Listen to Yourself

[From, A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living]

Typically, each one of us receives a significant amount of input from friends and family members as to how we should go about improving our lives. These well-meaning people may even suggest that you study and practice the ideas in a book like this to get what you want. In an attempt to honor a friendship or show respect to a family member, you may find yourself acting on ideas that are not genuinely yours.

If it is not your idea, if you are doing a thing to please or appease another, you will not put your heart into it. You have to know the value of the course of action you take or you will abandon it. Yes, you will get good ideas from others, but these ideas must become yours if you are to ignite them with the fire of enthusiasm required to bring them into full manifestation.

The same holds true with your own attitude. You may say to yourself, “I’m supposed to be positive, so I should be able to do anything.” If this is your approach, you do not yet own the attitude it suggests. You simply can’t make the kinds of internal and external changes that are required because you think you are supposed to, or because you are trying to be positive. You can only make these kinds of changes when you, in your own way, come to know the value of doing it.

Consider all input, but remain centered in what your deepest, most natural inclinations are telling you. It is better to be slow to act than it is to attempt to make changes in your life based on inspiration that is not genuinely your own.

The Love Enigma

A crowning moment in my spiritual career consisted of several minutes of a breakthrough into an experience that I can only describe as absolute, unconditional love. I not only felt completely loved and embraced by God, I also felt so lifted that I could truly love this world and everyone in it, without reservation. My sole desire in those few minutes was to share with all the experience I was having.

It felt as if this high would never leave. But it did begin to fade, leaving me with a deep sense of abandonment. Why was it so difficult to remain in this state of absolute freedom and compassion? It was as natural and as easy as breathing. Yet I could not seem to climb back into that high place no matter how hard I tried.

In our spiritual studies, we often hear that we are to love our neighbor. From my momentary vantage point of unconditional love, I totally understand what this means. When you experience complete inner freedom, radiating love that encompasses all with no strings attached is a natural and effortless response. Trying to love because we are supposed to, however, is a very different matter.

When we try to love, we are coming from a manufactured aspect of our self-image. We think of love as a limited commodity that we have, and it’s a tremendous effort to give it to certain kinds of people and their behavior. The result is that we pretend to love because that’s what we’re supposed to do. This pretense is often accompanied with resentment. It’s a conditional love that expects something in return. If we love them, they’ll change. If we love them, we’ll change. If we love them enough, they’ll go away and leave us in peace.

Unconditional love does not look for such rewards, for it is itself the reward. It does not look for positive responses or reactions from others for these are not the requirements of spiritual freedom. The soul is absolutely free, but each of us has encased ourselves in a body-based self-image that must have things just so to remain at peace. When we try to love from this place, we are, in effect, attempting to use love as a way of protecting a weakness, a chink in the armor of the relatively fragile self-image. In reality, the soul has no weaknesses. Nothing and no one can threaten it because the soul is eternal and indestructible.

We have been convinced that our soul has incarnated in this body to learn lessons. While I once endorsed this belief, I have come to realize that this is an absolutely false premise. There is but one lesson to learn: You and I are not the self-image we are trying to advance and protect. We are the soul. Loving our neighbor is not a mandate that we are to practice and eventually learn. Loving our neighbor is a prophesy. It is the thing we do without effort or condition when we understand that we are not this body-based self-image that we are propping up. We are the soul, the spiritual bedrock that lies beneath the ever-shifting sands of the self-image.

Love is not a thing we do. It is what we are. This is why I have reached the understanding that love draws to us that which is for our highest good and dissolves that which is not. Our highest good is the experience of the soul. That which is not for our highest good is any belief that we are something less than the soul. Illuminating breakthroughs show us the difference. To think we have to earn the right, that we have to learn a slew of lessons before we can graduate into a direct experience of the soul is one of the primary false beliefs that love is now dissolving.

We’ve shifted our core identity from our soul to our body, but this does not mean we have to spend a lifetime (or many lifetimes) in a body to rectify this error. The belief that we are here to learn means that we are here because we have to be. The understanding that we are a soul that is complete and free now puts us in a mindset that allows love to do its perfect work. It is only from this place that we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves. We’re here by choice. We’re here because we want to be. Love draws to us the understanding of our completeness and dissolves the false notion that we have much work to do.

