“To Live Is To Be Loved”
Emma was a lovely little child, doted on by adoring parents. With the war, her parents were removed from her life in one blinding flash, and she felt abandoned. She was taken in by a stranger, who helped her survive but sexually abused her. The stranger in turn had been sexually and emotionally abused by his mother as a child. In her deep, anguished need for love, Emma felt bonded to her abuser while she also hated and reviled him. Emma grew into a young woman who was both addicted to love as well as unable to really love. She could not bring herself to trust anyone, and she also had a deep self-loathing.
Albert met Emma at a bar and was immediately drawn to her. He was drawn in by her story and in some way wanted to provide her with the true love and protection that she had never had but longed for so deeply. For his part, Emma felt like the mother he lost when he was but a little boy. At their first meeting, Emma had confided in Albert, “I live for love,” and Albert wanted to provide that for her.
Little did he know that her insatiable need for love was boundless. Emma would often leave Albert for other men because she feared the vulnerability of taking in his love and then losing it. She also felt that deep down she was unworthy of his love. And yet her desperation for love forced her to keep looking. Now Albert had pinned his hopes on her, and he felt abandoned. She left him with a little girl, who he raised the best he could. Some years later, Emma returned to Albert, completely disheveled and close to death. “Why didn’t you come home to me sooner?” asked Albert. Her answer, barely audible to his ears, struck at his heart: “Because I felt so unworthy of your devotion, Albert.” She lapsed into a coma. The very next day, with his meager savings, he had her buried with a tombstone that read, “I live to be loved.”
Meanwhile, Albert redoubled his affections for his daughter. But since she looked so much like her mother, she reminded him of the deep pain in his heart. And she in turn felt that she was not loved. When grew up to despise him and made him feel like an unloving wretch. She insisted, “I live for love,” and he felt totally inadequate in his ability to care for her deep need. She finally ran away, leaving him alone and utterly abandoned.
Albert never again entered into a loving relationship. He lived on memories and hopes, buried beneath a cynical rejection of love. On his deathbed, all alone, he reached out for love in one last desperate cry for help. There before him, to his amazement, was a beautiful female figure shining in white and emanating unconditional love. The Light of this love permeated his being to the core, making him realize that we all live for love, and further that we all are love.
Albert reviewed his whole life from this new perspective. Even through all the heartache and disappointments, was able to forgive everyone involved, because he realized that it was all for love and in love. He himself felt totally loved. He realized he was not separate, that he was never separate. He died happily a day later, after writing his last will and testament. When some people gathered together later for the modest funeral, there on the tombstone was inscribed, “To live is to be loved.”
Less Is More
The dean of the philosophy department at Oxford, Dr. Elmore Loveless, was set to give his “Lecture on Love” series. He amassed his most brilliant insights of the past twenty years on the subject of love. “This is certain to open minds. This lecture will set the standard for all intelligent discourse on love in the future.” Although he set forth an outline of his most brilliant points, the meager audience seemed unmoved.
Frustrated and feeling a bit unloving himself, the professor left the lecture hall. On the opposite wall he noticed a flyer for a presentation on “Love” by a visiting professor from Jerusalem. “Hmm, this is going to take place tonight. I think I’ll just go in unobtrusively and see how my colleague handles such a talk. I can’t imagine he could add anything more to the field than I have already achieved.”
That night, he came into the hall and sat in the back, where he could take it all in. It happened that these were the only seats left, as every other seat in the hall was taken. In walked the visiting professor, dressed very plainly, nothing special. But there was a hush in the hall as the professor sat down. A palpable presence filled the hall. The man looked very relaxed, very natural, and he was beaming with something other than pride.
After a minute or so of silence, the professor announced, “I have nothing new to tell you about love, which itself is ever new.” He proceeded with the well-known passage about love from Corinthians: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…”
Dr. Loveless inwardly reflected, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all this before. Doesn’t this guy have anything new to offer?” Apparently not, for the visiting professor just sat there, while everyone felt the powerful healing presence of love. Everyone, that is, except for the department dean, who squirmed in his seat. The visiting professor humbly continued: “The little I have to say, I shall speak from the heart.” The healing presence in the room deepened as he spoke forth. Finally, he said, “Whoever would like to come forward and share from their heart is most welcome.” Dr. Loveless got up awkwardly, reflecting, “Well, if he has nothing more to say, I might as well just leave. What a waste of time. But more than that, it’s just unfair. I offered so much more, I said so much more. I guess it’s just a matter of, ‘And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.’”
Keith Strand had long been a follower of the self-help gurus. He had graduated from many of the well-known programs, including a fire-walking seminar, and a life without limits seminar. He was definitely pumped up. “Wow, I’ve heard all the greatest minds on the subject of self-improvement. What’s next?”
Through a friend, he discovered Jesus. “Wow, this guy is the Superstar, the Hero, the Man! He’s been called the Greatest Salesman in the World. He’s the originator of the entire self-improvement movement, with such ideas as, ‘As you sow, so you shall reap,’ ‘With faith as small as a mustard seed, you shall move mountains,’ and ‘With God all things are possible.’ I’d better get onto His team!”
Sure enough, it was not long before Keith, while in earnest prayer, met with Jesus. “Wow, Jesus, it’s really you! Listen, let’s make a deal. I’ve got a lot to offer. Please take me on your team and together we can do great things. I mean symphonies, great novels, great works of art, scientific discoveries, and more. And with all the techniques I’ve learned, I could promote you big time! I know that with you, there are no limits! I want to break the mold and take flight into uncharted skies.”
Jesus took a long look deep into Keith’s soul. He thought, “Hmm, this man Keith does have a lot of inner resources. He would be a great asset to my work on planet earth.” Keith spoke up, “Well, what do you say to my offer? There are no limits to how great we can be, the things we can do.” Jesus replied, “OK, you agree to be on my team. Remember, no limits.” “Great, no limits,” Keith agreed.
The next day, Keith is on Jesus’ team. He’s cleaning toilets at the local homeless shelter.
Mr. Davies goes before the altar on his knees. “Jesus, sorry I haven’t been here in awhile. I’ve been so busy. I feel your pure and powerful presence here, and I feel unworthy to even kneel before your altar.” Jesus smiles warmly, and with compassion says, “I am here to help you. This is my work, this is what I do.” Mr. Davies can hardly take this in.
This same Mr. Davies works as a doctor. The next day, a young man comes to his office. “Please have a seat,” he says, “How can I help you today?” The man replies, “Hi doc, I know I’ve missed a lot of appointments, but life has been so hectic. I haven’t really been taking good care of myself. My health is a mess, and I feel a bit ashamed to come to see you. I guess maybe I’ve been avoiding you. I feel so unworthy as a patient.” Mr. Davies has one of those teachable moments.
An Impractical Philosophy
Jesus came to meet the philosophy professor at a cafe. “Let me tell you about my philosophy,” Professor Higgins said, “and then you can show me yours.” “Very well,” Jesus agreed. The professor proceeded to tell Jesus about the law of cause and effect, of karma, that everyone creates his or her own reality, that everyone is responsible for his or her own character and state in life. “For example,” the professor said, “look at that man at the corner table. He’s hunched over, depressed. He’s likely dwelling on the negative side of life, how life is unfair, how his parents didn’t love him, and so on. And the point is that his very thinking is keeping him stuck in the dismal situation he’s in. But if he would change his way of thinking, he’d be free. This is what I teach people to do. See how practical my philosophy is?
“Yes, I see,” said Jesus. “In some ways, I am in agreement with your view. I say, ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ and, ‘As you think in your heart, so you shall be.’ But what you’re missing is the love aspect. Let’s take your example of that man in the corner. Take a good look at him and see him through my eyes. This man has just lost his job, his wife just left him for another man, and his doctor just diagnosed him with cancer.” As Jesus talked, Professor Higgins could feel into this man’s situation and could somehow feel into his soul. The professor could empathize with this man as if he himself were in his shoes.
“And yet if you look deeper, you see that this man is a struggling soul, doing the best he can for now, seeking the good, seeking love like everyone else.” Professor Higgins could somehow look into this man’s soul and feel some compassion for him. “And if you look even deeper, you can see his soul living through many lifetimes, learning through sufferings and joys.” On hearing this, the professor’s vision expanded to see the lifetimes of this soul. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. And the issues he was connecting with were those he knew very well in himself. “And if you look even more deeply, you can see the deep pain in his soul of feeling separate and alone, feeling unloved.”
Professor Higgins felt that pain and felt it as his very own pain. It was almost too much to bear, and yet a depth of compassion and love welled up within him. “And if you look even more deeply, you can see the shining light in his core, the very God Self that is his eternal nature.” Instantly, the professor could see this light in the man, as well as within himself and everyone else in the café. “And so, you see, you feel compassion for his pain, and love for his essential nature, which you are.”
Professor Higgins was speechless. His mind had been expanded, his heart opened, beyond the world of his well articulated philosophy. He had been shaken to his core. He had never felt so much love and transformation in his whole life. “Well, what do you think?” asked Jesus. The professor slowly came back to himself and took a little time to regain his composure. Finally, he said, “Very interesting philosophy you have. But it’s too impractical.”
How Big Is God?
