Bob Dylan: Saving Grace

Saving Grace was released in 1980 on side two of the album Saved, which is considered the second album of Dylan’s Christian trilogy. (Saved‘s predecessor was Slow Train Coming in 1979, its successor was Shot of Love in 1981.)

If You find it in Your heart, can I be forgiven?
Guess I owe You some kind of apology.

Who is talking to whom here? Does the narrator speak to another human being, or to the immortal divine spark within that wishes to be woken from a sleep spanning incarnations?

I’ve escaped death so many times, I know I’m only living
By the saving grace that’s over me.

Escaping Death

He has escaped death so many times – this may relate to Dylan’s own life, which turned out not too boring: considering his serious motorcycle accident in 1966, drug experiences, the early death of many fellow musicians (including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, to name but a few), his divorce …

“I’ve escaped death so many times” may also relate to much longer periods: the cycle of incarnations. The divine spark within has been waiting patiently all this time until finally a human being hears his voice and reacts to it.

So maybe the speaker apologizes for having taken so long to understand the calling from within?

By this time I’d-a thought I would be sleeping
In a pine box for all eternity.
My faith keeps me alive, but I still be weeping
For the saving grace that’s over me.

Mystical Death

He has realized that it is not his own talents which will save him – only faith and grace can do that.

Well, the death of life, then come the resurrection,
Wherever I am welcome is where I’ll be.
I put all my confidence in Him, my sole protection
Is the saving grace that’s over me.

So this is about a process of dying – perhaps not death of the physical body, but rather a “mystical” death, i. e. death of the ego? This way, room can be created within him for the resurrection of the new Spirit-Soul. He entrusts himself fully to this process.

Love and Light – but at which level of being?

Well, the devil’s shining light, it can be most blinding,
But to search for love, that ain’t no more than vanity.
As I look around this world all that I’m finding
Is the saving grace that’s over me.

The seeker’s soul is longing for the light – but it needs a clear sense of discernment, for there are many forces that imitate true light. (Compare the post on Leonard Cohen’s Different Sides.) Attempts to break through by means of worldly love are fruitless.

The highest energy he can find in this world is this kind of grace that touches and nourishes the divine spark within.

Peace as an authentic State of Being

The wicked know no peace and you just can’t fake it,

The inner freedom that originates from the awakening divine-spark-within cannot be imitated. It is a state of being that can only be reached by whole-hearted commitment, without any element of speculation or hope for personal gain.

Different ways of reading the Bible

There’s only one road and it leads to Calvary.
It gets discouraging at times, but I know I’ll make it
By the saving grace that’s over me.

The bible can be read in various ways: you can see it as a report about historical events, or you can interpret it in terms of recommendations on how to live according to high ethical standards.

Dylan’s reference to Golgatha (Calvary) as the goal of his personal endeavour matches a spiritual perspective: Seeing biblical places as stages on a personal path – stages we cannot visit by travelling there, but stages we can realize by means of a maturing spirit-soul.

Seeing it this way, all the characters in the New Testament correspond to aspects within one seeker. John the Baptist symbolizes the personality that prepares the path for the divine spark. Jesus may be seen as the New Soul that approaches John the Baptist, and finally takes over control. And Christ may signify the Spirit that unites with the New Soul.

Golgatha is related to the skull: It does not suffice to receive new energies in one’s heart. They have to take effect and finally rise to the head in order to receive the spirit.

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