The self-image tries to love. The soul is love. When Jesus pointed out that laying down one’s life for another was the greatest example of love in action, I believe he was referring to the act of letting go of the self-image and all of its many problems, and letting the light of the soul shine forth. We are not givers of the love we have. We are love itself.

My Own Journey

[Excerpt from The Complete Soul]

“One drop of water taken from the ocean is just as perfect ocean water as the whole great body. The constituent elements of water are exactly the same, and they are combined in precisely the same ratio or perfect relation to each other, whether we consider one drop, a pail full, a barrel full, or the entire ocean out of which the lesser quantities are taken; each is complete in itself; they differ only in quantity or degree. Each contains the whole; and yet no one would make the mistake of supposing from this statement that each drop is the entire ocean.” —Emilie Cady

I was sixteen when I first read Cady’s analogy. On that day, a light came on that has never gone off. She helped me understand that my spiritual essence, like water taken from the ocean, could be the same as the water in the ocean itself. I understood that I was not the whole of God, but I was beginning to make that all-important connection of oneness between God and myself.

Jesus, on the other hand, posed a different challenge. I understood how he, with a perfectly clear conscience, could shock his listeners with the highly charged claim that if they had known him, they had known the Father. I grasped how he could be in the Father and the Father in him, but the Father was greater. If the water in the pail could speak of the ocean, could it not make the same statement? I could believe Jesus himself when he said the works he did, others could do as well, and even greater works.

The issue I had was not in the claims Jesus made for himself and others. My growing discomfort was with those claims others made about him. I understood the logic of using Jesus as our primary example, our Wayshower, a clear illustration of what we can and must become. In him, we had a trustworthy standard of morality, sound spiritual logic by which we could measure and be measured. What would this very old, highly evolved soul have to say about our handling of that difficult neighbor, or that church dispute, or that beggar on the street? What would he think, say, and do if he were in our place? More importantly, what should I think, say, and do to become more like this worker of miracles who healed the sick, fed the multitudes, forgave his enemies, walked on water, calmed angry seas, and transformed his own dead flesh into shining immortality?

Where did this view of our Wayshower come from? Was Jesus really all of these things, or could this super-human portrayal simply represent a composite of old world Christian evangelicals and over-zealous modern metaphysicians? Wherever it came from, I was beginning to realize that this larger-than-life status assigned to him was completely inaccessible. If we are to believe testimony from the Gospels themselves, the most enthusiastic response to Jesus and his teachings came from the common people. Is it not possible that this Wayshower had a more down to earth understanding of our spiritual objectives?

I had no reason to doubt my spiritual teacher’s portrayal of Jesus as the prime example for the rest of us still struggling to master the tyrannical desires of body and mind. I could accept in theory that my essence was the same as his, that every spiritual lesson learned, every obstacle overcome added more drops to my pail. Still, Jesus and I remained light-years apart. He was not merely in another league; he was in a league of his own.

At times, I seemed to be making spiritual progress. Other times, I felt as if mine was a leaking pail, a broken cistern, as Jeremiah put it, that could hold no water. Overall, I moved forward with the faith that, despite this vast gulf between where I was and where I needed to be, I was making a net gain. My evolving soul, though advancing at a glacial pace, was indeed edging forward. Even with that little voice from somewhere in the back seat of my mind constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” I continued plodding away knowing that this sense of urgency would one day be satisfied. If God was in no hurry, why should I be?

Yet this little voice would not be silenced. It did not grow quieter but louder, asking other questions that a mere further mustering of more patience would not appease. I seemed to find significant challenges to the evolving soul model from Jesus himself. In one very short parable he explained that the kingdom of heaven was like a treasure hidden in a field. A man happened by, discovered the treasure, covered it again, and in his joy sold everything he owned to buy that field. The man’s ability to purchase it did not hinge on a preordained time-line that evolving souls must follow. The speed by which he acquired that field depended only on his willingness to let go of his present possessions.

