Offerings 4

Temptation In The Wilderness

Rachel had just gone through her baptism, and it had been a deep opening for her. She shared with her brothers and sisters that she had experienced a lot of light during the ritual. Afterwards, a few of the students who were a little further along thought they’d play with her a bit, seeing her as very impressionable and naïve. Perhaps they were a bit jealous, too.

“So Rachel, did your teacher tell you about the Wilderness experience that comes after the baptism?” one of them said.

“I think it might have been mentioned, but I don’t know much about it,” Rachel said.

“Well, you know how Jesus was tempted by the devil after his baptism?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Well, you’d better be prepared for it. Just because you received a lot of light during the baptism, the devil is attracted to you to give you numerous temptations.”

“Really, like what?”

“Sometimes, really scary things. The devil particularly comes on strong to people who have experienced a lot of light.”

“Well, like what?”

“Oh, demons and goblins, and such like. You’d better be looking out for them, that’s all I gotta say.”

They had a good laugh behind her back. The next day, when Rachel came over to the Center, they asked her how things were going.

“Oh, devils of every sort came to me, tempting me in many ways. They were horrific, with bulging eyes and wicked teeth. But Jesus appeared before me and taught me to say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ and they immediately vanished. Afterwards, I felt an immeasurable peace and joy.”

They never played around with her like that again.

What The Blip?!

The Master Teacher, Father Pedro, gave a talk in which he emphasized, “If God didn’t keep you in mind for just a fraction of a second, you would be gone, you’d cease to exist--completely, just like that!” He snapped his fingers for emphasis.

Whatever else he said that day, this is what lodged in my mind and heart. It was almost shocking, to think that every moment I was bordering upon complete extinction, total annihilation. There would be no funeral, no trace, nothing. As if I had never existed! Somehow, this prospect felt terrifying to me.

I began to pray earnestly to God: “Dear God, please keep me in mind. Don’t ever forget me! Don’t let me vanish forever! Please!”

After I got over the initial shock, I began to reflect upon it. And it occurred to me, “Wait a minute! If I am just like some blip on the screen of God’s Mind, what am I getting so terrified about? Why am I making such a big deal over some blip? I mean, in contrast to the infinite Mind, the infinite Reality of God, what is all the fuss about? It is this Reality where I should be focused, in the awe of His/Her Presence, knowing this as my true Nature, rather than defending this little blip and getting all worked up over it.

After all, I suppose the infinite God knows what is best. If He/She wants to keep the blip going, fine. And if not, that’s fine too!

Relating To God

When I was young, I had this sense of looking into the night sky and thinking, “Some supreme intelligence must have created all of this.” I figured it must have come from some higher Source. But for me it was like the Prime Mover which, after getting everything into motion, let it go on its own course ever since. Surely, I didn’t feel God was still involved in the world or had any connection to my own life.

As a teenager, I had an experience of the vibrant power of Nature, and I definitely had the sense that God was very much present in it. I had this sense of God as the sun in relation to the earth, as a great King of the universe. My aim was to serve the King, as a loyal servant to His Majesty.

After my father died and I was in my twenties, I recognized God as the Heavenly Father of us all. At first, God had some attributes of the stern father, but as I came to see this was really confusing God with my own father, I came to appreciate God as the Father I never had. After my mother died, I came to feel God as my Mother also, since I recognized that my earthly mother was not the real source of the nurturing I received from her. So then I related to God as my Father-Mother.

With my parents both gone, I felt somewhat isolated in the world. I had friends, but they did not fill my deep needs for friendship. That is when I discovered God as my Friend, perhaps like Adam had in the Garden of Eden. God walked with me as my Friend and counseled me and comforted me through the day.

When I got married, I discovered God as my Lover. God was the inmost center of the core moments of intimacy I experienced with my wife. Perhaps God was also in the gap I experienced between her as a human being and the ideal I was drawn to--something I could never expect her to live up to. I experienced God as the very flame of Love itself, and I was a soul passionately drawn to that Love. I felt that is what the soul was created for, as it felt like the deepest instinct of the soul. God was like the bridegroom, and my soul was like the bride.

Finally, this emerged into full-blown union, as the very consummation of that love. It felt like the natures of the soul and God melted together, or more clearly, that in their deepest ground, they were of one nature. God was then the I AM, the One, which is what I AM.

The Power Of Innocence

Long ago and far away, Gabriel was a local warlord whose only child was killed –some say by accident--by his archrival, the warlord Raphael. Gabriel nurtured revenge in his heart day by day. It came to pass that a servant brought news to Gabriel that Raphael had had a child. Gabriel’s plans began to take shape: he would single-handedly kill the child. He wanted Raphael to feel the pain of losing one’s only child.

He brought in the greatest martial arts experts he could find, and he devoted himself to the disciplines. The experts told him it would require seven years of fulltime commitment, and Gabriel assented. “Fine,” he thought, “let Raphael have seven years to grow as deeply attached to his child as I did to mine.” Finally, Gabriel had mastered the arts. Meanwhile, during this time, Raphael had grown weary of war and conquest and had taken up a spiritual life. His greatest mission was to bring a child into the world who would be raised spiritually from his very birth. Astrologers and soothsayers of the land predicted that this child would be a very special child and would bring many to salvation.

When everything at home was arranged, Gabriel bid his wife and loyal servants goodbye and set off for his archrival’s lands. After days of travel, he reached the borders, and he awaited the crack of dawn. He easily fought his way through the guards with his superior skills. Then he made his way past the guards at their master’s house. They fell with broken necks before they could even utter a cry for help or sound a warning signal.

The guards at the next gate were more formidable and more fiercely loyal. The skirmish was more intense, but in due course, Gabriel’s will prevailed. He met another group of guards at the inner court, and these had been hand-picked and personally trained by their master. After fierce fighting, Gabriel was able to crush them, though not without sustaining some minor injuries. These only made him all the more resolute, as he made his way to the innermost court.

There he had to prove his mettle against Raphael himself, who had years ago distinguished himself as a most respected master of the martial arts. They bowed to one another with respect. Gabriel spoke first: “Raphael, I respect what you have mastered, but I have come to avenge the killing of my only son.” Raphael looked at him deeply and replied, “Gabriel, I have prayed for you every day of my life since that unfortunate accident so many years ago.” Gabriel was not moved. “Your prayers have not touched my heart, which is vowed on revenge. Soon you shall know the pain I have lived with for these many years,” he said. Gabriel made the first move, entering the circle that Raphael was standing in. Raphael stepped aside, saying, “Gabriel, put aside your hatred. I have long ago given up fighting.” “Decide as you will, but I am coming after your only child,” Gabriel announced. The ensuing battle was prolonged and without weapons. Gabriel was quicker and more practiced, and eventually emerged the victor. But by now, his power was becoming depleted. He took no joy in his deeds.

Finally, standing over his opponent’s body, he set his eyes upon the final threshold, where he knew the child must be. Everywhere was silence. He picked up a sword and flung the door open, and there before him was--a girl! Even with his hardness of heart, Gabriel had to admire her unutterable beauty and sweetness, with her long flowing golden hair and radiant complexion.

Here Gabriel stood, all of his enemies vanquished, and with the goal of years of practice before him at his feet. He raised his sword and with a furious cry rushed towards her. But just before he brought the sword down upon her, he hesitated. He looked into her eyes, and her eyes met his, and something moved deeply within him. He threw the sword to the ground and stared at her. “No, sudden death would be too good for you!” he said. Now thoughts of lust filled his mind as the ultimate revenge. “Why do you want to hurt me?” she asked innocently, as a tear slowly descended from the corner of her eye.

He tore her robe open, bent upon desecrating the beauty and innocence that had no right to be. As he did so, a light from her body flooded Gabriel’s eyes, and he was taken aback. All the beauty of life that was in his young son came back vividly before him, and then the pain of the loss of his son crushed in upon him. Then a vivid image of himself as a young child came before him, in all his sweet innocence, and the hatred and fear and lust within himself came before his view as a cursed stain upon that innocence. He could not bear the pain of it. Gabriel the great warrior fell to his knees with a great cry of anguish. “Forgive me! Forgive me, dear God!” he cried. And he made a solemn vow to live in peace and spread it throughout the land.

People Watching

I used to love people watching. I considered it my favorite sport or hobby. It seemed innocent enough, as well as an inexpensive form of entertainment.

But then I came to notice the subtle--and sometimes not so subtle--underplay of judgments, fears, desires, fantasies going on behind the scenes. It got to the point where it became a sort of nervous habit of looking around at people passing by. It got me so removed from myself. It was if looking to others, at who they were and what they were doing, was more important than who I was or what I was doing. It became an obsession, and it became quite uncomfortable. What was I looking for, anyway?

If I saw an attractive guy, I might think, “I’d like to be like him.” Or perhaps I’d judge him and dismiss him, so that I could feel better about myself. If I saw an attractive girl, I might think, “Wow, she looks yummy,” or perhaps, “She looks like she has the grace of God embodied in her.” And then I’d either get distracted and pulled away from myself, or else find some flaw in her so that I could be free of the attraction I felt. When I felt such attraction, I saw it as a weakness, a dependency, and I desperately tried to get free of it. I even saw the other as enslaving me. So there played out a sort of love-hate, or attraction-repulsion dance within me.

All this was disturbing to me and also quite humbling. I prayed about it, meditated on it, invited Jesus and Mary into the picture to lift the pattern or at least give me insight into it, I worked with my inner child and my early childhood experience, and I worked with my teacher for guidance.

Well, all that was quite awhile ago--perhaps not in chronological time, but in soul time. I know that God’s blessings are always right where I am and in what I am doing. I don’t feel empty inside in a way that has to be filled by others from outside.

Now I enjoy watching people going by, without the charge on it, as I abide in my own core nature. I practice reading souls and giving blessings, from the abundance I feel within.

God Is Singing

The disciples were sitting in silence on the first day of the retreat. As they deepened into the silence, suddenly a bird began to chirp.

One of the disciples began to feel angry. He thought, “How dare that bird interrupt our sacred silence!” And he began to imagine going outside and throwing rocks at the bird.

Another disciple began to feel inspired. He thought, “How beautiful! The bird is singing its heart out to God.”

