Intersect 1-21-15

Follow the leader, no rx part 3
Now that we understand the human propensity to deify great people, rx and we understand the context of Jesus’ ministry within a civilization in which the Emperor was called a son of God (which is the way people referred to the Caesars), we can see how Jesus went from being an enlightened, mystical Rabbi preaching connectedness, to the one and only literal Son of God. I do not think his earliest followers believed this the way many Christians do today, just as most citizens of the Roman Empire didn’t think Julius or Augustus were literally descendants of Venus. But proclaiming Jesus Son of God over and about the Roman Emperor? That would have been an incredible act of courage—and sedition.

There is power in understanding Jesus as Son of God, but it is not the power that has now become “traditional” in the United States. Originally, this was a political statement. It’s quite probable, based on both biblical and extra-biblical sources, that Jesus resisted this label. He may have known it would bring the wrath of the Empire crashing down on him, crushing his fledgling peace movement. The Romans provided tremendous resources to their conquered territories. However, the price for this progress was undying, unwavering, unquestioning loyalty to Rome. For Jesus, and most of his Jewish brothers and sisters, this was an impossible, even reprehensible request. To show loyalty to anyone other than God was to negate the entire Jewish religion.

Jesus’ understanding of humans and their relationship to each other was based on the extremely ancient Judaic idea that everything belongs to God—especially us. Since we have no intrinsic right to any of the planet’s resources, then our duty as people of faith is to be equitable to one another—to be good people, the way God is good to us. An empire in control of the world’s resources, that traded in human beings and kept peace through threat of violence was an affront to Jesus’ core values.

Since he was a peaceful activist, Jesus resisted the call of many people to start an armed resistance movement. These factions already existed all around Judea. Jesus was likely smart enough to realize an armed revolt against the Roman Empire never worked. So instead, he reminded his people—and continues to remind us, that our duty is only to God, who is not on a golden throne in heaven, but is actively part of our very being. Jesus as the son of God reminds us that it is our duty to resist the systemic evils of empire in all its forms. More importantly though, Jesus as the son of God is the example for all of us of our awakened, enlightened state. Jesus, son of God shows us what true humanity looks like when we get over ourselves and remember what we are truly made of—the very stuff of God, lying dormant within, just waiting to be sparked back to life.

Prayer: Show me the world through new eyes. Awaken my inner Christ, so that, like Jesus, I too will become an instrument of love and peace in this tortured world of sleeping souls. Amen.

Intersect 1-20-15

diagnosis verdana, rx segoe, sans-serif;”>Follow the leader, part 2
Humans have a way of deifying leaders. In the oldest cultures for which we have archaeological records; kings and their families were direct descendants of gods. These ancient gods took many forms, yet within their “heavenly” families we read stories about the sort of issues that face any powerful family—and the struggles facing any growing civilization. How do governments and citizens share responsibility? What is the responsibility of leaders to their constituencies? What are the rights of the people in a society? How do we define ourselves as a society? These are questions we continue to struggle with today.

As time wore on, the idea that leaders were somehow related to gods took firm hold in human imaginations. Pharaohs, then later Roman Emperors, were said to be descendants of gods. Today, we hear this idea and think the people of those eras took the concept of humans descended from gods literally. We read stories about Hercules and Achilles, even about Julius Caesar, and the stories imply that people of the time truly understood their leaders to be somehow divine. However, it’s highly likely that the Egyptians understood this relationship between leaders and gods to be allegorical. The Romans definitely saw the relationships of their leaders to their gods this way.

These humans weren’t literally the offspring of a god mating with a human. The stories were meant to convey power and give them an authority higher than that allowed by their human counterparts. A divine lineage allowed Emperors to make decisions without bureaucratic entanglements. When a Julius or Augustus Caesar was leading society, this system worked rather well. Augustus in particular was deeply concerned about the welfare of his people, and transformed Rome’s social services much the way FDR did for the depression era United States.
 
Unfortunately, our human habit of deifying people has carried over into our spiritual and mystical leaders. I find this particularly detrimental to their messages. You can pick any great spiritual mystic you like—Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and see that over time, these messengers of cosmic connection, these teachers of light, become exalted to the point that they are now nearly untouchable. This process makes their important message about transcendental humanity more difficult to comprehend, because they have become not examples to follow but exceptions. We can’t ever be like them because they were descendants of gods–and the only ones. So we miss the point of the stories of their lives and the lessons they taught their pupils, about how we are all more connected with the divine–and more literally, than we have dared to dream.
 
