Category Archives: What about a Supreme Being?

Essays about the nature of the Supreme Being by whatever name known to human beings.

The “God” Factor – Fact, Fiction or No Cause for Friction?

In The ABCs of Love, I present an operating system for healthy relationships that includes a reference point beyond human control t hat I call a “God” Factor.  Because this element may trouble some readers, I want to clarify what I mean by a “God” Factor.  I expect many readers to find a way to identify their own “God” Factor and feel less troubled by my use of the term once I clarify what I mean by it.  I address this issue up front because its resolution is vital to a reader’s exploration of The ABCs of Love with an open mind.

I use “God” Factor as a label for a target or focus of faith.  We all put our faith in something, even when we don’t realize we are doing so.  Our choice is not whether to have faith but in what we place our faith.  The tiniest target of faith towards which we might aim is the self alone, separate and unrelated to anyone or anything else.  Although I encourage all of us to cultivate self-love as an essential part of experiencing love, I believe that love must be shared to be activated and not stillborn, shallow or stagnant.  To fully activate love, The ABCs of Love lays out a system for setting love free to be shared as a form of energy, the energy that sustains our health and empowers us to recover our health if we allow it to slip away.  So, I take the position that our individual self alone is not an adequate focus of faith to serve as a “God” Factor.  To be healthy and share love, we need to have faith in our individual selves but not only in ourselves.  To enjoy an ever-expanding encounter with love, we need to be true to love’s nature and place our faith in a “God” Factor larger than individual self.

The possibilities for a larger-than-self target for our faith are varied.  In my investigation of the wide array of possibilities, I have identified characteristics of a “God” Factor that hold the greatest promise for setting love free to be shared abundantly as The ABCs of Love envisions.  These characteristics include:

  • Motivation and guidance to nurture ourselves, others and our relationships with increasing competence to enrich our lives with deeper, equitably shared satisfaction;
  • Tendency to improve the quality of our lives as measured by heart-honoring factors such as peace, hope and joy;
  • Capacity to be tested within our experiences regardless of our inability to establish and control it or the effects is has on us. In other words, the capacity to be independent of our control and surprise us with outcomes different from those we initially may have expected – whether or not flattering to our pride.
  • Capacity to help us recover from our mistakes and misunderstandings about how to relate to life and one another and help us courageously take risks and sustain balance as we walk our talk;
  • A not-completely-known nature we can progressively understand better and better as we exercise our faith in it and grow more mature, wiser and more loving on account of wrestling with its mysteries.

Possible categories of “God” Factors with these characteristics include, but are not limited to:

  1. The Golden Rule and other principles for cultivating mutually uplifting relationships (see, for example, Source of variety of restatements of the Golden Rule);
  2. The Desiderata (see This text of the Desiderata) and other comprehensive statements of a positive, balanced orientation to life;
  3. The Serenity Prayer (see Text and history of Serenity Prayer) and other statements of commitment to seeking and sustaining balance between our intellect (mind) and our emotions (heart) as we explore life’s opportunities;
  4. An ethical, religious or scientific thought system that honors the value of ourselves and others and calls us to grow wiser, more empathetic and more understanding as we both age and mature;
  5. An entity we honor as a “Supreme Being” of benevolent orientation towards all of humanity, including ourselves and our loved ones and strangers whom we welcome as potential friends;
  6. Nature, including all forms of life and the ecosystem that sustains the life we call “Earth;”
  7. Love, Life and/or Truth as an expansive array of desirable qualities most significant to your heart.

This list is incomplete.  You may identify another “God” Factor that works for you as you practice The ABCs of Love.

Although I leave open the choice of label for this “God” Factor, I encourage every practitioner of the ABCs of love to be accountable to a standard for quality beyond himself or herself as a necessary condition for experiencing more love.  In setting our standards and evaluating how well we meet them, if we ask only whether we please ourselves, love has little chance to appear within our endless loop of self-indulgence and self-pleasing.  For us to get along cooperatively with each other, we each must have a beyond-and-greater-than-me standard for how we treat each other.  “We” is greater than “me.”  Relationships inherently involve interactions with others whom we accept as being other, independent people and not merely trained pets, puppets or pacifiers of our pride (ego).  Just as we expect others to do for us, we must respect as fact that the “others” in our relationships have wills, feelings and ideas of their own and voices by which to share them, even when we might not prefer to hear them.  If we are not willing to honor and listen to those voices, then we condemn ourselves to having no genuine relationships, choosing instead to fake them or go through life alone without sharing love. To totally indulge one’s ego is to rule out the possibility of encountering love and stifle the inflow of the “more” we hope might still be possible.  If I insist that I am the ruler (or even owner) of all others and none may dare defy me without suffering my displeasure or banishment, then I’m not interested in participating in relationships on love’s terms.  Love will not insist on its terms and yet will also not be bent to do the ego’s bidding.

The function of a “God” Factor is to provide a reference point for keeping our egos in check.  It need not be a “Supreme Being.”  It may be an ideal or principle such as the Golden Rule.  It may be “Truth,” “Love,” “Universal Energy,” “Chi” or some other target of belief that we admit that we imagine exists but do not totally understand nor control or bend to our will and yet offers us something “more” we desire.  Whatever “God” Factor we choose, if we can totally define and control it then it’s not going to serve as the reference point we need to allow our minds to open to possibilities beyond what our egos accept as “comfortable” (totally controlled).  The “God” Factor we adopt must motivate us to seek answers beyond what we believe we already know and make room for the “uncomfortable,” “undominated and “uncontrolled” to enter into our experiences.  Truth welcomes Love.  Love welcomes Truth.  We who seek both Truth and Love seek what we do not yet know by experience and yet imagine may be possible.  The ABCs of Love will serve us in our quest. Even if we do not name Truth or Love as “God,” so long as we admit that we do not yet know all the Truth or Love we want to know, we’ll find it as we journey together in our quest for it beyond the terms on which our egos previously dictated we must live.

The love-energized system presented in The ABCs of Love incorporates the idea of a “God” Factor as a fundamental assumption and prerequisite for success in sharing love.  Does that mean that someone who believes that there is no “Supreme Being” cannot make use of the ABCs of love?  Not necessarily.  But it does mean that a person who insists on defining love for himself or herself without reference to any standard of quality beyond his or her own preferences or current ideas about love is likely to not encounter the love towards which The ABCs of Love points its practitioners –  unless that person is open to the possibility of allowing his or her own experiences to reveal new insights and understandings.

In short, a close-minded person who shuts his or her heart and mind to the possibility of discovering new things about life and love through personal experiences may be disappointed because forcing the ABCs of love to fit rigid, pre-determined definitions cripples love’s nature.  To enjoy the experience of more love than one has encountered thus far means to open oneself to discovering more by experience.  The discovery of more love is not merely a theoretical journey but an applied one as well – one practiced within relationships with others whom we do not control by domination or manipulation.  Expanding definitions of love’s qualities are unlikely to remain confined within fixed boxes.  They are more likely to outgrow boxes like many potted plants outgrow their pots.  To grow we need more room for our ideas about love to extend their roots into deeper soil and expand their branches upward and outward to boldly welcome life as it shares its light.

Are you willing to unbox your ideas about love and allow them to take on new life and become enriched with deeper and more expansive meaning because of the experiences you are having?

