Offerings 1

Ice Cream

I saw a radiant, beautiful child enjoying her ice cream. I chuckled to myself, musing that the ice cream had something to do with her sweetness. I asked, “Do you like ice cream?”

Her reply was, “Yes, but not really.”

“Oh, and how is that?” I queried.

“What I really like is how it tastes.”

“So it’s the taste that you like?”

“Yes, but not really. It’s the sweetness that I like.”

“So you like the sweetness?”

“Yes, but not really. It’s the feeling I get when I taste the sweetness that I like.”

“Ah, so you like the feeling?”

“Yes, but not really. It’s the love and light that I like, not the feeling itself.”

“Oh, so if you like the love and the light, then why not just enjoy them without the ice cream?”

“Because it’s more fun this way.”

In the Presence of Unconditional Love

I was kneeling at the Mary shrine. I brought forth my feelings, my problems, and I set them before her as an offering. They were accepted, and I felt them lifted from my heart. I felt her unconditional and all-pervading love that I could totally trust.

After a short while, something else kicked in. Here I go again, I thought. I can’t even hang out here enjoying her love. OK, what is it this time? There was anger and hurt. It goes like this: The presence of this pure love only shows up all my past relationships as false, dark, shallow. My mother’s love, my love for my parents and family, my romantic loves—all of this felt like a dark and dreary burden. Nevertheless, I felt angry that this was taken away from me, for it had been so familiar a part of my life.

I also began to feel self-loathing for feeling this in the presence of her unconditional love. I reflected on the perversity of the human heart.

That is, until…I realized that dwelling on the past, or on what isn’t real love, doesn’t matter anymore, when I can enjoy the presence of real love. I thereupon entered into the present moment, which is unconditional love.

Pessimist/Optimist

Father Pedro used to tell his students that the pessimist says, “Everything I eat turns to shit!” and the optimist says, “Look how wonderfully the body purifies itself!”

Crying

I went by the chapel and saw a novice crying. I asked him why he was crying. “I’ve been praying so hard and still I don’t receive the Light that the others receive.”

Later, I observed another person crying, and I asked, “Why are you crying? Are you feeling sorry for yourself?” “No,” he said, “I’m crying because the Light I receive is so pure and beautiful that it is purifying me of old beliefs of unworthiness.”

Still later, I came upon one of the teachers crying. I asked, “Are you crying because the Light is hitting obstacles within you?” “No,” she replied, “I’m crying for all the people who turn away from the Light which is so freely given.

The Master’s Simple Message

The Master was with his disciples. They gathered around him and asked for his teaching. The Master gave a long discourse about the nine levels of Being, their cosmology and symbolism, their corresponding initiations, and the path of Outgoing and the path of Return. The disciples were fascinated, but several of them kept entreating, “Please, Master, make it simpler for us.” So the Master condensed it down to three levels of Being: God, Man, Nature. There were still a few who voiced, “Please, Master, even simpler.” Now it became the Transcendent and the Immanent. Two disciples remained who said, “Please, even simpler.” Now the teaching was simply, “God IS.” One last disciple timidly raised her hand and said, “Please, Master, even simpler.” The Master thereupon held up a flower in silence. Now all were content.

“I Love You”

“I love you,” I said.

Immediately, I noticed there were many other parts of me having their say.

Another part said, “I need you, I can’t live without you, I’m nothing without you.”

Another part said, “I fear you. You are something external, over against me. I can’t trust you. I fear your power over me. ” Another part said, “I need you to be my Goddess. I need you to be perfect and always loving. I need you to take care of me.”

Another part said, “I hate you. You never live up to my expectations. You don’t love me. You are worthless.”

Another part said, “I don’t even care about you. What do you have to do with me? What do I have to do with you?”

There might have even been a few other parts, but they got lost in the confusion of voices.

Inwardly, I noticed all these voices. I understood where they came from, different parts of my past. I let them go, as they died out as fading echoes from a distant sound.

And so once again I could say, but this time, simply, “I love you.”

How the Master Taught Me to Relax

Here I was, in the midst of life, feeling anxious. I called out for the Master.

I was lifted up, high above the ground, into the sky. Looking down, the Master said, “Looking down over the earth, could you feel overwhelmed and anxious?” “Yes, indeed, Master,” I said. Then he said, “Now, could you feel relaxed and simply OK?” “Yes, indeed, Master”—thinking to myself, “Yes, so long as you are with me!” But then it occurred to me, almost as soon as I had that thought, that the Master is always with me.

Then he took me over the vast seas with enormous waves. “Looking down over the seas, could you feel overwhelmed and anxious?” “Yes, surely, Master.” “And now, could you open to the deep beauty of the scene and feel relaxed, totally secure and serene?” “Yes, indeed, Master”—feeling, “You are with me.”

Then the Master took me up into outer space, surrounded by the infinite vastness of the starry spaces. “Up here in the great silence, could you feel overwhelmed and very afraid?” “Yes, very much so, Master.” “And now, opening to the starry vastness, could you feel surrounded by vast love and feel relaxed and totally OK?” “Yes, totally, Master.”

Then we were back in my ordinary life. “Here you are, in your familiar life. Taking it all in, could you feel overwhelmed and anxious?” “Yes, surely, Master.” “And now, could you open to it in faith and appreciate its great beauty, and feel relaxed and totally OK?” “Yes, indeed, Master. Thank you.”

My life has never again been the same.

Yin and Yang Oppositions

There was once a village called Yin and another village called Yang. No one knows how long they’ve been around, but each claimed it to be the original group and the other to be a heretical offshoot.

The Yang group dressed in white and exalts God as Light, the Radiant Fullness. Their greatest value was Love.

The Yin group dressed in black and exalted God as Darkness, the Black, the Void, the Emptiness. Their greatest value was Peace.

The two camps had nothing to do with one another. The Yang group was not very loving towards the Yin group, and the Yin group wasn’t very peaceful about the Yang group.

But one day, a young man from the Yang group met a young woman from the Yin group. To make a long story short, they fell in love. They saw in each other their missing opposite, and together they found wholeness. They realized that the two groups had split off from their original wholeness of Yin-Yang, also called the Tao.

Such a realization soon spread like wildfire, at least among the younger minds and souls. Soon there were many Yin-Yang couples, and a Yin-Yang civilization came to birth that was both peaceful and loving.

Am I Big or Small?

I close my eyes, and I feel myself, as if I were the only thing in existence. The rise and fall of nations, faraway galaxies, even God, seem to disappear as remote fantasies.

I open my eyes, and I look up at the starry sky or the great blue sky or around at the vast world, and I am overwhelmed at how puny I am, how insignificant, how unnecessary I am in the big picture. More than that, I seem to just disappear. There is simply the world, or just God as the All of Being.

My life seems to be powered by these, as a sort of inflation and deflation. It’s the basis of a sort of craziness and confusion. And then I realized that most people are like that, but it is kept far in the background, since they wouldn’t know how to deal with it if they let it come forth in its full power.

Well, one day, I either let it happen, or it just happened. It was like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object—there was no room for both. But which one would win out? I was in this impossible situation where there is no room for both, and yet neither one could win out over the other.

It was like the unbearable pressure of this big bubble, getting more and more intense—until it just popped. Both were true—and neither was true. The truth encompassed both as partial or incomplete aspects of itself, but the truth was greater than either of them, for it was on a different level. I am everything—and I am nothing. Nothing could be plainer, or simpler.

When I was a baby, I idealized my mother, and I sought her perfect love. Well, that didn’t go very far! She didn’t give me her breast when I needed it, or she didn’t give me the attention when I wanted it, and so on. I learned one thing as a soul in this world: “It’s too good to be true.”

As a boy, I sought affection in my pet doggie Beagle. He was the cutest little thing, and I loved him greatly. Well, that didn’t last long! One day, there was a screech outside the house, and I never saw my doggie again. He was taken away from me somehow. Again, “Too good to be true.”

As a young man, I fell in love with a darling young woman. This was ecstasy, for we loved each other dearly—or so I thought. We were so close. One day, I received a letter from her telling me that she had fallen in love with another man. I recognized a familiar pattern: “Too good to be true.”

As an adult, I entered into a business deal that promised me a good return on my money. A friend warned me, “Listen, if it seems to good to be true, then it probably is.” I went ahead anyway, because what is life if you have no faith? Well, I got clobbered and lost heavily. OK, I decided, that does it. Just don’t expect too much from life.

Well, by the time I got around to God, to a spiritual path, I was told that God’s love was freely available, that all I had to do was open to it. Was I supposed to believe that? I was told that whatever disappointments I had experienced before, God was different. So I opened up, and it was great for awhile, but then I fell flat on my face!

Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. I was sorely tempted to conclude, “OK, that does it! This only confirms what life has taught me all along.” But somehow, there was a gap, a space in which I didn’t know how to react. Somehow, I was so astonished and astounded, that I was dumbfounded. I was blown open to where I didn’t even know how to react. Maybe I was demanding that God speak up and explain Himself.

