Now as was [their] custom, His parents regularly went their way – year by year – into Jerusalem during the Feast (or: festival) of the Passover.
So when He came to be twelve years [old], after their finishing going up – according to the custom of the Feast (or: festival) –
and upon finishing the days, during their process of returning, the Boy Jesus continued to remain in Jerusalem.
Yet, inferring from custom for Him to be within the group journeying together (= in the caravan; company of fellow travelers), they went a day’s way (= a day’s journey on the road) and then began seeking Him back among the relatives and acquaintances.
Then upon not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, continuing in searching again for Him.
Later, after three days, it happened [that] they found Him within the Temple courts (or: grounds), continuing in sitting within the midst of the teachers, constantly listening to them, as well as repeatedly making inquiries and putting question to them.
Now all the folks continuing to listen to and hear Him began ‘standing outside themselves’ in amazement and were repeatedly astonished at His understanding (His ability to make things flow together) and discerning responses (or: decided answers).
(Luke 2:41- 47 Jonathan Mitchell translation)
The image before us is delightful in its innocence. Of the young boy Jesus, twelve years of age, on the cusp of moving out of childhood and into manhood. The age of twelve was a time in the Jewish tradition when a young boy would be being prepared for his coming of age in his thirteenth year. In fact, Jesus had likely been instructed in the proceedings of the Passover on this visit to Jerusalem, in preparation for his partaking of it fully in the following year. As part of a young boy’s instruction, it was also customary for the teachers to sit with him and to teach him, by encouraging him to ask questions and then responding to these, with his questions serving as a way of opening up a dialogue. However, we know that what happened next was unexpected; that the church elders were astonished at the wisdom in this young boy of twelve years and were left stunned and amazed. It is with delight that we look upon this image and see this boy in his love of the Word and of learning its truths and in a state of what seems like unconscious enlightenment, without self-awareness in it, as he offers his understanding and insights to his teachers.
And so, the text and its imagery draws us in initially, with a soft, sweet affection. But we can move in deeper by remembering that the Word is a text about the life of our mind, of our thoughts and affections. That it is a Text that is psycho-spiritual in its nature because it describes the experiences of the Word unfolding in our awareness. We can remind ourselves that to think spiritually is to think above person, place, time and space and to look to what these represent as spiritual states within our mind instead.
Before us, we have the young boy, Jesus, who is the Word made flesh. The Word in our mind in this state is no longer an infant but a boy, so it is an experience of the Word that is becoming more self-aware, more conscious for us. This boy, is twelve years of age and twelve denoting all the goods and truths of the church, indicates this state of the Word is on the cusp of moving into the maturity of a more adult state, a state where it is ready to be in the fullness of its use. It is a state of the Word in us in a transition or on the threshold of an entry. It is ready to be educated in things of the church more deeply, to receive doctrine and instruction and to take responsibility for them. This is further supported by the fact that it has ascended into Jerusalem, it being a city that is high above the surrounding landscape, and so a higher or more interior spiritual state. The word Jerusalem itself means ‘dual peace shall be taught’ and it signifies the church in respect to its teachings. So, everything about this state points to the idea that it is a stage in which the understanding of the Word in us is ready to be instructed to bring it into its maturity, into its fullness of use.
We see that Jesus has been separated from his father and mother, the father and mother representing the goods and truths that have raised and nourished the young state of the Word but at some point, have to be separated from, so that the boy can become a man and find a wife and raise his own family. Spiritual life is a continual cycle of unions and separations as one church within us ends and another begins or as one cycle of regeneration comes to a completion and another commences. At the ending of the cycle, the goods and truths that have served us to a certain point are seen to have elements of evil and falsity in them and so that which is no longer identified to be of the Lord, is sloughed off. That which remains is what acts as the impetus substance for the forming of the new man, the new church, the new human.
So, separations occur so that distinctions can be seen and vice versa but then we look to join with what remains, which of course can only be reunited with the Lord in a state of instruction in the Word. The original goods and truths of the church, the father and mother, notice that the Word is missing, can’t find it in the lower states of the mind and so ascend again into Jerusalem. After a state of completion in this seeking, as is signified by the three days of searching for the boy Jesus, they find him…. in the temple, in the house of the Lord because where else but, can the Word be found. And this state of the Word in us has been drawn there to meet with the established men of the church, the established truths in us, so that it may be taught.
Or has it?
One of the recognised phenomena in Logopraxis is that we start out with the Text with the intent of reading and studying it, only to find that it is in the fact the Text that is reading and studying us. That it is the Text that is teaching us, teaching the established truths of the church, challenging the truths that we claim are truths, inquiring and questioning them and asking us to validate them. We claim that they are true but the Text, the Word, asks us how they are true in our life, how we know them to be true. It sits,
‘within the midst of the teachers, constantly listening to them, as well as repeatedly making inquiries and putting question to them.’