Being open to growing on account of one’s experiences is a central theme of The ABCs of Love.    This is as true of those who first approach the ABCs of love declaring that they believe in a “God” Factor identified as a “Supreme Being” as of those who approach declaring that their starting position is that there is no “Supreme Being” of any kind.  For all of us, the quest for the truth inherent in practicing the ABCs of love holds a common question:  Based on our experiences, are we willing to re-examine our beliefs about life, including about a “God” Factor and our definitions of words we use such as “love,” “God,” “sacred,” “true,” “false,” “right,” “wrong,” “good,” “bad,” “devotion,” “growth,” “satisfaction,” “wisdom” and “life” as we encounter experiences and let them enrich our insights and understandings?  A discussion about whether the “God” Factor is a fact or a fiction need not be a source of friction any more than a discussion about what we believe to be “good and bad” or “right and wrong” needs to be.  We can expect each of us sometimes to hold our opinions and viewpoints with passionate emotions.  The exploration of issues introduced by The ABCs of Love invokes our emotions. Sometimes we may be surprised by the strength of our emotional attachment to an idea.  The question that love raises is “Are we willing to look at our emotions to see why we have strong attachments to certain ideas and consider revisiting those attachments and revising our ideas if and when each of us – without pressure from another person or any group – decides it is appropriate to do so?”

A discussion of any issue need not produce more friction than we can tolerate if we are willing to release our minds from assumptions and beliefs we’ve acquired earlier in life when our current experiences challenge those assumptions and beliefs with new information or perceptions.  By “release,” I do not mean that we automatically discard a belief simply because an experience seems to conflict with it or another person (or group, minority or majority) disagrees with it. I mean that we exercise our freedom to be “willing” to re-examine our beliefs and assumptions – together with the emotions associated with them – in light of our experiences. In this freedom, we then decide whether or not we continue to hold onto a belief or assumption or let it go in favor of a revised or alternative one.  I encourage us to participate in this process of shared thinking because I discovered in my life that reasoning includes revisiting and rethinking our ideas not alone but in the company of others who honor our emotions and ideas as well as value us as people.

For example, suppose we were using a new system to navigate the world’s oceans and were told that the new system was designed on the assumption that the Earth is more or less spherical while we had believed all our life that the Earth is flat and our own senses seemed to tell us it was flat.  As far as we could look, we saw flatness.  Would we therefore automatically cast aside the new system without testing it?  Some would; others wouldn’t.  At issue is not merely what and how we decide but also “Why do we decide as we do?”  To be aware of our thinking process includes being aware of emotions that influence us our willingness to take risks.

To believe that there is no “God” Factor that is potentially helpful in our quest for more love simply because we cannot see or detect “Truth,” “Love,” “the Golden Rule” or any kind of “Supreme Being” scientifically may be as valid as the belief that the Earth is flat – a belief that once seemed confirmed by our inability to detect the curvature of the Earth as we stand upon it.  “Looks flat to me!”  So, we declare it’s flat.  “Cannot detect a “God” Factor anywhere in my life!”  So, we declare there is no “God” Factor.  It may be logical but also may be mistaken because information flowing into an observer’s mind may be filtered through his or her belief in the sanctity of the idea, assumption or attitude with which she or he started.  To remain open to the possibility of acquiring richer insights and understandings based on experiences, one cannot worship an idea as if it’s set in stone and make it sacred.  To do so is to risk making that idea into a rigid idol.  One must be willing to let go of blinders that limit one’s awareness.  A belief that there is no “God” Factor may be sacred to those who hold it – as sacred as a belief in a “Supreme Being” is to those who hold that belief.  In addition, a person may hold sacred a definition of a “Supreme Being’s” nature although it may be incomplete or inaccurate.  The issue is “Do we recognize that we exercise faith when we declare something to be true without being able yet to prove it’s true?”   Are we willing to be like fish who once gave little or no thought to the invisible water in which they swim and unconsciously place their faith and now investigate the invisible with growing curiosity about its nature and function in our lives? Might the nature and quality of the waters of life be important?

Placing faith in the Scientific Method of hypothesis, experimentation and observation is as much an act of faith as placing faith in religious teachings or some abstract principle like the Golden Rule. Science, religion and ethics are sets of ideas making up systems of ideas handed down generation after generation complete with their own internal self-validating processes.  Every thought system risks being a closed system of thinking. The ABCs of Love is an open system of thinking.  That is why every practitioner of it will find aspects that challenge the beliefs he or she holds dear, even sacred. Are you willing to tolerate having your most cherished beliefs and assumptions uncovered,questioned and perhaps validated, or perhaps not validated in whole or part?

I write about The ABCs of Love based in part on my own challenging experiences that have demonstrated the value of the principles and practices outlined here.  I remain open to feedback from practitioners to continue to enrich the content and sharing of the ABCs of love.  I am on a journey as a practitioner just as I encourage everyone to be.  The “God” Factor has challenged me throughout my journey.  At the beginning of my journey, I had given little thought to what a concept of “God” might mean.  I had heard about there being a “Supreme Being” and assumed that to be “Supreme” meant having the power define life and be more in control of it than I would ever be.  To me it was the essence of any idea of “Supreme” that I could not define the nature of  a “God” but could only accept that, if there is a “God,” that entity (by whatever name called) would define itself and reveal itself to me if it chose to.  I believed I could not create a “God,” but there might be a “God” who created me.  Otherwise, I did as best I could to treat others “right,” whatever that may mean from time to time.  Looking back, I believe my initial “God” Factor was some version of the Golden Rule.

            Eventually, I began to think more consciously about a “God” Factor as I matured and had children of my own and also addressed issues in my community that concerned the welfare of children beyond my own.  Thinking about the welfare of children stretched my mind to consider an ever expanding range of ideas and options that came to my attention that seemed to influence the welfare of children.  Gradually, the “God” Factor that I’d pushed off to the edge of my life while a young adult, edged back into an increasingly more central role in my thinking.  I began to reference what I thought (my “opinions” and “viewpoints”) to sources beyond myself, most of which I found in material authored by experts in fields of study related to life in general and to children’s wellbeing in particular.  The authors’ ideas came alive to me as I wove them into my own practices and explored their benefits.  I began to adopt aspects of other people’s viewpoints into my own. I came to see that ideas that proved most helpful often came from authors who made reference to a “God” Factor (e.g., life’s spiritual features and principles) as if there is a “God” Factor of some sort.  I also noticed that the “God” Factor many authors believed in did not express the judgmental nature that I had assumed a “Supreme Being” would express.  I had to continually revise my ideas about the “God” Factor as authors’ ideas came together to build a picture of a wise, compassionate, understanding and forgiving “Gentle Essence” who might have a personal nature as I do and even include me within the scope of His/Her/Its benevolent care and love.

I discovered in the process that I was afraid of the “God” Factor of which I held a fuzzy, ill-defined concept.  And I was afraid of love.  Fear colored my ideas about both.  In the face of fears of the Unknown and of my failure and inadequacy to master the art of love, I wrestled with a “God” Factor that I assumed was judging and finding fault with me – and would therefore impose consequences upon me for my failure to perform well enough to earn a “good grade.”  I realized that I confused my concept of a“God” Factor with the performance-oriented habits I’d acquired trying to please my parents and other authority figures in my life.  It became as important to me to please a “Supreme Authority Figure” as a “God” Factor as it had been to please my parents and teachers.  Questions such as “What pleases ‘God’ most?” became important to me.  Was it blind obedience to rules?  Cooperation within relationships?  Grace, mercy and justice that might sometime supersede rules?  Forgiveness?  Faith?  As I stumbled along pursuing these questions to their limits, I discovered by experience that there is a “Supremely Gracious Authority Figure” quite unlike any most people speak about or seem to know exists.

Through my experiences, I discovered that Huston Smith made a valid point in his book The World’s Religions. Having studied a broad range of paths of faith in depth – both mainstream and minority branches, Smith summarized that all paths of faith in some sort of “Supreme Being” held in common these three ideas about the “God” Factor:  1) there is a Creator who is the source of all life; 2) one can seek and receive help from the Source of life who desires to sustain the life of every person (seeker and not-yet seeker) on the best terms possible; and 3) regardless of how certain some people claim to be about the “Supreme Being’s” nature and what that “Being” thinks, most of what is true about that “Being” remains a mystery to humans.  I formed the impression that A) all paths of faith converged in and shared a common mystical experience of a “God” Factor not yet experienced by those who had not yet become aware of the mystical dimension of their chosen path of faith and B) all who delved deep enough into their chosen path would arrive at this mystical encounter.

