WRITING IN THE SAND Thomas Moore
Through fresh examination of the original texts, Thomas Moore discovers a unique and revolutionary view of how the Gospels can offer enlightenment and spiritual wealth to anyone, regardless of belief. Far from the traditional moralistic view, Moore presents a sophisticated, more human Jesus, living amongst friends, loves and community, bringing teachings to create a happier and more meaningful life. In Writing in the Sand, Moore dismisses the cautionary voice of earlier interpretations and instead explores the deeper significance of language, stressing the origin of words and their many levels of meaning, in an effort to discover what we can truly learn from the Gospels' stories. Moore reveals paths that are echoed in many major religions, and helps us to remember that heaven resides within all of us.
198pp, 138mm x 214mm, Paperback, 2009
Levels of Vitality
Still today, Jesus' teachings address the crude mechanistic thought that dominates every aspect of modern culture. They propose to wake society from the dumb sleep of materialism and self-absorption. Again and again in the Gospels, he challenges simplistic belief and moralism, which are aspects of the materialism of our age. They are, in the perceptive phrase of the spiritual teacher Ch?gyam Trungpa, signs of 'spiritual materialism.'
Trungpa begins his book with an observation that cuts to the centre of Jesus' teaching. Of spirituality in general he says, 'The teachings are treated as an external thing, external to 'me,' a philosophy which we try to imitate... We go through the motions, make the appropriate gestures, but we really do not want to sacrifice any part of our way of life. We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path.'
This is not so much a harsh criticism as a thoughtful warning to students of spirituality not to be complacent in mere attachment to a spiritual path. Just as we madly pursue facts and the control of nature, we tend to treat the mysteries of spirituality and religion as though they were also facts. We don't go deep into them. With respect to Jesus, we ask factually whether he worked wonders or was God or rose physically from death. We may miss the challenge in his teachings to live a different way of life, to take our ideals seriously, and to live the Gospel ideals radically: being a healer, responding to the world community, loving those who are different and who think differently.
Anyone who drinks this water will be thirsty at another time. But anyone who drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty again. The water I give him will be a spring in him, water flowing into eternal life.
-John 4:13 - 14
Life is like water - vast, surging, and filled with beings of all kinds. To enter the kingdom, you have to be born deep into this fluidity, this teeming nature of life. Jesus stands in the river, an image for life's full, watery nature, and allows the water from that river to flow over him.
Heraclitus spoke of the river aspect of reality. 'All things flow,' he said. 'Panta rhei.' Rhei is the root of our word river. A river flows and gives us an image for how life flows. Heraclitus also said, 'You can't step twice into the same river.' Nor can you step twice into the same quality of life: You can't stop it. You can't repeat it. You have to live knowing that it is in constant transformation.
Jesus stepped into that rivering life at the beginning of his career. As we have already seen, at that moment his father appeared in the heavens and said, 'This is my son, who is pleasing to me.' God the father approves of this action, standing in the flow of life, indicating that being fully alive is identical with being spiritual.
In the religious imagination of India, the Ganges River is the milk of cows and therefore the source of life.
In Paradise, in Genesis, four rivers flow from the garden and water the earth with vitality. In the Book of Revelations there is a life-giving river:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
This relation to the river is the secret of the spiritual life. In this sense, baptism is not limited to any particular religious tradition. It is a requirement for any turn from materialism to spirituality, from unconsciousness to a deep imagination. We can all find the flow, the soul water, the aqua permanens of the alchemist, in ourselves. Entering that 'water' is our baptism. The flow of life is always the Jordan River.
To be baptized is to discover ritually that life flows. This lesson may appear trite, but it is basic. People live as though life should be static, staying in one place. We think that of marriage, relationships, work, ideas, and values. We try to keep them firm and stable, but life keeps moving. The question is whether you move with the flowing of life or insist on the security you find in stability and control.
Honouring the flow of life is an aspect of being spiritual, and that is why baptism is essential in religions. And it is a short step toward honouring the source of that flow, which Jesus refers to as 'my father.'
Whatever your background, you can borrow language from other spiritual traditions. You don't have to be Buddhist to work out the Eightfold Path in your life. You don't have to be Christian to see the importance of baptism. And you don't have to be naive to see the possibility of resurrection - those who are soul-dead coming back to life.
From Writing in the Sand, ?2009 by Thomas Moore, published by Hay House.