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

The Quest for Enlightenment

I once believed that spiritual enlightenment was a state of mind one accomplished at the end of a very long journey. My understanding, however, has changed. Enlightenment is not about achieving a level of development that transcends the soul’s present condition. Enlightenment is experiencing this journey from the awareness of the soul’s completeness. There is no place on earth we can go to get more of who and what we already are. No amount of study will increase the force or constitution of the soul. No achievement can bring us closer to the omnipresence of God than we are already.

The standard model of the quest for spiritual understanding is based on a negative: I am currently something less than I will be in the future. To be spiritually enlightened is to understand that I am already everything that I will ever be. This doesn’t mean that the limited self-image I have adopted is adequate just as it is. The self-image will never be adequate. Nor does it mean that I am finished aspiring, dreaming and achieving. It means that I recognize myself now as something much more than this body-based facade that I call me. The spiritual inadequacy I feel is not remedied by the consumption of more spiritual information. The remedy is removing the blinders of the self-image that block the truth of who and what I am at the soul level.

The concept of soul development is a spiritually debilitating myth. Instead of embracing what I am, this concept directs my focus on what I am not. If I live with the hope of one day becoming something more than I am right now, I do not allow myself to consider the truth of my fundamental nature. It sounds arrogant to say I am complete, for the myth of soul development says that only a rare handful of humans have attained spiritual enlightenment. How can I claim that I am even close to having what they had?

The problem is that we do not know what they had. We only assume we know. We lay upon them our manufactured template of enlightened master with the negative assumption that whatever they had was obviously something more than we have. If this were true, why would these enlightened souls bother to tell any who would listen that the things they were doing, others could do as well, and greater things? Why would they circumvent the religious elites, the blind guides who loved their positions of authority and the wealth it generated from keeping people as spiritually confused as were they themselves? Why would genuine teachers of the soul devote their lives to opening the spiritual eyes of others if those others were restrained by laws of evolution that ensured their spiritual blindness? Of what value is a spiritual teaching that promises fulfillment in a future state that cannot possibly exist outside this now moment?

The soul is not a thing to be developed. It is now complete. Being unaware of this truth does not make it less true. Spiritual enlightenment occurs with the first glimmer of understanding that it is true. The morning sun does not peek over the horizon to tease us with the promise of light and warmth. It does not place the condition of its appearance on years of study and discipline. It does not withhold itself from those who retreat into the shadows of ignorance and superstition, or believe they must acquire something more to be worthy of its gifts. The sun appears in its fullness and freely gives itself to all who will partake of its radiant being. We can believe in the long shadows we cast while looking away from the sun, or we can turn our face to this perfectly placed star and partake of its life-affirming gifts.

Though we don’t always live from the truth we know, this momentary lapse cannot pull us back over that threshold of understanding we’ve crossed. We can never return to our former conviction that we are something less today than we will be tomorrow. We are bound by the truth that omnipresence can never be something more, that we can never be closer to God than we are right now.

Because of the conditions we place on the notion of spiritual enlightenment, it is probably best to purge such terms from our vocabulary. It stirs emotional distance between where we think we are and where we think we should be. The hard work of eliminating this perceived gap is misplaced effort. In meditation, we close our eyes and search for something foreign, something we believe the great masters could see but we cannot, at least not yet. We do not see it because it does not exist. We are chasing the phantom of false perception. What we intuitively long for, what we deeply seek to experience, is found with our eyes open or closed. It can be known in quiet and busy moments. We can experience it in the peaceful rush of the surf, or in the noise of the busy city. It is not possible to be separated from the presence of God.

We will never find what we hope to become. We can only find what we are already. And what we are already exists fully and completely in this moment. It cannot be anything less or anyplace else. This now moment in which we exist is the holy ground of the Eternal. It is here and here alone that our quest for enlightenment ends.

The Truth You Seek

“What we are trying to grasp with our head (intellect), the heart has always known. The spiritual pop culture worships the quest. It thrills in filling its bookshelves, accumulating credentials and traveling through all the wide gates of the world in search of the fulfillment that can only be found at the quiet center of every individual.”

Question: Could you elaborate on this part of your previous post? I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

Response: If you declare yourself on a spiritual quest today, you will be on a spiritual quest tomorrow. You will still be on this quest a year or ten years from now. This means you are not finding what you seek. Because you are not finding what you seek, keeping the quest going becomes your objective.

The truth is that God is centered in you. To experience God, you must make a conscious connection with this divine center. At this moment of awareness, your quest ends because you now know the location of that which you seek. You are the man who finds the treasure hidden in the field. His quest for wealth is over. Knowing this, he is entirely devoted to letting go of that which is of less value than the treasure he found.

The trap that many fall into is that they tie the spiritual quest to unity/oneness among people. Because global unity becomes the benchmark of success for so-called spiritual movements, we consider the success of such movements as a sign that collective spiritual progress is being made. This deception turns the individual away from their inner connection to God and places their hope in the growth and success of the external movement. They then take their cues from the movement, which can only promise a perpetual quest and a dissatisfying spiritual void that never can and never will be satisfied.

