Tag Archives: Conformity

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

 

Going Beyond Out of Our Way

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  T. S. Eliot

When you go out of your way to care for another person, is it possible to go too far?  How might you know that “too far” is?  If it’s inconvenient to go out of your way for another person, is convenience the limit and inconvenience where you draw the line?  What is it OK to risk when you go out of your way for another person and what is too much to risk?  Let’s agree that love calls us to take risks in caring for others. Let’s agree that it’s not always convenient to care for another person as love calls us to care and that there will be times when it’s right in love’s eyes to go beyond convenience and extend ourselves into come degree of inconvenience.

Let’s examine the limit to which love calls us to go and acknowledge love’s power to call us to go farther than we might at first imagine.  I suggest that Eliot was correct to note that taking the “risk of going too far” is the only way you or I will discover how far love goes and is ready, willing and able to take us along with it.  In my investigation of love’s limitless nature, I’ve become a radical explorer of the nature of love.  I confess it.  Don’t expect me to argue in favor of setting limits on love’s expression in your life or mine.  I genuinely believe that our tendency to set such limits is precisely why the modern world has become as bogged down in fear, violence and suffering as we have.  Think about it.  If it’s true, as John wrote, that God is love (God = Love, for math fans), then any practice of setting limits on love is the same as setting limits on God.  How is that possible?

How could you or I set a limit on God?  It’s actually quite simple.  We can set a limit on God because God gave us the power to do so.  God gave us free will.  Free will gives us the power to choose between setting God (love) free to be fully expressed in our lives and in the lives of others or setting limits on that expression.  God has already chosen to express the Divine Power of Life and Love in and through your life and mine as fully as we’ll allow.  His/Her choice is made in Eternity and stands forever.  Our choices are made in the realm of Time and Space and can be made, changed and changed again until we discover a choice we never want to change.  The tendency in the modern world, where material values are given greater influence than spiritual ones, is to allow our fears to set limits on the influx and outpouring of love throughout our life experiences.  Our fears set very restricted limits to keep us feeling “safe” within our familiar territories.  In fact, to make sure we’re feeling safe, our fears tend to gradually shrink the territories within which we are willing to take risks and prevent us from even thinking about “going too far.” Thus it is by fear’s logic we never come close to discovering how far we can go if we were to exercise more courage.

In our ego-trained, fear-based orientation to the modern world, we’ve been taught to take a risk that I believe is now haunting us.  We’ve been taught to take the risk of setting severe limits on God and the expression of Divine Love.  We’ve been taking that risk for so many generations that it is now the social norm and heavily reinforced by social approval.  It’s unlikely that anyone told you or me that we were being taught to place limits on God (Love). The ego is not that honest in its dealings with us.  It’s actually quite deceptive and likely to claim that we are being as loving as we need to be or even can be when we do only what is socially approved of.  It’s likely to teach us to believe that social approval sets the proper limit on love that keeps us safe from going too far.  Too far where?  In the ego’s frame of reference, too far out of bounds to risk being thought of as foolish and naïve and subjected to ridicule.  Too far out of bounds that we risk losing the approval of those whose opinions of us we value most.  Too far out of bounds that we risk being hurt and feeling deeply in our hearts in ways we’ve been taught to avoid.  Yet, suppose you or I were to reverse the risk ratio and take the risk of defying social approval and exploring beyond conventional definitions and expressions of love.  Might we encounter more of God and Love “out beyond social norms?”  Might we enter into the realm of mystic experiences to which Rumi referred when he said:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

Damn these unconventional poets!  Why don’t just they leave us alone?  I suggest that they are heaven sent. I suggest that they don’t leave us alone precisely because God knows that “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)  Poets, lyricists, writers of fiction, composers, dancers, choreographers, painters, sculptors and other artists stir our hearts to take second looks at what the ego has taught us and encourage us to consider changing decisions we might have thought were unchangeable.  Artists express the divine grace that may soften our hearts and allow us to rethink a “conclusion I concluded long ago.” (A Puzzlement from The King and I)

As a believer in Jesus, I tend to take a look at what his teachings by word, deed and lifestyle say about issues that haunt me.  As I realized that decisions I had made under the influence of ego-based teachings were haunting me, I gradually awoke to the reality that Jesus did not usually agree with the ego’s teachings – if ever he did!  He was definitely an unconventional person.  He did not seem to worry much about social approval, winning popularity contests or catering to the social elites of his day.  He was not running for office or trying to win a job or a life-partner’s attention and affections.  He was focused on identifying God’s will in all things and then taking the risk of going too far – at least in the eyes of others.  Gradually Jesus’ ideas, actions and model of lifestyle came to influence me more and more.  To emulate him I began to shed the common excuses given for not going too far.  Some said he was God and, since the rest of us are not God, then of course we cannot go as far as Jesus went in caring about others.  He intentionally hung out with folks others did not approve of and avoided at all costs. He seemed to not realize that they were of a different class and (supposedly) looked down upon by God. Jesus went so far as to wind up hanging on a cross as a vilified criminal and endured shame, pain and other unsavory features of human life on his way to death.  He could have avoided all that.  But would he have honored God and Divine Love if he had?  How could he demonstrate how far we can go if he had not gone beyond death to return as an expression of the Eternal?

