05. The Pearl Of Great Price

Again, the kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man, a merchant seeking excellent pearls; who finding one very precious pearl, going away has sold all things, as many as he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

Last time we looked into what it was to find treasure in a field and saw that this parable illustrated for us the experience of every person who values spiritual things over natural things and so is motivated to explore the Word in order to find truths that, when applied to our lives, are able to secure eternal life. A person who is committed to truth because it is true and to good for the sake of what is good is in heaven already, because this kind of search, this openness to what is true, to what is good or loving, comes from heaven’s influence within them.

The parable we are looking at here has many similarities to the parable we looked at last time. Both have as their subject a man finding something precious and both carry the idea of having to sell all to acquire the one thing we have found to be precious above all else. These ideas of searching, of finding, of selling, and of acquiring, provide us with a basic pattern of the order and operation of the laws of spiritual life. First, of all, we must be in a search for higher things if we are to have any hope of finding real meaning for our lives based on what is eternal and lasting. Next, it is a spiritual law that the things we find in this search requires something of us. It is not enough to know that there is treasure relating to spiritual life in the Word, we actually have to do something with this knowledge to make it our own. We have to sell what we have, that is, we have to give up our sense of ownership over our life through being willing to be led by the Lord through His Word. Then, and only then, can what is precious from an eternal perspective be given to us in the form of a new sense of self founded on what is of the Lord.

There are also a few subtle differences between the parables which are significant and illustrate what’s involved in a person’s progress from a state of finding “treasure in a field” to becoming a “spiritual merchant“.  In the parable of The Treasure Hid in the Field we are dealing with something a little less defined and purposeful than what we find in the parable of The Pearl of Great Price. In The Treasure Hid in the Field parable we get a sense of a man stumbling onto something whereas, in the parable of the The Pearl of Great Price we see a man engaged in a specific work, one who knows exactly what he is searching for in his trading of pearls. We too, in our search for spiritual things, begin almost without really knowing what it is we are looking for. We seemingly stumble onto ideas and concepts that carry some kind of spiritual focus for us and are able to meet the needs that arise out of the specific states of life we are in. But as we progress, we grow more and more sensitive to what it is that will actually fulfil our inner longing and, more importantly, what it is we must do if the object of this deep longing is to be realised.

We learn how to work with spiritual knowledge in our life and as we do we find that we are able to operate from principles grounded in our understanding of charity. But we become a merchant when we see that all that we have that makes up our life and understanding of spiritual things is not really ours but belongs to the Lord. That the pearls we have acquired can be used to acquire pearls of a higher quality and so of a greater value. The Greek word for merchant is a compound word that literally means to be, “in-transition” which spiritually speaks of transitions in our inner states of thought and life.

There is a danger in the spiritual life of over emphasising truth at the expense of goodness or love. This can lead to becoming fixed or inflexible in what we regard to be true and is often characterised by a defensive attitude when confronted with ideas that are different to our own. This is why it’s important to realise that we are only ever in appearances of truth. That what we hold to today can and will change as a result of taking what we understand to be true and experiencing that truth as we look to live our lives in accordance with it. To be a good merchant is to hold things lightly, to not become so attached to our views and opinions of things that we can’t hear where another person is coming from. Or more importantly, from the perspective of our personal spiritual growth and development, we close ourselves off to hearing from the Lord as to the direction we must take or the thing we need to work on.

We need to be ever aware that a merchant who becomes so emotionally attached to his goods that he is unable or unwilling to trade them won’t be a very successful merchant. When the Word shines its light into our life and shows us where we need to work on ourselves, we need to be prepared to sell all that we have, that is to say, we must be prepared to give up every idea and rationalisation that we have used to justify our selfish behaviours. When we do this then the insights we gain will form a new way of seeing truths. This is how we acquire a new pearl which then becomes something that can support us on in our spiritual journey. Such an attitude means that we always have something to use as a means of gaining even better quality pearls – that is truths of a higher quality – and why are they of a higher quality?  Well, because they are much better suited to empowering us to love through leading us into a clearer sense of goodness in our relationships and the situations that confront us on a daily basis.

