The title of this collection of teaching stories is meant to indicate that the stories are offerings of the writer to the source or inspiration of the writings. They are also offerings of the writer to the reader, in the hope that they might offer some inspiration or insight. More essentially, they are offered with the hope that they might help the reader open to that source of inspiration and knowing.
The stories in this volume, written over the course of several months, arose from my participation in the Christian mystical path, specifically with the order of Christ/Sophia at the Center of Light, Oakland. As that path is largely experiential, and as its momentum is largely the transformative power of unconditional love, the creative process within me expressed itself in the form of stories—rather than in the more purely philosophical form that had been my familiar mode. Furthermore, as the path is dedicated to serving the transformation in others, it seemed more fitting to write stories than metaphysical essays.
Sometimes it was a phrase that caught my mind, sometimes it was an experience that seemed potent, sometimes it was a key insight—in each case, a story formed around it, as if fleshing out the word. The stories came forth intuitively; that is, I didn’t have an idea and then consciously think about how I might render it in the form of a story. And I didn’t set out to systematically cover the major points of the path. The prayer, the orientation, towards writing stories was there, and the rest just came forth, with a little bit of editing. Some stories were written with a light touch, others were dramatic renderings of soul transformation. They might be exaggerated in some way, but they are not meant to be frivolous or superficial, irreverent, cute, or merely clever. In some sense, I can say with Goethe that all my stories are fragments of a great confession. And yet they were not written merely about me but were written for everyman.
The stories are varied, as they arose: some humorous, some philosophical, some dramatic. All of them could have been condensed into some purely abstract philosophical teaching, which would seem to cut through all the inessentials of plot, character, and the like. But the form of the story is more personal and connects with the reader in a more intimate way. The lesson is left for the reader to discover, in whatever way or on whatever level it comes. The intention of a teaching story is that the reader might get the point mentally, emotionally, spiritually, maybe even viscerally.
The characters and situations in a story engage us, with an implicit sense of comparing or contrasting ourselves with them. We implicitly ask such questions as, “Am I like that?” or “Would I have acted like that?” The very fact that it is “just” a story makes it something like a dream—it is not a matter of ascertaining its factual content. The content evaporates, leaving us with ourselves and our experience. There is no real person or situation out there to project onto—it is all within the stuff of our own souls. Teaching stories and dreams also illuminate something about the ephemeral nature of even true histories and factual experiences. All of them eventually lead us back to ourselves and open to our potential transformation.
Truth is beyond stories and concepts, even beyond words altogether; everything other than essential truth or direct realization of truth is simply stories. Even so-called direct experience is meaningful as story, that is, as happenings in time. Teaching stories communicate the power and function of stories as art in the service of truth. Every story is essentially a teaching story, and even the experiences on the path or school of life are teaching stories.
There is basically one story, and it goes like this: “In the beginning…” (the Unmanifest manifested—and the rest is history). All others are elaborations on that theme. The stories are not so much ways to tell the truth as to have an impact on the reader. That is, they are meant to be transformative in some way, pointing one in the way of truth or creating a receptivity to truth. So usually, the stories concern human foibles that get transformed, or else they are meant to invoke the higher knowing in the reader that would be the transformation that was needed. And so stories can be powerful, but they also are just stories, paling before the simple divine Presence that they serve.
No story can tell the whole truth, and no story can tell the simple Truth. Stories live somewhere in between, where we live. Stories both reveal and conceal—this invites the reader (or hearer) into the story to try to understand what is not explicitly conveyed. The more you are proactive in this way, by actively engaging the story, while yet open and receptive, the more you will derive from it. Otherwise, it is just a story that entertains for the moment.
I chose to present the stories in the order in which they were written, rather to arrange them topically, to segregate the dramatic stories from the humorous ones, for example. I want you to simply be open to the story without knowing if it is going to be humorous or not, simply allowing the story to make its impact. I invite you to hold the book, attune to a problem you want illuminated, or simply to your present moment situation, and then to open the book with a sense of guidance. Then read the story you open to, and see how it might apply to yourself personally. You might also find it helpful to skim through the list of stories until you find one that connects with you, and then read that story.
Consider how your own story or situation relates to the one conveyed in the story. Consider what lesson might be held within the story just for you. Whatever the apparent content or dramatic situation involved, consider what the story speaks to in your soul. If you feel a strong reaction to any character or situation, take a look at what this signifies within your own soul. In this way, you are more engaged with the story than if you had simply read it for entertainment. In any case, I hope you are entertained in a meaningful way. They are for your enjoyment, as soul food. You might find it helpful to read the stories aloud, even to another person.
Whatever the reader might think of the stories themselves, I want to speak of the beauty of the creative process itself. It is a joy to participate in the creation, for one is participating in the divine momentum, the work/play of God. It is a mystery of creativity and co-creativity, dual and yet nondual. One does not do something merely by oneself, and yet one is also not merely a passive channel.
A seed emerges into one’s consciousness, and it grows and bears fruit in a story. Sometimes that process feels magical. It can always be a form of worship, as art is meant to be. And this is not exclusive to art as story or painting or the like, but embraces the whole process of our lives. The process is beautiful in itself, but the product is in turn meant as a seed to be planted in the consciousness of the recipient. In this way, the process is complete within itself, and yet spills over as service to others.
My hope is that these stories will inspire you to become more sensitive to the teachings that come through the stories of your own life, both large and small. Regarding them as stories allows you some perspective and an opening to appreciate the lessons, as precious jewels, hidden within them. Sometimes this can allow you to laugh at yourself, just as you can laugh at a ridiculous character or situation in one of the stories. The part that laughs is already a knower that is beyond the issue involved.
The stories are clothed within the Christian tradition, which has a strong association of dualism for many people. However, I used this dualism not as dogma or truth but as the theater in which a deeper teaching can come forth. Again, although the stories could be called Christian, their import is universal. In that sense, they can speak to a person of any or no spiritual tradition. Wisdom is one, whatever names or images are used to clothe it in story.