Tag Archives: courage

We Brought the War Home to Us

While I was in college and exiting into the work place, the Vietnam War was still actively causing US citizens to take a stand for or against war in general or for or against that particular war.  It hit home for many of us because of the draft.  We could not avoid struggling to make up our minds whether or not we agreed with the use of weapons to impose our will on other people and, more intimately, whether or not we’d kill anyone to end a difference of viewpoints of any kind.  Could I see myself learning to use weapons in order to kill someone?  That issue remained a struggle for me.  I did not resolve it in my own personal life until many years after the Vietnam War was over.

Today I’m less concerned about death than I used to be because my experiences with God reassure me that there is definitely life beyond the death of our bodies and that no one is going to hell after his or her body ceases to function.  It’s amazing how knowing those simple facts to be true has clarified in my mind whether or not I’d use a weapon to settle a dispute or protect myself from harm.  Since I no longer believe in settling disputes by any means of violence, there’s no question in my mind that I’d not use a weapon to protect myself.  I’m simply willing to go to be with God free of my body’s limitations under whatever circumstances may come along to free me from my body.

Meanwhile, as I was gradually increasing my awareness of God’s reality and my opportunity to relate intimately with God’s reality while yet in the body as well as beyond, I watched us bring the Vietnam War’s issue about taking another person’s life home to us.  It’s no longer a question of whether or not we’ll kill or harm another person who is one of “them” beyond the US borders.  It’s become a question of whether or not we’ll kill or harm another person here at home to settle a dispute “once and for all” or do so to revenge a wrong we believe has happened that matters enough to us to use violence in anger to redress it.  The violence we used to export we have domesticated.  It’s ironic that at the same time we’ve out-sourced so many life-sustaining jobs to places beyond our borders we’ve managed to in-source use of weapons as a more and more acceptable life-terminating solution.  Is there some sort of correlation?  Has the growing hopelessness of finding the means to support ourselves and our families increased our willingness to kill someone we may be able to blame for our loss of self-sufficiency and accompanying sense of dignity and self-worth?  Has our gradually declining sense of self-worth caused us to view life in general as less valuable and assume that everyone’s life has little worth?

I’m not in a position to answer all aspects of the questions that were commonly on many people’s minds during the Vietnam War – nor those commonly on many of our minds today.  I still don’t know what I’d do if I were armed and had the choice to protect a loved one or even a stranger from harm by using my weapon.  I’d hope that I would be well-trained in the use of my weapon and in taking full responsibility for exercising wisdom and calm reason in deciding whether or not to use it under any circumstance that confronted me.  I could make conscious decisions to undergo such training to the fullest extent possible and remain current in my training.  But what I’d do after that remains unknown to me.  How would adrenaline and other by-products of fear affect my decision-making and performance?  Would I want to be trained so at least I had the additional option of appropriately using (or not using) a weapon?

Unresolved. By default I’m not trained or likely to ever be trained.  So, unarmed I continue to be.  After being so grateful for having not been in combat at any time in my life, I’m reluctant to participate in domestic combat now.  My saying that does not denigrate those who have made an alternative choice to become well trained in the use of weapons under the terms specified by the law and according to wisdom and reason.  Until we’ve resolved the issue of violence in our society at large, we need to carefully consider how widely available weapons are and in whose hands we allow them to come.  Continuing to escalate violence as an option while arming ourselves with increasingly more powerful weapons seems unwise to me when we seem to have so little control over the emotional and mental state of those who access those weapons and what their motives to use them may be.

For now I remain committed to investing all of my time and energy in promoting ways to reduce violence and reduce motives for using violence to settle disputes or seek revenge.  It seems to me that to the extent that we can reduce tendencies towards violence in our society and truly promote domestic tranquility intentionally by A) nurturing emotional and mental health for all of us and B) encouraging us all to be forgiving rather than vengeful, the issue of weapons and their use will fade in significance.  We simply would not need to bring any kind of warfare home to us anymore because we would have ended the emotional warfare that rages within so many of us in our private inner battles and spills out as domestic violence in our homes, onto our streets and into our schools, businesses and other gathering places. Our emotional battles within us extend outward into acts of violence.  It’s time to learn how to nurture lasting inner peace and allow our peace to extend outward instead.

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Address the Root Cause of Racism, Sexism and Other Egoisms

Many and vocal are the voices speaking out today against institutional or systemic racism in the USA.  A growing awareness emerges that the racism once thought adequately addressed by the civil rights movement decades ago still prevails beneath the surface.  Racism may have gone underground and become harder to pin down because of the camouflage it has acquired, but it is still operative in the United States. Like a virulent virus it has formed new strains that resist detection and eradication.

I propose here to shed some light on why this is true.  Will this light be all the light needed to illuminate this topic?  Hardly likely.  But perhaps it will help some see more clearly the patterns that support racism and the treatment necessary to eradicate those patterns. To keep things simple I will draw upon Martin Luther King Jr.’s insights as starting points.  The overarching pattern I observe is that we’ve not taken MLK Jr.’s insights to heart and applied them rigorously as far as they would take us if we did so. Having abandoned any commitment we may have once felt to be inspired to action by MLK Jr’s words, we now reap the consequences of abandoning his principles instead of remaining faithful to them while traveling together along the full length to which they would otherwise have taken us.  To eradicate institutional racism we need to apply the antidote of principles espoused by MLK Jr. until they work their miracle of transformation fully.

First, I start with this observation made by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” We have failed to admit to ourselves that laws may repress undesired actions but that they have never changed the underlying motives for socially destructive actions.  Repression by punishment, sanctions, consequences, etc. forces the motivating attitudes underground.  “Don’t ever let me catch you behaving that way again, young man!” berates a parent to a wayward son.  Some sons change their attitudes within and do not misbehave again.  Many sons simply become sneakier to make sure that their parents do not catch them misbehaving again but do not actually cease to misbehave.  They learn to misbehave in ways not as readily detected by their parents.  Thus it has been with making racism illegal.  A change of heart is needed, even among the heartless.  It is not enough to threaten to punish or impose consequences upon the heartless for misbehaving.  Their thrills come from defying authority and seeing how craftily they can get away with misbehaving.  It’s an ego-driven game with rewards of its own.  We fail to admit that anyone who has become heartless on account of themselves having been treated heartlessly is likely to have become immune to change forced upon him or her by additional painful consequences.  We need to stop the insane practice of trying to out-bully bullies (both within our nation and beyond).

