Offerings 6

The Shift

Alphonso was exulting in his wonderful experiences of Grace and Light. He felt he was riding high on the Path, as if the Path were a flowing stream and he were a boat. He was feeling subtle energies in the classes and services of which his fellow students were oblivious. “Yes,” he felt, “this is the Path I have always longed for. After all these years, I am ready for the Path. I knew that life would eventually open up for me.” His teacher smiled and gave him a big hug, and he felt so good sharing the Light with his teacher.

The following day Alphonso was scheduled to have a meeting with his teacher. Due to an odd series of circumstances, he didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and he wasn’t feeling so great that day. However, it didn’t really upset him so much; it was more of an annoying inconvenience. But he wasn’t ready for his teacher’s prodding into areas that were problematic for him—such as his relationship, his obsession with reading, his lack of connection with his feelings, his denial of his money issues.

Alphonso was beginning to feel a little annoyed. He thought, “Why isn’t she focusing on what’s good in me, and on what I’m good at? Why is she being so critical?” He said, “I feel that you are trying to set me up, to deliberately upset me, to get a reaction out of me.” “Do you think I’m trying to persecute you?” she asked. “Well, if you’re not, you certainly are doing a good job of it!” he replied.

She asked him what he was feeling. He replied, “I’m feeling that whatever I do isn’t going to be good enough for you! You’re always going to find something to find fault with!” She then said, “Alphonso, where have you felt that before?” “I, I don’t know, I‘m not sure,” he said. “Alphonso, could it have anything to do with your mother when you were a child?” she asked. “Hey, you leave my mother out of this!” he shouted defensively.

He caught himself and knew he was going overboard. He began to feel sad that he was not respecting his teacher’s function in his life, that he was blocking the flow of guidance. But something was breaking open inside him, a torrent he felt he could not stop. His teacher said something, but he could hardly hear her at all.

“OK, I get it, you’re right. All my professed love for the Path and my enthusiasm is a sham. My life is driven by fear and shame and anger. My life’s a mess. I’m a piece of shit! I’m suffering, I’m suffering, I’m suffering! There, are you happy now?! Are you satisfied?!” he shouted in tears and fury.

But no one was there to be dumped on. Instead, there was only a field of open love and acceptance. Then he knew that he was venting a communication with his mother that he had carried inside himself all these years. Once he realized this, he could release it into the open space. Now there was a loving Mother energy embracing him, giving birth to himself anew.

The Path

After a talk on the mystical way by Father Pedro, Brother Andrew asked him about the nature of the Path based on Father Pedro’s personal experiences. Father Pedro replied, “I am very happy to share this with you, if it might help inspire you on your way. Of course, I could write volumes of memoirs, but I shall here only share the inner outlines.”

Father Pedro continued: “Every path is unique, and everyone must take his or her own personal journey. In my case, I came from a poor, but very spiritual, Mexican family. In fact, my family had a great lineage of healers and shamans. I had the strong Latin blood in my veins, and I was a quite passionate and rebellious youth. I had to find out everything on my own.

“I loved life with a great passion. I devoured many books and many experiences. I sought to sip the cup of every pleasure and satisfaction the world could offer. I sought the Light in everything, until I found that they were only mere reflections of the Light itself. Even subtle and celestial visions were only more phantom play of the Light.

“When I met my teacher, Father Ruizo, I let go of everything for the sake of the Light. All my passion became focused on the Light itself. And the more I focused on the Light, the more readily everything else let go. That brought tremendous peace.

“Eventually, I was led to the very Source of the Light, which is God or the God Self. Then from that Center, everything came back fresh and purified, all for the sake of that Center. I loved life now with the passion of God, without selfish attachments and ambitions. Moved by compassion for others still stuck in life, I became a teacher to open them to real life. That is the Path.”

Finding A Teacher

Father Pedro happened to be in New York City, and while he was there, he felt drawn to connecting with a teacher in Kabbalah. He was led to a small synagogue in Brooklyn one evening, and he sat in the back pew. He listened to the service while he sensed the energy in the place.

At the end of the service, there was a minor uproar when it was learned that a priest had entered the synagogue. One of the members came up to him and demanded, “What is the meaning of this? How dare you enter our place of worship! Have you no respect for another religion?” Soon a small crowd gathered around Father Pedro. It did not feel particularly welcoming.

Father Pedro said, “Peace unto you. Who’s persecuting who here?” The rabbi came forward and said, “What do you want here? Who are you?” Father Pedro said, “I am not what you think I am. I am a priest, but not a Catholic priest. I am a true mystic of the inner Path to God. I am here because I want to know if the real mystical or inner Path is alive and well in Judaism. I want to see a real teacher.”

The rabbi said, “Do you mean a rabbi? I am the rabbi of this synagogue.” Father Pedro said, ”I am looking for a mystic.” “Do you mean a Kabbalist?” “Yes,” Father Pedro said, “That is what I seek.” “Well then,” the rabbi said, “Here is Rabbi Krakowitz, who teaches Kabbalah classes every Wednesday evening. He has a degree in Kabbalah from the University of Jerusalem.”

“With all due respect,” Father Pedro said, “what I am looking for is a real teacher of the inner Path, one who knows God. I am not interested in head trips.” The men gathered there seemed a bit offended, but the head rabbi spoke up: “I know what you are seeking. I too, when I was younger, had such a quest. I will take you to a real Kabbalist, a real rebbe, a real mensch. Come.”

Father Pedro followed the rabbi down winding steps, through courtyards, through back rooms in the little Jewish community. Finally they came to a cottage where they found a little old man saying his evening prayers, surrounded by a handful of students. When the man was finished, the rabbi said, “Rabbi, this is Father Pedro, a mystical Christian priest. Father Pedro, I would like you to meet Rabbi Mendel of Bialystok.”

