A Path to Self-Forgiveness

Click for Youtube: A Path to Self-Forgiveness

Click for audio: A Path to Self-Forgiveness

For your enjoyment: Moments of Inspiration

***

Last week I discussed a way to approach forgiveness that treats a challenging person as energy we carry in our consciousness. Forgiveness is less about efforts toward reconciliation and more about the act of releasing the negative energy we harbor toward another. While reconciliation may be a part of our forgiveness process, our primary focus is the activity of our own mind, where our actual quality of life begins.

I was asked to continue the same theme, but with emphasis on self-forgiveness. I’ve started this title with A Path … rather than The Path … because there are various ways to approach this subject. The following are but a few questions we might want to consider:

The first is: What do I accomplish by beating up on myself? On the surface, the answer may be nothing. But at a deeper level I may draw some gratification from the act of self-flagellation. According to an article in Psychology Today, research conducted in the field of social psychology suggests at least three major reasons why people might, at times, choose to punish themselves. They have come to believe that 1) they deserve to suffer, 2) suffering will make them a better person, and 3) they are supposed to suffer.

The second question is this: What is accomplished by caving to another’s accusation that I am responsible for ruining their life? In other words, why can people make me feel guilty for not making them happy? The answer is probably related to one of the three previous items.

The most important question of all is this: Who is this self I cannot forgive?  The answer? It is the self-image, the mask that I have developed from the various roles I have played in my life. It is probably true that, given the chance, I could replay any one of them better than I did the first time around. But then again, maybe not.

The critical understanding here is that I am not the self-image that played these roles. For better or for worse, all of this passes and I, the complete soul, am left standing. It makes as much sense to blame my shadow for not representing my body’s true shape. If, as Jesus suggested, knowing the truth will set us free, then distinguishing between the self-image and the soul provides the primary path to self-forgiveness.

The Grasshopper Element

[From, A Spiritual Journey. Adapted from, A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living, revised edition, J Douglas Bottorff]

[For your enjoyment: Moments of Inspiration]

The Old Testament offers a good illustration of the importance of self-image and the role it plays in determining how our circumstances unfold. Found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers, the story tells of how the nation of Israel, after having wandered in the wilderness for many years, was led by Moses to the border of the land the Lord had promised Abraham a few generations before. Moses, desiring to measure the strength and numbers of the occupants of this land, sent in twelve spies to gather intelligence. Upon their return, he summoned the twelve to give their assessment of the situation. They returned from their mission with good news and bad news. The good news, and all twelve agreed on this, was that this was indeed a land of abundance, a land flowing with milk and honey. The bad news, of which they did not agree, was whether Israel was capable of overcoming the inhabitants. The majority of spies, eleven to be exact, reported that the people of the land were strong and the cities were large and well fortified. Their conclusion? “We can’t take on these people, for they are stronger than us.”

There was one spy, Caleb, who thought otherwise. His advice to Israel was this: “Let us go up at once and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

How could it be that Caleb and his eleven companions could see the same people but evaluate them in two completely different ways? The answer is simple. These conflicting evaluations were not based on the actual people they saw. Their evaluations were based on how they saw themselves. This interesting fact is revealed in the report of the eleven when they said, “We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers and so we seemed to them.”

Naturally, if you see yourself as a grasshopper, it is going to affect the way you interact with your circumstances. A grasshopper mentality affects what you believe you can and cannot do. These grasshopper beliefs influence the decisions you make, your decisions determine actions that are in keeping with your grasshopper beliefs and your actions influence the way your circumstances unfold. In other words, if you see yourself as a grasshopper, you will naturally want to create an environment that is safe for grasshoppers.

Because they saw themselves as grasshoppers, the eleven did not believe they could overcome the inhabitants of the land. They recommended to Moses and the assembly that Israel should take no action against these inhabitants. If the assembly had accepted their recommendation, Israel would never have occupied their land of promise. The circumstances of an entire nation would have been adversely affected by the grasshopper self-image of these eleven spies.

Caleb, on the other hand, did not see himself as a grasshopper. He saw himself as a warrior for the Lord who was simply accepting the land that the Lord had promised Israel through Abraham years before. This divinely sanctioned self-image gave him quite a different perspective of the situation. It caused him to believe Israel, through the strength of this sacred promise, could overcome these inhabitants. Caleb’s recommended action was that they proceed. If they had, they may have avoided the necessity of wandering for decades in the wilderness.

The eleven spies, operating from their grasshopper self-image, their strong sense of personal inadequacy, evaluated the problem from the basis of their inventory of external assets. Because they were physically smaller and probably outnumbered, their inventory appeared to be lacking, which meant they would be unable to defeat these inhabitants.

