Living water

The universality of religion is not in the various theologies but in the archetypes. To cling to a theology and not go beyond the human dogmas and representations to the heart of the archetypes is to favor the epiphenomenal, the historical, the particular, and the cultural. We must look beyond, to the universal, the abiding, the true. To ascend to the archetype is to see the face of the transcendent without the transience of time and our limited experience.

Here is a quick illustration. The Gospel shows Jesus in a brief conversation with “the woman by the well.” Jesus tells her that the water of the well will not satisfy but that there is a living water that alone will. She asks him to give her this water. And he speaks of himself as the source of this transcendent water.

The archetype, of course, is the water, not Jesus per se, although the writers wanted to make the story prove something about his status. Jesus is not the source but the conduit of the living water, for ultimately water has no single source but the few conduits must be ourselves.

Here is a quick Zen parallel. A monk asked Hseuh-feng, “When the old creek of Zen dries and there is not a drop of water left, what can I see there?” Hsueh-feng answers, “There is the bottomless water, which you cannot see.” The monk asks further: “How can one drink that water?” Hseuh-feng replies, “He should not use his mouth to do it.” The monk persists. “But what happens to someone who drinks that water?” Hseuh-feng replies: “He will lose his life.”