Solving the Christmas Mystery

One of the reasons I prefer the term soul over the term Christ as a reference to our spiritual essence, is because of what happens in our mind when we use the latter, biblical designation. It shoots back to a point in history 2,000 years ago. Likewise, using the combination, Jesus Christ, as representing one who fully achieved a consciousness of his oneness with God suggests an impossible standard of spiritual achievement to most of us. Thinking of Jesus as a man who fully awakened to his soul dissolves this perceived barrier and places his example in a more practical light. If he said, as I believe he implied, I am expressing the completeness of my soul and you can do the same, I would find this much less intimidating than holding, as my highest spiritual aspiration, the attainment of Christ Consciousness. It turns my focus from the man Jesus to my own soul, which is exactly where it needs to be if I’m to make any spiritual headway.

If we can clear away our many preconceptions of the true meaning of the Christmas story, we can see a beautiful depiction of our own path to enlightenment. Mary is presented as a virgin pregnant with a very special child. Joseph is troubled by this, for he knows that he is not the father. He makes the decision to quietly put marriage plans aside and move on with his life, without Mary. In a dream, however, he is told the special circumstances and that he should go ahead with the marriage.

Mary represents the intuitive aspect of our being. It is through Mary that the soul (the Christ child) is born into our field of awareness. Most people believe this birth happens through Joseph, the intellect, through intense study and continued exposure to spiritual ideas. Joseph had to be asleep before he could get an understanding through a dream of what was taking place.

The intellect does not participate in grasping and expressing the soul. Filling Joseph with spiritual ideas is not the goal. Our goal is to allow the soul to emerge into our field of awareness, a process that occurs through our intuitively focused times of quiet meditation. By “quiet” we mean that we are to give Joseph a time out. Let him become the observer rather than a needed participant in the soul’s coming forth.

The self-image is the child of Joseph. This is the senses-based, body-oriented aspect of consciousness that most of us live from. Jesus had brothers and sisters, but none rose to the spiritual level he is assigned. The soul is different from these intellectual offspring. Joseph’s role as a father shifts into that of nurturing the forthcoming into consciousness of the soul. Quoting Psalms, Jesus pointed out that all will be taught by God. Joseph becomes a student of the soul. He is influenced by it rather than it by him.

The intellect inadvertently encases the soul in concepts that become unnatural barriers to its expression. We hear nothing of Joseph in Jesus’ later years, which can represent a condition free of spiritual preconception, one that is fully motivated by the soul.

Many on the spiritual path put away Mary and refuse to take her as our wife. We follow the tradition of bolstering Joseph, thinking that the more spiritual information we cram into our heads, the more spiritually evolved we will be. Nothing could be further from the truth. The so-called Immaculate Conception has already occurred in each of us. The soul is fully present and awaiting passage into expression through that virgin, intuitive channel of Mary. Virginity in this regard, is a pathway untouched by the conceptualizing antics of the intellect.

We’ve all received the announcement from the angelic host. Our desire to be and express more is the soul announcing itself. Our converting this desire into a quest to build the intellect postpones the actual birth of the soul into our field of awareness.

This is the mystery embodied in the Christmas story, a mystery that will remain hidden and unsolved until our Joseph side agrees to let go of the reins and take Mary as our wife.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, Christmas, consciousness, evolving soul myth, intuition, J Douglas Bottorff, Jesus, self image, The Complete Soul | 2 Comments

The Complete Soul Mate

Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, to which of the seven will she be wife? For they all had her. But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:25-32).

Though this post may be more appropriate in February’s Valentine’s Day observance, someone who had a series of relationships not unlike the one portrayed above raised the question of soul mates, and whether there is any validity to the idea. As my wife and I approach our 40th anniversary in June of 2017, I would say yes, I believe there is something to this notion of soul mates. I would qualify this, however, by agreeing with the above statement of Jesus that “… in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” This may sound odd coming from someone who does not believe that the dead will one day rise from their graves. The resurrection, as I think of it, is simply that period when the individual so consciously connects with their soul that the soul is lifted into their field of awareness as that ultimate rock upon which the house of their consciousness is built. The resurrection is not a birth but a reclaiming of our spiritual essence that has been buried beneath the false self-image.

One of the biblical creation accounts states that we were created in the image and after the likeness of God, which includes the complimentary male and female elements. While we can take this literally as man and woman, we can also interpret it as applying to each soul. Rather than thinking of male and female as expressions of gender, we think of them as functions of the soul. We associate the intellect, the head, with the masculine and the intuition, the heart, with the feminine. Each of us has an intellect and an intuitive faculty. We think and feel. We have a head and we have a heart, so to speak. In their pristine state, these two functions are naturally balanced. There is no need to perform a formal marriage to start them working in harmony.

If we are experiencing an imbalance of either of these, we seek to compensate by looking outside of ourselves to strike that balance. We seek a marriage with people, places and things to feel whole. In the “resurrection” we are no longer motivated by lack. We do not enter relationships because we have to. We enter them because we want to. Two whole people coming together make for a much stronger and healthier relationship than two people who are trying to make a whole by uniting two separate halves.

This, I believe, is why we so commonly think of relationships between people as two halves making a whole, why phrases like you complete me have become so popular. While such phrases are intended to be a compliment, in truth, they are more likely to become a snare. If I see myself as a half soul needing to connect with my other half so I will be complete, then I seek relationships to compensate for my feeling of lack. It places the unintended (or intended) burden of making another responsible for keeping me whole. If you fail in your job of making me happy, look out! Still, there seems to be no shortage of takers for this impossible task. The rescuers and enablers of the world seek out those in need of rescue from their self-inflicted sense of incompleteness. All it takes is a smooth pickup line or an extra bit of mascara to jump into this game.