The two men faced each other, as if across a gap between two different continents, even two different worlds. But as their eyes met, the Light cut through the differences in religion, outer garb, beliefs, and all the rest. They recognized each other--maybe it was a past life connection, or maybe not. But the souls recognized each other, recognized the God Self in each other, shining brightly. They smiled and gave each other a big hug. They gave each other a blessing, and then it was time to depart.

Perfection

Alphonso was frustrated with himself as he recounted his failings to his teacher, Christine. “There seems to be something basically wrong with me. There’s a passion in me that loves beauty and grace but also gets reactive, defensive, rigid. I see the lessons involved in my experience, but I just keep on making the same mistakes. I strongly respond to the blessings and the like, but I too readily lose my center.”

Christine asked, “So what seems to be the problem, actually? Is it all this you talk about, or is it what you do to yourself about it all?”

“I guess it’s that I get so frustrated with myself and I overreact to myself in a negative way. But wait a minute, that wouldn’t be a problem if I just didn’t do all these stupid mistakes!” Alphonso said.

“It seems that your perfectionism is always going to make you feel bad, however far you go or whatever heights you attain. Now if perfectionism is going to make you feel like a worm, what do you think perfection is going to make you feel like? Christine asked.

“Why,” Alphonso said, “that would make me look lower than the dust beneath one’s feet.”

“Now look at this, Alphonso,” Christine said, “is it really true that perfection condemns you? Is Jesus’ perfection just a higher level of your perfectionism?”

Alphonso had to admit his misunderstanding. Perfection is perfect love, which casts out all fear and judgment.

Divine Love

Alphonso was repeatedly having problems with feelings of unworthiness, fears that he’d mess up God’s plan, fears that he was going to abuse any authority given to him.

One day, Father Pedro said to him, “Alphonso, I’d like to share something from my own experience on the Path. I was having similar problems when I was studying under my teacher, Father Ruizo. I came to him one day in tears, so distraught that my own problems seemed bigger and stronger than God’s Love and Grace.

Father Pedro continued: “I talked to him for awhile, and then Father Ruizo asked me if I wanted a blessing. I assented. As I knelt before him, Father Ruizo placed his hands on my head and prayed. At one point, he said, ‘And let Pedro know that there is nothing he can do to prevent God from loving him.’ With that, I spun off into something of an inner dream, in which I was a rebellious youth. I couldn’t and wouldn’t accept God’s love. I had to show God that He/She was wrong to love me. I had to prove that I was unworthy of that love. In this dream sequence, I was committing every sort of horrifying atrocity. And the more God loved me, the more I acted out. I was showing God that I didn’t need His/Her love, that nothing God did could stop me from being free. And yet to prove that, I was going against my own nature, and my own natural love. Things were beginning to spin quickly out of control, and I was seized with a great fear as to where things were going.

“I don’t recall Father Ruizo saying anything more. But I vividly recall the downpouring of the Light and Love, though there was still some resistance to it, some inner complication. But by the end of the blessing, before Father Ruizo left, I felt a tear fall onto my shoulder. I looked up and I saw him smiling at me, but also with a sense of infinite compassion and sadness for my suffering. I felt deeply moved. I realized then and there that all this self-obsession and fear was all my own creation and totally unnecessary. The whole energy and dilemma of the problem disappeared as a bad dream. I relaxed into the Light and Love, and I got out of my own way.”

Killjoy

Alphonso was going through the spiritual roller coaster. He’d enjoy the highs of inspiration, grace, unconditional love, and the like, and then he’d crash back into mediocrity, doubt, despair, lust, judgment, pride, fear, on and on.

One day, an inner voice told him, “I think you are getting enough signs that this path is not working for you.” Alphonso shuddered, “I’ve been through so many paths, I can’t bear to think that another one is going down the drain. Where would I be then?” “There is always another path,” the voice replied. Being a seeker isn’t so bad, and at least it keeps you moving.”

“But I’ve only been in this group less than a year,” Alphonso said. “And besides, I think patience is a virtue.” “Yes, “ the voice said, “but it can also be a form of denial, like when you stayed in that relationship longer than it was good for you, just in the hope that it would work out. Do you know that it is I who keeps a watchful eye on you? I’ve saved you from many a fruitless relationship and spiritual group as well. I just want you to know that I’m looking out for you.”

Alphonso grew uneasy. “Wait a minute! You know that every time I go into a funk, I come out, I come back into the Light.” “Just so,” said the voice, “and back down you go. What, are you some sort of spiritual yo-yo? Does this bring you any delight? You enjoy this suffering?”

“But there’s a lot of Light here, and I’ve made so many beautiful connections with people. This is my spiritual family.” The voice responded: “Of course there is Light there! Light is everywhere, you know. You can find it in a dunghill, if you want. But let’s speak a little truth here that is more to the point. The truth is, you get some upliftment from a hug here, a good meal there, some nice conversation, some inspired writings, a catchy guitar tune, some sweet-smelling fragrances, some pleasant bodily sensations, some insights to titillate your mind. But these come and go. They catch hold of you enough to keep you wanting to come back for more. And you keep denying the dark side, the downside. Look, I see what you go through! It’s not a pretty sight.”

“You’re really beginning to get to me now!” said Alphonso, beginning to tense up inside. “Relax!” said the voice. “I never said the truth always feels good. But that’s not what the Path is about. Yes, the truth hurts some at first, but believe me, it is for your own good. Would you rather me deceive you, lie to you, lull you into a fool’s paradise—so that you can really crash once and for all? Think about it.”

“OK, OK, you’ve made your point,” Alphonso relented. “But why are you getting on my case? The Path has its ups and downs, but I am making some progress. At any rate, my teacher tells me I’m doing fine.” “And you believe that? How about trusting your own experience? Sure, you feel a bit more light in your body now and then, but those are just passing sensations. The truth is that you are keeping yourself busy with exercises, readings, and the full schedule of attending classes, holiday parties, events of all sorts—keeping yourself busy so that you don’t have to feel inside what you know to be true.”