Is it true that Jesus was so different from you or me that we can excuse ourselves from taking the risk of going too far in following in his footsteps?  What if he were actually the same as you and I? Suppose whatever identity with God Jesus had and has we have too? Suppose the fact that we’ve avoided going too far is actually the only reason we don’t know how identified with God we are!  Suppose that when Jesus prayed that his followers would know oneness with God as he knew oneness (John 17: 20-23) that he meant precisely that and that his prayers are answered once we quit setting limits on God (Love). Might God be ready, willing and able to show us our oneness with the Divine once we say “Yes, here I am, send me?”  Are we afraid to be sent “too far” and never come back to where we’ve been?  Are we afraid that an encounter with God will change our outlook on life and our choices forever?  The ego is afraid of that outcome.  We need not be.  In our heart of hearts we are hungering for such an outcome.

Radical nonconformity to the ways of the world includes taking the risk of going too far in the ego’s eyes.  Yet it also opens the door to risking that Love will flood in and never stop sweeping us away into greater and greater adventures as well as ever increasing capacity to share Divine Love with others.  Might our hunger for adventure and love never be truly satisfied until we take this risk?

How radical is love as Jesus’ followers believe it to be?  Let’s check out the oft-quoted follower whose writings appear in the Bible as letters written by Paul.  Let’s quote him not for ideas he clung to about how to set limits on God’s Divine will but for ideas about “going too far” in embracing God’s will.

Here is how this eloquent writer spoke about love:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. I f I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-10 NIV)

Regardless of how eloquently Paul spoke or wrote, he admitted that words lacking in love’s true essence were hollow, pointless and powerless.  He acknowledged that all of the partial understandings he might gain about the truth about love would dissolve in the presence of “completeness” or wholeness perfected by God.  Paul took the risk of going too far in following Jesus beyond Paul’s (Saul’s) previous life of social conformity and of meeting the expectations of those higher up the ladder in his religious institution.  His daring risk-taking brought him into conflict with the very authority figures he’d once tried so hard to please.  He became an outsider to the social club within which, earlier in his adult career life, he’d worked so hard to qualify for membership.  Traditionalists scorned him as a maverick who’d lost his way instead of honoring him as a master student of their long-awaited Messiah’s Most Excellent Way.

Today many traditionalists selectively quote Paul’s writings when he espoused the preservation of beliefs and practices prevalent in his day, beliefs and practices he’d not yet realized were interfering with the evolution-revolution Jesus had set in motion.  Yet, it remains worthwhile to glean wisdom and guidance from Paul’s experiences in his transformation from Saul who had once persecuted followers of Jesus into Paul who himself followed Jesus.  The man who had persecuted became one of those he’d previously persecuted.  Pretty radical change of heart and mind!

How did Paul address this issue of radical nonconformity in going too far?  He addressed it directly by writing:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)  It’s instructive that Paul tied “going too far” with demonstrating God’s will.  Might that be the point of your life as well as mine?  Each of us in our own way may have the divine opportunity to prove that God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” is to share Divine Love for all of us with all of us, without exception or exclusion no matter how much pressure socially conformist thinkers place upon the question of the limits of God’s love.  If God loves the previously-hidden but now more-boldly-emerging nonconformist maverick in each of us, then going too far to be true to ourselves as children of God is not possible.  Even the sky sets no limit on how far we can discover we can go – if only we let go and let God be God as we let ourselves go far afield beyond the limits of social approval to belong exclusively to God.

The sky does not set limits.  It invites eagles to soar and not have to seek safety near the ground.  Love likewise invites us to soar to the heights above life’s storm clouds and risk having gone too far.  Our wings will not melt off, for they are not attached with wax.  They sprout from within the energy field of the divine love that radiates through us as it lifts us ever nearer to the heights of heaven.  Some call this falling upward.

© 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

 

 

While the Unrepentant Church Defies Jesus’ Authority Believers Can Still Be Faithful Followers

Despite the best efforts of teachers of divisive doctrine who have risen to falsely represent Jesus throughout the centuries since Jesus walked the earth, Jesus continues to this day to espouse the same all-inclusive, non-divisive plan for building the Kingdom of God on earth that he announced originally.  He foresaw what was necessary and put it into motion. He has not changed his mind.  To carry out his plan it is his followers (“us”) who need to change our minds from being faithful to the Church in some Church-institutionalized format to being faithful to Jesus in his non-institutionalized format. Anyone who seeks to modify Jesus’ plan simply is defying his authority and failing to acknowledge him as Lord as well as Savior.

Many have been the modifiers and defiers in the time since Emperor Constantine first declared himself to be a believer in Jesus and insisted that leaders of the Church defy Jesus’ authority and instead knuckle under to the Roman Emperor’s authority.  The first council of Church fathers who gathered by Emperor Constantine’s command in 325 CE at Nicaea formulated a conformist creed that sought to impose on all believers a uniform set of beliefs akin to the uniformity of thinking Caesar demanded of his subjects.  In publishing this creed, the Church fathers adopted the political pattern of the Roman Empire and rendered unto Caesar what was God’s.  From this centuries-old error the Church has not yet repented nor recovered. The Church remains a monument to institutionalized cowardice-induced error, a whitewashed sepulcher filled with dead men’s boneheaded ideas instead of the light of Christ.  Until Church leaders humble themselves before Jesus as the only head of the Church, believers have the option of acknowledging Jesus as Lord independent of the failure of Church leadership to do so.

