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 recall 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 pass through the threshold 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.
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