The age old questions of why we are here and what is our purpose or mission on this earth has troubled mankind for thousand of years. If we look throughout history we can find reference points when people with the knowledge and understanding of the world at the time had tried to attach meaning and make sense of our existence.
Whether it was Seneca talking about The Shortness of Life or Richard Feynman on the Meaning of It All, covering different both ends of the spectrum or even Jimmy Carter on his 1979 speech called The Crisis of Confidence warning the public that the road to consumerism does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
To contemplate even such questions requires time for introspection and studying of other great minds that have stepped on this earth before us and even during our time.
One such great mind was the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. He was born on the island of Crete in Greece in 1883 and died at the age of 74 in 1957 in Freiburg, West Germany. In the years during his journey on earth he was a restless soul driven by his thirst to understand our purpose in life and our relationship to God.
Among the many famous writings that he left behind( Zorba The Greek, The Last Temptation and many others as well as translations), the one that was of great significance to him was "The Saviors of God" which was a distillation of his beliefs about our journey on earth.
Through his travels around the world and the translation of spiritual and psychology books in others languages, Nikos Kazantzakis inherited invaluable lenses through which to interpret and make sense of the world. His encounter with Saint Francis, Fredricht Nitsche and other great minds have been instrumental in the writing of The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises.
The premise of the book bears Kazantzakis unique viewpoint and it is a guide for the soul on how to ascend to a higher state of being. He describes 5 ascending circles that we need to become aware and move towards. It is a daily fight alongside God, so that we can save God and ultimately save ourselves.
The book is densely written with vivid descriptions from which I have distilled what stood out for me and was of great significance.
The five ascending circles are Ego, Mankind, Earth, Universe and God. It is characteristic throughout the book that God is not depicted as being almighty but as an army General who fights alongside us with victory being uncertain. Kazantzakis explains his relationship to God by providing a view to his prayer.
The book has 5 parts, the preparation, the march, the vision, the action and the silence.
The 5 ascending circles mentioned earlier are part of the march and the action steps. We need to raise our awareness before we can fathom such concepts and constructs and be ready to take action.
There is a theme of struggle throughout the book between the body and the soul. In more than one ways Nikos Kazantzakis paints this graphic picture of the mind trying to contain and constrain man within the confines of the skull while the soul speaks through the heart and screams to be let free.
The mind has a way of deceiving us into believing that the superficial world that we see with our eyes is all there is and will ever be, while the heart cries to be heard, hoping to grab our attention and express the limitlessness of the soul.
We are all born into very different times and the inherent unlearning while focusing on useless rumination is overlooked when we anguish about the direction of our lives. We need to filter the noise.
As Nikos Kazantzakis explains in the prologue,
This again reminds us of Seneca on The Shortness of Life, where he talks about life and how most people truly leave for a very short period.
Most of our lives, we just exist, waiting to return. Kazantzakis believes that it is our duty to harmonise these two enormous holy forces and with this vision to adjust our thinking and actions accordingly.
First Duty: Discipline, Clarity & Austerity
Our first duty is to become aware of the power of the mind. The mind can create the world around us, through our five senses and attach meaning in order to protect us. In doing so, it also confines us within the limited capacity of the skull.
Through discipline, clarity and austerity we can determine the omnipotence of the mind in all material things and its incapacity in all things beyond this material world.
Second Duty: Boundaries & Meaning
The second duty contemplates the boundaries set by the mind and the unwillingness to look beyond them. Whatever the boundaries, echoes of the heart's open calling can be heard as voices, weeping.
Kazantzakis contemplates the idea of a sixth sense, which he calls heart and invites us to defy the limitations of man and start looking through the eyes and not with the eyes in the words of Adlus Huxley.
Between the boundaries of unseen powers that throw us into existence and back to oblivion.
There is only ephemeral joy to be found in this materialist world of ours eventually leaving a void of purpose and lack of of confidence.
At the very least, love for other people should allow us to think outside our circumstances and see the power of unity, harmony and love in people.
Third Duty: The Greatest Temptation of all: Hope
The greatest temptation as Nikos Kazantzakis writes is that of hope.
It was Jim Carey who said:
In Kazantzakis own words,
It takes faith and bravery to overcome the confines of the minds and the circumstances of the season of life we appeared on this earth.
These were also his famous words:
Not long after we attune ourselves to these frequencies of duties that we have as people on this earth, we start to hear a calling. This is a calling coming from within and at first it is incoherent but when the time is right, it takes human form and calls you by name.