I now accept that I’m on a journey delving into the depths of a multifaceted mystery that I’ll never fully comprehend.  Many people fear the “Mysterious Unknown.”  No longer fearing it, I’ve discovered that the “Mysterious Unknown” has never stopped creating for the benefit of Creation and that we are an important facet of Creation but not the only facet.  We have our place and role and need to learn to respect all living beings throughout Creation in order to fulfill our role and feel deeply satisfied within our hearts.  I’ve learned that the “Mysterious Unknown” is pleased when we feel deepest wholehearted satisfaction because that’s how we detect the presence of the “Being” even now – within our empathy-connected hearts as if we and that “Being” share one heart as well as one life of continuous co-creation.  I’ve discovered that I prefer to be wise rather than foolish and that, in the long run, learning to listen to the “Supreme Yet Mysterious Authority Figure” in my heart allows me to be guided by wisdom and joy.

While the ultimate destination of my life remains a hinted-at mystery, I grow a little more confident every day in my capacity to walk forward into the Unknown while filled with unfathomable depths of love and allow the Unknown to be revealed to me bit by bit rather than be so afraid of the Unknown as to avoid it entirely.  Although the “God” Factor remains a mystery and largely unknown to me, on account of my experiences I can report that the journey has been wondrously enriching and rewarding and that my encounters with the “God” Factor have not included any condemnation or punishment by a “Supreme Authority Figure” such as I once was taught to fear. All condemnation and punishment has come from frightened, ego-based people who refuse to experience and express the fullness of their own compassionate hearts.  While I don’t know all there is to know about the “God” Factor, I am encouraged by what I’ve come to know so far.  I am also grateful for having come to accept the presence of a Divine Source of Love and Life so that my heart can be awash with the flow of Life and Love moment by moment – all as if to prove that heaven is here and now on Earth because it manifests itself to me within my heart and mind as our sharable Reality.

I hope you also will boldly investigate the “God” Factor and dare to explore the possibilities to discover your own insights and understandings while enjoying the journey of life as love’s gracious peace, hope, joy and wisdom flow into, through and beyond your heart and mind with increasing, yet ever gentle power.

© Art Nicol 2017

 

Affinity for Divinity

Within each of us is an affinity for divinity. Why?  Because we are each “originally” created as an expression of the divine and yearn deep within us to return to our roots.  (By “originally” I mean both “from the beginning” and “as a uniquely distinctive expression of the Creator – a one-of-a-kind original.” That’s a paradox of our existence:  we are each uniquely, distinctively different and yet we are all also united as one within the human race according to universal qualities we all share.  We, as the entire, eternally interconnected human species, express diversity within unity to express all of the Divine Source with Whom we are eternally united as one.  As Divine Love flows through us we reveal the Divine Source’s nature and favor towards us.)

Our yearning to be free to be and express who we truly are is surging up from within us from our roots.  Within us the S.A.P. we are (Spiritually Anointed People) rises relentlessly to the surface, as surely as in northern climates the sap in trees rises to renew life each spring.  By acknowledging our yearning and cultivating, watering and nurturing the soul-soil within which our roots thrive, we encourage our depth of yearning to rise closer and closer to the surface until it emerges into expression within our daily lives and blossoms here as us – who we each are and who we collectively as the human species or “humanity” are. (Within the sequence of time here on Earth, some of us will rise up before others but eventually we will all rise up so that time and space will matter less and less because our eternal and infinitely powerful divine nature will have come online collectively.)

We are inherently and resolutely as determined to know our own divinity (divine identity), be true to it and express it as dandelions are to rise again from the slightest bit of root or tiniest of wind-borne seed.  When our divinity emerges collectively, as a human race we will cease to engage in oppression, exploitation and conflict towards each other and be unstoppably resilient and brilliant as caregivers for all forms of life within and around us.  Until then we’ll simply fail time after time to achieve our heartfelt dreams and desires to end violence because being untrue to ourselves is the ultimate violence and guaranties our failure to achieve lasting peace.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, we must know our true identity – our authenticity – and be true to it at least simultaneously with, if not before, being false to no one else.  As we learn to be honest with and accept others non-judgmentally, we learn to be honest with and accept ourselves non-judgmentally.  This is the feedback loop process for recovering awareness of our true identity.  Acceptance of others leads to greater acceptance of self, which in turn leads to greater acceptance of others, etc. – all with growing inner peace as well as outer peace.  Thus we implement the principle “As within, so without.”

Before we rise up to blossom as we truly are in fulfillment of our own hearts’ desire and of The Divine’s will for us as beloved children of The Divine Source of Life, we are buried beneath the illusions and false images the world of fear teaches us to worship as survivors but not thrivers.  To thrive we must come alive as who we truly are and dare to share our true identity with at least one other and then more and more with all others as sisters and brothers in the same divine family.  It is irresistible, this urge to emerge and share!

Recently I’ve been thinking again about how this emergency took place in my life.  Emergence felt like an emergency because it felt urgent to my heart that I emerge and it felt threatening to my ego that I might emerge as me from behind the cloaking device my ego had become as my social image.  Pride and shame held me back, inhibited my emergence and tried to thwart my fulfillment in living true to who I am.  After living many years as an ego and hiding within the social roles egos train us to play, it upset many people who had known me in my ego roles to behold the real me emerging.  “What’s wrong with you, Art?” they’d ask, if not overtly to my face then privately to themselves and perhaps as well to others.   What was “wrong” with Art was that I was no longer willing to play charades and hide myself from others.  The process of emerging was awkward, more awkward than it need be for others if only we’d all welcome such emergences more openly and not do our best to control or even repress them as unwelcome challenges to the status quo within which we profess ourselves to be so comfortable.  Repressive social reactions on the part of frightened conformists delay and even disfigure emergences.  Being scalded by shame and blame wounds our hearts and can leave long-lasting scars.

I was no longer comfortable with hiding within the status quo as a conformist. I was troubled by my affinity to divinity.  I did not know my troubled waters initially by such a concept.  I did not know how to identify my troubled state.  Indeed, I was more inclined to ask of myself “What’s wrong with you, Art?” than to claim the truth that something miraculous and beautiful was happening – something possibly more “right” than yet understood let alone socially acceptable.  Today I hope to be here to encourage others to emerge beyond merely surviving within ego’s fearful darkness to enjoy thriving within the love-bathed lightness of wholeness, authenticity and integrity.  We need to give each other emotional support as we emerge as authentic but diverse expressions of the divine instead of bashing each other for being different. Let us learn to bathe wounds rather than bash the wounded, wash away grief rather than wander astray and wallow in its initial stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression.

For each of us, the process of emerging is motivated in some way by our affinity for divinity.  Yet, our identifying links with divinity may differ.  Mine is merely an example of what may be possible for all of us.  If your links to divinity are of a nature similar to mine, I welcome you to share your experiences with me and others.  If, however, your links to divinity are of a different nature, please honor them as well and feel equally welcome to share them.  Perhaps in our sharing we will find the common threads and themes that link us all.

As briefly as I can manage let me describe linking themes I have traced throughout my life that opened doors to phases of my emergence:

First Theme: I will call this linking theme my desire to enjoy relationships with authors and other storytellers, both of fiction and nonfiction.  Throughout my life, I have enjoyed reading, listening to and watching stories that are well presented and have depth and breadth of symbolic meaning.  Allegories and metaphors need not dominate but a story that reveals patterns of human thinking, emotions and character development intrigues me.  Call them archetypes, themes or common patterns, their presence revealed within a story captures my imagination and draws me inward to participate in the experiences of characters in the story.  My imagination allows me to “there” with the characters even while remaining “here” in my own life.  Truth be known, sometimes I tend to become more “lost” in the story than remain aware of my surroundings. Ironically it is my tendency to become so lost in my imagination that allowed me to encounter my true identity and recover from having mislaid and forgotten it as ego’s social training taught me to do.

