Sunday 22 January 2023

The Paths of Peter and John

 It could be said that right from the very beginning there were two forms of Christianity, that of St Peter and that of St John. The former provided an ideal foundation for a public religion with a good, solid structure for orientating believers towards spiritual truth. It gave a framework for belief in the human and divine figure of Christ, moral instruction and ethical guidance that would lead souls towards salvation which is the regeneration of the soul in the afterlife. This approach emphasised faith and works which together form the two pillars of the doorway that marks the entry to the higher spiritual world. However, following this path still leaves the believer looking for spiritual authority outside himself. He is dependent on externals and remains a follower.

The spiritual approach exemplified by St John is different. This is the inner approach. Christ remains Christ but he is no longer simply the Son of God who came down from Heaven. He is also within ourselves, within our hearts, and he can be known. More, not only can he be known but we can start to become like him by opening our hearts to his light and truth which will then illuminate our souls and transform them. We will not be human believers in God or followers of Christ but become transformed into spiritual beings ourselves. It might be countered that we are always spiritual beings and it is true that we were created as such. But we are spiritual beings in embryo only until we develop properly. We are seeds and seeds must bloom and flower to fulfil their purpose.

These two approaches are not mutually exclusive but they are somewhat like body and soul, and just as in our day there are many people who are aware of themselves as minds and bodies but few who are conscious of themselves as souls, so it is with these approaches. Historically, one can say that the Petrine approach has only occasionally flowered into the Johannine but humans have evolved to the point at which Christianity can only remain relevant if the Johannine approach becomes known as the direction in which the soul should proceed. It takes the external truths of Christianity and applies them internally.

I am not talking here about the difference between exoteric and esoteric or hidden teachings revealed only to the initiated. Clearly, there are many things about God and the universe we do not know but what really matters from the spiritual point of view is the proper orientation of the heart to the good, the beautiful and the true, and the spiritually perceptive know these are summed up and embodied in Jesus Christ. But there is the Christ 'out there' and the Christ within and while John includes Peter, Peter does not necessarily include John.

Over the last several centuries humanity has entered into the fullness of self-consciousness. This has resulted in two major problems. Because we have developed a much stronger sense of ourselves we have lost a proper relationship with what is below the self and what is above it. I refer to the two worlds of nature and spirit which can be thought of as our mother and our father. The first we exploit and disrespect and the second we reject and deny. Consequently, we are in total disharmony with the universe and this is the root cause of all our problems.

The self has freed itself from that in which it was embedded. This is not a bad thing because only by doing this can it really begin to know itself, but it becomes a bad thing when the process goes too far and, as it were, solidifies. Then barriers are put up against the rest of life, both natural and spiritual. To seek to return to a union with nature, as many do seek to do, is wrong because it is a return to immature childhood. We must go on to a union of the self with spirit and then a proper relationship with the natural will be included but from the higher perspective not on its own terms. But even this approach to spirit must be the right one. At the time of the decline of the Roman Empire there was great fascination with decayed forms of the ancient mysteries. This was a kind of spiritual sensationalism indicative of a jaded palate and desire for new experience. The same phenomenon occurs today with many modern versions of mysticism and occultism which are viewed as ways to excite and expand the self but this is not where true spirituality is to be found. For us in the West that remains where it has been for the last 2,000 years, firmly centred in the reality of Christ only now our approach must be that of John more than of his brother disciple Peter.


Moonsphere said...

Such an important and timely subject William.

I always liked Tomberg's comparison of Peter and John using the terms of length/breadth vs depth. He was also careful, as you have been, to pre-empt any sentiments of esoteric superiority by emphasising that Depth is dependent on the pre-existence of Length and Breadth!

But yes the closing words of the Gospel refer to a distant time that has now arrived.

The underlying question is why so many Christians today resist the path of John. Perhaps especially the Protestants with their infinite capacity for over-simplistic biblical refutation close themselves off from this future of Christianity.

William Wildblood said...

I didn't know about that Tomberg comparison so thanks. It sums up just what I was trying to say.I can only think people resist the path of John because they lack spiritual depth themselves or, better put, lack the inclination to develop a deeper relationship with God and are happy to remain on the surface and not renounce their worldiness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I have never been happy that the description of the path of "John" is accurate to what the Fourth Gospel actually says; which I find much more straightforward than its usual 'mystical'/ paradoxical reputation suggests.

The problem is that the IV Gospel is being understood by means of cross-referencing with the Synoptics, on the assumption that there are no contradictions and that all the Gospels can be combined to make a single picture of Christ's life and ministry. But this I do not accept.

From internal evidence, it seems probable that the IV Gospel on the one hand, and the first three Gospels on the other hand, may be of wholly separate provenance. And the Fourth is by far more authoritative - being the only eye-witness account and by a beloved disciple of Jesus (the one who I furthermore believe to be the resurrected Lazarus).

