A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius," in addition to articles on other related subjects and many new era Christian sermons.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Forgiveness II

Forgiveness II

Every Sunday for the past seventeen weeks, I have been presenting scriptures from the Gospels, and then offering commentaries by me and many other people. Today, there is something on my mind, and I am going to go first, and then do what everybody else does--search for scriptures to prove I am right.

In a previous sermon we discussed the story of the paralytic man-- of how Jesus forgave the man's sins, and, how, thus, he was healed. That sermon focused on sin, karma, and dealing with adversity. But there was one paragraph that prompts its own big message and I want to expand on it today. Here is the paragraph in question:

"Is forgiving somebody else's sins the same as forgiving your own? Was Jesus, by taking responsibility for original sin, assuming power over all the sins that can overtake and pollute the mind of man? Was Jesus really just reaching into the guy's head and getting him to forgive himself?"

If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes," then we have food for thought.

An extension of the idea of forgiving yourself concerns Jesus' unique power of forgiveness. With the authority of the Christ, Jesus was able to forgive sins because, as the Christ, He had already taken responsibility for all Human sin going back to Adam. In this sense Jesus, once again, was forgiving the paralytic man's sins, by forgiving Himself. Therefore, if we are able to key into even a shimmer of the Christ Consciousness, we too should be able to look back into the distant past and forgive ourselves for all the judgmental thinking that went into creating the potential for our own uncharitable mind states. Somewhere something happened to us that birthed a breeding ground, a place in our minds where the seeds of sin were allowed to grow and yield fruits of future unforgiveness; this event provided a perch for later offenses to build up and exert negative power over our thinking and our actions. The idea is to root out that primal scene and divest it of its influence. Easier said than done.

So how exactly do we forgive sins committed against us? How do we bear the burden that other people put on us through unsympathetic actions and words? Is there a strategy? A technique? Maybe I can suggest one:

There are two problems with emotional pains, pain of offense and other varieties of mental cruelty:
     1. how to get rid of the pain that you can get rid of, and
     2. how to endure the pain that you can't get rid of.

It is not a sure bet that we can completely escape all the tortures that other people are capable of projecting on us--some people are able to give the pain that keeps on giving. But I have been exploring a state of mind in myself that looks like it is going to give me the control I need to keep from suffering so much from such offenses.

I first discovered this technique shortly after I came to Alaska. It happened this way:

For the elementary school Christmas concert, I had written words and music to a play. It was a very cute little piece, with lots of fun and humor. However, my Asperger's insensitivity to language led me to put in some lines that were considered offensive or inappropriate for elementary school children. The principal had a meeting with me and, in a very open-hearted way, assured me that everybody loved my play, but there were two or three lines that had to be changed or cut. I walked out of his office fuming, pissed off at that these dumb country yokels who were messing with MY PLAY. The temper of my petty ego was inflamed up the wazzoo, and was screaming angry abuse out my ears. As I walked down the hall, I started fussing in my mind and threatening to quit my dumb job, and leave Alaska, and never teach kids again, blah, blah, blah. Then it came to me, right there in that empty hall, with the orange walls and the little low-gleaming water fountains, that I was actually considering giving up a whole new life for the sake of a few lines in a gosh darned play! Whassup wit dat?

I felt a huge weight slip off me. I thought about all the abusive language I had indulged in within my family unit--all the weird, angry, violent actions I had performed, all the extravagant ego-centric posturing. I was not ashamed, I was astonished. Here, for YEARS I had clung to this anti-social behavior because I thought it was an essential part of me; I thought that, by giving up my quick-temper tantrums and my hot emotional outbursts, I was preserving my spontaneity, and, by extension, my creativity. I somehow thought that this "artistic temperament" was something precious-- that needed to be preserved. The funniest part is that I actually thought this behavior was giving me SPACE--space to move in, to feel deeply in, to create expansively in.

I realized at that moment, there in the hall, that all this "spontaneity" was just ego run amuck; that it was not only NOT affirming my true self, and giving me space, it was denying and vitiating my true self, confining me (suffocating me) in a prison of self-delusion. As an aspie this brand of evil self-delusion was especially insidious, in no small part, because it was so invisible to me. Aspies really need to put things into little sequentially marked boxes, so it was the most natural thing in the world for me to do this to myself. How was I supposed to know? To finally realize that, my whole life long, I had been putting MY BEST SELF in a little box was both devastating and illuminating.

Needless to say, we implemented the changes, (which sucked by the way), and the play was a big hit. But I had had big hits before. The real step forward for me was realizing that certain triggers that had always set off nuclear reactions in me, were not emanations of my essential character, but merely old, negative, neurotic habits--habits that, once recognized for what they were, could be controlled.

Since then, at certain graceful times, I have been able to reach into myself and curb some of my inner emotional reactions and desires. I have been able to see the power over me that I have given other people, and I pull back; I pull my mind back from the thoughts that torture me, and I can create a feeling of calm in myself. It is not exactly a retreat, because I feel an expanding of my heart's subtle energies when I do this. I think this must be something like BEING IN CHRIST. My vision of the situation is just as clear as it ever was, but I can take in the bigger picture, in which my petty complaints hardly register a calorie of significance. Satan and the world install switches in us that trip alarms and initiate retaliatory behaviors; but Jesus’ spiritual protection provides us with an off-switch—we just have to know it is there, and reach inside ourselves and flip it. It’s kind of like the View control on your computer—you can change the magnification to zoom out -10, or -20, and suddenly you can see the big picture—and as soon as we can see the big picture the importance we attach to our petty concerns seems petty stupid.

Now about forgiveness:

Something happened to me recently that hurt me deeply. It is one of those gifts of pain that is going to keep on giving, too. My mind was wild with anger, recriminations, negative responses, etc. As Jeannette and I were discussing this, she reminded me that forgiving someone else was best accomplished by forgiving yourself for being judgmental.