Caleb considered these obvious facts, but he did not allow them to influence his recommendation to move forward. Because the spiritually grounded individual does not base his or her decisions on appearances, they do not need all the answers to apparent problems before they begin moving forward. Armed with the awareness of their unlimited spiritual capacity, they know that solutions to every problem will present themselves as needed.

The important point of the story is this: Had the Israelites made their decision based on Caleb’s opinion, they wouldn’t have wandered aimlessly through the wilderness for all those years. Since they made their decision based on the majority’s opinion, their circumstances unfolded in quite a different way. The difference can be traced to the quality of the collective self-image held by this group.

The better you understand this dynamic, the less likely you are to call yourself a victim of circumstance. You will more likely take charge of your own destiny. If you measure what you can do in life by what you have in your personal inventory of external assets, you may not experience the life of your dreams. This inventory will never be quite large enough to instill in you the confidence to strike out in your desired direction. You can blame circumstances as the cause for not moving ahead, and you’ll probably get plenty of sympathy.

Remember, Caleb was the only one of the twelve who voted to go forward. The eleven, I’m sure, felt perfectly justified with their decision, even though they drew the strength of their conviction from each other’s opinions rather than from their spiritually sanctioned capabilities.

The problem often is not that a thing can’t be done. The problem is that when the majority agrees that it can’t be done, the chances are good that it won’t even be attempted. Caleb illustrates that the seemingly impossible is often possible, but the power to achieve it comes only when you agree to move forward.

A Different View of Meditation

[excerpt from, A Spiritual Journey]

All of us have undoubtedly filled our conscious and subconscious files full of information about the various approaches to the practice of meditation. Our actual attempts at being still and knowing, therefore, may look very much like a search on our computer’s hard drive for an abstract notion that we deem an experience with God.

Setting aside our preconceptions of what it means to experience God, I suggest turning attention instead to our actual objective. Assuming that your soul is complete and accessible, your single interest is that of moving your awareness from your self-image to your soul. This transition can occur during your busy moments throughout the day and during those times you set aside specifically for this purpose.

It is important to understand that your soul is now and has always been instructing you on how to return. The spiritual homesickness you feel is your soul calling you home. It is also important to understand that you are responding to this call. Your dissatisfaction with your existing state of affairs and with that information you were given concerning spiritual matters can and should be taken as an indicator that something in you already inhabits the spiritual home for which you long. That something, of course, is your soul.

Most of us will interpret our dissatisfaction and spiritual restlessness as some form of lack that is ours to fill. Like the prodigal son in the far country, we come to ourselves and decide to return home, but we take it upon ourselves to begin devising the conditions that we believe are necessary for our successful return. The prodigal worked out the scheme of returning home as a servant in his father’s household, not only questioning his worthiness as a son, but also reasoning that life even as a servant would be better than the life he was leading now.

Among other things, this parable illustrates that our return home is unconditional. There are no natural barriers between where your self-awareness may be now and where it can be in its rightful home. One of the greatest unnatural barriers that we erect is the belief that our spiritual ignorance and immaturity are things we must overcome before we can return home. This false belief is generated by the self-image. The prodigal obviously believed his riotous living had compromised his right to return home at any level of heir privilege. It had not dawned on him that the sun shone just as brightly through his moments of ignorance and starvation as it had when he lived his relatively carefree life at home. “… 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).

In building our understanding of meditation, the architectural concept of form following function may serve us well. When we understand that the function of every spiritual practice is the realignment of our self-awareness (I, ego) with the soul, then these practices take the forms that best address our understanding of this function (see Chapter 11 of The Complete Soul – Meditation Exercises). Most importantly, the practices become our forms, not those passed on by other people. When you look at a problem that you know you can solve, you will eventually find the solution. If you are struggling with meditation, it is probably because you are working from another’s definition of both the problem and the solution.

 

The Importance of Context

In these presentations, I am suggesting that you are a complete soul who has, for whatever reason, taken on the consciousness forming equipment and a physical body that allow you to interact with the material environment. That you have done this successfully is a more important acknowledgment than trying to figure out why you may have done it. Your reason for doing so, after all, may no longer be relevant.

Our primary motive behind our quest for spiritual understanding is that we are seeking a sense of context, an understanding of ourselves as an unlimited soul that has taken on the proper equipment to interface and interact with the material plane. We may clarify our motive with a statement like this:

I am a complete soul that has taken on a body and the consciousness forming equipment that allows me to interact with the material plane.

