Martha and Mary
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40 –42)
A lot has been said about Martha and Mary. They represent two principles of the human soul – the passive and the active one. In Martha and Mary we have two women, two opposite characters, two conditions of the human heart: one is calm, quiet, speechless, a mind focused on an eternal principle and grounded on an eternal basis, and the other, like the sea waves or the twigs – constantly swaying and surging. Jesus, however, points out to Martha what is important by saying, “You are worried about many things” – things that are insignificant, beyond reality. Mary, on the other hand, opts for something more significant. Most of you fall into these two categories – some are like Martha, others are like Mary. The “Maries” are generally noble women. They are nice, well built, beautiful in the face, their eyes are gentle, the forehead is symmetrical, the nose is straight; they are kind-hearted, tender, sympathetic and considerate. “Mary” in Hebrew means salty water. A Mary gives salt to the world; thanks to her it does not go bad, rotten or sour. When you bear Mary’s principle at heart, you do not get spoiled. “Martha” derives from “mara”, which means bitter, sour, wild; so this principle in you is always unruly, angry and displeased. All this is not because it is ill willed, but because it is too active; wherever it goes it demands the way open. If she is a Martha, you will see her early in the morning when she gets up raise hue and cry in the house, all the servants on the alert, and when she raises the broom everybody runs away. She says, “I want the place neat and tidy.” You can find her at school, at court – everywhere. She is necessary. Yet you should not give her more credit than the other. Both principles are equally important.
Two other principles are related to these ones. I define them as the principle of the inferior and the principle of the superior. The principle represented by Mary stands for the superior, which shows us how we should serve God, live in harmony with the High Creatures, the angels, and the saints that know more than we do. They know how to obey – we have to sit quietly and calmly at the feet of the Master to learn from him. You will ask, “Who are the masters?” - He is one. I know only one Master. He may have 250,000 hairs on His head, but this does not mean that they are masters. A tree may have many branches and twigs, but they are not trees. Yet it is one common life that runs through the tree and its branches. The unity in your mind should stand in the same way. So when the Master comes you should listen to the spirit within you, no matter whether you are men or women. You should listen to the voice of this soft tenderness and Love. Love is not sour. What do you like in life? Let us imagine that the world is full of Marthas – all of them holding brooms, raising dust and shouting – what kind of music can this be? I believe that the houses would be neat and tidy, we would be wearing pretty clothes, everything would be in perfect order, but there would not be any life. On the other hand, if all were Maries, then everything would be salty, but what would have to become salty if there were no Marthas? Mary refers to something else, to a different principle, a different basis. The superior principle, Mary, shows us the way in which we have to serve God individually. This service will make our lives meaningful. As long as we understand the inner sense of our souls, we will be able to understand those round us. Once we have learned the first, superior principle – to submit to God – we will be able to learn the other principle - to obey all the inferior elements, the inferior principle. So when modern science claims that it wants to subdue Nature, I see is as a desire to subdue Martha, who is so unruly. We need to learn to be good masters. One who has not learned to submit to God and serve Him cannot be a good master. Any of us who wants to be a master has to learn how to be a servant to God and obey Him. One has to learn the law and sit just like Mary at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus said, “Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her.” Let me give an example to illustrate the idea. It can be a legend. Paganini, the great violin player, while touring round Europe, met a sixty-year-old fiddler. The poor man was playing in the street, his hands trembling, his eyes bleared, and an empty pot for coins at his feet. When Paganini took his fiddle and started playing, dozens of on-lookers gathered to listen to him. He played for more than twenty minutes and everybody started throwing coins in the pot. He played until the pot was filled with silver.
