from The Heart is the Manger
By A.A. Taliaferro, F.R.C., D.D.
Copyright 1970 by A.A. Taliaferro
BECOMING AWARE of the meaning of the soul is of course a lifetime process, but during the Advent Season it is possible for us to become aware in special ways, and it is possible for us to prepare for Christmas in the way which is intended. Unless we become aware of the soul, the whole meaning of Christmas is lost. The purpose of Christmas down through the centuries has been gradually, through an annual concentration upon this feast day, to evolve the consciousness of the individual from the material to the spiritual side of his life. The soul is born into the world in order finally to evolve all of its attributes-the attributes of awareness, of knowledge, of sensitivity to truth, of power to act in the emotional and mental world-and eventually to free itself from the material world and live in what is known as the state of the Ascension. It will arise out of the material world at some time in the future and go through a process which is the macrocosmic or corresponding process of the birth of the moth or the butterfly out of the caterpillar stage.
I would like you to think very clearly in terms of analogies. This is the only way we can learn. St. Paul uses analogies, and so does Christ in the Gospels, in what we call the parables. Analogies are the means by which the mind is able to see one thing through its ability to experience something else. And as we see what is going on in the material world in the action and reaction of life, we can see that there is an analogous process going on in the universe itself, not just in our life but in the life of God. This growing process is the means by which we learn. Learning is not simply the cramming of facts into the mind. This has nothing whatsoever to do with learning. The mere fact that we may know a lot of facts does not mean that we know anything. Meaning and purpose, the consciousness of what to do and how to do it at the moment, and the realization of why we are living at any particular time-all of this has to do with learning.
The power of the Advent Season is the power to understand the meaning of the Christmas Gospels. There are two Gospels for Christmas Day. One of them is the Gospel narrative of the birth of Christ. The other is the Prologue of St. John's Gospel, and it is this Prologue that we are now going to discuss and meditate upon. It is probably the greatest piece of writing in Christian literature (with the exception of the rest of the Bible!). It is considered to be one of the greatest of all excerpts from the Gospel. The reason for this is that it is the introduction of Christianity to Greek thought. And it is by means of the Greek idea or concept, the Greek mode of thought, that the revelations of Hebrew and Jewish thought are introduced to the Western world. This is the means by which the great power of that thinking in the Orient has been able to come into the materialistic consciousness of Western man and gradually to evolve what we call Western civilization. It is by means of Greek science that this has taken place. The scientific postulations of our modern day which have made our civilization possible have come right out of the history of the Greek mind. It is very important to understand this. It is very important for us to understand that scientists know this and are constantly working on these ideas. The modern concepts of material electromagnetic energies, the meaning of gravity, the meaning of cosmic rays-all of these ideas can be traced back to Greek concepts of 500 or 600 B.C.
Now the word logos in Greek literally means the "word." It is translated into English as "law," but we can also translate it into the word "Word," and it refers to the wisdom of what the Greeks called nous. The Word itself means the power by which all things are created and by which all things are sustained. It is the mind of God. It is his consciousness. It is the power through which everything happens. The Greeks were able to explain this in many different ways, but in the Prologue to St. John's Gospel the phrase is used, "In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh." And between these two phrases there is a whole series of explanations of what the meaning of the Word actually was according to the Hebrew and Jewish thought of the Old Testament.
We need to understand this today because the day will come when scientific thought and experimentation will discover the existence of the Greek Word in all physical manifestations, and when this happens, all of the meaning of Christmas will suddenly come the fore of humanity and we will begin to realize with tremendous illumination the meaning of the essence of all things as it lies back of and gives the energy of intelligence to the material world. The material world is the body of Christ. It is the manifestation of the Word, as we would say today. The soul literally inhabits the material body. In ancient times they said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." This power of the Word is the intelligence which is present in our consciousness, as the Gospel very clearly points out in later chapters. The power of this Word is given to mankind, and it makes it possible for us to be aware of ourselves as children of God or sons of God. The constant repetition of "the Word" in the New Testament (we refer, incidentally, to the Bible as the Word of God) does not refer to the English word or the German Wort or the French mot, depending upon how it is translated. It refers to the divine essence of the intelligence of God's being, and it is what we would refer to in scientific terms as the frequency the vibration of the essence of all things. It is the spoken Word which creates the idea of the universe.
