My two previous sermons have been on the truth and how it sets you free. We have determined that truth's bottom line on the mundane plane is right action; infinite freedom on earth is achieved through right actions. The question is what is right action? I mean what exactly do we do, or not do?
It's a slippery slope because, even though we want clear, steadfast rules to live and act by, the dictates of spirit in terms of right action are the same as for belief--they are different for everyone. That is not to say that the infinite, static, immutable essence of spirit is somehow fickle, and changeable, or that the Mind of God is in any way double- or triple-minded; but, rather, it is to say that the precise words, with which spirit will manifest in the human mind, will differ, from one mind to another, as much any other aspect of unique human individuality will differ from one to another; we are all anomalous little corners of the Godhead, so there will, therefore, be subtle if not dramatic differences between one person's right action and another person's right action.
From JollyNotes.com we read:
"Our actions are usually a reflection of who we are. Our actions should reflect what we profess to believe. We should act on our word. We should remember to always take the right actions even when it’s difficult – We should “walk the walk”, not only “talk the talk”. We should think carefully before we act. We should treat others the same way we ourselves would like to be treated. Children and adults alike are watching and learning from our actions. Remember that in everything we say and do, we are ambassadors for God. And finally, sometimes God tells us – enough with the prayers – Now I need you to ACT!"
From the same site we get the following scripture readings:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”From the web article, Bible Teaching That Educates the Mind and Directs the Feet by Sid Cates, we read:
• Prov. 23:7:
• For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
• Dan. 1:8:
• But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.
• Luke 6:45:
• A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
• Rom. 10:10:
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
"These verses point out the importance of a right heart in producing right actions. These verses do not discount the importance of hearing, learning, or memorizing God's Word. Nor do they imply that a "made-up mind" cannot produce right actions. There is no doubt that someone who makes up his mind to do right can do it, for a while. They clearly indicate, however, that a purposeful heart is the foundation for right actions, not a purposeful mind.
Nevertheless, the mind plays a vital part in right actions. The "gateway" to the heart is through the mind. If we as Bible teachers want our students to walk rightly, our teaching must not only educate the mind but reach the heart."Something must be said concerning the effect the heart has on the will. The will is a spiritual entity that we have not spoken of enough; the will is linked in philosophy with desire, and as far as it goes with the ineffable sehnsucht of C. S. Lewis; the desire for God that brings future heavenly grace into the present. Thus, the joy of right action is realized in the manifestation of heavenly desires in the earthly plane. These realizations are not possible without the action of will on the literal consciousness; there must first be a resolution of mind, and then the body will act accordingly. We have spoken of faith as a literal image that becomes enlightened with heavenly energy through the open door of the “cloud of unknowing”; perhaps the will is the mechanism by which this literal image is created?
Remember this quote from The Screwtape Letters:
"He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles."
Remember, also, that spiritual manifestations, on the mundane level of the cosmic hierarchy, are essentially arbitrary, are essentially fictions which the infinite writes on the crusty, inflexible slate of time, for the benefit of Man's puny powers of literal understanding. The choices spirit makes in our sphere of comprehension are not essential, but, rather, symbolic, hence the sense of mythological reality with which all spiritual experience resonates.
The following lengthy quote is from Rudolf Steiner's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. In the shortest possible summary: the Bhagavad Gita is a poetic section of the Mahabarata, the sacred Hindu "bible", so to speak, and is a record of the conversation between the warrior Arjuna and the Hindu Christ figure, Krishna, just before the great battle between the Pandu family and the Kuru family--a battle that will unmake the world. The main thrust of the Steiner section echoes what I have just said about the essential arbitrariness of action, but draws connections between action and destiny; it also attempts to draw a parallel between the ancient Hindu text and the more recent letters of Saint Paul:
The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, LECTURE III, 30 December, 1912
"Only when we consider these life-connections do we realise how the laws of destiny work in the conceptions of the world. In the background of such great revelations, such great world-philosophies as the Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, we are confronted by the ruling of these laws of destiny. We might say: if we look behind the Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, we can see the direct ruling of destiny. How can we trace destiny in the Epistles?
We often find indicated in them that the real salvation of soul-development consists in the so-called “justification by faith” as compared to the worthlessness of external works; because of that which the soul may become when it makes the final connection with the Christ-Impulse, when it takes into itself the great force that flows from the proper understanding of the Resurrection of Christ. When we meet with this in the Epistles, we feel, on the other hand, that the human soul may, so to say, be thrown back upon itself, and thus be estranged from all external works and rely entirely on mercy and justification by faith. Then come the external works; they are there in the world; we do not do away with them because we turn from them; we join forces with them in the world. Again destiny rings out to us in all its gigantic greatness. Only when we look at things in this way do we see the might of such revelations to mankind."