Being thus reminded, I viewed the event again in my mind, and saw, extending out of me, all these thin little tendrils, pulsing with bad feeling, reaching towards the offender. Clearly, these poison stingers were emanations of my lower self reaching out to the offender, trying to hurt back. (We always want to hurt back when we have been hurt—and we always end up hurting ourselves some more. Dumb.) So, I gathered up all those gnashing teeth and pulled them back; I reached outside myself with my will and grabbed those little suckers by the collar and dragged them back inside me: and, LO, the pain was gone! The poison was not destroyed, it was replaced by, or rather, transformed into a white-glowing light that healed me, blessed me, inspired and exalted me. Thus by pulling negatively charged life force into the center of the self, the heart, the light of Love turns that negativity inside out, like, say, an anti-matter converter.

I'm sure that, with practice, one could learn to work the opposite way--to amplify the power of those evil tendrils to reach the object of their passion, exert a destructive influence, and do real damage; I'm sure that's what witchcraft is. But, for me, the act of sending bad vibes to someone feels totally depleting, while holding them in is so empowering; I don't know why anybody would choose the negative over the positive.

Now, as I mentioned before, there are two problems with pains of offense:
     1. how to get rid of what you can get rid of, and
     2. how to endure the pain you can't get rid of.

The implication here is that there are some pains you can never get rid of. I'm not sure this is an ultimate truth--it seems that a perfect Christ could accomplish all things, least of all to defuse the temper of petty ego; but let's face it, we are not Jesus--not yet. "We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God." We have all sinned, and we will keep on sinning, because the mindfulness it takes to completely control our earthly hurts is a saintly power which I, for one, cannot claim to possess, but can only work toward. I can feel progress, but every time another negative thought parades across the stage in my inner theater, it takes me a while to notice it. I am so habituated to suffering from these random thoughts that I sometimes take several minutes to notice that I am, once again, creating my own personal Hell-on-Earth. We can ask Jesus to protect us from these thoughts, especially if they are, say, demonically inspired; but it is not appropriate to ask Jesus to protect us from ourselves--that is our job, our personal cross; the bearing of this cross is the self-improvement exercise that God has assigned to us in this particular earthly incarnation. Not to bear the cross of yourself would be to rob yourself of your reason for being on this material plane. But to bear the cross, and glorify it in the states of higher mind, gives you an opportunity to raise yourself up into ever higher approaches to the Christ Consciousness. Hoo Yah.

There’s another thing about the gift of pain that keeps on giving: this renewable pain can be caused by being in continual contact with the person or situation that hurts you, or it can be a one-time hurt that so changes your life that you are permanently robbed of something you thought was necessary or important. You say to yourself, “I am permanently ripped off by this uncharitable act, so how can I forgive someone for creating a condition that renews a feeling of loss or offense EVERY SINGLE DAY?” Well, first off, Jesus says to forgive seven times seven, so it is clear that we are instructed to never run out of forgiveness; furthermore, I say to you, “This attitude expresses a lack of faith: if what you have lost is really as important as you think it is, God will provide a replacement or a substitute in His own good time; if it is not as important as you think it is, like an addiction to artistic temperament, for instance, then you are better off without it.” Either way, you don’t have to hold a grudge against someone for creating a situation that is either impermanent or insignificant, or both. So, the injunction to forgive seven times seven, far from being burdensome, is simply good advice and will spare us the pains that our lower vindictive carnal nature would otherwise inflict on us by perpetuating a useless and destructive mind state.

Now some scripture:

Mark 11:25
"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:14-15
"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, (15) but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Luke 6:36-37
"Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (37) “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;"

Matthew 18:32-35
"Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. (35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Here we have four scriptures that (on the surface) appear to be stating a Karmic principle--if you forgive, you will be forgiven. But if we look at the verses in terms of the mechanics of forgiveness we have been discussing, it should be apparent that the forgiveness of the Father is part and parcel of your own self-forgiveness. At first it looks as though there are two acts of forgiveness in play, first yours, then His. But, in the timeless dimension of spirit, we can reduce this process down to ONE act of forgiveness, by realizing that to forgive yourself is both you forgiving the worldly offender, and the Father forgiving you, AT THE SAME TIME. "He who is without sin cast the first stone." If we admit that we have all sinned, how dare we condemn someone else for the same sins of which we would also like to be forgiven?

Proverbs 19:11
"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense."

This is my favorite. First the King James version:

Colossians 2:13-14
King James Version (KJV)
 "13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;"

Now the English Standard version:
Colossians 2:13-14
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (14) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

". . . by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." How beautiful to think of that great big sacrifice canceling out all our little debts in one magnificent act. Jesus forgave us, and saved us from ourselves by giving us a place to put our complaints--in the disintegrating power of His love.
Thus, we reiterate the principle that divine love is the key to every worldly dilemma. We are not compelled by love to subject ourselves, unnecessarily, to the abuse of worldly negativity, but when we must, we have, in our hearts, the power to restrain our carnal nature from reacting to other peoples’ negativity.
There appears to be one more time element here: if we could simply hold out attention on the divine light, the question of forgiveness would never come up, because we would exist in a state of perpetual protection from worldly offense. It is because we continue to sin, that we must redeem our personal sanctity from our own weaker carnal nature again and again. Thus, forgiveness enables us to wipe the slate clean again, again, again, until that moment when sin can no longer touch us and forgiveness is no longer necessary.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche comes up with his usual reversal on a theme:
"And if a friend does you evil, then say: I forgive you what you did to me; but that you have done it to yourself--how could I forgive that?" Thus speaks all great love: it overcomes even forgiveness and pity."

Love cancels all debts. Love rights all wrongs. Love makes all moral issues moot. In our vast cosmic connection to each other, every man's action is another man's consequence, and yet we are all one and yet all individual. We share each other's sins and forgive ourselves each other's trespasses--it's the only way. Anything less is a story without and ending. Love is the ending of all stories.
Let us pray: Jesus encourage in us, in our prayers, our meditations, and our conscious social acts to be ever mindful of the highest goal of the Christian path: to love our neighbor as ourself. Let us remember that, in the path of destructive worldly negativity we can don the protective armor of self-love, and through this love all, and forgive all. Amen

Enter the Kingdom as a Little Child

Enter the Kingdom as a Little Child

Today's sermon explores that dusky twilight zone between child-like innocence and literal consciousness. Like so many truths embedded in the text of the sayings of Jesus there is a paradox here to be pondered—like the ideas of losing yourself in order to find yourself, or the first must be last, a kind of reversal of thought (perhaps a meta-level of thought, or merely a transcendence of thought, a DOING though NOT-DOING) is necessary in order to open the mind and heart to the truth resonating beneath the appearance of contradiction.