Prayer: God of light, help me see I am your child. Help me see I AM. Amen.

Intersect 1-19-15

healing verdana, sovaldi segoe, search sans-serif;”>Follow the leader, part 1

What is the point of faith if not to participate in changing the world for the better? Once fully cognizant of their connection to the Infinite, what do Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed (in chronological order), go about doing? They change the world by standing up to the oppressive rulers and systems of their time. Moses gathers his people and rallies them against Egypt. Once he is awakened to the suffering of the people just outside his palace gates, Siddhartha (eventually Buddha) relinquishes his inheritance and birthright as king.

Jesus also senses this Oneness with God, and it compels him to stand up against the Roman Empire in much the same way Moses rebelled against Egypt. But whereas Moses was a warrior, Jesus pushes for peaceful non-compliance with the systemic evils of Rome. Jesus, in his enlightened Buddha state, sees the foolishness of bloodshed. He understands the ancient Jewish mystical view that violence only begets violence—a lesson Moses learned the hard way. Once enlightened, violence is impossible. Changing the world can only be done by peacefully refusing to comply with systemic evil.

We are the instruments of change. It doesn’t do the world any good to sit and wait for the second coming of Jesus. The second coming is within us. It’s within all the Martin Luther Kings, Mother Theresa’s, and other ordinary folk who do extraordinary things like volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, or buy some extra groceries for a friend in need, or feed the homeless, or fight for new shelters, or help free those incorrectly and unjustly incarcerated.

Faith is and should be a powerful force for change in this world. The people who have had religions created in their names were normal folk like you and I. The power of their stories is not that they were born special, but that they did special things with their lives, because they gained deep spiritual insights that changed them at their core. That’s an incredible example for the rest of us, especially people who claim to be followers of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. Because it’s the followers who become the Martin Luther Kings and Gandhis, and it’s the followers who end up changing the world one loving step at a time.

Prayer: I follow not because I expect a reward, not because I think I’m right and others are wrong, but because following fills me with love and compels me to act with compassion and justice. Enlighten my being with awareness of you, my glorious God, through whom I am capable of anything—even changing the world. Amen.

Intersect 1-16-15

Into the mystic, part 4

My spiritual journey has probably been like many of yours. I was an inquisitive kid with an almost insatiable appetite for reading. I was and remain, skeptical of anything I am told is “absolute truth.” That phrase has me scrambling to do research faster than a firefighter runs to the hook and ladder when the station alarm sounds. After Jesus claims he came to testify to the truth, and that anyone interested in the truth sides with him, Pilate retorts, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). This is a deeply philosophical question we must all constantly ask ourselves, especially concerning our spiritual beliefs.

One of the most powerful tools in my quest for truth has been meditation. When this ancient practice was introduced to me, I discovered a connection to the Infinite, the Holy, to God that I didn’t even know was possible. Everything before meditation had been an intellectual quest—which is an extremely important spiritual foundation. Yet, in meditation I felt the presence of God flowing through me, so powerfully that every atom of my body began to vibrate at a different frequency. I sensed my Oneness with everything in existence, and began to discover just how vast, glorious, and loving the universe truly is. Outer space is a cold vacuum. But the stuff that holds outer space together is pure, warm love.

I learned to meditate with some friends who discovered a little book called The Infinite Way. Written by someone many consider a Christian mystic, the influences of that book are part of the reason I still prefer to call union with God “connecting with the Infinite” rather than “Worship.” I remain unconvinced about God’s need for worship. I do believe that, since we are beings of God, connecting with God’s constant presence in a very conscious way is what the ancients were getting at when they discussed worship. Remember though that in their worldview, gods were responsible for things, and gods demanded worship and tribute. Hopefully, our spiritual development over the past several thousand years has helped us grow beyond this idea of petty gods—especially given Jesus’ revelation of God within us (Luke 17:21).

I’d like to share some meditation techniques from The Infinite Way with you. These are techniques I use to this day, in one form or another. They share similarities with other meditative traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and the Christian mystical tradition, which, sadly, has been largely lost, crushed under the weight of denominational dogmas and creeds.

