When The Word Becomes Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and God was the Word.

This was in the beginning toward God. All came into being through it, and apart from it not even one thing came into being which has come into being. In it was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is appearing in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not …

And the Word became flesh and tabernacles among us, and we gaze at His glory, a glory as of an only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

It is made clear to us at the beginning of John’s Gospel that Jesus is the Word made flesh. So we begin with this in mind but as the story starts to unfold and events and places and people begin to be described, we find ourselves being drawn into the natural experience of the story. We find ourselves identifying with the traits and qualities of the characters in the story, including Jesus Himself.

And then if we contrast these qualities of Jesus with our understanding of what the Divine is, we find that there is a conflict. The Divine Itself can’t have qualities of sorrow, happiness, anger, jealousy, disillusionment, envy, or even compassion and mercy because the Divine Itself is infinite Divine love and infinite Divine wisdom. It isn’t discerning or selective or subject to any conditions, it never changes or alters.  It is Esse and Existere, it is Being and Becoming… it just IS. However, if we remind ourselves that Jesus is the Word being made flesh among us, then we see that our experience of the Word becoming real and alive like ‘flesh’ to us, does indeed go through these changes in natural affections and thoughts that are only attributable to finite beings.

So if we reflect on the passion of the cross; the way that Jesus is treated, the events that unfold and the way in which Jesus reacts to them, and hold this as our experience of the Word moving and fluctuating in different lights of understanding and affections of love… then we find that it is our own personal story. The literal text of the Word then opens up as an interior experience of the Lord descending into our life, into the life of our affections and thoughts.

…for universal nature is a theatre representative of the Lord’s kingdom in the heavens, thus of His kingdom on earth, that is, in the church, and hence of His kingdom in every regenerate man. From this it is plain how natural or domestic good, although a merely outward delight and indeed a worldly one, may serve as a means for producing the good of the natural, which may conjoin itself with the good of the rational, and thus become regenerate or spiritual good, that is, good which is from the Lord.  (Arcana Coelestia 3518)

So as we read of the earthly experience of Jesus in this world, it becomes the theatre for us to experience the play about our own journey. We have characters – the central character being Jesus, and then we have all the others who move in and out of relationships and associations with Jesus.

The passion of the cross is towards the end of the play and we see, mainly in this part of the story, the struggle between the Word wishing to be made more present in our life, in our everyday experiences, and the struggle of the hellish proprium, whose only wish is for us to remain in states where the Text is read very literally and doesn’t seem to have much application to our life at all. It wishes us to believe that the Word is in fact just a book of skewed history of mankind that is full of contradictions in its messages. On one hand, we see that Jesus is only wishing love and peace in what He offers and on the other hand we are met with the violent images of the inhumane torment and despair that is inflicted upon Him.

So as we enter the story at John chapter 18 we find on stage:

  • Jesus = the Word
  • Jewish nation = those states that live in the externals only, who only see the literal text and not the inner meaning or how it applies to the inner life
  • Scribes and Pharisees = those states that hold the literal text above all else
  • Chief priests = those who lead the Jewish states in its worship and work closely with those who hold the literal text above all else
  • Soldiers = those who enforce the law of the Jewish states
  • Disciples = the different characteristics of the church as it is developing with us

We find the Word in a state where it has passed over the brook of Cedron, which means that which is dark and turbid, and into the garden and then away again from the garden. It has been bound and led away by the Jewish soldiers towards the Jewish high priest. So this is a state that enforces the things that wish for self-love to rule, rather than things of spiritual intelligence, which a garden represents. A state with us where the Text is seen as just a book that has some nice message of peace but nothing else beyond the surface.

We find that the different characteristics of the church have been scattered, with the disciples being removed from Jesus (the Word) and led away from Him. So it is a state when the church doesn’t feel connected to the text of the Word anymore. In fact, we find Simon Peter – whose name means hearkening stone– has actually joined the slaves and deputies and is warming himself by their charcoal fire. So he is characteristic of the church that should normally be a truth that listens and obeys but has instead found itself drawn to the apparent warmth of the love of things in the natural.

