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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


truly, I say to you,
by no means will you get out of prison
till you have paid the last penny



return to main-page of the "Jesus" article




As we've seen in the bizarro-world of Fundamentalism's biblical scholarship, "all" does not mean all, "one" does not mean one, "only" does not mean only - and, we shall not be surprised to find that "truly" does not mean truly.

Ecclesiastical "spin-doctors of the law" will attempt to persuade us that Jesus did not mean what clear and plain language denotes. "How could he have been serious? The waters of baptism, confessional absolution, last rites, or a quick prayer by the right person will set you right, and there'll be no more talk of past debts and prison."


The Essential Problem 

In the segment "The Essential Problem" we discussed how every act, every deed, is recorded in the molecules of our being. This is scientific fact, well outside the reach of Church Councils to legislate otherwise.


  • Dr. William James: "We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar ... Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out."


Jesus' "truly" comment corroborates a principle stated by Dr. William James

The "truly" verse is found in Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59. Each reference has a somewhat different context.

In Matthew 5 we find this "last penny" statement amidst the "sermon on the mount." In verse 22 Jesus says that if one is "angry with a brother without a cause," such negativity might create a lot of trouble. In fact, he says, if you condemn your brother in a spirit of "raca," which means, "worthless person," now you've really stepped into it. Employing a new metaphor, Jesus goes on to say that you'll be handed over to a condemning judge and then you'll find yourself cast into prison. And you'll stay there, he says, "until you've paid the last penny of your debt."

Well, whatever happened to "the power of the blood" and "just believe on the Lord"? - apparently, Jesus hadn't gotten the Council's memo.

And in Luke 12, verse 47, Jesus, using a master-servant analogy, says that wicked servants will be "beaten with many stripes". But what about mercy and "Jesus loves you"?

Then, in verse 48, he makes a most annoying comment about personal responsibility. "If you're given much, then much will be required of you." We don't really like talk like that. We just want to go to the Nice Young Man at Church, receive a magic hand-sign, a few magic words, and be off to our business. Don't tell me about increased culpability, if we know more or can do more.

And then, verse 58, Jesus falls back on the same prison metaphor as in Matthew 5 and ends the same way: "You will not get out of prison until you have paid the last penny."



what is Jesus talking about

His teaching is not primarily about master-servant relationships; not about debtors' prison or condemning judges. He has one main point in mind; in a sense, it is the “prime directive” upon which all business in the afterlife is conducted – that of, personal responsibility - "You did it, you own it. Now work your way out of it."

How else shall we learn?

This is a large subject, and the afterlife testimonies are filled with this concept. The apostle Paul, in the very first, the earliest, New Testament document, said the same thing – “whatever you sow, that also you shall reap.”

No one, in this world, or the next, will take your sins and place them upon someone else. Where is the justice, the morality, in that? Is God Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, bestowing magic gifts? And to those who answer in the affirmative here, well, I will say - where is the evidence? where are the changed lives with all of this purported erasing of sin? where is that resultant better world?

We are all waiting. The world has been waiting for a very long time.

There is no external savior, no cheap grace, no quick prayer and magic hand-sign, to recast one as a better person in an instant.

Each must assume personal responsibility for his or her own life. Each must become his or her own savior. No one will do it for us. This is part of the glory of what it means to be human.


  • Editor's note: Do not be afraid of this talk of strict justice. It is not meant to frighten us but represents a predictable, law-abiding, non-magical, moral universe. And a moral universe suggests that we, ourselves, and no one else, must deal with what we have made of ourselves via our own choices. Yes, we will have help, lots of it, but we ourselves must direct this make-over. It must represent our own choice. The enlightened next-world Spirit helpers, so many millions of them, stand ready to help us, but not to do hard things for us. The healing can be a bit unpleasant, but only for a temporary period of time. The good news is that we can all change, we can all grow - and change and grow we all shall. This is our dignity and glory as human beings.


Consider this excerpt from my commentary on Galatians. Notice Paul's emphasis on personal responsibility. See, especially, the two different Greek words for burden.