Since 325 CE, Church leaders have continued to adopt Caesar’s pattern of political oppression and repress all other voices of diversity and disagreement within the body of believers. Each fragment of the Church designated different voices to repress but all repress some voices to make repression and censorship their universally accepted norm.  In ancient times, those who did not adopt the Nicaean Creed or disagreed with the conformist Church fathers suffered and were silenced by the Church.  Caesar lacked the capacity to tolerate open dialogue about the distribution of power among men and about the purposes of power when wielded by men (let alone by women!).  Although Jesus cautioned against seeking power over others and advised that the greatest in the Kingdom would humble themselves to serve others as he had done, Caesar demanded absolute authority over others and claimed to be a god.  Caesar was in no way servant of anyone.  The Church fathers who conspired together to appease Caesar bowed to his claims and substituted him for Jesus and God within the Church.  By doing so, Church leaders subservient not to Jesus but to Caesar abandoned their responsibility for teaching believers how to share and wield God’s power of love in the best interests of the human race as stewards of God’s power and servants of God’s people.  To hide this blasphemy from common people who believed in Jesus, the Church fathers assumed the role of the Holy Spirit and like blind men led their congregations downward and stray into ditches rather than allow the Holy Spirit to lead them upward in God’s way into all truth.  In this manner, truth became the enemy of the Church fathers.  Truth became unknown to any but the most daring members of the congregations and to those who fled into regions beyond the reach of Church authority.

Those who dared to listen to the Holy Spirit and not limit their thinking to ideas authorized by the Church fathers, disagreed with the Church fathers’ politically expedient and cowardly positions. The Church branded them as “heretics” for sharing ideas of leadership in the direction the Holy Spirit led.  That label was accurate, because “heretic” means “one who thinks for himself” instead of knuckling under to false leaders.  However, the Church fathers added another element to that definition by declaring that one who thinks for himself or herself apart from the Church fathers – especially anyone who heard the Spirit accurately as revealing the errors of the Church Fathers – was guilty of offending God, as if offending them and Caesar automatically equated to offending God.  And they took another step in declaring that anyone whom they declared offended God could not be forgiven even by a gracious, forgiving God and had to be punished severely, ultimately put to death if he or she were unwilling to be silenced in any other way.

In taking these regressive steps in abusing their roles as leaders, Church fathers took upon themselves the role of declaring who offended God and what consequences the offenders they identified should suffer.  Their pattern was not Jesus’ pattern of forgiveness and reconciliation but was instead the pattern of Judaism, the Old Testament Jehovah and the New Testament Caesar – a pattern of unforgiveness and retribution.  This was the very pattern that had led Jewish leaders to conspire with Roman leaders to crucify Jesus.  When Jesus’ pattern of forgiveness and peace among men did not suit their political ends and threatened to be inconvenient for those who preferred to appease Caesar to preserve their comfortable lifestyles as Caesar’s cronies, the Church fathers dispensed with Jesus as an authority figure in the Church and substituted themselves in his place.  In this manner, the Church fathers insured that believers would be conformed to the world Caesar wanted to rule over and not be transformed by a renewal of their minds.  And they insured that believers who conformed to the world about prove the popularity of the polluted and polluting will of Caesar and relegate to obscurity the perfect and perfecting will of God.  That is why Caesar’s will that we be as unholy, selfish, arrogant and ignorant of love as ego is has long prevailed in the world despite Jesus’ will that we all become holy as God is holy.  If the Church as spokesperson for Jesus will not speak up honestly in his behalf, how will the truth of Jesus’ living presence on Earth be shared?  It will be shared only as the Holy Spirit whispers in the hearts of those who doubt the validity of the Church’s stands and confirms their doubts about the Church.  Ironically doubters of Church authority now have the best chance of learning the truth that sets us free.

Thus it came to be that the Church was indeed founded upon the example of Peter who denied Jesus when his personal safety was threatened.  When Roman persecution threatened the safety of Church leaders, they ran for protection under the cover of conformity to Caesar’s demands.  Cowardice rather than courage became the Church’s norm in the face of opportunities to stand up to injustices generated by abuse of power.  With rare exceptions such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s standing up to Hitler, modern Church leaders adhere to the ancient norm of supposedly benign cowardice today. Modern politics models itself after Roman intolerance for courageous freedom of thought and expression and the Church knuckles under as if God were powerless in comparison to popular opinion.  Church leaders justify their cowardice as necessary to keep the collection baskets full, their salaries fully funded and attendance numbers high.  They are willing to betray Jesus and those who look to them for trustworthy spiritual guidance in order to maintain their opportunities to rub shoulders with the rich and famous and collect retirement checks at the end of their illustrious careers as cowardly frauds.

Almost 1700 years have passed since the Nicaean Creed was first published and imposed as the conformist thought system of the Church.  Subsequent councils have revised the Church’s creeds but have not repudiated the Church’s choice to knuckle under to Caesar and substitute political and social conformity for God’s supreme authority.  For centuries this unrepentant attitude towards God has been passed down from one generation to the next leaving Church-trusting followers of Jesus with a diluted, inaccurate vision of God. Only those who dare to defy the Church’s politically expedient stands and listen to the Holy Spirit directly become aware of God’s true nature and position on issues central to life.

