The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment  

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The belief that our soul is evolving produces a number of side effects that have a subtly negative impact on how we approach our spiritual quest. One of these is our view of spiritual enlightenment. Many see this as a state they will reach after years of study and devotion, a time when they will live with the perpetual awareness of the wisdom of the ages and remain blissfully unperturbed when negative appearances arise.

The principles presented in The Complete Soul challenge this spiritual stereotype. Spiritual enlightenment is not a condition we find at the end of our spiritual journey; it’s a shift in values that truly marks the beginning of our spiritual journey.

I refer often to the parable of the man who discovered the buried treasure in a field, then sold his possessions so he could buy that field. This man was not enlightened after he owned the field. He was enlightened the moment he discovered the treasure. At that moment, his search for treasure ended. All his actions were then focused on possessing that which he had discovered.

You are enlightened the moment you realize you are an eternal, spiritual being who currently inhabits a physical body. You have discovered the buried treasure. Your work now is to free yourself from all previously learned falsehoods and bring the realization of your spiritual understanding to bear in every area of your life.

Implementing this truth is a progression. Coming to know it is not. When you connect with an idea you know at your very core is true, you cannot turn back. You will, of course, expand your understanding, but when you are moved by an exposure to what your soul knows is true, you are changed for life. No one can argue you off what you know is true. You are an enlightened being.

It is not wise to discuss this with others, as they will consider you arrogant. It’s nothing to brag about. You have simply reached that point in your journey where you have made a significant and permanent breakthrough. Recognize and cherish it.

Dancing Through Eternity

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“When you are tempted to think a life has been cut short, remember that every soul is dancing through eternity.”

Memorial Day is a holiday for remembering men and women who died while serving our country’s armed forces. Many use this time to remember all loved ones who have passed. It is certainly a good time to reflect on perspectives we hold on matters of life and death. In ways we may not even be aware of, our view of death impacts the way we live our life.

Recently, a woman was telling me of a family who lost their three-year-old daughter to leukemia. “I don’t understand why some lives are cut so short,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem fair.” While we are empathetic toward those who experience such a loss, we do well to consider the grander picture. We always feel the time we shared with a loved one now passed was too short. But whatever its duration, the earthly experience is temporary. The soul, momentarily tethered to a body, is not the sum of the loved one we knew in bodily form. They are experiencing life free of the blinders imposed by the physical senses. Their stay on earth may have been brief, but their life has not been cut short.

In our consideration of death, the disadvantage most of us have is that we only have memories of events connected to this incarnation. Life, as we understand it, is what happens between the bookends of birth and death. Everything beyond is unknown. Yet the one who sails over the horizon of visibility gains an insight those who remain on the shore rarely grasp. Whether they were killed in the heat of battle or silently slipped away from the quiet of their hospice bed, they would long for us to know that there is no death. They would know that if we do not grasp it now, we will discover it soon enough.

We are all dancing through eternity. The day will come when we step from this plane, but we will never step from life. Jesus reminded us that in the Father’s house there are many rooms. Earth is but one of these rooms. Hold your loved ones in the light and beauty of life and know they are doing the same with you.

The God Perspective

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In the New Testament letter of James, we find this reference to God as the, “Father of lights with whom there is no shadow or variation due to change” (James 1:17). Presenting God as changeless is a significant departure from the traditional view of a moody Deity. We so routinely ask for God’s special favors that we may not be aware our perception of the behavior of the Divine as subject to change. Could James’ changeless Father of lights bless and not bless or pass out serpents and stones when we ask for fish and bread?

It is certainly easiest to think of God in terms of our human relationships. At times, we feel close to those around us and other times it seems there is not enough distance. For some we would grant favors without question while for others, our favors come with conditions.

There is a similar dynamic in our relationship to the sun. We have sunny days, cloudy days, daylight and darkness, sunrise and sunset. Depending on how near or far earth is from the sun, we have skin-burning summer and icy cold winter. The sun, it appears, has many moods. These variations, however, have less to do with the nature of the sun and more to do with our relationship to it.