I became lost in stories told by others to become found in my own living story.  I now realize that my whole life has been symbolic and in some way identified with the common allegories and archetypes of humanity.  (It is likely that you will find your life story is as well.) In some ways, my awakening to this realization while surrounded by many people who do not yet realize that it is also true for them caused me to feel lonely.  I yearn for the companionship of others with whom to share my story and listen to theirs too.  Knowing that every one of us has a story worth sharing has held up to me a path from loneliness to more expansive connections with others past, present and future.  The Eternity of Divinity embraces all time frames and is part of the divinity for which I now feel such affinity.  I began as an expression of an eternal story and now know myself as continuing to be such an expression.

Among the many story tellers who have encouraged me to grow increasingly aware of my nature as a child of God none has been more influential than Jesus.  The stories he told that remain in our records are likely not the only ones he told.  His whole life remains largely an untold story buried beneath myths and legends that have been layered on by various story tellers’ for a variety of purposes.  What marvels my imagination most is that the most outlandishly generous and merciful of the stories of Jesus’ life are the most likely to be true.  Within stories of helpful Samaritans, prodigal sons, women at wells, women at risk of being stoned, reviled tax collectors and others honored to share meals and the like, I found myself invited to imagine what it might be like to have known Jesus as a disciple walking with him as he revealed and shared the nature of his Father as the Divine Parent of us all.  Through my imagination my heart tapped into inspirations that gave birth to actions that taught me much by experience that formal, ego-censored education could not show me.

Second Theme:  I will call this linking theme my desire to be helpful.  Perhaps mostly as a result of my middlish position among seven siblings and my desire to earn my parents’ attention, appreciation and approval, I acquired the disposition and habit of being helpful early in life and could not shirk it afterwards.  I believe that this habit was hard to break because it is rooted in the nature of the Divine Source of Life.  The Source is disposed to helpfulness and habitually helps us whether or not we ask.  As this second theme shaped my development from childhood throughout adulthood, I stumbled along, many times failing, as how to be most helpful was revealed to me.  Throughout my life, I had to change many of my ways of offering helpfulness to more closely correspond to how divine aid is offered, but I could not shake off the desire to be helpful even when I became discouraged about ever learning how to be helpful in truly helpful, lasting ways.  Just as Edison experimented with many materials as he searched for ones to serve as filaments in his early light bulbs, I experimented with ways of helpfulness that shed little light or burned out all too readily.  There are ways to help as the Divine Benevolent One helps, to be an extension of Divine Benevolence as Jesus was while walking upon the earth, and to shed a warm and gentle light to radiate within the darkness of a violence-tossed and troubled world.   Mastering how to do so remains one of my primary goals.  Stories of those who have done so gracefully and effectively throughout the ages continue to inspire and guide me.

Third Theme:  I will call this linking theme my desire to share.  Again this theme began when I was growing up amid seven siblings and observed that if we did not share, there’d not be much left for the smaller and less aggressive ones of us.  Thus, sharing began as a survival principle.  Later it morphed into a principle by which to thrive as me as I discovered that the Divine Source of Life had created and still creates all that is by sharing Divinity with all.  Organic, natural sustainability models itself on the Divine.  In time, I learned how to engage in feedback loops with the Divine and my fellow human beings and to enjoy the empowering unity that such feedback loops generate.  My life has been enriched by sharing all that I receive. I know now with certainty what I had previously only believed was possibly true – that giving and receiving are the same thing, a unified and unifying process we call “sharing.”  The Golden Rule rules our whole lives as surely as the Law of Gravity rules our physical existence.  Whether or not our affinity for divinity will ever defy gravity I do not know except to say that the gravest and weightiest of earthly problems seem to grow lighter as we approach their solutions from the perspective of Eternity.  In my experiences, the Creator has turned out to be more lighthearted than I was initially led to believe.

These three themes have grown over my lifetime as branches of a stout and sometimes fruitful tree. Within those branches I have found myself nourished, nurtured and lifted beyond the ego’s mind-clouding fogs of pain and confusion into awareness of my own identity as a child of God.  My discovery of my divine identity led me to discover FIRELIGHT as an acronym to partially summarize my story.  Faith Initiates Rising to Excellence by Learning to Implement God’s Highest Truth. What is that Truth?  That we are each and every one of us without exception a child of God, by whatever name we may refer to such a Supreme Parent or Source of Life.  (And by whatever names – deriding or uplifting – that we have from time to time called ourselves and have been called by others.)

When I call this ultimate Truth “highest” I also mean it is the deepest, reaching to the taproot of our creation within which all our roots are joined.  Designed to explore the truth of divine love within the depths of our beings, we are also designed to express this truth within our relationships from the most intimate ones outward in ever-expanding circles of new life.  Ours is a love story, a story of mutually helpful beings designed by Divine Love to grow in evermore powerful capacities to express and share love in ever-ascending, upward spiraling feedback loops – giving and receiving as a unified Divine Companion and Loved One for our Creator. “As the Creator Is so We Are.”  We are here on earth to discover what that observation means and how to live according to it in all the fullness of our beings.

(For more about FIRELIGHT, please visit the Firelight SJL tab above.)

© Art Nicol 2016

The Infinitesimal Unnoticed God

Why do participants in technology-enraptured cultures so easily overlook and ignore God?  Where technology captures the imagination it enslaves hearts and minds and makes the idea of God seem unimaginably tiny, unappealing and, frankly, irrelevant.  Why bother searching to detect God’s messages among all the chatter when the search seems as likely to succeed as our search for messages from extraterrestrial beings?

By comparison to technologically enhanced messages, what is God doing to show off a Divine Presence? Could it be the nature of holiness to be readily unnoticed precisely because it conducts no mass media or marketing campaigns on its behalf and seeks not fame or fortune – of which it has neither need nor desire?  Might the Ultimate Divine be so focused on serving humanity behind the scenes and beneath the radar in uttermost humility that we discount this Presence as a candidate for Godhood?  Might our own individual yearning and striving for self-sufficiency, independence and an ever so modest bit of limelight hoodwink us into believing that we achieved all our goals on our own and received no aid from any significant source the recognition of which might rob us of our self-satisfaction and claim to accolades? Might we identify with sports teams, political parties, schools, religions and other groups to hitch a ride on their claims to fame and reap vicarious benefits from mere association with our chosen group’s success?  Might even our “good works” be tainted by our desire to feel better about ourselves personally and receive pats on the back if not Nobel Prizes and other variously valued awards for charity? Might pride’s declaration “This I did all by myself” (or only with the help of colleagues to whom I can point my finger with pride) be utter foolishness every time it’s uttered?

God has no need of self-promotion or self-aggrandizement – or of praise and admiration from the crowds who, for example, once welcomed Jesus as their Messiah and not long afterwards cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”  God knows the fickleness of public opinion and does not hunger to impress!  The ways of modern versions of success through exploitation, expansionism and claims to “specialness” are not the ways of God.  Every person who claims a worldly achievement admired by his or her peers and wider audiences without acknowledging the absolute necessity of God’s role in it conspires to disclaim God’s nature as a devoted nurturer and devotee of humanity.  Many co-conspirators are ganging up to prove not that God is dead but instead irrelevant, impotent and uncaring. Who needs God when we have unlimited technology by which to achieve greatness, notoriety and popularity?  Who needs God when we can without Divine Aid capture and enslave minds, hearts and wills of most if not all members of mass-media-dominated societies awash with participants who prefer to follow the crowd and be told what to think, feel, wear, eat, do, etc. than to create a worthwhile life based on ideas received from the Divine Beyond?  Isn’t listening to God too much bother compared with the ease of listening to the media?

