Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blessed Are the Poor No More

Jesus says it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. So poverty should be better, if one aims for those gates of liberty. One must remember though, that in the days of Jesus, those who were poor remained poor, and they had basically no chance to escape poverty. People inherited their social status, and having a career was simply not an option for the poor back then. They had to accept their lot in life, and do the best they could of it.

Today, at least in the west, and increasingly in other parts of the world, the poor do not necessarily accept poverty. They may win a lottery, they may be selected to partake in a television show which brings them fame (and fortune), or they might through arduous work and luck, escape their unfortunate inheritance. This new situation makes for a completely different mental climate.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 5-7) Jesus makes an important distinction. He say “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is not primarily physical poverty that matters, but a poverty in spirit. So, we ask ourselves, What is a poor spirit? This is how I understand it:

A wealthy man, does not only have money in the bank, or in property etc. He also carries his money mentally. He thinks of himself as rich. Wealth has become part of his identity – his sense of self. If he loses his money he feels like less of a man. He has made money important to his mental balance.

One can say that from the pure state of being, just the simple I AM, the wealthy person typically adds: I AM rich... not only in conversation, but also in self-identification. He is no longer poor in spirit. This addition to the pure awareness (consciousness) that we enter life with, can happen in many other areas as well, and it seems that that is exactly what most of us is keeping busy with – to add something to our sense of self. It might be things like: I am famous, I am powerful, I am skilled in this or that, I am well educated, I am physically strong, I am beautiful, I am just, I am spiritually advanced, or perhaps something like; 'at least I'm not like him/her'.

The spiritual path is exactly the opposite of this. While you may paint, for example, you do not mentally make yourself into an Artist. In conversation you may present yourself as an artist, so that people understand what you do, but you do not add it to your sense of self. You settle with I AM. You may be: I AM painting, or I AM framing this drawing, but you never try to become anything else but Being. You remain poor in spirit. While one paints for an exhibition and gathers a number of successful paintings in the studio, it is easy to begin this adding in the mind. One may start to envision (fantasize) about how the exhibition will bring great recognition, great sales, and perhaps even glory, but this too is adding to being. Every single painting, every single stroke, must be made from scratch, from a mental point of zero. There is no building to life, because in the end it all comes down again. Mental structures crumble just as physical ones, but unlike the physical buildings they hinder our way to The Lord.

The Lord IS. Life IS. Consciousness IS. It isn't this or that. When we try to become anything but being, we are busy carving our own domain – our own reality and tower. Regardless of our level of success, it is a bleak and tiny castle in the halls of the Universe. This occupation of enhancing the Ego is, in mythological language, our disobedience of the laws of Paradise. It is idolatry and the foundation of Sin. Because of it, we are expelled from the presence of the Lord.

The poor are blessed no more, because they are now entitled to that same dream of becoming – of rising above their fellow men, and to hide from the nakedness of being. Though material wealth doesn't equal wealth in the spirit, it is almost impossible to stay mentally untainted by it. Let us now look at ourselves and ask the question: What do I fear losing the most? Which losses would make me feel less of a man or woman? Behind what walls or subtle curtains do I hide my poverty?

...and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

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