This is how Paganini helped the poor man. The poor man was sitting at Paganini’s feet, just as Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. He did not say, “Let me see what will come out of this.” He just listened to the master’s music. “Yes, I can see now my great teacher, the master of life.” The pot is a vessel containing all the good thoughts. When the great master comes to play for you, your vessel will be filled with noble thoughts and desires. Then you will not be feeble and weak, but young, agile, and good. I would like you to do the same thing. You should devote your lives to this because when Christ praises Mary, he means, “I do not want you to give me all your time. I need only the time you know how to use, no matter how little it is. You are free to do whatever you want in the time you are busy doing your duties.“ The great teaching does not at all imply that we should leave aside all our other duties. However, the hour devoted to Mary should be sacrificed. Paganini does not always stop to give a hand. This is actually quite rare. He leaves his violin and goes away. In the same away, Christ will stop by you when you are bored or upset, when you feel useless or have lost the point in life. Then he will stop, take your violin and play for you. It is true happiness to see a great master play or draw. This is what we need to learn – standing in awe in front of God and obeying Him. Through submission we will be able to adopt all great virtues. What gives rise to conflicts among people? People are sulky, not mild and gentle. If all people were mild and gentle, life would be happy both inwardly and outwardly. If people lived in mutual respect, making concessions, there would be great harmony in life. I do not find lucky people who are constantly quarrelling, as they actually grumble against God. All I hear is the grumbles of scholars, priests, doctors, professors, and preachers. Priests and doctors are not pleased with their fees as they find them insufficient. When they say that God gave them less than the others, this is already grumbling. The shepherd will say that his pen is too small. The scholar is also displeased with his inadequate skills and abilities. Who is to blame? Always God! This does not apply only to you who are attending this lecture – everybody else grumbles. The law of the superior is that there should always be gratitude and love pouring toward God.
Some ask, “Where is God? How can we find Him?” Even small children are able to find God. Philosophers have been trying to prove where God is for 2,000 years – whether He is in the skies, among the stars, on earth, or in the human heart. They are still searching for Him, but nobody has found Him yet. Preachers claim that He is in the human heart; astronomers believe He is in the universe. Some say that he exists, others that He does not. I shall present to you a figure to illustrate the grounds philosophers find. Imagine that God, just like the Sun, rises in the east and sets in the west each 24 hours. Imagine also that when God rises, you fall asleep and you are asleep until He sets, and that when He sets, you wake up and keep looking for Him throughout the night. As you cannot find Him, you fall asleep again at dawn, and when He sets, you continue looking for him during the night. You have been looking for Him for a day or two, for a month or two, for years, but in vain. My advice is to change things – sleep at night, wake up in the morning at sunrise and you will see God, you will find Him. I can see Him every day. I sleep during the night and at the crack of dawn I get up to meet Him. This is the philosophy of life. God rises like a sun. What is it that modern people do? They go to concerts, parties and to the theatre, and when God rises, they are asleep.
They are aristocrats of the noble morning! All people who sleep in the morning and during the day belong to the culture of the owls. That is the reason why they suffer. This night culture should be replaced with day culture. When dawn cracks, you will get up and wait for at least half an hour for God to show His face to you so that you can draw energy, strength and health on Him. Then you will feel fit and agile to fight during the whole day. Some philosophers say that God is an aristocrat, He does not accept everybody and we should dress up for Him. I will give you a counter-argument: when the sun rises all animals, no matter good or bad, beautiful or ugly, appear in the attire they have. God shines above everybody – snakes and lizards, mosquitoes and harmful bugs. He never says, “You should hide in your den.” So you can appear in front of God as you are and bask. This is the point in life. We do not suffer because there are too many snakes on earth – their number is definite, they are in their place, but if their number doubles, this surplus will be by all means eliminated. The same refers to wolves. So, if you do not harness any thought and desire you have, if you have not learned how to serve God, thoughts and desires will rule over you. Then, by the same law, just like you defy God, your thoughts and desires will act against you. If you apply this theory in practice, you will experience its effect.
Some say, “Let us cultivate the world and the people,”
I do not believe in cultivation, because all people are separate cells of the Divine organism, of the Divine body. Every one of them should cultivate itself. I cannot order you, as this would be a sacrilegious act – to lie to God. I do not want to give orders. Why? Because people belong to God and I do not have the right to dispose with what does not belong to me. I have the right to be only the master of my own thoughts and desires. I can order only them and be the servant to everything that is beyond me. You should do the same.
Then we shall descend to the inferior elements – to the unreasonable. What does the Bible say in Chapter 1? God created heaven and then the earth. Heaven is Mary, and the earth is Martha to me. The earth was still unorgnised, thus sour. Scholars say that when Martha appeared, there were storms, hurricanes, fire and steam surrounding her, so God told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried too much. Progress is not there. Mary has chosen that good part – look up.” Then the earth, Martha, looked up and started rotating round its axis and the sun. This is how life formed round it - many creatures and finally man came into being. When God completed His work, He said, "Everything round Martha is well. And then came the second day, followed by others till the seventh day. Some of you are Marthas. They make noise, fire pouring out of their hearts and minds. There are no lakes, nor rivers and the great Master said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried too much. There is only one thing that is necessary. Look up and you will find it there. This is what will give you some sense.” When you raise your eyes, too, your spirit will start moving in the right direction round its centre, and then you will find the point in life. Having a meaningful life means to have a centre round which you can move. This centre will send for you everything that is necessary every day.
