Last revised: 5 April 2008.
Who will be saved?
Who among us shall see God? When we ask ourselves that question, different answers might arise. We might soon find ourselves in bitter disagreement with our fellows as to who shall be saved and who not.
In fact, over the centuries, a deep and bitter quarrel has developed on the subject, resulting in endless, deadly conflicts with ironic names like "holy wars" and "crusades." We have committed the most disgraceful behaviour in the name of God.
But all this division and conflict is spiritually unwarranted, or so we shall find out here. The differences and divisions that have sprung up between us have no independent reality to them.
Let us take the example of quarreling over whose God is God. Sri Ramakrishna thought it ridiculous to dispute such a thing. He had followed several religious paths to their end and found their destination was always the same nameless, formless God.
I have practiced all religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity – and I have also followed the paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God toward whom all are directing their steps, though along different paths. ... Wherever I look, I see men quarrelling in the name of religion – Hindus, Mohammedans, Brahmos [a small sect of westernized Hindu intellectuals], Vaishnavas [worshippers of Vishnu], and the rest. But they never reflect that He who is called Krishna is also called Siva, and bears the name of the Primal Energy [also called the Divine Mother or Holy Spirit], Jesus, and Allah as well – the same Rama with a thousand names. A lake has several ghats. At one, the Hindus take water in pitchers and call it ‘jal’; at another the Mussalmans take water in leather bags and call it ‘pani.’ At a third the Christians call it ‘water’, Can we imagine that it is not ‘jal’, but only ‘pani’ or ‘water’? How ridiculous! The substance is One under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance; only climate, temperament, and name create differences. (1)
What lies at the root of our religious and social conflict?
Ego lies at the root of our conflict
At the root of the world’s conflict is the ego. The ego is our sense of ourselves as separate selves. The ego is comprised of our thoughts. In fact, it as if we wander through life immersed in a cloud of thoughts. This cloud of thoughts keeps us from seeing God. It is the only real barrier to enlightenment, but it is no easy barrier to remove. Usually, when the mind is stilled, the ego quieted, we are able to know God.
We discover on the spiritual path that the ego is persuasive but unreal. We find that we are not, after all, separate selves, but the Universal Spirit. But, until we are enlightened, the ego seems very real and persuasive. It is the source of our wanting. It thrives on action and excitement, friction and quarrels. It craves to feel right, justified, and validated, and, worst-case scenario, will lash out at those it thinks threaten it or any of its interests.
It attaches itself at an early age to what it considers “me and mine.” In later years that attachment expands to include the “us and ours” of family. It can expand to include a block, a neighbourhood, a school district, a city, a province, a nation.
Finally, after acquiring things, it feels the need to hold onto them and creates a self-interest, an agenda, which eventually it comes to share with others. Up rises the notion of "our side" and "their side."
"Our side" can be anything -- a club, nation, or religion. We bend all our efforts to see that "our side and what belongs to our side" thrive.
One of the ways in which ego shows itself in the religious world is to maintain that only our side will reach paradise or heaven. Is it accurate to say that only one group will be saved and the rest will be lost? Can any enlightened master be found who teaches such a thing?
Redemption is promised for all
In fact none can. The masters are unanimous that all of us will be saved, that redemption is not exclusive to one faith, but the birthright of all. They are united and unequivocal in saying that exclusivity is not true. Universality is true. Everyone will see God. Everyone is destined to enter Heaven. Some sooner; some later; but all will eventually.
Let us listen to Sri Ramakrishna teaching his devotees the truth of universal redemption, another Design Element of God's Divine Plan for life.
All will surely realize God. All will be liberated. It may be that some get their meal in the morning, some at noon, and some in the evening; but none will go without food. All, without any exception, will certainly know the real Self. (2)
The Mother will not allow any of her children to go hungry. He who is hungry in the morning will be fed in the morning. He whose appetite is aroused late in the evening will be fed in the evening. (3)
Everybody will surely be liberated. (4)
Jesus taught this as well in his mystical teaching that “Wisdom is justified of her children.” (5) In the Biblical code, who is “Wisdom”?
