Old And New Wine-Skins
“And no one pours new wine into old skins …
But the new wine has to be poured into new skins, and both to be protected.”
From Luke 5: 37-38
This small parable is a classic in terms of expression and content. Christ makes a great generalization of the ideas: he says that nobody should pour new wine into old skins, because the latter would crack. Should we take that in the literal sense? No, it is true in its figurative meaning – an analogy is made between the new teachings and the new wine, and between the old people and the old skins: the old wine, as it has ceased fermenting, can remain in the old skin, however, the new one, since it is fermenting, if it were poured into an old skin, it would burst into pieces. This parable contains a hidden thought, a great law, and that is for the Divine ideas, which are implemented into this world, new skins are needed – more elastic, so that they withstand the pressure of fermentation, i.e. people who have a mind and a heart, receptive to the new truth. When the mind is busy with old ideas, thoughts, and feelings, the new cannot penetrate; in other words, in the old forms a display of strength for feats cannot be found. In this respect young people are generous; you have to ask the ninety-year-olds ninety times to give you a nickel, because they have a natural fear, they feel too weak and feeble to dispose with their own strengths and tools like the young ones do. And that is why Christ says that the new wine has to be poured into new skins.
When the New teaching pours into the world, it raises a reaction in the old ones – they think that it is not good and that it will spoil the world. Nevertheless there is no father who would want to have a son born with old ideas – everyone dreams that his son will be contemporary, and apprehend the thoughts and ideas of the century.
The wine, on its own, represents Strength; in order for the human evolution to be given an impulse, there has to be strength; strength is nothing but the human Spirit, taken in a broad sense –judicious strength that works according to the Divine laws. In the aims of God, everything grows and develops; God does not like the old skins, He puts them into the lower cellars, like the old wine makers do – a time will come when there will be people who will drink from the old wine as well. When you understand the New teaching, you will be mistaken if you think that it won't ferment in you, that you will remain the same humans – that is impossible, it is the same as when the sculptor works with a hammer on marble, without breaking off some piece. Many pieces will scatter to the left and right, and old people should keep a slight distance, if they fear that some piece could hit them in the head; it is not the sculptor’s fault, but the old people, if they choose not to move away. – “I am sculpturing a statue for the future generation – he says – and everyone should keep their distance.” The artist might be working with a brush, he might be working with a bow, he might be working with a hammer – it depends on the way he works; it is not important, what is important is whether he works according to the Divine order of things. When the work gets rough, we should not say “Our heads exploded” – eternal tranquillity reigns over the graveyards; whoever wants to go forward, whoever aspires to God, whoever wants to grow in the Divine life, needs work and struggle. In this aspiration the good part of the individual resides, the good of the community, the good of all mankind. Those who want to rest, and remain with the old understandings of Life, do not comprehend the active life of the new ideas, expressed by the parable of the new wine. Do you know how much time it took the vine-stock to gather that amount of wine, and furthermore, do you know its strength? Initially it is sweet, after that it becomes sharp, and finally it becomes so strong, if you drink too much of it you lose your normal condition.
So he who wants to adopt the New teaching has to free himself from the old skins. If you do not have new skins, stay away; other, new people will come, and into them the new teaching will pour. It could be poured into you, too, but first you have to sell the old skins – to free yourselves from any desire and vice that will hamper you on your way to adopting the New teaching.
In India there are famous snake-hunters which tame and send many specimens of snakes to Europe; to do this they use barrels where they put the snakes (from the smallest to the biggest ones, from the least to the most dangerous) and there they tame them. One evening, however, because of incautiousness while closing the barrel, the lid was not closed properly; during the night all of the snakes managed to escape from the barrel and coiled around their hunter; in the morning he woke up and when he saw what had happened, he did not make a move, because a single move could cost him his life – he had the presence of spirit to remain calm. After some time his servant arrived and started wondering why his master had not gone out yet; he opened the door and saw that all kinds of snakes coiled around his master. The servant, however, was very clever – he immediately went and fetched a big cauldron of boiled milk, and placed it in the room; the snakes, getting scent of the milk, uncoiled from his master and went to the milk. The Indian got up and carefully placed the snakes back into the barrel, while saying to himself: “That barrel must be closed well.” You will also find yourselves in the position of that snake-hunter some time, and then you will need presence of spirit, and milk – and that milk is the spirit of the Rational life.