Another Greek idea was that God geometrized. In other words, caused all things to come into being through mathematics. This was, of course, a Pythagorean and Aristotelian idea. It is important to see that these philosophers were attempting to create an idea of the universe as one mathematically and specifically absolutely correct every respect, in which nothing happened by chance and everything was able to manifest according to the divine law of the Logos. The divine law of the Logos was the manifestation of specific truth, and in every instance of manifestation in the universe it was an aspect of God's being-specific truth. And in religion today the whole purpose of our coming together in a church service should be to become aware of some very minute aspect of this specific truth. This is the reason why a very small portion of the Gospel or Epistle some scripture is presented to the congregation each Sunday-each day, as a matter of fact-and as we go through the year we see the unfoldment of this truth. We see it as you would turn over a very precious stone. As you see how the stone has been treated, how it has been manifested in the world not only through God's creation but also through man's art as he has shaped the stone and used instruments on it to make it shine more brilliantly, we can see there the wonderful power of God's manifested truth. Today the universe is like a precious jewel. It is shining before man's eyes, but man's eyes being dulled and man's sight being blinded, the mind, being in darkness if it does not see the Word of God, simply does not understand what this means. Consequently our minds, not knowing the truth, cannot interpret properly what is going on around us.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." God is absolute, and he is precise. Nothing happens by chance. Nothing can happen outside the nature of God. And there is no evil in the world, because nothing can happen apart from the will of God, and if God wills it then there can be no evil because God wills it. God does not will evil. Evil, therefore, must be understood in this concept as man's interpretation of things; and therefore we must realize that evil exists, but it exists as man's creation and man's interpretation of what is going on in the world. Now, man's interpretation of what is going on in the world is subject to his limitation of thought. And since we are interpreting in a limited manner, it is important for us to see that our interpretation of evil is definitely wrong. So is our interpretation of truth, of course, and this makes possible the existence of evil. But it must be understood that the solution to this problem is coming into the consciousness of the Word of God. It is not in trying to correct evil things. It is in the attempt on the part of man to change man's consciousness-in other words, to change our approach to the understanding of the world in which we live.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." Every material thing, every human state of consciousness, is made by the Word. And just as the thought of an engineer or an architect would create something that would manifest in the material world, so God's thought constantly pressing out is creating everything that is made in the world. Therefore there is not anything in the world that is not made by this Word.
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." This is John's reference to himself-we all get around sooner or later to referring to ourselves. But he is very much concerned that people understand that it is not John, who is writing the Gospel, to whom the reference to the Word actually applies; it is another being, so that John writes, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light," or the Word. "He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. He Word was in the world, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." The Word is something else besides the individual person. It is not the person whose name is John, or Mary or George or whoever it may be. The Word is the divine intelligence which makes it possible for us all to be. And daily living should be interpreted in terms of our attempt to become conscious of the Word that holds us in its being. If for one moment God's mind should be taken off of you as an individual, if God's constant meditation upon you, holding you in being by the vibration or the frequency of his divine Word-in the symbolic phrase, the spoken Word out of the mouth of God-should cease for one moment, the individual from whom his mind's energy was taken away would simply cease to exist. There would be absolute nothingness. Thus we would cease to exist if God's mind should cease to speak the Word.
It is to this divine power which underlies all things, including us human beings, that the Gospel refers; and the feast of Christmas celebrates the fact that we come to know what this is. Christmas is not a celebration of the birth of a little baby two thousand years ago, although this was the symbol. Christmas is the celebration of the fact that we become aware of this divine Word which was made flesh two thousand years ago. This divine Word is present at the present moment. This is the reason for the sacramental principle of the historic Christian church. The sacramental principle is the use of material things for the purpose of manifesting outwardly, through ritual and ceremony, the presence of the spiritual nature or the spiritual Word.