In my first book, A Practical Guide to Meditation and Prayer, I related this parable to my own spiritual awakening:

One of the turning points in my spiritual career came during a time of deep frustration. I remember waking up one morning feeling spiritually empty (as I had for some time), so I picked up a book by Charles Fillmore and began to read. Beautiful as the words on those pages were, their effect was mocking and antagonizing instead of uplifting. I wanted to be what those words described but it seemed the harder I tried the emptier I felt inside. In a moment of anger, I threw the book down and said to God, “If You want me to learn all this stuff, then You’re going to have to show me, because I’m tired of trying to do it all myself!”

There was no reply. All day I felt mad at God for giving me a vision that seemed impossible to reach. That night I was getting ready for bed and a strange thing happened. I was sitting on the edge of the bed when something in my mind suddenly opened and I could perceive a grand scheme. Everything was beautiful and in its proper place. Deep waves of love and the feeling of total acceptance rushed through me. I felt a level of contentment with myself and my surroundings that I have never felt. I could see the infinite nature of all things, animate and inanimate and it was wondrous. A knowing came to me that said, “Do not be concerned about your life, for there is a plan for you.” I felt this message was not to me alone but to all who could receive it. In tears and total release I whispered, “Let it be that others can see what I am seeing now.”

With such an incredibly high experience and the numerous aftershocks that followed, it was inconceivable that I would ever leave the beauty of this absolute love and step again into the shallow domain of illusion and half-truths generated by the senses. Yet the world called and the dazzle of illumination grew dim. This was the disappointment of waking from a satisfying dream to a hot, humid night, the lonely chirp of a cricket the stark reminder of my attachment to mundane existence.

The experience left me with the impractical knowledge that the thing everyone is looking for in churches, careers, relationships, money, power, books, sex, drugs, food, sports, movies, and countless other places, I had found in those few spiritually lucid moments. My restless self had briefly settled in peaceful repose on its eternal foundation.

In the years that followed, however, I often felt that revelation was more a curse than a blessing. It set me apart, instilled a kind of aloneness that made me question if I really belonged on this planet. I’d stumbled on the hidden treasure, but I did not want to lay it back in the ground, cover it, or go and sell all other possessions to buy the field. I wanted to lift it from the earth and hold it forever, a response that I am sure would be normal to anyone. I was the near-death experiencer who did not want to return to the body but was told, “It’s not your time. You have to go back.” The kingdom I had briefly experienced was not of this world. I had peered through a hole in the fence of a gated community I could not enter. Having seen this great wealth and beauty, returning to the plain streets of my world was enormously frustrating.

These few moments of lifting the veil and experiencing a profoundly beautiful cosmic awareness ultimately set me on the path to ministry. My message, fueled only by my experience of God, would center on God as a living presence whose existence I could not deny. Never in my young life had I felt so complete or so supported by the everlasting arms of love that sustained my very existence, all without condition or price. I had no major healing to talk about, no rags-to-riches story I could hold out to the world as proof of my life-altering revelation. Despite this handicap, I could not deny the permanent impact this elusive treasure had on me. I knew my highest service would be that of telling others they too had their own inner field, their own hidden treasure. I took the formal steps of entering the Unity ministry to become a champion of those who, like me, had been called from that far country of life-at-the-surface and were making their way back to their true spiritual home.

For much of my ministerial career, I maintained the evolving soul model as the most workable and practical. I wandered in and out of the awareness of absolute love, sometimes feeling very much at home in God, and other times out again on yet another hopeful venture into some new far country. Why not just stay home? Why repeat this prodigal eating of husks when I knew the advantages of staying home? Why, like Paul, do I “… not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate?”
The best answer seemed to be the partially filled pail theory, the notion of the evolving soul. Though I was beginning to regard this idea with increasing skepticism, my pail was obviously not full. Mine was an immature soul, an adolescent doing what adolescents do. I was leaving home in high moments of strength and self-assurance, and returning when that strength waned, and fear and insecurity drove me into repentant humility. I could envision a day of coming home and staying home, but apparently I was not spiritually mature enough to settle into my true, God-given estate. I was an evolving though impatient soul not yet seasoned with the sweet stability of maturity.