The chief priest, as one who leads the Jewish states of living in the literal text only or natural life only, asks questions of the Word (Jesus).   Then we hear the Word confirm:

And Jesus answered him, “I with boldness have spoken to the world. I always teach in a synagogue and in the sanctuary where all the Jews are coming together, and in hiding I speak nothing.” (John 18:20)

If the Word remains out of sight in our understanding and unacknowledged as the Lord, then the literal Text speaks nothing to us… it means nothing that is of use to our spiritual life.

So, we then see the Word taken away to Pilate for judgment. Pilate means close pressed’ so he represents the state in us that feels pressed upon or compelled to act when we are confronted with the Word in front of us, particularly when we see it contrasted and presented against the literal meaning of the text or the thoughts and affections that enforce this like the chief priests.

Pilate, then, came outside to them and is averring, “What accusation are you bringing against this man? They answered and said to him, “If this man were doing no evil, we would not give him up to you.  (John18: 29-30)

This is how the hellish proprium views the Word… that it is evil and needs to be taken away and removed from sight. It wishes for us to disregard any sense that there is something that lies beneath the literal words on the page and opposes, with much passion, anything that threatens to open it up into something more meaningful.

The state in us that now feels close pressed (Pilate) is then said to take the Word (Jesus) inside the pretorium – leaders tent or judgement hall – and asks him questions. So we take what is presenting and examine it more internally in light of what the Word is speaking to us… we let the Word answer our questions. And what do we hear?

“You are saying that I am a king. For this also have I been born, and for this have I come into the world, that I should be testifying to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth is hearing My voice. (John 18:37)

The state in us that feels pressed by the Jewish nation and its priests and chiefs, hears that the Word is testifying truth to us and that we will hear its truth if we are willing to listen.

But when Pilate announces that he can find nothing untrue in what the Word has told us, the Jewish crowd continues to press back.

We see next in our theatre on stage, that Pilate then scourges Jesus.  Now scourge means to thoroughly whip… but the origin of the word ‘whip’ means to swing, leap or dance, quick movement.  So the state in us that feels close pressed, moves quickly and thoroughly in the Word.

The Jewish nation fights back and the soldiers who enforce the law of the hellish proprium make a mockery of the Word by placing a purple robe on it in jest and a crown of thorns on its head. The head and purple usually represent what is celestial but in this case, it’s the opposite of this as the hellish proprium serves only self-love.

But Pilate holds his ground and insists that he still finds no fault in Jesus. There is now a state in us that has been confronted with the Word and has examined it and seen, heard and acknowledged it as something that belongs to the spiritual life where truth is active. This is contrasted to the states that only worship the literal Text without application to spiritual life.  In fact when Jesus is led out into the crowd – so when the state sees the Word led right out into the midst of what is sensual – the state in us that feels pressed (Pilate) begins to falter as the crowd’s strength and loud voices cry, insisting that the Word be crucified.

When, then, Pilate hears this saying, he was the more afraid.” And he entered into the praetorium again, and is saying to Jesus, “Whence are you? Yet Jesus gives him no answer.”  Pilate, then, is saying to Him, “To me you are not speaking! Are you not aware that I have authority to release you and have authority to crucify you? (John 19:8-10)

After hearing the Jewish nation and feeling fear, that which is close pressed (Pilate) goes back into internals – to a place of judgement and self-examination and asks… “Where are you?” as it seeks the Lord. There is frustration that He doesn’t answer but it’s because the state in us still thinks that it has authority… we still see our life as our own. And so the Word answers again and we hear:

Jesus answered him, “No authority have you against Me in anything, except it were given to you from above. (John 19:11)

We finally hear the Word tell us – “no I am the authority” and then we seek to release Him, to allow Him to be unbound by the hellish proprium- for ourselves to be unbound from its sway.  We move into a state of repentance.

