Immaculate Conception: Virgin Birth in the Religions
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Catherington House, Catherington, Hampshire on 24th May 1973
Those of you who were present at our group meetings last weekend will recall that we considered certain deep matters together. One important point was this, that the Holy Ones give all their teaching fundamentally at the Transcendent level, and then that has applications at the psychological, the intellectual and the ordinary everyday life level. We looked at this point especially in connection with Yājñavalkya’s discourses to his wife Maitreyī on Love in answer to her request to him to teach how she could become immortal, and we saw the relationships there. We also saw that the language in which this teaching is couched sounds almost trivial: “Not for the love of the husband is the husband dear, but for the love of the Ātma is the husband dear.” That formula is repeated again and again with respect to wife, sons, wealth, the Vedas, the gods and all the rest of it. Then he goes on to say that the husband, the wife, the sons, etc., all desert him who sees each of these in aught else than the Ātma. We traced that back to the original meaning implied in the words “husband” and “wife”, and you may remember how quite briefly we saw that, as the Perfected One returns back from the state of supreme samādhi, supreme communion, having realized the state of the Unitary Awareness of the One Total Reality, realized it in its wholeness, returning to sense-mind consciousness, he experiences the proliferation of consciousness from One, to two, to four, to the innumerable many.
The first two which emerge are in terms of male and female, positive and negative cosmic energy which, being in timeless conjugation, give rise to the total universal process, and particularly so in our own consciousness. This is the important thing. That is how it has been presented in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad.
In the Old Testament it is presented in its own way, and I mentioned very briefly the terms which are used. There is the Man and the Woman, Eesh and Esha. Then after the Fall it is Adam who disobeys and eats of the fruit of the forbidden tree. It is Adam who is pushed out of Eden not the Woman, Esha. Adam later on call his wife Hheva, the Mother of all living. Esha, the Woman, represents the female principle at the Transcendent level, and it is that female principle which holds in itself the secret of creative activity, which is embodied in Hheva, Eve as we commonly say, at the reproductive level, the procreative level. It is very important to try and grasp this, because it is fundamental to our being. Whoever we are, men or women, it is this feminine or negative aspect of our being at the Transcendent level which holds the secret of creative power. At the psychophysical level there is only the procreative representation of that original creativeness. This is very briefly how the Old Testament presents it.
Let us look at another aspect of all this, another presentation. You will find in Zarathushtrian teaching that the mother of Zarathushtra, a young girl living in a small village, was filled with the glory of God when she was about fourteen or fifteen, and there was a great light around her head and body. She was found to be pregnant — an immaculate conception again. The people of the village were very upset at this, and she had to go away from their village, and a wise man and his wife in another village took her into their home and looked after her. She brought forth Zarathushtra. His name means “Golden Star” (zaro, golden, ashter, star). That is the Zarathushtrian legend.
Let us look at the New Testament. You know how the Archangel Gabriel, who is the guardian of the eastern gate of Paradise, announces first the birth of the child who was to become John the Baptist. Six months later comes the Annunciation with regard to Mary whose child was to be Jesus. Now — the significance of the Archangel Gabriel, the guardian of the eastern gate of Paradise is this. Paradise is your own psychological living existent being, and the east symbolises the front of the body. Your face is the east, the back of the head and the back of the body are the west, the left side is the north and the right side is the south. You face the rising sun, you face the east in meditation. This guardian of the eastern gate of Paradise is the one who is directly mediating between the sun, the source of all life, and your own being. And it is Gabriel who makes the Annunciation to Mary who is a virgin. We all see the significance of virginity, the state of complete purity, the state of complete innocence. And innocence means not harming, the unharming state, the harmless state. When a man treads the Brahma path, lives the holy life, in its culmination he has become the completely harmless one. He harms no other creature, he harms not even himself. So he lives completely in the state of inward harmony as well as an external outward harmony. So this is the virgin state, the harmless, utterly pure state. And Mary represents the Transcendent feminine, because only the Transcendent feminine, holding the secret of Creation, can conceive immaculately. The manifested feminine, the feminine that is born, grows, and dies (with our psychophysical being we are born physically, we grow, we die), that feminine can only procreate through interaction with a mortal masculine. The sun for example represents the immortal masculine, God represents also the immortal masculine, the Sovereign Lord.
So, this Annunciation is made by the guardian of the eastern gate of Paradise. This guardian of the eastern gate of Paradise represents something like this. He represents that state of awareness when the living being, a Buddha, a Christ, a Perfected Holy One, fully realizes for himself and sees quite clearly that he is in communion with Transcendence itself, in that Transcendent state.
