Week 4/5: Day 5
Evelyn Underhill, “Inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Day 5 again). Do I accept my inheritance? What do I need to do in order to make room for it in my life?
Title: “The Amphibious Life: Awaiting the Eternal Waters of God”
Abstract: A description of the circle of life, in the context of God’s truth of eternal Life, and an analogy of the amphibious Earth as compared to the fully-aquatic Heaven, in describing the waters of God’s love and the eternal resting place of complete peace awaiting us after death.
“Until we take up mental prayer we are only living half our lives. Look at the frogs on the edge of the pond. They don’t seem exactly at home on dry land though they do wonders in leaping about on it. But after a time they start getting dry, and the glory goes. Then we see a sudden leap into the water and soon after, a transformed creature, utterly at home, with free powerful strokes, in a support medium to which it is perfectly attuned. Presently the frog comes out all glistening, refreshed, revitalized. He couldn’t give much of an account of what he has done. Still less could he define the nature of the water in which he has revised his being, or think out his own peculiar situation, but he has been at home” (Underhill, 1997, p. 237).
What is water to a fish? Is it to be thirsted for, sought after, claimed and prized as his own territory? What is water to a fish that it should be cherished and valued? Rather, what is water to a fish that he should even know it as water, for indeed, he knows of nothing else! What is water to a fish? Nothing. Nothing at all, for of course he has never not known water, nor been upon dry land, being a fish; and so, because he knows not the absence of water, he has no basis of comparison, no source of knowing by contrast, and so, even though he lives in water and derives his very life from this most fundamental and necessary source of being—he knows not that water is at all—he knows not that it is anything, and so, to him, it might as well be nothing. What is water to a fish? As if echoing Euthyphro (in defining what it is not rather than what it is), what is not water? I haven’t a clue! What is water to a fish? Nothing. And yet, without it, he is dead indeed.
This life to me, is a taste of the aquatic life that is complete peace and full immersion in God, where no disturbances are known, no perturbations reach the grasp of the memory (for the memory now lives only in the object of its hope, the theological virtue of hope, as that for divine union with God), and all that is known, is the final and irrevocable, eternal rest in God. What is water to a fish? What is Heaven to an angel? What is glory to a halo? What is exile to he who tasted not of the forbidden fruit? What is water to a fish indeed, if you will excuse the metaphor. Pardon me.
I see this like as an amphibious life. We are here not as fish swimming in the eternal peace that is the all-pervasive knowledge of our very being—where no distress of man-made land-made aridity can reach us, for it is as if we have not the capacity by which that knowledge of sin and pain and grief and suffering could reach us—for how is a fish to know of the death that land brings? He shall never know of the land, being as he is a fish. How shall the reborn in Heaven know of the pains of temporal life, being as they are, reborn in the eternal waters of God? From these waters of Heaven they shall not reemerge, and because they are eternal, from which we shall never depart back to the toil of the land, “nor even take thought for it,” the rest shall be perfect and the peace shall be complete (Matthew 6:27, 31-34).
So as we are here upon this Earth, we have indeed knowledge of man and land and sin, and what we have here of God, is indeed just a taste of His eternal waters, living, as it were, an amphibious life, by which we have the means to tell you what water is, and the means by which to discern the difference indeed. For what is water to a frog? Something to be sought after, prized, cherished, claimed as his and indeed grasped upon as vital and necessary to his very life. What is water to a frog? “I need that!” he says—as to what it is? It is Life—it is many things indeed, many of which he may not be able to say, or to know, but this much is the truth of the frog, that he knows his water, he knows he needs it, and to him it is Life. It is indeed life to a fish—but he does not know this, he does not seek it, search for it, “strive to remain in it and hold it dear”; he just rests in it peacefully, without a care in the world (John 15:4-7).
What is water to a frog? “I need that, take it not from me!” (Psalm 51:11). In this analogy of man on Earth, who knows here that not all things are of God, not all things contain or provide this stream of life that is spiritual substance and the virtuosity of moral goodness in good will towards love—in this analogy of man of Earth, we are but frogs indeed, longing for the rest of the fish, wherein we know, that when we shall finally arrive, as if back in the mother’s womb or the nurturing currents of the tadpole, “we shall never again be plucked from the water to be laid out on dry land”—we shall never have to fear the departure of His presence, though it is us indeed who rather depart out of Him, our God, our eternal waters (John 10:27-30).
But when we come to rest in the eternal waters, no longer as frogs in the amphibious life of men on Earth, but as fish in our eternal resting place, in the glorious union with God in Heaven, then the purest and ideal and final union of God and man is made compete, such that “we have no thought for the dry land, let alone for the danger of departing from Him into the exile of Adam again”; as when we are forever severed from this amphibious life, then we will be brought round full circle, in the circle of life that is fathomed in God’s truth of Life, in the truth of eternal Life, and in this Life we shall be complete, as we shall find ourselves once again fully immersed and submerged in His divine grace, never to depart (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).
What is the world to an angel? What is water to a fish? “It is nothing,” He smiles. “It is nothing at all,” He replies, smiling at the silly question, “How absurd of you to ask!” For now, “their angels in Heaven do always behold the face of the Father,” and “as now God is all,” all else, is nothing indeed (Matthew 18:10; 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:28). All that is known, all that is knowable, all that is ever to be known, is the glory of God as our souls are at peace.
- Psalm 51
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness:
according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions:
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done this evil in thy sight:
that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest,
and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity;
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:
and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness;
that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence;
and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;
and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation:
and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips;
and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it:
thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion:
build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
with burnt offering and whole burnt offering:
then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
- Matthew 5:1-12
5 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
- Matthew 6:24-34
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
- Matthew 18:7-20
7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
- John 10:25-38
25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? 37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
- John 15:1-17
15 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
- 1 Corinthians 15:24-58
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? 30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
- Underhill, E., & Brame, G. A. (1997). The ways of the spirit. New York: Crossroad.