Below is a story aired on KMOU in 2008. You’ll recognize some of the same footage in the Sara Story that can be found on the Home Page.
Below is a story aired on KMOU in 2008. You’ll recognize some of the same footage in the Sara Story that can be found on the Home Page.
I put lights on trees and photograph them. My goal is to produce an image of such extraordinary beauty that it causes the mind, emotions and body to be still for just a moment. In that stillness the personality may hear speak the Indefinable Infinite One.
I admire and hold in high esteem trees of all kinds. I walk among them. I swing from them. I sit in them and under them soaking up there unique beauty and form. The frame of a tree when its leaves are down is of particular interest to me and so, when on a lark I decided to string a few lights along the bare branches of a crab apple tree outside my front door it was a natural expression of my fondness for trees.
I soon discovered the joy of lighting every branch so that the whole form became a blaze of light. Rave reviews of neighbors, friends and strangers only encouraged me until you see the work before you today. For many years I have attempted photographing the tree. I am an amateur that has gotten lucky a few times and tried to repeat what luckily came a few times more.
My inspiration comes from an experience I had with a great white pine in the blowing fog and mist that stopped me short for its beauty and changed my life by calming my raging fears. Where did the calm come from and the clear message that all was good?
It is my sincere hope that through viewing the trees, the photos and through considering the titles, the Untitled Notes from which the titles are derived, and through perusing the information at this website that you sense a deeper connection with the One Infinite Source and find peace and joy beyond the ordinary in that connectedness.
Love’s in everything.
Beauty is Its signature.
The eye for beauty belongs to the beholder.
What, then, are you?
Please have a look at what Nalini Nadkami has to say about the spirituality of trees:
I have always found trees to be an inspiration in my life. As a child my father encouraged me to recognize the different varieties of trees when we hiked in the woods. As a teenager I discovered the joy of building tree swings and spent hours and hours dangling from a rope wrapping and unwrapping around the trunks of trees in great arcs in a tree swinging style we called “around the worlds”. As a college student studying philosophy and religion at KU, wracked with anxiety over my place in the world, a great white pine spoke to me through its beauty on a misty foggy February morning and basically told me everything is o k just the way it is – just be what you are. Since then I’ve paid more attention to beauty everywhere but especially as it manifests in trees and find that it calms me when I’m upset and inspires me when I’m calm.
I began lighting the Magic Tree on a whim just lighting a few branches all the way out to the ends and back again by wrapping the light strings around the branch. It made a spray pattern like a frozen fountain or firework. I got such rave reviews from neighbors and friends I couldn’t help myself the next year but to try and better what I had done the previous year. I must credit your encouragement over the years as a significant motivating factor in producing what you see before you today. Your stories of what you experience when viewing the Magic Tree remind me of my own experience with that great white pine on the KU campus that later that same year (1979) was stuck by lightning and blew up, due to its sap content I suppose.
The Untitled Notes (Full text can be found on the 2006 flier under the Magic Tree page. Scroll down to page 2 of the flier.) was made available to pick up at the Magic Tree in 2006. The titles of the photographs I have on display are derived from it. The words attempt to reflect the Indefinable Infinite Source that of course cannot be adequately comprehended or described but can be accessed through our relationships with each other, our world, and even the relationship we have with ourselves. It seems we find the most meaning when we look in between the lines of text, or in between the images or colors in a painting, photograph or the scene out the window; in between two beings or whole groups of beings. In between there is nothing that meets the eye but there is a relationship and there beauty may be found that heals the hurts and calms the fears and inspires the mind and fills the heart when we consider the absolute good and perfect unconditional power that is characteristic of the One Presence.
In the interest of not having any hidden agendas or sources and also in giving credit where credit is due I list below the major influences and background that I have been exposed to.
Many among the list have links established to more information on these sources. Happy perusing.
Currently I am reading:
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as interpreted by Alice A. Bailey in her book The Light of the Soul;
The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living by Eknath Easwaran;
The Second Coming of Christ (the Ressurection of the Christ Within You, a revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus) by Paramahansa Yogananda;
The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East by Baird Spalding;
The Laws of Life, Maitreya’s Teachings by Benjamin Creme;
I also regularly attend a Unity Church.
Other lasting influences in my thinking are:
A Course in Miracles;
The Ageless Wisdom Teachings as represented in the other works by Alice A. Bailey;
The writings by Benjamin Creme concerning the emergence of Maitreya and the Masters of Wisdom;
The Long Journey Home By George Catlin;
When the Soul Awakens, by Nancy Seifer and Martin Vieweg;
The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle;
The Urantia Book;
The Ozawkie Book of the Dead by Elmer Green;
Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsh;
The Book of Co-Creation, The Revelation By Barbara Marx Hubbard;
The Starseed Transmissions by Raphael (Ken Carey);
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Ztu;
The Science of Mind by Earnest Holmes;
The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada and his subsequent books in that series;
Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt;
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman;
Emmanuel’s Book Compiled by Pat Rodergast and Judith Stanton;
The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson;
The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra;
The Secret and the Sublime by John Blofeld;
The dialogues of Socrates By Plato;
The Unity school of thought established by Charles and Myrtle Filmore;
My upbringing in the American Baptist Denomination;
and there are many other influences not the least of which are, perhaps to their chagrin, mom and dad.
Some thoughts on meditation:
Through meditation we can re-polarize our “mind magnets” so that our default prominent overriding force of attention is focused on that spot within that connects us to all of life – the heart or soul.
Meditation is the first step to take on the path of the long journey home (See George Catlin’s book: The Long Journey Homehttp://www.theteachings.org/Introduction.html); home being that place in consciousness where we experience no separation. There is no substitute for the ancient practice o meditation if we want to make significant progress because of this:
Body, emotion, and mind are instruments battered by the forces of experience in the material world producing the the illusion of separation. Without a practice of periodical tuning they become grossly out of tune causing unintended “odd noises” to issue forth that are disruptive of our purpose to play a fine tune and be in concert with others. If left unattended to, the instruments become unplayable in a meaningful way and we experience the problem of not getting along with others and all the emotional upheaval that goes along with it.
Absolute Perfect Unconditional Love is the purest, most accurate expression of life. We rarely see it expressed as such, but rather see more or less approximations to this Pure Love because of how the mind, emotions and body filter this divine energy. Body, emotion and mind are conditioners of this Pure Love as it plays out in experience.
Without meditation (the practice of quieting the body, subduing the emotions and disciplining the mind) we tend to mangle the truth, have difficulty managing emotions and confuse the body, feelings and thoughts with our true identity which is Pure Life. Well tuned conditioners, on the other hand, will be servants of The Real and can be relied upon for the realization of the true self, the soul, Pure Love.
Meditation and surrender are inseparable are they not? Our bodies want to keep busy with activity, getting things done, acquiring things. We must set aside these desires, surrendering them at least for a few minutes to truly meditate and our meditation will bring us into contact with the soul, our first and closest reflection of The One Life and our true self.