Still, I could not forget the sheer completeness I had felt in those fleeting moments of absolute knowing. There was no question that the water in my pail was drawn from that cosmic ocean we call God. I could not shake the growing suspicion that my pail was already full.

Then, a slight shift in my understanding of the hidden treasure occurred to me. My wife and I were relaxing at a friend’s cabin in Colorado when it suddenly dawned on me that the treasure was not a partially filled pail, a potential to be developed, but one whose current value exceeded all else the man owned. I realized that this parable was a metaphor depicting the soul (hidden treasure) whose full value is already established.

I had thought of myself as having repeatedly left this field because I was spiritually immature. But the man did not leave for this reason. Quite the opposite, he left because he was mature enough to recognize the value of the treasure. Like me, he had found what he was looking for. He had stopped trying to acquire more things and was divesting himself of everything that was of lesser value than this treasure. I realized this was exactly what I was doing. My eye had become single, my choice between God and mammon clear. I wasn’t leaving the field, as I supposed, for the adolescent purpose of squandering or acquiring something more. Like the man, I left to unburden myself of things of lesser value, that I may buy that field. In my own way, I was moving my self-awareness from a pail-centered self-image to its true ocean-water foundation, the soul.

The revelation did not stop there. I began to realize that if you draw one pail of water from the ocean today and another in a year from now, the age of the water in each pail is still the same. Likewise, one soul, regardless of when or how many times it has incarnated, is no more advanced than another. As with the water in the pail, the clock we think is ticking in regard to the soul is relative only to time spent in a body. The soul, like water, neither ages nor matures.

What I had gradually begun to suspect was now blossoming into a full-blown realization: The premise of an evolving soul, as logical as it seemed at one point in my understanding, was wrong. I could now see the soul is complete, has always been complete, and years devoted to further spiritual study would make it no more complete. The spiritual problem that confronts us is not the result of soul immaturity. The problem lies in what we mean when we speak the pronoun I. Thus far, we have associated it almost exclusively with the pail, the self-image. The I must be understood as a reference to the water, the soul.

My pail, I began to realize, is indeed full, my soul eternally complete. As an individualized projection of God, created in the image and after the likeness of God, it cannot be otherwise. My essence, my foundation of being is as equal in composition to God as the composition of the water in the pail is equal to that of the ocean. As Jesus put it, the harvest (soul completion) is not four months, four lifetimes, or four-hundred lifetimes away. This field is already ripe for harvest. Everything is in place right now. The truth that sets us free is present, accessible, and will never be more so than it is at this moment.

I was beginning to see that from the instant I stumbled upon my own treasure, I had been undergoing a major shift in values. I was not aware of it at the time, but I had begun selling those possessions that were preventing me from embracing the truth of my soul. Though I am still sorting through inconsistencies in self-perceptions and beliefs about the world, I have come to accept that we are not here to convince the world we are something other than that which we are at our sincerest, most authentic level. If we express qualities the world deems great, it is not because we have labored hard to manufacture these. We express them because we are simply doing what comes most natural. We made the choice to be here, to give expression to our soul, to give it a face, a voice, and a way to interact in the world that is ours and ours alone.

This is why, in this book, I am placing emphasis on experiencing the soul rather than knowing God. It’s not that knowing God is unimportant, but I choose to follow Jesus’ premise that if you have known me [the soul], you have known the Father [the soul’s source]. Studying a single pail of ocean water is not nearly as intimidating as studying the entire ocean. Yet following this analogy, understanding of the composition of the water in the pail is equivalent to understanding the composition of the water in the entire ocean. When you experience your soul, you experience God.

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.

The Forgotten Son

Question: You often refer to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) but you don’t say much about the elder brother who stayed at home. What about this part of the story?

