The main difference between primitive and more
evolved spirits lies in their attitude towards spiritual matters. We are told that the primitive spirit is confounded by his
divided mind; in other words, because he is constantly torn between the things of the world and the things of the spirit he
is unable to make spiritual progress. By contrast a more advanced spirit, one who is called an “Upright
Man” is called “enlightened and refreshed” and for this reason, progresses
Such a man may well become known for
his spirituality, thereby leading others to make spiritual progress. This is what is meant by the phrase “healing and
giving life everywhere”, but it is the last phrase “bringing peace” that is significant. It means helping
others to come to be at peace with one another, but more especially with God.
When a spirit that is at peace, reaches the end of its earthly
incarnation it “passes in Peace” – in other words, its death is serene and calm because of its strong belief
and it is because of this that it “revives on the other side” in other words, it is able to begin to live once
again, after its earthly death. However, the statement also implies that the contrary may be true of those who do not
“pass in peace”. In other words it seems to indicate that those who die in a less spiritual state do not revive
and live again – at least not speedily and those who are psychic suggest that this is indeed what happens.
Many spirits that have
been wholly materialistic on earth, or others who have no belief in life after death, do not automatically begin to function
on the “other side” immediately after passing. Instead, bound as it were by their pre-existing belief that there
is no after-life, they often seem to remain dormant for a period, before they can be roused again to re-commence their spiritual quest on the “other side”.
This term is still used by many people today to mean “life after death”, but in the original Hebrew it is even
more specific, for it refers to “the other side of the river” a description of life beyond that should not surprise
us, when we remember that the threshold between earth and the Astral Plane is likened to a river in many ancient philosophies.
The next verse makes
it plain that it is the Afterlife that is being discussed. “The one who passes is divided from his days on earth”,
we are told - in other words he is separated from the physical world, but he is still alive, still immersed in the same Divine
Life Force that nourished his spirit when he was on earth, only he is now in the other “half of the river of life”.
There, we are told he finds pasture, a phrase that has both practical and spiritual connotations.
It makes use of a simile
that will be understood by all herdsmen, the need for pasture, and remember, not only Abraham, but most of the other peoples
of the region were herdsmen at that time – city-dwellers and settled farmers were the exception, rather than the rule.
In this context it also means that the good spirit will find spiritual sustenance in the After-life. Christ Himself made use
of this phrase in a similar context, when he told His hearers that those who follow His precepts will “go in and out
and find pasture”. (St John 10; 9) Or in other words, because they follow
Him, they will pass into and out of earth life, perhaps many times, but no matter where they may be, they will be sustained
by the spiritual life force from God.
Both the simile and
the message, continues in verse 6. “In that life he is pastured by a friend and together they tend the flock”. There are a number of key points in this passage. Firstly we get another acknowledgement
that the discarnate spirit is still alive, though it is a different type of life to that which we know on earth and in that
life it not merely finds pasture, it is fed that pasture by “a friend”. It is not completely clear whether this
friend is the Salvator Himself, as David seems to suggest in Psalm 23, or whether this is a reference to the way that our friends do come to greet us when we pass
over to the “Other Side”. The last phrase possibly indicates the latter, for after “the one who passes”
has been pastured by this “friend”, we are told that the two of them then “tend the flock” together.
Verse 7 continues this theme of togetherness;
“Entwined and wrapped together” and suggests a friendship that almost equates to union, which again introduces
a third possible explanation of this “friend”. The Hebrew name from which this phrase also refers to the tendril
of a vine and simile may well represent at the way individual vine branches wind about one another to make a single sturdy
plant. Perhaps this is a reference to the spirit and the soul in each individual such as we had in the story of Adam and Eve,
for note, the two are also joined in their repentance. Eventually, as we know “repentance slays sin” and their
time on the “Other side” being ended, they await in penitence, their rebirth on earth.
The phrase “gate of rebirth”
is one we still use today and all those who have not completed their earthly lessons eventually have to pass through that
gate, back to earth life. Often, however, even an advanced spirit will hesitate to take this step, for if we on earth fear
to approach the gate of death, how much more will one fear the gate of rebirth? Surely, of the two, rebirth is much more to
be feared, for after death, we know that we will at least retain most of our earthly memories and as long as we have developed
our spiritual faculties on earth, they will enable us to function in the spiritual realms. After re-birth, on the other hand,
most of our memories are usually lost and certainly as a babe, we have little or no ability to function in the physical state
and are completely dependent on those around us.
No wonder the spirit hesitates at the
gate, or perhaps it is the fears of the soul that hold it back, for remember the soul is always more susceptible to emotions
than is the spirit.
