“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Many resonate with this quote, I suspect, because it explains so concisely the dilemma of being a limitless soul currently housed in a physical body. Researchers into the near-death phenomena are beginning to suggest that one set of laws—quantum physics—applies at the soul level while another set of laws—Newtonian physics—govern our material side. A person outside their body can, for example, push their hand through a wall. We cannot do this in a body. Our intuitive faculty of perception operates at the soul level, while our intellectual means of perception operates at the material level, through the five senses.
One significant challenge of writing about spiritual principles is that we are forced to use intellectual means to attempt to convey ideas that must ultimately be experienced through the intuition. In his book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, psychologist William James described this problem:
“The mystical experience, defies expression, that no adequate report of its contents can be given in words. Its quality must be directly experienced; it cannot be imparted or transferred to others. Mystical states are more like states of feeling than like states of intellect. No one can make clear to another who has never had a certain feeling, in what the quality or worth of it consists.”
Yet, providing intellectual discourse on subjects of a spiritual nature gives us a way to think about these things. Intellectual preparation that nudges one from the status quo of embedded beliefs can provoke intuitive breakthroughs that lead to a more productive spiritual path. Many of us, after all, began to question religious dogma long before we found the literature to support our changing views.
In this article, I want to elaborate on an idea that I developed in The Complete Soul. As I explained in that book, this model was originally inspired by Charles Fillmore’s, Twelve Powers of Man. My development of this idea, however, has taken a very different form, so much so that the two views should not be considered compatible. The twelve powers model is basically a takeoff from the eastern chakra concept of certain energy centers in the body. Because I am neither a neurologist nor steeped in eastern religion, I have never felt comfortable presenting this system with any level of authority.
I have also examined Fillmore’s twelve powers, [This concept, especially as it pertains to the 12 disciples, can be traced back to Fillmore’s teacher, Emma Curtis Hopkins.] and realized that four of them are, at least for me, better understood as fundamental elements of pure Being, our spiritual resources. Five others are actual faculties that we each exercise on a regular basis.
Our four fundamental spiritual resources, are life, love, power, and intelligence. The soul, an expression of God, is an individualization of these elements. John refers to this as the Word. “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” The difference between God and the Word is not in composition but in function. God is universal while the Word is the creative aspect of God expressing as the myriad of forms we see in the world. “Nothing made was made without the Word.”
To understand this relationship, we think of our own mind, which is capable of entertaining countless ideas. If we wish to bring an idea into expression, we invoke the creative aspect of our mind. We develop a plan, set a course of action, etc.
In our spiritual inquiry, this is an extremely important and useful idea. The Word is our soul. The soul is with God, and the soul is God. At the soul level, you and I are complete expressions of God. Any notion of soul development or soul evolution is, therefore, an inaccurate characterization of the soul’s condition. The sense of spiritual inadequacy that we may experience can be explained in ways other than an undeveloped soul.
We can think of our five executive faculties as our mental software package that we use to navigate our physical hardware, the body, through this earthly experience. Again, these are imagination, faith, will, judgment, and elimination. I call them executive faculties because they are determinative in nature and, like any tool at our disposal, we choose how we will use them.
We can let our imagination run wild, conducting a campaign of terror, or we can use it to visualize emerging conditions of health, prosperity, and peace. Likewise, we can exercise our faith in negative outcomes, or we can direct it toward greater good unfolding. The same is true of the will, judgment, and elimination, all of which I’ll discuss further in a moment. Our choice impacts the way in which our spiritual resources are expressed. This is an important statement. What may be thought of as an immature soul is better explained as an immature means of directing our spiritual resources.
As we become aware of the impact the indiscriminate and unbridled use of these faculties are having on our world, the more conscious we become of how we use them. The conscious and intentional employment of our executive faculties is the process we know as prayer.
