Get Real, You’ll Feel Better

“We have already seen that the kingdom is within all of us. … Those who do enter the kingdom are those who have come to recognize the reality of the inner world and to respond to its demands upon them for consciousness. This must always be an individual act of recognition; it cannot be accomplished so long as we are identified with a group. Yet most of us find our sense of identity only in our membership in the Church, the nation, the political party, or the gang on the street corner.” (John A. Sanford, The Kingdom Within)

A friend recently gave me a copy of Sanford’s book, whom I quickly recognized as a kindred spirit. This was a pleasant surprise considering he was an Episcopal priest and I was ordained in Unity. I severed my ties with Unity, in part for my perception of the organization’s move away from focus on the individual awakening to its not so thinly disguised move toward social activism. I entered the movement when it could be summed up in Emerson’s statement: Every man is the inlet and may become the outlet of all there is in God. I left it summarizing itself something like this: As individuals we are strong, but as a group we are powerful. The first advocated finding one’s center of power in God. The second has shifted to finding one’s center of power in the group.

Though I was somewhat saddened and initially resistant to this change, I have let things take their course. The principle of individuality will never change with the times. The distractions of those re-created dreams of achieving that ever-elusive Utopian collective that promises equal power to all does nothing to alter our natural spiritual architecture, or our yearning to return to it.

The individual is forever the inlet and may become the outlet to all there is in God. There will always be that minority of people who understand that the soul rises from the Infinite. They will seek the group, but not for empowerment. They seek it for the thrill and satisfaction of knowing they are not alone, not aliens dropped here from another planet, but healthy human beings who refuse to lose touch with the cosmic heart that makes them tick. Encountering a kindred spirit deepens our resolve to go even deeper, does it not?

The spiritual journey is one each person must make alone. Though we are witnessing a major attempt worldwide to do so, we cannot ride in on the coattails of any group. The soul’s authenticity does not permit it. With the advent of social media, the pressure to conform may seem  stronger now than ever before. Under the pretense of progress, the scramble to acquire whatever it takes to join is causing the erosion of basic values on an unprecedented scale. How far we can wade into this shallow muck of conformity remains to be seen, but I sense many are getting weary of the slog.

The wide gate of conformity is always open, but so is the narrow gate of individuality. If I were given the choice between being the gatekeeper of one or the other, I would choose the narrow gate. True, there are no bustling crowds of chattering people to keep us entertained. But the ones who do come through are real. My favorite people have always been the real ones.

I think John Sanford was a real person. I was going to email him until I realized he passed in 2005. I have a genuine appreciation for people like him who devoted his energy to a book about the importance of being real. This was his take away from the teachings of Jesus. And, it’s certainly mine.

Inner Peace

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything here, as my attention has been on other things. I’m presently conducting a video series on my book, The Complete Soul, and have been busy re-editing the entire nine episodes. In addition to the normally busy Christmas season (thanks to my friend Al), I’ve discovered drone photography and have been working at wrapping my mind around the wonders of this marvelous and fascinating technology.

Each week I post the theme of my upcoming talk on Facebook. I’m using the Advent season to explore the four fundamentals of God: life, love, power and intelligence.  This week we’re on power, which manifests as strength in its many forms: strength of faith, strength of character, strength of body and so on.

It occurred to me that one of the most satisfying manifestations of power is inner peace. Centered in peace, we find all the strength we need to deal with life’s issues. The mistake we often make, however, is that we seek peace through the resolution of these issues. When I resolve this thing, I’ll be peaceful. The key is to experience peace first, as the resolution always follows. If our inner peace depends on resolving problems, then peace is elusive, conditional. When we learn to experience it prior to the resolution, then we realize its unconditional nature. This, I believe, is the peace that passes normal understanding that Jesus referred to, a peace not given by the world of resolved conditions, but by an inner experience of the ever-present power of God.

It’s easy to put a price on peace, to believe that something more must happen before we can be at peace. We’re taught in so many ways that being at peace in the midst of a storm is irresponsible. If we care, we’ll be frantically at work seeking a resolution to whatever issue confronts us. Jesus’ disciples couldn’t believe he could sleep in a boat being tossed about by a storm. Having been in a similar situation, I have to admit that I probably would have been among the disciples. But I found the more I learned of sailing, the less fearful I was of the wind. Likewise, the more we learn of the presence of spiritual power, the more we tap into the unconditional presence of the peace it gives.

For many, the holidays and all the preparations they call for become a rather stormy sea. Instead of enjoying the season, we stress our way through it, catching our spiritual breath only after it all passes. We should recall that we reside now in the full power of God and that power is now being imparted at our innermost level as the wonderful gift of inner peace.


A Tale of Sunlight

Imagine being born and raised in a house with no windows. The only light you know is artificial. You have read about this thing called sunlight, but you can only imagine it as something like the brightest artificial light you have ever seen. Others who have devoted their lives to studying the concept of sunlight, write books and teach classes about its wonders. But none of these scholars believe it is possible to actually experience it, at least not in this life. Sunlight, they are certain, is of another realm.