If we are to truly learn anything from our decades of utterly failing to eradicate racism, it must include the insight that passage and enforcement of laws, no matter how artfully worded or rigorously enforced they may be, will not eradicate racism.  What might the alternative be?  How are the heartless transformed to consider being and then actually daring to become less heartless?  How do we release ourselves from the prisons of heartlessness within which  we seek to survive and instead make wholehearted empathy and compassion new prevailing norms in the USA?  Surely we will not try to legislate empathy and compassion.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream about the alternative I have in mind: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  He took the risk of dying while doing his part to make his dream come true, not merely for his children but for all children.  And the risk he took materialized and he was silenced.  We have repeated his dream speech many times since then.  But as Eliza Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words. Is that all you blighters can do?”  Words frequently repeated but rarely applied become slogans that lose their meaning.  MLK Jr. was not a “blighter” who failed to put his words into meaningful, sustained action.  Many of those who repeat his words contribute to the social blight of racism by being “blighters” who do fail to “walk the talk” as 12-steppers might say.  Instead we tend to relapse into our egostic pursuits of choice and fall off the wagon of transformation needed to actually accomplish social justice.  We are seduced in part by the appeal of social approval to which we remain addicted, an appeal to remain safely hunkered down in the crowd rather than to stick out our necks.

So it has been with MLK Jr.’s inspired dream.  It died amid droning repetition of the words not matched by their vigorous application in our lives.  His dream inspired and challenged us when he first revealed it.  It does so yet today.  But we have failed to respond.  That is our failure.  That is our own heartlessness revealed in stubborn apathy and resignation to the way things are as if that’s how things will inevitably always be.  Until we overcome our own failure to respond and transform our own hearts, we are part of the problem and have no standing to prosecute those whose hearts remain hardened along with ours but whose violent actions, both overt and covert, remain expressed without restraint.  To end the torrent of racism eroding our nation, each of us must cease to contribute our little stream of heartlessness and add instead our most wholehearted rivulet-grown-to-river participation in the alternative of which MLK Jr. dreamt and spoke and for which he lived fully until his life was cut short.  We must stop resisting forward motion and instead begin relentlessly persisting in it.

Are we willing to fully and persistently participate in the alternative society that offers the only solution to systemic racism? Do children’s lives matter?  To what degree?  Are we willing to risk it all for the possibility that the children who matter to us will grow up to live in a nation that does not judge them by the color of their skin nor by any other superficial and unworthy criteria?  MLK Jr. said “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”  Are we willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the children on whatever terms we are called to lay them down?

I suggest to you that dying for a cause is not the more difficult way to lay down your life.  The more difficult ways of laying down one’s life involve continuing to live in the face of intense fears with the courage of one’s convictions no matter how unpopular those convictions may be in the minds of others.  We must be willing to put at risk the very social approval by which our thinking, speech and actions are too often unconsciously censured, shaped and stylized.  Once again, participating in public rallies, cheering (or even being) inspirational speakers and generally repeating the patterns of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the past are in vogue.  Missing are the rigorously probing self-examination and repentance that will help us all let go of our attitudes and beliefs that support racism, sexism, heterosexism, ethnocentrism and other forms of egoism so as to deprive institutional and systemic expressions of those dehumanizing “isms” of support.  Doubtlessly, MLK Jr. engaged in such self-examination and repentance.  His private process of rigorously examining his own character to root out pockets of hypocrisy must become our own process.

To examine our institutions for signs of any “ism” (including the scourge of intellectualism) while failing to examine ourselves — as citizens of a republic who staff, patronize, support and give legitimacy to our institutions — for attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate all forms of “isms” is to fail once again to learn the lessons of history and doom ourselves to repeat them.  Is our only goal to change the current flavor our egoism or to eradicate it entirely in all flavors?  Will it be unpopular to call for examination of our individual and collective character so as to be capable of judging ourselves by the content of our character instead of by the color of our skin, age, ethnicity, religion, gender/gender orientation, sexual orientation, economic class, educational level, marital status, family type, etc.?  Yes, but MLK Jr. had an insight for us here too: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”  He, she, we . . . let’s not quibble about pronouns now.  We have more important issues to address.  As writer Walter Kelly once said long ago through Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The overarching pattern that we must address radically, at its roots, is the pattern of the ego’s dominance in our personal lives and elsewhere throughout our nation.  The ego is based on fear.  Fear is the opposite of love, which the ego has zero capacity to honor and share.  Love is an anathema to the ego.  Yet, love is also the antidote to fear because it is the only true alternative to fear.  Fear corrupts our character, causes our hearts to harden and seduces us by alternative temptations to not be true to ourselves and to stray from our paths of transformation.  We must apply the antidote of love rigorously as compassionately necessary to ourselves and to our neighbors without judgment or condemnation until all fear is released and we rise up together as “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Again repeating words makes us numb to their meaning unless we live them out radically through our own lives as if the welfare of the children depends on us.  It does.

If we truly desire with all our hearts to lean not upon our own understanding, it is time to trust in the Higher Power from whom divine love flows for guidance, humble ourselves to shed our egos, forsake all attitudes of pride and shame as well as guilt and blame, and listen within our hearts to the still small voice of wisdom we’ve so rigorously repressed that our consciences barely make themselves heard.  That’s our choice.  I invite us all to join in participating in the radical healing of our nation of all the pain that our various forms of “isms” have inflicted upon us all, more upon some than upon others, but not sparing any of us. May we find within us our innate capacity to forgive ourselves and each other and rise up together — not to seek vengeance one against another but instead to seek victory in which we are all included.

I end now with one last quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”  That is the attitude that will save us from all of our less worthy attitudes and beliefs by which we’ve beset ourselves with violence by seeing each other as separate and unforgivably wrong, even as if some form of competitor if not an enemy combatant.  Can we love and forgive our competition and our enemies, both those whom we find within our hearts in residence because they caused us pain in the past and we’ve not yet forgiven them as well as those who remain external to us but also remain unforgiven?  Martin Luther King Jr. shared inspiring words about the power of persistently applied love as the ultimate solution but I’ll leave that quote for you to find.

© Art Nicol 2016

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

You Were Born to Have an Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2016

Humanity at the Center of God’s Will – Part 1

Although the Earth is not the center of the Universe, humanity is at the center of God’s will, but not in the way many people believe.  Scientists discovered long ago the error of believing that all other heavenly bodies orbited around the Earth.  They do not, no matter how it may appear to casual observers that they do.  So long as observers assumed that the Earth stood motionless amid a sun, moon, planets, stars and other objects in space that moved, they tried to explain how the motions they observed were caused by the motion of every heavenly body except Earth.  Once observers accepted that the Earth itself is not only in motion in its own orbit but also in motion revolving around its own axis, their explanations and theories had to change. Let’s give these observant thinkers credit for having reconsidered their earlier theory that the Earth was absolutely motionless and for having tossed it out in favor of other theories once persuasive evidence was gathered.  Their reconsideration is a form of repentance, a process of rethinking prior conclusions in light of new evidence. We can similarly reconsider the central role God has entrusted to humanity once we stop assuming that our role consists primarily of being pampered, punished or passed over by God, observe accurately what our role is and develop a theory of life consistent with our true role.  Just as it takes more than casual observation to understand the relationship of Earth to other heavenly bodies, it takes more than casual observation to discern our role and relationship to God and God’s design for life.  Factors to observe accurately include questions such as “Who orbits whom?” and “For what purpose?”

