The Tempter Within

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The Lord’s Prayer: part 4 of 6

And leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil.

There are a number of versions of this line in the Lord’s Prayer. The traditional version is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The Aramaic version reads, And let us not enter into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The version I’m using is suggested by Charles Fillmore who argued that the Lord would never lead us into temptation. Likewise, it is a bit awkward to think that if we succumbed to temptation, we could blame the Lord. I asked you to make sure I didn’t enter temptation, and here I am. Do you mind explaining why you let me do this?

Again, if we take the affirmative approach to this line, we will find it a helpful reminder that our strength is always present even in our weakest moments.

There are times when you feel flush with strength and optimism, when you know that you can move forward with confidence regardless of what the obstacles appear to be. Then there are those times when the appearances get the best of you. You look out and survey the landscape of your life and you wonder why you ever thought you could succeed. At such moments it is important to remember that God, your unfailing source of strength, power and wisdom, can never leave you.

The tempter within is not an entity that is trying to snare your soul and lead you to a path of self destruction. It is that lesser self in you, that region of consciousness that does not grasp the fuller truth of the omnipresence of God. The word evil can be understood as error or erroneous thinking, thinking that is based on appearances and half truths rather than on the truth of your wholeness and the potential for wholeness that your life holds perpetually. So, our conceptual translation of this line would go something like this: In my moments of weakness, your limitless love, power and wisdom lift me above all erroneous appearances … Making this inner shift connects you with your point of strength and you again move forward in confidence and in peace. 

 

Your Creative Imagination

[Note: My book, Native Soul, first published by Unity House, went out of print some time ago so I’m in the process of republishing it. As I read the chapter on Your Creative Imagination, I thought it would make a good post. It’s a bit long so I included subject headings so you can easily return to your stopping points. JDB]

The aim of meditation is to gain understanding of your spir­itual source through direct exposure to your core being. Because God as the Creative Life Force is not physically observ­able, you must learn to experience God through nonphysical means. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must wor­ship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). Jesus rightfully compared the Divine Presence to the wind that blows where it chooses. You hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes (Jn. 3:8). The Creative Life Force, though invisible to the eye, is just as real as the wind that sighs through the leaves or pushes the sailboat across the sea.

When you think of the faculty that enables you to perceive God, you may, like most, think of intuition rather than imagina­tion. After all, intuitive knowledge is defined as that which is directly perceived without the use of the senses. The imagina­tion, on the other hand, is generally depicted as the creative, image-generating and objectifying faculty of mind. The faculty of imagination actually performs both functions. In its intuitive function, it is the inlet, a direct pipeline to the pure essence of Being. In its image-generating function, it converts the pure energy of Spirit into the vision that becomes the basis for the life you project in the material world. Charles Fillmore explained it this way:

In the communication of God with man, the imag­ining power of the mind plays an important part. It receives divine ideas and reflects their character to the consciousness.

The receiving aspect of your imagination is your intuitive ability, a portal capable of opening directly to the universal forces of the spiritual dimension. All living things possess this intuitive aspect of the imagination. In Nature we see the essen­tial characteristics of Being—life, power, intelligence and love— manifested as a balanced, perfectly integrated symphony orchestra with every section, while playing different parts, complementing the whole. What is absent or at least greatly restricted in the natural world is the visioning aspect of the imagination. Possession of this ability to visualize sets the human species apart from all others. This visioning aspect, which is an important part of the intellect, allows us to develop a personal rather than a generic vision of ourselves and our life, an ability that has placed our species in a very unique position in Nature.

We have, to a great extent, shut down the portal of intuition and drawn our guiding information from the wide open gates of sensory input. The imagination has fallen under the direction of the senses-driven intellect that insists the facts presented by external appearances represent ultimate reality. We are elated or traumatized according to this steady input that has little in common with the unchanging reality that can only be perceived intuitively. It is as if we are riding in a glass bottom boat gliding over warm waters rich in aquatic wonders, but a carpet covers the glass. We are essentially cut off from the stabilizing serenity and beauty that exists beneath our ever-changing surface life.

The Digital Camera

To understand how these intuitive and reflective aspects of the imagination are intended to work as a single creative func­tion, we can turn to the digital camera for an illustration. The beauty of digital cameras, particularly the point-and-shoot models, is their simplicity. Point the camera at your subject—a person, a landscape or a flower—and press the shutter button. The camera, automatically sensing light conditions, presents you with an impressive replica of the image you see in the camera’s viewfinder.

