Bread, Freedom, or a Kiss: John 6 / Grand Inquisitor

j6hj3k43Hello Lightworkers,

This post is for our Gospel of John study #35 (see the text reproduced below– all the way below the second picture):

The Grand Inquisitor, in Dostoyevsky’s parable, asks Jesus to justify his claims to freedom and his refusal of Satan’s offer. Satan offers Jesus the chance to prove his abilities, in turning  stones into bread. In Dostoyevsky’s episode, the character Ivan (who speaks for the Grand Inquisitor) argues that the ability to feed the multitudes is the basis for both political and religious authority. Human beings require to have their stomachs filled and where one aches in hunger, freedom will count as whatever thing may appease one’s appetites and guarantee one’s survival. Thus, if Jesus had wanted a popular following, he should rightly have accepted the Devil’s suggestion, to turn stones into bread.

In John 6, while Jesus does perform a miracle of feeding, he refuses to become a political king on this basis; even though the crowds wish to make him a king, Jesus escapes from their grasp.  In effect, Jesus dissents from the Grand Inquisitor’s worldview (as spoken by Ivan) and from seizing for himself spiritual authority on the basis of an economic and political platform.

In what does freedom consist? And must our survival be assured (our material needs satisfied) before freedom can be enjoyed? Dostoyevsky provides an answer which bypasses this alternative: a Kiss (this will be explained below).

In John 6, Jesus continues his miracles by feeding the five thousand (John 6:1-15). The feeding of the five thousand occurs in all four gospels. John interprets this miracle as a sign to the crowds that Jesus is King. Jesus is the long awaited “prophet like Moses,” who was expected to become King, while doing miracles reminiscent of a legendary time in Israel’s history. Just as God fed the people in the wilderness with manna, so Jesus will do so with bread. Yet, if the crowds expect Jesus to be King, it is a role that Jesus refuses: John 6:15 “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

In this historical period, while Israel rose up against Rome, the imperial overlord, a number of leaders performed miracles, while claiming to be prophets and kings. One may read about such movements in the works of Richard Horsley here: Bandits, Prophets, Messiahs. Significant for John is that Jesus refuses the role of popular political leader or king.

Later in this chapter, Jesus will make the baffling claim that unlike Moses, he does not merely feed people with bread. Rather Jesus is himself the Bread given for the world, John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. We will discuss this saying further in the next post of our Gospel of John study series.

Jesus’s refusal may be elucidated then by the Grand Inquisitor episode in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Here is the audio book version: Audio Book: Grand Inquisitor . Here is the full text of the episode: Text Grand Inquisitor Episode and here: Grand Inquisitor.

In this episode, Ivan claims that if Jesus were to return, he would be arrested by the Church and prosecuted by the Inquisition, specifically for his refusal of Satan, when Satan challenges him to turn stone in to bread. Ivan’s challenge pertains also to John 6:15, where Jesus refuses to become an earthly King, whose job is to feed and improve the material conditions of people’s lives.

The masses, Jesus says, require a political ruler who will give bread to eat. Virtue and freedom lack utility and have no substance, when economic conditions are unstable.  Regarding Jesus’s claim to provide the bread of heaven rather than earthly bread,  Ivan says: “And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly?”

Ivan’s question is alive in our own day: how may we live in freedom, if our basic needs are not supplied? Shouldn’t bread come first and our needs be satisfied? Before freedom can be genuinely claimed and lived?

The response of Christ to Ivan’s challenge in this episode mirrors the response of his brother, Aloysha, who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and it echoes a scene earlier in  the book, where the monk Zosima’s gesture to their brother Demitri, by bowing before him. Jesus responds with a kiss, which reverses the kiss of Judas, from the Gospels. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, kisses Jesus to reveal his identity to the arresting party. He trades Jesus away for money. It is Judas who has argued that the perfume, which Mary squanders by anointing the feet of Jesus, ought to be sold and donated to the poor. Judas puts material needs above the intrinsic dignity of life itself.

Christ’s kiss in Dostoyevsky’s story does the opposite. This kiss affirms the intrinsic dignity of life and the human being. Each of us is beloved. Our beloved stature before God, not bread alone, gives us our freedom.

the-arrest-of-christ-kiss-of-judas

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

John 6  (NIV) Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

True Friendship

 

Jonathan David WL by Goetz

David and Jonathan

Gospel of John : #34

Friendship is a theme in the Gospel of John (John 15:15-16), so here is post on the theme of friendship.