Mother Clara was filled with bliss: “How beautifully God’s silence breaks out in song!”

“To Live Is To Love”

Roger is a retired millionaire. He reflects: “I’ve made it. Now I get to do what I love. Like fine women, fine cigars, fine wines, fine caviar. Yes, indeed, to live is to love.”

Simone is a waitress. She reflects, “I’ve had so many men. I’ve been in and out of so many relationships. Love is the most beautiful thing in the world. I must have love. I live for love. To live is to love.”

Suzie, a junior high school student, reflects: “Tom and I went out on our first date today. I am falling in love with him already. And I think he really likes me. I’m really getting for the first time that love is more than a word or a song or a movie. Love is real, and it is the most important thing. My whole world is opening up since I met Tom. Like, I’m so in love. Wow, to live is to love.”

Margaret, a cancer survivor, reflects: “I was given a week to live by my doctor. I had inoperable cervical cancer. I was ready to give up all hope, to let it all go, when an amazing thing happened. An old friend, hearing of my condition, invited me to her prayer circle. I really felt bonded with them. During the prayer, I saw Jesus place his hands upon me, and I felt an immediate release. The doctors confirmed the next day that I had a miraculous healing. Now I feel totally grateful. I know what it means to be loved. To live is to love.”

Reverend Christina is a mystic. She reflects, “Life is a calling to service, to God’s service. We answer God’s Love with our hearts and with our hands. To live is to love.”

Hoarding Love

Newman was an aspiring disciple, and he was working very hard to make progress. He was walking home one day when a local ran up to him, followed by his wife and ten children.

The man addressed Newman thus: “Master, I can see by your clothing that you are a man of God. I am but a poor, humble peasant. Please give my family communion--we’re going through such hard times. Please, Master.”

Newman was taken aback. No one had ever called him “Master” before. His heart swelled with pride at the very thought of being a Master, which he secretly wanted to be one day.

“Look at me,” he said. “I walk about wearing only sandals and the cloth on my back. Do you think I have an easy life either? I work hard to make my life pleasing to God. If your life is hard, you must be doing something wrong to offend God.”

“Yes, Master, I agree, we are just poor sinners. We are not spiritually advanced persons like yourself. That is why we ask you for communion, because of our great need.”

“Oh, so you think you can get God’s Love so easily? You want to just bask in the Light? Well, my friend, to get God’s unconditional Love, you have to earn it, work for it, pray for it. Nothing’s for free, you know. Do you have any idea how many hours I had to work on myself to get to where I am today? Only those who advance to the inner circle are deemed worthy to partake of the most holy sacrament.”

“Master,” said the poor man, “Pardon me, we are but poor peasants who do not understand the ways of God. Thank you for enlightening us on the matter. We realize that we are not worthy. Therefore we humbly ask for your blessing.”

“My office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the big city. That shouldn’t be hard for you, especially if you are not working.”

“Master, it is difficult for us to afford transportation to the big city. But for us, just seeing a holy man we will take as blessing enough. Thank you, Master, we know we will be healed of our troubles.”

“Give ‘Em Hell”

Father Pedro was meeting with Jesus. He said, “Oh Master, you know I want with all my heart to follow your Will. But I want to make sure that I clearly understand what You want. So please don’t show me, for then I’d have to interpret what I see. Instead, tell me clearly, so I don’t make a mistake.” Jesus assured him that He would do so.

Then Father Pedro told Jesus about the various problems and troubles of his students. Jesus gave him a sure-fire program that would solve the problems.

The next day, Father Pedro announced that he would be instituting a new program at his spiritual center. Soon after, students were coming to him saying, “Dear Father, I must confess, I caught Susanna sneaking a cookie on the day of fasting.” Another shared, “Dear Father, I caught Jeremiah napping during meditation time.” From another, “Dear Father Pedro, I cannot tell a lie, Jonathan was looking at pornographic sites on his computer.” And so on it went. Father Pedro discovered that the more people snitched on each other, the more people would act out. And the more sneaky the surveillance was, the more deviously people would act out.

Things were getting so bad at the Center that finally, in despair, Father Pedro had another meeting with Jesus. “Dear Master, you know I submit to Your Will. I have followed Your advice, but now I am more confused than ever. Everything seems to be going haywire. I trust Your Guidance, so what am I doing wrong?”

Jesus said, “My dear beloved Pedro, I told you to give them help, not to give ‘em hell.”

“Ahhhhh! Ah So!”

Tobias, a student of Father Pedro’s, was in the chapel kneeling.

“Master Jesus, I do not know You the way I should. I do not love You the way I should. I am not as devotional as I should be. I am not as humble as I should be. I am not oriented to service as much as I should be. I am not the disciple I should be.”

Jesus appeared before him.

“Master,” said Tobias, “I feel Your Presence.”

“Now, what do you see about yourself?” asked Jesus.

“I see that I am self-involved. I see that I am caught up in concerns and images about myself. I see that I am frustrated with myself, that I am at war with myself. I see that, so long as I am like this, I cannot open to You.”

“Very good,” said Jesus, “and now?”

“I feel ashamed of myself. I cannot stand myself. I hate myself.”

“That is more self-involvement,” said Jesus. “You are caving in on yourself rather than going into yourself.”

“Master! I want to reach out to You! I want to leave myself!” pleaded Tobias.

“Yes, reach to me, in your heart. Relax right now into your heart.”

“Ahhhh!”

“Now you know that I AM already in you and you in Me,” said Jesus.

Love, Fear, Indifference

Master wanted me to develop my sensitivity to the condition of souls. He showed me one person, whose soul was crying out:

“Dear God! I love you so much! I feel so much gratitude for your being with me! Please do not forsake me! Please do not leave me! Please save me from the everlasting torments of hell! God, I am such a sinner, please keep me on the right path! Thank you, God!”

Master turned to me. I said, “I am so impressed by such a devotional soul. And he is the priest of a big church.”

Master said, “This soul is filled with fear. It does not know itself or God. With all its seeming piety and devotion, it lives a perpetual hell on earth.”

Then Master showed me another person, whose soul was reflecting: “It is good to know that there is no eternal hell. There is no true separation from God, for all is God and I am God. So there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. Everything is OK. Ho hum, pass the chocolates.”

Master turned to me. I said, “I am so impressed by this soul’s lack of fear and by its confidence that all is OK.”

Master said, “This soul is the owner of a large chocolate factory, and so long as it sits atop a mass of money, it feels that all is OK. This soul has a merely intellectual grasp of spirit and merely exhibits indifference.”

Then Master showed me another soul that was praying: “Dear God, I love You for Who you Are. I feel such gratitude for the Love You give humanity and to me personally. I empty myself so that Your Love and Power might flow through me this day and serve Your Will. I rest in Your Being and do Your Work.”

Master turned to me. “OK, I think I’m getting it,” I said. “This soul doesn’t sound indifferent, and it doesn’t sound fearful. So therefore, by process of elimination, I conclude that this is the loving soul. How am I doing, Master?”

Counsel From The Adversary

Samantha had just lost her new baby and was grieving heavily. “I was praying to God for the life of my baby, but my baby died anyway,” she sobbed. The attending priest at the funeral said, “God has given, God has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

When she got home, she huddled all alone by herself. “Where does that leave me now? I am angry at God, I am scared, confused, and vulnerable,” she moaned. A voice came to her: “Samantha, of course you are angry at God. You have every right to be. God gives, God takes away--doesn’t that sound more like what we call an Indian giver than someone who loves and supports you?” Samantha had to agree, and she found the inner voice to be like some sort of recognition of inner truth.

“The God that you pray to is not a loving God. In fact, contrary to the mass mind, God is an evil God.” “What? This sounds a little over the top,” protested Samantha. “Here, I’ll prove it to you. Is not God taken to be all-powerful? Well, then, God had the power to restore your baby, and yet refused to. Is that the action of a loving God? Certainly not, I’m sure you’ll agree. There is all sorts of evil that happens in this world, and God does not lift a finger to prevent it. Does that sound like a loving God? Either that, or God is powerless in the face of evil, a mere weakling. Either way, this is not the God you should put your trust in.” Samantha had to assent to this powerful logic. Her mind felt a little clearer. But then there was some reaction within her. “God is evil? This sounds like madness!” “Ah, you see,” said the voice, “Truth seems like madness to the mass mind, the unenlightened mind. The higher truth reverses many of the old accepted ways that you have come to believe.”

“And further: when you boil the religious path down to its essentials, past all the hoopla of prayers and rituals, you will find that it comes down to one thing, and that is to undermine you. It is to give your very life, your very self, over to God. Yes, it is about your death! Isn’t it strange that religion, which is supposedly to support life, is really centered on death!” “What’s the alternative, then?” queried Samantha. “By contrast, the truth that I reveal is not against you, but is pro-life. I offer pleasures that add to your life, to your power, to your self-worth. Put your trust in me, and I will make you great, so that even the death of your child will be like the falling away of a shadow, a dream.”

The very thought of her child brought tears to her eyes. But she was so desperate, so needing of relief. But she still felt unsafe, unsure. “Who are you that I should put my trust in you?” she demanded. “I am called by many names, but you can call me the Adversary,” was the reply. “Because you have pledged yourself against God?” Samantha argued. “Yes, but remember, this God is an evil God, and I have pledged myself eternally to be the liberator of humanity against this cruel, dominating God. I am like a resistance fighter against the oppressive powers that be. I get bad press, and the mass mind eats it up. Generations of ignorant people have scorned me as the Devil, holding on to their cherished superstitions. But I have fought the good fight nevertheless, in the cause of Truth, patiently waiting for people to wake up to the truth.”

Samantha was a bit unnerved. “So I’m supposed to wake up and become some sort of devil worshiper?” Samantha asked with a sense of dread. “Please, Samantha, listen to reason. I know you have had a hard time and are a bit emotionally raw. But this is actually a good condition in which to shake loose of old superstitions and come into the light of day.”

“Well, wasn’t there something in Scripture about testing the spirits?” Samantha interjected.

“Yes, indeed, and I can assure you that I pass all of the tests. Test me in whatever you like--mathematics, science, literature, history, philosophy, religion. I can pass them all, because I am very smart.”