Late one night there is a knock on the door. A passing traveler is seeking a place to rest. He soon begins to speak of strange things like sunlight and darkness, as if these are natural and commonplace in his experience. For all you know about sunlight, you don’t see how this is possible. You understand light and darkness because you have turned off your artificial lights often. Occasionally your bulbs have burned out and you know what it is to desperately feel your way through darkness.

As the traveler continues to speak, you notice the scholars become increasingly agitated. The things this man is saying go against everything they know and teach about sunlight. He is not only presenting a challenge to what they teach, he is challenging their credibility.

The traveler seems to understand their dilemma. He points to the door and explains that any may pass through it and see for themselves the reality of sunlight. One brave soul cracks open the door, but because it is night, all he sees is more darkness. The traveler is obviously delusional. The scholars hold a meeting and decide they will invite the traveler to leave.

Something in his eyes tells you this traveler is telling the truth. You ask if you can go with him and of course he agrees. As the two of you walk through the darkness of night, the traveler explains that the sky in the east will begin to brighten, and the sun will rise. Because the darkness of night prevails, you begin to wonder if leaving your house and the people you have always known was the right thing. It appears the scholars were right after all.

The traveler seems to understand your doubts. He explains that you do not need to believe him. All you need to do is be patient and wait for the dawn. Everything in you wants to bolt, to return to the life you know. The traveler invites you to sit with him on a fallen tree by the road. There he points to the eastern sky and says simply, “Watch.”

You watch but nothing changes. You’re starting to feel foolish for believing this stranger. You know much about sunlight because you have read every book that every scholar has written. The continued darkness you see confirms everything they have taught, everything you know to be true.

Restless, you are about to stand and return to your home. But you stop because you see that something on the horizon appears to have changed. The sky does seem to be getting lighter. But this is not possible. You blink. Once. Twice. You rub your eyes and you look again. This time you don’t have to struggle to see that the sky is definitely growing brighter. Soon, the edge of what appears to be a great orb breaks over the horizon. You watch in awe as it climbs into the sky. Soon you cannot look directly at it, but you feel the warmth of its radiance. What’s more, the world around you lights up. Long shadows slowly disappear. Unlike the circles of incandescent light that you have thus far known, this light is omnipresent, flooding every nook and cranny of all that you can see.

You glance at your traveling companion who is looking back at you, his eyes full of compassion. He seems to understand why you doubted him. He also seems to understand why the people in the windowless house cling to their incandescent religion. There is no condemnation in his eyes. Nor is there a hint of superiority.

The traveler looks around at the bright, sunlit world surrounding you and he says, “What you now see has always been here. I did not create it. I simply walked through the same door that you did. You see, the very thing I did, you did as well.

Your companion stands to leave and your instinct is to go with him. He seems to know your intention but he looks back toward the house from which you came.

“I think you’re needed there,” he says.

With a smile and a pat to your shoulder, he turns and walks away. You take a deep breath, survey the beautiful landscape. With a heart full of unconditional joy, you start back to the house from which you came.

It’s Not Your Time

If you ask ten people what it’s like to live in a given city, you’ll likely get a mix of responses, some of which will agree, others not. All ten may agree that traffic is an issue, for example. But not all ten will react to the traffic in the same way. Some will find it very annoying while others, considering the many advantages of living in the city, will see it as a minor inconvenience. If all ten comment on traffic, however, we can assume that if we move to that city, traffic will likely be a factor.

In near-death case studies, a feature that almost universally appears is the way in which people are sent back to their body and their life. As their out-of-body experience unfolds, they reach a point where they either know or they are told that they must go back because, “It’s not your time.” Most resist this command to return because they do not wish to leave the beauty of the realm they are experiencing.

The interpretation of this message varies. Some assume they’re sent back because there are lessons their soul has yet to learn. I find it odd that they’re never told what those lessons are. Many say they wander for years trying to figure it out. Others interpret this rebuke as simply meaning their earthly clock hasn’t yet run out, as if we’re each allotted a specific amount of time in the body. Still others sense that they have not yet accomplished their reason for incarnating in the first place.

Of these three possibilities, I find the third most appealing. I don’t like to think I showed up on this planet out of spiritual stupidity, or that I’ll likely be forced to return because God thinks I’m some kind of an undeserving loser. I’ve experienced a definite evolution of thought and values on why I’m here. Like many, I started with the belief that God sent me here as a test. If I pass the test, Heaven it is. If I fail, it’s eternal barbecue. I eventually graduated into the belief that the soul is evolving and earth is a school. We come here through a series of incarnations, each of which provides our soul with the specific lessons it needs to move up the evolutionary ladder. This worked for years, but I didn’t stop here. I moved to my current understanding that the soul is complete, that earth life has little to teach the soul. Our involvement with the body and our material environment, in fact, cause us to forget what we are at the spiritual level. When we step from the body, we instantly remember who and what we are, that our true home is not the slag of body and earth but the pure spiritual environment of light and love in which we suddenly find ourselves.