The problem is we have so identified with the virtual reality we have created that we have moved our self-awareness from our soul to this interfacing equipment. This would not be unlike the person who has become so addicted to the virtual reality of social media that they disconnect from the reality of their actual life.

Our first approach to meditation may be the simple contemplation of the idea that our soul is now complete, that the restlessness we feel is our soul calling us home. This, of course, does not fit the meditation model of sitting still, eyes closed, attention turned away from senses input, seeking an experience of some inner light that eludes us. At some point, we need to come to grips with the fact that our attempts at this approach have been frustratingly unsuccessful, and that doing more of the same will only produce more of the same results.

The reason this does not work for us is that it is not our method. We’re attempting to apply ideas that are still foreign to us, trying to understand the problem as someone else has explained it. We have not grasped its simplicity, or associated the concept of meditation with known feelings that allow us to work out our own solution.

While this suggestion may make some a bit uncomfortable, it will be to our advantage to lay aside all preconceived forms of meditation and develop our own method. We place our mind in the correct position by first getting a firm grasp on the function of meditation. What needs to happen? We want to move our self-awareness (the I) from our senses-based self-image to our soul. To do this, we need to experience the soul at some level. If we do not have some measure of experience with our soul, we will not know where we are going with any meditative practice. We’ll close our eyes and continue to grope in the dark.

To experience your soul, you first have to believe it is present and fully accessible. The simple statement, my soul is present and fully accessible, spoken frequently through the activities of your day, will begin to open the intuitive portal of your imagination. The opening of this intuitive aspect will begin utilizing the visualizing counterpart of your imagination without direction or any prompting on your part. In biblical terms, this is the Immaculate Conception, the emergence of the soul into the awareness without the aid of the intellect (Joseph). New inspiration and imagery will follow. These provide the type of experience that will ignite and direct your faculty of faith to your complete soul, and send you into productive bouts of active stillness. You may come to the same practices taught by the mystics of the ages, but you’ll do it on your own terms. This is your soul, after all.

When your self-image says to your busy mind, peace be still, the storm rages on. When your soul speaks these same words, the storm subsides. You gladly turn away from these internal distractions at the authenticity of the soul’s voice. From this point on, you will call no man on earth your father, your teacher or your guide. The training wheels come off.

To reach this point, four conditions are necessary:

  1. First, you accept the truth that your soul is complete and fully accessible.
  2. Understand that you are not your self-image. You are your soul.
  3. The only problem you face is that your self-awareness is attached to your self-image.
  4. The single purpose of all your spiritual endeavors is to move your self-awareness from your self-image to your soul.

Keep your eye single. Your motive for moving your self-awareness from your self-image to your soul has to be narrowed to the single purpose of knowing yourself as the soul that you are. If your motive is grounded in any other purpose than this –- i.e., the attainment of wealth, health, etc. – your eye is on some form of mammon and you will not be successful.

A Guiding Principle in Relationships

[Excerpt from, A Spiritual Journey]

Watch Revisiting Forgiveness on Youtube

A question I hear often has to do with relationships. What is the best way to deal with, or interact with a negative person? There are, of course, many kinds of relationships. Some are close and long-term while others are casual and short-term. Because of the wide variety of relationship types, there are no pat answers to prescribed actions. There is, however, a guiding principle in relationships that you will eventually discover, if you have not already.

We are trained to think it is our religious duty, or the mark of a spiritually enlightened soul, to love everyone in spite of his or her immature, manipulative or needy behavior. Love, however, is not something we do for others. Love is a word that describes the true nature of our being, and being true to our spiritual nature is our first responsibility, our guiding principle.

If a loved one decides to sit waist deep in a pit of mud and asks you to join them, and they express clearly that if you do not grant their wish, they will be very hurt; would you feel it is your duty to appease them? Of course, you wouldn’t. You can offer your hand and help them out, but if they don’t want to come out, you will do the most for them by staying out of the pit.

There are many who desire to control others with the goal of building or maintaining their not-so-grandiose empires. If you allow yourself to be a pawn in their scheme, you become resentful. You will resent them for using guilt, shame, and pity to get their way, and you will resent yourself for confusing your compliance with love.

To love is to be a giver, but not necessarily at the level the requester is making. I give most when I believe in others, when I see that they are the inlet and may become the outlet to all there is in God. If I only give at the level they request, then I encourage them to stay at that level. This is not a very loving act when you think about it.

The best way to deal with a negative person is to continue to act from the highest that is in you. Either you’ll inspire them to follow your example or you’ll pry their fingers from your arm and move on. Either way, things will ultimately improve for you both.