As we shall see, "Wisdom" is another name (popular in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha), for the Holy Spirit or Divine Mother (For examples of sages calling the Holy Spirit "Wisdom," see footnote 6). We are Her children.
God has charged the Mother-Spirit with creating and administering the natural law. The purpose of the natural law is to educate us and keep us moving towards our goal: knowledge of God the Father. The Child or Son of God works hand-in-hand with the Divine Mother or Holy Spirit to bring all lost sheep back to God. This whole book is a description of how that happens.
God has commanded that all should return to Him after wandering in the world, without one being lost. When each individual does, Wisdom is justified of Her Child. When all of us do, Wisdom is justified of Her Children. God's Plan is to see that all of us, all points of consciousness, go out into the world, realize Him, and return, at which time Wisdom, the Holy Spirit or Divine Mother, is justified of all Her Children.
"Universal" vs. "exclusive" redemption
Everyone will eat; some in the morning, some in the afternoon, and some in the evening. This is universal redemption. There is no trace of exclusivity here; God, it would seem, has no partiality.
Sri Krishna, an Incarnation of the Divine, taught this truth to Arjuna:
Is born for perfection
And each shall attain it
Will he but follow
His nature's duty. (7)
He does not equivocate: All are destined for perfection and each shall attain it. There is room for great rejoicing here.
I wish to turn again to Jesus in a minute. But before I do, I'd like to communicate how I see him. In my view, Jesus is an “avatar” or a “descent of the Divine” into the world and is similar in this respect to Rama, Krishna, Ramakrishna, Anandamoyi Ma, and Mata Amritanandamayi ("Ammachi"). Jesus declared that he was avatar in the following passage:
Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. (8)
Sri Ramakrishna was given a vision of Jesus during which Jesus merged in his physical form. In the spiritual sense, Sri Ramakrishna "knew" Jesus in a way that you and I could only wish to. His considered opinion of Jesus was that he was a Divine Incarnation of God, as the following story makes clear.
One day at Dakshineswar a Christian minister was brought to meet Sri Ramakrishna.
Shivanath Shastri told Sri Ramakrishna: “Sir, one of my Christian friends has come to see you. Having heard of you from me, he was very eager to meet you.”
On hearing this Sri Ramakrishna bowed his head to the ground and said: “I bow again and again at the feet of Jesus Christ.”
Surprised at such [an] utterance, Rev. Sannyal said: “How is it, sir, that you bow at the feet of Christ? What do you think of Him?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Why, I look upon him as an Avatara [Incarnation of God].”
Rev. Sannyal: “Incarnation of God! Will you kindly explain what you mean by it? Is he one like Krishna and the others?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, exactly like that. An incarnation like our Rama and Krishna. Don’t you know there is a passage in the Bhagavata where it is said that the incarnations of ... the Supreme Being are innumerable?” (9)
I would like now to turn to Jesus’ teachings because Jesus’ use of the first-person pronoun “I” for the Christ rather than for the man Jesus, I think, has escaped many people, leading to the conclusion that only followers of Jesus will be saved. I don’t think this is what Jesus meant.
What Jesus Meant by “I” and the “Christ”
To interpret all the passages in Jesus’s teachings where he used “I” to refer to the Christ rather than to his person is a large task, beyond the scope of this book. Of necessity, I must restrict myself to a few passages. Speaking as the Christ, the Light of the world, Jesus said:
And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (10)
What has the Father sent into the world? The Father has sent fragments of himself, a shower of divine, eternal sparks, into the world. The Transcendental Himself has entered the Womb of the Mother and is born into the world as the Son, Christ, or Self in each of us.
To this Christ was given the task of losing no person but saving all on the last day of mortality and the first day of immortality. All people, all Children of God, all beings in whose heart the Christ, Atman, or Buddha-nature dwells, will be raised up in enlightenment on the day that separates their unliberated from their liberated existence.