“Well, smart is sexy,” Samantha perked up. “Yes, we have that, too,” said the Adversary, evidently pleased with himself and gaining another convert.

“That’s Not Fair!”

I’ve been having a series of intense dreams. In the first dream, I was applying for a highly paid and highly skilled job. I had submitted my resume that showed I was the perfect person for the job. I had years of experience in that field with major companies and a long list of top recommendations. Amazingly, there were only two people who were called in for the final interview--myself and one other. The other person was a young woman who had no experience in that field, and yet she was hired! I was shocked, to say the least. When I asked the interviewer why I wasn’t hired, his reply was, “The boss says we need new blood. And frankly, all your experience might just get you in a rut and make you bored in this job.” I couldn’t believe it--it’s just not fair!

The very next night, I was wooing a prospective marriage partner. We had been going out for some months, we were on the same spiritual path, and to me she was my ideal soul mate. When I went to knock on her door to propose, I was amazed to find another suitor who I had never seen before. “Well,” I thought, “at least he is kind of old and ugly and balding, so I have no worries.” She asked us both in, and we both proposed. The other guy flashed a solid gold Rolex and a huge diamond ring, while I just offered my humble self. I couldn’t believe it--she said she’d need some time to consider our offers.

Well, a few days later, I saw my beloved with her best friend sitting in a coffee shop. I was going to greet them, when I thought I’d just take a seat in the next booth. This is what I overheard: “Well, Maggie, I know I’ve been going with Alphonso for awhile, and I’ve been getting to know him, and this other guy I hardly know at all. But lately I’ve been going inside to contemplate the situation from a deeper place. When I meditate on this other guy, I note that he is a precious soul made in the image of God. At the very core of his heart is the Light of the God-Self. Then when I meditate on Alphonso, I see that he is a struggling soul, resisting God, wrapped in his illusions, struggling with his inner child. Like, how could I fall in love with someone like that? That’s why I decided on this other guy.” I couldn’t believe I was hearing this! It’s just not fair! How could she do this? How could she say those things? How could she feel that way? I felt hurt, angry, misunderstood, judged. I felt the floor was opening and sucking me down into the abyss.

Finally, on the third night: I’m at the pearly gates, awaiting entrance into heaven. The guy ahead of me looked pretty ordinary, like a common laborer. “Hello, Henry,” the angel said in recognition. “Tell me, have you done any spiritual work in your lifetime?” “Spiritual? Well, I’m just a common laborer. I helped dig ditches and build brick walls. Once I helped repair the wall of a church.” “OK, that’s fine. Anyway, in God’s consciousness, all is spiritual. Please enter the heavenly gates.” “Whoa,” I thought, they let that guy off easy.” Then it was my turn. An angel nodded to me, saying, “Name, please.” “Yes, Alphonso--you know, the guy who…” “Hmm, Alphonso, is that with an A?” When I assured him it was, he seemed to be searching files, as if he were looking up my record.

hen he asked me, “Have you done any spiritual work?” “Oh, yes, I have, and plenty. I’ve meditated for years in the Himalayas and later prayed and fasted in a monastery.” “Are you enlightened, then?” “Well, uh, no, not quite, but you see…” “Is that a yes or a no?” “No,” I meekly responded. “Have you helped anyone open to God?” the angel asked. “Why, no, I mean, I’m not sure, but I wrote a book of stories that I think helped a few people…” The angel said, “Alphonso, we’re looking for people who have done real spiritual work, who have transformed, not people who just go through the motions. I’m sorry.” The angel thereupon slowly raised his arm and pointed to a cavernous opening that looked like it went into a bottomless pit. I couldn’t believe it! I turned to the angel, to God, to anyone who would hear me: “They let that other guy through, and he’s not spiritual. It’s not fair! NO-O-O-O-O!!!

I awoke abruptly in a cold sweat. This feeling, “It’s not fair,” echoed within my heart. Where have I felt that before? Yes, I remembered…Mrs. McGillicutty’s third grade class, when I was unfairly blamed for the hamster that escaped from its cage. In Mrs. Garrity’s first grade class, when Johnny got two portions of ice cream and I got sent into the corner with none. And in kindergarten, when my sister told me that Mommy and Daddy couldn’t afford me and had to give me up for adoption. Ugh! it had indeed been a core theme of my life. I cried and cried and cried, until eventually, I cried in delight that I was finally awakening to these deeply buried feelings. I cried until I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. I laughed and wept out of compassion for someone who felt so small about himself and who tried so hard to be good and liked. I felt so much compassion for my inner child welling up within me. The light of God dawned in my soul, as my inner child felt supported, held, comforted. I felt a heavy weight lift from my soul with a deep sense of, “Thank you, God, You are always merciful.” I let go of my cares, and I opened to God’s unconditional Love.

Experience God-- Only 25¢

When Mother Clara was a little girl, she had a deep love of God. She also had quite an enterprising spirit. So when she saw that the other girls in her neighborhood were setting up little corner stands selling lemonade for 25¢, she decided then and there that she would cater to satisfying a deeper thirst.

The next day, right in front of her house appeared a table, a few chairs, and a sign that read, “Experience God--only 25¢.” Curious neighbors and passersby stopped by to see what it was all about.

Clara would sit a person down, place her hands on his or her head, and speak to the person for a minute or so before going on to the next person. What did she say? Simple. “Mrs. Nixon,” or whatever the name might be, “Feel your feet on the ground and rest your arms on your lap. Close your eyes, take a deep inhale, and then relax. God is all and everything. So whatever you are experiencing now, you are experiencing God. Relax and enjoy.”

People gladly paid their 25¢ and walked away happy--partly for experiencing God and partly for knowing they had just had the best deal of their lives.

Happy Columbus Day

Here it was, Columbus Day, and my thoughts went in the direction of great adventure, charting unknown seas, discovering new worlds, and the eventual founding of a country that would be a great human experiment in freedom. I felt inspired and open to new vistas.

I was totally unprepared to receive an e-mail that discussed the underside of Columbus’ expedition, involving the exploitation of the natives. One story in particular riveted me. Cuneo, one of Columbus’ sailors, was given a beautiful Carib teenage girl, Cayissa, as his personal slave. She was a reward for his loyalty on the voyage. When Cuneo attempted to have sex with her, she resisted with all her strength, whereupon he thrashed her and raped her.

The story struck a nerve in me that I could not account for. I felt that in this one incident, thousands of years of oppression against women and dark-skinned people were being played out. And yet somehow, I felt personally responsible for what happened. I could feel the lust of Cuneo, as well as his rage, masking his own underlying helplessness, which he had to overcome at all cost. And I could feel the vulnerability and anger and sorrow of Cayissa. It was almost too much to bear.

I began to dream about them. Sometimes I was Cuneo, and sometimes I was Cayissa. I went through a range of emotions that left me overwhelmed for days. I had no idea what was going on. In my waking life, Cayissa became for me the epitome of all females I had ever lusted after, and all females I had ever mistreated. I began to compose letters to her, telling her how utterly sorry I was for what I had done, and asking what I could ever do to repay her. The whole thing was getting to a fever pitch, with an energy that overrode the daily life that I had known as mine. Then one night, I awoke from a particularly intense dream with the distinct soul realization that I had in fact been Cuneo in a past lifetime! It was shattering, and yet somehow I felt relieved as the truth came forth. At least I knew I was not going mad, as the pieces began to fall in place.

Some deep soul force overcame me. I knew what I had to do. I was guided to a café in the city, and I was sitting there, waiting for--what? Then a young woman entered the café, and when our eyes met, there was an instant soul recognition. She introduced herself as Kessa. We sat together and related how we each had been going through similar dreams and experiences over the last few weeks.

I related how, as Cuneo, that one incident eventually led me to deep pangs of guilt and penance. After a religious conversion, I led the natives to mutiny against the Spanish, for which I paid with my life in a most agonizing way. However, in this current lifetime, my heart was still filled with remorse.

“What can I ever do to repay that debt, to earn your forgiveness?” I pleaded. Kessa could see my soul was in pain, and she replied, “I do not condone your actions. But I know that your soul has learned and grown much from that incident. And I, for my part, carried great anger and hatred within my heart for many years after the pain and humiliation I suffered at your hands. However, by the end of that life, all that suffering brought me to a final surrender before the Almighty. So yes, I forgive you in the mysterious ways in which our souls are led to God.”

A great burden fell away from our hearts, as we felt our souls were cleansed. No, we were not soul mates, destined for a great romantic rendezvous. We looked deeply into each other’s eyes, we shared a hug, and then we went our own ways. It was enough to know that one thread in the great tapestry of the world had been healed and made whole.

“What Is This?”

The Master called me into his room. As soon as I entered, he asked, “What is this?” “What do you mean, Master?” I asked. He repeated, “What is this?”

I replied, without thinking, “This is your room, with tables and chairs, books and lamps.”

“Very good,” said the Master, “what is this?”

I took a deep breath and settled in. “This is my experience of your room, Master,” I said.

“Very good,” replied the Master, “what is this?”

I became more observant, more conscious. “This is my soul having an experience of your room, Master,” I offered.

“Very good,” observed the Master, “what is this?”

I settled in more deeply. “This is my very God-Self experiencing my soul experiencing this room, Master,” I said.

“Very good,” the Master said. “What is this?

Then “This” spoke: “This is God experiencing my God-Self experiencing my soul experiencing this room, Master.”

“Very good,” spoke the Master. “Now all in One.”

“This is God experiencing Himself/Herself in this form.”

Then we both opened to This in silence.

Advice From A Master

I heard about a master who lived on top of a mountain. I had been feeling a bit lost and decided to make a pilgrimage to see him. The path up the mountain was steep, and there was plenty of searing heat by day and biting cold by night that would discourage all but the most determined traveler. However, I felt that I had no alternative, so for me there was no turning back.

However, along the way, various inner obstacles emerged. Rather than being discouraged by them, I decided to allow them to come up and even welcome them. I figured that these would serve to clarify why I was making the pilgrimage in the first place.

A range of emotions arose within me, from fear to laziness to lust to anger to despair to numbing out. These were mixed with peaks of inspiration, enthusiasm, and determination. Sometimes I felt like giving up, doubting that this master was anything more than rumor; or perhaps he couldn’t help me, or wouldn’t even care to see me. Or what was even more unsettling: maybe what he had to give me was not something I was even prepared to accept. Maybe the truth was something I couldn’t even handle. All of this buzzed around my mind and heart. But again, what did I have to lose? What alternative did I have? So I continued the journey, which was itself a process of self-knowledge.