The question then becomes one of why we would step into an environment that would basically dumb-down our understanding of who we are at the spiritual level. The most reasonable answer to me is that we had some reason that we wanted to have this experience. The chances are good that we’ve become so engrossed in the care and keeping of the body-based self-image that we’ve simply forgotten our reason for coming. This forgetting, and the blunders we make as the result, have no lasting, negative impact on the soul itself. In other words, if we totally mess it up this time, we don’t have to keep coming back until we get it right. Within a few moments of leaving our body, we remember what we have forgotten. We then probably decide whether we want to go back and try it again, or we just forget it and go on. It’s probably no big deal in the larger sphere of the soul.

When I hear people say they were sent back with the message, “It’s not your time,” I think of a story shared by Napoleon Hill in his book, Think and Grow Rich. A man who was caught up in the gold rush came to Colorado to make his fortune. After some success, the gold vein he followed ran out. Being unfamiliar with the nature of fault lines, he sold his drilling equipment to a junk dealer and went home. The junk dealer hired an engineer who advised resuming drilling just three feet from where the previous owner stopped. There he rediscovered the vein, and made his fortune.

What if the first man were told not to stop drilling because “It’s not your time” to quit? The message would be that he shouldn’t quit because he had not fulfilled his purpose, his reason for being there. Perhaps he would have taken a deeper look at his apparent failure, re-evaluated the direction he was drilling, and rediscovered the lost vein.

I’m convinced that the prime reason that most of us feel something essential to our happiness is missing is simply because we’ve forgotten who we are and we’ve lost sight of our reason for coming in the first place. All of our efforts to address this void by piling on more things and accomplishments are basically us drilling in the wrong direction.

If we feel we’re among those who have lost our way, how do we get back on track? How do we recall our reason for taking on this body and engaging this earthly experience? To some, this question will seem a totally bizarre one. But if it doesn’t seem so bizarre, you may find it beneficial to start a little self-analysis. Instead of asking, “Why am I here?” try starting with the assumption that you made the choice to be here. This attitude opens your mind to that which you’ve forgotten. Like the woman who had ten coins and lost one, you will take the strong position of knowing you are the rightful owner of this bit of information you have misplaced. Your attitude will be one of conviction rather than the uncertainty of a blind faith. This is how many approach their life. Why I’m here is considered too big a question for a spiritually inept person like myself. I’ll rely on the religious professionals to tell me why. Big mistake if you’re hoping to reconnect with that vein of purpose you’re drilling for.

Don’t struggle for an answer to this question. Rather hold the attitude that you know the answer and it’s being made clear to you now. And even if you don’t get a clear answer, the realization that you’re here by choice inspires the sense of ownership, not of the earth, but of your experience on this earth. Why did you come here? Because you could.

If you could leave this earth today, would you? Or would you say, “It’s not my time.” The truth is, we can leave any time we want. Do we stay because we’re afraid of the unknown? Possibly. But maybe our reasons run deeper than this. Maybe we know something we’ve forgotten, that there’s a vein we came to tap and things won’t feel quite square until we tap it. When it’s our time, I have a feeling we’ll know it. Till then, let’s live our life as if we came to do just that.





The Fillmorian Influence

[Note: I have little doubt that few of you who may take the time to read this post in its entirety will care much about it. It is chapter 2 of my book, The Complete Soul. Why do I say this? If you were not drawn into the Unity movement through the teachings of its co-founder, Charles Fillmore, you’ll probably find it confusing. If you were drawn into Unity through the Fillmorian teachings, you’ll probably find it borderline sacrilegious. It wasn’t intended to be either. With all due respect to Mr. Fillmore, I intended to address what I believe is a significant misunderstanding of the nature of the soul.

It’s a long piece, so take it in small bits. JDB]

Chapter 2

The Fillmorian Influence

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”[1]

Though my first exposure to Unity was through the writings of Emilie Cady, I would discover later that she wrote as a representative of the Unity Movement, co-founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. Prior to this discovery, I had no knowledge of Unity as an organization.

Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth, first appeared as a series of articles in Unity. This series was the Fillmore’s response to a Unity subscriber’s request to “…have one of your clearest writers, one who understands the principles, and the uninformed mind of a student, write an explanation of this grand Truth in very simple form and in simple, clear words.” As a regular contributor to a number of Unity publications, the Fillmores selected Cady for the task. In my opinion, her work still represents the gold standard of presentations of Unity’s core teachings.

In the meantime, Fillmore continued developing his own writing skills, and deepening his understanding of spiritual principles. In much the same way science has been on a quest for the theory of everything (a single theory linking all aspects of the material universe), so Fillmore was in search of a spiritual key for resolving the full range of human problems. Having explored many of the world’s religious and occult teachings, he narrowed his search to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. There he found his theory of everything, his universal key that, in his view, held the promise of ending all human suffering. This key was his concept of regeneration, which he defined as:

“A change in which abundant spiritual life, even eternal life, is incorporated into the body. The transformation that takes place through bringing all the forces of mind and body to the support of the Christ ideal. The unification of Spirit, soul, and body in spiritual oneness.”[2]

Once it solidified in his own thinking, this concept provided the logic that inspired Fillmore’s elaborate vision of humankind’s ultimate goal, a snapshot of which we find in the opening paragraph of his book, The Twelve Powers of Man:

“Jesus prophesied the advent of a race of men who would sit with Him on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This book explains the meaning of this mystical reference, what and where the twelve thrones are, and what attainments are necessary by man before he can follow Jesus in this phase of his regeneration. Regeneration follows generation in the development of man. Generation sustains and perpetuates the human; regeneration unfolds and glorifies the divine.”[3]

The scriptural support for this lofty vision comes from the King James Version (KJV) of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus and his disciples are in conversation, with the disciples expressing their concern of having given up everything to follow Jesus. What rewards await them?