Propaganda’s capacity to use technology to endlessly repeat lies glorifying self-sufficiency is enough to convince most people that lies are truth as if repetition is proof itself and truth has no existence apart from what people can be convinced to believe.  The simplicity and perseverance of truth offers no novelty, complexity or glamour to enhance its marketability or entertainment value.  God is simply not fun enough!  Most people are not interested in puzzling through the mysteries and paradoxes of Eternal Truth.  Like God, such truth is infinitesimal and readily goes unnoticed.  It fills all the spaces between media-trumpeted events and entertainment like dark matter fills the “voids” between the stars and planets.  It is not visible to human minds that know not how to sense its Presence.  Yet it is there waiting to be sensed.

To switch metaphors, a murky slurry of lies covers the natural landscape of truth beneath multiple coats of lacquer – each glossier, smoother and more opaque than the last.  In the process of sealing life within this lacquer of lies, we have painted ourselves into a corner and framed God outside of the picture.  God has been framed as the cause of evil and therefore tainted with impurity and unworthy of our honor and worship.  Hence we witness the decline of modern society as we divorce ourselves from God by declaring our independence and self-sufficiency instead of intentionally nurturing our interdependence with God’s help in the context of Divine grace.   We foolishly and arrogantly declare that we have no need of dependence upon God. Our individual and collectives egos will not allow us to consider such a possibility.  Since this option threatens the very foundation of the ego’s dominion in our lives, it is understandable that our egos resist our considering it.

How well are radical independence from God and denial of Eternal Truth working for humanity?  Is the propaganda serving us?  Might God yet be serving us better despite our efforts to resist Divine Aid?  What might happen if we were to stop resisting and begin instead to cooperate with God?

Look around at what mass media (perhaps more aptly labeled “mess media”) deems worthy to report and promote and you will see all the evidence you need to demonstrate the utter failure of radical independence from God’s nature and nurture.  Utter failure calls for utter rejection of the nonsense of independence outside of the moderating context and influence of grace-infused interdependence.  Whatever level of independence we may find helpful must bow to our innate need for interdependence as a species or we will soon be rendered extinct by our own hand.  Having experimented with radical independence, taken self-sufficiency to its extreme and beheld the costs, we must now turn as radically to interdependence and persevere in our steadfast commitment to that alternative way by which life may be shared with all of us as brothers and sisters within the human family.

God need not remain unnoticed, unappreciated and dishonored.  We can choose to notice, appreciate and honor God by choosing to notice, appreciate and honor each other as children of God created in our Diving Parent’s image and likeness.  How I notice, appreciate and honor you equates to how I notice, appreciate and honor God just as surely as how you notice, appreciate and honor my earthly children equates to how you notice, appreciate and honor me.  We are all one.  To notice, appreciate and honor any is to notice, appreciate and honor all and the Source of All.  By such noticing, appreciating and honoring we will discover that God has been noticing, appreciating and honoring us all along, waiting always patiently for us to return the favor.

God waits to serve us as gratefully receptive Divine Dependents of a Divinely Dependable Parent.  Accepting such divine service does not offend the value of our well-reasoned, self-disciplined individuality but merely cautions against taking independence so far to fracture our relationships with one another.  Stretching and growing us together but not stressing and blowing us apart.  The reliability of God’s power and willingness to aid us in our pursuit of harmonious oneness is not infinitesimal.  It is instead unfathomable.  To notice, appreciate and honor it is not to claim to fully understand, manipulate or control.  We must trust God to be God even while God remains a mystery beyond our understanding, manipulation and control.  Let us join our hearts together to call upon such a Power to come to our aid in this hour of our greatest need.  That hour is upon us here and now.  Through our foolishness we have brought this hour upon us.  By divine grace and wisdom our Sacred Parent will lead us through and beyond it to a brighter hour that is truly ours to share for as long as we forsake foolishness and embrace the wisdom of God’s way.

© Art Nicol 2016

Ego, The River of Life and God

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:1-2 (NIV)

And then the ego set about building levies to keep the floodwaters of God’s unconditional love from running beyond the river’s banks to bring fertility to lands not privileged to border the river, about which the ego saw too little potential for self-importance and pride to bother caring.  And the ego dammed the river to divert its joyful flow into generating energy for ego-sustaining manufacturing activities and entertainment.  And the ego dumped toxic wastes into the river because it could not be bothered with recycling the byproducts of its vanity, greed, sloth, anger, lust, envy and gluttony.  And the ego crossed the sun-baked mudflats where the silt had filled in the river to harvest the fruit for a season and market it for a handsome profit, manufacture and brand high-priced drugs from the leaves to swell the well-heeled’s bank accounts and cut down the tree of life and sawed it into lumber for more luxurious homes, country estates, country clubs and yachts for the privileged class.  Then, in place of the tree but to honor its memory, the ego erected a plastic-and-stainless-steel, weather-resistant monument to itself in the middle of the mudflats and lighted it 24 hours a day with energy-saving LED bulbs to justify its claim to being eco-friendly.

And God and the Lamb sat patiently upon their thrones no less empowered to be Divine than when the river flowed freely and waited for the people of God to notice the utter foolishness of the ego and its claims to privileged status as River Monitor and Elitist Corps of Engineers.  They waited patiently for the people of God to repudiate the ego in favor of humbly returning to worship God and acknowledge the authority of the Lamb.  And upon the return of the people of God to their one true God, the River began to flow again across all territories of the Earth without regard to barriers and regulatory structures set up by the ego because the people of God provided a new, more expansive and freer flowing network of channels through which the Water of Life might flow to nurture the nations to new life and demonstrate the grace and glory of God in faithfulness to all Creation.   And the people of God bore manifold expressions of fruitfulness, yielding a sustainable and bountiful crop in all seasons that expanded year after year; and the gifted hearts and minds of the people of God were for the healing of the nations.

And then it became true as foretold of old by the Exiled One, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” Revelation 22:3 (NIV)

© Art Nicol 2015

Implications of Jesus’ Prayer for Oneness

Jesus’ prayer for all believers to know oneness with God is recorded in the 17th Chapter of John. Its implications ripple outward into his call that his followers treat the “least of these” as if they are one with him.  This core theme of oneness echoes throughout Jesus’ ministry as he constantly questions the standards used by others to separate “good” people who are supposedly worthy of social approval and warm welcome from “bad” people who supposedly deserve only disapproval and avoidance or exile if not outright attack.

We are all one within God and with each other because we are all (each and every one of us!) created in the image and likeness of God, expressing God’s divine nature.  Long ago, a fundamental flaw crept into Christian theology when elitists bent on accumulating power over the masses adopted the concept of “original sin” or “created flawedness.”  This transparent lie helped to keep the masses controlled by their constant fear of being condemned by God, for whom the elites conveniently claimed to speak to the terror of the masses who already feared the elites.  The elites equated their neglect and abuse of underlings with the way God saw and treated humanity. How convenient to claim to speak for God to justify one’s own cruelty!

The concept of “original sin” is such an insulting idea in its disparagement of God as Creator that Jesus has to constantly serve as Redeemer to correct it.  We need a Redeemer only because we believe false ideas trumpeted in the marketplace by those who hog the soapboxes and pulpits as socially aggressive personalities who crave social approval so much as to demand that they set the standards for social approval. As their craving for political power as a false substitute for spiritual power corrupts their minds and hearts, they do all they can to lead others astray with them. Those who question such absurdities are colored as heretics and blasphemers and made to serve as martyrs and scapegoats for religio-political heroes/bullies.

