We visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, The River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Ephesus, the last home of Mother Mary, and a few more places besides. It was a truly life-transforming voyage organized beautifully by Ibis Kaba, her Life Journeys team and Hay House.
One highlight, among many, was our visit to the mountain where Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. Sister Mary Rose, from the Church of the Beatitudes, granted special permission for us to hold an open-air lecture on the Mount.
We gathered at 3pm. The afternoon sun was bright, soft and warm. Five hundred white chairs had been laid out beneath the trees near the church. The cool wind blew through the branches of the tall trees. While everyone took their seat, I watched a small white butterfly flying in-between us and over and above us.
Ibis Kaba, Anita Moorjani, Immaculée Ilibagiza and I took turns in addressing our group of fellow pilgrims.
In my talk, I gave a mystical interpretation of the Beatitudes. The word beatitude comes from the Latin noun beātitūdō, which means “happiness”.
I began by explaining that Christian mystics recognize most scriptures offer three levels of meaning. The first is the level of stone, which conveys the literal, written meaning of the words; the second is the level of water, when the words speak to your heart; and the third is the level of wine, when water turns to wine, and you have a direct experience of the spiritual meaning of the words.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In truth, no one is poor in spirit. Spirit is a state of grace forever. It’s an experience of wholeness, oneness and infinite possibility. To enter spirit, however, we must be poor. We come with wholly empty hands to the divine. We say, “I am nothing, without the Divine.” We come with an open mind. We don’t bring our theology to God; we let God teach us about what God is, who we are, and what our life is for. We come with a humble heart, and we make ourselves available to God’s love, wisdom and guidance.
To be poor in spirit is to be an empty cup. Like the Buddhist teaching of Śūnyatā, the blessed are those who realize that a separate ego-self is an illusion. When we give up our ego identity we experience the kingdom of heaven, which is the fullness and oneness of creation.
2. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
The spiritual path is a journey without distance from an ego-identity to a soul-identity. It’s a journey from Jesus to Christ, from Siddhartha to Buddha. We have to let go of the idea that we are a body and a separate self. We let go of our story about who we think we are. This letting go feels like a death. It’s a necessary death if we are to be reborn in spirit. The rebirth is a remembering of our original soul nature.
The ancient Greeks described the spiritual path as a preparation for a metanoia – an inner transformation in which we realize we are not a body with a soul; rather, we are a soul with a body. When we experience this holy shift in identity we often wander about in the wilderness, mourning the death of the old ego-self. “Who am I now?” we ask. We feel lost. And yet, comfort is at hand. The Angels rush to meet us, and to bring us home to the Self that God made.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The ego-self is a self that is permanently under construction. In an effort to make the ego feel more real, we inflate ourselves and we make ourselves bigger, better and superior in some way. We focus our efforts not on being, but on having and getting and making ourselves into something. If we were to stop doing this, we would relax, and the sense of a separate self would give-way to our true nature.
In ancient Greek, the word meek means “tamed.” To be meek means to surrender. It means Thy Will, not my will. The Sufi poet Rumi tells a story about being meek.
A seeker knocked on the door of Heaven.
“Who is there?” a Voice asked.
“It is I,” said the seeker
There was no reply.
“IT IS I,” yelled the seeker
There was still no reply.
Growing desperate, the seeker bashed upon
the door several times, hoping to be heard.
Eventually, the seeker stopped.
“It is thou,” said the seeker.
‘Enter,’ said the voice, ‘for I am within.”
This third beatitude reminds us that we have an inheritance from the Divine that’s always available to us. We receive this inheritance when we give up our own individual plans, our own will, and we make ourselves available to the Big Plan for our life.
4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.
In mystic Christianity, the word “hunger” has a relationship to the level of stone and to hearing the “truth.” We hunger after the truth. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray. Yet, deep down, we know that “Man does not live by bread alone.” We also thirst for something higher. The word “thirst” relates to the level of water and to allowing the “truth” to speak to our heart. When you want something with your entire mind and with all your heart, you will be filled with what you want.
The word “righteousness” refers here to our basic goodness. The mystic Julian of Norwich wrote, “As the body is clothed in cloth and the muscles in the skin and the bones in the muscles and the heart in the chest, so are we, body and soul, clothed in the Goodness of God and enclosed.” We hunger and thirst for an experience of our original goodness – our own innocence – and when we let ourselves experience it we feel like we are delivered from hell (the illusion of separation) back to heaven (the place of Oneness).
This is the first four beatitudes. In my next blog post, I will present a mystic interpretation of the final four beatitudes. Until then, I encourage you to take these first four holy attitudes into each day and allow yourself to experience holy joy, guidance and abundance.