In my opinion, this parable embodies the entire scope of Jesus’ teaching concerning the state of the soul. I refer most to the younger son who squandered his inheritance on riotous living in the far country because most of us can easily relate to this character. We’ve all felt alone and far from home. We know fear and we know suffering and I think we instinctively know these conditions are the result of poor choices attributed to spiritual ignorance.

The figure of the elder son does indeed have much to tell us. In the parable, we see the unwavering constant is the father and his household. If we think of this figure as the soul and its divine environment, the very different roles of the two sons comes into focus. Both sons suffered, but for completely different reasons. The younger, the prodigal, suffered deprivation and fear. The elder suffered self-righteous anger and self-pity. The younger suffered for breaking all the rules. The elder suffered because he felt unrewarded for keeping all the rules.

The father, addressing his elder son, pointed out that there is but one rule: “All that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). This rule is not changed because we stray. Nor does it change because we do all the right things. We do not harm or enhance the condition of the soul based on merit. Our understanding fluctuates, but the soul’s condition of completeness does not. We suffer from the false perceptions triggered by these fluctuations in understanding.

The two sons represent two kinds of attitudes. The elder son is the belief that if we walk the straight and narrow and learn all the lessons the soul needs to learn, we will be rewarded. Those who embrace the concept of reincarnation usually do so as another chance to get it right. What are we supposed to get right? To follow the rules perfectly and experience full illumination. But as Jesus has his father character point out, all that is mine is yours already. You don’t have to earn what is already yours.

Both mainstream and alternative Christianity place us in the far country. Those who embrace scriptural literalism insist Adam and Eve’s transgression put us there. We’re born in sin and we have to earn the right to get back into Heaven’s garden. The alternative approach essentially blames soul immaturity. Our return to the garden depends on lessons learned. With this parable, Jesus clearly contradicts both narratives. The prodigal did not have to earn the right to return home. He did not have to earn his father’s love and acceptance. Nor was the elder brother’s rule-abiding behavior a key factor in keeping him in his father’s good graces. This brother’s good behavior had no bearing whatsoever on the father’s unconditional love for him.

Those who teach that their way, their interpretation of the rules of salvation is the only way could learn much from both points. In one sense, our soul’s taking on a physical body has placed us in a far country. Our daily operating consciousness has shifted from a soul-based understanding of who we are to a body-based self-image that believes we are separate from God. The hardships brought on by this forgetting in no way diminish the condition of the soul. If we do not realize this while in the body, we see it the moment we drop it. The trick is to come to remember it while in the body.

I believe we never intended to forget our spiritual identity while in this physical incarnation. But with the bulk of our attention focused on the needs of the body, how could we not forget? This is a universal problem shared by all cultures throughout the ages. At its best, religion reminds us of this spiritual core we have forgotten. At its worst, religion reinforces and capitalizes on the problem of perceived separation by erecting a theological toll booth through which we must pass to regain our oneness. This is the elder son. Abide by the rules and you’ll be rewarded. Jesus, I believe, is debunking this myth.

I have forsaken the belief that we are required to return until we live a full human lifespan without losing our spiritual anchor. For me, the message of Jesus’ parable is this: Your self-righteous piety won’t earn you points that you already have. And even if you totally blow it in this life, you are still an expression of God, and all that God has is and will always be yours. 

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.

Are We Here To Learn?

Earth is a school and we are here to learn.

Of all the arguments I’ve heard attempting to counter the notion that our soul is now complete, this is by far the most common. As a recovering soul evolutionist, I understand the argument. I believed for years that our struggles — from accidents to serious illnesses — came with a lesson we needed to learn and advance our soul’s evolutionary process.

I think most rational people agree that we can learn from our mistakes. But suppose someone blindfolds you and sends you into a field full of pits, bogs, fences, fires, spikes, and other hazardous obstacles. After experiencing a series of unpleasant encounters, they lift your blindfold and ask what you learned from all this hardship. Fire burns, spikes hurt, pits are frightening, and bogs cause tremendous struggle. Okay. So they blindfold you again and send you back into the field to apply your new understanding. Does this knowledge keep you from repeating the same, pain-inflicting mistakes? No. You will continue to repeat them until you take off the blindfold.