When you think from the perspective of the sun itself, you see a different picture. How many days has the sun seen? We say this closest star is roughly 4.6 billion years old. But how do we measure a year? Multiply 365 sunrises by 4.6 billion and you have more days than most of us can wrap our minds around. The sun itself has seen but a single day, and that day has stretched throughout the duration of its existence. The sun has never risen, never set, never known the cold of winter or the blackness of night. It has never seen a shadow or shivered in the dark corner of a dank cellar. There is no variation due to change.

We cannot understand God from our ever-changing human perception. We must think of God from God’s perspective. From the sun’s point of view, we can understand how there is only one condition and that condition is light. It is only as we think of God from God’s perspective that we begin to grasp the truth that there is but one Presence and one Power. There is not good and evil, not light and shadows. There is only absolute good, as in absolute light.

The light that you and I seek is here now, has always been here, and will always be here. As we commit to opening our minds and hearts to the God perspective, every shadow dissolves into the nothingness from which it came.

The Immeasurable Mind

It was Emerson who challenged his readers “ … to live with the privilege of immeasurable mind.” I’ve always loved this statement, and to the extent that I have experienced it, have understood its value.

In my most recent exploration of nonduality, I have discovered that a few teachers who promise instant illumination. A student will ask how one enters the experience of oneness and the teacher will say, “Come, let’s do it now.” So he or she takes the student through an exercise where they experience a flash of pure awareness, a momentary dropping the baggage of the self-image and proclaim, “WOW!!!” It is as if that moment marks the beginning of their new life free of all the body-based distractions and attachments. My sense, however, is that most, if not all, will once again begin collecting the baggage they dropped in that emotional moment. It seems but another version of the intoxicating, hand-raising, born-again revival. All things seem possible with a charismatic speaker and the emotionally stimulating energy of two-thousand believers.

If I accept that the soul is complete and that there are no natural barriers between where I currently stand in my awareness and a full experience of the soul, why would I be skeptical of such claims? Because short of a dramatic shift in values, a brief and emotional moment that may positively stir dormant energies does not carry the power to lift us out of the gravity of the self-image. A speaker can lay out the logic, pose many leading questions that prompt a willing submission to leave the old and strike out for the new. The listener may, for one day, three days, a week, a month or a year, take their steps down this path before they find the shimmer of the new begins to fade. It’s like buying a new pair of shoes that you really love only to find they, like the old pair, eventually take the same form of your foot. Anything we put on is subject to aging. Only the actual and perpetual experience of the soul provides the longevity of newness we crave.

Material science says that even the most brilliant of our species uses approximately ten percent of the brain’s capacity. I believe it would be more accurate to say that the brain and body greatly restrict the soul’s capacity. Imagine the situation where your soul enters a body that has no limbs, is blind, deaf and unable to speak. And then you are told that you must learn to be happy in this situation. Before entering this body, your soul is complete. In time this body will die and your soul will be freed from its physical prison. What would be gained from such an experience? If the soul remains unaffected by taking on such a body, then what’s the point of the experience? The same can be said of taking on a whole and healthy body. It’s not about increasing brain power. It’s about soul recognition.

It is clear that most spiritually-minded people see their earthly tenure either as a test or as an educational opportunity for their soul. But it makes no sense to think something will be learned by anchoring an unlimited soul to a body for eighty-five or so years and then return it to its native state of freedom. The soul is free before entering the body and it is free when it lays down the body. It does not learn this freedom from grappling with the distractions of inhabiting a body.

So, if our soul is not here to learn, what’s the point in taking on a body? To bring this question into perspective, we must first drop the notion that the body and earthly experience are some kind of testing ground for the soul. These in no way shut down the capacity of the soul. The soul already knows more than anything we can learn on earth. The earthly experience triggers a shift in our center of gravity, from the soul to the self-image. This shift in values means that we now measure our perceived spiritual progress by mental, emotional and material standards. Because our quest for happiness becomes an endless attempt to bring the self-image into a state of peace and contentment, we brand ourselves as incomplete and we spend our lives trying to fill this void.