My teacher explained to me: The Light comes, and it brings up the darkness that has accumulated within me over the years. I had taken it to be a withdrawal of the Light. I discovered that my mind was so programmed to believe and expect “It’s too good to be true” that I couldn’t fully let the Light in and heal my darkness. With her help, I relaxed, I let go of the old, and the healing began.

Game Show

The Master held a game show. There were seven doors behind which were various prizes. Each contestant could choose any door as it opened, but once it closed and another door opened, it could not be selected.

The first door opened. Behind it was a entrancingly beautiful woman, enticing and beckoning. The contestant’s heart felt a deep longing and love, as the woman epitomized everyone he had ever been attracted to. “Hey, this looks pretty good, I’ve always loved beauty. Sexual and romantic fulfillment has been my longing for so long. She’s hard to resist. But how could this first offering be the best? You know how ephemeral these things are. Better to wait and see what else there is.” With some feeling of loss, he watched as the first door closed.

The next door opened to reveal a great pile of gleaming gold. “Maybe this is better, and I’ll have the freedom to spend it any way I want. But I don’t know if this would really satisfy me.” Fantasies of wealth for life fell away as the door closed.

Slowly, the next door opened to reveal a world of fame. An image of the contestant was being applauded and bestowed with great honor. “Wow, this seems to be what I’ve wanted all along.” But something inside him still hesitated. The door slowly closed.

The next door opened, and there was an image of the contestant standing above a vast mass of people, filled with great power. “I’ve always wanted influence, to feel important and effective. However, without love, what good is the power?” He hesitated as the door slowly closed.

The next door slowly opened to show a wealth of books, indicating possession of endless knowledge. “Well, knowledge and wisdom are surely better than external gifts such as love, wealth, fame, and power. But then, knowledge alone, even with wisdom, cannot give me what I want.” He paused as the door slowly closed. What could possibly follow now?

The next door slowly opened to reveal all of the gifts that had been behind the other doors. “All of them! I was right to wait, for the truth is that love alone, or wealth alone, or fame alone, or power alone, or knowledge alone, is unbalanced and incomplete. OK, stop! I choose this door.” He felt so good and so relieved that he had the courage, patience, and wisdom to hold off for so long.

And so it was. The Master mused, “Too bad, he never waited to see what was behind the last door. And that was Myself.”

A Lover of Beauty

There was once a young prince who loved beauty. His parents carefully made sure that everything around him was of the utmost elegance, harmony, beauty, and craftsmanship.

Unfortunately, his parents did not reckon with his growing arrogance and critical temperament. Nothing was good enough for him, and the young prince grew unhappy and distressed as he became more hypercritical. He would notice the smallest imperfection and grow irritable and inconsolable.

None of the court advisors could help. The young prince would always find some flaw in them and their logic, and so he discounted everything they said. His parents were at their wits’ end. Finally, they took the boy to a wise man who lived beyond the court at the edge of the forest. He was held in the highest esteem by all the people.

The wise man took a look at the prince and quickly sized up the situation. “My recommendation, if you value your son, is to have him live with a poor family that I will lead him to.” The king and queen felt they had no choice but to follow his advice. Strangely enough, the prince put up no resistance. The prince was led deep into the forest, where he found a disheveled little hut. He had never seen anything like it, and he had no idea of how to react to it.

He was to live with this poor couple for a week, participating in everything they did. He woke up early and worked most of the day right alongside them. The young prince, although at first repulsed by these peasant people, began to notice that they were very happy, simple, and kind. After hours of sweaty toil on the farm, a simple cool sweet beverage was simple ecstasy for the prince. He learned to revel in the beauty of Nature, the sunrise and sunset, and the beauty of the smallest leaf and blade of grass. The dinner bowls might be rough-hewn, but he would notice the beauty in the grain of the wood.

Finally, the royal carriage arrived with the king and the queen, to take the prince back to the castle. The young prince thanked the couple so much, as they had been like a true mother and father to him. Getting into the carriage, flush with fine leather, woodwork, and finely crafted metal, the prince was delighted. In the finery? No, in the grain of the wood, and even more in a little cricket that perched atop his hand. The wise man smiled at the king and the queen, saying, “Go now, your son will grow up to be a fine man.”

“Who Do You Think You Are?”

When Father Pedro was a little child, he dressed up as his dad, putting on his hat and shoes, and holding his pipe. He thought that was pretty cool, and his parents came in and laughingly said, “Who do you think you are?” They all had a good laugh.

Then one day in third grade, his teacher had to leave the room for a few moments. The young Father Pedro sat at the teacher’s desk and imitated her way of talking to the students. She came into the room, right in the middle of my caricature, and shouted, “Who do you think you are?!” He felt very small and ashamed.

Years later, Father Pedro was hiking in the mountains. He fell and hit his head and developed temporary amnesia. He managed to make it to a nearby ranger station, a bit dazed and confused. The head ranger helped him out and asked, “Who do you think you are?” Slowly, it dawned on him, and his memory returned.

Many more years later, Father Pedro was with his spiritual teacher, undertaking intensive training. The teacher looked deeply into his eyes and asked him, “Who do you think you are?” Suddenly, he understood, “I am not who I think I am, but who I AM.” He woke up.

“Thanks, Everyone”

Lionel, a promising new student, had successfully completed his introductory classes, which he found very inspiring. He was ready to become a full member of the Order and to step onto the Christian mystical Path. The Sunday arrived on which he was to be baptized. Everyone was very excited, and a big feast was being prepared.

After communion, Father Pedro called Lionel to the altar. Before proceeding with the ritual, it was customary for the priest to ask the aspirant, “Are you duly prepared in your soul to proceed with the rite of baptism?” To everyone’s surprise, Lionel stood up and addressed the whole congregation:

“Thanks, everyone, for all your help, your guidance, and your support. I have so much appreciated the teachings, the love, the fellowship, the personal guidance I have received for these past many weeks. The personal guidance of a spiritual teacher has been incalculable. Your selfless service in helping me get back on my feet after my accounting business collapse, I can never repay. You will always be dear to my heart. However, when I was praying fervently yesterday and meditating on being baptized, the spirit led me to a cut-rate church down the street.”

“So?” asked Father Pedro, dumbfounded.

“So, they offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. Guaranteed baptism and only a seven per cent tithe.”

Take It to the Top

A student named Nina presented her problem to the deacon. The story was a bit complex and unique, but apparently it had to do with her ex-husband wanting to move back to live with her from Columbus, Ohio after he had discovered that his ex hadn’t really cheated on him by getting involved with a lesbian couple named Pinta and Maria, while they were vacationing in Spain near what had once been the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. As Nina was preparing to take her novice vows in the Order that coming Sunday, there was a delicate question of timing.

The deacon listened attentively but couldn’t give an adequate response. “This goes beyond my training, I’d better take it to the priest.” The priest listened to the story compassionately, making sure to take note of every detail and nuance, but he was unsure of an appropriate response. “Hmm, in this case, I’ll have to take it to Father Pedro himself.” Father Pedro in turn listened as the priest related the story in all its convolutions, but he too was stumped. “I’ll have to go ask Master Jesus for guidance in this matter.” He related the story as best he could to Master Jesus, who replied, “Hmm, not sure about that one, I better ask my Father-Mother.” So Jesus related the story to God, the Big One, the Top Dog (God spelled backwards). God thought awhile and said, “That’s easy, 1492!”

What Is Holy?

At the Order’s annual retreat, Father Pedro had made it known that all the priests of the Order were called to a solemn presentation. It was entitled, “What is holy?” As Father Pedro had just returned from a weeklong fast and retreat on a sacred mountain, the talk was awaited with most eager anticipation. Perhaps, some conjectured, it was to be some new revelation. Others expected it to be more of a reprimand. After all, as the order was in but not of the world, perhaps the priests had gotten too worldly and some re-direction was needed.

The priests gathered early, and the tension in the room was palpable. Everyone was present with deep attention and silence. Out of deep respect, the priests were prepared to hang on every word uttered by their Master Teacher, to extract the subtlest dimensions of meaning in his communication. The very presence in the room, indeed, was itself a teaching. And as the Master Teacher did not appear at the appointed time, there was a sustained silence followed by a discussion on the topic of what indeed was holy.