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.[4]

Given the fact that he makes this text and the concept of regeneration the central theme of his teaching, his theory of everything, scholars today would find Fillmore’s interpretation of the above scripture problematic. In the entire Bible, there are but two occurrences of the word, regeneration (Matthew 19:28, Titus 3:5). As we’ve seen, the Matthew reference appears only in the KJV.[5] Modern translations drop regeneration from Matthew, favoring instead phrases like “in the new world[6] and “at the renewal of all things.[7]

That the followers of the Jesus movement would have seen this passage as a mystical reference to body and soul regeneration is doubtful. Every aspect of the Bible is, of course, fair game for metaphysical interpretation, but Matthew’s passage obviously points to the literal second coming, the ushering in of the new age,[8] and the rewards for those who have sacrificed everything for their faith.

“And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”[9]

As one trained in the foundation principles of Unity, I attribute my early understanding of the soul as an evolving entity to Charles Fillmore. Though Cady certainly implied it, she was far less energetic in her discourse on the particulars of the subject. We will see in the remainder of this chapter that Fillmore presented Jesus as the sole example of the highly evolved, spiritually unified, completely regenerated human being. Based on my respect for Fillmorian authority, this is the view I endorsed before I had the confidence to draw my own conclusions. Presenting the reasons why I have now come to a different understanding of the soul and of Jesus and his role is the subject of this chapter and the one that follows.

From the writers of the New Testament to now, all generations of Christian leaders have utilized the words and actions of Jesus to lend authority and credibility to the advancement of their organizational causes and personal agendas. There was much tension between Paul and his appeal to embrace the Gentiles, and those who sought to limit passing the message of Jesus exclusively to the Jewish community. Using Jesus and his messianic credentials as their authority, each side accused the other of preaching a false gospel.

Some years ago, a couple asked me to perform a wedding in a well-known chapel in the foothills near Denver. When the Evangelical Christian owners of the chapel learned that I was a Unity minister, they barred me from performing the ceremony. They said Unity was “theologically impure” and, therefore, non-Christian.

It was attitudes like these that I believe motivated Fillmore to go to extreme lengths to not only prove Unity was theologically pure, but to show it was the purest and truest representation of the Christian message. “We believe all the doctrines of Christianity spiritually interpreted[10] He applied his interpretation of Jesus, a mighty, larger-than-life, fully regenerated type-man, very much alive and standing at the head of the Unity movement, as the primary means of advancing his system of thought. He insisted that long established ideas about Jesus did not go far enough, that Jesus was all they said and so much more. He was the ultimate Wayshower of the human race, the great example of what the fully regenerated human being was to look like.

This portrayal, like those of his more traditional counterparts, set an idealized standard of spiritual and physical accomplishment that, in my observation, has driven some, including Fillmore himself, to obsess over unrealistic expectations of the body. In an article written in 1920 he wrote,

“The Spirit showed me several years ago that I must quit having my picture taken; that I must quit looking into the mirror and seeing myself as a murky imagination had formed me. I had within me the concept of a fine looking young man, but when I looked into the glass, or when I had my picture taken, he did not appear. And other people did not see him and they began to impress me with error both within and without.”[11]

Though the legends persist that Fillmore, through vigorous affirmative prayer work, did manage to regain some of his youthful appearance, an outside observer saw him at age 84 as a “white-haired man” bearing the same failing physical and mental characteristics typical of that age. According to Myrtle, he became reluctant to appear in public “until he has completed his demonstration of healing his leg,”[12] the result of a childhood injury that plagued him his entire life. Showing any signs of age or illness would have run counter to his declaration that the human being was capable of living in the body forever. Asked if he expected to live forever in his body, Fillmore responded in this way:

“This question is often asked by Unity readers. Some of them seem to think that I am either a fanatic or a joker if I take myself seriously in the hope that I shall with Jesus attain eternal life in the body. But the fact is that I am very serious about the matter.”[13]

Though he did not succeed, there is no doubt that he was committed to the idea. The force with which he advanced his ideal influenced many Unity followers to adopt this type-man he saw in Jesus as the Holy Grail of spiritual attainment. One woman I knew, steeped in Fillmore’s denial of old age, was adamant about not speaking her age, believing that acknowledging it would make it so. I am certain that any stranger meeting her at any point in her life would have been able to guess her age based on her bodily appearance. To many who knew her, including myself, this all seemed an overly dramatic game.

I support much of what Charles Fillmore taught and I encourage all to read the full body of his works. But I have never been able to accept his ideas on the potential for physical immortality, or that Jesus pioneered and advocated eternal life in the physical body. My sense is that Fillmore’s life-long struggle with his own physical condition is the thing that made soul and body regeneration his personal focus.

