In these figures of speech, the so-called self is given as analogous with mind, and more specifically with unacceptable modes of thinking. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God… nor can he know them” 1cor2:14 and then v.16, “but we have the mind of Christ.” In these ways, self denial is a repentance. A paradigm shift. An intellectual acknowledgement, followed by a specific alteration of perspective. A mentality exposed to death. Thought-denial.
This reminds me of a much more definite and punctually sound treatment of the fact given by anthroposophist Georg Khulewind. From his treatise on “Becoming Aware of the Logos” we can gain the necessary insight to our subject.
pg.127 – “It is characteristic of today’s reflected consciousness that it awakens only through its own past. It sees only finished, fixed forms, constructs, facts, and does not notice how they appear and enter into consciousness. Thinking, perceiving, and mental picturing (representing) are not experienced as processes. They remain in the background, ‘hidden,’ and ‘forgotten.’ The words living, active sphere is neither perceived nor included in reality. Therefore the world seems to consist of finished contents of consciousness — the past of living present-consciousness. Man is attached to his past, because he feels himself, his own existence through it. This past is so foreign to and different from himself as a living cognizer that in the beginning man can experience himself only through it. As long as the cognizer does not discover this situation he is living a contradiction. He can only recognize the past as reality, and therefore he tries to find his own reality in the world of the past. ‘Man is nothing but…,’ followed by something which is not man at all. ‘Thinking is nothing but…’ – ‘The I is nothing but…’ followed by something that is not thinking, not I, but physics, chemistry, biology, cybernetics, or ‘spirit,’ ‘soul,’ ‘divinity’ etc., all things which the reflected consciousness thinks or imagines.”
The relevance of these words is clearly akin to Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and we are able to see how self denial, in the context of (prior)thought-denial, as well as identifying the connection of the self with the mind, is an absolute prerequisite of true discipleship. Even with all of this considered, we are still aside from the bearing of one’s cross, if our cross is related to the Cross of Christ.
The other parallel image connected with the topic is related from the Gethsemane scene. Let’s look at Matthew 26:38-39
“Then he said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me.’ (39)He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'”
Exposure to death and self denial are expressed in a most intimate exchange here quite literally. In this iconic scene, Jesus is in complete awareness of the moment, of the weight of his destiny, and his threefold prayer centers on the denial of his personal Will. “Not mine, but Thine.”
To draw attention to the element of Will here, is to qualitatively distinguish it from the element of mind, or thinking above. We could also note the need for transparency in that He first mentioned that through and through He was ‘exceedingly sorrowful,’ adding the feeling element to our picture,completing the image of the active trinity of the human soul as a thinking, feeling, willing microcosm of the universe.
There in the garden we meet the fully incarnate Christ. The Son of Man as our living Ideal. “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Human, all too human.
An examination of the nature of the Will would seem to take us too far afield here, but in question of the level to which our consciousness is aware of this soul element, the answer is that it is not aware of it. Man’s will at this stage of development is asleep to waking consciousness. In other words, one does not locate the source of the will, as he seems to locate the organ of his thoughts or the center of his feelings.
Letting this explanation suffice for now, we are given at least some understanding of the elevated (Will)type of “self-denial” Jesus was there undertaking in contrast to the instructed (Thought)type of “self-denial” concerning the infant church. Biblical methods of distinguishing between soul qualities can be subtle, but certainly necessary to grasp.
What I have tried to show in the above examinations, is that the presumptive definition of the cross, as “exposure to death, i.e. self-denial,” which is very widely taken as a dogmatic reality, is in truth a matter of fragmentation. Admittedly, self denial is absolutely an ingredient of salvation. As the final meaning, though, of the word /cross/, the evidence shows that we are not looking at something written in stone, as it were. To which, in light of these thoughts on the literal value of the Greek -stauros-, as well as the figurative “definition” of the cross, there really is still the question of its meaning, as spoken by Jesus himself. Compelling us to return to the study in Greek.
to be continued…