Christ says: “You should not pour new wine into an old skin, because it will unsettle you.” If some religious man becomes unsettled, he is an old skin that could not hold the new wine – the New teaching. Two ideas which collide cannot reconcile; the law of Moses states: “An eye for an eye.”, however, according to the teaching of Christ, the law is just the opposite – to love our enemies, and if they hit our cheek, to turn the other. How would you reconcile this new teaching with the old one, while keeping it too? The law of Moses is for an old skin, the teaching of Christ requires a new skin; according to the law of Moses, the old people are not capable of coping with the new, they want to grab their foe and take out his eyes so that he cannot see and find them, and the teaching of Christ says: “You can turn your opponents into friends, you can disarm them, and you can even make them serve you.” Now, let us come to the inner psychological meaning of the words of Christ. We must never think in life that we have completely understood the Truth, and that there is nothing left for us to study – then we would be such old skins that have stopped their development on Earth. – “We are learned.” – Yes, but what is your learning based on? – “We have read a lot of books.” – So what? We have to probe deeply into that philosophy that could straighten our lives and give us the happiness we are looking for. I have explained the word “happiness”2 to you before – which letters does this word contain? The letter ‘ш’3 three pillars, turned upwards – represents the human hand that is working; ‘т’ shows a directive or strength with which the work is thrust; after these two letters comes the ‘а’ – it is the human nose – it does not need only effort, but also wits, to know how to work; when you take the letter ‘с’, it represents the human heart, and when you turn it up, it will become a boat – that which is earned will be stored; in the letter ‘и’ there is a descent and an ascent – from up to down, and contrariwise; these two angles, when put next to each other, form the diameters of the circle – the wheel, which drives the car forward; ‘e’ shows the centre that you have to hold. And therefore you need a hand, strength, wits, heart, and an aim above.
I will adduce an anecdote from our Bulgarian life. Here people believe that when fever comes, it is alive. A shepherd stopped by a bridge and started listening to what two fevers were talking about; one of them said that it would go and get that shepherd up on the mountain; the second one asked how the first one was planning to do that, and the first one answered: “I will get into the first spoon of milk he is going to have at the spring.” The shepherd, when he heard that they were talking about him, planned to take some safety precautions; the same day one of his sheep died, he skinned it, and from its pelt he made a skin. When the time for the fever approached, he put the first spoon of milk inside the skin and fastened it. Then the fever inflated the skin and shook it every day. In the autumn the shepherd unfastened the skin and let the fever go. Again the two fevers gathered by the bridge, and the first one said to the other: “I had the misfortune to get into the empty sheep skin!”
You too, if you wanted to use the old skins, would look like that fever, and when they let you go, you would say: “We have learned how to shake skins.” I see such people constantly, and when they are let loose in Life, they say: “We have learned how to shake skins.” Such are the contemporary dogmatists, who only shake skins – “It is narrow for us”, they say. No, it is wide, but there is no food next to them. In the folk belief, which I just told you about, there is a whole philosophy: the judge must be brought to reason, because he incorrectly decides fate – for a new fate to come to the world. New wine must be ingested in our children, because it is Strength. Mothers who want to have good children have to be ingested with new ideas; if you have old ideas, I would not suggest child-bearing. Who are you going to give birth to? Scoundrels of life, which run into thousands. The Holy Writ says: “Breed and multiply”4; that does not mean giving birth to abortions, but to people in the image of God. This is the New teaching that Christ preaches and if understood will repair the world. Both the vine and the sap are within us; when one day our vine gives fruit, the sap of the grapes will start fermenting – it is an inexorable law in the world, and he who plans to live without fermenting does not understand Life.
Christ also says: “Whoever wants to follow me, let him take his cross.”5; the new wine – that is the cross. The cross represents strength to those who understand. In the world there are various crosses, and people complain about them, but here is what Paul says about the cross: “I would vaunt with the cross of Christ.” You are complaining about your sufferings, and say that they are extraordinary, unbearable, but you look like the one who was complaining about the burden of his cross. Here is what happened to him: God said:
Take it from him.
And he led him into a great hall, and told him:
In this hall there are big and small, silver, gold, iron and stone crosses – choose one.
The man, when choosing, found a small cross, and said:
I want this little cross.
But that is the cross you have been wearing all along; that is the cross I had given to you – said God.
We often overstate our sufferings, and want to alter our fate; we cannot alter it, and throw away the burden that we must bear. You would say: “When I fix those matters up, me and my wife, and even the children, will take the new path, and then the new wine will ferment.” If you are planning on settling your worldly matters, and then follow God, you are in for a big mistake. Upbringing is a process which must go simultaneously for everyone – the father, the mother, and the children; when the father and mother become brought up, their children will be brought up as well.
