The Way of Sinful Man
1. The physical body is in darkness when it is bound to the world and stifled by worldly desires.
2. Physical desires cause suffering and trouble
because they bind the spirit to earth life.
3. Such troubles keep the spirit imprisoned by its low desires
4. Walking in darkness, the spirit entered the
sleep of descent where confusion expands.
5. The vessel of the spirit becomes centred on
ambition and personal whims.
6. As a result his mind is divided from God
7. To be freed from that confusion, one must, grow
8. When a man has done so, he will be able to act
rightly, because he has learned to control his tongue.
9. Thus his exterior growth is completed
10. Those who are not free undergo tribulations from birth.
11. But they have hearts of stone and nothing will change them.
12. Such men can only progress through suffering, and many lives on earth eventually change them into
13. The way of the flesh is for a man to seek material possessions, because he fears to journey without
14. Not caring who he harms to feed his desires, he rebels against God’s will.
15. The preoccupation with material things even affects him after death.
16. They weigh down his spirit body and make him wicked.
17. Falling into Hell, such a man abuses others.
18. He rebels against God and breaks His Laws.
19. As a result he is imprisoned by the fires of his own anger
20. The materialist seeks only his earthly needs, but is eventually brought to a halt.
21. He is imprisoned in Hell, as if in a tomb, where his worldly
desires are stripped away from him.
22. Ultimately he is freed from them and bursts forth to earth
23. The enlightened man knows the secret of eternal life.
24. He is happy and prospers.
25. By overcoming self, he is healed of the desire for precedence.
26. As he circles through life after life on earth, his purpose is to
achieve heavenly peace.
27. His earthly journeys are divided between good and evil
28. His desire for physical things becomes less as he wearies with the
world, and in His own good time God gathers him from earth through death.
29. In that place of light the Divine Spark within him is raised higher, rising
steadily to ultimate victory.
30. Freed from the physical, the spirit thus returns to its original state.
31. Finally, from suffering and strain comes forth joy as he brings his harvest
of good deeds from all his many lives, back to the recording scroll of God
The key to understanding this chapter lies in the phrase “bound to the world”,
which describes the effect that a preoccupation with worldly desires has upon the human spirit. Firstly such a concern with
the physical means that, spiritually-speaking, “the physical body is in darkness”
– in other words it has blinded itself to spiritual things. We are also told that it is “stifled by worldly desires”.
Now whilst this obviously applies to the spirit, it may seem strange that we are told that “the physical body” is stifled by them. However, it is true that even in a physical sense, material possessions
never satisfy for long; we find ourselves smothered by the cares that increasing possessions bring. Physical desires do indeed
“cause suffering and trouble” and in verse 2 we are told why – “because they bind the spirit to earth
Such worldly troubles
prevent us from concentrating on the spiritual even if we wished to do so. Most people are so beset with the need to earn
a living or to accumulate wealth that they just do not have he time to devote to spiritual matters. So, we can say that although
the desire for material things leads the human spirit away from God, the troubles they bring with them serve to bind it to
mortal life, where it is “imprisoned by its low desires”.
Such a spirit is
indeed “walking in darkness” for he cannot see the spiritual light, and as a result it constantly takes the path
of least difficulty – the downward path. Spiritually it is asleep and dropping ever further downwards, a process which
is described as “the sleep of descent”. And as it goes ever further from God, is spiritual confusion continues
to worsen, so that even its conscience becomes corrupted and it comes to see wrong as being right. As a result its spiritual
aims are reduced to a desire to advance its own selfish interests and to satisfy its personal whims. We are told that this
makes its “mind is divided from God”, the implication being that it is not merely separated from Him, but filled
with divisions within itself.
The only cure for
this internal confusion is to “grow spiritually” – in other words to cease from the low desires and take
the Path of repentance described in the previous chapter. Only when this has been done will the spirit be able to do what
is right, and note, that in no small measure, this depends on learning to control the tongue. This is what St James means
when he says that unless a righteous man controls his tongue his righteousness is in vain (James
“Thus his exterior growth is completed”
– in other words, learning to control the tongue is one of the last steps on the Path of Perfection and one of the hardest.
But it only marks the completion of the external growth. The internal struggle against self is still to be won.
Then the text
turns back to those who have not yet completed even their external growth. It describes them as “Those who are not free” and also says that they “undergo tribulations from birth”. This refers to the fact that their accumulated karma impacts on them from the moment of their birth on earth.
Remember, here we are talking of those who are not just failures on the Path – we are talking of those who have deliberately
turned away from God and it is only through the harsh discipline of karma that they can be reached, for they spurn the Path
of Love, seeing it as a sign of weakness.
hearts of stone and nothing will change them. Such men can only progress through suffering”. In other words, the pursuit
of worldly values, which initially merely dulled the conscience, leads in time to the complete disregard for everything good.
If this is all that happens such spirits will simply be bound to the cycle of rebirth, until their many lives on earth eventually
change them into seekers.
However, “the way of the flesh is for a man to seek material possessions” and we are told that this desire
is in large measure fueled by fear of not having possessions. “He fears to journey without them” we are told,
and this is true, but if one has faith in God, one does not suffer from this fear – or at least one is better able to
keep it under control.
For the man without
faith, it is this fear that dominates him. He may not initially do evil for its own sake, but he has no concern for the welfare
of others and will do whatever it takes to “feed his desires” and thus he is led to “rebel against God’s
Will” in other words do increasingly wicked things.