You know how it is put in Buddhism, that when all the cankers are destroyed, he sees with right wisdom that he is completely freed, and being completely freed there now is no more possibility of entering the conditioned state, any conditioned state (jāti, usually translated as birth or rebirth). But it refers to the conditioned state of the mind right down at the psychophysical level itself. The Transcendent mind never knows a conditioned state, it is always the free, the unconditioned, and its feminine aspect holds the secret of creativeness which puts out creation all the time through its creative activity without any consequence. There is no debt to pay back. Here at the manifested level there is the karmic process in the way that we understand it. But when all this is completed that Transcendent mind is completely at one with psyche. Psyche becomes purified. Mind itself is the pure thing to start with, there is nothing impure in Mind in itself because it is universal, it is Transcendent all the time. But that aspect of Mind which, commingling with body becomes one’s own psyche, is that which undergoes the touch of impurity, impurity in this case particularly meaning a state of ignorance, a state of loss of communion with Transcendence itself. The Perfected Holy One knows that this is the end of all conditioned states right down at the psychophysical level. There are tremendous implications to this.
This phenomenon of knowing this for a certainty is one of the meanings of the symbol of the Archangel Gabriel, guardian of the eastern gate of Paradise, who announces this. You will find the four similar correspondences in Hindu and particularly in Tibetan Buddhist teaching, the four guardians of the gates. But now you and I have to understand it in terms of our own living process. This is the religious life coming to fruition, not only coming to fruition but which has come to fruition. When it comes to fruition like this, the Immaculate Conception takes place. Take the New Testament form of it. You know how Mary consents, so to say, to be the instrument of the birth of Jesus. “Be it unto me according to thy word.” Bear in mind that Mary represents this feminine aspect of Transcendent Mind within your own being. (This is one of the things that Mary represents). When you or I awaken to that call, when we hear perhaps for the first time very clearly and distinctly the baying of the Hound of Heaven, there is no saying nay to that. That is the call, and one has thrilled, one has responded to this aspect which is Transcendent Mind within one’s own being. One gives oneself freely to being made awake. And then in course of time (this is of course a symbolical representation), the time cycle is over and the Divine Babe is born.
It is a curious thing that in various religions you find some sort of symbolical statement — the Divine Babe announces himself. In the case of Zarathushtra they say that he laughed. None of us do that when we are born. But our cry causes joy in the heart of the mother who bore us, it is a wonderful thing. Our cry symbolizes the conflict and the pain that is to come, as well as the passing pleasures and joys. But in the heart of the mother through whom this creation took place there is joy. You see how significant it is. So in course of time the Divine Babe is born. And what is this Divine Babe? It is this awakened consciousness that one’s own being, which appears a separate being, is indeed completely related to, subsumed within, the Transcendent One Total Reality. This refers to the full awakening of un-self-consciousness, otherwise we are separatively self-conscious. The element of separative selfness, the isolating selfness, which is the root source of the state of sin, of the sundered unity — that is completely out. When this happens, this has been expressed in various ways. You are the Enlightened One, or you are the Liberated One, or you are the Brahmaputra, the Son of Brahma, the Son of God. You yourself are that, but not you yourself in terms of the separatively self-conscious self. This psychophysical being which goes by one’s name is no longer the property of a mythical evil force which names itself “I am I” and not you or anything else. This psychophysical being then is the vehicle of Transcendence itself perfectly freely, and the energy of Transcendence flows in and out without let or hindrance. “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It is Transcendence which incarnates in you, the psychophysical manifestation, that is to say that it is already there potentially, and the bud has completely blossomed out into the flower.