By and large, as predicted in Revelation 3:16, Jesus has spit the Church out of his mouth as lukewarm, rendered neither hot nor cold by its compromising ways.  The Church has failed to align itself radically and unequivocally with Jesus and will continue to fail to do so until it repudiates and thoroughly roots out the doctrine of political appeasement that the Church fathers adopted at Nicaea.  The Church must muster the courage instead to stand for all-inclusive peace, justice, mercy, forgiveness and grace at any cost to the Church’s relationship with politicians and no longer stand for appeasement at any cost to the Church’s relationship with Jesus.  If ever Jesus is to build his Church upon the Rock that the disciple Peter represented, the Peters within the Church will have to repent of their habits of political expediency and learn to but their minds upon the things of God and not upon the things of man, as Jesus admonished the first Peter to do.  They will have to step out of the comfort zones of their political boats, walk on the stormy waters of life and learn the self-disciplines needed to “serve a risen Savior who is in the world today” and no longer serve their ravenous egos over whom the world holds too much sway. It is time for Church leaders, individually if not yet collectively, to decide whom they serve, for they cannot serve two masters.  Each must decide for himself or herself who is the Master he or she serves.  Each must learn what it truly means to sing and live “What a friend we have in Jesus” as well as “O, Jesus, I have promised” with Jesus being truly honored as Master not merely trusted as Friend.

The issue yet to be decided righteously is the identity of the Chief Authority in Christ’s Church.  Who reigns supreme as head of the body of believers – Caesar and his political successors in humanity’s various forms of government or Jesus who has and needs no successor because he lives beyond death?  Who among us desires to honor God and Jesus no matter how the egos of Caesar and his minions inside and outside of the Church may take offense?  We need not wait until the Church leaders repent of their errors.  We can repent, seek God’s face, pray, humble ourselves to experience God’s dominion beyond ego’s dominion and forsake the ways of the world in favor of the most excellent way of Jesus. (See 2 Chronicles 7:14, Micah 6:8 and Matthew 6:33 for interlocking Biblical guidance on this point.) In doing so, we will make ourselves available to enter into oneness with the Father as Jesus did and set a flood of healing power free to sweep across all nations of the world.  By that flooding power of God’s presence, we will do the works Jesus did and greater things shall we do, just as Jesus foresaw.  It is up to each of us to stop inhibiting the flow of God’s healing grace by our adherence to socially conformist ways.  We must dare to be radically alive as Jesus sets before us his model of life! Jesus did not wait for the permission of religious leaders of his day to step forth as God’s child and we need no wait for permission either.  To defy the Church’s mediocre, lukewarm leadership is either to reject Jesus entirely or to embrace Jesus as the Holy-Spirit-fired leader he is and become Holy-Spirit-fired ourselves.  To stand with Church leadership in this day of suffering and loss is to stand not on compassionate holy ground but on cold-hearted, stony ground. Jesus was moved by compassion to work miracles.  What moves you to what work?  Does money move you to work for a paycheck and that’s it?

Perhaps if we show the way, the truth and the life, Church leaders of modern, technologically overdeveloped and spiritually underdeveloped societies will join us by following our example. Or they may continue to follow the example of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time on earth and declare that the long-awaited Messiah has not yet come.  That may be their choice but it need not be yours or mine because we are free to be heretics who faithfully invite the Holy Spirit to liberate us from chains forged of our appetites for social approval.  It is by this appetite that Church leaders have enslaved us to conformity rather than trained us to be transformed by the power of Divine Love.  To be liberated from the mind-and-heart-enslaving chains of social approval, we need not flee along the Underground Railroad.  We escape to freedom within God’s kingdom by seeking first His/Her Presence within our hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to add there all the love, grace, wisdom, courage and power that we ever need.

As God comes to reign within our hearts, perfect Love will cast out all fears.  As clouds of fear and doubt fade from our minds at the Sonrise of our renewed lives, we will see God’s nature with increasing clarity and never again wander into ditches under the Church’s fear-befuddled blindness.  Those who Jesus sets free are free indeed – free to live and move and have our being in the Holy One for Whom Jesus is Ambassador Supreme on Earth.  For believers in Jesus nothing else really matters.

Imagine the chagrin of Church leaders if they were to open the doors of their bogus churches and no one showed up because all their former sheep-like congregants heard and heeded the Holy Spirit’s voice within their hearts and no longer went astray.  Sheep who learn to hear and heed their Master Shepherd’s voice do not need compromising Church leaders to show them the Most Excellent Way Jesus reveals. They already know it by heart and remain faithfully within its gracefully disciplined and elegantly anointed pathway by using the GPS guidance of the Holy Spirit — the God-Positioning Spirit.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Social Justice Implications of Jesus’ Prayer for Oneness

Jesus’ prayer for all believers to know oneness with God is recorded in the 17th Chapter of John.  As is always the case with Jesus’ ideas, they interrelate and cannot stand apart from one another.  His thoughts form a complete system of thinking that is rooted in the integrity and holiness of God.  Although we may reasonably challenge the authenticity of some quotes attributed to Jesus, the main point of everything Jesus in fact said and did while present in a body on the Earth was to demonstrate “that you may believe that my Father is in me and I in my Father.” John 10:38.  This core theme of oneness with God, repeated in Chapter 17 of John, 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 by God and the people of God – from “bad” people who supposedly deserve only disapproval and avoidance or exile if not outright attack – by God and the people of God.  Its implications ripple outward into his call that his followers treat the “least of these” as if they are one with him – so totally identified with him that what a person does to any of them a person does to him.