The first principle, that we may only enter the Kingdom of God as a little child, is stated in almost identical words in the three synoptic Gospels. Later we will hear the version in Thomas, which, uncharacteristically offers a higher level commentary on the issue. First the Synoptics:

Matthew 19:13-15
13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
 15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

Mark 10:13-15
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Luke 18:15-17
15And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
 16But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
 17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

We all pretty much understand what this means: that only by open-hearted, non-judgmental, non-prejudicial acceptance of unconditional love may we enter the higher mind state of timeless, spaceless spirit consciousness. As a child we must open ourselves to, and be penetrated by the personality of God without preconception. As we discussed last week, the ego definition, with which we delude ourselves into thinking we know who we are, must be abandoned, ejected from our hearts to make room for the immensity of the transcendent Christ Consciousness.  The music must emerge from silence.

William Shakespeare comments:
“The silence often of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails.”

The pure innocence of childhood is much to be envied by us old people. Experience has all but rubbed the newness off our lives, and it is only with concentrated effort that we can refresh our outlook and revisit the garden. As children everything was uncomplicated, nonverbal, instantaneous and direct. The connection between ourselves and the world was still unsevered, and we could not tell, didn’t want to tell, where we ended and the world began. Creative naivete flowed out from our spontaneous responses to things, events, and ideas; intuitive, irrational conclusions were as valid and anything that we now would now characterize as "making sense."
As we got older, bit by bit, the verbal structures of language, and the memories of experience, began to crowd out the unrehearsed directness of NOW, and, instead of the anomalous moment, we began to experience repetitions of categories of things; instead of “this is a one-of-a-kind thing” we began to think, “this is one-of-those-things”. Sequential time robbed us of the sensitivity to recognize each and every passing moment as a unique, spiritually charged event. Thus, without the motivation to perceive the newness of life, we lost the knack of recognizing God in His various, ever-evolving manifestations; and with the loss of recognition, we also lost the ability to respond.

[When I was teaching at the Waldorf School, I heard that the development of the myelin sheathing around the nerves of children, especially the brain's nervous system, is not completely finished till between the ages of seven to ten. Thus a young child's brain is not shielded from the kind of electromagnetic activity that surrounds and engulfs us. Thus the "magic child" is simply a more sensitive-than-normal sender and receiver of fine grade impulses until his body finishes binding him in the security of electromagnetic insensitivity.]

 Pablo Picasso comments:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Erasmus comments:
“I do not like a child who is a man too soon.”

 William Butler Yeats comments:
“The innocent and the beautiful Have no enemy but time”

Thomas Traherne observes that:
"Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world, than I when I was a child."

and John Updike says:
"The essential self is innocent, and when it tastes its own innocence knows that it lives for ever."

The question, however, becomes: how does innocence taste itself? How does it know that it lives forever, or, needed, anything else? Since KNOWING is one of the qualities that pure innocence does not possess?
Sophocles has said:
“To know nothing is the only happiness.”

How can we know and not know? Harder yet, how can we LEARN to know and not know?
I like to talk to my students about the hologram. My understanding of this scientific phenomenon is sketchy, but I think the basic idea is this: light is REFLECTED in a mirror, and DIFFRACTED in a hologram; in a hologram, instead of seeing the light bounced back from a single point on a flat object, the light waves bounce OFF THEMSELVES from many different points, kind of like billiard balls on a good break; the result is a kind of cloud of light, photons bouncing around every which way, thus creating the illusion of three-dimensionality. In a way, this is a good way to describe consciousness--it is a three-dimensional illusion created by many competing points of view.

[Julian Jaynes makes a case, for the birth of consciousness in the bicameral mind, by suggesting that consciousness is merely the result of holographic crosstalk between the two hemispheres of the brain. Jaynes’ theory is heavily dependent on the idea that LANGUAGE has an electromagnetic component.  I have no doubt that there is more than a grain of truth embedded in Jaynes’ speculations, but I hasten to add, that, as a materialist theory, no accommodation for transcendent mind states is made, so any conclusions to be drawn from it can be considered correct or helpful only “as far as they go.”]

Now, in a child's mind there is one point of view only--HIMSELF (perhaps this is NO POINT OF VIEW--another paradox). Thus child-like innocence lacks perspective. It lacks distraction, and that's nice, but it fails to perceive, or simply ignores, anything in its field of vision it doesn't understand or want to understand. Childlike innocence is single-minded, or, shall we say, single perspected, and, thus, it penetrates to the heart in one direct, unbroken line, uncompromised by any non-subjective trivialities. To the child, therefore, the essence of existence is not merely obvious, it is all-encompassing. So what's the problem?
The problem is the world. The spiritual path leads back to God. But how did we get separated from God in the first place? How did we lose the innocence of the Garden? What was the true original sin?

In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell makes the following observation:
"The Garden of Eden is a metaphor for that innocence that is innocent of time, innocent of opposites, and that is the prime center out of which consciousness then becomes aware of the changes."

So children are not aware of things? Maybe yes, maybe no. Clearly, bringing experience into literal consciousness was one of the chief effects of the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil. But was there no consciousness, no "naming" before the fall? Adam named the animals--that's something. The question is not so much, “Is there child-like awareness?” as, “What is the quality and scope of child-like awareness?” Perhaps, returning to the hologram, it was Adam's perception of the animals from multiple perspectives, contradictory perspectives, that changed the animals from subjective realities springing from, and part and parcel to, Adam's own self, into THINGS outside Adam? Separate from Adam? No longer one with Adam? Perhaps the apple gave Adam the power to see things from more than one angle at a time and, thus, created the illusion that they existed outside himself?

