(Chapter 9 of The Complete Soul)
Our prodigal awareness, forever trolling the reef-laden shallows of the material domain, never quite forgets that our real home has no shores. We sit in the safety of the harbor with our books, our teachers and our sacred scriptures. We visit the beach, gaze in reverence and wonder into that mist-shrouded horizon that stirs in us a strange mix of mystery and primordial familiarity. With our values, our house and our affairs orderly and firmly established in harbor life, we think a certain way, the starting point always from these surrounding beaches. We contemplate and read about the sea and we seek to reconcile the fact that we are so deeply moved by this boundless vista, this restless living thing that stirs before us.
Then, at some unexpected moment, a profound revelation breaks into our awareness. Our house may indeed stand in the harbor, our ship, safely moored at the pier, but our true home is the open sea. This incessant longing that keeps bringing us back to the wonder we behold from this beach, to the feel of cool waves washing over our feet, is that completed part of us that never has and never shall leave the unconditional freedom of this eternal sea. To know this truth and to value it above all is to put our heart in the Truth that makes us free. – JDB
As we’ve seen, one of the restrictions we encounter with a body is its care and maintenance. Yet when Matthew included Jesus’ discourse on the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, he did so in a way that suggests a condition where the body is supplied by something transcending the usual sweat-of-the-brow approach to meeting our material needs. He may have been hinting at this with Nicodemus when he pointed out the need to be born anew, to dislodge focus on the body-centered self-image and move the awareness back to its rightful place … the soul. Might this have been why he also said, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Is he not calling attention to our true being as spiritual rather than biological?
Extended Dependence as Infants
Of all living creatures, we humans take the prize when it comes to extended dependence in infancy. Unless we were fortunate enough to be born to parents who did not confuse our soul with our body (this would be a cultural rarity), we have much to learn, not in the way of soul education, but in bodily disassociation. While in the womb, we took no thought of hunger, warmth, and security. The instant we emerged from this all-sustaining incubator, any absence of these accustomed comforts suddenly became a factor. We were, for the first time, introduced to the reality of lack. In addition, people took the place of the womb in providing our physical comforts and essentials.
It was during this critical phase of infancy that our life of service to the needs of the body began. The culture into which we were born inadvertently lured us into the hope that we could draw permanent sustenance and satisfaction from the material world. In the eyes of some, competition for resources began a cognitive arms race, as one evolutionary biologist describes it. We experienced the nakedness of lack and decided we would do most anything to avoid it. Possession-based esteem issues were born (without this or that thing, I’m not good enough). These were our formative years, our conformative years, our fall, that transitioning period when the self-awareness shifted from the natural, inwardly oriented soul that took on a body, to a body-centered self-image that started carrying the abstract notion of having a soul.
This fundamental shift in identity, this separation of the self-awareness from the soul, becomes for us the “… way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to [spiritual] death.”
The day, the very minute that our physical body entered this worldly harbor, was marked, recorded, and certified as the beginning of our existence. Programmed to associate who and what we are at the body level, the birthday clock began ticking, and our body-centered self, exposed and beholden to the restrictions of Newtonian law, kicked in. Suddenly we had our father’s eyes or our mother’s hair, and a physical brain treated as a blank tablet to be socialized and filled with the information that would enable us to cope with our strange new reality. We became the star pupil or the dumb kid in the class, the athlete or the nerd, the homecoming queen or the plain Jane. We were evaluated, not on the order of the once-familiar eternal scale of the soul, but on a culturally calibrated scale, subject to time and space, genetics, social performance, I.Q., age, looks, rich or poor, popularity and by all else that transpires between the book ends of the birth and death of our physical body. Perhaps our parents and educators determined that our natural talents and interests had no monetary potential and discouraged their development. You and I have stepped into a world that largely ignores the warning of Emerson:
“Don’t be deceived by dimples and curls. I tell you that babe is a thousand years old.”
Our world trades in the currency of dimples and curls, and is largely asleep to the soul. The materialists tell us that God is nothing more than a primordial need, a naturally selected configuration of neurons, evolved in the brain as a genetic response to our need to invent meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. The thousand-year-old babe is thrown out with the bathwater the moment the umbilical cord is severed and we are laid to suckle at our mother’s breast.
With the intuitive portal all but closed, the self-awareness merges with the ego and takes on the unintended role as the ruling force in the tiny universe that is the self-image and its accompanying galaxy of consciousness. Consciously cut off from the soul, the self-image measures its strength, worth, and relevance by the type and quality of external positions and possessions it acquires. This false sense of identity engages the visualizing aspect of the imagination and all other faculties in a life-long quest to draw fulfillment from external sources. The cognitive arms race is game on in earnest.
Law of Attraction/Positive Thinking
Those who discover the correlation between their consciousness and their life’s conditions may be drawn to a class of teachings that shift the focus from hard labor to positive mental attitudes as a means of acquiring the things they desire. This affirmative approach based on the law of attraction advocates developing and attracting conditions of healing and prosperity through the practice of positive mental attitudes and the power of positive thinking. This approach is good as far as it goes.
From the Gospel of Matthew, we get the sense that Jesus warned against the practice of laying up earthly treasures where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal, regardless of the method of acquisition employed. Jesus bluntly distinguishes between God and mammon, leaving little doubt that the worship of one meant the denial of the other. And yet, as I’ve already pointed out, one of the most beautiful passages of scripture also comes from Matthew’s account, with Jesus clearly stating that a genuine understanding of our spiritual heritage naturally translates into a life free of fear and material want; a condition already enjoyed by the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
We may declare our main interest is in spiritual matters, but we would probably be most honest admitting our motive in seeking first the kingdom is simply a means to the greater end of having all these things. We are still shackled with the problem of the soul engaged in the human experience from within a physical body whose needs provide much of the incentive that drives our quest for spiritual understanding. We sit up and take notice when a man like Jesus suggests the triumph of spirit over matter. The quest for spiritual understanding can easily take a back seat to finding that elusive key to a restriction-free physical body and material environment.