Soul Evolution and Reincarnation

This glorified portrayal of Jesus, put forward as our ultimate example of spiritual achievement, has forced us to accept that the soul of the average person, far from hitting this extraordinarily high mark, must be evolving toward the perfection of Christ Consciousness. Fillmore taught that all people could eventually reach this level, making it necessary to include the concepts of soul evolution and reincarnation as bridging mechanisms needed to carry out this lofty achievement.

He was not alone in adopting soul evolution as the means of facilitating the individual’s march toward spiritual perfection, but Fillmore was especially emphatic in tying soul development directly to the condition of the physical body. He saw the body as “the highest-formed manifestation of creative Mind, and that it is capable of unlimited expression of that Mind.” As we have seen, this unlimited expression would ultimately translate into physical immortality.

“When man realizes that there is but one body-idea and that the conditions in his body express the character of his thought, he has the key to bodily perfection and immortality in the flesh.”[14]

The body, according to Fillmore, projects the condition of the soul. The degeneration of the body, through aging and death, indicates the soul has not yet evolved to full alignment with the Christ ideal that rests in the mind of God.

“If you believe in old age and bodily decrepitude and decay, you will find that all the little cells throughout your organism are carrying in their depths just such pictures, as the clear waters of the lake reflect the trees and the clouds.”[15]

The body, then, is a kind of barometer that reflects the state of the soul. The aging process and any separation of spirit, soul, and body brought on by physical death are due to a “transgression of the divine law.[16] According to this view, the soul contains many ideas that are not in alignment with what is true of Spirit. Because Fillmore believed the “soul makes the body,” the body displays, in the form of disease and death, the untruths held at the soul level. The remedy is to regenerate the soul, bringing its sum of ideas up to the standard of the I Am, the support of the Christ ideal. In the meantime, the soul is in a constant state of evolving from a mortal to an immortal condition, which the body follows.

As I’ve pointed out, this evolution of soul and body takes place through multiple incarnations. This belief, perhaps inadvertently, elevates reincarnation to the status of an evolutionary requirement or, as Fillmore calls it:

“… a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus.”[17]

In other words, Fillmore does not present reincarnation as a choice-based option, but instead makes it an evolutionary inevitability, a required link in his chain of logic. In addition to merciful, we are compelled to accept reincarnation as a necessary provision of our soul’s continued progress, and we are forced to measure this progress by the present condition of our physical body.

I believe it is an unnecessary burden to think the body and its present condition represent the condition of the soul. According to this association, if the body is expressing disease and limitation of any kind, it is because a similar condition exists in the soul. This problem is the result of considering the terms soul and consciousness as having the same meaning. We’ll take an in-depth, alternative look at the terms, soul, consciousness, and self-image in Chapter 4.

The health of our body, or the lack thereof, does indeed have a direct relation to the instabilities and stresses brought on by our consciousness. This is very different from suggesting the soul is flawed and these flaws are out-picturing in the body. The beliefs generated by the self-image act as a kind of weather system containing clouds that mask the sunlight of the soul. The soul’s radiance is perpetual, but the self-image produces a cloud cover of fear and stress that has a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being. We know that a person can display a perfectly healthy body and remain spiritually asleep. Likewise, one can be spiritually awake and still be afflicted with a physical malady or handicap.

Jesus and Soul Evolution

We can trace the association of soul evolution and reincarnation far back into the history of Eastern religions. The idea of the soul being reborn in another body as a further chance to attain higher consciousness, or to work out one’s karma, is a central tenet. Fillmore put a Christianized spin on this process by declaring Jesus the only person who had ever lifted his physical body to this fully regenerated condition. Through “conscious union with Jesus in the regeneration,” he wrote, each person could “transform his body and make it perpetually healthy, therefore immortal, and that he can attain eternal life in this way and in no other way.[18] Jesus “was the ‘first-fruits’ of those who are coming out of the mortal into the immortal.” According to the logic of these statements, one not only had to be Christian to gain eternal life, he or she had to be a metaphysical Christian.

This view of reincarnation explains why, with the exception of the ascended Jesus, we see no fully regenerated humans roaming planet earth.

“He [Jesus] was the type man, the Way-Shower, and, through following His example and taking on His character as a spiritual-minded man, we shall come into the same consciousness.”[19]

To Fillmore, physical death, which he described as the “terror of humanity,” represents a complete breakdown in adherence to the law of regeneration.

At the point of physical death, Fillmore envisioned the soul entering a kind of sleep in which neither learning nor advancement of any kind can occur. It is with the next physical incarnation that the soul resumes its evolutionary journey from where it left off in the previous incarnation.