Time is always a culpable villain in this scenario. The illusion of time helps create the multiple-perspective effect, and it is time to which ADULTS become ever more the slaves, as older they get, and dumber.

My composition teacher Herbert Brun distinguishes between "statements" and "arguments". A musical "statement" is completely self-contained and miraculously (one might say impossibly) made entirely of itself. An "argument" includes, in its makeup, references to, quotations from, other previously made artistic statements; thus, an argument brings along with it not only the meaning of itself in its current context, but a huge pile of extra baggage. Brun insists that the necessity of taking into account these extra histories and pedigrees effectively diffuses the potency of the expression. By calling up the past, the expression is divested of its anomalous now. The inclusion, in an expression, of referential pre-existing material demands that that material be included in any interpretation of the expression: thus the term “argument.” To Brun originality was the prime requisite of legitimate artistic expression. It was the childlike non-referential vacuum that gave the expression its power to live a long spiritual life, to resist the decay that all things are subjected to, compromised, as they are, by the paradox of dualistic material existence.

[The movie The Never-Ending Story features a highly archetypal image: the hero must pass through a narrow passage between two twin sphinxes. The appearance of such twins is a familiar component of many mythological tales. They always make me think of the dualistic personality of literal consciousness arguing with itself about black and white, male and female, right and wrong, good and evil, etc. Perhaps, in light of the holographic model we have been considering, we should refer to the “triplistic” personality of literal consciousness?]

In the article, Lewis’ Children, by Duncan Rize we read the following comments on the reason C.S.Lewis chose to write his stories from the perspective of children:

"When authoring The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis selected children as the primary characters of his tale. Interestingly, Lewis may have chosen children because of their direct connection to innocence—such a state of innocence links them to Adam and Eve before the fall of mankind and also links them to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is noted as the lamb throughout the bible and lambs, probably because of their gentle nature, are animals that are frequently associated with innocence. Likewise, Lewis depicts children in his novels as the main characters who endure hardships and successfully overcome them. Such a narration suggests a link to Christ because Christ overcame many hardships on earth only to be later resurrected and seated on the right-hand side of his father: God.

Interestingly however, Lewis’ children can also be associated with Adam and Eve, before they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Before Adam and Eve were cursed with “original sin” they were in the state of innocence. They knew nothing of death and lived in paradise. The word Eden, literally translated, means “paradise.” Children, especially young children, are associated with a state of innocence that only becomes marred after they have lived through various experiences and obtain significant knowledge. Likewise, Adam and Eve lost their innocence when they ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil."

The existence of Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil cannot be ignored when discussing the child-like nature of the Kingdom of God. As much as we want to be child-like, that darned tree haunts our reveries:

C.S. Lewis:
Transposition and Other Addresses:
"We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness..."

 The Problem of Pain:
"From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it."

To stay in the Garden, or to leave--to attempt to be God ourselves, or to remain protected and ignorant?

The Oberlin Evangelist. May 26, 1852
"It is important in the outset to consider attentively the fact that the case taken for illustration is a little child; not a young man or a young woman;--not one who had reached the period where little children, as they advance in age, are wont to lose the simplicity of little ones. Let it also be carefully noted, that the characteristics of the little child, to which the Savior refers, are not, as they appear in the very young child, moral, but only natural. They serve to illustrate the moral qualities of character which are indispensable conditions of salvation; yet they are not themselves moral, for the reason that they are spontaneous, and are not developed under the action of either the intelligence or the conscience. Until both these faculties are so far matured as to act responsibly, it is a great mistake to suppose that there can be either moral character or moral action.

The language used by our Lord plainly shows that He refers to analogous and not to identical qualities. "Except ye be converted and become as little children." He does not demand that we should become as ignorant as they--as void of enlightened conscience as they. No. Like Paul, He would say: "In malice, be ye children; but in understanding, be ye MEN."

1 Corinthians 13:11
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Anatole France:
"It is well for the heart to be naive and the mind not to be."

So we are enjoined to be childlike on the one hand, and to put away childish things on the other. Whassup wit dat?

Now the afore mentioned quotation from the Gospel of Thomas (Patterson-Meyer Translation)
"Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom." They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."

I find this passage extraordinary just in terms of its PSYCHOLOGY. Jesus is giving very precise instructions for integrating the two polar opposites of our dualistic nature (remember the sphinxes?) into one synthetic consciousness state. He is not saying that ignorance is bliss, that childlike cluelessness is preferable to advanced knowledge, he is saying that, at whatever level of consciousness you find yourself, at any given moment, you must integrate all your personal histories into a single point of view—LIKE A CHILD. Thus, no matter how much we know, or think we know, that singleness of perspective must necessarily result in a kind of innocence.
I always describe these kinds of things to my students as an outward twisting spiral. It is necessary to have that intuitive, non-articulate affection for music, but we have to know what we are doing too. That level of literal consciousness can (does) lead to a higher level of intuitive sensitivity which leads to a higher level of literal consciousness which leads to a higher level of intuitive sensitivity which leads to a higher level of literal consciousness, etc., etc.

I would like to finish off with a reading of William Blake’s poem from Songs of Innocence, The Lamb:

“The Lamb”
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Let us pray. Jesus thanks for making it simple. Thank you for BEING simple. Remind us to keep our eyes open to the wonders of life, as though we were seeing all with the eyes of a child for the first time. Let those eyes look to heaven and see you smiling back at us in perfect innocence. Amen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Servant of All

Servant of All

Today's sermon is a continuation of last week's Whosoever Will Save His Life Shall Lose It. In that message, we outlined a strategy for erasing petty ego through NOT-DOING.

As Aldous Huxley said:
"We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us."

As C.S. Lewis said:
"Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours."

And as I said:
"The teacher is needed. The teacher is necessary. It is Jesus who mediates for us with the Father--it is HE who opens the doors of perception and allows the heavenly light to flood our dumb little brains with truth illuminated by heavenly love."

