Category Archives: Short essays

Essays of short length for ease of reading

Arbitrary Power Expresses Maximum Powerlessness

News media reports the arbitrary use of power against innocent targets with increasing frequency. Why? Why do we hear of and see so many senseless expressions of power used to harm the least reasonable targets?  Because such expressions of power are symptomatic of an underlying social condition of perceived powerlessness.  Individuals who used to comfort themselves by associating in their minds with being part of a powerful group, team or nation no longer find comfort there because those opportunities for vicarious “power by association” are disappearing.  Traditions of parasitically drawing a sense of power by belonging to an unassailable, always winning group are crumbling.  In the absence of traditional temporary relief from secret (often unconscious) feelings of personal powerlessness and resulting frustrations about lack of control over one’s own destiny, individuals who are vulnerable to such feelings of powerlessness for whatever reason are popping to the surface with their frustrations in both planned and spontaneous acts of reactionary violence.

The USA population includes many frustrated people who no longer believe that they have power to influence the course of their lives and cause any improvement in their lives or the lives of others they care about.  The mythical American Dream of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and single-handedly achieving success on some terms valued by the achiever is a bubble that has burst.  Like the housing bubble, .com bubble and so many other illusions of permanent prosperity based on constant growth, the American Dream of continuously improving prosperity based on continuous expansion of the economy and of dominance by the USA empire around the world has burst.  We’d like to pretend to blame that bubble’s bursting in air on current leaders or even upon past leaders and comfort ourselves with renewed bombs bursting in air, but that’s another illusion.  The truth is that illusions are illusions and don’t last forever.

If an individual feels powerless, one way of compensating for his or her sense of powerlessness is to find convenient targets of sufficient weakness to inflict harm and pain upon in some way dramatically obvious that the “power to cause pain” flows from the individual according to his or her arbitrary willfulness.  “See how powerful I am?” is the message.  If the individual feels frustrated about not having his or her way in other areas of life, at least in this one area he or she is can assert unchallengeable dominance.  The more arbitrary the expression of power in relationship to any true justification for that expression of power, the more powerful the person feels temporarily.  It’s like a “fix” for that person.  Arbitrary use of power is addictive, a drug upon which the powerless person depends for relief.  Plus the more publicly the person gets away with his or her abuse of power, the more thrilling the expression of power becomes.  Targeting senseless victims for abuse becomes not only an addictive habit but a destructively meaningless hobby, sadistically amusing to the person who expresses power in this manner.  “Getting away with it” adds to the thrill of arbitrary power.  “Getting away with it in the open with no one being able to stop me” is the greatest thrill of all.  “Recruiting others to protect me while I am openly abusing power by harming innocent victims” also adds to the person’s false sense of power.

The emotional and mental inner workings of people who senselessly use power to harm or cause pain to others is not as much of a mystery to humans as we’d like to claim.  Most if not all of us have had occasion to be at least tempted to engage in such power dynamics as a way of compensating for the frustrations of our lives.  “Kicking the dog” in private is a minor expression of power for this purpose.  Punishing weak members of society for their acting out their own frustrations in public upon arbitrary victims is another expression of this power.

We much prefer to accuse others of doing what we’d likely do ourselves when the shoe is on the other foot and then inflict pain upon them as if to flagellate ourselves vicariously for participating in such a weakness.  The temptation is strong to point the finger at others and declare ourselves free of any related habits and hobbies.  It would be better for all of us if we’d spend at least as much time pointing the finger towards ourselves and confessing our own misunderstanding about power and how power to cause pain and harm to others is never a true expression of power.  It’s a game our egos play to express how undeserving of love we secretly believe we are and to convince us how much we are powerless to do anything about improving the condition of the society in which we live.  The ego lies.  True power is the power to help another person recover from having been the victim of arbitrary power or any other form of pain and find his or her path to freedom from otherwise, in turning the table, becoming an abuser of power too.  We must get up from that table and take no side of it. Instead we need to fashion campfires and other circles of reconciliation around which to gather as one village.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes this kind of transformed village to raise us all up to envision and share true power from another perspective.

If our nation is ever to stop abusing its power by subjecting weaker nations to pain and harm, we as individual citizens of our nation must undertake personally to adopt a different understanding of power and participate with wisdom in the alternative vision of power as a capacity to heal rather than to harm.

© Art Nicol 2016

We Kill Those Who Come to Save Us

On a Memorial Day weekend as we honor heroes, it seems apt to remember that not all who threaten the status quo are enemies that we need to eradicate as if the gardens of our minds have no room for new ideas.  Not every plant not previously encountered is a weed.  Some newly arriving people in our monolithic culture . . .  including incoming young members of our society who immigrate from heaven to our lands . . . bring gifts of healing and restoration to new life beyond the culture of violence to which we’ve become so well adjusted that we consider its norms sacred.  Truly sacred bearers of glad tidings of great joy arrive moment by moment to serve as reminders of what’s truly valuable.  In fact, the more violent our culture becomes, the more frequently and earnestly these message-bearers strive to capture our attention and tell us that violence is not the only alternative.  Might such nonconformist violators of the status quo not also be heroes we could welcome and value more?

Certainly we are grateful for the heroes who have protected and continue to protect us from harm.  We are also increasingly aware that a hero’s experiences in the face of violence include being harmed, emotionally if not also physically, as he or she stands up for us to stem the tide of violence that threatens to overrun us.  We ask our heroes to endure the pain we’re afraid to experience on our own behalf.  And to help us remain blind to our decision to use others as heroes to protect our comfortable lifestyles, we deny that the enemies our heroes fight are products of our own self-indulgent creature comforts and conveniences.  We deny that there are consequences to our choices and prefer to fashion scapegoats to excuse our self-indulgence lifestyles by blaming others for being envious of us — and eventually perhaps hateful towards us when we deny the legitimacy of their envy.

Although we perpetuate the expansion of our lifestyles through the operation of institutionalized envy, we refuse to see the woe we cause to others by not taking their wants and needs into account as we satisfy our own.  We are driven by our habit of comparing what “little” we have to what “more” others have.  This habit of comparison is selective.  It selects for justifications for our continued pursuit of more while keeping us blind to our own envy of those with more.  Other habits of valuing socially approved images and superficial, materialistic possessions keep us focused on “things” and luxuries as objects of desire, feeding our envy continuously to keep our economy in motion.  Earn, spend, earn, spend, earn, spend . . . the never-satisfying, ever-accelerating cycle of our lifestyles.

And yet when others seek to join us in our plentiful opportunities, we protest as if there’s not enough to share.  That we might no longer gain more and more threatens the foundation of our aspirations.  How could we go on comparing ourselves to what others enjoy if everyone has nearly the same?  What good is our socially popular image and our material possessions if they do not make us “special?”  How can we prove that God favors us if we live as if the concerns, needs and wants of others might be equal to our own and equally worthy of satisfaction?  Does not God play favorites just as we like to play favorites?  Is not that how one proves one’s power — by dispensing power and its accompanying perks on some basis one personally defines with little or no regard for any other standard?  Does not Facebook’s system of “Like” and “Dislike” prove the value of being liked even when we are not truly known or loved for ourselves because we hide behind the social images we project to score points as heroes and avoid becoming scapegoats?

Let us this weekend honor those who believed in the values of superiority claimed by the United States in comparison to other nations, or if not fully believing, nevertheless put themselves at risk to defend our claim and our opportunity to prove ourselves right rather than be destroyed by those who violently disagree with our claim of superiority.  But . . . and here’s a “but” worthy of due consideration . . . let us also carefully review the basis for our claim to superiority and remove from it the arrogance and ignorance we’ve religiously cultivated concerning the claims to value put forth by other nations and cultures.  In what way might we be right in claiming superiority that does not deny the value of other people’s claims to equally high value?  Might we be most right in the ideals to which we claim to subscribe such as “liberty and justice for all” and most need now to reveal our humility in admitting how far short of our own ideals we’ve often fallen?  Is a blend of humility and superiority possible or must one exclude the other?  Might our greatest claim to superiority be in the fitful but relentless progress we’ve endeavored to make in upholding and living true to our ideals?  Perhaps this weekend is one occasion among many to be grateful from the depths of our hearts for all who have stood up for us and sung our praises even when we’ve stumbled badly — or may yet be stumbling now.