When I finally reached the top, dawn was breaking, and it looked like creation was just beginning. Through a clearing, I found a little cottage nestled in some stately trees. I knocked on the door, and a beautiful old man came to greet me. “Yes, I’ve been expecting you. You have had a long, hard climb. Not many make it to the top these days. Come in, please come in.” He warmly gestured inside.

I was grateful for his welcome and a chance to get out of the cold. I poured out my heart to him. I held nothing back and was unashamed to cry. I knew he would understand. He listened patiently to all I said. When I was through, I asked the master, “Is there any hope for me? Why is life such a struggle, even within myself? Is there something I’m not getting? Is there some secret that I’m missing?”

When I was through, he smiled and said, “I hear your involvement in the pains of the past and your fears and frustrations about the future. You want God, and yet you are afraid to let go. You want your life, and yet you fear that you will never transform. All of this overlooks one important secret, and that is: what you desire and what you fear has already come to pass.”

“Master, I do not understand,” I said, confused but curious.

Again the master smiled. “In this moment, you are already one with God. God is already your very Nature, and nothing you could do, and nothing that could happen, can change that. So let go to this glorious truth and be at peace.”

“This is wonderful, Master,” I said, “but I do not comprehend how this relates to my desire and fear.”

“Your greatest fear,” he continued, “what is it? That you would become separated from God. This has already happened; it is the life you’ve been living. And your greatest desire? To be one with God. This is already the case.”

“Master, I see. This relieves my hopes and fears of the future,” I said.

“Yes, and now, when you release past and future, you are left with the glorious present. When you open to this blessed moment as a gift from the loving God, you will give up all your confusions and fears. Transformation will then accelerate naturally.” He reached out to me and placed his hand on my head in blessing.

“Thank you, Master,” I said gratefully, from the bottom of my heart.

“This Is My Beloved Son”

The Master Teacher, Father Pedro, had to leave his students for a week to visit other centers. Before he left, he gathered the students together and said, “Remember, my dear students, keep the faith. I will be praying for you while I am gone.”

Next week, when Father Pedro returned, he called all his students together in a circle. “Tell me how this week has been for you,” said the Master. “Oh, Master,” the first student said, “this has been a wonderful week. All my prayers have been answered. I got the job promotion! My faith in this Path is on the up and up!”

“Oh, Master,” said the second student, “I have been so blessed. All my prayers have been answered. I got the gold Cadillac! My faith in God is solid.”

“Oh, Master,” said the next student, “I have been led by Guidance. I found the girl of my dreams! I have faith that with God all things are possible.”

And so it went around the circle. That is, until it came to the last student, Alphonso. “And how about you, Alphonso?“ asked the Master.

“Dear Master, I got no promotion, I got no gold Cadillac, I did not find the girl of my dreams. This has been an intense week. My inner child felt abandoned while you were gone, and so I’ve been battling emotional storms all week. I was assailed by many temptations--to lie, to cheat, to steal, to be negative, to lose patience, to take advantage of my neighbor. The Adversary tempted me to lose my faith, to leave this order, to abandon God. Yet, by God’s grace, I stayed open, I prayed mightily, I surrendered, and I released my fears and doubts. This is how I have kept the faith, dear Master.”

“This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” said the Master.

Apologetic

I was on my way to communion service at the Center. As I was backing out of the driveway, I almost didn’t see someone walking by along the sidewalk. “Oops, sorry,” I said sheepishly. Darn, I thought to myself, I have to pay more attention.

What a magnificent day! The morning sun was shining in a clear sky. The birds were singing, and the trees were exquisite. Oops! I almost cut off someone in traffic. I made a hand gesture and expression of apology, slinking away in my car.

I thought I’d just stop by my favorite café and grab a cup of coffee. On the way in, a panhandler asked me for some change, and I said, “Hey, really, I’m sorry, I don’t have any change.” Somehow, I felt a bit bad about not helping the poor guy out. Then I was waiting in line, when someone with a cup of hot espresso comes flying by, and they almost crash into me. Hot coffee spills all over. “Hey, sorry about that. I guess I shouldn’t have been standing so far to the side. My apologies, really, sorry.” I hurriedly clean up the spill and buy them a new espresso. It didn’t even occur to me that I had done nothing wrong. It was an almost automatic response. Meanwhile, I’m now speeding to the Center to get there on time--when a highway patrol car pulls me over. “Really sorry, officer,” I said, just about ready to give up for this day.

As I was entering the parking lot of the Order, I reflected on these innocuous events, but I didn’t know what to make of them. They just didn’t seem like me. Oh well, maybe I’m just a bit tired. Anyway, on to communion. I felt really bad about arriving late. As I entered the door to the chapel, I could hear the squeaks of the doorknob, and I felt very apologetic for disturbing the others who were in silent meditation.

At last, I sat down and opened to the presence of the Christ. For whatever reason, I felt such a totally encompassing love from Jesus and Mary. I felt overwhelmed. I could hardly bear it. Something inside of me--it felt like my little boy, my inner child--was feeling apologetic to Jesus. “Really, I’m so sorry for showing up late. I’m sorry that I often don’t even show up to you, when you are always present, always standing at the door of my heart, knocking. After all that you have sacrificed for all of us, and for me personally, I feel so bad that I don’t open myself to you more in my daily life.” I started sobbing.

I started to feel sorry for just about everything--all that I didn’t do well enough, or consciously enough. Finally, it was getting intolerable. “Dear God, excuse me for being in your universe. I feel so unworthy. I’m sorry for inconveniencing or displeasing you in any way. Maybe if I just didn’t exist, it would be so much easier for everybody!”

And I started crying and crying. I was even feeling sorry if I might be disturbing anybody in the room. I didn’t even know where all this was coming from, but then came some deep recognition that this is how I felt all the time as a child, in a family, in a world, that didn’t feel very loving and that didn’t have enough room for me or my needs.

I could hear Jesus and Mary speaking to me. “You are my dear child, and I hold you in my arms of love.” Hearing this, I cried some more, for I felt so deeply touched. I took a deep breath and sighed. I felt a great release in my heart and through my whole body. Now there was some room to let the love in.

Opening To The Mystery

Father Pedro and I were walking along a path. He saw that I was lost in my own limiting concepts and unavailable to the reverence for the great Mystery of God. So he stopped and picked up a common rock.

He handed it to me and asked me, “What is this?” “An ordinary rock,” I replied. “Take a good look. Do you know what this is?” he asked. As I looked, I saw unique details I had previously overlooked. As I looked deeper into it, I realized I had no idea what its substance was. In my unknowing, my mind began to fall away.

Then Father Pedro, pointing up to the stars, said, “I’d like you to imagine expanding outward into the stars and galaxies, into the vastness of outer space.” All of a sudden, I found myself expanding into the cosmos. “What is it that contains all of this, all at once?” “I don’t know--space, or consciousness?” I said. “Whatever you want to call it, you cannot grasp it. It is an Emptiness, a Mystery beyond your concepts,” said Father Pedro.

“Now look at me,” he said. “Who am I?” “Why, you’re Father Pedro, head of the Order.” “Look into my eyes,” he said. “Who is this?” I felt like I was opening into an immensity, an unknown depth of Being. “It is the very same Mystery,” he said.

“Now close your eyes,” he said, “and go deep within.” I sensed into my body and felt deeply into my heart. “Who is it who lives inside?” he asked. “Well, it’s me, I, myself,” I offered. “Go beyond your concepts of yourself,” he said, “and contact your very heart of hearts, the very Being who lives there.” “It is the same Mystery, and I am That,” I said with awe.

“Good. It is nothing to get prideful about. It simply is this way. Now let’s go home and get something to eat, to keep you grounded.”

We walked back to the Order house in silence. The early evening sky was filled with magic and beauty. My heart was aglow. I felt I was moving through a new world, full of grace and light.

Deflation

I was sitting in silent meditation. I got this great insight that God is living through all of us, through every form of life, even every atom in the universe. It is a matter of “Letting go and letting God,” becoming more transparent so that the Light and Power can flow through us. Yes, this is what the spiritual path is all about! I felt very high and pure, and I was thankful for this great blessing. Then came communion, which only served to expand and heighten my state.

I came out of the chapel, feeling like I was walking on air, or maybe water, when one of my spiritual brothers came up to me and said, “Hey Alphonso, you didn’t take the garbage out last night--again!” ”OK so, crucify me!” I retorted, as I cocked my head to the side and stretched out my arms. To this came, “Hey, you’re not Jesus Christ!” This got me a little miffed, like, “I never said I was, man!”--feeling a bit self-righteous and persecuted. Besides, that brother wasn’t even as far along the Path as I was.

My teacher happened to be standing right by, and she said, “Alphonso, you are way out of line here.” I immediately felt a tightening in my solar plexus. I felt unloved and misunderstood, as I said, defensively, “Wait a minute, all I said was…” She cut right through: “Alphonso, stop! It’s the energy with which you were saying it. Now, what are you feeling?”

“Oh no,” I said, “I have to deal with my feelings again? Pretty soon, you’re going to bring up my mother issues, my inner child, my pride, my fear, my hurt, and my anger issues. AAAAAAH!!” I burst out. I felt a bit dizzy. I felt like I was falling from a great height. I felt deflated.

“Well, Alphonso, we’ll deal with whatever comes up--when it comes up. For now, working with your feelings is what the spiritual Path is all about. This will clear a path for all the great insights you want to receive--but then they will be real for you.”

Life Change

Jeremy was passing by a bookshop one evening when he happened to notice an intriguing book in the display window. It was all about exotic adventures in the Caribbean, which he had fantasized about ever since childhood. As he stepped into the store, his nose detected a trace of incense that intrigued him. Looking around, he noticed a discussion going on in the back room. He also happened to catch sight of a pretty girl seated in the room, and he was hooked.