But the question is, "Having once discovered the inner Christ in me by banishing the outer man--NOW WHAT? What must the Christ in me and the Christ in Jesus have in common in this physical dimension grossly inhabited by spiritual beings? Or, rather what must be the underlying COMMON PURPOSE motivating the incarnation of the Christ Consciousness into the ,mundane world? Having some understanding of my true identity, through adopting an innocent and open, nay sacrificial state of mind, how does the Christ Consciousness instruct me in what I should DO?"

First the scriptures: the springboard text was Mark 9:35, but there are lots of scriptures on the subject of service:

Mark 9:35
 35And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Matthew 23:11,
“The greatest among you shall be your servant.”

Isaiah 42:1,
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Acts 3:26,
“God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Philippians 2:5-8,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

This next one is one of my favorite passages. I set this to music a long time ago. It was particularly meaningful to me at that time, because I was in the process of coming to realize that my chief joy in life was not in trying to promote myself--my chief joy was taking responsibility for the gifts that were bestowed on me through grace. I came to admit that every one of my gifts was a burden, a cross to bear, that only became lighter when I gave some of it away. I was learning that nothing in this world was ever given to me to be mine: it was LOANED to me, given in trust--for me to pass on to all who came to me to learn. All that comes from God must go back to God; the superior man knows this and prostrates himself before the throne in humble obedience and service.

Now, the famous foot-washing scene:

John 13:4-5, 12-17
4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
 5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. . . . .
  12So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
 13Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
 14If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
 15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
 16Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
 17If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

Some time after I wrote my foot-washing piece, I wrote a kind of auto-biography, written in the second person, using the pseudonym "Jay". This section on teaching describes the process I went through discovering the mystic potentials of music teaching.

"As Jay got weirder and weirder, his music became more and more a secret code with which he spoke with the angels. The folk were always invited—this period yielded some of his most durable-yet-popular utterances—but he stopped telling them everything there was to know about those compositions. There were conceits galore as, Kabala-like, his corpus swelled with pieces about destiny, magic, consciousness states, death. Jay loved to dwell in this concealed world where he was master, and everything was protected from the big bad wolf snarling at the gates; but when he had to come down and deal with the car, and the bills, and diapers, and McDonald's, he felt overwhelmed and completely incompetent.
There was a middle ground however, the ground between the purely private inner life of music composition, and the external battle field of McDonald's; and this middle ground unexpectedly became the crux of the matter—it was teaching. Even though his outer life was, had always seemed to be, a downward-spiraling disaster area, his secret self, his musical identity, was a garden of delights, an ocean of bliss, a cloudy mansion in the mind of God. Over the years, the impact of art's higher mental structures on his soul had shaped and refined him, like sand rushing over rocks in the streambed; the ancient arcana had imprinted on his mind a kind of wisdom, a kind of spiritual x-ray vision which made him capable of penetrating to the heart of any musical work and unraveling its enigmas. The hours he spent in contemplation of infinitudes focussed in the intelligence of tone, transformed his inner being, smoothed its craggy surfaces, and made plain to him his own eternal mystery. The fact that this processing did not touch his outer life was a disappointment that more or less went with the territory—after all, he couldn't sing his order to the waitress could he?

Language was the problem, because the spiritual light he gained from music didn't translate into the language of the street—except when he was teaching.

It was never his intention to become a teacher—he wanted his niche in the temple of fame to be as a composer, only a composer. Teaching music became for him an act of spiritual devotion and religious ministry. Through music he could reach into the student's heart and release higher self-knowledge into literal self-consciousness, enhancing the student's deepest sense of cosmic identity. This was true even for the youngest baby players; every student had something to learn about himself from music, and Jay was determined to become the channel of that enlightened knowledge. He came to consider music teaching a supreme act of charity; he thought of himself as a servant of the highest good.

It was not a matter of faith, either, the evidence of things not seen—the good his teaching wrought in his students was dramatic. Not only did they play better, their attitude towards many things in their social world improved, as well;
they often made peace within the circle of music classmates whether they got along at school or not, family ties were strengthened as mothers/sons, and sisters/brothers made music together, angry, neurotic kids found self-esteem and satisfaction in something they could truly be proud of.

He sometimes wondered if it was his destiny to get ALL the high-strung, ego-centric, neurotic kids in the world; but then he figured it wasn't a question worth doing the statistics on. People need music for a variety of reasons, but the healing property is usually near the top of anyone's list. And as a healer he thought of himself as a follower of Jesus who had so miraculously healed him. His insight was into the student's soul. His defective, blind-spot brain was missing so much, and yet it was compensated through the enjoyment of talent for reading the higher nature of any situation. His bottom line postulate was:

people have energies and potentials they keep locked up inside themselves—
my job is to get the student to
RELEASE those energies into the world,
so that a cycle of comes-around-Karma may begin."

Sometimes when I look back, I wonder if I didn't go too far--I mean, "I coulda been a contender, I could been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." (On the Waterfront.) My banishment of career ambition was a vow of poverty, and has been a source of pain (of a certain kind) to me and my family. But whenever I wonder about the road not taken, I see how happy I am now, and I see how clearly marked was the path that Jesus had in mind for me; I quit speculating about what "might have been". What might have been might have been a soulless empty shell of a life, in a world filling me with vanity and pride, obscuring my true self from my sight by a too-large counterfeit self.