The world changes but Truth does not. All valid spiritual disciplines teach that the individual’s connection with God is internally accessible. The spiritual movement, the book, or that particular teacher that reminded you of this truth is not the one that will make it real to you. They were but the catalyst that reminded you what you already know at the deepest level of your being.

Have enough faith in yourself to uncover this buried treasure, to declare an end to your quest for Truth, and dare to live the life your soul longs to express.

 

Life’s Single Lesson

YouTube: Life’s Single Lesson

Audio: Life’s Single Lesson

“You say the earth is a school and we’ve come here to learn

If we don’t get it now then we’ll have to return

Another lifetime – O how many more?

But what if we came because we’re already free

We want to share our light so that others can see

They have a purpose – a cause to live for”

(I Can’t Hide – JDB)

 

I think it’s fair to say that most who have embraced the spiritual alternative to the mainstream concepts of heaven and hell are comfortable with the notion that earth is a school and we’ve come to learn. The lessons we’re here to learn are not necessarily directed toward enhancing the intellect, but in advancing the soul. I think it’s a good idea to question this premise.

If you own a cat or a dog, would you say the same is true of them? Do you assume they have much to learn in terms of soul advancement? Don’t we respond to our pets because of the unconditional love and devotion they give to us? We may not like that they threaten the UPS man, chase cars, intentionally knock trinkets off the mantel, or shred the couch as part of their routine workout, but we see in them an irresistible purity that would be difficult to improve upon. Would it even cross our mind that they have come to earth to correct some soul deficit? We’re more likely to think they’ve come to help us with ours.

From a spiritual perspective, I suggest there is but a single lesson to learn: I am a soul who has taken on this body as the interfacing vehicle that allows me to experience the material plane. So-called spiritual learning is simply soul recollection –the act of reawakening to what I am at the deepest level. The lessons to learn have less to do with soul development and more to do with conducting life successfully through this temporary physical interface of the body. I believe we are here because we want to be, not because our perceived undeveloped soul needs more schooling.

Focus on this single truth: My soul is complete, and I have taken on a body to experience this earthly plane. Don’t get lost in why you may have made this choice. Focus only on the truth that you are a soul that is already complete, already free. As you get a solid understanding of this, you begin directing your body and your environment to conform to your reason for coming.

 

Excerpt from Native Soul

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

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

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

People often ask whether or not animals have souls. Using Troward’s model, the answer would be yes, but it is a generic soul, an archetypal set of parameters that limit the expression of intelligence and, therefore, the creative capacity of a given species. The key limiting element in the generic soul of all living things (though it is present in nearly all species in limited degrees) is the visualizing aspect of imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Questions

Questions: You say that evolution is environmentally driven. Wouldn’t learning more about our spiritual nature be considered an evolution in understanding? Are you trying to say that the human race is not moving toward a more spiritually enlightened state?

Response: When we think of spiritual issues, we have to think in terms of two realms: The spiritual and the biological or material. The spiritual is the unseen, first-cause and the material is the visible vehicle that carries it. The spiritual realm is not subject to the material environment. If the spiritual is to continue to express through material form, however, then the material form must be in sync with the environment. If, due to significant environmental changes, a material form goes extinct, the spiritual realm continues unaffected and will express as a different form suited to the new environment. Scientists tell us that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. Yet this energy we know as life persists as strong as ever.

When science says that life evolves, they are referring to the biological forms that life takes. This is because science is dominated by materialistic thinking. It is assumed that life is generated by the physical forms that express it. Unfortunately, many in the spiritual community have done the same thing. The state of humanity is associated with environmental values which include the state of the physical body and the current state of social conditions. At a certain level, we accept that life cannot die and the source of all peace and harmony must be found at the spiritual level. Because disease, aging, death and discord are still mingled in the human experience, we mistakenly interpret these conditions as evidence of spiritual immaturity. In defining the core and condition of man, we take our eye off the soul (the changeless) and focus on the body and social environment (the ever-changing). We place the soul in an evolutionary framework that simply does not apply.

Is the desire to learn more about our spiritual nature evidence of an evolving soul? Not necessarily. The accumulation of facts, even spiritual facts, has nothing whatsoever to do with the state of the soul. It’s the difference between looking at a beautiful photograph of a mountain and actually experiencing the mountain. One can accumulate a library of books full of mountain photography, but this is not the same as actually experiencing mountains. We can argue that an interest in collecting mountain photography is a sign that the collector is moving toward a mountain experience, but this is not necessarily true. In addition, a person who does not have even a single photograph of a mountain can have a mountain experience. Photos are not required.