Because pearls are precious things, in the Word they correspond to things of spiritual value. Now a pearl, while not being a precious stone, does have similar qualities to precious stones. We’ve already mentioned its value, but they are also hard like stone and all stones in the Word correspond to truths or falsities depending on the context in which they are mentioned. We can get a sense of what kind of truths pearls correspond to from their use in the New Jerusalem or Holy City in the book of Revelation.

In Revelation 21:21 we read;

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; respectively each one of the gates was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.

The Holy City seen by John in his vision, descending from God out of heaven, is not a material city like those we find on earth. For it is John’s spiritual sight that has been opened which means that this vision is of spiritual and not natural things. The city is a symbol for inner realities and because it is seen to descend it represents the development of heavenly principles within the deeper levels of our minds, making their way down into its lower levels as the basis for life. By the city descending we have illustrated for us a picture of the progressive influence these principles are able to exert over the lower reaches of our minds as we open ourselves up to the Lord’s Word. We need to remember that everything that descends from out of heaven must be related to inner things, so from our perspective, this city represents the heavenly organisation of those things in our minds that constitute the kingdom of heaven within us. Such things are heavenly affections and their truths; these kinds of things are provided for us through the Word. When the mind is organised in the pattern of heaven it becomes a spiritual city in which the Lord can dwell.

This descent of the city is the descent of the kingdom or rule of heaven into life and our interest is in the gates into this city for they are constructed of pearl. The gates of a city are what a person first passes through in order to gain access to it. So pearl being connected with the gates here must mean that this substance is connected with what introduces a person into the kingdom of heaven. Our entry into the kingdom of heaven is made possible by means of truths for these provide us with an understanding of what the kingdom of heaven is, and what is required of us if we are to have formed within us a new mind that can house the things of heaven.

Notice that the gates of this city are made from a single pearl, this is because this pearl is the pearl of great price. There is one truth that binds all others into a single great pearl and forms the entrance into heaven, or the interior sense of the Word. When this truth is found, when its value is truly realised, it makes all our self derived precious ideas, concepts, opinions and views become as dust. If it is found, its value is such that we would find ourselves giving up our petty self importance to ensure that its value is realised in our life. What is this pearl? It is the one teaching that sits at the heart of the new Church or spiritual mind, for this is what a Church is, and it is that the Lord’s Human or the Word is Divine. Or if you can receive it, the literal sense of the Word, with its apparent imperfections, is Divine, for this is the Lord’s flesh and bones, or His Human in ultimates, and because it is such, the Lord is within it in all His fulness and glory.

Through working with the Word from a genuine affection for truth a person will eventually be led to see this wonderful truth. At first our life in the Word is one of trading pearls, learning new things, giving up old ways of seeing and finding more pearls. We are like a merchant, ever searching for the one pearl that will make all others pale in comparison. When we find it, we will know it, because its value to us will be such that we will gladly give up everything that stands in the way so that we might pass through the gate into the kingdom of heaven.

“Again, the kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man, a merchant seeking excellent pearls; who finding one very precious pearl, going away has sold all things, as many as he had, and bought it.”

I have …been told that not only the palaces and the homes but all the little things within and outside them correspond to the deeper qualities that [angels] receive from the Lord. In general terms, their houses correspond to the good that occupies them and the items within their houses to the various things that constitute that good. The items that are outside the homes refer to true things that derive from the good, and also to experiences of perception and recognition. Since these correspond to the good and true things they receive from the Lord, they correspond to their love and therefore to their wisdom and intelligence, because love is a matter of what is good, wisdom of what is both good and true, and intelligence of truth that stems from the good. This, they tell me, is the sort of thing angels perceive when they look at their houses; and this is why these sights delight and move their minds more than their eyes. So I could see why the Lord calls himself the temple that is in Jerusalem ( John 2:19, 21). I could also see why the New Jerusalem appeared as a city of pure gold, with gates of pearl and foundations of precious gems (Revelation 21): it is because a temple offers an image of the Lord’s divine human; the New Jerusalem refers to the church that was going to be founded; and the twelve gates are the truths that lead to what is good, and the foundations are the truths on which it is based. (Heaven and Hell 187)

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