It is the self-image, not the soul, that feels the void. If any one of us could safely drop our body at this very moment, we would be astonished to discover that we already are everything and more that we have been looking for. The soul is in perfect harmony with the music of the spheres. The distortions and distractions of the self-image do not tarnish the soul in any way. Regardless of how far from the soul we stray, we will return, either in the body or out, because the soul is our eternal and essential nature.

Is it possible to bring the fullness of our soul into this bodily experience? This is the real question. The answer depends on our understanding of where we have placed our center of gravity, our core values. It’s important to know that whether or not we make the transition of values from self-image to soul, the soul remains unscathed. Many on the spiritual path act as if they are walking a spiritual tightrope with reincarnation spread beneath them like a safety net into which they will once again likely fall. The only thing that suffers is our present quality of experience. The body does not actually shut down the capacity of the soul. It is only our shift in values that distracts us away from who and what we are at this deepest level. So yes, it is possible to bring the fullness of our soul into the bodily experience. Doing so requires the releasing of a lifetime of body-based values, a process that will likely pit us against the conventions of our cultural and spiritual training. An instantaneous shift can and does happen, but usually as the result of a significant crisis.

An important takeaway from near-death research is its demonstration of a person’s instantaneous shift in values. These are cases where the soul is momentarily released from the confines of the body, revealing the true eternal and limitless nature of the individual. Researches say that it takes a person an average of seven years to integrate this incredible revelation into their life. Many suffer extreme depression for being crammed back into the confines and pain-filled experience of a body. Most return to a life made instantly alien from only moments of rising above the gravitational pull of their body-based self-image. They find that the only community that truly shares their rediscovered, soul-centered values are fellow experiencers. Their approach to life in a body is completely changed by the revelation of who and what they truly are.

We do not need the trauma of a near-death experience, but we do likely need some significant shock to our current body-based value system. We won’t get this in an afternoon seminar whose presenter offers to take our hand and lead us into some paradise of pure awareness. They may stir our emotion, but only we have the power to change our values. And we do it to the extent that we recognize the value of doing so. Otherwise, we will likely continue to tread spiritual water till the death of the body.

The habit of trying to raise the quality of our experience using people, places and things is deeply ingrained and so habitual that we scarcely recognize that we are doing it. We’re drawn to those so-called spiritual teachings that promise more prosperity, health and harmony in relationships not realizing that we are simply attempting to pad those abrasive aspects of the body-based self-image. We long to live with privilege of immeasurable mind, and we will, either in the body or out of it. If we want to experience it in the body, then a major shift in values is required. We are not forced to make this shift, but the opportunity is here if we choose to engage the process. I think we’ll find it helpful to remember that it is the quality of our experience, not our soul, that will be the benefactor. The soul is doing just fine.

A Different View of Meditation

[excerpt from, A Spiritual Journey]

All of us have undoubtedly filled our conscious and subconscious files full of information about the various approaches to the practice of meditation. Our actual attempts at being still and knowing, therefore, may look very much like a search on our computer’s hard drive for an abstract notion that we deem an experience with God.

Setting aside our preconceptions of what it means to experience God, I suggest turning attention instead to our actual objective. Assuming that your soul is complete and accessible, your single interest is that of moving your awareness from your self-image to your soul. This transition can occur during your busy moments throughout the day and during those times you set aside specifically for this purpose.

It is important to understand that your soul is now and has always been instructing you on how to return. The spiritual homesickness you feel is your soul calling you home. It is also important to understand that you are responding to this call. Your dissatisfaction with your existing state of affairs and with that information you were given concerning spiritual matters can and should be taken as an indicator that something in you already inhabits the spiritual home for which you long. That something, of course, is your soul.

Most of us will interpret our dissatisfaction and spiritual restlessness as some form of lack that is ours to fill. Like the prodigal son in the far country, we come to ourselves and decide to return home, but we take it upon ourselves to begin devising the conditions that we believe are necessary for our successful return. The prodigal worked out the scheme of returning home as a servant in his father’s household, not only questioning his worthiness as a son, but also reasoning that life even as a servant would be better than the life he was leading now.