So, God created both Martha and Mary in us – they are the two poles of the human soul. I might explain to you some day the inherent significance of the two principles, acting in this world. However, when too much is said, the accumulated knowledge cannot be applied and forms accretions embarrassing to people to the extent that they are at a loss. Once a student at the Evangelist School, attending a lesson in Bulgarian grammar, which he failed to comprehend, approached his teacher and asked him, “There are so many grammar books - Grigirov’s, Iconomov’s, etc. - that I don’t know which one to use. Which one would you recommend?” The boy kept asking his teacher, until finally he told him, “Look here, I do not care what Grigorov’s or Iconomov’s grammar teach. You have to follow my explanations," So, when God comes to you, you tell Him, “ There are many philosophers – Kant, Schopenhauer, Tolstoy – their philosophies clash. Whose philosophy are we to follow?” God will tell you, “You will do as I tell you.” So, when you want to follow the Divine truth, you will have to focus on your own soul; then you will see life differently. You will build up different abilities and you will be able to see that you are surrounded by other creatures, far greater and more creative and then you will say, ‘How blind we were!” Now I am asking those of you who are thinking: if you were in the position of an ant and a philosopher stepped on you, what would you think of his feet? You would say, “A huge rock fell upon me and crashed me.” Yet this huge rock is just a small part of the giant.
Sometimes you say, “Destiny is chasing me.” This, however, is nothing but the foot of a great philosopher, who has stepped on you. You should never stand in the way of philosophers, as they will never stop because of you. They are following their way and if you step in their path, their feet will crash you. When you come to complain to me, I will tell you to stay out of this philosophers’ path, because you are just ants. You should seek other paths. This is the philosophy of life. When I see someone unhappy, I look up and see a giant who has crashed the poor fellow.
So, God created the world as well as all other worlds. There are 18,000,000 suns in The Milky Way, each of them having its own orbit and staying at 25-milliard km away from the other so that they cannot collide. It is God who determined these orbits. Likewise, He traced a certain path and gave you a definite space, bidding you never to cross the lines of your kingdom. You want to negotiate with other kingdoms; the men and women from two kingdoms started negotiating their merge into one kingdom but soon they fell out. Why did they have a row? Let everyone reign in his or her own kingdom. Someone will say, “Let’s keep our money in one place to have it safe.”
Everyone should keep their own money in their own purse. Do not trust your money anyone. Whoever you trust here on earth, he will steal it. That is why Jesus told us to bring our wealth up in heaven. Up, Up! This is the true point in life. So, it is not our fault that we want to change the life God destined for us. I know people who hate someone so much that they are haunted by him. Let him go, and hold onto God. It is God who gives you light, so you should let Him in you sacred soul. People nowadays are very religious: they have their gods of labour, of glory, of strength and they burn incense to worship them. Throw away all those idols or take a hammer and smash them. Then sit at your Master’s feet to find out about the inner, deep meaning of your life. This is what Christ wants to tell us – that the good, which Mary bears, cannot be taken away from her. You are worried about many things, saying, “I have this, I have that.” You are the master of these things, so you should throw them away. I have noticed some masters sit in a chair, just like me now, giving orders. The master needs something that he himself is perfectly able to take, but instead he rings the bell. Nobody turns up. He keeps calling and finally he starts yelling at his servants. Well, why don’t you stand up to take what you need? You can do it yourself. Your shoes are only five feet away from you, yet you ring the bell for your maid to come and give them to you. Do not throw tantrums. Pick up what you need yourself, because your calm and peace are worth more than being served. Do it by yourself and scold your maid for not coming on time. This is what God requires of us, because the maid does not serve you; she serves someone else. Sometimes I tell you that I am a servant, but not your servant – I am a servant to God. In London, a Baptist preacher, Spurgeon, to make himself look more important wrote on his visit card: “A Christian Brother is waiting outside for you.” On the other side he wrote, “Tell him that I am busy now.” If someone comes to see you, you can tell him that you are busy with his Master. The maid you called to bring you your shoes did not turn up because she was busy talking to her Master, and if you disturb her, her master will scold you. This is the greatest philosophy, which people nowadays have to learn. We all have to be God’s servants. When we learn this great law, we will establish normal relationships. I observe people – if you are well disposed, you like people, but if you do not feel disposed, if you have got up in the wrong side, then you are cross with everyone. This state of mind can go on for a week or a month; we call it a new philosophy – pessimism, and the people - pessimists. If you want to justify someone who has a certain fault, you say. “He is a pessimist.” You are all philosophers. The Bulgarians are better philosophers than Schopenhauer - they all share this pessimism. A Bulgarian can be easily discouraged and disappointed and then Schopenhauer’s philosophy comes – Martha comes. What I want to tell you is only this: you are obliged to submit to God. If you have not served him, no wonder all this misfortune has befallen you. There is no other destiny for you and the day you obey God and your fate, everybody else will succumb to you.
