Event in Toronto

“The Complete Soul”

A 9-Week Video Seminar based on the book by J Douglas Bottorff

Fairview Mall Public Library

35 Fairview Mall Drive, Toronto, ON

Wednesday, September 5th at 7:00 p.m. 2nd floor, room 2 

Thursday, September 6th at 12:30 p.m. 4th floor, room 3

Introduction to Doug and the Seminar” 

In his mid-teens, Doug became fascinated with Unity teachings after he read Dr. Emilie Cady’s book, Lessons In Truth. Doug was and continues to be a genuine “student” of both the spiritual and scientific realms. He is a musician, minister, author and spiritual explorer. He has written several books, and in his latest book, “The Complete Soul,” Doug shares significant realizations that completely changed his spiritual understanding of who he is and what we are.

This Video Series takes a spiritual ‘student’ along the same trail that he blazed on his own personal journey.  These nine videos are beautifully illustrated with examples and metaphors that will resonate with the Truth within you.

If you have ever asked the question, “Who am I?” this Video Seminar promises to open doors inside of you in deeply meaningful ways, showing you who you really are.

Join us Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. or, Thursday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.

 

 

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 Fillmore’s 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.[1] 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.”[2] 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.[3]

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.”[4]

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.”[5]

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. For example, 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.”[6]

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 …”[7] 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.

[1] Matthew 6:6

[2] Mark 10:18

[3] John 14:12

[4] 1 Corinthians 2:14

[5] Luke 1:1-4

[6] The Gospel of Thomas, #3

[7] John 10:27

It’s Not Your Time

If you ask ten people what it’s like to live in a given city, you’ll likely get a mix of responses, some of which will agree, others not. All ten may agree that traffic is an issue, for example. But not all ten will react to the traffic in the same way. Some will find it very annoying while others, considering the many advantages of living in the city, will see it as a minor inconvenience. If all ten comment on traffic, however, we can assume that if we move to that city, traffic will likely be a factor.

In near-death case studies, a feature that almost universally appears is the way in which people are sent back to their body and their life. As their out-of-body experience unfolds, they reach a point where they either know or they are told that they must go back because, “It’s not your time.” Most resist this command to return because they do not wish to leave the beauty of the realm they are experiencing.

The interpretation of this message varies. Some assume they’re sent back because there are lessons their soul has yet to learn. I find it odd that they’re never told what those lessons are. Many say they wander for years trying to figure it out. Others interpret this rebuke as simply meaning their earthly clock hasn’t yet run out, as if we’re each allotted a specific amount of time in the body. Still others sense that they have not yet accomplished their reason for incarnating in the first place.

Of these three possibilities, I find the third most appealing. I don’t like to think I showed up on this planet out of spiritual stupidity, or that I’ll likely be forced to return because God thinks I’m some kind of an undeserving loser. I’ve experienced a definite evolution of thought and values on why I’m here. Like many, I started with the belief that God sent me here as a test. If I pass the test, Heaven it is. If I fail, it’s eternal barbecue. I eventually graduated into the belief that the soul is evolving and earth is a school. We come here through a series of incarnations, each of which provides our soul with the specific lessons it needs to move up the evolutionary ladder. This worked for years, but I didn’t stop here. I moved to my current understanding that the soul is complete, that earth life has little to teach the soul. Our involvement with the body and our material environment, in fact, cause us to forget what we are at the spiritual level. When we step from the body, we instantly remember who and what we are, that our true home is not the slag of body and earth but the pure spiritual environment of light and love in which we suddenly find ourselves.

The question then becomes one of why we would step into an environment that would basically dumb-down our understanding of who we are at the spiritual level. The most reasonable answer to me is that we had some reason that we wanted to have this experience. The chances are good that we’ve become so engrossed in the care and keeping of the body-based self-image that we’ve simply forgotten our reason for coming. This forgetting, and the blunders we make as the result, have no lasting, negative impact on the soul itself. In other words, if we totally mess it up this time, we don’t have to keep coming back until we get it right. Within a few moments of leaving our body, we remember what we have forgotten. We then probably decide whether we want to go back and try it again, or we just forget it and go on. It’s probably no big deal in the larger sphere of the soul.

