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THE OLD AND NEW WINE-SKINS (July 12, 1915, in Sofia.)

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And no man putteth new wine into old wine-skins; else the new wine will hurst the skins, and itself will he spiffed […] But new wine must he put into fresh wineskins.18


This small parable is classical in form and substance. Christ makes a great generalization of the ideas. He says that no one must put new wine into old wine-skins; else the wine will burst the skins. Should these words be taken in their literal sense? They are true only in the figurative sense. Here is an analogy made of the new teaching with the new wine and of the old people with the old wine-skins. When the wine has ceased fermenting, it can stay in an old wine-skin, but if it is poured into an old skin before that, it will burst it.


This parable contains a hidden thought, a great Law, namely that the Divine ideas, coming down into this world, need new skins, more elastic ones, which will hold out against the pressure of the fermentation, i.e. they need people whose minds and hearts are receptive of the new truth. When the mind is preoccupied with old ideas, thoughts and feelings, the new cannot penetrate it. Or on other words—the old forms hinder the manifestation of power for some great heroic deed. It is true that you must ask at least 90 times a ninety-year old person, if you want anything from them, until you receive it. Why do they not give readily? Because they have an inborn fear of remaining alone and helpless, or without means of existence; they feel too feeble and weak to dispose of their strength and means as the young people. In this respect the young are generous. That is why Christ says that the new wine must be put in new wineskins. When the new teaching is introduced in the world, reaction is born in the old people. They think that the new teaching is not good and it will spoil the world. In spite of this, no father in the world wants his son to be born with old ideas.


Thus, wine itself represents power. Therefore, power is necessary as an impulse to human evolution. This power is no other than the human spirit, considered in a broad sense as a rational force which works and builds correspondingly to the Divine Laws. God's purpose is to make all things grow and develop. God does not like the old wine-skins. He puts them down the cellar as the wine-makers do. There will be people who would drink of the old wine. If you accept the new teaching and think it will not ferment in you, you are wrong. It is impossible for one to accept the new teaching and not change under its influence. As it is impossible for a sculptor to work with a hammer on a piece of marble without breaking a piece off it, so it is impossible for the new teaching not to change a person. Many pieces will fly right and left, but if old people are afraid that a piece might hit their head, they better stay a little farther away. The sculptor is not to blame, but the old people who do not draw away in time. The sculptor says, "I am molding a statue for the future generation, those who pass by me should protect themselves." An artist may work with a brush, with a violin bow, or with a hammer—it depends on what they are doing and what manner they are working. Yet, it is important that they work in accord with the Divine order of things. When some discord arises during some work, we should not complain and say it gives us a headache. Eternal calm exists only in the graveyard. Those who want to go forward, who aspire for God and want to grow in the Divine World, must struggle and work. It is in this endeavor wherein lies the good of the individual, the good of society and the good of the whole of humanity. Those who want to rest must remain with their old views on life. They cannot understand the active life of the new ideas, expressed by the parable of the new wine. Do you know how long it has taken a wine branch to gather all this sap in itself? Do you know the power of this sap? At first the wine juice is sweet, then it becomes so powerfully intoxicating that if you drink a larger quantity of it than you should, you lose your normal condition.


Thus, whoever wants to accept the new teaching must get rid of the old wine-skins. If you do not have new wine-skins, better stay away. New people will come and the new teaching will be poured into them. The new teaching may be poured into you as well, but first you must sell the old wine-skins, i.e. to get rid of all desires and vices which prevent you from accepting the new teaching. In India there are famous snake-tamers who tame all kinds of snakes and send them to Europe. They keep these snakes of all sizes in big barrels where they tame them. One night one of these tamers did not notice that he had not shut the barrel well and went to bed. During the night all the snakes crept out of the barrel and wound themselves around the sleeping man. Upon waking up he saw his terrible condition and did not move at all retaining his presence of mind. The slightest movement might cost him his life. His servant began to worry why his master did not come out of his room at such a late hour in the morning. He carefully approached his room and opened the door, but what did he see? All the snakes wound around his master who kept still. The servant was very quick-witted and at once filled a big kettle to boil milk and put it in the middle of the room. The smell of milk attracted the snakes that, leaving the man, crept to the kettle. The Hindu man got out of bed and carefully shut the snakes in the barrel again, saying to himself, "I should shut this barrel well, so the same incident would not happen a second time. I am grateful that this time I escaped death so successfully." Sometime you may find yourself in this man's condition and you must keep your presence of mind and have milk. Milk represents rational life.


