“’For the fall and resurrection of many in Israel is the lord appointed’, says the Holy Gospel (Luke :34). We should ask consequently whether He may not be appointed for the fall of those who contemplate the visible creation solely according to the senses and to those who stick to the mere letter of Holy Scripture, not being able in their folly to go further and grasp the new spirit of grace. And we should ask whether He may not be appointed for the resurrection of those who contemplate God’s creatures and listen to His words in a spiritual manner, cultivating in appropriate ways only the divine image that is within the soul.
“If the Lord’s being appointed for the fall and resurrection of many is understood in the right way, than the fall will refer to that of the passions and of evil thoughts in each of the faithful, and the resurrection to that of the virtues and of every thought that enjoys God’s blessing.” ~The Philokalia
Fall and Resurrection
This quote from the Philokalia is using fall and resurrection with a dual meaning. We are all familiar with the greater meaning: the symbolic fall of Adam and Eve from Heaven to Earth, and the resurrection of Jesus back to Heaven. But here they are talking more of an individual fall from grace, and resurrection back into a state of grace. Both variations are valid. As above, so below.
Contemplating Visible Creation
There are primarily three ways to look at the physical universe or visible creation:
- It is the one and only creation. Nothing exists but the physical.
- It is an illusion and there is nothing real.
- There is more than the physical and the physical is not all that it appears to be.
Those who accept the first or second point-of-view are generally not good candidates for spiritual development. Those who accept the third usually are. The quote is saying that Jesus came to help those in the third group find the best path to follow for a true awakening. He didn’t waste His time on the materialist who cannot accept anything spiritual, or who consider the spiritual just an extension of the physical.
The good news is that it is becoming harder to stay trapped in the materialistic viewpoint. With quantum physics agreeing with the spiritual types that the physical universe is not what it appears to be. Specifically, they say it is a hologram. The physicists may not be saying so, but if you think about it, a hologram, being a projection of light, must have a source. The source cannot be the hologram itself. Therefore, there has to be something beyond the physical realm from which the great illusion is being projected.
Letter of Scripture
A similar kind of person to those who believe only in the physical are those who interpret everything in scripture and holy books literally. The Philokalia correctly classifies those people as fallen souls also. Those who are true believers then come to foolish conclusions such as the Earth is only six thousand years old. Those who are not believers say that the holy books are lies because they are obviously not literally true. Both of those groups fail to recognize that most scripture of any religion is written in allegory. This is done partly to make it understandable to the less educated. Mostly, however, it is done to hide the truth from the profane who would misuse such knowledge.
Contemplate God’s Creatures
The quote says that the Lord is not appointed to help those who “contemplate God’s creatures and listen to His words in a spiritual manner.” This seems illogical. Should He be helping those most of all? I think the intention here is to say that those who have already found the true path of their own don’t need the Lord’s help. Unless, of course, they stray off the path.
So how do you contemplate God’s creatures in a spiritual manner? St. Francis is probably the best example of how. After his awakening, he says all beings as spirits. I believe he could actually see beyond the mask of the physical body to the spirit of each being. For that reason, he referred to animals, plants, and everything as his brothers and sisters.
Likewise, anything that Jesus said in public or private talks needs to be interpreted in a spiritual way, much like with allegorical scripture. And this goes for all other religious and spiritual leaders.
I remember reading some years ago of a small (fortunately!) cult in India that follow the teachings of one particular Guru. The guru said in a popular speech that men must be more like women if they want to be saved. It should be obvious that this was not supposed to be taken literally, but figuratively. But the members of the cult interpret it literally. The male members castrate themselves and dress like women. This, they believe, will save them. We laugh at their foolishness. Yet it is no more foolish than those who believe that a priest actually turns bread and water into the flesh and blood of Jesus, and then they consume His flesh and blood to be saved.
Things said by spiritual people must be interpreted in a spiritual way. Literal interpretation leads to false conclusions, much like that sad cult.
Resurrection of Virtue and Blessed Thought
On a personal level, we need to be “resurrected” or awakened to a life of virtue and service to God. This does not mean slavery. The awakened serve God because they recognize that He knows more than they do about everything. When journeying through a strange land, following a guide who knows the path and the dangers isn’t slavery. It is being smart. Yet there are those who will still fight against the idea. They don’t realize that by doing so, they are serving the fallen angels who did the same thing long ago. So either way, they are serving someone.
The smart person will accept resurrection, and not fall even further into the clutches of matter.