“THE SACRED RELICS ARE HOLY,” SAID ONE DISCIPLE, “FOR THEY HAVE THE ESSENCE OR THE BLESSING OF THE SAINTS OF THE PAST.” ANOTHER ONE SAID, “THE SACRED BOOKS ARE HOLY, FOR THEY ARE BLESSED BY THE MASTERS AND CONTAIN THE WORD OF GOD.” ANOTHER COUNTERED, “THE HUMAN BODY IS HOLY, FOR IT IS THE DWELLING PLACE OF THE LIVING SOUL.” ANOTHER DISCIPLE WANTED TO AMEND THAT WITH, “THE BODY IS HOLY ONLY IF THE SOUL WITHIN IT IS HOLY—OTHERWISE, A DEAD BODY WOULD BE HOLY.” ANOTHER PRIEST WAS NOT SATISFIED WITH THAT, SAYING, “ONLY GOD IS HOLY, FOR GOD ALONE IS WORTHY OF OUR TRUE WORSHIP.” THIS LED TO SOME MURMURING. “BUT IF GOD ALONE IS REAL, AND GOD IS ALL THAT IS, THEN EVERYTHING IS HOLY, FOR EVERYTHING IS PART OF GOD.” THIS LED TO MORE DISCUSSION. “SOMEONE IN THE BACK OBJECTED: “BUT IF THAT WERE SO, THEN NOT ONLY THE NOBLEST THINGS WOULD BE HOLY, BUT EVEN THE LOWEST, THE VERY VILEST…”

The statement was cut short, for at that very moment, in stormed the Master Teacher. He was evidently in a hurry, coming in late with a pile of papers to read. He tripped over the steps to the lectern, and the papers went flying in every direction. “Holy shit!” the Master Teacher ejaculated. There was total silence, and then everyone went, “Ah!” in a general moment of true enlightenment.

Jesus and Mary, Do You Have a Sense of Humor?

Perhaps I’m being impious, Jesus and Mary, for writing stories that bring a smile, a chuckle, or perhaps even a laugh-out-loud reaction to a reader. I mean, anything other than the sincerest respect, reverence, awe, faith, compassion, profound love, deep Mystery—well, you get the point.

After all, we think of your lives as totally dedicated to your missions. Every moment overshadowed by a profound sense of Mission. Make straight the way of the Lord.

And what about Gethsemane, the Passion, the agony of the crucifixion? Taking on the sins of the world? Heavy, heavy, heavy, profound, awesome. And what about me? A poor wretch, a soul stuck in a body, ignorant of his mission, a child of God feeling alone as an orphan, a creation of God that is one with God and yet not realizing this. This is something to laugh about?

Solemnity, piety, humility, sober fear of God, arose up within me. A heavy sense of guilt overcame me. Who was I to break the sacred silence with a little chuckle? I felt like one of those mischievous kids at a solemn Catholic school or service. Was I getting out of line? “Get straight!” I imagine Jesus and Mary telling me.

I get down on my knees. If there were a hair shirt or whip for flagellation handy, I’m sure I would have reached for it. “Dear God, I’m sorry if I have offended you in any way. I will do penance of groveling at your holy feet!”

I felt the presence of Jesus and Mary. They put their hands on my heart. I felt their light. I seemed to hear, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Then I heard, “Lighten up!” The Light imploded into my heart, and my heart exploded with—laughter! I felt years of heaviness, sorrow, and misthinking lift from my heart. When the laughter subsided, I was left with a subtle smile—in my heart and on my lips. This was their gift to me.

High Anxiety

I began to feel anxious—I might have been thinking about some problem that I would encounter in the future, or it might have been some present situation that was making me feel uncomfortable. The actual incident that triggered it was not so important. What was important is what I did with it.

Soon enough, I began to react to the discomfort. Soon I began to future think, about how it would mushroom into something truly overwhelming. More than that, I began to attach a profundity to the feeling, giving it an overwhelming significance. I took it to indicate that I was deeply troubled, deeply flawed, that it characterized my existential situation as a human being.

Then I began to get anxious that I was anxious. This quickly exacerbated the downward spiral. “I can’t believe this, I can’t believe this is happening to me,” I told myself, as I felt even more vulnerable and helpless. I began to fear that I was going to spin out of control, that my whole life was going to pieces, that it was all for nothing, and could so quickly disintegrate. This very fear began to take on its own reality, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was tightening around my midsection and hardly breathing.

This all came to a head, to some kind of ultimate angst in the moment, as my very existence came up against bare reality as some kind of terror that was unbearable.

This shocked me out of myself, out of my usual mind, and brought everything to a crashing halt. In that moment, something shifted. There was no me against reality, there was only Reality. I breathed a sigh of relief and release. There was Unity, there was Peace. There was Consciousness, and in that I became aware of the whole process as something that I was generating with my own mind. It was an illusion, my own creation, that I was laying onto reality as if it were really real.

How powerful that illusion can be, how powerful the mind can be in that it can create its own hell. Whereas heaven is not something that it creates, but what is always already real, which is revealed and recognized.

At the Peace Festival

At the peace festival, there were two spiritual teachers who were to give presentations. The first to present seemed to be a sort of Indian guru. He was wearing a white cloth adorned with flowers and seated on a dais bedecked with flowers. He was beaming and radiant. He seemed like he could have been floating a foot or more off the floor. Someone gave a short introduction, and then we sat there silent before him. He closed his eyes, seeming to go deep within to an unfathomable well of peace and joy. When he opened his eyes, he began to look around, seeming to see into the very core of each and every one of us.

Without a word, he held up a beautiful and graceful flower. The entire place was riveted on it and permeated with peace and an ethereal fragrance of peace. I seemed to get his message. That which we are all seeking is right here and now, totally present and available. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Wow! I just basked in this everlasting truth.

Then he was gone, and I felt that I was left with a beautiful dream. Sadly, I noticed my old doubts, fears, and resistances coming forth. I was shocked and dismayed. So how do I get back to that which seemed so obvious, so real, a few moments ago?

Soon, the next teacher came in to make his presentation. I had no idea if he was aware of what the other teacher did or not. He seemed Western, also radiant in a way, but somehow more ordinary. Something about him felt more real than the other teacher. This teacher seemed to have gone through a deep process and have come out the other side to something deep and simple.

Someone gave a short introduction. Then the teacher simply looked at everyone and seemed to make a very real contact with us. Without saying anything, he held up his hands and made fists. He invited everyone to do the same. He shook them, as if in an angry or intense way and indicated that we should do the same. He asked us to feel the feelings that were coming up and to totally allow them to come forth and fill our body, breath, and mind. There was an intense energy in the room, filled with moans, cries, shouts, and the like.

Then after a short while of this—I really have no idea of how long—all of a sudden he said, “Stop!” We all froze and looked up at him. He simply let his hands go and relax. They opened like flowers into an open and loving gesture. “Where are the fists now?” he asked. He continued: “Stay very present now. Feel deeply into the energy in your body.” We opened into a stillness, and all the intensity of the energy shifted into this deep peace. We stayed with that for some time, and it felt like a truly abiding presence. The teacher left, but the presence remained with me.

The Second Greatest Blessing

Father Pedro told us that the greatest blessing was the Light, the Love, the Goodness of God. This inspired us and guided us on our way. But the second greatest blessing—ah, that was something few of us acknowledged. What was it? We drew closer to the master, as if to hear something so secret that it could only be whispered.

“The second greatest blessing is the Adversary,” the master confided in us. A shiver ran up my spine. Crazy thoughts assailed my mind. Has the master finally flipped? Has he gone off the deep end? Biblical references to false teachers that could fool almost the very elect crossed my mind. I was confused—was this some really high teaching, or was this some sort of blasphemy? I felt a little scared and unnerved, as if soon I’d be worshipping the devil and thinking that I was following the Light.

“What you are thinking and feeling right now is the Adversary,” the master said. “And this is actually a great blessing. Without it, if you were just basking in the Light, you would stay unconscious. The Adversary is God’s way of testing you, as gold is tested in the fire. It is God’s way of evolving you, so that you will deepen and awaken.”

I felt that I was beginning to understand. The Adversary was not to be denied or feared or resisted. The Adversary was also not to be indulged in or surrendered to. Rather, we were to recognize the true function of the Adversary within God’s plan of evolution. Maybe “evil” was part of “evolve.”

The Tempter of the Faith

In my meditation, the Adversary appeared to me. He didn’t have a form, but I could feel his mind. He said, “You speak of God and Jesus and Mary, but how do you know they are real?” I said, “I can feel their presence, their love, and their guidance working for me in my life.” “I have no need to doubt your experiences,” he said. “But why do you feel you need to interpret them as being from God or anyone outside of yourself? They can all be manifestations of your unconscious. There is no need to postulate anything beyond this.”

Hmm, maybe he had a point there. But then I thought, “So you’re saying that Jesus and Mary, even God, might all be mere figments of my imagination.” “This is so,” replied the Adversary. “But then couldn’t you, too, be a mere figment of my imagination?” Was it my imagination, or did he seem a bit ruffled at my suggestion? But he deftly countered with, “But then maybe you yourself are just such a figment, just a fragile bubble floating on the surface of—Nothing.” I felt he was trying to intimidate me and undermine me.

I had to go deeper inside in meditation. Then it occurred to me: “This source that you call the unconscious—or even the Nothing—is just a name for the Source that I call God. And yes, everything--including Jesus, Mary, myself, and you too, are all manifestations of that source.” At that, he seemed to disappear—back into wherever he came from.