Feel free to experiment with these techniques, to tweak them, to adjust them or discard them as you see fit. Meditation is a very personal experience, because it is about personally connecting with God. The methods, tools, and mechanics we each need for meditation are a little different for each of us. Hopefully, these ideas will guide you as you develop your own techniques for constant connection with the Infinite One, whose presence is always around and within us, guiding us ever into more conscious awareness and enlightened ways of being human.

Meditation Techniques (adapted from The Infinite Way by Joel S. Goldsmith)
1. Make yourself comfortable. Sit erect, with your spine straight, your feet firmly planted on the floor, your hands relaxed in your lap, and breath normally. Do not lie down. There is no mystical or occult reason for this, it is very simple: when your body is perfectly comfortable one is not conscious of it (yet lying down makes it very easy to fall asleep). We want to be comfortable, but aware. Take a breath and count to four. Breathe in and out four or five times, counting to quiet your mind. Breathe normally.

2. Next repeat silently or audibly, “I turn within to the Christ of my own being”. If thoughts enter, repeat this phrase. Always go into meditation by yourself. Never let another lead you into meditation.

3. We will never be able to stop the mind completely. If human thoughts or concerns enter, do not fight them. Relax, let the thoughts come and then let them go. As you practice, this interference will subside. Be patient.

4. Now, move to the subject, “What is God?” You are not interested in another’s concept of God; you are interested only in asking “What is God?” and receiving the answer from God. The kingdom of God is within you, so the answer must come from within your own being. Sit quietly and ask, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” or “Father, I am here, speak,” or any other conversational phrase that works for you.

5. Assume a listening attitude as if you were waiting to hear the answer. Thoughts may come. Think about God as the source of our being and all that is.

6. Someday, while meditating and pondering the idea, “What is God?” realizing now the nature of prayer, you will suddenly find that you cannot think anymore; you have come to the end of thought about God and prayer. Then you will sit there, quietly, at peace, no more thoughts, no more questions, no more answers, just peace. Thoughts will be quieted, the inner ear will open and a long, deep breath like a sigh of relief or a sense of release will come to you. It is as if you were escaping from something, as if a burden were dropping off your shoulders. It will appear in many different ways, and when that release or relief comes you will be so full of the Spirit that you will get right up and do the work that lies ahead for the day, or perhaps some work that has been neglected. With that release will come divine wisdom, divine guidance, and divine strength, for that deep breath, the click or release, was a God experience, the actual presence or activity of God in your consciousness.

7. We never stay in meditation for more than 10 minutes at a time. It takes a long time to be able to stay in meditation 10 minutes or longer.

Prayer: Quiet my mind and still my thoughts. Make your presence known to me, God who is constantly leading me back to you. Amen.

Intersect 1-15-15

check verdana, ampoule segoe, sans-serif;”>Into the mystic, part 3

It turns out the Universe is accelerating. This has caused scientists to rethink a few theories, because for a long time the understanding was that the universe was slowing down due to gravitational pull. We don’t know what is propelling the universe to reach ever farther into our four-dimensional reality (and beyond), but scientists have a theory that involves things called dark energy and dark matter. This is the stuff that, although we can’t see it, we sense is there, holding the universe together. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what people of faith call God? The being that holds all reality together? Is it that great a leap to imagine that God is the spiritual stuff that holds the universe together? Perhaps rather than calling the spaces between the physical objects of this world dark matter, we should call it God.

The other major difference between the theory of dark energy and our concept of God is that we believe God is conscious. I would suggest that God is also the energy and matter in the universe, no matter what we call it. There is only one substance out of which all reality springs forth: God.

As we travel farther and farther along the mystical road (and at this point one could easily argue that science is on that path with us), we begin to understand matter and consciousness differently. Our journey is ever toward Oneness, and inevitably that journey leads us to think very differently about matter in general, about our relationships to each other (if there is only One, then we are all more intricately bound to one another than ever before imagined), and about the nature of God.

This is a journey to awakening. Our concepts and long-held beliefs about both the nature of God and the nature of our universe will be stretched to the breaking point. Once broken, a wonderful new way of looking at existence is revealed. We reach a singularity by becoming the singularity, conscious of God’s activity in and through all things (Romans 11:36). We are changed, and more able to change our world forever.

