As Jesus was walking with his disciples, “he saw a man who was blind from birth”. His disciples, having learned that this sort of affliction can be the result of ‘sin’, and noting that the blindness in this case had been from birth, asked Christ whether it was the man himself or his parents who had sinned.
This is an extraordinary question. If the blindness is due to the parents’ sin, then the statement from Leviticus, “He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children”, taken coarsely and literally, would apply. But if the affliction is due to the man’s own sin, then the sin must have occurred before birth since he was born blind. Thus, the disciples’ question presupposes a belief in reincarnation.
Christ’s response is even more extraordinary. He says that neither the man nor his parents had sinned. In this particular case, he says, the man had been made blind so that “the works of God may be manifested in him”.
Superficially, we could take this to mean that this poor fellow had endured a lifetime of blindness so that one day Jesus could come along and perform a miracle.
Alternatively, we can recognize that all of these stories are taking place internally, all of these people represent qualities within our own souls. A place within our soul has been ‘blind’ since birth, it has lived in a state of continuous psychological darkness and has never known anything else. Christ, the ‘light’ of the soul, who is ‘walking by’ in his task of transforming the soul, now sees this blind, hidden corner of the psyche. He tells the disciples that this part of the soul is exactly what it should be. It is necessary for the soul to experience the Creation all the way down to this, the lowest depths of Hell. It is all part of God’s plan.
In the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’, the Son cannot return to the Father until he has fallen all the way to the bottom of the scale, and has experienced all the pain, all the joy, and all the nothingness. So here in John, Christ is glad to have found the ‘man born blind’ – for until he finds him the transformation of the soul cannot be completed.
Christ now sets to work. He knows his ‘hour’ is coming, the destructive forces that oppose him are at his heels. In other words, if the initiate does not complete his work soon, if the forces of death reach the ‘Christ within’ before his work is done, then, like Solomon, he will ‘fall’, and the story will have to begin all over again.
Christ takes some of his saliva (‘water’ imbued with his Spirit), combines it with dirt, and spreads this mixture over the man’s eyes, saying, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Siloam, John tells us right in his text, “means Sent”. The pool of Siloam was fed by waters from a spring called Gihon that was beneath the city of Jerusalem. ‘Gihon’ means valley of Grace. So the waters of Siloam were ‘sent from Grace’. The man “went and washed and came back able to see.” The deepest place of the initiate’s soul has been reached, permeated with God’s Grace, and awakened from its blindness.
This of course elicits the obligatory internal reaction.
First, his ‘neighbors’ who had known him as a blind beggar began to ask each other if this was really the same man they had known. “Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I AM’. But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’” He told them the story, and they said, “Where is he?” But he told them he did not know.
Second, he was taken to the Pharisees, the constituents of the soul that are only concerned with superficial formalities. It was the Sabbath day when the man received his sight, so of course the only thing that mattered to them was that Jesus had broken a rule. “Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided.” So they asked the man himself what he thought, and the man replied, “He is a prophet.”
Third, he was taken to “the Jews” – which for John, indicates those constituents of the soul that can only see things literally and require ‘proof’. “The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he see now?’” The frightened parents responded that yes, the man was their son, and yes, he had been born blind. But they had no idea how he had received his sight or who was responsible. So they said, “Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”
So they called the man back a second time, and tried to persuade him to curse Christ. “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”
It is interesting to note that until he spoke the words “I AM”, (which his neighbors did not understand); the man had said absolutely nothing. He did not ask to be healed (like Plato’s cave-dweller, he did not know there was anything to see). He did not say anything when Christ put the mixture of dirt and saliva on his eyes. He did not say anything when told to go to Siloam, and he did not say anything when he returned and was able to see. But now, his tongue is loosened.
He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John.9.25)
Exasperated that he would not say what they wanted him to say, they asked him again. “What did he do to you?” This time, with the perfect ingenuousness and fearlessness of someone who has only just been born, he replied, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
This, of course, infuriated them, and they indignantly said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
He found this utterly astonishing. “You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” How could they possibly not know? So he said, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
This was more than their self-importance could bear. “You were born entirely in sins, and you are trying to teach us?” And they cast him out.
But it is too late. This is an extraordinary moment in the Gospels. It is the first time that someone (other than Christ himself) has stood up to lower forces! Everyone has been afraid of them, no one has ever spoken back. The soul has grown up. It has come “of age”, as the parents said, and has taken responsibility for itself.
~ by Dr Andrew Cort Details