Christ says, "No man must put new wine in old wineskins." Why? Because it will burst the old wine-skins. If a religious person gets upset, it shows they are an old skin that cannot endure the new wine, i.e. cannot accept the new teaching. Two ideas colliding cannot be reconciled. The Law of Moses says, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Christ's Law is just the opposite: "If they hit you on the one side, turn the other side also." This teaching requires us to love our enemies as well. I ask you, "How can these two teachings be reconciled?" The Law of Moses is for an old skin. Since the old people cannot fight against the new, they want to catch their adversary and according to the Law of Moses, take their eyes out so they cannot see and find them. Christ teaches exactly the opposite, "You can make your enemies your friends; you can disarm them and make them even serve you."


Now let us consider the inner psychological sense of Christ's words. Do not think that you have understood the truth completely and there is nothing more to study in your life! If you think you know everything, you are old skins that have stopped their development on the Earth. You say, "We are learned people." What does your knowledge consist in? "We have read the books of many writers." What of that? You must be imbued with that philosophy which can rectify your life and give you the happiness you are seeking. What is the meaning of the word "happiness"? The word "штастие"19 is made up of several letters, each of which has its own sense and meaning. The letter "Ш" is made of three vertical lines connected by a horizontal line, which represents the human hand working. The letter "Т" shows the power which gives an impulse to the work. The letter "А" signifies the human nose. It is not enough for a person only to work, they should have a mind which knows how to work. The letter "C" represents the human heart. When it is turned with the concave side up, it turns into a boat which shows that all we gain must be stored up. The letter "И" is descending and ascending—it outlines a downward and an upward movement. These movements outline two angles that, placed next to each other, represent the diameters of the circle, i.e. the wheel which moves the carriage forward. And finally, the letter "e" shows the center you must hold on to. Therefore, you need a hand, power, a mind, a heart and a purpose to stimulate you upward.


I shall cite an anecdote out of Bulgarian life about the fever. Bulgarians have a myth that the fever is alive. A shepherd once stopped on a bridge to rest and overheard the conversation of two fevers. One of the two said, "Do you know where I am bound for? Up the mountain there is a shepherd I want to catch." "How can you catch him?" "I shall enter the first spoonful of milk which he will drink in the spring." When he heard that they were speaking of him, the shepherd decided to take precautions against the fever. It happened that on that day one of his sheep died. He took off its skin and made a water- skin out of it. When the set time came for the fever to catch him, he poured the first spoonful of milk into the skin. Once it hid there, the shepherd fastened the water-skin well. The skin swelled up and shivered everyday at noon as the fever shook it. In the fall the shepherd untied the skin and let the fever out. Under the same bridge, the two sisters got together again to talk things over: "What did you do with that shepherd?" "It was sheer bad luck; I got into the empty water skin instead of into the shepherd."