Prayer: God of endless energy, you are revealed to me in ways I never before thought possible—through science and history, reason and experience. Keep my mind and heart open to your presence, and continue to energize me as a light, and an actor of peace, love and compassion in this world that is sorely in need of your presence. Amen

Intersect 1-14-15

Into the mystic, check part 2

Imagine what it might be like to live in a more mystical world. I don’t mean a superstitious world, hospital I mean a world more understanding and accepting of the idea that perhaps there is something more underlying reality than we can understand with our physical senses. In fact, patient part of the mystical journey is accepting that ineffable feeling that there is something more.

We can sense this mystical truth when we stop and quiet our minds. The famous story about Buddha under the Bodhi tree is a perfect example of our ability to connect with the Infinite One. It also reflects the inner conflict faced by anyone on this spiritual trek. Jesus often goes off to be alone for centering time (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35, etc.) battling his demons the same as Buddha under the Bodhi tree, 500 years earlier. Moses goes to mountains, Noah, and Mohammed go to caves. We all struggle with Mara: desire, hatred, ignorance, the inner demons that keep us separated from the truth of our Oneness with God and each other.

Every spiritual mystic throughout history has understood the importance of time alone with God, the Infinite, Allah, the all of the universe, whatever name we want to give that which we cannot see, touch, taste, hear or smell. We innately understand that there is a conscious cosmic force that is actively pulling us ever closer to realization of Oneness. This realization changes us and changes the world.

One of the Buddhist practices any mystic—Christian, Muslim, Jew or secular humanist, might find useful is the practice of mindfulness. It’s not easy to sit under a tree or by the beach and quiet our mind, but it’s easier than staying in tune throughout the busy day, surrounded by the noise of a distracted and frightened world.

Fear is noisy, and always disconnects us from Oneness.

Mindfulness links our private, quiet meditation practices and everyday life. When we are being mindful, we are more aware of the link between our meditative, tuned-in, connected state and the events that occur throughout our day. It helps us live non-judgmentally, paying close attention to the events of our day—not just living on autopilot while things happen around (and to) us.

Being mindful of our connection to the Infinite One when we’re talking to others, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, working at our desks—whatever we’re doing, helps raise our level of spiritual consciousness. Mindfulness allows us to participate actively in our spiritual evolution.

I believe we are spiritually evolving as a matter of course, just as everything in the universe is naturally physically evolving. However, while we cannot control the rate of our physical evolution (yet), we are tasked to participate in our spiritual evolution. This has been the message of the Buddhas and Jesus’ and Mohammeds throughout history. We are all invited to participate in this spiritual journey that connects us as One. We are responsible to help others awaken to the truth of their inner, God-like, Christ-like, Buddha-like nature.

As more and more of us simply begin this journey to a deeper understanding of reality, we become the only force that can end terror and fear forever. We are becoming a new consciousness for a new world. Buddha called it Nirvana, Jesus, and Mohammed called it God’s Kingdom. It is, ultimately, a world filled with spiritually awake, conscious, mindful people, rather than a world filled with zombies, whose nightmares threaten to extinguish us all. Our spiritual journey is long and arduous, but it is a journey on which we absolutely must persevere.

Prayer: Awaken me, Mystical Force of all creation, and help me awaken others from this long, dark nightmare. Show us and make us the light that banishes Mara from our souls, our minds and our world, now and forever. Amen.

Intersect 1-13-15

illness verdana, segoe, sans-serif;”>Into the mystic, part 1

We’re all familiar with the famous story of Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. Obviously, this is not meant to be a historical, literal story. It is a deep and powerful allegory. For centuries, theologians and philosophers have wrestled with the meaning of this story, and Christianity has largely adopted the idea that because of Adam and Eve’s transgression, humans fell out of God’s favor. Eventually, God sends Jesus as a sort of sacrificial lamb to right our relationship.

However, this interpretation was made before the advent of evolutionary theory. Paul, Augustine, and other church leaders who adopted the idea of humankind’s fall from grace thought humans were created whole cloth, separately from the other creatures. We know this is not true. We know that we have evolved over millions and millions of years, everything on the planet from atomic particles that fell to earth from the stars. All life started with single-celled, asexual organisms, and over the billions of years of the Earth’s existence, more and more complicated life forms have evolved. Modern humans have only been around for 250,000 years or so. Knowing that life slowly evolved, the idea that we have somehow fallen out of God’s favor no longer makes much sense. You can’t fall from something you never had in the first place.