An very little boy asked his slightly older brother, “How big is God?” The boy stretched out his arms wide and said, “Bigger than Daddy or Mommy!” An older brother standing nearby had to chuckle, as he knew that God was bigger than the whole town. His father passing by had to chuckle to himself, for he knew that God was bigger than the entire planet. An angel who happened to be passing overhead had to chuckle to himself, for he knew that God was bigger than the solar system. An archangel passing by had to chuckle to himself, for he knew that God was as big as the whole cosmos. God, seeing all of this, had to chuckle to Himself, knowing that he was bigger than all the infinite dimensions in the Mind of God.
Time Is Of The Essence
Mr. Bannister was the general manager of a large corporation. He always arrived promptly to work and was very efficient at his job. He was well known for checking in on the progress of jobs, chiming in with, “Time is of the essence.”
One night he had a vivid dream. He was lifted above his office, above the corporate headquarters, above the city, far above the earth, as his ordinary, orderly, earthly life rapidly fell away from him. As his consciousness climbed up into the heaven worlds, he thought, “wow, i’m being promoted to the big corporation in the sky, and there maybe i’ll meet the big boss who directs everything like clockwork.” Higher he went into the vastness of eternity. All was still, all was silent, all was empty. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do, for all was here and now. From this essential state which he recognized as the essence of all being, all the worlds of space and time emerged.
When Mr. Bannister awoke from the dream, he pondered. “Now I know that time is of the Essence, but it is not the Essence itself.
Within the vast space of God, in this particular galaxy, in this particular corner of the galaxy, in this solar system, on this third planet from the sun, on the eightieth floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, sits a man at his desk. He’s not sure if his wife really loves him, he’s not quite sure if he married the right woman for him, he’s not sure if he could get away with taking out his new cute secretary for some cocktails, he’s not sure if he’s educating his kids the right way, he’s not sure if he really believes in the religion the kids are being raised in, he’s not sure if he’ll be able to afford the new vacation he’s considering, he’s not sure if his boss will promote him, he’s not sure how long he wants to remain at his present job, he’s not sure if the current world situation might not blow up into a new world war, he’s not sure if he should continue with his current therapist, he’s not sure he knows who he himself is, he’s not sure if he believes in God, he’s not sure if he will continue after death, he’s not sure if he is really free or just a link in a chain of universal causality.
But right now, he has no time to indulge in such matters. These are just things that buzz around in the back of his brain. Right now, he is lost in his current project, and he has to choose whether to call this or that contractor to make a bid on this new high-rise project that will look over the tip of Manhattan, that lies on the third planet from the sun, that is situated in the Milky Way Galaxy, that lies somewhere in a larger cluster of galaxies, that lies in a larger cluster of clusters, all in the infinite loving embrace of an infinite God.
Max showed up at the talk on Jesus and Mary and began to attend communions at the center. He felt drawn to the light and the love he felt there, and he also loved the hugs he got. That is, especially the hugs he got from Rachel, one of the young sisters who lived there. Soon he began to feel a deep attraction to her. And soon he began to attend regularly, and he became a student.
When Max sat in silent meditation, he was aware of the Masters’ presence in the room. He was also aware of Rachel’s presence when she would sit next to him at communion. He could feel her devotion, and it made his own heart open all the more. He would look at her through the corner of his eye, and he would imagine her as a beautiful virgin saint. When they sang devotional hymns, he would feel their heart energies blending as one. He would imagine them being deeply in love and together sharing the abundant blessings of God.
After communion, he would cherish a long hug with her. He would smile at her, engage in long looks, and he would tell her of the sweet presence he would feel in her company. He wasn’t trying to seduce her, but he wouldn’t quite mind if she felt a passionate longing for him. He found the energy between them sweet, but for him it served to intensify his experience of his spiritual love for God. Whereas for Rachel, this was an opening of her love for God through her personal love for Max. Rachel was definitely falling in love.
Meeting with his teacher (who was also Rachel’s teacher), Max confided that he felt an attraction to Rachel, but he did his best to downplay it. The priest informed him that Rachel had a year’s celibacy vow, and that he was heading towards causing her great grief. He couldn’t believe that, since his love was basically innocent and sharing the light of God. In any case, Max didn’t let on how deeply he was attracted to Rachel, partly because he was afraid that his teacher would put a stop to this, and partly because he rationalized to himself that this was quite secondary to his main focus on Jesus and Mary. And Rachel herself kept quiet about the whole affair, because she knew that she had taken a vow not to start a relationship, even in her mind. And she was afraid that her teacher would put a stop to it, or even ask her to leave the center—or even the Order.
So the situation intensified over time until one day, when Rachel’s heart was so wide open and vulnerable, Max made a casual remark that showed her that he didn’t really care about her. She broke down in tears and ran from the room. Her teacher went after her and found her sobbing, disconsolate and broken hearted by the Mary shrine.
Shortly thereafter, she had a long talk with Max, confronting him on his insensitivity and selfishness. Max saw how his shallow his spiritual dedication was, and how deeply immersed he was in his own pleasure, making him unable to see beyond himself. When he was told of how much grief the sister was going through, it all came crashing down upon him. It pained his heart to realize that he was actively generating suffering in someone he thought he adored.
It all worked out for the good. Rachel went through a period of deep work, looking at her dependencies, her neediness, her impressionability. She came out of it deepened and transformed. For his part, Max matured beyond his self-absorption and contacted the genuine love and concern he had both for God and people.
Did Max and Rachel ever fall in love and commit to the sacrament of holy matrimony? We don’t know yet, but we do know that God, the true Beloved, found a way to draw both hearts to His own.
In Love With The Light
Clare was an ardent devotee of God. She loved the Light above all else. Her favorite quote was, “In God there is no darkness at all. God is only Light.” She herself was quite beautiful, and she had a beautiful voice with which she poured forth her devotion and lifted others into the Light. She loved listening to the Master Teacher’s songs, and they filled her with inspiration, as did her meditations, prayers, and communions. Her ardent prayer was, “Jesus and Mary, keep me in the Light.” She would pray for more Light, happiness, inspiration, devotion.
The only problem was that Clare did not want to look at any darkness in herself. She loved to do her release practice of breathing in the Light and releasing anything not of the Light, but she didn’t really acknowledge any obstructions within her. True, she was friendly, inspiring, loving, but her love of the Light was something of an addiction. She wanted to be so much like Mary and Jesus, so much like the priests and the Master Teachers, that she wanted only the Light.
Her prayers were granted, and she was light and happy. Meanwhile, many of her brothers and sisters felt envious of Clare, and so they had plenty of work to do on themselves. And through that work, though at times it was painful and murky, they deepened and developed into the Light. But Clare did not develop. When this became apparent to her, she went on her knees before Mary and Jesus, utterly distraught. “You know how hard I’ve been praying, and yet you did not give me the grace to develop and deepen in you! How could you do this to me?!” Jesus and Mary looked at her with deep compassion. “You would not let us show you your own darkness, and this limited the work of the Light.”
Now Clare was furious. She felt trapped. Volumes of darkness welled forth from within her soul: hatred, bitterness, fear, on and on. Jesus and Mary were patient and gave her plenty of space for the darkness to come out. When Clare saw that they did not react, she became even more furious. “Oh, so you were humoring me all along. Yes, let little Clare have her light, for she can’t handle anything else! You’ve tricked me.” And when they still did not react, she began to become aware of all the hatred within her spilling out on the very ones she loved. “You must hate me. I hate myself! I am a miserable sinner! Woe is me, I am undone!”
This was the purging they knew would come eventually. This was the turning point in Clare’s path, and her trust in the process and her love of the Light increased greatly. Now everyone loved her, and she became a great source of blessing for many.
“All Are Welcome”
I was attending a church service in a small town while I was on the road from the big city. I thought it might be interesting to experience how a small town conducted its services. As a person from the more liberal cosmopolitan area, I was aware of my prejudices about redneck country, so I wanted to hold them in abeyance.
It was a medium-sized group of people, who all seemed to know one another. I sat in the back, and evidently the priest saw me and wanted to make a good impression on this city slicker.
When it came time for communion, the priest held up the chalice and announced, “All are welcome to receive communion: gays, lesbians, blacks, chinks, wasps, spics, kikes, and others I don’t have names for.”
Mr. Jones saw himself as a sinner. He knew he had done wrong, and his good self-image was tarnished. “Heck, I might as well set my mind on being bad, and get really good at being bad, because then I can really be somebody. At this point, if I try to do good I’ll only be mediocre, a nobody.”
So Mr. Jones moved out of town and left his old self behind. He rented a room in a seedy hotel deep in the underbelly of the big city. He went to the local bar and hung around some bad looking dudes. They had some drinks, and then the man who was obviously the leader of the pack said, “OK, let’s go out and cut up some punks and gang-bang some chicks.”
Mr. Jones’ heart sank. He thought to himself, “Wow, this dude is something evil. Man, by the fire in his eyes, I can tell he means business. I’m outta here!”
Mr. Jones got clear that he no longer had the option of returning to his old ways. He realized that the path of good and evil were open before him, and that he did not have to let his sinful past determine his future path. He had a choice, and that was for the good.
What’s Good? What’s Bad?