Jesus’ life, by word and deed, reminds us that 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 “inherent 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!  What a complete undoing of Jesus’ ministry to call believers back to the religious self-righteousness of Judaic elitism with which Jesus so fervently contended.

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 who faithfully struggle with how to relate to God 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. They are like bullies who take over the clubhouse and declare that they now can ban whomever does not please them.  As their craving for political power as a false substitute for spiritual power corrupts their minds and hearts, these religiously garbed bullies do all they can to lead others astray with them. How else would they have followers if not to lead them to embrace the same errors that bullies embrace to justify their dominance? 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 most radical 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!  As a result we cling to our pathetic powerlessness and declare that the age of miracles has closed when in fact it is our own timidity as disciples that has caused miracles to cease to flow.  We are the cause of the lack of divine healing in the modern world.  We thwart God’s will by failing to surrender our lesser wills entirely to the Father’s will as Jesus modeled.  God’s grace permits us to defy Him but to do so costs our children dearly.  Violence, harm and chronic suffering flood our modern world in place of the outpouring of divine miracles God stands ready, willing and able to set free if only we’d listen and heed His call.  Long ago He said it, “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.  God is entitled to set conditions for our receiving His blessings.  He has clearly stated those conditions in many ways.  Jesus’ example is an entirely integrated and sufficient restatement of all God wants us to know about how to relate to Him.

Why does Jesus direct us towards serving the “least [familiar or approved] of these?”  Why relate to the “stranger” or the “disapproved social outcast?’  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.  And the more we relate to ones who society has labeled as rejects the more we’ll come to accept in ourselves aspects that society would also reject if we were brave enough to reveal them.  We have maintained social approval at the cost of utter honesty about ourselves and our own hidden issues, whatever each of ours may be.  As a result, we’ve also cut ourselves off from the divine love that the Father would have us experience uninhibitedly, without fear or limitation.  We crimp the flow of God’s love by making false idols of social approval in all of its various forms and formats.

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 expressing our demographically measured diversity of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, educational level, economic class, veteran status, etc., humanity also expresses our developmental diversity.  We are all arrayed along steps or stages of development as each of us has achieved some steps or stages ahead of others.  With respect to the multifaceted range of human wholeness God designed us to master, most if not all of us are as yet incompletely developed or evolved.  Since we develop in response to our social environments, 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 (families, cultures, etc.) 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 and its conditioning 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.  We are learning to walk in each other’s moccasins with empathy and compassion.  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.  The same benefit to ourselves arises from our treating any of those least approved of by our society as if he or she were Jesus.

Jesus calls us to be servants of those we know and approve of and those we don’t know or approve of because he knows how developmentally immature we are and always will be if we remain trapped within our social-approval bubbles or cocoons.  Unless we explore beyond our bubbles (comfort zones or familiar territory) to find opportunities to serve as Jesus served, we will remain uninvolved and unevolved as well.  Within heavily defended comfort zones based on conformity, discipleship as well as personal maturity stagnates.  The world calls it “arrested development.” Constant rebirth amidst the challenges of diversity is a part of maturation as Jesus’ disciple.  Jesus’ own journey illustrates that one must never pitch a tent or set up a booth in an attempt 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 we or others may adopt. 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 develop 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 – yet it is also the essence of social justice.  It implies letting go of social structures we once depended upon to guide and protect us on our journeys as if social approval were the only purpose of our lives.  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.  From that orbit it is increasingly possible to understand and live within the terms of Micah 6:8: “O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Walking humbly with our Father as Jesus did in full surrender of our otherwise socially distorted will is essential to our acting justly as servants of social justice.  As preserved in the King James version of the Bible, we must live by faith to be just: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  Romans 1:17  Let us dare to live as it is written and as it is revealed over and over again in our hearts as we listen to the Holy Spirit and “[d]o not conform to the pattern of this world, but [are] transformed by the renewing of [our] mind. Then [we] will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

*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.

Copyright by Art Nicol 2015

The Hazardous Happiness of Daring to Be Different

In an age when unhappiness is so widespread, it’s hard to believe that happiness is our natural state of being. When we are unhappy, we’ve fallen into an unnatural state based on holding in our minds beliefs that are not true.  Remembering the truth sets us free of unhappiness into awareness of our natural state of joy.  We sometimes encounter brief glimpses of joy and even some stretches of happiness that seem like happiness is cruelly teasing us (again!) before it vanishes like smoke.  Few of us manage to experience sustained substantial happiness or joy for long because we fail to keep our minds steadfastly focused on what is true and instead allow our minds to drift off focus to entertain (often again) beliefs that are not true. Many of us have come to accept as if it’s fact that unhappiness or despair is our natural state of being. There is a reason for the lack of sustained substantial happiness in modern society.  Let me share some ideas about why our individual and collective happiness is neither sustained nor as substantial as we’d prefer it be.