When the Earth lost its status as the center of the Universe, the Christian religion (then predominantly expressed through the Catholic Church) resisted the new evidence as contrary to long-established religious beliefs about humanity’s being the centerpiece of God’s creation.  Catholic traditions enthroned in interpretations of scriptural stories set humanity above all other life forms as the pinnacle expression of God’s divine process of creation.  Had polar bears developed a religion it’s possible that they would have thought of themselves as the pinnacle expression of God’s creativity and interpreted the illusion that the stars appear to orbit around the North Pole and the fact that the Earth rotates on its axis around the North Pole as proof of polar bear supremacy. But it seems that only humans have developed religions or felt the need to assert superiority over other species and within our own species.  So only humans once claimed that the commonly observed motion of heavenly bodies was linked to humanity’s supremacy in God’s plan of creation and found it hard to let go of outdated theories of an Earth-centered Universe once new and less commonly observed yet nevertheless accurate evidence was available. Although the absence of an Earth-centered Universe did not necessarily imply the absence of a God-centered Universe, modernizing human thinking gradually shifted towards that conclusion.  Since Western thinking favors either/or outcomes, in the competition between the scientific and the sacred the scientific gained vastly predominant authority and the authority of the sacred faded by comparison.  The possibility of reconciling this competition in an outcome that honored the authority of “both/and” instead for “either/or” was not a favored outcome in minds trained in Western thinking that tends to see issues in terms of opposites and resolves conflicts by designating winners and losers.

Once scientific observations prevailed over traditional religious beliefs, scriptural stories lost much of their authority.  Science discredited Scripture.  Science won.  Religion lost.  In fact, science became the new religion and the former institutions of religion in Western (industrializing, developing, modernizing) society took a back seat to science for many centuries, serving mostly to justify and cheer on sciences’ achievements in the “march of progress” of modernization – as measured by material standards.  In the current modern era, it’s perhaps time to question whether science works well as a religion.  Perhaps in some way undetectable by science humanity does have a centerpiece relationship with God and a central role in God’s plan.  The ascendance of science as the superior thought system has seduced us into believing that what is “detectable” by scientific instruments and human observation is all that exists.  Thus, with a God that is undetectable by science, God does not exist except in the minds of those who believe God exists, a belief that seems to conflict with physical observations.  To many scientific thinkers (atheists, agnostics, skeptics, religiously oriented, etc.), the existence of God is not provable and therefore is largely if not totally irrelevant in one’s “practical” life.  While young or prospering socially, many people postpone thinking about God in any depth.  More pressing issues related to immediate social success take priority and occupy their minds. While in foxholes there may be no atheists, in between fox holes many sidestep issues related to God to focus on attaining their next social goals.

We may be reaping the results of having scientifically convinced ourselves that God is irrelevant to human life when the truth is precisely opposite. What if God is the most relevant aspect of life and if humanity is the most significant aspect of life as Life happens on God’s terms?  Might we shift our priorities and re-arrange our investment of time and energy if that were so?  By believing unquestionably in science as our new religion may we have inadvertently encouraged the plague of violence now besetting the Earth at all levels of Life? I am not blaming science for causing the plague.  I am merely suggesting that predominant use of science’s way of thinking has distorted our concepts of cause and effect and trained us to assume that the Law of Cause and Effect must always start with the assumption that major (if not all) causes are physical in nature and that nothing non-physical can be a significant factor in causing any effect. It is not necessary to return to medieval superstitions to regain our balance and consider the possibility of significant non-physical Causes of Effects within a balanced blend of both types of Causes and Effects.

I submit that careful observation (akin to Galileo’s looking through his primitive telescope) will establish that the human race plays a central role in the Universe according to God’s plan. (Given that there may or may not be other forms of life elsewhere in the Universe, I am not necessarily suggesting that humanity is the supreme form of life found everywhere in the Universe.  But I am suggesting that humanity is the supreme form of life found on Earth and may be charged, among other things, with advocating on behalf of the sanctity of all Earthly Life’s forms instead of desecrating them.  And if there are other forms of life beyond Earth, human beings are likely to be responsible for representing and advocating on behalf of all Earthly life forms in future relationships with non-Earthly life forms. Will it not be difficult for humans to stand up for all Earthly life forms when communicating with non-Earthly life forms if we continue to treat other Earthly life forms as unworthy of respect and totally expendable for our convenience?  We can only hope that non-Earthly life forms who turn out to have powers superior to ours do not treat us as poorly as we treat Earthly life forms of lesser power.)

I also submit that we will find and return to our central role in God’s plan for Life when we stop limiting our search to material or physical matter. Mainstream science focuses primarily on the physical world.  It is inherently biased in favor of materialism.  If we limit our inquiry into humanity’s significance to God by limiting our investigation to things physical, we’ll miss what we are looking for.  It is not physical.  It is detectable but not by instruments limited to detecting physical phenomena.  The discernable but nonphysical significance we have to God corresponds to God’s non-detectability by scientific instruments. The existence of humanity’s greatest significance is no more likely to be detected by scientific instruments than God is likely to be detected by them.  Hints may be detected but only hints. The precise attribute itself may remain undetectable by scientists for a long time.

By hints, I mean the byproducts or signs of humanity’s significance to God can be detected as evidence of that significance, if the observers are willing to accept these byproducts or signs as evidence rather than explain them away through other explanations more acceptable to science-biased minds.  Let’s take an example from science itself of a byproduct of an invisible phenomenon that scientists accept as evidence of the existence of that invisible phenomenon. Today scientists accept the existence of magnetic fields created by many kinds of objects, ranging in size (on Earth) from electrically charged particles in motion to small magnets and the Earth’s core.  Although a human’s physical senses may not detect the presence of a magnetic field, the introduction of iron filings into a magnetic field will disclose to human observation the presence of a magnetic field around a magnet. This video demonstrates what happens:

The reaction of the iron filings is evidence of the presence of the energy of the magnetic field around a magnet even when the field’s energy itself remains invisible.

My proposition is that the human species (humanity) is at the heart of Life as God creates Life.  Admittedly this proposition contains assumptions that may not be accepted by all observant thinkers.  It assumes 1) the existence of God, 2) the role of God as on-going Creator of Life (past, present and future tense of “create”) and 3) the existence of Life itself as an overarching, never-fully-completed phenomenon within which all forms of life (as we have identified and may yet identify them) take place.  I propose that Life is an ever-evolving Supreme Field of Divine Energy akin to a magnetic field, that God is the ever-expanding flow of divine energy that magnetizes Life akin to the way a flow of electrical energy creates a magnetic field around a wire through which the electricity flows and that Life’s “network of wires” or energy routes called “relationships” continues to expand as well as vary in capacity to transmit divine energy, depending among other things upon the level of resistance to the flow of divine energy.  As my proposal demonstrates, phenomena in the physical world can provide metaphors for the nature of Life and help us to accept observable evidence in a new light based on a revised theory of Life.

