In the first blog in the series I looked at her war against The Star in the East – at times a thing difficult to comprehend in today’s global village of catholic (with a small “c”) beliefs. In the second blog, you may recall that I summarized the content of a lecture she gave to a Theosophical Lodge in 1927, where she declared the Sermon on the Mount to be “the loftiest spiritual teaching known to the world”. In this third and final blog, I look at some of my own thoughts about why the Sermon might be declared as such.
Mention of the Sermon on the Mount will fire up any Monty Python fan with joyous mutterings of “Blessed are the Cheesemakers” and other perennial lines from The Life of Brian. However, if you can just put Python on hold for a moment, I hope you’ll find what I’m about to say useful and informative, whether or not you agree with it.
If the life and teachings of Jesus are studied and carefully contemplated, we can see that while he taught universal love, he also had no hesitation in taking decisive and drastic action against wrong-doing. An example of this would be the case of the purging of the temple in Jerusalem. Christianity has often been called a religion for slaves; but the purging of the temple was hardly an act born of a slave mentality. It would be difficult to say so based on what seems more congruent to the actions of members of the Occupy movement! Perhaps in the context we can appreciate Dion Fortune’s comment “I will follow the example of the Master Who, while He had compassion for those who fainted by the way, had a scourge for the backs of those who made His Father’s house a den of thieves.”
The Sermon on the Mount, also known as “the Beatitudes”, is arguably one of the passages in the New Testament to have caused more confusion and derision over the past 2,000 years than any other part. Some of this confusion and derision may have been largely responsible for gaining Christianity that oft quoted “slave-mentality” label. For many, this label, alongside centuries of appalling hypocrisy and behaviour by a succession of churches will often be enough to put anyone off taking a further or deeper interest. Personally, for many years, hearing anyone say the term “the Beatitudes,” conjured up memories of dreary school assemblies and saccharin sweet R.E. lessons from some of the dullest and least inspirational humans I’d had the misfortune of coming across.
However, circa 30 years ago, talking with “Hestia” after a London Group meeting in the 1980s, she suggested I revisited the Sermon when I was a little older and had some more life experience under my belt. You may recall Hestia, who I mentioned in earlier blogs, as being someone who had lived with Dion Fortune in the community of Queensborough Terrace. She also lamented to me at the time that “too many of these modern magicians throw the baby out with the bath water” when it came to Christianity and that there was “some fine wisdom and power to be found there”. While Hestia was first and foremost a priestess with a particular love of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Arthuriana and all things Celtic, she had also celebrated the Guild of the Master Jesus and worked her way through its own graded Mysteries, finding much of great use and beauty. She wanted me to find some of that in my own life although I wasn’t so sure at that point of my life! I was also hugely suspect of the Guild then too.
My view has certainly changed over time. So, in an attempt to (a) reflect on some of the strong Christian influence on Dion Fortune’s work, and, (b) honour my somewhat reluctant commitment made to Hestia, I’ll use this blog to give some pointers on the themes in the Sermon and see if I can shine some light on it for further consideration.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
This does not mean the poor-spirited or spiritually inadequate, but those not obsessed with spiritual “possession”. The poor in spirit are those with a true spiritual humility as opposed to a spiritual pride and arrogance. C.S. Lewis, who had the dubious honour of spending time at my school as a most unhappy pupil, had something helpful to say about this along the following lines, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
"Blessed are the meek …”
Again, this means those with a true humility. It certainly does not mean the tame-spirited or servile of our modem usage. Coming from a root word which means “supple”, one can understand the practical wisdom of the supple willow tree left standing after a storm when its fellow oaks and beeches have been torn down, not helped by their comparative in-built rigidity. To quote African American author Earnest Gaines, “You've got to bend with the wind or you're broken.” Contrary to popular belief, being meek doesn’t mean being spiritually submissive or deficient.
"Blessed are the pure in heart…”
Here “pure” means simple, without admixture of any kind and without corruption. It describes the spiritual simplicity of the illuminated person. The adept is “pure in heart” but not puritanical, prudish or narrow minded. The etymology of the word pure is fascinating, coming from the Latin “purus”, which derives from the Greek “pyr” meaning “fire.” The cleansing aspect of fire in relation to pure is well worth some contemplation.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…”
The peacemakers can be seen as those people who bring union. They are the true alchemists, exponents of love, and, they bring the unity of spirit to individuals, communities and nations. However, they do not deal in mawkish or slushy sentimentality. True love has behind it the cohesion of the Cosmos and it is for the spiritually strong. The Law of the Attraction of the Centre from the Cosmic Doctrine, contains the secret of Evolution within this our System. The peacemakers can thus be seen as those people who are adept at the mystery of Cohesion, which is also the mystery of Love. Nelson Mandela’s related quote is well worth considering in relation to this, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Imagine that.
"Resist not evil…" and "turn the other cheek…”
These two clauses have arguably been two of the most misunderstood out of all of them.
"Resist no evil" could mean that no-one should insulate themselves against evil or pretend it does not exist, but, instead, confront it head on and see it for exactly what it is.
"Turn the other cheek" means preparing for and accepting more evil from one who has already wronged you, while preserving spiritual poise.
Evil is negated when totally accepted by a spiritual being -- and all humans are spiritual beings. The effects of evil are quite another matter and it is common sense to take precautions on the physical and other planes to protect yourself, your loved ones and your possessions, so as to overcome the manifestations of evil.
There is great worth in pondering the first of these two clauses against the context of the following passage from The Cosmic Doctrine, “Evil is simply that which is moving in the opposite direction to evolution.”
"Love your enemies…" and "Bless them that curse you…"
There is a great difference between loving the true person and loving the evil they may bring about in the world. As for those that "despitefully use you and persecute you" - they certainly need help if it is considered as a request from one person for the help of another.
“There but for the Grace of God, go I”, when uttered with understanding can bring spiritual regeneration; but this understanding should not induce weakness, passivity or complacency.
Your enemy is truly your brother or sister and companion on the Path, but their physical body may have earned a punch on the nose and some boxed ears! But in all this we also need to beware of spiritual arrogance, smugness and superiority, particularly when attempting to put these two ideas into application!
Applying the above teachings of the Sermon on the Mount to everyday life is clearly no easy task. An attempt to try for just one day at work or with your family and friends will demonstrate why. Try it and cry, then laugh some and try again.
My view is that the practice and study of the key themes from the Sermon on the Mount can help us to get to know ourselves better and see ourselves more truly -- not just as others see us but as we truly are. No other person knows this -- only the individual themselves. When more self-understanding commences, more understanding of others follows. To love other humans with the Love of God really implies, amongst other things, the power to see people clearly. Then they may be loved as we love ourselves and done unto as we would they did unto us. Now wouldn’t that truly be a thing?