The Jesus Factor

(excerpt from The Complete Soul)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Message of Easter

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

Easter, which focuses on the death and resurrection of Jesus, is considered the most important element of the Christian faith. Humankind was condemned to suffering and death at that moment Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Jesus, it is believed, gave his life for those willing to accept and profess this ultimate sacrifice as their only hope for eternal life.

The above passage from John, written approximately twenty years after the death of Jesus, was undoubtedly intended by the author as a literary device intended to foreshadow the coming crucifixion. And yet it is so much more than this. The life of the fruit-bearing plant emerges from the death of the seed. The potential within the seed cannot be unleashed unless the shackles of the seed-self are broken. Only then can the seed submit to the transforming process of becoming something much greater than an individual kernel. One seed cannot fall to the ground, die, and be transformed for another. Each seed must engage in its own death and emergence as something more than it is at present.

The seed represents our self-image and the perception of the world we have created as existing apart from God. Using this seed metaphor, we look at the Easter story as the death of the human self and the emergence of the divine. We are not to merely witness or proclaim as a cornerstone of faith this seemingly miraculous event. We are to engage in the very process itself. Not even a Jesus can eradicate the shackles of the self-image of another. Every person must take up his or her own cross, so to speak, and commit to this transformation.

We are looking for freedom from this earthly bondage. Because we cannot find it here, we have projected the achievement of ultimate freedom into the afterlife. From the Christian perspective, the condition is that we accept Jesus’ death as our only means to this glorious end. True salvation, however, is found neither in the act of another nor in a profession of faith that such an act is true. We must actually die to the seed-self that restricts us so that our fruit-bearing soul may emerge.

The seed is not punished for remaining a seed. It is simply being shown that the seed life it clings to can never deliver the freedom it longs for. The cost of one’s spiritual freedom cannot be paid by another. Each must submit to their own soul-searching process of falling to the ground and dying to their seed-self. And we’re not talking about the great reward in the afterlife. The seed and the plant inhabit the same world, but they experience it quite differently. So it is with us. We do not find our spiritual fulfillment elsewhere. We experience it to the degree that we become willing to let go of our body-based identity and come to know ourselves as the boundless soul that we are in truth.

The message of Easter is an invitation to reconsider what it is we are waiting for. Pluck one seed from a handful and drop it to the ground. Each kernel that remains in the hand witnesses and marvels at the transformation undergone by their fellow seed. They discuss it for generations and it becomes so far removed from their understanding of their seed-based reality that they come to believe that particular seed was something different from themselves. It was obviously a highly evolved, specially chosen seed that had become worthy of being selected.

Not so. The relevance and power of the accomplishment of one is found in the truth that it is just like the others. The difference is not in ability. The difference is in the power of choice based on a broader understanding of what a seed actually is.

The invitation of Easter stands for all. We can struggle within the confines of the self-image and hope that a savior passes by. We can bide our time and anticipate salvation in the afterlife, doing our best in the meantime to stay on the straight and narrow. Or, we can embrace the message of Easter as our story, our opportunity to rethink our presence here as something much more than a seed cursed with the unquenchable desire to bear much fruit. We can engage in our own Easter process in a way that fulfills our deepest longing for the truth that actually sets us free.

The Highest is the Nearest

Can you talk about your interest in near-death research and explain why you think it is important to our spiritual understanding?

Throughout my life, there have been a few things that have captured my attention in a way that should not and cannot be ignored. Near-death research is one of these. I’ve been asked if I am obsessed with death and dying because it offers a way out of this often confusing and restrictive earthly experience. My answer is, no. My interest is in living. In countless ways, those who report an NDE reveal much about the nature of the soul. In all their diverse ways, they report the experience of absolute love, incredible beauty and, perhaps most important of all, the feeling of having come home. People who describe their discovery of a spiritual teaching with which they resonate often say that something in the teaching triggers the feeling of having come home. This is how I felt when I discovered Unity, and I have heard countless others express this feeling of homecoming as well.