After the blossoming out, (we will just look again at the New Testament story), you will notice how Mary the mother of Jesus comes very little into the whole story. She is almost a non-entity. We find her present when Jesus in the Temple, who is “on his Father’s business”, is reproached by Mary and by Joseph for causing so much anxiety when they lost him. Of course one might just as well ask them, “Well, what were you about that Jesus vanished out of your company?” Still, that is another matter. Mary comes in in that situation and then again on one or two other occasions and finally at the foot of the Cross. Jesus tells her and John, his beloved disciple, to look after each other. The name John represents the gift of God, and Mary represents the origin of all life, the source of life, (mare, the sea), symbolized by the sign Cancer zodiacally. And it is out of Cancer that the whole of organic life and consciousness emerges. Then we have John, the gift of God. What is the gift of God, or what are the gifts of God especially? Life and Death, Life and Other Life. Death is the supreme gift of God because it is the movement out of Life in terms of limited awareness and consciousness into Other Life where there is no limitation, no conditioned state, the unconditioned total awareness, the wholly enlightened state. That is why Death is the supreme gift of God. And that Death, which is the consummator and the perfecter, comes only through the Cross. (I am talking symbolically, I do not mean that we should all join some Christian sect) And the significance of the Cross is the complete relinquishment of selfness, and the power for the complete relinquishment of all selfness can only come through perfect purity, through perfect innocence, the harmless state, the virgin state. Try and feel out the significances of Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth. They are marvellous symbolisms right at the heart of our spiritual flowering and culmination and final realization. Christendom as a whole has lost this sort of understanding. It is interesting to see at least one or two of the reasons why it has lost this understanding. It has failed to see the full significance of Jesus’ statement, “I and my Father are one.” Take another of his statements. “I would not be telling this to you if my Father had not told it to me.” How does the ordinary good man, great man, teach? On authority, the authority of another, the authority of his own experience and realization and so forth. But all authority of that sort, which is ascribed to the particular, is a limiting authority in some way or other. It is not a totally liberating authority. But when the Father tells me, and I and the Father are one, all limitation, all evil as we may say, the whole sinful state are completely out of it. This is the supreme fruition. The Cross symbolizes all these things. It symbolizes the freedom from all evil. The sacrifice which is made thereby is the making sacred of that which is the outcome of creative activity at the Transcendent level and also now at the level of the appearance, the manifestation. Now at last the manifestation is no longer an extrusion out of Transcendence with the potentiality of embodied Transcendence in it, but the actual manifestation of Transcendence itself.
Let your inner sensitivity open itself out like a bud opens itself to the light of the sun, and feel this, really feel it, get merged into it, and watch, after all, we being what we are, how the intellect will interfere by raising up all kinds of thought-forms, verbal formulations, and it is these which become the fossilized dogmas that hold us imprisoned, these intellectualist thought-forms.
So when this inner sensitivity awakens — and this is the real meaning of meditation and the meditative process — the real creative activity goes on and the full embodiment and manifestation of Transcendence in the body itself takes place unhindered. But when these thought-forms arise, they arise because we as we are are not still in the wholly innocent state, the non-harming state, the pure state, the virgin state. We have to see them and utilize these thought-forms in the right way. The obstructions rise up from within us, true enough. It is these obstructions which we must allow to be crucified. In their being crucified they are transformed, and the energy which was locked up in these thought-forms becomes liberated psychically into perfecting your ability to allow that inner sensitivity, which is formless, which does not limit anything in the world, to grow and grow. The result then is that Psyche is in everlasting union with Eros. Psyche which is mortal has shed her mortality, because a mortal cannot be in union with the immortal without shedding the mortality.
All this sounds very nice in words, what does it mean in actual fact? The mind in its pure state will always see the truth, see reality unerringly. This is the fundamental ultimate meaning of the word pañña, as the Buddha used it, prājña, unerring insight. This is the state of omniscience of the Perfected Holy One. It is this inward sensitivity which is there, formless, shapeless, limitless. And as it acts from moment to moment it will throw out thought-shapes which it does not grasp at. It is the enquirer, the disciple, the listener who tends to catch hold of the thought-shape and stick to it. One may ask, “Well, what is the listener to do then?”, because after all in the act of communication through language you have to talk sensibly, grammatically, logically and so forth. This is perfectly true. Let the reader, the listener feel the stimulus of the thought-shape which is communicated, feel the stimulus of it and let it call forth the activity of his own inner sensitivity. This is my own experience for many, many years until one learns to get free of the limiting aspect of it. At first it will invariably arouse a tremendous amount of silent talk inside one. The intellect will be at work building up all sorts of wonderful cloud palaces which are quite palatial but somewhat cloudy! We get deceived by these that here is at last the eternal home in which I can live in peace for ever. Not at all. The moment you try to enter it you will find that the cloud is beginning to just vanish away. One has to go through these stages, there is no doubt about that. But as the clouds vanish beware of the other trouble which will crop up. You will either try to grasp that cloud shape and somehow or other preserve it, that is to say, raise up argument after argument to prove that what you thought, what you believed, is perfectly true. Don’t do that, let it go, let it go, let all the dust, which is just a layer over one, fall off, otherwise, “upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” Do you remember the words of the Lord to the serpent? And then through your own experience you will feel this inner sensitivity just growing and you will know that is all right and that you can trust it.