What I said in the first sentence bears repeating.  Happiness is our natural state of being. A loving God created us to be happy by sharing divine happiness as our natural condition.  Some call that condition “joy” while others call it “bliss,” “joie de vivre “or a care-free state of uplifting emotional “ecstasy.”  This is the substantial happiness we crave beyond fluffy, frivolous and fleeting fun, funniness and flattery that the ego offers as poor substitutes for divine happiness.  It is substantial because it expresses the nature, scope and qualities of God, the Most Substantial Being in the universe.  And it endures throughout all stages and conditions of life because it expresses the timeless quality of God – Eternity.  God’s eternal divine happiness contains no artificial sweeteners and needs no unhealthy preservatives – and it knows no limits to its capacity to bring us infinite energy not measurable in calories. It’s the organic, sustained and nutritious feast that deeply satisfies our souls.  It is the uplifting energy that heartfelt, full-bodied laughter expresses from our hearts when laughter proves to be the best medicine.  We are all native citizens in this state of bliss but many of us have allowed ourselves to immigrate or be exiled from our native land into an alternative state in which we are not true to ourselves or to our divine origin and cultural heritage.

Why do we not encounter on a sustained basis this substantial, soul-satisfying experience that is natural to us?  The answer to this puzzling question is simple.  We don’t because we’ve been offered, accepted and adopted the unquestioning “thinking” of a society that is based on assumptions (beliefs) about human nature in general and ourselves in particular that simply are not true. For example, under the influence of the industrial/technological revolution, for several centuries these mistaken assumptions have included the idea that individual humans are undifferentiated, interchangeable components of a mechanical system whose minds can be trained to perform like machines or automatons within a materialistic economy (or a government bureaucracy, military unit, corporation, religious or educational institution or any of civilization’s other institutions and social systems) for the “good” of the group as “good” is defined by the trainers.

Social conformers train us to set aside our innate capacity to think creatively and instead to adopt the mental habits needed to survive in conformity to social standards by which we are rewarded like caged rats pressing levers for food.  Our minds reflexively press the levers of our habits in order to receive the reward of social acceptance, approval, admiration, affection and adoration for which society keeps us ever starving and insecure about receiving.  Having a natural, legitimate appetite for these A-list rewards, we are vulnerable to being manipulated by our trainers into seeking them through social conformity because society does its best to deprive us of them if we fail to conform. (Our habitualized nonthinking is supported by traditional systems of “scientific thinking” too. The logical progression of such thinking is to envision creating “artificial intelligence” that governs robots who replace humans entirely.  Ironically, by following this line of habit-subjugated false “thinking” we’ve subordinated the human mind to focus on continuously upgrading artificial intelligence in hopes of equaling and perhaps even exceeding human intelligence.  As a result, we’ve managed to replace our natural “native intelligence” in many humans with artificial intelligence of such conformist, mediocre and inadequate quality that we’d ridicule and reject if it turned up in robots. And we’ve failed to cultivate our natural genius for creative thinking in our collective development of more satisfying experiences for all of us.)

Most of our socially oriented mind-trainers are not concerned about what is natural for humans to experience.  They are themselves trained to believe in mistaken assumptions about the need to overcome human nature by replacing what is natural with what is “superior” to natural.  (Some trainers go so far as to believe that human nature is, at its inception, naturally defective, sinful, immoral, irresponsible and depraved. Because their thinking begins with these false ideas, they mistaken interpret the adverse “effects” of social conformity as the “cause” of what they believe is true.  Conformist thinking reverses the roles of cause and effect in order to rationalize the losses humanity suffers on account of our conformity to modern society’s artificial standards.)  As a result of their past training, social trainers now unwittingly past along their thinking’s internalized systemic fallacies.  By definition, what is “superior to natural” means what is “not natural” – or in other words, what is “artificial.”  Whatever standards trainers use (as those standards change from time to time and from culture, society or group to culture, society or group) all recipes for “superior” are artificial standards.  To keep their social privileges and gain promotions, recipe-developers often formulate and justify their recipes for “superior” based on comparing short-term performance outcomes between one person and another person or between one society, subculture, organization, team or group and another and seek to advance the status of the group with which they identify over any other group with which they don’t identify. In this competitive orientation of group against group, the welfare of the whole of humanity is overlooked.

When humans impose short-sighted performance standards to override human nature in order to make it a priority to achieve relatively short-term goals set by humans in competition with other humans, the quality of life declines as the reign of artificiality takes over all aspects of planning for the social lives of human.  In this seductive manner, short-sightedness that caters to the ego’s appetite for instantaneous gratification takes precedence over long-term sustainability.  Short-sightedness, taken to the ultimate extreme towards which all ego-addictive processes progress, imposes such lack of foresight as to become the equivalent of blindness to our own good.  Along this path of artificiality’s progressive dominance, modern society has wandered farther and farther afield from the reality of genuine humanness and genuine happiness. In place of genuine, natural humanness, we’ve adopted artificial substitutes for humanness to which we humans now expect ourselves to routinely and rigorously conform regardless of conformity’s harmful effects on humanity and all other forms of life. We adhere to conformity that is now self-imposed because we are afraid to even consider an alternative for fear of the social consequences of nonconformity.  As a logical outcome of this downwardly spiraling progression, we are now experiencing humanity’s dehumanization as people treat each other less and less humanely.  As a result, we now routinely inflict pain on each other rather than promote shared happiness and create deep emotional wounds that we bear for life because we are not encouraged nor give opportunities to grieve and recover from these wounds.  (That religions, while purporting to espouse God’s viewpoint, have, in the main, justified our acquired distrust of (and disgust for) what is natural to humans and failed to promote healing of our hearts’ wounds is a topic for other blogs.)