So perhaps an evolutionary view of spiritual growth also makes more sense. Perhaps it’s not that we have fallen from grace, but rather that we are always moving ever closer toward unification with the mystical. As we learn more about the universe, and ourselves, we are beginning to realize that reality is much more complicated and mysterious than we’ve ever imagined before. Our ideas about God have changed from a bearded man in the sky to a more intimate, less-definable, conscious energy that unites and ignites all life.

If we allow quantum physics and string theory to influence our ideas about God, the way ancient ideas about creation influenced their ideas about God, then for us, God is the original harmonic, whose music created and continues to create everything that exists, one magnificent star factory at a time. In the beginning was the Word, indeed (John 1).

The Pillars of Creation

 

Prayer: I am awed by the vast mystery of the universe, and honored to be a small piece of this atomic explosion of consciousness. Ignite my imagination and push the boundaries of my faith, Infinite One, so that I am always evolving, always moving closer to Oneness with your Infinite Love. Amen.

Intersect 1-12-15

Divesting ourselves of religious baggage

For as long as I can remember, sickness I’ve had an issue with organized religion. There are a lot of reasons for this. My parents came from divergent religious backgrounds. My dad was Roman Catholic and my mom was Jewish. They met and married in the early 1960s, thumb when most Christians were still being incorrectly taught that “the Jews” killed Jesus (it was the Romans, for insurrection). Fortunately, they both came from families that saw past this sort of lie, and my parents were respectful enough that I attended both church and synagogue, although neither regularly. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because at that time the Catholic church was entirely in Latin, and the synagogue was entirely in Hebrew. What child could possible understand what was going on?
 
Other things happened throughout my life that soured me on organized religion, but I kept having what I can only describe as mystical experiences. I sensed, and still do, that God is a force moving throughout all creation. I think George Lucas was onto something when he created the idea of The Force in “Star Wars,” probably because he’s had those mystical experiences too. And if you’ve had that sort of experience, you immediately realize that the idea of God in Heaven on a throne of Gold is completely absurd—as absurd as the idea that God would have a demigod for a son, then commit suicide to somehow right the entire fallen cosmos.
 
If we study history, we realize that the mythology of Jesus is the same as the mythology of Zeus and Hercules. There are reasons for this, of course, most of them political and satirical. The people who wrote the Jesus stories wanted to poke holes in the dominant religion of their time, and exalt the message of Jesus—not Jesus himself, over and above that of the Roman Empire. Yet within 100 years, Jesus was turned into exactly the same sort of demigod the Romans were familiar with. This too makes sense once we understand that the Romans and Greeks becoming disciples influenced his very unique teaching in detrimental ways.
 
Greco-Roman influences end up diluting Jesus’ message drastically—and for thousands of years things just continue to get worse. Christians forget they were once all Jews. Jesus’ message of complete and utter connection with God as a way of being for all humans, not just him, is slowly obliterated as the Roman Empire firmly takes control of Christianity and twists it, and Jesus, into symbols that fit more appropriately into a dictatorial world view.
 
We have an opportunity to get things back on track. Religion in the 21 Century is already undergoing sweeping changes as people realize church, synagogue and mosque is about sharing our faith with each other. Religion can no longer be about dogma and creeds (and should have never been about those things). Religion today is about people helping each other connect deeply and intimately with a power that is beyond human understanding. Religion today is more disorganized, more democratic than ever before.

Christianity today is, I am hopeful, becoming less about the Roman mythology of Jesus, and more about how he lived, what he had to teach, and the incredible idea that humans are more than meets the eye. We are, in fact, a harmonization of the song of God, made to be like God in this world—creatures of love and compassion. To get there means we need to give ourselves permission to let go of some of the things we have been taught are the central tenets of Christianity, and to once again let God influence our spiritual growth, rather than any human empire.
 
Prayer: Let me know, God of all being, that it is okay to move forward and let go of the things that weigh me down. Take my mental and spiritual baggage away from me! Let me feel your presence, and understand there is more to faith than religious empire conveys. Amen.