The following is from WIKIBOOKS-Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Mark/Chapter 9 The dispute over Greatness

"9:33-34 Mark 9:33-34 refers to all of the disciples having returned to Capernaum which was where the "Galilean ministry had begun and where his headquarters in Galilee had been located" (Wessel, 705). He "did not linger there long, since his public ministry in the region had ended" (Wessel, 706). More than likely they were gathering at Peter's house, and when Jesus asked the disciples what they were arguing about there is an implied embarrassment on the disciples because Jesus had just discussed a very serious matter, his death (Sanner, 350). Another implication that this must have been an embarrassing question was that the disciples had nothing but silence to offer after his question. This argument among them also shows how incredibly influenced these men were by their culture of the day because such a topic was common among the Jews during that time frame (Wessel, 706).
Why would the disciples be arguing about who would be the greatest other than its cultural relevance? Many different theories have been suggested such as the recognition of Peter, James, and John's inner circle with Jesus and their trip to the mountain.
9:35 Jesus is said to sit down among the disciples in the house in this verse, which was assuming the posture of a Jewish rabbi (Wessel, 706). Jesus' choice to sit down may have also revealed to the disciples his character being one of patience (Sanner, 350). . . .
9:37 Jesus has a very important lesson to teach in this verse. He is trying to say that "true greatness is seen in humble service. When one receives (literally, "welcomes") a child, out of regard for Christ (i.e. in His name), he does so without thought of reward and unwittingly 'welcomes' Christ" (Sanner, 350). Jesus is telling the disciples that once they become humble in this manner, and truly become like small "children in their discipleship" they will be "his true representatives" (Wessel, 706)."

On the subject of foot washing, Martin Luther has this to say:
"[While some think that this ceremony of feet-washing is a mandate or a command,] Christ does not mean the outward act when He says: "Ye also ought to wash one another's feet;" for He immediately explains this in the words : "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord." These words are plain enough. If we are honored on account of our position in life, we ought to remain humble and serve our inferiors with such gifts as they do not possess. In full accordance with this, the Lord afterwards gives His mandate concerning love when He says: "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another."
     Now the true nature of love is humility and charity, kindness and compassion. When Christ commands the washing of feet, He requires the presence of such a love. It is evident that our Lord, by His action in the Gospel, did not intend to teach us the outward washing of feet, which is done by means of water; for then it would be obligatory to wash the feet of all; or rather, which would certainly be more serviceable, to prepare a regular bath for the people, in which they could wash their whole body. This of course cannot be the meaning of Christ's command in this regard. He simply gave us by His example an important lesson, that we should be humble, and properly employ the gifts and graces which we have, to the advantage of our brethren, and that we should despise no one, but rather excuse the shortcomings of our fellow-men, and help them to become better.
    In this sense, washing of feet must be practiced not merely upon this day, but every day of our life, and we must not grow weary in well-doing towards our fellow-men. For such a purpose, and for such feet-washing, Christ set us the example which we are now considering. Let us remember this."

Source: Martin Luther, “Sermon for the Thursday Before Easter,” Translation by Prof. E. Smid. Matthias Loy, ed., Dr. Martin Luther's House-Postil, or, Sermons on the Gospels for the Sundays and Principal Festivals of the Church Year. Volume 2. Two Volumes. Second Edition. (Columbus, Ohio; J. A. Schulze, 1884), pp. 24-41.

The following is from WordTruth: Becoming a Christ-like Servant
"The greatest personal challenge a Christian will face is to become a Christ-like servant. It is the low road to a believer’s high calling. It is a challenge because it goes against our natural desire for popularity, power, and prominence. Not surprisingly, Jesus was the perfect example of a servant when He lived on the earth. A believer, by staying fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2), can follow in His steps.

In the Old Testament, Jesus is described as a “servant” (Isaiah 42:1). The New Testament describes Him similarly (Acts 3:26, Philippians 2:5-8). As the Perfect Servant, Jesus taught His disciples that the pathway for greatness in God’s kingdom was found by traveling the low road of a servant (Matthew 23:11). Jesus demonstrated the consistency of a true servant’s heart by washing His disciples’ feet just a few hours before He was crucified (John 13:3-5). . . . .Life’s greatest challenge, being a Christ-like servant, can become life’s greatest reward for a wholehearted disciple of Jesus."

The following is from Wholly4Christ: Works equals work for Christ (servant ministry)
"I can not count how many times I have heard that works won’t get you to heaven. I question then why did Jesus put so much effort into telling you to do works? To cause us to walk in righteous living while in this world! I’ll write about this from time to time because I am sick and tired of hearing that works have no value. I firmly believe that we are called to DO works as a RESPONSE to our Salvation. Failure to respond to God’s Love by not doing works is to me a failure to love God."

"I firmly believe that we are called to DO works as a RESPONSE to our Salvation."

This is what I was trying to say a few minutes ago. When you share in the Christ Consciousness the absolutely imperative response is to DO something Christlike. I am sure that whatever that DOING might be is different for every individual; but I am equally sure that there is plan for every one of us--a plan is out there waiting to be implemented spontaneously by the God within us.

Now the weekly C.S. Lewis offering:
The Weight of Glory
by C.S. Lewis
Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942: published in THEOLOGY, November, 1941, and by the S.P.C.K, 1942
"If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of
the virtues, nineteen of reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.

I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that be becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward. . .

Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat —the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."

So here C.S. Lewis is telling us that, just as the joy of finding our true selves in Christ results in an outward diffusion of our so-called ego resolution into something finer, loftier, holier; so too does the selfless giving of our worldly goods and talents link us ever deeper to the Christ Consciousness, and works out to be its own invaluable reward. Lewis reminds us that every time we serve a mortal man we are serving the God in him and the God who made him. He is also underlining the idea that God IS HIDDEN in Man, and it takes a mind sharpened by divine intelligence and watchfulness to apprehend this glorious fact.

Thus, as I said above, to serve out of compulsion of guilt or fear (the same thing?) is slavery. To serve as an act of free will, or, rather as an act of personal Will linked to the Father's Will, is ultimate freedom. Our burden of gifts empties out of us and we are free, and we are weightless, floating on light in an ocean of bliss. Hoo-yah.

Let us pray: Jesus thank you for reminding us that the glory of the divinity that surrounds us is not diminished by the illusion of mundane values. Help us continually to sweep away the self-limiting attachments of the world so that the burden of our true cross may bear us down and yet buoy us up. Amen.

August 14, 2011
Glennallen, AK

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Whosoever Will Save His Life Shall Lose It

Whosoever Will Save His Life Shall Lose It

Today's sermon deals with perhaps the most puzzlingly profound paradox of all Jesus' sayings. With this single pronouncement Jesus points the way toward a truly potent spirituality, and provides one of the most effective strategies I know of for creating a happy life here on earth.