In our quest for spiritual understanding, we naturally pick up books and look to teachers to guide us on our way. While these prove to be inspirational and helpful in many ways, these sources of information serve to shape our opinion of our spiritual state. Drawing inspiration from another is not the same as a direct experience of one’s own soul. Yet we’re not aware of this distinction. We actually mistake inspiration for a spiritual experience. Because of this, inspiration becomes a kind of drug that we inject first thing in the morning and hope it gets us through the day. We probably require several injections to keep us positively upbeat. The whole notion of soul evolution is tied to the belief that we must acquire so much spiritual information that we stay spiritually high forever.

As seen in this paraphrase, Jesus debunked this false notion: You say four months to harvest, but I’m telling you to lift your spiritual eyes and see the fields ready for harvest now. The “four months to harvest” is tied to the false belief of soul evolution which, in turn, is tied directly to the evolutionary process we see at work in the material domain. In this regard, the spiritual and the material realms are absolutely unrelated. The material, not the spiritual, is subject to evolution.

Is the human race evolving toward a more spiritually enlightened state? No. If anything, the human race is moving away from its true source of enlightenment. An individual does not discover his or her soul in a community of like-minded believers. The individual must go alone to actually experience the inner fountain of the soul. This is how we are designed. I have pointed out that our faculty of imagination has an intuitive side that opens directly to the soul and a visualizing side that opens to the world of externals. Collectively, we have closed the intuitive side and relied only on the visualizing side. We visualize images given to us by the get-rich-quick prophets posing as spiritual teachers (who are usually the only ones who get rich), while ignoring that gnawing question of the value of gaining the world at the expense of losing sight of the soul. As long as we follow the pied pipers of materialism — those who assure us we’ll find our missing core in the accumulation of things — we will never be free of the feeling that something essential to our being is missing.

The senses-based self-image – the mask, the personality – is a herding animal. It needs to be surrounded by a group from which it may draw its strength and identity. In contrast, the soul is self-existent, self-sustaining, drawing its strength and identity directly from the creative life force we call God. It does not matter that the bulk of humanity is engaged in an endless splashing through the shallows of popular culture (especially spiritual popular culture) chasing that eternally elusive brass ring of spiritual enlightenment.

Every individual has direct access to their fully developed soul. The soul is what we seek. Find this and all else is added.

The Power of Dissatisfaction

Most of us would like to hide the fact that we’re dissatisfied at the soul level, but privately, we do well to sit up and take notice.

Dissatisfaction is the heart telling the head that it knows something that the head is missing. The heart is the soul, which impresses through the intuition. The head is the self-image, which is all about catering to the fact-hungry intellect.

This week I was talking to a new friend who observed: “So much of what I’m hearing through so-called truth teachers seems contrived and shallow.”

“That’s because they’re ‘parroting’ something they’ve heard from someone else,” I said, “not something they’ve discovered themselves.”

“Okay. I’ll get there someday,” he said

“You’re already there,” I said. “Otherwise, you couldn’t recognize the ‘contrived and shallow’ thing.”

Eyebrows raised. Skepticism filled the face I was looking at. I’ve grown accustomed to that look.

We don’t trust ourselves. Someone or something “out there” is the authority that will satisfy our need to know. But what, exactly, is driving this need to know?

One person keeps sending me quotes from A Course in Miracles, obviously hoping to enlighten me with ideas that did not originate with her. Only God knows where these ideas came from. I’ve had others remind me of Unity’s basic teachings, which I once agreed to represent verbatim, but now, not so much.

The soul is not confined to any system. What is meaningful to you on your spiritual birthday – that discovery you made that changed the course of your thinking, your very life – is but the tip of the iceberg of the full truth. But this awakening was your soul standing at the finish line, calling you forth, beckoning you to leave your old ways and set out on a line of thought that resonated with what your soul already knew to be true.

What appears to be the joy of discovery is really the satisfaction of recovery. You are recovering the truth that has been strangled by incessant body maintenance, cultural compliance, wandering in a world that believes its highest good comes packaged in some form of matter, title, or accomplishment. Despite the heavy weight of these influences, you have always known the truth when you hear it. You have the ears to hear and the eyes to see. This is not some frail, half-baked entity struggling to make itself known. It is your soul, the most powerful force in your life that will not let you rest or wander past some imagined point of no return.

We sell ourselves short by thinking our inspiration comes from others. These only confirm what we already know. They just had the courage to say it. Our timidity does not diminish this robust, inner voice that called long before we answered. We could not honor this “prophet” from our own country, for we’ve been trained to think that the highest is not the nearest but the farthest, somewhere over that distant horizon we never quite reach.

A sincere inquiry into the headwaters of dissatisfaction will lead you, not to that ever-growing list of things you do not have, but to that which you already have but insist on ignoring. Every moment you cast your net into the sea and gather fish of every kind. From these you sort the good from the unusable, the true from the false. Credit yourself for knowing the difference.

You’re not simply adding to a stockpile of accumulated ideas you cling to because they make you feel good. You are choosing from that very self that is already complete, and whose sole priority has always been to express this completeness through all that concerns you.