Remember some time back at one of our meetings we saw something like this. If you are riding your horse through a forest and somehow you have lost your path, the wise rider lets go of control over the horse and the horse finds his way out and brings you to safety. The horse, Pegasus, the Winged Horse! When this inner sensitivity awakens like this you will be riding your own winged horse, and there are no specific directions which you have to take. In that Immensity which is the totality of life, there are no paths, and that Immensity is Truth, the Truth which cannot be shaped and held fossilized in that particular shape. Therefore this winged horse just flies perfectly freely through it, and you and the horse are one. But this releasing of this inner sensitivity of the mind is part of the specific great purpose of the existence of us human beings on the face of the globe. And herein is one aspect of the fulfilment of our human destiny.
Now just a few words apropos of what we were considering earlier may not come amiss. You recall that I mentioned that Zarathushtra is said to have laughed when he was born. Jesus when he was born was the Divine Babe. When Siddhattha Gotama was born, a famous astrologer comes along and predicts that he will be a Buddha or a universal monarch. Strictly speaking he could have said that he will be a universal monarch as a Buddha, which is literally true. The question arises, how is it then, if these beings are born like that, or at least that is the stylised picture we make of them, that they experience tribulation and they go through the temptation? If you take the classic example of the Buddha, the temptation is in the form of just the straightforward passions and so on that we humans experience. You know the temptation as presented in the case of Jesus, lordship over the earth and all the rest of it, the kingdoms of the world. How is it that the one who is supposed to be born perfect, is the incarnation of deity, of Transcendence, goes through this? What do you think it means? You would say it suggests vicarious atonement? Yes, indeed, that is one way of looking at it.
Let us try and penetrate into it in terms of what it means for us ourselves as we attempt to live the religious life, the holy life. There comes the point when in the disciplinary process one is stirring up energies which otherwise remain dormant and inactive throughout our life, that is to say, inactive in terms of obvious manifestation. You remember how I have said over and over again that meditation, deep prayer, aspiration of any sort, energizes all aspects of our nature, what we call the good as well as what we call the bad. Both aspects are energized, because any specifically directed effort, physical or mental, is a case of the utilization of energy, of power. This is where the power aspect comes in. The result of going through the process of attentiveness, as Krishnamurti presents it, the result of the practice of samādhi, of meditation, or of the mystical, the Christian, the Sufi and various other disciplines, where deep prayer, abstraction from the world as it is called, are concerned, and the entry into the inner world of God or Reality or whatever you like to say — the result of all those cases is that this energy, which is of the nature of the Transcendent energy, gets stirred up into activity. It is let loose upon us, upon our own being and from within our own being. When that energy gets stirred up, what happens to the psychical obstructions which are already there in our own nature, our desires, our failings, our vices as we call them, as well as our so-called virtues? They are all in the way. Pure light is utterly transparent, invisible. Every other colour, shape, form is in the way, is it not, however beautiful it may be, however attractive it may be, however good it may seem in terms of duality. But in terms of that unitary wholeness which is Transcendence it is an obstruction. In the lives of these Holy Ones, which are after all lives which start like ours in actual fact despite the symbolic pictures we make of them afterwards, of starting with perfection, in their lives too, just as with us, this gets stirred up. And it gets stirred up not only from within but also this stirring up takes place in the whole environment. This is where your vicarious atonement idea comes in. I have now and again drawn attention to this fact. Each of us has his own body which is a mass of solids and liquids enclosed within a skin and a certain amount of air which we breathe in and breathe out. We may quite legitimately say, “That is my thumb and this is my knee, and this is my head, and not the thumb or knee of anybody else.” But what about the air we breathe? Whose air is it? If I say that, having breathed it in it is my air, all right, then when I breathe it out and you breathe it in, because it all diffuses throughout the room, whose air are you breathing? Is that you, is that me, is that the other fellow? Similarly with the psyche.