Also, the question is muddied by the assumption (which I think is untrue) that the Epistles attributed to John, and Book of Revelation, are by the same author and (therefore) add-up to a single world-view when synthesized with the Fourth Gospel.

In other words, I do not find that authors who emphasize the Peter versus John distinction are describing the situation accurately.

Furthermore, Steiner/ Tomberg regards the first half of the Fourth Gospel as - somewhat allegorically - describing a seven-fold process of initiation of Jesus into an esoteric mystery sect (each miracle, of which T. says there are seven, up to Lazarus supposedly represent a stage in this process).

For instance, the death of Lazarus was supposedly not a 'normal' death so much as the kind of death-like initiation which was practiced by the Ancient Egyptians - when someone was taken to the verge of death then revived - having looked across into the next world. I can't recall whether Tomberg says whether Lazarus actually died 'by mistake', and was drawn-back by Jesus, or whether it was a normal initiation - but that was the procedure he was supposedly undergoing.

This I think is just wrong - root and branch.

Having said all this; I certainly agree with you that the Fourth Gospel (properly read - which includes that that the author is Not 'John' but Lazarus himself!) is indeed the best and future path of Christian life which we, here and now, ought to be taking.

Moonsphere said...

@Bruce I think the general idea was that Lazarus had found himself in a position so devoted to Christ that his desire for Earth life was wholly eclipsed and he fell ill. Magadelene using her knowledge of Egyptian initiation decided to attempt the ritual of Temple Sleep on her brother. It went wrong perhaps due to her lack of knowledge or some other factor.

And so Lazarus actually died and was brought back from actual death by Jesus Christ. After so long in the tomb, the etheric dissolution had already taken place - and thus Lazarus received the etheric garment of Christ that he might fulfill the next two thirds of his earth destiny.

And so who better than Lazarus - now the most highly initiated of all those who surrounded Christ - to later receive the revelation that he wrote down in the Book of Revelation.

William Wildblood said...

For me those are all technical details which don't matter that much. My point here is that there is an outer path and an inner path and these are represented by the two apostles as much symbolically as literally. The Lazarus story may be important but it is not relevant in this context.

Moonsphere said...

@William - Another way of looking at the Peter/John distinction - is that Peter's Church is oriented towards the First Coming and John towards to the Second Coming.

As Jesus replied to Peter: "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"

If the Second Coming is indeed Christ returned in the Etheric then a high percentage of Christians are going to be wholly unresponsive. To even get beyond the word "etheric" demands at least some familiarity with esotericism.

Until that changes then any movement towards the Church of John must be postponed.

And worse still - a growing (fatal) belief that Christ will return in the flesh - grows apace within the organised Churches.

William Wildblood said...

The word 'etheric' introduces another dimension that you might call 'heighth' which is one many church Christians do not really respond to.

Moonsphere said...

Would it be fair to say William that you are contemplating how a move towards the Church of John might be achieved without involving any esoteric learning at all?

To briefly reference Tomberg's "Meditations" - he often sternly writes of the myriad dangers of occult curiosity all the way to black magic but then he ends with a balancing counter view. He points to the everyday practices of media and politicians as a far richer source of actual examples of black magic- than might be found in any ordinary occult circle.

And so perhaps this is potential (non-esoteric) route to the Church of John - a dawning recognition of the evil that openly operates in plain sight. This awakening can deliver such a shock that it leads one to a new depth of introspection and a doorway to the inner path that you speak of.

William Wildblood said...

No, I do think we need to be aware of the esoteric teachings if for no other reason than to stimulate our own intuition. They do represent intellectually that depth you spoke of earlier and so I would say are necessary but not sufficient. Actually, they are not necessarily necessary but they are very useful!

I would go along with Tomberg. After all, "Meditations" is one of the most (properly) esoteric books there is but it is more than that for it situates the esoteric within and subordinates it to the genuinely spiritual.

Anyone attracted to the idea of John as I am using that here would surely want to acquire greater spiritual knowledge so would inevitably be drawn to the esoteric. I would say if you don't know that side of things or are not drawn to it you are not really of the Church of John - if church it is, more a brotherhood on the inner planes really. But you have to go beyond the merely esoteric to the spiritual fire that is behind all true spiritual work.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William "My point here is that there is an outer path and an inner path and these are represented by the two apostles as much symbolically as literally."

Yes, you are right that That is what matters. By my understanding; the IV Gospel is clear (overall, except a couple of passages and Chapter 21 that I regard as later and alien additions) that every individual has personal access to all that is necessary to follow Jesus.

I would dissent from Moonsphere's linking of 'John' to the 'second coming' (as contrasted with Peter and the first), because this is never mentioned in the Gospel (except in the alien 21st chapter); which instead presents (over and again) Jesus as having fully accomplished his task, with nothing left-over uncompleted.