Happily experienced humanness is sustainable only if and when we dare to be true to our natural, native, created Self at every step along our life’s journey – throughout every phase of our natural development as whole human beings designed by God to express all that is heavenly while yet living bodily on earth. By God’s grace we can always return to our natural state of happiness any time we choose to set aside our conformist mind-training and resume listening to our hearts and thinking with our minds’ full capacities.  It’s impossible to sustain joy when we deny our hearts and pretend to be someone we are not.  Pretending in this manner distorts – and may even arrest – our natural development and definitely derails our natural happiness.  No matter how popular we may become in an artificial society by adopting more artificiality (for example, by materially reconfiguring or chemically augmenting our physical features, expressions, images and activities to be more charming, appealing, entertaining or profitable or to maintain a youthful appearance or performance), we’ll not experience divine happiness while adopting pretense and artificiality as our way of life.

In the social context of a tightening downward spiral of unhappiness, happiness is hazardous to one’s social approval rating because, by conflicting with the preservation of the social status quo, happiness invokes the penalties a conformist society automatically imposes on controversial nonconformity that questions the value of society’s downward spiral.  We all hunger to belong among other people because our true nature includes our friendliness and desire to generously share our happiness along with all the A-list qualities of life. We are by nature social beings who enjoy sharing with utter generosity a quality of life flowing with A-list experiences. We want to share ourselves and our lives with others as God lovingly shares with us.  Against the grain of our heart’s desire, the society we are currently enduring pressures us to abandon our authenticity and our native capacity for heart-to-heart connection and honest, open, generous sharing in order to fit into the artificiality, independence, reluctance to trust and share and resulting loneliness our society promotes as “normal” and wants to convince us is “best for us.”  As a result, the quality and sustainability of our relationships decline along with the decline in the quality and sustainability our happiness.  Relationships are the field of shared experiences.  As our faith in sharing generously within bonds of trust fades, relationships become pointless.

In this age of artificiality, in an attempt to satisfy our natural desire to be connected with others and to share, we come to believe that we have to abandon being true to ourselves in order to participate in this society as a “socially acceptable” person on society’s unnatural terms.  The only price society asks us to pay for our participation on its terms is our happiness. If we are willing to give up being happy and learn to be less humane, we can fit right into this depressing society’s way of surviving without thriving.  This dilemma is a natural consequence of living in fear of being authentic and instead adopting the mask of an ego as our false social identity in order to win social approval and belong as best we can by passing ourselves off as someone we’re not. That’s how most people learn to survive but not thrive throughout all of their lives.

As diverse as we may make our egos’ images appear to be so as to fabricate the illusion of diversity, there’s still one core conformity that’s operative at all levels within a materialistic society – conformity to the ego’s determination to rob us all of our happiness. Our claim of social diversity is one of ego’s most masterful illusions. The ego hoodwinks us into believing that our society honors diversity while the truth is that we demand conformity to universal unhappiness as the price of participation in society.  Ego permits diversity of superficial images but demands conformity to unhappiness at our core as our common ground.  Society exiles truly happy people just as surely as it exiles all other “undesirable uncooperatives.” Anger and envy directed towards happy people reflect society’s judgment that “too much” of a natural high is somehow wrong, perhaps even irresponsible. Society prefers to market myriad versions of artificial (often chemically induced or enhanced) fun, funniness, flattery and other “highs” that make money while condemning as childishly naïve the idea that happiness can be experienced naturally. The truth is that we are more likely to be deeply aware of happiness at our core when we lack financial resources to purchase temporarily escapist distractions from our unhappiness.  In the context of financial poverty we are more likely to encounter our spiritual prosperity.  So long as we remain aware of our spiritual prosperity, our increasing financial prosperity will no deprive us of happiness no matter how wealthy we may become.  An adverse risk of financial wealth is that making its maintenance a priority distracts us from the joy of sharing all we are as well as all we have.

To remain true to our ego and the egos of others we must remain false to our true nature and accordingly accept our need to give up being happy. Give up being happy and the ego wins.  Your ego will feel proud but your heart will feel grief. Grief is a natural response to all the losses we suffer under ego’s dominion.  Which do you choose to honor – your ego or your heart?

If you fail to honor your heart and fail to discover within you the courage it takes to be truly who you are, your happiness will fade away because happiness is only sustainable when you honor and like yourself.  If you don’t honor your True Self, you’ll not like yourself and you won’t like how others treat you either. In fact, you’ll come to hate yourself for not having the courage to be honest and stand up for what you believe in no matter how your beliefs may conflict with society’s beliefs.  Once you come to hate yourself enough, you may even invoke society’s capacity to punish you for secretly being you.

