“Love just gets bigger when you give it away”
“Friends Forever” by Shiloh Rising
Did Jesus perform some great cosmic miracle, as many religious traditions claim, in the Garden of Gethsemane, whereby He took upon Himself the punishment – demanded by justice – for all the sins committed by all who lived from the beginning to the end of time? Or did He perhaps perform an even greater miracle – one that we each have the capacity to emulate within ourselves? Or are there perhaps elements of both that resulted from that great drama – the drama that has been an essential influence in Western society for the last 2000 years.
In this paper, I offer, not as profound truth, but an explanation, for your consideration, of how I have come to perceive the act that took place in the Garden, as well as the lasting effects of that act, which effects we have come to call simply, “The Atonement”.
I should probably begin by describing why I think sin can reasonably be defined as “acting without love”.
In the first epistle of John in the New Testament, the author is quoted, in chapter 4, verse 18, as saying:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
There may not be a more profound, revelatory passage in all of scripture. It is just so rich!
Furthermore, if we switch two words around, we get:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth not is made perfect in love.
Let’s focus for a minute on the phrase, “…because fear hath torment.”
Sin is acting without love because sin is acting out of fear. Living – which is manifest in our desires, thoughts, and actions – in fear is indeed torment. Thus, sin carries with it its own punishment, or torment. When we live in fear, we do not have peace. When we act out of fear, we create destruction, even, ultimately, death. When we create out of fear, our creation is not eternal. We are wasting our time, literally. Dust in the Wind. When we act out of fear – when we sin – we cannot partake of eternal life.
On the other hand, love, “…just gets bigger when you give it away”. When we act out of love, we create love. When we give love away – the love within us, the love that feeds us, the living water of the fountain of life – just grows and grows. Love is never diminished when we give it away, only when we do not. Since it carries the seeds of life, it thus perpetuates the origins of, and continues the process of, eternal creation.
Sadly, though, the lot for most of us in this mortal existence is, in fact, an existence based in fear. This existence is ruled by the ego – the natural man. The ego’s primary tool to perpetuate its own existence is fear. Fear creates a sense of separation, which belies the oneness for which Jesus prayed in John 17 – “The Great Intercessory Prayer”. We fear others, and we fear ourselves. We fear the punishment or justice that we think accompanies sin, and so, when we perceive “sin” in other people, we judge them, push them away, and create even greater separation. We think, “It’s their sin, not ours, and it’s their punishment, not ours.” Perhaps we think to ourselves, “I have enough trouble with my own sins and their consequences.”
But what if we didn’t fear sin, neither our own, nor someone else’s? What if we recognized sin not as something to be punished, but as a product of the fall, a burden to be born but overcome, and thus a burden to be shared. What if we viewed each other as equal children of God, our spirits united, one, with no separation. What if we perceived each other with perfect empathy… “There, but for the grace of God, go I”? This is not to say there is no sin, but only that we do not fear it, but believe and exercise faith in God’s perfect empathy, which we then extend to ourselves and to others.
Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, is quoted as saying, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.” What if, to judge “righteously” means not to judge within the context of justice, as most seem to believe, but instead, to judge with perfect empathy, recognizing that the “sins” of another are owned, shared, felt, and repented of as a whole, as a community of those who are willing to surrender their will (justice) to the will of God (empathy). Does not the whole village suffer when the maiden is forced to wear the scarlet “A”, or do they believe that they saved themselves from suffering because they have effectively, spiritually, and often physically cast her out from among them.
Perhaps Paul’s allegory of the body parts in 1 Corinthians 12 can be applied to more than just spiritual gifts. Perhaps it can be applied to all of creation. Note that this chapter 12, comes directly before chapter 13 – the great charity sermon. Thus, taken together, the two chapters provide a greater context; a context whereby the infinity implied by Paul’s description of Charity also applies to all of creation – that, ultimately, eternally, infinitely, none of us is complete, perfect, redeemed, saved – without everyone. How could a perfect God, anyway, create in love, and then cast off a portion of that creation? In summary – perhaps the infinity of charity applies to the whole body, which body, without any part, would be incomplete.
As I was writing this piece, my new friend Aimee Laun posted the following from The Way of Mastery Book 1: The Way of the Heart:
All beings are a spark of light (soul) at One with God and remain eternally as they are created to be.