Nathaniel, a novice in the order, held tight reins on his path—or so he thought. Everything that happened got mentally pigeon-holed as good or bad. So when he experienced inspiration and his heart opening, he felt so good about it and about himself. But soon after, the Light brought up very unloving, lustful, angry, jealous, and other emotions. “Oh, no, that’s bad, that’s not supposed to happen!” thought Nathaniel. He was afraid that he was going to fall into the pit, but instead of going into a panic, he somehow relaxed into the moment and discovered that the energy shifted. “Wow, that’s good!” thought Nathaniel. He had visions of himself becoming the light of the local spiritual community. He felt special because, although he was so new to the order, so much light, love, and wisdom had been given to him. Then he thought, “Oh, no! That’s the sin of pride. That’s bad.” Then he began to feel depressed, because he felt there was no way out. Anytime anything good happens to him, he’s going to feel good about himself, which is going to land him right back into the sin of pride, and then he’s going to feel bad about himself.
Though he seemed stuck in an endless downward spiral, he found himself suddenly distracted by a little hummingbird by the window. Nathaniel was so overcome with the bird’s beauty that he completely lost track of himself. He took a deep breath and took in the beauty of the moment. He let go of the labeling of good and bad and just settled into the love that was there, within and around him. And he knew that was good.
“How Much Light Do You Want?”
A man saw Father Pedro walking down the street and called him over. “Hello, there, Father. My name is Ralph Holloway and I noticed your priestly attire. Say, I’m going through a bit of a hard time in my life. Do you think you could help me?”
“Sure, what seems to be the matter?” asked Father Pedro. The man told him about his loss of faith after his wife died of cancer, and his fear of death.
“Yes, I can help you. How about coming by the chapel later for a blessing?”
The man came at the appointed time and Father Pedro gave him the blessing. “How do you feel now?” asked Father Pedro. “I feel so grateful. I feel the Light and the Grace of God. I’m feeling much better. Thank you.”
“That’s great. I’d like to welcome you to experience more of our spiritual work.”
Mr. Holloway thought a moment. “I’m feeling OK now, I better quit while I’m ahead. I do feel better, but I don’t want to start stirring up my deep issues, which will only cause me grief. I certainly don’t feel like getting involved in a lot of spiritual work. Besides, maybe this is some sort of cult he’s involved in, where they pull you in at first with promises and then they brainwash you and take all your money.”
“Thanks, but not now. Gotta go.”
Father Pedro mused, “Too bad. We have a banquet to offer and so many settle for just a few crumbs.”
“Jesus, save me! I’ve just betrayed my best friend, and I feel like the lowest being in creation.”
Jesus thinks, “OK, I’ll make sure he is sincerely remorseful, and understands why he did this deed. Then I’ll do a blessing and a healing, and he can make his amends to his friend.”
But the man is afraid of the majesty of Jesus, and fearing the worst, he says, “OK, OK, I’m really sorry. And to show you how sorry I am, I’ll do penance. I’ll walk barefoot until I bleed. I’ll go on silence and eat ashes for two weeks. I’ll…”
Jesus turned aside. “I guess I can’t help him so long as he insists on doing it all himself.”
Resist Not Evil
Andrew, a novice in the order, told his teacher that he was becoming so sensitive that if he even read or heard about some evil deed, it would upset him. “In what way does it upset you?” his teacher asked. “I am so struck by the possibility of myself doing that deed, that I feel paralyzed,” Andrew explained. “It is true that, having free will, you could theoretically do anything anyone else has done,” his teacher remarked. “Yes, and understanding this makes me afraid of having free will. I am afraid of the evil I might do,” Andrew commented.
Andrew was led into a regression in which he personally experienced past lives in which he himself committed the most heinous of acts, including murder, rape, pillage, and betrayal. He was shaken to the core. But he emerged from the experience a changed man. He explained, “Now, instead of fearing what I could do, I know that I have already done these things. Now I know from personal experience why people do these things, what the consequences are for the victims and the perpetrators, and I also know clearly why I do not choose to do them in this lifetime. Thank you so much.”
A man walked into a bar. “Give me something stiff,” he said. The bartender reached for the whiskey behind him. “Got some problems, do you?” he asked.
“Yeah, you said it. I used to put a lot of time and energy into building my physique so that I could be someone both men and women admired. Then I joined a spiritual order, and they said I had to renounce my body. So then I put my time and energy into developing my mind, so that I could be admired for my wisdom and cleverness. Then they said I had to renounce my mind. Then I renounced my body and my mind, and I put my time and energy into developing my soul. I fasted, prayed, and purified myself so that I could at least be somebody holy. Then they said I had to renounce that. So finally, I just let all that go and decided I’d just be myself. And then—get this—they said I had to renounce myself!”
“So here I am, a physical wreck, a mental dumbell, spiritually empty, and I don’t know who the heck I am.”
“Hey, buddy, do you mind if I give a piece of advice?” offered the bartender.
“Yeah, what, go get laid? That’s the going advice in bars these days.”
“No, I’m serious.”
“Renounce means renounce everything to God for God’s sake. Give it all up, since it wasn’t yours to begin with. Then you get it all back and more.”
“Hey, sounds good. But what kind of a bartender are you, anyway?”
“Oh, I’m a priest. Bartending is my day job.”
The I And The It
Once upon a time, there were two kingdoms, one called the Kingdom of I, the other called the Kingdom of It. The former preached a doctrine of subjectivity; the latter preached a doctrine of objectivity.
As can be imagined, each had its strengths and weaknesses. The Kingdom of I was composed mostly of mystics, artists, poets, musicians, singers, novelists, and in general, lovers of beauty and goodness. The Kingdom of It was composed mostly of scientists, technicians, mathematicians, and in general, lovers of truth and justice. The Kingdom of I was not so technologically advanced, but it was in closer communion with Nature and was quite spiritually developed. The Kingdom of It enjoyed the many benefits of technology, engineering, and so forth, but beauty and joy and the simple life were largely missing.
The Kingdom of I was very tribal, although the artistic temperament was given wide latitude for expression. The people were loosely organized, mostly by strong bonds of affection and loyalty. The Kingdom of It was highly structured by the political and judicial system. The gears of the system functioned well, although the people were not always so happy. But they were so busy enjoying their technological abundance that they hardly noticed.
Each community was held together by their shared values. This meant that in the Kingdom of I, objectivity was generally considered with suspicion, and similarly in the Kingdom of It in regard to subjectivity. In the Kingdom of I, objectivity was viewed as breaking the bonds of affection, inciting people to look at people as things, and to look at things coldly for their sheer utilitarian values. In the Kingdom of It, subjectivity was viewed as dangerous, subject to illusions and self-interest, and therefore moving in the direction of chaos and anarchy.
However, there were progressive elements in each community. The inner circle was partly comprised of the rulers who sought to maintain an orderly kingdom, and was also partly composed of those explorers who sought the further reaches of the community’s vision.
It so happened that the explorers in the Kingdom of I got deeply into the heart and there discovered a realm of Light and Truth that transcended the realm of subjectivity. It was the transpersonal realm that got them to reconsider everything they thought they knew. And so too, in the Kingdom of It, the explorers were reaching beyond the ordinary objectivity to That which IS, the realm of Being. This got them to look at everything anew, beyond the old belief systems that they had taken for granted.
It was through this exploration that eventually the two Kingdoms began to interact with one another and find mutual benefit, in very practical ways and also in terms of a mutual vision beyond and including the subjective and the objective.
Who Is Your G-O-D?
She is beautiful, natural, humble, faithful, graceful. Her eyes sparkle, her hair is golden and silken. When I am happy, she is happy. When I am down, she comforts me. She lifts my heart with her unconditional love. She is my faithful companion. She is always present, always there for me. She knows me, from a place beyond words. She is always at my service, with no thought for herself. I am ever indebted to the sweetness of her presence.
She is my G-O-D—oh, I mean D-O-G.
Since getting on the Path, Judith’s emotions were going on a roller coaster. She couldn’t always tell how she felt, and whether she should be laughing or crying at something.
Judith started to ponder. “If I could fathom how much darkness is in me, how profoundly unenlightened I am, I would become discouraged and depressed.”
“Fortunately, however, if I could only sense how deeply and unconditionally God loves me, I would become hopeful and inspired.”
“Unfortunately, if I knew how deep my resistance is to God’s love, I would be discouraged and depressed again.”
“Fortunately, if I could comprehend how vast God’s forgiveness is…”
“Unfortunately, if I could clearly see how little faith I had in God’s grace…”
And so on it went. She felt like a yo-yo, being yanked back and forth. So she finally let go of trying to figure it all out. Instead, she simply opened to God’s presence as best she could and let herself experience her feelings in the moment as best she could. She decided to trust and let Jesus and Mary guide her process. Whew!
Playing The Master
Master Jesus invited me to a game of chess, and I accepted. I had no idea that He even knew how to play chess. I figured, He’s so busy taking on people’s sins and healing wounded hearts, what experience could He have with chess? I mean, He’s a Master, but He’s no Grandmaster! Whereas I had played a fair amount of chess in my days, and I kept up with the latest theory on chess openings.
When we got down to playing, somehow in His presence the game took on a life of its own. The pieces came alive in my imagination, and every move took on a high degree of drama and significance that I usually didn’t experience in a chess game. This kept me very focused, but I felt almost torn apart by the fears and desires of the Kings and their kingdoms. This was a whole new game. However, I kept my resolve, and I felt that I was playing my best.