When I hear people say they were sent back with the message, “It’s not your time,” I think of a story shared by Napoleon Hill in his book, Think and Grow Rich. A man who was caught up in the gold rush came to Colorado to make his fortune. After some success, the gold vein he followed ran out. Being unfamiliar with the nature of fault lines, he sold his drilling equipment to a junk dealer and went home. The junk dealer hired an engineer who advised resuming drilling just three feet from where the previous owner stopped. There he rediscovered the vein, and made his fortune.

What if the first man were told not to stop drilling because “It’s not your time” to quit? The message would be that he shouldn’t quit because he had not fulfilled his purpose, his reason for being there. Perhaps he would have taken a deeper look at his apparent failure, re-evaluated the direction he was drilling, and rediscovered the lost vein.

I’m convinced that the prime reason that most of us feel something essential to our happiness is missing is simply because we’ve forgotten who we are and we’ve lost sight of our reason for coming in the first place. All of our efforts to address this void by piling on more things and accomplishments are basically us drilling in the wrong direction.

If we feel we’re among those who have lost our way, how do we get back on track? How do we recall our reason for taking on this body and engaging this earthly experience? To some, this question will seem a totally bizarre one. But if it doesn’t seem so bizarre, you may find it beneficial to start a little self-analysis. Instead of asking, “Why am I here?” try starting with the assumption that you made the choice to be here. This attitude opens your mind to that which you’ve forgotten. Like the woman who had ten coins and lost one, you will take the strong position of knowing you are the rightful owner of this bit of information you have misplaced. Your attitude will be one of conviction rather than the uncertainty of a blind faith. This is how many approach their life. Why I’m here is considered too big a question for a spiritually inept person like myself. I’ll rely on the religious professionals to tell me why. Big mistake if you’re hoping to reconnect with that vein of purpose you’re drilling for.

Don’t struggle for an answer to this question. Rather hold the attitude that you know the answer and it’s being made clear to you now. And even if you don’t get a clear answer, the realization that you’re here by choice inspires the sense of ownership, not of the earth, but of your experience on this earth. Why did you come here? Because you could.

If you could leave this earth today, would you? Or would you say, “It’s not my time.” The truth is, we can leave any time we want. Do we stay because we’re afraid of the unknown? Possibly. But maybe our reasons run deeper than this. Maybe we know something we’ve forgotten, that there’s a vein we came to tap and things won’t feel quite square until we tap it. When it’s our time, I have a feeling we’ll know it. Till then, let’s live our life as if we came to do just that.

 

 

 

 

The Fillmorian Influence

[Note: I have little doubt that few of you who may take the time to read this post in its entirety will care much about it. It is chapter 2 of my book, The Complete Soul. Why do I say this? If you were not drawn into the Unity movement through the teachings of its co-founder, Charles Fillmore, you’ll probably find it confusing. If you were drawn into Unity through the Fillmorian teachings, you’ll probably find it borderline sacrilegious. It wasn’t intended to be either. With all due respect to Mr. Fillmore, I intended to address what I believe is a significant misunderstanding of the nature of the soul.

It’s a long piece, so take it in small bits. JDB]

Chapter 2

The Fillmorian Influence

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”[1]

Though my first exposure to Unity was through the writings of Emilie Cady, I would discover later that she wrote as a representative of the Unity Movement, co-founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. Prior to this discovery, I had no knowledge of Unity as an organization.

Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth, first appeared as a series of articles in Unity. This series was the Fillmore’s response to a Unity subscriber’s request to “…have one of your clearest writers, one who understands the principles, and the uninformed mind of a student, write an explanation of this grand Truth in very simple form and in simple, clear words.” As a regular contributor to a number of Unity publications, the Fillmores selected Cady for the task. In my opinion, her work still represents the gold standard of presentations of Unity’s core teachings.

In the meantime, Fillmore continued developing his own writing skills, and deepening his understanding of spiritual principles. In much the same way science has been on a quest for the theory of everything (a single theory linking all aspects of the material universe), so Fillmore was in search of a spiritual key for resolving the full range of human problems. Having explored many of the world’s religious and occult teachings, he narrowed his search to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. There he found his theory of everything, his universal key that, in his view, held the promise of ending all human suffering. This key was his concept of regeneration, which he defined as:

“A change in which abundant spiritual life, even eternal life, is incorporated into the body. The transformation that takes place through bringing all the forces of mind and body to the support of the Christ ideal. The unification of Spirit, soul, and body in spiritual oneness.”[2]