We need not toss out all of our past observations, theories and conclusions in order to investigate the value of this revised theory in which both God and humanity play key roles.  We need only be willing to consider that our past and present theories are “good as far as they go” and that there’s more to the story than what our currently accepted theories consider possible or adequately allow for.  I propose that scientific theories are Scientific stories and that Sacred stories (from all of humanity’s spiritually oriented thought systems, both of oral and written traditions, not just Christian Scripture) have value as allegorical perspective and guidance in understanding the meaning, purpose and direction of Life. In short I am proposing a theory by which sciences and religions may be reconciled and integrated into a unified perspective on Life – within a Unified Story told by the Source of Life through human emotions, thoughts and activities. Under such a unified thesis, the sciences may have more to say about “how” life works than about “why” Life exists.

© Art Nicol 2015

To consider more about the possibility of a Unified Story of Life, please read Part 2 of this 3-part series.

Humanity at the Center of God’s Will – Part 2

God has a center or core of Being that we might most closely associate with Will.  As the Supreme Power and Story Teller, God is free to do whatever pleases God.  I submit that it always and unfailingly pleases God to have all of Divine Creation know Life’s fullest abundance in the context of Love.  God is willfully 100% committed to creating and sustaining Life within which that goal is fully satisfied.  Just as God wills to be fully God, so God wills that every expression of Life be fully free and empowered to be what God creates it to be. In short, God shares the essence of the Divine Will with every form of Life God creates.  Most if not all spiritual thought systems address the “Origin of Life” by sharing a Creation Story.  The key common point in each of those stories is “God did it.”  Throughout sacred stories, the name of the God may vary but the Creator role of God remains constant. Science has substituted other stories to explain the origin of life, stories that do not give credit to an undetectable Being by any name except the Big Bang.  According to a Unified Theory of Life, “why” Life exists is a factor to consider in determining “how,” “when,” “where” and “for and through what” Life exists.  Scientific thinking has produced the illusion that the “origin of life” is a past event, a matter of history of one or another time frame long ago.

The theory of Life that I propose here includes the reality that life is still originating from God’s core (or care, the heart of God’s care power) and taking on new qualities that differentiate it from previous versions of life, even within each species, including the Human Species.  For example, in response to human needs, God creates new versions of humans capable of expressing the progress of human development more completely or of offsetting the harm caused by previous generations of humans.  For this and other reasons, I submit that we must stop judging each other as if God is no longer creating anything not observed or witnessed before.  Some of those we judge unacceptable in comparison to existing models of humanity may in fact be God’s most exquisite upgrades.  We must open our minds to the reality that God is still the Creator and actively creating originals.  The Origin of Life is still actively originating.  In fact, we’d see Life best from God’s perspective if we were to see each other as one-of-a-kind originals and stop trying to make each of us a clone or stereotype as if God has lost all originality or insist upon conformity to some uniform standard humans prefer to adopt in place of God’s prerogative to continue creating originals for God’s higher purposes than we yet know about or can acknowledge.  We need to come to grips with the question “Did God do it or is this caused by some other cause?”  So long as we insist on telling God what’s acceptable for God to create, we’re out of our orbit (as well as out of our minds and out of our position with God).  Surely the fact that we often call tragic events “acts of God” suggests how little we honor God’s true nature and how much rethinking we need to undertake.

To assist their orderly thinking and rethinking, scientists have developed “constants” to help reconcile what appeared at first to be irreconcilable anomalies observed by scientists. A list of many generally accepted scientific constants named after people appears at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_constants_named_after_people.  I propose that the dimensionless, non-quantifiable Divine Constant named after God is also helpful in reconciling what otherwise appear to be irreconcilable anomalies humans observe in Life.  What appear to be paradoxes to humans may not be paradoxes within the Divine Constant.  But I also propose that the Divine Constant of God is not what most religions have described it to be.  Most human religions have made the mistake of describing the nature of God in human terms and failed to take into the account the true nature of Divinity that lies beyond human understanding, no matter how advanced human understanding may appear to become (scientifically, religiously or otherwise).  As one of its primary contributions, my proposal reaches towards and points our (re)thinking in the direction of Divinity beyond current human understanding.  It assumes the existence of Divinity and the existence of a vitally essential relationship between Divinity and humanity.  Plus it assumes that this theory, like all others developed before it, is only “good as far as it goes.”  My hope and purpose in sharing this theory is to promote greater progress in humanity’s relationship with God – a going forward farther together, no longer as separately as we’ve allowed our jouney to become in modern times.  My hope is to contribute a means of rekindling a well-reasoned investment of time and energy in our faith in God as well as comparable investment in God’s faithfulness to us – all of us.

God’s constant will is that all expressions of Life know their true nature as manifestations of Divine Love.  No aspect of Life is left out of Divine Love.  However, humans have developed many theories by which to divide humanity between one part that is included in God’s favor and at least one part, often several parts, that God purportedly excludes from Divine favor.  In creating such categories of inclusion and exclusion, humans err.  We are mistaken every time we assert that God has excluded any element of Life from the Divine Constant of willfully being 100% committed to The Goal.  To help us keep in mind what this “goal” is, it may be helpful to create an acronym from the word “goal.”  I propose that G.O.A.L. stands for “God’s Ongoing Articulation of Life.”  The Divine Constant is that all of Life is included in GOAL favorably and never excluded from it.  Attempts by humans to explain how some part of God’s creation has lost its standing with God and no longer receives God’s commitment to its well-being are entirely, without exception mistaken.  Likewise, human attempts to impose on some subparts of humanity conditions under which God will favor them are mistaken.  Such human attempts are always based on human fears of aspects of humanity that seem unacceptable to those humans who fabricate their supposed explanations.  They are afraid.  They assume God is also afraid.  That is a fundamental error.  Whether a human deems himself, herself or his or her group to be superior or inferior, more favored or less favored by God, the error is the same.  We are all God’s favorite flower.  That seems impossible only because our language is limited and cannot adequately express the Divine Constant’s fullness.

God is never afraid of any aspect of Creation/Life.  Nor is God blind or unaware.  A key feature of the Divine Constant of God is vision.  God’s vision extends far beyond human vision. That the theory of Life that I am sharing here is visionary and idealistic simply reflects the nature of God’s vision and idealism and our human capacity to receive that vision and idealism if we intentionally, with patient diligence and discipline, open our hearts and minds to receive it.  Some may call me an “idealistic visionary.”  If that means anything it means that I’ve discovered how to receive a sense of God’s vision and ideals and share them as best I can.  If what I share offends some human beings, it may be because I’ve received and/or shared inaccurately. It may also mean that they are offended by God’s all-inclusive visionary Constant Will because they prefer to feel proud of some imagined preferential standing with God that does not actually exist.  I encourage those who object to my theory to examine their own hearts for the presence of pride and shame (flipsides of the same coin of ego) and identify the fears that cause their thinking to be more rigidly heartless than God’s.  May God’s Spirit of Love soften our hearts and open our minds to see as God sees and embrace divine ideals as the most promising avenue along which to walk together in peace and good will.