“The preoccupation with material things even affects him after death.” This is
true even in small things. If we are heavily influenced by purely physical addictions, whether it be food, sex or drugs, we
will find it very hard to make progress even on the Astral Plane, where they will tend to draw our attention back to the physical
world and may even lead us to try to interfere therein, with all the evil karma that such actions bring in their train. When
we pass on to the Spirit Plane such desires have an even more dramatic effect.
“They weigh down his spirit body and make him wicked”. This is a very accurate description of life on the
lower parts of the Spirit Plane – the Realms of Unbelief, that we loosely call Hell. The spirit form of a good spirit
is wrought of light, but the spirit form of an evil spirit is wrought of darkness that quite literally “weighs it down”,
so that it sinks ever lower in Hell until it reaches the level that is appropriate to its degree of wickedness. In Hell, “such a man abuses others. He rebels against God and breaks His Laws”. The more evil
spirits in Hell abuse others, and are thereby led to sink even lower by the additional karma they thereby incur, imprisoned,
as we are told “.by the fires of his own anger.
This is the eventual fate of those who on earth seek only for their own earthly needs. They
sink steadily lower, life after life, until they either repent, or are trapped in Hell. There, unable to escape to earth life
again their downward journey is eventually halted by the suffering that their accumulated karma has brought upon them.
We read that “He
is imprisoned in Hell, as if in a tomb” and the comparison is peculiarly apt. At this point in the history of Palestine one was commonly
buried by being sealed up in a cave, just as happened with Sarah in the cave at Machpelah (Genesis
23; 19) and as indeed happened with Christ. Similarly, being imprisoned in Hell, means that one is kept in darkness, hemmed
round by strong barriers, just as was the human body of Christ before He burst forth in the glory of the Resurrection. In
Hell, we are told, “his worldly desires are stripped away from him” and “Ultimately he is freed from them
and bursts forth to earth life again”, even as Christ did at the moment of His Resurrection
The text then follows
this soul, which has returned to earth-life from Hell, enlightened by its experiences. It tells us that “The enlightened man knows the secret
of eternal life. He is happy and prospers”. In other words, even though he may still have many earth-lives ahead of
him, the spirit which has learned its lessons, may well attain much happiness and prosperity even on earth. Nor is this only
speaking of spiritual prosperity, for having learned the true worth of material things, and having settled that karma, it
may well enjoy a degree of worldly sufficiency. Indeed this is necessary if it is to progress further, for it can hardly ponder
long on spiritual matters if its material circumstances compel it to spend all its time earning a living.
It is by overcoming self and the desire for self-aggrandizement that such a spirit is “healed
of the desire for precedence”. This refers to pride – to the desire for the “best seats in the synagogue”
as Christ puts it (St Luke 411; 43 & 14; 7-10). Such a spirit will circle through
life after life on earth ever seeking “to achieve heavenly peace”.
In some lives it will make spiritual progress, in others it will go backwards, or as the text
puts it “His earthly journeys are divided between good and evil”. Even within each life this is true – sometimes
we do well for a space and then we turn away from God, only to turn back again, usually because some tragedy or disaster has
reminded us that He Exists, but the term “earthly journeys” seems to indicate that this refers to how each individual
life is judged when they are completed – some are considered to have been good, some evil.
However, unless the spirit takes some dramatic turn for better or worse, this sort of attitude
usually continues for several lives, until eventually it wearies of the world, realising that it contains little of lasting
value. As a result of this change of attitude it comes to pursue the things of the spirit, and eventually “in His own
good time God gathers him from earth through death.” This may or may not mark the end of its time on earth, but even
if it has not learned all its lessons, it has made much progress, and when it dies, it will enter the higher parts of the
Thus it comes to dwell in a “place of light” and it is in these realms that “the
Divine Spark within him is raised higher, rising steadily to ultimate victory”. This may or may not mean that it has
completed its earthly journeying, for even in the higher parts of the spirit Plane, it will not always rise to the highest
of which it is capable, but it does mean that if it continues in the Path it has chosen it will eventually achieve its goal.
The reason that it is able to make so much more progress on the Spirit Plane than on the Physical
is simply that; it is “freed from the physical” which will always tend to drag it back to materialism. Without
the suffering and strain that physical life entails it will eventually be enabled to return to its “original state”
– in other words to “Paradise” from which it first descended to earth life so many lives before.
There, all the suffering and strain of all its many earthly incarnations finally produces
spiritual joy. Not only the results of his last earthly life, but the “harvest of good deeds from all his many lives”
is brought back to what is called “the recording scroll of God”. Whilst this provides a simple and readily understood
reference to the final judgement before achieving sanctity, it may also have a second and more detailed meaning. As it is
at least possible that this text originated before “scrolls”, this translation may be questioned, and it is entirely
possible that this was originally intended as a reference to what is commonly called “the Overself” the spiritual
record of all past experiences, which we can only re-gather when we no longer have a need to return to life on earth.”
It is interesting to note that the actual text of Genesis from which this reference to the
recording scroll is derived (Genesis 10; 30) describes it (Sephar) as “a
mount in the east”. Remembering that the east is the place of spiritual light, as well as the place of birth, we can
see that this Divine Record is itself merely the gateway to a higher birth – in other words; entry to the Heavenly Planes.