“Yeah, and what is that?” asked Alphonso. “The point of it all: and that is that behind all the changes, there is no fundamental transformation.” “So, I’m doomed? Is that what you’re saying? Thanks a lot!” Alphonso quipped. “Now, now,” the voice chimed in, “I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that this path is not really working for you beyond some superficial entertainment. Look for yourself: your basic fears, anxiety, restlessness, judgments, lusts all remain intact. You go through the motions—yes, with good intentions—but deeper down, you resist. Aren’t you aware of that?”

Now Aphonso was tearful. “Yes, I must admit it. But it breaks my heart.” “Come on now,” said the voice. “Let’s not indulge in self-pity! It’s your own game that you set up.” “How about having some faith?” said Alphonso. “I know it is a difficult situation. I know I feel stuck. But that’s what grace is for. If I follow your advice, I’d just stay stuck.”

The voice said, “Look, I don’t know right now the way out for you, but I’m just looking at what is working for you and what’s not working. Look, I’m on your side. I’m your best friend, because I know you from the inside, and I look out for you. See, I’m trying to save you from needless suffering. I’m not trying to be a killjoy, you know.”

“Then what is your suggestion?” Alphonso asked. The voice replied, “Give yourself a break. Go walk along the beach, take in a sunset. I know it’s hard to leave something you’ve gotten attached to. But you’ll get over it, just like you got over all those other things you thought at the time that you couldn’t live without. Clear your head and then something new will come along. Have some faith. Don’t you worry, I’ll be with you.”

Innocence

Don Carlos was a drug kingpin. He was a man infamous for being a heartless and cold-blooded killer. “I didn’t get to be king of the mountain by being nice,” he would say. Born to a poor peasant family, Don Carlos worked his way up to live a high lifestyle in which he could indulge every whim and taste every forbidden pleasure. Within a single hour he might torture his enemies in the basement dungeon and then play with his sex slaves in the upstairs penthouse.

One day, Don Carlos was taking one of his beloved dogs, a beautiful Russian wolfhound named Christos, out on one of his many motorcycle rides. Don Carlos had a sidecar specially built just for this purpose. Usually, he would ride the back country trails and feel the freedom of the open road and the sun and wind upon him. This time, he strayed a little closer to one of the villages. Going a little too fast around a curve, he narrowly managed to miss a group of children coming up on one side and a small flock of sheep on the other. The motorcycle flipped onto its side, crushing his dog Christos and his own right foot underneath.

Oblivious to his own pain, Don Carlos rushed to the aid of his beloved wolfhound. But alas, Christos seemed to be in great pain and was struggling to breathe. Don Carlos got down on his knees and pleaded, like a little child, “Dear God, I care not for my own life. I have sinned enough for many lifetimes. I do not ask you to spare me. But please, I beg of you, save the life of this innocent one, one of your beautiful ones, whom I have honored with your name.”

Waiting For Jesus

Daniel had an appointment with Jesus at the café. He made sure that he was on time, with all his questions neatly written down on the page before him. Daniel wanted to honor Jesus by wearing his best clothes, his best shoes, and with his beard trimmed.

“Hmm, Jesus must be running a little late. I know he is a very busy guy. He’s got disciples all over the world. Well, I have nothing better to do than just sit here and wait.” Then it occurred to Daniel that it might be a good idea to close his eyes and go inside, just to make sure he was in a proper frame of mind.

While he was taking a deep breath, it occurred to Daniel that yesterday was his friend Tom’s birthday. “Well, former friend, I guess. I wonder what he’s doing these days. Probably stuck in the same ways as last year! Too bad he could never settle into a path. What a loser!”

Then he thought of Miranda, who was a new member of the Order. “Yeah, she’s kind of cute, but she’s definitely light-weight. She’s so inauthentic—I can see it in her smile.” This then reminded him, by contrast, of Elizabeth, who was further along on the Path. “Elizabeth--now there’s a heavyweight for you. I admire her dedication, but she’s a little too much. I mean, can’t she lighten up a little?”

This then reminded Daniel of his old girlfriend, Donna. He still had mixed feelings about her. All of a sudden, there they were in his mind, right where they’d left off. “Hey, Donna, lighten up, OK? Why does everything have to be such a big drama? Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m being insensitive to your needs and feelings.” He was just about to launch into one of his counteroffensives, one of his lengthy attacking monologues that would leave her crying, and he was totally lost in it. All else had faded from his mind. Just then, Jesus came in and sat at his table.

Startled awake, and quickly regaining his composure, Daniel said, “Jesus, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in.”

“Busy?” Jesus asked. “Oh no,” said Daniel, “I was just going inside, waiting for you.” Then looking at his watch, Daniel said, “Oh, I guess you’re a bit late.”

“Not really,” Jesus said, “I’ve been here awhile, but I didn’t feel very welcome.”

“What do you mean? I, I, don’t understand,” replied Daniel. “What do you mean, you were already here? And what do you mean, you didn’t feel welcome?”

“As you treat others, that is how you treat me,” said Jesus.

“Treat others?!” responded Daniel, a little defensively. “I’ve been sitting here alone waiting for you!”

All The World’s A Stage

When Mother Clara was a teenager, of course a major preoccupation was chatting with friends about—well, you know, boys, and life, and relationships, and, well, girl stuff.

One morning, she awoke with a great sense of urgency and excitement, and she could hardly wait to meet her friend at the café.

“So what’s all the excitement about, Clara?” asked her friend Margaret. “Don’t tell me some new boy’s in town.”

Clara just sat there beaming, speechless. “Well, what then, Clara?” Margaret asked. “I can tell it’s something special.”

“It is, Margaret. You know how we meet at this café on Saturday mornings?” “Well, yeah, we’ve been doing this for as long as I’ve known you,” Margaret said.