The Complete Soul follows the law of attraction as laid out by Jesus: Seek first the kingdom and everything else will be added. This translates into, find your own wholeness first and you will attract the kinds of relationships that resonate with this level of strength. In my own case, I was not seeking a relationship when I met my wife to be. I was hungering and thirsting for a deeper knowledge of spiritual truth. My discovery of Unity, which became my primary spiritual path, led me to gladly and enthusiastically make a 60 mile journey (120 round trip) to Unity Village for Sunday services and classes two and sometimes three times a week. One Sunday morning I was sitting in that 1000+ seat sanctuary when Beth sat one seat from me. She said she felt guided to do this. I quickly sensed a compatibility that I had never experienced, an intuitive knowing that we would be good for one another. I was truly seeking first the kingdom when the woman I would marry stepped into my life.

Contrary to popular belief, finding the right relationship does not resolve issues of loneliness, low self-esteem or glaring flaws in character. One can as easily experience all of these things in or out of a relationship. Using another to attempt to plug the hole of loneliness is a nonstarter for overcoming loneliness. The only way to overcome loneliness is to be alone. If you can heal your loneliness alone, you will not inflict its drag-down effects on another.

I have said before that a bit of Emilie Cady’s best advice (Lessons in Truth) was to go alone, think alone, seek light alone. When you can be as strong and happy alone as with another, you will be a much better companion. If you’ve ever been in a needy relationship with a clingy clingon, you’ll know that the intuitive desire to bolt and run is your soul throwing up red flags. We’re simply not designed to be a crutch for the emotional invalids of the world. If you see this as your calling, however, know that you enter this occupation at your own risk.

I am by no means suggesting that in our growing soul awareness we will become so strong as to shed the joy of relationships and the excitement of new worldly pursuits and interactions. What I am suggesting is that we become aware of our motive in seeking out relationships with certain people, places and things. The self-image is a taker, always seeking to compensate for what it feels it lacks. The soul is a giver, always seeking to give from its center of life, love, power and wisdom. The self-image uses others, the soul empowers them. We get in touch with our motive by considering if we are seeking to express our strengths or trying to compensate for our weaknesses.

If you are an employer, would you rather hire someone who cares only for the benefits you offer, or would you rather hire someone who wants to help advance your business? It’s kind of a no brainer, but I believe the same principle applies whether we are talking about business or a one-on-one relationship.

Yes, I believe there are people who are quite compatible with who and what we are at the soul level–soul mates if you will. I also believe if we are to attract them, to draw their attention, our priority must be the discovery and devotion to expressing our own soul’s completeness. Doesn’t this also fulfill the essence of the golden rule of doing unto others that which we would have them do unto us? If we expect another to deliver the complete package in our relationship, is it not up to us to do the same?

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, Emilie Cady, intuition, J Douglas Bottorff, law of attraction, law of expression, Lessons In Truth, relationships, The Complete Soul | Leave a comment

The Conditional Shift

A few days ago I posted an article titled, Self-Image, Why Not Ego?, to explain why I prefer using the first term over the second. I suppose we could rank the degrees of a self-image by placing mild mannered at one end of the scale and egomaniac at the other. To do so, however, misses the point. While moving from narcissistic egomaniac to a mild mannered people-pleaser might be considered a good thing by most, improvements in the self-image do not bring us greater awareness of the soul. Take two beach balls, one yellow and the other blue, hold one in each of your extended hands on a sunny day and you’ll see no difference in the color of shadow they cast. The self-image, like the ball, is an object that blocks the pure light of the soul. Changing the color of the ball or the self-image does nothing to change the shadow either one casts.

In the parable of the prodigal son, the far country represents the self-image. As I pointed out in the above mentioned post, where we live in this far country is irrelevant. You can be a really bad person or you can be a very good person, but you still live in the far country. A good person, as I’m sure you know, can be just as depressed and unhappy as a bad person. Maybe more so. If you are trying to be a good person so others will like you better, you become dismayed when your goodness is not rewarded with kindness from others. In other words, your effort at being good is conditional. If you are a good person and others like you better, you feel good about yourself. The fatal flaw of the self-image is its belief in conditional behavior. If I behave in a good way I will be rewarded. If I behave in a bad way I will be punished.

With this parable, Jesus gives us the opportunity to revisit this type of thinking, especially as it concerns our spiritual endeavor. From the father’s point of view, what about his prodigal son had to change in order to come home? Nothing. The father had unconditional love for his son. The son, however, believed he would need to strike a bargain, become willing to offer himself as a servant to earn the right to go home. We know from the parable that this was not true, that the father saw him from a distance and began preparing a feast of celebration.

The purpose of this parable, I believe, is to illustrate the unconditional nature of God. God as life, love, power and intelligence expresses the fullness of these qualities always, and without condition, a point Jesus clearly made elsewhere: “…for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The father’s love was not dependent on the just or unjust behavior of his son. Like the sun and the rain, the father loved unconditionally. To paraphrase Meister Eckhart, I never thank God for loving me; He can’t help Himself.

The irony here is that traditional Christianity has adopted a conditional approach to God. The general attitude here is more accurately reflected in the son who stayed home rather than in the father’s unconditional acceptance. If you accept Jesus as Savior into your life, you will be saved. If you do not, you will be punished. The son who stayed home believed his brother should be punished. He did something very wrong and he should be made to pay. His thinking was based on behavioral conditions. There are many traditional Christians who believe that people of other faiths will not be saved because they do not come to Jesus. This parable illustrates that nothing could be further from the truth, at least as far as Jesus was concerned.

The Complete Soul acknowledges that the life, love, power and intelligence of God is individualized in and as the soul. As such, each one of us has, at our core, these unconditional elements, none of which need improvement. We do not experience them only because we have identified more with our self-image than with our soul. We want to create a self-image that is worthy of experiencing what the soul already is. We spend our spiritual life so intent on changing the color of our beach ball that we don’t even notice that the shadow it casts, regardless of the ball’s color, remains unchanged. We can certainly deny and affirm our self-image into another color, but until we completely deflate it and give it a toss, our results will be unsatisfactory.