This is the teaching about Martha and Mary. Mary is heaven and Martha is the earth. Mary is everything noble in the heart, while Martha is everything mean in it. Mary is the noble mind, which theosophists refer to as manas, while Martha is the inferior manas. When you go home (and I can see your magnificent homes), you should say, “Come Mary, come Martha, you are two good sisters.” Christ is the superior Spirit, the high Principle. If Mary had spoken to Martha, she should have told her, “Let me listen first for a while and then I will help you.” Jesus was speaking then, that is why Mary was not working. When you go back now, you will start shouting angrily, ‘Martha, do you know what the Master said? You have to obey!” Mary has to be kind and gentle and speak to her like a sister, “Wait, sister, I will help you later.” This is how Mary should speak. And when her sisters answers her back, she should say, “How smoothly you are talking!” because there is a kind of harmony between the noble and the ignoble; there is a kinship between Love and hatred. I know these two sisters quite well. But whoever stands between them, he will be smothered by their love. They will smother him, and when he dies, they will say, “What have we done?” Then Love will say, “Let’s bring him back to life again!” Hatred will say, “I’ll bury him.’ - “Well”, Love will say. So they bury him, but Love comes later, shines on him and here he pops out resurrected. Hatred and Love are at work all the time. You do not think highly of hatred and envy – they are snakes and lizards. However, they can be nice sometimes. Can you imagine the world without snakes and lizards? Show me such a world. Is yours better? No, the world is great the way it is constructed.
It is great in its design and expression. What you are constantly complaining about is the disharmony within you – it is Martha, the earth still not arranged, the tumult raging within you and disrupting the harmony. The Holy Spirit has to descend and have the say. So, the Spirit has already descended and is now giving orders. He is working. Have staunch belief in his great principle, living in Mary; have faith in the principle, living in Martha, too. Have faith in Christ, because it is Christ, sitting on top of them, who unites them. You should bring together these three elements: your spirit, your Mary, and your Martha and start the new year with it. I am not going to finish now. I will leave a great gap for you to solve the puzzle. I can foresee your future. I can see some of you rise, others fall. I can see some walking along the right path, while others go astray. In the end, you will all be well despite hesitation and faltering.
When you board an ocean liner some of you get seasick others do not. It is curious to observe aristocrats on board of a ship. On the first day they are all dressed up, cheerful and happy, but when the ship starts rocking in the waves, they become dismal and meditative as if they listened to some serious sermon. On the second day they experience indigestion, start eating lemons, lie in the cabins, feeling sick. But when they get off the ship, if asked, “How was the passage?” – “Oh, great!” they will say. Oh, you will lose count of the times when you will feel sick while crossing the vast ocean between heaven and earth! You will say, “It will be a tough job!” But when you get on firm land, you will have a voracious appetite, because you will be purified. The Martha in the ocean raises hue and cry, but as soon as you land and Mary arrives, you will say, “Thank God, it was a safe voyage.” Do not ever be afraid! Stay with your Master so that you will be able to solve the issue in life. You have very serious tasks in life: bringing up children, relationships between men and women, relationships in society, relationships with humanity, etc. You have numerous duties and obligations. How will you accomplish them? Some think that when they become Christians, they will not have any responsibilities. Just the opposite, a Christian has more obligations and is more strongly obliged to fulfil them, so that when the day is over, one should feel content about having accomplished what he was supposed to do. While, if he has not coped with his tasks, he should assign them for his next day’s schedule. One day you will be Martha, another day you will be Mary, and when you are at the feet of your Master, then let both Martha and Mary sit quietly, let peace reign for at least an hour.
This is the teaching and the thought that Christ conveys. Learn how to serve the Superior, so that you can master the inferior.
13. A lecture delivered on 14th January, 1917.