Spiritual Progressives who have studied some Eastern philosophy are no doubt familiar with Lao Tzu, whose book the Tao Te Ching (The Way of Nature & Its Power) established the religion of Taoism. Not so many though are familiar with the second great teacher of Taoism, Chuang Tzu, who more than anyone preserved Taoism from the encroachments of Confucianism. One of the most memorable stories about Chuang Tzu surrounds the death of his wife, and now follows.
After Chuang Tzu’s wife died, his friend Hui Tzu went to his house to console him. When he got there, he found Chuang Tzu sitting on the ground, banging on a drum, and singing joyfully.
“This is too much!” exclaimed Hui Tzu. “To live with your wife and raise a son together, then not shed a tear after you’ve buried her in the ground, that would be bad enough, but to drum and sing! Surely, this is going too far!”
“Not at all,” replied Chuang Tzu. “When she died, I could not help being saddened by her death. But soon I remembered that she already existed as a spirit without substance or form. Substance was later added to that spirit, and her next stage was birth, after which she grew to become the person that I knew and loved. Now, by virtue of another change, she is dead, passing from one phase to another as spring turns to summer, fall, and then winter. Since she has passed into the next phase of life, for me to go about weeping and wailing would show that I am ignorant of the way of nature. Therefore, I refrain.”
Jesus of Nazareth took a similar view towards death, as is shown in the Gospel of Luke:
Jesus said: “Follow me.” “Let me first go and bury my father,” said the man. But Jesus said: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; but go yourself and carry far and wide the gospel of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
By living joyfully after his wife’s death, Chuang Tzu was carrying the gospel of Christ, and honoring both his wife and God.
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The 20th century Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a remarkable figure in that he was both a highly trained scientist and defender of the Christian faith–someone who realized that the entire structure of Christ’s mythology had to be reworked to fit new scientific discoveries. Having forged that new structure through the crucible of his own experiences and knowledge, he not only strengthened his faith in humankind’s divinity but his faith in the Father’s kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven.
Unlike most of his Catholic contemporaries, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin did not see the world as something inherently corrupt (as being in a fallen state) but as inherently good. By viewing the world in such a way, Teilhard was less likely to experience those crises of faith that so often afflict more orthodox Christians, whose Christ mythology demands that they leave reason at its doorstep. For Teilhard not only are you and I “the light of the world” (Matt. 4:14) but the world is a light unto itself.1 The following quote is a profound summation of his faith:
If, as a result of some interior revolution, I were successfully to lose my faith in Christ, my faith in a personal God, my faith in the Spirit, I think that I would continue to believe in the World. The World (the value, the infallibility, the goodness of the World): that, in the final analysis, is the first and the last thing in which I believe. It is by this faith that I believe. It is by this faith that I live, and it is by this faith, I feel, that at the moment of death, mastering all doubts, I shall surrender myself.
To read about Tarrou, Albert Camus, Carl Jung and whether one can be a saint without God, please go to: The Godless Saint.
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- Throughout my life, through my life, the world has little by little caught fire in my sight until, aflame all around me, it has become almost completely luminous from within – Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu [↩]
Now a man named Lazarus, of Bethany, was lying ill; he belonged to the same village as Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus was ill, was the Mary who anointed the Master with perfume, and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 The sisters, therefore, sent this message to Jesus: ‘Master, your friend is ill;’
4 And, when Jesus heard it, he said: “This illness is not to end in death, but is to rebound to the honor of God, in order that the Son of God may be honored through it.”
5 Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 Yet, when he heard of the illness of Lazarus, he still stayed two days in the place where he was. 7 Then, after that, he said to his disciples: “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 “Rabbi,” they replied, “the Jews were but just now seeking to stone you; and are you going there again?”
9 “Are not there twelve hours in the day?” answered Jesus. “If you walk about in the day-time, you do not stumble, because you can see the light of the sun; 10 But, if you walk about at night, you stumble, because you have not the light.” 11 And, when he had said this, he added: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going that I may wake him.”
12 “If he has fallen asleep, Master, he will get well,” said the disciples. 13 But Jesus meant that he was dead; they, however, supposed that he was speaking of natural sleep. 14 Then he said to them plainly: “Lazarus is dead; 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may learn to believe in me. But let us go to him.” 16 At this, Thomas, who was called Didymus, said to his fellow-disciples: “Let us go too, so that we may die with him.”
17 When Jesus reached the place, he found that Lazarus had been four days in the tomb already. 18 Bethany being only about two miles from Jerusalem, 19 A number of the Jews had come there to condole with Martha and Mary on their brother’s death. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat quietly at home.