In all reconsiderations and extensions of past theories in light of my proposed theory, I urge thinkers to realize how the ego has trained our minds to ignore our hearts and pretend that the heart is not important, especially when compared with the mind.  The ego is prejudiced in favor of ideas and against emotions.  Why?  Because Divine Love is an idea awash with the emotion of joy that dissolves the ego entirely.  The ego has no standing before God within the Divine Constant because the ego is the Nothing in comparison to God’s Everything.  The ego is the antithesis of God’s will that no aspect of Life should suffer and that only Love infused with peace, hope and joy be known by experience.  In contrast, suffering fascinates and sustains the ego.  Because the ego feeds on suffering, it generates as much conflict to expand suffering as it can persuade humans to participate in.  The ego seeks to reduce humans to heartless automatons and clones who participate heartlessly and mindlessly (reactively) in cycles of ever-expanding conflict, violence and suffering by attacking other aspects of humanity with which we do not see eye to eye because we lack God’s vision.  When blinded by pain and enraged by grief to the point of seeking revenge, we are in no position to see as God sees or to recall to mind God’s GOAL within the Divine Constant.  In such blindness we lose our way.  We stray outside the Divine Constant in search of an alternative and seek to justify exercising our will in a manner contrary to God’s will that all Life be honored within the Divine Constant.  In our quest to justify our plans for vengeance, we may even invoke God’s name as if God has changed the Divine Constant. That too is error.  The Divine Constant remains resolutely true to itself even when we may disagree with it most vehemently.

God’s will is the opposite of the ego’s rage-motivated revenge. God seeks instead to show humans how to rely upon divinely defined forgiveness as our lens through which to look upon and appreciate the full diversity of human authenticity.  Through this lens of nonjudgment, God invites us to see all things (including widely diverse expressions of humanity) reconciled within the Divine Constant, regardless of how far afield from the Divine Constant some elements of the human race may stray.  The ego points us in the direction of becoming increasingly heartless and cruel in tearing ourselves apart in cycles of self-condemning violence that spiral in upon themselves.  As the alternative to ego, God draws us by Divine Magnetism in the direction of increasingly recovering our wholehearted enthusiasm for Life and our natural desire to join God within the Divine Constant as an expression of God’s will that we live together as a single unified Divine Species at the center of a Creation filled with a full Spectrum of Species.  Humanity is the rainbow through which God seeks to shine forth all of who God is as a Being of Grace fully capable of carrying the human race far beyond cycles of vengeful violence – if we’ll allow ourselves to be carried away in that trusting manner.  We are the arc of Divine History written from the perspective of Eternity.  But the pen and paper (or digitizing mechanism) must cooperate with the Author, Director and Composer if the Sacred Story is ever to unfold as it is told.  A human species crippled by pain and blinded by rage makes a poor medium for revealing the Sacred Story of the Divine Constant.

God is not blind and never will be blind.  God is eternally visionary – the light by which we may see Life accurately.  Although God designed humanity (the Human Species) to be a single, unified and integrated expression of the Ultimate Divine, we have become so engulfed in the modern world fabricated by scientific thinking that we’ve all but entirely lost our capacity for vision.  In place of our native capacity for inner sight, we’ve substituted physical sight oriented towards the physical world around us and shut down inner sight and other inner senses.  We’ve substituted for all of our inner senses an orientation to the outer – for all practical purposes to the exclusion of the inner.  If we listen at all, we listen to and heed messages outside of us rather than messages deep inside.  We turn all our senses externally to the exclusion of our deepest, most serene and joyfully heartfelt inner world (which, as adults, we’ve often forgotten entirely so well adjusted to ego’s angry, competitive orientation have we become!).  In this manner, we allow the fear-based, anger-perpetuating egos of others to imagine and present through multiple media a non-unified world of terror and suffering to which we must learn to adjust instead of imagining for ourselves a unified world of love, healing and sustainable health for all forms of Life within which we are empowered to co-create more Life as collaborators within the Divine Constant.  In this and other ways, we’ve misdirected the use of our sacred imagination and forsaken our own capacity for sharing God’s vision and expressing Divine idealism as elegant, effective and exalted integrity.

Under the influence of ego as enhanced and entrenched by scientific thinking – and while imagining (as ego counsels us to do) that fear is the dominant power in the Universe – we’ve opted to participate in relentless, increasingly more pervasive and destructive dismantling of life in defiance of God’s Divine Design.  We’ve mistakenly pulled ourselves out of Life’s Integrative Equation and stifled the flow of energy by which all elements of Life are drawn irresistibly together like iron filings into Divine Love’s magnetic field.  The Unifying Field of Love can be resisted by only one power in the Universe.  That is the power God entrusted to humans as a quality of Divine Supremacy, the power that anoints the Human Species as the Ultimate Expression of Creation in God’s image.  We call it will power.  We also call it “free” will.  By surrendering our will to the ego’s fragmenting agenda and disintegrated worldview, we’ve enslaved it to fear and exercise it to thwart God’s will as if in rebellion against God.  Our will is no longer free so long as ego rules it.  God stands ready, willing and able to set our wills free again if and when we seek God’s help in doing so.  To seek God’s help requires that we admit the errors by which the ego became so uncompromisingly the master of our lives and let go of the habits by which the ego has trained us to maintain our enslavement to ego.  In every moment of time we have the potential to be free again.  To regain our freedom requires that we reverse our commitment to living by fear and allow ourselves to master the art and science of living by Divine Love within the Divine Constant.  The ego is a tyrant whose propaganda machine has convinced us that it is the protector of our tiny fragment of life.  We must regain our visionary wisdom to see the ego as the generator of fragmentation and sustainer of fears and repudiate its authority in our lives.

As a tyrannical shredder of humanity, the ego is both unwise and insane.  By instituting habits of denying our emotions and numbing awareness of our hearts (within which we would otherwise sense our emotions), the ego cuts us off from the wisdom that flows into our hearts from God’s heart and renders us incapable of reasoning in ways that fully honor the sanctity of life.  In our futile attempt to permanently enslave us to the ego’s madness, we’ve come to act as if the human race is an embodiment of guilt and dishonor rather than an expression of our true nature as innocent, honorable creations of an innocent, honorable God.  Our popular concept of God is modeled on the all-too-common stereotypical male human who is angry, condemning and punitive in reaction to any experience he does not like.  We are mistaken to characterize God as a Supreme Bully who seeks to prove superiority over humans by adopting socially admired attributes of masculinity and power equated with dominance and aggression unbalanced by less admired femininity and power equated with nurturing and receptivity.

Unlike emotionally insecure humans who may harbor secret feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, God has no need to prove Divine Power by dominating others and causing pain. In all acts of terrorism by which humans treat each other inhumanely (or by ecoterrorism mistreat other forms of Life), the ego is at work.  The ego is the terrorist.  Anyone acting as a terrorist is acting out of unrelieved pain and feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness that egos may sometimes manifest in the extreme.  As egos cut us off from each other’s hearts and from the heart of God, we are left to struggle as isolated, finite bodily expressions of the Infinite with which we are otherwise naturally connected. We are not merely bodies nor are we beings measured primarily by physical criteria.