Matthew 16:24-26
24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:34-38
34And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
 35For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
 36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
 37Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Luke 9:23-25
23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
 24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
 25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

Last week's sermon pondered the question, "Who am I?" We used Jesus' identification of Himself as the Messiah, prophesied in scripture, to infer the possibility that we all can become "Sons of God" if we simply lose ourselves in the binding arms of divine love. Today, we look at the leading obstacle barring our path to this end--the self.

The paradox of self arises from the illusions that the flesh of our bodies is somehow essentially who we are. I think Jesus is always warning us to take care what we think, because our thoughts betray us into believing the hypnotic dog and pony show of carnal knowledge. Clearly, the most intimate carnal knowledge we can have is of ourselves, trapped, as it were, in our physical bodies; our bodies are always sending messages to our brains about what is true, what is real. Little did we know when we first started out in, life what a big fat dumb muscle our brains are. Little did we suspect that there were sensitivities in the makeup of our conscious apparatus capable of detecting sensations far finer yet more real than anything information our brains can glean from our faulty, unreliable senses. Little did we know that when we learned to talk, and later, when we learned to read, that all these words, rambling around in out brains would lead us to accept the reality of an ego structure that is totally fictional, totally irrational, and completely impermanent.

The main argument Jesus makes in His paradox is that: who we think we are is not who we really are; that to put our trust in this false self, invented by worldly experience and worldly syntax, is an investment in failure.

It was really fun researching this subject because there were SO MANY quotes to choose from. You won't believe this, but I did actually have to pare them down.

At the age-of-the-sage.org website, I found this cute little Zen story:
"A University Professor went to see Nan-in, a Zen Master, to find out more about Zen.
  As their meeting continued Nan-in was pouring Tea and continued to pour even though the cup was overflowing.
  The Professor cried. "Enough! No more will go in!"
  Nan-in replied "Like this cup you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?""

This section from Aldous Huxley's Knowledge and Understanding focuses on the problem of trying to arrive at a self-summary with verbal structures:

"The nature of a conditioned reflex is such that, when the bell rings, the dog salivates, when the much worshiped image is seen, or the much repeated credo, litany or mantram is pronounced, the heart of the believer is filled with reverence and his mind with faith. And this happens regardless of the content of the phrase repeated, the nature of the image to which obeisance has been made. He is not responding spontaneously to given reality; he is responding to some thing, or word, or gesture, which automatically brings into play a previously installed post-hypnotic suggestion. Meister Eckhart, that acutest of religious psychologists, clearly recognized this fact. “He who fondly imagines to get more of God in thoughts, prayers, pious offices and so forth than by the fireside or in the stall in sooth he does but take God, as it were, and swaddle His head in a cloak and hide Him under the table. For he who seeks God in settled forms lays hold of the form, while missing the God concealed in it. But he who seeks God in no special guise lays hold of him as He is in Himself, and such an one lives with the Son and is the life itself.” “If you look for the Buddha, you will not see the Buddha.” “If you deliberately try to become a Buddha, your Buddha is samsara.” “If a person seeks the Tao, that person loses the Tao.” “By intending to bring yourself into accord with Suchness, you instantly deviate.” “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.”

There is a Law of Reversed Effort. The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of simultaneously doing and not doing, of combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent Unknown Quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us."

Huxley is suggesting a technique of letting go that will invite divine inspiration into our consciousness. There are many such techniques, all with a single purpose--to let God rise from the depths of our inner selves to the tip of verbal consciousness where it may be apprehended by our brains. How we become inspired by this divine intervention must necessarily be a very personal procedure, but, as in all things, practice makes perfect. A newspaper interviewer once asked William Faulkner this question: "Mr. Faulkner, do you write every day, or just when the spirit moves you?" Faulkner replied, "Just when the spirit moves me, but the spirit moves me every day."

Some years ago, in line with this idea, I wrote this poem:

I. An Average Ecstasie

All we know of ecstacy
Springs to mind amid the myriad privacies
Of passion's inner whirling gale--
It is jubilantly revealed not in the pale
Lunar night,
But by sun-like bright
Fires raging in a solitary afternoon.

All there is of love we read
In secret. In the provinces we publish our plea
(in great white HOLLYWOOD letters)
For an outward sign, but our betters
Inform us
The rest is bogus--
Vanity all--except the heart's internal boon.

Yet this high-toned exclusivity
Is not a complex gothic mystery
Obfuscated in cloudy gauze;
No, in this, the Prime Mover, First Cause,
We are seeing
The very being
Whose Will made it possible for us to climax so soon;
Whose normal, natural, rhythmic decree
Is a disciplined, average ecstacy.

Thus, the inner Man, the soul of Man, is not revealed to him through the effort of good works, but as a gift of grace, that he predisposes himself to receive, by ALLOWING himself to become an open vessel. By allowing superconscious sensitivities in his higher, supercarnal nature to detect and affirm his true spiritual identity. The life we lose when we do this is not our true life but a counterfeit foisted on us by original sin; the life we gain by losing the false one is worth more than all the gold in the world; the gold is temporary, the soul is forever.

But oh how we cling to these false definitions of who we are! In C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce we are given a fictional description of a bus that drops off a crew of discarnate souls at a crossroads. Some go on to heaven and some hang around burrowing into a sad and empty hell, by refusing to let go of their old carnal selves. In his, A Discussion on The Great Divorce, Lynn Johnson comments:

"The ghosts have done the exact opposite of “let him deny himself”. Here (and I suspect in life) everything is about himself for these ghosts. The ghosts have found a way to save their old lives by hanging on to worldly habits, inhibitions, and things. And the result is they have lost everything as they use these things to create Hell."

In his great book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis states:

"To become new men means losing what we now call "ourselves." Out of ourselves, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts, to "have the mind of Christ" [1 Corinthians 2:16]. . . . The more we get what we now call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. . . .
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in."