Meditate. The immediate goal of meditation is to simply be quiet in body, emotion and mind – listening to the silence, paying attention (perhaps to a single well chosen object in particular), but leaving interpretation and judgment for later. It takes a certain amount of effort and concentration to do this. When pure concentration (where no conditioning thought or feeling is entertained) on an object, or the silence, is held steady for more than a few moments, this is the practice of meditation.
I suggested watching the movie Contact and looking there for what is applicable to meditation. The experienced meditater will find a wealth of subjective suggestions (between the lines) regarding meditation if watched with seeking them out in mind. The novice meditater may have a more difficult time reading the symbols and metaphors but its a great film even if you don’t see how it can be indicative of the meditation experience.
I suggest watching the movie Contact and looking there for what is applicable to meditation. You will find a wealth of subjective suggestions (between the lines) regarding meditation if you watch it seeking them out. Here’s some suggestions:
Contact, The Movie, Metaphor for Meditation
View the film keeping in mind meditation. Seek out elements that can be symbols for what happens on our journey toward a life of meditation and then symbols for what can happen in consciousness once we commit to meditation and plunge deeply into the state of consciousness that meditation eventually brings to us.
Some primer examples of what to look for:
Ellie as a child with pure and innocent aspiration.
Ham radio operation: represents first experiments with meditation, listening to the silence for a signal, identifying the signal, encouragement of parent, teacher or master.
Loss of parent, experience of disillusionment, emptiness of organized religion and looking outside of one’s self for answers.
Next we find Ellie as educated scientist adult in the way of the “world” but is she “of the world”? It appears she is using her education to focus still more on meditation (listening to cosmos) technique.
Through long hours of listening she begins to hear a message describing how to build a more advance technique for communicating with the cosmos, the Higher Self . She gets a great deal of interest and skepticism from the many characters.
Remember: all the characters in the film represent aspects of the self. Consider the blind (in eyesight) assistant that has such a good ear giving him inner sight and why we close our eyes to meditate.
She builds a great meditation machine (in consciousness) only to have it first usurped by impure elements interested in grandstanding and then it’s blown up by an inner saboteur discovered only when it was too late, but one that was clearly present early on.
She finds that the machine she built is not so easily destroyed and finally rides it to the center of cosmos where she is greeted by her divine parent.
Her repetition of “I’m good to go” represents the use of a mantra and is at least in part the real message of the mantra to Spirit.
She returns to renewed skepticism from the inner voices but finds a lasting peace.
We leave her sharing the innocent joy of wonder at the Divine Self represented by our starry view of cosmos.
You are welcome to join me for Transmission Meditation at 7 pm every Monday and Thursday evening at 1600 w. Broadway in Columbia, MO (Unity Center). (Use the entrance by the waterfall turn left down the hall and left again after the bulletin board, 2nd door on right.)
Transmission Meditation is a simple and potent group meditation that only requires a sense of dedication and commitment (as does any regular meditation practice) and a willingness to keep at it in maintaining a point of focus. No previous meditation experience is needed and it does not interfere with, but rather augments, any other meditation practice you may be committed to.
It is called Transmission because it deals with the transmission of spiritual energy through the energy centers of the individuals in the group. The energy is thus down stepped in its level of vibration making it readily absorbable by humanity at large which in turn uplifts humanity. It works much like an electrical transformer for electricity before it is brought into your home. If the electricity were not down stepped in its level of transmission it would blow all the circuits in your house.
Transmission is perfectly safe because we do not manipulate the energy in any way. The spiritual energy is directed through the group by others who are often referred to as The Masters of Wisdom. They are able to work with this energy in the same way we are able to work with wood and steel – scientifically. They send the energy through the group, paying careful attention to each individual’s capacity (which is greater in group formation) and then send it on into the world to where ever it is needs most to affect positive change.
Because of the potency of this meditation we ask that children younger than 12 do not participate.
During the meditation we focus on the ajna center which is the center between the eyebrows. We use the Om silently thinking it to help keep the attention in the head center. That is all we do. It is that simple. If your interested in finding a path of service and also interested in meditation, Transmission Meditation serves both purposes in one simple but potent action.
At the beginning of the meditation we use this prayerful invocation:
The Great Invocation
From the Point of Light within the Mind of God
Let Light stream forth into the minds of men
Let Light descend on Earth.
From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let Love stream forth into the hearts of men
May Christ Return to Earth.
From the Center where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men –
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.
From the Center which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.
Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.
The One Work. Love manifests as the service, great and small that we provide to each other, our communities, our nations and the world. Love, it turns out, is not a feeling at all. I propose the feeling we call love is rather the result of love in action, love through service. The feeling we call love happens when we perceive that an individual or group has provided a service, or when we anticipate they may provide a service, that will benefit us personally. We see something beautiful, be it a landscape, an animal, a person or a concept and we “love” it. It has provided the service of appealing to our sense of beauty. Some one romances us and we “love” it. They, again, have served our desire to be loved. A pet jumps up on our lap and makes itself comfortable providing the service of comfort and affection. A soldier goes to war and gives his life in service to country whether to conquer or to liberate. Does he or she do it because he or she feels “love” for country or because they have reasoned that this act will benefit others and so performs the service in order to be love, to demonstrate love? If he or she were aiming to risk life and limb strictly on the basis of feeling love, would not his or her will to do so simply evaporate at the first fearful circumstance?
I do not intend to discount that the feeling of “love” is genuine. We all feel “love”. I am pointing out that the feeling is the recognition, at the astral level, of genuine love demonstrated through an action, a service provided.
Love is a principle. We approach understanding of it through an abstract and subjective recognition of something metaphysical belonging to Life Itself. When we demonstrate the Love Principle through our thoughtful actions and words aimed at making life better for another (and thus, incidentally, better for ourselves) we flesh out the subjective Love Principle with objectivity. In objectivity It is there for everyone to see on the physical plane. We recognize it there and feel loving or loved as the result.
This has been an attempt to come to grips with what love, the One Work, really is. All we do demonstrates love at some level of understanding because love is a principle of Life. It is important to recognize, however, that some actions open up space (more opportunity for more accurate rendering in our objective experience of the subjective Love Principle) while other actions tend to close down space for love to be experienced in. Subjectively speaking we are love. To have an objective experience of the Principle of Love we simply need to make a space for it in our experience through one form or another of action, word and thought . We make space for the experience of being love by doing and not doing.
The following is a response to Mary’s question below. She wrote me a very generous letter complimenting me on the Magic Tree. She clearly sounded a traditional Christian approach and so my response is, as much as possible, oriented to this tradition. I have changed her name to protect her privacy.
Response to Mary’s question: Do you know for sure that you have eternal life???
January 27, 2009
Thank you so much for your generous words complimenting my work with the Magic Tree, the flier, and the website. It is gratifying that it is appreciated and it is always good to hear about it. Whatever the good, beautiful and true you see is because these attributes live within you. There it may thrive for you are God’s own creation.
