Christian doctrine renders the parables of Jesus impossible to understand. They are obvious in significance to any mystic, though -- or most of them are, anyway. Here are three clues to understanding them. 1) They are NEVER about personal morality in the ordinary world. 2) They are NEVER about life after death. 3) They are ALWAYS about the transformation of the self, and what in other religious contexts is sometimes called enlightenment. Here is an example, from Luke 17:20-36. 20 Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the kingdom of God come?" Jesus answered, "God's kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. 21 People will not say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' because God's kingdom is within you." 22 Then Jesus said to his followers, "The time will come when you will want very much to see one of the days of the Son of Man. But you will not see it. 23 People will say to you, 'Look, there he is!' or, 'Look, here he is!' Stay where you are; don't go away and search. 24 "When the Son of Man comes again, he will shine like lightning, which flashes across the sky and lights it up from one side to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by the people of this time.26 When the Son of Man comes again, it will be as it was when Noah lived.27 People were eating, drinking, marrying, and giving their children to be married until the day Noah entered the boat. Then the flood came and killed them all.28 It will be the same as during the time of Lot. People were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building.29 But the day Lot left Sodom,[c] fire and sulfur rained down from the sky and killed them all. 30 This is how it will be when the Son of Man comes again. 31 "On that day, a person who is on the roof and whose belongings are in the house should not go inside to get them. A person who is in the field should not go back home. 32 Remember Lot's wife.[d] 33 Those who try to keep their lives will lose them. But those who give up their lives will save them.34 I tell you, on that night two people will be sleeping in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken, and the other will be left. [ 36 Two people will be in the field. One will be taken, and the other will be left.]" The first part of this is very straightforward and means just what it says: the Kingdom of God is within you -- a transformation of your own spirit. Don't look for it in any place you can see; look for it on the inside. The rest is more cryptic. The coming of the Son of Man transforms everything. It burns down the old and makes the world entirely new. But this is a transformation of experience and perspective, not of the material reality of the world itself; it is not an event contained in time, like a revolution, but rather something that happens within each person who undergoes it. The bit about the Son of Man first having to suffer is usually interpreted by Christians to refer to Jesus' own coming torture and crucifixion, and it is conceivable that is what he meant, in an unpleasant bit of time-free awareness. But it can also refer to the suffering and painful transformation that each person undergoes in awakening, and given the context this seems the more likely interpretation. (Or of course he could have meant both.) Those who try to keep their lives will lose them, those who give them up will save them. Holding onto one's normal mind-set and normal consciousness binds a person into mortality. Giving these up, allowing the awareness of the real Self to flow through, one becomes aware of the unity between God and oneself, and that as such one is immortal, but not in one's limited personality. Two people in one bed; two women grinding grain -- these are both two people in one body. The real self, the real consciousness, the true identity, arises and the old self is left behind. In the light of spiritual experience, the cryptic sayings of Jesus become comprehensible and his parables make sense. Without that perspective, they are opaque. Properly understood, they fly in the face of a lot of Christian doctrine. In fact, I become increasingly convinced that the whole point of Christian doctrine is to obscure the teachings of Jesus, like a protective coating applied to a dangerous and corrosive substance. Whoever has an ear, let him hear.