Among other things, this parable illustrates that our return home is unconditional. There are no natural barriers between where your self-awareness may be now and where it can be in its rightful home. One of the greatest unnatural barriers that we erect is the belief that our spiritual ignorance and immaturity are things we must overcome before we can return home. This false belief is generated by the self-image. The prodigal obviously believed his riotous living had compromised his right to return home at any level of heir privilege. It had not dawned on him that the sun shone just as brightly through his moments of ignorance and starvation as it had when he lived his relatively carefree life at home. “… for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

In building our understanding of meditation, the architectural concept of form following function may serve us well. When we understand that the function of every spiritual practice is the realignment of our self-awareness (I, ego) with the soul, then these practices take the forms that best address our understanding of this function (see Chapter 11 of The Complete Soul – Meditation Exercises). Most importantly, the practices become our forms, not those passed on by other people. When you look at a problem that you know you can solve, you will eventually find the solution. If you are struggling with meditation, it is probably because you are working from another’s definition of both the problem and the solution.

 

The Importance of Context

In these presentations, I am suggesting that you are a complete soul who has, for whatever reason, taken on the consciousness forming equipment and a physical body that allow you to interact with the material environment. That you have done this successfully is a more important acknowledgment than trying to figure out why you may have done it. Your reason for doing so, after all, may no longer be relevant.

Our primary motive behind our quest for spiritual understanding is that we are seeking a sense of context, an understanding of ourselves as an unlimited soul that has taken on the proper equipment to interface and interact with the material plane. We may clarify our motive with a statement like this:

I am a complete soul that has taken on a body and the consciousness forming equipment that allows me to interact with the material plane.

The problem is we have so identified with the virtual reality we have created that we have moved our self-awareness from our soul to this interfacing equipment. This would not be unlike the person who has become so addicted to the virtual reality of social media that they disconnect from the reality of their actual life.

Our first approach to meditation may be the simple contemplation of the idea that our soul is now complete, that the restlessness we feel is our soul calling us home. This, of course, does not fit the meditation model of sitting still, eyes closed, attention turned away from senses input, seeking an experience of some inner light that eludes us. At some point, we need to come to grips with the fact that our attempts at this approach have been frustratingly unsuccessful, and that doing more of the same will only produce more of the same results.

The reason this does not work for us is that it is not our method. We’re attempting to apply ideas that are still foreign to us, trying to understand the problem as someone else has explained it. We have not grasped its simplicity, or associated the concept of meditation with known feelings that allow us to work out our own solution.

While this suggestion may make some a bit uncomfortable, it will be to our advantage to lay aside all preconceived forms of meditation and develop our own method. We place our mind in the correct position by first getting a firm grasp on the function of meditation. What needs to happen? We want to move our self-awareness (the I) from our senses-based self-image to our soul. To do this, we need to experience the soul at some level. If we do not have some measure of experience with our soul, we will not know where we are going with any meditative practice. We’ll close our eyes and continue to grope in the dark.

To experience your soul, you first have to believe it is present and fully accessible. The simple statement, my soul is present and fully accessible, spoken frequently through the activities of your day, will begin to open the intuitive portal of your imagination. The opening of this intuitive aspect will begin utilizing the visualizing counterpart of your imagination without direction or any prompting on your part. In biblical terms, this is the Immaculate Conception, the emergence of the soul into the awareness without the aid of the intellect (Joseph). New inspiration and imagery will follow. These provide the type of experience that will ignite and direct your faculty of faith to your complete soul, and send you into productive bouts of active stillness. You may come to the same practices taught by the mystics of the ages, but you’ll do it on your own terms. This is your soul, after all.

When your self-image says to your busy mind, peace be still, the storm rages on. When your soul speaks these same words, the storm subsides. You gladly turn away from these internal distractions at the authenticity of the soul’s voice. From this point on, you will call no man on earth your father, your teacher or your guide. The training wheels come off.

To reach this point, four conditions are necessary:

  1. First, you accept the truth that your soul is complete and fully accessible.
  2. Understand that you are not your self-image. You are your soul.
  3. The only problem you face is that your self-awareness is attached to your self-image.
  4. The single purpose of all your spiritual endeavors is to move your self-awareness from your self-image to your soul.