This cycle of dishonor, self-distain and self-punishment can spiral radically out of control to express itself in violence and self-destructive behaviors. Dishonoring yourself attracts others into your life who will agree with you, dishonor you and invite you to dishonor them too.  Within this cycle of shared unhappiness, mutual devaluing leads to habits of neglect and abuse directed both towards ourselves and towards others, perpetuates the ego’s dominance over our decisions and produces the illusion that there is no other option.  The alternative of being true to ourselves seems so farfetched, unrealistic and impossibly out of reach as to be too risky for most people to contemplate let alone implement.  As this downwardly spiraling cycle progresses, we feel increasingly powerless to live in any other manner because, as our minds become blinded by pain, we lose track of our vision of a brighter future and become trapped in recycling pain from humanity’s collective past.

Why risk the hazards of being unwanted and unwelcomed in ego’s society when hiding behind the masks that society teaches us to wear seems to be so easy? – or so the ego argues.  What’s the big deal about being happy anyways?  Happiness, the ego contends, is just a myth, a child’s fairy tale and a figment of children’s imagination.  When we grow up, the ego counsels, we’ve got to stop trying to be children and learn to be like the “real” grownups who have raised us to strive with utter futility to be happy and successful on society’s terms even when they are not happy trying to live that way. An artificial society teaches us the way of futility and then expects us to put up a believable, polite front while we smile and pretend to enjoy ourselves.  Ultimately our society then expects us to train the next generation to do the same thing all over again.

Is it not strange that adults who have failed to be both happy and successful on society’s terms continue to teach children to model their lives after unhappy and unsuccessful people such as their parents, teachers, celebrity figures and others who conform to the ego’s demands for surrender of joy as the cost of success?  We sacrifice our children’s hearts (and our own) on the ego’s altar of fear in order to win social approval and not feel alone.  And ironically even while complying with the ego’s terms of conformity in order to fit in, we feel alone.  Why is that? Such loneliness is caused by our egos’ refusal to allow us to make heart-to-heart connections, the only kind of connections that will ever relieve our loneliness.  The ego aggravates our grief layer by layer as it entombs our hearts beyond reach within the ego’s supposedly protective walls.  That’s our real choice: on the one hand, perpetual and ever-growing grief and on the other hand relief and rediscovered happiness.

The hazards of happiness include being rejected by those who choose in favor of preserving their egos and maintaining their pretense of happiness instead of joining in the restoration of their genuine, soul-satisfying happiness along with us.  For the time being at least, they think that they prefer to envy our happiness and try to tear us down again instead of lifting us up and joining in our rise beyond the ego’s pathetic playpen of immature rantings and ravings about the unfairness of life.  Letting go of the ego is the same as reaching for greater maturity so that we can live happily ever after.

Ever after what? Ever after the times when we allowed the ego to rule and ruin our happiness and progressively learned to substitute pride for happiness, ambition for hope and temporary political arrangements for lasting peace.  Pride, ambition and negotiated temporary truces offer us nothing of the divinely enriched happiness that plants its roots deep within our souls and lasts a lifetime.

I invite you to set your heart and mind upon the path of courage and compassion that allows you to be true to yourself and encourages others to do likewise. If you do, you’ll find joy and all life’s A-list qualities waiting all along your journey.  By so choosing, you are electing to value the quality of life you encounter over the quantity of material things you acquire and popular opinions that agree with your choice.  As unpopular as your choice in favor of happiness (and your own natural humanness) may appear to be, you are not alone. The ego merely wants you to believe you are alone to keep you hostage within its walls and convince you by its illusions to believe that there is no escape and that any other alternative is too risky to consider.  It’s true that the ego’s way lacks risks. It lacks risks because it is guaranteed to kill your happiness and make you wish for extinction.  Life’s only truly risky route awaits you beyond your ego along the adventure of humility that is the only true alternative to the ego’s futility.  That’s another way to frame our choice: on the one hand continued risk-free futility or, on the other hand, courageously hazardous humility within which we discover joy-filled freedom to fully participate in life’s grandest adventure as it continuously unfolds before us.

Note the word “us” at the end of the last sentence.  The false belief that is the root of all unhappiness in the depth of our hearts is the belief that we are included in no “us” we can trust to stand with us through thick and thin – in sweet times and in sour and all mixed times in between.  When we believe ourselves to be utterly alone, we are sad in a way that seems beyond overcoming.  We have the power to recover the happiness we seek that will last beyond this lifetime by adopting the alternative belief that we are all connected as one worldwide “us” and that smaller squads of “us” are swarming everywhere hoping to find and include each of us.  Learning to trust again is key.

In the middle of the word “trust” is “us.”  It is bracketed by “t’s” on either end that embrace “us” with an “r” that leads before “us.”  Each “t” stands for “truth.” The “r” that leads “us” stands for “raises.” The “r” points “us” in the right direction – upward in reversal of our previously downward spiral through steadfast reliance upon truth that was in the beginning and ever shall be in the future. Both T’s are not actually ends but rather T-intersections or links with eternity.  The truth always links us to eternity because that is where it comes from. Truth Raises US to Truth = TRUST. In God we trust is our most gracious privilege and most enduring and rewarding wisdom.

© Art Nicol 2013