Is this weekend an occasion to soberly consider the sacrifices we expect of heroes and ask ourselves, “Are we letting our heroes down when we fail to live according to our highest ideals?”  Are we mocking these heroic sacrifices when we fail to examine our own lifestyles for ways we’ve not ourselves been devoted to our stated highest ideals and instead neglected them as readily as we neglect our heroes when they come back home to our care?   Might we too often be a neglectful culture hypnotized by our pursuit of image-based, materialistic definitions of happiness while remaining blind to the consequences of our shallow pursuits as they spiral more and more out of control?  Our pursuit of shallowness and trivialities as a way of escaping from the deeper, heartfelt truths may be why our ship of state has run aground.  Deeper waters are calling to us from within our hearts.  Will we heed their call and learn to navigate their depths again?

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Dismantle Our Egos to Accept an End to Violence

If we continue to think only within the ego’s thought system we are lost in a world of violence and illusions about the cause of violence. As each anger-triggering interpersonal issue arises (whether it be private or political, local, national or global), we will inspect, dissect, analyze, categorize, theorize, shelve, institutionalize, aggrandize or minimize the issue and thereby perpetuate violence.  In short, we will perform an autopsy on each issue and then then enshrine it and our findings in a mausoleum without changing anything because we will not see the issue as a living opportunity to learn something new that points us towards a better future but as a dead thing of the past we must find a way to normalize or pretend to get rid of.  The ego plays such games with our minds for the purpose of steering us away from the truth that awaits within each issue that causes us to feel anger in some range from irritation to outrage.

The ego feeds and thrives upon anger. Conflict is the ego’s birthing ground, nursery and most developed expression.  It does not want us to find an alternative way to think about life because it fears that we’ll discover that it is the cause of violence and totally disinterested in ending violence.  Yet, within every issue that might arouse our anger to any degree lies a message of peace.  That message is “It need not be this way.”  Violence and anger are not necessary when issues are seen from the perspective of divine love – not the ego’s pseudo-love but love defined without regard to ego’s preservation.  All we need to do is to learn to walk with humility in God’s shoes (free of pride and shame as well as guilt and blame) and see life from Eternity’s perspective.  Then we’ll relax into accepting peace of mind, hope of heart and joy of spirit – what’s sometimes called “joie de vivre.”

The joy of life!  Where has it gone missing?  Why is it so elusive and once encountered so likely to slip away again?  The ego’s hold on our minds is the reason.  We cannot continue to indulge our egos and continue to think mistakenly that ego is a trustworthy guide to any answers worth discovering.  The answers exist but they exist beyond ego’s grasp.  We can begin to recognize them amid ego’s final gasp. Our minds’ capacity to encounter “Ah, ha” moments is evidence of our ability to think beyond ego’s limitations and grasp insights and understandings that elude ego.  We can gasp “Eureka!” at our ability to receive the truth that sets us free of ego.  We cannot grasp this truth and hold onto it too tightly any more than we can grasp a butterfly and squeeze it tightly without robbing it of life.  To become aware of the gentle touch of truth’s butterflies upon our minds, we must first open our hearts to let them land there, where our minds may be trained to notice their arrival.  We cannot inspect, dissect, analyze, etc. the butterflies truth sends to our hearts.  We can only receive, appreciate and marvel at their graceful, simple elegance and accept them as gifts from Divine Eternity.

Gifts from Divine Eternity are our natural inheritance.  As children of God, every one of us is poised to receive our inheritance.  We need not wait for God to die to inherit from our Creator.  All gifts from the Creative Realm are ours here and now – while we and God yet fully live.  The ego would have us believe that we have somehow murdered God or at least so offended Him/Her that any possibility of our having a favorable relationship with God/Goddess is dead.  To believe in God’s uninterruptedly abounding grace towards humanity in general and towards ourselves in particular seems impossible but it is only impossible to the ego that seeks to keep us in the dark, unaware of and inaccessible to our Divine Nature.

The ego cannot participate in divine grace because it disappears in the presence of such grace.  It’s not that the ego is “bad” or “not good enough” to participate in divine grace.  It’s merely that the ego’s way of thinking and feeling about life lacks the capacity to participate in grace because the ego’s way of thinking arose when we believed grace to be absent from our lives, when we believed we needed to protect ourselves from pain because there seemed no other way.  Grace and its progeny forgiveness, mercy, love, compassion, healing, reconciliation and other gentle-natured qualities of human beings exceed the ego’s realm of thought.  They manifest from our hearts, the realm of empathy and wisdom that ego knows not of.  In the presence of grace, the ego’s purpose vanishes and it crumbles into dust for lack of purpose.

The ego teaches us to deny our hearts.  Yet our hearts continue to desire more than the ego’s limited perspective on life can ever offer.  Our internal conflict between, on the one hand, striving to find satisfaction through our constant efforts to win approval through our performances in social roles and, on the other hand, simply desiring the free gift of satisfaction demonstrates that our hearts are aware that the ego does not serve us well.  We cannot win divine approval that brings us abiding deepest satisfaction because what is given freely cannot be won by effort or performance.  Abiding deepest satisfaction is an unearnable gift from our Creator to each of us without exception as His/Her eternally beloved child.

Instead of striving and struggling with egoic effort to prove we are worthy of love and all of life’s best, we can simply accept what our hearts most desire.  We can accept as divine fact that we are already loved and permanently poised to receive life’s best as freely given gifts.  How do we engage in such a radical shift in perspective?  We can begin by accepting the gift of our innate capacity to shift from reverse to neutral before we engage any forward gear.  We can reverse the devotion of our minds to ego’s way and restfully receive awareness of the alternate way and discover our natural affinity for it.  There is only one alternative way that truly exceeds ego’s grasp.  It is the way of divine love.  Ego honors fear.  The alternate way honors divine love and allows it to gradually dissipate all fears at a pace we can regulate according to our heart’s desire.  A text entitled A Course Of Love will tell you more about this way.  Visit http://acourseoflove.com/ to explore and engage in love’s more promising possibilities yourself.

You are poised to dive into love’s sea of serenity within you.  You are poised but like most people hesitate.  Diving into the unknown both intrigues and frightens you.  The ego would have you remain afraid to take the dive.  It would have you believe that taking the dive means forfeiting your opportunity to win the fight and exposes you to ridicule as an incompetent competitor.  The Divine Source of Love seeks not competitors but collaborators who will build the new world according to Love’s Master Plan.  Might you want to be one of the building blocks of such love – even when in the eyes of some others you may appear to be a loser rather than a winner in the ego’s endless rounds of competition?  If you have grown weary of the ego’s invitation to yet another round of competition for social approval and the supposed “perks” of ego, choose to let go of both ego’s perks and irks. Instead, let love be you and bond you to the Divine Source and others as Divine Grace is freely manifest within and through you.

© Art Nicol 2016

You Were Born to Have an Impact

Saying that you “were born” implies that you originate from a source that gave birth to you.  A source gave birth to you.  In a materialistic, scientific worldview, the idea of “birth” focuses on the origin of the physical body and traces your body’s origin back to your parents and then backward genetically through a timeline of gene pools that contributed to your body’s genetic makeup.  Then, according to science, the genes of your body – as influenced by your environment and your interactions with your environment –  determine the development of your body.  If all you are is a body, then that’s the whole story – cellular growth determined by genetic makeup and the influences of your environment as you experience being exposed to your environment, including the things you eat, the activities you undertake and the locations where you choose to be active.  If all you are is a body, then having “an impact” is limited to your body’s presence, consumption of resources and production of output, if any, beyond waste products.  That’s a pretty dismal view of a person’s life, value and impact.

However, it’s possible that you are not merely a body.  It’s possible that your body’s brain does not entirely explain the mental activities you experience during your lifetime.  It’s possible that you develop mentally on account of factors beyond the genetic makeup of your body and your interactions with your environment.  Although your mental development may be heavily influenced by genetic makeup and environment, you may not be merely a product of your environment.  You may have options beyond being a mere “product” rolling along a socially oriented assembly line to your final destination as a socially acceptable (popular and praised) or unacceptable (cast out and shamed) by-product of your social interactions. What if you do have options?  What if there is more to the story than genetic makeup and social environment that helps your mind understand who you are?  What if fully and completely answering the question “Who am I?” requires you to see yourself as more than a structurally arranged, unique set of cells engineered by genes and adapting to its environment?