Through it all, I noticed that the Master stayed serene, and I couldn’t tell what he understood about the positions on the board. He seemed to care deeply about each piece in their relationship to the whole, and yet He never seemed to get lost in any of it. He moved the pieces with such grace that I was in awe of the art. Where had He learned this? I had never seen Him play and had never even heard of Him playing chess. In contrast, I had heard that the devil was a keen chess player and had won many a soul through wagering on the game.
Well, I thought that I had the advantage, and I began to feel sorry for Him. But, I told myself, this is just a game, just play within the rules, and I don’t have to take care of Him. After all, He can handle losing! Besides, He’s probably just trying to teach me some sort of lesson. Finally, I felt I had surrounded His King with my pieces, although He didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest. As I was wondering what He would do next, He calmly sacrificed His Queen in a most unexpected manner. That is, to me it was unexpected, but to Him it just seemed obvious. I couldn’t sense any cold calculation from Him, nor indeed any sense of revenge. He just didn’t seem caught up in the drama, though He seemed fully present to the board. But in my own case, I realized to my horror that I had overextended my resources in my attack, and I had neglected the safety of my King. How compellingly this mirrored how I live my life. And now the tables were turned, and it was my King that was being hunted.
Strong feelings of anger, rage, fear, and vulnerability arose within me. I could feel a strong identification with the King, and I felt mortal and helpless. My pieces, protecting him, were being captured one by one, or else they were on squares where they were totally helpless. I could hardly stand the pressure. I felt like totally upsetting the table, but I dared not indulge in such childish behavior in His presence. I was caught up in the struggle, the rage and the pride of a sovereign, who was me. I was sweating and shaking uncontrollably. And the more I strove to tighten the reins on it all, the more uncontrollable it seemed.
And then just as I saw the checkmate on the next move and was feeling the ground beneath me give way and the jaws of death about to annihilate me, the Master reached out His hand. I shook it, our eyes met, and I felt totally loved and supported. I then realized that it all was only a game, that I had gotten totally caught up in the drama of it all. I also realized that He had only played this game for my sake, to bring out certain obstructions in my soul for healing. I was speechless the whole rest of the day and went into quiet meditation. I was crying inside, then weeping for joy of release. That was no mere chess game we were playing! I was playing my life and having it transformed.
The Adversary Recruits
The Adversary was down on his luck lately. People were more educated these days, and it was harder to use the old methods to distract souls from the Path. So today, Adversary tries a new tactic. Here he is in a downtown park, recruiting a young boy. He sees the boy eyeing a handsome toy sailboat in the lake. “Say, young lad, how would you like a boat like that? I can give you a boat twice as big. Would you like that?”
Seeing that the strange man talking to him might have connections, he tried to bargain. He said, “Nah, that’s not what really interests me. What I want is a fleet of yachts.” The Adversary thought for a moment and said, “OK, I could match that.” The boy knew how to bargain. “On second thought, what I really want is to be the commander of an entire navy.” “All right, I can throw that in too.” “OK, it’s a deal,” said the boy. “What’s my part of the bargain?”
“It’s quite simple.” He took out a scroll of parchment. “You simply sign here, giving me power over your soul, in return for my part of the bargain. And I can tell you, it’s a good bargain, for I have seen your soul and it’s not worth very much, I can tell you.” “Yeah, I know what you mean,” the boy said.
“It’s a deal.” The Adversary walks away pleased with himself.
After signing, the boy skates back to his mom, who is relaxing in the sun, reading the newspaper. “What the good news?” asks his mom. The boy grinned. “I get to command a whole fleet of ships and all I have to give in return is the bottom of my old shoe!”
The novice asked Jesus, “Jesus, I love you! What do I need to do to follow you?”
“Simple,” replied Jesus. “Simply give up your distractions. Give yourself over to me.”
“Why, that sounds easy. Like what distractions?”
“For example, your thirst for riches.” And the moment he said this, the novice was swept away in a vision of immense wealth, of gold and precious stones, of palaces and lavish splendor.” “I…I never knew I had such a thirst,” he said, astonished.
“For example, your lust for sensual pleasures.” And the moment he said this, the novice was swept away in a vision of carnal pleasures. Visions of young females of enchanting beauty transported the young man. Irresistible attractions drew him now. “I…I never knew I had such desires,” he breathlessly admitted.
“For example, your lust for power.” And the moment he said this, the novice was swept away in a vision of vast estates of royal power, holding sway over millions of lives. He saw vast armies at his beck and call, and loyal ministers willing to obey his every command. “I…I never knew I had such a lust for power,” he said sheepishly.
Jesus said, “This is just a sample of the things you need to give up.”
The man was humbled. “I am shocked. I thought I was of the Light, and now I feel that I am of the legions of darkness. How can I pretend to follow you when I see the dark forces that hold my heart in their merciless grip?”
Then Jesus revealed his Light and Love. In their presence, all else fell away like empty husks, like dust and ashes. “Jesus, I want only you! I want only to serve you!” he confessed.
“Indeed. In your pride, you want to be the world’s greatest saint. Be humble enough to step onto the Path where you are, and I will help you.”
“All You Need Is Love…”
Two new students joined the Order and were comparing notes. “I’m was a devotee of Krishna,” said Kelly. “I was a rock star groupie,” said Shelly. “What made you switch from Krishna to Jesus?” asked Shelly. “Krishna and I got along fabulously at first,” mused Kelly, “but then the relationship got less passionate and more distant. To tell you the truth, I think I was getting jealous of his flirting with all the other women in our group. Anyway, then Jesus showed up, and it’s been a passionate love affair from day one. How about you?”
“Well, I was making it with every rock star I could find, but life wasn’t so glamorous on the road. And these guys didn’t always live up to their rock image. I decided to make it with the Big One, you know what I mean.” “You mean like ‘Jesus Christ Superstar?’” asked Kelly. “Yeah, sort of. I guess I had so many images of the almost naked Jesus on the cross all those years growing up. And then hearing about his passion really turned me on. I had so many unfulfilled longings, you know.” “Yeah, me too,” said Kelly.
“You, too? Wow, we’ve got so much in common!” said Shelly. Then Kelly shared, “You know, Krishna was not the first for me. I was a spiritual groupie, moving from one spiritual group to another in my search for love. But now I’m more disciplined, and I feel like I can settle into this path. What about for you, Shelly? Don’t you miss all the drugs and sex?” “Actually, I get so high and turned on with Jesus that I hardly notice the difference.”
“Yeah, what a path! All you need is love, love, love!” “Yeah, high-five me on that one, sister!”
At The Mall
My older brother and I went to the mall. Since I was the younger, I looked up to him for life wisdom. I trailed along, impressionable as always, taking it all in. He was my guide as we made our way through the crowd. “See that chick over there? Wow, is she ever tight! She is every guy’s dream!” And then, “See that dude over there? He’s playing like he’s so cool, to impress that chick passing by. Man, he is so obvious!” And later, “See that dude up the way? He’s the top athlete at our school. He squashed the competing basketball team with a slam dunk at the last minute! And he scored the winning touchdown last week at the football playoffs. He’s a winner.” And then, “Now check out this guy to our left. He tried to get the hottest chick in the class to the prom, and she flat out turned her nose up at him. What a loser!” So that’s the head space of today’s sophomore, I thought. I was impressed, he seemed so sure of himself. But I was left with some misgivings. It didn’t all sit well with me. Somehow, I felt there had to be something more.
So next week, I went to the mall with this way cool guy who’s been telling me about various secret initiations he’s been getting from some master or other. All this is way over my head, but I’m curious, you know what I mean? So he becomes my guide for the day through the crowd at the mall. “Hey, see that chick over there?” Trying to be in the know, I said, “Oh, yeah, she is real hot. If I were her age, I would definitely ask her to the prom.” But he responded, “Oh, no way! I can see through her superficial mask. Her aura is oozing with the colors of jealousy and anger. Whew! Keep your distance from her!” Then later, “See that guy over there? He is totally in his head. He probably can’t even sense that he’s in his body.” “See that guy sweet talking that gal over there? She’s falling for him, but he’s only dreaming about that blond down the way, who he doesn’t have the nerve to approach. What a pretender!” Then later, “Now take in this dude coming down our way. He’s dressed really well, and his aura is glistening. Man, that is the way to be! You can tell he’s got special connections.” I was quite impressed. This guy is way beyond my level, but somehow, I felt upset inside about his judging everybody as if he were God.
That night, I fell asleep with my experiences at the mall turning over within me. I had a vivid dream in which I met Jesus. He told me, “Everyone sees others the way they themselves are, not the way the people are. I’m very aware of all that your friend sees and a lot more. But I look deeper into their God-Self. To me, no one is really more special than any other. I see everyone as that spark of light that came out of God and which reincarnates over and over on their journey back Home!”
What do I know? The next time I went to the mall, I didn’t know who’s in and who’s out, or what color their aura was, or what reincarnation was about, or what the God-Self is. But I saw a spark of light in everyone, and I could see everyone held equally in the light of Love.
