THE END OF THE WORLD

What is the meaning of the End of the World?  The denotation is that there is going to be a terrific cosmic calamity and the physical world is going to end.  That, as we know, is the denotation.  What is the connotation of the End of the World?  In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 13, Jesus tells about the End of the World.  He describes it as a terrible, terrible time with fire and brimstone devouring the earth.  He says, “Better not to be alive at that time.”  He also says, “This generations will not pass away, but these things will have come to pass.”  These things did not, however, come to pass.  And the Church, which interprets everything concretely, taking the denotation instead of the connotation as the term of the message, said that, no, this did not come to pass but it is going to come to pass, because what Jesus meant by generation is  the generation of Man. 

    Now in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, part of the great mid-century discovery of ancient texts, Jesus says, “The Kingdom will not come by expectation.  The Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it.”  Not seeing it, we live in the world as though it were not the Kingdom.  Seeing the Kingdom – that is the End of the World.  The connotation is transcendent of the denotation.  You are not to interpret the phrase, “the End of the World” concretely.  Jesus used the same kind of vocabulary that Eastern gurus use.  In their full-fledged teaching mode they speak as though they were themselves what they are speaking about; that is to say, they have in their minds identified themselves with a mode of consciousness that then speaks through them. 

   So when Jesus says, “I am the all,” he means: “I have identified myself with the all.”  That is what he means when he says, in the Gospel of Thomas, “Split the stick, you will find me there.”  This does not refer to the one who is talking to you, not to that physical body; it refers instead to that which he indeed, and you indeed, in fact, are.  Thou art that.  TAT19

In any of the orthodox biblical traditions, one cannot identify oneself with God.  Jesus identified himself with God in this sense.  But God is a metaphor, as he also is a metaphor for that which we all are.  And he says in this Thomas Gospel, “He who drinks from my mouth will become as I am, and I shall be he.”  No the “I” standing there, talking to his disciples, physically present before them.  It is the “I” of the dimension out of which he is speaking.  “Split the stick, you will find me there; lift the stone, there am I.”  And, of course, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.  Is it above?  If so, the birds will be there before you.  Is it below?  The fish will be there before you.  The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”  Who and what is in Heaven?  God is in heaven.  Where is God?  Within you.  TAT20

This is the sense of Zen Buddhism.  You must find it in yourself.  You are it:  “Thou art that.  Tat tvam asi.”  That message from India electrifies us, but, sadly, the churches are not preaching it.  TAT 20

The fundamental, simple, and great mystical realization is that by which you identify yourself with consciousness, rather than with the vehicle of consciousness.  Your body is a vehicle of consciousness.  TAT20

Think of the electric lights in a room.  You can say, “The lights – plural – are on.”  You can say, “The light – singular – is on.”  These are two ways of saying exactly the same thing.  In one case you are giving accent to the vehicle of the light:  “The lights – plural – are on.”  And in the other, you are giving accent to that which you are finally talking about, namely, the light.  TAT 21

With what do we identify ourselves, finally?  With the bulb, or with the consciousness?  The consciousness would not be there if the bulb weRe not there but it is the consciousness that is of significance here.  When you have identified yourself with the consciousness, the body drops off.  Nothing can happen to you.  You are ready to be grateful to the body and to love it for having brought you to this realization, but it is only the vehicle.  TAT21

In the thirteenth century, because of socially arranged marriages, solely because they had to, people were living with spouses whom they did not love.  These were not authentic relationships.  What, we may ask, is an authentic marriage?  It is a mystery in which two bodies become one flesh; it is not a negotiation in which two bank accounts merge into one.  TAT 21

We speak of schizophrenia, a condition in which people are split in half; we even call this crisis a crack-up.  These divided souls plunge into the night-sea of the realities that are down there, about which they had never known, and they are terrified by demons.  You can take this precept as a basic theological formula:  a deity is the personification of a spiritual power, and deities who are not recognized become demonic and are really dangerous.  One has been out of communication with them: their messages have not been heard, or, if heard, not heeded.  And when they do break through, in the end, there is literally hell to pay.  TAT 23

Myths derive from the visions of people searching their own most inward world.  Out of myths cultures are founded.  TAT 23

Myths like dreams are products of the imagination.  And there are two orders of dream, the simple personal dream, in which the dreamer becomes involved in adventures reflective only of his own personal problems, the conflicts in his life between desires and fears, driving wishes and moral prohibitions, and similar materials that are typically dealt with in a Freudian psychoanalysis.  There is also another dream level that can be thought of as that of vision, where one has transcended the sphere of a merely personal horizon and come into confrontation with the same, great, universal problems that are symbolized in all great myths. 

    For example, when disaster strikes, when you meet with a great calamity, what is it that supports you and carries you through?  Do you have anything that supports and caries you through?  Or does that which you thought was your support now fail you?  That is the test of the myth, the building myth, of your life. 

Already in the eighth centure B.C., in the Chandogya Upanishad, the key word to such a meditation is announced:  tat tvam asi, “Thou art that,” or “You yourself are It!”  The final sense of a religion such as Hiduism or Buddhism is to bring about in the individual an experience, one way or another, of his own identity with that mystery that is the mystery of all being.  “Thou art That!”  Not this “thou,” however, that you cherish and distinguish from all others. 

One way to come to the knowledge of a deeper you is to distinguish, as they say, between the object and the subject of knowledge, identifying yourself thereby with the subject, the witness, and not with what is beheld.  For example, “I behold and know my body: I am not my body.”; “I know my thoughts: I am not my thoughts.”; “I know my feelings: I am not my feelings.”; “I am the knower, I am the witness.”  Then the Buddha comes along and says:  “But there is no witness either.”  You can back yourself out beyond the wall of space this way.  And so we come to the realization of the aspiration, “Neti!  Neti!”  “Not this!  Not this!”  Anything you can name is not it, absolutely.  “Iti!  Iti!”  “It is here!  It is here!”  This oxymoron, or self contradictory statement, is the key to what we call the mystery of the Orient.  TAT 26

Anyone who says, as Jesus is reported to have said (John 10:30), “I and the Father are One,” is declared in our tradition to have blasphemed.  Jesus Christ was crucified for that blasphemy; and nine hundred years later, the great Sufi mystic, Hallaj, was crucified for the same thing.  Hallaj is reported to have compared the desire of the mystic to that of the moth for the flame.  The moth sees a flame burning at night in a lantern and, filled with an irresistible desire to be united with that flame, plays about the lamp till dawn, then returns to his friends to tell them in sweetest terms the tale of his experience.  “You don’t look the better for it,” they say, for his wings are pretty much banged up: that is the condition of the ascetic.  But he returns the next night and, finding a way through the glass, is united entire with his beloved and becomes himself the flame.  TAT 27

  That is why our symbols have all been so consistently and persistently interpreted as referring not primarily to our inner selves but to supposed outer historical events.  This emphasis may be good for the institution of the Church or the prosperity of the synagogue, but may not at all contribute to the spiritual health of the unconvinced individual.  TAT28