Never burdened by feelings of inadequacy or powerlessness, God is confident in being God. We are mistaken to attribute to God symptoms of men or women’s hidden feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence.  Beyond the ego, we have the capacity to admit our errors and learn from them.  Divine Love encourages that we do precisely that – regardless of how inadequate, guilty and ashamed we may feel temporarily while making such admissions. Ultimately we will like ourselves more for having had the courage to be honest.  The ego’s dishonesty is one of the reasons we feel so low about ourselves when we act out of ego and mistakenly equate our identity with ego.  In our honesty we will feel release from ego’s tyranny.

In modern times, in place of building confidence within our inner being and expressing it outwardly in caring honesty, we’ve institutionalized the importance of “liking” or “disliking” each other’s social personality (ego), equated it with approving or disapproving of each other and use social media to exaggerate the importance of such superficial assessments.  We keep score of trivia to ignore what’s most important.  By this and many other means, we’ve substituted trivial activities and images of popularity for self-confidence rooted in deeply satisfying acceptance and expression of our true, sacred nature.  The more we ignore our sacred inner nature, the more we give importance to external substitutes.  God is neither unbalanced nor concerned with trivia, popular admiration or social approval.  Ego is.  God is not. To rise beyond ego in renewed awareness and expression of our Sacred Selves within the Divine Constant, we must join God in giving far less value to trivial pursuits, social approval, popularity and what those who remain enslaved on ego’s terms may think or value. We can learn to value caringly expressed honesty and integrity instead.

How did we go this far astray from sanity and reason?  How may we restore ourselves to our true identity and destiny?  Our true identity as creations of God is our ultimate, continuously unfolding destiny, achieved by accepting both our identity and our destiny within the Divine Constant and remaining aware of both instead of adopting ego as the alternative.  The foolishness of the ego does not represent our true nature or our most promising future.  When we shed ego as our standard by no longer allowing pride and shame to dictate how we feel, think, decide and act, we’re on our way to freedom in mastering the art of loving and being loved in return.  We went astray when we stopped depending on God for help and guidance in being our authentic, Diverse-yet-Divine Selves as designed by God.  We will experience restoration (to sanity, reason, wisdom, love, peace, hope, joy and all that’s worthwhile in life) when we admit that we cannot restore ourselves on our own but need only ask wholeheartedly for God to pour forth fully all the helpful power of restoration we need and desire. Whether we call it restoration, healing or redemption, the power and the process it sets in motion come from God.  We both need and want it.

© Art Nicol 2015

To consider more about the possibility of a Unified Story of Life, please read Part 3 of this 3-part series.

Humanity at the Center of God’s Will – Part 3

Wholeheartedness is key.  To once again know ourselves to be the heart of Life as God created Life, we must be wholeheartedly committed to serving God in this role as an act of our free will – and apply for the position as if we were applying for the most rewarding and amazing career we could imagine.  At first it may not feel like an expression of freedom to do so. It may feel like an act of obedience or surrender as if contrary to our freedom to do whatever pleases us. So long as we equate being free to being neglectful, thoughtless, indifferent, undisciplined and wild in self-indulgently pleasing our individual selves no matter the cost to others, we will resist restoration to the heart of God.  Under that false definition of “freedom,” our egos will continue to convince us that pleasing God means sacrificing what’s important to us.  When we value individuality above community in unbalanced ways, we cause suffering – to ourselves and others.  To foster the continuation of such unbalanced living, the ego will continue to value pride as the alternative to shame and argue that cooperating with God’s will is humiliating and can only be done at a great cost to our pride.

The ego is correct that submitting to and cooperating with God’s will and learning to live within the heart of God in line with the Divine Constant is not prideful.  But neither is it shameful.  It is having the humility to reconnect with true power rather than A) remaining disconnected, isolated, lonely and devoid of the joys of healthy intimacy and B) trying to hide from deeply dissatisfying feelings of powerless and loss.  The experience of being restored to alignment with God’s will is vastly rewarding but not on ego’s terms.  So long as we value ego’s terms, we’ll resist God’s terms.  The choice is stark.  We cannot live by both ego’s fear-controlled, loveless terms and God’s courageous, love-enriched terms.  We must eventually choose one or the other.  And we must choose wholeheartedly and remain committed to that choice no matter how the ego tries to tempt us to return to or compromise with ego’s terms.  As we gain progress in implementing our choice to forego the ego entirely, we’ll become increasingly eager to continue making that choice.

For a while, it will seem as if doing what pleases God requires that we do what does not please ourselves.  That sense of loss will continue only as long as we continue to mistakenly identify with ego as our “self.”  That God’s will for Life and our will for Life are one will is not immediately evident to us because our ego-oriented habits will not immediately give way to the new set of habits we will acquire as we master the discipline of living within the Divine Constant as an expression of God’s unconditionally loving heart.  One of the most persuasive arguments the ego will present in favor of remaining loyal to the ego and avoiding learning to live as G.O.A.L. will be to point out that awakening to our emotions and becoming less numb to our hearts requires that we become aware of the negative emotions that the ego convinced us to store away earlier in life.  Under the ego’s influence, it is true that instead of processing our emotions on a current basis we bottled them up and allowed them to accumulate.  The ego will argue, “Look, you’ve stored up a lot of pain trying to avoid feeling it earlier in life. Do you really want to feel that pain now?  Why not keep bottling it up and avoid feeling it as the ego allows you to do?”

Yes, the pain is there, stored up from years of habitually avoiding being honest about your emotions.  With God’s able assistance you will be empowered to look directly at this pain, be honest about it and grieve through it to the brighter life beyond it, where pain will no longer accumulate as a plague upon your heart and mind and motivate you to participate in cycles of violence – as victim or victimizer.  You gain God’s assistance by asking for it and being wholeheartedly committed to receiving it in all the forms it takes.  You can remain enslaved to pain (and to its accumulated version called “chronic suffering”) by continuing to live by your ego’s false identity and obeying the ego’s demand that you condemn and punish yourself and others for “sins,” wrongs and guilt that can be forgiven instead.  Or you can become free of pain and suffering by envisioning life beyond the pain, beyond the suffering and beyond the ego and engaging in the process of grieving to attain relief, a process through which your vision of the Divine Constant draws you like iron filings to a magnetic field.  Which option really pleases you?  Are you really pleased by the prospect of enduring pain and suffering forever as you condemn yourself and others to it by identifying with ego or are you likely to be more pleased by the prospect of ending pain and suffering?  Endure or end pain and suffering?  Is that really a difficult choice?  The main difficulty in the choice presents itself at the beginning – are you willing to take the risk that the Divine Constant exists and will prove to welcome you to life within it?  Are you willing to risk giving up the power to inflict painful revenge in order to discover your natural power to share love and healing instead?  Your sense of risk will gradually fade the more you experience the fruits of your exercising faith in God and allow God to prove Eternity’s favorable faithfulness to you.