The Adversary Is Hard At Work For You
The Adversary is hard at work all over the world, and he has a hard job of rousing the sleeping soul (even if it is through the back door). In all the work that he does for us, we should at least not take him for granted. We should at least be conscious of his work within us. Here’s just a small sample of a day’s work.
Kansas City, MO: A little boy is saying his bedtime prayers, “Dear Father in heaven, please help my little doggie get better, and a new bike for Christmas would also be nice. Thank you.” The Adversary answers the call. “Hello, little Jimmy. I’m so glad you like God. But you know, the world is a very big place. Beyond your house, there are other houses where other people live. And beyond that, there are other towns, and beyond that, other countries, seemingly without end. And look out your window. Do you see all those stars? Around those stars there are other planets, which might have countries and towns and houses, each with little boys and little dogs.” “Wow,” said Jimmy, I never thought of that.” “Yes, and God is busy keeping all those planets in their places around the stars. So now that you see the big picture, I hope you can appreciate that you are only a very, very small part of it. So to expect the great God to take care of your little doggie and your wishes doesn’t make much sense, does it?” “No, I suppose you’re right,” said Jimmy.
Paris, France: An overweight woman is trying to cut down on her sweets. The Adversary heeds the call. “Oh, dear Marianne, you are so full of life, filled with all those luscious desires for more. Surely one little candy more couldn’t hurt?” “Hmm,” thinks Marianne, “surely it is only a little candy. Ahhh!”
New York, NY: A young worker making his way up the corporate ladder pauses with a moment of doubt about the dog-eat-dog world of business competition, as his conscience also nags him about dedicating himself to helping the poor. At the right moment, the Adversary shows up. “My dear young man, why the doubt? Why the guilt that prevents you from putting your whole heart into your work? When you doubt that you have sufficient will to power, that is not the time to turn within and mope. No, look out your skyscraper window and look at all the world there is to conquer. Think about the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous. Think about all the money being made by the banking houses around you!” “Thank you, I really needed that. I feel better now. Honestly, I don’t know what comes over me sometimes.”
Munich, Germany: A young woman is thinking of signing up for a workshop, “Let go and let God.” The Adversary arrives in the nick of time. “Just consider this, Annie. Did you ever think of why letting go appeals to you? It’s your secret laziness and irresponsibility. You’d love to have God do everything for you, wouldn’t you? What would happen to you if you indulged this temptation to let go? You’d be a bum on the streets, that’s what. Do you know where you’d be if I didn’t keep prodding you?!
Seek And Ye Shall Find
Two brothers, Germaine and Alsace, were raised by kind, humble, pious parents. By the time they came of age, they had had enough of their parents’ life of poverty and simplicity. One thing that sunk in from all their parents’ quoting from scripture was this: “Seek and ye shall find.” So they went their separate ways to seek their fortune in the world. Their desire for success, for achievement, for possessions, for worldly pleasures, knew no bounds.
Through hard work, each fulfilled his dreams. Each had the money, the women, the limousines, the lavish houses, and all the rest that seemed to make life worthwhile.
Unfortunately, it all went sour. The money brought more worldly cares and headaches, and eventually it ran out. The women betrayed them and sued them in public court, ruining their reputations.
Now, in separate cities, their health failing, and close to dying, they had to face how barren their lives were. A priest was called in to administer the last rites. Germaine said, “Father, my simple parents taught me long ago, ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ This used to fire me up to seek my fortune. Now, I’m not so sure about it.” “What did you seek, and what did you find?” asked the priest. The same scene unfolded in the case of the other brother, Alsace. Germaine replied, “In good faith, I sought the abundance of all the world could offer me. And now I am dying, with the bitterness of knowing that I was misled, and all that abundance is a trick, a lure, vain and empty.” And with that, he died.
Alsace, in response to his priest’s question, replied, “Father, I sought happiness and love, like all other people. But I foolishly looked in the wrong places. I found that the outer things do not satisfy. So now I die, rid of all my worldly cares and possessions. I die content, for I have sought and I have found.”
Standing Before Jesus
“Hey, Jesus, my man. How you doin’? Long time, no see. How you getting’ on? Me, I’m doin’ mighty fine, mighty fine. I got my big house, my fancy car, some gorgeous gals who adore me, and money to burn. How ‘bout you? You look like you’re still in that plain old garment I saw you in last time we met.”
Jesus stood there, looking at the man with an open heart and eyes of great kindness.
“Oh, so what’s up? You not in the talkin’ mood? What’s the matter, I’m not good enough to speak to? Or is your mouth zipped up? I can see the disdain in your eyes. You think I’m not good enough for the likes o’ you? Well, fuck you, too, brother! Those Romans should have just finished you off years ago! I hate you, you mothafucka!”
Jesus simply stood there, his heart full of compassion.
As the man looked into the Master’s eyes, he sank to his knees, crying. “I can’t take it! I can’t take it no more! I pour out my hatred and you don’t throw it back. You just show love. I don’t know how to handle this! Jesus, I am such a sinner, my life is a joke, I’m all washed up. I’m a fake, a scoundrel, a poor excuse for a human being! Jesus, please save me, I’m dyin’!”
Jesus stood there, reaching out his arms with comfort and joy.
The man looked up and smiled, tears falling from his eyes. “Master, thank you for your saving grace. You know I’ve always you! Feeling your Light within me, now I can rest in God.”
Hands Uplifted In Prayer
The first time I went in for communion, I lifted my hands up with a firm “No!” I couldn’t take all the Love and Light coming at me. It felt invasive.
The next time I went in, I raised my hands in a gesture of surrender, as if to say, “I give up! It’s no use trying to shut You out, and I can no longer stand living in this inner hell.”
The next time I went, I lifted my arms in a gesture of submission, as if to say, “Help! Save me! Your Light has shown me my depths of darkness. Your Love has shown me my unwillingness to love, my inability to love. I am a miserable wretch!”
The next time, I was able to raise my hands in adoration and gratitude, as if to say, “You are the Source! You are the Light and Love! You are the One!”
Finally, I was able to feel the connection, the God-Self within in union with the Light Above. I was able to raise my hands as if to say, “Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow!”
Giving A Blessing
After a recent workshop, several brand new people showed up at the local Center of Lite. Alphonso, a new student, introduced himself facetiously as Father Pedro (the head of the Center and co-founder of the Order), who happened to be traveling at the time. As he lifted his hand as if in blessing, one of the visitors fell on her knees and with great devotion said, “Bless me, Father!” The novice was totally unprepared for this. Since the center priests were out of the room at the moment, and not knowing what else to do, he automatically placed his hands on her head and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, receive the blessing you need.” He himself was almost knocked over by the voltage that came through. The woman practically swooned, and when she came to, she said she was cured of depression she’d been plagued with for years. She had considered ending her life that very day.
That night in meditation, the novice asked Jesus what that was all about. Jesus explained that the woman was in great need, and that since the novice was the only one available at the moment, Jesus had used him as a channel. It became quite apparent to the novice that he was dealing with real power, and he never played around with it again.
God Is Great
The novices lined up as usual in the pews, in precise order, for the daily exhortation by Father Pedro. He cleared his throat as he noticed that one of the brothers was absent. Then he proceeded in a dull monotone: “God is infinite, God is omniscient, God is omnipotent, God is omniscient…” The monks had heard all this a hundred times before, and for them by now it was all empty words. And by now, their minds were on breakfast, assorted itchings, anything to relieve the monotony.
Brother Bartholomew was coming late, having tended to a wounded bird on his way to morning prayers. Then, as he was rushing to the chapel, he was stopped in his tracks by a common daisy. Maybe it was the play of the light, maybe it was the stillness of the air, maybe it was the new moon in Pisces, or maybe it was some combination of all of these and more. Maybe it was simply that his time had come. Whatever it was, that flower spoke to this brother, and he fell to his knees as he beheld the infinite wisdom and love of the Creator.
As the brother came in quietly and humbly to the back pew, Father Pedro noticed him and intoned in a voice that rang through the little chapel, “Brother Bartholomew, God is great in His patience.” “Yes, indeed, holy Father, God is Great,” the brother replied.
The State District Attorney felt under a lot of pressure, seeing that the number of unsolved crimes for the year was soaring. He got tough as nails on crime, and in the process many innocent people got thrown in jail. He was even accused of doctoring the evidence against them.
Meanwhile, his tough as nails policy wasn’t working so well at home. His teenage daughter was in the height of rebellion against his rigid demeanor, and his wife was complaining that she no longer felt loved.
One night he got it from both ends. His daughter yelled at him that he was being unfeeling and demanding. Before he could respond with, “But that’s my job as the head of the household!” she slammed the door on him. Then his wife was yelling at him for about the same thing, and before he could defend himself with, “It’s my job, and I’m under too much pressure to change my ways,” she threw him out of the house. He felt he was at his end, and he didn’t see any way out. He crashed to sleep in a nearby motel, where he had an unusual dream. He was in the church of his boyhood, and there before him was the Virgin Mary.
She raised one hand and seemed about to say something, when the attorney spoke up. “I know, I know, all you women are out to get me! You don’t like my tough-as-nails program. You want me to be more compassionate, loving, caring. I know I come across as mean and hard, but understand that it’s my job to make sure that no criminal goes unpunished. And I know, I know, you want to make sure that, in my zeal, no innocents go punished.”