Keep your eye single. Your motive for moving your self-awareness from your self-image to your soul has to be narrowed to the single purpose of knowing yourself as the soul that you are. If your motive is grounded in any other purpose than this –- i.e., the attainment of wealth, health, etc. – your eye is on some form of mammon and you will not be successful.

Anchoring in the Eternal

[Excerpt from my book, A Spiritual Journey]

In one of my books, I wrote about the moth and why it circles streetlights. It is believed by some who research such things that the moth uses the moon as a navigational beacon. With the advent of artificial light, the moth mistakes the streetlight for the moon. It begins with large circles around the light that gradually tighten into the frantic aerobatics we see on our night walk.

What struck me about this bit of information was the fact that we humans do very much the same thing. Our natural navigational beacon is our spiritual center, our soul that rises up from our eternal Source we know as God. We become so centered in the roles we play – careers, relationships, service organizations, etc. – that we lose our conscious contact with this deeper aspect. Like the moth, we often find ourselves rapidly circling a multitude of “light” sources that leave us feeling empty. We come to believe that our life is about the sum of these artificial lights. While we go through periods where these various centers of interest are satisfying, none can provide the permanent anchor we crave and we find ourselves flying in tight and meaningless circles.

To re-establish the moon as our true beacon, so to speak, it is necessary to go out into open country, away from the city lights. That is, we take time to lay down our roles and all issues that surround our involvement with them, and simply allow ourselves to be. I find that when internal pressure is building, when my thought and emotion is invested in resolving the many issues that rise in my own city of lights, it is always because I have lost my center. I am flying around streetlights. My life has become an endless process of resolving problem after problem in an artificial world. There is little in the way of true satisfaction, little in the act of circling the streetlight that is peace enhancing, regardless of how bright and promising it is. Only the true light that “lighteth every man” gives us the inner peace we seek.

Anytime we seek fulfillment in the roles we play, we are putting impossible expectations on these roles. We cannot draw from them what we are looking for. Many try to convince the world that this is possible, that they are spiritually enlightened because they were ordained, or they are at peace because they are wealthy, or that they are prosperous because their kids are in the right schools. We can only draw what we are looking for from our inner depths. To make the role meaningful, we bring to it the healing balance we find within. If we never venture into our depths, then this inner disconnect will send us flying from streetlight to streetlight, from role to role, accomplishment to accomplishment, circling, hoping we can take away from these the satisfaction we can only find within.

We’re all in this world but not a single one of us is of it. Try as we may, we cannot draw our true being from any source outside of ourselves. Attempting to do so leaves us flying in unsatisfying circles. The resulting unrest can be our signal to momentarily leave the city, let it all go for a time and reconnect with that true beacon, that eternal anchor that we are when we allow ourselves to be free of the roles we play.

Event Versus Experience

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

I am sometimes asked how I can say on one hand that the soul is complete, and on the other hand acknowledge the challenges of the human condition. Are not these challenges evidence of a partially evolved soul? And will not the human condition as a whole be vastly improved when we finally reach the tipping point in our evolutionary process, where the lion lays down with the lamb, the hundred and first monkey begins reproducing and a new age marked by world peace finally begins?

If we ask whether Jesus was a highly evolved soul, the vast majority of the New Thought community would likely agree that he was. What this same group may ignore is that the Gospel accounts tell us that from the moment of his birth to his death, Jesus lived in the swirl of controversy that culminated in his crucifixion. As the designated Lamb of God, he left in his wake a string of carnivorous lions that threatened him throughout his life. Would we not expect a highly evolved soul would demonstrate a peaceful and prosperous life free of contention?

What we may not consider is that our Gospel accounts represent an evangelical interpretation of a series of events that, strung together like beads, present a snapshot of the life of Jesus. Virtually nothing is known of how Jesus actually experienced these events. Unlike Paul, we have no letters expressing feelings and viewpoints that would have been important to him. Considering some of his sayings, it would appear that Jesus did not equate the character of events with the quality of internal experience. The tribulation that occurred in his external world did not seem to be the yardstick by which he measured his own inner experience of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

Failure to discern the difference between events and experience is, I believe, a significant contributor to the conscious disconnect we have with our own wholeness. Our “eye” is indeed single, but it is turned on events. We are like a person with a telescope pointed to the ground and asking, Where are the stars?