Once it solidified in his own thinking, this concept provided the logic that inspired Fillmore’s elaborate vision of humankind’s ultimate goal, a snapshot of which we find in the opening paragraph of his book, The Twelve Powers of Man:

“Jesus prophesied the advent of a race of men who would sit with Him on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This book explains the meaning of this mystical reference, what and where the twelve thrones are, and what attainments are necessary by man before he can follow Jesus in this phase of his regeneration. Regeneration follows generation in the development of man. Generation sustains and perpetuates the human; regeneration unfolds and glorifies the divine.”[3]

The scriptural support for this lofty vision comes from the King James Version (KJV) of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus and his disciples are in conversation, with the disciples expressing their concern of having given up everything to follow Jesus. What rewards await them?

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.[4]

Given the fact that he makes this text and the concept of regeneration the central theme of his teaching, his theory of everything, scholars today would find Fillmore’s interpretation of the above scripture problematic. In the entire Bible, there are but two occurrences of the word, regeneration (Matthew 19:28, Titus 3:5). As we’ve seen, the Matthew reference appears only in the KJV.[5] Modern translations drop regeneration from Matthew, favoring instead phrases like “in the new world[6] and “at the renewal of all things.[7]

That the followers of the Jesus movement would have seen this passage as a mystical reference to body and soul regeneration is doubtful. Every aspect of the Bible is, of course, fair game for metaphysical interpretation, but Matthew’s passage obviously points to the literal second coming, the ushering in of the new age,[8] and the rewards for those who have sacrificed everything for their faith.

“And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”[9]

As one trained in the foundation principles of Unity, I attribute my early understanding of the soul as an evolving entity to Charles Fillmore. Though Cady certainly implied it, she was far less energetic in her discourse on the particulars of the subject. We will see in the remainder of this chapter that Fillmore presented Jesus as the sole example of the highly evolved, spiritually unified, completely regenerated human being. Based on my respect for Fillmorian authority, this is the view I endorsed before I had the confidence to draw my own conclusions. Presenting the reasons why I have now come to a different understanding of the soul and of Jesus and his role is the subject of this chapter and the one that follows.

From the writers of the New Testament to now, all generations of Christian leaders have utilized the words and actions of Jesus to lend authority and credibility to the advancement of their organizational causes and personal agendas. There was much tension between Paul and his appeal to embrace the Gentiles, and those who sought to limit passing the message of Jesus exclusively to the Jewish community. Using Jesus and his messianic credentials as their authority, each side accused the other of preaching a false gospel.

Some years ago, a couple asked me to perform a wedding in a well-known chapel in the foothills near Denver. When the Evangelical Christian owners of the chapel learned that I was a Unity minister, they barred me from performing the ceremony. They said Unity was “theologically impure” and, therefore, non-Christian.

It was attitudes like these that I believe motivated Fillmore to go to extreme lengths to not only prove Unity was theologically pure, but to show it was the purest and truest representation of the Christian message. “We believe all the doctrines of Christianity spiritually interpreted[10] He applied his interpretation of Jesus, a mighty, larger-than-life, fully regenerated type-man, very much alive and standing at the head of the Unity movement, as the primary means of advancing his system of thought. He insisted that long established ideas about Jesus did not go far enough, that Jesus was all they said and so much more. He was the ultimate Wayshower of the human race, the great example of what the fully regenerated human being was to look like.

This portrayal, like those of his more traditional counterparts, set an idealized standard of spiritual and physical accomplishment that, in my observation, has driven some, including Fillmore himself, to obsess over unrealistic expectations of the body. In an article written in 1920 he wrote,

“The Spirit showed me several years ago that I must quit having my picture taken; that I must quit looking into the mirror and seeing myself as a murky imagination had formed me. I had within me the concept of a fine looking young man, but when I looked into the glass, or when I had my picture taken, he did not appear. And other people did not see him and they began to impress me with error both within and without.”[11]

Though the legends persist that Fillmore, through vigorous affirmative prayer work, did manage to regain some of his youthful appearance, an outside observer saw him at age 84 as a “white-haired man” bearing the same failing physical and mental characteristics typical of that age. According to Myrtle, he became reluctant to appear in public “until he has completed his demonstration of healing his leg,”[12] the result of a childhood injury that plagued him his entire life. Showing any signs of age or illness would have run counter to his declaration that the human being was capable of living in the body forever. Asked if he expected to live forever in his body, Fillmore responded in this way:

“This question is often asked by Unity readers. Some of them seem to think that I am either a fanatic or a joker if I take myself seriously in the hope that I shall with Jesus attain eternal life in the body. But the fact is that I am very serious about the matter.”[13]

Though he did not succeed, there is no doubt that he was committed to the idea. The force with which he advanced his ideal influenced many Unity followers to adopt this type-man he saw in Jesus as the Holy Grail of spiritual attainment. One woman I knew, steeped in Fillmore’s denial of old age, was adamant about not speaking her age, believing that acknowledging it would make it so. I am certain that any stranger meeting her at any point in her life would have been able to guess her age based on her bodily appearance. To many who knew her, including myself, this all seemed an overly dramatic game.

I support much of what Charles Fillmore taught and I encourage all to read the full body of his works. But I have never been able to accept his ideas on the potential for physical immortality, or that Jesus pioneered and advocated eternal life in the physical body. My sense is that Fillmore’s life-long struggle with his own physical condition is the thing that made soul and body regeneration his personal focus.

Soul Evolution and Reincarnation

This glorified portrayal of Jesus, put forward as our ultimate example of spiritual achievement, has forced us to accept that the soul of the average person, far from hitting this extraordinarily high mark, must be evolving toward the perfection of Christ Consciousness. Fillmore taught that all people could eventually reach this level, making it necessary to include the concepts of soul evolution and reincarnation as bridging mechanisms needed to carry out this lofty achievement.

He was not alone in adopting soul evolution as the means of facilitating the individual’s march toward spiritual perfection, but Fillmore was especially emphatic in tying soul development directly to the condition of the physical body. He saw the body as “the highest-formed manifestation of creative Mind, and that it is capable of unlimited expression of that Mind.” As we have seen, this unlimited expression would ultimately translate into physical immortality.

“When man realizes that there is but one body-idea and that the conditions in his body express the character of his thought, he has the key to bodily perfection and immortality in the flesh.”[14]

The body, according to Fillmore, projects the condition of the soul. The degeneration of the body, through aging and death, indicates the soul has not yet evolved to full alignment with the Christ ideal that rests in the mind of God.

“If you believe in old age and bodily decrepitude and decay, you will find that all the little cells throughout your organism are carrying in their depths just such pictures, as the clear waters of the lake reflect the trees and the clouds.”[15]

The body, then, is a kind of barometer that reflects the state of the soul. The aging process and any separation of spirit, soul, and body brought on by physical death are due to a “transgression of the divine law.[16] According to this view, the soul contains many ideas that are not in alignment with what is true of Spirit. Because Fillmore believed the “soul makes the body,” the body displays, in the form of disease and death, the untruths held at the soul level. The remedy is to regenerate the soul, bringing its sum of ideas up to the standard of the I Am, the support of the Christ ideal. In the meantime, the soul is in a constant state of evolving from a mortal to an immortal condition, which the body follows.

As I’ve pointed out, this evolution of soul and body takes place through multiple incarnations. This belief, perhaps inadvertently, elevates reincarnation to the status of an evolutionary requirement or, as Fillmore calls it:

“… a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus.”[17]

In other words, Fillmore does not present reincarnation as a choice-based option, but instead makes it an evolutionary inevitability, a required link in his chain of logic. In addition to merciful, we are compelled to accept reincarnation as a necessary provision of our soul’s continued progress, and we are forced to measure this progress by the present condition of our physical body.

I believe it is an unnecessary burden to think the body and its present condition represent the condition of the soul. According to this association, if the body is expressing disease and limitation of any kind, it is because a similar condition exists in the soul. This problem is the result of considering the terms soul and consciousness as having the same meaning. We’ll take an in-depth, alternative look at the terms, soul, consciousness, and self-image in Chapter 4.

The health of our body, or the lack thereof, does indeed have a direct relation to the instabilities and stresses brought on by our consciousness. This is very different from suggesting the soul is flawed and these flaws are out-picturing in the body. The beliefs generated by the self-image act as a kind of weather system containing clouds that mask the sunlight of the soul. The soul’s radiance is perpetual, but the self-image produces a cloud cover of fear and stress that has a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being. We know that a person can display a perfectly healthy body and remain spiritually asleep. Likewise, one can be spiritually awake and still be afflicted with a physical malady or handicap.

