Making The Two One

“I’m confused. You say there is a difference between the soul and the self-image, but I’m not sure I understand this. Aren’t they one and the same?”

This comment was made in a recent conversation I had with a person who had just finished listening to my talk, The Truth About The Law of Attraction.  I explained the difference in this way:

Imagine a retail clothier with a store full of inferior merchandise that no one is interested in. They hire an advertising firm who assures the retailer they have a technique that will get potential customers into their store. The advertiser suggests revamping their window display with a level of merchandise that equals the type customer the store owner wishes to draw. Excited at the prospect of attracting new customers, the store owner orders some finer garments to create a phenomenal window dressing. It works! People begin pouring into the store. The money the retailer spent on the advertiser pays off.

Or does it? Once the would-be customer enters the store, they encounter a problem. The racks and shelves are filled with the same inferior merchandise they rejected in the past. They leave without buying anything.

Emphasizing the law of attraction, the New Thought/New Age hawkers of success and prosperity through positive thinking and visualization place their focus on the window dressing of the self-image. They know little or nothing about actually filling the store with quality merchandise. Their specialty lies in generating responses from the surface level of life. It’s these hawkers of success, not the actual merchants (you and me), that leave with their pockets full of cash. And because there is no shortage of people looking for a quick pass into the kingdom, the hawkers do quite well.

Tapping the authenticity of the soul becomes the primary focus of one who is genuinely interested in building a successful life from the inside out, the bedrock of the soul. This is the law of expression: first fill the store with quality merchandise. When the display window (self-image, personality, ego) reflects the actual content of the store (soul), when these two become one, then the world knows what it will get when it walks through the door. No one is fooled. No one is disappointed.

Those who are looking for that magical formula for instant success will not do what it takes to fill their store with quality merchandise. They won’t sell all their junk to buy even a small quantity of authenticity. Such small beginnings have no appeal. They’re only interested in the window dressing that will trick the world into thinking they are something other than they really are. Isn’t this the whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones that Jesus was talking about? And, he wasn’t just talking about Pharisees; he was talking about the Pharisee within us all.

The law of expression comes first. Fill the store with quality merchandise. Seek first the kingdom. Engage the soul. The law of attraction, then, is the natural effect. Your window dressing – what the world sees – exactly represents your store’s content. You attract that which is in harmony with who you are. No trickery needed.

When Your Life Falls Apart

While I am reluctant to offer any firm definitions of God, I am perfectly comfortable describing four characteristics of God that I, and many before me, have come to recognize. These characteristics, or fundamentals, are life, love, power and intelligence. Of these four, I have had the greatest difficulty understanding the role or function of love.

I had no trouble stating that God is love and, therefore, loving, but this imagery always suggested the big parent in the sky caring for and watching over his children. It is relatively easy to draw some comfort from such an image, especially in those moments when life seems to be falling apart. The feeling that God loves and cares enough for me to guide me safely through my trying times was assuring. Still, it left me wondering why a loving God would allow me have such experiences in the first place.

I have since come to the understanding of love as that aspect of God that paves the way for the soul’s freer expression through the material plane. Its work is two-fold. Love dissolves all hindrances to the expression of the soul and it attracts those conditions that allow for the freest expression of the soul, our true self. This dissolving and attracting action is internal, but its effects ripple through every aspect of our material experience.

To understand this, we have to take our attention away from external conditions and focus on the internal process that influences the way our life seems to be going. The soul, though presently in a complete and unhindered state of freedom, is not expressing this freedom through much of our daily experience. Most people could furnish a lengthy list of reasons why this is true, all of which would have to do with flawed conditions. I would be happier if I could get out of this job or this unsatisfying relationship or if I could just make more money.

It is this act of externalizing the source of our problems that has given rise to an increased interest in the so-called law of attraction. If you visualize the better job, the perfect soul mate or the boatload of money that will make you happy, you will surely draw these things and your life will be wonderful. In truth, this practice does little more than feed our addiction to a low-level form of spiritual alchemy. With a slight change in our thinking, a restatement of intention or an easy shift into an attitude of allowing, we hope to magically turn the base-metal of our experience into the gold of happiness, peace and abundance. From the basis of spiritual development, this practice would be better described as the law of distraction.

The fatal flaw in this practice is its attempt to protect and bolster the self-image. All fear and all feelings of lack originate at the level of this manufactured self-image, this senses-based self-portrait that Paul referred to as the carnal mind or mind of the flesh. The dissolving work of love does not focus on the bad relationship, the unsatisfying job or the shortage of cash. It focuses on the self-image that is responsible for casting these negative shadows over the landscape of our external experience. Likewise, the attracting work of love does not take place in the realm of people, places and things but at the soul level. The soul is the fulfillment we seek. The more of the soul’s light that shines in and through us, the more attractive we are to conditions best suited for our soul’s expression. In other words, our life becomes on earth as it is in heaven.

When our life appears to be falling apart, our knee-jerk response is to do everything within our power to pull it all back together. What we cannot do on our own, we call upon God to do for us. This usually involves a kind of spiritual bartering of promises to do things for God if God will just get us through this mess. But here’s the thing. The very mess we are are experiencing can likely be traced to the inadequate self-image. The answers we seek are actually our attempts to protect the many weaknesses of this straw man that we have created. We are not calling upon God to actually help us. We are calling upon God to help protect the weakness of this self that is responsible for generating the problem.

Love, therefore, does not work to dissolve the many problems of this self. Love works to dissolve the very self that is praying for help. Its attracting aspect is to broaden our awareness to the truth of the soul, to prompt us to the revelation that I am not this frightened self-image, I am this eternal, God-sustained soul.

Our fears provide a spotlight on the self-image. If we follow them to their core, we find they always represent our attempts to protect the weakness of the self-image. When you understand your soul as light, you can see that your self-image is an unnatural object that blocks this light and casts that shadow you see stretching through your life. Try as you may, you find there is nothing outside of yourself that will fill in the darkness created by this shadow. Only the removal of its cause—the self-image—will remove the shadow.

Follow the spotlight of your fear and you will find the self-image cowering in prayer, begging God to remove the thing that is upsetting its little kingdom and making it miserable. When you call upon love, you must be willing to let love do its perfect work. It will not focus on dissolving the many things you fear. It will focus on the self-image that is doing the fearing, that very one you are striving to protect. As this shadow-casting self-image weakens and dissolves, the attracting light of your soul’s authenticity shines through.

This is what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the need to be born again. The ritual of baptism is the symbol for this new birth. One goes down into the water as one thing and emerges as another. This describes a shift in our awareness from a frail self-image to an eternal soul.

Think of the problems you now face as a kind of baptism. You enter them as one thing and you emerge from them another. If approached in this way, your troubles become a kind of holy water that will cleanse you, not of the things you fear, but of fear itself. Love is the baptizer. In its safe embrace you surrender to its submerging you beyond the realm of your worst nightmares and to bring you safely up into a world made new.

Your life may indeed be falling apart, but only because it is falling together. Let the negative appearance remind you that love is doing its perfect work in you now.