Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies,
it produces much fruit.
– John 12:24
“Everyone knows that the New Testament says that a man can be re-born, or born again, or born anew, or born from above (literally interpreted). … This means in the language of the Work that a man cannot enter the Conscious Circle of Humanity unless he is born anew or born from the Work. Strictly speaking, the Work would say: ‘Unless he is born,’ because physical birth is not being born in the esoteric sense. When a man ceases to be mechanical man, when he becomes conscious, when Real I appears in him, then he is a Man. …
“Now I would like to read you something that G. said many years ago: ‘… To begin with, let us take the well-known text about the seed which must die in order to be born: Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. …
‘We must find out what this means. ‘To awake’, ‘To die’, ‘To be born’ – these are three successive stages.
‘If you study the Gospels attentively, you will see that references are often made to the possibility of ‘being born’; several references are made to the necessity of ‘dying’; and there are very many references to the necessity of ‘awakening’ . . . ‘Watch, for ye know not the hour’. . . and so on. But these three possibilities of man, to awake or not to sleep, to die and to be born, are not set down in connection with one another. Nevertheless, this is the whole point. … [The] fact that he has not ‘died’ prevents a man from being ‘born’; the fact of his not having ‘awakened’ prevents him from ‘dying’ and … without having ‘died,’ he is prevented from ‘being.’
“We have already spoken enough about the meaning of being ‘born’; this relates to the beginning of a new growth of Essence – the beginning of the formation of individuality, the beginning of the appearance of one indivisible I.
“But in order to be able to attain this, or at least to begin to attain it, a man must die, that is, he must free himself from a thousand petty attachments and identifications which hold him in the position in which he is. … Attachment to things, identification with things, keep alive a thousand useless I’s in a man. These I’s must die, in order that the big I may be born. But how can they be made to die? They do not want to die. It is at this point that the possibility of awakening comes to the rescue. To awaken means to realize one’s nothingness, that is, to realize one’s complete and absolute mechanicalness, and one’s complete and absolute helplessness. … And in feeling his nothingness, a man should see himself as he really is, not for a second, not for a moment, but constantly, never forgetting it.
“This continual consciousness of his nothingness and of his helplessness will eventually give a man courage to ‘die’, and that is, to ‘die’, not merely mentally, or in his consciousness, but to ‘die’ in fact and to renounce actually and forever those aspects of himself which are either unnecessary from the point of view of his inner growth, or which hinder it. ”
– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “On Rebirth,” Nov. 13, 1943, Vol. 1, pp. 348-51