Simplicity at the user end does not mean there is anything simple about the camera’s process. The instant you snap the shutter, a series of small miracles of science occurs. Light reflected from your subject passes through the lens to the camera’s image sensor. The light is first converted into an elec­trical signal that is then translated into digital information through the camera’s processor. Once the image becomes digi­tized, you can email it around the world, project it onto a screen or print it to paper as a photograph. The camera plays the dual role of receiving the universal energy of light and combining it with a personal choice of imagery.

Most digital cameras are equipped with a small liquid crystal display (LCD) that allows you to see (compose) your image before you actually snap the shot. Think of this viewfinder as equivalent to the mental screen of your imagina­tion. To capture the image that you see on your viewfinder, you introduce a burst of light onto the image sensor by snapping the shutter button. With this simple act, you combine the universal energy of light with your personal choice of imagery. Your camera’s computer then translates this combination of energy and imagery into the digital information that you share with the world as a photograph. Here you have a perfect illustration of how universal energy (light) is combined with personal choice (the image in your viewfinder) to create a specific condi­tion (your photograph).

Now think of the intuitive side of your imagination as your camera’s shutter. Through the intuition flows the universal energy of life, power, love and intelligence. This energy com­bines with the picture-forming aspect of your imagination (your mental viewfinder) to produce a state of consciousness (equivalent to the digital platform) that serves as the basis for your material conditions. These states of consciousness com­prise the unique photo gallery that you call your life. It is within the imagination that the personal and the universal are brought together to form the unique basis of your external life condi­tions. Rather than generating digital information that a com­puter understands, you generate states of consciousness that serve as the basis for your unique material conditions.

For many, this blending of the universal and the personal is a random and unconscious process, like snapping photos all day long at nothing in particular. At the end of the day they review these photos and discover they have no meaning. They are not getting what they want from life because of their hap­hazard employment of their imagination.

To further the analogy, consider the difference in image quality taken in artificial and natural light. The average flash photo is often harsh and washed out while natural sunlight, at the right time of the day, is soft and warm. Professional photog­raphers love those 20-minute windows of light that occur just after dawn and again just before dusk. In this natural light even an amateur photographer can obtain impressive results. Fact-based, intellectual knowledge is harsh and washed out in com­parison to the warmth of light that rises through the intuitive portal of the soul.

Uniquely Human

The evolution of the visioning, personalizing aspect of the imagination has placed the human family in a unique position in nature. Unlike the plant and animal kingdoms, there appears to be no natural limits to the effects we can produce through the creative application of our imagination. Its usage is a subject that warrants careful consideration.

Thomas Troward, English author and lecturer who had a significant impact on the early development of mental science, made the profoundly simple observation that the human being is the only creature capable of producing ideas that do not occur spontaneously in nature. Place a lump of iron in water, he noted, and the iron sinks, an effect governed by natural law, or, as Troward called it, generic law. Fabricate that same iron into the hull of a ship and the iron will float. The iron hull, like countless other examples we could name, is a product of the human imagination, a unique combination of universal energy and personal imagery.

Though plants and animals display varying levels of intelli­gence and personality, they are restricted by a natural barrier in their creative ability. Troward attributed this to the animal’s inability to express anything more than generic law. Think of generic law as the expression of the Creative Life Force without any elaboration of human imagination. The lump of iron, gov­erned by generic law, sinks in water. Introduce the influence of human imagination and the iron is able to float. Nature as a whole is an example of generic law in expression.

People often ask whether animals have souls. Using Troward’s model, the answer would be yes, but it is a generic soul, an archetypal set of parameters that limit the expression of intelligence and, therefore, the creative capacity of a given species. The key limiting element in the generic soul of all living things (though it is present in nearly all species in limited degrees) is the visualizing aspect of imagination.

For survival and reproductive purposes, animals depend on a preprogrammed set of responses we know as instinct. Yes, there are cases where chimpanzees fish termites from their mounds with sticks and certain birds break open ostrich eggs by bombarding them with stones. These, however, can hardly be thought of as anything more than examples of intelligence still bridled by a rudimentary imagination.