Anchoring in the Eternal

[Excerpt from my book, A Spiritual Journey]

In one of my books, I wrote about the moth and why it circles streetlights. It is believed by some who research such things that the moth uses the moon as a navigational beacon. With the advent of artificial light, the moth mistakes the streetlight for the moon. It begins with large circles around the light that gradually tighten into the frantic aerobatics we see on our night walk.

What struck me about this bit of information was the fact that we humans do very much the same thing. Our natural navigational beacon is our spiritual center, our soul that rises up from our eternal Source we know as God. We become so centered in the roles we play – careers, relationships, service organizations, etc. – that we lose our conscious contact with this deeper aspect. Like the moth, we often find ourselves rapidly circling a multitude of “light” sources that leave us feeling empty. We come to believe that our life is about the sum of these artificial lights. While we go through periods where these various centers of interest are satisfying, none can provide the permanent anchor we crave and we find ourselves flying in tight and meaningless circles.

To re-establish the moon as our true beacon, so to speak, it is necessary to go out into open country, away from the city lights. That is, we take time to lay down our roles and all issues that surround our involvement with them, and simply allow ourselves to be. I find that when internal pressure is building, when my thought and emotion is invested in resolving the many issues that rise in my own city of lights, it is always because I have lost my center. I am flying around streetlights. My life has become an endless process of resolving problem after problem in an artificial world. There is little in the way of true satisfaction, little in the act of circling the streetlight that is peace enhancing, regardless of how bright and promising it is. Only the true light that “lighteth every man” gives us the inner peace we seek.

Anytime we seek fulfillment in the roles we play, we are putting impossible expectations on these roles. We cannot draw from them what we are looking for. Many try to convince the world that this is possible, that they are spiritually enlightened because they were ordained, or they are at peace because they are wealthy, or that they are prosperous because their kids are in the right schools. We can only draw what we are looking for from our inner depths. To make the role meaningful, we bring to it the healing balance we find within. If we never venture into our depths, then this inner disconnect will send us flying from streetlight to streetlight, from role to role, accomplishment to accomplishment, circling, hoping we can take away from these the satisfaction we can only find within.

We’re all in this world but not a single one of us is of it. Try as we may, we cannot draw our true being from any source outside of ourselves. Attempting to do so leaves us flying in unsatisfying circles. The resulting unrest can be our signal to momentarily leave the city, let it all go for a time and reconnect with that true beacon, that eternal anchor that we are when we allow ourselves to be free of the roles we play.

Event Versus Experience

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

I am sometimes asked how I can say on one hand that the soul is complete, and on the other hand acknowledge the challenges of the human condition. Are not these challenges evidence of a partially evolved soul? And will not the human condition as a whole be vastly improved when we finally reach the tipping point in our evolutionary process, where the lion lays down with the lamb, the hundred and first monkey begins reproducing and a new age marked by world peace finally begins?

If we ask whether Jesus was a highly evolved soul, the vast majority of the New Thought community would likely agree that he was. What this same group may ignore is that the Gospel accounts tell us that from the moment of his birth to his death, Jesus lived in the swirl of controversy that culminated in his crucifixion. As the designated Lamb of God, he left in his wake a string of carnivorous lions that threatened him throughout his life. Would we not expect a highly evolved soul would demonstrate a peaceful and prosperous life free of contention?

What we may not consider is that our Gospel accounts represent an evangelical interpretation of a series of events that, strung together like beads, present a snapshot of the life of Jesus. Virtually nothing is known of how Jesus actually experienced these events. Unlike Paul, we have no letters expressing feelings and viewpoints that would have been important to him. Considering some of his sayings, it would appear that Jesus did not equate the character of events with the quality of internal experience. The tribulation that occurred in his external world did not seem to be the yardstick by which he measured his own inner experience of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

Failure to discern the difference between events and experience is, I believe, a significant contributor to the conscious disconnect we have with our own wholeness. Our “eye” is indeed single, but it is turned on events. We are like a person with a telescope pointed to the ground and asking, Where are the stars?

Few of us in New Thought have trouble with the idea of a spiritual body that we conceive as maintaining its wholeness even when the physical body displays episodes of illness. One healing technique is to mentally and emotionally lay hold of this spiritual body and see it manifesting throughout our physical body. In the best way we know, we take our attention away from the event of physical illness and place it on the wholeness of the spiritual body until we experience this wholeness shining forth through the physical. We may be distracted by pain and other significant inconveniences, but we slowly move the telescope of our attention from this terrestrial event of physical limitation to the heavenly experience of the vast universe.