Friendship involves: promises, commitment, imagining a life together, taking on the burdens of your friend as your own, not only wishing but also working together for the best. If we remain superficially acquainted, we are never obliged to anybody nor do we ever grow and change through the power and possibility of love.

BE SURE TO CLICK THE LINKS (BELOW).

1. Here’s Montaigne on Friendship:

Michel de Montaigne on Friendship (1580)

2. Seth Godin on Friendship: a thought-provoking idea

Seth Godin on Faux Intimacy

3. David and Jonathan on friendship:

Jonathan and David on Friendship

And also see:Article David and Jonathan

Note the conclusion: “Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

4. Ruth and Naomi

Book of Ruth

Ruth and Naomi: One Perspective on their Friendship

5. Male- Female Friendships

6. Friendship between Men

7.  Friendship Between Women

Equal to God

Gospel of John #32  John 5:16-45

Here, in this passage, we find the basic claims about Christ made by the Gospel of John. How shall we as modern people understand these?

*First claim: Jesus is accused of making himself equal to God, which causes suspicion by the religious authorities who will arrest him for blasphemy.

*Implication: Jesus opens up a possibility for humanity, that we may also know the Spirit within ourselves, which is equal to God. How would you live according to this claim, assuming that your Spirit within comes from God and is equal to God? What kind of power does that provide for you?

**Another essential point, conveyed in the passage: our acquaintance with God entails a commitment. If we believe in God — (in the Spirit which is love, peace, and wisdom, for instance) –  then we will recognize the things of God. Jesus says in this passage that anybody who knows the scriptures (of Moses) and sees the works that Jesus performs (e.g. miracles) may attest on that basis that Jesus is sent by God.

**Implication: Who is God for you?  And what are the things of God that you recognize on that basis?  For instance, if God has touched you as a spirit of truth or freedom or healing, then do you honor that same spirit in others? The freedom, truth, and healing? If someone were to come along and claim a divine message, how would you decide its truth? What is equal to God for you?

Here’s a basic exposition of this passage.

In this passage (John 5:16-45), after Jesus heals the man at the pool of Bethsaida, an intensifying conflict is exhibited between Jesus and the authorities. It is not only because Jesus heals on the Sabbath that the religious authorities wish to arrest him but also because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (5:18) This claim to be equal to God counts as blasphemy according to the Jewish authorities.

Jesus goes on to claim that he has power to judge and to give life, just as the Father does. He also says that several testimonies prove that he embodies the spirit of God and comes from the Father: a) the testimony of John, the prophet; b) the testimony of the works of God that he does (such as healing); c) the testimony of the glory that comes from God; and d) the testimony of scriptures or the law of Moses.

The idea here is that if people have understood rightly all these testimonies, then they will recognize Jesus as sent by God.

Here’s the passage:

John 5: 16-47:  So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Testimonies About Jesus
31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God[d]?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

 

Healing (the Christ within)

Gospel of John #31

Today we continue our bible study series with another healing story (John 5:1-16).  (See the text, reproduced below, at the end of this post).

The healing miracles of Jesus are prominent in the Gospel of John. They demonstrate that  the human person is essentially spiritual and always capable of renovation. An encounter with the living God brings one into dynamic harmony, which results in healing.

Notable in this healing story:

*The man at Bethsaida has been waiting for 38 years for someone to push him into the pool, so that he may be healed.

*Jesus comes and simply commands that he get up and walk and he does so. The pool’s mediation is not necessary.

*The message, here, is that the Christ-power, the life-force, is within oneself and can propel wellness and change, once it is activated. This inherent dynamism within the human being regenerates and heals.

As to the actual plot line of this healing story:

In this passage, the healing miracle, which takes place at the pool in Bethsaida, opens the section of the Gospel in which Jesus’s antagonists (the religious authorities) initiate a plot against him. Because Jesus heals on the Sabbath, and the man healed identifies Jesus as the culprit, the leaders begin to pursue and persecute him.

The story stylistically makes a contrasting pair with John 9. While the healed man in John 5 shows little recognition of Jesus’s stature as holy man — after he is healed–the man in John 9, who is cured of blindness, is willing to speak out on behalf of Jesus, proclaiming him to be the Son of Man (a title which indicates Jesus’s status as appointed by God).

Indeed, the healed man in John 5 –consciously or not– ends up betraying Jesus. This man has committed some sin (v. 15) while the man born blind in John 9 is innocent.

