Passover: a Nondual Story of Spiritual Liberation
The partner of slavery is liberation. Freedom has no opposite. In freedom, liberation and slavery are one.
The people were slaves. Their time, their space and their movement was possessed, under the control of an outer authority. Moses said: “Let my people go”. He spoke from the gut of existential freedom, demanding the freedom in time and space which is the birthright of all peoples. Pharaoh resisted, and suffered the ten plagues. The great collective fears: of insanity, disease, poverty and death, rained down on Egypt. The Jewish people walked away: into the desert night; into the gut of the unknown.
It happens to all inspiration: universal genius revealed through the living story gets crystallized, ritualized and assumes the dynamics of the forms that channelled it. Yet the best stories – like sacred vessels – hold the elixir of timeless wisdom for all who are able to drink from its source. Following are four of the deeper, mystical messages of the Passover story, as repeated through millennia.
The Wisdom of Impermanence
“This too shall pass(over)”. When we are enslaved in a dynamic of abuse, a lion’s share of the possessive power of the perpetrator is milked from the belief that this dynamic is permanent. You ARE inferior. You ARE the slave. He (she) IS your owner. Drummed through a repeated message of absolute authority enforced by cruelty, the victim at a certain stage shows what psychologists have called “learned helplessness”. The fight is gone, and the power dynamic is embraced as eternal. Victimhood becomes definitive.
The loss of control suffered by Pharaoh in the Passover story was witnessed by all Egypt. Chaos reigned – not Pharaoh – for all his riches. The learned helplessness of the collective flipped into the living helplessness of the slave master.
When impermanence becomes visible to consciousness, the belief structures through which the mind dominates the heart and dictates reality break down.
Freedom dawns, yet the sun was always here.
Opening to the Unknown
Beneath the surface of regular Egyptian life, the status quo was broken. Something deeper was on the move. Yet all the patterns of behavior – from working rituals, to dietary habits, through to prevalent idolatry were known patterns. This is how ritual builds reality – through reaffirming the known, the recognizable forms and the familiar rhythms in which we feel safe.
Yet freedom is never caught or confined to mental, emotional, spiritual or physical ritual. Freedom can be reflected by the mirror of the human being, but it can’t be directly perceived. This is because freedom is essential to the life we are. Yet at the same time, this means that the liberation from slavery can be fearful. It involves stepping into the desert – into the unknown precincts of new experience – and out of the safety of Cairo ghetto.
Throughout history, true survival has depended on our ability to evolve. Evolution demands that we open to the unknown and have the courage to move through it. Indeed, without the opening to the unknown, we wouldn’t be able to know anything at all. It is the surrender of the known patterns of slavery to the unknown, that the Jewish people were able to walk out of the captivity of generations.
Trusting the Miracle
The passover story is full of miracles, and equally full of the failure of the Jewish people to surrender to the living source behind these miracles. Moses himself had a hard time at the beginning. Speaking to the divine as it revealed in the perpetually burning bush, he asked for the name of the speaker. The voice replied “I am that I am…” What was he to do with such a reply?
However he took it, he didn’t take it personally and was eager to transmit to the people of Israel that it is not the man Moses who is leading them to freedom, but the divine. What is the divine? I am that I am. Creative freedom, existential consciousness, the source of all the forms in the universe and the source of every form. The insistence not to indulge into deification of Moses through idolatry was later reaffirmed. Despite the manna from heaven, and the guidance of the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of dust by day, the people still indulged in idolatry, and its partner jealousy, while waiting for him to descend from Mount Sinai. If it has been left to Moses, he would have stopped the whole Passover story there and then. But another kind of divine appointment was in play beyond his disappointment in his brothers and sisters: the appointment of destiny.
Still, in that moment when the group came to the Red Sea, many were ready to die at the hands of Pharaoh than walk into through the parted waters as instructed. According to stories, it was Moses sister Miriam who took the lead, dancing and singing through the passage between the walls of water. Can we trust the miracle of life to pass through the fearful passage of birth and death? Can we trust this existential freedom more than impermanence?
Freedom is Always Here
As long as we believe that freedom is somewhere else and caught either in the future or the past, we will not find the freedom that is always here. Freedom is not caught in time and space. Freedom is here and now. All we have to do is to drop our addiction to fear and receive its impersonal and passionate charge.
Freedom can’t be possessed by any human being, no matter how violent, cruel or frightening they might appear to be. Yet is at the source of every human being and every life form. Who am I? I am freedom.
Freedom can never be punished, violated or incarcerated. It can’t be controlled. Freedom is inseparable from the source of all we are. It exists together with our slavery and together with our liberation from any temporary form. It is the light that gives sense to those contractions of slavery and those transformations that occur through liberation.
As human beings, we are in a process of evolution which involves perpetual impermanence. Yet our very ability to experience gain and loss; birth and death; slavery and liberation depends on our being more than that. It depends on the very freedom that is inherent to creation itself, and which is fundamental to the consciousness that can sing as it dances through the parting waves of the Red Sea towards the promised land, and to the voice that out of the passionate fire of creation can name itself only as: I am that I am.
Who am I?
I am Freedom.
What am I?
Where am I?
I am in Freedom.