Spiritual teachers of all time have warned against determining what is true by looking to appearances and events. To look at the turmoil in one’s life and determine that its presence is the result of spiritual inadequacy is a false judgment that forever keeps us locked into an event-oriented measure of spiritual progress. This is like looking out the window on a rainy day and thinking we are in some way responsible for the sun not shining. Despite the presence of clouds, the sun still shines. The event of rain has nothing to do with the behavior of the sun. Nor does it have anything to do with the constitution of our consciousness. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. It’s how we choose to experience the rain that makes the difference for us. If we see the clouds and the rain as effects of our inadequate understanding, then inclement weather will always serve to remind us that we have some evolving to do. If, on the other hand, we know the sun shines regardless of whether or not it rains, and that we have absolutely nothing to do with how weather systems play out, then we are free of this impossible burden. Even when we turn our telescope to the stars and see nothing but clouds, we still know the stars have not gone away. The event of a cloud cover does nothing to alter our conviction that the star-studded sky remains.

It is the dominating belief in the power of events that keeps us from experiencing the completeness of our soul. It is easier to believe in the advanced state of a Jesus, or the advanced soul of one of our favorite authors than it is to believe in ourselves. We turn our attention to these people, strip them of their life’s events and imagine that their superior understanding has allowed them to navigate through this life in ways of which we can only dream. Our experience may seem anything but divine, so we look to others with the hope of learning how they did it so we may do it as well. Regardless of how pristine an experience another may have had, looking to them for spiritual help is looking in the wrong direction. We have turned our telescope to the earth. Not a single spiritual teacher worth his or her salt ever said, Turn your telescope toward me. To the contrary, all have said, that which you are seeking is within you. Do not judge your spiritual status by the events transpiring around you. Do not compare yourself with me. Connect with your own completeness, your advocate, your comforter, your Christ. Love the lord your God.

In this way alone, you find the peace for your restless soul that longs to step forward into the full field of your vision, your understanding of yourself. Events are things that happen. Experience is the way you choose to relate to events. You do not change your experience by changing events. You change your experience by knowing the truth of your completeness.

Revisiting Forgiveness

Click for audio: Revisiting Forgiveness

Click for YouTube: Revisiting Forgiveness

There is much written about forgiveness and how important it is in relation to our spiritual advancement. And yet I think so much is written about it because we find it difficult to put into practice. Because it involves personal feelings of being wronged by another, it’s usually easier to advise a friend or family member of the need to forgive while overlooking our own reluctance to do so.

In his book, From Science to God, Peter Russell makes this very helpful observation:

The conventional understanding of forgiveness is of an absolution or pardon: “I know you did wrong, but I’ll overlook it this time.” But the original meaning of forgiveness is very different. The ancient Greek word for forgiveness is aphesis, meaning “to let go.

In this sense, letting it go carries a very different feel than merely letting it pass. While we may be completely justified in our anger toward one who has wronged us, the impact of clinging to a falling-out has the effect of binding us to that negating energy we abhor. It was with this idea in mind that I shared this thought with our Facebook audience:

Forgiveness is the choice to leave behind a bit of baggage that no longer serves your highest good.

Probably one of the most common issues I have faced in ministry is the challenge of letting go of people who, in their moment of anger, have been moved to inflict harm on myself or my ministry. Even now, our church is rising from the ashes of one such incident. There are those who are quick to suggest reconciliation as the right and spiritual thing to do. I have found, however, that letting go is the better way. Those who have sought to inflict harm once are usually repeat offenders. There is no principle that says you must demonstrate your spiritual strength by again placing yourself in the path of an oncoming train. It’s much better to let it go by stepping off the tracks and letting the train pass.

If you are dealing with the question of forgiveness, try thinking of it as the act of leaving behind a bit of baggage that no longer serves your highest good. This simple shift in attitude could be the very change you are looking for.

The Challenge of Omnipresence

[Excerpt from: A Spiritual Journey] 

After a talk that I gave, where I spoke of the concept of the omnipresence of God – everywhere present, equally at the same time – I was challenged by an individual who considered the negative thinking of a person as a place where God is not. They reasoned that the only way God could be present in the negative thinking of a person was for God to have the capacity to think negatively.

It is, of course, difficult for many to set aside their anthropomorphic views of God and think instead in terms of law and principle. A person can hold the belief, for example, that 2+2=5. We could argue that the principle of mathematics states that 2+2=4, and this is true everywhere but in the thinking of the person who holds that 2+2=5. Does this person’s false belief actually create a place where 2+2 does not equal 4? No. The principle of mathematics remains applicable everywhere, regardless of the erroneous thinking of any individual. Their mistaken thinking does not create some special vortex where mathematical principles make exceptions and do not apply.