The Virgin Mary simply said, “My hope is that no criminal goes unforgiven.”
Joe gets wakened by his alarm clock at the usual time. Just like every other day, he reflects. He brushes his teeth, takes a shower, has a cup of coffee and a muffin. Just like every other day, he notes. He puts on his usual clothes, goes to work the usual route. Everything as usual--maybe drab and uninspiring, but at least the familiarity of the ordinary.
Father Joseph awakens at the usual time for prayers. Before he even gets out of bed, he is immersed in his connection with God. Just like every day, he notes. He brushes his teeth, takes a shower, has a cup of coffee and a muffin. Each activity is part of his communion with the Presence of God. Just like every day, he muses. He puts on his usual attire, he goes to officiate at communion. Just like every day. The same words, the same chalice, the same Divine Love and Light. Everything as usual, glorious and inspiring. The familiar, sacred Ordinary of every moment.
The top brass at the Pentagon was holding an emergency meeting with the President of the United States in their underground war room. The topic: the return of Jesus Christ.
“Gentlemen,” bellowed the Commander-in-Chief, “There is no contest that we are the greatest power the world has ever known. Not the dinosaurs, not the Roman Empire at its height could stand up to us. But now we are up against something that might be bigger than we are.” Immediately, the room became dead silent. He continued, “The Russians, the Chinese, we can handle them. But this Jesus, we’re not so sure. He threatens to come with a legion of angels (we suspect this might be a code word) to overtake planet earth. As we speak, our supercomputers at Langley are working nonstop trying to figure him out. Our intelligence community has been detaining and interrogating known and suspected Christian leaders of every denomination—and even some nondenominational types. Vorhees, what’s the latest on our weapons capability in sustaining a first strike from Jesus?”
Vorhees, the top researcher on the global missile defense team, stood up at attention. Saluting the chief, he said, “Sir! The latest data coming in indicates that, with all our laser and Star War systems at red alert, we don’t stand a chance in hell.”
Calling on another top flight expert, Dr. Margolin, of a top secret Pentagon-CIA-FBI linked think tank, the Commander-in-Chief continued: Margolin, what’s the score now? “Well, sir, we’ve done a complete background check, and there is still a lot we don’t know and cannot control.” The Commander-in-Chief’s face turned red at these words. “Based on insider information that his Kingdom is not of this world, we can only conclude that we are up against an alien intelligence.”
“There is also the question of where a first strike might originate from. Some analysts have said, “Lo, here,” and others “Lo, there,” but it seems like no one really knows. Then, too, in terms of the hour in which this strike might happen, this seems to be one of the most closely guarded secrets of his realm.”
“God dammit!” stormed the Commander-in-Chief. “Isn’t there anything we know for sure about this threat? How is this going to sit with our standing in the international intelligence community? We’re going to seem like damn sheep!”
Everyone gasped and gulped at the idea. No one had the courage to speak at that point, but finally, Dr. Margolin stood up. “Sir, I hate to say this, but I feel that my integrity forces me to contribute another vital point here. This alien intelligence might be of a magnitude that even our supercomputers can’t keep up with. It might even be something beyond our conception and imagination.”
There was an uneasy dread in the room, but the spell was quickly broken by one of the technicians rushing in with the latest supercomputer print-out from Langley. “Well, confound it, man! What does it say?” demanded the Commander-in-Chief.”
“It says that, based on a nanogoogle of info bites and thousands of hours of cross-checking, the only thing we can safely rely on is that this super-intelligence and force will be loving.”
All eyes turned to the Commander-in-Chief. “But that threatens to upset the very foundations of our military-industrial complex!” he said as he pounded his fist on the table.
Getting The Axe
Roger, a new member of the group, was planning on planting a vegetable garden. Standing in the way was an old gnarled apple tree that hadn’t born fruit in years. So he set out to chop it down. He had asked his teacher about it, and they both decided it would be a good way to experience the presence of Jesus in work. His teacher had recommended that he invite Jesus into his experience before he got started. This would be a good way of exploring prayer in action, Roger thought.
Roger got a sharp axe and prayed, “Dear Jesus, guide my hands as I wield this axe, and be with me in this experience.” He got to chopping, and he admired how swiftly and effortlessly the axe fell. He felt in flow with the divine strength and will.
As he got into the work, he reflected on the Garden of Eden story about the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. As he chopped the tree, he reflected on his own humanity that was not rooted in the earth and that had a mind and free will. He also reflected how in a way he, like the tree, was part of creation, and reached both into the earth and into the heavens.
He remembered how his teacher had reminded him to sense into his body and his emotions, as a way of staying close to his soul and its process. As he felt inside, he found himself living through different scenes of combat. For example, he became his dad in combat in Viet Nam and felt the rage and the helplessness. He became a crusader fighting against the infidels, and he felt both the glory and the fear. He became an Arthurian knight battling dragons, and he felt the selfless dedication to a worthy ideal.
Roger returned to present time with the tree. He noticed its gnarled and twisted shape, and its barrenness reminded Roger of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree. As he wielded the axe, he was surprised to feel such strong feelings of fear and combativeness moving through him. He found himself making the tree into some grotesque enemy, and then he felt fear that the innocent tree was going to get back at him. He reflected on Jesus’ phrase, “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.” He missed the tree on the next swing of the axe, and it came down right on his ankle. He suddenly came back to reality—and light and pain exploded in his body. Shocked, Roger found that the brunt of the force of the blade had been taken by the strap on his boot.
Suddenly Roger remembered Jesus and his teacher. He immediately placed his hand on his foot and called Jesus to place His healing Light into the wound. He totally accepted his responsibility for what happened, and he accepted it as a blessing from Jesus that would deepen his path. He was grateful that he learned his lesson without incurring a more serious injury.
The Adversary Is Outwitted
Father Pedro was in charge of training a dozen men for the priesthood. In the course of the training, Brother Lawrence opted for celibacy vows for life. Father Pedro had him meditate on this for a week, after which a formal ceremony was held in which the priest in training took his vows.
Apparently, the Adversary had a score to settle with the good Father, for that very night he sent his twenty most comely virginal damsels to Brother Lawrence’s room. No one saw him for another three days. Word went through the grapevine, and before the week was out, all the other brothers petitioned Father Pedro for lifelong celibacy vows. “Maybe it’s the intense praying we’ve been doing to the Virgin Mary,” the Father mused. In his zeal, Father Pedro granted their request, and soon none of the brothers were showing up for communion and prayers.
Alarmed, Father Pedro went into meditation and found out what was going on. “How could I be so blind? And Jesus and Mary, how could you let this happen?” He received guidance to be patient and wait.
In three more days, all the brothers were back at communion, seemingly more enthusiastic than ever. Father Pedro questioned the brothers and discovered that about half of them were wracked with pangs of guilt for breaking their vows and then, after wrestling with themselves, returned with greater dedication. The other half were taken for a ride by the Adversary’s damsels and got the shock of their life. The question of celibacy was shelved for the time being, on an individual basis.
I was doing some inner work, clearing my relationship with the feminine. I had been reviewing the highs and lows of that relationship, and I prayed to Mary for help. She showed me my soul’s longings that kept me searching for all the females of my life. I asked Mary to fill my soul so that I could be whole and have healthy relationships with all females I happen to meet.
I went to sleep that evening dwelling upon the whole subject. I had a most unusual dream, more like a visitation. I saw an attractive young girl, and she somehow seemed familiar. When I approached her, she smiled and said her name was Connie. As our eyes met, I knew who she was—an old friend of my kid sister’s. I didn’t know her much, and she was only peripheral in my own life.
I found myself transported to a scene from when I was a young boy. I felt Mary’s presence holding the space, so I knew it was for my own healing. I was about ten, and she was about seven. She asked if she could have a ride on my new bike, and I asked her to drop her pants in exchange for the privilege. She blushed, and dropped her pants as she turned her back to me. I let her ride my bike.
I’d hadn’t thought about that incident for many years, as it never seemed that important. I was glad that circumstances were such that nothing more ever came of it, though I occasionally would wonder if things had gone differently. But now in the dream, it was a woman before me. “Connie, is that you?” I asked. “Yes, it is I in present time. I know I’m no longer so cute, but it is the same person. Please listen, I don’t have much time. I’m dying, and I need to clear my past.” “But that was such a minor incident,” I interrupted. “You didn’t know it, but I looked up to you. I guess I had a crush on you. What you asked me to do humiliated me, but I felt I had to do it because I wanted to be in your good graces.” I braced myself for what was to come, and she continued.
“That incident, though uneventful for you, had a major impact on my soul in negative ways. It set up a pattern that continued through my life. After much suffering, it led me into therapy and then onto a spiritual path.” “So what do you want from me now?” I asked. “In my heart, I know that you have not escaped that incident unscathed, for it set up negative patterns for you as well. I am not here to blame you, but to release the energy we created for the sake of the healing of our souls.” “Oh, my God,” I thought. I stopped being defensive and began to open. I felt humbled. “What can I do now?” I asked.
“I forgive you for what you have done, and I also ask for your forgiveness, so that my soul can be free.” “Of course I accept your forgiveness. What do I have to forgive you for?” Connie said, “For all the anger I have held in reaction to you. I am dying of cancer now. Never mind that. I only want to free my soul before it frees itself from this body.” I wept for us both. We both wept. And we had the healing that each of us needed. Thank you, Mother Mary.