We can draw other parallels in this story to our experiences of the Logopraxis process. We journey to Jerusalem in a state of willingness to be instructed as we read the set reading, identify spiritual principles and form a task to work with over the week. We find that the work with our task is similar to the state of seeking that the father and mother are doing in this story, in that the goods and truths that have nourished us until now, are in a state of seeking the truth of the Word in its application to life. The effort to sit down and summarise our work into a submission also speaks to the state of this seeking, as we look to find the Lord in what we have worked with and in what we might share with others in the sphere of our Logopraxis Life Group.
And so, we enter our Life Group as one might enter into the court of the temple; eager to exchange our knowledge and experiences of the Word, eager to share them. Perhaps there is even a state in the sense of self that is eager to teach others. But instead, like the teachers in the temple, we find that we have been gathered to be questioned and to have the work we have done with our task in the Word, to be inquired of. In short, we find that our ‘truths’ that we have brought, like these teachers, have been gathered around the Word to be taught. To be taught by the innocent young boy states of the truth that are focused in the delight of the love of the Lord and that are present without self-attribution.
But how does this young boy state of the Word teach us? How does truth that the self takes no credit for, teach us? How do the questions it asks us to consider, teach us?
There is a memorable relation in Conjugial Love about the sports of wisdom, in other translations referred to as the ‘contests of wisdom’ or ‘schools of wisdom’. The description of this contest and the way it unfolds also offers us principles in how the Lord as the Word works to teach us in our midst. This memorable relation can be found in Conjugial Love 132-136 but the specific section of 132, which is about to be explored here, can be found at the end of this presentation.
What we find described in the opening passages is a scene similar to Jesus arriving at the temple and to us arriving at our Life Group meeting. There is an ascent into a higher part of the land, a deliberate movement to looking to things of the Word and a desire to gather with others to share in the love of wisdom:
I once had a talk with two angels, one from the eastern and one from the southern heaven.
When they noticed that I was pondering the mysteries of wisdom on the subject of conjugial love, they said: ‘Don’t you know anything about the contests of wisdom in our world?’ ‘No, not yet,’ I replied.
‘There are many of them,’ they said, adding that those whose love of truth comes from a spiritual affection, that is to say, they love truths because they are true and because they are the way to wisdom, meet when the signal is given, to discuss matters requiring profound understanding and to reach conclusions about them. Then they took me by the hand, saying: ‘Come with us and you will see and hear. The signal has been given for a meeting today.’
I was taken across a plain to a hill, and there at the foot of the hill was an avenue of palm-trees extending all the way to the top. We went in and climbed the hill.
(Conjugial Love 132 Chadwick translation)
A prepared document with a seal is then set on a table in the centre of the meeting. The document holds questions for the consideration for those who are present, in much the same way as the young boy Jesus sits in the middle of the teachers in the temple, asking them questions. And in much the same way as the Word raises questions for us about what we think we know, when we read it or hear it read.
No one challenges the origin or authority of the document just as no one in the temple questions the validity of the Word. For anyone entering into the Logopraxis approach, there is some form of acknowledgement that the text is divine and we are reminded of this again when we gather in our Life Groups to meet and work with the Word as our central focus. This is a foundational premise in the work of Logopraxis and hence in one’s ability to enter into it. It comes from an inner perception that is linked to our willingness to bring truths into life. This willingness allows for an inner witness, an inner perception that something is true. This is not to say that we are not allowed to question the authority of the Text, this is a natural part of our development as we come to terms with the implications of the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines on our life. But to even just enter into this work, there is a recognition within ourselves that we are willing to submit to being taught and to have our sense of self-reformed by the Word. Our trust in its authority is something that will continue to be both challenged and deepened eternally. In this way, there will always be a young boy sitting in the midst of the teachers in the temple, asking questions.
The discussions in the contests of wisdom takes place in three rounds. The first question begins with a reading from Sacred Scripture and the men answer in the order with those from the north, west, south and then east. Each group that speaks looks to what it can expand on and add to, from what has been shared by the previous group. Finally, after each group has spoken, a conclusion is reached that incorporates the ideas offered from all four of the regions.