It turned out that Mother Clara was giving a talk about her new book, an autobiographical account of one woman’s path to God--her own. Something in her demeanor, in her voice, connected with him. He forgot all about his fantasies about the Caribbean and his fancies about the pretty girl in the next aisle. Pretty soon, Jeremy was attending classes, services, prayers, and got a personal teacher.

Later, when he was writing his retrospection, he reflected on how odd it was that, seemingly by happenstance, he had come into contact with a Christian mystical path. He told his teacher, “It seems so bizarre that a few weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard about this Order, or even about Christian mysticism, and now it is the most important thing in my life!”

His teacher replied, “Sometimes that’s just how things work. Have you ever met a girl who, before you met her, you never even knew existed? And yet after you met her, she was the most important thing in your life?” “Why yes, indeed!” responded Jeremy. “And how long did that last?” the teacher asked. “Actually, not very long, but it felt very intense while it lasted.” “Yes, that’s how it is,” the teacher said. “Now here, in your case, you have met God and your own inner Self, whom you didn’t even know existed before that. And now they are the most important things in your life!” “Yes, exactly!” said Jeremy. “But this is not a passing thing, for it is your life,” added the teacher.

“I get it, now,” said Jeremy, even more excited than before. “The attractions I had had--the girl with whom I was infatuated, the fantastic Caribbean adventures, the pretty girl in the back room--all these were symbols of what I was really seeking all along!” “You’ve got it,” his teacher said, “You are it!”

The Hitchhiker

Jerusalem was a new priest, and she celebrated it by taking a drive alone up to Mount Shasta--something she’d wanted to do for a very long time. She said her good-byes to her beloved spiritual brothers and sisters, and to her revered teacher, who had given her the special blessing to take the journey. So on a bright, clear day, she set off in the new little car she so much appreciated, a generous gift from her caring parents. Jerusalem was feeling especially thankful and especially blessed.

After spending a week up in the mountain, feeling totally one with God, she was ready to begin her ministry, confident in God’s guidance and grace for the journey of the rest of her life. On the mountaintop, she had reviewed her life and had seen how all of her struggles and all of her longings had led to this momentous decision for serving Christ with all her heart. Her entire past was over and a new life was beginning. All she could think of was her love for God and how she could serve God’s Work in the world. She felt totally clear.

Eager to get back to the Order house, she set all her gear in order and said a prayer. She was totally focused in full faith on her journey with God as a priest. She was enjoying the ride down from the mountain, as she passed by various hitchhikers and others along the road. She gave a friendly wave of the hand and silently blessed them all, wondering where they were in their personal journeys as souls in the world.

Further along, a bit closer to sea level, she could feel her descent back into the world. Up ahead, along a lonely stretch of road, she noticed a male hitchhiker. Personally, she would have definitely avoided this person, just by his body language and attire. However, there was clear guidance to give him a lift. Without a further thought, she slowed down and pulled over.

“Hello, where are you headed?” she asked. “Oh, down in the valley up ahead,” he said. “Well, do you want a ride? I’m passing that way,” she offered. “Yeah, this is my lucky day,” said the stranger.

When he got in, he took a good look at her. He could see she was very attractive--and a priest. “Whoa, you are a priest? Is this for real?” “Yeah, totally, it’s my life.” He seemed to take that in for a bit. “Well, I’ll say this, you sure are attractive--I mean, especially for a priest,” he said. Before he could continue in that direction, she broke in.

“So, what’s your name?” asked Jerusalem. “Oh, Hank, yeah, call me Hank,” came the answer. “Hi, my name’s Jerusalem. You can call me Jer. So where are you headed?” she asked. “Oh, I’ve got some personal business to attend to,” he replied, somewhat evasively. Jerusalem was having mixed feelings about this guy. She totally trusted the guidance, but she was having some misgivings about him. She certainly would never have put herself in this situation. All of a sudden, an old memory dawned on her, when she was hitchhiking across America, and she was almost raped. But that was a long, long time ago, and she was not the same person anymore. But for now, the only thing was to continue.

“You sound a bit evasive about it. Is it anything you feel uncomfortable about?” Jerusalem asked. “Me? Uncomfortable? No way. I’m on top of this thing,” he said. “Hey, I don’t mean to be intrusive, but I can see that you feel a bit nervous about it,” she said. “Hey, I’m a priest, you can be honest about this. I can take it.”

“I’m…I’m a bit taken aback...I, I don’t know what to say,” said Hank. “All right,” shared Jerusalem, “allow me.” He made a gesture of conciliation. “To put it plainly, you’re scared, you’re hurt. There’s something here from your childhood, when you felt helpless when your parents were divorcing, and then your mom died, inexplicably.” “Hey, how did you--how could you know--that about me?” he said, a bit nervously and defensively.

“Relax, it’s all right,” she said. “Remember, I’m a priest. It’s just part of my job to know these things.” Inside, she wondered if she should press onward, if it was safe under the present circumstances. But guidance assured her, yes. “So there you were, feeling scared and helpless. You couldn’t deal with that, you were so young. You formed the belief that the world is unsafe, and that it wasn’t safe to be vulnerable. You would do anything to stop the feeling of being helpless. So you got tough and domineering.”

He turned to her. “Enough. You know my weakness. Now I’m going to have to kill you,” he said, as he opened his jacket to reveal the shiny barrel of a pistol. “Listen to me. You’re feeling scared, and it’s totally OK to feel that. Believe me, you can change your life about that,” Jerusalem said. “Yeah, what do you know? Maybe you’re the one scared here, knowing that I have to kill you,” Hank said.

“Hank,” she replied as she looked straight at him, “I am totally present here. Answer me this: why do you say ‘I have to kill you’?” “Why, I don’t know. No woman ever asked me that. No woman ever talked to me that way.” He went inside, suppressing some tears. “OK, you’re right. I guess I do feel vulnerable, and that’s scary. I don’t like feeling that way, so I make others feel that way. And when I see them like that, I just want to kill them, eliminate them.”

“Hank, stay with this. This is so important, right now. Believe me. Stay with your feelings. Can you do this?” she asked. “Yeah,” he said, as he sort of slumped. “Good,” she said, “for you are onto something really big, and it is good. Just stay with the process. Breathe, relax the grip.”

He began to cry. “My dad killed my mom, and I was so scared, really scared. I was really young. I didn’t deserve that.” “Breathe into it, Hank, you’ll feel better. I’m giving your little boy a blessing right now. Your father had no right to do that to you. I want you to know that that little boy is so loved, he’s so loved. Can you feel that right now?” “Yes, yes, I can,” he whimpered, almost as a little boy himself. Hank felt flooded with Light--the Light of Love, of unconditional love and healing.

“OK, she said, I’m pulling over now. Hank, listen, this is the valley where you were going to get off. You have a choice here. You can get out now, or you can stay on and I’ll take you back to the Order house, where you can begin to change your life around. I’ve seen it done. I know.”

Hank was silent for a little while. Finally, he said, “You know, Jerusalem? You just saved my life. So truly, this was my lucky day. That personal business I was going to attend to, that was my dad, and I was going to kill him. I was going to make him pay for what he did to me. I was going to make him hurt the way he hurt me. But now, that’s all changed around. I don’t need that anymore.” He threw the pistol out the window, far away into the bushes. “Please, Jer. Take me to the Order. I’ve been waiting for this all my life. I just didn’t know it. I have felt so helpless, so unworthy of love all my life. Now I’m ready.”

“Praise be to You, O Great God of Love and Compassion and Healing,” she thought. “Thank You for making me a priest so I can serve You.”

The Man Who Read His Way To Enlightenment

Reginald was a great reader. He was practically raised on books, since his father and mother were hardly ever around for him. Now he worked as a librarian, part time, and also part time at a used bookstore. “Everything I know I got through books,” he would often say.

As a boy, he loved to read about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Later, this led on to the romance of the search for the Holy Grail, which later led him to explore mystical Christianity. One day, he came upon Mother Clare’s book on her own path to God, and he decided he’d join her group. It was a big leap for Reginald, to expose himself to the actual experience rather than diving into it from within the confines of a book.

However, once he became a student of the Order, he began to amass a wide-ranging library of titles concerning the Christian Path. He would wake up a little earlier and go to sleep a little later, just to burrow through his many tomes on the subject. He felt that this significantly broadened his appreciation of the Path. For example, he prepared for his first Communion by fully researching its history and the various theological perspectives on the matter, both Protestant and Catholic. He read his way through over a dozen translations of the New Testament, as well as the Gnostic gospels.

Of course, he had a field day with Jesus. There were so many works, both traditional and nontraditional, on him. He was a historical figure, he was a solar myth of the Mystery Schools; he was God, he was an avatar, he was a man perfected by many births, he was an extraterrestrial; he was an Essene, he traveled to India, and so on. Yes, reading about Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed or Moses was no match compared to the exciting field of takes on Jesus. And with the new upsurge of books on Mary Magdalene, things were getting really interesting.

When Reginald got baptized, he read several books on that subject. It helped him to gain a proper perspective on it, so he wouldn’t take it for granted. “Did you know that baptism has a venerable history? It goes back to the ancient Egyptian priests,” he told his fellow students at class. Again, after hearing the lessons on prayer and meditation, he’d read up on those subjects until he knew their history, philosophy, and methods.

Although only a new student, Reginald was reading books on such esoteric subjects as the nine solar initiations and the exact relation of Jesus to the Christ. Why, he felt he was almost ready for illumination and self-realization, since he’d read up on those subjects as well.

Where would this ever end? Did Reginald really ever read his way to enlightenment? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. He read his way to (or shall we say “towards”) enlightenment, but unfortunately he never did arrive there. Or at least, not by books.

Interview With An Angel

Deep in prayer one day in the chapel, Manuel saw a vision. An angel appeared before him and said, “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you. You have been chosen for an interview. Do you accept?” “But why me? In what way am I chosen?” “Don’t let this go to your head. You are not the Chosen One. You simply were selected as an average representative of humanity for an interview.” “OK,” he said, “I accept. What is this for?”

“I am one of the lesser angels--the big guys, the greater ones, are way too busy for this. I hope you don’t mind.” “Not at all. In fact, I’m honored,” Manuel said. “Good. You see, we angels are quite curious about human beings. We haven’t been able to figure what makes them tick, and we thought perhaps by asking one of them we might comprehend a little better. Understand, we are asking you personally, and yet we want you to answer as a human being. Please don’t take offense at anything I ask.” “OK,” Manuel said, “Shoot.”