All of this reveals that our spiritual home is not a place but an internal shift in focus and experience. The NDE forces a shift away from the body and the self-image that has grown up around it. The experiencer quickly sees that the homecoming is really a conscious return to the soul or whatever they choose to call it. When we discover a teaching that reveals this truth, we have that similar experience. Ideas that are true of the soul cause our awareness to resonate, if ever so slightly, with the warmth and familiarity of our real home. The near-death experiencer, in perhaps the majority of cases, is told they must return to their body and earthly life, for their work is not yet done. Many are baffled by this. They return to their body and spend a great deal of their life looking for the work they are supposed to do. Likewise, the one who discovers a spiritual teaching that stirs them to the depths feels like this discovery is leading to some thing, a great work of some sort perhaps.

The work to be done is not drawn from the world of appearances. The work is in aligning our consciousness with the soul. This is not accomplished through doing things, even selfless things, for others. It is accomplished through direct exposure to the soul. This is what Jesus was referring to quoting Psalms, “And they shall all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me” (John 6:45).

The soul is our home, but our prodigal awareness has wandered far away. We have  heard and learned from the Father the instant we experienced that feeling of coming home. The NDEr is dipped directly into this home and then pulled back out. In contrast, the one who discovers the soul-stirring, strangely familiar teaching has heard and learned from a distance, so to speak. Neither have the consciousness, the framework of soul-centered ideas, to support the perpetual experience of the soul. In both cases, our so-called spiritual journey, our work, is the alignment of our consciousness with what is true of the soul. We are the man who discovers the treasure buried in the field who goes about the work of selling all he has to buy that field. Thus far we have navigated through life from the basis of a senses-based self-image. Now we are shifting from the self-image as a center of gravity to our correct home, the soul. This alignment is not an other-worldly process. It is the process of living in this world with the understanding that we are not of it.

You use the illustration of the sponge immersed in water that literally permeates its being. How could the sponge be so immersed in something and still not recognize it as that which it is seeking?

This sponge is a graduate of Sponge University. It has earned a degree in sponge physiology. It attends the First Church of Spongification. To maintain its physical elasticity, it practices Sponge Yoga. It takes pride in its size and appearance, often taking on a hole-ier-than-thou attitude. It identifies with pictures of itself from the time it was but a spore to now. It totally identifies with its history as a sponge. It studies with great fascination those fossilized spongy imprints of its ancestors, interpreted as the beginning of life by the greatest spongologists on the planet. In other words, it is not simply immersed in ocean water; it is immersed in everything sponge.

The enlightened sponge that floats by saying, “You are not a sponge. You are the water you seek” is viewed with great suspicion, socially relegated to a life of cleaning the dishes and maybe even the toilet bowl. There is so much evidence to support the belief in the sponge-centered universe. After all, everyone can see the sponge. It takes a major shift in perception, abnormal to sponge culture, to see and experience the water. The experience of water is an intuitive one. Living in the world of sponge-facts is strictly intellectual. Though it is omnipresent, the water cannot be intellectually grasped because it cannot be seen, weighed or measured. A cubic foot of water floating within water, after all, weighs nothing. By all standards of measurement, in fact, it does not exist. To the sponge-centered intellect, something that weighs nothing and cannot be discerned using the most acute techniques of sponge observation, cannot possibly exist and be available to the average sponge. This is why the First Church of Spongification goes to great lengths to make the experience of sponge heaven other-worldly. If the water were truly spread out before them, surely everyone would see it.

In yesterday’s post you said, “When we engage the practice of denial and affirmation, we deny (release) what is not true of the soul and affirm what is.” How do we know what is true of the soul and what is not?

Jesus said we have to enter by the narrow gate. There is only one way to know what is true of the soul and that is through direct experience. The research shows that those who have an NDE and those who have a true mystical awakening are permanently impacted by the experience. You may read about God and the soul and engage in studies that offer much insight into the spiritual reality of the individual. You may even earn certificates that show the world you are an expert in this field of study. If you have not had an actual experience with your soul, however, you have a head full of spiritual information that amounts to little more than sounding brass and clanging cymbals. You are, as one teacher put it, over-read and underdone. 

I have never considered my ordination my badge of spiritual authority. Becoming ordained was the effect of the profound spiritual awakening I experienced in my early twenties. In quality, it was amazingly similar to the beauty of absolute, unconditional love and limitlessness expressed by those who have had a near-death experience, another of the several reasons I am drawn to this research. A new benchmark of reality had been established in me. I entered the Unity ministry because I believed it would support this revelation, but it does not, at least not in the way I had hoped. People that make up a church community are the same people that make up every other community. They are drawn by certain ideas compatible with their preferred worldview, but most still carry the kind of baggage that can erupt into petty conflict so prevalent in the world. After going through one particularly difficult church conflict, I made this announcement to my congregation: “I think we’ve just proven that Unity people can fight as well as any Baptist.