"He [the Word] was in the world . . . and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." This is a reference to the fact that he came to those who were prepared to receive him. I would like to state that this is not just simply a Christian creation. You can find references and different kinds of interpretation in the writings of Buddha, in the writings of Zoroaster, and also in the sayings of Krishna, in Hinduism. You can find it in the Egyptian writings, where the Pharaoh was always referred to as the Son of God and the son of man. When Christ used this phrase, the Son of God and the son of man, he was using a phrase taken right out of Egyptian historic references to the king or Pharaoh. It was used in this way by the Egyptians because it was necessary to keep the people of Egypt evolving and working and pressing onward, as it were, in mental and emotional and spiritual ways through the consciousness of the presence of God in the king. This is the reason for the idea of the divinity of kings, the divine right of kings or the divine righteousness of kings, as it came over into the West.
When the Gospel says that the Word in the world was not received properly by those who were prepared to receive it, it simply means that those who were smart, those who had good minds, those who had spiritual preparation for the realization of this truth, most often did not actually receive the full consciousness of the presence of the Word. And if they did they denied it categorically, because it was necessary to emphasize the sectarian or narrow-minded viewpoint that our religion is correct, our religion is the revelation of divine wisdom, to save some small group of people-for example, the Jews. It is stated that the Word came into the world and the Jews did not receive the Word. This is also true of the Egyptians. It is true of the Chinese. It is true of the Hindus. Now, they received as much of the Word, or the understanding of the Word, as they possibly could under the circumstances. The phrase is not an attempt to criticize the people who did not receive the Word. It is just a statement of the fact that humanity did not understand the fullness of the power of the Word or the presence of God in the material world, simply because man was not yet prepared to do so. It took a long, long period of time, through centuries, through thousands of years of evolution, for man to reach the point where he finally could see what the Word was about. It was the final preparation which led up to and actually included the birth of Christ at Christmastime.
So, then, the words are used, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. He was in the world, . . . and the world knew him not." "The world" means those who were the ordinary types of consciousness, not the spiritually learned types. They simply did not know him. They did not see that the world was the great manifestation of the divine nature, the power of the divine Word. And consequently it was necessary for a special event to happen. In other words, through all of those years the Word of God, the divinity of his being, was working in the world, but people did not know this. They were not prepared to know it. They could not possibly know it until God did something special for them to make it possible for them to know it. So through the agency of the divine Word, through the medium or the vehicle of his Son called the soul, there was a special event in history, and in Christianity it divides history right in two. One part we call, in our popular tongue, B.C., the other we call A.D. One, of course, means before Christ, the other means anno domini, the year of our Lord or the age of our Lord.
The point is that when we unconsciously refer to this division between that which goes before and that which comes after we are referring to a specific spiritual thing that happened that made the human soul, as we have said, radioactive. This means that the soul or the consciousness of the individual is so stimulated by the coming into the world of the divine Word in a special way at this time that the soul is no longer confined to the darkness of the material body, or the material world, or the thought which had confined it up to that time, the thought that had been created by man. Some of the thoughts that literally limit the soul of man so that it cannot be free and act outside them are the thought that we are divided into race, the thought that we are divided into nations, and the thought that we are somehow separated from the material world and that we are separated from God.
Take for example the thought that we are dependent upon material things for happiness. This has been a destroyer, because man's material consciousness and his misinterpretation of his relationship to himself and to the universe in which he lives have caused him to come to erroneous conclusions about everything in his life-and we call this sin-simply because he does not know how to interpret. He does not know how to use the divine wisdom which is the Word of God so that once he becomes aware of it everything else falls into place. This is the reason why we are told that we have been living in darkness. Plato tried to put this across by using the symbol of the cave. He told about how the individual is in a cave, as it were, and everything is in darkness in this cave with the exception of a very low band of light that comes into the entrance of the cave, and what he sees as he faces the wall of the cave is only the movement of the shadows of the bodies that are out in a state of reality. Human consciousness does not see the reality; human consciousness sees only the shadows. This is a reference to the St. John's Gospel concept that the world is a veil and we are hid from the realities of the universe because we do not see through this veil.