Jesus and Soul Evolution

We can trace the association of soul evolution and reincarnation far back into the history of Eastern religions. The idea of the soul being reborn in another body as a further chance to attain higher consciousness, or to work out one’s karma, is a central tenet. Fillmore put a Christianized spin on this process by declaring Jesus the only person who had ever lifted his physical body to this fully regenerated condition. Through “conscious union with Jesus in the regeneration,” he wrote, each person could “transform his body and make it perpetually healthy, therefore immortal, and that he can attain eternal life in this way and in no other way.[18] Jesus “was the ‘first-fruits’ of those who are coming out of the mortal into the immortal.” According to the logic of these statements, one not only had to be Christian to gain eternal life, he or she had to be a metaphysical Christian.

This view of reincarnation explains why, with the exception of the ascended Jesus, we see no fully regenerated humans roaming planet earth.

“He [Jesus] was the type man, the Way-Shower, and, through following His example and taking on His character as a spiritual-minded man, we shall come into the same consciousness.”[19]

To Fillmore, physical death, which he described as the “terror of humanity,” represents a complete breakdown in adherence to the law of regeneration.

At the point of physical death, Fillmore envisioned the soul entering a kind of sleep in which neither learning nor advancement of any kind can occur. It is with the next physical incarnation that the soul resumes its evolutionary journey from where it left off in the previous incarnation.

“As death has no power to help anyone, the condition of the Adam man is not bettered by dying. Therefore, when people are re-embodied they ‘come forth . . . unto the resurrection of damnation,’ in other words, condemnation or correction. Everyone begins where he left off.”[20]

This assertion clearly runs counter to the findings of researchers in the field of near-death studies, research that was unavailable in Fillmore’s time. Far from slipping into sleep or a coma, the majority of near-death experiencers report that they feel more alive than ever. A substantial number report tapping a universal wisdom and love beyond anything they can describe. They often see through the shallow interests and cares of their worldly pursuits. It is common for those devoted to chasing materialistic ends to lift their standards and aim for higher purposes. Atheists return believing in God. Religious believers have their minds opened far beyond the dogmatic parameters of their training. Virtually none of them “begins where he left off,” even when their episodes last but a few minutes. As researchers have discovered, the near-death experience often changes people to their core, and in moments. This is a sharp contrast to the view expressed by Fillmore:

“Awakening cannot be associated with dying. The idea that man awakens to spiritual or any kind of consciousness immediately after “death,” whether in heaven, hell, purgatory, or elsewhere, is opposed to Truth. His awakening must take place here, during the time of “life,” at least while he is partially awake and before he sinks into that deeper sleep or coma that we call death.”[21]

Viewing physical death as he did, can we wonder that Fillmore failed to see any kind of spiritual value associated with the loss of the body? The evidence is now overwhelming that so-called death is neither a deeper sleep nor a coma, but a state of enhanced lucidity. In this state, the individual is more alive and alert, their ability to see, hear, and know more acute than at any time while in the body. In light of what we are learning from this research, the argument can and should be made that overcoming death has less to do with physical immortality and more to do with the revelation that there is, in fact, no death. “Death,” as one NDEr concluded, “is a really nasty lie.”

Carl Jung Testimony

There are some who pass off near-death research as merely anecdotal and, therefore, inconsequential and unreliable. The experiencer, they might say, is predisposed to a certain kind of imagery due to their beliefs. This may be true to some extent, but we cannot ignore the fact that there are common elements found in the overwhelming majority of cases from all cultures and demographics. Nor can we ignore the testimony of individuals we consider highly credible, especially when they gave it prior to the popularization of near-death studies.

One notable case is that of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. After having a heart attack accompanied by an NDE, he wrote:

“I would never have imagined that any such experience was possible. It was not a product of imagination. The visions and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”[22]

So real was this experience that Jung, like many before and after him, was quite reluctant to return to the confines of his physical body.