Love And Hate
Brother Daniel came to a meeting with his teacher, all bright-eyed and buoyant. “How are you progressing these days, Daniel?” asked his teacher. “I am making so much progress,” he said, evidently quite satisfied with himself. “I feel so much love for my brothers and sisters, for my wife, my children, my parents. I love the sun, I love the sky, I love the earth, I love the animals and plants, I love my body, I love my soul, I love myself. I am full of love. Oh, yes, and of course I love Jesus, Mary, and God.”
“This is all fine and good,” said his teacher. “But Jesus has said, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.’”
Daniel was shocked, as if the rug had been pulled out from under him. “But I wanted so much to be a disciple of Jesus,” cried Daniel, and he left feeling utterly disconsolate.
The next day, Daniel met his teacher again. “So, how are you progressing on the Path, Daniel?” asked his teacher. “Oh, I have made a complete turnaround. I have come to hate my parents, my brothers and sisters, my wife and children. I even hate the sun and moon and stars, the sky and the earth, and all the animals and plants, even my pet Fido. Even more, I hate my own body, my life, I hate myself.”
His teacher heard these words and felt that he was going through an intense process. So she said, “Very good, Daniel, you have come far along the Path. But know this: Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your mind and with all your strength’ as the greatest commandment. ‘And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’”
Daniel wanted so much to be the perfect disciple, and he wanted so much to please his teacher. At first he felt angry and hopeless, that whatever he did, he wasn’t going to get it right. This was an old pattern in him, and he knew it. However, a new light was dawning within him, and so he took his teacher’s words to heart and went his way humbly.
The next day, Daniel met with his teacher again. “How is your progress today, Daniel?” asked his teacher. “I have learned to love myself, and I have learned to love my neighbor as myself. I love my brothers and sisters, my wife, my children, my parents, I love everyone as myself.”
“Very good, Daniel. Now go inside and feel deeply into that love for yourself,” directed his teacher. Daniel went deep inside. “It is love for God, and God’s love for me. It is all one Love.” “Very good, Daniel, you are travelling the Path.”
Poverty, Chastity, Obedience
A reporter for the L.A. Times was sent to do some investigative reporting on the newly opened monastery in the heart of Beverly Hills. He secured an exclusive interview with the official PR coordinator for the monastery, Brother Sebastian. The reporter was taken on a tour of the extravagant and sprawling complex, filled with sweet incense everywhere.
The reporter questioned the good brother concerning rumors of flagrant violations of the professed rule of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Brother Sebastian was careful to explain that this monastery was reserved for the elect culled from their nationwide chain of monasteries, those who had proven themselves through rigorous training and disciplines.
“For example,” explained Brother Sebastian, “Father Athanasius, the head of our order, once fasted for forty days in the Nevada desert, to prove that he was beyond the desires of the flesh.” “Do you mean to prove to himself or to God?” queried the reporter. “No, no, my good man, to the press, of course!” “Oh, I see,” said the reporter, as he scribbled furiously in his notepad.
The reporter, shocked at the opulence of the monastery, questioned the rule about poverty. Good Brother Sebastian explained that none of the monks actually personally owned any of it, and there was complete nonattachment to it all. “We simply enjoy worldly goods as gifts from the Creator, and for His glory,” he explained.
Before the reporter could fully take that in, he was amazed to see scantily clad voluptuous young women parading through the halls, making him think this was more like a harem than a monastery. “But surely, you cannot account for this by your professed rule of celibacy,” he stammered. “No problem,” explained Brother Sebastian calmly. “When we enjoy wine, women, and song, we do so with complete detachment.” “I know, I know,” added the reporter, “all for the glory of God.” “Exactly, you are catching on,” Sebastian commented. “Our beloved founder, Jesus Christ, was well-known for hanging out with publicans and sinners. He set a model for us all.”
As the reporter was trying to make sense of all this, he was unprepared for the next room, which seemed a chaos of activities. Some monks were meditating, while others were surfing the web for pornographic sites, while others were gambling or indulging in various sensual excesses. The stunned reporter asked, “But what about your rule of obedience? It seems to me that these monks are indulging in whatever they feel like.”
“Exactly,” answered Brother Sebastian, “I’m glad you said ‘seems,” for in actuality these monks are vowed to obedience to their inner God-Self, which is true freedom.” “So it’s all for the glory of God,” the reporter observed. “Yes, indeed, the God within,” Sebastian added for emphasis. “You see, it is not what you do so much as the consciousness in which you do it. Christianity is no longer stuck in the Middle Ages but has now truly entered the New Age. It’s a whole new ball game.” “I see,” said the reporter, as he downed a shot of vodka.
The Legend Of Billy Swaggart
Everyone knew Billy, and most of those who knew him had reason to fear him, too. He certainly was a man to reckon with. Today was his birthday, and he was in his favorite bar and grill with his buddies, having the time of their lives. Balloons, kazoos, and cuddly stuffed animals were there aplenty, amidst delicious hors d’oeuvres and beer on tap for everyone.
Billy was having a great time reminiscing and, as usual, bragging. “Yeah, let me tell you about the time I swindled this elderly couple in Florida out of their life savings. Man, I came across so smooth, but I was laughing all the way to the bank.”
“And how about the time me, Jake and Manny tricked these little kids out of all the money they made that day at their lemonade stand. Of course, it’s not that the money was so much, it was just to teach those snooty kids a lesson. Yeah, what was that lesson, now? Maybe it was not to trust adults. Hah! That’ll do it!”
“And you know that no one ever double-crossed ol’ Billy and lived to tell about it. Yeah, that’ll serve ‘em.”
“But those who stick with me, man, I make it worth their while. Maybe in dough, maybe in drugs, maybe in women--hey, whatever.”
He raised his beer mug. “Yeah, and let’s drink to all those broads that have crossed my path. I don’t let them go until I’ve enjoyed them every way I want. Yeah, that’s Billy.”
The party went on late into the night. While most of his pals had gone to sleep or left, Billy was still straight as an arrow. He noticed a man in black seated in the corner staring at him. Who knows how long he’d been there? “Who the hell are you, fella? Do I know you?” “What matters is I know you, if even for the hell of it,” the stranger replied. “Hey, no one talks to Billy like that, stranger.” He reached for his .45. “But hey, why don’t you come on over here where I can see you better?” The stranger picked up his drink and sat straight across from him.
Billy eyed the stranger warily, still fingering his gun. “Go ahead, shoot.” The stranger looked straight into him, then at his watch, and announced, “Billy, nothing personal, but I’ve come to get you, and time is running out.” “Hey, hold on a minute here,” said Billy. “Who’s talkin’ here? I’m the one who goes after people, and I’m the one who tells them when their time is up!”
“Well, Billy, it’s like this. See that cat over there by the bar?” He pointed his index finger at it, and it just dropped down and died. “I guess you could say its time was up,” said the stranger. “Whoa, who the hell are you, mister?” Billy asked, uneasily. “You just said it, pardner! As I was saying, you’re time is just about up,” as he glanced at his watch. Just then, the wall clock chimed at a quarter to midnight.
Billy squirmed nervously in his chair. “Say, that was quite a stunt you just pulled. You know, with a skill like that, you could be a real asset to my team. You and me, we could hook up real tight!” “Silence, you fool!” the stranger shot back. “Time is running out on you, and the fate of your soul hangs in the balance. Now listen carefully to what I have to say…” Suddenly, having a gun by his side no longer gave Billy any comfort. But he could still rely on his bargaining power.
“Hold on, now, you hear? There must be some mistake. Look, I have lots of money. I can give you jewels, gold, drugs, women, you name it.” “Sorry, where I come from, that’s all worthless,” said the stranger. “Surely, there must be some way out, some loophole. Look, I’ve gotten out of bigger scrapes than this. I can do it,” he said half pleading.
“Ok, there is one thing, Billy. When I tally up your actions on the negative side of the ledger, there is nothing I’ve found to balance it on the positive side.”
“But there’s gotta be something, something I’ve done good in my life!”
“Well, can you think of anything at all? Time is running out,” said the stranger.
Billy started racking his brain, which was a bit cloudy at the time. “Can’t we talk this over tomorrow morning?” he asked. “It will be too late by the stroke of midnight tonight,” said the stranger.
“Ok, ok, I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” As he searched and searched, he was forced to go further back in time and deeper within. Well, how about the time I helped out a sweet girl scout by buying all her cookies when I was twelve?” “Sorry, that doesn’t count, since that was the girl next door, Beth, and the following night you seduced her and she got kicked out of the girl scouts. Try again.
“Oh, yeah, I remember that. Well, what about the time I helped an old lady cross the street when I was ten?” “Yeah, right. And then you demanded she pay you a tip. You’re going to have to go back further, if there ever was an innocent day in your life, Billy Swaggart!” answered the stranger.
“God help me!” Billy said, shaking and sweating profusely. “I’m not ready to go! Wait, wait, what about the time I was five years old, I found a little puppy whimpering and I picked it up and took it back to its mommy.” He sighed as he recalled that event and contacted that innocent, loving boy inside him. A tear trickled down his cheek as he remembered himself crying for his own mommy.