“Well, it dawned on me. In order for us to have this little conversation, what has to happen? We have to be in bodies, and do you know what a miracle that is? And we had to have gone through nine months of gestation, and then birth. We had to have years of learning how to walk, how to talk. There had to be our parents, and their parents, and then their parents, like a chain going back in time. Then consider our teachers, and the farmers who raise the crops for us to eat, and all that goes into making our town function. Then, there has to be the earth, and the sun. Just think of it: thousands of years of civilization, millions of years of evolving life, and billions of years of the galaxy cooling down and forming what is the stage for our little conversation.”

“Wow, that’s a lot!” said Margaret, also inspired.

“So when you take all that in,” said Clara, “and God maintaining it all, it seems it would be a waste to just sit and talk about boys and stuff. It seems we should be talking about God and the whole universe and everything.”

“Gee,” said Margaret, “in this larger view, it seems that that’s what we’ve been talking about all along, only we just didn’t know it!”

“Cool!” said Clara.

Hot And Cold

Jesus invited his disciples into the hot baths. Some of them followed, but others declined, saying, “The hot baths are too hot, and the cold baths are too cold.” These disciples therefore went into the lukewarm baths, where they justified themselves, saying, “I’m tired of going through this cycle of waxing hot and cold, up and down. I’m tired of this yo-yo existence, this endless cycle of the dualities.” In their pride, they fancied themselves more advanced than the other disciples, for they felt they had transcended the dual nature of life by releasing into a unified state. Unfortunately, these disciples relaxed a little too much and a little too long. Some of them actually fell asleep and drowned in the baths, while others simply stayed immersed, or floating--comfortable but never transforming.

Meanwhile, the disciples who followed Jesus into the hot baths had a different fate. The heat was a little strong for them, but they relaxed into it. Jesus even turned up the heat a bit more, and the disciples deepened into this as well. Finally, Jesus called them out of the heat and directly into the cold baths. Some of the disciples feared for their lives and ran away. Others, grown accustomed to the heat and fearful of the cold, stayed in—and these eventually grew numb and drowned or cooked. But those who followed Jesus into the cold baths felt awakened, strengthened, vitalized, and renewed, tempered like swords and ready to serve in the world of dualities.

Seduction

Milano was a young, vital, and very handsome priest of the Order. And by the Lord’s grace, he was as devoted to God as he was vital and handsome. His superior would send him to visit the many small towns near the Order house, to edify the rural folk and share the blessed sacrament. The local young girls would swoon over their favorite priest, but Milano would simply shrug them off without a further thought.

However, there was one young girl, Christina, who was not so easily turned aside. She had great determination and passion, only they hadn’t yet found their proper goal. Her pure and innocent beauty caught Milano’s eye, and he praised God for such a wondrous creature.

After communion one day, Christina managed to get a little time alone with the handsome priest. “I have such great love for God,” she told him. “And I too feel such great love,” he answered. She looked at him longingly and said, “Your words are music to my soul. As we love the same love, let us share that love. That would be my joy.” “It would be mine as well,” Milano innocently replied, “for Jesus said, ‘Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’” Christina sighed. “I’m sure Jesus would love the two of us gathered together.” Christina touched him gently, and before he knew what was happening, they were commingling with one another on the soft altar cloths in a little room behind the chapel.

Unbeknownst to Milano, Christina was the daughter of a parish priest and had recently run away from home. Was her dalliance with the handsome priest only innocent youthfulness, was she trying to commune with holy power, or was she trying to vicariously seduce Daddy? Or had she become disillusioned with the priesthood and with God, and thus was moved to prove that no one was trustworthy? All these things Milano pondered over in his heart, after the whole affair came to light and was brought to the attention of his superior. Milano came close to being defrocked--or worse, but for the intervention of the parish priest who knew his daugther’s wiles and came to his defense. But Milano learned a hard lesson that made a deep and lasting impression on his soul.

That was in Italy, circa 1455.

Now, in Oakland, California, lived a handsome priest by the name of Milo. Into his life came Christy, a girl who recently became a student at the Order. The two of them felt a strong chemistry between them. One day, Christy found Milo alone behind the chapel, cleaning some of the chalices. As she struck up a conversation with him, she came close by him. Looking into her eyes, with the light playing upon the walls, with the two of them situated in the room just so, everything hit Milo as a clear déjà vu. He came to a great deal of clarity in that moment, for which he deeply thanked Jesus and Mary with heartfelt gratitude.

Some years later, Christy was a priest in training, and she and Milo received guidance to start dating. Not long after, they received the sacrament of spiritual marriage. Christy got her joy of such holy communion, but this time it was a pure and holy joy.

Sacrifice

Jennifer had been in the Order for over five years. Now, in what was an unprecedented move by Father Pedro, she was being asked to leave—not just the Center but the Order itself. Father Pedro explained to the other students at the Center: “Five years might not seem like much, but our Order is designed for rapid growth. This is to meet the increased demand for service in our times. We have worked with Jennifer for countless hours, and the only thing that can resist such intensive work is a tremendous resistance to transformation. Now Jennifer has to make a decision in her heart that no one else can make for her. And it will take some time out in the world, out on her own, to help her make that decision.”

Bradford knew Jennifer well, and he knew more of the inside story. Now a priest in training, he reminisced how he had enjoyed watching Jennifer mature along the Path. He recalled the day she had first come to the Center, and how he had felt an immediate attraction to her, a soul resonance. It wasn’t long before Jennifer had moved into the Center as a novice, and the two of them became fast friends. Eventually he and Jennifer secretly became lovers—secretly, because part of the novice’s vows was to be celibate for a year. In any case, after a few months of this affair, Bradford could no longer bear deceiving his teacher like this, and he wanted to come clean. Jennifer had told him that, if he did, they would both be forced to leave the Order—even though this was not true, and Jennifer knew it. What made matters even more complicated was that, even after Bradford confessed to his teacher, Jennifer kept denying the whole affair, both to her teacher and to Father Pedro. Bradford still felt close to Jennifer, but this whole ordeal had put some strain on their relationship. Although he had still felt a deep soul connection with her, he never felt quite open and relaxed in relating with her after that.