How we listen is such an important factor in the creation of a sphere within which the Lord can be experienced. Just as each of the four regional groups spoke and built on what the previous group offered, we also are asked to cultivate this skill in our Logopraxis Life Group. As each member’s experience of the Word working in their life is brought forth, the degree to which each practitioner is able to elevate their thoughts so that the Lord is recognised in what is shared, is the degree to which the potential for a collective experience of recognising the Lord as the Word in our midst may be present. We therefore are asked to work to develop a sensitivity to hearing in what another shares of the Text in relation to their life, with what also resonates with our own work or experience of the Text and to share from that, seeking to draw positive connections. This form of dialogue contributes to the growth of wisdom because it forms our connections with one another on the basis of the good of life being the end in view.
But being awake to another person when they are sharing (written or verbal) takes effort. As with reading the Text itself, we are easily lulled into a waking sleep as our thoughts drift away from being awake to the Lord in the other person and fall instead into our sense of self or proprium. The proprium, when removed from the Lord as its overseer, believes that what it sees and thinks is true to the point where it will disregard and defend, sometimes aggressively, anything that disagrees with it. It quickly grabs hold of what it finds agreeable in another and is just as quick to attack that which is opposed to its own view, seeking to pull down what it finds objectionable to bring the other into submission to, and therefore an image of, itself. What it believes to be a dialogue is really nothing more than a dressed-up monologue, in which self-interest takes the leading role. It cannot, and will not hear another, for it is too much in love with the sound of its own voice. It can often frame ‘advice giving’ as something good it is offering to another, when in fact it flows from a sense of thinking that it knows best – and is one of the many forms that pride in one’s own intelligence can take.
So, whenever we see in ourselves the need to correct, chastise and criticise what another shares in our Life Group, this is the young boy state of the Word in us that is seeing and questioning and challenging the ‘truths’ that are listening. It is the Word that is seeing this need in our ‘self’ and it asks us to stop and consider; to step back and observe our responses in the light of the truths of the Word and to practice this as consciously as we are able to. For it is the light of what truths teach that allows us to see what the proprium works to do when it is separated from the Lord. To be able to observe this hellish sense of self is how the Word saves us as it is in the seeing of it, that allows us to be removed from our engagement with it and its hold over us and hence to also know more deeply, the peace and freedom that is the Lord Himself.
The purpose of a Logopraxis Life Group is to create conditions in which the Lord’s presence might be more fully experienced in what passes between group members when they share their accounts of the Word working in their lives. Our work as Logopractitioners is therefore to seek to be awake to the Lord in each other, or more accurately, to be awake to His presence in the experiences shared of the Word working in each other’s lives. If we are to have any hope of the Lord becoming visible for us in this way then we must seek to practice in the work of genuine participation with conscious listening and reading of the spiritual states that are being presented to us in our mind and making distinctions between those that are of the Lord and those that are not. Essentially, being able to hear and read the questions that the Word is asking us and to step away from, or outside of, our sense of self or proprium, is a spiritual literacy skill we must cultivate if we wish to see the Lord as the Word in our midst. If we can practice this type of conscious listening and attending to the Lord in our Logopraxis Life Groups, then we will find, like those in the contests of wisdom found, that the variety and diversity of the many forms of His life that are offered as each member shares, may be gathered together into an even richer and deeper experience of the Lord for all. When we are open to the experience of being shown the ‘self’, then just as for those listening to the young boy Jesus, the wisdom that is the Lord will shine through into our understanding, bringing amazement and astonishment.
Now all the folks continuing to listen to and hear Him began ‘standing outside themselves’ in amazement and were repeatedly astonished at His understanding (His ability to make things flow together) and discerning responses (or: decided answers). (Luke 2:47)
Emmaus Road Discussion
Conjugial Love 132 (Acton translation )
To the above, I will add two Memorable Relations. First this:
I once conversed with two angels, one from the eastern heaven, the other from the southern heaven. When they perceived that I was meditating on the arcana of wisdom concerning conjugial love, they said, “Do you know anything about the sports of wisdom in our world?” When I answered, “Not as yet,” they said: “There are many. Those who love truths from spiritual affection, that is, who love truths because they are truths and because they are the means to wisdom, come together at a given signal to discuss matters requiring a deeper understanding, and to form conclusions.” They then took me by the hand, saying, “Follow us and you shall see and hear. Today the signal has been given for a meeting.”
I was led across a plain to a hill; and lo, at the foot of the hill an avenue of palm trees stretching all the way to the summit. We entered it and ascended; and on the top or crown of the hill was seen a grove, the trees of which, growing on an elevated piece of ground, formed a kind of theatre. Within this theatre was a level space paved with small stones of various colors, around which, arranged in the form of a square, were chairs of state on which sat the lovers of wisdom. In the center of the theatre was a table whereon lay a paper sealed with a seal.
