The Marriage in Cana

A study paper from The Theosophical Journal.
Geoffrey Farthing

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cover Theosophical Journal

An article originally published
Sep/Oct 1977 Vol.18 No. 5

This exposition formed the basis of a lecture given during the 1977 Annual convention in London. The commentary on St. John's Gospel is in Vol. XI of the Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky and has also been published separately.[Ed. The Theosophical Journal 1977; Ianthe Hoskins.]

In the last issue, the student pages dealt with the New Testament as a second instalment on the theme of 'The Bible is a Marvellous Book'. Students were there referred to two articles by H.P. Blavatsky, namely, 'The Esoteric Character of the Gospels' (Collected Writings Vol.III pps.172-239 link to article) and 'Notes on the Gospel according to John' (Collected Writings Vol.Xl pps.482-503 link). These give some very interesting interpretations of some of the expressions used and of the stories themselves. As an example, and for benefit of readers who do not have access to a copy of the books, here is a shortened version of H.P.Blavatsky's explanation of the hidden meaning of the story of The Marriage in Cana. Verses 1-10 of Chapter II of St. John's Gospel are as follows:

1. And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him: they have no wine.
4. Jesus saith unto her: Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.
5. His mother saith unto the servants: Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7. Jesus saith unto them: Fill the waterpots with water and they filled them up to the brim.
8. And he saith unto them: Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast: and they bare it.
9. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was (but the servants which drew the water knew), the governor of the feast called the bridegroom.
10. And saith unto him: Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

H.P. Blavatsky tells us that this is an allegorical representation of Initiation (Collected Writings Vol. Xl p.498):

'In all the Mysteries, after the four days of trial or temptation, came three days of descent into Hades, or the tomb, from which the Glorified Candidate, or Initiate, arose. "On the third day", therefore, means that the time for the final Initiation had come, when Jesus, or the Neophyte [notice, any candidate, not only Jesus] would become Christ, or the Initiate; that is, at one with Buddhi or the Christ principle'.

The Marriage in Cana represents the joining of the Disciple to his Higher Self. The mother of Jesus represents his lower principles, including his physical body, but especially his Kâma-rûpic or desire principle. The significance of both Jesus and his disciples being called to the marriage means that not only was the Higher Manas (or Ego) there, but his disciples, again representing his lower principles, were also 'present as necessary to the purification of the whole Man'. The mother of Jesus also signifies his now purified desire aspiring upwards. They have no wine means, however, that the lower principles were 'not yet spiritualized, and therefore not ready to participate in the feast'. Woman (Matter or the lower quaternary) what have I to do with thee? means that the hour had not yet come when the candidate would have made himself one with Buddhi, his Supernal Mother, and thus able to associate with his purified, lower nature without danger. The waterpots also are the six lower principles, and their being filled to the brim means that the full power of these principles, his passions, were brought to bear on the candidate to test him. Jesus, in changing the Water (Matter) into Wine (Spirit) conquers 'and is thus filled with the Wisdom of the Gods'. The servants (the lower principles and powers) who brought the wine to the governor of the feast knew of the great change wrought in the candidate, but the governor, representing the conclave of Initiators, did not. But when he had tasted the water that was made wine, he knew, and called the candidate to 'become a Son of God'.

Regarding the setting forth of the good wine later in the feast, H.P. Blavatsky says, 'Every candidate as he progresses needs less and less good Wine, or Spirit, for he becomes Spirit himself as his powers and knowledge increase the new-won strength'. Help in the form of 'good wine' is given at the entrance of the Path, but less and less is needed later as the candidate 'tends ever more and more to become All-Spirit'.

The marriage story is followed by the account of the driving of the money changers from the temple. H.P. Blavatsky says this story represents the attitude of the Initiate to exoteric religion and his work after he has attained the victory. 'The "temple" here signifies all externals, exoteric creeds, or bodies of flesh'. Oxen typify material things, the physical man. In symbology the bull signifies bodily strength and generative power. Sheep typify the passions and desires which are subdued and tamed, and doves, spiritual aspirations. The money changers are 'those who traffic in spiritual things'. The scourge 'signifies the means by which the passions and lower nature are tamed'. My Father's house is the human body, the temple of God.

The Jews asked Jesus for his authority to do these things. His cryptic reply was Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. This is commonly taken to refer to his resurrection, but H.P. Blavatsky says it means that he had passed through Initiation, and had died to his old life and risen again 'from the dead' in a 'new birth'. The Jews said Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? H.P. Blavatsky says that allegorically this refers to the 49 fires (7 sub-planes of each of the main planes of existence) and that the question really means: 'Wilt thou with the three Fires do more than with the 46?' This presumably indicates the potency of the highest spiritual realms.

H.P. Blavatsky’s essay on 'The Esoteric Character of the Gospels' could be disturbing to the orthodox Christian, but whereas it is destructive in one sense, in another it is constructive. Her theme largely is the difference between Chrestos and Christos. Both of these are expressions antedating by centuries the supposed time of Jesus. The term Chrestos is used in conjunction with the aspiring good man on the way to Initiation. The term Christos refers to the initiated enlightened one - the man who has been through the ceremony depicted in the story of the marriage in Cana.


Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky. link


Geoffrey Farthing portraitGeoffrey Farthing (1909-2004), author and international lecturer made the study of Theosophy, and in particular the esoteric writings of H.P. Blavatsky, his abiding interest for over 60 years. Geoffrey held most positions in the Theosophical Society in England including General Secretary (1969-72). He served a term as a member of the Society's General Council at Adyar, India, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Federation for a number of years. He founded The Blavatsky Trust, an educational charity, in England in 1974. In the same year he gave the prestigious Blavatsky Lecture at the Annual Convention of the English Theosophical Society on Life, Death and Dreams, and in 1996, was awarded the Subba Row Medal for his significant contribution to theosophical literature.

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