Despite all of this, Jennifer progressed along the Path and was even once brought to illumination. However, some time later, for reasons that weren’t clear, she lapsed from the Path. Father Pedro and Mother Clara had spent many fruitless hours working with her, including past life regressions, research in the akashic records, and hypnotherapy, and still somehow she remained resistant. And so matters stood for awhile, until Father Pedro finally announced that she was being asked to leave. This was during Advent, a precious time when the whole Order was in deep preparations for the inner birth of the Christ.

Jennifer was very unemotional about the whole matter, and Bradford could sense that she was very shut down. Bradford, on the other hand, pleaded openly to Father Pedro on her behalf, asking him to give her one more chance, saying that he knew Jennifer better than anyone, even than Father Pedro. He told him, “Look, you don’t understand. Jennifer has reasons for what she’s doing. And if you send her out into the world now, during the darkest time of the year, while we enjoy the Grace and the Light here in the Order, she will utterly lose it. It will be her undoing!” But Father Pedro stayed firm with his decision, and he even went so far as to demand that all ties with Jennifer be cut off. No one was to give her a going away present or a Christmas gift, and no one was to try to contact her by phone, e-mail, letter, or in any other way. Bradford felt that he was being cruel, and he was plagued with doubts about Father Pedro and the whole Order.

Jennifer was packed and out the door before Bradford even had a chance to speak to her and say goodbye. She had left him no note and no farewell. First, Bradford called Jennifer’s cell phone, but all he heard was a message saying that it was not accepting any more incoming calls. Then he contacted Jennifer’s parents in Texas, and her mother answered. “Hi, Mrs. Bramwell, it’s Bradford. I was wondering if Jennifer might be there.” “Oh hello, Bradford, how nice to hear from you. Yes, we’re expecting Jennifer soon for a Christmas visit.” And then, “You sound a little concerned. Is there anything wrong, Bradford?” her Mom asked. Apparently, Jennifer hadn’t told them anything, and he wasn’t about to open the subject now. “No, Mrs. Bramwell, but Merry Christmas to you and Mr. Bramwell.” That was short and sweet.

After evening prayers, Bradford went into meditation to ask for guidance. He got a strong sense that he had to follow her. He was prepared to face the consequences of going against Father Pedro’s instructions. He was prepared to make the sacrifice, even if it meant abandoning his training for the priesthood, even if it meant leaving the Order. He was trusting his inner guidance, which told him that Jennifer’s soul was in peril.

Bradford left a short note for Father Pedro to read the next morning, and then he got into his car and headed for Texas. As he left the Order Center behind, he felt he was leaving part of his soul behind him as well. And before him lay an uncertain future. However, he knew he had clear guidance that he had to deal with what lay before him, and so he left without regret.

His meditation had told him that his mission was one of clearing up some past karma. What came before his inner vision was a past life in which Jennifer had saved Bradford’s life when he was condemned to be executed as a heretical mystic. She had used her feminine influence, even putting her reputation on the line, to sway the heart of the pope in Bradford’s favor. Bradford swore that he would repay the debt if he were ever in the position to do so.

The drive to Texas was long, the weather was terrible, and the road conditions were extremely hazardous. He managed to get through alive, and he was convinced that this was only by the grace of guidance. When Bradford finally arrived at Jennifer’s parent’s home, he turned off the car, closed his eyes, and went inside. He gave abundant thanks and prayed for strength and guidance. He knocked on the front door, and Jennifer was shocked to see him. Something in her felt resistant, as if Bradford were interfering with her life. But something deeper within her felt moved that Bradford, in his situation at the Order, would sacrifice all that he held dear to come help her. So she let him in, and they stayed up most of the night talking.

Bradford, for his part, made it clear that he had no intention to force anything on her, and that he was simply following the direction of guidance. He sincerely wanted the best for her, whatever that might be. He shared with her the past life that had revealed itself to him in meditation. She acknowledged that, but Bradford could tell that there was something else troubling her.

“Jenn, are you OK? You seem troubled—and it seems more than just your being asked to leave the Order. Is it us? Do you feel that it’s all over between us?”

“Brad, you are still so dear to me, and I am so grateful that you sacrificed yourself to follow me outside the Order. Yes, it is about us, but it’s also much bigger than us.” “Well,” Brad said, “I’m all ears. I’m not going anywhere until we see this through.”

“I see that there’s no point in keeping it to myself any longer. I cannot live with it anymore, anyway. Brad, I want to share something that has been so heavy on my heart for so long, and which I was never able to share with you, or with anyone.” Here, Jennifer paused to sob a bit and to collect herself.

“Where to begin? You see, Brad, we had a past lifetime together long before the one of which you speak. That’s where the trouble started, and I have to share it with you.” At this point, the energy in the room shifted and intensified, as if both the Light and the Darkness were vying for control.

“We were priest and priestess in training in an ancient Egyptian Mystery School. Our love for each other got us in trouble with the priests, and we chose to leave the Order rather than to separate. After leaving, we lacked the guidance and protection of the Order, and we knew enough only to get ourselves into trouble. We got into dabbling with the dark forces, and pretty soon we were way over our heads, lured by the promises offered by secret sexual techniques that were known to the Mystery School, but which were reserved for the more advanced disciples. Our true love for one another got us through, but we were overshadowed by the dark forces for the rest of that lifetime. I’m not clear what happened after that, but I do know that the dark forces followed us into subsequent lifetimes. Oh, and by the way, Father Pedro…”

“Yeah, he was the head priest at that Egyptian Mystery School, right?”