The donation is also helpful to offset the cost and I happily share it with the charities I mention on the website.
It is thoughtful for you to share a little bit of yourselves and your work with me in the Christmas letter and your brochures written with care and concern for others and their well being.
Thank you too for your thought provoking question regarding my confidence in whether I have eternal life. Eternal life is something that I have taken for granted for so long now that your question caused me to ponder it afresh.
Forgive my long winded response but I so enjoyed contemplating the topic and your evident sincerity encourages a thoughtful response.
August 1, 2009
Hi Mary, I have worked on this letter off and on for some time and now feel ready to send it to you. Thanks again for your question. I plan to put this on my website. I will change your name unless you let me know that you would like me leave your name as is.
The first thing that comes to mind is that God is so very good. I am so grateful for His goodness; so amazed by His goodness; His absolute perfect unconditional love, that it becomes in my mind, (when I’m in my right mind) all that matters. The concern for preservation of my little self pales in comparison to even the tiny inkling of awareness I am blessed to have of such goodness. The promise of eternal life is a fine thing but one that I don’t want to be preoccupied with. Just let me see more of what it is like to be in Absolute Perfect Unconditional Love right now!
Jesus taught that you must lose yourself to find yourself. I can’t think of a better place to lose myself than in the goodness of God since it is this that is the end all and be all of all things, the Alpha and the Omega. And if I am lost to myself there, of what concern is it to me whether I am to have eternal life? To concern myself with this, it seems, is to come out of being lost in God back to the idea that I am separate and alone from God. It is enough to be lost in God’s goodness and is this not in essence the same thing as having eternal life?
For what is life? Is it the intelligent life “as we know it” that scientists, out of principle, (and rightly so, for the sake of quality research not dependent on faith) must be skeptical of being anywhere else in the universe but here on earth, and limited to the human body and brain, until it is proven otherwise? Is all life but that which we acknowledge is evident in the three kingdoms of flora, animal and human? No, to my mind, life is everywhere present throughout all of cosmos, for so is God and God is Life.
The very atoms and subatomic particles are alive with God’s presence, God’s goodness, God’s Life, and God’s Light and even God’s Love. It is at a rudimentary level, yes, but none the less alive with the power of God. I take this on faith, I guess, although to me it seems irrefutably obvious when the energetic principles of these subatomic particles are taken into account.
Life itself is eternal. How could anything created by God be anything but? Oh, I know your question regarding my confidence in eternal life refers to the life span of a human being and whether the specific consciousness of a particular human (myself specifically) may, or will, or will not survive bodily death. But I tell you that in the ultimate scheme of things it matters not one iota, for Life itself is eternal, and the Life that you and I are dots of, and that God shares with us, is one Life and it is enough to be immersed in that eternal Life without asking the question: Will I survive my bodily death?
Life goes on and on and whatever is of God survives the temporarily individualized bodily formations that Life takes on and that is good enough for me. Let all that is not good pass away and if God judges that to be ‘me’ so be it. Let’s not be attached to anything but God.
The prayer of St. Francis says all that I have just said much more succinctly:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light:
Where there is sadness, Joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
Again, thank you for your question. I have found, however, much more to say concerning eternal life. Just in case you are interested in further elaboration and explanation I have repeated below what I have written above with a great many additional thoughts and subtitles.
(Please see separate page entitled Eternal Life Long Version.)
Eternal Life- Long Version
(The basis has been added here at a later date from the rest of the text to provide upfront the foundation of my thinking, therefore some of the concepts introduced here at the beginning will be reintroduced later as if for the first time.)
I start with a faith stance propelled by what I know of physics and adding to that the prospect of varying degrees of consciousness beginning with its most rudimentary expression being manifested through the (proposed by some particle physicists) minute subatomic strings of energy, and from there manifesting through out all of cosmos to its highest and most complete in form in the dense physical: the universe as an atom – an individual containing all lesser manifestations within its bounds. Further at every level of expression I picture many more dimensions of existence in subtler and more subtler forms beyond the view of the physically bound consciousness, but still possible to perceive by the human consciousness that works to liberate itself from the dense, form bound consciousness.
Life Eternal as energy permeates all in existence. Consciousness, I propose, is what animates energy – gives it its properties and causes it to behave as it does. Consciousness is what makes energy come alive imbuing all that exists with energetic life. Behind this life is the consciousness of what we obtusely call God and Who is responsible for bringing all into existence. I say obtusely for the consciousness that is responsible for all we know to exist is so beyond our own level of awareness; is so fine and so subtle and yet so large and so complete that we can have no adequate grasp of this Divine Being. Yet it is that we are all exponents of said Consciousness, this Life, this Divine Being, for it is all inclusive of all that is (and I dare say all that can be imagined as well and even all that cannot).
I further propose that God’s (Life’s, Consciousness’) most prevalent quality recognizable by human sentiment is absolute perfect unconditional love. This is the force that brings all expressions into existence in all their diversity (diversity for the sake of experiencing said love) and that again takes them out of expression for the sake of transmutation of form from a lower one to that of a higher one worthy of the growing consciousness individualized in and held by each form.
All that is made is made of God/Life/Energy/Love. Love is in all that is. The idea that love is not in something is brought about by the illusion that there is something other than God/Life/Energy/Love. This illusion is brought about by the limits placed on consciousness by the dense physical form which perceives everything in pairs of opposites when actually all opposites are merely part of one spectrum.
Even the illusion that there is not love can be considered love because the illusion’s purpose is to create contrast so that love may be known experientially through the experience (illusory though it is) of what is not love. Thus Life/Love affords Itself the opportunity to know Its Self (Absolute Perfect Unconditional Love) on an experiential basis. Our purpose is to know and see Love for what it is in all things regardless of the illusion that it is not always there. In so doing we become experientially self-realized units of God consciousness.
Such awareness in Christian terms is called Christ Consciousness, but such awareness is not limited to Christian terms. Such awareness is unlimited and available to all regardless of their religion or lack there of. (The Christian would do well to take note that Christ is a Christian conceptualization of a universal reality and so also is not limited by Christianity.
We are Life Eternal. When we see love in everything we realize this. When we don’t we won’t.
FAITH STANCE – GOOD GOD
In answer to the question: Do you know for sure that you have eternal life??? the first thing that comes to mind is that God is so very good. I am so grateful for His goodness; so amazed by His goodness; His absolute perfect unconditional love, that it becomes in my mind, (when I’m in my right mind) all that matters. The concern for preservation of my little self pales in comparison to even the tiny inkling of awareness I am blessed to have of such goodness. The promise of eternal life is a fine thing but one that I don’t want to be preoccupied with. Just let me see more of what it is like to be in absolute perfect unconditional love right now!
TRUTH MUST ALIGHN WITH INFINITE GOOD
Many years ago I decided that all truth that I would be willing to consider must be in sync with my faith stance that God is infinitely good. Such infinite goodness is doubtlessly beyond my capacity to comprehend and see all the ramifications thereof, but I figure that truth regarding the doings, being and attributes of God, as far as I can conceive of them, must, bottom line, jive with even my limited conception of what is good. With this in mind I have formed the opinions I share with you here and continue to seek for further guidance and insight into the infinite goodness of God.