The prodigal began his journey home as a self-image in need of improvement. His father’s unconditional acceptance rendered this type of thinking totally irrelevant. Step outside on a sunny day and hurtle curses at the sun. Curse the rain and demand that it go away because you are planning a picnic. Your attitude will not diminish the benefits of either.

The difference between the soul and the self-image is that the soul gives its light unconditionally, the self-image bargains to obtain what it feels it lacks. The soul freely expresses its strengths, the self-image scrambles to compensate for its many weaknesses. The soul knows itself as complete, the self-image eternally sees itself as a work in progress. The soul loves because it is love, the self-image attempts to be loving for the reward of being loved in return. The soul is a giver, the self-image a taker. The soul sees the kingdom of the Father spread out upon the earth, the self-image struggles to modify the behavior of others so the kingdom may come. In all we do, we can each tell where we are coming from simply by asking: Am I expressing a strength or am I trying to compensate for a weakness? The soul expresses, the self-image compensates. The soul is complete, the self-image will never be complete.

So this question arises: What do I do to make sense of all of this? What did the prodigal do? Did he pray? Did he read more books? Did he engage in a rigorous program of denials and affirmations? Did he vow to become a better person? Did he vow to walk the straight and narrow path of his religion? No. He didn’t do anything but decide to turn and go home. And even his act of turning was not the thing that made the difference. What made the difference, in fact, had nothing to do with him. It had everything to do with the unconditional love of his father. Unjust as the young man may have been, the sun and rain of his father’s love poured forth all the same. Our attempts at self-improvement pale in comparison to our experience of the self, the soul, that is already complete.

Yes we strive to love, to be kind and courteous to others, to give rather than take from the world. But if we are trying to do these things for the rewards they promise, we are likely motivated by the need to improve our self-image rather than coming from the understanding that such things are a natural consequence of expressing our soul. We do not love for the rewards that love will bring back to us. We love because we can’t help ourselves.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, denial and affirmation, evolving soul myth, J Douglas Bottorff, Jesus, self image, The Complete Soul | Leave a comment

I Am the Way

I was recently asked what I considered the biggest challenge concerning the pursuit of spiritual understanding. With our growing dependency on technology and the endless stream of distractions it presents, it would be easy to point the finger to a shortened attention span addicted to the need for quickly disposable information. We live in an era where anyone with a computer or cell phone can access more spiritually-based information than at any other time in history. Yet there is little evidence that the human family is any nearer the hoped-for collective enlightenment many have been expecting. What we still see, as clearly as ever, is a push and shove between clashing ideologies, every side trying to shame or club the other into conformity, often using bias spiritual reasoning as their weapon of choice.

I believe that the biggest challenge most on the spiritual path encounter is the self-imposed belief that others know more about our spiritual needs than they do. Unfortunately, this may very well be true, though it need not be. In a culture that is growing more specialized, it seems natural that we would turn to the spiritual experts to guide us successfully on our path. The irony is that the spiritual experts are the ones who have misled us in the first place. Engaging in an authentic spiritual awakening often requires a recovery from the creeds and dogmas that had us looking to the church, the scripture, to the sky or to the latest best-seller rather than to that inner closest of our soul, that secret place where the universal meets the personal, the divine becomes the human.

Every one of us have a stand-alone relationship with God. There are obviously people who understand this relationship and can share it with others. Having volumes of information about this relationship, however, does not ensure a spiritual awakening. This would be like thinking you could create an exciting love life by reading romance novels. A walk down fantasy lane, spiritually or romantically, is not the same as a spiritual awakening or the act of falling in love at a level that evolves into a meaningful long-term relationship.

Yesterday I wrote about Jesus, in part because he represents the most influential spiritual icon of my life. I have embraced him first as my Savior and later as my Wayshower. I was born into the belief that all people are sinners in need of salvation from an eternity in Hell. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for my sins. My acceptance of this sacrifice assured my salvation. I later discovered a new way to think of Jesus. He became a highly evolved, fully regenerated soul who had, after countless incarnations, reached the epitome of the human endeavor. It was to him that I could look as the ultimate example of what I too could one day become. My salvation was not so much an escape from the fiery pits of Hell as it was freedom from the burdens of the flesh. I could so energize my body as to bring it into a disease and limitation free condition that would no longer fear the sting of death.

In both cases, my guide to salvation or perfection was a projection created by the thinking of others. The Jesus of tradition, for example, has been forged, not by Jesus himself, but by the endless stream of evangelicals that have come after him. These were the writers of gospels, letters, professional clergy and theologians who through the committee process hammered out a narrative that countless non-experts entering the religious landscape accept as their spiritual benchmark, often without question. This Jesus is the answer to the kind of Savior we would need if it were actually true that we were all born in sin and bound for Hell.

Likewise, Jesus as Wayshower is the kind of Savior we would need if it were actually true that we are evolving souls on our way to lifting our consciousness and body above the relentless weight of the flesh. Though a stimulating departure from tradition, this view will take us no further down the imaginary lane of soul evolution.

Both models are, in fact, spiritual dead ends. I cannot draw from either an understanding of that thing that is going on in me at this exact moment. What thing? The Universal, God, individualizing as me. This is happening now. What does this mean? Why is it happening? Why is the great Universal making the choice to express on the material plane as me? Can I find the answer in the words and accomplishments of others? No. I can get information that will help me form yet another projection of who and what someone suggests I am supposed to be. But this is just another spiritual dead end. I cannot get an understanding of myself, my true self, my soul from an outside source. I must travel within to that gurgling fountain of life, the very foundation of my being where God funnels down from infinite Being and becomes me.

Is it easy to find this place? No, but not because it is inaccessible or even naturally difficult. Much of this journey involves letting go of the things we think we know in favor of what is actually true. We labor toward preconceptions gleaned from the experts. We cite the masters and memorize the wisdom of the ages thinking the accumulation of this information will one day tilt the scales toward a more enlightened existence. We thirst while the inner fountain bubbles away.