6. 1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

ye which are spiritual. Paul speaks to those who live and walk in the Spirit (5. 25).

meekness. This is the same word used in 5. 23, one of the fruits of the Spirit, a characteristic of true spirituality, as defined here by Paul.

overtaken in a fault. Paul’s reference to one overburdened by “a fault” probably points to more than ordinary human weakness in the church. He has, in the previous verse (5. 26), spoken out against rivalries and disharmony, all stemming from, Paul claims, not only the works of the flesh, but its rancorous doctrinal expression of the Judaizers. Therefore, the phrase under review, in all likelihood, is a reference to individuals of the Galatian congregation who have fallen prey to legalism. Paul here instructs the spiritually minded on how to deal with their works-oriented friends.

restore. A "spiritual" one should engage in confrontation, not to extract an apology, but only to seek the righting of his wayward, legalistic brother.

6. 2. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Instead of “provoking of one another” (5. 26), thereby adding to the group disharmony, Paul advises a policy of supporting the weak. All of this is further practical outworking of his teaching on living and walking in the Spirit (5. 25).

the law of Christ. With this simple phrase, Paul in effect summarizes his grace-oriented position. The law of Moses has been superseded by the law of Christ; it is a law of love directed toward neighbor (5. 14).

6. 3. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

think himself to be something. Paul seems to be saying that an unwillingness to “restore” (6. 1) an offending brother is rooted in a kind of self-delusion; pride may whisper the seductive message, “I would not have done what he did.” This is all wrong-headedness, Paul chides, an exercise in fooling oneself.

6. 4-5. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

let every man prove his own work. Instead of entertaining unrealistic opinions of oneself, Paul prods, a spiritual person will be humbly proving or testing his own standing in the game of life.

every man shall bear his own burden. An apparent contradiction of a just-mentioned rubric, this phrase delivers more than meets the eye. “The Greek word for burden is different, baros (verse 2) meaning ‘a weight or heavy load’ and phortion (verse 5) being a common term for a man's ‘pack’” (Stott 159). Personal sin weighs one down (verse 2), Paul, the pastor, explains, and we can help one so burdened if we have a mind to. However, there is another kind of burden, one relatively light and common to all mankind, which must be borne by each individual alone.

A summary of verses 1-5: When we are injured by another, one “overtaken in a fault,” it is very difficult to remain emotionally detached, difficult not to focus on our own pain. If we agree with ourselves to speak to the offending person at all, our natural inclination is to do so only to squeeze an apology, or more, out of him. In any case, we want to focus on him, what he has done. Curiously, however, in these five verses we find the Apostle of Grace admonishing us several times, in different ways, to think about our reaction to “another,” even though that other is introduced to us as one "overtaken in a fault." In other words, we might ask, "He is the problem, right? So why are we talking about me? Let's talk about him!" Unfortunately for us, we meet little comfort here from Paul. We find him telling us to approach our brother not only "in the spirit of meekness" but also "considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." We are told to help shoulder the heavy "burden" of the brother at fault, the refusal of which implies a harboring of unrealistic evaluations about ourselves, a self-deception.

We might feel, after all this, that finally enough has been said about our part -- but Paul is not ready to relent. He goes on to explain the philosophical basis of our duty. There is a saying, "You cannot become a saint by reciting the sins of others." Humanly, however, we think that we can find vindication in this process, and it is this notion that Paul is addressing here. Without excusing the sins of the offending brother, Paul in effect says to us, “You may feel great pain due to what someone did to you. But if you focus on that pain, it will dominate you and define your life.”

“Let every man prove his own work” means that even while you evaluate, even condemn, what your brother did to you, you must never lose sight of the fact that you, too, share the same human condition; you, too, but for the grace of God, could do the same or worse under sufficient provocation.

"Prove your own work,” teaches that, as you correct your brother, you must be "putting your own deeds to the test," judging your own self a frail human being as well. We have a natural tendency to think that "life will be good if only we could get rid of this situation or that person;" however, this is all illusion, Paul intones. Our future "rejoicing" will result from accepting responsibility for our own lives, from our own reaction to the trouble that befalls everyone of us.