Therefore we start to see real separation now or see with increased clarity. The Jewish nation pledges its allegiance to Caesar whose name means ‘severed” – so that which is severed from the Word, from love and wisdom. Pilate then leads Jesus outside again to Gabbatha; so that which is close pressed moves into the externals of the Word but this time with an acknowledgement of its internal authority. Gabbatha means a high place and Jesus is placed on a dais, which is a high table of judgement. The state is one in which the Word as we experience it, can stand its ground in the externals now and we are able to submit it to the Jewish nation knowing that this will allow for what is needed for further separation and removal.  We no longer have as much fear about submitting our understanding of the literal Text to the state of the hellish proprium because we have acknowledged the inner application of it in our life.

And sure enough, we see the contrast brought out into open view

Now Pilate writes a title also, and places it on the cross. Now it was written, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)

This is contrasted with what the Jewish nation wants on the title because they do not acknowledge the Word’s authority but instead are loyal to Caesar – to that which is severed.

The chief priests of the Jews, then, said to Pilate, “Do not be writing ‘The King of the Jews’ but that ‘that one said “King of the Jews am I.” (John 19:2)

But the state that was close pressed, that has allowed the Word to cross-examine it, is now clear in what it is loyal to…

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written!”  (John 19:22)

And here’s where we reach the point in the play where it feels like the literal Text has been pulled apart and left us in a state of disorder and mess; or that the experience of temptation has left us in a dishevelled state; or that the memories that the Text has brought up from our natural life, has left us in a state of confusion where we are worse off than when we started. But we are reminded that it is only the outer garments that can be divided and that the inner spiritual meaning of the Text, its inner tunic, is always protected and maintained in its integrity.

The soldiers, then, when they crucify Jesus, took His garments and make four parts – to each soldier a part; and the tunic. Now the tunic was seamless, woven from above throughout the whole. (John 19:23)

And so the state of the Word with us is offered truths that are bitter to swallow but that are able to offer purification and healing.  These are able to move us beyond, to a state where the Word is able to ascend again into things that are higher; into a state of glorification where the Word is recognised as the Divine Itself, embodied in the true Human form of His love and wisdom in use in application in our life.

After this, Jesus, … is saying, “I thirst!” ….

Sticking a sponge, then, distended with vinegar, on hyssop, they carry it to His mouth.

When, then, Jesus took the vinegar, He said, “It is accomplished!”

And reclining His head, He gives up the spirit.  (John 19: 28-30)

We find then that celestial things, things belonging to the affections of His love, present to offer to consummate the state and allow completion. Joseph of Arimathea meaning that which adds of Jehovah of a high place, and Nicodemus meaning conqueror of the populace or common people, take His body and embalm it and prepare it for the garden tomb.

…bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds troy.” They got the body of Jesus, then, and they bind it in swathings with the spices (John 19: 39-40)

And here we have a lovely return to the image of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger. It’s a return to the beginning but now the Word as the Lord in us is in a state of innocence of wisdom as opposed to the initial state of innocence that was in ignorance, of things not yet understood or worked into our lives. The Word descended as a baby into our life and grew into a man, moving throughout the Holy land, healing and expressing love but also meeting resistance until finally, it submitted to the full treatment of the Jewish states that live in the self-love that is the hellish proprium.  This allowed for overt, increased clarity and vision of the state of the hellish proprium which enabled separations between it and what is of the Word as the Lord, so that the latter could then be raised into higher states and so glorified and acknowledged as Divine.

This feels like a good place to leave the scene that is before us on the stage. We’ve seen the inhumane treatment of Jesus by the Jewish nation but experienced it as the treatment by the hellish proprium as it resists the Word descending into the life of our mind and hence into spiritual application. It feels inhumane because it opposes what is truly human, the true human form which is love and wisdom united in use. This process of resistance and seeing has to occur though if we are to know the Word as the Human Divine. The literal text of the Word, the external Word, is then acknowledged as that which supports the internal Word as the Lord within us. The historical descriptions of Jesus in the Text become relevant in the present for us now, in the internal spiritual life of our thoughts and affections. Our own memories in our past also become integrated into our life now, as the Word stirs them up. It reintegrates them in the context of the truths it offers us, keeping the things that are of the Lord in them and relocating the things that aren’t, out into the periphery of our mind. They are not discarded as they are the container for internal things but they are no longer the main focus.