The Professor of Apples

Father Pedro attended a talk by an old teacher of his, the great professor Dr. Bernard Ponderovsky of the University of Vienna. The professor was set to give his first public lecture on the publication of his magnum opus on the apple. In five volumes, it covered everything about apples, including history, agriculture, biochemistry, varieties, and so on, based on his many years of research, laboratory testing, and so on.

In the lecture, the great professor even included some little known facts about apples, the folklore of apples, and more interesting tidbits. Experts were there asking technical questions, students of agriculture were there asking practical questions about planting and harvesting, doctors were there asking about the use of apples in healing.

Finally, the evening came to a close. The wife of one of the professors in attendance, who could follow very little of what was covered during the event, simply asked the great professor, “Dr. Ponderovsky, among all the apples you have ever studied, which would be your personal favorite, if you could choose any of them for a snack?”

The professor thought for awhile, obviously combing through his extensive knowledge and experience. Then he scratched his head and said, “That’s a very difficult question. I could give you the exact acid-alkaline ratio for each type of apple, but beyond that, it’s hard to say. For the fact of the matter is I’ve never actually eaten an apple.”

The Suicide Note

Mother Clara noticed an envelope tucked under her door. She opened it, noting that it was from the new student who had joined just last week. She read:

“Dear Mother Clara,

I have put my heart into this path. I had no other place to turn. I have followed your instructions: I have meditated, I have prayed, I have fasted. When I meditated, my mind just got more noisy. When I prayed, my heart got darker, heavier, more contracted. When I fasted, my body just felt more toxic. Either your path is false, or I am a total failure. I can live with neither alternative.

When I joined this order, I knew this was the end of the road for me. If I cannot continue on this path, there is no path of life for me. I have tried and failed. Now I can only end my life.

Please do not try to look for me or try to stop me.

Farewell, Marilyn”

Mother Clara sat down, closed her eyes, and with deep compassion went inside to contact the student’s soul. She tuned into her wavelength and communicated a deep peace and knowingness. She communicated with great clarity that the Path is a process, that the Light brings up darkness, so that it can release it and purify the system. Her clear communication went forth: “Oh ye of little faith! Undergo the process and do not hastily judge it or yourself! When you begin to meditate, you become aware of the noise that was already there but which you had not noticed. When you begin to pray, the inner adversary that had been hiding in the heart comes forth to be transmuted. When you begin to fast, the toxins that had been in the body come out for cleansing. Nothing has failed, everything is proceeding as it should.”

Then having done what she could, Mother Clara rested in the peace that passes understanding.

Just minutes later, the student burst into her room, trembling. “Mother,” she cried, “I was about to blow out my brains with the very gun my mother used on herself so many years ago. But just as I was about to pull the trigger, the full shock of it all dawned upon me and I awoke as if out of a dream. I realized I was trying to control my path according to my own limited ideas and demands. As I let go, I saw that everything was unfolding as it should. Thank you, Mother.”

The Adversary and God

The Adversary says, “If there were a God, there’d be no evil, no suffering, no ignorant humans who interfere with the perfection of God’s Will. If God were real, there’d be no Adversary! Therefore, I am the Adversary, to prove—to myself, to others, even to God if need be!—that there is no God. And yet I torment myself unceasingly, because I long for God, and so I am a constant thorn in my side, dashing my deepest hope for God!”

God says, “If there were an Adversary—and by this I mean a separate entity, alien to God, eternally opposed to God—I can think of no better approach than to infect a religion dedicated to the God of Love by preaching an eternal hell and damnation for souls who spurn my Love! This would make a mockery of a God so perfect that any opposition to that perfection would merit eternal damnation. That such a notion is professed by a religion that is dedicated to me almost makes me believe there is an Adversary indeed!”

Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do

I awoke from an uneasy sleep, deeply troubled. I felt alienated, alone, feeling that no one else cared for me. I got up, put on some clothes, and walked down the street. I would have appreciated one kind word or look, even from a passing stranger. The first person I saw passed me by, without even a word or a look. As if I were invisible, as if I were worthless, as if I didn’t exist! I crawled back home, went under the covers, and shivered. “Was this the basic human situation?” I wondered.

That evening, I had a vivid dream. In it, that very person I had passed on the street earlier that day came up to greet me. He said he was so sorry, please forgive him, for he was so absorbed in his own concerns that he didn’t even notice me or notice that I was feeling down and in need of some connection. What else could I do but forgive him?

The next day, I went to work. There was an office acquaintance of mine who ignored me and then, when he became aware of me, even made fun of me. I was crushed inside. I can see a total stranger ignoring me, but someone who shares one’s office space?

That night, I had another vivid dream. In it, that very office acquaintance appeared to me and deeply apologized to me for his rude behavior. He explained that he was so deeply involved in himself and his own problems, that he couldn’t see me beyond himself. How could I not forgive him?

The next day, I met my wife at breakfast. She didn’t just ignore me—she actively proceeded to criticize me and make me feel small. I collapsed inside and crept out of the house.

That night, I had another vivid dream. My wife appeared to me, profusely begging for forgiveness. She explained to me that she was feeling bad inside, clouding everything and everyone she experienced. She asked for my forgiveness, saying that she was suffering inside and never intended to hurt me. How could I not forgive her?

Something shifted inside. I saw how I was totally self-involved, caring only about myself as “poor me.” I saw that others have their own problems, and that it isn’t all about me. Even when people are actively attacking me, they do not really mean me harm. They know not what they do, who they are, or who I am.

Dumbing Down

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Eventually, God crowned the creation with the embodied souls He called man. Now the devil was close beside Him and gave his advice. “Dear God, what a magnificent creation! What an amazingly divine idea to house your spirit in this little, weak, vulnerable body of the human. Even I would never have come up with such a staggering and original idea.” “Why, thank you so much,” God replied. Without missing a beat, the Adversary continued, “But may I give you some sage advice? I would encourage you, for the sake of these humans, to dim down Your Light and Love, and to dumb down Your Revelations, when it comes to them. In my case, because of my superior nature, I can bask in Your full Light and am none the worse for it. Maybe a light coat of sunblock is all I need. But in the case of these fragile embodied souls, we have a whole different situation. Why, your full Presence would fry them on the spot.” “Thank you, again, for your input,” God said.

“And further,” the Adversary went on, “if you make me the overseer of your creation, I will manage it at various levels so that no creature gets more than it deserves--ahem, I mean, can handle.” “What do you have in mind?” inquired God.

“Well, for one thing, it would be out of the question to let the cat out of the bag and let them know that You are the only reality. I mean, that would be too much for their fragile egos. Better leave that for your final revelation, when they can handle it. And if You let them know that their inmost nature is the very God Self, it likely would go to their heads. In fact, since You gave them free will, I suggest You present Yourself as a stern Father. And just to keep them in line, I suggest You convince them that they have but one life to live, and that if they don’t measure up to Your standards, they face certain punishment in everlasting hellfire—with yours truly firmly guarding lock and key.”

“Hmm, sounds like a package deal. You’ve thought of everything. Your idea of dumbing down is brilliant, original, a work of true genius.” “Yep, You just keep me in charge, and everything will be under control.”

“Think on These Things”

In a remote desert monastery, Father Pedro was delivering his Sunday sermon to the ascetic monks assembled before him. “Today’s topic is ‘Think on these things.’ We need to keep focused on the positives, like God’s Love, Grace, Beauty, Truth, and all those good things, and not on the negative things.” The monks were yawning, for they were tired of hearing all about the Divine qualities. So one monk spoke up and asked, “Well, like what negative things?” All the other monks perked up and were all ears.

“Oh, well, like, you know. Like the excessive pride you might get if you, like the Giants, win the World Series 5 to 4, winning with a homer with two strikes, bottom of the ninth. Or like the gluttony of eating more than your fill of basil-marjoram chicken kebabs soaked in a mustard vinaigrette dipping sauce, complete with hors d-oeuvres and French chardonnay. Or like the lust of lounging in a sultan’s plush harem surrounded by hundreds of drop-dead gorgeous blondes. Or like all the negative things that people do, or just think of doing. Like all the rapes and killings and maimings and tortures that go on daily out in the wilderness of the world. Or again, like the tortures of the damned, slowly roasting over fires and choking on the worst stench imaginable, every day without letup, for all eternity.”

“I hope I have answered your question sufficiently. Now remember, these are just a small sampling of some of the things you should not focus on. Now, let us meditate.”

Missing the Mark

Student one: “I am misbehaving, but I know that God loves me, no matter what. So I’m OK, and I don’t need to change. I’ll feel a little bad for it for awhile, and I’ll tell myself I need to change, that this is no way to live, but I’ll probably just go right back to being the same way.”

Student two: “I’m misbehaving, and I know it, and God knows it. I know God has forgiven me before, but I know I’m even more of a sinner since I obviously haven’t learned from my past. I feel guilty and afraid of the terrible futures I’m preparing for myself with such bad karma. I feel so terrible, I feel I must be a lost soul, unredeemable.”