Few of us in New Thought have trouble with the idea of a spiritual body that we conceive as maintaining its wholeness even when the physical body displays episodes of illness. One healing technique is to mentally and emotionally lay hold of this spiritual body and see it manifesting throughout our physical body. In the best way we know, we take our attention away from the event of physical illness and place it on the wholeness of the spiritual body until we experience this wholeness shining forth through the physical. We may be distracted by pain and other significant inconveniences, but we slowly move the telescope of our attention from this terrestrial event of physical limitation to the heavenly experience of the vast universe.

Spiritual teachers of all time have warned against determining what is true by looking to appearances and events. To look at the turmoil in one’s life and determine that its presence is the result of spiritual inadequacy is a false judgment that forever keeps us locked into an event-oriented measure of spiritual progress. This is like looking out the window on a rainy day and thinking we are in some way responsible for the sun not shining. Despite the presence of clouds, the sun still shines. The event of rain has nothing to do with the behavior of the sun. Nor does it have anything to do with the constitution of our consciousness. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. It’s how we choose to experience the rain that makes the difference for us. If we see the clouds and the rain as effects of our inadequate understanding, then inclement weather will always serve to remind us that we have some evolving to do. If, on the other hand, we know the sun shines regardless of whether or not it rains, and that we have absolutely nothing to do with how weather systems play out, then we are free of this impossible burden. Even when we turn our telescope to the stars and see nothing but clouds, we still know the stars have not gone away. The event of a cloud cover does nothing to alter our conviction that the star-studded sky remains.

It is the dominating belief in the power of events that keeps us from experiencing the completeness of our soul. It is easier to believe in the advanced state of a Jesus, or the advanced soul of one of our favorite authors than it is to believe in ourselves. We turn our attention to these people, strip them of their life’s events and imagine that their superior understanding has allowed them to navigate through this life in ways of which we can only dream. Our experience may seem anything but divine, so we look to others with the hope of learning how they did it so we may do it as well. Regardless of how pristine an experience another may have had, looking to them for spiritual help is looking in the wrong direction. We have turned our telescope to the earth. Not a single spiritual teacher worth his or her salt ever said, Turn your telescope toward me. To the contrary, all have said, that which you are seeking is within you. Do not judge your spiritual status by the events transpiring around you. Do not compare yourself with me. Connect with your own completeness, your advocate, your comforter, your Christ. Love the lord your God.

In this way alone, you find the peace for your restless soul that longs to step forward into the full field of your vision, your understanding of yourself. Events are things that happen. Experience is the way you choose to relate to events. You do not change your experience by changing events. You change your experience by knowing the truth of your completeness.

The Body is a Choice

[excerpt from The Complete Soul]

I want to close this chapter by sharing a few thoughts on the idea that we incarnated by choice, that we did so with the full understanding of the limitations and drawbacks involved. By this, I do not mean we knew we would have abusive parents, or that we would suffer some handicap, or that we chose these or other issues for the lessons our soul needed. I realize some people draw comfort, even closure from this idea. Like many in my profession, I once embraced this theory as a way of helping others make sense of difficult experiences. Now I see this as an unnecessary spinoff of the evolutionary model. The idea of the complete soul offers a more spiritually productive, logical, and fulfilling perspective. From this starting point, logic dictates that further incarnations, with whatever experiences they hold, will not make the soul more complete. A full pail, after all, can hold no more water.

Someone will ask, if our soul did not come for the lessons life has to offer, then why would we go to the trouble of incarnating? I’ve given this question a lot of thought over the years, and I believe the answer is a lot less complicated than the evolving soul model allows. For reasons of our choosing, we came simply because we wanted to be here. Getting here meant we needed a vehicle, a way to bring our soul from the spiritual to the material plane. The most efficient way of doing this is through a body.

