The Husbands of the Woman at the Well

We’ll finish up looking at our subject of Kundalini and it’s activating the chakras by interpreting the process in light of the well known story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in chapter 4 of John’s gospel.  Beyond the immediate theological meanings elucidated in Biblical commentaries, beyond the breaking of strict Middle-East social and cultural barriers, beyond Jesus knowing everything about this woman’s previous life (all of these understandings are relevant, by the way), there is a deeper meaning to be gleaned from this Gospel encounter…


In her work “What We Can Learn from the East,” Beatrice Bruteau looks at Jesus and the gospels in light of eastern religious traditions.  What if these traditions are seen as the “Old Testament” for Eastern peoples.  Instead of having to leave society to go and meditate and live the ascetic life apart (pretty much really the only way to become enlightened, and enlightenment IS salvation in the east), Jesus comes and opens the way to all peoples, even… even… (gasp… wait for it!) Samaritan women! (whom to a Jew would be seen as akin to a Hindu untouchable).

Bruteau begins:

Of course, we all develop through stages.  One way of describing one lineup of stages is by means of the CHAKRAS, the “wheels” or “centers of consciousness” through which the energy of manifestation in the finite order ascends to reunion with the Infinite of which it is, so to speak, the “flip side.”  The energy, in the Hindu tradition is called SHAKTI and the infinite is called SHIVA.  The union is spoken of as a marriage… The centers of consciousness can be identified as security, pleasure, power, love, creativity, insight, and divine union.

Bruteau goes on to interpret the story calling it “The Seven Husbands of the Samaritan Woman.”  6a00e5537c83be883401053631858d970c-320wiShe places the conversation of the woman with Jesus in a Zen context as a DHARMA combat, which is what Zen practitioners who want deeper experiences of enlightenment seek from more advanced practitioners.  The “husbands” become the chakras of the Hindu tradition.

When the meeting begins, Jesus addresses the woman first, meaning that he acknowledges that she has something to offer him.  “Give me a drink” (John 4:7).  But Jesus also has something to offer.  A few verses later: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (4:10).  But Jesus doesn’t have an instrument for drawing from Jacob’s Well.  Does he have something even better to give?  Bruteau continues…

I interpret the Well – Jacob’s Well – as the traditions of the people, the revelation by which both the Jews and the Samaritans have been living.  She understands him immediately as claiming that this revered and revelatory tradition is to be superceded.  This is a very daring thought (do we dare to think that way about OUR sacred tradition?)…  He is ready for this question because he knows the source of the Well itself.  The Well of tradition does not satisfy; it provokes continuing thirst (which is not a bad thing). But the water he is speaking of comes from an interior well; it becomes in one “a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (4:14). Therefore, mediating instruments for reaching the water are unnecessary: the water comes of its own accord.  The source of life is not outside or separate from the living one.  The question of replenishment does not arise; the life is eternal.

Jesus has now prepared the woman for the next step of the teaching.  From out of nowhere, a complete non-sequitur, he says, “Go call your husband and come.”  In other words, Jesus is asking her “What are you currently wedded to? What are you joining yourself to?”  The woman answers “I have no husband.”  In other words, she is not wedded to anything at the moment; she is free from attachements (except her unfulfilled thirst!).  “Ah!” says Jesus.  “This is correct! You have tried and then discarded 5 previous life-mates.  You are currently involved with a sixth, but you realize this isn’t your true husband either.  How do I know this?  Well, this is the seventh time you’ve come to this well looking for fulfillment.  But this well of tradition can only take you so far.  Strange that you’ve come here with a seventh husband in mind and found me, isn’t it?”

Let’s look at these six other “husbands” that the Samaritan woman has found to be necessary but ultimately unfulfilling.  When the questing soul realizes a “husband” is insufficient, it divorces itself from that life goal and joins itself to another, somewhat broader and less ego-centered goal.  Bruteau explains:

The first husband (Root Chakra/Seal) represents a life-style sometimes spoken of as “living to eat.” The dimensions of life are simple direct pleasures and comforts; the “good life.”

The second husband refers to sexual energy… For most people this will be raising a family and feeling pride and satisfaction in continuing one’s tribe, in reproducing and externalizing and multiplying oneself.

The third husband is more ambitious, symbolizing a position and activity of power, a larger scope for one’s creativity.  This can take the form of a career… a feeling of dominating some kind of world, even if a relatively small one.  The satisfaction here is not in the body or emotions but more in the mind.

The crossing from the third to fourth husband is made when the third husband’s energy is turned away from purely self-seeking and begins to be engaged in unselfish love for others.  After the relationship with the fourth husband begins, the ensuing relationships don’t exactly prove unsatisfactory (as the former did), but what they represent expand into the next marriage.  Perhaps one is “widowed” from these levels and tenderly handed on to the next.  tumblr_mgrzzaomc31rvt4izo1_1280

The fourth marriage is more serious, and the soul gives itself to it more consciously and more thoroughly.  Appreciation of the PERSON as such appears and grows, concern for the other self in the other’s own terms, instead of in terms of how the other can be pleasing or useful to me.

The fifth husband means creativity with a transcendent, sacred aura.  It includes whatever can be experienced as a creative art of high and pure aspiration… Deep living with the fifth husband produces profound satisfactions that are not of this world and enlarges the capacityo f the soul for still greater experience, leading to a holy frustration with the limitations of the externalized, or material world.  Thus, one is drawn more and more inward, toward the source of beauty and inspiration and revelation within.

The sixth lover – who is still not the true husband – is some version of the contemplative life, in the mind/heart alone, in intellectual intuitions and realizations difficult to express.  The old ego-centered self has been dissolving ever since the fourth marriage… At the sixth chakra it has worn away, except for it’s drive to find the Totally Real… (The woman) knows quite clearly that she seeks the Absolute… No RELATIVE being, goodness, truth, or happiness will answer.  Thus she knows it has to be sought within herself; all external things are certainly relative… Our Samaritan woman, therefore, is a questing soul that is READY to pass from the sixth lover to the seventh and true husband.

Wedding the seventh husband is the transcending of any and all culture and tradition.  Jesus says true worshipers will not hold to traditions of worship, neither on the Samaritan mountain or in the Jewish  temple.  True worship happens on the inside “in spirit and in truth.”

Now for the final dharma confrontation.  Bruteau finishes…

Woman_at_the_wellThe woman then throws her final challenge to him – for her, a direct assault on the summit: “How about the ‘Messiah,’ that is, the final revelation of everything?”  And the ultimate revelation, the passage from even the highest intuition to actual BEING IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH comes: “I AM, the [one] speaking to you” (4:26).  This is, at long last, the seventh husband; the man and the woman are united at this point.  His I AM is not different than her I AM.  What has been speaking to her all along has been her own I AM – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3) – the one divine I AM, the Spirit and the Truth.  She/he has been”raised up” on the last day, the seventh day, the sabbath day of completion and consummation, in which “all things are shown” (4:25), “everything [the soul] ever did” (4:29), the recapitulation of everything cosmic and psychic in the “ascension to where he/she was before” John 6:62).

Hopefully this take on the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well gives you a taste of the depth and wisdom that can be found in sacred scriptures when read beyond our usual understanding.  We can see that a deeper meaning is there hidden in plain site for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.  Whatever religious tradition you may come from, remember that it is there to feed your thirst for the source and nothing more.  The tradition cannot quench your thirst, but hopefully you will let it lead you to it’s source, which is the only thing that can.

In my next post we’ll jump back to where we left off in “The Shining Stranger.”  Until then, peace…

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