By way of life, there is an ascend and a descent. Yin and Yang. Ascending into life, light and existence and descending into death, darkness and non-existence. We come from nowhere to now here and back to nowhere.
As mentioned in the Tao Te Ching, one of the verses states:
When you know what your calling is, there is ascending of your spirit without struggle. Everything becomes natural, flowing as if it was effortless, yet all is taken care of.
The spiritual path signifies the ascending path that defies the mind and its assertiveness to comply and stay within the imaginary lines.
First Step: The Ego
The concept of the ego contemplates the existence of a deep seated invisible self within us, that has ways of bending the mind to its will with the ultimate goal of severing the ties of man with its source.
Nikos Kazanantzakis writes:
Denying our origin and adjusting to the ways of the Ego to please the wishes of the shadow self in the words of Carl Jung.
The balance between body, mind and spirit is what Kazantzakis prescribes. This is all we have and we have everything we need.
Our struggle as human beings is to realize the workings of the Ego and identify our connection to our source. The source communicates with us and we can receive these messages if we become quiet.
It is this source that entrusts in us the fate of this world and expects us to fight alongside. This is a very different perception of God from what mainstream religion advocates and as a consequence has been criticised by Church throughout the years as being a blasphemy.
However, after reading this books I could not imagine this any different. The God that we are taught about when growing up is very controversial. We learn about an almighty God who forgives and we learn to pray for forgiveness, help, hope and for taking our troubles away. Yet at the same time there are parables that teach us not to wait for God to save us, nothings happens if just sit and wait.
This is a quite different God as he writes:
Again, the false sense of being rootless and part of nothing, only belonging to the constructs of the shadow self is one of the greatest accomplishments of the Ego.
Second Step: The Race
The author talks about the concept of race. The concept or reincarnation is a device for depicting the continuous nature of man's purpose in the history of mankind. There is another cry which comes from all who came before us. They embody our passions and thoughts:
The question then becomes how are we going to live?
Are we going to shy away from responsibility and blame our shadow self?
We are doomed to make choices as Carl Jung best put it, so why not make these choices count?
The concept of cause and effect that we associate with business, marketing and other quantifiable applications, is equally applicable in the spiritual realm as thoughts manifest themselves into things.
There is a knowing and a presence with us at all times. We get to shape our life with our thoughts. Throughs either based on love or fear.
As it was so beautifully put in The Course In Miracles:
Third Step: Mankind
The third step talks about the concept of mankind. The illusion of separateness amongst people of different race and colour that the Ego creates is exactly that. We need to free ourselves from these fabrications.
We overestimate our subjective attention when we focus on the external characteristics of people and begin to believe that our bodies are real in the sense that they never change.
But this is a lie. We deceive ourselves. We have been in many bodies since birth and each one is characteristically different. The author writes:
Additionally, we are fixated on the ideas of seeking happiness and becoming enlightened.
What if we are looking at these backwards?
It is a matter of perspective.
Remembering the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer:
Fourth Step: The Earth
The interconnectedness of body, mind and nature supersedes the artificial layers man has built. It is Mother Nature that can sustain us or make us extinct depending on how we approach this relationship. We vibrate to the frequency of this earth as we step on it. We are connected to nature and all livings things. We can listen to nature's music.
Henry David Thoreau noted of this connection of man and earth during his two years and two months of living in the woods near Walden lake:
As human beings, we have power over all livings things on this planet, but this power should and must be put to constructive use not destructive.
There is a an ultimate vision detailed in the book:
As one would expect theory is followed by action, otherwise it would remain just mere thoughts. There is only so much we can understand by though alone and action comes to validate and unfold the path ahead like the headlights of a car.
The Relationship between God and Man
Nikos Kazantzakis describes our relationship with God in what is humanly possible with the use of the twenty six letters of the alphabet.
This striving to encapsulate the invisible into a tangible form that we can fathom is necessary for us to evolve and ascend.
The God that Kazantzakis envisions is not almighty but fighting alongside us:
This is further reflected in the way that the writer prays:
Out journey on this earth is a service to God:
The Relationship between Man and Man
The 2nd relationship to be understood is that between human beings:
The Relationship Man and Nature
Last but not least is the relationship between man and nature.
Finally, silence is where you will find God. Silence cannot be divided and inherently has a divine nature.
In his closing paragraphs Nikos Kazantzakis remains unconventional and uncompromising in his choice of words:
The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises is fascinating in the ways it approaches this multi-dimensional subject of meaning and life and is worth reading and drawing your own interpretations of it. Complement it with The Course In Miracles that also explains the meaning of our journey and the ways to come closer to nature and essential living as described in Walden.