“As death has no power to help anyone, the condition of the Adam man is not bettered by dying. Therefore, when people are re-embodied they ‘come forth . . . unto the resurrection of damnation,’ in other words, condemnation or correction. Everyone begins where he left off.”[20]

This assertion clearly runs counter to the findings of researchers in the field of near-death studies, research that was unavailable in Fillmore’s time. Far from slipping into sleep or a coma, the majority of near-death experiencers report that they feel more alive than ever. A substantial number report tapping a universal wisdom and love beyond anything they can describe. They often see through the shallow interests and cares of their worldly pursuits. It is common for those devoted to chasing materialistic ends to lift their standards and aim for higher purposes. Atheists return believing in God. Religious believers have their minds opened far beyond the dogmatic parameters of their training. Virtually none of them “begins where he left off,” even when their episodes last but a few minutes. As researchers have discovered, the near-death experience often changes people to their core, and in moments. This is a sharp contrast to the view expressed by Fillmore:

“Awakening cannot be associated with dying. The idea that man awakens to spiritual or any kind of consciousness immediately after “death,” whether in heaven, hell, purgatory, or elsewhere, is opposed to Truth. His awakening must take place here, during the time of “life,” at least while he is partially awake and before he sinks into that deeper sleep or coma that we call death.”[21]

Viewing physical death as he did, can we wonder that Fillmore failed to see any kind of spiritual value associated with the loss of the body? The evidence is now overwhelming that so-called death is neither a deeper sleep nor a coma, but a state of enhanced lucidity. In this state, the individual is more alive and alert, their ability to see, hear, and know more acute than at any time while in the body. In light of what we are learning from this research, the argument can and should be made that overcoming death has less to do with physical immortality and more to do with the revelation that there is, in fact, no death. “Death,” as one NDEr concluded, “is a really nasty lie.”

Carl Jung Testimony

There are some who pass off near-death research as merely anecdotal and, therefore, inconsequential and unreliable. The experiencer, they might say, is predisposed to a certain kind of imagery due to their beliefs. This may be true to some extent, but we cannot ignore the fact that there are common elements found in the overwhelming majority of cases from all cultures and demographics. Nor can we ignore the testimony of individuals we consider highly credible, especially when they gave it prior to the popularization of near-death studies.

One notable case is that of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. After having a heart attack accompanied by an NDE, he wrote:

“I would never have imagined that any such experience was possible. It was not a product of imagination. The visions and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”[22]

So real was this experience that Jung, like many before and after him, was quite reluctant to return to the confines of his physical body.

“In reality, a good three weeks were still to pass before I could truly make up my mind to live again. I could not eat because all food repelled me. The view of city and mountains from my sickbed seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it, or a tattered sheet of newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing. Disappointed, I thought: “Now I must return to ‘the box system’ again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I—along with everyone else—would again be hung up in a box by a thread.”[23]

Jung did not discount the value of the awakening he experienced during his near-death episode. Nor did he pass off the insight it provided as subjective fantasy. He treated it as a real experience that had a profound impact on his thinking. His case is important, not only for the name recognition, but also for the fact that he was a highly trained and respected observer of mental processes. Is it likely that Jung would have jeopardized his professional legacy speculating on these visions and experiences had he considered them anything but utterly real?

The Choice to Reincarnate

As I’ve mentioned, I like to think of reincarnation as a choice rather than as an evolutionary requirement. Seen this way, we can think of our earthly incarnation as something far more than Fillmore’s resurrection of damnation. With choice as the prime factor, we can logically conclude that we will incarnate on earth as long as something here holds our interest. When events or circumstances make it unattractive—a natural global catastrophe for example—it is quite conceivable that we simply refrain from taking up a body until conditions become more to our liking. It is also reasonable to consider that we may incarnate at a particular time to advance a cause, or to help rebuild a waning human population brought on by war or natural disaster.

Around seventy thousand years ago, Toba, a super volcano in Indonesia, exploded into one of earth’s largest eruptions. This environmental disaster triggered severe climate change and may have reduced the human population to as few as 3,000 to 10,000.[24] Is it unreasonable to assume that, given the choice, many fewer individuals would incarnate in such a compromised environment? On the other hand, some, like first responders, might relish the chance to rush in and help the human species recover.

Without going too far afield here, can we discount the possibility of multiple, biospheric environments existing throughout the universe? New studies estimate that our Milky Way galaxy alone contains 100 billion planets. If this is true and one environment does not appeal to our interests or fill a need we feel compelled to address, is it out of the range of possibility that we may simply choose another?

Charles Fillmore placed the soul in an evolving continuum from which the only escape was full regeneration of soul and body. His conclusion that only one person, Jesus, had successfully run this evolutionary gauntlet casts a dim light on the average individual’s chances of a full awakening in this lifetime. That he believed absolutely in this model is shown in his advocating that an extraordinary spiritual revolution was underway:

“Everywhere true metaphysicians are preparing themselves to be members in the great colony that Jesus is to set up, by working to eliminate from their mind all selfish ideas, along with all other discordant vibrations that produce inharmony among members of the same group.”[25]

I have little doubt that he envisioned Unity Village as the beginning of this great colony of true metaphysicians. In my earlier years, I would have gladly counted myself a willing and expectant resident of this great colony. I have since concluded that the image of Jesus put forward by Charles Fillmore is the product of his own speculation. The Jesus every author presents, and I include myself, is the Jesus that would exist if our specific lines of logic were correct. I’ll present my view of him in the following chapter.

The sheer ambiguity of historical facts have made Jesus fair game for a wide range of interpretations advanced as Truth. We wind up with a blend of emotionally charged imagery mixed with a line of spiritual logic that careful scrutiny or new research will likely expose as having little or no basis in historical or scientific fact.