Such vision to comprehend otherwise impenetrable levels of truth, I believe, God reveals to us bit by bit as we seek for understanding with honesty of mind, sincerity of spirit and detachment from desire (Maitreya’s in-a-nutshell guides to enlightenment or eternal life). If I make mistakes in discerning the truth, which I’m sure that I do from time to time, I trust God/Life/Love to eventually make it known to me where I erred and reveal a correction or an improvement in my understanding. I pray that what I share with you here is the truth as best as we may comprehend at this time. Such is my aim but I make no claim that this is The Irrefutable Truth. All that it is, is what I think I have comprehended to date of the eternal mystery of the Unseen Presence – Energy, we commonly refer to as God, intuitively felt in the heart and interpreted by the mind. This it is that each individual must eventually choose to discern for themselves. It can be no other way.
We each must choose for ourselves what has the ring of truth and satisfy our thirst through a personal sifting through of all that comes our way and through our own attempts to answer the questions that come up through the process.
WE EACH MUST BECOME DIAMOND CUTTERS
Anyone who says that they know The Truth and seeks to impose their version on others, be they religionist, politician, of even scientist, I think, is missing an important attribute of truth: Truth is multifaceted. Like with a diamond in the rough where a jeweler, relying on his experience and knowledge of the trade, must choose from a variety of ways to cut the stone to bring out and maximize its beauty. This we must also do, with as skilled a craftsmanship as we can muster and drawing on our previous experience, intuition and mental capacities; we must cut from the rough diamond of thought, experience and revelation a polished and sparkling gem of truth. There are many rough stones, some more pure than others and many ways to cut each one.
If we let others do the cutting for us then we can never become a skilled craftsman at it ourselves. All we can do then is purchase and wear, or criticize and reject the gems others have cut without any clear conception of what it takes to discern what is true. To apply faith wisely and without blinders for only as long as is needed and only where needed most to supplement where direct experiential knowledge and study are lacking requires a skill we can only learn through personal experimentation and practice.
There are tools of the trade we need to employ such as diamond edged cutting wheels like the various religious scriptures, historical record, scientific theory, experimentation, research and proofs. There is the poetry, song, story, theology and philosophy that others have put together. These we can employ but we ourselves must guide the blade and make the choice of where to cut. Perhaps the most essential place a bit of faith is needed is at the outset when we decide for the first time to seriously enter into the trade of diamond cutter and picture in the minds eye a finished cut gem where sits before us at present a diamond in the rough.
ENVISION A FIRST PRINCIPLE
I have chosen to start the cutting of each new stone of an idea with what I will here in refer to as First Principle: That an infinite and therefore omnipresent God, characterized by infinite good, exists and is the first cause of all that is. It is this brilliance that I seek to uncover in each cut that I make from the rough and so from here I now continue and see if I can come up with a gem.
THE LOST and FOUND
Jesus taught that you must lose yourself to find yourself. What is meant by this? How are we to lose ourselves? And where do we lose ourselves? We live with the perception that we a separate individual – separate from each other, separate from other forms and separate from God. If we were to realize that all, including us, are contained within the First Principle above and so know ourselves as that then we might lose sight of the idea of separation and individuality and so be lost to ourselves in God. I believe this is what Jesus was alluding to.
I can’t think of a better place to lose myself than in the goodness of God since it is this that is the end all and be all of all things, the alpha and the omega. In fact, to lose oneself in anything else as separate from First Principle is truly to be lost and not found – if, indeed, all that actually is must be of, in and as First Principle due to the First Principle’s omnipresence. And so if I am lost to myself there in First Principle, of what concern is it to me whether I, as a separated self, am to have eternal life? To concern myself with this, it seems, is to come out of being lost in God back to the idea that I am separate and alone from God. It is enough to be lost in God’s goodness and is this not in essence the same thing as having eternal life?
MAKING SENSE OF LIFE, SCIENCE, REASON and FAITH
For what is life? Is it the intelligent life “as we know it” that scientists, out of principle must be skeptical (and rightly so, for the sake of quality research not dependent on faith) of being anywhere else in the universe but here on earth and limited to the human body and brain until it is proven otherwise? Is all life but that which we acknowledge is evident in the three kingdoms flora, animal and human?
No, to my mind, life is everywhere present throughout all of cosmos, for so is God andGod is Life (see below – ITS ALIVE!). I respect the field of science and its empirical disciplines and such disciplines will be an oft used tool in the diamond cutters tool box, but there is much more that the mind may grasp through the mechanism of spiritual intuition – a heart felt sixth sense that can first imagine a possibility and then determine if it has the ring (a sense) of truth to it. The mind itself must be understood to be a sixth sense. Thoughts have life. (God is omnipresent – God is Life – Life is in all forms – thoughts are forms – thoughts have life.) Well considered thoughts open the mind to thoughts of an intuitive life nature (higher mind) that live beyond the reach of thought that is purely deductive (lower mind) or (lower still) muddled in emotional reactivity Such intuitive visions of truth must at some point be proved through experience but are not provable yet and so must be taken as theory. Faith may be put in such theories but one must be careful for the mind that employs faith wields great power to blind as well as to enlighten.
Much of what I say here in this letter, to my own satisfaction in my internal as well as external experience of the world, I have proved to myself to be true. I cannot prove it to you or anyone else. This is why we each must cut our own diamond. We can take cues from others but it is our own internal experience that bears out whether we have made a true cut or not. I none-the-less, to the best of my ability, and springing from the First Principle above, will use reason and sense to form a work that will hopefully make sense to you and others.
For God to be first cause and creator of all that is, He must have created all things out of His own being thus making Him omnipresent as well as omniscient. God must also be alive but this clearly expands the definition of life to levels beyond definition because God, being infinite, cannot be adequately defined. Any definition we can come up with will be limited due to humanity’s limited knowledge and ability to give expression to something infinitely beyond human imagination.
Since God is alive and omnipresent, the very atoms and subatomic particles, as well as the celestial heavens, then, must be alive with God’s presence, God’s goodness, God’s life or energy, and therefore God’s light (the illumination produced through the creative process) and even God’s love (the appreciation of the goodness of that which is created). At the atomic level that life is rudimentary, yes, but none the less alive with the power and energy of God. And at the celestial level the outworking of God’s life is well beyond imagination. I take this on faith, I guess, although to me it seems irrefutably obvious and follows logically from my first proposition (First Principle) that an infinite and therefore omnipresent God that is infinitely good exists and is the first cause of all that is.