“In reality, a good three weeks were still to pass before I could truly make up my mind to live again. I could not eat because all food repelled me. The view of city and mountains from my sickbed seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it, or a tattered sheet of newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing. Disappointed, I thought: “Now I must return to ‘the box system’ again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I—along with everyone else—would again be hung up in a box by a thread.”[23]

Jung did not discount the value of the awakening he experienced during his near-death episode. Nor did he pass off the insight it provided as subjective fantasy. He treated it as a real experience that had a profound impact on his thinking. His case is important, not only for the name recognition, but also for the fact that he was a highly trained and respected observer of mental processes. Is it likely that Jung would have jeopardized his professional legacy speculating on these visions and experiences had he considered them anything but utterly real?

The Choice to Reincarnate

As I’ve mentioned, I like to think of reincarnation as a choice rather than as an evolutionary requirement. Seen this way, we can think of our earthly incarnation as something far more than Fillmore’s resurrection of damnation. With choice as the prime factor, we can logically conclude that we will incarnate on earth as long as something here holds our interest. When events or circumstances make it unattractive—a natural global catastrophe for example—it is quite conceivable that we simply refrain from taking up a body until conditions become more to our liking. It is also reasonable to consider that we may incarnate at a particular time to advance a cause, or to help rebuild a waning human population brought on by war or natural disaster.

Around seventy thousand years ago, Toba, a super volcano in Indonesia, exploded into one of earth’s largest eruptions. This environmental disaster triggered severe climate change and may have reduced the human population to as few as 3,000 to 10,000.[24] Is it unreasonable to assume that, given the choice, many fewer individuals would incarnate in such a compromised environment? On the other hand, some, like first responders, might relish the chance to rush in and help the human species recover.

Without going too far afield here, can we discount the possibility of multiple, biospheric environments existing throughout the universe? New studies estimate that our Milky Way galaxy alone contains 100 billion planets. If this is true and one environment does not appeal to our interests or fill a need we feel compelled to address, is it out of the range of possibility that we may simply choose another?

Charles Fillmore placed the soul in an evolving continuum from which the only escape was full regeneration of soul and body. His conclusion that only one person, Jesus, had successfully run this evolutionary gauntlet casts a dim light on the average individual’s chances of a full awakening in this lifetime. That he believed absolutely in this model is shown in his advocating that an extraordinary spiritual revolution was underway:

“Everywhere true metaphysicians are preparing themselves to be members in the great colony that Jesus is to set up, by working to eliminate from their mind all selfish ideas, along with all other discordant vibrations that produce inharmony among members of the same group.”[25]

I have little doubt that he envisioned Unity Village as the beginning of this great colony of true metaphysicians. In my earlier years, I would have gladly counted myself a willing and expectant resident of this great colony. I have since concluded that the image of Jesus put forward by Charles Fillmore is the product of his own speculation. The Jesus every author presents, and I include myself, is the Jesus that would exist if our specific lines of logic were correct. I’ll present my view of him in the following chapter.

The sheer ambiguity of historical facts have made Jesus fair game for a wide range of interpretations advanced as Truth. We wind up with a blend of emotionally charged imagery mixed with a line of spiritual logic that careful scrutiny or new research will likely expose as having little or no basis in historical or scientific fact.

[1] Matthew 21:23

[2] Fillmore, Charles. The Revealing Word. Unity Books

[3] Twelve Powers of Man. Charles Fillmore. Unity Books

[4] Matthew 19:28 KJV

[5] King James Version was published in 1612

[6] Revised Standard Version. 1946-1957

[7] New Revised Standard Version. 1989

[8] Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30

[9] Matthew 19:29

[10] #31, Unity’s Statement of Faith

[11]  Quotation taken from, The Spiritual Journey of Charles Fillmore. Neal Vahle. Templeton Foundation Press. 2008

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Fillmore, Charles. Christian Healing. Unity Books

[15] Fillmore, Charles. Talks on Truth. Unity Books

[16] #21, Unity’s Statement of Faith

[17] # 22, ibid

[18] #19, ibid

[19] Fillmore, Charles. Twelve Powers of Man. Unity Books

[20] Fillmore, Charles. Keep a True Lent. Unity Books

[21] Fillmore, Charles. Mysteries of Genesis. Unity Books

[22] Jung, Carl, Aniela Jaffé. 1965. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage, a division of Random House

[23] ibid

[24]  According to the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals. The theory is supported by genetic evidence suggesting that today’s humans are descended from a very small population of between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs that existed about 70,000 years ago. (Wikipedia: Genetic Bottleneck Theory).

[25] Fillmore, Charles. Prosperity. Unity Books

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.