Only our egos resist God’s will.  Our true nature as created by God does not resist.  It remains receptive to God’s presence, power and purpose as a beloved child remains receptive to the caring presence, power and purpose of a trusted, nurturing human parent.  (Much of our resistance to trusting God as a nurturing Divine Parent is rooted in our past experiences with human parents and other authority figures whom we expected to care for us on favorable terms but instead treated us according to ego’s terms and – by neglect, abuse or both – failed to express the qualities of God’s care and caused us to feel betrayed.  Now many of us fear being betrayed, rejected and abandoned by God as well as by others.)  As we let down our ego’s guarded stance towards God as Supreme Authority and Caregiver and risk exploring the ego-diminishing experience of God we will be amazed and delighted by what we discover.  The wonderful features and benefits of being human that we’d not known or encountered before – or thought we’d never know or encounter again – come alive and energize life more completely.  We feel the magnetic field of God’s love flowing through and around us and become convinced that we are detecting what scientists have not yet been able to detect.  In this experience, we will know that we are the God-detectors and that our subjective experiences of God are like the responses of iron filings to a magnet’s magnetic field.  Being susceptible to magnetism, the iron filings cannot resist aligning themselves with the magnetic field.  Being susceptible to Love’s Power because we are created by Love, we similarly cannot resist aligning ourselves and all we are with Love’s energizing invitation in our hearts.

Our struggle to let down resistance and trust takes place within our wills and minds.  God has no struggle.  God is wholeheartedly committed to our well-being and always has been and always will be. God knows no other way to Be. The struggle is ours, between our ego’s orientation and our divine, natural orientation.  God trusts that our nature as created offspring of the Origin of Life will ultimately prevail.  There is a struggle within each of us only because we’ve been raised to believe in the ego as our identity.  Our minds have taken up that concept of ego-identity in powerful ways to do our best to adopt it and adapt to it.  We put our faith in those who taught us to be egos and in the rules, roles and rituals by which we learned to belong as an ego in an ego-oriented society.  We may feel betrayed when we discover that “obeying” God’s authority is not humiliating – as it may have been for us to obey human authority figures.  We will discover that “obedience” to God’s will is not a sacrifice at all.  It’s a privilege.  It’s a decision to cooperate, collaborate and co-create with Love’s presence, power and purpose so as to cease to feel little or no personal significance, power or purpose within our own lives.  We will come alive with our own incredible personal presence, power and purpose because we aligned our wills with the Divine Constant and learned to live wholeheartedly committed to all it asks of us to be true to ourselves.

We are not our egos.  The ego is a false identity we adopted to survive in the modern, ego-dominated society where God’s true nature as the Source of Love has been denied – at best relegated to an accessory to modern lifestyles and at worst discredited and discarded altogether.  God is not a handbag, necktie or other accessory to Life.  God is the main point of Life, all that makes Life worth living.  Modern lifestyles that relegate God to a minor role or dismiss Divinity from the team are not actually lifestyles.  They are deathstyles masquerading as lifestyles.  They are deathstyles to the same extent to which they define God, the Creator and Sustainer of Life, to be irrelevant or indifferent – or worse our hostile adversary.  As we learn to restore God to supreme relevance and benevolence at the center of our lives, we will awaken in our hearts to experiences of the Divine Love that have otherwise been missing in action in our lives.  Without God, our lives may be filled with endless action but still be empty of love.  Divine Love will be our reward for “obeying” God and discovering that our free will is truly an honored element of God’s will.  In fact, our will cannot be truly free unless it honors God’s will as its source.  The negative connotations of “obedience” fade away as we realize that all God asks of us is to consent and cooperate in allowing God to deliver us from ego and its fears so that God may gracefully deliver to us all our hearts desire.  The ego asks for our compliance with its subtly manipulative, seductive tyranny.  God invites us to openly, honestly and transparently explore investing our wholehearted consent and cooperation within the Divine Constant and with each other so as to create together the world beyond ego we may have sometimes dared to hope is possible.

Learning to relate to God as a gracefully generous and gentle lover requires renewal of lost trust.  It requires that we trust a Power Greater Than Ourselves to have our best interests in mind and at heart and to show us step by step how love reliably works within the Divine Constant.  The process of trust-building between ourselves and God requires that we risk trusting and appreciating (instead of judging and condemning) each other too.  Through experiences of broken promises and other types of violated trust that we’ve experienced at the hands of other people’s egos, we have learned 1) not to trust God or each other, 2) not to feel our emotions or be sensitive to and aware of our hearts and the hearts of others, and 3) not to talk about things that really matter (as Claudia Black points out in her helpful book*).  To rise beyond ego means to let go of the ego’s dysfunctional rules of distrust, heartlessness and superficiality and move ever deeper into and throughout Life’s enriching, adventurous journey as explorers, pioneers and settlers, not to displace anyone but to find our own place within the infinitely expansive Divine Constant.  In contrast, modern society majors in maintaining distrust, heartlessness and superficiality as our steady diet and as the defining features of the tightly defended, closed comfort zones within which we cower as egos.

The Divine Constant is not our ego’s comfort zone (or status quo, sheltering bubble or closed social system) but it is our Natural Self’s native creativity zone within which we come fully online and enlivened and dare to take the risk of changing for the better and unfolding to be all God created us to be.  It is not the realm where human scientists can detect all phenomena and control all experiments on human terms.  It is a realm of risks.  Some experiments may blow up in our face and splash egg on our egos.  Yet, even experiments that seem to end in ignoble failure contain valuable lessons.  Within God’s grace, no matter how our explorative experimentation may progress as we discover more about who we are and how to express ourselves, we remain secure in our knowledge that we are loved and cared for by a God who is wholeheartedly devoted to us personally – each and everyone one of us singly and all of us collectively.  God’s solidarity with each and all of us is unshakeable, even during our most adolescent phases and fascinations.  And God is wholeheartedly committed to our learning and making progress through all of our experiences as divine “works in progress” who are ever evolving and emerging to be, represent and express the more comprehensive nature of God’s mind, heart and will.

We are God’s will power set free to either live according to the Divine Constant or repudiate it and remain apart from it until we tire of being apart from it and opt to join with it as an expression of our freedom.  Freedom is what it’s all about.  That is why Martin Luther King, Jr. reported after his encounter with God that he was “free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.”  My life purpose is to encourage us to all join MLK Jr. in fulfilling the dream he asked us to envision with him.  He saw what God was seeing and rejoiced to share with us what God had shown him.  So every visionary dreams of doing to the ever-evolving enhancement of the quality of Life on Earth.