Every one who sees the Son, the Christ, the Light of the world, and who focuses on that Light (and we shall hear examples, below, of aspirants who do) shall have that liberation – that “everlasting life.” The Christ, the Light of the world, will raise him up on the last day.
The First Sight of the Christ
Later chapters will examine what the event of liberation looks like, but in this chapter I would like to examine what the first sight of the Christ looks like. Let us listen to masters who have “seen the light” in the experience of illumination that occurs when the spiritual energy, or kundalini, reaches the fourth or heart chakra (not to be confused with the spiritual heart). Hindus call this event “spiritual awakening” and Buddhists call it “stream entering.”
The fourth center of consciousness (anahata) is in the region of the heart. Spiritual awakening comes when the mind rises to this center. At this stage man has a spiritual vision of the Divine Light and is struck with wonder at its beauty and glory. His mind then no longer runs after worldly pleasures. (13)
God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts. (14)
A wonderful light arose within my soul. In it I recognized the nature of God and man. (15)
In the abyss of this darkness in which the loving spirit has died to itself, God's revelation and eternal life have their origin, for in this darkness an incomprehensible light is born and shines forth; this is the Son of God, in whom a person becomes able to see and to contemplate eternal life. (16)
It is Christ, the light of truth, who says, "See," and it is through him that we are able to see, for he is the light of the Father, without which there is no light in heaven or on earth. (17)
Ralph Waldo Emerson
No man ever forgot the visitations of that power to his heart and brain, which created all things new; which was the dawn in him of music, poetry, and art. (18)
I sat crosslegged in the meditation posture. When I had sat thus for some time, I felt myself going out of my body. I saw myself sitting down with the delicate tender leaves of the tree over me. I was facing the east. In front of me was my body and over my head I saw the Star, bright and clear. ... There was such profound calmness both in the air and within myself, the calmness of the bottom of a deep and unfathomable lake. Like the lake, I felt my physical body, with its mind and emotions, could be ruffled on the surface but nothing, nay nothing, could disturb the calmness of my soul. ... I was supremely happy, for I had seen. Nothing could ever be the same. I have drunk at the clear and pure waters at the source of the fountain of life and my thirst was appeased. Never more could I be thirsty, never more could I be in utter darkness; I have seen the Light. I have touched compassion which heals all sorrow and suffering.... Love in all its glory has intoxicated my heart; my heart can never be closed. I have drunk at the fountain of Joy and eternal Beauty. I am God-intoxicated. (19)
John Ruusbroec testifies that the brilliant light he saw was “the Son of God, in whom a person becomes able to see and contemplate eternal life.” In my opinion, this universal Light is the Son of God that Jesus was referring to when he used the first person “I.”
If we read Ruusbroec’s passages carefully, we will recognize in them the parables that Jesus used. I will restrict myself to the parable of the treasure buried in a field, but other parables could be used. (20) Ruusbroec seeing in the darkness an incomprehensible Light is like the man who comes upon a treasure buried in a field. The Light is buried in the field of the human body; specifically, in the spiritual heart.
Ruusbroec contemplating eternal life is the same as the man selling all that he had. Remember that Sri Ramakrishna said a man no longer runs after worldly pleasures after spiritual awakening. The significance of the man selling all he has is that he divests himself of all other desires save that of owning the treasure, which he now knows but does not possess.
Having focused himself upon that Light – that is, selling all that he has -- Ruusbroec now reaches the point of seeing the Light of the Father. Owning the treasure is the same as seeing the redemptive Light of the Father. The day of seeing that Light is “the last day.” The man has been raised up. Thus, as Ruusbroec helps us to see, Jesus’ parables are mystical teachings on how to gain the Light of the Father through the Light of the Son.
Jacob Boehme recognized the nature of God and man in that mysterious light. When speaking of this Light, neither Boehme nor Ruusbroec is referring to the man Jesus, but to the Light that the Christ is.
All living beings have in their hearts this same Light, this Child of God, or Christ. It is our original, unborn, and undying nature. It has been called the divine spark, (21) the fire always burning on the altar, (22) and a fireband plucked from the burning. (23)
In another place, Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (24) and “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (25) These two passages have been used by some to indicate that only Christians will be saved.