“Right, and I know he has only the highest intentions for us both. But before I bring the story up to date, I must tell you that what I have related to you is the background to the life of which you spoke. It was to escape from the dark forces that you became a mystic in that lifetime. What else could you do? The Catholic order that you were part of had already been overtaken by the dark forces, so you sought your connection with the Light on your own, outside the Church. The dark forces hounded you and manipulated circumstances to turn the ecclesiastical authorities against you in that lifetime. It was only with the help of Father Pedro in that lifetime that I managed, at great personal risk, to save you.”

“This is all a little scary,” Bradford said, “but how does all this connect with this present lifetime?”

“I felt that it was my tempting you in that Egyptian lifetime that got us into this mess, and so in this lifetime I resolved to do whatever was in my power to help you succeed on the Path. I was willing to sacrifice my own progress for your sake. I wanted so much for us to be together on the Path, for us to be priests together, but the dark forces proved to be too strong for that to happen. So I secretly took the dark forces upon myself, so that you would be free to progress along the Path on your own.

Unfortunately, I was not strong enough to progress much on my own—the dark forces kept a tight grip upon my heart so that nothing I did could allow the Light in enough to free me. The dark forces shrouded the past so that neither Father Pedro nor Mother Clare could penetrate to the truth. I tried to do my best, but I felt all alone in my situation, and the dark forces threatened me with dire consequences should I ever reveal the truth to anyone. As you can imagine, that didn’t exactly make me feel open with people in the Order. They were right to perceive that I was guarded and didn’t really share myself with them. I know this brought them pain. However, I stayed in the Order, because it afforded me enough protection not to be overtaken by the dark forces. I didn’t even want you to know about my situation, for fear that it would haunt you and distract you from your path.”

“And since you left the Order?” Bradford asked.

“Since I’ve left, I’ve been plagued by nightmares and demonic attacks. I just don’t have the protection anymore,” Jennifer shared. “This is what has been troubling me, Brad. Believe me, I didn’t want to get you mixed up in this…” and she reached over and gave him a hug.

As he drew close to her, he could feel something tense up inside him, something that kept him separate from her. “Jenn, the dark forces will have a grip on us only so long as we hold darkness within ourselves. We cannot undo the past and our mistakes. But we can release whatever we are holding onto. If we are going to come into the Light, we are going to have to be fully open, without holding onto to anything.” Bradford separated himself from her enough so that they could meet each other eye to eye. “So I have a question for you, Jenn: Why did you continue the deception when you refused to acknowledge our relationship to Father Pedro and Mother Clara? I still hold some hurt from that, and it makes me afraid that you will hold onto deception and not be able or willing to fully open and come clean with God.”

“Oh Brad, I know you were so hurt by what I did. And it was all the more painful for me because I could not explain myself to you or anyone else. This was the work of the dark forces, beginning to build their web around me, to separate me from you and from everyone else in the Order. I think the dark forces pressured me into this as part of their plan to eventually get me out of the Order. Then they knew I would be more vulnerable to their power.”

“I know this much,” said Brad. “Jesus and Mary are still with us, and together we are more of a match for the dark forces than we could be alone. God works in mysterious ways. The dark forces succeeded in getting you out of the Order, but they also succeeded in getting us together. In this lifetime, we shall be free of their clutches and enter the Light, together. We are here to serve, not to expend our energy fighting the darkness.”

Brad continued: “We won’t put any more focus on the dark forces, which only energizes them. Let’s pray together for divine protection and for guidance.”

Jennifer said, “Oh Brad, I want the Light for us, but I want us to be together in the Light. That’s what I’ve wanted all along.”

Bradford reflected a bit, then remarked, “Jenn, I don’t want to put the blame on you, but remember in that Egyptian lifetime, it was your overzealous desire for our union that led us into territory beyond what we could handle. You have sacrificed for me, and I have sacrificed for you, but now guidance tells me that we are both called to go beyond our attachment to our relationship.”

Jennifer was a little concerned. “Do you mean we should separate? Is that what you really want?”

“I’m not saying that, Jenn,” Brad assured her. “What I’m saying is that God has to become the center for us, and then our individual relationship to God. Then comes our relationship, only after that foundation. And the truth is, it is only on that rock that our relationship will last and be fulfilled. Does that make sense to you?”

“Yes, a thousand times, yes!” said Jennifer. “I’m totally with you on this.”

“That’s all we need. Now let us surrender into the Love and the Light. Let us call for the divine Presence and protection of Jesus and Mary now.”

They sat facing each other, holding hands, forming a circuit of Light. They visualized a sphere of white Light around them, and into that sphere they called forth Jesus and Mary to hold them, purify them, and align them with the Light and Divine Will.

The atmosphere around them filled with Light, as they were surrounded by a sphere of brilliant white Light. They could feel menacing dark forces beyond that sphere, but they could feel Jesus and Mary working on them from within. They felt darkness within them evaporate like smoke and disappear. They felt their very cells becoming illuminated, as if their DNA strands were reconfiguring in new ways. This process went on for about half an hour, after which they no longer sensed any dark forces present.

Eventually, they fell asleep, arm in arm, happy that the work was accomplished. The next morning, they received a phone call from Father Pedro, asking them both to come back as soon as they could. Bradford drove them both back in his car, with renewed dedication to the Path.

Upon their arrival, Father Pedro gave them a blessing. They had a long talk and everything came out in the open. Father Pedro told the couple that what they had done was very risky for their soul development, and there was real danger of them both sliding back into the dark forces. That is why he and Mother Clara had kept them in their prayers all that time. “We were aware of what was happening, and we let it happen. We had to allow the dark forces to have their way with you for awhile so that this whole thing would break open. Sometimes you have to leave the Path--or so it seems--in order to continue on the Path,” he said.