ETERNAL GOD – ETERNAL LIFE
Life itself is eternal for God is life and Life, as I just defined it, is God. (I think it is fair to substitute the word Life for the word God for there can be no life outside of God since God is first cause and omnipresent, and reversely, it would be pointless for God to be outside of life since God is alive.) Oh, I know your question regarding my confidence in eternal life refers to the life span of a human being and whether the specific consciousness of a particular human (mine in particular) may, or will, or will not survive bodily death. But in the ultimate scheme of things it matters not one iota, for Life itself is eternal and the Life that you and I are dots of, and that God shares with us, is one Life and it is enough to be immersed in that eternal one Life without asking the question: Will I, my consciousness, my soul, (or whatever we want to callforms that may or may not survive) survive my bodily death? Life is eternal and so bodily death only indicates a change in form and not the death of life.
Life goes on and on and whatever is of God survives the temporarily individualized bodily formations that Life takes on and that is good enough for me. Let all that is not good pass away and if God judges that that be ‘me’ (the forms Life occupies) so be it.
But, is there anything that is not good? Could the perception of bad or evil be an illusion? If all that God created out of His infinite goodness is good can evil truly exist? If not, why do we perceive that it does?
LIFE IN FORM
Jesus said: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Thus Jesus, the man, indicated that the son of man did not equate his form with God. It is important to note the distinction here is the same one I just made above between Life and the form Life takes. I believe it is not meant to indicate that God is good and forms are bad, but simply to make it clear that the form is temporary – impermanent and not to be confused with the Life that uses the form to make Itself manifest. So let’s not be attached to our bodily form or anything else but to God alone and know that all that is good is evidence for God, for Life, for what is eternal.
Jesus, the Christ, also said “He who has seen me has seen the Father”. This statement is coming from the Christ (the Life) within the man Jesus; the only begotten Son of God within the form – the son of man. “Christ” is the title of the Life or Word of God from the beginning (as in the Gospel of John, Chapter One) manifest in man, the form, and that lives within every form if we could but see it, but we confuse the form with it and so remain in darkness.
LIFE IN CHRIST
Jesus said: “I Am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Here, Christ makes clear that the only begotten Son of God is the only way to apprehend any inkling of God. I believe that “only begotten Son of God” refers to the Life that is God that is in all things. We can only come to God through recognition of that Life that is God hidden in all forms.
Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words (Christ’s) will not pass away.” Heaven and earth are forms and so are not permanent, but I take what Christ said here to mean that His words are words revealing the Truth, or Word, or Christ – all three words being synonyms for the formless Spirit of Life Itself (God) that he embodies, and that Truth will not pass away.
‘Life in Christ’ is another way to express the losing of one’s self in the goodness of Life (God) that I spoke of earlier. Christ is the Word of God, the Word that is with God from the beginning and that is written upon the heart of man, and only evident to those that turn their attention to the good of God. When we lose ourselves in Him (not the flesh form [man] of Jesus, but rather the Truth Word [Life] of Christ) we trade our attention to the little form masquerading as self for an attention to the Higher Self, the Life of God within us. That Christ Self or God Self is all inclusive of all that is salvageable from material existence. I predict that nothing in our material experience will be lost however, because every experience of loss, every suffering moment, is a golden opportunity to experience the goodness of God. This happens at a minimum through contrast of what we experience as bad with what we experience as good, for it is by such contrast that experience of good is made possible. Deeper than contrast, however, is the mystical ability in Christ (lost-ness in the good of Life) to turn a bad experience into good and loving outworking. If this is so, If “all things work together for good for those who love God and work according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) is there anything that is truly bad or evil or is this merely a trick of perception?
In the ultimate wisdom and goodness of God all that is truly good in life is eternal; for Life is eternal and Life is good; for God is good and God is the source for Life. Nothing coming from God can be bad. If we perceive bad in life then we have imperfect vision for “God makes all things good for those who love God and work according to His purpose”.
What then, is God’s chosen purpose? That all should have life and have it more abundantly! Look! (To see it lose yourself in it!) The entire universe is alive and we are participating in it and it is all good and working little by little toward the outworking of God’s purpose – life abundant for all! “What wondrous love is this”?!
When we work towards God’s purpose we shine light in the darkness. The darkness is the perception that there is bad (death) in life. When we witness something we first perceive as bad and then see how new expressions of life spring up out of the fertile ground, made that way by “dung, rot and decay”, we see the light of goodness. Contemplate Christ’s “death and resurrection”. His resurrection proves “death” to be merely a change of form for Life that is eternal from the get go. The question is do each of us identify with that Life and work according to Its purpose or do we identify with the form that Life temporarily takes and so question whether life even has purpose?
We work according to God’s purpose when we sow good seed and do what we can to help the perception of goodness grow. Such light bearing is like leaven in the loaf, wherever the light is shone the “dough” swells with enriched goodness. When baked in the heat of experience, the resultant “bread” is heavenly. Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is in the here and now right under our noses if we will simply open our eyes to it. And it is eternal.
This seems to conflict with Christ’s statement: “Heaven and Earth will pass away but my words will not pass away”. Christ and His words represent the Word of God. The term “Word of God” in turn is, perhaps, the best attempt we can make in the human tongue to express, in a nut shell, the splendor and glory of God’s far reaching goodness beyond all capacity of human understanding. It is this Word that will never pass away while we will eventually graduate from our human concepts of heaven and hell, earth and sky, time and space, scripture and the perverse, separation and death as we further and further lose ourselves in God.
SIN and DEATH and GRACE
You may ask: what about original sin? All have sinned and the wages of sin is death. As you say in your pamphlets we will not escape this life without dying a bodily death. I believe sin is of the flesh (form) and its perceptions and its consequences in the flesh are adequate. Mind and the sense of separation that mind entertains – a sense of self with a small s – is also of the flesh, albeit more subtle in the form of thoughts and emotions, and we must die to this emotional and mental sense of separation too. There is no getting around it and why would we want to save our sense of separation anyway, when we can lose this sense of limitedness in an ever increasing awareness of God’s infinite goodness?
But even sin has a purpose. When Jesus and his disciples met a man on the road who was blind from birth the disciples asked who sinned? Was it his parents that sinned and so this man was born blind or did he himself sin in a previous life and that is why he was born blind in this life? And Jesus said to them that the man was born blind that this day God may be glorified and then He made the man to see.
Is this not also the case with all sin – if when we turn all we are and all we do to God’s purpose (to Life’s purpose) the best we know how? If it were not for all our mistakes in judgment (our sin, if you prefer) whether they be innocent or malicious, we would not be able to know from personal experience the goodness and glory of God. There would be nothing to contrast with His purpose and as a result we would be blind to how very good God is. Because of this simple truth every evil is made into good and glorifies God when we get around to identifying with Him and working toward His purpose.
What if we don’t get around to God’s purpose in this bodily life time? We still are, albeit unwittingly, a part of the plan by providing more fodder for the glory of God to be proven with! Nothing is ever lost for good. It just seems that way temporarily so that we may better see and appreciate and have the joy that comes with the perception of God’s goodness and grace.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
I see no need to have any concern for life after bodily death. Let not that be what motivates one (like a carrot on a stick) to glorify God or work according to His purpose or to accept the teachings or salvation of Christ. Rather, let it be the joy in this very moment of knowing how very good God is and that that goodness permeates everything about us, even within ourselves; for God, Life, is everywhere present including every cell of our body, every inkling of feeling, every dot of thought, every flash of intuition, every touch of spirit, every spark of soul, every sun of the divine, every galaxy of cosmos!