The man at the pool has been sick for 38 years — a number symbolic of Israel’s trials in the wilderness. His lassitude and helplessness are on display, when he complains that nobody is willing to give him a small push into the pool so that he may become well.

Jesus bypasses the healing pool. His own authority — as the fountain of life (see John 4) –surpasses all healing pools.

How does this story speak to us? The message is about fidelity and trustworthiness. Let’s say we are healed and we do receive the life for which we have yearned for a long period. Finally, we are released from captivity. If we go along forward, without blessing and thanking the source of our Life, who liberated us, shall cynicism then cause us to fall back again into a similar plight?

The man’s mind-set lacks perfect faith insofar as he resumes his physical life while compromising his moral life. He betrays Jesus, who has given him life. A healing that does not result in a changed consciousness and a moral renovation may offer a physical extension of life but the true life — in terms of one’s attitude and standing before God – can be unchanged.

“Pick up your mat and walk” : where have you been restored to life?

The Healing at the Pool: John 5: 1-15
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.

Miracle/ Healing (and worthiness)

Gospel of John #30 : John 4:49-54

Hello All,

Today we continue our bible study series with a healing story. (See the text, reproduced below, at the end of this post). Here is a brief analysis of why self-worth and worthiness are essential to healing. In fact, what the New Testament calls “faith” can be equated, often, with our notion of worthiness, a worthiness to  stand before God.

The opposite of such faith – or worthiness – is guilt. Guilt involves the expectation of punishment. One projects upon God an image of a wrathful persecutor, who would withhold the gift of life, love, and healing, because of one’s wrong-doing.

Consider somebody you love. It is likely that your love is nourished by an assurance that with this person, you are free to be yourself. If you hold yourself back, because of guilt or shame about who you are, then you will block the love offered to you, inasmuch as you will hold back your own fullest and most natural self-expression.

Worthiness, then, – the conviction that you, indeed, are good enough to reveal who you are and to be loved for who you are – has a great deal to do with one’s capacity for love — both in receiving and giving.

One may glimpse this definition of faith, as a kind of worthiness, in the religious autobiography of Martin Luther, the religious reformer. In his early years, while undergoing grueling spiritual exercises as a Catholic monk (by fasting, prayer, and asceticism), Luther continued to feel hounded by guilt, low self-worth, and by the angry face of God. He commented, “When it is touched by this passing inundation of the eternal, the soul feels and drinks nothing but eternal punishment.” : Martin Luther Article

Later he realized that righteous and good people can never reach God by spiritual exercises on their own. Instead, the faith is a gift from God, available to those of good and righteous intention. He commented, “Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

My purpose is not to advance a Lutheran interpretation of this biblical passage. In our own day, the doctrine of “by faith alone” (sola fides) can sometimes be just as tormenting as a religious exercises and penances had been in an earlier day. People may question themselves, “Am I REALLY full of faith? Do I really believe? Have I made the required confessions?”  Such self-doubt – and quibbles – land us into at least a diluted form of guilt and unworthiness.

Instead, let’s try it this way. Unload anything from your conscience that you need to unload. Make amends. Forgive. Give love. Then reach up to the sky, and declare, “I am worthy of Life! I am worthy of Love. I am willing to receive!”

This receptivity to life, the divine life, heals.

50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way.

Question: Where can you open your heart a little more in order to receive and be worthy of all that Life has for you?

John 4:49-54

49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”; and he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

Generosity : the Samaritan Woman

Gospel of John #29

Hello Generous ones,

I continue today our study of the Gospel of John. Please subscribe (on the left via the drop down menu) if you’d like to study along with us. You may also scroll through to read the 28 posts before this one, all about the Gospel of John.

Today, we start on John 4 (see text below), which depicts a meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Our theme concerns guilt vs compassion, and envy vs good will, in spiritual and religious life — and in practical matters of finance.

[Please note, as we have indicated throughout: the Jewish religious leaders in John are portrayed as the enemies of Jesus and the epitome of religious hypocrisy in this Gospel. However, Jesus himself was a Jew. Let us recognize and critique rather than reproducing ethnic stereotypes, and anti-Semitism, that may be embedded in this sacred text.]

In the opening of the chapter,  Jesus is being hunted down by the religious authorities, who are envious because of news that Jesus has baptized a good quantity of new adherents to his sect. The narrator is quick to confirm that this news is a rumor, since Jesus, in fact, performs no baptisms himself. Because Jesus directly harnesses the divine source (as we shall soon discover), i.e. the fountain of Life, it is not his function to perform ritual signs (i.e. baptisms).

