Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The mustard seed, part I

Colonial farmhouse, High Falls, NY

When I was first getting sober over 33 years ago, I usually attended a raucous and irreverent AA meeting called the mustard seed on east 37th street in NYC.

There comes a time in inner work where one must realize that one is personally responsible for everything.

The inner teaching becomes subservient to the Lord; this is the point at which one acknowledges that all of the transactions one has sought to broker through various outer forms are null and void. Every spiritual transaction becomes one of essence; each and every action is related first to inner Being and its effect, and only then and afterwards has anything to do with the outward world.

In this way I grow closer to my spiritual core and my personal spiritual truth, which is actually a secret and can't be externalized or communicated to others. I own it in a way that relates to the inner roots that grow within me; and I tend this inner growth, this mustard plant, in order that higher influences (the birds of the sky) can come and roost in me—that is, give birth to a new and higher inner order.

The parable is apt, and the comparison quite exact, because the kingdom of heaven is within us. (Luke 17:21.) When Christ compares it to a mustard seed and plant, he's directly referring to the growth of the tree of the soul. The almost comic, outwardly directed interpretations cited in the Wikipedia entry on this parable show how very little academics can possibly understand about such matters; anyone who has sensed the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven within them will realize Christ's words are quite literal, if properly understood.

Note that the parable says the man takes a mustard seed and puts it in his own garden. His growth of inner Being is intentional; and it is in his own garden, that is, he becomes entirely responsible for tending that inner garden, which brings me back to the first point, that is, one is personally responsible for everything.

This is a most important point, because everyone, almost without exception (there are a few) wants someone else or some other thing to be responsible for their inner work. One wants one's teacher or guru to be responsible; or one wants one's church or temple, priest or minister, to be responsible. One even, at the end of things, wants God to be responsible, even though God's greatest and most fervent wish is that we become responsible for ourselves. If we become responsible for our garden, the mustard seed, and the plant that grows from it, only then do the birds of the air come to nest.

This responsibility is an inner responsibility. It is a grave and sobering action. As long as I am turned towards and slavishly devoted to outer actions and circumstances, to that extent exactly do I fail to water and tend this most precious plant within.

We might ask ourselves why Christ chose the analogy of a mustard plant, after all. It seems a strange and perhaps counterintuitive choice.

I'll discuss that in the next post.



  1. Nicoll's books on the Gospels have been extremely helpful to me on this topic.

    A question: Can you explore more the meaning for you behind archaic pointer words 'the Lord', 'God' and 'Divine Inflow' etc., for the many that recoil from such terms due to negative experiences with religion? How can one proceed with deep inner work and be free from religious terminology, when the need is there? Perhaps temporarily, the place-holder of 'Consciousness' or 'Higher Influences' is personally where I'm at, but would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you.


  2. Attempts to sterilize the process of inner work of specific words or language because of one's personal and subjective negativities is counterproductive. We ought, in my eyes, seek to overcome our negativities, not change language we are uncomfortable with.

    Anyway, the words I use are the right words. There is, for example, no reasonable substitute for the term "divine inflow." Those who suggest otherwise don't know what the term means. I'll try to take up the meaning of these words, in the larger sense, in a future post.

    "Archaic" things are around, alive, and used because they are tried, true and tested (see Nicholas Taleb's remarks on this in Antifragile.) Despite modernist assertions to the contrary, we often abandon the old at our own peril.

    1. Thank you, look forward to your future post.

      I will work with this, my negative reactions to old conceptions. Still I feel as though someone like Swedenborg or Eckhart are talking about very different things than say, a fundamentalist evangelical.

    2. Also there has never been any mention of the G-word at any foundation groups I've attended, and I've heard interesting Gurdjieffians like Colin Blundell and James George use the word consciousness as a substitute or explanation.

  3. it is interesting tho, that certain forms of Buddhism (theravada) have no place for these terms - the non-essentialist 'archaic' buddhism :) probably quite soulless... :)
    I'm wondering if G was actually anti jewish! Some of his remarks in the 'Religion' chapter of BT do look a little weird. But really, does it matter!? I mean we know he didn't like gays....

  4. u gotta larf sometimes...in spite of everything...


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