If you own a dog, you know it as an intelligent animal with a unique personality. Personable and intelligent as your dog may be, however, you can safely assume it will never be cred­ited with a medical breakthrough, never send other dogs to Mars or develop a faster, more efficient Internet. The intelli­gence level of the brightest dog on the planet (yours no doubt) is primitive in comparison to that of even a below-average human. This may seem unflattering to those who insist on ele­vating their dogs to near-human status, but experts in canine behavior know the key to successful interaction between dog and human is to get the human to start thinking like a dog. The dog, they know, can never think like the human. The dog simply does not possess the imaginative capacity of the human.

The Generic Cap

This concept of a generic soul can explain why, in contrast to the sometimes chaotic experience we see at the human level, the natural world exists in such balance and harmony. Nature has no choice. It is a material representation of the Creative Life Force capped by a generic imagination. Plants and animals get creative when it comes to snaring food, reproducing and even shelter-building. But if you observe a herd of 100,000 wilde­beests, you see that each one leads a very similar life. Their choices of food, habitat and behavior are nearly identical throughout the herd. Roll back the clock a million years and you are likely to see the same basic wildebeest behavior.

By contrast, visit any town of 100,000 people and you will see countless economic, cultural, political, religious and lifestyle distinctions. The evolution of the faculty of imagina­tion, the ability to combine universal energy with personal imagery, has lifted the human species beyond the creative restrictions of basic instinct. The Lascaux cave paintings in southern France, dating back 16,000 years, clearly illustrate the emerging artistic tendency in our race. In Utah, I visited a site containing ancient rock art of a scene depicting a shaman assisting in hunting success. This scene contains all the ele­ments you find in a modern vision board and illustrates that people have long understood the role and importance of the visualizing aspect of imagination.

Our modern cultures have invented an entirely new world full of houses with beautifully landscaped yards, glistening high-rise cities, bustling shopping malls, countless educational opportunities, grocery stores with foods from around the world, sophisticated transportation systems, instant global communications, trade and manufacturing that has literally altered the landscape of the planet. Roll back the clock a million years and, unlike the wildebeest, you will see a humanity that scarcely resembles the modern version.

Like animals, we, too, have a generic soul, but our tur­bocharged faculty of imagination has allowed us to take giant creative leaps far beyond the circumscribed boundaries that inhibit the creativity of other species. Your dog loves you unconditionally, and you would like to think it is because he lives on a higher level of awareness. In truth, he is forgiving because he simply cannot read anything into the fact that you forgot to feed him yesterday. He takes the food you give him today as if you are the most wonderful, thoughtful provider on earth. He cannot curse you for the discomfort you may have caused, nor can he attribute your forgetfulness to one of your unresolved childhood issues. He wags his tail in loving grati­tude that he is finally eating again. He is hardwired to love and trust you, his pack leader, and he cannot engage in behavior that is inconsistent with his generic soul.

It may seem that animal vitality and the ability to be fully present can be attributed to the animal having attained a supe­rior level of awareness. This ability, however, is better explained as the animal’s inability to conceive of the abstract concepts of future or past. Nearly all their faculties are programmed to address their present needs. They function from a model of suc­cess that is limited to the threefold aim of filling their bellies, finding shelter and reproducing offspring. Animals may be content with this basic agenda, but the spiritually awakening human, who has no apparent inventive restrictions, is not.

From Simplicity to Complexity

Your life feels incomplete when you project from the perception that you are separated from your spiritual foundation, your soul. Your soul is a concentration of life, love, power and intelligence inherent in the Creative Life Force. Your faculty of imagination allows you to personalize these elements to produce all the various aspects of your life. As I pointed out with the camera illustration, you do this by first establishing centers of thought that become states of consciousness, and these, in turn, serve as centers from which specific things and conditions evolve.

It may seem an oversimplification to say that our life, as it is expressed, is derived from varying combinations of four basic elements. Consider that, from a computer standpoint, each letter in our English alphabet is created from binary code. Letters are a unique combination of two digits, 0 and 1, put together in a string of eight. For example, you see the capital letter “L,” but the computer sees 01001100. You see the word love (in lower case), and the computer sees 1101100010011110111011001100101. When you consider the range of ideas that are communicated by varying combinations of these two digits, you see how complexity can grow out of simplicity. Depending on the human imagination to which they are subjected, two digits can convey everything from the obscene to the divine. Complicating the code by adding a third or fourth digit would not change the nature of ideas individuals wish to convey. Two digits are sufficient to convey any idea that can be put into language.