21 “Master,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now, I know that God will grant you whatever you ask him.” 23 “Your brother shall rise to life,” said Jesus.
24 “I know that he will,” replied Martha, “in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 “I am the resurrection and the life,” said Jesus. “He that believes in me shall live, though he die; 26 And he who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes Master,” she answered; “I have learned to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
28 After saying this, Martha went and called her sister Mary, and whispered: “The Teacher is here, and is asking for you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard that, she got up quickly, and went to meet him. 30 Jesus had not then come into the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 So the Jews, who were in the house with Mary, consoling her, when they saw her get up quickly and go out, followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she threw herself at his feet. “Master,” she exclaimed, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her weeping also, he groaned deeply, and was greatly distressed.
34 “Where have you buried him?” he asked. “Come and see, Master,” they answered. 35 Jesus burst into tears. 36 “How he must have loved him!” the Jews exclaimed; 37 But some of them said: “Could not this man, who gave sight to the blind man, have also prevented Lazarus from dying?”
38 Again groaning inwardly, Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against the mouth of it. 39 “Move the stone away,” said Jesus. “Master,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time the smell must be offensive, for this is the fourth day since his death.” 40 “Did not I tell you,” replied Jesus, “that, if you would believe in me, you should see the glory of God?”
41 So they moved the stone away; and Jesus, with uplifted eyes, said: “Father, I thank thee that thou has heard my prayer; 42 I know that thou always heard me; but I say this for the sake of the people standing near, so that they may believe that thou has sent me as thy messenger.”
43 Then, after saying this, Jesus called in a loud voice: “Lazarus! come out!” 44 The dead man came out, wrapped hand and foot in a winding- sheet; his face, too, had been wrapped in a cloth. “Set him free,” said Jesus, “and let him go.”
45 Because of this, many of the Jews, who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did, learned to believe in him. 46 Some of them, however, went to the Pharisees, and told them what he had done. 47 Upon this the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the high council, and said: “What are we to do, now that this man is giving so many signs? 48 If we let him alone as we are doing, everyone will believe in him; and the Romans will come and will take from us both our city and our nationality.”
49 One of them, however, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them: 50 “You are utterly mistaken. You do not consider that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, rather than the whole nation should be destroyed.” 51 Now he did not say this of his own accord; but, as high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation, 52 And not for the nation only, but also that he might unite in one body the children of God now scattered far and wide. 53 So from that day they plotted to put Jesus to death.
54 Because of this, Jesus did not go about publicly among the Jews any more, but left that neighborhood, and went into the country bordering on the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 But the Jewish festival of the Passover was near; and many people had gone up from the country to Jerusalem for their purification before the festival began.
56 So they looked for Jesus there, and said to one another as they stood in the temple courts: “What do you think? Do you think he will come to the festival?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had already issued orders that, if anyone learned where Jesus was, that person should give information so that they might arrest him.
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 12.
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Gospel of Mark 13
As Jesus was walking out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him: “Teacher, look what fine stones and buildings these are!” 2 “Do you see these great buildings?” asked Jesus. “Not a single stone will be left here upon another, which shall not be thrown down.” 3 When Jesus had sat down on the Mount of Olives, facing the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew questioned him privately: 4 “Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign when all this is drawing to its close.”
5 Then Jesus began: “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will take my name, and come saying ‘I am He’, and will lead many astray. 7 And, when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; such things must occur; but the end is not yet. 8 For ‘nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;’ there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This will be but the beginning of the birth-pangs.”
9 “See to yourselves! They will betray you to courts of law; and you will be taken to synagogues and beaten; and you will be brought up before governors and kings for my sake, that you may bear witness before them. 10 But the gospel must first be proclaimed to every nation. 11 Whenever they betray you and hand you over for trial, do not be anxious beforehand as to what you shall say, but say whatever is given you at the moment; for it will not be you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; and children will turn against their parents, and cause them to be put to death; 13 And you will be hated by everyone on account of my name. Yet the man that endures to the end shall be saved.”
14 “As soon, however, as you see ‘the abomination of desolation’ standing where he ought not” (let those who read understand) “then those of you who are in Judea must take refuge in the mountains; 15 And those on the house-tops must not go down, or go in to get anything out of their houses; 16 Nor must anyone who are on their farms turn back to get their cloaks. 17 And woe to the women that are with child, and for those that are nursing infants in those days!”
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To continue reading Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark and the False Christs text, please click on page 2 below.