Such a deal! And the thing you give up is SO worthless, if you could only get over the initial attachment. Giving up things, and habits, and ideas is so hard at first, but they are so easily got rid of if you can only hang in there. I tell a story to my violin students about The Land Where Everybody Walked With a Cane, to illustrate how to stop gripping the violin:

"Once upon a time, in a far country high up in the faraway mountains, there was a land where everybody walked with a cane. The reason they walked with a cane is unclear: maybe there was an old grandfather in their distant past whom they imitated out of respect, or perhaps it had started out as a disguise against foreign invaders. Anyway, for centuries, in this isolated country the people had all walked with canes. The little toddlers had their baby canes, then they graduated to their kindergarten canes, their middle school, high school, and college canes, and then their walking-down-the-aisle- to-get-married canes. They never thought about it because this is how they had always done it, and life went on with everybody hobbling around leaning on a stick.
One day an explorer appeared on the horizon, lost in the mountains, and strode down into their little world on two feet. They took him in, fed him, befriended him, and tried to give him a cane since they noticed he didn't have one. He told them, "Thank you very much, I don't need a cane, and by the way why are you all leaning on them?"
They didn't quite know what to say, since no one had ever asked this question before. "Well, uh, gee, we, uh, always walk with our canes, we can't walk without our canes, if God had meant us to walk without canes He would have given us three legs, we can't walk without our canes, WE CAN'T WALK WITHOUT OUR CANES!"
Well, this explorer wasn't buying it: so one night while they were all asleep, he crept into everybody's room, grinch-like, and stole all their canes. When they woke up in the morning, they had to crawl out of bed and struggle to the street on wobbly legs to discover the meaning of this catastrophe. There in the square stood the explorer standing before a great bonfire, where a great pile of canes was cheerfully crackling up in smoke. The people were enraged, they were hysterical, they were petrified.
But as they approached the fire to try to save some of their equipment, somebody noticed, "Hey, we're walking!" "Hey, we're walking without our canes!" From a wobbly perspective they looked around and saw each other for the first time standing upright on two legs with both hands free. It took a moment, but in almost no time all they were dancing, and prancing, and striding about the square on unencumbered happy feet, free at last!"

Now these people from Caneland were not stupid, they were just responding to what they considered to be a legitimate need; their mistake was in fulfilling that need with a carnal answer. If they had simply been able to look past the superficial need to a deeper need (the need for freedom?) they might have stumbled (ha ha) onto a more reasonable solution without the aid of an outsider. The need to know ourselves, to rip off the disguise of material illusion, is the primary objective of mundane existence, and we will do anything we can to achieve that end--we just turn to the wrong sources for answers. We turn to our outer selves for the secrets of our inner nature, when the illuminating love of God dwells so deeply within it takes the effort of NON-EFFORT to get at it. We NEED GOD but we can't create God--that's already been seen to. He comes when the door is open.

in The New Theology p. 20, R. J. Campbell writes:
"The life of God is such that in the presence of need it must give itself just as water will run down hill; this is the law of its being. Where no need exists, that is, where life is infinite, love finds no expression. To realise itself for what it is, sacrifice, that is self-limitation, becomes necessary. Love is essentially self-giving. It is the living of the individual life in terms of the whole. In a finite world this cannot but mean pain, but it is also self-fulfilment. "Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life shall find it." This profound saying of Jesus is older even than Jesus; it is the law of God's own being, the law of love, the means to the realisation of the life eternal. It is so plain and simple, and withal so sublime, that we cannot but see it to be true, and can do no other than bow before it. The law of the universe is the law of sacrifice in order to self-manifestation. In this age-long process all sentient life has its part, for it is of the infinite, and to the infinite it will return."

The following is a collection of famous quotes from the CowPi Journal:

— from Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces:
“Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” The meaning is very clear; it is the meaning of all religious practice. The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment. His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him; he becomes, that is to say, an anonymity."

— Meister Eckhart
"God is at his greatest when I am at my least."

— Albert Einstein
"A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature."

— Yatri (Kathryn Taussig, the world’s foremost Glass Armonica musician in the genre of New Age and healing music.)
"The conventional ego, the false passport, is built up from an edited picture album of our past. The version often seems more real than we are in the present moment. That is because here/now we are in constant flux and flow, but what we have been is nicely and securely fixed.

The false identity is frozen throughout time, a final static noun. And just because it is unchanging we become more clearly identified with that identity card than we do with the real living, moment-to-moment entity.

In order to support the new false self we have to become more and more identified with the past, with old knowledge and a fixed belief system which continue to bolster up our historical selves. And we forget there was ever anything else.
Man becomes a historical animal preoccupied with the past and the future, and here we encounter the strangest of paradoxes. The historical idea of self, the ego, requires a constant re-living of memories in order to sustain a continuity of its own. It is only aware of itself as a repeatedly up-dated autobiography. The ego does not actually exist—it is an illusion of continuity."

Once again we are led back to a consideration of time--time the great perverter of all spiritual sensations, the great pantheon of smoke and mirrors, the test the God has given us to overcome. As an aspie I am more than usually (normally) convicted by the illusory safety net of sequential conceptuality. Overcoming the need for things to make rational sense has been my life's greatest challenge, and I consider my abandonment of the prison if time as my greatest life accomplishment. The day I was gifted with the insight necessary to look beyond the ordering of experience into neat little boxes to perceive the magnificent vastness of myself is my true birthday--it was on that day that I was born again. And I know that without Jesus I couldn't have done it. Jesus says, "whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

I've talked a lot today about the self, its limitations, and its possibilities in the limitless horizons of eternity, but let's not forget the man from a far country who came to Caneland and set them free. The teacher is needed. The teacher is necessary. It is Jesus who mediates for us with the Father--it is HE who opens the doors of perception and allows the heavenly light to flood our dumb little brains with truth illuminated by heavenly love.

Let us pray: Jesus we are daily humbled by your constant intercession on our behalf. We send prayers of thanksgiving to you, ceaselessly, that the outpouring of grace that flows from Your beneficent Being shall continue to carry us upward and inward. Amen.

Glennallen, AK
August 7, 2011