Of course, you do not have to entertain possibilities beyond genes and environment in consider your nature and nurture.  That is your choice.  In fact, having that choice illustrates an aspect of you that cannot readily be explained by genes and environment. That aspect is your capacity to make choices.  If you fully honor your capacity to make choices – your willpower – then you begin to experience yourself as much more than a by-product of genetically coded cells interacting with their environment.  In fact, because our exercise of willpower opens doors to infinite possibilities, recognizing willpower as a valued dimension of human life invites us to see a greatly expanded meaning of “having an impact.”  The greatest impact may be revealed in a lifetime of choices made that defy options and opportunities offered in our normal social environment because we reach for more creative options and opportunities that our mind allows us to imagine.  I suggest that it is within the exercise of our imaginations as the source of our options that we will find the fuller meaning of being “born” and “having impact.”

My own life journey has taught me that my choices bring consequences.  One of the most promising consequences proved to be that one choice may lead me to awareness of other options and opportunities I did not previously know existed.  For example, making the choice to step beyond my comfort zone as a fence-sitter and avoider of conflict and controversy eventually led me step by step to encounter a progression of uncomfortable but educational environments in which my range of options and opportunities was more expansive, diverse and enriching than the range previously known to me.  Had I remained too scared to explore this progression of uncomfortable but educational life experiences I would have remained ignorant of the greater possibilities of life and not encountered the Ultimate Source of Life personally.  No matter how admirable my intentions might have been in investing myself strictly within my previous comfort zone, my growth as a person would have been stunted and I would have remained a fence-sitter, people-pleaser and conflict/controversy-avoider. And I would have remained a perfectionist out of fear of being criticized for mistakes that inevitably come with exploring wider environments where unimagined often unforeseen challenges and lessons remain to be encountered and mastered by faith.

More importantly, had I not grown more understanding and insightful and progressively wiser throughout the course of my journey, I would have continued to unwittingly inflict harm on others through my ignorance and well-intended foolishness. I would have misled many others into believing that what I said was true was true instead of encouraging them to risk taking their own journey of discovery as I had and learn what is true for themselves from the same Source. Having mistakenly crucified others on the cross of my own ignorance, I would have had to continue to cry out “God forgive me for I know not what I do.”  Instead, having taken the risk of venturing beyond my comfort zones into zones of progressively less comfort, I have learned who I am, who the Source of Life from Whom I was born is and of the reality of my and all of humanity’s solidarity and oneness with the Source.  As a result, I have learned to seek and receive the Source’s guidance as to what I do and how I do it in regard to every living being I encounter.  Having learned the art of humility and surrendered my life to serving the Source, I am now more apt to actually cause the good I intend than ever I was before because I have learned to be the Source’s instrument for extending Source-defined, Source-provided good to others.  I have learned to no longer rely upon my own ideas about what is “good” or trust in my own best intentions.  Instead, I’ve learned to trust that the Source knows best — even when my own more limited mind still puzzles over how the Source’s ideas work.  I do not pretend that the providence of miracles is mine to rule.  In short, I’ve learned to no longer lean upon my own understanding.

It is true that I was born to have an impact. It is also true that my most helpful impact would have been stillborn had I allowed myself to remain trapped in the belief that I am essentially a body composed of cells engineered by genes and developed, molded and trained like some form of artificial intelligence through interactions with my environment.  As tempting as it may be to conform one’s thinking to the popular ideas of one’s society, I encourage others to take the risk of deviating from those normative ideas and daring to encounter criticism as many bold explorers and thinkers have endured. Why? Because it is true that love endures all things — even the criticism of those not yet inclined to overcome their own fears and ignorance. The best way to prove that you are born as a being of love to share love with increasingly expansive impact is to discover that all you are is love no matter in what environment, subculture or social setting you may find yourself immersed and engaged from stage to stage along your journey — no matter how harsh the criticism may be.

Just as there is no limit to the capacity of the Source of Love to love there is no limit to your capacity to love because you were born with an enduring connection to your Source and can tap into infinite love flowing from your Source by exercise of your willpower.  The willpower of the Source chose to give you the experience of being born with this enduring, unbreakable connection because the Source created you to be just like your Source, a spitting image of your Source but not a splitting image of It.  Never are you split or separated from your Source. Never are you born to cause or perpetuate splits or separations to occur between you and your Source, you and anyone else or anyone and his or her Source.  The Source of Life and Love for each of us is the same Source.  We are all one with that Source – our Source, not yours, mine, his, hers or theirs but ours.

You were born to have an impact, too.  No matter what distinctive details may emerge in your manifestation of love as you come into awareness of the Source of Love in your mind and heart, you are here to have an impact comparable to and compatible with mine.  We are all here to help bind up heartache and other wounds and to heal relationships wherever we may travel. Whether our model of healing is Jesus who was born to have an impact that included healing broken hearts and restoring relationship between humanity and our Source or some other healing entity, our mission and purpose remain in line with the Source’s vision for all humanity to see ourselves as one loving community overflowing with love because we are connected to an infinite flow of love.

On March 4, 1865, following a great conflict that he was not able to avoid and ceasing to attempt to be a fence-sitter or people-pleasing politician, Abraham Lincoln said it this way:

“With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Towards this endlessly unfolding destiny I encourage all of us to strive together by faith in the Source who is ever faithful.  Therein awaits the impact for which we were born — each individually and all collectively.

© Art Nicol 2016

The Rush of Insanity and Its Telltale Signs

If one is wondering how to make sense out of the patterns of violence, vengeance, venality and vanity vibrating across our planet, it will help to spot the nature of the addictive personality in operation beneath all of these patterns.  The addictive personality comes in a wide assortment of flavors, colors and disguises but is rooted in the same soil of insanity.  If it were unmasked one would see that the addictive personality always pursues self-aggrandizement and social approval from at least some group meaningful to that personality (if it cannot win approval from all people).  To the addictive personality, the rush of winning social approval overrides all other considerations, even if the social approval may be short-lived and come at a great cost.  It does not weigh costs and believes that the opportunity to win more social approval will arise should previously won social approval fade.  The addictive personality, aka Ego, moves from one rush-promising opportunity to the next without looking to either side for perspective beyond the single-minded goal of immediate gratification of its craving for the rush.

In addition to its purpose of rush-production, the addictive personality can be spotted as it outs itself in the progressive nature of its increasingly manic pursuit of the rush.  Whatever rush first hooked it into the pursuit of that species of rush, the addictive personality will not be satisfied for long by the current level of rush it experiences.  It will become dissatisfied with the current level of rush and crave more and more rush.  Whether the rush or “high” comes from an externally acquired chemical like cocaine, heroin, meth or some other legal or illegal drug or comes from an internally acquired chemical such as adrenalin, endorphins or other bodily produced high or power trip, the addiction is chemical as well as mental, emotional, social and behavioral.  It’s a package deal.  And the package of rush-production must expand to meet the addictive personality’s demand for increasingly more intense gratification.

If you’ll examine the behaviors and statements of celebrities, drug addicts, power-wielders, law-breakers, risk-takers and others whose behaviors and attitudes you have difficulty comprehending, you’ll see a pattern that helps you see what’s going on. Watch for telltale signs of failure to appreciate the consequences of words and deeds beyond their capacity to draw the instant gratification of social approval (better yet, admiration and hero-worship) from some group — however large or small.  Watch for failure to connect the dots and display the capacity for reasoned consideration of facts, contested or otherwise.  Watch for reactions rather than responses to stimuli that the addictive personality has learned will generate a rush for which he or she has acquired a taste.  Watch for signs that the person displaying addictive qualities is personally out of control while demanding that others be controlled by external means such as force or threat of force.  Watch for signs that the person is actually confessing indirectly how much he or she hopes that someone will control him or her by external means and prevent the further progression of his or her addiction and the adverse consequences he or she sees rushing towards him or her.  The addictive personality is afraid and yet cannot admit how afraid he or she has become under the influence of the addiction within which he or she is enslaved.

