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What is the value of a master?

Once upon a time there was a master painter. His name? Rembrandt van Rijn. But if you think his mastery three centuries ago came about by accident you’re mistaken. Of course, he was talented, but Rembrandt had no fewer than two masters before he became a master himself. (Salient detail: Rembrandt once portrayed himself as apostle Paul.)

So, if someone with Rembrandt’s talents had two masters the question arises; What is the value of a master? Well, not so long ago, anyone who wanted to learn a trade found himself a master who could teach him. That was and still is the only way to get a grip on a trade and its intricacies. Further back in history there was for example the Shamanic tradition whereby the shaman recognized his student - and vice versa - which was the beginning of a journey; the journey to mastery.

In the past the idea of having a master was widespread and that having a master is desperately needed to attain mastery. But in the West we have almost lost that idea. Schools nowadays are training their students without incorporating the essence and value of having a master.

This development has led to strange looks in our society if you tell that you are following a spiritual path and that you have a teacher who has achieved mastery. Although we have a perfect role model in Jesus who was such a teacher two thousand years ago. He was, and still is, a person of whom you can decide at any time: that is my master; I want to follow him.

How I see it is that Jesus had his ultimate initiation hanging on the cross when he said to his Father: ‘Into Thy hands I commend my spirit’. I say ultimate because according to me it was a moment of complete surrender.

Listen, learn and follow were the three steps that Jesus took toward him becoming a master. Listen to the Holy Spirit, then learn the lesson and finally put that into being.

Because of Jesus we no longer have to end on the cross. That’s also his mastery. Because, when Jesus gave himself for the redemption of his brother, he did it for the Sonship. Jesus became forgiveness and dispelled all darkness being the light of the world.

But for Hollywood that is not dramatic enough. That’s why someone like Mel Gibson made a movie - The Passion of the Christ - wherein Jesus is a typical American hero who, while supressing the pain and fighting the devil, he finally emerged as the victor. But what he really demonstrates is that there is no death through his resurrection and ascension.

The faithfulness of two women is striking in Jesus' cloister. Jesus is the first to share His resurrection with both Mary’s. Striking, because it was an era of male dominion. But Jesus couldn’t care less. I think he chose the two women because they were the ones that were most heart-devoted to him. To Jesus the master.

I want to go back to the cross for one more moment. Also hanging on the cross, Jesus shows his mastery, his last lessons to us that want to follow him in meekness. There and then he was still thinking about the well-being of his mother after his crucifixion and asked John to take care of her. He also asked for forgiveness for his executioners and he comforted the criminal next to him on the cross…

Mastery bears witness to the victory of the soft forces. The poet Lucebert once wrote: Everything of value is defenceless.

Frans Vermeulen

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