I have spoken with the angels concerning the memory of things past, and the consequent anxiety regarding things to come; and I have been instructed that the more interior and perfect the angels are, the less do they care for past things, and the less do they think of things to come; and also that from this comes their happiness. They say that the Lord gives them every moment what to think, and this with blessedness and happiness; and that they are thus free from cares and anxieties. Also, that this was meant in the internal sense by the manna being received daily from heaven; and by the daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer; and likewise by the instruction not to be solicitous about what they should eat and drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed. But although the angels do not care for past things, and are not solicitous about things to come, they nevertheless have the most perfect recollection of past things, and the most perfect mental view of things to come; because in all their present there are both the past and the future. Thus they have a more perfect memory than can ever be thought of or expressed. (Arcana Coelestia 2493)

And this is the process every time we return and work with the Word.

Each time it restructures and reforms us and then completes us again.

Each time we are birthed again, more and more deeply into His life.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger…(Luke 2:7)


  1. Ian Keal

    Thank you for this wonderful capstone to the Christmas story. It dovetails perfectly with your fishbowl reading in TCR, and offers a rich supplement to our session here in Pennsylvania on January 4th. Our reading is DP 31-26, on Equilibrium, Relation & Purification, which also offers cross reference Text from HH 589-596, & 597-603 on Ways, Going, Walking, & Journeying, and Aversion to evil; as well as SS 80-90 on the Marriage of Good & Truth.

    • Sarah Walker

      Hi Ian,

      Yes the Word has a stunning way of weaving in and out of itself doesn’t it ☺. I had a read over these passages that your group is reading this week. The idea of the need for seeing opposites as the means by which our perception of the Lord is deepened, is one that touches me profoundly and resonates as a ‘knowing’ from my own experiences . I’ve been sitting with this number for a few weeks now and also speaks to your DP reading.

      HH 541. Hell, like heaven, is divided into societies, and into as many societies as there are in heaven; for every society in heaven has a society opposite to it in hell, and this for the sake of equilibrium. But evils and falsities therefrom are what distinguish the societies in hell, as goods and truths therefrom are what distinguish the societies in heaven.

      That for every good there is an opposite evil, and for every truth an opposite falsity may be known from this, that nothing can exist without relation to its opposite, and

      what anything is in kind and degree can be known from its opposite, and from this all perception and sensation is derived.

      For this reason the Lord continually provides that every society in heaven shall have an opposite in some society of hell, and that there shall be an equilibrium between the two.

      The idea of temptations and fermentations in the DP reading intrigues me…. Temptations speak to me of the repentance at day 3 of creation and then once faith and charity have been kindled at day 4 it then leads us into fermentations- day 5(confirmation of goods and truths) and day 6 ( purifying the spiritual state).. just some ideas that occurred as I read it …

      And the SS numbers seemed like a strange segway from the DP numbers at first but I guess together its saying that the Word demonstrates or awakens or shows us the marriage of good and truth but that we are to expect that we will see its opposites ….

      there is one passage that shone out from all the rest

      SS 84.
      …. There are also words that are used alone, or without a mate, because they partake of both good and truth. But these and many other things are not apparent except to the angels, and to those also who while in the natural sense are also in the spiritual sense.

      I wonder is these are the third in the trinity words:

      use, Holy Spirit, divine proceeding, crown, effect, final, end, Existere, body, offspring…. rest

      speaks to me of equilibrium of angels as spoken about in the HH reading… rest is in equilibrium …..

      Oh and the way, path, journey section brought some lovely images of the quest for Holy Grail which coincidently 😉 I’ve also been thinking about this week.

      anyway, just some some thoughts… I look forward to hearing how the meet up goes.

      Yours in His love

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