by Michael Maciel
The Letter to the Church of Ephesus has to do with the life-giving function of the desire nature. We have to look to the real reason we are doing what we are doing—what is motivating us? Earth is a training ground for the Spirit of the Law. It is not enough to know how and what we do—we must learn the nature of the ultimate end of our actions—our “works.”
Example: working on a piece of furniture, a cabinetmaker proceeds automatically, performing each step according to his training, for he has done this many times before. His original intent at the outset of his career was to create functional works of art that people could appreciate while they used them. The desire for beauty, harmony, and symmetry, and the appreciation of these, motivated him beyond the need to make a living, impress his friends, or perfect his craft. This was his “first love.”
Slowly, the demands of commerce shifted his attention to concerns about economy and efficiency, and the ideal began to give way to the expedient. Economy and efficiency are themselves aspects of beauty and harmony, and are worthy goals, but, for our cabinetmaker, they were not his “calling.”
In the highest sense, our “first love” is our soul’s love for God. In our everyday experience, God “wears” the world like a mask, so the world is the face of God for us. Included in the concept “the world” are all of our intentions and affections regarding it. For the cabinetmaker, his art is the face of God for him—he sees God as the perfection inherent within, behind, and the motivation for his art. His work, therefore, is his prayer, his devotion, and his yoga—his method for achieving oneness with God who, for him, wears the mask of craftsmanship.
If this cabinetmaker loses his vision of the face of God by succumbing to the everyday demands of efficiency and economy, and these become the sole motivation for his craft, then his desire nature (symbolized in the B of R as the Church of Ephesus) has become corrupted. The angel, the unrelenting spiritual pressure of his calling, then comes to straighten him out.
The Twentieth Century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein used the phrase “being in the world” to describe how Being and in-the-world-ness are inseparable. This implies that the face of God, as I’m describing it here in the example of the cabinetmaker, is the world—for us. How this translates in the current spiritual vernacular is that our actions are our prayers. God, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, is saying, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word [or prayer] you say.”
“To him who overcomes will the Spirit give to him to eat of the Tree of Life.”
When we keep our consciousness of our “first love” intact and not give in to the temptation to place the necessities of the world in first place, then the fruits of our activities will nourish us—life will feed us instead of devour us. The Tree of Life lives “in the midst of the paradise of God”, that state of Being (in Wittgenstein’s sense of the word) wherein all separation ceases. The world appears to us as immediately present and alive, its beingness emanating from within all things. This kind of Presence nullifies time, so we live in the eternal Now. When we consolidate our awareness of the Now, and it completely displaces the illusion of separation, we experience what Jesus called “eternal life”, and we become one with God.
The word “eternal” does not mean “a long time.” It has nothing to do with time. It is that state that pre-exists time, the same as the word “omnipresence” pre-exists space. To say that God is eternal and omnipresent means that God is “outside” the realm of time and space—time and space are epiphenomena of Being. They are effects of the existent forces of Being, the same way the spokes of a spinning wheel sometimes appear stationary. What we call “time” is a strobe-effect created by the brain, a digitalization of the “seamless garment” of reality.
When theologians claim that God is transcendent or “outside” of creation, it is the denial that these effects are real. The spokes aren’t really stationary—they only appear that way because of our perspective and the interplay of light. In the same way, time and space are “illusions”, because they are not ontologically primary—they are the result of certain intra-actions of Being. These intra-actions are what are being referred to in Hinduism when the creation is described as the “dream” of Vishnu, or in Western theology as God’s Self-contemplation. They are “the many that proceed out of the one”, the “ten thousand things” of Chinese philosophy, and the “jeweled net of Indra” where the light of every gem is reflected in every other.
Just as science calls a reflection an illusion or “virtual” reality, so do metaphysicians call the “world” unreal. It exists, all right, but only as the result of a deeper, underlying reality. It is this deeper, underlying reality that Wittgenstein calls Being. It is so foundational that it precedes our ability to conceive of It—It cannot be named or objectified. It is the Nameless One of our Western Tradition—the reason that Judaism prohibits speaking the name of Jehovah. The moment we name It, it is no longer “It”, but only a description of It. A photograph of a mountain is not the mountain.
When those same theologians claim that God is also immanent or “within” the creation, they are pointing to the fact that the phenomena we call time and space are the effects of Being. God is “behind” the effects, the same as an actor is behind a mask—a persona. The prefix meta- (as in metaphysics) means in back of or behind of. It implies that the physical world is an effect of underlying causes that are not physical in nature, such as Idea, Mind, Truth, Reality, etc., which are all aspects of Being. This places Being in the driver’s seat. When we thoroughly identify with Being and become one with It, we become, like Jesus, “in the world but not of it”—we are both immanent and transcendent. To be “of” something is to be at the effect of it, a derivative of it, or to come from it.
In metaphysics, words such as Mind, Truth, Idea, etc. are not regarded as products of the human mind. They are rather seen as the generators of the human mind. Consciousness is not a product of the brain, as most scientists assert, but the creator of it. The brain evolved into being, because Consciousness needed a way to experience this part of its own spectrum, or as one person said, “A physicist is the universe’s way of looking at itself.”
All of this points to the fact that Being and Wittgenstein’s notion of in-the-world-ness are inseparable, that the way to God Realization is through the phenomenon we call “our lives.” And the prime motivating factor of our lives is what The Book of Revelation calls our “first love,” that part of our lives that calls to us at the deepest desire level, the face of God, the mask that Eternity wears so that we can recognize It in ourselves.
We live our lives in a state of dynamic balance—every external action must reconcile, eventually, with our deepest convictions. When we act out our lives from the consciousness of our “first love”, which is our primary conviction, all of the outer conditions will conform, eventually, to the fulfillment of our calling. If we place too much emphasis on those outer conditions, and we get caught up in their demands to the detriment of our “first love,” our soul-ledger gets out of whack and has to be “justified.” St. Paul first used this word when he addressed the early Christian Community of Corinth, because, being traders, he knew they understood the language of debt and balanced ledgers. “The wages of sin is death,” he said. Our vitality suffers when we deny the inseparableness of our everyday lives and the Spirit within.
This inseparableness is the underlying message of the death of Jesus on the cross. The living Being is nailed to the cross of matter, affixed to it, so that the two become one. The image of Jesus on the cross is the central symbol of Christianity, and for good reason. It signifies the transformation of matter by its willing submission to Being—its “first love.” Five hundred years before Jesus, Buddha rejected the philosophy that the body and this world were irredeemable. He said that the wise man walks the Middle Path between total renunciation and total participation. The story of Jesus expands this theme, using terms like the Body of Christ, the Redemption, and Salvation to describe the transformative effect of Spirit upon its epiphenomenon—matter.
Beneath every intention lies the intention of God. Even the desire to commit murder has its roots in the intention to rid oneself of negativity, a misguided and insane attempt at purity. We project those aspects of ourselves that we cannot tolerate out onto our “enemies,” and we kill them, thinking that by doing so we rid ourselves of our sins.
The message of the Angel in its address to the Church of Ephesus has this quality to it: the real enemy is us. The road to spiritual perfection, therefore, is a road that leads within. Nothing is wrong “out there.” We need only to be true to our “first love,” and the vicissitudes of life will raise us up instead of dragging us down. Like Jesus, we will rise up out of the grave of our darkest hour and ascend into heaven, because our eyes are fixed on God, that part of our lives that calls to us from within—our “first love.” This is the desire at the root of all our desires, even those that appear to destroy us.