Ministry has taught me to teach that we are not to look for our spiritual support system outside of ourselves. We must be firmly grounded in the soul and then use the outer platform, whether it be ministry or some other profession, as our medium of expression. We do not enter the profession for what it can give us. We enter for what we can give through it. And this is why I love ministry and its outlets such as a pulpit, books, music and this blog. Ministry is the canvas upon which I paint, through the spoken, sung and written word, the authentic revelation of my soul. It is my outlet for that inlet of inspiration that bubbles from the silence of Being.

The term nonduality is apparently becoming a more important part of your vocabulary. Do you see yourself as a member or representative of this community?

I prefer to see myself as one who has reached many of the same conclusions held by those who have adopted the consciousness-based understanding of reality. I came to the concept of nonduality through the back door. It is only within the last few months that I discovered this rather loose-knit group of people who consider themselves nondualists. To my knowledge, they have published no statement of faith. It is a diverse community. Many draw their views from the Eastern tradition, which is very interesting but quite foreign to me. Though it may offer some valuable insight, I am not compelled to learn and parrot that vocabulary or tradition. What I need comes in its own way. To make the point of steeping one’s self in religious study of any type often becomes an intellectual distraction away from the actual experience of the soul.

The mystical maxim that the highest is the nearest is absolutely correct. That which has brought me to this point is an obvious demonstration that it knows what it is doing. That it will carry me on, I have no doubt. At this point, my guidance is to steer clear of representing any spiritually-centered collective. The only brand I choose to adopt at this time is the one provided by my soul.

Questions and Answers, Part 2

You wrote, “As a product of Consciousness, all people of all ages have access to this primary Source. All are capable of discerning its behavior and its relation to the realm of matter. The author of Genesis was no exception.” Are you saying you agree with the Bible’s account of creation?

I do not agree with the particulars of either creation story found in Genesis 1 or 2. I do agree with the author of the first chapter (composed some 400 years later than chapter 2) with his opening, “In the beginning God …” I am in greatest agreement with John’s account of creation. It goes into no detail about how creation unfolded, only that it began with the Word. These ancient writers obviously had little or no scientific background, at least as we understand science today. The strength of modern science is its ability to explain material processes. Its weakness is in its inability to acknowledge underlying Consciousness as the source out of which the visible world appears.

This inability has caused science to overlook some profound truths concerning the human condition. For example, an article from the New York Times states:

Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.

Experts have offered various reasons for this but it is safe to assume that none of these reasons will be found in the Bible. Yet the primary reason that people suffer is clearly illustrated in the early allegories of the Bible. Humankind turned its attention away from its spiritual source in favor of following senses-based information as its basis of reality. The Garden of Eden is the soul. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is the senses-based self-image. Though we live in one of the most prosperous countries on the planet, our belief that our status and identity can be drawn from possessions and accomplishments in the material realm has made us feel quite naked. We are attempting to live a happy life consciously severed from our spiritual source. We try to compensate for this by clothing ourselves in the “skins” of materialism and antidepressants whose side effects are often so numerous there is not enough room on the label to print them legibly.

I once counseled a suicidal woman who was on 21 prescription drugs. She had become a walking nuclear reactor. Doctors treated her as a machine that could be medicated to a reasonable level of self-worth. She told me that one day she decided to flush all her medications down the toilet. This was the day she marked as the beginning of her return to  the sanity of her own inner Garden. This does not mean that everyone should follow her lead, for medicines have their place. But these ancient writers had a spiritual insight into the human condition that material science, which includes medicine, could learn a great deal.

The Bible does not take into account the fossil record which clearly shows an evolution of living forms. The earliest known fossils (3.7 billion years) are simple celled bacterial forms. If God is behind it all, why did it take so long to come up with a human being?

The universe is obviously in no hurry. A notable point made by biologist Robert Lanza, who Time Magazine ranked among its 100 most influential people in the world, is that there are several hundred conditions in our universe that must be exactly correct to sustain life. A degree’s difference here or there would render it impotent. Lanza, like a growing number of other scientists, holds that consciousness is the key to understanding reality, that the universe is made by and for life, not the other way around.