From this perspective, you can see that asking God to give you something that will make you feel more complete is asking the impossible. All of God’s attributes, like a spiritual binary code, are present and are being perpetually imparted to every person and to every living thing. Your feeling of incomplete­ness is based on the illusion that your soul is undeveloped, sep­arate from its source or lacking crucial information. As you awaken to your unity with the Infinite, you begin to under­stand that your very existence is an activity of the Creative Life Force, and that your desire for a fuller, more expanded life is nothing less than the inner stirring of your complete soul. When you start with the awareness that all creative forces are concentrated within you and are therefore available for your use, you begin to apprehend and project from your wholeness into your external affairs and you begin to get what you want from life.

The Example of Three Artists

Imagine three artists being given identical palettes con­taining six colors of paint each—violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. At this stage these unused colors are in a uni­versal state or, using Troward’s term, generic state. The paints, equally available to all three artists, have not been combined into any specific image. The artists begin mixing their colors and applying brush strokes according to their individual pref­erences and understanding. Though they have drawn from the same universal set of colors, the final work produced by each is as unique in color combination and form as the personalities of the artists themselves. They transform these colors into some­thing truly their own. Their results are profoundly different.

In the same way the full range of colors is available to each artist, so the full range of divine attributes is available to every person. How you combine and express these attributes is com­pletely up to you. You might be tempted to think that getting what you want from life requires you to ask God, “What picture do you want me to paint?” God can no more answer this ques­tion than can the palette of paint tell the artist what kind of pic­ture he or she should create. God supplies you with the palette and the faculty of imagination and says, “The picture you paint is up to you.” The combination of your understanding, your vision and your skill as a painter determines the nature and quality of your results.

You, like the painter, are accessing and utilizing divine qual­ities in the way that is translating into your material life. You are drawing from the universal palette of color, and you are painting your life based on the beliefs you hold. If you are unhappy with what you see on your canvas, it is useless to ask God to guide you to a different palette of colors or to expect God to fix your painting. There is no other palette and the Creative Life Force cannot magically change your circum­stances. Outside of you, this divine force can only act generi­cally. It cannot act creatively, at least not in the specific ways you need or desire. The specifics of how it is expressed in your life depend on how you employ your executive faculties, specifically the visioning aspect of your imagination.

You Are Directing God

In a very real sense, and this may come as a surprise, your life is the result of the directives you are giving to God. To return again to our earlier example, you are composing images in your viewfinder and bringing in universal energy to create the photo album that is your life. Be assured, you have a very willing partner who has given you unconditional support in bringing forth the exact world you envision. God does not say, “Are you sure you want this or that picture?” Without you the Creative Life Force performs generically, producing beautiful and endless combinations of life, love, intelligence and power, but with no ability to deviate from the inherent constraints of each expression’s generic parameters. With you in the picture, the same creative process is at work but without constraints. You add to the creative process the expanded influence of your executive faculties that you employ in accordance to your understanding. The life you know and live is the result.

Though there are times when it may appear to do so, the Creative Life Force does not impart specific solutions to your needs, at least not in the way you may think. It imparts its full range of characteristics always. Scripture tells us that “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5), and indeed light provides yet another excellent way to illustrate this point. Place a prism anywhere there is a beam of sunlight and you will, without exception, see the entire visible spectrum of color. If you said to a beam of sunlight, “I need more blue,” it would not give you blue only; it would give you the entire spectrum. It cannot do otherwise. You can use a filter that allows only the blue frequency to pass, but the full spectrum is still always present.