The Saint and the Wrestler

“Long, long ago,” said Grandpa Anthony to grandson Timothy, “there was a little village outside a fortified castle.” “You mean with real kings and queens and moats?” asked Timothy. “Oh yes, and much more,” answered Grandpa.

“This little village had to pay a heavy burden of taxes to the king, and because the king wanted to expand his kingdom, he levied their taxes even more. The village people rebelled. Finally, the king challenged the village: ‘We will decide the matter once and for all in the royal ring. It will be my chief wrestler Varga against the man of your choice from your village. Reply by noon within the week.’”

“Now, as the people of the village well knew, the king’s chief wrestler was a strong man who loved to defeat the opposition before the match even began. If the opponent didn’t cede the match just by taking a look at the wrestler, then the two would meet in the center of the ring and shake hands before the match began. Only problem was, Varga would crush the opponent’s hand, and the match would be over before it began.”

“Wow, he must have been strong,” said Timothy. “Yes, that is true,” said Grandpa, “and all the village people knew it. When an emergency town meeting was called, not one man had the courage to come forward to take up the challenge. That is, until one older man came forth. He was Anton, the village wise man, something of a saint as far as the people were concerned. The people loved him too much to let him sacrifice himself, but he calmly insisted. As there was no other alternative, they had to allow it. The people wept for him and for their own impending doom.”

“Whatever happened?” asked Timothy. Grandpa continued, “The day was set accordingly, and the two men met in the royal ring. Varga was a sight to behold, dressed to intimidate any ordinary mortal. Only Anton was no ordinary mortal. The trumpets blared, the royal terms were read, and then, silence. The two opponents walked to the middle of the ring, and Varga offered his hand and their eyes met. The village people held their breath and winced as Anton obliged. Oh, what cruel fate!” “And did the strong man crush the saint’s hand?” asked Timothy. “Well,” said Grandpa, “what happened next astonished everyone present. A piercing cry filled the hall, and when the people opened their eyes, they saw Varga the strong man on his knees before Anton, begging for mercy and forgiveness. Apparently, Varga’s sheer muscular strength was no match for Anton’s power and purity of love.

“And what happened to the little village?” asked little Timothy. “What happened to the village?” echoed Grandpa Anthony. “Why, within a short time, the evil king was overthrown by forces headed by Varga himself. Anton was given rulership over the land, and the many peoples thrived in great peace and happiness.”

The Bible Teacher

The charismatic Bible teacher was giving a lesson on our deep moral responsibility to awaken to the call of Jesus. He was just revving up his energies when he noticed one of the attendees in the back of the room not paying attention but apparently fiddling with something. “You there, in the back,” thundered the teacher. “You are obviously not paying attention to what I’ve saying. But this is the very point I’ve been making about being heedless to the Word of God. “Do you know what it says in Timothy 4:13?” demanded the teacher. “No-o, sir,” the young man replied. “Why it says, ‘Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.’” “And are you aware of what the Good Book says in Revelation 16:15?” “No sir, I don’t think so.” “It clearly states, ‘Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake…’” The teacher continued: “It’s people like you who the Bible is referring to. They are preoccupied and do not see what is really going on. Such people have eyes but see not, have ears but hear not. So now, what do you have to say for yourself?”

The man stood up sheepishly and said, “I don’t know what to say, sir, only that I’m the custodian and am trying to fix the radiator so that the class can get some heat.”

A Different Denomination

A Catholic priest and a Protestant minister were having a discussion about whether there was a real presence in the host in communion. The priest gave forth the Catholic dogma on the matter, while the minister replied, “Sir, I have myself spoken to Jesus about this matter, and He assured me there was nothing more than the symbolic remembrance.” “I do not doubt your experience,” replied the Catholic priest, “but you must remember that your Jesus is of a different denomination.”

“Enlightenment Now”

Two Christian orders set up storefronts across the street from each other. One had a sign that read, “Enlightenment now,” while the other had a sign that read, “Enlightenment in three years.” People were flocking to the former, while only a trickle bothered stopping by the latter.

A student came to the master teacher at the latter storefront saying, “Father Pedro, perhaps we should change our sign. Who would choose enlightenment in three years when they could have it now? Is there something wrong with us?” The master turned to him slowly and said, “Not at all. You can get enlightenment now, but we take three years to purify and transform the vehicles so that, when you do get enlightened, you can be an effective instrument in the world.”

Jesus Meets the Professor

“Jesus, so good of you to come to see me. As you know, I have a very busy schedule, what with a full load of clients plus being a tenured professor and lecturer at the prestigious School of Psychology and Medicine at Yale.”

“Just for the record, so you know who you’re dealing with, my name is Nathaniel J. Albright III. This should give you some sense of my lineage. I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and an M.D. in psychoneuroimmunology. Not to try to impress you, but just to remind you, strictly for the record. I know that you come from a much simpler time, when they didn’t have all these complex degrees and such.

“Furthermore, I want you to know that I am fully aware of your great credentials in terms of your miraculous gifts of healing. And I really do want your healing. But before we begin your program, I feel that you should know about the full extent of my problems.”

“For example, according to Mahler’s theory of…
And according to the latest in Kohut’s branch of object relations theory…
And according to the latest in the psychology of family dynamics…
Now as to the matter of depth psychology, …
And now there are also the contributions of prenatal psychology, which indicates that…
And there is also the latest research in psychopharmacology, which indicates that…
And with the contributions of psycho-astrology, I have a full report of a hundred pages indicating that I have an exceedingly rare square between…
And that is only the matter of this lifetime. With the advent of past life regression, I must tell you that I have a very complex configuration of issues…”

“Now please don’t think I’m in any way trying to set limits to your healing abilities. I’m just trying to give you some small indication, some small outline, of what you might be up against. As you can see from my vast library behind me, I have written and read many volumes on these subjects, and according to my own research…”

“Jesus, hello, hello, are you there?”

“God Loves You”

Now take Jimmy, he’s an interesting case. So maybe he’s a bit dim-witted, and maybe he doesn’t grasp the finer points like loving God in spirit and truth. But he wants to be on the Path, and he tries his best.

So Jimmy is listening to the morning’s sermon, where the priest is saying, “God loves you. God loves the whole of creation. God loves every part of you.” So Jimmy takes this in, and at the end of the service, after the hugs, he goes to his car to drive home. But he’s practicing being reflective, so that the wisdom of the sermon doesn’t escape him. So before he starts the car, he takes a minute or so to ponder on the personal implications of what he has learned.

“So,” he mulls over in his mind, “if God loves every part of me, then He loves every part of my body. That means He loves even my bottom-most part, the place where the smelly brown stuff comes out. Hmm, well, at least that’s enlightening.”

It so happens that while driving home, Jimmy gets cut off in traffic. He rolls down his window and yells out at the offender: “Hey, you asshole!” And then he adds, “And you know what? God loves you!”

Nonattachment

I was pondering on Jesus’ statement, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” What could that mean?

For us, peace often means getting comfortable in a rut, where we get complacent, satisfied, prideful. So we need the sword of discrimination that forces us to make uncomfortable decisions.

Jesus asked me, “What things do you love?” I said, “Well, there are plenty of things that I like, although maybe I don’t love them or need them.” “Like what?” “Oh, like hot tubs, deep massages, deep dish pizzas, and…” Jesus cut in quickly: “Do you want these…or Me?” Immediately, vivid memories of experiences in hot tubs, on massage tables, and so on flew into my mind. I experienced them, and then also the inner feelings of enjoyment, relaxation, pleasure they provided. Again Jesus asked, “Do you want these…or Me?” I was amazed at how difficult it was to let go of the strong feelings, but I was able to answer truthfully, “You, Master.”

Again, “What things do you love?” I realized that these things were a smokescreen for the deeper attachments. “I love my wife and daughter.” “Do you want them…or Me?” Instantly, vivid memories rushed to mind as I relived experiences with them where I felt such deep intimacy and connection. How could I give them up? Why should I have to choose, anyway? A hundred defenses and confusions welled up in my mind, but somehow I saw through the haze and was able to answer, “You, Master.”

Again, “What things do you love?” “My writing, my art work.” The same question came again. This time, I wasn’t dealing with anyone else, only myself. “OK, by now I get the point. It’s not really the writing or the art work that matter but the creative process, that incredible feeling of connection, of connecting with the Divine Work in the universe.” Again, “Do you want them…or Me?” “OK, OK, I let those go…only let me have my freedom.” “Do you want your freedom…or Me?” “OK, OK, I don’t even need my freedom, just let me be!” I felt cornered, defensive, like an animal trapped against a wall. I was scared, unaccustomed to the strong feelings that were arising within me. But I knew what was coming. “Do you want yourself…or Me?” “I give up! I give it all up! I want You, Master, only You!”

“And do you want Me…or do you want God?” I felt shocked, for I had just put all the focus of my love in Jesus, and now I was asked to let that go. What would be left? But there was no turning back now. “God, God alone!” I felt a deep sense of standing on the top of a steep cliff, as strong winds whipped by me, clearing away everyone and everything I ever loved. Even the image and feeling of Jesus was swept away, until the cliff itself, my body, my very sense of self was swept away. I felt free, and everything came back, in Love.

