Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The laborers in the vineyard, part I

 This morning, I was reading Cynthia Bourgeault's  The Wisdom Jesus, which is, I think, a fine book for those looking for an introduction to some of the inner meanings of Christian teachings.

In it, she brings up one of the more difficult — she thinks, the most difficult — parable to understand, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1 – 15.

 Cynthia sees this parable as an example of "consciousness-training." And this analogy is a good one, presented in light of her suggestion that Christian teaching is an operating system, or an inner technology.

After reading her commentary, I found I wanted to make some remarks of my own about this parable.

Most interpretations of the gospel devolve towards an outer level — this is our inevitable tendency. And we must always, first and forever, remember this particular phrase of Christ's whenever he speaks of the kingdom of heaven:

 the kingdom of heaven is within.

 So, as always, this parable is a teaching about our inner state and our organization. However we characterize it, it is a spiritual teaching — one aimed at the transformation not of any outer understanding of community or labor, but an understanding of the soul and how it functions.

In this case, the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a householder. Already, this is interesting enough in itself; because a householder is an ordinary man, Gurdjieff's obyvatel. That is to say, although the kingdom of heaven may look very "special" to us from "outside", everything about it is actually quite ordinary. In this way, with a single deft comment, Christ reminds us that the kingdom of heaven ought to be our ordinary, and properly ordered, relationship with ourselves and with God.

This ordinary man, this householder – who by implication is simply a man responsible to himself and others, that is, one who takes responsibility for who they are and what their relationships consist of, in an inner sense — goes out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.

To go out early in the morning is to get there first — which is exactly what Gurdjieff's Karapet of Tiflis does, albeit in an arch and roundabout way. The point of this is that one has to start out from the beginning with the intention of inner work, that is, the kingdom of heaven carries with it not only an ordinary attitude, that of the responsible householder, but also the ordinary aim of taking care of business in a routine way, and finding the right labor — the right inner parts — to take care of the business of the household. In this case, it is tending the garden — which dovetails back into the parable of the sower and other parables about seeds and growth. This parable, in other words, is a part of that group of teachings about helping the inner roots of one's Being to grow deeper.

The laborers agree to "a penny;" actually, a denarius,  the standard wage for an unskilled day laborer. The householder isn't special, and neither are his laborers; everyone is going about their business in a quite ordinary and workmanlike way, for ordinary wages. So this inner work of the kingdom of heaven, this inner work of the soul, is once again not some elevated territory of superior position, faith, understanding, and so on; it is, in a certain sense, the daily inner life of the soul, that is, all of the ordinary and routine experience that takes place within.

In the parable, the householder continues to organize labor throughout the day, and add to it. That is, there is first of all of an order; and as soon as the organization takes place — the initial hiring of the laborers — the owner goes out to recruit more labor.

Now, we will get to something very interesting indeed about this parable in tomorrow's post. Don't forget to come back!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the ref. This person was recommended to me not so long ago...I'll be back...merry xmas :)


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