I am the way is the message of this living, transitional point within every man, woman and child. The disciplined effort required to receive this message is well worth the trouble. Jesus may have given the best instructions on finding it. Because it cannot be put into words, he simply encouraged the needed persistence:

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

A word of caution. The thrill and the beauty you find will set you apart in the world. Very few will understand this thing that you touch. Though the world seeks what you will surely find, it does not know that it seeks it, as it is occupied with chasing preconceptions and seeking to emulate icons. When you discover this inner treasure, you will gladly sell these possessions and lay claim to that which truly makes you you, that which can only be yours.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, evolving soul myth, J Douglas Bottorff, Jesus, The Complete Soul | Leave a comment

The Way of the Wayshower

For all the good that formal religion does in the world, there is one element common to them all that takes a significant toll on the potential quality of the individual’s spiritual life. Nearly all depict their founders in a way that forever transcends the capabilities of their followers. Though Jesus shares the insight that “he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do” (John 14:12), few of us are ready to call in the press as we take our first stab at walking across a lake.

In the case of both traditional and metaphysical Christianity, the focus of our spiritual aspiration has been directed to the personality and assumed accomplishments of Jesus rather than on what he actually taught. The more secular biblical scholars, those who are not trying to prove the merits of Christian dogma, understand there is a vast difference between the Jesus of history and Jesus the Christian icon. Unity author and minister, Eric Butterworth, accurately made the distinction between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus. The religion about Jesus depicts him as a unique species, eternally placing the works he did out of our reach. The religion of Jesus presents us with a whole new set of possibilities that I like to think are more in line with his intentions as a teacher. We call him our wayshower, but did he intend that we follow his footsteps on his path, or was he showing us how to find our own?

There are indications that he tried to direct attention away from his own personality. When a man addressed him as “good teacher” he asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Of course we can draw countless examples and engage in endless debate on who and what Jesus was and what he intended to teach. Ultimately, each person is left to decide what he or she will do with this matter. For me, his role as wayshower was to point to my path, not draw attention to his.

I realize many will consider such a statement arrogant, possibly even blasphemous. But I reached the point in my life where the relevance of a teacher of any sort has to be measured, not so much by their own accomplishments, but by the potential they awaken in their students. If a teaching does not in some way empower the one who studies it, of what value is it? I have to agree with Meister Eckhart when he wrote:

We may well all rejoice over this, that Christ our brother has through his own power gone up above all the choirs of angels and sits at the right hand of the Father. This authority has said well, but really I am not much concerned about this. How would it help me if I had a brother who was a rich man, if I still remained poor? How would it help me if I had a brother who was a wise man, if I still remain a fool?

The life I live, the earth and the universe I inhabit are mine. Am I to stand here as a bewildered product of evolution or as the unique cutting edge of a cosmically creative process that only I can fulfill? Am I to follow the millions in deepening into a rut the path of another, or am I to blaze my own? Though I have long ago abandoned the religion about Jesus, I continue to mine the gems of truth I find scattered throughout the many words attributed to him. I do not find among this treasure the admonition to compare my path to his. I find instead the urging, even the obligation to love the lord my God with all my heart, mind and soul. The fruit of his direction, I have discovered, takes me from standing in awe of my brother’s wealth and wisdom to tapping into my own.

The finger of a true wayshower never points to its owner. It points to that very spot in front of us where our next step will likely land. “Are you here to follow a path,” they ask, “or are you here to blaze a trail?” They are not asking if we are ready to walk on water, raise the dead or feed the hungry through a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. They ask only if we have come to that place in our quest for truth where we accept that an unborn facet of the universe stands at the door of our being and knocks.

Are we prepared to open that door?

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, evolving soul myth, J Douglas Bottorff, Jesus | 7 Comments

The Alignment

Imagine having never before seen the ocean. Instead, you’ve only seen a beautiful photograph of an ocean scene, a sunrise perhaps. All you know about the ocean is what you can gather through details you pick out in the image. The photographer was obviously there to take the picture, so you are, in a sense, experiencing the ocean vicariously through his or her eyes. You can only imagine what it would be like to stand where that photographer stood the moment they took the picture.

Now imagine actually going to that same spot and experiencing the ocean yourself. With all of your senses fully engaged, you are treated to a much richer experience. You may see flowers on the beach, wildlife scurrying across the sand, birds floating gracefully on warm wind currents or maybe even seals basking in the sun among rocks. You quickly realize that the single photograph that drew you to this place is but one perspective of a very wide range of possibilities. With your own camera, you can focus on other aspects that, for you, tell a different story of your experience with the ocean.

In the arena of spiritual literature, there are two kinds of writers. There are those who have stood on the beach and taken snapshots of what they have experienced. And there are those who study these snapshots and attempt to identify and describe details they find. The first are the mystics. The second are the scholars, the academics. In some instances, the mystic, for whatever reason, did not capture their experience in the photograph of writing. Jesus is a case in point. His snapshots were orally imparted to a largely uneducated population. By word of mouth, these snippets made their way to the scholars who then used them to create their own literary photographs (Gospels) to fit their particular narrative of who and what this mystic, in their minds, had to be.

We do not have a single “photograph” taken by Jesus himself. We do not see the ocean of God through his eyes. We see it through the eyes of four writers who were not interested in depicting the ocean as Jesus might have seen it, but as they wanted their audience to see it. Most of us have spent a great deal of time searching these scriptures in which we think we might find the key to life. Yet we do not come to the original photographer to find it. And if we did, we would likely find that photographer telling us to stop studying the picture and come instead to the beach.