“All right, here goes. First off, if God is the only reality, and God is All, how is it possible that you feel separate from God?” “What do you mean?” asked Manuel. “I’ll put it another way: In the Presence of God--and nothing can be more obvious than God’s very Being--you live and move as if God were irrelevant, not even present. How do you account for that?” “Gee,” Manuel mused, “I’m, uh, I’m not sure how that can be.” “All right. Second, every day is the Great Day of God in all His/Her Glory, and yet you act as if this were an ordinary day. How is this possible?” “Um, well, now that you put it that way, I don’t know,” said Manuel. “OK. Third, how is it possible that you could feel bored in God’s universe?” “Again, I don’t think I can say how this could be, I just don’t have an answer for that,” replied Manuel. “Let’s proceed. Fourth, how is it that you have been given the treasures of the universe and all this beauty, and yet you feel ingratitude or indifference? In fact, God gives you all this divine Light and Love, and yet you turn away from it and pursue, well, less than noble ends. How is that?” “I just don’t know,” Manuel said, fidgeting, “This kind of hurts.”

“Please don’t take this personally, remember. We’re not here to judge you, only to understand,” the angel said. “Yeah, sure, that’s fine, I quite understand,” replied Manuel. “But how much longer is this interview? I’m feeling a little queasy.” “Oh, we’re almost done, don’t worry,” said the angel. “Continuing, then. Fifth, God has spread out this eternity of Being, and yet you feel impatient and frustrated. How can that be?” “I think I plead guilty by reason of insanity, I guess,” said Manuel. “Let’s get on to the next question.” “Sure. Sixth, here God has given you an eternal soul, and yet you focus only on the body, as if that were your very soul. Why is that?” “I guess I must be pretty dumb,” observed Manuel. ”Next, please.” “OK, moving right along. Seventh, and last but not least. God has given you an abundant universe, and yet you feel lack and limitation. How can this be?”

Manuel was growing impatient and angry. “Enough of this crap!” yelled Manuel. “How much more of this do I have to take? How much more of this do you think I can take? God damn it, I’m no angel, I’m just a human being. I’m not necessarily proud of it, I’m just saying that’s how it is. Maybe I can do better, I don’t know.” Then, taking a deep breath and letting out a long sigh, Manuel continued. “OK, I’m sorry for venting, but you angels have no idea what’s it’s like to be human. You guys get to bask and float around in God’s glory all day, while we have to work, eat, and, well, be human! Look, all that you are saying is right on, but you’re missing something here. So I have some questions for you, is that OK?” “Surely,” responded the angel, “If this might help me understand more.”

“Let me ask you this. Have you ever been born into a body? Have you ever been a little tiny thing, cold, hungry, wet, vulnerable? Have you ever felt sick, lonely, crying?” Have you ever had parents who didn’t give you the love you needed? Have you ever stubbed your toe? Have you ever had indigestion? Have you ever tried and failed? Have you ever been humiliated, shamed, judged, misunderstood? Have you ever been tempted? Have you ever tried to follow the higher way but had raging emotions, a wayward mind, and bodily passions that got in the way? And here’s the kicker: do you know what it’s like to have free will, so that you are not simply guided by a divine instinct?”

“Well, no, I don’t,” said the angel. “Say, I’d love to hear more about this, but I’m on assignment. I’ve got to go. Cheers!” And he was gone.

First Steps On The Path

You know, Father Pedro wasn’t always on the Path. Many years ago, he was an angry young man. Then one day, he met Father Ruizo, who was to become his spiritual teacher. Do you think it was love at first sight? No, far from it!. Let me tell you the story.

“Hey you, priest!” yelled the young Pedro. The man turned to him and said, “Do you wish to speak with me?” “Yeah, you! Why do you priests darken our lives walking around in black, the color of death?” “Oh, is that what it seems to you?” asked Father Ruizo. “Hey, I’m sick of you people! You preach love, and yet you bloodied the pages of history and added to human misery. ”Excuse me, have I done you any wrong?” asked Father Ruizo. “Hey, let me finish!” the young Pedro said, frustrated. And he went on to vent about how he despised Christianity.

“My son, I hear you. I see your soul is troubled. Have Christians hurt you in any way, personally?” “Yes,” the young Pedro said, “Christian missionaries destroyed the village of my ancestors, and put my great-grandfather, the village shaman, to death. This has brought great shame upon my family.” “I am most sorry to hear this,” Father Ruizo replied. “There has been much ignorance and evil in the name of Christ!” The young Pedro agreed. “You say he is the Prince of Peace, and yet you priests inflict the wounds of the Devil! Curses upon you all!”

Father Ruizo was silent for awhile. Then he said, “You do not even know me, and yet you judge me according to the associations in your mind. I see that my attire brings up much pain within you.” ”Yes, and even now, I know you are plotting how you can convert me to your evil ways,” said the young Pedro. “Even now,” said Father Ruizo, “I am blessing you and sending you love and light.” “You despise me!” “I love you, as God loves you,” said Father Ruizo. “But your inner rage and pain harden your heart.”

The young Pedro just stood there and glared at him. Father Ruizo continued: “Nevertheless, this is good for now, and I appreciate where you are.” “Oh yeah, why is that?” asked the young Pedro. “Because, as Jesus said, ‘I would rather you wax hot or cold, but not lukewarm.’ You are waxing hot, and that passion is something I can work with. Go with my blessings!”

The young Pedro ran home. A week later, he returned. “And how are you, my young man?” asked Father Ruizo. “Am I blessed or cursed? Every night I dream of our encounter, and our conversation continues. If I cannot rid myself of you, at least I might as well learn what you are about.” If you are open, I will place my hands upon your head and give you the blessing of Jesus Christ.”

The young Pedro consented. The Light and Love that poured forth within him opened him to a new world. That was his first step along the Path.

In The Silence

The disciples were gathered to hear Father Pedro’s address. He spoke of the virtues of spiritual poverty, chastity, and obedience. He spoke of the virtues of vigilance and continuous prayer. And then he was silent. More silence. And more silence.

Some disciples wondered, “Is the great Father lost in deep meditation?” Others wondered, “Has the blessed Father run out of things to say?” And others wondered, “Is Father testing us in a clever way?”

Some of the disciples grew angry, thinking in their hearts, “I have many important things to do this day. Father Pedro called us in to hear him, and now he wastes our time by saying nothing!”

Some of the disciples grew bored and let their minds wander in the silence. They thought in their hearts, “Maybe Father Pedro is taking a break from his work with us. I guess there just isn’t much happening.” Some thought of themselves, some thought of the things they needed to do, some lost themselves in fantasies and desires.

Some of the disciples grew anxious and fearful, thinking in their hearts, “What am I to do? I am not given anything to focus on, and I am beginning to feel uneasy and anxious in all this silence.”

Some of the disciples were happy, thinking in their hearts, “I am glad Father Pedro has taken a break. I was getting tired of all his words. Now we can just relax.”

But Brother Alphonso thought in his heart, “I don’t know why Father Pedro is silent, but I am sure he has his good reasons. Yet I know that Father Pedro is always teaching us something and always giving us his blessing. Thus I shall also enter into silence and commune with him in his blessings.”

Is This A Cult?

Deborah was drawn to a talk given my Mother Clara on, “The Importance of Spiritual Community.” The local churches, fearful about losing any more of their membership, had been spreading rumors that the Order was one of those New Age cults. Consequently, not many people attended the lecture.

Afterwards, Mother Clara came up to Deborah and asked, “Do you have any questions?” “Oh, Mother Clara,” said Deborah, “I feel so drawn to you, as if you were the mother I never had. I had all these goose bumps while sitting through your talk.” ”So you feel an energetic resonance with what I’ve been sharing?” asked Mother Clara. “Yes, indeed, very much so,” replied Deborah, “but I still have a few questions. I hope you don’t mind.” “Not at all. I would very much like to hear them, so that I might be able to help. We are here to serve,” Mother Clara said.

“Well, you know, Mother Clara,” and here Deborah spoke in a bit of a hushed tone, “there are all these rumors of your Order being a cult and all that. For example, do you all wear special garb that sets you apart from others?” “Yes, indeed we do,” answered Mother Clara, “following the pattern set by the Roman Catholic Church and really, all the great traditions. It is not because we are a cult.”

“And another thing. I heard that people in the Order are given new names that set them apart from their given family names. Is that so?” “These names are offered to mark an important step on the Path, such as an initiation, but they are not required to be used. There is a lot of power in a name--this has been recognized by all true paths.”

“Oh, and one more thing. Is it true that people often live together in Order houses and spend a lot of time together, keeping them from associating much with their families and old friends?” Deborah seemed very concerned. “A member of the Order is not required to lived in one of our houses, but such an environment does hold the space for heightened intensity and inner work,” explained Mother Clara.

Deborah then asked, excitedly, “Do people in the Order get to learn secret rituals, passwords, signs, handshakes, codes, and formulas?” Mother Clara said, “Not quite, but people do get personal transformation that brings a knowledge that is far beyond the mass mind.”

Finally, Deborah said, “So you’re telling me that this not a cult?” “That’s right,” assured Mother Clara. “And you’re telling me that this Order is the real deal?” “Yes, it is a genuine mystical Order that takes the soul to God.”

“Oh dear,” said Deborah, “I’m afraid that’s too bad. Going to God sounds too real, too scary. I was looking for a cult that I could join.”

Your Typical Run-On Sentence

The Great Magnificence, the ecstatic overflowing Abundance that is the One True God, the Source of all life and all Good, the very Truth itself, the Mother-Father God that cares for all its creations, spreads forth its effulgent Beauty through all space and all time, and grants to people manifold ways by which the diligent and the courageous, the faithful and the inspired, might open their hearts and minds to come to realize their Creator, their very Nature and Being, and come into blessed Union with that very Being of their beings, the very Soul of their souls, so that they might awaken out of their bondage and suffering, to see that all their lesser gods of money, pleasure, power, knowledge, and all the rest of the things that they seek for advantage are limitations on their true beneficence, and lure them astray into realms of delusion, when if they would only open to the bountiful Presence that is everywhere available, they would discover the balm to heal all wounds, the guidance that overcomes every problem, and open into the universal Life that ceaselessly overflows its Love in ways that amaze and overwhelm the very elite, who worship the One True God in spirit, selflessly serving the Great Work of that One in evolving all the worlds into higher levels of splendor, towards the end that God may become all in all, and everything awaken into the Great Universal God, the Great Magnificence, the ecstatic overflowing Abundance that is the One True God…

The Lily Before God

The radiant sun arose upon the beautiful lily, and the dew was collecting upon its petals. God rejoiced in this divine handiwork.

