God is a concept by which we measure our pain. -- John Lennon
God Is A Concept...So Said John
by Jean Teeters

Pain is that upward struggle through matter which lands a man at the feet of the Logos [God]; pain is the following of the line of the greatest resistance, and thereby reaching the summit of the mountain; pain is the smashing of the form and the reaching of the inner fire; pain is the cold isolation which leads to the warmth of the central sun; pain is the burning in the furnace in order finally to know the coolness of the water of life; pain is the journeying into the far country, resulting in the welcome to the Father’s Home; pain is the illusion of the Father’s disowning, which drives the prodigal straight to the Father’s heart; pain is the cross of utter loss, that renders back the riches of the eternal bounty; pain is the whip that drives the struggling builder to carry to utter perfection the building of the Temple.*

It took me quite a while to come to a real understanding about the line from John Lennon’s song God: "God is a concept, by which we measure our pain." Many times over the years, I thought I understood what he meant, but I was wrong.

Only through my continuing journey down my own spiritual path, I have come to interpret his words like this: When we are truly in pain, we turn to God. We reach out in prayer to hopefully bring an end to our suffering. For many, this is the only time there is a clear awareness of God, and that urgent need becomes the ‘measuring stick of our pain.’

Beautiful, isn’t it? John had a very special way of putting things into words. He was not only a musical genius, but in his own way, a spiritual genius as well. Being a genius contributed greatly to the enormity of John Lennon’s pain. He knew he was ‘different,' even as a child, sometimes feeling lost and bewildered by it.

Said John: “I was different from the others. I was different all my life. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius. There was something wrong with me, I thought, because I seemed to see things other people didn’t see. I was always so psychic or intuitive or poetic or whatever you want to call it, that I was always seeing things in a hallucinatory way.

“People like me are aware of their so-called genius at ten, eight, nine. When I was about twelve I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody’s noticed. If there is such a thing as genius I am one, and if there isn’t I don’t care.”

John’s pain initially stemmed from the early childhood trauma of being abandoned by his parents. His father, Freddy Lennon, left the then-toddler John and his mother, Julia behind to travel extensively as a merchant seaman. This broke the couple apart. Upon taking up with another man, Julia handed young John over to her elder sister, Mimi, with the hope that she could offer him a better life. A few years later, Freddy returned and a terrified John was asked to choose to go with either his mother or his father. He chose his mother, but in the end, he really lost them both: his mother was killed in a car accident when John was 16, and he didn’t see his father again until he was 21.

John dealt with the pain he was experiencing throughout his life in a variety of ways. Clearly, in his youth, he tried to escape through a wild, rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. This included the use of many types of substances that only dulled his pain, making it even more difficult to release it. In retrospect, John talked quite openly about that phase of his life.

Said John: “After my mother’s death, I was sort of in a blind rage for two years. I was either drunk or fighting. There was something the matter with me. I cried a lot about not having parents and it was torture, but it also gave me an awareness early.”

Only under the stress of circumstances can the full power of the soul be evoked. Such is the law.*

Said John: “During A Hard Day’s Night I was on pills, that’s drugs, that’s bigger drugs than pot. I started on pills when I was 15, no, since 17, since I became a musician. I was a fucking dropped-down drunk in art school. Help! was where we turned on to pot and we dropped drink, simple as that. I’ve always needed a drug to survive.”

There comes a time in the life of every true aspirant, when he simply continues to persevere, no matter how disinclined he may feel and no matter how acute may be the inner turmoil.*

Said John: “When Help! came out in 1965, I was actually crying out for help. I didn’t realize it at the time. Now I may be very positive, but I also go through deep depressions where I would like to jump out the window, you know. It becomes easier to deal with as I get older; I don’t know whether you learn control or when you grow up you calm down a little.”

“I announced Cold Turkey at the Lyceum saying, ‘I’m gonna sing a song about pain.’ ”

As he matured, John somehow found the strength to begin to look at his pain and eventually he had the courage to face it head on, through Primal Scream Therapy.

Said John: “[Dr. Arthur] Janov showed me how to feel my own fear and pain, therefore I can handle it better than I could before, that’s all. I’m the same, only there’s a channel. It doesn’t just remain in me, it goes round and out. I can move a little easier. The thing in a nutshell: primal therapy allowed us [he and Yoko] to feel feelings continually, and those feelings usually make you cry. Before, I wasn’t feeling things, that’s all.”

Men must wait for understanding until they can no longer be hurt or limited by the pain of others. This follows when we have learnt to handle our own pain. Then and only then, can they begin to lift the burden of humanity as a whole and do their responsible share in lightening it.*

Said John: “Our pain is the pain we go through all the time. You’re born in pain, and pain is what we’re in most of the time. And I think that the bigger the pain, the more gods we need. It was my own revelation. I just know that’s what I know.”

The uses of pain are many, and they lead the human soul out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberation, out of agony into peace.*

Despite the brouhaha that erupted in the summer of 1966, after John declared in an interview with Maureen Cleeve (in the London Evening Standard) that “The Beatles are bigger than Christ,” it was evident that he was a ‘spiritual seeker.’ His musical contributions around that time, such as The Word, Nowhere Man and In My Life, expressed the ideas of a man searching for a deeper meaning to life. Lennon apologized to the world at a Chicago press conference for his misunderstood comments.

Said John: “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us.”

God, the Universal Mind, Energy, Force, the Absolute, the Unknown--these terms and many others are forced from the lips of those who, by means of the form side, seek the Dweller within the form, and can’t find Him as yet. This failure to find Him is due to the limitations of the physical brain, and to the lack of development in the mechanism whereby the spiritual may be known, and whereby He may, and eventually will, be contacted.**

In his later years, John Lennon seemed to be taking a more mellow attitude about life, and at that time he was also more vocal in regard to his spiritual beliefs.

Said John: “You have to give thanks to God or whatever it is up there for the fact that we all survived. It took me forty years to finally grow up. I see things now that I never knew existed before. You have to do it yourself. That’s what the great masters and mistresses have been saying ever since time began. I can’t wake you up. You can wake you up. It’s fear of the unknown. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that--it’s all illusion.”

Realize that, in the light of the eternal verities, all pain is but temporary, all trouble and struggle ephemeral, and that we have passed oft this way before on the unhappy little planet of suffering which we call the Earth.*

There is no escape from pain in the physical world. As long as you reside in a human body you will have some level of pain and suffering. The only hope is to learn the lessons of life as quickly as possible, with the intention of one day leaving material reality forever. Making the great transition from a human being to a Spiritual Being is the ultimate goal of all humanity, and through the grace of God it can and will be done.

Great is the mystery of pain. The word went forth to all the sons of men, the Sons of God: learn through the struggle of earth life to choose the way that is better--then the best. Evade not pain. Seek not the easiest way, which is not to be found. Tread then the Way which leads through sorrow, pain and dire distress to that High Place from which you come--the Place where God walks with the sons of men, who are the Sons of God.*

May "God" bless you, John. Thank you for your wise and beautiful words.

Jean Teeters
October 9, 2003

Original essay text copyright © 2003-2008 Jean Teeters / AbsoluteElsewhere.net
John Lennon quotes from “John Lennon In His Own Words” compiled by Miles (copyright © 1994 Omnibus Press) and “Lennon Remembers” by Jann S. Wenner (copyright © 1971 Jann S. Wenner)
Spiritual quotes (in italics) from *Serving Humanity (copyright © 1972 Lucis Trust) and **Ponder On This (copyright © 1971 Lucis Trust), compilation volumes extracted from the original books of Alice A. Bailey

Lennon Remembers
Primal Scream
John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band (Remastered)