three ships

“Jesus Dug a River Jesus dug a river in the cosmos. He dug a river, even he of the sweet name. He dug it with a spade of truth. He dredged it with a basket of wisdom. The stones he dredged from it are drops of incense from Lebanon. All the waters in it are roots of light. Three ships sail. They voyage in the river, testing. One is full, one half freighted. The third is empty. The full ship sails fearlessly. One half full. The empty one comes empty and leaves nothing behind. It will suffer at the customs. It has nothing to give, nothing on board. They will tear it apart wickedly and send it back to the port. The ship will suffer what corpses suffer. Empty. They called it and it heard nothing.” ~The Manichaean Songbook

Jesus Dug a River

It should be obvious that this song from the Manichaean Songbook is pure allegory. Allegory doesn’t mean it is a fairy tale. It means it is something real told in a cryptic way so it’s truth won’t be revealed to the unworthy or the uninitiated. Jesus didn’t literally dig a river through the cosmos. What he did is make a path of truth, spirit, and light through the darkness and ignorance of the material universe. It is a river in the sense that it is flowing, moving. It is living light carrying the truth of God into the places where it has long been forgotten. He digs the river with a basket of wisdom and a spade of truth. More allegorical symbols.

Jesus, of course, brings the truth and wisdom of God with him. The ace of spades is a symbol of ancient mysteries and the mystery schools. A shovel of any kind is a symbol of clearing one’s path for wisdom and enlightenment. It also symbolizes digging to uncover hidden truths. The basket symbolizes carrying spiritual wisdom and truth. It can also mean, according to some dream dictionaries, overcoming difficulties. Also, a full basket can symbolize joy. What could bring more joy than a basket full of wisdom?

Three Ships

Trilogies are so common in spiritual symbology, I don’t think they need to be explained hear with and detail. The best-known examples of a trilogy are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of most Christians, and Father, Mother, and Child in others. It can also represent matter, thought, and spirit. In this case, the contents of the ships help us understand their symbolism.

A Full Ship

The full ship sails down the river fearlessly. It is true to its course and sails on to the end of the river without difficulty. This ship is full of truth, wisdom, and spiritual light. It may have difficulties, but it cannot fail. It is the best of the three ships to be on.

A Half-Full Ship

The half-full ship represents those who are halfheartedly involved in spiritual things. They go through the motions, but with little conviction. They are spiritual in public, materialistic in private. This ship will wander aimlessly, never knowing exactly where it is heading, never knowing exactly how to get there. As a result, it’s chance of reaching the goal of true enlightenment is probably worse than one in a million. This is probably the most frustrating of the three ships for those who sail them generally thing they are on their way to heaven when they are just going in circles.

An Empty Ship

To send an empty ship out into the river doesn’t make much sense. It is unlikely to reach the final destination. If it does, it won’t matter. The ship is empty. It has nothing to unload. It will be turned away and sent elsewhere.

Sadly, the empty ship probably represents the vast majority of people today. Those who have no religious or spiritual beliefs at all are definitely sailing empty ships down the river of truth. But so are the Christians who follow a man-made, materialistic version of Christianity rather than that which Jesus actually taught. Joining them in more empty ships will be those who practice some superficial form of spiritual development. That includes those who think that simply rejecting religion is all there is to being spiritual. Those who think spirituality is nothing more than meditation, followed by meditation, than even more meditation, which in real spiritual schools is just the first grade of many grades, will also be on such ships. And perhaps the emptiest ships of all are those who think they can wait until they are physically dead to concern themselves with the spirit and soul. That is too late and they are leaving ports in empty ships. A cargo ship with no cargo is the saddest of the three ships.

Jumping Ship

The good news is that this is something that can change. We can all start serious spiritual development with a real spiritual school—the inheritors of the ancient mystery schools—and fill our empty or half full ships. But when the city is on fire, you don’t want to leave your ship anchored in the port where it is likely to burn up. Yes, I’m using allegory, too.

In a spiritual sense, our world is on fire now, and we can’t just sit back and hope it misses us. We all have to get our ships full of truth and wisdom and sail that sacred river as quickly as possible. I look forward to a time when the river is covered with ships that are all full of truth and wisdom rather than the three ships.

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