The Epistle to the Hebrews uses the same concept, but it uses the concept of the veil as a revelation of the truth. In other words, it is the sacramental principle. The material world reveals God and his Word, but at the same time it also hides God, and how you are able to see God in material things depends entirely upon how you use the material world. It is possible for a person's consciousness to become illuminated so that as you look at a material thing you can see the divinity that is behind it or within it. You can see the divinity of God in a material thing, but the divinity of God is not the material thing itself as we understand it. All material things are divine, but we do not interpret the material world as the divine aspect of God's being. Consequently everything is in error in our consciousness-everything is out of focus. We are emotionally distraught, and we are depraved. We are degenerated in our thought and feeling so that we are miserable and depressed most of the time, because we do not see the universe at it really is. We do not see the glory of God, nor do we understand the meaning of his handiwork, says the Old Testament.
But then "the World was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." The whole meaning of this phrase is that when Christ, who was "the first fruits of them that slept" and who is still the most highly evolved human being, who is in our human thinking literally God in human flesh-when he was born into the world and took upon himself the flesh of humanity, he used this perfectly formed flesh (which is the whole reason for the church's historic emphasis upon the purity and immaculateness of the Virgin Mary) to manifest the divine will of his Father. At the same time, he used it to hide from humanity the meaning of divinity which humanity could not possibly understand at that time.
So from that time forward there has been a gradual revelation, a gradual unfoldment, a gradual letting out, as it were, of all the meaning of God. This, of course, will take ages to come, since humanity is so desperately stupid, but it will take only a short period of time in the consciousness of man or of God as you see it in the long perspective. The whole purpose of life is the unfoldment of this meaning. In two thousand years we have had much revealed to our minds, because the stimulation of the Word of God entering into human flesh has caused us gradually to evolve and expand our consciousness, so that the mind can understand something today that it could not understand two thousand years ago. The mind of man has gone through a tremendous series of experiences, which incidentally has culminated in just the last few years in the most devastating, catastrophic type of experience the human race has ever known, the world war of the past century. This world war is continuing, although it has been elevated from the material side of things up into the mental and emotional side. We are now in a terrific deadlock or conflict with the so-called mortal enemy of materialism; materialism fights against the spiritual interpretation of the world. We are in this deadly conflict, which is a war in heaven but is also a war on earth. It is the conflict between two diametrically opposed viewpoints in the world. This great conflict is now in what we might call a climax, and this tremendous historical climax in this century can and will lead us into the great understanding of spirituality. On the other hand, it can also lead the human world into the most terrible darkness the world has ever known, simply because man will choose the wrong path if he is not careful. He can easily choose the right path. The way to make this choice, however, is to understand the revelation of historical spiritual knowledge that comes to us from what we should in modern days (for lack of a better phrase) refer to as the mystery school.
Now for heaven's sake, my friends, let us get rid of the narrow-mindedness of the historic ideas about religion and philosophy and science, and let us understand that everything is a revelation from God. Every great revelation of truth comes through an authentic school. Now what we call a school is not the ordinary school, of course. It is not a physical manifestation of any kind. It has nothing whatsoever to do with man's institutions, or with anything that goes under a label of any kind. But it is a reference to what we might call the divine government of the universe. "The government shall be upon his shoulders," says the prophecy of Isaiah. This divine government is upon the shoulders of the person of Christ. And the person of Christ today is administering this government perfectly, as the king of the universe but also as the son of his Father, who represents in this solar system and upon this planet the very essence of the being of the Father. He is the divine Word, says religion.
In these times we have narrowed religion down to the concept of clearing up the evils of prostitution and narcotics wherever they may be. We have also narrowed religion down to the activist movement by which you are able to march from one place to another by some road and dramatize the terrible problems of our society. There is nothing wrong with all this, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Religion has nothing whatsoever to do with morality. Let us state frankly that morality changes from century to century and from age to age and from millennium to millennium. It changes, and human consciousness changes with it. This is the cause of the change of moral concepts.