What story would science tell if it started with the premise that consciousness predates matter and all those biological forms that have left evidence of their existence in stone? As I have already suggested, this story still might include something like a big bang, but with intention. It would not likely include an old man in the sky amusing himself with an unlimited supply of modeling clay. It could hold as intentional the action of the invisible exerting its influence on the visible, not unlike the artist who uses paint and canvas to express an otherwise abstract vision.

This new science would not have us looking billions of years into the past. That which ignited matter with life and its first wiggling organisms is very much at work still. There would be no reason for religion to continue recoiling under the threat of Darwinism. How refreshing it would be to move from the endless battle between science and religion to the science of religion. What an exciting partnership that would be.

In your first post, you wrote, “We long for freedom as a spiritual birthright. The soul that is our very basis of existence has known nothing but freedom.” Would you mind elaborating?

The desire for freedom is universal. Behind every single dream you have, you find the desire for greater freedom. Our desire for freedom at the level of the self-image is triggered by the fact that the soul is already free. We are simply echoing what is true at the core of our being. All living things share this desire and react to confinement with the single purpose of escaping.

A ground squirrel made its home beneath a ground-level deck that holds our hot tub. Rodents, being what they are, love to chew things in their spare time. The plastic insulation on wiring is particularly attractive to many of them. Knowing this, I decided to capture the squirrel in a live-trap and take him out to his natural habitat in the desert. His reaction to this momentary incarceration was predictable. He did not like it and he did everything within his power to end his captivity as quickly as possible.

Another way to trap a wild animal is with the enticement of food. Feed them enough and they will become dependent on you, willingly domesticated, a subject I explore in my novella, The Way of the Bighorn. Soon, the greatest punishment you could render is to set them free to fend for themselves. The desire to be free is still present, but it now translates into the assurance of a full stomach.

This would describe the self-image. At this level, our desire to be free is translated as a full stomach; i.e., a life filled with people, accomplishments and things. We measure our worth and our freedom by what we keep in the pantry. We still respond to this desire for freedom, but we miss the mark in its fulfillment. The soul is the bullseye. Shooting for anything less does not satisfy with the reward of freedom.

“The greatest irony of all is that we look at the door of our cell and see that it stands open. There are, in fact, no natural barriers between where we sit and where we intuitively know we can be.”

You say there are no natural barriers that stand between ourselves and our conscious connection with the soul. Because the majority of people are barred entry into conscious union with the soul, could we not consider the the self-image a natural barrier?

We should not confuse the terms normal and natural. The self-image is the product of the senses-based, intellectually driven imagination. As I point out in The Complete Soul, the imagination has the dual intellectual and intuitive functions. Intuitively, it acts in much the same way as the lens of our digital camera. The lens is the intake of raw light (intuition). Through the camera’s processor, an image shows up on the viewfinder, the intellectual, picture forming aspect of the imagination. Our intuition opens to the soul and feeds its information to the intellect.

This is the mystery of the Virgin Birth, where the “Son of God” is conceived and born through a virgin, Mary (intuition). Joseph, the intellect, is not involved in this awakening but plays the supporting role of bringing this child into the world of expression. In the development of the self-image, Mary is quietly put away. At most she becomes a house servant offering a few tidbits of guidance through the maze of materialism, adding a hunch here and a strong feeling there. Joseph is in charge. Even if he does respond to one of Mary’s promptings, he still takes credit for it. This describes our intellectually-based scientific and academic communities. Mary plays no part and has no place in the curriculum.

We turn out towering self-images left to fend for themselves as they move through their lives and careers in a desperate search to fill in the missing piece that is the soul. A few do, but most don’t. Mary is a scientific and academic anomaly that is either explained away or dismissed altogether. Our so-called great intellectuals have heads brimming with information but hearts often so empty that prozac becomes a viable piece of the success puzzle.

So while the self-image is not a natural barrier to an experience of the soul, it is certainly a normal, widely accepted barrier. When we place more value on an experience of the soul than we do on continually fortifying the self-image, we find that nothing stands in our way.

