Stephen the Martyr: Shedding the skin of the snake
Posted on 04 June 2018, 15:20
The problem for growing snakes is that as they grow, their skins don’t, so every once in a while their skins begin to split, and the snake wriggles itself out, so that a new and more roomy skin may develop.
Spiritual teachers sometimes use this snake thing as a picture of what has to happen to us as we develop in Spirit.
St Paul described the situation as “dying to self, and rising with Christ”. The fact is, that as we develop, we can “die to self,” “shed the skin of the snake” several times in the course of our lives. It is a continuing process of “letting go, and letting God. That’s how we unite with God, by this letting go. And it is a central theme for the mystics of every religion. For instance the very name for Islam means “submission” (The whole process describes how we let love into our lives. The very fact of being a parent, for instance, can be a process leading to selflessness.)
All of the above by way of introducing the rather complex thoughts of Stephen the Martyr on this “shedding of skins”.
Those who have read my book Afterlife Teaching from Stephen the Martyr, will have noted why a number of scholars agree that it is highly likely that we are hearing from the spirit of the historical Stephen. I hope readers may feel helped by grappling with Stephen’s thought.
Section 62. The Seven Bodies
Stephen: Once again I state that we are, all of us,
2) Then add to this Being, the first body of consciousness where we might become aware of separate things.
(3) Then add the body, if you would wish, of the senses I had better explain) the non-physical senses.
(4) Then add to this a particular kind of matter which can be distinguished by the non-physical senses
(5) Then add to this a separated recording of emotions which we might call a personality.
For the personality reflects nothing more than the emotions that are felt by the non-physical senses, and later, by the physical senses.
(6) Then we add another skin [body]: It is one of mind, so that the senses can coordinate the other bodies
and the senses of those other bodies in relationship to the personality that we have grown.
(7) Then we give it flesh and we have then completed the instrument of total experience.
When this instrument has been used, it could well be cast aside until we are just Being that is.
The difficulty comes of course, because each of the bodies [skins] that we have grown, must from necessity (until after the personality has been cast off) be taken away and cast aside with due consideration to that sensory body (i.e. 3) and [to] the personality and its recording of the emotions of these senses (i.e. 5).
When this is done, the [non-physical] senses are no longer needed
for the continuance of Being which is forever.
Our scriptures teach us that man must need to search for life eternal.
Our Lord has said very clearly that we might be as he is, with the Father. He tells us that we must learn and trust and know through His example and His casting off of His bodies, that we lose nothing: we have in fact gained the peace and the harmony of being.
It is understood that this is never easy. It is not even easy to give away or cast off what even we know is ultimately unimportant.
For the rich man to give and to cast away all his riches and all that he holds dear, this is the first lesson, and the first exercise of the shedding of the instrument that we need to learn.
Think then of the words that we might read that always tell in truth of what is important. You may peruse your books and find all that I have told you now is written there plainly that you may see the consciousness of Stephen that you would know of should be understood as a stage of casting off. Stephen still has the [non-physical] senses and is very close to [what Stephen calls the “tent” of] the personality - for the senses enjoy the personality of Stephen.
But still my Lord says to me, if you would follow me, cast away what is dear to you and come and be with me.
It is not a Void that we must explode into. It is [a matter of] a barrier that we must shed.
The sweet fruit often has what might be judged to be a bitter skin.
Do ask more questions.
Michael: To clarify one of the points that you have made so far, Stephen, you speak of the first body of consciousness of separate things. Could you speak about this please?
Stephen: [It is] the refinement of the things of which we are conscious now, the awareness of the order of what is created, of the first awareness that we might have from an inverted viewpoint.
We might even say, would it not be wonderful if we were aware of the whole of that order and feel all things.
The wonder is when we are no longer aware. For all that has been created has been created for the [non-physical] senses of that body. The continued creation is what is first sensed.
Michael: To go back behind that, almost sounds as if this barrier, which is not a barrier - to go beyond this barrier, would be to lack consciousness at all.
Stephen: Consciousness, as I have said, is for the bodies. The feet may be conscious for the shoes are tight. In your mind imagine the comfort of neither tight shoes nor feet that may be hurt.
Michael: But it is not nothingness?
Stephen: One with aching feet might say it would be Heaven!
Think on these things. God bless you all.
*[In my words to Stephen, I have in mind the Void. In subatomic physics this would be the vacuum of space. Dana Zohar (The Quantum Self, 1990, p.225) writes: “The quantum vacuum is very inappropriately named because it is not empty. Rather, it is the basic, fundamental, and underlying reality of which everything in this universe – including ourselves – is an expression. As British physicist Tony Hey and his colleague Patrick Walters express it, Instead of a place where nothing happens, the ‘empty’ box should now be regarded as a bubbling ‘soup’ of virtual particle/antiparticle pairs. Or, in the words of American Physicist David Finkelstein, A general theory of the vacuum is thus a theory of everything.”
Space forbids going into detail with regard to Zohar’s picture of consciousness as characterising bosons i.e. photons, virtual photons, gluons and gravitons (?), as opposed to fermions which, unlike bosons which are waves, have the nature of particles. These are seen as arising out of the ‘soup’ of the vacuum of space.
At p.78 Zohar speaks of the “problem of the unity of consciousness, the distinctive indivisibility of our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings”. She describes the work of Herbert Fröhlich demonstrating a process by which molecules in the cell walls of living tissue “pull themselves into the most ordered form of condensed phase possible – a Bose-Einstein condensate.” In this process unitary consciousness becomes possible. Add to this thinking, the “everywhereness” of quantum particles as seen in the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen experiment, (which I have described in other footnotes) then we have a concept of consciousness transcending bodies and brains.]
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.