[Sidebar: The subtleties of the Faith/Works dichotomy have not always been clear to me. I have not always understood how good works might not be a good thing; I have have recently come to understand that good works are kind of like good words: you may say something nice and not really mean it, and this amounts to less than nothing both for the recipient of the compliment and for you--empty words are like plastic cartons with nothing in them, and will not hold anything up under the light of honest day; I, myself, would rather not bear the weight of empty vessels than parade around displaying toy medals on my sleeve, the evidence that people need to lie to me to make me feel good; people might as well make little cooing sounds like pigeons than actually construct false sentences out of well-meaning lies. Likewise, you may do something nice for the wrong reasons and end up paying the price for that falsehood as well--in short, my conclusion is that all our thought, words, and deeds must be essentially, technically, and eventually justified by faith.
Back to Steiner:]
"First of all, a distinction is made between what men have to do in the ordinary world. It is indeed a grand situation in which the Gita places this before us. Arjuna has to fight against his blood-relations. That is his external destiny, it is his own doing, his Karma, which comprises the deeds which he must first of all accomplish in this particular situation. In these deeds he lives at first as external man; but the great Krishna teaches him that a man only becomes wise, only unites himself with the Divine Eternal if he performs his deeds because they themselves in the external course of nature and of the evolution of humanity prove to be necessary; yet the wise man must release himself from them. He performs the deeds; but in him there is something which at the same time is a looker-on at these deeds, which has no part in them, which says: I do this work, but I might just as well say: I let it happen. One becomes wise by looking on at what one does as though it were being done by another; and by not allowing oneself to be disturbed by the desire which causes the deed or by the sorrow it may produce.
“It is all one,” says the great Krishna to his pupil Arjuna, “whether thou art in the ranks of the sons of Pandu, or over there among the sons of Kuru; what ever thou doest, thou must as a wise man make thyself free from Pandu-ism and Kuru-ism. If it does not affect thee whether thou art to act with the Pandus as though one of them, or to act with the Kurus as though thou were thyself a son of Kuru; if thou canst rise above all this and not be affected by thine own deeds, like a flame which burns quietly in a place protected from the wind, undisturbed by anything external: if thy soul, as little disturbed by its own deeds, lives quietly beside them, then does it become wise; then does it free itself from its deeds, and does not inquire what success attends them.” For the result of our deeds only concerns the narrow limitations of our soul; but if we perform them because humanity or the course of the world require them from us, then we perform these deeds regardless as to whether they lead to dreadful or to glorious results for ourselves. This lifting oneself above one's deeds, this standing upright no matter what our hands may carry out, even — speaking of the Gita situation — what our swords may carry out or what we may speak with our mouth; this standing upright of our inner self regardless of all that we speak with our mouth and do with our hands, this it is to which the great Krishna leads his pupil Arjuna.
Thus the great Krishna directs his pupil Arjuna to a human ideal, which is so presented that a man says: “I perform my deeds, but it matters not whether they are performed by me or by another — I look on at them: that which happens by my hand or is spoken by my mouth, I can look on at as objectively as though I saw a rock being loosened and rolling down the mountain into the depths. Thus do I stand as regards my deeds; and although I may be in a position to know this or that, to form concepts of the world, I myself am quite distinct from these concepts, and I may say: In me there dwells something which is, it is true, united to me and which perceives, but I look on at what another is perceiving. Thus I myself am liberated from my perceptions. I can become free from my deeds, free from my knowledge and free from my perceptions."
Of particular interest to me is this idea:
". . . a man only becomes wise, only unites himself with the Divine Eternal if he performs his deeds because they themselves in the external course of nature and of the evolution of humanity prove to be necessary; yet the wise man must release himself from them. He performs the deeds; but in him there is something which at the same time is a looker-on at these deeds, which has no part in them, which says: I do this work, but I might just as well say: I let it happen."
It has often been suggested that great works of art "just happen"; of course it must not be forgotten that it takes years of disciplined study and concentration to make possible that effortless divine exhalation which is the great artist's stock-in-trade, but, as Yeats says in the poem Adam's Curse:
"I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught."
It must also be remembered that the moment of epiphany that illuminates the long-sought-after poetic line always comes from above--the poet would be a fool to claim ownership of the thing because he knows that he has merely opened the door in his own soul for the inspiration to flow through.
And again, as C. S. Lewis reminds us, in The Screwtape Letters:
“The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents--or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.”