Father Pedro asked them to live separately for some months, while Bradford continued his priesthood training, and Jennifer was able to enter the deaconate training. Not long after Bradford’s ordination to the priesthood and Jennifer’s ordination to deacon, they enjoyed the sacrament of marriage, presided over by both Father Pedro and Mother Clara. All were blessed, and from that union, many more souls would be blessed.

Presence And Flow

Father Pedro was addressing a group of students. “Reality is Being--eternal and unchanging God, God in heaven; and reality is also the Becoming that flows out of God. Therefore, we cultivate presence to abide in God, and we cultivate flow to align with God’s Guidance, God’s Will for us.”

One student asked, “How can we cultivate both of these, which seem to be opposites?” Father Pedro answered, “We cultivate love, for love opens the heart and reveals the God-Self, that which we are, and that in which we abide. And love also aligns us with God’s Will, God’s movement in the world.”

Alphonso shared, “When I am present, I become impractical. I get lost in the moment of experience, and I lose all touch with the context of past and future. I guess I sort of space out. And when I am flowing, I get lost in whatever is happening, such as energy, emotion, passion, etc.”

Father Pedro responded: “Yes, that is a condition of the untransformed soul.”

Alphonso asked, “Well, how can I make these work together?”

Father Pedro said, “You want to make these work for you. What we do is make them work for God. You see, they already have their root in God. So when we turn to God and establish a connection with God out of love, they become the natural condition and movement of the soul.”

Alphonso then said, “OK, that sounds good. How do I establish my connection with God?”

Father Pedro said, “Hang around with us. Welcome to the Path.”

Doubting

Father Pedro was giving a talk on faith. Alphonso had been strangely quiet during the whole talk. Finally, he said, “Father Pedro, the more I open in faith, the more doubt comes forth.”

Father Pedro said, “You can call in the Light of Jesus and Mary so that the doubts can be seen in the Light.”

Alphonso said, “Hmm, I never thought of that.”

Father Pedro said, “OK, let’s try this right now. We’ll call in the presence of Jesus and Mary, and then we’ll invite in the doubts.” “Sounds good to me,” said Alphonso.

Father Pedro invoked the holy Presence, and once Alphonso could feel it strongly, he began to invite in the doubts. ,p>“OK, here goes. “What if my family and friends thought I was doing something foolish or weird?” “Good,” said Father Pedro, “just feel them as they arise without getting lost in them. Then go on to the next one.”

“Why can’t I just use hypnotherapy and New Age breakthrough techniques that cut through all the stuff without all the Christian paraphernalia?”

“I have friends in Buddhism and nondual paths where they go directly into Truth, without all these rituals of organized religion. Why do I need all this?”

“What about all that I’d be missing out on by committing to this one path?”

“What if I go far in this path and get deeply attached to it, and then for some reason fall out of it--and then feel miserable?”

“What if the gospel accounts of Jesus and Mary aren’t true, but just a mythical story?”

“What if Jesus and Mary aren’t even real?”

“What if Jesus and Mary are real, but my teacher isn’t really realized?” “What if Jesus and Mary are real, but this isn’t my path because I’m not destined for them, one of their chosen ones?”

“What if the Path is real but I’m just too messed up for it to really transform me? What if the Light that I open to just brings up more of my darkness?”

Well, I think that’s about it. Anyway, I’m exhausted.”

Father Pedro said, “Good, now just relax and feel the energy of all these doubts and worries, as you stay connected to the Light.”

Alphonso took a deep breath and then said, “Father, there is one thing more. Perhaps it is the most devastating. I hesitate to say it, for I don’t know if you could handle it.”

Father Pedro assured him, not to worry, that he had the full power of Jesus and Mary backing him up. “Go for it,” he said.

“OK, I did want to get this off my chest,” Alphonso confided. “It’s this: Why would a real Master, a real Master Teacher, waste his time with a loser like me?”

“You’re right,” Father Pedro acknowledged, “this is the most devastating one—for you! Can you feel no compassion for yourself? Did Jesus hang out with high priests and the righteous, or did he hang out with the sinners?”

“Thank you, Father Pedro,” said Alphonso, “I’m taking in what you’re saying.”

Father Pedro continued. “You see, my dear Alphonso, your questions have been ways of protecting yourself, but all they do is disturb you and keep you agitated. Your last question is a way of protecting yourself from your suffering, by writing yourself off so you don’t have to feel your own pain.”

“Yes,” Alphonso said, with tears in his eyes, “I intuitively sense it is true as you say.”

“Good. All this activity simply maintains your suffering by disconnecting you from the Light that’s here and now,” said Father Pedro.

“Yes, I can feel that,” said Alphonso.

“Good,” said Father Pedro. “Now here’s my suggestion for you. Instead of going on and on with your usual program, try something different. Try relaxing, opening, and receiving the Light, the Love, the Grace, the Guidance. Try it; you can always go back to your usual doubting and worrying if you choose.”

“Sounds great,” said Alphonso.

“Welcome to the Path, Alphonso,” said Father Pedro.

“What If I Gave My Whole Heart?”

Alphonso had an audience with Father Pedro. Father Pedro asked him, “What troubles you, my son?”

“Father Pedro,” Alphonso began, “you know I cannot do this Path half-heartedly. Either I’m going to put my whole heart into it, or I cannot continue.”

“This sounds good,” said Father Pedro, “so what is the problem?”

“I have this fear connected with my heart somehow. If I put my whole heart into something, there’s this fear…”

“Of…” offered Father Pedro.

“Well, it’s not so clear at that point. I think partly it’s fear that, if it succeeds, then I’ll have to face too many responsibilities or pressures, and there’s always the chance of failing and falling. And if it doesn’t succeed, then I have to face the depressive consequences of having loved and lost.”

“And there’s also the fear,” added Father Pedro, “that maybe there won’t be fabulous success or stark failure, but merely something mediocre.”