I say, if you want to use the old skins, you will be like this fever and when they let you out, you will say, "We learned to shake the empty skins." I meet such people everywhere and when they are let out in life, they say, "We learned to shake the skins." Such are the dogmatists of today who only shake skins. They say, "We are squeezed for room." There is plenty of room for them, but there is no food near them. According to their beliefs, a nation has a whole philosophy which it applies in all situations in life. For instance, people say, "The cadi20 must be brought to his senses, for he does not decide the fate of people rightly." As soon as he is brought to his senses, a new fate will be allotted to the world. On the same grounds we say that the new wine should be deposited in our children for it is the power for their growth. The mothers who want to have good children should be imbued with new ideas. If they hold the old ideas, it is better for them not to bear children. What kind of people will such mothers bear? People unfit for life as we see thousands in the world. It says in the Scripture, "Bear and multiply," but it does not say that half-baked people should be born but such as are in the image and likeness of God. This is the new teaching of Christ and it is understood and applied, the world will be rectified. Both the vine and the juice are in us. Some day, when our vine bears grapes, the juice of these grapes will start to ferment. This is an implacable and inevitable Law in the world. Those who think they can live without fermenting do not understand life.


Christ says, "He who wants to acquire Eternal Life must take up his cross and follow me." The cross is the new wine. The cross holds power for those who understand. There are different crosses in the world, but people complain of them all the time. Here is what Paul says about the cross: "I shall glory in the cross of Christ." Many complain of their sufferings and say they are extraordinary and unbearable. In this respect they are like that man who always complained of the burden of his cross until one day God said, "Take the cross from this man and let him choose one himself." He was led into a room where all kinds of crosses were found: big and small, golden, silver, iron and stone crosses and he was told to choose anyone he wanted. He looked them over and finally picked out a small cross saying, "This is the cross I want." God said to him, "This is the cross you have been bearing till now. This is your cross." You often exaggerate your sufferings and want to change your fate, but cannot. You cannot cast off the burden you are carrying. You say, "When we rise in life, my wife, my children and I will start on the spiritual path. Then the new wine will also ferment in us." I say, "If you wait first to rise in life and then start on the spiritual path of Christ, you are deceiving yourselves. Good upbringing is something which should be effected at the same time for the father, the mother and the children. When the father and mother are well bred, the children will be well bred also.


I shall cite the following example as a clarification of my thought. One day while the American preacher Moody was speaking, a child who was listening to him noticed that the whole congregation was singing except his father. He asked his father, "Daddy, why aren't you singing?" "I am already confirmed in the faith. Singing is for you, young people. We, elder people, have sung enough, now it's your turn." One day the father harnessed his horse in his small cab, took his child and went for a drive. When the horse started going up the hill, he stopped and did not want to go any further up. The child said, "Daddy, the horse is confirmed." Therefore, as soon as you stop, you are confirmed, i.e. you are old skins in which new wine cannot be poured, in order not to ferment and burst them. And after all this you are preparing yourselves for heaven, thinking you will enter paradise and live like the angels with an understanding of God's truths! How can you understand God's truths when you live in dark and cold cellars?!


That is why Christ says, "New skins are needed!" The old people are old skins, the young are new skins. The old people are quite undisturbed and nothing can move them. The young say to them, "Let us put new wine in you too." No. New wine should not be given to the old. They have completed their evolution. The new wine must be poured in the arteries and veins of the new people. People today come against many contradictions, as a result of which they struggle, suffer, complain of their sufferings, fall, rise and so on. Why does all of this happen? Because the old and the new wine are in conflict fighting with each other. That is namely why Christ says, "Do not put new wine in old skins," i.e. do not put the new wine in yourself until you are prepared. How will you prepare yourselves? By purifying yourselves. Every teaching, every philosophy can be useful to us only when we are pure. The new teaching requires plasticity in the progress and spiritual upsurge in the life of all humanity.


If we look at the old and the young from an esoteric standpoint, we shall see in the consciousness of the old a barely flickering candle, while in the consciousness of the young, we shall see a candle burning brightly and its light constantly increasing. We can compare the old person with the Earth lighted by the moon and the young—with the Earth lit by the Sun. However, the spiritual development of both old and young has need of the new wine. I am asking, "Have they this wine?" Those who seek it sincerely and earnestly, will find it. Those who have drunk only old wine and have not tasted the new, say that the old is better than the new wine. When the new, the sweet wine ferments, it becomes settled old wine and cannot ferment any more. The old wine can only intoxicate people and make them merry, but it cannot make them work and progress. If people are unhappy and suffer, the reason is that their old life ferments, it is not preserved as it should; the alcohol in the old wine turns into vinegar and it becomes sour, tart and looses its stability.