Saying the body is the most efficient way of bringing the soul into expression doesn’t mean that our experience of incarnating has been perfect. Stepping into the body vehicle made us susceptible to rough roads and all kinds of foul weather, so much so that the bulk of our attention has gone to the maintenance needs of the body vehicle and its journey, while the soul, in a sense, remains nearly unnoticed in the cargo hold.

A major pitfall of the evolving soul model is that it makes the spiritual experience about the vehicle, its journey, and the belief that we will one day arrive at some special destination on this earthly sojourn. The truth is we have arrived. We’ve been so busy looking for specific conditions on this planet that we have forgotten that earth itself is our destination. We didn’t come to experience life from the cab of this delivery truck, driving endlessly from one place to another, looking for the right location to offload and unpack our cargo. We came here to experience life from our soul, right here and right now, using this body vehicle as our means of being here.

I said earlier that we are here for reasons of our choosing. We may doubt this because, unlike picking last year’s vacation spot, we have no clear memory of making such a decision. This memory is there, however, embedded in those things that truly interest and come most natural to us. These things do not boost our egos, advance our positions, or make us feel powerful. These are the things we quietly and reverently give our time and attention to without pay, persuasion, or recognition.

I see in the process of writing books some useful parallels that may help shed light on our reasons for incarnating. People write books for all kinds of reasons. Some write for sheer entertainment, others for educational purposes. Still others combine education with entertainment. I write because I want to share ideas that I think are important and will be of value to my readers. Sharing these ideas requires a way of doing that and the book is my vehicle of choice. Writing a book is fraught with challenges. It involves embodying inspired ideas in words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that create a cohesive presentation one can read on a bus.

In the beginning of this section, I said we incarnated by choice, and that we did so with the full understanding of the limitations and drawbacks involved. I say this in the context similar to that of writing a book. When I made the decision to undertake this project, I knew from previous experience the nature of the challenges involved. Ideas often come in a flash and I can jot them down with relative ease. Including them in the context of a book is another matter. This can take hours, days, weeks, even months to accomplish. I have spent days working on a single paragraph only to delete it later. What comes quite easy on one level, is not so easy to express on another.

If we think of the soul as a set of ideas and the body as the book (our means of literally publishing the soul to the world), then we see the challenges we encounter in this incarnating/publishing process have little if anything to do with the soul itself. The ideas I want to convey through a book are largely unaffected by my struggle to convey them.

It is our associations of soul with body (our body-based self-image) that make our body-oriented challenges feel so personal. We mistakenly associate these challenges with the condition of our soul, but a clear understanding of the difference spares us this unneeded stress. Having great ideas is not the same as having the ability to put them in writing. This is where the work comes in.

If, as I have suggested, you were unfortunate enough to have had the experience of abusive parents, you may have made the mistake of interpreting this situation as something your soul needed to learn from these people. Dysfunctional, abusive people have little or nothing to teach our soul. Assigning them the role of teacher is often an attempt to put a positive spin on destructive behavior we struggle to forgive, a willingness to blame ourselves so we can let them off the hook and move on. Genuine forgiveness, however, has nothing to do with making peace with the actions of another. Forgiveness occurs when we touch our own wholeness and realize that the power and soul integrity we thought they took from us has remained with us all along. They may indeed provide the catalyst that causes us to look deeper into our soul, but what we find is nothing they brought. Nor does their negative influence have the power to detract from our real purpose for incarnating. We did not need their negativity to enrich or advance our soul. If we are giving people and various conditions this kind of power, we ourselves are obscuring our purpose for incarnating. We’re experiencing writer’s block, so to speak, staring blankly out the window, hung up on some writing issue, while our book goes unpublished.

The specific issues we encountered by taking on a body were, in all likelihood, unknown to us. Our soul did not choose them for the growth opportunities they might offer. On the other hand, fully aware of our soul’s completeness, we understood there would indeed be challenges associated with temporarily tethering this vast, nonlocalized essence we call our soul to a vehicle subject to the restrictive laws of time, space, and gravity. We are not here to work our way through the school of soul development, or to pay some karmic debt. We have incarnated for reasons similar to those I have agreed to take on when writing books: I do it because I want to.

You and I are here because we made the choice to be here.

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.