“Yes, that is very much there as well,” said Alphonso. “I mean, what if I gave it my heart, gave it my all, and I was left with something that couldn’t satisfy my heart? Then where am I? For example, the book I’m writing. What if I put my whole heart into it—and it’s not great and not terrible, but just mediocre? That would break my heart; it would undermine me.”

Father Pedro observed: “The example you give applies to your whole life and every part of your life. You know, Alphonso, all these fears are connected with outcomes, futures. But the orientation is already a set-up for fear. The heart is only fulfilled in the present; joy is only in the present. And this is the way of the mystical or inner Path. So give it your whole heart, give it your all, and let it unfold. That will be your joy.”

“Wow, thank you, Father Pedro. That never occurred to me,” said Alphonso.

“And if you really want to give your whole heart to something, Alphonso, this Path is for you. Why? Because Jesus and Mary put their whole hearts into it. And what you seek with all your heart, you will find, because what you seek is seeking you—even more fully, more intently, more constantly than you are seeking it. All you need to do is keep showing up, keep making yourself available, and Jesus and Mary will see to all the rest. That’s for sure.”

Alphonso was amazed. “Really? All I have to do is show up?” he asked.

“Yes,” Father Pedro replied, “just show up with all your heart.”

Catching On

Father Pedro received an urgent message from one of the priests at the Center: “Please meet me in the chapel at 5 p.m.” This certainly piqued the Father’s curiosity, and he showed up at the requested time. “Father Pedro,” the priest shared in a hushed whisper, “it’s about Alphonso.” “Alphonso? Well, how’s the lad doing? He seems to be getting along on the Path.”

“Well,” the priest continued, “there’s a problem with that. Alphonso is writing very good stories, and he’s drawing a lot of attention from members of the Order.”

“So, is that a problem?” asked Father Pedro.

“Well, it definitely could become a problem. His intelligence and gifts are beginning to outshine some of the priests. Pretty soon, he might even catch on to our most closely guarded secret.”

“Hmm…” said Father Pedro, rubbing his chin. “And which secret are you referring to?”

“Shh! Let’s keep our voices down. I’m referring to the most mystical secret, ‘I am God,’ which is reserved exclusively for us innermost initiates. Just imagine if something like that leaked out—and perhaps especially if Alphonso caught on to it! I mean, I doubt if he could handle it. It would probably go to his head and swell his foolish pride. And then, all his gifts might go to serving the Adversary. And then, I ask you…well, heaven help us!”

“Yes, yes, now I’m beginning to see what you’re getting at,” Father Pedro said as he pondered the implications. “I will have a talk with him tomorrow.”

The very next day, Father Pedro called Alphonso into his office for a chat. “My dear Alphonso,” Father Pedro said, “and how is your writing project going?”

“Father Pedro, I’m so glad you asked. I’ve been feeling so excited. I feel so guided in the writing, I feel so much grace pouring through me and inspiring me. Why, sometimes it flows so beautifully, that I can almost imagine that the Source from which it comes and I who am diligently writing it, are one—although I know that sounds blasphemous and heretical.”

“Tell me more, Alphonso,” Father Pedro said, “you know you can confide in me.”

“Well, Father,” Alphonso said humbly, “it sometimes feels that, at the very core of the creative experience, I mean there’s an inner awareness that, well”—and here Alphonso drew closer to Father Pedro and spoke in a whisper—“it comes forth as ‘I am God.’”

“Oh, really!” said Father Pedro in feigned shock.

“Yes, and there’s something more,” offered Alphonso.

“Oh, and what might that be?” asked Father Pedro, curious as could be.

“It’s the awareness that, at the same time, God is not ‘me.’”

“Ah, now you’re catching on, Alphonso!” Father Pedro said with great joy.

Farewell Story

Alphonso loved to write and tell stories. When he was a little child, sometimes he heard from his mother, “Alphonso, that was a wonderful story!” and he was rewarded for his creativity and imagination. But other times, he heard from his father, “Now Alphonso, stop making up stories and tell me the truth!” He never did quite figure out the difference.

As a disciple, Alphonso became very inspired by all the grace flowing, and stories began to flow out of him. These stories inspired him to no end, especially when Father Pedro told him how much he enjoyed them. So Alphonso began to devote much attention, time, and energy to generating new stories. He felt that he was tapping into the very creative power of God.

Alphonso devoted so much energy to the characters of his stories that they became more alive for him than the people at the Center of Lite. Often his meditations and prayers were interrupted by his mind going off with some story and his concern for the fate and the welfare of his characters. Often his meditations were focused on how a certain story should turn out. Alphonso was often neglecting his exercises and the instructions of his teacher to indulge in the weaving of his stories.

The fantastic characters of his stories moved Alphonso far more than anything in real life. He even got to the point where he confused the story characters with people in his own life, and he often confused what happened in the stories with what happened in real life. When people at the Center would ask about the real Alphonso behind the stories, he would tell another story. What was happening in his stories became more important to Alphonso than his own life and path. Whenever his teacher tried to convey to him a lesson, he would say, “Ah, that is the plot for another story.” While Alphonso thought he was getting mystical, through the exploits of his characters, others began to think he was getting delusional.

Finally, Father Pedro gently took him aside. Alphonso, knowing something was up, said, “Father Pedro, I know it’s about my stories. But you know, even Jesus often spoke in parables.” “Quite so, Alphonso,” Father Pedro replied. “But Jesus also had a life.” “I know, but his life was to play out one of God’s stories,” Alphonso said. “This is so, Alphonso, but Jesus’ whole life was devoted to doing the will of God who sent him.” “Do you mean that it’s not God’s will that I write these stories?” asked Alphonso.

“Well, it’s like this,” said Father Pedro. “Let me tell you a story…”

Copyright © 2005 by Edward Hirsch

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