A POWER OTHER THAN GOD
Take care not to entertain thoughts of a power other than God (Life), outside of God, for to do so is to think that there is some other power besides God and besides good. This will contribute to misunderstanding and fear. Where would such an outside power come from if God is first source and creator of all things? Would it come from us humans, or His fallen angels because of free will? If so, it must have been foreseen by God and a part of His plan and purpose and so is within His power, fulfilling His plan and has no power of its own.
When we begin to recognize this we are starting to free ourselves of the path of perceived separation, judgment, pain and death and coming on board the train of freedom, peace and realization of life eternal in the here and now. But this means letting go of our judgmental attitudes and the idea that we are each a separate self. Then we understand that science is not separate from religion even when others perceive it that way. We understand that government is not separate from religion even while we faithfully practice separation of church and state. We understand that commerce is not separate from religion, that all we do in any walk of life may be dedicated to the divine purpose of the One Source. And we understand that one religion is not separate from another religion for the practice of true religion is not in the adherence and loyalty to some dogmas and precepts while being prejudice against others, but rather, religion is the realization of Life (God) and Its purpose; Self-realization with a capital S.
THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
It is this, I believe, that Christ came to reveal to us, through His life and teachings, His bodily death and experience of separation, His resurrection and ascension; the demonstration of just how good and universal God is. And it is for this same reason that He comes again at another turn of the spiral to give us even more powerful encouragement to change our thinking, to put aside our fear and judgmental-ness and move forward in the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth in the here and now. This is to recognize that as He comes to us from apparently outside of us, He at the same time emerges from within each who will open the door; for we are not separate from Him.
“Accepting Christ as Lord and Savior” is a way of expressing the becoming aware of this presence. We could call it The Principle of Permanence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of God – outwardly throughout creation and inwardly throughout the self – the ceasing to see one’s self as separate from God. There are many other ways to express this same truth; “Self-realization” for instance. To be fully Self-realized is to know ones Self to be the Life of God – the Christ – the Only Begotten. The reason that Christ is invested with the power He has is because of His complete recognition of this. Within this recognition is the awareness that He also is all of us because there is no separation in the One Life. We are called to contemplate this and then demonstrate this just as He did and does.
FORGIVENESS SAVES SOULS
We are not saved from the perception of death until we become Self-realized through lost-ness in Christ, or the Life of God within us, within all that is. What helps one to come to this awareness is not the fear of death (is that what an infinitely loving Creator would want to be the motivation for coming to Him and His purpose?) but rather the forgiveness and grace inherent in the goodness of God. Jesus told many parables on forgiveness and emphasized that we must love our brother as our self. And who is our brother? Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our brother is anyone we meet regardless of their religious persuasion, nationality, race, gender, orientation, good or bad, etc.
The words of Jesus from John 20.23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.” And Luke 6.37: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
From these words it is clear that when we forgive someone a perceived wrong then we have spoken for God and they are forgiven. (The Life of God, the Only Begotten, lives within us as Christ but it is even the son of man – the son of flesh and body – the growing, evolving human consciousness that has the power to forgive sins. The difference is but a matter of perception. Consider Mark 2.1-12 about the paralytic healed) Likewise when we forgive, we are then able to be forgiven. When we hold something against someone then it sticks and also means that our mistakes will take hold in us and we will not be free. It is the Life of God (Christ) that saves us from the perception of death, yet most all of us miss the point that that Life is the very Life that breathes in us every moment of every day. We therefore have the power to save someone from their own perception of torment and death by simply forgiving them. And in so doing we, at once, save ourselves as well, because separation is an illusion of perception. What we do to another we do to ourselves. There is no getting around it. The same Life that is in us is also in them.
What if Jesus had resented those who hung His body on a cross to die? It was the grace and forgiveness that He displayed there on the cross that is our example to save the world – our world. There is a perception of the world for each of us – ours. Within our own framework of perception it is up to each of us to find it within ourselves to forgive all; be it a pesky fly or wasp, be it Osama Bin Laden or Hitler, be it God or mother and father or brother and sister, be it an insult or injury, be it persecution and death. If we find we are unable to do it for even one individual then we have some work to do on the way we perceive things. Losing ourselves in the goodness of God, the Life of God (in Christ if you desire it in the Christian framework) is the path to the Father. No one can come to His Holy Feet by any other means. Forgiveness of all is required for this lost-ness in God. And it is only in His Eternal Life that we find salvation from the mere perception of death.
Perhaps it seems that all this is but a mincing of words to put things in terms that are more favorable to my own world view and perception of things. That is exactly what it is! It is the cutting of a gem from rough stone and I have much more cutting to do. I will not be done until I have completely put into practice and so fully realized what it is I say here that I will be done.
It behooves each of us regardless of religious or ideological persuasion to forgive those who don’t think the way we do about things; to find the center of our thinking in the center of theirs though at surface level it appears so different from our own. If we cannot, it is a tell tale sign that we are lost in our own perception of God instead of lostin God.
MEETING LOVED ONES
Praise God and work according to His purpose. The purpose of the fear of bodily death can only truly be fulfilled as that same fear is irradiated away by the love and appreciative joy in the heart that is present as one yearns and aspires for realization of the goodness of God. Thus the purpose of fear as in all suffering is like that of the blind man on the road: to glorify God through its transformation into an expression of truth, goodness and love. Then, like the lily of the field we radiate God’s beauty. It is here in such radiance that we shall meet our loved ones again for it is here that our loved ones reside just as God resides in all things – us too.
What is it about them that we love? Is it not that unique expression that they were of Life, the One Source, God? We miss their bodily presence and yet we carry them in our hearts. We may see them sooner then we think when we lose the idea of separation and realize eternal life in the heaven of loss of self in God. Do you see all idea of separation melting away? God, Self, Christ, Life eternal, and our loved ones are all together right now. We share all this with them regardless of how we perceive it, but how we perceive it determines whether or not we are aware of this shared Presence.
The form (such as a human) is like a lens through which Life is focused. Each lens appears as an individual and has a unique perspective in regards to all the other lenses of the Divine. They all, however, have the same Life shining through them so that when one lens is discarded the Life is not, but merely picks up another lens through which to focus Its attention while preserving the experience gained through the previous lens. So be not attached to any particular lens but know that all that is good is preserved forever in the Life that shines though the form and know as well that it is all good. “God saw what He had made and lo, it was very good.” We are That.