What is this blindfold? Simply stated, it’s the belief that some day in the future we will be more spiritually complete than we are right now. If we lift this blindfold, we walk through the field unharmed. The knowledge we gain while blindfolded has no value to those who reject the belief that spiritual fulfillment is a hope of the future.

Another consideration that raises doubts about the schoolhouse theory is the question so often posed: What about the Hitlers of the world? Are we to imagine they chose such destructive, hateful, and harmful paths because their soul’s had certain lessons to learn, and this learning required millions of victims? And what of these millions of victims, each with family, a circle of friends, dreams, interests, curiosities, a love of beautiful music, and a list of favorite foods? Did their souls require the terror, the torture, the loss of homeland, dignity, family, and freedom because they could only advance under such horrific conditions? Certainly there are stories of unbelievable heroism, perseverance, and endurance that emerge from these dark periods of the human experience. But are such horrors required so their soul they may take a further step? I think not.

We can, of course, sidestep these questions by saying we can never really know what another soul needs to advance. We can keep our schoolhouse open with a shrug of acceptance that there are simply spiritual mysteries we can never resolve. In other words, there are many ways to justify wearing the blindfold.

In examining near-death research, it would be easy to conclude that the body itself is the blindfold. Many experiencers report that, momentarily free of the body, their ability to see and hear far exceeds normal ranges of sight and sound detected by our physical senses. Likewise, we could easily surmise that the brain, as a transmitter of consciousness, imposes major restrictions on our ability to know.

It’s important to understand, however, that taking on a body does not mean we lose our intuitive ability to “live with the privilege of immeasurable mind,” as Emerson put it. It only means that we have the additional possibility of succumbing to a falsely perceived world fabricated by the senses. In such a world, the soul is reduced to a conceptualization that, like all things appearing in the realm of the senses, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The soul is assigned a potential flowering culmination when in truth it is and has always been in full blossom.

So the blindfold is not actually the body, but a collectively agreed upon version of reality constructed from senses-based facts. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, pointed out that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The focus here is on that ever-changing river of circumstance and the endless gathering of new facts that produce universities and drive all aspects of our developing technology.

Heraclitus does not take into account that the man, wherever he is standing, can only be in one place at a time. He can only be here, never there. Intellectually, he can learn more facts and he can acquire more things, but at the soul level he can never be more than he is right now. Why? Because he can never step from this now moment. The blindfold is not an inability to know this freeing truth. The blindfold is his fixation on using this ever-changing river of material appearances as his basis for reality.

When we think of evolution, we tend to think of it as occurring over time and moving toward a goal. The fossil record provides the best support for this view. But is it true? The energy we know as life does not struggle to be something more than it is right now. Each of the many forms life takes, on the other hand, engage in perpetual adaptation to their ever-changing environment. The point we often miss is that this process completes within each moment. Evolution has no goal. If a change in the environment requires a response, the response is made. It’s like putting on a coat when you go outside because there are icicles hanging from the roof. You adapt. The purpose of every facet of the natural world is to bring itself, at full capacity, to this now moment. There never has been and never can be one moment when this purpose is not fully realized.

I am convinced that the greatest cause for misunderstanding Jesus, both in his day and ours, is that he was speaking of a kingdom of God that is presently spread over the earth but men do not see it. Then as now, they wait for the kingdom to come. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field are not waiting for a coming kingdom. They are not storing up knowledge so they may live a better life in the future. They apply their full being to the present. This is the fulfillment of Jesus’ seek first the kingdom and all else will be added. Come into the conscious awareness of your spiritual wholeness and live your success within each moment of the day.

There is but one lesson to learn: Your soul and its spiritual environment is now complete. Quietly dwell in this understanding and carry it through your day. Jesus did not suggest that the lessons we learn from problems in life will help brighten our light. He simply said, let your light shine. This light rises from your very core, from the center to the circumference of your being. Become willing to remove your blindfold of preconceived notions about your spiritual inadequacies, and surrender to the radiance of this healing, balancing light that is your soul.

[Watch Spiritual Adaptation on YouTube]