But we can see now, from Ruusbroec’s description, that contemplating the Christ-Light is in fact the Way to the Father, who is the Truth and the Life (that is, the end of the need to be reborn in matter). That same Christ-Light is to Hindus the Atman and Buddhists, the Buddha-nature. It would be an error on our part, therefore, to suggest that Hindus contemplating the Atman and Buddhists contemplating the Buddha nature would not reach salvation; they are contemplating the Christ-Light as well as Christians are – with just a change of terminology.
The Christ is the Self
Given that the Christ is our own true Self, another way of saying that the Christ is the way to God is to say “know thyself if you wish to know God.” Knowing our Self is the way to know God. The Self is the Christ and penetrating into It leads us to the All-Self or the Father.
The twentieth-century American mystic Franklin Merrell-Wolff demurred from confusing the man Jesus with the Christ. Merrell-Wolff knows the Christ as the Self through his own experience.
“No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Thus spake Jesus. But many heard, though few understood, and so they sought the Father through belief in a man who dwelt for a short time upon this earth. But no man is ‘I,’ since ‘man’ is an object while I AM [is] always the subject. Hence, to translate the above quotation as meaning, ‘no man cometh unto the Father but by Jesus,’ is completely to change its meaning. (26)
According to Merell-Wolff, Jesus was saying that no man approacheth the Father except by the Self, the universal subject. In knowing the transcendental Self, we shall know God.
Only through the ‘I’ is Identity realized. Approached in any other way, God is ever something other than the seeker and, therefore at a distance. To come to the Father is to be one with the Father, and this can be achieved only through the pure Subject or the SELF. (27)
There is wide agreement among other masters that knowing the Self is the way to know the Father.
Whoever sees his nature is a buddha. (28)
To attain enlightenment without seeing your nature is impossible. (29)
To know God is not an easy matter, until one becomes a knower of one's self. (30)
Knowledge of self is the key to knowledge of God, according to the saying: "He who knows himself knows God." (31)
Anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing
Strain every nerve in every possible way to know and experience yourself as you really are [i.e., as the Christ-Light]. It will not be long, I suspect, before you have a real knowledge and experience of God as he is. (32)
St. Catherine of Genoa
My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me except my God Himself. (33)
Sri Yukteswar Giri
The highest aim of religion is Atma-jnanam, Self-knowledge. (34)
Thus, God has laid down that we must approach Him by knowing ourselves first.
As divine sparks or Children of God, we are joint-heirs with the Christ that Jesus was. (33B) When we realize our true and full identity as that Son of God, one with the Father, we will have fulfilled the purpose for which we were born. We will be fully enlightened. The lost lamb, the Prodigal Child, will have left behind the things of the world and come Home.
In my view, then, Jesus does not promise salvation only to those who follow Jesus the man. The Christ in all creation promises it freely to all, by virtue of our being the Children of God. There are no strings attached to our birthright. There may be strings attached to when we shall inherit it.
The crooked shall be made straight
Let us examine two other examples of sages predicting universal redemption. In this case, we are not listening to an avatar, a Descent of the Divine, like Jesus, Krishna, or Ramakrishna. We are listening to two enlightened masters -- Isaiah and Lao-Tzu -- who say strangely parallel things.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it. (35)
All of us shall be perfected or made straight. Once we are perfected, all of us shall see and know God.
Lao Tzu makes the same prediction.
The crooked shall be made straight
And the rough places plain;
The pools shall be filled
And the worn renewed….
The saying of the men of old
Is not in vain:
“The crooked shall be made straight” -
To be perfect, return to it. (36)
All human beings shall be made straight, their hills and valleys levelled, their pools filled, resulting one day in universal redemption. All can and will return to their original perfection and be redeemed.
So … we are not the ego. We are aware of how much death and destruction has arisen by thinking that our side will be saved and the other side won't. God is not on our side exclusively; God is on all sides universally. By thinking in confused ways, we have divided ourselves into tribes and camps, circles and stripes. Unfortunate and mistaken ways of being have arisen and endlessly multiplied. They did so because of our misidentification with the ego and all of its states, moods, and desires.
