure. The refusal to face up to the Shadow-side represented by Judas, as well as the projection of it onto the Jewish people, has poisoned the whole venture and trapped it in a condition of Dualism and paranoia which has lead to the betrayal of its own spiritual source. Origen suggested that the ultimate end of Redemption might be the salvation of the Devil, for which he was accused of being a heretic. Until Judas can be saved in the same way, until his role is properly acknowledged, Christianity will not be whole. Of course, the authors of the Gospels were subtler than their followers. Its worth remembering, after all, that Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss. In Matthew Christ goes so far as to call Judas 'Friend' before he does so...

Whatever the truth or otherwise of these speculations, the moment when Judas leaves the table and goes 'immediately out' is the key moment for John. It is the turning point of the whole Gospel. The text adds that 'it was night', another suggestion of the Nigredo moment. It is then that Christ experiences some kind of transformation or epiphany:

"Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightaway glorify him."

What is Christ going on about here? What is all this about 'Glorification', something we don't hear much about in churches and pulpits? Why is it important? In his book Meditation And The Bible, Kabbalist Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan outlines the many different shades of meaning of 'Glory' in the Old Testament. It is associated with Atziluth, the World closest to God and the Sephira Tiphareth ('Beauty'), often referred to as the Prince or Lesser Countenance, which bridges the Gulf between the King and our world in order to be united with the 'Daughter' or Malkuth, the Kingdom. Most significantly for us, however, is its association with the word 'Soul' outlined by Rabbi Maya Luzatto. Given the Jewish origins of Christianity, its debt to the Mysticism of the Israel, this suggests that, at the moment at which Judas leaves, Christ is fully realising his 'ensouled' Cosmic nature, hence the the two-way Glorification process between him and the Father, a process which would can only happen thanks to Judas. Even if one were not to understand it in terms of Kabbalah, John himself explains what Glorification means and why it is so important earlier in the Gospel in Chapter 7:

"But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." - John 7:39

In other words, until Christ is 'Glorified', the Holy Spirit cannot pour through him into the world. Thus this moment when Judas leaves the Last Supper is the key turning point in John's version of the Christ story. It is now that the connection between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit properly begins and the possibility of human transformation, what the Greek Orthodox called Theosis, can happen. So without the splitting apart of the Jesus/Judas character, the Christ Mystery cannot happen, the Prophecy cannot be fulfilled.

From here on in, everything Christ says to the Apostles is suffused by the wisdom of this new relationship between God and Man. The bridge between Heaven and Earth has been established and the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, is the main subject of the words that follow. The Inner Mysteries of the New Testament are to be unfolded and not only to the chosen few but, through the agency of John, to everyone. This was the real revolution of Christianity, the Metanoia or Transformation of Consciousness that has effected everyone in the West since and which the Churches themselves have found very tricky to handle, particularly the Roman, which resorted to violence to stop it getting out: a universal connection, contained within every individual, unmediated, with the Divine..