I have often watched what the Bulgarians do when they leave church on Sunday. This is especially true in the villages. They get together two by two, drop in at some public house and say to the tavern keeper, "Bring a pint of the old wine! Cheers!" Then they sit by three and four at the tables, order one or two more glasses of wine, cling them, drink to their health and the conversation becomes more animated. By and by the whole tavern becomes very noisy, every body is talking. All of a sudden a great uproar is raised, they start beating someone. Why are they beating him? He has not placed a hedge around his field. This sort of thing does not happen only in the public houses. Visit the stock exchange where commercial transactions are carried on and you will think you are at a mental asylum. A woman once asked her husband to take her to the stock exchange to see what that institution looks like. One day her husband took her straight to the place, not telling her he was taking her there. When she entered the hall, she exclaimed, "Why did you take me to this asylum! I wanted you to take me to the stock exchange, to the noble people." Her husband answered her, "This is the stock exchange." When the husband, the wife and the children in a family begin to quarrel and separate from each other, it is a sign that the wine in them has begun to ferment. As they cannot create anything new, they want to lay hand on what belongs to another. They act the same way as a woman who cannot bear children and adopts another woman's child.


Therefore, new skins are necessary for the new wine. It will give you a new life which will teach you how to live and work and how to form right relations among yourselves. This is Christ's teaching which people consider inapplicable. No.


Christ's teaching is applicable. If you want to apply it and see its results, read this parable and meditate on the idea of the new wine at least five minutes every day. Spare five minutes every day to meditate on God, on the good people on earth who are working tirelessly; on the good mothers who raise their children patiently; on the good fathers who take care of their families and you will see what a process the new wine will effect in you. A wife says, "I married but my husband is no good." Who made you marry an old skin? Do you know that in such a case you are like a man who stole a donkey during Turkish times and said to the judge, "I was on the pear tree, and by chance fell on the donkey which carried me away." No, you must say, "I need new wine in my ideas as well as in my actions." A man of seventy or eighty years of age wants to marry and have children! I understand this too, there are exceptions in life, as Abraham who had sons at an advanced age, but he was a man of new ideas and had not grown old. People today get old at the age of forty. They say, "May our children be alive, it is finished with us." Such a person is an old skin and must be put in the cellar. They are sluggards who do not want to understand the will of God. They should say, "God, now I understand you and want to work for you like a young person." I say, "Down with your old age!" Put your old skins away now! People with old skins and old wine are not fit for the kingdom of God. I do not want them to pour out their old wine, but I want them to put the new wine in new skins. When this Divine capital thought is comprehended, it will raise them with its power.


Today, everybody is wondering how to educate people. The method is very easy. When a hole appears on a boat at sea, it is plugged up by a peg. If a peg is not plugged in the hole, the boat will sink. See that your boat is not leaking, in case it is, plug it up and be in safety. Someday you are discontented—you have a hole in your boat, your skin is split. In this case nothing good expects you if you do not plug up the hole. There are moments when people must be absolutely obedient, as the child of an engine driver whose house was by a railroad: the child was playing when the express train drew near him and his father called to him, "Lie down!" The child immediately lay down and was saved. Sometimes they call to you, "Lie down!" "Why?" you ask. Lie down and do not ask why. When the express passes, you will know why you had to lie down. There are dangerous moments in life when we must kneel and when the danger has passed, we should thank God we are saved.