Before we move into the subject of prayer, let’s take a closer look at our spiritual resources. Life expresses in our consciousness as enthusiasm. Love expresses as understanding. Power expresses as strength. Intelligence expresses as order. Let’s say we have a healing need. Healing involves all four of our spiritual resources. We want an influx of new life. We affirm that love is doing its perfect work of dissolving that which is not for our highest good and attracting that which is. We want to affirm the power of Spirit bringing forth the corrected physical condition. And we affirm the spiritual intelligence that knows how to build healthy cells is fully at work in the present moment.
Meditation is the contemplation, in some form, of our spiritual resources. Turning our attention within, these elements naturally stir to the surface of our consciousness as their corresponding attribute. For example, life expresses as enthusiasm. Love expresses as understanding. Power expresses as strength. Intelligence expresses as order. If we turn our meditative attention on life, we will experience an influx of enthusiasm, a natural response to the stirring of life. A focus on love will manifest as understanding love’s dissolving and attracting activity. You may experience flashes of clarity in how love is working in you now. Love dissolves fear and stirs feelings of joy and freedom. Focusing on power stirs up new strength to take a needed step. Focusing on intelligence (light) can unfold as the understanding that we are moving through our experience of life in a divinely ordered manner.
In meditation, we do not direct our attention to solving problems. This is the function of prayer. The purpose of meditation is to discover the ground of Being, to open the floodgates that allow more of our spiritual resources to bubble up into our consciousness. Meditation is empowering. We are building our house of consciousness on the bedrock of truth. As these elements stir, we then use the tool of prayer, exercising our executive faculties in ways that give specific direction to this influx of energy.
Because our mind is so easily distracted, we may find it helpful to include in our meditation a series of simple statements to help keep our awareness inwardly directed. It is also important to visualize the activity that your statements describe.
Quantum theory addresses a phenomenon known as the observer effect. This principle states that an observer influences the thing observed. While we do not wish to enter the realm of pseudo science, the spoken word, accompanied by a definite act of visualization has a greater impact. If you say, for example, the energy of life now stirs in me, what, exactly are you to observe? You envision, both in thought and feeling, the presence of the creative life force that is now active in and as you. Usually we take our aliveness for granted, paying little attention to what it is to be a living being. Visualizing this energy of life rising and stirring through your being has the same positive enhancing effect as giving special attention to a person or to an interest. There is always a positive response.
You can apply these same ideas to all of your spiritual resources. Here are some sample statements you can use.
Life: The energy of life now stirs in me.
Love: Divine love is now doing its perfect work in me, dissolving that which is not for my highest good and drawing to me that which is.
Power: The pure power of the creative life force rises in my being as limitless strength.
Intelligence: The light of divine intelligence illumines my mind and guides my way.
We do not want to turn our meditation time into a mere intellectual exercise, but we may find such guiding statements helpful until we develop into our own natural practice.
My book, A Practical Guide to Meditation and Prayer, was first published in 1990. After thirty-plus years reflecting on the concepts I laid out in that work, I continue to affirm the validity of those ideas. Now I wish to expand on the prayer model in a way that I think will make prayer a very clear means of dealing with the challenges we all face in life.
Let’s start by looking at the single most commonly misunderstood point concerning prayer. Prayer does not influence the behavior of God. When the average person prays or speaks of prayer, they often do so from a petitionary mindset, thinking of prayer as a way of asking God to either grant a positive outcome to their problem or to bestow further blessings on them. It is almost as if we believe problems arise because we have not paid attention to God and religious matters, and now we’re paying the price.
We need to change this view. Asking God to effect a positive change in our life is like asking the universe to spin a little faster because we’re having a bad day and we want to hurry and get it behind us. The universe is working just fine. Yet we’re having a bad day. Where does this bad day exist? Ask ten people on your block if they are having a bad day. Seven of those ten can be having a great day. They do not want the universe to spin any faster because things are going great.
If a bad day were an actual thing, and we could call upon God to fix it, then the fact that we are having a bad day would be a signal that everyone shares our experience. We know this is not true. So again, where do bad days exist? A bad day exists in the consciousness of the one having it. Prayer, then, should not be thought of as a request intended to get God to do something for us. Prayer is a process of bringing our own consciousness into alignment with the way God actually behaves.