Don’t assume that every addictive personality has the same acquired tastes or means and manner of enslavement.  The stimuli and means of acquiring a rush may vary on the surface while beneath the surface at the root of causation it’s the same root cause: namely, fears that have grown beyond the scope of all reason and now dominate the person’s decision-making process.  Such fears are common to us all.  The fear may be of looking foolish in the eyes of others, of losing face or social status, of failure to achieve an outcome especially desired by the person or of the unknown or strange in life.  Because the addictive personality has lost the ability to be honest about his or her emotions, he or she has also lost connection with his or her own heartfelt capacity for empathy and marches relentlessly onward towards the brink of self-destruction and destruction of others.  He or she no longer is free to see and admit to the fears that drive him or her.  He or she no longer trusts that others with whom he or she fails to see eye to eye can be reasoned with and included in the realm of trustworthy associates.  He does not trust anyone to accept the confusion that has overtaken him or her and help resolve the inner turmoil that besets him or her.  If he or she still has intimate life companions, they are likely to feel powerless to help.  He or she is more concerned about maintaining an image of success than about the reality of self-exposure as a loser of his or her grip on sanity.  Even while poised on the brink of ruin, he or she will claim the opposite is true.

Trust has broken down and the world as seen by the addictive personality is a shattered mirror reflecting back in fragments the confusion inherent in the addiction to which the person has succumbed.  Most often he or she has succumbed to some type of addiction (or dependency including codependency) unwittingly but nevertheless relentlessly one step at a time until the slippery slope of addiction/dependency has taken over and substituted itself for the person’s power of well-reasoned choices.  The addictive personality no longer even trusts himself or herself because he or she can no longer hold himself or herself accountable for being honest and is willing to use any means, no matter how dishonest, to gain the next rush to which he or she is addicted.  He or she will steal from a beloved grandmother to gain the money needed to buy the next fix or steal from the fans to gain the necessary votes to win the next election or draw the attention he or she craves.  Negative attention has become more desirable than loss of all attention and disappearance into anonymity.  It’s all the same pattern.  People who are trusting and vulnerable are considered the easiest victims to manipulate.  The addictive personality truly believes that he or she can fool all of the people all of the time.

Is he or she right?  Can he or she fool us all?  It’s really up to you whether or not he or she is right.  What you are willing to see at work beneath surface depends on your willingness to be open-minded as well as open-hearted and see with your inner vision – a vision some call intuition and others call wisdom.  If you will admit that you may be afraid of being played for a fool, then the wisdom of your honesty about that fear may release you to see more clearly whether or not the other person is actually trying to do so.

The surest way to prevent yourself from being played for a fool is to search out from within your own life the patterns of an addictive personality and do all you need to do to prevent yourself from remaining enslaved to them.  Until we examine ourselves for such patterns and admit our vulnerability to falling into them, we are all enslaved to the Matrix of such patterns and doomed to repeat them until we value freedom from them more than we value the comforts and conveniences of remaining addicted to them.

© Art Nicol 2015

The Privilege of Connecting with Another Who Sees

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes.” From Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I want to step aside from attempts to be objective and didactic and share a more personal, subjective response to another person’s blog. Since I do not have permission to reveal this blogger’s name, I’ll not reveal it. Perhaps it’s helpful not to identify the writer so that any reader can identify with my response to any other writer. I am writing because I felt a connection with this other writer. I’m an avid reader and have felt connections with writers since I first began to read. I believe that in this recent connection with this blogger I’ve come to understand more about why I feel the connections I feel. I think it’s because I have an imagination through or within which I “see” things that are beyond my immediate range of physical sight and feel connected with artists who share their own sense of this kind of sight through whatever medium they work within. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning stated, it feels like I’m standing on holy ground and see the world afire with the Spirit of Truth when this feeling of connection happens.

As those who have read my material know, I often write about the ego and its effect in isolating us from one another. The ego is the walls or barriers that keep us from connecting with each other more completely. It is the isolated mental outcome of believing that we are bodies and nothing more than bodies, and will die without any continuity of life beyond the body once our body ceases to function. It is a choice to adopt this mindset or perspective, but it is a choice we make gradually in so many small steps that we don’t realize we’ve made it until it’s entirely made and we no longer “see” an alternative. Those who dare to see with the power of their imagination have awakened my own imagination and re-introduced me to the possibility that there is more to me than meets the physical senses. Writers of both nonfiction and fiction have invited me to imagine a life that exceeds the life my physical senses detect and invited me to step beyond the physical to explore what’s more than physical. As I accepted that invitation, I discovered the “more” my heart desired to believe just might be possible and regained my optimism about life’s being an adventure worth living as Love in search of Love.

The writer about whom I write says that the painting entitled Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich is his favorite painting. I share it with you here:

Wanderer above the sea of fog Caspar David Friedrich

The blogger who declares his favor for this painting says he’s not sure why he likes it so much. In sharing his thoughts and feelings about this painting, this writer drew me into a conversation with the painter and the blogger who appreciates the painter’s work. This diablog is my participation in that conversation. I believe that the conversation is among all of us who sense within us the imagination of an artist and the heart of a lover awakening. I invite all with whom this diablog resonates to feel this awakening presence and savor it as our renewed awareness of the interconnecting synergy of wholeness that is within each of us. It is not necessary that we all feel the same emotions on account of viewing and interacting with this painting. That it invokes emotions is what we have in common. The heart that feels! That is the holy ground to which Browning referred as the place where taking off our shoes seems an apt response, just as it did to Moses in the presence of his burning bush. Our hearts leap up aflame with emotions at the presence of fresh, creative possibilities radiating from the Mystery when life calls us to turn aside to see what’s going on that is out of the ordinary and unconventional – above and beyond the sea of fog.

Our minds are curious to see and learn more when the Mystery draws us in by our hearts’ desires and passions. Our hearts require us to turn aside. We may have been wandering a long time or a short time, but as wanderers we are seeking, consciously or unconsciously for answers to Life’s Mysteries. When the Creator speaks, our hearts respond. For any of us, another artist may be the Creator’s voice in whatever medium the artist works. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog may serve as one of our burning bushes if it speaks to us. We may turn aside to contemplate it, seeking to comprehend why it speaks to us and what it is saying that so intrigues us. In that moment, we may identify with being the wanderer who sees a vista within our imagination populated with pinnacles of clarity above and beyond the more common fogginess among which we spend most of our days. We stand transfixed by the vision we have stumbled upon. We have been climbing uphill in our wanderings, aware that we were struggling upward and yet not knowing what we might expect to find. Suddenly we are no longer a mere wanderer. We have become a wonderer in the Presence of the Divine Mystery that awaits all who seek to see above the sea of fog that otherwise hampers our vision.

Suddenly we see both the fog that had hampered our vision and the vision we’d not known to expect but which drew us relentlessly onward and upward nevertheless. Blind wandering in response to our heart’s desires becomes an amazing sight before which we stand in awe, transfixed as we take it all in as best we can. We recall dimly the way we came to reach this pinnacle experience and are uncertain how we’ll descend again. We cannot go back the way we came. We must somehow move forward, most likely back down the other side once more into the sea of fog – for leaping from pinnacle of clarity to pinnacle of clarity seems impossible. Yet, we cannot forget the vista we’ve encountered or dismiss the power of our imagination to capture and be captured by it. We are one with the vista and its novel clarity. It is ours, we are its. We are the vista and it is us. We’ll never be the same again. Having awakened we must remain awakened no matter how the sea of fog once again surrounds us and clouds our vision. We remember clarity of sight. We now know that it is possible. We stumble onward hoping that future opportunities to climb will present themselves that we may again see with clarity, the clarity that only heights confer.

Can we be sure of achieving a height again? Do we want to achieve it the same way twice or is there a natural high we seek beyond the ones we may have stumbled upon before? What enhances clarity and what does not? We are learning as we wander. We are becoming the Eternal Wonderer. In time and space we wander while in Eternity we wonder. Having once connected with the Master Artist whose Master Artwork we each are and remembered, we cannot forget again. We carry the memories of past encounters with the Divine as it has spoken to us and feel the power of its inspiration ever drawing us forward as we wander along life’s convoluted pathways in search of the being who we are and the Being from whence we came and to which we return. We seek to return to oneness with ourselves and all Creation and with the Creator of all that is alive and well. We are Love’s emerging Presence in an unfolding realm of Love that has no beginning and no end. No sea of fog can obscure that Truth forever.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Has Christianity Functioned as an Invasive Species?