When I was in my late teens, I had the privilege of standing on the beach. My visit was brief, lasting only a matter of minutes. Yet the course of my life was set in those few minutes. At a moment of extreme frustration with the difficulties of trying to make myself worthy of the spiritual awakening, my eyes were suddenly opened. Though I continue to try, I have never been able to find the words to describe the absolute, unconditional love that exploded in me in those few minutes. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this aspect of my being was the prize I had always been seeking, the prize the world seeks, though it does not know it. I knew I was whole, lacking absolutely nothing.

That experience would lead me into the Unity ministry and, ironically, it would cause me many years later, to sever my formal ties with the Unity organization. I realize this sounds strange, but I think I can explain. Unity presented a set of teachings most compatible with my experience on the beach. Studying the scrapbook of literary photographs produced by the founders and followers, I found much that I could relate to. The teachings were inner-directed and based on God as the omnipresence of absolute and unconditional love.

As a minister, I shared these photos with my congregations and encouraged them to study the details. More importantly, based on my own experience, I encouraged people to find their own beach and have their own experience. Because I was an ordained Unity minister, however, I felt compelled to couch my ministry in the Unity brand. It was easier to pass on the principles embodied in Unity than to lead people to their own beach experience.

Around fifteen years into my ministry, Beth and I moved to Evergreen, Colorado taking leadership of a small group that met in a rented facility. A short time after our arrival, the owner of the facility asked us to vacate the building. We were forced into a movie theater, where we spent the next six years. We had conducted our two prior ministries in formal settings with buildings, offices and regular business hours, complete with daily donning of jacket and tie. Having lost our building in Evergreen, our home became our office with jeans and shorts quickly becoming the attire of choice.

It gradually began to dawn on me that, in trying to be a minister, I was carrying the burden of an unnatural role. I expressed this feeling to Phil White, then editor of Unity Magazine, who suggested an interview with me for the magazine describing this transition I was going through. This period was another turning point in my life. I was no longer a minister first. I was a spiritually-minded individual involved in the role of minister.

This transition has continued through the years. As a representative of an organization, I have naturally felt compelled to promote the literary photos of that organization. However, as an individual who knows what it is to stand on the beach, I find that my deepest obligation is to not only share that experience but to articulate a system of ideas that make such an experience possible. No spiritual system worth its salt will encourage its adherents to spend their life studying the photographs of others. All will encourage their followers to find their way to the beach. From my point of view, the Unity that once urged me to the beach now seems to promote a study of photo-shopped pictures produced in a manner not unlike that adopted by those responsible for hammering out the post-Jesus narrative. Thus, my departure, but with the understanding that there are still individual ministries who continue to promote and encourage the trip to the beach.

In these later years I have brought my ministry and the principles I teach more into alignment with my experience on the beach. My book, Native Soul, was a first attempt within the Unity framework to expose the myth of soul evolution. The Complete Soul represents a further step in this direction. Another volume will undoubtedly emerge detailing the principles that explain how and why the beach experience is possible. Like anyone, I can only pass on photographs. I just want to be sure they are photos I myself have taken.

Many of you know of my interest in near-death research. You may also know that I am not drawn to this research seeking proof of an afterlife. I am attracted to it because so many of the individuals who have had an NDE report experiencing a dimension of themselves that is so extraordinarily beautiful they cannot find words to describe it. I have not had a near-death experience in the classical sense of the word. But I understand what those who have are trying to tell us. I have briefly crossed that threshold of mortality, enough to know, as the Gospel of Thomas acknowledges, that the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth and men do not see it.

Our unique place on the beach is our own soul. It is not far away in some distant time and space but closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, evolving soul myth, J Douglas Bottorff, The Complete Soul, The Inward Journey | 2 Comments

Self-Image, Why Not Ego?

I’m sometimes asked why I prefer to use the term self-image over the word ego to describe that aspect of consciousness that interferes with our spiritual awareness. Technically, there is no difference between the ego and the self-image. Both represent a body/brain-centered identity constructed using information drawn through the senses. Both become a kind of eclipsing cloud that hovers between our self-awareness and the sunlight of our soul.

There is a difference, however, in our understanding of these two terms. The self-help industry is populated with literally thousands of books and video courses designed to help us improve the self-image. Have you ever seen a course that promises to help develop a bigger, stronger ego? I’m sure they exist, some incognito, some blatantly unapologetic. It is, after all, hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. But I think the average person seeking success in life sees an over-inflated ego as a liability in need of control. Likewise, many on the spiritual path associate the ego with my will as opposed to Thy will being done. The word carries a level of toxicity that many consider a hindrance to success and healthy relationships.

A well-balanced self-image, on the other hand, is considered an asset. And rightfully so. Have you not known sheepish people who have spent their lives living apologetically in the shadows suddenly emerge with a realization like this: I am a child of God and I deserve the best! I would argue that the benefits of a good self-image far outweigh the merits of a low self-image. And yet I would also argue that the best self-image still represents an aspect of that cloud that hovers between our self-awareness and the soul.

I have said before that there is a benefit to thinking of our consciousness, not as the sum of our beliefs but as the sum of our values. Jesus was actually the first to point this out when he said, “For where your treasure is (your values), there will your heart (beliefs) be also” (Matt. 6:21). If our values are grounded in the senses-based self-image, we will still wander in the far country away from our true home, the soul.

The belief that improving our self-image will get us home is the product of a senses-based value system. If we follow this path, there is no hope of our reaching the soul. Dissipating the cloud of self-image, whether it is a good one or one that is not so good, allows the self-awareness to bond with the soul.

What many do not realize is that probably every religion, traditional and metaphysical, have their origins in the collective self-image, better known in metaphysical circles as race consciousness. Because the self-image is built on the sand of the senses rather than on the bedrock of the soul, religion begins with the idea that we are separate from God, or the highest good that is possible. Traditional religion, in any of its many forms, provides a plan of salvation that promises to unite the individual with God. This plan is dependent on behavioral modification. Be loving to your neighbor, do not kill, do not covet, do not step on insects, do not let the world know you are suffering, feed the hungry and clothe the poor. In other words, walk the straight and narrow and when you depart this world, there’s a good chance that you will be allowed to enter that ultimate gated community we know as Heaven.