The prayer of St. Francis says all that I have just said much more succinctly:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light:
Where there is sadness, Joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
Love’s in everything,
Eternal Life Concatenation
My father is a retired American Baptist and Methodist minister that now attends a Congregational church. I wrote to him to share my thoughts on eternal life with him from whom, since the beginning of my life, I have looked for advice and confirmation and who has always encouraged thoughtful contemplation of Christian teaching. I offer our emails here (with his permission) for your perusal in the event that you will find our discussion of Christianity and its problems contemplative. You will find that I take dad to task on the traditional Christian approach to salvation and thus eternal life. Though I am critical of what has become the traditional approach I mean no disrespect and agree with my father that Christ is the way to God. This does not mean, however, that I believe this way to God and the realization of eternal life need necessarily be put in Christian terms. In the following succession of emails I become a stickler for insisting that Christ is so universal that even the religion that bares His name cannot contain Him. In fact no name may contain Him and He is known by many.
Sent: Saturday, August 01, 2009 7:23 PM Subject: Eternal Life
I tried to scan and send you the letters and pamphlets that Mary sent me with this email but the scanned files are too large. I will send you copies of them by snail mail. In the mean time attached is my finished response to her. It only took me 7 months of on again off again writing to get it completed! If you feel so inclined I would appreciate any editing suggestions you may have as I plan to post it to my web site. Love’s in everything, Will
Sent: Saturday, August 08, 2009 7:00 AM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
I have read through Mary’s letters and pamphlets and recognize traditional Evangelical Christianity in them. She and her husband have found peace therein and are attempting to share it. Acceptance of Christ is an abandonment of the attempt to save oneself and just go with God through Christ. I would share their joy with them, perhaps through the classical little pamphlet “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence (Forward Movement Publications).
I have read through your reply in both the short and long versions. You have found peace in the abandonment of self in the love of God and are attempting to share it. I can hardly do better than to share your joy the same way through Brother Lawrence. (Google it.)
Can you boil down your 11 pages to something succinct ending with the Prayer of St. Francis?
Sent: Sunday, August 09, 2009 2:09 PM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
I appreciate your desire to be even handed in your response to me and the traditional Evangelical. It is true that when one accepts Christ in the spirit of self abandonment they have found the same joy that I have found and that I express through “losing oneself in the goodness of God”. To me there is no difference. The paths are one and the same – the Word.
What troubles me about the traditional Evangelical approach to sharing their joy is what tends to come across as fear for those who have not yet found Christ and what appears to be the use of fear tactics used to persuade those lost in worldly perception. Such fear indicates a lack of confidence in the total goodness of God and such fear tactics encourages others to doubt God’s absolute goodness and thus helps to perpetuate the lost-ness of others.
Thus my response attempting to give credence to the notion that God is so good that the idea of separation from Him can only be imagined in the human mind – that it can not possibly be real, because there is no existence apart from God.
As far as succinctness goes I thought I did pretty well with my short version. That, followed by the Prayer of St. Francis, would be fairly succinct I should think. However, I do wonder if the effort to get things boiled down to a few words so that those with a short attention span can have a sense of knowing what one is talking about – particularly when it is something somewhat beyond words – may not be, at least in part, responsible for oversimplified, exclusive and thus confused understandings of what our relationship with God actually is and what it means to be “saved”.
I will read Light Heart’s 20 page version of Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God – is that the version you recommend? http://www.practicegodspresence.com/brotherlawrence/index.html Love’s in everything, Will
Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 7:58 PM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
I agree with you on Evangelical fear. You and I share the grief of realizing how many are missing the joy that is so available — you through knowing God’s unconditional love and I through knowing Jesus Christ. And yes, they are the same, so why not join together in the confession that our joy is in knowing the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ?
And yes, add the Prayer of St. Francis to your short version — and stop. Your short version is succinct but not simplistic. Though I liked some of the images you bring out in your long version the length erased the impact of the short version. So I say don’t put the long version on your link – but if you must, boil it down. Maple syrup is better than Maple sap.
My copy of Brother Lawrence is pre-internet from the Episcopal “Forward Movement Publications,” 412 Sycamore St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. It consists of four conversations recorded by one who met him “upon the third of August, 1666,” and sixteen letters “which Brother Lawrence wrote with his own hand . . .” This is according to an excerpt from “the Preface to the Original French Edition, A.D. 1692″ which introduces the 47 page booklet by the Forward Movement. My copy is the Eleventh Printing, given to me when I was in Seminary, and is thoroughly used. I have two copies of the Twenty-seventh Printing and will send you one. (I haven’t thought to Google ”The Forward Movement” or ”The Forward Movement Publications.” I’ll have to do that for additional copies of Brother Lawrence I like to have has a hand-out.)
Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2009 8:22 AM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
I’ve received the copy of Brother Lawrence. Thanks. I suspect it may be the same translation I got off the internet but I have not yet made the comparison. I have read the conversations and two of the letters. They are very good. It is clear that Brother Lawrence has found the key to loosing himself and thus finding his true self. Through his monastic life solely devoted to practicing what he teaches he appears to have perfected the practice thus living the joy day in and day out. His is a great example to follow.
Regarding your question of “why not join together in the confession that our joy is in knowing the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ?” Why not indeed. I kind of thought I just did when I suggested that it was the same knowing. Such a confession is not a problem among the like minded. It only becomes an issue with those from other religions. Christians, unfortunately, have made the name Jesus Christ into a tag that, when confessed, makes you a Christian. This would be a good thing if being a Christian meant universal brotherhood with all humanity. To most, however, being a Christian means membership in an exclusive group that will go to heaven when they die while all others are condemned to hell.
I choose to try and express my faith as inclusively as possible. I don’t believe that Jesus intended for His name to be used in the exclusive way that Christians, in general, are prone to do – if you don’t accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior then you are not like us. Because Christians are inclined to behave this way they are very much like other religionists who also practice their own version of exclusiveness.
I believe all religions are inspired by the same source for there is only one Ultimate Source. I also believe that all religions are human organizations and full of flaws. Exclusivism is perhaps one of the biggest flaws. We need to train ourselves to see God everywhere we look and point Him out there! … and over there! … and, yes, right here too! without regard to race, creed, or religion.
If Christianity had not made an exclusive religion out of Jesus and instead kept His name Holy by keeping Christ for any one (whether they have confessed Him or not) instead of just for themselves – so that the Hindu can stay a Hindu if he wants to and still be “saved”, or a Buddhist a Buddhist, etc. Even an Atheist can be saved and remain an Atheist if he so chooses if salvation is to be understood in loosing oneself in the goodness of “Life” – a term that can be taken to be synonymous with God or The Word if we are willing to see it that way.
(We must understand that any word we apply to the Word of God shall fall short in, or even negate, the human understanding of what the Word of God actually is. And a word misused or used in vain decreases its power to convey the originally intended meaning. The words “God”, “Jesus” and “Christ” are three such words misused so often that their power to convey to the hearer the meaning intended by the sincere user has been greatly diminished. Lets remember first that the Word is universal so that, potentially any word (such as “Life”) may be employed to allude to It and may help to reinvigorate the transmission of the meaning trying to be conveyed when understood in the proper context.)