We have seen that the fundamental elements of God are life, love, power, and intelligence and that these elements are individualized and projected as our very soul. Why would this be happening? Because the soul is the transitional medium that stands between God as the universal creative life force and the countless forms this universal energy takes. We’re back to John’s distinction between God and the Word. These are one and the same, but functioning differently.
When Jesus told the disciples that they were the light of the world and they should let their light shine,[ Citation needed] he was pointing to a natural process of the creative life force perpetually seeking expression at every level of creation. This light is the fundamental nature of underlying reality. Here we’re using this single word—light—to depict the sum of our spiritual resources. The command to let one’s light shine indicates that it is possible to interfere with this natural shining. Our action does not diminish the presence of the light for, as John points out, it continues to shine in the darkness, the darkness does not overcome it. Jesus does not tell the disciples to ask God for more light so that it may shine better. He is telling them to let this natural process of light shining occur. In other words, if you are having a bad day, if things are looking dark, this is not due to a lack of light. It is because the shades of your consciousness are drawn.
The focus of prayer, then, is not on God but on yourself. The spiritual infrastructure for expression is already in place. God is fully present and active. Acknowledging God as the permanent and unfailing source of our spiritual resources is critical. Ideally, we establish this understanding through the first-hand experience acquired in meditation. In the meantime, a conceptual understanding of this principle will have to suffice.
As we’ve seen, the whole point of meditation is empowerment through direct experience. This point is missed by those who approach prayer strictly from a petitionary point of view. For as long as we are not empowered by direct knowledge of this universal light, our prayers will be uttered from the belief that we are separate from God.
I mentioned that the tools we employ in prayer are our executive faculties. This may sound a little complicated, even intimidating, but these are the same faculties we have employed since we first became cognizant of our world. The problem is, we have not been directing them consciously but randomly, often as a knee-jerk reaction to the appearance we wish to change. Like any crew of workers, we want to give these faculties their clear assignment, and we want them to serve in harmony with one another to complete the work we give them.
In a rather simple instruction on the proper mindset for prayer, Jesus presented a powerful picture that includes the discipline of all five of these faculties.
“… if you have faith and never doubt, you will … say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.[ Matthew 21:21-22]
This lesson on prayer was precipitated by the controversial act of Jesus cursing a barren fig tree. Because the reference to the fig tree does not add to this discussion, I exclude it in this article.
The two emphasized faculties are imagination and faith. Imagination is, of course, our capacity to create mental imagery. In this case, we are invited to envision a mountain, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, being uprooted and cast into the sea. It is powerful imagery.
Considering the role of faith, I find it useful to replace this word with expectation:
If you expect a better outcome and never doubt, it will be done.
The imagination enables us to visualize a preferred outcome, and the faculty of faith enables us to expect this or something better to come forth. This ties into the letter to the Hebrews which I’ll paraphrase as faith as the substance of a thing hoped for, the evidence of this thing not yet seen.[ Hebrews 11:1]
Imagination and faith work together to bring forth a more desirable condition. Most people are well practiced in using these two faculties, but often in a negative way. When we worry, we visualize an unwanted situation and we fear it will happen. Fear is faith in the negative, an emotionally charged expectation with power-draining consequences. Jesus is instructing his listeners to change this learned reaction of fear and visualize instead a desired outcome. Rather than merely obsessing over the mountain before you, he is saying you should have the audacity to imagine it being uprooted and cast into the sea, making your path clear. Expect this liberating vision to come to pass, doing your best to eliminate all doubt that it is so.
The exaggerated imagery of a mountain cast into the sea is a way of saying that no problem is too big. What is your mountain? What is this problem in your life that appears to be insurmountable? Turn the table on this appearance. Begin imagining yourself exercising dominion over it. Hold fast to the unwavering expectation that you are prevailing. Release the swirl of negative energy you have invested in your mental picture. Elsewhere Jesus said to believe that you have received the thing you ask for in prayer.[ Mark 11:24] This shift in attitude makes you more sensitive to openings you would not otherwise see while recoiling in fear and the resigned hopelessness that comes from obsessing over this mountain. Visualize it completely dissolving with the full expectation that your new imagery has already come to pass.