Who sets the standards?  Man or God?  Woman or Goddess?  Jesus says that his (and our) heavenly Father* sets the standards. He modeled that truth so radically that he submitted his own lesser will to the greater will of the Father even unto death on the cross so as to demonstrate the power that arises from Oneness lived to its extreme. We are called today to do likewise, but few are willing to endure the merest hint of social disapproval (let alone the public humiliation of a cross-hung criminal) to do so.  We mistakenly keep expecting religio-politicians to approve our “deviations” from their critically acclaimed social norms and flinch when they disapprove instead.  How timid we are compared to Jesus and his original disciples!

Why does Jesus direct us towards serving the “least [familiar or approved] of these?”  Because the more we embrace the stranger in the other person, the more we’ll have opportunities to get to know the stranger in ourselves and accept ourselves more completely too.  It’s all a developmental thing actually.  The human race’s diversity expresses more than mere diversity of surface appearances and actions summed up as “images,” “lifestyles” and “cultures.”  In addition to demographically measured diversity humanity expresses our developmental diversity, the steps of development each of us has achieved with respect to the multifaceted range of human wholeness God designed us to master.  We develop in response to our social environments.  So, we tend to develop different facets of our gemlike wholeness on different timetables depending upon the social environments to which we have been exposed so far.  (Do we not sometimes say, “He is a product of his environment?”)

For this reason, when we encounter a “stranger,” he or she is “strange” to a significant degree precisely because he or she has been exposed to different social environments or conditions than we have.  We encounter the effects of those different social environments as embodied in and expressed through the “other” or “stranger.” Yet if we were totally honest with ourselves we would say, “There but by the grace of God go I.”  We’d admit that we would be much like the stranger had we endured the social environments through which he or she has evolved.

Each person we meet offers us another opportunity to learn more about ourselves as we might be had we lived a life different from the one we’ve lived so far.  Those opportunities offer insights into our wholeness because they reveal aspects of ourselves that our current or previous social environments may not have mirrored back to us before so powerfully or at all.  And we tend to mirror for the other person in each relationship similarly helpful feedback about himself or herself.  When we mirror feedback consciously without judgment or fault-finding, we are lovingly nurturing each other.  The social environment of lovingly nurturing each other with gracious feedback is the kingdom of God Jesus represents and encourages us to enter into – seeking first God’s righteousness and no longer asserting our own (inadequate!) self-righteousness.  That God’s righteousness is infused with grace and mercy is a lesson we need to learn by heart until we master it.  Meeting and serving strangers so as to be their gracious hosts affords us opportunities for such mastery.  Through practice, our mastery of hosting strangers empowers us to rise beyond xenophobia and learn to welcome each supposed “other” as a sister or brother – no longer a stranger at all.

Jesus calls us to be servants of those we know and those we don’t know because he knows how immature we are and always will be if we remain trapped within our social bubbles or cocoons.  Within heavily defended comfort zones based on conformity, discipleship is moribund. Constant rebirth amidst the challenges of diversity is a part of maturing as a disciple.  Jesus’ own journey illustrates that one must never pitch a tent and try to preserve the status quo, even one as magnificent at the Mount of Transfiguration.  For us to develop or mature progressively as spiritual beings, humility requires that we admit that we are often ignorant – not stupid but lacking in information and ill-informed.  The brightest genius can still be uninformed or ill-informed.  In humility we listen and learn – and perhaps even laugh at ourselves more readily rather than fume over every little error (or non-erroneous nonconformity called an “improvement!”) we or others may make. Jesus asks us to listen within our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit.  That’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Teacher as we develop greater maturity as his followers.  Even today there are things that many of Jesus’ disciples cannot yet bear to hear, as he long ago foresaw. (See John 16:12.)  Yet we can all become delightfully competent, ever-growing-wiser students of the Truth that sets us free to development our wholeness more and more completely.

Freedom to be authentic and whole beings of integrity and love as God created us to be is scary.  It implies loss of social structures we once depended upon to guide and protect us on our journeys.  In His quest for our highest good, our Father does not intend that those social structures with which we become so familiar during various phases of our development become our imprisoning status quo of traditions or “laws” (rules, roles and rituals).  Like the gantry of a rocket that once enabled the rocket to stand erect and not fall over while it was assembled, equipped and fueled, social structures must at some point release us to soar beyond them.  When that happens we are dependent on our internal guidance systems. The more our internal guidance systems are attuned to God’s will, spirit, heart and mind the more at peace with God we’ll be as we journey onward in our quest for more elegant mastery, deeper enrichment and more lasting satisfaction as our Father’s servant-sons and -daughters. Those who serve with grace achieve a high orbit from which to envision and embrace the whole of humanity as God’s family of beloved and much favored children.

*Today Jesus would have no problem calling the Supreme Parent “Mother” too.  He could not do so earlier due to the social constraints of his historically first human audience with whom such a concept would have sidetracked communications too much. See, John 16:12-15 for Jesus’ explanation of his plan of sequential communication with successive audiences.

ã Art Nicol 2013

Pure Cooperation Enriches Life

Do you want to tap into the power of the Divine Life and experience its flow through you as Divine Love’s joyful radiance so that you know who you are, know why you are alive, understand how to reap value from hard times and feel deeply satisfied with your life? This essay tells you why purified cooperation frees you to receive increasing power, insight, understanding and satisfaction as you purify your motives for cooperating.

The more you purify your motives for cooperating with another person, the more Divine Power flows through you as Radiant Love that fulfills your heart’s desires, including your desire to be empowered to pursue your passions and to feel deeply satisfied with yourself.  Ulterior or mixed motives for cooperating dampen Divine Power’s flow. To share in and reap the benefits of Divine Power’s miracles, it’s necessary to purify our hearts so as to live as God’s lives towards others. Purity of motives matters maximally in God’s Life Enrichment Plan. One benefit of purifying your cooperative connection with the Divine is that God creates the future and will help you have the best future possible.  If you tend to worry about the future, focus instead on purifying your cooperation with God now and leave your future in God’s hands as you help others to enjoy and appreciate their lives more in the present.

Spiritual teachers are plentiful these days.  Many promise to teach you how to experience more power by tapping into your inner realm where power waits to be released through you into your life experiences.  They are pointing in the right direction.  Much of what they teach is good as far as it goes but it does not go all the way to the heart of the matter.  Your power does abide within you, in the core of your being. It’s there waiting to be tapped into and drawn to the surface to be expressed by you as you.  I want to add a tip of wisdom to your endeavor to tap into this power.  The wisdom is this: don’t mistake your own puny power to develop your own “improved” lifestyle as measured by personal convenience, wealth and social status as Divine Power.  That’s the measure many teachers use to entice you to pay attention to them.  They seduce you with promises of increased convenience (a parking space!), prosperity and social approval. If that’s all you seek as a goal, then you’ll not be interested in the wisdom tip I’m sharing here.  However if you’d like to experience Divine Power as Radiant Love and a promising future on God’s terms, keep reading. The most direct way to tap into Divine Power is to cooperate totally with its Divine Purpose.

Divine Power is God’s to share with all who seek it on God’s terms for God’s purpose.  God’s terms do not focus on our personal convenience, wealth and social approval.  God’s terms focus on our learning to deliver to others experiences of divine love, heartfelt comfort, healing oneness and blessings of life in abundance.  Please take note: The key is our capacity to deliver the goods to others, not merely our capacity to soak up the goods for ourselves as if we are the end consumer of God’s Divine Power.  If we truly want to experience Divine Power in all of its miraculous nature and scope we simply must cooperate with God on God’s terms and not try to dictate terms to God or impose our limited purpose for its use.  God’s terms include God’s wholehearted commitment to demonstrating God’s oneness with all people. Most people are not comfortable with humbling themselves before God so as to receive as generously as God is willing to give.  Their egos get in the way because their egos are rooted in belief in separation from God and from one another.  God’s purpose of demonstrating the Oneness of Life, within which all things are interconnected, violates the ego’s basic premise that separation is real.  The ego resists humility because humility offers no place for ego.  If you want to receive and deliver to others the divinely enriched good life that God has in store for you, be prepared to cooperate with God even when your ego protests that you’ve offended it and all it values.

