Reading various translations of this passage from the Bible has added to my understanding of it.
"Verily I say unto you..." These are alternative words to use: guarantee, with certainty, truly. In other words, the Master is saying to His disciples: "If there's one thing I can tell you that's true, it's..." The only aspect of life that can absolutely be guaranteed--that is to say, that does not change in its eternal, unbounded nature--is the transcendent.
"...Except ye be converted..." The alternative words for this phrase are change and turn. One commentary mentions that the verb turn is active, not passive. That is to say one cannot be changed by an outside force; one must actively change oneself. One must do something. The gaining of heaven is not a mood or intellectual idea; it is an actual change in the status of one's consciousness. Our experience of waking, dreaming, and sleeping provides us a flavor of this truth. These states of consciousness are not moods or wishes, they are actual modes of experience, the knowledge available in each state of consciousness quite different. I have heard used the term Christ Consciousness. I would say that higher states of consciousness or enlightenment embody the message of Christ's words: to know God (or existence in its fullness) requires more than faith; it requires a conversion extending throughout one's entire life, even to the functioning of the physiology.
"...and become as little children..." The only alternatives of this phrase is the substitution of like for as in some translations. Children are usually characterized as innocent or as spontaneous or as pure. If one is to know heaven, one must not have been stressed or lessened by the challenges one meets as one ages. One may physically age but must also remain as little children--"as innocent as the day you're born." In terms of one's inner experience, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, described pure consciousness or transcendental consciousness as the "least excitation of consciousness," the most simple state of awareness.
"...ye shall not enter into..." ...you will not enter, will never enter, will not get into... There is no way to cheat or finesse the laws of nature. Either one meets the criteria of heaven, or one doesn't. No amount of money or power or faith will change the rules. The experience Christ describes is as real as our experience of waking, dreaming, and sleeping--more real, one might say, since transcendental consciousness is the basis, the silent foundation, from which the three relative states of consciousness arise.
"...the kingdom of heaven..." All the translations keep this phrase, except one which reads the reign of the heavens. Some capitalize. In Wesley's (the founder of Methodism) notes, he used the phrase the first step toward entering into the kingdom of grace. I find the words reign and grace significant. Heaven is not a physical place; it is a state of consciousness. To use a business analogy, one might say one ascends into management from the production line: one begins to manage one's own life. Maharishi used the analogy that without enlightenment one is like a soccer ball in a game, kicked here and there, unable to guide one's own course of action.
My free translation: If there's one thing I can tell you that's true, it's that unless you transcend and experience pure consciousness, you will never become enlightened.
Unity with God can only be experienced in the Unified Field. Established in pure consciousness, one can then live in the world, do good works, and be one with God. Heaven is not a place but a state of consciousness; it is a kingdom of grace, as Wesley said. Be as little children: innocent, pure, joyful. God's Grace or Enlightenment--whatever we want to call it--is our birthright, or own Being; it is who we are.
It is the Light radiating from the lightbulb. We must do something, though, to live in God's grace. Clean the glass that contains the filament. TM in the AM and PM. We are the Light. Let the Light shine.
"Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
"Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." Mark 10:15
Parallel translations were found at Biblos.com, "Parallel Translations."
Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved