A: Apart from the Kingdom sayings and the puzzling Son of Man sayings, you also left behind some curious sayings about protecting the master’s house and making it strong against thievery or attack — especially attack from within. Thomas 21b and Luke 12:37-48 and Mark 3:20-27 all use this theme. The passage in Luke is especially confusing. Luke 12:37-38 is a makarism: “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.”
Now, I know you had nothing nice to say about the custom of slave-owning. So the passage in Luke (12:37-48) must be a parable, an analogy for something else, even though the Oxford NRSV calls these verses a collection of “sayings on watchfulness and faithfulness” rather than a parable.
J (grinning): Oh, yes. It’s a parable. One I wrote myself.
A: Ah. And I see that this parable references “the Son of Man” in verse 40: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Many commentators have assumed this verse is a reference to an apocalyptic prophecy you made. They assume “the Son of Man” is an actual person — you — who will be coming back on a future day to bring about the prophesied day of judgment. Is this what you meant? Because Matthew 24:36-51 certainly makes it sound as if this is what you meant.
J: Matthew, as we’ve discussed earlier, was no friend of mine and no friend to my teachings. Matthew was like a gardener who sees another’s man field and hates the way the plants are arranged. So he sneaks in with a shovel at night and digs up the other man’s plants and takes them to a new field and replants them in an entirely new garden composition and adds some new plants of his own, then steps back and loudly proclaims he’s done great honour to the other man. Meanwhile, the other man’s garden is a potholed ruin.
A: Always with the parables. You just don’t quit!
J: It’s who I am.
A: Okay. So what were you getting at? Why were you so fond of the image of the master’s house that needs to be protected? Who was “the master”? Was it God?
J: Nope. The master in the parable of the responsible slave (Luke 12:37-48) is the soul of any human being who’s walking around on Planet Earth. Any human being at all.
A: Say what?
J: Although today’s commentators assume I was an idiot who spouted apocalyptic prophecy and hadn’t a drop of common sense in me, I actually had a “method to my madness.” The sayings I left behind all speak to a few internally consistent, common sense teachings about the soul. I said a small number of things a great many times. The things I said all relate to each other in a logical, coherent, heart-based way. If I spoke again and again about the psychological reality of the Kingdom (wholeness and maturity of the self), and the importance of respecting “boundaries of the self” and “boundaries of the other,” and the potential of human beings — all human beings — to seek healing and redemption through the power of forgiveness, then there’s only one person this “master” can be. The master is the self. The master is the core self, the soul that each person is. The true self. This parable is a metaphor about the human brain. It’s an attempt to explain in layman’s terms what’s going on inside a person’s head, and why there’s no such thing as demon possession. It’s an attempt to explain why the path of redemption seems so harsh at times.
A: “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay down his head and rest.” (Thomas 86)
J: Yes. Foxes know who they are and where their “home” is. Birds know who they are and how to build a home for themselves and their children. Human beings, of all God’s creatures on Planet Earth, are the least likely to know who they are and how to build a “home” for their highest potential. For a human being, this home is their brain — their biological brain and central nervous system. This home has to be painstakingly built over many years. Nothing so simple as building a bird’s nest, no sir! The “insides” of a person have to be carefully built to match the “outsides.” This is the holistic path to maturity for all human beings.
A: This goes back to what you were saying a few days ago about Saying 22 in the Gospel of Thomas (Saying 22 in the Gospel of Thomas). One thing I love about your teachings on wholeness — on Whole Brain Thinking — is the fairness of it. These teachings apply to all people in all places in all cultures. It’s radically egalitarian. Everyone gets the same basic toolkit for building a garden of peace. But each person’s garden will look different because each soul is different. I just love that part!
J: Yes, but before they can get to the point of being able to admire each other’s gardens — instead of envying and destroying each other’s gardens — they have to get through the healing stage. This is the stage where most people quit, where they run away from the difficulties and challenges of building an inner “home” — a field full of good soil — inside their own heads. This is the stage most people don’t even know IS a stage.
A: The Church has done precious little to help us understand this — even today, when we have so much knowledge about the human brain and its hard-wiring for empathy and change.
