(Story begins here) The temple complex rematerialized and so did Mahavira, who spoke. “So you see, Peter, my friend Origen is right. Like everything, spiritual texts have a body a soul and a spirit. The body is a ‘historical’ man senselessly killing his brother, but Origen has started showing you a slightly higher meaning.”
“You mean there are even deeper meanings than that?” gasped Pete.
“Oh yes, Pete, much deeper,” chimed in Origen. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of Cain and Abel. Ultimately it relates to the very nature of the essence of essences, the idea of ideas.”
“Sorry, what’s that?”
“God,” said Origen simply. As a Platonist Christian it’s what I used to call God.
“The important thing Peter,” said Mahavira “is to spend your life trying to help your Abel kill your Cain as opposed to vice versa. “I have my Cain pinned down with Abel’s boot pushing into his neck, but I cannot quite kill him, despite my monastic pursuits.” Pete was surprised to hear such violent language coming from Mahavira and said so.
“Reality will always be a battle ground of good and evil. Every second on earth, a thousand Cains kill a thousand Abels and vice versa,” replied Mahavira. “We have to aggressively channel heaven through us onto earth. Our brains are built on the neural architecture of wild beasts, so the fight is constant. Those who are neutral or even surrender to the beasts? They do not end well and neither do those around them.”
“Which is why you practice monasticism?”
“Indeed. We both do.”
“Reality will always be a battle ground of good and evil. Every second on earth, a thousand Cains kill a thousand Abels and vice versa. We have to aggressively channel heaven through us onto Earth. Our brains are built on the neural architecture of wild beasts, so the fight is constant. Those who are neutral or even surrender to the beasts? They do not end well and neither do those around them.”
“Most Certainly,” Origen chimed in again. “I was an aesthetic, when I was alive. I was vegetarian, teetotal. I went barefoot and only had one cloak.”
“Origen’s discipline during his life has inspired numerous Christian monastic orders” said Mahavira.
“That is very kind of you to suggest,” said Origen modestly.
“So as a Christian, you didn’t believe in reincarnation?” asked Pete. “You were an aesthetic because you were trying to perfect yourself in a single lifetime?” Origen laughed.
“Oh Peter. You are funny! I did believe in reincarnation. I was careful what I said back then, so I talked slightly broadly of how we all existed before the fall and how the seemingly unfair situations people are born into are all fair really. Life seems a lot fairer when you understand that everyone must experience everything to become perfect. It’s no-one’s fault, just a fact.”
“So why all the suffering? The separation from God? Couldn’t we have all just stayed with God.”
“An excellent question Peter. As I said on earth, his goodness and omnipotence constrained him to reveal himself.”
“I’ll leave you to think about that one for a while,” smiled Origen. “It is only a poor teacher who immediately gives all the answers away. But yes, monasticism is to be encouraged, but only for particularly old souls. You can only mount a galloping horse from a horse which is already cantering if you see what I mean.”
“Origen is right,” said Mahavira. “Monasticism is so rewarding, yet difficult.” Origen smiled.
“My friend Mahavira here makes my life seem luxurious by comparison. You know not only must he be celibate, but his order prevents him from even recalling any sexual memories of his past? He cannot even wash because it is an unhelpful indulgence to the false belief in the existence of his physical nature.”
“You showed great spiritual discipline in your lifetime too Origen,” said Mahavira reverently. “When your father was about to be martyred for being a Christian, you were keen to try and join him in honourable death. How old would you have been? Sixteen?”
“About that age,” said Origen thoughtfully.
“Then why didn’t you?” asked Pete. For the first time, Origen looked a little sheepish.
“My mother overhead that I was planning to go out and martyr myself, so she hid all my clothes. I couldn’t go out naked, hardly the conduct of a Christian so I remained at home. If only she could have found a way to save my dear old father,” he said wistfully, then brightened, suddenly back to his old self. “I hope that this has helped you Peter, do you have any questions?”
“Well, yes actually. I came here to ask about Ananius. He tried to keep a little bit of wealth hidden away when he became a Christian and got struck down. I thought the New Testament revealed the loving God?”
“An excellent question Peter. Given what you now know about the bible, why not have a think? What can we learn from Cain and Abel?” Pete stared over Origen’s shoulder at the tropical birds circling over the ancient temple walls. At length, he replied.
“Cain and Abel represented parts of ourselves…”
“Good Peter.” Origen beamed encouragement.
“So other bible characters may represent parts of ourselves?” Origen was beaming to the point that he began to resemble the Cheshire Cat. Pete continued. “So Amanius, wanting to keep some money, that must be greed. But how can a Christian be greedy?”
“Think about what the church is called…” said Origen, actively willing the realisation to come into Pete’s head.
“The body of Christ? So Amanius being struck down…” Pete glanced up excitedly. “It means that if you become a true Christian it will take away your greed?” Origen got up and began almost dancing with delight.
“Yes Peter!” you understand. “It’s nothing to do with a loving God killing someone. So next time someone tries to tell you that God does not exist because the bible cannot all be literally true, you may have a few words to say back!” Pete smiled.
“Definitely. So, will the Ananius in everyone eventually be struck down?” Now it was Origen’s turn to smile.
“What do you think Mahavira?” he asked, turning sidelong to his colleague.
“In Western terminology, this would be called Universalism. The idea that everyone can be ‘saved’ or ‘escape samsara’ to use the eastern phrase. Yes, it will happen to everyone eventually, but we must make the most of our human incarnations to reach upwards and cleanse the soul. This is why I am a ford maker, I want to make the way as direct and easy for people as possible.”
“I agree,” said Origen. “I got in trouble in my lifetime when it was rumoured that I said that even the devil would be saved eventually. To use a metaphor for those aware of the shape of planet earth, the south pole will always be the south pole, but we can evacuate it.” Pete stroked his lower face.
“I see,” he said, not really seeing. Mahavira decided to help him out.
“In Origen’s analogy, the south pole is the devil, the concept of the complete absence of God, a concept which will always exist. But one day, every soul will see that terrible falsity for what it is and move upwards towards God, leaving the south pole uninhabited.” Pete nodded enthusiastically.
“Great stuff, yes I see now.”
“It will be a wonderful moment when this happens,” said Origen. “We will all be back reunited with God, even those who’s souls are currently experiencing life as wild animals at present. Would you like to see what this might be like?”
“Yes please, Origen,” said Pete enthusiastically. The temple complex faded and Pete was once more back in the large field. Abel was once more trying to assist with his injured beast’s foot. Pete took a few steps back when he saw Cain once more striding determinedly towards his brother across the field. But this time Cain reached for the animal’s leg and held it up. Abel smiled his thanks and performed a skilful action with his bronze tool. Cain lowered the leg and Pete watched the beast walk steadily away across the field, turned back to the two brothers just in time to see Cain and Abel shaking hands.