We have before us a series of images, a series of pictures. It is almost like we are awakening some ancient memories. We have, from last week, ascension – we have the image of Jesus leaving his disciples, being taken up, and vanishing into the clouds. Now, we have the image of Pentecost, that of a rushing wind coming from heaven, and filling the house where the disciples were sitting. We have tongues of fire appearing among them, resting upon each of them. And following that, coming from them, we have every known language being spoken, and the perplexed people looking on. If we think of all this as a series of images, as opposed to a series of concepts, it can be easier to hear what they’re trying to communicate to us. A picture carries, after all, a higher bandwidth of information. We can imagine ourselves within a picture; we can’t imagine ourselves within a concept.
A concept has the added problem that it can shut us down. We listen and listen, until we’ve understood the concept, and once we’ve understood, we need not listen or ruminate any further. But a picture within our imagination works, on the contrary, in a living way. It cannot be exhausted, it speaks to each of us afresh. It goes beyond mind and reason, and speaks to us as spirit, or as the word appears in Greek, as pneuma. Pneuma, which is translated as spirit, wind, or breath, that innermost spirit, carrying her wisdom beyond our surface level, our day to day perception of things, beyond our reason, into our unconscious, into our unknown depths, and ministering to us within. That creative wisdom of spirit, that Pneumanosophy, that divulges something that we cannot speak, but only know.
In the Christian imagination, Jesus represents light coming into the world. We can picture the lights at Christmas, our chalice lit within our dark Meeting House. The light coming down from heaven, that it might find a new home, a home within us. That would be my summary of the entire Christian epic - that light was up there, and now it’s in here, in us. In those who choose to invite her in. The trouble is, when that light is personified as Jesus, that Galilean Jew, it is restricted temporally, geographically, and culturally. Following the mystery of Golgotha, in the images of Ascension and Pentecost the restrictions are removed, and the light is made universal. This process is often typified in our own spiritual journeys. From our earliest perception there is a remote light, then the light is personified in Jesus, or expressed to us through Jesus, and then the light is released, and universalised. A movement from the particular to the universal. You could see this as the vocabulary of the cosmos, a truth echoed in the biblical text, a truth which enables our ongoing spiritual evolution, enabling our transition from a sleeping, passive state, to an awoken, creative, vibrant state, which is to say, enabling our ongoing growth, individually and collectively.
So, the first image is that of Jesus being taken up: an image relayed to us by the disciples, by way of the author of Luke-Acts. It’s an event which unfolds, not at the level of everyday consciousness, if you had a time machine, there would of course be nothing to go back and film. Rather, the Ascension represents an intuited reality, a picture received clairvoyantly, elucidating a hidden truth - that of the un-personification of the light, the spirit, the pneuma - no longer to be synonymised with the historical man, Jesus, but free of that limited form, and universalised into an accessible form, accessible in every place and time, and to every people. If we pause for a moment, we can imagine the picture for ourselves. Jesus, for these many years, has been our personally available vessel of the sacred. To look upon him, was experientially to look upon the face of God. But now we see that same face, that all these years has looked upon us with love, begin to withdraw, to be taken up, and become smaller and smaller, until ultimately disappearing into the clouds. Then having received this picture, the disciples withdrew together in deep contemplation, into a room, where they perceived for the first time the extrapolated effect of such a turn. That the Pneumanosophy, that the wisdom of the spirit, did not need to be mediated to them through an individual anymore, through Jesus, but could be lived into by everyone universally.
For the disciples this represents an evolution in their consciousness, from being passive receivers, to becoming conduits themselves of the spirit. But it’s not just a shift which marks the spiritual evolution of the disciples, but also lays down a roadmap towards spiritual becoming that echoes that cosmic reality of spiritual evolution, ever unfolding, which we can all mirror and enter into. This series of images, from Ascension through Pentecost, sits alongside the picture of Jesus on the cross, the mystery of Golgotha. They echo one another. Both represent this shift from the particular to the universal. Both represent the evolution of consciousness, for they both entail that universalising trajectory, the universalising of Jesus’ Way of Love, the universalising of the indwelling of the spirit. From the one, or the few, to the many, to the all. These two pictures stand side by side in the history of the evolution of humanity.
So, they gather together in this upper room, and once there, we have this second image of a ‘rushing mighty wind’, representing their souls being lifted to the higher state of consciousness, to a more receptive, or clairvoyant state. They are bade, as it were, to look upon what is to come, what is to come and what will it mean when the fire-impulse that they’re now receiving in their hearts is able to find expression in the world, incarnate in the world, through them. Then, we have the third image, that of the ‘tongues of fire’ descending upon their heads. The spirit coming to indwell them, the Christ impulse, or as it's sometimes termed, ‘Christ-consciousness’. They’re becoming aware of their own Christ-consciousness, and this gives them that spiritual sensation of expansiveness, of connectivity with the totality of creation. A sense that what is indwelling them is for all, all people across the globe, a sense that it is something which is translatable into all languages, something which can be brought to the understanding of all people. This is the vision of Christianity which rises before them. No longer locked into the temporality of Jesus’ mission, it is as if in that moment, in that upper room, they commune outside of time with all future disciples. They intuit a time when their message will reach people in unknown lands, with unknown tongues. This is the final picture, that of the disciples, all speaking a multitude of languages. Again, this is not an event unfolding at the level of everyday consciousness; there would be nothing to go back and film. Rather, it’s an intuited reality, a picture, received.
All this then, the mystery of Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit, you could understand this series of images, the accessing of that ancient memory, as a challenge to us all, to humanity, to achieve the spirit wisdom necessary to see the images for what they are – as representing the unfolding cosmic evolution of humanity. If only we are willing to make alive in our souls that which knows nothing of the boundaries separating the different parts of humanity, and speaks a language which all souls, all the world over, can understand. To not just see it, but to participate in it. What I’ve been calling Pneumanosophy – Pneuma, Spirit, Sophia, Wisdom - that we might not just allow it to indwell us, the wisdom of spirit, but that we might choose to intuit the world, to view the world through its more creative, poetic, meaning-infused lens. To see the world clairvoyantly, if you will. This is the way towards the heightened spiritual power of humanity. Not a dry-bones Christianity, but a received, living picture, Christianity. Indeed, we don’t even need to call it Christianity. After all, that is to harken back, and we are now in the present, orientated forwards, an ever-renewing fire.