Sermon on Gratitude

The Master Teacher gathered around him his band of disciples to give them a sermon on gratitude.

“You all have so much to be grateful for. Consider the very air you breathe, your bodies that function, simple companionship, and so much else. You could be grateful for these, and so much more, every moment. And yet you indulge in, and focus on, so much of the negative, what you don’t have, what someone did or didn’t do to you years ago. Well, it’s time to stop focusing on the shit!”

Everyone fell totally silent.

“It’s time to start focusing instead on God’s great gifts, such as the gifts of love, of abundance, of peace, of wisdom, of clarity, of giving, of strength, of compassion, of discrimination, of beauty, and so on and on and on…”

After the sermon, the disciples gathered in the dining hall to partake of the meal. “So,” asked the Master Teacher, “what did anyone learn today from the sermon?” Everyone was totally quiet.

Finally, one disciple spoke up. “Master said the s--- word.”

On the Way

Two disciples were getting ready to go out and help the people. In their rush out the door, one disciple happened to step on the other’s toes. “Hey, you stepped on my toes! Ouch!” said the disciple. “Well, I didn’t mean it,” said the other. “But you did, and it really hurts!” “OK, OK, so I did! I told you I didn’t mean it. Stop making such a big deal out of it, as if I’m some terrible person, some abuser. You’re blowing things out of proportion. You’re deliberately focusing on the negative. Now cut it out!” “Well, stop telling me what to do, and what to feel!”

By this time, they were almost ready to come to blows. Each one felt hurt and misunderstood. Now they felt shut down and could only think of themselves. The Master came by and said, “Let’s cut through this right now.” To the second disciple, He said, “Acknowledge your friend’s pain and tell him you’re sorry.” “I’m sorry I hurt you.” To the first, He said, “Receive the apology. What do you say?” “I forgive you, and I love you.” “OK, good, now let’s go out and help the many people who so desperately need it.”

“Wherever You Go, There You Are”

Scene One: A little boy ran from room to room in his house. In each one, he looked into the mirror. He finally returned to his mommy and said, “Wherever you go, there you are!”

Scene Two: The scoundrel tried to escape his past. He sold all he had and got on a boat bound for a far away land. A few days later, he was strung out in a bar in some sleazy part of town, telling anyone who would listen to him, “Wherever you go, there you are!”

Scene Three: The young man was afraid of getting lost in yet another relationship, another job, another path. Each time, he would spend weeks alone, regrouping. Finally, he realized that what he feared was really an illusion, for, “Wherever you go, there you are!”

Scene Four: The mystic came to realize his True Self, the I AM. He traveled to many lands and helped many people awaken to the Truth. His message everywhere was, “Wherever you go, there you are!”

Lesson from a Window Washer

I was standing on the corner, watching people passing by my storefront. I took the liberty of speaking my mind to the local window washer who was busy with the windows of the building.

“Why, look at that man, walking on the other side of the street. It’s obvious that he’s an arrogant sort of man, filled with pride in his own accomplishments, a superficial type. Oh, and look at that cutie in the pink dress. Now with that kind of gal, I don’t need to read into her; I just have a good look at her.”

Lost in my own thoughts and perceptions, I was taken aback when the window washer replied, “Working with windows, I’ve had my own chance to observe many different sorts of people.” “Oh, and what has working with windows taught you?” I asked, somewhat arrogantly.

“With windows, some people look at them and only see their own reflections. For example, when you were looking at that man who you saw as arrogant and superficial. Some people look at windows and see them clearly, but they only see the apparent object. For example, when you were looking at that pretty woman. And then, there are those who look through the window, as when I see through the appearance and into their souls. This is what working with windows has taught me.”

Special Offer

“Yes, that’s right, today we have two special offers. The first is that you are guaranteed real connection (to the Light), but there is no guarantee that this will have any application in your life. The second is that you are guaranteed application in wealth, fame, creature comforts of all sorts, but you have no guarantee of having the real connection.”

One person figures, “Hmm…I like the guarantee of a connection, but if there is no guarantee of practical application, then what good is it, what’s the use. I might as well sign up for the second offer.”

Another person figures, “Hmm, I like the guarantee of the applications, but if there is no guarantee of a real connection, then all those applications are in vain, so what’s the use? I might as well sign up for the first offer.”

Another person figures, “Hmm, I like the guarantee of the connection. I don’t need a guarantee of applications, for with the real connection, I can always get the applications. Without the connection, the applications are only ephemeral. I’ll take the first offer.”

The Great Debate

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there were two spiritual schools. One was called the Way of the Self, and the other was called the Way of the No-Self. Each group quietly developed on its own, but over time, both grew greatly in prominence. Eventually, they could no longer ignore each other and had to come to terms with their relationship to each other. There had been minor and informal debates between various spokespersons of both groups, but nothing was decided in either side’s favor. Finally, the king of the land called for a major debate that would be held in the great meeting hall, to decide once and for all which was to be the way of the people. The king issued a royal decree that the master teacher of each school would engage in debate, and the king and his counselors would judge the winner.

The great day came with much pomp and circumstance. The many priests and disciples of each school were ushered in with much fanfare, seated on either side of the great hall. Circulars were distributed that contrasted the teachings of the two schools. They seemed diametrically opposed on so many basic issues.

Trumpets announced the entry of the two master teachers, the living embodiment of the two schools. Each was led to a golden and velvet throne, with the king’s throne, a bit larger and more ornate, situated in between. The royal chronicler announced the terms of the great debate: one school would become the official and royal doctrine, and the other would be banished from the kingdom. Everything would take place according to the official rules of debate.

The time came for the two master teachers to meet and shake hands, to signal the beginning of the debate. The teachers arose and slowly walked towards each other. The crowd and the members of the schools were totally quiet and still. The teachers came face to face, and there was a moment of absolute stillness and expectancy. Suddenly, both teachers warmly embraced and smiled. The smile changed into a giggle, then a hearty laugh, and finally an all-embracing crescendo. Everyone felt the powerful energy released and were irresistibly pulled into it. The entire hall resounded with a great laughter and heavenly celebration.

Spiritual Warfare

Some of the disciples of Father Pedro were reading about a church that split along the lines of two competing sects: the Radical Dependents (called the “Rads”) and the Co-creationists (called the “Cos”).

It seems that the Rads maintained that humans can’t know what God wants to make of us, and that we must simply be open to the Father/Mother’s Will. Meanwhile, the Cos maintained that humans, as sons and daughters of God, play an active role in shaping the journey.

Now the Rads claimed that the Cos did not sufficiently recognize the magnificence and transcendence of God, while the Cos claimed that the Rads tended to make people too passive and dependent.

What is more, the two factions battled against each other legally, politically, and financially. Innocent people’s careers were ruined, and people even lost their lives in the course of this battle—which lasted over generations.

“All this is a pity,” commented Father Pedro. “What these people acted out in the world, at the cost of such waste of time and life and property, we engage inwardly. What these people tried to resolve by force and treachery, we resolve peacefully through realization.”

Is Something Missing Here?

One man was very light, humorous, and easygoing, spreading cheer wherever he went. One day, he had a personal tragedy, in which he came very close to death and underwent a profoundly transforming spiritual experience. He stood before the awesome majesty of the infinite God, and although his life was transformed, he never laughed or smiled again.

Another man was a very serious student of life. He amassed volumes of writings and volumes of sacred writings and profound thought gathered from the four corners of the earth. One day, his entire library as well as all his earthly possessions were consumed in a raging fire. As he realized the extent of the calamity of losing every possession he ever valued, he had a powerfully liberating spiritual experience. He became so free and filled with Light that he could never take anything seriously ever again.

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

A man went to visit a local priest.

“Yes, my dear one, how may I be of help to you today?”

“Father,” he said, “I come to beg of you your assistance. My life is so messed up. I am so unloving and unlovable.”

“Well, now,” said the priest, “it seems that way because you are in the thick of it. But do you know how much you are loved?”

“But you don’t know me. I tell you I’m a bad person. I’ve lied, cheated, stolen, betrayed friends, I yell at my kids, I’m mean…”

“Please understand that God loves you, we love you, as a soul. If you could only see yourself as God sees you, as we see you. Through all your sufferings, you would see the pure Light.”

“Thank you, Father, you are so kind, so gracious, so loving.”

Then, a few hours later, the same man is in the local bar, gossiping and complaining. “I tell you, I went to this weird Christian order today. You know how you can tell about people by who and what they love? Well, I met this priest today, and to tell you God’s honest truth, he loves liars, cheats, thieves, all sorts of mean people. Can you imagine? Better to stay away from people like that!”

My Mother and the Christ Child

I was taking a walk with my mother the other day, when we came across the Christ child. He was beaming and radiant. Mom says, “Oh, what an adorable little boy!” The child says, “You are so gracious. Please teach me something.” Mom says, in a sort of baby talk, “Two candy canes plus two more candy canes make four candy canes all together.”