It will readily be seen how this relates to sehnsucht and will: if we base our actions on the divine impulse which comes through faith, our minds open to the possibilities of the mythological dimension and merely act out a script that has already been written since before the world began.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Thus, the Word of God has been dictating our actions since before we were made. As we have discussed before, this does not negate the possibility of free will, but it assures us that, if we conform our personal will to the will of the Father, we will always act from the heart, and never err in judgment or effect. The Word is the wind of spirit, whither it bloweth we know not, but it is good, it is always good. We question not, we only act, we only perform the script as faithfully as our powers of comprehension allow.
One question raised by the passage:
“he performs his deeds because they themselves in the external course of nature and of the evolution of humanity prove to be necessary”is that of “what is necessary?” Does the wind of spirit answer this question as well? I think maybe yes and no; but there is another wrinkle added by Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 12:4-31
"4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."
In this passage we see that right action is not always individual action; we see that sometimes we may perform the Will of God more efficiently by working together than by striking out on our own; we may come to understand that the Christ-Impulse is a binding, synthesizing power that reveals our true anomalous selves IN EACH OTHER. Thus, WHAT IS NECESSARY might be an end that we, with our individual vision cannot even perceive as a whole, but only in part. Just as we see ourselves in a glass darkly, the ultimate ends of Human evolution may not be apparent to even the most prophetic-minded of us. The necessity of an act must come from the inward impulse of the Christ pressing outward, from our inner to our outer realities. The necessity of an action can only be discovered in the script that was written for us “In the Beginning”.
We must always guard against the influence of "the crowd" in supplying us with easy group answers to difficult personal questions, but that does not mean that there is no power in joining forces with each other when the cause is just and the way is straight and clear. Sometimes the "right" in right action is so obvious that there can be no doubt as to what the proper course should be for one and all. These moments are rare, but, when they appear, the power manifested by like-minded men bound together by a single righteous purpose can be staggering and overwhelming.
Now, on a different note: I’m sure that there are many who come to these sermons of mine, which are filled with material from such diverse sources, many of which might easily be termed “new age”, Steiner not the least among them, and ask, “How can these sermons be Christian?” I tell you, this doubt could not be more unfounded. It is true that the writings of Steiner are replete with new age material and terminology, etheric bodies, Atlantean epochs, and so on; you can take or leave this material—it is not central to Steiner’s main message—how can a name for something immaterial come between us and the truth of spirit which defies definition or nomination?
But you have to understand this one important thing—no one venerates and worships Jesus more that Rudolf Steiner; the main objective of Steiner’s teaching is to put the various world religious beliefs in perspective, a perspective which presents the devotee with a long, long continuum of evolutionary levels to contemplate, but which centers Christianity at the culminating peak of this cosmic process.
Concerning the question of right action, Steiner points out an apparent contradiction between what Krishna says and what Jesus says: Krishna instructs us to act without desire, to act without validating the act and just let it happen, thereby allowing it to enter the mythological domain--to Krishna we are all individual pieces of a giant cosmic puzzle whose pieces must ultimately make no sense; on the other hand, Jesus tells us that, if we work together, we bestow purpose on our actions. So, on one hand, our actions are purposeless and on the other hand our actions have purpose. Both these things are true--but Jesus' slant on things is a bit more radical than any idea of reality brought forth before His time.
The apparent contradiction is not actually a contradiction; it's just like how, when we figure out how to say something, we're not really expressing truth as much as we are merely finding a way of articulating an expression that our puny literal consciousness abilities can appreciate. Likewise, an action is a so-called "elected invention" that is ultimately futile but which we perform anyway because, as Jesus says, we can see the reality even in the maya. In the Hindu philosophy all reality is maya, so all actions are maya; but Jesus says, "Yeah, it's maya, but it's also real, it's also there, and because of that we can validate it and cherish it give life to it, as yet another dimension of spiritual reality… Not a lower dimension but another dimension.
At the end of the lectures on the Bhagavad Gita Steiner proclaims the singlemost important revolutionary contribution Jesus made to the evolution of Humankind: that the Christ Consciousness is available to EVERYONE. Steiner makes the distinction between the Hindu principle that physical reality is maya, illusion, and is therefore to be transcended through renunciation, and the completely new affirmation of spirit IN THE FLESH that was the primary thrust of Jesus’ entire career. Though His incarnation and sacrifice, His blood shed onto the face of Mother Earth, Jesus ushered in a completely new epoch, an epoch of Heaven on Earth. Jesus did away with the futility of human existence by affirming the spirituality and validity of maya; of course the mundane dimension is an illusion, but, so what? What articulation of spirit does not fall short of the infinitude of its source? The fact that we are all tiny foci of an infinite personality does not make us insignificant, but rather makes us glorious realities in a universe in which levels of reality constantly intertwine and comingle! That Jesus was Man and God is our inspiration not our condemnation! Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved!