We know there was a time when the public held that the earth was flat. Did this universally accepted belief in any way alter the fact that the earth is and has always been round? Of course it didn’t. Believing it to be so did not make it so; it only made it appear to be so. A flat earth has never existed.

We say thoughts are things. Does this mean that if I hold in my mind the thought that God does not exist, I have created a place where God is not? Things, after all, are objects that occupy their own unique space. A rock is a thing. Are we prepared to say that a rock lying on the ocean floor represents a place where the ocean does not exist? If you pull the rock from the ocean, it is true that you would then have a rock and an ocean. If the ocean were omnipresent, however, it would not be possible to separate the two.

A false belief and the thinking it generates does not represent a place where God is not. The young Jacob’s belief that he had traveled outside of God’s presence while fleeing his brother’s wrath did not make it true. It seemed true to him only because he accepted a false belief passed on by his ancestral authorities. The belief that he could leave the presence of God evoked the same level of fear and uncertainty as if it were true. His dream, however, opened his eyes to what was actually true.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).

We can probably generate dozens of clever riddles and word games to undermine the truth of the omnipresence of God. To do so, however, places us in a weakened position. The above text states that Jacob was afraid, but the proper word, as indicated in his exclamation, should have been awestruck. He was, in fact, suddenly free of fear, totally empowered to move forward with a level of enthusiasm that had been absent while fleeing the wrath of his brother. Yesterday he had been running from a problem. Today he was running to a new possibility. Aside from his own attitude, nothing in the entire universe had changed. Generations of worshiping a localized God did nothing to confine God to a specific locality. It only affected the way Jacob and his family thought of God.

The truth of omnipresence makes it possible for us to say, wherever I am, God is. Poking logic holes in the idea only makes it possible for us to say, God is everywhere but where I am. With this logic, we can justify our misery and our failures, if this is what we want to do. How much better it is to know the full power of God is behind us always, every moment of every day. The instant we awaken to this truth is the instant we become empowered by it.

In the work of ministry, someone is always raising a question because something they read or heard does not jive with their understanding. Those of us involved in ministry do well to seize such opportunities to think through and clarify our understanding of the implications of the issue in question. In the past, we could simply accept it on faith. Now we need settle for nothing less than understanding faith that makes it possible to explain the spiritual logic behind an otherwise abstract teaching.

Omnipresence is not merely a thing we affirm. It is a potent reality that enables us to awaken from our sleep, to rise from our fears and our feelings of being trapped in a life we do not want and to move forward into the life we do want.

The Body is a Choice

[excerpt from The Complete Soul]

I want to close this chapter by sharing a few thoughts on the idea that we incarnated by choice, that we did so with the full understanding of the limitations and drawbacks involved. By this, I do not mean we knew we would have abusive parents, or that we would suffer some handicap, or that we chose these or other issues for the lessons our soul needed. I realize some people draw comfort, even closure from this idea. Like many in my profession, I once embraced this theory as a way of helping others make sense of difficult experiences. Now I see this as an unnecessary spinoff of the evolutionary model. The idea of the complete soul offers a more spiritually productive, logical, and fulfilling perspective. From this starting point, logic dictates that further incarnations, with whatever experiences they hold, will not make the soul more complete. A full pail, after all, can hold no more water.

Someone will ask, if our soul did not come for the lessons life has to offer, then why would we go to the trouble of incarnating? I’ve given this question a lot of thought over the years, and I believe the answer is a lot less complicated than the evolving soul model allows. For reasons of our choosing, we came simply because we wanted to be here. Getting here meant we needed a vehicle, a way to bring our soul from the spiritual to the material plane. The most efficient way of doing this is through a body.

Saying the body is the most efficient way of bringing the soul into expression doesn’t mean that our experience of incarnating has been perfect. Stepping into the body vehicle made us susceptible to rough roads and all kinds of foul weather, so much so that the bulk of our attention has gone to the maintenance needs of the body vehicle and its journey, while the soul, in a sense, remains nearly unnoticed in the cargo hold.

A major pitfall of the evolving soul model is that it makes the spiritual experience about the vehicle, its journey, and the belief that we will one day arrive at some special destination on this earthly sojourn. The truth is we have arrived. We’ve been so busy looking for specific conditions on this planet that we have forgotten that earth itself is our destination. We didn’t come to experience life from the cab of this delivery truck, driving endlessly from one place to another, looking for the right location to offload and unpack our cargo. We came here to experience life from our soul, right here and right now, using this body vehicle as our means of being here.