The child says, “Thank you so much for teaching me.” Mom says, in a cutesy voice, “So my little cherub, what did you learn today?” And the little Christ child says, in a very gentle and humble voice, though not in any baby talk: “I learned just how precious learning is. I learned that love is more important than knowledge. I learned not to look at appearances but to see the soul. I learned that even people who do not know their soul can still be loving and kind.”

The Candle

The Master was teaching his disciples about body, soul, and spirit. He pointed to a candle. “You see this candle. It is upright, like the body, like the ‘I.’ It seems complete within itself, and yet when I light it, you realize how receptive it has been to the fire.”

He lit the candle. “Now you see the living flame. This is the living soul which is the light of the body.”

Although the unlit candle seems to be inert, dead, only for itself, it really is alive with the fire of energy that pervades all of creation. The light is really already within the candle, but it needs the seemingly outer flame to ignite it. The igniting is the function of the teacher, so that the student can eventually shine on his or her own.

The Master then opened the window so that there was a draft of air on the candle. “Notice how the flame burns more furiously, and the flame is more smoky. The candle will burn out more quickly. This is like when the living soul is too caught up in the world. Then it is filled with passions, desires, judgments, and loses its purity.”

Then he closed the window. “When the candle can be in a still place, it soon returns to its pure nature. It burns upward, as if longing for the Higher Nature, and its light radiates outward, filling the room. This is service. It does not burn for itself alone.”

“Each candle has only so much time to live. But it can be cut short.” Then he extinguished the candle. “Notice that as the flame goes out, a fine smoke arises from the candle. This is like the spirit leaving the body.”

Then he relit the candle. “But the light can return.” Then he lit another candle and another with that first candle. “See how the light is passed on. The candle loses nothing by kindling others, but instead creates more light.”

Then they blessed the candles and meditated on the light.

Life Is a Play

In grade school, I remember being a diligent student, and I saw the other boys and girls there basically as students. And of course, some were better and some were worse as students. At the end of the school year, we had a class party. School was over, and it seemed that everyone relaxed out of being a student. Some of their parents attended, and I saw the children as members of families, having a life beyond school. This helped me relate to others as people, rather than as students. I thought, “Why couldn’t I see this before? Why did I have to wait until the end of school to see what has always been the case?”

Years later, I went to a play. There were strong characters of good and bad, love and hate, and I got totally wrapped up in the drama. I rooted for the good guys and wanted the bad guys to be put to rout. After the play, I was able to go back stage to a cast party, because I had special tickets. The actors took off their costumes and makeup and came forth as the people they had been all along. There seemed to be a lesson here for me about life.

Years later, I had a dream. In it I experienced the sweep of my life, with all the characters and interactions involved. Some I loved, some I liked, some I disliked, some I hated. Then I died in the dream, and there I met all the people who had been in my life. They all took off their roles, as costumes and masks, and I saw them all as souls. Some were more evolved, and some were less evolved. Then they shed some more, and I saw the original purity of each soul. Then each soul shed some more, and I saw the original God Self at the core of each soul. Then even this shed some more, and I saw the original God that played all these parts and was the One Self in each of the many.

I returned to my life, and I felt that now I would live my life from a new perspective. I would not wait until the show was over but would appreciate the One Who was living it, Now.

Audience with the Master

The Master recently arrived from an exotic foreign country to give his teachings. He sat before the audience on a raised platform in his beautiful robes. Rose petals were strewn all around. The thick scent of incense wafted in the air. Soft music uplifted and expanded the vibrations of the room.

After his talk, many and various people came forward with their personal concerns.

“Master, every time I ascend, I seem to inevitably fall that much further. Is there any hope for me?”

“You are loved unconditionally. Open to that, know that, relax into that, and your impurities will disappear.”

“Master, I am an old man. Is it too late for me to hear the teachings?”

“Know that you are ageless in your soul. Forget about the past and future. Receive the teachings now, which is the best and only time in which to receive.”

“Master, I have tried many times, and yet my lust and delusion pull me down. Do you not despise me?”

“We are all souls in process. Give yourself space in which to grow.”

“Master, I am a bad man. I have committed so many sins. Do you not hate me?”

“Who you are is the eternal radiant Light. I feel compassion for your confusion.”

“Master, I am a sinful, voluptuous woman. How could you resist my temptations?”

“I do not resist. I love. That is all.”

“Master, I am a federal agent of the D.E.A. We’re going to take you away for peddling Truth without a license.”

The Master looked concerned. “I didn’t know that my license had expired.”

“I Shot an Arrow in the Air…”

The master archer held some arrows with special large feathers. “Let me show you something,” he said. He aimed the bow high, pulled far back, and let the arrow go. We could see the colorful feathers twirling around as the arrow sped forth into the blue. “The same applies if I simply throw one of the arrows into the air,” and as he threw one of them, we could see the same twirling motion.

“What can we learn from this? The forward, linear motion of the arrow represents the masculine energy. It is direct and forceful. The circular, spiraling motion represents the feminine energy. It is graceful and embracing. The two occur together in balance, for each represents one complementary aspect of the cosmic motion.”

“But there is one more thing. There is still the question of what direction that arrow is moving in, of what target it is aimed at. The most beautiful arrow, with the most beautiful motion, aimed at the wrong target, is using the cosmic masculine and feminine energies wrongly.”

I couldn’t help but thinking, “I myself am not a master archer. So for me, the question is also this: even if I am aiming at the right target, am I going to hit it?”

The master archer must have read my thoughts, for he then said, “The master archer resides within you. The master archer is already one with the target. Connect with the master archer within, and you will be guided to the target.”

We Are All the Christ

A man walked into a bar and began mingling with the crowd. Quickly, the conversations got down to his assertion that he was the Christ, which created quite a stir. Amid the ensuing commotion, one man emerged to deal with this situation head on, before it got out of hand.

This man took a long look, straightened himself on his barstool, and announced loudly and clearly, through his alcoholic breath: “Now, hear this. I, Fester Henwick III, of the late Fester Henwick II and Henrietta Henwick, though I be a bit under the influence, am of sound and sober mind and body to the degree at least to know that you—and especially you--are not the Christ. Just take a look at you. You’re unshaven, unclean, you smell like you haven’t had a bath in a week. In all honesty, you look like a loser if I ever saw one. So there.” But the man persisted. Standing his ground, he said, “O ye of little faith. Arise and follow me.” Finally, since the man would not relent, Fester Henwick III, to get to the bottom of this matter, or at least to get this man off his back, agreed to follow him.

They went across the street to another bar. As soon as the disheveled man stuck his head in the door, the bartender cried out, “Jesus Christ! Are you here again?!”

“Consider the Lilies…”

Two elderly women were having a spot of tea at their favorite café. One said to the other, “Now you know my dear Aunt Sally, bless her soul, you know the one with the cute Pomeranian?” “Pomeranian? Isn’t that the little fluffy orange dog?” “Yes, that’s the one. Well, anyway, as I was saying, Aunt Sally recently had lunch with a dear priest who just moved to the area. Her niece Missy is part of his spiritual order. Now, what’s his name? Anyway, Father So-and-So, he’s so nice.” “Oh, have you met him?” “No, actually, I haven’t, but Aunt Sally has such good things to say about him.” “Maybe we should invite him to join us for a spot of tea.” “Well, that would be nice. Anyway, back to Aunt Sally, she was having lunch with this Father So-and-So, such a nice man, so I hear.” “So you hear? Well, my hearing hasn’t been all too well lately.” “I’m sorry, poor dear. I’ll speak a little louder. Anyway, Aunt Sally was saying how hectic life is these days--you know, with all the reality TV shows and all on the networks. Not to mention the soaps! It’s more than anyone can do to keep up with them all.” “Soaps, oh yes, the last I heard Heather was going to elope with her former employer, but then just in time found out that he was secretly dating her mother. Anyway, it was getting pretty complicated.” “Oh, dear. Well, anyway, as I was saying, Aunt Sally was talking to Father So-and-So about how complicated life was getting. And Father So-and-So—darn, I wish I could remember his name—something to do with ducks, as I recall.” “Ducks?!” “Yes, little ducks all in a row, in a row…why yes, that’s it, Pedro, Father Pedro. I don’t know how his name slipped my mind. Anyway, he was quoting from the Bible, I think it was the King James Version, and it was about Jesus saying, ‘Consider the lilies…’ and so on.” “Lilies? Oh dear, that reminds me: a couple of the women from the local Gardeners’ Anonymous Club were going to have a horticulturist come give a talk on the proper cultivation of lilies in time for the Easter parade.” “Oh, how lovely! That sounds positively enchanting! But anyway, back to the lilies in the Bible quote…” “Now dear, why on earth do you think Jesus—if I’m not mistaken, he was a carpenter, not a gardener—would talk about lilies? After all, Easter comes after his resurrection, I believe.” “Good question! I think Jesus was talking about the lilies of the field.” “Oh, dear, now you’re not talking about the beautiful cultivated lilies for Easter, but those plain ones that grow in the field. Whatever do you think would possess him to speak about those?” “Well, dear, I think he was trying to say that even they are beautiful in their own way, in a simple way.” “Yes, well I suppose so, if Jesus said so.” “But oh dear me, where were we? Let’s see, we’ve covered my Aunt Sally, Pomeranians, Missy, the soaps, ducks, Father Pedro, King James, Jesus, the Gardeners Anonymous Club, the Easter Parade, and then the lilies of the field. I’m afraid I’ve gotten a little lost here. I’ve forgotten quite what my point was, my dear.” “Oh dear! I believe it was that Father Pedro, who recently moved here, was relating to your Aunt Sally, who found out about the dear Father from her niece Missy, that Jesus was talking about the simple beauty of uncultivated plants in a life that is so dreadfully hectic.” “Yes, I do believe that’s the point.” “Simple?” “Simple.”

