In the practice of bhakti as presented in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna becomes an intermediary, bringing the light and love and power of Supernal Spirit to those who don’t have it. This Spirit is the ultimate Source of all creation, but the intermediary becomes a Source in himself to those who receive the gift of Spirit through him.
Though Supernal Spirit is One, there are many intermediate Sources, separate and distinct from one another. Among the grandest Sources are the founders, Gods, and Avatars of the great religions. Here’s a simple chart that clarifies a complex reality at the root of endless confusion and religious warfare. Each Avatar (by any other name) transmits Supernal Spirit to his particular flock. The devotees don’t perceive the Divine Oneness directly, but only as it shines through their own Avatar. The natural human tendency is to conclude that the given Avatar is the one and only Source, and that his unique teachings about Supernal reality are the Absolute Truth, the thing in itself rather than the finger pointing at the Sun.
The connection with a particular Supernal Source engenders a special relationship among all the people who share it. The unitary radiance from the Source infuses them, giving them a sense that they’re All One. The love of God circulates among them, and thus they love one another. They become a family, though the bond that unites them descends from Spirit above rather than rising from the blood below. For indeed, this is the way that Supernal Spirit manifests collectively in the world.
We’ve seen that a religion in itself, whether or not there’s a Supernal connection, is likewise a special type of family, which we call a sodality. There are two other basic kinds of sodalities: a primal tribe, and a nation in the traditional sense. The common element is the special bond among the sodality members, equivalent to that of extended families of various size and closeness. The fourth type is a Supernal Sodality, which occurs when any of the other types has a connection with Supernal Spirit. This happens most frequently with religions, occasionally with nations, and very rarely with primal tribes.
Bhakti as described in the Gita is identical with the practice that Christians call surrendering to God. And of the many varieties of Christian devotion, accepting Jesus as your personal savior is most similar to devotion to Krishna. This is a striking example of people using the same method to connect with different Avatars ~ for Krishna and Jesus are both literally Sons of God in the doctrines of their own religions. It highlights the fact that although Supernal Oneness shines through both groups, they are not the same spiritual family: they are two different sodalities, separate and distinct ~ even in the eyes of God.
This separation is essential for the existence of sodalities. Each one is a collective soul, a living spiritual organism. It needs boundaries to sustain its life, just as physical organisms are contained within their skin. A traditional Christian doctrine is that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ; this is a veritable metaphysical reality, recognized in Hinduism long before, and possibly deriving from it. A Hindu sodality is called a Sangha, but a broader Sanskrit term exactly matches the Christian version: Devakaya, which means Godbody.
In the long age when both East and West were dominated by the Supernal religions, each culture as a whole was essentially a Godbody, an integral organism connect to the divine through its Avatar. This Supernal integration waxed and waned in the societal flux through various epochs, and was usually stronger in some regions than others. Nevertheless, the center of each sodality held for centuries, until they were ruptured by the onslaught of the modern Zeitgeist, spreading remorselessly from West to East.
Now we can see the solution to the apparent anomaly mentioned at the end of chapter two: when pursued individually, the path of self-liberation does not give rise to a sodality. The free-floating fellowship of the New Age subculture is not a higher organism but a lower collective life-form, not a Godbody but a spiritual slime mold. The people feed on fantasies of apocatastasis (universal liberation), and shun the only path that could truly redeem the world: bhakti to a central Source outside themselves, thus becoming a sodality. It’s sadly fitting that the nature of enlightenment in this alienated endtime has been termed individuation.
Many self-liberators are fond of the Gospel verse, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” It’s so familiar in the general culture that it’s almost a cliché, yet this King James translation of Luke 17:21 is recognized by scholars as inaccurate. Most newer translations feature variations of the original gist of what Jesus actually said, which was: “The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The difference between the two is precisely the distinction between the individual and collective paths ~ the focus on self, more self, and nothing but the self, or becoming part of a greater whole.
The “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” was Jesus’ way of referring to Supernal Spirit. If it’s strictly within YOU, then the Way is all about you as an individual. But if the Spirit is in the midst of you, then “you” is collective. It’s the same message as in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Christ was saying that his living presence would dwell forever in the sodality he was establishing, and that the best way to connect was collectively.