In the same way the full spectrum of colors is present in the beam of sunlight, so all the qualities that constitute the Creative Life Force are present everyplace equally at once. Most impor­tant, they are always present in and as you. So how do you find solutions to specific problems? Consider how a single sunset can inspire countless expressions of music, poetry, photog­raphy, paintings and other forms of artistic expression. Peering directly into the Creative Life Force charges the visual aspect of your imagination with endless ideas that can be combined into an infinite range of states of consciousness that are as unique as you, the individual projecting them. Solutions to specific prob­lems unfold with this influx of pure inspiration. New life sparks enthusiasm. Divine power stirs unbounded strength to move forward. Intelligence kindles the flame of wisdom, and love deepens and opens the understanding. As the author of Job so eloquently put it:

It is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding. (Job 32:8)

As your mind expands with new inspiration, you compose in the viewfinder of your imagination ideas and actions that are natural to you and address constructively and precisely the issues involved with your particular situation. Your soul is as unique as your fingerprint. Given the chance, it will present you with an equally unique opportunity to transform your seeming problem into a creatively exciting endeavor.

Regain Your Spiritual Center of Strength

We all have a center of strength, a place from which we live life with a deep sense of confidence and well-being, the feeling that we’re on the right track. But it’s more than this. It’s a deeply intuitive knowing that we are something much more than our cumulative history. We know ourselves as a spiritual being whose essence is grounded in something greater than the surface personality we hold out to the world. This knowing is more than intellectual information gleaned from book studies. It’s the unshakable knowledge that our being is derived from the living presence of God, the source of all. This is the place we go when our world appears to be collapsing and our faith is shaken to its very core.

It’s obvious by the level of unrest we see in the world that many have strayed from their center of strength, that something essential to their happiness is missing. Ironically, the closer one lives to the surface of his or her being, the more prone they are to embrace the belief that this gnawing dissatisfaction can somehow be addressed through external means. They assume their place of rest and peace of mind is located on a distant horizon. Yet they reach that horizon only to find another. They set and accomplish goal after goal, with none ever being quite as fulfilling as they had hoped. The satisfaction gleaned never fully quenches their thirst for that missing element.

Does this mean that we throw in the towel and give up hope of finding satisfaction on this earth? No. But we need to learn to look in the right place to experience it. Our craving for that missing element is not satisfied by the temporal manna of material accomplishment. The fulfillment we seek is found in a much deeper yet more accessible place. And while it has become a cliché to say our answers are found within, this is still as true today as ever. Our challenge is to move beyond simply mouthing such feel-good words and come to know and experience the deeper reality they represent.

Emerson gave us an excellent way to understand this when he wrote, “Every man is an inlet and may become an outlet to all there is in God.” To appreciate the wisdom of his words, we can think of two types of ponds. The first is a simple depression dug in the ground and filled by the external sources of rain and runoff. This pond has no outlet. The second is fed from an underground spring. Because this pond is filled from a perpetual water source, it creates its own outlet to accommodate the natural overflow.

Now suppose we use each of these ponds to irrigate two separate fields of corn. We must pump water from the rain-filled pond. With the spring-filled pond, we only need to dig a canal from the outlet to the field. The corn in both fields starts out well, but it isn’t long before we notice a drop in the water level of the rain-fed pond. With no rain in sight, we begin rationing water. Soon we notice a difference in our two fields. Over time, the field irrigated by the rain-fed pond begins turning brown and becomes stunted from a lack of water. The second field, irrigated by the spring-fed pond, continues to flourish.

If you think of yourself as the pond and the field as your life, with which of these two ponds do you most identify? Many will respond positively to Emerson’s imagery, yet in practice will find themselves behaving more like the rain-fed pond. There’s a very good reason for this. In our daily life, most of what we do involves the field of material matters. It’s easy to tie our sense of happiness and well-being, even our identity, to the condition of the crop. We can so turn away from our natural inlet as to forget that it’s even there. We begin to define ourselves based on the condition of the field. Because of this, we turn to the sky (outside sources) for answers. When the rains come, life is good. When they stop, we wonder what we may have done wrong and what we can do to bring rain. We pray to the rain gods, so to speak, with the hope of influencing the weather.

The spring-fed pond, on the other hand, is unaffected by changes in the weather. Because it maintains the same steady flow of water in rain or drought, it thinks of the field and its crop in a very different way. The field is the effect of its oneness with the spring. We could direct its waters to any kind of crop, or no crop, and it would still be the spring-fed pond that it is. Lack is not a word in its vocabulary.

From the point of view of each of these ponds, how might we define success and prosperity? The focus of each is completely different. With the rain-fed pond, we associate prosperity with externals like rain and the condition of the crop. With the spring-fed pond, we associate prosperity with the pond’s natural internal connection to the spring. Having or not having enough are never concerns with this pond. In terms of peace of mind, we can see how the rain-fed pond might experience ups and downs while the perpetually supplied spring-fed pond, not subject to the possibility of lack, maintains a steady experience of peace.