Life is inherently unfair, more or less a disaster for all participants; but, as the saying goes, though we have no control over the direction of the wind, we do have power to adjust our sails. This is why a man will "have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." We will find our victory in life from what we ourselves do -- not from extracting satisfaction from those who have hurt us. This primal responsibility over one's own person and attitude cannot be delegated away, the one "backpack" which every person must carry through life - alone.



'we are the world, we are society'

Very often, Krishnamurti would caution his audiences against blaming others, seeing ourselves as "above." It's not easy to stand down as there’s much aspersion to cast. Right now, we witness the world marching toward totalitarianism, to a degree not seen since the days prior to World War II. Many of us are angry, and we want to believe that if we could just get rid of “the bad guys,” the ones causing all the trouble, then life would be good for all of us “good guys.” But this is illusion.

The seeds of evil, not always unsprouted, reside within each of us. If sufficiently provoked, if blinded to the light within, each person is capable of any atrocity, any brutality, and more, that we’ve seen in history.

the seeds of evil

Star Trek: Next Generation, episode "Violations"

"No one can deny that the seeds of violence remain within each of us. We must recognize that - because that violence is capable of consuming each of us."

In other words, “We are the world. We are society.” We are not exempt, as we too reflect the human condition, and we take the vectors of perdition with us wherever we go. And until we learn to “go within” to access the inner light, there will be no peace and happiness; not on an individual basis nor for the world.

See the Krishnamurti page and especially his "summary" discourse.



Edward C. Randall: "The justice that meets the naked soul, on the threshold of its spirit life, is terrible in its completeness." Editor’s note: This comment, made by a spirit-person on the other side, offers no threat to us, is no harbinger of punishment, but speaks only to the principle that we ourselves are responsible for changing ourselves, that there is no external savior to magically transmute sin into good character.


Father Benson, from the afterlife, comments; excerpts from his Facts:

For no one is more presumptuous than the Theologian, who, knowing little or nothing of the truth of spiritual matters, professes to know a great deal.

Fear is the strongest weapon, the deadliest weapon, in the theological armory. For hundreds of years Orthodoxy has wielded this weapon to inspire fear in the hearts of mankind, by the supposed dire penalties which it will be their misfortune to suffer when they pass to the next world if they should have misbehaved themselves on earth. The worst sentence of all [they say] is to be condemned to hell for all eternity where the sinner will remain forever in strange fires that burn but never consume.

But let it not be assumed that there is not a day of reckoning for all mankind. Most assuredly there is. And that moment first presents itself immediately when we have cast off the physical body in death. Thence forward, every day, to use earthly terms, every moment of the day becomes our time of reckoning. We judge ourselves as we go along in life in the spirit world. We do not hold a formal court of inquiry into our actions as we proceed in our life, but the inevitable law of cause and effect, being ever operative, provides us with the very essence of progression. We ourselves provide the cause: we thus set the law in motion. And the law produces the effect. That is how we progress in the spirit world.

There is none to judge us but ourselves, and we can be stern and unrelenting to ourselves! I want to make myself perfectly clear when I say that man judges himself. I am not speaking figuratively, neither am I suggesting that as each soul arrives in the spirit world it becomes so enlightened that it immediately perceives with full comprehension all the errors of its life. If that were so it would not be long before the dark realms and the gray lands were soon emptied of their inhabitants.

I mean simply this: the law of cause and effect is in continual, perpetual operation upon every person who is born upon earth from the moment of his drawing breath upon that plane of existence, right through his earthly life, and so it continues after he has passed here into the spirit world. The operation of that law is, in its effect, precisely the same as though a complete process of adjudication were set in motion under the presidency of some individual. That is exactly what has happened, the individual who is presiding being ourselves.

