The setting of mortal life can be likened to a great marketplace where countless commodities are bought and sold.  As mortals we wander through the marketplace searching for the right food to satisfy our hunger.  Sometimes, after partaking of certain foods, we feel satisfied, and so we return again to obtain that food.  But gradually, we realize that we hunger and thirst for something more.  Again we select what we believe will be just the thing to assuage our hunger and quench our thirst. Again, the results are impermanent.

As we continually are unsatisfied by our choices, we awaken to the realization that what we truly seek for, hunger and thirst for, may not be available in the worldly marketplace.  We sense another part of ourselves, a metaphysical side, whose hunger cannot be satiated with physical food and drink.

However, through ingesting the food of the marketplace, our taste buds have become perverted, and our appetites still cry out for that food which cannot satisfy the hunger of the soul.  We continue to desire the food our bodies crave, at the same time growing in our realization that more satisfying food is available.  We now hear the call of the venders of metaphysical theories, and perhaps we sample  one theory and then another, unable to recognize with certainty that elixir we seek, the food of the gods that will transform us into their nature and lift us above the confusion of the mortal plane.

This condition of confusion and frustration is such an integral part of mortality that our music, art, and literature, both ancient and modern, is filled with descriptions of the search for freedom from the pain of our existence.  Poets sing of the fleeting moments of joy and vision that momentarily relieve the recurring feelings of being trapped. These longings are so universal that virtually every culture in our world’s history has developed folklore and myth to reveal the truths about our mortal search for freedom and enlightenment.

Joseph Campbell, one of our modern spokesmen for the meaning of myth in our lives, described this quest for unity with the metaphysical. -- that which is more than the physical:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking.  I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality....”(The Power of Myth 3). When we awaken to the reality of this innermost being, we have glimpsed the true way of salvation from the pain and dissonance of this mortal life, a life so transient that it actually contains the seeds of death.  As we get to know our innermost being we receive the keys that open up a life that is truly Life, for it is everlasting.

In the ancient Gnostic myth, “In Quest of the Priceless Pearl,”  the heroine or hero, for we are never told that gender is an issue, is sent on a journey by her Divine Parents.  She must leave the House of Life where she has been nurtured, and go to retrieve a priceless pearl which is in the clutches of a fire-breathing serpent.  If she is successful in bringing back the pearl, she will obtain complete unity with her parents and her elder brother, possessing all that they have forever. The parents write this promise in their child’s heart, so that she will take it with her into the land of Egypt, the great marketplace of mortality.

Because the parents know that their child will forget the promise and will become confused in this far off land, they provide guides to instruct her on the way. They leave her at the gates of Egypt, and she begins her quest.

After partaking of the food of the marketplace in Egypt, our heroine forgets about the pearl and the land of the East where she has come from. Aware of her difficulties, her parents send a messenger to awaken her to the message written within her heart. Upon hearing the message,  she remembers that she is the child of Divine Parents, and she sees the reality of her situation. From that moment she seeks to fulfill her mission and to return to the House of Life and her loved ones. She manages to retrieve the pearl from the serpent and journeys back to her homeland where she receives the blessings promised to her.

Becoming conscious of the light within and the precious truths that have been written there, is surely like awakening from a deep sleep.  At first the threads of consciousness waft into our minds, but they are ethereal, and we seek to go back to sleep.   If we are unwilling to awaken to our true nature, we can sleep for a long time, but if we allow that truth to call to us, and are willing to listen for its message, we will gradually awaken to a new awareness of our divine origins. We can envision and begin to live that life that “resonates with our innermost reality.” The inner covenant comes alive.

The quest for understanding is inward. At the outset we cannot see where the search will lead us, and we seek for guides to instruct us.  Still we stumble, but by relying on the vision of our origins, we are able to go forward into the hidden reality that calls to us.  We must go forward one step at a time, because if we could see the entire length of road that we must travel in quest of our own divine nature, we would be afraid. We wouldn’t realize the changes that will be made in us so we will be able to meet each challenge in its turn.

Beyond experiencing fear, it is likely that we would fail to appreciate the value of the treasure that will ultimately be ours.  In the marketplace we are sidetracked by such rewards as approval, emotional involvement, physical beauty, material wealth and security.  For unawakened mortals, these are the true treasure, and even after we are first awakened to the reality of the divine light within, our mortal minds are reluctant to let go of these glittering commodities.

Our mortal minds must relinquish their fascination with the illusions of the marketplace and allow the infinite spirit of light to transform our minds, to change the way we think, so that we no longer look at reality through a dark glass, but through finely honed crystal that lights up every aspect of our previous longings and reveals their true source.

Just as the heroine in the myth, “In Quest of the Priceless Pearl” awakens to the message placed inside her heart, so we each have within us the precious understanding of our own divine nature.  But the process of its unraveling is a journey into the unknown that is as challenging and thrilling as any hero’s quest.

Copyright 1997 Church of the Pearl All Rights Reserved

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