However, the lily would not receive the love and light. “Dear God, I am unworthy of your great gifts. What am I compared to glories of King Solomon? I am but a common flower.”

And God said, “Does not my sun shine upon the good and the bad? Does not my rain fall upon the just and the unjust?”

But the lily persisted. “I am but weak and fragile. Would not too much sun cause me to wilt? And would not too much rain drench me to death?”

And God said, “Do I not take care of the birds of the air and the grasses of the fields? Do not be anxious of the morrow.”

But the lily would not be persuaded. ”Life cannot be this simple, or this easy. Considering all the pain and suffering of this world, one cannot afford to live in a fairytale fantasy.”

Again God persisted. “I, the Lord your God, your Creator and Creator of all life, am omnipotent. Nothing is difficult for me.”

But the lily could not take this in. “But what if I open to you and I grow? And what if I turn out to be quite ugly, what then? Ever since Jesus, there has been such a high expectation given to lilies. You just don’t understand the pressures we face.”

And God said, “You are beautiful, just as you are, just as I created you.”

“Alas,” said the lily, “Nature is no longer as you created. Human beings have polluted her beauty. Now I myself am polluted with the anger I feel against humans for desecrating what was once the Garden of Eden and turning it into a world of woe. If I were to let go of my anger, then these humans would not repent of their sins, but go on as if they had committed no evil.”

And God said, “Relax and let me be the judge of the quick and the dead. You only need to relax into my everlasting love and be my beauty for all the world to see.”

But by then, the lily was shut down. “I’m sorry, forgive me, God, but I cannot accept your love and light.” And thus was the lily before God.

Sharing

Alphonso was a new student at the Center of Lite. While the priests were conferring together to get Guidance about some matter of concern, he was hanging out with the other brothers and sisters there, waiting for class to begin.

“So Alphonso,” said one of the brothers, “you don’t seem to be sharing yourself very freely around here. I don’t feel that I can connect with you when all you share are matters of intellect or knowledge, theology, and the like. What is this about? You don’t trust us? I’d like to get to know you better.” The others showed that they shared similar feelings.

“I, I guess I’m sort of hesitant because I’m so new here. I guess I feel a little vulnerable. I guess I feel some fear that if I shared some of myself, you would find me falling short and wouldn’t love me. I guess I’m afraid of rejection and exclusion.”

“Well, that’s a good start,” said one of the sisters. “You probably can guess that we are a group who practices the virtues of Christian love and forgiveness.”

“Well, all right. To be honest, I find that I feel some lust for you, Joanna. And with you, Mark, I feel very competitive. Celeste, you remind me of my mother, so I feel very distrustful of you. There, I got it out!” said Alphonso, feeling a bit relieved.

The group seemed shocked. Joanna commented, “Well, we sort of figured you were hiding some shit. What’s wrong with you? I thought you were on the Christian Path of Light and Love. I feel like I trusted you as a loving brother.”

Mark came in with: “Man, I also felt close to you and trusting. Now I’m beginning to feel competitive too. Well, thanks for sharing!”

Celeste shared, “Yeah, count me in, too. Well, that’s the last time I’ll be open to you. Thanks for spreading your negativity in this Center of Lite.”

Alphonso was dumbfounded. “See what I mean? I begin to share, as honestly as I can, and there you all go judging me and reacting to me. Now I’m going to shut down even more than before! I thought that this was a loving Christian community I was getting into.”

Mark came in with: “OK, man, we’re not perfect.” “And we’re not priests, you know,“ offered Joanna. “Yeah, I don ‘t think you should be judging like that,” added Celeste.

Just then, the priests came in. They seemed pleased with the Guidance they received. “So, let’s begin. Great Mother-Father God, and Holy Masters Jesus and Mary, fill this place with your Light. Let all darkness and negation leave this place. Let peace enter our hearts. Thank you.” Everyone seemed happy with that.

The Great Physician

Doctor Leonid Vostok was a revered general practitioner, and head of General Medical Services for his busy community. Through the methods of contemporary high-tech medicine, he was able to bring healing to thousands of people over a busy lifetime.

Now, however, he himself was plagued by a recurring problem with his heart. He had it fully diagnosed and had met with several colleagues, but he was unable to effect a cure. In desperation, he finally turned to the Master Physician, Jesus.

“Master Jesus,” the good doctor implored, “come to me in my hour of need.”

And Jesus appeared before him.

Doctor Vostok said, “Jesus, I need a healing for my heart.”

Jesus raised his hand and was about to begin his words of power, when the good doctor interrupted for the sake of clarification.

“Master,” he said, “wait. This is not a simple case of leprosy or a withered hand.”

Jesus smiled and raised his hand again.

“Master,” the good doctor interjected, “I‘m not sure you understand the complications of my condition.” And he went on for several minutes, detailing everything from his medical history to his blood pressure and glucose levels, to the intricate lab tests, x-ray chromatography, cat-scans, and EKGs, to the medical drugs he had used, with their varied side effects.

Jesus lowered his hand and looked at him in amazement. He said, “Never before, yea, not in all the land of Israel, have I found a healer of such little faith.”

“But let me remind you,” said good Doctor Vostok, “we are living in times that a far more complicated than those Biblical days of yore.”

The Wedding

I was invited to my friends Gary and Glenda’s wedding at an upscale seaside inn. I used to be very close to them both, when they were going through some difficult times, and we were very honest and present with one another. We went through a healing process that was beneficial for us all. But then over time, we all got busy and we had less connections, which I felt were a bit superficial.

But I planned to make the best of it at the wedding. There were a lot of people there, most of whom I didn’t know, but I could sense the quality of joyful energy pervading the place. I felt that I was there to serve by spreading blessings to the couple and to everyone present. It was a Jewish wedding, and the rabbi presiding at the ceremony recited many blessings as well as invited many blessings from the people gathered there.

I felt a tremendous amount of blessing energy, and a great amount of light within me to spread that energy. I felt I was participating in the joy that was there in abundance.

However, in the midst of that light and blessing and joy, I noticed some judgments sneaking in. I found my mind coming up with criticisms: the rabbi wasn’t speaking loudly enough, he seemed a bit inauthentic, the groom was smiling in a nervous way, and the bride seemed a bit superficial.

Perhaps there was some bit of objective truth to these observations, but they were feeling like heavy judgments which were interfering with the energy of blessing. I went inside and called on Jesus and Mary’s presence. I asked why these judgments were arising, and stated that I wanted them to leave.

What came up for me was that I had unhealed grievances which were blocking the channels of blessing. So I went inside and met with my friends on a soul level. I asked if there was anything blocking the free flow of blessings, and I was shown that there were things from our past for which I needed to ask forgiveness. I went through this process, and then I asked my friends if there was anything on their side for which they needed to ask me forgiveness. We went through this process as well until the energy was cleared.

For the rest of the time of the wedding and the celebration following, the channels were cleared for abundant blessings and light. I feel that the healing I did there helped other people clear their channels, and all enjoyed the flow of giving and receiving blessings. The abundance overflowed beyond the wedding party into the surrounding area and into the planet.

A Question Of Balance

Father Pedro had just flown up to Seattle to ordain Brother Maldavo, now Reverend Ensingore. “There was indeed a tremendous amount of Light flooding into that ordination,” mused the good Father, but he had half expected as much. After all, the reverend’s ancestors had been leaders of the infamous Knights Templar, who had a long and dappled history of working with the subtle energies.

Now Father Pedro was relaxing alone in his room after the celebrations and the prayer group. Suddenly, he had a queasy feeling that things weren’t quite right. He got up at once and raced to Reverend Ensingore’s room. Without knocking, he burst open the door, to find the newly ordained reverend smoking pot and watching a vampire movie, while listening to heavy metal music and flipping through books and magazines on pornography, Satanism, Nazism, radical right wing Christian fundamentalism, torture, and serial killing, to name a few.

Father Pedro shouted above the din: “Reverend Ensingore, What Are You Doing!!??” The reverend hastily put down the pipe, the books and the magazines, and turned off the video and the CD. “After all that I have taught you, after all that I have done for your spiritual evolution, what is the meaning of this!?” said Father Pedro, managing to stop short of shouting.

“Father Pedro,” replied Reverend Ensingore, “I figured I had received such a strong dose of Light, that I needed some darkness for the sake of balance.”

Christian: New Age Vs. Orthodox

At a local country fair, two Christian groups set up booths: one was (fairly) orthodox, and one was New Age. Two brothers from the second group, Paul and Andrew, walked by the orthodox booth, and it was all stuff they’d seen before: the bibles, the beliefs, the faith. They chuckled to each other at the crudity of that faith.

Paul observed, “It’s the blind leading the blind--leading them in blind faith.”

Andrew added, “Yeah, it’s a shame that all that faith isn’t supported by some wisdom, such as reincarnation, astrology, and especially the nondual truth of God.”

“That’s right,“ commented Paul, “which is why they set Christianity apart from the seamless world wisdom teachings.”

“Yes, and the irony is that they don’t even understand what Jesus was teaching. They have the parables but don’t understand the hidden teachings.”

Later, Jesus appeared to them in their meditations, saying, “So is it given to my disciples to judge others, to play “higher than thou,” to indulge in feelings of superiority? They love me in the best way they know how. Bless them, teach them, but first take the log out of your own eye before you try to dislodge the speck in the others’ eye.”

“How Am I Doing?”

Various disciples came before Jesus.

One said, “Master, I speak in tongues of men and angels, I have the gift of prophecy, I know every truth, I have faith strong enough to move mountains, and I have given all I possess to the poor. How am I doing?”

The Master responded: “So far, so good, but how about love?”