Let us consider a simple analogy. If we should choose voluntarily to plunge our hand into the blaze of a red-hot fire, we should suffer the most excruciating agony from our burnt fingers. Could we blame a single soul for our most a foolhardy action? Most certainly not, for what we did, we did of our own free will. We were fully aware that it was a mad act to commit, but we persisted nonetheless. Could we blame the fire for burning us? Again most certainly not for it is the nature of fire to burn, and it is simply the operation of cause and effect.

My analogy is but an elementary one, but it has its direct application, because a misspent life, a life lived upon earth in a series of transgressions, will have the same effect upon us, an effect which will be fully revealed when we arrive in the spirit world, as though we had thrust our hand into the flames of the fire. We see what we have done; we see the result of what we have done.

We see where the blame rests; we see just what we have done for ourselves. We perceive unerringly that it is our own fault, the fault of no one else, and therefore we blame no one else. What we did, we did deliberately and of our own free will. Our motive was bad, or, alternatively, our motive was not good.

Applying this rule to our earthly lives for it is with our earthly lives I am treating at the moment, you will observe just where God enters into our true spiritual appraisement. He enters nowhere. He is not Judging us: He will not judge us, either at the moment of our transition or at some unknown later date. There is, in fact no need for Him, or for anyone else, to do the judging. We shall be compelled to do it most efficiently ourselves.

To return to my analogy, we have but to gaze upon our burnt hand for the whole story to reveal itself to our minds with full truth. Others, too, can see the dreadful burns, but they need not know how they were brought about. We are under no obligation to tell them, but there will come a time when we shall be glad to unburden our troubled minds of its load of misery and sadness.

Lest some of my good friends upon earth should take me too literally, or mistakenly to misapply my little analogy, let me hasten to assure them that there are no flames here in the spirit world. Those dreadful flames of hell do not have any place in the economics of the spirit world!

I am speaking to you at some length upon this particular subject of Judgment and Judgment Day because I have in mind my own earthly experiences, from which I know, as do you, the universal extent of the belief, and the fear, which it inspires. I want to remove that fear if possible, and in doing so to bring some brightness and gladness into the lives and thoughts of my good friends upon earth.

But most of all, it is my greatest wish that my friends should have a better and deeper understanding of the Great Father of the universe since it is He whom the orthodox religions of the earth traduce so abominably and outrageously in their transforming Him into a grim and horrifying Judge from whom our principal hope is mercy.

You will also observe the monumental stupidity of Orthodoxy when, in its blindness, it pontifically pronounces that when we of the spirit world return to earth to speak with our friends there, we are nothing but devils of hell masquerading as angels of light! There is no such masquerading here, I do assure you, my good friends. 

Nowhere in the spirit world is it possible for any person, of whatever description, to assume one scintilla of light which is not completely and absolutely his own. No person can endow another with light, temporarily or permanently. The light, which emanates from us, is the result of the working of the law of cause and effect, which is justice.

Another question, which may come to your mind, is this: how does each person go, automatically, as it seems to the exact place he has earned for himself?

Who decides the matter? To answer the last question first: no one decides the matter for any person; the person decides it for himself. He goes automatically to his right abode because that is the abode for which he is exactly fitted. He is attuned [in terms of vibrational frequency of the spirit body] to that abode in a manner, which I will explain to you, for the same reason there is no fear of an individual over-stepping or escaping from the dark realms if so be it he has condemned himself to those regions. The reason is this: the kind of life which every soul leads upon earth reacts directly upon his spiritual counterpart; in other words, a person's spirit body will possess just that degree of light which is resultant from his life on earth.

If his life has been bad in every sense, then his spirit body will possess little or no light. The sphere to which he goes in the spirit world will possess exactly the same degree of light as the spirit body itself, no more, no less. The two coincide perfectly; they are attuned...