Nonduality and The Complete Soul

Have you ever gone to sleep one night, awakened the next day and found yourself in a very different world—without a single drop of alcohol involved? In one sense, I have found myself in such a situation. Having followed the promptings of my primary teacher, Emilie Cady, I have gone alone, thought alone and sought the light of spiritual understanding alone. Prompted by a three-plus-year series of events, I sorted through much of the thinking that has culminated in my life as a Unity minister. I’ve examined and re-examined the values that led me down this path until I reached a healing understanding of why I made my choices. Most importantly, I have allowed myself, using a metaphor of Jesus, to redefine the standard for fish I keep and fish I throw back.

Mine is not unlike the experience of the caterpillar responding to the call of something more. Having eaten its fill of the fibrous roughage abounding in its earthbound world, it responds to the urge to go alone, to encase itself in a chrysalis of inner reflection, surrender to a new but strangely familiar process from which it emerges a butterfly with newly acquired abilities and a taste for the refined nectar of the flowering plant. It does not leave this world but experiences it anew. The I that was the caterpillar foraging from plant to plant is the same I that now flitters among a rainbow of flowers.

My chrysalis has been the process of The Complete Soul, a book intended to summarize and articulate those seed ideas I find scattered throughout my earliest writings. And yet I have always sensed this direction, while somewhat new to me, was not new to others who have recognized that it is not the butterfly’s world or its inherent makeup that is in need of change. Omnipresence furnishes laws governing the earthbound and those who have taken flight. We are accommodated at any level we choose.

Over the span of a few short months I have stumbled unexpectedly into a community of kindred spirits, most bearing scientific, philosophical and spiritual pedigrees. I will write more of this in a moment. For years I have had a fascination with both our cosmic and human origins. As a minister, I am quite familiar with the depiction of Biblical creation and science’s inevitable rebellion to its simplistic approach. I have also familiarized myself with science’s answer to this ancient mythology that seems to demand one be long on faith and short on logic.

I must also say that I have discovered orthodox science (those getting the lion’s share of government grants) has issued the same long on faith requirement. We are asked to set aside all logic and accept that 13.772 billion years ago a particle (a fraction the size of an atom) suddenly exploded and in a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second expanded into a mass of matter the size of a universe. From this mass came time and space, billions upon billions of galaxies and countless trillions of stars, planets, moons, quasars, nebula and, eventually, every life form, including ourselves. Gosh, this makes the Bible’s account sound rather tame.

I have a deep respect for science and the phenomenal fruit of its disciplined labors. I puzzle, however, over its insistence that matter gave birth to life and that human consciousness is a product of the brain. My interest in near-death research is prompted by what appears to be irrefutable evidence that consciousness is not dependent on the brain, that the death of the body is not the death of the soul. I have always accepted that the soul survives so-called death, but I am very interested in those scientists who are applying themselves to this field of research. I am particularly interested in the elevated state of consciousness described by many who have a near-death experience. This advanced state does not suddenly come into being with the death of the body but apparently already exists. Far from generating the soul, the brain and body apparently greatly restrict the capacity of the soul. I have concluded, therefore, that the notion of soul evolution is a myth. The religious and spiritual disciplines that include the evolving soul actually hinder the level of spiritual enlightenment that is available to every individual.

Today, as never before, every person with a computer has access to the greatest minds and the most cutting edge science and philosophy in the world. It was through this digital venue that, while pursuing my interests in the subjects of cosmology, the origin of life, near-death and the advent of our own species (all of which I find relevant to my spiritual interests), that I stumbled into the above mentioned community of kindred spirits. I say “community” not because you’ll find them living together in some 21st century version of Findhorn, but because they share, in one or another of its many forms, the common philosophy of nondualism. Roughly speaking, this philosophy, which is found in ancient Eastern religions as well as much Western spiritual thinking, names consciousness, not matter, as the fundamental basis of the universe. With only a few exceptions in terminology, I find The Complete Soul rests quite comfortably in this philosophical framework.

Because consciousness predates matter, and if we choose to use the term in this context, we would do well to distinguish it with an upper-case C, as in Consciousness. Stripped of its anthropomorphic implications, we can also simply use the word God, as in, in the beginning, God …. Obviously lacking our current scientific understanding of the universe, we can easily credit this ancient writer with such an intuitive insight. As a product of Consciousness, all people of all ages have access to this primary Source. All are capable of discerning its behavior and its relation to the realm of matter. Why should the author of Genesis be an exception?