The habitat of the lionfish used to be limited to warm parts of the Pacific Ocean but now lionfish have begun to occupy reef marine communities in warm Atlantic waters too. It is likely that humans introduced the lionfish to these waters by releasing them as no longer-wanted pets. In the absence of natural predators for lionfish in Atlantic waters, the lionfish population in Caribbean waters has grown unchecked. Since lionfish prey upon the young fish of other species, populations of native species in these reef communities have inevitably declined as lionfish consume their young and wipe out future breeders. In this manner, lionfish have functioned as a typical invasive species to reduce populations of native species by their predatory actions. Lionfish have no interest in preserving native populations when those populations feed their appetites.

Christians used to live in certain parts of the European continent where they identified themselves with the empire-building practices of the Roman Empire and used their religious beliefs to justify conquest of other people and their lands when the resources and peoples of conquered populations fed Europeans’ appetites for pleasure and for power. Many Europeans who traveled to the continent of North America to occupy what they claimed to be vacant lands brought their version of Christianity’s attitudes, beliefs and conquest-justify orientation with them to justify taking the lands occupied by indigenous members of the human race away from these native populations.

In the process of insuring that native populations (called tribes) would not resist the empire-building of European Christians, the European Christians removed the young of native tribes to teach them in schools away from their families and native traditions. They taught them a Western language, Westernized modern values and Westernized thinking to replace and wipe out the native language and rich heritage these young would otherwise have acquired from their tribal elders. As a result, the population of native tribes declined as their young became consumed by Western values and identified with Western lifestyles. The reefs that previously covered the continent where native tribes once thrived shrank into tiny remnants of the lowest quality lands least desired by the European conquerors. Today those shrunken reefs are more commonly known as “reservations.” They function as a patchwork of impoverished sanctuaries for the endangered indigenous members of the human race who occupied the North American continent before the arrival of Europeans.

There are parallels at work here. Do these parallels demonstrate the invasive and parasitic nature of the form of Christianity that Europeans exported to the North American continent? In the process of this exploitative exporting of toxic distortions of Jesus’ teachings, what happened to his teachings about how those with greater power should treat those with less power? With their superior weaponry and access to continent-spanning communications and transportation systems, were not the Europeans the more powerful? But which espoused true wisdom – the version of Christianity exported to the North American continent or the spirituality of the native populations? Centuries have passed. The evidence is now in. European values and methods have exploited the lands and waters and air as no native population has had the means, heart or will to exploit. We have become a nation rich on material terms and impoverished on wisdom’s terms.

Perhaps it is time for those who have subscribed to the justifications of modern Christianity to repent and turn away from their traditions as their ancestors once demanded that Native Americans turn away from their native traditions. Perhaps it is time for all who have subscribed voluntarily or involuntarily to the language and mindset of domination, conquest and exploitation to repent and learn the language and the practices of Jesus, the language and practices of divine love shared among the peoples of the Earth about which Jesus spoke and according to which he lived while in an earthly form. Beyond his earthly form, Jesus continues to call us to turn aside from the ways of the world, take off our shoes when we are on holy ground and listen to the voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. It is the same voice Jesus heard while in the wilderness and invites us today to hear by the power of the Holy Spirit blazing in our hearts.

Could it be that Jesus is so invested in the welfare of the whole human race (and every member of us) that he calls for each and all of us to stop doing unto others what has been done unto us and turn away to do unto others what we prefer from the depths of our hearts be done to us instead? Might we reverse the tides of toxic relationships that are washing across our lands if we were each to become totally committed to allowing the Holy Spirit to detoxify our own hearts and minds and to supporting each other in doing likewise? Could that be Jesus’ plan for ending the suffering we otherwise inflict upon ourselves and others in self-condemnation on account of our buried guilt and shame? Let us hear and honor by word and deed the message “Neither do I condemn you” as we turn away from our stony hearts and instead listen to the stories our hearts yearn to share about the love we want to dare and the miraculous ways we want to care.

© Art Nicol 2015

A Topic of Interest to Men: When Will God Man-infest?

The possibilities of how God will resolve the tendency of male human beings to resist surrendering to Divine Authority while preferring to assert their own ego’s impotent but prideful authority are numerous, perhaps infinite.  So, if you don’t like the ideas I offer here, please don’t fret.  Make up your own alternative solution.  If you use your imagination to listen intently to the Spirit that is always sharing wisdom and truth about love within your heart, you’ll find your own story to tell of how God will with men indwell.

My idea is based on looking at things oddly.  For example, most people have interpreted the fact that Jesus came into the world as a male as indicating that God favors men over women. Many interpretations of sacred teachings from many paths of faith have indulged in this same kind of error to justify male dominance of human societies (and, not surprisingly, to justify reserving to men the role of interpreting sacred scriptures as extra protection against loss of male privileges). I interpret the fact of Jesus’ human maleness differently.  I see in that fact a God who tackles the most challenging, stubborn problems head on and does not avoid them.  I see a God who seeks to lift the whole of the human race out of our attachment not to sin but to suffering by converting traditionally aggressive members of the race into superlative healers of all forms of harm.  We’ve been suffering escalating pain for so many millennia that we are psychologically bonded to suffering as if it is part of our identity.  Unless we’re presented with a clear alternative we cannot even imagine living without suffering. The best we can imagine is avoiding as much suffering personally as we can avoid while shifting suffering onto other people’s plates and off of ours.  We cannot imagine an end to suffering for everyone.

Yet, God can imagine it.  In fact, God wills an end to suffering for everyone and has set a plan in motion to bring that end into reality here on Earth.  We might call it God’s totally (that is, free) Affordable Care Act or Universal Healthcare policy.  God’s plan involves sharing God’s immunity to harm and suffering with us, all of us.  To set the Divine Plan in motion, he introduced an example of a starkly clarifying alternative into the human experience that stands in complete contrast to the human race’s normal experience.  That contrast is Jesus, not a contrast because he’s God while we are not but a contrast because he’s totally one with the human race while refusing to be a clone or copy of stereotypical maleness as defined by any human culture.  Witness, for example, that unlike men in most cultures, Jesus did not try to prove his masculinity by fathering children or prove his superiority by running roughshod over others.  Instead he showed that we are all God’s children and demonstrated what that looks like.  He exercised his power not to show himself off as superior but to show us all upward to God as our unconditionally loving Superior Parent.

Normally, male humans are more likely to inflict physical pain and suffering on others than women are. Because men are, on average, larger bodied than women, they tend to cause more pain, sometimes out of awkwardness towards smaller bodied humans such as women, children and smaller bodied men and sometimes quite intentionally to try to demonstrate external superiority while internally (in their secret heart of hearts) feeling quite the opposite in their undisclosed feelings of inferiority. Jesus confronted male stereotypes of social superiority by showing what true superiority on divine terms looks and acts like and teaching that all men as well as women and children have equal opportunity to access the same Diving Power.  God is an equal opportunity deployer of Divine Power, so Jesus says.

In human cultures, women are more likely to be involved in comforting the “little ones” and those who suffer and trying to relieve pain and suffering if they can.  Most human cultures distinguish masculinity and femininity based on factors like softness, gentleness, compassion and cooperation.  In most cultures women are permitted to be softer, gentler and more compassionate and cooperative than men.  Social training reinforced by rewards of social approval for successfully conforming to stereotypes shapes men into inflictors of pain because socially aggressive males are rated as more manly than less socially aggressive ones.  Most societies reserve derogatory names like “wimp,” “sissy” and “coward” for those boys and men who are reluctant to engage in aggressive behaviors and shy away from inflicting or experiencing pain.  To be a “real man” means to inflict and endure pain without flinching – and without crying.