Editor's note: Allow me to further clarify this idea of "paying the last penny." The afterlife reports so often speak of personal responsibility. If we have made ourselves into a selfish person, then we, ourselves, must work to turn this around. We must devote ourselves to humble, selfless service. For many, this healing process will not begin until they come to their senses in the next world, probably, while living in a dark place; but enlightenment need not wait till then.
When a person has suffered enough - whether in this world or the next - and finally decides to come out of mental darkness, to begin a path of spiritual development, then, in consultation with Guides, various service projects, commensurate with one's abilities, will be selected. In this humbling and sometimes difficult work, we will "work out our own salvation." It will not be easy; we should not expect it to be. A lifetime of selfishness will not be cast aside in a moment. We will pay -- pay ourselves, for perverting ourselves -- for every last penny of selfishness taken. 


While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I look at you and see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I don't know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don't know how you were inverted
No one alerted you…


Every penny. Pennies owed become the measure of our debt, but pennies paid will be the measure of our progress: we will win by pennies, small incremental advancement, each day. The victory will be difficult, but also assured; and the glorious result, increasingly manifesting, day by day, over the years, will be a new and radiant, loving and joyful, person, "truly" changed, from the inside out. And then people who are new to the process will come to us and ask how we came to be so wise, so loving... and we will tell them our story, of all our pennies paid, as we encourage them on their own path.
By the way, we must understand why Jesus said, do not call anyone "Raca" or "worthless" person. He meant, "Don't write anybody off. That's not your job. Not even God does that. If you start thinking in that haughty way, guess who'll pay some pennies for it?"
If we despise someone because of hurt inflicted, such criminal person might appear to us as posterboy for a worthless fellow. But a spark of soul-life still glows, deep down, within the cooling ashes of every seemingly derelict human being. It may take a thousand years in hard-core cases, but that faint spark, with the help of attending Spirit Guides, will yet be fanned into a flame of repentance.
In the meantime, there's a lot of interest to pay on the outstanding debt; a lot of suffering to post on the income-statement. No one gets away with anything, and each penny will be acccounted for in the audit - so do not worry about people skirting justice. That is not possible and does not happen. Everyone pays the last penny, and some people have run up a very large bill. Tyrants of history, especially, who did the most damage, might have to stew in a "dark rat cellar" for a very long time; in extreme cases, for thousands of years, until arrogance burns itself out in utter despair. But there is hope for all. As the scripture says, it is God's intention for all to be saved! - "all" does mean all, after all; that acknowledged - let us state it again - no one gets away with anything, not even a penny's worth; there is no moral "petty cash account," sloshing with unaccounted for immaterial and discretionary incidentals.
And this is why Jesus said that every unkind thought will be brought into judgment. How? - most assuredly, not by any severe God; as Father Benson preaches, God, who gives only good things, is not our problem. William James explained how it works: it's a very natural process of self-judgment. Everything one has ever done or thought is written in the molecules of the brain, with an indestructible backup copy burned upon one's spirit - it's all there "on the tape," with no fudging possible. Each impulse invited into one's head either lowers or raises the vibrational frequency of one's inner person - adds light or darkness to one's spirit.
the ancient alchemy of turning lead into gold will come true
In the afterlife, no one is confused about one's current spiritual state; there'll be no question, and no hiding. What each person is, on the inside, in a sense, will be written on one's face and amplified by the radiance, or lack thereof, of one's aura. Like a placard, "what we are" will follow us around and publish our "inner resume" for all to see. However, imperfection imprinted upon one's spirit can and will be changed, transmuted, by entering a life of service - and the ancient alchemy of turning lead into gold will come true.
So let's be careful what and how we think - Jesus once warned about that, too. None of us will get away with the smallest penny's worth of selfishness. Some things are just too expensive - we can't afford it; a real budget-buster.


every man awakens in the next world to an ability, or lack thereof, according to the thoughts and deeds of his mortal life

Gustav T. Fechner, The Little Book of Life after Death (1836):

“Yet not only the greatest souls, but every … man awakes in the next world in conscious, though incomplete, possession of an organism which is a union of eternal spiritual acquirements and influences, with a greater or smaller extent of realization, and more or less power to unfold further, according as the soul of the man himself in his lifetime has advanced and gained ground.

“But he who has clung to the earth, and has only used his powers in pursuit of the material life, the pleasures and needs of the body, will find but an insignificant remnant of life surviving.