[1] Matthew 21:23

[2] Fillmore, Charles. The Revealing Word. Unity Books

[3] Twelve Powers of Man. Charles Fillmore. Unity Books

[4] Matthew 19:28 KJV

[5] King James Version was published in 1612

[6] Revised Standard Version. 1946-1957

[7] New Revised Standard Version. 1989

[8] Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30

[9] Matthew 19:29

[10] #31, Unity’s Statement of Faith

[11]  Quotation taken from, The Spiritual Journey of Charles Fillmore. Neal Vahle. Templeton Foundation Press. 2008

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Fillmore, Charles. Christian Healing. Unity Books

[15] Fillmore, Charles. Talks on Truth. Unity Books

[16] #21, Unity’s Statement of Faith

[17] # 22, ibid

[18] #19, ibid

[19] Fillmore, Charles. Twelve Powers of Man. Unity Books

[20] Fillmore, Charles. Keep a True Lent. Unity Books

[21] Fillmore, Charles. Mysteries of Genesis. Unity Books

[22] Jung, Carl, Aniela Jaffé. 1965. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage, a division of Random House

[23] ibid

[24]  According to the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals. The theory is supported by genetic evidence suggesting that today’s humans are descended from a very small population of between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs that existed about 70,000 years ago. (Wikipedia: Genetic Bottleneck Theory).

[25] Fillmore, Charles. Prosperity. Unity Books

Goldfish and Trout

[Excerpt from forthcoming revision of Native Soul.]

Some, having come to realize that their consciousness is structured around misleading senses-based information, con­clude that the surface identity they show the world, the personality, represents a barrier between where they are in their current spiritual understanding and where they need to be. Because the majority of our perceived restrictions do indeed have their origins at this surface level, we’ve come to regard the personality and the soul almost as polar oppo­sites. The soul is good and in need of development while the personality is a thing to be overcome, perhaps even discarded.

In her classic work What Are You? author Imelda Octavia Shanklin explains why living strictly from the personal level is so unsatisfying:

When you identify yourself solely with the personal you are not satisfied. There is a lack for which you cannot account, but which is very real to you. If you should voice your feeling you perhaps would say, “I want something. I do not know what it is that I want, but when I receive what I want I shall be satisfied.” Knowing the personal, only, you have but superficial knowledge of yourself. Beneath the surface the rich deeps of life summon you with overmastering appeal. Not knowing how to respond, you have a sense of confusion and restless­ness.

The personality does indeed become a restricting factor when we see it as the defining essence of our being. A goldfish raised in a small fishbowl, for example, is perfectly content with its limited envi­ronment, for it knows nothing different. Place a wild trout in that same glass bowl and it will jump out. The trout knows a world beyond that glass boundary and it will not adapt to this confinement.

Our soul is the wild trout that we’re attempting to stuff in the fishbowl of personality. In our quest for finding satisfaction within the artificial confines of this bowl, we adorn it with a pretty ceramic castle, colored pebbles and some plastic greenery. This works for a time, but soon the frustration returns. So we buy a prettier castle, adorn our bowl with designer pebbles and decorate it with living greenery. It’s perfect—if you happen to be a goldfish.

Though we wander far into the distractions of maintaining the surface self-image, we never forget who we are at the soul level. The soul constantly asserts itself as an intuitive whisper of discontent, a still small voice[1] that never fully endorses the artificial trappings of the fishbowl.

Our cultural training suggests this dissatisfaction is a personality or character issue, so we engage in a determined effort for self-improvement. Improving the personality, however, isn’t the answer, as the personality is not the problem. The personality an effect. It simply echoes our own self-definition. The problem is that we carry the self-image of a goldfish when we’re really a trout. We’re trying to stuff our soul into a fishbowl personality that just doesn’t fit.

As we turn our attention to the gentle radiance of the soul, we return to the figurative wild stream, the most fitting personality of our natural being.

[1] 1 Kings 19:12

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.

The Challenge of Oneness

[From A Spiritual Journey]

While people often agree with the idea that they are one with God, many will admit to feeling separate most of the time. The experience of oneness, they acknowledge, requires much effort and intention, a letting go and seeking to bridge the gap between their senses-based ego and their soul’s oneness with God. Although this conscious unity with God is our natural heritage, it requires steady mindfulness to make it a practical part of our daily experience. With most of us, our quest for conscious unity with God takes on a kind of ebb and flow. Our awareness constantly shifts between God and worldly concerns, with the bulk of our focus on those concerns.

I relate this to the man who found the treasure in the field. Knowing the treasure is there even as we’re busy “selling” our possessions to buy that field is a great comfort. I used to fear that I was digressing in these spiritually distracted times, but now I know this is not true. The soul’s light is steadfast even if our focus on spiritual matters is not. When our attention is wandering out in some far country, we’re still aware of our true home. Despite our feelings of separation, we never lose the memory of our oneness.

The feeling of separation is not an issue to one who has never experienced some level of oneness with their spiritual Source. This feeling of inner lack is, for them, a material issue addressed through the further pursuit of material things. Though they may not yet walk on water, the spiritually advanced grapple with this feeling of separation as a spiritual rather than a material problem.