The context of this saying clearly indicates that the “kingdom” is of far greater value than any material benefits it might generate. In addition, gaining an understanding of it does not seem to involve a patient process of consciousness building that will one day bring our evolving soul into alignment with a universe of material abundance. We are led to believe that it is our understanding and trust in the present and accessible spiritual domain, awaiting our recognition that fulfills our material requirements; a state that brings to mind that carefree harmony between soul and body that we enjoyed in the womb.
Not God or Mammon
The appeal of practical Christianity is the hope that the system Jesus taught will make us masters of our bodies and material environment. How to heal the body, generate prosperity, get a better job, or find our soul mate are the things we’re hoping to achieve through a deeper understanding of this kingdom. Though these represent practical solutions to the problems of the human experience, our focus only on what we deem practical may also keep us from asking and seeking answers to some deeper, much larger questions.
In some ways, the notion of spiritual progress becomes a set of blinders focused only on how adept we are at material demonstration. Rather than commit to actually entering this higher sphere, we often treat it as a means of drawing from a basket the goods we desire and solutions to the problems that confront us in this earthly endeavor. The point we may miss in our quest for things is that, from our soul’s point of view, it has never been a question of God or mammon. God is one presence, one power expressing at all levels. Our needs are met at each level. Are we settling for just the visible aspect of available support, or do we seek an understanding of that unseen Source that sustains the soul? I do not think Jesus is urging his listener away from fulfilling their material needs. I believe he is coaxing them toward an understanding of the fuller spectrum.
Because Jesus makes an issue of the worship of God and mammon, some have concluded that he was advocating material deprivation. The keyword here is worship. To worship is to venerate something as an idol. Whether we are idolizing a stone statue, a religious relic, or a pile of money there is a difference between seeing an object as a source of power, and seeing it as a symbol or a reminder of that deeper reality that is the source of all power. The trap many fall into with the practice of tithing, for example, is that they designate a percentage of their income as God’s. The real power of tithing kicks in when we look beyond percentages and realize that 100% of all that we receive and give is God’s.
Veneration of the symbol, seeing it as the object of fulfillment, is worshiping mammon. The symbol is an expression, an effect of the deeper reality. When our priority is to experience and understand at this level, then its material counterpart sheds its status as mammon. Who would consider a peaceful walk in the woods, with all the natural beauty that we see, hear, touch, and smell as mammon? Yet the material aspect of the natural world is the visible counterpart of an underlying, supporting reality we do not see. The issue is not the material realm as the cause of our problems, but our belief that material things can deliver what only the soul can give.
Take No Thought
Jesus’ statement that we take no thought, or refrain from being anxious concerning what we shall eat, drink, or wear suggests a method of manifestation that does not require our physical blood, sweat, and tears. It does not tap our subconscious storehouse of information, or engage in the kind of extensive intellectual analysis that normally accompanies our attention to meeting the body’s needs. Given its natural means of expression, the soul projects directly from its own self-sustaining existence those ideas necessary to form the consciousness that inspires the kind of physical action that translates into the various aspects of our material environment. In other words, Jesus is suggesting a manifestation process that bypasses altogether all the wants and needs of the self-image we have created. Rather than the self-image — with its fears, inadequacies, and limitations calling the consciousness-building shots — it is from the soul that our flow of instruction comes.
The self-image has hijacked this otherwise very natural flow that we see in play everywhere in nature. Plants and animals do not have the intellectual capacity or the imagination that allows them to establish a self-image capable of interfering with the manifestation process. The soul of the simplest seed is complete. From this soul, a totally fulfilling manifestation process occurs. Why would we, of far greater creative capacity, think of ourselves as being any less equipped than even the least of these?
From this understanding, it is clear that Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about when he urged his listeners to seek first the kingdom and all else would be added. The problem that our self-image encounters with this instruction is that it has subconscious files filled with information on what it believes the “kingdom” is supposed to look like. When it gets no satisfactory results running to these files, it continues its pursuit to understand by checking the files of others. Perhaps if Jesus had not used the term “kingdom” and instead said the answers we seek are encoded in our soul, many might have been saved much grief searching for something in their own memory banks that already exists within their being.
As we begin to reopen the intuitive aspect of the imagination, our soul’s light gradually reaches the visioning aspect. New and spontaneous imagery is generated, possibly as mental pictures, but more likely as a deep and secure inner knowing that something transcending our normal thinking is beginning to emerge. This knowing will often come in flashes of insight at unexpected times throughout the day. We recognize the spiritual authenticity of this rising light as a stark contrast to any notion of spiritual illumination our self-image has conjured up thus far.
Our real adventure of contemplation, exploration and discovery on this earth truly begins with the conscious recovery of a soul-based perspective. To use another bit of wisdom attributed to Jesus, though we are missing one of our one hundred sheep, we still own them all. The missing one is the understanding that our soul is now whole. This is but a perceptual problem, a forgetting that we are here in this earthly harbor by choice and we are still fully supplied and supported within the womb of God.
The practice of meditation, which we will explore in the following chapter, has but one purpose. This purpose is to open the intuitive portal of the imagination, to get a firm grasp on our true home at sea, to stir in us the courage to cast off the lines that bind us to this shore, and set sail for the open water
 Matthew 23:9
 Roeder, Mark. 2013. Unnatural Selection: Why The Greeks Will Inherit the Earth. HarperCollins.
 Proverbs 14:12
 Matthew 6:19
 Matthew 6:24
 Matthew 6:31-33
 Matthew 6:31
 Matthew 18:12