 The men who were sitting on the chairs invited us to seats still vacant; but I answered them, “I have been led hither by two angels to see and hear, not to sit down.” The two angels then went to the table in the center of the level area, and in the presence of those who were seated they broke the seal of the paper and read the arcana of wisdom inscribed thereon which they were now to discuss and unfold. They had been written and let down upon the table by angels of the third heaven. There were three arcana: FIRST, What is the image of God and what the likeness of God into which man was created? SECOND, Why is man not born into the science of any love, when yet beasts and birds, the noble as well as the ignoble, are born into the sciences of all their loves? THIRD, What is signified by the tree of life, what by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and what by the eating of them? Underneath was written: “Combine these three into one statement, write it on a fresh sheet of paper, and place the paper on the table and we shall see. If the statement appears well balanced and just, there shall be given to each of you a reward of wisdom.” After reading this, the two angels withdrew and were taken up into their heavens.
 Those who were sitting on the chairs then began to discuss and unfold the arcana proposed to them. They spoke in order, first those who sat at the north, then those at the west, after them those at the south, and finally those at the east. They took up the first subject of discussion, namely, WHAT IS THE IMAGE OF GOD AND WHAT THE LIKENESS OF GOD INTO WHICH MAN WAS CREATED? To begin with, the following from the Book of Genesis was then read out in the presence of all:
God said, Let us make man in OUR IMAGE, after OUR LIKENESS. And God created man in HIS OWN IMAGE, in the IMAGE OF GOD created he him. Genesis 1:26, 27.
In the day that God created man, in the LIKENESS OF GOD made he him. Genesis 5:1.
Those who sat at the north spoke first, saying, “The image of God and the likeness of God are the two lives breathed into man by God, being the life of his will and the life of his understanding. for we read that Jehovah God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of lives; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Into his nostrils means into the perception that within him was the will of good and the understanding of truth and thus the breath of lives; and because life was breathed into him by God, the image and likeness of God signify the integrity that was in him from wisdom and love, and from righteousness and judgment.”
Those who sat at the west favored these views, but they added the following, “This state of integrity breathed into Adam by God is being continually breathed into every man after him; but it is in man as a receptacle, and man is an image and likeness of God according as he is a receptacle.”
 The third in order, being those who sat at the south, then said: “The image of God and the likeness of God are two distinct things, but in man they are united from creation; and we see, as from interior light, that the image of God may be destroyed by man but not the likeness of God. This is seen as through a lattice, from the fact that Adam retained the likeness of God after he had lost the image of God; for after the curse it is said:
Behold the man is as one of us, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:22.
And later he is called the likeness of God and is not called the image of God (Genesis 5:1). But let us leave it to our associates who sit at the east, and thus are in superior light, to say what the image of God properly is, and what the likeness of God.”
 Then, after a period of silence, those sitting at the east rose from their seats and looked up to the Lord. Resuming their seats, they then said: “An image of God is a receptacle of God; and because God is Love itself and Wisdom itself, the image of God in man is the receptacle in him of love and wisdom from God. But the likeness of God is the perfect likeness and full appearance as though the love and wisdom were in the man and so were his own; for man feels no other than that he loves from himself and is wise from himself, or that it is from himself that he wills good and understands truth, when yet it is not in the least from himself but from God. God alone loves from Himself and is wise from Himself because God is Love itself and Wisdom itself. The likeness or appearance that love and wisdom or good and truth are in man as his own, makes man a man and able to be conjoined to God and so to live to eternity. Hence it follows that man is man from the fact that he can will good and understand truth altogether as if from himself, and yet can know and believe that it is from God; for, according as man knows and believes this, God puts His image in him; not so if he believed that it is from himself and not from God.”
 Having said this, a zeal from the love of truth came over them, and from this they spoke as follows: “How can man receive anything of love and wisdom and retain and reproduce it, unless he feel it as his own? And how can there be conjunction with God through love and wisdom unless there be given man some reciprocal of conjunction? Without a reciprocal, there can be no conjunction; and the reciprocal of conjunction is this: Man loves God, and is wise in the things which are of God, as if from himself, and yet believes that it is from God. Moreover, how can man live to eternity unless he is conjoined with the eternal God? Consequently, how can man be man without this likeness of God within him?”
 On hearing these words, all expressed their approval. They then said: “Let the conclusion from this discussion be as follows: Man is a receptacle of God, and a receptacle of God is an image of God; and as God is Love itself and Wisdom itself, it is of these that man is a receptacle; and the receptacle becomes an image of God according as it receives. Man is a likeness of God from the fact that he feels in himself that the things which are from God are in him as his own; but from this likeness he is an image of God only so far as he acknowledges that the love and wisdom or the good and truth in him are not his own and thus are not from himself, but are solely in God and thus from God.”