A visionary’s inspiration of the Divine Constant:

Fast forward several decades, the Divine Constant remains constantly honored:

And articulated in a variety of ways:

I propose that we are here on Earth to explore the fullest expanses of Life in the context and under the guidance of Love as shared with God and each other.  We are not here to pursue our lonely, misguided explorations as egos in the context of isolating fears that deprive us of the immense joys of sacred, enthusiastic, heartfelt intimacy.  We are here instead to serve each other as expressions of the Divine Constant, encouraging all of us to participate in that renewing, ancient territory.  Let us agree together to value all that God holds valuable and offers to share generously. Let us let go of all the valueless that ego once convinced us to value.  It feels miraculous to realize that God encourages us to try new experiences beyond pride and shame and guilt and blame and there – in the beyond – engage with Life playfully as innocent children are free to do if given that latitude by those who watch over them as authority figures.  That is the latitude God grants us.  It is also our hearts’ desires come true.

Could life be as simple as deciding to wholeheartedly have faith in a benevolent and merciful God who has no need to argue with anyone nor punish or make anyone feel guilty or ashamed for disagreeing or being different?  What would it feel like to be totally safe while expressing a creative idea or heartfelt feeling to which the mainstream majority may at first react adversely?  What would it feel like to say, “Hey, I have something to say that’s controversial and I’m not sure if it’s correct, but I feel the need to say it anyway because I believe it may be helpful?” and not be ridiculed or in any other manner made to regret speaking up?  What if such uncensored freedom of expression allowed solutions to social issues to arise from the depths of our hearts as we listened to the Spirit of Love within us?   What would it be like if we all did our best to be nonjudgmental as God is instead of defending our egos and projecting our fears on one another?

It is easy to project fears upon the defenseless innocents and make them play the role of scapegoats.  Would it not be more honest and require more courage to recognize our own fears directly and admit how we’re tempted to pretend we are not afraid? Would our relationships work out better is we did not allow our undisclosed fears and their resulting temptation to pretend to dictate how we think, speak and act?  The ego counsels that we hide all our emotions, including our fears, but also our anger, sorrow, peace, hope and joy.  It counsels that we project images of pride (or second best, shame) as substitutes for honest emotions caringly expressed within our relationships.  The ego tends to characterize anger as an expression of power when in fact it’s an expression of deep-seated feelings of powerlessness.   In contrast, the Spirit of Love counsels that we find within our hearts the courage to stand together humbly as honest citizens and live at peace with one another.  The Divine Constant welcomes us to be a constant source of peace, hope, joy and love and a model of emotions of all types expressed caringly.  Constantly.  Can we be it?  Yes, we can, by God’s grace and with God’s empowering assistance.

Would it not be amazing to discover how right both scientists dedicated to the highest principles of science and believers in God dedicated to the highest principles of sacredness have been all along in seeking to be more than superficial observers of Life?  May we all learn to look deep into our hearts and there find persuasive cause to see eye to eye and cease to take an eye for an eye.  May we discover within our shared experience of the Divine Constant that

IIO and

I + I = WE as US (Wise Explorers as United Spirits)

amid a never-ending quest to experience our deepest satisfaction as GOAL.

*Black, It Will Never Happen to Me, 2nd Edition, MAC Publishing, Bainbridge Island WA 2001.

© Art Nicol 2015

Which Arms Race Do You Choose to Enter?

Once again it is evident that those who profit from manufacturing and marketing military weapons continue to engage in propaganda urging US taxpayers to foot the bill for their luxury lifestyles. (Those who pay directly or indirectly for governments around the world are also roped in by this global propaganda machine underwritten by multinational corporations who are more loyal to fattening their own bank accounts and indulging in conspicuous consumption as global playboys and playgirls than they are to any nation or peoples beyond their immediate families.) The main theme of such propaganda is the “arms race.” According this propaganda, we are always at the mercy of hostile nations and unruly hostile non-nations acting on their own. Threats from all sides seem to justify arming ourselves to the teeth. Add to that the seeming threats from within our own borders attributed to criminals, terrorists and general crazies and we have the makings an endless arms race from which no one escapes but a few definitely profit. It’s a bonus to the profit-makers that many US citizens have decided that the only adequate response to this growing perception of apparent hostility from others outside and inside our borders is to arm themselves with weapons supplied by the same arms industry. Ah, the profitability of fear!

Are you and I powerless in the face of this arms race that sucks resources from our pockets as relentlessly as lampreys suck life from lake trout and leeches suck blood from any animal to which they can attach themselves? Are we at the mercy of these profit-making vampires who own and operate major media sources so as to keep their propaganda ever before us? Do we have no choice but to be taken in by the propaganda and participate as unsuspecting or suspicious but compliant dupes and funders of the excesses of those who profit from this arms race?

Not necessarily. First we can decide to disregard the propaganda that tells us that the world is entirely hostile towards the US and that we have no choice but to arm ourselves with a succession of soon-to-be-obsolete weapons in an endless race towards the wars we cannot avoid. The inevitability of war is assumed by the propaganda and the only issue presented is how well prepared will we be to win that war. Few of us want to go down in defeat. So, if one assumes that war is inevitable, most of us will join the cry for increased preparedness at any cost. Yet, we don’t have to believe that assumption or buy into the propaganda. We can choose to participate in an alternative arms race instead.

What might that alternative arms race look like? It would look like neighbors opening their arms to each other and reaching around the globe to welcome strangers as neighbors in our global village. We can ignore the doomsayers and act as if we have a better future based on peace and good will shared by good-natured, reasoning people who populate the globe with values and priorities akin to our own. We can assume not hostility but instead common ground in our shared hearts’ desires to raise children in healthy conditions and share life with loved ones in stability and harmony without fear of losses inflicted by hostile forces prepared only to spread violence like an epidemic throughout the human race.

We could engage in a race into each other’s arms if only we trusted each other more than feared each other. Are we willing to take that risk? Might we set aside our xenophobia and reach out to each other as if we might find friends instead of enemies? What do we have to lose? The military version of the arms race dooms all of us. All we have to lose by taking the risk of embracing each other as neighbors instead of as hostile strangers is doom. Might it make sense to you and I to forsake doom in exchange for embracing peace and the freedom to share the globe with good will?

How will we ever find the courage to take such a risk in the face of pressures to believe the propaganda and stand apart in fear? I suggest our courage will come from our faith that there’s a power greater than the arms merchants and their minions, a Power that will aid our alternative arms race. If we race into the arms of the Creator who loves us, we will discover divinely inspired courage within our hearts and God’s corresponding wisdom to make our dreams of peace on earth among people of good will a reality even in the face of contrary arguments proposed by distributors of death. All we need to do is to decide to be customers of the Distributor of Life who charges us nothing for receiving all we can open ourselves to receive of life. It costs us nothing but our egos to open our hearts and minds to the Source of Life and receive in abundance all that the Source generously offers to share with us. Is humility too great a price for peace on earth?

I hope that anyone who prefers life over death and love over fear will consider joining me in the alternative arms race into the loving arms of God and the people who say “Amen” to God in whatever language they choose to say it. God is great in any language spoken around the world by people of all faiths in a God who wills that the human race enjoy being surrounded and filled with love and allowed to live into the fullness of time as Eternity’s children.

© 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