For me, it is clarifying to draw a distinction between consciousness evolution and a perceived soul development. Our self-image is out of alignment with that which is true at the soul level. This understanding eliminates all perceived degrees of soul development and places our progress squarely on our system of values rather than on the erroneously conceived fluctuation of the soul.

The more value we place on experiencing our soul, the more attention we give to reasons such an experience might seem so elusive. Even if we give it no attention, our soul’s wholeness remains intact. We cannot damage our spiritual heritage through negligence. Our wandering in the far country neither offends God nor sparks any kind of need for divine forgiveness.

We lift a huge weight from our shoulders when we make peace with the fact that we can never negatively affect the condition of our soul or of our relationship of oneness with God. We can suffer, we can experience spiritual deprivation, we can feel alone and desperate in our far country, but our soul remains one with God. We can, at any moment, come to ourselves, turn with the understanding that we will be welcomed with open arms back into our eternal home with our loving Father.

A Change of Plan

Dear friends,

Today I experienced a change of plan, and was unable to present my weekly talk. For our local congregation, I instead presented a segment of a video series I am working on for my book, The Complete Soul. Because this series is not yet ready for release, I would rather not make it available to the general public at this point. My plan is to present Run To, Not From – a talk based on the writings of Emilie Cady  this coming Sunday.

Some of you have told me you are playing catch-up on the week’s videos, so maybe this pause on my part will give you that opportunity. I apologize for any inconvenience, but I’ll resume regular audio/video programming next Sunday.

Thanks for your ongoing support, and thank you for any topical suggestions you may have for future presentations. Beginning with Easter, I will start a series on the spiritual principles taught by Jesus. Blessings, JDB



Question on Meditation

Question: I try to meditate but I just can’t seem to get anywhere. I know you’ve written a book on this subject but could you share some thoughts that might help someone like me?

As we consider spiritual ideas, it’s important to remember that there are two types of learning: intellectual and intuitive. Intellectual learning involves the accumulation of spiritual facts. We do this through study and exposure to teachers. Intuitive learning is based on direct exposure to the soul. This experience is then transmitted to the intellect. Because the experience is subjective in nature, it cannot be taught. But don’t make a mystery of this. Someone can explain what orange juice tastes like, but you don’t really know until you actually take a sip and experience it for yourself. Then you learn in an instant.

Taste, of course, is not an intuitive function, but we can use it as an example of things that can only be known through experience. Touch is another example. You look at a bowl of water that may be warm or cool. The instant you place your fingers in the water you learn its temperature through direct experience.

The intuitive faculty is capable of sensing and experiencing the subtle spiritual energy that is your being. The Bible refers to this energy as “living water” that wells up from within. This metaphor provides a way to think of our spiritual connection that cannot otherwise be defined or imparted by another.

The intuitive experience is not emotional. Nor should it be confused with those “hunches” that a thing is true or false, or that we should make a certain decision. This type of knowing is important and very useful. But we’re talking about something of a deeper nature. The intuition open to the soul does indeed stir the emotion and instills peace and the feeling that something greater than our own consciousness is at work. This revelation we seek involves knowing the true nature of Being, and this is imparted only through direct experience. Jesus compared it to the wind that you feel and hear but do not see. It is invisible but very real. You know it when it seeps into your awareness. You experience the joy of freedom knowing you are much more, and something much different than you thought.

This is an important observation. As you seek to open your intuition to the soul, you do so with the willingness to let go of who and what you think you are. Most of us maintain a running internal dialog that creates an endless loop of definition and response: I am this, so that is what I need. It is best to release all preconceived expectations, all definitions of God, the soul, and the self. As much as possible, make yourself an empty vessel receptive to inner energies that are totally familiar and natural but have likely gone unnoticed beneath the constant drumming of a perpetually busy mind. I assume this is the problem you are having.

It is not possible to force results. If you find yourself struggling, open your eyes and move about if you need to. You want to break yourself of all attempts to create an experience. If you stay with it, you will likely begin to have brief, nearly imperceptible movements of spirit. If you can recapture and pursue these, fine. Just don’t chase after them. During the day, you may find such experiences rise naturally on their own, without any effort on your part. You suddenly feel good and lifted without knowing why. You experience an unprovoked sense of joy and well-being. Take these as a sign that you are cracking the shell, that more is being done than you realize.

The spiritual breakthrough will come if you stay with it. Our externally driven western culture contributes to most of the mental and emotional distractions we encounter. From very early in life, we are taught to look to the world for the peace, joy, and well-being that we seek. For most of us, going within and seeking an experience with the unadulterated core of our being is a foreign endeavor. We are taught to pray looking to the heavens rather than to the kingdom of heaven within.

A helpful attitude to hold while meditating is this: “Before they call, I will answer. While they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). I have said often that we desire more because we are more. It is the fullness of your soul that beckons you to come up higher. You are not creating this desire; you are responding to it. The fact that you have come to believe there is value in seeking an inner awakening says that you are on your way to a broader experience. Everyone gets discouraged, but don’t give up on it. You will eventually find that meditation is very natural and a thing you already know how to do.

I hope this is helpful.