“And so the richest will become the poorest if he has only his gold to lean upon, and the poorest the richest if he uses his strength to win his life honestly. For what each does here he will have there, and money there will only count for what it brought the consumer here.

the fruit of our slightest and most hidden activity

“The problems of our present spiritual life, the thirst for the discovery of truth, which here seems to profit us but little, the striving of every genuine soul to accomplish things which are merely for the good of posterity, conscience, and the repentance that arouses in us an unfathomable distress for bad actions, even though they bring us no disadvantage here, rise from haunting presentiments of what all this will bring to us in that world in which the fruit of our slightest and most hidden activity becomes a part of our true self.

a world of strict justice, with every penny owed requiring a repayment

This is the great justice of creation, that every one makes for himself the conditions of his future life. Deeds will not be requited to the man through exterior rewards or punishments; there is no heaven and no hell in the usual sense of the Christian, the Jew, the heathen, into which the soul may enter after death. It makes neither a spring upward nor a fall down ward, nor comes to a standstill; it does not break asunder, nor dissolve into the universal; but, after it has passed through the great transition, death, it unfolds itself according to the unalterable law of nature upon earth; steadily advancing step by step, and quietly approaching and entering into a higher existence.

“And, according as the man has been good or bad, has behaved nobly or basely, was industrious or idle, will he find himself possessed of an organism, healthy or sick, beautiful or hateful, strong or weak, in the world to come, and his free activity in this world will determine his relation to other souls, his destiny, his capacity and talents for further progress in that world.

atoned for his smallest evil deed

“Therefore be active and brave. For the idler here will halt there, the earthbound will be of a dull and weak countenance, and the false and wicked will feel the discord which his presence makes in the company of true and pure spirits as a pain, which, even in that world, will still impel him to amend and cure the evil which he has committed in this, and will allow him no peace nor rest until he has wiped out and atoned for his smallest and latest evil deed.”



Editor’s note: See scores of examples, channeled testimonies from the other side, of ones who transitioned to “dark detention,” and what they had to do to “pay their pennies” in order to earn a ticket to leave for better accommodation.



Editor's last word:

The "truly" verse is not, as some will claim, basis for Big Religion's "purgatory." But why not? In that shadow-world, Orthodoxy's tainted church-members, we are told, improve their standing and eventually make their way to a better world.

However, all this only rhymes with reality; the difference is significant.

Big Religion says that if you say the right final prayers, die in the presence of the right authority, attend the right church, you will escape the mandate of "paying the last penny." It's also said that, while in purgatory, if the right prayers are prayed for you, the suffering ones can "get out of jail free without passing 'go'.

It doesn't work that way.

Jesus said "by no means" will culpability be mitigated. Every person must personally pay the last penny. - and yet there are large institutions of the world assuring millions of people, "Let us show you how to cheat cosmic moral law and get a better deal!"

This scheme will be found wanting.

In fact, it's best for you to understand that if you approach your deathbed in a Machiavellian attitude of "let's make a deal"; of sardonically viewing God as some sort of purchasable Cosmic Bureaucrat; of summoning a priest as a kind of crisis-litigation attorney; then, in this contemptuous and cynical spirit, one actually increases his or her inner darkness causing one to be worse off upon arrival in the next world.

There is no "get out of jail" card for anyone. Some have more pennies to pay than others, granted, but none has lived debt-free to the Small Ego. Every individual must accept personal responsibility for one's life, and "work out one's own salvation."

PS - In an ultra-cynical act hardly rivaled in history, Constantine the butcher, believing his own propaganda, actually delayed his baptism until on this deathbed. He hoped to skate lily-white into heaven "on a technicality" - but I don't think his "plea bargaining" worked out so well for him. We don't know, we can't say, but, given the reports of other mega-tyrants of history, Constantine, the great "church father," is likely still languishing in a rat-cellar somewhere. He could leave today, but people like that damage themselves so much that it's hard to make a change; and, what's even worse for these tin-star gods, they'd have to admit that they were wrong.