Someone says, "I do not want to adapt myself to the existing conditions, I do not want to be flexible." You must adapt yourself. The rain will not take into consideration whether you have a coat on or not; the Sun also does not want to know whether you can bear its light: you must adapt yourself to all changes and be able to bear them. The rain and sun are doing their work very well. Let the Sun shine, let the sea be rough, let the old skins burst—this should not disturb you. Why? Because God has decided to burst the old skins and to put the new wine in new skins. If people of old ideas and feelings want to live under the new conditions, they sadly deceive themselves. Such is fate, such is the Divine Law. God wants you to be rejuvenated and to be born again. How can we be born again? You will be reborn by forming new forms in which to deposit your life. These forms will be real, not fictitious ones. If you understood the Law under which you are living now, you would be rejuvenated. "When will this be?" When you learn the Law of inner renovation—in your soul. When we speak of the resurrection, we have in view those forms with which God is working within you. For this purpose you should prepare the new skins. Then God will say, "Bring the new skins into which we shall put the new wine!" Some ask, "What is God doing to the world?" "He is preparing new skins and making new wine." That is why Christ says, "My Father is working and I am working for you." You, too, should be ready and not spoil these skins, for it is easy to spoil the minds and hearts of people, but difficult to repair them. Let God see that you have made something.

You are asking yourselves, "Why is life such as it is?" I see in the eyes of many that you are intoxicated by the old wine, you are out of sorts, dopey, you have over-drunk. You should all become sober and joy should fill your hearts because this world was created for you with all good conditions for your development. "But wars come, misfortunes assail us." Never mind—"nitchevo", as the Russians say. "But so many people are dying!" "Nitchevo!- nothing can be lost." Perhaps thousands of houses will be torn down, thousands of skins will burst, but new ones will be created. Now God is putting new wine into new skins. Today only the intoxicated are fighting. If men and women fight, they are intoxicated. Where there is new wine, there is music, singing, harmony. This is Christ's teaching. For five minutes every day think about Eternal Life, about God, the good people, about the good mothers and fathers, the good friends—think about noble things that will uplift you. And in this way you will understand the deeper things in life. You have great things to learn! But before that you should prepare yourselves for this understanding. You say, "What will the future life be?" "Excellent—such as you have neither seen, nor heard of, nor dreamt of." How can people see the beautiful things in life when they are sleeping? Your sleeping souls must awake! You must put the kettle with milk in your room to stow away all evils. Be bearers of the new wine, of the new teaching! Preach joy and gladness to the world! And when you suffer, say that you are suffering because you have not fulfilled God's Law.


You often say that conditions create life. Yes, but people also create the conditions. I have told you the story of the English lord, who started on a journey with his daughter and servant and they suffered shipwreck. In the same way you can be master and servant in your life. If you know how to apply the Divine Laws, you are a master; if you do not know how to apply them, you are a servant. Those who want to be masters should be imbued with the new teaching which solves the riddles of life. If the lord had not been cast on the desert island, he would not have learned how to cultivate life—there he learned this art. We, too, may find ourselves in unfortunate conditions and another person may be our master. When we learn to serve, God will lead us out of the desert island to learn how to cultivate wheat, i.e. life. So far you have not learned how to cultivate your heart and your mind, as a result of which there is hunger and discontentment in you. You eat four or five times a day, and grow fat and groan, you are not satisfied. Such fattening takes place in your mind as well. This fat must be turned into energy! Have you noticed that people, who work hard with their mind, or do spiritual work, never grow fat? Therefore, if you store up in yourselves more fat than necessary, put it in the engine of your spiritual life and proceed with the realization of your noble dreams and desires. Therein is your profit.


Sermon held on July 12, 1915, in Sofia.


18. Luke 5: 37-38.

19. happiness—щастие [´shtastie] in Bulgarian (tr. note).

20. Cadi, also spelled kadi, in Moslem communities denotes a chief judge or magistrate, whose decisions are based on Moslem Law (ed. note).

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