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Two Masters

Updated: Nov 2, 2022


It’s a teaching from the Judeo-Christian tradition that suggests you cannot serve two masters.


And as a reminder, the teachings of the Judeo-Christian library are not tidy. The serious student doesn’t get to conclude that its contents are all literal or all metaphorical because they’re not. The serious student doesn’t get to conclude that its contents are all universal truths or all crusty irrelevancies because they’re not.


The teachings of the Judeo-Christian library represent explorations of two early faith communities, detailed by human beings over some 1,000 years — human beings from different cultures, human beings with different views; human beings who spoke to different audiences, human beings who wrote with different purposes. The teachings of the Judeo-Christian library represent explorations of two early faith communities, detailed by human beings and twisted through countless translations, distorted by various agendas, warped by selfish interpreters and mythologized by fearful societies.


The teachings of the Judeo-Christian library represent the Jews and the early “followers of the way,” a splinter community numbering about 7,500 people by the end of the first century; a splinter community whose people would come to call themselves Christians.

In short, if you’re sitting on the edge of your bed every evening with that gilded King James in your hands thinking that you’re reading pure wisdom from on high, it’s important to realize that you’re not. The Judeo-Christian library is a human product.


Now, I say such things not that the Bible might be rejected. I say such things that the Bible might be redeemed.


We are a demanding people who are less and less inclined to accept any religious ideology that requires us to discard scientific knowledge, to disregard mental health, to deny innate authenticity or to desert loved ones.


But the good news is that we don’t have to. The wisdom of the Judeo-Christian library doesn’t really require us to disregard, deny, desert or discount. It just requires us to grow up.


It makes no more sense to search for Jonah and his whale than it makes to search for Jack and his beanstalk. Such teaching tales as these weren’t written as historical accounts and we dishonor them when we insist that they were.


I stumbled upon a minister this past week who said that if the Bible said that 2 plus 2 equals 5, he would accept that as ultimate truth and live his life accordingly. (I should very much like to do some buying and selling with him.) We are a demanding people who are less and less inclined to accept any religious ideology that requires us to discount common sense itself.


It’s a teaching from the Judeo-Christian tradition that suggests you cannot serve two masters.


Now, as a multi-dimensional teaching, I like to suggest that this may offer wisdom about them, wisdom about us and wisdom about you simultaneously. So, in a sense, the wisdom gleaned depends upon the wisdom sought.


Seek a teaching about “them,” meaning seek a teaching about a people in specific – a people who lived in a certain era and in a certain geography; a people who physically walked the earth and influenced its life (seek a history lesson, maybe) and you can find it.

Seek a teaching about “us,” meaning seek a teaching about people in general. Seek a teaching about those collective dynamics and tendencies that are bigger than history; collective dynamics and tendencies that exist beyond specific eras and specific geographies (seek an ethical guide, maybe) and you can find it.


And seek a teaching about you, meaning seek a teaching about what it means to be an unfolding, evolving soul; a teaching in which every war represents a war that’s waged within, a teaching in which every character represents a character that exists within, a teaching in which every triumph represents a triumph that’s realized within (seek a soul handbook, maybe) and you can find it.


And while Bible literalists tend to enjoy that layer of wisdom that’s about them, and while Bible philosophers tend to enjoy that layer of wisdom that’s about us, it’s the metaphysicians who tend to enjoy that layer or wisdom that’s about you.


It sounds a bit selfish at first; to consider the possibility that all of the biblical events, all of the biblical characters, all of the biblical victories – why, they’re all about me! Metaphysical narcissism run amuck! And yet that’s one end game of the metaphysical layer of wisdom; and that’s the layer of wisdom I encourage from you in hearing the passage again: you cannot serve two masters.


In other words, I’m not asking you to consider what it might mean to serve two masters in the ancient Mediterranean basin (even thought that might have been relevant to them), and I’m not asking you to consider what it might mean to serve two poles on some ethical spectrum (even though that might be relevant to us). Rather, I’m asking you to consider what it might mean to serve two masters in your inner world (because this might be decidedly relevant to you).


Maybe you already know what it might mean to serve two masters in your inner world! Maybe you don’t need my help!


Let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that as an individuation of a limitless creative impetus by whatever name you choose to call it, you are perfectly unique. Let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that your gifts are unique, that your perspectives are unique, that your capacities are unique. Let’s say you start to awaken to what I would consider to be a universal truth, and that’s that the infinite expressive nature of God never has and never will create another just like you.


Let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that if God as creator didn’t get lazy with flakes of snow, that if God as creator didn’t get lazy with grains of sand, then God as creator certainly didn’t get lazy with the likes of you.


You are a once-in-a-lifetime being, you are! The odds of there being another you makes a lottery win look like a coin toss.


You are not a projection of your parents. You are not a stamp of your circumstances. You are not a widget of your culture. You are a limitless individuation of a limitless creative potential by whatever name you choose to call it.


And maybe that’s a good affirmation for you to take with you: “I am a limitless individuation of a limitless God.”