“Yes,” said the stranger, “And do you recall why you were crying?” “Yes, I do,” Billy said, “my own mother, rest her soul, had just died, and I felt horrible, sad, and angry.” “Yes, that was the day you lost your faith in God, and you started down the wrong path,” the stranger explained. “Can you go inside and feel that little boy’s pain?” “Aw, do I have to?” Billy whined and felt like a little child. “Yes, you must, if you have any good left within you, you miserable wretch!” thundered the stranger. “OK, OK…I, I can feel it.” Then, in a gentler voice, the stranger continued, “Now, can you go inside and comfort that little boy?” “Yes, I can, I can, I can!” wailed Billy, as he embraced a stuffed animal and sank to his knees.
At that moment, the clock struck midnight. “You are lucky, my friend. You have a reprieve. Go and sin no more!” And Billy walked away a changed man.
It was my birthday. I figured I’d worked plenty hard and had spent enough time helping others. Now it was my day, and I prayed for a day of personal pleasures. I figured I’m worth it, and surely God wouldn’t begrudge me some pleasures out of His vast storehouse of abundance. Tomorrow, I’ll pray for others and for deepening my soul. But for today, just for today, it was going to be just for me. I’ll tell you, it took a lot of personal courage to pray for this and not fall into a trap of guilt. I felt God gave it His seal of approval.
I started off the day with some decadent chocolate cake and ice cream. Please understand, this was not my usual breakfast! I savored every bite as it melted in my mouth. How delicious!
Next, I put on some of my favorite music on headphones, as I totally relaxed my body and let the sounds play themselves through me. I was transported into ecstasies, floating in a world of exquisite energies and harmonies that felt like the universe was dancing in delight.
Then I got bolder. I scheduled an expensive whole body massage at the local spa. I totally let go and surrendered my body into the capable hands of the masseuse. I felt like a little baby being held, cradled, and cherished. My body became an open vessel for the flow of healing energies. I’ve never felt so whole.
The day was getting on. I had one more prayer, if I even dared to ask for it. I wanted a complete sexual experience—not with someone I had to pay, but with someone who wanted it as much as I. I didn’t have anyone in mind, but there was an image of the sort of girl of my dreams. I didn’t know how it might happen, but I was bold enough to believe I might have my birthday wish.
Sure enough, I was walking in the park, when I met this girl who seemed to me a goddess. It was like I was falling in love on the spot. I came up to her with full faith, and we started talking. Everything clicked like magic, so I knew it was all unfolding in God’s plan. After a long walk together, we had a wonderful dinner and went back to my place and had the most wonderful sex. I could hardly believe it, but I figured, with God all things are possible, right?
But that’s not the end of the story. I was resting in this feeling of fullness, completion, love, beauty, pleasure, all wrapped in one—that is, the one with whom I was sharing all this. This was more than sex, this was mystical union, God/Goddess in human form. Then all of a sudden, in the midst of my reverie, she said she had to go. “Wait, what…why…how…I, I don’t even know your name…“ She was gone! I lay there, my heart wide open, now wounded and bleeding, unbelieving, uncomprehending, wasted. From a peak of bliss and fulfillment, I crashed into a feeling of incalculable loss and emptiness, a wasteland. I was plunged into the core of the deepest longing--and the deepest pain--of my heart and my life.
I cried out loud in my pain to Jesus and Mary. And God Himself, God Herself, came to me and filled me. It was the fullness of love, beauty, meaning, fulfillment, but it was no longer filling a longing, or even filling me. Every cell in my body, every atom in the cells, was on fire with the dance of creation. It was the most beautiful fullness of Love itself that I cannot describe. The ecstasy of it all put all other pleasures in the shade. It simply and totally eclipsed the perpetual “me, me, me, I want, I need.”
I felt the deepest gratitude for the grace I received, and I relaxed into a blissful and clear peace. Jesus and Mary then showed me the next stage of the unfolding. They guided me in a review of my day. I relived the pleasures of the day from the beginning, but this time from the perspective of that total fullness of Love. As I re-experienced each pleasure, I was acutely conscious of the absence of that Love. It felt a core longing in my soul, the longing that propelled my search for pleasure and fulfillment--and I now realized that it was a longing that only God could fill.
So for example, I was eating the cake and ice cream, enjoying all the pleasures in every detail, only now it was all painful. I could intensely feel the absence of the Beloved, and these pleasures only made a mockery of it, as if they were imposters pretending that they could be the Beloved. And I had to go through the whole day like this. Even the sex with that goddess of a girl could only bring me to tears. I wept and wept, until everything was gone and I was alone. I had never felt so alone, so empty. My only prayer was for the Beloved, and that prayer was granted. And so, truly, with God all things are possible.
It was late Sunday afternoon. The Master Teacher, Father Pedro, had just concluded a rousing and enlightening weekend workshop on Guidance. In closing, he said, “Remember that, while Guidance is from God, we contact it from the God Self within.” Rob and Jerry, two brand new novices, were excited about the possibility of contacting guidance in every moment, which they were told that priests enjoy.
The very next day, bright and early for silent meditation before communion, they arrived at the chapel. Rob had been praying and visualizing for the front row seat on the Mary side. When they came in, Jerry went right for that seat and raised his arms in prayer. Rob just stood there a moment and then said to Jerry, in a whisper, “Guidance tells me that I am supposed to sit here.” Jerry responded in a louder whisper with, “Guidance tells me that I am meant to be right where I am.” Rob tuned in and whispered, “OK, Guidance tells me that you can stay in that chair,” while he started dragging the chair, with Jerry in it, to the side. Jerry sprang to his feet and almost yelled, though still in a whisper, “And Guidance tells me to punch you in the kisser!”
They started going after each other, when the Master Teacher himself walked into the chapel. “What do you two think you’re doing in this chapel devoted to God?” demanded Father Pedro. To which the two novices replied, “Oh, we were practicing following Guidance!”
At The Altar
At the first National Christian Ecumenical Council (NCEC), there was an altar before which Christians of any denomination could pray. Let’s listen in:
A fundamentalist Christian prayed, “Dear Jesus, I thank you that You have shown me the light, that I am not as other Christians who do not have the faith and guts to take Your Word literally.”
A Catholic prayed, “Dear Jesus and Mary, I thank You for showing me the light, that I am not as the fundamentalists who do not know the inner significance of Your Word, and that I am not as the Protestants who take the Eucharist only symbolically.”
A Protestant prayed, “Dear Jesus, I thank You for showing me the light, that I am not as the Catholics whose vision is clouded by the obstructions of priesthood, saints, institutions, dogmas, pagan mythologies, and so on.”
All of them prayed, “Dear God, I thank You for showing me the light, that I am not as the New Age Christians who water down Your Truth to make it a pseudo East-West mumbo-jumbo.”
A New Age Christian prayed, “Dear Avatar Master Guru Jesus of the Great White Brotherhood, I thank You for showing me the light, that I am not as the traditional Christians who have a watered-down dualistic teaching that has separated itself from the one great stream of the perennial wisdom teachings of the planet.”
And then there was a Christian who prayed, “Dear God, I thank You for listening to one who is not a member of any denomination, who dares not even presume himself to be a disciple of Christ, who is bound by a multitude of sins, but who adores You and asks for Your great mercy on such a sinner.”
When this one prayed, a Voice was heard overhead saying, “Behold my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
I sat alone before God, wanting to simply abide in God. But the more I tried to focus, the more I became aware of many distractions within me, many voices calling for my attention.
I finally decided to take a look at them. As each one came before my view, an inner Voice asked, “What longing within you does this object of desire reflect?” So instead of focusing on the outer object, my attention got thrown back onto my inner longing. Then, with the outer object still within my awareness, the Voice asked, “Is the attainment of this object really going to satisfy your longing?” Whether it was an object of affection or a project I wanted to complete, I had to answer “No” in each case. And with each “No” the object of desire faded away.
As each outer object of attention fell away, I came back again and again to my inner longings, until all of these longings collapsed into one great longing. All I could do was sink into that longing. At first I tried to avoid it, fearing that I was going to collapse into some great black hole of longing, some pit of emptiness from which I would never emerge. But as the inner Voice urged me, I stayed with it, until it revealed itself as a wonderful concentration and purity, for everything else had fallen away.
This longing transformed or deepened into a holy longing for God, which was the essence, the core, of all my longings. What happened next is difficult to describe in language. Perhaps I could say that God came in to fill that longing, to fill the spaces within my being. Perhaps I could say that my longing for God was one way of experiencing what was also God’s longing for me. Or perhaps I could say that the longing for God emptied me so that all that was left was God’s Presence, which was my very being.
Two skeptics came to the Path. One said, “I don’t believe in this. It sounds like a fantasy. I doubt it could really work.” And this person never entered the Path. However, he did collect much data on it and wrote lengthy critiques about it.
The other skeptic said, “I have heard good things about this path, but I can’t take their word for it. I have doubts about it being all that it’s promoted to be. The words sound good, but the reality is generally found to be disappointing. However, I shall find out for myself.” This person entered the Path and discovered its beauty, depth, and richness beyond anything he could have imagined.
Copyright © 2005 by Edward Hirsch