Let’s return to Emerson’s, Every man is an inlet and may become an outlet to all there is in God. Notice he didn’t say that some people are rain-fed ponds and others are spring-fed ponds. He said that every person is a spring-fed pond. Many, however, believe and behave as if they are a rain-fed pond, that their good comes from external sources. The process we refer to as the spiritual path, then, is not a matter of evolving from a rain-fed pond to a spring-fed pond. It’s a matter of waking up to the truth that we are each now a spring-fed pond. Every person is an inlet and may become an outlet to all there is in God. How do we transition from a rain-fed self-image to the truth of our spring-fed nature?

Considering our illustration, it’s important to be clear on a couple of points. We are not an inlet to the cornfield. We direct our outlet to the cornfield. The cornfield is the effect of a our choice as to how we direct our water. Praying for more rain and visualizing a more abundant crop does not produce a healthy harvest. It’s the steady supply of water that ensures the better crop. Prosperity depends on our keeping the spring open.

Water in this case represents the universal energy that is God. This energy is brought to bear on the kind and quality of life we want. As Emilie Cady points out, it isn’t more things (corn and rain) that we’re after but a deeper awareness of God that we seek. Empowered by this awareness, we till and plant the field of our life knowing all that we need to take each step is provided. From the spiritual perspective, it’s never the thing, but the energy that produces the thing that we seek to experience first. It is then that, as Jesus pointed out, the thing itself is added. Like the spring-fed pond, we are supplied from the inside out. The successful crop is the inevitable result.

It’s not just individuals who fall into the trap of behaving as if they are rain-fed ponds. Many leaders in the New Thought community have turned from emphasizing the individual’s oneness with the spring to oneness with the rain-fed ponds of the world. This is driven by the notion that one rain-fed pond may have a little water, but a collective of rain-fed ponds has a lot of water. If we all ban together, there will be plenty of water to go around. Under the guise of such catchphrases as “spiritual social action” and “mission concentric ministry,” their emphasis is on finding ways to redistribute water from the haves to the have nots. In truth, a hundred rain filled ponds don’t hold a candle to the power of a single spring-fed pond. Imagine how powerful a hundred spring-fed ponds would be!

Bringing individuals back to their spring-fed source was the primary focus of the founders and pioneers of the early New Thought movement. Fortunately, it still is with some, but much of today’s spiritual pop culture has turned instead to the politically charged landscape of social reform. While they claim this is a natural evolution, the reverse is actually true. This makeshift, outside/in approach to changing the world is as old as civilization itself. The seers of all ages who have encouraged the inside/out approach have always been a minority voice crying in the wilderness of popular human thought. The shift back to our spiritual center cannot be accomplished in groups. Souls, again as Emerson wrote, are not saved in bundles. We each have our own inner spring and our return to it is a private affair. No spiritual community can take us to this inner sanctuary. They can only encourage and support us in our return.

If you feel your life has lost its meaning or is moving in a direction that does not suit you, it’s probably time to re-establish yourself in your spiritual center of strength. Take time to become still, to hold this image of yourself as a spring-fed pond being filled from within. As you regain your spiritual strength and power, you will view and approach your life with new vision, new enthusiasm, and possibly a whole new direction.

The Prospering Act of Forgiveness

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Part 3 of 6

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

It’s interesting to note in this line that the fulfillment of our daily bread, our daily needs, is tied to the act of forgiveness. If, as I suggested in the previous lesson, you assume for this prayer the affirmative point of view, you see this line as saying, My needs for today are met and all blocks to my greater good are removed as I release all resentments of the past. These words depict both receptive and releasing attitudes of mind.

The receptive attitude is substantiated by the idea that God is a loving provider, a willing source of good. An attitude of release indicates that the key to a greater flow of good is your act of letting go of anything that blocks the flow. When you hold resentment for even the smallest offense, your thought and emotional energies accumulate around that offense creating a blockage that hinders the free flow of the divine. It is like dropping a large rock in an irrigation ditch. Soon other debris catches on the rock, hampering the free-flow of water. Forgiveness is the equivalent of removing the rock and restoring the natural flow of life-giving water.

