“It is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom: but the sheep are expected to walk, and put up with the inequalities of the road, the bunts and blunders of the flock. It is to vigor rather than to comfort that you are called. Since the transcendental aspect of your being has been brought into focus you are now raised out of the mere push-forward, the blind passage through time of the flock, into a position of creative responsibility. You are aware of personal correspondence with the Shepherd. You correspond, too, with a larger, deeper, broader world. … Each little event, each separate demand or invitation which comes to you is now seen in a truer proportion, because you bring to it your awareness of the Whole.” ~Evelyn Underhill
You could interpret Ms. Underhill’s use of the term “the Shepherd” as a reference to God or to Christ. It really doesn’t matter which is correct. What matters is what she says about the interpretation of the Shepherd having “the lambs in his bosom”. This is thought by many popular churches to mean that the sheep have to do nothing, that the Shepherd will carry them around and do it all for them. Neither Jesus, Buddha, or any other great spiritual leader ever taught such nonsense.
The Sheep and the Flock
Ms. Underhill makes a point of distinguishing between the sheep and the flock. This is a reference to something we see regularly: mob mentality versus individuality. Incidents occur with humans in crowds that later cannot be understood. S part of the group, you do something stupid and later can’t believe you did that.
The spiritual person must be part of the flock, but he must also separate himself from this mob mentality and advance as an individual. Or it may be more accurate to say he must become part of a different flock, a divine flock, in addition to being part of the ordinary human flock.
It seems contradictory to say that we must take individual responsibility and individual action, yet be part of the group, yet that is the way it is. Each jewel in a crown of gold must shine on its own. You don’t throw the gold and gems together and melt them down to make a crown; you form the crown of gold, then attach individual jewels to it to make it complete.
Awareness of the Whole
Underhill says that we—that is, those who have awakened and developed their spiritual faculties—have personal correspondence with the Shepherd. This is true, in a sense, but it is not like having a conversation with another person. It is more a matter of linking to the Consciousness of God and therefore being aware of His Plan. She also says that we become aware of a “larger, deeper, broader world” and this is true also. Not only do we see the world of matter in a new light, and with a new understanding, but we see that there are higher worlds, spiritual worlds, from which this lower world is generated and to which it must return. So let us seek to be an important part of the whole, but not by being lazy and just waiting for it to happen, but by developing into a bright and unique jewel suitable for being in that crown of the Shepherd.