Thus, as fragments of the whole, we must cherish our relationships with other fragments of the whole, and work with them to further the ends of Heaven on Earth. This does not mean that we join with “the crowd”. In this one sense, the idea of thinking for yourself comes in conflict with the idea of banding together with like-minded people. In order for us to become one with the body of Christ, and not with the body of some false dogma, extreme care must be exercised to make sure we are in perfect agreement with our peers with whom we work and achieve. As mentioned earlier:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
We are instructed here not to work FOR men, but it doesn’t say not to work WITH men. The brotherhood of Christ is a powerful union of saints whose singleness of purpose must spring from the motivation of the Christ-Impulse. Only union with our peers on a spiritual level will reveal the truth and validity of our relationships. This takes a seriousness of intent and a closeness as intimate as any marriage: friends in Christ and friends in spirit, will not experience any dissonance on the deepest spiritual levels, although they may easily disagree on the semantics of their theology. In such a case they must be willing to abandon the semantics for the faith and hope transmitted to them from the cloud of unknowing, and go forth IN ACTION motivated by Spirit, each performing his rightful part, each submitting to the higher Will of the Father, as mediated to Man by the Son.
Even in the Pre-Christian philosopher, Plato, intimations of the Son are prophesied: in Plato's Republic is to be found a description of the tripartite soul; he divides the human being into three distinct levels of structure:
1. the highest is the intellect, the reason,
3. the lowest, the physical, the carnal, he calls desire, and
2. the middle he calls spirit, the middle ground, the mediator between one's highest intentions and lowest animal drives.
Once again, it is is not difficult to see forming in the mind of pre-Christian Man the image of the Father, the logos, the infinite mind of God, in contradistinction with the low carnal desires mediated by Jesus, the perfect God-Man, who affirms the possibility of life-everlasting in every dimension of time and space.
In conclusion, let me reiterate some of the key points of this message:
1. The dictates of spirit in terms of right action are the same as for belief--they are different for everyone.
2. Our actions should reflect what we profess to believe.
3. Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
4. "The "gateway" to the heart is through the mind. If we as Bible teachers want our students to walk rightly, our teaching must not only educate the mind but reach the heart."
5. The will is linked in philosophy with desire, and, as far as it goes, with the ineffable sehnsucht of C. S. Lewis; the desire for God that brings future heavenly grace into the present. Thus, the joy of right action is realized in the manifestation of heavenly desires in the earthly plane. These realizations are not possible without the action of will on the literal consciousness; there must first be a resolution of mind, and then the body will act accordingly.
6. The choices spirit makes in our sphere of comprehension are not essential, but, rather, symbolic, hence the sense of mythological reality with which all spiritual experience resonates.
7. .". . . a man only becomes wise, only unites himself with the Divine Eternal if he performs his deeds because they themselves in the external course of nature and of the evolution of humanity prove to be necessary; yet the wise man must release himself from them. He performs the deeds; but in him there is something which at the same time is a looker-on at these deeds, which has no part in them, which says: I do this work, but I might just as well say: I let it happen."
8. Right action is not always individual action; we see that by working together we may perform the Will of God more efficiently than on our own; we may come to understand that the Christ-Impulse is a binding, synthesizing power that reveals our true anomalous selves IN EACH OTHER. Thus, WHAT IS NECESSARY might be an end that we, with our individual vision cannot even perceive as a whole, but only in part. Just as we see ourselves in a glass darkly, the ultimate ends of Human evolution may not be apparent to even the most prophetic-minded of us. The necessity of an act must come from the inward impulse of the Christ pressing outward, from our inner to our outer realities.
9. Though His incarnation and sacrifice, His blood shed onto the face of Mother Earth, Jesus ushered in a completely new epoch, an epoch of Heaven on Earth. Jesus did away with the futility of human existence by affirming the spirituality and validity of maya; of course the mundane dimension is an illusion, but, so what? What articulation of spirit does not fall short of the infinitude of its source?
Thus we close this series of sermons on right action by affirming that what we do comes from what we believe, and what we believe makes a difference. It's hard to say just what we ought to do at any given moment, and we can get pretty confused. But if we habitually turn to Jesus for direction I cannot see how we may fail to do the best we can. Even while all those around us are spinning in hellish confusion, the certitude of Jesus' wisdom and benevolence will provide a safe haven in the sea of madness.
Let us pray: Jesus, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.