In another place, Jesus speaks of this dynamic in this slightly different way: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24). It’s all about keeping your mind an open channel through which the infinite life of God may manifest in continually expansive ways.

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, pointed out that mind is the “common meeting ground of God and man.” When our mind is locked in resentment, our creativity and receptivity become restricted to a very narrow level of operation. This line in the Lord’s Prayer reminds us to keep the avenue of mind open and fluid.

 

 

Higher Ground

Yesterday I posted this announcement on my Facebook page:

Personal Policy
Due to the increasing level of venomous political debate in this country, I have decided to unfriend those of you who consistently use our Facebook connection to espouse your political preferences. There are plenty of politically oriented sites that encourage this type of discourse, and my personal Facebook page does not need to be among them. The typical comment I read does not serve to resolve anything. It only states an opinion that at least half the nation will disagree with. I too have my own political views, but I will not use this platform to share them. I’m not asking you to refrain from sharing your views, political or otherwise, I’m just giving you a head’s up on my own personal policy. Thanks

Though I rarely engage in political commentary, I would like to expand on the above notice with the intention of providing a bit more context.

Emerson wrote, “If you would lift me, you must be on higher ground.” Considering the state of today’s political landscape, the one who looks to politics to lift them to higher ground must certainly inhabit a very deep valley. The political community as a whole does not communicate from the higher ground of ethical or spiritual integrity, but from the valley of moral and ethical depravity.

The average citizen maintains a higher level of civility than our current political dialog reflects. Most people I know do not ask another’s political persuasion before they extend their word of encouragement or their helping hand. Who doesn’t interact daily and harmoniously with people of opposing political views? True character has always been blind to party lines.

I’m pretty sure that corruption within the world’s political machinery is at an all-time high. Then maybe it’s just the advent of social media that brings more of it to light. Politics has become a cesspool of people willing to sell their souls for the pottage of money, influence and power. And we look to this cesspool for our happiness? For affirmation? Does our strength, our peace of mind, our sense of identity depend on our party winning? Are we really blind to the fact that what our party wins, our party must fight to keep? And do we not see that what our party loses, our party will need to fight to regain? Winners and losers are the ebb and flow, but the perpetual fight is the eternal sea itself. And the fight has sunken into a vile contest to see who can most effectively erase the humanity of the opposition. In the name of winning, it seems that all rules of common decency have been set aside.

Is it possible to get a diversified group of people on the same page to resolve common issues? Of course it is. Imagine ten people, political affiliation unknown, standing on the shore of a frozen lake. Another person is walking on the ice and falls through. These ten people will drop everything, no questions asked, and work together to rescue this person. They do not care if the rope they throw is red or blue. They will tie them all together to achieve the goal. We see stories like this when hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters hit.

In contrast, take any issue, place it in the political context, and you will see grandstanding politicians let the issue thrash in the broken ice and drown because a given solution does not align with their political agenda. If we consider the politics we see practiced today as our higher ground, then there is no cure. Politics is not founded on a unifying principle but is, by its very nature, adversarial. We seem to be too willing to sacrifice the strength and integrity of our nation for the false security of clinging to party ideology.

A colleague of mine recently retired from ministry and began making political commentary. After maintaining political silence for many years, I’m sure it felt good to finally be able to speak his mind. While I appreciated his spiritual work, however, I have absolutely no interest in his political views. I’m sure his intention is to elevate the political discussion, and though I suspect he suffers from a mild case of messiah complex, I wish him the best. The cure for this complex, I’m sure he’ll discover, will be a healthy dose of reality. He stepped from the higher ground where his audience was both politically right and left to a position where his audience is right or left. In other words, he just cut his audience in half.

The spiritual is universal. The political, as I’ve indicated, is divisive, adversarial, functioning, as Emma Curtis Hopkins might have said, within the realm of the pairs of opposites. How can our clergy claim to bring a universal message of truth when it is tainted by the color of political bias?

As I see it, the job of the clergy is not to influence the vote of our people, but to encourage them above all to know and be guided by God. I am not advocating political inaction. To the contrary, I encourage you to join your campaign, vote your conscience, and for God’s sake be civil about it. But while you do this, understand that your source of power, self-confidence, and inner strength bubble up, not from your political victory, but from your spiritual core.