I will adduce another example: they say that the American preacher Moody, once while he was preaching, a child that was listening to him asked his father:
- Dad, why are you not singing?
- I am solid in my faith, it is you who should be singing; these things are for you, we old folk have listened for all we are worth – he answered.
The child then said to himself: “It is a very good thing I have a solid father.” One day the father put a horse to a small cab and went travelling, but somewhere at the top the horse stopped, and then the child said:
Dad, the horse got solid.
Once we have stopped, we have become solid – we are an old skin, in which the new wine cannot ferment. And to think we are preparing for the Heavens, we are planning on going to Eden, to start living an angelic life, to understand Divine truth! How can we understand that when we are living in those cellars? That is why Christ turns and says: “New skins are required.” – Old people are old skins, young people are new skins; old people are not bothered by anything, but the young ones tell the old: “Let us pour some of the new wine into you too.” The old ones should not be given new wine – the old ones have finished their evolution, the new wine has to go through the arteries and veins of the new people. There is struggle within us; there is complaint, because the old wine and the new wine are battling. Christ wants to say: “Do not ingest the new wine in yourselves, unless you are ready”, so he says: “Cleanse yourselves first” – of every teaching and every philosophy; we can take advantage when we are clean. Plasticity in progress, upsurge spiritual – that is what the New teaching infers.
If we could look inside the consciousness of the old man from an occult point of view, we would see a candle that is glimmering; if we looked at the new man, we would see his candle burning bright. We could compare the old man to the Earth which is lit by the Moon, and the young one – the Earth lit by the Sun. For the spiritual development new wine is necessary – let us ask ourselves if we have it. He who has drunk old wine and not tasted sweet wine says: “The old wine is better”, but the wine, once it ferments and settles, becomes old, and it cannot ferment any further. It can only make people drunk, cheer them up a bit, but make them work and progress – never. If we are woebegone, it is because our life is fermenting, the wine becomes sour or sharp, and it is no longer sweet.
I have watched the Bulgarians who come out of the church and go to the tavern to drink, first they gather in pairs: “Give me a mug of the old wine – cheers!” – they drink a round or two; then the group increases to three-four people, they continue drinking and the conversation becomes more lively, the whole tavern starts talking; at some time a racket starts building up and before you know it – they have started beating somebody up. Why are they beating him up? He has not erected a hedge around his field – they have to beat him up in the tavern, so that he erects a hedge. That is not only in the taverns; visit the exchange markets, where there are commercial operations going on – you would say that all of the people there are mad; even a woman who had visited the market told her man: “Why did you bring me to that madhouse, I want you to bring me to noble people, not the market!” Once they have started quarrelling and separating at home, the wine has started to ferment – when they cannot create something new, they want to engross what belongs to another; just like a mother who cannot give birth takes somebody else’s child.
Furthermore, for the new wine that will give us New life, which will teach us how to live and work and how to create strong relations between ourselves, new skins are required – that is the Teaching of Christ. They say it was not applicable – it is applicable. Just stop to think about it for five minutes every day; take that parable, read it, and stop to think about the new wine once a day – you will see what results there will be. Stop for five minutes and think about God, about the good people on Earth, who work without end, about the good mothers, who raise their children with patience, about the good fathers, who take care of their families – you will see what process this new wine will produce. The woman says: “I got married, but my husband is worthless.” – Well, who forced you to take an old skin? Do you know that this way you look like the man who, during the time of the Turks6, stole a donkey and told the judge: “I was on the pear-tree and I fell on the donkey, and it carried me away.” Tell yourselves: “What I need is new wine – in the heart, in ideas, and in the world alike.” Become sixty-eighty-year-old, about to get married and have children; I understand, there are exceptions, like Abraham, who gave birth to children in his old age, but he had new ideas, he was not old – today they get old at forty. – “Bless our children, we are done for!” – You are then an old skin, they have to put you in the cellar; you are a sluggard, who does not want to understand the Will of God. You have to say: “My God, I understood You, I now want to work for You, as a stripling does.” Down with your old age, put your old skins aside, take them away – people with old skins and old wine are not for the Divine Kingdom! I do not want them to pour their old wine out, but I want them to pour the new wine into new skins; once they catch that Divine thought, it will lift them up with its strength.