The psychical forces are universally present right through the atmosphere. We charge the whole atmosphere with every psychical energy we send out. If you are the Perfected Holy One, you have ceased to send out, to generate, any ill forces, which obstruct the pure light of Transcendence, but everyone else around you has not done so, so those forces are constantly pouring in upon you. Of course you being a centre of purity (and according to the power and intensity of that purity), this sort of thing could happen — that those psychical waves perhaps rebound back. But I feel very strongly that they do not do anything of the sort. They go right into the Holy One and there comes a critical point. This critical point is recorded as the temptation, the stirring up. It is the last possibility of reaction to that which obstructs the pure light, the Transcendence, from functioning through that living being. As the Buddha says, “This is the last jāti.” Never again another conditioned state, never again an ill state, an evil state. It is the last time it happens. And what happens after that? The psychical forces come right into the Holy One from outside, they are completely absorbed and transmuted, they are not sent hurtling back upon the world. You know how the man of the world, insensitive to these very, very deep aspects of the psyche and of Transcendence, is inclined to say somewhat scornfully, “What do these Holy Ones do just sitting doing nothing?” Of course this man really does not know what the Holy One is doing. The cynical man of the world may turn round on me and say, “Oh, yes, yes, we have heard that sort of thing before. But come, come, tell me what is he doing?” All right, consider this. Here is an inn or a pub. The cynical man of the world is present having his drink with his friends. Schubert or Beethoven is also having a little glass, and what is Beethoven doing besides having his glass? Does the man of the world know? There are things stirring inside there out of which comes perfect beauty. The sin of the man of the world, the disharmony, the discord in that psyche, absorbed in the psyche of the great creative musician and transformed, come out as eternal beauty. So too with the Holy Man.
I have said these few things for a special reason. We will try during these days to deal with this kind of Transcendent energy at play. But bear this in mind, there is this tremendous stirring up which takes place. It may not take place at once, it may never take place at all. But if the effort at meditation is sufficiently strong you may feel the effects immediately or, later on, especially what you go back to the old milieu which is not so happy and peaceful as this milieu, you will get the thunderstorm coming. Remember, lovely sunny weather means that the water from the rivers and the oceans is evaporating, and somewhere, somehow, there will be thunder and lightning and down will come the rain! But do not forget that that thunder and lightning purify the atmosphere, and the lightning specially, and it produces the oxides of nitrogen which the rain brings down, fertilizes the earth and supplies essential nitrogen to the soil. So, bear that in mind too. This is where, if you understand these things, the absorptiveness in your psyche takes place, the heart opens out and takes it in. And love matures within the heart, this power to take it all in matures within the heart. It is one of the most powerful influences for the end of all hate.
At the last group weekend we saw that the origin of love lies in that Transcendent timeless conjugation of the male and the female, aspects of this one Transcendent energy in its first proliferation. This happens in your consciousness, remember, it does not happen somewhere there, beyond the skies or something, it happens in you and in me. This is the important thing to remember, this is where the presentation today is quite different from all the old presentations. Apart from the esoteric wisdom as directly given out by the teacher to his personal disciples, all those old presentations externalised Transcendent Reality. This is where the split, the sinful state has remained. Now we must from the housetops make it quite clear that everything is the One Total Reality, Transcendence itself, in that sense Transcendent, not Transcendent as opposite to imminent or anything else. This is the origin of love in the great sense, and the secret of the creative power lies in the feminine aspect. You may say, then what on earth does the male do? The male stimulates by presence, the presence of the positive stimulates the so-called negative which in itself holds the duals which start up the becoming process. This is the great mystery. There are the positive-positive which is the male and the positive-negative which is the female. You look at an atom of hydrogen, the positive proton is at the centre and the electron moves around it. The proton does nothing, the electron does everything in all the chemical elements, the fundamental elements of which the whole Cosmos is made up, carbon, hydrogen and all the rest of it. This is the structure of the atom, in the centre the nucleus consisting of the positively charged proton and the negative electrons which are completely responsible for the properties and chemical activities of that chemical element. They do all the doing, and this un-doing central nucleus has to be there in order that the electrons may be held and may make up that little cosmos, the microcosmos which is the atom. It is a marvel, is it not?
In the same way wisdom is the real Abba, the Father. If you look at the Qabalah from the Infinite, from the completely indescribable, inconceivable Infinite, the next emanation is hokmah, wisdom, which stimulates binah, intelligence. Binah holds the duals, hokmah, does nothing. But the presence of this wisdom is what stimulates this intelligence for the whole evolutionary process. It all happens in consciousness, remember, in your consciousness. This Transcendent feminine in each and every one of us, whether it is a male body or a female body, this Transcendent feminine which is utter purity, utter innocence, holds the whole secret of creativeness and creative action. Just see what happens if the mind will dwell upon it quietly. Do not look for happenings, happenings will go on, just let attention rest in peace upon that Transcendent feminine which holds the secret of creative action.
Talk failed at: Mary at foot of cross.
Thankfulness for transcription. Very interesting. Thank you.
Tom, 23rd January 2020