The metaphysical approach to this problem of separation places blame on an immature soul obviously in need of evolving. Its solution to attaining oneness with God is also grounded in behavioral modification. The tools used are denials and affirmations. Deny or release that which is not true at our core level and affirm that which is. One day we will achieve the perfectly spiritualized self-image. The problem is not found in these potentially powerful tools. The problem is found in how and why we employ them. If you are trying to build a self-image that will match the power of your soul, you can deny and affirm from now until doomsday but you will never create a self-image that is equal to the soul. If you understand that the prize you seek—the soul—is already fully present, you will turn these powerful tools toward dissolving this false sense of self.

The man who stumbled upon the treasure began selling his possessions (denial) to buy (affirmation) the field containing the treasure. His understanding of the presence of the treasure caused a complete shift in his values. Before, he valued his current possessions (self-image). The discovery of the treasure triggered a change in understanding and, therefore, motive. He had been seeking to obtain. Now he understands that the secret to obtaining is in letting go. It is not a perceived distance between your self-awareness and your soul that needs to be closed. It is the cloud we know as the self-image that needs to go. If you believe there is distance between where you are and where you need to be spiritually, you will stumble over your hidden treasure for lifetimes and never know it.

As desirable and as attractive as a humble self-image may be, it is still an unnatural barrier that casts a shadow on our ability to experience of the soul. Show up as a worm of the dust or as an egomaniac demanding the world bow at your feet and you still reside in the far country of senses-based illusion. It is even possible that the egomaniac stands a better chance of discovering that the walls of their frail fortress crumble with something as simple as a corporate demotion. There is nothing like devastating failure to trigger a genuine search for the soul. But the worm of the dust who sees virtue in suffering lives no less in the cloud shadow of the self-image. That shadow covers the entire far country, regardless of how near or far to home one resides.

The practice of meditation is the practice of strolling in the field where we know the treasure is buried. The soul is not outside somewhere. It is within. The self-image looks within and it does not find it, so it moves to another field. It does not ask, seek and knock long enough in this inner field to satisfy its need for instant gratification. This is why it is easier to adopt a religious or philosophical system that says the prize of our soul is somewhere other than where we are. It awaits us at death or at the end of a very long evolutionary journey. Whether we have adopted a self-image that is humble or an ego that is offensively arrogant, we still live in the shadow of separation. Perhaps there are occasional patches of sunlight that break through this cloud, but they are always in the distance. When we reach them, they are elsewhere.

So, I hope this post sheds some light on why I prefer the term self-image over ego. For me it is much more than a simple problem of semantics. It calls for a complete shift in values.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, consciousness, J Douglas Bottorff, Meditation and Prayer, relationships, self image, The Complete Soul | 2 Comments

Reality and the Lego, Part 2

In my previous post, I think I made something clear that should be obvious to us all: Legos do not assemble themselves. It takes the element of intelligence to begin the process of selecting and clicking together these multi-colored plastic bricks into forms we recognize as houses, bridges and skyscrapers. Ten-year-old Billy was the agent that made this possible. Prior to his entrance into the room, our Legos, like the biblical depiction of an early earth without form and void, lay motionless and scattered randomly on the table. The introduction of Billy changed all of that. Nothing we see as a house, a bridge or a skyscraper was assembled without his influence.

Lets back up a bit and think of the room before Billy’s entrance. Were there any forces present and fully functioning that would go undetected by the casual observer? Modern science would tell us there are four: gravity, electromagnetism, a strong nuclear force and a weak nuclear force. Whether or not we acknowledge them, all of these fundamental forces are at work in the production of reality as we tend to think of it. They were certainly at work in the room long before Billy.

Shifting gears, let’s call this sum of fundamental elements God, the creative life force. Interestingly enough, we also find four fundamentals that we universally associate with God. These are life, love, power and intelligence. We also assign the condition of omnipresence to God. The life, love, power and intelligence that is God existed in its fullness in the room prior to Billy’s entrance. In other words, Billy did not bring God with him into the room. What Billy brought was a bridging agent, an interface that allowed interaction between the visible and invisible realms. This interaction enables the universal to express as the personal. The universal cannot enter any form and remain universal. At the moment of expression it becomes an individualized or personalized manifestation, still endowed with the four fundamentals of life, love, power and intelligence, but expressed in unique and diverse ways: houses, bridges and skyscrapers. Billy simply provides the connective tissue, so to speak, between the universal and the personal.

So, how does life, love, power and intelligence interact with a pile of Legos to express as houses, bridges and skyscrapers? First, life expresses as enthusiasm. Can you imagine the enthusiasm in Billy’s eyes when he sees a table filled with plastic, interlocking bricks? Love expresses as understanding. It is Billy’s understanding of how these bricks can be joined and arranged into specific forms that makes these forms possible. Power is expressed as strength. Strength is applied to conviction, faith, endurance, character and vision, all of which will positively influence the nature of Billy’s creation. Intelligence manifests as order. Bringing specific and orderly form to a pile of plastic bricks is a hallmark of intelligence.

Billy’s very soul is an individualized expression of life, love, power and intelligence. What sets him apart from God, the universal, is his ability to translate these qualities into specific forms that would otherwise show up as a chaos of formless matter. His enthusiasm, understanding, strength and grasp of order produce an arrangement of matter that is completely compatible with his personalized expression of the four fundamentals of God. God, in this sense, is not the Creator we would suspect. God is the sum of universal energies that make creation possible. But God needs Billy to bring form and direction to the creative process.

It should come as no surprise that the mystically-minded author of the Gospel of John would reach this exact same conclusion:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).