We have come upon two more Design Elements of God's Plan for Life: (1) our nature as we have just described it; and (2) the known outcome (universal redemption) of the cosmic drama that we are all involved in.
In regards to the first, our nature is that of the Self, Christ, or Child of God – a Firebrand plucked from the Burning. In regards to the second, all of us have God's Promise that we will be reunited with the Fire one day.
Both these Design Elements are in fact our inheritance, our legacy, our birthright. They are intrinsic to us, inalienable. The situation cannot be changed by act of legislature. It does not bend before religious edict. A dictator could not make the situation different even if he killed us in the process (and we begged for mercy). We are all Children of God and we are all bound for salvation.
What difference does knowing this make?
When it is known that we all are Children of God, that all are loved by Him and destined to be redeemed, each one of us faces a choice. Do we continue to conduct ourselves as if only our fellows in faith will sit on the Right Hand of God? Or do we drop that false notion and see things as the masters say they are?
We were not designed to push the service of our own projected self-interest into areas where it works to the detriment of others. Why not? Because life will push back. And why is that? Apparently, because God has designed it that way.
Viewed from a pragmatic social angle, gone is any valid basis for such views as master races and subject races, “ethnic cleansing” and genocide, crusades or jihads, slavery, dictatorship, class domination. Gone is any valid basis for male enslavement and mistreatment of women or the exploitation of children.
Viewed from a personal angle, gone is any valid basis for my asserting myself over others to their detriment. It has to be win/win. We are all of us Brothers and Sisters, Children of God, part of the same family, and universally bound for redemption.
Our entire worldview could shift if we allowed it. The "hundredth-monkey" effect might tip us into global religious tolerance as we realize that we are all Spiritual Brothers and Sisters, on the road to mutually-assured perfection.
One event will occur regardless of whatever else happens. The basis of all subordinating (superior vs. inferior) worldviews is, by these revelations, removed. The secret is out: there is no superior or inferior to be found anywhere. Spiritually, we are all equal and alike, in nature and in destiny.
Having settled that question, what path will lead us to God? Is it only the one we follow?
For full details on these sources, see Bibliography
(1) GSR, 35.
(2) GSR, 818.
(3) RAWSH, 172.
(4) Ibid., 98.
(5) Luke 7:35.
(6) See, for instance, Isaiah's appositives: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom. “ (Isaiah 11:2.) Or Solomon's, in the Apocrypha:
”And who has learned your counsel
Unless you gave him wisdom,
And sent your holy spirit from on high.”
("Wisdom of Solomon" in APO, 195.)
Compare with St. John of the Cross:
”The Spouse ... is the Wisdom of God.” St. John of the Cross in CWSJC, 75. “This flame of love is the Spirit of the Bridegroom, which is the Holy Spirit.” (St. John of the Cross in CWSJC, 580.)
(7) BG, 126.
(8) John 8: 23.
(9) FMSR, 106-7.
(10) John 6:39-40.
(11) John 16:28.
(12) I Corinthians 15:24 and 28.
(13) Sri Ramakrishna cited in Usha, RVW, 25.
(14) II Corinthians 4:6.
(15) CC, 183.
(16) JR, 147
(17) Ibid., 74.
(18) ESS, 166.
(19) KYA, 171-2.
(20) Jesus in Matthew 13:44.
(21) Omraam Michael Aivanhov, LAS, Part 1, 22; also Meister Eckhart in Huxley, PP, 15-6.
(22) Leviticus 6:13.
(23) Amos 4:1.
(24) John 14:6.
(25) John 10:9.
(26) PTS, 19.
(27) Loc. Cit.
(28) ZTB, 5.7
(29) Ibid., 9.
(30) KK, 3.
(31) AH, 19.
(32) CU, 71.
(33) PP, 11.
(34) HS, 6.
(35) Isaiah 40:3-5.
(36) WOL, 22, 74.