Such religious rivalry plays out, subsequently, in the dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. The Samaritan woman expects religious or ethnic barriers to be upheld; she notes that as a Jew, Jesus would not be expected to share table fellowship (i.e. a drink) with a Samaritan. The Samaritan woman’s caution about this regulation suggests a worldview motivated by customary ethnic and religious rules.

That the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman takes place at the well of Jacob, an ancestor sacred to both Jews and Samaritans, symbolizes the universal allegiances, common to different religious sects, both Jew and Samaritan. Rather than fighting over religious property rights — i.e., in a competition over whose cult or ancestors are superior –a more generous approach will be to recognize a common source of vitality behind both religious claims. Both Samaritans and Jews draw from a single source: the fountain of Life itself.

Jesus overturns the competitive worldview, fostered by ethnic segregation.  He counters regulations, which restrict the gifts of God, by offering free and inclusive access to the living source itself of abundance:  v. 10:“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water;” and: 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Let’s see now how this idea may be applied in our lives. I will sketch the implications of living within a world of abundance (symbolized by the universally flowing water), rather than a world of scarcity (characterizes by guilt and envy).

Money, so economists say, is ruled by laws of scarcity. Yet, in practical reality, generosity and giving may produce greater wealth than holding back.

The author of the Seven Laws of Money (c.1974), Michael Phillips, notes that compassion produces generosity while guilt does not. As a financial expert, the master-mind behind the Whole Earth Catalogue, and a leader of several foundations (including the Glide Foundation in San Francisco), Phillips has a record of tangible financial success. (For the book, see: Book: Seven Laws of Money). Based on his experience in lending money and in soliciting donations, Phillips underscores the priority of right motivations for giving. If one gives money because of coercing or guilt-tripping, how generous will one feel in doing so? How motivated will one be to participate in the ongoing projects to which one donates? A guilty giver may donate once and never again.

The worldview that underlies guilt is constricted. One endorses the limiting notion that people must be pushed to do good things, against their will; people are thus untrustworthy.  Resources are limited.

By contrast, if one is compassionate, then one finds every way to assist another, whether that entails giving money, material resources, or so-called spiritual gifts (like talent, service, wisdom). One’s underlying worldview, based on compassion, is open and unlimited. One trusts the heart to to give freely out of caring.

In the case of guilt, one experiences fear of punishment or negative consequences; in the case of compassion, one experiences faith in benefits and positive outcomes. A contrast between guilt and compassion thus differentiates a world of scarcity (regulated by fear and coercion) from a world of abundance (regulated by faith and freedom).

Give Generously and Freely!

TEXT (NIV) version Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Born from Above

Gospel of John #28

Hello, Lightworkers:

John 3:7-8: “Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

To be born “from above” (also translated as: “again”) means that I let go of the effort to control my origins and my destination. One who is born of the Spirit is like the wind. We do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes.

How do I actually implement this advice?

In relationships, it is common to break up with somebody — or to have a falling out — while harboring the expectation that the relationship will come back, and be reborn, in some fashion. The same kind of expectation may occur in other spheres of life; for instance, as one may watch another’s death while praying for a recovery.  The recovery may, indeed, occur. Yet, if we let go of the sick person – or the relationship –  only on the condition that they may return, we do not exactly let these cherished things die so that they may be reborn. We cling to the effort to control the direction of a relationship, or a sickness, its origins (or: its inception and raison d’être ) and its destination.

A prerequisite for being “born again” or “from above” is that we let go of who we are now. If you think about it, when you are actually living your life fully, you are often governed by a power that is not your own, in its origins and destination. To deliver oneself over to that power is to release the self. How may I release the self (let the self die, spiritually) if I am still attached to a preferred outcome or reward for doing so?

“I will let go of control,” I say, “only if I may be assured that in doing so, I will become who I want to be or get what I want. I will let go of a habit of anger, for instance, only if the obstacles in life (which make me angry) are cleared away in the bargain. I will release my attachment to my professional role (which causes me anxiety) only if I am assured that I will perform even better in my profession without my anxiety than I did while being overly attached.”

Such demands constitute efforts at exerting control over outcomes, thus defeating the intention to let go of control. I seek to control the origins of my self (i.e. the animating power that propels me) and my destination (what I will become).

How may I be born from above? By standing constant in the intention to let it happen, unconditionally, no matter the outcome. A hard bargain! Except for the exhilaration and peace that I experience when I do so.