Here’s the scoop:  God has always wanted every human being to receive Divine Power and all of its life-enriching benefits.  It’s never been God’s will to shortchange anyone or leave anyone unfavored. There’s a way to share Divine Power among all of us that God knows and reveals but our egos ignore and obscure. We are each created to express Divine Power but we adopt egos as false social identities to survive in our society where egos and ego’s values and priorities determine how social approval and disapproval are distributed.  If you want to set Divine Power free to flow through you, be prepared to encounter turbulence as your own ego and egos around you react to your violation of ego’s rules, roles and routines and accuse you of being a boat-rocker and rule-violator – too “different” in your attitudes, beliefs and social orientation for a conformist society to approve of – while you are not a social deviant except to the extent that you exceed social standards by deviating towards excellence. The ego may declare you a hero one moment, a scapegoat the next and then do its best to ignore you entirely as it exiles you from its company. More than likely our ego-based traditionalist society will do its best to make you feel unwelcome and regret siding so radically with God as to value God’s will that Love reign supreme over our pathways to freedom and joy. You will not experience the flow of Divine Power as your natural inheritance until you reclaim God as your Divine Parent and participate fully in Divine Family Life, treating every other human being as your brother and sister, as beloved of God as you are.

Purifying our hearts means letting go of all fear so as to allow Divine Love to radiate where fear once imposed the gloom of separation and loneliness onto God’s celebration of oneness and companionship throughout all circumstances from lovely to harsh and back again. Purification of our hearts is a process that conflicts with modern practices and principles now widespread throughout our fear-based, fear-saturated society. Social norms support our maintaining hearts filled with fear as if that’s a desirable goal. Purification sets our hearts free of fear so that we become social nonconformists (even sometimes feeling like a freak) until being pure of heart becomes the new social norm. In the transitional phase during which society shifts from being fear-based, fear-saturated to being love-based, love-saturated, mutual encouragement to make the shift is vital.  We most need to learn to no longer fear Divine Love and instead to share it generously with mutual appreciation for all we are daring to be and to become.

In modern times, while fearing Diving Love, humanity mistakenly subscribed to the lie that human life evolves towards an ideal standard of improvement on account of the “survival of the fittest.”  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The ideal standard of improvement for humanity is an increase in the flow of Divine Power to comfort, heal and bless us all. (Students of A Course In Miracles may recognize this statement of Divine Purpose.)  Human life evolves towards increased flow of Divine Power through the service of the fittest in promoting the welfare of the whole so that all members of the human race thrive, not merely survive.  Service by, not survival of, the fittest is what matters. In other words, empowerment for humanity is not about outdoing the competition by being fitter for survival than others.  It’s about being fitter for service than others may currently be.  Empowerment and life-enrichment happen naturally from learning to be more helpful towards others – with pure hearts, based on motives as pure as God’s.

Those who serve others on God’s terms (e.g., not co-dependently, compulsively or fearfully) are models of humanity’s divine nature as they serve the best interests of the whole, including those who may at first appear to be least suited for survival or service. It is wise for honored leaders of society to be spiritually oriented servants of those with the least social status.  When those at the leading edge of humanity’s social privileges reach out to aid those at humanity’s trailing edge and lift them forward along with the whole of humanity, we all move forward together. Within the dynamics of service of “social bottoms by social tops,” progress sustains itself because those previously at society’s trailing edge learn to participate meaningfully on leadership teams at society’s cutting edge of positive developments.

In sum, God’s plan for humanity’s progress in awakening to our divine nature is a wrap-around process that leaves no one out of the circle of mutual service – the Circle of Life. Humble service means that socially privileged people do not use spiritual principles and practices to continue to feather our own nests and expand our experiences of convenience and privilege. Instead we adopt humble lifestyles that free our discretionary resources to be applied voluntarily to benefit less privileged members of society, elevating everyone together into a sustainable range of lifestyles that are totally adequate but not extravagant or self-indulgent.

How can this idealistic “bottom served by top” social dynamic become reality? It is guaranteed to become society’s new reality when we commit to cooperating with it wholeheartedly because God’s orientation to humanity is as our Wholehearted Supreme Servant.  Serving us all with Divine Delight, the Ultimate Top will orchestrate the creation of the new society rooted in purified cooperation. God asks not that we serve Him/Her but that we serve each other while we also allow God to serve us all without imposing any restrictions on God’s faithfulness and generosity towards all of us through each other.  We become God’s means of equity, liberty and justice as well as creativity and multimedia beauty when we cooperate with God’s will.  While we have been uncooperative with God instead of serving each other with grace and joy according to God’s divine plan for our evolution (awakening), we have learned to crucify (do a disservice to) each other by habits of our egos while we know not what we do. We are ignorant of what we are doing because our buried guilt and shame numb our sensitivity towards others and cause us to ignore how we are harming them (and ourselves) emotionally as well as in other ways. Our natural sensitivities that would alert us to our wayward ways are offline because development of an ego and its social habits requires that we deny our hearts, tune out our emotions, limit our listening, defend against change (including improvements offered by God) and turn away from each other in distrust.

A forgiving, attentively listening, trusting God waits patiently for us to repent and turn back to Him/Her to be restored to awareness of our innocence (free of guilt and blame as well as pride and shame) so that we might once again walk with God in humility to love mercy, do justice and liberate all captives of the ego – setting them free to walk, dance and sing along with God as well.  Universal mutual service will set us free of ego’s cruel tyranny and resurrect us from the deadening effects of benumbed hearts and painfully confused minds. In serving each other’s best interests as God defines what is “best,” we will regain clarity of mind as we regain purity of heart. God’s mind is clear.  God’s motive for serving all of us is pure love.  To serve as God serves and become living channels of service under Divine Authority, we must purify our motives by learning to love as God loves and to trust one another as God trusts us.

“Let he or she who would be greatest among you be servant of all.”  Such a calling strikes at the heart of the heartlessness of the egoistic culture modern society has become.  In modern times, shrines are built to egos while hearts are shrouded in despair.  Their kinds and styles vary but the purpose of each shrine is the same – to glorify to a lesser or greater degree an ego-imprisoned person who has failed to serve with humility on behalf of the health and happiness of many who would have benefitted from a life lived egolessly.  Pervasive neglect of the needs of others and studiously maintained ignorance of God’s divine plan to bless us all hide behind every enshrined failure of an ego-bound person to serve others.  Some who are popular in the eyes of fans (or Facebook friends) may protest, “But I mistreat no one!”  Yet all of us are at risk of allowing our craving for social approval to cause us to be more concerned about cooperating with other people’s egos than about cooperating with God.

Eager to get along (survive) socially, we please others at the cost of being empowered (thriving) spiritually. We protest against being called “indifferent” towards the needs of others only because we are unaware of the many we could serve but fail to serve when we focus our energies and resources on cooperating with egos to conform socially instead of cooperating with God to transform spiritually. We are more inclined by ego’s habits to use our resources to insulate ourselves from people in need than to come into contact with them personally as we naturally would do if we serve them with all our time and resources. Once society makes cooperating with God its standard procedure, we’ll be able to conform both socially and spiritually.  But not yet while social norms ignore God’s offer to enrich our lives through service empowered by purified cooperation.

Under the ego’s current reign, with few exceptions, the socially privileged are blessed and yet of little blessing to others.  In catering to our egos, we divert into shrines of varying degrees of personal isolation, convenience and self-aggrandizement time, energy and other resources intended by God for the welfare of others.  God blesses us to empower us to bless others, but we restrict the flow of blessings by diverting them into futile attempts to satisfy insatiable egos. In so doing we continue to mislead generation after generation of children to believe that the path to greatness lies along the ego’s way and not along the way of service to those God calls us to serve. All shrines, tiny and elaborate, divert resources. It is time to awaken to the error of the ego’s claim upon our lives and rise free to serve as our hearts’ wiser nature is restored to its rightful preeminence as guide and counselor in place of ego.

