Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jacob's Well

In the Gospel according to John, there is the story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at Jacob's Well. Reading the story fresh with some background of working with A Course in Miracles could be quite revealing. In fact it was my occasional co-author on this blog, Annelies, who one day reflected on the ego's dynamics, noting that it always goes back to the "well" of past memories, and dredges up a pattern, which we then project out into the world and repeat the same old stuff, when all it is, is a defense against the love of God, which could inspire our actions instead, if we would only turn to the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. In response to her spontaneous comments, I pointed out that this was evidently the real meaning of the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well. She read it and was blown away by our new appreciation of this old parable.

The wheel of Samsara is not some law of the universe that is external to us and of which we are the hapless victim, but it is the deliberate and repeated choice for the ego, and it is this repetition compulsion which represents the ego's defenses against the devastating (to the ego) Love of the Spirit. As always, the only reason we are afraid of it is because we've identified so totally with the ego, what we think we would perish if we confessed ourselves totally to the love of Jesus. Thus the woman at the well symbolizes our soul, our decision maker, as Ken Wapnick likes to call it, literally at the point of decision - do I go back to the same  old, same old, which has nothing else going for it, but that "it was always done this way," or do I want to change my mind (metanoia), and listen to this ever so familiar seeming stranger, who represents Another Way?

Seen in that light, the part of the parable where Jesus points out that the water from "Jacob's Well" makes us thirst over and over again, is in fact the perfect parable to describe the life of the Sonship in exile (Israel), and thus the ego's basic m.o., and the alternative he offers is forgiveness, namely choosing to ask Jesus for the Water of Spirit, instead of dredging up the past and continually reliving it, by going to the ego's well. The Water of Spirit will not make us thirst again, for when we act from the inspiration of Spirit, there is no past and no future, no sin, guilt, nor fear, for we then have joined with Jesus, to become only his hands, and feet, and mouth in the world.

It is clear from this story and others which are found in the Gospel according to John and not in the Synoptics, that John hewed to a different Jesus tradition in part than some of the others, and often times his telling of the story seems to express Jesus' intent more clearly and purely than the synoptic tradition. For that reason John's Gospel has often been and inspiration to more mystically inclined followers of Jesus.
3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. 4 And he must needs go through Samaria. 5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.  (KJV, John 4:4-26)
With careful reading we would note that there is a lot in this story that sounds very familiar to us as students of the Course, and reflects the fact that Jesus then taught the same thing, as he does now in the Course, and in our living experience of him, and that the intermezzo where he was mistaken for the founder of Christianity, and made into an ego idol is but small diversion, though illustrative of what our ego will do to him, if we let it dictate the curriculum.

To look at some of the elements of the story more closely, I would like to suggest the following points, which are based mostly on my experience with A Course in Miracles, as well as my life-long study of the work of Johan Willem Kaiser (JWK).
  • Once upon a time - The words are not part of this parable, but they just as well could have been. J.W. Kaiser explains in his book about fairy tales, that the traditional opening "Once upon a time," should be read as an eternal now - in the sense that in the holographic universe, we are not reading or hearing about some distant past, but about an eternal now, the now moment in which to make a decision, for which the specific story provides the model. In Course language it is the invitation into the Holy Instant. This is certainly true here, the decision that is portrayed here is always in the now - that is the whole point of it. Therefore, dear reader - I am saying this to myself, as I write it - the Samaritan woman (our soul), is meeting Jesus at the Well now, and the choice is ours.
  • Woman - The out-picturing of the soul/decisionmaker here, as in many myths and fairy tales.
  • Samaritan - Note how, by her identification with her Samaritan lineage, she excludes herself from the sonship, and by virtue of that same identification, she sees Jesus the same way - as a " Jew," which of course is nominally what he was, but his essence was exactly that this was irrelevant. Think also of Logion 99 in Thomas.
  • Galilee (Etymologically: "revolving" - c.f. Samsara) - is THE symbol of the world of time and space, the sublunar world, in the symbolism of the New Testament literature. It is of the essence throughout that Jesus is present to us here, those are the time, times, and half a time (3-1/2 symbolic years) of his ministry, in this sublunar world, during which he is always calling us to follow him to his Kingdom, not of this world. (mostly JWK)
  • Jacob (Israel) - whose name means approximately "runaway" (JWK etymology), is the archetype for the sonship in exile, always on the run from "fate" and from "God" (i.e. the ego's fearful image of a vengeful God), is representative of us being "much too tolerant of mind wandering," (ACIM:T-2.VI.4), yet it is also he who finds himself sleeping at Bethel (House of God), and realizing in his dream that the ladder to heaven, starts right in the place where he sleeps, for after all wherever we flee to, there is no other place but the House of God, and right where we are is always the best classroom for the Holy Spirit or Jesus to teach us another way, the way home. (JWK, ACIM)
  • husband, five husbands, not thy husband - This conversation deals with what the Course is later to call special relationships, the ego's relationships with people, places and things, which are designed to lock Jesus out of our lives, until we are ready to turn to him and learn to forgive and in the process turn our special relationships into Holy Relationships, very much in the spirit of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:12: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
    Our forgiveness is the process of cleaning the mirror so we no longer see our false self, but Jesus, and in the process likewise see our brothers as our saviors who offer us the opportunity to forgive, until we see the face of Christ in them. The place where we are right now is always Beth-El, and is the best classroom for the Holy Spirit. Our relationships right now need not be abandoned to go find God in the Himalayas, but forgiven, so we may turn them into the Holy Relationship.
  • The Alternative, Another Way - Jesus very clearly here represents The Alternative (Art thou grater than our father Jacob?) again this story represents the opportunity to choose once again, in line with the final section of the final chapter of ACIM (T-31.VIII).
  • I that speak unto thee am he - Reminiscent of Helen Schucman's dream in which she found that Jesus in her dream looked like Bill Thetford, and when she asked, Jesus told her "Who else would I look like?" (See Ken Wapnick's Absence from Felicity.

Very clearly the story reflects what the Course teaches repeatedly, namely that the thought systems of the Holy Spirit and the ego are totally mutually exclusive. There is a choice to make, always now, between the ego or the Holy Spirit, between another spin of the wheel of Samsara, of the thought system of sin, guilt and fear, or the thought system of forgiveness, the Holy Instant, and drinking of the water that will not make us thirst again. The story of the runaway Jacob eventually turns into the story of the Prodigal Son, returning into the Love of the Father.

Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.