I suspect you would call what I just said (before I went into my parenthetical tangent) un-Christian which would explain why you, apparently, don’t consider me one (one who does not know Christ as you do) but I don’t think Christ ever meant for us to use His name that way. Christ, I believe, is meant to be universally for everyone regardless of their religion.
Yes, we are changed when we “confess the name of Christ” but it does not mean we immediately set aside our cultural heritage (which is all mixed up with our religion) and adopt someone else’s. Eventually, we do give up everything (even the Christian his religion) and lose our self in God but this does not happen overnight. It works on us as dripping water on a stone until we have been fully transformed. And anyone from any religion may subscribe. “Confessing the name of Jesus Christ” is only the Christian form of a universal way to God.
We are to love each other – which is how we love God. That is all. Jesus said to love our brother as ourselves. The brother of the Christian is the Muslim, the Taoist, etc. To love as ourselves one from another religion or one who claims no religion is to respect the perspectives they hail from the same way we respect our own perspective. At the same time we must continue to reach for the highest apprehension and understanding of the truth that we can hold and see reflected in those around us.
So, in that spirit, it behooves me to respect your desire to have me confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and understand it is because you love me that you want this. I only ask that you respect my desire to find an expression of the truth of God’s grace that anyone may understand with out the unnecessary language of exclusiveness that the Christian religion has attached to it. For me this is the avenue I believe Love is calling me to take.
I hope you understand that my desire to explain myself to you is an expression of my love for you and that without the challenge you present to me as father and religious teacher I would consider my life and my thought to be far less rich and far less stimulating. Thank you for all that you are and for being willing to talk with me about these things.
Love’s in everything, Will
Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 12:51 AM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
I accept that you know “the unconditional love of God.” What I don’t understand is why you are looking for another way than “through Jesus Christ.”
Your point about words becoming exclusive is well taken. But the solution, I believe, is in careful definition and consistent use of the familiar, rather than the importation of alien terms. So: GOD — that than which nothing is greater; JESUS — of Nazareth; CHRIST — the anointed representative of God’s reign.
“The unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ,” so defined, is the most universal and inclusive good news the world has ever heard. No other philosophy or religious teaching is so simple yet so profound. It is not that other philosophies or religions are excluded. When people embrace the good news that Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated God’s reign of unconditional love, they give themselves henceforth to following Jesus. And that is the definition of a Christian.
“The unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ” is utterly inclusive and accepting, but followers in this way of Jesus Christ find many things in their former lives incompatible. These they drop, little by little, or all at once. This is what has happened to you, Will. You have found many things in your experience of the church and so-called Christianity, incompatible with God’s unconditional love. You have tried a variety of radical departures from your heritage as a means of distancing yourself from these incompatibilities.
Of course, a Hindu can follow Jesus, a Muslim can follow Jesus, a Buddhist can follow Jesus, and even an Atheist can follow Jesus. But little by little, as they slough off what is incompatible with following Jesus, they will discover they are simply and truly Christian. Your “Why not indeed” (your e-mail above) is a welcome sign to me that you are ready now to be “a Christian following Jesus.” (That is what I have been doing all my life — trying to get Christians to follow Jesus.)
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 7:27 PM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
Thanks for keeping the dialogue going Dad,
What you say below all makes sense to me except at the end where you seem to prove my point by stating that all your life you have been trying to get Christians to follow Jesus. This you say right after saying that a Christian is someone who follows Jesus. Furthermore you began by saying that careful definition and consistent use of the familiar is the solution.
You’ve demonstrated just how difficult it is to consistently use the very familiar term “Christian” in a way that makes it clear what a Christian is. Is a Christian someone who is following Jesus -period? Or is a Christian someone who belongs to the Christian religion who may or may not be following Jesus? If a true Christian is the former than isn’t it incorrect to describe what you’ve been doing all your life as “trying to get Christians to follow Jesus”? If the latter is correct then is not the former incorrect? If they are, paradoxically, both correct then I suggest that the term is hopelessly confusing and it will always be risking a misunderstanding to use the term: If you say Christian and mean a follower of Jesus you could easily be misunderstood to be referring to an adherent or adherents of a religion about Jesus or just some fair Sunday church people. This is what I want to avoid. I think that, in general “Christians” (as in every other religion) have so adulterated their name that it no longer has adequate clarity of meaning and is beyond restoration as long as “Christians” continue to be so hypocritical .
Finding a fresh way to express one’s convictions I think is a positive and fruitful endeavor that can only expand understanding of the traditional way as well as produce an appreciation for the other expressions of the Way found in other religions. And if I’m found out to be a hypocrite at least I have not so much contributed to the defamation of the traditional expression of the Way. If everyone were to simply fall in line with just one uniform way of expressing the Way, I believe our understanding would be dogmatic, flat, intolerant, anti-unity and not representational of Jesus Christ at all. Hmmm. That’s kind of the whole problem isn’t it?
Actually I want to get Christians to follow Jesus too. When I write it is often with the Christian in mind. My approach is different from yours but I don’t believe that only one or the other of our approaches has to be the only right approach. Your approach is appropriate for you given your life history and lessons. Mine is the correct approach for me given my life’s history and lessons. I believe each person’s correct approach will be a unique one. If we all just followed a uniform approach we would not be thinking for ourselves but simply be sheep myopically dependent on the ordained priesthood rather than having a priesthood of all believers. Surely you agree with me on this point. Love’s in everything, Will
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2009 9:18 AM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
Susan, Gloria’s daughter who is with us for two weeks, had a very good suggestion when she had the same reaction to “Christian” you had. How about “Christlike”? So, change my wording above to: “Of course, a Hindu can follow Jesus, a Muslim can follow Jesus, a Buddhist can follow Jesus, and even an Atheist can follow Jesus. But little by little, as they slough off what is incompatible with following Jesus, they will discover they are simply and truly Christlike.”
Sent: Friday, August 28, 2009 9:37 AM Subject: Re: Eternal Life
I like that well enough. To say someone is Christlike does not, in my mind, necessarily link them to the religion of Christianity and therefore allows anyone to be so labeled regardless of the culture or religion they hail from. More importantly it is more likely to invite and welcome anyone to bend their being or lose their self to put on the garment of the Christ Principle – that Divine Presence that makes one Christlike, that Word of God from which Jesus Himself hails – with fewer erroneous ideas associated with the over used labels “Christian” and “Jesus”.
Furthermore no one who is endeavoring to follow Jesus and therefore be Christlike would refer to themselves as Christlike, but in all humility and being only too well acquainted with one’s own foibles, would only allow that “Christlike” is their aim. This avoids the pitfall the term “Christian” has fallen into where it can mean anything from one who has a get out of jail free card, with a depth of meaning about as large as a monopoly game, to one who shares with Jesus the mantle of World Savior.
Thanks to Susan for her input on the idea. Love’s in everything, Will
Your two paragraphs on our mutual preference of “Christlike” for the result of following Jesus, is a fitting conclusion to this long concatenation of e-mails on “Eternal Life.” Our thanks to Susan is also mutual.