They wonder how to train people; the method is very easy: when a boat at sea starts leaking, they put a stopper in the hole – if they do not put a stopper, the boat will sink. Check if your boat is not leaky, plug it up, and then you will be safe. Some days you are unhappy – you have a leak in your boat, your skin is cracked; there is no good in store for you if you do not plug the hole up. There are times when man has to be strictly obedient, like that child of a motorman whose house was near the railroad; the child was playing, and when the train approached, they shouted from afar: “Get down!” – The child obeyed, he ducked, and thus was saved. Sometimes they tell you: “Get down!” – “But why?” Get down, do not ask why – when the train comes, you will see why. There are dangerous moments when we have to kneel, and when the danger passes away, to thank God.
But someone says: “I do not want to get used to the conditions, I do not want to be elastic” – You will get used to it; the rain will not take into consideration whether you are dressed or not; the Sun will also not take into consideration whether you can stand its light, it is you who has to get used to all the changes, and be ready to take them. The rain and the Sun do their job very well; let the Sun shine, let the sea undulate, let the old skins crack – this should not bother you, as God has decided to burst the old skins, and pour new wine into the new skins. If the people with old ideas and thoughts want to live under the new conditions, they are bitterly mistaken – such is the fate, such is the Divine law, God wants you to rejuvenate, to be reborn. – “How are we going to be born anew?” - Some will ask; you will be reborn, a new shape will form, in which you will put your Life – a real form, not a dream. If you could understand the law under which you now live, you would have been able to rejuvenate – how can this be? When you learn the law, you will renovate your soul inwardly.
When speaking of Resurrection, I understand those forms with which God works inside us. We have to prepare the new skins; then God will say: “Bring them, so that we can pour the new wine into them.” Some would ask: “What is God now doing with the world?” He is preparing the new skins, he is creating new wine– and thus speaks Christ: “Father of Mine works, and I work with you.” And we have to be ready not to impair those skins, because it is a very easy thing to impair the mind and heart of man, and very difficult to repair. Let God see that you have begun to work. You are asking yourselves why this life is such; in the eyes of many I see they are intoxicated with old wine, they are dopey, they are drunk – they have to sober down, joy has to fill their hearts, because this world is created for you, with all conditions for your development. – “But the war, the sorrow.” – Ничего”7, as the Russians say. – “But a world is lost.” – Ничего7, nothing is lost – maybe thousands of houses will be destroyed; old skins, but new ones will be created. Now God is pouring the new wine into new skins. Only the intoxicated fight; men and women, if they are fighting – they are intoxicated. Where there is new wine, there is music, singing, conciliation – that is the Teaching of Christ. Read the Gospel put that teaching in yourselves, think for five minutes a day about the Eternal life, about God, about the good people, about the good mothers and fathers, about the good friends, think about something noble and it will elate you. Then you will understand the deeper things – oh, what things there are for you to study! But first of all you have to prepare for that understanding. – “What is the future life going to be like?” Excellent – that which you have not seen, heard, dreamed of. How will man see the beauty of the world when he is asleep? Your sleeping souls have to awaken – you have to put the cauldron of milk, in order to stow the evil away. Be carriers of the new wine, of the New teaching; preach Joy, Merriment to the world. And when you are suffering, say that you are suffering because you have not carried out the Divine law.
We often say that circumstances create Life, but man also creates circumstances. I have already told you about an English lord who went with his daughter and his servant on a journey, and they were shipwrecked. So in the world you can be both master, and servant: if you have knowledge of how to apply the Divine laws – you are a master; if you do not know how to apply them – you are a servant. One who wants to reign has to be ingested with the New teaching – it carries the clue to Life. That shipwrecked lord, if he had not landed on the deserted island, he would not have known how to cultivate Life – he learned that art there. In Life we can lapse into misfortune – when someone becomes our master; let us learn to serve, and God will lead us out of the deserted island. Thank the Providence that you have landed on the island to learn how to cultivate grain, i.e. Life. So far you have not learned how to cultivate your mind and heart, and as a result there is hunger and dissatisfaction in you; you eat four-five times, you fatten, you groan – there is such obesity also in your mind. And that fatness has to be converted into energy; you have noticed that people who work intensely mentally, who are active spiritually, never grow fat. Should you accumulate fat, put it in the car of the spiritual life, and move towards realizing some noble dreams of yours – there lays your welfare.
July 25th 1915, Sofia
1 The word “skin” is used in the meaning of “bag” through the text.
2 “Щастие” in bulgarian. It is pronounced [shtastie].
3 The bulgarian letter щ [sht] is comprised of two consonants: ш [sh], and т [t].
4 Again should be a quote from the Bible.
5 Again should be a quote from the Bible
6 The turkish slavery, which lasted 500 years. Although this sounds more like an anecdote than actual event.
7 Russian word which means “Nothing”.