What about the remaining faculties of judgment, will, and elimination? How do these come into play? Reacting to your mountain as an insurmountable obstacle is a judgment call. If you are worried about what you see, then you are saying in effect, “This thing is bigger than me, and I have no power against it.” As one who is endowed with limitless spiritual resources, is this an accurate evaluation? Bringing the consciousness back into alignment with the truth of your being means a shift in judgment. Imagine all of these powerful resources coming into play to support your new vision. That which is in you is greater than that which is in the world.[ 1 John 4:4] This shift requires a definite exercise of will. When the negative energy of doubt creeps in, as it surely will, you invoke your faculty of elimination by making the choice to let go of this energy.
A Prayer Strategy
Because it is not easy to make this kind of change, it can be helpful to develop a succinct prayer strategy to address it. As I said earlier, with prayer, we turn our attention to our executive faculties rather than to our spiritual resources. We can think of our spiritual resources—life, love, power, and intelligence—in the same way we would think of the body’s natural immune system. We can think of our executive faculties—imagination, faith, judgment, will, and elimination—as a vitamin supplement combination designed to boost our natural immunity. Every aspect of the immune system knows its job and needs no direction from us. Likewise, our spiritual resources need no instruction on how to do their natural work. We can, however, do things to either hinder or assist them. Prayer is our way of consciously assisting the natural expression of these spiritual resources.
The example of moving the mountain illustrates this idea. The mountain represents a negative obstruction that has become solidified in consciousness. Our spiritual resources cannot deliver their optimal performance while we cling in fear to a mental and emotional obstruction. The act of visualizing this mountain uprooted and cast into the sea is a way of breaking up the energy mass and freeing our natural resources to do their work. It’s a little like breaking up a log jam that has dammed a river. Once the jam is broken, the water naturally flows. As long as the log jam exists, it is illogical to affirm the water’s natural flowing property. We target the log jam so the river may again resume its natural behavior of seeking the lowest level.
How To Do It
What is involved in a prayer strategy? We start by defining our mountain. What mental picture are you holding that is triggering your fear response? For some, this can easily be defined as a current challenge. Others may have difficulty defining a specific issue. If you are among these, you may be experiencing a general fear of the future. As you progress through this exercise, specific concerns will likely become clear. You can also journal, asking yourself the question: “What, exactly am I afraid of?” Jot down your answers. No matter how insignificant these may seem, you and I know better than any analysts what terrifies us. Do not be afraid to put it in writing so you can look at it. You want an accurate understanding of your mountain, and you are the only person on this planet that can provide it. So take all the time you need to bring it into clear focus.
The next step is to visualize this situation completely dissolving. One way of doing this is to imagine it as a swirling mass of energy. You see it, you feel its negative presence, and then you begin to see it dissipating. Cast your mountain into the sea. See your log jam begin to move and break up.
The next step is to direct your faculty of faith. Totally accept that this thing is dissolving and expect to see the evidence that this is so. The first evidence will likely be at your own feeling level. Hold this thought and feel the stress in your body begin to lessen. Do not attempt to force anything. If you run down to the log jam and start trying to move the logs yourself, you’ll find it is impossible. Trust the river’s natural current. You are giving your spiritual resources permission to start moving things. Believe that they are indeed moving.
Bring your judgment into play. Judgment is an evaluation. In your judgment, prior to this moment, you had an immovable mountain. Now you are reevaluating this mountain, saying it can be and is being moved. The log jam is breaking up. Staying with this new image requires an exercise of will. You have to be willing to maintain your new picture.
Finally, you want to take out the trash. Eliminate every shred of doubt. Eliminate every aspect of the old picture. Eliminate your fear of the mountain. See the log jam broken up and floating freely down the river, eliminating all doubt that this is happening now.
Prayer is a process of putting our own house in order. That is, we are becoming mindful of how we are using our executive faculties. Any lack of immediate success should not be construed as failure. Be patient working with this process. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking until this mountain of yours becomes a thing of the past.