It is not God but the Word that is the creative agent. Think of Billy as the Word. Billy is endowed with the full powers of life, love, power and intelligence that make his essence virtually indistinguishable from God: The Word was God. And yet, as John writes of God and the Word, there is something about Billy that sets him apart from God. All things were made through him (Billy), and without him was not anything made that was made. Billy, not God, built the Lego city. God, acting as the creative life force, provides the spiritual energy that makes this possible.

This illustration will begin to make sense if you think of the soul as Billy. I suggested in a previous post that there is but one soul manifesting as all the various life forms that we see. This is in keeping with John’s view of one Word through which all things were made. Equally interesting to me is the work of biologist Robert Lanza and astronomer Bob Berman. The fifth principle of their biocentric universe is stated thus: “The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. This universe is simply the complete spatio-temporal logic of the self.” [see Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe].

As science struggles to piece together its version of the creation story, it is impossible to not be struck by the number of known instances where quantities of force had to be absolutely precise for us to be here today. The big bang, every meteor bombardment, every ice age and every period in which excesses of toxic greenhouse gases were produced resulted in a phenomenal proliferation of life sustaining elements and new complex life forms. Taken out of their context, these seemingly negative periods, each lasting many millions of years, have culminated in this perfectly tuned, miraculously balanced environment that is absolutely conducive to a diversity of living forms, the knowledge and understanding of which we still have not fully grasped.

Drawing from his endless source of universal power, Billy is still enthusiastically at work building his Lego city. You and I, perfectly individualized expressions of the Word, the light of men, carry out this creative process in our own unique way, turning first to our limitless source and second to the arranging our own set of Legos into a diversity of expressions unique to us. As no two snowflakes are alike, so none of Billy’s down-line creations are expressed in duplicate.

We each bring something only we can bring. Every single expression of this one cosmic soul represents a unique facet that only we can deliver. Were we absent from the creative process, something would be missing. Since we cannot be absent, perhaps we should learn to arrange our own Legos-filled table with a bit more enthusiasm and self assurance.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, J Douglas Bottorff, law of expression, The Complete Soul | 9 Comments

Reality and the Lego

Since I have subtitled The Complete Soul with, Exposing the Myth of Soul Evolution, I have received many questions about my understanding of evolution and the role it may play in our so-called spiritual development. I also find myself increasingly fascinated with the concept of evolution itself. Some are under the impression that I deny it even happens. Others seem to think I have a pie-in-the-sky attitude about spiritual development, that our obvious spiritual ignorance doesn’t exist so there is no problem. Some find it problematic that I seem to be saying we’ll never be anything more than we are right now.

There is no question that evolution occurs. The fossil record clearly shows the earliest living forms were simple bacteria. Through millions of years, multiple ice ages, destruction of atmosphere by volcanically produced greenhouse gases (global warming on steroids) and a few meteors thrown in, life has obviously evolved from a few single-celled creatures to the phenomenal diversity we see today.

In my humble opinion, it is the predominant understanding of the scientific materialist that presents us with our major stumbling block concerning the process of evolution. Science assumes life arose from matter. In ways it cannot explain, chemical compounds somehow became so aligned that something like a charge of lightning provided the needed push to make matter wiggle of its own accord, and the process of evolution began.

Suppose you have a room containing nothing but a large table covered with Lego pieces. No one visits this room for ten years. Aside from collecting dust, nothing about the arrangement of the Legos will change. Now introduce a person into that room, let’s call him Billy, a boy of ten. How long will it be before the Legos begin to take some form? Rather quickly I assume.

Let’s reverse this scenario and say that Billy is in the room alone. No table. No Legos. Nothing creative can happen because Billy has nothing to work with. It is only as we provide Billy with Legos that the creative interaction with this particular form of matter can begin.

Does the existence of Billy’s intelligence depend on the presence of Legos? No. Alone in the room, this boy is just as intelligent. Bringing in the Legos simply allows him to express intelligence that before remained unseen.

Now let’s say that Billy starts out building a small house. To this he adds more small houses, stores, bridges and eventually skyscrapers, all of which culminate as the birth of rush-hour traffic. We see a very definite evolution in Billy’s thinking. Does this mean that Billy’s intelligence has evolved? Again we say no. Billy was just as intelligent before he touched his first Lego. The arrangement of Legos evolved because his consciousness evolved. That is, he started with a small idea of what he wanted to build, a simple house, and that eventually turned into a city. Billy did not leave the room a smarter person simply because he eventually erected a city. And, if Billy had decided to start out building the entire city, he could have done so. Nothing required him to start with a simple house.

The Complete Soul makes the assumption that we are all Billy with a table full of Legos spread before us. Dumb matter is not the source of our existence. We are the product of the Creative Life Force, the universal life, love, power and intelligence that we express through consciousness and articulate through matter according to our self-understanding. We can define ourselves by the simple house we have constructed or we can define ourselves as beings capable of turning a chaos of plastic bricks into a city. There is nothing in our original being, our soul, that limits us. The notion of lack and the ill-conceived need to evolve sets in when we define ourselves by our creations. This definition is our self-image, the only thing responsible for our building little houses when we could be erecting cities.

The argument here is not whether we build houses or cities. The argument is whether we are, at this moment, complete souls. Again, The Complete Soul states that there are no natural barriers preventing the full expression of our soul. There are, however, plenty of unnatural barriers. All of these can be lumped together under the single heading of a false self-image. The self-image that feels incomplete believes it must spend multiple lifetimes constructing little houses. In time it will be able to add a store or two. Many lifetimes later it may be able to construct a city.

The makeup of our consciousness is the effect of our self-perception. Locked in the evolutionary mindset, we cannot even conceive of a self-perception having the ability to change in the twinkling of an eye, to paraphrase Paul. Our journey is an eternal one. We follow a linear path of thought that believes things like books and teachers will help make us something more in the future than we are now. We look at our unformed Legos spread out over the table and we see a house. We can just as easily see an entire city. It is not reality that prevents us from seeing a city. It is our training, and, most unfortunately, our spiritual training at that.