This does not mean that we can be immoral according to the ideas of morality of our age, but it does mean that religion has nothing whatsoever to do with the proclamation of morality. The word morality means that it is the custom for the day, and the means by which we can trust each other and live together and have what we would call a good society. It has to do with relationships between people. Religion has to do with the revelation of God's being and the understanding of his nature, the very essence of his substance, the divine will of God as it is revealed in the consciousness of man and in what we call Holy Scripture. As man understands he writes Holy Scripture, whether it be science or philosophy or some sacred scripture such as the Bible has come to be, or whether it be poetry or some fine literary work describing the spiritual and philosophic ideas of the day.
The point we are trying to make is simply that the revelation of God's Word has to do with a spiritual meaning and purpose, and unfortunately there are very few today who have the consciousness, naturally, that enables them to see from this great viewpoint. This is the reason why religion is languishing. We don't see anything in the paper about religion. But true religion is good news. In other words, it is the Noel. It is the Gospel. It is the proclamation of a great truth which is good news, and this truth, the truth of the Gospel, is the truth which endures forever and ever and has nothing whatsoever to do with man's interpretation of it. It applies to man's life whether he knows it is there or not. When we don't understand that something is going on as it is happening, it just means that it is happening and we don't understand it. We simply do not see that God is working in the universe and is working his purpose out. But once we can accept the truth of the Gospel, then we can honestly say with intuition and with faith that we know that everything is working its way to the final Parousia of man's salvation-in other words, man's unfoldment of consciousness so that he can see the divine Word.
When the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us this process began. In the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the statement is made that it was possible for human beings to understand each other even though they were speaking in different languages or tongues. "Speaking with tongues" is a means by which we can speak our native tongues and can understand each other anyway, because we speak from the soul, not from the mouth, and we understand soul to soul or heart to heart with one accord. "They were all with one accord in one place." The word accord literally means heart. It comes from the Latin word for heart, and when you say "We are in one accord," it means that we are in one heart. We understand with the soul. We have a spiritual understanding of the same kind. We are speaking with the spiritual voice. This spiritual voice is the word of God speaking through the soul, and it binds us together. It is a bond.
The celebration of the feast of the coming of the Holy Ghost reminds us of the fact that we are gradually unfolding the truth. We are gradually coming into this understanding of what the Word of God is and how as it lives in the world and works its purpose out it causes one individual to be born and another to die. It causes something to be created, and it causes something else to be destroyed. It causes a civilization gradually to form. It causes another civilization to become gradually degenerate. It causes the birth and rebirth, the death, the destruction of anything that goes on in the world.
It is the energy and the power, the vibration of the Word that lies behind all manifestation, and when we can see through this veil we have a revelation, a re-veil-ation. That is really what the word means. We are able to see through the veil when we have a revelation. And when we see through this veil we have revealed to us the truth, but the truth cannot be spoken in words. It cannot be spoken even in a ceremony. It cannot be spoken in any kind of action or any kind of symbol. It is the symbol and the word and the action that can reveal the truth, but it is also the same that can literally hide the truth. And when we try to explain and to understand by the use of words, of mental concepts, we often simply narrow down the concepts to the word or the sound which the individual hears and takes into his consciousness. But he hears it according to the smallness and the narrowness of his own concept. And this is the great problem as we understand it today. The problem is to try to let the consciousness be free so that it is not limited to the concept of Christian, or Methodist, or Episcopalian, or Catholic, or white, or Negro, or the United States of America. It is the revelation of the divine Word of God which is the fullness of his being, the essence of his substance. For this, words are absolutely useless.
The power to reveal this idea is a psychic thing. It must be done in the soul. It is the essence of illumination when a person can find himself aware to some degree outside of his ordinary experience. Then it is said that he has been illumined. When the individual can habitually and constantly live in that expanded state, then the next state of illumination is his ability to break that particular bond or sphere of his consciousness so that he is no longer bound by that which was formerly illumination. Therefore we have the concept of the sacred cow-that is, some idea such as our concept of reincarnation is not a sufficient concept for the next generation. Our concept of the Word of God is not a sufficient concept for the next millennium.