Let’s say you start to awaken to that. Maybe this teaching suggests that as you begin to worship the master that is your uniqueness, you’ll find it harder and harder to worship the world’s conformity.


As you begin to worship the master that is your uniqueness, you’ll find it harder and harder to allow the world to discount your value, to discredit your vision. You’ll find it harder and harder to allow the loud and fearful wisdom that swirls and circles about all of us to have the final word about your relevance or your destiny. You’ll find it harder and harder to give your authority, to minimize your worth, to lower your chin just because they don’t get you.

Maybe this teaching suggests that.


Or let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that the totality of your earthly experience has the potential to unfold you, to grow you, to bring you toward your fullest self. Said in more traditional language, let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that the totality of your earthly experience has the potential to bless you.


Now, such a suggestion isn’t meant to justify every ridiculous choice, every cruel action, every blind selfishness perpetrated by human beings. It is to say, however, that the capacity for redemption exists behind every ridiculous choice, behind every cruel action, behind every blind selfishness. This is why I so often say that the spiritual path doesn’t suggest the absence of difficulty. The spiritual path affirms the presence of meaning. It’s in the ending that we discover the sweetness of the beginning. It’s in death that we discover the profound honor of life.


It was the songwriter Karen Drucker who crooned the same idea in her song lyric, “There is no spot where God is not.”


Let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that the totality of your earthly experience has the potential to bless you. Life works for you is another way of saying it. Even as I look back on my 57 years, I must admit that some of my most valuable experiences were some of my most difficult experiences. I can conjure betrayals that changed me. I can conjure struggles that strengthened me. I can conjure circumstances that educated me.

Let’s say you start to awaken to that. Maybe this teaching suggests that as you begin to worship the master that is your faith, you’ll find it harder and harder to worship the world’s fear.


Maybe this teaching suggests that as you begin to worship the master that is your faith, you’ll find it harder and harder to imagine enemies around every corner. You’ll find it harder and harder to perceive adversaries in every face. You’ll find it harder and harder to anticipate disasters on every horizon. Maybe this teaching suggests that as you begin to worship the master that is your faith, fight or flight give way to curiosity and wonder and trust and surrender and delight as the new companions for your journey!

Maybe this teaching suggests that.


Or let’s say you start to awaken to the suggestion that there really is one ground of being from which all life emanates and into which all life retreats. Said a different way, let’s say you start to awaken to the nature of existence as singular, to the nature of existence as one. And let’s say that this awakening to the nature of existence as singular gives rise to a sense of connection and compassion as never before known.


Such an awakening would speak to our Jain brothers and sisters who perceive a soul shared by people and cows and ants and corn and beyond. As such, to our Jain brothers and sisters, people and cows and ants and corn and beyond are inherently equal in worth. I think I’m part Jain. But of course, I’m also part Hindu and part Jewish and part Wiccan (I’ve been known to cast the occasional spell during football season). And while such an idea seems strange to many western ears, it wouldn’t be surprising at all for one in China to be Confucian in youth, Taoist in adulthood and Buddhist in advanced age, but I digress.

In its strictest forms, even the Jain’s mouth might be covered by a cloth to avoid unnecessary harm from the breath. Even the Jain’s path might be cleared by a brush to avoid unnecessary harm from the feet.


Let’s say you start to awaken to that. Maybe this teaching suggests that as you begin to worship the master that is our oneness, you’ll find it harder and harder to worship the master of the world’s selfishness.


As you begin to worship the master that is our oneness, you’ll find it harder and harder to disregard your server at lunch. You’ll find it harder and harder to purchase without thinking. You might not carry a brush to clear the sidewalk, but you’ll find it harder and harder to forget that there are those who do. Maybe this teaching suggests that.


It strikes me as interesting that as opposed to translations of earlier similar passages, this teaching isn’t interpreted to say you shall not worship two masters. It isn’t interpreted to say you must not worship two masters. Rather it’s interpreted to say you cannot worship two masters.


It’s not interpreted to say you shall not or must not but that you cannot. “Cannot,” as if at some juncture you will find yourself unable to do it. That’s a different twist, right?


What if this teaching isn’t best interpreted as some moral dictate but as a description of what it means to grow? I like to think this teaching suggests that as we cultivate a deepened understanding of self, life and God, we’ll find that we cannot, any longer, worship those masters of conformity, fear and selfishness.


In other words, if you’ve been accused of hearing your own music and dancing your own dance, maybe this teaching says, “good for you.” Making waves and causing trouble? Maybe this teaching says, “good for you.” If you’ve been accused of going against the grain and swimming against the current, maybe this teaching says, “good for you.”


If you’ve been accused of becoming a sassy old eccentric with an uncanny positivity, and a tendency toward wild compassion and senseless generosity, maybe this teaching says, “good for you.”


I like to think this teaching suggests that as we cultivate deepened loyalty, if you will, to that essential core within each of us, to that still small voice of old, to that eternal one within, to that holy of holies, we’ll find that we cannot, any longer, worship those masters of our outer worlds. And as we do this, I like to think this teaching says, “good for you.”

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