The Beautiful Woman Meets the Master

The Master Teacher, Father Pedro, was preparing to give a talk in town, and some people came up to him before the talk began to ask some questions. A few disciples were nearby. A very beautiful woman approached the master. The disciples keenly noticed her and were curious how the master would relate to her. “Master,” she said, in a humble way, “Master, I’ve heard so much about you. I am so grateful to be able to be in your physical presence for the first time. But I strangely feel that I have been with you before.” She could feel some strong chemistry between them, but she could not understand its nature. “My dear, what brings you here tonight?” asked the master.

“I feel I am suffering because of my beauty. Men either lust for me openly, or they treat me coldly, from a safe distance. My heart is aching.” “Yes, I can see you have suffered much” said Father Pedro, calmly. “I turn to you, for you are not like other men. I urgently need your guidance.” “My talk will begin in a minute. Come to my private room after the talk and I will give you guidance,” the master said, as he motioned behind the soft, velvety curtains. The disciples raised their eyebrows, muttering amongst themselves, but the beautiful woman was faithful and trusting. It did not even enter her mind that the master was anything other than what he seemed to be, or that he would take advantage of her. She surely felt a quickening within her as they were close together for the few minutes, and perhaps there was some mingling of the devotional and the erotic within her. Her longing was deep, but suffering had taught her to guard it in the span of her youthful years.

After the talk, she felt uplifted, and the longing within her was even greater. She noticed the disciples looking at her from a distance, but none of that was important to her. Trembling, she quietly went behind the curtains to be with the master. When she knocked softly, she heard his voice inviting her to enter. She came in and stood there, noticing the master reclining on a large couch before her. The air was permeated with a subtle fragrance and the soft glow of candlelight. She bowed, as the master motioned for her to approach.

As she did, his appearance seemed to change in the dim light. It was as if she were walking into another world, another time and place. She herself felt different, a woman who was very much in love with the man before her. And yet she felt so deeply pained inside. Why? She could sense that she was in medieval Europe, and she had had her heart set on this beautiful youth before her. But he had been telling her of his yearning for God, that he must regretfully leave her and enter a monastery to complete his life purpose. Nothing she did or said could deter him from that. She felt abandoned, her heart broken, and angry at God for making a mockery of her love. He tried to explain, but she wrenched herself away from him in her misery. All this passed before her inward gaze. Intuitively, she could see the rest of her life unfold before her, attached to her beauty but never finding true happiness or love. She collapsed in a heap, and then she felt the gentle touch of the master.

A bit startled back into the present, she raised her head to look up into his soft and loving gaze. “Yes, Miriam,” he said, “that was a past life between us. You never forgave me for what I had done, and you closed your heart to God and the spiritual path, seeking to satisfy the longing of your heart in the pleasure and comfort of the senses.” “So now you are here to judge me?” she asked. “No, my dear Miriam. Over lifetimes, I have pursued the Path, and the point is that now, in this lifetime, you are open to it. But your heart weighs heavily with the burden of the past. “Please forgive me, master, if I have in any way selfishly made you suffer, not giving you the blessing and freedom to follow your heart’s desire.” “This is why we had to meet in this lifetime, Miriam, so you could receive my forgiveness and compassion, so that you could totally release that past limitation and come into your fullness.”

As she gazed into his eyes, she could see the past, present, and future. She could see they were deeply linked, but also that it was inappropriate for them to be together in the way her heart had wanted in that lifetime. As she released that, her heart felt clear and rejoiced. In later life, she became a deeply loving and realized soul, whose heart was a blessing to many.

The Three Brothers

Long ago there were three brothers who lived in the time of Jesus. The fourth and last born had long ago died in a mysterious fire. While Jesus was passing through their town, they had a meeting with him, and each had his own experience. Later, the three brothers gathered around the table for the evening meal. Joshua, the youngest, was very much on fire with the Master. Jacob, the middle brother, thought Jesus was OK enough, but he couldn’t see why people made such a big deal over him. Jonas, the eldest, was more hot-tempered. “Why is it always Jesus this, and Jesus that? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Enough of him already! May he go to hell!” And with this, he threw his plate against the wall and stormed out of the room.

That night, Jonas had a vivid dream. His dead brother was there, and Jonas could feel his deep jealousy burning within him. “I had Mom’s and Dad’s love until you came along, and then they hardly knew I existed! “ He could feel the flames of hatred gathering within him, flames which he himself nurtured with the fuel of his thoughts. In the dream, he relived the day when his brother died and he himself almost died of smoke inhalation and burns. Deeply repressed memories welled up within him, as he realized that he had deliberately set the fire to trap his brother. In the final scene, Jonas hits his brother and sets his room on fire, as he shouts with utmost feeling, “May you go to hell!”

As Jonas awoke from this dream that felt like a nightmare, he became aware of the deep guilt he had felt, how he went back in to his brother, but it was too late, and he himself barely survived the flames and smoke. He had forgotten it all for these many years, and now the pain of the guilt was too much torment for him to bear. “Jesus, release me! Forgive me!” was all that could escape his lips, as his heart flooded with remorse and he crumpled to the floor in tears.

Jonas felt the Master’s hand on his shoulders. “No, I am not worthy to receive you, Master! I have rejected you and hated you, just like I did with my younger brother.” But he could feel the Master’s unconditional love and forgiveness, and he realized that all his lashing out was an expression of his own deep vulnerability and anguish at not feeling loved. He realized that his hatred for Jesus was a displacement for the hatred he had felt for his brother, and that this in turn was a displacement of the hatred he had felt for his parents not loving him enough. The awareness was astonishing and freeing. And now his heart was filled with love and light. “My heart is at peace, Master.” “Arise, and follow me” is the guidance he heard and obeyed.

Free Will

Master Teacher Father Pedro was delivering a talk on the subject of free will to the students at the new center. He talked about God respecting each person’s own choice and not forcing His Will upon them. After the talk, the teacher asked the group what they had learned.

One said, “I learned about the Mystery by which God, Who is All, nevertheless produces individual souls out of Himself and gives them free will to even oppose His Will. I learned about the Mystery of God creating otherness, even though All is One.”

Another said, “I learned that we were created in God’s image, and so we were given free will, which reflects God’s own divine freedom. I learned the awesome responsibility this gives us, to choose to work with God and His Creation or to work against it.”

A third said, “I learned that I am more powerful than God.”

“How do you figure that?” asked the Master Teacher.

“Simple,” the student replied, “for with all God’s might and power, He cannot force me to go against my will.”

Sin and Sinners

Father Pedro was giving a talk on sin to the novices. He wanted to make a strong impression on them and break their pride. In a powerful voice that filled the hall, the brothers heard, “You are all sinners. Not one of you has escaped sin. You have been a sinner since your birth. And there is nothing you can do to change that condition. You are all sinners in the hands of an angry God!” Silence filled the hall as the brothers took in the weight of the talk. God only knows what went on in their souls as these words sank deep inside.

The brothers slowly filed out of the hall with their heads bowed low, contemplating the tremendous weight of these words. A priest asked the teacher, “Father, do you think you might have been a bit too heavy with these novices? I mean, what about the matter of grace that is offered?” “Ah, very good, Reverend; we’ll get to that in tomorrow’s talk. First let them contemplate the depth of their natural condition before grace.”

Later, after evening prayers, Father Pedro walked down the hall where the brothers were preparing for sleep. He checked on each one, seeing that they were saying their bedtime prayers. Finally, he got to the last door and heard some strange sounds coming from within. He knocked sternly on the door, and in short order the door opened to reveal the brother, stark naked, with a glass of wine in his hand and a big grin on his face. As Father Pedro peered within the room, he could see a pretty naked girl in the young brother’s bed.

“What is the meaning of this? You should be ashamed before God, especially after the talk I gave today!” reprimanded Father Pedro.

“But Father, you forget, I’m a sinner,” replied the novice.

Copyright © 2005 by Edward Hirsch

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