For centuries, men and women have clambered over each other to acquire greater fame and fortune through socially valued achievements ranging from minor to major in the eyes of other ego-oriented people.  Today we accept the approval of others and amass wealth in excess of our basic needs on account of our performances as employees, employers, entrepreneurs, professionals, politicians, captains of industry, entertainers, sports figures, experts, critics, religious leaders, middle managers and other paid and unpaid roles – and as common citizens who allow social approval to be our false god.  We admire others for their performances, allow others to admire us (often for our pretenses as much as for our performances) and bask in the glow of spiraling social approval as often as possible.  Often we blindly accept our social approval ratings and fail to point our admirers to God as the only Being truly worthy of admiration and imitation as a role model. Instead we accept praise as if it were truly due us.  If we mention God, we do so only in passing. We tip our caps to God but do not topple ourselves from the pedestals our adoring fans and friends erect for us – or emerge again from the tombs of shame we may endure if we offend our fans and friends. To be clear, there’s only life-enrichment to be gained through expressing and receiving heartfelt gratitude and genuine compliments. It is awe and worshipful praise we must reserve for God alone.

Of course, because we are not A-list celebrities and rarely attract media attention, most of us will deny that we are heavily invested in self-serving lifestyles and continue to participate in moderate mutual admiration societies we call friends, co-workers and other restricted-entry social gatherings. By the ego’s trick of comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves “not as excessive as ‘them,’” we justify our modest participation in a society that is blind to God’s plan.  But ego’s success in diverting our attention and investment of our lives from God’s plan is still controlling our decisions and blinding us to the truth of how God would have us serve if only we were more cooperative with God and less cooperative with egos.

We prefer to applaud and admire the few who serve in exceptional ways and call then “heroes” than to become one of them according to God’s calling in our hearts. If we share a portion of our wealth and other resources with others, we do so only according to some token measure that assuages our guilty conscience but does not honor God. Our tokenism reveals our egoism.  All we have received we hold in trust as endowments from God yet we give back to God only the little that legalistic social conformity requires.  A tithe perhaps, but not the whole.  We trust not God’s promise to return to us a thousandfold all that we might give cheerfully to God. We trust not the engine of universal prosperity that would function for the benefit of all if only we would honor God and give all to divine service as God gives so generously to us.  We take credit for God’s part in our successes and fail to express our gratitude to God as fully as God expresses His/Her generosity to us. Today there are many who continue to make excuses for glorifying ourselves according to the ego’s subtly deceptive model rather than step entirely free from self-serving lifestyles to serve God and let God be glorified. The time for undiluted, uncompromised cooperation with God has arrived to save humanity from extinction.  It’s likewise time to be entirely free to love as God loves and to be loved in return with equal power and commitment.

Our devotion to the ego’s way results from competition that epitomizes the deceitful proposition that survival of the fittest causes humanity to evolve.  As evidenced by events and conditions worldwide, the truth is that competition dehumanizes the human race and causes us to dissolve, not evolve.  Cooperation is the way of Life – of ever-expanding Vitality. Symbiosis and mutuality of living are features of Life. The ego belittles being truly helpful as humiliating and debasing “obedience” as if living humbly in harmony with God’s will is evil or at least an embarrassingly nonconformist way of life to be avoided at all cost.  The ego declares generosity to be a sacrifice instead of a sacrament that expresses God’s nature and an opportunity to live in oneness with God, with one another and with all forms of Life according to God’s plan of creation and sustainability for us all.

Life is God’s to design and implement.  When we gracefully serve God in all humility with joy in our hearts, we return to God the grace God first extended to us with divine joy.  By grace, we participate in Life fully and it flows through us as joyfully as a bubbling brook of crystal clear water.  Many are those who come to the Water of Life that God shares through us when we cooperate with God and serve as God serves.  Only then can we declare as protector of the socially less powerful “Such grace as has been given to me I give unto you” and open the way for the healing of our lands through the healing of our hearts.  Such gentle generosity and grace compose the way of true power because it is the way of life amid which we encounter and embrace God as He/She encounters and embraces us.

Life is not a process primarily characterized by disintegration and lack of integrity as ego’s false version of life presents.  Life is a process primarily characterized by continuously upgrading integration of creative ideas around a core of integrity that is eternal as well as internal.  Spiritual principles and practices of many paths of faith invite us to experience the wonders of this expanding process called “Life Everlasting” or “Limitless Creation.” An apt analogy for this expansion from the inner core outward is found in the growth rings, spreading branches, abundant fruitfulness, towering majesty and longevity of ancient trees.  That is one reason the Tree of Life so frequently appears as a universal symbol of Eternal Life.  Our pure cooperation with God creates a reality that will outlive all physical symbols used to convey its nature through human languages other than the universal nonverbal language of love found in smiles, twinkling eyes, heartfelt laughter, music, dance and other signs of peace and goodwill among all peoples of the earth.

How did we go astray from God’s plan for a continuously upgrading integration of creative concepts around the core of timeless wisdom? We strayed off target when we mistakenly equated our lives with the physical expressions of other kingdoms of life – of minerals, plants and animals – and failed to recognize 1) the human kingdom’s unique identity and qualities as the pinnacle of God’s creation and 2) our developmentally unfolding wholeness as an expression of God’s nature being progressively revealed throughout humanity with some individuals unfolding in time ahead of others.  We misunderstood our status as God’s most exalted creation as an excuse for exercising power over all other kingdoms of life without regard for the counterbalancing responsibility that comes with greater power.  Even Spiderman had to learn that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  It is time for humanity to learn that lesson too.  When we wield power over others for the sole purpose of serving supportively under those we serve we achieve the delicate balance required of stewards of divinely augmented power wielded on behalf of all.  Through this spiritually enriched, ethically administered paradigm of power we achieve the greatest good for the greatest number by ensuring the best for all in the long run. Such are God’s ethics.

Each of us can personally wield the power of life ethically if we wield with wisdom and committed cooperation the power God entrusts to us.  As we grow in wisdom in its wielding by allowing God to purify our hearts, God entrusts more power to flow through us.  We maximize this power’s potency and perseverance by minimizing our ego’s intensity and interference.  We cause death – and impose upon others fates worse than death – through all forms of abuse and by a thousand slices of neglect when we fail to exercise our divinely entrusted power wisely with pure motives.  God is relying upon us to master the art of wisdom so as to cooperate with Him/Her fully before all forms of life upon the earth are damaged too heavily to sustain life for human beings.  God ensures the sustainability of all other kingdoms of life.  They will thrive well without humanity’s presence if we humans insist that they do so.  They will thrive well with humans present only if and when we are present as God is present in relationship to all such kingdoms and serve them well so that they may continue to serve us well in turn.

We have a choice to live in harmony with God and all created kingdoms of the earth and thereby share in the mutual benefits that flow from the symbiotic miracles of nature or to defy God’s plan of creation and render it unsustainable for humanity.  The other kingdoms will recover from our abuse and neglect once we are gone.  The issue is only whether we want to render ourselves extinct on account of failing to cooperate with God and with each other as children of God or prefer to perpetuate our race as one race under God with liberty, justice, beauty and grace for all – for all of Life in every form created.  To choose in favor of purified cooperation with God – with total commitment to accepting and adjusting to its terms and conditions – is to choose to be true to ourselves as expressions of God, to perpetuate the human race as God created us and to place our futures in the hands of a Most Competent Supreme Servant who knows how to lead us into the experience of our Divine Home on earth modeled on Heaven’s Home now imagined to be only reachable beyond earth. We need only imagine that Heaven is already here on earth for us to begin the transformation God has in mind for all of us.

© Art Nicol 2013