I said earlier that we are here for reasons of our choosing. We may doubt this because, unlike picking last year’s vacation spot, we have no clear memory of making such a decision. This memory is there, however, embedded in those things that truly interest and come most natural to us. These things do not boost our egos, advance our positions, or make us feel powerful. These are the things we quietly and reverently give our time and attention to without pay, persuasion, or recognition.

I see in the process of writing books some useful parallels that may help shed light on our reasons for incarnating. People write books for all kinds of reasons. Some write for sheer entertainment, others for educational purposes. Still others combine education with entertainment. I write because I want to share ideas that I think are important and will be of value to my readers. Sharing these ideas requires a way of doing that and the book is my vehicle of choice. Writing a book is fraught with challenges. It involves embodying inspired ideas in words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that create a cohesive presentation one can read on a bus.

In the beginning of this section, I said we incarnated by choice, and that we did so with the full understanding of the limitations and drawbacks involved. I say this in the context similar to that of writing a book. When I made the decision to undertake this project, I knew from previous experience the nature of the challenges involved. Ideas often come in a flash and I can jot them down with relative ease. Including them in the context of a book is another matter. This can take hours, days, weeks, even months to accomplish. I have spent days working on a single paragraph only to delete it later. What comes quite easy on one level, is not so easy to express on another.

If we think of the soul as a set of ideas and the body as the book (our means of literally publishing the soul to the world), then we see the challenges we encounter in this incarnating/publishing process have little if anything to do with the soul itself. The ideas I want to convey through a book are largely unaffected by my struggle to convey them.

It is our associations of soul with body (our body-based self-image) that make our body-oriented challenges feel so personal. We mistakenly associate these challenges with the condition of our soul, but a clear understanding of the difference spares us this unneeded stress. Having great ideas is not the same as having the ability to put them in writing. This is where the work comes in.

If, as I have suggested, you were unfortunate enough to have had the experience of abusive parents, you may have made the mistake of interpreting this situation as something your soul needed to learn from these people. Dysfunctional, abusive people have little or nothing to teach our soul. Assigning them the role of teacher is often an attempt to put a positive spin on destructive behavior we struggle to forgive, a willingness to blame ourselves so we can let them off the hook and move on. Genuine forgiveness, however, has nothing to do with making peace with the actions of another. Forgiveness occurs when we touch our own wholeness and realize that the power and soul integrity we thought they took from us has remained with us all along. They may indeed provide the catalyst that causes us to look deeper into our soul, but what we find is nothing they brought. Nor does their negative influence have the power to detract from our real purpose for incarnating. We did not need their negativity to enrich or advance our soul. If we are giving people and various conditions this kind of power, we ourselves are obscuring our purpose for incarnating. We’re experiencing writer’s block, so to speak, staring blankly out the window, hung up on some writing issue, while our book goes unpublished.

The specific issues we encountered by taking on a body were, in all likelihood, unknown to us. Our soul did not choose them for the growth opportunities they might offer. On the other hand, fully aware of our soul’s completeness, we understood there would indeed be challenges associated with temporarily tethering this vast, nonlocalized essence we call our soul to a vehicle subject to the restrictive laws of time, space, and gravity. We are not here to work our way through the school of soul development, or to pay some karmic debt. We have incarnated for reasons similar to those I have agreed to take on when writing books: I do it because I want to.

You and I are here because we made the choice to be here.

The Jesus Factor

(excerpt from The Complete Soul)

My views of Jesus have changed over the years. I no longer tie his relevance to whether or not he was the miracle worker, the savior who died for my sins, or even the Wayshower who represents all that I might one day become. Through various periods I have seen him through the eyes of the traditional Christian, and I have felt remorse for his death on the cross for my sins. I have also seen him through the eyes of the metaphysical Christian, known the assurance of embracing him as a type-man, the extraordinary example of the person I may someday become.

Despite such a wide range of experience, I made no significant progress in spiritual understanding until I followed the simple instruction of Jesus himself: to go into my inner room and pray to the Father who is in secret. Drawing near the very fountainhead of my being has yielded the most productive spiritual insights. Why take the word of another when it is possible to know and experience God firsthand?

The Jesus I have come to know through my own study and meditative experience is a man who fully discovered and spoke from his soul, a fact that profoundly distinguishes him from the average person. I’m not suggesting he was different in spiritual capacity. He was different in focus and in self-understanding. We have made him into something beyond the reach of the common people he addressed, and I do not believe he would have approved. “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). He demonstrated what it is to be a divinely awakened human and pointed out that the things this revelation enabled him to see and do, others could see and do as well.