I am not a proponent of a literal interpretation of biblical creationism. However, I am amazed that this ancient writer describes an earth “without form and void” that matches quite well the condition of science’s big bang, early earth. In reference to our above illustration, one significant difference between science and the Judeo-Christian approach to creation is that science leaves out Billy. The Legos somehow form into recognizable structures on their own. Religion brings Billy in first. The problem with religion is that it says God looks like Billy. That which is Billy, we know, is much more than meets the eye, more, as Walt Whitman points out, than that which can be contained between Billy’s hat and boots.

You and I are not the matter that is arranged as the ever-changing body and circumstance. We are something much more. And that much more will never be any more than it is now because it is, at this moment, all that it can be.

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, evolving soul myth, J Douglas Bottorff | 5 Comments

My Thanksgiving Wish

Toward the top of the list of things I am thankful for is the country I live in. The United States is an amazing place that I never really appreciated until I became old enough to see the many possible alternatives I might have been born into. I had a pretty wonderful childhood exploring creeks and woods of the northwestern Missouri countryside. Though my wife and I have settled in beautiful western Colorado, we’ve lived in several places in this country and found each one offers some unique level of beauty and natural peace. In each setting, I’ve made friends with people of all backgrounds, all races, all religious and political persuasions in each place we’ve lived.

As everyone knows, we just came through an election that may be deemed the most contentious ever. While civil disagreement is not too unusual for an election, this one was particularly negative. So much so that, for the first time since I have had an account on Facebook, I decided to make a personal policy to “unfriend” those who used this media to exercise their right to hateful speech. Unfortunately, these included a significant number of my ministerial colleagues. I know, on one hand, they stand for unity, oneness, non-judgment and the high ideal of loving one’s enemies. And yet the premeditated display of divisive and angry rhetoric they espoused was, frankly, embarrassing.

We have a new president-elect and his name is Donald Trump. I do not believe there is any value in continuing to attack and tear down the hope that he can bring much good to the office of President of the United States. Many of my colleagues, who emphatically declare there is good in all things and the Christ abides in all people, appear to be making an exception to these principles. Why? Is God only good if your candidate wins? Does the Christ abide only in your candidate? Is divine order only in place as long as things go your way?

There is a reason for the intended division between Church and State and I think we’re seeing, clearer than ever, the rationale behind this. Many wars have been waged in the name of God. Right now a kind of civil war is being waged on the political front in this country. It’s a war where God and the Constitution are on our side, whichever side that may be. Because God is on our side, we do not need to love our political enemies. We are somehow justified in seeking to suppress, oppress and even destroy them. If we can’t destroy them physically, we are surely justified in desecrating their character.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that will come from this last election is the one that breaks down our proclaimed ideals and exposes the dynamic that is apparently the true underpinning of our collective consciousness. The election is a kind of mirror placed before the face of each one of us. The smile or the frown we see looking back is ours, and it is there because circumstances put it there. Does this represent the spiritual ideal we profess to embrace? Is it circumstances that make us smile or frown? Am I only happy when things go my way? If so, do I commit to forcing things to go my way with complete disregard for those who do not agree that my way is the right way?

The spiritual path, of course, is one that points to a more elevated source of joy. There is no question that things do not always go the way we would like. This is exactly why we would want to adopt a spiritual practice that encourages us to lift up our eyes beyond this ever-changing realm of opposites and reconnect with our true source of strength and peace that transcends appearances. If I find my power in the specific outcome of a particular election, then I will lose my power when that outcome is unfavorable. I will spend the next four or eight years in a bid to regain my power which I will again win or lose. This is why I feel quite confident in saying there is nothing new in New Thought. Many who profess the ideals this movement supposedly embodies are still firmly fixed in the old thought that true power is found, not within, but in people, places and things.

Thirty-five years of ministry have given me a very good insight into human nature, which is why I have little hope that our nation as a whole will lay down its emotional arms and rally behind our new leadership. It will sound hollow to say that our country, which I know we are all thankful for, needs us to unify in a commitment to move forward, to see the higher workings of God moving through the continual ebb and flow of circumstance. The only thing that can rob us of our inner peace is ourselves. The only thing that can steal our power is ourselves. The only thing that can take away our inner freedom is that person who is staring back at us in the mirror.

In a previous post I raised the important question of who is going to govern our society in the so-called new age that so many are longing for? Will the evolution of consciousness culminate in favor of conservatives or liberals? Does anyone ever stop and think about this? Politics will be just as much a part of a new age as they are the present and past ages. Do we really think the day will come when we find a common meeting ground and every election will be equal cause for celebration for everyone in the world? Well, those who profess that human consciousness is evolving to this type of status have just had their theory shattered. By all appearances we are more divided than ever.

I wonder if it will ever occur to any who are struggling for dominance of a single worldview that human nature, as it is, will always be as it is, that there will never be a time when we employ our political tools to create circumstances that will make us all happy? It is my sincere belief that this day will not come, not tomorrow, not ever. It is also my sincere belief that it doesn’t need to. There will never be a new age, there will only be a present age. How we live in this present age will determine the kind and quality of experience we have in this or any country. Isn’t this supposed to be the fruition of the notion of omnipresence? Will God one day be more present than God is today? Does the sun shine brighter when your political party wins? No. It only seems that way. I wonder what would happen if we learned, win or lose, to appreciate the constant brightness of the sun, the eternal presence of God, under all circumstances?

I am very thankful for this wonderful country and I am very thankful for the freedom it gives me to use this form of communication to connect with so many wonderful people. My Thanksgiving wish to all of you is a very meaningful, completely peace-filled Thanksgiving experience!

 

 

 

Posted in A Spiritual Journey, forgiveness, J Douglas Bottorff, letting go, ministry, New Beginnings, spiritual guidance, The Inward Journey | 12 Comments