J: Two thousand years ago, I certainly had no knowledge of neuroanatomy or neurophysiology or neurotransmitters or the like. But I was a keen observer of human nature, and I was scientifically minded. More to the point, I was a mystic. I had unflinching faith in God’s goodness because of my mystical practice, and I knew there had to be something better than “demon possession” to account for frightening behaviour. So I looked to a scientific model. It wasn’t that hard, really. You work through empirical observation and rudimentary statistical analysis. That’s how all science advanced for thousands of years until recently. You take careful notes, you try to stay objective, you look for patterns, you try to prove you didn’t simply invent the patterns because you wanted to see them. Objectivity is crucial, of course. If you’re determined to find an imaginary Cause X, you’ll find it because you want to. However, this isn’t science. This is narcissism.
A: So your lack of narcissism — or I suppose I should say your eventual lack of narcissism — made you more open to honest fact-finding about the human condition.
J: I was open to the idea that there could be scars on the inside of a person’s body as well as on the outside.
A: In James 1:8, you use the unusual Greek word “dipsychos,” which is usually translated in English as “double-minded.” What were you getting at here?
J: If you read the parts of the Letter of James that I wrote — James 1:2-27; 2:1-8a; and 3:1-18 — you can see me struggling to put into words the problem of understanding the human brain and all its competing “intents.” I used several different metaphors there to try to explain what a lack of inner wholeness results in. Which is tragedy. Pain, suffering, and tragedy.
A: You also express the idea in James 1:8 that “the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” This is a pretty tough statement, don’t you think?
J: Many will think so. They’ll assume I’m talking about divine judgment and divine retribution. But I’m not. I’m talking about the scientific reality of the soul-body nexus. I’m talking about the built-in set of checks and balances that exists within the human self to promote mature, loving choices.
I’m going to come at your question from a different direction. If there really is a God, and there really are good souls, and there really are souls who choose to incarnate in a temporary 3D body where they have to struggle to balance the needs of their souls and the needs of their biological bodies . . . would it make sense to you in this context that God would refuse to provide built-in roadmaps and compasses and warning signals and obvious feedback so you could safely navigate all the confusion? Does that make sense to you?
J: It didn’t make sense to me, either. So in the parable of the responsible slave, the “house” of the master is — to use you as an example (sorry, hope you don’t mind) — is your entire head, including your skull. The “master” is your soul, and in particular the non-plastic parts of your brain that are controlled by the thoughts and feelings and actions of your soul. The “slaves” are the semi-autonomous regions of your brain that are supposed to be in charge of your physiological needs, but which all too often end up running the show — and doing a very poor job of it, I might add. If you were to let the “slaves” manage your choices, abuses would occur. Abuses of your self and abuses of others. Naturally, your core self — your soul — wouldn’t like this very much, and your core self would have something to say about it. This isn’t punishment “from above.” This is you standing up for your own core integrity! This is you trying to get yourself back in balance!
A: By first recognizing that there’s a problem. With your own choices.
J: Healing begins with insight. Before you can heal, you have to admit there’s a problem. Unfortunately, people can get their heads caught up in some pretty unhealthy thinking patterns. They can become so dysfunctional that they confuse the “slaves” with the “master.” They can’t hear their own inner voice, even though the inner voice never stops talking.
There’s always the easy way and the hard way. You can listen to your own inner voice, and begin to heal, in which case the journey won’t be as difficult.
A: You’ll get a “light beating” (Luke 12:48).
J: The majority of human beings, then and now, however, end up by default on the hard way.
A: So their bodies get a “severe beating” (Luke 12:47) from their own souls.
J: Well, it looks that way from the outside in the beginning.
A: People will say you’re blaming the victims of illness.
J: It’s not that simple. People get ill for a variety of reasons. But ONE of the reasons people get sick is because they opt to make certain very poor choices. This is simply a statement of fact. It’s not a judgment to say that a person who chooses to eat 5,000 calories per day and is morbidly obese (with all the attendant health problems of extreme obesity) bears SOME of the responsibility for his or her state of health.
A: When you put it that way, it seems pretty fair and reasonable. There are lots of intentional human choices that can lead to serious illness and disability. We often don’t want to change the choices we make until we really, really understand the consequences that are involved.
J: Observable consequences are part of each person’s built-in roadmap for living a life of wholeness in accordance with the wishes and needs of the soul. If your biological body is way out of balance, you need to listen to what your soul is saying. It’s only common sense.