To counteract this social prejudice in favor of casting men as sources of pain and suffering, God decided that the expression God would use to exemplify Divine Love and Grace in human form had to be a male.  God chose the least likely candidate through whom to express Divine Grace and Mercy – a man.  Had God chosen a woman to reveal Divine Qualities and Power, the human race would not have been so shocked.  It had to be a man through whom God manifested the Divine as a Supremely Gentle Nurturer and Healer.  So, in the man Jesus, God man-infected the human body to start the ball rolling. God infected Jesus with the power to not only “do no harm” but also to heal all harm that had already occurred.  In doing so, God challenged the human race to think differently at the core of our assumptions and social constructs about issues like gender identity and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.  He emphasized the absurdity of casting God as a stereotypical male figure as if God has a human body.  (Given God’s lack of a body with sexual traits, God’s qualities are more likely to be associated with androgyny than with either extreme of masculinity or femininity.)

Since being confronted by the Jesus model of manhood, men have variously faced and/or avoided the challenge of being like Jesus in all of his qualities and letting go of all socially reinforced but nevertheless incompatible ideas about what it means to be a man.  That challenge goes right to the heart of social assumptions that are rooted in the greater size and physical strength of the average man’s body in comparison to women’s bodies and in the fact of penetration by men to accomplish the act of sexual reproduction.  Women by physical nature and reproductive function are defined by their bodies as softer, smaller and more receptive of penetration than a source of penetration. When men identify with their bodies’ traits and functions, they are led away from identifying with the process of submitting or surrendering their lives to God in service according to God’s will.  Yet, the opportunity of men to serve God awaits in our allowing God to be in charge and allowing God to plant seeds of inspiration to gestate and come into fullness of time through male lives.  Images like being the Bride of Christ simply offend the socially reinforced standards for being a “real man.”

The ego, not exclusively a male tradition but prevalent throughout the human race, can be seen as a set of defenses against the truth of God’s plan to call us back home as Divine Children.  In 12-step programs, it is said that EGO stands for “edging God out.”  Jesus demonstrated how to allow God to edge back into our lives by opening our hearts and minds to the transforming power of the Spirit of Truth and Love that Jesus promised would be ever present with us to guide and comfort us.  Often this Spirit is cast as feminine in nature.  Imagine how contrary to a male’s upbringing it may be to allow a feminine power to be in charge and to enter into the depth of his being to create new life!  I believe that such a total reversal of male functions is a major obstacle for men in our quest for experiences of God.  We simply desire to be in charge and have a hard time admitting that God already is in charge.  Let us ponder in our hearts the reality of the Spirit’s abiding presence there and keep things simple by accepting as truth what is already true.

As I said at the beginning, if you don’t like my ideas, please feel free to contemplate at length to come up with ones of your own.  It’s worth our weight in gold to come forth as gold after suffering as Job suffered.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Cancer in the Body of Believers in Jesus

Cancer begins as a few cells rapidly multiply without the purpose-driven orderly structure that controls the growth of healthy cells elsewhere in the body.  These rapidly multiplying, disorderly cancer cells form masses of tissue we call “tumors” and may eventually spread throughout the body to generate out-of-control cell-production that proves contrary to the purpose of the host organism.  Once the cancerous cells populate too much of the host organism, death looms as the original life-purpose of the organism is lost amid the disorderly purposelessness of the cancer cells.   Cancer is characterized by a disconnect between the main organism’s life-oriented purpose and the process of cell production and tissue regeneration.  Some people say that cancerous tumors “grow.”  But if the term “growth” applies only to orderly cell production that aligns with the life-orientation and purpose of the main, overarching organism then cancerous tissues do not grow.  They merely expand in a disorderly fashion that mimics growth but does not contribute to life.  Once the main organism’s health declines enough to bring about death, even the cancer cells die. They have sabotaged their host to their own detriment.

If Jesus’ institutionalized Church is Christ’s body of believers on Earth then what might be the cancer that is causing the Church’s decline and bringing the body of believers nearer and nearer to disintegration and ultimately death?  I suggest that the cancer can be spotted in every idea and resulting practice that disconnects the Church from the life-oriented purpose God gave it through Jesus.  Ideas and practices not in alignment with the God-given purpose of the Church are generating cancerous cell-production throughout the Church that mimics growth but does not contribute to the life of the Church as God defines that life.  These forms of illusory “growth” are sabotaging the Church and contributing not to its life but rather to its decline.

I believe that God is working through paths of faith other than the one associated with Jesus. Be that as it may, I’m devoted to the path of faith along which Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to lead all who believe in him.  As a believer in Jesus, I seek to hear the leading of the Spirit within my heart and to heed its guidance and honor the wisdom it transmits to faith-oriented believers in Jesus.  I accept without qualification Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.  John 16:13.  That is why this article is devoted to spotting the cancerous ideas and practices at work within Christ’s Church rather than focused upon the possible shortcomings of other paths of faith.  Until the Church of Jesus Christ has submitted itself to healing of all cancerous ideas and practices at work within it, it is in no position to point out the possible ills of other paths of faith. The Church must allow the Holy Spirit to point out and remove logs from its own eyes before it tries to point out splinters in the vision of other paths of faith.

To whatever extent any other path of faith may be failing to adhere to God’s purpose and plan for that path of faith, it is the responsibility of faithful adherents to that path to assess those shortcomings and take steps to rectify them from within the borders of that faith as a follower of that faith. Within the body of believers in Jesus we have our hands full addressing the ills of Christ’s institutionalized Church and cannot afford to cast our eyes upon other religions or paths of faith until we’ve resolved all of our own issues between us and God.  That is to say that the fact that I take up the task of identifying some of the Church’s blind spots does not imply that there are none present in other paths of faith.  It means only that I adhere to the principle of the Fourth Step of the 12-steps and suggest that believers in Jesus must focus on taking our own inventories and repent of our own ill-conceived ideas and sabotaging practices that have led to the decline of the Church at large. Once we’ve humbly submitted to the Holy Spirit’s removal of the logs from our own eyes, we can seek God’s guidance about what to do next with our clarified vision.  In the meantime, to honor Jesus as the head of our body of believers, we need to refrain from violating his principle of not judging others.

In this article I do not pretend to present an exhaustive list of the ideas and practices rampant within Christ’s Church that are proving to be cancerous.  I intend here only to highlight a few so as to contribute to a dialogue within the Church that may lead the Church, its leaders and its members of all stripes and flavors to humility, repentance and healing.  I believe that the process God calls us to engage in is akin to the repentance that Jonah’s message to Nineveh invoked.  Ideas and practices not aligned with God’s holy purpose for the body of believers in Jesus are “wickedness” (failure to adhere to holiness) in the eyes of God whether or not they qualify as “wicked” under popular definitions of the populace at large. If God’s people who are called by His name desire with all their hearts to see the world healed of all forms of violence and oppression and the resulting harm, we must heed God’s definition of “wickedness” in order to humble ourselves before God and participate fully in the conditions that permit healing to flow from God unlimitedly.

In saying that I have identified a few of the Church’s misalignments with Jesus’ directions to his followers is not to say that I mention them in order of significance or priority or have cited the most important ones.  To contribute to the dialogue about Church-wide humility, repentance and healing, I cite only these for now:

  1. The error of judging people of other faiths, as mentioned above. We are not qualified to assess from beyond the borders of any other path of faith how that path of faith is best lived. That is an internal affair as to which responsibility rests with those who claim that path of faith
  2.  The error of citing quantifiable statistics as signs of growth while measures of quality are neglected. When quantity is valued over quality, the Church has dropped the ball that Jesus handed off to the Church. Throughout the Scriptures referenced by Jesus and the Church are many passages indicating that God is more concerned about the quality of life people are experiencing than about the quantity of people who are claiming to believe in Him. God has often preferred to rely upon a few people to accomplish His goals than to rely upon great numbers to prove His significance. In short, God is not concerned with social approval ratings as if God is a politician or Earthly monarch. God does not put His mind upon the things of man. God puts His mind upon the things of God whether or not humankind approves of God’s values, ideas or priorities. For the Church to express God’s orientation, the Church will have to stop catering to social approval, no longer seek to amass quantities of members or money and focus on God’s values, ideas and priorities. To measure the success of the Church by numbers is to measure by the same measurements attributed to newly released movies or TV shows. Audience ratings are not symptoms of the health of the Church except to the extent that high popularity may be a symptom of poor health. Ratings measure the cancerous illusory “growth” and call it admirable. Not so in God’s eyes.
  3. The error of measuring the quality of a believer’s faithfulness to Jesus by the financial prosperity or social popularity of his or her lifestyle. By his example, Jesus revealed the true measures of a believer’s life while he was on Earth. He was neither financially prosperous nor popular. In fact, he allowed himself to walk through life with few possessions and admonished his followers to do likewise. He traveled light but he did not travel far. He remained focused on a relatively small territory of personal concern rather than roam throughout the wider territory using means of transportation then available to him. Today the industrial/technological world has developed means of transportation that enable humans to travel the globe. The Internet empowers our minds to travel everywhere at any time. The practice of traveling widely is promoted by commercialism and mass media as “good.” Good for what? Good for profit-making by purveyors of travel-related services, including the marketing industry. Good for allowing those with wealth to congregate as mutual admirers around the globe and fancy themselves to be participants in a diversely multicultural world when in fact all they are doing is sharing their escapist activities and self-indulgences with other members of their economic class while remaining indifferent to the plight of other classes. I suggest that God disagrees with the standards of the world on this point and prefers that believers focus on local concerns in-depth, moving among all economic classes and other indices of human diversity as Jesus did, rather than spread themselves so thin as to have little significant, long-term impact on anything anywhere. Jesus impacted the lives he touched in significant, life-transforming ways (called “miracles”) and predicted that those who were his true disciples would do likewise, even having greater significance and impact than he had. Jesus was able to perform miracles because he developed relationships locally and allowed the least of these in his locality to have access to him personally. Although he participated in discussions with elites and allowed himself to be interviewed from time to time by representatives of the media of his day, he did not make a priority of doing so. Instead he remained directly accessible to the masses and most importantly to individuals who separated themselves from the masses to approach him one on one. In interacting with Jesus’ energy personally people were brought to faith and offered opportunities to act upon their faith to receive miracles of healing. The Church’s mass-media-influenced values and priorities today turn Jesus’ values and priorities upside down.
  4. The error of catering to worldly powers rather than serving those that worldly powers look down upon, exploit and oppress. The Church has become an apologist for those who wield social power instead of being an advocate for those the powerful disdain. Nowhere in Jesus’ model of life to which he called his disciples did he serve in the role of sycophant to the elites or aristocrats of his time. Moses set captives free. Jesus set captives free. For the Church now to cater to those who hold powerless people in captivity is an anathema to the Father who loves all of us. The modern world is awash with captives of all kinds. Many workers around the world are held captive in one way or another by their employment’s meager returns and harsh conditions. The worldwide trade in sex-for-money in all its forms imprisons participants on all sides of these transactions within walls of secrecy and shame. To help build prisons and justify their existence rather than to visit prisoners and help them never to return to prison ignores one of Jesus’ most strident quality control standards for his followers. To fail to invest its all in helping the least of these to take up lifestyles of freedom and no longer risk going to prison, being homeless or exploited or going without the necessities of life, including personal dignity and the capacity to provide for one’s children, indicts the modern Church.

Christians believe that God’s nature and priorities were expressed in a physical body through Jesus and that Jesus intends the Church as an institution to continue to express God’s nature and priorities.  After starting out so well in Jesus’ life, it may be hard to understand how Christianity drifted so far afield from the truth he promised would set us free.  But it’s vital that we admit the drift and correct the errors if ever we want to allow the truth to set us free from mistakes humans made in the past.  Self-examination, repentance, correction of errors and granting and receiving of forgiveness are not the ego’s talents because these disciplines to which Jesus calls us are expedited by humility and resisted by pride.  So long as spokespersons for Jesus filter their information through the ego and water down their ideas and their experiences – their principles and their practices – to suit their egos no significant correction will occur and the power of forgiveness, once so radically illustrated by Jesus, will remain stillborn.

It is essential to rise free of and beyond the ego to correct the errors that the ego has so diligently preserved.  Overcoming the ego is what the passages in Chapter 3 of Revelations beginning with “He who overcomes shall” refer to.  By the power of diligent self-examination, change of mind and forgiveness of errors, we can join together to resurrect the Church from the tomb into which popular opinion has shoved it by crying out for the crucifixion, censorship and silence of minority members of the Church who have called the Church to account for its harm.  It is a mistake to focus on errors as guilt-and-shame-ladened “sins.”  To encrust our errors with barnacles of guilt and shame only makes them all the more difficult to acknowledge and shed.  Let’s stop adding to the difficulties of the task of resurrecting the Church and simply let Jesus call us forth from the grave as he once summonsed Lazarus, as a friend he missed and wanted to see alive again.  We are each Jesus’ friend, no matter how far we may have gone astray.  He has not forsaken us.  We need no longer forsake him.  By God’s grace, we have the power to redeem our error-prone lives and live lives renewed by forgiveness and mercy and overflowing with liberty and justice for all.

The Church’s healing from spiritual cancer awaits us as individuals who accept healing on behalf of the whole.  The healing begins one by one and gains momentum as the healed ones gather as a healed body of believers.  Healed twos become healed threes, fours and so forth until the heart-count becomes too numerous to quantify.  There is no need to count because once we are healed we are all one.  When Jesus calls you to join the healing movement by submitting yourself to its heart-cleansing flow, remember that you as an individual do not need the permission of anyone else to participate in the healing. All you need to do to respond to Jesus’ call to be healed is to declare with all your heart, mind, body and soul, “I can, sir,” in the face of the Church’s cancer.  As we each do our part as Jesus did, God will do the rest.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Intellectualism: Its Harmful Nature and Its Cure

During one of her talks, Esther Hicks presented her Inner Voice as saying, “Your Inner Being likes to skip and laugh and think about things; your Inner Being likes to offer compliments and feel appreciation and contemplate something that is not fully understood and then feel the understanding come forth.  Your Inner Being is just like your frisky two-year old who is eager for life experience.  To meet up with your Inner Being just be more like that now.”  That quote shares one angle on how to avoid the pitfalls of intellectualism.  For a corresponding observation we need only turn to Aldous Huxley who said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

Intellectualism is the practice or habit of using the mind to conceive of ideas that are heartless and cruel in their impact on others, consider them viable options and logically explain why they are most effective.  It’s the byproduct of a mind trapped in ego.  The ego requires that we deny our emotions and become progressively insensitive to own heartfelt emotions and the hearts and emotions of others.  When we cultivate our egos as our false identities, we must tune out our natural capacity for empathy to avoid being overwhelmed by the obvious messages of pain that ego causes us and others to endure as if suffering is inevitable.  Intellectualism assumes that suffering is inevitable and that the primary purpose of human life is to decrease the pain and suffering we encounter no matter what the cost of our decisions may be in pain and suffering that others endure.  To avoid pain and suffering, a person guided by ego can decide to climb over others on the way to the top because the top looks freer of pain or insulate oneself from others because separating from others looks like a way to protect from pain or at least from awareness of other people’s suffering.  Ironically, the ego’s tactics end up isolating us from one another, increasing our agonizing loneliness and leaving us feeling confused, betrayed and powerless.  In teaching us to be emotionally uninvolved with ourselves and others, the ego teaches us to avoid forming bonds of love, be alone and accept loneliness as our inevitable lot in life. It’s not our only option.  We can choose to reverse the ego’s trapping logic and let the truth in our hearts set us free.

The quotes by Hicks and Huxley emphasize the value of retaining our wholeheartedly childlike (but not childish) nature as we develop into maturity.  They underscore the truth that healthy maturity is not discovered in denying our childlike qualities but in extending ourselves beyond childhood into adulthood while retaining the best qualities of childhood.  Children are naturally curious, playful, care-free, sensitive, compassionate, innocently trusting and open to love’s natural flow.  Adults who abandon those traits in order to survive in the adult world impoverish themselves and help to fabricate an artificial adult world that inflicts pain and suffering on children and others as if to punish them for being childlike.  Such emotionally impoverished adults adopt intellectualism’s emotionless logic in some form to “explain” or “justify” their repeated decisions to abandon their own “inner child” in favor of neglecting and abusing it as they neglect and abuse themselves and others in order to prevail as an adult in competition for ego-valued rewards.   What’s really being “explained” and “justified” is the ego’s preservation of itself.  When one mistakes one’s identity for being an ego, one can only logically fight to preserve that false identity, remain trapped within its blindly clawing attempts to survive and intellectually excuse and rationalize its fight for survival as “survival of the fittest.”  In truth, no ego is fit because no ego can experience and share love.  Ego is the antithesis of our capacity to experience and share love.

