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Chapter 12: Transformation Is the Test

Oh fire,
lead us to the righteous path.
Oh God,
the knower of all knowledge and actions,
destroy our deceitful sins.
We bow to you innumerable times.

We have seen streams and brooks flowing down from the mountain. We know that rivers flow towards the ocean. Water runs always towards lower and lower levels in search of the lowest level, and its journey ends in ditches. To flow down is its path; its nature is to go down and down. Fire has quite the opposite nature: it always goes upwards. Rising upwards is its path, on and on upwards towards the sky. You may strike a flame anywhere, you may keep it in any position, you may hang a lamp upside down - its flame will still begin to rise upwards. Since ancient times the higher souls, the mystics, have clearly understood the upward, rising nature of fire.

Consciousness can flow both ways, like water or like fire. Generally we flow like water, seeking ever lower pits. If our consciousness gets a chance to slide downwards, we immediately drop the upwards path. Ordinarily we behave like water; but we should behave like fire, abandoning the lower levels when even a small occasion to rise higher comes before us. We should be ready to take even the smallest opportunity to spread our wings and fly towards the sky.

For those seeking an upward path, for those whose hopes were to enter a higher dimension, fire became the ideal, the symbol, for their behavior; it was regarded as a god. There is another reason why fire was regarded as a symbol and a god. When an individual begins to travel upwards, simultaneously he begins to journey with-in. It is exactly the opposite of the journey which is simultaneously downwards and outwards. Looking into their connotations, outwards and downwards are synonymous; and inwards and upwards are synonymous too. You will go as far upwards as you go in-wards, and you will go as far downwards as you go outwards. Or, you go as much out as you go down, and you go as much within as you go up. From the existential point of view, up and within have the same meaning.

Likewise, from the point of view of experience, though not semantically, outwards and downwards have the same meaning. Those who decided to make an upward journey had to make an inward journey also, and as they went further within, darkness began to decrease and light to increase. So fire became the symbol of the journey within.

There is also another reason why fire became a symbol and began to be worshipped. It has one great beauty of its own; it saves the pure and destroys the impure. If gold is thrown into fire, the impurities are burned and destroyed, and the pure gold comes out brighter. This is known as the ordeal by fire - the test to destroy the impure and save the pure. The ordeal by fire became a symbol of the fact that fire will destroy that which is impure and will save and protect that which is pure. This is its natural quality. It is eager to protect the pure and to burn the impure.

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