With Consciousness as the ground force of creation, we can likely take some version of science’s Big Bang and fit it into a Consciousness-driven universe. That science still refuses to take this leap is in no way indicative of what is actually true. The scientific view of the universe is, after all, a work in progress, a highly revised mathematical model. And with the concepts of dark matter and dark energy already nipping at its heels, we will, in all likelihood, soon find this theory in the heap right next to the flat earth and earth-centered universe.

When I watch interviews and Q&A sessions with these deeply empathetic teachers of non-duality, I see a replay of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, that intellectually grounded academic who was attempting to cram the boundless soul into the confines of his senses-based self-image. I observe teachers like Francis Lucille, Rupert Spira and the full-hearted Jamaican-born, Anthony Paul Moo-Young, better known as Mooji, interact with students who anxiously pick their brains for the key to the complete consciousness the teacher holds as ever-present. While this quest for understanding often takes the form of a complex though unintended word game, the wisdom in the responses of these teachers is as self-evident as their compassion for the inquirer.

Aside from my relatively limited exposure to Eastern religions, I have absolutely no background in any of the Eastern traditions in which the concept of nondualism can be found. This, of course, is of no concern to me, for every principle I have encountered in the philosophy of nondualism is embodied in the teachings of Jesus. These are principles any who start with the omnipotence of God and the fully-developed soul will likely discover. I have, in the quiet of my own room, reached many of the same conclusions expressed from within this lively community. I may even surprise myself one day by attending the annual Science and Non-Duality (SAND) conference held in California. Then again, I’m not driven by the need to become a part of yet another group. It may suffice to simply know there are others out there who hold the compatible view that the notion of soul evolution is a myth in need of expulsion from our spiritual vocabulary. To put it frankly, the soul is not ours to evolve. We are its.

That each of us shares a point of awareness we identify as that unchanging central I that has been witness to all the many events through which we have traveled, indicates the universal nature of consciousness. Likewise, we share the universal desire to be free, but not because we are voicing some pipe dream that may, at the end of a very long evolutionary path, be finally realized. We long for freedom as a spiritual birthright. The soul that is our very basis of existence has known nothing but freedom. The caterpillar spins the chrysalis, rests for a period and emerges as the butterfly while claiming a constant “I” through this entire dramatic transformation. It can say I began as a caterpillar and I have become a butterfly. I express changes in my condition while the I that I am is changeless. Even from within the apparent confines of the chrysalis, the soon-to-be butterfly does not experience confinement. Its I rests peacefully in this very productive stage of quiet. Its external condition is irrelevant to its process. It is cradled in the loving arms of the cosmos every step of the way. In the span of a single lifetime, without instruction or prodding of any form, this insect fulfills the soul’s purpose for taking on a body. Should we expect less?

Through the window of the prison of our self-image in which we have unknowingly confined ourselves waft breezes from the reality of our spiritual countryside. Huddled beneath the patch of sunlight that also streams through our window, we imagine the hills and valleys beyond our walls bathed in unconditional light. From our cell, we study the laws of sunlight under the superstition that the more we know about the nature of the sun, the greater our right to partake in the full glory of its warmth. The greatest irony of all is that we look at the door of our cell and see that it stands open. There are, in fact, no natural barriers between where we sit and where we intuitively know we can be. No one and no thing holds the key to this door. It has no lock. Yet we feel so safe in our familiar cell that we have convinced ourselves of the need to stay and learn the laws of life within these walls before we earn the right to graduate and move beyond them.

Nonduality teaches that consciousness is the fundamental reality behind all we see. Consciousness has no beginning and no end. It is the Alpha and Omega that has been present forever. God, the Creative Life Force, is my preferred name for it. The term consciousness has other, more concise uses. Whether we call it Consciousness, God or the Complete Soul, this dimension is the spiritual home we long for and, in truth, have never left. It is in us and in it we live and move and have our being. The unnatural barriers that keep us in confinement are perceptual only, conditions that might exist in the impossible absence of Omnipresence.

For me, it feels as if a new day has dawned. What this day holds remains to be seen, but I have a very good feeling that that which brought me to this point can hardly wait to show me.