Moralists try to counteract the “evils” of ego’s intellectualism by arguing for ethics and laws that control everyone’s actions by confining our permissible actions within limits that supposedly minimize the harm of pursuing ego-valued rewards.  Moralists argue in favor of drawing lines and enforcing them through systems of reward and punishment primarily because moralists are themselves limited by their cognitive development to thinking in terms of reward and punishment as the top level of adult maturity.  They conceive of “adults” as those qualified by age, longevity of service or elegantly and subtly manipulative (or mere brute) force to administer the systems of reward and punishment.  It’s understandable that those whose thinking is not yet developed beyond the reward-punishment duality will think in those terms and not realize that there is a more highly evolved alternative.  But it is not necessary that a whole society be run into the ground by the limited capacity of moralists to think simply because, in their fear of the unknown and uncontrolled aspects of society’s emerging diversity, they demand conformity, are persuasive and present their arguments forcefully by invoking religious texts to back them up.

Since moralists wrote most of the religious texts, of course these texts back them up.  Their argument that God totally agrees with them amounts to their citing dead authors’ claims to speak for a living God.  A living God does not need dead or living authors to speak for the Divine Truth that God shares with every one of us within our hearts.  If only we would learn to listen and receive what God shares in our hearts we’d know.  Hick’s quote makes that point by noting how our understanding will grow into increasing clarity through our life experiences not through memorizing or quoting dead or living authors.  As a living author, I encourage you to be frisky, take risks and encounter God and Divine love within your experiences, even those experiences that others may counsel you not to have.  Surely wisdom does seek to guide you but the fears of others are not necessarily the Voice of Wisdom.  It’s your responsibility to listen and decide for yourself what Wisdom is saying to you. Don’t take my word for it.  If you prefer to jump through other people’s hoops and submit yourself to their authority, by all means do so.  Perhaps in this stage of your life that’s what’s best for you.  I did that for many years in my life.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have teachers, mentors and other authority figures worthy of my attention and cooperation until I ran out of them and had to learn to listen to God as my eternal and internal Authority Figure.  God, as it turns out, is the only infallible source of Wisdom and Guidance.   Stop, look within and listen.  God is speaking to you in your heart even now, as you read this sentence . . .

It is one of the natural results of moralism for moralists to gain control of social institutions and use traditions to climb higher within those institutions so as to gain the power to write and enforce the rules as if they should apply to everyone.  Moralists are accomplished social climbers – and conformist and apologists for rigorously enforced conformity.  By imposing external rules on us all, they would make clones of us as if manufacturing Model-T Fords to roll off a single, rigidly controlled factory line.  (Witness the super-conformist Common Core Curriculum generated by intellectualism in service to a conformist society’s demands for more clones to fit into predetermined slots in a modern mechanistic economy – whether capitalistic, socialistic, communistic or otherwise defined by values that are materialistic.)  In fact, metaphors idealizing the mechanistic, replicative processes of the industrial age have heavily influenced the power of conformists to insist that theirs is the only way that works.  They can mask all of their inner conflicts and struggles behind their egos’ facades and pretend to qualify to be in charge of our materialistic, factory-like consumerist society.  When one of their club members reveals a moral lapse, the moralists gasp in surprise and oust the offender as their way of purifying their club and retaining claim to power over others.  Few among the intimidated masses notice or dare to point out that the emperor has no clothes on – in fact, that none of the emperor’s counselors and hangers-on are clothed with true authority to govern.

As the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes reveals, it takes a child to notice and speak the truth about the nakedness of those whose actions are motivated by their desire to have power over others that they acquire through competition.  The capacity to see with one’s heart and have the courage to speak up is a childlike trait that conflicts with survival in the adult world as a seeker of ego-valued rewards of competition.  The truth offends the ego and those who subscribe to the ego’s way of adulthood.  Most children learn to keep their thoughts to themselves for fear of losing rewards and reaping punishment.  Fear censors and silences the truth that we’d otherwise naturally observe and talk about if we were feeling safe to risk sharing what’s on our hearts and minds.  Intellectuals masquerading as moralists want us to feel unsafe so that we rely upon them to protect us from making mistakes and taking risks that might result in adverse consequences imposed by them.  Their logic is circular but fear often keeps us from noticing.  Bullies cow the rest of us into submission unless we simply don’t value what the herd heard and instead listen inwardly to our own Inner Voice.  The Inner Voice of our Inner Being or Inner Child conveys the wisdom of the ages to each of us but most of us have tuned it out.  No one warns us that tuning out our hearts and learning to be progressively less sensitive, less empathetic, less compassionate and less altruistic carries a price – a high price.  That price is the loss of the most rewarding qualities of life that wisdom would preserve, uppermost of which is Divine Love.

If you want to investigate the possibility of regaining your capacity to see life through the heart and eyes of a child and experience and share divine love, I highly recommend reading It Will Never Happen to Me by Claudia Black.  Read the second edition.  She applies her principles to all of us in that edition after describing them as applicable to survivors of alcoholic families in her first edition.  She espouses a simple solution to the dilemma imposed upon our minds by ego’s roles, rules and rituals.  She encourages us to risk violating the ego’s rules and learn again to trust, feel and talk about things that matter.  If you’ve appreciated reading this article you’ll likely find great value in reading Ms. Black’s book, not because she necessarily has all the answers but because she knows the truth about how each of us can regain our natural access to answers supplied to us in our hearts by the unconditionally loving Divine Being who leaves no one out of His/Her family.  We are all – every single one of us – a child of God favored by God, unforgotten and unforsaken by God.  Whether you prefer to refer to the Divine Being by God, Goddess or any other term, Divine Love awaits you as an experience as you turn inward to allow your heart to awaken and blossom under the influence of the energy of the Lovelight within you.  Perhaps it’s time for you to be under its influence instead of under the influence of any alternative mood-altering substance, experience or intoxication.   Try being high on Love.  You’ll enjoy discovering and returning to that high as the healthy alternative to all others.  It’s the only true cure for intellectualism.

As innocent children know it so can you.  Learn to let go of ego’s teachings about guilt and shame as if those painful features of your experiences are permanent.  They need not be permanent.  Suffering is perpetuated by the belief that pride is the antidote and cure for shame and blame directed at another is the antidote and cure for guilt.  Such nonsense only perpetuates suffering by recycling it.  Forgiveness lets it go and releases you from the cycle of suffering.  Only you can choose to forgive.  And no one else can prevent you from forgiving if you desire to follow your heart and be free of all the past that the ego says you’ll never be free of.  You may feel afraid of stepping beyond your ego. That’s understandable and only need be shared to be overcome.  By sharing your fears you’ll find within you the courage to overcome them.  By sharing your heart with others you can trust and talking about all that matters most to you, the True You will come forth from behind the ego’s shadow and discover that like the moon’s shadow the ego’s shadow only temporarily blocked the Lovelight of the Divine Son or Daughter you are.  Once you’ve tasted the Lovelight you’ll never really want to retreat into your ego for long again.

To quote another source of wise spiritual guidance on this topic, let me set out the text of Matthew 18:1-4: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (English Standard Version.)  To turn from the heartlessness of being an intellectualizing adult and once again embrace the endearing qualities of childhood allows us to resume our natural relationship with the Creator of Heaven, who is our Father.  As beloved dear ones of the Creator we know the qualities of heavenly love are ours to cherish and honor within our hearts and share with one another as sisters and brothers in One United Divine Family.  Intellectualism is one path by which we forget who we are and blindly stumble into treating each other as if we do not all belong within our Father’s family household.  By the power of paradox that defies our human capacity for reasoning, every one of us is greatest in the greatest kingdom.  No superlative outshines our Father’s love for each of us who stops thinking of himself or herself as an ego and instead humbly accepts his or her nature as a Divine Child. Within God’s family of sibling rivalry there is no need or cause because each is greatest.

© Art Nicol 2015