We are each fully responsible for how we use the light to choose and thus attract precisely what we experience and this power of choice is the most fundamental aspect of the radiant and sovereign soul.
God is Love and Love does not condemn, there is no judgment. All beings are to be forgiven and supported (if they are willing) to transform their orientation from fear to Love. Only when we forgive and then find ways to serve this ‘Atonement’ may we truly awaken to a full enlightenment and enter Mastery.
This is so profound:
- Each soul has agency – the freedom of choice – which is inherent to its creation and not to be compromised.
- We are each responsible for the choices we make but:
- We are all sparks from the same divine light
- We exercise this power of choice with a framework of unconditional love, free from condemnation and judgment, as we seek to transform our “orientation” from fear (the self-created ego, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) to love (God-created, the fruit of the tree of life).
- Judgment, then, will actually “dam” us from “enlightenment”, or from understanding the truth of our place in creation and our relationship to God.
If this is an accurate description of our intended existence, should we not seek to act in harmony with it? Do we have, in any way, the right to act in opposition to this? Is this,, then, perhaps a manifestation of the seeking of God’s will, of the spirit of surrender? Yet, we do; we do act in opposition, specifically when we judge the sins of others, or of ourselves, and undermine the unity that defines us as children of the same God, members of the same body, sparks of the same divine light.
In the Garden of Eden drama, Eve partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This story screams polarity, duality, separation, judgment. What can we possibly do with knowledge of good and evil if not, at a minimum, discern, but more likely judge. And such judgments are meaningless unless they are applied withing the context of relationships. So, Eve effectively chose judgment (which implies justice and punishment), duality (opposition in all things), and polarity (good vs. evil) when she “partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Prior to this, she and Adam “walked and talked with God.” They knew oneness, and they did not know shame, which is the result of – wait for it – judgment and the resulting guilt. Adam, then, partook of the fruit because he recognized that if he did not, he and Eve would be living in completely separate realms of existence; completely different realities – he in a world defined by oneness and unity – she in a world defined by opposition, duality, polarity. She had chosen “separation”, and Adam had to follow suit or lose her. Ironically, in order to choose unity with Eve, he had to follow her in choosing duality and separation.
Oooooh, my head hurts! And Adam was such a mensch!
So, we each, as illustrated in the Garden of Eden drama, choose sin, with its resulting separation – from God, from each other, even from our true selves. We create a very lonely world for ourselves. We do this when we create the ego in response to fear, and abandon love, oneness, and unity – which is the default archetype of our existence. We choose this, but we do it in response to the forgetting that takes place at our birth. (Is this the seed of the idea of original sin – since we do not KNOW we are creating the ego, but we do? But how can we be held accountable, or punished, for something we don’t even realize we are doing?) I suggest that our challenge in this life is to recognize this choice (sin) and its repercussions (separation) and begin to choose otherwise. This is called, by many, the “awakening”. It is also called by other names such as conversion, redemption, entering in at the gate.
But this “choosing” truly is only the beginning of a process of shedding our dependence upon the ego; upon the belief that fear is our salvation – that if we fear correctly, we can protect ourselves from the choices of others. Oh, I meant to say, “if we judge correctly”. Or did I? I just seem to get those two words, fear and judge, mixed up. It’s almost like they are so tightly linked together, it’s hard to differentiate. E judge out of fear, and we fear judgment. Furthermore, they seem to represent a “chicken or egg” scenario – which comes first, fear or judgment? It’s kind of like asking which comes first, good or evil.
And this, I think, is where the atonement comes in, and why I think we both understand and misunderstand it at the same time.
I have applied the invitation to “seek, ask, and knock” to this topic, and, to some extent at least, the answers have been found and unlocked. Yet – there remains much to discover.
I perceive something truly remarkable, of eternal cosmic, mystical significance (magic?) happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. I perceive that Jesus (Yeshua) participated in this event, that it was somehow planned, or at least anticipated by His “Father”, the creator. I also perceive that God’s unconditional, infinite, perfect love is manifest in what happened in the Garden.
In part 2 of “Musing on the Atonement”, we will explore what I think are some of the principles and purposes behind the atonement, and what may have really happened.