Another disciple came forth and said, ”Lord, Lord, I have prophesied in your name, I have cast out devils in your name, and in your name I have performed many miracles. How am I doing?”

The Master replied, “Sounds like a good track record, but now how about doing the will of my heavenly Father-Mother?”

A wannabe disciple came and said, “Master, I have followed all the commandments. Will I get into the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus replied, “You are doing well. But now go and sell all you have to give to the poor.” Another would-be disciple came to Jesus and said, “Master, I love my friends and family. Am I not doing well?”

And Jesus answered, “Yes, this is good, but now extend your love to others, even to those who are indifferent to you or offend you.”

A disciple came to Jesus and said, “Master I have great faith that can move mountains, love that can forgive seventy times seven offenses, and hope that can wait for the coming of the kingdom of heaven on earth. What’s next?”

The master replied, “This is a good beginning. Now put that faith, love, and hope into action. You have good within you, now do good works.”

Another disciple came to Jesus and said, “Master, I feed the hungry, attend to the sick, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and give to the poor. What else should I do?”

The Master replied, “You do all these good works, but these have been about you and your doing. Now do them in my name, for the glory of God.

Hidden Teaching

The disciples were gathered around Father Pedro. One of them said, “Father Pedro, you speak to us in stories. But I want to hear the hidden teachings of the master.”

“Very well,” said Father Pedro, “Here are hidden teachings.” They all gathered closer to hear every word.

“My friends, contemplate these four truths, and your life will be transformed.”

“First: the Son is the Sun. What do we mean by this? The sun is the physical appearance of the God of this solar system. We also mean the inner sun in the heart, which is the inner Christ. This is the God of your being, which is one with the solar Logos. Soul is Sol or Sun.”

“Second: The Eye is the I. What do we mean by this? Whatever you see is your Self. Nothing and no one is separate and outside you. See everything as That. Also, the Seer behind the eye is the real Self. The See-er is the Seer, the Wise One. See everything from That. This is what it means to have your eye single and full of light.”

“Third: The Day is the Dei (God). What do we mean by this? The whole day--all your experiences and all that happens, the totality of it all--is God, is God’s Life. Have a good day by having a God Day, being one with God.”

“Fourth: Holy is Wholly. What do we mean by this? You are holy when you are wholly God’s, and wholly God. This is when the totality of your being is aligned with God’s Will, God’s Life, God’s Love, and God’s Light, which are One. God wants all of you--not just your mind, not just your feelings. Give it all to God, that God may be All in all.”

And the disciples were amazed at a teaching so simple, and spoken with such authority, unlike the speakers at the New Age Expo.

A Tale Of Pride Redeemed

This is the tale of a student, Alphonse, which could have had a very sad ending were it not for the exquisite care with which he was held by his teacher, Rhodora.

Alphonse--ah, every student admired and loved him: for his natural good looks, his beautiful youth, his charm, his brilliance, his knowledge, his refined manners, his cultural sophistication, even his artful innocence. Yes, there was some envy aroused in some of the students, and some students felt their light a bit dimmed around him, but Alphonse was so beautiful a soul and so natural that no one could stay in a dark mood around him for long. It was common for all the students to address him as “Dear Alphonse.” He seemed universally adored, especially blessed, something of a Greek god among mortals. None of them saw through him--that is, except his teacher, Rhodora. Not that Rhodora didn’t love him, or that she loved him any less; no, indeed, far more, and far more purely and truly was her love for him, for she loved the beautiful soul that she could truly see, and she loved every step of his along the Path to its full illumination and realization.

Rhodora could see his deep love of Jesus and Mary, but in his desire to be like them, he fell into the trap of pride. In the Bible study groups, Alphonse would offer brilliant and inspired interpretations of Scripture, but his teacher did not seem very appreciative or supportive. In prayer groups, Alphonse would sing so sweetly and so passionately, and his prayers flowed from his lips like honey, as subtly crafted poems of extraordinary beauty. His spiritual journal writings were penned in superb calligraphy and flowed like lines from Shakespeare. Whenever he was called to give the student sermon at a Sunday communion, his words would instruct and inspire as if they were scripture itself. And in the blessing groups, Alphonse would describe visions of angelic rapture that transported the soul.

But soon enough, Rhodora put some checks on him. She stopped calling him for the student sermon. Then she said to him, “Alphonse, I want you to stop singing during prayer groups.” Alphonse was shocked, mortified. He was almost brought to tears, but he bit his lip. Rhodora addressed him thus: “Alphonse, be honest about your feelings with me.” “Dear Rhodora, you know I have deep appreciation for you. But this order seems so purposely hurtful to me.” “Tell me what you’re honestly feeling, Alphonse,” said Rhodora directly. “I feel hurt! I feel that you are envious of my singing, which puts your voice to shame!” he shouted, and the tears began to fall. “Alphonse,” she said, “it is good for you to be in touch with your feelings. Understand that what I do, and what I say, I do out of love for your soul.”

Soon after, Rhodora forbade Alphonse to write in his journal. Alphonse was a master cook, and Rhodora forbid him to cook any longer. Alphonse was a master chess player, and Rhodora forbid him to play chess. Alphonse was a master pianist, and Rhodora forbid him to play piano. Alphonse was a master poet, songwriter, and storyteller, and Rhodora forbid him to compose any of these. Alphonse was a voracious and discriminating reader, ranging from the classics (in several languages) to quantum physics, from esoteric philosophy to calculus. But no more reading for Alphonse! Alphonse was a master at clever puzzles of all kinds, ranging from math and logic puzzles to word puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. But no more puzzles for Alphonse! And so on it went, one thing after another--and Alphonse was so good at so many things!

“You hate me! You take away from me everything that I love! You want me to curl up and die!” protested Alphonse. “Alphonse,” Rhodora said in a loving but clear voice, “the Christian mystical Path is all about dying.” “But,” he protested, “all these things are given to me as spiritual gifts for God’s own enjoyment, and you are cutting them all down. You are so cruel!” Rhodora replied, “Dear Alphonse, if these things, as you say, are truly spiritual gifts, they will not leave your soul. Sometimes we must leave the known and familiar to create space for the unknown to enter and fill us. Sometimes we must set aside the things of the Light so that the Light itself may fill us. Trust my guidance, dear Alphonse, and you will be greatly rewarded.” Although Alphonse loved and trusted his teacher, he had a very hard time with this.

The day came when Alphonse was to go into seclusion. He was not allowed to sing, to draw, to paint, to write, even in his mind. He could see this only as a privation. He felt that three days of this would be sheer torture which he would not be able to endure. He spent the first day as in hell, and even communion failed to stir him. He cried himself to sleep and felt that his teacher, and even God, had forsaken him. It was a time of the dark night of the soul for poor Alphonse, and it only deepened on the second day. He felt unappreciated, misunderstood, unsupported, and miserably alone. Without all his wonderful talents to employ, he feared that he would be unworthy and unloved, alone and empty. This was the fear behind his pride, which he could scarcely face.

The next morning, Sunday, Rhodora didn’t even show up to give him communion. Nor was any breakfast served. The room even felt cold and uninviting. As he shivered in the corner, looking up to the pictures of Jesus and Mary, he contemplated suicide. Oh, that would be so romantic! It would be his final work of art. He began to compose a note, so very beautiful in its pain and depth of expression. He sealed it, as he contemplated the exquisite pain she would feel, so that she would begin to know the pain he felt--which she instigated. She would feel the pain of her own wrongdoing! He would be the instrument for the wrath of God!

He had found a letter opener in a drawer, and he raised it up to put an end to his life and his pain. At that very moment, church bells began to ring from a cathedral in the distance. The harmony of those bells entered his soul so deeply that he let the object fall to the ground, as he fell onto his knees at the Mary shrine.

Three quiet knocks on the door, and Rhodora entered the room. She did not console him, but she knew exactly what he was going through. She arranged the altar and then proceeded to give a Sunday communion service that seemed to Alphonse like it was from heaven itself. By the end of the service, Alphonse, almost in ecstasy, with tears flowing freely down his fair cheeks, heard the words of the parting blessing from the mouth of Rhodora: “May you drink deeply of the love of the Masters Jesus and Mary. May you know their peace that passes understanding. Know that you are greatly loved.”

At these words, Alphonse let everything go in total humility, purity, and obedience, as the divine Love and Light flooded his soul. He felt reborn, like he was on the first day when his soul came forth from the Mind of God.

Who’s Your Teacher?

Two spiritual aspirants, Samuel and El-Ra, met at a New Age Expo, and they began to compare notes.

El-Ra asked Samuel what sort of teacher he had. Samuel thought a few moments and then said, “Well, my teacher is very spiritual but also very grounded. He is totally dedicated to transforming people into their original stature as sons and daughters of God.”

El-Ra asked, “What do you mean by grounded?” Samuel said, “I mean that he’s very practical. He was once a contractor and a restaurant owner, for example.”

El-Ra looked a little critical. “Oh, you mean he’s a human teacher?”

Samuel was a bit taken aback. “Well, what other sort of teachers are there?”

“Do you mean to tell me that your so-called spiritual teacher eats, sleeps, and goes to the bathroom? Come on, man, give me a break!”

”Well, I don’t get what’s so bad about that,” said Samuel, a little bit annoyed but also a little curious. “And in any case, what sort of teacher do you have if he’s not human?”

“I have an angelic teacher--literally, an angel,” said El-Ra. “He is a purely spiritual being, whereas your teacher is merely a human being.”

Samuel wondered aloud, “So what does your teacher teach about human beings?”

“Humans are inferior beings, because they are mired in the flesh and its illusions. He teaches that humans are sinful, prideful, lustful, fearful, envious, gluttonous, and the like.”

“Hmm,” mused Samuel, “that doesn’t sound very loving. I wonder what sort of angel your teacher is--perhaps one of the fallen angels? My teacher knows all my failings, but he loves me unconditionally. And because he is human, I feel that he’s been through all the stuff that I’m going through. This gives me hope and faith.”

“My angelic teacher,” said El-Ra, “teaches me to ascend beyond the human realm, into pure spirit.”

“That’s all well and good,” said Samuel, “but my teacher compassionately understands my problems. But more than that, he can really kick butt!”

Copyright © 2005 by Edward Hirsch

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