My change of attitude has not minimized or diminished in the least the role of Jesus as an extraordinary example of spiritual genius. The insights I now glean from many of his sayings have elevated the way I think of others and myself. These insights have caused me to consider why he seemed to have such faith in the spiritual capacity of the common person.

I have concluded that the completeness he found in himself, he also saw in others. He understood how people were blinding themselves to this inner kingdom, and he set himself to the task of encouraging them to open their spiritual eyes. I think of Jesus as one who gave voice to his soul, a voice that we intuitively recognize as it stirs our hidden depths, giving us the eyes to see and the ears to hear the message of a kindred spirit describing a spiritual geography we ourselves presently inhabit. He did not speak of one day reaching a pool of wholeness, but of today taking up our bed of appearance-inspired thinking and walking. He claimed no monopoly on Truth. The revelation of Truth, by his voice or by any voice that speaks it, is a revelation of what is true now and what has always been true of all people for all time.

The words and acts attributed to Jesus are grains of evidence, fossilized remnants if you will, that bear the characteristics of his original, inwardly oriented message. He spoke the language of the soul, the language spoken by mystics through the ages who have transcended religious boundaries. Jesus, and all mystics, have been grossly misunderstood by religious professionals.

“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Because the spiritual dimension defies description, those who come to know it cannot find the language to describe the subjective nature of their experience. They have resorted to parable, metaphor, allegory, and simile. Jesus likens this heavenly kingdom to a grain of mustard seed, leaven, treasure hidden in a field, a net thrown into the sea, a householder who brings out his treasure, and so on. These remnants from Jesus’ life are couched and preserved in a matrix of religious trappings that, in all likelihood, share a closer alliance to the teachings and intentions of the early church than to Jesus. Adding to this confusion, the New Testament presents a diversity of views of who Jesus was and what he represented. None of the New Testament writers wrote with the intention of having their work compiled into a single document. Luke, acknowledging a variety of versions of the story of Jesus, took it upon himself to set the record straight:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed”(Luke 1:1-4).

Ignoring the independent views of each author, the traditional Christian community has drawn from this diversity of sources to create the single composite of the Jesus that has become familiar to most today. There were other views in ancient times. The Gnostic Christian writings, discovered in a cave in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, represent a very different view of Jesus. Though this fringe community embraced a theology foreign to the Christian traditionalist, I am in full agreement with their belief that you must first know yourself at the spiritual level before you can understand a man like Jesus. In The Gospel of Thomas, we find this intriguing observation:

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty” (The Gospel of Thomas, #3).

That aspect of Christian tradition that considers the individual born in sin and in need of salvation does not place a high premium on self-knowledge. Excluding emphasis on knowing one’s self has led to a level of spiritual poverty unnoticed by those who measure spiritual success by denominational standards rather than by the presence of personal enlightenment. Embracing the view of Jesus transmitted by authority through the centuries requires no degree of self-knowledge. It requires only a profession of faith in the validity of the transmission.

We will not be able to prove definitively who Jesus was or know how he thought of himself. What we can do through an examination of the historical record is observe the centuries-long struggle to hammer out a singular view of Jesus from a multitude of interpretations and know from this that we are not actually seeing the man. We can take from this collective homogenizing effort the cue that allows us to venture beyond the realm of enshrined opinion, beyond the Jesus forced into the service of the professional theologian, and discover the Jesus who strikes that sympathetic chord of our soul.

Our quest for spiritual authenticity provides the heat that separates the slag of orthodoxy and tradition from the precious metal of truth, as relevant today as it was in the day of Jesus. We are left with the task of discerning between the voices of authority and that live wire of Truth that electrifies and enlightens the mystic. “My sheep hear my voice …” (John 10:27) is, for me, a kind of knowing wink to those who recognize this language of the soul.

The pure voice of Jesus that I hear rising through the theological mix of the Gospels, the New Testament as a whole and views shared by the unorthodox, is a voice that resonates with my very core. I do not find a Jesus compelling me to follow him on his path, but one that points out that I have my own. I hear him telling me that for this I was born, for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth of my being, to walk the path that is mine alone and no one else’s.

In the same way New Thought has challenged the traditional views held about Jesus, it is appropriate that we question and challenge views considered integral to New Thought logic today. I assume that Jesus encouraged his listeners to do little more than follow him in shedding the dogmatic beliefs of religious orthodoxy. I believe he encouraged people to discover for themselves the truth of their spiritual nature, which provides the strongest, most profound catalyst for change at the fundamental level of one’s being.