The point we are trying to make is that we are concerned with soul essence. We are not concerned with human concepts any more. Naturally, human concepts must be used in order to have human intercourse. We must live with each other, ant we have to communicate through action, through word, through thought. But let us understand that this is a means by which we give to each other and minister to each other's needs. We are not using these concepts to pontificate about the truth. There is no religion that is absolutely true. Christ himself said, "I am not good, there is only one good and that is my Father in Heaven." He referred to himself as not the perfect one, "only my Father is perfect."
Now most people, of course, like to be iconoclastic once they come to realize that everything is imperfect, and they like to tear everything down because it is imperfect. But I would like to try to give a little hint that the individual consciousness needs to build up the concept of perfection and to use that which is in the consciousness of man, an imperfect idea, to begin the process of understanding the perfection of truth-not to look upon it as imperfect and therefore unworthy, but to look upon it as imperfect and therefore to be the subject for the process of the revelation of God's Word. Because it is through the imperfection of human flesh and human thought and human understanding that the divine and perfect Word of God is able to manifest itself. And it is also by the Word of God that the human flesh and human thought and human concept is able to grow and finally to become like unto its very essence, the being of the Word of God. In other words, the body of Christ finally becomes perfect and manifests perfectly, and God's Word has used this great and wonderful perfection to manifest its true being.
These words are very often taken by people to be of no practical value. They say, "We need to have a little more practical advice about how to live our life. We need to be told what to do, and we would like to be told what to think." I sympathize with this type of person, and I sincerely hope that he will find what he wants; but I can assure you that while he is looking for what he wants from a practical standpoint, as long as he looks for it without an understanding of what we are talking about he will never find it, because invariably when he thinks he has found it he will immediately find it gone. It will disappear while he is looking at it, unless he can see the truth through the revelation of God's Word.
Everything then becomes a wonderful revelation. It is a play. God's great revelation is his universe that is ever changing. It is the spoken Word that is being sung to us as a song. The song does not remain the same as it is being sung. A symphony is not the same as it is being played. It is constantly moving and changing. A piece of poetry is not the same as it is being unfolded in all of its energy and beauty and rhythm. The rhythm of life and of the universe is ever changing. Religion never remains the same. The flower as it blooms is never the same. Human consciousness is never the same. It cannot be something that just is. Therefore we must understand that the one eternal unchanging, undying, and truthful manifestation of God's being is his divine Word. It never changes. It is constantly taking on all the forms of the universe, but in its essence it is eternally unchanged. It remains ever the same.
The divine Word of God was born on Christmas Day, and we rejoice, because this great revelation of God's Word is the hope for mankind. As we look upon our smallness, the very definite wickedness and the terrible feeling of anger and fear in man's consciousness, it is something to regard with some questioning, and it is a definite warning to the person who is concerned about the Word of God to be as wise as the serpent and as harmless as the dove. It is very important to realize that human beings are really materialistic, and they are evil, and a human being who does not see this is being most unwise. But at the same time let us realize that the great power and wisdom and love of God which is in the Word of God is in the flesh, in the being, of the very person who is supposedly evil. And the so-called evil person cannot defeat God's Word. The reason for an evil event in the world such as a war or such as an injustice to a human being or a group of human beings, with the terrible karmic consequences of things as they happen to all the human race, is simply the revelation of God's truth. And if we could see it from this viewpoint, then we could use the revelation of God's truth as a means by which we can continue to grow and finally come into the fullness of his divine Word. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. . . . He was in the world, . . . and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God....
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
The divine power of the Word is present right here. It is in the soul of every person. It is in the human flesh, every cell of every body. It is in the atmosphere of this room. The divine light of this wonderful power is a vibration that is all-powerful, and the individual who becomes aware of this is led into the truth generation after generation, incarnation after incarnation, and when he begins to understand his own incarnation, then he begins to understand the great doctrine and teaching of the great Incarnation of the Word of God.
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