Nevertheless, waiting only “delays
reaching the height”, (the ending of the quest) and with the strength engendered
by its repentance for past misdeeds, eventually the spirit and soul together, pluck up the courage to re-enter earth-life.
The damage that waiting can cause is significant and this point cannot be over-emphasised, which is possibly why the verse
is repeated exactly.
The last few verses of this chapter seem to be little
more than a collection of maxims, or proverbs, yet they still follow the same theme, setting out a number of the requirements
for starting to take the Higher Path.
is strength that delays growth” is the first of these, and quite simply seems to be saying that if we are going to follow
the Path we should give it our all – otherwise we merely delay our spiritual growth. “The Wise exalt high ideals
and slay hostility” gives us a couple more pointers.
“High Ideals” is pretty plain, but we may well ask what is meant by hostility. This is none other than a pre-figuring
of Christ’s better-known command “Love your enemies” (St Matthew
is equated with spiritual strength, but the interesting thing about verse 12 is the use of the female term “Queen”.
Clearly the implication is that one eventually come to rule one’s own destiny, but the use of the female suggests that
not only this verse, but possibly also the whole chapter is concerned with the actions of the soul, which as we have seen
is always represented as feminine.
Verse 13 emphasises
this point, and a couple of previous ones, explaining why hostility should be slain, because it “delays reaching the
Height” and also that “concealed strength (not using our full efforts)
not only delays growth, but may also twist or warp the high ideals that we do have. (This
is because some of our energies are directed in another direction.)
Verse 14 contains another
reference to material prosperity. This is not referring to a desire for material things, for by the time it has reached this
stage, the spirit is unlikely to be easily swayed by such a crude temptation. On the other hand, the mere possession of material
wealth can provide considerable distractions and thus delay one’s attempt to scale the heights of perfection.
This further use of
the phrase “waiting at the gate” refers this time to the “gateway to the path of Perfection”, which
significantly is said by St Terese of Avila to be “Renunciation” – in other words the giving up of worldly
goods and of any desire for them. Clearly although she had not read these Sayings, she like all true Saints followed the same
Delaying to implement
one’s high ideals certainly reduces their strength as verse 15 says, adding that it also “strengthens the darkness”
a reference to the darkness of sin, which to a greater or lesser extent, is still attached to any but the most perfect mortals.
It strengthens the darkness because spiritual darkness can only be destroyed by spiritual light and this in turn is produced
only when we implement our ideals, not merely when we think about them.
In other words, whilst
good thoughts and high ideals are certainly better than the opposite, they are of little spiritual advantage to the individual
until they are turned into actions.
It is this darkness
of sin that “conceals the light within the wise ones” – in other words, sin veils the spiritual radiance
of the Divine Spark within each one of us, that would otherwise blaze forth in splendour as did the Spirit Form of Christ
during His Transfiguration, and as it also blazes forth in each good spirit, when not veiled by the physical envelope of our
The last two proverbs
need little further elucidation; Quarrelling clearly destroys both High Ideals and any chance of receiving good advice from
others, so we must guard against this tendency and try to live in peace with all men. As to why this should be so –
we have already seen that in order for High Ideals to be of real value, they must produce actions, for actions are of more
value than mere thoughts.
However it is equally
true that if we do wrong things, such as quarrelling with those we should be trying to help, such negative actions will ultimately
stifle any tendency to do good that we may have, but which we never exercise.
Sometimes they may remain thus for a considerable space of time, despite the efforts
of their friends to rouse them, much as a man may remain in a coma her on earth, despite the best efforts of medical science
to awaken him
it is called the River Styx in Greek mythology and in China it is the Pearl River.
Psalm, however, David does not speak of “My spirit”, but of “My soul” (verse 3) – thus by inference it is “my soul” that is led to pasture (verse 2) and this introduces a third possible explanation. We have up to this point been using the term “spirit”
to describe the individual, but it is at least possible that what is being described here is the passing of the “soul”
not the spirit, in which case the soul’s friend is its own “spirit”, which is naturally quite at home in
the realms of Spirit. This thus presents the same theology as does the allegory of Adam and Eve.
The reverse is
also true. If we force ourselves to do good deeds, even if not always from the highest motives, we shall gradually stifle
any conflicting evil thoughts. This even applies in the conquest of other faults. If we are trying to overcome our dislike
of some person, if we can force ourselves to pray for that person’s welfare and happiness, such prayers, will greatly
assist us in doing so, and may even lead to us being able to exhibit the greatest of all the virtues that Christ enjoined
upon us “Love your enemies”.